Thursday, January 27, 2011

Take a closer look at your utility bill - EV's are a comin'

If you are in the market to buy a new automobile, the Detroit Auto Show really showed the tipping point in what you might consider.

For the last couple of years I have been talking about electric and hybrid vehicles, but beyond the Prius there wasn't a whole lot to choose from.  This is all changing rapidly with the emergence of electric vehicle hybrid plug-ins and electric-only autos from nearly every automobile manufacturer starting with the 2011 and 2012 models.  This change in focus begs the question of how much will you save and how that will be reflected on your utility bill.

This question was recently raised in an LA Times blog posting about how utilities that still have tiered pricing would potentially not save you money if you purchased an electric plug-in vehicle.  This is because tiered pricing means the electricity gets continually more expensive the more you use.  And, you'd be using a lot more by plugging in your vehicle to recharge.

My city still has tiered pricing, so I e-mailed my utility to find out what are its plans.  Come to find out that if I purchase a plug-in vehicle then I can let my utility know and they will automatically change my electricity pricing to time of use.  This means that certain times of the day the electricity will be more or less expensive, with the least expensive usually being in the evening and at night -- which is when I would recharge my vehicle.  Only then, with time of use pricing, does my plug-in become cost efficient.  Makes me wonder why they just don't switch everyone right now instead of me jumping through hoops, but that's another story.

You can see an example from this Chevrolet Volt EPA sticker of how knowing how much you are being charged per kWh (killowatt hour) on your utility bill is really going to matter.   Most of us just try to keep our electric bill down, but knowing what and how you are charged is going to be increasingly a consumer issue.  I see this bringing about a sea change in how consumers view utility companies -- right now there is a bit of choice in who you get your gasoline from, but once you start using electricity for fuel and if there is only one choice for the provider you might start to question more who is controlling your pocketbook and how they do it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 - Year of the Permaculture

If there were one "green" word that will find its place among the masses this year, I suspect it will be permaculture.  This isn't about probiotic yogurt or a revival of hair permanents, rather permaculture is all about everyday living and growing food in a way in which both are more harmonious with nature.

We see evidence of this in the U.S. with the surge in home gardening, farmer's markets, an emphasis on local and regional food production, and the innovative emergence of growing diverse groups of foods together for a more sustainable farm.  Permaculture is probably the answer to saving the bees, along with organic, because then you don't need so many chemicals to keep a farm afloat -- and, most research points to an increase in yield and productivity with permaculture.

Permaculture also allows us to consider a more diverse range of foods, which benefits us all and hearkens back to non-GMO times when people knew that working with nature instead of against it was your time-tested plan for success.

Here's a great example from Vietnam that illustrates permaculture --