Discouraging the BIG OIL and COAL industries from continuing business-as-usual/high profit operations at the expense of the environment and the health of the nation, just might motivate them to think more “out of the box” on energy alternatives.
Being a member of and contributor to environmental organizations, I get emails from them often, heightening my aware- ness of things, asking for donations, and encouraging me to send letters and emails to my representatives Washington asking them to support earth-friendly legis- lation. I got one from the Environmental Defense Fund today asking for energy saving ideas, big and small (something different this time) – on how I, my family, and our country can rethink the way we live and work in this age of not-so-cheap oil. So I went to their weblog and found some interesting observations and perspectives already posted there. I left the following comment of my own:
On the home front, the wife and I are already limiting our trips, combining errands whenever possible. The wife is carpooling now 3 or 4 days a week, and I hope to find someone with whom to carpool too once school restarts this year (I teach high school economics, and so am off for the summer). When I drive my ’05 Dodge Magnum, I hypermile, which nets me about 4 to 5 extra miles per gallon. Hypermiling includes driving slower, accelerating gradually, and making sure my tires are properly inflated, a common sense thing Barack Obama advocates that we all do, which John McCain has made fun of lately. But, hey – every little bit helps — right? I’m riding a motorcycle when it’s not too hot and when it otherwise makes sense to do so. Our summer getaways this year were fewer and to closer destinations, and we don’t anticipate traveling as much in the future either, even if the price of gas comes down substantially. When next it is time to buy or lease, we plan to make mileage the number-one priority. And we are going GREEN in many other ways too… we have switched our electric company to Green Mountain Energy, which generates 100% of its power from renewable sources. Their price per kwh is very competitive, by the way.
At the local level where natural gas is plentiful like it is here in Texas, and becoming more plentiful all the time with drilling into the Barnett Shale, I would recommend public transit, and especially school buses, be converted to run on this fuel as an interim alternative to diesel until better, more environmentally friendly technologies become available, such as electric fuel cell hybrids. Near term cost benefits might be negligible for this, but there are health benefits to consider, and doing so would reduce our demand for foreign oil. Hopefully too, the growing demand for mass transit will stimulate the expansion of existing systems and the development of new ones. Suburban communities, larger cities and state governments really should welcome and encourage this.
At state and national levels, every effort to support the devel- opment of alternative energy sources should be promoted as a priority over new drilling — anywhere. More oil just perpetuates our addiction to it and continues pumping CO2 into the atmos- phere. Wind and solar farms should definitely be in the mix, and I would not rule-out new nuclear power plants where demand is highest and real estate is limited. New coal-fired plants should be discouraged, in my opinion, unless carbon sequestering technol- ogies are incorporated. Discouraging the BIG OIL and COAL industries from continuing business-as-usual/high profit oper- ations at the expense of the environment and the health of the nation, just might motivate them to think more “out of the box” on energy alternatives. Although it would be competing with the private sector, I admit, i.e., the airlines, I believe that there should be government efforts to promote the return and update of passenger rail systems.
Finally, I would advocate and support the idea of governments offering individual tax credits and other incentives for people and businesses to weatherize and upgrade to new, “made in the U.S.A.,” highly efficient, environmental systems. Government should back T. Boone Pickens’ energy plan too, stimulating the manufacture of millions more state-of-the-art wind gener- ators. Not only would these things save energy, but they would generate jobs for people put out of work by offshoring and the decline in demand for new homes and American-made automo- biles. These would be jobs that could not be exported. With people going back to work, consumption would increase, as would the tax base. With more money spent on American-made items, the trade deficit would decline and our economy might just start to improve like a rising tide, “lifting all boats” this time, not just those of the rich. This, I think, would make a whole lot more sense as a fiscal policy for Washington than short-term stimulus checks and tax cuts for businesses that are already posting record profits.
I invite your comments, supportive or un, and ideas of your own.