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Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

How to save energy through both societal and individual actions.

Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby AdamB » Tue 31 Oct 2017, 20:45:43


Even though Americans are working more hours, many are still watching their paychecks erode and saving less money – if they are saving anything at all. Against this current backdrop, people across the country are spending an annual average of $3,512 per person on energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). With the average worker making $48,664 per year, that is a staggering amount of money devoted to keeping the lights on, the house warmed and cooled and the gas tank full. But for those living on low or fixed incomes, the burden is even more crushing, with the poorest households generally spending more than 20 percent of their income on home energy bills, and in some extreme cases, more than 50 percent. With more than 40 million Americans living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau, and 13.5 million unemployed


Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Wed 01 Nov 2017, 13:04:20

AdamB wrote:

Even though Americans are working more hours, many are still watching their paychecks erode and saving less money – if they are saving anything at all. Against this current backdrop, people across the country are spending an annual average of $3,512 per person on energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). With the average worker making $48,664 per year, that is a staggering amount of money devoted to keeping the lights on, the house warmed and cooled and the gas tank full. But for those living on low or fixed incomes, the burden is even more crushing, with the poorest households generally spending more than 20 percent of their income on home energy bills, and in some extreme cases, more than 50 percent. With more than 40 million Americans living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau, and 13.5 million unemployed


Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy


I don't get it. If people are so "poor", why not try a little conservation, or a little common sense? (Given the tone and emphasis on "unaffordability" in this piece).

I live in KY, where the average cited by the chart from the EIA in the linked piece says the average expenditure is $4006 per person. I live in a city, so I can see how rural costs might be higher, but still.

So if you have the "poor"family of four, that gives over $16,000 a year spent on energy -- on AVERAGE. Which just leaves me scratching my head, unless people are willing to put in NO effort.

So for me, living by myself in a 1957 poorly insulated 1800 SF ranch house, including a half basement. There is no insulation in the walls, and very little in attic with a built-in wood floor.

I spend about $60 a month on the natural gas bill on average. This includes a gas dryer, gas hot water heater, the gas furnace, and the gas whole-house generator (which generally runs about 50 minutes a month for weekly self testing, plus for any outages -- so it's generally an under $5 a month hit. I keep the indoor temperature at 67 in the winter, which is comfortable enough for me and the cat. I keep the water temperature hot enough that it feels hot enough to barely feel too hot to my hands with pure hot. (Don't know why I need it hotter than that).

I spend a very similar amount on average on electricity. The A/C, computers, fans, a microwave, and efficient lighting, plus a space heater in winter comprise that. The space heater, long underwear, and a heavy sweatshirt keep me comfortable where I am on cold winter days. In the summer I keep the house at 76, which is comfortable for me and the cat, if I use a room fan on the hottest days.

Lawn care energy is trivial. I use about 5 gallons gas a year for lawn care.

For driving, with a little effort, a 30 mpg car isn't hard to get. The average person drives about 12,000 miles a year. So even if all that driving is necessary (which I'm not buying, poor people can and should limit driving, which is expensive), that's 400 gallons of gasoline at about $2.50 a gallon (year given in the chart was 2015) or roughly $1000.

(I drive about 4000 miles a year and get more like 25 mpg, so for me it's about $400 gasoline for driving)

Now for me that gives total annual direct energy expenditures of (unless I'm missing something major) about:

$720 for natural gas
$720 for electricity
$405 for gasoline.

So living alone and only making minor efforts at conservation, that fives about $1845 a year.

So for the average driver alone in an older house, willing to make minor efforts at conservation that would give something like:

$720 for natural gas
$720 for electricity
$1005 for gasoline, or $2445 a year.

...

Now, HOW in the HELL do we go from there to an AVERAGE of $16,024 for a family of four?

Let's say they want to be warmer and spend $1200 for natural gas. Let's say they use more electricity for gadgets, hair dryers, TV's, etc. and use $500 apiece. (Fans, lights, furnaces, A/C, etc. isn't going to add much for more people, so I figure this is generous). So that's $2000 for electricity.

Now driving. Let's say both husband and wife have a car and drive 12,000 miles a year. (Again, we're talking average here -- not a family with two crazy commutes.) So that's $2005 a year for gasoline, with the two drivers. Add another $500 for assuming one child is driving age. So then you have $2505 for gasoline.

So for this average family of four, trying to be generous with the energy allotment, I get

$1200 for natural gas. (Maybe electric heating is far more expensive on average?)
$2000 for electricty.
$2505 for gasoline.

So now with some modest efforts at conservation, we have $5705 a year for our average family of four.

...

Unless I'm missing that everyone but me has a GIGANTIC KILN they run constantly or something, how in the world do these numbers work out on average? And if they do due to waste, how "sorry" should we feel for the people who won't bother to lift a finger to save (a LOT) while they're crying dire poverty and energy expense "burden"?

And let's remember, I haven't insulated my place. I don't want to risk screwing things up by pumping stuff into the walls. In the attic, I have been cautioned against spray foam under the wooden floor my dad laid before the 70's energy crisis began (which would have to be ripped up) as it is then a big pain to do any basic electrical work, etc. And for the roof, then you won't know about any leaks until a lot of damage is done. (But if I couldn't make ends meet and I could save a LOT of money by insulating -- then I would surely make a different choice).

edit: I messed up and used $5 for yard work instead of $12.50

What I'm looking for is places I'm way off for the average person/family who is willing to do some minor common sense conservation.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby Cog » Wed 01 Nov 2017, 15:28:36

For a 1700 square foot house I spend about $1800/year for electricity and natural gas. Very tight and well insulated house. About $2400/year on gasoline for two vehicles. So around $4200/year in energy more or less. Family of two.

The numbers in the article seem a bit high to me.
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby Ibon » Wed 01 Nov 2017, 16:48:18

1100 square feel tourist cabin
1800 square feet 3 bedroom farm house
3000 square feet lodge with 5 guest rooms, restaurant, living area
3500 square feet Coffee processing plant with 4 guest rooms and private owners quarters
600 square feet unit 1 employee cabin
600 square feet unit 2 employee cabin
350 square feet tree cabin

Annual Energy Costs

Electricity $ 0.00
Gas Propane $ 1,200.00
Diesel for 2
vehicles $ 1,800.00

Total $ 3,000.00

Note: diesel costs including construction crew and materials doing dozens of trips with materials and moving construction staff during the past 2 years. Normal year without construction diesel costs would be around $ 1,200.00
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby GASMON » Thu 02 Nov 2017, 11:46:10

$3512 = £2688 UK Pounds. ($1 = £0.77 today)

My house is approx 1600 square feet. Monthly (natural) gas /electric combined spend is £140 = £1680 / year = $2194. House / water heated / cooking by Natural Gas, electricity for everything else

Gas (Petrol) car fuel spend for 2 vehicles is around £100 / month = £1200 / year = $1568 for around 9000 miles / year (both vehicles) Expensive by USA prices, it's the car fuel tax that makes it so in the UK.

Total energy spend / year = £2880 = $3762. Just above the American "average" of $3512

House is well insulated, though we are always looking for savings. This will in future be mainly by downsizing our vehicles when we change them, one is a 7 seat 2.3 litre ford (now too big as family grow / move) averages 27 mpg (UK gallons) other is a 1.6 litre Seat saloon (VW Golf based) does 32 mpg.

Diesel cars do a good mpg, but are being demonised due to emissions. Next car will also be petrol. Electric cars far too expensive for me.

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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby marmico » Thu 02 Nov 2017, 12:24:01

The article makes a fundamental error.

It divides the price of all energy consumed by economy wide end users (households, firms and government) and allocates it the alleged staggering amount per capita "to keeping the lights on, the house warmed and cooled and the gas tank full."

At 6.2% of 2015 GDP, energy spending is pretty damn cheap in historical context.

https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/mo ... ec1_17.pdf
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Thu 02 Nov 2017, 12:31:29

Call me a skeptic. Yesterday the cost of gasoline jumped $0.16 all over the SF Bay Area, to an area average of $3.62 per gallon. The main cause was a new gasoline tax of $0.12/gallon, but at long as they were raising prices....

I remember $5.63/gallon here. I wonder what decisions all of you would be making about EVs when gas is above $5, or above $10. Both are prices I expect to see within the life of a new car built this year. The petroleum glut is over.

Same deal with natural gas and electricity. What decisions would you make about HVAC and insulation when energy is 2X, 5X, 10X of what it is today?

Perhaps you think that pricing is going to decline forever after the oil peak? Because I don't think that.
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How Much Energy Do We Need?

Unread postby AdamB » Mon 29 Jan 2018, 22:09:27


Because energy fuels both human development and environmental damage, policies that encourage energy demand reduction can run counter to policies for alleviating poverty, and the other way around. Achieving both objectives can only happen if energy use is spread more equally across societies. However, while it’s widely acknowledged that part of the global population is living in ‘energy poverty’, there’s little attention given to the opposite condition, namely ‘energy excess’ or ‘energy decadence’. Researchers have calculated minimum levels of energy use needed to live a decent life, but what about maximum levels? Image: Azuri Technologies. Energy Use Per Capita Humanity needs to reduce its energy use radically if we are to avoid dangerous climate change, the exhaustion of non-renewable resources, and the destruction of the natural environment upon which our survival depends. [1] Targets for reductions in carbon emissions and energy use are usually framed


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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Mon 29 Jan 2018, 23:59:21

KaiserJeep wrote: I wonder what decisions all of you would be making about EVs when gas is above $5, or above $10. Both are prices I expect to see within the life of a new car built this year. The petroleum glut is over.

A Chevy Bolt would look a HELL of a lot more attractive financially with gasoline at $10 a gallon for the average driver. That could be just the ticket to get auto makers seriously invested in making a lot of great EV's, with plenty of demand for consumers to drive them.

I'm skeptical about oil going over roughly $100 for any length of time in the intermediate term, however. Supposedly lots more fracking will ramp up quickly if oil approaches that price. That doesn't mean it can't go higher long term, of course.
Same deal with natural gas and electricity. What decisions would you make about HVAC and insulation when energy is 2X, 5X, 10X of what it is today?

The world seems to be awash in natural gas. Frackable supplies seem immense. I don't see how NG prices would even double from here for any length of time, much less 10X. At least not in the next, say, 30 years.

If electricity prices rise a lot, that should be just the ticket to really ramp up rooftop solar PV and battery backup, so by all means, I hope that happens. Even 2X sustained for any time should be a HUGE incentive. Since most of the new electricity production seems to be headed toward green sources, I don't see the price more than doubling for a sustained period of time though.

Let's call all figures 2018 dollars, so inflation creep doesn't count as a fundamental cost rise.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby Plantagenet » Tue 30 Jan 2018, 00:27:22

A Chevy Bolt would look a HELL of a lot more attractive financially with gasoline at $10 a gallon for the average driver.

I'm skeptical about oil going over roughly $100 for any length of time in the intermediate term... That doesn't mean it can't go higher long term, of course.

Same deal with natural gas and electricity.


Yup.

The law of supply and demand says that when lots more people shift to EVs, the price of electricity will go way up.

And if EVs aren't cheaper then ICE cars, then I don't really see the attraction, given the limitations on Range and size inherent in EV vehicles.

I remain skeptical that the economics of EVs pencil out without big government subsidies. And as we've seen with Trump's presidency, any big government program involving subsidies can quickly and suddenly come to an end with the next election.

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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby Tanada » Tue 30 Jan 2018, 10:17:06

But you gentlemen are ignoring an additional factor IMO. If gasoline in the USA gets up to and sustains $10/gal there will be an enormous incentive for switching fuel but maintaining the same ICE fleet. While CNG filling stations are not common today it is a simple matter for any filling station with a natural gas supply line to install the needed tank and compressor to sell it. Back in 2008 there was an offer for filling stations to buy a GNG 'pump' for $10,000/2 that would service a vehicle on each side. Many large cities have switched their mass transit fleets over to CNG fuel and some even their refuse trucks and city vehicles. Yes a standard size tank of CNG has half the energy density of Gasoline, but that puts them right in competition with the top range BEV units. They also use all conventional parts, no fancy chemicals for expensive batteries, which makes them a large step cheaper. Best of all back before California went bonkers some companies like Honda specifically were offering home filling units that would use a small compressor to fill your CNG tank slowly from your house line when you parked at night over about an hour which is massively faster than a BEV can reliably charge.

Right now the USA is huffing natural gas to the point of burning a lot in big power stations. Given the energy losses it can be argued that directly burning the CNG in your auto is as efficient as using it to run a power station and charge your battery for 8 hours.
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Tue 30 Jan 2018, 16:11:31

Plantagenet wrote:The law of supply and demand says that when lots more people shift to EVs, the price of electricity will go way up.

Except that it doesn't.

The law of supply and demand is called that for a reason -- you don't just look at one side.

If there is a huge shift towards EV's and no increase in the supply of electricity, then yes, the price of electricity will increase.

However, if the shift isn't sudden (and with only under 1% of new vehicles being ICE's today, then even if EV's grow rapidly by percentage annually (say 30% or even 50%), it will take a decade just to really get going re absolute EV numbers), then there is no reason at all to assume that electricity supply won't rise significantly as the demand for electricity increases. After all, if the use of EV's are steadily increasing and forecast to increase more, the demand will be apparent to all profit seeking producers of electricity.

So you've got solar PV increasing as the prices of components drop re Tony Seba et al. You have Wind capacity increasing as it has been shown to be a reasonable competitor already in places like Germany and Texas and across much of the midwest US. A higher conventional electricity cost will hasten the demand for such green sources.

There is also an abundance of NG for at least several decades, via NG fracking. So if more electricity is needed by burning more fossil fuels, the NG and the plants will be available, as long as the profit motive is there. (i.e. assuming government doesn't get in the way).

I'm NOT saying the price of electricity won't go up. I'm saying that assuming it must go "way" up due only to an increase in EV's isn't a valid assumption. There are a LOT of variables that will influence that, and there will likely be short term volatility, as usual.

I'm talking constant dollars here, so ordinary inflation doesn't count as driving the price up.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby baha » Tue 30 Jan 2018, 18:41:29

That number seems high to me too, for an average. But we shouldn't use our own experience as a guide. No one here is an average energy user. Just thinking about energy reduces your demand :)

I meet people all the time who talk about their $300-400 electric bills with no shame at all. And they drive an SUV with a cargo carrier on top that gets 12 mpg, or a truck w/ladders. All the people around me living in the country drive somewhere else to work...at least 35 miles one way to a major city. I drive for work too so I do 15-18k per year now and I used to do 20k every year without fail. I've always lived in the country :)

20k miles, 12 mpg, $2.50 a gallon makes $4166/year. $300/month for electricity is $3600. So a total of $7766/year for a one car family. Add in flying around the country and heating your Latte and that shit adds up :)

This is how the affluent middle class suburbanite lives.

And it forces the average higher than you think it should be.
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby Plantagenet » Tue 30 Jan 2018, 22:22:50

Outcast_Searcher wrote:There is also an abundance of NG for at least several decades, via NG fracking. So if more electricity is needed by burning more fossil fuels, the NG and the plants will be available, as long as the profit motive is there. (i.e. assuming government doesn't get in the way).

I'm NOT saying the price of electricity won't go up. I'm saying that assuming it must go "way" up due only to an increase in EV's isn't a valid assumption. There are a LOT of variables that will influence that, and there will likely be short term volatility, as usual.

I'm talking constant dollars here, so ordinary inflation doesn't count as driving the price up.


If the economy is just going to shift from oil to natural gas, then what is the point of EVs?

You can run cars directly on CNG-----it would be smarter to use the NG directly in cars, as opposed to shipping to power plants to spin generators and then sending the electricity over power lines to cars, with commensurate losses in energy at each step. Just stick the NG directly in the car.

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Maybe it would smarter to replace ICE cars with CNG cars instead of EVs?

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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Tue 30 Jan 2018, 22:38:07

No, it would be better to convert ICE vehicles from gasoline to CNG, rather than to replace them early.

But then I'm really no judge of that. My newest Jeep is a 2003, and my oldest is a 1967. Living in a place without real Winter does extend the life of a vehicle.
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby coffeeguyzz » Tue 30 Jan 2018, 22:51:41

Chances are high that CNG will supplant EVs in future projections, ultimately assing out petroleum/gasoline as the dominant transportation fuel.

Already happening in a big way with large vehicles like municipal bus fleets, garbage trucks, etc. Public infrastructure continues to be built targeting these larger vehicles which will make the public re-fueling issue less problematic.

The rapid advances in Adsorbed Nat Gas technology are picking up tempo as several companies are fiercely competing to be 'first movers' in commercialization.

Economically, the energy found in 1 barrel of oil costs 60 bucks.
Same amount of energy in the form of natgas costs 18 bucks.
That is a HUGE competitive 'spread' to be captured by CNG users.

From a different perspective,the amount of recoverable natgas in the US is measurable in centuries.

The operational ease - relative to oil - of extracting gas from a 3/4 mile long horizontal wellbore for decades ensures that natgas will maintain cost superiority over oil for the foreseeable future.
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Wed 31 Jan 2018, 00:24:57

Plantagenet wrote:If the economy is just going to shift from oil to natural gas, then what is the point of EVs?

I didn't say it would shift from oil to gas. I said that electricity generation could shift to NG for the FF part needed (implying from coal), and that part of it could expand, perhaps significantly, to green tech like solar PV and wind.

You can run cars directly on CNG-----it would be smarter to use the NG directly in cars, as opposed to shipping to power plants to spin generators and then sending the electricity over power lines to cars, with commensurate losses in energy at each step. Just stick the NG directly in the car.

It's not like we only will be using electricity for BEV's, any more than that's true today.

CNG for cars is one approach. But it has drawbacks, just like ICE engines that run on diesel or gasoline.

CNG cars pollute at the tailpipe. For ordinary passenger cars, unless they make further advances or further expensive changes for storage, the range isn't too great compared to gasoline cars. (EV's are getting there, and are projected to do better as battery energy density improves).

And from what understand, the distribution to the equivalent of the current network of gas stations at the volumes needed to fill up cars replacing the ICE gas/diesel fleet is far from trivial or cheap.

...

So, I don't think it's the obvious way to go, or we'd have seen far more calls and competitive push from private companies to do so in the US and Western Europe.

Some of this could have changed -- this is all from various articles I read up on this a couple years or so back.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby Subjectivist » Wed 31 Jan 2018, 01:52:14

Western Europe conglomeratly are massive gas importers, so for them its no better than importing oil for their ICE trucks/cars to burn. The situation in North America with respect to natural gas supply is very different!
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Wed 31 Jan 2018, 02:38:30

Subjectivist wrote:Western Europe conglomeratly are massive gas importers, so for them its no better than importing oil for their ICE trucks/cars to burn. The situation in North America with respect to natural gas supply is very different!


When I read that, I thought of T. Boone Pickens and his "Pickens Energy Plan" from 2008. He was a Peak Oiler AND a Texas oil man, who accumulated a $1.4B fortune, and retired ten days ago.

In 2008, the Pickens Plan called for us to end dependance on foriegn oil imports using fracked natural gas for vehicle fuels and renewables for everything else. He lost a lot of money trying to bring it about.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/20/business/t-boone-pickens.html
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Re: Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Unread postby GHung » Wed 31 Jan 2018, 09:02:13

There's a lot of bargaining going on above, as if our happy motoring culture will continue and our behavior won't have to change much.

People don't need to drive so much. They need to get used to living differently, like it or not, especially in the US.
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