What ought we to do?

Current Affairs / Peak Oil

There’s been a minor kerfluffle on one of the email discussion lists I subscribe to about who should be “blamed” for the rise in energy prices. The question was what we might do about fixing the problem once we’ve identified where the problem was.

My response (below) is basically that it doesn’t matter who is to blame, and there’s very little churches or even nations can do to fix this. (The rise in energy costs is a global issue and has many proximate causes.)

“As far as the day to day life of the Episcopal Church is concerned it doesn’t matter what is causing energy prices to rise – it matters that they are. That fact seems to me to be incontrovertible.

There are important steps that we need to be taking in our congregations now. (Actually we needed to start 5 years ago, but getting started now is still better than waiting another 5 years.) In the parishes I have served we have always invested money in an energy audit. I’ve pushed the vestry/chapter to spend money fixing the HVAC system to make it more efficient. In my parish in Bethlehem I think we probably put something on the order of 25k into the repairs. But the repairs lowered our oil costs by a factor of 2 (from 16k/yr to 8k/yr). We made the investment back in about 3 years. It would have been even quicker if we did it today at present oil costs.

More importantly for our dioceses, we need to recognize that increasing energy costs are going to increase the rate of re-urbanization that has been ongoing for a while now. (This is *most definitely* the case in Phoenix.) People are moving back into the cities and closer to work to lower their commute costs. Tertiary suburbs are going to struggle. Downtowns are gentrifying. Both situations raise issues that we’ll need to respond to.

I know we’re starting to think about ways we can use telecommunications more appropriately for doing CCAB [Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards of the Episcopal Church] work. Our Standing Commission (SCECC) sponsored a resolution that passed in 2006 calling for all of us to seek ways to meet with each other that minimize travel costs. (That’s both good financial and environmental stewardship.) But I think it may be time for us to think about ways to do this at the parish and diocesan level. We’ve just spent a chunk of money upgrading our conference call capability in the Cathedral here in Arizona. We’re already finding it a cost and time savings for people around the state and it’s being regularly used.

Seems to me that [we’re] is right to raise the issue. We have a responsibility to respond to the fact that energy prices are steeply rising. I would argue that we’re better served looking at the things we can do than we would be spending time trying to figure out who or what is to blame.”

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...