The Perennial Question 2012: Farmers’ Choices and the Biofuel Future

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The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) is a strategic response to concerns under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 about petroleum fuel supplies and environmental sustainability (EPA 2012). RFS2 regulations mandate specific amounts of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel…

Analyses of the shifts in land use, crop management, and crop marketing implied by RFS2 typically either neglect or simplify farmers’ choices, whether due to the investigative questions asked, the modeling frameworks used, or the suppositions made in those analyses. Much remains unexplored and, therefore, unknown about the bases for farmers’ actual decisions to dedicate their land, labor, and resources to the production of perennials…

This report aims to start narrowing the gap between science and practice by exploring the bases for a subset of farmers’ choices, specifically those surrounding decisions to engage in perennial planting, management and marketing. We do not assume the processes that farmers’ use to make decisions mimic the calculus of scientific optimization. Rather, we suggest farmers’ behavior patterns, decision-making processes, and decision contexts are important variables that are worthy of investigation and of incorporating into to the scientific and policy-analysis mix. Information about farmers’ choices can provide new depth to scientific analyses that are driven by such policies as RFS2. Perhaps most importantly, a better understanding of the bases for farmers’ choices can provide information important for analyzing and developing a full range of effective policies and interventions.

Recent DOE publications on energy efficient homebuilding

Greenbuilt Retrofit Test House Final Report

The Greenbuilt house, is an all-electric, 1980’s era home in the eastern Sacramento suburb of Fair Oaks that was retrofit by Greenbuilt Construction as part of Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) Energy Efficient Remodel Demonstration (EERD) Program. The project was a joint effort between the design-build team at Greenbuilt Construction, led by Jim Bayless, SMUD and their project manager Mike Keesee, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The goal of the Energy Efficient Remodel Demonstration program is to work with local builders to renovate homes with cost-effective energy efficient retrofit measures. The homes remodeled under the EERD program are intended to showcase energy efficient retrofit options for homeowners and other builders. The Greenbuilt house is one of five EERD projects that NREL has supported. NREL’s main role in these projects is to provide energy analysis and to monitor the home’s performance after the retrofit to verify that the energy consumption is in line with the modeling predictions. NREL also performed detailed monitoring on the more innovative equipment included in these remodels, such as an add-on heat pump water heater.

Winchester/Camberley Homes New Construction Test House Design, Construction, and Short-Term Testing in a Mixed-Humid Climate

The NAHB Research Center partnered with production builder Winchester/Camberley Homes to build a DOE Building America New Construction Test House (NCTH). This single family, detached house, located in the mixed-humid climate zone of Silver Spring, MD, was completed in June 2011. The primary goal for this house was to improve energy efficiency by 30% over the Building America B10 benchmark by developing and implementing an optimized energy solutions package design that could be cost effectively and reliably constructed on a production basis using quality management practices. The intent of this report is to outline the features of this house, discuss the implementation of the energy efficient design, and report on short-term testing results. During the interactive design process of this project, numerous iterations of the framing, air sealing, insulation, and space conditioning systems were evaluated for energy performance, cost, and practical implementation. The final design featured numerous advanced framing techniques, high levels of insulation, and the HVAC system entirely within conditioned space. Short-term testing confirmed a very tight thermal envelope and efficient and effective heating and cooling. In addition, relevant heating, cooling, humidity, energy, and wall cavity moisture data will be collected and presented in a future long-term report.

Air Leakage Testing and Air Sealing in Existing Multifamily Units

Envelope air sealing was included in the retrofit of a 244 unit low-rise multifamily housing complex in Durham, N.C. Pre- and post-retrofit enclosure leakage tests were conducted on 51 units and detailed diagnostics were performed on 16. On average, total leakage was reduced by nearly half, from 19.7 ACH50 to 9.4 ACH50. Costs for air sealing were $0.31 per square foot of conditioned floor area, lower than estimates found in the National Residential Efficiency Measures Database (NREMD) and other sources, perhaps due in part to the large-scale production nature of the project. Modeling with BEopt software — using an estimate of 85% of the envelope air leakage going to the outside (based on guarded tests performed at the site) –calculated a space conditioning energy cost savings of 15% to 21% due to the air sealing retrofit. Important air leakage locations identified included plumbing and electrical penetrations, dropped ceilings/soffits, windows, ducts and wall-to-floor intersections. Previous repair activity had created significant leakage locations as well. Specifications and a pictorial guide were developed for contractors performing the work.

Geothermal Designs Arise as a Stormproof Resource

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Digging geothermal wells can be expensive and difficult, and the systems have been slow to catch on in New York City, but the benefits may eventually outweigh the costs.

Walgreen adds ‘green’ line to private-label push

Read the full story at Reuters.

Walgreen Co is bringing out its own line of household goods with no harmful chemicals, the latest step in its push to add more store brands and differentiate itself from competitors.

Walgreen’s first 24 baby and personal care products, cleaners, paper products, and compact fluorescent light bulbs under the Ology name will hit its more than 7,900 drugstores this week.

The company is hoping to tap into a consumer trend toward products that are safe and free of harmful chemicals, Maurice Alkemade, Walgreen’s group vice president of retail brands and global sourcing, said in an interview.

Sustainability reports check more boxes but miss big picture

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Corporate sustainability reports are simultaneously getting better and worse, according to research at DNV Two Tomorrows, a sustainability consulting firm.

Beyond awareness: The next step in employee engagement

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

This is the third installment in a series on engaging employees around sustainability. The first part introduced the four stages of employee engagement and the second part discussed the first stage, raising employee awareness about sustainability.

This month’s column will focus on the second stage in employee engagement, Connection, and will feature examples of companies that have successfully reached this stage. By connection, we mean taking a step beyond just presenting information – the first stage – and promoting interaction and a sense of belonging among employees, helping them make the home-work connection, supporting work-life balance and enabling them to share best practices with their peers and beyond.

What does a sustainability career look like?

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

Jobs are the No. 1 thing on many people’s minds these days. The GreenBiz Job Board always attracts a lot of traffic, and every week we engage in conversations with students and executives about how they can snag a job in sustainability or jump to a new role in the field.

In fact, we toyed with giving this debut colum the headline, “Click Here for a Great Sustainability Job,” but we were afraid we might bring down the Internet.

For this column, we want to tell you about, first, the movers, the people who have just taken on new jobs with a focus on sustainability. There are any number of reasons for this. Perhaps most importantly, these are early days for a sustainability or a green “career” and there’s no clear path to follow. We look forward to highlighting some of the great jobs people are taking — and hopefully you can start to see the myriad opportunities that are emerging. In fact, we almost called this column “Stepping Stones” to acknowledge how individuals are advancing in their careers.

But we also want to talk about the shakers, those going beyond their day jobs to work with non-profit boards and serving their governments while still holding down a day job. Or those who are stepping sideways to shake things up in a new way, by launching a new venture or promoting a cutting-edge sustainability initiative.