Mark Burger – 2 January 2004 - 8 Tevet 5764
One year ago, I gave a dvar on this same portion on our Egyptian slave-like dependency on cheap energy to maintain our affluent lifestyle. I am unhappy to report that, in spite of some improvements, that slavish dependency has not changed as we look to our present-day Josephs to mortgage our children’s future and increasingly our own future in view of the coming lean years. The peril comes in three forms – first, we continue to rely more and more on countries that harbor terrorism or instability for our daily energy needs. Second, we fail to take full advantage of the on-going revolution in cleaner energy products and services, costing us jobs, businesses and a worsening balance of trade. Third, environmental degradation of our world and our children’s world still threatens to poison us in the name of affluence.
The numbers continue to be alarming – the U.S. will soon be importing over 60 percent of its petroleum from outside its borders and shores, most of that coming from violent, corrupt or unstable regimes like Saudi Arabia, the former Soviet Union, Nigeria and Venezuela. In spite of all the financial incentives and advanced exploration and extraction technology, the world is consuming about one billion barrels of oil more than it is finding every month, which is what the U.S. consumes about every fifty days. So draining Alaska of its 10 billion barrels of oil would last us about 1-1/2 years. U.S. oil production peaked in 1972, world oil production will peak sometime between 2006 and 2012.
Next year, we may also be importing for the first time over ten percent of our natural gas consumption, with the biggest increases coming in hazardous liquefied form from Saudi Arabia and Algeria. Reliance on these resources is inherently unstable for countries that extract them, like the OPEC countries, or that use them, like the United States.
Another issue is that other countries with growing middle classes, like China and India, want the affluence we have, quickly soaking up existing resources and making out of date comfortable predictions of resource longevity. Canada will soon begin large-scale exports of coal to China, with U.S. coal extractors soon following suit. So the supply of centuries of coal usage within our borders may change to merely decades.
While it is best to have a concerted national effort to free ourselves from dependency, pollution and economic non-competitiveness, there is much we can do as individuals, communities and states. Indeed, that has been most of recent American progress in becoming greener and cleaner - action from the grass roots. So here is the call to action focusing on three significant fronts to make an immediate impact.
(1) Reduce petroleum consumption. Your next vehicle purchase should be a hybrid model. There exist right now cars that can take five passengers very nicely. Starting later this year, you can get a choice of sports utility vehicles, and next year pickup trucks or mini-vans. You will save up to half of your present fuel consumption. Every five hundred vehicles that switch from a guzzler to a hybrid will eliminate one gas pump. Every one hundred thousand vehicles that switch will avoid the need for one super tanker from an OPEC member. Your buying a hybrid vehicle sends a clear message to the world’s automakers of the need to phase out the internal combustion engine. If you don’t want to personally own a hybrid car, you can look to share in one.
(2) Reduce natural gas, coal and nuclear power consumption. Reduce the energy consumption of your house or building now, using insulation, better windows and replacing appliances with ones that are Energy Star rated and, after that, installing solar heating or electric systems, if appropriate. It is affordable if financed by mortgages or other long-term instruments, plus you will have a more comfortable place and one that will increase in value. If you can’t, or don’t want to install solar, buy green power or their emission credits, also called “green tags” from solar or wind sources, which you can do now through the internet.
(3) Use clean energy technologies. There is a new way to economically support Israel, and that is to use the clean energy technologies that they develop. Clean energy systems can go on temples and schools as well as private buildings. Buying handicrafts from Israel is nice, but this goes one better.
There is of course communications with our elected and appointed officials on getting more funds, improving our codes and standards and so on. But there exists an infrastructure that we can use to deliver us from supporting pollution, terrorism and economic instability. I have more information on this call to action in the rotunda. We can deal with the coming lean years by being green. Amen.
Center for Neighborhood Technology - www.cnt.org
Chicago Center for Green Technology – www.cityofchicago.org/Environment//GreenTech/
Clean Car Campaign – www.cleancarcampaign.org
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life – www.coejl.org
ENERGY STAR? - www.energystar.gov
Greener Cars - www.GreenerCars.com
I Gosm – The Smarter Way to Drive – www.i-go-cars.org
Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation – www.illinoiscleanenergy.org
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Bureau of Energy and
Illinois Solar Energy Association – www.illinoissolar.org
Mainstay Energy (Green Power) – www.mainstayenergy.com
Methane Madness - www.eeba.org/conference/2003/presentations/Udall_Randy.pdf
Rocky Mountain Institute – www.rmi.org
Solar Energy In Israel - www.us-israel.org/jsource/Environment/Solar.html
Solel Solar Systems Ltd (Israel) – www.solel.com
U.S. Green Building Council, Chicago Chapter – www.usgbc.org/chapters/chicago/
When Will The Joy Ride End? - www.oilcrisis.com/debate/udall/joyride.htm
Zero Energy Buildings – www.eere.energy.gov/buildings/zeroenergy