Despite the Left’s Opposition to Fracking even the Environmental British are Joining In

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 4th, 2013

Week in Review

One of the reasons the government tells us we must ‘invest’ in clean energy is to wean us off of costly foreign oil.  To give us energy independence.  And so we stop sending out money to nations in the world who don’t much care for us.  That’s why we must spend enormous amounts of tax dollars on things like solar and wind power.  Because we need them.  But because they are such poor business models they can’t operate without government subsidies.  So is there another option to give us that energy independence?  That doesn’t require government subsidies?  While even lowering our energy costs?  Yes there is.  And the British are now trying to play catch up to the United States (see The potential prize from fracking is huge by Michael Fallon posted 7/31/2013 on The Telegraph).

North, south, east and west, shale gas represents an exciting new potential resource for Britain that could contribute to our energy security, growth and jobs.

We only have to look across the Atlantic to see how it has reinvigorated the US economy: gas prices have halved, cutting costs for industry and consumers, and creating thousands of jobs and billions in new investment. Countries from India to Australia have looked on in envy at this boom – and are now joining in.

For its part, this Government is serious about shale. We are encouraging industry to find out how much is recoverable in all parts of the country. Given increasingly volatile international gas and oil prices, and our commitment to helping hard-pressed families with their bills, it would be irresponsible to ignore a new energy source right underneath our feet…

…residents understandably want reassurances that their water will not be contaminated. The facts are that around 2.5 million wells have now been fracked worldwide, more than 27,000 of them in the US in 2011. There is no evidence from America of fracking causing any groundwater contamination.

Other than in Hollywood movies.  And on television shows.  There it’s contaminating groundwater like there’s no tomorrow.  But with all that fracking going on in the United States the news is surprisingly barren of contaminated groundwater reports.  And you know they’d be leading all the news programs if there were.  Because the left hates fracking.  And the mainstream media leans left.  Way left.

That energy boom is a private boom.  It’s not because of the government.  It’s in spite of the government.  Who has launched a war on coal and oil.  Shutting down oil production on the Gulf of Mexico.  And on all federal lands.  Or making it very difficult for those who try.

Much of the global warming nonsense came from the University of East Anglia.  Making Britain near ground zero in the battle against global warming.  And here they are.  Wanting to frack to bring energy costs down for households.  Create jobs.  And reduce dependency on foreign oil.  Pity the United States government doesn’t care enough about the American people to do the same.

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With the Rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline more Oil spills from Derailed Rail Cars

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 31st, 2013

Week in Review

The Obama administration has shut down oil drilling on federal land.  While at the same time urging us to quit being so dependent on oil from countries where oil revenues find their way into the hands of terrorists.  Being denied to do one thing (more domestic drilling) leaves us more dependent on the other thing (foreign oil that pays for terrorism).  So we turn to another option.  Importing foreign oil from a friend and neighbor.  Canada.  But the president intervened there, too.  By refusing to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.  Because of environmental concerns.  So to get that oil to U.S. refineries we’ve turned to the only other option.  Shipping it by rail (see Canadian Pacific oil spill cleanup to last two days by Edward McAllister posted 3/28/2013 on Reuters).

Recovery efforts were underway on Thursday to clean up an oil spill in western Minnesota, a day after a mile-long Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed, rupturing three tankers and leaking around 15,000 gallons of fuel…

The spill, which has triggered an investigation by federal officials, came as a debate rages over the environmental risks of transporting Alberta tar sands crude across the border from Canada.

This was the first major spill since a boom in North American oil production began to outgrow the existing pipeline network, prompting a huge rise in crude-by-rail transport three years ago…

As crude by rail has increased in the United States, so have spill incidents. Of the 132 incidents that occurred while trains were in transit in the United States between 2002 and 2012, 112 occurred in the last three years, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

So we can expect about 38 spills per year from trains shipping that Canadian oil to U.S. refineries.  It would seem that building that Keystone XL pipeline would be the more environmentally friendly option.

So here are our options.  Build the pipeline and eliminate the spills from rail transport.  Not build the pipeline and continue the spills from rail transport.  Or issue an executive order confiscating our cars.  So we don’t need any oil.  Which will be the only way we’ll make the reductions they want in our oil consumption.  As existing sales of electric cars prove.  We’re not buying them.  Because they aren’t as dependable as our gasoline-powered cars.  And don’t give us anywhere near the freedom gasoline gives us.

No, gasoline is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  And the anti-oil policies are only increasing the cost of the gasoline we buy.  Increasing the cost of food.  And everything else that ships with an internal combustion engine providing the motive force.  Leaving us with less in the family budget.  Sacrificing the quality of our lives to keep the environmentalist money flowing into the Obama administration.

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FT110: “You can’t blame our dependence on foreign oil for high gas prices AND say that producing more domestic oil won’t lower gas prices.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 23rd, 2012

Fundamental Truth

The Combination of Low Demand and High Supply caused Oil Prices to Fall over 70% by 1986

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a cartel.  Made up currently of Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.  Their purpose is to set oil quotas for their oil-producing members.  To limit the amount of oil they bring to market.  To reduce supply.  And increase oil prices.  At least that’s the idea.  It’s been hard to keep the individual OPEC members from cheating, though.  And a lot do.  Often selling more than their quota.  Because when oil prices are high selling a few percentages above their quota can be very profitable.  Unless everyone else does so as well.  Which they usually do.  For their choice is either not to cheat and not share in any of those ‘excess’ profits (beyond their agreed to quota).  Or cheat, too.  Thereby increasing supply.  And lowering oil prices.  Not something any oil producer wants to do.  But it’s the only way to share in any of those ‘excess’ profits.

But that’s not the only problem OPEC has.  There are a lot of oil producers who aren’t members of OPEC.  Who can bring oil to market in any quantity they choose.  Especially when they see the high price OPEC is charging.  OPEC’s high price allows non-OPEC suppliers to sell a lot of oil at a slightly lower price and reap huge profits.  Which puts pressure on the OPEC target price.  Forcing them to lower their target price.  For if they don’t lower their price they will lose oil sales to those non-OPEC producers.  Which is exactly what happened in the late Seventies.  While OPEC was cutting back on production (to raise prices) the non-OPEC nations were increasing production.  And taking over market share with their lower prices.  Causing OPEC to reverse policy and increase production during the mid-Eighties.  Giving us the 1980s oil glut.

Of course, this rise in non-OPEC production was a direct result of the 1973 Oil Crisis.  Many of the OPEC members are Muslim nations.  Who don’t like the state of Israel.  In response to the West’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War (1973) OPEC announced an oil embargo on those nations who helped Israel.  Giving us the 1973 oil crisis.  Where this sudden reduction in supply caused the price of oil to soar.  Making the oil business a very profitable business.  Causing those non-OPEC producers to enter the market.  Then the Iranian Revolution (1979) disrupted Iranian crude production.  Keeping Iranian oil off the market.  This reduction in demand caused oil prices to rise.  Then Jimmy Carter broke off diplomatic relations with the Iranian state.  And boycotted their oil when it returned to the market.  Further encouraging the non-OPEC producers to bring more oil to market.  Meanwhile U.S. demand fell because of those high prices.  And our switch to smaller, 4-cyclinder, front wheel drive cars.  Saying goodbye to our beloved muscle cars of the Sixties and Seventies.  And the V-8 engine.  The combination of low demand and high supply caused oil prices to fall over 70% by 1986.  Giving us the oil glut of the 1980s.  When gasoline was cheap.  Enticing the V-8 engine back into the market.

Improved Fuel Economy AND Increased Oil Supplies can Reduce the Price at the Pump

So, yes, Virginia.  The amount of oil entering the market matters.  The more of it there is the cheaper it will be.  As history has shown.  When less oil entered the market prices rose.  When more oil entered the market prices fell.  And anything that can affect the supply of oil making it to market will affect the price of oil.  (And everything downstream of oil.  Jet fuel.  Diesel.  And gasoline.)  Wars.  Regional instability.  And governmental regulation. 

So what are things that will bring more oil to market?  Well there’s the obvious.  You drill for more oil.  This is so obvious but a lot of people refuse to accept this economic principle.  As supply increases prices fall.  The 1980s oil glut proved this.  Even John Maynard Keynes has graphs showing this in his Keynesian economics.  The economics of choice for governments everywhere.   Yet there are Keynesian politicians who avert their eyes to this economic principle.  So there’s that.  More drilling.  You can also make the permitting process easier to drill for oil.  You can open up federal lands currently closed to drilling.  And once you find oil you bring it to market.  As quickly as you can.  And few things are quicker than pipelines.  From the oil fields.  To the oil refineries.  (And then jet fuel, diesel and gasoline pipelines from the refineries to dispensing centers).  So before oil fields are ready to produce you start building pipelines from those fields to the refineries.  Or you build new refineries.

Improving fuel economy did help reduce our demand for imported oil in the Eighties.  As well as lowered the price for that imported oil.  But it wasn’t fuel economy alone.  The non-OPEC nations were increasing production from the mid-Seventies through the mid-Eighties.  Without that oil flooding the market oil prices wouldn’t have fallen 70%.  And they won’t fall again if we ONLY try to reduce our demand for foreign oil.  For reducing demand is marginal at best in reducing oil prices. 

Only if we Drill and Build Pipelines can we Reduce the Price at the Pump

For there are no electric airplanes.  The cost to electrify all railroad tracks is too prohibitive to consider.  The capital costs to build that electrical infrastructure.  The maintenance costs to maintain it.  And the electricity costs from the increased demand for electrical power while supply remains the same.  Or falls.  Because excessive regulation inhibits the building of new power plants.  And speeds up the shutdown of older plants.  Especially coal-fired because they pollute too much.  And hydro power.  Because of the environmental impact of dams.  Severely straining our electric grids.  And moving into electric cars will stress our electric grids even further.  Leading to brown outs.  And rolling blackouts.   Or worse.  Causing wires to overheat and sag, coming into contact with trees.  Shorting out.  Causing cascading blackouts as power plants disconnect from the grid to prevent damage from the resulting current surges.  Like they did in the Northeast Blackout of 2003.

You can’t replace oil with electricity.  In some cases there is just no electric equivalent.  Such as the airplane.  Or the cost of moving from oil to electricity is just prohibitive.  Such as updating the nation’s electrical infrastructure to meet an exploding demand.  Which leaves oil.  We need it.  And will keep using it.  Because there is no better alternative.  Yet.  So we need to produce it.  And do everything we can to help bring that oil to market.  Not fight against it.  And it all starts with drilling. 

We must drill.  Bring that oil up from under the ground.  Put it into a pipeline.  And pump it to a refinery.  If we do this enough we will be less dependent on foreign oil.  And have more control over the price at the pump.

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Gasoline is better than Liquid Natural Gas or Ethanol

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 1st, 2011

Liquid Natural Gas and Subsidies

The problem with alternative fuels is that they all require subsidies.  That’s one thing gasoline never needed.  Because it was everything a consumer wanted at a price a consumer could afford.  But there’s a problem.  Although consumers like it, government doesn’t.  So they’ve been pushing ethanol to replace it.  And now liquid natural gas is making a comeback (see Goodbye gasoline? GM gives natural gas cars a boost by Edward McAllister posted 7/1/2011 on Reuters).

The United States has more natural gas than it knows what to do with – up to 100 years of supply, experts say – thanks to a new drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing which releases huge reserves of natural gas trapped in shale rock…

Drivers who fill up with natural gas at the pump saved up to $2 per gallon when gasoline prices hit $4 a gallon. (Graphic: here: r.reuters.com/get42s ).

First of all, the environmentalists are trying to shut down all fracking (busting open rock formations to release trapped oil and/or gas by pumping fluids into cracks and fissures).  They hate it as much as drilling for oil.  Because it’s environmentally unfriendly.  And contaminates the ground water.  Or so the environmentalists say.  New York State is sitting on a lot of natural gas in shale.  But getting that gas is on hold until the completion of environmental studies. 

And that $2 per gallon saving over gasoline?  Don’t count on it.  Because it takes more liquid natural gas (LNG) to go the same distance gasoline will take you.  LNG has only 65.7% of the energy content of gasoline.   Which means it will take 1.5 gallons of LNG to equal one gallon of gas.  Think of it this way.  Say you take a vacation that takes two full tanks of gas.  With LNG, it will take you three tanks.  So, yes, you’ll pay less per gallon at the pump.  But you will have to buy more gallons. 

For example, if you have a 14 gallon gas tank and gas is $4/gallon and LNG is $2/gallon, you’ll save $14 dollars to travel the distance that a full tank of gasoline will take you.  If gas falls to $3.50/gallon, the savings drop to $7.  If gas drops to $3/gallon, there is no savings.  Just the inconvenience of another stop at the filling station.  LNG is only a bargain when gas is closer to $4/gallon.  Or more.  Unless there’s something else to sweeten the deal.

Even if oil prices retreat again, some in the industry say natural gas will remain attractive due to its long-term abundance and the potential for government support…

Much hinges on politics. The Natural Gas Act launched in the House of Representatives in April proposes incentives for purchasing and building natural gas vehicles, replacing a previous bill whose sweeteners for users of the fuel have recently expired.

The proposed incentives include a 50 cent per gallon fuel credit, a purchasing credit that covers up to 80 percent of the extra cost of a natural gas vehicle, and tax breaks for building fuelling infrastructure. The bill has bipartisan support and some say it could pass this year.

Ah, yes.  Government support.  Which tells you one thing.  LNG is not a sweet deal.  If it were the government wouldn’t have to bribe you to use it.

Ethanol and Subsidies

The problem with government getting involved in the fuel business is that it politicizes the fuel industry.  If LNG was a value to the market the market would provide LNG.  But it doesn’t.  The same is true for ethanol.  It has no value in the market.  How do we know this?  Because it takes government subsidies to get it to the market (see Industry warns gas prices would rise 89 cents without ethanol posted 7/1/2011 on PolitiFact).

Those who favor rolling back ethanol subsidies argue that a roughly $6 billion subsidy is unsustainable given today’s rising national debt.

However, the ethanol industry, represented by a group called the Renewable Fuels Association, has made an aggressive counterattack, arguing that ethanol is vital to keeping a lid on gasoline prices — potentially a potent issue for Americans as gasoline hovers between $3 and $4 per gallon.

The trade group’s Metro station advertisement mirrors other information available on the group’s website. It says, “Ethanol reduced gas prices by 89 cents per gallon in 2010. Ethanol reduced the average American’s household gasoline bill by more than $800. If ethanol disappeared, gas prices could rise by as much as 92 percent.”

Now that this subsidy is threatened, the ethanol industry is going on the offensive.  They used some scientific studies for their claims.  Studies they funded.  And they played fast and loose with the facts.  That 89 cents saving per gallon was during the spike in oil prices when gas was around $4/gallon.  Over the decade (2000-2010) the savings was only 25 cents.  But it wasn’t even that much.  Because, like LNG, ethanol doesn’t have the same energy content as gasoline.  It only has 71.7% of gasoline energy.  Which means you need 1.4 gallons of ethanol to equal one gallon of gas.  So when you add ethanol to gas you’re just taking a lot miles out of every gas tank.

PolitiFact goes into more detail and gives Renewable Fuels Association a rating of ‘barely true’ for the accuracy of their advertisement.  They’re not lying.  But they are certainly misleading you.  Because of their selective use of facts and figures.  Which is the point.  Honesty doesn’t sell ethanol.  If you want people to buy it you just can’t tell the whole truth.

The Great Corn Con

And there’s a good reason why they aren’t telling the whole truth.  Because if people understood what was going on in the corn industry, they’d be furious.  Because they’re not saving the planet.  Or cutting our dependence on foreign oil.  No.  The only thing the corn subsidies are doing is making farmers rich.  And making people hungry (see The Great Corn Con by Steven Rattner posted 6/24/2011 on The New York Times).

Even in a crowd of rising food and commodity costs, corn stands out, its price having doubled in less than a year to a record $7.87 per bushel in early June. Booming global demand has overtaken stagnant supply.

But rather than ameliorate the problem, the government has exacerbated it, reducing food supply to a hungry world. Thanks to Washington, 4 of every 10 ears of corn grown in America — the source of 40 percent of the world’s production — are shunted into ethanol, a gasoline substitute that imperceptibly nicks our energy problem. Larded onto that are $11 billion a year of government subsidies to the corn complex.

Using corn for fuel only increases the price of corn.  And anything that uses corn.  Like food.

Corn is hardly some minor agricultural product for breakfast cereal. It’s America’s largest crop, dwarfing wheat and soybeans. A small portion of production goes for human consumption; about 40 percent feeds cows, pigs, turkeys and chickens. Diverting 40 percent to ethanol has disagreeable consequences for food. In just a year, the price of bacon has soared by 24 percent.

So it’s the high price of corn that’s making chicken and hamburger more expensive.  Remember that when you’re shopping for your next BBQ.  Or buying ingredients for that next meatloaf.  Just pick up some extra breadcrumbs to make that hamburger go farther.  It’s not all bad, though.  Sure, we’ll eat less.  But they’ve been saying we’re too fat anyway.  So perhaps a little malnutrition will help get us to a healthier weight.  The important thing to remember is all the good that will come from our sacrifice.  Like using less foreign oil.

Here is perhaps the most incredible part: Because of the subsidy, ethanol became cheaper than gasoline, and so we sent 397 million gallons of ethanol overseas last year. America is simultaneously importing costly foreign oil and subsidizing the export of its equivalent.

That’s not all. Ethanol packs less punch than gasoline and uses considerable energy in its production process. All told, each gallon of gasoline that is displaced costs the Treasury $1.78 in subsidies and lost tax revenue.

So we’re subsidizing the ethanol industry to produce ethanol to use instead of gasoline made from imported oil.  And paying a pretty price to do this.  And then we’re not using the ethanol for the reason we subsidized it in the first place?  The American taxpayer is paying higher taxes so we can provide a cheaper fuel for other countries?  While we still import the expensive foreign oil?  You know what you call this?  Government.

Govern against the Will of their Constituents

When government stayed out of the oil business gasoline was cheap and plentiful.  Didn’t need any subsidies.  And you didn’t have to bribe manufacturers to build a gasoline powered car.  Also, government didn’t have to subsidize the fuel dispensing industry either.  The oil companies built refineries, pipelines and gas stations everywhere.  If there was a road there was a gas station.  If there was a city there was a car dealership selling gasoline-powered cars.  It all worked.  As if by magic.  With no help from the government.

Ethanol and liquid natural gas have never worked.  Despite government spending billions in trying to make them work.  The problem?  The market just doesn’t want them.  Like a dog that doesn’t want to swallow a pill.  You can do whatever you want.  Hold his mouth shut.  Stroke his throat.  Whatever.  He’s just going to spit that pill out once you let go.  And consumers have been spitting back every attempt to put us in alternative fueled vehicles.  We just don’t want them.

But government does.  Because they profit from them.  The corn lobby goes to Washington with cash.  And politicians like cash.  So much so that they will repeatedly govern against the will of their constituents.  And they don’t care if their policies increase the price of food.  Because they’re rich.  They can afford it.  Thanks to those lobbyists.  And those nice salaries and benefits courtesy of the taxpayers.  We may be eating meatloaf made with more bread than meat, but they’ll be enjoying fine corn-fed steak.  Along with some nice corn-fed bacon.

All men are created equal?  Our elected representatives apparently didn’t get that memo.

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The Problem with Building Car Batteries is that People aren’t Buying Electric Cars

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 22nd, 2011

The Dot-Com Bubble and Green Energy

Bill Clinton has all the answers.  He knows how to fix the economy.  How to fine tune it so it purrs.  Just like he did during the dot-com boom and bust (see It’s Still the Economy, Stupid by Bill Clinton posted 6/19/2011 on Newsweek).

When I was president, the economy benefited because information technology penetrated every aspect of American life. More than one quarter of our job growth and one third of our income growth came from that. Now the obvious candidate for that role today is changing the way we produce and use energy.

But most of it was just an illusion.  It was a bubble.  There was an explosion in dot-com companies trying to be the next Microsoft.  Investors bid Stocks up into the stratosphere.  Alan Greenspan called it irrational exuberance.  It wasn’t healthy economic growth.  It was only a bubble.  And the bubble eventually popped.  As they always do.  And with the bubble went a lot of those jobs.

Of course, when he says energy, he doesn’t mean drilling for oil.  He means green energy.  As in batteries.  For all those electric cars the president is urging GM to build.

On the day President Obama took office, the U.S. had less than 2 percent of the world market in manufacturing the high-powered batteries for hybrid or all-electric cars. On the day of the congressional elections in 2010, thanks in large part to the cash—incentive policy, we had 20 percent of global capacity, with 30 new battery plants built or under construction, 16 of them in Michigan, which had America’s second—highest unemployment rate. We have to convince the Republican Congress that this is a good thing.

One thing Bill Clinton is right on is the similarity between information technology and green energy.  One was a bubble.  And the other is sure to be one, too.

The Biggest Problem of Electric Cars is the Battery

The all-electric car is an elusive dream.  Hybrids have had some moderate success.  Because they come with a backup internal combustion engine that makes up for all the shortfalls of an all-electric car.  The battery (see Better Batteries Will Save the World by Farhad Manjoo posted 6/21/2011 on Slate).

If we had batteries that matched the price and performance of fossil fuels, we would not only have cleaner cars, but we might be able to remake much of the rest of the nation’s energy infrastructure, too. Wind and solar power are generated intermittently—sometimes the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine—and batteries can moderate that volatility. Stores of batteries placed in the electric grid could collect energy when the sun shines or when the wind blows and then discharge it when we need it. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you might say that the future of the world depends on better batteries—a better battery would alter geopolitics, mitigate the disasters of climate change, and spur a new economic boom.

This glosses over an important point that few discuss.  Batteries are not energy.  They store energy.  Energy that we have to create.  And right now, because we don’t have a massive infrastructure to store energy when the wind does blow and the sun does shine, that leaves fossil fuels.  Which means there is no net saving in carbon emissions if we start driving electric cars.  This just transfers the pollution our cars emit to the power plants.  Most of which use the most polluting of all fossil fuels.  Coal.  So going all electrical in our cars may actually increase pollution.

This aside there are other problems with batteries that make gasoline a better choice.

The fundamental problem with batteries is the existence of gasoline. Oil is cheap, abundant, and relatively easy to transport. Most importantly, it has a high “energy density”—meaning that it’s phenomenally good at storing energy for its weight. Today’s best lithium-ion batteries can hold about 200 watt-hours per kilogram—a measure of energy density—and they might theoretically be able to store about 400 watt-hours per kilogram. Gasoline has a density equivalent of around 13,000 watt-hours per kilogram.

The only reason electric cars might one day compete with cars that rely on internal combustion is that gasoline engines are highly inefficient; nearly all of the energy stored in gasoline is lost to heat. But gasoline makes up for that flaw with another advantage: When your car’s out of gas, you can refill it in a few minutes. With today’s electrical infrastructure, batteries need many hours to recharge. There’s some hope that we might one day install fast-charging stations across the country, but the researchers Fletcher interviews point out that this is a daunting challenge. The battery in today’s Tesla roadster needs about four hours to charge. If you wanted to charge that battery in 15 minutes, you’d need a 200-kilowatt electric substation feeding the charging station. “Your house takes 1 kilowatt,” one expert tells Fletcher. “If you want to have something like a gasoline fuel station that is all electrical, you’re talking about multimegawatts of power at that station. And I just don’t see that happening.”

It’s that energy density of gasoline that lets you sit in rush hour traffic in February with your lights on and your heater keeping you toasty warm.  And alive.  But should you run low on gas you can always take 10 minutes and fill your tank.  Then you can rejoin that rush hour traffic.  And sit in it.  With your lights on.  And your heater still keeping you toasty warm.  And alive. 

The other nice thing about gasoline is that it’s pretty safe to handle.  Most gas stations in America are self-serve.  People pump gas without a second thought about safety.  For an electrical ‘quick’ charge, though, you’re playing with electrical energy that typically only skilled electricians work with.  After extensive safety training.  And while wearing special protective clothing and gear.  Probably not the kind of thing you want your daughter playing with on her way home from the big game.  Unless she is a highly skilled electrician.

In theory, the lithium-air battery could store 11,000 watt-hours per kilogram, which makes it, Fletcher says, “the best chance battery scientists have to beat gasoline.” A lithium-air battery could allow a car to drive 500 miles before recharging. With that range, you wouldn’t need a nationwide system of quick-charging stations. You could drive pretty much wherever you wanted all day, and then recharge your car at night.

But lithium-air is the cold fusion of the battery world—a would-be game-changer that has the unfortunate downside of being impossible to achieve (probably).

There is a battery technology out there in the research and development stage.  But it’s a long way from a manufacturing plant.  Right now the electric car is far inferior to the gasoline-powered car.  And if you want a car to take you to and from some place safely, you’re probably buying something with a gasoline engine.  A car where you can use the heat and switch on the lights without worrying if you’ll have enough juice to make it home.  And that’s just something the internal combustion engine will always be able to do better than the all-electric car.  Get you home.

Electric Cars not Selling Well

With Bill Clinton convinced that car batteries for electric cars are an important part of our economic revival, let’s take a look at some electric car sales numbers.  I mean, if everything is contingent on these things, let’s just make sure people are buying them to support this battery economy.  Before we build more plants that may end up building something people don’t want to buy (see Sales update: Nissan Leaf hits 573, Chevy Volt at 493 in April posted 5/3/2011 on Autoblog).

The latest cumulative U.S. sales totals for the plug-in duo, since launching in late 2010, has the Volt leading the pack with 2,029 units sold, while the Leaf comes in at 1,044. Year-to-date, Volt sales stand at 1,703, while Nissan says Leaf production had, as of April 15th, hit nearly 8,000.

And it doesn’t look like people want to buy these electric cars.  Nissan built 8,000 Leafs and only sold 1,044 of them.  That’s pretty bad.  There appears no point in building them anymore.  Not with a backlog of just under 7,000.  And with 87% of all Leafs built sitting unsold, there’s no point in building batteries for more of these cars.

Okay.  Let’s take a closer look at the Volt to see how viable a business model that is (see Will GM’s 2011 Chevy Volt Evolve Or Become A Costly Dead End? by George Parrott posted 6/20/2011 on Green Car Reports).

While the 2011 Chevy Volt will find its way to between 10,000 and 15,000 U.S. buyers, that’s far from enough volume to make any car a production success–or to make it profitable.

Most mainstream car models must sell 100,000 or more units a year to produce black ink.

No point in making batteries for these cars either.  No one’s buying them.  Other than then environmentalists.  Or rich people who can afford a toy car that they can take out for show while using their real internal combustion engine car to commute to work and take on vacations.  And it’s a money hole for GM.  Not exactly what they need while coming out of a ‘bankruptcy’.  If they’re smart they’d give up on the Volt before they have another round of financial problems.

The Irrational Exuberance of Green Energy

There’s a similarity between information technology and green energy.  And that similarity is irrational exuberance.  The market for all those dot-com companies was illusionary.  As is the market for electric cars.  So it makes little sense in building more batteries for cars people aren’t buying.

Adding batteries to our electric grid will be an enormous investment of tax dollars to improve the efficiency of some of the most inefficient energy sources.  Wind.  And solar.  Besides, for anyone who has suffered through multiple power outages each year, do you really want to add more complexity to the electric grid?  Something else that lightning can strike?  Something that is so complex that can’t be repaired or replaced as easily as a downed wire?  I shudder to think about waiting for that power restoration.

The point of green energy is twofold.  To get us off of expensive foreign oil.  And to stop global warming.  But the green energy solution is going to cost us more in the long run than foreign oil.  And with the science telling us sunspot activity may be heading towards a Maunder Minimum, we’re probably going to see some global cooling coming our way.  Not warming.  So what’s the point?  We don’t need green energy right now.   Especially if it costs more than foreign oil.  And we don’t need a bubble of green energy jobs to come back and bight us in the ass when that bubble pops.  As all bubbles do.

We use a lot of oil.  We should build on that.  For now.  Create some good, high paying jobs in the oil business.  Drill for more oil.  And bring it to market.  To meet a soaring demand.  You see, that’s an economic model that works.  Meeting demand with supply.  It works.  Always has.   And always will.

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Wind Farms don’t Deliver but a new Gasoline Engine May

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 6th, 2011

During Peak Demand Wind Power Generated less than 5% of Capacity

Before President Obama banned U.S. deep water oil drilling he was for it.  But that support was only half-hearted.  More for political purposes.  Because he just doesn’t like oil.  And high gasoline prices don’t bother him either.  In fact, he likes them.  They’re more of an incentive for people to pay more for electric cars that don’t drive as far as those hated gasoline counterparts.  Which will please his liberal environmentalist base.  And please his crony capitalist Big Business friends who make green energy generation equipment.  To provide this huge new electrical demand to power all those electric cars.  Like General Electric.  Who builds a lot of green products.  Including windmills.

Renewable energy is all the rage in the Obama administration.  It’s the ‘in’ energy this season.  Clean.  High-tech.  Currently nonexistent so it will add a whole bunch of taxpayer subsidized jobs to the economy.  It’s win-win for the administration.  And best of all, for them, it doesn’t work (see Wind farm efficiency queried by John Muir Trust study posted 4/6/2011 on the BBC News Scotland).

The research, carried out by Stuart Young Consulting, analysed electricity generated from UK wind farms between November 2008 to December 2010

Statements made by the wind industry and government agencies commonly assert that wind turbines will generate on average 30% of their rated capacity over a year, it said.

But the research found wind generation was below 20% of capacity more than half the time and below 10% of capacity over one third of the time…

During each of the four highest peak demands of 2010, wind output reached just 4.72%, 5.51%, 2.59% and 2.51% of capacity, according to the analysis.

You know, there is a reason why ocean transports aren’t sail-powered anymore.  Wind was unreliable.  It sometimes didn’t blow.  And it wasn’t a concentrated source of energy.  It took a lot of rigging to hold up a lot of sail to push ships slowly across the ocean.  When the wind blew.  And it didn’t always blow. 

Coal and the steam engine changed all of that.  Shippers replaced their sail-powered ships with steam-powered ships.  And they’ve never looked back.  Eventually replacing their coal-fired engines with oil-fired engines.  Some of the world’s navies even took it a step further.  They replaced their oil-fired engines with nuclear reactors.  Some of these warships can stay on station for 6 months and longer without ever refueling.

See the trend?  Energy sources became more concentrated.  Engines became smaller.  Which allowed people to ship more stuff for less.  This is progress.  It’s why they can sell a lot of those electronic toys we so enjoy so cheaply.  Because they can ship so many of them that the shipping cost per unit is like the cost of a postage stamp.  Using wind farms, on the other hand, is the opposite of progress.  It’s going backwards.  This less concentrated energy source will take acres of windmills at a high infrastructure cost to produce a trickle of electricity.  All it will do is enrich the equipment manufacturers.  Who will show their gratitude with generous political contributions. 

Crony capitalism at its worse.  And because this technology won’t solve our energy problem, our energy problem will always be here.  Government couldn’t ask for anything more.  Please the environmentalists.  Throw subsidies at their cronies in Big Business.  Sustain political donations from same.  And never fix the problem.  Which means this cycle just keeps repeating.   Politics.  It’s a beautiful thing.  For some.

The Internal Combustion Engine is Reinvented

Wind power is not really a viable energy source.  When fleets of electric cars ‘plug in’ it won’t be windmills providing the power.  It will be either a coal-fired plant.  A natural gas-fired plant.  Or a nuclear plant.  To provide reliable power during peak demands will require an energy source less fickle than the wind.  So if we want those electric cars, the environmentalists will have to embrace that which they hate.  Fossil fuels.  Or their archenemy.  Nuclear power.

Is there another way?  Perhaps.  But it’s a fossil fuel alternative.  But one that the environmentalist may even warm up to (see New Car Engine Sends Shockwaves Through Auto Industry by Nic Halverson posted 4/6/2011 on Discovery News).

[R]esearchers at Michigan State University have built a prototype gasoline engine that requires no transmission, crankshaft, pistons, valves, fuel compression, cooling systems nor fluids. Their so-called Wave Disk Generator could greatly improve the efficiency of gas-electric hybrid automobiles and potentially decrease auto emissions up to 90 percent when compared to conventional combustion engines.

The engine has a rotor that’s equipped with wave-like channels that trap and mix oxygen and fuel as the rotor spins. These central inlets are blocked off, building pressure within the chamber, causing a shock wave that ignites the compressed air and fuel to transmit energy.

Sounds like a lot of science fiction.  But did you get that one number?  Reduce emissions by 90 percent?  An internal combustion engine that is almost emission-free?  What’s not to love about that?  Sure, it still uses gasoline, but it uses it so much more efficiently.

The Wave Disk generator uses 60 percent of its fuel for propulsion; standard car engines use just 15 percent. As a result, the generator is 3.5 times more fuel efficient than typical combustion engines.

Researchers estimate the new model could shave almost 1,000 pounds off a car’s weight currently taken up by conventional engine systems.

More efficient, lighter and near-emission-free?  It’ll exceed every CAFE and emission standard the environmentalist demands from the automotive industry.  This engine has everything.  It pleases the environmentalist.  Reduces our consumption of foreign oil.  And with such a small, efficient power plant, the auto companies can make the big cars people want to buy again.  What’s not to love about this engine?

Last week, the prototype was presented to the energy division of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is backing the Michigan State University Engine Research Laboratory with $2.5 million in funding.

Oh.  They used federal funding to develop this engine.  It would seem to the layperson that an engine as wonderful as this would have a market.  A big market.  And could attract private investors.  I mean, they’re building expensive cars that no one will buy without a massive federal subsidy (to both the buyer and the seller) just to please the government.  An engine like this would make life so much simpler for the auto companies.  And so much more profitable.  Which suggests this may be too good to be true.  For the best things in life don’t need federal subsidies.  If there is a market people will take risks.  If there is a profit to be made people will bring good things to market. 

More Power with Less Fuel is Progress

The Wave Disk Generator may be for real.  For it is a step in the right way.  It uses the same concentrated fuel we use today in our cars.  But it uses it more efficiently.  Reducing the size of the engine.  While providing more power.  With less fuel.  This is progress.  This is good.  The only thing of concern is the government’s involvement.  For this is the same government that is investing in wind-generated electricity. 

Yes, it’s possible that the government backed a winner here.  Anything is possible.  I mean, even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Time will tell.  Perhaps one day we’ll see the Wave Disk Generator under the hood.  But if the government is involved, don’t hold your breath.  It could be awhile.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #29: “The problem with doing what is best for the common good is that few can agree on what the common good is.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 31st, 2010

CHOOSING IS EASY WHEN ONLY ONE IS CHOOSING

Lunch groups can be a pain in the you-know-what.  Ass.  I mean, if you’re hungry, you can go and eat whatever you want.  If you want pasta you can eat pasta.  But if you’re dragging 3 others with you, there’s a chance at least one of them doesn’t want pasta.  He or she may want Thai.  And be the only one who wants Thai.  Another may be trying to lose weight and wants a healthy vegetable sub.  Which may be the last thing someone wants if they have their heart set on a good, juicy piece of dead cow.

So you know what happens.  You don’t have pasta, Thai, the sub shop or the steakhouse.  You end up going to that greasy diner that smells like an old, unwashed ashtray.  The food’s not that bad and they have a huge menu.  Which never ceases to amaze you.  And worries you.  Just a little.  (You know they’re not selling broiled haddock every day and you wonder just how long it’s been in the freezer.)  There’s something for everyone.  It may not be the best.  No one is particularly happy with the choice.   But it was the best compromise everyone could agree to. 

Picking a movie can be just as fun.  “What do you want to see?”  “I don’t care.  What do you want to see?”  And this can go on and on.  And on.  An action thriller?  Too violent.  A romantic comedy?  Too sappy.  That r-rated comedy?  Too many boobs.  That 3-hour movie that’s like Steel Magnolias only sadder?  I can sleep at home for a hell of a lot less. 

And round and round you go.  Finally, you settle on a compromise.  Great Moments in Opera History – a film of a live performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto that includes some nudity.  There’s singing, a sad story, some comedy, a tragic ending and, of course, boobs.  No one was bursting with anticipation to see this movie.   No one is particularly happy with the choice.   But it was the best compromise everyone could agree to. 

When you’re deciding for one, you only have to please yourself.  The more people involved with the decision-making process, the less you please yourself and the more you try to please others.  Key word being ‘try’.  Because the more people in the decision-making process, the less likely anyone is going to be pleased.

E PLURIBUS UNUM (OUT OF MANY, ONE)

They call America the melting pot.  Canada is a mosaic, but we’re a melting pot.  America became a mixture of the different immigrants that came to this country.  These people assimilated into being Americans.  People with different nationalities and religions melted together and made a singular national identity.  Out of many, one.  (In Canada, there’s no melting.  Hence the mosaic.  And no singular national identity.)

Many say our diversity is our strength.  We’re not conformists.  Just look at the explosion in television channels.  We’re so diverse that we can’t agree on what to watch on TV.  So there are hundreds of channels to choose from.  To satisfy our very different tastes and interests.

We like different things.  Television shows, restaurants, movies, books, newspapers and blogs.  To name just a few.  There is, in fact, little that we really agree about.  Other than agreeing we should be able to enjoy the things we wish to enjoy.  And not be forced to endure the things we don’t.  Mosaic or melting pot, however you want to look at it, individuals make up the whole.  Persons with individual tastes and interests.  With individual hopes and dreams.

WHO’S TO SAY WHAT’S BEST?

Now put the two together and what do you get?  A lot of people who don’t agree with each other trying to agree with each other.  It’s sort of like drawing a square circle.  You can’t do it.  Now take that group and ask them to make a decision for the common good.

Sounds easy, right?  Most are willing to sacrifice a little.  If it’s for the common good.  We just need to list the things that everyone would agree are important for the common good.  Like better fuel economy in our cars to reduce pollution and our dependence on foreign oil.  Or making cars safer so people get hurt less in accidents.  Both of these appear to be for the common good.  But they also conflict with each other.  More of one means less of the other.  Little boxes with sewing-machine engines will give great fuel economy.  But they can get blown off bridges (like that Yugo that blew off the Mackinac Bridge in 1989) and don’t fare well when struck by an 18-wheel truck. 

Which is the greater good?  It depends on your definition of the greater good.  Which is, must be, subjective.  Big, heavy cars are safe.  Light, little cars have good fuel economy.  Some people so hate the internal combustion engine that a rise in highway fatalities is acceptable to them.  Others would rather give up a few MPGs for a safer car for their family.  These people aren’t likely to agree.  They’re probably not all that willing to compromise either.  For, unlike the lunch group, there’s no real motivation to get along with each other.

Now multiply this by thousands of other issues.  More arts funding.  A stronger military.  Stem cell research.  Lower taxes.  The Decriminalization of drugs.  Better border security.  Abortion.  AIDS research.  High-speed rail.  Etc.  Each of these has strong proponents.  And hefty price tags.  Or provoke bitter social/moral/ethical debate.  Can we agree which of these is the greater good?  Ask 10 of your family, friends and coworkers and find out.

SHARED SACRIFICE

Getting people to agree that we should do what’s best for the common good is easy.  Getting those same people to agree on exactly what that common good is, well, is impossible.  We’re too many people with too many diverse interests.  I know what’s best for me.  But how does my neighbor know what’s best for me?  And how do I know what’s best for him?  We can’t.  And the more we try the more we must settle for something less. 

When we start deciding for others, some will have to sacrifice for the greater good.  But that’s okay.  Because everyone is for ‘shared’ sacrifice.  If it’s for the common good.  As long someone else’s share of sacrifice is bigger than yours, that is.

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