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Conservation – YES! Umm, not so fast, my friend

Or: How I changed my mind on energy

If I need to drive a Prius, and burn wood in the winter, and buy gas on odd days to achieve energy independence from the Middle East, sign me up!

Well, at least that is the opinion I spouted until last summer.

You see, here in my part of North Carolina, we have undergone a pretty severe drought for the past year. So severe, in fact, that mandatory water restrictions have been in place for a while. No watering grass. No washing your car (I have not washed my car in my own driveway in 14 months. Seriously.). No use of water that is not absolutely necessary, and were it not for some early-season rains, we would not have been able to fill the neighborhood pool up with water.

OK, I said, I’ll go along with this. After all, it is for the common good – right? Well, it seems that some people take “the common good” pretty seriously. Like the guy up the street whose sprinklers were destroyed at night after they accidentally turned on one afternoon. The new neighbor who was chewed out by the local busybody after he filled his daughter’s kiddie pool. The couple who installed a cistern, watered their plants with the rainwater they captured, and were reported anyway – with the encouragement of the State. Ominously, the local water company plans to install devices that will allow them to read the meters from the comfort of their offices, and also allow them, if they wish, to monitor water consumption.

Interestingly, we have had enormous amounts of rain this summer. We are catching up on the deficit we had last year, and are well above normal for 2008. Yet the water restrictions remain in place because “creeks are still too low” or “we are concerned about the water level in the local rivers” – while every reservoir in the area overflows.

The point is that I am not free. I run the risk of being reported, harassed or having my property vandalized should I run afoul of the restrictions put in place by the authorities. And I can’t wash my doggone car, unless it is under the cover of night after everyone has finished driving up the street and walking their dog.

Can you possibly imagine the effect of a nationwide, mandatory energy conservation effort? Code Pink nutjobs keying SUV’s? Secret energy police? Neighbor spying on neighbor? Government officials encouraging anonymous tips? Jail sentences for overusing energy, either to heat your home or run your car? The left being in charge of how much energy we can use, and when?

From now on, count me out. I’ll use as much energy as I need and can afford, and trust the market to handle the situation. I’ll conserve if that is what my budget tells me to do, and I will beware the person who wants to cage me under the guise of “energy independence”.

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