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Energy Rant

This is a satirical and at times humorous but critical commentary on energy efficiency issues of the day.

“Keep up the good work! I like the variety of topics; never boring. It's like a Box of Energy Chocolates.... you never know what you're gonna get!”

Mike MernickSenior Vice President, ICF

Studying Ice

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I took advantage of the cold weather this week to demonstrate ice formation again. Caution: video ahead. When I take to Google and ask, "What is the freezing point of water?" it apparently depends on my location 🙄. You probably know that the boiling point of water changes with barometric pressure, but the freezing point also changes with pressure – but over a much greater range of pressure, as shown below. A change in the melting point of ice of two degrees Fahrenheit requires 2000 pounds per square inch (psi). The range of atmospheric pressure everywhere on the planet only varies…
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Three One Eighties in Fifty Years

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My top "strength," according to Gallup's CliftonStrengths survey, is context, which means knowing and understanding history to assess situations and inform and guide decisions. "Those with Context are the people in our lives who instinctively look to the past to understand the present." How does this affect my perspectives? Historical context serves as an impenetrable bullshit filter. I.e., we've been here before. I recognize this pattern, and I'm not joining the mob. See you later. We're Going to Starve If you're over 50, you were probably told that we would run out of food. Here are some zingers from the 1970s. "Population will…
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Electric Vehicle Discoveries & Trajectories

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The depth of decarbonization will ride the line where the net of cost and convenience meets that of conventional alternatives. Polling from the University of Chicago indicates 38% of Americans are willing to chip in one (1) dollar per month to fight climate change, down fourteen percentage points from 2021 (presumably, that 14% are willing to pay nothing now). Or, as one Wall Street Journal article noted in November, “Someone has to pay for it, and shareholders and consumers decided this year it wouldn’t be them.” For instance, I like to cut, split, stack, haul, and burn wood for heat. It must burn hot…
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Seven Chicken Bones for 2024

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I was going to skip predictions for 2024, but due to popular demand, I’ll throw some chicken bones at the tarot card enthusiasts. Like other things in my life, I don’t make safe bets or set goals of high probability. If my guesses aren’t 50% wrong, I’m not sufficiently aggressive. Clean Energy Investment Curtailment Inflation will continue to chop block the economy, including clean energy investment. I have a saying that many have heard in recent months: inflation is no problem for those of us who don’t need food or shelter. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that manufacturing in…
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Twelve Pack Lookback

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This post features my predictions from a year ago and what has happened since. Forecast #1: “The Ukraine war will not end peacefully with a desirable outcome as long as the bipartisan U.S. Congress keeps laundering money through the military-industrial complex (and others) in this proxy war with Russia.” The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2023: “Nearly two years into the war, Putin’s gamble that Russia can outlast Kyiv’s Western backers appears to be paying off.” That was after Ukrainian President Zelensky visited Washington in December to urge Congress to send more weapons, to no avail. The average Ukrainian soldier…
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Load Flexibility vs Indeterminate Supply and Demand

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Two weeks ago, I roasted the federal government’s solution to 24/7 renewable energy: buy renewable energy locally. That can work to some degree for locating new-build data centers, which are significant loads on the grid. Most other sectors and subsectors need access to ports, rail, supply chains, and people – i.e., cities and military bases. For the most part, they are not geographically positioned with local access to significant renewable energy generation and, therefore, need electron superhighways known as transmission lines to receive bulk power sources hundreds of miles away and in different time zones in many cases. Pole and…
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Decarbonize and Reduce Costs with Dynamic Pricing

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Market Prices Continuing from last week, how do we cost-effectively decarbonize the grid at a continental scale? Start with baseload nuclear power and, from there, load management. To achieve optimal load management to keep electricity costs low for customers, customers must see market prices in short-term forecasts, like weekly, day-ahead, or even near-real-time pricing. Tariffs, or rates today, are relics of the analog days when utilities deployed armies of people in pickup trucks to run around and manually read meters. When I was a kid, my dad tasked me with reading meters on building sites away from the home site.…
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Image of broken mirror with text that reads '24-7 carbon-free energy hall of mirrors'

24-7 Carbon-Free Energy Hall of Mirrors

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The ESG cabal seems to be drawing up another hall of mirrors to persuade credulous stakeholders and bystanders that they are siphoning only carbon-free energy (CFE) from the electric grid. The Electric Power Research Institute calls it 24-7 carbon-free energy, oddly enough. “Large companies from Starbucks to eBay have pledged 100% renewable energy targets to offset greenhouse gas emissions from their electricity use. Recently, several large companies, including Google, Microsoft, and others, have started procuring something called carbon-free energy that more closely matches their corporate electricity load on a 24/7 hourly basis. This is known as 24/7 carbon-free energy.” Unquestionably,…
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Dive Into Cement Manufacturing Emissions

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Over the years, I’ve seen numerous mentions of decarbonizing concrete or cement. Random articles describing the need and means to decarbonize cement include this McKinsey article, this DOE post, and this Canary Media article. Those don’t cut it for me. I set out to explore cement making and why it is so carbon-intensive. But first, some terminology review is advised to differentiate cement from concrete. Growing up, in college, and even post-college, we used the term cement synonymously with concrete. E.g., “cement hands” to describe a guy who couldn’t catch a basketball or football or “cement head” to tell civil engineers. Each of…
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Case Studies in Decarbed Electricity

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A colleague recommended a podcast, The Diary of a CEO, with Steven Bartlett. I especially resonated with the message from the “Savings Expert” episode dated November 6, 2023. The guest is an author who said, “I write for an audience of one, and that is me.” He calls it selfish writing. “I don’t write for this person or that person or group. I write what I’m interested in and in a way that I think is interesting. I try to solve my own problems. If it will help me, maybe it will help somebody else.” He said the traditional writing…
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