This week’s post is brought to you by the National Resources Defense Council. Yes indeed; states are leading the way in energy efficiency and considering the bumbling federal government that can’t get anything done or come close to living within its means, supporters of Shaheen-Portman in our industry should think long and hard or short and easy about what they wish for.
Most states have a genuine interest in the well being of their citizens across the entire state. They balance their budgets, sometimes by force (law), and this is also the expectation of state governments and citizens alike. Expectations are high. Meanwhile, Washington DC is a trough where lobbyists, lawmakers, and their armada of staff go to loot other peoples’ money. Expectations there are extremely low. Did anyone really think the “shutdown” circus would be avoided?
In mechanical engineering, particularly thermodynamics and heat transfer classes, we solved problems with all sorts of processes with closed systems and open systems including those with “perfectly insulated” boundaries. For example, consider a perfectly insulated vessel with a volume of one cubic foot. The vessel contains 8 gallons of water at 10C. I add 10,000 Btu of heat. What are the enthalpy, specific volume, and entropy values of the water after 1 hour? Answer: Does not compute. A cubic foot can only hold ~7.48 gallons of water. This is how questions in the P.E. exam work.
The corridors of power in the nation’s capital have eight miles of insulation (the beltline) of stacked lobbyists and money grubbers, each with an R-value greater than that of polystyrene. This insulation impedes the interests of citizens from making it to the center of the death star. For you insulation aficionados that’s a total R-value of 2,534,400 and a U-value 0.0000003945707070707. If the sun were centered at Dulles International, it would take 45,000 years to raise the temperature on the senate floor 1 degree Fahrenheit.
Conversely, statehouses are far more exposed to the elements of business and citizens. Our capitol in Madison is surrounded by businesses, with direct line of site to the capitol building, like ours is. In fact, I think our entire building is occupied by private business. The only thing in eyeshot of the nation’s capitol is other federal buildings, and tall private sector buildings miles away – and those are probably fully occupied by lobbyists.
Any energy efficiency policy coming out of DC will be molded by companies and organizations with enough money to penetrate the death star and get a seat at the table, er I mean trough. Once passed, backslapping and high fives will abound, cameras will roll, and the incinerator will be lit and the fuel will be money produced by Ben Bernanke printers. There will be no accountability; no realistic cost benefit analysis; no oversight; and no verification of impacts – all the things that make utility-run programs worthwhile.
Back to Shaheen-Portman. As a follower of politics and Washington for a long time, allow me to pick this apart point by point. It promises to:
- Strengthen national building codes. Who needs this? States are running like crazy with this football as it is, and it’s like most laws that get passed – it feels good, but there is no enforcement. Pass another law. See Building Energy Codes – A Blutonian D- and Outcomes Rather than Energy Codes – One Piece at a Time.
- Kick start private sector investment. “Investment” is code for huge money going to the guy with the sharpest elbows at the trough.
- Train people in energy efficiency. I have an entire post coming on this, probably next week. This is called “market transformation”.
- Work with private industry. One word: Solyndra
- Electric motors and transformers. Now there’s bleeding-edge thought.
- Make supply chains more efficient. You have got to be kidding me. If they think Wal Mart, Costco, TireRack.com, Amazon.com, UPS, Federal Express, et al wouldn’t be a century ahead of anything coming from Washington, they are even more naïve and ignorant than I thought.
- Energy savings for computers. See motors.
- Allow federal agencies to use funds to save energy. Since when does any federal agency not allow itself to spend its budget? Here is how it works, and I know this because I worked in the death star for several years: use it (your budget) or lose it next year. There is no incentive to save money, at all.
- Clarify that ESCOs can use performance contracts for electric and natural gas vehicle charging stations. These guys have the sharpest elbows at the trough and you’re telling me this needs clarification?
 Only the federal government considers 17% of itself staying home to be a shutdown.