Lu Etta Loeber: A call to sacrifice

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— I wish gasoline were still $4 a gallon. Before you question my sanity, take a breath and read on.

Like many Americans across the country, my family and I are concerned about the current economic crisis, which is unlike anything this country has faced since the Great Depression. We know President-elect Barack Obama's challenge will be much like President Roosevelt's New Deal in that he must restore confidence in the viability of our economy while engaged in two wars, addressing his platform of health care, education, global warming and energy independence.

For now, let's talk about energy independence. We import 70 percent of our oil from the Middle East. It's not just our gas-guzzling cars but so many of our consumables that are petroleum-based. We all recognize the dangers of our continued dependence on foreign oil. But we also must remember that energy independence in the form of renewables and responsible development of our own reserves will produce more jobs at a time when so many are being lost in the current economic turmoil.

Obama has stated that he wants this country to be energy independent in 10 years and has called on each of us to make sacrifices. What can each of us do to answer his call?

One way is that we can conserve the fuel we have. We each can make a small personal sacrifice. My car gets about 24 miles per gallon. Let's say I decide I can commit to saving a gallon of gas a week. That means every week, I need to find alternative transportation for 24 miles. How would this work? I can plan my shopping more carefully and skip two trips to the supermarket; that's 10 miles. I can walk or ride my bike to the post office each day; that's 12 miles. I could take the bus to work at least twice; that's another 10 miles. I'm over my gallon already!

If I do this 50 weeks a year (leaving a two-week cushion for "slipping up"), I'll save 50 gallons.

Doesn't sound like much, does it? If we only counted the approximately 2.5 million registered voters in Colorado, in one year, that would be 125 million gallons of gasoline saved. What if this personal commitment to conservation and sacrifice spread to other states? How many millions of gallons of gas could we conserve?

Another way to be more energy independent is to reduce our use of petroleum-based products.

Keep in mind that it can take as many as 500 years for plastic garbage bags and water bottles to decompose in landfills. Do we really have to buy all of that stuff that is shrink-wrapped? Conservation can start as small as being more aware of our usage of these products.

Of course, I don't really wish for $4-a-gallon gasoline. Four dollars, however, seemed to be the threshold of pain that made most us review our energy consumption habits. So, I ask you to take three actions:

1. Join me in writing to our legislators, requesting - no, demanding - that they put a comprehensive energy bill at the top of their priority list. This bill must include all aspects of our energy picture, from conservation to new technology and beyond. Their contact information is at the end of this commentary.

2. Based on the number of miles you drive in a week, work out a plan to save a gallon of gas a week.

3. Purchase eco-friendly garbage and trash bags. Start using tap water or filter your own. Urge manufacturers to be more eco-responsible in their packaging.

Will you commit to saving a gallon of gas a week? Will you reduce your use of other petroleum-based consumables? Will you make these small personal sacrifices?

Contact:

- U. S. Sen. Ken Salazar at 866-455-9866, 202-224-5852 or www.salazar.senate.gov/

- Gov. Bill Ritter at 303-866-2471 or www.colorado.gov/governor

- U.S. Sen.-elect Mark Udall at 303-820-2008 or www.markudall.com

- U.S. Rep. John Salazar at 202-225-4761, 970-245-7107 or www.house.gov/salazar/

Lu Etta Loeber is a retired marketing and finance executive and currently serves as executive director of the Yampa Valley Autism Program.

Comments

cityworker 5 years, 5 months ago

Great article! We as Americans have become so use to getting into our vehicles and doing anything. We line up in our SUV's to pick our kids up at school. We drive our cars to Blackmere drive so we can ride our bike to the quarry. Drive our cars to the park to walk our dog. I could go on about waste of fuel, but our ignorance extends far beyond our driving habbits. We are lazy, yes even you to you fit, outgoing and active Routt County athlete. We let our kids play soccer and leave wardrobes and waterbottles after every practice at emerald park. Don't worry, mom will buy me another. Ted Turner said it best on David Letterman last week, "maybe americans will have to be more accountable for there materials. Like in the 50's, before our desire to keep up or beat the Jones's, when we consumed less and cared more." Lets do our part, we all can do better!

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billinboat 5 years, 5 months ago

Each of us can find ways to conserve and this is a good start. We are in the midst of an energy crisis that is not going away just because gas prices have come down a bit. Boone Pickens rightly tells us that we cannot drill our way out of this situation and as soon as the world economy turns around we'll be right back where we were. If you haven't looked at his plan, do so at www.pickensplan.com. If we don't start moving toward alternative energy now, we'll just be putting off a more dire situation in the near term future. Demand that our legislators take bold steps to move us in this direction. Now!

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aichempty 5 years, 5 months ago

Everyone should note that it only took a few percentage points reduction in gasoline consumption to cut the price of a barrel of oil by 50%.

Importing 70% of our oil from the Middle East is not a bad thing. Oil over there is extracted from areas which do not have sensitive natural features and delicate ecologies to harm in the process.

The trick is to keep our own ability to produce energy viable, and flexible, so that we can quickly substitute coal for oil in a pinch. The U S Air Force recently proposed a system to extract jet fuel from coal more cheaply than from oil, but it was shut down by the environmentalists. To the contrary, developing these technologies and keeping them ready to come online to address a shortage is a viable national energy policy AND it is environmentally friendly.

Economics will always drive the energy market. The people selling oil really, really need the money they get from it. They can't eat the oil, or use it to cure sick children, or smear it on their bodies instead of clothes.

We only need to be able to affect the oil market by a few percentage points to control the price, keep energy cheap, protect the environment AND develop alternate energy sources over the next decade. Cutting the price of oil in half by controlling 10% of the market is something that has been proven to work in the past two months. That price cut will result in less cost to American business, result in fewer dollars bleeding to foreign interests, enable us to have more and better jobs, and every other thing that spending less money allows people to do for OUR country.

In terms of our national economy, I am pretty sure that having the government develop and manage "emergency" energy sources (such as extracting fuel from coal if foreign supplies are cut, or prices are raised enough to cripple us as in the most recent decline into recession) would cost less in the long run than the loss of tax revenue from the loss of jobs and businesses due to high energy costs. It should be done as a national defense measure.

As consumers of 25% of the world's oil, we can control the market price by cutting back on consumption. The OPEC nations know that.

Now if we could only get the fairer gender to use their control over the supply of the world's most sought after commodity, we could also have world peace in ten years.

Think about it girls. Are you with me?

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billinboat 5 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like Aich got into some bad milk on his Cherrios this morning.

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aichempty 5 years, 5 months ago

It's spelled, "CHEERIOS" and the milk was fresh.

My little voice tells me that Billyboat may be in the oil biz. Lots of people are exploring around here, and it would be great if they could find a lot of oil, sell a lot of oil, and remove the need to find something different.

The reality is that a strategy that depends on replacing foreign oil with domestic oil is not going to fly in an Administration that's shaping up to resemble a lodge meeting at the Mystic Knights of the Sea. Free and abundant energy is the last thing the coal, oil and gas businesses want to see, but that's what people are calling for.

The trick is to figure out how to be ready with lots of new oil reserves when the alternative energy plans don't pan out. That's going to require working around the Administration's plan, not against it. Big difference. The chicken salad sandwich I didn't want when my Mom offered to make it for me to take along on my latest road trip, but which she made anyway and stashed in my cooler, turned out to be pretty tasty later on when I got hungry. The coal, oil and gas solution to energy independence will work the same way, and will be welcome when we get "hungry" for it.

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JLM 5 years, 5 months ago

There is absolutely no question that we are the world's greatest consumers. Our garbage is even more valuable than any other nation's garbage. I wonder if we should be "sacrificing" as much as we should be regaining our perspective as it relates to material possessions and physical things. Where the heck did $200 blue jeans really come from and can we send them back there?

One caution I would suggest is not to feel sorry for ourselves. I often thought that President Carter had some good ideas but he wanted us to suffer as part of the bargain. I don't think we should ever let up on innovation.

In many ways, living more simply is liberating. Now I am going to go tell that damn Shih Tzu no more eggs on Saturday morning dog chow. LOL

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billinboat 5 years, 5 months ago

Not in the awl biz, never was. Am into the conservation idea. I tend to think there is very little "conserve" in conservatives. Oil as an energy source is not going away in our lifetime, but the sooner we start moving toward lessening our dependence on it, the safer we will be and the cleaner the earth will be. We can't drill our way out of this situation and the notion that we can "control" the price of oil by our own 3% decrease in demand is folly. There's a whole new industry, even a "bubble" out there for us all to make money in. RPI (the Rochester school) has just announced a major breakthrough in solar collector technology providing over 90% capture of solar energy. This is where the investment returns will be the greatest, in alternative sources, not more oil and coal.

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playa46 5 years, 5 months ago

Great use to the article above, however, a lot of Americans wouldn't really agree to the modes of transportationg like you said you would do. I am not trying to sound real negative here.

Aich does make a good point. Simply keeping ourselves away from oil instantly isn't a great idea, those in the oil industry cannot give themselves necesities they need in life. Billnboat seems to kind of miss the idea.

If you know your economics, you know all about supply and demand. Maybe instead of getting rid of oil and simply running to place to place, we could find new ways to get energy. Windmills and water are good examples.

We cannot back down from this.

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aichempty 5 years, 5 months ago

If RPI has indeed found a way to make solar cells 90% efficient, and they can be manufactured affordably (meaning they don't require a gold substrate over a platinum matrix doped with plutonium) it could be our answer to "most" of the energy crisis.

Now all we need is enough freakin' batteries to store the stuff, and oh, boy, talk about some toxic stuff which is still heavy, expensive, and dangerous to handle for laymen.

I was checking this morning, and ready-to-install panels producing 60 to 80 watts can be had for around $500. If Billy's data is correct, the same size panel of the "new" stuff should be able to provide 240 to 320 watts, meaning you only need a $2500 system to power your kitchen stove. Most homes now come with a 200 Ampere service, which translates into 24000 Watts, or 24 Kilowatts. Most homes never use anywhere near that much power at one time. You are billed by YVEA for "Kilowatt-hours," meaning that you can take your electric bill and figure out how much electricity you need to produce and store on the average to meet your needs.

The silicon cells we are all used to only convert infra-red radiation into electricity. The new cells, if they are like the ones I have heard about, also convert visible light into electricity, which is the reason for the increased efficiency.

One possibility that could be opened up is to use electricity from sunlight to convert atmospheric CO2 and hydrogen derived from electrolyzed water into methane (natural gas) and use that to power vehicles. Talk about "Free!" Plus the net CO2 effect is zero, meaning that replacing oil with methane produced this way would result in a decrease of atmospheric CO2 over time. It's a win-win unless it causes another ice age, but what the heck? That would take decades or centuries to show up, so who cares?

The Tennessee Valley Authority has a novel generation scheme at Raccoon Mountain, TN. They use electricity produced during low demand periods (like the middle of the night) by nuclear power to pump water up to a mountain-top reservoir. Then, during peak demand, they let the water drain out through hydroelectric generators. If the new solar cell technology could be used to do the same thing around here, we could pump the Yampa and Elk rivers back upstream to reservoirs during the day, and produce hydroelectric power whenever we need it. So, whose back yard are we going to flood to do THAT?

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aichempty 5 years, 5 months ago

The article does not say whether light from the entire spectrum is actually used to generate power.

However, this coating material combined with a multi-spectral solar panel would really boost the energy production. It's a very good thing. Not the whole answer yet, but real progress.

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