Posts Tagged ‘energy independence’

Here’s to Celebrating the Red White and Blue on Independence Day! (and maybe a little Green!)

July 3, 2013


Stay Safe, Stay Cool and Enjoy! From all of us at GreenHomes America!


Home energy vs. auto fuel costs, its a tie!

April 19, 2011

Maybe post-tax deadline some of us have had a closer look at our household budget.  Something that should be revealed for many us over the past few years is a recent shift in where our money goes.  Since 2009, Consumer expenditures for home energy (electricity, natural gas and fuel oil and other fuels) has matched expenditures on gasoline. This comes from a March report from the Consumers Federation of America titled  Public Attitudes toward Energy Efficiency and Appliance standards: Consumers see the Benifits and support the standards.

The survey from the organization that has researched consumer opinion of auto and fuel usage over the years has discovered that we have interest in improving the appliances we use in the home for the same reasons we have concerns for fuel efficiency for vehicles.  Energy Efficiency and the drain on our household budget is part of it but so is dependency on imported oil. It has been proven with cars that we will invest for the long term if the paybacks are reasonable and now the same goes for appliances in our houses.

As we have seen the price of oil swaying in the breeze of political and economic instability, the cost of heating fuels has not done the same, yet. More and more these costs are becoming intertwined.  When we try and get away from our dependence on foreign oil by moving to electric vehicles, what demands will be placed on our grid?  What an opportunity to reduce our dependence on oil by reducing our load on the home.

The survey focuses on appliances. This is a good start, but misses the importance of the interaction with the home itself.  We have written about LED lighting  and the need for better appliance standards, but the big driver in all of this is the building envelope, and for some there are greater gains in fixing the building before investing in the appliances in them. 

The survey is a call to arms for policy makers since homeowners have spoken.  Increasing efficiency requirements for appliances is a good place to start.  Let’s take it one step further make sure our houses are in order for those appliances to do their best.

Hawaii’s gubernatorial candidates vie for leadership on energy independence for an oil-thirsty state.

October 18, 2010

While Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress can’t seem to move past squabbling to create a sound national energy policy, according to the Christian Science Monitor, Hawaii’s gubernatorial candidates on both sides are touting aggressive plans:

“Republican James “Duke” Aiona’s has set a bold and ambitious goal for Hawaii to cut its consumption of foreign oil in half within eight years. Democrat Neil Abercrombie’s plan calls for a new agency to oversee the state’s energy initiatives.”

As with my earlier post about the military looking to decrease its dependence on fossil fuel and the conclusions of many which parallel the findings in the often quoted McKinsey report from last year, this is another sign that a good energy policy—based on energy efficiency and renewable energy isn’t a left or right issue—it’s a do what’s best issue for the country.  Congressional roadblocks to a sound policy just aren’t acceptable.


Earth Hour 2010

March 26, 2010

In roughly 24 hours, Earth Hour 2010 will begin, and people across the globe will shut off their lights for one hour in order to make a statement.  However you feel about global warming, everyone can agree that conserving resources, and turning off lights when we don’t need them, is good for our society and our world.
Tomorrow night, the centers and capitals of over 4,000 towns and cities will go dark in order to remind us of the importance of conservation in our daily lives. From Lima to Las Vegas, from the Empire State Building to the Eiffel Tower, cities large and small across the globe will be declaring their dedication to protecting the environment we inhabit.  
I support Earth Hour 2010 because reducing energy waste is a great idea—and Earth Hour helps call attention to it. It’s easy in the modern world to forget about where energy comes from when you can illuminate your house with the flick of a finger, but each minute that a light bulb is burning unnecessarily is a minute that fuel is being wasted.  And in the U.S. more than 50% of our electricity comes from dirty coal.  By cutting down on our energy waste, we will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, improve our air quality, and decrease the load that energy companies are facing on a daily basis, all while helping homeowners save money on their energy bills. Who isn’t in favor of that?
Last year over 1 billion people participated in Earth Hour 2009, check out this video to see some of the cities that joined in:

If you want to join us in supporting Earth Hour 2010, turn off your lights today, Saturday, March 27th, at 8:30 PM EDT.  Remember, though, the value here is educational and inspiration.  To really get lasting energy savings, and have a long-term impact, you need to make bigger changes with bigger impacts in your home, the type of energy-efficiency improvements we discuss here at the time.

Congressman Peter Welch on Energy Bill

July 3, 2009

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch held a press conference earlier this week.   Congressman Welch did a great job explaining the positive impact of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) that passed the House on June 26.  He touched on the provisions of the bill and how it considered and minimzed the impacts on a variety of industries, from agriculate, to steel, to mining.  Check out an excerpt as reported by Vermont Public Radio.  (And listen closely for a brief snippet of me speaking.)

[2010 Update:  Peter Welch on the Home Star bill that he sponsored and that passed the House in May.]


Energy Independence

July 3, 2009

You’ll hear “energy independence” batted around.  Some folks will undoubtedly be tying it to Independence Day, the 4th of July, in the U.S.  And it is a great aspirational goal. 

Let’s blow away the smoke, though.  Energy independence for the U.S. will not happen overnight.  It won’t happen in a decade.  It may never happen completely as it may always make more sense for the Northeastern U.S. to get some of electricity from hydroelectric plants in Canada.  And we may find it makes sense to continue to import some “energy” from Mexico and Canada for raw energy or for products where petroleum or natural gas is the best feedstock.

Let’s also be clear that real energy independence is not about drilling for more oil in this country.  We simply don’t have enough to quench our current thirst.  It’s not about switching more to coal—we already generate more than half our electricity from coal, and we simply cannot afford the damage to our air, mountains, streams, and lakes.  But nor is it just about building massive wind farms in Texas or massive solar farms in Nevada.  We cannot generate enough that way to meet our current demands in the next decade, and even if we could, we would have to think about how to move electricity from Texas to Chicago and beyond.

But I’m very optimistic about a cleaner energy future.  Not only is it urgently needed, but it also makes a lot of sense for economic, security, and environment reasons.

The place to start of course, is energy-efficiency.  The McKinsey cost curve (here, as depicted in National Geographic) illustrates this perfectly.  It’s almost one of those “duh” observations—but an observation that we unfortunately haven’t embraced yet.   The “increased cost” argument is a red herring on the efficiency side.  Wasting less energy—wasting less, period—saving us money!   As DOE Secretary Chu put it, “Energy efficiency is not just low-hanging fruit; it is fruit lying on the ground.”    If we make the efforts to do more, do it better, and do it with less, we win.  And if we decrease our need for energy, the supply side of the equation becomes more simpler.  We don’t need as much, electricity, gas, oil, ethanol, etc.   The scale of our wind farms and PV arrays can be smaller.  We don’t have to worry as much about massive energy distribution infrastructure.   Energy-efficiency is the critical first step, and it makes the next steps more achievable.  Once we start making significant inroads there, we can tackle more manage supply issues, especially including renewables.

The good news is that this creates economic opportunity.  “Green” jobs are certainly a big part of this.  These jobs are for the most part very local.  They cannot be exported our outsourced.  The ensure that money that was formerly sent overseas stays in our communities.  And obviously good jobs give the economy a boost.  It doesn’t stop there, though.  As businesses save energy, they save money.  Money that formerly went up a chimney, flue, or smokestack can be reinvested in the core business, creating new and better widgets, improved services, and stronger competitiveness.  In short, the less businesses waste, the easier it is for us to maintain a leadership role. 

This same principal holds at the household level.  These less money we spend on energy, the more we have to send our kids to school, pay our mortgages, and protect ourselves from the ups and downs of a global market and global energy costs.

There are upfront costs for energy-efficiency.  But they are actually less than the costs to build and maintain new power plants, new power lines and gas pipelines, and the fossil-fuels needed to run them. 

Total energy independence may be a far-off dream.   There is absolutely no good reason, though, we shouldn’t begin running in that direction, and saving money and increasing our resilience, right now.  With energy-efficiency first.


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