Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Energy Efficiency


The conflict at the heart of U.S. energy policy: domestic extraction vs. cheap energy

Imagine you're out to dinner with your spouse. When the waiter comes, she says, "I'm trying to decide between the house salad and the deep-fried twinkie. Which would you recommend?" You might think many things, but "she sure knows what she wants" is not one of them. Now shift to Washington D.C., where we are simultaneously discussing how much we should subsidize domestic fuel production and whether or not we can afford to enact (or even maintain) incentives for clean technologies to wean us off fossil fuel dependence. The stakes are higher than the silly dinner example, but the conclusion …


Obama to reduce oil imports by a third via magic

Obama's energy speech today promises to be mostly a re-hash of previous administration announcements regarding efforts to make America more energy independent, but at least one bombshell has already been leaked by the White House: Obama wants to reduce America's oil imports by a third in 10 years. It's hard to think of anything -- short of an economic crash bigger than any ever seen in U.S. history, or perhaps an alien race forcing all of us to take to our bicycles -- that could conceivably accomplish such a goal. The U.S. Energy Information Agency projects that we will import …


How Americans defeated efficiency with consumerism

The Energy Information Administration's Residential Energy Consumption Survey, released yesterday, shows that average household energy usage has remained remarkably stable over the last 30 years -- even as appliances have gotten way more efficient. Why? Well, we just have a pantload more appliances. (Seriously, look in your pants RIGHT NOW. Do you have a gadget in them? Chances are you do. I've got a phone in my pocket as I write this.) Also, there are 34.5 million more households in the U.S. than there were in 1978, and we're leading increasingly white-collar lifestyles -- air conditioners, dishwashers, washing machines. If …


Americans for disparity

New David Koch building gets energy upgrade — courtesy of the climate program he loves to hate

Image: Positioning GreenCross-posted from Positioning Green. Billionaire conservative financier David Koch doesn't know it, but the cutting-edge energy-saving technologies included in a brand new $211 million research lab that bears his name were partly funded through a government program to reduce global warming pollution. It happens to be the very same program under a blistering attack by one of Koch's biggest political beneficiaries, the group Americans for Prosperity (AFP). Here's the story, which is cross-posted at Climate Progress, but has not otherwise been publicly reported: The David H. Koch Institute, dedicated earlier this month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, …


Ride that pony

Bingaman tries to make policy out of Obama’s hopey-changey Clean Energy Standard

Is Obama wasting Sen. Bingaman's time?Photo: The White HouseIn his State of the Union speech, Obama introduced an ambitious plan to encourage clean energy in the U.S. At least I think it was ambitious. Kinda hard to tell -- it was vague. Thinking about it since, I've come to see the Clean Energy Standard (CES) as paradigmatic of Obama's energy initiatives. It is well-meaning and makes a certain internal sense, but politically it's ham-handed and tin-eared. Like his freelancing on offshore oil last year, it undercuts existing congressional efforts while doing little to build new coalitions. Now the CES is …


Hans Rosling at TED: Civilization depends on washing machines

Hans Rosling's little fable about "the air people, the wash people, the bulb people, and the fire people" addresses some pretty big questions about wealth, economic growth, and energy use. For Rosling, it all centers around the humble washing machine. In the end, says Rosling, washing machines mean a more intellectual society -- people use more electrical energy, but less human energy, which they can then put into reading. Is that worth the environmental tradeoff? What does it mean to make that choice? And if your grandma heard you disparaging washing machines just for using too much energy, would she …


Sears Tower to become giant solar farm

The Sears Tower, lately unceremoniously renamed the Willis tower, is about to pioneer a kind of crazy-innovative window, one that produces power without obstructing the view or letting in appreciably less sunlight. It's way too complicated to explain in mere words, so hopefully this image will help. If it doesn't, feel free to be a troll in the comments, since that's the designated toilet for whatever sublimated rage you're feeling over your crumbling marriage. At first the Willis tower will only replace windows on the south side of the 56th floor; eventually, the whole south face of the building could …


U.S. vehicles’ fuel economy to suck pretty much forever

This projection, based on fuel efficiency standards that are currently on the books, shows that -- absent radical legislative action, or everyone in the U.S. suddenly coming over all French -- American cars' fuel economy is primed to suck out loud for the foreseeable future. Anyone complaining about overly stringent regulations can therefore bite it forever.


Destroying world’s largest spam network saves energy, decreases access to dick pills

Easily Add 13 Terawatts to the Longevity of Your Energy Supply! Prolong Your Planet’s Pleasure! Get The Long Lasting Energy She Craves, Cheap! Power One Million Homes Harder, Longer, and Faster! Wait, don’t hit delete, this is good news. Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (nerdiest Law and Order spinoff EVER) has brought down the world’s largest spam network, Rustock. Killing this one network may decrease worldwide spam output by 39 percent -- and give us back 13 million terawatt hours of energy. Rustock’s matrix of churning computers had the capacity to send out 30 billion pieces of spam EVERY DAY. Now, …


Bowling Alone

On Rand Paul, toilets, and getting pottymouthed in the New York Times

Coming soon to a senator's house near you?When The New York Times wants really thoughtful, meaty commentary on issues like climate legislation, green technology, or local food systems, it turns to Grist writers David Roberts and Tom Philpott. When it wants toilet talk, it turns to ... me. At least, that's what happened this past week, when the editor of the Room for Debate forum approached and asked if I'd weigh in on Sen. Rand Paul's bizarre outburst at a Senate hearing on energy efficiency -- which David has since responded to with the generous offer of a new toilet. …