Experiments with community energy
One of the difficulties with grassroots community experiments, is that the cost of experiments, even successful ones, are born by individuals. That's what makes it a sacrifice. We want to know if something wonderful is possible. We can prove it to be possible. But, it's a communal benefit at individual cost. It's the opposite of what large corporations do, which externalize industrial costs to benefit the investors and entrepreneurs. That's only the goal, of course, since most expansionist businesses fail, as do most small businesses, which have a somewhat different set of goals. But organizers of community projects start with the opposite goal: to create something for the community through sacrifice, which is internalizing social costs. To a certain degree, we all do both, throughout our lives.
This story is about a furnace. It's about a community experiment that caused a family great hardship. But the lessons learned are important, perhaps important for the future of human ecology, although they could perhaps be learned in other ways. This is an effort to write these lessons down.
We live in a house that was built in 1924. At the time, wood was a major fuel, but so was oil. In 1937, the homeowners installed a better oil furnace, which I removed in 2019. It had undergone some change: it had been converted to natural gas in the early 1960's, when when gaseous fuel was pumped into this neighborhood for the first time. Natural gas is provided in Eugene, Oregon by a private utility, although water and electric is provided by a public utility, with 80% or its own hydro-electric power-generating capacity.
So, we wanted to "degas" our house.
Why? Global warming. We wanted to do our part. And because telling other people what to do, if you don't do it yourself, is hypocritical, we needed to experiment on ourselves. I'm surprised by what it cost us. And I don't just mean money.