US Oil Booms, But

About 2013, for the first time in over 20 years, the gap between our consumption and production began narrowing, rather than widening.  There are two reasons for this. Production is up due to the fracking boom and of equal importance consumption is down due to the poor economy.  That is good as a snapshot but means little for the future.

As the economy slowly recovers our usage will rise.   At the same time the fracking boom has a limited lifetime. A University of Texas study showed that production of natural gas from three of the largest shale plays; Fayetteville, Haynesville, and Barnett have already peaked. Similar performance is expected in oil from shale fracking. In a few short years we should be back on our inevitible decline in production. Without reduction in consumption we will resume an upward trend on importing oil, currently about a third of what we use.

The danger is fourfold: exporting dollars to buy energy weakens our economy, enriches the economy of some unsavory producers such as Iran and Russia, threatens a stable environment, and impairs our health.

To a large degree all transportation and big chunk of the U.S. Economy is powered from crude oil. The oil is turned into gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, heating oil and a myriad of derivative products such as plastic. Currently we are consuming about 18 million barrels of oil per day, yet we only produce about 12 million. That constitutes an energy deficit of about 7 million barrels of oil per day. Even with the price falling to near 50 dollars a bbl, this creates a trade deficit of over an eigth of a trillion dollars a year. An eigth of a trillion dollars a year that flies out of our economy on an annual basis. An eigth of a trillion dollars that is not flipped in our economy to provide jobs or buy groceries.

The oil comes from friendly and not so friendly countries. Canada is our number one supplier, some might say “pusher” at about two and a half million barrels per day. The members of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, provide about 5 million barrels of oil per day. Iran is a charter member of OPEC and benefits greatly if indirectly from our purchase of oil on the global market. This is not a pretty picture – our dollars going to support a rogue theocracy bent on developing nuclear weapons and their support for global terrorism. Although we are currently a net exporter of natural gas, this won’t last when the shale plays are exhausted.

We even import uranium to fuel nuclear reactors. The import export balance is negative to the tune of several billion dollars a year. Generally we import low grade Uranium ore and export enriched nuclear fuel. Regardless we are operating at a net dollar loss.

The only fuel that we don’t have to import is coal; however, as society becomes more aware of the risks of damage to human health and the environment, it will become less useful in our economy.

There is no easy answer to this bleeding of cash from our economy. We will not drill our way out of the problem because the oil and gas are just not here. We must adopt energy from clean indigenous sources as the only long term, sustainable answer. The bonus for home produced sustainable energy is the money stays home and cascades through the economy.

Tar Sands and Energy Returned on Energy Invested

The No. 1 oil exporter to the United Sates is Canada, sending us close to 3 million barrels of oil per day, just under 15 percent of our total imports of oil. This is more than twice as much oil as we get from Saudi Arabia. Much of Canadian oil production, 47 percent, comes from tar sands. Tar sand formations contain a heavy crude oil called bitumen intermingled with sandy soil.

The oil is currently produced by large scale strip mining of the tar sands, which then must be heated with steam to lower the viscosity so that the oil can be separated from the sand. Methods for in situ processing are being developed. Steam and/or solvents are injected into the soil to free the oil for extraction.

Another technique being examined involves injecting oxygen into the tar sand formation and actually burning some of the bitumen to heat the remainder for extraction. The latter two technologies for extraction are more expensive, but lend themselves to obtaining oil too deep for surface mining techniques. After the bitumen is separated from the soil; it still must be processed before it can be sent by pipeline as the native bitumen has a consistency of cold molasses.

Virtually all of the Canadian tar sands production comes from the Athabasca tar sands formation in Northeastern Alberta. This oil supply is available due to the proximity to natural gas which is used to produce heat for extraction and hydrogen production for conversion of the bitumen into a lighter form of crude oil wthat flows through a pipeline. And herein lies one of the problems with production of crude oil from tar sands.

The production of fossil fuels as an energy source is absolutely and completely dependent on the energy returned on energy invested (EROEI). If it takes more energy to obtain a fossil fuel than the fossil fuel delivers on use, then it is not an energy source. It is a waste of energy.

Consider the EROEI of some other fuel sources. In the earlier decades of the 20th century, the EROEI for crude oil in the U.S. was close to 100:1, that is to say one barrel of oil invested in exploration/production produced about 100 barrels of oil. Conventional crude oil today has an EROEI of about 20:1, compared this to EROEI for tar sands of less than 3:1. Paraphrasing a late-night infomercial, BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. (the caps are necessary as they always seem to be shouting). Lower EROEIs mean greater amounts of greenhouse gasses emitted for useful energy produced. Fuels such as natural gas have relatively low greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional crude oil, which has less than coal. The low EROEI means that bitumen processing and use makes it as bad as coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Finally, massive amounts of water are required to process the tar sands. Roughly 5-10 barrels of potable water are converted to oil fouled waste for each barrel of oil produced. Although there are tar sands in Utah and thereabouts, the resource may never be extracted due to the lack of process water. 



Electrical Energy Future

A sea change in electrical energy production and utilization will be occurring over the next few generations which will make for a cleaner, more sustainable future. The current model for energy generation and distribution relies on relatively inefficient thermal power plants, power by fossil fuels or uranium. They are inherently inefficient, converting only a third of the energy available, the remainder is unusable waste heat. Fossil fueled plants have the added disadvantage of adding Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere and driving global warming.

coal smoke
coal smoke

In 2009 the United States Environmental Protection Agency found that Carbon Dioxide and five other gases constitute a threat the human health and welfare and are a primary cause of global warming. After several years of planning they recently announced actions to mitigate this risk. Over the next 15 years states will on average have to reduce their emissions of CO2 by 30 percent. This will be achieved mainly by moving away from burning coal to produce electricity.

Although the national mandate is 30 percent, the Arkansas requirement is to lower our carbon emissions by 44 percent. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we have recently started in the right direction by demand side management. There are two ways to meet the EPA mandate, either find a way to replace the electrical production with non carbon energy sources (supply side) or reduce demand for electrical energy through efficiency (demand side.)

Recently the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) lauded Arkansas for its progress in enacting aggressive energy efficiency measures. Arkansas was named as one of four “most improved” along with Kentucky, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, moving up six spots from its 2013 ranking. Specifically, the ACEEE noted that “[Arkansas’s] budgets for electric efficiency programs increased 30 percent between 2012 and 2013, while electricity savings more than tripled.”

The beauty of demand side management is that it not only save energy, it saves money. Every kilowatt-hour you don’t use, you don’t pay for. Energy efficient light bulbs such as compact fluorescent (CFs) bulbs or even better light emitting diodes (LEDs) save money and energy. Shade trees on the south side of a home save money and energy. More efficient electric motors save money and energy. Examples abound. A nifty term encapsulates this kind of savings – the negawatt. It is the energy you don’t use, hence money you don’t spend, through efficiency.

The next step is to gradually phase out our older coal fired power plants. This makes sense because as the older plants are the least efficient. You pick the low hanging fruit first, right? Prices for solar panels to generate electricity have been falling rapidly in recent years. Currently the price is such that a solar panel array pays for itself in about 10 years, after that the electricity is essentially free.

wind-farm
wind-farm

A lot of wind generated power is available to us from the west. A large project, Plains and Clean Line transmission line will be bringing clean wind generated electricity to Arkansas and parts east over the next few years.

If we make the right choices the world will be a better place in the future – our children’s children’s future.

Buffalo National River and a hog factory

A coalition of four environmental groups have joined together to try to stop pollution of the Nation’s first federally protected river. Although the Buffalo National River park boundary is only a narrow strip of land a scant mile or less on either side of the river, the watershed that drains into the Buffalo is several thousand miles.

A Hog factory was permitted by a previously unused process that allowed for scant public notification. The park service and several other agencies were unaware of the plan to house 6,300 hogs in the watershed. Although the park service can’t control the watershed, they should certainly have some input. They didn’t.

C & H Hog Farm is in the watershed on Big Creek about six miles upstream from the Buffalo, but outside the park boundary. The farm is described by an ecologist for the National Park as the largest hog operation in the state. Disposal of the hog feces and urine is by land application to several hundred acres of hay fields bordering Big Creek and very near the Mount Judea Public Schools. The total volume of waste is on the order of 2 to 4 million gallons per year.

It is not a question of if but when these pollutants make their way to the river. It is not a matter of if but the amount of nutrients such as Nitrogen and Phosphorous which will pollute the Buffalo. The nutrients will cause algal blooms that can kill fish and other aquatic organisms.

algal bloom
algal bloom
It is only a matter of time until bacteria from the pigs contaminates the Buffalo and possibly causes it to be closed to human contact.

Cargill, in direct meetings with representatives of the coalition, essentially admitted that it was a mistake to locate the factory farm there. It currently has a multi-year contract to buy the hogs produced at the factory. Cargill assured the coalition that it would take several steps in mitigation but would not close nor relocate the operation.

Currently the holding lagoons are only lined with clay which is prone to crack and leak.

hog waste lagoon
hog waste lagoon
The problem is exacerbated by the porous limestone topography. Cargill has promised to line the lagoons with a synthetic liner. It also promised to cover one of the lagoons which is a source of toxic gasses such as Ammonia and Hydrogen Sulfide. The collected gasses would be flared off, creating a whole new set of gaseous pollutants.

Cargill has also promised to examine the use of Plasma Arc Pyrolysis to deal with the feces and urine, rather than land apply the waste. This will require running close to a 100,000 lbs per day of liquid wastes between two arcing electrodes in an inert atmosphere like Argon. All water would be vaporized and all solid wastes converted to a type of char similar to charcoal. If the process is run as described, the electric bill alone will run to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

This process has been used previously on dry medical wastes, but never on liquid wastes nor on this scale. It could be a dangerous process which would best be tested outside the watershed and away from the public school.

Ozone – Stratospheric or Tropospheric

What is the next word you think of if you hear the word ozone? About twenty years ago the answer would invariably have been hole, as in the “ozone hole” over the Antarctic is expanding. Currently if you hear of ozone at all, it is more likely in the form of ozone alerts which occur most commonly on hot summer afternoons in urban environments.

Ozone is another of those Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde molecules. It is at the same time both beneficial and dangerously toxic. It all depends on where it is. Way up in the stratosphere, about 25 kilometers up, it protects us from deadly Ultraviolet rays from the sun, but down near the ground where we breath it is a reactive substance which damages lungs and exacerbates asthma and cardiovascular disease.

There is fairly good evidence for life arising on this planet over 3.5 billion years ago. One hypothesis is that life formed in the seas, as life on the surface of the planet was impossible due to the intense deadly Ultraviolet (UV) rays striking earth. A few billion years later and following the evolution of the chloroplast, oxygen (O2) began to accumulate in the atmosphere. In a cyclic process in the upper atmosphere the more abundant O2 is turned into Ozone (O3). This tiny bit of Ozone absorbs the dangerous UV rays and makes life possible on the surface.

Life then climbed out of the primordial soup and started building air conditioners, refrigerators, and the like which require a refrigerant to work. Compounds know as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were chosen because they were effective, non toxic and relatively stable. Bear with me here, I’ll get back to Ozone quickly.

Ozone hole over Antarctica
Ozone hole over Antarctica

It’s the stable part got that gets us in trouble. When CFCs escape the refrigerator or air conditioner, they get in the atmosphere. They are stable enough to get all the way up to the Ozone layer without falling apart. There a combination of reactions destroys the Ozone. Enough could literally wipe out life on the planet. Even small amounts of Ozone destruction lead to an increase in retinal damage and skin cancer.

And that is the story of the Ozone hole, a climatically related figure of speech referring to a lessening of the total amount of Ozone in the stratosphere. Luckily we figured this out and by an international agreement known as the Montreal Accords agreed to ban the production and use of these substances. The Ozone hole is slowly shrinking and is by about 2050 expected to be completely healed.

Now back to ground level Ozone, the Ozone we don’t want. Ozone formation at ground level where we breath is not natural. The the fault here is internal combustion engines – Cars and trucks and buses that run of gasoline or diesel.

US-ozone-non-attainment-2007-06
US-ozone-non-attainment-2007-06

Because engines aren’t 100 per cent efficient, some uncombusted gases escape the tail pipe. Known as volatile organic carbon (VOCs), they react with Oxygen and sunlight to produce Ozone. Luckily Ozone is unstable and degrades rapidly so if it forms in the afternoon, it is gone by the evening. Toxic ground level Ozone can be controlled by reducing the production of the VOCs. Reducing the number of cars in urban environments through mass transportation is a very effective measure. Alternately reformulating fuels to produce less VOCs works to some degree, but raises the cost. Natural gas fueled vehicles produce less VOCs and electric vehicles none.

Energy Costs and Financing

It is difficult to compare the costs for energy from various sources, but it is an important issue. In Arkansas we are blessed with (or cursed by, depending on your point of view) relatively low electrical energy costs. We pay about eight to nine cents per kilowatt- hour (kWh) which is about three cents below the national average of twelve cents. In some locations and at some times of the day the costs can go over 25 cents per kWh. These costs do not include externalities such as damage to health and the environment, risks associated with global warming, political instability and direct subsidies to insure risky technologies.

It has been estimated that the inclusion of these costs could raise a monthly electric bill by two to five times. An average Arkansan’s electric bill would be closer to five hundred dollars rather than slightly over one hundred dollars per month.

Clean renewable energy from for example photo voltaic systems (PV, solar electric panels) can be prohibitively expensive when you compare the costs without consideration of the external costs of traditional electricity production. It would seem only fair then to subsidize PV systems and that is happening to a limited degree.

5.4 kW solar array
5.4 kW solar array

The federal government provides a thirty percent tax credit for residential and small commercial systems which makes these systems more competitive with traditional energy sources with their hidden subsidies. Recently the state of Arkansas through the Arkansas energy office has begun an additional subsidy based on energy produced by renewable energy systems. For program details see: http://arkansasenergy.org/.

The current program from the state provides for on-bill financing for qualified energy efficiency improvements that consumers can install on their premises: energy efficiency measures, distributed generation (e.g., solar photovoltaic, combined heat and power), and demand response (DR) technologies.

shade trees same energy
shade trees same energy

Consumers typically have extensive experience making utility bill payments, it is already a routine part of their lives. It is also conceptually attractive to make an investment where the energy savings that result are reflected in the same bill as the payments on the loan that funded the investment. This method of financing is particularly attractive for projects which have long pay back times. If the original owner sells the property, the financing remains with the improved property.

Low-E glass saves energy
Low-E glass saves energy

Because we have relatively low electric costs here in Arkansas, the payback for subsidized systems can be on the order of a couple of decades for large projects such as PV systems. In locations with much higher electric rates, say 25 cents per kWh, the payback would be much sooner.

The question then becomes, do you want to continue wars, and general global political instability because of our reliance on oil imports? Do you want to continue to support scraping the tops off of mountains to get at “cheap coal”. Do you want to continue to contribute to the degradation of the environment from oil spills? Do you want to contribute to the degradation of health through air pollution? To the deaths of miners and drillers? Global warming and ocean acidification?

You can walk away from all that now, but sustainable clean energy supplies are a future you can make happen now.  

 

Clean Air, Stable Climate

Section 202 of the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate any pollutant which in their judgment may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. Previously this had been applied to acute respiratory toxins such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides or substances which contribute to their formation.

After an extended court battle the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2007 in favor of the EPA that regulating green house gases (GHG) is a requisite part of the EPA’s mandate. Greenhouse gases, principally Carbon Dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere and because of the threat of global warming endanger the public health and welfare.

Rule making took several more years but now the regulations have begun to roll. The first to feel regulation was new power plants which had to meet stringent emissions standards. Likewise emissions standards for new cars continue to rise.

auto_smog
auto_smog

The most recent regulations require a national average reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions of 30 % by 2030. The rule is actually 50 different rules, one for each state. And the mandate is not for any particular method to reduce emissions, just that they must be reduced.

Because Arkansas has above average reliance on coal fired power which emits the lion’s share of carbon, our required reduction amounts to 44 %. This may sound like a lot but remember we have 15 years to achieve this level of reduction.

Almost half this reduction can be achieved at little to no cost to the consumer. A study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that nearly half that emission reduction can come about by increased energy efficiency. Whereas the reduced demand for power will mean a small loss of jobs as coal fired power plants close, many more jobs will be created for the necessary technology improvements to greater efficiency.

Wyoming coal
Wyoming coal

Generally the public is in agreement with the scientific community about threat of global warming. So how about the “ruling class?” Both the Republican and the Democrat, Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross have spoken against the rule. Similarly an interim legislative committee, Insurance and Commerce, hase passed a resolution condemning the EPA rule as illegitimate. Cries of violation of “states rights” rang through the halls.

In reality the only serious argument is that clean air and a stable environment for the future MAY cost somewhat. Let it be noted that every regulatory action to clean our air and water has been met with cries that to do so will crash our economy. It hasn’t happened yet, not with removing lead from gasoline, nor with preventing acid rain, and now not with mitigating the risk of global warming.

So why the dire warnings from politicians? A 2014 study conducted by the Sierra Club and Oil Change International found that for every dollar the fossil fuel industry contributes to candidates, it reaps 59 dollars in subsidies. Follow the money.

Mercury in the Evironment

A human body contains on average 3 grams of Mercury (Hg), in the form of dental amalgam. Cremation releases the material to the atmosphere in the form of gaseous elemental Mercury. As Mercury is a well known toxin, should there be concern over its release to the environment via cremation?

Currently there are over a million cremations a year in the United States, resulting in the release of about three tons of Mercury. That is a lot of Mercury but it pales in comparison to the Mercury released from burning coal – over 50 tons per year.

Just how dangerous Mercury exposure is depends on two important variables, the chemical form and the amount of the exposure (dose). In the elemental form, for example the liquid in older thermometers, it has a relatively low acute toxicity. If inhaled in the gaseous form or absorbed through the skin in the liquid form it is poorly metabolized and rapidly excreted unchanged. We are all exposed to trace amounts of elemental mercury from airborne sources, but in this form it presents little hazard.

Even children on a playground near a crematorium are at little to no risk from this type of Mercury. This doesn’t mean that the Mercury from a crematorium is of no consequence, but the explanation is more complex.

Mercury in the form of a salt is much more toxic. Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland was a parody of the real life risk of hatters of the 19th century. Exposure to certain Mercury salts caused tremors and a form of dementia.

The Mad Hatter
The Mad Hatter

Hat makers in Central Asia used felt which was obtained by separating the fir from the skin of small animals. Traditionally camel urine was used to help form the felt. When felt preparation moved to Europe, hatters substituted their own urine. It was soon discovered that hatters who had syphilis and were being treated with Mercury salts made better felt! Thenceforth, solutions of Mercury salts were substituted for urine for hat making.

The most toxic form of Mercury comes in the form of certain organomercurials, specifically Methylmercury. In this form it is easily absorbed, where it binds to and destroys nervous tissue. This is the form of Mercury found in both fresh and saltwater fish.

Biomagnification
Biomagnification

The first recognition of the toxicity (principally nerve damage) of Methylmercury occurred in Japan in 1956 and was referred to eponymously as Minamata Disease. Chisso Chemical Company on Minamata Bay manufactured industrial chemicals and disposed of their wastes in the bay. A component of the waste was Methylmercury which was absorbed by fish and shellfish. Consumption of the sea food resulted in chronic poisoning and thousands of deaths.

This brings us back to the crematorium and the release of the relatively non-toxic elemental Mercury. When this mercury is deposited on soil or in water, it makes its way to the benthic layer – basically the mud at the bottom – of streams and lakes. There, anaerobic bacteria convert it to the much more toxic Methylmercury. It bioaccumulates in the smallest organisms, then up the food chain to fish.

The long and short of it is that it is not a good idea to allow release Mercury to the environment. The problem is easily solved however by simply removing the Mercury amalgam from teeth before cremation, as has been proposed by Humphrey Funeral Service. They are currently seeking a permit to construct a crematorium near Center Valley here in Pope County. If so they will be the first in the nation to take this simple but environmentally important step. Occam’s razor, don’t operate a crematorium without it.

Arsenic Anyone?

A popular talk show doctor recently had several brands of Apple juice tested and claimed to have found Arsenic. Whereas nobody wants poison in her food, the question of the amount and its relevance is important. First a little background on Arsenic.

One of the first things that come to mind in association with Arsenic is poison. And indeed it is poisonous. It has been used as a pesticide because it is generally poisonous to all forms of life, rats, cockroaches, even some fungi succumb to it. Ironically it is also known to be an essential trace element for some organisms and possibly humans in tiny, tiny amounts.
 
Arsenic has been known since antiquity and is poisonous to varying degrees depending on its form. As important as the potency of a poison is the amount of the poison. A seventeenth century physician-chemist by the name of Paracelsus famously proclaimed “everything is poisonous, nothing is poisonous, the dose makes the poison”. One example is lima beans which naturally contain toxic cyanide ion, but lima beans aren’t toxic as the dose of cyanide is too small.
 
Arsenic has historically been a component of intrigue. In 15th century Italy the Borgia family waxed powerful. Lucrezia and Cesare were among the children of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (who became Pope Alexander VI- obviously things in the church were different in those days!) Lucrezia was said to be a very effective poisoner as she had learned how to concoct lethal Arsenic potions which were undetectable in food or drink. Arsenic-laden wallpaper
 
Napoleon may have been done in by Arsenic, but not by an intentional poisoning. His villa on the island of St Helena had wallpaper colored with Sheele’s Green, a pigment made from Arsenic. In moist air a mold can grow on the wallpaper and convert the Arsenic to a volatile form. It appears at least for Napoleon that not the butler but rather the wallpaper did it. Another Arsenic pigment called Emerald Green may have impaired the health of Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Monet among others.

Emerald Green Paint Pigment
Emerald Green Paint Pigment

 
Some women in the Victorian era would eat small amounts of Arsenic to produce a pale complexion. Tanned skin in those days indicated that one worked in the fields and was therefore of a lower class.
Now back to Apple juice. Any Arsenic in juice is an issue if for no other reason that juice is a mainstay of many children. Two questions come to mind. Where did the arsenic come from and is there enough Arsenic in the right form to be a risk to health?

 Generally speaking the Arsenic is coming from the soil in which the fruit is grown. It can be in the soil naturally or due to use of Arsenical pesticides applied to the soil. Lead Arsenate was used in the United States until the seventies. Arsenic is very stable and could persist in soils for many years. Another source may be China, where environmental regulations are lax at best. Over half of the Apple juice sold in the United States now comes from China.

The amount of Arsenic measured recently in some of the juice samples does exceed the World Health Organisation’s suggested limit for safety. However the method of measurement included both toxic inorganic and relatively nontoxic organic Arsenic. When only the toxic form is considered the level appears to be safe. The FDA has been monitoring arsenic in Apple juice for decades and sees no threat to public safety based on these findings.

Pollutant Emissions and Efficiency

The answer to the question in the real estate business about property is always “location location location.” Similarly, the answer to the energy utilization question is always “efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.”

Dr. Amory Lovins, a physicist and energy guru coined a term for it called the “negawatt.” A negawatt as opposed to a kilowatt is the energy you don’t use by being more efficient. Negawatts save rather than cost money, yet still provide the same service to a homeowner.

So why all this talk about negawatts and efficiency? The Public Service Commission (PSC) here in Arkansas will soon have to address new regulations, promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intended to reduce the harmful effects of power plant emissions.

These rules will impact coal fired power plants most directly, and rightfully so. Burning coal for electricity generation releases the largest share of pollutants from any of the possible fossil fuels. For a given amount of energy produced, burning coal produces more Carbon Dioxide, Sulfur and Nitrogen Oxides, heavy metals, fine particulates, etc – all serious pollutants.

You might ask that if we throttle back the burning of coal and coal is cheap, then our cost for electricity production is going to go up. Not necessarily for two important reasons. First, the cost you see on your electric bill is only part of total cost.

The cost of impaired health due to exposure to the aforementioned pollutants is real but not accounted for. Likewise, the cost of environmental degradation from global warming is real. The cost of political instability due to global warming induced climate change is real. The Less coal we burn, the lower are these external costs born by society.

So how do we contain the directs costs? The second step is demand side management. Now we’re back to negawatts. The new EPA regulations call for lowering carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. We need to achieve about a 2% reduction per year to meet the standard. It shouldn’t be difficult to achieve this goal through efficiency improvements alone.

Nobody really cares how many kilowatt-hours they use, what they care about is having a warm in the winter, cool in the summer, well lit home. The less energy you need to achieve that goal, the lower will be the electric bill. A very cheap step is to check that ALL incandescent lights have been replaced by compact fluorescent bulbs, or even better now, Light Emitting Diodes.

philips-led-light-bulb
philips-led-light-bulb

Consider adding some solar panels to produce energy and lower the electric bill. The cost of PV systems has decreased drastically, 60% in just the last two years!

Check the attic to see if more insulation is in order. How old is your HVAC system? Newer equipment is much more efficient. If you have an older Heat Pump, newer is better, i.e. more efficient. Or consider a ground source heat pump which is much, much more efficient.

ground-source-heat-pump
ground-source-heat-pump

Some of these these efficiency upgrades can be expensive, but recent legislation can help. Most notable is the PACE law. The Property Assessed Clean Energy bill allows cities and/or counties to form Energy Improvement Districts which have the authority to assist homeowners to make improvements, the cost of which is then added to the property taxes at such a rate that the increase in property taxes is matched by a corresponding decrease is energy costs.

Efficiency, Efficiency, EFFICIENCY.