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Earth Power Hardware

Why Earth Hour Is a Waste of Time and Energy 466

Posted by Soulskill
from the 'like'-this-if-you-want-to-seem-like-you-care-but-are-too-lazy-to-do-anything dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Next Saturday from 8:30PM to 9:30PM EST is 'Earth Hour' (0:30 to 1:30 UTC on Sunday). Millions of people will be participating by shutting off their lights for an hour to show they care about the environment. However, according to this article in Slate, Earth Hour is simply 'vain symbolism,' and it won't actually save any energy — quite the opposite. Quoting: 'Notice that you have not been asked to switch off anything really inconvenient, like your heating or air-conditioning, television, computer, mobile phone, or any of the myriad technologies that depend on affordable, plentiful energy electricity and make modern life possible. If switching off the lights for one hour per year really were beneficial, why would we not do it for the other 8,759? Hypothetically, switching off the lights for an hour would cut CO2 emissions from power plants around the world. But, even if everyone in the entire world cut all residential lighting, and this translated entirely into CO2 reduction, it would be the equivalent of China pausing its CO2 emissions for less than four minutes. In fact, Earth Hour will cause emissions to increase. As the United Kingdom's National Grid operators have found, a small decline in electricity consumption does not translate into less energy being pumped into the grid, and therefore will not reduce emissions. Moreover, during Earth Hour, any significant drop in electricity demand will entail a reduction in CO2 emissions during the hour, but it will be offset by the surge from firing up coal or gas stations to restore electricity supplies afterward.'"
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Why Earth Hour Is a Waste of Time and Energy

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  • by Silentknyght (1042778) on Monday March 18, 2013 @02:41PM (#43205823)

    well instead of developing the green tech to compete we must artificially increase the cost of the dirty fuel! we cant use plain old light bulbs anymore, that use more power (and give off heat, thus meaning one could in theory keep their heater lower) and now we are stuck with CFLs that are worse for the environment than the old bulbs!

    You should have stopped before this sentence.

    Insofar as "cheap" "dirty" vs "expensive" "clean" environmentalism is concerned, the problem is that it is difficult to capture (i.e., within a product's price) the cost of all the externalities ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality [wikipedia.org] ). Therefore, we have "cheap" "dirty" fuels, which are actually more expensive than the clean fuels, but the costs of all of their negative externalities have not been included, and therefore only perceived as cheap by the average individual. For example, super-fine particulate matter (i.e., 2.5 microns in diameter), most commonly generated as a fuel combustion byproduct, is a serious contributor to adverse health effects and mortality rates; these health & life effects do translate into costs, though they aren't currently well-reflected in the prices of the products and/or energy choices you can select.

    Therefore, we raise the cost of these "dirty" energy sources through artificial means in an attempt to better account for the non-artificial (but hard to encapsulate) externalities.

  • Worse than that! (Score:3, Informative)

    by DarthVain (724186) on Monday March 18, 2013 @02:41PM (#43205829)

    Even if you did shut off things of significance, it would not make a big difference.

    Anyone that understands how the power grid is run and electricity distributed, and power generation is applied could tell you that.

    1) The grid itself needs a certain amount of electrification simply to remain stable and on.
    2) Because power use is not constant, and various types of generation mix is different, you will have to maintain a baseline of power anyway. That nuclear plant that generates 4GW doesn't just turn off because the need no longer exists. It generates 4GW all day/night all the time regardless. One of the benefits of nuclear.

    It would prevent say the usage of say quick spin up generation such as gas or coal to meet specific needs during peek generation. Or the use of potential storage like hydro during peek hours. But again, turning off the lights won't make much difference there either. If everyone turned off the AC during a heatwave, during peek usage, yeah that might make a small difference.

    Anyway as pointed out, it is simply a PR campaign and an awareness thing. Anyone who believes they are actually doing something significant should be looked at with an arched eyebrow.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday March 18, 2013 @02:41PM (#43205831)

    Keep your heater lower?
    Why in the hell would you want electric heat? That shit is expensive. I will stick with my LED lights and gas heater.

  • Re:It is important (Score:4, Informative)

    by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday March 18, 2013 @03:27PM (#43206369) Homepage Journal
    What you are referring to is a Collective action problem [wikipedia.org] and yes, trying to call individuals to act against the problem directly is often fruitless, which gives way to gestures like this that hope to slowly turn the public sentiment.
    Judging by all the responses this has gotten, the earth is fucked.
  • Re:A/C and heat (Score:5, Informative)

    by fredrated (639554) on Monday March 18, 2013 @03:40PM (#43206507) Journal

    Simply put, it will have to work a little harder to catch up what it would have been doing over that hour anyway

    Actually, you are quite wrong.
    Think of it this way: the only heat (in the heating case) you have to replace is the heat lost through the walls and ceiling. If the heat in a room is kept at K degrees then you replace the heat that is lost at a constant K temperature. On the other hand, if you turn off the heat for a while then the rate of heat loss goes down as the room cools, and the total heat loss, the amount you must replace, is less.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday March 18, 2013 @03:41PM (#43206527)

    Instead of inflating the existing costs of enery to make green techs look better now, all while hurting the people at the bottom the most, gas is 4 bucks a gallon, 10 years ago it was 98 cents.

    When inflation is factored in, the price of has, on average, not changed very much.

    Inflation in the USA, from 2000 to 2012 (yes, it's a bit longer than ten years, but I like round numbers) was ~32%.

    Adjust that $0.98/gal upwards by 32%, and we get ~$1.30/gal for gas.

    $4.00/gal is NOT, contrary to your beliefs, "not changed very much" from $1.30.

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @09:44AM (#43212669)
    From the original article:

    As the United Kingdom's National Grid operators have found, a small decline in electricity consumption does not translate into less energy being pumped into the grid, and therefore will not reduce emissions

    The article didn't say, "almost zero" emission reductions, it claimed zero.

    The reality is that the original article is lying by omission. Yes, if one person turns off one 100 watt bulb, the generating plants don't burn any less fuel, what happens is everyone else's bulbs get a few millionths of a volt more, and put out a few millionths more lumens. No-one notices.

    If *everyone* turns off every light bulb in their house, then there should be a noticeable drop in load at the generators, and less fuel should be burned. Energy companies could also shift load from the more expensive generator stations.

    Anyway, this is an example of Poe's law.

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