EU6C. Stay Current—Energy in Society

cover for gss book Energy Use

Staying current for Chapter 6

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{ Energy Use Contents }

2024-05-01. Steel industry emissions are a big contributor to climate change. Can it go green? By WARREN CORNWALL, Science. Excerpt: Steelmaking, the fiery process that undergirds modern life, comes with a huge cost to the climate. Greenhouse gases gush from the burning fossil fuels that drive 1600°C blast furnaces and melt raw iron ore. Purifying the molten ore by mixing it with refined coal, or coke, releases a second, bigger surge of carbon dioxide. A third stream comes when the resulting pig iron is turned into steel by cooking it a bit further—baking off most of the remaining carbon—and alloying it with additives such as chromium or titanium. In the end, the emitted greenhouse gases weigh roughly twice as much as the steel itself. Nearly 2 billion tons of steel is produced worldwide each year, accounting for about 7% of human greenhouse gas emissions, more than Russia or the entire European Union. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is now hoping to change that. In March, DOE announced $1.5 billion in grants for low-carbon ironmaking, and last month, the agency’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) announced another $28 million in grants for more cutting-edge, speculative approaches…. Full article at

2024-03-25. Statement on the historic $6 billion for industrial decarbonization in the U.S. [] By ClimateWorks Foundation. Excerpt: Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) took a huge step to accelerate industrial decarbonization and transform polluting heavy industries to clean production. The $6 billion investment is the largest ever made in industrial climate solutions. …In the U.S., the industrial sector emits 30% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This funding will accelerate emissions reductions in all of the most polluting industries: steel, cement, chemicals, aluminum, and food processing. The new technologies that come out of these investments will be used across the country and around the world. In addition, heavy industry is a leading cause of health-harming air and water pollution. Many of the projects receiving DOE funding will also dramatically reduce this pollution and improve the health of all Americans….

2023-01-06. Scientists may have found magic ingredient behind ancient Rome’s self-healing concrete. [] By Jacklin Kwan, Science. Excerpt: …when the researchers tried to make their own Roman concrete in the lab with quicklime, they ended up with material that was “identical” to the samples they gathered from Privernum, Masic says. When the team created small cracks in the concrete—as would happen as the material aged—and then added water (as would happen with rainwater in the real world), the lime lumps dissolved and recrystallized, effectively filling in the cracks and keeping the concrete strong, the researchers report today in Science Advances. …Modern concrete typically doesn’t heal cracks larger than 0.2 or 0.3 millimeters across. The team’s Roman-inspired concrete, in contrast, healed cracks up to 0.6 millimeters across. Masic hopes the work will inspire today’s engineers to improve their own concrete, perhaps with quicklime or a related compound. …The material wouldn’t just be less expensive than current self-healing concrete, Masic says, it could also help fight climate change: Cement production accounts for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions….

2015-10-08. EPA Power Profiler. Access database by putting in a zipcode and selecting local utility company. Output gives fuel mix (percentages) in graphical format. 

2014-01-25. Beijing’s Bad Air Would Be Step Up for Smoggy Delhi.    Excerpt: …In mid-January, air pollution in Beijing was so bad that the government issued urgent health warnings and closed four major highways, prompting the panicked buying of air filters and donning of face masks. But in New Delhi, where pea-soup smog created what was by some measurements even more dangerous air, there were few signs of alarm… daily pollution figures collected from both cities suggests that New Delhi’s air is more laden with dangerous small particles of pollution, more often, than Beijing’s. Lately, a very bad air day in Beijing is about an average one in New Delhi. …for the first three weeks of this year, New Delhi’s average daily peak reading of fine particulate matter from Punjabi Bagh…was 473, more than twice as high as the average of 227 in Beijing. By the time pollution breached 500 in Beijing for the first time on the night of Jan. 15, Delhi had already had eight such days.  …only once in three weeks did New Delhi’s daily peak value of fine particles fall below 300, a level more than 12 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization. …India has the world’s highest death rate because of chronic respiratory diseases, and it has more deaths from asthma than any other nation, according to the World Health Organization. [Photo caption:] Amanat Devi Jain, 4, receives twice-daily breathing treatments for her asthma. Her father said the family breathed normally whenever they left India…. Gardiner Harris, The New York Times.

2013-08. A User’s Guide To Energy. Video Series on energy issues. Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic.

2012 Sep 24. What Will Ice-Free Arctic Summers Bring?. By David Biello, Scientific American. Excerpt: On Sunday, September 16, the sun did not rise above the horizon in the Arctic. Nevertheless enough of the sun’s heat had poured over the North Pole during the summer months to cause the largest loss of Arctic sea ice cover since satellite records began in the 1970s…Arctic ice influences atmospheric circulation and, hence, weather and climate. Take away the ice and impacts seem sure to follow. There’s more warming to come, as well, particularly in the Arctic, which is warming faster than the rest of the globe. Given cumulative greenhouse gas emissions, there’s likely at least as much warming to come as has occurred to date—a rise of 0.8 degree Celsius in global average temperatures, most of that in the past 30 years…..

2011 Nov 9. World Energy Outlook released by the IEA – International Energy Agency.   See Executive Summary
and presentation in London.

2011 August. Who Killed Economic Growth?  movie (6:30). Written and narrated by Richard Heinberg. Post Carbon Institute. Economists insist that recovery is at hand, yet unemployment remains high, real estate values continue to sink, and governments stagger under record deficits. Richard Heinberg proposes a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history.
See also KunstlerCast #170: The End of Growth – Part 1 (2011 August 25). In part one of this one-hour conversation, Richard Heinberg, joins James Howard Kunstler by phone to talk about peak oil, financial dysfunction, political convulsions and generational conflict… 

2011 April 28. Cal physicist Arthur Rosenfeld wins energy price. By David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: Arthur H. Rosenfeld, a UC Berkeley physicist whose passion for energy efficiency led him to take a leading role in developing tough new building standards and other green technologies, has won half of a million-dollar Russian award called the Global Energy International Prize…
…He helped create the Berkeley laboratory’s Center for Building Science where he and his colleagues developed ways to curb energy use and to meet new energy efficiency standards for homes, factories and industrial buildings in California that he had proposed to the state’s Energy Commission. Those standards are now required in many other states…. 

2011 February 14.  Soaking Up the Sun to Squeeze Energy Use to Zero. By Kirk Johnson, The NY Times. Excerpt: …The [National Renewable Energy Lab’s] lab’s Research Support Facility building is more like a mirror, or perhaps a sponge, to its surroundings. From the light-bending window louvers that cast rays up into the interior office spaces, to the giant concrete maze in the sub-basement for holding and storing radiant heat, every day is completely different….
…Commercial buildings use about 18 percent of the nation’s total energy each year, and many of those buildings, especially in years past, were designed with barely a thought to energy savings, let alone zero net use.
The answer at the research energy laboratory, a unit of the federal Department of Energy, is not gee-whiz science. There is no giant, expensive solar array that could mask a multitude of traditional design sins, but rather a rethinking of everything, down to the smallest elements, all aligned in a watt-by-watt march toward a new kind of building…. 

2010 October 18.  In Kansas, Climate Skeptics Embrace Cleaner Energy. By Leslie Kaufman, The New York Times. Excerpt: …A yearlong competition sponsored by the Climate and Energy Project…set out to extricate energy issues from the charged arena of climate politics…
…The project ran an experiment to see if by focusing on thrift, patriotism, spiritual conviction and economic prosperity, it could rally residents of six Kansas towns to take meaningful steps to conserve energy and consider renewable fuels. … 

2010 July 5. Gauging The Pros and Cons of Smart Meters. By David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: …The advanced meter is a basic building block for the energy future that state officials are trying to create. The meter will change when and how people use electricity, proponents say. It will pave the way for the widespread use of solar panels and electric cars as well as help reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
…But the accuracy of smart meters – in particular, the ones used by PG&E’s – has been called into question. Angry homeowners have complained that their utility bills soared after the new meters were installed. The California Public Utilities Commission started an investigation. And San Francisco’s city attorney has asked the commission to halt PG&E’s meter installations program until the investigation wraps up.
…Right now, the price California homeowners pay for electricity is based on the amount they use. But with smart meters, homeowners could pay different prices based on when they use power. Electricity would be most expensive during peak hours and least expensive at night.
…”The main purpose is to send that price signal to folks – that not all kilowatt hours are created equal,” said Laura Wisland, an energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “There’s a bigger price and more environmental impact when you use power at the same time as everyone else.”
…But the meters’ critics say that many of the state’s goals can be accomplished through means that are less expensive than installing new meters in every home. [Mark] Toney points to devices that allow utilities to cycle customers’ air conditioners on and off during times of heavy energy use. Customers must volunteer to have the cycling devices installed. 

2010 June 21. Finding the ‘Weapons’ of Persuasion to Save Energy. By Saqib Rahim, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Influencing what people do is Robert Cialdini’s business. Formerly of Arizona State University’s psychology department, he wrote one of the best-selling books on persuasion of all time. “Influence” came out in 1984, and it’s reached five editions since. Legions of college students and CEOs have pored over it; Cialdini presents its still-salient findings at motivational talks.
…Now, the professor has trained his “weapons of influence” on how people use energy. For two years, he’s been “chief scientist” at OPOWER, a firm that studies utility customers, then advises the utility on how to save energy. Currently, 30 utilities have managed to cut energy use by at least 1.5 percent; some regions lead at 3.5 percent.
…According to some researchers, the things people do every day — driving, showering, mowing the lawn — cause 33 to 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Experts say these actions are packed with cheap ways to cut waste, but mysteriously, people just aren’t doing them.
…Psychologists say these are “social norms” at work: People tend to watch others to figure out the right thing to do — provided there are multiple people doing it and that they’re considered similar to oneself.
…Cialdini says that ends up fueling a more effective — and cheaper — way to get people to save energy than telling them how much cash they’d save. 

2010 May 24. Postal Service turns to GridPoint to cut energy use. By Marjorie Censer, Washington Post. Excerpt: …The U.S. Postal Service has tapped Arlington-based GridPoint to help the agency reduce its energy use by supplying a technology designed to centrally manage energy consumption from remote locations.
…Once installed in a site, the submetering system works with various devices, such as the lighting, heating and cooling systems, to monitor how much energy they’re using. The energy management systems operate independently within the buildings but are also connected to a centralized system run by the Postal Service.
…The Postal Service previously installed the system in 16 different locations, primarily in North Carolina, for over a year, McNiece said. Energy consumption decreased nearly 15 percent at the facilities, with drops of up to 30 percent at some sites. 

2009 November. A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables. By Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, Scientific American. [Requires a subscription to get the whole article that goes into detail about how much land would be required to replace fossil fuel with solar power and other alternative sources.] Synopsis: Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe. The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide. The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil-fuel and nuclear power. 

2009 September 29. Alternative Energy Projects Stumble on a Need for Water. By Todd Woody, The NY Times.Excerpt: AMARGOSA VALLEY, Nev. — In a rural corner of Nevada reeling from the recession, a bit of salvation seemed to arrive last year. A German developer, Solar Millennium, announced plans to build two large solar farms here that would harness the sun to generate electricity, creating hundreds of jobs.
But then things got messy. The company revealed that its preferred method of cooling the power plants would consume 1.3 billion gallons of water a year, about 20 percent of this desert valley’s available water.
…Here is an inconvenient truth about renewable energy: It can sometimes demand a huge amount of water. Many of the proposed solutions to the nation’s energy problems, from certain types of solar farms to biofuel refineries to cleaner coal plants, could consume billions of gallons of water every year.
“When push comes to shove, water could become the real throttle on renewable energy,” said Michael E. Webber, an assistant professor at the University of Texas in Austin who studies the relationship between energy and water…. 

2009 April 20. Use Energy, Get Rich and Save the Planet. By John Tierney, The NY Times. Excerpt: When the first Earth Day took place in 1970, American environmentalists had good reason to feel guilty. The nation’s affluence and advanced technology seemed so obviously bad for the planet that they were featured in a famous equation developed by the ecologist Paul Ehrlich and the physicist John P. Holdren, who is now President Obama’s science adviser.
Their equation was I=PAT, which means that environmental impact is equal to population multiplied by affluence multiplied by technology. Protecting the planet seemed to require fewer people, less wealth and simpler technology…
But among researchers who analyze environmental data, a lot has changed since the 1970s. With the benefit of their hindsight and improved equations, I’ll make a couple of predictions:
1. There will be no green revolution in energy or anything else. No leader or law or treaty will radically change the energy sources for people and industries in the United States or other countries. No recession or depression will make a lasting change in consumers’ passions to use energy, make money and buy new technology — and that, believe it or not, is good news, because…
2. The richer everyone gets, the greener the planet will be in the long run.
I realize this second prediction seems hard to believe when you consider the carbon being dumped into the atmosphere today by Americans, and the projections for increasing emissions from India and China as they get richer.
But while pollution can increase when a country starts industrializing, as people get wealthier they can afford cleaner water and air. They start using sources of energy that are less carbon-intensive…
…By the 1990s, researchers realized that graphs of environmental impact didn’t produce a simple upward-sloping line as countries got richer. The line more often rose, flattened out and then reversed so that it sloped downward, forming the shape of a dome or an inverted U — what’s called a Kuznets curve…. 

2009 April 6. Empire State Building Plans Environmental Retrofit. By Mireya Navarro, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Owners of the New York City landmark announced on Monday that they will be beginning a renovation this summer expected to reduce the skyscraper’s energy use by 38 percent a year by 2013, at an annual savings of $4.4 million….
…People involved with the retrofit said the Empire State Building can offer an example of how older buildings can retrofit to the highest energy standards and effectively cut down their greenhouse gas emissions, a contributor to global warming. The largest share of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions, 78 percent, comes from the city’s buildings, with commercial buildings contributing 25 percent, mostly from the use of electricity and natural gas.
By reducing energy use, the retrofit plan envisions cutting down the pollution the Empire State Building produces by 105,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year….
… The largest energy guzzlers at the Empire State Building are lighting, cooling and heating, said Paul Rode, a project executive with Johnson Controls, the retrofit designer….
The designers said that about half the reduction in energy use will be achieved in the first two years of the project as they retrofit the double hung operable windows, insulate behind radiators and rebuild chillers in the cooling plant in the basement.
…The plan also calls for tenants’ involvement in monitoring their own energy use in their offices through a Web-based dashboard accessible from their computers, which keeps track of how much energy is being used and where…. 

2009 February 26. Preparing for a Flood of Energy Efficiency Spending. By Kate Galbraith, The NY Times. Excerpt: KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — …Wrapping up an elaborate energy audit, Knoxville is about to find out which of 99 city buildings are wasting the most energy. It hopes to begin repairs this summer, just in time to catch a tsunami of federal stimulus money earmarked for such unglamorous tasks as replacing light bulbs and fixing leaky insulation.
Knoxville’s timing is excellent. The city began the arduous work of cataloging deficiencies before the stimulus bill passed, and it is well along in planning its next steps. But experts worry that other beneficiaries, especially cities, are not ready to oversee the huge sums of energy-efficiency money about to come their way.
The money in the bill is enough to pay for a tremendous expansion of efficiency efforts across the country. But as with other parts of the stimulus package, the efficiency plan is creating tension between spending the money quickly, to get rapid economic stimulus, and spending it well, to do the most good over the long run.
“There’s enormous opportunity here for expansion of energy efficiency in this country,” said Lowell Ungar, the policy director for the Alliance to Save Energy, an advocacy group. “But there is certainly the potential for waste.”… 

2009 Jan 20. The limits of energy storage technology. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Kurt Zenz House. Excerpt: For the past several years–until the credit crisis–investors have flocked toward renewable energy. Their hope is that solar radiation can be harnessed directly and through intermediaries such as the wind and biosphere to power the global economy into perpetuity. This hope is understandable since renewable energy has benefits that range from the environment to geopolitics. Nevertheless, care and scientific rigor should be used to quantify the challenge of converting society to renewable energy.
“The maximum theoretical potential of advanced lithium-ion batteries that haven’t yet been demonstrated to work is still only about 6 percent of crude oil.”
…fossil carbon–the world’s predominant source of primary energy for the past 150 years…1 kilogram of crude oil contains nearly 50 mega-joules of chemical potential energy, which is enough to lift 1 metric ton to a height of around 5,000 meters. …The energy densities of natural gas and coal, around 55 mega-joules per kilogram and 20-35 mega-joules per kilogram respectively, are similar to those of crude oil. …Biofuels such as ethanol and biosynthetic diesel can have volume and mass energy densities equal to that of fossil carbon, but since they’re regularly harvested, their areal energy densities are substantially lower.
Renewable energy–unlike fossil carbon–is harnessed dynamically from the environment. Therefore, it won’t be as useful as fossil carbon until it can be stored and transported with similar ease.
…Today’s lead acid batteries can store about 0.1 mega-joules per kilogram, or about 500 times less than crude oil. Those batteries, of course, could be improved, but any battery based on the standard lead-oxide/sulfuric acid chemistry is limited by foundational thermodynamics to less than 0.7 mega-joules per kilogram.
… lithium-ion batteries… have already improved upon the energy density of lead-acid batteries by a factor of about 6 to around 0.5 mega-joules per kilogram–a great improvement. …the maximum theoretical potential of advanced lithium-ion batteries that haven’t been demonstrated to work yet is still only about 6 percent of crude oil! …some ultra-advanced lithium battery … theoretical limit would be around 5 mega-joules per kilogram.
…This means hydrocarbons–including both fossil carbon and biofuels–are still a factor of 10 better than the physical upper bound, and they’re likely to be 25 times better than lithium batteries will ever be.
…That brings us to the option of storing chemical potential energy as fuel that can be oxidized by atmospheric oxygen. …To get really ambitious, we imagine storing energy as elemental aluminum or elemental lithium. Those two highly electro-positive elements yield a theoretical energy density–when oxidized in air–of 32 and 43 mega-joules per kilogram. At least now the theoretical limit is between 60 percent and 80 percent to that of hydrocarbons….
A more promising approach is to use fuel cells with liquid and gaseous fuels. The two obvious choices for such fuels are hydrogen and hydrocarbons; in terms of energy per unit mass, hydrogen beats crude oil and natural gas by a factor of almost 3. Alas, hydrogen is a gas at surface conditions, so its volume density is horrible unless it’s compressed to several hundred atmospheres of pressure…. 

2008 June 22. A Green Coal Baron? By CLIVE THOMPSON; NY Times. Excerpt: … Jim Rogers … A charming and natty 60-year-old, …is the chief executive of the electric company Duke Energy. …He spends more than half his time on the road, a perennial fixture at wonky gatherings like the Davos World Economic Forum and the Clinton Global Initiative, corralling “clean energy” thinkers and listening eagerly to their ideas. …he was brimming with enthusiasm for a new approach to solar power. Solar is currently too expensive to make economic sense, according to Rogers, because the cost to put panels on a roof is greater than what a household would save on electricity. But what if Duke bought panels en masse, driving the price down, and installed them itself – free?
…”So we have 500,000 solar units on the roofs of our customers,” he said. “We install them, we maintain them and we dispatch them, just like it was a power plant!” ..he could get maybe 1,000 megawatts out of that system, enough to permanently shutter one of the company’s older power plants.
…Rogers has long advocated stiff regulation of greenhouses gases. For the last few years, he has relentlessly lobbied Washington to create a “carbon cap” law that strictly limits the amount of carbon dioxide produced in the United States, one that would impose enormous costs on any company that releases more carbon than its assigned limit.
…Though the details are devilish, the basic cap-and-trade concept is simple. The government makes it expensive for companies to emit carbon dioxide, and then market forces work their magic: those companies aggressively seek ways to avoid producing the stuff, to try to get a competitive edge on one another.
This is precisely how the government dealt with acid rain, back in the late ’80s. …dangerous byproducts from burning coal: the chemicals sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, or “sox and nox,” …a company that invests money to clean up its emissions can more than recoup its outlay by selling unused allowances to its dirtier, laggard competitors. …following the Clean Air Act amendments in 1990, innovations emerged quickly, ranging from new coal blends to chemical “scrubbers” that removed sox and nox from the smokestacks. Government and industry officials predicted that solving the problem of acid rain could cost $4 billion in new investment – but the marketplace was so efficient that only an estimated $1 billion was needed. 

2008 February 5. Car-Free, Solar City in Gulf Could Set a New Standard for Green Design. By ANDREW C. REVKIN. NY Times. Excerpt: In an ever more crowded world facing environmental limits, the push is on to create entire communities with reduced needs for energy, water, land and other resources. The latest effort comes not in some green hub like Portland, Ore., but in the Persian Gulf, fueled as much by oil wealth – and the need to find postpetroleum business models – as environmental zeal. Groundbreaking is scheduled for Saturday for Masdar City, a nearly self-contained mini-municipality designed for up to 50,000 people rising from the desert next to Abu Dhabi’s international airport and intended as a hub for academic and corporate research on nonpolluting energy technologies. The 2.3-square-mile community, set behind walls to divert hot desert winds and airport noise, will be car free, according to the design by Foster + Partners, the London firm that has become a leading practitioner of energy-saving architecture. The community, slightly smaller than the historic district of Venice, will have similar narrow pedestrian streets, but shaded by canopies made of photovoltaic panels. It will produce all of its own energy from sunlight. Water will flow from a solar-powered seawater-desalinization plant. Produce will come from nearby greenhouses, and all waste will be composted or otherwise recycled, said Khaled Awad, property manager for the project…. 

11 December 2007. Always On. By C. CLAIBORNE RAY, NY Times. Many devices that are “always on” while seemingly “off” draw power so that they can spring into action on demand. How much electricity does a television, for example, use when plugged in but not turned on? Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has done extensive studies of standby power since 1996 for the Department of Energy. In particularly inefficient appliances, standby power use can be as high as 20 watts.
“For a single appliance, this may not seem like much,” the laboratory’s Web site says, “but when we add up the power use of the billions of appliances in the U.S., the power consumption of appliances that are not being used is substantial.” An exact reading of the standby power drawn by an individual appliance can be obtained only by using a fairly expensive energy meter or by turning off all the rest of a home’s appliances and checking the utility meter. For making an estimate, a laboratory Web site provides tables of the minimum, average and maximum power used by appliances that cannot be switched off completely without being unplugged. For television sets, the laboratory estimates a minimum power use of zero watts, an average of 5 watts and a maximum of 21.6 watts. 

12 January 2007. Clean Energy Act of 2007. H. R. 6 – To reduce our Nation’s dependency on foreign oil by investing in clean, renewable, and alternative energy resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency, and creating a Stra- tegic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve to invest in alternative energy, and for other purposes…. 

29 November 2006. New York Times. Energy Use Can Be Cut by Efficiency, Survey Says. By Steve Lohr. Excerpt: The growth rate of worldwide energy consumption could be cut by more than half over the next 15 years through more aggressive energy-efficiency efforts by households and industry, according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, which is scheduled to be released today. The energy savings, the report said, can be achieved with current technology and would save money for consumers and companies. The McKinsey report offers a long list of suggested steps, including the adoption of compact fluorescent light bulbs, improved insulation on new buildings, reduced standby power requirements, an accelerated push for appliance-efficiency standards and the use of solar water heaters. Those moves, among others, could reduce the yearly growth rate in worldwide energy demand through 2020 to six-tenths of a percent, from a forecast annual rate of 2.2 percent, the report concluded. Such shifts might well go more quickly if electric utilities were encouraged to promote efficiency. Under state rate regulation, utilities are compensated for producing energy, but rarely for conserving it. A few states, notably California, allow electric companies to pass through the costs of energy-saving programs, but they are the exceptions. By easing demand, efficiency programs can help restrain energy prices and help curb global warming. 

21 February 2006. Rewarding Recyclers, and Finding Gold in the Garbage. By BONNIE DeSIMONE. NY Times. Excerpt: PHILADELPHIA – Patrick Fitzgerald found himself distracted as he studied for the bar exam at Fordham University five years ago. New York City was debating the merits of continuing its recycling program and Mr. FitzGerald wondered why that was a question at all. “I wasn’t an overt tree-hugger, but I thought it was odd,” he said. …He began poking around Web sites and news articles about the economics of recycling, and concluded that one of the industry’s biggest problems was motivating its suppliers – the people who generate garbage. Moral obligation – or even compassion for trees – was not enough to induce good recycling habits, Mr. FitzGerald decided. Instead of spending money on campaigns to persuade people to recycle, he thought: What if you paid them directly? What would happen? In … RecycleBank ( … Households get credit for the weight of materials they recycle, which is scanned and recorded through a computer chip embedded in the garbage bins when they are picked up by the sanitation crew. They exchange that credit for coupons at various businesses. Municipal officials save disposal fees. Recycling companies make more money from processing. Retailers gain the feel-good association with a socially beneficial activity. RecycleBank charges municipalities (or private haulers, depending on the arrangement) $24 a household, and guarantees clients that they will save at least that much in disposal fees as waste is diverted from landfills and incinerators. The company also receives revenue from recycling plants, depending on how much it increases the amount of materials that are processed…. 


17 June 2005. Union of Concerned Scientists – Greentips: Clean Laundry without Dirtying the Environment. Though the end result of doing laundry is clean clothes, the laundering process itself is not necessarily clean. A typical top-loading washer uses approximately 40 gallons of water per load, and a dryer can use up to five kilowatts of electricity per hour.

January 2005. The Renewable Energy Transition: Can It Really Happen? By Donald W. Aitken, PhD. Solar Today, Jan-Feb 2005. p. 16. It’s not too late to stabilize climate change, but doing so requires decisive leadership now. … In their work at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Stanley Bull, Ph.D., and Lynn Billman have demonstrated that in order to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in the 550- to 770-ppm range, assuming a modest 1 percent increase in world energy demand per year, the world will have to adopt renewable energy sources for total primary energy (all energy uses) at a pace roughly equal to 10 percent by 2010, 20 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050, or what we call the 10/20/50 percent path in the rest of this article. … At the end of 2003, total installed world wind capacity was 40,301 MW, an installation rate that had been growing during the previous five years at 26.3 percent per year… Germany now generates 6.8 percent of its electricity from wind power, Denmark obtains over 20 percent from wind and the Schleswig-Holstein area of Germany generates about 30 percent from wind. …The most visible, most versatile of the technologies that make direct use of solar radiation is photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation. The worldwide PV production in 2003 of 744 MW of capacity continued a PV production growth rate of 38.5 percent since the start of this decade… This article is republished courtesy of SOLAR TODAY, the award-winning magazine dedicated to energy-efficiency and renewable energy technologies.


23 November 2004. Berkeley, Calif., Adopts Green Purchasing Policies.BERKELEY, Calif. – The city of Berkeley now considers environmental attributes when making its purchases. The newly adopted Precautionary Principle, based on a model developed by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, requires consideration of environmental factors such as energy efficiency, resource conservation, waste minimization, recycled content, and toxicity when selecting vendors and products for its operations.

“Greening Your Office”

July 2004. Thoughts on Long-Term Energy Supplies: Scientists and the Silent Lie.Physics Today. [Must be AGU member for access.] The world’s population continues to grow. Shouldn’t physicists care? by Albert A. Bartlett. The most sacred icon in the “religion” of the US economic scene is steady growth of the gross national product, enterprises, sales, and profits. Many people believe that such economic growth requires steady population growth. Although physicists address the problems that result from a ballooning population-such as energy shortages, congestion, pollution, and dwindling resources-their solutions are starkly deficient. Often, they fail to recognize that the solutions must involve stopping population growth. Physicists understand the arithmetic of steady, exponential growth. Yet they ignore its consequences, including the first law of sustainability: “Population growth or growth in the rate of consumption of resources cannot be [indefinitely] sustained.” (See Ben Zuckerman’s letter to the editor, Physics Today, July 1992, page 14.) Sustainability requires solutions that will be effective over time periods much longer than a human lifespan. Indeed, Paul Weisz makes a case on page 47 of this issue that many time-honored 20th-century energy sources, such as petroleum, natural gas, and coal, have been reduced to the point that their longevities are now expected to be of the order of a human lifespan…. Among physicists, there is a growing recognition that we have a responsibility to become more directly involved in the scientific aspects of problems facing society. …
Unchecked population growth as a source of problems is not news. More than 200 years ago, mathematician Robert Malthus (1766-1834) addressed the issue in his famous essay. He understood that populations had the biological potential for steady growth and that food production did not. Today, energy production does not have the capability of steady growth. Nevertheless, we are all aware of nonscientists with academic credentials who proclaim that our modern technology has proven Malthus wrong. The most egregious of the high priests of endless growth was the late Julian Simon, professor of economics and business administration at the University of Illinois and later at the University of Maryland. In 1995, he wrote: Technology exists now to produce in virtually inexhaustible quantities just about all the products made by nature…. We have in our hands now … the technology to feed, clothe and supply energy to an ever?growing population for the next seven billion years. In the eyes of the general public, the silence of scientists on the problems of population growth seems to validate the messages of the politically appealing and influential Julian Simons of the world…. Researchers continue to debate when the peak of world petroleum production will be reached. Analytical estimates range from 2004 to about 2025. But from a per capita perspective, world petroleum production reached a peak in the 1970s. I believe future historians may identify this peak as one of the most important events in all of human history.

Spring 2004. Six Brilliant Megawatt Ideas, by Evan Ratcliff, OnEarth (NRDC magazine) p. 28. 1. Sealing ducts. 2. Voltage control. 3. Compact fluorescent lights. 4. Power Supplies. 5. Switching power supplies. 6. Roof color.


19 August 2003. Germany Leads the World in Alternative EnergyBy JANET L. SAWIN New Internationalist “…by the end of the 1990s, Germany had transformed itself into a renewable-energy leader. With a fraction of the wind and solar resources of the U.S., Germany now has almost three times as much installed wind capacity (38 percent of global capacity) and is a world leader in solar photovoltaics as well.”

Richard Heinberg’s “The Party’s Over” is available from New Society Publishers

29 January 2003. Berkeley Lab helps the City of Oakland meet energy costs head-on. “We helped develop the programs in the partnership, and we’ll be providing technical assistance in the area of commercial building system tune-ups and street lighting,” said Mary Ann Piette, deputy leader of Berkeley Lab’s Commercial Buildings Group. [Note Mary Ann Piette is featured in the Energy Use GSS book (Chapter 6, pp. 58-59.]

cover for gss book Energy Use

Non-chronological resources

Updated GSS Energy Use diagram for chapter 6 may be found in the Annual Energy Review by the Energy Information Administration. It has historical annual energy statistics back to 1949. 

American Planning Association Policy Guide on Planning & Climate Change. Adopted April 27, 2008 Updated April 11, 2011. [PDF]

Energy Efficiency