Shared Links for Thu, Feb 5th, 2009

  • First annual Letter from the Gates Foundation – I hate Microsoft, but in the great American tradition of evil corporate fortunes being given back to good causes, the Gates Foundation works on some difficult, important, and interesting problems. I've been curious exactly how and why their focus on population has faded away over the last few years. Not sure this letter (suggested by and modeled after Warren Buffet… who doubled their endowment last year) really answers that question. I get the feeling that the change is partly for PR reasons – that they remain focused on the issue, but don't think it's really productive to make that statement prominently. (tagged: philanthropy health microsoft bill gates population )
  • WRI on Bus Rapid Transit v. Light Rail – Given the difference in cost, I really don't understand why BRT doesn't get more consistent consideration in transportation planning. Hopefully someone will notice this study (and hopefully the study is done well…) (tagged: transit transportation brt rail sustainability bus green )
  • Bill Gates unplugged – Talked about two problems: malaria, and lousy teaching in America. Not so interested in Malaria (we know what we need to do, we just don't really care… and if all it does is increase human population, is that really a success?), but our inability to make teaching work well reliably is really annoying… (tagged: education ted teaching schools bill gates )
  • Till Children Do Us Part – Yeah, having kids can keep you together… out of obligation, or desperation if you're an unemployable 50s housewife. But jeez, who ever thought they actually help a marriage? (tagged: children marriage love )
  • Dumping the Refrigerator for a Greener Planet – Well of course I *could* do without a fridge if I wanted to, but why not just get a super-efficient one, or understand better what *actually* needs refrigerated, or design a fridge that takes advantage of the outside temperature for condensing or evaporating coolant, or build an insulated north-facing root cellar into your earth-sheltered house, or use a zeer evaporative fridge, etc. Story seems a little one dimensional. (tagged: refrigerator energy sustainability green environment efficiency )
  • Extended Producer Responsibility – I wonder just how much of my predilection for German bike parts comes from their EPR policies, and how much comes from the German design ethos, and how separable those two things really are? (tagged: bike germany green sustainability recycling policy bicycle )

3 thoughts on “Shared Links for Thu, Feb 5th, 2009”

  1. Super efficient fridges cost a LOT! And have a fair embodied energy. Built in root-cellars are a great idea, but not a fast option for the vast majority of people currently. I want to retrofit a simple alaskan fridge that sucks in outside air directly when outside temps are below target fridge temp and stops when correct temp is reached. Outside air temp here is below freezing 7 months of the year, and averages just above 0C. The other months it might operate as normal, or incorporate a better design. In any case, I really think the best option for most normal people in urban areas, taking everything in consideration, might be getting rid of the fridge – lowest embodied energy of infrastructure, available infrastructure option to everyone, lowest infrastructure cost. Minuses of course are resistance due to convention, having to buy spoilable food more frequently and in smaller doses, having to learn what lasts how long out of fridge.
    I have not taken this road yet, but truly admire those who do. I think I would if I were single? I am hoping to move into the basement unit of my building and find a corner for a root cellar, then possibly getting rid of the fridge if I can convince the family. We could have a building-shared freezer, at least in the summer. The other units may have to remain more conventional until I get some more radical greenies in!

  2. OK, now I've actually read the article. It states that the fridge isn't really that big an energy sink. It is most certainly about half or more of my family's electricity use at home, not counting the pumps to circulate hot water for the hydronic heat system (which were not metered with my electricity use in the last apartment). 300 to 400 kW per year is only trivial to people who are already energy hogs!

  3. Our fridge is about $8 or 64kWh/month, and our total monthly usage is about 200kWh, so that’s close to a third of our power consumption, and even at California utility rates ($0.125/kWh or so, for all renewable power) it’s close to being in the noise financially. Even if green power cost $0.25/kWh or $0.50/kWh, which I suspect would be plenty to pay for PV, CSP, wind, enhanced geothermal, or other infinitely renewable power, I’d probably still be happy to have a fridge. They certainly do have significant embodied energy, but it’s much less than the energy that they consume over their lifetime, and they could be built to last for 100 years if we wanted them to, and they could use exterior condensing fin that the RMI fridges have in Snowmass, and they could be insulated with a vacuum… I suspect that the highly efficient models are expensive largely because they’re not produced in the quantities that other fridges are, because electricity is so cheap.

    I guess I feel like there’s really not a moral issue here. There’s a practical issue: there are advantages to having refrigeration (more efficient food use/less spoilage, less transportation required for procuring food and better convenience), but currently we are not obtaining those advantages in a sustainable way, because the power we use for our appliances is not sustainably supplied. If we can’t find a way to obtain the advantages sustainable, they we don’t get to have them long term – but I see no reason to think it’s impossible to design build and pay for a sustainable fridge, and a sustainable energy system to power it. I don’t believe that less consumption is itself inherently more moral. It’s the unsustainability of that consumption (or, cycling, if it’s a sustainable) that is the issue.

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