You just can’t Replace a Coal-Fired Power Plant with a Solar Farm

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 23rd, 2014

Week in Review

What’s unique about Windsor, Ontario?  The city across the river from Detroit?  It’s the only place you can drive south from the United States to get to Canada.  So it’s about as far south you can get in Canada.  But it’s no Florida.  No.  They have cold winters in Windsor.  They also have snow.  And clouds.  So it’s probably not the best place to build a solar farm.  Any rational person would see this.  So guess what the government in southern Ontario is doing?  Building a solar farm (see Airport land leased for Samsung solar farm by Chris Vander Doelen posted 3/19/2014 on The Windsor Star).

A “major” developer of solar power will lease hundreds of acres at Windsor Airport for a green energy farm, city council has agreed after years of negotiations with the company…

He said the company picked Windsor as the site for its investment because “we have more sun days than any other jurisdiction in Ontario.” That clearly suggests a solar farm, but Francis wouldn’t confirm that…

The agreement approved Wednesday – the meeting was closed to the public for legal reasons, Francis said – is believed to be the final, long-delayed piece of a massive deal the Province of Ontario and Samsung announced in January 2010.

That’s when former premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the province had signed a $7-billion agreement to produce renewable power with the Korean industrial giant – a contract that became so controversial parts of it were later renegotiated…

But the deal also became controversial as the costs starting driving up residential and industrial power bills, all of which will be affected by the renewable energy plan.

The controversy eventually led to reductions in some of the feed-in tariffs paid to producers of solar and wind power, which likely added to the delays of the solar farm not announced until this week. It also led to the renegotiation of additional incentives for Samsung, which were reduced to $110 million over 20 years…

Installation of the panels would generate many years of employment for an undetermined number of labourers and IBEW electricians. But once built there wouldn’t be much employment generated by the static field of passive solar collectors.

The solar farms were to be part of something called the Ontario Alternative Energy Cluster, claimed by Samsung to be “the largest of its kind in the world” at 1,369 megawatts of output.

They may have more sun days in Windsor than any place else in Canada.  But Canada is a northern country.  Even Windsor is in a northern clime.  And they just don’t get as much sun as they do in more southern climes (see The Climate and Weather of Windsor, Ontario).  In the sunniest month they have 9.5 average hours of sun per day.  Which means they have 14.5 (24-9.5) average hours of no sun per day.  And during these hours of ‘no sun’ a solar farm will not produce electric power.  Which means on average this solar farm will produce no electric power for half of the day.

And it gets worse.  The average hours of sun per day declines going into winter.  October (5.5 hours of sun and 18.5 hours of no sun).  November (4.1 hours of sun and 19.9 hours of no sun).  December (2.6 hours of sun and 21.4 hours of no sun).  January (3.4 hours of sun and 20.6 hours of no sun).  February (4.4 hours of sun and 19.6 hours of no sun).  March (5.4 hours of sun and 18.6 hours of no sun).  So, on average, there are 5 hours of no sun for every hour of sun for half of the year.  So you can install solar panels that could produce 1,369 megawatts of output.  But they seldom will.  So you will need another power source to provide electric power when the solar panels don’t.  Which means a solar farm can’t replace something like a coal-fired power plant.  For that coal-fired power plant will have to on average provide power 82% of the time.  Which is why building a solar farm is a real bad idea.

And it gets even worse.  December has 10 days of snowfall on average.  January has 12.  And February has 9.  Just under half the days in the winter months will have snow which will have to melt off when the sun comes out from behind the clouds.  If it comes out.  Or someone will have to clear the snow from the solar panels by hand.

Windsor also has some other climate statistics (see National Climate Data and Information Archive).  They have the most thunderstorm days.  So they have more high winds, hail and tornados to damage delicate solar panels pointed skyward than any other part of Canada.  And more black overcast days to block out the sun.  They have the most smoke and haze days to filter out some of the sun from hitting the solar panels.  They have the most humid summer which will coat the solar panels with early morning dew that will run down and drain off in blackened streaks.  Reducing the efficiency of the solar panels.

This is why no one is building solar farms without taxpayer subsidies.  Which raises the cost of electric utility bills to pay for the subsidies.  Eating into household budgets forcing families to get by on less.  And for what?  You can’t shut down a coal-fired power plant during the day and turn it back on at night.  It takes time to make high pressure steam.  That’s why they use these plants for baseload power.  They’re on all the time.  And when demand picks up they add a natural gas-fired turbine ‘peaker plant’ to provide that peak demand.  Or some other source that they can bring on line quickly.  Like another turbine at a hydroelectric dam.  So the good people of Ontario will pay more for their electric power without getting anything in return.  Not even a cleaner environment.  Because you just can’t replace a coal-fired power plant with a solar farm.

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Chrysler turns down Government Loan for Guarantee to keep Minivans in Windsor

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2014

Week in Review

Cities and governments have long loved big industry.  Unions, too.  Because they’re big.  And are difficult to move. Such as an automobile assembly plant.  They take a lot of real estate.  Require a lot of specialized production and assembly equipment.  And a lot of infrastructure to support them.  Making them very difficult to move.  But not impossible (see Chrysler spurns government money, Windsor to build minivans posted 3/4/2014 on CBC News Windsor).

Chrysler will continue to build its popular minivan in Windsor, Ont., and has withdrawn all requests for government financial assistance in relation to the redevelopment of its assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton…

At the Detroit auto show seven weeks ago, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said that changes at the Windsor plant alone would cost at least $2 billion, and that Chrysler needed government help to finance the project.

Chrysler said in a media release Tuesday it will now “fund out of its own resources whatever capital requirements the Canadian operations require.”

Industry Minister James Moore said the government’s commitment to the auto industry is strong and he was surprised by Chrysler’s decision.

Essex Conservative MP Jeff Watson, whose riding is just south of Windsor, said he believed talks were going well.

“We were prepared to invest in exchange for guarantees for Canadian production and a Canadian supply chain,” Watson said.

Money from the government doesn’t come without strings.  And the string here was a guarantee that Chrysler wouldn’t leave.  No matter how costly the government or union contracts made it to stay in Windsor.  Costs that Chrysler has to recover in the sales price of their cars.  Which can’t be so high as to price them out of the market.  So Chrysler chose to spend their own money.  So they didn’t get stuck in an adverse economic situation when trying to compete in a global market.

“It is clear to us that our projects are now being used as a political football, a process that, in our view, apart from being unnecessary and ill-advised, will ultimately not be to the benefit of Chrysler,” the company said in a news release.

“As a result, Chrysler will deal in an unfettered fashion with its strategic alternatives regarding product development and allocation, and will fund out of its own resources whatever capital requirements the Canadian operations require.”

The government wanted what was best for them.  Economic activity they could tax.  While Chrysler wanted what was best for them.  Being able to sell cars at market prices.  And leaving their options open in the future.  Should it become too costly to continue to build cars in Canada.  Due to the cost of labor.  Or new regulatory policies.  Or higher taxes to fund a welfare state struggling under the costs of an aging population.  Governments are desperate for new tax revenue.  And will make almost any promise to get it.  Making long-term deals with governments risky.

According to the Ontario government, the auto sector employs 94,000 Ontarians, and supports as many as 500,000 families through indirect jobs…

Unifor Local 444 president Dino Chiodo, who represents hourly employees in Windsor, said he wasn’t completely surprised by Marchionne’s announcement…

Chiodo said Tuesday’s announcement is short of the $2-billion retooling and flexible manufacturing line employees were looking for in Windsor…

Chiodo said a $2.3-billion investment would secure three generations of minivans, which could secure jobs for decades…

Marchionne also wants union concessions.

Yes, they love the jobs these corporations create.  And all that economic activity those jobs create.  Economic activity they can’t create.  But they still hate corporations.  That’s why they tax them.  Regulate them.  Call them greedy.  Exploiters of labor.  And that the only way they can get them to do something decent is by making deals with them that favor them and not these evil corporations.  But sometimes these evil corporations don’t enter agreements that may harm them in the long run.  And when they do governments and unions panic.  As they fear they may have let a cash piñata slip through their fingers.  Which is a problem for them.  For they can’t create a single job those evil corporations can.

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Binge Drinking is yet another Example of Young People making Poor Decisions

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 26th, 2013

Week in Review

Border towns.  It’s where people can escape high legal drinking ages.  Laws against gambling.  And bans on totally naked girls at strip bars serving alcohol.  By simply crossing the border you can have all the fun your little heart desires.  Even get yourself into a whole lot of trouble.  Because most of this fun starts with young adults getting drunk.  And drunk young adults have a penchant for making bad decisions.

One of these border towns is across the river from Detroit.  Windsor.  A small city that thrives on that cross-border traffic pouring millions into their local economy.  But it’s just not the Americans having a really good time in downtown Windsor (see Health unit launches campaign to tackle binge drinking by Beatrice Fantoni posted 5/24/2013 on The Windsor Star).

Windsor is notorious for its busy bar scene but the public health unit wants to tone the binge drinking down just a little in the interests of long-term health…

A nasty hangover can last well past the weekend. Abusing alcohol today can have serious health repercussions years from now, in the form of increased cancer risk – most notably, breast cancer – or other serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis or stroke.

Using a set of guidelines for safe alcohol consumption developed by the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee, the public health campaign – which eight other public health units in southwestern Ontario are also launching – involves the roll-out of a different poster every three months on topics such as what constitutes a safe serving size and the short- and long-term risks of heavy drinking.

The target population is the 25-44 age group and posters are being distributed to local bars, restaurants, gyms, workplaces, for example, McBeth said…

“The end result is going to be the same,” said Rich Kingsley, who used to own several restaurants in the city. When people head downtown for drinks, Kingsley said, they’re gonna binge.

Posters alone won’t help just like those graphic images on cigarette packages do little to dissuade smokers, he said. Policies like changing the legal drinking age or prohibiting smoking in public places have to go along with it, he said.

Raising the legal drinking age.  Makes sense.  Young adults make a bad decision to binge drink.  And when they’re drunk they make even more bad decisions.  Not to mention all of that health damage they’re causing.  So raising the legal drinking age to allow these people to grow up and become mature and responsible sounds like a good idea.  Good for them.  And good for us.  For our loved ones won’t make a bad decision with lasting consequences.  Nor will we have to see them suffer some horrible disease later in life.   Or pay the high costs of treating some horrible disease.  How can you argue with that?

Can you imagine leaving this up to the young people?  Say getting all the 15-21 year-olds together.  And have them determine the new legal drinking age?  Can you guess what they would say it should be?  I’ll take a guess.  They’ll probably say the legal drinking age should be 15.  For if they’re responsible enough to vote, they’ll figure, they’re responsible enough to drink.  Besides, what 15-year-old wouldn’t love to be able to walk into a party store and buy booze without a fake ID?

This is why we don’t let 15-year-olds vote.  And why we should never let 15-year-olds vote.  Because they are not wise enough, mature enough or responsible enough to do what’s best for them.  In fact, we probably should raise the voting age.  If people 25-44 are acting so irresponsibly by binge drinking perhaps we should just raise the voting age.  Maybe not to 45.  But definitely higher than 18.  For it’s obvious these people put their immediate wants before their long-term best interests.  Which explains how a country that is 21% liberal is being run by liberal Democrats.

Liberal Democrats get the youth vote.  And what’s important to the youth?  Having a good time.  Which means decriminalizing pot.  Free birth control.   And access to abortion.  Things the liberal Democrats tell these kids are the most important things in the world.  And that the Republicans want to take them away from them.  So they vote liberal Democrat.  Until they have children of their own.  Especially daughters.  Then an all-girl Catholic school doesn’t look that bad.  Because putting the fear of God into our kids is a good way of helping them make better decisions.  And it will help prevent some boy from knocking up our daughters.  Or giving them a venereal disease.

Perhaps we need a little less partying.  And a little more religion in our lives.  A little morality may make us drink less.  Smoke less.  Engage in sexual congress less.  Resulting in fewer unplanned pregnancies.  That will require fewer abortions.  If we do that perhaps our young people can focus on more important things.  Like getting a good education.  Establishing a career.  And starting a family.  Things that are in their long-term best interests.

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Canada’s National Health Care forces some Windsor Moms to have their Babies 2 Hours away in London

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 21st, 2012

Week in Review

One of the most traveled VIA Rail corridors is between Windsor, Ontario, and Quebec City, Quebec.  There’s a lot of population density along that corridor.  Some of Canada’s biggest cities, too.  Including Toronto and Montreal.  But at the western terminus is the city of Windsor.  Across the river from Detroit, Michigan.  One of the most congested US-Canada border crossing.  A city all Canadians can get to by train.  But apparently health care dollars have trouble reaching (see Change to hospital could force babies, moms to London posted 7/20/2012 on CBC News).

The CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital fears a potential downsizing of its neonatal intensive care unit could mean a loss of doctors and force women to give birth in London.

The province is in the process of reviewing Ontario’s 14 NICUs. Windsor’s NICU is currently classified as a modified Level 3 care centre but wants to become a full Level 3 unit. However, according to CEO David Musyj, the province is looking to increase the number of Level 2 centres and that could mean a demotion for his hospital.

“It will negatively impact 50-60 babies in a year and some 300 moms,” Musyj claims.

Windsor currently has the ability to care for pregnant women and newborns who are a minimum of 26 weeks. A change would mean those women and babies would have to head to London for care.

Why are they doing this?  Why else?  Budget cuts.  Common in a national health care system.  Something we can look forward to under Obamacare.  Once they start cutting costs to make Obamacare more efficient.  Making us travel 2 hours for health care services we once received from our local hospital.

All Canadians pay taxes.  And they will get the health care services those taxes pay for.  It just may take a 2 hour drive to get to your hospital.  Of course the good people of Windsor may be able to shorten that drive time by crossing the most congested US-Canada border crossing.  And paying for their health care in the United States.  Of course with Obamacare that may not be an option for long.

Sad, this free national health care.  It can make getting medical treatment so very hard.  Which is something we have to look forward to under Obamacare.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #73: “Politics is about overspending and vote-buying while getting some poor dumb bastard to pay for it.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 5th, 2011

Washington is Show Business for the Ugly

The founding of America heralded the end of aristocratic rule.  And this is a problem.  For aristocrats.  Those who feel they’re better than everyone else.  Especially those who aspire greatness, and wealth, through political office.  Such as Liberal Democrats.  And RINO Republicans.  Those who like to mingle in the world of the beautiful people.  Rubbing shoulders with the fabulously rich.  And A-List celebrities.  Attending the best parties.  Meeting the best people.  Eating the best food.  Drinking the best booze.  It’s a beautiful life.  The only problem is the price of admission.  You have to be rich and/or talented to get in.  And rich and talented aspiring politicians aren’t.

At least, not at first.  But politics offers them that opportunity.  Rush Limbaugh said Washington is show business for the ugly.  There may be a lot of truth in that.  You see, the beautiful people are, well, beautiful.  That’s their ticket to celebrity and fame.  And access to that beautiful life.  From movie stars being discovered sitting at a drug store counter to talentless reality stars.  Being attractive can be a shortcut to fame.  Beautiful people go the front of the line at the best clubs.  And often get a free pass in.  Because people want to be around beautiful people.  Even if they’re unknown.  That’s the power of being beautiful.  Which can be a problem for the beautifully challenged.

Of course, having talent is a way around not being beautiful.  Those nerds in high school went on to be millionaires.  Even billionaires.  Those geeky guys that never had a date in high school now have the most beautiful women chasing them.  For their money, of course.  But they are still chasing them.  And they learned something.  It’s not important to be beautiful.  As long as you’re rich.  Because it turns out that money can buy a lot of happiness.  Sure it’s the shallow and superficial kind.  But you’ll be at the best parties.  Rubbing shoulders with the other fabulously rich.  And A-list celebrities.  That’s a pretty sweet life.  And one that many covet.  But what do you do if you’re neither beautiful nor talented?  You, of course, go into politics.

You have to be a Real Good Liar

Those with no talent or ability can try to trade in on their appearance.  If they’re considered too ‘ugly’ to get by on their looks alone then they can enter a career of lying.  Politics.  Where you say you care about the little people and promise to give them things if only they will vote for them.  You do anything to get into office.  Because once you do you’re set for life.  Salary and benefits for Congress people are better than anything you’ll get working in the private sector.  And the retirement package is insane.  You live the rest of your life with a large percentage of your Congressional salary.  And you keep a lot of the perks from your Congressional days.  In other words, being elected to office is a ticket into a new aristocracy.  Just like in days of old.  And once you’re in people will treat you as if you are better than everyone else.

It’s a fairytale life.  And a lot of people want it.  People that you have to beat in some election.  Often without the help of any voter election fraud if you’re just starting your political career.  So you have to be a real good liar.  You have to suspend all reason and logic.  And promise, promise, promise.  Even with astronomically high deficits you promise to give people more if they vote for you.  Because you have a plan.  You’re going to shift the tax burden to those who can afford it.  Go after the rich who don’t pay their fair share.  And cut corporate welfare.  With these savings you will be able to spend more on the poor and disadvantaged.  It’s a powerful sales pitch.  And it works well if they are not well educated (thank you public education) and don’t understand taxes and their impact on the job-creating economy.  Also, the more poor and disadvantaged they are the better.  Because the rich and middle class aren’t going to vote higher taxes on themselves.  Only the poor and disadvantaged (who are not well educated on taxes and their impact on the job-creating economy) will continuously vote to raise taxes on those who have more than they do.  Classic class warfare.  So it’s important that your programs fail.  Because you don’t want to help these people.  Not if you’re relying on them to help you sustain your better life.

Of course having a large percentage of the population dependent on your government policies and programs isn’t enough.  It will make the elections easier but it isn’t going to pay the bills.  These people are, after all, a burden.  They consume a lot of the tax base.  But most don’t pay any taxes.  Sure, you can live a comfortable life on a Congressional salary.  But there’s so much more to be had out there with the power to write laws and regulations.  When you can decide winners and losers in the economy you wield considerable influence.  And that influence is worth something.  Especially to crony capitalists.  Who look to profit not by competing in the free market.  But by having friends in high places.  Friends who will reward them well in exchange for a little cash and perks thrown their way.  And by a little I mean a lot.  Of course the good politician makes sure these crony capitalists are only profitable with their help.  Because the less they need their special favors the less of their cash and perks find their way to Washington.

Higher Tax Rates ultimately Reduce the Amount of tax Dollars Collected

Politics is nothing more than a ballet of leverage.  Who has pull.  Who can use it best.  And who is willing to screw the little guy.  You use the poor and disadvantaged to win elections.  But you do everything within your power to keep them poor and disadvantaged so they can keep helping you win elections (we’ve been fighting a war to end poverty since LBJ‘s Great Society of the 1960s and we haven’t won it yet which should tell you something).  You use crony capitalism to enhance your wealth and wellbeing.  But you make sure this corporate welfare only serves one person.  You.  So you don’t necessarily want to see your crony capitalists doing well in the free market.  Far from it.  For if they can do well without your help they’re not going to stay your bitch.

So, to succeed in politics you need to do a couple of things.  You need to redistribute wealth from those who create it to those who don’t.  And form mutually exclusive relationships with crony capitalists.  We call it tax and spend.  And legislation.  They use the progressive income tax system to spread the wealth.  And write legislation that rewards their friends while punishing the enemies of their friends.  Taxes for revenue.  And legislation for power and wealth. 

But the revenue is never enough (as the deficits show).  Despite the progressive income tax system.  Where, in the name of fairness, the richer you are the more taxes you pay.  And the poorer you are the fewer taxes you pay.  But keeping as many people as poor as possible has its drawbacks.  The more poor there are the fewer there are paying taxes.  Which requires raising taxes on the non-poor.  The rich.  And the middle class.  Which has a real big side affect.  After a point, higher taxes reduce economic activity.  It’s the law of diminishing returns.  The higher tax rates ultimately reduce the amount of tax dollars collected.  So they consider other sources of revenue besides the income tax.  Money that is ‘outside’ of the economy.  Money that’s ‘parked’.  Untouched by income and excise taxes.  Such as estates of the dead.  And the wealth of the living.  There is an estate tax.  But no wealth tax.  Yet.  And, oh, do they want one.  Like in some European countries.  Because the rich don’t work.  They invest.  They don’t live on income.  They live on ‘investment’ income.  Capital gains.  Which is taxed at a lower capital gains rate.  Not the confiscatory rate of the progressive tax system.  Worse, as the government sees it, they only pay taxes on their capital gains.  Not their capital.  Their wealth.  And that’s a lot of money parked outside the economy that they want a piece of.

Something ‘outside’ the Economy to Tax

But a wealth tax has its problems, too.  You can move wealth.  If you tax wealth the wealthy will just invest their wealth elsewhere.  Like rich Europeans have done.  No.  They need something better.  Something the rich can’t escape.  And, ideally, finding something ‘outside’ the economy to tax.  Something like the Las Vegas model.  The casinos in Vegas bring a lot of money into the city.  The casinos are very profitable.  And Las Vegas and Nevada profit well, too (before the subprime mortgage crisis, at least).  Many other cities have tried to cash in on these fat profits but have failed to match the success of Vegas.  Caesars Windsor is doing well because it is in a smaller city across the border from a larger metropolitan area.  A metropolitan area with a lot of people.  And if just a fraction of them crossed the border it would swell the Windsor economy.  And like Vegas, Windsor does have a little vice to offer.  A bit of the naughty that you can’t get in that metro area.  For the good people of Metro Detroit have a higher legal drinking age.  They don’t have gentlemen’s clubs with nude dancers that serve alcohol.  And prostitution is illegal.  But all of these things (to a certain extent) are available in Windsor.  Just across the border.  Where, like Vegas, what happens in Windsor stays in Windsor.  Plus Windsor has an active nightlife.  Safe streets.  And a touch of an international flair.  The money poured into Windsor.  When Detroit finally added three casinos to get a little piece of that action that’s what they got.  A little piece.  The casinos were money makers.  But Detroit did not enjoy the boom that Windsor did.  Why?

Windsor did well for the same reason Vegas did well.  They’re both destination cities.  People travel to them.  They’ll fly there for a vacation.  Or cross an international border for a night out.  These are the people spending and losing their money in these casinos.  Not the good people of Windsor.  Or the good people of Las Vegas.  It’s outside money coming into the local economy.  Which is a net add.  The problem Detroit has is that it’s not a destination city.  It’s cold in the winter.  It’s suffered blight and decline.  And still has a reputation as being unsafe.  People aren’t going there.  It’s just the people already there that are gambling away their money.  These people are just going out to dinner less.  Going out to fewer movies.  Going out to fewer clubs.  Etc.  The problem in Detroit is that there is no new money coming into the economy.  All that casino money was just local money people were spending someplace else in the local economy.

Despite what they say, politicians know high taxes don’t stimulate economic growth.  It just transfers money from one person to another to spend.  There’s no net gain.  Like in Detroit with their casinos.  They would love a wealth tax.  But the rich could easily avoid it by moving their wealth.  But there is something that even they can’t avoid.  Taxing energy.  Rather, the emissions created by energy.  In the name of combating global warming.  Cap and trade.  Emissions trading.  Making people buy ‘permits’ for their emissions.  That can be traded.  Creating a permit exchange similar to a stock exchange.  Governments forcing private entities to buy ‘shares’ of pollution.  Brilliant.  Because you can’t escape the use of energy.  It is a part of our very existence.  So you can’t escape it.  And the Europeans have taken it to the Las Vegas model.  The European Union (EU) will force international airlines flying into EU airspace to pay in essence an extralegal tax.  Which is the greatest kind of tax a government can use.  A tax whose full benefits will go to their constituents.  But a not a dime of which their constituents will pay.  If you put this to a referendum, the people will pass it.  Because people will have everything to gain.  And nothing to lose.  Other than the trade war such an extralegal tax would most likely provoke.  And the accompanying economic crash and withering recession.

In the mean time, though, the ruling elite, the new aristocracy, will be able to maintain their privileged lives.  Mingling with the beautiful people.  The fabulously rich.  And A-List celebrities.  Which is really all they care about anyway.

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