Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wondering what to do about Global Warming?

Here is a super neat link with a laundry list of things we can all do to reduce global warming.

Ran into the link over at The Cost of Energy. I'm still reading through the list myself but it looks excellent.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A few bright spots...

Uhg the stock market is behaving badly today! The Dow is down 2.25% and the Nasdaq is down 3.75% as I write. To take my mind off that...
It is worth registering that this blog has surpassed 1000 visitors!
or is that five loyal visitors have clicked on through 200 times each?

I was really happy to see that on Sunday, An Inconvenient Truth picked up not one, but two Academy Awards. Congrats, they are well deserved, it was a powerful movie. Not only did Al Gore change (and advance) the debate on the Climate Crisis, but I think he has also changed the way that people make and view documentaries. That is to say that I think every major change/shift in public opinion will from now on be accompanied by a documentary (although clearly not all will be as compelling as AIT). In fact we will probably come to see these as “issuementaries” where different think tanks, NGOs, and special interest groups express their views cinema-graphically much the way they issue white papers today.

Another positive recent headline is the TXU (a Texas power utility) buyout by KKR et al, with the blessing of several environmental groups. While some will argue that TXU would never have actually built all 11 coal power plants it was pushing for, I think the deal sets a great precedent for future involvement by environmental groups. It is even more interesting (music to my ears) to hear all the pundits say that in fact TXU building 11 coal power plants was not even an economically sound proposition! Woot! Actually the pundits said that the buyers will benefit by not doing so…but isn’t that the same thing? Hope the guys planning to build the other 140 coal power plants around the US recheck their figures. Of course I’m counting on the buyout group honoring its pledge to pump $400 million (over several years) into conservation and renewable initiatives. If they do, they stand a chance of demonstrating how a more enlightened utility can operate.

And speaking of enlightenment, wasn’t it cool to hear that Australia is banning the incandescent bulb? Yes, the other country run by an administration in global warming denial has taken up the torch (get it?) of energy efficiency. It seems that consumers will benefit from lower power bills once they install more efficient bulbs (change is set to take effect in 2010), and the power suppliers will also reduce their costs due to transmission congestion and load management improvements (something about reactive loading and inductive capacitance or vis versa). While some will bemoan such intrusive action by government like Geoff over at Energy Outlook, I applaud it. We/they/everyone needs to do so much more, but hey you have to start somewhere, and why not pick the easiest changes first? I’ve obviously embraced the CFL switch, and encourage others to do so post haste.

Edit 2:05pm: yumping yimminy both indexes fell to -4% while I was writting this!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Electricity use analysis

I took a bit of time to review the electricity use (as per our monthly bills) of our country home and the six little houses of my siblings and their families.

This summer I changed out about 100 normal bulbs with CFL/swirl bulbs, and we installed a solar hot water system. I had hoped we might see a 5% drop in energy use from these changes. For the year we used 2% more electricity in the main house and 8% more for the complex. Sigh! At least it was less than it would have been without these changes.

Since this is a “vacation house” there are a ton of variables that effect electricity use. The biggest variable is how many days (and by how many people) per year the house is used. I do not have a measure for people days/usage, especially not w.r.t. the prior year. I think this measure would have been higher in ‘06 than ’05, but I cannot support this or say by how much. Obviously the weekend/vacation aspect also limits to a certain degree the benefit of the solar water heater, since we have large and fluctuating water usage/load, which is the opposite of what one would like for solar heating (consistent use is best).

Another big variable is degree days (for heating), since we heat the houses with electricity. Last year (2006) was 1% colder than 2005 as measured by degree days.

In trying to tease out some conservation effect, I found that we used 2% less electricity in the June-Sept period of 2006. These are the four months with no need for heating so one might expect to see a more noticeable effect from the more efficient lighting. Also the main house registered the lowest monthly energy use (by 10%) of the past three years in June (which is the month the bulbs were changed, but before the solar water heater was installed). Still, the end result is a bit disappointing. I will see if we continue to have lower summer bills in the future, and try to figure out a way to measure “people days” going forward.

Monday, February 05, 2007

What is wrong with the budget?

I am simply flabbergasted.

From a Yahoo Reuters article on the new budget:
“Bush's budget authorizes $717 billion in military spending between now and September 30, 2008, including $235 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“Congress already has approved $427 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the budget document said.”

Bush has a losing hand in the “Iraq War” casino, and he’s about to double down with our money. Instead of the $8B a month that I was so recently boggled by, we can look forward to spending over $18B a month or $613 million a day.

Meanwhile in case you wondered where else we could be spending our collective scratch:

From a separate Reuter’s article entitled Bush seeks extra energy research funds:

“Solar America Initiative - $148 million in research with goal of making solar photovoltaic technology competitive with conventional electricity by 2015. That's versus an $83 million request for 2007.”

Does anyone else think a years worth of solar energy research should be worth more than 6 hours in Iraq?

“Vehicle efficiency - $81 million for research into advanced hybrids and plug-in hybrid vehicles.”

I honestly hope there is a zero missing from that figure. Is this how the president is backing up his use 20% less fuel by 2016 from last month’s State of the Union? Phew, and I was almost afraid he was serious about that goal.

“Biofuels Initiative - $179 million in research in producing ethanol from wood chips and switchgrass. That's versus $92 million in 2007.”

Add ‘em all up and we get $408 million in research funding…which is what we will spend in 1000 minutes in Iraq (a.k.a 0.66 days).

But wait! Never fear the Compassionate Conservative is here!
From the first Reuters article:

“Bush would squeeze $66 billion over five years in savings from Medicare and $12 billion from the Medicaid health program for the poor.”

$700+ billion for War, and who pays the price? Grandma and the kids. These budget priorities are soooo out of whack!

Nevermind our declining popularity in the world, how long will our country stand for this HoodRobin (a.k.a. reverse Robinhood) administration?

Edit 2/5/07 6pm slight clarification, news reports suggest the new budget is requesting $170B in 07 and $145B in 08 for operations in Iraq. This means we will be spending $14B/mth in 07 and $12B per month in 08 (not $18B). The conclusion remains the same.