Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace 1 month, 3 weeks ago on Kevin Copeland: Read up on climate

Holy conspiracy theories, Barry! I think you've watched too many episodes of the X-Files.

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Bill Wallace 1 month, 3 weeks ago on Kevin Copeland: Read up on climate

So, you would rather trust the oil and gas industry that makes its money but pushing and perpetuating the ever increasing use of non-renewable resources. What I teach in my sustainable engineering course is that global climate change is real, significant and negates current assumptions on environmental conditions, assumptions used by civil engineers to design public infrastructure.

Happy trails!

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Bill Wallace 1 month, 3 weeks ago on Kevin Copeland: Read up on climate

So, we can continue to play “Dueling Factoids” in this discussion thread, or play “Who Do You Trust.” My tendency is to trust the people who are recognized experts in this field, just as I tend to trust my tax accountant to deal with my taxes or my IT guy to deal with my computer systems. Also, I think I’m a decent engineer and I teach graduate courses in sustainability engineering. I continue to track the climate research and the associated empirical evidence, which continues to show overwhelmingly that climate change is real, human caused and is an urgent problem.

Now, I’ve made this point a number of times and the usual response from the “How do I know, Rush Limbaugh told me so” climate change denier set that you can’t believe the Societies or National Academies. They’re just a bunch of researchers whose sources of research $$$ would dry up if they took a position against the prevailing notion that climate change is real. My response is OK, if you want to, let’s play “Follow the Money.” Who stands to gain the most? Is it the researchers who may get a few hundred thousand dollars each to do their research, or those connected to the fossil fuel industry supply chain whose $20 trillion of existing hard assets will be turned into stranded assets if meaningful action is taken to mitigate climate change.

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Bill Wallace 1 month, 3 weeks ago on Kevin Copeland: Read up on climate

Kevin Copeland is practicing what social scientists call the Scientific Certainty Argumentation Method, also known by the delightfully appropriate acronym, SCAM. Science is filled with uncertainty and ambiguity, which was clearly true in the case of climate change. So, if you wanted to delay actions that might address climate change (and if you’re in a fossil fuel-related industry, save a whole bunch of money), the SCAM tactic is very useful and effective. It plays on our sense of fairness. We tend to give the benefit of the doubt, not wanting to take actions outside the norm until all reasonable doubt is removed and we are really “certain” that such actions are fully warranted. You apply SCAM to the issue by bringing up points, factual or otherwise, that cast doubt on the current scientific consensus on climate change.

Today, an additional problem with Copeland's argument is that their isn't any uncertainly left unless you want to take Barry Goldkind's whacko Internet references seriously. What we need to take seriously is how credible scientists address technical issues of import. Since it was set up by President Lincoln, over 150 years ago, the National Academies has been advising the government and the public on important issues pertaining to science, engineering and technology. To address these sorts of issues, The Academies draw on the best scientific and engineering minds in the country. On the issue of climate change, the position of the National Academies is that the climate change science is settled, and this nation’s (and the world’s) task should now focus on the hard part: dealing with climate change mitigation and adaptation. See http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/. The equivalent organizations in may other countries have reached the same conclusions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to which National Academy members are a part, has reached the same conclusions, and has assembled a vast and compelling set of peer-reviewed research and publications to back it up.

In the U.S. since 2007, the 40 or so other professional science and engineering societies have issued policy statements that either agree that climate change is a real, human caused and an urgent problem. Seven have been neutral. Interestingly, the last group to go from negative to neutral was the American Society of Petroleum Geologists. Go figure.

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Bill Wallace 4 months, 3 weeks ago on CenturyLink outage disrupts phone service, sends 911 calls to Moffat County

The blame for the outage lies with the construction company that cut the fiber-optic cable. In construction, it is standard operating procedure to locate and avoid underground utilities when you're digging dirt. The questions we ought to be raising are: (1) did the construction company work with CenturyLink to locate the cable before digging, (2) did our elected officials take any action after the July 6th cable cut to avoid future cuts, and (3) what are the penalties to be levied against the construction company for cutting the cable and seriously disrupting essential communication services.

In regard to #3, several years ago, the Comcast Internet cable was cut by a construction crew building one of those large, fancy condo/commercial buildings in downtown Steamboat, taking me out of business for about a day. What I learned from Comcast was that the city penalty for cutting the cable was $1000/day. That's chump change for a big construction project, leading to a construction company operating policy of "We don't care. We don't have to."

Instead of treating this second Internet/telephone outage as, "Hey, stuff happens", our elected officials should be all over this incident, protesting to CDOT and levying heavy fines on the construction company. Like the July 6th cable cut, I suspect nothing substantial will happen. So much for leadership.

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Bill Wallace 1 year, 1 month ago on Tougher trash ordinance from city would require more Steamboat residents to buy wildlife-proof containers

Wow, it's amazing what you can learn from Steamboat Springs City Council. Today, I learned that the bears that live in my part of the city (three that I know of) are pretty stupid. I know that 'cause in the 11 plus years I've been living here, no bear has ever gotten into our standard variety trash cans. Once a week at about 7:00 AM, I take them to the end our our rather long driveway and let the contents be handled by the Waste Management folks. Sure enough, no bear has ever touched them, thrashed them or did whatever intelligent bears do. That said, I really do feel sorry for the rest of you folks who have to put up with the intelligent bears that keep thrashing your trash. Oh, and maybe someone can explain to me how the City's bear population managed to segregate itself by IQ. Sure hope the smart ones aren't reading this and find out where I live. Hmmm...or can they?

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Bill Wallace 1 year, 9 months ago on Bill Wallace: Efficient design pays off

I see where this is going. OK, let's not have rules. Let everybody have the freedom to choose and live with the consequences. Tell that to the parents of the kids that were on that South Korean ferry that sunk recently. It was just reported that the boat was carrying more than 3 times more weight in cargo than the boat was designed to carry. Tell that to the families who lost relatives in the collapse of the garment factory building in Bangladesh which incidentally happened exactly one year ago. In that case, the building owner violated building design standards and added an extra level and used substandard materials.

These examples go well beyond the scope of LEED, but they are meant to point out that many times we need to have standards and rules, along with the requisite enforcement, to protect the public from unnecessary risk to health, life and property. The question is where do you draw the line.

Personally, I have no qualms about establishing rules for energy and water conservation in the City. Save enough and you avoid the huge costs and associated tax burden of having to add new energy and water systems capacity. Water utilities are paying customers to replace their toilets and water fixtures and are getting substantial returns on that investment. Wasn't Steamboat Springs doing this?

I'm happy to let people be free to choose, so long as the result isn't, as writer Tom Friedman put it, being "as dumb as we want to be," and those choices don't negatively affect me.

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Bill Wallace 1 year, 9 months ago on Bill Wallace: Efficient design pays off

LEED can be "gamed," but there are limits. Unless your project meets stringent requirements for things like energy and indoor air quality, it doesn't get certified.

Regarding the NYC study, one would need to understand what's being compared. What are the codes the "other new construction" is following? Did the developer decide to install extra insulation?

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Bill Wallace 1 year, 9 months ago on Bill Wallace: Efficient design pays off

First, thanks all for the thoughtful comments...frequently rare in these pages. A few additional points.

LEED (it's not LEEDS), which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was created at a time when building "green" became popular and many builders, both commercial and residential, were engaged in "greenwashing," declaring that their buildings were energy efficient, environmentally friendly, etc., without any justification. Buyers were desperate for some kind of standard to discriminate among choices and LEED filled that gap.

Regarding the cost of buildings that meet LEED standards, my "poster child" for doing things right is the Poudre School District in Fort Collins. Their facilities people won national awards for designing and building schools that meet/exceed all the LEED standards. About 12 years ago, the City passed a bond issue to build/refurbish their schools. The school superintendent gave the facilities people the freedom to build "green" so long as they stayed within budget. There are a lot of details I could go into, but the punchline is that the Poudre District schools cost 10-15% less to build and 30-50% less to operate than conventional Front Range schools. I teach classes in sustainable engineering and have taken the students to Fort Collins to tour the school buildings and talk to the facilities folks.

Poudre's feat was accomplished not through some magic bullet technology, but by better project design and management. The reason LEED certified building tend to cost more is that the designers and constructors aren't very good at integrating the improved technologies and systems into the building design. Their approach is to do a conventional design and just add sustainable features on the top. I've termed this "accessorizing for sustainability."

Stu Reeve, Poudre's energy manager, has visited Steamboat several times to speak to the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. Sorta like preaching to the choir. Not sure if he's spoken to city or county officials.

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