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Great Scott! Cheney's Electric Bill Explained!
Tim Francis-Wright

22 July 2001

Many news accounts over the past several days have noted that the electric bill for the Vice President's house at the Naval Observatory in Washington is expected to total $186,000 this year. That amount of money buys a powerful lot of electricity. I show here a plausible, albeit not definitive, breakdown of that electric bill.

Potomac Electric Power rates are available on the Internet. The first 30 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month are included in the $2.25 customer charge. The next 370 kWh per month are 5.229 cents each. Any kWh per month above that are 12.429 cents each from June through October, and 9.008 cents each from November through May.

Here at Bear-Left.Com World Headquarters, we rarely use over 400 kWh per month. However, we have two solar panels and a host of those newfangled compact flourescent bulbs, so it is safe to assume that our usage is low by about 100 kWh per month. The Vice President's house has 33 rooms, not the 8 rooms of our headquarters, so quadrupling 500 kWh per month yields an estimate for the Vice President of 2000 kWh per month. This generates us the following monthly totals.

 Monthly cost
Customer charge and 30 kWh$2.25
Next 370 kWh$19.35
Next 1600 kWh*$166.93
Total base use$188.53

(*12.429 cents for 5 months per year and 9.008 cents for the other 7 months, or 10.433 cents per month overall.)

This base electric bill would cost $2,262 per year. Clearly, there are some other large uses of electricity that I have not yet addressed.

Security. The Vice President's house surely has a state-of-the-art security system, one that is way more powerful than even those cool systems on the ads for the ADT home monitoring service. If a state-of-the-art security system requires 20,000 watts, then 24-hour surveillance of the grounds and home would require 20 kilowatts times 24 hours times 365 days, or 175,200 kWh and $18,279 per year, using that 10.433 cents per kilowatt-hour figure.

Air conditioning.It's much hotter in Washington than in suburban Boston, and the Vice President needs more than just one window air conditioning unit. The Vice President's house surely has a massive air conditioning unit. If it uses 70,000 watts of electricity (about four times the power of the largest residential air conditioning units), and if it runs full blast 24 hours a day from June through October, then the load and cost of this unit will be 70 kilowatts times 24 hours times 153 days, or 128,520 kWh and $16,102 per year.

Lighting. The Vice President's house is going to need a lot of lighting, and not just those solar-powered lights that they show you how to install on Saturday on PBS. No, the Vice President is going to need airport-quality floodlights. Let's assume that the Vice president uses 50,000 watts of lights 12 hours per day all year round. Then the load and cost of these lights would be 50 kilowatts times 12 hours times 365 days, or 219,000 kWh and $22,848 per year.

 kWh per YearCost per year
Base use24,000 kWh$2,262
Security175,200 kWh$18,279
Air Conditioning128,520 kWh$16,102
Outside Lights219,000 kWh$22,848
Total546,720 kWh$59,491

But we know that the Vice President's expected electric bill is $186,000, fully $126,509 above our meticulous calculations. The difference would pay for an extra 1,212,585 kilowatt-hours of electricity. That is almost 1,213 megawatt-hours of electricity. It is fully 1.21 gigawatt-hours of electricity.

That number had a strange resonance with me, one that I could not shake until I realized where I had heard those numbers. There are accounts of a device that uses 1.21 gigawatts of electricity, and the Vice President's electric bill only provides evidence that the account was not fictional. It is clear that Dick Cheney has budgeted for one hour's use every year of the time-traveling device from the Back to the Future movies.

Is such a thing possible? Avid moviegoers will recall that the device in question was a DeLorean sports car, readily available in the United States from 1981 through 1983, when George Bush the elder was Vice President and lived in Dick Cheney's current residence. Dan Quayle never let established scientific paradigms keep him from the idea that humans could live on Mars, so there is no reason to think that he did not support a time-travel project at the Naval Observatory grounds. If Dick Cheney is using the device now, a prototype must have been available to Al Gore, who thought himself a visionary. It would be remiss of Gore not to try to travel back to the 1940 or 1960 to find a Democratic Presidential candidate with actual charisma. it is apparent that there were still a few bugs in the system as recently as early November 2000.

It seems clear in retrospect that Dick Cheney has used the time travel device several times this year. He traveled back to the 1980s to get the blueprints to the Star Wars missile defense plans. He traveled back to the 1960s to get the Goldwater campaign's talking points and white papers regarding arms control treaties. He traveled back to 1921 to listen to Harding and Coolidge discuss how to set American foreign policy without any regard to Europe. Last, but not least, he traveled back to 1877 to see how Rutherford Hayes swayed a Supreme Court justice to rule that the Democrats were not entitled to the electoral college votes from Florida. Now it all makes sense.

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