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Pollution for a solution

I'm not a big fan of empty symbolism. I see no purpose in it. While we're at it, I don't like the idea of "we make a large noise about a given populist cause preaching easy answers, and expect the Government to do what we want, no matter how futile and self-defeating." The problems in the world are problems because they will not be solved by easy answers, be it "write-off debt to African countries", "print more money" or "Kyoto protocol".

And with that in mind, may I discuss Live Earth.

To their credit, they are at least trying to offset the direct damage they think they are doing, such as by offsetting the emissions from the flights and stuff like that. But, and here's the thing, they will end up only informing those who want to be informed (which probably means "already are") so, from that point of view, it ends up being a waste of time. And they will only offset their direct impact. Which means that, for example, the CO2 emitted by people going to the concerts probably won't get offset. Nor will the energy used in the process of the people earning the money to pay for the tickets. And so on.

So even if the direct enviromental costs are all directly accounted for, all the indirect costs are still unaccounted for. So the concerts end up being nothing more than pollution for a solution. Where that solution doesn't come, either.

The reason I say that is that it is far more efficient reducing than compensating. Because the laws of thermodynamics say that you can't win and you can't break even, offsetting will never be as efficient as just not running the concerts at all. Particularly given, if they had a mind to, they could do the "offsetting" without doing the pollution in the first place!

Live Earth - just another Koala Park on the populist path of making people feel as though they are contributing to the environment in pursuit of their own enjoyment.


Comment from gelfen

speaking of empty symbolism, yesterday's announcement that the federal government plans to phase-out incandescant light bulbs over the next three years in favour of compact flouros absolutely reeks of it.

I respond

Actually, assuming the underlying premise is legitimate, that incandescent lights are environmentally bad and flouros are better in a range of ways, the policy is not empty symbolism. It is a concrete action. It forces people to do something which is better for the environment. As a next step, though, if you are going to say that people can't use energy inefficient lighting because of the environmental impact, surely the next step is to ban smoking...

Comment from Richard

The outlawing of incandescent globes sounds good on the surface. It it not great to save all that electricity. What is to happen to all of the places with small incandescent globes, are there tiny fluorescent ones to replace them?

What happens to all of the torches, microscopes and other pieces of lab equipment designed for a single type of globe for efficient use. Are incandescent globes to be banned for car headlights too.

If they are really serious they should ban all electrical light sources and say you can only burn natural products. Examples from history include olive oil like the mediteraneans, animal fat like those further north or even whale oil the cleanest and best fuel.

I respond

As always, the devil will be in the details, but I don't think you will find the problems you are suggesting. Besides, you keep saying about how the market will find solutions. Surely, given a 3 year phase-out, the market will be able to replace all the small incandescent globes effectively.

As for niche pieces of lab equipment, I'd hazard a guess that you will still be able to get those, but then, you don't get them from a supermarket now - you get them from specialist sellers, so they may well be unaffected by this anyway.

As to your suggestion for burning natural products instead of using electric lighting, I would guess that electric lighting is more efficient and less polluting. I have no proof on this, but I'd hazard the guess. The reality is, though, that if one light bulb lasts 8 times longer and uses one sixth of the power for the same light output then surely it is a far better option, and the Government should be phasing it out.

Comment from gelfen

sure on the surface it sounds fine. until you get into the nitty-girtty:

1. Compact flouros are often physically larger than the incandescent bulbs they replace and simply may not fit the lamp or fixture conveniently or at all.

2. Many models have light output claims that are only achieved at the optimum operating temperature and/or in some optimum burning position that achieves an optimum internal temperature. Many light output claims are outright exaggerated, often by about 15 percent and in a few extreme cases by 25 percent.

3. Compact fluorescent lamps usually do not produce full light output until they warm up for a minute or two. A few models require about three minutes to fully warm up and produce as little as 20-25 percent of their full light output when first started. In colder environments it is just not possible for them to reach the required temperature.

4. Some types may produce an annoying 120 Hz (or 100 Hz) flicker. Compact flourescent bulbs are also known to cause seasonal affective disorder in some people.

5. Compact fluorescents cannot be used with dimmer switches due to the current required to excite the gas. In fact dimmers have been known to cause flourescents to explode.

6. May produce Radio Frequency Interference (RFI).

7. The up-front cost is substantial (unless there is a large rebate): $10 to $20 for a compact fluorescent to replace a 60 W incandescent bulb!

8. Due to the high up-front cost, the pay-back period may approach infinity.

9. While their life may be 20,000 hours, a wayward ball will break one of these $10 to $20 bulbs as easily as a 25 cent incandescent.

10. Few commonly available compact fluorescent lamps designed to fit into 240 volt ordinary light bulb sockets match or exceed the light output of a 100 watt standard incandescent lamp.

of course, LED technology increasingly looks like the way forward but it will be a while before they become commercially viable for domestic applications.

I respond

I don't know what the state of things back in the old country are, but here we can get a wide range of cfls that are the same size as normal incandescent bulbs. Besides that, though, if you follow the line that they are environmentally preferable, then I see no reason why the Government shouldn't be regulating it. It is one of the easy things the Government can encourage.

Comment from Jason

I think that if we are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, how about reducing the size of cars and their engines.

The estimated fuel consumption of some of the new commodores is over 14L/100km. which is nearly twice the amount for my little car (suzuki swift).

PS, probably my last response, since I'll have to move countries after poeple read this one.

Comment from gelfen

I'm not against using CFLs per se, in fact we use them at home except in reading lamps, rooms with dimmers, and fittings where they don't fit, but there are certain applications for which they are poorly suited. But there's a difference between regulation (probably a good idea) and a blanket ban (definitely a bad one). I'd prefer to see a scale-back in incandescent globe production, replacing them with CFLs where appropriate, until a more suitable technology is commercially available for the other applications.

As for which is environmentally preferable, the adoption of CFLs is estimated to reduce national greenhouse emissions by around 0.02%; and nobody has mentioned how they plan to dispose of the mercury in the globes.

Finally, I'm appalled that nobody has thought of all those cartoon characters who will no longer be able to have a "bright idea"....

Comment from Jeff

Response to Jason, I,m not sure what the mileage on your Suziki Swift is (feel free to let us know if you haven't ducked out with your last comments)??? The mileage on my VY commodore sedan 6cyl reasonably new last five years model is usually between 8L/100km (highway) to 10L/100km (city). As I mostly do highway driving it is generally closer to 8L/100km or even lower so I doubt the newer commodores get worse milage?

Response to Gelfen, As an electrician I tend to agree with the comments Gelfen is making in regard to compact flouros. They are problematic in that they can't be dimmed and they don't fit in a lot of incandescent fittings. The flickering is annoying to those who wear glasses, suffer epilepsy, and is highly dangerous around moving machinery such as lathes and drills which can appear to be stopped under the flourescent flickering when in fact they are moving at dangerous speeds. If one were to touch these machines in their on state assuming they are off because of flourescent lighting serious injury can and has been inflicted. I feel the government of Australia is racing into this bulb change over very uninformed pushed by NECO and the greens.

As for equivalent light output this is complete rubbish. Even on channel 10's program last week, the on screen difference between the compact flouros was blatently obvious beside the incandescents with much greater shadowing from the compacts and much whiter light output from the incandescents beside them. Yet the presenters had the nerve to suggest the compact flouros were equivalent at least or brighter at best??? As Gelfen has noted the reading lights are better as incandescents because they are whiter and closer to natural daylight. An historical science fact is energy in equals energy out. The form of energy may be converted but if you put less energy in (ie compact flouros) you do not get more energy out (ie equivalent incandescent light). Hopefully the government come to their senses or more likely a better technology becomes available in the next three years before the incandescent phase out.

My situation at home is I have special NECO low power downlights in my lounge room replacing the old incandescent downlights as a trial and despite all Neco's claims and even after the lights warm up from almost complete darkness at turn on (not instant light) to warmed up 5 minutes later they are still considerably darker than the incandescent down lights they replace. My wife does cross stitch crafts and requires a separate incandescent daylight lamp to aid visibility for her craft work. This kind of defeats any benefit the low power lamps might hope to achieve and I can't unfortunately say we have noticed any great saving in our power bills from these alleged wonder lights! Regards Jeff

Comment from Jeff

This quote comes direct from an ECO news sight.

"Note: compact flouros cannot be used with dimmers. Frequent switching on and off reduces their life. Therefore, they are not recommended for bathrooms and toilets."

Frequent switching of flourescent type lighting also consumes more power than switching on and off of incandescents such as in hallways, bathrooms, toilets, a quick visit to the craft room or shed. The alternative of not switching flourescents off and consuming power when unneccesary, kind of keeps the power consumption up and defeats the point of reducing consumption, but turning flourescents off and on kind of kills their preached longer life expectancy so exploding one more flourescent myth. Long live the incandescent until a truly better technology (perhaps LEDs?) comes along.

Regards, Jeff

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