Saturday, February 5, 2011

Welcome to Writing the World, blogsite of writer and poet Constance Gannon

Two nights ago, the temperature here in Santa Fe fell to minus eighteen. I'd forgotten how the minus degrees feel. How the cold takes away your breath, freeze dries the inside of your nostrils. Even the dog with his thick blonde coat balked at the patio door. No, thank you. I can wait. The cold moved through the wall like some kind of ectoplasm. We stuffed towels along the bottom edges of the exterior doors, closed all the blinds, turned on the electric matress pad and settled in for a few days of divorce from the natural world. Hibernation.

In other parts of New Mexico, people were frantically chopping kindling, lighting woodstoves, buying all the electric space heaters in town. Somewhere in west Texas, in that vast half-imaginary network known as the Texas electrical grid, ice pulled down a wire, compressors froze in place and the web of pipes that feeds natural gas across  the stateline began to lose pressure. I pictured the compressed gas gradually spreading out, growing weak and flaccid, limping through the pipes as far as the middle Rio Grande Valley, but unable to get past Santa Fe. With no compelling force to move it, the terminal points along the lines were literally out of gas.

This is the problem with large-scale energy supply systems. They are interwoven, interconnected, but not in a good way. But local energy production is rarely on the agenda, maybe not even on the radar, of public policy. The real answer to the energy crisis and to atmospheric carbon overload is local, very local, production. Instead of a chicken in every pot, we need solar cells on every roof, small windmills in many backyards, geothermal systems under every floor. and street But, of course, individual generation would mean  no continual profit base for the corporations that now control the resources, the grids, the switches and all. In order that they may continue to prosper, the rest of us have to put up with outages, overloads, brownouts and worse, as if these were acts of God instead of gross inefficiencies.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Hope your home is warm today. Hope you have a home to be warm in and windows that open up the beautiful world around you.