Posts tagged “sustainability”
What Ethanol Problem?
If you live in the Midwest, you are in the midst of a thriving ethanol industry. But the Midwest does not control its own destiny when it comes to ethanol. That is still controlled by the federal government.
When I first started writing about energy nearly a decade ago, many of my early articles were addressed at the ethanol policies we were pursuing in the US. Even though I supported renewable energy, I felt like we were going about things in the wrong way. While I acknowledged that you could subsidize lots of ethanol production into existence, there needed to be a clear path for sustainability in the event that strong government intervention waned.
Today, nine years after I began writing about energy, we have an ethanol industry that has undergone rapid growth, but it is an industry that still relies heavily on the hand of government in the form of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). One need look no further than the uproar over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to lower the RFS for 2014. CONTINUE»
The Energy Experts Reconvene at the WSJ
Generally when I find myself having to write a follow-up post to something I wrote, it’s because I obviously didn’t make my points clearly enough. I found this to be the case during a lively Twitter discussion following my latest contribution to the Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) Energy Experts Panel. But I love these sorts of discussions because they help me hone the message I am trying to deliver.
This week the WSJ began publishing the latest round of answers to questions that were submitted to their energy panel several weeks ago. The first question answered this week was: What is the single biggest misconception people have about renewable energy in the U.S.?
First, if you don’t know about the WSJ Expert Panels, I explained that in some detail here. Essentially, the WSJ has groups of experts in different fields, and they pose questions on various topics. We are asked to write ~ 300-word answers to these questions, which often means leaving out caveats and/or clarifications. The answers are more detailed than the 140 characters allowed by Twitter, but some topics leave a lot of issues unaddressed with just a 300-word answer. CONTINUE»
Welcome to High Efficiency, a new column from Energy Trends Insider. I’m your columnist, host, and resident energy-efficiency-obsessed individual, Allison Asplin. (You might remember me from my article in Eli Hinckley’s Banking Energy column, “Why Energy Efficiency and Buildings Don’t Mix.”)
First a little about who I am and what I do.
I spent eight years eating, sleeping, and breathing commercial real estate, first in brokerage at a leading global real estate services firm, then as a development manager and regional sustainability director for one of the country’s largest REITs.
Grappling with the energy performance challenges of an 80-building portfolio whetted my appetite for efficiency work, and I bolted for grad school to study energy policy. As a newly-minted Master’s degree holder, I accepted a fellowship with Bloomberg New Energy Finance to study the barriers to energy efficiency in real estate in depth. Through that research, I concluded that utilities are a crucial part of the charge toward energy efficiency, leading me to my current work evaluating energy efficiency and efficiency financing for utilities, governments, and private companies at environmental consulting firm The Cadmus Group.
Following last year’s ASPO conference, I was interviewed by Aaron Wissner of Local Future, which is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to issues of energy, the environment, and sustainability. Aaron just made that interview available, and instead of an R-Squared Energy TV episode this week, I thought I would share this interview with readers.
Among other things, we discuss:
- The reasons that I became interested in energy issues
- My Long Recession hypothesis
- The relationship between oil prices and recession
- The importance of taking control of your personal energy consumption
- Why lower oil consumption in the U.S. didn’t lead to lower oil prices
- The climate change challenge
Why We Love Trees I don’t often talk about my job, but I am going to today just a bit. I am the Chief Technology Officer for a renewable energy company. Our primary goal is to develop affordable and sustainable energy for a world that we believe will struggle from the impacts of oil depletion. My company favors forestry as a cornerstone of our biomass to energy platform. On a recent business trip, I heard a story that perfectly explained the reason that we believe trees offer a source of sustainable biomass for energy production. One of my metrics for sustainability is to presume that we are using a plot of land to produce an energy crop, and then ask… Continue»
While my focus is primarily on energy, I am also interested in other sustainability issues. Some of those include food production, water issues (e.g. water desalination to increase availability of fresh water), and waste management. I have discussed waste management here before in My Composting Experiment. (My experiment has gone quite well; three years after that story I am still actively composting everything I can). Landfill Space Constraints Regarding waste management, stories often appear in the media about places running out of landfill space. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but twenty years ago there were numerous stories in the media about New York barging their garbage, but having trouble finding someone to take it: The Garbage Barge… Continue»
The Saudi Arabia of Ethanol Iowa is to corn ethanol what Saudi Arabia is to oil. At present Iowa has the capacity to produce 3.5 billion gallons of ethanol per year, which is 26% of the nation’s total (Source). This is of course due to the large amount of corn production in Iowa, enabled by ample rainfall and rich topsoil. But Iowa differs from Saudi Arabia with respect to energy production in one very important detail: Saudi Arabia satisfies their own energy needs with the oil they produce, and exports the excess. Iowa on the other hand exports the vast majority of the ethanol they produce while importing gasoline as motor fuel. Gasoline consumption in Iowa is presently around 1.6… Continue»
In my recent post Thoughts on an Ethanol Pipeline, I described what I feel would be a more rational approach to ethanol policy than some of the policies that have been pursued over the years. This gist is that the Midwest currently produces about 95% of the ethanol in the U.S. (12.5 billion gallons), but they export 70% of that ethanol out of the Midwest. At the same time, they import gasoline that is the energy equivalent of 37 billion gallons per year of ethanol. It would seem to be a more sensible energy policy to utilize ethanol production closer to the source of production — especially given that the motor fuel demand in the Midwest is far greater than… Continue»
The latest in the snazzy series of useful tools and research on housing and transportation published by the Center for Neighborhood Technology is called Abogo.
Local Production for Local Needs I currently live in Hawaii, and one thing I hope to help facilitate is for Hawaii to become more sustainable in food and energy. We have the natural resources here to be largely sustainable, but we depend on outside sources for around 90% of our food and energy. Currently, fuel and power in Hawaii are provided by Southeast Asia and from as far away as the Middle East. Of course we do this for the same reason many countries are dependent on imports for their food and energy: That is cheaper than the alternative of self-sufficiency. But from the perspective of risk, regions with such high dependence on others for their basic needs can quickly… Continue»