REPRESENTATIVE ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, MARYLAND 6TH DISTRICT, 2005 ENERGY CONFERENCE
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2005, 9:00 A.M. – 12:00 NOON
FREDERICK COMMUNITY COLLEGE, FREDERICK, MARYLAND
PARTICIPANTS: DR. KENNETH DEFFEYES, MATTHEW SIMMONS, RICHARD HEINBERG, DONALD WULFINGHOFF, JOHN SPEARS, JOHN HOWE
Transcript by: Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.
REP. BARTLETT: We’ve done a very good job so far of keeping on schedule, and so we’ll try to keep on schedule by starting when we told you when we told you we would start the second half of our program today.
We have another elected official with us, Mary Margaret Whipple from the state senate of Virginia. Thank you very much for joining us here today. (Applause.)
The first 200 people who arrived today will be getting a free oil poster. I’ve just started to read that. It’s pretty much like reading – it’s a pretty good textbook and it’s really a very good poster. And this is free to teachers. If you will call oil poster – I mean, if you will go on the net – oilposter.org – and tell them you are teacher, they will be happy to send you a free poster. This is really a very good poster. It summarizes most of the things that we are talking about here today.
Donald Wulfinghoff earned his B.S. in physics from the University of Louisville, a M.S. in physics from the University of Florida. He has been a researcher, consultant and teacher in energy efficiency, where he has served organizations in the White House to heavy industry plants, to small schools, to the most complex hospitals. He has authored “Energy Efficiency Manual” and “Managing Your Energy.” That “Energy Efficiency Manual,” I wish you had one on the desk. That really is an impressive book. He spent 20 years writing it. Mr. Wulfinghoff is probably the world’s expert on efficiency in buildings and he reminds us that more energy is used in our buildings than in the transportation sector. It is not nearly as obvious, but the opportunities for conservation there are enormous.
Mr. Wulfinghoff, thank you very much for joining us. (Applause.)
DONALD WULFINGHOFF: Good morning, everyone. And thank you, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, and thanks to your brilliant energy advisor Dr. John Darnell for inviting me to speak with you – that’s the infamous book – for inviting me to speak with you today. You have heard – you’ve got my notes. There we are. You’ve heard from the world’s experts on energy supply where we’re going. It’s my job to outline how we make a soft landing. The purpose of my discussion is to show how the United States can continue to thrive, be free, and be happy in a world where energy is very expensive and occasionally scarce.
I’m going to make a distinction between the terms “energy efficiency” and “energy conservation.” They are different concepts. However, for the sake of time, I’m going to use either one of those words as shorthand for both rather than make the distinction. My talk will be about the transition period, not the long term. The transition period is the interval during which we prepare to live within the bounds of the reduced quantity of energy that will be available in the future and the higher price that will occur in the future.
The transition actually began in 1973 with the Arab oil embargo, and it is important to understand this fact: Virtually every idea and virtually all the technology needed to make the transition was developed in the ‘70s. We do not lack for ideas and we do not lack for technology. What we have to do is we have to get the right ideas and the right technology in the game and the wrong ideas and the wrong technology out of the game.
Since the mid-1980s there has been no progress in energy efficiency in the United States and in most of the world. We have to restart the progress toward extreme energy efficiency – not just little energy efficiency, extreme energy efficiency – for the reasons that you heard this morning, and that process has to be managed effectively. So what I’m going to try to do in a very short period of time is to show where energy is used and where it is wasted in the United States economy to estimate the savings potential in each sector of the economy and to recommend the actions needed to make a soft landing in the future. The logic of efficiency has already bee covered. We’re rapidly exhausting fossil fuels. By default, what’s left is renewable energy, but renewable sources, no matter how optimistic you are, during the transition period at least, cannot cover more than a fraction of our current consumption. Therefore, finally we have to live with a much smaller quantity of energy consumption fulfilling the same functions that we do today.
Now, the good news is that a very large part of present U.S. energy use is fat. It can be eliminated without harm to our quality of life. But we have to make that happen, and it won’t happen by itself and the previous speakers were very good about telling us that time is of the essence. If we stay one year ahead of the curve, we’ll make a soft landing; one year behind the curve, catastrophe. I believe that.
Effective action starts by identifying all our opportunities for saving energy and then pursuing each option systematically. There is no magic bullet. Achieving energy efficiency requires many diverse actions in the different sectors of our society. Each action requires its own people, it’s own techniques, it has its own economics, and each action has obstacles that must be overcome.
Okay, U.S. energy we can break down into three sectors: transportation, buildings, and industry. We’ll start with transportation, which is 27 percent of U.S. total energy. It is the smallest sector of energy consumption; it is, however, the most critical. The reason that it is the most critical is that most transportation is fueled by oil. As a nation, we drive to work. If we run out of oil, we can’t get work. We can’t get to work, we can’t buy food, we can’t pay the rent, we can’t pay taxes, and wherever we work, it shuts down – catastrophe, and it happens pretty quickly. So we’re highly vulnerable on oil.
Fortunately, transportation offers a very large potential for reducing energy consumption and – very important to understand – no new technology is needed. The needed changes are remarkably free of external obstacles, unlike the other sectors. Most actions can be initiated individually or market forces will drive them. The biggest need is for awareness of what we need to do, and the biggest obstacle is distraction by ineffective solutions.
So, transportation energy is the biggest threat to our survival but it’s also the easiest place to make major reductions. There are three main transition-era strategies for transportation. The first is much more important than the second; the second is much more important than the third. The first one is to minimize transportation. We transport way too much and we transport unnecessarily way too far. This is not a technology issue. The second is to improve vehicle fuel economy, and third is to shift away from petroleum fuels.
So let’s look at this most important technique, which is to minimize transportation. There are four basic – look at the odometer of your car and see where the miles go. The largest number of miles probably go to commuting. Commuting is entirely unproductive. It wastes vast amounts of fuel and energy for the manufacture of vehicles. Everyone hates it, so it isn’t something we want. The solution is to live near where you work or to work where near you live. The action is individual, it is entirely voluntary, and it is feasible immediately. Furthermore, it has some great advantages: huge increase in productivity. If you’re sitting in traffic two hours every day, you’re wasting two hours of your prime daytime productivity. You arrive at work tired. Get rid of those two hours wasted. Large saving for household costs for vehicles; maintenance and fuel; reduced highway accident death and injury; reduced respiratory disease, sucking other people’s exhaust fumes; reduced lower-back trouble, which is chronic in our country, which is largely the result of sitting on car seats; and improved physical fitness. So this is just a win-win-win-win-win-win situation. Get rid of commuting.
Okay, then if you look at your odometer again, the second-largest place where we do a lot of wasted driving is repetitive things that we do on a daily or several-times-a-week basis – grocery shopping, children’s soccer practice, dining out and so forth. This is tougher. The solution is a return to small, self-contained communities, perhaps communities within larger cities. Action is voluntary but it requires a whole new market for housing of a different kind.
Now, when you start talking about reorganizing how we live, some people get a terrible case of fright, but there is no need for that because we know how to do this. U.S. communities will simply return to a style of life that has existed for most of the history of the United States, and if you talk to any American who has spent time in Europe – I hate to use Europe as an example of something – of a place where they do something better, but the simple fact of the matter is you go to Europe, you spend time there for a couple weeks, and you come back raving about how great it is. You can walk to everywhere; perform all the daily functions you need to perform just by walking around. So that’s the solution for that.
The third type of transportation will take care of itself. This is occasional long-range travel, going to conferences on the other side of the continent, taking the entire family to Disneyworld. Such travel is highly discretionary and there are alternatives. It’ll take care of itself. No need to worry about that one.
And finally, minimize freight transportation. We heard about that this morning and I agree entirely with the other speaker. The freight system is already very efficient on mile basis. However, we transport way too much stuff. And what we’re going to have to do is return to a culture of thrift. And people say, oh, gee, don’t we depend on growth? No. For as long as this civilization has existed, from the time the pilgrims arrived up until about 50 years ago, thrift was the basis of the strength of the United States. We’re simply going to go back to that.
The second major technique is improve vehicle fuel economy. This will come mostly from reduction of weight and drag of vehicles, not from any major improvement of motor efficiency, not during the transition period. It might happen but I wouldn’t count on it.
Dr. Darnell, who is Congressman Bartlett’s energy advisor, sent me a nice clip of a Volkswagen prototype that, in a very carefully orchestrated test run, got 300 miles to the gallon. We’re not talking mopeds or motorcycles here. This was a real car but it was a two-person car. It went fast – drove down the autobahn at autobahn speeds – safe, gets you out of the weather, but kind of exotic. If we make it realistic, 100 miles per gallon is a perfectly reasonable target.
And finally, the least important for the transition period is to shift away from petroleum fuels. Petroleum, of course, is the critical issue here, but the only thing we can do during a transition period that I can come up with is that we reduce driving radius to within the radius of electric cars. You are not going to increase the radius of electric cars simply because the laws of chemistry only allow you store so much energy in a battery.
Overall, we can radically improve transportation efficiency with the means that exist today. The biggest hazard is being distracted by ineffective solutions. Some of you are not going to like this, but the stuff we have to get over that is not going to be a solution is, first of all, mass transit. Mass transit is a social service. It does not save energy. It can’t save energy except in very limited environments like Manhattan, for example.
Hybrid cars. It’s a very easy calculation to show that hybrid cars, once you include the extra energy that it takes to manufacture a hybrid car, and once you compare, on the basis of similar weight, speed, acceleration and so forth, hybrid cars do not save energy. Hybrid cars are a political phenomenon, not a technical improvement.
The hydrogen economy is a bunch of fluff. It’s perhaps somewhat more legitimate than desktop fusion, but that is a concept that will evaporate and go away. So hydrogen economy, according to the opinion of many people, me being one, is just a hopeless diversion.
Coal-derived fuels we’ve heard about – yeah, you can do it. The Germans fought World War II with coal-derived fuels, but you’re trading one big problem for another. So we don’t go there.
Ethanol. According to the best experts that I have listened to – Dr. Pimental and others – ethanol is a break-even; it’s a net-energy loser probably and it has horrible environmental consequences. That’s just the wrong way to go.
Telecommuting. I disagree with one of the previous speakers. I think there is very little work that is done in this country that can reasonably be done by telecommuting. So we need to do the things that really will work and not get distracted by stuff that won’t work.
So summarizing transportation: The most important action is for people to organize their travel and living arrangements in a way that is desirable in itself, and if that is done, everything else will fall into place with a minimum of government action. So this is for you to do, not for the government to do – in contrast with the next sector, which is the building sector, which is the largest sector, 39 percent of total energy consumption, which is loaded with obstacles which will require a kick from government – an educated kick from government to overcome the obstacles that we face.
Characteristics of the building sector. First of all, it splits two ways. Housing is 21 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, and non-residential, which is office buildings, hospitals, schools, shopping centers and so forth, is 18 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, and those are two entirely separate worlds with different people, different set of rules, different licensing and so forth. Buildings use electricity – a lot of electricity. They also use a lot of natural gas, which is being depleted to a lesser extent. They use propane and petroleum, which is certainly also being depleted.
Both residential and non-residential buildings today use about five times more energy than is economically reasonable. And the implication of this is that buildings offer a tremendous opportunity for improving efficiency. Our target should be and is possible to reduce building energy consumption to one-fifth of what current building energy consumption in on average. The bad news is, you’d better do it before the building leaves the drawing board, because once the concrete hardens, most of the major opportunities for improving efficiency have either vanished or it becomes very expensive to retrofit that building. So you’ve got to do it from the get-go. No new technology is needed, once again, but there are a few items that we would like to have.
Progress in building efficiency has absolutely halted and even regressed. In the housing sector there was a one-time improvement in efficiency around the ‘80s as a result of increased insulation, but now housing efficiency is regressing, and in the non-residential sector, non-residential buildings – office buildings, buildings like the one we’re sitting in – have never been less efficient at any time in human history. They just keep getting worse and worse and worse. So there has been no progress in the non-residential sector.
We talked about this. We’ll skip it. I’m going to give you a four-step outline for improving efficiency in residential housing. Now, we’re talking super-efficiency here. We are not going to do incremental improvements. We are going to go all the way. We are going to build buildings from this day forward that use 20 percent of what buildings conventionally use. What’s the conventional cost, oh, by the way? Five to 10 percent increase in construction costs of the house, no increase whatever in the land value, which is now getting to be the big part of the price tag.
So it’s very cheap but it’s a four-step process. The first step is insulation. We’re going to radically increase the amount of insulation and we’re going to distribute the insulation much more intelligently – it makes no sense to have three-and-a-half inches of insulation in the wall and 24 inches of insulation in the ceiling. That’s ridiculous. In this climate zone, the walls are going to be 12 inches thick – 12 inches of non-flammable fiber insulation. That’s the standard throughout the mid-latitudes. We’re going to adopt good insulation practices. The current practice of three-and-a-half inches of fiber plus one inch of foam insulation board is horrible. It’s a bad practice from a variety of standpoints. It makes for a very weak building, moisture problems and a bunch of other stuff.
And we’re going to exploit the opportunity as we’re making the buildings more efficient to make it more desirable in all other ways. We’re going to make that building with its 12-inch wall and its good connections, essentially hurricane proof, essentially earthquake-proof, and at very little increase in cost.
The next item of the outline, the second item, is windows. We avoid excess glass because glass is the single-largest source of heating and cooling costs in buildings today. We’re going to locate glass for efficient heating, cooling, view and daylighting, and we’re going to use external shading on houses so that no direct sunlight ever hits any window during any part of the year when we want the inside of the house to be cool.
The third part of our outline, the layout of the rooms and the heating and cooling systems -- you live one room at a time, so you heat and cool the house one room at a time. And you automate this process. You do it with programmable thermostats, which you can buy at the hardware store, and you do it with occupancy sensors, which you can buy at the hardware store. We don’t need new technology. We cluster and isolate rooms for efficiency and convenience. Fortunately, the most convenient clustering of rooms is also the most efficient. And we select our heating and cooling equipment for efficient isolation and low fuel costs. In this climatic zone, the entire mid-latitudes, we have two choices. One will be hot water heating; the other will be heat pumps, for a variety of reasons I don’t have time to go into. The central forced-air furnace is history. It’s a bad system. We’re going to get rid of it. It won’t exist anymore.
And the fourth part of our four-step outline for housing is appliances. And this one is dead easy. You simply select the most efficient, practical model of every appliance, whether it’s a toaster or whether it is a heating boiler, an air conditioner or whatever. We have an existing system of appliance efficiency ratings, and it works very well and we’re going to use that system.
Now, let’s jump over to buildings, what we’re going to do to make non-residential buildings efficient. We have to use a totally different approach because unlike housing, nonresidential buildings are designed by licensed professionals, several different licensed professionals – four, in fact – each of whom has a different piece of the action in the construction. In the external structure of the building, the architect is the responsible party. We’re going to improve insulation radically. We’re going to size and locate glass properly for view and daylighting, and we’re going to use external shading effectively. The current glass-box building is history. It’s the worst development in the history of architecture. It’s terrible malfeasance, and we’re going to get rid of that and lightweight curtain wall construction.
In the case of the heating, ventilating, air conditioning systems of nonresidential buildings, the mechanical engineer is the responsible party. Unfortunately, the mechanical engineers are still struggling to learn how to design efficiently, and two weeks from – well, approximately two weeks from today in Lausanne, Switzerland, there is going to be unveiled a radically new approach to HVAC design. It’s appropriate for the coming century. That will probably take a couple of years to get into the mechanical engineering profession.
And thirdly, lighting. Unlike housing, in non-residential buildings, look up in the ceiling – lighting is about 40 percent of total energy consumption in a lot of buildings – this room, right now, for example – and so that unfortunately is the responsibility of nobody. Sometimes the architect does it, sometimes the electrical engineer does it, sometimes a group of unlicensed people called lighting designers do it, and none of them have a handle on energy efficiency.
What we’re going to do is a variety of things, but the two big changes are going to be task lighting, which is a concept from the ‘70s which was never properly implemented, but now we know how to do it. It’s in here, and we’re going to follow the task-lighting prescription in Section 8 – or, no, sorry, Section 9 of the “Energy Efficiency Manual,” and that’s how we’re going to do lighting in the future. And then we’re going to learn to use lighting controls efficiently. A lot of our lighting in buildings goes to lighting empty space. There is nobody there to look at anything. So we’re going to learn to eliminate that source of waste.
Okay, what are buildings going to be like after the transition? The basic building types will remain unchanged. There won’t be any big, revolutionary changes in the buildings in terms of the utility of the buildings. The internal layout and usage will be largely unaffected. The occupants will hardly notice a difference, except that they will be more comfortable and they won’t have diseases. They won’t have indoor air-quality problems. The exterior appearance is different – radically different because we’re going to fix all the architectural negligence. Design is rigorous for efficiency. The design is more standardized. Buildings will monitor their energy usage from moment to moment, much as luxury cars now do.
Comfort problems, totally eliminated. No cold spots in winter; no hot spots in summer. Health problems. Sick building syndrome, Legionnaire’s disease, all gone – fixed. Fire resistance greatly improved. Buildings will last much longer and they will be more trouble free. And, very important in the non-residential sector – very important – buildings will be much more, and inherently, terrorism-resistant. I wish we had time to talk about that.
Okay, design approaches to avoid, just as in transportation, we don’t want to go chasing butterflies. The biggest butterfly, in my opinion – and this relates to the developed world, the United States – is a tendency to want to link the development of renewable resources to the development of energy efficiency; in other words, self-sustaining buildings, or in the extreme case, buildings going off the grid. That’s nuts. There is no logic to that whatsoever.
I do not make my own shoes. I buy them from a shoe factory. I do not have my own cattle in the backyard. If I want a hamburger, I go to McDonalds’ and buy it. And even though I’m an energy expert, I don’t make my own electricity. I get it from Pepco, because they’re the experts in doing it and they know how to do it most economically. So we’ve got to get away from this kick of the self-sustaining building because if we try to marry renewable resources to energy efficiency, we will destroy progress in both. They must be pursued independently.
Obstacles. This is the weird part. There is not a single school of architecture, not a single school of engineering in the United States where a student can go and learn to build an efficient building. It’s as if our doctors had no medical schools, and this bizarre situation has to be fixed. Professional knowledge of building is still being organized and there is no effective constituency to promote energy efficiency at the present time. Worse, energy efficiency is resisted by the self-same licensed professionals who have a public responsibility to build efficient buildings.
The obstacles are numerous and entrenched and there is one way you’re going to get rid of them. And I’m getting short on time so I’ll summarize this.
Here is how we’re going to have energy efficiency in buildings. You say to the owner, the architect, the engineer, the developer, you will not get a permit to build this building unless is satisfies stringent and extreme energy efficiency codes. And if you, Mr. Architect and Mr. Engineer, build a building and if we go in and measure it and it doesn’t meet those standards, we pull your license. You do something else for a living this day forward. That’s the only way you do it. Once you have done that, you’ve got the attention of the professionals. Then you can start educating them about how to save energy. I wish we had time to talk about energy codes and why they’re important, because they’re extremely important.
So, summarizing buildings, the efficiency potential is huge. The efficiency potential is not being tapped because licensed professionals with a public trust are not behaving professionally, and the main role for the public, that’s you, is to light a fire under the professionals and make them design buildings properly.
We’re not going to talk about the building sector because we’re out of time. I’ll just summarize by saying that improvements in the building sector are limited for the reason that it is the only sector in the U.S. economy that since 1973 has made a large and significant improvement in energy efficiency.
And I think the fact that the screen just blanked off is a sign that I’m supposed to quit. So thank you very much.
REP. BARTLETT: Thank you very much.
John Spears is a certified energy manager and was named the Region 2 environmental professional of the year 1995 by the Association of Energy Engineers. He has developed energy and environmental policy for all levels of government and pioneered the development of many energy conservation, solar and indoor air quality technologies. His passive-solar homes have been published in many popular magazines – Better Homes and Gardens, Building Ideas, Popular Science and others.
JOHN SPEARS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, Congressman Bartlett. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to give you my perspective on this issue. I’ve been involved in energy efficiency, renewable energy policy, design as a designer, policymaker and so on since the early ‘70s, and the way I see it is that we currently live in a totally unsustainable world, based on 18th century technology of fossil fuel boilers, internal combustion engines from the industrial revolution, and it can’t continue. Whether we like it or not, as we’ve seen this morning, cheap oil is going to run out in our children’s lifetime, and it’s going to be their kids that are going to have to deal with the world that we leave behind if we don’t do anything about it.
We don’t have any options when it comes to fossil fuels. They are limited. The only options we have are renewably based technologies, and we must begin today while we have cheap oil, to move towards a 100-percent renewable energy-based economy, and that’s what I want to show you is absolutely possible today.
Let me start with a quick example on a much smaller scale. Let’s say this room is the universe and we want to provide power for the lights and the air conditioning in here. The first thing we do is go get a generator. We happen to have a gallon of gasoline to run that generator and we also know that there is a guy next door that has got all the gasoline we could ever use, so all we need to do is go over and make nice with him and we can keep our generator running.
Energy efficiency is real important so what we should probably do is change out the light bulbs and improve the air conditioning system so our gallon of gas lasts longer, and we can put off dealing with the guy next door. However, we have another problem. Long before the gasoline runs out, we’re all going to die of carbon monoxide poisoning. This is exactly what’s happening today on the planet. We are consuming fossil fuels as fast as we can and killing ourselves in the process. There are three fundamental fatal flaws with this, which I’ll get into in a minute.
The other option to powering this room would be to first look at what we need. We need light and air conditioning. We can reduce that energy consumption by 60, 70 80 percent by poking some holes in the roof to let daylight in and turn the lights of, allowing natural ventilation – it’s probably a very nice day outside – and ventilate the room, and we can eliminate almost 80 percent of the energy requirement. The balance of that energy, we hang a solar panel out the window, collect some solar energy, use some of it to power the building’s needs during the day, some of it to charge some batteries and some of it to separate oxygen from hydrogen and store it to be used later in a hydrogen fuel cell to power the building later.
The hydrogen fuel cell uses only hydrogen. Its byproducts are only water vapor. That water vapor can then be re-separated and made more hydrogen from the solar panel. That system will last approximately 7 billion years – much longer than a gas generator.
So the three fundamental fatal flaws of our existing system are, one, it’s running out. We know it’s running out. We heard all these people this morning talk about how quickly it’s going to run out. Put it in perspective: that’s our kids’ lifetime. It’s their kids’ lifetime, our grandchildren. That’s the perspective we’re talking about with radical shifts in society. We need to do something about it now. And that’s not really taking into full consideration, I don’t think, the impacts of the growth in China and India, which have huge appetites for oil and gas. China will soon pass the U.S. as the largest consumer of imported oil and tension between the U.S. and China over oil are real. I do a lot of work in China for the Chinese government and I know this firsthand. The U.S. (sic) tries to consume as much oil on a per capita basis as the U.S. does, we’re in serious trouble.
The second fatal flaw, it’s killing us. Fossil fuels are polluting the land and the air and the water, causing global warming. Some people have said New Orleans is the first city to be lost to global warming. The health costs to individuals from air and water pollution have a direct impact on all of us. People are dying every day from cancers and other diseases caused by environmental pollution from burning fossil fuel.
And the third fatal flaw is it’s controlled by a few. In fact, it’s controlled by a few people that don’t like us very much. We import more of oil than we produce, and we import it from countries that don’t like us and are in fact breeding grounds for terrorists. Whether we like it or not, we’re held ransom by the Arab oil countries and other oil-importing countries. And this has actually become the basis of our foreign policy as we try to protect our oil imports, and will probably become increasingly so. Imagine what would happen if OPEC decided not to sell us as much oil as we wanted.
The other problem is the fact that central government has the central control over our energy, water and basic life support systems. This didn’t used to be true. It used to be that you could live quite comfortably, and this country was founded on personal freedom to allow you to live comfortably and not be bothered. Today you can only live comfortably if you can afford to pay the electric bill or afford to pay for the gasoline, which has a serious impact on our liberties and freedoms. New Orleans is another perfect example. As soon as the central energy, water and sewer system shut down, the city became unlivable and had to be evacuated. There were no options.
This diagram shows what our current system looks like. It’s basically a systems diagram of the system of our society. It’s based on inputs of energy. Those inputs of energy are running out, they’re owned by other people, they go into the system to produce the goods and services that we need to provide the quality of life we’re used to. The output from those systems are directly polluting the very things that are required for life – clean air, clean water, and soil to grow crops on.
The alternative to that is a model from nature, or a regenerative system – a system that can sustain forever. Inputs to the system are completely renewable sources. They produce all the goods and services for the community. There is no pollution line. And everything that’s produced can come back into the community and cause it to grow. This is the model that’s found in nature long before human beings ever inhabited the planet.
We have options. We have lots of options. And what I want to show you today is my personal experience with my options over 30-some years as a professional in the business, and I’m going to show you options that are real and today, not future technology, and a lot of these options you can find in Maryland.
The first one is solar. Solar (portable takes ?) are a magnificent technology. You take some sand, you can make a solar panel out of it. It makes electricity. It will do that – until you smash it with a hammer it will keep doing that. Two kinds of systems, one directly plugs into the grid, so you use the power when it’s being generated. If you’re generating more than you need it goes into the grid so somebody else can use it. And we have a nice law in Maryland that allows the meter to spin backwards if you’re not using as much as you’re generating. On a sunny day, my meter spins backwards as fast as most people’s spins forward.
The second system – there we go – incorporates batteries. Now, this system allows you to have power at night and power when the grid goes down. It also sells power back to the grid when you use more – when you make more than you use, but it also give you backup power for days when the grid goes down. When we had that bad hurricane a few years ago we were out of power around here for a week. My home and office continue to operate on the battery backup that we had built in, charged by the solar panels when the sun came back out.
This is the system that powers my house and office in Gaithersburg, just 30 minutes from here -- two kilowatts of solar panels manufactured here in Fredrick by the Solarex Company. To the right is the inverter that takes that energy and turns it into AC energy so it will go into the grid, and the battery pack.
This is another project in Darnestown, Maryland. This is a six-KW system done for a Buddhist temple, and this place was built as a refuge for people in case of hard times, whether that be disaster or economic problems.
These can also be built at the utility scale. At the utility scale – lots of utilities are working on these, particularly in the sunniest climates – Arizona and New Mexico and so on, either (portable takes ?) or sun concentrating to solar thermal system. This particular one, called Solar II is a 10-megawatt solar plant that uses melted salts to store the thermal energy for the night so the power plant continues running through the night. It is not just a daytime producer.
Mirrors focus the sunlight to a boiler at the top of that tower that produces steam and then generates electricity conventionally. These two systems use different types of focusing collectors – on the left one on a trough that makes the hot water, and on the right, those mirrors focus on what’s called a sterling engine that makes the power directly. The Pentagon has a number of these units on the right installed just a year or so ago.
Wind energy is another resource. The nice thing about wind energy, it’s actually cheaper to build a wind energy plant than any other kind of power plant. It’s cheaper to build a wind energy plant than a coal-fire power plant. It’s significantly cheaper than diesel or any other kind. The question is where are you putting them? You’ve got to put them where the wind is. You can’t put it someplace where there is no wind. So this is a map of the U.S. of the various areas where wind turbines make a lot of sense. This is a utility scale power system because they plug into the grid. But it is the fastest-growing energy technology today, growing at approximately 30 percent per year.
These are just some pictures of some large-scale wind turbines. They’re getting bigger and bigger every day. You can now put a megawatt power plant up in one wind turbine. And a lot of farmers like these because you can continue to farm underneath them. They don’t take up any real estate really.
Here’s a couple of local examples. The one on the right is – (unintelligible) – Foundation downtown Baltimore, and we did that back in the ‘80s, and the one on the left is a combined wind/solar system powering an island for a family on the eastern shore.
Buildings can be self-sufficient. Buildings can absolutely take care of all the life-support needs of the family. They can do that by providing power with solar, heating with passive solar, and active solar systems – hot water from solar. Water can be collected from rainwater and stored in a cistern. Waste can be completely processed in composting toilets and kitchen composters for use in fertilizing gardens for producing food, which can also be carried through the winter in solar greenhouses.
This is one of the first examples of a completely self-sufficient home that was built in Prince Edward Island, Canada – very, very harsh climate. This house combines a house, you’ll see on the right there – the house is on the left-hand side – and a very large commercial greenhouse, which grows food, both vegetables and fish in large fish tanks. The greenhouse also processes all the waste from the house. This house uses no external source of energy. It’s 100 percent self-sufficient for a family of four. Granted, it’s a bit extreme.
This is a smaller-scale model that is actually a small greenhouse that can be added to anybody’s house. It does all the same functions. With a composting toilet producing the fertilizer for the gardens and the gray water from the sinks and showers and so on to water the garden. And then the greenhouse also provides heat to the house.
This is one of the modern composting toilets we’re using in houses today. It uses one pint to flush toilets. The composter is in the basement. What comes out is about the same consistency as the bags of compost you buy at Home Depot to put on your garden, and you need to empty it out maybe once a year. These are very efficient, use no water. In Fredrick we’ve had severe water problems over the past three years that have stopped development. This is a solution to that.
This is a design of a system, a completely self-sufficient house, that I developed when I was the senior architect at the National Association of Home Builders Research Center in the early ‘80s. This house is a modern example of doing everything you just saw in a house that might look like a Ryan home in a development here in Fredrick. I won’t go through all of the details on it, but basically it’s got the greenhouse, it’s got the food production, it’s got complete waste processing. Heating and cooling is done by a geothermal heat pump, which is the most efficient source of heating and cooling you can do. It collects water, has battery backup. I could spend all day doing a workshop on just how this house is done, but it’s completely off-the-shelf stuff.
Here are some other examples. These are what they call zero-energy homes – homes that produce more energy than they use on an annual basis. They’re being built now all over the country. Examples: Colorado, Montana, Florida, Arizona. This one here, down in the lower-left-hand corner is in Virginia. They actually built that on the Mall first to show it off and then hauled it to the permanent site in Virginia.
These are some houses just locally that I’m currently working on. They’re built out of compressed earth bricks. We’re not even using lumber from Canada; we’re taking the dirt from the site, compressing it and making bricks and building the house from the material on the site to make houses that use no energy. That building on the right is my office, which by the way is on the solar home tour, which is next weekend. If any of you are interested, it’s free to the public, and there are homes all over the region that you can tour that are completely solar-powered.
This is a very exciting project that you’ll all get to participate in. Congressman Bartlett initiated this project to build a completely off-the-grid, self-sufficient building that everyone could see and understand the technology. This is a visitor’s center that’s being built on I-270 just south of here at the overlook, the scenic overlook. And this is – it was a competition from colleges all around the region, and this was the winning solution. It is currently in final design. It will be built starting, hopefully, this fall, and this time next year we’ll be giving tours of it. It is completely off the grid and self-sufficient. Again, we could do a whole day on just this wonderful building.
In two weeks you’ll have the opportunity to see many of these kinds of buildings built on the Mall by college students in schools of architecture from around the world, including Puerto Rico, Spain, and other countries, and Canada. The building on the lower left-hand corner is the University of Maryland entry. These buildings are completely self-sufficient, solar powered with all the features, maybe save the greenhouse that we discussed – on the Mall October 8th through the 16th. Don’t miss this one.
Communities are the next level. We can make the house self-sufficient. It’s actually probably better to think about the whole community as being self-sufficient – new way of development. I can’t get into too much detail here, but what I wan to show you, I want to get to, is a real example of 100 percent renewable energy. And it’s not just for the rich folks. These are low-income rehab projects. We’ve done Baltimore, $30,000 to build solar homes that use less than $100 a year for utility bill.
I’ve done a lot of work around the world designing and building communities. This is in South Africa. Did I just get cut off or – okay. The village plan – again, I’m going to skip through this rather quickly. You can see this stuff on my website so I won’t go into it in too much detail. Basically it’s based around community gardens where people can grow their own food, a town center where they can sell the food. The energy system is a completely – this is in a Chinese project – energy systems completely self-sufficient using the economic engine of a pig farm, using the waste from the pig farm to make methane gas. Methane gas then powers the homes. This is pictures of the gas holder, digesters, the engines and the generators. This community is 100 percent off the grid using waste from a pig farm.
Biofuels – we’ve heard something about that, but biofuels are homegrown energy. We absolutely can’t live without them. I’m having a little issue here; I ‘m going to skip through this. We can run vehicles on anything that contains carbon. We have the technology to convert just about anything to carbon, including waste. Municipal solid waste – where do I have to point this thing to make it work? Does anybody know?
MR. : (Off mike.)
MR. SPEARS: Okay, there we go.
Ethanol is about the cheapest thing. Right now we can produce ethanol at about $1.30 to $1.80 a gallon. We’re working with a company called Ekron (sp). It’s currently planning an $80 million gallon per year ethanol plant in Baltimore. Most of that’s going to come from corn, most of that from the state of Maryland, and also $30 million from a new process that takes cellulose or agricultural waste.
Municipal solid waste – Willie Nelson is a big biofuels – (audio break, tape change) -- if you own a Prius. Some people have modified the Prius with extra batteries, charged with solar panels. At the cost of solar panels today in California, this is cheaper than gasoline, charging an electric vehicle, driving it around with solar panels that can fit on the sides of a parking space. This is cheaper than gasoline.
Also one other point. I drive a Prius, 5.E85. That’s 85 percent ethanol. In my Prius I get the equivalent of 500 miles per gallon of gasoline on my Prius. All I did was buy the car and fill it up with a different fuel. You could do that, too.
Hydrogen, it is definitely the future. I am getting the stop sign so I’m going to skip through hydrogen. It is about 10 years out but we must make sure policy insists that it is generated by renewable sources.
All right, I’m going to leave you with this one. A study was done last year by these groups, mostly Germany and Japan, to look at the feasibility of turning an entire industrialized country into a 100 percent renewable based economy. This is their conclusion to that study. Energy-rich Japan report shows that the combination of best energy efficiency technologies available today and the massive investment in renewable energy could ultimately provide Japan with 100 percent of its energy needs from renewables, including transportation fuels without expensive, environmentally damaging imported fuels and nuclear fuels.
Rather than seeking energy security through its hugely expensive and polluting nuclear program, for example, Japan could instead build its own renewable energy industry. As an industry-hungry and supposedly resource poor country Japan could make this transition to clean renewable energy without sacrificing living standards or industrial capacity.
The technology is there to do it today. What is lacking is the will and commitment. I’m going to skip to this in just a second. It requires a robust mix of renewable sources and demand-side efficiency. We should not rule anything out. We should explore all options because it’s going to take all options working in cooperation to make it happen. Here’s just some examples of housing, solar, wind, solar-thermal and so on. Vehicles running on hydrogen, soybean oil, corn oil, any kind of oil.
This is a picture today in Nanjing, China -- southern China, where every rooftop, square foot is covered with solar panels making solar hot water, eliminating the need for coal.
We have the technology today, and it is good policy, as we’ve heard from the speakers this morning, it’s urgent. Energy independence is the best policy for national security. Homegrown energy is good economic policy, creating jobs, stopping the drain of U.S. dollars to import oil and to fund terrorists. Every dollar that we do not export in buying imported oil creates three dollars in economic activity domestically. That is good economic policy. Renewable energy is good environmental policy. Enough said there.
Sustainable communities are resistant to natural disasters, and we have to face this challenge sooner or later. Sooner is going to be a lot cheaper than later. We need to do it while we have cheap oil. We can’t wait until we’re in a disaster-recovery mode. Thank you very much.
REP. BARTLETT: There is a poem by Edgar Guest saying I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day, and our next speaker must have read that book because he really practices what he preaches. John Howe is an engineer and author. He was an engineer with General Electric and Head Ski Company and division of AMF Corporation before heading his own company, Howe Engineering and Howe Winter Sports, Inc. He has written two books of note, “The End of Fossil Fuel Energy and a Plan for Sustainability,” and an updated version, “The End of Fossil Energy and the Last Chance for Sustainability.” Mr. Howe.
JOHN HOWE: Thank you. One thing about being the last performer in a gig is you throw away your set list and wing it. But anyway, I’m the maverick here. I don’t come from a corporation or a company. My wife and I are funding this effort on our own nickel, and because we’ve become so concerned with fossil energy. It’s just like a terminal illness. First there’s the denial, then the depression, then you say, well, what shall we do. Well, we’ll try to do something. We’ll try to be pro-active.
We tried to research, look for all the answers, find out what’s going on, and believe me, the answers and even the questions are not something that can be covered in a half hour or an hour or one session. It takes a semester course.
I thought that maybe the answer would be to write a book and try to digest all that’s happening, all the aspects of the subject into at least one understandable form. And my first book was called “The End of Fossil Energy and a Plan for Sustainability.” Fortunately my daughter is a publisher. She was able to put this together. We’re doing this on our own nickel, on Social Security, whatever, and because by self-publishing and printing a book we can get it out in a hurry.
The first book, 3,000 copies, went out like that. We gave them away – we give most of our books away. I’m going to talk about the book a little bit more. In the last couple of years since I started the first book in February 2003 things have changed so drastically. Things are moving so rapidly, and so many new books and people have come out, speaking about fossil energy. They talk about oil. Peak oil is the buzzword now, what’s the price of gas. But you’ve got to go further. You’ve got to peel away the layers of the onion. It’s not just oil. It’s natural gas. It’s coal. That’s 86 percent of our energy. What’s the rest of our energy? Where’s it coming from? Where’s it going? How good is it?
So like I say, I’m going to give you some different approaches, some different viewpoints of what’s happening here. But I want to get back to the book. The second book, I held this off – we just went to the printer in June, I guess. I held it off purposely because I wanted to get Matt Simmons’ book, “Twilight in the Desert” in here because everybody was waiting for that to see what’s really happening in Saudi Arabia.
So the second book, called “The End of Fossil Energy and the Last Chance for Sustainability,” the last chance. The more you get into this, the more ominous the picture gets. Believe me, there are no simple answers. Again, this is self-funded, personal project. We don’t have the big corporations, I don’t have the PowerPoint, and if I did I’d have to change it. So what I suggest, I really offer to you, everyone of you, everybody here, write it down, send me your address on my e-mail address: email@example.com. And I will personally send you a copy of the book within a week or two. We send these out all over the world.
MR. : We can’t hear you.
MR. HOWE: Okay, is that better? I need a monitor here.
MR. : Just say it more clearly – your e-mail address.
MR. HOWE: Okay, and I’ll tell you again at the end.
MR. : This is the only one.
MR. HOWE: Okay, this is the one that works, okay. I’ll talk like this. I need a monitor up here. (Chuckles.) This is better, okay.
It’s howe – H-O-W-E -- @megalink – M-E-G-A-L-I-N-K --.net. My name is John Howe, and my wife Debbie and I are doing this ourselves and we’re having a lot of fun. If nothing else, we find people all over the country that are also trying to make a difference, and we have a support group all over the world. We’re dealing with people all over the world now.
So to move ahead, it’s clear we have a terminal illness. We’ve heard that over and over again. It’s easy to define the problem. We have my mentors, Dick Heinberg and Matt Simmons, Kenneth Deffeyes telling us what the problem is. That’s easy, to define the problem. The solutions are much more difficult. The biggest problem we have right now is that, first off, the public does not hear this. Or the public is hearing mixed messages. The choir is not singing the same tune to the public. We’re squabbling amongst ourselves. This is confusing the media, confusing our leaders. So we have a terminal illness and we desperately need leadership.
Now we can deny that terminal illness, or our leaders can fail us and not give us the answers. Do we not want to hear that we have a terminal illness? And if our leaders don’t tell us we have a terminal illness, and it takes us prematurely when we had a chance for survival, then I would call that malpractice, big time. So we need leadership.
Now I’m going to jump around a little here but try to stick to some sort of format. I want to jump ahead because we’ve heard of the problems. That’s easy to define. I want to talk a little bit about what we in Yankee-speak call debunking dead-end delusions. Because the public is getting an incredibly mixed message. You’ve heard it right here today, this morning. How about this, how about that. This will save us, or that’s coming.
First off, the number one delusion is there’s not a problem. Believe me, it’s a huge problem. Whether we have 1 trillion barrels left or 2 trillion barrels left, I believe it’s even more serious than that. I kind of think we don’t even have the trillion barrels left because I think there’s a lot of phony business going on out there. The more you get into this, the more serious the problem gets. So first off we have a problem.
The second delusion is that – well, they’re not in any particular order, but I call them – I have my buzzwords – hydrogen hype. I agree with one sticker, not the other. There’s a book out called “The Hype about Hydrogen.” Hydrogen is not a fuel source unless you take a lot of energy to separate it, and about 97 percent of our hydrogen today comes from natural gas, and natural gas I believe if you read Julian Darley in “High Noon for Natural Gas,” natural gas is in even more dire straits than oil. Even though there may be a lot of it around the world, it’s a stranded resource and you just can’t ship it here and there and most of it that is available in the world is already spoken for. But tankers are contracted. The L&G ports are – shipping ports are contracted. And for us to build L&G ports to suddenly get hydrogen, get natural gas in USA will take a lot of time and it’s just a short stop solution.
So hydrogen, in all its problems, and I don’t want to go into the physics of storage and the cryogen – I’ll give you a little for instance. When we send a shuttle, wasting this tremendous amount of energy to send shuttles off into space – I see some nodding heads – we should be spending energy figuring out how we’re going to survive, but when we sent the shuttle up into space, it takes about 200,000 pounds of hydrogen. And when you see the pictures of Cape Canaveral, you see the fumes spewing out, it’s my understanding that it takes 300,000 pounds of hydrogen to be shipped from wherever they make it in Louisiana to get 200,000 into the shuttle. That’s at –460 degrees Fahrenheit. There are problems with hydrogen that you can’t imagine in storage and handling and energy to make it.
Now people in our own NERL, part of the National Energy Renewable Lab, they say, well, all we’ve got to do – and this is our administration teaching us – all we’ve got to do is spin a windmill and electrolyze hydrogen and put it in our SUV’s and we’re home free. They’ve even got pictures in the Solar Today issue of the National Society of Solar Engineering. These are our leaders, these are our teachers. But what they don’t tell you is that all the wind energy in USA Today, all the wind energy in one year is worth about one day’s worth of gasoline. And if you put it into hydrogen at 50 percent efficiency, it doesn’t work, folks. You’ve got to put numbers on these things. You can’t make a mountain out of a tiny speck, a little molehill. And yet there’s people touting this, that these are the answers are coming. That takes care of the hydrogen hype.
And the fool cells, we call them. (Laughter.) I hate to be derogatory but we have to get serious, deadly serious because the choir’s singing not a tune to the public. We’re arguing amongst ourselves and the public is not getting the right message. The media certainly won’t pick it up and get onto it unless it’s very isolated media.
Another one is the bio BS, okay. Sunlight is our source of energy, and to make the bio energy out of it, we’ve used bio energy for years and years. Otherwise our ancestors wouldn’t have been here to make it possible for us to be here. But we denuded the woods in the Middle Ages. Just look at Easter Island. If you take more bio energy than is coming in from that sunlight, and it’s very dilute, it takes a lot of area or a lot of time to concentrate bio energy. A tree does it for us, or Mother Nature did it for us millions of years ago and stored up this wonderful black stuff that we’re just blowing away right now, whether it’s oil or coal or whatever.
So you can’t take the energy from the sun and concentrate it into a fuel and use it at the rate that we would like to use fuels. For instance, let me give you one little factoid. If we were to make – and this irks me because in Maine our democratic leadership says we’re going to turn Aroostook County into a great soybean operation and make bio diesel and we’re home free. Well, let me tell you. Back of the envelope. I mean, this is not really complicated science or math. If you were to make soybeans on one acre into bio fuel, you’d get about 75 gallons, and that’s with a lot of fossil fuel input and a lot of deterioration of that soil. Seventy-five gallons of bio diesel. At that rate 5 percent, just 5 percent of our diesel fuel, or 5 percent of our heating fuel would take 30 million acres. Just 5 percent of our diesel fuel. Well, there’s only 300 million acres of arable land in the country today. I don’t think we’re going to take our food and turn it into fuel, especially as our system winds down and we need every bit of food we can get.
So another kind of delusion is that efficiency will save us. Well, there’s wonderful things about efficiency. I certainly defer to my co-speaker here. Efficiency, we have to get every bit of reduction of usage that we can find. But in the long run many times better efficiency has led to more consumption. This is called Jevan’s paradox. When we have better efficiency, the price goes down and people use more, and this is what’s happened time and time again. So efficiency is a tiny step in the right direction. You can’t argue with hybrids. They are more efficient, but they’re just a tiny step.
In the long run we’re going to run out, so what about the solutions? I’m going to jump ahead here to the solutions because that’s what we really want to hear. And believe me, they’re not very pretty or very easy. Again, be sure and get a book because this goes on and on and on.
First off, the number one solution, the metaphor I use is I’m sure many of you are familiar with the story of Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance. The Endurance just is going down and we desperately need leadership. There’s not time for market forces or for individuals or whatever to – (applause) -- this is why it’s so – it just was an incredible spark for us who are in this field and studying it to have this champion here, who is a voice in Washington. (Applause.) There may be hope yet.
But another – and Representative Bartlett doesn’t know this, but just yesterday I was leaving the Common Ground Fair in Maine, our big fair, our big renewable, back-to-the-earth fair, whatever, and at that fair I was the keynote speaker Saturday. And I was leaving early yesterday in order to get a flight down here and Senator Kucinich was coming in and we kind of said hello. He has the book, by the way. The subject of his talk was sustainability.
In Maine we have different talks for different audiences. When I talk to the people of Maine, they know. They want to know what to do. They want to know the nuts and bolts and how to get off the grid and how big is your garden and so forth. But anyway, back to solutions. I tend to jump around here.
First off, we need the leadership. We need a Shackleton to guide us to Elephant Island and he never lost a man because when the ship’s gone down and you’ve got to make it and you’ve just got so much provision to get from here to there, you can’t have four people taking all the goodies and letting market forces or superior size or whatever taking the goodies and the other 16 or whatever – none of you are going to make it. The ship’s going to go down. The life boat’s going to go down. So we desperately, desperately – we never – civilization has never needed leadership as much as we need it right now.
Getting back to solutions. The next obvious thing, taking all this into perspective, taking all you said, the next obvious thing, if you know you’re running out big time, Apollo 13 or the Shackleton’s lifeboat or whatever, you ration, you conserve, conserve, conserve what you get, and my answer is rationing. And I remember well World War II, when we had the coupons. People say, well, rationing won’t work. Well, I think rationing is infinitely better than letting market forces.
In Europe they let market forces take over and gas is $6 or $7 or $8 a gallon, and you know that the rich take it all and the poor ride their scooters. Now with rationing it doesn’t work that badly. Everybody gets their coupons and the poor can do what they want with it, the rich can do what they want with it, but the demand, overall demand is depressed on a knowledgeable, definitive scale. So guess what? The price starts to go down. At least it doesn’t go higher because the demand isn’t there, and the poor can sell their coupons on the black market to the rich for 10 times as much. So what? (Laughter, applause) It works. It’s human nature. And if you want to take a trip in your Winnebago, you can save up your coupons for two years and still do it. So my answer is conservation big time and rationing.
The second half of my book, the chance or the plan for sustainability, talks about all these issues. Three years ago I naively thought, well, we have 20 years to do this, if we took control of it now on a 5 percent per year basis, that we could pull this off and save so much fossil energy that would be distributed out over another 100 years and our kids could at least have a chance for a soft landing. I used to think that I was going to get out of this, it was going to be my kids’ problem. Well, I don’t think the way the numbers are turning up now that it’s going to happen that long. We’re looking at this year, two, three five. We’re already seeing the problems right now.
I’m going to try to finish up here.