02 October 2005

Don't Turn Off The Lights.

A USA Today report states that a government plan, apparently voluntary, in response to a damaged oil and gas infrastructure in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita which may be out of commission for six months will be to:

The government conservation plan will ask Americans to turn off lights, change thermostat settings, drive slower, insulate homes and take other steps.

Two observations.

1. If conservation is such a good idea, why did this administration fight so hard to keep conservation provisions out of the energy bill?

2. Unless you have gas lighting in your house, and I don't know of anyone who does that who doesn't live in a campsite, turning off your lights will not make an appreciable dent in the problems caused by a reduced supply of oil and natural gas. The only places where a significant share of electricity comes from oil are Hawaii and Alaska (neither of which is particularly reliant of Gulf Coast supplies in a direct way in any case). Nationwide, only about 10% of electricity generation is powered by natural gas and only about 3% is powered with oil.

Also, in a typical house, even if you want to save electricity, the government should be recommending that you upgrade your light bulbs with fluorescents and halogens, which produce the same illumination level for far fewer watts. Many fixtures in my home sport 15 watt bulbs that produce the same amount of light as an ordinary 100 watt bulb. In contrast, not many of us can reduce the electricity we need for lighting by 85% by simply turning off the lights more vigilantly.

If you are going to make a symbolic call for voluntary conservation, you may as well at least call for something that actually works. For that matter, people would probably save more oil and gas resources by discontinuing lawn mowing for the year on the early side, and cooking on your electric stove rather than your gas barbecue, than they would by turning off lights.

1 comment:

Kyle said...

Hah, that's a great catch. I actually hadn't heard about this. You are right, it makes no sense at all.

I've been meaning to get some of those low wattage light bulbs. As the guy who reflexively wanders the house turning off the lights it would help me sleep better.