When we were kids, we remember a lot more news stories about fossil fuels and how their consumption would ultimately lead to the downfall of society. It makes sense, right? When there is a finite supply of something in increasing demand, bad things happen–prices go up, supply is cut off and life stops. As recently as the mid-2000s, I remember a gas shortage in which lower octane fuels were unavailable for a time and I had to buy a tank of the highest octane fuel for about $4 a gallon. In some countries, $4 a gallon would be welcomed, but in the US, we just about lost our minds.
Much Ado About Nothing
…pretty much sums up what my response was to the most recent fossil fuel craziness of the 2000s. I didn’t change my behavior–I kept driving a less-than-efficient automobile everywhere I wanted to go. I didn’t try to be more efficient–if I forgot something at the store, I would get back in the car and go back to the store. I didn’t think–I chose to ignore my contribution to the problem of fossil fuel consumption.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
…is to blame. I was being controlled externally by society, so I can blame everyone else for manipulating me and making me think that this fantasy of unlimited fossil fuel consumption is the only reality there is. Wrong. The imaginary conversation composed entirely of cultural norms went something like this: Claudia, you need fossil fuels to power your home, drive to work, pick up groceries, go hiking and do just about everything in life; besides, they’re cheap and you make plenty of money since you went to college and got a great job. Wrong again.
As You Like It
…or rather, as the oil and gas companies would have me believe. I’ve been living the unquestioning life that multi-national corporations would like me to live. A cycle of consumption and credit characterizes nearly every aspect of my life, and fuel is one of the aspects I have taken a critical look at as of late.
Fast Forward to 2013
We started to question our behavior and the assumptions that drive these behaviors, and we started with home energy. In Pennsylvania, we have the opportunity to choose our electricity supplier through PA Power Switch, so we took advantage of this and found a supplier that offers 100% renewable power from solar/wind to offset our home’s electricity usage. After filling out a short form online, the switch was done, but in reality, it didn’t end there. Just because power is renewable doesn’t mean we should use this power (pun intended) excessively. Here’s a list of steps we’ve taken to live more a more efficient and environmentally-conscious life:
- eliminated energy vampires (i.e. unplug all devices when we’re finished using them);
- installed digital thermostats with timers to control heat in the winter; and
- not running the air conditioner in the summer unless the inside temp is over 80 degrees.
Changes in 2014
In 2014, we took self-examination a step further and considered transportation. We were driving used Volvos that we owned (yay for paying off auto loans early), filling up weekly without a care in the world. From July 2011 to December 2013, we spent $11,316.40 on gas. This doesn’t include any other cost of owning a gas-powered car like payments and repairs. Yikes. What have we done differently since then?
- Sold one of the gas-powered cars
- Garrett obtained a job closer to home
- Leased two electric smart cars
- Started grouping errands into one trip, one day per week
- Check tire pressure weekly
Whenever we can, we use our electric smart cars. In the summer, we achieve at least 80 miles per charge; in the winter, we average about 55 miles per charge. We don’t travel as far in the winter, so this range gets us to work and back and is more than enough for a day of errands. In the summer, the 80 miles or more gets us just about everywhere we want to go. If we’re taking a trip to the beach, it’s outside the range of the electric car, so we use the Volvo.
Consequences in 2015
“We love breathing what you’re burning, baby.” — Jim Carrey on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
As a result of these changes, we spend a little bit more per kwh for our electricity than those who select non-renewable fossil fuels, so it would be difficult and time-consuming to figure out how this has impacted our bill. Charging our cars has had a little impact on our bill as well, but not a noticeable increase. Rather than getting mad at Excel (and myself) trying to figure out what we spend now v. what we used to spend, we’re going to move to a smaller, more-efficient house and report out the electricity usage later this year.
However, gas is much easier to track. Thus far in 2015, we’ve spent $955 on gas. Garrett’s job involves some travel to areas outside the range of the electric cars, which accounts for about 75% of the amount spent thus far. We’ll report out on the gas $ from 2015 in January 2016, but it should be under $1,600 or about half as much as we used to spend on gas–the savings more than covers the cost of the leases and the energy needed to charge the cars.
In a recent episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jim Carrey commented on his behavior change when it came to automobile choice–he drives a Tesla. Though he used to drive a sports car, Jim Carrey made the change to live a more environmentally-conscious life, and it’s one of our goals to do the same. It’s my belief that electric automobiles, which have existed since the 19th century, will become the standard. I love driving my electric car, albeit not as flashy as a Telsa, it does get me where I need to go, it has helped me be a little kinder to Mother Nature and it’s helped improve our financial situation. Win-win-win! 🙂
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