The following appeared in a memorandum from the planning department of an electric power company.

"Several recent surveys indicate that home owners are increasingly eager to conserve energy. At the same time, manufacturers are now marketing many home appliances, such as refrigerators and air conditioners, that are almost twice as energy efficient as those sold a decade ago. Also, new technologies for better home insulation and passive solar heating are readily available to reduce the energy needed for home heating. Therefore, the total demand for electricity in our area will not increase—and may decline slightly. Since our three electric generating plants in operation for the past twenty years have always met our needs, construction of new generating plants will not be necessary."

Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.

The argument of the planning commission reflects a myopic consideration, and is based on illogical reasoning, quite often, eliminating factors which might be of paramount importance.

In this memorandum, the author dismisses the need to construct new generating power plants, citing that the total electricity demand in the area will not increase. There are three pieces of evidence in the author’s lines of reasoning: a survey showing the eagerness of homeowners to conserve energy, more energy-efficient home appliances being marketed, and better availability of home insulation and passive solar heating systems. Although the suggestion looks reasonable at first glance, under further investigation, the author’s conclusion depends on several unsubstantiated assumptions, which, if proves unwarranted, would render the author’s conclusion much less convincing.

To start with, the author concludes that the consumption of electricity in residential sectors will not increase, given the eagerness of home owners to save energy, the energy-efficient technology, and the low demand of energy for solar-heating system. However, the underlying assumptions that consumers will behave consistently with what they say in the survey and purchase energy-efficient appliances and residential cooling/heating systems appears to be questionable. For home owners, expressing the eagerness to conserve energy does not necessarily means that they will in fact put it in practice. For example, despite that manufactures are now marketing energy-efficient home appliances, the number of such devices that homeowners are purchasing might not increase because of higher price tag. Similar situations might also plague the sale of home insulation and passive solar-heating system. If those potential scenarios are true, the validity of the author’s conclusion that residential electricity demand will not increase will be significantly challenged.

To lead on, even if the demand of electricity among residential sectors are decreasing, it is still indeterminate if the total demand of electricity in the local area will not increase. If demographic factors are introduced, it is possible that the local population will soar in the future. Although the average consumption for home owners decreases, the total demand of electricity will possibly increase due to such population growth. This is because the residential demand for electricity is just a part of total use of electricity. There might be office buildings, factories, shopping malls, or other electricity-consuming entities. Their projected demand for energy is unclear and might increase, making the total electricity demand to rise. In this scenario, it is unreasonable to claim that existing plants will suffice in the future. Above all, the author assumes that the currently existing three of the electric generating plants, will continue to function in a normal manner. However, these generating plants might need maintenance after twenty years of use and further examination is necessary.

Finally, even if the local consumption of electricity will not increase and the existing generating plants remain good condition, claiming the unnecessity of constructing new generating plants is still not well-supported. The author assume that the electricity generated only supplies the demand of this specific area, but if this assumption might be wrong. For example, it is possible that the additional electricity generated by new plants can be sold to surrounding areas and become a source income for the company. Furthermore, the author does not mention any negative effects of the existing generating plants such as pollution or high maintenance fee. In this case, constructing new generating plants could possibly reduce the negative effects and bring more positive ones. Hence even if from a local supply-and-demand perspective new plants may not needed, the potential benefits from construction of new plants, if true, could weaken the author’s recommendation.

To sum up, the author’s conclusion is based on several uncorroborated assumptions and if these assumptions are unwarranted, the author’s conclusion would be substantially weakened.

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