IERE is here to provide leading research on a variety of technical issues surrounding environmental policy, the intersection of sustainability and business practices, environmental product labeling, energy independence, and much more. Below is a sampling of some of our research topics and papers. Visit our Policy Research page to read about our policy-related research.
Is energy independence truly possible? IERE tested the idea on Vashon-Maury Island, in the middle of Puget Sound, and here are the results.
First, we surveyed energy use on the island and estimated the renewable energy available on island.
We then wrote a how-to manual for other communities to do the same assessment.
We found that there was more than enough energy available to power the entire island, most of it (to our surprise) was solar power. Even in this cloudy, rainy Pacific Northwest community, there was plenty of energy to support our mostly-middle-class lifestyle. We found that there was already all the technology we needed to be a net-zero community (generating more energy than we used) but the biggest barrier was lack of political will.
So we surveyed the population to find out what they thought, seen here. They liked the idea of energy independence. In fact the only group that did not like the idea were the very wealthy living off the island, who did not want to have wind turbines they might see.
As our final study, we did a complex economic, engineering and social analysis to see how we should get to that energy independence we wanted. and reported it in our ten-year plan. The plan showed that energy independence was technically feasible, and economically prudent.
But the problem is still one of political will. When a group on island took the idea of forming a public utility district to take the island to energy independence, it lost miserably in the polls, taking only 36% of the vote.
Sustainability is about living well within the means that nature provides. If we want sustainable communities, local renewable energy should power them.
This is a simple concept that luckily is technically feasible to achieve. The challenge is to develop political will to do so.
The quality of our lives depends on having lots of energy to do things for us. We use energy to:
- Heat and light our homes, schools and businesses
- Run electric and electronic equipment such as computers, televisions and telephones
- Run our cars, trucks, airplanes, ships and trains
- All our energy comes ultimately from the sun and stars. We usually think of our energy sources as either renewable energy (like hydroelectric power or power from wind turbines), or fossil fuels (like coal, oil and natural gas).
Renewable energy comes from new solar power. The sun shines on the earth and evaporates the water, which then falls and makes energy at hydroelectric dams. The sun warms the air causing it to expand and move across the surface, thus creating wind, used to turn wind turbines that make electricity. Lastly, the sun also makes plants grow, and these plants can be burned for energy; for example in a woodstove.
There is enough sunshine falling on the earth every day to power the world for 27 years! We can capture and use some of this energy by installing solar cells, by building wind turbines and by building waste-to-energy plants to get our energy.
These studies were performed by IERE
- LCA Chili and Food Service Packaging LCA
- Life Cycle Assessment of GSB-final
- An Evaluation of the Variability Possible within a Single Environmental Product Declaration and Product Category Rule
The following LCA studies provide science-based answers for the commonly asked question, "which one is better for the environment"?
The United States uses almost 25% of all the energy used on earth—even though we are only 6% of the total world population, We can all do lots of things right now to reduce our energy consumption, such as:
- Use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of regular light bulbs, and turn them off when you leave the room
- Insulate your home, starting with caulking any openings to the outside.
- Buy energy efficient appliances
- Heat your home with heat pumps
- Walk instead of driving
- Use public transportation whenever you can
- Drive smaller, fuel-efficient cars.
- Work with your local government to support energy efficiency policies