Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Eric Clapton can explain energy efficiency to you

Hello humanoids! It's been a while since I've been writing in this space; glad to be back.

In the last several months I've been reading about large-scale energy projects on public lands - and I've been trying to keep my eyeballs peeled for reports of their benefits, like success in creating jobs. I'm not the only one. The Las Vegas Sun's Delen Goldberg wrote yesterday about a project in Nevada called Copper Mountain, run by Sempra Energy. Here's the stats for that 775,000 panel array:

Temporary construction jobs created: 350. Not bad.
Nevadans employed: 262. That’s a good share.
Solar power coming to Nevada: 0. Zip.
Parts manufactured in Nevada: 0. Zilch.
Permanent jobs created: 5. That’s not a typo. State incentives developer Sempra Generation received: $12 million. That’s not a typo, either.
Gov. Brian Sandoval says the public money was well spent. “Every job is a great job,” Sandoval said when asked if the benefits of the project justify the incentives. “It’s the essence of what we are trying to accomplish here ... in terms of diversifying the economy and taking advantage of our renewable energy resources.”

Questions about the public benefits of large scale renewable energy projects aren't going away.

You might have read Siel's Morning Greens today about talks stalling to resolve environmental justice issues for AB 32. For different reasons at the national level, policies to reduce greenhouse gas production through energy management aren't really getting anywhere. Here's a fun letter from 21 state Attorneys General on South Carolina letterhead asking the EPA to defer greenhouse gas policy for three years for, chiefly, economic reasons:

Whatever may be the long term merit of your agency’s regulatory approach – an issue on which we may disagree, even among ourselves – there can be no doubt that the immediate consequences will be to make economic recovery more difficult. Deferral would help facilitate such recovery, and it would allow time for a study of the long term impact of GHG regulations on jobs and the economy.

What that means: climate policy continues to struggle along at the national level.

Taken together, those two things mean more talk about energy efficiency - what the wonks like to call "demand-side management." California is legen-wait for it-dary on energy efficiency for the past 4 decades. We're so good at it that measures we've implemented since the seventies have helped California to use roughly half as much energy per person as other states. We're so into it - the we in this sentence is the California Energy Commisison - that our plan is to maximize energy efficiency first, so that we can do better at all the other stuff that follows. (Depending on your level of self-inflicted pain, you could read this memo - Implementing California's Loading Order for Electricity Resources for more about what we do and the order we do it in to save money and use less natural gas.)

This week I'm spotlighting a program I'm gonna call the Willie and the Hand Jive of energy efficiency: refrigerator recycling. Here's how they're alike:

It's economical. I always think of Willie and the Hand Jive as an Eric Clapton song, because when I was in law school, at a bar we would frequent, the song was pointed out to me as an especially economical one to buy off the jukebox, because if you had the Crossroads 2 discs in your jukebox like Trad'r Sam's did, you could get more than 11 minutes out of a quarter.

*Refrigerator recycling: Old refrigerators are mostly recyclable, and not biodegradable; that's why you can't put them in landfills in California. Older refrigerators use twice as much energy as newer ones; the benefits for getting a more efficient refrigerator can be close to 200 dollars a year savings on your electric bill. Southern California Edison and LADWP offer 50 dollar rebates for refrigerator recycling; Pasadena & Burbank offer $25 and some CFL lightbulbs; Glendale has a similar program, and one for low-income families.

Bonus: A refrigerator can account for 20 percent of your electric bill...much like Willie and the Hand Jive accounted for about a fifth of what I listened to in that bar in law school. (Another fifth was "The Tide is High" by Blondie.)

It's been around for a long time. Willie and the Hand Jive itself belonged to Johnny Otis much earlier - it was a hit for him in 1958. It's just that the Bo Diddley beat let the stoners and guitar gods take it out for a run in the seventies. 

*Refrigerator recycling: Programs themselves live on and on because they're so successful. These programs have gotten a bump a few times as less harmful refrigeration systems come online.

Bonus: I can't tell when refrigerator recycling started in California. But it seems like it's never gonna end. Much like Willie and the Hand Jive (Crossroads 2 version).

There's great trivia about it. Hand jiving got popular in basement Soho coffeehouses in London in the late fifties, reportedly because there wasn't much room to move your feet anywhere.

*Refrigerator recycling: Utilities in California contract out this work. One company called ARCA and another called JACO actually do the pickup work and program management for recycling old fridges. JACO's Washington-based, and runs white goods recycling in several states. ARCA is in Minneapolis, and lists as its current clients LADWP; Burbank, Pasadena, and Glendale Water and Power; Riverside Utilities, the city of Colton, San Diego Gas and Electric, and Southern California Edison.