by Jon Winsor
Conventional incandescent light bulbs are tremendously inefficient. Only about 10% of the energy used to power the light bulb actually goes to producing light, and the remaining 90% is emitted as heat. And it’s easy to see why. An incandescent bulb filament relies on the fact that it’s a poor conductor of electricity. It’s essentially the same concept used by inexpensive space heaters. So doubtless, the technology could be improved—the same way that many appliances have been improved by efficiency standards over the years.
At least that was the way Fred Upton (R – MI) was thinking when he helped craft a provision of the Energy Independence and Security Act (ESIA), which was signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007—with support from manufacturers, who have since invested millions in retooling their factories. The provision didn’t choose “winners and losers” as far as light bulb technology goes. Incandescent bulbs were fine, as long as they met the standard. Under the law, as the Christian Science Monitor reported,
…general-purpose light bulbs must become about 30 percent more energy efficient. Different bulb classes face different deadlines, all between 2012 and 2014. The old Edison bulb gets killed on January 1, 2012. But more-efficient incandescent bulbs, which use only 72 watts to give the same output as an old 100-watt Edison bulb, will still be sold.
While Edison bulbs today are about 30-50 cents apiece, updated versions cost $1.50. But the latter pay for themselves in energy savings in about six months.
These bulbs also last about 50% longer, and households were expected to save $100 to $200 per year under the new standards. Not to mention the power plants that wouldn’t need to be built, the gains in US energy independence, and the gains in US jobs (the Guardian reports that presently no US factory manufactures the old 100 watt light bulbs).
Enter Rush Limbaugh.
By Jon Winsor
One of the most surprising things about the Santorum interview on Limbaugh last week was how completely unsurprising it was. Here’s Santorum’s take on climate science:
There’s a variety of factors that contribute to the earth warming and cooling, and to me this is an opportunity for the left to create — it’s a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm. It’s been on a warming trend so they said, “Oh, let’s take advantage of that and say that we need the government to come in and regulate your life some more because it’s getting warmer,” just like they did in the seventies when it was getting cool, they needed the government to come in and regulate your life because it’s getting cooler. It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life…
Got that? Scientists (who we can assume are included under what Santorum means by “the left”) are secretly “concocting” the science, because they want government to “control your life.” Obviously, this is not much of a scientific argument. But it’s a very recognizable political argument, and the kind we hear repeatedly. And some of us may remember the early 80’s when it was a new argument, at least in the mass-circulated form that we we see it in today. I would argue that the person most responsible for putting that argument into circulation was Irving Kristol. In 1975, he wrote:
[The] “new class” consists of scientists, lawyers, city planners, social workers, educators, criminologists, sociologists, public health doctors, etc.-a substantial number of whom find their careers in the expanding public sector rather than the private. The public sector, indeed, is where they prefer to be. They are, as one says, “idealistic”-i.e., far less interested in individual financial rewards than in the corporate power of their class. Though they continue to speak the language of “Progressive-reform,” in actuality they are acting upon a hidden agenda: to propel the nation from that modified version of capitalism we call “the welfare state” toward an economic system so stringently regulated in detail as to fulfill many of the traditional anti-capitalist aspirations of the Left.
by Jon Winsor
In Monday’s piece on Rush Limbaugh, Chris mentions Rush’s confidence—that Limbaugh has psychologically “seized and freezed” on “climategate”, using it for his go-to excuse to end all discussion on climate.
It’s true that Rush is nothing if not confident. But this is partly a matter of what Rush Limbaugh does all day, nearly every day. As Nate Silver pointed out, there are certain demands that the medium of talk radio makes. Uncertainty and shades of grey don’t play well to Rush’s audience, who are often mowing their lawns and channel surfing through stations. So Rush has developed certain professional skills and habits to give his audience what it wants, which isn’t trenchant analysis of a topic, isn’t a discussion informed by reliable sources–Rush is above all an entertainer, as he often reminds us. And it seems he doesn’t feel he owes his audience much more than that.
…Which has me thinking of the conservatives who didn’t think of themselves as entertainers, who probably served as Limbaugh’s inspirations, and who originally worked in the medium of the essay and op-ed, not radio. Recently, a number of columnists have been reflecting on the work of the late Irving Kristol (whose work will be published soon in a new collection of essays). Most of the columns I’ve read make the following two points: 1) that Kristol was immensely influential (and not just an essayist–the word impresario often crops up), and 2) that Kristol continually drew conclusions that oversimplified his subjects—but drew those conclusions in so confident a way, so unacknowledging of other views, that his work seemed designed to simply end productive discussion.
I had fun sampling Rush Limbaugh in the latest Point of Inquiry (around minute 3:30), as he stunningly suggests to Andy Revkin: “Why don’t you just go kill yourself, and help the planet by dying?”
First, for the original clip of Rush’s extremism in all its glory, listen here:
The show with Andy Revkin just went up! Here’s a sample from the write-up:
In this conversation with host Chris Mooney, Revkin discusses the uncertain future of his field, the perils of the science blogosphere, his battles with climate blogger Joe Romm, and what it’s like (no joke) to have Rush Limbaugh suggest that you kill yourself. Moving on to the topics he’s covered for over a decade, Revkin also addresses the problem of population growth, the long-range risks that our minds just aren’t trained to think about, and the likely worsening of earthquake and other catastrophes as more people pack into in vulnerable places.
I will have much more to say about the show soon enough–I’m proud of this one–but for now, listen and download here.
Here’s a Newsweek.com bloggy profile hailing the tough-to-dispute successes of a leading nemesis climate progress, Marc Morano of ClimateDepot.com:
With “Climategate”—the release last month of thousands of hacked e-mails showing debate about climate change may have been stifled—[Morano] is now getting more attention than ever before. As of last Friday, according to one the many e-mails this—and probably most—reporters get, he’s currently stationed at ground zero of the climate-change debate, Copenhagen, which he points out in e-mails, “is extremely cold.” (Several independent reviews of the hacked e-mails conclude that some scientists were engaging in embarrassing and at times unethical discussions, but the scientific consensus showing anthropogenic global warming was neither compromised nor fabricated).
He has been on countless news shows lately, including the BBC and CNN where he’s engaged in what he described to me as “lively and hostile debates.” He’s also appeared on the national radio shows of Sean Hannity, Fred Thomspon, and Lars Larsen. One of his fans (and a former boss of Morano’s) is Rush Limbaugh, who last month inadvertently shut down Morano’s site by urging listeners to follow his coverage of Climategate. The race to Morano’s site came after Rush gave this blessing: “Morano’s probably single-handedly, in a civilian sense, the guy─other than me, of course─doing a better job of ringing the bells alarming people of what’s going on here.”
Rush is absolutely right. The two of them are driving waves of outrage against climate scientists that are significantly influencing the media and thus, probably, public opinion. And there is, in my mind, little effective counter.
Rush is ticked because everybody told him to be afraid of swine flu, and now it turns out that as pandemics go, the current strain of swine flu is probably less like a category 3 hurricane, and more like a category 1 or tropical storm. So what does Rush do? He blames the scientists:
We are the targets of lies, damn lies and science and scientists are rapidly becoming as trustworthy as politicians.
Actually, at first it was hard to say how dangerous H1N1 was going to be. Lots of rapid-fire research had to be conducted; the scientists were working their butts off to protect us, and to clarify the picture. Sure, there was some exaggeration, especially from the press–but what do you expect in such a situation of fear and uncertainty?
But Rush doesn’t get the whole uncertainty thing; he speaks, idiotically, of a “phony swine flu virus.” Ask the people who died of swine flu whether it was phony.
The point, which scientists understand but which Rush apparently does not, is that whenever we have a new strain we need to be worried about it–and even if we were relatively lucky with the current strain of swine flu, we are not always going to dodge the bullet.
That Rush uses swine flu to beat up on scientists in this way just shows how little he understands of science–how difficult it is to conduct in real time with lives at stake, and how important it is to ensuring our public health and safety.