I got this idea from my good friend Mike Nelson, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of solar in Washington state, who predicts that new technologies and behavior changes are coming together in ways that are going to dramatically cut our total energy consumption. I got a glimpse of that future when I visted the "Plus-Energy" buildings during a solar fact-finding trip to Germany in 2008. Plus-energy buildings are the homes, office buildings, manufacturing plants (Solar-Fabrik) and cutting edge research facilities (Fraunhofer ISE) that consume less energy than their solar roofs produce. They were able to do this because the small amount of energy that they consume is used very very efficiently.
When are we going to see huge energy reductions in our everyday lives in the U.S.? This forum's users already have the knowledge and skills to dramatically reduce the energy consumption of new and existing homes. In other areas, consider how much energy desktop computers use compared to the energy consumed by an iPad or a MacBook Air (90-130 watts versus 3-8 watts). What if this same level of energy efficiency were applied to large server farms? How many residential air conditoning units in Texas are mounted in extremely hot/unisulated attics? Improved motion sensor and enhanced daylighting controls combined with LED lighting could dramatically reduce the energy needed to light our homes, offices, parking lots and streets. Improved irrigation pumping and scientific approaches to agriculture and residential landscaping is another area that has tremendous potential to not only save energy, but also preserve our water resources.
I'm hoping that this discussion will help others envision a brighter and more hopeful future. I'm sure that there are many other examples that people can think of that will dramatically lower our energy consumption, while also improving our quality of life. I look forward to hearing your stories and ideas.
Hi James, there is nothing wrong with being an optimists, it is just that some people might get the impression our situation is under control and NOTHING could be farther from the truth.
The big picture concerns me. Are we causing global warming, contributing to it, or simply failing to react to what mother nature has put on our plate? Whatever the reason, its ugly head is showing over the horizon and America is too poor to do anything about it. We have tried to save the world, but who is going to save us?
Assuming we do the following:
1. Stop importing energy and produce 100% of what we need domestically.
2. Buy American and move those foreign jobs back to inside our borders.
3. Fund research to a level never seen before to develop tomorrows source of clean affordable energy.
4. And this is where you come in, conserve and do everything else we can to hold ourselves together until the other three can save our way of life. Lowering our energy use where we can is good. Dramatically lowering our total energy use is a myth. The truth again is our total energy consumption will continue to rise despite all of the innovations and improvements we can muster over the next 50 years. I haven't found one projected energy chart that has dared to show a decline in our consumption. Our rate of consumption varies, but it increases every year.
Unfortunately the solution first requires that we get a hold of our economy, thus energy independence, domestic jobs, and an end to our cash flowing to other countries. If those don't happen, everything else is mute.
As Paul Hawken would say, hope and dispair are two sides of the same coin. The future does not have to be gloom and doom, although it could be if we fail to make the right choices. I have seen, and I choose to believe, that we have more than enough wealth and intellect to solve the issues that confront us. Solutions are all around us if we choose to act on them. Rarely do trends proceed in a straight line. Utimately, we will all have to learn to live within the physical limits of our planet, or we will not live at all. I have seen enough examples to know that we could live happily and productively on far less energy than we do today.
"Solutions are all around us if we choose to act on them." These are steps in the right direction, but far, far from solutions. It was a year or two ago when some company ran an ad showing a young intelligent looking energy enthusiasts holding up a sugar beet and proclaiming that we could grow our way out of our energy predicament with renewable resources like what he was holding. He was an optimists as well. But by standing in front of the world and proclaiming that renewables could solve our energy problems, which they can't, he was unintentionally undermining the efforts that are needed to start making real changes. If people are told there is already a solution at hand, then why should they sacrifice anything.
I was hoping you would respond to Davids link of Chris Martenson's presentation. Where I was feeling a bit guilty for being too harsh, I don't any more. The link offers a 45 minute condensed version that is well worth the time (time is one of those expotentials we seem to be running out of as well).
I got into energy auditing because it is exciting and it still is. You are excited along with tens of thousands of others. But the message we need to be sending to the public and to our politicians is, we can't do everything that needs to be done. We can stretch our resources to their limits, but we need the leadership that can stand up and say, "With your help America will become energy independent! With your help we will find a better way to power our homes, our cities, and our industry! With your help America will continue to be the America we have known!"
We can't change yesterday, but we had better change tomorrow. I look forward to your comments on Chris Martenson's presentation.
"Solutions are all around us if we choose to act on them."
This is not only an optimistic remark, it is a permaculture principle sometimes stated as the problem is the solution. Our natural relationships with sunlight, with the water cycle and with the ground, where soil can form and deepen, give us many, many opportunities to improve and secure our respective situations, all of which are unique.
We (all together) certainly can revive and renew this society, but under the influence of Chris Martenson, in particular, I believe we can neither put it back to how it was nor complete a journey to an even more technocratic, divorced-from-life environment. That is why I am so committed to the 1000 Home Challenge and to (the best of) permaculture.
The New York Times had an article today on Hewlett-Packard's new servers built with low-power cellphone chips that could reduce power consumption at some of the world’s largest computer centers in some cases by 90 percent.
"The design, called Project Moonshot, replaces the conventional microprocessors used in computer servers with the kind of chips used in cellphones and notebook computers. These mobile chips, which have usually run on small batteries, are designed as power misers, shutting down some inessential tasks and slowing others when placing calls or reaching the Web."
From 9/29: "I have seen enough examples to know that we could live happily and productively on far less energy than we do today."
Thanks, James, for continuing to share examples that let you know. It sounds like you're holding some for later, and I don't mind if you are.
In effect, the race is on! Will the new developments catch on sufficiently? Will enough of them accomplish that?
The main problem is the TAXPAYERS in the US are subsidizing the costs for the RATEPAYERS. Tax dollars are being used to artificially lower the cost of energy in the US, ratepayers get the benefits. Just another way the US gubbament is playing "Robinhood". Let energy show it's true cost by removing the taxpayer subsidies and things will be like in Europe.
"Tax dollars are being used to artificially lower the cost of energy in the US"
I wish to be sure I understand you, Bob. By energy, do you mean fuels, in particular/mainly?
Thank you. Paying true costs for everything would clarify everything, rapidly.
Too bad we cannot just do it, for (as few as) three years, in order to learn something.