Joe was a 4th grader in tiny Chiniak School, 41 miles down the gravel road from the city of Kodiak, Alaska where Karen and I taught. Infuriated by that wasteful act, Karen applied her ire to the white board where she sketched out the journey that lowly banana had taken. From a tree somewhere in Central America to a shipping facility then trucked to some seaport. Up the west coast to Seattle then shipped to Anchorage for a barge ride to the Kodiak dock. By truck to the Safeway grocer, tastefully displayed, purchased by Joe’s dad, driven to Chiniak, and packed into Joe’s lunch only to have this precious commodity cavalierly tossed aside without a second thought.
We can excuse a 10-year old’s unwitting use of a resource, but (spoiler alert – this is about you and me!) our “adult” resource-use slate isn’t all that clean either. Get this. Almost 2/3s of the energy used in the U.S. to generate electricity vanishes before a single watt reaches our homes, businesses, and factories. All because of “conversion loss.” That is, the transmission and then the conversion of electricity to the proper voltage and such so it’s accessible for our use.
More than half of U.S. electrical generation still comes from burning greenhouse gas producing coal and natural gas. So we’re expelling all those fumes, and only about 1/3 of that energy reaches our homes as electricity. It’s an environmentally expensive commodity similar to Joe’s banana. Yet it’s so easy for all of us (and I’m not excluding myself here) to frivolously expend that remaining precious 1/3. We may not be so different than that ill-informed 10 yr. old after all.
What to do? Look around. If we all treated that electricity as the precious commodity it is, we’d find simple ways to lower our homes’ electrical usage. (Check out - www.bchydro.com/21tips)
Beyond that, imagine clean, renewable energy locally generated and distributed using cost-competitive technology that’s already available. We’d cut the 60% energy loss down to single digits. After all, our resources are too precious to waste, here where we’re forever…Earthbound.