Our worst import from the USA

No doubt, I will be labelled as a Scrooge for saying this but, running the completely-overblown Trick or Treat hysteria surrounding Halloween into a very close second place, this is the ludicrous practice of covering your house and garden with lights at Christmas. For this reason alone, carbon taxes would be a good idea if they would stop people from indulging in such a pointless competition with their neighbours to see who can put on the best display. But hang on a minute, energy prices are already at record-breaking levels, so why on Earth do people think that this is a sensible way to waste money? Clearly none of them has a smart energy meter in their house. If they did, they would turn the lights off. Such people clearly have money to burn. Indeed why not just do that, why not use your money to blow smoke up your chimney? (You could even argue this was mitigating climate change by generating particulates that contribute to global dimming) OK, so there may well be low energy versions out there such as Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) but what proportion of Christmas Lights are still old-fashioned types? Some strings of lightbulbs (especially those used to light up large trees) can easily use in excess of 100 watts. So let’s do some maths and see just how much energy we could be wasting: To start with, let’s assume there are 25 million households in the UK but, not everyone does or can put lights up; and for those that do the number of light fittings will vary. Bearing all of that in mind, and allowing for the fact that not everyone will be using LEDs – or even put any lights up at all – this might still average out as 4 light fittings consuming an average of 40 Watts on 25 million properties, which is 4 x 40 x 25 million = 4000 Megawatts. This is equivalent to the maximum output of Europe’s largest coal-fired power station, and its biggest single point source of carbon dioxide emissions, at Drax in North Yorkshire. Even if you don’t care about (or wish to deny) the environmental damage you are doing, if you want to see how much money you are wasting, please visit: http://www.christmaslightsanddecorations.com/energy-cost-calculator.aspx In the meantime, please consider that, outdoor festive lighting may well be the biggest single source of overall holiday energy demand; and it is completely unnecessary.

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About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Climate Science, Consumerism, Economics, Energy Crisis, Environment, Financial Crisis, Fossil Fuels. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Our worst import from the USA

  1. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez says:

    Yeah, way to make me feel guilty, Rick! At least I only run them between dusk and bedtime…my neighbors leave them burning all night long and sometimes all day too….It really is terrible. We should all burn strictly candles….

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    • Rick_Altman says:

      It occurred to me that I was likely to alienate a large segment of my potential audience and, publishing at midnight GMT, those who would also read it first. So, thanks for not getting mad at me (when we have only just “met”). šŸ™‚ However, this practice is the Christmas equivalent of wealthy people living in an arid climate, turning the A/C up to maximum, and throwing another log on the fire – just because it looks nice and homely!

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  2. pendantry says:

    Bah, humbug! šŸ˜€ But seriously: this is just one of the many things we’re going to have to change. We will, quite simply, have no choice (unless and until and if we can make the switchover to renewable sources of energy). The sooner we start to discuss these realities openly, the sooner we can begin to come to terms with them. Jennifer — would burning candles actually be any better? (I’m not just thinking production of the candles + pollution from burning, I’m also thinking we’d have an elevated fire risk, and associated impacts there).

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    • Rick_Altman says:

      If candles are made from beeswax their carbon footprint could be minimal (if manufactured and bought locally). However, the pollution they cause is likely to contribute to both global warming and global dimming. The latter is quite scary because we will really begin to see AGW if/when the developing economies of the world start to curb their air pollution.

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      • pendantry says:

        Beeswax… hmm… that comes from — no, don’t tell me — bees, right? Those insects that are essential for pollenating huge swathes of the plants we rely on for food; the buzzy things whose populations are currently crashing worldwide (with some fingers being pointed firmly in the direction of pesticides, IIRC, although naturally this is being — what’s that word? — denied by those who profit from pesticide sales). Yes, I think candles might be a problem…

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  3. qatzelok says:

    The Xmas lights are nothing compared to the wastefulness of the suburban housing they’re attached to.

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    • Rick_Altman says:

      Very good point – We need stronger enforcement of more stringent energy-efficient building construction regulations. First of all though, the meek must inherit the Earth (if that is OK with the rest of you) [Anonymous] šŸ™‚

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  4. jpgreenword says:

    My new “pet peeve” when it comes to Christmas decorations are those inflatable Santas and Snowmen. Lights aren’t enough, we also need fans running!!! Having said that, a few houses around my home have large wooden Santas and Snowmen which are painted and can be reused every year. That, in my opinion, is a great way to decorate… until they put a huge spotlight on each wooden decoration (sigh). By the way, I am with you 100% regarding your carbon tax statement.

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    • Rick_Altman says:

      Next it will be mechanisation. I have already seen a few examples… Of course, if all this pointless frivolity were to be solar-powered, I would have no reason to object (but probably still would). Now then, I really must get back to my book-keeping….

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