How a society produces and uses energy is a philosophical issue. Currently, our society (North America) has allowed the very large purveyors of energy to limit supply and access to their products to help manage their profit and discourage the appearance of businesses and technologies that would normally compete with their market position. While some people would argue that this is just a case of “market forces at work,” I would like to propose that this is more of an artificial set of conditions that have been imposed on society-at-large for the benefit of a very small group of people.
The point of this is NOT to blame, or dwell on this, but to wake up to the idea that we have options to change this situation so that the benefit of how energy is produced and used is spread more evenly throughout the whole of society.
On the Home page of this website, I introduce the philosophical idea to “Conserve, and use Natural Energy First” as the most practical PATH for an individual (or a society) to follow to dramatically lower the cost of energy use. The example used on that page is to replace an electric furnace with a heat pump and to increase the insulation value of the home by a factor of three, to reduce energy costs for heating the home by 87%. When similar ideas are used to lower the cost of Hot Water in the home, the financial benefits of this philosophy start accruing rapidly.
If the money saved from lower energy costs is routinely applied as additional payments to the mortgage on the house, the financial benefit to the home owner can be multiplied even more. This allows home owners to keep more of the money they earn instead of paying the banks and utility companies more than they really have to. The point is, that much of the financial benefit of energy managed this way (Conserve and use Natural Energy First) accrues to the energy USER instead of to the energy PROVIDER.
Philosophically speaking, individuals and society-at-large should NOT be looking for some “magical box” that can produce large amounts of energy for FREE, using some new, “hi-tech” method, before they learn how to STOP WASTING the energy they currently have. Here’s what I mean:
1) The electric power grid in North America loses 50% of the electricity generated by the power plants during its distribution to all the customers. 50% of all of the energy put into the electric power grid is LOST before it is used!
2) Another 50% of all the energy purchased by the average home owner in North America is lost due to inadequate insulation and inefficient appliances.
3) But your automobile is the worst. The engine in the average car only converts about 23% of the energy content of the fuel it burns to move the car down the road. The other 77% of that energy is lost as heat to the environment, coming out through the exhaust pipe and the cooling radiator.
This level of endemic, wholesale waste of energy, is a societal problem, encouraged by the group of people who profit from it. The solutions are obvious, but how to implement them are not. 50% energy loss on the grid is easily addressed by simply generating energy closer to the user. But the utility companies have systematically resisted this idea for decades, because they won’t do anything that will knowingly lower profits to their stockholders. So here is an example of where society’s real needs are NOT MET by Market Imperatives.
Implementing real Conservation methods is the fastest, least expensive way to impact this situation, take back your responsibility, and raise your “energy benefit-to-cost ratio.” The utility companies should NOT be expected to do this for you, especially if you are not willing to do it for yourself. When you understand that spending $3,000 now to up-grade the insulation in your home, windows, and water heater, can take 10 years off your mortgage payments, you begin to see the real financial benefit that you can provide to yourself!
This is a philosophical issue. Nothing is stopping you from enjoying much lower energy costs right now, except your unconscious expectation that the utilities, or the government, or the banks SHOULD provide this for you without you even asking for it!! When you do ask for it, they routinely say NO. This leaves the simple and well defined path of taking responsibility for providing these benefits to yourself and your family.
Cutting waste and using freely available resources from the environment is the solution. As far back as civilization goes, this has been the solution for society’s needs. In the past, it has worked to overcome water shortages, food shortages, weather extremes, and dozens of other conditions. Today, it is applicable to our energy use patterns.
“Conserve and use Natural Energy First” is our Energy Philosophy, but it is an ancient idea that has helped build civilization for thousands of years. All we are saying, is that it is still the best path to a better future.
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