Welcome. I am the author of Universal Time, a sci-fi urban comedy;
Beaufort 1849, an historical novel set in antebellum South Carolina;
and Pearl City Control Theory, a comedy of manners set in present-day San Francisco.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Renewable Energy Future Is Here--It's Just Unevenly Distributed

Renewable Monsters
Electricity production data is out from the US Energy Information Agency for the first half of 2016. Nation-wide, renewables (including distributed solar but not hydro) accounted for 10.2% of electricity sales, up from 8.4% the first half of 2015. The increase in renewables nationally is making headlines, but it’s even more instructive to drill down to the state level where we find some states are making phenomenal headway, and others are making none at all.

I like to look at renewables as a percent of electricity consumed rather than generated, because if a state generates little of its own power, it may still be responsible for ginormous carbon emissions that it’s simply shoved on to someone else. On the flip side, some states are already meeting a high percentage of their electricity needs via renewables, a fact masked by the large amounts of electricity they generate for export to other states. In addition, locally-produced power means lower transmissions losses, reducing the amount of electricity needed to be generated in the first place.

So, let’s dive in. First we’ll evaluate non-hydro renewable electricity production, including distributed solar, as a percent of total consumption for the first half of 2016. The top states are Iowa (46%), North Dakota (43%) and Maine (40%). Iowa and North Dakota both burnt coal in order to export electricity, although the amount dropped by 32% in Iowa and 13% in North Dakota. The next two states that have really stepped up renewable production as a percent of electric consumption the first half of this year are Kansas (39%) and Oklahoma (34%). Both of these states also burnt coal in order to export electricity, but much less than in 2015—21% percent less for Kansas and 44% percent less for Oklahoma. Overall the US burnt 20% less coal to produce electricity the first half of 2016 over the first half of 2015.

Looking good!
The second tier of states in renewable production as a percent of electricity consumption are: Wyoming (28%), South Dakota (26%), California (24%), Hawaii (21%), New Mexico (21%), Colorado (21%), Minnesota (20%), New Mexico (20%) and New Hampshire (20%.)  Where is Texas, you might ask? Even though Texas has increased its renewables production by the largest absolute amount (i.e. phenomenally), because it’s such a populated state, it’s still only meeting 17% of its electricity consumption via renewables, putting it in the third tier of states, as outlined in the table below.


For the US as a whole, renewables (including distributed solar) made up 10.2% of electricity sales the first half of 2016 compared to 8.4% the first half of 2015.

Though many states have made considerable progress with renewables, some have not. States that have made a particularly poor showing (2% or less of their electricity from renewables) are Ohio, Missouri, Delaware, Kentucky, Tennessee, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Florida. I will point out that Missouri, Delaware, Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida have solar insolation levels equivalent to one of the sunniest countries on earth, Spain. Ohio and Missouri have decent wind in the western halves of their states, while New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have access to substantial wind offshore.

Due to better rainfall, 2016 has been a good year for hydro. While hydro has its own environmental problems, it provides a nice adjustable baseload that can offset the intermittency of renewables, as well as potential for large-scale energy storage via pumped hydro, although this comes with a 20% efficiency loss. If we add hydro to renewables, we get a bit different picture. Our stellar states then become:

Lots of juice

Yes, both Washington and Oregon created more electricity via hydro plus renewables than they consumed the first half of 2016. Unfortunately both states also burnt small amounts of coal so that they could export additional electricity. Montana and North Dakota burnt a substantial amount of coal so that they could export electricity. Any state that wants to reduce its carbon emissions should not import electricity from states that burn coal. I’m looking at you, California, the greatest electricity-importing state in the country. Although, to be fair, each year California is producing more of its own electricity and importing less. The first half of 2016, California imported 9% less electricity than the first half of 2015.

Other states that produced more than a third of their domestic electricity consumption via renewables + hydro the first half of 2016 were:

New Hampshire

Nationally, the US produced 19% of the electricity it consumed via renewables + hydro.

In order avoid catastrophic climate change, our civilization needs to become vastly more energy efficient (see: Efficiency Is Not the Enemy of Resiliency) and replace fossil fuel use with renewable electricity (see: Obey the Law of Exergy (Time to Go All Electric.)) How much renewable  + hydro electricity per capita/day will each state need in order to meet all its energy needs, including heating, cooling, industry and transportation? Currently, if we take all primary energy consumption in the US and convert it to kilowatt-hours, it comes to 230 kwh/capita/day. During the first half of 2016, the US as a whole produced 6 kwh/capita/day through renewables + hydro. Even our very best state, Washington, produced only 37 kwh/capita/day via renewables + hydro. Three other states came close: North Dakota (35), Montana (34), Oregon (34). The next four highest were: Wyoming (26), Idaho (23), South Dakota (22) and Iowa (20.)  Sadly, twelve states produced 2 or fewer kwh/capita/day via renewables + hydro: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and Mississippi. If you live in any of these states, you have serious cause for concern.

Yikes! We’ve got a long ways to go. But it’s not as bad it seems. If we look to Europe, we see that through efficiency many countries enjoy a quality of life arguably better than the US while consuming the energy equivalent of 90 - 120 kwh/capita/day. (see: An Energy Diet for a Healthy Planet.) And some US states are energy intensive largely due to extracting/processing/refining fossil fuels. Without coal mining, oil production, and oil refining, per capita energy use will drop dramatically in energy-gobbling Louisiana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Alaska. Even Texas should see a nice drop.

Pump it up
In order to integrate a high level of intermittent renewables into the electric grid, every state is going to need substantial energy storage, whether it takes the form of electrochemical batteries, ice, molten salt, hydrogen, flywheels, compressed air, pumped hydro, or seasonal thermal energy storage. Most likely, as the price of wind and solar continue to drop, states will create excess capacity of both forms of electricity production. On windy days, when all grid demand is met, excess electricity can be directed to create hydrogen through electrolysis, which can be used as fuel for ferries or cargo ships, or in the production of inorganic fertilizer. Excess solar capacity, much easier to predict, can be directed during the peak of the day to charge batteries, pump water uphill, heat water in buildings for the evening heating load (winter), or create ice or chilled water in buildings for the evening cooling load (summer.) Early leaders in energy storage are California, New York, Hawaii and Arizona.

The amount of electricity a state will ultimately need in order to efficiently and comfortably meet its energy demand will no doubt depend on its climate, population density, and amount of heavy industry. States like California and Hawaii with low heating and cooling loads might get by with 80 kwh/capita/day, as might states with high population densities that are already frugal energy users, like New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Rural states with intense winters like North and South Dakota may need 120 kwh/capita per day. Still, most Midwest and Rocky Mountain states, home to prodigious wind resources, could easily produce all the electricity they need from wind and hydro, plus have ample for export. Out of thirteen states windy states (MT, WY, CO, NM, ND, SD, KS, NE, IA, TX, OK, MN, MO), eleven of them have already made substantial progress in taking advantage of their renewable resources. Two haven’t. (I’m looking at you Nebraska and Missouri.)

The Pacific Northwest—Oregon, Washington and Idaho--with its hydro and nice pockets of wind should be able to reach 100 kwh/capita/day without much trouble. California and Texas have put the most effort into renewables and produce the greatest absolute amount of electricity from renewables by far. But because their large populations, reaching even 80 kwh/capita/day is going to be an effort. At the moment, both only produce 6 kwh/capita/day by renewables + hydro.

Alaska beats Germany
Hawaii has great solar and great wind and pays ridiculous sums for its imported fossil fuels. However much its utilities fight it, I expect Hawaii will be energy self-sufficient within a decade. Remarkably, Alaska has better solar insolation than Germany, but since it also has fabulous wind resources, the odds are high that’s the direction it’ll take.

It’s the South, along with Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, and Missouri that appear to have the most challenges ahead, mostly because they have poor on-shore wind resources (with the exceptions of western Missouri, western Ohio and pockets of the Appalachians) and, with the exception of North Carolina and New Jersey, haven’t made much of an effort to make use of the really very good solar resources they do have. This inertia will impact their economies hugely over the next decade. Over sixty major corporations have committed to power themselves with 100% renewable energy, including Google, Hewlett-Packard, Adobe, Johnson and Johnson, Mars, Microsoft, Nike, P&G, Salesforce, Steelcase, Unilever and Walmart. None of them expect to lose money from this commitment. As a result, some are already choosing to locate data centers and manufacturing sites in states where such energy is available. Although I favor small and medium-sized businesses over large corporations, it’s foolish for states to believe that continuing to burn fossil fuels for electricity will give them any kind of competitive advantage. Seventeen US cities have already committed to 100% renewable electricity by 2030. However, keeping with the trend, none of them are in the mid-Atlantic or the South, except for Ithaca and East Hampton in New York. States without renewable energy can expect to bleed industries, jobs and even population continuously over the next decade.

Coal-burning states have long suffered the indirect economic triple-whammy of higher health care costs, higher public health burden, and the environmental degradation that comes with coal power. A study in Michigan found that just nine coal-burning power plants in that state cost Michiganders $1.5 billion in extra health care costs each year. A 2013 study found that each kwh in the US produced by burning coal incurs $.32 of cost in terms of illness, premature mortality, lost workdays, and direct costs to the healthcare system associated with emissions of particulates, NOx, and SO2. (Each kwh from oil incurs $.13 and each kwh from natural gas incurs $.02, although this estimate might be low given the recent natural gas debacle in Aliso Canyon.)

As to environmental impact, I’ll mention just a few of the many factors. Thermal power plants consume an enormous amount of water and substantially contribute the water-supply stress of states experiencing drought. When these power plants return warmed water to nearby rivers, lakes and oceans, they harm ecosystems and wildlife through thermal pollution. Coal power plants also produce wicked toxic waste in the forms of coal slurry and coal ash that must be meticulously contained in order to prevent toxic heavy metals from leaching into drinking water, metals that cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive disorders, neurological damage, learning disabilities and kidney disease. Unfortunately, not all coal toxic waste is meticulously contained. Indeed, at least 42 percent of coal waste nationally is kept in unlined ponds or landfills, making leaching likely to occur. And then there’s the long-term impact of dumping CO2 into our atmosphere, and the fact that, due to widespread leaks in natural gas infrastructure, natural gas is almost as bad as coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. One would think at least coastal southern states would be worried enough about nuisance flooding to try to prevent sea-level rise, but so far no dice.

Energy companies that produce fossil fuels and utilities that burn the stuff make profits at everyone else’s expense. This is a lucrative business model--of course they don’t want to change! Of course they will spend vast sums on denial, misinformation, and campaign contributions to protect their income streams. Legally, corporations must maximize the best interest of their shareholders, not society at large. They must follow the law, but if laws (often written by those they help elect) allow them to wreak health and environmental havoc, is it any surprise that they do so?

Low hanging fruit aplenty
The price of solar, wind and energy storage is dropping quickly. The levelized cost of both onshore wind and utility-scale solar are already cheaper than all forms of fossil fuel new electric generation, including diesel and natural gas reciprocating engines, gas peaker plants, integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), standard coal, and gas combined cycle. They are also both quite a bit cheaper than new nuclear. At the moment we subsidize renewables to even the playing field with fossil fuels only because we subsidize fossil fuels heavily by letting them off the hook on externalities. All these energy subsidies are ridiculously expensive, and, worse, they discourage sensible energy efficiency measures by keeping up the pretense that energy is far cheaper than it actually is. All energy subsidies should go, every single one, but that includes the subsidy of shirking the cost of externalities. If the price of fossil fuels included even half the cost of the negative health and environmental impacts that they impose on society, the US would find itself doubling its energy efficiency with remarkable speed (so much low-hanging fruit!) and transitioning to a largely renewable electric supply within a decade. As it stands, Americans thoughtlessly squander energy right and left, health care costs in the US consume nearly a fifth of our nation’s wealth, Americans have the poorest health in the developed world (largely due to pollution, poor diet, and relying on fossil fuels rather than our bodies to move us even short distances), and environmental costs are left to future generations to pay.

As might be expected, there is wide variation in renewable adoption not only between states but between countries. According to BP’s 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy, the US got 6% of its total energy (not just electricity) supply from renewables + hydro. This puts the US behind 24 of the 67 countries for which BP provides detailed information, including China (11%), Vietnam (22%), New Zealand (38%), Sweden (44%), the UK (10%), Italy (16%), Germany (14%), France (8%), Denmark (25%), Norway (67%), Austria (31%), Switzerland (33%), Turkey (14%), Canada (29%), and Brazil (33%). It puts the US behind 23 countries in terms of renewables as a percent of total energy. Indeed, nine countries in the world obtained 10% or more of their total energy from renewables alone in 2016, and this number is increasing each year. In the US, only 3% of the total energy supply came from renewables alone in 2015.

As you can see, some states (and nations) are leaping into a renewable future like mountain goats bounding across alpine meadows. Other states are moving with the speed of a recalcitrant three-toed sloth. The states out in front on this inevitable transition will have more vibrant, diversified, robust economies. They will also have greater energy security in the face of fossil fuel volatility. (Is there anyone who really expects Saudi Arabia to last as a stable country another ten years?) Just as reminder, it takes a couple gallons of diesel to strip mine a ton of Powder River Basin coal (40% of all coal production in the US.) This might not seem like much, but Powder River Basin coal currently only sells for $8.70 a ton. Last week, a gallon of diesel in the Rocky Mountain states cost $2.48. So 57% of the price of coal is eaten up by just by the diesel used to produce it. Any oil price volatility will have an enormous impact on coal prices and/or coal profitability.

Keep those plates spinning
The Federal Reserve has kept fossil fuel plates spinning the last eight years through endless cheap debt available for sub-prime car loans, corporate stock buy-backs, junk bonds, speculation and even corporate dividend payments. This all works as long as no one is ever expected to pay off debt, just roll it over into ever-increasing amounts new debt. How long a hollowed-out, debt-infested economy can keep going on fumes is anyone’s guess, but when the music stops, states dependent on industries addicted to cheap debt infusions are unlikely to be the ones to thrive.

Food, water, energy and health are essential to a functioning society. (Please note, I’ve specified health, not health care.) The states dawdling on renewables, especially those dependent on burning coal, will suffer heart attacks, pollution, asthma, bronchitis, acid rain and job losses in the near term, and blackouts, brownouts and population loss in the long term. Though renewables are no guarantee of economic vitality, lack of them assures economic decline. Those states with economies heavily dependent on coal mining—Kentucky, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Montana, and West Virginia--need to read the writing on the wall and embrace the future rather than be dragged into it kicking and screaming.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny. Everyone alive on this planet a hundred years from now is likely to reap the consequences of climate change and sea-level rise regardless of how much his/her ancestors contributed to the problem. But medium-term, say fifteen years from now, there will variability in outcomes. Just how tattered your state’s part of the garment of destiny will be depends on actions taken now.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Reclaiming Public Space--A Peak Experience

Above it all
If you’ve ever been to San Francisco, you’ve no doubt seen the two dramatic hills that punctuate the city’s center known as Twin Peaks. Tourists flock to the vista offered by Christmas Tree Point on the northeast edge, but those in the know climb Eureka or Noe Peaks to get a 360 degree view of the Bay Area, the Golden Gate, and the Pacific Ocean.

Who should go to Twin Peaks? How should they get there? What activities should be available to them once they arrive?

Primeval Past
Until recently, the answers to these questions were: tourists, bus/car, stare at the view from a concrete and stone terrace, or, if too windy, from behind a car windshield. Perhaps this isn’t surprising because when the road was first built up to Twin Peaks in the 1920’s, the area was remote enough from the rest of the city that driving seemed the only way to get there. Gradually, though, the city encroached on Twin Peaks until now there are just 64 acres of open space left up there full of coastal scrub and grassland, home to brush-nesting birds, rabbits, coyotes and the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly. In fact, Twin Peaks is likely the only part of San Francisco that looks the way it did five hundred and even a thousand years ago. Primeval San Francisco, if you will.

Hike the loop
It turns out that locals like to go to Twin Peaks, too. It turns out that for some locals (like me) it is the largest substantial swath of green space within walking distance. It turns out Twin Peaks is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, a proposed 550 mile continuous loop circling the San Francisco Bay, 367 miles of which are currently open to hikers.

Twin Peaks is a mile from my house, all up hill. It’s a lovely walk, as I describe here: Conquer Twin Peaks and Stand on the Rooftop of San Francisco. If you’re visiting San Francisco, I recommend taking Muni to the Castro Station and starting your walk from there. (Another option is to take the 37 bus to Crestline Drive, a few minutes walk from the top.)

Karl visits
Sometimes the top of Twin Peaks is enshrouded in fog (locally known as Karl); sometimes it’s ridiculously windy. Sometimes the sun shines and the air is crystal clear and the views stun even the jaded long-time resident into speechless gratitude at the magnificent splendor, both manmade and natural, before her.

The walk from my house is lovely because it’s largely car-free, except at the top, where, until recently, a hardy pedestrian had to scramble over concrete barriers, breathe tour bus diesel exhaust, and dodge two lanes of car traffic in order to access the area. Until recently, it was only amidst the rumble of internal combustion engines that you could admire wildflowers and hear birdsong.

Caution: change ahead
A few weeks back the city closed the eastern half of the figure eight on Twin Peaks to cars on a two-year trial basis. As usual when any change in San Francisco is proposed, the end of civilization was at hand, even though cars and tour buses can access the vista at Christmas Tree Point as easily as they could before. Drivers howled, tour bus operators wailed. Some diehards even protested the closure by declaring they enjoyed walking next to cars.

My husband and I checked out the new .35 mile car-free promenade (as it’s now being called) on a sunny, windy Sunday afternoon. We saw that the city had added maybe thirty parking spots where there’d been little or no parking before. We saw people leave their cars and hike up the peaks or stroll along the promenade. We saw the two-way traffic on the western half moving at slower speeds than previously, although still not congested except near the added new parking. We saw scores of people hiking up to the promenade from the neighborhood below, just as we had. We saw bicyclists who’d made the long climb via the roadway; we saw skateboarders; we saw people walking dogs. In fact, we saw a heck of a lot humans milling about, moving. The eastern half of the figure eight now has far more asphalt than necessary. Hopefully once the trial period is over, much of it can be returned to a more natural state.

Biking the roof
We didn’t go all the way to Christmas Tree Point (because, seriously, it’s mostly a big parking lot), but I imagine it was packed as usual with people standing and sitting. Not moving much. Because there isn’t much place to go, unless on your way there you happen to notice a peak with a bunch of people on it and think, “Hey, I want to do that. How do I get there?” If you’re determined, you’ll backtrack and figure it out, but for the majority, the experience at Christmas Tree Point is static.

Walking thirty minutes a day is better for you than any drug you can take. (See The Brilliance of Walking.) It is the single best thing we can do for our health. In fact, if Americans walked thirty minutes a day, they could probably get by with three-fourths fewer medications, as evidenced by the fact that Americans are 5% of the world’s population, consume 75% of all prescription drugs in the world (80% of all opiods), far outspend all other nations per capita on health care, and collectively still have the worst health in the Western world. Study after study shows that thirty minutes a day of moderate exercise like walking (also bike riding) will substantially reduce the risk of four different types of cancer (breast, uterine, colon and prostate), heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis, and depression, not to mention it boosts the immune system so you'll catch colds and the flu less often. Really the only problem with walking is that Americans have designed their entire way of life to avoid it.

Which is more important--recreation or health? What if you could offer both at the same time? Which is a higher public good, someone saving two minutes of travel time, or someone joyously climbing a peak? Is it better for tour buses to have an extra twenty seconds of view, or for a neighborhood to have a serene connection with nature? Might giving people, even tourists, interesting, enjoyable places to walk encourage them to do so? In a dense city like San Francisco, with the exception of handicapped access, is space dedicated to cars public space or a sacrifice of public space?

Maybe there's a link?
You can be a little overweight and be healthy, but you can’t be sedentary and be healthy. In fact, being sedentary is second only to smoking for the harm it does to the human body. Every single community in America could do more to integrate walking into daily life. Every single community could do more to take walking seriously as a form of transportation. The entire country would benefit from a citizenry fit enough to hoof it a mile or two without puffing or breaking a sweat.

Even if you think cheap oil will last another fifty years, even if you think you’ll be dead before climate change affects you, even if you think human beings are so clever someone will surely solve the myriad problems humanity faces so, hey, chill out, this much is clear: the American sedentary, car-based way of life is a disaster for public health. This would be true even if all cars magically became electric tomorrow.

Heck of a hike
For those of you who, like me, are less sanguine about future prospects down the road, let me tell you a story. Long ago I met an American woman who’d been married to an Iranian and lived in Iran during the last days of the Shah. As protests arose and borders closed, she began to go for walks each morning because she knew that if things got bad she would have to walk out over the mountains to leave. Each day she walked miles and then more miles, building her strength, her stamina. Once the revolution began in earnest, she indeed left Iran on foot over the mountains.

It’s unwise to wait until there are empty store shelves to put in a vegetable garden. It’s useless to wait until the middle of a heat wave to plant a shade tree south of your house. Being fit enough to walk a few miles without effort is as important to resilience as solar panels, a sealed and insulated attic, or a bicycle in working order. Which city or town is more likely to thrive in any circumstance—one where most people routinely walk and few take medications, or one where few people walk and most take multiple medications? Which kind of town, which kind of neighbors do you want to have?

Corporations profit from bad health; communities profit from the opposite. (Corporations especially profit from chronic conditions “managed” by expensive medications and other interventions.) A town or city with lots of parking and public space devoted to cars has bad health designed into its very fabric. We need to transform parking lots and repurpose street space to serve people on foot and bicycles, even if it means drivers are inconvenienced. We need to pedestrianize shopping streets like cities have done all over Europe. We need protected bike routes safe and pleasant enough that even children and seniors can use them. (Seniors, check out electric trikes!)

My husband and I have a car and use it occasionally. (My mode share is 40/40/10/10, walking/biking/transit/car.) When I’m behind the wheel, I’m just as impatient as my fellow drivers, wanting to get where I’m going ASAP and then park ten feet from my destination. Go, go, go, my trip is important, get out of my way, the driver in me cries. But the saner part of my brain knows that just as we’ve reduced smokers’ convenience in order to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke, so should we reduce drivers’ convenience to protect non-drivers from the many, many negative externalities of cars, including death from speeding, careless, or reckless drivers. As frustrating (and even threatening) as it might be to those whose lives are designed around car use, for the public good we need to reclaim and repurpose space currently devoted to motorized vehicles.

Not exactly elegant, but it'll do
The next time you’re in San Francisco, forgo the car. Take BART in from the airport (or the suburbs) and tackle the city on foot, bike or transit. You’ll see and experience so much more. If you’re up for it, conquer Twin Peaks under your own power. It’s so worth it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Building Community, One Bench at a Time

Cora Flora
My grandfather was a barber. He grew up in West Texas, his family tenant farmers that got kicked off the land after his father died during an emergency gall bladder operation. His eight older siblings, who had skedaddled as fast as they could out of West Texas, couldn’t (or wouldn’t) offer much support to him, his mother, and his little brother. My grandfather had an athletic scholarship to college, but it was not to be. Instead he went to a Civilian Conservation Corps camp (part of Roosevelt’s New Deal) to earn money to send home to provide for his mother and brother. Later in life he would always say that without that money, he didn’t know what would’ve become of them. No safety net back then except family.

Jack Allen, bench believer
From 1964 on my grandparents lived in Lodi, California, a Central Valley farm town once known for its watermelons, now known for its zinfandels, in a house not far from the train tracks. My grandmother was an Okie farm girl. She loved animals and always had a strange assortment of pets—a large white dog named Red, an ornery pet blue jay that lived in the house (seriously), and a turtle who lived nearly forever named Slow Motion. For a while beautifully plumed feral chickens hung out around her house because she wouldn't let animal control come in the yard to get them. (Oh, how they wanted to nab that handsome rooster and his harem.)

Yes, this is going somewhere. After my grandfather retired from barbering (he had trouble with his hands shaking), he spent a lot of time in his yard. At some point, he put in a bench close to the sidewalk. On it this veteran of the hell known during WWII as Okinawa put a note in tremulous handwriting: “Set a spell and rest.”

Okinawans not killed by GIs
My grandfather, a severely taciturn man, got more talkative in his later years. He told me the first dead people he ever saw were a mother and baby in an Okinawan ditch, killed by nervous American soldiers shooting into the dark. (The native Okinawans, frightened, tried to move around at night.) He told me during his time on Okinawa over one stretch he didn’t take off his boots for 28 days straight. During the Lodi bench era, I was a young mother living in San Francisco. I thought the bench and his note were both sweet and pretty much crazy. To this day, I have no idea if anyone took him up on his offer to set a spell. My grandfather died in 2002.

Up, up, up
My husband and I have raised three children in San Francisco. We live at the top of a big hill, one that goes half a mile straight up at a ten percent grade. Big even by San Francisco standards, it’s a hill I walk or ride/push my bike up a dozen times a week, so I know its impact intimately. San Francisco is a fabulous city for walking. Since the act of walking provides huge benefits (see The Brilliance of Walking) not only to the walker but also to society at large, pedestrians ought to be encouraged and rewarded at every turn is my motto. Our street is often used to connect from one neighborhood to another, and I’ve sometimes seen elderly walkers sitting on our neighbor’s stairs for a rest. So I started thinking about community. I started thinking about my grandfather’s “set a spell.” I started thinking it might be nice to have a bench for those hardy souls cresting our hill to catch their breath. But when I researched the cost of a bench sturdy enough to stand up to street life, I couldn’t quite justify to my husband springing $300 out of sheer friendliness.

Chris, with all-pink Cora Flora
Then I stumbled across a blog that told me about the Public Bench Project, a labor of love by Chris Duderstadt, bench builder extraordinaire. Chris was looking for stewards of public benches in San Francisco neighborhoods. If you had a place for a bench and could commit to caring for it in the public realm, he would build you one for the cost of materials ($50). He would paint it any color desired, and we could customize it further with artistic enhancements of our choice. He'd already installed 65 benches in San Francisco.

I was thrilled. I’d asked the Universe for a bench, and it had delivered. Perhaps my grandfather had whispered in its ear.

Some of Cora Flora's siblings
The first step, Chris told me, was a trial bench, to see if the proposed spot was a bench-happy place. Most places were, he assured me, but it was best to try it out, see if the neighbors were chill, see if it created problems. Since this was San Francisco, sometimes neighbors, he said, were concerned a bench might attract homeless sitters, homeless sleepers, or just general anti-social badness. Putting the bench out as a trial let everyone observe just what the impacts might be.

Milky Way with note
Our bench spot is sunny in the morning and shaded in the afternoon, not a bad combination. It has a nice view of a row of picturesque Victorians across the street. But it’s a little narrower than the standard space, so we would get a five-foot bench rather than a six-foot one. The trial bench he delivered was The Milky Way, a bench that had already seen service in a number of locations across San Francisco. Built solidly out of wood, it was sturdy and comfortable. Since we were on a slight slant, Chris bolstered one leg to make it even and then chained the bench to a grate so that it wouldn’t be randomly moved by mischievous teens. I attached a note to it, letting our neighbors know that this was a trial and to tell us what they thought about a bench in this spot.

Over the next few weeks, the Milky Way sat placidly in front of our house with people indeed sitting on it from time to time. All responses from neighbors were positive. Chris’s design, refined over many iterations, included a slight curve to the back. The bench was low enough to be comfortable, but not too low to be difficult to stand up from.

After six weeks passed and the bench induced no major calamities, Chris and I agreed to the creation of a permanent bench. I enlisted the aid of my artistically inclined middle daughter as to color and design. I said I’d like something with vines and flowers. She said to paint it coral. Flowers and greenery would pop nicely on that background.

Electric motor = easy cargo transport
It turns out coral looks pretty much like pink. Chris warned me by email the bench was very pink, and indeed, when he delivered it, it looked very pink. My neighbors were surprised. Pink? My daughter said don’t worry, it’ll be great. After conferring with her on other colors she would need (six!), I went to the paint store on my trusty electric bike to pick them up. The paint and the urethane coating to protect it cost double the bench, but so it goes. (There are lots of leftovers, so if anyone in San Francisco wants water-based semi-gloss enamel house paints to decorate their own bench, if you come to pick them up, they’re yours.)

Sidewalk workshop
After my daughter and a friend spent a pleasant afternoon painting grasses and flowers on the bench in greens, yellow, blue, purple and red, it indeed looked less pink. I’ve named the bench Cora Flora, in honor of her coral genesis.

The bench is not in full view of our front window, so I can’t really see all who sit on it, though every once in a while I notice someone stop and set for a spell. Once as I came home, I talked with a young couple from Germany who were happily seated while eating their frozen yogurt, bought at least half a mile away. There’s someone who sits on it while smoking Marlboros, because I’ve found three cigarette butts. (Hey Mr./Ms. Marlboro Man, try carrying a pocket ashtray rather than littering. Though I have to say, my grandfather was a chain smoker until emphysema forced him to go on oxygen.) One morning there was a pizza box and beer cans near the bench. Evidently someone had a party. Does anyone sleep on it? My husband, an early riser who often goes for walks at 6 am, has never seen anyone on the bench at that hour.

While my daughter and her friend were painting the bench, many passers-by were interested and asked questions about where they’d gotten the bench and why they were doing it. While we know most of our neighbors, one neighbor I’ve never spoken to crossed the street and told me how much he likes the bench. In the past, my husband and I have hosted a pop up happy hour in front of our house with lawn chairs, and we’ll try it again with the bench.

We like the city the way it was in 1972.
San Franciscans are like cats: they hate change. Any alteration of the city, no matter how small, arouses the same disdain and suspicion that a new chair incites in your domestic feline. (Your cat, however, will get a lot of pleasure out of the empty cardboard shipping box in a way your average San Franciscan will not.) As a result, some San Franciscans make a near career out of speaking out in public meetings against any and all forms of change, including any new form of seating. Real San Franciscans prefer the city to remain exactly like it was the year they moved here, whenever that was, but certainly before the tech hipsters and their barista friends showed up. Sitting is political, sitting is controversial, sitting is up to no good. Not only are there the homeless and teenagers to worry about (restless groups with no place to call their own who might call your space their own), there are those naked guys and their bare bottoms. (San Francisco actually had to pass an ordinance requiring naked guys to place cloths under their butts if they sit anywhere.) Standing is okay. Passing through is okay. Setting a spell--to watch the play of light and color, observe one’s fellow citizens, or eat some frozen yogurt--is not.

This is not to say offering a place to sit has no negative consequences. I’ve got pizza boxes and cigarette butts to deal with now. But should fear of dysfunction by a few preclude making a hospitable environment for all? We need our streets walkable and pedestrian-friendly. We need genuine community and social cohesion in our neighborhoods. We need to be able to set a spell. Sterile streets devoid of humaneness solve some problems but they cause others: isolation, hostility, apathy. Alienation. Lack of connection. People driving half a mile for errands they could easily walk. A world without public sitting is simpler, less messy, less scary, but offers a much poorer form of existence. This my grandfather knew.

Cora Flora raises some questions. Where can teenagers go to eat pizza and drink beer? (Answer: nowhere.) Can providing frequent resting places make it easier for all sorts of people, including seniors, to walk their errands? (Answer: yes.) Are free, welcoming places to sit a fundamental element of a healthy democracy? (Answer: Jane Jacobs would say yes.) Can putting a bench on the sidewalk create community? Can it change the world?

Answer: I suggest try it and see.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Monster Day for Renewables in California

Yesterday, May 14th, was a windy, sunny, fairly cool day in California. As a result, records were set for the proportion of California electricity produced by renewables. For the day: 34%!  From 3 - 4 pm: 54%! And the grid didn't explode, black out, or do any number of other terrible things. Congratulations to the California ISO, the entity that manages and balances California's electric grid, for coping with its highest proportion of renewable electricity so far. Here are the graphics from the ISO for yesterday.

This is great news, and you will no doubt hear more about it in the media. Of course, remember, journalists often conflate electricity with energy. Until we go all electric, electricity is a small subset of energy used. For example, Californians consume the energy equivalent of 161 kwhs per person per day, but only 18 kwhs of that comes from electricity. However, roughly 30 kwhs per person each day is wasted creating that electricity (waste heat from burning fossil fuels), so as California increases its renewables, its total per person energy consumption will decrease. Next up--hot water and space heating via heat pumps and solar!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

An Energy Diet for a Healthy Planet--Part II

How do we get to 100 kwh/person/day, and where are we now?

Global energy losses in electricity generation (twh, yr 2000)
I’ve written before about how efficiency is not the enemy of resiliency and the benefits of going all-electric. In Part I, I mentioned a few ways to cut our energy diet from 230 kwh /person/day to 100 kwh/person/day. I also pointed out that 56 kwh/person/day of our energy consumption is lost as waste heat in thermal generation of electricity. (One of the reasons Denmark is so energy-efficient is that they use cogeneration and district energy systems to turn this waste heat into heat for homes and commercial buildings.) 

This means just converting our electrical generation to solar, wind and hydro, which have no heat losses, will give us a big jump in reducing our energy consumption. Solar and wind are also not 100% efficient in turning potential energy into electricity, but the sun shines and the wind blows whether we turn it into kilowatt-hours or not, so there's no waste. Whereas the coal, natural gas, oil and uranium that turn into unused heat are gone forever, not to mention all the polluting by-products.

More attractive than a wind turbine?
These thermal energy losses in electricity generation are part of the reason Wyoming and Montana are such energy guzzlers. Both states burn coal to create electricity, far more than their state consumes. They then export this electricity to other states. However, the heat losses (2/3rds!) involved in this electricity generation are still part of their state's consumption. This is also a factor in why energy consumption in California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island is as low as it is. These states import a lot of their electricity but aren't apportioned the associated waste heat losses because the fuel wasn't burned in their state. (Note: there's no point saying you're importing "green" energy if the state you're importing it from is burning coal or natural gas to provide for their own electricity needs.)

Now one might think with all these heat losses that going all-electric isn't a good idea until all our electricity is produced by hydro and renewables. One would be wrong. Amazingly, even with the huge losses our current electricity generation entails, it is still more efficient to use heat pumps than natural gas for space heating. (Yes, sunlight beats both.) The same is true for an electric car compared to a 22 mpg gasoline-powered car. Of course, as your state's energy mix takes on more wind, solar and hydro, the total system efficiency of both heat pumps and electric transportation zooms up.

Back to a 100 kwh/person/day energy budget. "Come on," I hear you say. "Sealing and insulating homes is all well and good, and maybe heat pumps are snazzy, but how could the United States possibly cut its energy use by more than half and still have a decent way of life?" It does seem daunting. Let’s look at it by sector. Industrial is longest because it's the toughest nut to crack due to high heat process needs. Just scroll through it if you're not interested.

Residential massive insulating and sealing of existing housing stock; super-insulated walls and ceilings; tight building envelopes; insulated crawl spaces, foundation walls, and slab foundations; higher percentage of multifamily housing; LED lighting; air source and ground source heat pumps for space and hot water heating; insulated hot water tanks; desuperheaters; district energy systems; radiant hydronic heating; high-efficiency fireplace inserts; high-efficiency woodstoves; masonry heaters; solar hot water; passive solar gain; low-flow showerheads; clothes lines; electric induction/convection cooking; electric chainsaws and lawn mowers; lawns converted to vegetable gardens; ceiling fans; whole house fans; heat/energy exchange ventilators; waste water heat recovery; front load washers; awnings; shade trees; street trees to reduce urban heat island effect; green roofs; white roofs; double and triple glazed fiberglass windows; thermal mass; timed thermostats; ultra-efficient appliances; replace or eliminate old refrigerators; no second refrigerators in garages; all new residential buildings net-zero-energy capable; deep energy retrofits for multifamily housing; timely energy use feedback to residents; rebates for low energy use in multi-family buildings; structured insulated panels; build without thermal bridging; duct sealing; fewer housing square feet per person; eliminate vampire electric draw from gadgets/cable boxes; sharply tiered electric rates for high energy slurpers; housing stock 100% all electric.

Bring the daylight in

Commercial massive insulating and sealing of buildings; whole building envelope upgrades; radiant hydronic heat; LED lighting; LED streetlights; air source and ground source heat pumps; solar hot water; heat pump hot water; wastewater heat recovery; seal ducts; retrofit windows; district energy systems; make use of industrial waste heat via district energy systems; replace steam heat in district energy systems with hot water; ceiling fans; heat/energy exchange ventilators; chilled beams/chilled sails for cooling; revolving doors; vestibules; operable windows; natural ventilation; night flush; low-E high-efficiency high-thermal-performance glazing; automated sunshades; dynamic glazing; green roofs; white roofs; living walls; thermal mass; zone heating; proper equipment maintenance; don’t overcool; don’t chill the outdoors; don’t heat the outdoors; plug load management; no under-the-desk space heaters or refrigerators; waste heat recovery (especially from computer server rooms); daylighting; solar tubes; skylights; light shelves; building automation systems with zones, daylight harvesting, occupancy sensors and optimum warm up and cool down cycles; grocery store refrigerators and freezers again behind glass; all new buildings under 4 stories zero-net-energy capable; buildings that encourage stair use; recycled building materials; multistory mixed-use infill developments in towns and cities that replace parking lots, garages, auto dealerships, auto repair shops, gas stations, and other auto infrastructure; end minimum parking requirements; less floorspace per office worker; sharing economy allow efficient use of resources; reduced medical kwhs through better food and exercise; sharply tiered electric rates for energy slurpers; commercial buildings 100% all electric. 


Industrial, including farming —ubiquitous waste heat recovery; daylighting; solar tubes; solar hot water preheat for industrial processes; solar boilers; boiler insulation; boiler blowdown heat exchangers; boiler condensate return systems; minimize energy draw during idle process conditions; some use of combined industrial heat and power; energy management systems; benchmark energy efficiency; advanced controls and operations for optimized energy draw; reduce gas flaring; renewable raw materials; improved reverse osmosis water purification technology; improve yields of raw materials to desired products; manufacturing engineers prioritize energy and water-efficienct processes; recycle manufacturing and process waste streams; optimize supply chain energy consumption; product life cycle management; community recycling to reduce energy to produce aluminum, copper, steel, glass and paper; improved fiber recycling; next generation mill processes; eliminate junk mail; cloth napkins; reusable water bottles, bags, sandwich containers, growlers; buy in bulk and refill own containers to reduce packaging; home and community composting; slash use of energy-intensive chemical fertilizer via compost and crop rotation to fix nitrogen; slash use of energy-intensive chlorine through reduced use of bleached paper, PVC, vinyl flooring, pharmaceuticals, insecticides, chlorine-based cleaning products; reduce use of energy-intensive ethylene through slashed use of plastic bags, plastic wrap, bubble warp, plastic toys, plastic milk jugs, polystyrene packaging; stop buying endless amounts of plastic junk that just gets thrown away; high-yield, bio-intensive, compost-intensive home and community vegetable gardens; eliminate most petroleum refining; phase out coal mining; eliminate ethanol mandate and ethanol production; eliminate high fructose corn syrup from American diet; eat fewer highly-processed foods; reduce food waste; reduce/eliminate chemical fertilizer and pesticide use; end most crop subsidies (corn most importantly); grow cotton, rice and alfalfa in places with ample water; end most water subsidies; solar drying of crops; green manures; towns and cities develop 100 mile foodsheds; reduce food imports; reduce consumption of all forms of sugar; small biointensive, high-yield, compost-intensive, no-till family farms growing fruits and vegetables on outskirts of cities; hedgerows and other beneficial crop insect habitat; no-till organic grain farms with crimping and careful crop rotation; energy-efficient indoor cannabis growing; grow cannabis outdoors; fruit walls; unheated greenhouses with thermal mass; most food packaging compostable; hoop houses for year-round growing; row covers; eat less meat and more vegetables; eat fewer processed grains and more vegetables; eat less food that's been frozen or dehydrated; eat only meat/dairy from local range-fed animals; mobile abattoirs; farmers' and crafters' markets; buy fewer industrially-produced items; buy products built to last; buy products possible to repair; reduce consumption and reuse stuff; buy used; prevent need for desalination in dry places by eliminating lawns and water waste and adding water collection and storage; electrified industrial-scale compost systems for towns and cities for nutrient cycling; asphalt solar collectors; interseasonal heat transfer and borehole thermal energy storage for snowmelt and district heating systems; electricity prices for industry 2/3rds of residential price instead of half; energy use (beyond solar thermal) in US industry 95% all electric.

Energy efficient

Transportation electrified passenger rail for distances under 400 miles; regional passenger rail hubs (Atlanta, Washington DC, Chicago, New York); improved rail tracks; passenger rail 100% double-tracked; eliminate passenger rail at-grade crossings; straighten/eliminate rail track curves; 125 mph average passenger rail speed; electrified doublestack rail freight; 50 mph freight rail speed; advanced train scheduling, trip optimization and control systems; electric shared-use autonomous vehicles; electric shared autonomous shuttles; regenerative breaking on trains; Electric Multiple Unit trains; electric buses; electric trams; electric garbage and fire trucks; economic incentives to live car-free; majority of population lives within 15 miles of job; work at home; good local schools; electric bicycles; regular bicycles; bikeshare systems; lower speed limits in populated areas; walk or bike most trips under a mile; under-used roads return to gravel; pedestrian-only boulevards, commercial streets, promenades, main streets and market streets; network of protected bicycle infrastructure within cities/towns and between them; Vehicle Mile Travel charge based on road repair costs and vehicle weight; dramatically reduce private car vehicle miles traveled; local streets safe enough for children to walk and bike to school and activities; walkable neighborhoods; walkable shopping districts; multifamily residential over ground floor retail; live within a ten minute bike ride of a grocery store/pharmacy/medical clinic/library/park/playing field/elementary school; buy local; buy used from local sources; drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water/soda pop/fruit juice; drink local beer, wine and spirits; eat local fruits and vegetables in season; electric dry box trucks for farmers to take produce to cities; electric trucks for delivery last one to ten miles of goods from rail freight terminals; fewer goods deliveries to homes; package locker pick ups in towns and cities; biofuels for aviation; hydrogen fuel cells for ships; transportation in the US 95% all electric.

 So good. So cheap.
Whew! Amazingly, all this stuff is not only cheaper than building out solar and wind, it’s cheaper than continuing to drill and refine oil and build natural gas plants. Even better, many of these measures reinforce others in a virtuous circle. For instance, more walking means not only fewer transportation kwhs but also reduced cancer, high blood pressure and depression. This in turn means fewer kwhs used up by doctors’ offices and hospitals as well as fewer kwhs used in the manufacture of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals such as blood pressure meds and anti-depressants. So just by walking, we reduce commercial, industrial and transportation energy demand, and we increase our standard of living (healthier citizenry), all for very little cost. Yes, as we transition, jobs will inevitably be lost in some areas, but they will be gained in others, such as in biointensive farming, compost facilities, wetlands restoration, deep building energy retrofits, train yards, and manufacturing solar PV, batteries, and wind turbines. After all, just as it’s poor policy to encourage to smoking in order to provide tobacco and medical jobs, it’s also unwise to encourage sedentary lifestyles in order to provide auto and medical jobs.

So where are we at now at producing 100 kwh/person/day of electricity? As you might suspect, it varies widely by state. Some produce quite a bit of electricity per person, but when we add up electricity from renewables (including rooftop solar) + hydro and divide it by population, it often doesn’t amount to much. We could add in nuclear, but because the US still doesn’t have any safe, long-term storage yet for nuclear waste, and no state wants to host such storage, I’m not optimistic that in 20 years we’ll still have much nuclear around. Since the average age of American nuclear plants is 35 years old and they were only built to operate for 40 years, I’m guessing we’ll eke out some extensions on aging plants, retire most others, and not create many new ones. The fact that solar and wind are already cheaper than new nuclear plants pretty much spells their doom. Plus nuclear plants waste two-thirds of their energy as heat just as almost all US thermal electricity generation does.

So let’s examine 2015 renewables + hydro generation kwh/person/day by state, grouped by region. (The US EIA includes as renewables electricity produced by geothermal and biomass.) Remember, each state needs 100 kwh/person/day, or another state will have to generate more than that and send the extra to them. Also remember that the further electricity is transmitted, the higher the losses along the way, although underground DC cables could cut transmission losses in half. (The US currently loses 6% of its electricity in transmission.) Rooftop solar PV avoids almost all transmission loss.

New England and Mid-Atlantic     Renewable+ Hydro kwh/capita/day generation
Not with the program
Working on it
Serious Progress
Connecticut (1.2)
Vermont (9.3)
Maine (16.7)
Massachusetts (1.5)
New Hampshire (7.2)

Rhode Island (.7)
New York (4.8)

New Jersey (.9)

Pennsylvania (1.9)

North Central         Renewables + Hydro kwh/capita/day generation
Snail Pace
Solid Progress
Very Good
Smoking hot
Ohio (.6)
Illinois (2.3)
Minnesota (6.1)
Kansas (10.4)
South Dakota (23.4)
Missouri (1.2)
Indiana (2.3)
Nebraska (6.3)
Iowa (16.6)
North Dakota

Michigan (2.4)

Wisconsin (2.7)

South           Renewables + Hydro kwh/capita/day generation
Some progress
Making headway
Good work
Delaware (.6)
Georgia (2)
West Virginia (5)
Oklahoma (11.8)
District of Columbia (.1)
North Carolina (2.5)
Tennessee (4.6)

Florida (.7)
South Carolina (2.9)
Alabama (7.6)

Maryland (1.3)
West Virginia (5)
Arkansas (4.8)

Mississippi (1.3)
Tennessee (4.6)
Texas (4.8)

Virginia (1.6)
Alabama (7.6)

Mountain             Renewables + Hydro kwh/capita/day generation
Not trying
Great Work
Best in Show!
Utah (1.7)
Arizona (4.7)
Nevada (7.5)
Idaho (18.7)
Montana (30.8)

Colorado (4.9)

Wyoming (23.6)

New Mexico (4)

Pacific                 Renewables + Hydro kwh/capita/day generation
Making an effort
Some hydro
Oodles of hydro!
Hawaii (3.8)
Alaska (6.5)
Oregon (27.5)
California (4.6)

Washington (31.9)

Adapted to wind
It’s ironic that two states with some of the best wind resources in the country are North Dakota and Wyoming, giants of coal-mining, fracking and burning coal for electricity to export to other states. If these states stopped mining, drilling and burning coal, and focused instead on wind energy production, the carbon-free electricity they could export (at a premium!) would pay better, provide more jobs, and would destroy their states a great deal less than the mining and fracking they’re so fond of. Yet another irony is that if utilities stopped fighting rooftop solar, which will only push customers off-grid as solar and battery prices fall, and instead embraced electrification of heating and transportation, they’d have more business and profits than they’d know what to do with. As it stands, their intransigence means they are likely to share the fate of big oil/big coal and disappear altogether as cities and towns defect and create their own municipal utilities, or businesses and homes decide to adapt the sharing economy to local power generation and storage networks.

Future US energy production in a 100 kwh/person/day world might look something like:

Residential and commercial rooftop PV and building-integrated PV
15 kwh
Biomass/biofuels/ geothermal/tidal
5 kwh
Large-scale solar
32 kwh
2 kwh
On shore wind
28 kwh
2 kwh
Off shore wind
12 kwh
Wood heat
Fossil fuels for high heat industrial processes
2 kwh

May be necessary
Because of the intermittent nature of solar and wind, our national energy system will require batteries, pumped hydro storage, short term thermal storage, interseasonal thermal storage, microgrids, sophisticated and reliable grid operation, effective electricity markets, and long distance high voltage DC lines to transmit electricity from windy places. Much of our industrial production will need to go into building out the infrastructures necessary for renewable energy generation, for energy storage and transmission, and for electrified rail and other transit. But this infrastructure creation, combined with localized, small-scale, biointensive farming, will create tens of millions of jobs.

Mr. Anti-Efficiency
As we’ve seen, some states need to roll up their sleeves and get to work on energy efficiency, some have a lot of renewables to build out, and most need to do both. Hawaii, New York and California are low on renewable production per capita but they also don’t use that much energy. It’s possible each could get by with 70 or 80 KWH/person/day. Cold windy states may need 110 kwh/person/day, and humid southern states or sparsely populated Midwest ones may find that 120 kwh is the best they can do. But achieving an average of 100 kwh/person/day in the US is completely within our reach. To get the ball rolling, rather than continue to subsidize various forms of energy (the US subsidizes fossil fuels more than renewables), we should stop all energy subsidies, implement a briskly rising carbon tax, and invest the proceeds in energy efficiency, especially electrified rail/transit and zero-net-energy multifamily housing for low/moderate income households in walkable neighborhoods. Higher energy costs (the antidote to Jevons Paradox, for those who worry about that) will drive energy efficiency in spades, and we will be stunned (stunned!) at how quickly and innovatively the US economy adapts. If other countries don't follow our lead, we can impose greenhouse gas tariffs on their goods proportionate to their per capita emissions. (As might be expected, at present US per capita CO2 emissions are among the highest in the world.) We will find we can reach 100 kwh/person/day with technology that already exists while leading a pleasant, comfortable way of life, albeit one a bit different than the one we lead now.

A lower decibel life
Our streets and neighborhoods will be far quieter, for one thing. Our air and water will be cleaner, our bodies will absorb fewer toxins, and our citizenry will be healthier mentally and physically. Local businesses and high-yield small farms will flourish, and the United States will finally be energy independent. We human beings alive over the next twenty years have the power to make this planet a paradise or a living hell. We can sabotage and delay the necessary changes out of fear or greed, or we can face our predicament and do what needs to be done. Entirely our choice.