Beating the drum for energy efficiency

Springfield, Ill., plans to meet Kyoto Protocol by cutting carbon dioxide releases, reducing sulfer and mercury emissions

For the past 25 years, anyone beating the drum for energy efficiency was lost in the wilderness. Judging by the attendance this past week for the initiation of ComEd’s new CARE program, efficiency is becoming a mainstream event. The Energy Efficiency Showcase event, held at the Heather Ton home near SwedishAmerican Hospital, featured state, county and city political leaders as well as representatives from ComEd and the SwedishAmerican Foundation Board.

The home was purchased by the Swedish American Foundation, renovated and sold to Ton as part of the Foundation’s effort to stabilize the neighborhood surrounding the hospital. It is one of a dozen homes in the ComEd service territory undergoing energy audits and subsequent energy efficiency investments to show customers what can be done to save energy in older homes.

Selected homes may receive energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, improved insulation, weatherstripped doors and windows and other improvements to save 20 percent or more on future energy bills.

Other features of CARE include a compact fluorescent light program and a low-income assistance program to include seniors. Details are available on

With concerns about peak oil and global climate change, these new, helpful programs may fall far short of our energy challenges. While technological improvements are essential and desirable, they alone will not solve the energy crisis. All energy consumption has an adverse effect on the planet as it consumes resources, leaving behind pollutants and waste heat that cannot be recaptured for useful purposes.

With the world population approaching 7 billion, rapidly escalating resource consumption in China and India and the wasteful American way of life, the Western lifestyle cannot be sustained around the globe. While we welcome the ComEd effort as a step in the right direction, nothing short of a revolutionary change seems appropriate.

As energy supplies dwindle and prices rise, it is startling to see energy-intensive highways, outlying oversized homes, shopping malls, motels and recreation facilities being built. It is as though we are all passengers on a global-sized Titanic headed for trouble while the captains of industry cry, “Full speed ahead!”

Meanwhile, in Springfield, a dramatic new efficiency and wind energy program is under way. In a cooperative effort among the state of Illinois, the municipal power authority in Springfield and the Sierra Club, a community-wide program has been initiated to shut down two dirty coal-powered generators and replace them with a new, cleaner coal generator, purchase wind energy and initiate an efficiency program. At least 50 percent of future electrical consumption in state buildings will be served by wind power. The city will meet the Kyoto Protocol agreement by cutting its carbon dioxide releases by 25 percent while reducing its sulfur and mercury emissions. The program is a solid commitment to enhancing the public good.

This year’s Illinois Renewable Energy & Sustainable Lifestyle Fair Aug. 12-13 at Ogle County Fairgrounds will include some new presentations about energy efficiency as well as some popular sessions from past fairs, including the German Passivehaus, heating your home with energy equivalent to that used by a hair dryer, alternative home construction, living in a straw bale home, real-time pricing of electricity, reducing power usage, and smart energy design assistance for small businesses.

Program booklets are available at many public libraries and at selected drop off sites of The Rock River Times. Booklets will also be available at Choices Natural Market in Rockford, Books on First in Dixon, Stillman Bank and Conover Square in Oregon, Duck Soup Coop in DeKalb, Byron Forest Preserve and John Barnhardt’s Stone Barn Farm store east of Daysville.

Editor’s note: The front-page headline and graphic referring to the July 12-18, 2006, article “Are biofuels a solution to global energy needs?” by Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl was misleading. In the article, the Vogls explained that biofuels will, in fact, play an important role in our energy future, although they alone will not solve our transportation problems.

The Rock River Times regrets any confusion this may have caused.

From the July 19-25, 2006, issue

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