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Reduction in consumption of fossil fuels

  1. Jul 17, 2005 #1
    One of the Earth's resources is oil (and other fossil fuels.) Prices are going up! Up and up and up! We are consistently over 60 dollars a barrel now, electric costs are rising as a result, and so is paying at the pump.

    How do we stretch out resources to ease the strain on our pocketbook? Share you ideas here. How are fossil fuels used? How can we use less?

    Personally, the four biggest changes we have made in the last year include:

    (1) photovoltaics to provide our home energy needs. THese pannels will pay for themselves in 5 - 7 years, and will continue to function for another 15. We calculate a savings for our family, of 15,000 dollars over the life of the panels.

    (2) We're driving a hybrid now. We pay about 20 dollars to fill the tank, and we can drive about 400 mileson a tank. We haven't calculated when the savings will start to pay for the car, but it sure feels nice to pay 20 bucks to fill the tank.

    (3) We're growing more of our own food, and using cloth bags at the stores. Our grocery bills are down about 100 dollars a month because we grow our own potatoes, salad greens, some fruit, tomatoes, squashes.....and so on. This saves on packaging (the packaging requires fossil fuel consumption, as does transport of foods to grocers.) And, since we are tending slightlty more towards vegetarian (because we have so much coming in from the garden) we are saving on main courses as well - not buying as much 5 dollar a pound meat, for example.

    How about you? Have your habits changed as oil becomes more expensive? Where do you think the largest use of this increasingly expensive resource, occurs? I have heard that air travel uses an inordinate amount of fossil fuels. Will we see plane tickets rising with the cost of a barrel of oil? Some friends of mine sign on to deals with the electric company - either opting for wind power, or opting for two different rates per kWh depending on time of day, or opting for Edison to be able to shut off their air conditioner in the summer as needed, during peak demand. Have you involved yourself with anything like this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2005 #2
    The main driver for oil prizes going up right now is -would you believe it- insufficient refinery capacity. However windmill power in the Netherlands is three times more expensive.
  4. Jul 17, 2005 #3
    That's interesting!

    Wind power here in the states is competitive with oil. I wonder why it's higher in the Netherlands.
  5. Jul 17, 2005 #4
    it might be because Shell is partly a state owned company ;)

    It's also because we simply have no space for such windmills and to clear the space we have to clear ground which would otherwise be more profitable ;)
  6. Jul 17, 2005 #5
    Hi Nerro! Are you in the Netherlands?
  7. Jul 17, 2005 #6


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    While pattylou has made some pretty big changes (solar panels, driving a hybrid etc) in order to help combat the various issues of energy, pollution, and carbon emissions, I think there are a number of steps we should all take, which might be more practical for us all. It's currently not practical for me (and many people) to drive a hybrid, or get solar panels, but we should all be thinking about the following:

    - Turning off unused lights
    - Getting energy saving lightbulbs
    - Only fill your kettle with as much water as you need
    - Turn taps off
    - Drive sensibly. Consider a bike!
    - Think twice about the setting on that air conditioner, or electric heater. This goes for the car too!
    - Recycle!

    The steps patty has taken are commendable, but making these smaller changes requires little in the way of cost or effort. The hardest change to make is that of attitude towards our environmental responsibilities.
  8. Jul 17, 2005 #7
    Yeah... sorry about that. I know there's a wide audience here, and much of it is student, and may not even own a car, etc.

    I was surprised to learn that here in california, homeowners can start saving money on photovotaic panels the very first year. If the panels are paid for with a home equity loan, the savings on electricity pays off the cost of the loan ( and then a little bit more.) We paid out of pocket, but they are more economical even for people who need to take a home equity loan to pay for them.

    And the hybrid - I have been surprised that short trips (like a half mile to the school to pick up the kids) does not get very good mileage --- maybe 35 mpg instead of 50. In any event, biking is better, and healthier. We try to bike to school at least three days a week, and it's great.

    You're right about difficulty in changing an attitude. I had a very hard time teaching myself to routinely use cloth bags at the store. I finally had the bright idea to tell my kids that if they caught me not using a cloth bag, I'd give them a nickel. They had me trained to carry cloth bags within two weeks!

    We have been watching our electric meter more closely since getting solar panels, too. We were surprised to learn that having the oven on for an hour uses 2 full kilowatts. !! This will change our usage --- If we need to cook something, we will start planning so that we can cook "in bulk." For example, I needed to roast beets today, and so found everything else that needed to be roasted sometime-in-the-near-future (pumpkin, for freezing; garlic, for pizza toppings; and so on) and did it all together.
  9. Jul 17, 2005 #8


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    Not at all, there will be no apologies here! I admire people such as yourself for taking your share of our responsibility towards the environment.

    I'm surprised that it's as low as 35 to be honest, but cold starts (short journeys) have always proved more thirsty for cars, and it's these short journeys which are most easily done by bike, or foot. While hybrids will not suit everybody (there's absolutely no way my family will be able to afford one for a number of years), choosing reasonable cars, looking after them, and driving sensibly all helps. I get a consistent 45mpg out of my 1.6 supermini, and can push it to almost 50 on the motorway, but more and more cars these days are getting less and less economical due to more weight, power, and unnecessary toys.

    Lovely plan! Now if only we could bribe people out of their 15mpg SUV's that easily! :smile:

    When I was a student in Manchester, the city's recycling target was something like 10%, actual figures were pitiful; around 6%. Here in Derbyshire, the target is something like 60%, which is achieved on a monthly basis. We now recycle glass, all plastics, all paper and cardboard, aluminium and steel cans, and food waste. I reckon less than 20% of the rubbish which leaves our house ends up in landfill now, as compared with over 80% ten years ago. All this has been done merely by providing the necessary recycling facilities, and informing residents of what they need to do. Very little encouragement seems to be needed, which is surely a positive thing.
  10. Jul 18, 2005 #9
    Hi Patty,

    The problem I see with the 'alternatives' is that they're more expensive than fossil fuels. If they weren't then they'd be in wider use now. The economies of scale might reduce prices somewhat if demand increases. But even with that I don't think they'll become cheap enough to have a major impact. On Channel 4 News (UK) there was a chap who'd had 2 solar panels fitted for £7,000.

    So nations such as India and China will continue to increase their use of fossil fuels. Again on Channel 4 News there was an article about the G8 and fuel consumption, in which an Indian energy economist was predicting a 10 fold increase in their fossil fuel use by 2020. China will probably be along the same lines. And as such nations drive to modernise, comitting resources to being eco-friendly will not be a priority for them.

    The issue of Peak Oil, which according to Matt Simmonds could cause prices to hit $100 per barrel by the end of 2005 (it very probably won't be that high, Simmonds himself admits that figure's a bit of a scare tactic) will not cause a long term drop in oil use. I think we may see a recession when we hit the break point at which demand exceeds supply. But talk of 'the end of civilisation' is baseless.

    So I subscribe to the 'business as usual' projections for CO2 emissions.
  11. Jul 18, 2005 #10
    Another reason is transport and scale problems. The size and complexibility of electric grids in the states is huge compared to the Netherlands. Transport of electric power over great distances induces a lot of losses. Powerplants can only deliver within a limited distance and if there are few consumers around then the efficiency is low.

    We have discussed things here as well:

  12. Jul 18, 2005 #11


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    I think science really has a disconnect with the important people in society. Its the anti-nuke pukes and people who tell us that LA is going to be submerged in 3 years due to some random glacier melting a bit that have too much power. The people in the rational scientific community need to try to take more power in high places instead of sitting back adn saying "oh every leader is so dumb, look at us smart people know how to fix the world!". Unfortunately, in a democracy/insane country like the US, its hard for wide-spread non-scare tactics to go very far.

    I mean if science had any decent power in the UN or G8 or US government, Kyoto never would have been implemented in the pathetic form that it did.

    Look at California... 33 million people or whatever... and only 4 nuclear reactors and of course people are constnatly demanding that dam's be DISMANTLED. There seems to be too many people that think these strange exotic alternative fuels are the best hope and they get so much say. I mean sure theres a lot of alternatives... but man, some of them really really suck and have no potential but of course, thats what everyone focuses on. Another problem is rather hard to define but lets just put it this way; they wanted to build a wind-farm off the beaches of i believe santa monica. Bunch of rich hollywood actors got mad, told the california government that they didnt want it.... and they got there way.

    I say more nuclear power, it'll give us a little more time to figure out a better way to solve these problems.
  13. Jul 18, 2005 #12
    And as a addition to that, the areas in The Netherlands where windmills could (and are to some extend) be installed are alway the rural less populated area´s. For a while there has been a trend among some farmers to place a windmill on their land and sell the power to the local power company.
    However it has been rather quiet on that fron the last 2 odd years so i assume it isn´t as profitable as people thought.

    What about transferring from petrol driven cars to modern diesel engines?
    For instance my parents car (Skoda Octavia 1.9 Tdi) runs at an average of 5.2l for every 100Km, thats 19Km for every liter of diesel.
    While this isn´t a state of the are diesel engine.
    The newest engines whitch are also fitted with a particle filter emit no carbon particles, less Co2 then a petrol driven car and use less fuel.
    In a few years all diesel in europe will be completely sulfer free, so you can already leave sulfur out.
    To top things, their every bit a powerfull as a comparable petrol driven car with a lot higher torque to top things.

    I say: if you can afford it (and use the car for reasonable distances) buy a modern clean diesel.
  14. Jul 18, 2005 #13
    Hi Pengwuino,

    "I mean if science had any decent power in the UN or G8 or US government, Kyoto never would have been implemented in the pathetic form that it did. "

    I think it's wrong to blame the sceintists for the farce that is Kyoto. Kyoto is merely a chance to grandstand for politicians, and for them to play the "Look everyone we're doing something" game.

    Bjorn Lombourg, a backer of the theory of AGW said in a programme recently that if fully complied with Kyoto would retard the effects of AGW by 6 years come the year 2100. That fits with what I understand. Kyoto was never going to reduce our emissions enough to have an observable effect. My position is that we need to pursue and refine the science with a view to mitigating the effects and informing things like investment. Basically we can't stop it from happening, but we can deal with the effects intelligently.
  15. Jul 18, 2005 #14
    Perhaps. I began the thread with an emphasis on protecting our pocketbooks, and the solar panels do that admirably for us.

    Even more so if we project the rising cost of oil over the life of the panels.

    I have regularly heard that wind power is considerably less expensive than solar, and currently competitive with oil. So, my sister is buying a parcel of land and she is considering wind turbines on the property. :)
  16. Jul 18, 2005 #15


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    I didn't mean to blame the scientists directly but i feel theres a sort of 'guilt by silence' at work here. Although there were probably a few people lobbying for a REAL solution, obviously it wasnt nearly enough.
  17. Jul 18, 2005 #16
    Recycling food scraps? By the city?? Wow!

    We compost, but how cool if the neighbors who don't, could have a bin for their food scraps for the city to pick up!
  18. Jul 18, 2005 #17


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    Shes considering putting in wind turbines?? They cost millions of dollars.... or well, the ones capable of producing any real amounts of power. I suppose you mean smaller ones. Also, nothing should really be gauged against oil because oil-based power production is on the higher end of the cost scale and is used preferably as a peak-production facility. I do wonder what kinda costs and return we're talken about when you put up wind-production facilities however...
  19. Jul 18, 2005 #18
    http://store.solar-electric.com/wind-whisper.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  20. Jul 18, 2005 #19


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    Oh i thought she was talken about oen of them biiiiiiiiig ol multi-MW generators because she was talken about land solely for electrical generation (or was she?)

    How much power can those babies produce :D
  21. Jul 18, 2005 #20
    Wind power is competitive on large scales (although this is due in part to a tax credit of 30%):

    The wind energy association's Dunlop said that the production tax credit typically trims the cost of wind power projects by about one-third, making turbines competitive with other forms of power generation. The credit is set to expire at year's end, but Dunlop said he's optimistic an extension will be included in the federal energy bill.

    http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/12160568.htm [Broken]

    and individual home turbines range widely in cost depending on size, but "millions" is a *bit* out of the range I saw (several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars per turbine, though many of these may only be suitable for back-up energy, etc):


    http://www.absak.com/catalog/default.php/cPath/32_93_95 [Broken]

    But that information doesn't really give you a good idea of what the cost of a home system would be, and what the output of such a system could be. I admit, i don't know much about windpower. The following is a useful fact sheet:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
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