Joining Illinois Sierra Club Members in Lake and Northeastern Cook Counties

Fall 2007, Issue #57

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Rustle the Leaf


Renewable Energy

By Jeff Maras

I canít say why renewable energy holds such a fascination for me. It might have something to do with my living too much in the future and not enough in the now. Maybe the idea of a free and constant source of energy like the sun or wind is what intrigues me. I canít help but think weíre stuck on this planet for a long time and I wonder what todayísí kids will use for energy.

Theyíre not going to be using cheap oil like we are today. Weíve found and used the easy oil. At the rate weíre using it, extracting the oil that is hard to get wonít gain us much more. Natural gas will be around a bit longer, but never again will its use be so cheap or guilt free. We have plenty of coal but we leave such a cost to our future generations by burning it. Iíd like to leave the planet in better shape than I found it. Not an easy thing to do.

I notice that when I start talking about renewable energy today I donít get the blank stares I did five or ten years ago. Today people have at least heard the term. I regard Hurricane Katrina as the eye opener people needed to understand the real effects of global warming; one of which is destroying a complete city. Burning fossil fuels now has a readily identifiable cost associated with them.

So how do we move from the present into the future? We donít have people leading us there right now. I think we will very shortly, but what can each of us do right now?

What we need to do is lead by example. This means going out and buying a compact fluorescent light bulb and putting it in your lamp. This act means more than the 50 watts of electric you didnít use. It shows your friends and family that this new technology actually works. It tells them that they could buy one of these new light bulbs, save money on energy usage which has far reaching effects and not actually venture out of the herd mentality that our society follows. Leading by example really works. It doesnít work instantly, but thatís how change occurs.

Buying that light bulb tells the business world thereís money to be made. Itís called voting with your dollars and there are a lot of people who keep track of the voting. Thatís a very strong message to send. Business working on environmental issues is a powerful ally to have.

The examples you set go well beyond the lowly light bulb. Business watches you vote when you buy a car that gets over fifty miles per gallon. Your diesel car that gets a third better mileage than gasoline and can use vegetable oil or biodiesel instead of petroleum is another vote. These cars are all out there now. You can start setting an example now.

These current technologies are not the ultimate solutions to the energy problems we face. Many of the answers are not technological at all but involve changing the way we live our lives. These technologies will buy us a little more time until we can figure out how to live on this planet for a long long time.

I hope to write to you in future issues of W&W more detailed descriptions of Renewable Energy and how you can start moving the future into the now.

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