Just yesterday I glanced at a “Fun Fact” on my way to market, “Enough energy falls on earth from the sun each day to power a …..” , ok, so I don’t exactly remember it but it was a whole lot of energy that could last the whole world quite a long time. It was really impactful and reminded me that I forgot my reusable tote bags before I entered the store. We see these lil’ quips around and tips for being “green”, but using the same analogy of the Titanic from yesterday’s post, in the big picture, the “green tips” seem a little like choosing the outfit we are going to be treading cold water in. We need some action and we need it sooner rather than later. Our political system is not really up for the task, so it seems that another tact must be taken without the express consent of the political game – which is to make it make sense on the market.
Perusing some of the materials a place like Smartpower.org, they have found that the top four reasons why people don’t buy green energy are:
1. Reliability: “I don’t think it actually works!”
2. Availability: “I don’t know where to buy it.”
3. Cost: “Buying into the ‘lifestyle’ is too expensive!”
4. Inertia: “It’s easier to do nothing.”
These ideas ring true. The merging of our high tech systems with relatively lower tech and more experimental energy systems has been clunky, and too many of those projects of poor design have gotten the limelight. When buying “green energy” it is not as easy as just buying lightbulbs (and even there – ouch, it is hard to buy the expensive ones!) – especially if you really just need a bulb for the bathroom and your budget is really overstretched at the moment. We all have experienced the phenomenon of not changing a habit until we are forced to. I’ve been mulling around these ideas and have yet to come up with a brilliant plan, I’d love any and all input on how to sidestep a gridlocked congress to implement more alternative energy uses.
So: We must begin to make it more painful for Americans to maintain the status quo if they cannot adjust to consuming less. At every step, we should allow a person to maintain their current costs, but those costs might now include conserving a bit more on electricity, water, or cubic feet of waste. This does seem like a governance issue and one of those problems is that some types of government philosophy see any potential financial increases as oppressive. So if Joe Schmoe will now be charged extra for every pound of garbage he adds to the waste stream (and not the recycling stream), that would be seen as oppressive instead of commonsense. It does, however, make sense to charge a sort of “rent” for the space in the truck, landfill, and in air and water too. A ration for water and energy could be standardized across the board – each adult is allowed the equivalent of one 8min shower, 4 flushes, and a few gallons for washing hands, dishes, and laundry. If you want to do more extravagant things with your water but only have one adult living at the residence, it will cost you extra. The same could be done for electricity.
If those of us who conserved energy and bothered to put more expensive systems in place, could sell the credits that we saved to our neighbors (that might have a heated pool), we would have the satisfaction of a near immediate payback on our investment. Even if the break even point did not happen for a couple of years, the market could be more directly tied into energy saving efforts.
Reliability and availability are tied together. Due to our market driven economy, our companies are driven by secrets. Everyone is afraid that anyone else might take their idea and make money off of it. This makes everyone tight lipped and more ignorant when what we really need is an open market of ideas. We need to be able to examine mistakes so that we grow in plans and design, we need to learn from our international counterparts, our universities and our private enterprise. The idea of “a race” to some sort of cure for climate change is a false analogy, it’s not a race for a cure, it’s a drudge and a change for all of us. It is a shift in mindset and a coalescing of humanity to face the biggest threat to all of us – our extinction. Those of us living in relative luxury cannot wait until we are inconvenienced, until we are satisfied that our ideas won’t be cashed in on. We must have the attitude of sharing the work to a world where less energy usage can happen even while sharing more abundance.
I would suggest that to transition to this world, a new prize is developed, one specific to the use and development plan for creating a surge in the use of alternative energy, and a plan for the supporting infrastructure. In working toward this type of prize, the ethic is to share information, to cheer on your competitor, and to share the final product with a guarantee that it will always be patent free. Perhaps this prize has a hefty monetary component, which would need to include many of the runners up, so that this shift in the secretive mentality of technology can be lifted.
The cost. More on the cost later. I want to hear some of your ideas on how to overcome the obstacles of getting Americans to switch to alternative energy. Any takers?