Saturday, January 02, 2010

When energy-savings becomes fleecing

I found this TIME magazine article indicative of ever popular attitudes among the more liberal advocates of "green" technologies and the requisite social engineering that tends to accompany it.

Author, Bryan Walsh wrote:
“Among those opportunities will be the chance to improve electrical efficiency so much that utilities will be able to forgo adding new power plants. Right now, consumption usually peaks in the afternoons of hot summer days, when air conditioners are throbbing, and ebbs in the middle of the night. Utilities always need to ensure that they have enough reserve capacity to meet the moments of highest demand.

But if utilities were able to track electricity consumption in real time, they could price power according to consumption rates — higher during peak-demand times and lower during the ebb. Customers could then adjust their consumption. The result would be a flattened demand curve, reducing some of the need for utilities to build new, often polluting power plants.”
Yes, well, we can all adjust our consumption now. Wear warmer clothes in the house when it's cold, less clothes when it's hot. The difference here is that under the “smart” system, when you need electricity the most it'll be most expensive, and when you're in bed and don't need it it'll most likely be cheapest. So the real result here is that we all pay more, as utilities make more profit.

My biggest problem with this, outside of how it smacks of paternalism, is that just as in the case of leftist notions of taxing the price of gas to $4-5, this will disproportionately affect the poor and middle class.

If I'm wealthy, I don't care if gas is $5 per gallon, I can afford to drive that Hummer every day on my 60 mile commute, and the 100 mile trek to my lake house. And if I'm wealthy, I don't care if I will pay more per kilowatt-hour to run my air-conditioner at 2pm than at midnight — if I like it 60 degrees in my house at all times, I'll run that air-conditioner wide open all day long because I can afford it.

Those in the lower-economic classes, however, cannot afford to ignore such things as peak prices and exorbitant gas taxes. So, we may just have to take the bus rather than drive our car to work. We may just have to turn that AC off from 1pm-7pm.

Of course, to many leftists pushing a more radical-type environmentalist agenda, this is measured as “progress”. More and more we — the poor and middle-class — continue to be pushed to live pre-industrial as if were trying to bend everyone to some sort of enlightened Utopia. But it isn't progress to those who are made to pay more and give up some fairly basic comforts.

Now while I readily admit that some of these technologies will certainly be beneficial to society — the environment, aiding people to better manage some of the waste in their home and being able to use smart-alliances to turn off or move them to low-usage states during peak hours — nonetheless, utilities adjusting electrical rates based on peak and off-peak times is not an improvement, least of all to those who are already the most financially-distressed. And what much of this often comes down to are elitists who talk a good game about conservation, for the rest of us, while they're allowed to pig-out in their consumption because they're willing to pay for it with off-sets and the like.

As far as I'm concerned, we can look upon much of this as yet another attempt for government and big-business to fleece those who already carry the biggest burdens — the poor & middle-class.

At the end of the article, Mr. Walsh concluded:
“As the world works to find a way to deal with global warming at the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen next month, it's important to remember that the cheapest way to cut carbon is not to emit it in the first place.
There is much truth to this. Absolutely. But someone should really tell Al Gore.

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