Way back in 1970, when I saw my first copy of Mother Earth News, I raced down to southern Ohio to meet its founder, John Shuttleworth. I found him upstairs in an old farmhouse surrounded by piles of turn-of-the century “how-to-farm” publications. These became the basis for those first Mother Earth News magazines. John and I quickly realized that we shared the same dream of independence, freedom, personal responsibility and self-sufficiency. His magazine went on to help many Americans follow that Dream.
For my part of the Dream, I went on to help Americans to consume less fuel by designing and inventing equipment that made motorcycle riding more comfortable and desirable. I thought of it as “Living better on less energy.” After all, consuming fuel at the rate of 40 mpg, as motorcycles did, was much better than that of cars of the day, which guzzled gas at the rate of 12 mpg. Not a BIG DEAL considering all the energy consumed in transportation … but it has occupied 40-plus years of my design career.
My major contribution has been designing and producing streamlined bodywork (fairings) that protect the rider from the wind, slip thru the air easier and burn less fuel. My Windjammer Fairing is still the most popular motorcycle fairing ever. By the late 1970s, cars began to improve their mileage, while motorcycles went the other way … getting worse mileage. The bigger motorcycles got, the more they guzzled.
Disappointed, I sold my company and hosted a series of fuel economy contests to find out what the upper limits of fuel economy might be — at 55 mph with street-legal vehicles. In six years, the fuel economy of the vehicles in the contests went from 78 mpg to 470 mpg! Until then, nobody had any idea what might be possible. I like contests and hope to do some more in conjunction the MEN.
For the past three years, I have been designing what I call my “Last Vetter Fairing.” My goal is to get 100 mpg at 70 mph into a 30 mph headwind, carrying four bags of groceries while being the most comfortable vehicle in the garage. As I write, I can get about 70 mpg in these very tough, but realistic “Vetter Conditions.” You can follow this project and learn more about my fuel economy contests on my website: www.craigvetter.com.
My job, as I see it, is to tell you the truth and to encourage you to follow the Dream of independence, freedom, personal responsibility and self-sufficiency.
Unfortunately, most people have chosen a life of dependency. They assume that fuel will always be at the pumps. They believe power will always flow in the lines. Worse, they expect bureaucrats to take care of them. These people will probably submit to any authority that promises them the energy they want.
But bureaucrats cannot print gasoline like they print money. Sooner or later, we will have to live within our own budget of energy. Now is the time to discuss the various solutions … while gas is still at the pumps … while electricity is still in the lines … while we still can.
Consider the following:
A hundred years ago, we did our work by the strength of our arms and back. Few of us had access to the energy of more than a couple of horsepower. And that energy came from real horses. Then came cheap, available energy — mostly from fossil fuels. Cheap, available energy has driven America. Cheap, available energy allowed us allowed us to overwhelm our enemies in World War II. Cheap, available energy continues to be the basis for our hopes and dreams.
But those days are over.
We no longer generate the energy we need to supply our wants. We get it from someone else. Today, 3 out of 4 gallons of petroleum we burn in our vehicles is imported. This is making us poor and them rich. Many of these people hate us and want to destroy us. Does this sound crazy? It does to me.
I thought I was being a part of the solution by inventing and designing things that helped us to “Live better on less energy.” But that is not enough anymore. Today we need to consider how to generate the energy we want … ourselves … independently … sustainably. Fossil fuel generators without fuel won’t generate. An empty grid won’t serve as storage. We must produce the fuel — ourselves — before we can use that energy to live better.
But, what kind of energy can we produce ourselves? Harvesting energy from the sun, of course, is our most promising future and much can be done on our own homestead. But there are problems. Consider the mainstay flat plate solar collector panel. Most of the world has deferred to China to supply them. How long will these things last? Twenty years? How will we replace or fix them when they break?
This states the direction of my blog for MEN. Personally, I do not want to go back to the days when I would have had just a couple of horses to help me do my work. I am just spoiled, I guess.
Let’s begin with a few questions so we can get to know each other. Let me know what you think via the comments section below.
- Do you share the dream of independence, freedom, personal responsibility and self-sufficiency?
- Do you think generating power ourselves is as important as I do?
- What ways do you think will be the best way to harness solar energy?
- What ways do you think will be the best way to store that harvested energy?