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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Red Lights, Green Lights and the Inefficiency of Energy Efficiency

With snowstorms in the air, cities that decided to "go green" by switching from incandescent to LED traffic lights are discovering that their new "green" traffic lights don't melt snow through waste heat. The alternative requires sending crews out to actually clean off the LED traffic lights, a single such outing costs more energy and money than LED traffic lights can possibly save in a year. But the incident is more than fodder for amusement value, it's an illustration of just how inefficient, trying to be green is.


A far more prominent incident is the Copenhagen summit dedicated to cracking down on global carbon emissions. Not only did the whole conference result in nothing more than a vague accord with no hard and fast details, but the conference attendees wound up far more energy than some African nations on their jet planes and limos. And while it's easy enough to mock politicians and rock stars for the hypocrisy of trying to stop carbon emissions by getting together to emit a lot of carbon in style, there's a larger issue, which is that expending energy to save energy is already the definition of futility.

Contrary to what most environmentalists believe, our technological civilization is not based around an orgy of wastefulness, but is in fact based on standards of market derived efficiency. Replace all the environmental charts and graphs with money, and what you have is a far more accurate measure of how efficiently we live. Companies are not in the business of wasting money, and most individuals at any level of income try to maximize their purchasing power. In other words we are already about as efficient as we're likely to get.

That is why there is a compelling argument to be made for alternative energy in order to end our dependency on foreign oil, but none to be made based on energy efficiency, with the result that our alternative energy plans based on going "green" have failed, while China's, which is based on energy independence, are taking off.

Alternative energy is not superior on a cost by cost basis, it only becomes superior cost-wise when you factor in the cost of Middle Eastern war and Islamic terrorism, at which point even the weakest solar panel quickly begins looking good in dollars and cents terms, compared to the Saudi TerrorOil inc or Chavez's PetroMarxism.

And that is the problem with the entire non-existent Green Tech boom that has mainly served to inflate the IPO's of otherwise worthless green technology companies, with no serious business plan except to pick up government grants. And in the process companies like Cello and Nova Gen, and entire industries including the once touted Biofuels industry, have been exposed along with their investors. It has also created a Green branding boom, in which companies compete for the prize of their customer's gullibility by branding any product as "green" or "ecofriendly", a term that has no more backing than the label it's printed on.

The presumption of energy efficiency is that it is possible to use non-market methods to achieve a higher standard of efficiency, and they have been proven wrong every time. So instead we have the rise of global warming, a political ideology propped up by phony science that tries to enforce energy efficiency in the name of an imaginary crisis, but in the process expends far more energy, and yes far more carbon, that dreaded element we keep exhaling into the atmosphere every time we breathe.

Virtually every present day alternative energy technology from hybrids to solar panels, in reality require more energy to produce, than they can hope to save. The LED traffic light that fails to melt the snow obscuring it, is just one of the more obvious follies of a movement that attempts to replace market based technological efficiency, with politicized technological alternatives, with the same result as in the old Soviet Union, producing technologies that "must" work because they have the backing of the party, but that fail in the real world.

The market is the best test of a technology, and by contrast politicized technological solutions yield very little concrete besides corruption, inefficiency and huge deficits. We don't drive automobiles because somewhere a secret cabal locked up the model of a car that runs on water or pixie dust. We drive automobiles, because they and the technology behind them are the shortest line between two points. And that is what market testing accomplishes, it lets companies and consumers collaborate to find that shortest line between two points.

But environmentalists themselves have insured that real alternative energy solutions, particularly nuclear power are to be kept off the table, and instead we've sunk billions of dollars into technologies that depend on inherently unstable environmental factors such as sunlight and wind. While it is possible to pick up some power from wind and sunlight, a technological civilization requires power sources that are stable and efficient, the sun and the wind are neither. They exist as part of a biological rhythm, and as such are meant to be unstable and inefficient, because they do not exist to provide us with electricity. A technological civilization requires technological, rather than natural power sources. And by resisting this, environmentalists have closed off the path to actual alternative energies, by instead insisting on the romantic notion that we should be relying on natural, rather than technological power.

The reason why America defeated the USSR technologically can be put down simply to freedom. American  researchers and inventors had the freedom to follow a variety of paths in a market economy that rewarded results, and in which various approaches could be debated and compete with each other. Had America been run in the same top down party way that it is increasingly being run today, we would have been stuck with Edison's direct current and a scientific orthodoxy that insisted that rockets could never work beyond the earth's atmosphere. But instead we have politicized technology, the entire "green" movement is nothing more and nothing less than the demand that every product we buy and every piece of technology we use be subject to ideological and political approval.

We can look to the USSR and its backward products, its hapless plagiarism of Western technologies and its centralized planning, rigid scientific orthodoxies and hopeless inefficiency and corruption as "Red Lights" warning us of the direction in which we are headed. America's strength has always been in its independence of thought and its democratized market tested products. Take that away and all we become is another demonstration of the abysmal commercial and intellectual failure of central planning, and putting politics over production.

3 comments:

Keli Ata said...

Very interesting article:)

The LED lights are just another example of how expensive and ineffective the green movt's measures to save the earth above all else is.

"American researchers and inventors had the freedom to follow a variety of paths in a market economy that rewarded results, and in which various approaches could be debated and compete with each other. Had America been run in the same top down party way that it is increasingly being run today, we would have been stuck with Edison's direct current and a scientific orthodoxy that insisted that rockets could never work beyond the earth's atmosphere."


The spirit of innovation is becoming lost. Edison thought Telsa was crazy when he suggested alternating currents, and using them to channel the the power of Niagara Falls as an effective source of electrity.

I can't help but wonder how the green mov't would react to Telsa in 2009. Something tells me they'd be against hydropower and "abusing" the Falls.




Shavua tov.

Morry Rotenberg said...

Since Americans are so ignorant of science it's no wonder that the 9 black robed scientists on the Supreme Court declared CO2 a pollutant. And it's no wonder that the "useful idiots" in the environmental movement have changed the definition of what a pollutant really is.

Lemon said...

Global warming is a money maker.
It's proponents will fight for it because it will line their pockets and people accept it because they believe everything they read at times.

We have foreigners running the nation now who have no love for it at all.
This spells disaster in all areas, doesn't it?

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