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On How California's K-12 Schools Can Teach Us About Energy Efficiency

Catherine

Thank you for this excellent discussion with thoughts as how to incorporate data collection/analysis to help inform future investment decision-making.

I would suggest, however, that the thinking needs to broaden. In essence, what I see here is only a bit past the stove-piped ‘we invest in energy efficiency and we will save energy, what is the ROI’ sort of discussion that is too prevalent both in government policy-making and in private business. The rebound effect element that you highlight merits understanding. However, there are very large arenas for additional consideration — arenas that quite likely overwhelm, in robust cost-benefit analysis, the implications of direct energy savings. Let me provide two small examples:

1. In the office environment, ‘greening’ programs can lead to productivity improvements of 5 / 10 / 15+%. (see: http://getenergysmartnow.com/2009/09/25/new-study-green-buildings-generate-more-green/) As the typical US office spends roughly 100x on people as it does on energy/water resources, a 5% productivity improvement has 25x the value of a 20% reduction in the energy/water costs. While it is a more serious challenge to do a clean before/after with schools (changing cohorts, changing curriculum, etc …), there is strong evidence of similar gains. Thus, the question, what energy efficiency investments might have an impact on student/teacher performance (such as daylighting) and how does one include that improved (or, possible, worsened) performance in the valuation equation of energy efficiency investments?

2. Many school systems are seeking to foster improved STEM education programs and all school systems expend significant resources on textbooks and other tools (for STEM and otherwise). Solar PV panels, for example, are quite easy to integrate into educational programs. (See:http://getenergysmartnow.com/2013/09/03/thinking-past-stovepipes-solar-electricity-on-roof-and-classroom/) To what extent can energy efficiency investments contribute to the educational program and how would one incorporate that ‘learning value’ into the cost-benefit calculation?

For a perspective as to the systems-of-systems benefits from greening schools, see: http://www.senseandsustainability.net/2013/10/18/greening-schools/

October 31, 2013    View Comment    

On Energy COOL: Turning Gurgling into Clean Electricity

John -- see coment above, meant to do it as a reply.  

September 13, 2013    View Comment    

On Energy COOL: Turning Gurgling into Clean Electricity

John

My explanation/discussion of both systems is/was limited. Perhaps it would make sense to go over to the Natel site to see how they are describing installation/use of their system rather than relying on the very cursory introduction that I provided. Your concern could be 100% on target or, perhaps, their proposed installation/operational concept addresses your concerns.  Either way, I would be interested in your thoughts after you look at their material more closely.

Adam

September 13, 2013    View Comment    

On The Elementary Arithmetic of Climate Change

Others' reaction to Nocera:

A carbon tax is essentially a way for policymakers to increase the price of fossil fuels and curb consumer demand without giving producers more incentive to exploit harder-to-reach supplies. There are plenty of arguments for and against a carbon tax, but by itself, it wouldn’t give an added boost to pricey new fossil-fuel sources.

You might think an A-list business reporter for the NY Times would know basic economics. But not in the case of Joe Nocera. ...

Last year, Nocera took exception to my saying he joined “the climate ignorati,” asserting that I was casting him as a “global warming denier.” But as I noted at the time, the ignorati are, as Google reveals, “Elites who, despite their power, wealth, or influence, are prone to making serious errors when discussing science and other technical matters.” The shoe fits.

But Nocera doesn’t seem to be a fan of basic economics, as he proceeds to misunderstand Hansen’s policy proposal and offer the laughably wrong argument that a price on carbon would increase the market viability of the dirtiest oil with the highest production costs.

Pro tip: Raising the price of a commodity does not improve its market position. In fact, raising the price of a commodity reduces demand for that commodity. This principle is known in economics as “supply and demand.”

 

Highly related

 

If you want to argue that activists shouldn’t focus on Keystone, you can’t just establish that rallying around and/or blocking Keystone won’t reduce carbon emissions much. So what? Why not try it? Something’s better than nothing, after all. Even if it’s a total waste of time, that may be unproductive, but it’s not counterproductive.

 

No, you have to establish that the Keystone campaign is impeding or preventing something else better and more effective from happening. That’s what it means to say the Keystone campaign is counterproductive — that it’s detracting from other, superior climate efforts.

 

What are these other efforts, and how is a focus on Keystone impeding or preventing them? That’s the causal relationship folks like Revkin need to establish to make their case, but they are maddeningly vague about it.

February 22, 2013    View Comment    

On GAO to Congress: Climate Change a Top Risk

1.  As I have said, I don't see Silver Bullet solutions.  I don't see solar as an end-all, be all, but as part of a portfolio of responses that can support mitigation and adaptation.

2.  I have a hard time buying into the infrastructure requirements to create a hydrogen-based economy.  

 

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On GAO to Congress: Climate Change a Top Risk

Apologies that I don't have the time to track down material but ...

1. Hawaii, for example, could likely meet its electricity needs w/solar on roofs and offshore wind/wave power.

2. There is a lot of rooftop in the developed world and there are concepts for 'covering' roads with solar -- combine that built environment and one has lots of solar potential.

3.  Offshore wind has minimal 'footprint' implications after some siting issues (such as shipping lanes and aviation safety) are dealt with.

4.  Intermittency is dealt with by balancing, storage, connecting large-scale grid (see Desertec for one concept for balancing).

There is plenty of credible work showing can do significant portions of the task at scale.

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On GAO to Congress: Climate Change a Top Risk

Apologies that I don't have the time to track down material but ...

1. Hawaii, for example, could likely meet its electricity needs w/solar on roofs and offshore wind/wave power.

2. There is a lot of rooftop in the developed world and there are concepts for 'covering' roads with solar -- combine that built environment and one has lots of solar potential.

3.  Offshore wind has minimal 'footprint' implications after some siting issues (such as shipping lanes and aviation safety) are dealt with.

4.  Intermittency is dealt with by balancing, storage, connecting large-scale grid (see Desertec for one concept for balancing).

There is plenty of credible work showing can do significant portions of the task at scale.

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Why Keystone XL is Not in the U.S. National Interest

Robert,

Do you believe that 'all lights are green' on that westward rail line because, well, there are some who certainly don't think so.

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On GAO to Congress: Climate Change a Top Risk

Dennis

The rapid dismissal of alternative electricity sources of "solar uses food land" and "wind intermittent" seems extreme. Look at ther German Energiewende -- the solar isn't using up food land and they are figuring out how to manage their grid to deal with increasing amounts of intermittent power (which includes the solar).

Rather than 'defending' renewables, my biggest issue here is that I'm an advocate of "Silver BBs" rather a proponent of single-solution Silver Bullets.  I will look at your material and try to learn from it but I'm far from ready to dismiss any conservation / efficiency / clean energy piece (see power of 'and')as irrelevant because there is a Silver Bullet concept will save the day.

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Why Keystone XL is Not in the U.S. National Interest

Absolutely, the tar sands is getting to market.  The issue, in part, is expansion -- and resisting creating infrastructure that becomes sunk cost in considering infrastructure / energy / investment choices tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

The rail expansion for export has been impressive to watch. Even so, as you are well aware, that rail expansion is inadequate to support the desired export requirements. Also, in part due to enriching Buffett (further), the additional cost of that rail movement is a drag on expansion plans.

How much of the rail expansion, however, is Bakken oil vs Tar Sands?

 

It is a serious point that that the EROEI and pollution load worsens due to rail transit. And, as per rail safety issues, there are risks created via increased rail traffic vs pipeline.  Although, have there been rail car spills of Dilbit along the lines of what happened in the Enbridge pipeline on the Kalmazoo?

Finally, absolutely a focus 'solely' on supply is, at best, reckless and, at worst, inane.  National investments in Steel Interstate, ever-increasing CAFE standards, better land use planning ('smart growth' as misnomer), and other targeted paths to drive down oil demand -- across the planet -- as a path to deal with peak oil and climate change are more critical than efforts focused on the supply side.  

 

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Why Keystone XL is Not in the U.S. National Interest

Thus, Keystone should go forward because no single action, no single project is enough to cause so much damage that the environment would crash because of it?  

In terms of your second paragraph, clearly a line was drawn in the sand -- for mobilization reasons and otherwise.  Paths toward improving profitability and easing expansion of Tar Sands production will foster greater use and, therefore, greater carbon loads.  Keystone XL does this.  Thus, beyond just symbolic into substantive issues.  And, this is something that galvanizes a range of people -- from those losing land to eminent domain to build the pipeline, to ranchers concerned about potential Dilbit spills, to indigenous people in the United States and Canada concerned about their lands, to scientists concerned about climate change, to ... Sigh, those scientists are, however, simply "zealots".

 

February 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Why Keystone XL is Not in the U.S. National Interest

Let's see ...

Seems to be that the item is we can't do anything to change because we have the infrastructure we have and thus we can't change the infrastructure we have and thus should continue to feed the beast/add to the beast that we have.

This piece was not about offering up alternative paths forward -- but perhaps it would have made sense to link to myriads of pieces offering up "infrastructure to deliver society's needs" w/burning less fossil fuel.

Let's take a small example, why not steel interstates with electrified rail?  Within a decade, at a net benefit to the economy -- without considering the pollution / climate benefits -- this could help reduce US demand, with intermodal transfer improvements, in the range of 2.5 mbd.  And, compared to trucking, this would enable moving California tomatoes to the East Coast roughly in 30 hours with far fewer energy calories per calorie of food moved.  That is a "new distribution infrastructure" that "is being aka proposed" ...

Reality is that there are quite serious paths to shift the infrastructure to reduce fossil fuel demands -- even in the agricultural secor -- that have been put on the table and, in many cases, that are actually being worked on.  That this one piece, which focuses on reasons why the Keystone XL pipeline does not meet the standard required in the review process, does not provide a detailed examination of such opportunities and path forward is a rather high standard to hold any single blog post.

 

 

February 16, 2013    View Comment