Alright Rant fans. You may want to don one of these to hold your skull together as your brain fills with more information than it can contain. This week we will cover the results of the Energy Rant survey. Thank you all (y’all) for participating.
The first question: How often do you read the energy rant (see Figure 1)? Essentially half the survey takers read it every week and the other half usually read it. A few cheesers must have been looking for prizes for taking surveys – as if we would have given them the prize.
Most are good with the current rant length (see Figure 2). As a few people noted, I sometimes ramble, rumble, and stumble, but I correct most of that. You should see the rough draft sometimes. I watch the word count all the time and shoot for about 800 words, and now with a hard cap of 900 words. This is a reduction from the first couple years when they were in the 1300-1400 range. Why 800-900 words? That is the length of typical weekly opinion pieces published in archaic things known as newspapers. I figure they must know what they are doing, acknowledging that peoples’ attention spans are getting shorter than the typical three year old nowadays (no offense).
The next question concerned topics (see Figure 3). Truthfully, these categories were developed after almost two hundred Energy Rants were published. We developed the categories by viewing the subject matter and kept the number of categories reasonably limited. Rant fans like the broad swath of topic areas. Incidentally, we are providing the topic shares of each category of Energy Rant in the exploded pie chart. For orientation, the three big pieces, red, green, and purple are federal policy, consumer behavior, and programs and evaluation. You can follow the rest around the rosy.
Question 4 concerned guest bloggers. Eighty five percent of survey takers said they would be interested in guest bloggers. The Michaels’ marketing geniuses discussed how to approach this. Imagine yourself a parent of a fourth grader who asks to drive the family sports car to the convenience store for an ice cream. It may be fine, or it may be a disaster. Hell, growing up on the farm I was driving lots of stuff by sixth grade, and doing it well. The only substantial “accident” I’ve had in thousands of hours of driving tractor, lawnmower, combine, truck, backhoe, skid loader, pickup trucks, and automobiles was plopping a skid loader on its side – no harm no foul, no damage. Jeff is rambling.
Anyway, the answer: Desirous guest bloggers need to post comments to audition for the role. The other issue is, Jeff writes the rant as a hobby and form of entertainment and he enjoys the “fix”. Post some decent comments and we will see how it goes.
The next question: What do you like and dislike about the rant? This was one of the most important questions. Fortunately, people like it. Again, we categorized answers to this open-ended question into a limited number of bins. A solid majority of readers find the rant to be funny, informative, unvarnished, and true-to-life and “like it is” (see Figure 4 above).
A number of folks found it to be too negative. To this I respond, this is the Energy Rant, not the Energy Glazed Donut or Energy Cream Puff. There are plenty of Kool Aid, rah, rah, bloggers in the vastness of cyberspace. A primary objective of the Rant is to be the antithesis of Kool Aiders. Not everything is wonderful. Not everything is true, accurate, correct, known, or settled.
The Energy Rant is a haven to spout off about things without the constraints of protecting the guilty, as is normally required. Take programmable thermostats as an example. I demonstrated in Oh Behave why only rarely they save energy, particularly for home owners. As energy program evaluators we are compelled to put a happy face on these execrable intruders, and we are pressured to revise outcomes. Fugetaboutit.
An overarching theme of the rant is, we can’t have it all. At Michaels, we do a lot of in-house training, and one of the first sessions for new employees is EE Programs 101, an early slide from which is presented below. We can’t have all that. BANANA people, aka chimpanzees, have no credibility to me.
An alternative is Fresh Energy, a Minnesota based advocacy group that is virulently anti-coal, anti-carbon, and deathly concerned about climate change. I noticed recently in my email feed from them that they are pro-nuclear. This gives them enormous credibility in my view. They are tolerant of risk that is unavoidable in a modern, safe, civil society. Wind turbines, solar panels, and electric cars aren’t going to cut the mustard. They get it. I like it.
Closing, in last week’s post I discussed a new, albeit ignorant business model for utilities as demand for their product shrinks. What I didn’t mention is that obviously they are not counting on load building from electric cars, which would cause explosive growth never seen before. Meanwhile, in the past week, yet another electric car startup filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It’s a matter of physics, folks. Maybe these venture capital firms, auto execs, battery makers, bureaucrats and Lenard DeCrapios should subscribe to the Energy Rant, or consult with a utility executive.
 Build absolutely nothing, anywhere, near anything.