COLUMN: Benefits of cutting consumption

I was informed that we were participating in the recognition of Earth Hour – Saturday from 8:30 to 9:30.

In the centre of the table sat an elegant candle, illuminating a rather delicious-looking dinner.

My first reaction to the darkness upon emerging from the basement was “romantic evening?” After being questioned whether or not all the lights downstairs had been turned off, I was informed that we were participating in the recognition of Earth Hour – Saturday from 8:30 to 9:30.

As long as the television broadcasting the hockey game remained on, turning out the lights was okay by me. Saving the Earth, one miniscule step at a time, can’t be all that bad.

In fact, according to BC Hydro, in just that one hour we saved 121 megawatt hours of electricity and reduced the provincial electricity load by 1.67 percent, the equivalent of turning off about nine million 12.5-watt LED light bulbs. Just in case you are feeling smug about your contribution, the community with the highest reduction in consumption – 12.1 per cent – was Revelstoke. Pemberton had the second highest decrease.

It just goes to show that, with a little effort, we can make a difference in energy conservation. Which makes me wonder what effect it would have if we cut back on consumption of other “consumables,” even for an hour.

Just think of the hit to fuel companies, and to government tax revenues, if for one hour a week we all turned off our vehicle engines. A couple of million cars and trucks stopped on the side of the road for 60 minutes, and some 20 million or so litres of fuel, unless you’re driving a Chevy Volt, wouldn’t be burned and on which taxes wouldn’t be collected.

Or not smoking for an hour, or denying yourself a glass or two of wine in the evening.

Healthy, yes, but if that sort of consumer revolt took hold, it might send a message to the fuel companies and others who set exorbitant prices, and to governments (hello TransLink) that we’re tired of paying ever-increasing taxes.

Gasoline, for example, west of the Abbotsford boundary, carries a tax burden of 50 cents a litre. I remember when gas was 35 cents a gallon, tax included! Back then we could put a buck in the tank and drive old beaters around the farm field all day.

Last week, wincing with sticker shock at the price per litre, I thought it wise to put only $50 worth of fuel in the tank in hopes of the price dropping later. The next day it did, but while in the gas station, another guy came in and, with a truck as large or larger than mine, told the attendant he only wanted $5 worth.

That was 3.5 litres!

I can understand economizing, but when it costs about $12 to mow my lawn, how far can you drive a truck on 3.5 litres?

Perhaps we should adopt other forms of Earth Hour, and make an effort to cut back on products we use, if for no other reason than to send a message that cost increases, especially in ‘hidden’ taxes, have to be curtailed.

Otherwise, we will soon reach the tipping point on the load we are expected to financially bear, and then the utopian lifestyle we lead in this supposed land of milk and honey will crash. It happened in the U.S, and is certainly happening in Europe.

So I’ve decided that, while I won’t turn off almost every light like we did Saturday night, I’m going to cut way back on electricity use. And economize on my driving habits. Not sure about cutting back on cigarettes and wine, though!

If everyone joined me, we might send a message. If nothing else, we’ll save a few bucks, and that can’t hurt!