Saturday, December 02, 2006

Shameless energy environmental label

So here I am, and about a year ago I received this silly PSE&G piece of paper with my bill. It has a beautiful bird picture on the green background front. On the back, there are some numbers and things I'd like to share with you today.

First comes the energy source, from where one finds that 3.54% of the energy produced came from renewable sources. The big contributors are nuclear at 45.17%, and coal at 38.42%.

Then comes another tab called Air Emissions. It shows that PSE&G is at 96% of COx emissions, 100% of NOx emissions, and 281% of SOx emissions --- where 100% is this "NJ benchmark". These figures are shown in a bar graph, which has two horizontal lines. One is marked 0%, the other one is marked 100%. None of the bars match the 100% line, which is strange because NOx is labeled as 100%.

In fact, if the figures were normalized against the graph in which they are shown, none of them would remain the same. 96% would become something like 80%, the bar labeled 100% should have to be labeled 85% or so, and the 281% bar would be about 125%. Lies, lies, and more lies. Right in our face. This so called graph should get an F in K-12 school.

Finally, comes the tab called Energy Conservation. It reads "Electricity generation and associated air emissions avoided through PSE&G's investments in conservation measures". On the right, we can read:

  • Avoided generation: 0 KWh.
  • Avoided emissions: 0 COx, NOx and SOx tons.
In other words, nothing.

The graph, in particular, is not a bug. This is not the first time it happens. In fact, a previous post of mine shows the graph in full detail. It has not changed one bit, except for the figures.

I am reminded of all the people who dream of running an empire through their work, of having all this importance in the speck of dust we call Earth, of somehow having the right to assume this is a distinguished place in all of creation or whatever else.

I have news for you: this is no way to run an empire, and we will bankrupt very soon because of things like this graph. Because when the same kind of thinking is applied to slides at NASA, we get the Columbia disaster. When the same kind of hubris is employed at nuclear plants, we get Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. When the same kind of irrationality is used to run the world, we get mass murder.

And we are all accomplices, because we know these things happen but decide to look away. We just find emotional excuses as to why this is fine or sometimes just acceptable, and move on. Hopefully, our negligence-induced death will be quick and painless. It doesn't look like we will get even that.

Regardless of how miserable the situation looks like, however, the truth remains: that this universe is capable of self observation. If by our actions we prove that we do not deserve that ability, because given the choice we decide to look more towards our belly button, towards our ego, and towards all the fantasies about ourselves which we will defend with religious faith and if necessary to countless meaningless deaths of others, then hey... the reality in which we live is even better. Our own defects, those things we know very well despite our best efforts to deny their existence, will interact with the environment in which we live and lead us astray into mass suicide.

The universe, like the monolith beings of 2001, could not care less. So cruel, so merciless, so inappropriate for us spoiled children to tinker with... and yet, so extraordinarily beautiful because of exactly the same reasons...

1 comment:

Michael Haupt said...

Hi Andrés,

it's just plain annoying.

You know what pops up in my mind reading your posting? That Gary Larsen cartoon showing God just having finished building planet Earth, holding a salt shaker with the word "Jerks" written on it. God is thinking "Just to make it interesting..."

Does that remind you of something you just mentioned? ;-)