Tuesday, July 3

Now We Know

The first Cheney-related scandal of this administration wasn't the claim that the VP's office is exempt from the records-keeping of the executive branch, but was entitled to the executive privilege of that branch; it wasn't the outing of an undercover agent; or hiring a platoon of former buddies to run a war at inflated prices. It was, in fact, the list of attendees to a meeting in the VP's office to discuss the administration's energy policy. A list that to this day is officially secret.

But a scathing investigative report in Rolling Stone, posted on June 20th, lays bare what we have long expected. Mr. Cheney sold out our nation's future, our ability to handle global warming in a sensible and measured way, to corporate interests lobbying for inaction. I can't do the report justice, but RS has a brief summary slideshow here.

So, now we know. We know that global warming is real and the Bush administration knows it and the fossil fuel industry takes it seriously enough to shut up the scientists researching it. Now we know that the past 6 years of delay haven't been a time of thoughtful analysis of the facts in order to come up with a national response. It has, in fact, been a last-ditch effort by the oil industry to get us to buy a few more gallons of gas before they ride off into the sunset.

The information here isn't new. All that's new is the acknowledgment that we aren't crazy. We really have been getting two deliberate messages on global warming. So, what do we do? One possibility is to do exactly what the industry has been working so hard to keep us from doing: buy the absolutely smallest car you need, with the highest gas mileage, and fill the seats with as many butts as you can. Exchange the freedom to impulse shop or eat for the freedom to put your money into paying off your mortgage, buying organic food, and talking with your family and friends.

Oh, and the freedom to make jokes about what people who are commuting in their SUV's are compensating for. ;-)

Monday, July 2

20 Degrees Fahrenheit

First, apologies for the unintentional vacation. I got a bit overwhelmed.

100-degree days are now here on the western edge of the prairie. The house continues to feel cool as long as it gets a chance to cool off overnight (fans) and we get it closed up by 7:30 a.m. or so. I was curious about what the difference actually is and so got a cheap thermometer last week. It turns out that my house can sustain a 20-degree difference from the outside. Which can mean that on a 95 degree day, it can actually be a bit nippy inside. But I'm not complaining. ;-)

The curious thing is that I'm also getting the opportunity to experience my HVAC-controlled building without the HVAC. (As my granddad used to say, the more complex it is, the more there is to break.) This building can't hold a cool temperature. I am sitting with the overhead lights off with one flourescent bulb on over my sholder and ambient light from north-facing windows. My computer is a laptop and my screen is an LCD. There are two other people in my suite today. Half an hour ago, the AC quit, but the fan is still running. We have gained more than 10 degrees in those 30 min and I'm guessing we're now in the mid 80's. Which makes my office, which has used HVAC most of today, hotter than my house which was air-cooled last night and had the windows and drapes closed about 7 am this morning.

This says a couple of things to me. First, we are using a lot of machinery that creates heat in the HVAC system and trying to cover it with a layer of cooling. Second, this building wasn't built to hold a 20 degree difference. Which makes very little sense. We spend a third of our lives at work, why wouldn't we make the buildings that happens in more efficient rather than less efficient than homes?

A couple of years ago, I took a day like today off of work and visited the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Visitor Center in Golden, Colorado. The Visitor Center is in an office building built for our conditions. And without AC, it was pleasantly cool there. To read more, click here: NREL Building Research.

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.