A “shot across the bow” for Real. Local. Power.

Date: 5 Sep 2013 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 1 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Two years ago, Boulder citizens voted to take over the electric utility but the incumbent monopoly is fighting back with a ballot initiative to cut off the localization effort at the knees. Local activists started a crowdfunding campaign to push back against the incumbent’s financial advantage. … Read More

Minneapolis could excel beyond Xcel

Date: 12 Aug 2013 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 1 Facebooktwitterredditmail

A lot of folks came to a hearing at Minneapolis City Hall eight days ago to oppose a ballot measure authorizing the city to form a municipal utility. Mostly they argued that the status quo is sufficient. I’d like to ask if they understand the question. This commentary was originally published by the Star Tribune on … Read More

The One Thing Obama’s Climate Policy Can’t Leave Out

Date: 20 Jun 2013 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 2 Facebooktwitterredditmail

When President Obama unveils his climate policy proposal in the coming days, he should focus on the one key element of successful climate and energy policy.  It’s not about utilities or incentives or numbers, it’s about ownership. Climate-protecting energy policy succeeds when communities can keep their energy dollars local by directly owning and profiting from investments … Read More

On Climate, What Walmart Says vs. What It Does

Date: 1 May 2013 | posted in: Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Walmart has been generating some impressive-sounding headlines on the environment lately. But a closer examination of what Walmart is and isn’t doing reveals a company that in fact lags its peers on renewable energy and is contributing a large and growing volume of climate change pollution to the atmosphere.… Read More

Who Should Pay the Costs of Climate Disasters?

Date: 4 Jan 2013 | posted in: From the Desk of David Morris, The Public Good | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Who should pay the costs of climate disasters?  In light of the current debate in the United States about federal assistance to Hurricane Sandy victims and the recent debate at the recent Doha Climate Conference about international assistance for climate change victims, that has become an increasingly pressing question for humankind. The frequency and cost of … Read More

You Can Fight City Hall

Date: 25 Jun 2012 | posted in: waste - anti-incineration, Waste to Wealth | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Dear Mayor Bloomberg, Recently, you generously gave over $50 million to the Sierra Club to work on reducing the use of coal for energy based on environmental concerns.  At the same you have announced a policy of building garbage incinerators in NYC.  There is a contradiction here, as burning garbage pollutes far more than burning coal. … Read More

Burning $300 million on the climate battle

Date: 28 Oct 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 1 Facebooktwitterredditmail

I heard this week that foundations collectively spent as much as $300 million in the failed attempt to pass comprehensive climate legislation during the last session in Congress. Someone sarcastically remarked that we should have just burned the money for energy instead.

But would it have been worth it? A short analysis follows:

Assume that the $300 million was dispersed in $1 bills. Each dollar bill weighs 1 gram and is 75% cotton and 25% linen. Finding the energy content of a dollar was not easy (even though many conservatives accuse government of spending money on worthless research, apparently no one is literally burning through cash). As a substitute, we used the figure of 7,500 Btu per pound for cotton linters.

Our $300 million equals 300 million grams of dollars, which is 660,800 pounds of dollars, or 330 tons.

At 7,500 Btu per pound, burning $300 million nets us 4.96 billion Btus.  And at 3,413 Btus per kilowatt-hour (generously assuming 100% conversion efficiency compared to typical power plant efficiencies of 30-35%), we get 1.45 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.  It’s net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, because during its growth, the cotton plant took up all the carbon dioxide emitted during combustion.  For comparison, 1.45 million kWhs from coal-fired electricity emits about 1,450 tons of carbon dioxide. 

So, if we burn $300 million for electricity instead of passing climate legislation…

  • …we can power 145 homes for a year (at 10,000 kWh per year)
  • …offset 1,315 tonnes of carbon dioxide (0.00002% of annual U.S. emissions)…
  • …at a cost of $228,000 per ton.

Conservatives take note: it’s far cheaper to get carbon dioxide emission reductions (under $100 per ton!) to pass comprehensive climate legislation than to burn $300 million.

Update: this analysis is not meant to imply that we shouldn’t fight for climate policy, but that the failure (like burning the money) is costly.

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