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Energy Efficiency

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GOP to Navy: Use more oil, demand more money

An energy-efficient Navy? Tanks, but no tanks.

What is the Republican take on global military strategy? A recent hearing offers a glimpse -- a hilarious, horrifying glimpse.

On Feb. 16, the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee held a hearing on the U.S. Navy's budget request for fiscal year 2013. I confess I did not have the fortitude to watch the entire two-and-a-half-hour affair, but CQ wrote up a summary that covers some of the lowlights.

The GOP's main objection, expressed by chairman J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), is that the Navy is accepting budget cuts in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan winding down. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus should be out in public, contradicting his commander in chief and objecting to the cuts, the Republicans believe.

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11 important clean energy provisions in Obama’s budget proposal

Nice work on this one, Barack. (Photo by the White House.)

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget invests in clean energy to help power the engine of economic growth. The budget would direct funds to efficiency and renewable electricity technologies to create jobs and boost domestic manufacturing, and would also make manufacturing more efficient. The cleaner energy that will result from these investments will reduce pollution and protect public health. In addition, the budget would make taxes fairer by eliminating $40 billion in unnecessary breaks for big oil companies, which made record profits in 2011.

This clean energy vision would benefit middle-class Americans and the rest of the 99%. It is a stark contrast to the “drill, baby, drill” policies promoted by the American Petroleum Institute and other Big Oil allies.

Here are 11 important clean energy provisions in the president’s proposed 2013 budget:

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Overinvesting in energy efficiency, on purpose

Photo by doctorwonder.

This is the fourth post in a mini-series on the rebound effect. Here are posts one, two, and three.

Let's briefly review what we've covered so far in my rebound series:

  1. Climate change means we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a lot, beginning immediately.
  2. There are two ways to reduce GHG emissions from energy: increase low-carbon energy supply and/or decrease total energy consumption.
  3. Ramping up clean energy supply can't be done fast enough to keep us within our carbon budget, certainly not in the short- to mid-term, if at all. So we've got to use less energy.
  4. There are two ways to reduce energy demand: reduce the energy intensity of the global economy and/or reduce the growth of the global economy.
  5. Substantially reducing global energy intensity turns out to be extremely difficult, thanks in part to the rebound effect.
  6. If energy intensity can't be reduced quickly enough, then the only answer left (other than failing to stabilize global temperature at all) is slowing GDP growth. Yikes.

So where does this leave us? In my mind, two big questions remain, regarding Nos. 5 and 6.

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Why is the White House sitting on efficiency standards?

Efficiency standards for residential clothes washers are among the many that await approval.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama stated that the administration would “not walk away from the promise of clean energy.” The president also recognized that, especially in these tough economic times, “the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy.”

Obama’s speech brings to mind a pledge he made on the campaign trail, where he promised to reduce electricity demand 15 percent by 2020, saving American consumers $130 billion.

The administration has made good on parts of this pledge.

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The Facebook of ride-sharing has arrived

Got a road trip coming up? Why not use Ridejoy to save yourself the gas money and maybe make a new friend in the process?

The site's a lot like apartment/room-share site AirBnB. It leverages the power of the web to connect people so that they can use their resources more efficiently -- and, of course, save money in the process.

Here's how it works. You post an upcoming road trip on the site, name your price (sharing the cost of the gas, say) and see who's interested. Like AirBnB, connections to your real Facebook profile and reviews by others who have met you through the site help establish that you're not an ax murderer or whatever.

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Useful insights, faulty analysis in new book on rising energy use

This post was written by Steven Nadel, Executive Director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and a contributing author at the ACEEE blog.

A new book by David Owen was just released entitled The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse. This book expands upon an earlier article Owen wrote in The New Yorker that ACEEE criticized. Owen makes some useful points and does attempt to address some of the criticisms of his earlier work, but his book still suffers from the major flaw of his article -- a tendency to make conclusions based on anecdotes when a more careful look at the data would have shown that these claims are exaggerated.

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Why buildings haven’t gotten more efficient in 20 years

Photo by Trey Campbell.

Everything single part of a building, from the windows the the air conditioning and heating system, has become significantly more energy efficient over the past 20 years. And yet buildings, as a whole, are using more or less the same amount of energy they always have. What gives?

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How does the rebound effect fit into the big picture on climate change?

In my last two posts, I tried to explain the rebound effect and explore its implications for policy. (Short version: Rebound effects are real and in some cases substantial, but they do not undermine the case for energy efficiency.) In this post -- the last in what I promise was never intended to become a multi-part series -- I explore the question of what the rebound effect means for our larger understanding of the fight against climate change. Following that thread leads us into some deep waters, where we confront the climate policy dilemma that dare not speak its name: growth. Bear with me, it gets a little nerdy along the way.

The most obvious and uncontroversial thing to do about rebound effects is to better understand them and incorporate them into our climate policy analysis. Most climate analysis doesn't grapple with them at all, which cannot help but confuse our expectations and confound our efforts. We need some shared definitions, metrics, and standards for use by climate wonks.

So that's easy. After that, things get a bit murkier.

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Does the rebound effect matter for policy?

In my last post, I offered a brief introduction to the "rebound effect," by which energy demand, after dropping in response to energy efficiency gains, "rebounds" back upward as the money/energy savings are spent elsewhere. The academic literature shows that rebound effects are real and in some cases substantial, but highly context-dependent and devilishly hard to measure. Go read that post for background.

The question for today's post is: So what? What are the policy implications?

Discussion of rebound effects is often taken to be "anti-efficiency," so the most important conclusion to emphasize is: The existence of rebound effects does not harm the case for energy efficiency. In any way. At all. Even a little.

Again: There is no argument for energy efficiency that is rendered moot or false by the existence of rebound effects. The rebound effect is an interesting side effect of energy efficiency but is in no case an argument against pursuing it. Efficiency is good for economic productivity; it is progressive, in that it helps the poorest (who spend the highest percentage of their income on energy) the most; it is labor-intensive, so it creates jobs; and it reduces conventional pollutants. No matter what the rebound literature ends up concluding, it remains true that we radically underinvest in energy efficiency relative to what is environmentally or economically optimal.

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What’s the deal with the ‘rebound effect’?

Disclaimer: This is not an article about basketball. (Photo by Hoops Photos.)

"David," nobody has been asking, "what is this 'rebound effect' I keep hearing about? And does it matter?" Well, nobody, I have heard your questions and I'm here to answer them.

In fact, I'm going to write three posts about this. In the first, I'll briefly describe what rebound effects are and the controversy over them. In the second, I'll explore the policy implications (and -- spoiler alert -- conclude that there aren't many). And in the third, I'll explain some of my dissatisfaction with the terms of the debate. It's going to be totally awesome.

Need less, use less: The basic theory of energy efficiency

The most important thing to keep in mind when discussing energy is that we don't use energy. Think about it: If I handed you a chunk of coal or a barrel of oil, would you have any use for it? No. We use heat and refrigeration ("hot showers and cold beers," as Amory Lovins says). We use lighting and lawn-mowing and driving and texting and electro-sonic toothbrushing. We use the services that we derive from energy, which nerds call energy services.

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