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February 20, 2009

Another way to look at energy efficiency_the productivity gap

There is agreement among all of the energy experts that energy efficiency is by far the cheapest way to reduce energy costs.  Much cheaper than a new coal fired or natural gas power plant, a nuclear reactor or a wind or solar farm.

Here is another way to look at efficiency, the amount of GDP generated by the amount of electricity used in a state.


Source: Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)

The researchers took pains to normalize as much as possible expenditures on heating and cooling based on a given state’s climate.  What emerges is a snapshot of the economic productivity of the energy used by each state ($GDP/kWh = Dollars of Gross Domestic Product per Kilowatt hour of electricity).

The difference between any given state and the top ten states in the study is the productivity gap. RMI estimates that if all states closed their productivity gap, the U.S. would save 1.2 million Gigawatt hours per year.  That is a lot of energy, and a tremendous amount of money to be saved.

Maybe this is tangential, but I found it interesting that three of the four states whose Republican governors are considering “refusing” stimulus funds from the federal government (at least as of February 20, 2009) are ranked as follows:

Louisiana = Governor Bobby Jindal               Ranks #34

South Carolina = Governor Mark Sanford     Ranks #47

Mississippi = Governor Haley Barbour          Ranks #50

A large part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is for “energy” expenditures ($65 billion in tax incentives and expenditures).  Maybe these governors dislike saving energy as much as they dislike taking money that will help their citizens.


In something that will come as no shock to anyone, the State of Alaska is an outlier.  Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is also thinking about saying “thanks, but no thanks” to the stimulus money.  Alaska ranks #2 on the productivity list.

In summary, no matter how you measure it - electric or gas bill, carbon footprint, $GDP/kWh - energy efficiency makes sense and saves dollars.

December 4, 2008

The Interstate Highway System and Alternative Energy

The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

That is the official name of the familiar roads we know as I-10, I-95, I-5, etc.

The Intestate part is obvious, but why “defense highways”?

The story boils down to the vision and efforts of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1919, Lieutenant Colonel Eisenhower was part of an army convoy that crossed the country from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco.  The 81 vehicles took 62 days to cross the country at an average speed of 6 miles per hour.

After his stint as Supreme Allied Commander in WWII, and having seen the Autobahns in Germany, Eisenhower became convinced that it was imperative for the United States to build a high speed highway system to move materiel and troops in time of war.

The Interstate Highway System had other major benefits, changing the social and commercial fabric of the country.  America became a mobile culture.

How was the $129 Billion highway system paid for?  Through gasoline taxes.  At the time it was proposed, some of the critics called it a “socialistic scheme to transfer the cost of providing deluxe highways from those most benefited to the already heavily burdened landowner.”

Sound familiar?  Are there many around today who still bemoan the interstates as a socialistic scheme?

Now the parallel with the proposed alternative energy economic stimulus strategy being contemplated by the incoming Obama administration.

Endependence thinks a great case can be made to promote spending on alternative energy infrastructure as a matter of national defense.  We need to insulate ourselves from the spikes in the cost of fossil fuel energy and their toxic effects on the environment.  America should become the world leader in harvesting and using renewable energy.

We can pay for it with a gasoline tax, or a carbon tax.

A suggestion for a name for this move toward energy independence that ends dependence on polluting fuels:

The Barack Obama Interstate Alternative Energy Defense Network.

Here is the link to an article about the Interstate Highway system:


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