Monthly Archives: September 2010

Stirring the Debate on Greenhouse Emissions

I am deeply concerned over the battle in California involving carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. According to an article in the NY Times (California Braces for Showdown on Emissions), Californians will go to the polls on November 2 to vote on whether or not to suspend A.B. 32, the law which mandates cutting carbon and other greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This ballot initiative (Proposition 23) would suspend tight emissions standards from going into effect.

Proponents of Proposition 23 believe that the government should not be spending money on carbon reduction; that our focus should be on putting Americans back to work. They believe that the bill would cost the state jobs and raise energy prices.

Last time I checked, oil company profits just set record highs. If Proposition 23 is passed, I am not sure how this measure would create jobs. If the battle is over jobs, I would think retrofitting their plants to reduce their emissions and energy consumption would create more jobs than would be lost. I also find it hard to believe that if a person had to pay an additional $2 a week on gasoline, he would be forced into bankruptcy.

The bigger issue for me is the fundamental reason why they are trying to defeat A.B. 32 in the first place. Is cleaner air and reduction of global warming not important enough? Or, will the people that are making money hand over fist in this industry by having their pockets lined by special interest groups triumph again? If they took the money they are pouring into defeating A.B. 32 and put it towards reducing emissions, oil companies would spend a lot less, and more savings would be passed on to the customer.

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Filed under A.B. 32, Energy, energy efficiency, Proposition 23, Retrofit

Roadblocks to Energy Efficiency

What will it take for consumers to understand that the energy they use can be managed more effectively? This summer was one of the hottest on record in the Northeast and as I sit and write this latest blog, the temperature has reached a blistering 90°. During these hot periods, the energy demand that is being placed on homes, businesses and facilities skyrockets. The demand for energy increases and the desire to create a larger infrastructure continues to rise. What will it take for the general public to realize that this is an issue?

Sadly, consumers remain largely uninformed on what needs to be done to reduce energy consumption, which would also reduce the amount of carbon emissions that are released into the environment. One would think that consumers would want to reduce their energy consumption since the added benefit would be a reduction in their utility bills. However, with the economy in the state that it is in, people are unwilling to dole out money upfront to reduce energy consumption, (e.g., to conduct an energy study of existing facilities, equipment upgrades, correcting maintenance issues, etc.) even if this investment would be returned in 6 months.

The economy has put a crimp on our long term outlook and not given us a path to make the improvements that are necessary to reduce our energy bills. For example, the banks have put a limit on the amount of larger equipment financing – which is essential to finance an energy efficiency project.

The one place left for us to turn to for help is the government, but there always seems to be a catch. Rebates and incentives have been limited, at best. Money that has been allocated for energy spending hasn’t hit the streets. Even the general buzz on the internet as of late is, “Where has all the stimulus money gone?” The truth is it has not been spent (Energy Funds Went Unspent, U.S. Auditor Says) as is stated in the NY Times. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal (White House Under Fire for Unspent Infrastructure Cash), less than 30% of the stimulus money has been spent for shovel ready projects. If the government were to begin using these earmarked funds for what they were intended, the boost could help the economy in the short term and provide some long term benefits to the environment. Instead, it has decided that the stimulus money is better spent on repaving roads that are infrequently used or that have already been repaved in the last five years. I do have to admit though – that fresh asphalt sure is smooth.

As a professional in the engineering/construction industry, I feel it is my duty to be the impetus for change. This is why this blog was created, why speaking at conferences to educate building owner’s as often as possible is important to me, and keeping well informed on any government action is a top priority – all to push forward the great benefits of being energy efficient. Which leaves us with this question, “What can you do?”

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Filed under Building efficiency, energy audit, energy efficiency, Retrofit, stimulus funds