By John Karoly
Chicago, IL, USA
Much discussion today by both government and industry centers on the creation of “clean” and “renewable” energy. You hear these words hundreds of times per week. Unfortunately, these discussions and the related technologies are often driven by political and financial calculations. There is really no energy technology that is totally clean, environmentally-friendly and efficient. There are just varying degrees of environmental “friendliness.” Some are more unfriendly than others. Some are very cute schemes, like using McDonald’s cooking oil from French Fries as car fuel. It makes for a clever newspaper article, but it does not move the needle on our energy savings chart. And while every little bit helps, the sum of all these “technologies” offers negligible savings to our overall energy consumption; it is in fact far below one percent of our total energy use.
There is, however, one source of energy that is both totally “environmentally-friendly,” “renewable” and free - Energy Conservation.
When conservation is mentioned, most people think of saving gas by buying a hybrid car or downsizing to a compact. While this is a very good idea and a way to save a significant amount of energy, it is not by any means the end of the conservation story. Rather it is the beginning.
It is estimated that we could save as much as 30-35% of our total energy consumption by aggressive conservation measures. This figure is five times more savings than all the energy generated by alternative energy, i.e., not by fossil fuels or nuclear. If we could realize such a savings, we could achieve our goal of not importing crude oil from the Middle East, Venezuela or any country we do not regard as our friend. We could significantly cut air pollution and reduce global warming substantially. Conservation is a program that could be put in place, or at least begin, immediately. It does not require building an expensive infrastructure, making large capital investments or fighting environmentalists in court. It does require, however, the education of our population, a change in our thinking and behavior, a mindset of wanting to achieve a goal and a willingness of living by its tenets.
So what does this all mean? Let me suggest a few ideas to illustrate my point.
The Prius and other hybrid cars teach us that gasoline savings comes from turning the engine off when the car is not in motion. A small, high efficiency car driven properly, with the engine turned off when not moving, will save a lot of fuel. It need not be a hybrid.
(credit: Gray Watson)
Some other examples: 1) Water use is also energy use. To put it another way, water = energy. It takes energy to pump water and it takes water to produce energy. Cut water usage by not throwing food away. Our highest consumption of water by far is from the water used to grow food; 2) Walk or bicycle - it is good for you and the environment; and, 3) Install solar cells on your roof or property, if possible. There are hundreds of ideas that will only modestly alter your lifestyle, but create a cumulative conservation of energy. And last, but not least, thinking about conservation will carry over into your work-life and make you focus on greater efficiencies for your company and industry.
Our government officials should talk first and second and third about energy conservation before talking about energy generating technologies. When they say, “We have to make our country energy independent and develop renewable energy,” they allow us to shrug our collective shoulders and conclude there is little we can do about it as individuals because government should solve the problem and we should watch.
Energy independence is not a spectator sport.
Each of us can do a lot about it. We can, in fact, do the most about it. In the past 40 years, government has never done anything other than talk. It is time to take control of our energy future. A culture of energy conservation can go a long way to restoring our independence without forcing the United States to go further into debt.
John Karoly and his firm provided industrial water recovery systems to companies around the world. Over a span of 30 years, his customers were able to achieve energy savings of nearly 60%.