Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Crisis!! C-c-cold!!!!

Brrr. It was 4.5 degrees overnight, our lowest yet in we-have-no-idea-what-real-cold-is, 'Mediterranean' Perth. And the next few nights will also be down to 4 degrees.

But we have a gas crisis! 30% of our gas supply gone due to that pesky explosion. So we are encouraged to save on power and gas usage as much as we can (even businesses are responding to this, that's how serious it is!). I've had the heater on for only a few minutes in the last couple of days, and this morning I was so cold I had to shower wearing my beanie!

Yes, this is very serious. The federal treasurer has even said the gas crisis will affect the economy.

It's so serious in fact that our state premier did the unprecedented thing of making an announcement on tv and radio last night.

Alan Carpenter said:

"Minimise use of heaters. Turn off lights when you're not using them, and reduce shower times. Just turning off appliances at the wall can save up to 10 per cent of household electricity use.

And you've heard that statistic of 10% before, yes? Well, as Matthew Parris discovered a couple of years ago, it's a great "example of how a dud fact can enter the national mind". He began with Gordon Brown's or someone-or-other's announcement that "up to 10% of the electricity supply" is being used up by appliances left on "standby". And then he - rather amusingly - tracked down the source of this widely believed statistic, searching through many studies and reports, only to find they were based on a 2000 report by Alan K Meier. Who said he'd only had 'inadequate' info to base this on.
Near the end of Meier’s report I spot this: “Estimates of standby power use and savings opportunities are based on just a few, scattered measurement studies . . . (they are) inadequate. More complete information is needed to answer these questions:
Meier is asking these questions! Everyone else is pointing to him as the man who answers them.

A darn good reason to query all stats you hear. Along with his other example:

At the start of the Iraq war, Jack Straw, then the Foreign Secretary, announced that Iraq was more than twice the size of France. Soon everyone was repeating this. Actually Iraq is smaller than France. But why fret? Journalists and politicians bring you the essential not the literal truth.

In my wee search I found it confirmed that 'exact figures on total losses to standby power are not available.' But that recent estimates suggest in 'the United States, 5% of electricity usage is due to standby power. In Europe, the numbers run slightly higher: France at 7% and Germany and the Netherlands at 10% each. Australia comes in at 11%, Japan at 12%.'

As Parris says:
The truth is plain. Nobody has the least idea. All we do know amounts simply to this: that some small energy savings are available from switching some appliances right off.

So the 'essential truth is that you must remember to unplug your mobile phone charger*... Iraq is awfully big' ...and it's best to shower wearing a beanie.

*I even unplugged my home phone. It's been very restful...

(Beautiful frost photo by Sarah Klockars-Clauser)