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ACHIEVING ECO-NOMIC SECURITY*
ON SPACESHIP EARTH

By Jim Bell

CHAPTER VII

EFFICIENT ENERGY USE

Introduction
Developing Eco-momic Security Through Efficient Energy Use
Fossil Fuel's Hidden Costs
Nuclear Power's Hidden Costs
Imported Non-renewable Oil: A Special Case
Efficient Energy Use: How Much Energy Can We Save and What Are The Benefits?
Energy Use In Buildings
Efficient Lighting and Day Lighting
Space Heating
Protecting Air Quality In Tightly Built Buildings
Keeping Cool
More Efficient Appliances
Efficiency Improvements In Industry
Cogeneration: the Art of Using Waste Heat Productively
More Efficient Industrial Processes
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Saving Energy In Industry
Trash To Energy: Is It A Good Idea?
Efficiency Improvements In Transportation
Mass Transit
Transporting Freight
Balanced Community Designs
Telecommuting
If We Put All The Ways To Save Energy Together, How Energy Efficient Can We Get?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

Almost without exception, most countries have the potential to completely free themselves from their dependence on non-renewable energy resources. Key to accomplishing this goal is more efficient energy use. When compared with the option of producing energy, becoming more energy efficient is also very cost-effective. Because it reduces energy demand, becoming more energy efficient makes it easier for a country or region to switch over to renewable energy. By reducing demand, efficient energy use reduces the amount of collector area needed by solar collectors, windmills, biomass, etc. to meet a country's or region's energy needs.

Studies discussed later in this chapter indicate that even highly industrialized, relatively cold, and densely populated countries like Japan could achieve energy self-sufficiency through increased energy efficiency coupled with the development of renewable resources. Even if a country has sufficient domestic supplies of non-renewable energy resources, efficiency and renewables are desirable. In addition to being relatively benign ecologically, their use enables a country to save its non-renewable energy reserves indefinitely.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Introduction
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With EIP mapping tools to help us decide "where it is appropriate to do what" on our planet, our next charge is to determine how to do the "what", i.e., the things we need and want to do in ways that are eco-nomically sustainable. In other words, how do we provide ourselves with energy, water, food, clothing, shelter, and the other needs and pleasures we want in ways that are both economically viable and ecologically sustainable?

Given the myriad of environmental problems facing us, we have to date done a poor job in this area. Nevertheless, the chapters to follow will show that most of the strategies and technologies needed to live eco-nomically on our planet already exist. This is not to say that the examples discussed in this book, as currently practiced, are totally ecologically sustainable. But the contradictions in how they currently manifest can be resolved with a little attention to details.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Developing Eco-momic Security Through Efficient Energy Use
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most ecologically damaging aspects of our present way of doing things is connected to "how we do what" as it relates to energy. With the exception of solar energy in its various forms, i.e., direct solar, hydro-power, wind, biomass (plants grown for energy), solar electric, etc., the non-renewable energy resources we primarily depend on are both finite and polluting. Even hydro-power, as it is presently utilized, is not renewable because the reservoirs it depends on are destined to fill up with silt. (107)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Fossil Fuel's Hidden Costs
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to being finite, our use of non-renewable energy resources causes a myriad of other problems. Pollution from fossil fuels, which account for around 93% of current U.S. energy use, include: (108)

  1. Acid deposition in the form of rain, fog, snow, and dry deposition.

    Acid deposition or acid fallout is harmful to all air breathing organisms. It also retards the growth of plants or kills them outright and can cause lakes and other waterways to become so acidic that the aquatic organisms living there cannot survive. Each year fossil fuel-powered electric generating plants in the U.S. "discharge 24 million tons of sulphur-dioxide (SO2) and 20 million tons of nitrogen-oxide (NOx)". (109)

    When these compounds combine with water they form sulfuric acid and nitric acid, respectively. In Europe, "thousands of lakes are now lifeless and 22 percent of the forests are now showing signs of damage from air pollution". (110) Additionally, "Tens of thousands of U.S. and Canadian lakes are being sterilized" by acid deposits. (111) As of 1990, 4 percent of the lakes in the Eastern U.S. are too acidic for most aquatic life. (112) Acid laced water is also "leaching heavy metals from the soil into the water system, where more toxic metals accumulate as this highly acidic water eats away the metal pipes that bring water to consumers." (113)
     
  2. Smokestack particulates like soot, ash, and heavy metals.

    Particulates are harmful to air-breathing organisms and often carry deposits of acid and other pollutants. Heavy metals are toxic and can concentrate in food chains. Increasing scientific evidence "suggests that thousands of respiratory-related deaths are occurring because human lungs have no choice but to serve as 'stack scrubbers.'" (114)
  3. Acids and heavy metals that leach from coal mines and mine tailings into our waterways. (115)
     
  4. Drilling mud and other residues associated with drilling for oil and natural gas.
     
  5. Methane gas (natural gas) leaks related to coal mining and natural gas drilling and distribution.

    Molecule for molecule, methane gas is 20 to 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. (116) Because of methane's potential impact, it has been estimated that the amount of methane gas released during its transmission through pipelines, around 5 percent, has as much impact on global warming as the CO2 that is produced when the gas that is not lost is burned. And a 5 percent transmission loss may be low. One study, which looked only at San Diego County, pegged local gas losses at 4.6 percent. (117) If 4.6 percent is a typical regional loss, it seems likely that with a more lengthy distribution system, the national loss could easily exceed 5 percent.

    Added to transmission losses, coal mining also releases large quantities of methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane gas is often released when oil is extracted and it is also released at natural gas well heads. Because the combustion of natural gas is rarely 100 percent, additional gas is released when it is burned to heat homes, cook food, etc.
  6. Oil spills related to normal tanker operations and accidental spills.

    In addition to the impact they have on the aquatic environment, the accidental or intentional release of oil into the ocean has other costs. The clean-up costs associated with the 1989 EXXON Valdez oil spill in Alaska are as high as $20 Billion dollars. (118) While the EXXON spill was dramatic, an equivalent amount of oil is dumped into the ocean each year just during normal ocean going vessel operations. (119)
  7. Land damaged by mining coal and strip mining coal. (120)
  8. Toxic sludge which is collected by scrubbers designed to remove toxic ash from the exhaust stacks of coal fired power plants.

    Each year a 1,000 megawatt coal-fired power plant produces one million metric tons of ash sludge which requires 1.5 square kilometers of land for disposal. (121) Beyond the land used up for disposal, "Scientists warn that it is inevitable that these toxic wastes will leach into the soil, potentially migrating to aquifers and contaminating water supplies." (122)
  9. Finally, the use of all fossil fuels also contributes to global warming by releasing CO2 into the atmosphere when they are burned.

    Even though carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, it is a "greenhouse gas." Although not all climate specialists agree about the ultimate effect of adding greenhouse gases like CO2 to our atmosphere, the six warmest years in the last hundred occurred from 1983 to 1988. (123)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Nuclear Power's Hidden Costs
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pollution related to the nuclear power industry includes:

  1. Radioactive residues borne by wind and water from uranium mines and mine tailings.

    Rain water runoff from uranium mines and their tailings causes harmful pollutants to be distributed far beyond mining sites. Land is also required for uranium processing facilities and for the storage of radioactive wastes. In some areas, radioactive residues from mining are scattered so extensively that the public is at risk. The Grants Mineral Belt, a large area in West-central New Mexico, is so contaminated from mining and milling operations "that scientists have recommended that human habitation of the area be permanently prohibited." (124)

    An associated cost connected with mine residues is the illnesses, primarily cancer, that uranium miners have experienced. To address this problem, Congress passed a bill which will pay 300 to 500 miners or their survivors $100,000 each in compensation. (125) Although no amount of money can make up for the tragedy of cancer, this compensation package equals $30 to $50 million.
  2. The release of radioactive materials during fuel enrichment processes and when the enriched fuel is loaded into reactors. (126)
  3. The release of radioactive materials as part of normal reactor operation and during nuclear plant accidents. (127)
  4. Contamination of the environment with radioactive materials at nuclear waste storage facilities. (128)

In recent years nuclear power has been touted as a way to reduce CO2 emissions. Even if this is true, investing in efficiency reduces CO2 emissions for a lot less money. A study by the Rocky Mountain Institute concluded that "every dollar invested in energy efficiency displaces nearly seven times more carbon dioxide than the same investment in nuclear power." (129)

In general, investing in efficiency will displace more carbon dioxide than investing in nuclear power or any other power production system. Investing in efficiency also makes better economic sense. In 1991 a Lawrence Livermore Laboratory analysis revealed that a government investment of $6 million in three projects to improve the performance of compact florescent lights, high-performance windows, and low-energy heat pumps, water heaters, and air conditioners had "already realized savings of $5 billion and will eventually generate savings of $82 billion -- a return on taxpayer investment of 14,000 to 1". (130) Just the $3 million dollars spent on the development of high performance windows "will eventually save as much energy as the Interior Department believes could be found from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." (131)

One study concluded that nuclear power may actually be a net CO2 producer. According to Gene Tyner Sr. of the Oklahoma Institute for a Viable Future, Robert Costanza of the Coastal Ecology Institute, Center for Wetland Resources, Louisiana State University, and Richard G. Fowler of the University of Oklahoma, nuclear power is probably not even a net energy producer. In their view, nuclear power, even without including past or future accidents, "is at best a re-embodiment of the fossil energies by which it was set in place." (132)

In other words, if all the energy inputs necessary to mine and process uranium for use in reactors, to build and operate a reactor, and to decommission it and store the wastes it produces are added together, they are greater than the amount of energy a reactor produces over its lifetime. If this is true, less CO2 would have been released to produce the same amount of energy if the fossil fuels used up to create the nuclear industry had been burned directly to make electricity instead.

Even if nuclear power proves to be a net energy plus, it "cannot compete (economically) with either efficiency or renewables." (133) To date, nuclear power has "cost the United States about $200 billion in public and private investment -- by one government estimate over a trillion dollars if all the tax-payer provided R&D (research and development) is included." (134) That is more money than what was spent on "the Vietnam War and the Space Program combined, to deliver to the U.S. just over half as much energy as wood." (135)

In all, the health and environmental costs of our current energy direction are very high. If these costs are added to the tax subsidies enjoyed by the conventional energy industry, the cost to society is even higher. "Estimates for the U.S. alone range between $100 billion and $300 billion per year." (136)

An exhaustive study in 1985 identified federal subsidies for non-renewable energy sources, (nuclear, oil, natural gas, and coal) in excess of 30 billion dollars per year. (137) A number of other sources put the figure at around $50 billion per year.

In addition to government subsidies, there are a host of other costs associated with the use of non-renewable energy resources. A 1991 Scientific American article analyzed the true-cost of our present energy production and use direction, from the perspective of societal burden. In the article, our yearly energy production and consumption liabilities were listed as follows: (138)

Corrosion

$2 to ? billion

Health Impacts

$12 to 82 billion

Crop Losses

$3 to 8 billion

Radioactive Waste

$4 to 31 billion

Military

$15 to 54 billion

Employment

$30 to ? billion

Subsidies

$43 to 55 billion

Total Yearly Burden

$109 to 262 billion

 

 

 

 

 

 
Imported Non-renewable Oil: A Special Case
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Added to the societal costs, our mainly fossil-fuel energy base creates other political and economic costs related to our dependency on imported oil and how that "addiction" provides people like Saddam Hussein with the money to purchase arms. The drain on U.S. tax revenues to maintain an American military presence in the Middle East is another factor. "According to the U.S. Congressional Research Service, the military cost of securing peacetime oil transport routes is estimated to be between $1 billion and $70 billion per year. (139) By eliminating our dependency on imported oil, much of this cost could be reduced. It would also eliminate the regular shock waves that hit our economy whenever political disturbances in the Middle East erupt or OPEC moves to increase prices by cutting oil production.

During the recent conflict with Iraq, speculation in the world oil market came close to doubling the per barrel price of oil. This happened even though there never was a real shortage of oil, only the fear that there might be a shortage in the future. (140)

Another liability connected to our dependency on imported oil is its negative effect on our international trade balance. Depending on the general level of economic activity, a high percentage of the U.S. trade deficit can be attributed to imported oil. During the 1991 economic slow down, the purchase of imported oil accounted for 92 percent of the U.S. trade deficit for the year. In other words, if we had not purchased imported oil, the $65 billion 1991 trade deficit would have been reduced to $5 billion or around 8 percent of what it was. (141) Unless efficiency begins to play a considerably larger role in the U.S. energy strategy, "our trade deficit in petroleum alone" could reach "$80 billion a year in the year 2000." (142)

The trade deficit we incur by importing oil causes other economic problems. When we import oil we export dollars. Since not many people working for OPEC are likely to spend the money we export to them in America's local businesses, this money is lost to our local economies. When money leaves our local economies, it is not available to hire people to work in local businesses -- people who would earn paychecks, pay taxes, make financial investments, and spend most of their money locally.

When we invest in energy efficiency, we eliminate the need to import energy and thereby avoid the export of dollars from our local and often national economies to purchase it. Even if we only used energy as efficiently "as the Japanese and Western Europeans, we would save close to $200 billion a year in energy costs." (143) In other words, we would have an extra $200 billion per year to invest in other sectors of our economy.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Efficient Energy Use:
How Much Energy Can We Save and What Are The Benefits?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If energy efficiency was aggressively pursued, the amount of energy needed to run our country could be greatly reduced. A Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) study "showed that pursuing cost-effective efficiency investments over the next two decades, in the residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors would cut in half American (U.S.) dependency upon depletable resources." (144)

A study by the Rocky Mountain Institute "projects that the United States could save about 70 percent of the electricity it uses, at an average cost of 1.0 cent for every kilowatt-hour saved." (145) The average cost per kilowatt-hour nationally is around 7 cents. Though their projection is less optimistic, the industry-supported Electric Power Research Institute estimates that about 38 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. could be eliminated at a cost of 2.5 to 3.0 cents per kilowatt-hour saved. (146) An analysis by The Solar Energy Research Institute's (SERI) falls between these two estimates.

Energy efficiency experts in Sweden "have calculated that Sweden could save 50 percent of its electricity at an average cost of 1.2 cents per kilowatt-hour (saved)." (147) This estimate from Sweden is almost twice as optimistic as that put forward by the Rocky Mountain Institute. Sweden has on average a colder climate than the U.S. and is already roughly twice as energy efficient. In general, the more efficient a country becomes, the more costly it becomes to improve efficiency even further. Given the difference in climate and efficiency, it should be roughly twice as expensive for Sweden to reduce its use of electricity by 50 percent than it would be to reduce the use of electricity by that much in the U.S. Put another way, if Sweden can cut the use of electricity by 50 percent for 1.2 cents per kWh., the U.S. should be able to cut its use by 50 percent for .6 cents per kWh or less.

Efficient energy use has the additional benefit of paying for itself. Money saved by not purchasing energy will usually pay back the money invested in saving it quite rapidly. Additionally, all the people employed in the "several million jobs" created would be paying taxes on the money they earned instead of needing or being in danger of needing public assistance. (148)

Becoming more energy efficient can also be "immensely profitable". (149) If aggressively pursued globally, energy efficiency "can save the world upwards of a trillion dollars per year -- as much as the global military budget." (150) The Solar Energy Research Institute concurs. Implementing cost-effective energy efficiency measures throughout the U.S. economy "would achieve net energy savings of several trillion dollars, making the energy sector an exporter of capital to other parts of the economy." (151)

Though they were slow to recognize that it is less costly to invest money in saving energy than it is to build and operate power plants, many utilities are now embracing the idea through Demand Side Management (DSM). DSM is the process of reducing the demand for energy by providing the energy service, like lighting, more efficiently. In 1989 U.S. utilities spent $900 million on DSM. By 1992 this figure had grown to $2.3 billion -- a 250 percent increase in just three years. (152)


Although most utility DSM programs focus on giving equipment like screw-in fluorescent light bulbs to customers or offering discounts or rebates for efficient lighting systems or appliances, some are more aggressive. Boston Edison, for example, helps businesses become more efficient by paying consultants and financing the efficiency changes they recommend. (153) In addition to saving energy, this also "helps local industry to modernize, preserves jobs, and . . . keeps paying electricity customers from fleeing to other parts of the globe." (154)

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California has been credited with having one of the most aggressive DSM programs. SMUD's program has included "planting over 100,000 shade trees near homes and offices (often cutting air conditioning use by 30 percent)" and installing solar panels on roof tops for water and space heating. (155) Unfortunately, unlike SMUD, most utilities would pass on funding such projects even though they are more cost effective than building new power plants. (156)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Energy Use In Buildings
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we incorporate the best energy efficiency strategies in the design of new buildings and retro-fit older ones, our national energy budget could be reduced by as much as 25 percent. (157) Under presently accepted standards, the one-time cost of designing and constructing a building "represents only about one fifth of the (building's) total life cycle cost". (158) The remaining 80 percent are consumed by maintenance and building operations. (159) This includes repairs, cleaning, grounds-keeping, building administration, and meeting the building's energy requirements over the life span of the structure. (160)

Of these costs, energy use is by far the largest. Under present construction standards, almost 40 percent of the cost of operating a building during its life span can be attributed to heating, cooling/ventilation, and lighting. In total, the energy used to run a building during its lifetime, amounts to twice the cost of designing and constructing the typical building in the first place, assuming that the value of money remains constant. (161) With inflation the dollar cost for energy could be even 3 or 4 times the cost of designing and constructing the original building.

The poor efficiency standard used in designing buildings today is all the more puzzling considering the cost effectiveness of efficiency improvements. In new construction the payback on investing in efficiency is very lucrative. The payback on thick or superinsulation, efficient windows, systems for heating incoming cold air with out-going warm stale air, insulating shades, vapor barriers and passive solar design can be five years or less. If used as part of an integrated design such measures can reduce energy consumption in a building "by a factor of 10 to 100." (162) The payback for retrofitting existing buildings is usually longer but it can result in energy savings of 80 to 90 percent. (163)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Efficient Lighting and Day Lighting
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Energy use in buildings can be substantially reduced by combining more efficient lighting technologies with the use of daylighting. Daylighting is the use of strategically placed windows and skylights to reduce the need to use electric lighting during daylight hours.

The So-Luminaire Corporation, based in the Los Angeles area, has come up with an active daylighting technology. This technology consists of a set of mirrors that track the sun and collect sunlight which is reflected through a skylight. Once in the skylight, light passes through diffuser lenses down to a semi-translucent fixture or box. The box extends below the ceiling one foot or more depending on the application and light enters the room on all four sides of the box and through its bottom. In addition to providing natural light for most of the day the So-Luminare system saves energy on lighting and air conditioning. This is because the amount of heat per quantity of light delivered by the So-Luminare system is considerably less than that delivered by electric lighting, even fluorescent. Only 25 to 30 percent of the electricity used by a fluorescent fixture is converted into light, the rest is given off as heat. (164)

The So-Luminaire system also saves money on electric lighting systems. With daylighting, electricity powered lighting systems work less often and therefore last longer. This saves on the purchase of new bulbs and the labor to install them. (165)Cam Potter, Safeway's Construction Manager, is so pleased with the system he plans to use it in other stores. (166) The energy savings can be especially dramatic in large facilities. The Solid Waste Management Facility being constructed in southwest Phoenix anticipates the So-Luminaire system will save around $50,000 per year on air conditioning alone for every 100,000 square feet of facility. (167)

Even without daylighting, the energy consumption for illumination in buildings can be reduced by 75 percent or more through comprehensive lighting system retrofits. If daylighting is included the savings can be even greater. A study by the Rocky Mountain Institute, projected that "at least 92% of all the electricity currently used to light American homes, offices, and factories can be saved without sacrificing quality or convenience." (168)

In April 1992, the EPA reported that "lighting electricity could be cut cost-effectively by up to 80 percent". (169) Also, according to Dr. Calvin A. Kent, of the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (DOE/EIA), "if the lighting equipment in all commercial buildings were changed to the best equipment, the potential savings for lighting could range up to 72 percent". (170) This estimate is quite remarkable since most commercial buildings already use fluorescent lighting. Even older, less efficient, fluorescent lights are considerably more efficient than incandescent lights. Additionally, efficiency estimates from the Department of Energy tend to be conservative.

Investing in efficient lighting also makes good economic sense, since such changes are often "better than free". This is because the monthly savings on electricity would more than make the monthly payments on the new equipment and its installation. (171) And once the equipment is paid for, the savings continue.

Actually the savings potential goes far beyond just saving energy. In addition to being 60 to 75 percent more efficient, fluorescent lights last ten times longer than incandescent bulbs. Not only does this save money in replacement costs, it also saves in labor costs to replace burnt out lights. (172) Fluorescent lights also produce less heat per unit of light than do incandescent lights or older fluorescents, thus reducing the air conditioning load for a given amount of light.

Recognizing the savings potential of installing efficient lighting, "Southern California Edison gave away over half a million . . . super-efficient lights to their low-income customers because it was cheaper to do that than to operate existing power plants." (173)

Although the retrofit program developed through a partnership between environmental groups and Northeast Utilities goes beyond just lighting, it serves to illustrate the economic advantage of efficiency over supplying energy. In addition to lighting, Northeast Utilities is including more efficient appliances, insulation, and even the redesign of industrial processes. Taking this tack, the utility projects that the demand for electricity in its service areas will "decline by at least half, at an average cost of just 6 cents for each kilowatt-hour saved." (174) This is substantially less than the cost of building and maintaining a power plant to increase the supply of electricity. (175)

Several government agencies have also benefited from efficiency improvements in fluorescent lighting. In May 1991, the Office of Technology Assessment reported that "a lighting retrofit by the U.S. Postal Service achieved an astounding 368-percent annual return on investment -- a payback period of a mere three months." (176) By retrofitting one of its buildings the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported a reduction of 57 percent in "electricity use, costs, and power plant emissions". (177)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Space Heating
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good building design can greatly reduce the cost and amount of energy needed for heating. Superinsulated homes like those located in central Canada have heating bills as low as $59 per year. (178) In one 14 house tract in the city of Saskatoon, the heating costs ranged from $59 to $143 per year. (179) In Saskatoon, winter temperatures can drop to lower than 60 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit). To protect their occupants from the cold and high utility bills, these houses feature 12-inch thick exterior walls filled with cellulose (made from recycled newspapers) or fiberglass insulation. Twenty-four inches of insulation is installed in their attics. Additionally, a thin piece of polyethylene plastic, installed in their walls and attics, provides a vapor barrier and blocks drafts. Windows in the houses are triple and in some cases quadruple glazed.

With their tight construction, other heat sources, not normally considered heating devices, provide most of the heat needed to keep the houses comfortable. These sources include heat from lights, cooking, from the refrigerator's motor and compressor, and body heat from the people and pets in the house. With these sources contributing the bulk of the heating needed, forced air heating units came on only during extremely cold periods and for a short amount of time.

Even though the efficiency improvements incorporated into these houses added some to their construction costs, the houses were still built for a competitive $40 to $45 per square foot. (180) Any extra costs, related to improving efficiency, were quickly paid back through energy savings.

Notwithstanding their low heating costs, the Saskatoon houses are by no means the "be all and end all" of efficient building design. In some cases the attic insulation used in the houses was not as effective as expected. Some "builders used crushed blown fiberglass insulation. Tests showed it to be only half as effective as rated". (181) Houses incorporating extra (heat storage) mass and large south facing-windows with automatic insulating shutters did not perform as well as other less complicated designs with more normally sized windows. And while most of the windows were triple glazed, new windows now commercially available are 4 to 5 times better at keeping heat in than those used in the Saskatoon houses. (182)

Straw Bale construction, an old idea making a comeback, promises to be even more efficient than the super-insulated houses just cited. With this type of construction, straw bales 18 inches thick, 23 inches wide and 4 feet long are used like large bricks to build walls. Walls made of these "bricks" can have an R value of 35 to 50. (183) The insulating value for exterior walls in the Saskatoon houses is R-30. R value refers to a material's or structure's resistance to heat loss. If the floor, walls, windows, and ceiling of a house have a high R value, it will be able to retain heat very effectively.

In the modern version, straw bales are reinforced with steel and/or structural columns and protected from the elements by plaster and roof overhangs. Well-built straw bale houses can last 100 years or more. Even without modern techniques, some straw bale homes built as early as 1903 are still in good condition. (184)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Protecting Air Quality In Tightly Built Buildings
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To preserve indoor air quality, an air-to-air heat exchanger is also included in Saskatoon house designs. In tightly constructed buildings, indoor air pollution can be a problem. An air-to-air heat exchanger turns this problem into an asset. To maintain good air quality, the stale air in a house should be completely replaced every two hours. In a normal drafty house this happens more or less naturally along with an expensive heating or cooling bill. With the heat exchanger stale warm air is drawn out of the building through small tubes that run next to tubes bringing in fresh air from the outside. As the two air flows pass each other, up to 86 percent of the heat in the outgoing air is conducted to the incoming air through the tube walls.

Air quality tests conducted on the Saskatoon houses by R. W. Besant of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Saskatchewan "showed that well-sealed, mechanically ventilated houses in that area do not pose radon-related health problems. Indeed, they may have lower levels of some indoor pollutants than conventional houses." (185)

In the summer, heat exchangers can reduce cooling costs by using the relatively cool inside air to cool the warmer air being drawn in from the outside. If the incoming air is cooled by the earth before it is drawn into a building through its heat exchanger, cooling costs in a well designed building can be close to zero.

The earth can be used for cooling in a number of ways. Building structures partially underground allows a building to use the earth as a heat sink. At a depth of 5 or more feet, the earth maintains a relatively constant temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If a building is completely or even partially in contact with the earth, such as with a sunken living room with a concrete slab, heat in the room will be absorbed by the earth through the slab.

Outside air can also be cooled if it is drawn through underground pipes before it enters the building to be cooled. When cooling is needed a thermostatically controlled fan pulls air through the underground pipes and into the building. In its passive mode, the system can be activated by letting the warmest air in a building escape out its roof. If the doors and windows of the building are closed, this will create a partial vacuum that will draw air through the underground pipes and into the building.

Reducing heating and cooling costs in office buildings is even easier than it is in houses. Office buildings, on average, are larger than houses, thus they contain more enclosed space per square foot of exterior wall. This means that there is less wall area per unit of building volume for heat to escape through in the winter or be gained through in the summer. Ontario Hydro's 20 story office building in Toronto, Canada has no heating system at all. Heating requirements for the building are met by recirculating the heat given off by office equipment, lighting, and employees. (186)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Keeping Cool
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In some locations, keeping buildings cool as opposed to warm, is more the issue. In addition to using the earth as a heat sink, there are a number of design and operational strategies that can be used to help a building keep its cool.

Lighting and office equipment produce heat when they operate. If lighting and office equipment are energy efficient, less cooling is needed. Furniture can be designed to radiate warmth toward its occupant or away from them. If cooling is the issue, the wrong kind of furniture can make a person occupying it feel warm even if the air temperature is relatively cool.

Solar heat gain from improperly placed or unprotected windows can cause even a well-designed building to be an air conditioning nightmare. Most designers are aware of passive solar designs as they relate to southern exposures, but much less attention has been focused on the more troublesome east and west exposures.

During the summer the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest (in the northern hemisphere). This means that for several hours in the morning and afternoon, the sun is low enough in the sky to send its rays, even if there is an overhang, directly into windows facing these directions. Thus, a well insulated building can become a heat trap by nine a.m. and stay hot longer in the evening than would be the case if the windows were shaded.

Although heat gain problems can be easily remedied in the design phase of a building and even as a retrofit of an existing building, it is amazing how little is done to avoid them. Some protection from heat gain can be achieved by various window treatments. One gray tinted glass coating is able to reduce heat gain "by 44% while the daylight is only cut by 5%." (187) Some new window designs incorporate dual glazing with a very thin transparent reflective film sandwiched in between the layers of glass. These films reflect some of the unwanted sunlight that hits them back to the exterior environment so it does not enter the building. (188)Interior shades and drapes offer some protection, especially if they are lined with a reflective material on the side facing the glass. If shades are reflective on the window side, some of the light passing through a window is reflected back out the window as light instead of being converted into heat.

One of the easiest ways to avoid solar heat gain is to protect east and west facing windows from direct sunlight altogether. Shading can be as simple as installing roll-down bamboo shades that are lowered manually, the evening before, for windows facing east. Once the sun is high enough and far enough to the south not to cause a heat gain problem, the shade can be raised to let in indirect light and provide a view. For western exposures shades would be lowered in the afternoon and raised for optimal benefit just after sunset.

A more sophisticated approach would be to incorporate exterior shades controlled by photo cells which would open and close automatically as needed. In general, exterior shading is more effective than interior shading at blocking solar heat gain. Once sunlight has passed through a glass window and hits objects in a room, most of it is converted into heat which becomes trapped in the room. This is the same phenomenon that makes solar waterheaters and greenhouses work. It is also why we get hot in a car with closed windows when the sun is shining. Light passes readily through glass but once it strikes a drape or other object in a room it is converted into heat. Once in a room, heat can only escape through the glass by heating it and conducting through it. While light passes through glass very easily, glass is a poor conductor of heat.

Even when an interior drape is closed, much of the light that hits it is converted into heat which in turn raises the temperature of the air between the glass and the drape. A reflective drape does this less because it reflects some of the light entering the window back out as light. If the drape is dark, most of the light passing through the window will be converted into heat. A loose woven light colored fabric will also convert light energy into heat energy effectively.

As the air between a window and a drape is heated, the air expands and rises, escaping into the room at the valance above the drape. As the heated air rises, the space between the window and the drape it vacated is filled by cooler air in the room. This new air is heated in turn and so on as long as sunlight is coming through the window. By blocking direct sunlight from entering the window in the first place, this problem is avoided altogether.

Minimizing the use of east and west facing windows is another way to avoid heat gain. While this is the easiest way to solve the problem, it is not always a viable solution. Some rooms require east or west facing rooms due to safety concerns like access to a fire escape route. Daylighting or featuring an attractive view are other reasons for having east or west facing windows.

Solar heat gain can also be reduced by planting trees in appropriate locations. According to a study titled, "The Impact of Summer Heat Islands on Cooling Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions, U.C. Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, July 1988, "three well-placed trees around a house can cut home air conditioning needs by 10 to 50 percent." (189) Additionally, the resulting reduction in air conditioning demand reduces CO2 emissions 15 times more than the tree could absorb as it grows and it does this at a cost far below almost any other efficiency investment. (190)

If all the ways to use energy more efficiently in buildings were incorporated, adjusted for climate, little if any of the energy now consumed for heating and cooling buildings would be needed. If efficiency was aggressively pursued, the amount of energy used for heating and cooling buildings in the United States could be reduced by 90% or more. (191)

 

 

 

 

 

 
More Efficient Appliances
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big efficiency improvements are possible for appliances. Unless a house is heated or heats water with electricity, refrigeration can account for 25 to 50 percent or more of the typical electric bill. Yet new refrigerator designs are as much as 5 to 10 times more efficient than the refrigerator found in the typical home. (192)

The 16 cubic foot Sun Frost refrigerator uses only 17 kwhrs of electricity per month compared to the 75 to 150 kwhrs consumed by comparably sized refrigerators in common use today. In addition to being better insulated and having better seals on its doors, the Sun Frost gains much of its efficiency by mounting the heat producing motor, compressor, and condenser on top of the refrigerator. The motor and compressor are mounted underneath most refrigerators in service today and condensers are attached to or imbedded in the refrigerator's back.

This latter arrangement is like having a fire underneath the refrigerator and a heating pad on its back. To overcome this design contradiction, the motor and compressor have to work much harder and for longer periods of time to achieve the desired temperature inside the refrigerator. In the process they produce much more heat than they otherwise would, if they were arranged more intelligently. Even after such a refrigerator reaches the desired temperature and the motor and compressor shut off, they continue to heat the refrigerator for some time.

Even after the motor and compressor finally turn off, it takes time for them to cool. As they cool they continue to heat the refrigerator. This continued heating causes the refrigerator to rapidly "lose its cool" which causes the motor and compressor to start working and heating again. This built-in contradiction in design is very wasteful.

Commercial refrigeration is generally more efficient than residential. This is because the motors, compressors, and condensers used in commercial refrigeration are usually mounted on the roofs of the supermarkets and restaurants they serve. This avoids the design contradictions inherent in most residential refrigerators. Nevertheless, the efficiency of most commercial refrigeration systems can be improved "by more than 25%." (193)

Although the savings potential is not as dramatic as it is in residential refrigeration, the efficiency of other appliances can be improved if they are equipped with more efficient electric motors. New appliance sized motors can be up to 17 percent more efficient than those in common use today. (194) If care is taken to insure that motors are correctly sized for their task and equipped with non-slip drive systems, efficiencies can be increased further. (195)

A study in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) came to a similar conclusion. "At least two-thirds of the electricity used in household appliances (assuming that each household has every appliance) can be saved by good design, with a present FRG payback time under five years." (196)

Beyond using electricity more efficiently, appliances can save energy in other ways. An add-on rotary heat exchanger, designed to recover heat from clothing dryers, is one example. This device, which can be designed into new dryers or retrofitted into existing ones, can cut energy use in clothes dryers in half. Heat being discharged through the heat-exchanger is used to pre-heat the fresh air replacing it. Because it is pre-heated, it takes less energy to get the fresh air up to the desired drying temperature. (197)

In addition to being more energy efficient, water efficient appliances can also save additional energy. New washing machines and dishwashers use less water. In some cases, this can reduce the amount of energy needed for heating water by 50 percent when compared with their less water efficient counterparts. Though they are not commonly thought of as appliances, new low-flow showerheads and faucet flow-restrictors can reduce the energy requirements for heating household water by 60% or more. (198)

If the efficiency measures discussed here are combined with solar water heating and an instantaneous water heater for backup, non-solar energy use for heating water can be just about eliminated in most climates. This assessment is based on the performance of a Sola Hart thermosyphon water heater equipped with a selective surface collector and a non-freeze heat exchange fluid. If properly sized and used in conjunction with low flow showerheads, faucet aerators and energy efficient hot water appliances, this collector will provide 80 to 100 percent of a family's hot water needs in many areas, even during cold weather and overcast skies.

More sophisticated collector systems can achieve similar results in even very cold and cloudy climates. The output of evacuated (vacuum) heat pipe solar collectors, for example, are "largely unaffected by temperature." (199) The performance of such collectors "drops less than 10 percent when the ambient (out door) temperature drops from 60 degrees Fahrenheit to -20 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees C to -29 degrees C)." (200)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Efficiency Improvements In Industry
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Efficiency improvements in industry can net energy saving rewards on a number of levels. Attention to details in maintenance and facility upgrades, like fixing broken windows, caulking, adding insulation and installing efficient lighting, can save large quantities of energy and make important contributions to a company's bottom line.

With an investment of $73,000 American Can of New Jersey reduced its energy use by 55% and netted an annual savings of $700,000, nearly a 10 fold or 1,000% return on the investment. (201) The Parker Company, a large manufacturer of auto parts, did even better. The company's investment of $50,000 resulted in a yearly energy cost savings of 1.2 million dollars, a 24 fold return on the investment in just one year. (202)

After their initial payback, investments in efficiency continue to pay dividends in the form of reduced overhead long into the future. In 1982, Dow Chemical ran a contest to find energy saving "projects that cost under $200,000 with a payback time under one year." (203) During the contest 27 qualifying projects were identified in which Dow invested $1.7 million. The average payback to Dow was seven months or a 173 percent return on Dow's investment. (204) Just six years later Dow did even better. In 1988 Dow invested $21.9 million into ninety-five energy saving projects and garnered a return on investment of 190 percent. (205)

Although the returns on investment would not always be as spectacular as those just cited, the efficiency of most factory buildings can be improved cost effectively. If all factories in the U.S. were upgraded to the standards demonstrated by buildings in Canada, the energy needed to heat and cool them could be reduced by 90% or more. (206)

Switching to more efficient electric motors is another way that industry can save energy. Industrial motors use around 35% of all the electricity consumed in the U.S. (207) If the use of electric motors in appliances and in industry are included, "electric motors use more than half of all the electricity (in the U.S.) . . . but 28-60 percent of that energy, and tens of billions of dollars per year could be saved if motors and their drive systems became more efficient." (208)

The technologies needed to garner these savings are already well developed and the payback for the cost of their implementation is attractive. Companies that install this equipment, like the Highland Energy Group of Golden, Colorado, are often able to provide their customers with a positive cash flow while the costs of the improvements in efficiency are still being paid. (209) In other words, the savings captured by increased efficiency are often greater that the payments on the new equipment. Once the motor and drive system improvements are paid for, the customer gets all the savings, which can amount to a 60% savings on the purchase of electricity to run their new motors over what they had previously paid. (210)

A comprehensive 1989 study by Amory Lovins and his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute concludes that the technical potential exists to save an estimated 44 percent of all the energy used by electric motor drivepower systems in the United States . . . at an average cost that is less than the cost of operating, let alone constructing, fossil-fuel or nuclear-power plants to generate an equivalent amount of electricity." (211)

Efficient electric motors even make economic sense when compared with the cost of developing hydro power. "In the case of a proposed dam in Maine, investments in more-efficient industrial motors that could free up equivalent power (what the hydro project would have produced if built) were shown to be one-fifth as costly." (212)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Cogeneration: the Art of Using Waste Heat Productively
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the savings potential previously discussed, industry can save even more energy through the use of cogeneration. Typically, industries purchase energy in two forms: electricity to power motors and lights, and oil, natural gas, or coal which is used to make steam or for other processes that require heat.

With cogeneration, industry only purchases a primary fuel like natural gas, oil, or coal and uses it to produce its own electricity. Natural gas, which is more versatile than oil or coal, can be used to make steam to power a turbine or as fuel to power a gas turbine or an internal combustion engine. The turbine or engine, depending on which system is used, turns a generator which produces electricity. The efficiency of converting a primary energy source into electricity ranges from 25% to 40%. Normally, the remaining 60% to 75% of the primary energy involved in the process is lost as "waste heat". But with cogeneration much of this "waste heat" is used to do work like making steam for processes that require it. It can also be used to supply heat for drying, heating water, and for space heating.

Cogeneration means getting more work out of the same energy. First, when it is used to make electricity and second, when the waste exhaust heat is used to do useful work.

Using waste heat can also improve a company's bottom line. The 3M Company is a case in point. "With a one-time capital investment of $690,000, for example, hot exhaust air that had been wastefully pumped into the atmosphere was rerouted to product dryers and reused. The move helped slash annual energy costs by $460,000." (213) From a return on investment perspective, 3M netted a 66 percent return.

The energy savings potential of cogeneration is substantial since "almost half of all the energy used by industry is consumed just to produce steam." (214) If other industrial heating needs are included, close to 60% of the energy consumed by industry could be theoretically supplied by waste heat. (215)

With good design, energy used in cogeneration can be used several times. For example, a primary energy source heats steam under pressure to 1,000 degrees. The steam is released through jets which propel the blades of a turbine which powers a generator. At the end of the turbine's power producing cycle, exhaust steam at 400 degrees can be used in various industrial processes. Exhausted heat from condensing this steam can be used to heat water to 140 degrees, and exhausted heat from heating water can be used for space heating at 80 degrees.

"A number of studies suggest substantial energy -- over 20 percent of total industrial energy use -- could be saved in the United States through cogeneration investments that are economically sound." (216) If the ecological costs of not saving energy through cogeneration are included in the economic equation, the amount of "eco-nomically sound" cogeneration could be markedly increased.

In addition to saving energy in industry, cogeneration can also be used to reduce energy consumption in shopping centers, hospitals, office buildings, and apartment complexes. (217) If these facilities produce their own power on-site, the waste heat generated can be used to heat water, space heat, distill water, heat saunas, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 
More Efficient Industrial Processes
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond cogeneration, industry can save additional energy by improving the efficiency of industrial processes. A number of industrialized countries are more efficient than the U.S. in this respect." (218) Japan and West Germany use less than half the energy per unit of industrial output," as does the United States. (219)

Efficient energy use or lack of it also affects U.S. competitiveness in the world market. "The United States now spends about 10 percent of its gross national product on energy; Japan spends 5 percent. This means that American products cost about 5 percent more on the world market than comparable Japanese products do -- and the gap is expected to widen over the next 10 years as Japan continues to improve its energy efficiency more rapidly than the United States does." (220) Japan's competitiveness in production is also reflected in many of its more energy efficient products -- an attractive selling point for efficiency conscious consumers.

Considering what is possible, however, even Japan has a long way to go before it reaches the limits of cost-effective efficiency improvements in industry. In a study titled "A Soft Path Plan for Japan", Dr. Haruki Tsuchiya, a physicist with the Research Institute for Systems Technology, projected that even if electronics, Japan's fastest growing industry, increased its output by 50%, new silicon chip designs and miniaturization would make it possible for energy consumption in this sector to be halved. (221)

Japan is also improving energy efficiency on other fronts. Some iron forging plants in Japan have reduced their energy consumption by "as much as 50 percent". (222) These savings came primarily from "waste heat recovery, preheating, air screens, and ceramic insulation" which were able to reduce the start up time for furnaces to 1/6th of what it had been. (223) In another related sector, Mutsui Alumina Co. has developed "a new aluminum smelting process" that can reduce the energy consumption per unit of output to as little as 1/10th of previous levels. (224

)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Saving Energy In Industry
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As in other sectors, reducing consumption by using resources more efficiently saves energy and reduces negative ecological impacts. Second to cutting consumption, the direct reuse of industrially produced objects is the next best way for industry to save energy and reduce negative environmental impacts related to the procurement of raw materials. For example, "A 12-ounce refillable glass bottle reused 10 times requires 24 percent as much energy per use as a recycled aluminum or glass container, and only 9 to 16 percent as much as a throwaway made of those materials." (225)

If a bottle is used more than ten times, the average energy consumed per use continues to go down. This is because the original energy that went into making the bottle is divided by the number of times it is used, "which can be 50 or more times in areas where refillables dominate the market." (226) This means that reusing glass saves almost all of the energy needed to make new glass." (227) And after its 50th use a glass bottle can still be recycled into a new bottle.

Today, only 11 percent of the beverage bottles used in the U.S. are refillable. In contrast, 95 percent of the bottles used in Finland are refillable. (228) According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a return to the national reuse of glass beverage containers "would save 46 million barrels of oil each year--roughly 10 days of imported oil at 1984 levels." (229)

Additionally, "a nationwide return to deposit-and-return beverage bottles would reduce highway beverage container litter by two-thirds; produce estimated annual savings of at least 530,000 tons of aluminum, 1.5 million tons of steel and 5.2 million tons of glass; it would also save 115,000 barrels of oil a day." (230)

Along with these benefits, even the public seems to favor a deposit and return system for bottles. Polls in seven states that have passed some kind of bottle-deposit law "show overwhelming popular approval." (231) Presently, Americans (U.S.) throw away 1.5 million polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles per hour and 75 percent of the glass made in the U.S. "goes into single-use bottles and jars." (232) In addition to containers, many other items could be designed to be reusable. True-cost-pricing would encourage the design of products for reuse because it is the most cost effective thing to do if all costs are included in the assessment.

After reuse, recycling is the next best way for industry to save energy related to the use of materials. It takes 50 to 95 percent less energy to make new products out of recycled materials than it does to make them from virgin resources. (233) According to the National Association of Recycling Industries Inc., recycling aluminum uses only 4 percent of the energy that goes into extracting aluminum from virgin ore. The energy required to recycle copper is only 13 percent, paper 30 percent, and lead and zinc 37 percent of the energy needed to extract the same materials from virgin sources. (234) Likewise, the energy used to produce a ton of steel from scrap, is "only 14 percent of that needed to produce a ton of steel from raw ore". (235) Distances and modes of transport being equal, it also takes less energy to deliver recycled metals to smelters than it takes to deliver ore. This is because the percentage of metal in recycled scrap is high, in ore it is low.

Saving energy is only one of the benefits that come with recycling. "Recycling steel can result in an 86 percent reduction in air pollution, a 76 percent reduction in water pollution, and a 40 percent reduction in water use." (236) Recycling steel also eliminates the mining wastes created when steel is made from virgin ore. (237) Mining wastes are also eliminated when other metals are recycled. Air and water pollution are greatly reduced as well.

The efficiency advantage of recycling over mining and processing virgin materials will undoubtedly increase. As ores with a relatively high concentration of metal are exhausted, more energy will be required to produce a given quantity of metal from ores with a lower metal content. In all, "the extraction and processing of raw materials accounts for about two-thirds of all industrial energy use in the United States, or about 25 percent of all energy consumption." (238) With extensive recycling this energy expenditure could be cut by two-thirds or more. (239)

Recycling in the packaging sector yields comparable energy savings. Approximately 4% of the primary energy consumed in the United States is used to make packaging materials. (240) Seventy-five percent of this energy is used to make packaging from five materials; paper, glass, steel, aluminum, and plastics (polyethylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and polyester). (241) If these five packaging materials were completely recycled, 62% of the primary energy used to make them could be recovered. (242)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Trash To Energy: Is It A Good Idea?
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fueled by the vision of converting trash into energy, many communities have gotten on the trash to energy bandwagon. While on the surface, turning trash into energy looks attractive, in practice, it is fraught with problems.

Even from an energy perspective, burning trash does not make sense. According to a study by the Argonne National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, 2.5 times more energy could be saved if the five principal packaging materials were recycled than could be recovered if these materials were burned. (243)

Much more energy goes into making a piece of paper than the piece of paper will give off if burned. Additionally, because of conversion losses, only around 20% of the energy given off if the paper is burned can be converted to electricity. It takes approximately 14,000 Btu's of energy to make one pound of paper. If burned, one pound of paper will release approximately 7,500 Btu's of energy which would, at best, convert to around 2,400 Btu's equivalent of electrical energy or around 17 percent of the original 14,000 Btu's of energy that were consumed in making the paper in the first place. (244)

Jeffrey Morris, a waste management analyst at Sound Resource Management Group, a Seattle consulting firm, comes up with a similar figure. Morris estimates that "recycling paper saves up to five times as much energy as can be recovered through incineration." (245)

If the energy required to mitigate environmental damage associated with mining and processing virgin raw materials and landfilling throwaway objects is included, the energy equation favors recycling even more.

Note: In total, "food packaging accounts for about 20 percent of the nation's tonnage of Municipal solid waste," or "290 pounds per person" per year." (246) Paper constitutes some 40 percent of the waste going into dumps in the United States. Worldwide, the amount of new paper produced each year -- about 240 million tons -- is four times the weight of the world's total production of new automobiles." (247)

Even if recycling paper and plastic did not save several times more energy than could be produced by burning it, burning such materials instead of recycling them still would not make economic or ecological sense. "A recent study by Barry Commoner's Center for Biology of Natural Systems (CBNS) conducted in East Hampton N.Y., (estimated that) the cost of disposing a ton of garbage under an aggressive recycling program is $127 per ton." The cost of incinerating a ton of garbage is $195-209. (248)

Recycling is also much less expensive to start up. "Building an incinerator costs $100-300 million. The start up cost of a recycling program may cost $5-10 million, depending on the size of the community." (249) In addition, to being more expensive to establish and energy wasteful, incineration has a number of less obvious costs. Off-site costs include the cost, both economic and ecological, of mining, harvesting, and processing virgin materials to replace those that are burned.

Trash burning plants also carry a number of operational costs. These include toxic air pollution and toxic ash. Pollutants found in air and ash include acid, lead, mercury, cadmium, chlorine, and dioxin. All of these materials can cause serious health problems, even in low concentrations. Dioxins are actually formed during the incineration process. (250) Dioxin is reputed to be the "most toxic substance ever made". (251) Faced with this reality, Ontario, Canada recently declared "a province-wide ban on all future municipal solid waste incinerators." (252) According to Ontario's Environmental Minister, Ruth Grier, "Incineration is an environmental sleight-of-hand which gives the illusion of making waste disappear. . . The people of Ontario need solutions not illusions". (253)

Recognizing its advantages over burning, some countries are aggressively pursuing recycling. "Germany now requires that retailers and manufacturers collect and recycle packaging for a variety of products. By 1995, firms will be required to recycle 80 percent of what they collect -- creating a powerful incentive to reduce packaging and use recycled materials." (254) Additionally, "German auto manufacturers have agreed, under pressure from the federal government, to redesign cars so they are easier to dismantle and recycle." (255)

Great Britain is also an aggressive recycler. "More than half of all the paper and cardboard manufactured in Great Britain is made from recycled paper." (256)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Efficiency Improvements In Transportation
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By far, the lion's share of energy used in the United States for transportation is consumed by the automobile. U.S. energy efficiency can be substantially improved by switching to more efficient cars. A study by the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) in 1979 estimated that just by using existing technologies a fleet of automobiles could be developed for the U.S. market that would average 103 MPG. In this projected fleet, two passenger sports cars would average 140 MPG, four passenger cars would get 93 MPG, and five and six passenger sedans and small trucks would average 70 MPG. (257)

Technological developments since the 1979 SERI study have pushed the auto efficiency potential even further. In their book Changing America: Blueprints for a New Democracy, Hunter and Amory Lovins and co-author Richard Heede state that, "Advances in aerodynamics, new materials, ultra-lightweight construction, new engine and energy-storage technologies, micro-electronics, and computer-aided design and manufacturing can yield a 150-mpg safe, peppy, comfortable, and affordable station wagon." (258) This projected station wagon design is based on the technology used to develop the Voyager, an airplane that circumnavigated the earth on one tank of gasoline.

On the prototype front the four passenger Renault Vesta 2, has an efficiency rating of 78 MPG for city driving and 107 MPG on the highway. (259) In other tests, the Vesta 2 has achieved efficiencies of 124 MPG. (260)

A little closer to production, "is the Volvo LCP 2000, a fully developed prototype with a fuel economy of 63 MPG in the city and 81 MPG on the highway." (261) The LCP 2000 will "comfortably seat four or five people, can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour two seconds faster than the average American car, exceeds U.S. safety requirements, and has an engine that can accommodate alternative fuels." (262)

Volvo is planning to increase the LCP's fuel efficiency by another 20 m.p.g. by adding a flywheel energy storage system and a continuously variable transmission. (263) A flywheel energy storage system would consist of a flywheel looking something like a gyroscope that would spin in a vacuum chamber and ride on magnetic bearings to avoid friction losses. Energy is added to the flywheel by speeding it up. The flywheel slows down as electricity is extracted from it. A continuously variable transmission always keep a car's engine running at its most efficient and least polluting RPM (revolutions per minute) range. "It is estimated that this car could be mass-produced at a cost competitive with today's subcompacts." (264) Volkswagen also has an entry in the efficiency derby. In U.S. tests, an advanced prototype V.W. Golf (Rabbit), averaged 80 to 100 MPG "on the EPA city/highway circuit." (265)

In all, "10 manufacturers have built and tested attractive, low-pollution, prototype cars that get 67 to 138 miles per gallon." (266) Additionally, "better designs and stronger materials make some of these (cars) safer than today's cars, as well as more nimble and peppy." (267)

While most people equate efficient cars with small cars, this is not necessarily the case. "Only four percent of past car-efficiency gains came from downsizing." (268) This fact is reflected in some of the prototype cars developed thus far. Some prototypes are large enough to accommodate 4 or 5 passengers comfortably. (269)

Available in today's market, the Japanese-designed 1992 Chevrolet Geo Metro is the fuel efficiency leader. The GEO has an EPA rating of 53 MPG in the city and 58 MPG on the highway. (270) The '92 Honda Civic Hatchback is a close second at 48 MPG for city driving and 55 MPG on the highway. (271) In spite of their reputation for efficiency, fuel efficient cars have a lot of pep. In fact, the Honda CRX, another 50 mpg car, has been criticized for having so much power that it is dangerous to drive. (272) By trading some of its power for efficiency, the CRX could likely exceed the 65 MPG efficiency barrier.

Because automobiles consume the lion's share of the "nearly two-thirds of the oil" used in the U.S. for transportation, even small efficiency improvements can have a big impact. If the current average 19 mpg for U.S. automobiles was improved to just 22 mpg, the oil saved would be equal to all the oil that was imported to the U.S. from Iraq and Kuwait prior to the war in 1990. If average vehicle efficiencies were increased another 10 mpg, it "would displace all oil we import from the Persian Gulf." (273)

Although 86 percent of auto efficiency improvements have resulted from technological improvements rather than weight loss or a shift to smaller cars, many people have erroneously assumed that more efficient cars would be less safe. (274) Even though the average new car efficiency rose from 14 to 27 miles per gallon from 1974 to 1991, "traffic fatalities per 100 millon miles traveled have fallen from 3.5 to 2.1." (275) Even in smaller cars, technology improvements have increased safety. The 81/82 Honda Civic improved fuel efficiency by 10 percent compared to the 79/80 model, "yet had a 40-percent lower death rate (measured over the same time period)." (276) "Volkswagen replaced the Beetle with the Rabbit, a vehicle with a similar weight and wheel base, and yet had a 25-percent improvement in gas mileage and a 44-percent lower death rate." (277) Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory "found no correlation between fuel efficiency and automobile safety." (278) A United States General Accounting Office (GAO) study concurred. In its study the GAO stated that its "statistical analyses support the view that automobile weight reductions since the mid-1970s have had virtually no effect on total highway fatalities." (279) Presumably, as reinforced passenger compartments, impact absorbing front and rear ends, and air bags become more widely available in smaller cars, this trend toward safer car designs will improve accordingly.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Mass Transit
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expanding the use of mass transit is another way to reduce energy consumption in transportation. An intercity bus, fully loaded with passengers, uses energy around 2.4 times more efficiently, per passenger mile, than a typical car with 4 passengers. Given the same conditions, an intercity rail car is 2.7 times more energy efficient, per passenger mile, than a car carrying four passengers. (280)

Mass transit also saves energy by reducing the amount of energy consumed in making and maintaining roads and building parking lots and parking structures. One study estimated that we would have to add $4 to $5 to the price of each gallon of gasoline sold to cover the cost of building and maintaining roads and the other infrastructural elements that support the auto way of life. (281) According to the World Resources Institute, "U.S. auto subsidies amount to more than $300 billion Annually". (282) This is "more than $1,000 per person, (per year and including children) above and beyond the direct cost to car users." (283)

Two thirds of these costs can be attributed to infrastructural costs, i.e., road building and maintenance, parking facilities, and transportation related police activity. The remaining one-third is caused by congestion. Traffic congestion literally slows the wheels of commerce, increasing the cost of doing business. According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, traffic congestion costs the U.S. economy $100 billion each year. (284) If we continue in the same auto oriented direction these costs will undoubtedly increase. "In Los Angeles, average freeway speed is projected to fall to 11 miles per hour in the next 20 years." (285)

Congestion-related costs also extend to the global economy. In 1989, the London Times reported "that congestion was costing the country $24 billion per year." (286) Traffic congestion reduces economic productivity in Bangkok by 10 percent. (287)

Currently, vehicle fees and gas taxes only cover a fraction of true cost of our auto oriented transportation system. The shortfall comes out of property taxes and general tax revenues. In his report Making the Car Pay Its Way, John Bailey "show that more than half (the majority from property taxes) the money spent on Minneapolis roads comes from non-transportation revenue sources." (288) According to his data, shifting the cost of road maintenance and repair to gasoline taxes "could lead to a 40 percent decrease in residential property taxes levied by the city of Minneapolis." (289)

Given that 75% of all auto trips in the U.S. transport a solitary driver, considerable energy could be saved if convenient systems of mass transit were available. If half the single occupant auto trips were substituted for mass transit, an overall transportation related energy savings close to 25% would result, even if the current average auto fuel efficiency average of 20 mpg, did not improve. (290)

Like auto efficiency, the efficiency of air passenger transport is improving rapidly. Between 1973 and 1979 the efficiency of air passenger transport improved by 30 percent from 17.5 passenger miles per gallon (PM/gal.) of fuel to 25 PM/gal. With the "introduction of the new generation of aircraft (Boeing 757 and 767, DC9-80, advanced L-101), this is expected to reach 45 PM/gal" for an improvement in efficiency of 250 percent over the 1973 level. (291) "Boeing's new 777 jet will use about half the fuel per seat of a 727." (292)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Transporting Freight
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Efficient energy use can also be increased by expanding and modernizing our national rail freight system. Even with our present somewhat archaic system, "railroads are up to four times more efficient than trucks in intercity freight hauls". (293) The longer the distance that freight is moved, the more efficient it is to send it by rail as opposed to by truck. (294) Notwithstanding its efficiency edge, "more than 3,000 mile of railroad track are abandoned each year". (295)

While the movement of freight by truck and trailer is less efficient than by rail, trucks can go more places. Therefore, more efficient truck and trailer designs can also make a contribution toward increasing efficiency. Large freight trucks are now approaching the 10 MPG barrier. (296) The Fruehauf Corporation has developed a truck/trailer combination that exhibited a 40% increase in fuel efficiency in a standardized road test conducted by the Society of American Engineers. (297)

Recognizing the efficiency benefits of moving freight by rail, freight hauling trailers have been transported on rail flatcars for many years. Now new trailer designs are improving the efficiency of flat car-freight trailer combination by eliminating the flatcar altogether. This is made possible by equipping trailers with two sets of wheels: one set for the road and a second set for running on rails. At the rail yard, trailers are positioned over the appropriate track and its rail wheels are installed to engage the track. The trailers are then linked together and pulled like box cars. This saves energy by allowing freight to be delivered while avoiding the need to waste energy transporting heavy flat cars. (298)

According to one source, "Trucks hauled only one-fifth of the roughly 2.5 trillion ton-miles (of freight) moved that year (1977) -- but burned four-fifths of the freight fuel budget to perform that much smaller fraction of the work." (299) If this figure is accurate, the movement of freight by rail is around 16 times more efficient than moving the same tonnage of freight by truck. Given this efficiency advantage, if only half the freight ton miles now transported by trucks were switched to rail, the overall energy used to move freight in the U.S. would be reduced by 47 percent, since the additional energy needed for rail transport would almost be negligible. (300) If the remaining freight was hauled by trucks as efficient as the trucks already developed by the Fruehauf corporation, energy used to haul freight would be reduced by another 40 percent. (301)

The efficiency of moving freight by ship can also be improved. A 50 percent improvement in efficiency has been demonstrated by a Japanese ship equipped with a "heat recovery, variable-pitch propeller, and computer operated sails" that allow the ship to substitute wind power for fuel. (302)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Balanced Community Designs
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balanced community designs can greatly assist in reducing energy consumption. When communities are designed to balance the number of living spaces with employment, educational, and recreational opportunities, the need for cars can be substantially reduced. In balanced communities, it is more convenient for most people to walk or bicycle to work, places of recreation, or school, on car-free bicycle and pedestrian pathways. Such pathways are much less costly to build and maintain than roads and match the global trend of increased bicycle use. "Between 1970 and 1990, annual car production increased by 14 million, while bike production grew by 60 million." (303) Worldwide, bicycles already outnumber cars two to one. If current trends hold, bicycles will outnumber cars ten to one by 2030. (304) Bicycles are also safer than cars. "Though they outnumber cars 2 to 1 in the world, only 2 percent of traffic fatalities involve bicycles -- and of those, 90 percent result from collisions with cars. Thus, when bikes and cars are given their own space, the risk of death is 500 times greater in cars," than on bikes. (305)

Balanced community designs are the rule for most European communities and for "just about any town of less than 50,000 people built before the turn of the century." (306) These communities evolved before the advent of automobiles and therefore have amenities in close proximity, "'generally within a 5 minute walk of a person's home.'" (307) In balanced communities, many shop-keeping families live above their businesses. This promotes community stability, identity, and neighborhood security. It also provides employment for community residents. People may still own cars in such communities but use them much less often.

Balanced designs lend themselves to the concept of community-owned vehicle fleets. Instead of individuals owning their own car, truck, or bicycle, these would be owned in common by the community and maintained professionally. Funding for maintaining such a fleet would be generated through fees based on how many miles a user logged during a particular period of time. When a community member needed a vehicle, a simple phone call would make one available. In some European communities, community owned bicycles are available at commuter train stations. When a person arrives at their stop, they hop on a community owned bicycle and ride home. In the morning they return the bicycle by riding it back to the train station on their way to work.

Balanced communities also improve the efficiency of mass transit. With automobile oriented urban sprawl, amenities and communities are more or less homogeneously distributed along major roadways. This dictates that rapid transit vehicles must make frequent stops all along their route. With a balanced design, the role of mass transits is to get people to and from community hubs. Transit vehicles would make only a few stops in a particular community before moving rapidly to the next community nodule. In larger communities small shuttles and bicycles would be available to transport people from transit centers to their homes or other destinations in the community. Balanced community designs could reduce the energy consumed for local transportation by 50% or more. (308)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Telecommuting
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expanding the use of telecommuting is another aspect of balanced community design. Telecommuting, which is working at home or in satellite offices and communicating with colleagues electronically, can reduce transportation related energy consumption even further. In a 1969 study by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, it was estimated that telecommunications could "theoretically substitute for 80 percent or more of all U.S. transportation." (309)

While replacing such a high percentage of face-to-face contact with electronic communication may not be desirable, the study does illustrate the power of telecommunication technologies to increase efficient energy use. Since telecommunication could eliminate much of the time we spend in our cars, usually alone, it could give us more time to do pleasant things like visiting with friends.

Balanced community designs coupled with telecommuting can save energy in other ways. Currently, "two billion hours a year are wasted in urban traffic congestion". (310) In addition to wasting time, billions of gallons of fuel are also consumed while traffic jammed vehicles creep along at low speeds or sit idling during stops.

Federal highway officials estimate that over the next 20 years, traffic congestion will increase more than 400 percent on the nation's highway system and 200 percent on other roads." (311) If balanced community designs and telecommuting became the norm, much if not all of this predicted highway congestion could be avoided. Currently, close to "5.5 million workers in the U.S. participate in telecommuting programs and that number is expected to double by the year 2000." (312)

If we combine the elements of community balance, pedestrian and bicycle friendly transport, mass transit and telecommunications into infrastructural designs, many of the reasons for owning a car along with the expense of maintaining, housing, and parking it would be eliminated. Cars and the roads and parking spaces they require use up about half the land in most urban areas. To the degree that cars can be eliminated through good planning, more land can be made available for human use.

Contrary to the popular conception, it may be that the United States' love affair with the car is starting to sour. "In 1991, the U.S. passenger car fleet shrank by half a million cars (from 143.5 million to 143 million) -- the first decrease in 60 years." (313)

While greater population density might evoke images of crowding, with good design this is not the case. "Copenhagen and Vienna -- two cities associated with urban charm and livability -- are of moderate density (measured by the number of residences and jobs in the city, including its central business district and outer areas), with 19 people per acre and 29 people per acre respectively. By contrast, low density cities such as Phoenix (5 people per acre) often are dominated by unwelcoming, car oriented commercial strips and vast expanses of concrete and asphalt." (314)

People commonly associate high-density land use with poverty, squalor, and crime. But so far there is no scientific evidence to support this view. "Data in a recent report on the world's 100 largest cities by Washington, D.C.- based Population Crisis Committee indicated that Hong Kong -- the most densely populated city at 163 people per acre -- has fewer murders per capita than all but 11 other cities (cited in the report). Additionally, its infant mortality rate, seven deaths per 1,000 live births, is lower than that of all but five other cities." (315)

 

 

 

 

 

 
If We Put All The Ways To Save Energy Together, How Energy Efficient Can We Get?
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technically, the only limit on how energy efficient we can become is our ingenuity. And research to date is bearing this out. According to studies by the Rocky Mountain Institute and Friends of the Earth, we "can sustain our present affluent lifestyle with one-fifth the energy we use now", and in ways that "are cost-effective investments on narrowly economic grounds alone." (316) Similarly, efficiency can cost-effectively reduce oil consumption to one-fifth of 1993 consumption levels "and the cost of saving each barrel would be less than $5." (317) Even with out true-cost-pricing, oil currently costs around $16 a barrel.

A study conducted by the Umweltbundesamt, the (West) German EPA, concurs. "With present state-of-the-art technology we can increase the efficiency of our buildings ten to hundred fold, increase the miles-per-gallon of our cars five-fold, raise the efficiency of lighting and appliances four-fold, triple the fuel efficiency of industrial processes and freight transport, and double the service per unit of energy from planes and industrial drives." (318)

A detailed study by Amory and Hunter Lovins on the potential to use energy more efficiently in the German economy came to a similar conclusion. Their analysis shows that "technical measures that stop well short of what is technically feasible or economically worthwhile" can increase the efficiency of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) economy 3.3 to 5 times beyond what it was in 1973. (319) This conclusion is all the more remarkable, considering that the Western German economy was already roughly twice as energy efficient as the U.S. economy in 1973. (320) If the same measures were applied to the U.S. economy it would end up being 6 to 10 times more efficient than it was in 1973. Even though the U.S. and Germany have both improved in efficiency since 1973, Germany is still about twice as energy efficient.

Dr. Haruki Tsuchiya, a physicist with the Research Institute for Systems Technology in Japan, has a similar view. In his study titled "A Soft Path Plan for Japan", Dr. Tsuchiya "shows that Japan's energy use could be cut 38 percent over a 33 year period without reducing standards of living." (321) Dr. Tsuchiya's study comes to this conclusion, even though it assumes that healthy economic growth will continue along with Japan's current population growth rate of .5 percent per year. (322)

The potential for efficiency improvements indicated by Dr. Tsuchiya's study is even more impressive when compared to current U.S. energy consumption. Currently, Japan's per capita energy consumption is only 40% of the per capita use in the U.S.. "We in the United States use about 11.5 kilowatts (kW) per person (all energy for all uses by all sectors of the economy, divided by all people), compared with Germany's 6, Japan's 5 and the average Third World country's one." (323) For reference, if a constant primary energy out-put of one kW is converted to electricity at 30 percent efficiency, it would power three 100 watt light bulbs continuously. (324)

If Japan's population grew only .5 percent per year (the present rate of growth) over the 33 years covered by Dr. Tsuchiya's study, a 38% drop in national energy consumption would reduce Japan's per capita energy use to 21% of the current U.S. per capita consumption. (325)

In other words, if all the efficiency improvements suggested by Dr. Tsuchiya's study were in place in the United States today, U.S. per capita energy consumption would be 21% of what it is now. At this level our energy consumption nationally would be just under 18 quads instead of the 85 quads now used. (326)

Even this may be underestimating the potential for efficiency to save energy. In their book, Least-Cost Energy, Amory and Hunter Lovins conclude that even the studies just cited understate the potential for efficiency improvements. Their approach was to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the numerous studies on the potential to use energy more efficiently. They then combined the more comprehensive aspects of these studies with new information and projected their findings to a global scale.

They concluded that by the year 2030 a world population of 8 billion people with a robust industrially-based economy could run quite effectively on 40 percent less energy than is used today. Included in their assumptions are the use of efficiency measures that are cost-effective in today's market place (even without true-cost-pricing), that poor countries would be 10 times richer than they are now, and that rich countries would still be ten times richer than poor countries. (327) In other words, if the efficiency measures projected in Least-Cost Energy were in place in the U.S. today, the U.S. economy would be running quite nicely on less than 1/8th (10.6 quads) the energy it uses today. (328)

If true-cost-pricing was the economic measure, many more efficiency measures would become cost effective and even less energy would be required to provide the services we desire. This is because many ecological and social costs, connected to our present energy choices, are not included in the studies cited, just as they are not included in the business as usual energy use balance sheet. (329)

 

 

 

 

 


Jim Bell 4862 Voltaire St. San Diego, CA 92107 jimbellelsi@cox.net