I N · T H I S · I S S U E
More Supply-Side Thinking
If you don’t have the word “cellulosic” in your vocabulary yet, you probably will soon. It’s the latest alternative energy craze and the focus of much research and conversation. According to ENN reader Michael Totten of Conservation International, “cellulosic stole the show” at the Clinton Climate Initiative and was a major driver in Sir Richard Branson’s $3 billion pledge to climate change mitigation (see ENN V10#13). So just what’s up with that?
Ethanol is a major and potentially valuable form of renewable energy that can replace oil for transportation fuels. Thus far, it has been solely derived from corn and it provides 2-3% of the nation’s thirst for gasoline.
New research is focused on producing ethanol from a wide variety of organic materials as described in this week’s article on “green gold and hybrid trees.” If the research is successful, we may be able to gradually wean off our addiction to imported oil.
But wait a minute, more supply-side thinking! Nixon promoted “energy independence” nuclear-style in the 60s; Alaskan oil, TAPS, and now ANWR provided more hope for energy security; and “clean coal,” nuclear fusion, and now pebble-bed reactors all speak to the same mentality. Instead of figuring out how to minimize our need for vast quantities of fuels – whether renewable or not – our energy leaders want to take us down the same supply-side path. Haven’t we learned to look in the mirror at our usage? Can’t we have a better quality of life – cleaner air, enhanced national security, a better and more sustainable economy -- using less fuel and more ingenuity?
The Naked Truth: Garage Refrigerators
A Southern California Edison official reflected on ENNV10#10’s article on increased California home energy use, Flanigan’s Eco-Logic: Slip, Sliding Away. In that article, Flanigan suggests that demographics and an opulent lifestyle is causing California’s pre- eminence with efficiency to “slip, slide, away.” “To exacerbate the problem of energy usage per home even further, major appliance manufacturers are introducing new appliances – notably garage refrigerators -- that counteract energy efficiency program efforts to reduce the number of refrigerators used in homes. I suppose if someone has to have a second unit this [the new Gladiator Energy Star garage refrigerator] is the one we'd prefer, but I’m not sure the manufacturers should encourage it.”
Second refrigerators are usually aging and inefficient units tucked away in hot and dusty garages where they drone on, often loaded with only a case of soda. Their energy consumption can be as high as 200 kWh/month (compare to 50 kWh for a new kitchen refrigerator), costing the consumer as much as $30 a month.
For many years, utilities such as Southern California Edison have been “rounding up” and “retiring” second refrigerators, using effective outreach and $35-50 incentives and pick-up services with complete recycling. The goal has been to get these inefficient appliances out of unconditioned spaces and out of service.
But the naked truth is that consumers - and we are they -- continue to crave more and more convenience, and the market is responding. The new Gladiator Chillerator garage refrigerator is “styling” at 19 cubic feet, mounted on heavy-duty, solid rubber castors, and its “high performance cooling system operates well in high heat environments” according to its manufacturer. Ironically, this “phantom load” – hidden among the garden tools in the garage -- is Energy Star.