Mr. Obama Goes to Copenhagen

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The Huffington Post uses the photo at left to illustrate the President’s speech at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change. The President’s tone is severe, disappointed, almost grim. Hit the link to see the text of his remarks. His disappointment centers around the many wrenches being thrown into the process of dealing with climate change by both undeveloped and developing countries.

China, the world’s most egregious polluter by a comfortable margin (with the USA running a clean second), is balking at the proposed cap-and-trade and sin tax measures that would both penalize major polluters, like China, and provide carbon credits for more slowly developing countries (read most of Africa) to use or possibly to sell to polluting nations to earn badly needed cash for their own programs. Even the African nations, and others in similar circumstances, are demanding the right to “grow dirty” for as long as they want, citing the poor record of the US, China and other industrial nations over the last two centuries as polluters.

Unwilling to accept a progressive cap-and-trade system like the one under consideration, the poorest nations at the conference are demanding either huge monetary concessions in return for their cooperation with carbon emissions limitations, or an exemption that will allow them to pursue economic growth at an advantage while the larger countries accept limited carbon emissions standards.

With these mulish denials ringing in his ears, Obama warned us that we can either act now, and decisively, or return to the table to have “these same stale conversations.” That must have stung the Chinese and Africans…..

So what can you do at home to persuade the Africans and Chinese to think globally and accept the limitations of  “low carbon growth?”  Not much directly, sad to say. But if Americans were to show a national will to conserve, take charge of our own carbon footprints (this link is to an earlier post on that topic), and show a preference for lower-impact houses and cars, the message would not be wasted on a world which has looked to us for almost two centuries as trendsetters and innovators. It looks bad for us to be stuck in our denial of climate change and the inevitable scarcity of energy. Enlightened, attentive leadership is what we demanded when we elected Barack Obama. Enlightened leadership is what the world expects of us, and they have shown their willingness to follow suit. They want our blue jeans, they want our sneakers, they want our cell phones, and they’ll want our energy policies when we have some worth sharing.

Update at Our House– Solar Hot Water

blog-solar-kit This brief post will keep us close to home. I noted our new solar hot water system a few weeks ago, stressing our modest expectations for winter performance. I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised.

Today, December 6, the temperature in our town topped out in the 30s, we got three inches (up on this high hill, we get more) of wet, icy snow last night, and the winds were gusting to 15 miles or so as the day wore on. I checked the panel temp this morning after hearing the snow and ice avalanche off the collectors at 9 AM or so. 100 degrees on the return fluid thermometer.

Cutting to the jelly, I just ran hot water at 105 from my kitchen tap. One day of performance, 80 gallons of shower-ready water. Two 4×7 Stiebel Eltron flat plate panels (evacuated tubes are nice, but not necessary) two 40 gallon stainless holding tanks with heat exchanger coils for the solar fluid. One Caleffi (pricey, but very flexible) solar differential pump control. Very short connecting pipe (under ten feet total) between the panels and the tanks, located on my roof and in my attic, respectively.

As we near the solstice, and as temperatures drop into the teens and oughts, performance will certainly drop. But it won’t drop to zero. We’ll get pre-warmed water for the boiler to finish off on every sunny day from now until March equinox. I hope, after that, we’ll be getting near total solar hot water for some months.

So— a few thousand dollars (I, a seasoned solar contractor, did the installation myself) in equipment, a prime roof spot oriented within 15 degrees of south, a relatively un-obstructed morning horizon (the afternoon sun is hampered by some tall trees), a solar day extending from 9 AM to about 3 PM, and this is what we’re getting for an energy harvest. DEP figures concerning hot water as a proportion of total household energy are being revised upward, to a possible 25%. If that’s so, and I believe it in our case, I’ll look for a 25% drop in our fuel oil usage this winter. And, at nearly 60, I expect to bequeath this system to a future owner someday, still running, still harvesting that blessed free energy from God’s own fusion bomb, the sun.