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Archive for the ‘Efficiency’ Category

Pearl Brewery San Antonio

Pearl Brewery, San Antonio - home of one of the largest solar roofs in the region

We’re in the midst of a heat wave and drought that are on record to be Texas’ worst in recorded history. (and now imagine if global warming actually kicked in, the way all those scientists say! *wink*)

But we have a few options. Cope, adapt, or conquer. I much prefer the last solution to the first.

First, we can cope. Rep. Joe Barton from here in Texas once famously said in a Congressional hearing that his constituents don’t have to worry about global warming- they’ll just find some shade. Well, we can do that. We can also do what is more likely which is just go sit in our homes and offices and blast the air conditioning as much as we can to make these ever-warming, record-breaking hot, dry summers as tolerable as possible.

The only problem is, all that electricity comes from somewhere. And with record-breaking demand on the ERCOT grid, they have been warning Texans to conserve or risk rolling blackouts. And while blasting the a/c may seem like an affordable luxury for the people who live in the McMansions of West Austin, I don’t know about the rest of you, but most Texas families can’t afford the huge energy bills that would be associated with just setting the thermostat at 70 and letting it go.

We can already see what coping is getting us.

(more…)

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Texas is suffering from an historic drought and one question that looms large is – how much rain will we need to actually end the drought?  And the answer is -  A LOT!

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicates 12 to 15+ inches of rain (shades of purple and dark blue) is necessary for most of Texas to end the drought, as shown in the graphic below.

Even those small parts of the state not needing those massive amounts of rainfall to end this drought will require six to twelve inches of rain to recover.  With the Climate Prediction Center now saying there is a 50/50 chance of a return to La Nina conditions this fall which almost always results in drier than normal conditions for Texas and most of the South, the potential for recovery any time soon is pretty slim.

It has taken months for the drought to get to the level it is at now and it will take months or even years to return to normal.  But all indications are that there is no major relief coming soon and if you haven’t already done so, consider taking measures to reduce your water and electricity use for the long haul.  For ideas on how consumers can do this, check out the Texas Is Hot website for tips on how to reduce your energy use, and TCEQ’s Take Care of Texas website for tips on conserving water.

 

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“In 2007, little seemed problematic about the energy-efficient light bulb or the law signed by President George W. Bush, which called for the incandescent bulb to be phased out in favor its energy-saving counterpart. But that was before the rise of the Tea Party”.

So begins an article by Natasha Lennard in Salon

Why is the Tea Party suddenly obsessed with light bulbs?

by Natasha Lennard of Salon

In 2007, little seemed problematic about the energy-efficient light bulb or the law signed by President George W. Bush, which called for the incandescent bulb to be phased out in favor its energy-saving counterpart. But that was before the rise of the Tea Party.

Suddenly, saving the old-fashioned 100-watt bulb — which wastes most of the energy it consumes and costs households more in energy bills than the new model — has become a matter of personal liberty. And so, House Republicans on Monday will seek to repeal the 2007  law, which calls for the phaseout to begin in January 2012.

The law has been dubbed “the light bulb ban” by activists on the right and has struck a Tea Party nerve. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann have all called it government intrusion par excellence. It essentially mandates that no new bulbs can go on the market after January ’12 without meeting a new, higher standard of energy efficiency. Bulbs that don’t meet the standard but that are already in stores won’t be taken off shelves.

“It is one of those issues out there that just inflames people,” Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, co-sponsor of the bill that would reverse the phaseout, told Politico. “What in the world were you doing restricting the kinds of light bulbs in my home?”

Of course, you could also craft an argument that the law is fiscally conservative.  According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Analysis shows the standards [of the 2007 light bulb law] would save the country more than $12.5 billion annually when fully implemented in 2020.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu showed little sympathy for libertarian stalwarts, when in a press conference on the issue he bluntly said, “We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.”

And in an opinion piece for The Hill, Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., put the bulb debate in much needed context: “We’ve got big fights ahead, with real disagreements that will require us to find some common ground — like how to get our financial house in order, how to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and how to reform our education system. If Republicans and Democrats can’t come together on more efficient light bulbs, I have little hope of us tackling the bigger issues.”

And, of course, Texas was right in there leading the charge.  On June 17th, Governor Perry signed into law HB 2510 (Relating to exempting the intrastate manufacture of certain incandescent light bulbs from federal regulation).  Check out our earlier blog about why this legislation is such a futile fist-shaking at the federal government and really, not in the best interest of consumers.  And check out this article in the LA Times, poking fun at Texas for their new battle cry “Remember the Incandescent Bulb”.
The article concludes with musings by one of our own  – “And for all the hoopla over the Texas law, there is virtually no chance in the near future that residents of Lone Star State will be able to buy a state-made incandescent,” said David Power, deputy director of the Public Citizen office in Texas.

We don’t mine tungsten in Texas,” Power said. “So there is no place where they can get a Texas-made filament” for bulbs.

Way to make a statement Texas!

And if that wasn’t enough . . .

Texas’ Congressman Joe Barton took this fight to Capital Hill.  The measure was defeated, but not before it became the delight of comedian’s across the country.

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart slammed House Republicans relitigating a fight over incandescent light bulbs while the country was on the brink of default.

“I just want to make this clear,” Stewart said. “They aren’t fighting about light bulb standards. They are re-fighting a light bulb standards fight that we settled in 2007. We’re three weeks away from having to park our country down the street so China can’t find it and these yutzes are relitigating incandescent v. florescent.”

Watch this video from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, broadcast July 12, 2011.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

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Governor Perry has signed into law several pieces of energy efficiency legislation.  These include:

  • SB 1125 – changes how we measure our progress on energy efficiency from a percentage of growth in energy consumption to a percentage of peak energy usage.  Allows for greater demand side management (DSM) by allowing loads to participate in the daily balancing energy market. It also creates new efficiency programs and standardized forms and reporting for progress.
  • SB 898 – requires a 50% reduction in energy consumption (5% per year for 10 years) by all political subdivisions, schools, and state agencies.
  • SB 924 – requires municipal utilities and large co-ops to report their energy saving programs and results
  • HB 2077 – allows certain nonprofit organizations and churches to have access to the LoanStar revolving loan program to install energy efficiency measures and renewable energy.
  • HB 1728 – allows schools to enter into more flexible energy saving performance contracts

Public Citizen worked on all of these during the regular session, along with Businesses for an Energy Efficient Texas coalition (BEET).  These new laws will  help Texas be more competitive, create jobs, save taxpayer dollars and provide environmental benefits that improve air quality and reduce fresh water consumption. They will also help schools reduce their energy costs, making more money available for the classrooms.

Senator Carona, when asked about energy efficiency this past Legislative Session said, “Capturing more energy and associated economic savings for Texas taxpayers and businesses is a priority – especially with the challenges Texas and Texans face with the economy today.”

The Texas legislature should be applauded for their leadership in improving the state’s laws to help Texans be more energy efficient.

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But here in TexasLast week, Public Citizen, the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, Texas League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote to Governor Rick Perry urging him to veto House Bill 2510, “An Act relating to exempting the intrastate manufacture of certain incandescent light bulbs from federal regulation.”  

House Bill 2510 asserts that light bulbs manufactured in Texas and offered for sale and use within Texas are exempt from federal legislation requiring improved light bulb efficiency.  The environmental groups urged the Governor to veto this Bill for several reasons.

  1. This Bill is futile because it sets out conditions that almost certainly cannot be met.  Under the Bill, all of the specialized components used to make incandescent light bulbs must be made in Texas. But there is no evidence that light bulbs could be cost-effectively made from materials located in Texas.  Indeed, tungsten, a critical component of incandescent bulbs is not mined in Texas.  Earlier this year, Governor Brewer of Arizona vetoed a similar light bulb bill passed by the Arizona legislature because she recognized that the conditions of the bill could not be met.
  2. Even if the Bill were not futile as a practical matter, it will not achieve the outcome claimed since the Bill is expressly preempted by federal law and contrary to the numerous decisions of the Supreme Court. 
  3. This Bill sends the wrong signal about the direction that Texas’s economy is heading.  This Bill tells the world that Texas is moving backward, embracing the out-dated technologies of the Nineteenth Century. 

In fact, the opposite is true.  Texas has several companies researching, designing and manufacturing the most advanced LED lighting.  Just this past February the governor sought to move Texas forward by awarding an Emerging Technology Fund grant to an advanced LED lighting company.   This is the right direction for Texas.  But if the Governor doesn’t veto House Bill 2510 and it goes into effect, we will signal that Texas is embracing the past rather than the future.

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If you have been thinking about a new appliance, this weekend is a good time to get one, just remember to look for the energy star label and you will save dollars now and for the life of the unit. Something new for you that will help preserve our scarce resources and some cash at the same time.
Here is the announcement from the state on the offer

REMINDER: Save on Appliances This Weekend During the ENERGY STAR® Sales Tax Holiday – May 28-30, 2011 (more…)

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The following contribution on a new Angelou Economics report showing positive economic impact to the state since 2009. is from Tod Wickersham of Businesses for an Energy Efficient Texas coalition (BEET).

Texas’ energy efficiency programs have saved the state’s residents, schools and businesses money on their electric bills for years. However, a new study by noted economist Angelos Angelou quantifies the employment and economic impact benefits of energy efficiency programs to the state of Texas. While utilities and their customers each have their own way to value economic impacts of energy efficiency investments, this study offers a different perspective, finding that between 2009 and 2011, energy efficiency programs in Texas created or retained nearly 12,000 jobs and generated an overall economic impact of $1.5 billion statewide.

When the Texas electric market was deregulated in 1999, the Texas Legislature recognized that energy efficiency provided Texans a valuable tool to lower the cost of energy and established energy efficiency programs administered by investor-owned utilities (IOUs). These successful programs were expanded in 2007 by the Texas Legislature and further expanded by the Public Utility Commission in 2010. Angelou’s study also recognizes additional economic, job creation and energy savings benefits that would result if these energy efficiency programs were further increased.

The nine IOUs in Texas currently are working to meet these state requirements through programs that offer financial and/or technical assistance to help customers be more energy efficient. As a result of these efforts, electricity demand in Texas was reduced by 240 megawatts in 2009 alone – enough energy to power 46,000 homes. Furthermore, in 2009 these programs provided nearly $55 million in annual savings for residents, businesses, schools and other utility users and reduced smog-producing emissions such as nitrogen oxide by more than 413 tons per year.

Angelou stated that while these Texas energy efficiency program findings are significant, there remains the potential for an even greater economic impact. His report states that  36 states are currently contributing a larger percentage of their capital to energy efficiency programs, resulting in increased energy savings and greater economic benefits.  Texas’s current energy efficiency investments per capita are one-third of the national average, and less than programs in Iowa, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri and Mississippi.

Currently, the Texas Legislature is considering two bills, SB 1125 (Carona) and HB 1629 (Anchia), that would continue these successful energy efficiency programs. These bills are supported by many stakeholders, including businesses, environmental groups, and utility companies.

In the face of tough economic times, Texas’ energy efficiency programs provide a positive economic impact to the state, including saving Texans money, improving businesses’ competitiveness and creating jobs. This study provides additional evidence that continuing the state’s energy efficiency efforts is valuable to Texas.

 To see the report click here

 

About Businesses for an Energy Efficient Texas coalition (BEET): BEET is a coalition of businesses seeking to improve Texas’ competitiveness, save Texans money, and create more Texas jobs through the implementation of energy efficiency projects and programs. BEET is also focused on educating Texas leaders about how energy efficiency programs, products and services benefit the state. For more information about BEET, visit www.BEETcoalition.org.

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Over the past couple of years, there has been a heated debate involving the potential EPA implementation of allowing a greater percentage of ethanol in gasoline.  The current volume percentage of ethanol allowed is 10% for vehicles made between the years 2001 and 2006. Recently, the EPA has been discussing the approval of what is known as E15 (15 volume percent ethanol blended with gasoline), and in October of 2010, the request was waived for the implementation of E15 to be allowed in vehicles made in 2007 and later.  Taking these two decisions into consideration, this now allows for E15 use in vehicle makes 2001 and newer, lighter-make vehicles into the commerce division.  Studies have shown that E15 is likely to result in somewhat lower evaporative emissions compared to fuel currently sold in much of the country (E10) as a result of the lower volatility of E15 under the partial waiver conditions. There are currently two conditions that must be met.  These conditions take into consideration the concerns of the community.  One condition of the waiver involves the mitigation of the possibility of citizens misfueling E15 in the wrong vehicles.  The other condition addresses the fuel and quality of the ethanol.

Sign indicating ethanol at gas station

On January 21, 2011, the EPA did in fact grant a partial waiver for E15 for use in MY2001-2006 light-duty motor vehicles. These decisions were based on test results provided by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other information regarding the potential effect of E15 on vehicle emissions. Taken together, the two actions allow, but do not require, E15 to be introduced into commerce for use in MY2001 and newer light-duty motor vehicles if conditions for mitigating misfueling and ensuring fuel quality are met. The EPA is still in the process of completing work on regulations that would provide a more practical means of meeting the conditions.

These new waivers implemented earlier this year by the EPA have cattle ranchers in an uproar as well.  But what could the Texas livestock industry possibly have to do with the newest ethanol implementations? According to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), the new 50% increase in ethanol-gasoline allowance, is detrimental to the costs of their livestock production.  The TSCRA claim that such a dramatic increase in ethanol permittance will have serious negative repercussions for their cattle ranches.  A statement made by TSCRA president and fellow rancher, Dave Scott, indicated that these high levels of corn based ethanol are one of the most influential factors in driving price increases in corn products, including the feed for cattle.  This is a clear indication of the dangers we create once we begin to place our food and fuel in competition against one another.  In 2008, according to the US Department of Agriculture, feed for livestock reached its record high at $45.2 billion.  This was an increase of more than $7 billion from 2007.  With the cost of feed for livestock and newer, higher levels of ethanol being so intertwined with each other, we will only be seeing an even more dramatic rise in the cost of feed for cattle production…and more unhappy ranchers.

Our nation’s food supply and methods of transportation must find a way to compromise and divert their routes of competition elsewhere because both are at serious risk in the future.

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Several bills filed this session, which included some heard at Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee would preclude homeowners’ associations from restricting installation of solar energy devices.  These are:

Compromises may be in the works to tweak bills for smooth passage.  At the hearing, West, who chairs the committee,  reached out to the Homeowners Associations (HOA) in hopes of striking a balance and avoiding an impasse.

Homeowners have complained that HOAs are unfairly, and sometimes arbitrarily, preventing them from making their abodes more energy efficient using solar technology. The HOAs want to preserve their ability to protect property values from unsafe and unattractive equipment. The green energy industry, environmentalists, some developers and some realtors want to see more solar power used in Texas.

In the House, compromise language already is being crafted.  One potential sticking point is whether to give HOAs any discretion over approval of the design or appearance of solar devices. Some members believe the issue has gone beyond property rights to include energy sufficiency, electricity conservation and grid stabilization.

West said he hopes that if he can convince his colleagues in both houses to ease HOA restrictions on solar energy, they may be more likely to pass SB 142, his latest attempt at comprehensive HOA reform. He has not yet set it for hearing.

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Texas Mail-in Rebate Program

If you’ve considered participating… 

Funds are still available for the Texas Appliance Mail-In Rebate Program. Texas has already approved over $12 million in rebates and funds are limited, so act soon!

Funding for the program is available to Texas residential consumers on a first-received, first-issued basis according to the application’s postmark date until funds are depleted. 

  • You can check available rebate funds to see daily updates on the estimated rebate funds remaining. As funds near depletion, we will issue a notice of closure on our website.
  • Review the Rebate Eligibility Program Rules and search eligible appliance models before you purchase and install an appliance.
  • To be eligible for a rebate, program rules require that you remove and properly dispose of your old appliance. In doing so, you have one of two options to choose from: Recycling or Disposal

    NOTE: If you do NOT have an existing appliance to recycle/dispose of, OR if you keep, gift, donate or sell your old appliance, you will NOT be eligible for an appliance or recycling rebate.

  • Completely fill out an Official Rebate Application Form (PDF, 116KB), including the “Disposal/Recycling Information,” and submit according to program rules.
If you’ve already mailed in an application…
  1. It may take up to eight weeks to review and approve your application. You can check your rebate status online or call toll-free (855) 556-1312.
  2. Double check your application form to make sure it was filled out completely and accurately. An incomplete application form is the most common error; you may have overlooked something as simple as selecting the check box for “Option One: Disposal” vs “Option Two: Recycled.” You may resubmit missing information to ensure your application is processed. Please write your Rebate ID number on all resubmitted forms and supporting documentation. Check your rebate status online or contact customer service to retrieve your Rebate ID number.

    NOTE: If you do NOT select an option under the “Disposal/Recycling Information” section, then “Option One: Disposal” will automatically be selected for you and you will NOT qualify for the additional $75 bonus recycling rebate.

For other program questions, please see the Texas Comptroller’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), contact customer service or call toll-free (855) 556-1312.

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Need a new refrigerator, washing machine, dish washer, water heater, air conditioner or heat pump? The the state has a deal for you.

Texas has started another round of its energy efficient appliance rebate program. As we covered in a previous blog post this is a big, sweet deal of a rebate for new energy star appliances. But because of the problems with the way the last program was run, this time it’s a mail-in rebate.

Not only will you save dollars on a new appliance, you will save money for the life of the appliance because it will use less energy and water than the old one. They even give you some extra cash if you recycle the old one so it doesn’t end up in a landfill or wasting energy in somebody’s garage somewhere.

A benefit of the federal stimulus package direct to your wallet just in time for Christmas shopping.  Because, you know– there’s nothing you want in your stocking more than a new HVAC system or fridge, right?  RIGHT?  : )

Here are the details from the State Comptroller’s office on how the program works:

Texas Appliance Mail-In Rebate Program opens today! Monday, Dec. 20, 2010

Starting today, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010, Texans can purchase appliances and participate in the Texas Appliance Mail-In Rebate Program. The new $18.5 million Texas Appliance Mail-in Rebate Program is a traditional mail-in rebate program, and Texas consumers do not reserve funding for an appliance rebate. Now accepting applications! Rebates are available on a first-come, first-served basis until all funds are distributed.

Helpful Information
Please check the Eligible Appliances, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), Recycling Details and the printable resources listed below for key program information.

1.    Official Application Form for Texas Appliance Mail-In Rebate Program (PDF, 116KB)

Texans can also pick up a form at Comptroller field offices around the state. If necessary, consumers can call an automated toll-free customer information line at (855) 556-1312 to have a form mailed to their home. An application form is not required at the time of purchase, but is needed at the time of installation for disposal/recycling information.

2.     How to Apply Flyer (PDF, 187KB)

3.     Eligible Appliances Chart (PDF, 271KB)

They have added an additional 8.5 million dollars to the pool of funds left over from those that reserved funds but did not spend them, but it will be first come first served until the funds are gone.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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If you haven’t already pre-registered to celebrate the holidays at the 3rd Annual Austin Green Holiday Party, do so soon.  It is coming up soon and this year it is hosted by 10 great organizations.

Fiesta Gardens  (2100 Jesse E. Segovia St., Austin, TX 78702)
Thursday, December 16th, 2010 from 5:30pm-9:30pm

Registration:  Pre-Registration ONLY for this Event (No Cash Accepted at Door)

Network and learn about the hosting organizations and come together for a unified 2011.  Celebrate the holidays with us and enjoy music, great food, beer, wine and other beverages, as well as holiday cheer…

Live Music by: Austin Eco-Musicians (Reed Sternberg, Bill Oliver, Frank Meyer and More!) with Tribal Nation, the Austin reggae band later in the evening.

FoodBarr Mansion (Please help support our event sponsor and friend to the environmental community, the Barr Mansion.  They are catering this event, even as their own facility is being rebuilt after the fire.)

  • Blue Cheese and Winter Squash Sandwich
  • Chicken and Pepperoni Sandwich
  • Sundried Tomato White Bean Dip with Crostini
  • Basil Hummus and Cracker Shards
  • Local Organic Farm Salad Station with assorted dressings

Beverages: Beer, Wine, Sodas, Teas and water will be provided by the following sponsors:

The Co-Hosts: Texas Green NetworkPublic Citizen • SEED Coalition • Sierra ClubDesign Build Live • Austin EcoNetwork • Solar Austin • NetImpact •
Texas League of Conservation Voters • Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility

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Regardless of your car needs, a more fuel efficient vehicle is available. But we can do better!

As Texas families prepare for one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, a new Environment Texas report finds that more fuel efficient cars could save Texans over $16 million at the gas pump this Thanksgiving holiday alone. The report was released as new federal fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks are being developed. (more…)

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A new online film, the “Story of Electronics”, is available to watch today, Tues, November 9.

This is the newest in the series of the excellent, user-friendly Story of Stuff web-films about excessive consumerism and waste.

The Story of Electronics  tells the story of how electronics are really “designed for the dump” and not made to last or made for recycling.

Watch the film at www.storyofelectronics.org and tell your friends about it.

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We use more electricity now than ever, and since 2007 our energy usage in Texas is outpacing population growth.  How many of us charge our cell phones or laptops all night so they’re ready for use in the morning?  Or perhaps run the AC 24 hours a day during the blazing Texas summers?   Several years ago the Legislature passed a bill to bring down our consumption, but there’s still much to be done.  On one hand, legislation can continue to push down the maximum levels of energy consumption, thereby compelling energy companies to utilize more efficient forms of energy.  On the other, consumers and business owners can decide to individually pursue energy efficient technology, such as light bulbs, solar panels, and more efficient appliances.

Both suppliers and consumers must pursue energy efficiency to push it into the mainstream.  It’s the simple market equation of supply and demand—but who is going to push first?  Will energy companies supply more efficient forms of energy, or will consumers demand it until it really catches on?

While trolling the halls of Legislature during the last session and passing around information on efficient energy, I was pulled into a conversation between two gentlemen in one of the offices.  We discussed a slew of topics, including the Austin rodent problem of Fall 2008, the general usefulness of cats, and (prompted by my flier) light bulbs.   One gentleman was insistent that LEDs do not provide near the quality of incandescent bulbs, and therefore refused to use them in his home.  I was not exactly sure how to respond to that (I’m no bulb expert) but in my research I found the video posted below.

So why aren’t these alien light bulbs everywhere?  Some are too expensive for the average consumer, but I had no idea that so many varieties exist.   Since they save so much on energy usage, why aren’t they more popular? (more…)

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