The DOT should bring these back.
The DOT should bring these back.
As I found out tonight, when compact fluorescent bulbs burn out, they do so in a rather spectacular fashion.
When the vacuum inside the tubes is lost, oxygen gets in, contacts the tungsten filament, and ignites, causing overheating. This isn’t so different from the way in which an incandescent light bulb burns out. What is different is how the bulb flashes and pops alarmingly for several seconds, while releasing some acrid-smelling smoke.
After some quick searching, I found out that the smoke is caused by the epoxy that holds the bulb together overheating and starting to burn. Apparently, it’s not a fire hazard, but holy crap, it smells bad.
Good thing it’s a cool night in Houston – I’m airing the place out and getting some extra use out of my homebrew screen door.
One more important thing I learned: You need to be very careful when screwing in your fluorescent bulbs. Apparently, the glass tubes are somewhat fragile, and you can easily cause structural weakness by applying too much pressure or knocking it around. So, you should never twist the bulb while holding the tube – always hold it by the base. This will help prevent early burnouts and ensure that you get the several years of life that are advertised.
“Our generation must be the one that says, “We must halt global warming.” If we don’t act now, it will be too late. Our generation must be the one that says “yes” to renewable fuels and ends forever our dependence on foreign oil. Our generation must be the one that accepts responsibility for conserving natural resources and demands the tools to do it. And our generation must be the one that builds the New Energy Economy. How do we do it? It won’t be easy, but it is time to ask the American people to be patriotic about something other than war.“
– John Edwards
(emphasis mine; full interview here)
Calculate your impact by finding out how many tons of atmospheric carbon you’re responsible for adding each year.
Mine was 4.1 tons per year, which is smaller than average. And yes, this includes my 5 round-trip airplane flights a year. My secret? Wind-powered eletricity (zero emissions) and very little driving (I take the bus to work).
How do you stack up?
A few months ago, I signed up for Reliant Energy’s renewable energy plan. I pay about 3 dollars more per year, but all of my energy is guaranteed to come from wind power. For comparison, 85% of Reliant’s normal plan comes from burning coal and natural gas. Check and see if your energy company has this kind of plan, and do the planet a favor.
I also did some number crunching today and though the results were interesting enough to share. In ‘Saving Energy Without Derision’, a book I’ve posted on before, the author presents a breakdown of the typical American household’s energy use. He lists the average usage at about 10,600 kwh per year. At 15.4 cents per kwh (the average rate in TX right now), that costs the household 1,650 dollars per year. The proportions are summed up in this graph:
Two interesting notes:
By doing just those two things, you can cut your energy consumption by almost 15% per year. That’s energy savings equivalent to nearly a ton of coal. By looking at that graph and then around your house, it should be pretty easy to identify some other areas that you can save money. The best part is that in addition to saving the environment, you’ll also be saving yourself some cash. What’s not to love?
From a speech on energy independence:
We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.
In little more than two decades we’ve gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. This is the direct cause of the long lines which have made millions of you spend aggravating hours waiting for gasoline. It’s a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation. The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.
And whose excellent take on energy independence is this? President George Bush? Vice President Cheney? US Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman?
Nope. It was President Jimmy Carter, speaking in 1979!
Gee, I’m glad that we’ve come such a long way in 27 years.
Hat tip to Dood Abides at Dkos
Some recent posts over at Dailykos caught my eye. The first was by Jerome a Paris:
It is artificially cheap oil that has made you structure your country around the economically absurd idea of building housing flying distances from work places. Making oil steadily more expensive to change that peacefully is the only solution, otherwise the change will simply be brutish, nasty and short.
He then advocates drastically increasing gas taxes, just like most European countries have done.
The second diary, by johnnygunn, is an apt counter-point:
You wanna see the Democrats get stomped this November? Just have them pontificate that Americans’ cars are a luxury and that gas should cost TWICE as much. . . . It is political suicide to decide what is best for the “masses” even if they don’t know what is best for themselves. Kiss of death.
You know what? They’re both right.
Jerome is absolutely right that oil is a commodity that won’t be around much longer. He’s right that this kind of consumption is unsustainable. He’s right that the government should be doing something, and that a gas tax would encourage conservation.
Sadly, the second piece is right in saying that increasing gas taxes is political suicide. So what’s the solution?
Our culture of consumption is too deeply entrenched to change overnight. People aren’t going to up and leave their homes in the suburbs. They aren’t going to quit their jobs and stop commuting. So, we need to look at addressing the problem in other ways. Some ideas:
While I’m on the topic, here’s a good explanation of why “growth”, in the traditional sense, may soon be impossible due to energy scarcity.
Yes, all of this is rather bleak, but I prefer the honest truth to a bubble of banality.
Soaring energy costs and hellish Houston heat are bound to make this an expensive summer for most people. There have always been environmental and political reasons to conserve energy, but now more people have a financial motivation as well. Here are a few obvious and not-so-obvious tips that will let you easily save energy by picking the “low-hanging fruit”.
Also see Alan Zeilicoff’s excellent pdf “Saving Energy Without Derision”, which I have written about before and have mirrored on my site: part1 (pdf) part 2 (pdf). He’s got lots of great figures showing how his family and company saved a ton of power and money with relatively simple changes.
Got any more tips? Leave them in the comments.
Ted recently posted about gas mileage, energy policy, and the idea of a windfall tax on energy companies. Read the whole discussion first if you want, but my response stands alone pretty well too:
One of the main problems with energy policy in this country is that there’s very little incentive for politicians to stake out the position which will be beneficial to us all in the long term. The reasons for this are twofold. The first is that the public is fickle and demands immediate results. The second is that when you’re up for re-election in a close race, that big donation from the oil companies is likely to help more than appeasing a few environmentalists. This goes double if you’re a democrat, because you’re likely going to get the environmental vote anyway.
Something else to think about: In a recent poll, 8 out of 10 people say that drivers should buy less SUVs and get cars with better mileage. Yet, SUVs and trucks still make up roughly 50% of all new vehicles purchased in the US.
I’d like to believe that Americans are smart people. They say they’re concerned with global warming, and the ozone hole, and gas prices, and foreign oil dependence, and don’t want to tear up our wilderness. However, when it comes time to act, they do so with a selfishness and short-sightedness that is appalling.
Those who have discussed politics with me know that I have a libertarian streak mixed in with my liberalism. I value privacy a great deal, and the last thing I want to see is a “nanny state”. However, it’s hard not to see that people in the US are acting childish when they exhibit behavior like this.
Maybe a gas/energy tax is necesssary to encourage behavior that is beneficial to our society and our earth as a whole. Obviously moral incentive to do the right thing isn’t enough, so let’s give people a financial reason to change. Use all the money from the tax to fund things like renewable energy research and public transportation.
I don’t think that this should be done as a windfall tax, per say. Punishing corporations for making large profits isn’t fair. However, I think doing it for reasons like security (reducing dependence on foreign oil) and the commoon good (less pollution, smog, global warming, etc) are perfectly acceptable.
Don’t we already tax things like cigarettes, liquor and gambling disproportionately? Why not tax the US’s other great addiction – Oil.
Texas is one confusing place. Today I went to sign up for electricity at my new place and discovered that Texas’s electric industry is deregulated. What that means is lots of choices for who your electric provider is. There are something like 20 different providers for my new apartment’s area alone.
Some of the green companies really appeal to me, as several get all of their power from wind and solar sources. I’d really like to talk with my money and get clean power, but I don’t know if there’s any difference in reliability or service.
As a result, I’m currently leaning towards just signing up for the behemoth Reliant, since they’re the biggest, and presumably have more technicians, etc. I figure it’s a safe bet, even though they get most of thier power from coal and gas (yuck!). I hope that I can can then switch farther down the road when I figure this stuff out.
Any Texans out there know anything about these companies? Is there any risk with going with a company like Green Mountain and saving the planet?
Do you want to be more environmentally friendly? Tired of contributing to our foreign dependence on oil? Then take some simple steps to reduce your household energy costs. These are courtesy of Alan Zelicoff, who wrote about his experiences in ‘Saving Energy Without Derision’ (part 1 & part 2).
The first thing he wisely advocates is ‘picking the low hanging fruit’. He calculates that many households can save up to 30% of their energy costs just by making some simple changes like the following:
I’ve been working on some of these at our place. Give them a try too, and let me know how it goes.
Matthew from Defective Yeti had the following to say, in response to Shell’s claims to have invented a “fuel whose only by-product is water”:
I understand that hyperbole plays a central role in any corporation’s ad campaign, but claiming to have invented the most abundant element in the universe is a bit much.