The End of Suburbia

In this third film posting, I bring you the sobering movie – “The End of Suburbia”

The natural phenomenon of “Peak Oil” is what got me deep into energy efficiency, so it seemed appropriate to share this movie.

Keep in mind – peak oil is not a theory – it is a mathematical certainty. Peak oil simply refers to the point at which we have pumped out half of all the oil that is in the earth. Peak oil does not by itself tell us about how fast we’ll run out of oil. However, when you combine knowledge of the peak with the consumption rate, you can project the decline rate.

Given that the world population continues to grow and the standards of living in the worlds most populous nations are improving, our rate of energy consumption is projected to increase. This is where peak oil gets really important. Virtually everything about our culture and lifestyle depends on having an essentially infinite supply of energy, and much of our energy comes from oil.

What can we do about it?

Several years ago, a friend of mine, Kevin Deeny, an environmental engineer from the mother of all suburbs, Levittown, Pennsylvania, decided to make it his personal mission to learn how to make homes much more energy efficient so that he could share that with his community and the world. He studied these homes; reviewed utility bills; and talked to owners. He also used himself and his family as guinea pigs – trying things to make the homes more energy efficient.

I was amazed to learn that we could reduce the overall energy consumption of these Levittown homes by 50% through straightforward improvements. Things we all know, like improving insulation, making homes tigher, and upgrading heating/cooling systems. But the really interesting thing was that in Levittown, there are only six models of home in more than 17,000 houses. So by studying just six models, he could create “blueprints for efficiency” that could then be applied to all 17,000.

Kevin had numerous meetings with politicians and local residents. He applied for government grants and spent countless hours of his time trying to get people to listen. He had a plan that could employ hundreds of local contractors and help cut utility bills in half.  But few people listened. Time and again, he talked to policy makers, but all they were interested in was how to get elected.

To make it even more frustrating, Kevin’s plans show how we can make virtually any development of homes more efficient. Every time a group of houses is built, you have a limited number of architectural plans. You also have a crew and construction chiefs who use the same construction for every house. So a mistake made once is replicated among all the houses. Analyze a handful of homes and you can learn how to fix them all.

It is the work of passionate, dedicated individuals like Kevin Deeny that we will get us through the rough times ahead. But only if people listen. Unfortunately, until the pain of high utility bills affects homeowners to such an extent that they must listen, most will choose to bury their heads in the sand. Fortunately, those of you who read this blog are part of a growing minority – those who choose live a more efficient lifestyle. People who take personal responsibility in reducing energy consumption and pass your learnings on to future generations. Kudos to you. You are leading the way.

1 thought on “The End of Suburbia

  1. This is groundbreaking information for the million plus Levittown homeowners around the world.

    Here’s a chance to cut CO2 emissions by 50% in a lot of homes and pay for it out of the energy savings. It’s a no-brainer!

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