Archive for the 'energy' Category

Update: Compressed Goals

It sure is.  And I haven’t filled you in on how my November goal went- the staying warm one?  Or told you my December goal.  I decided it must have been “sustainable holidays” since that seems likely, and because it’s still Christmas time for me- my family was in so many places this year that we still haven’t all gotten together for food and presents.  I get Christmas until Sunday at least.  Plus I posted on holiday stuff a couple times, so that will have to count.

The “staying warm” goal is working a little.  My apartment has very poor heat distribution- the bedrooms get no heat, and have nice huge poorly-sealed windows, so they’re about 15 degrees colder than the rest of the house.  I’ve been keeping a space heater on when I have to be in them, and the covers on my bed are a foot thick, and it’s getting better.  I’m wearing a lot of sweaters to bed.  Keeping the heat at 63 when I’m home (50 or 55 otherwise) and layering worked all through November and most of December.  This apartment loses so much through the windows that in this especially cold snap, I’ve turned it up to about 68 when I’m home, just to make it feel more like 63.

So, my toes have not fallen off (though there have been evenings where I would not have felt it if they had) and trying to stay warm is a lot easier than trying to cool off was last summer.

And December!  Holidays!  Here is a link to how to make origami boxes (scroll down).  Use your 2009 calendars pictures or something similarly classy.  Or tie up presents in fabric– easy, reusable, no bits of tape sticking to you afterward.  This is good info for me, I still have Christmas to do, but you can save it for other gifts (there are plenty of people with January birthdays that sneak up on you because it’s January, aren’t there?) or next year.

That takes care of 2009, then.  I thought of a new goal for the month (not to be confused with a resolution).  I will be working on not wasting food.  I throw away so many half-bags of gross spinach and moldy bread-ends and congealed milk, and I should not waste food or money that way.  I will clean out my fridge and start fresh, and consume.  I began this Monday.  I got a smaller bag of spinach than normal, and I have eaten from it every day.  On day one, I had a bowl of raw plain spinach- all my salad dressings have gone bad.  I didn’t know salad dressings went bad.  This led to a humbling realization of just how terrible I am to have in control of a kitchen.  But now I have some balsamic vinaigrette, so it’s not so hard to eat spinach.  I’ve had salads, a spinach and cheese wrap, a spinach and cheese sandwich…I still have more spinach left.  Those bags are deceptively full, but I think I can finish it this weekend.   On the upside, finishing the one (of three, urp) jug of uncurdled milk with require me to have a lot of hot chocolate in the next three days, so that will balance all the spinach.

In conclusion, Happy New Year!  Hope yours is starting out well.  Mine is starting out…leafy.

NPR on the Smart Grid

NPR aired a 10-part series on how the power grid in America might be updated last week.  They cover everything from renewable power to construction to power consumption- my goodness, I love radio.  The administration is pushing grid development, so this is all important, timely stuff for us to wrestle with.  You can hear the programs themselves, or read the associated articles, here.

Power Bill Fun

First day with internet since Saturday, so I’ve got a lot of good stuff saved up for you!  Tonight we will discuss my power bill.  I got one already.  Already?  I’ve been here three and a half weeks.  Oh, it’s only for 18 days, ok.

So, with a $15 Service Initiation charge, and $1.91 of taxes, the bill comes to $27.24.  And another $5.52 is for “distribution service”.  For energy supply- fuel and nonfuel- I paid less than $5 over 18 days.  I used 59kWh, specifically.  I have to assume that’s good, because I’ve never had my own bill before, and I really would like to feel good about myself lately.

My utility provider is Dominion Power, which has an energy choice option.  Now, that energy choice page seems helpful at first, but mostly it tells you you have the right to purchase renewable energy from suppliers that sell it.  So I figure my supplier is Dominion Virginia Power (an unsubtle subsidiary of Dominion Power) and I head back to, and there it is- a “Buy Green Power” link to click!  Basically, you can set it up at your online account, or call and ask for renewable power.  You have two choices- 100% renewable energy (+1.5 cents a kWh), or $2 blocks of renewable energy.

So, I’m setting that up- along with paperless billing.  Thanks for the inspiration, EcoCheap!

Tomorrow, maybe recent thrifting?  Craiglist laments?  Book review?  Garden pictures?  Letter on bike racks and recycling to my landlords? Oh, the possibilities!

More Wind Jobs Than Coal Jobs

And guess which one is still a growth industry?  Or, will be if the government incentives come through.

Article here.

New Names for the Environment

The most recent wave of appointments for the new Administration are the Energy and Environment positions.  Steven Chu will likely be Energy Secretary.  He’s got a Nobel Prize for his work in Physics.  Lisa Jackson will be the EPA head- she’s got two chemical engineering degrees and has worked at the EPA under Clinton.  Nancy Sutley will lead the White House Council for Energy Quality, and the new Energy Czar position will be filled by Carol Browner, former head of the EPA under Clinton.  You can read more about their positions and credentials here and here.

I need to get going this morning, so instead of waxing lyrical about how much I love honest, practicable science and the men and women who pursue it, I’ll just say that every single one of these picks is going to be worlds better than the ascientific clowns they’ve got in there today.  Good riddance!  Out, out, Stephen Johnson!

The Daily Show on Energy Plans

The Daily Show has had an energy double header this week- Thomas Friedman on Tuesday and T. Boone Pickens, talking about their respective books.

Friedman is a reliably green opinionator for the NYT on Sundays and Wednesdays.  His book is “Hot, Flat, and Crowded”, and I believe it’s about how global warming sucks for the world, and what we should do about that.

Pickens’ is a very rich old man with a yen for natural gas and wind energy and such.  His “The First Billion Is the Hardest” is apparently about his plan for energy independence.  Also, he’s got a wonderful accent, so listening to him talk about trucks is soothing- it’s like he’s everybody’s adorable energy-planning grandpa.

Anyway, head over the the Show’s website to see Friedman and Pickens. I’m too tired to wrassle the video player over here for you tonight.


I picked the wonky, detailed ones for your edification!  You’ll love them, I promise!

The EPA continues to refuse to do its job.

The US power grid is really old, which means new green energy plans can’t get far on it. Modernization is necessary.  Too bad we’re spending all our money to buy Wall St. a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card.

Speaking of what the government’s up to, a few things have slipped under the radar while they’re dealing with the bailout.  The House approved $25 billion in financing for US automakers, so they can afford to make the more efficient cars they promised us.  The Senate is expected to pass the bill soon- and they already passed an extension on solar tax credits this week that the House and Bush are expected to approve.  Solar may be the sunniest part of the market these days.  Groaaaaan.

Al Gore urged the youth to go all civilly disobedient on new coal plants being built without carbon capture or carbon sequestration (CCS) modifications.  Given that the technology is so expensive and no regulations exist in the US to encourage CCS, that’s probably all of them.  Go wild. Make environmentalism exciting again.

Swedish people just built a new coal plant this month in Germany with the CCS technology, which makes it the only plant in the world that captures its own emissions.  Their system has some problems, still, and environmentalists and power experts wonder if it was worth it.

Too much for a Fried-day?  I promise soothing pretty pictures next time.

Quack Nostrums

I actually managed to catch a few of the DNC convention speeches this evening, since my class let out early.  I  enjoyed Harry Reid’s accurate summary of the dangers of our oil-based economy, and a scathing indictment of the politicians who’ve encouraged that dependence.  Special love is reserved for McCain’s offshore drilling proposals: Reid dubs it snakeoil, purveyed by kindly old Doc McCain as a magic elixir to cure what ails.

Hee hee. Though really, it’s only funny until you realize that kindly old Doc McCain is seriously proposing this as a solution to our energy crisis, and his party is actually rabidly behind him on it.

In conclusion,

The simple fact is that the promise of more oil isn’t part of the solution; it’s part of the problem. At best, this is an 18th-century answer to a 21st-century crisis; at worst, it’s pure baloney.

Transcript from Politico is here, and your video:

PS. Yes, he used the phrase quack nostrums!  Good phrase, Harry!

At Last, The Speech

Barack Obama gave his speech on energy policy today.  It’s about 30 minutes long.  He addresses ways to “relieve” high gas prices, but points out that that’s a quick fix, and not the real, big issue.  Obama also says he’s willing, if it’s the only way to get a compromise on new renewable energy development, to include limited new offshore drilling sites.  He’s pretty clear that’s only if there’s no other way to get his plans through.  It’s still irksome.

One of the most important points he makes is that a national energy transformation is going to be rough, and expensive, and people and businesses will have to change their behaviors.  But he promises to eliminate oil imported from the Middle East and Venezuela in 10 years, if we work together, etc.

He gave the speech in Lansing, Michigan, home of a large portion of the failing American auto industry.  Thus, a large portion of his speech is spent on how Americans need to build more efficient cars (100mpg, plug-in hybrids?  yes, please) right here in America, driving innovation and investment and such.

But autos are just the first point in his three-part plan.  What are the other two?  Watch and find out (they’re gooood.  Way more satisfying than more nuclear plants and offshore drilling everywhere).  I will tell you that this all relates back to Michigan.

Also, it’s Obama’s birthday today. Auspicious.

What I Haven’t Been Writing About

It’s more than all this of course, but here’s the backlog of links I didn’t get you this week.

NPR did a story on how the Post Office research center is looking at alternative fuel, efficient routes, green buildings, and new packaging to reduce their costs and environmental impact. You can read the report or listen to the segment at that link.

Nancy Pelosi is putting climate change legislation on hold until we have a new President- specifically, Obama. She answers questions on the decision and talks about climate change policy with the Huffington Post in a video here.

A club in the UK has a dance floor that generates power.  Rock on.

Remember the mean speculators, behaving rationally and legally inside the market system and driving up our oil prices and making us all sad?  They don’t exist.  Oil’s expensive for “real” market reasons and speculators are having little to no impact on it’s soaring prices, according to a task force combining data from a bunch of US financial agencies.  Well, shoot, now we have to place the blame for gas prices where it really lies- with ourselves, our oil subsidies, our poorly planned neighborhoods, our eggs in one basket…whoops.

US Olympians are prepared for the smog conditions in Beijing during the Olympics, but they’re not too worried about it- everyone has to breathe the same foul air, after all.  Meanwhile, China has begun restricting activities in the city to bring air pollution down to non-embarrassing levels for the Games.

What was I up to in the meanwhile?  Well, the liquor store people are getting to know me pretty well, since I’m there asking for boxes all the time.  Also, I saw Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog like 4 times, and you’d love it.  Odd and illuminating watching that superhero tale the same week as The Dark Knight, which was fantastically crafted (yeah yeah, Heath Ledger incredible wow, but Aaron Eckhart gave the performance of his career, too) and somehow not as scary as this.

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