Lovins is one of those rare people who have spent his entire adult life studying one thing – in this case “energy.” As far back as his first year of college, before the oil embargo of the 1970’s, he’s thrown himself into the field.
In this interview with Charlie Rose, Lovins frankly discusses where we are now, how we got here, and what we can do. It’s well worth a listen even if you’re already familiar with Lovins and his work.
I admit, all movies about peak oil are designed in such a way as to alarm the viewer. But is that a bad thing? Oil is the “bloodstream of the economy.” When oil prices are low, the economy thrives. When it is high, like it is now, the economy tanks.
A Crude Awakening was released in 2006 – it was made well before the super-spike in oil prices in 2008. In fact, when this documentary was made, oil prices were about $40 a barrel. When it was released, many people ignored the message, saying that it was crazy to think that the price of oil would go up dramatically. After all, for most of our lives, oil has been cheap an plentiful. So it was easy to ignore peak oil.
Oil is now hovering at around $100 per barrel. In real terms, it now costs $3.25-$3.50/gallon to heat your home with oil. Back when the movie was made, home oil prices were about $1/gallon. Gasoline prices have similarly changed. This is not some abstract concept, this is our daily reality.
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.
Being an evangelist for energy efficiency isn’t always easy. Nobody knows this better than Josh Tickell, creator of “Fuel” – a movie dedicated to exposing the sins of our addictions to oil.
No, this isn’t a feel-good holiday film. It’s an eye-opening expose that starts with showing us Tickell’s journey in his biodiesel fueld van and leading us through an exploration of the oil industry, and the harm it does to us, the people whose lives depend upon it.