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Where are our National Leaders?

July 25, 2011 - So: how do you like living in a world of human-induced climate change? Have you wondered what it would be like, once climate change really "kicked in?" I know I have. This, of course, is only the beginning. It's going to get much worse. The folks at the Weather Channel keep telling us this is a Heat Wave With a Difference. That's because of its historic wide-spread occurrence over much of the nation. That, and one more thing: the very high levels of humidity accompanying the heat.

The humidity is so high because hot air can hold more water than dry air can. The hotter the air gets, the more water it can hold! Here comes the remarkably bad news - all that water in the air acts as a greenhouse gas (GHG). It keeps heat from reflecting back into space. Where does that leave us? In a terribly difficult situation. The Gulf of Mexico's sea surface temperature (SST) is higher than ever, and that causes increased evaporation. There's the water. Air temperatures are even warmer than the water. There's the hot air. Talk about a vicious cycle: the air heats up because of all the carbon in the atmosphere, the oceans heat up for the same reason, the hot air holds more and more of the increasingly available water vapor, which acts as a GHG, thereby increasing the temperature of - everything. Get the picture? Until we stop dumping carbon dioxide, along with other GHG's, into the atmosphere, the air will only get hotter and hold more water. Scientists call that a feedback loop.

If only our government leaders would set this nation on the path of renewable energy! One bit of good news emerging from the scorching temperatures is that the power grid - the means for conveying energy (to run all those air conditioners!) - is holding up beautifully. According to the July 22 issue of the Christian Science Monitor, part of the reason for this is the economic slowdown. As businesses have either decreased their production or shut their doors, they have obviously decreased their energy usage. This has left us with reserve grid capacity.

In addition, while our national "leaders" have been piddling and diddling, the states have stepped up to the challenge of reducing energy usage and increasing energy efficiency. Twenty-six states have set mandatory energy-saving targets. Nine states have already reduced their usage by one percent. California and Vermont - no slackers they! - have each reduced their usage by ten percent. While I don't know what Ohio's standing is where energy efficiency is concerned, I do know that my husband and I replaced our builder-provided HVAC system with an Energy Star model. The feds provided a discount (thank you, President Obama), and so did the seller. We've turned the thermostat up during the day for a long time, though now, with two pets, it sits at 76 degrees. The new furnace/air conditioner has made a much-appreciated difference in our gas and electricity bill!

Then there's the smart grid that's been installed in parts of the nation. It incorporates "smart meters, dynamic pricing, smart thermostats and smart appliaces, automated control of equipment, real-time and next day energy information feedback to electricity users, usage by appliance data, and scheduling and control of loads such as electric vehicle users, home area networks (HANS), and others." (Wikipedia) All these tools and strategies allow the system to anticipate usage and adjust accordingly, directing energy where it is most needed.

The article also alludes to something called demand-response. This has been inaugurated by the utilities. Businesses that participate permit their energy provider to supply them with slightly less energy, called "nega-watts," for which the business is paid. Residents of Ohio participate in a similar program being offered to households. The reduction in energy supply isn't evident to the user, but the benefits are enormous, once enough businesses - or households - sign on. So far, 40,000 megawatts have been saved. That's the equivalent of 40 nuclear power plants!

There's plenty of good news out there - excellent, in fact. Think how much better the news would be if Washington would wise up and pass legislation that supports the development of renewable energy!

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