Is The Ability To Reality Check Figures A Dead Art?

From the Thin Green Line, an environmental blog I often criticize for it incredible credulity in accepting bizarre figures, comes this whopper:

Is Ganja green? TGL has covered the issue before, but a new study undertaken by a Lawrence Livermore scientist gives us some real numbers (H/T New York Times Green)....

In California, indoor cultivation is responsible for a whopping 8 percent of household electricity usage. But, California grows only about a fifth of the nation's bong hits and much of what we grow goes to out-of-state consumers....

The study, written by Evan Mills on his own (non-government-funded) time, makes the case for legalizing and regulating grow operations, suggesting that if marijuana didn't have to be grown in secret and indoors, efficiency could be improved by as much as 75 percent.

Readers of this blog will know that I am all for marijuana legalization.  But how can anyone accept this figure.  Eight percent?  Really?   This would be larger than the total residential electricity use of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, solely for pot growing in California.  I am calling BS.


  1. sch:

    The continentals have utilized this high electricity consumption to find occult indoor MJ growers, looking for evidence of
    heat loss in the winter in areas of snow coverage and localized energy usage spikes to find semi industrial growers in
    old warehouses or office buildings time has passed by.

  2. Feckles:

    I suppose if your "study" consists of interviewing a bunch of crunchy stoners about their energy use habits, then, yes, 8 percent might be a believable figure.

  3. EvilRedScandi:

    Also, if you hit enough bongs, 8% sounds like a, you know, totally awesome number. So does 18% or 80%. They're just numbers, man. Lighten up.

    In the mean time, pass the Bubblegum Kush

  4. Anna:

    I think you are seriously underestimating just how stoned Californians are, as evidenced by the results of last November's elections. :)

    Actually, a lot of the state parks have reportedly been commandeered by organized marijuana-growing criminal outfits, at least here in northern California. We can't just go traipsing around the hills anymore for fear of getting on the bad side of a well-armed marijuana plantation guard.

    I'm sure there are some who grow their pot inside the home, but I think the vast majority of the pot are grown in the outdoors. With great impunity, too, I would guess, given how the local law enforcement folks hesitate to visit the surrounding forests themselves.

  5. EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy:

    OK. I'm going to try to figure out what this implies.

    * Assume most of the "indoor cultivation" occurs in housing units rented for this sole purpose. The whole house is given over to it, and the grow lamps run 24/7.

    * Assume this means the AC bill is roughly normal for a residential unit, the lighting runs about 4--6 times normal, but nothing for the fridge, dishwasher, or jumbo flat screen. Call it a total of 200% the usual use. Yeah, that's a WAG.

    * Assume that every residential square foot is the same. Call N the total number of residential square feet and n the number of residential square feet in use for grow ops.

    To get 8% we figure we calculate:

    0.08 = (2*n)/(1*(N-n) + 2*n) = 2*n/(N+n)

    ...diddle the algebra and I get 4.2% of the residential square footage in use for grow ops. One house in 24.

    Allow a grow op to use 400% the power of actual residential use and we still get 2.1% of the residential square feet in use which is one house in 47.

    That's a whole lotta growin going on.

    But don't worry. Just a little more money and a few more SWAT raids and we can win. For real this time.

  6. rxc:

    This is similar to another study from the same prestigious national laboratory back in the 90s that concluded that PCs used about 10% (I seem to recall) of the electricity generated in this country. A number that is also unbelievable. The way you get these results is to make assumptions like using the nameplate rating of the power supply as the assumed power consumption. There are a number of esteemed national laboratories that like to do analyses like this. It is sad - they used to create truly earthshaking technology, but now they just exist to make us disappear into caves...

  7. Mark:

    @Anna, don't forget to mention that the Marijuana growers that have taken over our state parks, and have started fires in them even, are for the most part illegal aliens.

  8. NL:

    I've heard that Mendocino county has some massive underground grow containers, basically just buried shipping containers, that of course need lamps and probably some sort of ventilation system. Maybe they are inferring a bunch of similar setups (based on estimates of production) and then calculating it.

  9. Eric Hammer:

    I wonder if they originally estimated it was 8% of a given grower's electricity usage, then got confused or decided it wasn't impressive enough on the large scale and went with 8% of all electricity usage. 8% of a house hold's use seems a little high for a bunch of grow lights, but it should be a LOT closer than 8% of total use.

  10. ruralcounsel:

    A couple of observations and questions...

    Isn't a lot of the growing done OUTDOORS? I mean, especially in California? Even here in VT it is definitely a seasonal activity because it is predominantly done outside.

    If getting caught by feds monitoring your electrical usage and heat signature isn't incentive enough to be energy efficient, then why would making it legal provide any kind of incentive to use less energy?