Whiplash, In Case You Missed the Energy Efficiency News July 14-19

Ni hao. The United States and China have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build a joint clean energy research center, "to allow the nations to work together on efficient buildings and better cars and find ways to capture carbon dioxide and look for clean ways to use coal, which both China and the US have in abundance." The agreement should bode well for the planet, but China is not any closer to accepting the hard cold fact that, gasp, it's the biggest polluting bully on the block now. How do you reform an energy bully? Necessity, and money: Chu told Chinese State Counselor Liu Yandong it was possible to increase the energy efficiency of new buildings four or five times "at the same price."

Not everyone is bullish about the US-China agreement. NewEnergyNews notes that China's goals might be less an altruistic attempt to clear the air and water than a calculated bid to benefit from the entirely predictable shift to renewable energy.

Austin, Texas and California aren't waiting for international consensus. Building codes that take into account energy efficiency in both locales are beginning to reap some benefits, with energy inspectors finding everything from gaps in insulation to structural deficits.  Imploring consumers to take a longer view (and echoing our oft-cited point that we've got to pay attention to existing buildings, the New York Times quotes a climate specialist Hal Harvey of Climateworks. “If you build a building well, it’s an asset for 100 years; conversely, if you build a shoddy building, it can be a 100-year liability,” said Hal Harvey, chief executive of ClimateWorks, a group seeking to tackle global warming. “Energy building codes are the single biggest opportunity to save the environment while saving the consumer money.”

Smart Meters are here, and more are coming! CNET reported that 8 million units have already been installed, or about 6 percent of all meters, and that the number of smart meters will expand to to 13.6 million next year and to over 33 million in 2011. The question of what exactly "smart" means remains, but here's hoping those meters start to feel smart soon.

And there's never been more hope... GE has entered the monitoring fray with Net Zero Energy Home, a project that will work collaboratively with smart appliances, energy management devices, and residential electricity generation and storage systems (with an emphasis on solar generation and storage), in an aim to create homes capable of producing more energy than they use.

Measure and disclose have been our watch words for some time now, and bit by bit, homes are taking the pledge on.  We frankly didn't expect Wal-Mart to step up, but they have, and they are asking their suppliers to do the same thing. As Earth2Tech notes, "Wal-Mart is basically saying any company that wants to do business with the 10-ton gorilla retailer will have to provide related environmental impact data, which will lead many to start using this type of software." For those of us who've been buying potato chips based on calorie labels, here comes another label - the environmental impact label. (But you're in Wal-Mart....)

And some images bear repeating. Panda Ethanol, a Dallas-based and cow-powered energy company, is closing its doors.  This is the best picture of cow-power we've ever seen.

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