Sunday, February 3, 2008

Weapon of Choice: Conservation Blues

One of my pet peeves with energy technology, economics or policy is that energy conservation is never adequately recommended as part of new solutions. Acknowledging Dr. Webber's article, I do extend the benefit of doubt to individuals who consider energy conservation implied in their recommendation of new solutions.

In our readings so far, or in recent conversations, my impression has been that many of the discussions about ethanol, bio-fuels, peak or non-peak oil, and even hydrogen are treated as global panaceas to an energy crisis. These discussions, however, never develop a multi-pronged approach to the crisis.

If you have had the opportunity to live or work in a relatively impoverished part of the world, you will attest to the fact that conservation is a way of life. Conservation of drinking water, cooking fuel, or electricity are accepted ways of life in many cultures and communities. In some cases, such resources are even pooled for the benefit of the community. I concede that there are economical impetuses (supply / demand, price, etc) to justify such measures of conservation. The point I am trying to make is that millions of people all over the world live conservatively and survive pretty well.

So, I would like to encourage all of us that are trying to work towards sustainable energy solutions to do at least two things. One: while analyzing an energy solution, please include some observations about the benefits or energy/cost savings that can be achieved through a simultaneous "conservative" use of existing energy resources. For example, a statement such as ' If ethanol production is increased to XXX, while simultaneously reducing per capita gasoline consumption to YYYY...'

Two: I'm sure all of us do this already, but for the benefit of friends and family members who don't. Encourage them to turn off computers on the weekend when not at work, not leave the tap running longer than necessary, etc. Looking at bills helps to justify an energy conservative lifestyle.

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