Doing The Numbers

My electronic friend and Science fiction author Sarah Hoyt wrote in her blog about the travails of purchasing a washing machine.

She encounters a saleswoman who insists that Sarah should buy another washer because it will “save water.”  Reading the blog, it turns out that A. Sarah has had washers with water saving features and a skin condition.  That meant that she was rinsing the clothes five or six times, which is hardly saving water.  To say nothing of essentially having to run the washing machine continuously which hardly saved energy. But the only thing the saleswoman could understand was the water waste.

The fact that the washers don’t actually clean clothes is irrelevant.  The nonworking washers have the Energy Star seal of approval from the US Federal approvers.  Sort of like these:

The problem is that like most of us, the saleswoman has been taught to look at things directly without seeing the whole picture.  We have been taught to believe in government and the experts in the government.  The problems start when the government becomes untrustworthy.  It’s too easy to dump the airwaves with PSAs filled with the new magic.  We get bombarded with new demands to adhere to the latest pronouncements, for our own good, of course.  I don’t know how much the ad council gets for all those ads, but it must be a huge sum, all inserted into unsold advertising slots.  All prepared with the same expertise that sells us on soap.

Saving  water in Colorado or California is probably a good thing.  But at the cost of making life uncomfortable?  That has become the norm, thanks to the endless propagandizing since the mid seventies. None of which ever seems to be questioned.  It’s save this, recycle that and eat some unappetizing thing for our own good.  All these assertions made by people in white coats.  But is any of this stuff valid.  Most of us can’t actually track the studies behind this stuff even if there are any.

We are expected to ration ourselves  in the midst of  abundance. It seems hard to believe now, but back in the 1960’s electric companies, for instance, sold electricity like you would sell anything else.  You expected that electricity was something you never had worry about.  That the utility would always be trying to sell their product cheaper.  By and large, that was true. There was a huge pressure on the electric companies to make electricity “too cheap to meter.” Does anybody remember “Reddy Kilowatt?”

Something happened with the powers that be in the early 1970’s  Suddenly the emphasis in the US became to ration rather than grow.  Ecology became the new religion.  I lived through the effects, but the whys still escape me.  If I had to guess, the Democrats and other liberals in Congress needed a distraction from the failures of the welfare state and an excuse to raise taxes to pay for the welfare state.  Certainly prominent Senators seemed to be right at the forefront  of the movement.

So shortly thereafter, ecology and rationing was in and “Progress” was out.  I can understand the appeal of rationing for the political types as it gives them more strings to control us.  But it seemed like everybody bought into it.  When I was in the Boy Scouts we had recycling drives. We had the little rainbow for recycling.  We were told that in order to be good people we had to be green.  Solar and wind energy were going to be the future we were told.  The thing is that it was all hokum in decade that seemed to breed the stuff.

The whole ecology thing was run by the “Mad men” on steroids.  The whole thing was packaged and targeted to our base fears and emotions.  The whole was run on guilt and fear. Goebbels had nothing on this crew.   As I look back now the scope and scale of the whole thing amazes me.  The whole thing was tied up into such a neat package that unless you knew what to look for you wouldn’t know that the whole thing was a dangerous house of cards.

The goal seemed to be to get us all used to rationing even when it was completely unnecessary.  I’ve covered some this in my post “Stepping Farther Out,”  But it needs to be emphasized just how much of the hokum was out there.  Consider Helen Caldecott and nuclear energy.  Simply because she had an MD after her name she was taken seriously.  Nobody asked for  from any  actual evidence from the lady.  Which is a good thing for the gullible and compliant  press because any rational analysis of Caldecott’s statements would lead you to believe that the woman is a total loon. Back then, though, none of the looniness was to be questioned and any voices in opposition were  Alinskyed quickly.  So unless you had some connection to the fringe all you heard was what the greens wanted you to, all tied up in a nice neat package.

The reality is that all these measures do little or nothing to actually save resources.  At best they actually transfer energy use someplace else, for instance, manufacturing to China.  That energy saving light bulb is more expensive because you’ve taken the energy it uses and transferred the pollution to China where it makes Chinese cities unlivable.  We’ve done that with a lot of things, not just light bulbs.  When a product is made in China and shipped here how much energy do you have to save to offset the costs of production and shipping from China?

At worst they create energy poverty and increase the net pollution created by people.  Low energy people don’t have the resources to deal with pollution except in the most minimal ways.  Third world citied are packed with garbage not because they like garbage, but because they don’t have the resources, especially energy, to cart it away.

The flip side of that is cities like New York who deal with the garbage and sewage that used to be dumped into the rivers by putting on trains and hauling it to distant points.  If you are in a wealthy society with cheap energy, you can afford to do things like that.  Poor societies can’t.  That’s why you see the pictures of huge piles of garbage being picked over by kids in bare feet.  When energy is a luxury good there is no way to deal with the garbage or sewage.

Just before I graduated from college I took a course on energy conversion or more to the point, the course could be called analysis of energy sources used and their effectiveness. This was an  intensive course covering all the source of energy used at the time(1988) and working the numbers.  We worked the numbers for coal, nuclear, wind, solar, biofuels, everything.  We looked at everything.  With numbers.  What we found was that the inefficiencies of the renewables overwhelmed any advantages they might have. There is no such thing as getting something for free.  The base number for  an energy investment  is Energy Recovered over Energy Invested.  The EROI of the renewables is very low because they are very diffuse and have a low energy density.  Look at it this way, you are gathering berries in a field.  Do you go after the berries at the edge where the bushes are clustered or do you wander through the middle of the field where the bushes are small and tiny and have very little fruit.  You go for the bushes at the edge of the field, obviously. Solar and wind are the berries in the middle of the field.

The powers that be seem to be insisting that we only pick the berries in the middle of the field. Surrounded by energy wealth, we are expected to impoverish ourselves in the name of pursuing the green religion and it’s “sustainability” dogma.  This may work for the elite few, who are seemingly separated from the consequences of their actions by their wealth, but for the rest of us?  What the elites don’t seem to have realized is that all those programs they created to get prole votes depend on growth.  If they choke off energy, they are going to not only kill growth, they are going to take the world back into poverty.

Look, designing products to save energy might seem to be good thing regardless.  There are real limits though.  For instance, the upcoming CAFE standard may actually be unachievable.  It’s easy for the powers that be to mandate stuff, it’s harder to design stuff within the mandate that actually works.  The new design is almost certainly going to be more expensive. The laws of physics are, unlike the laws of man, pretty immutable.

Look, as an engineer and designer I have an obligation to my customers to attempt to make the best product designs possible. That task is made much more difficult by the regulations promulgated in the name of the environment.  Most of which are shortsighted  and not based on any real science, all to frequently.  The fact is that the endless petty regulation eats up design time that I could be using to deal real issues or force me to put costs in that have to be compensated for with compromises other parts of the product. To use the washer example, in order to meet the energy star and water saving requirement I might have use a more expensive pump and skimp on the tank, using a steel enameled tank rather than the stainless  steel tank I was intending to use.  Or to use rivets rather than screws.  Or any of a number of things that might effect the overall quality of the product without making the product work as well as it used to.

Look I can’t blame the young saleslady for spouting off the hokum.  She’s been trapped in a wrap of green velvet propaganda her entire  life.  It would be strange if she didn’t believe it.  But those us do know better need to speak up.  We need to point out how silly they are, like this.


The problem is that you get people like the lady down below making our energy decisions for us. Meet Muriel Strand, ME, PE and massage therapy, who spent her entire career on the California Air Resources Board. California, this woman was one of the people making the decisions about your energy requirements.  If you wonder why the state is going down hill look no further than this lady.  She’s retired now, apparently, but I imagine that her replacement has similar view about energy and product design.

It’s all hokum and lies. It always has been. A bunch of greedy elites took the basic principles of conservation and turned them into a monstrous tool that they believe that they can use to get us to live smaller diminished lives.  The people responsible for the hokum know it’s hokum and that if they told the truth about why they wanted to do the things they want, we would hang the lot from lamp posts.  Or vote them out of office. So they tie everything into phony numbers like the nice billboard up top with twelve digit number and bet that we the people won’t realize that the number is ridiculous and just put there to scare us into acquiescing in the policies that they want enacted.  Like sheep to the slaughter.   Let’s not be sheep.


One comment

  1. jccarlton · January 25, 2017

    Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:

    Reblogging because it’s seriously important to always be skeptical and do some numbers. Or ask somebody who knows about things to do the numbers with you.


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