Energy efficiency theme of annual conference

DOWNEY - Last week's daylong 8th annual Municipal Green Building Conference & Expo held at The Gas Company addressed energy efficiency in the home and at work. Its message was using energy wisely will not only save you money but you'll be contributing in the process to protecting the environment.A panel of speakers, representing the county of Los Angeles and the cities of Los Angeles and Anaheim, took turns explaining briefly their respective departments' roles in implementing already established sustainability programs throughout the Southland. They talked about efficient ordinance-based building systems and using "healthier, green" materials, as well as their adoption of LEED-certified structures and how they follow well-researched landscaping and watershed management techniques. An example is the planting of drought-tolerant plants (there are about 1,500 kinds of these plants alone, they said), resulting in significant savings of course. They talked about the savings realized from the use of solar roofs and mini wind jets placed strategically around a building. This was followed by a bewildering array of breakout sessions that dealt with such topics as coping with peak electrical demand; the utility of the future ("smart power grids," LED lighting, etc.); green ports; clean energy technologies; more efficient water use; green urbanism; etc. The Gas Company, located here in Downey, has of course been in the forefront of the green revolution. Among its services are programs and incentives benefiting businesses and residences. Among its more simple, and common-sensical, reminders: Turn off lights (and other appliances) when they are not being used and when you leave a room; consider using fluorescent lights; wherever possible, use low-wattage light bulbs; use a fan instead of your air conditioner to circulate air; open windows for cool air during the evening and early morning; wash full loads in the dishwasher; fix leaky faucets - one drop of hot water per second can waste 500 gallons per year; etc. Energy efficiency is of course only one of the indicated solutions to global warming, most of it due to the burning of fossil fuels. Other solutions towards the reduction of carbon emissions include nuclear energy, solar power, wind power, geothermal power and other alternatives. We've heard and read a lot about the threats posed by global warming. Except for a smattering of nonconforming voices such as that of physicist Freeman Dyson, the world's scientists seem to agree that such a climate change poses serious harm to the environment and thus to mankind. Thus one study on climate change predicts that "sea levels will rise over the century by around half a meter (roughly 1.64 ft.), snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become prevalent." In the West, points out another report, "earlier melting of mountain snow, on which much of the region depends for water, would mean more severe dry spells and droughts that would trigger worse wildfire seasons. Lower stream flows also would threaten fish and wildlife." And on and on the dire predictions go. President Obama says he's committed to pursuing a clean energy policy. More good news is that the Downey City Council will soon appoint a Green Task Force. This all augurs well for the future.

********** Published: April 24, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 1