Monday, 29 March 2010

Scorched Earth Hour [update 3]

It seems the wowsers’ Earth Hour this year was a bust, with few if any people, places or cities taking it seriously. That’s progress.

Mind you, Earth Hour in North Korea was a stunning success once again.

Dr Richard McGrath sent me pictures of his own efforts to beat back the darkness.  He calls it ‘Scorched Earth Hour.’

earth_hour01 earth_hour02

Anyone else got any decent pics of their own Power Hour celebrations?

UPDATE 1:  Dave Mann has sent some pics of his Power Hour celebrations on Saturday, saying:

    “We ran all our house lights on Earth Night as well as illuminating every outside security light and the deck, where we ate a delicious dinner with the stereo going. Outside in the drive we had 2 cars running with the headlights on full and the hazard lights going. Every 10 minutes or so we headed down to them and blasted the horns (2 horns are better than one because the resonance set up by the two different frequencies really carries). It was a great celebration of human achievement.”

Great stuff.

Image0087a Image0083a

UPDATE 2: Dinther sent me these photos of his contribution to brightening the planet:

    “For this [he says]I switched on 23 separate lights and added 3 500w halogen lights. I even turned up the brightness on my computer monitors screens. Just to celebrate power hour to the max I also turned on all entertainment appliances. TV's computers and stereo's. Like others invest in more Christmas lights every year, I may just keep an eye on Halogen lights on sale for next year. I did inquire to the cost of renting these big aircraft search lights to light up the Waitakere Ranges but the cost was just a tad too much. Maybe we can organise something for next year.”

powerhour 003A great idea! I think he was meaning something like this, which another punter used to keep the luddites at bay.


Unfortunately however, he gets points off for having a shamefully dark carport, and at least one bedroom without lights on at all.  Shame.

UPDATE 3:  Writing from Australia, where Earth Hour started, environmentalist Sara Phillips sees the light (so to speak).  Writing at the spiritual home of warmism, the ABC, she opines:

    “Sitting in the dark is hardly sustainable behaviour - what happens when you want to read a book? Or cook dinner? If it's such a great “first step” surely we should try to do it all the time. But of course, that's not feasible.
    “Sitting in the dark is not sustainable for more than a symbolic hour. And if anyone is going to understand the concept of sustainability it ought to be the green groups.”  [Hat tip Andrew Bolt]


  1. this whole earth hour malarky is utter bollocks. Another thing that is utter bollocks is the whole electricity pricing mechanisms. How has it come about that electricity now follows the flawed pricings and pre-payment regime insisted upon by local government.
    Do you have any mates who are knowledgeable about electicity generation and the relevant costs of production, and why the hell generation which currently in use and presumably has minimal amounts of requirements for ongoing capital input needs to subsidise some far off distant yet to be built inefficient production method. An expose is required i believe. Its just unfathiomable that NZ electricity is 3 times the price of sydney

  2. Life with electricity on Saturday night was great. I had full illumination in which allowed me to have my oven on for creating a meal which required every element and the oven itself, while my clothes were being laundered, and my shirts getting ironed, (the extractor fan making sure the my clothes didn't smell of the nights dinner), the fridge chilling the refreshment beverages, and the jug heating water for a nice relaxing cup of tea, and all while the airconditioner kept the room at a pleasant 24degrees celcius, allowing me the pleasure of shorts and a t shirt as my attire. The cellphone got fully charged, the sport got watched, the floor had its dead insects dealth with, and all for the wonders of electricity.
    Need more of the stuff, and cheaper sources for it too.

  3. Anon is about right. When living in Sydney I used to pay my electricty in quarterly installments. It was around AU$180 - $190 and sometimes as much as $225 (if I had the air con and the spa running full-time). In Auckland I pay those sorts of numbers monthly. I don't have a spa here, nor A/C.

    Aussie electricty is generated by burning coal. Digging coal out of the ground etc. is much more expensive than rain water. Go figure why NZ is so expensive.


  4. I have to defend myself here. The light in the garage was only 40 watt but... a real bulb. I opened both doors to let the little light it produced shine out. There was not a single unlit room in the house which was driving my wife crazy and she asked for shades.

    In fact after the power hour we had arguments because someone turned off the light after using the toilet.

  5. @Dinther: Ah yes, the perils of night-time photography--and of post-power-hour ablutions.

    One should be warned of these hazards. :-)

  6. @ LGM: It's a conspiracy, naturally...

    Just like them roading engineers who like building crap roads.

  7. Mark

    Do try not to be such a child. You're not very good at it. Actually you were not very good at pretending to understand economic life cycle costing either.

    For the record, your previous comments regarding road life cycle costs was nothing more than arbitrary opinion, unsupported by fact of reality. As pointed out to you, you need to familiarise yourself with the research undertaken by the likes of Flybjerg et al.

    It has been demonstrated over and over that the commonly cited cost models, such those you rely upon, are fictional, riven with errors, commonly suffering from order of magnitude inaccuracies. Worse for you was that research also demonstrated reported costs have been found to be similarly erroneous. The problem is fundamental, structural and endemic. To make it easy for you, this means that what you based your comments upon is myth.

    Oh yes, it was also pointed out to you that Von Mises disclosed that the socialist calculation problem is insolvable. Now the road building and operating industry in NZ is almost completely socialised. Perhaps you might take a look at the socialist calculation problem and apply it to your situation. Of course, you'll likely evade, but that's a matter for yourself.


  8. People who support the "Hour of Power" or "Edison Hour" are actually supporting the thing they hate by giving additional publicity to the actual Earth Hour.

    Every person who talks about Edison hour or keeping all their lights on is making obvious references to Earth Hour either on purpose or unwittingly.

    So I support anyone who is in either camp because it gives Earth Hour greater symbolic clout.

  9. Earth Hour overstated
    Monday, 29 March 2010
    Doubt has been cast on figures which claim the West Coast recorded the biggest power saving in the country during Earth Hour on Saturday night.
    According to Energy Market Services, power consumption during the voluntary switch-off dipped 13% on the Coast, followed by Canterbury on 8%.
    Many regions did not save any electricity at all.
    However, the Greymouth Star was told this morning the Grey River dredge was cranked up during Earth Hour, that alone drawing huge volumes of power.
    Trustpower said it was not aware of any large consumers switching off specially for Earth Hour, and referred queries to Westpower, which runs the West Coast lines. Westpower referred queries to the company that recorded the data.
    However, national grid operator Transpower reviewed its figures this morning.
    Spokeswoman Rebecca Wilson said a snap check a month ago revealed a 5% drop in West Coast electricity use on a Saturday night, and it was possible a major power consumer had changed shifts at that time, reducing demand.
    Energy Market Services said it used Transpower data to come up with its figures.

    Thank dog for that, a glowmer of doubt on my reflected shame. Awaking Sunday morning to hear the Coast had led the savings made me wish I'd burnt more witches and hippies the night before. Ngapaki on the Coast.

  10. @ LGM: Your obnoxious manner notwithstanding, I am going to respond to you, one more time.

    Not because I want to prove my case (because only concrete and detailed technical evidence will ever prove it), but because it's an interesting case study on how libertarian 'theorising' can go astray - and how over-stating your case (even if your general conclusion is right) can ruin your credibility.

    This is very much off topic, but hopefully PC won't mind.

    I agreed in principle we could and should have private roads. I simply pointed out that some of your assertions about road maintenance costs, and the supposed virtues of always constructing roads to avoid maintenance (whatever the cost) didn't match my significant professional experience in this area.

    In principle, the matter is relatively simple. Roads wear out with traffic; nothing you can do about that. But generally the thicker it is, the longer it lasts. At some point there's an optimal point that balances out the short and long term costs.

    Construct a motorway to home driveway standard, and it will be sub-optimal. i.e. frequent repairs will be needed and the life cycle cost will be hideously expensive. But construct a low volume rural road (of the sort NZ has a lot of) to motorway standard (eg: a concrete road like overseas motorways), and it will be super-optimal. i.e. the maintenance saved, even if measured over hundreds of years, would never recover the construction cost.

    That there is this optimum, is plain old common sense.

    But knowing what that optimal level is, for a given traffic volume in a specific context, is primarily a specialised civil engineering matter (the economic analysis comes later). That's what ties it to reality. Unless you have that knowledge (or am relying on those that do) you shouldn’t even venture an opinion on the subject.

    I'll take your word for it, that if I did read Flybjerg or whatever, it would show what I think you’re saying: i.e. that government calculations of economic matters are often flawed, distorting a more realistic commercial model - and it would give specific examples to that affect. But so what? I already know that.

    Just because there's that potential for flawed calculation, doesn't mean the current road construction decisions, here in NZ, in 2010, is flawed to the extreme degree you claim - just because government has a hand in it. This is where the flawed libertarian 'theorising' comes in.

    I agree we'd get better decisions on roads if it weren't socialised. But ironically, things would probably go the opposite way to what you claim. (i.e. towards more maintenance and less up-front expenditure). A civil engineer’s natural tendency is to be conservative and over-design (it covers their butt, and avoids hastle for them down the track). Combine this tendency with government money, and you normally get less accountability and a bias towards more expenditure up front, not less.

    If you want to talk in principle about how government screws things up, and give examples that can be supported, then fine. But if you are going to use specific examples in support, then make sure you know what the fuck you're talking about first.

    You seem to be very learned and well read person. But on this particular matter, where I just so happen to know what I’m talking about, based on a 20 year career, I’ve caught you making stuff up.

    Whether that’s intentional dishonesty, driven by a neurotic desire to always ‘prove’ you’re right (the condesceding and dismissive manner in which you’ve responded to my comments certainly suggests that) – or whether it’s just a faulty epistemological method (wrongly extrapolating specifics from general principles), I honesty don’t know. My guess is a combination of both.

  11. ,

    you're argument is flawed beyond all measure. Using your logic, you wouldd state that I would be promoting paedophila if i stated that I wanted all paedophiles placed into stockades, and publically flogged for their terpitude. Get a grip woman. We support the living power that Franklin's harnessing of electricity and edison's invention yeild for us. We are not cave dwelling neaderthals who wish to live a life of meagre minded scavenging, which is the ultimate extrapolation of what the earth hour nutters want us to have

  12. Mark

    Oh calm down. Word of advice, you can't evade your way around this.

    First, and lets be clear on it, you have completely conceded every point I originally made. That's good. Now, get over yourself.

    Next, don't misrepresent my position. That is willfully dishonest.

    I did not posit the "supposed virtues of always constructing roads to avoid maintenance (whatever the cost)". That's you being a liar.
    My position was that high maintenance, low quality roading would be discouraged in a free market over the long term by the operation of cost and profit mechanisms undistorted by arbitrary govt interference. What I pointed out to you was that in a free market alternatives arise which necessarily lead towards improvement in quality. My position was that the abysmal quality of NZ roads is down to the nationalisation of that infrastructure, the protection of involved parties by arbitrary fiat, transferred costs and the availability of coercively expropriated resources.

    Third, Flyvbjerg (among others) demonstrates that the cost modelling methods and reported costs for these projects are fundamentally flawed. Flybjerg, unfortunately, does not go further and explain HOW the problems occur or indeed WHY they occur. For that you need Von Mises. Had you read and understood them you'd not be confusing the two.

    You wrote, "Just because there's that potential for flawed calculation, doesn't mean the current road construction decisions, here in NZ, in 2010, is flawed to the extreme degree you claim - just because government has a hand in it."

    What an evasion! Flyvbjerg doesn't show "potential" for "extreme" flawed calculation (that is always a possibility, even for a private operator working in a free market), what he found was that the high magnitude errors are actual and systemic. In other words they are real, inherent and unavoidable in the industry as presently structured throughout the Western World. To make it simple enough even for the likes of you to grasp, the flaws are real and guaranteed. So, what you think you know, you don't and, worse, can't. Can you understand that?

    Quoting you, "At some point there's an optimal point that balances out the short and long term costs."

    Assuming that were true, the fact remains that you are not in the position of being able to establish an "optimal point" and can't ever be within the present structure. That's the issue here. Again, stop pretending to knowledge you do not possess.

    Hell, normally I'm soft on fellow practitioners, so I'm going easy on you this time. Nevertheless, what I've explained is that your opinion is baseless and it is wrong. You believe in a myth.


  13. ---continuing from above---

    Forth, it is easy for a technocrat working within a socialised industy to claim special expertise such as "knowing what that optimal level is, for a given traffic volume in a specific context" and then extending that to claiming that what is an really an economic question can be reduced to, "primarily a specialised civil engineering matter (the economic analysis comes later)". It's easy to do, but convenience doesn't make such claims correct. Those claims are examples of self-deception. You lack sufficient real economic knowledge to posit as you have.

    In reality it is not the likes of you who makes capital allocation decisions. You're no more than hired help. The party who makes the capital allocation makes it primarily on an ECONOMIC and (unfortunately) political basis. That party may take advice from civil engineers as well as from other professionals (or non-professionals as the case may be), but in the end these decisions fall within the realm of economics. You are not in the position of primary capital resource allocation and judging by what you have posted never have been (likely never will be either). Your "experience", such that it is, remains irrelevant. Best if you took your own advice by avoiding commenting about that which you do not know.

    An aside. In the case of a free market it is indeed possible to get things wrong (the potential to do that will always exist as it is not possible to be omniscient). However, there are no coercively expropriated funds available to mitigate loss. If there is an error, and it is gross enough, the road owner/operator becomes insolvent and his assets (such that they are) get reallocated. The responsiblility for getting it wrong is sheeted directly home. That is a real motivator to seek real data, develop accurate analysis and effective means of allocation. In the present context (a socialised industry) it is not possible though. The distortions are too severe.

    Fifth, you didn't catch me "making stuff up." That's you telling lies again. What I have done is point out some facts and also provided some basic references for you to review. Yes, I've stated that your position is erroneous and given the reasons. That may make you uncomfortable but it isn't a justification for your unfortunate habit of psychologising (you might care to review what Rand wrote about what you have been doing). You should avoid such childish antics. They make you small.

    Last. This strategy of yours, willful evasion followed by playing the liar, doesn't work. You need to learn to do better and lift your game. In the meantime, what you have amply demonstrated is that you're nowt but a bucket of festering evasion, dishonesty and, it would appear, some 20 years of supping at the trough of other people's forcibly expropriated money. The shame is yours. Get a productive sector job, monkey.



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