Fear may spark greater energy savings

Have you ever looked back on a traumatic or difficult period in your life and realized that you actually benefited from the experience? It’s not just that time provides a different perspective. Challenges present opportunities for growth, innovation and learning. We can all benefit from difficult experiences.

Sometimes fear and resistance keep us from moving forward, even though we know a change is needed or even inevitable. Holding back just compounds the issue, making the eventual and ultimately unavoidable transition all the more difficult, expensive, time-consuming or even dangerous.

For example, I often hear people express their fear of rising energy costs. At first glance, that seems logical and understandable. It’s no wonder that so many people have such strong opinions about their energy providers, after all, energy has become synonymous with life – and we use a lot of it in this country.

What if I said that paying two or three times as much for energy could be the best thing that ever happened to us? No, I don’t work for or get paid by the power company and no, I’m not crazy. There are very good reasons why paying more for energy would be a good thing for all of us.

First of all, can we agree that energy is not the issue? Our use of energy benefits us in many ways, but the act of using it provides no intrinsic value. Rather, it is a particular state-of-being or experience that we enjoy, not voltage. No one watches a football game because it’s a great way to use energy. We watch the game because it’s enjoyable. We use lights because we can avoid running into things in the dark, not because they draw current. In other words, keeping the house cool on hot days is the goal, not burning through electrons.

Secondly, most of us (at least those who can still fog a mirror) understand that our energy use comes with a high price in the form of environmental degradation, health impacts, economic drain and, in the case of fossil fuels, the ultimate dead end when they run out. These are real-world costs that are not reflected in our monthly bills.

It seems that the goal should be to provide the experiences we seek but with much less energy, something that is completely possible. If we were a wiser, more capable race, we might be able to make the right decisions without relying on circumstances to force the issue. In our case however, most people simply respond to financial consequences. Therefore, the higher the cost of energy, the more people will learn to live well while using less of it. The more we do that, the more we all benefit.

Why would anyone care if energy costs twice as much if they can have the same life experience while using 50 percent or even 90 percent less of it? It’s easy to do and profitable in the long term. It helps the planet. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want that? Well, there are plenty of people who have yet to have this light bulb moment, including a good number of our elected representatives. A smart energy tax would speed this much-needed transition while offsetting higher energy costs through efficiency programs designed to ameliorate its inherently regressive nature. Let’s tax the bad things (pollution) and reward the good (efficiency).

I’m not advocating higher taxes per se, but if we wish to avoid even more pain down the road, accelerated change is essential. If it must hit us in our collective wallets before we get the message, then so be it. Quite simply, if we are to thrive rather than merely survive, we need to pay more for our energy. If this is a scary idea to you, that’s a good sign. Remember, it is often the things we fear the most that lead to something even better.

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Steve, please visit www.greendream.biz.

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