Update 7/8/09: The second podcast in this series on putting a price on carbon is available.
This year’s Cascadia Scorecard shows that the Northwest is falling short when it comes to curbing energy use. Our region’s slow to non-existent progress on reigning in energy consumption reveals the need to dramatically change the way we consume energy. This problem has led many to look for the next technological “silver bullet” that will revolutionize our energy infrastructure.
In a new six-minute podcast, Clark talks about how the next “green iPod”–the shiny new gizmo that will completely change our lives—may be technology that we already have, like caulk guns, efficient cars, and high-efficiency furnaces.
In fact, the revolution may not be technological, but financial. How can we redevelop the ways that we finance efficiency upgrades? For one answer, look no further than Berkeley, California.
Have a listen:
(You can also download the mp3 here)
Special thanks to Bruce Bulloch for recording and editing this podcast.
Some excerpts below the jump.
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On a technological revolution:
- “A lot of people are looking for the next “green iPod”–the shiny new technology that’s going to make our lives completely efficient … I think people shouldn’t wait; I think that’s a trap. The next “green iPod” is probably a caulk gun—those kinds of things are so cheap. It’s free money lying around waiting for us to pick it up.”
- “We have cars that get 40 to 45 miles per gallon right now. We don’t have to wait for the car that gets 100 miles per gallon before we make our next efficient purchase. If the alternative is an SUV that gets under 20, the jump from 20 to 40 is huge.”
On financing efficiency:
- “Right now there’s a model being used in Berkeley, California that allows people to make energy efficiency upgrades to their homes and finance it on their tax bills. People borrow the money up front and pay it off over the long-haul on their tax bills. The City of Berkeley is doing the borrowing—they can get it at better rates, it doesn’t affect peoples’ credit history … All it means is that people pay a little more for taxes every month, and a lot less on their utilities every month.”
I’m wondering how “more efficient furnace” is better than “heat pump”? In this climate region, here close to the coast, the number of days when it’s above 40F but below 65F is pretty large—low-delta heating days. That’s the climate where the normal, non-fossil-fuel, off-the-shelf heat pump can heat your house for less money and less energy than any furnace. If I understand the calculations right, a gas furnate that’s 95% efficient is about 1/3 as efficient as a heat pump with a Coefficient of Performance (COP) of 3.0. As in, the heat pump would use about 1/3 of the energy (and money) to heat your house during those moderately cool days. Below 40 or 35F, the average house would revert to its old furnace, but that’s what, 2-3 weeks out of the 9-month heating season? Not too bad. At least it seems they deserve a look, eh?
Hi Charlie—You’re right! Heat pumps are a great energy saving investment. In fact, we’ve written about them before.
2-3 weeks out of the year below 40 degrees? Maybe in Portland. I’d wager that since my furnace kicked on again last fall in Bellingham, we’ve had 12-14 weeks where the daily average was below 40 degrees, some weeks way below. Even on days when it’s hit 45 of late, from 7pm to 8am it’s back down close to freezing. Sounds like I’d have to have a heat pump and a furnace – that doesn’t sound like it makes sense from a global perspetive. I think I’d get more bang for the buck with those caulking guns and weatherstripping, or additional wall insulation in my 1925 home.
You want low-hanging fruit? How about such things as lowering highway speed limits, mandating summer and winter thermostat settings in all non-residential buildings, requiring light-colored roofs on houses, etc.?Raising taxes on gasoline wouldn’t be so bad either.