Over the last few years, conservative governments around the world, including our federal government, have done a lot to help dirty energy industries. Subsidizing goliath multinational companies with ongoing propaganda campaigns to deny climate science is nothing new to the conservative wing of virtually any country’s politics these days. After all, there’s good money in it. Running out of regulations like vehicle fuel efficiency standards to rail against, there is a new target — smearing Energy Star and WaterSense products with fear campaigns (FUD).
Perhaps realizing that even conservative people are in favor of solar, wind, and electric vehicles, they are now focusing on more winnable issues to make us buy more fossil fuels. As such, our current administration has taken aim at targets with less defense and popularity: things like Energy Star and WaterSense dishwashers, faucets, and toilets.
Mr. Trump’s recent rants about how many times he has to flush the toilet indicate to me that he’s probably just constipated. That, and the myriad other pieces of evidence suggesting he needs more fiber in his diet, such as fits of anger/rage, clouded thinking, that perplexing complexion, and fear of all things brown. Maybe he’s even trying to corner the constipated voting bloc? Regardless, since change is hard for people, he has instead chosen to target regulations (his favorite blame hound) that help Americans spend less money on their utilities.
Low flow vs. High efficiency
Like your grandfather who couldn’t figure out how to program a VCR, people who don’t understand technology will often rail against it. Back in the day, low-flow water fixtures became a thing. The technology involved flow restrictors that you would place inside the pipe. They would restrict the flow of water, and then a faucet that was designed to use 3 gallons per minute would only get 1 gallon per minute, and the result would be predictable. Seinfeld did an episode about a program in which Kramer and Jerry’s building was retrofitted with these flow restrictors, and it was not popular. Nobody likes a wimpy shower.
Nowadays, and for the last five years, low flow has gone the way of the dodo, in favor of newer pressurized options that are commonly referred to as high efficiency. So, instead of a flow-restricting device being placed inside a pipe, the fixture itself is designed to simply use less water and be pressurized at its head. It’s a very important distinction. It would be equivalent to an open-ended firehose with a tennis ball lodged 5 feet inside it vs. one with a nozzle that is designed to pressurize and eject the water at the end of the hose. One will put the fire out, and the other will create a pool of water for dogs to lap up. The faucet aerator on the right side of the page is virtually indistinguishable in every way from others like it, except that it’ll save the average homeowner about $50 a year in utility bills. It goes on the end — not way up in the pipe — and pressurizes water so the user experience is what you expect. Duh.
Don’t expect any conservative receiving fossil fuel money (basically, all of them) to understand the difference (or even attempt to). Remember, they vote as they are “paid” to. Understanding this difference would put them at odds with their … conscience?
So it is that our modern Republican Party has launched a campaign against Energy Star and WaterSense dishwashers, in addition to the faucets, showers, and, yes, toilets. But I hear you asking — why rail against water efficiency? Isn’t the conservative agenda of drill, baby, drill really only concerned with eliminating solar, wind, geothermal, EVs, and other fossil-killing technologies? Here’s the thing — saving water saves energy. In several ways.
How Saving Water Saves Energy
Delivery. Water arrives at our houses every day, through miles of pipes, and with good pressure, assuming the plumbing was done well. It gets there with a series of pumps and motors (all using electricity and needing constant power). Here in Hawaii, 5% of our water bill goes to pay the water utility’s electric bill for pumping all that water around. Given that that’s billions of dollars a year, it’s a not-insubstantial amount of diesel and coal that is used to move that water around.
Treatment. Treating water coming into your pipe requires energy, and often chemicals that are derived from fossils. A win-win for oil drilling fans.
Heating. The hot water faucet and shower handles open a valve from your water heater that brings hot water to you. If that water comes to your house at 40 degrees, it needs to be heated 80 degrees to get up to 120, the most common household water heater setting. If you’ve ever boiled water, you know that it takes time, which means that your stove is burning through electricity. Your water heater is doing the same.
Disposal. Wastewater equipment, similar to the pumps and motors that deliver water to your home, uses a lot of electricity. If you’re curious about the poop business, I did an Apocaloptimist podcast with a wastewater engineer who has helped Hawaii cut megawatts from its grid through exceptionally high-efficiency pumping.
Sanitation. Treating wastewater to eliminate the pathogens in poops that have been brewing in “our” president for a week requires energy and oftentimes chemicals, too. Another win-win for the fossil folks.
Most people don’t know the difference between low flow and high efficiency. This, of course, is exactly why the neocons have decided to cast additional FUD into the mix, even risking driving people into bankruptcy trying to pay their utility bills / support fossil fuel companies. People living in efficient homes are less likely to default on their mortgage, so, to me, this represents a knowing attack on the American people. As a person with conscience, it drove me to write this article. But how much, exactly, are we talking about?
Well, as it so happens, my company does efficiency work. We employ about 12 FTEs, and have greened over 13,000 homes and small businesses, with 100% customer satisfaction. After all, we help people not default on their mortgage, and we install zero low-flow fixtures, but lots and lots of Energy Star, WaterSense high-efficiency fixtures. Below’s a proposal from a boutique hotel we recently worked with. The savings here are just from high-efficiency water fixtures.
The results are clear, and what small business wouldn’t want to save $100K+ over 10 years? As companies like mine expand and prove, repeatedly, that these products work and work well (our showerheads have a 98% customer approval in our 3 month post-service surveys), we overturn FUD.
The problem is that, until there are more companies like mine, if FUD reaches a customer first, then sometimes that FUD goes uncountered, and wins the day. We’ve even seen FUD as dumb as “solar panels will soak up all the sun’s rays and not leave enough for plants” win the day. It happens. Worse, FUD gets ahead of us, and defeats our attempts to sell efficient products. Thus, these FUD propaganda attempts are job killers — remember, neocons don’t really care about jobs … just certain kinds of jobs. They don’t want there to be too many green jobs out there.
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