Airbus proposing Measures to Reduce the Aviation Carbon Footprint that may make Flying more Dangerous

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2012

Week in Review

Airplanes are very complex machines.  They fly at speeds 3-4 times the speeds they land and take off at.  Which requires leading edge slats and trailing edge flaps to curve the wing more at low speed to increase lift.  While flattening it out more at high speeds to reduce drag.  When landing pilots put the engines into reverse thrust to help slow the plane down.  So they even use fuel to slow down.

And speaking of fuel it’s expensive.  Airlines carry as little of it as possible in their airplanes to reduce weight which reduces costs.  Sometimes bad weather forces planes to go to an alternate airport.  Sometimes there are strong headwinds.  Sometimes they fly into Heathrow and have to circle for a half hour or so to land.  Because they only have two runways.  Compounding this problem planes are getting lighter and engines are getting more efficient.  Allowing airlines to carry even less fuel.  So it is not uncommon for a pilot to declare a fuel emergency because of unexpected additional flying time.

When flying in the air highways air traffic controllers keep airplanes separated by large distances.  To keep them from running into each other.  The more distance the better so they can take evasive actions to avoid bad weather cells.  Or allow a plane some leeway in case they have a system malfunction (like plugged pitot tubes feeding false air speed and altimeter readings into the autopilot) that takes the plane off course.  Or in case a plane flies into some clear air turbulence (CAT) and it drops out of the sky 1,000 feet or so.  Or rises 1,000 feet or so.  Two things that allow a plane to recover from unplanned events like these are empty skies around you and altitude.

Aviation has come a long way.  And Boeing and Airbus are making some incredible airplanes.  So they know a thing or two about flying an airplane.  And it shows in their planes.  Which makes it hard to take them seriously when they talk about ways to reduce their carbon footprint by making flying more risky (see Airbus To Present Measures To Reduce Industry’s Environmental Footprint by Jens Flottau posted 9/6/2012 on Aviation Week).

Airbus on Sept. 6 will unveil five measures it says will make the aviation industry environmentally sustainable by 2050 despite projected growth for global air transport…

Airbus also foresees a new method for takeoff, with renewably powered propelled acceleration allowing aircraft to climb steeper and reach cruise altitude faster. This in turn would allow airports to build shorter runways and minimize land use.

Once in cruise, aircraft should be able to self-organize and select the most efficient routes, says Airbus. On dense routes, aircraft could fly in formation, like birds, to take advantage of drag reduction opportunities.

In Airbus’ vision, aircraft will descend without using engine power or air brakes and would be able to decelerate quicker and to a lower final approach speed enabling them to use shorter runways…

Fuel is a key component of Airbus’ proposal, and the manufacturer says the use of biofuels hydrogen, electricity and solar energy will be required to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint.

You simply can’t build shorter runways.  Because planes aren’t perfect.  Sometimes things happen.  If we had shorter runways what would happen to a plane landing with damaged leading edge slats or trailing edge flaps?  And they have to land at a higher speed than normal because they can’t curve the wing to create more lift at lower speeds?  And what if a plane’s thrust reversers failed to deploy?  This is why we have long runways.  To give planes with problems a better chance to land safely.

Flying commercial jets in formation?  Not a good idea.  One of the most dangerous things to do in the Air Force is aerial refueling.  Where two large planes get real close to each other.  If they bump into each other they could cause some damage.  Even cause them to crash.  Flying in formation would be exhausting for a pilot.  Or they could entrust their formation flying to an autopilot.  But if they hit some CAT and get thrown around in that airspace they could get thrown into each other.  Even while flying on autopilot.  Planes also make their own turbulence.  Which is why there are larger distances between the big planes (i.e., the heavies) and the small ones.  So the small ones don’t get flipped over by some spiraling wingtip vortex turbulence off the heavy in front of it.

Solar energy?  Really?  How?  It’s not going to propel a jumbo jet.  And if they think they’re going to save on engine emissions by using solar panels on the wings to produce electricity for the cabin lights and electronics I don’t think that will work.  The emissions from the electrical load on those engines may be negligible compared to emissions they make producing thrust for flight.  And if they add more weight (solar panels) that will only take more fuel for flight.  Which will release more emissions.  Finally, a lot of planes fly at night.  When there is no sunshine.  What then?

Trying to reduce a plane’s carbon footprint will only make flying more dangerous.  It’s one thing to throw money away building solar panels and windmills on the ground.  For that’s just ripping the people off.  But applying this nonsense to aviation may end up killing people.  It’s hard to believe that Airbus is serious with these suggestions.  One wonders if they’re just proposing this to get those proposing that carbon trading scheme to back off as it will increase the cost of flying.  Which will reduce the number of people flying.  And reduce the number of planes Airbus can sell.  Perhaps by dangling this green future of aviation they may buy some time before the carbon trading scheme kills the aviation industry.

Fighting nonsense with nonsense.  It’s just as good an explanation as any.

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Britain is revisiting the Laws of Voluntary Euthanasia to End a Patient’s Suffering

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2012

Week in Review

Some people with a terminal illness suffer horribly.  And there are some who would like to help these people not suffer so much.  Through voluntary euthanasia.  As long as it’s not a doctor killing these patients (see Terminal illness sufferers ‘should be allowed help to die’ says new minister by John-Paul Ford Rojas posted 9/8/2012 on The Telegraph).

Anna Soubry said current laws on voluntary euthanasia were dishonest and needed to “evolve” to allow people to die at home.

But Ms Soubry, in her first interview as Under-Secretary of State for Health, maintained her opposition to allowing doctors to end patients’ lives…

[Labour minister Lord Falconer of Thoroton] said the commission came to the same conclusion “that you should assist people to kill themselves subject to stringent safeguards but not allow doctors to kill their patients”.

Odd, really.  Doctors can’t kill people who are suffering and who have already lived their lives.  But doctors can kill an unborn child with an entire life ahead of that child.  And it is a life in the womb because people have sued those responsible for harming their unborn child.  Making euthanasia and abortion complicated issues indeed.

Further complicating these issues is national health care.  Specifically, the rising costs of national health care.  For if they start a policy of euthanasia how long will it be before they use it to address those rising costs?  For some already justify abortion as the less expensive option of bringing an unwanted, state-supported child into the world.

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Kroger’s Profits dropped as they Struggled to Provide Inexpensive Groceries for Middle Class and Low-Income Families

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2012

Week in Review

People like to complain about the high price of groceries.  And a lot of people are doing that today.  Some even demand that the president do something about it to help the poor and middle class.  And he is.  He’s greatly expanded the food-stamp program.  As well as causing the high price of groceries in the first place (see Kroger profit dips but tops expectations by Associated Press posted 9/7/2012 on the Los Angeles Times).

Kroger Co., operator of Ralphs and other supermarket chains, said its profit slipped slightly in its second quarter on higher expenses and an increased tax rate.

The Cincinnati-based company said a key sales figure rose during the period as its loyalty program helped attract shoppers. But merchandise costs — which include advertising, warehouse and transportation expenses — also rose 4.3%.

Like other supermarkets, Kroger has been paying more to stock its shelves as a result of rising commodity costs.  The company has tried to offset the effect by introducing more store-brand items, which lessens its need to stock up on brand-name products…

Kroger is also facing higher costs. Its tax rate in the latest quarter rose to 34.5%, from 27.6% a year earlier.

I heard a kid call in on a talk radio show.  I think it was Rush Limbaugh.  Because I just left after having lunch.  Some young kid probably repeating what he heard his parents said.  He said something about the bags of chips he bought had fewer chips in them these days.  And he blamed President Obama for that.  The radio host laughed.  But said he did not believe it was the president’s fault.  Of course, the radio host was wrong.

All the Obama administration has done to stimulate economic activity is to encourage consumer spending.  With stimulus spending.  Deficit spending.  Lowering of interest rates.  Printing money (quantitative easing).  More low-income benefits.  Anything and everything to encourage people to spend, spend, spend.  But nothing to create a more business-friendly environment.  High taxes and high regulations and high energy costs increase the cost of doing business.  Forcing them to raise their prices to cover their costs.  Or to put fewer potato chips in bags of chips these days.  Because they just can’t raise their prices anymore.  So they have to lower the portion of chips in those bags to cover their costs.

Higher taxes on those ‘who can most afford to pay them’ (i.e., businesses) INCRESE the cost of living for everyone who buys from those businesses.  Like Kroger.  If the Obama administration cut tax rates businesses could more easily pay their advertising, warehouse and transportation expenses.  If the Obama administration eliminated the ethanol requirement for our gasoline there would be more corn available to feed our chickens and cattle.  Which would lower the prices of milk, eggs, cheese and hamburger.  If the Obama administration didn’t print so many dollars the dollar wouldn’t have depreciated so much and increased prices.  And potato chip manufacturers would not have to put fewer chips in their bags of potato chips to cover their costs.

So, yes, young talk radio caller.  You are right.  It is President Obama’s fault there are fewer potato chips in your bag of chips.

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The August Unemployment Rate falls to 8.1% as the Unemployed Quit Looking for Jobs that just aren’t There

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2012

Week in Review

The August job numbers are out.  And they’re horrible (see Why unemployment rate fell: Fewer people seek jobs by CHRISTOPHER S RUGABER and Christopher S. Rugaber, Associated Press, posted 9/7/2012 on Yahoo! News).

The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July. But that was only because more people gave up looking for jobs. People out of work are counted as unemployed only if they’re looking for a job…

The number of people working or looking for work shrank in August by 368,000, the government said…

Here’s a milestone that’s difficult for President Barack Obama to brag about: There are 133.3 million Americans working — 261,000 short of the number when he was inaugurated in January 2009.

Democrats can talk all they want about new jobs they added each month with their policies but there has been no recovery.  Despite their exuberant cheerleading and the Recovery Summer of 2010 there are still fewer people working today than there were when President Obama began implementing his policies.  And it’s worse if you look at the U-6 unemployment rate.  Which measures people who gave up looking for work as well as those working part time because they can’t find full time work.  The August U-6 unemployment rate is 14.7%.  So the real unemployment rate is 6.6 points higher than the official rate.  Or 81.5% higher.

The Obama administration has tried just about every Keynesian tool in the Keynesian toolbox.  From stimulus spending.  To quantitative easing (i.e., printing money).  And here we are almost 4 years later with a U-6 unemployment rate of 14.7%.  Why?  Because Keynesian economics is just a way to empower government.  It does not create real economic growth.  Like policies that favor the stages of production.  Policies that create a business-friendly environment.  From resource extraction to industrial processing to manufacturing to consumer sales.

The Keynesians only focus on the last stage.  And leave in place policies that hurt the upper stages.  Which explains why their policies don’t create real economic growth.  While those who do focus on these upper stages of production have strong economic growth.  Like JFK.  And Ronald Reagan.  A couple of tax-cutters that created a business-friendly environment.  That generated the kind of economic activity that no Keynesian has ever matched.

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A Mistake in trying to make National Health Care more Efficient costs Queensland Health $1.2 Billion

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2012

Week in Review

The hospitals in Australia are part of their national health care system.  So the government runs them.   And pays their doctors and nurses.  Which requires a sophisticated payroll system.  And a good contractor to install it (see Queensland Health axes over 2,700 jobs by Emma Sykes and ABC News Resources posted 9/7/2012 on ABC Brisbane).

Queensland Health employees were notified this morning by Mr Springborg that a total of 2,754 jobs would be cut, reducing the number of full-time equivalent staff in Queensland Health to just over 66,000…

In a news conference Mr Springborg said the cuts were a hangover from the troubled payroll system.

“Thanks to the previous government, this is year one in a five-year program of unfunded payroll costs,” he said.

And what was the troubled payroll system?  Well, the federal government was updating their payroll system throughout Australia to make things better and more efficient.  And they started with Queensland Health’s 70,000 or so employees.  Just as a trial run.  To make sure it would be as great and wonderful as they thought it would be.  Here’s a short excerpt from an APP story from July of 2012 (see Payroll disaster may have been worse: govt by APP posted 7/13/2012 on Yahoo! 7News Queensland).

Since the flawed system was introduced in March 2010 thousands of staff have been underpaid, overpaid, or not paid at all.

The debacle is set to cost the state an estimated $1.2 billion to run and fix by 2017.

Queensland Health spent about $10.5 billion in 2010 (see page 190 in their 2010 annual report).  So this payroll problem is 11.4% of the health care budget.  It is incomprehensible how a fix to a computer system in the payroll department can cost 11.4% of Queensland Health’s total budget.  But it will.  And now someone has to pay the bill for that fix.  The employees of Queensland Health.  And their patients.  Through staff cuts.  Which will increase the rationing of services.  And wait times.  All because of a government’s plan to increase the efficiency by centralizing business operations.

One of the selling points of Obamacare was all the money it was going to save by making health care more efficient.  By centralizing health care operations.  Beginning with computerizing health care records.  And then the ultimate goal of Obamacare.  An efficient single-payer system.  Which will require some serious computer programming.  Lots of hardware.  And a lot of personal information on line.  In a country with about 14 times the population of Australia.  So what happened in Queensland can happen in the US.  And it can be a whole lot worse.

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The Chevy Volt is too Expensive unless you want to Drive in the Carpool Lane Alone

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2012

Week in Review

The government rarely runs anything well.  Because few politicians have any business experience.  Which explains why the more they intervene into the private sector economy the more the economy suffers.  Case in point GM.  GM was losing money because they couldn’t sell cars at a high enough price to pay their bills.  Especially their retiree pension and health care costs.  Instead of allowing GM to go through the bankruptcy process to fix their problems so they could sell cars at prices that would pay their bills the government bailed out the UAW.  And did not fix their underlying problem.  What caused all of their problems in the first place.  High labor and retiree costs.  So it’s no surprise that GM did not emerge leaner and meaner from bankruptcy.  Like the airlines typically do.  Instead they left the problems in place.  And told GM to build the Chevy Volt (see The Chevy Volt: Dead or alive? by Brooke Crothers posted 9/3/2012 on CNET News).

Depending on who you believe, the Volt is either alive and kickin’ or in its death throes.

The most recent news about GM’s plug-in hybrid gives fodder to both sides. On the upside, GM said on Wednesday that it already has sold more than 2,500 Volts this month. That would be a monthly record, bringing the global total this year to about 13,000, according to reports.

But critics quickly jumped on another piece of news: GM’s suspension of Volt production for four weeks.

Dying or not this is not good news for the Volt.  Very few are buying these cars.  And those who do are not buying them because they are great cars.  They’re buying them to make a statement.  Or for some other reason.  And that is the problem for the Volt.  When a vehicle is selling well you hear the rank and file complaining about all of the overtime they have to work.  To keep up with demand.  While demanding their factories add another shift.  But when you’re only selling 13,000 a year (just over 1,000 a month) you can shut down for four weeks.  And no one will even notice.

But the completely electric Nissan Leaf has not fared well either. It has a goal of 20,000 units this year, which the Detroit News says is increasingly unlikely.

Another problem GM faces is competition. It’s no longer the only plug-in hybrid on the block. Ford has its C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid ($32,950) and Toyota is now selling a Prius plug-in hybrid ($32,000)…

GM says one in three Volts are now sold in California. And there are reasons for an uptick in Golden State sales. The Volt earlier this year finally qualified for the California provision that allows environmentally friendly cars to use restricted carpool lanes whether they’re carrying passengers or not.

And the Chevy Volt sells for $40,000.  People just aren’t demanding these cars.  Because they’re expensive, small cars.  And the people that are buying the most Volts are in California.  Just so they can drive in the carpool lanes.  Where commuters will pay almost any price to avoid that awful Californian gridlock.  Especially if you don’t have to drag along another body with you.

The federal government poured a lot of money into the Chevy Volt when they bailed out the UAW pension fund (aka the auto bailout).  This was the car of the future.  Because President Obama said so.  And proclaimed the new GM would sell a million Volts a year.  And GM would use the proceeds from these sales to repay the taxpayers.  Not only have they grossly missed the president’s sales target.  The government interference in the company (by making them build a car that no one demanded) has caused the stock price to fall.  While the government still owns a substantial amount of shares.  Pushing any repayment of the taxpayers’ money further out in the future.  If there is any repayment at all.

It just may not be time for the plug-in hybrid.  Based on these sales numbers.  So it probably wasn’t wise to make it such a big part of GM’s turnaround plan.  Or to pour so much taxpayer money into it.  Worse, GM is not positioned any better to compete in the market place.  Which is why their plug-in hybrid is the most costly one in the market place.  And will be for the foreseeable future.  Until they have a true bankruptcy reorganization.

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