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New Energy Secretary To-Do List: More Efficiency, More Renewables. Less Carbon.

Peter Lehner's picture

I am the Executive Director of NRDC. The position is my second at NRDC. Beginning in 1994, I led the Clean Water Program for five years, before leaving in 1999 to serve as the head of the...

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ernest moniz energy secretaryIn 2008, Ernest Moniz, director of MIT’s Energy Initiative (MITEI), wrote an open letter to the newly-elected President Barack Obama, offering his recommendations on energy policy.  He discussed the urgent need to control global warming pollution, stating, “We must begin moving toward a low-carbon energy future now.”

Moniz, Obama’s pick for Secretary of Energy, will soon be in a prime position to make good on his own recommendations.

As a scientist, Moniz is obviously a firm believer in the power of clean energy technology. MITEI projects under his tenure included windows that generate electricity, batteries built by viruses, and a biofuel made from yeast.  But he also believes that technology must be complemented by policy in order to effect real change.  As he said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2006, in order to address global warming, we must “have the will to take more than baby steps.”

Meeting the Obama administration’s climate and energy goals will certainly take more than baby steps, especially from the DOE. But the agency has plenty of scope—and the authority–to make significant progress in cutting global warming pollution. In this regard, it’s helpful that Moniz is a policy expert as well as a respected scientist. We so often, as in the case with fuel efficiency, have the technical solutions at hand. We just need leadership and the right policies to put them into action.

We did it with cars. Thanks to President Obama’s historic fuel efficiency standards, we’re now on track to cut global warming pollution equivalent to the amount produced by 72 coal-fired power plants. Buildings could be next. Commercial and residential buildings account for 70 percent of America’s electricity demand, and yet the way our buildings consume energy—in how they’re built and how they’re used–is often highly inefficient. There are numerous ways to tackle this issue, but the DOE can do its part by keeping up to date with issuing appliance and equipment efficiency standards. In recent years the DOE has fallen behind on updating and issuing new standards, leaving an estimated $3.7 billion in savings for consumers and businesses on the table, and allowing the release of an extra 40 million metric tons of carbon pollution—the equivalent of that produced by about 10 coal-fired power plants.

The DOE can also use its own purchasing power and its knowledge of the market to get more energy-saving products into buildings, such as high-performance windows and efficient HVAC units. By connecting buyers and vendors and coordinating high-volume purchases, the DOE can help make these products more affordable and more widely used.

In addition to efficiency, continuing to support renewable energy research and development is critical in the fight to stabilize our climate. The renewable energy industry has grown rapidly in the past few years and is already showing great promise, as both a source of good jobs as well as a viable means of reducing carbon pollution. But economic and political uncertainty threatens to stall this growth. A continued push from the DOE can help get more renewable technology deployed and meeting our energy needs, instead of locking in our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

As Under Secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration, Moniz was known for being able to work well with the diverse constituencies the DOE serves. It’s a skill that will surely come into play as President Obama works to deliver on his promise of tackling global warming pollution and moving forward with clean energy. With strong leadership from the President and at the DOE, this country can start putting more climate and clean energy solutions into place, and work toward a safer, more stable climate, for ourselves and for future generations.

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Thomas Garven's picture
Thomas Garven on Mar 6, 2013


Very well written and I can't find anything to disagree with, LOL. Here are a few of my picks of things that need to get done.

1. We need Energy Start clothes dryers; gas and electric.  We need to stop sucking the air out of our homes to dry our clothes.  Few people realize that clothes dryers draw from 150-250 cubit feet per minute of heated or cooled air into the dryer where it is heated to a higher temperature and then blown outside.  Clothes dryers need to be using outside air - not inside air for drying clothes.  

2. Our Air Conditioners [AC] and Heat Pumps [HP] in America waste tons of energy.  ALL AC and HP in the U.S. should be inverter style units with a minimum SEER rating of 16 or higher.  Currently we use units which switch off and on several times every hours causing an in-rush of current, voltage spikes on the grid and increased stress on the equipment.  Inverter style units adjust the speed of the compressor to match the heating or cooling load needed resulting in fewer starts and stops while maintaining a far more comfortable environment.  We are from 5-10 years behind Europe and Asia in this area.  

3. We need to STOP installing heating and cooling duct work in attics and change the building Code to prevent this practice.  It boggles my mind that people install heating and cooling ducts in attic spaces that can be 150 F. in the summer and 20 F in the winter.  And since heating and cooling ducts are only insulated to R-6, the heating or cooling looses become significant.  Heating and cooling ducts should be run under or within the building structure.  This one change can save homeowners at least 20% on their heating and cooling costs.

4. We need to seriously think about WHAT we use to construct the outside WALLS of our homes.  Structural Insulated Panels or SIPS come to mind as one solution but I am sure there are others.  Interior walls and ceiling can use traditional framing.  Minimum R values for attics should be R-40 and roofing materials, and colors need to be Energy Star rated with integrated solar hot water.

These are but a few of the things we can do.  I was shocked when I read how much energy we use that is just wasted.  Here is a link to a Google search that tells a really BIG STORY about how our homes and businesses are effecting our climate.  After reading a few of the links maybe you will come to the same conclusion that I have which is; "we don't yet fully understand why our climate is changing" and all this talk about CO2 is just ONE contributing factor and there are many more.

Thank you for reading this posting.'+waste+heat+affects+air&rlz=1C1AVSX_enUS414US430&oq=Cities'+waste+heat+affects+air&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

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