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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Good Idea? Or Stunt?

posted by on October 20 at 12:55 PM

Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Barbara residents are being urged to switch off their lights for one hour on Saturday in the first such organized bid in the United States to promote energy saving.

Much of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Los Angeles International Airport will go dark between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., apart from essential safety lighting. Lights in city buildings will be switched off and millions of residents in the three cities are being asked to follow suit.

The Lights Out campaign in California follows similar initiatives in Sydney, Australia; London, England; and Paris, France earlier this year. California organizers said they planned a nationwide U.S. event in March 2009.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said that if all of its 1.4 million customers turned off their lights for an hour, enough energy could be saved to power 2,500 homes for an entire year.

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Let's have Al Gore shut down the power to his house for 1 hour. That would be the equivalent to doing this four times.

Posted by Mr. Poe | October 20, 2007 1:03 PM

Well, if anyone can think of any better ideas for saving the whales, I'd like to hear them.

Posted by mattymatt | October 20, 2007 1:05 PM

Lets just hope that the electric companies understands what's going on, because they provide service by shifting power across grids as demand happens. When everyone turns the lights back on an hour later they have to compensate or the grid can collapse. Other then that... I applaud this idea :-)

Posted by Colton | October 20, 2007 1:05 PM

This sucks!

Posted by | October 20, 2007 1:10 PM

It's a good idea, if only because it may wake more people up to how much we take this energy for granted.

Posted by Irena | October 20, 2007 1:18 PM

@3: Good point. Referring to this as power "saving" isn't really accurate. It's not as if the power supplied to LA and SF for that hour is going to a "power reserve". Someone in Las Vegas or Fresno is going to use it instead.

Posted by laterite | October 20, 2007 1:20 PM

Well, office buildings should shut off their lights at night. Are office workers really at work at 3 am? I kind of doubt it.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 20, 2007 1:24 PM

@#2 - Whales are fucking stupid. Can you mention one whale in the history of mankind that has had a record in the top ten? Can you? Can you mention one whale who's written the equivalent of 'Othello', Shakespeare, 'Health & Efficiency'? They've produced nothing in the way of literature. All they've fucking produced is a load of other whales and all they eat is fucking plankton, and they call them intelligent. Can you imagine drifting along in the sea with your mouth open and a lot of fucking plankton going in?
You'd like it, would you, just drifting around in the sea? And they're such cunts they can't even breathe underwater. They have to keep coming up the whole fucking time and spouting. Then some cunt comes on telly and he says, "Oh, the whale is being wiped out by mankind, save the fucking whales...." Well - during the war, did we notice a lot of whales rallying round and saying, "Save England!" I didn't notice many down my part of the world. I didn't see whales coming up with Union Jacks saying, "We'll fight the Boche". No, they were doing fucking all, swimming around the fucking sea sucking fucking plankton down!

Posted by Clive | October 20, 2007 1:37 PM

What good does one hour of frugality do if you then get back in your SUV to drive home to your McMansion?

"Voluntary Simplicity" seems a better idea. Didn't catch on, did it?


Posted by Andrew Taylor | October 20, 2007 1:38 PM


Posted by Essex | October 20, 2007 1:42 PM

I believe in some cases the cleaning crew works overnight to make that cubicle all shiny in the morning.

Posted by whatever | October 20, 2007 2:14 PM

@9 - Couldn't agree more. This is symbolic conservatism. Makes people feel good and energy-aware, like they're getting with the program. It'd make much more sense if everyone just went to bed two hours earlier and shut off all of their energy-sucking appliances. Get out your Jimmy Carter cardigans unless you're already wearing a hair shirt, and turn down the heat.

If we save whales, is this the same as Jesus saving us?

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | October 20, 2007 2:37 PM


I do. Harpoon a fat chick.

Posted by Joe in Oz | October 20, 2007 3:18 PM

It's a tiny band aid, a pointless gesture that accomplishes nothing because it doesn't change habits in a meaningful long term way. It's no different from the ill-informed annual one day gasoline boycott.

But @8, I'm with you. Fuck the whales until they start earning their keep. Maybe we'll stop killing them when get their shit together enough to offer us a good alternative energy source. Whale poop combustion, anyone?

Posted by Ivan Cockrum | October 20, 2007 3:33 PM

what a bunch of dipshits in here.

Posted by everything's dumb | October 20, 2007 4:07 PM

Nuke the gay whales for Jesus!

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | October 20, 2007 4:17 PM

I'm in SF and I've been contemplating how much hate I might generate if I just say fuck it and turn on every light in my apartment between 8pm and 9pm. More energy for me!

Basically, I agree - it doesn't necessarily save anything, it's just sent to other parts on the grid. I also notice that Sacramento isn't on the list - wouldn't want Ahnold having to turn off anything now would we? Energy conservation will happen when we adopt different resources for energy, not from turning off lights for an hour. The "turn it off" concept only works with pollution - so I guess in terms of being able to see the stars tonight it'll be great. \m/

Posted by Anne | October 20, 2007 5:03 PM

It's NOT like the one-day gasoline boycott, and the power saved does NOT just go get used somewhere else. The amount of power consumption is in fact reduced. The gas boycott doesn't reduce gas consumption, since gas not bought on Monday is bought Tuesday instead. I think it's an interesting idea.

Posted by Fnarf | October 20, 2007 6:06 PM

I vote: yes, great idea. Even if it doesn't go over well, I'm happy to see effort.

Posted by Amelia | October 20, 2007 7:08 PM

@6 @17 That is not correct. The energy is not just used elsewhere. If you follow that logic one would have to conclude that if turning off lights uses no less energy then turning on lights uses no more energy!

@18 has is right. When a light, or any other device on the grid, is turned off it reduces the overall load. The power plants compensate by reducing their power output. Some power plants can store the excess energy in reserves rather than reducing output. The stored energy is used later when demand increases.

I'm surprised people are saying that this is pointless. Would you say the same thing if everyone turned on all their lights for an hour in the middle of the day instead, or would you be complaining about the wasted energy?

First off, it does save energy. Secondly, it raises awareness. Thirdly, I hope everyone here, especially the naysayers, have switched to CFL compact fluorescent bulbs. It's a no-brainer.

Posted by booji boy | October 20, 2007 7:09 PM

Total stunt. Conservation isn't about sitting in the dark for an hour. A better idea would be to have the cities purchase thousands of florescent bulbs and have volunteers go door to door offering to change them for people. Then, instead of saving one fucking hour of energy, they would save tens of thousands.

Posted by Gitai | October 20, 2007 7:16 PM

Live from SF:

Thing is, I'm looking around my darkened apartment and lessee now... my fridge is on, my electronics, while on sleep mode, are on, my wifi is on (although my laptop is running off battery power, not connected into the grid), and I'm fairly sure those are all draining more electricity off the grid than the three lightbulbs that I had to turn off for total darkness did. I honestly don't see this as helping and would rather see more work and funding going into alternate energy sources. In addition, not one of my neighbors here have turned off their lights. Less money on paper flyers for turning lights out, more money on windfarms.

This is as ridiculous as when the great citizens of this city protested civic posters that smelled of cookies because the posters might taunt the homeless.


Posted by Anne | October 20, 2007 8:28 PM

Well, it's 8:30pm on Saturday night. I'm looking out of my window, atop one of those San Francisco hills where you can see the whole city; and I can't say it looks any less lit up than normal.

Posted by mattymatt | October 20, 2007 8:35 PM


How much you wanna bet the Haight is the only place that's dark right now? Russian Hill and Nob Hill are totally lit up, as is Pac Heights, Chinatown and downtown from what I can see.

Posted by Anne | October 20, 2007 8:39 PM

They did this in Sydney a few months back. Nothing but a stupid stunt. I certainly haven't seen any evidence of significant awareness-raising occurring since.

Posted by Bento | October 21, 2007 3:51 AM

Gitai, aren't you lucky? Seattle City Light is looking for people to volunteer to deliver CFL's to people!!!

Granted, it seems to be open only to people in the Maple Leaf neighborhood (!?!?!) but it's a start.

As for stunts, don't knock 'em. Even the lamest stunt gets people thinking. Look at the success of the GOP since their biggest stunt: The election of Ronald Reagan. Who'd have thought that was possible?

Posted by catalina vel-duray | October 21, 2007 10:41 AM

What I want to know is why is Daylight Savings Time being pushed back every year? When are we turning our clocks back? November? Never?

Posted by denversucks | October 21, 2007 10:49 PM

Funny, one of the light bulbs in my bedroom JUST burned out, making it the first one I've had to change in the two years I've been at my apartment. Just a regular old Walgreens brand incandescent, rated for 500 hours or whatever, nothin' fancy. If this is unusual, it makes me think most people must spend WAY too much time at home, sitting around with their lights on.

What people should do is congregate in bars, cafes, or restaurants until bed time. Consider them like mass transit, or car-sharing, but the power grid. I don't expect people in rural areas to chance their habits, but they aren't the problem, it's suburbs and cities sucking up most of the power.

And to the nay sayers that say the power is always generated, but flows elsewhere; here in SF, I believe they bring power plants on- and off-line as needed, which means relying on the dirtiest, oldest generators to meet peak demands.

Posted by Dougsf | October 22, 2007 1:04 PM

I live in Sydney and this is a growth from an idea that was launched here this year.

It's called Earth Hour (

It isn't primarily designed to save a huge amount of energy. It's primarily designed to show all of us what we can do towards saving energy by lots and lots of small acts by individuals.

The overall effect was amazing (even if some of the papers here doctored their photos to make it look as if it had more impact than it actually did). There were restaurants who did candlelit dinners all night in the dining spaces of their venues and my local drag bar even put on a lights out show with the bar staff in miner's helmets lighting the show.

If it hasn't happened already, give it your suport, if nothing else you can see a few more stars.

Posted by Malcolm Grant | October 22, 2007 11:55 PM

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