Environmental Science and International Politics: Acid Rain in Europe, 1979-1989, and Climate Change in Copenhagen 2009

By David E. Henderson; Susan K. Henderson | Go to book overview

Appendix 3. Using Numbers to Make Arguments

It should be obvious that if one is going to do cost-benefit analysis it will be necessary to do some arithmetic to make an argument. Several spreadsheets are provided for the course, which contain pollution and economic data. These can be helpful as a starting point for various kinds of analysis, but you will probably need to find additional data at some point.

A cost-benefit analysis often must compare various scenarios and determine the relative advantage of each. We will provide an example of this kind of analysis based on Robert Herendeen’s Ecological Numeracy with the values changed to apply to Connecticut in 2007.1 The goal is to compare the total cost of providing equal amounts of residential lighting using either incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).

The incandescent bulbs are less expensive to buy initially but require much more electricity to operate. Incandescent bulbs also have a shorter life expectancy of 800 hours versus 12,000 hours for the CFLs. We will examine the cost of each option over the thirty-year life of the power plant using enough bulbs to maintain a constant use rate of 1 kilowatt (kW).

Consider the total cost of operating thirteen 75 W incandescent bulbs for a year. This requires a continuous supply of 1,000 kW of power and includes the cost of both the electricity and the cost of the bulbs. There are 8,760 hours in a year, so 8,760 kW hours of electricity are used. Because the average life of the bulbs is only 800 hours, each bulb will need to be replaced about eleven times. That means a total of 146 bulbs will be used. Over a thirty-year period, you will need 4,369 bulbs, which cost $0.75 each, for a total cost of $3,276 for the bulbs.

The use of CFLs to produce the same total light requires thirteen 17W bulbs using only 0.227 kW of power. Over the course of one year, they require 1,988 kW hours of power. Each CFL costs $12 but has an average lifetime of 12,000 hours. During the first year, no bulbs need to be replaced; over the course of thirty years, only 292 bulbs are used. The cost of the CFL bulbs is then $3,507. The consumer pays about $10 per year more for CFL bulbs compared with incandescent bulbs.

The savings to the consumer are in the cost of electricity. Assuming a cost of $0.17 per kilowatt hour, the incandescent bulbs will cost $1,489 to operate; the CFLs will cost $338. The consumer saves a bit more than $1,000 per year by using the thirteen CFLs instead of incandescent bulbs. The utility company also saves money because it only needs to build a plant to supply a quarter of the electricity that is required for the incandescent bulbs. If it costs $6,600 per kilowatt hour to build a power plant, then the company saves about $5,100 in construction costs. Spread over the thirty-year lifetime that is $170 per year less that the utility must spend. These calculations are summarized in Table 19.

The case for using CFLs seems compelling. The total cost over thirty years is about one-fourth that of the incandescent bulbs. In addition, the total emission of acid pollutants, carbon dioxide, nuclear waste, or whatever else negative occurs due to the production of the power will be onefourth as great with the CFLs. The question then is why are people still buying incandescent bulbs?

There are numerous answers to the question. Part of the reason is inertia. People buy what they are used to buying. And some people claim to like the light from the incandescent bulbs better. But

1. R. A. Herendeen, Ecological Numeracy: Quantitative Analysis of Environmental Issues (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998), chap. 5.

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Environmental Science and International Politics: Acid Rain in Europe, 1979-1989, and Climate Change in Copenhagen 2009
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Note to Instructors viii
  • How to Play These Games 1
  • Contents 8
  • Figures and Tables 11
  • 1 - Historical Background 14
  • 2 - The Game 35
  • 3 - Roles and Factions 41
  • 4 - Core Texts and Supplemental Readings 44
  • Bibliography 106
  • Acknowledgments 109
  • Appendix 1- Introduction to Environmental Philosophy 110
  • Appendix 2- Introduction to Environmental Economics 116
  • Appendix 3- Using Numbers to Make Arguments 119
  • Appendix 4- Study Questions for Reading Assignments 121
  • Contents 124
  • Figures and Tables 127
  • 1 - Historical Background 129
  • 2 - The Game 153
  • 3 - Roles and Factions 159
  • 4 - Core Texts and Supplemental Readings 162
  • Acknowledgments 164
  • Appendix 1- Green House Gases 165
  • Appendix 2- Chemicals in Fossil Fuels 168
  • Appendix 3- Quantitative Look at Combustion Reactions 172
  • Appendix 4- Leaked Draft Document by Danish Delegates 180
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