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The Clothesline Paradox, bad information, and the danger of misleading graphs

If you haven't read Steve Baer's short essay, "The Clothesline Paradox," you should (http://bit.ly/NaHzT9). I found it liberating.

The piece focuses on the hidden / untracked benefits of solar energy, but the core concepts have broad application.

Here's a couple parts that stood out to me:

"If you take down your clothes line and buy an electric clothes dryer the electric consumption of the nation rises slightly. If you go in the other direction and remove the electric clothes dryer and install a clothesline the consumption of electricity drops slightly, but there is no credit given anywhere on the charts and graphs to solar energy which is now drying the clothes.

"The poor old sun is badly mistreated by such graphs. In the first place the obvious should be pointed out; that coal, oil and natural gas are all solar energy products stored ages ago by photosynthesis, and hydroelectric power is solar energy no older than the weather patterns which dropped the precipitation flowing through the turbines.

The graphs which demonstrate a huge dependence on fossil fuels are fine in one respect. They are alarming. But they are very bad in another respect. They are misleading. Misleading to such an extent that they blind people to obvious answers and prime them to a  frenzy of effort in poor directions. Attention given to such graphs and charts trains people to attempt to deliver what is shown in these accounting systems rather than what is needed." [Emphasis added]

I also love this phrase from later in the essay:

"narrow minded quantification"

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