Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Reason for Jewish Optimism: Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

My burning question to Tsvi Bisk after being captivated by his lecture was this: what can we do?

My question was answered on two levels.

Community
"We've done the research on alternative energy," Bisk said. "We have plenty of research. Enough with the research already. What we need is deployment." In fact, Israel is at the forefront of developing and establishing alternative energy solutions, water conservation and desalination, and recycling. And a small community can do this, he said.

Step one: Get the local (Jewish) community together. Do some fundraising, Ask for investments from the local medical community in particular.

Step two: Purchase a solar-powered steam turbine generator from Solel (or a similar Israeli company) with the money raised.

Step three: Donate the generator to a local hospital, where they will substantially reduce their energy bill.

Step four: Take advantage of the media to demonstrate how a small community can make a huge environmental difference within their own community. Help it to "go viral" and spread to other communities.

Who wins? Everyone. The Jewish community wins by getting credit for the donation. The hospital wins by reducing costs. Israel wins by establishing another happy customer. And the earth wins.

Individual
There are the usual but still important answers:

  • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact flourescent bulbs
  • Turn off lights and small appliances when not using them
  • Make your next vehicle a hybrid
  • Invest in wind and/or solar energy programs through your local energy company
  • Conserve energy wherever possible
But I wanted more. I wanted to know, for those of us who have already invested in wind energy, replaced our bulbs, and can't afford a new car right now, what can we do today?

Tsvi Bisk will hopefully answer that - what a single individual can do - and other questions about his book and proposals in an upcoming interview here on the blog.

Meanwhile, as I was at the lecture, a representative from Checker Auto Parts came up to me and provided more answers.

What can YOU do today?
  1. Check the air in the tires of your vehicle(s). For every pound psi the tires are underinflated, you lower your gas mileage up to one percent.

  2. Check the air filter in your vehicle(s), even if whomever changed the oil claims they inspected the air filter. Change it if necessary. A clogged air filter can cost you 10% of your gas mileage.

  3. Use "Top Tier" fuel. This does NOT mean the really expensive high-octane stuff. This means fuel that has sufficient detergent added to clean your fuel system as it's being burned. Leading automakers have determined that the minimum EPA standards for detergent added to gasoline only provides about half the detergent needed to keep the engine's fuel system clean and prevent corrosion. For a list of fuel companies participating in the Top Tier program, visit http://www.toptiergas.com/.

  4. If there are no Top Tier participating fuel stations nearby, add the best fuel system cleaner you can buy to your vehicle every three months. This is often not the one on sale. Ask your local auto parts store for their best recommendations; there should only be one or two.
I went home and checked tire pressure. Right on manufacturer recommendations. Check one.

I checked the air filter despite the oil changing place claiming to have checked it three months ago. I don't think it had EVER been changed. Icky. A new one cost less than $10. Check two.

No Top Tier stations around here, so I bought the recommended fuel system cleaner specifically for engines over 100,000 miles. Two weeks later (as of this writing), my average gas mileage - which I've been tracking since I bought our minivan - increased by 9 mpg. From 19 mpg to 28 mpg. For a minivan!

And then, because I was inspired and because our six-year-old gas-powered lawnmower is clearly on its last wheels, we retired the noisy gas-guzzler and bought a push reel mower from the local home improvement store for a well-spent $65.

Here's the amazing thing: it pushes easier than the gas mower, is easier to maneuver, cuts just as well (or better), is nearly silent (I can talk on the phone while mowing the lawn; who else can claim that?), and doesn't benefit Iran, antisemitic propaganda, or spew who knows what fumes into my face and the environment.

All because I reviewed a book and it touched me.

Whether you agree with the entire message or not, the fact remains that energy is an issue looking desperately for a solution, and the Jewish Energy Project might just be one of the answers.
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