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Feds Unwrap $15M For Corporate Energy Reduction 146

As hard as it is to imagine, coondoggie writes with news that the federal government just unveiled a new energy bill that will offer $15 million in assistance to retailers who help to build and adopt energy-efficient technologies. "The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced the first phase of $15 million awards to retailers Best Buy, JCPenney, John Deere, Macy's, SuperValu, Target, Toyota, and Whole Foods Market. Commercial Real Estate Firms such as CB Richard Ellis, Forest City Enterprises as well as the financials groups also saw some of the money. Along with the money the companies will have access to the DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to design, build, tune and operate at least one new prototype building and to retrofit an existing building project."
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Feds Unwrap $15M For Corporate Energy Reduction

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  • Wow! $15 million! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:04PM (#25197227)

    Imagine if they received $699 billion more.

    • And imagine if this were for renewables rather than just turning off lights when you weren't using them! And further imagine if this had come years ago, and by now we had workable solutions to our energy needs!

      • Imagine if these technologies have ALREADY been developed [echelon.com] and are ALREADY in fairly widespread use? Holy Cow Batman! I have a great idea about using a circular object to move heavy items!!!!

        Yes, let's give Walmart taxpayer money to help the poooooorrr Walmart who is suffering from high energy costs while forcing US companies out of business with their purchasing policies / behavior.

      • What? Conservation technology hasn't been invented? Seriously it's easier to invent technology to save the power we do have than it is creating new power sources or extending the old ones.

        • Right on. And imagine how much energy we could all save if we became Amish. Windmill-powered laptops. Horse-drawn lexus carriages. No need to visit the grocery store; just milk a cow, butcher a cow, or eat fresh corn from your own backyard.

          (I'm just joking). ;-)

          OKAY BACK TO TOPIC: This is yet another waste of taxpayer money. Most stores are already pursuing ways to conserve energy, such as Walmart replacing all their incandescent lighting with fluorescent. My local JCPenney installed skylights

  • by Anonymous Crowhead ( 577505 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:05PM (#25197251)

    ...should harness the smug of their customers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
      "..should harness the smug of their customers."

      You know, Whole Foods isn't that bad...at least not in my neck of the woods (New Orleans area). Sure, you can easily spend too much $$ (hence the moniker "Whole Paycheck"), but, last time in there...I did some pricing, and on some produce and meats (for the quality stuff), the price wasn't that bad actually. Not to mention...you can often find fresh ingredients there that the normal grocery stores don't carry. If you shop there judiciously, some things are co

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Making a grocery store more energy conscious is a great idea. I was just grumbling yesterday while walking through a grocery that they should segregate the fresh produce and put doors on all those open meat/cheese/dairy cabinets and horizontal freezers so that the whole store wouldn't be 50 degrees inside.... I wouldn't be surprised if you could cut energy use by an order of magnitude just by fixing all the really stupid, obvious, and huge energy pigs in your typical grocery store... not to mention that y

        • "so that the whole store wouldn't be 50 degrees inside.... I wouldn't be surprised if you could cut energy use by an order of magnitude just by fixing all the really stupid, obvious, and huge energy pigs in your typical grocery store... not to mention that your customers would be much happier at not having to wear a heavy coat when they go out food shopping in the middle of the summer...."

          Not a problem down here in the New Orleans area....in fact, it is a pleasure to go shopping in a nice cool store down

        • "Making a grocery store more energy conscious is a great idea."

          Yes it is. [sunedison.com]

      • by fugue ( 4373 )

        My local Hole Foods (in Boulder, no less!) just tore down a couple of neighbouring stores so they could install another few hundred spaces of "free parking" (ie. parking subsidised by high prices). They actually want me, a cyclist, to help pay for their other customers to pollute the air, create urban sprawl, increase global warming, jack up energy prices, make our air dirtier, and all the other ills that accompany cars.

        For more whining about this kind of policy and where it gets us, check out "The High

  • by FireStormZ ( 1315639 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:06PM (#25197253)

    Well we reserve that kind of money for folks who fail upwards..

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:35PM (#25197591)

      I left the country for a few weeks, and now that I'm back, it feels like I'm "IN SOVIET RUSSIA" or something.

      I mean, suddenly it's the Democrats who want to throw $700 Billion to our corporate overlords, and it's the Republicans who are (probably ineffectively) trying to put a stop to it. What a country!

    • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:42PM (#25197671) Homepage

      The House agrees with you, and the bill failed to pass by a small margin earlier today.

      Democracy actually worked here! The population seemed apprehensive about the bill, and congress decided that it was best to address the problem in smaller steps.

      Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, where congress no longer considers these 300-page meta-bills an ethical or acceptable way to propose legislation.

      It's also interesting to note that the representatives didn't overwhelmingly side with their parties, making it one of the few recent pieces of major legislation that hasn't encountered outright polarization.

      All these things add up to a very promising sign. People seem to have finally woken up, and realized what's at stake.

      • Awwwwwww, but I wanted to watch the New Holy Roman Empire(TM) spiral down the drain in amusing fashion!
      • by megamerican ( 1073936 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @04:04PM (#25197931)

        Democracy actually worked here! The population seemed apprehensive about the bill, and congress decided that it was best to address the problem in smaller steps.

        While Democracy was working the Federal Reserve was creating $630 billion [bloomberg.com] out of nothing and putting it into the financial system.

        While watching C-Span today I think my favorite line was from Brad Sherman (D-CA): "Just because all of your constituents oppose this bill does not make it an act of courage to vote for it."

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Hatta ( 162192 )

        As much as I hate to say it, this isn't a good thing. I want to punish the corporations as much as anyone, but not at the cost of the entire economy. Wealth doesn't tend to trickle down, but poverty does.

        As I understand it, that 700 billion was not going to line anyones pockets. In all these bail outs, the stockholders got hosed. In this bill specifically, there were no "golden parachutes". This 700 billion was the money that banks would lend to each other, and to real people to keep the economy running

        • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @05:16PM (#25198765) Homepage Journal

          As I understand it, that 700 billion was not going to line anyones pockets.

          It was going to come from somewhere. You can make a case that it might do more than $700B worth of good, but one thing is beyond all doubt: it would have done at least $700B worth of damage.

          If the bank can't find the money to loan out, no one's going to be able to get any T-shirts, and my GF is shit out of luck.

          The people who wanted to borrow money to buy T-shirts, should go talk to the people who were going to pay the $700B. Surely those rich folks have plenty of money to lend -- more than the banks, apparently.

          Who are they? Oh, your grandkids. Fusion power, flying cars, and people with hundreds of billions of dollars burning holes in their pockets -- the future is awesome!

      • With two exceptions, everyone who voted *for* the bill was not in a hotly contested reelection race. Everyone who voted *against* it was.

        This is not democracy in action, it's just people looking out for their own interests.

        It saddens me to think that this bill didn't pass or fail on its merits, but was the result of short-term thinking by people who want to benefit themselves and friends, but can't do it at this exact point in time.

        If the bill had come up a month from now, it would have passed.

        A bunch of th

    • I'd like to congratulate you, americans, for putting your country away from a path that would lead to the 3rd world and demonstrating that there is still some democracy in there.

      Well done!!!

  • Incentives for what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:06PM (#25197257) Journal

    WHY do we need incentives to do the "right" thing?

    Why are we beholden to evil, unless someone pays us to not be?

    {sarcasm} I guess I'm just too stupid or naive to understand {/sarcasm}

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eagee ( 1308589 )
      This is really kind of like waving a bag of pennies in front of a car thief and saying, "Look what you get if you don't steal cars anymore!"

      On that front, it would seem the companies are hedging their bets that public opinion is moving to the side of sustainable energy. You can only count on a corporation to do what will make it money (usually). So if corporations are changing that could be taken as a good sign that public opinion is shifting (again).

      I think this it's more like a governmental high-fi
    • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:20PM (#25197421)

      Why are we beholden to evil, unless someone pays us to not be?

      Why are you calling shareholders evil? I think a better term is "short-sighted".

      These companies might implement cost-saving energy-conservation measures if they were handed over for free. But if anyone tries to sell them cost-saving measures, the immediate cost is a large deterrent despite the long-term results, because most companies can't seem to afford a view longer than the next quarterly financials. However, show a tax savings on that report because of government rebates and the company can implement changes.

      Is this the way it should be? Probably not. But that's how it is.

      • by explosivejared ( 1186049 ) <hagan.jared@nosPaM.gmail.com> on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:29PM (#25197523)
        You have hit the nail right on the head. Thinking no further than the next quarter is what got the US financial markets into the grand mess that they are in. We here a lot of political grandstanding about how the American worker is the most creative and productive on the planet, but I mean you know that statement's worth is debatable, but I know something for absolutely certain, American CEO's and stockholder's are the most short-sighted and unimaginative on the planet.
        • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @04:26PM (#25198157) Journal

          I know something for absolutely certain, American CEO's and stockholder's are the most short-sighted and unimaginative on the planet.

          That's because the system is set up in such a way that it rewards such short-sightedness. You see they aren't as short-sighted as you think. They're looking out for their own long term interests. It's just that the CEO's long term wealth is completely disconnected from the company's. So a CEO can actually end up being fired with a much smaller golden parachute and a bad reputation for doing the right thing by the company because his next quarter profits are down.

          You might as well blame a farm pig for being fat. The system needs changing, and no I'm not an economist so I don't have the answers. I just know when something's broken.

          • I've suggested this before, but why aren't CEOs paid a small salary and a large block of shares that they are not allowed to divest until 5-10 years after they are issued? If they want to get the most money then they have to leave the company in a situation where it will keep growing (or, at least, not collapsing) for five years after they leave. The next CEO will have to do the same.
            • by syousef ( 465911 )

              I've suggested this before, but why aren't CEOs paid a small salary and a large block of shares that they are not allowed to divest until 5-10 years after they are issued?

              That's a nice idea. The only flaw I can think of is unfortunately a fairly fatal one. It's entirely possible for a good CEO to be followed by a monkey who ruins his work. The good CEO isn't rewarded under this scheme. One could argue that part of a CEO's role ought to be to choose a successor, and that might work well for a good CEO but ag

              • Don't those shares then act as a disincentive to jump ship? When a company hires a good CEO, shouldn't they expect at least five years of good service out of him? I don't see that as a problem because any good CEO can control his/her own destiny to last sufficiently long in the job and sell the shares.

        • Actually I think in the case of the mortgage mess the shareholders are not to blame (for once.) Many European banks are in trouble too, without a manic fixation on quarterly results, and a friend of mine who is in real estate summed it up nicely: "This was fraud on a very large scale and nobody cared." A mortgage auditing firm in SoCal was quoted as saying that about 50% of the mortgages they evaluated were at least "iffy", often with lenders overstating their income or not mentioning other loans or mortgag

      • I don't know. I think "evil" is pretty accurately characterized by subsidizing you own existence with the work of others. That's really all shareholders are doing.

    • by db32 ( 862117 )
      Because it isn't profitable in the short run, and once you make the breakthrough you are pretty much stuck sharing it with everyone. Patent issues aside, it is kind of tough to keep some scientific advance under wraps (no, really, nuclear reactors work by magic, no atom splitting here, quit trying to copy me!).

      Ultimately the money has to come from somewhere, so unless you want to walk door to door with a collection box for your research you are pretty much stuck working to convince someone with a big poc
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bryansix ( 761547 )
      Moreover CB Richard Ellis builds energy efficient buildings because they are already on the hook for that power cost. They don't need more motivation. I'm in a CB Richard Ellis managed building now and it has motion sensors for all the lights, the air con is on a schedule and has to be over-ridden in the after-hours, and the windows are tinted. What else can they do that isn't done already?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      WHY do we need incentives to do the "right" thing?

      Because, contrary to rumour, it costs money to make buildings more energy efficient.

      It costs enough that you're generally better off NOT doing it - you're likely to stop using the building before the energy efficiency upgrade pays for itself, much less shows a return.

      Note that this isn't necessarily true for ALL buildings. But, in general, the cheap easy improvements were made decades back, the last time we panicked about energy prices. What's left are t

    • Reducing energy usage is a waste of time and money for almost anyone. It represents a reduction in the value and quality of human life for the benefit of "The Earth".

      These companies could be producing good and services for their customers or profits for their shareholders. That's what they were created to do -- not wasting their employees' time to try to save energy. Why should they want to spend $100 in employee time to save $50 worth of energy? To go to environmentalist heaven?

      • For the benefit of "The Earth"? Seriously? You make it sound like the earth is some far off place reserved for the enjoyment of a wealthy few.

        When deciding that reducing energy usage is a waste of money for almost everyone, how do you reach that conclusion? Have you factored in the countless externalizes or are you just looking at the direct savings? From the example you gave I'm assuming the latter is the case.

        • by Kohath ( 38547 )

          If someone could do a fair cost/benefit analysis taking every single factor into account, and if reducing energy turned out the be the lowest cost and highest benefit (rather than, say, building a nuclear power plant) then it would make sense.

          If the only real benefit is going to environmentalist heaven, then reducing energy use is just a sad waste of humanity.

          Do you have this analysis that shows all the externalities? I don't think you do.

          • >

            Do you have this analysis that shows all the externalities? I don't think you do.

            He may not, but your analysis specifically disallows externalities by only taking into account employee time.

          • If the only real benefit is going to environmentalist heaven, then reducing energy use is just a sad waste of humanity.

            Jeez. Do you think environmentalists typically pray to Gaia?
            There's tangible cost associated with environmental decline like global warming. Environmentalists are usually just faster to recognize this. For the rest it'll probably take a few more decades to sink in. Or they'll simply have to make way for the next generation.

            • by Kohath ( 38547 )

              Do you think environmentalists typically pray to Gaia?

              No. It's my way of saying environmentalists do completely irrational things in order to feel good about themselves. At least if they actually believed in environmentalist heaven their decisions could be considered rational. But instead they're based on feelings.

              There's tangible cost associated with environmental decline like global warming.

              Not one that's been fairly accounted for using a non-biased cost/benefit analysis. All we get is "the world is ending: socialism NOW" and variations on that theme.

              Environmentalists are usually just faster to recognize this.

              Because they wanted socialism all along and global warming is just this most recent

    • Or too stuck in your own value system.
    • WHY do we need incentives to do the "right" thing?

      Why are we beholden to evil, unless someone pays us to not be?

      {sarcasm} I guess I'm just too stupid or naive to understand {/sarcasm}

      By "we" you're obviously including all the American people. Otherwise why would there be "energy credits" come tax time and "rebates" from energy companies to their customers. We ALL are willing to do what's right without incentives. Right?

  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:06PM (#25197261)

    Cos I thought they only talked in billions and trillions. Y'know 700 billion here, a trillion there.

     

  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:08PM (#25197283) Homepage
    To put that in perspective, the current energy use in the US is on the order of a trillion dollars per year.

    Fifteen million dollars is trivial.

  • by lrohrer ( 147725 ) <lrohrer@l s q u a r ed.com> on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:19PM (#25197399) Homepage

    The simple solution is to let the sun in. 1) Install more sky lights. 2) install sensors to dim lights as needed

    Next solar HOT water systems for heating/cooling of their buildings.

    This is 30 year old technology with a 6-8 year payback.

    Where is my check?

    • by Sta7ic ( 819090 )

      Cause & effect. When you pop open the skylights, you end up reducing the effective insulation of the house. This becomes an issue when you're trying to keep heat in during the winter and keep heat out during the summer (and lets that much more solar energy in).

      Sorry, no check, insufficiently constructive input.

  • Start billing employees for leaving their computers on overnight when there is no business reason. It's one thing to leave it in sleep mode, but where I've worked, a lot of workstations are left turned on overnight, eating up a decent bit of electricity.

    After the first offense, I would start docking one or two dollars per offense from the next pay check. Hit them in their pocket, and employees will stop leaving their computers on when they don't need to be on.

    • Re:Here's an idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by iamhigh ( 1252742 ) * on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:34PM (#25197587)
      $0.20 per KwH.
      computer using 100w (your net admin should have power settings set correctly and this is way over estimated)
      for 15 hours
      = $0.30 per night

      or

      PHB @ $30/H
      taking 5 minutes to boot and log in ($30/5 minutes of time (12))
      = $2.5

      Doesn't make sense or cents to a business.
      • Re:Here's an idea (Score:4, Informative)

        by MrSteve007 ( 1000823 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:50PM (#25197777)
        I've heard this argument from people within my company. It didn't take must to shut them up though. Under most bios setting, you can set a time for the computer to auto-boot during the week.

        People start work at 8am? Set the PC's to boot at 7:50. Some people show up a little early, change the boot times.

        Within the OS settings, if there isn't any use within 120 minutes, have the system hibernate. Also, our CAD workstations consume ~300 watts an hour. At those levels, overnights and weekends amount to a fairly substantial amount of waste (and waste heat) generated.

        At that level of consumption, each system consumes .$90 each night, and $3 per weekend. Multiply that by 50 workstations and per year, and the total amount of wasted electricity $19,500 annually. In a 500 person firm, add a zero to the end of that number. This is a huge amount of waste within corporate America, that only takes 2 minutes to change within a bios.
        • by kabocox ( 199019 )

          At that level of consumption, each system consumes .$90 each night, and $3 per weekend. Multiply that by 50 workstations and per year, and the total amount of wasted electricity $19,500 annually. In a 500 person firm, add a zero to the end of that number. This is a huge amount of waste within corporate America, that only takes 2 minutes to change within a bios.

          Are you kidding? For those places that actually see that much waste, it is cheaper to eat that as a cost of doing business than change just because s

          • "Remember if it's not broke don't fix it. $19K a year may be a lot to you or me, but that's chick feed at the corporate level. "

            Fortune 500 maybe. But the majority are small companies and $19K would be sorely missed.

          • I calculated numbers for 50 people. Using those numbers (and again, most places don't use 300 watt consumption cad workstations, more like 175 watts for a standard PC), you're talking about $400 wasted per person. Not huge amounts, but if you're a company like GM, with 266,000 people, and you didn't shut off your personal workstations at night and weekends, you're talking about $106,400,000 dollars annually wasted (@ $0.20 per kWh). And that's just one fortune 500 company. If everyone there was just using a
            • My figuers are a bit different. Figure that we DO turn on various energy saving features, but not hibernate or suspend, because we're lazy and patch at night. That's another point - we wouldn't be able to charge our workers for leaving workstations on, because they're actually directed to do so for nightly patching.

              Let's say such a computer settles down to 100 watts at night, for 16 hours a day. Weekend completely unused. 128 hours a week unused, could be shut off. At 100 watts, that'd be 12.8 kwh a we

        • by Ant P. ( 974313 )

          I've often looked at that setting and wondered what in the world it's there for. I guess that either makes you a genius or everyone else idiots.

    • Re:Here's an idea (Score:4, Informative)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:43PM (#25197693) Homepage Journal

      Your PC is 200-300 watts (another 150-250 if your monitor is a CRT), but your laser printer is 2,000 watts. Your printer uses more electricity than a dozen PCs.

      A photocopier uses even more electricity.

      • 1. I think your figure for the PC is high. My gaming desktop draws 240W at idle, including CRT monitor (about 360W going full-out) and it packs significantly hardware than your commonplace office PC.

        2. A laser only draws that much when actively printing. It draws very little (10s of Watts) when idle.

      • Your PC is 200-300 watts (another 150-250 if your monitor is a CRT), but your laser printer is 2,000 watts.

        If my laserprinter was 2kW, I wouldn't have to heat my home.

        I think your number is a bit high. Wikianswers says [answers.com] a laser printer uses 400 to 750 watts. (and, of course, we know that any website with the name "Wiki" in it has to be accurate, right?)

        • A 2kW printer would, at the least, require one of those sideways prong 20A 120V plugs (18A actual draw).

          While I could see such a printer - it would be an extremely high volume one, capable of spitting out a full size book in a couple minutes.

      • by klaws ( 66658 )

        Augh. No. Peak power dissipation is not average power dissipation. A laser printer or copier only uses that much power while printing/copying. My laserjet goes down to ~50W in power "saving" mode when it's not printing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kohath ( 38547 )

      Here's an idea: Why not just shut down and lay off all the employees and open up shop in India or China where they still build power plants?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It would be markedly easier, and less annoyingly "nickle-and-diming" to just use whatever centralized management setup you almost certainly already have at any decent sized outfit to just do scripted shutdowns or hibernation on idle. If users hate turning on their computers that much you can also have a scripted wake-on-lan go out 5 minutes before the start of the workday.

      We do that at the tech department I work for, and it works fine. It would be much more work to track and punish users who leave their m
    • by db32 ( 862117 )
      What an awesome idea! That way us security guys get to try and patch them while users are actively working on them. With any luck we can cause some business losses as users cancel out, refuse to reboot, or otherwise lose what they are doing. Nevermind that as we force them to sit around during reboots and patching we still get to pay them for doing nothing!

      If we get really lucky we can suffer from a major infection or data exfiltration and turn that into millions of loss to counter the few bucks we wou
      • Sounds to me like some are making the argument for thin clients and centralized servers. Throw in virtualization and you have your energy savings right there.

        • by db32 ( 862117 )
          I am actually pretty impressed with our SunRay setup performance. It would be a lot better if Windows Terminal Server was more stable than Charles Manson, but I have been looking at the virtual desktop pool idea to try and move away from a single user having the ability to blow out all the users when they manage to crash something. (Now, part of this is some of the main apps in use, but to some degree it is still a sin on Windows part as well for ever allowing apps to be designed that take advantage of su
  • Let's see, I think those companies lost that much in their shareholder value in probably 1.2 seconds of trading today. Geez, maybe if the Feds invested 700 billion into energy production and effeciency, it would do more for the markets than just pouring it into banks.

  • Good job, Congress! Thanks to your failure to save the economy, energy use will decline.

    Bankrupt companies don't have to worry about turning on their lights ever again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      What does Congress have to do with it? The bumbling CEOs who run their corporations into the ground deserve all the credit.
    • Amen. The biggest dent in carbon dioxide during the 90s was the demise of the Soviet Union.
      Now the only thing we need in the US is run the big three in Detroit into the ground.

  • All the shuttered businesses and foreclosed homes which are resulting from the financial mess should reduce energy consumption considerably. Remember, if you're the last one out, DO turn off the lights.

  • Wealth redistribution to corporations.

    Want to save energy? Put energy-inefficient box stores like Bush Buy, er, Best Buy, out of existence.

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