Could the NSA Reduce CO2 Emissions?
April Fools’ Day in the USA inspires pranks and hoaxes, and smart readers beware unusual news stories on that day. Here are some fictional news headlines and stories that if real, would certainly accelerate Smart Grid and other infrastructure upgrades, as well as reduce CO2 emissions.
1. Congress Creates Green Bank Fund to Modernize American Infrastructure
In an unprecedented acknowledgement of the dire state of national electrical, water, gas, and transportation systems, bipartisan Congressional passage of the Green Bank Fund will result in the equivalent of a Marshall Plan to modernize vital American infrastructures. A White House aide, speaking on conditions of anonymity, revealed that the President and Congressional leaders worked behind the scenes to hammer out this agreement. The Green Bank Fund takes money Congress previously allocated to weapons programs that the Pentagon didn’t want, like the Abrams tank, and makes it available as a source of seed capital to state-based Green Banks. “Leaders from both parties realized that our economic and national security rests on a strong and resilient infrastructure. The Green Bank Fund will help capitalize infrastructure upgrades and create the foundation for a secure economic future going forward,” said the aide, adding that “the latest ASCE report card scared the hell out of political leaders.”
All kidding aside, Green Banks are one of the latest innovations in finance that have positive impacts on Smart Grid progress. Green banks provide low-cost sources of capital for state-wide projects that meet their criteria. Green Banks leverage public and private sector funds and eliminate gaps in financial supply chains that often confront projects that use innovative technologies like renewable generation. While the situation is improving for utility-scale projects, projects at the individual home or building scale languish without funding. Connecticut first initiated a green bank in 2011, with other states now planning similar financial programs to align infrastructure and policy goals with newly available public and private capital.
2. Congress Kills Fossil Fuel Subsidies
In an unprecedented overhaul of the tax code, the permanent tax breaks for fossil fuel companies were eliminated today, over vociferous objections from representatives from oil-producing states. The resulting annual $4B in savings will be redirected to residential and small business weatherization projects in all 50 states. The projected results include local economic growth through increased employment as well as savings in energy bills and improved comfort for many Americans.
Without a doubt, clean renewable energy sources are given second class tax status through temporary measures that can expire every few years and thereby cause significant trepidation in investor communities. Immensely profitable multinational fossil fuel companies receive permanent breaks written into the US tax code. It’s blatant tax code policy discrimination that picks winners (fossil fuels) and losers (clean renewables). Today’s situation is anything but a level playing field, although there are valiant efforts in Congress to offer renewables one tax treatment that is only available for fossil fuel companies today. The bipartisan Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act does exactly that.
Equally important, a redirection of the $4B annually saved by eliminating unnecessary tax breaks to well-established fossil fuel companies would have powerful payoffs to communities, ratepayers, and taxpayers. A 2010 Oak Ridge National Laboratory study stated that for every $1 invested in weatherization, there’s a $2.51 benefit to households and society. Each weatherization household gets $1.80 back in reduced energy bills, money which can then go towards food, healthcare, or education. An additional 71 cents is returned to communities in increased local employment, reductions in uncollected energy bills, and reductions in weather-related deaths in dwellings.
3. CO2 Emissions Reduced Thanks to NSA Anti-spam Initiative
The NSA, maligned for spy activities around the world, achieved heroic status today. Using its sophisticated technologies to ferret out spammers, they shut down their operations, dismantled their networks and financial operations, and identified perpetrators to local law enforcement agencies. “Spam email constitutes about one fifth of a typical business’s email traffic in a year. Eliminating this traffic not only improves the productivity of everyone with an email account, it also reduces the demands for electricity at every stage of the spam lifecycle,” said an NSA resource who requested anonymity. “We’re proud to do our part to combat human-caused climate change.”
Yes, it costs electricity to create, transmit, distribute, filter, display, and delete spam. Thus spam email contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. A study commissioned by McAfee identified a total of 62 trillion spam emails were sent globally in 2008, consuming 33 billion kWh and producing 17 million metric tons of CO2. That translates into enough electricity to power 2.4 million homes in the USA and the amount of CO2 produced by 3.1 million internal combustion engine vehicles. Sadly, the most recent numbers for 2010 indicate that email spam climbed to 95 trillion messages.
The sections of this article in italics are fictional stories today. Which headline do you think is most plausible and may come true?
Photo Credit: April Fools' Energy Savings/shutterstock
Christine Hertzog is the founder and Managing Director of SGL Partners and the Smart Grid Library, delivering consulting and information services in the Smart Grid and Smart Infrastructure ecosystems. Her firm provides pragmatic guidance to vendors, utilities, and governmental entities, covering a broad range of needs such as market entry strategies and design and deployment of ...
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