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E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Now that hot weather is coming, I want to upgrade my home’s A/C. Which are the most energy-saving models and should I go central air or window units?

                                                                                                               -- Jackie Smith, Cary, NC

Former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister calls for a complete re-think on energy policy.  Hofmeister currently heads the group “Citizens for Affordable Energy.” He says investing in twenty-first century energies is the only stimulus our economy needs.  But that won’t happen, he says, unless private industry takes the reins and government gets largely out of the way.


John Hofmeister - Founder and CEO, Citizens for Affordable Energy and former Shell Oil President.

Vermont editor Tom Butler says no matter how energy efficient we become, there’s a limit to our consumption, even with renewable green sources. Instead, he says, we must recognize the true costs of our relentless search for resources to power perpetual growth. We’ll look at this idea and others presented in a sweeping new book called Energy.


Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

For the most dedicated environmentalists, small scale renewables, right in our back-yard are the gold standard of energy generation. In the final installment of this weeklong look at New Hampshire’s energy future, we consider what a more distributed grid might look like.

Along with smart-grid, micro-grid is the newest buzz word in the energy world. Basically it’s a little island of power lines coupled with its own source of energy, that is still wired into the broader grid. They’re not totally self-sufficient but can generate their own electricity for short bursts when needed.

Eugene Hunt / SustainX

The energy grid is vastly more complicated than it was ten years ago. The old model was to plug in and pay for what you use, but now the grid is starting to ask for something back from consumers. This change is aimed at flatten the demand curve.

Think about how you use electricity: you wake up, turn on some lights, and maybe have a hot shower. After work you come home, cook some dinner, and watch TV. In the winter, maybe you heat with some kind of electric heat, or – even more likely – maybe in the summer you switch on AC.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

New Hampshire’s energy grid relies heavily on fossil fuels like oil and coal, and getting the grid off of those fuels will be a major hurdle in addressing the challenge of global warming.

But here in New Hampshire, it’s proving a steep challenge to get carbon out of the electric supply, without breaking the bank for customers or utilities. But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t trying. As part of a weeklong look at New Hampshire’s Energy Future, we ask what’s being done about CO2?

Efficiency First

Michael Kappel via Flickr CC

Proposed energy projects are causing a stir among New Hampshire lawmakers. Lawmakers will consider a raft of bills that would change how the state considers and approves such installations.

NRCgov via Flickr Creative Commons

Energy is big business and a big issue inextricably linked to politics. Rising gas prices and huge natural gas and oil finds in the U.S. thrust energy into the 2012 presidential arena, but little was said about nuclear power—which supplies about a fifth of America’s power. Although some environmentalists are now advocating for nukes, the question of how to safely isolate existing waste has been plaguing the industry and government for decades.

Donna Hiltz / NHPR

A proposed wind farm in the Newfound lake area has once again raised familiar themes in New Hampsire:  A desire for the Granite state to use more clean energy, versus local concerns over property values, as well as impacts on the environment and tourism.  We’ll re-examine these arguments in light of this new proposal. 



E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How energy efficient (and comfortable) is underfloor heating, sometimes known as radiant heating?                                                                                              -- Marcy Dell, Boston, MA

Underfloor radiant heating involves under laying the floor with a hot element or tubing that transfers heat into the room via infrared radiation and convection, obviating the need for forced or blowing air.

Brand X Pictures

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Has anyone calculated the energy wasted at night by unnecessary lighting in and around buildings? What can we do to reduce our light footprint?       -- Bill Rehkamp, via e-mail

Skating on Ice Made by the Sun

Jul 10, 2012
(Photo by Sarah Reynolds)

As summer hits Cape Cod, out come the fishing rods, sailboats, and…. Hockey pucks?  In Falmouth, Massachusetts, youth hockey leagues and recreational skaters are carving up the ice in a brand new ice rink this month – one that’s powered by summer sunlight.  Independent producer Sarah Reynolds has the story.

Matti Mattila via Flickr Creative Commons


How energy efficient is the Granite State? A new reports says not very, at least in terms of our buildings. Three years after Governor Lynch issued a Climate Action Plan, which included a call for more efficient homes and offices, UNH researchers find the state is way behind where it had hoped to be. We're examining what the problems are, as well as the prospects for future improvement.


Flikr Creative Commons / GraySky

A new report out from the New Hampshire Energy and Climate Collaborative finds that NH may not be doing enough to make homes more energy efficient.

Three years ago Governor John Lynch put forth his climate action plan, a roadmap for how to reduce the states carbon emissions. Number one on the list of strategies: maximize energy efficiency in buildings. But getting homeowners to invest in efficiency has been harder than policymakers had hoped.

The controversial mining method known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", has led to a boom in production of cheap natural gas by getting at what was previously inaccessible pockets of gas contained in shale. Energy companies see it as way to reduce America’s dependence on oil and lower our energy bills, but concerns over environmental safety have others saying we need to slow down and study the issue. We cover all sides of fracking and its potential impacts here in New England. 



E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Renewable energy production in the solar and wind markets currently receives about $7 billion in government subsidies annually, but is still not competitive against fossil fuels on a large scale. To what extent should the U.S. continue to prop up these industries as they compete against dirty energy?-- Jack Morgan, Richmond, VA


Headlines have quieted down on the Hydro-power project called Northern Pass, but efforts to continue and thwart the project are ongoing.  A new study questions the need for Northern Pass’s  hydropower, given low natural gas prices. Meanwhile, there’s been activity  on land purchases in the North Country that could connect the dots for the project’s final route. We will look at that latest news around Northern Pass.


Flikr Creative Commons / Graysky

Two New Hampshire Energy efficiency programs are teaming up to try to weatherize more New Hampshire homes. The Community Development Finance Authority is combining its weatherization program with Public Service of New Hampshire’s.

iStock Photo

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: One of the objections to wind power has been that the turbines can kill birds. Has there been some progress in developing bird-friendly wind power? -- Marcie Mahoney, Boston, MA


Flikr Creative Commons / Claudio Schwarz

Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House and Senate have agreed to try to reform RGGI – the region’s carbon cap-and-trade program – instead of trying to repeal it outright.

The bill that will go to the House and Senate for a final vote would only send around half of the RGGI fund money to energy efficiency programs. The rest would be rebated to electricity rate-payers.

Flikr Creative Commons / Jim.Richmond

Republican are working at finding common language on a bill that would weaken or repeal the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. They will have to agree on a version that will get enough votes to overcome a governor’s veto.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules Wednesday to control the problem of air pollution coming from wells being drilled by the booming oil and natural gas drilling industry.

Currently, waste products from the drilling operations, which include a mix of chemicals, sand and water, can be pumped into open enclosures or pits, where toxic substances can make their way into the air. The new rules will require this fluid to be captured by 2015, and flared — or burned off — in the meantime.

The GOP candidates for president have seized on high gas prices as a line of attack against President Obama, largely saying the answer is more domestic oil drilling.

But GOP front-runner Mitt Romney used to have a position seemingly at odds — at least in emphasis — with what he and the other Republicans are now advocating.

As Massachusetts governor, Romney said high gasoline prices "are probably here to stay," and he advocated policies to cut energy demand.

The rising cost of oil isn't just a hit to the family budget. Businesses are hurt, too. Few are more affected than firms like FedEx. It deploys nearly 700 planes and tens of thousands of trucks and vans every day to deliver packages around the world. And few business leaders are more focused on finding alternatives to petroleum-based fuels than FedEx CEO Fred Smith.

Shortly after Smith founded Federal Express, the 1973 Arab oil embargo almost killed it. The experience imprinted Smith with a keen interest in the price and availability of oil.

A house bill that would consider giving the Public Utilities Commission authority to force PSNH to sell its power plants to open up market competition is getting vocal opposition from business leaders and mayors in the state.

Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier says the move will raise electric rates and scare businesses away from his community.

The price of gasoline keeps rising for Americans, but it's not because of rising demand from consumers.

Since the first Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, the U.S. has struggled to quench a growing appetite for oil and gasoline. Now, that trend is changing.

"When you look at the U.S. oil market, you see that there's actually no growth," says Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

He says gasoline demand peaked in 2007 and has fallen each year since, even though the economy has begun to recover.

Shell Oil plans to explore for petroleum off Alaska's north coast this summer. The native people of Alaska have a big stake in both oil revenue and environmental protection. That conflict has played out in recent trips by Inupiats to Washington, D.C., to argue their case.

Photo by Karen Johnson for Creative Commons via Wordpress

Rising gas prices have again shifted the political debate between those calling for more drilling to meet America's fossil fuel dependency and those advocating for investment in alternative energy sources. Many environmentalists are convinced that we are nearing the day when fossil fuels are tapped out, or too expensive or too harmful to extract.

Fuel Frustrations

Mar 16, 2012

The temperature isn't the only thing that seems to be rising lately in the Granite State, so are gas prices.  The cost of a gallon has gone up by about 20 cents in the last month and it shows no signs of slowing down.  Some are predicting that by the summer we may be paying upwards of 5 dollars for a gallon of gas.  Global energy markets blame harsh weather in Europe, tensions with Iran and a cutback in exports from such countries as Syria, Yemen and South Sudan.  Some suggest that higher gas prices may not only affect the average driver's wallet, but upcoming political races as well, as we

Shell Oil Co. has chosen a site near Pittsburgh for a major, multibillion-dollar petrochemical refinery that could provide a huge economic boost to the region.

Dan Carlson, Shell's general manager of new business development, said Thursday that the company signed a land option agreement with Horsehead Corp. to evaluate a site near Monaca, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.