Friday, May 30, 2008

An Open Letter to Critics of Our Lifestyle

Fuel prices are at record levels and people are having to adapt. It can be a hardship and the additional money spent for fuel has to come from somewhere else... food? vacations? entertainment? health care? Often, there's not much one can do but pay the price and get mad... and maybe look for someone to blame.

Recently, I've been criticized for driving around in a motorhome -- "a pig of a vehicle that gets less than 10 m.p.g." Specifically, the criticism was the result of a piece I wrote in my political blog that was hard on the President for not using the patriotic fervor after the 9/11 attacks as a catalyst to make the USA independent of foreign oil, or at least, independent of Middle Eastern oil. The writer thought I was a hypocrite.

Simply put, I think the implication was that I have no right to criticize the President if I choose to drive a vehicle that has poor fuel efficiency.

Let me try to respond.

The motorhome is our home, our house -- our ONLY house. It's NOT our daily transportation. We only drive it when we're moving to a new "home-base". It will be driven less than 10,000 miles this year, and as fuel prices rise the miles we drive will go down. We don't drive the motorhome when we run to the store, go sightseeing, run out to a restaurant or a movie, or when we go anywhere else while we're parked at a "home-base". We have a car for those trips... just like almost everyone else... except that we have only one car and most every other couple has two or more.

When it comes to the facts of our energy consumption, I've analyzed our usage both prior to embarking on this lifestyle, when we had a "real" house, and after, with the motorhome. [link to article]. I can assert, and I have the data to back it up, that the motorhome uses less energy than the average "real" house... including the diesel fuel we burn to move our house from one place to another.

Yes, we do consume about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year that we wouldn't be using if we didn't have the motorhome. But we're only heating and cooling about 300 sq. ft., and use only a small fraction of the energy the average homeowner uses for the same purpose.

We have a solar array on our roof that produces power from the sun. We can live "off the grid" indefinitely while the average homeowner is buying energy to power their much larger houses. Thus, our consumption of grid-electricity is very low.

We're careful with our use of hot water; we don't have snowmobiles, boats, quads, or other adult energy-consuming toys; we don't use energy to mow our lawn or clear the snow; we're buying much less "stuff" during this phase of our lives because we're more into exploration than into accumulation -- remember that there's an energy component to each and every "thing" you buy. In general, our fulltiming lifestyle is a low energy lifestyle.

Apparently, in the minds of these critics, the issue isn't the amount of energy we're using... the issue is that I'm not using energy the way they'd like me to use it... the way they're using it. I guess they'd be happy if we actually used more energy than we are fulltiming in our motorhome... as long as we used it in a "normal" way... the way they're using it.

Or maybe they just need to understand what this lifestyle is all about.

Thomas Hoch