Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Flippin' off the Eiffel Tower

So the Eiffel Tower is going to have its lights turned off for 5 minutes this friday in "recognition of" Global Warming, presumably of the anthropogenic variety.

Seems the end of some study/summit in France will be here.

Oddly, this illustrates something that I've long suspected is true. Activism is more about public moral preening than it is about actually taking real action. Turning off the Eiffel lights, which use about ~650 mwh of electricity a year -- for 5 minutes -- is a public spectacle, and it will get lots of furrowy-browed nods and "mmm-hmmm's" and stroked chins from various sectors of society.

But let's think about this. If you were REALLY concerned about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) and you REALLY wanted to do something about it....

Why 5 minutes?

They're going to turn them off for 5 minutes to recognize the alleged dire danger we're all in -- and then they are going to turn them back on.

What purpose do the lights on the nighttime Eiffel Tower serve? Do we really need them on at all, save some safety lighting at the bottom and a blinking red light for aircraft at the top? If AGW is such a huge problem and you're that concerned about it -- why not get rid of them altogether?

1 minute is 1/525600 of a year, meaning 5 minutes is 1/105120 of a year. To be fair, the lights are presumably only on at night, so 5 minutes should be approximately 1/5250 of the time they are on all year. So they're saving 0.000019026 of the total energy those lights burn per year, or 0.012 mwh. To put that in perspective, that's 12 kwh. The average American household uses ~ 9,000 kwh of electricity per year, or 9 mwh. Turning them off for 5 minutes saves 0.13%, or 0.0013 of that (for the math-challenged, that's not 13% -- that's point one three percent, or thirteen hundredths of a percent). Woah. Save the Planet, man!

The Eiffel Tower's night lights display uses as much electricity per year as 65-70 US households, and they could save all of that earth-damaging energy by just not having them on at all!

But it's not about saving the planet. It's about drawing attention to yourself for talking about it -- and pats on the head, with furrowy browed nods of approval. You told everyone about it, now it's up to someone else to, you know, actually do something practical about it.

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