Thursday, August 30, 2007

213 Environments of fear and intimidation...

Message no. 213[Branch from no. 206] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Saturday, February 3, 2007 4:16pm Subject: Environments of fear and intimidation...

HI Adrienne and class,

It is sad, but not surprising, that the utility companies would use fear mongering and intimidation to try to railroad through an unnecessary project. When I was on the airplane from California to London, en route to Germany, the BBC had an historical program on the invention of the light bulb and its repercussions. One of the things that the documentary pointed out was that when Edison perfected the incandescent bulb technology it was hard for the early utility companies to sell the concept to the public (who were expected to pay most of the costs of building the nationwide infrastructure to supply the electricity to make it glow, naturally!) This is because lights were only used at night at that time, and they were only used for a few hours at night (from sunset until around ten or eleven) after which people went to sleep and turned the lights out. So, the documentary explained, the companies had to start a massive campaign to convince people that they needed electricity all day long. And that meant inventing lots of "time saving" gadgets that could be plugged in. They started an early newsreel show (to be shown at the movies, using one of Edison's electric movie projectors, which, of course, used one of his light bulbs!) to convince people that electricity was necessary for every aspect of life. The documentary then shows how the race to understand light to produce an ever brighter light bulb led to the discoveries that led to the atom bomb.

Today we are all convinced that we must use either fossil fuels or nuclear power to supply all the necessary energy for our electricity consumption. We are taught to fear "possible blackouts'" more than the consequences of global warming or nuclear meltdowns or terrorist acquisition of fission material or lung cancer. We are also taught that our "demand" for electricity is so HUGE that it needs HUGE powerplants and transmission lines to satisfy it. We are then taught an association between roaring engines, tall smokestacks, massive cooling towers, and huge dams and POWER. "Bigger is better" is inculcated in us since childhood along with "might makes right". We call the utility company the POWER COMPANY. So we believe that society can not function without all that technological MUSCLE.

But if you think about it for a second you will see how wrong this is. Think about your computer and then about the computers that used to fill entire floors of buildings in the 1940s. The early computers consumed enormous amounts of electricity (kilowatts!) and were huge. Your laptop calculates millions of times faster and does thousands of more things and fits in your backpack and consumes a mere 20 watts - only as much as a single large compact fluorescent light bulb (which consumes 1/5 of a standard incadescent 100 watt light bulb and produces very little wast heat.)

In other words, the more sophisticated the technology, the less energy it uses and the less waste it produces and the smaller it is. And the more sophisticated the technology, the easier it is to run on smaller, decentralized power sources.

I ran my apartment in Los Angeles for 3 years completely on solar energy that I installed myself for less than 7000 dollars. I never paid utility bills and when all of L.A. went dark because of the ENRON scandal, I was throwing parties, blasting the stereo and the air conditioner and having a great time. My neighbors were stunned!

After that nobody could ever threaten me with "blackouts'" or "brownouts" again. I installed a small windmill generator on a friend's family's roof in the slum of Meskital, a shantytown on the outskirts of Guatemala City when the city was cutting power to all the power people, and he now has unlimited electricity.

In California we have "grid tie in " laws which say that you can sell your solar or wind electricity back to the utility at the same price they sell it to you. That is what Frank has on his house in the video I shared with you. Frank had a black out one year when I was working with him and we lost three days of work. So he installed the solar electric system, his meter spins backwards and he never has to worry about being in the dark or cold again. And he got 50% of the cost back from the government.

Now California, like New Jersey and Massachusettes, is championing "decentralized, distributed energy systems" where every roof and field and garden can be an energy producer, with no smoke, no noise (hardly any with the wind generators -- compare them to diesel generators!) and NO POWER LINES.

If I were you I would "just say no" to new power lines and tell the utilities, "we know your game, and we are tired of it. We want distributed generation, not a huge polluting central power plant and miles of ugly and dangerous and disruption prone powerlines, which will continuously be blown down in the increasing number of storms that are plaguing the U.S. now that climate change is really kicking in." Remind them of the Midwest this winter, when power lines went down in Illinois and St. Louis and other areas, and power was out for almost two weeks. Remind them of Germany (the town of Essen that I am in right now was in the U.S. news!) a few weeks ago where millions of homes were without electricity for days because of the violent wind storms that brought down the power lines --- except for the homes that used the wind to make their electricity, and the homes that have solar panels on them. Remind them of Italy's huge blackouts and New York's blackouts in the last couple of years.

Power lines cause blackouts. They don't prevent them. When they go down they take the rest of the grid with them. California knows this now and tries to encourage people to back up the grid with decentralized distributed generation of power. It is like the internet -- if one system goes down, there is another one online nearbye. This is good planning!

Also, I suggest you tell the power company that you are aware that per capita electric consumption is actually going DOWN, even as population increases, because the efficiency of our electric appliances is going UP!

Look at it this way: If there is a single home on a property and it is using 20 100 Watt light bulbs, it consumes 2,000 watts, right? What happens if that home replaces its lights with warm glow instant on compact fluorescents that consume only 20 watts and give the same amount and quality of light? The home would consume only 400 Watts, right? That means that you could build 4 MORE HOUSES and now 5 homes would consume the same amount of electricity as the first home. Now replace the 20 watt bulbs with the new Phillips 11 watt bulbs that give the same light. Now the 5 homes consume almost HALF as much as the single home! Thus population grows and electricity consumption goes DOWN!!

It is for this reason that Frank DiMassa, my utility consultant friend, says, "YOU CAN'T CHANGE PEOPLE, BUT YOU CAN CHANGE THEIR LIGHT BULBS!!" ;)

Conservation technologies could save more oil this year than we import from the middle east if we all used them right now.

Don't let the utilities scare you into submission -- they are running a business and they want to sell electricity, just as they did at the beginning when the light bulb was invented. They are deathly scared of technological progress. They are like drug pushers or cigarette companies who see people trying to get healthy. They want you dependent or they lose their jobs. You can hardly blame them, but you don't have to be fooled by them!

GE tried to fight the introduction of the warm glow Light Emitting Diode (I put one in my wedding ring as a stone just to spite them). When we replace our fluorescents with LED bulbs in the next five years, we wont consume 20 watts for the same amount of light as todays 100 Watt bulbs, but a mere 2 watts!!! So population could grow 50 times and we wouldn't use any more electricity. Check out the new energy star appliances (refrigerators, washing machines etc) with the new inductive motors and you will see the same trend. Power consumption is going down fast!!!

Your computer screen, for example, if it is an old fat CRT (Cathode Ray Tube, like a TV set) type, consumes around 90 watts. The one I am sitting in front of in Germany right now is an LCD flat panel screen, which doesn't irradiate my eyes and only consumes 23 watts. The same is true of the TV set. That means about 4 times more computers and TVs can be sold without needing to add any more electric capacity. And anyway, we are putting solar panels in my wife's parents home next summer (shipping mine from egypt) so we won't need to use the city's power anyway.

The worst environment is the environment of fear. It is used by people who seek to take advantage of us. Whenever people use fear I say first consider what their profit motive is. if they stand to make money or get prestige from how you behave when you react to the fear, they are using you. If they don't stand to profit, they may be telling the truth.

Thanks for informing us of the fear mongering letter from your electric company Adrienne. May I suggest that you ask them to look at the policies of Roseville Electric company in California? Roseville is an electric company that encourages the dismantling of power lines in favor of new better technologies. Your electric company may be one of the dinosaurs and they need our help. The videos I made with Roseville Electric Company that may help you are posted below! Check them out and see what conclusions you draw!

Ben and Joe's Electric Adventure Part I:

Ben and Joe's Electric Adventure Part II

The Future is Now:

Two Roseville Electric Commercials:

Tell your electric company shame on them if they don't do the same kind of responsible public outreach as their California cousins! (And by the way, California just announced that it is going to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs this year!)

Sorrry if I get a bit emotional about this but I've been working with electric companies for years and I hate it when they lie!!!


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