It’s Not Easy Going Green

Last week, Leonardo di Caprio was on Oprah, talking about global warming. Oprah speaks for millions of purse-string-holding women around the world. So it was astounding to hear Oprah – hopefully playing Devil’s Advocate but it was painfully difficult to tell – ask, “I don’t know much about global warming. I hear these words and my eyes glaze over. What does global warming have to do with me?” The idea that women haven’t connected the dots between those children they fetishize and obsess over and planetary changes is so big and so astonishing I had to stop hating her guts to find room to hate her show’s viewers with the kind of scorching, corrosive hatred one devotes to people who insist everything’s fine as they stubbornly sail the boat you’re standing on into the iceberg.

God damn it, global warming has everything to do with you. And me. And you have to do something constructive about it. And so do I. A few weeks ago, a co-worker approached me for the third day in a row to ask my thoughts on Hurricane Katrina. I expressed horror and dismay in terms that peeled the outer layer of skin off her face. Then this:

Emily: They’re going to have to build new refineries to compensate for all the lost oil.
Tata: The oil companies know that building a refinery has like a thirty-year window of return. Anything built now will cost more to build than it will return in its lifetime.
Emily: You mean because nobody wants a refinery in their neighborhood? Of course, you’re right but someone will have to live with it.
Tata: No, because of peak oil. Have you heard of this?
Emily: No.
Tata: As I understand it, the earth contains a certain amount of oil. We have extracted the majority of it and from now on, oil will become more difficult to extract and we will extract less and less of it until we run out.
Emily: What about the Arctic? There’s oil in South America!
Tata: Yes, and those supplies would have been exhausted long ago if they were easy to tap and not fundamentally dangerous in some way.
Emily: What are we supposed to do? We have to have oil.
Tata: If I owned a house I’d have installed solar panels last year.
Emily: If only they’d build more refineries…

On Sunday afternoon, I read the <a href="”>NJ Clean Energy brochure that arrived with my October PSE&G bill. It wasn’t easy. For three hours, some sort of domestic situation transpired loudly right outside my bedroom windows, abating when the cops arrived and starting up again when they left; lather, rinse, repeat. Though what I could see was two people shouting – which is annoying but not threatening – I called the police to restore peace and quiet. The damn brochure didn’t offer much information. I fired up the computer and took wild guesses about the providers’ URLs. It’s long past time to go as green as possible. I’m poor, and putting what little money I have where my mouth is.

Rules. It’s the OCD. I can’t help it:

1. I prefer not to patronize businesses that lobby against my interests or are located in states that consistently legislate against my interests, just as I’d prefer in theory to buy a hybrid American car built in a factory on Route 1 over any other car built anywhere else.
2. It’s impossible to be righteous 100% of the time. Okay? Okay!

The brochure uses a teeny font little old persons like myself can barely see. It offers four options. You’re supposed to choose a vendor, which lists a product, the resources that product represents, cost per Kilowatt hour and the average additional monthly cost (average home = 580 kWh/mo.) Apparently, it’s cheaper to stay dirty. Let’s move on.

Community Energy, Inc.
Product: NewWind Energy
50% wind, 1% solar, 49 % low-impact hydro
1.3 cents

At this point, I realized I knew bupkis, possibly less than bupkis. This is NewWind Energy’s site. They have a map of where their wind farms are located in NJ, NY, IL, PA and WV. The site sells fetching posters of windmills. Crap, they’re located in Pennsylvania, home of that fuckpig Rick Santorum. Now I have to look up Wayne, PA and find out if it voted for him. Next!

Green Mountain Energy Company
Green Mountain Energy
50% wind, 50% small hydro
.9 cents

Hey, I’m poor. If this checks out, I’m golden. Google “green mountain energy” and you get their site and a boycott site, right off the bat. I realize the limits of my intelligence and research abilities when the site’s dated 2000, and I can’t find anything more recent refuting the boycott site’s allegation that BP bought GMEC and moved to Texas. I…don’t know enough to give these people money with a clear conscience. Next!

Jersey-Atlantic Wind, LLC
NJ Wind
50% NJ Wind, 50% low-impact hydro
2.9 cents

Holy crow! That’s three times more than the Texans would kick my ass! Since this company is in New Jersey, I’d like to do business with them – I think! I can’t tell because they just started selling their product last month. My last month’s electric bill was during October, when there was no air conditioning and modest activity in my apartment: roughly 93 kWh = $14.08. With NJ Wind, I would expect to pay about $20. I think I can live with that. What’s my last choice?

Sterling Planet, Inc.
Sterling Select
33% wind, 34% landfill gas, 33% small hydro
1.2 cents

They’re in Georgia. Fuck that, no matter how righteous they might be.

As a bear of very little brain, I would be perfectly willing to accept that I don’t understand anything I’ve read. If you do understand this and I’m completely wrong about how this stacks up, please correct me.

Is this the best we can do?

Note: if you’re about to quibble with the solar panels assertion, forget it. Favor nuclear? Don’t bother unless you have a magic wand that makes nuclear waste not-radioactive. As for peak oil: I can never be an expert, but I listen when the grownups are talking.

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