David Kirkpatrick

November 19, 2008

Obama may find new energy initiatives difficult …

Filed under: Business, Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:33 pm

… according to this year’s Energy Pulse study.

The release:

Obama White House to Face Long-Held Consumer Denial and Awareness Hurdles in Realizing New Energy Solutions

Consumers Blame Government, Assume Little Self-Responsibility

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ — As President-Elect Barack Obama prepares to address energy as one of the top issues on the U.S. agenda, his administration will face long-held U.S. consumer denial about personal responsibility in driving energy demand and resulting prices – as well as consumers’ “tailpipe-driven” understanding of energy use and environmental impact.

(Logo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081119/CLW024LOGO )

Despite government reports documenting that consumers now use more electricity than five years ago, Shelton Group’s fourth annual Energy Pulse study reports in a recent survey that 61 percent of consumers deny using more.

Meanwhile, Energy Pulse also reflects widespread economic concern tied to energy use, with 62 percent of Americans indicating they have experienced home utility cost increases of 10-30 percent or more.

“For the first time in four years, we increasingly see economic concerns driving consumer interest in conserving energy,” said Suzanne Shelton, CEO of Shelton Group, an advertising agency that independently sponsors the study.

“However, one thing hasn’t changed since 2005: most Americans don’t view their own consumption behaviors or energy-use demand as having much to do with energy costs,” Shelton said.  In fact, Energy Pulse 2008 finds that less than one-fourth of consumers mention U.S. consumer demand as most to blame for rising energy prices.

“The Obama Administration will be especially challenged in effecting change if the electorate never understands how energy use – and not just tailpipes – impacts the environment and how consumers’ own behaviors are critical,” Shelton said.

While more consumers are becoming knowledgeable about renewable energy, one-third erroneously think cars and trucks are the No. 1 cause of global warming, while only four percent cite the actual primary culprit of greenhouse emissions: coal-fired electric plants, today’s most prominent source to heat, cool and power buildings – largely homes.

For three previous years (2005-2007), Energy Pulse has found that Americans primarily blame the U.S. government for high energy prices.  In response to this finding, Shelton Group expanded this area of the Energy Pulse 2008 study by dividing this query into two different questions: “Who is most to blame for home energy costs?” and “Who is most to blame for rising gasoline costs?”

These dual questions resulted in very different answers.  Americans still primarily blame the U.S. government for high home energy costs (27 percent), followed by U.S. consumer demand (22 percent).  Interestingly, utilities registered far down the list, at 5 percent.

Also of note: most consumers either blamed kids in the home for increased electricity usage or said they did not think they used more electricity because they now had no kids in the home.

Oil companies were thought to be the primary culprits for rising gasoline costs (27 percent). Even so, the U.S. government was the second most common answer, at 24 percent.

Energy Pulse further asked, “Should the government be doing more to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels?”  The overwhelming answer – by 90 percent – was “yes.”

Those who responded affirmatively were then asked “What should the government be doing?”  The top answers were “should invest more in research to find alternatives” (29 percent), “should be more proactive and develop a plan” (16 percent), and “should allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and / or off the U.S. coast” (13 percent).

When asked the primary reason to participate in energy conservation activities or purchases, the top three answers were the same as in 2007 but shifted in order, with saving money No. 1 – again, reflecting more tough economic times:

1.) To save money (ranked No. 3 in 2007)

2.) To protect our environment and save natural resources (remained No. 2 from 2007)

3.) To preserve the quality of life for future generations (ranked No. 1 in 2007)

Energy Pulse 2008(R), by Shelton Group, was fielded to 504 respondents by telephone in September 2008 and has a +/- 4.37 percent margin of error, based on the total number of U.S. households.

Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Shelton Group is an advertising agency entirely focused on energy, energy efficiency and sustainability.  Founded more than 17 years ago by CEO Suzanne Shelton, Shelton Group uniquely understands the consumer mindset as it relates to energy, energy efficiency, conservation and green marketing – based on its portfolio that includes a multi-year range of original consumer research (Energy Pulse, Eco Pulse) and client work for such accounts as BP Solar, Andersen Windows, Vectren Energy, Knauf Insulation and the American Institute of Architects.  Energy Pulse 2008 methodology and other details available upon request.

Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081119/CLW024LOGO
PRN Photo Desk, photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: Shelton Group

August 12, 2008

Green roofs

I might as well stick with a theme here and cover a release on “green roofs.” Green roofing is vegetated, that is covered in plants, to help insulate buildings and collect water.

Certainly a specialty item in the various energy efficiency options, but not quite as hippie-fied as it might seem at first glance. I’m not going to check the specs, but I bet a green roof gets a building LEED points.

This is a release out of the University of Texas at Austin and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The project was sponsored by the City of Austin, Roof Consultants Institute Foundation, Austin Energy, TBG Partners and involved labor donated by local roof contractors.

The release:

Green Roofs Differ in Building Cooling, Water Handling Capabilities

July 28, 2008

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AUSTIN, Texas — The first study to compare the performance of different types of green roofs has been completed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and suggests that buyers shouldn’t assume these roofs are created equal.

 

Interest in vegetated roofs has increased as water and energy conservation becomes more important to property owners. Yet the study of six different manufacturers’ products found the green roofs varied greatly in capabilities such as how much they cooled down a building’s interior and how much rainwater they captured during downpours.

“Just having a green roof may not mean anything in terms of preventing water from reaching the street level, for instance,” said Dr. Mark Simmons, a center ecologist and the lead investigator on the study. “Green roofs have to be done right, and our hope is to help manufacturers understand how to improve their designs.”

Simmons and collaborators published their findings online Friday on the Web site of the journal Urban Ecosystems. The researchers will continue to collect real-time temperature and other data from the study.

Wildflower Center staff designed the first commercial green roof in Austin at the Escarpment Village Starbuck’s. Simmons, center colleagues and Brian Gardiner from Austech Roof Consultants Inc. simulated green roof conditions by studying the manufacturers’ roofs atop metal insulated boxes. The study of 24 experimental roof tops during fall 2006 and spring 2007 at the center suggested a green roof could reduce a building’s air conditioning bills about 21 percent compared to traditional, tar-based black-top roofs.

During one 91-degree day of the study, for example, a black topped box without air conditioning reached 129 degrees inside. Meanwhile, the green roof replicas produced indoor temperatures of 97 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

“That’s a huge difference to have a 20-or-so degree temperature drop,” Simmons said, noting that green roofs’ temperature-lowering capabilities are also believed to double the lifespan of roofing material.

An even greater temperature difference was found on roof surfaces, where black-top roofs reached 154 degrees Fahrenheit on that 91-degree day. By comparison, the soil temperature of the green roofs was between 88 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Part of the rooftop differences, Simmons noted, resulted from the native plants used on the green roofs. Each had 16 different types of plants native to Texas in a similar arrangement as part of this first-ever study of their use on green roofs. The study didn’t directly measure their cooling impact. However, plants cool surfaces by providing shade, and by shedding water to cool down, like humans do by sweating.

States such as Texas that experience flash flooding may benefit even more from the ability of green roofs to capture water, lessening runoff onto streets and storm drains. Yet this feature varied the most among the six manufacturers. The better green roofs retained all of the water during a ½-inch rainfall, and just under half the water when 2 inches of rain fell. Some roofs, however, only retained about a quarter of the water in a light, ½-inch rain and as little as 8 percent during deluges.

The presence of native plants likely helped all the green roofs capture water better. In comparison to sedums, a type of succulents traditionally used on most green roofs, native plants can take in more water and release more of it to the atmosphere. The center will study these factors in future green roof research.

Regardless of those findings, Simmons doesn’t expect to be giving blanket recommendations about green roof manufacturers because of the variability in their products. That variability is the reason that some of the green roofs in the study that captured water well didn’t have the best plant growth, for example.

“After you choose a manufacturer, tell them what kind of plants and what other features you want,” Simmons said. “It’s up to them to then tailor the green roof to your needs.”

Note: This project was sponsored by the City of Austin, Roof Consultants Institute Foundation, Austin Energy, TBG Partners, and involved labor donated by local roof contractors. Learn more about the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.