Sunday, November 26, 2006

Going Green: What Next?

The solar panels were an okay deal, and the environment is better off as a result, but they didn't directly help with the oil security issues, although they were some help with the natural gas supply issue. We are out about $11K, and so far, we don't as yet have back-up power. We have alternative power that is grid-tied, but it doesn't help us in the event of another power outage. So what do we do next?

It is the oil situation that has me the most concerned, so it makes sense to concentrate on that area. We have two issues here. First, we, like virtually everyone else in America, use automobiles for the bulk of our transportation. Second, living on the East Coast, we use heating oil to heat our house. Heating oil wasn't our choice, for it was in the house when we bought it, and (fortunately, I now believe) natural gas is not available on our street, probably due to the rocky soil. It seems like we have to work on both gasoline and heating oil (and we have improved both--I just need to post it).

The first question to ask is how much do we use? With 2 cars getting between 22 and 25 mpg and with roughly 8000 miles driven annually on each, we use about 700 gallons of gasoline annually. That's just a guess. Funny thing that we don't know what it is exactly. Nonetheless, our usage is on the lower side for most people in America, but can we improve upon it without a loss in lifestyle?

On the issue of heating, we probably use 1000 to 1500 gallons of heating oil each year for space and water heat. Again, I can't give the exact amount, but now that I think about it, I think I'll try to find the old bills and actually see if we can reconstruct how much we have used in the past.

Both these components come from oil, and not just our lifestyle depends upon it, our actual existence does, for if the heating oil supply was disrupted somehow, the one fireplace in our house would not be enough to heat the house. Yes, if worse came to worse and we did suffer a major heating oil disruption, we could reduce our space to only the living room and live there, but I'd prefer to not even go there unless we have to.

Again, the question is can we move off oil (and fossil fuels in general) and still maintain our lifestyle without a significant cost impact? To date, we've done two things so far: bought hybrids, and put in a geothermal heat pump. We'll look at those in turn to see how well they've helped.


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