I talk to the head of the Building Decarbonization Coalition about the many technical, political, and financial challenges involved in decarbonizing tens of millions of American homes -- including, yes, ^$*! gas stoves.
Offer a guarantee with the induction stove. Offer 90-day test drives. Free stoves. My wife/cook and I adapted to induction over a few days of use. Wouldn't go back.
Great discussion, thanks.
A friendly critique of Panama's comment about renewable and green hydrogen. here is the exchange I am referring to:
Do you feel confident saying that, in the end, nowhere in the United States will need liquid fuels for heat? You think electrification is going to do it everywhere?
I'd say that for buildings, not necessarily for industrial, or transport. That is a hard decision that we need to make immediately: if you look at trash gas, or cow-crap gas, the rainbow of hydrogens — these are all precious, and they're all expensive. Is the highest and best use of that gas in my moderately efficient water heater in my basement? Or should we be spending it in those areas where it is going to be hard to electrify for the foreseeable future, such as industrial purposes, freight, aviation? That's just a better use for it.
I wish he would have added something to the effect of: Biomass, trash, sewage processing (anerobic digestion) are technologies that can concentrate the energy value of the bulky source. Their use to for industrial, freight and aviation fuels will be important and higher value that for his water heater, but the transition is going to take 10-15 years and we have to build the capacity to produce renewable gas and use it nearby before the larger plant to produce those other fuels matures. We are also going to need a portion of the natural gas pipeline system to ship it to the central plant where the higher value products will be made, as it is far too expensive to transport the raw biomass.
Here is an important example of what I am talking about. Some people get all worked up about wood pellets being burned for electricity in the UK at an extremely inefficient effort. What is missing in the conversation is this is a transitional step. First to stop burning coal and replace it with a renewable, sustainable fuel. However it is crucial to acknowledge once the old coal plants are amortized for their remaining useful life (10-15 years) they will be replaced with cheaper more efficient electricity production systems, like on and off-shore wind, solar, etc. The second transition is taking the wood pellets, in their energy densified form and transporting it to the new manufacturer of aviation and large equipment (mining, logging, trucking equipment) fuels.
The use of green gas from manure, sewage treatment, etc in people's furnace, water heater, etc. for 5-15 years until their current device is at the end of its serviceable life can help with the transition of developing those green gas production systems and immediately have a market for it. As the transition to electrifying comes to fruition the green gas can be sent to the aviation fuel manufacturing plant.
We need intermediate product uses to reward the investments in the production capacity. I worked extensively in the biomass to energy world. It is an important valuable resource that can jump start the Biomass Energy Carbon Capture and Storage industry without the expensive air capture technology by producing biochar along with energy from gasification.
Does anyone have references to articles or research regarding the problem with natural gas space heating and stoves? I’ve looked a little bit I don’t know what the authoritative sources are and I run into a lot of people saying natural gas is “clean and safe.”
Great episode. One issue I was hoping to hear more about is global warming impact of the refrigerants used in heat pumps. The problem of HFC refrigerants seems to come up a lot in general discussions of major sources of global warming, but not much in discussions of heat pumps, at least not that I've seen. A few non-HFC fridges are now available, but so far we haven't been able to find any heat pumps using non-HFC refrigerants, at least not here in Minnesota. I would love to know more about the trade-offs in switching to an HFC (R410a) heat pump vs. continuing to heat with a relatively efficient gas boiler (relatively efficient for gas, that is) and whether it makes sense to postpone the switch until heat pumps with non-HFC refrigerants are available. Would greatly appreciate any tips on resources on this issue.
I was curious that "passivhaus" never got mentioned in the whole conversation. I wonder if that's something that Bartholomy would call a starchitect thing?
If you live in a typical smaller suburban city like I do, you’re probably located within a mile or 2 of a neighborhood shopping center anchored by a grocery store and/ or pharmacy & a gas station. These commercial buildings are generally leased to tenants, not owner occupied. With significant refrigeration & AC+ heating loads, they must consume the most electrical & gas power in the neighborhood, except a possible hospital. If you were planning a neighborhood micro-grid they’d be your storage battery hub. Today, some of them have backup generators, but none of them have rooftop or parking lot solar canopies, backup batteries, V2G charging stations, or heat pump HVAC & refrigeration systems. How do you incentivize that transition? Maybe when enough suburbanites are driving EVs & have solar roofs, commercial real estate will eventually start to catch up?
The incentives for energy efficient upgrades are pretty obvious in owner occupied buildings of any use category: residential, commercial, institutional, industrial, etc. But owners of rental / leased property have no such incentive, because they don’t pay the utility bills. Building codes can mandate higher standards for new construction, but what can be done to further incentivize improvements to the vast numbers of old, leased buildings? Disability improvements have been added to building code requirements for renovation permits, triggered by & scaled to the value of the project. Are states & local jurisdictions contemplating any similar triggers for additional energy efficiency mandates for building renovation permits? Shouldn’t the commercial real estate industry & lenders be required to step up their participation on this issue?
You're to be forgiven for that direct/indirect emissions confusion. We're all swimming in the same sea of superimposed and fractal analysis. I'm adding a link to this great chat from my new piece on the policy, community and personal paths to household energy and CO2 impact! https://revkin.bulletin.com/the-household-infrastructure-challenge-retrofitting-millions-of-american-homes
Great episode! Special appreciation from me, as this topic is one I asked for, so thanks! Surprised to see it’s only 10% of emissions, as I have always heard it was 20-30, so thanks for that clarification.