Hot Spots and Ice Dams
Here’s a suggestion for a fun winter sightseeing sport (thanks, Josh) now that we have as much snow as Duluth, MN – look for Hot Spots and Ice Dams. What are those, you ask? I’m so glad you did!
Hot Spots on roofs are places where the snow has inexplicably melted away, even if there was not extra sun shining on it or a seagull landed there and swept the snow off with its wings. Hot Spots are caused by places beneath the roof that are missing insulation. More heat rises up through that portion of the roof and melts the snow away. Cool huh! I mean … Hot, right?
Ice Dams are frozen chunks of ice formed along a roof’s gutters. These Ice Dams give birth to icicles; those crazy frozen stalactites that your kids will want to break off and hit their brothers with. Ice Dams are caused by several different things, but essentially what’s happening is that water is melting higher up the roof (at the interface of the roof and snow) and running down the roof until it gets to a colder spot near the gutters, where it refreezes. And if you let them stay there, they can eventually melt and drain water directly down INTO your walls, which is really not good.
Hot Spots and Ice Dams (not to be confused with Ice Spots and “Hot Dams!” which are actually on the roads during this ridiculous winter weather!) are not very good things to have. If your house has them you should … wait for it … contact Thurston Energy for a HomePLUS Energy Evaluation! We can help you determine the cause, and hire a contractor to fix your roof. And do it soon – because our low, low $195 price is only guaranteed through January 31, 2012.
In the meantime, you might want to remove those Ice Dams yourself before they get too treacherous. For a complete Master’s Thesis on ways to remove Ice Dams including using panty hose – I am not making this up, as my hero Dave Barry likes to write – follow this link from a guy in Minneapolis. He sort of settles on chipping them off with an ice pick. I’m thinking it would be fun to whack them with a shovel. Or at least whacking the icicles down so I can hit my brother with them.
Thanks for a great year!
So I had these great intentions of writing a fabulous Year-in-Review Blog Post, covering all of the highlights of our program, interspersed with heroic events from 2011 and insightful commentary of global events. But …
I think I just want to keep it simple instead.
Bottom line … I’m really thankful for all of our nearly 700 customers over the last two years. You guys are awesome! The people of Thurston County have really stepped up to understand their energy usage and reduce it in order to save energy, save money, improve their indoor spaces and build a better community.
To say THANK YOU … we’re throwing a huge party on January 30th. The Local Energy Celebration will take place at the Olympia Center from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. with free food, drinks, live music, fun, and plenty of resources from us and our partners and sponsors to help you make even more energy improvements in the new year.
If you’re interested in saving energy and saving money in your business, come early for the Local Energy for Local Business event at 1:30. It will feature keynote speakers from local business success stories, and great opportunities for 2012 to reduce energy use, save money and build your business.
So have a GREAT HOLIDAY BREAK!!
And did you see the picture of the Cyclops Baby Shark they caught? Craziest picture of the year, friends.
What’s Next … Local Energy Convergence!
I get asked a lot what is next for Thurston Energy, since our big grant will be complete soon. I’m happy to announce that Thurston Energy will continue on as the Local Energy Program of the Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC), in collaboration with the Thurston Climate Action Team (TCAT).
To kick off 2012, Thurston Energy is collaborating with the Buy Local Program to hold the first “Local Energy Convergence” in downtown Olympia (at the Olympia Center) on January 31, 2012. Details for this event are just coming together, and there are great opportunities to sponsor, speak, and participate. Please visit the event website: www.localenergynow.org/conference and contact us to get involved.
When I wrote about the notion of Local Energy in my last blog entry, I defined it two ways: human Local Energy is enthusiasm and action for a local cause, and technical Local Energy is energy that is either saved or generated on-site near where it is used. It takes human Local Energy to create technical Local Energy! We’ve been really excited about the positive comments and responses we’ve gotten online and in person. We’ve decided to take that idea all the way into a stand-alone event in order to bring everyone together to examine the issues, discuss alternatives, identify opportunities, and make decisions on specific actions to take in 2012 and beyond.
I really hope you’ll join us and participate! You’ll walk out of there with ways to save more energy and more money in your home or business!
As we wrap up our big Recovery Act funded grant, we’re proud of what our customers have accomplished. Businesses are saving money by reducing their operating costs through their energy efficiency improvements. Homeowners are more comfortable with their homes and their lower energy bills because of their energy efficiency improvements. Local contractors are back to work doing energy evaluations and energy improvements.
So what does the future hold for Thurston Energy?
We appreciate the trust that our customers put in us, as we walk together down the Pathway to Savings. Saving energy is not a one-shot-deal after an energy evaluation … there are new opportunities over time to save energy and save money, and Thurston Energy will continue to work with our customers.
Local Energy Guide Services – In 2012, we’ll be offering Local Energy Guide Services by subscription to homeowners and to business-people. For a modest annual fee, Thurston Energy Savers will get regular educational e-newsletters, ongoing telephone and email support to ask us questions, exclusive discounts and other offers from the contractors on our Vendor Network, and access to great financing through the local credit unions that are Thurston Energy Lenders.
Solar Energy Solutions – Further, Thurston Energy will put more emphasis on solar energy solutions in 2012, as many of our customers have already made energy efficiency improvements, and are excited and ready to move on to solar photovoltaic (PV) or hot water systems as a next step. We have a new program coming that will offer unsecured loans at the rock-bottom interest rate of 3% for PV systems that customers purchase through our network of contractors and credit unions.
Community Solar Education – We will also continue to teach people how to participate in Community Solar projects, where private individuals get together to purchase and own PV systems that are installed on government buildings or properties. In 2012, there will be numerous opportunities to participate in Community Solar projects, as the Cities of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, and Rainier, the Port of Olympia and Thurston County all evaluate and make available some of their facilities. Through our partners, Thurston Energy will strive to help interested citizens learn how to be considered for providing the PV systems for these projects.
Share with Other Communities – We’ve learned a lot over the last two years, and we’re going to share that with other communities as much as we can. The Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC) collaborates with our neighboring counties on a regular basis, and EDC will share the lessons learned from our Local Energy Program. Throughout the State of Washington, communities are struggling to build our local economies, and Thurston Energy will look for opportunities to help other communities create Local Energy Programs to save energy and save money.
TCAT Energy Advisory Committee – Thurston Energy is working here at home with the Thurston Climate Action Team to convene staff leaders and elected officials from Thurston County, Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, Rainier, Port of Olympia, Puget Sound Energy, LOTT Clean Water Alliance, Intercity Transit, The Evergreen State College, Thurston Regional Planning Council, WSU Extension Energy Program, Board of REALTORS, Olympia Master Builders and others to ask and answer the question: “How far and how fast should we pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy in our community?” There are strong economic and environmental benefits to energy efficiency and renewable energy, but they require investment and willpower. This group provides the governmental and community context for saving energy and saving money – and their leadership and actions will set the stage for individual businesses and homeowners to take individual actions to do the same.
Which brings us right back to where we started with the Local Energy Convergence. Because the goal is to have the TCAT Energy Advisory Committee to work on a set of goals related to Local Energy (How far? How fast?) and then everyday people in our community will come together during the Local Energy Convergence on January 31 to answer the question “How do we do it?”.
There are so many great opportunities and so many reasons to pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy … I can’t wait to keep going in 2012!
So let’s get started … visit www.localenergynow.org/conference and contact us about sponsoring, speaking or participating!
Let’s invest in “Local Energy”
There is a path through and solution to today’s economic, environmental, and budgetary challenges. After all the bubbles burst, we wanted to save our money – which is a good start, but collectively we cannot SAVE our way out of a recession. Instead, we need to collectively INVEST our way out of recession. A terrific investment that addresses all of the issues listed above is “Local Energy.”
Local Energy has a double meaning. In a human sense, it means enthusiasm and action for a local purpose. In a more literal sense, it refers to energy that is either generated or saved on site near where it is used. It is an interesting convergence, because it requires Local Energy to create Local Energy!
Creating Local Energy is a great investment. Encouraging and empowering people to take local actions (whether it is buying locally, volunteering, or other things) binds together the local fabric of a community. Putting systems into place that either reduce on-site energy usage or generate power on site generally require hiring a local contractor or purchasing a piece of equipment. This means dollars circulating in the local economy. Investments in Local Energy do not need to be the lowest cost – instead they need to have the greatest economic, social and environmental benefits per dollar invested. To move out of this recession, we can invest our human Local Energy and some funds in Local Energy projects that support local businesses and build local economies. Local Energy empowers communities to work together to make effective investments, leveraging the support and incentives offered by utilities and the state and federal governments.
Here are some examples of high-return investments in Local Energy:
Energy Evaluation and Guidance Services: On-site surveys conducted by expert technicians to identify Local Energy investment opportunities, with follow up assistance in project scoping and hiring contractors
Weatherization: Contractors (or Do-It-Yourselfers) seal leaks in buildings’ walls, windows and insulation
Energy Efficiency Upgrades: Installation of systems like lights, control systems and appliances that give better performance and use less energy
Heat Pumps: Devices that heat or cool indoor environments by concentrating and moving the heat out of or into the ground or the outside air
Individual Solar: Equipment or strategies in individual buildings that use the sun’s energy to create electricity, heat water, or warm indoor air
Community Solar: Multiple community members pool their resources to invest in a single solar system to provide electricity on a municipal site.
These are only a few examples. All of these examples require the human kind of Local Energy to accomplish, because they require some effort and focus by individuals and community members. All of these involve investing some funds in supplies, equipment, and installation labor. All of these can be supplied locally within communities, and will have multiplier effects within local economies, as the money circulates. All of these pay positive dividends to the owners of the systems over time in the form of reduced utility energy bills. All of these contribute to national energy security and reduced dependence on foreign oil. All of these reduce emissions. All of these are part of larger solutions.
Distributed: Energy savings and on-site generation are distributed or spread across many locations, creating benefits for each site. Likewise, human Local Energy is spread throughout communities.
Open: Anyone and everyone is able to create Local Energy, work with or for others to do so, and reap the benefits.
Transparent: The purposes behind Local Energy are clear, and strategies, successes, and lessons learned are shared for everyone else’s benefits.
Collaborative: There is no monopoly or competition for Local Energy – it is an abundant, renewable resource that can be created everywhere and therefore community partners can work together.
Efficient: Energy not purchased is money saved and Local Energy created.
Smart: Creative, effective, appropriate solutions reign in Local Energy, and ever-faster advances in IT systems are empowering automatic and user-based control systems to boost efficiency.
Clean: Lower fossil energy usage, better equipment and higher usage of renewable energy strategies mean lower emissions.
We can use the notion and framework of “Local Energy” as a foundation for economic recovery, local community revitalization and sustainability all at the same time. At its core, investments in Local Energy pay off immediately to society in terms of economic development, and pay off over time to their owners in terms of energy savings. Local Energy builds resilience in local communities as they use less energy overall, and a higher percentage of energy comes from local sources. When we use our human Local Energy to pull together, work together, and do business together, we rebuild our own communities, and are empowered to take responsibility for our future. Local Energy can be created anywhere, and is completely customizable to fit local resources and local needs. Outside investments from states, the federal government, utilities, private foundations and private investors can match the local investment of individuals, municipalities, non-profits and local businesses to create Local Energy.
So what now? PLEASE COMMENT on this post! Do you agree or disagree? How are you tapping into Local Energy in your community? We can drive Local Energy in our own homes, our own businesses and our own communities. We can use human Local Energy to ask the state and the feds to match our efforts! This is open, transparent collaboration … so please share your ideas!
Customer Experience Drives Program Results
For us at Thurston Energy it has always been about the customer experience. We are trying to make a positive impact in people’s lives by helping them use less energy, save money, be more healthy and comfortable, and make great investments in their homes and buildings. Today we’re releasing the results of our 2010-2011 Program Analysis and it’s great to see how much our customers have accomplished – 45% of homeowners went on to make improvements after their energy evaluations, and folks are now expected to save an average of $300 per year on energy costs as a result. And they’ve told us that the experiences they had with Thurston Energy led them to that success, which is humbling and gratifying for me and the entire Thurston Energy team.
The customer experience begins with how you learn about the opportunity of participating in our program. We try to get the word out through a whole host of marketing activities, from web, email, Facebook and Twitter to radio spots, door hangers, and personal conversations. We try to answer all the questions and provide all the reasons to get an energy evaluation and reduce energy usage, but ultimately, customers need to decide on the value for themselves, and take the initiative to sign up for the service.
The HomePLUS Energy Evaluation is itself a unique experience. When you walk around with the technician with the blower door running and feel the air rushing in through the cracks, you literally experience air infiltration. When you look at the screen of the thermal imager and see the blue color of cold spots, you experience the lack of insulation. When you ask the technician questions and get answers based on their years of experience combined with what they just learned in the house, you experience a knowledge of your home that you could not get any other way. When Thurston Energy staff follows up with a phone call and email a few days later to assist in the selection of follow-on measures and contractors, you experience the genuine desire of our non-profit organization in seeing you make investments that will use less energy, save money, make your home more comfortable and improve your indoor air quality.
In short, we believe that customers follow through because they experience the reasons why they are uncomfortable and unsatisfied with their home’s energy performance, they are empowered with solutions and how to achieve them, and we walk with them along the Pathway to Savings.
Thurston Energy is at an interesting time, as are all of the Recovery Act funded programs across the state and region. We’ve come a long way, and can now measure and describe the results of our efforts. Even as we’re excited to share these results, we’re facing the fact that our federal funding will essentially run out in February of 2012, and we’re working on lining up new funds from a variety of sources and designing a new line up of services to sell to customers. More than anything, we are seeking to improve customer experiences. So I ask for your support as we re-make ourselves for 2012 and beyond. This experience has only just begun, and we’re building the future today.
3 Ways to Go Solar
This Saturday, go check out the South Sound Solar Tour! 19 sites filled with possibilities.
As a Thurston Energy Saver, you have already taken steps to reduce your energy usage (right?!). Now that you’re already eating your “energy efficiency vegetables”, it’s a good time to look at your “solar energy dessert”!
Solar energy works in Western Washington for a couple of really important reasons, and it comes in several packages.
Why Solar Works in Western Washington
Even though we don’t have tons of sun here in Western Washington, solar works because: 1) solar panels still produce electricity even when it is overcast (just not as much); 2) solar panels are connected to the electricity grid, so that when we do have full sun, extra electricity that they generate gets poured into the bigger system; 3) PSE pays a “Production Credit” of up to 54 cents per kilowatt hour for all the electricity that customers’ solar panels generate; and 4) in addition to the Production Credit, we have “Net Metering” which means that the electricity generated onsite by solar panels offsets the cost of the electricity that you use in your home – if you generate more electricity with solar panels than you use at home, your electric meter literally runs backwards!
The Whole Cake: Solar Panels on your Home or Business
Dreaming about your own panels? There are lots of choices! There are 13 different houses on the South Sound Solar Tour, with a variety of different approaches to solar. Some have panels on their houses … some have panels on their pergolas … some have panels mounted on poles in the yard that spin to track the sun. Some have small systems that just pick up part of the load, and other houses are close to being net zero energy users. So take the Tour, and go look at all the different options!
Just a Slice: Join a Community Solar Project
Want to own part of a solar system that is not installed on your property? You can … really! It’s called “Community Solar.” The Olympia Farmer’s Market, where the Solar Tour kicks off, has a nifty new 37 kilowatt (that’s BIG) solar system on its roof that you might have noticed this summer. Here’s the kicker: The Farmer’s Market and the City of Olympia (who owns the building), DON’T OWN the solar system. A group of private citizens own the solar system and give the electricity to the Market! Why? Because it was a good investment once you factor in the Production Credits and tax depreciation and tax breaks associated with installing and operating a solar system. Another big Community Solar system is being planned for the new Hands On Children’s Museum, and it got a big write up in the Olympian last weekend. There will be many opportunities in the near future to participate in Community Solar Projects, so let Thurston Energy know if you’re interested in learning more.
I Want it NOW: Flip the Switch to Green Power
If you really want solar and other renewable energy to run every appliance in your home, and you want it NOW and want the easiest and cheapest way possible, we can get that for you IMMEDIATELY! Wait for it … Flip the Switch to Green Power. PSE offers Green Power through your utility bills. For just a few dollars extra per month, you can assure that all of your electricity is offset by PSE’s purchase of renewable energy, either solar, wind or biomass (cow power!). The cities of Olympia and Lacey have a campaign going … if 1,011 new customers Flip the Switch to Green Power, PSE will donate a solar system to each city to go in a public space for everyone to see and celebrate. And if that’s not enough, you will also be automatically entered into a sweepstakes for $10,000 towards a new solar system of your very own. Wow, you really can have your cake and eat it too!
So no matter how you slice it, a solar “dessert” sure sounds delicious! Solar power is a great longer term investment in clean energy, energy security, and cost savings. So check out the South Sound Solar Tour and enjoy your just desserts!
Sustainable and Resilient: Getting from Point A to Point B
We hear a lot about being “Sustainable”. Most of us have some vague notion about that meaning living our lives without using up too many resources so that people in the future can live good lives too. When I think about sustainability, I think not only about those distant relatives seven generations from now … I wonder what it will take just for US to make it through the next 10, 20 or 40 years. That is where the concept of being “Resilient” comes into play alongside the notion of being sustainable … as resources get scarce and changes happen without warning, how do we continue to live productive, meaningful and steady lives?
In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined Sustainable Development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Back in 1987 (when Guns ‘N’ Roses released Appetite for Destruction, one of the greatest musical achievements of all time, in my humble opinion), practically no one wondered if there would be enough gasoline or electricity or wheat to go around. Sure, there was lots of income and wealth disparity, there were “have’s” and “have nots”, but no one thought we were pushing up against any limits to growth or that natural resources or natural systems had any scarcity.
Today, we’ve got green this and green that and rainforest certified toothpicks and soup spoons made out of corn starch that you can eat when you’re done with your Chunky Noodle. Everyone is thinking about green and sustainable, whether or not they are actually taking it seriously. Gasoline prices spiked above $4 a gallon more than once, and hang out north of $3.50. American muscle cars are beaten off the line of stoplights by Japanese hybrid electric cars that are practically silent instead of throaty, growling things. Meanwhile, “Global Weirding” has left the pages of Thomas Friedman’s books, made a devastating stop in New Orleans, and now hurricanes are cancelling Broadway Shows (hurricanes are NOT supposed to hit New York, people!). Slash is still wearing his black top hat and rockin’ out, but don’t get me started on where Axl Rose has slid down to.
The point is that we’re living it right now and those “future generations” that we’re supposed to ponder and pity and maybe save some scraps for might be our own kids or maybe even our own selves in a decade or two.
Which brings me to being Resilient. In this context, “Resilience” is a term that comes out of Ecology, and refers to the extent to which a system is able to withstand unexpected shocks or disturbances without being thrown off or losing its functionality. A resilient business is one that is energy efficient, has diversified revenue streams, multiple suppliers, back-up systems, and disaster preparedness plans in case of catastrophes like natural disasters, computer hackers, or vicious competitors. A resilient government is one that has evacuation plans, local food supplies, a vibrant local business and cultural scene, and engagement with people so that they can respond to whatever the world comes up with next. A resilient person is one who rolls with the punches, or who can effectively adapt to a new situation, or even read a blog entry written by a so-called professional who likes to reference completely random things like hard rock bands without completely losing the thread of the points being made.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an alarmist. I just want to make sure that we can collectively make it from Point A to Point B. Sustainability is great. By all means, let’s preserve resources for future generations. And at the same time, let’s make sure that we can continue to function well and without interruption on our way to those future generations.
Yes, Deloris … This IS a good time for Energy Improvements
I get asked this question a lot: “With the economy so bad … do you think this is a good time for people to spend money on their houses?” And I love to flip this one on its head and give the answer that the asker just doesn’t expect: “That makes this the BEST time to do it.” Really? Yes.
In a time of double-dip recession fears, bursted bubbles, and roller coasting stock markets, it’s good to have something you can count on. Making improvements in your home or business are reliable and productive investments. We can predict the energy savings and therefore money savings that they’ll have. But it goes so much further than that.
Are you comfortable in your home, or does it have cold spots or maybe entire rooms that are chilly? You could call Ghostbusters, but I think you’ll be better off calling Thurston Energy so that we can find the spots that are missing insulation and leaking air to the outside. Finding these areas with high-tech diagnostics and then solving them with low-tech insulation and air-sealing is our specialty. That investment in your home just made you more comfortable and happy, even as it reduced your energy bill.
Back to the economy … think you’re going to sell your house soon, or maybe you’re going to be there a few more years? It’s a tough time to sell a house. A lot of folks are staying in their homes. In that case, an investment to improve comfort is a timely one that you’ll enjoy.
How about your business? Could you stand to knock a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand dollars a month off of your operating costs? Maybe that would mean the difference between keeping all of your staff or letting someone go during a time when sales are not exactly booming. During the down times, business owners need to pull back and save money where they can. If you’re a small business owner and you’re still using those thick T-12 bulbs you NEED to take advantage of rebates and get those lights upgraded to high efficiency T-8’s. They’ll pay for themselves in less than two years, or you can even work through our credit union partners to finance them with no money up front.
If you look at it from the big picture, the way that we’ll get out of this economic hardship as a community is by making good investments, and keeping our dollars local. Energy efficiency improvements are good investments that pay us back and use local people to make installations. It’s practically your patriotic duty to make your place more comfortable and less expensive! Ain’t it grand?
So yes! This is the best time to make energy efficiency improvements! They make our homes and offices more comfortable and less expensive to operate … they pay us money back over time … they build our local economy … and they don’t crash or pop like the markets or the bubbles.
Back to School Sales ALREADY??
A couple of weeks ago, on the first nice and warm sunny day of the “summer”, I walked into a store with my family and saw a banner hanging from the ceiling covered with giant pencils, back-packs, jeans and pocket calculators. “A Back to School Sale ALREADY” I whined. “But summer just started TODAY!” In that moment I was an annoyed 12-year old boy again, dreading the return of school, instead of the responsible Dad of two that I was supposed to be. Naturally my 8 and 6 year old kids picked up on it instantly and repeated my refrain (which they’ve done every Saturday shopping trip since then, much to my wife’s chagrin). By now it’s approaching mid-August which seems like a tolerable time to start back-to-school planning and shopping in my opinion, but I still feel like summer just started and we’re being cheated on this side of the mountains of all the fun, sun, sweat, and sunburn that the rest of nation has been experiencing. But I’m not (only) writing about this to complain. Like it or not, we’ve got 3 or 4 weeks left, and then it’s back to school and back to business. Are you ready to get serious again?
I think in many ways adult life still reflects the kids’ school year. Weather cooperating or not, we find time over the summer to get away and do fun things … take driving trips to the mountains or the beach … take the kids to summer camp … catch the big sequel at the movie theater and end up with yet another pair of those black plastic 3-D glasses like the ones that Uncle Mortimer wears in your old family scrapbooks. But roundabout mid-August we get that feeling that real life is going to start again sometime around the corner. Our bosses want to collect our budgets for next year, and we have sales targets, and the Fall Season is getting ready to hit. If you’re like me, you’re already into the planning phases, getting ready for the rollout, even between trips to the ice cream shop for chocolate dipped cones (oh, and the kids’ get them too).
So it’s about time to get serious, folks!
Did you know that doing an energy upgrade in your home not only saves money, but also makes the house more comfortable, less drafty, with cleaner indoor air and a more steady, reliable temperature? It seems to me that the closing days of summer or first days of Fall (defined as the first couple weeks of Johnny’s new school year) are the ideal ones to either get your HomePLUS evaluation process going, or to get around to making those upgrades that you already know you need to do. Because you know that you’re just going to get busier once October hits … so why wait any longer? Give us a call (360-528-2112) or fill out our form online, and we can help you along the Pathway to Savings. Who knows … the money you save on energy bills might even pay for that new pencil case, crayons and DSi your kids need for school.
A Tale of Two Aircraft
Early this morning in Florida (July 21, 2011), the final NASA shuttle mission ended with Atlantis touching down on the landing strip beneath the stars of a clear pre-dawn sky. NASA will not launch another space shuttle, but will catch rides into space for astronauts and equipment on other countries’ and companies’ rockets for the time being. Meanwhile, In Western Washington (where we’d LOVE to have a clear pre-dawn sky this summer, just ONCE!), Boeing got mixed news as a result of winning a bid for 200 new 737 aircraft from American Airlines that will feature a redesigned, energy efficient set of engines. Boeing had been planning to phase out the 737 and design a completely new aircraft, but the marketplace, and their competitor Airbus forced their hand.
Could this be a tale of two aircraft?
Both the space shuttle and the 737 were scheduled for retirement. The space shuttle has reached its official retirement. The 737 just got extended for many more years. What is the biggest factor at work here? I believe that my knowing nothing about aero-space engineering or the inner workings of either company makes me an expert with a unique perspective that I will dare to share with you now … high cost of operation was the key factor.
According to NPR, the cost of lifting cargo into space on the shuttle costs around $10,000 per pound. Private space flight operators are trying to drive that cost down to $2,000 or even $1,000 per pound. On the airlines side, the sticking point for the new single aisle planes that American is buying for their flight is the fuel efficiency of the engines. Airbus’ new plane is more fuel efficient, and even though Boeing wanted to redesign the whole airframe of the craft, it came right down to how much fuel the planes will use, not the smoothing of curves on the body.
If you’ve flown in an airplane lately you know that cost is a big factor for those carriers. Luggage costs extra to send through the baggage compartment. Snacks cost money. Headphones cost money. What’s next? Are they going to start charging for water and the air to breathe? But if you think it’s bad being a passenger on an aircraft, just wait until we’re passengers on space craft. Can you imagine the Russian ticketing agent saying to the American astronaut: “I’m sorry sir, you’ll need to pay our surcharge of $250,000 for that 25 pound carry-on. Would you like to use your credit card?” I guess the upside of that is he’ll get points on his credit card toward buying those new Moon Boots (see June 23rd blog post).
But before this blog post flies completely out of orbit, I’ll just wrap up … high fuel costs are everywhere. Whether you’re talking about homes, offices, automobiles, airplanes, or space ships, it is costing more money to use energy. So before we fly off the handle, let’s realize that energy is only getting more scarce and expensive, and get a hold on how we use it.