Friday, December 15, 2006

Why should i use less energy?

In what seems to be my own unique and surely irritating style i`m going to make a couple of points about why I think we should aim to save energy and how we should justify these attempts. I have noticed that I have on several occasions made observations along the lines of...I think that's a bad idea, oh yeah, and here's some tips on how you do it that way.

In this case the argument that concerns me--although it has thus far been used to great effect-- is that we should save energy or use renewables because these practices save us money or protect us from price hikes in commodity markets. The weakest argument of all has to be that of using renewables because they are cheaper than oil/gas at current high price. This strategy is weak because, oil/gas prices are predicted to drop and in fact have started to do so, it is also week because it leaves externalities out of the equation which is a huge missed opportunity and using this as a fallback argument only would seem to me to be a bad move.

After all Nicholas stern called climate change the economic systems greatest ever externality,
to give it no value in an argument dosent make sense to me even though leaving it out may make short term tactics easier.

The argument for energy efficiency to save money is not as weak because whatever the circumstances gains will always be made.

The other argument commonly made, that can be sustained no matter what current commodity prices do is that with renewables you have certainty. In fact all renewable energy sources are getting cheaper with time while long term fossil fuel prices are erratic but with trends only going one way.

The central point remains however, climate change is a crisis, we are looking at best-case scenarios of 2-3 degrees which corresponds to 30-60% species loss, hundreds of millions of refugees and huge economic harm. Surely this is an issues that cannot be approached tangentially!

Business leaders, OK, do your thing try to make an economic case for green renovation and innovation but please, do not be afraid to speak the name of the real problem! Climate change has to be understood as the preeminent challenge of our time and it calls for more rapid and more entire revolution of our energy system than economics alone would dictate.

Having made my thoughts clear on the strategy of implementing clean energy let me provide an entirely different perspective, that of a man who assures us that smart businesses will, once educated start to carry out business practices that will incidentally do a great many things of benefit to society. If you like blue sky thinkers who also do details then you will know Amory Lovins.

So here is the tip from Amory, if you want to argue the economic case for more efficient buildings then try to do it based on the impacts the buildings have on the companies staff.

"Due to the current way in which the building trade works, the builders are rewarded based on the sufficiency of the building, not the efficiency. If it is built in time and at the quoted cost then they aren't going to loose out even if... the cost of running the building is extremely high or people occupying the building are unhappy and unproductive. This leads to projects where "The engineering looks cheep to the owner, indeed the engineer's one time fee is 1/1000'th the long term payroll of employees, whose productivity depends significantly on the comfort produced by the engineers handiwork. So by skimping on design, the owner gets costlier equipment, higher energy costs, and a less competitive and comfortable building; the tenants get lower productivity and higher rent and operating costs."

This is really interesting work by Amory, noting the discrepancy between the 130 dollars gross per square foot expended on staff annually and 1.53 dollars per square foot expended on electricity annually. Energy saving methods such as day lighting, passive ventilation, correctly orientating building can often be very well justified on these grounds.

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At 10:42 PM, Blogger Ron S. Nolan, Ph.D. said...

I like the idea of conservation.

But how about this idea? The faster we use up hydrocarbon resources, the faster fossil fuel prices will increase making alternate energy competitive in cost.

Prolonging the process through conservation just strengthens Big Oil's and Big Coal's stranglehold on society. Eventually they will have all the money, own all the banks and control all the governments.

My interview with climate researcher Edward Schuur of the U. of FL suggests that the conservation or not, we have reached the point of no return in any event because of permafrost thawing in the Arctic.


Go SUV. Raise the thermostat. Leave the lights on to heal the earth.

Or maybe not?

Solar Metron

At 11:13 PM, Blogger Calvin Jones said...

On the point of increasing prices via consumption...clearly insane form a financial and helath perspective but also becuase we don't have a shortage of fossil fuels, only really oil and gas, if we where to consume this at an increasd rate then uptake of coal, tar sands and coal/liquids technology would also be encouraged, increasing emissions and carbon intensity.

But then you where just being a provacateur.

On the latter point of arctic permafrost thawing i hope you are wrong and far that you aren't.

However human societ is powerful, and can be dynamic...once the real shift occurs, as it will maybe we can hope for a way to remove carbon from the atmosphere...biomass and storage in geological reserves perhaps?

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Daphne said...

just a quick line to say that i find yr blog, which i recently discovered, quite interesting. Cheers

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Calvin Jones said...

Hi Daphne, and your completely unique avatar ;-) .

Glad you like the site, i checked out your blog and you have some intesting posts on there to. The predicted sea ice loss in the arctic is one recent study that many people have blogged about but i can't often bring myself to post such articles as they tend to make me feel pretty bleak...and they are not in short supply!

I have a plan for the main articles on my blog for the next couple of months but once the piece of work that these articles constitute is over then i think i will move more towards communicating/marketing climate change along with more of a focus on activism.

You are more than welcome to use the social networking (digg, etc.) buttons if you find any of the articles worth sharing with other.


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