Energy fairs focus on environment, efficiency

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

Representatives of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association have had a presence at the Midwest Energy Fair in Custer, Wis., over its 23 years. It fills a valuable niche in Wisconsin, as the state is without fossil fuels, and billions of energy dollars leave it every year.

If we look at the facts regarding rising carbon emissions, deteriorating environmental conditions and the rising costs of finding and bringing oil to the marketplace, it would be wise to take advantage of energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities now before prices once again spike upward.

A new and stimulating presentation at the Midwest Fair this year was a project using artistic murals telling the story of the “True Cost of Coal” based on interviews with Appalachian citizens adversely affected by mountaintop removal. It reminds audiences of just how harmful our coal addiction is, and points out the widespread damage to human health and the natural environment that comes from our energy-wasting consumer society.

Since our booth was near the children’s tent, we also heard the fun parents and their children were having with lively storytelling and audience participation in humorous songs. There will again be child-oriented sessions to ensure they have activities to enjoy during the Illinois fair.

Tabling our booth gives us a chance to hear what others are doing and planning to do in the near future. One long-term participant shared his methodical approach to first reducing his energy demand to the point where the service charge from the utility often exceeds charges for his energy consumed for a month. He has followed the energy-saving advice he received at energy fairs and feels he can now afford to invest in a small solar electric system and a solar hot water system. He expressed a sense of pride in his success of cutting excessive energy consumption.

A large part of his success was his and his wife’s willingness to both cut their energy consumption through behavioral changes, as well as buying energy-efficient appliances. They are not just buying products claiming to be green, but are living and enjoying simplified lifestyles.

Presentations, equipment and installers will be at the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair (Aug. 11-12 at Ogle County Fairgrounds) ready to assist participants in weaning themselves off the fossil fuel roller coaster and increasing their energy security.

As people active in prairie preservation, we are pleased prairie interest groups and native prairie plant merchants will be present.

For the past few years, we have been exploring the potential of putting to practical use fall-harvested prairie plantings as a fuel source to capture the carbon normally released in using fire as a prairie management technique. Bob Thomas’ presentation will outline interest in prairie plants as a biofuel.

One of our fair exhibitors is offering to supply prairie plants to a nonprofit organization willing to install a prairie on a roof. To be considered for 1,000 free prairie plants, the potential recipient must agree to offer an educational program about prairies.

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. E-mail

From the June 27-July 3, 2012, issue

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