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Mike Carter is a Sr. Engineer for Tech Resource's Questline service. Mike has a BS Engineering and MBA degree from The Ohio State University. He has worked with various EPRI centers supporting...

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Energy Consumption - Pushing Away from the Table

Women Comparing a Regular and Energy Saving Light Bulb

Energy costs are an increasing concern in a tough economy and a competitive marketplace. The common-sense solution to high energy costs is to either increase energy sources or to reduce our use of energy. Numerous barriers exist to increasing our energy sources. Environmental issues inhibit drilling for oil in new locations or building new coal-fired power plants and safety concerns discourage the use of nuclear energy. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, are promising, but technology hurdles limit their capacity for the foreseeable future. New technologies, such as fuel cells, are still in development and are limited commercially. While solutions to these barriers will eventually be realized, they will not happen in the short-term. What can a concerned citizen do?

Energy Resources and Use

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, we produce 70% of our energy needs domestically. The rest is imported, mainly as crude oil. An estimated 40% of total U.S. energy consumption is in the form of liquid fuel, such as gasoline and diesel. Another 40% is split equally between natural gas and coal. Since significantly increasing these energy sources is not likely, energy conservation becomes the only viable option for decreasing costs and ensuring our energy independence. It would be helpful to take a closer look at the energy conservation opportunities for each fuel type, ignoring for the moment any cost differences or environmental impact. For each fuel, how can you get the most energy output for raw fuel input.

Liquid Fuel

Gasoline and diesel fuel represent about two-thirds of our liquid fuel consumption, and the vast majority is used for cars and trucks. Motor vehicles consume 135 billion gallons of gasoline and 40 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year. Unfortunately, internal combustion engines are not very energy efficient. The efficiency of converting the energy content of liquid fuel to horsepower by combustion is only about 30% for gasoline engines and 40% for diesel engines. The rest of the energy is lost mainly as heat.

So, how do you increase motor vehicle fuel efficiency? New technologies such as fuel cells and electric vehicles are often touted as the answer. Fuel cell energy efficiency however, is roughly equivalent to diesel engines. Electric vehicles are highly efficient, but a significant amount of energy is wasted in the generation of electricity. Attempts are being made to legislate better fuel efficiency. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards require an increase of 25% in fuel efficiency for passenger cars by 2020 -- that is not going to happen by increasing combustion efficiency. Rather, Americans will have to get used to driving much smaller cars.

Energy conservation, not technology, is the less expensive and more effective short-term alternative. For instance, drivers can increase fuel efficiency 20% across the board by just not driving so aggressively. Driving less through can pooling, working from home, bicycling, and public transportation can also help to significantly reduce fuel use. These are sometimes difficult options in a car-oriented society, but these kinds of changes are necessary to reduce fuel costs and increase energy independence.

Natural Gas

While a growing amount of natural gas is used for electricity generation, the great majority of natural gas is consumed in industrial processes and in commercial and residential space and water heating. Boiler controls, steam trap maintenance, and steam system insulation are just a few of the energy saving strategies available for improving the energy efficiency of industrial process heating systems. For space heating, replacing older gas furnaces with newer, energy efficient gas furnaces or heat pumps can result in efficiency increases of 15% or more. For faster and cheaper increases in energy efficiency, consider adjusting your thermostat or sealing air leaks in doors, windows, and other building areas.


Coal is almost exclusively used for generating electric power in the US. Roughly half of electricity production comes from coal, while the rest comes from nuclear power and natural gas combined. Consumption of electricity is fairly evenly split between residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. Half of residential electricity is used for appliances, of which kitchen appliances represent the largest share. Replacing old appliances with ENERGY STAR® rated appliances will improve efficiencies between 10% and 50%, depending on the type of appliance. Unplugging "energy-hog" devices like battery chargers and "instant-on" TVs will result in small but immediate savings. Lighting represents only 10% of residential electricity consumption. However, replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), however, will reduce lighting energy consumption by 75%.

In the commercial sector, space cooling and lighting use more than half of overall electricity consumption. Space cooling efficiency can be increased by adjusting thermostats and making sure that air leaks are properly sealed. Replacing older T12 fluorescent lamps and magnetic lighting ballasts with newer T8 fluorescent lamps with electronic ballasts can save between 15% and 30% of lighting electricity consumption. Another effective lighting strategy uses sunlight for more than just solar panels. The practice of "daylighting" uses skylights and light sensors to automatically turn off internal lighting when there is plenty of sunshine. Many big box retailers use daylighting effectively in their stores.

In the industrial sector, motors use about 50% of total electricity consumption. Replacing older motors with newer premium-efficiency motors will increase efficiency by up to 3%, but that adds up over time, because motors are often operating during two to three shifts per day. The most attractive opportunity is to replace single-speed motors with variable speed motors and drives. Reducing your motor speed by one-half can result in energy savings of over 75% for some applications such as pumps and fans.

Saving Energy and the Environment

This conservation approach has ignored the cost differences between energy sources and their environmental impacts. But sometimes a simplistic approach leads to simple answers that can be practically and quickly implemented. The bottom line is that America is wedded to fairly inefficient energy consumption practices and divorce is not an option. While it is important to focus on finding alternatives to the internal combustion engine and coal-fired power plants, taking steps to conserve our limited fossil fuel resources should not be ignored. This will not only help to reduce costs in the short-term, but it can have significant environmental benefits in lower greenhouse gas emissions.

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Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 10, 2010
Mike's article here is a pretty nice wide ranging overview of what consumers and businesses can readily do. The key is getting consumers and businesses on a wide scale to implement them, because doing any one of them has an up-front cost associated with it.

Education of consumers and businesses partly the answer, and this article does some of this by reporting potential energy savings for each conversion method as an average typical percentage. A more meaningful approach for the public would be to equip consumers and businesses with electronic metering tools to measure their energy consumption and energy costs on a real-time basis, and ultimately on an appliance- or use-specific basis. Then any efficiency or conservation measures implemented can be readily measured with specific cost savings made readily known to the user.

I guess what I am suggesting in an ideal world is that every utility customer's house or building, every electric or natural gas consumer appliance, every industrial motor or machine, and every transportation vehicle should ideally be equipped with its own energy metering electronics that logs and communicates energy used and costs in real-time to the user.

Such electronics technologies exist in some forms already, for example smart meters that communicate a building's electrical energy use and costs to a real-time customer display or computer. Trouble is wide-spread implementation of this for any uses of energy is not viewed as "cost effective", so other forms of incentives are necessary to get consumers and businesses to invest in efficiency upgrades and more conservation measures. These typically take the form of government handouts and sometime mediocre economic incentives to invest in them.

Another approach is governments forcing manufacturers of appliances and vehicles through regulations to increase efficiencies on new products. But getting much of the public to replace many more expensive older products before their end-of-life with newer more efficient ones is still a big problem without any incentives, or electronic metering tools, described ab

Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 10, 2010
, described above. (my last post somehow got truncated).

If metering electronics were integrated into appliances and vehicles by their manufacturers, all it would take to get consumers and businesses to pay for its added costs is more clever marketing i.e. better selling of it as an added product feature. Just imagine the competition between manufacturers of say dishwashers or refrigerators that could result if manufacturers incorporated more metering electronics into them that also communicated energy costs to the user. Then instead of simply claiming to be Energy Star rated by government standards, they could boast that the buying consumer could actually measure and verify how much energy they are using and saving.

This would also enable a direct means of comparing one product's energy efficiency level against its competitors. Without this, consumers are faced with competing Energy Star products not knowing which one is actually the most efficient for any given usage habits.

Kevin Lawless's picture
Kevin Lawless on Jun 15, 2010
Nice overveiw. I would add the transportation and refrigeration of beverages (especially H2O )that don't need vehicle transport or refrigeration as another area for close inspection if one wanted to drive towards a lower energy intensity economy. Families could save a lot of $ as well since bottled water purchased in a vending machine or a grocery store costs on the order of 10,000 times the cost of tap water, at least where I live.
Murray Duffin's picture
Murray Duffin on Jun 15, 2010
If metering of individual equipments were practical, the measurements could be fed to utility smart metering and the rate charged could be varied inversely with the efficiency. If people had to pay more for inefficient use of their energy, you better believe they would change. However, I am doubtful about the practicality in the short run. The author has only touched lightly on the efficiency opportunities. Bad design is rife in the USA, and provides vast opportunity for efficiency improvements, especially in industrial processes. Heating and cooling of older homes is another major opportunity. Savings of 50to 90% are realizable in many many cases, much better than the conservative values floated here.
Malcolm Rawlingson's picture
Malcolm Rawlingson on Jun 15, 2010
I have been an energy conserver for as long as I can remember and much of what is stated here can readily be accomplished. However you need to be very careful when you suggest replacement of a machines with ones of higher efficiency and make the claim that entire process is energy efficient. Replacing it when it is broken is one thing - replacing it to save energy is another. Remember that the act of replacing any machine involves manufacturing and distribution costs which all involve energy.

So here are the consequences of what you propose. Let us say you see a dishwasher that uses 25% less energy. You will go to the store and buy it (capital expense). The store will then deliver it (energy cost of diesel truck). You will then install it or have someone come in and do that for you. If you choose the latter (most people will) then that person has to come to your house and he or she will get there in a truck or other utility vehicle incurring another energy cost. Of course your machine had to find its way from the factory to the store you bought it from and someone had to make it. Like most machines it was likely made of hundreds of parts from all over the world assembled in Mexico or China. Every single one of the parts that make the new efficient machine needed energy to make them and energy to transport them to the assembly plant. All the copper steel plastic electronics has an energy cost associated with it. The copper had to be mined, the plastic made in a petrochemical plant, the iron ore had to be mined and converted into steel using electric Bessemer converters.

So when you add it all up I think your conservation measure actually cost in energy a great deal more than the machine will save over its lifetime.

Here is the philosophy I use when it comes to energy use and it relates to Bob;s ideas above about re-educating people.

The cheapest form of conservation is ALWAYS the best. If you want to save on electric lighting use. Turn the lights OFF in the rooms you are not using. No need for expensive mini flourescents. They should ONLY be used where the lighting is continuously required and there are few places in a normal house where that is the case. Operating a light switch from the on to the off position takes less than a second and costs nothing. Do more of that and your electricity bill will fall and it will not cost you a dime.

If you want to save money on Laundry use a cold water detergent and ALWAYS run the machine full. New machines cost money and energy - much better to use your existing machine more effectively.

If your "inefficient appliances" are not broken just keep using them until they fail and THEN buy your new more efficient model. That make the overall process efficient - not just the user end of it.

I wonder how many of the people who contribute here actually turn their computers off at night. I do - always at work and at home. They work just fine.

The result of my philosophy is an electricity bill much less than a hundred bucks a month. I can often do it for 50 - 60 in the summer. I do not have air conditioning since I really only need it a few days in the year.

By driving carefully and using hyper miling methods I easily average 50 mpg and if I am really careful I can get more. The best I have managed from a 2.7 litre V6 is 62 mpg. All I did was take the junk out of the car and keep the speed down and avoid hard accelerations from lights. Very easy to do of course but only a few will bother.

The problem of course is people are always looking for the magic bullet. The gadget that is going to save all this money. In fact the savings are usually non-existent. Mini-fluorescent lights are an outstanding example. The do use less electricity but they cost 5 to 10 mimes more because they require a lot of energy to make. They are also imported all the way from China so moving containers full of these things half way around the world to my living room using diesel trucks and diesel ships and diesel trains hardly seems like energy efficiency to me. In addition they are designed for continuous use and when used that way their lifespan is longer than a regular bulb. However that is NOT the way most people use them which is on and off. Of course they fail after a year or two and then you have to import some more from half way around the world.

So if you REALLY want to conserve energy turn things off when you are not using them is the simplest and least cost method. Saving energy should cost you nothing or it is a waste of time.

An finally I am not aware of the safety issues you cite with respect to nuclear power stations that limit their use. Can you explain what they are. Since I have been working in nuclear power plants for the better part of 40 years I do not understand what you mean and have no recollection of ever feeling unsafe standing on under or at the side of an operating reactor.


Malcolm Rawlingson's picture
Malcolm Rawlingson on Jun 15, 2010
Notwithstanding the above it is a nice article Mike, but I fear what you are asking for is Americans to change their way of life. I will believe things are changing and people are understanding their profligate use of energy when I don't see Hummers and SUV's and gigantic trucks with one driver on the roads.Or big diesel busses with two passengers in. Or city buildings lit up at night with no-one working there. Unfortunately these observations are very common and I can only conclude that energy is far too cheap for it to be a concern for most people. Some buildings and houses I have been in are so cold in the middle of summer you could make ice cubes from your breath.

I think all we need to do is educate our children and ourselves about energy but for this selfish self centred boomer generation that bleats about the environment at every turn and invented the NIMBY syndrome while getting in their Hummers to drive 500m to get a big Mac - there is no hope.

Fortunately for us Einsten and Fermi showed us how to get energy out of useless lumps of rock. So when all the fossil fuel is gone the lights will stay on and we'll figure out some way to fuel the Hummers and the Cameros


Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jun 16, 2010
During the Great Depression families often visited. The Sunday drive was common in the 30's. At dinner time we had the subtly flashed expression for "family go light." While there were usually not more pork chops, or pot roast there were usually more potatoes to add to the pot.

I haven't read all the comments above but I've read enough that they convey the message of family go light.

That's no longer an option. Family go light now means too many people on this planet and we have no solution.

Merlin C. Stansbury's picture
Merlin C. Stansbury on Jun 16, 2010
I agree wholeheartedly with Mike's summary and position. I also see some very good comments.

With regard to energy, the US has had wake up calls in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s. It is time to act. We must reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Many developed, developing and undeveloped countries are competing for the same limited resource. Vital and strategic oil and gas resources lie in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. Take a look at their surrounding neighbors - Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Samalia, Yemen, etc. We in the US are paying a very high price for inexpensive gasoline at the pump!

To do this in the short term will require a move to energy conservation and efficiency. I still see much of the US populous driving around in large gas guzzling cars and truck, stuck in traffic, with one person in a 2-3 ton vehicle. This has to change. Advertising on TV, newpapers, radio, and magizines should be promotiing energy efficient instead of gas guzzling vehicles, mass transit, and car pooling. Our city infrastructures should be designed to support mass transit (trains, subways, buses, bicycles, and walking). Our building codes and regulations should mandate energy efficiency and alternative and distributed energy.

In the interim, we must move to domestic resources of nuclear, coal (clean technology), gas and hydro electric power. We must also move to altenatives such as wind, solar, hydro and geothermal.

Of course, to do this, the populous must be on-board and motivated. We will have to educate them to the need to change. Change does not come easily. Politically, this is sensitive. Both Republicans and Democrats will have to be on board to promote a win-win scenario. Regulations will have to change to ease siting and routing of facilities. That is not to say that we should compromise standards of safety, health, secuity, reliability, quality, and the environment. We should take the lead.

The move to a new energy economy will require an educated workforce. Children should be inspired to become proficient in math, science, technology, and engineering.

Best to all!

Merlin C. Stansbury PE (TX and LA) Stansbury Consulting LLC 6500 Fairview Road Hixson, TN 37343


Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 16, 2010
Malcolm raises a valid point citing all the inefficiencies and energy intensive consumers who are not likely to change their energy guzzling habits. More education is not likely going to change the habits of those driving SUVs a short distance just to get a Big Mac for their kids. My comment to this is that of course there will always be consumers with deeper pockets with these habits who generally have less or no interest in saving money by practicing more conservation or efficiency upgrades. My emphasis on more education of consumers is targeting the average and lower income consumers who do not have deep pockets. To these "segments" of the population, every dollar in expenses matter to them on a daily basis.

Providing education and detailed knowledge about their energy uses and costs, through technology if it is practical, could do wonders. These segments of the population already tend to go out of their way to save a few bucks. It is common for them to compare their spending habits on consumer goods with their friends and neighbors just to educate one another on where the best prices are, and whose products have the lowest operating costs. Energy in my humble opinion should be viewed like any other consumer product, e.g. which is “purchased” every time you throw a switch, or fill up your car's gas tank. At least gas stations (by law in many places) show the consumer using electronic metering displays on the pumps exactly how much gasoline you are buying in real time, but such is not the case when you throw a switch.

Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 16, 2010
Bob said "At least gas stations (by law in many places) show the consumer using electronic metering displays on the pumps exactly how much gasoline you are buying in real time, but such is not the case when you throw a switch." -- Exactly. In every other area of public commerce, accurate weights-and-measures laws are strictly enforced. The time-worn excuse of utilities that providing that information for electricity is not feasible no longer holds.
Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 16, 2010
Should have typed "accurate and timely weights-and-measures laws"
Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 16, 2010
The practice by average consumers to compare prices when shopping for consumer goods has risen to new heights in recent years because of the internet. Recent studies have revealed many shoppers will first research a product on the internet for where they can get the best price and service, and especially what others have said about it in product reviews published on-line, before either going to a store to buy it or buying it on-line.

It's amazing how fast word spreads in on-line product reviews, for if your product is viewed very poorly by the majority of buyers on-line, such bad publicity can literally blow it out of the water and it won't sell. And it’s all because of better consumer education using technology.

Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 16, 2010
My last post effectively makes a case for Len's IMEUC electricity market reform proposals detailed on this website. Len probably had no idea how futuristic and visionary those proposals really are, which today would be accepted whole heartedly by many consumers who love the internet and who love to go shopping. In electricity's case, under IMEUC, technology could theoretically do all the shopping AUTOMATICALLY, and there would be no need to sit in front of a PC surfing the web manually all the time for the best electricity prices.

It's nice to dream sometimes.

Malcolm Rawlingson's picture
Malcolm Rawlingson on Jun 16, 2010
I am in partial agreement with much of the discussion here but a few things don't seem to jive.

Len would have the utility (almost certainly at MY expense) install some gadget that tells me what the real time price of electricity is so I can leap to my washing machine in a single bound when the price drops below 2c/kWatt hour. The gas company which likely deals with the similar ups and downs of price and supply as the electricity business would not require to do that. But then I suppose you can store gas but you can't store electricity. So that locks in my case for putting in a natural gas generator and disconnecting from the grid.

Only one connection charge lots of shale gas to keep the price down and stable pricing.

Bob is right though - people need to be educated in how to conserve electricity. My parents like many here I would guess, were depression era folks. They managed on very little and topped that experience off with a war where they were living on even less and bombed daily. But they taught me well and I keep my usage of everything to the lowest achievable. I have not taught my kids well enough though because they have not had the experience of not having everything they want (partly my fault I will admit). So while they will happily leave the bathroom light on all night Dad used to go around turning them off.

I think it is going to be very difficult to break these North American habits. But this is the age of persuasion so may be a few clever ad agencies can develop the message that many people need to hear.

But going back to IMEUC while it may be good for the grid - of one thing I am certain - it will not make my bill go down. Very likely, like all the other ideas it will make it go up.

Highly sceptical of "improvements" that cost billions to implement. Guess where the billions come from? Electricity bills of course.

I'll just stick to switching stuff off when its not needed. And if that doesn't keep things under control we'll throw the big black breaker in the corner, lock it up and shut it down for good. Then the grid can do whatever the grid wants to do - as long as I'm not footing the bill.


Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 17, 2010

If I understand Len's IMEUC, you're correct, the customer would have real-time prices communicated to them all the time. The theory is there would be no need for manual leaping to one's washing machine to turn it on at the moment the price dropped to an acceptable level. It would be quite simple for a central home load controller to do this.

The central home load controller would simply monitors real-time grid prices from many local generation sources, and using customer programmed preset thresholds in software it merely communicates on-off signals to appliances equipped with remote controls. In other words lots of embedded electronics in appliances and in a controller that talks to real-time prices from the grid all automatically.

IMEUC more importantly allows for open competition between generators on the grid to sell energy directly to customers. In essence, the central home load controller monitors multiple generator wholesale prices in real-time, and say it spots a great deal from the nearby nuclear plant or from your local wind turbine that beats all other nearby generation source prices. IMEUC allows you to sign on to that generator's price, and other customers can follow suit too until its capacity is used up, at which point its price is no longer up for grabs. You then stay with that generator choice until you choose at a later time or date to switch to another.

This of course complicates the billing process tremendously since the TOU consumption of each customer will have different rates that vary not only in time but also on which generator was signed up to. There can obviously end up being many generators used by a single customer’s bill during a monthly billing period. This is one reason why Len firmly believes that smart meters should be owned by the customer himself and not by the local distribution utility. Another reason is to allow the customer to control software and hardware upgrades to his smart meter when needed for his own purposes, since the smart meter’s communications network is likely the most logical choice for the communication path with the grid. A software or hardware upgrade for example might be simply enabling the communications between his home load controller and the grid if the smart meter didn’t have it to begin with. Kind of like adding a modem to your home PC when you decide you need one.

I know what you’re thinking Malcolm, IMEUC would result in far more electronics technology in the grid and in customer’s homes at considerable expense. In principle however this extra cost would be offset because IMEUC would allow participating customers to at least “minimize” their electricity bills by automatically shopping for the best real-time generator prices. Too, if customers owned their smart meters, the customer would foot the bills for any upgrades to their own meters, not the utility company. This would be really no different than customers who buy home PC’s, and later buy upgrades from a computer store to add new features to their home PC.

In my opinion however, there are tremendous political hurdles to ever realize anything like IMEUC. It would virtually abolish customer price regulation as we have it now, and result in customers themselves buying their energy directly from generators. This represents a revolutionary change in the way local distribution-only utility companies financially operate and bill customers, and would be like pulling teeth to get their support of.


Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 17, 2010

I should further point out that some of the necessary electronics are ALREADY appearing in smart meter systems and in consumer appliances that would be needed to implement Len's IMEUC. Smart meters are already being equipped with customer price communication links for future smart appliance load controls, known as "demand response" technology. Appliance manufacturers are also starting to implement the necessary wireless communications and remote control capability into them for this emerging technology.

The trouble is that most smart metering has been designed with severe bandwidth limitations in their communications network. IMEUC would require internet-like response speeds and much more software in the meters and their administrations systems to handle. Indeed from what I learned about smart meter electronics, they would all require much more memory for the extra software and probably dual processors because the one processor in them now is dedicated to performing real-time power and energy calculations 98% of the time. Not technically a big deal, but it would add considerable complexity and cost to the meters, which the current utility company business model wouldn't pay for unless forced to by governments on all customers.


Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 17, 2010
Malcolm: "Len would have the utility (almost certainly at MY expense) install some gadget that tells me what the real time price of electricity is so I can leap to my washing machine in a single bound when the price drops below 2c/kWatt hour. " -- Good straw-man argument, Malcolm. Too bad it contains not a whiff of truth, as most of your other criticisms. My articles show to my satisfaction, that implementing a system smart enough to implement IMEUC would cost each customer in total about $5.00 per month including communications and central data and billing systems, which is about double what your present utility will charge you in hidden fees for the "new" remote-reading-monthly systems they're now installing and which are obsolete before they get running. How long do you think it might take you to make up the "extra" cost of IMEUC by purchasing your electricity at the same wholesale prices which the largest industrial customers pay, while the distribution entity gets sidelined into a specialty monopoly solely in charge of the distribution system, with a regulated flat-rate bill per month based on service size which they cannot keep manipulating with "fuel cost", and "wholesale market price" or "renewable REC's" etc. etc.
Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 17, 2010
Of course IF you work for an existing incumbent utility, Malcolm, I'm not a bit surprised at your filibustering.
Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 17, 2010

Your last comments to Malcolm now make me understand better why perhaps distribution utility companies would be opposed to IMEUC. They would be "sidelined" indeed since they would not be able to enjoy regulated rate-case increases as easily as they do now to charge their self-determined distribution fee portion of our bills.

Hmmmm,… I wonder if Malcolm does work for a distribution utility company. I always assumed he worked for a nuclear plant since he has been so strongly in favor of a lot more nuclear, but I may be wrong.

Malcolm BTW is not unlike many average consumers in their preference to maintain the status quo on a number of things. Many consumers despise the emerging smart meters, TOU billing, public money being thrown at renewable source generation in the form of massive subsidies in Ontario, and the emergence of expensive electrification of cars. These are all subjects that Malcolm ridicules vigorously on this website.

The bottom line is the government and the public should be looking fervently for ways to minimize their energy bills through conservation, efficiency upgrades, and especially technology that gives consumers more freedom of choices for their energy sources. Things like IMEUC, much more public education, and much more electronics technology in the hands of consumers would help achieve these things, which is what you and I have been preaching on this website for a long time now.

I have the answer Len - you or I should run for political office so we can become Ontario's next Minister of Energy. Then we would have some real influence over seeing these things adopted. I'm sure some of the others who write on this website would then be terrified if one of us actually became a Minister of Energy. But things have been worse in Ontario in the past when you consider distant past Ontario premiers have been former school teachers or former car salesmen.


Kent Wright's picture
Kent Wright on Jun 18, 2010
Len, You are a great one to accuse someone else of shilling for an industry. Why don’t you come right out and admit that you are backing a horse in this race and buy an ad for IMEUC. It is evident that you do all of your trolling and posting on company time.
Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jun 18, 2010
Seems to me IMEUC is a ruse being perpetrated on the hapless consumer and is actually the confluence of two troubling forces: (1) utility company desires to make more money with little effort and; (2) the government’s desire to dictate to the consumer how much energy use is “acceptable”.

Stop wasting money on the meters and redirect the resources towards significantly increasing energy efficiency. Mike Carter has it exactly right.

I’d go even further. There a millions of really inefficient heating and cooling machines and the net energy impact is huge – just look at the energy consumed in summer and winter. Because the government confiscates about 50% of our income, most consumers have great difficulty affording new very efficient equipment. Significantly increase tax credits to help quickly phase out the energy hogs. Not only would emissions be significantly reduced, but economic activity would be noticeably improved because the consumer would have more money to spend as they see fit.

Utilities may complain about “lost revenue”, but that’s too bad. Deal with it like all other businesses that are not “guaranteed” a profit. As far as the government is concerned – stop telling everybody what to do; we are quite capable of making our own decisions.

Jack Ellis's picture
Jack Ellis on Jun 19, 2010
Len Gould has exactly the right idea, except that since every supplier and consumer would be interconnected, there would likely be either a single, grid-wide price for electricity or a single, locational price. After all, why would someone sell below the market price or buy above the market price?

For those who advocate conservation and object to higher bills, please help me understand how one motivates consumers to act in ways that are contrary to classical economic theory? The price of electricity is (or should be) directly related to its "scarcity". If it's not scarce, then why are we bothering to promote conservation? There will be some consumers who practice conservation because they have limited incomes, and others who will practice conservation because that's the way they are. It would seem most consumers, however, are only going to be motivated by sharply higher prices.

Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jun 19, 2010
Anyone keeping score of Pulser comments about the importance of electric billing schemes, billing gadgets, smart meters, etc.would conclude that our electric bills are far more important than they are.

Even though I have an all-electric house and have a relatively low income my electric bill is quite minor compared to taxes: federal and state income taxes, real estate taxes, personal property taxes, fuel taxes,and sales taxes. There are even several small taxes added to my monthly electric bill.

I don't know where most of tax payments go, I do know where my electric payments go.

I have always had good electric service and consider my present rates fair. I'm sure there is an application for smart meters but will hardly make a jnd for me.

Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 21, 2010
ken: "Why don’t you come right out and admit that you are backing a horse in this race and buy an ad for IMEUC." -- Actually, Ken, I developed IMEUC myself, wrote the articles describing it, and put it all in the public domain for free. I now make my living as a software developer contract, for large businesses like banks, utilities etc. No horse in this race, just want to see things done right.
Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 21, 2010
Don. Six months ago I would have said nearly the same, though my $80 / month electric bills were noticable on my budget and a LOT higher than they were 10 years ago, prior to "de-regulation will bring all customers lower bills". However, I recently recieved a one-month bill for $240. As the old senator said, "a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money".

Regarding your tax bills, you in the US should simply straighten out your medical insurance system and reduce your military budget to something rational (did Isreal pay anything for those 1000 state-of-art fighter-bombers you recently "sold" to them? Many others.)

Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jun 21, 2010
Len wrote: "...the US should simply straighten out your medical insurance system and reduce your military budget..."

Simply, he says. Aint nothing simple about these two problems. There are "simply" too many evil people using evil religions for us to do much defense cutting - even as this spending is sinking us. And we haven't seen anything yet as oil depletion progresses.

As to medical costs, starting decades ago as I witnessed the exponential growth of medical care I realized medical costs were on the path to becoming more than we, humans, can pay. Long ago I thought what will we do when it costs $100,000 before a preemie comes home. Well, that day is now. And I have a neighbor who is getting a series of cancer treatments at about my yearly income per pop.

Are we to spend a million dollars (it has to be tax money) to treat one person when millions of people are on the verge of dying of starvation. This is every day and it is getting worse, much worse.

Every year medical procedures become more costly. Although it is not called such - rationing is already in play. The arithmetic requires rationing. More rationing every year. So to speak of "straighten out your medical insurance system" as we have always know it is already impossible.

How much should people who want to save up to send their kids to college spend to treat me, to extend my life? Nothing.

Jack Ellis's picture
Jack Ellis on Jun 21, 2010
"How much should people who want to save up to send their kids to college spend to treat me, to extend my life? Nothing. "

Please guys, energy is headache enough without dragging medical care into these discussions.

Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jun 22, 2010
Sorry Jack, I sympathize with your comment. Yet, in a larger sense I can't, because I see the energy/population condition just as unsustainable as the medical cost problem. We have this word dilemma. Dilemmas come at us in battalion strength, all part of the same assault, the same army...
Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 22, 2010
Agreed Don, I was guilty of oversimplification regarding medical. At least Canada has a more democratic means of rationing, eg. government simply rules that specific procedures (perhaps in future at specific ages) are not covered for anyone. At that point, the poor will die and the rich will fly to India for treatment, but at least the neighbour can still send their kids to college.
Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jun 22, 2010
Len said above, "At least Canada has a more democratic means of rationing, eg. government simply rules that specific procedures ...are not covered for anyone."

Perhaps Canada's system is what you like and it just might be about as good a system that can be devised. but to call it "more democratic" is doublespeak, i.e.where the government decides for everyone.

Imagine a doctor being arrested on Monday for participation in an assisted suicide and on Tuesday for saving a man's life using a "not covered" procedure. Ought the untreatable dying man still be alive to suffer on a while longer, and ought the illegally treated man be dead? And the doctor punished?

Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 23, 2010
Don, your exagerations are hilarious! No-one in Canada is going to arrest any doctor for doing any legitimately helpful procedure. Problem I refered to was perhaps doctors won't be paid for some procedures, but they'd be free to do them for nothing. Very entertaining.
Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 23, 2010
Don, public medicare rationing in Canada really takes 2 pathways.

The first is simply not paying for some things which tend to be the newest procedures or newest drugs that emerge. Typically when a new drug comes out, especially patented ones where initial supply is extremely limited, the drug manufacturers get away with massive gouging by charging astronomical prices. In time if their prices in some cases drop, and especially if their effectiveness gains a track record, they then become more likely to be approved for coverage in Canada. Similar story for new medical procedures with few specialists initially trained to perform.

The second pathway is rationing by limiting the numbers of doctors or hospitals available to perform some procedures. They still get covered where no one is denied the procedure, but in reality the limitations on service points creates excruciatingly long waiting lists. These tend to be procedures to fix less life-threatening conditions, like hip- or knee-replacement surgeries, etc. Aside from limiting money spent, a result of this "time rationing" is greater numbers of wealthier patients who pt to travel to the US and buy it with money from their own pockets sooner. In fact some Canadian hospitals will actually partially pay to send patients to the US for cases that would have to wait much too long in Canada.

So Don, unlke in the US, no one really gets denied medicare for any ailment, it's just that we don't always get the state-of-the-art treatment in all cases, or don't always get timely access. These are tolerable by most Canadians as long as people don't die waiting for access, or as long as there is no prolonged endurances of pain and suffering.

Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 23, 2010
Right you are James. This article should not be taken lightly because during these times of massive government debts at all levels, look for energy conservation and efficiency upgrades to be showered with many more government incentives to adopt in the coming years. Governments everywhere view these measures as the cheapest way to add capacity to the grid since the cheapest megawatts of capacity are always going to be the ones that are not used in the first place.

Some may call this rationing of energy, but any way you want to look at it, the days of endless cheap energy supply on demand will gradually disappear in North America. These and other measures like load shifting under Time-Of-Use billing with the emerging smart meters will make it less painful on the pocketbooks of all consumers who choose to participate.

Bob Amorosi's picture
Bob Amorosi on Jun 23, 2010
I should have also mentioned watch for more energy efficiency regulations foisted by governments on the manufacturers of consumer and industrial products that use energy, and even outright bans on older less efficient designs. We see bans happening already with incandescent light bulbs for example.

This is what I refer to as government market tinkering to get desired energy rationing, which BTW will often result in more expensive products much to the dissatisfaction of consumers who buy them.

Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jun 23, 2010
Bob, Len, Please read my comment of yesterday again.

The first sentence merely quotes Len to establish the subject.

My first sentence says perhaps the Canadian system might be as good a solution to the problem as there can be, but that it is not, as claimed, "more democratic".

My third and fourth sentences suggest the kinds of unintended consequences that can result from government bureaucrats (not necessarily Canadians) making all the rules.

Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jun 23, 2010
Bob says,"So Don, unlke in the US, no one really gets denied medicare for any ailment (in Canada}"

This is a false statement about the US, but understandable because of all the political rhetoric during the so-called debate in the

One of the most serious problems was that hospitals could not by law refuse to treat people who had neither insurance nor means to pay. So many millions jobbed the system, took their kids to emergency rooms because they had runny noses to get treatment from emergency staff at very high cost to the public, insurance buyers and tax payers. These people were advised to see their family doctor next time but they could not be turned away.

The fact is that most of the people who had no health insurance needn't have been worse off financially than many millions who did manage to have insurance. If you don't pay premiums it's like having a whole lot of money to spend every month - whee. These cheats 'votes count as much as yours do so elected officials don't want means tests for free benits - how inhuman.

True indigents got Medicaid, extra Social Security benefits and early (before 65) Medicare.

the most serious health problem among the "poor" is simply overeating and the ailments resulting..

Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 24, 2010
Don: Despite your orsey impressions, here's a news article your unlikely to find regarding Canada's more democratic healthcare system. From Medical Bills Leading Cause of Bankruptcy, Harvard Study Finds - Consumer Affairs News

"Illness and medical bills caused half of the 1,458,000 personal bankruptcies in 2001, according to a study published by the journal Health Affairs.

The study estimates that medical bankruptcies affect about 2 million Americans annually -- counting debtors and their dependents, including about 700,000 children.

Surprisingly, most of those bankrupted by illness had health insurance. More than three-quarters were insured at the start of the bankrupting illness. However, 38 percent had lost coverage at least temporarily by the time they filed for bankruptcy.

Most of the medical bankruptcy filers were middle class; 56 percent owned a home and the same number had attended college. In many cases, illness forced breadwinners to take time off from work -- losing income and job-based health insurance precisely when families needed it most."

Or simply Google "Bancrupcy Medical Costs", a uniquely US problem.

Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 24, 2010
(Sorry, should be "Despite your rosey impressions")
Len Gould's picture
Len Gould on Jun 24, 2010
A riddle: Q. When is insurance not really insurance? A. When it stops the minute you really need it.
Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on Jun 24, 2010
Don, if you think that there are too many people on the planet now, just wait ten years. Forbes is a great magazine, but its owner has a screw loose. A few years ago he argued that the U.S. was underpopulated.
Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jun 24, 2010
Professor, I don't think so. Steve Forbes has too much money to have any loose screws. Recall that wonderful song, "If I were a rich man" in Fiddler on the Roof. The delicious line (about learned discussions of the Torah), "If you are rich they really think you know." Or when it had to be explained to me 1,000 miles up the Amazon (to start an oil refinery, 1956) that in the Amazonas the more money you had the whiter you became. so I think we can sorta ignore the loose screw.

As for "underpopulation" , perhaps it's merely in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps it's a matter of what the definition of "underpopulation" is, is.

D. Victor Bush's picture
D. Victor Bush on Jun 25, 2010
I think Jack Ellis hit the nail on the head in an earlier post. In short, conservation will not happen until it becomes too painful (cost wise) not to conserve. The price, and I believe only the price, will drive the solution.

If you accept that premise, then the question becomes - do we need to raise the price of energy via a carbon tax to encourage conservation? I believe the answer is yes but that is political suicide in the current economic cycle so conservation probably won’t happen until it becomes painful.

Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jun 25, 2010
"...conservation will not happen until it becomes too painful not to conserve. ...and only the price will drive the solution. "

In other words humans are so lacking in character, so venal. they will do the right thing only if you put their feet in the fire. If this is so, why bother?

God told us to multiply. We did that. Now what do we do? I don't think He planned this out very well.

Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on Jun 26, 2010
Don H., I'm not going to argue with you about Steve Forbes. I read FORBES, but never Stever Forbes, because he is out of it. Strictly fruitcake. At the same time I can't understand why a former American soldier, in THIS forum, comes to the conclusion that there is some connection between that expensive farce in Afghanistan and the security of the United States of America. Me. I'm a Democrat, although I have voted Republican on occasion, but if I lived In the US I would work for the Republicans if Obama didn't change his opinion about the logic of the US commitment in Afghanistan.

And Don, did you notice that poor Stan McChrystal wears his expert infantry badge, while his replace has as many ribbons on his jacket as those Russians that we used to laugh at. That's not the army we were in.

Len, so deregulation is causing you a problem. Interesting. I was at a conference in Brussels a few years ago, and except for the morons who work for the EU, I thought that just about everybody had gotten the message about electric deregulation. Of course they don't get it here in Sweden, which is why they might find themselves without any industry someday.

Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jun 26, 2010
Professor, we have no argument about Steve Forbes - I can hardly claim to be a buddy of his. I have been amused by his proclivity for large whimsical hot air balloons, taking hogs (Harley) to the annual Sturgis SD motorcycle orgy and being safely a pal of Elizabeth Taylor.

It doesn't rule me but my DNA is conservative. My father thought lying was about the worst crime people like us could commit. We did not lie. ( I have not the least doubt this handicapped the careers of him, my brother and me.) He hated FDR and Winnie because they were liars, consummate liars.

I am quite unhappy about McChrystal How he was so stupid, so unguarded How sad. But so did I think about McArthur. It hurts to say it but Truman and Obama were right. How fatuous and snobby but yet this 2nd Lt. feels something in common with them both.

Ferdinand E. Banks's picture
Ferdinand E. Banks on Jun 27, 2010
Don, I have nothing in common at all with Macarthur. When they were assembling the list of defendants for war crimes, MacArthur should have been put at the top. The Japanese bombed the Phillipines 10 hours after Pearl Harbor, but they still caught his planes on the ground. More interesting, a decision had been made to retreat to Bataan if the original defense positions could not be held, but he didn't transfer weapons, food, ammunition, and medicine to Bataan. The Japanese captured enough food to supply Macarthur's men on Bataan for months, maybe years. And of course, his invading the Phillipines, and especially Luzon was crazy.

But knowing what happens in the great world of men and things, none of this was a mystery to Fred. Dugout Doug was furious with his superiors because they made him choose between his mistress (Scots-filippina) and his job. I don't blame him, but I wouldn't have gone off the deep end.

I still remember when Truman relieved Macarthur. I had my first drink of champagne after playing in an Army-Air Force Bowl game (2nd or 3rd team of course), and if I had thought of it when Truman made his announcement, , I would have bought a couple of bottles that day and consumed one of them on the streets while I was walking home.

Tom Lyons's picture
Tom Lyons on Jul 16, 2010
We need to turn the corner and start focusing on Renewable energy.

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