I was on "More or Less"a couple of weeks ago, and wrote an article for the BBC. One topic mentioned was how much good it does to unplug phone-chargers when they are not in use.
On today's programme (8 May 2009) they are going to read out an indignant listener's letter pointing out that "if everyone unplugs their phone chargers, it adds up to a HUGE saving". More or Less asked me to write a short response, which is going out today. I'm worried that people will get the impression I am against switching anything off. So for the record, I would like to point anyone who's interested to the relevant pages of my book (p114) and Chapter 22 (p155) which should make clear that I do think that it's a good idea to find the big vampires and switch them off!
Here's what I wrote for today's More or Less, in full:
Yes, if sixty million people all make a figleaf gesture that saves half a watt (which is roughly one ten thousandth of their power consumption), then the total power saved is,
sixty million times half a watt
which is 30 megawatts, which sounds like quite a lot. It's one thirtieth of the output of a modern power station, for example. But this "if-everyone" multiplying machine is just a misleading way of making something tiny sound big:
30 megawatts is still just one ten thousandth of Britain's total power consumption.
Multiplying tiny things by sixty million to make them sound big is BAD because it distracts people from thinking about sixty million bigger things that are more deserving of our attention. [Heating sixty million buildings, and driving sixty million cars, for example.]