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Found 6 results

  1. When you think of green energy your mind probably jumps to solar, wind or emerging hydrogen power, but you may not have considered that propane and its cousin natural gas, are also among of the greenest energy sources available to homeowners. Clean Burning While propane is essentially a fossil fuel, derived from natural gas or petroleum, it burns much cleaner than other fossil fuels. It emits roughly half the greenhouse gases compared to coal or oil and it doesn’t emit as many harmful compounds or toxins, such as sulfur dioxide and CO2. This reduces the prevalence of smog and the occurrence of environmental problems such as acid rain, which is caused by high concentrations of pollutants from gas and coal. May Be Cleaner and Cheaper Than Electricity There is some research to support the argument that natural gas is actually cheaper and more efficient alternative to electricity for some applications. This is one reason that many homes have mostly gas-powered appliances if possible. Having more homes with gas powered appliances reduces electric bills and helps to ease the strain on the power grid. While many people consider electricity to be clean, that really depends on how the electricity is generated. Electricity produced by a coal power plant, for example, is going to be exceptionally dirty and inefficient. Electricity produced from solar, wind or hydroelectric is going to be cleaner than any other source of power, including natural gas or propane. That said, power from truly clean sources accounts for a very small percentage of the electricity generated in the United States. Even in pioneering states like California, renewable energy sources account for only about 25 percent of total energy generation. In most areas of the country, that number is far lower. Taking United States energy production as a whole, 30 percent of electricity is generated by dirty coal, 20 percent generated by nuclear and only 15 percent generated by renewables. Interestingly enough, natural gas accounts for the largest share of electricity production in the US, at 34 percent. Using natural gas directly can help shift the focus away from dirty sources like coal and questionable sources like nuclear. It is worthwhile for you to consider where your power comes from to decide if using natural gas or propane in your home will be a greener choice. Off the Grid One tremendous advantage of propane is that it can be used off the grid. In areas where electricity is difficult, expensive or just plain impossible to supply, propane can serve as an excellent substitute. Propane tank installation in Mason is relatively simple and gives you a reliable supply of propane for your use without reliance on the municipal grid or supply. Even if you don’t use propane consistently, it is an excellent emergency power source for cooking, water heating or even to power a home-based generator. Propane is Efficient Efficiency is a key element of the environmental friendliness of any fuel. In this case, using propane directly is very efficient compared to most other types of power. For example, a coal power plant converts only about 38 percent of the energy found in coal to electricity. This means that not only is coal exceptionally dirty to begin with, it is also extremely inefficient. When propane is used directly, basically 100 percent of the energy goes toward the intended use because there is no conversion of energy. Natural Gas May Become Renewable While natural gas used currently in the United States is not renewable and is derived from fossil fuel, there is the possibility that natural gas and propane could be harvested from renewable sources in the near future. Likely candidates are landfills and water treatment plants. Decomposing organic matter releases tremendous amounts of natural gas, which is released into the atmosphere. If this natural gas could successfully contained and harvested, it would present an excellent source of renewable fuel. The natural gas could then be used directly or refined into other fuels like propane and hydrogen. Demand will primarily affect how much attention this technology receives. As more homeowners switch to propane or natural gas, the demand will increase and entice more companies to invest in the technology and infrastructure to harvest it from renewable sources. As a homeowner, you have an important part to play in the green energy future and the infrastructure that will support it.
  2. An inefficient heating system could cost you hundreds of dollars each year, and sadly, most homeowners don’t even know they are wasting this much money because they assume as long as the heater is producing heat, it’s working 100 percent. To know if your heating system is being inefficient, here are four things you will want to look out for. 1. High Gas Consumption Chances are your utility company allows you to view your bills from a few years ago, and if you don’t have an online account, consider creating one to be able to compare the usage from today to a year ago. If you’re noticing your bill is at least 15 to 30 percent higher, then could be a sign your system is becoming inefficient. Unless you’re raising your temperatures, there’s no reason for your bill to increase this much. 2. Your Pilot Light When your gas furnace starts up, you will notice a pilot light if you peek through the vents. A healthy system will have a steady blue color, but if your system is inefficient, this color can change. If you notice the flame is either yellow or it’s flickering, this could be a serious problem. These colors and signs often mean your system is producing high levels of carbon monoxide, and if you suspect this is the case, you will want to turn off your furnace immediately and call a professional. 3. Too Many Calls It’s okay to call the professionals here and there, but if you’re calling at least three to four times per year, you may be better off investing in a new system. Most systems will need an occasional repair; however, if your system has had at least four repairs north of $200, then it has probably reached the end of its life. Experts such as those at Universal Refrigeration, will tell you it may be time to call the professionals if your system is older than 15 years. 4. Odd Noises Pay close attention to the furnace when it boots on. Do you hear any popping or banging noises? If so, it may be a sign the furnace is on its death bed. A healthy furnace will be relatively quiet and won’t wake you up during a deep sleep. If any of these signs apply to you, then it’s time to call a professional before your heater kicks the bucket on a 10-degree night. Investing in a new system or even having a simple repair performed could save you a lot more than you think.
  3. Air pollution in many cities is caused by emissions that are produced from automobiles. Other issues pollute the environment too, such as household waste. However, if you make a few small changes, your contributions will benefit everyone in your community. Save Energy The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that homeowners can lower carbon emissions by using less energy throughout the day. When families leave their lights on, various energy sources are used at power plants, which rely on fossil fuel. To help clean up the environment, invest in a timer that controls your lights and appliances. By using an energy management tool, your devices will shut off automatically whenever the technology senses inactivity. Cooling and Heating Considerations During the winter, keep the thermostat set at a low temperature. In the summer, program the thermostat so that it will raise the temperature whenever you are away from home. If you have an advanced water heater, adjust the temperature to 120 degrees to lower the energy consumption. To conserve heat, ensure that the insulation in your home meets industry standards. Disposal Considerations If possible, try to avoid products that are wrapped in plastic packaging. When packaging material is produced at manufacturing facilities, the production equipment pushes toxic emissions into the air. You can reduce environmental waste and pollution by recycling cardboard, glass, paper, plastic, and aluminum. Paints, solvents, batteries, and pesticides are highly toxic, so you must give these substances to a local waste management facility. If you need to remove waste out of a commercial building or a large home, consider using a recycling service like Lakeshore Recycling. Companies that offer this service deliver containers to various locations. Drive Less Since automobiles emit pollution in the atmosphere, you should try carpooling around the city. According to transportation experts, Americans can save about $1,000 a year by carpooling on a regular basis. When traveling short distances, a bike is the best transportation option because it doesn’t produce any harmful emissions. Boost Your Fuel Economy The EPA reported that if drivers improve their fuel economy by one percent, carbon dioxide emissions will reduce by one percent as well. To lower fuel consumption, do not accelerate and brake quickly on the road. Also, avoid driving at a high speed on busy freeways. If you implement these procedures, less air pollution will generate in the environment.
  4. When the price of gas increases at the pump, there is a lot of speculation as to the reason. Over the years, people have heard several myths as to why prices rise and who is to blame. As a result, there are several misconceptions surrounding this essential commodity. The following is a list of the five most popular myths about the price of gas. Fighting in the Middle East always causes Higher Prices While turmoil in the Middle East seems to be a recurring news story, the fighting may have little impact on the price of gas. The fighting must affect investor sentiment about possible supply disruptions from major oil producers. If the conflict remains contained in a small non-oil producing area, trouble in the Middle East will have little effect on the price of gas. Tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will Lower Prices The Strategic Petroleum Reserve contains approximately a 30-day supply of oil. This small amount is not enough to affect prices long-term. While releasing supply may dampen prices slightly, the added demand required to refill the strategic reserve will cause prices to rise, negating any earlier benefits. The Administration Controls the Price of Oil Whether the president of the United States is a Democrat or Republican, the administration does not control the price of gas. For years, one side of the aisle blamed President Bush and now the other side is singling out President Obama. While domestic energy policies can influence prices, market forces determine the price of gas long term. Oil Companies Produce Less in the spring to cause Prices to rise in the Summer Prices rise in the spring as inventories drop due to refiners switching from winter blends to summer blends as mandated by the EPA. Prices also rise during the summer driving season due to the increase in demand. The American Economy Requires Cheap Gas While inexpensive gas helps consumers save money, the American economy has continued to grow in the face of rising prices. Advanced economies in Europe and Asia have faced significantly higher gas prices than Americans. These economies have continued to grow and produce higher standards of living. Economic factors like current supply and demand as well as investor sentiment about future changes are the main driving force behind the price of gas. When supply and demand are tight and investors believe that the situation will continue, prices rise. When the opposite occurs, the price of gas will fall. Information Credit The information from this article is credited to Fusion Resource LLC.
  5. Which kitchen appliances you should use in order to minimise greenhouse gas emissions is not as straightforward as you would expect. In fact, whether you should choose gas or electric depends completely on where you live and how your local power plant produces electricity. Cooktops As we can see in the below table (courtesy of etool.net.au), gas cooktops yield almost 8 times more greenhouse gas emissions compared to induction cooktops in Sweden, where renewable energy sources produce the bulk of the country’s total energy. In Australia, where coal burning is the major source of electrical energy, cooking with gas cooktops result in about one third of the emissions as cooking with an induction cooktop would yield, even if the transfer of energy is less effective. At the same time, induction and gas delivers instant heat, while electric elements take longer time to heat up to the desired temperature, leading to further wastage of energy, meaning that cooking with a traditional electric element would result in even higher greenhouse gas emissions Ovens When it comes to ovens, it is a similar story, with gas ovens in Sweden resulting in about 4 times higher levels of emissions when compared to an electric oven. In Australian states that rely heavily on coal burning, the use of gas oven result in up to one fifth of the emissions as an electric oven. It is no wonder that gas fitters in Australia have plenty of work on their hands. General tips to save energy when cooking Regardless of your choice of appliances, there are some steps we can all take to minimize energy usage when cooking. Trap the heat Putting a lid on the saucepans will trap the heat in the pan which would otherwise rise up and escape, which can halve the time involved in bringing water to a boil. And when it is first boiling or simmering, a lid on the saucepan will enable you to turn the heat down, saving even more energy. Also ensure that the oven seal is in a good condition and not letting unnecessary heat out, and minimise the amount of times you open the oven door to inspect the food. Size matters Choose the right size saucepan or frying pan for the job. The bigger the saucepan is, the more energy is required to heat the contents. Choose as small as saucepan as you can for the job. Saucepans with flat bases will also have a better connection with the hot plates than a rounded base, meaning that less energy will be wasted. Overcooking Whether you are boiling, frying or roasting, overcooking meat and vegetables does not only reduce the satisfaction of the meal, it wastes energy. Cook your food just right and turn the heat off as soon as you can, and you will enjoy a better meal while saving energy. Consider purchasing a roasting thermometer for roasting meat, to easily check when the meat is cooked to your liking. Microwaves Microwaves use far less energy to cook or heat the food. However, microwaving as a cooking alternative results in less than satisfactorily results in most cases. Though microwaves are great for reheating purposes for some types and food, and also boiling rice.
  6. Debunking the myth of shale gas

    I've recently discussed a report by David Hughes of the Post Carbon institute on my energy blog (see here). The report is called "Drill Baby Drill" and it serves to debunk many of the myths regarding shale gas and tight oil (often referred to as "shale oil"). If you believe the propaganda shale gas / oil "solves" all of the west's energy problems for "a hundred years" (or a thousand years or some other large made up number!)"¦.not so! As this report illustrates shale gas is currently plateauing at an output level of 26 billion cfg/day (about 189 mtoe). Sounds like a lot"¦until you realise that current US gas demand is about 25.4 trillion cfg/yr (or about 60-80 billion cfg/day once you account for seasonal variations). This means that shale gas output within the US can only meet about 37 - 32% of current US gas demand. Total US energy consumption is currently hovering around about 2,200 mtoe. So, neglecting conversion losses and cycle efficiencies (which for certain energy pathways from natural gas to vehicles for example would be significant) you would need to increase shale gas production about 12 fold, just to meet current US domestic energy demand. Now there may be room for more growth, but it's limited. As I've pointed out in a prior post (see "is shale gas a fracking Ponzi scheme?"), many shale gas "plays" are not economic, often being driven more by market speculation than real world gas demand (a number of the same people behind the sub prime crisis have been getting involved in trading in shale gas "plays"). David Hughes suggests that there may be some room for growth in the form of joint gas and oil fracking operations. Even so, it's worth considering that he also notes how the EIA has been gradually downgrading its forecasts for proven reserves of shale gas. The present reserves estimate of 579 trillion cfg would only sustain current production for about two and a bit more decades. Again in reality it's more likely there there might be some further growth in output, before shale gas peaks and enters into a rapid decline. Shale/Tight oil isn't much better. They are a little behind shale gas operations, so further growth is likely. David Hughes estimates, based on DoE and EIA figures, that production will ramp up from a current output of 1.2 milion bbl/day to a maximum of around 2.2 million bbl/day in 2017, before declining sharply (of course I'm for hoping it stops altogether!). As with Shale gas, the oil industry has some wriggle room. They may not reach this high point and sustain less output for longer, or they might overshoot (as with shale gas) and sustain a higher output for less time, but that's about it. Again, 2.2 million bbl/day probably sounds like a lot, until you realise that current US oil demand hovers around 20 million bbl/day (i.e. if Hughes is to be believed the US can only get 11% of its oil needs from tight oil) and global demand is about 80 million bbl/day. It is literally a drop in the ocean, much like the Tar sands I reported on before. And also like those tar sands Shale gas and tight oil both come with a very heavy carbon footprint, many times greater than that associated with conventional fossil fuels extraction. Shale gas, as I discussed in a prior post may be worse than coal. In fact a recent joint study by the LSE and the Grantham Research Institute has pointed out that the bulk of the world's existing fossil fuel reserves are essentially "unburnable" if we want to keep global warming to be below the 2 degrees recommended by scientists. Many billions (about $674 billion last year) are being wasted every year on finding or adding additional fossil fuel reserves which we'll likely never use and thus the companies doing so will never recoup revenue from these operations (again it pretty much meets the definition of a Ponzi scheme). And it's not just the carbon dioxide being released as a result of shale gas production that's the problem. There's also all those nasty chemicals involved in the fracking process and the gas leaking into people's water supply (such that they can actually set their tap water on fire! Watch this video if you don't believe me). In short the advice of the fossil fuel industry to switch from conventional to unconventional fossil fuels is not that far removed from that of a drug dealer telling an addict that the solution to his cocaine addiction is to switch to crack. It is important as green campaigners we challenge this notion of "shale gas will solve all our problems" mantra, for it is tempting certain individuals (particularly those on the political right) to believe that if we just ignore climate change (which we can't) they can still have their SUV in the drive way and air-con on all night and basically maintain business as usual. By way of example, I highlighted a while back how the present UK energy policy is founded on the principle that nuclear power will be cheaply available (actually EDF are looking for a subsidy level that exceeds wind power!) and that natural gas from the UK's shale deposits will be cheap and plentiful. Neither of these conditions are likely to apply. Yet even so several major green energy projects, despite making more economic sense than the Tories obsessions with nuclear and shale gas, have been shelved. The reality is, unconventional fossil fuels are simply not up to the task. While I would accept the argument that the more "pessimistic" peak oil analysts have perhaps underestimated the potential output from these sources, the numbers still do not add up. At best shale gas has bought America maybe a decade or two more of cheap energy addiction. But the come down from the other side of this shale fueled binge is just going to be all that more severe. My advice would therefore be to curtail the use of these sources (if not an outright ban on them) and begin the transition to renewables. Indeed by contrast to America's shale gas splurge Portugal has succeeded in going to 70% on its renewables consistently over the last winter (briefly 100% at times). Another way is possible!