Power Drains and Climate Change

Houston    A head scratcher for me around climate change has always been the issue of how much energy we waste in the slips between the cup and the lip, so to speak.

Oil pipelines lose from 5 to 10% by some estimates in leakage from inadequate maintenance, breakdowns, and, for those following the issue in Mexico and Nigeria, criminal tapping of the lines for use and resell.  Transmission lines for electricity also lose an estimate of at least 5% of the total energy produced, and, believe me, if that’s what the industry is conceding, it’s likely higher.  Given the cost in expended natural resources throughout the supply and delivery system, this becomes incredibly damaging to the environment and expensive to the consumer and impacts entire economies.  Where infrastructure is older and more fraught, like India, the impacts multiply wildly, and in India coal is still a major factor in powering generation.

What I had missed somehow, while fingering my worry beads, is how much phantom or so-called vampire energy we lose in the normal course of the day in our home and work.  Reading Morality and the Environmental Crisis, a new book by Professor Roger Gottlieb, a professor at Worchester Polytechnic Institute, who I was interviewing on Wade’s World,  in making his case for “ecological democracy” and a different ethical approach to climate change, he cited a statistic on phantom energy.  He claimed the loss was more than 5% of generated capacity!  Jiminy Pete!

I looked it up.  This whole vampire thing is based on the amount of wattage being drained from various pieces of equipment while they are turned “off.” Turns out phone chargers, power strips, and computers along with televisions, cable boxes, and other pieces of equipment are sucking power steadily.  Multiplied by a number of devices over a year, it adds up significantly in terms of both your electricity bill and your environmentally footprint.  Using certified “energy smart” devices on things like power strips can make a difference.  I’ve sometimes seen the symbols, but never paid much attention, and I bet I’m not the only one.  Heck, I leave a ton of stuff constantly plugged in.  My bad!

So, sure we recycle what the city is willing to take, but the impact of all of our recycling might not make as much difference for the environment as much as just unplugging some stuff and making sure we’re being energy smart.  We learn something every day, and it’s never too late to change some tricks even for old dogs.

So that’s my excuse, late to the game, but waking up.  What’s the excuse for the industry, generators, producers, and delivers?  They have always known about the “leakage” and loss problem.  Why haven’t they fixed it, way before now?  And, if not now, when?

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Extinction Rebellion

New Orleans    Extinction Rebellion is an interesting burst of energy and protest pushing governments, initially in the United Kingdom, to act immediately to avert catastrophic climate change.   Bursting onto the scene less than a year ago with actions in the fall and now calling for non-violent civil disobedience during the final two weeks of April, they have been front page news in London.  Their hallmark has been hard hitting, disrupting and innovative actions, which I find interesting and worth following.

More than 1000 have been arrested in London so far.  The Mayor of London mobilized more than 2000 additional police to deal with the disruption.  Attempts to confine the demonstrations to the Marble Arch in London have been unsuccessful.  Demonstrators have blocked politicians from entering the House of Parliament.  Others disrupted Parliament by disrobing there with messages printed on their bodies.  Some have super-glued various parts of their bodies, including their rear ends, to public areas to make their point.  Bridges, roads, and the London Underground have all been blocked at various times.  With Extinction Rebellion’s encouragement, actions have been joined in several other countries as well.

Their website lays out their objectives, structure, and principles:

At the core of Extinction Rebellion’s philosophy is nonviolent civil disobedience. We promote civil disobedience and rebellion because we think it is necessary- we are asking people to find their courage and to collectively do what is necessary to bring about change.

We organise in small groups. These groups are connected in a complex web that is constantly evolving as we grow and learn. We are working to build a movement that is participatory, decentralised, and inclusive.

All are welcome who want to adhere to our principles and values

  1. we have a shared vision of change

  2. we set our mission on what is necessary

  3. we need a regenerative culture

  4. we openly challenge ourselves and our toxic system

  5. we value reflecting and learning

  6. we welcome everyone and every part of everyone

  7. we actively mitigate for power

  8. we avoid blaming and shaming

  9. we are a non-violent network

  10. we are based on autonomy and decentralisation

It’s easy to critique this kind of Occupy-lite effort for the climate.  They avoid any economic or political analysis adopting a “make the government act” program rather than going after polluting businesses or policies.  They are oblivious to class and gender.  They don’t worry with sustainability, staffing, or membership.  They focus on the Chenoworth 3.5% notion as if it were a biblical guarantee, rather than a shaky post-Leninist notion.

So what?  Climate change is disruptive to the future, so it needs disruptive tactics to meet the peril and make it immediate, rather than in the by and by.  I’m not saying, let a thousand flowers bloom, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to have Extinction Rebellion and some other hellraisers taking action to stop business as usual and increase the heat on policy makers and politicians by demanding – and acting on their demands – until they force a response.  Some may take potshots at Extinction Rebellion, but for now count me in the stands cheerleading and leading the applause.  Their actions are important and make a difference.

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