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"The sage manages affairs without doing anything, and conveys his instructions without the use of speech." - Lao Tzu

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March 3, 2010

Jevons Paradox

Month 2 of my new format featuring a monthly update on me, my community, and "Al Gore's ridiculous global warming theories" (Hannity).

Crow

Remember Katharine Hayhoe that I mentioned in my column last month? Well, I applied to her graduate research program. Perhaps I will finally go to grad school after all this talk about it. My first real application is sent. Keep your fingers crossed.

Otherwise February was a difficult month. We sat around and developed a budget so that I could feel some twinge of guilt every time I buy something. Iíve already used up my whole allotment for March and itís only the 3rd! I need to work more, but my list of clients is dwindling and Iím not spending energy to get new clients because I believe I will be moving to Lubbock in a few months. Classes start August 15.

No garden progress in February, but I did reduce the clutter somewhat by completing some eBay sales. Iíve got to gain some momentum with this minimization project or Iíll be forced to move all this junk a 3rd time.

Community

I didnít put it on my last update because I was still getting started, but I am four lessons in to learning viola, and I love it. In fact, I think Iíll take a little break to practice right nowÖOK Thatís one more cat strangled, nice. Jasper likes it too; he sings and sings, but I think he needs voice lessons.

I havenít always wanted to play the viola, but when Sarah was talking about learning to play the cello, I thought it would be nice if we started playing duets. This way, we could play together and eventually join a community orchestra or something. I had already talked with the church intergenerational orchestra, but after a few lessons I know I need a few more lessons.

I put this under community because I wanted to feature a great local, independent shop here in Houston called the Lisle Violin Shop. Itís near 59 and Kirby on Bissonnet and if you play a stringed instrument, Iím sure already know it, but if you donít and you want to get started, Lisle is the place.

Iím taking my lessons from Carolyn Prindle and she is great. I have taken lots of music lessons, sax, electric bass, classical guitar, electric guitar, and Iíve had four different piano teachers. I know what to expect and what makes a good teacher. Carolyn (Ms. Prindle by her young students) is very good, patient, exacting, and explains concepts well. There is a lot more to playing a stringed instrument than you might think. Iím really just a button pusher with sax and piano as my main axes, and guitars and basses are fretted and donít use bows. Viola is subtle.

Lisle violin shop (http://violins.com/) and Rockiní Robin guitars and surf boards (http://www.rockinrobinguitars.com/) really make Houston livable for musicians. I donít know what the wind players do here, but for guitars and strings these are my picks.

Climate

My climate issue this month is the program that has grown out of ďCash for CaulkersĒ, Home Star. Itís coming out of the Senate

This is their summary:
ďHome Star is a legislative proposal designed to create jobs by providing short-term incentives for residential energy efficiency improvements. The program will drive new private investment into the hard hit construction and manufacturing sectors, while saving consumers money on their energy bills. By building on state programs and existing industry capacity for the retrofits themselves as well as quality assurance, the program will be fast-acting, in addition to increasing consumer awareness of residential energy efficiency.Ē (The United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources March 2010)

My summary is like this:
The government will provide money for homeowners to improve their homes by hiring out-of-work homebuilders.

Genius! We all win. I get my house weatherized at a subsidized cost. American unemployment goes down; you canít outsource the servicing of an existing home. We take a step towards energy independence, lowering our energy trade deficit, particularly with the Middle East. We prepare for the long term by lowering energy bills now and putting in new mechanical equipment that replaces out of date, inefficient heating and cooling. Have you been putting off getting a new Air Conditioner? Well you are in luck; you can have $1500 from Uncle Sam this summer to put in a high efficiency unit, assuming Home Star passes quickly.

The numbers to know are $3000 and 20%. Basically, Home Star provides a $3000 subsidy for home improvements that should save you 20% on your energy bills (heating, cooling, appliances, electronics, hot water, everything all added up).

The small print is that the incentive will not exceed 50% of the cost so you are looking at spending a minimum of $6000 to gain the full incentive, which is about right for most climates. California and the other milder climates may have some trouble meeting the 20% goal because they donít spend as much on heating and cooling. You also have to have an energy audit before you can qualify, thatís where people like me, certified contractors and energy auditors come in and analyze your home using building science.

Detractors of the program donít want to spend $6 billion for anything, especially items that might have been done anyway. Doesnít this market already exist and shouldnít we let capitalism drive the market?

Thatís a fair stance to me if you also take away the incentives to fossil fuels. Why provide an incentive to the Middle East when we could be spending the same money at home? Of course, in true Washington fashion, itís not an exchange of what we intend to subsidize; in fact, the two are not reviewed in conjunction with one another at all. In this case, we are creating a new line item to spend money on with no chance of the federal government seeing a return on the investment.

I am not a fan of overspending. I believe our government should be fiscally conservative and I recognize that all Americans are not going to agree on which programs receive finding and which do not. NASA for example is having its funding cut, which I think, is a mistake, and not just because I happen to live close to where the job loss will occur.

As government programs go, I think Home Star is a great way to spend federal funds. It will promote jobs domestically and ease the burden of utility expenditures on American homeowners. It will move products from stores and that stimulates the economy; some of these products will come from China and other foreign locations, but that is separate issue. The vast majority of product will be cellulose insulation, which is simply reused newspaper. Home Star is not for people that do not own homes; itís targeted to the middle class that seldom catches a break from federal programs.

When I analyze the existing Home Star bill, there are no riders attached to it yet, I find that it is a good idea and should be implemented as a program. Itís not the complete answer to our production of greenhouse gas, but it will reduce our impacts, unless you are familiar with Jevons Paradox.

Crow

Song of the month:

Sometimes I forget what I've used and what I haven't. The truth is that I listen mostly to new music, in fact I listen to two or three new albums every week and some rereleases and other greatest hits of old stuff, but when I put something at the end of a column, it's almost always classic rock. My playlists are different, with lots of new alternative, indie or country. This month I was thinking a lot about how simple the masses are to control. Congratulations on wining the primary, Perry.

     What did you dream?
     It's all right we told you what to dream.
     So Welcome to the Machine

Welcome to the Machine by Pink Floyd. Lyrics by Waters.