Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our Energy Future--Part II

Our Energy Future -- II

In order to avoid future environmental disasters like the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we need to reduce the use of oil by the military, and by agriculture. We also need to return political power to the people and take it away from the large companies, energy companies included.

But every citizen, you and I, also need to use less energy. We need to move into smaller houses, we need to drive and travel less and drive smaller cars. We need to be more hardy in the summer’s heat and in the cold of winter. How will we accomplish that?

A frequent suggestion is: “raise the price of energy.” The price of oil and gas today does not include the cost of environmental degradation or of global warming brought about by our continued excessive use of oil and gas. If we included that in the price of gas, sticker shock at the gas pump would be impressive. “Make people pay for the damage they do by driving and heating their house, and you’ll soon see a reduction in energy use.”

The problem with that suggestion is that it affects poor people disproportionately. If you already barely get by, doubling the price of gasoline and home heating will push you over the financial edge. You have to give up your car, but how will you get to work?

Just raising the price of energy will not be enough. We need to rethink how our cities are laid out, how to make it easier to walk to work or to the store. We need to rethink public transportation.

Alternative energy sources are becoming more accessible. If your house  gets good sunlight during eight hours of the day, install solar panels. If there is wind where you live, install a small wind turbine to provide some of the electricity you use.

Oil companies receive between $15-$30 billion a year in government subsidies. We need to take that money and put it into developing small scale alternative energy technologies, alternative transportation technologies, into rearranging our cities to make them manageable without current energy demands.

But none of it will happen without a concerted push from you and me.

Let’s get serious.