can’t see the forest

On Addiction to Energy


Even if nonpolluting power were feasible and abundant, the use of energy on a massive scale acts on society like a drug that is physically harmless but psychically enslaving. A community can choose between Methadone and “cold turkey” — between maintaining its addiction to alien energy and kicking it in painful cramps — but no society can have a population that is hooked on progressively larger numbers of energy slaves and whose members are also autonomously active…

Liberation which comes cheap to the poor will cost the rich dear, but they will pay its price once the accelleration of their traffic systems grinds traffic to a halt. A concrete analysis of traffic betrays the truth underlying the energy crisis: the impact of industrially packaged quanta of energy on the social environment tends to be degrading, exhausting, and enslaving, and these effects come into play even before those which threaten the pollution of the physical environment and the extinction of the race. The crucial point at which these effects can be reversed is not, however, a matter of deduction, but of decision.

–Ivan Illich
Energy and Equity, 1973-1974

Return the books to me!!
The forest is a college,

and each tree a university.
All knowledge resides within me.
“Queens of the Circulating Library,” 2000

Massachusetts hardwood forestThe title of this website is meant to imply the unfolding of an holistic learning process. Holism, from the Greek όλος (holos, “whole”), is essentially the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts—that a system can be only poorly understood merely as Element A, Element B, and Element C without accounting for the unique properties of the interactions between each and all elements. Think of a family: there could be a mother, a father, and children, but to name the members of the family and their genders and ages is hardly a description of the family. It is a directory listing, an itemization of trees and not a portrait of the forest. If the family is plagued with problems, we will not arrive at an understanding of the trouble and certainly can never come up with prospective solutions simply by rattling off rows of data. The concept seems simple, intuitive. Yet I am continually surprised each and every day in my own life and in observations of the world around me how this idea eludes our grasp in large ways and at crucial times. Leaning to respect details with an eye on the big picture is a lifelong learning process. It is why I am here, and I hope it is at least a part of why you are reading.

Isaac Asimov, asked for his advice to young writers, once said something like this: “If you want to become a better writer, you must write less and read more.” In his trade memoir On Writing, blockbuster novelist Stephen King said much the same thing. I could confidently offer similar counsel to developing musicians: play less, listen more. As a writer—well, so far, the writer—at this site, I have situated myself before the keyboard numerous times, convinced that my day would be scratched off as worthless if I did not produce a post before getting up out of this chair. The results are telling, and I hope you won’t click on them. :-) Write less, read more. Rinse. Repeat.

In our world today there are grave injustices singing out in every province. We are told that “life is not fair,” which is a truth, but a truth with an implicitly demoralizing assumption built in: that there’s nothing we can say or do about it. Some go so far as to say that this is somehow the divine will, that we should “participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world” in this sense. I am no stranger to existential unease, but I profoundly disagree with the idea that this notion is for it the panacea. There are fights that we might judge to be worth our whiles, and others that we deem to be less so. There are twenty-four hours within each revolution of the Earth, and only so much that we can accomplish within them. The holistic thinker, then, rather than considering Injustices A, B, and C as unrelated circumstances, will from his easy chair permit himself the luxury of exploring the relationships between them if he wishes to discover an undercurrent, a common thread. In a Universe which from all appearances works to evolve holistically, there will always be unifying themes.

Ivan IllichThe more I read about political turmoil, abuses of human rights, and ecological disaster, the more I come to believe that the iniquities of life in the contemporary world are driven by a personal and economic addiction to energy in increasing quantity and at decreasing cost. The writings of the Croatian priest, philosopher, and scientist Ivan Illich (pictured) have recently been instrumental in confirming what I had suspected. His Energy and Equity, a brief but rich essay, in my opinion deserves a reading by every literate person and a hearing by every illiterate person on Earth.

At the risk of oversimplification, Illich’s basic premise is this: that a society which maintains its lifestyle and culture without a ceiling of energy consumption is a society which is inherently exclusive to personal equity and thus to the achievement of its potential for social progress. That is, an “energy crisis” is not best understood as a lack of available energy so much as a need for reduced consumption. When the cupboards are getting bare, we do not need to go to the market so much as we need to eat less.

Liberals and conservatives alike, and especially many capitalist libertarians, tend to shriek in alarm at such a suggestion. “How could you dare to limit our freedoms in this way?” An extremely intelligent and valued friend of mine, on hearing my argument for this ideal of frugality, insisted that I could not possibly have meant what I was saying. “You must want something out of it,” he told me. “That’s the reason that treehuggers never accomplish anything. The establishment can smell your hypocrisy. They can shoot you down because of your own false altruism.” This person is a friend, and he meant to challenge me, and he certainly did. He clearly pointed out the ineffectiveness of any doctrine built upon “Do as I say and not as I do.” It is a formidable discrepancy, and I will return to it in my conclusion.

Capitalist moguls and economic planners would have you believe that markets will always grow, that economies should and must always grow. This is because the more an economic system expands, the wealthier those at its reins become. But the expansion of an economy requires ever-increasing amounts of energy for its fuel, about half of which is used for transport and the other half of which is converted into goods. Illich writes:

The advocates of an energy crisis believe in and continue to propagate a peculiar vision of man. According to this notion, man is born into perpetual dependence on slaves which he must painfully learn to master. If he does not employ prisoners, then he needs machines to do most of his work. According to this doctrine, the well-being of a society can be measured by the number of years its members have gone to school and by the number of energy slaves they have thereby learned to command. This belief is common to the conflicting economic ideologies now in vogue. It is threatened by the obvious inequity, harriedness, and impotence that appear everywhere once the voracious hordes of energy slaves outnumber people by a certain proportion. The energy crisis focuses concern on the scarcity of fodder for these slaves. I prefer to ask whether free men need them…

…While people have begun to accept ecological limits on maximum per capita energy use as a condition for physical survival, they do not yet think about the use of minimum feasible power as the foundation of any of various social orders that would be both modern and desirable. Yet only a ceiling on energy use can lead to social relations that are characterized by high levels of equity. The one option that is at present neglected is the only choice within the reach of all nations. It is also the only strategy by which a political process can be used to set limits on the power of even the most motorized bureaucrat. Participatory democracy postulates low-energy technology. Only participatory democracy creates the conditions for rational technology.

What is generally overlooked is that equity and energy can grow concurrently only to a point. Below a threshold of per capita wattage, motors improve the conditions for social progress. Above this threshold, energy grows at the expense of equity. Further energy affluence then means decreased distribution of control over that energy.

Motor-to-wheel assemblyMy interpretation of this passage is as follows: if one truly believes that the ideals of social progress are constituted by the gradual emergence of a uniform standard of living accessible to all nations and to all peoples, then one must recognize that, because energy and resources are both available only at a fiscal cost, the increased availability of energy will never amount to an equalizing force and in fact will tend to oppress and divide society as it grows. Also, because energy and resources are also both available only at a real cost to the environment in which we and millions of other species of life live, the increased availability of energy will tend, as it grows, to degrade the ecology on which life depends for survival.

The common wisdom is that a near-infinite source of “clean” energy would be cheap enough for all to afford and would not adversely affect the ecology of Earth beyond acceptable standards, standards which should be stringently cautious indeed if we as a society are thinking beyond our own generation. But there are a number of problems with this wisdom, which turns out to be in my view not so wise at all.

One problem is the idea that more energy means cheaper energy: for, in a market economy, we know above all else that increased demand means the need for increased supply, but also that increased supply tends to engender increased demand. When supply outstrips demand, demand is created by marketers. When we have more, we want more. In the world of traffic and urban planning, this quandary manifests itself as Braess’ Paradox: adding extra capacity to a network in which moving entities selfishly choose their own routes does not guarantee increased performance and efficiency. Adding lanes to a traffic corridor will tend eventually to increase congestion. The experience of brilliant but ultimately failed cultures throughout history, from Sumer to the Maya, I think, bears out that more is not better and certainly is not necessarily cheaper.

Another quandary with the pursuit of clean energy to the end of increasing its quantity and availability is ecological rather than economic in nature. Clean energy derived from botanical sources reduces the availability of resources for human nutrition—the explosive population growth which characterized both early civilization and the 20th Century, pace Dr. Atkins, has only been possible because of grain crops. We can get a great deal of clean energy from plants, but not nearly enough to provide for the continual economic expansion lusted after in Wall Street and indeed in our own modern homes. Also there has been much fanfare about the possibility of obtaining energy from solar radiation. But the devices which accomplish this are high-technology products requiring an abundance of refined minerals such as silicon and cadmium. The Earth and probably all of the near asteroids simply do not possess enough of these minerals to guarantee the continuous expansion of energy availability very far at all into the future. We and our planet could potentially subsist on a diet of solar and botanical energy; we could not perpetually expand on such an intake.

Earth in Black & White

Let us return to the idea of equity and social progress. Historically, wars between tribes and nations have been fought for a spectrum of reasons, but centered on the need for economic expansion and greater resources. Social revolutions, on the other hand, have been driven primarily by the growth of awareness of perceived “natural rights” of human beings and by unrest derived from social and economic inequalities perceived as unjust. Both are bloody affairs generally entailing poverty, misery, and loss of life. If by “social progress” we mean the elimination of these ills, then we mean the cultivation of a society in which there is no need, or as near no need as is practiceable, for either of them.

If we wish to bring an end to institutionalized warfare, we must cast away such foolish delusions as that we conduct them in the service of “liberty” or “democracy” or “righteousness.” Wars are conducted for the purposes of capital gain; nothing else can realistically justify the capital expenditures required by them, and certainly nothing at all can justify the human expense of war—a belief to the contrary is, in my view, quite antisocial and psychopathic. It happens to be the view of a number of Western leaders, a view which remains largely unquestioned and even reinforced by a despicably subservient and purposefully myopic journalistic media.

And if there is to be no need for bloody uprisings within a society, we must recognize that, just as the capital gains sought by corporations and nations have led to warfare in the modern era, so the unrestricted propensity for personal financial gain among élite classes has been primarily responsible for the outcry and the violence among the less privileged. For both of these unfortunate “realities” of civilized life, then, we can see that greed, the desire for “more,” is ultimately responsible.

There are those, the chief Enlightenment thinkers among them, who would argue that violence and social inequality are somehow products of human nature. I have written before and will gladly reiterate that when one purports to be able to conclusively define any aspect of human nature, one is bluffing if not outright lying. Like any other organisms, and arguably much more so, humans are highly dynamic creatures and it becomes ever more apparent that many of the negative aspects of our being that we write off as human nature are, in reality, learned behaviors which we are not sufficiently resolved to unlearn. Usually this is because we feel that we have somehow earned our rights to do as we please, consequences be damned. The appeal to the constraints of human nature is a merely a quite unsophisticated protest against personal accountability and responsibility in the face of changing circumstances for which we as a species are often responsible. It takes other unsavory forms, encroaching on otherwise pure conceptions of natural rights and the values of heritage and tradition. All are to be severely distrusted. early automobile

For example, one cannot overestimate the impact of the automobile on modern conceptions of our rights (and responsibilities) as human beings. The best literature I have ever read on the subject is CARToons, a slender but powerful art/essay book by the American cartoonist Andy Singer and expatriate writer Randy Ghent which was forwarded to me by Reclaiming Space. It is published by the Czech-based organization CarBusters. Through facts and figures, smart and scathing illustrations, and well-thought prose, CARToons amply illustrates that our love affair with the automobile comes at a cost we cannot afford to sustain.

Although I (happily) spent the past several years as a pedestrian and mass transiteer, I now rely on an automobile to get myself to and from school and around town in general because it was necessary for me to relocate temporarily to an area in which motorized transportation is the only feasible solution for getting around. My one consolation is that it is not a new automobile. Reading the pages of Singer’s book, I can somewhat sympathize with the neoliberal/faux-conservative ethic of “me and mine;” the book feels very much like an attack on my way of life, which is what it is and what it should be. It forces me to consider the merits versus the consequences of a car-driven lifestyle, and compels me to look beyond my own relatively insignificant existence for answers to pressing questions.

I feel, and you may conceivably feel as well, that it is my “right” to drive an automobile and thus to consume fuel. But even the Alabama Driver’s Manual states in plain language that “Driving an automobile is not a right—it is a privilege.” I only conceive of driving as an inalienable right at the moment in which someone suggests that it is destructive and irresponsible behavior. Driving an automobile and consuming the energy resources required in so doing are in fact privileges of wealth, and privileges of wealth are not exacted from a vacuum. They come at very real costs which I am not required to pay, and at others for which I am personally responsible. In an age in which the United States alone fuels and operates about 200 million automobiles, in which a bite of food on average must travel about 1,400 miles from its point of origin to the table, and in which virtually every aspect of urban planning and land development policy is dictated by the needs of the automobile driver, it is certainly far from unreasonable to inquire about the costs associated with the privilege of motorized transportation. They are, in a word, insane.

I am not speaking merely of fiscal or even environmental costs, although both of those categories present challenges and reinforce social iniquity to an alarming extent. Returning to Illich’s treatise:

More energy fed into the transportation system means that more people move faster over a greater range in the course of every day. Everybody’s daily radius expands at the expense of being able to drop in on an acquaintance or walk through the park on the way to work. Extremes of privilege are created at the cost of universal enslavement. An elite packs unlimited distance into a lifetime of pampered travel, while the majority spend a bigger slice of their existence on unwanted trips. The few mount their magic carpets to travel between distant points that their ephemeral presence renders both scarce and seductive, while the many are compelled to trip farther and faster and to spend more time preparing for and recovering from their trips.

In the United States, four-fifths of all man-hours on the road are those of commuters and shoppers who hardly ever get into a plane, while four-fifths of the mileage flown to conventions and resorts is covered year after year by the same 1.5 per cent of the population, usually those who are either well-to-do or professionally trained to do good. The speedier the vehicle, the larger the subsidy it gets from regressive taxation. Barely 0.2 per cent of the entire United States population can engage in self-chosen air travel more than once a year, and few other countries can support a jet set which is that large.

The captive tripper and the reckless traveler become equally dependent on transport. Neither can do without it. Occasional spurts to Acapulco or to a party congress dupe the ordinary passenger into believing that he has made it into the shrunk world of the powerfully rushed. The occasional chance to spend a few hours strapped into a high-powered seat makes him an accomplice in the distortion of human space, and prompts him to consent to the design of his country’s geography around vehicles rather than around people. Man has evolved physically and culturally together with his cosmic niche. What for animals is their environment he has learned to make into his home. His self-consciousness requires as its complement a life-space and a life-time integrated by the pace at which he moves. If that relationship is determined by the velocity of vehicles rather than by the movement of people, man the architect is reduced to the status of a mere commuter.

The model American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns the money to put down on it and to meet the monthly installments. He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes, and tickets. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it. And this figure does not take into account the time consumed by other activities dictated by transport: time spent in hospitals, traffic courts, and garages; time spent watching automobile commercials or attending consumer education meetings to improve the quality of the next buy. The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour. In countries deprived of a transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only 3 to 8 per cent of their society’s time budget to traffic instead of 28 per cent. What distinguishes the traffic in rich countries from the traffic in poor countries is not more mileage per hour of life-time for the majority, but more hours of compulsory consumption of high doses of energy, packaged and unequally distributed by the transportation industry.

Let Your People Go? That Could Lead to an Energy CrisisThe figures are dated and would need revision to be exactly applicable to the 21st Century. But Illich here is outlining his conception of automobile drivers—and, more broadly, the consumers of automobile transported goods—as “energy slaves,” a caricature that is quite apt. What so many proud key jinglers, myself included, have defended as an inalienable right can be more accurately understood as an enforced mode of existence, as bondage to a gluttonous and wrecklessly voracious economy. We are energy addicts. Our addiction requires ever more resources, resources which are not native to our milieu and which must, at some point, begin to be acquired through intimidation and coercion. We are now long past that point, and virtually every instance of turmoil, of perpetual famine, and of intercultural conflagration in our time can be traced back to it. Every crank of the engine, every morsel of processed food or transcontinental produce, then, is in fact a tiny act of oppression and hostility, a mild but sonorous endorsement of social inequality and starry-eyed war for profit. What is clearly the result of conditioning is misconstrued as ubiquitous necessity. The truth is painful.

There are a number of imperfect but progressive solutions.

The development of public transit is one of the most promising prospects. An automobile lane on an expressway, according to Robert Caro, can carry at maximum about 1,500 cars per hour across the same distance that a single track of light rail could carry at least 40,000 persons. The figures of the energy efficiency of one mode versus the other must be staggering in their starkness. Yet, because of the power of the automotive industry lobby and the oil industry lobby—which together represent the lion’s share of corporate revenues in the US and the developed world—the development of public transit systems is seen as subsidy, while the construction of imposing, divisive, and environmentally destructive highways is viewed as sound investment. Unfortunately, not all of us live in areas in which public transit is available or in which transportation by our own biopower is practiceable. But, acting together, groups of citizens can exert a great deal of pressure on local government to invest in more efficient transportation.

Eating locally or even self-produced foods and abstaining from the unnecessary purchase and consumption of mass-produced goods is another solution. The satisfaction derived from regional self-sufficiency is palpable, and the challenge therein presented to an energy-hungry economy can be real and effective. If everyone conserves a little, then we all conserve a very great deal indeed. In an age of interconnectedness and unbridled personal communication across even the largest distances, organization cannot be very much of a problem.

For those who categorically must engage in automobile travel, which realistically is probably relatively few of us, pooling of resources and car sharing are attractive and responsible options. In Europe and East Asia these practices have long been the norm, not born so much out of social responsibility as of economic necessity.

If one perceives such measures as contrary to one’s natural rights, the diagnosis is a simple lack of realization of the costs which the exercise of such “rights” exact upon others. Such misconceptions are widespread and are in fact propagated by the corporatocratic and technocratic establishments which govern economic policy in the modern world. It is indeed a conspiracy theory—a conspiracy to make as much money as possible and to externalize as many costs as possible for as long as possible. To accomplish this, slavery to oppressive and inequitable economic policy has been disguised as inalienable liberty. Said General Motors’ William Mitchell in 1965: “The motorcar must be exciting and create a desire and not become mere transportation, or we will have just a utility, and people will spend their money on other things.”

When someone guarantees you liberty in exchange for cash, when a salesman guarantees that a new food processor or a shiny automobile will increase your happiness, you had better ask serious questions (of yourself, not of the salesman.) A fool and his money are soon parted.

WetlandsIn the end, this issue is about much more than a critique of the automobile; motorized transportation is simply the largest and most threatening manifestation of the sickness of a society addicted to energy.

An addict to hard drugs characteristically refuses to admit that the addiction is problematic, and therein lies the largest obstacle to overcoming the addiction. An addict to energy likewise refuses to acknowledge the unfairness of the conception of his addiction as a natural right, which is likewise the biggest fence between himself and a better world. Commenting on a recent article about the effects of human industrial activity on the ecology of Earth, one BBC reader wrote: “Who’s going to tell a billion people they can’t drive cars or own a home?” Society will not quit its energy habit cold turkey; inevitably Illich’s route of “fits and starts” will have to suffice. Getting reliably from point A to point B and enjoying a comfortable lifestyle are not occluded by the option of a low-energy existence. This is the greatest, most deceptive, and most powerful myth in service of the power brokers and money changers. It is a lie, the irony of which is too great to consider without some measure of anguished laughter.

The idea is that, at the popular level, a shift in ideological focus is necessary. Conceptions of human rights, of human nature, and of social progress must be adaptable. The unchanging word is a lie, at best a lullaby. No rights are inalienable unless they apply equally to every individual on Earth—that comes on the authority not so much of Locke or Montesquieu as Jesus Christ. Furthermore, it is common sense. There is not, nor will there ever be, enough energy to continuously elevate the living standard (if that is what one chooses to think is happening) of every person on Earth; therefore, quite simply, unbridled consumption is not an inalienable right. It is likely that a culture built upon the fable of infinite resources will destroy itself from the inside out before it destroys its environment, and both of these dread endeavors are already well on their ways to becoming reality.

My friend’s challenge that my desire for a society built upon a minimum feasible rate of energy consumption is somehow self-serving is not unfounded. Such a charge is not ammunition for capitalist moguls so much as it is a source of purpose for their opponents—the deciding factor lies in one’s attitude. The cynic can turn the entire world against himself if he so chooses, and his neighbors are none the wiser. We would be well-served in mental and physical health by a lifestyle which required more of us and less of others and of the Earth, by a lifestyle rooted in the fact that we can never have it all, so we must be happy with what we have. In the Earth of bygone eras, such conceptions were branded ludicrous by the wealthy even as they remained self-evident reality for the poor. Not much has changed in that dynamic. Always there was more territory to explore, more people to enslave, more energy to guzzle, more soldiers to die. But in the age of modern understanding of our limitations—which is, by anyone’s account, a critical first step in defining one’s sense of self—we are now in a position to do away with mesmerizing tales of divine blessing of our follies, of riches beyond compare which are ours for the taking. The toxicity of such ideas begins to overwhelm us. What have we learned? What will we pass on? Will it be an organically vibrant forest, or a confused battery of trees in decay?


6 Responses

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  1. Jay Draiman said, on 2/8/07 at 7:15 am


    In order to insure energy and economic independence as well as better economic growth without being blackmailed by foreign countries, our country, the United States of America’s Utilization of Energy sources must change.
    “Energy drives our entire economy.” We must protect it. “Let’s face it, without energy the whole economy and economic society we have set up would come to a halt. So you want to have control over such an important resource that you need for your society and your economy.” The American way of life is not negotiable.
    Our continued dependence on fossil fuels could and will lead to catastrophic consequences.

    The federal, state and local government should implement a mandatory renewable energy installation program for residential and commercial property on new construction and remodeling projects with the use of energy efficient material, mechanical systems, appliances, lighting, etc. The source of energy must by renewable energy such as Solar-Photovoltaic, Geothermal, Wind, Biofuels, Ocean-Tidal, etc. including utilizing water from lakes, rivers and oceans to circulate in cooling towers to produce air conditioning and the utilization of proper landscaping to reduce energy consumption. (Sales tax on renewable energy products should be reduced or eliminated)

    The implementation of mandatory renewable energy could be done on a gradual scale over the next 10 years. At the end of the 10 year period all construction and energy use in the structures throughout the United States must be 100% powered by renewable energy. (This can be done by amending building code)

    In addition, the governments must impose laws, rules and regulations whereby the utility companies must comply with a fair “NET METERING” (the buying of excess generation from the consumer at market price), including the promotion of research and production of “renewable energy technology” with various long term incentives and grants. The various foundations in existence should be used to contribute to this cause.

    A mandatory time table should also be established for the automobile industry to gradually produce an automobile powered by renewable energy. The American automobile industry is surely capable of accomplishing this task. As an inducement to buy hybrid automobiles (sales tax should be reduced or eliminated on American manufactured automobiles).

    This is a way to expedite our energy independence and economic growth. (This will also create a substantial amount of new jobs). It will take maximum effort and a relentless pursuit of the private, commercial and industrial government sectors commitment to renewable energy – energy generation (wind, solar, hydro, biofuels, geothermal, energy storage (fuel cells, advance batteries), energy infrastructure (management, transmission) and energy efficiency (lighting, sensors, automation, conservation) (rainwater harvesting, water conservation) (energy and natural resources conservation) in order to achieve our energy independence.

    “To succeed, you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality.”

    Jay Draiman, Energy Consultant
    Northridge, CA. 91325
    Feb. 8, 2007

    P.S. I have a very deep belief in America’s capabilities. Within the next 10 years we can accomplish our energy independence, if we as a nation truly set our goals to accomplish this.
    I happen to believe that we can do it. In another crisis–the one in 1942–President Franklin D. Roosevelt said this country would build 60,000 [50,000] military aircraft. By 1943, production in that program had reached 125,000 aircraft annually. They did it then. We can do it now.
    The American people resilience and determination to retain the way of life is unconquerable and we as a nation will succeed in this endeavor of Energy Independence.

    Solar energy is the source of all energy on the earth (excepting volcanic geothermal). Wind, wave and fossil fuels all get their energy from the sun. Fossil fuels are only a battery which will eventually run out. The sooner we can exploit all forms of Solar energy (cost effectively or not against dubiously cheap FFs) the better off we will all be. If the battery runs out first, the survivors will all be living like in the 18th century again.

    Every new home built should come with a solar package. A 1.5 kW per bedroom is a good rule of thumb. The formula 1.5 X’s 5 hrs per day X’s 30 days will produce about 225 kWh per bedroom monthly. This peak production period will offset 17 to 2

    4 cents per kWh with a potential of $160 per month or about $60,000 over the 30-year mortgage period for a three-bedroom home. It is economically feasible at the current energy price and the interest portion of the loan is deductible. Why not?

    Title 24 has been mandated forcing developers to build energy efficient homes. Their bull-headedness put them in that position and now they see that Title 24 works with little added cost. Solar should also be mandated and if the developer designs a home that solar is impossible to do then they should pay an equivalent mitigation fee allowing others to put solar on in place of their negligence. (Installation should be paid “performance based”)

    Installation of renewable energy and its performance should be paid to the installer and manufacturer based on “performance based” (that means they are held accountable for the performance of the product – that includes the automobile industry). This will gain the trust and confidence of the end-user to proceed with such a project; it will also prove to the public that it is a viable avenue of energy conservation.

    Installing renewable energy system on your home or business increases the value of the property and provides a marketing advantage.

    Nations of the world should unite and join together in a cohesive effort to develop and implement MANDATORY RENEWABLE ENERGY for the sake of humankind and future generations.

    Jay Draiman
    Northridge, CA 91325

  2. Curtis said, on 2/12/07 at 1:47 am

    Thank you very much for this information.

    I think that many of these suggestions are amenable and are legitimate prospects for progressive, pragmatic solutions to the problem of energy conservation and reorientation towards more ecologically sound energy sources.

    My only misgiving is the notion that the American way of life is not negotiable. The America way of life, and indeed any way of life which is conducted without a reasonable consumption ceiling, must be negotiable. To operate outside of that understanding, I am afraid, is to treat the symptom and not the sickness. It is to use a selling point which, in my opinion, is contrary to the end goal of a sustainable lifestyle. Perhaps I am a radical in that respect.

    The quest for renewable energy is of tantamount importance, but I do not feel that it should be oblique with respect to a quest for lower consumption. I think that if society can marry those two concepts into a unified whole, it will place itself and its future at an advantage and not in a downward spiral.

    Thanks again—great practical information, for which I am grateful, and best wishes in your efforts.

  3. Dave On Fire said, on 2/18/07 at 7:04 am

    First of all, wow, a very perceptive and powerful post. I will be adding you to my blogroll.

    But while the destructive lobbying of the car manufactureres fuels the growth in energy consumption, it is not the root cause. Eternal growth is an inescapable consequence of our monetary system.

    Modern money is created through debt, with interest. A bank gives you (say) $100, and ask for $105 at a later date. If productivity, population, consumption etc. remain constant, those $5 can only come from someone else’s initial $100.

    Not only does this promote exploitation; it drives growth. Society as a whole can only pay off its debts eternally, madly growing. This was fine for a group of small European nations in the 17th century (when this system was elaborated) as they were more than happy to exploit and, crucially, could consider the world to be infinite.

    The scale of human presence is now such that we definitely can’t consider the world to be infinite. Throwing out this assumption is more than just a lifestyle change – it will involve redefining money itself, and as such will be a veritable economic revolution.

    In the meantime, there are of course initiatives we can take to reduce the most destructive kinds of consumption, such as investment in alterrnative energy, emissions trading, and suchlike. We can take inspiration from Iceland, which doesn’t practice a different form of capitalism but, having suffered so much from environmental disasters in its history, nevertheless has a very eco-conscious people and government.

  4. Curtis said, on 2/20/07 at 6:24 am

    Thanks for your comment, Dave. You are absolutely and unequivocally correct, in my opinion–runaway consumption is driven by runaway markets. The causality between the two is rather complex, as I understand it, but that our current path was determined by the economics of long ago is, I think, unmistakable.

    Great to have you, and thanks for coming by.

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  6. Renewable Energy Manufactures/suppliers should use their own product to manufacture.

    The manufacturers’ of Solar Panels and other forms of renewable energy with related support products manufactures/suppliers – should have at least the decency to practice what they preach what they market to the public.
    That would be the best marketing approach I can think off.
    If they believe in the product they manufacture/sell, they should utilize it to its fullest potential.
    It will give the manufacturer the actual experience of utilizing the product on a daily basis, view and experience any shortcoming or improvements that are needed, implement the improvements and capitalize on that revision to improve the product and its performance.
    This will instill confidence in the public to purchase the product.

    Jay Draiman, Energy Analyst

    As with any new technology, PV will become more efficient, cheaper and cleaner to produce. In order for this to happen we (Governments / NGOs / Individuals) need to invest more time and money into making PV viable, e.g. through increased incentives, regulations, technical standards, R&D, manufacturing processes and generating consumer demand.
    Just like the automobile industry, the manufacture used its own product.
    Over the years the automobile industry and technology has evolved from the early 1900 to what it is today the year 2008.
    I predict that in 10 years the automobile we know today will change drastically for the better, with new fuel technology and other modification that will improve its scales of economy and features.

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