13 April, 2007

More Energy Thoughts

Time to start laundry days again, and get rid of energy-wasting lights and replace them with low voltage CCFL and CFL lights. I keep harping on this subject, I know. But come on - a cheap solar installation of two panels and regulator/batteries coupled with low voltage lighting will reduce your house's energy use by anywhere between 10% and 35%. Just switching to CFL globes will reduce your energy use (and associated greenhouse gas emissions and pollution) by between 5% and 10%. And either way will help rebalance our climate and environment. [note 1]

I'm still also urging city commuters to get onto their Member of Parliament about legitimising the REVA and other all-electric cars, and let's also see if we can't get a few local solar businesses to put some money into designing a "solar carport charger" for such cars. Think about it - you get a reasonably cheap little car, you get a reasonably cheap little solar installation, and you get to save the estimated $2250 a year in fuel costs as well as saving the environment! [note 2]

Oh - on the subject of electric and hybrid cars - one more snippet you may be interested in knowing: A certain well-known hybrid car that is widely perceived as very green, and in fact Ms McTiernan drives one, has a little conundrum attached to it. Because the car is produced on a production line same as all the other cars produced by that manufacturer, the basic petrol engined car costs as much in greenhouse gases and emissions as any other car to produce. That very large polution load by itself would be enough to render the relatively small advantage of the car irrelevant.

But wait - there's more! Because the car has to have batteries and electronics and electric drive motors as well as the fossil fuel components, it in fact costs far more in pollution load to produce, than it will recover over the life of the car...

One possible solution is for car manufacturers to switch their plant to environmentally friendlier power sources, use less steel and more easily produced plastics, and to stop dicking around with fossil fuelled cars and start seriously developing electric-only, biodiesel, and electric/biodiesel hybrid cars. (Electric-only cars, while the electricity still has to be produced by a power plant somewhere, at least don't use another lot of dirty fossil fuel, and thus have a lower impact on pollution load than petrol hybrids. And biodiesel is a cleaner and more "now" energy, you extract it from biomass that got the energy from sunlight in the last year or two, so there's no million-year-old energy being dug up and put back into the atmosphere, and it also burns considerably cleaner than fossil fuels.)

1. I'm averaging between calculated power usage for houses which have 60W filament globes, an inefficient refrigerator, a tumble dryer, and in about 45% of cases some form of air conditioning, and houses that just have a basic refrigerator, and that and the lights form almost all the power usage. I'm basing this on observations of houses around Perth, as air conditioning is pretty easy to spot, and so are things like average affluence and therefore likelihood of having the latest 4 energy star fridge versus a new 52" TV, etc.

2. I am basing this on our usage in an average six cylinder sedan, and including only the trips within the city for work and shopping that an electric car would be used for. We spend another $1000 a year on country trips and longer trips. If we had a biodiesel hybrid electric instead, we might conceivably use about a quarter of the fuel, a tenth of the cost, and only produce about a quarter of the pollution load.

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