Whorled View

October 15, 2008

Too much rescue too soon can be bad in some places

Filed under: economics,economy,Politics — lullabyman @ 2:02 pm

I read this this morning:


In short, it details one example how politicians are fast tracking debt relief for some companies in order to prevent job loss.  This, of course, comes at a time when politicians need Michigan which is concerned far more about job loss than in producing a competitive car for our times.  Some job loss however is a necessary and extremely difficult and unpleasant necessity for a healthy and promising future, and I think this is one of those scenarios.

“… make the brutal and painful adjustments now in all their unprofitable product lines, and the gov’t should be focused on relocating those employees to industries that need growth: like the energy industry which needs $300 billion of investment in the next 8 years just to stay afloat.”

There are emerging markets, take wind and solar manufacturing plants for example, and those industries need people. Our auto industry has long been over-run and controlled by Unions, making them less efficient and less competitive, with auto quality and efficiency taking a backseat to job count, employee wages, and employee benefits. Sometimes the only way to clean the clock is to clean the clock. As Neiche said, “What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger”.

Well, we need to get stronger.  For too long we’ve been making gas guzzlers simply because radically shifting our production line would result in job loss regardless of the state of the economy.

Somehow theres this belief that it’s not okay to rescue the banks that have practiced predatory lending, and people think the banks should be left to suffer the consequences, but doesn’t anyone realize that the US auto manufacture deserve all the blame for not already have converted all their cars to fuel efficient cars?  It’s not like they didn’t see this coming.  Peak oil has been an established fact for nearly a decade now, and all the models have pointed to today as being the point where oil starts going through the roof.

“… the auto-industry saw this coming a long time ago and did nothing about it. Why are we rewarding that foolishness with free grants when a loan should suffice?”

GM has said they have enough reserves in this market to make it until 2010.  Doing so will require some massive layoffs, and a complete retooling of all their lines but they can do it.  It’s likely however that by then once their lines are retooled to create a more competitive car for our times they’ll be bankrupt at that point.  That’s when this $25 billion will be put to best use – after the patient has been purged of the oil addiction he’s been suffering for so long.  If they give this money to the auto industry today it will be used to keep gas guzzling production lines and associated jobs afloat instead of being invested in the production of lighter cars, LiFePO4 batteries, and electric drive trains.

In the late 1980’s the US DRAM (computer memory) market was strangled by unfair trade practices by Japan.  In 6 short months nearly all stateside manufacturers went belly up or got out of the market entirely.  Only 1 survived: Micron.  They survived by swiftly laying off 80% of it’s workforce when their analysis foresaw that any other action, or failure to act, would result in bankruptcy.  The remaining 20% spent all it’s time in development for 2 years to design a manufacturing process that was so superior that Japanese companies couldn’t compete with even with their illegal and unfair subsidized trade practices.  Within 4 years Micron their superior process and product made them the price point leader, exploding with exponential growth.  It’s stock went up 20X over the next 8 years.  A lot of Micron stock-owning potato farmers in Micron’s Idaho became very rich.

That’s what the US automakers need to do … and be quick and decisive and make the brutal and painful adjustments now in all their unprofitable product lines, and the gov’t should be focused on relocating those employees to industries that need growth: like the energy industry which needs $300 billion of investment in the next 8 years just to stay afloat.

“It’s time to step back, think about the consequences and then act prudently and decisively.”

In the meantime a few billion should probably be given to be disbursed toward R & D only, and toward the tooling of product lines better suited for today’s economic and environmental climate.  If certain R & D metrics are not met that funding should be put away.

The gov’t should also underwrite and insure loans to the auto-industry.  Like I said, the auto-industry saw this coming a long time ago and did nothing about it.  Why are we rewarding that foolishness with free grants when a loan should suffice?  It’s time to step back, think about the consequences and then act prudently and decisively.


April 25, 2008

REALITY CHECK: Electric Vehicle Fueling Stations

I thought this wasn’t doable until I ran the numbers. See … it depends on how the Electric Vehicle (EV) is built. You can trickle charge them overnight, or you can rapid-charge them in a matter of minutes if you have enough juice, but the battery must be designed for one method or the other. Right now they’re all designed for trickle charging overnight.

The problem with rapid (5 minute) charging is the amount of energy throughput required. The electrical grid would need some massive restructuring to provide the kind of throughput needed, which is very very expensive. The other option, which is far more likely than to get the power companies to do anything, is to generate it onsite via wind power or solar power.

The wind power is a slam dunk. Just one of these windmills can easily generate enough to charge 6 cars at a time … assuming it’s windy enough. This would be a no-brainer in many places. The Windmill will be around $500,000. The whole thing (including infrastructure power conditioning, and storage) should cost around $1.5 M. Not bad. No wonder wind power is by far the fastest growing renewable.

Solar is a little trickier. Ideally you’d put your panels over a parking lot for a shopping center or supermarket. You could also put them directly on top of the shopping center or supermarket, but I think a covered parking lot would be desirable enough for the shoppers such that the owners would probably provide the parking lot solar space for free. To support rapid filling 6 cars simultaneously you’re going to need about 6 acres of panels. A large parking lot should provide this, assuming that the panels will only cover parked cars. If more space is needed, a patchwork could be put over the low-traffic areas.

That’s not bad (I expected the space requirements to be more demanding). How about cost? About $3.5 million just for the solar array. Add another $2M for infrastructure (including panel supports, wiring, energy storage, and power conditioning) and you’re into it about $5.5 million. Sounds like a lot (especially compared to wind power), but if you charge $0.05/mile, which is about 1/4 of what gas currently costs for most Americans right now, you can turn a profit.

How much profit? At $0.05/mile you’ll be selling energy at twice the rate that grid normally costs, or $0.17/kWh. Assuming that the cars will be charged at a rate of 500kW (167W/car), and that you’ll charge an average of 3 cars (a generous assumption, imo) at a time between the hours of 7am and 10pm (15 hours), you’ll gross about $465k/yr from motorists. Then you’ll sell the excess back to the grid generating an additional $150k/yr (remember you’ll be using some of this excess in the evening and in some seasons). That’s not bad, but it’s not spectacular considering your loan and the costs of running such a business. In fact, it’s not much better than what you’d make just selling all the electricity back to grid, which is what you’ll do with the excess anyway. If you sell it back to grid you’ll still make about 70% as much per kWh, without having to deal with the bother and costs of running an EV Fueling Station.

Here’s the kicker though … just about the time you’ll have the original loan paid off … say in 20 years, it will be time to replace all the solar panels, costing you another $1.8M in today’s dollars (assuming solar prices will have dropped in half), but at least after that your net will be higher than it was with the original loan.

Still every penny counts when you run a business, so it looks like a good deal, and you’ll be providing a service to the EV community. It is however contingent on three extremely critical things: 1) that it’s sunny, and 2) that they build cars for rapid charging 3) that people will rapid charge their car at 2X the cost of what it costs them to do it at home overnight.

This last point sinks the whole deal for me. If convenience and the mighty dollar is king (and I think it is) people would prefer to just plug in their car when they get home, saving them money over the cost of rapid charging at the supermarket. If someone forgets to plug in their car at night, they’ll just generate their electricity on the fly with a built-in gas-powered generator. That is, incidentally, how they’re making the next generation hybrids, and all future EV’s will likely have that feature so you’ll never be stranded.

So there you go. Conclusion: Based on my analysis EV’s will NEVER be rapid charging nor will Electric Vehicle Fueling Stations exist for rapid charging purposes. That is unless all the solar cell manufacturers are bought up by the oil companies who then will then get into bed with the auto manufacturers, who will then agree to only make rapid-charge EVs that can only be charged in EV fueling stations (not at home).

Now that’s a scary thought. If that happens (doubtful) then this is a viable business. Due to the high upfront costs it’s maybe twice as profitable as a normal gas station is today (based on my google research). But in this scenario where Automakers produce only rapid-charge EVs, which I think is unlikely, this would be a sure thing. Note that there will be limited places where this can be done: shopping centers and supermarkets where there is enough space to also put a gas-station-sized EV station.

PS- here’s the math for those who like math:

Solar Array Energy Generating capability:
Most of the EV cars over the next 10-15 years will likely have 15kWh storage capacity as Advanced Li-Ion batteries. These batteries can be made to completely charge in 5 minutes, but that’s like 15kWh in 5 minutes, and if you have 6 cars doing that simultaneously, that’s 90kWh in 5 minutes That requires a energy generation capability of 90000Wh *(60min/h)/(5 min) = 1MW (approx).

Solar Panel Space Requirements:
On average a good 3×8 panel will provide about 100 Watts, so you’ll need 10,000 of these panels (minimum) assuming it’s sunny all day (1M/100=10,00 panels). That will take up 6 acres of panels (3ftx8ft*10,000 = 240,000ft^2 = 6 acres).

Solar Panel Cost:
Today if you buy in bulk and if you’re lucky you can get solar panels at $3.5/Watt. This cost has not changed much in the last 10 years. It isn’t expected to drop much in the next 10-20 years even with an explosion of supply simply because demand is so high, and as soon as the price drops demand increases to stabilize the price. 1 Million W at 3.5/Watts = $3.5 Million just for the solar array (infrastructure not included).

Gross Annual Income:
($0.17/kWh which is what you’re charging) * (500kW used to charge 3 cars continuously) * (15 h/day) * (365days/yr) = $465k

April 14, 2008

Solar Cells on Cars … wouldn’t it be … lame?

Filed under: conservation,earth,ecology,economics,energy,environment,solar,Technology — lullabyman @ 6:31 am

“Solar cells on cars! Wouldn’t it be great?! I can’t wait to get mine and stick it to the man and never have to pay for gas ever again!”

This is probably one of the most common things I hear when I talk to most people about electric cars or solar technology (both subjects I know just a little about). I admit … it is a great dream. It is also a dream based on the assumption that solar cells are getting somewhat close to being about to provide the power to operate a car, which incidentally consumes a tremendous amount of energy to transport you from “A” to “B”. This is a concept that most people have no clue about: gasoline packs an amazing amount of punch. The energy density found in this liquid that you just pump out of the ground is phenomenal.

Then you have solar cells, the alternative. The sad fact is that the best commercially available solar cells only convert 20% of the sun’s energy to electricity. Try this: go outside when it’s sunny and notice how hot the sun feels on your face. Then stand behind some tall trees that filter out about 80% of the sun’s direct rays. Suddenly get cold? That’s about how much of that energy is available to you with the very best (ie. ugly) commercially available solar cells. Sexy solar cells (black and curvy) are at best half as efficient (less than 10%).

So the next question is: how far will that take you if you tile them all over you your Tesla Motor’s Roadster (a super efficient Electric Vehicle)? I’m thinking around 4 miles/day. Tesla Motor’s did the analysis though and said you don’t want to put them on the hood, so you’re looking at 2 miles/day. See the math for yourself (they did it so I don’t have to )<:).

So using the best commercial solar cells possible on a very efficient road-worthy EV you get a range of 1 mile per day from where you live (remember you have to drive both ways).

Hmmm … One mile? Why don’t you get a bicycle instead.

But what if …. what if some quantum-dot nano-particle super-ultraconducting-lattice PV solar cell was invented that was 80% efficient? Yeah, that would be cool… very cool. You’ll be able to drive 16 miles per day in your Tesla Roadster (up to 8 miles from your house)! Of course, you could only do this when it’s at least moderately sunny. Also, your car is going to be hot and muggy inside because it sat in the sun all day. Plus, your car would probably cost a million dollars and won’t be available for 50 years or more when just such efficient solar cells are invented (not being a pessimist … just a realist).

But hey … you’d get bragging rights. 😉

“My car is powered by solar. Neener-neener.”

“Oh is that right, Smarty pants?”

“Yeah, powered by solar, you knuckle dragging galoot.”

“Actually I’m more of a car-pounding galoot”. [smack!] “He he he … Now what is it powered by, Smarty pants?”

Yeah, Ouch! High efficiency solar cells are quite fragile. That’s also why you don’t want to put them on the hood of your car. Or on the trunk. Or … maybe anywhere on your car.

So what about the solar car challenges that schools compete in every year where they race their solar cars over 100 mph and travel like 100’s miles/day? Have you seen those things? They’re marvels of engineering.

They’re also very fragile, designed for one very cramped person with extremely limited visibility, maneuverability (designed to only go straight), no AC, no heat, no lights, and no safety (relatively speaking). Consider this … in 2004 Andrew Frow, (from U-of-Toronto) was driving the winner of the American Solar Challenge Safety Award when he unexpectedly swerved into oncoming traffic and was instantly killed. A tragedy for sure that should never be trivialized. What’s important though is that similar accidents happen at events like this on almost an annual basis (although that was the only one to collide with a car resulting in a death) and the racers and designers are indeed as careful as they can be but these cars are built only to win competitions, not save lives.

No, using the Solar Challenge Cars as justification for Solar powered commuter cars is kind of like jettisoning airplane passengers over destinations because people successfully sky dive. I’m thinking you probably want your car to be 1) comfortable, 2) fit multiple people, 3) have AC, heat, air, 4) windows, 5) good visibility, 6) maneuverability, 7) safety features, 8) survive a crash from any side, 9) have room for groceries, 10) look good, 11) be in your favorite color, and 12) be functional after a basketball bounces off it.

BUT YOU CAN HAVE THAT IN A SOLAR POWERED CAR TODAY! Just get an electric vehicle and charge it’s batteries with solar panels on your house. Go with the Toyota Prius (or hold out for the Chevy Volt if you want to look cool). Better yet, if you live near the Mojave desert in California then forget about solar panels because the electricity in your house is already solar powered.

A MUCH CHEAPER WAY TO DO IT: Yes, in fact, if you put solar panels on your house you can sell the electricity back to the grid at a 2:1 price. So why would you put solar panels on your car anyway? You save twice as much $ putting them on your house.

NEV: Now, admittedly I’ve been a curmudgeon about this issue, and I should at least throw the “pack your own solar” fans a bone. There is a viable “pack your own solar” Car in the form of a “NEV” (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle), but I’d be scared to drive it on any of our streets. Still, if you like electric golf carts and you live in a leisure neighborhood and you don’t like to walk it might be just what you’re looking for: http://www.sunnev.com. It’s cheap too!

They say it does 3 mi/day. The economics works because it’s so light, and it’s light because it’s a glorified golf cart. With increased weight the power requirements will go up porportionally. A comfortable sedan is about 10 times heavier and will additionally have a lot more friction (internal and against the road).

Don’t get me wrong. Solar is great. I personally think it will play a very major part in the future of the world’s energy solution, including mobility. Just not in the way that you probably envisioned it.

In fact, eventually some (may be all) cars will have solar cells embedded in their design but they just won’t really do anything other than keep your battery from going dead, or maybe power a fan that will keep your car cool on the hottest days while it’s parked in the sun (they’ll probably be integrated into your rear window). They already sell after-market window units that do this (you have to slightly unroll your window where the device is located).

In short, sometimes it’s good to remember that when you take the best of all technologies and mix it all together into a single unit, the sum is less than the parts. Solar is one of those things that sometimes acts that way. I’d gladly be proven wrong though by some genius who figures out how to cheaply squeeze a lot more energy out of the sun than our current commercially available solar cells do. Until then, have an extension cord ready, because EV’s will be giving internal combustion engines a run for their money within the next 5-10 years and you’re going to need a lot more juice for them than an affordable solar array will provide.

February 16, 2008

The Homeland Production Agency: An idea who’s time has come.

Filed under: economics,Technology — lullabyman @ 9:11 pm

We should be getting a nice fat tax rebate this year thanks to the economy being in the toilet. I should be grateful but I can’t help but think that this tax rebate will have little effect on the economy while it balloons both inflation and the deficit. Most of everything we buy today is made overseas so all the rebate will really do is put more money into the pockets of our Asian neighbors. Very little of it will end up staying here in the US of A. What good is it if everyone buys a flatpanel TV where only 20% of that rebate stays in the country (as Walmart’s markup), which remainder Walmart employees will use to buy the foreign-made Nintendo Wii to use with said foreign-made TV.

“…only 20% of that rebate stays in the country (as Walmart’s markup), which remainder Walmart employees will use to buy the foreign-made Nintendo Wii to use with said foreign-made TV

The other problem with the existing rebate (besides the dangerous impact on inflation and the deficit) is the removal from circulation by nervous consumers. With the bleak future constantly thrown in our faces people are likely to conserve as much as possible.

To stimulate the economy you must put money in a system that keeps it in the country and keeps it in circulation. President Bush’s current stimulus package does very little if anything to this effect.

My solution came from an idea I had while visiting www.madeintheusa.com. It has a quote in the side bar which says, “There are 293 million people living in the United States. If each one would shift $20 a month in spending from foreign made products to American made products, that would create 5 million new jobs.”

“There are 293 million people living in the United States. If each one would shift $20 a month in spending from foreign made products to American made products, that would create 5 million new jobs.”

Wow. Adjusting $20/month from one brand to another will create 5 million new jobs – and thats without any “new” spending. Imagine if the whole stimulus plan (roughly $1200/family) could be used for only domestically made products. The economic effect would be enormous. But how do you earmark that money for domestically manufactured products? $150 billion is a lot of money, so the corruption to acquire would be an acceptable risk for many (if not most) companies with foreign products. In short, it would necessitate yet another government entity (booo!) to monitor business and corporate supply claims: the Homeland Production Agency or “HPA”.

But it’s time has come. Being a Republican who has some John Birch leanings I shudder to think of creating another government agency, nevertheless it is an evil necessity. There must be an agency that has as it’s main goal the encouragement of production in our Homeland. Such an agency would work closely with the IRS (which it would eventually replace – so really no additional bureaucracy is being created) to provide tax incentives for companies to incorporate US made parts and pieces. Because of tax incentives, corporate taxes must account for which supplies are imported or domestic, and the HPA must verify those claims. Each product then gets a HPA rating where 0% means it is wholly foreign made and 100% means it’s wholly domestically made, all parts and pieces included. Lastly, the HPA would be responsible for making sure tax rebates go toward domestically made products as much as possible.

“Each product then gets a HPA rating where 0% means it is wholly foreign made and 100% means it’s 100% domestically made – all parts and pieces included.”

This last item seems the trickiest (although it isn’t as I’ll show below). How does the HPA make sure that 100% of your tax rebate goes toward purchasing domestically produced products? Simple (although in practice it will be a task initially costing 100’s of millions): by making the HPA pay for the products directly, and through a system already in place that facilitates the power of internet database processing.

It would involve using a modified version of Paypal as the payment system, and your Social Security number gives you access to an HPA-paypal account to where your tax rebate will be deposited. You may even add to this balance if you wish. Any website can implement the HPA-paypal system – as simply as adding any other payment module (as an ecommerce programmer, let me assure you that this is very easy to do).

“Any website can implement the HPA-paypal system – as simply as adding any other payment module (as an ecommerce programmer, let me assure you that this is very easy to do).

For example, let’s say you get a letter from the IRS that your HPA rebate has arrived, so you log onto amazon.com (or any e-commerce website). Let’s say that you want to buy a leafblower, a trampoline, a Wii, a doodad, and a Schwinn ten-speed. You select “HPA-Paypal” for my payment method and check out. HPA pays 100% for the leafblower and trampoline because they’re both made entirely in the US, but only for half of the Schwinn because of the foreign parts, and nothing for the Wii, made entirely outside the US. HPA won’t pay for the doodad either because the doodad manufacturer didn’t register their product with the HPA and so it isn’t in the HPA database. Note that amazon.com doesn’t need any of this information – it’s all taken care of at check-out by HPA when they pull the info from the HPA database. At checkout you enter a credit card to pay for the remainder of the balance that the HPA won’t pay (for foreign manufactured products). Piece of cake … for everyone concerned.

“You log onto amazon.com … select HPA-Paypal for my payment method … and enter a credit card to pay for the balance that the HPA won’t pay. Piece of cake.”

Ten years ago funding domestically made products like this would have been impossibly difficult. Today such a system can be put into place within months (at least on a limited basis initially), and become a necessary and powerful tool to be used down the road to address future economic issues. All the pieces are already in place. It could, in fact, provide the framework for a less intrusive, and consumption based tax method as we begin to deal the the problems inherent in today’s income tax methods.  At that time there would be no more need for the IRS, so we’d end up with no greater bureaucracy than we currently have (it would actually shrink because the HPA based consumption tax would be far easier to administer than an income tax system).  It is, in short, a no-brainer.

January 24, 2008

70% Solar Energy by 2050: Scientific American

Probably one of the best layman articles on the subject from a contemporary perspective except for one major problem. Nevertheless it’s worth a good read. Check it out: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan

The problem: Once again it places more emphasis on Solar PV than Solar thermal. It pretends to justify this by throwing around some magical numbers that at this point are pure theory and highly unlikely. Compare that to Solar thermal where the numbers are even better and are proven.

Case in point: It says Cadmium Telluride (nanosolar film) will be able to produce electricity for $0.05/kWh by 2020. This is based on the theory that they can get efficiencies up to 14%. I’m sorry, but I’m quite convinced that in order to do that they’ll have to enable some technologies that will up the price of the manufacturing enough to blow that number out of the water. They think they can improve the efficiency by 40%, based on what? Silicon solar efficiencies have improved maybe 10% in the last 20 years? Sure Cadmium Telluride went from 8% to 9% in the last year, but they’re approaching a ceiling that will get extremely hard to raise. My guess is that it will top out at 12%, which leaves solar PV maxing out at $0.06/kWh assuming all other costs stay the same, which they won’t. Add to that $0.04 /kWh for storage and you get 0.10/kWh, AND YOU HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL 2020 TO SEE THAT RESULT.

Compare that to Ausra’s Solar thermal technology which by 2013 should produce electricity, including storage, at $0.07 /kWh.

HELLO!? Am I the only one running these numbers? Solar Thermal is so superior. Nothing, I repeat: NOTHING should go toward the development of something that will cost more near term and long term than Solar Thermal will.

Two more reasons Solar thermal is better:

TIME TO MARKET: Unlike any kind of Solar PV solar thermal uses no fancy technology. It uses no special materials that require special processing. The materials and the parts and pieces that make solar thermal plants are found all throughout existing industrial parks across America -and at bargain prices. All you need is the money to buy them (tons cheaper than what Solar PV factories cost), and people to build them (requires no special training or science). All these things are in stark contrast to the supply problems that have plagued the Solar PV industry. Solar PV, whether it’s thin film or otherwise, will never be able to scale up at the rate that the Scientific American author suggests. The materials and processing equipment demands are just too great even if the money was there … can’t be done.

LIFETIME: A solar thermal plant lasts almost forever if cared for correctly. Sure parts of the turbine needs replacing as with any turbine including the ones used by SolarPV to reconvert pressurized gas to electricity, but thats about it. No solar cells to replace. The mirrors last forever. The dewar tubes containing the molten salt or H2O (Ausra’s technology) should last a very long time if maintained right. Compare that to SolarPV where the life of the Solar Cells is 20-30 years at the most. Also you’ll have to replace the compressors as well as the turbines parts in the Solar PV plant (incidentally solar thermal needs no compressors – another bonys). Can you imagine that? With a Solar PV plant you’re replacing practically the whole plant every 20-30 years. Not so with Solar Thermal.

In short, media bias favoring Solar PV once again garners unworthy support, thereby siphoning off the funds from Solar Thermal, possibly in order to fatten the wallets of those who invest in Solar PV (Al Gore) or work for the industry. Solar PV, even in Cadmium Telluride thin films will forever be inferior, less efficient, and a more expensive technology than Solar thermal. Articles like this that have some fantastic information and promote the use of the Sun’s rays almost do more bad than good by obfuscating the issue and guaranteeing that our hard earned tax dollars will be taken away from Solar Thermal and reinvested in Solar PV assuming that Solar PV will someday meet the magic numbers that it was supposed to achieve 20-30 years ago, and neither will we solve our energy problems as quickly as we could if all the funds went to something like what Ausra does (www.ausra.com).

November 20, 2007

The Vitamin C “Dead Zone”

Filed under: economics,Health,media bias,medicine,Science,Vitamin C — lullabyman @ 4:47 pm

Most medical practitioners do not understand how the body utilizes high concentrations of ascorbates (Vitamin C and it’s buffered variants). As a result clinical studies for Vitamin C are poorly designed and result in inadequate and misleading conclusions. Ultimately such misleading conclusions discourage medical practitioners from using vitamin-based treatments despite a growing number of studies with seemingly polar opposite conclusions that strongly promote the use of vitamin-based therapies and treatments. This is a globally important issue, since vitamin-based therapies provide the world with cheap and effective treatments that are readily available. Sadly those same therapies are widely disparaged because of an overwhelming amount of research inappropriately done in what I call the “dead zone”. Read more about this “dead zone” here: http://www.the-austins.com/Vitamin%20C%20Dead%20Zone.html

Dead Zone Effectiveness

Dead Zone Economics

November 14, 2007

Solar Thermal Energy: the claims just keep getting better

According to this CNN article released today Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) that harnesses the heat of the sun (not the brightness of the sun, which is what Solar PV does) just keeps looking better. Among the claims:

1) Electricity produced by CSP can be as cheap as 8 cents per kWh. That’s about 20% cheaper than most people are paying in the united states right now for electricity. That’s1/4 the cost of electricity produced by the ever so much more popular Solar PV panels.

2) A 92 x 92 square mile CSP farm placed in the empty barren desert in the SW United States could produce all the energy needed by the whole United States.

3) It could easily solve the desalinated water shortage crisis – which for many countries is a much bigger problem than any kind of oil shortage crisis.

4) Only 0.3% of the Sahara desert is needed to power most of Europe and upper Africa, resulting in a 70% carbon reduction for the region. It will save astonishing amounts of money too as cities must otherwise relocate costing of 100’s billions of dollars, whereas it could all be averted with a CSP plant in the $10 billions of dollar range.

5) Since 90% of the world lives relatively close to desert or to substantial power grids connected to such areas then 90% of the world’s population can be served by this breathtakingly economical and clear resource.

Strangely enough some of the biggest opponents to CSP appear to be a group of environmentalists and key Democrat politicians who seem to be letting expected tax incentives lapse. Based on my last post, you’ll see that this comes as no surprise to me. For 30 years they’ve been trying to keep CSP in the background so industry experts could make money off new alternative energy startups that will never compare with respect to efficiency, cost, and time to market.

These tax incentives for the power companies are vital. Even though CSP may be cheaper than filthy fossil fuels, power companies are making tons of money on fossil fuels. They have the right to jack the prices as high as they need, and at times like now when there is no shortage, but the cost is high due to political concerns, they make all the money. Why? Because they already own such a huge interest in the reserves. The only way to get power companies to build CSP farms is to financially encourage them – and that isn’t happening.

November 12, 2007

Al Gore says something really stupid again

He won the popular vote for President of the United States. He jumped on the green energy bandwagon. For those two things I applaud him.

Everything else he’s done reminds me what an incredible stroke of luck it was that he lost the electoral vote. I posted earlier about how awful of a job I thought he did on the “Inconvenient Truth”, and I suggested similar programs that were far better on a number of levels – although even they were seriously flawed. His moaning throughout the program about how unfairly he was treated and about how little data convinced him of global warming were tedious at best, and the treatment of any of the data he presented was excruciating from a statistical standpoint. The worst part of it was his solution to the problem (use less electricity and spend money on technologies that were entirely unlikely to help), which was the equivalent of stopping a fire hydrant with a stick of bubble gum. Besides, you cannot begin to legislate that. Neither can you force China to do that. The solution should have been this: we need tons of cheap clean energy and we need it fast, and stop investing in technology that has no chance of being competitive with coal.

Nothing else will work. Gore seems oblivious on this point.

Does such a ridiculous remark have anything to do with the fact that he runs a Venture Capitalist firm that invests largely in these inferior “competitive” technologies?

So what now did he recently say that filled me with disgust? What proved his underlying blind ignorance to institute “fairness” at the expense of achieving the ultimate goal? It was simply this: When an Ausra executive said that their Solar Thermal technology would produce electricity so cheap as to “thrash” all the other alternatives, Gore reprimanded him for “assassinating” the competition. You can read about it here at the end of this fortune magazine article from November 12th. Be sure to read also the blindedly ignorant opinion of the author of the article, gushing over Gore like he was a rock-star who could do no wrong.

Excuse me?! Why is Gore being overly protective of less efficient, more expensive, and slower to market technologies?! Can you say “biased”? Can you say “self-serving”? Does such a ridiculous remark have anything to do with the fact that he runs a Venture Capitalist firm that invests largely in these inferior “competitive” technologies?

… when someone says something extremely stupid that also reveals their true motives it’s time to call a spade a spade …

If Gore was truly interested in saving the planet, then he would have said something smart like “Wonderful! Let the competition begin!”. And that, my friends, is why we are in the current mess that we are in. Solar Thermal has been capable of providing us with near grid-cost energy for a dozen years while people like Gore have insisted that all the DOE funds go to more expensive and less efficient, and less eco-friendly projects.

Am I the only one that sees a conflict of interest in making a Eco-Venture-Capitalist-Advisor into the Czar of environmentally friendly technologies? Are people really so stupid as to think such a person could be objective? And journalists … when someone says something extremely stupid as well as revealing of their true motives it’s time to call a spade a spade instead of praising the person for senselessly sticking to their rusty and hypocritical guns.

October 21, 2007

Winning the War on Terror through Vitamin C

Filed under: defense,economics,Health,medicine,middle-east,Science,Vitamin C,war — lullabyman @ 3:05 am

The war on Terror costs money. Lots of it. It seems then that the best way to win the war on terror is to free up tons of money, making it available to the economy so the war on terror can be funded. After all, most wars are not won on the battlefield anymore than they are in the pocketbook. Whoever can afford to fight the longest and hardest wins.

Where to get such money? Well, according to the results of a British researcher: http://torontosun.com/Lifestyle/2007/10/20/4590932-sun.html we could very likely solve heart disease problem cheaply and efficiently and heart disease is (the #1 killer in the United States) costs Americans more money every year by far than does the Iraqi conflict. The wild thing is that tons of research backs up this claim the cheap doses of Vitamin E (an antioxidant), cheap resveratrol (another antioxidant), and cheap megadoses of Vitamin C can prevent, and even reverse the conditions that lead to heart attacks, and yet our “noble” allopathic tradition discourages it, claiming that it’s dangerous because it can give you diarrhea … or even worse: it might make you fart!

Oh! The horrors!

Meanwhile the war on terror is bankrupting the world, yet heart disease costs even more. Same thing with Cancer (costs more than the war on terror), which disease is also very treatable, very effectively by extremely cheap IV based ascorbate treatments (as high as 200 mg/day, but usually 70 mg twice/week is adequate). So if we started using these cheap treatments and reinvesting that money usually spent on Cancer and Heart Disease into the economy then we would have more than enough to pay for the War on Terror. Not to mention it would save 100,000,000’s lives every year worldwide – allowing the patients to live full and productive lives.

But then who’s going to pay for all the Yachts? No wonder the AMA and your very own doctor frowns upon anything that has anything to do with Vitamin C. And so we’ll bankrupt the economy of the world. Just remember – it wasn’t the war that did it. It was the refusal to save money where money could have been saved.

July 3, 2007

Bussard’s Polywell, Part 1 (of 2): the greatest invention of all time?

Being deeply interested in the future of Energy, and knowing the interesting fact that what 99% of the public hears is pure baloney, I’m always on the lookout for the latest and greatest new energy technology and this one is worth mentioning. A little background for you non-physics-types first …

E=mc^2 means that if you could convert matter directly to energy then you could get an unbelievable amount of energy from it. One ton (think of a dump truck full of dirt) could power 3 Million homes for a year. Or it can provide the propulsion for space tourists to cheaply fly around the solar system and beyond, and at much higher speeds than is currently possible. The Polywell EIF (Inertial-Electrodynamic Fusion) device, invented by Robert Bussard who was a former Assistant Director to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), can do just that. It seems to have overcome all the major obstacles facing fusion.

The Polywell Reactor
The Polywell Fusion Reactor

That said, don’t confuse a fusion (fuse atoms together) reactor with a fission (tears atoms apart) reactor. Dangerous and dirty fission is what all contemporary nuclear reactors use. If it helps you, think “fusion = fuse together, or build up”, “fission = tear apart, destroy”. Fusion is usually good because it produces safe byproducts, fission is bad because it usually produces dangerous byproducts and requires radioactive fuel.

The proposed fusion-based energy generator uses Boron of which we have enough reserves to last us 200,000 years (at our current energy usage). What’s more is that the only byproduct is unreactive (safe) helium which harmlessly vents naturally to space, where it is the 2nd most abundant element in the universe.

Sounds better than Solar CSP of which I’m such a huge fan. Time will tell.

I’m convinced Einstein would love it Why not us?

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