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The Attack on Energy Expansion


 Energy is life.

If you were to speak with the average person about energy, they probably wouldn't have much to say about the topic. They would probably parrot the same lines of the dominant orthodoxy in society. Energy is the most vitally important component of modern human life and flourishing.


If you go back just a few hundred years, humans mainly did farming. Maybe 'mainly' is a bad term. 97% of humans were involved in farming. That work was manual labor. Humans pumped out children, just to have more humans to work on the farm and save on a laborer. Life was tough. Long hours. Dead broke by today's standards and hoping the crops you produce will feed you through the winter.


Contrast that scenario with today. Agriculture was once 97% of the economy and it is a mere 3% today. People work less hours and are vastly richer. Work today doesn't have to be manual labor from dusk to dawn 7 days a week. I'm currently working on a computer, producing intellectual expertise to produce a great living. In the western world, obesity is a bigger problem for the poor than having no food.


My favorite example I like to give on this topic is the invention of the tractor. The tractor made a lot of people unemployed. Unions would have tried to stop it to save the jobs of backbreaking manual labor for next to no pay. The tractor transformed agriculture because it was a machine. It was a machine that does work for humans. The special aspect of it is that it produces far more than many humans can produce.


So what am I trying to illustrate here?

Machines and Energy for Machines

The great elevation in human standard of living has been machines. A human being can only be so productive. In a given task, there is only a specific output that can be garnered. Techniques can be improved, but there is a cap on output. On the other hand, machines can do the work of a few people, dozens of people, thousands of people and beyond. Even today, new machines are being created that do more.


It is this machine labor that has given humans more with less input. It has created that leisure we enjoy. 


One must not forget that machines require energy. They require a lot of energy. But it is this energy that liberates people from a life of poverty and manual labor.

Energy Efficiency and Low Energy Standards

This push to cut energy is an environmental phenomenon. I'm not sure how this package deal was created. A package deal is putting two unrelated ideas, often opposite/opposed ideas, together under a single label. I remember as a kid when CFL (compact fluorescent lighting) came out as this great environmentally friendly option for lighting. The only difference I saw was that a 12W CFL bulb was less energy than a 60W incandescent bulb. I knew that a CFL bulb contains mercury, which isn't exactly good for humans or the environment. It was truly the first time I noticed being packaged up in this manner.


I'm not saying that one should not pursue energy efficiency. The inescapable item that isn't spoken is that there is a value judgment in all of this. Wanting to have your house function with the lowest cost to your pocket book is a value judgment, and for a lot of people, worth pursuing. And that value judgment allows for a bulb with mercury versus the alternative.


The government shouldn't be dictating such value judgments. 


I want you to imagine a scenario. Let's say your life could expound double the energy (and the costs associated). That means your electricity bill doubles, your natural gas bill doubles, your car gas bill doubles, etc. But at the same time you could maintain the same standard of living and purchasing power, along with working 5 hours less a week. Would you do it?

It's a value judgment, so there isn't a right or wrong answer. For me, I'd do it. I wouldn't waste a second having the same output for less work put in.


The point of the exercise is to realize that we are holding back output potential to minimize energy use. We have bright minds that aren't working on new and innovative machines, they're busy trying to figure out how to make a 9.5W LED bulb into a 9.0W LED bulb - as if half a watt matters in all of this.

Energy Efficient Building

In Canada, in some variation or another, the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (going forward as NECB) is the law of the land when it comes to building anything new. I don't want to make this a post about the cost of housing and stuff, but it is worth noting these code additions add cost. People like to complain about how expensive things are, well, there is a cost to building and added costs to put in prescriptive methods of generating an energy model for a design. The jurisdictions that have the most rigid, awful, bureaucratic juridictions for these things (Vancouver and Toronto) also suffer from the most expensive houses. It should be for another post.


When things are built, these things have to be followed. Not because you as a consumer want it, but because politicians and bureaucrats have decided that you have to value that. There is nothing wrong with putting in energy efficient items to save money, but NECB reminds me an awful lot like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) - where you spend have your money on compliance paperwork, and the other half on stupid rules that have no added benefit.


Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) is probably the most costly doing some of the most stupid recovery methods - like recovering minimal amounts of warm air, to mix with cold fresh air to cut costs of heating. The reality is that we're talking about such a stupidly small quantity and an extensively expensive process to comply with it - that it just doesn't make sense. It would be the equivalent of capturing the heat from your clothes dryer, so that you can use that with your furnace heating the house - except that it costs a lot of money to comply with and makes next to zero contribution.


That's just energy efficient building. This top down rigid style of authoritarian building. Do you want to control your lights a certain way? Well the code says you have to do this convoluted means of bilevel lighting control with day lighted dimming. I mean you budgeted for that $2 light switch, but you need $1000 in equipment and $5000 in commissioning costs. Sorry. I suppose you could pay an energy modeler $10,000 to do a model to see if you can get around it.


Again, what is happening here? People are spending lots of money to have the same thing, with less energy. It's like going to Subway and buying that same sub - only it's twice the cost. And everyone is acting like we are really doing good things. These acts are making us poorer. It makes it harder for a small business to open a shop, hire employees, make money, etc.

Conclusion

Energy is life. Energy has made this life possible and the good standard of living we enjoy. This quest for energy efficiency and the package deal - that this is somehow good for you and the environment is false. 


Depriving energy is only making us poorer and making everything more expensive.


The goal shouldn't be energy reductions. The goal should be to grow our prosperity and flourish as humans. There is still a tremendous amount of the world that doesn't even have electricity.  Energy reduction shouldn't be the goal, but energy growth. We need more of it.


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