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Efficiency

Bush acts on energy efficiency and renewable energy

The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) office of the US Department of Energy is reporting today that President Bush signed Executive Order 13423 calling for increased energy efficiency in Federal Government operations and increased usage of energy from renewable sources.

Following are summaries of the directives in the order:

  • Agencies must reduce their energy intensity 3% per year or by 30% by 2015 relative to their 2003 baseline.
  • That at least half of mandated renewable energy use come from newer facilities. Agencies are also encouraged to work to have renewable energy sources constructed on agency property.
  • Agencies must reduce their water usage intensity by 2% annually or by 16% by 2015 relative to their 2003 baseline.
  • Requires increased sustainability in goods purchased and used by agencies. This includes requiring paper have at least 20% recycled content, use of bio-based products, and energy efficiency products.
  • Agencies to improve waste management including increasing recycling, reducing use and disposal of toxic materials, and improved waste handling.
  • Ensure that new buildings comply with the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings. 15% of all Federal buildings are to meet these guidelines by 2015.
  • The fleets reduce petroleum product usage by 2% annually and increase portion of fuel used that is non-petroleum-based (yes, it says non-petroleum instead of renewable) by 10% per year.
  • Increased use of Energy Star products.

Many of the provisions listed above are mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

RES Update

I have been meaning to write something about the 18 Jan, 2007 Senate Energy Committee meeting. Minutes are not posted as of now, but will be linked to from that page when they are available. I don't think they have made an audio version of the hearing available, but you can stream video of it (Real Media format or Windows Media Player format).

I previously analyzed two of the RES bills that are under discussion in the committee. There are two others. Committee Counseler John Fuller created a really handy spreadsheet that shows how each of the four bills differ and where they agree (pdf). I want to thank him for making that available to us.

For those unfamiliar with a Renewable Energy Standard or Renewable Energy Objective, both require utilities to generate a certain percentage of the electricity they sell within MN from renewable sources. The standard provides more stringent penalties for failing to meet the requirements; the objective requires a good faith effort to meet it.

Committee Chair Prettner Solon has suggested that these bills will be merged into a single bill based on stakeholder agreement. It would appear that they will delete-all of S.F. 4 (Anderson's bill) and create a new whole new RES or REO proposal based on the pieces of the existing four. They will use S.F. 4 out of deference to Senator Anderson who has worked on this issue for 6 years. A group of stakeholders is meeting to guide this process.

I'm not really sure how this all works; Senator Dibble was also a bit concerned and wanted to make sure the Committee would still discuss the big issues. I think the idea is for the stakeholders to work behind the scenes to make it easier for the committee to create a popular, effective bill.

The rest of this post will cover the discussion in the committee as the bills were officially introduced and my thoughts on the issues that each brings up. Don Davis wrote an article for The Forum news about these bills also.

Senator Anderson introduced S.F. 4 first. She noted that mandating renewable energy helps the economy, saying it creates 40% more jobs per unit of energy when compared to fossil fuels. Later she said Minnesota lost 1000 good jobs on the Iron Range because a wind company chose Pennsylvania instead because it had a more aggressive standard than us. Also, Minnesota imports more electricity than any other state (apparently 1000 MW from Canada (Manitoba Hydro) and 1000 MW from the Dakotas alone).

Anderson tackled the big question in front of the committee - objective or standard? Minnesota's current "objective" is unique; many other states have embraced the standard. She noted that her bill features an "offramp" which I'll quote:

The commission must delay or modify the standard for an electric utility if it finds that
compliance with a standard is not in the public interest because compliance will either
produce undesirable impacts on the reliability of the utility's system or on the utility's
ratepayers or if it finds that compliance is not technically feasible.

Those who say that a standard is too inflexible often fail to note that the PUC can excuse a utility which has good reasons for failing to meet the requirements. Anderson suggested that the "good faith effort" language of the REO is too lax and difficult to interpret. The Department of Commerce objects to this, saying they have defined what a good faith effort is - more on that debate in a later post.

Senator Anderson's last argument for the word 'standard' argued that the "word in law" matters. The very word 'standard' sends a clear signal to wind developers that Minnesota will be a reliable market for them.

One of Anderson's other changes with S.F. 4 is to limit eligible renewable facilities to those built after 1974. She justifies this, saying we need to reduce emissions, stimulate jobs, and avoid disadvantaging some utilities over others.

Senator Anderson finished by saying this will not cost ratepayers more. It will save them money in the long term because "we all know the cost of coal will go up." This relies upon Congress creating either a cap & trade program for carbon emissions or implementing a carbon tax. Though she didn't phrase it in these terms, she was basically saying that those the wind strength may be variable, its cost is not. The fuel for wind turbines will remain zero cost for the life of the turbine.

Anderson's bill was followed by S.F. 129, introduced by Senator Tomassoni. Because the committee is hearing only RES specific provisions now, they are only discussing sections 2-7.

I feel that this is the weakest bill by a considerable margin, despite being a standard rather than an objective. First, I'll summarize Tomassoni's comments.

He started by pushing for the IGCC coal plant, saying that even with renewables, we still need coal and IGCC lends itself well to sequestion (capturing the carbon dioxide emissions and storing them deep underground). Greg Oxley, from the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association then argued that utilities cannot meet 25% by 2020. He said they don't have enough transmission or time to build the needed amount.

To those who say we cannot make 25% by 2020, I refer you to John Tuma's post on Loon Commons which essentially reminded the committee that no one thought we could hit the moon in 10 years when Kennedy told us we were going to.

Tomassoni's bill suffers from many weaknesses and I hope it is mostly ignored when the committee puts together the final RES/REO proposal. Weaknesses include:

  • Instead of a list of eligible renewable technologies, it says all renewable energy technologies may be counted. Thus, the PUC will have to decide if hydrogen produced by natural gas counts as being renewable or not (for example). This is not a good idea.
  • 20% by 2020 is too lax. If we are not going to push as hard as possible, let's use Governor Pawlenty's 25% by 2025.
  • My favorite: the penalty for noncompliance cannot be more than the amount the utility would have expended to meet the requirements. This is not an incentive to meet the requirements. Penalties should exceed the cost of compliance (though we need an offramp like the one proposed by Anderson).
  • Finally, this bill significantly limits what evidence the PUC can use when considering the offramp provision - giving a big advantage to the utilities.

Committee Chair Prettner Solon next introduced one of her bills, S.F. 145 and Mike Bull, Deputy Commissioner for the DoC discussed it. Like S.F. 129, this is an omnibus bill and the committee is only looking at sections 2-8 currently.

Bull noted that this is the most progressive energy package ever by a Minnesota Senator - something to which Anderson later agreed. She and Bull actually complimented each other several times as the committee exuded bipartisan vibes.

At any rate, Bull noted that the Governor would prefer signing an omnibus bill but recognizes the committee will do as the committee will do. This bill calls for a 25% objective by 2025 with a fine of $.05 per kilowatt/hour of unmet requirements when utiliies do not meet the good faith effort bar. The PUC may count large hydroelectric sources if absolutely necessary (large hydro is usually not counted due to the damage to surrounding ecosystems). Compliance fines would be used to fund renewable energy projects in Minnesota.

Senator Dibble questioned what new generation would be if the Governor's proposal is implemented because it counts renewable sources built before 1975. The committee is supposed to be informed how this breaks down - essentially, the question is how many renewable MW MN has from before 1975.

Chair Prettner Solon then introduced S.F. 74 - an objective with blank % to be met by blank. The idea is to figure out the max we can do and fill in the blank with those numbers. It also allows the PUC to increase the requirement for some utilities who are better poised to add renewable capacity than others. This is a unique idea though I wonder if the PUC would actually do that.

The other major unique provision for this bill is that it allows utilities that go above and beyond the required CIP (Conservation improvement programs - these are intended to reduce electricity demand) to get credit toward their objective requirement. This could be tricky in practice to measure.

Wow. That was fun. Another exciting Saturday night for me. If you read this far, thank you. There will be more coming eventually.

CERTs conference summary

The MN CERTs conference was held on Tuesday and Wednesday this week...

 

MN CERTs Local Energy / Local Opportunities

Article Photo

On January 17, 2007 the Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) held their annual conference, Local Energy/Local Opportunities, in St. Cloud. CERTs is a program that is funded by several state agencies, private foundations and the University of Minnesota. Here is a brief description of the program from the CERTs web site:

“The Clean Energy Resource Team project is your opportunity to play a role in shaping energy conservation and renewable energy implementation for your region of Minnesota. A growing number of Minnesotans envision an energy future built on using energy wisely and generating energy from local renewable resources like wind, solar, biomass, and even hydrogen from renewable sources. By relying more on community-scale renewable energy resources and energy conservation, communities can help prevent pollution and create local economic development opportunities.”

CONTINUED HERE

 

Senate Energy Committee Meets

The Minnesota Senate Energy Committee (technically, Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications Committee) met on Thursday for the first time. It will regularly meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:00 - 4:30 in Room 123 of Capitol.

The new chair is Yvonne Prettner Solon (DFL 07). Ellen Anderson, the previous DFL chair has moved to chair the Finance - Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Budget Division Committee. The meeting started with the requisite round of introductions. Several members admitted to being science geeks - something I was rather surprised by. Have we computer geeks so normalized 'geekhood'?

Chair Prettner Solon started with a number of the questions she expected to deal with in the future. The one I found most interesting was the question of the ideal amount of renewable generation we want in the system. I have focused for so long on getting more, I never really gave much thought to how much is enough...

At any rate, Chair Prettner Solon outlined a rough schedule for passing an REO or RES. Two bills are scheduled to be discussed on Thursday, 18 January. They will discuss S.F. 4 and S.F. 74. Both relate the RES/REO. If no one else checks them out in depth, I will do so before Thursday. Chair Prettner Solon hopes to vote on the bills by 25 January or earlier if possible.

The PUC representatives announced that the M-RETS (Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System) request for proposals is due today and they hope to have the renewable credit tracking program running by July. As a software geek, I wish them well but never expect software to be delivered on time.

There was some talk about the recent WindLogics study of integrating wind power into the grid. While the costs are remarkably low for integrating up to 25%, the study did not include any costs resulting from increasing transmission capacity. Thus, the study is still good news for wind, but hard work remains.

Assistant Commissioner Mike Bull from the Department of Commerce reported on the current status of the renewable energy objective (REO) in Minnesota. Overall, the news is good but his study is incomplete. The DoC will release a report on 16 Jan that has the full results of who is complying.

The news on the REO is quite good overall as Bull reported that the utilities that provide more than 90% of power in Minnesota have been found to be in compliance and an additional 7% are in review. He also noted that there is a misconception that the REO is voluntary. He said it is required but also noted that some utilities have more difficulty that others based upon their changing demand (rate of increase or decrease).

Update: Loon Commons has a post discussing MEP's view on the Committee

Energy Challenge block leaders

Update: The contact person previously posted was for the Seward neighborhood only. Please contact MNCEE if you would like to have your neighborhood considered for this pilot program.

CEE is looking to get block clubs and neighborhood groups involved in the Energy Challenge. The paragraph below was included in an email sent out to my neighborhood group. I'm posting it here to help get the word out. I'm going to volunteer for my block. (Note: I do not work for CEE.)

 

Energy Challenge. The Minneapolis Center for Energy and Environment (MNCEE) would like to collaborate with neighborhood groups and block clubs to help Minnesotans fight global warming. They are asking for several neighborhoods’ help in developing and participating in a pilot project to work with block clubs to deliver energy saving equipment and information to their neighbors. They need your suggestions for ways to involve and empoweryour neighbors and for your help in contacting them. Would you be willing to?...convene block blub meetings to access the Energy Challenge website...pass out information, including free high efficiency lightbulbs or other energy saving equipment...urge your neighbors to encourage your legislators to take action on global warming...post a yard sign saying, for example: "Our block took the Energy Challenge to lower costs and curb climate change”...deliver coupons for products such as low flow shower heads and outdoor rated high efficiency bulbs. 

 

House Energy Committee Meets

The Minnesota House Energy Finance and Policy Division Committee met for the first time on Wednesday, 10 Jan. The minutes are not posted yet, but I attended the meeting and had a few notes.

Representative Hilty (DFL 08A) chairs the committee and suggested the committee will be meeting on promptly on time whether he is there or not. After a brief round of introductions, a man from House Research presented the recent history of energy legislation in Minnesota. I did not catch his name and it is not yet on the Committee website.

Deputy Commissioner Garvey from the Department of Commerce (of the combined Energy and Telecommunications Division) and Assistant Deputy Mike Bull then presented Governor Pawlenty's energy plan. They are making efficiency a cornerstone of the plan.

There are 3 broad parts of the plan. I tried to follow as best I could between the presentation and the questions but I may have confused a point or two.

The efficiency proposals include a 15% reduction in fossil fuel usage in Minnesota by 2015. After a question on how this would be measured, Deputy Commissioner Garvey suggested it would be measured on a per capita basis (rather than taking 15% off the fossil fuels we used this year).

I poked around a bit and I think the Minnesota population is expected to grow by about 500,000 people in that time. From what I can tell, this means we will be absolutely decreasing the amount of fossil fuels used by 2015 (if we meet the goal), but not by as much as we would expect from the 15% figure.

They want to change the CIP program (currently requiring utilities to spend x% on increased efficiency and load management) to requiring a 1.5% reduction in growth each year. I expect this will be quite difficult for the utilities operating in the sub and exurbs around the Twin Cities where growth is rapid. This cannot be popular among many utilities.

The third piece of efficiency is a massive increase in the number of energy star buildings in Minnesota.

Garvey went on to discuss the "Less Carbon" aspects of the Governor's plan. It includes working with other Governors in the region to achieve reductions, joining the Chicago Climate Exchange (or similar registry), requiring offsets for new fossil fuel generation facilities, and having the Center for Climate Strategies (I believe Garvey misidentified this group, saying it was from D.C., they are actually out of PA) develop a strategy. They have helped other governments create similar plans.

Finally, Mike Bull presented the Governor's proposal on strengthening the REO (Renewable Energy Objective - asks utilities to generate x% of their energy from renewable sources). The Governor wants to put a financial penalty into the REO and increase it to 25% by 2025.

The proposed financial penalty was 5 cents/MWhour if the utility does not make a good faith effort toward meeeting the REO. I may have missed some of the details here because I'm not sure if that penalty was per day or not.

The Governor remains opposed to a more stringent Renewable Energy Standard (RES or RPS depending on who you ask). They fear it could hurt the economy and therefore want an REO with more flexibility.

Mike Bull suggested the DoC will be releasing a report next week that details the progress of utilities under the current REO.

Wal-Mart Thinks Solar

How is Wal-Mart doing, one year after initiating energy efficiency programs? (link to article on sustainablog) It has learned some interesting lessons and appears to be committed rather than attempting to greenwash.

Already, some of the experimental technologies are proving to be successful. LED lights installed in exterior signs and grocery-, freezer-, and jewelry- cases use less electricity, contribute less heat and have a longer lifespan. Wal-Mart has been using LED lights for all building-mounted exterior lit signs for the last two years and now after 16 months of testing in the experimental stores, Wal-Mart has decided to integrate these lights into freezer cases in new Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores nationwide beginning in January 2007. Other energy efficient lighting opportunities continue to be monitored at the experimental stores.

In a different sustainablog post, it notes that Wal-mart has a "'request for proposals' (RFP) for solar power generating systems for some stores in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New Jersey."

I have to wonder about choosing those particular states. The only common denominator between them in my limited knowledge is that they all have strong policies to encourage PV investment. Regardless of where it invests, it could seriously boost the PV market.

Joel Makower's blog on sustainable business examined this Wal-Mart RFP also.

The confidential RFP document, which I recently reviewed, is part of the company's stated commitment "to reduce our overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent over the next eight years" and to "design a store that will use 30% less energy and produce 30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than our 2005 design within the next 3 years," according to the RFP.

He goes on to comment:

What's the impact of all this? Wal-Mart doesn't mention a specific purchase size, but my sources tell me that the company could put solar on as many as 340 stores in the next few years. Assuming that each store utilized about 300 kilowatts of solar panels (it could be as much as 500 kilowatts), we're talking roughly 100 megawatts of solar. To put that into perspective, the solar system currently being installed at Google headquarters in California -- the largest single corporate solar installation in history -- is 1.6 MW, about 1/60th the size.

Of course, it's unclear whether Wal-Mart will install solar in all of those locations. The company could look at the bidders' numbers and decide to install solar at only a handful of stores -- or none at all.

I have to assume that Wal-Mart will not dive too deeply into solar. It is too expensive for a company made famous by fiscally conversative focus.

Wal-Mart is really working both ends of the energy spectrum though - from generating renewably to encouraging its users to become more efficient. WCCO recently did a segment on Wal-Mart and its push for compact fluorescent lights, as did the NY Times. The following is from the NYT.

At the same time that it pressured suppliers, Wal-Mart began testing ways to better market the bulbs. In the past, Wal-Mart had sold them on the bottom shelf of the lighting aisle, so that shoppers had to bend down. In tests that started in February, it gave the lights prime real estate at eye level. Sales soared.

To show customers how versatile the bulbs could be, Wal-Mart began displaying them inside the lamps and hanging fans for sale in its stores. Sales nudged up further.

To explain the benefits of the energy-efficient bulbs, the retailer placed an education display case at the end of the aisle, where it occupied four feet of valuable selling space — an extravagance at Wal-Mart. Sales climbed even higher.

In August 2006, the chain sold 3.94 million, nearly twice the 1.65 million it sold in August 2005, according to a person briefed on the numbers.

But to reach 100 million, Wal-Mart has to do much more — and that, executives concede, is where the biggest challenges rest. In the fall, the company began reaching out to competing retailers, Internet companies and even filmmakers.

The goal was to turn its sales campaign into a broader cultural movement.

We need to keep an eye on Wal-Mart. These energy-saving moves are great but cannot make up for the downsides to Wal-Mart in terms of how it treats its employees. I think Joel Makower put it best in his post:

It's far from a done deal, and there are significant hurdles to overcome. Not the least of these will be to accommodate Wal-Mart's voracious appetite for renewables as well as its legendary cost-cutting pressure. The company's opportunity is to help bring the price of solar down to earth. The challenge will be to do it in a way that doesn't negatively exploit its suppliers, or those that toil for them.

Energy Resolution

Happy New Years! The regular readers of this site may not need these suggestions, but those around you may be interested, so please pass them along.

How about a resolution to use less energy next year? You can resolve to drive less, take the bus more often, use less electricity, or buy organic products (organic cotton requires less energy to produce).

I recommend doing a bit of everything - but I'm going to encourage you to focus on electricity. Especially here in Minnesota, electricity comes mainly from coal and using it more efficiently requires little effort.

Get the cool looking light bulbs! Compact fluorescent light bulbs will save you power and money over their lifetime. They are the bulbs that cost more upfront, but use considerably less power to put out the same amount of light. After they burn out, recycle them! Take them to a hardware store to be properly disposed.

Turn off electronics you aren't using. My apartment had a VCR plugged in that we use once every 4 months now. Unplug it. Unplug all chargers when not in use. Such chargers are a major contributor to phantom load. This is where devices use power to eseentially do nothing.

If you are not familiar with the Energy Star program, learn a little bit about it. When you purchase appliances, make sure they are energy star certified. Such devices are more efficient than non-energy star appliances.

Those of us who have made many of these efforts already must work harder to reduce our consumption. Perhaps Solar Kismet can add some tips, I know he runs a very efficient ship. I just purchased an electricity usage monitor to better understand where I am using power inefficiently.

One suggestion is to use power strips for computer devices like switches, hubs, and firewalls. When you are not using your computer (at night for instance) you can switch all those devices off to save power. Most people have no reason to leave the internet connected all night. Turn it off when you go to bed and switch it on when you need it.

For a resolution, resolve to cut your power usage by 5% each month. When you get your bill, write down the number of kilowatt hours you used in that month (alternatively, use the bill from the same month of last year as a baseline if you are as anal with bills as I am). Multiply this number by .95 and write down your target number. If you use more electricity than your target, buy some green tags as a punishment. Terrapass.com has options for green credits to balance your home usage.

Your actions do make a difference. Set some goals and get going. The average household in the U.S. uses between 700 and 1000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month. If you are above that, try to cut your usage by more than 5%.

Update: The Energy Star site has some tips for reducing energy usage over the winter. These tips won't reduce your electricity usage, but will save energy.

Saying nice things

Though many of us have already heard about this, I thought I would throw up a post anyway, just in case. Yesterday Gov. Pawlenty announced a target for the state of 25 percent renewable electricity by 2025. It basically ups the ante from our current renewable energy objective of 10% by 2015 and adds some teeth in the form of financial penalties for utilities that fail to the requirement. I'm still not clear on how this differs from the renewable energy standard that has come up recently. Business interests support Pawlenty's version - in fact a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce representative is quoted as saying that it is the "best of both worlds" - it avoids possible rate increases of a "mandate" while growing the renewable energy industry in the state. That leads me to believe that either utilities would be prohibited from passing on the penalties to ratepayers or that the penalties are rather mild.

Anyone have any more information?

Regardless, I think this could be a major step forward. I hope that there will be incentives for utilities to go beyond the 25 percent, and that lawmakers won't be prohibited from increasing the percentage in the future.

Opinions?

Good news!

For all of us worried about the energy problem in the US, take heart. According to the NY Times, "Energy Use Can Be Cut by Efficiency, Survey Says." Flashback to Family Feud: top answer? Fluorescent lightbulbs!

Great quote:

'One of the great mysteries is why the public has not shifted faster to fluorescent bulbs' said Alexander Lidow, a Stanford-educated physicist and the chief executive of International Rectifier, a maker of power management equipment of energy-efficient appliances."

Silly public.

EPA revising fuel efficiency ratings method

 

 

The New York Times and NPR are reporting on the EPA's proposed revisions to the vehicle mileage rating methodology that populates the sticker on new cars with city and highway miles-per-gallon (mpg) numbers. The main changes? Faster highway driving and air conditioning.

USAToday reports that it won't affect CAFE standard calculations.

But it's not clear that this will do anything...Do consumers care? The Consumer Federation is convinced they do...so is the Sierra Club...as does Jesus. But the Star Tribune reported earlier in November that fuel economy ranked 18th out of 56 things in considering a new car, behind cupholders and the sound system.

Computer Efficiency

Computers are taking over the world. Not in a Skynet-sortof way but in a TiVo-sortof way. All of us should know that the TiVo, or any digital video recorder, is a computer. A computer that runs all the time unless you physically unplug the unit. We may not have much control over those computers (though we need to push for more control) but we do have power over traditional computers.

Google has been pushing for more efficient power supplies and most high tech people are aware of how cost ineffective cheap power supplies are when you look at how much electricity they waste.

As a computer geek, I took an interest in a recent post from the Foreign Policy Passport blog: "Microsoft could save 45 million tons of CO2 emissions with a few lines of computer code."

The idea is that Microsoft should make power saving modes a default after an hour. Its new operating system, Vista, offers much better power saving features than predecessors. That being said, Microsoft has set a low bar for itself.

I too have been reluctant at times to use power saving modes because of the many computers I have seen that crash or behave erratically after entering a power saving mode. Nonetheless, I am excited to see if Vista can live up to the hype.

The slashdot community quickly responded to the post, deriding non-technical people who do would not recognize the problems with FP's proposal.

I have to agree that Microsoft should not roll out a patch which changes power saving settings on anyone's computer - but I sure would like to see a patch that improves the reliability of power-saving modes on my XP computers. I would still have the choice not to use it, of course.

The bigger issue is the default nature of power saving mode in Vista. Many people set up their computers and do not play with the settings due to intimidation or fear. These people will now have power saving modes enabled.

More importantly, Vista's power saving mode allows computers to partially power down while still receiving updates. As most companies and large networks deliver patches and updates at night, this will save a lot of power from those who refuse to turn computers off at night.

This is an area in which we can see tremendous improvement. It would be nice to see businesses tell Microsoft that power management is a major priority for them in order to push Microsoft even further to find ways of trimming the power requirements of computers.

NYTimes Energy Challenge

 

Roughly every two weeks, the NY Times has released a new article on various energy topics in what they are dubbing "The Energy Challenge."

Recent Topics:

  • Global Warming
  • Ethanol
  • Nuclear
  • Coal
  • Solar 

"Junk in the Trunk"--The weight of people and fuel efficiency

"Here's more motivation to go on that diet: You'll use less gasoline. Non-commercial U.S. vehicles are using at least 938 million more gallons of gasoline annually than they did in 1960 because drivers and passengers are considerably heavier and are dragging down fuel economy, says a University of Illinois study to be published in The Engineering Economist. In 1960, the average adult female weighed 140 pounds and the average male weighed 166; in 2002, the averages were 164 and 191 respectively, and 62 percent of adults were considered overweight. That 938 million gallons is no shabby amount: It represents $2.8 billion if gas is selling for $3 a gallon, and could fuel some 1.7 million cars for a year, or feed the entire U.S. gasoline addiction for three days. "We had no idea the numbers would be this big," said study coauthor Sheldon Jacobson, who calls using less fuel an "unexpected benefit" of losing that spare tire."--Grist

Check out the sources:LA Times October 25th Article

Green Roofs

We had a recent post about the highly efficient Waldsee BioHaus and I stumbled across a post on their blog about Minnesota green roofs.

Next time you fly into Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, you may see as many green roofs as you do water towers! The new Minneapolis library has one. Minneapolis City Hall is getting one. Grocery stores and condos are starting to go with green roofs, too.

The same day, I received an alumni email from Macalester College boasting that there will be a green roof on a major campus building.

After installing a green roof atop the Turck-Doty Fishbowl in April, three MacCARES members won $10,000 of Environmental Protection Agency green to take their project to the Kagin Commons roof.

You can even check out photos from the install. Before you start ripping your home shingles off though, take note of this:

"It’s not clear if green roofs actually save money in the long run," Den Herder-Thomas said. "It’s such a new technology, and it’s hard to measure how much energy and money it’s saving—that’s what the research is about."

The green roof atop Kagin will cost approximately $7,000, leaving free the $3,000 balance from the P3 award and $5,000 in allocations from student government. According to Rogers, those funds will be devoted to research—taking measurements of temperature and water flow on the green roof to determine its effectiveness.

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