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…)

June 14, 2012

Reality: Only Businesses Care about ROI; People Want Sexy

Category: Climate Change,Observations – Tom Harrison – 10:06 pm

I attended a startup conference today, and while I am not professionally in the home efficiency business any more, I couldn’t avoid the session on Clean-Tech Energy. Several experienced company founders described their business models, and it quickly became apparent that they all had concluded the same thing: the vast majority of consumers are not willing to spend money on energy efficiency. And, quite the opposite, businesses will readily adopt efficiency measures that have a reasonable return on investment. (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…)

July 3, 2011

Google PowerMeter, MS Hohm: RIP (TED 5000, Go To Hell)

Category: Household,Save Electricity – Tom Harrison – 5:07 pm

Well folks, it didn’t happen this time. This week, Google and Microsoft both announced the end of their free energy data collection services, Google PowerMeter and MS Hohm, respectively.

This cannot be a good sign for the energy monitor business, especially the middle tier, notably Blueline PowerCost Monitor and The Energy Detective, but also CurrentCost Envi and others, even WattVision. All are priced at a point that is sufficiently high to make you think twice, and have a difficult task of demonstrating that the savings you’ll get will be enough to warrant the cost.

Higher-end models such as the eMonitor make a lot of sense, because what I saw was that the people buying them either had massive houses, or lived in places where electricity prices were high (e.g. Hawaii). I would not be surprised if these folks were getting bills around $500 to $1,000 per month. Not only did these customers have more money, they had a harder problem to identify, but easier to solve — one pool pump turned off for a few hours, or one AC unit turned down a little could easily justify the much higher cost. This same math doesn’t work for normal folks whose electricity bill is just one more $130/month bill.
(more…)

March 5, 2011

Democracy and Oil Do Not Mix

Category: Climate Change,Economics,Energy Independence,Policy,Political – Tom Harrison – 8:32 pm

Oil and Democracy

Oil & Democracy: A Costly Mix

We are torn here in the US.

We need the oil, and we need to support democratizing movements in the world. And these days, for the right reasons, these two goals are once again at odds.

The precarious balance between the two is getting more so. It won’t get better.

In the last Presidential election the alarmingly high price of oil was framed as energy security, but it’s not about energy. We have plenty of energy in gas and coal. And nuclear and solar and wind. Plenty or energy.

Oil is special because we don’t have easy substitutes at the moment. Liquid fuel is what we run on today. It is technically possible to convert most transportation to alternates, notably natural gas, then electric. But that is happening glacially. (more…)

February 10, 2011

Prius Winter Mileage Trick

Category: Save Fuel,Tips – Tom Harrison – 6:13 pm

Prius in Winter

Beat The Cold

I started a new job this year, and unlike my former commute (downstairs) I have to drive. To my utter horror, my mileage dropped below 40MPG after the first few weeks. But I fixed that.

The Prius will normally turn off the engine when the car is stopped, which, for my commute is frequently — many lights, and heavy traffic in some parts. But in the winter, until the car has warmed up, the Prius decides to keep the engine on. Idling in traffic isn’t good.

But, if I turn off the heater, off goes the engine. Ha!

My mileage this week has been back up to normal (a little lower than the normal 50+ MPG in winter — in cold climates they change the fuel mix in winter so cars will run properly, even if less efficiently).

So when the car is moving and the engine is on, I turn on the heater, while slowed or stopped, I turn it off. By 10 or 15 minutes the engine is hot enough that the engine will stop on its own. It takes a little longer to warm up the car, and sometimes you need to turn on the AC to prevent the windshield from fogging up, but otherwise, it’s a pretty good trick.

Photo Credit: kalevkevad via Flickr.

January 16, 2011

A New Time For Green

Category: Climate Change,Companies,Energy Independence,Little Things – Tom Harrison – 10:33 pm

Green is alive and kicking. But it’s in a very different state than just a few months ago. Actually it’s not in a different state, it’s in different countries. All but the US. You know: Denmark, and China.

When the climate bill was killed in the Senate, they world changed. Important incentives that affected consumers, home owners as well as businesses expired at the end of 2010. Cancun was hobbled from the start. Don’t invest in clean energy for now (unless you’re shorting).

So now in the US we wait to see how the rest of the world will Raymond lunch. All we can do is take a different tack.

The EPA has teeth and has bared them several times, this week vetoing a previously approved mountaintop removal coal mining permit, for example. I am glad they have these teeth, but it’s not a solution, just a firewall.

In an odd paradox, the tool left to the EPA after the climate change bill was scuttled by Republicans not wanting regulation was an EPA whose only weapon was regulation. At the same time the business friendly, conservative created Cap and Trade approach, which would have provided predictable, incremental change was killed. So the more fickle act of regulation is now what businesses got.

Massey Energy and I are both sad about that outcome. Strange bedfellows.

Meanwhile, our old friend, oil prices, are sticking over $90/bbl and gasoline prices continue to creep up. Weather events continue to be extreme and unusual, consistent with predictions of climate change science. GM and Nissan have electric cars for sale. We continue to subsidize mortgage interest, but have revoked incentives to make homes more efficient. Odd.

Business is back to usual. Let’s hope the true believers in market forces are right. All indications are that they are wrong, but don’t let the facts get in the way of political expedience and dogma. If they are wrong, the dogmatists, we will have caused the US to lose an edge that will be hard to regain. To China!

Irony? More like stupidity

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.