Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Making a case for conservation

There are all sorts of arguments for conserving natural resources. You can save the world for your grandchildren or something more practical like paying less for energy. But the main point is it's not just for those nasty granola-gobbling hippies anymore.

My e-mail is regularly jammed with messages about conservation and right now especially about curbing carbon emissions which mostly comes from using less gas, coal and such.

But not to forget injecting carbon dioxide into the ground to keep it out of the atmosphere. I just wonder about the consequences of that. What happens if you drink too much beer but can't burp?

Then there's the taxing or trading of carbon credits. Another government agency or Wall Street wannabe to help things out. That should make you warm inside.

Anyway, here are some recent takes on why conservation might be a good idea.

Apparently, it's going to be a Google world or maybe even universe. The giant search, mapping and street scene company is moving into the energy monitoring business. It hopes to roll out its Google PowerMeter by the end of the year. The device would tell homeowners or business people how much electricity they are using at any time.

Of course, it is trying to figure out how to get more of the Obama stimulus money for that because, as just a struggling little outfit, it needs some corporate welfare. Right now grants for such projects are capped at $20 million, and Google thinks that's not enough.

But the company touts the benefits of the PowerMeter through its workers who are testing early versions. According to testers, they found they were using too much energy for everything from refrigerators to pool pumps, not to mention using an electric oven to toast bread instead of a toaster. One reported saving $3,000 in electric costs on one year after using the PowerMeter to measure usage and make adjustments to his lifestyle.

That's a good argument, but, like the Ginzu knives, there's more. Google also claims that six households reducing electric usage by 10 percent would be the equivalent in carbon savings of taking one auto off the road.

In the water world, the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District released its annual measurements of the Ogallala's decline recently. The average decline in the 1,196 private wells it monitors was 1.18 feet for 2008.

That makes the 10-year average drop .72 feet per year. The district attributes the decline last year to increased irrigation pumping due to sparse rainfall. Think about an average of .72 feet per year and how long it will take before shallower wells go dry and farmers can't afford to pump from deeper wells. Maybe conservation, by farmers and civilians, might be something attractive.

The city of Amarillo will be rolling out this year's Every Drop Counts conservation campaign very shortly. It might pay for us to embrace the effort.

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