Every Little Energy Bit Helps

Every Little Energy Bit Helps…And Every Eccentric Bit…and Every Bottom-Line Bit

Every little bit helps! Every little bit helps! That was a line from a new group in the 1970s—the environmentalists. They had big ideas about cleaning all the smoke stacks of America. They also had little ideas. One of the little ideas was a brick in the toilette tank. One brick saved about one quart per flush with the resulting savings in water and water purification chemicals. AND if all the toilettes in America had a brick….
Let’s start with a serious concern about energy. Petroleum geologist M. King Hubbert said that petroleum production is like a bell-shaped curve. Production of oil for our cars goes steeply up to a peak.…. Then, it goes steeply down. In 1956, Hubbert said that oil production in the lower forty-eight states would peak about 1970. People laughed…until 1970 when it happened.
Now, other geologists are saying there is a similar curve for world oil production. And that peak might be roughly…now. Say hello to five-dollar gasoline.
There are some proposed BIG solutions. And, they may help some, but they have some BIG problems. Nuclear fission, as at San Anofre, is expensive and there are safety concerns. Coal is practical for converting into synthetic fuel, and there is a two-hundred-year supply, BUT there is a BIG environmental issue. Burning hydrocarbon oil increases carbon dioxide in the air. That increases the insulation of our global greenhouse and maybe warms our global greenhouse. That might be a problem. Burning coal—which is all carbon—is going to be a much bigger worry.
And those are the best possibilities. Some times big programs--which are usually government programs--just go for the shiniest goo-gaws. Nuclear fission was going to be—quote—“Too cheap to meter.” Practical nuclear fusion is only twenty years away—and it’s been that way since 1962. Now, we hear about “The hydrogen economy.”
News flash: There are no hydrogen mines. You need a new power source to make the hydrogen to have the hydrogen economy. That is the dynamic that wasted billions and billions dollars in BIG government programs. Worse, BIG programs get paralyzed for years or change direction. Are we going to have nuclear—or not? Are we going to fund solar or not?

So, has anything worked? Yes, when energy prices go up, every little bit helps…and every eccentric bit…and every bottom-line bit. For example:
· The environmentalists gave us that brick in the toilette tank that saves a little water each flush.
· Less well known are the people who refine used cooking oil into vehicle fuel. It’s a limited source, but it takes a load off the landfills, and it smells great too. .
· For decades, architects have strained their voices telling us all the ways we could use much less energy—from the prosaic of attic insulation to the exotic of underground houses.
· Three-dollar-a –gallon gasoline has us appreciating hybrid vehicles.
· And yes, those solar panels on the roof are getting more affordable as people install them in country places expensively distant from power lines.

Now, you may be asking, what is the project that ties all those disparate little things together? That’s precisely it. Though individually small, together they can make and/or same as much power as the old BIG ideas—a few of them may even become the new BIG ideas. Remember Edwin Drake? He wanted to get rock oil out of the ground—and he made history!
Their weakness of the little ideas and the exotic new ideas is that only one or two people champion them. They are often simply forgotten. Therefore, it would behoove us to encourage these ideas, to nurture them, and to find them when we are making energy choices.
One way to do that is to have a data connection, a nexus--a go-to place for accessing the myriads of every little bit helps ideas. Moreover, that would be a place for the champions of the different ideas to recruit partners, to access entrepreneurial skills, and to get support.
Yes, it will be a website, a very ambitious web site, an electronic Energy Whole Earth Catalog. The site will allow missionaries of each concept to supply a description that idea with links to people, companies, and journal papers. And yes, the site will also have reviews to weed out the charlatans who are always on the frontier. The Every little Bit Site can be the general story
A low-tech social example is green roofs. Where the structures can hold them, grass or garden roofs make cities cooler and transform wasteland into parks.
A high-tech example is Capstone Turbine that can supply efficient gas turbine engines that also provide heat for say a condominium’s boiler. It’s that cogeneration that Jimmy Carter talked about almost thirty years ago.
An even higher tech example is the laboratories, companies, and individual who want to replace light bulbs and tubes with panels of LEDs, light-emitting diodes.

This is the time to emphasize that I am not talking about picking one good technology—or even a dozen good technologies. The ideas and the lone dreamers are already there crying in the wilderness. There are hundreds of good technologies for generating power and using it better. I am talking first about the social connections and processes to stimulate innovation. There must be formats for the energy missionaries. Links must be kept linked, threads tied, and some old links removed. Then, there can be excitement about an energy concept…or a set of them. Working both the process of innovation –and the innovations--That can make a radical…EVOLUTION.
Toastmasters are especially suited to help spearhead this effort. You are the people who can help with elevator speeches and recruiting speeches. You are the people who can coach people who may be technically brilliant but communications challenged. Some of you may champion ideas of your own. The point is that the sum of these efforts is needed…desperately, and you can help provide that sum. Every little bit helps…


  1. I don't have a brick in my toilet, but I do have a full water bottle in there. Saves a quart of water for every flush!


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