Whiplash, In Case You Missed the Energy Efficiency News from August 17-21, 2009

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By Will - August 24th, 2009

Clotheslines: an eyesore? Really? (Source: greenathome.ca)Last week our blog featured two guest posts by Ken Levenson, a partner at Levenson McDavid Architects P.C. in Brooklyn, about the Brooklyn Cohousing Passive House project he has been working on, as well as a post on a new Net Zero / Passive House project in Philadelphia from 100k. The posts are together a highly readable and informative introduction to the philosophy and the science behind Passive House building. 

A debate has lately picked up in the U.K. over whether energy monitoring displays, currently being distributed as part of smartgrid deployments, should be optional or mandatory, in GreenBeat.  British utilities are lobbying to block legislation that would require energy monitoring devices to be installed in all homes, at a cost of about $25 each, while consumer groups supporting the legislation argue that the displays would significantly reduce energy consumption, enabling consumers to save 5-15% on energy bills.  We're curious to see if this is a debate that spills over to this side of the pond, but would just mention that we have long advocated real-time energy monitoring as one of the first steps in reducing consumption.

On a lighter note... well, no, this is actually pretty serious: A new film, Drying For Freedom, will document the battle raging over the right to use outdoor clotheslines.  Despite a hopeful piece in the NYT from back in June, the film points out that by 2010 50 million U.S. homeowners will be banned from drying their linens out-of-doors, under zoning laws aimed at protecting property values and preventing eyesores.  As legislation is quietly passed behind closed doors and in smoke-filled back rooms, we give a giant shout-out to WL:DOCS for producing this humble-yet-oh-so-important film.

As Americans become increasingly aware of the need to cut back on energy consumption in the home, but are too often strapped for cash to make significant improvements, progressive communities across the country are coming up with ways to creatively finance energy efficiency retrofits (Bablylon, N.Y., for example, is letting residents pay back energy efficiency loans through additionis to their regular trash bill).

Oil-loving Texans like renewables... a lot, and they're even willing to pay for it, according to a recent poll. According the survey of 993 register voters released by Reuters, 85%  believe Texas should increase the production and use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. Of those, 59% "strongly" favor increasing production of renewable energy.  Perhaps most impressively, 53% of those polled said they would support solar requirements even if they added up to $3 to their monthly electric bill. 

Bill McKibben - climate change proselytizer, founder of 350.org, superb author and, incidentally, scholar-in-residence at my alma mater* - was featured on the Colbert Report last Monday. Although the show's faux-conservative host is infamous for stultifying guests, McKibben kept it together, and even threw a couple zingers of his own, while promoting 350's International Day of Climate Action coming up on October 24.

*Middlebury College, a small liberal arts school in the Green Mountain State.  For the record, John McCardell - President Emeritus of Middlebury, founder of the non-profit Choose Responsibility, and my history senior thesis advisor - gave an equally noteworthy performance on the show back in March. Check it out.


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