Parks Associates Blog

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Renewed Energy Emphasis and Interesting Areas to Watch

It's certainly heartening to hear business and government officials address the country's energy and environmental needs. President Bush's State of the Union Address from Tuesday night included proposals for increased funding for renewable and alternative energy sources, increasing fuel efficiency requirements for cars and light trucks, and an emphasis on domestic fuel production.

At the same time, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that business leaders - including those from industry heavyweights DuPont, Entergy, and Exxon-Mobil - are at least talking about ways to structure any potential policies regarding energy and the environment.

The White House provided a Fact Sheet: Strengthening America's Energy Security and Improving the Environment to accompany the President's speech. In the paragraph discussing President Bush's "Twenty in Ten" plan to "Reduce U.S. Gasoline Usage By 20 Percent In The Next Ten Years" is language that appears to link greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) to climate change (such as global warming). Now, there is certainly room for disagreement on the amount to which human actions are responsible for global warming. With that being said, I think that there exists plenty of room for consensus regarding the country's basic needs when it comes to energy security, growth of renewable and alternative fuel sources, and environmental stewardship.

With energy issues in the forefront, it was interesting to be channel-flipping last night and come across The History Channel's Modern Marvels, which covered "Environmental Tech." From an electrical generating plant in Arizona that uses algae to reduce its CO2 emissions to new office construction in New York City that focuses on reducing water and electrical consumption to home building using recycled and sustainable materials, the show's emphasis was really on the practical ways in which companies and industries are not only increasing energy efficiency and focusing on environmental protection, but also building some potentially lucrative businesses. For example, the algae growing on the power plant's CO2 can be sold for a variety of manufacturing and energy-creating applications.

So, what impact may a renewed energy awareness have on consumers? Certainly, "green building" practices are one area in which consumers may begin to be impacted, in having some new and different options for considering alternative home building materials.

Also, our recently-released report - FTTx and BPL: Analysis and Outlook - discusses the role of broadband-over-powerline solutions for "smart grid" initiatives such as meter reading and outage detection. There may also be a role for BPL in more widespread energy management functions such as load shedding (sending a signal to a willing customer's home to increase or decrease the setting on their thermostat, depending on peak power consumption).

Here's hoping that 2007 will see some business acumen applied to policy decisions when it comes to energy and environmental issues. And, at the very least, maybe each of us will either increase or begin some of our own energy conservation practices like using compact fluorescent light bulbs and making sure that the tires on our car are properly inflated. As Lao-tzu wrote, "The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."

Semi-technical thought of the day: Why do I find my two-tuner DVR already obsolete on Thursday nights, when I have three programs to record, all on at the same time? Thank goodness for the Media Center PC and its two additional tuners.

Completely non-technical thought of the day: If a radio station is going to play The Doors' "Light My Fire," my request is that they play the entire Ray Manzarek organ interlude. It's cheesy to shorten the song for radio play. Same goes for Elton John's "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding." C'mon folks, embrace the rock epic!

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