Try Panama shirts

Thomas R. Temin

Back when TV sets were made with vacuum tubes, one manufacturer came out with a line of instant-on models.

It seemed like a good idea until several of them burst into flames in people's homes'while turned off. The sets were never really off; to be instant-on, the circuitry was designed to draw power continuously. Only the electron beam to the tube was interrupted when the switch was turned to the off position.

In those days, nobody cared about how much electricity such devices consumed, just as no one except a few eggheads who drove strange foreign cars cared much about gasoline mileage.

Today, we're surrounded with electrical and electronic devices that consume wattage all the time. Go through your office or home and count the things that use power when not in use, such as battery chargers, office equipment with LCDs and alarm systems.

So the Bush administration plans to order agencies to slay what it calls energy vampires'appliances that consume more than 1 watt while on standby or turned off. This will take the form of an executive order calling for future purchases of equipment that meets a less-than-1-watt standard [GCN, July 16, Page 1].

Whether or not we really have an energy crisis in the United States, conservation is a good idea. It appeals to me because I simply hate waste, no matter how cheap the commodity being wasted. I hate wasting toothpicks as much as I loathe wasting gasoline or 12-year-old whiskey.

But no one knows how much standby power consumption adds up to, so it's hard to predict what the effect of Bush's executive order. It has the look of a feel-good measure that won't amount to much in the end, except for the flurry of bureaucratic activity it will touch off.

To really save electricity, the administration should ask agencies to scour their Web sites and other online activities for outdated material, and see how many computers, peripherals and communications devices they can dump.

Here's another idea: Allow Panama shirts as office attire and turn up the thermostat three or four degrees this summer.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: [email protected]


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