How Much Does AC Cost? An Accounting Issue

There’s a great discussion of the costs of Air Conditioning for soldiers on MR. Here’s the original story.

Here’s the boogeyman soundbite:

The amount the U.S. military spends annually on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan: $20.2 billion.

That’s more than NASA’s budget. It’s more than BP has paid so far for damage during the Gulf oil spill. It’s what the G-8 has pledged to help foster new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.

What is a cost? I am reminded of an accounting prof of mine who once said: “give me some public accounts and I can turn a $5m profit into a $5m loss for a company and get every accountant in Canada to agree with me”.

So that’s an interesting bit.

Another interesting story is how people argue.

In the comments on MR (best around), there are a few analytical folks (“let’s look at the seasonal variation in running costs and adjust for stuff”), some hierarchical brown-nosers (“it’s a super-high ranking dude who said this so it HAS to be right”), and die-hard cynics (“I expect the number 20 billion comes under the category of “too good to check.”).

The number is probably BS, sure. But that doesn’t mean it’s “wrong” in a technical sense.

And none of that is going to stop a heated Internet discussion from swiping employers’ time all across the nation.

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