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…)

June 14, 2012

Reality: Only Businesses Care about ROI; People Want Sexy

Category: Climate Change,Observations – Tom Harrison – 10:06 pm

I attended a startup conference today, and while I am not professionally in the home efficiency business any more, I couldn’t avoid the session on Clean-Tech Energy. Several experienced company founders described their business models, and it quickly became apparent that they all had concluded the same thing: the vast majority of consumers are not willing to spend money on energy efficiency. And, quite the opposite, businesses will readily adopt efficiency measures that have a reasonable return on investment. (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…)

December 13, 2010

LED Light Bulbs to Replace CFL or Standard? Not There Yet.

Category: Economics,Household,Save Electricity – Tom Harrison – 5:59 am

LED Lighting, Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Surprisingly Close To Incandescent

I have written about LED lighting before, saying “Not there yet” — my most recent checkup was about 18 months ago.

There’s some progress, but we’re still not quite there. Home Depot is selling a Philips LED light bulb: same brightness as a 60W incandescent bulb (in other words, dim), same shape as standard A19 bulb, same color temperature and color rendering index, and dimmable, uses 12W, and lasts for 25,000 hours — Cost: $40.

A comparable CFL, (although not dimmable) costs about $1.50 and uses 13W and lasts 8,000 hours.

A comparable incandescent costs around $1 and uses 60W and lasts about 1,000 hours.

Some math. Compared to incandescent:

  • CFL and LED both use about 1/5th as much electricity
  • LED lasts 25x longer, CFL lasts 8x longer

So let’s think about lifetime cost. (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 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…)

January 4, 2010

Social Contagion: Works Both Ways

Category: Observations,Policy – Tom Harrison – 7:59 pm

People bought SUVs because their friends did. They got big houses. They lived large. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous was famous. Malcolm Gladwell coined the term “Tipping Point” and we all used it. Ideas and trends caught on, and took root and thrived as social contagion.

Now, we have washed our hands. SUVs and big houses are out. The rich and famous are mostly in jail. A tipping point of an entirely different kind tipped.

We’re a little aimless these days, as a country. There was a groundswell of recognition that Obama’s course was right, and he got elected. Like a diet, we all got psyched to buckle down and get in shape. But we’re not very good at keeping our resolutions, are we (even if we know they’re right).

Can the same phenomenon — ideas that spread because it’s the “in” thing to do — apply to things like restraint? Could it possible be cool to have a small carbon footprint?

I hope so.

December 16, 2009

Climate Change: Individuals Cannot Make A Real Difference

Category: Climate Change,Observations,Policy – Tom Harrison – 9:05 am

Can I, personally, make a difference in our attempts to reduce or mitigate climate change impacts? Or is this instead a problem that needs to be addressed through policy changes?

At a party last weekend, my friend Mike said he had just bought an electricity monitor based on my recommendation, and admitted it was a gift for his wife — he said that all of our little individual efforts add up to nothing significant. He didn’t really believe that personal action will affect things; his wife does.

I have written down my personal attempts to make change here in this blog, now in my fifth year. Much of what I have done involves making small changes that have indeed added up, so perhaps you might guess that I disagree with Mike’s view. Is it really true that all of the little things I have done add up to nothing?

Yes: the changes I have made add up to nothing.

Even our personal reduction of our energy consumption by almost one half of its former levels (probably more) over these years has resulted in a dramatic reduction of our impact, it means very little. The problem is that we need is to get the other several billions of people living in industrialized countries to make even modest changes. And our governments to concur and set in motion a new set of policies that lead us back to sustainable occupation of the planet.

So why bother making personal changes when a wasteful neighbor (not Mike) undoes our efforts five times over?

The answer lies in how big changes tend to happen. I see myself as part of a movement. I do what I can to make the movement progress.

Mike bought an electricity meter because I had one. Theresa and I have Prius’s now — we bought them to replace our older less efficient cars. We were the first on our street to have a Prius. But we told several neighbors and friends how much we like them (and that they really do get good mileage and are big enough for almost everything). Now our street has nine Prius drivers. Did I cause this — maybe not all of them.

But my personal efforts matter because:

  • By making changes, I learn what works and what doesn’t
  • My purchases and support of products that enable green choices help make their companies viable
  • People see and hear about what I do and a few might start doing things on their own
  • I have learned enough to participate in the debates with actual knowledge and facts
  • As more people come to see various realities, and understand, they influence their leaders

In short, my personal efforts affect others’. And their actions also affect others. It doesn’t take long to get to billions of people, actually.

I am actively participating in a movement that was underway long before I was part of it. Buying an electricity monitor is just one way that my actions affect others.

Oh, and I pay about $250/month less for energy than I would otherwise.