« Ethanol Updates | Main | Best Line of the Week »

When Energy Cutbacks are Frightening

Via TJIC:

Harvard plans to sharply reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years, Drew Faust, the university president, said.

The initial, short-term goal for the university will be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from a 2006 baseline by 2016, Faust said yesterday in a statement.

In the winter of 1990, my Harvard-owned apartment had its heating fail.  I called the administration for weeks before anyone would show up to look at it.  By this time, I actually had ice on the inside of my window panes.  Walking into my freezing apartment, a maintenance guy placed a thermometer in the center of my room, and then just stood there staring at it for 5 minutes.  At this point he had not asked me about my problem, nor looked at anything remotely connected with the heating system.

He suddenly sprung into action, looked at the thermometer, and started to walk out of the room.  "Wait," I said.  "What is wrong?  Do you know how to fix it?"  The Harvard maintenance guy says "Your room is only 53 degrees -- by state law we don't have to do anything unless it is below 50.*"  And then he walked out, with me screaming at his back.  Only when I sent a letter to the University, copied to the fire marshal, explaining that all was well because I found the room stayed pretty warm if I kept the oven on "broil" 24 hours a day and left the oven door open all the time, did I get any action to fix my heating.

It is scary to think that a university so reluctant to spend any money on heating rooms even 20 years go now wants to reduce its energy use by 30%. 

Of course, we all know how these things work:  creative accounting.  The Enron guys were saints compared to the accounting games played in the carbon accounting and offset world.  Harvard will probably say that "Well, we were planning to build a massive coal-powered electricity plant right in the middle of Harvard Yard, and by cancelling the project, we have reduced our emissions 30% over what they would have been and therefore made our goal.  Don't laugh - the UN and EU are doing EXACTLY this every day.

* Note that I cannot remember the exact legal standard quoted to me, but I think it was 50.

Posted on July 9, 2008 at 11:37 PM | Permalink

Comments

"Only when I sent a letter to the University, copied to the fire marshal, explaining that all was well because I found the room stayed pretty warm if I kept the oven on "broil" 24 hours a day and left the oven door open all the time, did I get any action to fix my heating."

Damn! That was inspired. :-D

Posted by: Frederick Davies | Jul 9, 2008 11:53:30 PM

Sounds right--that's what it was when I went through bootcamp.

Posted by: Foxfier | Jul 9, 2008 11:59:45 PM

Clarifying: the tipping point of 50 degrees.

That's a LOT colder when you've only got one of those stupid little green wool blankets...

Posted by: Foxfier | Jul 10, 2008 12:07:47 AM

FD - sounds like you went through boot camp with me! 20 below, windows open, radiators full heat (Great Lakes, Navy, 1967)

Warren, outstanding response. Love it.

Posted by: John Moore | Jul 10, 2008 10:38:38 AM

Wow! The broiler trick ! :)

My roommate and I did that with our school run apartment. We had setup an elaborate system of fans to pipe the hot air out of the kitchen, down the hall, and to the bedrooms.

In a twist of irony, I was staying in my apartment after we were supposed to leave for Christmas break and I was using the same technique when all of a sudden the fire alarms started going off. I thought I was screwed, but it turned out that they were just testing alarms in the building and the maintenance guy was surprised to find me in the room, although he didn't care, so I just stayed there.

It was from the funny looks that I got from him regarding the fans that I revealed how I had been using the broil to heat the apartment. He walked over to our circuit box and flipped the furnace circuit breaker back on. LOL!!!

Posted by: Rob | Jul 10, 2008 10:40:53 AM

For every 1 maintenance problem that saves energy, there are probably a dozen that waste energy, all being ignored with equal dedication by that lazy (probably union) maintenance guy. With your background in economics, I imagine you can identify with the various incentives problems in place in this sort of situation. Harvard will probably end up spending .00001% of it's massive endowment on carbon credits and call it a done deal.

The most substantial change that would have affected you: Under the new regime, use of the broiler will be strictly policed.

(In California, the air commission just declared it has the power to forbid you to fire up your own fireplace on certain days)

Posted by: SuperMike | Jul 10, 2008 2:53:57 PM

Harvard will get the system for free and probably make a tidy profit.

Kerry and Kennedy will supply earmarks, Mass. will supply subsidies, and the usual suspects - alumni and companies will be solicited for another great cause.

They aren't going to spend their money.

Posted by: k | Jul 12, 2008 6:00:16 PM

Harvard will get the system for free and probably make a tidy profit.

Kerry and Kennedy will supply earmarks, Mass. will supply subsidies, and the usual suspects - alumni and companies will be solicited for another great cause.

They aren't going to spend their money.

Posted by: k | Jul 12, 2008 6:00:42 PM

Harvard will get the system for free and probably make a tidy profit.

Kerry and Kennedy will supply earmarks, Mass. will supply subsidies, and the usual suspects - alumni and companies will be solicited for another great cause.

They aren't going to spend their money.

Posted by: k | Jul 12, 2008 6:00:49 PM

Sorry for the triple post. I don't believe I caused it but I can't offer any other explanation either.

Posted by: K | Jul 12, 2008 8:54:30 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.