Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Better Way to “LEED” in Energy Ratings

Energy efficiency measures in residential buildings are some of the lowest-cost means of cutting energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. According to experts, by 2020, residential buildings will consume 20% of U.S. total energy use – more than the commercial sector – and will contribute 1,350 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) to the U.S.’s annual carbon emissions. Still, despite the fact that building insulation, lighting upgrades, and efficient water heating all have a positive net present value (NPV) per ton of greenhouse gases abated, very few home energy upgrades and retrofits are taking place, as compared with the volume of inefficient housing that remains in the market.

In 2012, Nikhil Nadkarni (MCP ’12) studied four U.S. cities’ attempts to promote energy efficiency through building energy ratings and labeling. He found significant variety in the way these rating systems were utilized. Nikhil analyzes the weaknesses in the current approaches and argues for a new model, using a web-based database that promotes transparency and improved accessibility for consumers and assessors. See his full thesis here.

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Waste Pickers, Middlemen and Informal Recycling Systems in Indonesia

It has been estimated that up to 2% of the world’s urban population depends on waste either directly or indirectly for their income. Informal recycling systems reduce negative impacts on the environment, as well as provide the poor in developing countries with jobs, supply industries with raw materials, and reduce the stress on municipal infrastructure, such as collection and landfills.

Photo credit: Danumurthi Mahenra

In his 2012 masters thesis, Mike Tuori found that the informal recycling supply chain in Bandung, Indonesia operates with a high level of efficiency, but the system fails to address issues of the protection and promotion of the workforce involved. He argues that policies have focused on the waste pickers, but have ignored the “middlemen” in the chain. Mike presents a framework for evaluating informal supply chains based on the perspectives of all stakeholders involved, taking into consideration aspects of both efficiency and social concerns, and evaluating each against a given set of metrics.

His policy recommendations include investments in health and safety infrastructure and promotion of corporate social responsibility initiatives. Mike suggests the relevance of his findings are not limited to recycling, but applicable to various informal economic systems. Read Mike’s full thesis here.

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Shale Gas and State Regulatory Functions

About 10,000 feet below much of the United States lurks a wealth of natural gas. This high-profit resource is accessed by “fracking,” or piping pressurized chemicals and water into a deep bore in order to break apart compressed layers of shale, releasing the gas between them, and pumping the gas to the surface.

Photo credit: William Avery Hudson

As part of Tushar Kansal’s thesis (MCP 2012), he asked whether the states or the federal government is better able to regulate the risks and environmental and community impacts associated with fracking.

Tushar’s analysis hinges on four concerns:

1) the geographic distribution of costs and benefits associated with shale gas development

2) the regulatory capacity at the federal level and at the state level

3) what it takes to foster innovation, flexibility, and adaptability, and

4) which level can better provide efficiency, certainty, and stability.

Tushar finds that in most cases, states are the more capable regulators, and he includes advice to both federal and state-level agencies regarding on-going efforts to control the adverse impacts of shale gas development. Read his full thesis here.

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