The time has come to stop buying things from Mother Earth on credit. This sphere of rock that we are stuck on is finite. It has been absorbing solar energy far longer than we have known about coal, oil and natural gas. Since “discovering” them what has developed has been the most lucrative activity ever embarked upon by human beings, ever. Peak oil has come to pass, that means instead of additional dollars being spent on exploration, drilling and processing black gold yielding ever more abundant production, additional dollars spent getting it will only produce less energy, at higher cost. The same could be said about coal and gas if we attached the cost of corporate subsidies to those industries that have now become firmly entrenched. The renewable energy industry is the one growth industry that changes the way we look at our planet and the only energy production method that actually decreases our reliance on fossil fuel over time. Getting serious about implementing available technologies in this area is the only choice we have of continuing to have a similar lifestyle to that which we enjoy as we suck out the last thirty years or so of our oil.
Surely, many are seeing the slick Madison avenue glitz about “finding” oil shales that can yield massive amounts of natural gas by injecting steam, laced with toxic chemicals, several thousand feet below the surface of the Earth. Please ask, how much energy will it take to generate all that steam and pressurize it in such a way as to inject it into rock? One estimate puts the energy required to liberate the natural gas under our feet at over 100,000 EJ (exojoules) That is the amount of energy that the United states would use in 1,000 years. Get the picture? The pie in the sky estimates that big money have gotten behind ignore basic physics and the facts. You can’t get something for nothing and nowhere on earth is coal, oil or natural gas being built up at rates comparable to our current use characteristics. Now that we have ransacked to shelves and the stock room, we are left with one of two alternatives. Either wait for another shipment to come in, or learn how to tailor our lives to the laws of physics.
We know how to travel many thousands of miles using very little fuel, they are called trains. Countries that honor the need for mobility have invested in state of the art trains that can travel half the speed of airplanes at a tiny fraction of the energy use. Still, we have the cowboy mentality of shooting up the wild west and equate rugged individualism with our wasteful autos. Squandering days will come to an end and we have again two choices, either do nothing and let them come with a vengeance, or adopt new ways of meeting our needs while we still have a little time and attempt to shift away from fossil fuel with grace and dignity. The 1974 model solar panel that I installed on our rental property provides 1/3 of the heat bill. It cost $400 + about $1,000 to install. After only three years, it has now paid itself off and is making money by keeping 1/3 of the fuel bills in my pocket. In terms of carbon footprint and energy budgets, it has allowed me to barely keep my head above water in the real estate market. I’m sure that without the savings that the panel continues to provide, I would have lost the property. The Sun is willing to help, we just have to find ways to use it.
I bet very few know what year the most solar homes were built. It was 1932. These homes were built with their longest wall facing South, and full of windows. They also employed heavy curtains for the nighttime hours, to keep the precious heat in. It seems that when you take away the stigma of poverty, by making virtually everyone poor, a bit of common sense creeps into the economy. We need to look seriously at our course and get to the business of doing the right thing.