Tuesday, 1 December 2015

An energy myth

With the climate faithful assembled in Paris perhaps it is time to think about saving energy. A few years ago we replaced our old central heating boiler with a new efficient energy saving model. We also added another layer of loft insulation to take it up to whatever is the approved depth these days.

As far as I can tell and admitting that these issues are inherently uncertain, we are saving significant amounts of gas. Consequently we tweak up the heat to enjoy a slightly warmer house and I don’t think we are alone in doing so. So no energy saving, but suppose we decide to be more disciplined and end up making a genuine energy saving of say £200 per year. Does that work?

I’m sure many others have pointed this out and it is no more than common sense anyway, but we are almost certain to spend that saved £200 on something produced using energy. We could spend it on extra fuel for the car because we choose to go out more often. We could put it towards new walking boots but they require energy for manufacture, distribution and ultimate disposal. We could spend it on trips to the theatre but they represent energy too.

Money and energy may not be exactly commensurate, but it is impossible to consume without consuming energy, impossible to spend without spending on energy in some form or another. So is it possible to save energy? Certainly it is possible to store energy via hot water, batteries or hydroelectric systems, but as ordinary consumers do we really save energy when we follow the energy mantras being hammered out in Paris?

One paragon of energy saving is cycling which is why we have all those cycle tracks. Cycling saves a large amount of energy compared with a car but saved energy ends up as saved money which has to be shoved under the mattress or spent on other forms of energy. Bicycles, cycle tracks and Lycra for a start. Not necessarily equal amounts of energy but for most people saving energy is just another way of consuming energy because money is always involved.

Perhaps masses of complex energy calculations would show genuine savings but I’m not so sure. As far as I can see the only practical way to preserve the energy represent by my original £200 worth of gas saving is to walk to the nearest ATM, draw out £200 and burn it. 


wiggiatlarge said...

You could always give it to someone in need like this

I'm sure you would feel better for it ?

A K Haart said...

Wiggia - aarrgh - it's the real face of climate change.

Sam Vega said...

"Cycling saves a large amount of energy compared with a car but saved energy ends up as saved money which has to be shoved under the mattress or spent on other forms of energy."

Interesting point. I quite like cycling, but when I come in after a couple of hours battling head-winds I consume about three times my normal amount of food. Blueberry and banana smoothies, normally, which need the ingredients shipping in and then whizzing around in my new smoothie-maker. Then toast. With jam.

A K Haart said...

Sam - it isn't only the cycling and the bananas - if you save money by not using the car then in one way or another you'll probably spend it on more energy consumption.