Friday, May 16, 2008

Solutions, Part II - Conservation

Conservation and reduction in consumption will be a large part of the solution to a smooth transition from fossil fuels. The U.S. has already begun to lower gasoline consumption due to the rapid increase in price. Demand for gasoline is rather inelastic in the short-term, however, and much of the funds used to cover increase in price are being diverted from other less necessary goods. This could have lasting effects on our economy. Finding ways to lower our reliance on non-renewable energy sources will temper the effects of large price spikes as well as allow us more time to find alternatives.

1. By definition, conservation can only go so far...unless we eliminate consumption entirely. Which either means we have found a replacement or we are not around anymore.

2. Also, we can reduce consumption by as much as we want, but if there is a lack of incentive for others to do so, the positive effects will be limited or negated. If this conservation on our part has explicit (or implicit) costs (as most do) we should not forget to weigh them against the benefits. Any unit of energy (or other commodity) that we personally forgo will most likely be used by someone else. If this surrender of consumption has a higher personal cost (dollars, time, even emotional satisfaction) than the act of consumption, then it belies human nature to not consume it... even if the external costs that it creates are detrimental to the greater good (and even though it is ultimately detrimental to the individual member of the group). See also: Tragedy of the Commons.

That being said, I think we have a lot of fat to trim so here are 3 key areas where conservation could reap benefits: transportation, home, and food. I will attempt to provide an extensive list of ideas for each section, and follow up on many of them in later posts for more in-depth analysis.


  1. Hypermiling
    1. Basic techniques
    2. Advanced techniques
  2. Higher fuel efficiency vehicles
    1. Increased CAFE standards
    2. Removing 'gas guzzler' tax loophole for SUVs and non-commercial trucks
    3. Hybrids
    4. Plug-in Hybrids (+flex fuel)
    5. Electric Vehicle
      Build Your Own Electric Vehicle
      Solar Tractor and Other Vehicles
  3. Ideal commute route determination
  4. Carpooling
  5. Mass transit
  6. Walking/running/biking
  7. Trip planning
    1. Combine errands
    2. Make a list of needed items
  8. Purchasing local (town/state/USA) goods and services

  1. Compact Florescent Lamps
  2. Turn off lights/fans when not in use
  3. Watch out for 'phantom loads'
  4. Energy Star Appliances, HVAC, waterheaters
  5. Insulation and weatherproofing
  6. Programmable thermostat
  7. Window shades
  8. Clothesline/drying rack
  9. Recycling
  10. Reuse items
    1. Goodwill
    2. Yard sales
  11. Reusable shopping bags

Book Review: In Defense of Food
Book Review: Ball Blue Book of Food Preservation
Book Review: Self-Sufficient Life
  1. Victory garden
    1. Vegetables
    2. Fruits
  2. Farmer's markets
  3. Local food
  4. Organic food
  5. Plan meals
  6. Eat at home
  7. Waste reduction
    1. Buy in bulk, less individually packaged items
    2. Food storage
    3. Pack leftovers for lunch
    4. Compost
      The Other 'Black Gold'

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I welcome additional suggestions that may have been forgotten or omitted.

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