Sunday, April 10, 2011

People who are against power lines (Apr. 3, 2007)

One of today's local headlines concerns a proposed power line to be built through about 35 miles of Washington and Greene Counties in Western Pennsylvania. This story is not anything new; it pops up from time to time and from place to place, whenever a power company wants to build a new power line.

As usual, the primary objections are concerns about personal health (in particular, cancers and leukemia), misunderstandings about its purpose, dropping property values, and standard-issue NIMBY (not in my back yard). One concern I did not hear was deforestation and effects on wildlife.

I take all this with a grain of salt. Here's my two cents:
* Cancers. Anyone objecting to this project, who has a pack of smokes in his/her pocket, immediately loses all credibility. While there is no established link between power lines and cancer, the words of choice linking cancer and tobacco include the likes of "eventual", "unavoidable", "frequent" and "early".

* Purpose. The power companies in question state that the line will bring power into the area, not take power generated here and pipe it elsewhere. That's believable. But if this is a concern of those who oppose it, then walk your talk, that is to say, prove them wrong. That line is being put there to meet demand from housing and population growth, which usually means central air conditioning in all that new housing. So unless you're willing to switch off the circuit breaker to the A/C unit from April to October, and get everyone you know to do likewise, shut up.

I have a couple of choice words to the power companies, though, too. OK, so you have $1.3 Billion to do something with power generation. Whatever happened to the idea of conservation? How about the notion of spending $1.3B on helping individual households reduce their power needs? Careful planting of shade trees, along with attic fans and vents, make houses cooler in the summer. Installation of proper roof and ceiling insulation, and windows that seal the indoors from the outdoors will make houses much more livable, not only in the summer but also the winter, and save piles of money in the process.

Oh but there's no money in that! Sure, not in generation! But, alas, that's the business they're in.

Somehow I made do without A/C until 2003, and even at that, it doesn't get used much. After I bought the house, I insulated not only the attic but the walls, too. I've resisted the temptation to cut down a couple of immense trees just upwind of the house. Sure, a huge storm could put them right through the center of the house, but I'm really not concerned. Meanwhile, between their shade from noon to sunset, and careful opening and closing of windows at precise times of day, with a couple of simple box fans cooling the house overnight, I can have a 75 to 78 degree house well into late afternoons of most July and August days. This allows me to avoid most use of the A/C, and so have a power bill that rarely calls for more than 900 kilowatt-hours in summer months for a 1,700-sq.ft. detached, single-family house.

In fact, here is my power usage for about the past year. As you can see, the forced-air (gas-fired) furnace gets more use than the central air does, and they use the same fan!


How does this compare with anyone else out there? If you reply with numbers, be sure to indicate what sort of living quarters you have, including square-footage. (Separately, the heating bill runs about $90/month after balancing winter and summer usage.)

In summary, do as I say AND do as I do, and there won't be any NEED for new power lines!

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