(1) One of Yellow Cab Cooperative's Prius hybrid taxis in San Francisco, CA
(2) Energy Star triple glazed energy efficient window
(3) Sign at Hadley Falls (MA) hydroelectric plant
(5) Hybrid electric city bus in Chicago, with bike rack on the front
(6) Bicyclists on Norwottuck bike trail, Hadley, MA
(7) Hadley Falls hydropower dam
(8) Double framed construction for super insulated house, Wisdom Way Solar Village, Greenfield, MA
(9) Electric-powered commuter train, Washington, DC
(10) Photovoltaic and solar hot water panels on houses at Wisdom Way Solar Village in Greenfield, MA. Photos by Rudy Perkins unless noted.
There were a few other benefits to the "Prius strategy," as Roger notes:
"No one dies for oil.
Annually avoids 58 million tons of carbon dioxide, a cause of global warming.
Creates jobs building new, efficient cars.
We don't make half the world mad at us, breed more terrorism, or spend untold billions more on counter-terrorism."
Whether Roger's admittedly 'back of the envelope' calculations are right on the money or not, the logic certainly is. We can have a lot more energy security, at far less cost (at many levels) by ramping up our energy efficiency, rather than by fighting to dominate / safeguard foreign oil fields (you pick the right term). -- RP
"A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was 'imperative not to anger the Americans'," reports the Guardian, "but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. 'We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad,' he added."
Figures from the IEA and its World Energy Outlook report are widely relied on by government agencies planning energy and climate policy, notes the Guardian. So distortion of IEA global oil estimates due to political pressure is a serious concern. The Guardian reports that critics have said the IEA's assertion that world oil production can be increased to 105 million barrels a day was not based on firm evidence and that "the world has already passed its peak in oil production." "Now the 'peak oil' theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment," says the Guardian.
Pollin praised the $100 billion in clean energy investment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that President Obama signed into law in February 2009. Of that $100 billion in the ARRA, about $70 billion will go to energy efficiency measures, such as retrofitting buildings with greater insulation, and about $30 billion will go to investment in renewable energy production, such as solar cells and wind energy. The reason to place more emphasis on energy efficiency, Pollin said, was that that technology is already known, and it would employ workers in the construction trades that have been very hard hit due to the recession.
Pollin underscored the "transformative" nature of the Recovery Act's clean energy commitment -- where once the environment and jobs were pitted against each other, the Act demonstrates a new national understanding that clean energy investment is a crucial pathway for the creation of jobs for America's economic future.
Pollin said, however, that the ARRA's $100 billion for clean energy will take five years to roll out (an average of about $20 billion a year), according to Congressional Budget Office calculations. He said that $150 billion in clean energy investment each year would be "a reasonable goal," amounting to only 8% of current U.S. annual economic investment.
There is an $850 billion potential market in the U.S. for building retrofits for energy efficiency, Pollin said. Besides creating jobs and tackling global warming, Pollin said such clean energy investment would pay for itself in energy savings in from two and a half to five years, a rate of return of 18% to 35%, which would match some of the best performing Wall Street hedge funds in their hay days. "If there's [that kind of] money sitting there on the sidewalk, why isn't somebody picking it up?" Pollin asked.
He answered his own question by pointing to a current lack of "intermediation", connecting upfront financing, reliable, widely disseminated information on energy efficiency measures, and the consumer. He said we may need non-governmental organizations, utilities, banks or other businesses to develop a form of one-stop shopping for building retrofits, putting together the financing, the analysis of what needs to be done in the building, and the contractors to do the work.
The study, "Modell Deutschland: Klimaschutz bis 2050" (Model Germany: Climate Protection by 2050), was produced by WWF Germany, the Oko Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology) and the Prognos Institute. Felix Matthes, one of the study contributors from the Oko Institut, sees the largest CO2 reduction potential coming from the use of more renewable energy for electricity generation, transportation and heating, and from the greater use of energy efficient appliances, reports Deutsche-Welle. These measures could get nearly 2/3 of the way to the 95% reduction goal.
"For the remaining third, you have to make changes in industrial processes, farming and waste management. And you have to make sure that forests maintain their ability to absorb CO2" says Matthes. (Quoted in Deutsche-Welle.) Changes to agriculture may need to include eating less meat, since cows are a large source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, notes Deutsche-Welle. Matthes says that launching initiatives early is important, since changes in necessary infrastructure could take 15-20 years to complete, from the development of a so-called "smart" electricity grid to transmit renewably-generated electricity around the country, to the creation of a pipeline network if carbon dioxide is to be sequestered underground. <<< Back
Regarding human health and environmental damages from transportation, the National Academies summary of the report noted: "Damages per vehicle mile traveled were remarkably similar among various combinations of fuels and technologies -- the range was 1.2 cents to about 1.7 cents per mile traveled . . . . Nonclimate-related damages for corn grain ethanol were similar to or slightly worse than gasoline, because of the energy needed to produce the corn and convert it to fuel. In contrast, ethanol made from herbaceous plants or corn stover -- which are not yet commercially available -- had lower damages than most other options." (National Academies press release)
The current push towards plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles may not lessen these health and environmental damages, particularly if conventional power plants are used to generate the electricity. The report found that "[e]lectric vehicles and grid-dependent (plug-in) hybrid vehicles showed somewhat higher nonclimate damages than many other technologies for both 2005 and 2030. Operating these vehicles produces few or no emissions, but producing the electricity to power them currently relies heavily on fossil fuels; also, energy used in creating the battery and electric motor adds up to 20 percent to the manufacturing part of life-cycle damages", says the National Academies. (Emphasis added.)
In this context "nonclimate damages" means human health and environmental damages not counting climate change. "Life-cycle damages" are the total health and environmental damages caused by a product, factoring in health and environmental impacts from its manufacture, use and disposal.There are, however, ways to reduce the health and environmental damages from transportation. "Fully implementing federal rules on diesel fuel emissions, which require vehicles beginning in the model year 2007 to use low-sulfur diesel, is expected to substantially decrease nonclimate damages from diesel by 2030 -- an indication of how regulatory actions can significantly affect energy-related damages, the committee said. Major initiatives to further lower other emissions, improve energy efficiency, or shift to a cleaner mix of energy sources could reduce other damages as well, such as substantially lowering the damages attributable to electric vehicles," notes the National Academies. (National Academies press release)
The National Research Council, which did the report, is part of a nonprofit institution that provides science, technology and health policy advice under a long-standing congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln. (Go to National Research Council.)
LichtBlick is planning initial installation of the units in Hamburg, Germany. The company will charge homeowners a one-time equipment leasing fee in the neighborhood of 5,000 Euros, but then offer the homeowners a regular payment for the electricity generated. The units would be centrally controlled by LichtBlick to feed power into the grid during peak electricity demand.
LichtBlick asserts that 100,000 of these home units could generate enough electricity to replace two large coal or nuclear power plants, reports Living Planet. The large number of small home units that would be involved could be started up and shut down more quickly than large central coal or nuclear power stations, allowing more responsive back-up power for the wind-, solar- and other renewables-based electrical generating system Germany is aiming for. It is not known when or if Eco Blue units will be offered in the U.S.
Natural gas burns clearner than other fossil fuels and has a lower global warming impact than coal or oil. Some believe it may serve an important transitional role as the world converts to all-renewable sources of energy. <<< Back
For an overview of this wind energy study, and its meaning for the potential for wind to take care of most U.S. electricity needs, take a listen to the 6/26/09 Talk of the Nation conversation with Professor McElroy available via iTunes. In this interview, McElroy discusses some of the technical hurdles that would have to be crossed in order to implement an aggressive wind energy plan, including greater development of the transmission grid, and suggests that the costs for wind power would actually be cheaper than other alternatives now being discussed.
For regional and national organizational resources on sustainable energy, click on Energy ~ resources.
For media, books and articles on sustainable energy, click on Energy ~ Media, books and articles.