Saturday, April 5, 2008

Earth Hour - Whatever

A bit over a week ago, people around the world "celebrated" Earth Hour (here's the official site). A bunch of cities around the world volunteered to darken their famous monuments (Opera House in Sydney, Coca Cola sign in Atlanta etc.) and streets for an hour, in an effort to save energy and raise awareness to global warming.

Google, and other companies, darkened the background of their home pages, claiming black pixels consume less energy.

Now, I'm all for the environment and improving the quality of our atmosphere, but this marketing campaign is driving me mad. Here are some facts I find irritating about "Earth Hour":
  1. Turning power on and off at many places at the same time creates power grid fluctuations. Power plants then have to spend more energy to compensate for the fluctuations. Result: more energy is consumed.

  2. Those monuments with their thousands of light bulbs consume a lot of energy all year long. Want to contribute? Turn them off permanently, or at least change the bulbs to LEDs. Turning them off for an hour is as futile as preserving wildlife in captivity.

  3. I watched this "event" at my friend's house in Atlanta. The anchor asked everyone to please turn off all electricity in their home for an hour - but leave all TVs on. Presumably, your TV doesn't consume any electricity (or is it that the news station still needs the revenue from commercials at this hour?).

  4. And then came the sponsor list of Earth Hour: GE - a company that makes money if we waste energy. And Jeep. Jeep!? The company that makes all those gas guzzling SUVs and "all terrain vehicles" (specifically modeled to fit the LA roads)? What do they have to contribute to the earth? Better have those companies work on alternatives to fossil fuel and to gas-driven vehicles.

  5. This "TV event" was followed by many "on-the-scene" reporters, which I'd like to believe arrived at their reporting locations driving their hybrid vehicles. But I presume they just used a huge air-polluting news van.

  6. Finally, let's look at the string of bandwagon-hopping companies that "darkened" their web sites.

    This might have been right in the old CRT days, but an LCD screen (like your laptop monitor, or your flat desktop screen) consumes the same amount of energy, regardless of the pixel color. So sites like Blackle, claiming to save millions of watts, are either plain mistaken, or just feed you BS on purpose.

    Google was asked recently why don't they darken their site permanently, and the cited this research, showing that in a Blackle vs. Google comparison, on average, black background actually consumes more electricity that white background.

    Whoops! Looks like all those site background changes actually got people to consume more energy during Earth Hour. I would have laughed, but studies show laughter consumes more oxygen off the atmosphere...

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