September 14, 2011

Broken CFL? “The four-page document that followed read more like reactor-core meltdown protocols than simple reassurance”

Filed under: Environment, Health, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 14:49

As the compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) becomes the only readily available replacement for boring old incandescent bulbs, more people are discovering that cleanup after breaking a CFL is not child’s play:

Not long ago, Dan Perkins was in his New Haven home when his wife told him that she’d broken a lightbulb. She’d been cleaning in the attic bedroom of their seven-year-old son when she knocked over a lamp. The bulb, one of those twisty compact fluorescents, shattered onto the carpet next to their son’s bed.

Perkins, who draws the political comic This Modern World under the name Tom Tomorrow, was vaguely aware that a broken compact fluorescent bulb might be more problematic than a broken conventional incandescent.

“I knew that they had some mercury in them,” Perkins says. “That had been kind of a propaganda point for the right wing in the debate over bulb efficiency, so that was on my radar.”

To learn what kind of risk the broken bulb posed and what he ought to do about it, Perkins turned to Google, which sent him to a fact sheet put out by the Connecticut Department of Public Health entitled “Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: What to Do If a Bulb Breaks.”

“Stay calm,” the fact sheet instructed. But the four-page document that followed read more like reactor-core meltdown protocols than simple reassurance. It cautioned that small children, pregnant women, and pets should be sequestered from the breakage site and called for an immediate shutdown of any ventilation systems.

Here’s a post on the incandescent bulb ban and CFL breakage from earlier this year. Tom Kelley posted an informative comment to that post, addressing several issues including the energy efficiency of CFLs:

I don’t use enough of the CFLs to notice a difference in the electric bill, but in a straight-across, lumen for lumen, hour for hour comparison, these bulbs should lower one’s kW/hr electricity consumption (so says the Mythbusters tv show).

BUT, and this is a real big BUT, that does not translate into a reduction in the raw energy needed to create the electricity, due to a small detail known as “power factor.” While resistive loads like an incandescent bulb (typically) have a power factor of 1.0, the CFL bulbs have a 0.5 to 0.6 power factor rating, meaning that the CFL consumes as much as twice the raw “energy” (VA (Volt Amps) at the generator), as the electric meter measures in W (Watts).

So, one can go ahead and buy CFLs if one thinks the bulbs may lower one’s electric bill, but one should not be under any illusion that the CFLs are saving any consumption of coal, oil, gas, etc.

“Government frequently doesn’t think about what it’s doing, doesn’t understand what it’s doing, and can’t predict the probable outcome of what it’s doing”

Filed under: Government, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:34

Ken at Popehat examines one particular example of government’s good intentions leading to unexpected results:

The problem: 16- and 17-year-olds are shitty drivers.

The legislative solution: dramatically tighten the license requirements and driving restrictions on 16- and 17-year-olds.

The result: At least according to one study (though there is conflicting data) higher fatality rates are shifted from 16- and 17-year-olds to 18- and 19-year-olds.

[. . .]

Arguments for driving regulation are stronger than many other realms of government regulation. My point is that the government frequently doesn’t think about what it’s doing, doesn’t understand what it’s doing, and can’t predict the probable outcome of what it’s doing. High-minded regulations do not necessarily have good effects just because they are meant well. Government should exercise humility; citizens should exercise skepticism.

Solyndra’s $500m deal pushed through against OMB concerns

Filed under: Economics, Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:11

The need for President Obama to get a good press outcome may have trumped the official concerns of the Office of Management and Budget in loaning half a billion dollars to now-bankrupt Solyndra:

The Obama White House tried to rush federal reviewers for a decision on a nearly half-billion-dollar loan to the solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra so Vice President Biden could announce the approval at a September 2009 groundbreaking for the company’s factory, newly obtained e-mails show.

The Silicon Valley company, a centerpiece in President Obama’s initiative to develop clean energy technologies, had been tentatively approved for the loan by the Energy Department but was awaiting a final financial review by the Office of Management and Budget.

The August 2009 e-mails, released exclusively to The Washington Post, show White House officials repeatedly asking OMB reviewers when they would be able to decide on the federal loan and noting a looming press event at which they planned to announce the deal. In response, OMB officials expressed concern that they were being rushed to approve the company’s project without adequate time to assess the risk to taxpayers, according to information provided by Republican congressional investigators.

Palestinians seek “separation” from Jews

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

The PLO has a rather draconian solution to the Israel issue:

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that any future Palestinian state it seeks with help from the United Nations and the United States should be free of Jews.

“After the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it would be in the best interest of the two people to be separated,” Maen Areikat, the PLO ambassador, said during a meeting with reporters sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. He was responding to a question about the rights of minorities in a Palestine of the future.

Such a state would be the first to officially prohibit Jews or any other faith since Nazi Germany, which sought a country that was judenrein, or cleansed of Jews, said Elliott Abrams, a former U.S. National Security Council official.

Israel has 1.3 million Muslims who are Israeli citizens. Jews have lived in “Judea and Samaria,” the biblical name for the West Bank, for thousands of years. Areikat said the PLO seeks a secular state, but that Palestinians need separation to work on their own national identity.

The risk of terrorism doesn’t justify current US military spending

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:15

A response to the chefs’ open letter

Filed under: Environment, Health, Politics, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:42

A group of well-known chefs recently issued an open letter about the relationship of cooking to the wider world. Rob Lyons would prefer them to stick to what they do so well and avoid being pawns for dietary puritans and scolds who want us to live poorer lives:

Dear chefs,

I would like to be a great admirer of your collective works. However, I’ve never had enough money to eat in your elite restaurants, so I’ll just have to trust that you really are the best in the business. I read with interest your recent Open Letter to the Chefs of Tomorrow. It clearly expresses your views on the way you think cooking should be done and how the restaurant business can interact with the rest of the world. But what you are suggesting is just nonsense. You should stop talking to your well-off customers and the food industry’s dreadful hangers on, and get a sense of perspective.

[. . .]

Please, stop now. St Jamie of Oliver is doing quite enough on behalf of chefs to scare us about what we eat without you lot joining in. Authoritarian busybodies have spent the past two or three decades lecturing us about our eating habits. They now want to exploit your reputations as chefs to justify their prescriptions. You may be flattered by the attention, but those miserable puritans have nothing in common with you.

Good food — especially restaurant food — is about pleasure and excess. It’s about oodles of butter, oil, salt and vino. It’s about staggering away from the table stuffed but happy. The petty puritans of the health lobby want low-fat, low-salt and no booze, in mean and miserable portions. If you go along with that health agenda, it will only prove you’re not the sharpest knives in the cutlery drawer.

[. . .]

Face it, guys. What you do isn’t about food at all. You’re an expensive and exclusive branch of the entertainment industry; you have more in common with high opera than family dinners. And in that respect, I wouldn’t want you to change a thing (except, perhaps, those prices). But please don’t use your success and reputation to parrot the sickly prejudices of the foodie crowd.

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