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Finding the fuel

Ouch! I just received my gas and electric bills for our farm. I may have to mortgage a kid or two to pay them. And last week I read in the newspaper that the State Utility Regulatory Commission estimates that over the next four years ‘rates are expected to increase 14 percent’ for homes ‘whereas commercial and industrial rates are expected to jump 13 and 11 percent, respectively.’ How in the world are we going to handle that?
I’m not complaining about the utility companies at this point. I don’t have enough information to form responsible opinions. Our state regulatory commissions have been pretty credible watch dogs. For now, I have to assume they have made good decisions in difficult economic times.
I do believe we as a public have given utility companies, architects, developers, manufacturers and governmental entities a tough scenario in which to be energy efficient. We want bigger homes, higher ceilings, larger windows and more products that go faster and encompass all the latest conveniences. We use a lot more ‘go juice’ than our old agrarian societies did, but, for the most part, we use the same fuel.
Enter in to this equation a heightened awareness of how we are changing our climate with the excessive use of fossil fuels. The wide consequences of this scare even our most confident citizens. There are serious implications of our energy dependence on countries that may not like us. Couple all of this with our national debt and ‘ oops ‘ we have a problem or a challenge. Which do you call it?
The answer, in my opinion, is not to lower the ceilings as we did during a past fuel crisis. Thank goodness most of those dropped ceilings have been removed from our buildings. They were a very visible symbol of our tendency to hunker down in a tough time and just go for survival; a response action rather than a move forward program.
Did you catch two recent headlines? ‘China overtakes Germany as biggest exporter’ and ‘China tries a new tack to go solar.’ Joe McDonald writes for The Daily Finance from Beijing that ‘China’s new (export) status is largely symbolic, but reflects the ability of its resilient, low-cost manufacturers to keep selling abroad despite a slump in global consumer demand due to the financial crisis’ and that economists say ‘China has been rushing to build up stockpiles since crude oil and other commodity prices plunged in 2008.’
German economist Volker Treier predicted recently that his country was set to lose the ‘world export championship’ because of China’s bigger size and higher population. Now, add to this the spirit of innovation we all saw in the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing. Who can forget the creative ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium or the masses of people used to ignite the high-tech artistic presentations. Get the idea?
Keith Bradsher of The New York Times wrote on Jan. 9, 2010, ‘As it moves rapidly to become the world’s leader in nuclear power, wind energy and photovoltaic solar panels, China is taking tentative steps to master another alternative energy industry: using mirrors to capture sunlight, produce steam and generate electricity.’ Now, this may be a farfetched idea in China or anywhere else in the world, but the important thing is that they are pulling out all the stops and trying new ways of doing things. They are not just lowering the ceilings to save energy.
I believe there are enough resources on this planet to support us all no matter how high we build our ceilings or how fast we want our cars to go, but we have to learn to use them differently. And that takes motivation. Change is never easy and often has some false starts, but we had better be ready to try new things and encourage innovative thinking. My husband, Frank, used to say to me, ‘I go to work a different way every day so that I may see new things and get new ideas.’
Let’s think about the linkage between inspiration, attitude and action and get back together in a couple of weeks.