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Catastrophic Bronx Apartment Fire Connects Energy Efficiency with Social Justice

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Mitchell Beer's picture
Publisher Energy Mix Productions

I’m publisher of The Energy Mix, an e-digest and online archive on energy, climate, and the shift to a post-carbon economy. Also president of Smarter Shift, an Ottawa-based firm that specializes...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Jan 12, 2022
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My colleague Gaye Taylor compiled this post for the Wednesday edition of The Energy Mix, observing that the space heater that caused the catastrophic apartment fire in the Bronx over the weekend would not have been needed in only moderately cold weather if the building had been more energy-efficient.

In this case, the cost to be calculated for National Cut Your Energy Costs Day is the loss of 19 lives and counting, including a family of five who'd moved to the U.S. from Gambia more than a decade ago. It's heartbreaking, infuriating, unnecessary...and just underscores the common sense efficiency improvements that we already know we should undertake for climate and cost-saving reasons.

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Kudos to Gizmodo for first making the connection from the space heater back to energy efficiency. Taylor compiled that material with accounts of what happened in the building on Sunday. Find the details here.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 12, 2022

In this case, the cost to be calculated for National Cut Your Energy Costs Day is the loss of 19 lives and counting, including a family of five who'd moved to the U.S. from Gambia more than a decade ago. It's heartbreaking, infuriating, unnecessary...and just underscores the common sense efficiency improvements that we already know we should undertake for climate and cost-saving reasons.

Powerful stuff, Mitchell-- thanks for sharing. These kind of considerations need to be more a part of the constant conversation!

Nevelyn Black's picture
Nevelyn Black on Jan 13, 2022

Because of the tragic nature of this discovery, I'm at a loss for words but I did want to acknowledge the connection being made here between energy efficiency and a tragedy that could have been avoided.  Hopefully shining a light on it will help bring about change.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jan 17, 2022

In the for-what’s-worth-department. Several years ago, New York City mandated the use of energy efficient windows and tens-of-millions of dollars were spent Alas, steam heating is difficult control, so folks open their apartment windows in the winter because their apartments are way too hot.  Reality colliding with bureaucratic foolishness.

Thomas Gebhardt's picture
Thomas Gebhardt on Jan 26, 2022

This is a stretch.  Not to disrespect the loss of life here but this is really a stretch to tie ESG & energy efficiency as a solution to this tragedy.  The article ( and the one in the link) states that this building  housed people from Gambia.  Gambia is close to the equator.  Did anyone consider that a practical, efficient heating room setpoint for the northeast US, say 68F, might still be uncomfortable for someone who is used to annual average daily high temperatures in the mid 80s and necessitate the use of a space heater for comfort?  The article mentions that the weather was mild, was it mild enough to trigger an outdoor air reset  (an energy efficiency strategy) and limit the heat to the radiators? 

Using this tragedy, which all that is known was caused by a space heater, and making a lot of assumptions to champion energy efficiency in the name of ESG is irresponsible and foolish.  Encouraging the government to throw tax dollars at energy efficiency with no accounting of benefits through M&V and cost controls is equally irresponsible.   Programs that involve utility incentives, PACE and ESPC where outcomes matter are far better methods of achieving energy savings.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jan 26, 2022

Driving up the cost of energy causes grossly disproportionate financial impacts on the the poor. The costs of mindless deployment of green energy economically pulverize the poor. The liberal elite championing green energy are unaffected by the misery they create.

The number one goal of energy production should be reasonably clean and reasonably affordable energy, as opposed to the elite feeling good about themselves.

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