Saturday, March 29, 2008

Consequences of Earth Hour

We are now 26 minutes into the great Earth Hour Blackout. Organizers are calling upon people all over the world to turn out the lights, turn off the TV, and stop using electricity for 1 hour. Here in the Eastern half of North America this is from 8:00-9:00pm.

One can question whether sitting in the dark will encourage people to think about energy conservation and carbon reduction. I should think one hour of sitting in the dark will cause most North Americans to decide that nuclear power plants are not such a bad thing after all. The attitude will be, "I don't mind nuclear, just so long as the lights don't go out again!"

However let's consider the consequences. What if 50% of the people on the eastern half of North America really took Earth Hour seriously, and then at precisely 8:00pm turned off all devices that use electricity. What would it do to the power grid? You can't generate electricity and send it nowhere. Electricity needs to be generated and put on the power grid at the same rate as it is used. If 50% of the devices that use electricity get turned off at precisely 8:00pm, there will be chaos on the power grid. Now perhaps it would reduce the carbon footprint if we manage to toast half of our power plants, but I suspect this is not the intent of Earth Hour.

Just a footnote: Earth Hour is the brainchild of the World Wildlife Fund. I'm pleased to see that the World Wildlife Fund and the official Earth Hour website are both still online during the event. It's a nice accommodation for those who would prefer to surf the web rather than sit in the dark. Note that the Earth Hour website is running very slow, so I guess lots of people are surfing right now.


Blogger Rileysowner said...

I turned on our lights at 8PM. Including the Christmas lights outside. I noticed a couple of other houses down the road had Christmas lights on as well.

10:35 p.m.  
Blogger Shawn Abigail said...

I guess I'm curious as to why the World Wildlife Fund turned into a general purpose eco-lefty organization.

8:34 a.m.  
Blogger Ed LeBlanc said...

The Earth Hour concept is a symbolic event and I would be interested to see how many individuals and families actually participated in the event, especially as a percentage of the total population and electrical infrastructure.

I hold to the view that Canadians are, by and large, fair weather environmentalists. The commitment to the cause is shallow and is reflected mainly in small and symbolic gestures. For example, in Ottawa the transit system still suffers from declining ridership. How come more people don't ride the bus while many still drive their cars. Why is it that hybrid cars are not flying off the shelves? If people are so concerned about the eco-system, how come they are not buying such vehicles?

The main reasons are economic and convenience. Hybrids are still too expensive compared to conventional vehicles. There it points to the commitment. If you are really committed to the green cause and you agree that hybrids are good for the planet, why does an extra few thousand bucks hold you back? People seem to be willing to pay an extra three grand to get leather seats but not so fast to get a hybrid.

Hence, a few reasons why I believe Canadians think they are green but consistently are not willing to pay the price until it comes down to be green in the WWF sense.

4:32 p.m.  
Blogger Shawn Abigail said...

In other words, Canadians are environmentalists in the liberal sense of the word (they should do something about that) rather than in the conservative sense of the word (I should do something about that).

4:58 p.m.  

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