Monday, June 29, 2009

--Another Helpful Resource

This one comes from a Dutch writer presently based in North Carolina. He provides a helpful rundown of many passive energy techniques. Of particular interest to me here in Alabama is his inventory of passive cooling techniques.

A New Regionalist Approach looks for ways in which the traditional architecture of a location can capitalize on these techniques while looking "traditional" and not "green." The reason for this effort is to combine the markets for traditional and energy efficient homes and gain significant marketshare from each as an effort to ground the Green Revolution in a market-based economy.

Green and Practical's article on Passive Cooling

A link from Green and Practical to an article on Solar Updraft Towers, the science behind cupolas in many older homes. (Did you really believe widow's walks were popular because of romance and not practicality?)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

--National Impact of Global Climate Change Analyzed

The Obama administration released a report today detailed the expected effect global climate change will have on the United States. The New York Times Green, Inc. blog reports here.

Here's the most important part of that report for this blog: If global temperatures do indeed continue to rise, then demand for cooling technologies will exceed demand for heating technologies. Because builders tend toward the "Tighter Envelope" method of increasing energy efficiency, homes will continue to be utterly dependent on their increasingly powerful Air Conditioning units. But as temps rise and more AC units come online in areas ever further north, electric rates will rise and cooling will grow more expensive. This does not even take into consideration the fact that cooling homes creates a feedback loop: temps rise because of global warming, we turn on the AC, new power plants are needed to fill the demand for electricity to power the AC, new power plants contribute more greenhouse gases, more greenhouse gases cause temps to rise, and the cycle turns again.

Obviously, then, a home that heats and cools itself in better relationship to its environment will be in demand over the coming century. Many benefits will of course come from looking into new technologies. Old technologies, however, are forgotten only to our detriment.

Monday, June 8, 2009

--U.S. Coal Reserves Depleting Faster than Anticipated

According to today's Wall Street Journal, the US should perhaps no longer think of itself as the Saudi Arabia of coal. Apparently the amount of available coal has been determined annually by subtracting the previous year's extraction totals from survey estimates of available reserves. Problem is, those survey estimates did not account for the difficulty of extraction. While most West Virginia coal has been relatively simple to acquire, coal west of the Mississippi River tends to be found in geologic formations that cannot be removed cost-effectively--even if prices for coal were to rise dramatically.

So the cost of oil continues to rise, the reserves of coal are proving inaccessible, nuclear plants are opposed by NIMBYs everywhere, and emerging technologies like wind and solar can't yet met the demand placed on them. At this point in the conversation, people tend to get lost in abstractions. They begin shouting "Drill, baby! Drill!" They pledge their certainty that, in a capitalist system, technologies for coal extraction, nuclear waste disposal, or solar and wind power will rise to meet the demand placed on them by the market. They talk, talk, talk, talk.

Now that's just fine. Anyone who predicts catastrophic energy meltdown is an alarmist. You can rest assured there'll be oil derricks in Alaska and wind-power generators off the Kennedy compound before we'll suffer through a national blackout.

But before you get caught up in the national or global scope of this problem, take a micro-examination of your own life. If energy costs were to suddenly double or triple, could you maintain your present lifestyle? As gas prices begin to inch back up, don't forget that the price of gas is related to the price of heating and cooling your home, the price of keeping the lights glowing, the price of planting the food you eat, fertilizing the food you eat, harvesting the food you eat, shipping the food you eat, storing the food you eat, and cooking the food you eat.. For a few moments, forget the Republican or Democratic rhetoric about the "solution" and the "obstructions". Forget your confidence in the system or your lack thereof.

Forget everything momentarily except a mental image of how your lifestyle would be affected by triple gas, electricity, and food prices.