I was becoming concerned this week at rant time, Sunday morning, 9:00 AM. We had our company picnic the day before on an overcast and nearly perfect day in cheese land. Sunday was similar. There were orioles, grosbeaks, yellow finches, house finches, ruby throated hummingbirds, downy woodpeckers, red breasted woodpeckers, cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees and other customers freeloading on our smorgasbord of bird offerings. But then while reviewing my sources, one of which is the Google energy efficiency updates, emailed promptly at 4:51 PM CDT everyday, I came across this cheery piece. There’s the topic of the week.
It started out with the article that “Sex is Better with Energy Efficiency”, which talked about abysmal EE marketing and we all know why. Because EE is as sexy as, I don’t know – a tumbleweed? Road kill? A tree stump? Something like this?
Backing up a little, there were huge changes in media in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1980s, obviously the biggest breakthrough was MTV with Madonna and Michael Jackson videos. Twenty-four hour “specialty” startups like CNN and ESPN came onto the scene. In the 1990s, information dissemination exploded another order of magnitude with Netscape and email. Now we have Twitter and tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, bazillions of websites. You can find millions of sheep and websites that will feed whatever theory, phobia, and frenzy you want.
Let’s go to the headlines in the referenced blog. Climate change caused: the Duluth flood, western wildfires, disappearance of arctic ice (uncovering more oil reserves to hasten global warming), ruinous healthcare, hottest May on record, paranoid oil companies, 72% of everyone, accelerating temperature increases, cannibalism amongst Antarctica’s penguins. I made the penguin thing up myself.
Global warming is a threat. There is no doubt about it and I’ve never claimed otherwise. But ambulance chasing the latest natural disaster insults the intelligence of any human being. First a side note: the record 24 hour rainfall for Duluth is now a measly 7.25 inches? That is amazing. We had historic flooding in the La Crosse area a few years ago (back to back years even), and the first one was about a foot of rain in a 24 hour period. On our sidewalk, it almost filled a 5 gallon bucket to the top with just water falling out of the sky. Incredible!
Last year we had a pathetically warm winter, but the previous several were reminiscent of the old fashioned cold snowy ones when I was a kid. In my freshman year of college, we had a heavy snow in October, and it never melted through the winter until May or something. A couple years later, it was pathetically warm again. The year I graduated – the night before moving out of the 4 plex after graduation, it was minus 28F. You don’t forget things like that. Notice I apply “pathetic” to warm conditions. I like it cold when it should be cold so I don’t want global warming at all – even for selfish reasons.
Climatic temperatures have risen a couple degrees over the past century, but for natural disasters, people should look back in history to see some of the whompers. Consider the dust bowl in the 1930s. Look at the kid nearby, 1936. He would be about my father’s age and could very well still be living somewhere – snowbirding on a beach in Florida or something? That’s Oklahoma in the picture folks. Not Saudi Arabia. Imagine if that happened today!
The climate change movement would do well with me if the ambulance chasing ceased. For example, the strong hurricanes a few years ago, including Katrina, were reportedly a global warming issue. But then there were none for about three straight years – actually haven’t had squat since that year. What happened? Last year there was major flooding along the Missouri River, the result of a very cold and snowy winter in its watershed. Not long before that, the river was at all time lows. For two or three years in a row, before last winter, the east coast had obscene levels of snow – and we got gypped in the Midwest. Give us some record snow already! It’s our turn!
Twenty-four hour news has to cover something so they cover the hell out of any anomaly – like it’s the first time it’s EVER happened. And any schmo sitting in their basement can be taken seriously if he whips up enough frenzy. If a person took 1% of this seriously they would have to be hospitalized for hypochondria.
Call me crazy, but when a tornado flattens a town, take care of sick and injured, and secure food, water and shelter first. Buy furniture later. As environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg points out per the UN even, deaths due to natural disaster including global warming average 27,000 per year. Lack of clean water and poor sanitation are responsible for 3 million deaths per year. Clean water and sanitation in a huge part of the world is cost prohibitive to the locals. But the ability for the west to develop clean water for them is a relative peanut.
Lastly, financial collapse like that which happened in the Great Depression will happen again. It isn’t a matter of if, but when, and it will all be the result of political self interest mixed with stupidity and ignorance of history and thinking, “it’s different this time”. No. It isn’t.
The ironic thing both the economy/social welfare systems and global warming have in common is; by the time they become grave threats, people will have heard the wolf cries for too long. When the threat level reaches the danger zone, people have long since been tone deaf.
As blasted in this blog many times, most recently in Widgetman, humans almost always have their priorities far out of whack. With EE for example, facility owners should probably establish marshal law to ensure lights are shut off overnight in their office buildings before they start adding photovoltaic panels. But then, I guess, to the casual observer (schlep) one can see how green the building is during the day, but at night when the building is lit like the headlamp of an oncoming train when no one is there, the wonderful PV panels cannot be seen and nobody pays attention or cares that the lights are burning bright to keep the cockroaches in their holes.
The human desire for widgets over self improvement, learning, hard work, and results for the greatest achievement in whatever the pursuit may be is universal. A perfect illustration for this is the triathlon. I’m not a triathlete for several reasons, the first of which I wouldn’t make it out of the water, the most dangerous part of the tri, alive. Maybe I could do something substantial like an Olympic distance or half ironman with gobs and gobs and gobs of time swimming.
The other barrier to tris, to me, is they require gobs of crap, but a barrier to me may be a reason to do them for others because people like crap (widgets). For the swim, a wetsuit is a great idea because hypothermia in the water can result in death. They also add buoyancy, which I would desperately need.
After the swim – the bike and run is where people get widgetitis. Let’s start with the bicycle. I would guess at least half the bikes in a half-iron are the Cervelos or equivalent Trek, this, that or the other. These are the Formula 1 race cars for the cycling universe. Some cost north of $6,000 easily, and they are pretty much only used for racing because they are stiff and uncomfortable to ride (I am told). But, they are extremely light and aerodynamic – the frame, the wheels, the frame and the wheels together, and the handlebars. If you own one of these and don’t shave your chops and legs, you’re wasting money.
Then there are the aero helmets for another $150, which is ridiculous because it must cost as much to design and manufacture a toilet plunger as it does for one of these things.
As I watch some people mounting and donning this stuff for their 56 mile ride I’m thinking, “Why don’t you lose that 20 pound sand bag of a spare tire, and then pay $5000 to shave 6 ounces off the bike and get the aerodynamics that will save you 30 seconds on a 56 mile ride?” In combination, these bikers are like a Formula 1 race car with an 18 horsepower Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine.
Moving onto the run, which I actually can do, we have additional widgets of the day. Some of the Formula 1 drivers may use a beverage belt thingy with eight or ten little bottles of sport and energy drinks of some sort. They each probably contain 100 calories and a bunch of expensive mineral crap they don’t need. They remind me of my little green army guys when I was a kid, but rather than having a belt full of grenades, it’s a belt full of little flasks. There are probably 10 water/Gatorade stops on the course, so what’s the point in carrying this cargo?
Then there are compression thingies for the calves and arms. What are these for? They’re like the spoiler on the old bitchin’ camaros from the 1970s (check out the song sometime by the Dead Milkmen). They look “cool” (to some people), but they serve a dopey, theoretical purpose. The theory is they increase veinal (return) blood flow. Good for bed-ridden or stationary people, but triathlons? Working muscles need blood flow and these things restrict it. The fad is in the NBA as well. Lastly, I would add that triathlons occur in the summer when it’s hot. What you need: the right shoes for your foot type and maximum heat rejection. Compression things are insulation. Bad. BTW, remember cho-pat straps and nasal strips? Gone. You won’t see these compression things in five years either.
There are similarities with energy efficiency. At the moment, LEDs are the hot item, but to my knowledge, they produce no more lumens per Watt than a decent T8 fluorescent lamp. They have other advantages, however, like a forever service life, and they don’t result in skunky beer they tell me. Electric cars will be in the nasal strip category as they will be swamped by hybrids with possibly some decent market share by plug-in hybrids. Then, of course, there is the Cervelo owner with the 20 pound spare tire equal for buildings: the LEED triple platinum with PV, solar water heating, individual temperature and ventilation control, variable speed drives operating at full speed, and heating water temperature controlled to 160F all the time.
Forget the widgets and apply yourself first.
 Finishing a triathlon is a great accomplishment and while I have no vested interest, by all means, buy all the stuff you want!
Last week ACEEE produced a webinar, “Intelligent Efficiency”. I was late to the party but as I came online, an ACEEE guy, Neal Elliott was talking and the topic was intriguing – system-wide, holistic, intelligent efficiency. I thought, hmm, maybe somebody read this entire series of rants and was possibly preaching from the gospels of the obvious.
Next up was a guy from Schneider Electric and he gave a boring advertisement of – Schneider Electric. Next was a guy from Johnson Controls to talk about what else – the Empire State building. The Empire State Building EE overhaul has been in every trade magazine, newspaper, crap magazine (Time, Newsweek), The National Enquirer, Star, Vogue, Bon Appétit, Weight Watchers, Cigar Aficionado, Esquire, Cosmo, Sports Illustrated, Readers Digest, Playboy, Parent, billboards, newspaper ads, taxis, subway cars (next to the toe fungus, tattoo removal, gout prevention, sleep apnea and hernia repair shop ads), buses, elevators, church and synagogue bulletins, PSAs, restaurant menus, grocery carts, cereal boxes, milk cartons, toilet stalls, gasoline pumps, dentist, veterinary, and doctor offices, 60 Minutes, 20/20, The Apprentice, Dancing with the Stars, Letterman, Leno, SNL, and Jimmy Kimmel. I immediately pulled the plug before nausea set in. I only have about two or three more times I can absorb shameless JCI / Empire State building propaganda before I throw up till my gall bladder bleeds. Get it already?
Fortunately, ACEEE published a paper on the topic. Intelligent Efficiency includes three components: People Centered Efficiency, Technology Centered Efficiency, and Service Oriented Efficiency.
People efficiency includes the constant bombardment of information so consumers can change behavior to save energy. An example given includes monitoring home energy use over time to see when and how much energy is used to modify behavior. Similarly, information can be provided at the organization or community level to “invite human behavior” into the system.
Technology efficiency includes gizmos that optimize facility, industrial and transportation efficiencies. Users program and commission the gizmos and watch the savings accumulate. Sounds good. However, they are talking beyond fixing systems that are already controlled by energy management systems. They are talking about anticipatory elements like weather forecasting – turnip milking.
Service oriented technology includes stuff like virtual meetings, webcams, webinars and beaming up Scotty.
In regard to people efficiency, people need to give a crap before they are going to do anything. I go back to something I wrote many posts ago – something I took from a senior member of a client of ours. She compared smart meters and energy information bombardment for customers with that of nutrition information bombardment. Has there ever been more nutrition information available and in your face, and have obesity rates ever been higher? Answers: no and no. Regarding energy efficiency, this just in: American’s know how to save energy in many ways, but don’t – great timing. Six in ten say they lack knowledge for EE as a major reason for not doing anything. The other four vastly over estimate their capability. And wouldn’t you know it, nearly all programs merely throw money at EE and very few provide decent information for commercial and industrial. Actually, some jurisdictions close to home (hint, hint) discourage and in fact see customized EE plans as a waste of money. Ignorance is bliss.
When it comes to intelligent controls and artificial intelligence, how about fixing the grotesque levels of waste that is present in many commercial and industrial buildings. To put it in lay-androgynous-person terms, many facilities have the equivalent of the furnace, air conditioner, oven and wash machine running balls out while all the windows are open and on top of this, comfort and/or production still suffer. I scream this over and over but apparently closing the windows and turning off the heater in summertime isn’t sexy enough. Lack of specific, custom INFORMATION is the problem. We’ll have a case study with a real project as a perfect example with a happy ending sometime this summer.
I suggest starting with the things that save 25% right off the top with an ROI of 150% before installing anticipatory fuzzy logic to determine peak coffee making time to trim back on the air conditioning to reduce electrical demand. Ok?
Here is a dirty secret as an example. The country could save billions on energy cost simply by opening throttle valves and controlling pumps properly with variable speed drives in commercial and especially industrial facilities. Barrier: Manufacturing staff barely have time to keep the wheels on. Expenses, especially labor, is cut to the bone and companies are making record profit, but they don’t have time for EE spotting and implementation. The EE program “energy adVISEr” should point this out, but if it isn’t a T12 light bulb, it isn’t in the “adVISEr’s” wheelhouse. One has to know what a valve, or a pump for that matter, looks like to fix it.
One final note – one of the primary barriers to “intelligent efficiency” as noted in the report is high up-front cost. This could be the case in some instances, but we have experienced facilities with the report’s referenced brands of controls – the latest and greatest fully capable of everything they are talking about – controlling systems that are wasting epic tankers of money.
Controls don’t save energy. Smart people using controls save energy. Educated and informed facility and process managers maintain the savings. Is anyone listening?
 Did you know that “balls out” is in reference to governors that control / maintain engine speed? “Balls out” simply means the engine is running fast.
This week’s feature presentation is one of my favorites for saving energy: automobiles. Let’s take this recent post from Fuel Fix and dive right in.
The first one I read is “make sure your gas cap is broken or missing.” That’s right. You can save 3 cents per gallon if it is broken or missing. I think they need some proofreading. I suggest using a well-oiled and fully functional gas cap. Where they get the 3 cents per gallon savings, I have no idea. That’s like saying a 20 minute power walk will reduce the energy content of a milkshake by 50 calories per dollar. Think about that a while.
Drive the speed limit. I have trouble with this one. Let’s say I’m traveling for “business”, meaning I simply need to get from A to B on a freeway. There is nothing I want to get out of the way faster than such a drive. A week ago today I had to drive from Wisconsin to the southeast shores of Lake Michigan. After 45 minutes of stop and go approaching downtown Chicago Saturday afternoon, I was in no mood for the 55 mph signs in northern Indiana. The fastest dudes doing 85-90 mph were my best friends. I still clocked 33-34 mpg – the upper range for my car.
The other case is driving around home in Western Wisconsin, the greatest place to drive on the planet with baby-butt-smooth roads and lots of curves. For example, on last week’s trip, we were rolling down our street as we pulled away from our house and my wife is fidgeting around placing this and that in the car and I said, “What in the world are you doing?” I just throw my stuff in and go. She was strapping stuff down because I like cornering. No food or drink allowed! Driving the posted speed limits around curves is just wrong, like a two hour wedding.
Stay off the brakes. Tell you what – I’m going to dedicate an entire rant to this one. Next.
Turn your car off. Duh. Millions of people should actually pay attention to this one. The worst offender here is starting your car in the winter to let it warm up in the driveway or garage. My parents always used to do this for comfort reasons I guess. I just don’t get it. Run out in the freezing cold, start the car and let it run for 15 minutes. The engine probably pukes out more pollutants in 15 minutes of cold idling than while burning an entire tank going down the highway. Why? Combustion in a cold cylinder is not complete, resulting in hydrocarbons. Pollution control devices catalytic converters (oxidizers) don’t work because they are too cold. It does NOT damage an engine to take off from a cold start – and it pollutes less when you get it up to temperature fast. Tip: for anyone without covered/indoor overnight parking and frost-covered cars in the morning, use Rain-X. Use it anyway. It greatly improves vision in rain, and bug guts, road slime/salt and goo roll right off. It also makes physical ice-scraping much easier.
Tire pressure. These guys say over inflating tires does no good. Get this: rolling resistance due to tire flexion is one of the biggest losses of energy while driving down the road – probably more than the drag (wind resistance), starting, stopping and hauling freight. Why do you say that Jeff? First, because I get close to 20% better mileage in the summer compared to winter when tires are stiffer. How do I know it’s the tires? Because I drive big hills to and from work and in the winter, my car slows down going down the big hill and barely stays steady if I totally coast (take it out of gear). In the summer, it speeds up while engine braking and when out of gear – zoom, like hot wheels down the track (millenials – look it up).
Here is another thing to consider: My car weighs about 3000 lbs with some gasoline and me in it. I get about 35 mpg, or about 52.5 ton-miles per gallon. Freight trains can move almost TEN TIMES as much freight/distance per gallon, not even counting the weight of the train cars and locomotives. What’s the diff? Rubber on concrete versus steel on steel. Trains have virtually zero rolling resistance. Tires are huge energy wasters.
The auto mechanic always puts my tires at 33 psi, presumably for a “smooth” ride. Bullshit. I pump them to just a few psi below the maximum as stated on the sidewall. You can do what you want.
Keep your air filter clean. Yah, sure. A dirty filter makes it more difficult for your car to breathe but if you really want to save energy in this vain, remove your exhaust just downstream of the exhaust manifold like a race car. Mufflers and all that pollution control crap in your exhaust system wastes energy. That’s a fact, Jack. You can do what you want.
They say keep the windows closed and run the air conditioner because the reduced drag saves more than it costs to run the air conditioner. This is splitting hairs. I’ve done both and I see no discernible difference. As mentioned previously, I get better mileage driving fast in the summer with the air conditioner running than driving 55 in winter with no AC consumption, and the windows up of course.
Even though your kids may like to hang out the window or stand up through the sunroof for that free and easy feeling while you race them to daycare, I would discourage this activity as it increases drag and degrades mileage. Send them down a steep hill on their bike if they clamor for the easy rider feeling.
To be continued.