Sunday, February 01, 2009

How about some OLD energy technology?

In the current enthusiasm for new technologies, we'd like to raise the flag for just using old ones. Caulk, let's say. Around the windows of every house in the nation. Saves money and the environment.

Or removing unnecessary light bulbs. How about turning off all, or at least most, nighttime lighting in upper floors of office buildings? Cheap and effective.

How about installing electronic thermostats to raise and lower temperatures at scheduled times? And do we really need to light up every house roof during the holiday season? Maybe a Christmas tree and a few electric candles would give our houses that warm, old-fashioned-Christmas look.

Okay, what about bigger efforts? Let's change the subject to cars. According to Congressman John Dingell, Americans love big cars. Personally, I think they're hard to drive, harder still to park, and hardest of all to feed. But let's give the Congressman the benefit of the doubt and assume that you really, really need that big SUV in your driveway.

Back in 2002, MIT’s Technology Review asked the question, “Why Not a 40-MPG SUV?” The technologies already existed to make exactly that. By using control systems that minimize energy losses in the engine, by more efficient electrical components, by improving the power train, cutting weight, and reducing resistance, automotive engineers could have given the public a trendy, popular vehicle that saved gas and thus reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the authors, these technologies (of seven years ago) could move average fuel economy of cars from 27 to 46 mpg, and SUVs from 21 to 40 mpg. It sadly concluded,

“The industry doesn’t lack the technology, it lacks the priority,” . . .

What would these improvements have meant for America? A 30% decrease in greenhouse gases. And two million barrels of oil A DAY! That was 75% of what we imported then from the Middle East.

So let us not wait to start an energy revolution. Let's begin immediately. While we're planning on the next generation of lithium ion batteries, cheaper thin-film photovoltaics, and efficiently produced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol, let's take action. We'd do pretty well just adopting yesterday's energy solutions from our businesses and our government.

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