Last week’s column detailed the many catastrophic consequences of warming associated with the release of millions of tons of greenhouse gases from human activities. Since that column, Kentucky flooding has resulted in 37 deaths, 100 missing, 1,300 emergency evacuees, and thousands of homes destroyed by water that swept away entire homes.
So how should we respond as caring citizens since global warming is primarily caused by our production and burning of fossil fuels? Fortunately, most actions we can take include environmental protection, which can save us money and save the planet at the same time.
The transportation sector is the largest source of harmful emissions, producing 54% of Maryland’s CO2 emissions, which equates to nine out of ten barrels of oil used. In addition to reducing global warming, these measures reduce pollution of the Chesapeake Bay, oil spills, plundering of natural areas, the price of gasoline, and the empowerment of oil oligarchs in hostile, despotic nations like Russia. Start with this simple solution: use less gas.
Drive electric vehicles and plug into renewable electricity. Otherwise, drive hybrids that achieve 45 miles per gallon or better. You can use federal purchase discounts and HOV lanes. My wife’s 2018 Toyota Prius Prime plugs into our outside outlet, with solar power powering most of our drives. The result: 135 mpg. My 2009 Toyota Prius Hybrid still gets 45mpg and both cars were bought used, another form of recycling. I’ve never bought a new car before.
We drive less than 5,000 miles together and keep our tires properly inflated and vehicles properly maintained. We carpool, combine tips for errands, and avoid idle time. We drive within the speed limits.
Join the millions of teleworkers and take advantage of public transportation. We don’t need a gas-guzzling tank to move from place to place. Our Priuses are comfortable and roadworthy, especially the newer and more comfortable vehicles.
Remember, the federal government forces us to use 10% to 15% corn ethanol in our gas, which adds 24% more emissions to global warming than gas, costs $1 more per gallon, and consumes 5 billion bushels of corn annually taking away from our food supply Corn price hits record high.
This contributes to malnutrition, disease and even death as the impoverished around the world cannot afford to feed themselves.
Electricity generation causes 32% of energy-related global warming in the US. In addition, much more potent pollutants such as methane come from natural gas production. In 2021, fossil fuels produced 47% of Maryland’s domestic electricity, 38% from natural gas, and 9% from coal. Nuclear energy provided 41%. Dams produced 4%.
Despite government mandates to use 30% renewable energy by 2022, only 6% of electricity came from solar and wind power. About 75% of the renewable energy consumed in Maryland is imported. The law has come under criticism for allowing 35% of what is considered “clean energy” to come from controversial sources such as incineration, landfill and wood waste burned at power plants and paper mills. The target of 50% renewables by 2030 is being softened. We have to do better.
Here are tips from a home power curmudgeon. These actions have resulted in electricity costs of less than $800 for 8,000 kilowatts over the past 12 months. Our bill paid on August 5th was $51 for 32 days. This included air conditioning for an all-electric 1,760 square foot home with all the modern conveniences and to charge our Prius Prime, lawn mower and trimmer. We generally use 20% less electricity than the most energy efficient homes of similar size nearby. As?
We buy direct solar-powered electricity through Neighborhood Sun, which develops solar farms and sells residential subscriptions at less than 10% of UBI fees. Contact Matty Guerin at 240-845-7130. We proudly run our home, Prius and lawnmowers on solar power!
You can also buy 100% clean wind and solar power through your choice of electricity provider and be billed by BGE as usual. Better yet, have solar panels installed with tax incentives, including a 26% federal income tax credit. Installers give free estimates.
It is important to have a good, highly efficient source of heating and air conditioning. Heat pumps with a SEER rating of 16 and higher are best. Ours was installed last July and is quite different from our older heat pump which died. Change filters and have your system serviced annually.
In warmer weather, we use ceiling and stationary fans, open all windows, and try not to use the air conditioner until temperatures inside the house reach 84 degrees. Then we keep our thermostat at 24 degrees, with fans only on in occupied spaces. Our thick white lined curtains and white blinds are closed to keep the sunlight from heating the house. When the air conditioning isn’t running, we open all the windows.
In winter we reverse the process and wear warm clothes including sweaters and keep the house at 65 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night by using heavy blankets to sleep on. Note that 42% of home energy consumption is used for heating and air conditioning.
Make sure you have high-efficiency windows and doors, seal leaks, and have proper insulation even for outlets. We had insulation blown into our attic over old, padded insulation. Turn off all lights, computers, televisions, power strips, and radios when not in use. Buy only Energy Star efficient appliances.
Sign up for BGE’s PeakRewards interruptible air conditioning service program and save $200. Use the BGE Quick Home Energy Check-up or the detailed ENERGY STAR energy audit. Install LED lights, faucet aerators, marine-invented flow-efficient showerheads, pipe insulation for water heaters, save water, and use smart power strips. BGE installs them free of charge as part of your energy audit. You pay these on your bill; Why not take advantage of these benefits?
The use of gas powered lawn equipment consumes 800 million gallons of gasoline annually on the 40 million acres of US land that are grass covered. Gas lawn mowers cause 5% of air pollution in the US. A leaf blower releases more hydrocarbons than a pickup truck. Therefore, only use electric or battery-powered lawn care equipment. Do not use nitrogen fertilizer that relies on natural gas for production. Use slow-release organic nitrogen when you need to fertilize.
In addition to helping Ukraine repel Russian invaders and stop the immoral killings fueled by Putin’s oil and gas wealth, you can also help save the Chesapeake Bay, as about a third of polluting nitrogen from atmospheric buildup comes from our vehicles and electricity . Nitrogen is a major pollutant in the bay.
Every time I witness wasteful use of energy, I think of the rural Appalachian women I have met whose lives have been devastated by coal mining, where forests have been cleared, mountain peaks have been blown up, and rock and debris dumped in river valleys be tipped to reach coal seams.
We in the USA are responsible for 20% of all greenhouse gases since the industrial age and have only 4% of the world population. We still produce 15%. We are energy guzzlers. Along with worrying about the cost of our bills, shouldn’t we be just as or more concerned about the human cost of this wasteful use of energy?
Gerald Winegrad represented Greater Annapolis in the General Assembly for 16 years. Contact him at email@example.com.