Energy Efficiency

GM’s CEO says a gas tax hike would help the auto industry

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson doesn't want tougher fuel efficiency standards. That's no surprise. Here's the surprise: What he wants instead is a $1-per-gallon gas tax increase. If given a choice between a gas surcharge and the increasing fuel efficiency standards that are set to phase in over the next 15 years or so, Akerson says, he'd choose the tax. The overall efficiency of cars on the road would still increase, because buyers would opt for more efficient and thus more cost-effective cars. But the tax would be a better deal for the auto industry. As it turns out, high …

Japanese workers wear Hawaiian shirts to save energy

To prevent rolling blackouts as a result of the failure of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, the Japanese government is mandating that all offices set their thermostats at 82 degrees F this summer. Combined with the usual salaryman armor — a dark business suit — that sounds a little like the eighth circle of hell (the one BEFORE the ice). Accordingly, the Ministry of the Environment's Super Cool Biz campaign is urging workers to show up dressed for a day at the beach. In a fashion show put on by Uniqlo, Japan's equivalent of the Gap, workers were introduced to traditional …

Record carbon emissions show world has not been listening to a thing we’ve said

Despite a global recession, high oil prices, a growing awareness of the seriousness of carbon emissions, those reusable grocery bags you bought, and constant scolding from Grist et al., the world managed to put out a record amount of greenhouse gases last year. The International Energy Agency estimates that burning fossil fuels added 30 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2010. That makes it tough stay below a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F), which scientists say is the threshold for making everything go seriously cockeyed. It might even mean we see …

Renewable Energy

How to get to a fully renewable power system

How can we scale up the clean and phase out the dirty?What’s it going to take to substantially ramp up the amount of renewables in the electricity system? There are many nerdy discussions of that question on the interwebs, but lemme try to talk about it in reasonably non-nerdy language. There’s a certain amount of demand for electricity that is steady and reliable. Above that, there are fluctuating “peaks” of demand each day, usually evening, when everyone gets home and starts watching TV and running the dishwasher, or in hot areas, the afternoon. For that steady core of demand, we …

Critical List: U.S. imported less than 50 percent of its oil in 2010

We're off foreign oil! More or less. One price we'll pay for that: ads with blue skies and green fields and a man with a reassuring voice saying that natural gas is totally, totally safe. The price of renewable energy will go down. So naturally, you should bet against its success. Unless you're a venture capitalist. Greenpeace found radiation 50 times higher than legal limits in sea creatures off the coast of Japan. Also, the plant's leaking radioactive waste water. Three-eyed Simpsons fish, here we come! The Obama administration had little luck convincing a congressional subcommittee on foreign affairs that …

Smart Cities

Great places: dense, wired, and sustainable

This is part three in a series on “great places.” Read parts one, two, four, and five. Part of what makes great places great is ecological sustainability. So what’s the best way to reduce our per-capita resource footprint? Typically you hear one of two stories. One is about technology: making gadgets, appliances, vehicles, and factories leaner and more efficient. The other is about conservation, i.e., consciously choosing to use less stuff. Neither of those stories captures the biggest opportunity and the best strategy for reducing consumption and waste, which is, quite simply, density. Density is the sine qua non of …

Energy Efficiency

Behavioral nudges on electric bills could save three coal plants worth of emissions

Smarter electric bills make smarter consumers.Over the years, I’ve written quite a bit about social psychology, behavioral research, and how they can be used to encourage energy efficiency and conservation. I’ve also written quite a bit about Opower, a company that uses behavioral insights to help utilities communicate more effectively with their customers. (See links at the bottom of this post.) So it’s nice to see EDF releasing a study of Opower’s work: “Behavior and Energy Savings: Evidence from a Series of Experimental Interventions” [PDF]. The results are promising. The study tracks the use of “Home Energy Reports,” which are …

Energy Efficiency

How bad ideas keep rebounding into public discourse: the rebound effect and its refutation

The rebound effect: a light that never goes out.Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Every few years, a new report emerges that tries to resurrect an old hypothesis: that energy efficiency policy somehow results in consumers using more energy instead of less. This hypothesis was introduced in the 19th century by economist William Stanley Jevons, who argued that increases in the energy efficiency throughout a nation would lead to increases in coal consumption, rather than decreases. Recent articles have attempted to revive these claims, also known as the “rebound effect” — restating that energy efficiency tends to encourage more …

Energy Efficiency

Breaking the link between energy consumption and economic growth

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. There are skeptics of energy efficiency who claim that, paradoxically, all the energy and money we have been saving due to energy efficiency, across all sectors of the economy, has actually caused us to increase our energy consumption. This “economy-wide rebound” theory is a startling, but ultimately unsupportable, theory that is plainly contradicted by the evidence. In a new article [PDF] published yesterday on ElectricityPolicy.com, my colleagues and I put this economy-wide rebound theory to the test: We measure it against the data. As my colleague David Goldstein shows, no scientifically testable version …

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