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What do you want to do about “energy”

What can an individual do to lower energy usage, and shift to “greener”, “sustainable” energy sources?

Our approach is to take a “realistic” look at what is real and what is hype, what is effective and what is sales talk. There is so much information, and mis-information, out there that it seems silly to start another web site on the same subject (some 13.4 million hits on energy, realist).  But the aim is to work through this in an orderly fashion, based on what you want to do. We will try and explain our reasoning as best we can and welcome your feedback.

We also want to create a discussion on what we can learn from other parts of the world.  Germany and Australia, at different ends of the world and in different climates, have done much to use renewable energy resources.  We have homeowner experience from those two countries and want to build on that experience.

Home, sweet home


Here is an old house in NJ,USA showing heat loss through poor windows and minimal insulation

“Why” do you want to do something about home energy consumption?

go to detail on energy at home



Everyone wants clean energy. Nobody wants turbines in their backyard.

Want to raise hell in your town meeting? Want your town to stop using diesel spewing trash trucks? How about zoning for wind turbines? Getting a permit to drill a geothermal well?  We’ll try and look at some of those items.

Anyone who has dabbled in this area knows that the NIMBY and BANANA effects are the major considerations here.

The world


Lots of oil around. Do we really want to waste it?

Energyrealist is about individual action, and we don’t presume to advise how to solve the problem at a national or international level.

The common wisdom is that “every little bit helps”, and if you just change your lights to CFL’s and unplug the charger for your laptop all will be fine.  An extra inch of insulation will save so many supertankers of oil, and so forth.  The real problem is of course much bigger than that.  The realistic statement should be “if everyone does a little, we’ll achieve only a little.” (*Paraphrase of the motivations from 8585559516 – here is a Apr ’09 interview with MacKay)

We need to do a lot, to achieve a lot.  To achieve a lot you need to give input to decision makers.  You need to know the issues and form an opinion.

The trouble is that everything is connected to everything else. The other trouble is that politicians are connected to everything. And the other trouble is that every lobby is very skillful at pushing their agenda to the politicians.

We will build up a list of sites and contacts to help in that process.


What am I doing?

1. Reading 7 years’ worth of xkcd cartoons. #1007 seems sort of appropriate:

I wonder if, when every word becomes “sustainable”, we will actually have a sustainable energy situation. One can hope.

2. Going on a trip to the other side of world – with a short (4 minute) video – go see it!

Some duty, lots of fun. More energy related items to report on – later.

Solar Energy!!

Solar "oven". Triple insulated glass box with a stainless steel door to the kitchen. Put pie in oven, wait, serve...

Dry composting toilet - before installation. 6 wedge shaped containers in the circular box. Rotate the wedges under the toilet seat every 4 months. After 2 years the 1st container comes back to the start. Remove the dry composted material. No water used!

At Kings Creek, Northern Territory, Australia

Dinner at Kings Creek station.  The man on the left is 9134858646, owner of the station – an activist on aboriginal affairs, a mover for tourism and breeder of camels.  On the right is 6784781159, probably one of Australia’s most recognized entrepreneurs.  He is active in politics and has outspoken positions on unending growth, including matters of energy.   In December 2011, Smith was appointed as a Consulting Professor in the Department of Biology, 8135441614 California by Dean, Richard P.Saller. This was made in recognition of his many years of work in relation to environmental issues including his 2011 book, Dick Smith’s Population Crisis.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

This crazy hotel in Singapore has swimming pool in that curved ship-shaped part 57 floors up.  “They” claim it is an energy efficient and environmentally responsible building.  But even if it isn’t – it is sort of cool.

3. Some minimal amount of gardening.

There has to be an energy connection. My job is to cut back on the lush growth this time of year; stop the house being lost, like Sleeping Beauty’s castle like, behind a wall of roses. All that bio-fuel…

4. Working

Solving New Jersey’s energy problem one house at a time.

5. Learning stuff

My new mobile phone has so much power and so much capability I need to a postgrad course to keep up. And by the time I’ve finished it will be obsolete. And I really need to understand VB in Excel, and what about the meaning of William Blake’s poems, and…

6. Waiting for a response from Statoil

Oh well, I guess they’re busy.  I’m sure they’ll write soon…

Statoil and me

So I wrote to the CEO of Statoil, and 2 other key executives, congratulating them on their fine “oil is great and see how alternative energy savvy we are” web site, and the brilliant name they have chosen; “Energy Realities”.  And I wrote how flattered I was that they chose such a great name – being the original energy realist.  And how much more flattered I would be if they could transfer some of their oil cash to poor, realistic me.

The result is of course absolutely predictable – absolutely nothing.

Not even a tongue-in-cheek response by some underling thanking me for my letter and wishing me well?  Come on Statoil you can do better than that



Happy New Year – about 300 energy audits done over the last 2 and a bit years.  I’ve seen lots of houses from McMansions to tiny cottages.  The owners are all interesting, most very pleasant.

They self-select as being interested in saving energy because they contact us, agree to have us spend hours in their house and pay a fee up front.  Yet almost half decide not to go ahead with a project.  Why?

It could be that I’m a lousy salesrep, but the statistics comparing to others don’t support that theory.

More likely it is a combination of factors;

  • The cost of a project is relatively high, in the region of $10-20K
  • We are still in times of economic uncertainty
  • The rebates and 0% loans – very generous in New Jersey – still do not totally cover the costs and most people don’t have cash laying around.
  • Boilers and insulation, even if we love them, are not very sexy.  Air sealing is of course quite invisible.  A new counter top or some window treatment is more satisfying.
  • The price of energy is too low

The last item is the most important in my opinion.  Sure, it’s great to have low energy costs and the impact on a fragile economy of increased prices would be painful.  The prices are low partially because energy is still easily available (in the US) and because the costs are subsidized by all sorts of of direct  and indirect  support.

[Direct support such as tax incentives, exploration subsidies and much larger indirect support like leases on government land and payment of environmental and health effects by others – later]

For a home owner to really embrace a project they have to fall into one of three categories;

  • The rebates and other incentives cover most of the project
  • Their furnace or boiler is broken and they need a replacement today (and might as well collect the rebate…)
  • They have a “green” philosophy and a ten year plus outlook on return on investment

OK then, on into another year, looking for these enlightened people – and thanks to all my previous clients.

(814) 871-6194

More Sandy stuff

Power is back!  We were very lucky.  Other towns were hit so much worse.  The FEMA distribution stations are busy, lines at fuel stations long.  We pulled apart the fuel filler to the pickup truck to defeat the anti-siphon grid and get fuel out to power the generator.

Here are my videos of during and after (Warning: they are quite boring to start!  But that’s how it was; very quiet until the late evening and then again not much damage around our house until we walked into town)


And here is some NOAA imagery.  The first photo is from Keyport.  You can see the boats all smooched into one corner of Pedersen’s yard and the two boats suspended from the bridge. Further down are some more dramatic images of the way the water carved new channels through existing suburbs.directing point


This one is post-Sandy satellite imagery.  By zooming in you can see the debris surrounding the houses.
Anyhow – – let’s at least talk about getting, some of, the power lines underground.  All the fuel shortage and rationing is not because there is no fuel – it’s mostly because there is no electricity to pump it.