Archive for November, 2009

I Need My MTV

November 19, 2009

As predicted, California has now banned the sale of big TV sets because “they use too much energy.”  This coming from the California Energy Commission whose job is to produce more energy. I guess, like President Obama, they see a kilowatt saved as a kilowatt produced (for Obama read kilowatt as job). The Energy Commission has overseen the complete dismantling of energy production in the state: nuclear power and oil drilling have been stopped, marginal electric rates have gone up by a factor of 4, gasoline is more expensive here than anywhere else, …

The press report on the ban, which I’m sure was just copied straight from CEC propaganda, gave a few actual facts: 6515 billion watt-hours per year of electric energy savings at a benefit of $8.1B/year in reduced electric bills. Doing simple division that says that electricity saving are taken at $1.25/KW-hr, which is 7 times the average rate for electricity and 3 times the marginal rate for residential customers (7 times for business customers). CAN”T ANYONE IN THE PRESS DO DIVISION??? Obviously this doesn’t make any sense. Going further, 6515 billion watt-hours/year requires a 750 MW power plant which the CEC claims will cost 8.7 billion dollars. The current cost for such a coal burning power plant (which are built in Wyoming and Montana for California consumption) is about $2B, about 1/4 the costs they claim. Again, this computation requires a little division and knowing what a gigawatt and a kilowatt are, so maybe it is asking too much for the press to actually figure out when someone is blowing smoke up their butts.

Some of the comments of yahoo readers are much more interesting than the story. All the readers are against the ban and see it as an overreach by an ever increasing fascist/socialist government. [For those who think there is a difference between fascism and socialism, there isn’t.]  One reader wrote:

78 Posted by brenda25252 on Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:59PM EST

How long before they regulate how many TVs, computers, appliances, etc.? You’ll hear a knock at the door in the middle of the night…its the energy police operating an energy sting in your neighborhood. Can you say “big brother”?

Brenda: this has happened already. The California Air Resources Board has instituted a winter spare the air program in which fireplace police drive around neighborhoods sniffing for people who are using their fireplaces to heat their home. They will knock on your door and if you don’t answer or don’t let them in they will give you a ticket for using that fireplace. You must show up to court to defend yourself – you are guilty unless you can prove your innocence. Repeat offenders can be sent to jail.  Also, PG&E is now installing new “smart” meters that will, soon, be able to measure things like your using of appliances and computers and most air conditioning, so they won’t even have to knock on your door to figure out what you’re doing late at night.

Now the most ironic but uncovered point of this whole story is that while the CEC wants to save a few watts by banning TVs, they are promoting ELECTRIC CARS!!  A typical electric car requires 0.25 KW-hr/mile. Assuming by banning TVs you save 100 Watts/household for 8 hours a day, that corresponds to 0.8 KW-hr/day or 3.2 miles of electric vehicle travel. If their dreams of an electric car come to fruition, the only TV we will be able to buy will be the ones built into our cars.


Sink That Slow Boat to China

November 6, 2009

I don’t like to predict things because I can’t really see into the future, but last year in one of my posts I predicted in passing:

My guess is that the first bill in Congress to make wind farms illegal will come from Democratic sponsors in the name of conservation.

Well looks like I was half right. The first opposition to a big ($1.5B) wind farm in Texas is by a Democrat, Chuck Schumer, who was ironically also the topic of that same post. Chuck didn’t, however, poo-poo the power plant because of conservation. He doesn’t like the fact that the turbines are going to be made in China. Believe it or not, I agree.

Buying toasters, toys, TVs, and telephones made in China is bad enough, but contracting major industrial projects to Chinese products and labor shows us only that we have lost leadership in almost all  things critical to a successful country. The useless “stimulus” spending the Feds are undertaking should at least help us build back our own industries, our own capabilities, our own future, not those of China.

This last week a piece of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge broke and fell onto traffic. The piece was a fix to a broken eye-span, critical to keeping the bridge from falling into the bay. This span of the old bridge is being replaced with a brand new bridge span that is supposed to look spiffy. I listened on the radio to a civil engineering professor from U.C. Berkeley who has been studying the bridge in detail since the earthquake of 1989 that shook lose a non-critical but still lethal section of the bridge deck. He said that the current fix to the bridge is not safe, it is just a C-clamp to keep the the eye-span from further deterioration. It is a race now, will they get the new bridge done before the old one collapses? Will Caltrans fix the old bridge properly? What does this have to do with China?

Turns out most of the steel in the new bridge is made in, you guessed it, China. I guess they were the low bidder. I hope this new bridge is going to hold up better than the current one.  According to the professor, chinese steel is known for being defective, subject to cracking, and he said that they have already found a couple of cracks in critical decking before it made it out of the factory, some 12,000 miles from California.

The professor mentioned another interesting characteristic of the new bridge design: the bridge deck is a critical element keeping the entire bridge structure together (unlike all the other bridges where the bridge deck is held up by the bridge structure). While the structure is built to withstand a really big earthquake (assuming the steel infrastructure doesn’t crack), it is not built to withstand a simple bomb. One bomb causing one big hole in the new bridge deck and the whole thing will collapse. The old bridge doesn’t suffer that problem. Caltrans answer to why this flaw exists? Terrorism was not an issue when the bridge was designed.

I hope Caltrans hires some good engineers from California to fix the old bridge properly so that it can be used just in case the new one gets hit.