A BIG issue in everyone’s lives today is increasing fuel costs. (Don’t be fooled by [temporary] low prices. They’ll be going back up shortly due to limitations in oil production.) High oil prices are connected to peak oil and gas production, wars to secure limited resources and climate change. These problems are all a consequence of our overconsumption and dependence on non-renewable energy. These problems are not going away any time soon. The seriousness and scope of these problems calls for an all-out effort for sustainable solutions, started as soon as possible.

We don’t have to devastate the planet to build, heat and cool our homes and workplaces. Good design can greatly reduce our energy problems. With dozens of simple, well-proven solutions at hand, most of which are totally painless to implement, it makes one wonder why more isn’t being done.

Below is a sampling of simple, workable, low-cost solutions for building more efficient structures. (Do a Google search for more in-depth information.)

Free energy from the sun: passive solar design for daylighting and space heating (use correct building orientation, appropriate amount of glass, window placement, size of roof overhang, etc.); solar hot water; solar wall ovens; photovoltaic panels (consider buying one at a time as finances allow).

Superinsulated homes: highly insulated walls, ceilings, floors and foundations; straw bale or earthbag homes; energy-efficient windows; insulated window coverings; window shades; insulated doors; insulated hot water lines; weathersealing (see www.grisb.org/publications/pub4.doc for one case study).

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Comments

Why is there an Energy Crisis? — 6 Comments

  1. This article is a tip of an iceberg that we all need to live. Each and every single one of us needs to live more sustainably in every way that we can by taking ourselves off the grid, growing our own food, building our own homes. We’re already on the breaking point of peak oil. Soon enough (within the next year or so) the food we have been buying from 1,000+ miles away won’t be so affordable, the gas we were using for commuting, heating, transporting lumber to build our homes or w/e else won’t be so accessible and a lot more expensive. You’ve hit the nail on the head, but as you know there’s a lot more to this concept.
    I suspect that Natural Building will be the next big American Industry for these reasons…. Without the current system as we know it, we definitely have to come up with local solutions. Something a lot of Americans don’t know much about (this does stretch to a lot of Europe too). Earthbag Building I believe can take this role wonderfully b/c it’s one of the faster ways to build naturally.
    The conventional home now, in a few years, will be either cost too much b/c of obsolescence, or worth too little to sell b/c the owner is too far upside down. The latter is already happening. On top of the other issues, this is just icing on the tasteless cake. We’ll have to either build new, or adapt older conventional homes to have the benefits of natural building.
    To comment on the other comments, yes solar panels can be expensive, but I see them somewhat affordably done, without the grid, very often. I’m thinking likely these people hear things like they’re not affordable or you have to go through crazy regulations b/c either their county is ludicrous, or they read an article written by the gas/energy company. Solar panels have been used for decades, and fuel alternatives are being used, but have been constantly shut down by big companies trying to maintain capital. Don’t be fooled by them. You may have to use less energy w/solar panels, but if you have to adjust some of your lifestyle using less energy now, so what. You will have lots more adjusting coming your way.
    This is something that I’m trying to adjust to too. Stocking up on affordable food is necessary, but learning the skills necessary to adapt to this major life adjustment is crucial. So I’m doing my best to do those things, and I think everyone else should too.

    • Well said. There are so many dimensions to this like better health and fresher, better tasting food when you grow it yourself. And there’s no match for a beautiful, highly personalized home you create instead of buying a standardized boxy home.

  2. A major problem is that code approved “passive solar” designs end up being stupidly expensive. If you work out the math it is probably cheaper over a lifetime to use gas than to build one of those jokes. Only through the reigning in of building code officials can we change this.

    We could significantly lower our greenhouse emissions by generating power closer to where it is being used. The downside is that no one wants to live next to a coal or nuclear power plant.

    Another option is to repeal laws that require houses with solar panels to be tied to the grid whenever possible. While you won’t get paid by your electrical company for the electricity you generate and won’t have the grid as a backup, you’ll save money on installation and there is a lower chance that you’ll require a usury contract to pay for it.

    • While solar panels are nice, they aren’t tied with passive solar at its base.

      Passive solar, to put it in simple terms, is aligning a house with the sun so that it lets light in and retains heat while in the winter months, but shades the house in summer months.

      Currently photo-voltaic systems are overly expensive, but that has no effect on the cost of a standard passive solar house.

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