An outside-the-box way to save energy

Politicians can usually identify and knowledgeably discuss problems, but they are not creative enough to generate the kind of outside-the-box solutions we need.

For example, President Obama attended a roundtable discussion at a Home Depot store to talk about job creation and energy efficiency. One of the participants was Mike Thaman, chairman and CEO of Owens Corning, a domestic producer of building insulation. Some people claim that Obama is the smartest man in the world, and Mr. Thaman is undoubtedly very knowledge about insulation. However, despite all of that brainpower, the best idea generated from that meeting was the suggestion that installing more insulation in homes and businesses would save energy by reducing heating and cooling costs. That is true, but is there any adult in the United States with at least a room-temperature IQ who doesn't already know that?

President Obama's job is not to invent, so I don't fault him for that forum that struck me as overly mickey-mouse. However, I do fault Mr. Thaman and other supposed experts who are paid like kings even though they haven't stepped into the 21st century.

The true measure of intelligence and especially genius is not how someone performs on a test, but how well that person can solve challenging problems in the real world. While I agree that retrofitting buildings with more insulation is beneficial, stuffing more insulation into them is not always practical. Exterior wall cavities, for example, are usually already filled with insulation. Adding more insulation to such walls would degrade their energy efficiency, not improve it! Many attics could benefit from more insulation, but adding more leads to diminishing returns. Since a substantial proportion of energy utilization in the U.S. stems from heating and cooling buildings, there is a definite need to make them more energy efficient. However, adding insulation is not always practical, and when it is, it is often relatively expensive. At best, it is a good idea. What we need is a great idea.

President Obama said:

“I know the idea [adding insulation] may not be very glamorous, although I get really excited about it. We were at the roundtable and somebody said, 'Insulation is not sexy.' I disagree. [...] 'Insulation is sexy stuff. Here's what's sexy about it: saving money.”

If insulation is sexy because it helps save money, saving more money is even sexier, correct? A sexy idea is good, but a really sexy idea is great, right?

OK, Mr. Obama and Mr. Thaman, how about a great idea? Not just a good idea that people knew about decades ago—a great idea: one that would save considerably more money with less installation hassles, limitations, and expense.

General George Patton said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” Similarly, if everyone is thinking that insulation is the most cost-effective way to save energy, then somebody isn't thinking.

It's been a very cold winter where I live in northern Michigan, but I haven't turned my furnace on once. My pipes haven't frozen, and I've been warmer than ever. How? By thinking outside the box. After my propane company hiked its prices by 44% in one year, I modified my clothes dryer so I piped in free energy instead of propane, and I modified my home so it needed 75 – 90% less energy to heat. Cost? About $75. I use a small electric heater designed to supplement heat in a 150 – 200 square foot room, which keeps me toasty warm throughout my home that is over ten times that large.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
— Albert Einstein

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
— Albert Einstein

“Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.”
— Robert A. Heinlein

“There's a way to do it better — find it.”
— Thomas Edison

As we wait for the smartest man in the world, and an insulation expert, to think outside the box and give us a great idea, I challenge you to come up with one and submit it to me.

If I told you how I saved so much energy, you would probably utilize the idea but (if you are like most people) also stop thinking about other ways to achieve the same result. One of the primary reasons why the United States is in such financial peril is because too many people are too willing to let others think for them. We entrusted our politicians to think for us, and what did they do? Ruin our economy. Consequently, it is imperative that we break the habit of letting others think for us. If you put your thinking cap on, you may come up with a way to save energy that is even better than mine.

At this time, I won't divulge the energy-saving idea I alluded to above, but I will give you another way to save energy and enormous amounts of money: read my free book, Microhome Living.

NOTE: If everyone did what I did to save energy, energy demand would fall so much that prices would inevitably fall, not just on energy, but on virtually everything else, since energy prices affect the cost of food, clothing, homes—you name it.

Parenthetical comment about roundtable discussions: Speaking at a TED Conference, Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, said, “Studies suggest that many of the most creative people are introverts.” Therefore, isn't it odd that President Obama sought creative ideas from extroverted people? Our culture glorifies exciting, dynamic people with silver tongues, but they are rarely the ones with the best ideas, as this roundtable discussion about energy efficiency proved. We pay too much attention to those with big mouths, and too little attention to those with big ideas. Is it any wonder why the U.S. economy is failing?

Related articles:

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The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

Comments (1)

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Comment #347 by doug nusbaum • Website:
October 28 2014 03:01:45 PM

Getting ideas from extroverts

I call it “The Mike Effect” after Mike the Chimp. Look it up. What the chimp did applies to humans. In a group, the leader usually emerges from those who talk the loudest and the longest even though they often contribute less to successful outcomes by actually doing stuff. It is how we are wired.

Look up Orwell's boot. The first item on most search engines will almost always be mine, usually under the name factotum666.

I like how your mind appears to work.

REPLY FROM KEVIN PEZZI: Thanks for the info and kind words. I presume that Mike the Chimp refers to Jane Goodall's chimpanzee Mike who instantly ascended the hierarchy by using a show of force via loudly clanging an empty 5-gallon kerosene can. If so, that is tantamount to what our government does: uses resources others don't have (or won't use) to intimidate people into submission.

Without our government having massive amounts of money and power to create shows of force, would any of us listen to them? Or would we instead be laughing at their lack of good ideas? The irony is that America is filled with good and great ideas, but our leaders seem bereft of them. But force, threats, and intimidation? They have that act down pat, just as Mike the Chimp did.

Around the world, not only in America, people have learned their place so well there's rarely a need for those in power to figuratively rattle the kerosene can, thus tacitly acquiescing to chains of control that usually remain invisible.

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