Occasionally my niece, who is 11, will ask me how she can get money to buy presents for people. I usually reply there are three basic ways to accumulate money: earn, sell, and save. Since she is a pre-teen, her resources in this area are pretty much limited to earning babysitting money, selling her old toys at a garage sale, and saving her allowance.

For our thought experiment, let’s focus on a 20-something with a goal of putting $2,000 into the bank as fast as she can. She also has the same three options: earn, sell, and save. Since she is in her 20s, she may have a degree that may help her find a well-paying job. To increase her earned income, she could take on a second job or do piecework on the side. Based on her age and ability, earning money will probably be the fastest way to reach her goal. On the other hand, if she doesn’t have marketable skills, a degree, or experience, she may be limited to taking lower-paying part-time jobs.

She also has the option to sell items she owns. Anything with value (or perceived value) can be put up for sale on an auction site such as eBay. There is no guarantee that her items will sell, but it’s probably easier to sell items than to work. And assuming that she’s selling good stuff and needing to sell it quickly, she may not get full value for her items, and she may choose to spend more money later to recover them. Other than auction sites, there are other venues–consignment stores, pawn shops and yard sales–where she could sell used clothes, books, DVDs, and CDs, but usually at a significantly lower price than what she paid for them.

The last of the three option is to save. This works best when there is a significant amount being spent, but every dollar saved is an extra dollar closer to the goal. Since our imaginary person has a definable and short-term goal, she can opt to cut her spending to the bone. It is cheaper to cook food at home than it is to dine out. Packing brown-bag leftovers is cheaper than buying lunch at work. Reading a book or checking out a movie from the library costs less than going to see that new movie in the theater. She could even go as far as adjusting her air conditioner or heater to a more energy-saving setting, but savings from utility bills could take a while to appear, so this strategy might be better suited to a long-term savings goal. But it’s still an option.

The options of earn, sell, and save pretty much cover the ways our hypothetical woman could reach her goal of putting $2,000 in the bank. Since she has a definite goal in mind, it would be both silly and inefficient if she decided to eliminate one or two of these options. If she were serious about reaching her goal as quickly as possible, why would she purposely postpone her goal by limiting her savings options? If she really wanted to reach the goal as fast as she could, she would take advantage of all the opportunities open to her to earn, sell, and save money.

Have you noticed that I always wrote it as “earn, sell, and save” rather than listing them as “earn, sell, or save”? I did that on purpose because I am including all the options that work toward this goal, rather than excluding options. That is what I mean by thinking inclusively rather than exclusively. When there are multiple ways to reach a goal, it behooves us to include them all rather than arbitrarily excluding some.

So how does this apply to the current energy crunch?

We need energy–indeed, we need massive amounts to sustain our current way of life. We could easily reduce the energy we consume if we were willing to revert to a 1908 lifestyle instead of a 2008 one. The Model T was first sold in 1908, but since cars are evil polluting beasts from hell–or so environmentalists tell us–we’d have to do without cars. We’d also have to do without bras and zippers, since both were invented in 1913. Oh, the horror! But frankly, I’d rather not live an Amish lifestyle. I like the convenience of central heating and air, and modern dentistry is a blessing. The mass production and modern farming techniques that clothe and feed the world’s billions require an unbelievable amount of energy to maintain, and to fuel our energy demand, we should think inclusively rather than exclusively.

I’ve been listening to the people who are screaming for a change in our energy usage, and I have noticed that they almost always think exclusively. They don’t want us to drill for oil or natural gas. They don’t want us to dig for coal. They don’t want us to build nuclear power plants. They don’t want us to build dams for hydroelectric power. They don’t even want us to build wind farms. The only thing left is solar energy, but the same BANANA[1] attitude that stops us from drilling in the desolate arctic wasteland known as ANWR will stop us from dedicating the many square miles of desolate southwest desert that we’d need to really get solar energy going.

I recently saw a commercial by T. Boone Pickens who said that our current energy state is “one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.” His plan calls for using wind energy, natural gas, and biofuels to make the U.S. energy independent. But there is no mention on his page about the other options–solar, nuclear, and hydroelectric power. Why is Pickens being exclusive rather than inclusive when it comes to seeking out and utilizing energy sources? I hear people talk about solar and wind power as being avenues worth pursuing, but they nearly always exclude oil, and they shudder at the very thought of nuclear power. Why exclude some of these possible energy sources when we need all the energy we can get?

When I hear or read “We can’t drill our way out of this problem,” I have a strong reason to believe that person has identified certain energy sources as “good” or “bad”. I don’t see it that way; to me, they are all just energy sources. As I see it, every drop of oil we drill here in the U.S. is one drop we don’t have to import. Likewise, every drop of oil we don’t need to use because of natural gas, solar, hydroelectric, nuclear, coal, or wind power is also one drop we don’t have to import. It’s a win-win situation, so why not get all the energy we can from all the sources we can?

Let’s think inclusively about energy, rather than being exclusive. Let’s drill for oil and natural gas AND dig for coal AND build nuclear power plants AND build hydroelectric dams AND build wind farms AND build solar arrays AND conserve where it makes sense AND develop new energy sources AND invent more efficient uses of our energy. Now that’s a worthwhile goal I could get behind.

[1] BANANA — Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything

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