Water and electricity

I teach a narrative nonfiction class at the University of Colorado; a student did an good piece on water waste through sprinkling sidewalks and soaking common common greens to bogginess.

Curious about the energy of water usage, I did some hunting around and found a reference to the kilowatt hours per acre foot of water provided to residents of Denver, Colo. and Parker, a nearby suburb. Denver relies on runoff; Parker taps into an aquifer.

Turns out Denver water users burn about 2.5 watt hours of electricity per gallon of water they use, so a two-gallon bucket equates to about an hour of a burning night light (incandescent — LEDs use less). We used 13,000 gallons in the summer, equivalent to 32 kilowatt hours, or about two days production of our solar panels.

In Parker’s case, the pumps needed to suck fossil groundwater from the depths require more than five times the electricity per gallon — 13.8 watt hours. So a gallon of cold, clean Parker water embodies the energy to burn a compact fluorescent bulb for an hour. Water is power. Think about it next time you leave the faucet on when you’re brushing your teeth.


Apple’s Sales, Astronomically Speaking

Apple recently announced its results for the three months ended June 25. More than $7 billion in net income for the quarter — not bad. I’ve been thinking about the massive scale of our aggregate consumption, though, so a couple of other numbers were more interesting.

The company sold 9.25 million iPad 2’s in the quarter. And 20.34 million iPhones.

The iPad is 0.34 inches thick. So if you stacked up the sales from that single quarter, you would have a 49.64 mile-high column of iPads. NASA awards astronaut wings to those who fly 50 miles up or higher.

The iPhone 4 is 0.37 inches thick, so their stack would climb to an altitude of about 119 miles. Mount Everest tops out at 5.5 miles above sea level.

The lesson? A sliver (in this case, a very sexy, high-tech sliver) of consumption for man is, on the whole, an astronomical use of resources for mankind.

False crisis turned real, Republican born and bred

When the 2012 presidential election season rolls around and the Republicans try to blame the Democrats for the Great American Credit Default (or near-default, if we’re lucky), remember:

  • The notion that the House bill, rejected by the Senate in a short two hours tonight (with six Republicans and both independents joining all democrats), was a good-faith effort in governance — is a joke. House Speaker John Boehner was asked to bring a main to the national potluck, showed up with a wheelbarrow full of horse manure (sprinkled with Tea Party batshit) and acted surprised when it didn’t pass the even the sniff test. And then he pens a ludicrous op-ed claiming victory like Napoleon on his return from Russia. The “arrogance” of Washington he decries is almost entirely manufactured by the intransigent loon teabag faction of his own party. We have a legislative branch entirely co-opted by the insane right — the sort of faction that would have three seats in the bleachers of a reasonable multiparty government.
  • The most insane part of the Boenhead bill, besides its obvious political motivation with the pre-2012 election deadline, is the nutty demand for a balanced-budget constitutional amendment. Come on out to Colorado, teabaggers, and see what rigid constitutional amendments to government purse strings get you. It’s called TABOR, perpetrated by a reporter-kicking, tax-evading Republican named Douglas Bruce, and it’s a disaster. Hell yes, we need to balance budgets, but it has to be done by human beings and in context, not mandated by mindless, rigid policy.
  • The cuts being thrown together now are going to hurt. Environmental and energy programs, programs to assist the poor, students –a trillion or so in discretionary spending, which is some 35 percent of the federal spending pie, but everything most of us associate with the federal government — the National Weather Service, the FBI, federal research labs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation (which pays for research that leads to innovative products), the State Department (yes, despite the media being ridiculously focused on the debt talks, the rest of the world continues to exist) and so on.
  • The Republican zeal to pare back government should be met with extreme skepticism by anyone who is not very wealthy. That’s because so much of government spending goes straight back to the people in the form of health care and retirement benefits. A helluva lot of the rest flows back to the private sector to build everything from battleships to spacecraft. The term “government” is a very slippery one indeed.
  • The Republicans are causing all this grief for one of two reasons, or some combination of the two. The first is a religious, ideological zeal against raising taxes, despite their boy Ronald Reagan having raised them 11 times. Because Reagan, while an idealogue, was also a pragmatist. Now, I don’t like paying taxes, either, but I do like living in a reasonably safe, civil society, and taxes are why we have that.
  • The second is a total disregard for the good of the many to preserve the interests of the few and well-heeled. The Republican party, as it exists in 2011, deserves the votes of the top 2 percent of earners, no question. Why the rest would be foolish enough to support them is a product of voters declining to engage their minds and superior electioneering/political skills of the American right.