Friday, July 4, 2008

Recharge any battery: save the environment by saving money

People are skeptical when I say economic efficiency means environmental efficiency. They often point out externalities as a counter argument, though if you defend property and individual rights, this problem can be mediated: pollute my land, and I sue you. Outside of the tort system, here's a way you, as an individual and as a consumer, can both save a lot of money and save the environment.

Don't throw away your batteries when they're dead! Any student of chemistry knows that a battery is a reversible chemical reaction. The truth is, many alkaline batteries can be recharged. Now the reason why I use the qualifier most is that some batteries are purposely designed to malfunction when you recharge them, to get you to buy more of course.

What I use is a discontinued Rayovak Recharger, which is a scaled down version of this one. I don't know why they stopped making these, but perhaps they did when people found out they could recharge any alkaline battery, as opposed to just rayovak brand rechargeables. Recently, Rayovak launched a new line of rechargeables, but I have not tested these out to see if these still work.

Ideally, any automatic recharger works (the kind that shut themselves off when they detect a full charge), but be careful testing. You can even do it yourself if you're adventurous. One thing I must point out though is that the chemicals inside the battery can irritate your skin, so if you see any sign of leakage, remove the battery with a thick paper towel and wash your hands. You'll notice a distinctive sour odor when batteries burst, which is another way of telling if they've malfunctioned. If the leakage got onto the charger or electronics, you can either wipe it down immediately or wait until it dries and dust it off. Also, if the battery stays warm a while after you've charged it, that means that the battery shorted and can no longer be used. Also, most batteries have some kind of expiration date on them, and this is a good rule of thumb as to your success in recharging the battery.

Ideally you should be able to recharge the batteries as often as you want until the battery can no longer be recharged. If you want, you can use a permanent marker and add a tally mark each time you recharge your batteries.

Good luck, have fun, and remember, safety first!


Anonymous said...

Economic efficiency does not mean environmental efficiency. There's an economic maxim that states: More efficient uses leads to more use of a resource. So these efficient cars we're building will ultimately lead to more consumption of the fuels they "conserve". I am thankful that California did recently argue successfully that CO2 is a pollutant that must be regulated by the EPA. You'd figure they'd want to, you know, Protect the Environment.

Unknown said...

"More efficient uses leads to more use of a resource"

False. By definition Economic Efficiency means making more output with less input.

A system can be called economically efficient if:

* No one can be made better off without making someone else worse off.
* More output cannot be obtained without increasing the amount of inputs.
* Production proceeds at the lowest possible per unit cost.

The only rational argument that can be made that more efficient cars will consume more is if either (a) the manufacture of the car consumes more fuel than that saved over its lifetime or (b) there is an increase in total number of cars over time that exceeds fuel saved.

(b) is not true currently of Western Societies since we've reached market saturation for the automobile as well as a change in consumer sentiment against driving, and birth rate is falling below replacement levels.

In terms of CO2 production, if you are a proponent of the Anthropogenic Global Warming Theory, you need to point the finger at developing societies such as China and India and their emerging car cultures.

Anonymous said...

I think its great that batteries will begin to run through solar energy. I mean its about time that our planet started initiating alternative sources for energy. Ever since I was a youngin', it was all about the four R's//
And now thank goodness for the futuristic innovations to improve the worlds environment cycle.