Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Earth Hour, my ass...

Regular readers will know I'm fairly fierce in my criticism of local papers, so today, I'd like to dissect a short article typical of the Star's standard of journalism. Here's the Star on Earth Hour. My comments in red:

*Article starts*

550MW dip in power use for Earth Hour

PETALING JAYA: Electricity consumption dipped by some 550MW during Earth Hour on Saturday. Thank you for wasting even more ink on reiterating the title. Anyway, 550MW is a completely meaningless number if you don't actually state what that 550MW is in relation to.

This, said Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) chief executive officer Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh, was equivalent to the consumption of about 14 million 40-watt fluorescent bulbs. 550MW = 550W X 1,000,000 = 14 million 40W bulbs. Well done! Yet ANOTHER reiteration of a completely meaningless number! This time, using the word "million" because it just feels really nice to say it.

“Everything went smoothly and we were able to respond to the slightly lower demand without any operational glitches,” he said in a press statement yesterday. So the fuck what? No, really, that's like saying I drove on the highway, let go of the accelerator for 5 seconds, and OMFG my car still works!

He was commenting on the hour-long lights-out campaign to create awareness on the need to combat global warming. *Facepalm*

However, Che Khalib added that demand picked up rapidly at 9.30pm to follow the normal Saturday night pattern. Captain Obvious is obvious.

Many Malaysians joined the annual campaign, which began in Sydney in 2007, by switching off their lights for an hour from 8.30pm. Captain Obvious is obvious(er).

*Article ends*

Okey dokey, let me try to fill in some of the
yawning great big gaps in this utterly worthless nasal discharge that the Star calls an "article", and try to put into perspective: How big of a dent is 550MW for an hour?

In 2006, M'sia consumed ~96 billion kWh. Let's assume, for simplicity's sake, that that amount is spread nice and even over the whole year, so we just divide that number by the number of hours in a year, 8,760.

96 billion kWh = 96,000,000 MWh
96,000,000 MWh / 8,760 hrs = ~10,960 MW.

Now, 550 MW is just about 5% of 10,960 MW. A 5% drop, for one hour, out of the 8,760 in a year. And that's just using the estimated c
onsumption in 2006. Take a look at this*:

So, if 550MW for one hour is about 0.0006% of the consumption in 2006, how much of a dent to you suppose it made to our consumption in happy 2009, hmm? Somebody, please check my numbers, because they're just so pathetic, I have trouble believing them myself.

Now, if you believe that Earth Hour is meant to be a symbolic gesture, say so. If you think that Earth Hour will set a precedent of some sort, and create a greater awareness of the need to be green, fine, but it would be nice to see some numbers attached to the cute platitudes. But DON'T wave the number "550 MW for one hour" in my face and jump around and celebrate because you think you've made a difference, because WAKE UP and SMELL the Ipoh White, you fucking haven't.

And this is what passes for science reporting in the Star. Right. I've got more science reporting kung fu in my frickin' toenail clippings. And don't even ask about other M'sian energy-related figures like, ooh, total exports and generating capacity. Really. Don't.

*Data from here. Except for the 2006 figure, which is off the CIA site.

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