Energy Conservation

We have been doing a fair job and reducing our consumption of energy. CFL’s (compact fluorescent lights) and LED (Light Emitting Diode lights) are examples of our major advances. We have insulated homes, installed new windows, and installed more efficient appliances but this has happened in a haphazard manner.

Today there is little coordination among groups helping homeowners with energy improvements. Some organizations are motivated to reduce heating costs for seniors, others are utilities who figure reducing consumption is cheaper that developing new power plants, and some may be doing if for self-interest. If a customer’s energy bill gets too high, they may change energy suppliers. Almost no one is judging energy efficiency projects by the amount of global warming emissions they will eliminate.

My wife and I just experienced the lack of coordination among energy providers. As we were leaving our Tacoma home, a 1912 Craftsman, we were approached by a representative who asked if we have electric heat. I replied “no” and asked if she was giving away free heat pumps. In fact, that was exactly what she was doing. Tacoma Public Utilities is offering electrical heated homeowners a free, ductless, through the wall heat pump as a conservation measure. We were out of luck. Our home is heated with a ducted natural gas furnace and Puget Sound Energy is not about to subsidize our conversion to electric heat. PSE does provide discounts for energy improvements, but as a do-it-yourselfer, none has matched my low costs and I have not found anyone who will help me with the cost of installing insulated glass in our 100 year old wooden window frames. Recent update. I just received and letter from an air condition contractor announcing that Tacoma is funding a new batch of heat pump installations.  

Let’s charge our colleges and universities with developing packages of energy improvements best suited for each type of home, business, and industry. Then develop some LID type mechanism to finance upgrading the whole neighbourhood. That way similar homes can all be upgraded at one time which would greatly reduce the cost per home.

Vehicle efficiencies are the purview of the federal government, which only recently made changes that are having any impact. Electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming commonplace. The state could help this by encouraging the installation of more charging stations.

The state needs to take a long look at some of its own actions and give more weight to energy conservation instead of what is politically desirable. Here are a few that come to mind.

Studded tires. Around the Northwest, they are only useful on several days each year. The rest of the time, they wear away the pavement, roughing the surface, which increases tire rolling resistance, which increases fuel consumption. The ditches they carve into the roadways tend to hold rainwater, which increases rolling resistance which increases fuel consumption and the pooled water leads to spinouts. Other states outlaw them maybe we should too.

Carpool lanes. A fixture of the conservation effort, in reality they often do just the opposite. People just do not go out of their way to share rides and no matter what, less that 25% of the vehicles use them. This causes congestion on roads of less than four lanes as the other 75% of the vehicles cram into the remaining two lanes. This was demonstrated on Highway I-405, when the state relocated the carpool lane from the right side, to the left side of the roadway. For a short period, there was no carpool lane and all three lanes were open to everyone. The result was a reduction in energy-consuming congestion. Unimpressed with this energy efficiency the state went ahead and converted the left lane to carpool.

New West Seattle Bridge. Tucked in the back if the bridge’s Environmental Impact Statement was a study of how bridge configuration effected energy consumption. The study concluded that a lift bridge, located 85 feet over the river, would be the most energy-efficient design. However, no such configuration was ever considered. The design chosen and built was the most expensive in both dollars and energy use.

In light of these examples, we should establish a system that allows our educational institutions to review the overall effect of government actions on global warming emissions.

 

 

 

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