Why aren't there more Ed Begleys and Bill Nyes?

High energy prices and the threat of green house gases should have galvanized millions of Americans to follow Bill Nyes' and Ed Begley's excellent examples when it comes to controlling energy costs and going green. Most have not and that includes the Facebook crowd and fans of President Obama. Instead, we're still relying on government or an enlightened Obama Administration to solve the problem. What if they don't!

When I saw Ed and Bill on television I was both amused and struck with their hands on approach. So I asked myself "Why aren't there more Ed Begleys and Bill Nyes out there? Is this stuff too hard or too expensive or is there something else in play?Ed Begley Jr. 

Ed Begley, Jr. put's it this way "As environmental issues become more pressing, there are two possible responses: forget it and hope that government and corporations will figure it out, or take action yourself."

Now if you are like me, you may not want to totally depend on the government or corporate America to figure it out. What if they fail? Besides look at their track record so far. Even if you don't subscribe wholeheartedly to Ed Begley's or Bill Nyes' philosophy, you might want to try some of the things they've done to hedge your risks and control future energy costs. 

I came up with a set of reasons why there are not a lot more Ed Begleys and Bill Nyes:

  • -Lack of technology and commerical products.
  • -Products and services are just too expensive.
  • -State energy regulators or energy companies won't let us.
  • -The pain is not great enough.
  • -We really don't have to.
  • -We just can't overcome our own inertia.

What Bill Nye does
I then took a look at what Bill Nye and Ed Begley Jr. did in their homes in Los Angeles. I had to confess that none of the actions they took were beyond anyone's ability, provided you had the money. Take a look at what Bill Nye did below based on a New York Times article. I summarized them below:

  1. First green renovation: The first thing I did was replace the incandescent light bulbs. I switched to compact fluorescent light bulbs, or C.F.L.’s.
  2. Next big purchase: Double-paned windows, which I think will cut down my heating bill by half. The windows will cost more than $20,000. Admittedly this is a stretch for most people.
  3. Best addition: My solar panels. They are four-kilowatt panels. I have 24 of them, each two-by-four feet. They cost $32,000 to buy and install, after an 18 percent tax rebate. That seems high and maybe the new federal, state, and local tax incentives and loans can make it more reasonable.
  4. Giving back: My house is attached to L.A.’s main power grid, but I make more power than I use. So, I send my excess energy back to the grid and my bill is just $7 a month, which is a connection charge.
  5. Lawn doctor: I got rid of the big water-wasting lawn in the backyard and replaced it with vegetable gardens. That’s cut my water use by about 50 percent.
  6. Greengrocer: I never buy lettuce anymore. Now it is a lettuce fest at Nye Labs. Right now I grow six different types of lettuce. Chard. I have snap peas.
  7. Solar systems: The solar panels are for electricity. Then there is a solar collector for hot water. It’s a glass-covered black box on the roof. A low-power pump, about 30 watts, moves water through a tank after the sun heats the water. It works very well. For hot water and heat I pay around $100 a month. In the summer, the gas bill is less than $10.
  8. Favorite room: It’s outside. The patio used to be hot, so I had a pergola built over it out of lumber from sustainable sources, and plastic slats textured to look like lumber. Now the patio is cool and comfortable and shades the house.
  9. Water conservation: I replaced the rain gutters and diverted them into two barrels. I use that to water the nonfood plants in the garden. I have roses and azaleas, for example.
  10. Natural lighting: I have a skylight with a domed lens over it that conducts light through mirrored tubes. It is so bright it obviates the need for electric light in my bedroom. It is a classic example of doing more with less.
  11. How he drives: I have a Prius, and there’s something called the “Prius effect.” When you see how efficient your car is, you start driving with more gentle accelerations and decelerations to maximize your efficiency, which is fun.

Why we don't take action
Even when we have the resources (money), we don't take action like Ed Begley or Bill Nye.  How come? I think it's because we really don't have to. The pain, in terms of high energy prices or environmental damage, is not so high or chronic to galvanize us into action. Sure we know these are problems, but we can get by cutting back on a lattes at Starbucks or eating out less. And besides, we think that these price spikes are short lived anyway.

Bill Nye discusses the environmentThe problem with the above thinking is that continued use of fossil fuel for transportation, heating or electricity production amkes us more dependent each day and requires greater environmental mitigation. Protecting the environment costs money and you and I have to pay for it. So sooner or later, energy prices will increase to reflect the cost of environmental mitigation measures and increased demand. The latter assumes that you believe that the U.S. and global economies will recover and prosperity will be restored.

Renewable energy has impacts too, but nothing like oil, coal, or natural gas too, especially when you factor in the damage associated with extracting these from the ground. See what we mean by this with our article on oil sands mining in Canada.

The second reason we don't take action is that we really don't want to or can't overcome our interia. I know some of you will take issue with me. Serioulsly though, most people have to be pushed and shoved to take action or have the government impose actions on us. This not only applies to energy and environment, but also to calls for us to eat healthier and exercise more.

Other than Ed and Bill, who else do you know who is passionate about renewable energy and going green besides former Vice President Gore? I'd love to hear from them with examples of what they have done and what prompted them to take action.

The price of energy is probably the biggest effector in changing our behavior. We all suffered when gasoline and diesel fuel appproached $5+ a gallon. Yet we managed to change our behavior when it came to using our cars and trucks painful as it was.

No Excuses for the Government, the Rich and Powerful or the Building Industry
The poor and the middle class may not be able to afford new windows and solar panels and water heating given the state of the economy. However, it may be worth looking at recent renewable energy incentives that reduce the costs much more. Even if you can't afford to do a lot, just decide on doing something. Here are some suggestions from among other energy articles we've posted.

The government and the rich and famous have no excuse. They have the money and have a long term investment horizon that goes past 1 year. The federal government has taken a small step through the Stimulus package to make federal buildings energy efficient. President Obama could do more for renewables too by installing solar and wind projects on federal buildings

Personally, I get very upset when a celebrity touts going green or renewables and fails to take any additional action. It is really time for celebrities and icons to "take action" just like Ed Begley and Bill Nyes did. Celebs could at least support renewable energy projects and communities who want to do renewable energy projects but don't have the means. Oprah, are you listening to this?

Just think how much Donald Trump might do if he installed wind or solar panels throughout the Trump real estate empire. His clients would appreciate it and his organization could reduce its carbon foot print. This is very doable as demonstrated by aprtment residents in New York Coity and Chicago have done this already so I am sure there are other celebrities and icons who could do the same.

We hope this article gives you something to think about. Please share your thoughts and what you have done to address the energy and environmental issues of the day. Also take action no matter how small it is.

On September 8, 2009, Ed Begley, Jr. was on Good Morning America. He has a new book that will help you live a green life and save you money too.