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Stop Purchasing Our Product

 

The letter from Apple arrived via snail mail, itself a worrying sign, and began ominously:

Your household efficiency rank is in the bottom quartile and declining. You are spending more money on apps, purchasing more music, and using more bandwidth than your neighbors. Our data show that you also have more Apple products in your household than is typical in your area.

Please log into your account at LessAppleForLife.com for customized tips about how you can save money by reducing your demand for Apple products and services.

Why would Apple admonish its customers for purchasing too much of what it is in business to sell?

It wouldn’t. Neither would Google, Facebook or Twitter. Yet each month my neighbors employed by these enterprises and I open a report like the one at right from our local energy utility. The idea is to shame us into conserving energy by comparing our consumption to that of “more efficient” households in our neighborhood.

Purchasing less is absolutely essential. To save the planet, don’t you know.

However, it’s not so simple. In typical left-wing fashion, saving money in my neighborhood first requires “investment” in a money-no-object ecologically advanced dwelling of the sort dancing in the heads of Greenpeace executives on Christmas Eve. In short, a low energy bill hereabouts is another way of telegraphing, simultaneously, that you are very, very rich, and also incredibly caring.

My Silicon Valley neighbors overwhelmingly favor deterring consumption, except when it comes to the products and services responsible for their own considerable financial success. 

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Members have made 41 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of Crow's Nest Member
    MitchellM: Water and power aren’t like usual products; there is ahard system limit. Peak demands can tax these systems to the breaking point and new resources are scarce and expensive. 

    I can certainly understand this with regard to water–there is a natural cycle there and drought conditions etc can affect supply. In such a case demand must be adjusted accordingly.

    With regard to electricity, however, public utilities and local governments have long been in collusion to limit supply. We could be resolving these scarcity issues by building more conventional power plants, or by building more nuclear plants. Instead, our governments and utilities have decided that these options aren’t green enough–and therefore have regulated their building almost to extinction meanwhile funneling monies from the public fisc to politically connected green energy groups that make a bucket-load while their products routinely fail to deliver.

    Saving energy can save me money, so I’m happy to turn the heat off when I leave the house. But let’s not pretend that we can’t affect the supply of electricity.

    • #1
    • December 12, 2012 at 2:25 am
  2. Profile photo of Xennady Member
    Crow’s Nest

    With regard to electricity, however, public utilities and local governments have long been in collusion to limit supply.

    I think you’re giving utilities a bum wrap. I know of examples of utilities attempting to build new supplies but were stopped lawsuits or green-lobby funded local opposition.

    I blame the government, and more specifically the people who run the government- the left.

    I think they are mortified that Americans are able to use so much electricity, water, gasoline, etc- and want to stop it. Since people are generally not receptive to arguments that go, ” we despise you and want you to shiver in the dark like peasants should” the left has managed to come up with something different.

    That is, “we heart efficiency and you should too”. But just wait. When everyone has an electrical “smart meter” that can measure usage in real time if you exceed your miserly ration of electricity you’ll be cut off. 

    So people will read these efficiency ratings with rapt attention, attempting to keep the lights on as long as they can.

    Welcome to Obamaland, folks.

    • #2
    • December 12, 2012 at 2:52 am
  3. Profile photo of John Walker Contributor

    Unintended consequences can be so delicious.

    Starting on January 1st, 2012, the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel where I live instituted a volume-based tax on garbage. The only garbage bags which will be picked up are specially marked ones which sell at a substantial premium: the 60 litre bags I use cost CHF 3.40 each (about 3.65 Yankee greenbacks). These bags collected in my region end up at an incinerator in the commune of Colombier, which produces heat for homes in the vicinity.

    Well, as soon as the bag tax went into effect, the amount of garbage arriving at the incinerator dropped like a rock, and has not rebounded. The volume is insufficient to heat the homes they’re contracted to supply, so the incinerator has had to import garbage from adjacent cantons to meet the demand.

    An article about this in the newspaper contained a subhead, “Taxation Changes Behaviour”. Who knew?

    • #3
    • December 12, 2012 at 4:53 am
  4. Profile photo of ctruppi Inactive
    John Walker: Unintended consequences can be so delicious.

    Starting on January 1st, 2012, the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel where I live instituted a volume-based tax on garbage. The only garbage bags which will be picked up are specially marked ones which sell at a substantial premium: the 60 litre bags I use cost CHF 3.40 each (about 3.65 Yankee greenbacks). These bags collected in my region end up at an incinerator in the commune of Colombier, which produces heat for homes in the vicinity.

    Well, as soon as the bag tax went into effect, the amount of garbage arriving at the incinerator dropped like a rock, and has not rebounded. The volume is insufficient to heat the homes they’re contracted to supply, so the incinerator has had to import garbage from adjacent cantons to meet the demand.

    An article about this in the newspaper contained a subhead, “Taxation Changes Behaviour”. Who knew? · 10 minutes ago

    Yeah, macroecon 101, who knew?

    • #4
    • December 12, 2012 at 6:04 am
  5. Profile photo of donald todd Member

    George Savage: In typical left-wing fashion, saving money in my neighborhood first requires “investment” in a money-no-object ecologically advanced dwelling of the sort dancing in the heads of Greenpeace executives on Christmas Eve.

    In an obtuse kind of way it may be that these people are trying to save us from the hefty price increases we’ll be seeing as Obama drives up the cost of electricity. It may be a kind of self-defense because we’ll blame the local power generator instead of the real culprits, Obama and his EPA and whomever else he has seconded to drive up costs while he dismantles the economy.

    • #5
    • December 12, 2012 at 6:46 am
  6. Profile photo of Give Me Liberty Inactive
    ctruppi
    John Walker: An article about this in the newspaper contained a subhead, “Taxation Changes Behaviour”. Who knew? · 10 minutes ago

    Yeah, macroecon 101, who knew? · 12 minutes ago

    Good thing you have all those really smart people in government making these decisions for you. Gaia only knows what kind of shape you would be in if, as free people, you were allowed to come up with solutions for yourselves.

    • #6
    • December 12, 2012 at 6:52 am
  7. Profile photo of Johnny Dubya Member

    Others have touched on these points, but as someone who used to be involved in lending to utilities, let me contribute my two cents. Indeed, electric utilities are not like other businesses. They do not want their product to be consumed to the point of scarcity. They are heavily regulated and are allowed only a stipulated return. They maintain a base load capacity (preferably fueled by coal or nuclear) and a prudent (again, regulated) amount of peaking capacity (usually fueled by natural gas or, in the case of ConEd in NYC, oil). A utility, in concert with the regulators, tries to ensure system reliability and adequate capacity, particularly in the summer. An important part of this is demand management, of which the customer notices are a part. In time, when smart meters are in place around the country, such notices may not be necessary, because customers will be freer to choose how much energy they consume, when they consume it, and at what price.

    • #7
    • December 12, 2012 at 6:53 am
  8. Profile photo of Valiuth Member

    Just wait until the government sends you a report like this about the food you eat. 

    Also why do you get your energy bill through the mail. How antiquated. I get mine through e-mail, but I don’t open them with any regularity because I have an auto billing setup. I just check my bank statements to see what I am paying. 

    • #8
    • December 12, 2012 at 7:20 am
  9. Profile photo of The Mugwump Inactive

    I’ve been working lately on solar systems, a sort of part-time gig for extra cash. Most of our clients are wealthy liberals. The boss is currently bidding on a solar array that will provide power for a Nissan Leaf. Makes about as much sense as building your own gas station for a customer base of one. But then what we’re really selling is the equivalent of medieval indulgences. I should pick up some clerical garb. Or make my own costume? Something that looks like a cross between a witch doctor and an ent?

    • #9
    • December 12, 2012 at 7:22 am
  10. Profile photo of Scott R Member

    Bet Apple recommends we consolidate all those wasteful Apple products into a single, new, efficient, do-everything Apple product.

    • #10
    • December 12, 2012 at 7:30 am
  11. Profile photo of Pigboy Inactive

    There’s another facet to this as well: here in the northwest—where power is plentiful and cheap—our demand can and will exceed supply, at which point the utility has to purchase additional supply on the open market. Since the feds have determined how much profit the utility can make on its customers (as well as what percentage of the energy they produce and purchase is “green,” i.e., way more expensive), the utility’s best bet is what they call “demand-side management.” Basically, that’s just trying to limit consumption to capacity.

    Bottom line? Blame the feds, not the utility.

    • #11
    • December 12, 2012 at 7:32 am
  12. Profile photo of Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Member

    Much of this discussion is missing the real underlying problem: the fact that public utilities are heavily regulated monopolies that cannot adjust their prices in accordance with market forces.

    We’ve had several droughts around here in the last few years, and I always roll my eyes at the measures the municipal governments put in place to reduce consumption. Complicated schemes like allowing people to water their lawns only every other day, or banning the washing of cars. In a sane world, the utilities would simply raise the price of water, and like magic, consumption would drop. But they can’t do that; they’re constrained by rigid price regulations, which pretty much guarantee shortages.

    • #12
    • December 12, 2012 at 8:39 am
  13. Profile photo of Rachel Lu Contributor

    Wow, we get those notes, but they never mentioned Apple products! I don’t lose sleep over them. We spent our money on having kids instead of putting up solar panels. Sorry.

    • #13
    • December 12, 2012 at 8:43 am
  14. Profile photo of R. Craigen Inactive

    We get these from Manitoba Hydro too. It is notable that Manitoba has the cheapest electricity rates in North America. We have surplus production and are bringing more online (we do sell to the U.S., so it is justified). Since our power is 100% hydroelectric (except a backup Natural Gas plant and a few small wind power arrays) there is essentially no connection between usage and any of the yucky scary waste products dumped into the environment. I’ve always thought this was silly. The main reason (here in any case) to conserve is financial.

    • #14
    • December 12, 2012 at 9:38 am
  15. Profile photo of George Savage Admin
    George Savage Post author
    MitchellM: While this sort of thingseems like a no-brainer slam dunk, it’s not. It’s…complicated. I work in at a water utility and we’ve sent out the same kind of notices. Water and power aren’t like usual products; there is ahard system limit. 

    Paraphrasing George Gilder, free market capitalism produces abundance while statism results in scarcity. The liberal project is all about using coercive state power to manage scarcity from the demand side.

    And where there is insufficient scarcity at the start, as in automobile fuel in the past and, currently, health care, the statists find ways to crimp supply and nudge the market into their comfort zone. Never let a “market failure” go to waste!

    Yes, water systems are different from online app stores. I get that. However, here in the land of crazy, the last major reservoir was constructed in 1979 while the population has increased by 14 million since then. Conservation is fine and dandy–as are imaginary 2025 SUVs with 55 mpg EPA ratings— but what about unleashing the supply side?

    Cap-and-trade and our new 30% renewable energy mandate won’t do it.

    • #15
    • December 12, 2012 at 9:48 am
  16. Profile photo of George Savage Admin
    George Savage Post author
    R. Craigen: We get these from Manitoba Hydro too. It is notable that Manitoba has the cheapest electricity rates in North America. We have surplus production and are bringing more online (we do sell to the U.S., so it is justified). Since our power is 100% hydroelectric (except a backup Natural Gas plant and a few small wind power arrays) there is essentially no connection between usage and any of the yucky scary waste products dumped into the environment. I’ve always thought this was silly. The main reason (here in any case) to conserve is financial. · 10 minutes ago

    It is fascinating to note that your community exploits the only commercially practical form of base load solar power–the water cycle is a remarkable thing–and yet environmentalists largely oppose hydro–bad for the fish.

    • #16
    • December 12, 2012 at 9:51 am
  17. Profile photo of R. Craigen Inactive
    George Savage
    R. Craigen: We get these from Manitoba Hydro too. It is notable that Manitoba has the cheapest electricity rates in North America. We have surplus production and are bringing more online (we do sell to the U.S., so it is justified). Since our power is 100% hydroelectric (except a backup Natural Gas plant and a few small wind power arrays) there is essentially no connection between usage and any of the yucky scary waste products dumped into the environment. I’ve always thought this was silly. The main reason (here in any case) to conserve is financial. · 10 minutes ago

    It is fascinating to note that your community exploits the only commercially practical form of base load solar power–the water cycle is a remarkable thing–and yet environmentalists largely oppose hydro–bad for the fish. · 2 minutes ago

    They say it is bad for the fish. An argument can be made that the disruption of new production is. However, Fish stock adapt. Destroying a Hydro dam (and its fish ladders) would create a similar disruption, and fish would adapt again over time.

    • #17
    • December 12, 2012 at 9:59 am
  18. Profile photo of Mendel Member
    George Savage: Yet each month my neighbors employed by these enterprises and I open a report like the one at right from our local energy utility. The idea is to shame us into conserving energy by comparing our consumption to that of “more efficient” households in our neighborhood.

    To save the planet, don’t you know.

    Interestingly, I have heard through the grapevine that another way many utilities can help the environment is by not letting their pipelines explode and needlessly burn off gas into the atmosphere for several days.

    • #18
    • December 12, 2012 at 10:06 am
  19. Profile photo of George Savage Admin
    George Savage Post author
    R. Craigen They say it is bad for the fish. An argument can be made that the disruption of new production is. However, Fish stock adapt. Destroying a Hydro dam (and its fish ladders) would create a similar disruption, and fish would adapt again over time. · 6 minutes ago

    I am with you. The leftists select any plausible argument as a tactic to support the long-term strategy of less and more: less individual liberty and more government. Low cost energy and widespread prosperity are not good things from this perspective, so any argument will do.

    • #19
    • December 12, 2012 at 10:10 am
  20. Profile photo of Mitchell Morgan Member

    While this sort of thing seems like a no-brainer slam dunk, it’s not. It’s…complicated. I work in at a water utility and we’ve sent out the same kind of notices. Water and power aren’t like usual products; there is a hard system limit. Peak demands can tax these systems to the breaking point and new resources are scarce and expensive. And then you have governments limiting price increases and / or demanding they use increasing percentages of “renewable” sources. Which are expensive and usually require federal government subsidy. Conservation helps stretch resources. But…it certainly can also hurt revenue. It’s a delicate balance, not easily negotiated. It’s not always about “saving the planet”, sometimes it’s just “being able to function reliably”. 

    • #20
    • December 12, 2012 at 10:16 am
  21. Profile photo of Mendel Member

    Ironically, in Germany the utilities (especially water) have to plead with their customers to consume more – for the customers’ sake.

    Northern Europeans are so eager to conserve resources that the unit prices of water and gas have started increasing to cover the utilities’ fixed maintenance costs. Of course, that price increase just makes people consume even less, and now many local utilities are seriously worried that a vicious spiral of increasing prices and decreasing consumption might make them insolvent.

    • #21
    • December 12, 2012 at 10:16 am
  22. Profile photo of Mitchell Morgan Member

    Mendel,

    Yes, that’s the nightmare scenario – shrinking revenue leads to cost hikes which lead to use contraction which leads to shrinking revenue…and so on. As I said – it’s a delicate balance. Complicated stuff is complicated. There’s no easy solution.

    • #22
    • December 12, 2012 at 10:33 am
  23. Profile photo of wilber forge Inactive

    Portlanders were asked to conserve water and were so good at the effort the utility had to raise rates cover basic operations. That fee increase never went away when supplies returned to normal.

    As a sidebar, when the Trojan Nuclear Power plant was taken offline, PGE did not take the loss lightly. They sued and won the the right to bill consumers for power they never provided for decades. Ghastly at best.

     

     

    • #23
    • December 12, 2012 at 10:53 am
  24. Profile photo of Israel P. Member

    Maybe they don’t want the regulatory headache and expense of getting approval for new power plants.

    A long time has passed since Reddy Kilowatt used to encourage consumption by telling us that electricity is “the biggest bargain in your family budget.”

    • #24
    • December 12, 2012 at 11:06 am
  25. Profile photo of DocJay Member

    A friend of mine had a device that measured energy expenditure in real time amounts. It would likely have reduced consumption by 10-20%. The power companies fought him tooth and nail. They are mandated to have energy saving, actually carbon saving, policies. What they do is send a letter no one reads, well almost no one, and give money to cousin Vinny’s never gonna work solar farm. It’s like asking the coke dealer to self police his junkies.

    • #25
    • December 12, 2012 at 11:08 am
  26. Profile photo of M Tabor Inactive

    Comment edited.

    • #26
    • December 13, 2012 at 1:00 am
  27. Profile photo of Mendel Member

    John Murdoch,

    is there any chance you could write a post sometime about the feasibility/hurdles of privatizing/liberalizing the power market?

    Some of your points obviously make sense – especially regarding transmission lines. But I would be interested in hearing arguments for/against letting prices follow demand, so that peak power would cost all customers more than electricity at times of lower demand.

    If you have the time to write something along those lines, I would be interested in reading it.

    • #27
    • December 13, 2012 at 1:24 am
  28. Profile photo of Mendel Member
    Matthew K. Tabor: How many of you have gone to lessappleforlife.com?

    That’s what I thought.

    You wrote, spouted off, opined, etc., starting with Mr. Savage, and seemed quite pleased to do so. But anyone who visited the site would’ve realized that… it doesn’t exist.

    I think most of us realized by the end of George’s third paragraph that the website doesn’t exist – based on his obvious sarcasm.

    • #28
    • December 13, 2012 at 1:25 am
  29. Profile photo of M Tabor Inactive

    Mendel,

    I edited my comment down to nothing — not to scrub the evidence, but because I don’t want to distract from the discussion. I’m also not willing to fight that particular battle.

    You guys sneer at the folly of it all, but this is a valid — and increasingly utilized — business/marketing strategy, especially when used temporarily or sporadically as brand reinforcement. It might seem ridiculous to suggest less consumption, but there’s tremendous potential long-term value in pumping up the moral supremacy of a customer.

    Getting a customer to think “I am a [good/smart/trendy/moral/etc.] person because I purchase from [Company]” is a terribly valuable form of brand loyalty, particularly in a fast-moving sector like Apple’s. They sink or swim based on products and prices — that’s obvious — but these bits help a great deal.

    Obvious sarcasm? Actually, it’s pretty realistic.

    • #29
    • December 13, 2012 at 1:39 am
  30. Profile photo of Paul Wilson Member

    In one of my architecture mags a few months back, there was a short piece outlining one of the unintended consequences of mandating low-flow plumbing fixtures. Now, thanks to said fixtures, engineers worry about not enough liquid in the sewers to effectively move “solids” through sewer systems. Sewers were designed for much higher volumes. 

    Here’s one case from SF. http://www.sfexaminer.com/blogs/under-dome/2011/03/low-flow-toilets-not-sole-cause-sewer-stink-sfpuc-says

    • #30
    • December 13, 2012 at 1:54 am
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