Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

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…)

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…)

May 12, 2009

Home Energy Audit — Pays For Itself Quickly

Category: Conservation,Energy Audit,Household,Save Fuel – Tom Harrison – 11:53 am

Uninsulated Ceiling

Uninsulated Ceiling

Thanks to the lead from EnergyCircle I hired Flemming Lund from Infrared Diagnostic to do an energy audit on my house. I am kicking myself that it took me so long to make this investment. Based on preliminary numbers, I think I will save between 15% and 20% on my heating bill and probably completely eliminate the need for air-conditioning. The payback on both the inspection and materials to mitigate is certainly less than 18 months, probably a lot less. My house is pretty tight; I bet most houses could do even better.

I’ll write more about the details in another post, but it occurred to me that many, if not most houses could get a payback. If someone like me (obsessive, crazy) failed to take this simple step for at least 5 years, there’s something wrong. Here are some of the things I think need to happen:

  • The rapid payback opportunity should be promoted more visibly;
  • It should be a lot easier to find the companies that do this kind of service in your area;
  • If there’s a tax incentive, I don’t know about it, but there should be;
  • Utilities should have an incentive to promote this kind of action, and even do no-cost financing of the audit cost;
  • There should be a good, current, easily accessible registry of contractors and “finder” tool on the EnergyStar site;
  • There should be some certification for contractors who can do the audits, as well as those who can do mitigation; and
  • Everyone should know that it’s easy, quick, low-cost, and has no downsides!

And probably a few others. (more…)

May 11, 2009

The Story of Stuff: Got 20 Minutes? How about 3?

Category: Cool Sites,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 9:27 pm

If you have 20 minutes, please use them to watch this video. If you don’t, please take 3 minutes to skim this article about it, after which I suspect you’ll find another 20 to watch.

April 24, 2009

Frontline’s “Poisoned Waters” — Bottled Still Not Better

Category: Conservation,Sustainability,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 8:45 am

100 (Billion) Bottles of Beer On the Wall

100 (Billion) Bottles of Beer On the Wall

PBS’s Frontline aired a program called Poisoned Waters this week — it’s an excellent program, discussing how coastal waters and estuaries are still polluted, despite several areas of progress caused by the EPA enforcing regulations of the Clear Air Act in the 1970s. And while sewerage is no longer being dumped into rivers, other industrial effluents are.

In particular, they mentioned agricultural waste — animal manure, but also industrial waste, harder problems because the sources are dispersed and tend to leech into the groundwater system, rather than be poured directly from the end of a pipe, as in the case of sewerage treatment plants.

One frightening aspect of the show focused on how new chemicals that mess with our endocrine systems are in the water, but not being taken out of public drinking water supplies … partly because scientists cannot yet quantify theirs effects. Thus, there are no regulations or standards for these chemicals, yet ample evidence to suggest they are harmful not only for the numerous fish turning up dead in the water, but for people. And chemicals we know are harmful are still around, like PCBs. One person working at the Washington, DC water supply said she would not drink the water out of the tap.

It occurred to me that information like this could cause people to say “see, it’s a good thing I am drinking bottled water”. (more…)

March 24, 2009

March 23rd, 2009: A Good Day For the World

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

News like yesterday’s is welcome amidst a sea of recent bad tidings — there was a lot of good news, but the most important for the world was an announcement by the EPA.

Sure, the stock market rose 500 points. But that’s only the mercurial stock market.

Yes, some of AIG’s lucky lottery winners bonus recipients have relinquished their ill-gotten gains. But that’s a (mere) $80M or so.

Yes, another $75M of Madoff’s ill-gotten gains have been identified, bringing the total to near $1B. But that’s less that 2% of the ultimate charlatan’s loot.

Yes, Mr. Geithner, recently down on his luck seems to have struck the proper nerve to stimulate our flagging banking system. But that’s … ok, well, if it sticks, this one’s pretty significant. But only in the context of, as my Mom calls it “The Winter of Our Discontent”. All in all, a pretty good news day.

But of all the news I read today, by far the most important bit was that Greenhouse Gasses (GHGs) will (finally once again) be considered a pollutant by our Environmental Protection Agency.

February 14, 2009

Cap and Trade Explained Clearly and Simply

Category: Climate Change,Economics,Policy – Tom Harrison – 9:01 am

I came across this excellent, straightforward, and compelling page describing how cap and trade works in the Green Room blog of the Environmental Defense Fund. If anyone knows of such a clear explanation of how a carbon tax would work, please let me know and I’ll post it.

Update, 3/17/09, Here’s another article with a good explanation of cap and trade, in particular with a good contrast with carbon tax.

October 3, 2008

Start a Walking School Bus

Category: Fun,Household,Save Fuel,Take Actions,Tips,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 12:49 pm

A walking school bus is a simple idea. One or two parents sign up to be drivers, routes and times are set, and every day, our kids walk along to school.

An industrious parent in my daughter’s elementary school organized ours. She found leaders and started four routes last week; I have been “driving” one. We have about 10 kids in our route, and I think the others do as well.

Of course all I care about is that it’s “green” :-) But there’s so much more.

It’s convenient for parents — they just drop their child at a stop at the appointed time and say goodbye.

It’s fun for the kids. Friends who didn’t know they lived close to each other have met. Several kids who were a little uncertain at first are having a blast.

It’s painless for the driver. (more…)