QUESTION TYPE: Paradox
PARADOX: Air conditioning use during a heat wave threatens to cause blackouts. Residents have been asked to cut back on air conditioner usage to help with the blackouts. But blackouts will probably happen anyway even if they do cut back.
ANALYSIS: If air conditioners are the problem then we need to figure out why shutting off residential air conditioners won’t help.
The right answer explains that businesses and factories also use air conditioners. Those are likely to be important to the success of the business and they are less likely to be shut off. The authorities were only asking residents to shut off their systems.
- Of course air conditioners aren’t the only things that use electricity. But it’s specifically extra air conditioner use that has overloaded the system and added extra demand. If consumers cut A/C use then why doesn’t power consumption drop to normal? We’re not told that anything else is using more power than normal.
- CORRECT. Here we go. Factories and businesses aren’t likely to cut back on air conditioning: otherwise they might lose customers and/or their factory machines factory machines might break from overheating.
- That’s nice. But the authorities didn’t propose this solution, and it doesn’t seem likely to work in the short term. This does nothing to explain why a voluntary cutback of A/C use couldn’t also work.
- This is very tempting. But the stimulus says the blackout will happen even if the residents do cut back.
- Excellent. But the stimulus says we should expect blackouts until the heat wave ends. This doesn’t help explain why.
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