(Good idea. But it will only buy time)
|Excerpted from December 1996 issue
Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, so it is automatically saved, or as we say in physics, conserved. But the normal meaning of conserving or saving energy includes such things as (A) not letting heat escape, and (B) not using more fuel than necessary to do whatever job is required to be done. After all, the heat energy that escapes through the walls of a house into the great outdoors is not useful, even if that energy was not destroyed.
Why bother saving energy?Yeah, saving energy saves money, but is that all?
If you were given some annual allocation of (say) 100 gallons of heating oil to get you through the winter in a northern climate, then you should insulate well, and be very careful to keep the house just barely warm enough for mere survival, so that you don't run out of oil before the winter is over. This is the strategy of squirrels who store nuts to get themselves through the winter: more will be available next summer.
Go back to the same picture, but with the following modification: you are given 100 gallons of oil, and that is all the energy you will ever get. The 100 gallons must last you and all of your descendants forever. You may figure out some scheme _ using 33 gallons per year, for example _ that will maximize your life expectancy, but it is only a time-buying operation, and leaves nothing for your progeny.
Now look at the world-wide energy picture. In a given year, the US uses
1/4 of the energy consumed in the year, and the rest of the world uses
3/4. Think of that as four logs on the fire, one labeled US.
This plan has numerous benefits, aside from making conservation zealots
proud. There will be no need to pay Social Security benefits to baby-boomers,
because they won't reach retirement age. Nobody will ever be around to
have to pay off the national debt, so Clinton can continue with his plans
According to the usual picture, the three logs remaining on the fire will soon be gone, perhaps in three decades. Then the remaining log (retrieved from the museum) will be gone in less than one additional decade. The net effect of our Green zeal is _ aside from a few hundred million US deaths caused by lack of energy _ a few years of survival for the rest of the world.
And what great benefit would the Global Village get if we cut our energy consumption by only 10% instead of 100%? Less than a year.
So, aside from the very legitimate purpose of saving money that might be used for other purposes, conservation makes sense only when there is some continuing but feeble supply, such as windmills, firewood, hydropower, and direct sunbeams. (As of press time, there is no known governmental program in Egypt to save sand, or in the Amazon to save water.)
The renewable sources of energy _ direct sunlight, wind, hydropower, biomass _ are all solar in origin, and are in toto inadequate for running anything that passes for civilization. In fact, all solar sources combined have no chance whatsoever of sustaining the present world's population. The only way for humanity to rely on solar energy alone is to engage in Draconian population reduction methods that would make Population Bombers proud and make Hitler and Stalin look like choirboys.
Neither coal nor oil nor natural gas is renewable. For that matter, neither is uranium or thorium. However, there is enough of the nuclear fuels to last for millions of years at any conceivable scale of usage. Who cares whether it's renewable, as long as it will last essentially forever?
Excerpted from December 1996 The Energy Advocate