Tag Archives: Economy

Group developing efficient homes for rural Alaska

From Alaska Journal of Commerce, Saturday, December 10, 2010:

With high fuel prices and harsh winter climes, constructing energy-efficient housing in rural Alaska communities can be a difficult task that is compounded by the prohibitively high costs.

In Fairbanks, Jack Hebert and a team of engineers with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center are rising to the challenge, designing and building prototype homes and empowering communities to build more of them for themselves.

In 2008, the CCHRC began its Sustainable Northern Shelter Program. CCHRC designs sustainable home technology, with its aim being to reduce the amount of fuel used to heat rural homes.

The group contracts with local crews to get the homes built. In fact, CCHRC officials don’t actually build the homes; with input from the locals, they design it and the locals themselves build them.

Consultations with the community help establish what their cultural needs are, among other things, Hebert said.

The goal, Hebert said, is to enable local residents to build their own sustainable homes without the aid of outsiders.

 “The wisdom of the people who have lived here for 10,000 years is important,” Hebert said.

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EIA: Home Heating Costs to Increase Slightly This Winter

From the U.S. Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wednesday, October 20, 2010:

A warmer heating season this year will somewhat offset increased costs for heating fuels, causing most U.S. households to experience only a 3% increase in home heating costs, according to DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA expects the lower 48 states to be 3% warmer than last year during the October-March winter heating season, although the projections vary by region. For instance, the Northeast is expected to experience a colder heating season than last year, resulting in a 5% increase in energy consumption for heating. The region is also the dominant user of fuel oil for home heating, and price increases for the heating fuel will drive up the average cost of home heating in the region by 13%, or about $259 on average. Households using electricity for heating are on the opposite end of the scale, as an expected decrease in both prices and consumption will yield a 2% savings in home heating costs relative to last year. The majority of U.S. households falls between these extremes, with homes heated with natural gas experiencing a 4% increase in heating costs, while those using propane will spend an average of 8% more this winter. See the EIA press release.

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How Marketplace Economics Can Help Build a Greener World

From Yale Environment 360, Thursday, August 19, 2010:

With climate legislation dead in Congress and the fizzled hopes for a breakthrough in Copenhagen fading into distant memory, the time seems ripe for fresh strategies — especially ones that do not depend on government action.

Here’s a modest proposal: radical transparency, the laying bare of a product’s ecological impacts for all to see.

Economic theory applied to ecological metrics offers a novel way to ameliorate our collective assault on the global systems that sustain life. There are two fundamental economic principles that, if applied well, might just accelerate the trend toward a more sustainable planet: marketplace transparency about the ecological impacts of consumer goods and their supply chains, and lowering the cost of that information to zero.

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New home sales hit slowest pace on record

From The Associated Press, Wednesday, August 25, 2010;

Sales of new homes dropped sharply last month to the slowest pace on record, the latest sign that the economic recovery is fading.The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new home sales fell 12.4 percent in July from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 276,600. That was the slowest pace on records dating back to 1963. The past three months have been the worst on record for new home sales.

The weak housing numbers worried Wall Street, dragging the Dow Jones industrial average below 10,000 for a second day.

Weak home sales mean fewer jobs in the construction industry, which normally powers economic recoveries. Each new home built creates, on average, the equivalent of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

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Energy Funds Went Unspent, U.S. Auditor Says

From The New York Times, Friday, August 13, 2010:

The recession is lingering, and so is the unspent stimulus money that was meant to help end it.

The latest example is the $3.2 billion that Congress voted in February 2009 as part of an economic stimulus package to simultaneously provide jobs and improve energy efficiency through block grants to states and cities.

Only about 8.4 percent of the money had been spent by the beginning of this month, according to an audit released on Friday by the inspector general of the Energy Department, and it has produced or saved only about 2,300 jobs as of the second quarter of this year.

The program was to provide money for the purchase of better lighting or heating and cooling equipment for buildings like city halls and schools. But it is off to the same slow start as a bigger program that was initiated at the same time to weatherize the homes of low-income people around the country. An audit of that program in February, also by the  inspector general, found that only $368.2 million of $4.73 billion, or less than 8 percent, had been spent.

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Report: Home Size is Declining, Energy Efficiency a Factor

From the US Dept. of Energy:

The size of new U.S. single-family homes completed in 2009 declined, dropping to a nationwide average of 2,438 square feet and reversing trend of the past three decades, according to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). New single-family homes were almost 100 square feet smaller in 2009 than they were in 2007, according to recently released U.S. Census Bureau data. One reason for the drop, NAHB noted, was homeowners’ desire to keep energy costs in check. This growing energy-efficiency consciousness is one of many trends that the association said was likely to continue.

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Young: Alaska fuel tax freeze would undercut federal aid

From The Associated Press, Wednesday, January 27, 2010:

A proposal by Gov. Sean Parnell to suspend Alaska’s motor fuels tax may undermine federal transportation funding, U.S. Rep. Don Young said Tuesday.

In a statement, the Republican lawmaker commended Parnell, also a Republican, for trying to relieve Alaskans’ “pain at the pump.” But he added: “By suspending the state gas tax, the challenge will be greater in convincing other members that Congress should continue its investment in Alaska’s infrastructure.”

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Tuck offers homeowners help with energy upgrades

From Alaska Dispatch, Sunday, January 17, 2010:

An Anchorage lawmaker says he’ll file a bill offering middle class homeowners — strapped for cash and still reeling from high energy costs — a back door into energy efficiency upgrades.

We reported recently on the lack of follow through by thousands of Alaskans who started a home energy efficiency rebate program, funded by the Legislature and managed by Alaska Housing Finance Corp. Those who start with a baseline efficiency audit have 18 months to fund repairs, schedule an audit of efficiency gains, and apply for up to $10,000 in state reimbursements. That window is running out for many folks.

Rep. Chris Tuck, an Anchorage Democrat, talked with people in his district and discovered some who have been hit pretty hard by the 2009 economic collapse. The families make too much too qualify for a low-income state weatherization program, but are dealing with high credit card debt, receding retirement accounts and investments, and, at times, negative equity in their homes.

Those circumstances can make it pretty tough to pay several thousand dollars up front for efficiency upgrades, even with a state reimbursement likely down the road, Tuck acknowledged.

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Climate change costly for Inuit: study

From CBC News, Tuesday, December 15, 2009:

A new study suggests the financial burden of Arctic climate change is already falling on Inuit people and the heaviest costs are hurting those families least able to pay.

The study backs demands made by Inuit leaders for a share of global funds being proposed to help adapt to a warming planet. It says governments should shift some of their funding focus to help the Inuit meld new tools with traditional knowledge to survive in today’s North.

“Inuit can adapt to climate change,” says James Ford, a geographer at Montreal’s McGill University, whose paper will be published early in 2010. “We have a number of concerns about whether Inuit can afford to adapt.”

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Holiday Gift Guide 2009: Have a Slow Holiday

From Treehugger.com:

Let’s face it: With all that rushing, consuming, and bargain-hunting, the holidays can be darn stressful. So this year, following the best of the methodology pioneered by the revolutionary Slow Food Movement, TreeHugger is taking them back. We’re putting the brakes on stress and over consumption and making a return to those idyllic holidays of old with our Slow Gift Guide, consisting of 12 categories and over 100 gifts.

True luxury is taking the time to enjoy, the time to savor the moment. Each of these gifts–selected for thoughtfulness, longevity, and quality over quantity–have this goal in mind. Maybe it is as simple as a fresh, home-cooked meal whipped up with a pressure cooker, or the leisurely hours spent playing with a child with free downloaded paper gnomes. From delicate bracelets and sturdy fishing gear made of recycled material to donations to our favorite non-profits to bamboo keyboards, solar iPhone skins, and eco-friendly dollhouses, let’s take back the holidays together. And hey, till then, take it slow. -Mairi Beautyman

Click here for more.