American Elephants

A New Chief for Energy.The Greens Are Up-In-Arms. by The Elephant's Child


President Obama has nominated MIT Professor Ernest Moniz to run the Department of Energy. Dr. Moniz is a nuclear physicist, with a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University, and a member of the Clinton administration.  He was a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that recommended dumping $16 billion a year into renewables — three times the previous amount.

He has warned about climate change, and has been concerned that there hasn’t been enough action to combat it. The MIT Energy Initiative, which he directs, has studied natural gas and fracking, but it has led him to parrot the usual environmental lines about water contamination and methane leaks. He is described as “a politically savvy guy, and as a result of his time in Washington he understands Washington reasonably well.”

At the MIT Energy Initiative, Moniz focused on transforming the energy mix, with particular reference to renewable energy technology, which many Republicans in Congress regard with suspicion, if not contempt. But Moniz has also insisted that non-renewables must remain part of the energy portfolio for several years until they become “too carbon-intensive”. Natural gas “is part of our solution, at least for some time,” he told a meeting at the University of Texas, Austin in December.

And in testimony about a recent MIT Energy Initiative report into the controversial process of fracking, which involves pumping sand and liquid into deep shale deposits to liberate natural gas, he spoke out against banning the method, calling instead for better regulation and oversight.

In testimony before the Senate a couple of years ago, he suggested that regulation would be best if “applied uniformly to all shales” which suggest he is in favor as most greens are of the feds taking over regulation of fracking from the states. Greens are up in arms over his nomination, his cardinal sin seems to be favoring natural gas as a “bridge fuel” until such time as the green vision of an all-renewable world comes to pass. This used to be the view of nearly every environmental group not long ago. His other sin is the belief that nuclear should remain part of the energy mix, common sense for most policymakers, but another line in the sand for growing numbers of greens.

Think Progress describes Moniz as “bullish” on solar energy, and he has advised a number of solar finance and technology companies. He believes that nuclear poser can be a partial solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the long term. He sees natural gas as a true bridge to a low-carbon future, but has warned that is could slow the growth in clean energy. A 2011 MIT gas study calls for a reduction in “greenhouse pollution” greater than 50%. He has said regarding energy efficiency “The most important thing is lowering your use of energy in ways that actually save you money,” he said, “It sounds trivial, but putting out lights really does matter.”

He would, in some ways, his favor of natural gas and nuclear energy, to be an improvement on Secretary Stephen Chu, but he is more savvy in the ways of Washington politics, and thus a more formidable opponent.

The general interest in this appointment is less concerned with the beliefs of this nominee, than in his hair style, which does seem a little 18th century. I wish people were more interested in his convictions and his policies.

It is quite possible for a physicist to be unfamiliar with the science that concerns those who believe that climate is always changing, that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not the cause of warming. Some have written about the evidence that completely changed their minds. It is especially possible for a theoretical physicist to believe that breakthroughs in harnessing the power inherent in the wind and in the rays of the sun are only the right equation away.

There’s a big gap between the true watermelons — the radicals who, upon the collapse of communism, moved to environmentalism as the best venue for their grasp for power — those who assume that oil is, by its nature, bad; and those who believe that the immense panic over one degree of warming and computer program predictions of disaster in another hundred years, might be more a fault of the idea that computers can predict the future, than of Mother Nature who seems to keep on  keeping on pretty well. The whole thing is a bundle of science, emotion, religion, radicalism, and junk science, slowly sorting itself out with billions and billions of taxpayer dollars.

A Prize! A Prize! A Prize! by The Elephant's Child
March 10, 2012, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Energy | Tags: , ,

What do ordinary incandescent light bulbs have in common with regular gasoline? They are cheap, reliable and satisfactory sources of energy. You can add coal and natural gas to that equation.  What people want is the energy produced. If someone can come up with a better mousetrap, to use a familiar cliché, then people will eagerly buy the new product. That’s called the free market.  It works.

The free market does not work for the Obama administration. They have their own goals, quite separate from what the American people want. Of course they tell us that they have a noble ideology behind their goals; and if the rest of us don’t want to go along with their goals, they will just use the power of government to force us to. There are other names for that approach, and “free market” and “liberty” aren’t in it.

To gin up a little excitement for the process of indoctrination, the Department of Energy has offered an award  called the  “L Prize” — a $10 million prize for any manufacturer that could create a “green” but affordable light bulb. There was also a minor component that requited portions, at least, of the bulb would have to be made in the United States.

The winning bulb is soon to reach the stores.

The price is $50.

No, not for a pack of bulbs, for one.

“I don’t want to say it’s exorbitant, but if a customer is only looking at the price, they could come to that conclusion,” said Brad Paulsen, merchant for the light-bulb category at Home Depot, the largest U.S. seller of light bulbs. “This is a Cadillac product, and that’s why you have a premium on it.”

Uh huh. The “L Prize” bulb is more energy efficient. It runs on 10 watts instead of 12.5 watts. It is also, they claim,  brighter, renders colors better and lasts longer. These are not qualities high on my list. My list begins and ends with cheap, reliable and satisfactory. The prize guidelines did set a target retail price, including rebates from utilities, which was to be $22 in the first year, $15 in the second year and $8 in the third year. File that in the same folder with the requirement that 30% of our electricity must come from wind by 2020, and the mpg mandate. Governing is easy!  You just come up with a number that you like and order the proles to make it so.

Official say they are working with utilities to provide rebates for consumers. That could lower the price (yes, you just order the utilities to — make it so.)  There are cheaper LED bulbs, The Sighting Science Group, under the EcoSmart label offers one for $23.07. The bulbs are expected to last much longer, up to 30,000 hours  which they claim if you used it for eight hours a day, it might last for 10 years or more. “LED bulbs don’t burn out but wane over time.” And when does the waning begin, and how bad does it get?  The LED bulbs all have some kind of baffles or vanes around them to direct the light outwards, because they are very directional. A lighting engineer said a while back, and I can’t find the quote, that LED bulbs are just not anywhere near ready for prime time.

The Obamaites despise the free market, because it “isn’t fair.” They don’t like profit. They don’t like competition. They are sure that they know better.  It will just take us a little time to get used to their new “improved” world.

Rick Perry Pokes a Little Fun at Himself! by The Elephant's Child

The Dept. of Energy Wastes Another $230,000 of Your Money To Explain What “Green Jobs ” Are. by The Elephant's Child

That government department that Rick Perry couldn’t remember at the moment— the Energy Department—has awarded a $230,000 contract to the Association of Energy Services Professionals to develop a website on energy efficiency jobs — but the DOE has prohibited the listing of actual job openings.

Instead, the website will include information on what training and education is needed to nab a job, said Suzanne Jones, AESP’s vice president of marketing. In lieu of a job bank, AESP will provide 40 to 50 “very distinct” job descriptions in the energy efficiency industry, along with the education and training needed for such jobs.

A DOE spokesman did not return a request for comment in time for publication. The website — called “My Energy Gateway” — will launch in April 2012, according to AESP.

President Obama’s green jobs fantasy has proven to be just that — a fantasy. Still, it seems strange that only after 3½ years of pushing green energy, subsidized green businesses going bankrupt, subsidies becoming a scandal, does the Department of Energy decide to invest money in a website to tell interested people just what a green job is considered to be. What it is not, is anything to do with increasing our supply of fossil fuels. Those jobs are being regulated out of existence as fast as possible.

Spain led the way when economist Dr. Gabriel Calzada of King Juan Carlos University studied Spain’s aggressive efforts to become Europe’s leading  exemplar of the wonders of renewable energy.  Spain believed in the promise of ‘green jobs,’ but Dr. Calzada’s studies showed that each renewable job cost the Spanish taxpayer between $752,000 and $800,000, and that each job cost the Spanish economy 2.2 jobs for every green job created.

They attempted to warn the United States that heading down that road was a mistake, but the U.S. Department of Energy collaborated with the American Wind Energy Association and an ideological activist group in a coordinated effort to discredit the study. It took a FOIA request to get to those facts about the effort to discredit the study.

Much work, Calzada says, went into the effort to discredit the findings that were ultimately recognized by the Spanish government, and after thorough review, using two different methods and data from both European Commission-financed research and the Spanish government, the results have been proved correct.  President Obama used Spain as an outstanding example when Spain was promoting renewable energy, but when they confessed their error and explained where and how they went wrong, Obama not only refuses to pay attention, but rejects the studies.

Richard Epstein has told us that Obama does not change his mind, that the president’s ideas are set in concrete.  Apparently Mr. Epstein knows what he is talking about.  But that’s not all, as Mr. Calzada explains:

All signs point to a fatally flawed idea. Developing these jobs on a reliable and consistent basis requires ever-more subsidies. It’s a never-ending cycle to keep a bubble inflated, which as Spain discovered costs billions in public funds. Even before Spain’s investment bubble began bursting, the massive investments in renewable energy companies were producing disappointing results.

What’s more, the subsidization of these inefficient sources of energy has led to significant economic hardship on the macro and micro levels. As of 2008, when our study was conducted, the Spanish government had committed approximately $36 billion to renewable energy subsidies; since then the resources committed have grown exponentially and are now well over $100 billion, an amount equivalent to more than 10% of Spanish GDP.

Spanish households have seen their electric bills climb by 50%, and industrial electricity prices have jumped by 110%.  Spain has gone from having one of the lowest average electricity costs in Europe to the third highest. The subsidies have led to temporary jobs— created at enormous per-job costs— massive debt, high power prices and a net loss of jobs.

DOE Bureaucratic Brilliance On Full Display by The Elephant's Child

This time it’s the Department of Energy.  They issued an “interim final rule” that mandates the test procedures that manufacturers must adopt to measure the minute amount of electricity used by microwave ovens when in “standby mode” and “off mode.”

First they have to define just what is meant by “standby mode” and what the parameters are, and how it is to be distinguished from other modes such as the “off mode,” which also has to be defined.  Theoretically when they are off, there are still the energy-using elements such as the clock (if any), the timer, and the indicator light that may remain lit when the microwave is not in use.

The task of setting energy standards for appliances that are turned off could involve hundreds of hours of testing, let alone all the time it would take to define the meaning of “off”.  According to DOE documents:

The department noted that if the microwave oven is equipped with a manual power on/off switch, which completely cuts off power to the appliance (i.e., removes or interrupts all connections to the main power source, in the same manner as unplugging the appliance), the microwave oven would not be in the “off mode” when the switch is in the “off” position. … But DOE revises its determination … and tentatively concludes that zero energy consumption due to activation of an on/off switch would be indicative of off mode rather than a disconnected mode.

Yes, of course we laugh at regulatory language, partly because it takes itself so seriously, and it’s hard to imagine some faceless bureaucrat in a federal cubicle devising the language that will have to be vetted by the lawyers and by the technology people, and proofread, and signed off on by the entire chain of command. We are paying for all of this, but the amount of taxpayer money is not the problem.

The problem is that we have been asleep, allowing government like some enormous amoeba cancer cell to grow and divide again and again. That is the nature of bureaucracy. The question is how do we stop it— do we establish another bureau to weed out unnecessary laws?  Do we demand that our representatives in Congress establish a committee to clean up the entire federal register? As if that would happen!  Yet the meddling has reached proportions that intrude ever more into our lives and interfere in our choices. The folks at Heritage explain further that:

The DOE contends that energy consumption by microwave ovens in “standby mode” represents a “significant” portion of microwave oven energy use. But a typical U.S. household consumes about 11,000 KWh of electricity per year. Based on testing done by the department, a microwave oven in “standby mode” consumes an average of just 2.65 watts of power. On an annualized basis, that constitutes a mere .006452 KWh of electricity.

Initially, DOE regulators wanted manufacturers to test each microwave oven model over a 12-hour period to capture the amount of power used to display the full range of lighted units. However, representatives of Whirlpool pointed out that every number of lit segments could be measured in just 10 minutes from, say, 3:33 to 3:42, thereby saving manufacturers considerable time and cost for testing.

For all the work that’s gone into devising the energy conservation standard for microwave ovens not in use, DOE officials offer another remedy for our supposed energy profligacy: The department’s Web site advises us to unplug  every appliance when not in use.

correction: “amoeba” just wasn’t strong enough!

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