Every week is a "week" of some kind or another, proclaimed by the president, the governor or the mayor, and we in the news media often are pressed to publicize the current one -- strictly, you understand, as a public service. There are weeks devoted to education, to dental hygienists, to newspaper carriers, to real estate brokers, to bicylists. The list is nearly endless.
You may not be aware -- Metro Scene wasn't until opening an envelope from the Potomac Electric Power Co. yesterday -- that today begins an eight-day period (a leap week?) called American Energy Awareness Week. Aren't weeks long and energy-sapping enough without having another day tacked onto them?
In a note that accompanied a press release, Pepco spokeswoman Nancy Moses invites us to take an electrical trivia quiz.
It's fun, so let's try a few of its 13 questions, as paraphrased for brevity (the answers will follow).
1. How much coal must be burned to produce the electricity to run a color television set for the Superbowl? For an hour's use of a clothes dryer?
2. How many miles of power lines are on the Pepco system, which serves 643 square miles (roughly 10 times the size of the District of Columbia)?
3. Do all domestic electricity users, locally and nationally, average about the same power consumption?
4. Are all manhole covers over utility vaults round? If so, why?
1. Watching four hours of a Superbowl TV program on a non-solid-state color set would consume 1 kilowatt hour of electricity (the equivalent of 10 100-watt light bulbs lit for an hour). The needed amount of pulverized coal would fit in a Cracker Jack box. A solid-state set would need little more than half as much. A dryer running for an hour would consume 4.8 kilowatt hours, about enough coal to fill an empty Kleenex box.
2. From power plants to customers' hookups, Pepco has 21,200 miles of lines, enough to reach to San Francisco seven times. But San Francisco doesn't need such a connection.
3. There's a big difference in power consumption even within Pepco's territory. A typical Maryland user consumes 893 kilowatt hours a month; a District user consumes 567 kilowatt hours. The national average is 735. New York City residents, who pay the highest rates in the land, use 250.
4. No, not all manhole covers are round -- some in Washington are rectangular. But modern ones, in fact, are round because the industry found, from presumably painful experience, that square ones can fall into the holes. Also, round ones use less metal and can be rolled, rather than carried, to their sites.
But Pepco's Nancy Moses wants "to see if anyone knows the answer to a question we left off the quiz ." Where are the rectangular manhole covers in town? Answers by mail on this one, please, because we're taking some time off and won't be at the phone.