Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who Can Help Get Energy Clean?

Now there’s a question with anywhere between ten and ten thousand, maybe a million, answers.

The easy answer is, “All of Us.” The complications begin under the category, “Some of us more than others.”

Energy we all understand. Dirty is also pretty clear. But Clean can come in many different packages including, but not limited to, burning things and Waste.

How does waste enter the picture? On thinking about it we can see that waste also comes in many different packages.

Consider leaving your hot water running longer than it’s needed. That is waste of the water itself and waste of the energy needed to heat the water and if that energy happened to be fossil fuel based – additional air, water and ground pollution.

Say that hot water was running 1 gallon per minute and it ran one minute longer than needed. Also say that the same thing happened in every American home once during the month. With over 112 million households that would be 112,000,000 gallons of hot water wasted.

Now what does it take to heat a gallon of water from 45 degrees as it comes in from the street to 120 degrees in a storage tank? OK enough math!

Beginning to see the picture?

It always seems like such a little thing. Turn the light off, it’s only 75 watts. So it’s on for an hour. That’s 75 watt-hours or 0.075 kilowatt-hours. And in those 112 million homes that’s 8,400,000 kilowatt-hours. Nothing small about the little consumer!

So who can help?

We’re back to that “easy answer” – All of Us.

It’s actually a matter of getting rid of some old habits and starting a few new ones. And that’s not easy – it takes a concentrated effort over a period of time until what used to be considered a simple truth – power is cheap and endless –is replaced with a real truth – we cannot afford to spend (use) a single watt that is not absolutely essential.

Turning off that light, not using the air conditioner during peak weekday hours, doing the wash at night can be learned. And lots of chores that must be done, can be done at hours when the utility and grid system is not at peak demand. Again habits that can be learned.

And We can Do It – All of Us.

What Good Are Energy Statistics?

A would-be humorist once said, “Statistics are a like a bikini bathing suit. What they reveal is interesting, but what they conceal is vital.”

If this is a truth for statistics in general, then it is a lot truer for statistics dealing with all the forms of energy we use on this plant – as well as the energy we use to travel away from it.

Thinking about it – we have crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, propane, jet fuel, natural gas, coal, peat and geothermal heat – just to name a few categories.

And promoters of each energy form will present statistics that will attempt to prove that their particular energy form is getting cleaner and cheaper than any other and is the one that should be chosen for universal use.

While of course their opponents will argue, quite forcefully, that the opposite is true.

And thereby lays the problem – those vital facts that are concealed.

However in the case of energy – the vital concealed facts are much more important to human health and even survival than, say, the dominant color of newborn babies eyes in Saskatchewan.

For example, while working one’s way through the “smoke and mirrors” of the current Clean Coal Campaign one should be told how many people died in the past year from breathing or lung diseases caused by polluted air. Or what percentage of the water consumed in the United States for drinking did not conform to the requirements of the clean water act of 1972 that caused what number of deaths or illnesses?

We are not going to get this disturbing information from the fossil energy people on a voluntary basis. So once again it falls to the elected representatives of the people to establish and maintain a constant watch for the concealed facts that we need to have for our health and welfare – the common welfare our founding fathers knew needed protection.

The common welfare and common sense should go hand in hand and our need for the facts is a requirement of both. We must continually remind our Congress, State and Local governments of their responsibility to ensure that we get the facts. And we must be ever on guard to make sure they do so.

Oh, and our founding fathers also provided automatic “term limits”. They’re called elections.