the only truly sustainable, equitable energy is the energy you don’t use.

April 22, 2011

I’m up too late (at least I’m getting baking done!), and i read this article: wind and wave energies are not renewable after all. it reminded me again of how often i or people i care about who really care deeply about preventing total ecological collapse due to climate change express hope for a way to keep running our society’s refrigerators (this one is my guilty pleasure), cars, computers (oh, wait, another, even guiltier pleasure), and so forth… a way to keep these things moving, only “greener.” something “sustainable.”

but adding new sources of energy (or increasing the efficiency with which the current sources are used) does not typically lead to a reduction in energy usage; rather, it tends to result in more *things* being done with the same total amount of energy used (oh, no, Jevons Paradox!).

for a long time, i’ve been pegging my non-Jiminy-Cricket-when-you-wish-upon-cold-fusion-and-or-ultra-efficient-solar-film hopes for our society on wind power, because of concerns i have with the manner in which the EROEI (energy returned over energy invested) of solar panels (most industry folks qoute an EROEI for solar panels of between 30:1 and 6:1, but they are only taking into account the portion of the energy invested directly in manufacturing them, not mining materials, transportation, installation, making the factory, etc… which is very important to consider, because if solar panels have an EROEI of 1:1 or worse they are not only a waste of money but their use is actively encouraging people to continue using energy in an unsustainable way while feeling virtuous).

now comes the article i linked to at the top to make me worry about our ability to scale up wind power safely and i am left with only one conclusion: most of our energy usage needs to stop. we have billions of people on this planet, most of whom will never have access to the amounts of energy in a year that we in the United States (on average;) use in a few months. even if they could have access to that energy, the planet would be destroyed (many times over!) in a host of ways in the process (mining, climate change, urban sprawl, etc.).

it is fun to watch movies a few times a week on the computer, and to read people’s blogs a few times a week as well (all night long, although admittedly with my screen brightness turned way, way down). it is fun to drive to the high desert and be somewhere beautiful and different from where we live. buying pokemon cards brand new makes my son happy (luckily so does getting them at yard sales for one tenth of the price;). it is fun, useful, and historically/globally novel to have somewhere to put food that stays cold all the time.

if i give up these things and the government/military/giant multinational corporations keep chugging along, burning infinitely more than my share of fuel, will i have accomplished much? no. and that is why i’m glad i’m not alone in further reducing my energy usage. that is why i’m glad there are lots of people here in Portland and around the world interested in holding government and corporations responsible for their usage, too.

but our personal usage is a big deal. we can’t keep throwing up our hands and saying it doesn’t matter, or we’ll change when everyone else changes, or when we have to, or when they pry our refrigerator door handle from our cold, dead hands…

i’m going to be revisiting this project and aiming again to get my usage back to a closer to equitable share of resources. this can be fun. it was fun last time, and i didn’t even make my 90% cuts! who wants to do it, too?

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