Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Friday, August 24, 2007

We must start conserving electricity NOW

I discovered this week on a forum of well-educated people, mostly liberals like me, that a great many people don't realize that a LOT of electricity used in this country is generated by burning coal. And today the Bush administration is set to allow companies with a profit motive to start taking ever more coal from the earth via mountaintop mining. This is destroying habitat for a badly declining species, the Cerulean Warbler, but an administration that thinks so little of preserving habitat for a treasured game species such as the Sage Grouse is hardly going to be worried about a third-of-an-ounce songbird that hardly anyone has ever heard about, despite its great beauty. Read today's New York Times article, Rule to Expand Mountaintop Coal Mining.

I discuss how energy is generated and the implications for birds in 101 Ways to Help Birds. It's been well-reviewed but other than a handful of people, hardly anyone mentions the book in any discussions of energy and water conservation, recycling, trying to eat lower on the food chain and selecting as many groceries grown close to home as possible, or other issues that are getting a lot of attention right now, even though all of them have implications for birds and so were covered, some in a lot of depth, in the book. It's available in public libraries and may be worth your time to check it out.


  1. I'm a birder as well, and mountaintop removal's impact on migratory songbirds is just one of many reasons I am outraged by this story.

    Mountaintop removal mining truly sets my teeth on edge. Essentially, the mining company is extracting its short-term profit, destroying a billion-year-old landscape, and leaving surrounding communities -- generally very poor to begin with -- with land that has no economic value whatsoever. "Mitigation" is a joke. Heather Taylor's blog on NRDC's Switchboard site has a good piece on this latest news. Here are two background must-reads from OnEarth Magazine on the subject. And visit to learn more and take some action.

  2. One of the things that became abundantly clear to me as I researched my book is that just about everything we do to help birds helps human beings and the environment in general as well. Everything iwilker mentions is important.

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  4. Saving electricity paradoxically could be a self-defeating strategy. The argument goes something like this:

    - OK, we have conversion losses, and transmission & distribution losses. Note that increasingly, CO2-free methods of generating electricity are becoming available

    - while a lot has been said about these losses, the high efficiency of electricity at use point is much less covered. To the user, electricity can be converted into almost any energy service with high efficiency.

    The combination of low-carbon electricity with high efficiency at use point is one of the mainstream options to move to a sustainable energy system.

  5. Whatever the reason, saving electricity or just saving on the electricity bill, it is really cool to know that people think of using less electricity.

    Awareness about energy efficiency is a must for the current generation. We want the generations to come to enjoy the same technological benefits and other things at a similar cost to our current standards.