American Elephants

Whoops! $2.2 billion high-tech solar project delivers only 40% of expected electricity by The Elephant's Child

Environmentalists have long been sure that if we could just eliminate things that are not “natural” from our lives, live in harmony with nature, then the world would be a better place. Relying on the Sun and the Wind were right at the top of the list.  We should eliminate chemicals from our diet, stop cutting down trees, save endangered species but stop putting animals in cages, and just quit eating meat. The very word “natural” moved right to the top of the advertising buzz-word list.

So it is no surprise that in the panic about Global Warming, which was the next big thing after we stopped panicking about a new ice age in the 1970s, and the threat of a nuclear winter receded, we turned to trying to harness the power of the sun. Sensible people pointed out that the power of the sun was very diffuse, the sun had the habit of sinking below the horizon at night, and there was the problem of cloudy days and clouds on even nice days. But this is America, and the Twenty-First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, and we have technology!

The 2.2 billion Ivanpah solar project in California’s Mojave Desert is definitely high-tech. Those tiny white rectangles in the picture above are more than 170,000 mirrors, each about the size of a garage door, that rotate to follow the path of the sun across the sky. Solar-thermal technology was meant to supersede old-fashioned solar panel farms. The mirrors would reflect the sunlight to the huge “power towers,” enormous pillars to create steam which would generate electricity.

The facility was built by Bright Source Energy Inc, and operated by NRG Energy Inc. NRG owns the facility along with Bright Source, Google and other investors. Last time I wrote about Ivanpah in November, they were trying to get a federal grant to pay off their $1.6 billion federal loan.

The $2.2 billion project is supposed to be generating more than a million megawatt hours of electricity, but 15 months after starting up, the plant is producing just 40% of that, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Why, with new technology, there is a lot more that can go wrong. There’s a lot more on-the-job-learning. The power plant needs a lot more steam to run smoothly and efficiently. They thought they could ramp up the plant before sunrise with fossil fuels to get it humming, but it needs four times as much fossil fuel help to get going.

And despite being in one of the hottest places in the U.S. — not enough sun. Weather predictions underestimated the amount of cloud cover. Then there were millions in cost overruns because of wildlife protections for the ‘endangered’ Desert Tortoise. The birds are not so lucky. Government biologists estimate that  3,500 birds died at Ivanpah in the course of a year. The songbirds go up in a puff of smoke as they chase the bugs that are drawn to the bright light. Raptors chase the songbirds, and die instantly. I wonder if the big corpses break the mirrors when they fall?

New solar farms generate electricity at about 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. Ivanpah is running between 12 and 25 cents a kilowatt-hour. Plans for solar-thermal plants elsewhere are being canceled. American Solar farms generate nearly 16 million megawatt-hours of electricity each year. That amounts to less than 1% of U.S. electricity demand. Utilities are likely to opt for cheaper solar farms that use panels. The Sierra Club continues its disgraceful “War on Coal.” And the EPA continues its efforts to shut down America’s coal-fired power plants that produce nearly 40 percent of America’s electricity, under the illusion that removing whatever carbon dioxide they produce will have a measurable effect on climate change. It won’t. And we will pay a high price for that loss of energy.

What Hath The California Democrats Wrought In Their Folly? by The Elephant's Child
June 13, 2015, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Immigration | Tags: , ,

On Friday, California’s water regulators —The State Water Control Board (SWRCB)—ordered the curtailment of all water diversion to farmers in the Delta, San Joaquin and Sacramento River watersheds, including those holding senior water rights more than a hundred and ten years old.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Water Resources and several other municipal water districts are also affected. This is the fourth year of a record drought which can be blamed directly on government mismanagement. The Board says more cuts may be “imminent” as the state continues to monitor the effects of the drought.

The cutbacks may cause farmers to abandon thousands of acres of viable farmland. In May, some farmers with senior water rights negotiated with state regulators to cut use by 25 percent in exchange for an exemption from cuts during the growing season.

The reasons for the drought are enumerated in this previous post, but it doesn’t help California farmers in the present.

mapVlyQuadCityThe Valley is a vast agricultural region drained by the Sacramento River in the North and the San Joaquin River down by Fresno. About 75% of the irrigated land in California and 17% of the Nation’s irrigated land is in the Central Valley.

More than 250 different crops are grown in the Central Valley with an estimated value of $17 billion per year. Using less than 1% of U.S farmland, the Central Valley supplies 8% of U.S. agricultural output (by value) and a quarter of the Nation’s food, including 40% of the country’s fruits, nuts and other table foods.

The major crop types are cereal grains, hay, cotton, tomatoes, vegetables, citrus, tree fruits, nuts, table grapes and wine grapes. The real story is, of course far more complicated, with increased Central Valley population, new demands for water for new housing, environmentalist protection of the fabled Delta smelt, a 2″ long bait fish of no known use, which may or may not be an endangered species, and may or may not be of any importance at all except for the millions of gallons of desperately needed water used to maintain the flow of water in the Sacramento River for the benefit of said fish as it flows briskly out to sea.

What it means to you and me is inflation in the cost of food, and probably some shortages. It is also a vast display of the incompetence of of government that is more interested in playing politics and building useless ” high-speed”railroads to nowhere, at a cost far over $100 billion that would be outdated by the time they are completed.

You might think about planting some vegetables.

EPA Administrator McCarthy Doesn’t Read Her Press Notices. by The Elephant's Child
June 12, 2015, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Economy | Tags: , ,


Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy delivered a warning to Americans who do not place environmental stewardship above everything else. Echoes, apparently of President Obama’s directive to graduating Coast Guard Cadets that our most important national security challenge is global warming.

“If you are selling to somebody a product, and you can assure them that that product was produced in the most environmentally responsible way, I will guarantee you that they will value that product more highly,” McCarthy said at the 2015 GreenGov symposium at George Washington University in Washington.

“I can guarantee you because if they don’t, I’m going to knock on their door and I’m going to tell them why they are mistaken,” McCarthy said, pointing at the audience.

“That is how government works — we tell you what you can do today. We give you the flexibility to get it done yourself and we send a long-term market signal that is going to open up innovation moving forward.”

You will not be surprised to hear that she defended the EPA’s federal processes, rulemaking and purchases that they have made over the past decade in order to combat climate change. The power sector, she claimed, is adapting to lower carbon generation, and the government “underpins” investments made by utilities and businesses with rules to foster innovation. Uh huh. Please explain how drastic regulations unnecessarily shutting down coal-fired power plants and putting thousands of employees out of work “fosters innovation.” Administrator McCarthy is clearly a true believer in the heavy hand of government. Unfortunately, the people are not. They don’t believe in global warming either.

According to an op-ed by Paul C.Light, a professor at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, trust in the federal government has slumped to near-record lows, moving far beyond healthy skepticism toward a crisis of confidence.

A Pew Research Poll in 2010 found that 74% of Americans rated the federal bureaucracy as only fair or poor in running its programs. In another Pew Poll in January 2014, 75% of the American people said they trusted the federal government to do what is right “only some of the time” or “never.” In a September 2014 Gallup poll, Americans estimated that Washington wastes 51 cents of every dollar it spends. Ms. McCarthy isn’t reading her press notices.

The stakes of comprehensive reform are high. A new president serious about reform could take immediate action by executive order to collect the $700 billion already on the books in unpaid taxes, delinquent debts, and improper payments to individuals and government contractors. These numbers are estimates of the federal government’s own agencies.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee says there is $14 trillion that could be saved from the federal budget.

How? By cutting the federal workforce 10% and the contract workforce 15%, modernizing the government’s antiquated information technology, creating public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects, selling off unneeded federal properties, streamlining the bloated Department of Homeland Security, and even reducing federal advertising by half.

A survey last July by Annenberg Public Policy Center’s Institutions of Democracy showed that half of Americans favored cutting back federal programs to reduce the power of government. The other half said programs should be maintained to deal with important problems, But more than half said government had the wrong priorities, while the remainder said it has the right priorities but a broken bureaucracy.

The day before Memorial Day, the Obama administration released its list of regulations in the pipeline for the coming year. $110 billion in new regulations.

The problem is that when regulators get busy, the economy tends to fall into a torpor. Particularly when the rules and mandates they’re getting ready to unleash are as sweeping and costly as these.

Batkins found the rules scheduled for August, October and all the other months over the next year will impose costs of $110 billion — based on the agencies’ own estimates. And that number doesn’t include estimates for the EPA’s new efficiency standards for trucks — the previous one cost $8 billion — “or the dozens of other major rules without a public cost-benefit.”

Just this week, the EPA added to the coming pile, saying it wants to regulate commercial airline emissions.

The EPA is already responsible for the two costliest rules planned for this year. Its greenhouse gas emission standards for existing power plants will run $21.7 billion, and new smog standards will cost $15 billion.

Coming are new regulations like the $7.1 billion efficiency standards for dishwashers, and $12.3 billion for CO² emission standards on gas furnaces, and even revised nutrition labels that no one will read for $2 billion. The efforts to reduce CO² will have an effect on the atmosphere too small to be measured, but the existing mountain of federal regulations imposes almost $1.9 trillion in compliance costs, according to CEI. If you wonder why the economy is still sluggish after seven long years — there you go.

As the Great State of California Sinks Slowly in the West… by The Elephant's Child
June 11, 2015, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption | Tags: , , ,

California is having a water crisis, largely as a result of their own actions. It has been a four-year long drought. Both governor Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama have blamed it on man-made climate change. But in California history, droughts are common, and predictable as in 1920-34, 1976-77 and 1987-97  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration droughts are more likely to result from poorly understood but temporary changes in atmospheric pressures and ocean temperatures..

What is new and different is that California now has 40 million more residents, well over 10 million more than during the last dry spell in the early 1990s. Much of the growth is in recent massive immigration. If you encourage immigration, legal and illegal, it is helpful to make sure you have the infrastructure, including water supplies, to support those new residents. A record one in every four current California residents was not born in the United States.

Victor Davis Hanson, a long-time California farmer as well as an academic, explains a bit of the history:

After the initial phases of the federal Central Valley Project and state California Water Project were largely finished — and flooding was no longer considered a dire threat in Northern California — environmentalists in the last 40 years canceled most of the major second- and third-stage storage projects. To take a few examples, they stopped the raising of Shasta Dam, the construction of the Peripheral Canal, and gargantuan projects such as the Ah Pah and Dos Rios reservoirs.

Those were certainly massive, disruptive, and controversial projects with plenty of downsides — and once considered unnecessary in an earlier, much smaller California. But no one denies now that they would have added millions of acre-feet of water for 40 million people.

Lower foothill dams such as the proposed Sites, Los Banos, and Temperance Flat dams in wet years would have banked millions of acre-feet as insurance for dry years. All such reservoirs were also canceled.

Yet a single 1 million acre-foot reservoir can usually be built as cheaply as a desalinization plant. It requires a fraction of desalinization’s daily energy use, leaves a much smaller carbon footprint, and provides almost 20 times as much water. California could have built perhaps 40–50 such subsidiary reservoirs for the projected $68 billion cost of the proposed high-speed rail project.

California’s Governor Jerry Brown, disrespectfully called ‘Governor Moonbeam” offered helpfully “This goes to the very foundation of what it means to be human in a world of living things. The heat-trapping gases that out society generates are creating alterations in the fundamentals of our whole atmosphere. We may have already passed a tipping point.”

Fixing the water shortage was not really one of the problems he believes he was hired to fix. It’s really a matter of “overpopulation,” he said, ignoring the fact that he invited illegal immigrants to call  his state home.Californians will have to find a “more elegant” way of using and reusing water. “The metaphor is spaceship Earth” he explained. “In a spaceship you reuse everything.”

So far his only fixes are punitive, fining those who waste water, monitoring shower times, and urging neighbors to squeal on their neighbors. Expect more restrictions.

John Hinderaker described the problems after  their spring break week in California:

In its early years, the intellectual and moral rot that liberalism represents may not be reflected, in obvious ways, in the physical world. But over time, the inevitable consequences of liberalism become apparent. If you visit California today, you will see, in the state’s embarrassing physical condition, the first stages of liberalism’s collapse.

Obama Insructs the Court by The Elephant's Child
June 10, 2015, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption | Tags: , ,

……………………………………………………………… by Marcus Schreiber

For the second time during his presidency, Barack Obama has ventured to instruct the Supreme Court on what he conceives to be their duty. As John Steele Gordon writes in a piece titled “Obama Instructs the Court” at Contentions:

Presidents nearly always come with fully-functional egos. After all, climbing the greasy pole of American politics requires rich reserves of self-confidence. And self-confidence is equally necessary to being an effective president. No one wants a Captain Queeg in the White House. But Barack Obama combines his egocentricity with an almost boundless intellectual arrogance. It is one of the primary reasons his presidency has been so devoid of successes and so filled with failures and disasters. Only Woodrow Wilson comes anywhere close to being in the same league. And look what happened to him.

Noemie Emery points out in the Washington Examiner that men like Obama and Wilson cannot learn from their mistakes because they cannot admit or even conceive that they can make mistakes.

The conventional view of what has gone wrong — that Obama lacked experience, and that first-term senators should be viewed with suspicion — is undercut by the fact that he has had six years of experience, and failed to learn from it. At home and abroad, Obama makes mistakes over and over, with the same result, and takes nothing from them. He disses his friends, placates aggressors and seems surprised that aggressors advance and whole regions catch fire.

His arrogance prevents him from even listening to anyone who disagrees with him.

Yesterday, at a news conference in Germany, Obama criticized the Supreme Court for a decision that it has not yet made. Essentially, he is instructing a co-equal branch of government on its duty.

The New York Times  says simply that Obama is making his case for Health Law, With his usual charm he condemns opponents of his signature health care law as “cynical” partisans seeking to deprive Americans of a benefit that has become an integral part of the country’s social safety net. “This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another — this is health care in America ” he said in a speech to the Catholic Health Association, who wrote a brief asking the high court to uphold it.”It seems so cynical to want to take health care away from millions of people.”

Their lives are better, Mr. Obama said, “Americans support this new reality.” This “new reality” has caused many people to lose the health care they liked. Families are threatened with double digit increases, and huge deductibles before their new insurance pays for anything. The Affordable Care Act does not give people health care, it gives them insurance, and not very good insurance at that. Costs are skyrocketing. Patients cannot find doctors and are going to the emergency room instead.The Court is expected to rule before the end of the month on King v. Burwell.

The Hillary Campaign by The Elephant's Child

hillary clinton

About a year ago today Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal’s foreign affairs columnist obtained an advance copy of Hillary Clinton’s memoir Hard Choices. He reported:

But to go point-by-point through the prose would be to miss the book’s true purpose. Like Victorian children who were supposed to be seen but not heard, this is a book that is supposed to be bought but not read, discussed but not examined, excerpted but not critiqued.

In fact, it’s not really a book at all. It is an artifact containing printed words, an event conveying political seriousness. Perhaps it could have been written at half its length (635 pages) with twice the interest. But that would have made it easier to read from start to finish, defeating its own purpose of being big and therefore, presumably, weighty. …

Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, doesn’t really have a story to tell: Her book is an assemblage of anecdotes, organized geographically, held together by no overarching theme, or underlying analysis, or ultimate accomplishment. In April she was asked to name her proudest achievements as secretary. She fumbled for an answer, as well she might. There are none.

Hillary is out on the campaign trail, and a very odd campaign it is. She accepts no questions from reporters, saying only that her speech is the interview. When she has informal meetings with voters, they turn out to be Democrat campaign workers and not ordinary people at all.  She has had a big campaign announcement, but decided she’d better do it over, and I’m not sure if that’s happened or not.

Many Democrats speak of Hillary’s “leadership,” but Hillary has been, like many celebrities, famous for being famous, not for any leadership whatsoever. I’m a fourth-generation Republican, so I’m not required to like her — and I don’t. I think she is a woman of very bad character, and would be a disaster as president.

When she was a young attorney working on the Watergate investigation, she was fired by her supervisor “Because she was a liar. She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality,”

As First Lady, Hillary treated the Secret Service Agents assigned to protect the first family like servants, and Chelsea learned from her parents to call them “the Pigs.” These agents are sworn  to protect the president and his family with their lives.

Hillary has been known to hurl a book at the back of the head of one agent driving her in the Presidential limo, accusing him of eavesdropping, forget her ps and qs by never thanking her protectors and lob profanity-laced orders when she just wanted the agents to carry her bags – a job not on agents’ ‘to do’ list.

‘Stay the f**k away from me! Just f*****g do as I say!!!’ she is quoted as saying to an agent who refused to carry her luggage in the book Unlimited Access by FBI agent Gary Aldridge.

Add to that display all the scandals, mostly involving a determined effort to get rich, whatever the cost. The terminology is “Influence peddling,”” corruption,” “the revelations of Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash“, “private server,” “facilitating weapons deals,” “quid pro quo, and “national security implications.” Democrats, of course, are trying to slough it all off as unimportant, pretend scandals, and Republican falsehoods.

I would have expected that Hillary, having been in the White House for 8 years, the Senate for one term and Secretary of State — would have some pretty definite ideas about what government needs to do differently, what are the urgent problems, but that is not the case. Her first thrust was “income inequality,” and the second was a remarkably condescending effort to make black Americans believe that Republicans were trying to keep them from voting by insisting that voters prove their eligibility by showing identification.

A few inconvenient facts: 2.8 million people are registered in two or more states. 1.8 million voters are dead. In the last election North Carolina election officials repeatedly offered ballots to an imposter who arrived at 20 different polling places with the names and addresses of “inactive” voters who hadn’t participated in elections in many years. In a recent poll 13% of illegal aliens admit that they vote. Billionaire George Soros has committed $5 million to help fight voter ID laws and other legislation, like a requirement to regularly scrub voter rolls of dead people and those ineligible to vote.According to the Washington Post, about 3/4 of all Americans support the idea that people should have to show photo identification to vote.

Black voters turned out in impressive numbers in the last two presidential elections with enthusiasm for “the first Black President”. Hillary is unsurprisingly concerned that they may not turn out in such numbers for her. It is condescending to assume that black voters have to be threatened with “Jim Crow.” In a 49% black district in Danville, VA, Joe Biden said “They gonna put y’all back in chains.”

All this would seem to be a remarkable confession, especially when combined with Obama’s amnesty proposal, that the Left believes that they cannot win without cheating. The fraud is well documented, and we here in Washington state are especially aware of it. Voting is a precious privilege, not an obligation. People should be proud of our free elections — perhaps you remember free Iraqis proudly holding up their purple-stained fingers to prove that they did indeed get to vote.

It will be an interesting campaign as it develops. There will be more revelations as large as the Clinton Cash scandals and as silly as Marco Rubio’s wife’s traffic tickets. Former Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell and his wife have both been convicted and sentenced to prison terms for scandals far, far less than those detailed in Clinton Cash.

It ‘s All Falling Apart. Chapter Seven by The Elephant's Child
June 5, 2015, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy | Tags: , ,

The Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems Program (MIDAS) of the Department of Agriculture was intended to act as a more efficient IT system that streamlined USDA programs for farmers. Two years past its deadline and $140 million over budget, the Department has only completed 1.5 percent of its goal to update its IT system.

MIDAS was supposed to replace the “Web Farm.” the centralized computer server that keeps track of information about the farmers who are receiving aid from the USDA’s 31 programs that was antiquated and beginning to fail. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) reported to Congress that $305 million would allow them to consolidate their 32 farm programs into MIDAS by the end of fiscal year 2012. So far they are $140 million over budget and have completed only one of the 66 applications. By 2022, the program is projected to have a total cost of nearly $824 million.

Last July, the USDA was ordered to stop the development of MIDAS by an order of Secretary Tom Vilsak. Congress said the USDA’s mismanagement of the program is of “greatest concern” when drafting an appropriations bill for FY 2015. The planning for MIDAS began over 10 years ago, and after spending over $400 million USDA stopped the program. At a projected annual operational and maintenance cost of over $50 million a year, the department must determine whether the benefits of the program warrant that level of resource commitment.

The federal government seems to be having a continuing problem with internet technology. The computerization of the Affordable Care Act was a disaster. The White House system was hacked. Then the IRS was hacked, and now the latest cyber attack has breached the computers of the US government agency that collects personnel information for federal workers that compromises the data of about 4 million current and former federal employees.


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