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…)

June 22, 2012

My City is Smart: Yes ROI, Yes Energy Efficiency Saves

Category: Climate Change,Conservation,Policy – Tom Harrison – 10:08 am

Our excellent Mayor of Newton, MA, Setti Warren cares about our city. The way he cares most is by saving money. One way he saved money was through energy efficiency programs.

These programs are for the city itself, businesses, and residents
(more…)

March 5, 2011

Democracy and Oil Do Not Mix

Category: Climate Change,Economics,Energy Independence,Policy,Political – Tom Harrison – 8:32 pm

Oil and Democracy

Oil & Democracy: A Costly Mix

We are torn here in the US.

We need the oil, and we need to support democratizing movements in the world. And these days, for the right reasons, these two goals are once again at odds.

The precarious balance between the two is getting more so. It won’t get better.

In the last Presidential election the alarmingly high price of oil was framed as energy security, but it’s not about energy. We have plenty of energy in gas and coal. And nuclear and solar and wind. Plenty or energy.

Oil is special because we don’t have easy substitutes at the moment. Liquid fuel is what we run on today. It is technically possible to convert most transportation to alternates, notably natural gas, then electric. But that is happening glacially. (more…)

November 8, 2010

A Quarter A Month Is Too Much: Climate Change Costs

Category: Climate Change,Policy – Tom Harrison – 1:24 pm

My daughter recently had her flu shot, and the nurse warned “just a little pinch” — the US seems fearful of the tiniest little pinprick when it comes to dealing with our energy and climate change issues, so I conclude my daughter is far braver than we.

The NY Times reported today on falling adoption of renewables like wind and solar in the US, for example, in Virginia.

“The ratepayers of Virginia must be protected from costs for renewable energy that are unreasonably high,” the regulators said. Wind power would have increased the monthly bill of a typical residential customer by 0.2 percent.

Virginia cannot pay an additional 23 cents a month

We Need Protection from This

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average monthly residential electrical bill (from 2008) in Virginia was $112.75.

So, regulators are “protecting” ratepayers from an additional charge of $0.225 — less than a quarter of a dollar a month.

Near the end of the article, there’s a brief mention of valuation of present versus future costs

Advocates also argue that while the costs might be higher now, as the technology matures and supply chains and manufacturing bases take root, clean sources of power will become more attractive.

Fold in the higher costs of extracting and burning fossil fuels on human health, the climate and the environment, many advocates argue, and renewable technologies like wind power are already cheaper.

OK, so now I am angry. That is the tamest, lamest, weakest language I could possibly imagine. There are two arguments: adoption of the technology at scale will decrease cost so that it close to at parity with existing energy sources. OK, that always happens.

But on the second point (externalities): when will we begin to consider even the risk of increased future costs in our evaluation of total cost — you can be a dive instead of a climate hawk and still recognize a risk in future cost valuation.

To be fair, the article is making the same point, in gentle terms. It is good reporting, and I am not castigating them for being weak.

I am castigating our country as a whole: we’re being little girls. Actually no, my little girl didn’t even wince when she got her flu shot. We’re being babies. They cry about everything (and poop all over the place and expect someone else to clean up after them.)

October 8, 2010

Multiplication in Fourth Grade — A Great Mystery

Category: Climate Change,Observations,Policy – Tom Harrison – 1:01 pm

One of the 9's Tricks (photo: Christy Green)

I have a 4th grader learning multiplication and division. She asks “Why do I need to know this?” For her, multiplication is a deep, abstract mystery.

My 8th grade son understands because he’s doing algebra and uses multiplication every day. But when he was in 4th grade, he asked the same question my daughter asks now.

He tried to explain why she needs to know. I tried to explain also.

I have learned that there’s no amount of explanation that will convince a 4th grader why it’s important to learn multiplication. They do it because they have to. They have teachers, and grades, and someone says they have to.

What Will Motivate People To Think About Energy?

Recently, I have been thinking about what will motivate people to do energy monitoring. (more…)

June 7, 2010

Do We Need An Oil Spill for Climate Change Action?

Category: Climate Change,Policy – Tom Harrison – 6:18 pm

(I wrote this on May 28th, but never published. I am publishing now because I think things might have changed enough).

I have an opinion about just about everything, including opinions. Daniel Weiss did a nice post on the Climate Progress blog showing how dramatically public opinion has shifted in the month or so since the oil spill started.

In short, people don’t think offshore drilling is such a good idea any more, and they’re willing to trade off economic development for environmental protection.

In my opinion, this shows how little value there is in the opinions of people. I am not trying to be negative, or get attention by being contrarian, smug, or elitist.

Instead, I think we’re at some rather great risk of self-destruction if we keep making policy opportunistically, and avoiding discourse and action until the time is right. (more…)

April 22, 2010

Is Earth Day Just Big Business (And If So, What’s Wrong?)

Category: Climate Change,Editorial,Policy – Tom Harrison – 8:31 am

Is Earth Day just Big Business?Happy Earth Day! Please feel free to visit my company’s store and shop for as many home energy efficiency products as your credit card can handle! Spend! Buy! And while my company doesn’t sell eco-rubbers we do sell stuff.

By god, we would like to make money doing it.

Lots, if possible.

Apparently I should feel bad about this.

In today’s New York Times, a front page article raises the specter of how business has crept in to Earth Day.

Earth Day Forged from Idealism and a Vision for the Future

In 1970 when Earth Day was started 40 years ago, there were lots of things that were bad, and pretty much everything in “the establishment” would have been included. (more…)

April 21, 2010

Energy Prices on the Rise (Again), Oil Over $80/barrel (Again)

Category: Economics,Policy – Tom Harrison – 8:00 am

Volatile Natural Gas PricesIn the last month, oil prices have been over $80 a barrel — prices were over $86 twice, fell, and are now back on their way up.

Gasoline prices are around $2.80/gallon, up from around $2.00/gallon a year ago and rising a little each week over the last month.

Heating oil cost has risen over the year from $1.40/gallon to around $2.20/gallon.

Natural gas is also up year over year, rising from around $3.50/MMBTU to around $4.00, and volatile, closing over $7 for a few days in the winter.

However, domestic US Coal prices are about even, down a little, this year (from $2.21/MMBTU to $2.14) — I guess the energy we produce at home can be less expensive. Too bad burning coal releases about 2x the CO2 of natural gas (and a great deal more than wind and solar).

How We Respond To Energy Price Changes

But it appears that only energy prices drive our behaviors. We tend to over-react in some ways (markets, producers, consumers), yet have remarkably short memories, and seemingly weak abilities to identify coming changes.

I do understand that many people are negatively affected (more…)

April 5, 2010

Cape Wind Attacked By Its Own Proponents

Category: Climate Change,Conservation,Policy,Technology – Tom Harrison – 10:32 pm

I am beginning to think Jane Fonda is going to reincarnate (sorry, is she still with us?) and create a sequel to The China Syndrome called The Cape Windrome or something. Today the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation recommended that Cape Wind not be approved. Because what, the waves of yesteryear are going to be different? Come on, let’s get a little real, please?

The single most infuriating example of how the United States is sometimes able to undermine even the simplest, most obvious options is being played out in the great saga of Cape Wind. A small array of wind turbines is planned for Cape Cod Bay, generating a substantial amount of power, efficiently, locally and cleanly. But it represents change, and change is bad. Right? (more…)

March 21, 2010

Oil Prices over $80/bbl for last week, doubled since last year

Category: Climate Change,Energy Independence,Policy – Tom Harrison – 9:51 am

The stock market isn’t the only thing to have recovered since this time last year — in fact where stocks have increased by 48%, good old oil has doubled. Perhaps you have noticed — I paid $2.85/gallon for gas yesterday.

There are no suggestions that oil prices are going to tumble any time soon; on the contrary, gas is expected to pass $3/gallon this Spring.

Personally, my issue is climate change, but if you’re into the economy, or security, or other things, what part of this picture is unclear? (more…)