Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture is an exciting and important field, with many people reviving traditional methods of building and others creating innovations to established practices. Kelly Hart, webmaster of the popular website www.greenhomebuilding.com, posts text and photos featuring what he discovers from around the world.

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Location: Crestone, Colorado, United States

Kelly Hart has been involved with green building concepts for much of his life. He has also worked in various fields of communication media, including still photography, cinematography, animation, video production and now website development. Kelly has lived in an earthbag/papercrete home that he built and consults about sustainable building design.

January 03, 2009

Oil and electricity consumption is down in the U.S.

I am very encouraged by recent under reported news about a significant drop in the consumption of electricity and oil in the United States this last year. In a November article in the Wall Street Journal it is explained that “an unexpected drop in U.S. electricity consumption has utility companies worried that the trend isn't a byproduct of the economic downturn, and could reflect a permanent shift in consumption that will require sweeping change in their industry.”

Apparently the demand for electricity has been increasing at a rate of 1%-2% annually for decades, but this last year various utility companies have reported a decline of between 3% and 9% across the country. This of course makes it difficult for the utilities to plan for future demand. While milder weather and economic slow-down obviously have their impact, some of this lessening demand must be attributed to a conscious desire on the public to curb energy use.

According to Index Mundi, the world-wide trend for electricity consumption has continued upward at a rate of nearly 3% over last year however, so we should not be too quick to congratulate ourselves as a species. Still the U.S. used nearly a quarter of all electricity generated in the world last year, so this figure would normally have been much higher.

Worldwide oil use, however, has actually declined by a quarter of a percent this year, and this trend is projected to continue in 2009. In the U.S. the decline has been 5.8% over last year. Some of this drop can be attributed to the fact that Americans have reduced the number of miles driven by 3.5% over the previous year, and this trend has continued despite the lower fuel costs lately.

A lot of the commentary about these declines is lamenting the fact that economies are faltering and projections for an upturn are bleak. I look at these trends as good news however. There is only one way to begin to address the much bleaker prospects of global warming and the loss of global resources, and that is to change to way we use energy and consume things in general…and that is beginning to happen. The cold fact is that economic reality drives much of what happens in the world, so while it is often hard to accept, in the end a slowing economy may be our salvation!

I think that Barack Obama’s idea for jump starting the US economy through investment in green industry, especially for energy, is wise. If jobs can be created while developing an infrastructure that is less dependent on fossil fuel and more reliant on renewable energy, then everyone worldwide will benefit.

3 Comments:

Blogger Petrea Rasmussen said...

It seems a bit confusing to say, on the one hand, that "a slowing economy may be our salvation!" quickly followed by "Obama’s idea for jump starting the US economy ... is wise."

I happen to agree that a slowing of the economy - perhaps even a sustained contraction - is necessary.

I strongly disagree with the assumption that we need to resume, or "jump start", the economy. Doing so would mean that we still don't get it ... that we still think economies can grow exponentially forever and that natural resources are not limited or endangered by actions based on such irrational thought.

I would rather propose that our priorities be gotten right: make large investments in deep-green efforts and discredit the myth that we can plunder the earth and her citizens with reckless abandon in pursuit of an economic fantasy.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Kelly Hart said...

Petrea, I agree with you that we cannot sustainably resume "business as usual," and it was not my intention to imply that. What I think is wise about Obama's approach is that fact that resources are being directed toward establishing a renewable infrastructure. The jump start that is needed is only an effort to turn us in that direction. Since Obama is determined to spend money anyway, it might as well be used this way. In general I think that deficit spending is unwise, whether by the government or individuals, and we do need to evolve an entirely new economy based on sustainable principles and true needs.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Orlando electrical contractor said...

I powerfully differ with the prediction that we need to application, or "jump start", the economic climate. Doing so would mean that we still don't get it ... that we still think companies can mature greatly permanently and that normal sources are not restricted or vulnerable by activities depending on such not rational imagined.

9:16 AM  

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