Eight Holiday Wishes For The Eighth Night of Hanukkah

December 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

As the eighth night of Hanukkah approaches — and following up on Sean’s wish list column — it’s time for another list. So, here are eight senators who are likely already looking ahead to their re-election bids in 2012, and what they are likely hoping for.

1. Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) likely wish is for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s widow, Vicki Kennedy, to opt against running for the Democratic nod. Kennedy is probably the only potential candidate with a shot at clearing the primary field, and if she declines to run Brown can look forward to a bruising primary among the many members of the Bay State’s deep Democratic bench.

2. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) might wish for a Republican primary that either pushes former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R) too far to the right, or sees a more extreme Tea Party-endorsed candidate defeat her. A recent blog post circulated by the St. Louis Tea Party Coalition that questioned Steelman’s Tea Party credentials is evidence that local Tea Party endorsements are still up for grabs in the race.

3. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) probably shouldn’t get a wish, since he already got an early Christmas present this year. But if he were to make one, it would probably be that Nevadans forgive him. They’ll likely be a much tougher crowd than the FEC and Department of Justice. Bonus wish: Rep. Dean Heller (R), the preferred candidate of many GOP insiders, decides against a Senate run.

4. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is probably wishing for roughly the opposite of Ensign. While Ensign needs Nevada voters to get past his ethical problems, Nelson will benefit if Florida voters get hung up on state Senate Pres. Mike Haridopolos‘ (R) ethical issues. Bonus wish: That appointed and outgoing Sen. George LeMieux (R) doesn’t miss being a Senator after all.

Hotline On Call

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

Weekend Frivolity: Hanukkah Edition

December 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

No, this is not another post about the Maccabeats. Instead, we bring you Hanukkah, the Powerpoint version:

Story of Hanukkah p2.JPG

You can download all five slides of the presentation here.

[Hat tip to Julie Granof, the author, whom I should note is a management consultant, and not a political scientist...]

The Monkey Cage

On Second Night of Hanukkah, Obama Sends Condolences to Israel for Deadly Forest Fires

December 2, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

From Sunlen Miller: In an East Room reception to celebrate the second night of Hanukkah, President Obama started on a somber note, addressing the forest fires in Israel. “I want to begin by offering our deepest condolences to the families…

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Political Punch

Hanukkah Is Not Supposed to Be a Politically Correct Holiday

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

Today is the first day of Hanukkah, Chanukah and/or חנוכה the Jewish holiday that is spelled a hundred ways in English. Along with the joy of the holiday is the sadness that this minor holiday is continually hijacked by the ACLU and other liberal groups who have no idea what the holiday means.

It happens every year at this time: the battles of political correctness. When a community puts up a Christmas tree, one of two things happens. Either there is a battle to take it down, or someone fights to get a Chanukkiyah (that’s the real name, not Menorah), Kwanzaa candles, or a symbol of some other religion’s holiday placed right next to it. Then Fox News follows by running stories about the latest battle in the “war against Christmas,” and the ACLU starts suing any town whose mayor ever went to a church, mosque, and/or synagogue. Hey, ACLU: Give it up. America is a Christian country.

People who see December as an opportune time for the celebration of politically correct multiculturalism have to stop! I understand that people are trying to be fair, but it just doesn’t make sense.

I can’t speak for the other holidays, but I can tell you that as Jewish holidays go Chanukah is among the least important, unlike the “big ones” Passover, Sukkot, or Shavuot you can work, drive, etc. Guess what, the Books of the Maccabees weren’t even included in the Jewish canon (that’s another and and more political story).

Guess what? It’s not a Holiday Tree, a Tree of Life, or a Celebration Bush, its a Christmas Tree. Nothing goes against the true meaning of Chanukah more than placing a Chanukkiyah near a “holiday tree” or using a “Jewish star” or Dreidel as a tree ornament. The true meaning of Chanukah is the exact opposite of that multicultural rubbish.

Only part of the story was the Maccabees fight for getting the Greeks out of Israel, and the cleansing and dedication of the Temple. A huge part of the Chanukah Story was about a civil war amongst the Jews. Matthias Maccabee and his boys were fighting other Jews who had turned away from their faith by combining it with Greek/Hellenistic practices. The resulting assimilation caused a loss of Jewish faith and tradition, and finally laws against practicing Jewish ritual.

Chanukah is a holiday about Jews fighting against assimilation, but the ACLU-types would have us celebrate it by assimilating.

Let me suggest that if Matthias and his sons were alive today, they would be fighting every Jew who wanted a six-foot menorah next to a Christmas tree in the town square, a star of David next to a cross, or even the mass attack of the multi-holiday,  Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus and Winter Solstice display.

America is not a melting-pot its more like a gumbo where all the elements are in the same pot and existing together, but maintaining its original form. As Americans, we are all different and we must celebrate those differences, not merge them into one hodgepodge of progressive mediocrity celebrating everything at the same time, while truly celebrating absolutely nothing.

Jewish people who celebrate both holidays, who”have a Christmas Tree for the kids” are also missing the meaning of Chanukah. The Maccabees were horrified when an idol was placed in the holy Temple. Rather than trying to fit with “modern” culture, they wanted to make sure that the holy Temple, the House of God was a pure Jewish household.  To remember the Maccabees, we should make sure to make our homes pure Jewish households also.

The Rabbis tell us that we are not to use the Chanukah candles for reading or seeing, as we would with a regular candle or a light bulb. The Chanukkiyah is supposed to be placed near a window so the light of God and his miracles will shine outward into the world.

Many people know that word Maccabee is Hebrew for Hammer, but it is also an acronym for the Hebrew phrase, “Mi chamocha ba-elim Hashem” Who is like You among the powers in Heaven O God? Everything about Chanukah is a way to praise our maker for blessing us with the traditions and rituals of being Jewish. Mixing up Chanukah with other people’s traditions diminishes the light and message of Chanukah as well as those other traditions.

And to my Christian friends: Please don’t go get assimilated on me either. That tree in the mall is a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree. Santa is not a secular character; he is Saint Nick. You have a nice tradition. Allow me to suggest that you  ”Keep the Christ in Christmas.” Don’t try to make it politically correct by taking away its religious nature or diminishing it with the holiday of others. Oh, and I promise not to get mad if you wish me a Merry Christmas.  That too is an important day in the Jewish calendar, its when we go to see the hot movies without lines and then have a great meal at the nearest (Kosher) Chinese restaurant.

America is a great country. It is great not because everyone celebrates the same, but because we can all celebrate our differences.

Chanukah starts today so to all my friends celebrating the holiday Chag Chanukah Samayach. Happy Chanukah Holiday.

Big Government

Happy Hanukkah

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

The Maccabeats, a group of Yeshiva University students, sing Candlelight and become a certified YouTube sensation. Enjoy…

Click here to view the embedded video.

Background from The Jerusalem Post and The New York Post.

The Moderate Voice

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