ENVIRONMENT

September 17, 2014

Blinded by Green Energy

Blinded 1My article as originally published in American Thinker:  

Last weekend, my father-in-law took my son and me to Arizona to watch a couple of Giants games during Spring Training – an early birthday gift for my son, and a truly fabulous experience that I’m sure my soon to be ten-year-old will never forget.  But before we even made it to Arizona, I witnessed something else pretty unforgettable during the flight.  About an hour or so into our journey from Sacramento to Phoenix, I noticed three extremely bright lights off in the distance while looking through a window on the right side of the aircraft.  The lights were so intense that I thought I was looking at three miniature suns.  In all my years of flying (that route included), I had never seen anything like this before.

I had my suspicions that the lights had something to do with some sort of solar farm, and after reading an article in The Daily Caller and doing a little research using Google Maps, I realized that I was in fact a victim of the world’s largest solar thermal plant – and that I wasn’t alone:

Airplane pilots cruising over southern California have been complaining about a “nearly blinding” glare emanating from a massive government-funded solar thermal facility.

The Ivanpah solar energy plant in San Bernardino County is the world’s largest solar thermal plant and has 173,500 large mirrors that reflect sunlight onto boilers in three 459-foot towers. A feat of modern engineering — to green energy advocates, but a flying hazard to pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) got two anonymous complaints in August that mentioned a “blinding glare” coming from the Ivanpah solar facility. One complaint came from a Los Angeles air traffic controller and the other from a small transport plane pilot that took off from an airport in Boulder City, Nevada.

“The FAA is aware of potential glare from solar plants and is exploring how to best alert pilots to the issue,” an FAA spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Why didn’t someone think of this before breaking ground on such an enormous project?  Well, according to the DC article, they did:

BrightSource’s environmental impact study for Ivanpah included mitigation measures for glare issues related to the site’s reflective mirrors. The aviation community actually raised such worries during the environmental review process.

Ivanpah’s environmental impact study found that the solar thermal plant could cause temporary blindness to pilots flying within 3,300 feet of the heliostats, which compromises safety. BrightSource had to develop a heliosat position plan to mitigate the potential harm from Ivanpah’s glare.

I think the study may have been off by more than a few decimal points with its estimate of pilots having to be within only 3,300 feet of the heliostats to experience temporary blindness.  When I snapped the below photo (the only one that wasn’t totally overexposed) with my phone, the aircraft was at about 35,000 feet and dozens of miles to the East of Ivanpah’s 459-foot green-’n’-clean towers.

 

Many who are blinded by green energy don’t know about or simply ignore the heavy reliance on taxpayer subsidies and massive cronyism surrounding it.  But now, in addition to the fiscal impracticality of green energy, we have Bald Eagles being killed by ugly wind turbines and pilots being dangerously disorientated by giant solar plants – and as if the Ivanpah solar plant wasn’t causing enough trouble, it’s the very same plant that has been conveniently cooking birds before they fall to the ground.

Isn’t it interesting how green energy (and those who amass their wealth from it) gets a free pass from any of its negative impacts, unlike the economy-growing affordable energy options?  I guess those privileged to make these green omelets are permitted to break a few eggs – even if some of those eggs happen to be a protected species or are otherwise diligently protected by the TSA.

The next time I fly this route, I’ll be sure to bring along a few marshmallows to roast along the way.

We Already Have ‘Super Trucks,’ Mr. Obama

My article as originally published (math corrected) in American Thinker:   

President Obama just threw another wrench into the economy with his new heavy-duty truck efficiency standards. While it may be desirable to see more efficient trucks on the road, as Kevin Williamson at NRO pointed out — this technology isn’t free.

President Barack Obama is a masterly practitioner of the occult art of single-entry bookkeeping. Consider his speech today, in which he praised the fuel economy of a new “super truck,” making the point that, since most U.S. freight moves in trucks, lower operating costs for freight operators should in theory mean lower costs for consumers. And he would have a point — if that fuel-economy technology were free. It is not. It costs money to develop. It costs money to deploy. Where it adds to the price of a vehicle, it also adds to ownership costs such as insurance and taxation.

And as truckers, especially single operators (AKA small businessmen), have found out in California, free it is not.

So just how inefficient are these evil heavy-duty gas hogs? The White House “fact sheet” claims that in 2010, heavy-duty vehicles accounted for only four percent of the vehicles on the road, but consumed twenty-five percent of the fuel. While this sounds pretty bad on the surface, perhaps we should take a look under the hood given the source?

I think it’s important to keep in mind that vehicles contribute to the economy by doing work, be it carrying people to and from the office, or transporting thousands of pounds of goods across state lines. But is it really fair to compare giant cargo haulers with passenger cars simply as a percentage of the vehicles on the road? Shouldn’t the efficiency of doing actual work be what is instead considered?

If heavy-duty vehicles account for only four percent of what is traveling the road, this means that out of every one-hundred vehicles only four would be heavy-duty, and ninety-six would be standard autos. I understand there is a large variance of vehicular size and weight, but for simplicity, let’s take just one group and compare ninety-six passenger vehicles having a total loaded weight of 4,000 lbs each with four semi-trucks with a total legal loaded weight of 80,000 lbs each. The ninety-six cars would weigh a total of 384,000 lbs and the four heavy-duty trucks would weigh a total of 320,000 lbs. When looked at this way, four percent of these vehicles are doing almost as much economic work as the other ninety-six percent. Put another way, the heavy-duty trucks do about forty-five percent of the total work while representing only four percent of the ‘workers’ in this case. Further comparison using actual payload capacity would only serve to make these monstrous trucks look even better.

But what about comparing fuel consumption with work done? Using the same vehicle specifications as above, a truck with a total legal weight of 80,000 lbs can travel about (again keeping it simple) five miles using one gallon of fuel. A passenger car that gets 20 MPG uses .25 gallons of fuel during that same five mile trip but only hauls a total load of 4000 lbs. In order to do the same work (move 80,000 lbs) as the heavy-duty trucks, twenty of these cars would be needed. But in order for those twenty cars to move the same amount of weight over the same five miles, they would instead consume five gallons of fuel. That is a 400% increase if my math is correct.

I won’t get into it here, but couldn’t we also factor in the energy used to produce these vehicles as well? A semi truck engine can last over one million miles while a standard auto engine will last only one or two hundred thousand miles.

It looks to me like we already have “super trucks,” Mr. President. And I have faith that over time, the market will improve upon what we already have, and do so in an efficient manner.

Left alone, the free market has no problem efficiently pulling its own weight. But when the dead-weight of politicians and their “brilliant” ideas are piled upon it, the economy slows down to a crawl.

 


Spot the earth-friendly shopper

 My article as originally published in American Thinker:   

The next time you leave the grocery store with plastic bags in tote and notice the disapproving glare from someone proudly carrying a canvas bag that’s printed (using earth-friendly ink) with words that one way or another say “I care more about the environment than you do,” you can now confidently look back and say “not so fast.”

A recent study as reported by Townhall finds that the HDPE (plastic) bag is actually the most earth-friendly.

From the study:

The conventional HDPE bag had the lowest environmental impacts of the lightweight bags in eight of the nine impact categories. The bag performed well because it was the lightest bag considered. The lifecycle impact of the bag was dictated by raw material extraction and bag production, with the use of Chinese grid electricity significantly affecting the acidification and ecotoxicity of the bag.

From Townhall:

The study reports that a canvas bag is expected to last for 52 trips (Table A.3.1). With that as a reference, a cotton/cloth canvas bag user does over twice the damage to the environment that a plastic bag using grocery shopper who throws away every plastic bag they get immediately after each shopping trip, as they will likely have to replace their more environmentally-destructive bag at least once long before they reach 131 uses!

However, if a consumer reuses 100% of their conventional HDPE plastic bags (say as trash bags), the number of uses needed for the other bags to have a lesser environmental impact than the conventional HDPE plastic bag rises by a factor of anywhere from 2.2 to 2.5, which we see in the table above. For example, that re-usable canvas bag would need to be used at least 327 times to be less damaging to the environment!

Good intentions often come with unintended and undesirable consequences as I pointed out in a previous piece about the light bulb ban, and it looks as though the plastic bag hype is turning out to be no different.

During a recent business trip I went to a Home Depot in San Jose to buy some electrical materials for a project. Apparently San Jose has decided to take political correctness one step further as I was asked if I wished to purchase a bag. I refused out of principle and bundled everything up by hand and carried it out to my truck in disbelief.

So if you truly wish to protect the environment you should use either plastic bags or nothing at all and carry your goods out by hand. Of course dozens of contractors carrying loose nails bought in bulk out to trucks parked way out in the neither regions of the parking lot could prove to be a bit of a problem for the store’s clients and their tires.


Human Caused Global Warming: Fake?

 A climate scientist speaks out over at American Thinker:

As is evident from the Climategate e-mails, a small group of scientists, mainly in the U.K. and U.S., have managed to freeze out contrary evidence from being published in the scientific literature or in IPCC reports. The self-described “Team” members brazenly discuss strategies and action plans to further “The Cause.” Unfortunately, they have largely succeeded — and continue to influence publications, thanks to some key journalists and editors. In consequence of this evident conspiracy, it is hardly surprising that politicians, the media, and the general public are receiving entirely wrong information about supposedly catastrophic effects of a future warming.

Follow the easy money!

Read the rest at American Thinker  

 www.politiseeds.com

A Not-So-Bright Idea Placed on Hold

My article as originally published in American Thinker

It is encouraging that the ridiculous incandescent light bulb ban has been placed on temporary hold. But that is just part of the story when it comes to the government’s social engineering of energy usage.

The light bulb ban was certainly an annoying case that jolted everyone, got their attention, and generated much resistance, but here in California forced energy savings have been going on for quite some time.

In kitchens it used to be fairly easy to comply with these regulations. The first switch had to control a high efficiency luminaire such as a fluorescent. So we often had to add fluorescent under cabinet lights to the recessed ceiling can lights that most people wanted. This increased costs, both construction costs and overall total wattage, but it complied with the regulation.

The new Title-24 requirements are a little more stringent. Now 50% of the total connected Wattage in the kitchen must come from a high efficiency (poor color rendering fluorescent or expensive LED) lighting source. Sounds like a feel good solution that will save energy right? Not necessarily.

You start with what the customer wants (what a concept) for kitchen lighting. Let’s say that they want six recessed and three pendant incandescent lights. You will use 65W lamps in the cans and 40W in the pendants but you must calculate for their maximum rated Wattage which is usually 100W. That adds up to 900W in this case. So if you want to use the incandescent lights and satisfy the client as well as the government you have to come up with an additional 900W of lighting from a high efficiency source in order to have the government sign off on your work. If this kitchen had room for six fluorescent under-cabinet lights that only gets you to 156W. If you want to stay with the original design you are forced to add an additional 744W of high efficiency lighting in order to comply. Trust me — we find a way to comply.

That’s just the requirements for the kitchen. In bathrooms you’re forced to install expensive occupancy sensor switches if your fixtures aren’t high efficiency. Throughout the rest of the house every switch that controls an “evil” incandescent light has to be a dimmer. All outdoor lighting must be high efficiency as well. If it isn’t, it must be controlled by an annoying motion detector that has a built-in daylight sensor (I wonder if those get disconnected after inspection?).

Having all of these wonderful energy saving products available for people to freely choose is one thing (I really like LED) but unfortunately, as is the case with most of the Left’s social engineering projects, the end results are much different than the original intentions. They’re not as bright as they think they are.

What’s wrong with saving energy? As far as I’m concerned absolutely nothing — as long as it’s voluntary. But tossing aside the free market and forcing inferior or highly expensive products upon Americans is — un-American

Free-Market Green Jobs for $2.63 a Day

My article as originally published in American Thinker:

I employ the services of a landscape maintenance company (AKA a gardener) to maintain my yard.  The very existence of his business depends on the collection of that $80 from me ($2.63 a day) as well as the 30 or 40 other people whom he provides his services to each month.  This type of service may seem like an unnecessary “luxury” to many but it’s a mutually beneficial transaction that forms just one of the small but vital cogs in the wheel of capitalism.

With the downturn (think death-spiral) of the economy in California, my wife and I have had to make many sacrifices in order to keep our own household on a sustainable path.  While brainstorming ways to save money, the idea of letting our gardener go and doing the yard maintenance work ourselves has come up several times.  But we always come back to the idea that we need to resist succumbing to this recession and do our part in helping to keep what’s left of this fragile economy alive.  Fortunately for him, and us, we’ve been able to continue to utilize his services — for now.

How many other s-corp “rich” individuals, just like us, are out there who would be unable to maintain a service such as this if more of our money ended up being extracted through higher tax rates?  If our taxes were to increase by even a small amount (like, say, $80 per month), our gardener would unfortunately end up being one of the first casualties (although I might have to reconsider if he started whistling Disney tunes like the Solyndra robots).

President Obama also said: “This is not class warfare; it is math.”  Okay, let’s do some simple math.  Let’s look at what could have been done with the $535 million in taxpayer dollars that Obama “invested” in just that one Solyndra deal alone.  If you were to take the salary of one gardener who has 45 clients at $80 each per month, his earnings would add up to 3,600 per month, or $43,200 per year.  This means that if the $535 million that was carelessly wasted on the Solyndra deal had been left in the hands of the taxpayers, it theoretically could have been used to pay the annual salary of about 12,384 gardeners.  How does that stack up to the 1,100 who just lost their jobs at the luxurious Solyndra plants that built solar panels for twice the amount that they were able to sell them for?

It looks more like we’re swapping temporary “green jobs” for real “green jobs” and at an exchange rate that is much, much less than desirable.  And that is only the tip of the iceberg when you look into the green energy dealings of the Obama administration.  The administration has just approved another $5 billion (or about 115,740 gardeners for reference) in loan guarantees for these types of programs, including one to an enterprise that Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law is tied to (can you spell c-r-o-n-y?).  And as I write, there is new news that the $500-million green jobs training program came up short on its goals.

Of course, not all of this tax money would end up being used to pay the salaries of gardeners if it were left in the hands of taxpayers.  But stop and think for a moment about all of the other jobs in this nation that are tied to seemingly insignificant sums of money that Obama thinks taxpayers can “afford” to hand over to the government without consequence.

With an inefficient government bureaucracy, there is no amount of additional tax revenue that will ever be enough to satisfy its tremendous appetite if it is left unrestrained and unaccountable.  This is why, as history has proven time and time again, the use of capital is much more productive when mostly left in the hands of the private sector.

To gain a little more perspective on the enormity of the sums of taxpayer money the Obama administration has been spending, let’s do the same calculation as above using the original projected amount of Obama’s stimulus package ($787 billion).  According to the “math,” we could pay about 18,217,592 gardeners for one full year with that “stimulus” money.

Talk about a real “green jobs” program — there wouldn’t be one single square inch of land left in the United States that wasn’t fully lush and green.