Energy Interdependence

by David B. Biebel – Editor-in-Chief

Early one morning not so long ago, a young neighbor came knocking. Obviously distraught, he said, “I missed my bus. Mom’s at work. Could you give me a ride to school?”

In years past, I would not have hesitated. But with the Trayvon Martin case being heard less than 10 miles away, I asked if he would call his mother and let me get her permission first. That done, we reached his school in fine order and only a little late. He thanked me as he exited my pickup under the questioning gaze of the security person – that gaze being directed mostly in my direction. “It’s okay,” I said to my neighbor. “Glad to help.” I paused, then added, “After all, we’re in this together.”

Our theme this issue has been energy independence, a worthy goal that technology has brought within the reach of individual families and groups within just the past few years. I marvel at these things because, after all, when I was in grade school, electricity had just been invented and the thought of that invisible energy being generated from sunlight hitting solar panels was a Jules Vernian pipe dream.

When I ponder some of the implications of these exciting new energy options, most of them are just what is needed by our country; indeed, by the world in general. It’s easy to imagine thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of off-grid energy-independent single family homes being built in this country by 2025. It’s not much harder to envision hundreds (perhaps thousands) of energy-independent developments and even whole communities within a few years.

But my excitement is tempered by the concern that this net-zero thinking not devolve into a haves vs. have-nots scenario, where those with the means to pay for fuel now do not have to pay for it in the future, while those who are now slaves to the oil racketeers end up paying even more.

I’m not sure how this can be avoided, unless those of us on the front lines of this new movement choose to keep the others in mind somehow. After all, we’re in this together, like various organs of a living being. The brain cannot say to the eye, “I have no need of you; your welfare is your own concern; my only concern is keeping my synapses in good shape.”

Our world has been shrinking as a result of the digital age with all its communications options, to the point where something that happened two minutes ago, 10,000 miles away, can be viewed by millions using smart phones RIGHT NOW. A key person can make an offhand comment and an entire industry is bankrupted by the tweets. There are many arenas in which human lives are obviously intertwined worldwide, from finance to diseases to food production and consumption to pharmaceuticals and counterfeits of just about everything. So the writing of 17th Century poet John Donne that “no man is an island…” seems truer now than it was then.

There are also many not-so-obvious arenas in which humans are interconnected, some of which may come to light as a result of our brave new energy world. As this happens, I hope that we’ll keep in mind our responsibilities to and for each other, which, for lack of a better term, could be called: Our Energy Independence Interdependence.