February 19, 2011
February 16, 2011
February 15, 2011
Just as the heating season got underway in earnest, Bill Pauling spotted a guy looking over the natural gas meter at his downtown Montevideo, Minn., grocery store with a quizzical look on his face.
"I couldn't figure out what the guy was doing," said Pauling, owner of Bill's Supermarket.
The guy was Xcel Energy's meter reader. He couldn't figure out why the store's meter showed zero gas usage for the prior month. He was there to see why.
Pauling should have seen it coming. This was the second time in recent years that the store's natural gas supplier has sent a meter reader on a special visit.
Investments in energy conservation really do pay off, according to Pauling. There are entire months during the heating season when his 13,000-square-foot store is heated only with a heat exchange system. It captures "waste" heat that was otherwise vented outside from the store's refrigeration and cooling equipment.
"We just capture BTUs that we would have normally thrown out the door," said the store owner.
The waste heat from the electrical equipment is now the primary source of heat for the store. Natural gas is a backup, needed only when outside temperatures fall to 5 degrees or lower, he said.
Eight years ago he invested in new refrigeration equipment for the store's frozen and perishable goods. He obtained low-interest financing -- 6 percent at the time -- through an energy conservation program offered by Xcel Energy to engineer the system.
Pauling was also able to cut his electrical usage significantly by replacing the old system with more energy-efficient compressors, and fewer of them. Then he spent another $50,000 to install the heat exchange system.
As promised, he expects the system should pay for itself in about 10 years. He said his heating costs have dropped by anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 a year.
Pauling has made energy conservation a priority. He's added energy-efficient lamps, and when he needed a new roof, he installed a white membrane roof that reflects sunlight and reduces his summer cooling needs.
"Every time I do something, I try to upgrade that as much as possible," he said.
February 7, 2011
President Obama pledged in his State of the Union address that he would eliminate the subsidies we pay to oil companies.
"I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's."
Perhaps he should also look at eliminating the subsidies we pay to coal producers. According to a study by the Environmental Law Institute, the coal industry received $17 billion in subsidies between 2002 and 2008.
You wouldn't know it from listening to reports from our media, but more than three out of four Americans (77 percent) – including a clear majority of Republicans (61 percent) – oppose efforts in Congress to block Clean Air Act updates for carbon, smog and other pollution, according to a national opinion survey by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) International for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Americans want the EPA to do more, not less. Almost two thirds of Americans (63 percent) say "the EPA needs to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water," versus under a third (29 percent) who think the EPA already "does too much and places too many costly restrictions on businesses and individuals."
Americans do not want Congress to kill the EPA's anti-pollution updates. Only 18 percent of Americans – including fewer than a third of Republicans (32 percent) -- believe that "Congress should block the EPA from updating pollution safeguards," after being told: "Some members of Congress are proposing to block the Environmental Protection Agency from updating safeguards to protect our health from dangerous air pollution, saying they will cost businesses too much money."
You can find the full report here.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton is ignoring Americans' support for the health protections from pollution and pushing a proposal that would allow power plants and other big plants to dump unlimited amounts of dangerous carbon pollution into our air.
"The enactment of Chairman Fred Upton's bill would strip away Clean Air Act protections that safeguard Americans and their families from air pollution that puts their lives at risk. The protections against the health harm from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution are essential to public health and must be preserved." - Charles D. Connor, President and Chief Executive Officer
"The public health community is very concerned about the long-term health consequences of global climate change…Blocking EPA's authority to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could mean the difference between chronic debilitating illness or a healthy life for countless Americans." - Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), Executive Director
"TFAH is incredibly concerned that the proposed legislation will eliminate current protective measures that address the health impact of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution…The science says carbon pollution is bad for our health. Rolling back EPA's ability to protect the public from this threat literally has life and death stakes." - Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director
"Failure to allow the EPA to safeguard our air directly threatens thousands of people with asthma and other chronic illnesses, including children. With one out of 10 children in the United States affected by asthma, we don't have to look farther than our own neighborhoods to see the suffering and actual risk to life caused by polluted air. Nothing could instill fear in a parent like a child unable to breathe." - Gary Cohen, President
"Nurses understand and have seen first-hand in our nation's emergency rooms, hospitals, and communities the devastation caused by air pollution. The public's health should not suffer while members of Congress put corporate profits ahead of the public's health." - Brenda Afzal, MS, RN, Climate Policy Director
"We express our profound distress about the House Energy and Commerce Committee's legislation that would limit the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to set clean air standards to reduce air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
The broader health implications of blocking clean air standards for green house gas emissions include respiratory diseases such as asthma, allergies, cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, heat related morbidity and mortality, mental health stress, neurological diseases, vector and water borne diseases, and weather borne morbidity and mortality...Our policy makers must understand that any bill that prevents the EPA from doing its job of protecting our air and water and through the Clean Air Act is a threat to public health and an additional cost that America's health cannot afford." - Barbara Sattler, RN, Dr.PH, FAAN.
"The legislation proposed by Rep. Upton and Sen. Inhofe would allow polluters to emit unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the environment. The legislation introduced today ... undermines protection of nation's clean air and continues to leave the United States vulnerable to the adverse health effects of climate change. This legislation would encourage polluters to emit carbon pollution into the air that adversely affects public health and increases global warming." - Dean E. Schraufnagel, MD, President
Governor Patrick told us back in March that the flooding we experienced in the greater Boston area was the result of “two 50-year storms in the course of two or three weeks.” Standard probability analysis would suggest that the likelihood of experiencing two 50-year storms a couple weeks apart would be a once in 2,500 year event. Does that mean we can relax and go back to business as usual?
Perhaps the local weather records can shed some light on that question. The weather records from Hanscom Air Force Base since 1957 show that during the period from 1957 to 1990, we had only one day with more than 4 inches of rain (that was in 1962).
Since 1990 we've had 7 days with 4 inches or more of rain. That means that over the last 20 years Lexington has been 12 times as likely to experience an extreme precipitation event or a superstorm, compared to the previous 30 years of data.
The two storms we had in March of 2010 dumped 25% of our total annual rainfall on us in just 7 days, including one day when we had 4.3 inches of rain. That works out to 13 times more rain than the 7 day average.
As we learned in March, our storm water drainage systems haven’t been designed to accommodate these increasingly frequent storms that can dump over 10% of our annual precipitation on us in one day. The consequences of intense storms directly affect our lives, causing flooding in our basements, inundating our storm water system, incurring emergency response costs and even disrupting our water supply.
You may be surprised to learn that the increased frequency of intense storms is the direct result of a warmer climate. As the climate warms, the warmer air in our atmosphere holds more moisture. Scientists calculate that the 1 degree of warming that has already occurred causes an increase in the amount of water vapor in the air of 4%.
A 4% increase in atmospheric water vapor over the US is the equivalent to adding all the water from Lake Superior to the air over the US. And what goes up must come down. And when it does come down, that precipitation is coming down in increasingly intense superstorms - which can cause devastating floods.
Extreme flooding events aren’t only confined to the area surrounding Lexington. One of the primary effects of global warming has been to increase the frequency of intense storms and extreme flooding events around the world.
In the last twelve months we've seen the worst flooding on record for Pakistan, Tennessee, Brazil, Columbia, Australia, and now Sri Lanka. Pakistan still has millions who are homeless. Australia has an area the size of Texas under water. Flooding two weeks ago has resulted in over 665 dead in Brazil and over 300,000 homeless in Sri Lanka.
So what does this mean for Lexington, Massachusetts? Unfortunately the answer is more flooding.
The weather patterns in Lexington have changed dramatically in the last 20 years. It is time to begin planning to address these changes if we are to ensure that we have the proper infrastructure and systems in place to deal with this new reality.
February 4, 2011
President Obama announced a goal to reduce commercial building energy use by 20% over the next 10 years. Here’s the announcement from the White House.
“In his State of the Union, the President laid out his vision for winning the future by investing in innovative clean energy technologies and doubling the share of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. Alongside that effort, the President is proposing new efforts to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings across the country. The “Better Buildings Initiative,” outlined today at Penn State University, will achieve a 20 percent improvement over the next decade, saving companies and business owners tens of billions of dollars a year.”
“The plan will spur innovation by reforming tax and other incentives to retrofit, creating a new competitive grant program for states and localities that streamline their regulations to attract retrofit investment, and challenging the private sector to invest in building upgrades through a new “Better Buildings Challenge.”
The President has asked President Clinton, who has been a champion for this kind of energy innovation, to co-lead the private sector engagement along with the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, headed by Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric.”
From NPR - SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama admits energy efficient buildings is not the sexiest sounding path of the future, but on a day when much of the country is shivering in subfreezing temperatures, cutting the heat and electric bill might have some appeal.
Commercial buildings consume about one-fifth of all the energy used at the U.S. Mr. Obama says a 20 percent gain in efficiency could save those businesses some $40 billion a year.
President BARACK OBAMA: Making our buildings more energy efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs right here in the United States of America. And that's what we're going to do.
You can read the rest of the report from NPR or listen to it by clicking here.
February 1, 2011
Latest data published by the US Energy Information Administration provides a unique picture of economic growth and decline. China has sped ahead of the US as shown by this map, which resizes each country according to CO2 emissions. And for the first time, CO2 emissions have gone down.