Energy inefficient

Editorial the the NYT stresses what should be a well known fact — cheapest source of new energy is greater efficiency-

Energy Inefficient. Editorial by the New York Times.

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Update: President Obama already has online a new On it, among many other things, he lists his policy goals in the following area “Create Millions of New Green Jobs”

* Ensure 10 percent of Our Electricity Comes from Renewable Sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025.
* Deploy the Cheapest, Cleanest, Fastest Energy Source – Energy Efficiency. [boldface and colors mine]
* Weatherize One Million Homes Annually.
* Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology.
* Prioritize the Construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline.





  1. jdubya Avatar

    I was just going to post this opinion piece, I think it is both right and wrong.

    On one hand, we are a very wasteful nation, building houses far bigger than we need, driving massive cars to take one person down to the video store, and establishing an infrastructure predicated upon cheap and plentiful energy. We have many, many ways to change to improve.

    On the other hand, we receive inappropriate satisfaction for accomplishing the smallest of savings. It is great that we take shorter showers, that we change out inefficient light bulbs for more efficient ones or turn the thermostat down. But the entire energy savings from a neighborhood can be lost by the addition of one more house.

    But how many of us are going to cut our 40 year old houses in half to save energy? And how much new energy would we consume doing so? When should I replace my old suburban that I rarely drive with a more efficient vehicle just so I can tow my boat a hand full of times per year? How many barrels of oil are consumed building a new, more efficient truck?

    It seems to me (but please prove me wrong) that our individual measures in the face of a continually expanding population (the wasatch front will have three times more people living here in 50 years than now) really don’t mean much until we can collectively replace that coal burning plant with one that generates the same level of power without releasing CO2 using renewable resources. We have to figure out how to collectively change the entire power game and grabbing at the low hanging fruit just means we miss those golden apples on the top of the tree.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Energy efficiency is accomplishing the same task using less energy.

    “Low hanging fruit” means a gain without having to reach much — little sacrifice, big gain.

    Retrofitting 40-year old houses is not low hanging fruit. Changing the design of new houses is.

    Replacing the old inefficient Suburban you rarely use with a fuel efficient vehicle you rarely use is fruit at the top of the tree. Buying a fuel efficient new car when you main vehicle must go is easy energy savings.

    I do know what you are talking about on the Wasatch Front, however. The air there in the winter is about the dirtiest in the country and the source is mostly the inefficient transportation system plus the formation of strong inversion layers during winter high pressure episodes, but the population growth will keep making things worse regardless.

    IMO, the Utah birth rate needs to fall. Perhaps it will for a while during the recession/depression.

  3. jdubya Avatar

    Right Ralph, I see that, but if we do NOT do the kind of retrofits of old cars and old houses as I described then how are we supposed to go CO2 neutral in 10 years, and then negative in 50 as that article posted in a different thread indicated? The only way out I can see is to simply stop generating energy from fossil fuels outright, and you don’t do that with a “low hanging” fruit mentality. You do that with a Manhattan project perspective to fundamentally change the entire process. I would rather Obama focus on on that kind of transformational change.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I probably agree with you. I’m afraid though that they will overlook the low hanging fruit in their pursuit of more generation and alternative generation.

    As far as C02 emissions go, I think it is already too late. The amount of CO2 in atmosphere not only has to stop growing; it has to decline.

    This can only be done by increasing natural carbon sinks and maybe adding artificial ones.

    The CO2 issue is kind of like the generation of more energy versus energy efficiency question. So too the emphasis has been on curbing the emissions of CO2 from human sources, but most of the CO2 is removed by natural sinks for carbon such as water, soil, and vegetation.

    Unfortunately, the oceanic sink is degrading because warmer water can hold less dissolved gas. Also water with a decreasing PH will hold less additional CO2.

    Some human intervention might improve these natural sinks, such as changing the vegetation, removing grazing livestock so the soil will retain more carbon, planting forests, reducing fisheries. The idea of sequestering human created carbon dioxide into geological formations is part of this.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Regarding fisheries, there was a very important article today in Science News, Fish Guts Explain Marine Carbon Cycle Mystery. Fish may be a huge factor in taking carbon out of the water, and precipitating it as calcium carbonate (which also keeps the oceans alkaline). The article says that fish would perform even more of this newly discovered essential action if the waters warmed!

    This makes stopping overfishing an essential thing. An ocean full of jellyfish would be worse than useless.

  6. todd Avatar

    Just to be clear, the natural sink for anthropogenic CO2 emissions is currently 50% — meaning 1/2 of our current emissions stay in the atmosphere for about 100 years. There is no reason to expect that this natural sink will stay at 50% — there are many reasons to expect that it will decline and possibly turn into a set SOURCE by the end of the century.

    Also, sequestering carbon in geologic formations is untested at scales of even a fraction of a percent required to make a dent in the atmospheric concentration of CO2. Furthermore, there is no solid science to predict how long it will stay sequestered. The analogy of an underground time bomb is not inappropriate.


  7. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    Energy efficiency is a „quick win“ that can be relatively easily achieved by everybody – albeit at a cost. Investing in a new efficient car, heating, house insulation, refrigerator etc. etc. etc. does definitely not come cheap and comes not only with a change of equipment, but also with a change of daily “normal life” behaviour. But, you can easily cut your annual energy costs by 30% . When travelling across the USA with eyes open you can easily see the gigantic energy saving potential, that should equal the output of quite a few power plants. If this potential could only partially be utilized it would take some time until population growth of the US would compensate the achieved savings. (He, you do not reproduce so fast! :-)) I do not know, to what extent and how fast the growth rate of the (3rd) worlds population, combined with a growing hunger for energy (see India, China, etc.) would compensate the savings in the west – I´m afraid however that this growth rate will quickly outperform any energy saving potential if they are not involved in a global energy saving plan.

  8. Salle Avatar


    Your comment coordinates with John d’s comment on:

    And thank you for that thought. I’m going to see if I can find those numbers on population increases. I think it isn’t quite the way it might seem, as I found when examining the numbers about five years ago…

  9. Salle Avatar

    Okay, here’s what I found in a whirl-wind tour of census data:

    In the US:

    MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2008
    Census Bureau Projects U.S. Population of 305.5 Million on New Year’s Day

    As our nation prepares to ring in the new year, the U.S. Census Bureau today projected the Jan. 1, 2009, total U.S. population will be 305,529,237 — up 2,743,429, or 0.9 percent, from New Year’s Day 2008.

    In January 2009, one birth is expected to occur every eight seconds in the United States and one death every 12 seconds.

    Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person every 36 seconds to the U.S. population in January 2009, resulting in an increase in the total U.S. population of one person every 14 seconds.
    – X –

    And from the UN database I was able to look at the major population datasets ~ they are displayed by country and groups of seemingly irrational grouping but ~ the nations that have high birth rates generally are accompanied by high infant mortality rates, including the countries suffering the effects of war. Latest specific data also shows that population increases are mostly in countries where recent economic betterment has been taking place, higher confidence of parents and lowered infant mortality. Those are usually the main indicators, though there are a few others, that would indicate the majority of population increase/decrease values.

    The thing I found interesting is that to date, the estimated population density world-wide is 48%. This means that 48% of the land mass of the planet is inhabited by humans regardless of where they grouped, it’s basically half the entire land mass including the polar regions and such.

    I can’t believe this; the rest of the world is covering the Inauguration of the century and the Rexberg, Idaho NPR station (Brigham Young University-ID, I believe) is playing some local program with sappy elevator schmaltz like nothing is happening. It’s like Prozac-ville or something.

  10. Salle Avatar

    Confirmation process update on Cabinet and appointees:


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan