Eco-nomics

Economics was created to give credibility to astrologers.

Economists have predicted 5 out of the last 4 recessions.

For a long time, my attitude toward economics was cold. I was very frustrated when I learned about the law of Supply and Demand. If the price falls by $20.00, how many more items will you sell? There were never any numbers or formulas given with the law of supply and demand, therefore it wasn’t real science (in my opinion). Some terms, like GDP or Unemployment Rate have strict definitions, and can be calculated, but the things you do with them are just rough ideas. The Laffer Curve has never had any scale. My attitude on economics has been changing of late though.

For me, I now think of economics as psychology of the masses. Psychology does not have numbers or formulas either, just ideas about how a person works. Economics has ideas about how a people work. What does any of this have to do with being green though?

The economic principle of the day is the law of latent demand. Television sets used to be 16″ and run at 1000 watts or more. Todays television sets are 36 to 56″, but run at 200 watts, and today’s homes also have 2-4 sets per house. We also have TiVOs, entertainment systems, computers and monitors, and Video Game systems, each of which can run at 150-200 watts. In the long run, televisions have become a lot more efficient, but the total power usage is the same.

Think of computers. They were touted as “getting your work done four times faster!” So how come we are still working 40 hours a week? Because all they really did was succeed in was giving us four times the work.

And of course when a road is crowded, it is expanded. However the expanded road immediately gets crowded out because there is a latent demand: People who wanted to use the road but couldn’t until the expansion.

People work hard to make a more energy efficient widget, but this does not necessarily cut our energy use. Human nature causes us to just buy and use more widgets. We cannot rely on improved technology to save the environment unless we make personal sacrifices.

Journal of Physics D. recently published an article about the upcoming solid state lights—those LEDs in your flashlight, key chain, or solar garden lamp that will someday be lighting your dining room and office building. What they noticed is that we humans have spent roughly 0.72% of our GDP on lighting. Whether this is efficient fluorescent bulbs, or whale oil lamps, we have forever spent the same amount on lighting. If this trend continues into the future, we will not be saving any energy going from 28 watt bulbs to 4 watt bulbs, because we will install 7 times as many lights.

This isn’t all bad news. Thanks to computers we all have a lot more work to do, but our productivity is also much greater. A Ford Model-T gets the same gas mileage as my Toyota Camry. But the Camry is far less polluting, more comfortable, more powerful, and needs far fewer repairs.

Energy efficiency is a great goal, and I whole-heartedly support all research. However, we must not look at it as a way to lower our energy footprint. The weak link here is human nature.

Future thinkers of old imagined that by the year 2000 we only need to work a few hours a week because of machines. Robots would take care of our household needs and life would be a paradise for all.  That never happened.  We have the technology these people never dreamed of, but instead of going to paradise we just went back to work.

Maybe this is what we need to aim for. To be Green, we may need to try for the paradise displayed at world fairs of old. Granted we may not be as productive, but so what. This is a small price to pay for increased time with friends and family.

In writing this blog post, I am constantly thinking of examples of latent demand in real life. I’ve been appreciating economics a lot more recently, as a way to improve and understand human nature. Please share your thoughts or latent demand examples in the comments.

–Dave

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Organic eggs

As a follow up to yesterday’s comment about organic ag, I came across this article. Basically, free range and organically grown eggs are less healthy than factory farm eggs.  Free range chickens are allowed to eat things that the farmers can’t control, and these things end up in the final product.

Yet, I will still prefer to purchase free range eggs (if practical, money is a little tight) just because I don’t like the idea of chickens spending their entire lives enclosed in cases.  I just won’t be telling people that it’s healthier.

–Dave

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Organic pesticides

This may seem a contradiction to some people, but yes, organic farms are allowed to use pesticides. Farmers have been spreading chemicals on their crops for thousands of years, and we consider these to be organic. Recently though, we have divided farm chemicals into the categories of “organic” and “conventional”.
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Experts

A couple of months ago, I was shopping for children’s pain reliever at 3:00am.  One bottle I looked at boldly exclaimed “Designed by a Teacher!”  I immediately put this back.

This is my kid we’re talking about here.  I want medicine designed by doctors, pharmacists, and other medical experts.  And yet someone, somewhere, decided that “Designed by a Teacher” was good marketing for a medicine, and it is probably successful.
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Posted in Climate Change, Skepticism | 1 Comment

Main Stream Skeptic

I’ve always liked Rachel Maddow. She is often labeled a “liberal” to scare people, but she is a very harsh critic of the administration. I’ve noticed a very skeptical theme amongst in her reporting. Today, June 25th, was an extraordinary.
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Posted in News, Skepticism, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cell phony reasoning

The latest cell phone “radiation” study really irked me.  I wrote up something, but before it was polished, a ton of other places wrote up nice articles exposing the information for what it was.  For example Dr. Steven Novella wrote an excellent piece.  I did a similar job in disseminating the information, but I think he did a better job, and he has a lot more authority.  There are two things I would like to add which I have not seen yet, then I will explain why I am now dusting electrons of that original blog post.

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Posted in Health, Laws, News, Numbers, Risk Evaluation | Leave a comment

Lesson Learned

I learned something the other day.

Something I say a lot is “there is no such thing as green energy”. This is one of the reasons I created this blog. When I first learned about wind power, I had heard that they were real bird killers. The article I read oh-so-many years ago, was referring to one of the first experimental wind farms. “Hundreds of birds” were scattered around the base of the wind mills, including many large raptors. Since then, I have heard about windmills becoming “bird friendly”, and now that they are mainstream, I haven’t heard a peep about the birds.
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Posted in Energy, Numbers, Skepticism, Wind | Leave a comment

Recycling- a Definition

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In that order.
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Killer butts?

So the NBC nightly news has a very quick scare article tonight. Watch. Basically the story was about cigarette butts, the most common form of litter, leaching toxic chemicals into the ground, possibly into someones water supply and affecting your pets. I burst out laughing.

If someone dumped a bunch of used tea bags on the side of the road, would people complain as much? Yes, tobacco does contain thousands of chemicals, but like tea— it’s just leaves. Apple seeds and almonds contain trace amount of cyanide, but who would complain about a few of these lying around?

Just because Brian Williams said it in an ominous tone, does not mean its anything more than just trace amounts of burned leaves.

Posted in News, Scare Tactics | Tagged | 2 Comments

Happy Earth Day

As it turns out, the Earth and I are the same age. I’m actually 6 months older. (I’m writing this on 4/22/2010, Earth Day.)

I don’t subscribe to cable, satellite, or even broadcast television. I know that it’s Earth day, but I am unaware of what most people are doing on this day. It’s not a holiday I’ve ever really celebrated. For me, there are so many similar themed holidays that I’m often confused. Walk to Work Day, Bike to Work Day, Buy Nothing Day, No Smoking Day, Buy Local Day, Don’t Buy Gas Day, Plant a Tree day, and even Nude Bike Day.

How else would you celebrate Earth Day? We could exchange gifts, but they should to be hand made ones. After all, consumerism is generally not an environmentalist theme. We could all go to a park or hike in the woods, except we don’t have the day off.

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