In the midst of an ever-climbing $19.3 trillion debt and an economy growing at the pace of frozen molasses running up a hill, the federal government just shelled out $250,000 to study whether people use more air conditioning when it’s hot outside.
The National Science Foundation just handed over a quarter of a million bucks to Rutgers University to figure out if people turn the air conditioning up in the summer, and whether this leads to higher energy consumption.
Additionally, Rutgers will attempt to solve this baffling quandary: if people use more air conditioning when it’s hot outside, and if air conditioning drives up energy consumption, and if higher energy consumption costs more, then do poor people struggle to deal with this problem more than rich people?
Heat waves can have substantial impacts on human health, especially for individuals in densely populated locations. This project will collect air quality and power usage data from households in urban settings and connect this data to a multi-level climate model. The core scientific merit of the work is to integrate real data and climate models to predict the vulnerability of certain population segments. The research team will work with the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth, NJ, who seek to understand how the poorest urban households can better cope with an increasing number of heat waves.
This award is part of the Smart and Connected Communities program at NSF. The research team plans to add buildings and their occupants to the multi-level climate-to-humans modeling framework developed under a previous award. The modeling framework will link occupant responses to heat stress to changes in indoor pollutants and electricity consumption. Sensors will be deployed to measure air quality and power usage. The researchers expect to be able to predict how adaptable different populations segments are to heat waves as a function of personal, building-level, and locational characteristics, thereby identifying thresholds beyond which climate-related stresses become human health disasters.
Here’s a thought. Rather than spending $250,000 studying whether poor people have a tough time running the A/C in July, how about we dump that money into reversing President Obama’s craptastic environmental regulations that have been continually driving up the cost of energy for everyone – including poor people? While this administration has been slamming the doors on coal-fired power plants in the Energy costs have risen by about 4 percent annually over the last decade.
When Obama first took office in 2009, the average residential electricity price was 10.98 cents per kilowatthour. As of June, the cost had risen to 12.92 cents, with a projected cost of 13 cents in 2017. And the price of natural gas, which has replaced coal as the single largest producer of energy in the United States, is only expected to rise.
But thanks, feds, for spending more of our money reminding us that it’s pricey to cool our houses when it’s 103 degrees outside — rather than simply, you know, making it cheaper.