American Elephants


Obama Wants to Tell You “The Battery Story” by The Elephant's Child

There is more — as you probably suspected — to the battery story.  President Obama recently went to the groundbreaking ceremony for an advanced battery factory in Holland, Michigan. that he claims will produce 300 “permanent” jobs.  It was his fourth battery-factory trip as president, as the White House makes an aggressive effort to tell “the battery story.”

The story starts with the administration’s $2.4 billion investment in the development of batteries and electric-car technology — an enormous gamble on a product that has yet to gain any commercial success.  Hybrids, although they have been around for a decade, represent less than one percent of the nation’s roughly 259 million vehicle fleet, although Toyota claims the Prius as a major success after many years of losing money.

The global market for batteries is glutted,  and by 2014 will be 3 times greater than demand.   U.S. companies that have received federal grants are concerned that their capacity to build parts for electric cars is far outstripping consumer demand.  Not everybody will survive.  Without the federal incentives, Johnson Controls (the largest recipient)  would have built its factory in Europe or Asia. To ramp up demand the company is lobbying the government to buy more electric and hybrid vehicles.

Economist Veronique du Rugy is not buying “the battery story.”  There is immediate benefit for the factory owner, but the money comes either from taxing Americans or borrowing or printing money.

According to Harvard economist Robert Barro, $1 spent by the government means that the economy will shrink by $1.10.  New research from Harvard Business School shows that increased federal spending in states causes local businesses to cut back rather than grow.  [Aha!  Obviously a bunch of right-wingers] An interview with one of the authors showed that:

Recent research at Harvard Business School began with the premise that as a state’s congressional delegation grew in stature and power in Washington, D.C., local businesses would benefit from the increased federal spending sure to come their way.

They found that the opposite was true.

So the federal government is subsidizing factories to build products for which there is as yet no market, and subsidizing purchases of electric cars which people do not want, so to create markets for their unsalable products factory owners are lobbying the government to buy electric cars for the federal automotive fleet, for which there are no charging stations, and which would create a massive drain on the electric grid for which local utilities are unprepared. And they want them to buy the cars for $41,000 each.  Can I possibly have that right?  Sigh!



Are You in the Market for a $41,000 Electric Car? by The Elephant's Child
July 27, 2010, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Energy, Law, Liberalism | Tags: , ,

Government Motors General Motors has announced that the starting price for the battery-powered Chevrolet Volt will be $41,000, a $1,000 more than original estimates.  The Volt’s closest rival, the all-electric Nissan Leaf, starts at $33,000.  Either of the cars could provide buyers with a $7,500 tax rebate.  The Volt will go on sale late this year.  Adding sales tax in my state would bring it up to $45,100.

GM says that the car can go about 40 miles on battery power alone.  When the battery runs down, a small gasoline engine connected to a generator will  power the electric motor. (How much and for how long wasn’t mentioned).

The Volt plugs in with a special adapter to recharge the battery.  Popular Mechanics says it takes about 30 minutes for the generator to recharge the battery.  There are ports on both sides to charge the battery from a 110-volt  outlet in about 6.5 hours.  The battery will come with an eight-year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery pack.

Utilities are beefing up transformers in neighborhoods where they think there could be numbers of people adopting plug-in cars. ( I do want to see how they measure that.  Do Leonardo De Caprio and Streisand live in the same neighborhood?).  Rapid charging of batteries can put as much stress on circuits as adding new homes. Nissan’s Leaf is a pure electric vehicle.  Utilities are rolling out programs offering their customers discounted prices for electricity consumed overnight.

Toyota for years lost money on the Prius, but those losses have, according to the company,  more than paid off.   GM expects to sell only a small number of Volts this year, and around 10,000 in 2011.  But it expects eventually to make the Volt a high-tech car for “the masses.”

I dunno.  Where I grew up, for major shopping, we drove 150 miles (one way) and 35 miles (one way) to go to a movie.  $41,000 for a very local extra car seems pretty pricey.  But it is our government that is driving up the price of gasoline, I assume deliberately, to force the public into these cars and public transportation.  If you can figure out why this is a good idea, please let me know.



It May be Petty Larceny, but Shoplifting is Still a Crime. by The Elephant's Child
July 27, 2010, 3:46 pm
Filed under: Humor, Law, Politics | Tags: , ,

Shoplifters are generally apprehended as they leave the shop, when it is clear that they really meant to scarper with the goods.  But what do you do in a case like this?

As a parent, I have taken my child back to the store to return something pilfered when my back was turned, in the hopes that an embarrassing lesson will be a permanent cure.  But this is really a classic bad example!



The Solution to Anthropogenic Global Warming: by The Elephant's Child
July 27, 2010, 3:32 pm
Filed under: Environment, Humor, Junk Science | Tags: , ,

Pat Sajak, who I have never quoted before, has the solution to Global Warming.  If Kevin Costner and his brother can come up with a method to separate oil and water in drilling rig disasters — and they apparently can— perhaps we should listen to Mr. Sajak.  He says:

Manmade global warming, like so many other social and economic issues, has become hopelessly politicized. Each side has dug in its heels and has accused the other of acting irresponsibly and dishonestly. For the believers, the other side has become the equivalent of Holocaust deniers; and for the doubters, the other side has become a cult intent on manipulating mankind to remake the world in some sort of natural Utopian image. (…)

Let’s assume that a third of the world’s population really believes mankind has the power to adjust the Earth’s thermostat through lifestyle decisions. The percentage may be higher or lower, but, for the sake of this exercise, let’s put it at one-third. Now it seems to me these people have a special obligation to change their lives dramatically because they truly believe catastrophe lies ahead if they don’t. The other two-thirds are merely ignorant, so they can hardly be blamed for their actions.

Now, if those True Believers would give up their cars and big homes and truly change the way they live, I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be some measurable impact on the Earth in just a few short years. I’m not talking about recycling Evian bottles, but truly simplifying their lives. Even if you were, say, a former Vice President, you would give up extra homes and jets and limos. I see communes with organic farms and lives freed from polluting technology.

He does state the problem pretty clearly.  So we only have to wait and see how it all turns out.  Or wait to see how long it takes for the True Believers to give up?




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