America is addicted.
We are so used to our comfortable way of life. It is much easier for us to drive ourselves to work instead of tacking 10 minutes on to our commute by taking public transportation.
It is much easier for us to do things on our own schedule, instead of offering to carpool with friends or co-workers and maybe being slightly inconvenienced by waiting for five minutes.
However, what is easier is not always smarter. Since energy prices began their upward rise, which has only recently been diminishing, people are finally realizing that the easier choice in the short term is not the best choice in the long term.
We have an obligation that is coming to the surface to look beyond ourselves and make personal lifestyle changes to release America from its addiction to oil.
A few years ago, renewable energy was a relatively new word. Now, however, it seems as though everything is making an effort to "go green" and doing it personally in your life is inexpensive, easy, and respectable.
There are a number of different types of renewable energy that can be used to power one's home, for example. The most prevalent is solar power, which converts sunlight directly into electricity through photovoltaic cells, often placed on the roof of a house.
For us in New England, this is the most efficient form and also pays back the fastest. However, there are other options that include wind energy, solar hot water, geothermal, and hydropower. While the initial set-up costs may be high, the long-term savings more than make up for it.
Additionally, while an oil well may go dry after a few years of pumping, the sun will never stop shining and the water will never stop flowing. Also, installation of such systems is affordable through Massachusetts programs that include Commonwealth Solar, a rebate program from Gov. Deval L. Patrick for solar panel installation, and allowances for lower sales tax and income tax payments.
If your house is not able to take on renewable energy sources or the initial financial burden would be too great, consider purchasing renewable energy credits from your utility company to offset the amount of electricity you are using.
The Boston Red Sox have solar hot water heaters on the roof of Fenway Park and the New England Patriots play all their games under the power of a wind farm. Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort recently began construction of a wind turbine that will provide one-third of its total electricity need. The Seaman Paper Co., in Otter River, saves 1.2 million gallons of oil a year by installing a waste wood-fired boiler.
Some may argue that these groups are making big changes that could not be matched by any single household. But what if an entire neighborhood of households made these changes?
We are at a crossroads in our Earth's history. Will we allow glacial regions to con-
tinue to melt? Will we believe that opening more of our beautiful environment to drilling is really the answer when oil companies already only use about 15 million of the 44.5 million acres available to them? Will we continue to support Middle Eastern oil providers and contributing to the economy overseas when there are hardworking people in America developing cleaner, more efficient ways to power our lives, such as the Scuderi Group in West Springfield and SunEthanol in Hadley?
These groups are helping slow global warming on a large scale, but if many people did it on a small scale, the impact would be tremendous. Do not simply brush off that your impact would be too small.
Instead, do your part. Try to carpool or ride a bike and switch to renewable energy. Then encourage all your neighbors to do the same. Our economy relies upon it, our security relies upon it, and our Earth relies upon it. Owen R. Bligh, of Holyoke, is a graduate of Holyoke Catholic High School and is a junior at Providence College, majoring in political science.
Courtesy of MassLive