Energy efficiency building upgrades have been widely hailed as the low-hanging fruit of the clean energy sector, easy pickings for energy savings that can help jump-start the green economy through job creation and cost savings
But what IS an energy efficiency building upgrade (or retrofit, as it is sometimes called)?
Buildings are improved so that they use less energy and are more comfortable, but without requiring anyone to change their behavior. Think about it: with old, poorly insulated buildings, we are basically paying to heat or air-condition the outdoors. With inefficient heating, cooling, or lighting systems, we are doing something equivalent to burning a paycheck right next to our appliances.
Here’s how an energy efficiency building upgrade works: Typically, a building is first inspected by an energy “auditor” (a horrid word – having an “auditor” come in before a “retrofit” sounds like someone from the IRS is prepping you for a particularly nasty medical procedure – but those are the terms).
If you’re not a subscriber, I guess you’ll have to pay for access to this recent New Yorker piece, but it is well worth it. Evan Osnos took a look at Japan and the Fukushima nuclear meltdown seven months after the terrible tsunami destroyed so many lives and very nearly killed many more.
This is compelling writing and reminds me of something I’d forgotten—hadn’t we all agreed that nuclear disaster was a real and legitimate fear again, and change was needed? What happened?
The article raises a theory that resonates. In a long section in the middle of the piece detailing the history of nuclear power in Japan, Osnos notes that post-Chernobyl Japanese officials actually became less safe and at the same time more assertive of the safety of nuclear power.
The idea was to defend the industry against attacks by distinguishing the practices in Japan from those in the USSR,
I am particularly fond of Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler.” At a recent hearing for the Los Angeles City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Waste Reduction and Recycling, I kept thinking about this song as I heard many business groups and trade associations lobby against true reform of L.A.’s waste collection system.
The debate stems from how the City of L.A. should reform its system for dealing with waste at businesses and large apartment buildings. On one end, you have the Don’t Waste L.A. coalition, to which I belong through the Natural Resources Defense Council. It is a broad coalition of environmental, community, faith-based, economic justice and labor groups, advocating for a comprehensive solution to dealing with L.A.’s waste woes, instead of kicking the can down the road. You can read more about the coalition’s positions here and here. On the other hand, some business lobbying groups and trade associations are advocating for a system that keeps the status quo in place.
For years, NRDC, working with allies in labor, have disproved the myth that environmental protection and good jobs can’t co-exist. We are not alone in this: NRDC, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation and Union of Concerned Scientists are members of the BlueGreen Alliance, which also includes the Steelworkers, United Auto Workers, SEIU and other national and international unions representing tens of thousands of members.
NRDC has focused particularly on promoting the new clean energy economy which brings with it good-paying, local jobs in the manufacturing, construction and service sectors. We have seen this in California where the clean energy sector is growing faster than any other sector, accounting for over 90,000 in Los Angeles area alone. This is apparently news to the Los Angeles Times. In a misguided editorial on the recent Ninth Circuit ruling in the Port of Los Angeles clean trucks case,
Across the country critics of the Obama administration’s multimillion-dollar support for Northern California’s Solyndra solar panel factory are railing against government stupidity. How is it possible, they ask, that federal and state governments could have invested hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in a company that went belly up? Why didn’t the officials take more precautions, do more research, put in place more safeguards? How could they have been so dumb and so wasteful of precious government dollars?
But really, what the conservative Obama critics are saying is that the federal government and states such as California and Wisconsin that invested millions in the company should have had more bureaucratic red tape. Yes, that most hated of terms, “red tape” is something that could have actually prevented a huge loss of government dollars in an unwise investment.
Extreme right-wing conservative Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan said it well in an article this week on Fox.com:
You hear a lot of talk about measuring student performance in public schools, but it’s a little known fact that schools themselves are also graded for their performance, when their infrastructures score well on operating costs and the efficient use of resources. At the top of this honor roll are high performance facilities known as “green schools,” which are built or renovated in ways that protect the environment, improve the health of students and educators — and save money over the long run.
Upgrading schools can also create new jobs, which we need now. According to 2008 Congressional testimony, a pair of state bond cycles that spent $10 billion on California school construction generated more than 175,000 jobs — and created an additional $20 billion of economic activity in their wake. That same testimony cited similar economic spikes, suggesting that long-term benefits are a virtual given for school infrastructure investments.
Imagine your neighbor, your neighbor’s neighbor and their neighbor . . . plus the most disgusting fast-food joint you can envision (Grade C in the window), the nearest gas station, the local pet store and an auto repair shop to boot.
Now, imagine all their trash coming at you on an endless conveyor belt – faster than chocolates on I Love Lucy .
Your job: to dig in and pull out the recyclables.
Thousands of workers, often immigrant Latinas, do this all day, every day, at material recovery facilities (MRFs) across Southern California. Many of these MRFs are grim, post-apocalyptic jalopy buildings that would have been perfect as sets for Blade Runner.
The workers are called “sorters,” and they’re at the front line of a shadow industry that desperately needs to be reigned in. They sort and sort and sort .
I’m a professional green jobs advocate. On my way out the door every day, I tell whoever will listen that I’m going to work to stop global warming and create thousands of jobs. So what are green jobs?
Since it’s a matter that very much concerns the next generation, I asked a young representative that I found sitting on my couch watching pre-season football.
Even with this important distraction, my 11-year-old son managed: “It’s a job that helps the environment.”
Okay. But what are some examples?
“I don’t know,” said the rep. “Planting trees? Maintaining solar panels?”
That’s more information than the Bureau of Labor Statistics has to offer, although it is reportedly working on coming up with a green jobs measurement. In the meantime, the Brookings Institute released a study that undertook the task of counting green economy jobs. They identified 2.7 million workers nationally in sectors they determined to be green: waste management and treatment,
As some folks know, the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Sanitation and Board of Public Works have been holding a series of stakeholder meetings about raising the bar for how our city picks up and handles waste at businesses and apartment complexes. As of now, we have what’s called a permit system – and, despite the city’s Herculean efforts, it’s a free-for-all. Basically, private waste hauling companies pick up trash on overlapping truck routes – jumping over one another in every corner of the city for individual accounts.
In general – whether we’re talking about job standards, air quality standards, or recycling standards – we’ve got a race to the bottom. For now, though, let’s talk about truck routes. We’ve got neighborhood blocks – particularly in communities with a high proportion of renters– with five or six different companies picking up trash at adjacent buildings. That means emissions,
The Frying Pan recently visited John Hernandez, the owner of a State Farm Insurance agency in Pacoima, a blue-collar community located in the North San Fernando Valley. He is also a member of the Pacoima Chamber of Commerce, Arleta Neighborhood Council, Pacoima Neighborhood Council, LAPD Foothill Area Booster Association and a member business of Icon Community Development Corp.
Frying Pan: You opened your insurance office in July 2010 — why open in such tough economic times?
John Hernandez: I guess you could say I have that entrepreneurial spirit — being in the business for over 20 years, I felt the need to open my own. I wanted to come to a community where there was no presence from other major carriers. I felt like there was a need in Pacoima for affordable insurance and a preferred carrier. I have four employees, so I was also focused on bringing some jobs to the community.