Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


March 6, 2012

Will Oil Prices Be a Factor in the 2012 Election?

Category: Climate Change,Economics,Energy Independence,Political – Tom Harrison – 2:10 pm

Hmm, what was it again that happened in late 2008?

Once again, the price of oil may be a factor in the outcome of the 2012 US presidential and congressional elections.

Energy security. That’s what we are allowed to say we want. Today, oil prices are well over $100/bbl and are predicted to keep rising. Instability with Iran is the cause, right?

Perhaps, but it’s also possible that gasoline prices are rising because employment rates and other economic factors are improving. The decimation of our economy in 2008 was the best thing to happen to gasoline prices. It’s pretty clear that economic growth and demand for energy, and oil in particular are strongly correlated: (more…)

December 24, 2010

A Merry Christmas for Exxon: Crude over $91/bbl

Category: Climate Change,Economics – Tom Harrison – 3:29 pm

Light Sweet Crude Over $91 at End of 2010

Where She Stops Nobody Knows

Crude Oil prices have been on the rise this month, and most are projecting they’ll continue to increase.

There are two groups of people who say things like “Oh, yeah!” when passing a gas station selling unleaded for $3.09/gallon, or fist-pump when they hear that light sweet crude is selling for $91.41/bbl.

Rex Tillerson and his cronies in the oil business (e.g. Republican Party)…

and

Me (and my family and some others).

Our reasons are different.

Rex wants money. And he’ll get it.

I want climate change and related legislation. And I’ll get it … eventually.

Am I A Bad Person For Wanting Oil Prices To Rise?

No, I am not a bad person.

The bad person is all those in our Senate who failed to recognize the importance of climate change, and deniers, and all the others who are foolishly preventing a rational response to climate change.

Most of these people know they mainly want to retain power, or remove people from power. They know what they are doing, and that it is wrong. These are bad people.

To be sure, rising oil prices tend to hurt many people, mostly the ones with less money (a recurring theme these days). Here in the northeast, many people heat their houses with oil. People use gasoline to drive to work. It’s real.

It’s so real that one could argue in the last big oil price spike, it set the national agenda and was a factor in electing our President. Some would even argue that high oil prices were the straw that broke the camel’s back, sending us into the Great Recession. High oil prices hurt.

How High Oil Prices Help

However, high oil prices also do a few other things:

  1. High prices help remind us that we’re dependent on oil (and other energy)
  2. High prices help demonstrate that relatively small price increase signals can result in significant reductions in consumption
  3. High prices also demonstrate that change is temporary; when prices fall again, so will our memory
  4. High prices let us know that putting a price on carbon would help us finally get off this roller-coaster

Because the US Senate failed to act on climate change in 2010 (blame whoever you want, it doesn’t matter: we failed) the world will take even longer to start dealing with the issues of climate change in a real way.

(I recognize that oil is a relatively small contributor to GHG emissions compared to coal and natural gas. Price isn’t the point. As we have seen lots of things change when oil prices increase. It’s not just increased fuel efficiency — everything about energy is affected. It hits people in their wallets, and, whether for the right reasons or not, they react.)

So all we can do now is hope for oil prices to rise. Because of the reasons cited, high oil prices seems to be the only thing that will awaken us as a nation sufficiently to result in longer-term legislative response to climate issues.

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 16, 2010

Review: SodaStream Gets Fizzy Water Right

Category: Green Reviews,Household,Organic & Local Food – Tom Harrison – 2:42 pm

sodastreamI continue to be stunned when I am at the market and see people buying bottled water, soda, flavored seltzers and other such products. They are heavy. They use plastic or aluminum containers. They are expensive. In short, a huge waste of resources at every level. And if you like soda (pop) it’s the same deal.

So make your own seltzer and soda at home — it’s easy, convenient, and saves money, and may also be good for the environment.

Not Your Dad’s Old Seltzer Bottle

I used to buy flavored seltzer in one liter bottles — lime, orange, and other flavors and fizzy water (no sugar). Then I recalled that when I was a kid, my dad had a seltzer bottle — one (CO2) charger would make a quart — a while back, I bought a Liss Soda Siphon and would regularly order packs of 10 chargers in the mail — I think they were about 50 cents a liter, which compares favorably to the 99 cents a liter at the store.

But the big wins: no bottles to lug, and as much water as you needed when you wanted it (as long as you keep chargers on hand). And no bottles in the landfill or to recycle. It was a reasonable solution, but after a year or so, a couple of the parts on the bottle started failing so that gas would leak out. I could usually make it work, but it was always a bit of a hassle to make a new batch. I think repair parts are available, so it’s still a pretty good option. (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 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 11, 2010

Cap And Trade: My Comment Turned into a Post

Category: Climate Change,Political – Tom Harrison – 8:19 pm

As anyone reading can plainly see, I am clearly more involved in working for and writing for my new company, Energy Circle which is all about home energy efficiency than about writing here on my personal blog.

As it happens, I am continuing to respond to comments and engage in dialog with people who are reading. And given that I just spent an hour writing a response to a comment on one of my posts about cap and trade, and also because there was a related and article on climate change, cap-and-trade, and science by Paul Krugman that you should take the time to read, I figure I should create a short post for all 12 people who still follow the blog.

So there you have it. Read the article, and read and comment on my comment response!

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 27, 2010

Cap and Trade Explained, Simply (Really)

Category: Climate Change,Economics – Tom Harrison – 7:46 pm

The Facts of Cap-and-Trade from Clean Energy Works on Vimeo.

Yep. It’s that simple.

January 18, 2010

Guest Post: 10 Simple Ways to Conserve Energy at Home

Category: Energy Audit,Household,Save Electricity,Save Fuel,Tips – Tom Harrison – 11:50 am

A Beginner’s Guide to Home Energy Conservation

by Marcy Tate
 
Energy conservation is not only good for the planet, it’s also good for your pocket. It’s pretty simple to conserve energy at home and you’ll notice the savings right away. Still, changing your energy habits isn’t easy for every homeowner. Start by picking a few energy conservation techniques and gradually add a few more each month. As you go along, remind yourself how much of a help your efforts are for the planet and how much lower your utility bills will be. That should give you the inspiration to turn your energy conservation habits into a way of life. The tips below do not involve high investments. 
(more…)