by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 03. 2.10

Cash for Caulkers

President Obama is set to announce a new residential renovation funding program that they call a “triple win”: a jolt to the sickly construction industry, saving Americans money on their energy bills and reducing dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. Last month they might have called it a “quadruple win” and mentioned greenhouse gas reductions, but they don’t do that any more, Senator Inhofe would complain.

If they do it right, the six billion dollar program can create a lot of jobs; caulking and sealing is labor intensive, and can put a lot of people to work. But with the power of modern media, it is really easy to do it wrong.

When Planet Green started out, we did a series of posts based on a terrific document prepared by the Rocky Mountain Institute: Cool Citizens: Everyday Solutions to Climate Change: Household Solutions, that looked at the cost of a renovation item, the amount of energy and carbon it saved, and calculated the bang for the buck. It is now eight years old and much has changed, as fuel got more expensive and compact fluorescents a lot cheaper. But the order is probably still pretty much correct.

Some of our Planet Green posts following the RMI order:

Where To Start
Get a Programmable Thermostat
Stop the Air Leaks
Add Attic Insulation
Insulate Your Water Heater
Add Attic Insulation
Install Efficient Showerheads
Install Faucet Aerators

Notice that window replacement is nowhere on the list; it is so far down the list in terms of energy saved per dollar spent that it is almost off the bottom. If I were handing out the bucks, I would ensure that everyone followed the list; no windows unless you caulk first.

But then Pella is spending more on full page ads than Obama is on the stimulus these days, so that won’t happen. And of course, Glenn Beck ran Mr. “put down the handgun and pickup a caulking gun” out of the White House, so the bucks will go to big business.

by John Laumer, Philadelphia on 01.21.10

big suv photo
Big ol’ Chevy Tahoe. Image credit:AutoWeek.

The Star-Telegram is reporting that “The health effects of air pollution are a major topic in Texas because the state is one of the most polluted in the country. A recent survey by Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth found that 1 in 4 children in North Texas has asthma, which can be both caused and aggravated by air pollution.” This in the context of a recent study which documented Texas kids are “more likely to miss school when certain types of air pollution increase.”

There’s no one source to point the finger of blame at. It’s about a predilection for big smoggy vehicles, refinery and petrochemical emissions, coal-burning power plants, ships and barges, and so on. The point is….

Environmental quality impacts school performance (my inference based on the correlation reported). I’m betting it’s not just in Texas that this potential correlation could be found.

Clearly, many US elected officials do not yet ‘connect the environmental dots’ linking air quality to quality of life and to learning, nor are some powerful corporate constituents wanting them to. For a clear demonstration of the latter effect, look no further than Alaskan Senator Murkowski , who is sponsoring an amendment that prevents USEPA from regulating greenhouse gases. To see who’s got the most horses in that rodeo read Senator Who Hopes to Block EPA from Regulating Greenhouse Gas Pollution is Top Fundraiser from Utility Companies

Who needs that permafrost anyhow?

Failing to have much trust in the sciences and still stuck on libertarian romanticism, it takes exploding underpants to get attention to the business of ‘dot connecting.’ How long before a Texas congress-critter tacks an amendment onto a Federal budget bill, preventing EPA from regulating smog causing emissions? Not long is my guess.

Who needs that book learnin’ anyhow?

Three more dots.

  • I wonder how many corporations pay big-time health care benefits for employee family asthma treatments while giving money to lobbyists who want to slow down air quality regulation enforcement?
  • China bears some of the responsibility for Texas AQ degradation.
  • As reported in an AFP release on Yahoo News.

Pollution from Asia is boosting levels of ozone in the skies above the western United States, a trend that could hamper US efforts to meet tougher smog standards,…The findings are important, as previous research suggests pollution at the altitude monitored in the study can descend and mix with surface air.If so, a long-standing question may be answered. There has been a rise in ozone levels in parts of the rural western United States, but there is little road traffic or industry in these regions to explain the increase.

The paper says the phenomenon could have repercussions for efforts in the United States to roll back its smog problem with tougher car-exhaust measures and other initiatives.

    Are you still with me on this?

  • Taking a leadership role in climate action enables the USA to add more pressure on China to clean up the emissions of both greenhouse cases and the associated smog causing emissions that float over rural Texas.

Mike’s adjacent post on the Chinese smog effect on Western USA is worth a look:

That’s all the dots I have for now.

More posts about Texas air quality.
Texas Coal Fired Utility Building ‘Alamo of Coal’
Texas PTA Partners With Government for Cleaner School Buses
Texas Board of Ed Neuters Science Textbooks’ Global Warming



Feeling lucky about your numbers? Probably not if we’re talking the digits on your energy bill. Check out our tips to shrink your electricity payments and to keep both you and the planet rolling in green.

1. Raid your closet.

Rather than turning to the thermostat every time you catch a chill, grab a sweater instead. Dressing in layers is totally in: It’ll keep you off those fashion makeover shows, save you about $250, and keep 1,000 pounds of CO2 outta the environment per Biter, per year. Get the full Bite.

2. Break the (drying) cycle.

Save $25 a year by turning off your dishwasher’s drying cycle. It accounts for 15%-50% of dishwasher energy usage, and believe it or not, your dishes will indeed dry on their own. Get the full Bite.

3. Make your fridge chill.

Help your refrigerator run more efficiently by keeping it full, using glass storage containers, and cleaning the dust off the coils a couple times a year (if they’re at the base; this alone saves up to $20 a year). Bonus: Replace your current fridge with an Energy Star one to save $55 a year. Get the full Bite, and watch our vid.

4. Shed some light bulbs.

Replacing your standard bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) can save the average household about $180 a year. Plus, traditional incandescents generate about 2-10 times more mercury than CFLs when you figure in emissions from the power plants that usually power them. Get the full Bite.

5. Get outta hot water.

Turn down the temp on your tank water heater to around 120 degrees (many installers set to 140 degrees) – that’s hot enough to clean you and your dishes but still save you 6%-10% on water-heating costs. Plus, if every U.S. household did the same, we could prevent the amount of globe-warming CO2 emitted by the country of Kuwait. Get the full Bite.

6. Leave your clothes in the cold.

Doing your laundry in cold water instead of hot will save you $61 a year and will keep your clothes looking newer, longer – and it does the job on all but the worst cases of griminess. Households that wash only in cold water prevent 1,281 pounds of CO2 from mucking up the air every year. Get the full Bite.

7. Kick it old school with nonelectric appliances.

Burn a few calories and cut a few dollars off your energy bill by using a manual can opener rather than an electric one. If 10,000 people ditch their electric can openers, in a month we’ll save enough electricity to power a lamp for about 11 years. Get the full Bite.

8. See how your energy use measures up.

Get a home energy monitor to gauge your home’s power usage – down to the LCD TV you left plugged in and your kiddo’s night-light. Seeing where all that energy’s going will remind you to unplug and flip switches. Get the full Bite.

9. Exorcise your phantom loads.

A phantom load is the energy that’s sapped by your appliances when they’re plugged in but not on, and a whopping 40% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while they’re turned off. Curb the energy drain by plugging ’em into power strips that you switch off each night. Get the full Bite.

10. Let the sun shine in.

Installing solar panels is an up-front investment for sure, but it’s a great way to cut energy costs (with the right system, you’ll never have another energy bill again) and pollution. Just 1 hour’s worth of the sunlight that hits the earth provides more energy than we use in a whole year. Get the full Bite.

Posted by: jharper on 06/29/2009

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California 10.27.09

light-switches-on-redPhoto via Robert S Donovan

It doesn’t take inventing a whole lot of new technology to save a whole lot of GHGs. It just take a whole lot of people utilizing the simple, inexpensive technologies we already have rolling out that help cut down on energy consumption. If US consumers used existing technology to its fullest, we’d save a whole France-worth of carbon emissions, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. And to get more people to be savvy about what options are already on the table, scientists say social networking will play a role.

Ars Technica reports, “The authors make a compelling case that behavioral changes [such as getting people to use simple, inexpensive technologies and low-tech solutions to energy efficiency], which can be amplified by social networks, are probably easier to generate and produce quicker results than the actual deployment of high-tech hardware. And they cite a variety of studies to indicate that, in a lot of ways, we probably understand how to produce behavioral changes better than we know how to deploy unproven tech.”

Some of the low tech solutions with the highest adoption rates are home weatherization, with 90% adoption, more energy efficient appliances, with an 80% adoption, and fuel-efficient vehicles, with a 50% adoption. These now-tech solutions, when calculated over a 10-year adoption rate, would cut US carbon emission by about 7.4% of total national emissions – an amount just a touch higher than what France spits out. On top of that, about 60% of the total financial savings of reduced energy use would come within the first five years, making the payoff for behavioral changes readily apparent.

So what will get people to make the behavioral changes? The authors point out programs that offer money for efficiency, such as with the cash for clunkers program, or with rebates for purchasing energy efficient appliances. However, we’ve also seen that making energy usage information available to people will also help reduce energy consumption or improve driving practices. A financial incentive to save more on monthly energy and fuel bills will likely spur more consumers into improvements like weatherization, and better driving (or carpooling) practices.

The idea of social networking factoring in is interesting as well. Several energy dashboard companies mention elements to their products that allow users to compete with people in their area, using that competitive spirit to boost energy efficient behavior. We’ve also seen the idea of World of Warcraft-like games as a way of getting people to put the environment first, and of course there’s the example of Tweet-A-Watt as a way to blast your energy usage data out to followers and having to publicly walk the talk. All of these are behavioral incentives that use existing technology.

While cutting carbon emissions by 7.4% won’t get us nearly to our goal – we need to cut our emissions by 80%, like, now – it is a big chunk that helps us get to the goal, and it’s all changes based on tools we already have at our disposal.

Will we actually make the changes that would cut a whole country’s worth of GHGs from our output? Well, let’s hope so. With’s Day of Action just passed and COP15 rapidly approaching, carbon emissions are at the top of people’s minds, and ways to reduce them have never seemed so important. The fact that we don’t need to wait on futuristic technologies to make some big changes is encouraging.

More on Cutting Carbon Emissions
Contraception Five Times Less Expensive Than Low-Carbon Technology in Combating Climate Change
7 Overrated Technologies and Their Underrated Low-Tech Alternatives
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Half in Three Steps

Every day, our government makes decisions that affect us, the environment and the security of our world. That is why science is so critical – for our health and safety, we need these decisions to be made upon the best available science.

How much do you know about the role science plays in ensuring a cleaner, safer world?

Take the “Sci-Q” quiz to find out »

Right now, decisions about global warming, energy policy, nuclear weapons and the safety of our food are being made. The more we know about these challenges that face us, the better we will be able to speak out for effective change.

Find out how much you know about environmental health and safety »


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It is our responsibility to help people and especially businesses to reduce their carbon emissions and vehicle maintenance expenses with less dependency on foreign oil… CSea

Date: 11-Sep-09
Country: US
Author: Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON – A top Obama Administration official said the U.S. oil and gas industry will survive a proposed repeal of billions of dollars tax preferences and there will be an insignificant impact on worldwide prices.

Current tax breaks for oil and gas production distort the market, leading to over-investment in domestic fossil fuel production, Alan Krueger, Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy and Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Treasury, told a an energy subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee.

“Because there will be little to no effect on the world supply of oil, removing these subsidies would have an insignificant impact on world oil prices,” Krueger told the panel.

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for the 2010 spending year includes ending tax breaks for oil and gas companies expected to raise more than $30 billion over 10 years.

A report issued this week by the Joint Committee on Taxation also said the proposals are likely to have no impact on world oil or gas prices. Still, the bipartisan Senate-House panel said there was no guarantee the policies would lead to a shift to renewable energy sources, an Administration goal.

Under the most dire scenario where domestic producers shifted all costs to consumers, removing the breaks could result in a one cent per gallon increase in the cost of oil, or a one percent increase in natural gas prices, Krueger said.

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents giants such as BP America and Chevron Corp, argued the proposals, with others planned by the White House, amount to $80 billion the industry would lose over a decade.

“The proposals are aimed at crippling our industry,” said Larry Nichols, chief executive of Devon Energy Corp and chairman of the industry group, calling any effort to reduce domestic production of oil and gas “absurd.”

He warned of higher consumer prices and job losses if the proposals go forward.

“We need to ask if the proposal would cause more than a negligible increase in consumer prices,” subcommittee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat.

The state employs about 23,000 people in the oil and gas industries.

Stephen Brown, a fellow at the nonpartisan research group Resources for the Future, said eliminating the tax breaks would amount to less than one percent of the industry’s $3.4 trillion in estimated annual revenue for the period.

A small drop in U.S. oil consumption should help energy security, by cutting the exposure to oil price shocks, he said.

“The near record-high prices that are projected for oil and natural gas over future years suggest that free markets will provide sufficient encouragement” for domestic production, Brown added.

Obama’s plan would levy an excise tax on oil and natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico, raising $5.3 billion in revenue from 2011 to 2019. This 13 percent tax on all oil and gas production in the Gulf would only affect those companies enjoying a loophole that allows them to avoid paying royalties on the energy supplies they drill. Companies already paying royalties would get a tax credit.

Obama’s budget would also place a $4 per acre annual fee on non-producing energy leases in the Gulf. The budget proposal expects the fee to generate $1.2 billion from 2010 to 2019.

The administration is also considering putting an excise tax on oil and gas produced offshore.

Several panel Republicans derided Krueger for what they called pursuing a goal of reduced domestic energy production.

“I wasn’t aware that overproduction of American-made energy is a problem,” Jim Bunning of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee said.

Krueger said the administration’s goal is to have resources invested to yield the highest social return, taking into account environmental harm caused by the release of greenhouse gases associated with oil and gas production.

(Editing by Andre Grenon)

Model Forest Policy Program


Why are forests so vital in solving the climate crisis

and protecting our communities?

You’re invited to a free 60 minute telephone seminar where staff from the Model Forest Policy Program, will discuss the often ignored climate solution: forests. Learn why forests are so vital in protecting citizens from impacts of climate change and what’s the cost of not preserving their natural “services”…or doing nothing?

Use this seminar to build your case to decision makers and the public. Choose one of the dates below:

Monday August 31 Scheduled Start Time: 9:00 P.M. Eastern, 6:00 P.M. Pacific
Wednesday Sept 9 Scheduled Start Time: 3:00 P.M. Eastern, 12:00 P.M. Pacific
Thursday Sept 17 Scheduled Start Time: 2:00 P.M. Eastern, 11:00 A.M Pacific

Here’s what you’ll take away from the 1-Hour Teleseminar:

  • Clearer understanding of critical role of forests in protecting citizens from flooding, drought and increasing CO2 levels.
  • Questions answered about your community’s forest and water climate planning problems.
  • The synergy of multiple communities tackling these issues together.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • The top 5 reasons you need to address forest conservation locally.
  • Facts YOU can use to make the case for conserving your local forests.
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This information is needed now by your community so don’t miss out on this free presentation. Copy and paste this link into your browser.

Here are the experts on the call:

Toby Thaler, JD, has over thirty years experience in forestry and related natural resource management issues in the Northwest. He has worked for a broad range of clients-Tribes, public interest groups, local governments-to promote sustainable resource management policies, including forest practices and forest land conservation, shoreline and water resource management.

William Paddock is a sustainability expert who works with local government and business clients on the implementation of sustainable practices and strategies. William is the Cookeville, TN, Project Director helping that region create a forest water climate action plan. William holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Alabama and a MBA in Sustainability from the Institute for Sustainable Practice at Lipscomb University.

Nancy Gilliam, PhD., has helped over 5,000 landowners implement sustainable forestry practices. She initiated the Virginia General Assembly’s study of forest health. Nancy founded the Model Forest Policy Program in 2000 due to proliferation of chip mills in the south and lack of forest policy. She has worked with state and local government officials in VA, TN, ID, and WA guiding model forest policy development and education.

Todd Crossett, MA, has over fifteen years experience in government relations, strategic planning, facilitation, organizational development, project management and advocacy for sustainable practices. Todd served for two years as County Commissioner introducing groundbreaking water protective land use codes in conservative North Idaho.

Gwen Griffith, MA, DMV, program director in sustainable building and low impact development, brings the watershed perspective to the work of climate change mitigation and adaptation. She takes the continuum of care approach from land use planning to smart growth to green building to low impact landscaping to efficient site management. She provides in-depth education on the energy, water, climate connection with an emphasis on water efficiency and source water protection.

Thanks for registering!

Nancy Gilliam

Executive Director

P.S. Any problems registering, call me (509) 432-8679, or email me at