In an article published recently (1), the question has been posed – Why bother to make personal changes to improve your own carbon footprint? Just as you do this, so there will be a new consumer in China or India that is buying their first car, eating more beef, using more energy.
And the answer typically ranges from because it is persopnally virtuous to because we need a culture wide change of lifestyles. Probably all of this is true.
But there is another reason that I think makes good sense as well. Energy efficiency on a broader community based plan can become an economic differentiator for the group. Consider a small town in the center of the USA. The average family has 2-3 vehicles, with an average mileage of 18 miles per gallon, a home with energy bills of $2000 per year. The schools and other commercial places also have older appliances and lighting.
That city may already have a net negative balance of payments with the rest of the USA and the world. And what this means is simply that they are becoming poorer. Period.
Here is a simple picture of the economy of this little town.
In this town all of the commerce that goes on inside the town does not weaken the town financially. So if one citizen buys a haircut from another, if one buys vegetables from another’s garden, or if one repairs another’s home, then the wealth of the town circulates.
But when anyone buys fuel for their car, to warm their home, to cook or watch TV, then each citizen sends their money outside the town. Cash flows out and unless they have substantial industry or art that is desired by others, they will lose wealth.
So it seems to me there is very good economic reason for groups of people to band together, to find out ways in each community to engage in trade with others but also to work to become more self sufficient and especially when it comes to energy.