Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Died of natural causes?

photo of deer track in old snow
© harrington
The deer that left this track along the edge of my township road knows intuitively that in weather like we've been having, energy conservation is a matter of life and death. At a global scale, we're facing pretty much the same thing. Weather like we've been having in My Minnesota makes me glad I'm the proud owner of a new 97% efficient natural gas furnace. It replaced an old, inefficient oil burner. By my calculations, the difference in fuel cost will pay for the furnace over a three year period. After that, the savings go into my pocket. Yet, the federal government just decided to delay nationwide implementation of increased efficiency standards for furnaces because "it would cost too much." That leaves open the questions of what's "too much," and why. Should cheaper, less efficient alternatives be available and who else is ending up paying more so some folks can be free riders? It also raises the question of why isn't there a better public education effort to get us consumers to recognize the total cost of ownership? It isn't just the first cost of purchase, but the continuing cost of operations that we need to take into account. Why is it that we have MPG stickers on cars and trucks but not on buildings (Btu/square foot would do nicely, adjusted for heating or cooling degree days). Each year hundreds, or thousands, or more, people die and untold numbers suffer because the earth's climate is becoming more volatile, storms are becoming more violent, sea level is rising and our adaptation isn't keeping up. The city of Duluth is working on designing a new surface/storm water management system. Last summer's storm made it clear that the current system isn't adequate. White Bear Lake's water level is way down. I think there's more than a slight chance that both of these costs, and many more, have to do with green house gases from burning fossil fuels. The linkage between the built and the natural environment may never be more clear than seen in the impacts of climate change/global warming. We need to learn there is no such place as "away" to which we can transfer costs. We're all in this together.