Barack Obama has fostered one of the most impressive political machines, if not social movements, in American history. As much community organizers as political operatives, the Obama campaign has created neighborhood and community teams of volunteers who will merit a great deal of the credit for sweeping him into office. What happens, starting tomorrow, with this movement when it is President-Elect Obama? The machine won’t dissipate, won’t disappear, but will transform … to what?
We can hope that Barack Obama and his team, even as they move from campaigning to transitioning to the Executive Branch, will turn this massive movement toward helping shape the change that Obama has made a core part of his campaign message, of his call on Americans for moving to something better.
Will this movement turn toward another form of national service? Will Obama-Biden campaign machine turn to, for example, fostering energy efficient practices throughout American society?
As Obama said at his last campaign appearance near the Manassas battlefields of the Civil War.
The change we seek will not come from government alone. It will have to come from each of us in our own lives, our own communities.
Government is not the answer, but is part of the answer combined with our actions as individuals and communities. Change can be driven from above, from below, from without, from within … our challenges and opportunities are so great that each of these paths for change must be embraced and pursued.
We have to look after ourselves and our families, but we also have to look after our fellow citizens.
We each have responsibility, a role to play.
We have to restore a sense of duty to this country, a sense of service to this nation.
No, Americans, in face of terrorist acts, pulling out your credit card is not an act of national service. No, Americans, as your fellow citizens struggle in far off battlefields or to get adequate health care for their sick family members or friends, voting for the "America’s next country music star" is not patriotism. No …
And, government is a critical part of the solution, but not the solution.
Government is going to have to lead the way on energy independence but each of us has a role to play in making our lives, our homes, our businesses more energy efficient.
"Each of us has a role to play …" What important words. Absolutely.
Taking action for energy efficiency is national service.
As a note, efficiency is one of the legs of a sensible energy policy, a leg basically abandoned by Bush-Cheney. And, we can go an extremely far way in ameliorating our energy and global warming challenges (at a profitable basis, even within current economic definitions) through aggressive energy efficiency efforts.
Back to the opening of this posting, will the huge network of activated, impowered, motivated Americans who have both been empowered by and powered the Obama campaign be turned to national service? Will they (will we), whether from central direction or self-motivation, turn their passions and skills from one form of national service (making our democracy work and helping elect a President) to another? Will they work to change their lives, their homes, their businesses, their communities for the better? And, as with Barack Obama’s speech Monday night, take their first steps as helping to make their lives, their homes, their businesses more energy efficient?
Will they? Will we?
Are you "Fired Up" to change the nation’s reckless path over the cliff when comes to energy profligacy and global warming? Are you "Ready to Go" out and change your life, your home, your business to a more energy-efficient path?
Some practical steps and measures …
There are a tremendous number of valuable and meaningful resources for discussing energy efficiency. In terms of taking action, within one’s home, considering putting your home on a diet (it doesn’t take much to save money through energy efficiency) and taking steps to make your automobile operate more efficiently. Consider that last area. According to the US Government, fuel efficiency options for cars include:
- Check & Replace Air Filters: "Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your car’s gas mileage by as much as 10 percent." Perhaps $10 for the filter to save 25 (perhaps soon to again be 40 cents) for every gallon of gasoline?
- Tire inflation: Up to 3% (or more) in savings. Thus, over 7 cents / gallon savings for zero cost.
- Using the recommended motor oil for your car: Savings of 1-2 percent. Perhaps a few dollars for 3 cents savings off every gallon of gasoline.
There are plenty of other measures that can help for better fuel efficiency with existing vehicles such as removing weight from the car (roughly 1-2 percent lost fuel efficiency for every 100 pounds in the car as a rule of thumb … thus, if not needed, minivan car seats can stay in the garage (for example)) and getting a tune-up.
Now, every one of us who owns a car can easily do this in our own lives.
"Each of us has a role to play in making our lives, our homes, our businesses more energy efficient."
This is a role that we can each quickly start to take action on. And, this is action that will save energy, save us (and US) money, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and help to battle global warming. These are win-win-win-win actions.
But, this action need not end with our own lives, these actions do not need to end with ourselves.
When it comes to home energy efficiency, for example, I now help friends, acquaintances, neighbors make energy efficiency choices in their homes based on the learning from the past several years and the failures/successes in my own lives. Far more simply, when invited to someone’s home, I bring food/a bottle of wine in one hand and compact fluorescent bulbs in the other.
When it comes to the automobile, for example, at home, I have a (basic) air pressure pump not just for my own tires but also for checking/filling in the tires of friends/acquaintances who come to the house. (And, sadly, the average underpressure tire has been about 10 pounds of the friends/neighbors/acquaintances/workmen whose cars / trucks I’ve checked & filled.)
These are not hard actions. These are not onerous actions. But, they are, in their small way responding to Barack Obama’s call. They reflect my "sense of duty to this country." They partially fulfill my "sense of service to this nation". They reflect the imperative to strive to leave this world better than when I found it.
As Obama is wont to say, "One voice can change a room. If one voice can change a room, it can change a community. If one voice can change a community, it can change a city. If one voice can change a city, it can change a state. If one voice can change a state, it can change a nation. If one voice can change a nation, it can change the world."
Change will come from the above but it will also from us, each of us as individuals and as groups.
While we can work in our homes, in our lives, alone, we can also work as groups. If you learn how to make your own home energy efficient, can you not work with friends and neighbors to spread the knowledge and help others reduce their energy waste? Saving money and cutting pollution at the same time?
As called for in Politics and Gas Prices, helping people understand and implement efficiency elements for cars and driving practices easily translates into the types of action that the Obama-Biden campaign’s network of ‘community organizers’ and ‘community organizations’ can turn to both quickly and with real effect.
Now, the messaging can be done for gaining the political impact of supporting "change" and individual responsibility alongside government action while, as well, providing a messaging that supports longer-term efforts for better policy re energy (including transport) via, for example, "energy efficiency awareness days" (or such …). Groups could go out and take energy actions to help foster energy efficiency. In this case, perhaps they could go to gas stations with air pressure readers and be filling tires that are low on pressure. (For every 1 psi drop in pressure of all tires, the car drops about 0.4 percent. The average car can gain 3.3 percent (or over 13 cents / gallon equivalency) through proper inflation.) In addition to testing and properly inflating tires, they could hand out materials about inexpensive/immediate steps one can take to improve efficiency. In addition to the technical items above, these could include discussion of driving behavior elements that can have a major impact on fuel efficiency. Again, from www.fueleconomy.gov, thoughts on driving more efficiently:
- Less aggressive driving: Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking, tailgating with frequent braking, accelerating into stop signs can decrease fuel efficiency by a third. In addition to the fuel savings of perahps $1 or more per gallon, "sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you may save more than gas money."
- Limit highway speeding: Rule of thumb, every 5 mph over 60 mph "is like paying over $0.20 more per gallon." (And, depending on speed limit, could also have that cost of a state trooper pulling you over.)
- Avoid excess idling. Guess what, idling gets 0 miles per gallon. And, not surprisingly, the larger the engine, the more gasoline wasted while idling.
- Cruise control: For most drivers, using cruise control will lead to gasoline savings on highway trips.
All of the things above are either zero ticket or very low ticket items. Depending on one’s driving patterns and the condition of your car, following the above could lead to the equivalent of a 50 percent drop in the price of gasoline. Now, which is more possible: to clean up one’s car and driving habits a little bit to get more from every gallon or that Exxon-Mobil (and Saudi Arabia) will figure out how to get and maintain gasoline below $2 per gallon indefinitely in the face of Peak Oil?
A reprise …
Service … All of those who have helped in this election, in whatever way, have served democracy and served this nation. And, they help make the nation better through their service while making themselves better.
To be clear, governmental change is (was) required. We cannot solve our major problems, whether health care or global warming, without serious government action and leadership. Nor, however, is the solution solely to come from government. This is top-down, down-up, sideways driven solution creation.
The ‘morning after’ is not an end, but the first day of a continuing journey. We can make ourselves, our lives, our homes, our businesses, our communities better through continuing service and through service to something larger than ourselves. One step, one element of that service is through making the choice and taking the action to move toward a more energy efficient future.
Ask yourself: Are you doing your part to ENERGIZE AMERICA?
Are you ready to do your part?
Fired Up? Ready to Go?
Go out and Energize America …
NOTE 1: To be clear, "energy efficiency" is far from the only way as individuals or groups to express and act on national service. While I have and will that it has such a high value and high payoff (in so many ways) that we all should be engaged in this to some degree, ‘service’ can be fulfilled in a myriad of ways …