I awoke this morning to the usual regurgitation of the usual self congratulatory press releases by utilities claiming another Earth Hour “success.” Toronto Hydro reported a 200-megawatt drop in consumption, the implication being that the annual conserve-fest was responsible. This was obligingly reported by CBC News. What nonsense. Check the consumption patterns on any Saturday evening and you will see similar drops between eight and nine p.m. Yesterday’s drop had nothing to do with Earth Hour, and everything to do with normal consumption patterns.
What is really disappointing is that the greenhouse gases from grid electricity remained almost exactly the same during Earth Hour. That is because the provincial fossil-fired fleet, which consists mostly of gas-fired generators, registered a minuscule 36-MW reduction in generator output. That means that their collective GHG emissions were only 21 metric tons less at nine p.m. than at eight.
There was a drop in generator output during Earth Hour, but that was almost entirely from the provincial hydro fleet. Hydro generators collectively generated 357 megawatts less at nine than at eight.
But who cares. Hydro emits no greenhouse gases. Ontarians could have increased power consumption during Earth Hour, and our collective GHGs would have been the same.
It is disappointing that no media have reported that little fact. Earth Hour was totally irrelevant. The best thing about it is that it is over, and we don’t have to listen to the meaningless, uninformed hype.
It is probably needless for me to point out that I did not observe Earth Hour. I don’t think there is anything wrong with electricity; in fact I find a lot of things right with it. Exhortations to use less of it are based on fundamental lack of understanding of the kinds of energy we use and why we use them. And almost without exception, those who boost Earth Hour like it is meaningful are also boosters of the least efficient and most resource-intensive kinds of electricity.
So I kept the lights on and watched, on my (electric-powered) flat screen, the (electrically broadcast) Leafs-Bruins hockey game, which was played on artificial ice. The Leafs won.
What gets me is that the kids are hustled into swallowing this specious ego-cleansing nonsense on each side the border. This sickeningly popular “less is better” mantra sure is proving itself in scholastic scores all right.
Specious ego cleansing nonsense is right. And truly a shame that kids are hustled into it, especially when a bit of critical thinking will expose Earth Hour for the meaningless posturing that it is. Who invented Earth Hour? A bunch of Australians, who during the other 8,759 hours of the year get by on coal-fired power and are anti-nuclear.
And yet, in Ontario, where because we are not anti-nuclear the electricity is at least an order of magnitude cleaner than in Australia, we cannot muster the strength of character to look the Aussies in the eye and tell them it’s time to drop the facile and hypocritical grandstanding and get a power system like ours. Instead we gobble along with this idiocy.
What really kills me is that all through Earth Hour Twitter and Facebook were all lit up with exhortations to use less power. Uh… Twitter and Facebook don’t exist without electricity.
Earth Hour is mostly a distraction. Similar to (most) recycling, where the main result is that people can say “Oh, I recycle my plastic garbage, so I don’t have to do much else, it is all taken care of…”.
Here is an Earth Hour that I could actually support: if a utility announced “OK folks, we’ll switch off this gas-fired power plant here for the next hour, to show that we can do without it. Everybody please look at the grid stats in real time. If CO2 emissions decline relative to the average Saturday night, we’ll count that as a success.”
For a number of years now I have been visiting the Green Living Show in Toronto (coming up April 12-14, 2013). For an equal number of years I have been emailing OPG to please be present next time to inform the public about the carbon benefits of nuclear energy, and to counteract the Greenpeace et al., propaganda. To no avail. Perhaps Steve Aplin you have better contacts.
Here is my all-time favorite post about Earth Hour.