Entries Tagged as 'Energy'

Better Fuel-Economy Than a Prius?

In 2008 Popular Mechanics ran a marathon driving test between the 2009 Toyota Prius and 2009 Volskwagen Jetta TDi diesel.

While the Prius easily beat out the Jetta in city driving, you might be surprised to learn that the Jetta edged out the Prius on the highway.

Most urban drivers would definitely find that the Prius provided them with a lower cost of ownership; but if you drive a great deal on the highway, you may have other options.  So when you go looking for a “green” vehicle, consider your driving pattern along with the operating costs and environmental impact.

Originally posted 2010-01-11 02:00:47.

Andersen Windows Doors

I decided I wanted a full view storm door for my front door to help reduce the energy loss, and I wanted to buy it this year to take advantage of the Energy Tax Credit… I looked at both Pella (Lowes) and Andersen (Home Depot)… no one in the area carries Peachtree (and I’m not sure they make storm doors).

I liked the Pella, but a couple of the features of the Andersen (screen / glass user interchangeable panel) seemed slightly more appealing.

To say I was disappointed by the perceived quality of the door is an understatement.

Below is a message I posted to Andersen via their web site.

Let me preface this by saying I’ve renovated four homes now; and I’ve always used Peachtree, Pella, or Andersen products in them — and I’ve always been extremely happy with the quality.
When I purchased a storm door for my home in Florida I looked at the Pella product at Lowes as well as the Series 4000 and 3000 at Home Depot; and I elected the Series 3000 since I was price sensitive for resale.
While I cannot complain with the overall appearance of the door I was less than happy with the quality of the construction of the door during the installation — it seemed “cheap” to put it simply.
The way the glass/screen section installs/removes (obviously far superior on the 4000, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t have been happier with the fixed window in the Pella at the same price to avoid the concern in how well the plastic clips are going to hold up in the first hurricane); also I found the door closure mechanism to have too short a throw for the door to open any where near 90 degrees (the travel only allows about 80 degrees).
Additionally, the Home Depot employee informed me that the Kwikset lock set for the door would run around $25 — while I haven’t called either Home Depot to check on a special order or Andersen to confirm the price yet, I just find that price point to be totally ridiculous.
I can’t say I won’t consider Andersen products in the future — but this door doesn’t even slightly resemble the quality I expected (and enjoyed in the past) from Andersen…
The only positive thing I find about the door is the lifetime warranty — something I (unfortunately) expect will be used over and over and over.
I’m sure that disappointing customers isn’t your goal; but I felt it was important to share my experience and my lack of satisfaction.

Andersen Corporation
100 Fourth Avenue North
Bayport, MN 55003-1096

888-888-7020
651-264-5150

http://www.andersenwindows.com/

Originally posted 2010-11-11 02:00:00.

Off Shore Drilling

For years the oil and gas companies have been telling us (the American public) how safe off shore drilling is, and they’ve been trying to convince us that they have contingencies for anything that might happen, and that there’s no substantial risk to our environment.

Well, take a look at the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the relatively tame Gulf of Mexico and the inability of the world’s largest oil company to stop (or even really slow) a huge oil leak and consider who ill prepared the oil companies would be to handle a spill anything like this is the Gulf of Alaska (or any place near the Artic) in the middle of the Winter — or what could happen in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic seaboard during hurricane season.

Yes, I think it’s a travesty that the Federal Government didn’t have any contingency plans for oil spills of this magnitude — but don’t point a finger at the current administration; you’ll find that’s been years and years in the making (and least you forget, we just had an “oil and gas man” in the Whitehouse for eight years), but in the end, it is the industry itself that is ultimately responsible for the impact of their decisions to use such a small amount of their profits to insure the safety of their endeavors — and it is the companies that should be made to pay for the damages they’ve caused.

Damages to the coastal ecosystem of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are increasing hourly as BP does little to stem the disaster — except possibly try and contain the public relations damage.  While BP stock is down 40%, first quarter 2010 saw record profits — and in the end, I suspect BP will find a way to pass all the costs and loses onto consumers and reward their investors.  BP CEO Tony Hayward has already assured investors that the company has “considerable firepower” to cope wit the severe costs… but missing are statements to the world that they’ll commit the “firepower” it’ll take resolve this disaster.

Bottom line, perhaps rather than increasing the leases for off-shore drilling it’s time to pull back all the currently unused leases and start heavily fining the oil and gas industry for any and all violations.

NASA Satellites’ View of Gulf Oil Spill

Originally posted 2010-06-07 02:00:25.

The Anti-Green – Architectural Lighting

It’s estimated that US electrical plants burn six million tons of coal daily to power unnecessary outdoor lighting — this estimate doesn’t include the wasted hydroelectric in areas like Las Vegas used to power unnecessary outdoor lighting.  Another estimate puts the waste at three-hundred twenty thousand kilowatt hours per minute!

Often called “light pollution” this unnecessary outdoor lighting could be produced by individuals or businesses and both need to take responsibility for adopting more sustainable lighting policies.

Earth Day this year illustrated just how much “needless” light we humans produce… and just what the potential savings and reductions could be.

Consider that electricity isn’t free; it has the initial cost of purchasing the kilo-watt hour of power and the negative impact it’s generation had on the environment (even in areas where wind or hydroelectric are used there are negative impacts to the environment — and power saved there could be routed to areas using coal or natural gas for power further reducing the carbon footprint).

This is an excellent area where it doesn’t take much to save a great deal.

First, think — if the light doesn’t serve a useful purpose, turn it off; or use it sparingly.  Put it on a timer or a motion sensor if you’re forgetful.

Second, consider the lighting technology.  Lights that need to be on quite a bit should use technology that’s efficient, like LED lighting.  Lights that are on occasionally could use (and recycle your existing CF bulbs — remember production and disposal of those lighting elements have an adverse effect on the environment).  For lights that are rarely on, and heat does not pose a problem re-using your existing incandescent bulbs might make sense.

Third, consider using solar powered LED lighting completely for outdoor lighting.  While the rechargeable batteries in those devices do impose potential environmental impact, properly recycled their impact is greatly mitigated by their years of service lighting without drawing power from the grid.

In commercial applications it’s probably a no win situation unless the business takes directed action to improve their lighting; and that might require local, state, and federal government taking action to make it fiscally desirable — a combination of taxes and tax credits.  Here we as individuals might want to take the initiatives to make heavy consumers of electricity pay a “waste” tax (users who actually produce real goods and services would have a threshold for the tax than those who simply consume it for eye candy effect).

I certainly believe that an individual or company should be able to purchase and use electricity for whatever purpose they desire; however, I also believe that individuals and companies that waste that electricity without providing benefit to society as a whole should shoulder the costs of the impact on the environment more than those who attempt to use resources responsibly.

Originally posted 2010-05-24 02:00:04.

High Speed Rail might be de-railed

It’s very likely that one of the casualties of the mid-term elections will be the high-speed-rail grants.

Representative John Mica (R-FL) who is in line to be chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has indicated he wants to re-examine all $10 billion worth of high-speed-rail grants that have already been awarded around the country.

High speed rail service would be an extremely cost effective competitor to increasing air transportation; it would be far more eco-friendly; use less energy; potentially use renewable energy; and unlike airports, high speed rail stations could be in the middle of busy metropolitan areas.

No question the US has to tighten it’s belt and bring it’s spending in line with it’s bank accounts — but investments in long term infrastructure improvements are likely what will allow the economy to rebound and gain a solid footing.

I’d say we need to look at all the spending and make sure we make cuts where it’s waste first — and then weigh the costs and benefits before making other cuts.

As I’ve posted before — we could cut down the salaries, retirement pensions, and health insurance costs for elected official… that’s a good start to savings — and elected officials should get the same “benefits” they approve for the American people.

Originally posted 2010-11-23 02:00:13.

Hybrid Vehicles

There’s been a great deal of “buzz” over hybrid vehicles being green… but for a very long time I’ve had some serious questions about just how green they are.

Yes, there’s no question that their carbon emissions are substantially lower than gasoline powered vehicles (but remember, hybrids do use gasoline).

Yes, hybrids are a significant step forward (though the modifications to hybrids that allow them to be recharged and ran totally from electricity certainly makes them far more green; and really shouldn’t cost any more in a production model).

But the reality is green isn’t just about the emission in the every day use of the vehicle — green also has to do with the environmental impact of the production of the batteries and their disposal.

Most hybrids use lead acid, a few newer ones use Lithium Ion / Lithium Polymer… neither of which is exactly eco-friendly (I’d prefer them not to be buried in my back yard, or any where near where my water comes from).

Lead acid batteries have a limit life; how long they last depends on a number of variables, and some of the materials can be recycled and reused – but you need to make sure that your community has setup to deal with those issues before you buy your hybrid.  My reading indicates that only California has implement stringent rules for the warranty and handling of lead acid batteries in hybrid (hopefully more states will follow suit).

Lithium cells appear to be a great solution.  They’re small and dense; but the downside is they have a three year life span from the time they were manufactured.  And Lithium is an extremely dangerous substance to release into the environment.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a hybrid; they are good choices for many drivers (particularly commuters who can’t use all electric), but consider the impact of the improperly disposed of batteries, and even the properly disposed of batteries resulting from normal wear and tear as well as accidents.

Green isn’t something you should try and see under a microscope — it’s an end-to-end game.

Originally posted 2010-01-17 01:00:52.

Limited liability resulting from the Deepwater Horizon incident?

Right away after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon Swiss company Transocean Ltd moved to have their liability for damages limited to the cost of the “sunken ship” ($27 million) citing an 1851 law that says the owner of a sunken vessel is liable only for its value after the accident.

Transocean expects to receive $560 million in insurance, so subtracting what they consider their maximum liability they’d just about meet their three year revenue projection under the BP contract.

Hmm…

Many of the judges are recusing themselves from hearing cases involving the oil spill; but I’d say if a federal judge in Houston makes a ruling we’ve certainly found a judge that can no longer recuse himeself (though he might be a candidate for impeachment)… my guess is Transocean will not get their ruling quickly, and likely will not get a ruling they like ever.

Transocean CEO Steven Newman told investors in addition that its contract with BP holds BP entirely responsible for all damages and liability from the spill.

I guess Newman isn’t totally confident of the petition filed in federal court, or his contractual liability limits so he’s working both ends… and is probably worried that a review will show negligence on his company’s part — which could cause a judge to throw out any and all liability limits.

BP, Halliburton, and Transocean are each responsible, and each of them should (and hopefully will) be held accountable for this mess — and their massive profits will be used to undo the damage their greed has caused.

As I’ve said before — make the problem expensive enough for them to allow to continue; and any future problem much more expensive for them to clean up — and we won’t have to worry much about the spill continuing… or ever happening again (just take highest quarter’s profits from the last year, divide by 90 — and that’s the daily fine).

Originally posted 2010-06-16 02:00:17.

Gulf Oil Spill

Well, I’d say that the fact that BP stock is at a fourteen year low is karmic retribution for the way BP has been handling the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; but the stock price doesn’t really hit the company, and most of the large investors are likely to weather the stock price storm until the public forgets about what a horrible company BP is.

Though — the public might not forget too quickly, because the incompetence of BP has now put the problem squarely into hurricane season, and the $2.35 billion that BP has spent to date on the issue could be a pittance compared to what it might cost them if a tropical storm hits the Gulf… and of course the storms have started in what forecasters have indicated is likely to be a very active season.

Originally posted 2010-07-03 02:00:19.

Gulf Oil Spill

President Barrack Obama toured the Red-Neck Rivera this past Monday… seeing for himself the damage the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform disaster was wreaking on the Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana coastline.

I appreciate that he used this as a king pin to push (again) for an American commitment to clean and renewable energy… but maybe for the moment we need to focus more on cleaning this mess up, and preventing future mishaps.

Sure, there’s plenty of people in Washington to work on all three agendas (though that in itself is part of the problem — there’s too many people in Washington — and no one seems to be responsible for much of anything)… but let’s put the best public face on dealing with the crisis du jour — and not forget de jure or de facto!

Oil and gas companies (like BP) have been making record profits over the past several years.  They’ve heavily lobbied Congress to get more and more access to public lands for drilling and exploration — all under the moniker that off shore drilling is perfectly safe, and with that they created a public perception that they had contingency plans to handle everything.

Surprise…

Not only is off shore drilling not safe; but oil and gas companies haven’t a clue about how to handle most crisis — and those record profits they make are at the expense of safely maintaining their equipment and staff.

When you look for where to point a finger — point it first at the oil and gas companies (BP would be the right place for the Deepwater Horizon disaster)… then point it at your elected official who accept major campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry — and they are the ones who control the regulations and the regulators (yeah — the regulators are to blame as well, but first vote out the idiot who created the system).

Lot of people are saying that very little (or nothing) is really being done to manage this crisis… but they’re dead wrong.  That might be their perception — but lots is being done — just maybe not the right things, and certainly BP didn’t do enough in the very early days… part of that was because they didn’t have a plan and they didn’t invest time, energy, and money into planning.

Let’s be realistic about this — the oil spill is going to get much worse before it get’s better.

Oil is still leaking from the Deepwater Horizon.

The spill is now large enough that the currents will almost assuredly take it out of the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic — where the Gulf Stream will push it North along the Eastern seaboard.

It’s hurricane season; and it’s not a matter of if but rather when a storm will enter hurricane alley (remember — if the oil hits the Gulf Stream almost any storm that comes toward North America will disperse the oil even more).

BP is still clueless as to how to arrest the oil (and still short-sighted I’m sure).

All we can do is move forward and be prepared… and hopefully now the mult-member task-force will be able to do a better job managing all the facets of containment and cleanup.

Originally posted 2010-06-19 02:00:10.

Better late…

It’s been a quarter century after the automotive industry received a wake-up call and they seem to finally get it.

A few auto makers toyed with all electric vehicles in the early 90’s; but Honda introduced us to the hybrid vehicle, and Toyota catapulted it into a business success.

Both Honda and Toyota had hoped to introduce fuel cell technology vehicles, but with the world’s economy in shambles building out the infrastructure for that isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

Now we have virtually every auto maker introducing electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid; many are also introducing high efficiency (bio) diesel vehicles.

Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Ford, GM, Volkswagen — just to name a few — have made a serious commitment to increasing the fuel efficiency of their fleet (and thus decreasing their carbon foot print).

GM announced a 100,000 mile, 8-year warranty on their new Volt — displaying to consumers that they have a great deal of confidence in their offering.  Other companies like Tesla have offered a pre-purchased battery replacement.

I haven’t done exhaustive research on all the offerings; the Prius is likely to continue to be a near term winner, it get’s a plug-in option next year; and the Insight get’s that the following year.  However the Volt goes the other route and is an electric car with a backup generator (giving it over 300 miles range, and a somewhat simpler design since it doesn’t require the complex drive system found in most hybrids).

I’m still driving my 1997 Toyota 4Runner, it’s got 350,000 miles on it and going strong.  I’d considered replacing it during the “cash-for-clunkers” program, but it just didn’t seem to make sense to me since I couldn’t find any suitable replacement vehicle that got better than 30 miles to the gallon — and the math just didn’t work out financially, nor did the impact on the environment for disposing of a perfectly functional vehicle seem right.

It might not be until 2014 or so that we really have a number of good options for vehicles that provide the features and economy we’re looking for… but finally we’re on a path that should reduce the environmental impact of the continuing car culture.

Originally posted 2010-07-27 02:00:24.