Pagan Perspective On Energy?
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Article ID: 10239
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,167
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Posted: November 27th. 2005
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No, this article is not about the energy that we typically discuss in this forum. But, this article IS about energy that you use every day. This article is meant to inspire you to investigate further, deepen your understanding of the use of that energy, and prepare you for a future in which important decisions must be made and positions will be taken that will affect your life.
This article is about U.S. dependence on oil and petroleum products and other non-renewable resources.
Let me begin by prefacing this article with my personal disclaimer. I am Wiccan, and like you, I have a deep love and respect for all of Goddess' creations. I am financially conservative; I pick up pennies that I find in the street and have often been accused of pinching those pennies so tightly that they stick together. Socially, I guess I would be considered on the liberal side of moderate; I can't remember the last time I didn't vote Democrat in a State or Federal election. And finally, I am a scientist and technologist, and as such, I believe that our 'salvation' comes from investigation and study of ourselves and our surroundings. (Please note that I do not work in the power/energy industry.)
The price of gasoline, propane, and heating oil, the war, our country's dependence on foreign oil, the Administration's latest plan to drill in the national forests—these issues and others related to energy affect our daily lives in one way or another. But, what if I told you that, as Pagans and consequently environmentalists, these events could be our fault? That through our actions, protests, and demonstrations, we have somehow brought about these events?
I read the forums with current event articles on energy, oil, and the environment, and I am alarmed. And, sometimes those articles get me worked up into a kind of excited, angry fervor. But often, I am even more alarmed by the comments and criticisms that my Pagan brothers and sisters leave there. While I am sure that some people are making big money right now—business-minded people will always develop agendas to profit from current conditions—they are not the reason why you can no longer afford to drive to that Samhain festival or feast with other Pagans on their Night Out. The real reason is that while the environmental movement has been responsible for making the US one of the cleanest countries in the world, it has been blind to provide realistic long term alternatives to our energy consumption.
You see, according to the US Department of Energy, from our total energy requirements, 24% comes from natural gas, 40% comes from oil, and 23% from coal (Ref 1). Fluctuations in the prices of these resources are not merely dependent on the Middle East oil supply as the media and others would have us believe (the US imports 58% of its oil—of which, the Middle East supplies about 20% and Mexico and Venezuela supply roughly 25%) (Ref 6). Nor are these prices the pure manipulation of a few greedy individuals; although those greedy individuals are there. Supply disruptions (as we have recently seen with the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita), international demand and competition issues, local market competition issues, environmental programs, and operating costs all impact prices as well (Ref 2). In recent years, the declining economic climate in the US has motivated smart business men and women to favor consolidation of businesses and resources. This has certainly been true of the petroleum refinement industry where refineries have been consolidated and older and smaller refineries closed in order to reduce costs. As a result, US refineries are operating at near maximum capacity (which is quite desirable if you're the business owner of the refinery); this is perhaps the single most significant supply factor that affects price (Ref 3).
In the 1970s, before Three Mile Island, before Chernobyl, the nuclear power industry in the US and Europe was thriving. Public, government-funded research in that area carried great promise that more efficient, safer forms of nuclear energy (breeder reactors, and possibly later, sustained fusion reactors) were soon to be realized (Ref 4 / Ref 5). Pressure from environmental groups killed all of that. Funding for nuclear energy research all but dried up, and the industry has remained stagnant for the last 30 years. Today, US nuclear power makes up 20% of US electricity generation (Ref 1) ; no new nuclear power plants have been ordered/built in the US in 30 years (since 1977) . This act sealed the deal for continued US dependence on non-renewable resources and has been greatly responsible for some of the most controversial events of the last 30 years.
“But, what about solar power? What about windmills? What about hydroelectric?” you ask. “These are the types of energy that we care about and want everyone to use.” These are viable alternatives (France gets roughly 25% of its energy from hydroelectric; the rest is nuclear), but only under certain conditions and in some circumstances: the technology and infrastructure costs of wide scale solar power are still too prohibitive; windmills and hydroelectric are only cost effective in certain areas. Who would pay for the conversion to these technologies? Would you? The costs for large scale infrastructure development would definitely be passed on to the populace. If establishing windmill and solar electric farms in place of coal or oil burning facilities would raise your electric bill from $200 per month to say, $400 per month, could you pay for that? Most of the population would not be willing to make such a sacrifice, so these plans, while valid in some cases, are not a realistic large scale solution (Ref 6).
We must balance the desire to protect the environment with an understanding of what is financially realistic and responsible. Few of us would choose to live in the dark at night with no lights to conserve energy, or choose to have no children to slow population growth, not to mention the luxury electronic gizmos and gadgets that most have or want.
Our ever-increasing growth in energy consumption means that we will have difficult decisions to make in the not-too-distant future. To proclaim, “Save the forests! Save the environment!” is irresponsible and hypocritical without a proposed alternative and a clear vision of the consequences. So, I encourage each of you investigate the facts with regards to this issue and then listen to your heart rather than taking a position purely based on emotion or religious fervor. This is the essence of the path of personal responsibility that we follow.
Finally, one might ask why it is that the leaders of the energy industry are not passionate, yet responsible, Pagans who have worked their way up “through the ranks” in that field in order to affect these decisions from the positions of power that make the most difference? Who knows, maybe someday they will be. And maybe someday, one of those leaders will be YOU.
1.US Department of Energy – United States Country Analysis Brief (January 2005) . Link Here
2.US Department of Energy – EIA Brochure: A Primer on Gasoline Prices. Link Here
3.State of California Energy Commission – Oil Refineries and their Capacities. Link Here
4.Frequently Asked Questions About Nuclear Energy – by John McCarthy at Stanford University. Link Here
5.Nuclear Now – by John McCarthy at Stanford University. Link Here
6. US Department of Energy – International Petroleum Production. Link Here
7.National Renewable Energy Laboratory Link Here . Note that there are many other references for solar, wind, and other energy sources with varying claims for cost effectiveness. Best to do your own research.
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