Boeing’s 787 Battery Solution illustrates why the All-Electric Car remains more of a Novelty than a Legitimate Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2013

Week in Review

The problem with the all-electric car is the battery.  To get a decent range requires a large battery.  But a large battery adds weight.  The heavier the car is the more battery power it takes to drive the car.  Which, of course, decreases the range.  So the only solution to this problem is to come up with a better battery.  One that is smaller and lighter that can charge quickly and provide great range.  Currently, that battery is the lithium-ion battery.  The same technology Boeing used on their new 787 Dreamliner.  Those same planes that showed the drawbacks of getting more energy out of a smaller and lighter battery.  They generate a lot of heat.  And can burst into flames (see Boeing has “good” Dreamliner battery plan fix: official by Doug Palmer and Alwyn Scott posted 4/5/2013 on Reuters).

Boeing Co (BA.N) has a “good plan” to fix the battery problem that has grounded its 787 Dreamliner jets, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said on Friday as the company prepared for a test flight to check the battery system revamp…

It’s still unknown what caused the two batteries to overheat, and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. Boeing came up with measures it says make the battery safe. It put more insulation in the battery, encased the battery in a steel box, changed the circuitry of the battery charger and added a titanium venting tube to expel heat and fumes outside the plane.

This is a good fix for an airplane.  For if there is a fire in the battery compartment you want to vent the heat and fumes outside of the airplane.  So the airplane doesn’t catch on fire.  Of course, this solution is not a very good one for an all-electric car that parks in attached garage plugged in overnight.  For there will be no freezing air blowing across that titanium tube like a plane flying at 40,000 feet.  That intense heat just may start the car on fire.  Or the garage.

To increase sales of the all-electric car they need to increase the range.  Even if you’re driving at night in winter with the heater and lights on.  And get stuck in stop and go traffic that adds an hour to your drive-time home.  But to do this you need to put more energy into a smaller package.  Which is often not the safest thing to do.  As Boeing learned.  So until they can come up with a battery that can give people the range to make it home safely without the car (or garage) catching on fire the all-electric car will remain more of a novelty than a legitimate car.

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With a Great Trust in Technology Germany may go all Green in Power Generation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2013

Week in Review

In 2003 one power plant went off line for maintenance in Ohio.  As their electrical load switched over to other power lines the extra current in them caused them to heat up and sag.  Coming into contact with some tall trees.  And the electric power flashed over to the trees.  This surge in current opened some breakers and transferred this electric load to other cables.  Overloading these lines.  More breakers opened.  More lines disconnected.  And with the electric load switching around it caused some electric generators to spin a little wildly.  So they disconnected from the grid as designed to protect themselves.

Eventually this cascade of failures would cause one of the greatest power outages in history.  The Northeast blackout of 2003.  Affecting some 55 million people.  And taking 256 power plants offline.  Apparently there was a software bug in the computer control system that didn’t warn them in time to rebalance the grid on other power sources before this cascade of failures began.  Once the event was over it took a lot of time to bring the power back online.  Three days before all power was restored.  Because you have to reconnect generators slowly and carefully.  As you are connecting generators together.  If these generators are not running in phase with each other fault currents can flow between them.  Damaging them and starting another cascade of failures.

So the electric grid is a very complex network of generators, cables, switches and computer control systems.  The more generation plants added to the grid the more complicated the switching and the computer controls.  Which makes having large-capacity power generation plants highly desirable.  For it reduces the complexity of the system.  And their large power capacity makes it easier for them to take on additional loads when another plant goes offline or a cable fails.  It provides a safe margin of error when trying to balance electric loads between available generation.  In Germany, though, the politics of green energy may take precedence over good engineering practices (see Linked Renewables Could Help Germany Avoid Blackouts by Paul Brown and The Daily Climate posted 4/5/2013 on Scientific American).

Critics of renewables have always claimed that sun and wind are only intermittent producers of electricity and need fossil fuel plants as back-up to make them viable. But German engineers have proved this is not so.

By skillfully combining the output of a number of solar, wind and biogas plants the grid can be provided with stable energy 24 hours a day without fear of blackouts, according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES) in Kassel.

For Germany, having turned its back on nuclear power and investing heavily in all forms of renewables to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, this is an important breakthrough…

Kurt Rohrig, deputy director of IWES, said: “Each source of energy – be it wind, sun or biogas – has its strengths and weaknesses. If we manage to skillfully combine the different characteristics of the regenerative energies, we can ensure the power supply for Germany.”

The idea is that many small power plant operators can feed their electricity into the grid but act as a single power plant using computers to control the level of power…

The current system of supplying the grid with electricity is geared to a few large producers. In the new system, with dozens of small producers, there will need to be extra facilities at intervals on the system to stabilize voltage. Part of the project is designed to find out how many of these the country will need.

The project has the backing of Germany’s large and increasingly important renewable companies and industrial giants like Siemans.

If you are a heavy electric power consumer in Germany you might want to build your own power plant on site.  For if they go ahead with this they are going to create one complex and costly monster.  Which is why IWES and Siemens no doubt are on board with this.  For it would give them a lot of business in a recession-plagued Eurozone.  But the amount of switching and computer controls to make this work just boggles the mind.

Just imagine a night of high winds that shuts down all wind farms.  Which is something a wind turbine does to protect itself.  You can’t switch over to solar at night.  So you will have to switch that load over to the remaining power lines that are connected to active generation.  Heating those wires up.  Causing them to sag.  Perhaps flashing over to a tall tree.  If these lines disconnect from the grid will those small producers be able to pick up the demand?  Or will they disconnect to protect themselves from an overload?  Once the event is over how long would it take to bring all of these generation sources back in phase and back online?

If they move forward with this chances are that the Germans are going to learn a very painful and costly lesson about green energy.  It may make you look like you care but it won’t keep the lights on like a coal-fired or a nuclear power plant can.  Which they may learn.  The hard way.

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The Rich are doing well in the Stock Market while the rest of us Suffer in a Jobless Recovery

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2013

Week in Review

The stock market is doing well.  Thanks to the Federal Reserve’s flooding the economy with new money.  Which rich people are borrowing to get even richer in the stock market.  But all this monetary stimulus is not creating real economic activity.  Like Keynesian economics says it’s supposed to.  For the Keynesians believe the only thing needed to create economic activity is cheap money.  And government spending.  Which the government is doing.  Running record trillion dollar deficits.  But there is no new economic activity.  They are not creating new, good-paying jobs.  No, it’s quite the contrary.  Some of the most anti-business policies has frozen job creation.  With Obamacare doing much of that freezing.

The problem is that governments embrace Keynesian economics to expand the government.  Not the economy.  They hope the economy will follow.  But if it doesn’t, that’s okay.  For they are more interested in taxing, borrowing, printing and spending.  Because you can get a lot of people to vote for you when you do.  And when stimulus spending fails, why, it just gives them an excuse to pass more stimulus spending legislation.

But businesses aren’t stupid.  They know that when the government expands the money supply they will depreciate the dollar.  So they’re not borrowing any of that cheap money.  Because they know inflation will soon follow.  Raising prices.  And bringing on another recession.  Or keeping us in a perpetual recession.  At most you get a surge of consumer spending.  But that’s it.  Retailers may draw down inventories at wholesalers.  But the wholesalers aren’t increasing their orders with manufacturers.  And the manufacturers aren’t increasing their orders with their raw material suppliers.  So there is no job creation above the retail level.  And very little at the retail level.  So while rich people are taking advantage of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing to get rich in the stock market, the rest of us are just seeing flat and stagnant economic growth of a jobless recovery (see Demand for space in U.S. strip malls still weak in first quarter by Ilaina Jonas posted 4/4/2013 on Reuters).

With retail sales struggling to recover and muted demand for space, new construction for neighborhood strip centers remained near record low levels during the quarter, according to the report by real estate research firm Reis Inc…

The data adds to recent evidence that without a stronger labor recovery, the rebound of the U.S. economy continues at a glacial pace, rather than gaining momentum.

“Until the economy begins to create more and better jobs, retail sales will remain listless, demand will remain at low levels, and the vacancy compression will be slow and tedious,” Reis economist Ryan Severino said…

Since the United States began to drag itself out of recession, the national vacancy for neighborhood strip centers is just half a point below the 1990 all-time high of 11.1 percent that was also reached in 2011. Vacancies remain well above their 2005 low of 6.7 percent.

The unemployment rate fell in March from 7.7% to 7.6% with the economy adding only 88,000 jobs.  Horrible economic numbers.  And an unemployment rate that is meaningless.  For 496,000 people disappeared from the civilian labor force in March.  Which is the only reason why the unemployment rate fell.  They didn’t count these 496,000 people who don’t have a job as unemployed.

The economy is horrible.  It is far more horrible than the official government numbers tell us.  And it’s not going to get better anytime soon.  Not with these anti-business policies freezing hiring and hindering new job creation.  Especially Obamacare.  Whose onslaught of new taxes will snuff out whatever life is left in this anemic recovery.

But the Keynesians play with the economic data.  Telling us, as they have been telling us the past 4 years, that we’ve turned the corner.  But the only improvement in the unemployment rate is due to people disappearing from the civilian labor force.  Since Obama became president there has been a permanent decline in the labor force participation rate.  Because President Obama is a Keynesian.  And cares more about the power these horrible policies give him than the economy.

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One Passenger Airline charging by the Passenger’s Weight may offer new Funding Idea for Obamacare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2013

Week in Review

When the price of oil soars it doesn’t affect the railroads that much.  Because fuel costs are not their greatest cost.  Maintaining that massive infrastructure is.  For wherever a train travels there has to be track.  It’s different for the airlines.  The only infrastructure they have is at the airports.  And the traffic control centers that keep order in the sky.  Once a plane is off the ground it doesn’t need anything but fuel in its tanks to go somewhere.  And because the flying infrastructure is so much less than the railroad infrastructure fuel costs are a much larger cost.  In fact, it’s their greatest cost of flying.  So when fuel costs rise ticket prices rise along with them.  And they start charging more bag fees.  As well as any other fee they can charge you to offset these soaring fuel costs.

Boeing made their 787, the Dreamliner, exceptionally light.  To reduce flying costs.  They used a lot of composite materials.  Two large engines because they’re lighter than 4 smaller engines.  They even used a new lithium-ion battery system to start up their auxiliary power unit.  And made it fly-by-wire to eliminate the hydraulic system that normally operates the control surfaces.  They did all of these things to fight the biggest enemy they have in flying.  Weight.  For the greater the weight the more fuel they burn.  And the less profitable they are.

Freight airlines charge their customers by the weight of the freight they wish to ship.  Because there is a direct correlation between the weight of their freight and the amount of fuel they have to burn to carry that freight.  In fact, all shippers charge by the weight.  Because in transportation weight is everything.  But there is one mode of transportation that we don’t charge by the weight.  Passenger air travel.  Until now, that is (see A tax on overweight airline passengers: a brutal airline policy by Robin Abcarian posted 4/3/2013 on the Los Angeles Times).

When teensy-weensy Samoa Airlines debuted its pay-by-the-kilo policy in January, I doubt it expected to set off an international controversy about fat discrimination.

But that’s what happened when news seeped out this week after the airline’s chief executive, Chris Langton, told ABC News radio in Australia that the system is not only fair but destined to catch on.

“Doesn’t matter whether you’re carrying freight or people,” explained Langton. “We’ve amalgamated the two and worked out a figure per kilo.”

Samoa Air, he added, has always weighed the human and non-human cargo it carries. “As any airline operator knows, they don’t run on seats, they run on weight,” said Langton. “There’s no doubt in my mind this is the concept of the future because anybody who travels has felt they’ve paid for half the passenger that’s sitting next to them…”

“Samoa Air, Introducing a world first: ‘Pay only for what you weigh’! We at Samoa Air are keeping airfares fair, by charging our passengers only for what they weigh. You are the master of your Air’fair’, you decide how much (or little) your ticket will cost. No more exorbitant excess baggage fees, or being charged for baggage you may not carry. Your weight plus your baggage items, is what you pay for. Simple. The Sky’s the Limit..!”

One bright note to this policy: Families with small children, who often feel persecuted when they travel, stand to benefit most from this policy. Since Samoa no longer charges by the seat, it will cost them a lot less to fly than it did before.

The appeal of this policy depends on your perspective.  If you’re of average weight sitting next to someone spilling over their seat into yours it may bother you knowing that you each paid the same price for a seat and resent the person encroaching on your seat.  But if you paid per the weight you bring onto the airplane then that person paid for the right to spill over into your seat.  Which they no doubt will do without worrying about how you feel.  As they paid more for their ticket than you paid for yours.  So the person who weighs less will get a discount to suffer the encroachment.  While the person who weighs more will have to pay a premium for the privilege to encroach.

Under the current system the people who weigh less subsidize the ticket prices of those who weigh more.  It’s not fair.  But it does save people the embarrassment of getting onto a scale when purchasing a ticket.  So should all airlines charge like all other modes of transportation?  Or should they continue to subsidize the obese?  Should we be fair?  Or should we be kind?

Chances are that government would step in and prevent airlines from charging by the weight.  Calling it a hate crime.  Even while they are waging a war on the obese themselves. Telling us what size soda we can buy.  And regulating many other aspects of our lives.  Especially now with Obamacare.  Because the obese are burdening our health care system with their health problems the government now has the right to regulate our lives.  And they have no problem calling us fat and obese.  But a private airline starts charging by the weight of the passenger?  Just don’t see how the government will allow that.  For it’s one thing for them to bully us.  But they won’t let these private businesses hurt people’s feelings by being fair.  So the people who are not overweight will continue to subsidize the flying cost of those who are overweight.

Until the government determines obese people are causing an unfair burden on society.  The obese have more health issues.  Which will consume more limited health care resources.  Also, flying these heavier people around will burn more fuel.  Putting more carbon emissions into the air.  Causing more breathing problems for everyone else.  As well as killing the planet with more global warming.  So while the airlines may not want to weigh people when selling them a ticket because of the potential backlash, the government won’t have a problem.  To cut the high cost of health care and to save the planet from global warming caused by carbon emissions they may even introduce a ‘fat’ tax.  Like any other sin tax.  To encourage people to choose to be healthier.  And to punish those who choose not to.  If they can force us to buy health insurance what can stop them from accessing a ‘fat’ tax?  Especially when they do have the right to tax us.

This is where national health care can take us.  When they begin paying the bill for health care they will have the right to do almost anything if they can identify it as a heath care issue.  Because it’s in the national interest.  They’ve painted bulls-eyes on the backs of smokers.  And drinkers.  With tobacco and alcohol taxes.  And you know they would love to tax us for being fat.  Perhaps even having our doctors file our weight with the IRS.  So they can bump our tax rates based on how obese we are.  If the tax dollars pay for health care they will say they have that right.  As the obese consume an unfair amount of those limited tax dollars.  Anything is possible with an out of control growing federal government faced with trillion dollar deficits.  Especially when they can call it a health care issue.

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If Obamacare will be anything like the NHS first there will be Higher Taxes then there will be Rationing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2013

Week in Review

There is no such thing as a free lunch.  We’ve all heard this expression.  And we know what it means.  Vendors buy customers lunches to get more business.  And customers know whatever they get ‘free’ from a vendor is included in the price they pay for their products or services.  So nothing is free.  Just other people pay for things you get to enjoy.

A lot of people thought national health care was free health care.  Which is why they want it.  Because they can’t stand paying even the co-pays on the high cost of health care.  But by nationalizing health care those high costs don’t go away.  Because doctors and nurses just don’t start working for free.  No.  We pay for free health care by nickel and diming everyone everywhere we can (see Taxes heat up battle against ‘Obamacare’ by Tom Howell, Jr., posted 4/3/2013 on The Washington Times).

A tax on everything from X-ray machines to oxygen tanks took effect at the beginning of this year — one of about 20 taxes and fees included in President Obama’s health care law — and has emerged as the central battleground in the fight by the law’s opponents to repeal parts of the president’s overhaul…

The device tax is one of several that kicked in this year, along with higher taxes on investment income and an increase in the Medicare payroll tax among households making $250,000 per year. Taxes and restrictions on flexible savings accounts, health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements are also starting to bite.

The tax penalty imposed on those who refuse to obtain health coverage will kick in next year, with a minimum penalty for low-income individual taxpayers of $95 in 2014, rising to $325 in 2015 and $695 in 2016. Those with higher incomes will end up paying more because their penalty is based on a percentage of their income — 1 percent in 2014, 2 percent in 2015 and 2.5 percent in 2016 and beyond.

And still looming later this decade is a 40 percent excise tax on high-value “Cadillac” health insurance plans, which will not debut until 2018.

The health care law’s $1 trillion in revenue raisers also includes niche targets, such as a 10 percent assessment on indoor tanning services…

…the health insurance tax, an annual fee that taxes health insurance providers relative to the worth of the insurance premiums they collect each year.

They will tax us every chance they get.  Because ‘free’ health care is more costly than the kind you pay for out of pocket.  Because when it’s ‘free’ you will use it more often.  “If it’s free it’s for me.”  And because the consumption of health care resources will rise so will all of these new taxes as they scramble to find a way to pay for this ‘free’ health care.

A lot of people no doubt draw some comfort in the fact that the rich will pay the majority of these taxes. But all of these taxes will eventually filter down to the average American as businesses raise prices to cover these taxes.  And those “Cadillac” health insurance plans?  They’re just not for rich people.  Very sick people often spend a fortune on these plans to reduce their overall costs of their treatments.  Which means the 40% tax on these plans will make these plans unavailable to them.  Causing great upheaval in their lives as they transition from their private plan and doctors to the state plan and doctors.

Eventually the costs will grow greater than all this new tax revenue.  As it has in the United Kingdom.  Where they have had to turn to cost cutting, consolidation of health care clinics and hospitals, longer travel distances to see a health care provider, longer wait times, rationing and denials of health care treatment.  Because their ‘free’ health care grew so costly with their aging population that they just can’t treat everyone.  Patients sometimes have to wait an hour or more for an ambulance.  And wait another hour or more at the hospital before a bed opens up for them so they can be unloaded from the ambulance.

And then there’s the Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient.  A quasi death panel.  Basically unplugging a patient to let them die with dignity.  Sometimes without telling the patient’s family about this hospital decision.  Where critics say it’s more about freeing up limited health care resources than about dying with dignity.  Especially with a costly and aging population.

So this is our future with Obamacare.  As the government takes over health care taxes will rise further.  And quality will fall.  As they try and stretch those limited resources to cover more and more patients.  Especially with a costly and aging population.

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