We need energy conservation
I read with great interest Ann Ingerson’s recent letter. She clearly outlines several energy issues that need careful and thorough attention.
The third issue she lists as needing attention is to consider energy efficiency in the permitting process. She says in part, “Expanding renewable energy must include aggressive efforts to rein in demand, rather than forever climbing up a growing hill.” Herein lies the biggest problem: how to keep energy usage from growing in the face of so many built-in factors that keep energy demand growing.
The problem is endemic, built into our society over the last 200 years: fostering more and better (spend our way out of trouble and into the future); the infrastructure of cars and roads instead of a more efficient rail system; large corporations which, through stealth, have gained the rights of citizens, are beholden not to the community but to some far-off investors and, when found transgressing the law, do not go to jail but sometimes pay fines which are easily made up in the profits gained; political deadlock where ideologies and getting re-elected trump looking out for the good of communities and the nation.
What is lacking in Ms. Ingerson’s letter is a much-needed emphasis on energy conservation. She makes reference to this much-neglected term and action when she says “aggressive efforts to rein in demand.” This is one large part of energy conservation. The question is: How do we do this in the face of the endemic problems, some of which I pointed out above?
One would think that the Vermont comprehensive energy plan would have addressed this issue. It does not. I have read all volumes of the plan and counted the times “energy conservation” and “energy efficiency” are mentioned. And the loser by leaps and bounds is conservation. The plan is woefully lacking in addressing energy conservation.
My greatest concern about the rush to embrace renewable energy is that we do not have even the beginning of an energy conservation plan, much less an idea of how to rein in demand. Studies have shown that increased energy efficiency does not necessarily lead to reduced energy use. It seems to be human nature that we use resources up until they are gone. Time will tell if we use less energy over the years. The least we can do is keep some records as to how we are doing in this respect, personally, statewide and nationally.
We must remember that energy efficiency is not energy conservation. We can tighten up our homes and use less energy to heat them, but unless we turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater, we are not practicing energy conservation. Energy conservation is driving less, not necessarily switching to a more energy-efficient vehicle. Energy conservation is downsizing a house, closing off rooms in the winter to use less heat, drying our clothes on a line outside in the summer and inside on a rack in the winter instead of using the clothes dryer.
An effective energy plan for Vermont would enumerate all the ways to build conservation into all our activities and then implement them. Without “built-in conservation,” I’m afraid that we will continue to follow the route of speed and convenience, pedal to the metal growth, and end up a couple of decades from now being in the same pickle as now or worse.
We ourselves have stacked the cards against energy conservation. Can we realize this and do what needs to be done before it takes a major crisis to wake us up? Does anyone remember the Pogo cartoon, “We have met the enemy — and he is us”?
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