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DollarHelp Contest: Enter to Win a Trip to St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training!

February 15, 2014 Economy, Environment, Featured 6 Comments
Click image to enter contest
Click image to enter contest

This winter has been extra cold and some in our region need help staying warm. The DollarHelp program is an easy way to help those truly in need:

DollarHelp is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1982. Over the past three decades, with donations from St. Louisans across the city and counties, DollarHelp has raised more than $20 million. As a service to the community, Laclede Gas, in partnership with United Way of Greater St. Louis, provides the administrative services to DollarHelp, so that every dollar you donate passes directly to those in need. Laclede Gas Company also donates more than $50,000 in matching funds annually.

Approximately 90% of DollarHelp donations are from Laclede Gas customers who “Check the Red Box.” More than 68,000 Laclede customers contribute to DollarHelp through the automatic giving option, a plan that enables Laclede customers to make regular monthly donations by having the amount they specify added to their gas bill. What if I want to contribute but I’m not a Laclede Gas customer? This year alone, more than $1 million has been contributed by these generous donors in the Laclede service area. Dollar by dollar, we make a difference together.

DollarHelp is more than just making a donation. It’s about people helping people. Through relationships with local social service agencies, DollarHelp grants pay the heating bills for those who have exhausted all forms of public assistance. What are some other public assistance heating programs? DollarHelp is their last stop to get the help they need. And DollarHelp grants pay the household’s primary heating source, no matter the type of fuel. What type of heating bills is covered by DollarHelp grants? The typical grant for a household is $300, but under certain circumstances a grant can range as high as $700. However, when a special medical, housing or financial crisis exists, additional grants up to $400 are available. Where can I get help? Donations to DollarHelp are tax deductible.

DollarHelp heating grants reach families in St. Louis city and the counties of St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin, Jefferson, Iron, Butler, Madison, Ste. Genevieve, and St. Francois. (DollarHelp)

This year Laclede Gas is holding a contest that should appeal to baseball fans:

You could win the Ultimate Winter Warm-Up – a trip to St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training! Enter the DollarHelp “Share The Warmth” photo contest and you could win a trip to Jupiter, Florida, to meet Cardinals’ left-fielder Matt Holliday and watch the Cards in action! Visit Laclede Gas Company’s Facebook page for contest details. Must be a current Laclede customer with a Facebook account to enter.

Hurry, the deadline is the 19th!

— Steve Patterson


Readers OK With New Light Bulb Efficiency Standards

Last week some of you were probably thinking a poll about light bulbs was trivial. Who cares, right? It was news reports in January that got me thinking about the subject.  You see, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 received bipartisan support, including 36 House Republicans, in 2007 and was signed into law by President Bush.   That didn’t stop Republicans from trying to defund enforcement since taking control of the House after the 2010 mid-term elections. July 2011:

House Republicans on Tuesday failed to advance a measure that would repeal regulations that increase efficiency standards for light bulbs, rules that they have assailed as an example of government overreach.  (NY Times: G.O.P. Bid to Void Light Bulb Law Fails)

Like vehicles, the government isn’t banning the incandescent, just raising performance standards:

Now, incandescent bulbs aren’t “banned” under this standard, as is often suggested. Manufacturers can still produce incandescents, so long as they meet these energy standards. Companies like Philips have been doing just that, putting out incandescent bulbs that are filled with halogen gas, so that the filament burns more efficiently.

But it’s true that the traditional, cheaper incandescents that cost 50 cents a bulb are getting phased out, since they can’t meet the standard. As of Jan. 1, 2014, it is illegal to manufacture or import these bulbs. Stores can sell off their remaining stockpile. But, eventually, those old bulbs will be gone. Home Depot says it only has a supply that will last six months. (There have even been reports of bulb hoarding.) (Washington Post: Republicans are still trying to save traditional lightbulbs. It likely won’t work.)

This, as you might expect, has free market types upset. Never mind that taxpayers subsidize energy production. Some might think this is another example of interfering with business, pushing companies to develop new technologies against their will. Not exactly:

So some years ago, Philips formed a coalition with environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council to push for higher standards. “We felt that we needed to make a call, and show that the best-known lighting technology, the incandescent light bulb, is at the end of its lifetime,” says Harry Verhaar, the company’s head of strategic sustainability initiatives. Philips told its environmental allies it was well positioned to capitalize on the transition to new technologies and wanted to get ahead of an efficiency movement that was gaining momentum abroad and in states like California. Other manufacturers were more wary, but they also understood the downside to selling a ubiquitous commodity: the profit margin on a bulb that sells for a quarter is negligible. After much negotiation, the industry and environmental groups agreed to endorse tightening efficiency by 25 to 30 percent. (NY Times: Bulb In, Bulb Out)

The lighting industry and environmentalists together backed the change in standards!  The new standards are getting people to think about light bulbs.

New energy-efficirent light bulbs at Target this week
New energy-efficirent light bulbs at Target this week

No more 2 for $1. I’m not complaining though, I’m glad to see new LED lighting come down in price. We have three LED light fixtures now plus three LED light bulbs in older fixture. The last three are from Philips, their Hue “personal wireless lighting”  system — I bought the set on the first day available in the US, the Apple Store at The Galleria hadn’t even set up their display yet. Eighteen months later it keeps getting better with app developers improving functionality.

Each weekday morning our lights come on a little one minute before our alarm goes off and over the next 9 minutes come up to full brightness.  When was the last time you got excited about light bulbs?

Anyway, here are the results from last week’s poll:

Q: 40 & 60 watt incandescent light bulbs on store shelves are the last ones, thoughts?

  1. No biggie, I/We use CFLs &/or LEDs 29 [34.94%]
  2. Good, they waste too much energy 20 [24.1%]
  3. Oh no, I’d better go stock up 17 [20.48%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 6 [7.23%]
  5. Other: 6 [7.23%]
  6. I’ve got enough to last me a few years 4 [4.82%]
  7. I was counting on the GOP to repeal the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 signed by Bush 1 [1.2%]

And here are the “other” answers:

  1. Poor Easy-Bake Ovens….
  2. Will miss the heat they provide! Used in thermoregulation e.g. bird rehab.
  3. It’s just light bulbs
  4. I’ll just buy them direct from China
  5. Absoutely against it – why was this not an option?
  6. Incandescent were much better

Hopefully we can move on now as the demand for new lighting has caught up to technological advancements.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Thoughts on the Phase Out of 40 & 60 Watt Light Bulbs

The environment is an area I’ve written about before, including energy use and lighting. If you haven’t been paying attention, you may be in for a shock:

Starting Jan. 1, the U.S. will stop manufacturing and importing incandescent light bulbs in favor of ones more energy-efficient.

The phase out started with 100-watt and 75-watt incandescent light bulbs in 2012 and 2013. The last phase out will include the 60-watt and 40-watt. (Source)

Stores may sell their current inventory, the government is slowly forcing us to switch to more efficient lighting choices. Before you blame President Obama, he was just a Senator when the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush.

Now that we’re at the final stage of the incandescent bulb phase out, I’d like to know your thoughts so the poll this week is: 40 & 60 watt incandescent light bulbs on store shelves are the last ones, thoughts? 

I’ve provided a variety of answers but I’ve also given you the option to enter your own answer. The poll is in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson



Downtown YMCA Partially Reopened After Pipe Burst

The downtown YMCA partially reopened on Monday the 20th after being closed for 10 days. A couple of postings on their Facebook page explains: 

January 10th: 

The Downtown Y is closed until further notice due to a water main break. We are assessing the situation and will be able to update with details today. We apologize for the inconvenience. Other local YMCAs will welcome you during this time. We will be rescheduling more Fitness On Demand Orientations next week.

January 16th:

The facility is undergoing emergency cleanup due to a fire sprinkler system break that occurred as a result of last week’s subzero temperatures. Generators are currently being used to power equipment that is helping the cleanup happen quickly and safely. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our neighbors and assure the community that we are working through this process as quickly as possible, with as little disturbance as possible. We appreciate your patience and understanding while we work through this unavoidable issue.

It was the generators on 16th Street that got my attention:

Equipment on 16th street next to the YMCA/Centenary Tower building
Equipment was on 16th street next to the YMCA/Centenary Tower building for days, it was removed by Wednesday

Presumably the 7 upper floors with 100 apartments, vacant since 2007, have been winterized. If so, the burst pipe was in one of the 3 floors of the YMCA.

— Steve Patterson


Controversial Weather

Snow on the roof of the Old Post Office
Snow on the roof of the Old Post Office

How about this weather? The cold air was something! The why is controversial though; some argue climate change may have contributed to the bitter cold, while others think the cold air disproves global warming:

Arctic warming is altering the heat balance between the North Pole and the equator, which is what drives the strong current of upper level winds in the northern hemisphere commonly known as the jet stream. Some studies show that if that balance is altered then some types of extreme weather events become more likely to occur. (climatecentral.org)

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) took to the Senate floor Monday to describe the idea of human-induced climate change as “almost laughable,” citing this week’s cold snap and the recent stranding of a Russian research ship in the Antarctic ice. Inhofe has plowed this ground before: After snow buried D.C. in early 2010, his family built an igloo near the Capitol with a sign reading, “Al Gore’s new home.” (politico)

I think it’s sad when a US Senator proudly displays his ignorance.

No scientist argues that long-term global warming means that we won’t still experience winter, even bitterly cold winters like this year’s has become. The changes to the climate that scientists who are concerned about global warming point out are exactly that: long-term. Individual weather events don’t mean that the trend isn’t taking place.

(It’s also important to point out that the United States makes up less than 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. So even when we see heavy snow events and blasts of Arctic air like this week’s, there are many parts of the world experiencing record heat, such as Australia.) (weather.com)

Some local land will be part of a study on Climate Change:

In November, the plot, at the university’s Tyson Research Center, situated between Lone Elk and West Tyson county parks near Eureka, was named a Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory.

It is now part of a network of 52 other forest plots scattered around the world being used to study climate change and biodiversity. (stltoday)

What are your thoughts?

— Steve Patterson