Archive for the ‘energy’ Category

Utah Solar Tour

September 11, 2008

This Saturday (September 13), the Utah Solar Energy Association is sponsoring the Northern Utah Solar Tour. It appears that over fifty buildings will be exhibited in Ogden, Park City, SLC, and Orem/Provo showing off various types of solar energy features. The tour is part of the National Solar Tour promoted by the American Solar Energy Society. Should be some very interesting information and ideas for how to reduce energy use and dependence on fossil fuels.

(for any readers in the Dixie area, the Southern Utah Solar Tour, with buildings in St. George and Cedar City, will be on September 27).

This Green House — Building and Remodeling to Reduce Energy Consumption

March 3, 2008

From Post Carbon SLC:

This Green House — Building and Remodeling to Reduce Energy Consumption

  • Friday, March 7, 2008, 7:00-9:00 pm
  • First Unitarian Church, 569 S 1300 E, SLC

Did you know that buildings are the largest users of energy in the United States (Almost as much as industry and transportation combined!)? Did you know that in Utah, our reliance on coal-fired power plants means that your house is part of the air-quality problem? Is your house, apartment, place of business or worship an energy hog? What steps can you take personally to reduce your energy footprint and become part of the solution?

The evening will begin with a brief presentation of fundamental facts on building energy use reduction by Myron Willson, MHTN Architects. A recent Salt Lake Tribune article noted that Myron is “one of the few architects in the state whose sole duty is to look for environmentally friendly strategies in every design project.” This presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with Myron and other SLC experts who will answer questions about what you can do to reduce your personal, business, and congregational impacts on the planet. You will leave this presentation with practical ideas for reducing your overall energy consumption (and energy costs), and reducing your impact on air quality and global warming.

This presentation is part of a Lecture Discussion Series co-sponsored by Post Carbon Salt Lake and the Environmental Ministry of the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City. We are pleased to welcome Utah Interfaith Power and Light as a sponsor this month. Previous speakers have included Vanessa Pierce, HEAL Utah, outgoing Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Dr. Brian Moench of Utah Physicians for a Health Environment, newly elected Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, Utah Moms for Clean Air, and The University of Utah Student Leaders of S.E.E.D. (Sustainable Environmental and Ecological Design).

Utah Representatives Voted Against the Energy Bill

August 10, 2007

Along with their vote to loosen oversight on executive surveillance decisions, ast weekend our Utah Representatives disappointed when they voted against the House energy legislation (H.R. 3221). While the bill passed, their opposition is still a concern. President Bush has indicated that he would veto the bill in its present form. Given that the bill passed by less than two-thirds of the House, the vote of Utah’s legislators—Democrat Matheson in particular—may well still matter.

The bill appears to be a solid step forward. It requires higher efficiency standards in lighting and electrical appliances. It establishes as a goal that energy companies generate 15% of their output from renewable resources by 2020, providing funding for research grants to help make such alternative energy sources more feasible, as well as to investigate methods with which to “capture and sequester” carbon emissions from energy generation.

The emphasis on and funding for alternative energy has the potential to create thousands of new jobs, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, and can help open up opportunities for small business.

I could hold some respect for the opposition of the administration and their supporters on this issue were it based on libertarian principles opposing public funding of private enterprise. However, most of the complaint seems instead to arise from a companion bill, eliminating $16 billion in oil industry subsidies which the administration favors.

I thought that prevailing economic wisdom included the laconic advice “diversify”? Or to put it in more traditional terms “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” It can only help ensure a secure energy supply to have a number of different sources from which to draw. The broadening of our range of energy sources will help forestall potential energy crises (whether the arrival of peak oil, disruption of the Middle-East supply, or any other event to which petroleum is vulnerable). And, of course, it can help reduce the corrosion of our planet. The relatively small investment in diversification, the slow expansion of alternatives, and the removal of the subsidies can hardly be a threat to the incredibly profitable fossil fuel industries.

Matheson raises a legitimate concern about increasing bureaucratic obstacles. But I would have hoped that he could work to have those addressed within the framework of the legislation, rather than dismiss the entire endeavor. The need to look at energy alternatives and reduce carbon emissions is simply too important.

Some fear that energy prices will rise due to this bill. The possibility does exist. Of course, the case can be made that our prices are artificially too low as it is. Much of the cost of our energy is currently externalized in the form of military spending to ensure the sources of energy, the cost to the environment and the spending to mitigate that damage, and the cost to the health of individuals and communities as a result of fossil fuel production and consumption. As students of Adam Smith know, the market becomes increasingly inefficient when costs are so highly externalized. Perhaps higher overall costs will promote more efficient allocation, less of the extravagant energy consumption to which we are now so accustomed, and a brighter future for our posterity.

But first our congressmen need to come to understand the importance of looking forward to the new world of energy possibilities ahead of us.

A New Nuclear Energy Debate

April 19, 2006

Like most liberals, I’ve generally been opposed to nuclear power. Creating waste products that are hazardous for millennia seems dubious to me. The Chernobyl disaster has always loomed large in my mind as a tragic warning about nuclear power.

But I’m perfectly willing to reconsider my own opinions as the situation warrants. Lately, I seem to have found more and more reason to reevaluate my position on nuclear power.

I was reminded a few months ago of the fact that Europe and other parts of the world make extensive use of nuclear power. Much of Europe receives over half of their energy from nuclear power plants—France almost 80% (Though it should be noted that there is a move to reduce nuclear production in many nations, such as Germany, Belgium, Spain and Sweden). Despite the widespread utilization of nuclear energy, there has never been any accident or disasters outside of Chernobyl. Are our fears unfounded? Is nuclear energy essentially safe? How does Europe and other nuclear dependent nations deal with waste disposal? Have they resolved the issue in a manner we could examine and adopt? I haven’t studied the issue enough to say, but it seems worth investigating.

More recently, a number of environmental advocates have begun to advocate the expansion of nuclear power. In several of his interviews, and presumably in his book, Tim Flannery has suggested that nuclear power is, despite its flaws, a better alternative to continued reliance on fossil fuels.

Over the weekend, no less a person than Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, threw in his support for Nuclear Power. Whoever would have imagined that in their wildest dreams?! But he seems to make a compelling case.

I’m not yet swayed. I’m not about to start beating the drum for reactors here in Utah. There is no magic energy pill that will solve all our problems. The first step in dealing with energy issues is to try as much as possible to curb our energy consumption. Energy producers and users should not be allowed to externalize their costs by shipping their waste elsewhere. If they’re gonna reap the benefits, they should deal with the consequences themselves.

But in light of the fact that energy consumption will continue to grow regardless of attempts to conserve, and the fact that the environmental effects of fossil fuels continue to grow, I think it worthwhile to open the debate and reexamine the issue.

Rising oil prices-a GOOD thing?! (updated)

April 18, 2006

So today oil hits an all-time high of over $72 a barrel—nearly quadrupling since 2002.


I gotta admit; I’m a bit ambivalent about skyrocketing oil prices.

Of course, I can’t deny I didn’t enjoy it when my receipt rang up at almost twenty bucks today after I filled the Corolla I drive. And I loath the idea of these corporate fatcats blissfully raking in the money on the backs of the families who are struggling to make ends meet and who are having to somehow come up with a little more gas money to get to work each day.

But a part of me feels a little bit of glee. A small, mean part of me to be sure. A bit of sinful schadenfreude, perhaps. And also a hopeful part of me.

I can’t help feeling it serves America right. And maybe it will get us to think about our actions.

Maybe it will get us to reconsider purchasing those behemoth SUVs which get a couple miles-per-gallon. Maybe we will pause before hopping into those vehicles several times a day to drive all over town. Maybe we’ll start planning our time and trips more efficiently. Maybe we will start looking to carpool rather than driving alone 80% of the time in a vehicle with a 10-occupant capacity. Maybe we will think about using public transportation. Or—heaven forbid!—maybe we’ll try biking or walking to get around. Get some fresh air, get the heart rate up, see the world around you without an isolation bubble. You might be surprised at how much you like it!

Of course, what we pay at the pump is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to petroleum. Oil is a huge input in the harvesting of food (fuel for tractors, etc), and so grocery prices will rise. Many of the clothes we buy are made of synthetic fibers, and plastics are key components in perhaps the majority of consumer goods. As oil plays a key part in the manufacturing of those materials, expect an impact on the prices of those goods. And all of these things must be transported from the producer to the retailer or consumer—bringing up vehicle fuel again. The rise in transportation expenses will show up at the register.

Maybe we’ll have to think more about what we purchase. Maybe we will take this as an opportunity to evaluate our need for “stuff.” Maybe we can do without. And for those things we still feel justified in having, perhaps we will be more conscious of the source. If we buy locally produced products, we reduce the transportation requirements, with the consequent impact on our environment—and our wallet. Plus we are keeping the money in circulation in our community, rather than shipping it across the states or even the globe. When money stays in a community, its impact on the community multiplies greatly.

Maybe, just maybe, the rising oil prices will make us stop our cultural epidemic of conspicuous consumption, lead us to more thoughtful, conservative choices in what we do, and lead us to be the good stewards of this planet and of our bodies that the Lord intends for us to be.