Great post, Sean. There really is an awful lot of potential out there, particularly in the area of waste energy recovery and combined heat & power. Some modest reforms there could do much to boost our economy and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Panthael, there are indeed some proposals out there (not in bill form) to fight climate change without raising energy prices. See the Recycled Energy Development website, for instance, to find a few.
MikeHolly, Sean actually wrote on this issue more in-depth for Grist: http://www.grist.org/article/2009-07-01-how-fast-us-electric-sector
Tom, I was going to try to beat back some of these arguments but you're doing a good enough job as it is. :) I'm associated with Recycled Energy Development, a company that does CHP and waste energy recovery. The principals of the company are Tom and (his son) Sean Casten, two of the national leaders in this field. And the potential is absolutely staggering. DOE and EPA estimates suggest there's enough recoverable waste energy to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. That's as much as if we removed every passenger vehicle from the road. Meanwhile, costs would fall due to increased efficiency. The main obstacle here is a set of regulatory barriers.
I'll make one quick point in response to someone above who said the need for heat is seasonal. In an apartment building, that's true. In a manufacturing facility, where heat is used for for industrial processes like drying, smelting, etc., it's not. And there's an enormous opportunity for CHP in manufacturing facilities.
Great piece. I'm associated with another company that does this kind of work (full disclosure: Recycled Energy Development) and there really is a massive amount of potential out there, as Olson says. Indeed, the DOE and EPA data suggests we could slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 20% solely through combined heat & power and waste energy recovery. Meanwhile, costs would plummet due to increased efficiency. We should be doing far more to create a policy structure that's conducive to this kind work -- particularly at a moment of economic and environmental crisis.