Hanukkah: The Festival of Energy Efficient Lighting

December 7, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 


We are in the middle of the Jewish Festival of efficient and renewable Lights.

Hanukkah commemorates the “rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem” twenty-two centuries ago. The miracle being celebrated is that they only had enough “consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days.”

From my perspective, the miracle was a sign from on high to use renewable fuels and/or put them in a lamp that burns very, very efficiently. And speaking about green lights, how about an LED motherboard menorah — but you’d better run it on renewable power.

In honor of Hanukkah, here’s a guest posts on efficiency, “Home energy efficiency: no surprise, very fast paybacks to be expected,” from A. Siegel’s Get Energy Smart Now! blog:

Very simply, across the economy, energy efficiency is almost certainly the top investment option — as individuals, businesses, communities, government … The rate of return possibilities are tremendous and unlike gambles to grow business or play the stock market, this is ‘guaranteed’ cash in the bank.

And, it is ‘cash in the bank’ in terms of cost savings. It is ‘cash in the bank’ in terms of job creation. It is ‘cash in the bank’ due to improved resiliency in the face of (manmade or natural) disaster. It is ‘cash in the bank’ due to reduced pollution impacts and reduced GHG emissions. It is ‘cash in the bank’ many times over in many different ways.

Sadly, too many people buy into the concept that we need some great invention to do anything meaningful on climate change.

Sadly, too many people falsely believe that there is some great unaffordable cost to Energy Smart practices.

We need to push those false notions aside to enable transformational opportunities toward a prosperous, climate-friendly future.

Comments from two recent conversations seem relevant prior to jumping into a discussion of a just released report on the payback periods for improved residential building energy efficiency codes.

  • In a discussion about energy / energy efficiency / energy security, a (rather) senior person who focuses on business processes commented to me “it seems like this is really all about technology” after I had, perhaps, spent too much time speaking rhapsodically about some Energy COOL systems and concepts. No, no, no … in fact, a tremendous share of our challenges in developing a prosperous, climate-friendly society derive from misguided incentives, procedures/policies/habits that work against Energy Smart practices, etc … With (relatively) minor shifts in building codes, standards, tax codes (and financial accounting practices), we could drive tremendous changes that would improve the economy while reducing our fossil-foolish dependencies.
  • An acquaintance bought a ‘green show home’ where, almost literally, no expense was spared. While there were reasons for this no-holds barred approach, a simple fact: the money that was poured (almost literally) into the house was well beyond the legitimate market value and it sold at a substantial discount to the construction price. The acquaintance: “while this green stuff is great and I love it, I guess it is just too expensive for the marketplace”. On hearing that, I spent some time walking through how a normal (rather than over-the-top) investment in energy efficiency (and ‘green’) not only improves the home’s livability and not only reduces the damage on the environment, but also has incredibly fast payback periods better than anything a (reasonable) person could expect from Wall Street.

A few days ago, the BCAP online code environment and advocacy network (OCEAN) released an “incremental cost analysis” on residential energy efficiency that I will share with these two. That discussion begins

“One of the major barriers to energy code adoption is the concern from some in the residential building community that the cost of upgrading to the latest model energy code would be prohibitive. To address this issue, BCAP undertook a study to quantify the incremental construction cost of upgrading to the 2009 IECC in each state where such an analysis was feasible.”

The IECC is the International Energy Conservation Code and see here for an overview of the 2009 IECC. For more about building codes and their status, the Department of Energy (DOE) Building Energy Codes site is a good place to begin.

Back, however, to the BCAP OCEAN analysis (full report). Across 29 states for which analysis was possible, the BCAP found that the average additional construction cost due to upgrading to the 2009 IECC from the 2006 IECC (about a 15 percent increase in energy efficiency) would be $ 818.72 for the national average 2,400 square foot home selling for $ 267,451. The annual utility savings: $ 243.37.


That does sound tremendous, doesn’t it. On average, due to upgrading from 2006′’s building standards, a homeowner would pay a bit more upfront but get the costs paid back in less than four years (actually about 40 months … 3.36 years to be exact) and the savings would keep on coming.

However, that is actually the pessimistic way of looking at things. How many people pay 100%, upfront, for a home? We don’t need to look it up to arrive at the answer: not many. A 20 percent downpayment would go up by $ 154.78 and, with a 4 1/8th percent 30-year mortgage, that monthly payment would go up by $ 3.01. Between that higher down payment and the increased monthly payment, the homebuyer would pay $ 180.90 in additional mortgage related costs in the first year while have $ 243.37 of lower utility bills. A $ 62.47 savings in that first year. And, $ 36.12 in higher mortgage payments from then on with annual savings of $ 207.25. Over a 30-year mortgage, buying that 15 percent more energy efficient home would save the average American well over $ 6000 (without even counting inflating energy costs).

“A home is usually an individual or family’s biggest lifetime investment, so it makes sense to protect and maximize the value of that investment by building in energy efficiency from the ground up - and reaping the benefits of lower energy bills from day one.” (BCAP Executive Director Aleisha Khan)

Please note, however, that the 2009 IECC isn’t some revolutionary, PassivHaus-like, concept that maximizes energy efficiency — it is a moderate improvement over existing codes rather than something that pushes the edge in terms of available supplies or building industry practices. E.g., while we could do far better than this (which is something that DOE, BCAP, and others are seeking to do), the 2009 IECC is clearly a minimum of what we should expect in our homes.

Technology Invention vs Process and CtB vs CtO

Going back to my opening discussion.

  • The challenge isn’t inventing technology, pulling rabbits out the house, but moving processes, practices, financial incentives, and otherwise away from favoring fossil foolish choices toward enabling Energy Smart paths toward a prosperous, climate-friendly future.
  • Yes, it will (often) cost more to build that more energy efficient house. (Of course, as long as the ’size’ remains the same.) That is, however, a “cost to buy” question. The real question is how much it will cost to own. And, in this case, that upfront investment drives a notably lower cost to own — a lower cost that is apparent from day one, with the true incremental cost to the homeowner paid back in less than eight months. More to buy, (far) less to own.

Very simply, the best single ’societal’ investment would be taking steps to break through the logjams that inhibit Energy Smart practices that would enable job creation, drive down our fossil foolish tendencies, improve economic performance, and reduce pollution.

The payback — that return on investment — is tremendous across so many arenas that it is actually quite difficult to get to a true total return on investment. All I know, anyway you slice it, this does look to be “The BEST investment” we could make.

Hat-tip: Green Building Advisor and American Solar Energy Society.

For a related, excellent discussion, see Celebrating a historic week for building energy codes highlighting how the 2012 IECC will be even better than the 2009 IECC.

“Last week, members of the International Code Council (ICC) approved changes to building energy codes – the CAFE standards of the buildings world – that will require new and renovated homes and commercial buildings to use 30 percent less energy than those built to current standards.

The votes are truly historic. Never in the history of the ICC have such enormous gains in energy efficiency been made in such a short time.

The changes, which will occur in the 2012 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), leverage sensible and cost-effective strategies to reduce energy, …

An average home that’s 30 percent more energy-efficient than the current standard returns more than $ 500 annually in energy cost savings to homeowners even after factoring in the capitalized cost of the improvements.”

- A Siegel

Related Post:

Climate Progress

Hanukkah..The Festival Of Lights And Freedom

December 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Tonight marks the first night of Hannukah, the Festival of Lights .

While many of you may be familiar with the story of the Miracle of the Oil, what is frequently overlooked is that Hannukah celebrates another miracle - the miracle of a group of farmers and tradesman utterly defeating the professional armies of the Seleucid Empire, a victory for freedom that belongs to all of us, Jew and Gentile.

Hanukkah celebrates one of the important miracles in Jewish history and reminds us of the triumph of faith. It takes place every year in mid to late December. While its date varies if you go by the western calendar, in the Hebrew calendar Hanukkah always falls on the 25th day of Kislev.

Hanukkah celebrates the victory Jewish war for independence in the second century B.C. E. The story is told in the First Book of Maccabees, and retold in the Second Book of Maccabees. A contemporary military history of the war can be found in Battles of the Bible, coauthored by Chaim Herzog and Mordechai Gichon.

After his death, Alexander the Great’s empire broke into several parts, and Israel was under the control of the Seleucid empire, based in Syria. Israel had lived peacefully under the Persian Empire and under the Ptolemic empire (of Egypt), both which tolerated Judaism; but the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes was an arrogant, bigoted Hellenizer, who attempted to force the Jews to abandon their religion and to adopt Greek customs and worship.

There were those Jews who considered themselves `modern’ and `assimilated’ who were willing to go along with this, even to the extent of having surgical operations to reverse circumcision.

Others did not, and they were prosecuted vigorously and brutalized by the Greeks.

The start of the Maccabean Revolt sprang from a single spontaneous act of resistance. In the foothills village of Modiin in 167BCE, a Greek army unit set up an altar, and ordered the local Jewish rabbi, Mattathias, to sacrifice a pig and eat it. He refused, as did his five sons. When a Jewish collaborator came forward to offer the sacrifice, a furious Mattathias “ran and killed him on the spot, killed the king’s officer who was forcing them to sacrifice, and tore down the altar” (1 Mac. 2:15-25).

Mattathias, his sons and their followers then headed for the Judean hills, to launch a guerilla war. They were farmers who had no military training,fighting a professional army. There had not been a Jewish army since Babylon had destroyed the Judean kingdom four centuries before. Their only weapons were farming tools and whatever simple weapons they could construct, such as maces or slings. During this first year, Mattathias died, and his middle son Judah took over command as his successor.

Nicknamed “the hammer” (“Maccabee,” in Hebrew), Judah constructed a guerilla army that staged daring nighttime raids on the Greek outposts, then melted back into the countryside. His successes attracted more supporters, and the revolt spread.

The war went on for 25 years, one of the most singular wars for independence in history. The miracle, perhaps is that it was fought at all, let alone won.

The Seleucids and Antiochus sent huge, well equipped armies into Israel to subdue the Jews. They were all defeated, at odds that seem miraculous even today. Judah Maccabee turned out to be a tactical genius, using unheard of tactics, leading the Greek phalanxes into the hills where they could not maneuver and destroying them.

To give you an idea of how essential the Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria was and is to Israel’s survival then and now, the map below shows where the major battles of the war took place.(hat tip, Carl) Click on it to enlarge it:

One thing that is seldom mentioned about the war is the fact that a significant part of the war took place against the Hellenized, `modern’,`assimilated’ Jewish traitors I mentioned earlier, who were more than willing abandon the Jewish way of life and supported their Seleucid masters against their fellow Jews.

As Ecclesiastes famously said in the Megillot, there’s nothing new under the sun.

In 164 BCE, the Jews defeated a force commanded by the Viceroy Lysias that outnumbered them two to one. That battle took place six miles north of Hebron, near the Jewish fortress of Beth-zur. The victory allowed Judah and his army to retake Jerusalem.

When they entered Jerusalem, Judah and his followers entered the Holy Temple on the Temple Mount. The Temple had been wrecked and horribly desecrated, with profanities scrawled on the walls and the Ark by the Seleucids.

The Maccabees built a new altar. When the time came to light the N’er Tamid, the Eternal Light of the Temple, the Jews could find only one sanctified jar of oil marked with the seal of the High Priest. It was only enough to last one evening. On the 25th of Kislev, in the year 164 BCE,the lamp was lit with this small jar of oil and, miraculously, stayed lit for eight days, until more oil suitable for the temple was made. The eight days of Hanukkah celebrate that miracle, as well as the divine intervention that had led the Jews to amazing victories over well-equipped professional armies far superior in numbers. “Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wants and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place” (2 Mac. 10:7).

The war itself continued. In 160 BCE, near modern-day Ramallah, Judah was killed, but Judah’s brother Jonathan, and then his brother Simon took command of the Jewish army, finally winning complete independence in 142 BCE. At last, “All the people sat under their own vines and fig trees, and there was none to make them afraid” (1 Mac. 14:12).

The War of the Maccabees was the first war ever fought for religious freedom. Somehow, a group of farmers with no military training who refused to bow to their oppressors defeated a mighty empire and its immense standing armies. There seems to be no plausible explanation for the victory of the Jews except that it was a miracle.

Towards the end of the war, Antiochus and the Seleucids became so obsessed with defeating the Jews that they sacked their own cities and sold their own citizens into slavery to get money to pursue the war against the Jews.

Hanukkah reminds us that with G-d’s help, victory over evil is assured and no miracle is impossible. Modern Israel and the survival of the Jewish people against all odds are proof of that.

Symbols in Hanukkah

Aside from the Hanukkiah (candlesticks), the other great symbol of Hanukkah are those small spinning tops known as dreidels.

The four letters which appear on the four corners of a dreidel allude to the miracle of Hanukkah. They spell out: Nes (N-miracle), Gadol (G-great), Haya (H-happened) and Sham (S-there, meaning in Israel). Or, `a great miracle happened there.’

Indeed it did.

Chag Sameach! Happy Hanukkah!

please donate…it helps me write more gooder!


No Sharia in Dearborn (yet): Jury acquits four Christian evangelists arrested at Dearborn Arab Festival

September 27, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

It’s good that they were acquitted. It’s a small blow for sanity and Constitutional freedoms. But it’s bad enough that they were arrested in the first place — that Muslims in Dearborn were able to convince police that they had done something for which arrest was warranted.

An update on this story. “Jury Acquits the Four Christian Evangelists Arrested at Dearborn Arab Festival,” from the Thomas More Law Center, September 27 (thanks to all who sent this in):

Late Friday evening, a jury of six Dearborn, Michigan residents returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty of breach of the peace charges, which were brought by the Dearborn Police Department against four Christian evangelists as they were peacefully proselytizing to Muslim youths during the Arab International Festival on June 18, 2010.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national Christian public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, represented the evangelists, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, Paul Rezkalla, Negeen Mayel and David Wood, at no charge. The jury returned its verdict after an hour and half of deliberations. Nageen Mayel was found guilty of failing to obey a police officer-a charge unrelated to the actual incident, which will most likely be reversed on appeal.

Robert Muise, the Law Center’s Senior Trial Counsel, handled the five-day trial. The prosecutor placed seven witnesses on the stand including Chief of Police, Ron Haddad.

Even after the acquittals, Dearborn’s mayor, Jack O’Reilly, continued his ongoing and unprecedented personal attacks on the Christian evangelists, accusing them of being anti-Muslim bigots. O’Reilly’s continuous anti-Christian rhetoric was clearly an attempt to curry favor with Dearborn’s large Muslim population, which also explains the Police Department’s alarming mobilization to arrest the four Christians.

Jihad Watch

Christian Missionaries Acquitted of Disturbing the Peace at Dearborn Arab Festival

September 27, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

(Eugene Volokh)

The Detroit Free Press reports:

A jury acquitted on Friday four Christian missionaries who were accused of inciting a crowd while videotaping themselves proselytizing to Muslims at the Dearborn Arab International Festival in June…. [The missionaries] were acquitted of breach of peace …. [One of the four] was found guilty of failure to obey a police officer’s order…. They were charged in July with disorderly conduct after police said they received a complaint from a Christian volunteer working at the festival who said he was harassed by the group….

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr. was quoted as saying that, “It’s [apparently referring to the missionaries’ message –EV] really about a hatred of Muslims.” “That is what the whole heart of this is…. Their idea is that there is no place for Muslims in America. They fail to understand the Constitution.” Well, the Constitution protects speech that argues that “there is no place for Muslims in America,” and it certainly protects speech that aims at converting Muslims to Christianity — or Christians to Islam.

The Volokh Conspiracy

Rossyln Jazz Festival on Saturday

September 9, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

(Orin Kerr)

We have a lot of readers in the DC area, so I thought I would flag a particularly good line-up at the annual Rossyn Jazz Festival on Saturday. As always, the Jazz Festival is free, and with lovely weather expected for Saturday the event should be a real treat. The location is Gateway Park, just two blocks from the Rossyln Metro station at N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway. Here’s the line-up:

1:00 — 2:00 p.m. Afro Bop Alliance — ’08 Latin Grammy winning Latin Jazz
2:30 — 3:40 p.m. Jason Moran & the Bandwagon — Triple Downbeat ‘Rising Star’ winner
4:05 — 5:15 p.m. The Bad Plus — Explosive indie-rock & Jazz fusion band
5:45 — 7:00 p.m. Tierney Sutton Band — 2-time Grammy nominated vocalist & ensemble

Great stuff: I’m particularly excited to hear Jason Moran and The Bad Plus again.

The Volokh Conspiracy

  • TriCityNewBalance.com
  • Jennifer Taylor Bedding At BathAndBed.com
  • Nokia Inc.
  • Laptop ac adapters, keyboards, batteries, inverters, LCD screens at LaptopZ.com