Scottish Professor Figures Out How To Turn Whisky Waste Into Energy

CREDIT: COURTESY CELTIC RENEWABLES

Dr Eve Bird works with bacteria in Celtic Renewables’ lab, which has come up with a way to turn whisky waste to biofuel.

A professor in Scotland figured out how to turn waste from whisky-making into an energy source, and now his company has received a grant to build a facility that will produce a million liters (about 264,000 gallons) of biofuel a year.

The U.K. government awarded professor Martin Tangney’s group, Celtic Renewables, £11 million ($16.7 million) to build a plant 25 miles outside Edinburgh. The facility is expected to be operation by the end of 2018.

While the opening of this facility will be a small step towards transitioning to a low-carbon transportation sector, it could signal an important development in the world of biofuels. In the United States, transportation is responsible for nearly a third of total carbon emissions.

“Biofuels are essential in de-carbonizing the transport sector and demand for liquid fuel will continue to soar worldwide, due to the dependence on the internal combustion engine,” the company says on its website.

At the moment, ethanol, largely produced directly from corn, is the leading biofuel but the fuel produced from whisky waste is actually a better energy source than the ethanol currently in the gasoline mix. Ethanol has also raised other significant environmental concerns, particularly land use changes that can result in greenhouse gas emissions.

Celtic Renewables will be pumping out biobutanol. This is an alcohol that is similar to ethanol but releases significantly more energy during combustion than ethanol — almost as much as traditional gasoline. That means that engines already in our cars can use gasoline mixed with biobutanol at almost any level. Most American cars can use only 10 percent ethanol.

It is also going to be produced from something that is currently wasted, which means resources and land are not invested in making it.

“In the production of whisky less than ten percent of what comes out in the distillery is actually the primary product,” Tangney, who founded Celtic Renewables in 2012, told Reuters. “The bulk of the remainder are these unwanted residues – pot ale and barley.”

The whisky industry produces 1,600 million liters (42 million gallons) of pot ale and 500,000 metric tons of draff each year, the company says.

Tangney said this facility could be replicated across the spirits industry.

“There are huge whisky industries all around the world, and then there are related drinks industries,” he said. “We’re currently going through a pipeline of research and development where we’re looking at a whole wide variety of unrelated products that will also fit into this, so we’re attempting to tap into regional, national, international resources of low value or unwanted biological material.”

Tangney is a professor in the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University.

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The Reign of Recycling

04tierneyWEB-blog427

By JOHN TIERNEY

IF you live in the United States, you probably do some form of recycling. It’s likely that you separate paper from plastic and glass and metal. You rinse the bottles and cans, and you might put food scraps in a container destined for a composting facility. As you sort everything into the right bins, you probably assume that recycling is helping your community and protecting the environment. But is it? Are you in fact wasting your time?

In 1996, I wrote a long article for The New York Times Magazine arguing that the recycling process as we carried it out was wasteful. I presented plenty of evidence that recycling was costly and ineffectual, but its defenders said that it was unfair to rush to judgment. Noting that the modern recycling movement had really just begun just a few years earlier, they predicted it would flourish as the industry matured and the public learned how to recycle properly.

So, what’s happened since then? While it’s true that the recycling message has reached more people than ever, when it comes to the bottom line, both economically and environmentally, not much has changed at all.

Despite decades of exhortations and mandates, it’s still typically more expensive for municipalities to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of loweroil prices and reduced demand for them overseas. The slump has forced some recycling companies to shut plants and cancel plans for new technologies. The mood is so gloomy that one industry veteran tried to cheer up her colleagues this summer with an article in a trade journal titled, “Recycling Is Not Dead!”

While politicians set higher and higher goals, the national rate of recycling has stagnated in recent years. Yes, it’s popular in affluent neighborhoods like Park Slope in Brooklyn and in cities like San Francisco, but residents of the Bronx and Houston don’t have the same fervor for sorting garbage in their spare time.

The future for recycling looks even worse. As cities move beyond recycling paper and metals, and into glass, food scraps and assorted plastics, the costs rise sharply while the environmental benefits decline and sometimes vanish. “If you believe recycling is good for the planet and that we need to do more of it, then there’s a crisis to confront,” says David P. Steiner, the chief executive officer of Waste Management, the largest recycler of household trash in the United States. “Trying to turn garbage into gold costs a lot more than expected. We need to ask ourselves: What is the goal here?”

Photo

CreditSanttu Mustonen

Recycling has been relentlessly promoted as a goal in and of itself: an unalloyed public good and private virtue that is indoctrinated in students from kindergarten through college. As a result, otherwise well-informed and educated people have no idea of the relative costs and benefits.

They probably don’t know, for instance, that to reduce carbon emissions, you’ll accomplish a lot more by sorting paper and aluminum cans than by worrying about yogurt containers and half-eaten slices of pizza. Most people also assume that recycling plastic bottles must be doing lots for the planet. They’ve been encouraged by the Environmental Protection Agency, which assures the public that recycling plastic results in less carbon being released into the atmosphere.

But how much difference does it make? Here’s some perspective: To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach. If you sit in business- or first-class, where each passenger takes up more space, it could be more like 100,000.

Even those statistics might be misleading. New York and other cities instruct people to rinse the bottles before putting them in the recycling bin, but the E.P.A.’s life-cycle calculation doesn’t take that water into account. That single omission can make a big difference, according to Chris Goodall, the author of “How to Live a Low-Carbon Life.” Mr. Goodall calculates that if you wash plastic in water that was heated by coal-derived electricity, then the net effect of your recycling could be more carbon in the atmosphere.

To many public officials, recycling is a question of morality, not cost-benefit analysis. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York declared that by 2030 the city would no longer send any garbage to landfills. “This is the way of the future if we’re going to save our earth,” he explained while announcing that New York would join San Francisco, Seattle and other cities in moving toward a “zero waste” policy, which would require an unprecedented level of recycling.

The national rate of recycling rose during the 1990s to 25 percent, meeting the goal set by an E.P.A. official, J. Winston Porter. He advised state officials that no more than about 35 percent of the nation’s trash was worth recycling, but some ignored him and set goals of 50 percent and higher. Most of those goals were never met and the national rate has been stuck around 34 percent in recent years.

“It makes sense to recycle commercial cardboard and some paper, as well as selected metals and plastics,” he says. “But other materials rarely make sense, including food waste and other compostables. The zero-waste goal makes no sense at all — it’s very expensive with almost no real environmental benefit.”

One of the original goals of the recycling movement was to avert a supposed crisis because there was no room left in the nation’s landfills. But that media-inspired fear was never realistic in a country with so much open space. In reporting the 1996 article I found that all the trash generated by Americans for the next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing. And that tiny amount of land wouldn’t be lost forever, because landfills are typically covered with grass and converted to parkland, like the Freshkills Park being created on Staten Island. The United States Open tennis tournament is played on the site of an old landfill — and one that never had the linings and other environmental safeguards required today.

Though most cities shun landfills, they have been welcomed in rural communities that reap large economic benefits (and have plenty of greenery to buffer residents from the sights and smells). Consequently, the great landfill shortage has not arrived, and neither have the shortages of raw materials that were supposed to make recycling profitable.

With the economic rationale gone, advocates for recycling have switched to environmental arguments. Researchers have calculated that there are indeed such benefits to recycling, but not in the way that many people imagine.

Most of these benefits do not come from reducing the need for landfills and incinerators. A modern well-lined landfill in a rural area can have relatively little environmental impact. Decomposing garbage releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, but landfill operators have started capturing it and using it to generate electricity. Modern incinerators, while politically unpopular in the United States, release so few pollutants that they’ve been widely accepted in the eco-conscious countries of Northern Europe and Japan for generating clean energy.

Moreover, recycling operations have their own environmental costs, like extra trucks on the road and pollution from recycling operations. Composting facilities around the country have inspired complaints aboutnauseating odorsswarming rats and defecating sea gulls. After New York City started sending food waste to be composted in Delaware, the unhappy neighbors of the composting plant successfully campaigned to shut it down last year.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

THE environmental benefits of recycling come chiefly from reducing the need to manufacture new products — less mining, drilling and logging. But that’s not so appealing to the workers in those industries and to the communities that have accepted the environmental trade-offs that come with those jobs.

Nearly everyone, though, approves of one potential benefit of recycling: reduced emissions of greenhouse gases. Its advocates often cite an estimate by the E.P.A. that recycling municipal solid waste in the United States saves the equivalent of 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, comparable to removing the emissions of 39 million cars.

According to the E.P.A.’s estimates, virtually all the greenhouse benefits — more than 90 percent — come from just a few materials: paper, cardboard and metals like the aluminum in soda cans. That’s because recycling one ton of metal or paper saves about three tons of carbon dioxide, a much bigger payoff than the other materials analyzed by the E.P.A. Recycling one ton of plastic saves only slightly more than one ton of carbon dioxide. A ton of food saves a little less than a ton. For glass, you have to recycle three tons in order to get about one ton of greenhouse benefits. Worst of all is yard waste: it takes 20 tons of it to save a single ton of carbon dioxide.

Recyclers have tried to improve the economics by automating the sorting process, but they’ve been frustrated by politicians eager to increase recycling rates by adding new materials of little value. The more types of trash that are recycled, the more difficult it becomes to sort the valuable from the worthless.

In New York City, the net cost of recycling a ton of trash is now $300 more than it would cost to bury the trash instead. That adds up to millions of extra dollars per year — about half the budget of the parks department — that New Yorkers are spending for the privilege of recycling. That money could buy far more valuable benefits, including more significant reductions in greenhouse emissions.

So what is a socially conscious, sensible person to do?

It would be much simpler and more effective to impose the equivalent of a carbon tax on garbage, as Thomas C. Kinnaman has proposed after conducting what is probably the most thorough comparison of the social costs of recycling, landfilling and incineration. Dr. Kinnaman, an economist at Bucknell University, considered everything from environmental damage to the pleasure that some people take in recycling (the “warm glow” that makes them willing to pay extra to do it).

He concludes that the social good would be optimized by subsidizing the recycling of some metals, and by imposing a $15 tax on each ton of trash that goes to the landfill. That tax would offset the environmental costs, chiefly the greenhouse impact, and allow each municipality to make a guilt-free choice based on local economics and its citizens’ wishes. The result, Dr. Kinnaman predicts, would be a lot less recycling than there is today.

Then why do so many public officials keep vowing to do more of it? Special-interest politics is one reason — pressure from green groups — but it’s also because recycling intuitively appeals to many voters: It makes people feel virtuous, especially affluent people who feel guilty about their enormous environmental footprint. It is less an ethical activity than a religious ritual, like the ones performed by Catholics to obtain indulgences for their sins.

Religious rituals don’t need any practical justification for the believers who perform them voluntarily. But many recyclers want more than just the freedom to practice their religion. They want to make these rituals mandatory for everyone else, too, with stiff fines for sinners who don’t sort properly. Seattle has become so aggressive that the city is being sued by residents who maintain that the inspectors rooting through their trash are violating their constitutional right to privacy.

It would take legions of garbage police to enforce a zero-waste society, but true believers insist that’s the future. When Mayor de Blasio promised to eliminate garbage in New York, he said it was “ludicrous” and “outdated” to keep sending garbage to landfills. Recycling, he declared, was the only way for New York to become “a truly sustainable city.”

But cities have been burying garbage for thousands of years, and it’s still the easiest and cheapest solution for trash. The recycling movement is floundering, and its survival depends on continual subsidies, sermons and policing. How can you build a sustainable city with a strategy that can’t even sustain itself?

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Tesla officially launches the Model X electric SUV, and it’s unlike anything out there!

by Michael Graham Richard (@Michael_GR)

Tesla Model X

© Tesla

I’m not kidding, there’s a bioweapon defense mode…

Tesla has been teasing us for years with the Model X, its second vehicle to be built on the second-generation platform developed for the Model S. We’ve had a pretty good idea for a while of what it would look like and what some of its main differentiating features would be (those articulated ‘Falcon Doors’ full of sensors that apparently won’t bump into anything), but nobody had driven in the final production version, which until last night held a few secrets.To put things into perspective, here’s what was first unveiled in 2012:

Tesla Model X© Tesla

And here’s what debuted last night:

Tesla Model X© Tesla

It’s not radically different, but it looks sharper and less bulbous. The main cosmetic difference appears to be in the front end.

8-year, infinite mile battery and drive unit warranty

Some of the things we didn’t already know are that it should get 5-star safety ratings all around, which according to Musk’s presentation means that there’s only a “6.5% chance of being injured in a high-speed accident.” This is possible thanks to the huge crumple zone in the front where the engine would be on a regular gasoline-powered vehicle, and thanks to the low-center of gravity (battery in the floor) that prevents rolloversTesla Model X© Tesla

The Model X also takes air quality seriously (the opposite of Volkswagen…). The vehicle features a large medical grade HEPA filter like those used in hospitals; it apparently filters pollutants, viruses, and microbes so well that Tesla has even built a ‘bioweapon defense mode’ that creates positive pressure inside the cabin to protect occupants in case of a biological attack. I’m not kidding, I don’t think you’ll see this feature in most other cars on the road…

To show off how the Falcon doors can sense their environment (via ultrasounds) and avoid bumping into things, and how they can be opened even in very tight space, Musk had a Model X on stage sandwiched between two minivans… And the doors still opened fine:

Model X Falcon doorsTesla/Screen capture

These doors apparently feel a bit like they’re sentient. The Model X can detect when you approach it and will open the door automatically for you if it detects via ultrasonics that you are moving towards the doors. Once you’re inside, you can close the doors automatically by putting your foot on the brakes. Every time the doors open or close, ultrasonic sensors make sure that they don’t bump into things or people.

On video they seem a bit slow, but it’s not clear if they’re faster when they don’t detect any obstacles around. And automatic doors on current minivans are pretty slow too, so it’s a price to pay for convenience. At least if these start opening before you get to the vehicle, they’ll appear faster than they are in practice.

Tesla Model X© Tesla

As you can see above, the windshield is huge. It looks almost like a fighter jet or helicopter cockpit from the inside. Tesla says it’s the largest windshield of any production car, and that’s not too hard to believe. And don’t worry about the sun; the glass is tinted, and sunshades can come down.

Tesla Model X© Tesla

Of course, the Model X is a direct descendent of the Model S, so it has similar performance. The first Model X available comes with dual motors and a 90kWh battery pack. The front motor produces 259 horsepower and the rear one does 503! Combined torque is 713 lb-ft. Add all of this together and you get a SUV that accelerates from 0 to 60 MPH in 3.2 seconds in “Ludicrous” mode. Top speed for all Model Xs is 155 MPH.

Tesla Model X© Tesla

Official EPA range on the 90D Model X should be 257 miles, and that will no doubt go up over time as more energy-dense batteries are released.

Tesla Model X© Tesla

The Model X is incredibly slippery, with a 0.24 coefficient of drag, making it the most aerodynamic SUV or minivan so far.

Musk brought a Model X pulling a trailer on stage to demonstrate the towing capability (5,000 pounds).

There are two seating configurations, one with 7 seats and one with 6 (removing the center seat in the middle row). And the stereo should be quite something, with 17 speakers and 550 watts of power. And because this is Musk, of course it goes to eleven.

Tesla Model X specs© Tesla

Above are the official specs. Note the 8-year, ‘infinite mile battery and drive unit warranty’. Not bad..

Tesla is rolling out the top-of-the-line models first, which are priced like the Model S with an extra $5,000, but over time less expensive models with smaller batteries should come out.

Here are some first drive impressions from a few media outlets:

“The body of a SUV, but the heart and soul of a Model S. It is extremely high performance.”

 

“After just a few minutes in this car, I left wanting one.”

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Savings Breakdown: When Solar Will Start Paying Off

solar

by Erin Vaughan

We all know solar benefits the environment. It’s healthy and sustainable—but can it save you money, too? We at Modernize believe in knowing your options when it comes to solar. With so many factors involved—costs, rebates, and incentives—it can be difficult to figure out how much this all is going to cost you in the end, but with some smart planning, you can get a good idea of how long it will take to pay off your initial costs and start saving some green!

Buying the Right Equipment

When you start crunching the numbers, your overall savings will be offset by the cost of equipment and installation. But system costs can vary, depending on the size, your area, and whether you want to go totally off the grid. To get started, you’ll want to think about the energy needs of your home. Start tracking your energy costs. Look at not only the total cost of your bill, but also your usage, which your utility company will express as the number of kilowatt hours (kwh). The average US home uses approximately 900 kwh per month, but your household’s consumption may be higher or lower.

You’ll also want to start thinking about your setup—would you like to be tied to the energy grid, or is your goal to get totally off-grid? Keep in mind an off-grid system will be larger and more expensive. Additionally, if you’re not tied to the grid, you won’t be able to participate in sell-back programs that exist in some states, which allow you to feed in excess power to the local grid and pay you for it.

Generally, the average system costs around $10,000. You can use that as a rough estimate of startup costs in your calculations—or go ahead and pick out the system you want and get a quote. That will help you figure out your eventual savings

Leasing Equipment

If $10,000 sounds too daunting a price, you may want to consider leasing your equipment. Many installation companies have lease-to-own programs to help defray the startup costs of solar energy. Leasing also has other benefits: the solar company performs all maintenance on the equipment. Of course, like any leasing program, you’ll have to pay interest—in this case, usually about four to eight percent. It’s something you’ll need to factor in when you’re making your cost versus savings worksheet.

Federal Tax Incentives

Now we get into the good stuff—the money the government pays you for using solar. The current tax return rate for solar costs is 30 percent, so subtract that from your overall costs. Note that the rate is expected to drop as more people adopt solar, so time is of the essence!

Local Incentives

Now we get to where it can get really murky. Each state and municipal area is different in how they handle local incentives. For instance, Austin, where I’m writing from, has a rebate program with Austin Energy that gets you $1.00 per square foot of solar film used. You’ll want to do your homework in order to really calculate the savings here. This database is a great place to start.

Some states and areas also have net-metering, which means they connect you to the city’s grid and pay you for when you generate overages (think really sunny days). This is especially true in areas that get higher numbers of full sun hours (check out this map for more details on your area’s sun hours).

Savings on Your Bill

If you’re thinking about solar, you’re in it for the long haul. And that’s where the savings really are—in the lower electricity bill you’ll pay each month. Going with the national average of 900 kwh per month, and estimating that your area gets an average amount of sunlight, even a 3kwh system could cut your bill in half. If you pay about $100 per month in electricity, that’s $6,000 after 10 years. Think about what you could do with all that money.

These are just the basics of costs and savings for solar. To really get started, you’ll want to start doing research about your area’s costs and programs. Good luck and happy savings!

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World leaders fed lunch made of ‘trash’ at UN

by Melissa Breyer (@MelissaBreyer)

Vegetable scraps and cow feed were on the menu … and they likely tasted delicious.

This past weekend French president Francois Hollande and Peruvian president Ollanta Humala led a lunch at the United Nations in an effort to build momentum for the year-end UN climate negotiations in Paris.

But there was a decidedly novel twist to the menu.

In an effort to shine the spotlight on our prodigious waste of food and its role in climate change, every morsel was created using food that would have otherwise ended up in the trash. A vegetable burger was made of leftover juice pulp and rejected vegetables, fries were made from cow feed, the “landfill salad” was made with vegetables scraps and the liquid drained from canned chickpeas.

“It’s the prototypical American meal but turned on its head. Instead of the beef, we’re going to eat the corn that feeds the beef,” said Dan Barber, the innovative sustainability champion and New York chef who co-owns the Blue Hill restaurant.

“The challenge is to create something truly delicious out of what we would otherwise throw away.”

Un trash lunch© Twitter/UN Spokeperson

Along with former White House chef, Sam Kass, the two garbage gourmands made a strong statement about the 28 percent of agricultural lands across the planet that produce food that is lost or wasted. The annual equivalent of all that loss adds up to 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon responsible for climate change. If food waste were a county, it would be the biggest emitter of carbon after China and the United States.

The litter lunch was the brainstorm of Kass, who thought of it when we learned about the upcoming Paris talks which are meant to come to terms with a comprehensive international agreement to tackle climate change.

“Everybody, unanimously, described it as the most important negotiation of our lifetime,” Kass said. But food waste “was not something that was being discussed at that point, except in small environmental circles.”

“It’s just unthinkable, the inefficiency in our system, particularly when you look at something of this magnitude,” Kass said.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters after that the lunch highlighted how food waste was “an often overlooked aspect of climate change.”

“That is shameful when so many people suffer from hunger,” said Ban.

Barber smartly notes that a “waste dinner” would have been impossible in the 1700s because there would have been no waste leftover to use.

“The Westernised conception of a plate of food is enormously wasteful because we’ve been able to afford waste,” he said.

Barber has been a tireless advocate for sustainability about the things we eat, and hopes that events like this could lead to changing attitudes about food.

“The long-term goal of this would be not to (be able to) create a waste meal,” he said. “You don’t do that by lecturing – you do it… by making these world leaders have a delicious meal that will make them think about spreading that message.”

Related on MNN: 20 uses for leftover fruit and vegetable peels

Tags: Food Security | Waste

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Why Are Republicans the Only Climate-Science-Denying Party in the World?

By

President Barack Obama with Chinese president Xi Jinping. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Jeb Bush proposed to eliminate the Obama administration’s regulation of carbon pollution, and, in keeping with his self-styled goal of “growth at all cost,” proposes to make any further climate regulation essentially impossible. In any other democracy in the world, a Jeb Bush would be an isolated loon, operating outside the major parties, perhaps carrying on at conferences with fellow cranks, but having no prospects of seeing his vision carried out in government. But the United States is different. Here in America, ideas like Bush’s fit comfortably within one of the two major political parties. Indeed, the greatest barrier to Bush claiming his party’s nomination is the quite possibly justified sense that he is too sober and moderate to suit the GOP.

Of all the major conservative parties in the democratic world, the Republican Party stands alone in its denial of the legitimacy of climate science. Indeed, the Republican Party stands alone in its conviction that no national or international response to climate change is needed. To the extent that the party is divided on the issue, the gap separates candidates who openly dismiss climate science as a hoax, and those who, shying away from the political risks of blatant ignorance, instead couch their stance in the alleged impossibility of international action.

A new paper by Sondre Båtstrand studies the climate-change positions of electoral manifestos for the conservative parties in nine democracies, and finds the GOP truly stands apart. Opposition to any mitigation of greenhouse-gas emissions, he finds, “is only the case with the U.S. Republican Party, and hence not representative of conservative parties as a party family.” For instance, the Swedish conservative party “stresses the necessity of international cooperation and binding treaties to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, with the European Union and emissions trading as essentials.”

Okay, you might say, that’s just Sweden. But all of the other non-American conservative platforms follow similar themes. Germany’s conservative platform declares, “[C]limate change threatens the very foundations of our existence and the chances of development of the next generations.” Canada’s, writes Båtstrand, “presents both past and future measures on climate change. The past measures are regulations on electricity production, research and development on clean energy (including carbon capture and storage), and international cooperation and agreements including support for adaptation in developing countries.” Even coal-rich Australia has a conservative party that endorses action to limit climate change. All of this is to suggest that the influence of the fossil-fuel industry alone cannot explain the right’s brick-wall opposition to any steps to reduce emissions within the United States. Oil in Canada and coal in Australia both account for a far larger share of their countries’ economies (which are less than a tenth as large as the U.S. economy) than any fossil-fuel reserves in the United States.

Nor can a fealty to free-market theory alone explain the change, either. Free-market ideology traditionally recognizes a role for government when it comes to “externalities,” or actions that impose costs on others. Pollution is the most classic case of an externality — a factory whose production pollutes the air, or a local stream, should have to pay the cost. Even F.A. Hayek, in the anti-statist polemic The Road to Serfdom, conceded, “Nor can certain harmful effects of deforestation, or of some methods of farming, or of the smoke and noise of factories, be confined to the owner of the property in question or to those who are willing to submit to the damage for an agreed compensation. In such instances we must find some substitute for the regulation by the price mechanism.” Now, Hayek offered this concession to the role of government in the course of advocating for a pricing mechanism for externalities, rather than a crude ban. But he was recognizing that even the purest libertarians must concede the need for collective action of some kind when it comes to things like pollution.

It is also worth noting that the Republican Party used to fit in with the pattern of other international conservative parties. The Nixon administration created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Air Act. The first Bush administration passed amendments strengthening it. Both of those presidents are considered, correctly, to be aliens to the conservative movement. The conservative movement has always opposed environmental regulation, and Republican leaders since the first President Bush — the GOP Congress since the era of Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, and the current Republican presidential field — have followed conservative thinking. Indeed, administrators of the EPA from previous Republican administrations have endorsed Obama’s climate program, but they lack any influence or even legitimacy within the party today.

Rabid opposition is not the only quality that sets the GOP apart from other major conservative parties. The fervent commitment to supply-side economics is also an almost uniquely American idea. The GOP is the only major democratic party in the world that opposes the principle of universal health insurance. The virulence of anti-government ideology in the United States has no parallel anywhere in the world.

And so the “moderate” Republican climate position is that action is pointless, since countries like China will never reduce their own emissions. (No evidence of Chinese behavior seems capable of altering this conviction, which serves the handy function of justifying the desired conservative outcome without leaning too heavily on anti-science kookery.) The more right-wing position within the party — endorsed by the party’s leading presidential candidate and the chairmen of the science committees in both houses — is that thousands of climate scientists worldwide have secretly coordinated a massive hoax. And then the even more conservative position, advocated by the second-leading candidate in the polls, holds not only that climate science is a massive hoax, but so areevolution and the big bang. The “moderate” candidates are still, by international standards, rabid extremists. It is the nature of long-standing arrangements to dull our sense of the peculiar, to make the bizarre seem ordinary. From a global standpoint, the entire Republican Party has lost its collective mind.

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Ways to Conserve Energy Use at Home

By Mary Sauer

Each year, Americans are spending troubling amounts of money on their energy expenses. In fact, the average family will spend close to $2,200 on their utility bills during the course of a year. The truth of the matter is that many individuals are spending more than necessary because they are not making an intentional effort to conserve energy in their home.

For some, it’s easier to neglect energy conservation practices because, for whatever reason, it simply isn’t a high enough priority. For the readers of My Family Survival Plan, we know this isn’t the case. You care deeply about saving money and minimizing the impact your day-to-day choices have on the earth. So, let’s take a look at some the best ways to conserve energy at home.

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Heating and Cooling

Heating and Cooling account for just about half of energy-related expenses in the average family home in the United States. Because of this, focusing your efforts on conserving heating and cooling energy could be the most effective starting place.

Use a smart thermostat to program your HVAC unit to adjust based on your needs each day. Adopt the recommendations provided by Energy.gov, setting your air conditioner at 78 degrees during the day and bumping it up to 80 degrees while you are away from home or asleep. During the wintertime, opt for bundling up so you can lower your heater’s settings to 68 degrees during the day and as far as 60 degrees while you are away or asleep.

As much as 20 percent of heating and cooling energy is wasted because air is leaking through ducts, doors, and windows. Spend the time and money to regularly check for and repairs leaks and you may see a significant difference in your heating and cooling costs over the long term.

Lighting

Your typical American family can expect to send 10 percent of their utility budget to the lights in their home. Lessening the energy consumed by lighting is all about making a few smart habits and sticking with them for the long term.

An easy fix is to switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, which not only last a lot longer before needing a replacement, but also use up to 75 percent less than traditional light bulbs. When it comes time to replace your bulbs, always recycle your old bulbs and check with your local power company about rebates or discounts for CFL bulbs.

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Appliances and Electronics

The electronics and appliances in your home have this annoying trait: they use energy passively even when they are not in use. Cutting back on this passive energy consumption can be accomplished with a few different strategies.

Use a power strip for your electronics and turn it off when they are not being used. Give up your desktop computer for a laptop, which consumes significantly less energy. If you stick with a desktop, set it to hibernate when it is not being used instead of using a screensaver.

When it comes to appliances, they key is to use them less. Hang your clothes to dry instead of using your dryer, and opt for warming food in a toaster oven instead of heating your conventional oven. If it is time to replace an appliance, chose an energy-efficient model whenever possible, using the guide provided byModernize for making the best choice for your needs.

Don’t stop here! Approach energy conservation with your whole home in mind, developing a holistic plan to include each room, appliance, and electronic device. Involve your whole family in your energy conservation efforts, educating them on the effect their day-to-day choices have on the budget and the well-being of the world we live in.

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