Automobiles remain the dominant mode in today's transportation network. The average American spends $7180 per year on owning and driving a car. The US consumes 19 million bbl/day. My state of California uses 20% of the US supply or 18 billion gallons of gasoline per year. During rush hour in Los Angeles the average speed is 11 mph. Every 20 miles cycled prevents 1.2 gallons of oil from being extracted, potentially spilled, refined, and then burned to spew CO2 into the atmosphere. Just cycling 2 miles a day will negate the electricity use for your refrigerator that day. Although the standard of living is considered greater in Switzerland the per capita use of oil is 45% that consumed in the US. Substituting a bicycle for the 1-5 mile driving commuter would reduce oil consumption by almost 3 billion gals per year.
Electrical dryers use 5-10% of total electrical residential use in the US. The average household energy bill, including natural gas or heating oil, is under $200 per month. In California the electric rate is 50% higher than average (everything in California is higher). Although this appears like small potatoes on energy conservation the point is that it's a cheap and doable step in the conservation battle. My clothesline cost $15 (basic model). I love the way my clothes smell when taking them down and the intangible reward is the nostalgic sense I get remembering my childhood job of helping my mother hang our clothes.
Probably the greatest low-tech device to halt global warming is the simple solar cooker (oven). Used most commonly in Africa to allow women to spend less time collecting firewood solar ovens may prove our greatest ally in reducing soot exhaust--the second largest cause of global climate warming. Soot is the byproduct of burning dung, wood, coal, and peat. Third world countries overwhelmingly produce soot as their primary cooking exhaust. It's no wonder China and India have horrific air quality problems. 1.6 million deaths occur each year due to preventable respiratory disease chiefly in poor third world environments. Black soot often travels thousands of miles to cover polar ice absorbing heat faster and speeding ice cap melt. Like mosquito nets to malaria, solar cookers could and should become our first line of defense against manmade global warming byproducts.
Three cheap low-tech energy substitutes have been reviewed. Bicycles and clotheslines were part of my childhood and may be part of my grandchildrens' future daily backdrop. Solar cookers are a more recent implant into the cultural landscape that should become as ubiquitous as barbeques on a summer afternoon. In this dawn of resource limits we should embrace all efforts to voluntarily reduce burning of fossil fuels and reduction of global greenhouse emissions. Let's hope we know enough to stop testing the limits of this unsustainable experiment on our mothership before long.