Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


November 13, 2012

Sandy, The Election, and The Fiscal Cliff: The Perfect Storm?

Category: Climate Change,Companies,Economics,Policy – Tom Harrison – 4:51 pm

I have heard more about climate change in the “big” news in the last few weeks than I think I have heard in … years.

The confluence of several big things may have presented an opportunity: the “fiscal cliff”, the hurricane Sandy, and the outcome of the 2012 election. (more…)

January 16, 2011

A New Time For Green

Category: Climate Change,Companies,Energy Independence,Little Things – Tom Harrison – 10:33 pm

Green is alive and kicking. But it’s in a very different state than just a few months ago. Actually it’s not in a different state, it’s in different countries. All but the US. You know: Denmark, and China.

When the climate bill was killed in the Senate, they world changed. Important incentives that affected consumers, home owners as well as businesses expired at the end of 2010. Cancun was hobbled from the start. Don’t invest in clean energy for now (unless you’re shorting).

So now in the US we wait to see how the rest of the world will Raymond lunch. All we can do is take a different tack.

The EPA has teeth and has bared them several times, this week vetoing a previously approved mountaintop removal coal mining permit, for example. I am glad they have these teeth, but it’s not a solution, just a firewall.

In an odd paradox, the tool left to the EPA after the climate change bill was scuttled by Republicans not wanting regulation was an EPA whose only weapon was regulation. At the same time the business friendly, conservative created Cap and Trade approach, which would have provided predictable, incremental change was killed. So the more fickle act of regulation is now what businesses got.

Massey Energy and I are both sad about that outcome. Strange bedfellows.

Meanwhile, our old friend, oil prices, are sticking over $90/bbl and gasoline prices continue to creep up. Weather events continue to be extreme and unusual, consistent with predictions of climate change science. GM and Nissan have electric cars for sale. We continue to subsidize mortgage interest, but have revoked incentives to make homes more efficient. Odd.

Business is back to usual. Let’s hope the true believers in market forces are right. All indications are that they are wrong, but don’t let the facts get in the way of political expedience and dogma. If they are wrong, the dogmatists, we will have caused the US to lose an edge that will be hard to regain. To China!

Irony? More like stupidity

December 1, 2010

Massey Energy To Close Coal Mine: Coincidence?

Category: Companies – Tom Harrison – 9:52 pm

Massey Energy is closing a coal mine — not because it is so dangerous that the Labor Department requested a judge’s intervention, but, well, for other reasons, says Massey.

Perhaps no longer profitable? Perhaps a liability? Perhaps a PR fiasco (recall that Massey owned the mine in which 29 miners died in an explosion in April.) Nah, in this case Massey “continues to believe the mine is safe”. Yep. Right.

Perhaps someone’s Canary Collection was being depleted more quickly than desired? I dunno.

Message: pressure works.

November 30, 2010

Coal Needs a Clear Signal: Salem, MA Power Plant

Category: Climate Change,Companies – Tom Harrison – 9:04 pm

Let's Wait To See What Happens

If you are amongst the wealthy North Shore Bostonian yachtsmen, you’ll have a mooring in Marblehead harbor — if you are amongst the still wealthy-but-not-that-wealthy, you’ll have a mooring in Salem harbor, around the corner. You’ll have a view of the Salem power plant — one of the larger polluting and least efficient coal plants in the area.

Recently, the owner of the plant said it would shut down. Woo hoo!

They said, according to Mass High Tech:

We have announced that our two coal plants will shut down in the future when environmental rules are clear. The first is Salem Harbor in the Northeast

(emphasis added)

In other words … never?

Cap and trade would be nice. Carbon tax would be nifty. Acknowledgement that industry wants legislative leadership and is hamstrung without it would be (in the words of our local weather forecaster) ducky!

Photo credit: Christopher Swain/Changents

September 27, 2010

Mac Sleep Problems Resolved (and Explained)

Mac Won't SleepSay it isn’t so — my Macbook will not sleep! When I abandoned Windows for a Macbook, I hoped I would resolve a problem with not sleeping (entering sleep mode) that I have posted about before — my Windows XP Sleep and Hibernation posts continue to generate thousands of views, but alas, Snow Leopard, OS X doesn’t always sleep, either.

I have done a fair amount of research and think I understand why my macbook will not enter sleep mode, and how the OS X sleep process works. And importantly (and unlike Windows): what you can do to resolve the issue. The short answer is: there’s no built-in way to ensure your Mac goes to sleep automatically, but there’s a great bit of free software you can install, which in my tests works perfectly: PleaseSleep. (more…)

September 10, 2010

Review: Merchants of Doubt

Category: Climate Change,Companies,Technology – Tom Harrison – 11:39 am

I sometimes fail to understand the breadth, depth and complexity of human behavior. After reading Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming I have been reminded how perfectly rational it can be for a person to promote a position they know to be wrong, for some greater objective.

The book is written by two science historians and is very readable. They make some rather startling and direct assertions, extensively backed up with footnotes (a significant part of the book is the footnotes themselves). Their research took five years and is careful, fact-checked, and cohesive. Their conclusions are, in short, that for whatever reasons, a very small number of scientists … real scientists … found purpose and financial support in undermining the findings of real science. (more…)

April 29, 2010

“Spill Baby, Spill” – Oil Leak “May Be Five Times Initial Estimate”

Category: Climate Change,Companies,Energy Independence,Political – Tom Harrison – 8:26 am

Credit: New York Times

I think I should claim a scoop on this story, as when I wrote my post the other day, I had beat the New York Times and most other media to identifying the BP Oil Spill as a rather major disaster. I am sad to say “I told you so”.

The news media seem to be coming around to my way of thinking. The New York Times is now reporting as the lead story that, um, those 42,000 gallons of oil per day leaking into the sea may be more like, um 210,000 gallons (this is all converted to “barrels” now — an oil barrel holds 42 US gallons, so the initial estimate was 1,000 barrels/day is now 5,000).

Holy hole, Batman!

And it appears that BP’s public relations operation has also gotten bigger.

Fortunately, the problem isn’t that bad. No, really. (more…)

April 27, 2010

Oil Spill: A Great News Day for British Petroleum

Category: Companies,News,Technology – Tom Harrison – 7:41 pm

oil rig explosion

Not As Important as...

I was surprised to hear (for the first time today) that there was an oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico that, um, exploded last week (a couple days before Earth Day), and is currently pumping 42,000 barrels of oil a day into the water, and attempts to shut down the leak (1 mile down) have failed repeatedly since the leak was discovered on Saturday — I happened to be in my car and heard a report on NPR.

After dinner, I went to the New York Times to read more.

But I didn’t find anything without a search. Granted, lots of news today:

  • Goldman Sachs CEO questioned on possible fraud
  • Republicans blocking attempt to reform our financial regulations
  • Stock market down 2% because Greek credit rating cut to “junk”
  • Strict abortion measures enacted in Oklahoma
  • Impacts from Arizona’s immigration laws

So I started trolling around the sections. World: nada. Business: nope, all front page stuff, plus Ford makes a big profit. Technology: Apple iPad related story. Science? Nope. Green? Nope. (Really!) Health? Nope. US: fifth story, something about Robots (turns out to be about the oil disaster).

Good thing for British Petroleum, apparently a lot of other big news pushed their little disaster to the back of the book. (more…)

March 3, 2010

Working from Home: Green and Productive

Category: Companies,Cool Sites,Observations,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:56 am

Energy Circle

My new home

After five years of talking about energy conservation, and all the things we have done in our house, I am now proud to report that I am officially … working the talk — I have joined Energy Circle LLC.

Energy Circle helps home owners learn how to make an energy efficient house, sells home efficiency products, and now, we’re creating a set of tools and services to help home energy efficiency professionals find customers (and home owners find them).

Now I am now working at a company with an unabashedly green mission — this is important to me. Of course this isn’t the first time I have written about Energy Circle — we have been collaborating since last Spring, and then I did some consulting last year until that was pretty much all I was doing. I am the Chief Technology Officer, and working to make a top notch website, with expanding services and capabilities, reliable, easy to find, and with a strong brand. I hope you’ll check out Energy Circle — I joined not because it was another job, but because I completely believe the mission, and know that good people are out to “do well by doing good”.

Working From Home Is Efficient

But, the company is too far away from my home to commute — so I don’t. I work from home most of the time, and I have to say, working from home is almost always a good thing. It’s very efficient.

Commuting Footprint

Obviously my commuting footprint is as small as possible (although for several years I commuted to my old job on my bike, at least when the weather didn’t suck, and I drove my Prius the short distance when it did). But there are many other benefits of working from home, and a few things I am beginning to learn. (more…)

October 31, 2009

Google PowerMeter: New (Useful) Features, New Device

Category: Companies,Conservation,Save Electricity,Save Fuel,Technology – Tom Harrison – 3:09 pm

I expected nothing less of Google PowerMeter — week by week, it continues to improve. Now the graph displays my usage compared to expected use, and includes a visual and numeric accounting of my baseline, “Always On” usage compared to total usage. Here’s what my graph for today looks like:

ted-5000-and-google-powermeter-oct-31

Three Great Things

The expected usage gives you a nice target, and the comparison to others provides a helpful benchmark.

But the new “Always On” measure provides two very helpful bits of information.

First, the darker bar helps isolate the spikes above. For example, the most obvious repeating spike above is the refrigerator — it cycles on about once per hour and runs for perhaps 25 minutes each time, running at a bit over 200W — it’s easy to see that pattern. (more…)