Research Engineer @ National Renewable Energy Laboratory
736 karmaJoined Nov 2014Working (6-15 years)


I develop software tools for the building energy efficiency industry. My background is in architectural and mechanical engineering (MS Penn State, PhD University of Maryland). I know quite a bit about indoor air quality and indoor infectious disease transfer, and closely follow all things related to climate change and the energy transition. I co-organize the local EA group in Denver, Colorado.


Thanks for re-emphasizing these norms.

For those who disagree with these norms, these sources help explain why they are important:

The sub-population that disagrees with these norms has substantial overlap with the sub-population that would most benefit from them.

I suspect that there is significant geographic concentration in the bay area as well, because of a culmination of factors including housing prices pushing people to group homes, gender ratios, tech/startup culture, and the co-existence of the rat community.

I don't think the situation will get better, despite the attempt at norm setting, until the locus of EA money and power isn't as concentrated in the bay area.

6Sept2023 Update: An opinion piece in Utility Dive "DOE’s error-ridden analysis on coal CCS project threatens climate and engagement goals" and journal article by Emily Grubert shows the likely increase in emissions from 45Q.

There are real coal plants that are adding CCS and extending their life, which is only possible with 45Q. They would have otherwise retired and been replaced with renewable energy.

I suggest you consult with a licensed professional mechanical engineer who specializes in air quality testing. I can't make any recommendations without knowing the specifics of the system and the building occupancy, which a consultant can analyze.

Thanks for this list! Thanks for this! Great list.

Here's some additional lessons I've learned in my group:

Have a plan for disruptive people. You will encounter zoom bombers, aggressive contrarians, and people that dominate conversations. Have a plan for handling them so you don't freeze in the moment and have it ruin an event.

Space matters. Some people are not comfortable attending events at a person's house or apartment complex. Some people are physically limited and can't meet outside. Is the event space accessible to those who drive and those who take transit? If it's outside, is there a plan for bad weather?

Variety is inclusive. Online / in-person, weekday / weekend, general / specific, city center / city outskirts, cause A / cause B, social / learning, active / passive. People have widely varying preferences. If you want an inclusive group, have many different kinds of events.

Online events are much better if you give people things to do. Breakout rooms with group tasks is a go-to that keeps people engaged

You don't have to be active in a local group to be involved in EA.

Happy to message or chat 1:1; I don't want to dispute specific LTFF grants in the comment section.

I think EAIF vastly overstates the effectiveness difference between paid vs. unpaid organizers, and dismisses the reputational risks of having paid organizers. Many college groups thrive without paid organizers, and EAIF-level of funding paid organizers only start being necessary once groups sizes reach 100. I don't think there are any EA college groups that large, and they can fund-raise for it. I think the reputational harm - that EA is for self-serving grifters - causes far more damage than the marginal benefit from paid recruitment. It completely undercuts the message of using resources effectively.

Thanks for linking to that! I appreciate the transparency in the write-up, and thanks for responding well to criticism. I don't have the knowledge to evaluate the quality of the AI-related LTFF grants on AI. But I do have some experience in pandemic / aerosol disease transmission, and I've been pretty stunned by the lack of EA expertise in the space despite the attention. Others experts have told me they share the concern. It seems there is a strong bias in EA to source knowledge from "value-aligned" people that brand themselves as EAs, even if they aren't the main experts in the field. That can result in a tendency to fund EA friends or friends-of-friends, or people they see as "value-aligned", rather than proactively seeking out expertise. I've seen a few examples of it in EA funds and in other EA domains, but I don't have a clear picture of how widespread the issue is. I also know EA funds doesn't really have infrastructure set up to prevent such conflicts of interests. I don't think the AWF and GHDF have as much of an issue because they have a much stronger evidence basis and therefore it is harder to argue funding friends is the most effective use of funds.

I think most grants to university, city, or national groups fund work that would have been done just as effectively by volunteers. Some of the university grants are particularly egregious, given how nearly all other college clubs exist just fine without paid organizers. "We are a student group interested in the most effective causes, and oh by the way funding us to organize this group for a semester is of similar levels of effectiveness as preventing 3 kids dying from malaria in poor countries." I can think of few things more effective at turning people away from EA than college students learning the EA organizer is paid lots of money for it.

EAIF and LTFF will continue to struggle for individual donor funding until they can provide as good a value proposition as AWF and GHDF. As a longtime EA donor, my sticky impression of EAIF and LTFF is that it is a slush fund for OPP/EVF to dole out to their friends with questionable impact. Hopefully the separation will help change that impression and make better grants.

[EDIT: This impression may not be entirely accurate - it could be outdated, or I may be unfairly lumping the LTFF in with EAIF (I'm skeptical of longtermism and wish it was less prominent in EA). Regardless, the value proposition for individual donors is different from Open Phil/EVF, who seem happy and willing to pay tens of millions for fancy retreat centers. I've often cringed at EAIF grants given what the money could have done if in the AWF or GHDF fund instead.]

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