Remember when gasoline was $5 a gallon — everyone was screaming bloody murder — SUV sales fell off a cliff, fuel oil was just under $5 a gallon, crippling home heating budgets, and natural and propane gas prices surged? And, for the first time I can remember in almost four decades, electric resistance heating was the least expensive way to heat a home? Does the term topsy-turvy come to mind?
Then along came the media with a daily drill that we would be headed into a recession — a self-fulfilling prophecy because they eroded consumer confidence. Pile on two years of incessant politicking by politicians spending ad money like water while telling the public precisely what we wanted to hear. Once consumers had their confidence thoroughly shaken, they withdrew from spending, and the economy's house of cards collapsed.
Drill baby drill?
We are, as a society, extremely naive and gullible. If you can remember the contrived oil shortages from the 70s that led to stagflation, long gas lines and a recession, then you may recall how quickly the American public forgot about those issues once oil and gas were once again abundant and cheap. Well, once again, we've seen oil and gasoline prices tumble, and once again, folks are right back to keeping their gas-guzzlers, inefficient heating and air conditioning appliances, and being lulled into another stupor. This time, however, the shortages are not contrived.
I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy. I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart, soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the federal government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation's life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims, evasiveness and politics as usual. The irony here is that those words were written in 1979 as a small portion of President Jimmy Carter's address to the nation. They fit like a glove, don't they?
We will run out of oil, gas and coal — that's an inevitable, unavoidable fact. We've squandered the past 29 years while wallowing at the trough of cheap energy. During that time we've become so addicted to fossil fuels that we willingly turn a blind eye to supporting regimes that really don't like us, except for our money, enabling them to finance terrorism.
Renewable energy — solar, wind and hydro — is the future, not pie-in-the-sky hydrogen or biodiesel economies, or the mythical clean-burn-coal technology. But we do need a bridge to get us across the gap we've let go unchecked, and that's where you and I can play a supporting role.
We saw our future this past year with respect to natural and propane gas, fuel oil, gasoline and electricity price escalations. We need to stretch our existing fossil fuel reserves, precisely because there's no way to drill us out of the pending energy crisis. How? By installing very high efficiency heating systems and water heaters that modulate their input/output based on actual load conditions instead of full-speed on/off Btuh production. My own personal experience with existing homes where modulating condensing equipment has been installed is that the customer reduces their fuel usage by 30% to 70% without sacrificing any comfort.
I'm headed to EcoBuild in Washington, D.C., Dec. 8-11, to give a presentation on how to integrate mod-con technology into our existing homes and businesses. I have the documented history of one customer's home that began life burning oil, switched to gas for a number of years and finally got a home mechanical systems makeover. We have documented a solid 70% reduction in fuel usage, increasing their comfort via zoning and radiant heating, giving them an unlimited supply of hot water for their growing family. The savings are not just remarkable — they are practical and easily achieved.
You are today's hero because it's you, and only you, who can meet the challenge of properly retrofitting these modern day wonders of technology into your customers' homes and businesses. It's high time our government supports our industry's best and most efficient technologies with billions of dollars — just as they have done with unending certainty year after year for the oil, gas, biodiesel, nuclear and hydrogen industries. This is our time: Time to make a difference. Seize the day.
Dave Yates owns F.W. Behler, a contracting company in York, Pa. He can be reached by phone at 717/843-4920 or by e-mail at[email protected].
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