Energy Conservation and Renewables
The primary purpose of industrial societies is to make money for the oligarchs, while making products or services is only a means to that primary end. The method employed is “throughput”, which means the cycle of “input-commodification-output”. Each product sale turns a profit. The faster the replacement rate, the more sales, the greater the profit, and the more raw materials extraction. Modern advertising is the driver used to create buyer dissatisfaction with present reality so people will then crave what is being offered for sale.
Fossil fuels are the feedstock for this hyper consumption. Coal is used to power iron smelting and generate the electricity that energizes other industrial processes, commercial activities, electronics and automation, and lighting. Natural gas (methane) is used for space heating, synthetic fertilizer production, and increasingly, for electricity generation. Petroleum is used for innumerable things: transport fuels, lubrication, pesticides and herbicides, pharmaceuticals, plastics, asphalt, building materials, furniture, carpet, paints, clothing, toys, packaging, and all the gew-gaws that clog the big box retail stores.
The faster this materials extraction cycle can be driven, the more ecological and cultural damage occurs. Making any part of this process more energy efficient simply extends its reach, which is counterproductive. That’s why corporate greenwashing always embraces energy efficiency, but never energy conservation, or for that matter, resource conservation.
Two strategies to stop climate disruption, species extinctions, and ecological degradation, are energy and resource conservation, and renewable energy. We can’t continue the same level of resource extraction, and congratulate ourselves for being more efficient at wreaking havoc. It is critical that we abandon our consumptive industrial lifestyle, not through austerity, but by frugality. We can embrace a sharing community lifestyle that doesn’t replicate one of everything in every garage. We can enjoy the beauty and durability of items crafted from renewable materials that recycle endlessly. And we can live comfortably on a solar budget of 200 billion KW of sunlight reaching Earth each minute – ie. 2/3 KW per square meter each minute – all used to generate heat, electricity, and living biomass, including organically grown food.
This philosophy is part and parcel of all of the Sustainability Action Programs, whether bicycle transportation, Food Not Lawns, non-fossil energy agriculture, or reduction of diesel emissions. At the same time, we also take steps towards tangible conservation of materials and energy. We are working to restrict the use of single-use plastic shopping bags, with plans leading to restrictions on plastic water bottles. The gains from such efforts would not only result in less petroleum extraction, but also less wildlife damage and less ocean plastic trash.