A Noble Goal: Living Within Our Budget of Energy

| 11/4/2010 7:43:05 PM

Tags: Fuel economy, Craig Vetter,


I recently received this message from a European emailer:

"Just found and read your site.  It is good to find that there are Americans thinking and caring about the future and not just starting another war for the next few oil fields. I wish there would be more of your sort." 

Is this what the world thinks of us? His email made me wonder:


I have heard it said (and I don’t think they were kidding): “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

frank lee
5/21/2011 12:54:19 AM

This blog contains some of the most insightful posts I've seen in a long, long time. Bravo! Now... where'd everybody go?

craig vetter
1/5/2011 9:54:43 AM

Thank you, Mandy: I think you have the situation pegged. We cannot count on our elected leaders. We need to do it ourselves. In the bigger picture, we have become used to having hundreds of horsepower or kilowatts (all the same) at our disposal. Sure has been nice. Life has been comfortable and cushy, hasn't it? Learning how to "live better on our own resources" is my goal. 'Tis a noble goal. Sounds like you are well on your way.

mandy lange
12/7/2010 7:53:45 PM

I just posted on a similar subject about the energy crisis and I will say here like I said on the other blog...we have become enamored with our "toys"! Although, reducing energy is needing to be top priority, sadly too many of the legislators and voters are in the conspicous consumption track and would never dare ponder laws to reduce energy outputs/usage. America is not the country immigrants should be aspiring to live in as it once was. We are so full of ourselves over here that it is shameful. I agree that it will be individuals that make a difference not a law. I, myself, hang my clothes outside to dry, have a large veggie garden in town, all landscaping is edible, use rain barrels to conserve water, use CFL's entirely in the house, rarely use A/C, have a compost pile, walk to most places, am an avid recycler, etc. If there is a benefit to individuals taking control of their energy usage, it is in seeing lower bills and knowing you are not contributing to the energy crisis. If, god forbid, there is a catastrophic energy crisis where electricity fails to work, the "green" individuals will be the ones who have the self-sustainability skills to venture through the new "Dark Age".

craig vetter
11/29/2010 9:18:34 AM

I know you, Larry. I have seen your home. It is not connected to the grid. You are indeed living better on less. You did this yourself. Your community yawns. Individuals like you will make the difference. Not communities. Not bureaucrats.

larry weingarten_2
11/26/2010 10:33:18 PM

Hello Craig: For a long time America has been looked up to by people around the world as a place where dreams can be freely chased and those things that really matter in life, like family, education and personal beliefs are sacrosanct. Sadly now, this has changed and the world finds much less to like about America. I'd put as a noble goal, returning America to that esteemed position. An educated, engaged and responsible populace will be needed to achieve the goal, but energy must also play a huge role in getting us there. The flip side of our wasting more energy per person than most any other country in the world is that we will be able to save more energy. It will involve local community efforts across the US as it's too much for individuals and too much for federal government to handle. It's never been perfect, but I remember when America worked much better than it does now. I'd love to see it work so well again. Yours, Larry

craig vetter
11/26/2010 10:31:25 PM

Vetter part 3: Sean asks: I'm just wondering what powers the machine that can harvest all these wood chips or bio-mass? Craig answers: Great question. As we write, I am drying out a pile of grass clippings (cut by Diesel, 25% US… 75% foreign… drying by the sun). After two weeks, the clippings still would not burn. So, they set in the sun, drying. I am watching a pile of leaves, too. I’d like to see just how big a pound of each is, wouldn’t you? Then we will burn a pound. Stay tuned Sean further notes: Your dependence is their power. Stop giving them your power and take responsible action for yourself. You understand the game, Sean

craig vetter
11/26/2010 10:23:53 PM

More Vetter: David suggests a Federal Mandate to retrofit every house with solar. However, he suspects that existing power producers would not allow it. Craig replies: While existing power producers could lobby the bureaucrats, bureaucrats don’t care about living within our means. Bureaucrats don’t care about budgets. They just seem to think only as far as their next election. We will have to do this ourselves. Power producers cannot stop us from assuming responsibility for our own needs. Steve R says: So does America have a goal? Yes. To protect economic growth and GDP growth at all costs. This means more and more consumption. Craig comments: Advertisements tell us we need more and more. “More” makes the GNP go up. Going up must be “good” because it is the opposite of going down, which, by definition, means recession and depression. The term GNP gross National Product at one time meant the sum of all domestic production for a year. As the US produced less, the definition got changed. It included services. As production moved overseas, GNP got changed again. Now it includes the net profit from overseas investments “GNP” has no useful meaning anymore. There is nothing to protect.

craig vetter
11/26/2010 10:21:52 PM

Yesterday was our day of Thanksgiving in the US. Our first Thanksgiving was observed by the Pilgrims in 1620. They gave us our first national goal in the Mayflower Compact as being “ for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith” This is good enough for me. In Genesis 1:28, God said: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea , and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Dominion is the key word here. Dominion implies taking responsibility. It means taking care of. Certainly it does not mean “ use it up… waste and squander.” In general, you seem to like the idea of living within our means, as Ben Franklin advised. Could there be something essentially American here? t. brandt asks why we need a national goal and suggests that we are too big. Craig replies: Too big to live within a budget? I don’t think so. Isn’t this the kind of thinking we are getting from our bureaucrats? If “living beyond our means” was working, we would not be reasoning together.

david sherrod
11/20/2010 11:20:43 AM

In recent news we hear that the German Chancler publically stated that, "do to the popularity of solar power, it was putting too big a burden on the aging power grid." He was suggesting by inference that the folks should back off on the solar. One commenter suggested that they shut down some of the coal and decil power production and keep the solar comming. If this amount of solar can be produced in Germany why not here? Why isn't there a Federal mandate for retrofitting every house with solar, paid for at a monthly rate, say 30$ a month until it's paid for. This is of course a retorical question as eventhough it's feasable, the existing power producers would not allow it,and let's face it they have the money to stop it. oh well.

sean wenger
11/13/2010 10:02:22 PM

This is a noble goal. Energy consumption is one of those things people don't think about (we take for granted the lights come on when we hit the switch). How the power was made and how it got there is something we tend to ignore. If you cut down the amount of energy you use to meet your needs (streamlining by way of example) then you can meet those needs with a less powerful engine. When it comes to saving, we are talking about saving time and money. The cost of fuel for an engine dwarfs the cost of the engine over its lifetime. If you can run that engine on inexpensive, easily harvested fuel then the cost to meet your needs drops further. The engine (or engine system) might be costly to put in place. Once in place you will not care if there is gas in the pumps or power in the grid. You will be independent, but only if you accept the responsibility. Every region, everywhere, has a system in place that can be tapped for power. If it does not, then people don't live there, or they import their power. There may not be one system that does it all (provides power in every region) except the one that everyone is currently using. If all power was generated by the people for the people, then who cares what a governing body does with its obsolete resources? Your dependence is their power. Stop giving them your power and take responsible action for yourself. The USA mechanized and armed the world against tyranny and oppression, thank God for that. Is this the same people?

11/12/2010 3:45:02 PM

I'm afraid the original emailer's feelings towards the USA is in fact how many people perceive the country. I am a US citizen living abroad and admitting that one is from the US is not something done with a great amount of zeal or pride as it once may have been. There is too much to defend and too much of it is indefensible and reprehensible. If only more Americans got the opportunity to see themselves from outside in and without the biased and filtered local media. The US has lost its way and holds no moral high ground anynore and is seen more of a hindrance to progressing the issues of the world than a leader. At issue is not the fundamentals upon which the country was founded but rather an economic system and model which it imported and embraced because it worked so well for the empire from which it sought to distance itself. That economic model is predicated on unlimited resources, continuous inflationary growth and deficit financing. This suited when there were still worlds to conquer and resources to exploit. As the world has become smaller, continuous growth becomes more desperate and damaging. Meeting needs becomes creating demand, fueling consumerism, product obsolescence, waste. So does America have a goal? Yes. To protect economic growth and GDP growth at all costs. This means more and more consumption. So, while it is clearly possible to live a good lifestyle on 1/4 of the energy, it is in no one's economic interest to do so. Steve

george works
11/12/2010 8:14:21 AM

Thanks for the article, Craig. We live on a Dutch Caribbean island with mostly European neighbors. Somehow, in Europe, energy conservation didn't get twisted up into politics so most everyone takes it seriously. Our house gets much of its energy from solar panels, we get our water from rainwater stored in a cistern, and we drive less than 5000 miles per year in a car with a 0.9 liter engine. Some of our neighbors drive electric cars. We don't miss the high energy American life in the slightest.

craig vetter
11/10/2010 8:15:06 AM

t. brandt asks why we need a national goal and suggests that we are too big. Too big to live within our means? The goal of our country was written into the preamble of our Constitution: We want to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity The Preamble put forth some fine and noble goals. What we are talking about here is our domestic tranquility and general welfare. Living within our means seems to be abandoned. “Budget? What’s a budget?” Certainly the bureaucrats we have elected don’t seem to think “living within our means” is necessary. Those who admire these bureaucrats do the same thing their hero bureaucrats do. Our country has gone astray, wanting more than we can afford. We wanted a more expensive house than we could afford. The result is home foreclosures. We are loosing it all… Our goal should be to live within our means. Simple. Ben Franklin knew.

t brandt
11/9/2010 6:22:41 AM

Why do we need a national goaLl at all? Society has gotten too big. Our "leaders" in DC have no concept of what goes on in the lives of common Americans (much less the average human in the rest of the world) but they purport to know what's best for us. In regards to conservation: theory is nice, but the mathematicians tell us via analysis of "The Prisoners' Dilemma" that in practice, the best survival technique is to cheat a certain percentage of the time. If you try to live by "what's right" when you live among scoundrels, you lose every time. One cannot stop the rising tide, so building a wall is futile. Better to build a boat to adapt to the rising tide. Those of us who already live with less are already adapted to the coming Dark Ages. It's time to do the Noah thing. BTW-- what's a "cubit?"

11/5/2010 4:18:33 PM

You asked what is our goal today? Well that is a tricky question, for most these days it seems to be to try to hold onto what they have now be it job, home or lifestyle as the economic crunch plays itself out. This is an ideal time for people to realize that they should work towards living within thier means rather than doing what caused this downturn. This is a great time to start growing our own food driving less or even working out a way to scale back on what we have now that is increasingly costly to keep. On my homefront that has meant putting in high eff. appliances, CFL bulbs throughout and increasing the insulation in the house. I have also built a greenhouse to increase my growing season as well as turning a new garden to increase my food yeld. I have also built a composter to funnel most food waste. We sold our second car a few years back and only opperate one now. As for driving we have scaled back to less than 5000 miles a year. the food we buy we try to minimize packaging by buying larger portions and storing divided portions in reusable containers. There are many other things we have done and many more that we plan to do in the near future. By taking these steps around here we have been able to live better while spending less. The list of things that have or can be done are long. Hope this gives a little insight to our own personal direction. P.S. As a household of 5 we live in 1000 Sqft. have electric usage under 700 KWh a month on grid. Glen

craig vetter
11/5/2010 2:50:16 PM

Hi Glen: Pres Kennedy galvanized our generation with the goal of putting a man on the moon in 10 years. It seemed noble and worthwhile. What is our goal today? What is your goal today? (are they the same?) MEN readers: What do you think our goal should be? Craig

11/5/2010 2:42:19 PM

....Cont. To address the post from Abbey, in the "Dark Ages" at least there wasn't the wasteful consummerism that is rampant today. The scurge called plastic did not exsist and food was a precious item so almost nothing was wasted. Our modern society could actually learn a thing or two about the stewardship of the resources we have. The "Dark Ages" actually are now being reconsidered to be not dark at all. A return to the Dark Ages isn't necissary but to some it would be far more ideal than where we are heading. We have the technology to make these changes and to live a better cleaner lifestyle. Where we lack is putting this into effect. Some say that it would be too hard/costly to do this yet I can say with certain knowledge that it can happen in a matter of months and not years. To prove my point take a look at how long it took for U.S.A. to change from peacetime to war production in World War 2. The sweeping changes could save us all from the precarious path we are currently on. If we were to take the innovative ideas and practices from W.W.2, the Great Depression and even the Dark ages we could live better,cleaner and more sustainable. So it all boils down to how to change the populous to want these changes now and not tomorrow. Glen

11/5/2010 2:02:38 PM

Hey Craig, Glad to read you post. I have to agree with the email you recieved from the European, so many Americans (Canadians too) are far too wasteful with just about everything they touch. The cars are too big/too many for the size of the family the same goes for homes. Each person wastes at minimum thier weight in tossed food (given the obesity of the populous) and that doesn't include all the other trash generated. Now all of this wastefulness really piles up litterally (yes that is misspelled). Having said that there are some people that do make a concious effort to curb this and that is a slowly growing number. I recall a story of a family in Washington state that made news by only throwing out 1 bag of garbage not a week or a month but in a year! They lived in an earthship made of tires and if I recall they also had several other innovative systems in place to minimize their footprint. In Europe cars with engines less than 1 liter displacement are quite common. Germany has one of the best recycling programs in the world that I know of, they divert as much as 70% of waste from landfill. European cities and villages are set up so car use is minimal. Cont....

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