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Holes in the Bucket: Time for Action on Energy Alternatives

'Twas once a man who walked a great distance daily to fill his bucket with precious water. His old bucket was leaky, however, and the man would lose much of his water by the time he returned home. He complained bitterly. "I need a bigger bucket," he would say. A child suggested he patch the holes in his bucket. "But that costs so much" he replied. So, day after day, he would make the effort to get his water, only to see the holes get larger, and his efforts wasted. His complaints continued … to this very day.
This story may sound familiar. The irony of a person with a problem who would prefer to live with the problem, and complain, rather than take corrective action.
Sometimes, that person is the one we see in the mirror.
Let's take our energy bills, for example. High energy costs impact our personal budget in a direct way, when we fill our tank, or pay a WAPA bill. They impact us again when we go to the store, to find higher prices for food and other goods, due to increased costs for transportation, refrigeration, store lighting, etc. If businesses begin to fail, and tourists decide that it's too expensive to visit here, we are impacted further still. It's not a pretty picture.
Because St. Thomas is dependent solely on oil to generate electricity, the high costs are magnified. Our "bucket" of resources is being drained with old, inefficient equipment, as well as behavior patterns. As the price of oil rises, the "holes" get larger.
Anyone who lived through the oil embargoes in the 1970s has had plenty of time to "patch the bucket." Low oil costs spawned prosperity — and complacency. We've built a world designed to waste energy. And we complain, bitterly.
Those who pay attention to the energy discussion hear the refrains: "We need to get off oil … We need to go solar … wind power … wave power … geothermal." Every passing day seems to bring new ideas with promise, but no relief.
Meanwhile, our bucket's leaking! "Dinosaurs eating dollars." Old, inefficient lighting, water heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators, pumps, etc., are swallowing up cash each and every month.
A "bigger bucket" is a good thing, to be sure. We are all finding out that energy diversity is energy security. I, for one, enjoy the use of my lights, fan, AC, refrigerator, computer, TV, coffee maker, and all the many conveniences we enjoy in modern life. Regardless of new "supply," ya' still need to fix the leaks. Period. The promise of abundant, clean electricity has been around for a while. "Electricity too cheap to meter" was the promise of nuclear power in the 1950s. That didn't quite work out. Clean, renewable, abundant electricity is a great goal, to be sure. While complaining is not known for doing much good, action is. In coming articles we will explore "actionable" steps to "patch the holes." Energy efficiency is the first step in any common-sense energy plan. Stay tuned.
Editor's note: Tony Woicekowski has been pushing electrons efficiently since 1988. He pigeonholes himself as "a closet nerd with a sense of flair." A former board member of the Northern California Solar Energy Association, he has created many pieces of solar-powered kinetic sculpture, and designed and manufactured the SunDancer, a solar-powered novelty item sold in retail and catalog outlets throughout the United States. Woicekowski and his family live on St. Thomas, where he serves as general manager for Sapphire International, a construction firm.
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