Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

June 26, 2010

Oil, Gas, Coal, Nuclear, Hydro, Geo, Wind, Solar: Which is Worse?

Category: Big Things – Tom Harrison – 8:12 pm

Please rank the relative cost or trade-off of

  • oil
  • natural gas
  • coal
  • hydro
  • geothermal
  • wind
  • solar

When you rank, consider things like

  • value
  • cost
  • climate
  • benefit
  • alternatives
  • risk
  • economics
  • jobs

What were your criteria? Were they different than they were a few months ago? (more…)

January 26, 2009

Global Warming is the Core “Green” Issue

Category: Big Things,Climate Change,Editorial,Energy Independence,Policy – Tom Harrison – 8:54 pm

A lot of issues have arisen around “green” things having various different names: energy independence, gas prices, cap and trade, green jobs, economic meltdown, clean coal, conservation, polar bears, glacial melting, water shortages, food shortages and prices, and on, and on. Each affects various groups of citizens of the world in different ways. But they are not really different issues, they are facets of the same issue: global warming.

A lot of talk during the US election process centered around energy independence. Ok, good enough for me, because addressing energy independence in many ways results in solutions we need, such as higher fuel efficiency in cars, significant investment in alternative energy and conservation. Sort of.

As our economy bit the big one, talk moved towards jobs, and rightly towards green jobs. Ok, good enough for me, because addressing economic issues through investments in important infrastructure like a smart electrical grid, wind, solar and geothermal, that’s a good thing. Sort of.

But now we’re seeing reality, which is that if people only really understand and care about things like gas prices and jobs, the political pressure for change will be directed at gas prices (ok, well, that one’s “solved”) and jobs.

But jobs is an issue, but it’s not the the issue. The issue is global warming. We were reminded of this today in a rather stark report suggesting that CO2 doesn’t just “go away”. In fact, the thinking is that CO2 released is kind of there for a loooooong time, effectively forever.

My first thought on hearing this report is that global warming skeptics will conclude that we were already unsure of whether human efforts to mitigate global warming would do any good; now we know it’s pointless. This is not the right conclusion: Susan Solomon, the scientist reporting this finding asserts

I guess if it’s irreversible, to me it seems all the more reason you might want to do something about it, because committing to something that you can’t back out of seems to me like a step that you’d want to take even more carefully than something you thought you could reverse.

Clearly Dr. Solomon has never been to a casino. (more…)

October 21, 2008

Is Gasoline at $2.79/gallon Good?

Category: Big Things,Climate Change,News,Observations,Political – Tom Harrison – 4:21 pm

On Sunday an article by Roger Lowenstein, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, appeared in the New York Times titled “What’s Really Wrong with the Price of Oil?” It’s pretty long, and thorough. He dispassionately describes the various forces affecting the price of oil, especially its price over the last year or so, in economic terms.

He’s pretty economically conservative, in my estimation, which is why I was surprised to see the following:

The way to avoid a repeat is to dust off an idea that Gerald Ford once proposed: a tax on oil. Ideally, it would kick in only if the price fell back to, say, $70 a barrel. The beauty of this tax is that, very likely, no one would have to pay it. The tax would merely serve as a floor — a new lower bound.

What? A tax on oil? Wouldn’t that make it even more expensive?

Then today, the Times has an article reporting on OPEC’s response to the slumping price of oil (which is nearly the same price as it was last year at this time). And then, an article on how alternative energy is going to have a hard time competing against these low energy prices.

All of these are related.

August 5, 2008

Global Warming: Act Now or Wait?

Category: Big Things,Climate Change,Companies,Editorial,Observations,Political – Tom Harrison – 5:16 pm

Here’s a case for action, now for those people who may be skeptical about global warming, or whether it’s caused by humans, or whether there’s anything we can do about it.

First, I think we need to agree on at least one point, to wit: there is a valid, if unresolved, theory being investigated by many scientists relating to global warming. By “valid”, I mean that it’s not a conspiracy or hoax, it’s not some horrible manifestation of group-think, and there are at least some scientists with reasonable methods and credentials who either have done studies, or have reviewed those of others.

If we cannot agree on this point, then I would certainly be interested in seeing any indications that this is not true. Without agreement, though, there’s no need to read further.

Still with me? Then here goes:

Science is equivocal by nature. There’s always a debate. I won’t characterize that debate here; you can read my previous post.

Some reasonable number of climate scientists believe, based on their studies or reviews of others’:

  1. that global warming is real,
  2. it is being exacerbated by large increase emissions in “greenhouse gasses”,
  3. that human activity, notably burning carbon-based fuels caused much of the increase,
  4. if we do not act right away, several of a number of catastrophic outcomes may ensue; if we do act, we may be able to avert some of them.

You do not have to agree with these conclusions. And that word, “catastrophic” carries some baggage — in this case, I mean that there will be catastrophes (major floods, fires, storms, etc) that significantly disrupt the way people live across the planet. (more…)

August 1, 2008

Is Global Warming a Hoax?

Category: Big Things,Climate Change,Editorial,Observations – Tom Harrison – 2:42 pm

Yes. Global Warming is a hoax, and I can prove it. Please take a moment to carefully read numerous postings from the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC). More come every day. Each is backed with a link to an article by a scientist, showing why various claims are wrong, or pointing out flaws.

For example, Professor Bob Carter asserts in The Age that a green paper published by the climate minister of Australia has seven scientific errors.

The first sentence of the opening section of her paper, entitled “Why we need to act”, contains seven scientific errors — almost one error for every two words.

Here is the sentence: “Carbon pollution is causing climate change, resulting in higher temperatures, more droughts, rising sea levels and more extreme weather.”

The article continues, enumerating the seven errors. It’s worth reading, I think, as I think it helps me understand why there continues to be a debate amongst scientists about the realities of global warming and the veracity of claims made by various bodies. (more…)

June 28, 2008

40% Reduction In Electrical Use Over 4 Years

Not to brag or anything, but my family rocks! We have reduced our electrical consumption by 40% over the course of the time we started seriously thinking about our impact on the environment. What’s the secret?

As you can see from numerous blog posts linked here, and from the pretty amazing chart (click here for the readable version) I made here, there is no secret.

Changing light bulbs to CFL certainly helped. We replaced our washer and dryer with energy efficient models. We turn out the lights when they are not in use. We set up TVs and computers to turn off completely and automatically. We were careful about heat in the basement playroom (which uses electric heat). And we reduced the need for air conditioning in the summer using insulation, shades, ceiling fans and others.

But most of all, we just became aware. Becoming aware was gradual (more…)

May 17, 2008

The huge cost of eating meat and junk

Eat plants, says Mark Bittman. This is a very rational discussion on how we have gradually turned ourselves into a nation eating nothing but junk. The impact on carbon footprint is staggering.

From the TEDBlog, I highly recommend this video.

April 7, 2008

$2,400 Refund … from Saving Water

Category: Big Things,Conservation,Garden,Household,Save Water,Take Actions,Tips – Tom Harrison – 12:02 pm

When I started this blog in 2005, I quickly realized that the only way to conserve energy was to know how much of it I used. We have had continued success reducing electricity use. And finally, I can quantify how much we have reduced our water use.

We finally got our adjusted water bill, and we are getting more than $2,400 back from Newton Water and Sewer. Wahoo! (I need the money: we’re not getting a tax refund this year :-| )

Our water savings came from conservation. Here’s how: (more…)

January 22, 2008

Stock Market, Recession: More Early Warning Tremors

The stock markets are down, reflecting the impact of a weak American economy. The weak American economy is attributed to the sub-prime housing bubble, and energy costs. President Bush is responding similarly to this crisis as he did to Katerina: denial, with a smattering of acknowledgment wrapped as “economic stimulus” which is translated as “more money for the rich”. But this is not a political polemic. Been there. Done that. This is a little reminder that the 10% drop in the markets witnessed in these last few weeks is just one of the many signs of a fragile economy. And of course I think that fragility stems from two related issues:

  1. Our Dependence on Excessive Consumption

Oh, hmm, yeah, that’s only one thing. The whole energy thing, and that pesky Iraq war thing, and that gnarly global warming thing, a nation that is grossly overweight — these are all just outcomes of our excessive consumption.

But why do we consume so much? (more…)

November 11, 2007

Population Growth and Global Warming

Category: Big Things,Economics,Editorial,Observations,Policy – Tom Harrison – 7:11 pm

In the last 35 years we have put more CO2 into the atmosphere than we have in … all of the preceding history of the world. We must not just stop, but reverse this trend quickly. The single fastest, most effective, most dramatic change we can make to reverse global warming is to not use energy we don’t need to use. We can see why by finding some truth in a common lie told by our trusted financial advisers. (more…)