Whiplash, in case you missed the Energy Efficiency News of August 3-7, 2009

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By Will - August 10th, 2009

Greenbeat: utilities are "jockeying" for stimulus money. Who gets the winnings?Last week, Energy Circle launched the See Change Moolah Maker, a free-online tool that makes it easy, fun and profitable for parents to work with kids to reduce energy bills. Moolah Maker entered the world with a splash. Our friends at Five Percent noted that Moolah Maker's contract to give kids money when they save energy might be better than yelling middle names and threatening ice cream deprivation. To wit, "So maybe Energy Circle has the right idea. Pay off the little munchkins." Shea Gunther at Mother Nature Network thinks Moolah Maker hits the motivation sweet spot. "It's genius. People change their habits when they see benefits, the more immediate the better." Similar praise and expressions of delight came from Greener Ideal, Twilight Earth and EcoZebra, which posited, that paying kids to shut off the lights might just work.

Finally, over the weekend, a poll popped up, asking, "Do you think the Moolah Maker can help families save energy?" Early results say Yes. Read up on Moolah Maker, check it out, and then vote away.

Cell Phones are the newest green marketing enterprise. Well, kind of. The jury is out on whether any of these not-quite-ready-for-shelves phones are actually less toxic, carbon emitting or battery guzzling than their predecessors. We'll keep you posted, but we're thinking that a green case isn't the same as a better battery.  But can a phone help you save energy elsewhere? iPhone gadget gurus hope you think so. A host of new iPhone apps aimed at energy-conscious users have popped to enable you to do everything from control everything from control your thermostat to read your meter.... so long as you buy lots of accessories for home to help you do it.

In other Energy Circle news, we were reminded that Energy Efficiency really does have seductive qualities.  If you doubt the sex appeal of energy efficiency, read on... the hype, glamour and shouting has continued over the McKinsey report, and it shows no signs of fading. Jetson Green points out that, "Although energy efficiency isn't as sexy as, say, a roof capped with solar panels and urban wind turbines, it's sexy." What exactly is sexy? Saving money, reducing energy consumption by more than 20%, and eliminating $1.2 trillion in waste.

The McKinsey report, titled, Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the US Economy, has been interpreted widely, and we'll cover the roll out as it continues. While there can be little doubt that the numbers (Americans can save 1.2 trillion dollars) captured our attention, we think that's not the only reason this report is getting cited by everybody from the New York Times to the Ethiopian Review. Attention is firmly and directly being paid to the power of energy efficiency to pull us out of this crisis, and acknowledgement that our failure to control waste may rise to the level of sin.  The report notes that there are some barriers to achieving the astronomical economic and environmental gains it lays out, but ultimately, the McKinsey report is the best kind of shot in the arm. As a Berkeley Professor unrelated to the study asserted to the New York Times, “There’s absolutely no place in the U.S., whether it’s residences or industry or buildings or vehicles, that can’t achieve this." In other words... yes we can.

Habitat for Humanity is providing additional grist for the do-able home energy efficiency mill. The organization, already renowned for creating livable buildings at low cost, is adding efficiency components that will save new owners 15-20% in energy costs.  How'd they do it? With features like efficient water heaters, programmable thermostats, low-flow shower heads, weather stripping and better insulation. Want to indulge in some of those savings? We've got the goods - and info - you need.

Utilities want some of that stimulus money everybody is talking about. As the recently dePalinated Alaska struggles to figure out how to deal with the former governor's stalwart refusal to accept stimulus money, utilities around the country are grappling for chances to scoop up stimulus money for smart meters. That's all good, of course, so long as the Smart Meters actually serve us.


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