Last-minute Halloween costumes for energy nerds

Halloween costumes
With only two days left to figure out Halloween costumes, Matt Chester offers his ideas for energy enthusiasts struggling with what to wear on All Hallows' Eve. 

With only two days left to figure out Halloween costumes, Matt Chester offers his ideas for energy enthusiasts struggling with what to wear on All Hallows’ Eve.

Halloween costumes for those in the energy field

By Matt Chester

This article was published by the Chester Energy and Policy blog on Oct. 29, 2018.  

Every year you vow it will be different– you’ll plan ahead, you’ll write down that great idea for a costume that you think of in April, and you’ll have the best Halloween costume come October 31. But once again, the month seems to zip right by you, you haven’t even set foot in a costume store, and all of a sudden Halloween is this week and you’re woefully unprepared!

Sound familiar?

If you’re reading this site, I’ll also assume that you have at least a passing interest in the energy sector (or, hopefully, are a full-blown energy nerd like myself).

Taken together, that means you fit the bill of someone looking for a last-minute costume who would love to throw something together that will make your fellow energy wonks chuckle at the office Halloween party.

Fear not, I’m here to help you put together some topical costumes for those in the energy field with pieces you can find at the local party store or order on Amazon Prime, continuing my trend of shoehorning energy topics into holidays!

For more Halloween coverage, see my article from last year comparing the carbon emissions associated with different ways to light your Jack-O’-Lanterns


I’ve detailed in a previous post what’s so special about ARPA-E, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, and how it’s become a critical agency under the Department of Energy (DOE) by providing financial support for innovations in energy technologies.

By funding the promising high-risk and high-reward projects, ARPA-E has proven an essential part of the ecosystem trying to solve the world’s most significant energy crises (climate change, fuel shortages, energy storage, etc.), as often such moon-shots ideas are considered by private investors too uncertain and require too long before potential returns.

In these situations, unless inventors and researchers are willing to get creative through crowdfunding or other other means, ARPA-E remains a main option for such risky projects.

Despite the utmost importance of ARPA-E to solving some of the most pressing problems of modern times, the program known as the “special forces for science and technology” has twice been targeted for elimination through President Trump’s proposed budgets.

In the face of such threats, though, ARPA-E has resiliently fended off these attacks and continues to be a beacon of hope and strength to innovators and the energy community.

You know who else has been held up of a beacon of hope and strength? Superman, of course! The all-American superhero has been a cultural mainstay since his debut 80 years ago and is always a popular Halloween costume.

To adapt the Superman motif for your energy-loving cohorts, I propose you go as his distant cousin ‘ARPA-E-Man.’ Such a costume should be simple enough– just grab the run of the mill Superman t-shirt and cape combination, then print out and attach the below Superman logo that has an ‘E’ (for energy) at the centre instead of ‘S.’

superman costume energy environment climate arpa-e
Source: Amazon
Superman costume E ARPA-E energy climate environment green
Source: serishirts

Just adding an ‘E’ to Superman isn’t quite enough of a connection, though, so you’re going to want to integrate some of ARPA-E-Man’s powers. While Superman has laser-eye vision, ARPA-E-Man has laser-based solid state lighting. And Superman flies towards the Sun to recharge his powers through the photo nucleic effect, but ARPA-E-Man has supported a plethora of solar innovations.

To showcase these powers of ARPA-E-Man, make your costume complete with a solar powered LED spotlight and explain to confused passersby the importance of ARPA-E and how the program continues to play an essential role to the future of solar power, innovative energy efficient lighting, and countless other energy-related research.

superman solar sun power renewable energy costume green environment
Source: Amazon
  • PriceSuperman t-shirt for $14.59, printout of ARPA-E-Man logo for free if you use the company printer (shh), and solar powered LED spotlight for $15.99; grand total of $30.58
  • Nerdy scale: 5/5: The ‘E’ will have to be explained even to people in the energy industry, but what a good opportunity to introduce non-industry people to the importance of projects ARPA-E supports!

Vogtle Nuclear Plant Construction Worker

Nuclear power has long been a lightning rod of debate across the world, dating back to the first breakthroughs in nuclear research during the Manhattan Project through the disasters of Three Mile Island and Fukushima that continue to instil fear in opponents of nuclear energy today.

However, a necessary ingredient to any Halloween gathering is the party-goer who isn’t afraid to be edgy with a controversial costume. Given the heated debate between advocates and opponents, nuclear power is certainly the topic in which to dabble in order to spur debate no matter where you wear your costume.

Those in the energy industry know that only one new nuclear reactor has come online in the United States in the past 20 years. The only active nuclear construction project, Plant Vogtle in Georgia, has been mired in controversy amid escalating costs ($2.3 billion more than originally budgeted), protests, missed deadlines (5 years behind schedule and counting), lawsuits, and pretty much every interruption you could imagine.

Amid all of these problems, construction had been halted. However, last month owners finally reached an agreement on resuming construction and in recent weeks more than 7,000 construction workers have returned to the job site.

Given these developments, dressing up as one of those recently returned construction workers at Plant Vogtle could provide a timely costume for your colleagues in energy circles to enjoy.

My idea: combine a construction worker outfit with a costume of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland— you know, the one always looking at the pocket watch and proclaiming “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”

Simply replace the Rabbit’s top hat with a hardhat (be sure to cut holes out for the ears) and the oversized purple jacket with a reflective orange vest, then enjoy your Halloween explaining to unamused onlookers who you’re supposed to be, why you think it’s hilarious, and explaining in detail your position on the construction of new nuclear reactors (the best part: this costume doesn’t  say if you’re for or against their construction, just comments on the ongoing delayed schedule– so it works for both the pro- and anti- sides of the debate).

white rabbit alice in wonderland costume halloween energy nuclear power green environment vogtle
Source: Amazon


construction worker costume nuclear power plant vogtle halloween energy
Source: Amazon
  • PriceWhite Rabbit costume for $94.99, White Rabbit’s clock for $7.09, and construction worker outfit for $13.79; grand total of $115.87
  • Nerdy Scale: 3/5: To the unsuspecting passerby, you’ll simply look like a construction working rabbit. The intuitive audience might make the connection with being late to just think you’re commenting on how all construction seems to run behind schedule. But once you explain to energy professionals that you’re in fact a Vogtle construction worker, you’ll be sure to get the coveted polite smile and nod!

Cyberattacks on the Electric Grid and Preventative Cybersecurity Measures

Protecting the electrical grids of the world from malicious cyberattacks has become among the most important issues in the energy sector in the past several years.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently created the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) to “address the emerging threats of tomorrow while protecting the reliability and security of American energy today” and is awarding up to $28 million “for new techniques to protect the power grid, oil pipelines and other energy networks from hackers.

These actions come amidst a myriad of other issues and cybersecurity threats in the energy space, including (but not limited to) the following:

If you’re interested in learning more about the cybersecurity risks to the U.S. electric grid, I recommend reading the Congressional Research Service (CSR) Report on the topic— but if you’re just interested in finding out how to turn this serious issue into a Halloween costume then read on!

All the more exciting, this idea works best as a couples costume, so be sure to send this great idea to your main squeeze and start debating who gets to by the cyberattacks on the grid and who gets to be the cybersecurity measures.

For the cyberattacks, the best physical manifestation of these attacks is a cartoon-like depiction of computer viruses. So start with this t-shirt to clearly show you’re portraying an infection and feel free to put your own spin on the idea of being infected through makeup, prosthetics, or a full-on zombie mask:

infected virus zombie cybersecurity cyberattack energy
Source: Amazon
zombie prosthetic cyberattack virus energy
Source: Amazon
zombie mask cyberattack virus infection costume halloween
Source: Amazon

Now you’ll be unmistakable as a virus, but how to make it clear that this virus is maliciously attacking energy systems? Simple: add these snazzy electricity-print leggings and accompany them with party-starting LED skeleton gloves.

electricity energy grid cybersecurity halloween costume
Source: Amazon
LED skeleton gloves cybersecurity cyberattack halloween costume electric grid
Source: Amazon

Throw all those pieces together and BADABING you’re dressed as a cyberattack on the electrical grid. Now how to make your partner the cybersecurity measures trying to block you? Easy: string together the below pieces of ‘security’ hatgreen bodysuitdigitization/circuit board t-shirt, and green light-up glasses and you’re immediately protecting the world’s energy systems from hacking:

cybersecurity hacking electric grid halloween costume
Source: govloop

IPCC Climate Report

I saved the scariest Halloween costume for last: earlier this month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an updated report on the situation surrounding climate change– and the warning was dire.

The IPCC found that to limit average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius greenhouse gas emissions must drop by nearly half by 2030, otherwise irreversible catastrophes would ensue (including extreme heat waves; devastating sea-level rise; more frequent and intense storms; and all the resultant poverty, hunger, and global conflict).

Basically, the IPCC report emphasized that the situation is even worse than we assumed, less time remains to address it than had been previously thought, and greater and more immediate action is required.

The IPCC Climate Report was undoubtedly the scariest thing that happened this month, so it makes perfect sense as a last-minute Halloween costume.

How can you go about creating an IPCC Climate Report costume? You could dress up as some sort of metaphor– a melting glacier, a dying Earth, etc. But that wouldn’t truly capture it, so I suggest a t-shirt that has the 225-page report printed on it. This shirt does not yet exist, but following the trend of people wearing shirts with entire movie scripts (such as Pulp Fiction or The Bee Movie) the opportunity certainly exists.

pulp fiction script t-shirt shirt climate change IPCC report halloween costume
Source: Litographs

Were we able to convince one of these t-shirt companies to print such a shirt with the entire IPCC Climate Report on it, then you’d be set with the spookiest costume at your Halloween party.

  • Price: TBD– you’ll have to reach out to the t-shirt makers or figure out the equipment yourself to find how to make this a reality (or perhaps I’ll do so and make a fortune selling them)
  • Nerdy Scale: 3/5: Mainstream media has covered the IPCC Climate Report and it’s been a hot topic ever since (though I would argue it’s not been covered enough– seriously, how is this already no longer the lead story of every newscast?). As such, this costume ends up less wonky than the others, but you’ll certainly have to fight through the eye-rolls of people worried that you’re going to be preachy. But fear not and do  be preachy. It’s ridiculous that the findings and follow up to the IPCC report isn’t the top topic in every political debate, media outlet, and serious conversation about the future. Forget the Superman costume, those who do the most to address the climate change dangers spelled out by the IPCC report will be the actual superheroes here to save the world!If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing todayIf this article on the winter holidays and energy use/CO2 emissions appeals to you, check out my other holiday themed articles for HalloweenThanksgivingChristmas/Hanukkah/KwanzaaSt. Patrick’s Day, and New Years Eve.  About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Washington DC, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.  

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