Category Archives: Global Warming

Exporting Carbon Emissions

It’s no secret that the developed world exports it’s consumer manufacturing along with the resulting pollution, exploitation, and environmental degradation to the factories of the developing world.  However, the carbon emissions from this process accrue to a shared atmosphere that can’t be isolated in another country far from our point of consumption.

Link to full story

As it stands now, most emissions data focuses on the production side of our consumer society. For example, the factory that makes your gadget in China contributes to China’s emissions count. When that same gadget is shipped to a UK consumer it does not count towards the UK’s emissions count. Barrett showed that the result of this approach has led to what he called “carbon leakage.” He said that as countries become more and more service based, with demand for products and services met by imports rather than production, the overall amount of carbon leakage goes up. “The volume of emissions that are not counted goes up.” This lack of accounting for growing imports of consumer goods shows up directly in the UK’s emissions records. According to Barrett’s data, there is a discrepancy between the UK’s Kyoto emissions reporting and his research into UK consumer emissions: the Kyoto numbers show an overall emissions reduction in the UK, but consumer emissions have actually gone up in the same time period!

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A Storyline of Global Collapse

In referring in my title here to “A Failed System” I do not of course mean that capitalism as a system is in any sense at an end. Rather I mean by “failed system” a global economic and social order that increasingly exhibits a fatal contradiction between reality and reason—to the point, in our time, where it threatens not only human welfare but also the continuation of most sentient forms of life on the planet. Three critical contradictions make up the contemporary world crisis emanating from capitalist development: (1) the current Great Financial Crisis and stagnation/depression; (2) the growing threat of planetary ecological collapse; and (3) the emergence of global imperial instability associated with shifting world hegemony and the struggle for resources

If you’re looking for the deep underlying narratives that can help bring clarity to the current unsettled state of our world, then this essay by John Foster is an excellent starting point.  Be forewarned that this is not an easy read and somewhat technical in it’s historical summary of economic theory, however if deeper understanding is your goal, reading this essay is well worth the effort.

Cap & Trade versus Fee & Dividend

Jim Hansen makes a reasoned case for a Fee & Dividend approach to carbon emissions as opposed to a Cap & Trade scheme which opens the door to political and special interest “gaming”, as well as the new financial “casino” and Wall Street revenue stream created for carbon credits/offsets.

For the record, neither plan is really a “tax”, they just provide price signals for true free market choices by internalizing the externalized costs of depletion and pollution that are currently dumped free of charge on the planet, taxpayers, and all of humanity.  Although it promotes both objectives, Hansen’s plan is more about accelerating the transition to  a renewable energy economy than it is about climate change.

You can download Hansen’s essay here.

Three Letters to Obama

The Obama administration has recently received three letters or petitions regarding energy policy.  As with any policy position they are shaped by the world views of the men and women who authored them.

Dr. James Hansen is head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a leading global climate change researcher.  It is not surprising that his proposal revolves around a tax policy aimed at decarbonizing the American economy and reducing greenhouse gases.

Edward Mazria is an architect and creator of the 2030 Challenge, a voluntary pledge that all new buildings and major building renovation be constructed to a carbon-neutral (using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate) standard by 2030. Mazria’s proposal is centered on achieving building energy efficiency goals rewarded with lower mortgage rates in the case of residential construction and by accelerated depreciation in the case of commercial construction.  If enacted, it claims to both create millions of jobs and reduce carbon emissions.

Richard Heinberg is senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of The Party’s Over – Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies,  Powerdown – Options and Actions for a Post – Carbon World, and the Oil Depletion Protocol.   Heinberg and the other authors of Post Carbon Institute’s “Real New Deal” marry the imperatives of climate change and the peaking and ultimate depletion of our fossil fuel resources into a comprehensive plan to transition the U.S. to a new energy economy.

All three proposals are valid and merit serious review, but only the Post Carbon Institute’s proposal offers a comprehensive view of the challenges we must face.  As such, the Hansen and Mazria proposals are important subsets of what needs to be a much larger solution.

THE HANSEN PROPOSAL
Hansen sent an open letter to Barack and Michelle Obama.  Here are some relevant excerpts from the letter:

A rising carbon price is essential to “decarbonize” the economy, i.e., to move the nation toward the era beyond fossil fuels. The most effective way to achieve this is a carbon tax (on oil, gas, and coal) at the well-head or port of entry.  The tax will then appropriately affect all products and activities that use fossil fuels.

The public will support the tax if it is returned to them, equal shares on a per capita basis (half shares for children up to a maximum of two child-shares per family), deposited monthly in bank accounts.  No large bureaucracy is needed.  A person reducing his carbon footprint more than average makes money.   A person with large cars and a big house will pay a tax much higher than the dividend.  Not one cent goes to Washington.  No lobbyists will be supported.  Unlike cap-and-trade, no millionaires would be made at the expense of the public.

A carbon tax is honest, clear and effective.  It will increase energy prices, but low and middle income people, especially, will find ways to reduce carbon emissions so as to come out ahead.  The rate of infrastructure replacement, thus economic activity, can be modulated by how fast the carbon tax rate increases.  Effects will permeate society.  Food requiring lots of carbon emissions to produce and transport will become more expensive and vice versa, encouraging support of nearby farms as opposed to imports from half way around the world.

THE 2030 CHALLENGE STIMULUS PLAN
A Two-Year, Nine-Million-Job Investment Proposal

The road to energy independence, economic recovery and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions runs through the Building Sector.” – Edward Mazria

The 2030 Challenge Stimulus plan is a two year investment commitment to create 9 million jobs overall and 4-million jobs in the construction sector.  It is a jobs growth and carbon reduction plan rolled into one.  In the residential sector it trades low interest rate loans off against investments to increase building energy efficiency.  For an existing home, the interest rate provided would be a function of renovating that home to some level below the existing energy code requirements in exchange for a lower mortgage rate.

Mortgage Interest Rate (subject to market conditions)  2030 Challenge Energy Reduction

4.0%    30% below code
3.5%    50% below code
2.5%    75% below code
2.0%    Carbon neutral

For example, a homeowner with a    current $272,300    mortgage with equity of $12,000, would have a mortgage balance of $260,300. At an interest rate of 6%, the current monthly mortgage payment would be $1633. If this homeowner wants to qualify for the 2.5% interest rate, they will need to renovate their home to use 75% less energy than that required by code, immediately creating jobs and putting construction teams back to work.

The cost of renovation would be approximately $51,250, which includes a solar system, which would qualify for a $7000 tax credit. The cost of the renovation, minus the tax credit, would be added to the mortgage balance, so that the new mortgage is now $304,550.    However, because of the significantly lower 2.5%    interest rate, the new mortgage payment is just $1203, a savings of $430 per month. With the additional monthly savings on energy bills of approximately $145, this homeowner would save a total of $575 per month.

Because building construction historically represents about 10% of GDP, Mazria thinks that the private building sector may be the key to reviving the U.S. economy.  He proposes that $96-billion be invested annually for the next two years in mortgage interest rate buy-downs and accelerated depreciation for commercial buildings.  As a result, Mazria claims that with a participation of only 5.8% of homes and 3.1% of commercial buildings the program would generate 9-million jobs and $1-trillion in private sector spending, and pay for itself in the form of increased tax revenue.

In addition to the economic claims, Mazria calculates that over the five year period, the proposal would reduce CO2 emissions by 504 million metric tons and energy consumption by 6.47 Quadrillion Btu.

Even at a participation of only 5.8% (over 4-million) of homes, Mazria’s proposal may have a scaling problem, as the country finds itself lacking the architectural, engineering, and code verification talent to transform that many homes in the proposed time-frame.  Conceptually however, this is a beautifully conceived plan and deserves serious attention.

POST CARBON INSTITUTE
The Real New Deal
Energy Scarcity and the Path to Energy, Economic, and  Environmental Recovery

The energy transition cannot be accomplished in four years or eight…  What can and must be accomplished in a single administration is the essential change of direction.

The Post Carbon Institute [PCI] argues that the current economic crisis provides the opportunity and potentially the political will to make a significant down payment on the transition to a renewable energy economy that would otherwise be inconceivable.  In fact if we don’t act now, the current crisis may just merge with “peak oil” and the effects of climate change to create a decades long global state of emergency.

PCI outlines a comprehensive program comprising five different solution sets.

  1. A massive and immediate shift to renewable energy (Hansen’s proposal fits here)
  2. The electrification of our transportation system
  3. The transformation to a “smart” electrical grid
  4. The de-carbonization and localization of our food production and delivery system
  5. The retrofit of our building stock for energy efficiency and distributed power generation. (Mazria’s proposal fits here)

Since the cost of such a transition spread over 20 years would be in the order of $4.5-trillion the authors admit that given the current financial meltdown, private capital will not be forthcoming and deficit spending by the government along with significant policy changes will be required to launch the transition.  To direct policy, the authors recommend creating “an Energy Transition Office, tied to no existing agency, specifically tasked with tracking and managing the transition and with helping existing agencies work together toward the common goal”.

The authors do not underestimate the enormous and unprecedented scope of their proposal.  Aside from avoiding or mitigating the devastating impacts of peak oil and climate change the potential  benefits are enormous and would include:

  • eliminating the need to police oil exporting areas of the world, saving billions of dollars a year in military expenditures
  • saving billions per year by creating a food system that substantially reduces obesity, cancer, and asthma
  • helping to create and foster skilled, self-reliant and resilient communities

Although the plan as presented merely serves to outline the possible solutions and the scope of the problems we face, what sets it apart is it all-embracing view of the resource depletion and environmental  perils we must resolve to survive.

Thoughts About a New Energy Economy
Calls for the transition to a new energy economy typically come from three main quarters.  All three are valid, but only one sees the forest for trees.

The national security quarter recognizes that we depend too much on imports from countries and regions that are either unstable and/or hostile to our national interests.  This argument for action plays well with the right, but does not recognize the environmental threat of global warming or greater economic peril of peak oil.  Although it forms the basis of an argument for an energy transition, it can equally be used to justify a more robust military policy.

The climate change quarter is currently dominant in the minds of the public and with policy makers.  It sees great peril and human suffering in the coming decades but doesn’t recognize that the peak oil is imminent and will soon take center stage.  The economic devastation of peak oil will likely be additive to the current debt crisis and put global warming on the back burner.  Ironically, the advent of peak oil will greatly reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of global warming but the decline in oil supply alone will not be sufficient to drive atmospheric CO2 levels back to 350 PPM.

Peak oil is lesser known.  There is a peak oil caucus in congress, but there is little political will to take action in a county where nearly half the population believes in the battle cry of “drill baby drill”.  Unlike the effects of global warming which will be slow and indirect in coming, the effects of peak oil will be as sudden as the collapse of the World Trade Center and Lehman Brothers.  More shock and awe than a slow rising of the tides.  It will touch every corner of our economy with a combination of price shocks and shortages.  It will leave us with one chance and one chance only to transform our energy infrastructure to solar, wind, and geothermal using what remains of our rapidly depleting fossil fuel resources.

As I look to the future, I see three possible courses of action:

Option one is that we recognize the problem of resource depletion and take action well in advance of  the anticipated world wide peak in oil production.  Since peaking is imminent and the transition will take approximately two decades, unfortunately the ship has already sailed on option one. Looking back we will someday wish we had paid much more attention to Jimmy Carter.

With the election of Obama, option two is already in play, and we have begin to take some action based on fears of climate change and for reasons of national security.  However, our current actions are no where near sufficient to avoid extreme hardship.  The ship of state is on a collision course with the iceberg and we have only just given the order to reduce speed.  Our collision with destiny is now unavoidable and the question now is whether there will be a sufficient number of life boats.  In addition, just as we need it the most, we lack sufficient capital to make the transition in the face of the global financial meltdown.  This is not just another severe business cycle, this is the beginning of the  realignment of the the post WWII global financial system and the end of American economic dominance.  It is likely that peak oil will become evident just as the dollar loses its status as the world’s reserve currency and as a nation we may then be unable to fund the energy transition with either public or private funds.  Essentially bankrupt and losing our grip on global influence and power the country may lurch to the right in a desperate attempt to reclaim global dominance.

Option three is to maintain a posture of “drill baby drill denial” in spite of reality.  At this point the country may resort to engaging in “resource wars” to claim the world’s remaining oil reserves and to protect the American “way of life”.   This would be a policy doomed to failure and assured of increasing human misery.  It would also be a policy that will put us at risk of missing our only window to transition away from fossil fuels.  Call this the Mad Max policy.

My hope is that we’ll stick with option two and muddle through to a new and sustainable energy economy.  It promises to be extremely painful and disruptive decade or two of transition, but in the end we will find ourselves in a much healthier relationship with our environment and possibly with each other.

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Obama and Global Warming – Cap & Trade or a Carbon Tax?

Taxes aren’t just too high, they’re too dumb. Whenever we put a tax on something, we get less of it. Yet, incomprehensibly, we continue to tax the things we want more of: income, jobs, and savings. Economists used to like that — they thought taxing good things was “neutral.” But it’s not. In a resource-constrained world, it’s much smarter to cut taxes on what we want — like jobs — and make up the difference by raising taxes on things we want less of: carbon, pollution, and waste. – Bill Shireman, President and CEO of the Future 500

The invisible hand of the market is blind to the effects of inputs and outputs that don’t provide any immediate price signals.  No where is that more true than in the fossil fuel derived energy markets, where the price signals for resource depletion, air and water pollution, and climate change are either non-existent, understated, or so delayed as to render any “natural” free market correction an economic and humanitarian crisis.

In the case of anthropogenic global warming [AGW], market forces may react to new shipping lanes in the Arctic or improved crop yields in certain parts of the world, but they will not react to species loss or rising sea levels until we are well past the tipping point of no return.  So the only way to drive the market to “decarbonize” our atmosphere is for the government to impose a price signal on fossil fuel generated carbon.

We can do this with either a system of Cap & Trade or with a Carbon Tax.  Either method would impose a cost on the release of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and adjust the price upward to reflect the environmental costs that the “market” fails to “see”.

In a recent letter to president elect Obama, Jim Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies proposes a carbon tax.  Here are some excerpts from the letter:

A rising carbon price is essential to “decarbonize” the economy, i.e., to move the nation toward the era beyond fossil fuels. The most effective way to achieve this is a carbon tax (on oil, gas, and coal) at the well-head or port of entry.  The tax will then appropriately affect all products and activities that use fossil fuels.

The public will support the tax if it is returned to them, equal shares on a per capita basis (half shares for children up to a maximum of two child-shares per family), deposited monthly in bank accounts.  No large bureaucracy is needed.  A person reducing his carbon footprint more than average makes money.   A person with large cars and a big house will pay a tax much higher than the dividend.  Not one cent goes to Washington.  No lobbyists will be supported.  Unlike cap-and-trade, no millionaires would be made at the expense of the public.

A carbon tax is honest, clear and effective.  It will increase energy prices, but low and middle income people, especially, will find ways to reduce carbon emissions so as to come out ahead.  The rate of infrastructure replacement, thus economic activity, can be modulated by how fast the carbon tax rate increases.  Effects will permeate society.  Food requiring lots of carbon emissions to produce and transport will become more expensive and vice versa, encouraging support of nearby farms as opposed to imports from half way around the world.

As a candidate, Obama supported a Cap & Trade policy that would require all pollution credits to be auctioned.  These credits would then be “traded” creating a new source of commission revenue for the financial markets.  A 100 percent auction policy would ensure that all industries pay for every ton of emissions they release, rather than politically giving emission rights  and credits away to companies on the basis of their past pollution.  Obama proposed that a small portion of the auction receipts (~$15 billion/year) be invested in the development of clean energy sources and that the balance be used for rebates to individuals, families, and communities to off-set the increased cost of fuel, natural gas, and electricity.

Personally, I like the administrative simplicity of Hansen’s plan and it’s relative immunity to political and financial gaming.   Obama has proven he is open to any good idea — let’s hope he is open to Hansen’s proposal.

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The End of Petroleum for Personal Transportation

Every great company in the history of the [silicone] valley started in a technology down cycle. — Shai Agassi

Stories about electric cars usually don’t get me very excited.  They may not generate any emissions on the road, but their batteries must recharged from a national electric grid, which in America is 50% dependent on coal and 20% dependent on natural gas.  Essentially, electric cars always looked like a game of fossil fuel whack-a-mole – trading the limitations and pollution of oil for the limitations and pollution of coal and natural gas.  You could argue that we could power the grid with renewables, but the grid is a 7/24 dance of precisely matching up demand with supply and it can only tolerate a limited amount of intermittent power like wind and PV before the music stops.  Add to that the limited range of electric cars and the whole concept falls apart when you consider that potential buyers must be confined to a tight radius around the umbilical cord of their home’s electric meter.

All of that is about to change as our model of personal transportation built around cheap oil and the internal combustion engine goes the way of the buggy whip.  Imagine a future work day that looks like this:

  1. You enter your garage and pull out your electronic key. The logo on the key is blinking blue, indicating your car is fully charged.
  2. You unplug your car from the wall, open the garage door, and head for work. Your electric system software analyzes the first few minutes of driving and determines your likely destination based on past history: “Work?” it asks to confirm. You answer the question in the affirmative and the system determines how much energy is needed for the day.
  3. During your commute, the GPS enabled system finds and displays three open parking spaces near your office that are equipped with charging pods linked with your electric car’s subscription plan.
  4. You pull into one of spaces and an automatic arm extends to plug into the car. The charging pod then communicates with the control center, and based on the your driving history,  picks the lowest rate time slot to recharge your vehicle.
  5. Before your recharge is complete an unexpected cross town meeting comes up.  You climb into your car and enter the new destination, and the system software notifies you that there is insufficient charge to make the trip, return to the office, and commute back to your home.    To extend your range you order a battery swap.
  6. The system software finds the most convenient battery-exchange location and books a bay. The old battery gets lowered onto a hydraulic plate, and the car moves forward on a car-wash-style track. In no more time than it takes to fill up your old tank with gasoline, a fully charged battery pack is in place, and you are on your way with another 100 miles of driving range.

If all this sounds like an episode from the Jetsons, think again.  Within 15 years, automobile transportation in Israel and Denmark will be carbon neutral, with electric cars powered by wind and solar energy, and the rest of the world may not be that far behind.  This all starts with a business model for the automobile that takes its cues from the mobile phone.

The idea, according to Shai Agassi, the software entrepreneur responsible for this new vision, is to sell electric car transportation on the model of the cellphone. Purchasers get subsidized hardware — the car — and pay a monthly fee for expected mileage, like minutes on a cellphone plan, eliminating concerns about the fluctuating price of gasoline.
As with cellphones the car will become secondary in importance to the network, “You’ll be able to get a nice, high-end car at a price roughly half that of the gasoline model today,”

Agassi’s vision is well on its way to reality.  His company, Project Better Place, has already attracted $200-million in venture capital, a commitment from Renault-Nissan to develop and build the software enabled electric cars, and commitments from Israel and Denmark to be the “beta sites” to prove the concept.  If any of this required some new technical breakthrough, I would find it all interesting in a wait-and-see kind of way.  However, what makes this real is that it all rests on a proven foundation of off-the-shelf technology.  The breakthrough lies in the vision – in the paradigm shifting business model.  The initial selling is done, what comes next is flushing out the partnerships, building he supplier base, creating the system software, and engineering the infrastructure.

The collection of park and charge spots across a country or city, together with software that controls the timing for charging the cars, creates a smart grid—synchronized and extending the country’s existing electric grid, matching excess electricity on the grid with the need to charge batteries flattening the demand curve in the process. When we put together the charge points, the batteries, exchange stations, and the software that controls timing and routing we get a new class of infrastructure—the Electric Recharge Grid (ERG). A new category of companies will emerge in the next few years which will install, operate and service customers across this grid—called Electric Recharge Grid Operators (ERGOs).—Project Better Place white paper distributed at EVS-23

car-pod

The ifs and the maybes are past tense.  Renault-Nissan has promised to have the cars ready by 2011 and prototype testing has already begun in Israel.  These cars will not be glorified golf carts, but snappy full size sedans and small SUV’s.

The consumer’s contract for the EV must be the same – or better – than the consumer’s current contract for gas-powered cars.  We need to change the way consumers buy an EV so that it fits the current social contract we have with our cars, providing a normal car ownership experience even if the car has an electric drive train. –  Shai Agassi

Israel and Denmark provide ideal consumer markets to test the business model.  Each country enjoys low average miles driven per day that fall within the proposed battery pack range and a high likelihood that the electricity used for transportation will be renewable.  Denmark already generates enough excess wind power to supply all of it’s personal transportation needs and Israel has an obvious strategic need to be independent of Middle East oil.

With any infrastructure project of this magnitude, there will be unforeseen problems.  However, none are likely to be more than temporary engineering challenges.  The end result will be a new electric personal transportation paradigm that is equal to or better than the freedom and convenience provided by the internal combustion engine.  It is a business model that has the potential to greatly mitigate the impact of peak oil, positively impact climate change, and by providing a large storage sink in the form of batteries enable much greater use of  solar and wind power on utility grids.

It also extends the age of the automobile, along with the legacy of traffic jambs, suburban sprawl, and mind numbing commutes.  Better Place estimates the the cost to develop the necessary infrastructure in the U.S. is about $500 per car or about a year’s worth of oil imports.  Over $400 of that number is for investments in renewable energy to avoid the shell game of trading oil off against coal and natural gas, so the actual cost for the charging and battery swap infrastructure is only about $85 per car.  Since the U.S. electrical grid suffers from 30 years of under-investment and is a balkanized maze of 500 owners, the implementation of the Better Place model will mimic the cellphone industry and role out by metro region based on local politics and beliefs that favor an early adopter mindset.  It’s no surprise that the California cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose will combine to be the first U.S. adopters of the model.

A Utopian Future?

Once you have a system of electric cars – a system that knows where every car is and where they are going – it is not much of leap to imagine the end of traffic jams or even the end of actually having to operate the vehicle.  Phase II?

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The Obama Energy Plan and our Homes

How will Obama’s energy polices affect our homes?  We won’t really know until his proposals are debated and enacted by congress, but we can get a sense of what might happen from his campaign’s position statements.  From his campaign website’s fact sheet his stated position on building energy efficiency is as follows:

“Obama…will establish a goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030.  [He] will also establish a national goal of improving new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade to help us meet the 2030 goal.”

This is straight from the playbook of Ed Mazra’s Architecture 2030 Challenge.  As evidenced by the following quote from the 2030 website, the 2030 Challenge is predicated on climate change and the reduction of green house gas emissions associated with the Building Sector.

“Rapidly accelerating climate change (global warming), which is caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is now fueling dangerous regional and global environmental events. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration illustrates that buildings are responsible for almost half (48%) of all GHG emissions annually. Seventy-six percent of all electricity generated by US power plants goes to supply the Building Sector. Therefore, immediate action in the Building Sector is essential if we are to avoid hazardous climate change.”

I have two issues with the 2030 Challenge.

One is that the 48% responsibility for GHG emissions attributed to buildings is overstated.  The emissions assigned to the building sector are primarily the indirect result of drawing on electrical power generated from coal and natural gas fired power plants, so the question becomes whether to focus our resources on the building “demand” side, or the power plant “supply” side, or some combination of both.  In that broader context, we may find that it is much easier to deal with a few hundred power plants than to transform 150 million residential and commerical buildings.  From a public policy perspective, both the demand and supply side should be considered as a synergistic whole.

My second issue is more fundamental.  Architecture 2030 asks and answers the wrong question.  The question that Architecture 2030 asks is what actions should we take to mitigate the effect of the building sector on climate change.  However, the greater question is what actions should we take to render the building sector sustainable.  Once sustainability is on the table then we have to consider carrying capacity and carrying capacity overshoot at which point climate change is just another canary in the coal mine.

Carrying capacity is all about the ecological limits (capacity) of our planet’s resources and sinks.  By considering GHG emissions as the primary driver for building energy improvements, policy makers are overlooking the much more immediate and serious resource issues of peak oil and gas.  Since both of these peak events will be evident as early as 2010, all buildings should be built or retrofitted to a net zero energy and carbon standard NOW, not 22 years from now.

However, I digress.  Since it will take the actual emergency of these peaking events to mobilize the political will to enact a national zero energy standard, the question is what can we expect when Obama takes office next year.

The first likely step will be to start the process of improving building efficiency by 50% through our building codes.  A significant improvement is already in the works for the residential sector with the IECC 2009. However, at this time, the 30% improvement authored by the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition, will only be a voluntary appendix to the next release of the code.  In addition, once the new code is released, it has to be reviewed and adopted by hundreds of city, county, and state authorities.  In the process, these authorities often dumb down new energy code provisions in response to local politics.  We can also expect a major push back from a decimated housing sector deeply concerned about adding any new code mandated building costs.

My best guess is that under Obama, the voluntary 30% improvement provision authored by Energy Efficient Codes Coalition will be supported by Obama’s Grant Program for Early Adopters policy proposal.  This proposal creates a competitive grant program for states and localities that “take the first steps in implementing new building codes that prioritize energy efficiency, and provides a federal match for those states with leading-edge public benefits funds that support energy efficiency retrofits of existing buildings.”

The grant proposal creates a policy that respects local politics and helps to support those areas of country that have the political will to move forward with improving building energy efficiency.

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