Observations on energy ethics

I’ve run this week’s lesson on critical/ethical thinking about “Energy” a few times now, and I’ve noticed two interesting things.

Firstly, I ask if there are any problems with all of the electrical wiring that we use to carry electricity from power stations to our homes. Several kids have pointed out potential dangers if they fall in storms, and the possibility of animals being injured by them. Apart from that, they’re mostly of the opinion that they’re fine. I’m very surprised nobody so far has said they are ugly! They get in the way of scenery, they make cities look grimy, etc.

Secondly, I present several alternatives to burning fossil fuels for generating electricity, and we go through the advantages and disadvantages of each of them. Then I ask which they think we should prefer switching to. Nearly all of them have said solar power. I point out the disadvantage that it’s very expensive, and the kids are all dismissive of this is a problem. They say things like, “The cost doesn’t matter”, or “Well, we can just make it cheaper”. It’s very hard to convince them that cost does matter, and we can’t just magically make things cheaper.

This evening I was supposed to be running Dungeons & Dragons for my friends, but a couple of them called in sick, not wanting to spread cold symptoms. So that put us below threshold and we called it off for tonight. Hopefully we’ll get to it in a couple of weeks. So tonight we’re doing online games instead, which means our sick friends can still participate.

Weather was cold today! A nice change after the record heat of earlier this week. We had overnight rain and a chilly southerly wind. I made use of it with a 5k run.

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3 thoughts on “Observations on energy ethics”

  1. Well, speaking as an employee of an energy utility, we can make the cabling both less ugly and less likely to be harmed by falling trees. You just have to pay (to pick a number) three times as much for electricity, so we can bury all the wires.

    You’d also pay more for your data lines (whether phone or cable) because we share those utility poles, so they’d have to be buried, too.

  2. Here in Finland, most of the cabling in urban areas is buried already, and I think much of the suburban areas, too, at least where I live.

    I think also that in many rural areas they are burying the cables, specifically to get rid of shortages.

    Of course we do get cold winters, and snow, so that’s also one factor. It’s either snow on the wires or trees falling on them, I think. I used to work at a radio astronomy station, which obviously was situated relatively countryside, so each winter we’d get a few days when it was not worth it going to the station itself as some tree had fallen on the cables and cut off the power.

    This all obviously means more costs, but it’s somehow mandatory for the energy companies, so it’ll just happen (and we customers will pay for it, if we haven’t already).

    1. I was not saying it’s a bad idea to bury the lines. Indeed, many of my employer’s lines are buried. However, in the USA the state regulator makes the decision (and also sets the electric rates), and in most places they go for the lower rate rather than the prettier landscape and greater reliability.

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