Tales from the Trail

from Environment Forum:

Harry Potter, horcruxes and Steven Chu

Anyone familiar with Harry Potter knows as least two things: 1) this is the U.S. opening weekend for the final movie in the blockbuster series about the boy wizard and 2) ultimate villain Voldemort uses horcruxes to hold bits of his soul and extend his life.

Leave it to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to riff on horcruxes to explain energy storage.

"While I confess I haven't yet seen all of the Harry Potter movies including the “Deathly Hallows Part 2,” a staff member (who might be a bigger nerd than I am) was telling me about Lord Voldemort's "horcruxes" -- objects he used to store his life energy.  Without them, he lost his power and couldn't survive," Chu said on his Facebook page.

"In the 'muggle' world, energy storage is crucial to our future as well, but for more positive reasons.  It is the key to greatly expanding the use of renewable energy sources that are intermittent like wind and solar power. Better batteries will mean longer range, lower cost electric vehicles, and will make our entire electricity generation and distribution system more efficient by smoothing out fluctuations in demand."

Check out what the Nobel laureate says about the seven "clean energy horcruxes" in the rest of his post.

Steven Chu: Energy Secretary, Nobel Laureate, Zombie

67613_449706237290_79707582290_5525360_4352855_aYou sort of have to like a U.S. cabinet secretary and Nobel Prize winner who knows how to have a little fun while getting out a message.

That would be Steven Chu, who posted a picture of himself as a green-faced, blood-dripping zombie on his Facebook page. Just in time for Washington’s scrupulously-observed Halloween weekend, Chu used his own zombification as a platform to point out power-sucking appliances — energy vampires, he called them.

“Garlic doesn’t work against these vampires,” Chu wrote. “But by taking some simple steps – like using power strips or setting your computer to go into sleep mode – you can protect yourself, and your wallet.” Then he linked to the Energy Department’s “energy star” page .

from Summit Notebook:

Steven Chu: “I’m an energy efficiency nut”

He unplugged the extra refrigerator in the basement. He got a tankless water heater and reduced the heat setting. He turned down the air conditioning last summer and used fans to keep cool.

Yes, Energy Secretary Steven Chu acknowledged, "I'm an energy efficiency nut."

The Nobel physics laureate said he's slowly weatherizing his home in the Washington DC area, but "weatherizing" isn't a word he likes. "I'm decreasing its energy consumption and making money," was how he put it at a Reuters Washington Summit. Chu figures his energy bills are about half what the home's previous owners paid.

But he said that he, and most people, could still do more.

"In terms of energy efficiency, it's what the economists would say is a market failure ... Most people don't have the knowledge or inclination, there's inertia, they just can't be bothered, they let some things slip," Chu said. And he himself is not immune: "We've been living in the house for five months and it's still a work in progress -- and I'm an energy efficiency nut."