>Eric E. Sabelman, Ph.D.
>Strategies for Living in an Energy-Poor Society
>Eric E. Sabelman is the founder of Pro-Zooics
Research, which has been
>engaged in biomedical design & consulting since 1979. Dr.
>been on the core staff of the VA Palo Alto Rehabilitation R&D
>he investigated wearable computers for human body motion analysis,
>spinal cord injury patient care, and tissue engineering for nerve
>reconstructive surgery. He is an Adjunct Lecturer in Mechanical
>at Santa Clara University, affiliated with the Biodesign Program at
>and has recently begun work at Kaiser Permanente on Deep Brain
>for treatment of Parkinson's Disease. He has been involved in
>energy technology since the early 1970s, when he was a member of the
>Santa Clara Solar Research Institute.
>Eric will present case histories in early industrial
energy production and
>transmission (with a focus on Shaker communities), propose future
>at the (1) neighborhood, (2) community, (3) regional and (4)
>and comment on why cooperative solutions rather than "individual"
>strategies may result in less hardship in an energy poor society.
Eric began his talk by explaining that a lot of things we thought would
be automated long ago weren't because "a chocolate bar is a very
portable and flexible energy source." Then he postulated that looking
into the future our current energy use rates are unsustainable, and the
cost of energy to end users will rise. As a result of this, cars and
many other things we take for granted now will be seen as luxuries.
He then offered some basic principals for saving energy. They included
"only using enough energy to do the job", "don't use high-grade energy
for low-grade jobs" (Meaning for example, if riding a bike will do the
job, don't import oil to do it.), "use waste energy when possible"
(E.G>: use heat from generating electricity to warm greenhouses),
"avoid multiple transformations" (converting from one form to another
costs a percentage of the input energy), and "use your own muscles".
Eric showed us a number of books that were written back in the '70s
whose authors had done much work figuring out individual level
solutions. He pointed out that individual scale strategies fith the
American image of self-reliance, but burden us with piecemeal solutions
to collective problems. "Cooperation leads to solutions imposing less
hardship" was the message he wanted us to remember.
The Shakers (a more extreme group than the Quakers that came out of the
same tradition) developed a lot of ways to get things done with little
energy, living as they did in small isolated communities without fossil
fuels. They invented such things as the screw propeller, turbine water
wheel, clothes pin, flat broom, and circular saw blade to make their
energy resources go further. They made money by selling plant seeds in
packets to the wider community, and to some extent still do that today.
Eric proposes neighborhood ride sharing coops based on
the model of a baby-sitting coop his family was in. The strategy works
for groups that live within a half mile radius (or bigger if there are
more than 50 members). People join by putting up $100 for a 200
person-mile credit. After that the coordinator would match them with
cars or riders going in their direction when possible. Giving rides
gives someone more person-mile credits, and taking rides deducts from
their balance. Exceptions are developed into rule categories as they
become evident through people's habits and what is fair. The
coordinator's job rotates between members; a set number of credits are
given after completing a month's work. The coop should have an annual
picnic, just to keep everybody on the same page socially.
The last part of the talk was a reminder that there are lots of other
ways to save energy out there. He mentioned briefly things like Palo
Alto's green energy program and "on demand bus routing". Eric urged us
all to make an ongoing project of finding strategies that work to make
expensive forms of energy less necessary.