Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lecture today by Dr. Makhijani

I’m glad the blogging topic is open this week because there were a couple of things that were discussed this morning in the lecture by Dr. Makhijani that I take issue with.

I think it is wonderful that he made this study and its conclusions are very bold and I think that we need bold ideas and we need to think outside the box if we’re gonna make a dent in the whole climate change issue (if I’ve learned one thing in this class it’s that any solution, to be effective, has to have a substantial impact).

First I take issue with how he, in my mind, sidestepped the whole transportation problem. I have to admit, I haven’t read the book or the entire study (I only read the summary) but even in his presentation today he mainly focused on the electricity sector. Yes we might be able to transition to a carbon and nuclear free electricity system by using solar and wind but what about the cars, trucks, aircraft etc… He was asked about that issue in class and basically it seem that he’s pinning his hopes on hydrogen and new batteries. If you asked me a few weeks ago I would have said ok that sounds like a good idea but after the reading we did on hydrogen, I’m not sure Dr. Makhijani has that aspect of the problem covered. As for batteries well they're a big maybe - maybe the design will improve and costs will come down but that's a big maybe.

My second issue pertains to retrofitting existing homes. He suggested that when an existing home is sold, the new owner will simply add the $20,000 to retrofit the house to the mortgage and then he/she will not really feel the added cost because it will be spread over 15 or 30 years (such thinking got us in the subprime mess today – people thought well this will be spread out over many many years so we won’t feel it. Guess what not only are the homeowners feeling it now – big time, but the entire economy is). The Sierra Club lady that was taping the lecture chimed in and said that now some lenders are offering “Green Loans” to help homebuyers finance their purchase and pay for the retrofitting. Dr. Makhijani seemed to favor making this obligatory – any existing home sold should be retrofitted and the cost simply added to the mortgage. I’m sorry but I don’t buy that! He says he doesn’t favor a tax but what do you call this?


Tom Dyson said...

Dr. Makhijani seemed to me to be saying that the delta in cost per month on the loan would be mostly, if not completely, offset by the reduced energy costs associated with owning the home.

Aziz Hussaini said...

I also think that the home owners that were most effected by the sub prime lending issues had adjustable rate mortagages. I have a 30 year loan on my house and I have worked out various figure before purchasing a house with my lender and I could have purchase a home that cost $25,000 more then what I paid and it would have only cost me around $160 more a month.

In another class I am taking we had a individual from the Austin Energy Green Choice program speak to us about the future of the Zero energy homes program in Austin. He mentioned something along the same lines as Dr. Makhijani, noting that in the future the city code will require existing homes to meet certain energy efficiency criteria before they are sold.