Energy conservation seen as national security issue

Sept. 1, 2006
BY ROBERT P. MADER OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF KANSAS CITY, MO. How do government and policy makers get the public to get out of their SUVs and embrace energy conservation? One idea, put forth by U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., is to frame energy as a national security issue. "Energy is not just an economic issue, but a national security issue" where the enemy has control over our energy supply, Talent told


KANSAS CITY, MO. — How do government and policy makers get the public to get out of their SUVs and embrace energy conservation? One idea, put forth by U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., is to frame energy as a national security issue.

"Energy is not just an economic issue, but a national security issue" where the enemy has control over our energy supply, Talent told an energy symposium here in early August.

Energy efficiency should be handled mostly by the private sector, Talent told the group by speakerphone, although the national security implications of energy means government should steer policy by promoting conservation through incentives, not with penalties. Talent was scheduled to speak in Kansas City, but the crisis in Lebanon kept him in Washington.

Talent was among the speakers who engaged a group of about 50 HVACR and allied industry leaders Aug. 2 in Kansas City in a conference entitled,

"Innovation and the Emerging Energy Challenge." Danfoss, an international company doing research, development and production of mechanical and electronic components, sponsored the conference, and it marked the first event in a planned EnVisioneering Symposium series. The symposium was moderated by Michael Ivanovich, editor-in-chief of HPAC Engineering, a sister publication of CONTRACTOR.

The inaugural conference, held at the Kansas City Public Library, focused on how energy challenges of the 21st century are transforming business strategy and the conditions of U.S. international policy. Briefings and a roundtable discussion explored such questions as:

  • Why is the energy world so different than was expected just a few years ago?
  • What are the realistic options — coal, sun, biofuels?
  • How can the U.S. government secure the energy future?
  • How can the private sector drive change?
  • What are the implications for equipment manufacturers?
  • How do we calculate the financial implications for our industry?

"Renewable fuels are at the heart of energy security, economic growth and job creation," said Talent, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and co-chair of the Senate Biofuels Caucus. "The EnVisioneering symposium Dan-foss sponsored in Kansas City was an invaluable forum for industry leaders to discuss solutions to our energy challenges, such as increasing production of ethanol and biodiesel."

In addition to Talent, featured speak-ers included Dr. James L. Spigarelli, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Department of Energy's Midwest Research Institute; Michael Deggendorf, vice president/public affairs of utility Great Plains Energy; and Laura Lesniewski, principal, and Brad Nies, architect, of the firm Berke-bile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell.

Spigarelli told attendees that technologies are in the works that will have a major impact in the next 10 years and certainly by 2025. Photovoltaic electricity development is booming, and advances in nanotechnologies and manufacturing could allow photo-voltaics to handle 20% of the U.S. electricity supply, he said.

Work on hydrogen power, especially hydrogen fuel cells, is advancing, including work on using renewable energy to produce hydrogen. The work that may have the biggest impact, however, is research to create ethanol, not from corn, but from cellulose. Cellulosic ethanol could put ethanol at the gas pump at $1.07/gal. by 2012, he said.

Since buildings account for 76% of U.S. electrical use, architecture can drive efficiency, Lesniewski and Nies told the group. Building a sustainable building, Nies said, is an approach to design that would allow the nation to meet its needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The architect has to understand the climate and the location of the building, look for available ways to reduce loads, use free energy and use the most efficient technologies possible.

The holy grail of sustainable design would be the "living building" that harvests its own energy and water, adapts to its climate and site and is pollution-free, he said.

Local governments and universities are in the green building vanguard, Lesniewski said. The Lewis & Clark State Office Building in Jefferson City, Mo., has a Leadership in Energy and Environ-mental Design Platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council. The Health Science Center at the University of Texas in Houston anticipates a Gold LEED rating. The building, which uses 80% less energy than the building it is replacing, harvests and reuses its water and makes use of daylighting.

While 20 U.S. cities have LEED ordinances that cover government buildings, that doesn't have any impact on the 70% of buildings built in the United States each year that are "market" buildings where the bottom line is all that counts.

The group of free marketers agreed with Talent's notion that govern-ment's role should be incentives without punishments. They seemed torn, however, by the fact that that concept wasn't working in real life.

John Galyen, president of Danfoss North America Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, noted that policy, such as the mandate for 13 SEER residential air conditioning, was increasing energy efficiency faster than the market would have on its own.

Most owners only hang onto a building for three years, said Richard Lord, engineering manager/package platform for Carrier Corp., so they put in cheap thermostats that don't work and jam the economisers shut. The only way to force energy efficiency on market buildings is through legislation, Lord said.

William A. Adams, president of EMCOR Group contractor Fagan Co. in Kansas City, said he's a big LEED proponent, but the perception (accurate or not) among building owners is that LEED buildings cost 10% to 30% more to build. Government policy has to push building owners toward efficiency, he said.

Nies said the case can be made for energy efficiency if a financial analyst is added to the project team. Nevertheless, Nies said, as an architect he frequently has been told by owners, "If I don't have to do that, then I won't." Kansas City doesn't have a separate energy code, Nies said, and the building code still references the 1989 version of ASHRAE Standard 90.1.

The series of conferences that make up the EnVisioneering Symposium series is tentatively slated to continue in October in Tallahassee, Fla., on the topic, "The Future of Energy Efficiency Policy — The Role of the States," and then in December in Washington on the topic, "America's Global Energy Technology Strategy."

Each conference will focus on a dimension of the emerging energy nexus, providing access to advanced ideas, information, analysis, networks and opportunities for leadership in this global transformation initiative.

The symposium brings together decision makers from business and government, end-users and power generators, equipment manufacturers and architects, engineers, financiers, regulators, scientists and strategists. In January 2007, at the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Expo in Dallas, Dan-foss will release a comprehensive industry report, detailing the discussions and ideas set forth during the conferences.

For more information, call 410/ 931-8250 or visit

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