Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/11/19/thinking-outside-grid
“As the planet heats up and resources run low, people must adapt in many ways. For the industrialized, over-developed world, one way will be to replace our sense of entitlement with a sense of limits.” This close quote led me to agree based on my own argument about EVs - which EV “incentivizes” driving less? Which enables the growth of local economies? Which reduces fuel/energy consumption the most? My counter-intuitive answer to these questions is plug-in hybrid PHEV; not all-battery BEVs touted in all GND proposals. The article from 2016 below is along these lines of learning to live with less rather than taking for granted that a wasteful lifestyle is sustainable.
One small problem with this proposal; about 80% of the U.S. population lives in cities now, and that proportion is still growing. Not many people are going to be able to live the lifestyle of the author.
Self production and self reliance would be a key facet of helping the environment recover but with 70 percent of the population living in cities and urbanize areas you’re dealing with a whole lot of people that have no idea how to garden, produce crops, livestock, fix and repair equipment or much else. Most of them would rather die than actually have to work a days labor in order to do anything to make a living. If it doesn’t involve computers, technology or some easier way of doing things they are bereft of effort and ideas to bring this about. We don’t need to get tomatoes and produce from South America or Central America in many cases as long as we can produce the crops right here and instead of having huge manicured lawns fed by large lawnmowers and fertilizers these resources could be diverted to more productive purposes. Same with recycling trees, electronics, plastics, etc. However, you’re dealing with the throwaway society that has more money than they do brains and that in itself is going to be a major hindrance to being economically self sustaining on a local level.
Solar has become much more affordable now versus 20 years ago when I started working with it. Now you get about 4 times the value of what you got in 2000 for the same if not lesser prices and better efficiency. The problem is that instead of diverting resources in renewables such as solar and wind to reduce our dependence on foreign oil or gas reserves as well as coal the current administration and various state governments are gutting the solar programs and tax incentives.
Instead they are cutting solar subsidies and cutting out tax incentives that would lead to greater solar usage instead of burning up the planet with more greenhouse gases from heavy tar sands and Venezuelan and other heavy crude oils. Not to mention coal production and the environmentally harmful effects of coal usage not only on our air but also into the water supply when places like North Carolina get hit by floods and coal ash ponds end up in local streams and rivers. The last big hurricane in September 2018 called Florence whacked NC hard and caused coal ash ponds up down the rivers of the Eastern Half of NC to fill up with arsenic and other nasty coal ash byproducts and toxins. Yet, you’ve heard nary a word from the corporate media about the activities of Duke Energy and others in North Carolina and other states covering up their criminal misdeeds.
I also see stats that there are 75 million single family homes and at 3 people per home that’s a majority of people in the US who have a roof that can (in some situations) generate solar power. The definition of cities in the stat you are using might be misleading.
That said, I’m against the author’s idea - I think it is stupid as hell. The grid is an excellent battery and to say we are going to cut the grid up in a bunch of tiny pieces each of which now has to have more battery capacity because they can’t share is crazy - storage is one of the dominant costs.
What about energy used in products we purchase - does the author plan to tell us we can by x amount of purchases in a year? There is no way to prohibit a very rich person in this country from consuming a very large amount of anything. If it is legal to buy, it is legal to buy in excess. I personally can’t stand tier pricing either - so if I choose to get a heat pump to replace a propane fired heater (I don’t live off the electrical grid, but I do live off the natural gas grid) then I have to pay more for electricity even though that’s the direction we are trying to go in? What kind of stupidity is that?
I’m sure there are creative things we can do to reduce our energy consumption, but I’m not seeing that he author has hit on any good ones. I wish we had a fair trade policy where we aren’t supplied with a ton of goods from overseas that are produced with way less renewables in the mix than here. And I’m a big proponent of a carbon tax as you know - I just can’t believe we haven’t had the sanity to get started on that already.
I did get a chuckle out of one aspect of this article though - the idea that if everyone saves a little, that is in no way sufficient for the scope of the problem. That is completely correct at least. I never finished it, but I started reading Sustainable Energy without the hot air (https://www.withouthotair.com/) years ago and at the beginning of the book, the author says “if everyone saves a little, we save a little” (or something to that effect). This fact should be perfectly obvious to any mathematically literate person in the US and yet many seem to pass on the drivel of it making a big difference if everyone does something small.
Here’s another example of how EV and PV tech are willfully misused by the ruling elite. Daimler Truck (BMW) now manufactures a BEV semi-freight rig with a huge battery pack of 550kwh - that’s 6.5 Tesla ‘S’ sedans, 22 ‘early’ Nissan Leafs, 30 Chevy Volt PHEVs or 110 Ford/Prius PHEVs. Because the Daimler BEV truck will discharge twice daily on long haul routes, double those numbers to a maximum of 220 Ford/Prius in charging resources for the “ONE” truck. Don’t be surprised if Daimler soon purchases all the PV solar panels possible to build charging facilities in rural areas alongside major freeways. Daimler and other corporate interests are buying up the good stuff for no other reason than to deprive everyone else of a household EV matched to rooftop PV arrays that in a grid failure, would keep the lights on, food chilled, stovetop cooking and communication devises working. Denial of global warming is an act of war! with the same grisly results. Donald Trump is the Hitler of our time planning to exterminate people of color and the poor. Charles Koch, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Jr are with him all the way.