“If I could go back in time, I would tell people who wasted so much natural gas during the gas boom in Iola that they should have thought about the future. That people in our day might need the gas,” Olivia Taylor said.
Taylor was one of eight middle school youths attending this week’s Power Camp sponsored by the Iola Public Library and Take Charge Energy Challenge.
Tuesday morning’s class began at the Allen County Historical Museum where the young people were greeted by Jeff Kluever, the museum’s director, who asked, “What things can you and your families do to conserve energy?”
Forthcoming answers included turning off lights when leaving a room, walking instead of driving a car and putting on more clothes instead of turning the heat up.
Kluever began by telling the youths it was well known there was natural gas in southeast Kansas but people weren’t sure as to its uses. They knew they could use oil as a lubricant on wagon wheels and to burn in their lamps, but the use of gas remained a mystery to them until 1893.
Nelson Akers had been drilling for coal when he hit a gas and salt water well south of Iola. Akers thought there should be a use for the salt water and decided to build a hotel and spa offering salt water baths. He found he could use the gas to heat the water.
People during Iola’s gas boom never thought about tomorrow. They thought the gas would last forever, Kluever said.
The gas was offered free of charge to manufacturers of cement and bricks. Smelters also sprang up in the area to take advantage of the free fuel.
As factories multiplied in the area so did the population. By 1900, 15,000 people had moved to Iola, Kluever said.
Throughout the next 14 years people gave no thought to wasting the natural gas. A flaming arch of gas welcomed people to Iola. The square was lined with a fence of gas pipes with fire encircling the Iola square.
Then the gas was gone as was much of the booming population.
“People living in the gas boom era never thought about the future. We, as responsible citizens, need to think how we can conserve energy for future generations,” Kluever told the youths.
THE WALK back to the Flewharty-Powell annex of the Iola Public Library was a conservative choice of the youths. In keeping with the theme of using less energy the campers made turkey wraps and no-bake cookies to conserve the use of electricity.
Following lunch Brad Snyder and Scott Shreve from the Energy Management Group in Topeka talked about energy audits and how families can save energy and money by insulating their homes and making sure there are no air leaks around windows.
Snyder had done an audit on the Flewharty-Powell home and suggested ways to conserve energy would be to use programmable digital thermostats, use weather-stripping around window frames and seal the leaky damper in the fireplace.
In a demonstration between a 100 watt incandescent light bulb and a 13 watt compact florescent bulb the youths found heat given off by the 100 watt light bulb was considerable higher than the 13 watt bulb.
The more watts drawn the more energy that is expended, Snyder said.
A stationary bicycle was used to demonstrate the amount of energy needed to light a 100 watt and 13 watt bulb. Each youth had an opportunity to pedal the bike and found it harder to pedal as more lights and higher wattage bulbs would light up.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to conserve energy. When you go home tonight remember to turn out lights when you leave a room,” Snyder said.