The company I work for is located in the Rockefeller Center
area of midtown Manhattan
. They have offices in the building in which I work, as well as offices in the building across the street, which we often visit and which this anecdote
concerns. It is 1290 Avenue of the Americas to be exact (or '1290' in shorthand).
During these dog days of August 2001, '1290' has been ridiculously, unbelievably, nauseatingly, COLD. It is hovering right around 60 degrees in there, which is no small feat of air conditioning given that outside in the 'Big Apple' it has been around 100 degrees, with about 100 percent humidity I might add. The sensation of experiencing an immediate 40 degree temperature drop in going from the sticky outside to the frigid inside can only be described as sickening. It is too damn cold in that building. Everybody talks about it.
Now of course I always balk at the incredible waste of fossil fuel and emissions of pollutants needed to keep that and other buildings uncomfortably cold in the summer. But one day last week my jaw dropped.
I walked into the lobby of 1290 and, after becoming dizzy and dry heaving as usual from the extreme temperature difference, I noticed it was dark. There were only a few dim lights on, and it looked like your basement might look if you just took a few small candles down there. It was foreboding to say the least, this shiny marble lobby reduced to an eerie flicker. Signs were posted informing visitors that the building was having an "Energy Conservation Day."
But it was still the same damn temperature! The amount of power consumed lighting that lobby is absolutely nothing compared to the amount required to AC 40 floors to 40 degrees below the outside temperature. By just raising the temperature, say 5 degrees, to a still cold 65, they could have really saved some power. But no, they dimmed the lights, creating a palpable sense of threatening and danger. The extreme cold only added to it. But no power was really conserved, relative to what the building uses in a given summer day.
And so, the casual observer without the BS detector of yours truly, would think to themselves "Wow, its dark and scary in here. We must really be having an energy crisis if they can't even keep the lights on! We'd better tear the fuck out of the last remaining wilderness in America to find some oil."
So there you have it. Without actually conserving any power, the management of a midtown Manhattan building can make those who pass through it think they are responding to a crisis, a crisis which wouldn't exist if they and others in their position were reasonable in their power usage, but which they make seem particularly looming and threatening.
Why would they do this? Probably because in the vast web of corporate interconnection and ownership that characterizes our current reality, someone with some clout in the management of that building has an interest in oil companies somewhere. A quick net search reveals that Jerry L. Speyer, one of the partners of Tishman-Speyer properties, which owns 1290, is a director of the RAND Institute, a 'think tank' not known for its environmental radicalism.
For further evidence, see evidence for the manufactured energy crisis conspiracy, part 1.
Oops, perhaps I didn't make it clear that the light dimming was in the lobby only. The floresecents on the office floors were humming away as usual.
Also, I find it hard to believe - nay, impossible - that raising the AC temp 5 degrees in a massive office building has only a negligable effect on energy consumption. Individual households are even encouraged to set their AC temp a few degrees higher during peak usage periods.