Monday, January 4, 2010

Here's to an Energy Efficient 2010

In the fall of 1980 I enrolled in a high school elective called “Power and Transportation”. This was primarily because I liked cars and wanted a simple industrial art’s course to balance the rest of my college prep courses, like French and pre-calculus. We didn’t get to work on cars, or build the go-cart like some students got to do on an occasional lucky year. Instead my class got to do a lot of academics…what was with that guy, my instructor, Mr. Kosko. It was his first year teaching. He lectured everyday – hydraulics, pneumatics, power generation, internal combustion engines…I guess he wanted to teach. He even required us to write a term paper and present it to the class—an oral presentation. What the heck? A term paper in an industrial arts course, with a speech—maybe I was in the wrong class. But I digress; the importance of this class to my rambling today was my term paper. I don’t remember the exact title but I remember the topic well--using off shore wind mills to generate electricity in order to use electrolosis to generate hydrogen as an alternative power source.

Thirty years ago a high school student was writing about alternative energy sources to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. If I felt so strongly about it, perhaps I shouldn’t have attended college in Texas. There were not a lot of alternative energy course available in my Mechanical Engineering program at that time – so my direct interest in alternative energy sources diverged. I remember looking for them in the course catalogue, which I still happen to have…let’s see…in 1982 the number of courses offered in ME that could be considered alternative energy…zero. Things that make you go hmmmm? Again, I digress.

I look around me today with all that has happened in thirty years and I wonder how much real progress has been made. Are we as a country more energy efficient? Has our reliance on foreign oil been reduced? Am I personally helping or hurting the situation? I don’t know exactly what my daughter is learning in her 6th grade science but I do know that if I don’t turn the water off while I’m brushing my teeth she comes in and shuts it off. If I throw an aluminum can in the regular trash she corrects me on the spot.

I have been thinking about alternative energy, reducing our reliance on foreign oil, increasing my energy efficiency, and since the two go hand in hand, reducing the impact to environment, for many years. But I appear to have done nothing about it, at least not personally. I've just been thinking about it. I seem to have been waiting for someone to do it for me…like letting my daughter turn of the water or waiting for industry to make solar energy affordable, for instance. I could definitely afford to put some solar panels up on my roof or throw an additional foot of insulation into my attic. I haven’t. In fact I still live in an energy inefficient house. And I still leave the lights on. About the only thing I’ve done is replace my incandescent bulbs with fluorescent, but I don’t thinks that’s to save energy, I’m just tired of changing light bulbs. And then there’s that little issue with mercury…my head hurts just thinking about it. I need help but it’s tough to know where to turn.

It’s tough to know who’s telling the truth these days…are we warming the atmosphere or is it the result of increase solar activity during the 11 year solar cycle. To me that’s a stupid debate. To even suggest that 6,794,333,145 people are not having an impact on the environment in a very big way is to be completely dissociated with reality. We are having an impact. So we should do something...even if some of those will never pan out. Just like we no longer test nuclear weapons, the world woke up one day and said let's stop, that's bad for our collective health. Or let's stop dumping toxic waste into our fields and streams...the list is short...but progress has been made...we do wake up from time to time.

What exactly is that impact of almost 7 billion people on this planet? I’m not sure but whatever the impact it will only get worse. What if all those people owned a house like mine, drove cars like mine, left the lights on like me, left the water running like I do, kept their house as warm as I do, and generally think that by using florescent light bulbs they are doing their part to help? Well if the Country has been asleep for 30 years, so have I. It’s time for a change. I can’t do it all by tomorrow, but by January 2011, with my daughter’s help, I hope to have done something. So aside from my standard resolutions of getting closer to God, being a better husband and father, losing weight, eating better and reducing my cholesterol, I resolve to be more energy efficient in 2010. Don’t know what I will do yet, but stay tuned, I’m sure I will talk about it here.