Shoveling shit

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I must say, begrudgingly, that the coal industry is nothing if not resilient.

Anyone — a-n-y-o-n-e — can see that coal is evil, filthy crap that, though it may be in use today, should be removed from the world's energy mix at the first possible opportunity. Unquestionably. Undeniably. Demonstrably.

Anyone who says different is a) ignorant, b) stubborn beyond the point of personal safety, c) under direct economic threat from acknowledging otherwise, d) all of the above.

"How to cut your home energy costs"

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Marc Breslow is easily one of my region's leading energy lights. We share a hometown, but the breadth of his influence really struck home for me a month or so ago when I attended Mass Energy's annual meeting. In a room full of trail blazers and luminaries, I don't think anyone prompted more references from the podium, including from state energy secretary Ian Bowles, than Marc. 

He is also a founder, or perhaps the founder, of Sustainable Arlington, a grassroots effort to make our town more energy efficient.

And, he gives seminars on how individuals can cut their home energy costs. The first in a new series is next week in Arlington, and three others are to follow:

What's the payoff period? How about "as soon as we start"?

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If you don't know that rehabbing the homes and other buildings we already have is going to be one of the most important initiatives of the next 20 years, it's OK. That puts you well in the mainstream.

But that's going to change. Buildings use almost half the energy in America, and there are 110 million homes alone. Even if every new building in America over that time were to be zero net energy, we will have continued to squander energy and affect the climate adversely if we don't redo what we already have.

Coal sucks, still

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When you speak against coal, the most likely rejoinder is that half of our electricity is generated by burning the ultra-dirty fuel. (See the first comment. He adds that coal is "all natural, too.")   And that's true. Even though I hate the stuff, I acknowledge that I like my electricity, and I use it all the time, and if we ditched coal tomorrow, my electrical supply would quickly put me in touch with what it's like to live in, say, Baghdad.

Soaking up solar information

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Of course it's the season for gatherings of friends and neighbors. But increasingly, 'tis also the season for solar power — and I'm speaking of "season" in the eon sense. Friday night, I joined about 30 other guests at a neighbor's home not to share holiday cheer but to learn details about home photovoltaic installations.

The best way to start is to begin

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People who know of my interest in sustainability sometimes ask where to start, and my answer has varied over time, dependent on what new action I've been exposed to.

Perhaps this states what's obvious to others, but I've only recently come to understand that the right answer is the first one, whatever that is. Whether one starts with here or there doesn't matter nearly as much as having started.

Lovins on the automakers' bailout

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Amory Lovins, the sophisticated thinker who cofounded the Rocky Mountain Institute and easily one of my green heroes, came to Cambridge last week, and I am bereft! It's the second time this year — the other was MIT's energy conference in March — that important topical events took place in Cambridge without my knowing it.

Oh, the affrontery! Don't they know who I think I am?


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