Energy use, efficiency and patriotism

Energy use, efficiency and patriotism

By Robert & Sonia Vogl

Energy use, efficiency and patriotism

As children during World War II, we never limited our patriotism to buying an American flag and displaying it proudly.

Patriotism was about our actions, both on the home front and abroad. We saved newspapers, kitchen fat, rags and crushed tin cans, and pulled them in coaster wagons to the local recycling center.

Gasoline was rationed, so we walked, biked, took street cars and carpooled. Rubber was scarce, so tires were recycled and recapped.

We helped our parents plant, harvest, and process vegetables from our Victory Gardens.

We never debated whether these actions were worth our effort, cost effective or would have an economic payback of less than three years. We were good citizens taking action in our own lives.

We are at war again, with no end in sight. As in many recent wars, there is little expected of us. How do we respond to vague warnings of a possible terrorist attack?

Americans should be prepared to take personal steps to meet this first crisis of the next generation, and we need leaders who aren’t afraid to ask us to do so.

The Gulf War protected our access to oil for a while. But continued massive oil imports leave us vulnerable to supply disruptions and price gyrations, and reliant on some of the world’s most undemocratic countries. We have experienced price swings from $10 to $30 a barrel for oil with devastating economic impacts. Last year, we spent $100 billion on oil imports; much of our $400 billion military budget protects oil supplies.

With oil such a powerful factor in foreign policy, what is appropriate citizen action? Did we choose the wrong energy path since l993? Oil imports from the Middle East doubled as we drove more miles in less fuel-efficient vehicles. How many drivers in flag-bedecked gas-guzzling vans, trucks and SUVs recognize the irony of their behavior?

If the average vehicle got three more miles per gallon, we could stop importing Middle East oil.

We can cut oil use quickly by driving less and carpooling more. If you are a multiple-car family, try to eliminate the extra car. If you need a new car, consider the hybrid electrics by Honda and Toyota. They more than double the fuel efficiency of the average car. Encourage diesel fleet owners to use biodiesel fuels from soybeans; buses in Peoria run on biodiesel fuel.

Save energy by turning off lights and appliances when they are not in use. Use a power strip or outlet switch to turn off instant-on appliances. Re-lamp your house with compact fluorescent bulbs. Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows to eliminate air leaks and heat loss.

Saving energy can help move our troops out of harm’s way, protect innocent citizens, and curtail pollution, global climate change and rising asthma rates while enhancing our personal freedom. Efficiency is an outstanding investment in national security which could leave us with funds to invest in health care, education, care of the elderly, and renewable energy sources.

The transition to a cleaner, more secure energy future will take time, but the first step is easy. It starts with efficiency.

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