Energy

Energy, especially oil, is the lifeblood of industrial civilisation. It is what makes our current lifestyles and economic activity possible. But there are two main reasons why we must urgently reduce our use of energy: (1) Burning massive quantities of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) dumps millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and this is causing climate change; (2) Peak oil and other energy supply problems means that energy is going to get scarcer and much more expensive in coming years. We need to use energy much more efficiently and transition to renewable energies without delay.

  • Read widely about climate change and peak oil: These subjects have political implications, and this means certain political parties and media institutions have an incentive to muddy the waters. But these matters are much, much, much too important to be determined by political power games. Let the science determine your perspective, not the politics. Read widely and critically. Ask questions. Do your own research. Most importantly, think for yourself.
  • Buy ‘green’ energy: Many energy companies today have an option for purchasing green energy (i.e. that is, energy produced from wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, etc, rather than from fossil fuels). Green energy will be somewhat more expensive, but if you take energy efficiency seriously you will probably be able to offset price increases by reducing consumption. Call your energy company today. If they do not offer Green Energy, change companies.
  • Take energy efficiency seriously: This can take many forms, including insulating your house well; only heating or cooling the rooms you are in; using energy efficient light bulbs; turning lights off when you leave the room; turning appliances off at the wall; only boiling the water you need, etc. Many small steps make a big difference, both in terms of consumption and cost.
  • Use commonsense: If you are cold, put on a sweater rather than always turning on the heater. We are all hardier than we think we are. If it’s really hot outside, keeping the doors, windows, and curtains closed keeps the house cool.
  • Solar: If you can afford to buy solar panels and/or a solar hot water system, do so. Not only do most systems pay for themselves over a number of years, but by investing in renewable energy you will be indirectly supporting further research and development of renewable energy systems.
  • Question the need: Undoubtedly some modern appliances reduce labour. But some appliances are totally unnecessary and others are just gimmicks. Avoid electronic or petrol-fueled appliances that you do not really need. Drive less.
  • When purchasing an appliance, choose the most energy efficient: Energy efficient appliances are usually more expensive, but again, the extra initial cost is usually offset over time by the reduced energy costs.  
  • Set up a solar-heated shower bag outside: In the summer, a solar-heated shower bag (the kind often used on camping trips) can provide you with solar hot water for free. This won’t work in the winter, but it is likely to reduce energy bills noticably in the summer. And it’s invigorating!

14 Comments

  1. The most recently developed wind-turbine technologies have brought us wind-produced energy which is more cost efficient as well as more widespread. More state-of-the-art wind energy technologies are typically more market competitive with conventional energy technologies. The newer wind-power technologies don’t even kill birds like in days of old! Wind energy production is a growing technology, and companies engaged in it would make up an excellent part of a growth or aggressive growth portfolio.’

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  2. Wood stoves are great and you can grow your own wood. Digesters could easily cause an explosion and I would treat them with caution and suspision. The quality of gas would be all over the place as well. Ultimatley, our energy comes from the sun so it seems to me that using less is the first thing, and then going solar as you can afford it for the rest.

  3. We heat with our wood stove on cold days. I like to cook everything on those days on top of the wood stove, and avoid turning on the electric. It is fun to fashion an oven by using a baking dish set on stones with a roaster turned over to create a convection oven. I baked an apple crisp the other day to perfection in 45 minutes, even browned on top – on top of the wood stove.

  4. Tom Borland,

    Wow! So there is no real reason not to use biodigestors. I’d imagine they could provide a more storeable source of energy, unlike solar and wind, which are dependent on weather to a large extent.

    I think water power (water mills) should be added to the list, too. That’s something that someone who is lucky enough to live by a river could use for power.

  5. Hi T MacL

    I suggest you look a little more closely into the process.

    There is an awful amount of info out there concerning the processing of animal “pooh”, sewerage and vegetable waste with biodigestors. You could start here:

    http://www.ideaconnection.com/solutions/innovative/415-Anaerobic-Biodigestion-of-Community-Waste.html

    It might surprise you to discover that London street lights used methane processed from sewerage during Victorian times.

    What concerns me is that in the Simplerway is: Why is there no mention of biodigestion as a means of energy production?

    Tom

  6. Hi Tom Borland,

    I’m not too sure, but perhaps the reason why methane combustion is not usually an option on the table is because of the way it is produced. When you have a landfill with no oxygen, a lot of methane is produced. This is because there is anaerobic digestion. When there is some oxygen, carbon dioxide is produced, from aerobic digestion.

    Maybe it is the case that when you have anaerobic digestion, what you have left over is not compost, but some kind of unusable stuff. In that case, you could either get methane, or compost, but not both.

  7. Why do we need so much energy? Can we not learn to live with less? Try winding down when the sun goes down, not using the light at all. I think this would be better for the pineal gland.

  8. Much as I love unplugging and getting all those little lights turned off, I hate having to reprogram my sound system, etc. every time I want to use them. Has anyone found a way around this?

  9. Use power strips for your computer, TV, etc. to stop the “phantom load”. Unplug digital devices if you can when not in use – like a microwave, since the digital display uses electricity. Check to see if you can rent a kilowatt meter from your library to determine the electricity the items in your house use…you’ll be surprised. Don’t leave your computer on all the time…really, you can turn it off almost all day and only turn it on when you need it (and you may find you don’t want/need to log on as much!) Drive less, bike and walk more. Heat with a woodstove. Do you really need that extra refrigerator or the freezer? They use a lot of electricity. Get an on-demand water heater. In my town I think of the coal shipped from Wyoming every time I turn on a light!

  10. I note that there seems to be no mention of two simple energy sources – one that complements solar – when there is no sun there invariably is some wind – and the other that can take care of a massive amount of animal and plant waste.

    Apart from solar energy, the other two systems that I believe can contribute to our energy needs in a simple way are small vertical wind turbines that can be fixed on roof tops or at the top of poles and the other biodigestion.

    Of the two I find it quite extraordinary in my reading about the quest for alternative energy sources, it is the seemingly low priority given to the power that can be generated from the “hot air” – methane – generated by animal and plant waste. It appears, apart from in Sweden and perhaps Germany and of course China, that biodigestion, the simple “treatment” process of animal and plant waste for the production of “cheap” energy (and as a bonus “fertiliser”), is low on the priority list for power production after solar and wind.

    Perhaps someone out there can explain why.

  11. Debi;
    Not sure what fridge you are referring to, I have never heard of a Sunfrost and we don’t have Sears in Australia that I know of. I am going to do more research on fridge brands before I make any decision. Oh, and I would love to put more panels up but unfortunately I have no roof space left!

  12. New refrigerators cost around $500. Dont waste money on a realy pricey refrigeraor, it is not necessary. It is less expensive to buy the energy star $400 or $500 dollar sears one and use the other $1500 for more panels or other upgrades you need than to buy a sunfrost

  13. I am trying to work out whether it is better financially/environmentally to buy a new energy efficient fridge or keeep my old energy guzzling 20 year old fridge?
    Although it uses more power then a new fridge it still seems to work fine and I wonder if the energy savings I would make would be worth the initial cost of the new fridge($1900)?
    And then there is the energy required to make the new fridge. Would the energy used to manufacture and transport a new fridge outweigh the extra energy used by my old fridge or would I be reducing carbon pollution in the long run?
    I have 2kw of solar panels and solar hot water and average an $80 credit on our bill each qtr. We use approx 6.5kwh per day. Would love to know how much energy I could save per qtr with a new fridge so I could work out how long it would take to recoup the cost of a new fridge.
    Anyone know a website where I could work this out?

  14. Take cold showers (easier in the summer). It is better for your skin, retaining the natural oils.

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