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4346Re: [hreg] Re: Roger Ebert reviews An Inconvenient Truth

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  • will thurmond
    Jun 5, 2006

      Thanks for your reply on this one.  Here is some more information on what the city is doing.  It isn't "nothing", and it's hardly what it could be.  But, given the fact that a large portion of the city's income is from petroleum producing companies, and given that the key lobbyists in local/state government favor petroleum companies, "anything" is a good thing. Houston could do much, much more!! 

      It does leave a bit of a quandry for the local tax-hungry government to ask people to conserve energy.  Lets assume, for a moment, that the city of Houston makes $1 billion dollars a year in tax revenue off $12 billion dollars a year in gasoline sales. If you ask consumers of gasoline to reduce their consumption, the city makes less money.  The same thing goes for electricity.   For every residential consjumer that pays an average of say $150 a month in electricity, if they reduce their electric power bills by $50 a month, then the city makes less money in tax revenues.   What is the incentive for the city to discourage energy consumption (and lower tax revenues) unless it is a catastrophic problem ( i.e. no supply)?  There would need to be a "tipping point" in voter behavior where 50+ % or more of voters insist the government institute alternative energy policies in order for the elected leaders (and tax hungry politicians) to budge. Even then, legislation would face tough, embedded, local energy lobbies.  The good news is, over time, this "tipping point" will occur and politicians will have to eventually institute alternative energy policies and programs to keep their voters and constituencies happy.   This momentum is already underway.  There is evidence of change - but it's happening slowly.   The rate of change in consumer/voter behavior towards majority opinions, and towards public action, is expected to accelerate as we run out of oil, as oil gets more expensive, and as consumers get pissed at the pump and with home electric bills.

      This happened in California six years ago after the big energy crisis.    Californians have found a way to grow their population and, at the same time, use less electricity per capita vs. the U.S.' growing per capita energy needs!  See the end of this message for an article on this.  Contributing factors to the reduction of electric power consumption per consumer include: the  installation of flourescent light bulbs, greater use of alternative energy by power generation utilities,
      rebates to consumers who install more energy-efficient air conditioners, refrigerators, and heating system,. and some other home insulation ideas many have discussed here that can be applied to Houston's residential and commercial properties.  California's measures are a tough act to follow in oil-friendly Texas. 

      Like Charlie Mauch said, Houston has a ways to go and lots of measures it could implement and mandate as  policy and in cooperation with utilities to do better (as California has been doing).  Hopefully we'll get there sooner than later.


      Here is the 411 on Alternative Energy Initiatives in Houston Area:

      Hybrid Technology  - Mayor Bill White announced in April 2005 plans to convert a substantial portion of the City's fleet of cars, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles to hybrids by the year 2010. The City fleet comprises more than 11,000 vehicles of which 3,554 are the civilian, light-duty, "non-specialty" fleet.  As of April, the City fleet included 130 hybrids with 76 Toyota Prius and 7 For Escape hybrids on order.

      Ethanol  -  Houston's first ethanol (E85) fuel dispensing facility opened in October 2004 at NASA's Johnson Space Center. JSC is the second federal fleet in Texas to use E85, the first being a Department of Energy facility in Amarillo. Installation of the 1,000gallon, on-site, fuel-dispensing unit brings JSC into compliance with the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct) and Presidential Executive Order 13149. EPAct requires the acquisition of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) for federal fleets and Executive Order 13149 requires that federal fleets reduce their petroleum use 20 percent by 2005. AFVs are designed to run on any ethanol fuel blend up to 85 percent ethanol. JSC is now the fifth NASA center to add ethanol fueling capability. JSC employees are now mandated to use E85 in the 25 Flexible Fuel Vehicles in the GSA fleet assigned for employee use, if their official business takes them within a 50-mile radius of JSC. E85 is U.S.-made fuel from corn or corn by-products and offers superior performance because of its high octane rating (110 compared to 89 for gasoline). E85 cannot be used in conventional gasoline vehicles. Ethanol is not available at retail fuel stations within the state of Texas. 

      Wind  - Texas has leased an 11,000-acre region of the Gulf of Mexico, seven miles off Galveston Island, for gigantic wind turbines that could eventually power 40,000 homes and generate millions of dollars for state schools. The project marks a new era of pollution-free energy production for the Gulf.

      Biodiesel (private, not Houston government)- Houston Biodiesel educates about and promotes the use of clean, renewable, domestically produced biodiesel in all diesel engines. The company also sells high quality biodiesel that conforms to ASTM specifications and invites consumers to make their own biodiesel in their "BIG" batch reactor.   TexCom, Inc. is building and will operate a new 30 million gallon per year biodiesel plant at the LBC Houston LP bulk liquids terminal in Seabrook, Texas. TexCom plans to construct the multi-million dollar plant that will convert virgin soybean oil into biodiesel and utilize existing on-site storage capacity and other terminal facilities under a long-term lease from LBC. Project design includes the capability to store conventional petroleum diesel, allowing TexCom to blend and market B20 and other biodiesel blends as well as B100. Feedstock will be brought in via barge to the site, located near the Houston Ship Channel, to produce the renewable fuel.


      Energy: Wiser on the West Coast

      From "smart meters" to white roofs, California is putting its crisis behind it

      It was six years ago this summer that the great California energy crisis began. The state hadn't built enough power plants to meet demand. Rogue energy traders swooped in, prices soared, and the state's largest utility went bankrupt.

      The crisis branded the nation's most populated state as a energy-industry basket case. "What's the difference between California and the Titanic?" recently convicted former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling once joked. "The Titanic went down with the lights on."

      Now, as temperatures creep up in much of the country and the peak air-conditioning season begins, it's worth noting that from an energy perspective, there's much good happening in California. More than 30 new power plants have come online in the past six years, generating 12,000 megawatts. The California Energy Commission estimates that it will have generation reserves of more than 20% this August, nearly three times what's required should power usage spike.

      The better story, though, lies on the demand side of the equation, or what the state's fitness-focused governor might call portion control. Since California began aggressively pursuing energy efficiency in the mid-1970s, the state's per-capita electricity usage has remained flat at around 6,500 kilowatt-hours per person. In the rest of the country, consumption has risen from 8,000 to 12,000 kilowatt-hours in the same time frame. In terms of carbon emissions, that's the equivalent of keeping 12 million cars off the road.

      UTILITIES ON BOARD.  How does California do it? Here's one way: The state requires that fluorescent bulbs be used in new construction or major remodels in many rooms of the house. Fluorescent lights are more than four times more efficient than incandescents, so if you're remodeling a kitchen, laundry, or bathroom in the Golden State, you have no choice. The standards are part of a massive set of statewide building codes called Title 24 that was passed in 1978. They get toughened every couple of years or so, and consumers get used to them. "They kind of accept it and move on," says Santa Monica architect Aleks Istanbullu.

      California has also succeeded by getting utilities involved in conservation. The state's big electric distributors shell out hundreds of millions of dollars every year in rebates to consumers who install more energy-efficient air conditioners, refrigerators, and heating systems. The rebates, budgeted at $2 billion between now and 2008, are intended to save $5 billion in power purchases. "Before we invest in traditional pipes and wires, we have to implement these programs," says Anne Shen Smith, senior vice-president for customer relations at San Diego Gas & Electric. "It's the equivalent of avoiding three new power plants."

      Utilities are also required to get more of their power from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. In 2002, California instituted one of the most extensive renewable programs in the country, requiring 20% of power from such sources by 2010, up from 10% today. The utilities are also being allowed to earn their regulated rate of return on new "smart meters" that collect customer-usage information in real time, allowing the energy providers to recommend ways for them to cut costs. "California's unique," says Greg Ander, chief architect for Southern California Edison. "Utilities have gotten very aggressive since the meltdown."

      WHITE-ROOF INITIATIVE.  Politicians have gotten into the game, too. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is campaigning for reelection in November, has jumped on the green bandwagon, earmarking $2.8 billion over 10 years to put small solar systems in place. His "Million Solar Roofs" program, started in January, provides cash to homeowners who choose to install such systems.

      The state has other initiatives in the works. California Energy Commissioner Arthur H. Rosenfeld, who has been called the father of energy conservation in the state, says his office is now working on regulations that would require all new roofs in the state to be white, because they absorb less heat and cut air-conditioning bills. "The pharaohs and the Greeks have known this for 5,000 years," he says. Regulations presently call for flat roofs to be white. The state is working with roofing manufacturers who have created pigments that mimic the energy-saving nature of white so that the regulations can be extended to sloped roofs and tiles by 2008.

      It may seem goofy, but what happens in California usually doesn't stay there. In the mid-1970s, California was a leader in pushing for more efficient appliances. Similar federal standards came into effect in 1992. The result is that even as the average size of refrigerators has increased, the power they use has fallen 75%, to roughly 400 kilowatt-hours per year. It's funny how fast things can turn around. It's not California that's sinking anymore.

      On 6/5/06, Paul Archer <tigger@...> wrote:
      7:00am, will thurmond wrote:

      > Edward
      > I'll try to say this politely - please step off the soapbox. You have
      > repeatedly made unsubstantiated statements on the HREG listserv, much to the
      > chagrin of its members.   You should know what you're talking about before
      > making declarations.  If you research what you wish to discuss before you
      > enter the "soapbox zone", you will understand the issue.  You will also have
      > factual, actual, information to substantiate your argument, and a solid
      > platform to stand on. Please employ more facts and less conjecture and
      > hyperbole in your entries.
      > One example - you said "The city of Houston has not not taken heed to this
      > warning. they are by far the largest user of electricity, yet have not one
      > action plan to make changes."   Where did you get this information from
      > Edward? An update to your statement in the p.s. will bring you current on
      > this "declaration."
      > I wish you all the best in expressing yourself as factually as you do
      > actually.  You will find greater support for your ideas if they are
      > defend-able.  Good luck.
      > Will
      > p.s.  here is some information on Houston's Alternative Energy initiatives
      > that will update your last statement. You will learn there are "more than a
      > few" Alt-Energy initiatives in Houston, contrary to your previous
      > statements.   That is, if you have a real interest in Renewable Energy and
      > Alt-Energy projects. Otherwise, you wouldn't be here, right?
      [massive snippage]

      Will, I wholeheartedly agree with you in that *whoever* is speaking in a
      forum like this should have his/her facts together first.
      And I agree that Edward did not back up his claim that "[t]he City of
      Houston ...have not one action plan to make changes." However, I think you
      misread his statement, as the the information you included (which I've
      snipped for space) did not counter that charge.
      The specific claim was, I believe, that the City of Houston (that is the
      munincipal government, not the inhabitants of Houston as a whole), which
      most likely is the single largest consumer of electricity in the city, has
      not taken action to reduce its energy usage. Your included information did
      mention solar-powered school "crossing" lights (although I think it meant
      school zone lights). I've seen these and similar lights all over the
      country. They do save electricity, but considering how much light they put
      out (a blink or two a second for two hours a day 5 days a week, 9 months a
      year), I would guess that the primary motivation for them is to save
      installation costs rather than power.

      Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is just that I think Edward does bring
      up a good point: I don't know *what* the City of Houston is up to as far as
      energy consumption and conservation, but I'd like to find out.


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