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To Action
LCWR Global Concerns Committee

Volume 17, Number 3 October 2008

Clean Energy A Tricky Business with Possibilities

Lucy Slinger, FSPA, PhD
FSPA Congregation Ecological Advocate
clean energy be made available and Some conclusions emerge from the
EXPERIENCE used in the USA? analysis of complex clean energy

research: conserve and limit use; local-
s your response denial, despair or
hope when you pay $4 a gallon for Social Analysis ize and limit loss due to transportation;
diversify sources to strengthen stability
gas, see food costs continue to rise,

of the delivery system; and depend pre-
and daily hear of the uncertain, uc- tricky business of clean energy
dominately on multiple clean source
tuating economy? In the United States relates to looking only at the dollar
systems to provide our nations energy.
all are tied to increased energy needs value of input and production for
that historically have been dependent our energy systems. Nothing is free.
What are some facts that about energy
on cheap, readily available fossil Even a solar panel or wind generator
generation? First, our transportation
fuels. Transportation uses 37% of our require resources and energy to make and
system is 97% dependent on petroleum
energy while production of electricity maintain and are considered sustainable
with more then half imported and ma-
requires 40% more to sustain our life- only if the energy production exceeds the
jor new domestic reserves located far off
style. We are, in fact, only one-fth of initial and ongoing input costs. Little if
shore. Second, a car using petroleum
the worlds human population but use any cost considerations have been given
fuel that gets 20 miles per gallon (mpg)
23% of the global energy diet (World to what economists call the externali-
emits about 50 tons of global warm-
Population Organization). ties such as long and short-term envi-
ing-inducing carbon dioxide over its
ronmental, human safety, or social justice
lifetime; a 40 mpg vehicle generates half
In 2007 only 2.5 percent of USA impact expenses (Suzuki, 2004).
energy came from clean renewable
sources like solar, wind, geothermal, Growing energy needs are considered a Resolutions to Action is an occasional publica-
and biomass while more than 70% national security issue, with wars being tion of the Global Concerns Committee of the
came from fossil fuels and 20% from fought to try to safeguard a future sup- Leadership Conference of Women Religious
(LCWR). Members of the committee are:
nuclear sources. When clean energy ply of foreign oil. Domestic tax breaks Jacquelyn Doepker, OSF; Janet Lehmann,
sources result in lower human health and government subsidies programs SC; Miriam Mitchell, SHSp; Andrea Nenzel,
risks, reduced dependency on foreign have been developed to keep fossil fuel CSJP; Susan Schorsten, HM; Kathleen Storms,
oil, creation of new green jobs, and exploration, development, and delivery SSND; and Marie Lucey, OSF, staff. Please
lower contributions to global warm- systems functional. This system has only address correspondence to:
ing compared to traditionally fossil resulted in widening the gap between the LCWR
8808 Cameron Street
fuels, then what keeps us from choos- have and have nots of our society Silver Spring, MD 20910
ing them? Furthermore, what can and resulted in a disproportionately 301-588-4955
we do individually and collectively higher amount of income being spent by fax: 301-587-4575
to generate and demand that more the latter to meet basic needs today.
as much; and a fully alternative electri- largest potential saving to home owners tions expressed explicitly by Vatican
cal vehicle contributes only indirectly by reducing water annual water heating Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Migliore in
in proportion to the electrical energy expenses as much as 50 85%. But, his October 25, 2006 presentation at the
taken from the electrical power grid even with tax incentives in place, most United Nations: The worlds economy
(National Resource Defense Council). of us are slow to make changes. continues to rest basically upon its relation
Third, alternative biomass fuels, such as to nature, and in particular to its impact
corn-based ethanol and vegetable or soy In summary, clean energy is not just on the earths soil, water and climate.It is
diesel contribute less then 2% of the en- about alternative renewable energy becoming rapidly ever clearer that if these,
ergy used in transportation today with fuel sources. What is most needed is a the worlds life support systems, are spoiled
natural gas and other fuels contributing change of heart, attitudes, and prac- or destroyed irreparably, there will be no
even less. However, bio-fuel sources are tices that surround the status quo USA viable economy for any of us Environ-
suspect as clean energy sources given fossil fuel-based energy and economic mental concerns have to be understood as
conventional farming practices, which systems, and change of the economic the basis upon which all economic and
are highly subsidized and heavily de- decision paradigm from a dollar-cost- even human activity rests. The environ-
pendent on fossil fuel-based fertilizers only benet to triple bottom line mental question is not only an important
and pesticides for production, transport economics, i.e., nancial, social, and en- ethical and scientic problem, but one
and processing, in addition to social jus- vironmental costs. This is the economic that impacts political, economic, security
tice implications of taking agricultural decision base used in a number of strategy, developmental and humanitarian
land out of food production in a system European nations today that more justly issues at regional, national and interna-
that transports what consumers eat on denes the true cost of energy, products tional levels. In a word, the world needs
average more than 1500 miles. and services. an ecological conversion so as to examine
critically current models of thought, as well
Todays transportation energy uses are as those of production and consumption.
surpassed only by the 40% consumed Reflection
to provide electricity (Energetics). The Action

Summary of Statistical Yearbook of Electri-
cal Power Industry 2006-2007 reports that od has blessed our nation with
48.6 % was generated from coal, 19.4 abundance, and we have enjoyed Personal Action
% from nuclear, 21.5 % from natural the power and prestige of being
gas, 5.8% from hydropower, 1.6 % from world leaders. While that leadership Be a prophet of change by using
fuel oil, 2.5% from renewable resources is now in question, our lifestyles have your vote and voice to generate
(wind, solar, and geothermal) and the been the standards that many in devel- political change for triple bottom
rest from miscellaneous sources. Each oping nations envy and seek. We are line economy decisions and clean
of these sources extracts an environ- called to use our gifts wisely, and like energy legislative support.
mental and social justice price that is the stewards in the parable, we will be Do a personal energy audit to
not accounted for in what consumers held accountable. determine ways you can conserve.
pay for electricity. The fuel source for Educate yourself and others about
generating electricity is only one piece Pope Benedict XVI has set a standard triple bottom line economics and
of the clean energy picture; generated by establishment of clean alternative clean energy.
energy is useless until transported and energy systems in Vatican City, and by Pray, act, and invite others to live
used by the consumer. in sustainable right relations with
What is most needed is a change all of Gods creation.
Residential consumers annually use of heart, attitud, and practic
approximately $200 billion and manu- Collective Action
facturers use $100 billion in energy. reestablishment of a forest in Hungary
Residential appliances including heat- Become shareholders in key
to offset pollution caused by Vatican energy suppliers to promote clean
ing and cooling equipment consume use of fossil fuel energy. Last March,
90% of all home energy used. energy.
Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti of the Become better stewards of
The US Environmental Protection Vatican Apostolic Penitentiary which
Agency and Alliance to Save Energy resources by conducting energy
deals with matters of conscience, an- audits and modeling energy
document that replacing just one incan- nounced that new mortal sins of our
descent light bulb with an energy-sav- conservation practices in housing,
modern times include causing environ- transportation, ministries. and all
ing compact uorescent bulb means mental blight, i.e. pollution and social
1,000 pounds less carbon dioxide is other daily life and institutional
and economic injustices. needs.
emitted in the atmosphere and $67 is
saved on energy costs over the bulbs Be the change you seek.
These are serious calls to accountability
lifetime. Solar water heaters offer the and action with the economic connec-