The Vampire Slayer  

Posted by Big Gav

Groovy Green has a post on "California: The Vampire Slayer (Act of 2006)", which discusses a Californian energy efficiency initiative to reduce the amount of power wasted by devices that aren't actually doing anything.

Anyone else here dig the TV Series, “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer“? Giles and the gang always foiled evil plots to destroy the world while Joss Whedon integrated humorous banter and creative twists to the storyline. Awesome show..but I digress. Anyways, apparently California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine is a fan of the show, since his aptly titled “The Vampire Slayer Act of 2006″ has recently been approved by the California Assembly.

From the release, “AB1970 would force companies to put labels on devices that tell consumers how much energy is being used while the device is in standby mode. AB1970 supporters claim that the average household will pay an additional $200 per year due to electronics on standby.” In the other corner of the arena are the Vampire Sires, the Consumer Electronics Association, Electronic Industry Alliance, etc.

They’re all claiming that such a move will simply confuse consumers; just like the early complaints issued by the Tobacco Industry when health warning stickers were placed on cigarettes. C’mon–anything to save a few bucks is worth it and I would love to know what’s eating from my outlet well after I’ve turned off the lights.

WorldChanging has a post discussing what "Vampire Power" is and how you can identify vampires and deal with them.
No, it's not the latest summer B-movie. It's not a Red Bull knockoff for goths. It's the electricity your appliances keep sucking down even when they're turned "off". (Also called standby power.) Sometimes it's surprisingly large: a DVD player might use 75% as much power when off as when on, and the average desktop computer sucks down 35 watts when in standby. For the latest numbers on all kinds of appliances, check out the Australian government's report on standby power. Anything with a transformer, such as chargers for mobile devices or computer power supplies, keep using power whenever they are plugged in. Sometimes it's just a watt or two, but sometimes it's much higher. As GrinningPlanet points out, this still only amounts to 10% of most people's energy bills, but that still adds up, particularly in an office. Vampire power is an issue that's been known for quite a while, but industry is accelerating on things you can do to stop it.

How do you know if your innocent-looking printer is secretly a vampire? We've mentioned the Kill-A-Watt power meter before, and hardcore geeks can get things like the Watts Up meter, which has the ability to log consumption data over time and send it to your computer, so you can chart daily / yearly variations to see if your consumption patterns would match different power generation methods. (For instance, photovoltaics in your home generate most of their power during the day, when you're probably off at work and thus not using much power at home.) Building contractors can put in professional-grade meters for monitoring whole circuits in buildings. But for testing vampire power at home or in the office, a Kill-A-Watt will do you just fine. And if you can't afford that, build your own.

Once you know you have a vampire, what can you do about it?

Given my enthusiasm for sustainable urban development, I pleased to see WorldChanging also has a new post on New Scientist's "Ecopolis" issue - What Would Eco-cities Look Like ?.
We talk all the time about urbanization and the future of the world's megacities. It's a pressing issue, given that we're just passing the tipping point at which more people on the planet inhabit urban than rural areas. Cities comprise a mere 2 per cent of the Earth's land, but use up seventy-five per cent of its resources.

An article in this month's New Scientist asks what are the key components of an "eco-city" of the future? What are the most important conditions of existing cities that must be changed, and what services and plans added, in order to create a sustainable urban environment that can accommodate massive population booms within its city limits?
Returning the world's population to the countryside isn't an option...And dividing up the planet into plots of land on which we could all live self-sufficiently would create its own natural disasters, not to mention being highly unlikely to ever happen.

If we are to protect what is left of nature, and meet the demand to improve the quality of living for the world's developing nations, a new form of city living is the only option. The size of a city creates economies of scale for things such as energy generation, recycling and public transport. It should even be possible for cities to partly feed themselves. Far from being parasites on the world, cities could hold the key to sustainable living for the world's booming population - if they are built right.

The primary points the article focuses on are auto transport, food sources, degree of density and capacity for further sprawl. Minimizing the need for cars by planning cities that foster walkability should be a primary goal, but placing inhabitants in high-rise apartment complexes near transit hubs can end up cutting off city dwellers from contact with open, green space. Instead, encouraging density without building sky-high housing units promotes a balance. The article points to shantytowns and slums as organic, self-built and largely unplanned models of this kind of efficiency.

TreeHugger has a post on a professional global warming denier (obviously no longer on the payroll) admitting global warming is real - Frank Luntz Accepts Global Warming Science. Hopefully the few lonely lunatics still in the global warming denial game (and their paid trolls in New Hampshire) will give up soon.
Many high-profile global warming skeptics have recently changed their position. We've mentioned Sir David Attenborough and Michael Shermer with his "data trumps politics" epiphany, but there are many more that we haven't written about like Gregg Easterbrook and John Tierney. The most remarkable cognitive flip to date must certainly come from Frank Luntz: He is the man who wrote the infamous memo (see page 7 of the pdf file for the part about global warming) coaching the current US administration on the best ways to confuse the issue and delay action (remember, Luntz, like Philip Cooney, is not a scientific - he is actually a political pollster).

Well, Luntz has told the BBC that he now accepts the scientific consensus on global warming and has changed his position, but that he doesn't feel responsible for what the US government is doing with his advice (Australia, and recently Canada, have also been inspired by these tactics).

Full transcript:

Luntz: "It's now 2006. I think most people would conclude that there is global warming taking place and that the behavior of humans are (sic) affecting the climate."

BBC: "But the administration has continued taking your advice. They're still questioning the science."

Luntz: "That's up to the administration. I'm not the administration. What they want to do is their business. It has nothing to do with what I write. It has nothing to do with what I believe."

On a related note - The 4 Stages of Global Warming Denial.
1. Global Warming doesn't exist. It's not happening.

We've all heard people claim as fact, without citing sources (or at least not credible ones), that "actually, the Earth is cooling" and such things.

Facts: Every year since 1917 has been warmer than 1917. Here's a report by NASA with this choice cut about record-breaking 2005: "Record warmth in 2005 is notable, because global temperature has not received any boost from a tropical El NiƱo this year."

2. Okay, it's happening, but humans are not causing it.

Here we have all the "sun getting brighter" and "natural warming cycle" theories. They are all real possibilities, but have been discarded by scientists who looked at the evidence and concluded that they were not the causes of the current warming of the thin atmosphere of our planet.

Facts: It's not the sun ("According to PMOD at the World Radiation Center there has been no increase in solar irradiance since at least 1978 when satellite observations began. This means that for the last thirty years, while the temperature has been rising fastest, the sun has shown no trend.") and it's not a natural cycle (if it was, it would be incredibly slower than what we're seeing now and it would still need a cause).

Here is some evidence of a scientific consensus...

Tim Flannery is predicting a 'new dark age' if global warming is not addressed.
Although many lawmakers agree that climate change is a major problem that must be addressed, consensus on a solution has been elusive thus far. During today's OnPoint, Tim Flannery, author of "The Weather Makers: How Man is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth", discusses various "tipping points" that exist within the Earth's climate, and why these changes could prove to be irreversible. Flannery also explains why he believes a carbon tax is the most efficient way to approach climate change policy, and addresses some of the potential economic and cultural impacts of global warming.

Thomas Friedman may believe the earth is flat, but he is talking some sense with his "geo green" theme. The latest installment - "Seeds for a Geo-Green party".
The recent focus of the Republican-led Congress on divisive diversions, like gay marriage and flag burning, coupled with the unveiling of Unity '08, an Internet-based third party that plans to select its presidential candidate through online voting, has intensified the chatter that a third party, and maybe even a fourth, will emerge in the 2008 election.

Up to now, though, most of that talk has been about how a third party might galvanize voters, using the Web, rather than what it would actually galvanize them to do. I'd like to toss out an idea in the hopes that some enterprising politician or group of citizens — or Unity '08 — will develop it. It's the concept I call "Geo-Green."

What might a Geo-Green third party platform look like?

Its centerpiece would be a $1 a gallon gasoline tax, called "The Patriot Tax," which would be phased in over a year. People earning less than $50,000 a year, and those with unusual driving needs, would get a reduction on their payroll taxes as an offset.

The billions of dollars raised by the Patriot Tax would go first to shore up Social Security, second to subsidize clean mass transit in and between every major American city, third to reduce the deficit, and fourth to massively increase energy research by the National Science Foundation and the Energy and Defense Departments' research arms.

Most important, though, the Patriot Tax would increase the price of gasoline to a level that would ensure that many of the most promising alternatives — ethanol, biodiesel, coal gasification, solar energy, nuclear energy and wind — would all be economically competitive with oil and thereby reduce both our dependence on crude and our emissions of greenhouse gases.

In short: the Geo-Green party could claim that it has a plan for shoring up America's energy security, environmental security, economic security and Social Security with one move.

It could also claim that — however the Iraq war ends — the Geo-Green party has a strategy for advancing political and economic reform in the Arab-Muslim world, without another war. By stimulating all these alternatives to oil, we would gradually bring down the price, possibly as low as $25 to $30 a barrel. That, better than anything else, would force regimes like those in Iran, Sudan, Egypt, Angola, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to open up. Countries don't reform when you tell them they should. They reform when they tell themselves they must — and only when the price of oil goes down will they tell themselves they must.

Moreover, by making America the leader in promoting clean power, the Geo-Greens would be offering a credible plan for recouping a lot of America's lost prestige in the world — prestige it lost when the Bush team trashed Kyoto. This would put America in a much better position to galvanize allies to combat jihadism.

Last, Geo-Greenism could be the foundation of a new American patriotism and educational renaissance. Under the banner "Green is the New Red, White and Blue," the Geo-Green party would seek to inspire young Americans to study math, science and engineering to help make America not only energy independent but also the dominant player in what will be the dominant industry of the 21st century: clean power and green technology.

Its a shame the penny hasn't dropped for Friedman that jihadism is largely caused by our thirst for oil (and the power that can be had in controlling it in an oil dependent world) - the move to clean energy solves the problem without needing to fight anyone (though I guess that might not be a desirable result for geo greens from the military industrial complex, of which there are a few). And America's lost prestige has as much to do with the Iraq invasion as it has with sabotaging coordinated action on global warming.

The Observer has an article asking UK gardeners to help fight climate change.
Britain's gardeners are being asked to open up their borders, lawns and shrubs to help tackle the world's greatest environmental threat: climate change.

More than a million species in the world are in danger from a warmer planet - including many of the UK's birds and other creatures expected to lose feeding and breeding grounds - as warmer, drier summers and wetter, stormier winters become more common.

Experts have long warned that nature reserves will not help protect threatened species because habitats will shift with the weather. Now they are appealing to gardeners, whose land covers a greater area than all the special reserves.

'Every garden is a habitat for wildlife,' said Chris Gibson, a senior conservation officer for English Nature, which will launch its campaign at the BBC Gardeners' World Live show this week at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham. 'Even the most unnatural garden is a habitat for some natural wildlife and gardeners can do their bit to create little bits of habitat wildlife can use.'

Global warming is already causing problems for wildlife as the plants, flowers and insects that many animals and birds feed on and nest in are shifting their habitat and changing breeding patterns.

TreeHugger reports that there are lingering suspicions that someone has killed the electric car again - this time one of the few remaining ones in existance, at The Smithsonian.
After having the chance to see major environmental issues on the big screen in An Inconvenient Truth, moviegoers will have another chance to see relevant subject matter in action with Who Killed the Electric Car?, which will open at the end of this month (see THTV sneak peek of Who Killed and our interview with Paul Scott). The documentary tells the story of the now legendary EV1, a work of engineering genius and the only mass produced electric vehicle to (yet) grace our roads. It just got harder, however, to actually see the famous car in person, even behind a velvet rope. After revoking and destroying their EV1s, General Motors gave a handful of them to museums as historical pieces. Now, the only fully intact EV1 on display has been removed from view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., to make room for a robotic VW Touareg designed by Stanford University, what the Washington Post called a “high-tech SUV.”

This has made for suspicious news as it comes just before the opening of the documentary (which is critical of GM, among others), and doubly so because GM is one of the museum’s largest financial supporters. The hall in which the EV1 sat is, in fact, named after GM, the company that shelled out $10 million in 2001 to help pay for its construction.

As TreeHugger noted, the movie Who Killed the Electric Car ? is opening soon (having had good reviews at the Sundance festival).

I listened to a podcast of an interview with the maker yesterday (courtesy of WHT's recommendation) which was quite entertaining as well - particularly the Frank Drebbin quote !
It was among the fastest, most efficient production cars ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry. The lucky few who drove it never wanted to give it up. So why did General Motors crush its fleet of EV1 electric vehicles in the Arizona desert?

WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? chronicles the life and mysterious death of the GM EV1, examining its cultural and economic ripple effects and how they reverberated through the halls of government and big business.

The year is 1990. California is in a pollution crisis. Smog threatens public health. Desperate for a solution, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) targets the source of its problem: auto exhaust. Inspired by a recent announcement from General Motors about an electric vehicle prototype, the Zero Emissions Mandate (ZEV) is born. It required 2% of new vehicles sold in California to be emission-free by 1998, 10% by 2003. It is the most radical smog-fighting mandate since the catalytic converter.

With a jump on the competition thanks to its speed-record-breaking electric concept car, GM launches its EV1 electric vehicle in 1996. It was a revolutionary modern car, requiring no gas, no oil changes, no mufflers, and rare brake maintenance (a billion-dollar industry unto itself). A typical maintenance checkup for the EV1 consisted of replenishing the windshield washer fluid and a tire rotation.

But the fanfare surrounding the EV1’s launch disappeared and the cars followed. Was it lack of consumer demand as carmakers claimed, or were other persuasive forces at work?

Fast forward to 6 years later... The fleet is gone. EV charging stations dot the California landscape like tombstones, collecting dust and spider webs. How could this happen? Did anyone bother to examine the evidence? Yes, in fact, someone did. And it was murder.

Another form of electric car restriction in the US appears to be alterations to prius hybrids to stop them being driven in electric only mode - "Toyota's Prius in Europe gets a button we don't".
"There's a blank spot on my dashboard where the button is supposed to go," Pizer said. "I mean, the whole point of getting this kind of vehicle is supposed to be reducing our use of fossil fuels."

The fact that the feature isn't available in the U.S. may have to do with the way the Environmental Protection Agency measures fuel efficiency in the U.S., and that such a dual-power system would upset such measurements, said Coastal Electronics' Watson.

Kwong said Toyota doesn't offer the switch to electric mode because of U.S. laws mandating that it offer a minimum eight-year warranty for the car's power system. Thus, he said, by disabling the switch, the company is able to ensure a longer battery life.

Torrone said that he thinks Prius owners are likely to keep the hybrid car among the most popular vehicles for hacking for the foreseeable future.

One more post from TreeHugger - "How To Wake the Dead Sea"
Israelis and Jordanians have been tapping into the Kinneret ("Sea of Galilee") and the Yarmuk River, meaning less water makes it to the Dead Sea; lack of freshwater entering the Dead Sea combined with mineral extraction on its south shores has led to about a one meter drop in water of the Dead Sea per year.

Through the Minerva Institute for Dead Sea Research, scientists are devoting their lives to finding sustainable solutions to reviving the dead parts of the Dead Sea. Some groups are suggesting to solve the problem with a $5 billion canal that would stretch from the Red Sea. A recent Reuters article says that scientists wonder whether such a canal would really be beneficial for the environment. The Dead Sea's unique make-up would be changed forever by introducing sea water into a body that has only ever been fed by fresh water. "The cost of the damage that would be caused to the environment may be greater than any possible benefits," said local geologist Eli Raz. "The best plan for the Dead Sea is to let the Jordan river flow again, this is its natural state." But the chances of that happening are next to nothing given the reliance of the region's countries on the Jordan's water, the article points out.

Environmentalists are pushing for the Dead Sea to be declared a World Heritage Site by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, hoping this will force surrounding countries to come up with a plan. And unless we can get Daryl Hannah over here to chain herself to a salt block (to try and help at least), we may need to do it on our own. To find out more about international environmental projects, contact Minerva and Friends of the Earth.

"Red State Son" has an encouraging post on the Army Of Noam - obviously the "fascist octopus" linked to yesterday hasn't strangled all intelligent life yet.
You'd think that when someone like Noam Chomsky speaks to West Point cadets about US imperial history and the high power hypocrisy that justifies it, there'd be a lot of online commentary, across the board. Personally, I didn't know anything about this until a friend mentioned it to me the other night -- so yesterday I looked it up, and there was Noam, laying down the righteous shit in front of an audience of well-scrubbed, soon-to-be butterbars. It's an hour long, but worth the time.

Noam, as always, starts slow, building his argument piece by piece, and from the looks on some of their faces, it seems that the cadets have been forced to eat cold canned spinach. But Noam then expands on what several "thinkers" like Michael Walzer consider "just war," a topic the cadets probably have already considered if not studied in class. The real fun comes during the Q&A, and I hope these young officers were taking serious notes. If Noam could impress someone as gung-ho as Pat Tillman, then he can reach pretty much anyone in uniform. And that's a good thing.

Notice, too, how much respect the cadets show Noam. Of course, part of this is their training, prefacing each question and comment with "sir." But I get the impression that the kids kinda dug the old man, who easily and graciously handled every query thrown at him. I actually found it touching, and wonder how the Noam haters felt about him receiving such a warm reception at a place like West Point. Noam was equally polite and respectful. Clearly, he doesn't consider these young men as mere cannon fodder for imperial war, as do certain bloated state propagandists in love with endless misery and death.


Hey Gav
I would agree that Thomas Friedman is talking quite a bit of sense there although a dollar a gallon is going to hit a lot of less fortunate people hard. Perhaps a carbon tax would be better easing it's way in. Of course it's got to exhasburate a already increasing inflation. We've seen on the markets recently just what a bit of talking does, thanks Bernacke.
My comments here wouldn't be complete without a random question. Have you heard about this Magnetic filtration of fluids ie; Magnetic Filters around fuel lines in combustion engines increasing fuel efficiency. I was introduced to the caper recently through a MLM thing. Im totally not a big fan of MLM but was wondering if this technology had any credibility?
I don't have a car by the way but was more curious than anything.


shyte sorry here's a quick link i found...

Nice rug on Frank Luntz. He might want to take that thing off if the globe gets too warm.

Hi Steve - I agree that a sudden increase in fuel prices whacks the less well off - so a carbon tax certainly should be introduced gradually.

My recommendation is:
- graduated introduction of carbon taxes
- apply them everywhere (enforced via WTO rules)
- cut income tax rates for low and middle income earners (balance the tax cuts with receipts from the carbon tax)

For most people it works out even financially, there is relentless encouragement to move to lower carbon fuel sources, business has certainty and its a level playing field.

The best of all worlds unless you're an oil or coal company (or investor) - but hey - there will be winners too...

I really don't know anything about magnetic filters though - I occasionally read stuff about various engine efficiency improving techniques but have no idea if they are real or not.

If it came in via MLM then I'd be dubious about it.

WHT - nice line about the rug !

Anonymous   says 4:17 AM

Fluids like gasoline are not magnetic, and magnets do not change their chemical properties at all.  Anyone selling magnets for the purposes stated above is, put plainly, a fraud.

-- E-P, from work.

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