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False economy?


taxi4ballet
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Just a minor rant really, and I could have put it in the Room 101 thread, but I suspect there will be some of you who have also come across similar things...

 

Example 1:

 

Our local council (in its collective wisdom) has decided to change all the bulbs in its street lights to low-energy ones in order to save money. What a great idea. Except... in order to achieve this they found that low-energy bulbs don't work very well with the existing wiring so they are having to replace every perfectly good lamp post in the area with new ones. How long will it be, I wonder, before they have recovered the cost of all that in savings on their electricity bill?

 

Example 2:

 

My office has a small inkjet printer, and the boss has been moaning about how many ink cartridges we use - one costing £17 every six weeks - so in order to save money he has bought a brand new all-singing all-dancing laserjet printer to replace it which has yet to be taken out of its box and installed (I wonder if he knows how much laser cartridges cost?). Yesterday I asked him whether the new printer was also a photocopier like the existing one, and it turns out that it it isn't. He also asked me why I needed a photocopier!  Well - because I don't want to have to scan every document that needs copying, save it, then print it out, which wastes time and effort and is a pain in the neck. He has come up with the bright idea of having both machines on my desk, and is now going to have to buy another electronic gadget to link them. What a pointless exercise.

 

Rant over!

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In California certain light bulbs are now banned and we are forced to use a low energy type that have mercury in them.  However, if one should drop one and it should break - since mercury is considered a dangerous substance -   the "Haz-Mat" (hazardous material) team in full cover up gear would have to be called with all the folderol that entails.  .

 

Some years ago the city decided that we needed to separate all trash into three catagories: regular, re-useable, and garden stuff.  So, now instead of one truck coming around to pick up the trash - we have three.

 

And I love it when someone touts an all electric car which runs on batteries = just plug it in to your electric outlet in the garage..  But - batteries need to be electrically charged and electricity comes from a power plant which is fired up by - coal.  So, the electric car doesn't run on gasoline/petrol - but it does run on whatever is firing up the power plant which is usually coal - or possibly oil.  

 

As for wind....windmills are now deemed dangerous to birds many of whom are protected species. I vote for the birds.

 

Acres and acres of solar panels were "planted" in the desert which also entailed building roads and housing/schools/stores for the maintenance crews - all of which is damaging the desert and the animals who live there.  The desert is a very fragile eco-system.

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According to Snopes, the problems with breakage of CFL bulbs containing mercury have been considerably overstated, if that's any consolation:

 

http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/cfl.asp

 

We're replacing our regular light bulbs with LED bulbs rather than CFL ones. It's expensive, but at least they don't need to be replaced every five minutes like regular bulbs. I know there are drawbacks with many of the alternative-energy sources, but the long-term drawbacks of not switching are likely to be a lot worse. I know windmills are causing problems for birds, but then so are oil spills (and runoff from mines cause problems for fish as well as birds that eat them). As long as humans need energy, nothing is going to be without some effects on the environment; it's just that the effects of business as usual are liable to be pretty awful in the medium to long term. And at least electricity-powered and hybrid cars get much better mileage than the petrol-fuelled ones, which hopefully is less of an overall drain on the environment.

 

Taxi - sounds as though your boss should have consulted you before going ahead with that printer purchase! Men can be so dangerous sometimes when it comes to getting seduced by fancy electronics and forgetting about the basic practicalities.

Edited by Melody
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Taxi - sounds as though your boss should have consulted you before going ahead with that printer purchase! Men can be so dangerous sometimes when it comes to getting seduced by fancy electronics and forgetting about the basic practicalities.

Most company directors are the same! ;)

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In California certain light bulbs are now banned and we are forced to use a low energy type that have mercury in them.  However, if one should drop one and it should break - since mercury is considered a dangerous substance -   the "Haz-Mat" (hazardous material) team in full cover up gear would have to be called with all the folderol that entails.  .

[snip]

Acres and acres of solar panels were "planted" in the desert which also entailed building roads and housing/schools/stores for the maintenance crews - all of which is damaging the desert and the animals who live there.  The desert is a very fragile eco-system.

 

We broke a thermometer when I was young: I remember Mum just sweeping it up, putting it into a bag or something and dumping it in the wastebin :)

 

Talking about fragile eco-systems, a few years ago I came across a horrifying tale of what California is doing to the Colorado River upstream - and here it is, although it's less about the Colorado than I'd thought: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/8359076/US-farmers-fear-the-return-of-the-Dust-Bowl.html

 

But what really bugs me is, you know we used to have all these nice, powerful incandescent lightbulbs which were so environmentally unfriendly that we had to get rid of them and go onto "green" ones?  Now, people end up just using multiple bulbs to get the same light levels, so they're probably still using 100 W of power, just with 4 green bulbs rather than one non-green one!

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But what really bugs me is, you know we used to have all these nice, powerful incandescent lightbulbs which were so environmentally unfriendly that we had to get rid of them and go onto "green" ones?  Now, people end up just using multiple bulbs to get the same light levels, so they're probably still using 100 W of power, just with 4 green bulbs rather than one non-green one!

 

Even more bugging is the price. You used to be able to get a pack of 4 ordinary bulbs from a supermarket really cheaply - now these new ones cost a packet - and by gum when they fail they don't half go bang... I've had one explode and scatter shards of glass all over the bathroom floor. Not much fun when you're in there with bare feet and are suddenly plunged into the dark.

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And then there is the - excuse me - toilet issue.

 

The building codes were changed some years ago so that only very low flush toilets could be installed.  The problem is that the intent of the facility is not achieved with one flushing.  Thus the useage of water is doubled rather than halved.

 

But people will do what they have to do (no pun was intended here) so when people remodel a home which often means upgrading a bathroom a new low flush toilet is installed so that it will pass building inspection.  However, once the inspectin is officially concluded the new low flush model is yanked off and the older model comes out of its hiding place and installed.  Then everyone is happy.

 

I saw an article the other day which called for killing all cows because of flatulence.   Here I make my stand:  Any threat to ice cream is a very serious issue.   

 

I am not un-green.  I sewed up grocery bags (6 of them) from heavy denim back in 1968 and am still using them.  It's good to be green - but it has to be within reason and with a care for unintended consequences - like multiple flushings.

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Even more bugging is the price. You used to be able to get a pack of 4 ordinary bulbs from a supermarket really cheaply - now these new ones cost a packet - and by gum when they fail they don't half go bang... I've had one explode and scatter shards of glass all over the bathroom floor. Not much fun when you're in there with bare feet and are suddenly plunged into the dark.

 

We had a CFL bulb explode a couple of years ago (that was fun...), but so far the LEDs seem to act like ordinary bulbs. There were some LEDs already installed when we bought this house nearly 10 years ago and we haven't had to replace any of them yet.

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We broke a thermometer when I was young: I remember Mum just sweeping it up, putting it into a bag or something and dumping it in the wastebin :)

 

Talking about fragile eco-systems, a few years ago I came across a horrifying tale of what California is doing to the Colorado River upstream - and here it is, although it's less about the Colorado than I'd thought: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/8359076/US-farmers-fear-the-return-of-the-Dust-Bowl.html

 

But what really bugs me is, you know we used to have all these nice, powerful incandescent lightbulbs which were so environmentally unfriendly that we had to get rid of them and go onto "green" ones?  Now, people end up just using multiple bulbs to get the same light levels, so they're probably still using 100 W of power, just with 4 green bulbs rather than one non-green one!

 

Gosh, a Telegraph article that actually acknowledges that global warming is happening. Must be a first... :)

 

It was really frustrating when we lived in California and drove up and down Highway 5 a few times - not only were there miles and miles and miles of fields growing water-intensive crops like cotton and sorghum (and also apparently rice although I don't remember actually seeing them) but also being watered by automatic overhead sprinklers in the heat of early afternoon. And the canals taking water from northern California to the drier south, open to the elements, not with the water run through pipes, meaning that a lot of it was just evaporating off before it ever reached its destination. Sooner or later they're going to have to start getting real about what they can grow in the Central Valley and how they water it.

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Let me say first - I am not an expert in any way on water - it's use and/or conservation.  But having lived here since 1964, one does become aware of some of the issues.

 

The San Joaquin Valley (the great central valley) in California is approximately 400 miles long and between 30and 40 miles wide.  It produces almost 300 varieties of agricultural produce including the largest producer of cotton.  Four of the counties within the valley are the top four producers of food in the entire United States.  It also has cattle, sheep and other animal based farming as well as oil wells and  a number of cities of note.  Both agriculture and cities employ and impact the lives of millions of people.  

 

Water issues in Calif are very complex - there are no simple answers.  Water comes from snowpack and several rivers which empty into lakes, marshes, ponds, reservoirs, catchments, and canals.  The acqueduct which is over 400 miles long is pumped by huge pumps over the Tehachapi Mountains at the Tejon Pass.  The water is not only used for agriculture and people, but for migrating and local birds and fish.  It terminates not far from my house into a lake which is a major resting place for birds and water fowl.

 

The water used by people and agriculture is very expensive.  A farmer would not thoughtlessly irrigate in a careless manner.  Water is probably his greatest expense.  Some crops do not do well when watered at night which might lead to leaf rot.  Some do not do well with drip irrigation.  Fish and birds would not do well if the aqueduct system were covered.  

 

Since the Valley is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean there are also ground water issues of salt water contamination if the snowpack water is too tightly controlled.

 

There have been many ideas put forward including covering the acqueduct with solar panels.  But there are a great many probabilities of unintended consequences.  When dealing with such a complex issue, that impacts so many people, that is so huge in scope, so expensive, - and life altering for millions of people who don't even live in the valley, the nation's food supply, wildlife - there are no obvious answers.  Any damage from unintended consequences could be catastrophic.

 

Adding to the complexity is the involvement of other states and the federal government.  At the moment there is a raging controversy as water is being used in favor of a very small endangered fish and the needs of agriculture.  So far the fish is winning.

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I'm not so sure that farmers in the Central Valley wouldn't irrigate in a thoughtless manner. At least when we lived there, water was heavily subsidized for farmers (unlike for homeowners), and all sorts of water-intensive crops were being grown in what was basically a semi-arid climate. I think they were even growing rice in California at one time, which is insane in a country that also includes places like Louisiana. If you water in the early afternoon by spraying the tops of the plants from those overhead sprayer thingies, you're going to lose a lot of the water to evaporation. Which isn't that big a deal, I suppose, if the water isn't costing you all that much. It was just very frustrating to see it happening when we were under stringent water rationing at home (which tended to happen a lot more in northern California than Southern California when we lived there, although that might have changed now). Certainly watering at night isn't optimal, but they could at least take a break between midday and 2 pm, give or take; the nights are fairly short in summer, so they can start pretty early. I think a lot of the problem was pretty much what we're seeing now with the reluctance to do anything about global warming - it's a medium- to long-term problem so there's no incentive to do anything in the short term, especially if it costs money to do it.

 

Not sure there are any crops that can't handle drip irrigation but there may be. Generally we kept being told in the nurseries near where we lived that in the sunny California climate, it was better to use drip irrigation because the water was available for the roots for longer and it was bad for the plants to get too much water on the leaves. The basic problem with drip irrigation, we found, was that the first you knew of a break in the line was when the plants downstream started dying. I know you can grow grapes with drip irrigation and I think that's one of the major crops in the Central Valley, at least the southern end. If the drought out there keeps going, they'll sooner or later have to rethink the business-as-usual mentality, and destroying the fish habitats in the Delta isn't going to make that big a difference to the southern California agribusiness concerns.

 

As far as the snowpack is concerned - that's going to become a real problem in the next few decades if things carry on as they've been doing and the snowpack keeps decreasing. The San Francisco Bay Area gets most of its water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in the Sierras, and a major long-term shortfall in the Sierra snowpack is going to be really problematic. Sooner or later I assume coastal California will have to resort to desalination to make up the deficit. Then again, there are people all round the world whose major water supply is under threat from retreating and melting glaciers and from dwindling snowpacks. That's bound to lead to conflict, especially if the countries causing most of the global warming aren't the ones that'll suffer the greatest consequences.

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Global warming is an issue I won't discuss - it is too controversial and divisive for me to engage in on a board such as this.  

 

Accurate information on water subsidy - and changes therein  (and there have been many changes) - is difficult to access - it depends much upon who is collecting and presenting the information.  Water is also distributed by allotment rather than the farmer just turning on the tap.  He'd be foolish to squander that allotment - subsidized or not.  If he uses his allotment foolishly he is out of business.

 

Rice:  95% of the rice is grown within 100 miles of Sacramento in the delta - not in the arid south.  It is the second largest rice production in the country and is sold around the world feeding millions of people - and employing millions more. 

 

I think that you can see by the contents of this thread that there are often unintended consequences even with the best of intentions.   And when those intentions are directed toward a problem with vast consequences such as feeding people and supplying them with a means to earn a living - the size of California - those unintended consequences can be horrific.  

 

Agriculture in the Valley is done by both agribusiness and family owned farms some of whom have been engaged in farming in the Valley for several generations.  

 

An important bottom line is - California helps to feed the world.  Those people are alive right now and need to eat.

 

Please allow me the pleasure of giving you the last word......

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Well, my last word, speaking as a scientist married to a scientist engaged in relevant research, is that scientifically (as opposed to politically), global warming isn't at all controversial, and the consequences (unintended or otherwise) of doing nothing about it are going to be pretty dire. So even though people may laugh at us for doing so, we're happily switching all our light bulbs to LEDs and trying to conserve where we can. :)

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