Living with less (oil)

June 9, 2010

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

We live in a time of a great unraveling of the world’s social, economic and ecological systems. Our challenge is to learn how to live with the changing conditions. Learning to live in new ways includes challenging some of the dangerous notions that have driven the human enterprise to its desperate state.

One widely-shared dubious notion was recently expressed in an article by Charles Hugh Smith titled “The World Can’t Live Without Deep Water Oil.” Acknowledging we are faced with a future of declining oil supplies, shortages, rising oil prices and military conflicts over it, he declares we need deep-water oil and other unconventional energy sources and must learn to safely manage them. Ignored is the suspected cause of the recent Gulf disaster—those in charge knew how to manage the well safely, but ignored the appropriate steps to cut costs.

He indicates the the world’s deepest producing oil well to date passed through 1 mile of sea water and 6 miles of the ocean floor to reach a deposit of 3 billion barrels of oil, which will satisfy less than six months of current U.S. consumption.

Since we are facing a prospect of continuing decline in oil with substantially higher economic and environmental costs of securing it, it is time to learn how to live with less oil while building a less energy- and resource-intensive society.

Since 60 percent of our oil is consumed by transportation, the quickest, simplest, safest, most effective way to reduce demand for oil is to return to the 55 mph speed limit. If we reward those who drive cars with all passenger seats filled, fuel consumption could be dramatically cut—perhaps by 75 percent.

The ongoing Gulf oil disaster appears to have ruined a self-sustaining ecosystem that has provided people with an abundance of clean, healthy food for thousands of years in exchange for a few more years of an energy resource facing the end of its useful economic life.

We need to start rebuilding our communities to consume less energy, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and make selective use of renewable energy sources. Then, we will not need to risk the self-sustaining free services of ecological resources for a few more years of excessive oil consumption.

The annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair provides opportunities to hear presentations about energy alternatives, examine examples of goods and services supporting a renewable energy future, and interact with others who share similar interests and willingly share their experiences living sustainable lives.

Gaining more of our transportation energy from electricity is an option worth further exploration. With less oil and dollars to spend on transportation, electric vehicles offer us an alternative form of transportation. Randy Reisinger is designing a three-wheeled electric vehicle and hopes to have it finished in time to display at the fair. Electric bikes and lawn mowers are other power options to be on display. The Iowa solar electric car team will be there to explain their vehicle. Members of the Chicago Prius Club have been asked to provide an update about the future of hybrid and electric cars.

Major fair sponsors of the fair include the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, The Rock River Times and ComEd.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the June 9-15, 2010 issue

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