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 14, 2012

Patriots Reportedly lose Superbowl, but Questions about Score Persist

Category: Climate Change – Tom Harrison – 9:36 am

On Sunday February 5th, 2012, the New England Patriots were said to have lost to the New York Giants by a score of 21 to 17. The game was recorded and watched by millions of people. But questions continue to linger as to whether the score as reported by the NFL, and it’s business partners in the media, is accurate.

These sorts of questions have been raised by football experts, not just in this year’s contest, but, according to some reports, for all prior Super Bowls. Dismissed as “ridiculous” by mainstream followers of the sport, the evidence supports a consistent and nagging uncertainty about the veracity of Super Bowl scores, and researchers have found the inconsistency may be endemic, not just in professional football, but in other sports as well.

Sports Score Deniers

Roger L. Verisim holds a PhD from Rutgers University in Astrophysics, and reported within minutes of the game’s conclusion, “No way. There’s simply no way the Patriots could have lost this game. It’s impossible.” Additional reporting suggests that many other scientists who also observed the game made similar assertions (more…)

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.

December 13, 2010

Why Is My Refrigerator Running When It’s Colder Outside?

Category: Economics,Household – Tom Harrison – 12:02 am

Steam Heat

Baby Its Warm Outside

Last week, it was colder outside than the temperature inside my fridge and freezer … but the fridge kept running — why can’t it use the cold air from outside? And while I am asking questions, why do I need a humidifier in winter while exhausting that nice, hot, humid air from our showers outside with a fan? Or, that nice hot humid air from the dryer — big plumes of hot air into the icy cold? It smells nice, too.

Our homes and their appliances are dumb as stumps. Or, is it us?

To be sure, the bathroom exhaust fan is not a simple problem — there are indeed times when that which is being exhausted is, um, best left outside.

But the clothes dryer — if you put in a dryer sheet, you’re sending nice smelling, warm, humid air outside (and, by blowing air outside through one hole, it is replaced by sucking in cold, dry, outside air through some other leak or hole). The fridge is even more perverse: 20°F outside, and the motor is running? Huh?

Afraid To Be Too Smart

Of course the reason for these inefficiencies is simply that adding smarts to appliances increases complexity, and that increases cost. (more…)

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

November 15, 2010

Review: Cool It — Made Me Think, Twice

Category: Climate Change,Green Reviews – Tom Harrison – 9:10 pm

Cool It

Think

I saw the movie Cool It based on the book of the same name, by Bjørn Lomborg. You should either read the book or see the movie.

And then you should think a little. Actually, think a lot, for this movie is very clever, I think.

The movie is well-crafted, if not as slickly produced as movies such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. In particular, Cool It presents a different take on climate change than Inconvenient Truth. It is convincing — skipping between scenes of the youthful Lomburg in his Greenpeace days, to his canonical assertion, which is that to fight climate change, we’re spending our money the wrong way, and efforts to date have been largely ineffective and fantastically cost-ineffective.

But something did not seem to quite “add up” to me. That’s when I started thinking again.
(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.)

November 1, 2010

Climate Change: Science vs. Ignorance, Fear and Power

Category: 5%'s Top 10 List,Climate Change – Tom Harrison – 5:29 pm

Climate change is a technical subject and few of us are true experts. I am not an expert, so I am faced with a choice of accepting the findings of science or denying it. Denial is common in history, even though science has usually been right. The Earth is not the center of the universe, but this view threatened a great power of the time, and Galileo was locked up for heresy. Today we know science was on the right track, but it shook the foundations of belief, and power.

Today we have a similar situation. The implications of climate change are far more than simply “inconvenient” — they are a fundamental threat to the current world order. The response by those under threat has been to couch it in vague terms involving liberty, freedom — enrolling and manipulating an army of foot soldiers who are kept ignorant of the facts and fighting a righteous battle for truth, justice and the American way.

But the truth is, the energy companies are holding the purse strings — energy is money is power. The company and people who own energy are now powerful beyond our ability to understand. They control part of the media, they elect our officials, and they are getting more and more powerful. Just like the cigarette companies, they know that their product is harmful — those in power know that climate change is real.

Eventually the cigarette companies were neutralized … when their CEOs’ faces were lined up in front of Congress. Eventually the energy companies will get theirs. Millions of people died early deaths because of the delay tactics of the cigarette companies — we’re faced with an even greater threat from climate change. Recent reporting has begun to reveal the lies and motives, and the faces behind them. But it’s not enough, and we’re losing through inaction and delay. (more…)