Man arrested for Stealing Electricity for his Electric Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 7th, 2013

Week in Review

A bankruptcy judge just ruled Detroit can file bankruptcy.  Dealing a blow to the union workers and pensioners who will see their benefits cut.  A lot.  But in so doing Detroit may be able to do something it hasn’t been able to afford in a long time.  Turning the streetlights back on.

A lot of these streetlights have burnt out lamps.  Some are damaged.  While others have been shut off to cut costs.  Because the electric power to light these is a large cost item.  Even in Britain some cities are turning their streetlights off during parts of the night because they just can’t afford to keep them on all night long.  Which puts a silly incident like this into a new light (see Why Did This Man Get Arrested for Charging His Electric Car? by Tyler Lopez posted 12/5/2013 on Slate).

Early last month, a police officer approached Kaveh Kamooneh outside of Chamblee Middle School in Georgia. While his 11-year-old son played tennis, Kamooneh was charging his Nissan Leaf using an outdoor outlet. When the officer arrived, he opened the unlocked vehicle, took out a piece of mail to read the address, and let a puzzled Kamooneh know that he would be arrested for theft. Kamooneh brushed the entire incident off. Eleven days later, two deputies handcuffed and arrested him at his home. The charge? Theft of electrical power. According to a statement from the school, a “local citizen” had called the police to report the unauthorized power-up session.

The total cost of the 20 minutes of electricity Kamooneh reportedly used is about 5 cents…

Are political attitudes toward environmentally friendly electric vehicles to blame..?

Contrary to popular belief the ‘fuel’ for electric cars is not free.  It takes fuel (typically coal, natural gas, nuclear, etc.) to generate electric power.  Which is why we all have electric meters at our homes.  So we can pay for the cost of generating that electric power.  Therefore, this guy was stealing electric power.  Even if he lived in the city he stole from.  Because current taxes don’t pay for electric power.  People pay an electric bill based on their electric usage.  As shown on an electric meter.

This illustrates a great problem we will have if large numbers of people switch to electric cars.  This will place a huge burden on our electric generating capacity.  Have you ever placed your car battery (in a standard gasoline-powered car) on a charger when you had a dead battery?  If so you may have noticed the voltage meter on the charger barely move.  Because a dead battery places a ‘short-circuit’ across the charger.  Causing a surge of current to flow through the battery.  Recharging the plates.  As the charge builds up the current starts falling.  And the voltage starts rising.  Imagine great numbers of people plugging in their depleted batteries at the same time.  It will do to the electric grid what air conditioners do to it in the summer.  As a bunch of them turn on the lights dim because of that current surge going to the air conditioners.  Leaving less power available to power the lights (and other electric loads).

Air conditioning was such a problem that utilities placed a separate ‘interruptible’ meter at homes.  So that during the summer when the air conditioner load grew too great the utility could shut off some air conditioners.  To reduce the demand on the generating systems.  People lost their air conditioning for periods of time.  But they got a reduced electric rate because of it.

As more people add an electric car to the electric grid it will strain generating capacity.  And raise electric rates.  To get people to use less electric power.  If demand far exceeds supply electric rates will soar.  Perhaps causing a lot of people to look for a free ‘plug-in’ to escape the high cost of electric power.  Transferring that cost to others.  Like cash-strapped cities who can’t afford to leave the street lights on all night.

Few have thought this out well.  Getting more people to use electricity instead of gasoline at the same time we’re trying to replace reliable coal-fired power plants with intermittent wind and solar farms is a recipe for disaster.  In the form of higher electric bills and rolling blackouts.

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Labor and Energy Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 1st, 2013

Economics 101

If you want to Destroy an Industry and Kill Jobs all you have to do is Raise the Cost of Labor

What happened to American manufacturing?  The Industrial Revolution swept through the United States and made America an industrial superpower.  By the beginning of the 20th century the United States became the world’s number one economic power.  Immigrants poured into this country for those manufacturing jobs.  Even though some of these jobs may have come out of a Dickens novel.  Because being able to eat had it all over starving to death.  And in America, with a good factory job, you could put food on your family’s table.

Most of those manufacturing jobs are gone now.  Why?  What happened to the once booming textile industry?  The once booming steel industry?  The once booming automotive industry?  Unions happened to them.  That’s what.  These jobs were so horrible and unfit for humans that unions stepped in and organized them.  But the jobs never got better.  Based on the ever more generous union contracts they kept demanding.  Increasing the cost of labor more and more.  Which chased the textile industry out of the country.  And much of the steel and automotive industries as well.

Is there anything we can learn from this?  Yes.  If you want to destroy an industry, if you want to kill jobs, if you want to damage the economy, all you have to do is raise the cost of labor.  The largest cost to most businesses.  Which is why many businesses have been replacing people with machines.  Advanced machines.  Computer-controlled machines.  Robots.  Because they can work 24/7.  They’re never late.  Never hung over.  Never out sick.  They don’t take lunch.  And they will work as fast as possible without ever complaining.  This is why businesses like machines.  For they let them lower their costs.  Making them competitive.  So they can sell at prices lower than their competitors.  Allowing them to remain in business.

Uncompetitive American Manufacturers go to Emerging Economies where they can be Competitive

Labor is a big cost of business.  Especially in an advanced economy.  With a high standard of living.  Where people own houses and cars.  Where those houses have central heat, air conditioning, televisions, sound systems, kitchen appliances, washers and dryers, etc.  These things cost money.  Requiring paychecks that can afford these things.  As well as pay for clothes, groceries, gasoline, utilities, etc.  Common things in an advanced economies.  But not all that common in an emerging economy.  Where factory workers aren’t accustomed to those things yet.  And don’t demand paychecks that can pay for those things.  Yet.

Still, people in developing economies flock to the new factories.  For even though they are paid far less than their counterparts in advanced economies these factory jobs are often the highest paying jobs in their countries.  And those who have these jobs have a higher standard of living than those who don’t.  Even when the occasional factory burns to the ground or collapses killing everyone inside.  As sad as that is.  But if you want to eat and provide for your family these factories often offer the best opportunity.

So this is where American manufacturing jobs go to.  Where labor costs are lower.  Allowing business to stay competitive.  Because if they can’t be competitive no one will buy what they are selling.  And without any revenue they won’t be able to pay their suppliers.  Their employees.  Or their energy costs.  Another large cost of business.  Especially for manufacturers.

Unions and Regulatory Costs haven’t made Emerging Economies Uncompetitive Yet

A lot of houses today come with a 200-amp electric service.  Assuming a house uses about 100 amps on average that comes to 24,000 watts (100 amps X 240 volts).  Now consider a large manufacturing plant.  Like an automotive assembly plant.  That can have anywhere around 8 double-ended unit substations.  Which are pieces of electrical distribution equipment to feed all of the electrical loads inside the plant.  Each substation has two 13,800 volt 3-phase primary electrical services.  If you’re looking at one you will see the following from left to right.  A 600-amp, 15,000 volt switch, a transformer to step down the 13,800 voltage to 480 voltage, a 480-volt main switch, a bunch of 480-volt switches to feed the electrical loads in the plant, a ‘tie’ switch, another bunch of 480-volt switches, another 480-volt main switch another transformer and another 600-amp switch.

The key to a double-ended unit substation are the two 480-volt main switches and the tie switch.  Which normally distributes the connected electric load over the two primary services.  With both 480-volt main switches closed.  And the tie switch open.  If one service fails because a car knocks down a cable pole these switches will sense the loss of that service.  The 480-volt switch on the side of the failed service will open.  And the tie switch will close.  Feeding both sides of the unit substation on the one live primary service.  So each primary service carries half of the connected load.  Or one primary service carries the full connected load.  Assuming each unit substation uses 600 amps on average (2 services at 300 amps or 1 service at X 600 amps) that comes to approximately 13,194,070 watts (600 amps X 13,800 volts X √3 X .92 PF).  Where we multiply by the square-root of 3 because it is three phase.  And assume a 0.92 power factor.  If a plant has 8 unit substations that comes to 105,552,562 watts.  Which equals approximately 4,398 houses with a 200 amp service.  Now to further our crude mathematical approximations let’s take a typical electric bill for a house.  Say $175 on average per month.  If we multiply this by 4,398 that comes to a monthly electric bill for this manufacturer of about $769,654.  Or $9,235,849 per year.

So here is another way to destroy an industry, kill jobs and damage the economy.  By increasing the cost of electric power.  Which is already a very large cost of business.  And ‘going green’ will make it even more costly.  As the Obama administration wants to do.  With their war on coal.  The cheapest source of electric power we have.  By increasing regulations on coal-fired power plants.  Even implementing some kind of a carbon tax.  To punish these carbon emitters.  And to subsidize far more costly green energies.  Such as solar.  And wind.  Going from the least costly to the most costly electric power will greatly increase a business’ electric utility costs.  Easily adding 15%.  30%.  40%.  Or more.  A 40% increase in our example would increase the electric utility cost by $3,694,340 each year.  If a plant has 1,200 workers that’s like adding another $3,000 per worker.  And we’ve seen what higher labor costs have done to companies like General Motors.  Chrysler.  And the textile industry.  By the time you add up all of these new regulatory costs (Obamacare, green energy, etc.) businesses will be so uncompetitive that they will have to follow the textile industry.  Out of the country.  To a country that will let them be competitive.  Such as an emerging economy.  Where unions and regulatory costs haven’t made them uncompetitive.  Yet.

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President Obama directing Federal Regulators to increase our Electric Bills

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 29th, 2013

Week in Review

President Obama couldn’t get Congress to pass a carbon tax (aka, cap and trade) into law to increase the cost of electric power.  So he is going to use his regulatory powers to increase the cost of electric power (see Obama directs EPA to end dumping of carbon from power plants by Steve Holland posted 6/25/2013 on Reuters).

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he is directing federal regulators to develop a plan to end the “limitless dumping of carbon pollution” from U.S. power plants.

Translation?  President Obama is directing federal regulators to increase the cost of your electric bill.

Carbon dumping?  They make it sound like these power plants are driving down country roads in the dead of night and pouring carbon out of barrels over the pristine wilderness.  But it’s just the smoke coming out of smokestacks.  Most of which is scrubbed clean these days.  Thanks to previous costly regulations.  What’s next?  Breathing tests to calculate how much carbon we dump each year?  So they can tax our breathing, too?  Because we exhale a greenhouse gas?  Of course, with Obamacare that won’t be so hard to do.  As the government will have their fingers in our medical records.

Beware buying your electric car.  That is, if you think it will be less costly than paying for very expensive gasoline.  First of all, one of the reasons why gasoline is so expensive is because of the taxes the government tacks on to the price per gallon.  Which is supposed to maintain our roads.  Of course that’s hard to see these days with our crumbling infrastructure.  They are collecting a ton of money.  But where it goes is another question.

Now that we have moved into more fuel efficient cars and electric cars and hybrids what is our thanks?  They want to put a black box in our car to track the miles we drive.  So they can tax us per mile.  Because we’re not buying enough gasoline to maintain the roads.  Or so they say.  So even though we’re saving money by buying less gas we’ll probably end up paying more to drive in the long run when they start taxing us per mile.  Giving electric car owners no advantage for sweating bullets wondering if they have enough charge to get home.  For they’ll be paying as if they are driving a big gas-guzzling car that gives them no range anxiety.  But all they’ll get is the range anxiety.  And it now will get worse.

Never buy gas again.  That’s what they told us.  And we shouted, “Hurrah!”  And, “Take that you greedy oil companies.”  While those who bought electric cars thought they would plug in anywhere for free.  But electric power isn’t free.  It costs.  You will see it in your electric bill as you plug in overnight.  You will see it when you have to swipe a card to use a charging station away from home.  And thanks to President Obama’s directing federal regulators to increase the cost of producing electric power you will see how costly driving an electric car can be.  Even when it buys no expensive gasoline from those greedy oil companies.

The tough fuel economy standards?  The hybrids?  The electric cars?  None of them were about us saving money.  It was about making us do things we didn’t want to do.  And now that we have what is our reward?  Higher electric bills.  And a lower standard of living.  As more of our paychecks will go to pay for the government’s intrusion into our private lives.

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High Taxes and Regulatory Costs create Childcare Crisis in Australia

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2012

Week in Review

Parents can’t return to work quickly enough in West Australia after having their babies.  Because they can’t afford to be stay-at-home parents (see Working parents struggle to find carers for children by Rhianna King posted 8/1/2012 on The West Australian).

WA’s childcare sector is at breaking point, with critical shortages forcing parents to cut back their work hours or resort to hiring nannies…

Debbie Mashford, from Goodstart Early Learning in Edgewater, said the shortage was partly the result of more parents returning to work sooner…

The association is calling for a 30 per increase in the childcare benefit for parents of under-threes, which they claim would encourage more parents back to work and allow centres to fund more places…

Federal Minister for Early Childhood Kate Ellis said the Government wanted to remove the obstacles to longer opening hours at childcare centres.

“So many parents have the stress of having to ensure they rush out of work by ten past five to get through the traffic and collect their children by 6pm,” she said.

I never attended any childcare.  My dad worked.  And my mom worked longer hours at home raising the family.  The childcare issue is masking a much bigger problem.  Why can’t families survive these days on a single income?  And the answer to that is, of course, higher taxes.  And higher regulatory costs on businesses.  All of which have raised prices.  While shrinking take-home pay.

All of this results from increased government spending.  That’s the problem.  They add new bureaucracies to government.  Requiring more tax revenue to fund them.  New regulatory policies increase the cost of business reducing the number of employees they can hire.  Leaving more people dependent on government benefits.  Which is more government spending.  Paid for by higher taxes.  And then there’s the carbon tax.  The biggest boondoggle of them all.  Which just hammers power plants.  Increasing the cost of electricity.  Increasing everyone’s electric bill.  Both consumers and businesses.  Requiring further subsidies to those who can’t pay their electric bills.  And then there’s the carbon tax on the consumer’s utility bill.  It’s just all too much.  And the reason why West Australian families can’t make it on a single income.

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