A balanced energy 'diet': Weighing efficiency and practicality

The pursuit of energy efficiency is noble. All individuals and companies would ideally seek cost-effective means of producing energy through channels that are less harmful to the environment.

In a way, energy efficiency is like good nutrition. Most people recognize that as we put better nutrients into our bodies, we will experience better health and greater vitality.

But just like we can have too much of a good thing in our diet, as a society we need to create a balanced "diet" of energy sources - at least until we can wean ourselves from the more traditional coal and natural gas in a sustainable manner.

Our energy experts recommend the following "menu" to operate your home or business most efficiently, while incorporating clean energy practices.

Consider the downside. Just as nutrients are generally - but not always - beneficial, all energy sources have some undesirable consequences. Wind turbines burn off oil and inadvertently kill birds. Solar farms force us to change how we use land and cause the proliferation of toxins that impact soil, air and water. Nuclear reactors create radioactive waste, and accidents can be costly and damaging.

Pursuing energy efficiency has its pros and cons. But as long as the benefits outweigh the negatives, we should embrace more efficient energy technology, while at the same time recognizing that continuous improvements are needed. Energy efficient industries require ongoing government regulation and oversight so that shortcuts do not result in negative consequences that outweigh the benefits.

Use sound economic judgment. When examining efficient energy technologies, the onus of efficiency should not be placed solely on homeowners, manufacturers and small businesses. Government support is also necessary.

If embracing new energy sources places an unnecessary burden on the public, we need to take a step back and ask whether the incremental benefits justify higher costs to the consumer. Just as the right incentives address the negative impacts of coal and natural gas utilization, subsidies must exist for new wind, solar or nuclear technology to benefit society.

Educate yourself on the supply chain. Even healthy food loses its nutritional value when manufacturers add or remove ingredients to make a greater profit. The same is valid for energy sources. For example, LED lighting is proven to curb energy usage, but if poor manufacturing processes and substandard components are introduced into the supply chain, our would-be solution can harm the environment. The same is also true of solar panels and wind turbines.

Look at the big picture. You have to consider your use case and overall energy efficiency when choosing what to put into your energy mix. Indeed, electric vehicles reduce emissions. But where does the electricity to charge these vehicles come from, and how is it generated? Another solution would be to not own a car, but is that practical? Be aware that the advertised concept may not accurately represent the entire cost and benefit - in dollars and to the environment.

We all need to do our best to promote a future with the best technologies for producing efficient energy and improving the environment. Let's strive for a balanced diet.

Contact Prospect Resources Inc. at (847) 673-1959 or visit

Azi Feifel is COO of Skokie-based Prospect Resources Inc.

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