What are you doing to reduce Fossil Fuel Use?

Let me preface this by admitting that, yes, I’m one of few Anglicans I know who votes Republican. Not always–but often. I believe that a strong corporate sector is a benefit to society as a whole. Remember, corporate America isn’t just a horde of faceless automatons powered by greed, it’s the way that we create and maintain a decent standard of living for the majority–though not all, of course–of Americans. Corporations do need to be called to account and the best way to do it is with our checkbooks, not legislation. Or at least a judicious blend. Certainly legislation alone is not the answer. No, we have to think about what we buy and how we spend our money and also to be vocal about our spending choices.

That having been said, what are you doing now to reduce your use of fossil fuels? The loss of life in New Orleans and the cultural losses in and around that city are dire; these should be our foremost and immediate concerns. There may well be a long-term warning here too (in addition to lessons about building below sea level…). Another thing that this emergency is doing is demonstrating once again American over-dependence upon fossil fuels. The most obvious sign is the dramatic and drastic rise in the price of gas. I hate to see what heating is going to be like this winter. Part of this is due to the refineries in the Deep South, the importance of NO as an oil port, and also the destruction of oil rigs in the gulf. Another significant factor is fear–the oil companies and others know that we know this and can play on our fear.

Some of the academic bloggers have been recently writing quite a bit about the notion of peak oil and the current energy situation. Yes, I still call it a situation rather than a crisis because I don’t think it is at a crisis point yet. But neither should we be actively helping it reach the crisis point. So…what are you doing about it?

Now, the answer to this problem does not solely with Detroit/Tokyo/Seoul or with the way we use our cars although this is obviously a big part of the equation. But how about your lighting? How does that electricity get made after all? And what is that material that your fingers are on right now and that surrounds your monitor? Hmmm, plastic isn’t it…Ya know, that stuff really doesn’t grow on trees…

Naturally, I’m not asking this because I *have* an answer. But it is something that we seriously need to think about. What can we do and what are we doing?

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About Derek Olsen

I'm a layman within the Episcopal Church with a PhD in New Testament and an interest in most things medieval, monastic, and liturgical. My chief job is keeping up with my priestly wife and our two awesome kids. In addition to that, I earn a living, run the St Bede's Breviary, listen to loud goth/industrial music, and do some stuff for the church. I currently serve as Secretary to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music where I'm also co-chair of the Calendar committee and chair of the Digital Publications committee.
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13 Responses to What are you doing to reduce Fossil Fuel Use?

  1. LutherPunk says:

    Well, I am not driving a lot at the moment…especially in my Hemi!

    I think the concept of working from home offices is the future for many of us. The truth is that most days I don’t NEED to be at the church building. Writing sermons and lessons, making phone calls, pondering my naval…all this can be done at home.

    This not only cuts down on my gasoline usage, but limits needing to heat/cool/light etc another building.

  2. *Christopher says:

    Well. I take public transportation twice a week, not always an easy thing considering where my new work is located. And I walk a lot to the grocery store and all. The BF does a lot of his work from home as lp mentioned….

  3. Caelius says:

    I’m a student who bikes or walks almost everywhere. I don’t own a car. But I live in a place where it’s easy to do so. I try to reduce my electricity usage and not accumulate large amounts of stuff. (If I wanted to minimize it, I wouldn’t blog.) People in the US have large ecological footprints.

    But we can reduce our impact in some ways:

    1. Support healthy urban development. Vibrant cities with dense mass transit systems (and bike routes) require fewer drivers, less stretching of utility networks, and less land use per person versus the suburbs. I’m not so foolish to believe we can all return to the countryside and live off the land. But I think a well-designed city can be far more energy efficient than metropolitan areas of suburban sprawl. That means tackling all of the problems and misconceptions about the problems of American urban life. How about building an improved Maglev railroad system and putting its operation out to competitive bidding? The National Airways System is becoming increasingly clogged. Aviation fuel needs a lot of oil to make. (I’m considering taking Amtrak home for Christmas.)

    2. If you have a big house in the suburbs or a small house in the city, don’t have a big lawn of finely manicured grass. Plant trees or vegetable gardens, which either prevent large amounts of water loss from the soil (water is an important resource, too) or will provide fresh food that doesn’t need to be transported large distances to your kitchen.

    3. Scavenge or buy used. Americans waste tremendous amounts of stuff. You’d be surprised how much good furniture can be found in the dumpsters of Chicago. The less new stuff you buy, the less new stuff needs to be made (and all manufacture takes energy). However, our wasteful consumer habits are a strong driver of our economy.

    4. Install solar panels on your roof. They continue to come down in price and will reduce your draw on the grid

    5. Support alternative power generation methods. No one likes to live near a wind farm. They’re a little noisy. But no one likes to live near the oil refinery either.

    But most alternative energy sources still can’t power the US alone without major reductions in our standard of living. We can increase funding for wackier ideas, but we’re going to have to become reconciled with greater use of nuclear power. Maybe, we can reduce our nuclear arsenal to 1000 warheads (or less, we need only 200 or so for deterrence) and turn them into fuel (there are difficulties, I know, and the waste is a problem, but we could be in dire straits within our lifetimes anyway).

    Frankly, I’m hoping that someone finds a way to do helium fusion, but that process only will produce very large amounts of relatively cleanly generated electricity. It only will be useful in a world where electricity can fulfill all our needs. Whatever happens, we are eventually going to need fewer internal combustion engines.

    And believe me, I’m not criticizing anyone. There are so many things in our lives in which you have to say, “I know that’s energy intensive, but is there any real alternative?” If more people expressed those thoughts aloud, our lovely capitalist system would develop alternatives. Derek is quite right to point out that corporations do listen to the power of the checkbook.

  4. LutherPunk says:

    One of the problems we are encountering is that Atlanta has a crap mass transit system, especially if you live in the burbs.

    Also, if you have a lawn, trees and plants are expensive. I planted mums and laid down mulch lsat week, and spent almost $100. Trees run a minimum of $20 for small ones. We have planted a few cypress and pear trees, but the money is an issue in the face of all the other bills we have. Just this year I have spent close to $1000 on our yard, and that is a lot when one is a pastor and one is a math teacher. And quite honestly we live in the burbs because we can afford it. A house the size of ours inside the city of Atlanta would cost close to 3x’s a much. And we live in a 3 br/2 ba home, hardly a mansion.

    We’ve programmed our climate control system to adjust accordingly when we aren’t home; we burn more candles than lights, and hardly watch TV. We avoid driving when we can, but it is hardly practical. And when we fo anywhere far off, we drive E’s Toyota rather than my truck. And, BTW, I drive a huge truck because I am pushing 6’4 and 250 lbs. A Honda hybrid hardly works for me unless I want to rip out the front seat and sit in the back.

    Sorry this is turning into a rant, but you do what you can within reason…everything else is just extra.

  5. Caelius says:

    Agreed. One of the tensions I was trying to point out was that there are plenty of people like you and your wife who are doing a very good job reducing consumption on an individual basis but find themselves at the mercy of poor planning decisions on a communal level.

    I also didn’t mean to imply that it should take a lot of money to reduce energy consumption. One of my concerns is that working class people are being pushed into longer and longer commutes by a variety of forces, which isn’t good for oil consumption or their budgets.

  6. LutherPunk says:

    One of the worst things we have had do deal with is that when subdivisions are planned, especially in suburuban Atlanta, they clear cut EVERYTHING. We are one of the few lots that had a tree on the lot already. Atlanta in general alsoha had poor city planning over the years. Even when I lived in town, I had to drive just about everywhere. It doesn’t have the feel of a New York or Chicago, where neighborhoods are gernerally self contained.

    I do like that some developers are figuring this out and building multi-zoned communities where businesses, apartments, and single family homes are built in clusters.

    Sorry if I came off sounding pissy in the last post…we live in constant tension here trying to live our core convictions within our living environment.

  7. Gracious Light says:

    Well… I’m still processing my thoughts but I agree ATL mass transit sucks but I’m 6’5″, 309 and a drive a MINI Cooper. If its important, it can be done.

    I’ve got to worry about feeding 100 people from the Big Easy tonight, more later.

  8. Derek the Ænglican says:

    City planning is absolutely a big part of it. And yeah–Atlanta sucks in terms of mass transit. It’s virtually impossible to get anywhere without your own car if you’re in Decatur or one of the outlying areas like y’all are. It’s not so bad if you live near where you work/go to school.

    One of the things we seen in recent years is the “breakdown” of American communal society. Wouldn’t it be nice to have communities again…shops, schools, churches in the communities that they serve. Imagine being able to walk to your church…

    Of course, I’ve got it easy since I’m in NY. The subways are great. I also know I probably wpn’t be here much longer. So far, Americans seem to think about the environment like we do about diets. We try to crash-diet in times of crises, then binge again when supplies are plentiful. Let’s face it–we have a fossil fuel addiction. and I see it much like a food addiction because it is not practical to cut all fuel out entirely. We have to learn to live with less.

    To go back to the diet thing, people may loose weight with them but they don’t become healthy by going on a diet–it requires a lifestyle change and a commitment to healthy eating, exercise, etc. Right now America needs a serious lifestyle change, not another purge to binge cycle.

  9. Annie says:

    I wish I could do more, but about all I’ve been able to do recently is to insist that we run no extra trips into town, that we consolodate as many errands into one trip as possible. I have a gas guzzling truck. I wish we could walk or ride bikes, but it isn’t practical as we live so far from everything. We live ten miles from the commercial center of town.

    One other thing I have been doing is drying my clothes on the line, weather permitting. At the moment, my A/C is off and the windows and doors are open. When the A/C is on, it is set at 80 degrees (not a new practice).

    That’s all, so far.

    Annie

  10. David B. says:

    The biggest thing I think an individual can do is consider gas mileage when buying a vehicle. I have been reading some of the analysis on our current energy usage, and the experts I have read have been saying that improving fuel economy of vehicles is the only way to make a significant dent in demand. I hope hybrids become more affordable. Even until then, maybe we should choose the 30 mpg sedan instead of the 20 mpg SUV (after all, a sedan takes a person to work just as well as an SUV, unless of course you need it for off-road purposes, lol).

    Day to day, I have been trying to walk more places and stay in my little village rather than “go to town” (I live about 7 miles from a town with entertainment). I am also going to shop for groceries every 2 weeks instead of every week. I have been driving more slowly too, keeping it at the speed limit or below, accelerating slowly and coasting whenever possible. I have been keeping the house warmer, saving electric power. In the car, I don’t use the AC unless I am really hot, and I don’t roll the windows down when I drive over 40 (which creates drag, reducing gas mileage). These are little things, but if everybody did these, we’d see at least some impact.

  11. Emily says:

    I’m mostly working from home at the moment (although not by choice, sigh) but I am careful about errands.

    I do have to drive to Broken Arrow, OK, this weekend to fulfill a previous supply commitment. Supply clergy are going to start to be stretched if gas continues to go up, as our mileage reimbursement is not going to cover our actual costs.

  12. Jonathan says:

    Good question! I’ve become almost obsessed with saving energy lately. Some of it is environmental, much of it financial. In other words, I don’t want Exxon and Ohio Edison spending my money; I want to spend it.

    I don’t run the air conditioner except in miserable weather (now that I’ve moved, I get a Lake breeze), unplug my alarm clocks until bedtime, unplug my microwave, etc. when I’m not using them. I try to take short showers, so I don’t waste heat. I also try to double up on errands and take the route that involves the least distance and/or traffic (sitting in traffic of course = 0mpg).

    Public transport and bike riding aren’t really an option for me since I live in the country but work in the city. I think the biggest impact on savings would be more fuel efficient cars and/or actually building affordable homes and creating safe neighborhoods within the city limits near the jobs.

  13. LutheranChik says:

    Living in a rural area, conserving gas is difficult because we are so far away from everything. But in our household we’ve greatly reduced our number of discretionary “adventure trips,” and I know I try to run as many errands as possible when I do drive. And when I do venture to the big city, I try to get a lot done there.

    But transportation is just a part of it. Think of all the products we use that utilize petrochemicals.

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