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the gut wrenching choices about future energy stuff

Posts: 39723
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Today I am at the top of reddit.  Yay!  I posted an AMA.  It ran late and I had to go to bed.  I woke up to lots of dark stuff, but am making the best of it.  This is a moment to infect brains.  

One comment:

He's been peddling this for a while. It's a very niche idea, and like many enthusiasts he acts like it's a secret invention that will change the world. It has issues and I don't think it's the amazing thing he says it is.

Notice he's essentially against renewable energy and solar.

And my response

When I was a young fella I worked as a lowly librarian for the northwest power planning council. I got to read all the white papers, all the proposals ... all of the environmental disaster reports for every type of energy for four states. I got to hear the other people working there try to come up with solutions that don't have environmental disasters. This stuff is super duper hard.

The real solution ... the constant elephant in the room ... the butt of all uncomfortable jokes ... conservation. What if people just used less? "They won't." But ... "no" but ... "never."

Mmm-kay ... some people use about a tenth of the energy of average. What are their lives like?

What if a picture can be painted showing an even more luxuriant life with a tenth of the average? What if I could make a hundred little pictures that are a hundred little flavors, all using much less? What if I could make a list of suggestions where each suggestion shows something that can add luxury to your life and/or saves a lot of cash? Conservation without sacrifice? Conservation that adds luxury. What if?

I am "peddling" many things. Including "peddling."

Rocket mass heaters are purely renewable.

I am not against solar. I am for recipes for conservation.

Of course, that guy is a troll and will just say crazy stuff.

But I think there is a thread of truth in there.  I do not advocate big hydro - they are fish blenders and there are problems with silt building up behind the dams.   There are environmental problems with solar, wind, nuclear, natural gas ...  all of them.  Further still, I use electricity every day.  I very much enjoy electricity.  I'm using electricity right now to type this.

What am I for?  

At the northwest power planning council it was looking like demand for energy would be going up 7%.  And it looked like the thing to do would be nuclear.  If only people could find ways to cut 7%.  

25% of the homes in montana heat with electric heat.  What if half of those switched to a rocket mass heater?

Solving the conservation problem is nearly impossible.  It will take a lot of time.  And it will take millions of small conversations.  But I think we are, collectively, making progress.  It has taken me a few decades, but I think I have come up with a list of stuff that I never saw at the northwest power planning council.  Stuff that makes a real difference.  

The sooner we start having the millions of conversations, the sooner the changes start to happen.  The sooner we can extend the list.  The sooner people drink in the benefits.
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paul wheaton wrote:

I very much enjoy electricity.  I'm using electricity right now to type this.

Me too. I admit that I would really not like to have no electricity.  At the "grid level" electricity is so easy and convenient - I want a cup of hot tea, I just have to plug the kettle in.

Just as I've read about the "slow food movement", where people learn to appreciate taking the time to make a nice meal and eat it with friendly conversations, maybe we need a "slow life movement"? Maybe it takes me a bit longer to light a rocket stove to heat that water, and maybe I have to plan ahead and make extra and put it in a thermos for later, but maybe that's not such a bad thing? (Actually, I do the "thermos for later" thing even when I heat with electricity - I think it saves power.)

However, there are things I don't need to use electricity for if I organize my life to not need it. I don't need electricity to dry my laundry. I don't even need as much to wash my laundry if I spot treat a bit of dirt and wear my jeans an extra day or three if I don't get broody duck shit on them.
I may not have a rocket mass heater, but I do have a wood-stove (not nearly as efficient, but still a short cycle fuel burner) and a sweater.

So I agree - focus on the real energy savings - the things that save you a lot of power, and if we need to keep the solar panels because they're the least bad option to allow us to keep what is good about the current North American lifestyle, but now we only need 2 panels instead of 20, that's far better than Mother Nature getting so totally ticked (as I type this, my Province is about to be hammered with two more major rainstorms in a month whose normal "average" rainfall is 152.6mm, and we've already had 249.5mm - massive flooding, road damage, farms under water etc) with us humans that she decides her planet would be better off without us.

So yes, I think we're overdue for,

the gut wrenching choices about future energy stuff.

Let's just get on with it folks!
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