Yet another downside of being green

The law of unintended consequences is a fascinating one.  I blogged the other day about the tax on restaurant food that’s eaten “here” as opposed to “to go.”  In cafes, smart people order food “to go,” and then consumer it here.  The result is garbage cans filled with food containers.  Oy, the pollution!

Here’s another, and much more fatal, example of the law of unintended consequences:

Cities around the country that have installed energy-efficient traffic lights are discovering a hazardous downside: The bulbs don’t burn hot enough to melt snow and can become crusted over in a storm — a problem blamed for dozens of accidents and at least one death.

“I’ve never had to put up with this in the past,” said Duane Kassens, a driver from West Bend who got into a fender-bender recently because he couldn’t see the lights. “The police officer told me the new lights weren’t melting the snow. How is that safe?”

As reader Lulu says, it is important for conservatives to be stewards of our beautiful earth.  There is no excuse for unnecessary waste, and we don’t need to pollute simply because the greenies’ hysteria is driving us nuts.  Nevertheless, greenie hysteria leads to a thoughtlessness that is scary dangerous.  As for me, I’m expecting a rash of decisions in coming years describing situations in which women are raped in parking lots and stairwells as a result of the darkness created by landlords trying to be green.

(On the other hand, apparently there are some pleasurable aspects to being green.)

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Here’s an interesting insight that I obtained from a friend involved in energy issues:
    1) Solar power and electric car batteries rely heavily upon rare earth metals.
    2) The world’s largest repository of rare earth metals is China.
    3) China has indicated that it will not export these metals, hence solar panels and car batteries will have to be built in China.
    So, who is it that will benefit from “green jobs”, exactly?

  • David Foster

    The more centralized decision-making becomes, and the more it is driven by fashion-following, the more this sort of thing will happen. If the LED technology had been adopted  by a few cities, in the normal course of events and without hysterical pressure to “be green”, then the problem would likely have been detected before thousands of these things were deployed in inappropriate climates.

    I also wonder about LED tail-lights for cars, which seem to be very common.

  • BrianE

    David Foster,

    I think solar panels need sand. OK, maybe that’s a little simplistic.

    We have a solar grade silicon manufacturer in our town that’s just spent two years expanding the plant, so I assume we can be competitive in the US.

    From the companies website:
    Fluidized Bed Reactor (FBR) technology
    A major achievement in our commitment to reducing cost by innovation is REC’s proprietary depositioning technology – FBR. This technology will produce solar grade silicon at significantly lower cost than the traditional Siemens process. The energy savings in the silicon refining process will be up to 80-90 percent. REC is now in the final stages of implementing the FBR technology at our Moses Lake plant in Washington, USA.
    Wafer-Based PV solar
    REC focuses on wafer-based PV because we believe it delivers the best value among the wide range of competing PV solar technologies. 
    Photovoltaic (PV) solar includes several types of approaches, such as wafer-based, thin film, polymer and nanotechnology. These technologies share the common approach of using cells made of layers of semi-conducting material to convert solar energy into electricity. 

    I think the process uses a lot of power. We have fairly low electric rates since our PUD owns two dams on the Columbia. The plant was originally built 20 years ago to develop extremely high grade wafers for computer technology. Once the process was perfected, they built a plant in Montana (politics). This plant was sold and the company began exploring whether it was profitable to make a lower grade wafer for the solar industry.

    Based on the size of the expansion, they must have decided it would be.

    It does use some nasty chemicals in the process though.

    It will be one of the largest employers in the area when completed.

  • BrianE

    I saw somewhere in the northern states, where LED traffic lights are requiring city maintenance crews to keep snow and ice from building up and covering the lights. Traditional lights develop enough heat to melt any snow buildup, but LEDs are efficient enough that they don’t produce enough heat.

    According to the article, the city felt the energy savings was worth the additional labor keeping the lights uncovered.

  • JKB

    The article I read on the LED traffic lights said the problem has been around for years.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why a thermostatically controlled heater hasn’t been retrofitted.  Are they that committed to being green that a few extra watts in bad weather to save lives isn’t acceptable?  Or are there some regulations that prohibit it?  For cities to use human instead of a resistive wire, there has to be some dumb rule.
    As for the pleasurable green technology, if they could design one driven off heavy breathing, they could create a near perpetual machine.

  • BrianE

    Oh, I read it on this post. Duh!

  • suek

    Traffic Signal incandescent lightbulbs were banned in California in about 2002.
    They were 116 watt bulbs with an 8000 hour expected life.  Given that the bulbs are used for about a 3 minute burn time each cycle, that’s a long life.  However – they burned 116 watts which was impermissible, so the State of California said they  had to go.
    Tough luck for the guy who’s responsible for keeping the bulbs flashing on the local radio tower  – he used them too.  He paid us about $20 every 5 years or so for the bulbs, then paid a guy $700 to go up and replace them!

  • Mike Devx

    JKB #5:
    > For cities to use human instead of a resistive wire, there has to be some dumb rule.

    There’s something about using humans as labor, to replace a machine, that is simply chilling.

    In saner times, we’d have come up with a better machine.  Or as JKB said, thermostatically refit the lights; one resistant wire that you could turn on during a snowstorm would do it.  But no – we’d rather use humans as grunt labor.

    Chilling.  The United States Of America: The Land of Anti-Science and Anti-Knowledge.