A few days ago I responded to one of those random surveys on Facebook. This one was something like "Cheapest gas you ever bought, where and when?" My response was "In 1969 in Houston I was paying 19.9 cents/gallon. (I’d rather pay $5/gal if it gets rid of fossil fuels.)"
A random person, whom I'll call Harry, took offense at my parenthetical remark and made a comment on my response. From Harry "...at the expense of those who have to choose between gas to get to work, or food on the table? Why do the less fortunate have to suffer for your agenda?"
Now, Harry knows nothing about me or my circumstances. The only thing he does know (I hope) is my snarky comment about getting rid of fossil fuels. Clearly he can't know if I have an "agenda" or not, but he was apparently willing to take the leap and assume I was an evil person who hopes that people who can't afford expensive gas will starve. I was offended. But as I thought about it more I realized that I DID have an agenda (although I also don't want to see people starve).
Here's my agenda. I want my son and any possible grandchildren I may have to NOT have to live in a world that is rife with extremely destructive tornadoes, catastrophic hurricanes, constant heat waves, droughts, floods, sea-level rise, etc. That's my agenda. As far as I can tell, a side effect of my agenda is that the human race will need to wean itself off of burning fossil fuels for power as soon as possible. But, as Harry does correctly point out, there are many people who live at the edge of poverty for whom the elimination of fossil fuels - right now - will be a hardship. I get that.
I'm also only one person. My wife and I are retired. We're not rich, although we are able to live a comfortable middle-class life in a small town. We can't just throw a switch and eliminate all fossil fuels from our lives - it would be too expensive for us. So here's my plan - play the medium-term game.
I write letters to my representatives at the state and local level encouraging them to address climate change as quickly as possible. I write to my senators, I write to the President. (Because, seriously, big changes in policies have to come from the top.) We donate what we can to a few conservationist not-for-profits, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund, among others. We are also, as time and expenses permit, removing things from our lives that use fossil fuels.
I signed up for a program run through our electric company that for a small fee guarantees that all our electricity comes from renewable sources, notably wind and solar. Living in the Midwest, wind is plentiful here, and there are more and more solar farms being constructed.
My old lawnmower was due to be replaced, so this year I bought an electric lawnmower. I have to mow my lawn in two stages now, on consecutive days, but it gets me out of the house. I'm planning on selling the old lawn mower, which still probably has a couple of years left in it. I understand that whoever I sell it to will be using fossil fuel to run it. But hey, that person must need a lawn mower. I also have an electric chain saw, electric hedge trimmers, and an electric weed-whacker.
Our gas stove was also due to be replaced within the next couple of years (it's 20+ years old), so we replaced it with a new electric stove instead. We also replaced our existing microwave oven with a new, more efficient, model. The old gas stove and microwave are being recycled.
While we were at it, we had the gas line in the kitchen capped, along with one in our laundry (we replaced a gas dryer with electric many years ago), and our gas fireplace. We'll replace the gas fireplace burner with an electric one this coming fall.
That leaves only two gas appliances in our house, our forced-air gas furnace, and our gas hot water heater. The furnace is about 22 years old and we'll replace it in the next few years with a heat pump. As I said, we're not rich, so we have to space out these replacements as we can afford them. We're hoping that the prices on air-source heat pumps come down a bit and that their efficiency goes up so we don't need an auxiliary source of heat when it gets really cold.
We replaced our gas hot-water heater just about five years ago, so it still has at least five-to-ten years left in it. When it goes, we'll replace it with a tankless electric water heater, as long as prices on those have come down.
That would leave our automobile. When we retired we went down to just a single car. That car, an SUV with a four-cylinder engine, is five years old now. We usually keep our cars at least ten years and we had our last car for 17, so it will be a while before we'll think about replacing it. When we do, I'm hoping that fully plug-in electric cars will be considerably cheaper than they are now, that they will have longer ranges, and that the plug-in network will be ubiquitous.
In the category of "I'm not perfect and I have my limits" we still have a propane gas grill, which I love and which works marvelously. I use about one 15-lb can of propane a year. I'm not planning on replacing it any time soon.
So that's my plan for implementing my agenda - being intentional about trying to do my part in helping us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels - and how we're going to do it over the next decade or so. I don't want to preach to anyone, and I don't want to harangue people to do exactly what my wife and I are doing. I think that climate change is real, that it is an imminent and important problem that we need to solve as quickly as possible. I also think that everyone needs to do whatever it is within their means to do to help mitigate the effects of climate change. I'm hoping that what my wife and I are able to do will help.