Thursday, August 30, 2007

214 Utility company propaganda: Greenwashing

Message no. 214[Branch from no. 210] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Saturday, February 3, 2007 5:27pm Subject: Re: hope you can read this

Yep, I read it. Thanks for posting this piece of propaganda so we can all see it. Wow.

They are very clever. Especially the part about how they want to test these new wind farms. Bravo for them for bringing wind energy into the mix -- we use it in Germany all the time and the wind farms are inspirational and beautiful (you can see our California windfarms in my video "Ben and Joe's electric adventure Part I")

But shame on them for "playing the green card" while proposing this proposterous scenario demanding more huge power lines. Yes, wind should be a part of the portfolio, but they are completely missing the point (or obscuring it) when they act as if extending the grid is the solution. Their comparison with the highway system is a good one, and shows their near sighted mentality. Yes, highways are congested. The solution is not to build more highways (especially after telling us that latent demand is rising all the time). The new highways will, by their own logic, be clogged again in just a few years! In the transportation sector the solution is to REDESIGN how we do transportation (public transit, use of segway people movers, regional provision of goods and services, multi use real estate, rejuvenated robust downtown areas that decrease need for driving to shopping malls, etc. )

CHAPTERS 11, 12 and 13 in your text deal with the issue of design dynamics and the design cycle (see page 391). A responsible utility would not tell us "we considered all alternatives" as if they are mommy and daddy telling little children about why they have to divorce or why the family has to regrettably move, they would treat us as ADULTS and discuss all the alternatives. I find their tone patronizing and insulting as well as misleading.

Your text reminds us "As a student of psychology, one thing you may have learned about problem solving is that it is not rational. We know that humans generally fall far short of the optimal solution to a problem, accepting instead soltuions that satisfice-- that is, solutions that are "good enough" (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989; Simon, 1960.) (p. 391)

Since I have my masters in urban planning, I know how these people work, and how they want to play on your irrational fears and your trust in the "experts". In a democratic society you deserve FULL INFORMATION of all the design alternatives.

In the energy sector the solution is also to redesign how we generate and deliver our energy. Decentralization and Distributed Energy are not even mentioned in this silly letter -- and it appears to me that the motives may be driven by the army’s military facility at Fort Belmir doubling in size, adding 22,000 new employees. Great. This is another scare tactic, isn’t it? Think about it: Now, if we criticize the Dominion and Allegheny Energy project, we will appear “unpatriotic” given that we are “at war”. Fears of the misuse of the “homeland security act” will inhibit many people from criticizing the electrification project when really the army knows better – the army is one branch of the goverment that is working hard on decentralized distributed energy. Why? Because the army cannot function if its power supplies can be interrupted. For this reason army bases are usually self-sufficient – they are supposed to provide their own power and use the latest greatest technologies (if not, what is that bloated military budget for?). As a case in point, a friend of ours has a camoflauge foldable solar panel developed for the army ( ; we used it in Egypt and we bought and brought the non-military unit to demonstrate in Israel and Palestine ( ) The military is also heavily invested in new fuel cell technologies, particularly the wonderful new Franklin Fuel Cell ( that can run cleanly and silently on every possible fuel from diesel to kerosene to gasoline to natural gas to alcohol to vegetable oil to hydrogen, producing electricity and heat. See So it is ridiculous for Dominion and Allegheny to provide power for an army base unless it has no strategic significance at all, and if that is so, then we don’t need to support it any way. The military is making lots of money these days and one way to justify the profits is to build things. Well, let them build their own power plants on site. On-site generation is the future of power production anyway, since it eliminates transmission losses (which can be as much as 10 percent), costs of construction, resource and material waste and the possibility of blackouts!

When the letter says “Imagine what it would be like on a hot August afternoon when the thermometer reads 100 degrees and traffic lights, office elevators and air conditioners stop working” it reads to me like BLACKMAIL. I just spent a day in Los Angeles visiting the Debs Park Audubon Center, a short walk from the Gold Line Metro to Pasadena from China Town.,+Los+Angeles,+CA,+USA&ie=UTF8&z=15&ll=34.097129,-118.190403&spn=0.015779,0.043259&t=k&om=1

The entire facility is powered by a combination of solar electric panels and solar thermal vaccum tube technology that provide SOLAR AIR CONDITIONING. That’s right, solar air conditioning. The hotter it gets outside, the cooler the building gets inside. I met with the designer, Les Hamasaki and he took me on an engineering tour of the facility to explain how it works.

You can read about it here: and here:

Now I ask you, if Debs Park’s Audubon center has plenty of electricity and air conditioning on hot August afternoons when the thermometer reads 100 degrees, and they are not connected to the Los Angeles Electric company grid, why can’t Northern Virginia residents have the same luxury? Why not?

No, this letter is full of obscurantist techniques. They are clever but I hope the American public is more clever than the utilities. Shame on them.

Again, thanks so much for sharing this!!!

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