Sweet Subsidies

Did you ever wonder about the return one gets for tax dollars? There is a bit of a sad story at the Examiner http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/2011/02/green-energy-plant-sucks-subsidies-then-goes-bust of a bio-fuel plant closing down. It is an example of what we get for our subsidy dollars.

Range Fuels built a cutting-edge refinery, to turn wood chips into fuel. Net cost to the taxpayer: $162,000,000, and private investors added another $100,000,000. $262 million and the amount of bio-fuel they produced: zero. The realization that the taxpayers and green investors were taken for a ride: priceless.

Don’t worry. We are still subsidizing bio-fuel, and the farmers are doing somewhat better than Range Fuels, but bio-fuel costs more to make than it is worth. The same goes for wind generated electricity and photoelectric cell electricity, but what the heck. It’s only taxpayer money. Do you suppose it’s too late to jump on the investment wagon?


A wise expenditure of taxpayer funds?

I think the cost of energy will come down when we make this transition to renewable energy.
Al Gore

Yep, the United States is going green, at least the U.S. Navy is. While I am sure there must be a local news release, I heard about it from a U.K. news article http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/oct/27/us-navy-biofuel-gunboat?intcmp=122. The navy has successfully tested a 50/50 mixture of diesel and algae-based biofuel. If one reads it as a humorous article, it is very funny. If one reads it as proof of a successful use of green technology, it is amazing. If one reads it as a practical fuel source, it is tragic.

The Navy’s purpose was to demonstrate the ability to avoid dependency of fossil fuels . . . by using 50% fossil fuels. Wait, what? Well, one could suppose that 50% is better than 100%, which is good, right?

Well, the first test did not go so well. The diesel and the algae separated and the algae started growing. It caused corrosion to the engines. Oops.

The second test worked. It is a wonderful thing . . . except it costs $424 dollars a gallon. To break that down a little, the cost of diesel has not been over $5 a gallon in the last three years. It is now at about $2.49, but to be fair, let us say it costs the Navy $10 a gallon—we all know how economical government agencies are when spending other peoples’ money. That means that the algae side of the fuel costs $414 a gallon. Not to worry, it is other peoples’ money. The Navy was so impressed that they ordered an additional 150,000 gallons of the fuel. Mixed 50/50, that is 75,000 of diesel at $10 a gallon ($750,000), and 75,000 of algae-based fuel at $414 dollars a gallon ($31,050,000). Wow, that is a total of $31,800,000 for a whole 150,000 gallons of fuel. Everyone needs to go out and buy a diesel vehicle. That is a bargain too good to pass up.

There were two rationales in the article as to why this is worthwhile. First, the avoidance of dependence on foreign supplied fossil fuels; and second, the ability of this fuel to be made locally instead of having to transport it thousands of miles.

There was a recent article (which I cannot locate now) about the cost of fuel in a war zone; the U.K. article mentions the cost but does not reference where it originated. When all the costs (loses in transport from torpedoes or roadside bombs, the necessities of fuel conveys, the extra trucks and manpower) are totaled up, fuel in the war zone costs around $400 a gallon.

Apparently, the Navy feels we will be able to grow the algae and process it into a fuel anywhere it is needed; therefore, that ship, transporting warriors and war machines to a battle thousands of miles away, will be able to sprinkle a little algae over the side, allow it to grow, haul it back aboard, process it and dump it into the fuel tanks. Better yet, the Marines fighting in the mountains or deserts of Afghanistan will just start their own algae farms. Instant fuel, it does not get any better than that.

Of course, for those who think algae farms and processing plants will be a little more restrictive on where they are practical, there will still be the costs of transporting it to the war zone. Instead of costing $400 a gallon for $10 a gallon diesel, it will cost that same $400 plus the $412 for the algae soup. That is $812 a gallon for something that may separate and corrode the engines it is supposed to be fueling. Mmm, somehow I do not feel very confident, but what the heck. It is other peoples’ money.

Published in: on October 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

It’s not easy being green

A $1.7 billion average increase in electricity costs is estimated to result in a $1.3 billion decrease in personal income and a loss of 13,000 more jobs in the region.
Greg Walden-politician

The anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory is tattered and in disarray. For several years, it has been one controversy storm after another.

The horrible placement and upkeep of the thousands of temperature gathering sites is known because inspections by volunteers conducted through Anthony Watts blog site: Watts Up With That? (Click link.) The erroneous high temperatures recorded within cities, know as the Heat Island Effect (HIE), caused by the retention of heat by buildings and pavement, has become so well documented it could no longer be ignored by climatologist.

Still, downplaying those problems paled compared to the alarm triggered by Climategate in November 2009. An unknown hacker, or an inside whistle-blower, posted thousands of documents and emails sent between climatologist in the University of East Anglai’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) and other climate researchers around the world. CRU is the home of one of only four temperature records used by thousands of other organizations. The emails showed apparent collusion between several organizations to adjust temperature records to “hide the decline” in recent temperatures. The other records released with the emails included computer program segments, which upwardly adjusts any information fed into them. Along with that, there were references to deliberately avoiding Freedom of Information Act (FIA) request for their methods and data (paid for with taxpayer-funded grants). The head of CRU actually wrote that he would destroy the records before he would release them. He has subsequently said they have been misplaced, or destroyed by accident, and he cannot produce them. (The scientific method of testing a theory is to have other scientist replicate the process – impossible without the original methods and data.) All the CRU admits to possessing are records extensively massaged in order to homogenize the readings and eliminate the heat island effect and other variations. It will require years to reconstruct original, un-tampered records. The emails also contained references to interfering with the peer-review process to block the publishing papers opposing global warming.

As damning as Climategate was, the global warming forces circled the wagons and tried to negate the severity of released emails. The tried to turn the conversation to scientific consensus, full knowing that “scientific consensus” is an oxymoron. Science is never settled, and a consensus means nothing. It takes only one researcher to disprove a theory, no matter how long it stood or how many believe it to be right. In any event, their protests came too late. Interest had already peaked on the process used to produce those ever-increasing global temperatures. When the mainstream media (MSM) refused to investigate, it was private-citizen bloggers who began checking the temperature records of individual stations and comparing them to the CRU’s massaged records. They found out that massaging was done to decades-old records, where the temperatures of even residential temperature sites, which should never be adjusted, were lowered. Some abnormally high city temperatures, due to the heat island effect in more recent years, were raised. All this manifested in a continuously rising temperatures over the years: global warming. It is interesting, that Phil Jones, the head of CRU, after stating temperatures have been rising year after year (up until Climategate) admitted in a recent interview that there has been no significant warming in the last fifteen years. He must have thought no one would ever check his work.

Now, with the passage of time, the early computer model projections have come to term. They now confront real-world observations. One after another, like dominos in a cascading line, they fall. The projection of a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics, which would be the absolute CO2 greenhouse signature of AGW, can not be found, even with the sophisticated equipment aboard the climate satellites. The global warming, projected by computer models, hinges on an unknown positive (upward) forcing of temperature caused by CO2 induced cloud changes. No one can describe exactly what this forcing is, how it works or how much the temperature increase will be. In the three 1988 computer-models of NASA’s Jim Hansen, the temperature projections have all turned out to be high. The closest by .3 degree, the other two by about .5 degrees, and they are being compared to CRU’s upwardly massaged observed temperatures. While .3 does not sound like much, Hansen’s projection has so far only covered twenty-two years. There has only been about .75 degree increase in the last hundred years, again, using CRU’s massaged temperatures. The climate satellites have only existed since 1978, as data continues to come in, the indication is that if such a forcing exists, it may be negative, causing the temperature to go down.

To add to the bad news, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is unraveling too. It seems the interest in Climategate temperatures did not stop with CRU. The IPCC uses the CRU temperature base; therefore, those independent bloggers began checking the IPCC’s reports. Although the IPCC purports to be the gold standard of climate information, using nothing but peer-reviewed information (even if the Climategate emails show peer review to be deeply flawed) the bloggers found something very different. Item after item in the IPCC’s report, not only had not been peer-reviewed, they were written by environmentalist groups like Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Federation, college students and individuals with no background in science, much less climate science. There are now calls for the IPCC’s director to resign, and/or the disbanding of the whole organization.

As a final insult, Obama’s Democrat controlled Senate and House, arguably the most left leaning congress in history, cannot pass a cap-and-trade bill. Many of the members are from coal-, natural gas- and oil-producing states. To vote for a bill, which would damage the energy companies, raise utility prices and cost thousands of jobs during a down economy, would be political suicide. Even the most liberal of the Democrats, seeking to fund more entitlement programs, are backing away from the greatest money train in history. They recognize the warning signs of an aware constituency. The masses are learning about the Climategate, the inadequate temperature collection, the temperature massaged to show manmade global warming, the failing computer projections, the IPCC’s global control agenda, and the job losses and massive increases in the price for electricity and fuel that would be associated with a cap-and-trade bill.

I’m telling you, it is not easy being green.

Published in: on September 3, 2010 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Subsidy madness

When we give a subsidy, the benefits to the public ought to exceed the benefits to the company. When it doesn’t, that’s our definition of corporate welfare.
John Kasich-politican

Here is a short blog from the Daily Bayonet click link that does an excellent job of showing the subsidy cost of energy from solar energy panels in Canada. If enough Canadians were willing to place the panels on their houses so that other forms of energy could be discontinued, the consumer cost of electricity would be twenty times the present cost. Such a deal.

Published in: on August 23, 2010 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Subsidies, good or bad?

No delusion is greater than the notion that method and industry can make up for lack of mother-wit, either in science or in practical life.
Thomas Huxley – scientist

Have you ever noticed that a good capitalistic idea can stand on its own. A good product can find private funding, customers and be sold at a profit. Think of all the home computer companies. People wanted computers, the factories made them and they were sold at a profit. Of course, not all computer companies that started up are still in business. Some just did not measure up, some did not adapt to the speed of advancement in the business. They failed. It is called survival of the fittest.

Or how about televisions? Many companies manufactured them over the years. Some could not remain competitive, so they dropped out, but the public wanted televisions and they bought them. No subsidies were needed.

Henry Ford made an automobile. The public wanted it; they bought it. I really do not know if there were government subsidies back then or not, but the company made it on the value of its product, not on subsidies.

A big portion of the stimulus package is being spent on subsidies to private industries. These subsidies are supposedly to create jobs, but have you noticed they are going to companies that are never going to be competitive in a level working field.

Take General Motors’ (61% owned by the government) battery powered car, the Volt. Over the next five years, the American government will supply 27 billion (with a b) of taxpayer money to develop a battery-powered, four-occupant car that will cost $41,000, have a range of 100 miles and has a dubious battery life.

Henry Ford’s car was successful because it could go almost anywhere, even in a time without many paved roads. An owner could put the family in the car and go coast to coast. Somehow a “modern vehicle” costing as much as a luxury vehicle, but with a range of 100 miles, does not seem to measure up. If no one wants it, it does not matter how politically correct it is, it will not succeed.

Of course, the actual cost of the Volt will probably not be $41,000. The government will subsidize the buyers. That means that an individual taxpayer will help pay for the development and construction of the car, and then pay part of the price for someone to buy it, even if that taxpayer has no intention of buying an electric car for himself. God help us if the thing actually becomes popular and sells millions of units. Taxes would have to be raised to subsidize the taxpayers . . . huh?

The correct way to market a car is to make what the buying public wants. Many things go into the buyer’s decision, things like cost, size, mileage, performance, durability, reliability, range, weight and passenger capacity, appearance, pride of ownership, insurance cost and cost of repairs. There are people who will buy a specific car only because it will help save the environment, if they can afford it, but those people are a small part of the overall population. The wisdom of subsidizing a car that has a small chance of success does not bode well for pork barrel politicians.

There are other major government subsidies. They can be found in all the energies sectors. Here is a quick comparison:

$0.25 per megawatt-hour for gas and oil generated electricity. This subsidy should be eliminated; gas and oil have always been able to compete without subsidies.
$0.44 per megawatt-hour for coal generated electricity. This subsidy should be eliminated; coal has always been able to compete without subsidies.
$0.60 per megawatt-hour for hydroelectric power. This subsidy should be eliminated; hydroelectric has always been able to compete without subsidies.
$1.60 per megawatt-hour for nuclear power. This subsidy should be eliminated; nuclear power has always been able to compete without subsidies.
$23.50 per megawatt-hour for wind power. This subsidy should be eliminated; wind power will never be able to compete without eternal subsidies.
$24.50 per megawatt hour for solar power. This subsidy should be eliminated; solar power will never be able to compete without eternal subsidies.

If someone has an idea on how to generate electricity on a competitive basis, there will be individuals and companies interested in investing in that technology. There will be no need for government subsidies. If all subsidies were discontinued today, would you invest in the GM Volt, wind power, and solar power? Would a high probability of never seeing a return on your investment bother you? If it would, you might consider that these enterprises are what your government sees as the best use of YOUR money. The government has no money of its own. Perhaps it should get out of the subsidy business.

Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Time for the Senate to cowboy up

I am not unconscious of the persuasive power exerted by these considerations to drag men along in the current; but I am not at liberty to travel that road.
Benjamin F. Wade-Senator

The Environmental Protective Agency (EPA) has rejected the petitions to reverse its decision to treat CO2 as a pollutant (Click link). Now the EPA will begin regulating entities that release CO2. This is due directly to the failure of the Senate to do its job.

President Obama wanted a cap-and-tax bill, not to control CO2, it does not need controlling, but to finance his megalomania and socialists dreams. Of course Nancy Pelosi’s Democrat majority was able to push a bill through the House of Representatives giving Obama everything he wants.

Then, a slowly awaking citizenship started realizing the difference between what the bill would actually do (nothing — it would not lower the atmospheric CO2 concentration even one part per million – actually, CO2 will continue rising) and what it will cost. They began realizing that when Obama said, “energy costs would skyrocket,” he meant exactly what he said. When they heard that it would destroy the economies of coal-producing states, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that would be lost due to crippling regulation and those skyrocketing costs, they woke up completely and began writing their senators. They emailed, they called and they showed up at town hall meetings. They made it clear that they wanted no part of cap-and-tax.

To top it off, the fear of CO2 legislation caused the public to begin reading up on the CO2 threat. They discovered that huge portions of the IPCC’s recommendations to policy makers (pushing for cap-and-tax) were grounded in non-peer reviewed articles from environmental agencies with no scientific background. Others were from outright junk science. Still more were from scientists who refuse to release their taxpayer owned research so that attempts could be made to duplicate it. And finally from computer models specifically designed to show that CO2 released through human activities is the only possible cause of global warming. Those computer models do not come close to agreeing with each other, much less real world observations.

Because of this, the senators know that only their hard-core constituents, those who believe in the infallibility of Obama and care about nothing else, or those who have not bothered to study up on the CO2 “crisis,” would risk placing their name on a cap-and-tax bill. Instead, they did nothing. Doing nothing allowed Obama to hand CO2 enforcement to the unelected officials in the EPA.

The early recipients of the EPA’s attention will be the major electrical power generators using coal or natural gas. It will take them a while to get down to the lesser offenders, like the manufacturing plants and small business employing millions of those still employed in these difficult economic times. However, America’s citizens will not have to wait for the layoffs from those jobs to feel the EPA’s impact. The rise in the utility rates will not take long, although the skyrocketing rise may take a few years, the EPA will light the fuse soon.

At present, there is no indication that the EPA would ever attempt to place any regulation on individuals for the CO2 they exhale. However, if the EPA can control power plant emissions, vehicle emissions, agricultural emissions and lawn mower emissions, there is nothing to stop them from controlling bovine emissions or even human emissions. Such is the door that the Senate has opened.

What will it take to stop this insanity? To begin with, our elected officials, both in the House and the Senate need to do a little basic study on issues important to the future of the country. If “doing the right thing,” because some eco-nut says it is the right thing, is going to destroy the country, it probably is not the right thing. It is like chess; one must think a few moves ahead. Ask the big question: what are the unintended consequences? Another question one might ask: What is the best for the country? It may not be what is best for Obama’s dream of a socialist utopia. A final question one might ask: What do the people want?

Once those questions are answered, the House and the Senate should realize that the way to defuse the EPA is with a law that takes all the EPA’s power away except for narrow areas where they are highly controlled by the elected House and Senate. No cap-and-tax was ever needed.

As for the voting public, we need to ask those running for office how they would vote for important issues like cap-and-tax, healthcare, future stimulus packages, financial regulations that specifically exclude Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the control of illegal aliens.

Everyone should vote, but become an educated consumer. Know you are voting for what you believe. Neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties are anything like they were in years gone by. Anyone looking for a Kennedy Democrat or a Reagan Republican will look long and hard to find a candidate espousing those views. Everyone should think of the issues they feel are important to them, write them down and see which candidates come closest to matching them. That is what it takes to be an informed consumer.

Published in: on July 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

The perfect place

I am an expert of electricity. My father occupied the chair of applied electricity at the state prison.
W. C. Fields-comedian

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a community of true renewable energy believers would put it all on the line and make their community carbon free? Well, it happened. (Click Link)

The Isle of Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland, is not what one would call a typical location for the development of green energy; one would call it an excellent location. As a small island, with a population of 87, its energy needs were small. On the twelve square mile island, the constant offshore winds were considered ideal for wind turbines, there was sufficient space for solar collectors, and the annual rainfall was suitable for hydroelectric production. Oh yes, and there was a need. The island once had a small hydroelectric generator, but it broke down. The community therefore survived with small diesel or gasoline generators at each house or business.

The cost of the green system needed turned out to be 1.6 million in Euros (1.9 million dollars). That breaks down to just under $22,000 per person. The residents spent twenty years trying to acquire funding. By 2006, the residents, the European Union, lottery cash and other bodies had come up with the money. The great experiment began, and the lights were switched on in 2008.

What happened? Well, in January of this year, Eigg won a million Euro prize (Click Link) as a model community for the renewable era. If they used the prize to pay off the cost of their green energy, it brings the cost per person down to $8,400. As a place with no other form of energy, it is almost reasonable.

I must reiterate, Eigg is not a typical green energy installation. It is ideal.

So, you might wonder, how are things going with Eigg today? Not so well. Mother Nature can be so fickle (Click Link). Now, with 96 residents (the population explosion may be the result of available power), Eigg is in the middle of a hot spell. Rainfall is down, and so is their hydroelectric plant. The constant offshore wind has become very intermittent, so the wind turbines cannot be counted on. One can assume that the sun still shines during the day hours, so they do have some renewable electricity, but their main power is now from backup diesel generators, and it is being rationed. Carbon power to the rescue again.

Perhaps there is a lesson here for those of us who dream of a fully renewable energy future. Eigg was the ideal location for renewable energy. It cost a fortune to get it up and running. The upkeep costs will continue in the form of a higher utility bills than most of the world is presently paying. Still, it did not work. It is not dependable. Money is still being spent for a reliable diesel generator; a backup system is always needed for all renewables except for nuclear.

If the United States could build a similar countrywide renewable energy system for $20,000 a person (Eigg only had to run six miles of wire) it would cost something north of $6 trillion just to create it, it would work only part of the time, and require a backup system as large as our present electrical system, and the ongoing costs would be much more than we presently pay. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Postage stamp

He never wants anything but what’s right and fair; only when you come to settle what’s right and fair, it’s everything that he wants and nothing that you want.
Thomas Hughes-judge

When I was a kid, there was an urban legend about a man who invented a carburetor, or an engine (take your pick), that would get 100 miles per gallon. According to the legend, the oil companies bought the patents on the carburetor/engine to keep it from ever being used; anything to keep the profits up. It was an urban legend. It never happened. The world is still desperately seeking the bit of technology that can double or triple present-day mileage, and if it existed, it would be marketed.

Everyone wants to do the right thing for the environment, especially car companies. As much as everyone would like a cheap, efficient replacement for oil, it has not yet been invented, and not all the beautiful wishes, dreams and happy thoughts in the world can not change this.

There is a way to lower the use of fossil fuels, and it will probably only cost somewhere between $7.00 to $10.00 to implement. Ah, that would be $7.00 to $10.00 per gallon of gasoline. This method of conservation is euphemistically called the Obama plan. It would work but could YOU afford it?

If you listened to Obama’s speech on the Gulf Coast oil leak, you may have noticed that he changed topics in mid-speech. Suddenly he was not talking about the oil leak; he was talking about the need for cap and tax (although he didn’t call it that, “Clean energy” is now chic, and as a bonus, by that name it hides what it really is). The cap and tax bill will do to your electric bill what the Obama plan would do to your gasoline price: conserve through higher prices, forcing a move to alternative power systems. There are real problems with alternative forms of energy. How does one save the planet by changing from an efficient from of power to alternate forms that are less efficient and cost much more?

Solar does not work at all during the night, is ineffective when cloudy, requires constant upkeep, has a service life of twenty years, is enormously expensive and requires a backup system (natural gas, coal, etc. for down time). No private solar company could presently exist without massive government subsidies.

Wind turbines do not work when the wind does not blow, they rarely (if ever) generate at capacity (average output world wide appears to be around 27% of copacity, 30% if one chooses to believe the supporters), require constant upkeep, have a service life of twenty years, are enormously expensive and require a backup system (natural gas, coal, etc. for down time). No private wind turbine company could presently exist without massive government subsidies.

A little something to think about, those massive government subsidies are paid with taxpayer dollars – from you. Those ineffective, part-time, non-carbon systems, because they are so expensive, produce electricity that is expensive. Not to worry, that cost will be passed on to the user – that would be you.

Of course, the cost of manufacturing everything will go up because of the increased fuel and electricity costs, but the manufacturers will be okay. They will pass the cost on to – oh oh, it’s you again.

Then there are those backup systems for when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Because of the nature of the beast, these backup systems will be used a lot, most of the time actually. They must be manned and maintained at all times, because without them there will constantly be blackouts. The cost of maintaining those backup systems, the ones that are the primary systems now, will be paid by — oh my, it is you again.

The good part of cap and tax (clean power), according to the government, is it will cost less than a postage stamp a day. Heck, anyone can afford that, though you might be beginning to wonder how all that can be done with the extreme cost of alternative power. Easy, the government is not talking about alternative power. They are talking about capping CO2 emissions. That means the carbon-based utilities are going to capture, contain and store their CO2. Doing this, if it can be done (the technology is in its infancy), will be very expensive. Oh, and by the way, even the governments own scientists admit that cap and tax would have zero effect on the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The taxpayer will be paying for something that does not work – no matter, we are getting used to that.

Yep, Obama’s Grand Plan will work on cutting fuel consumption, but you might not be. America’s manufacturing will become so expensive it will not be able to compete with China or India, so it will move to China or India; you may be able to keep your job if you are willing to relocate.

If you are not in manufacturing, will you be able to afford to drive to work? You could always take public transportation, of course with fuel prices being what they are, the prices will go up. And if no one can afford to drive, public transportation will have a monopoly, cost will really go up – never waste a good disaster. Oh yeah, those public transportation services are government subsidized with taxpayer money. You will buy your ticket twice, once through tax dollars and once at the ticket window. Such a deal.

Well, don’t worry. It will only cost you the amount of a postage stamp a day. Trust me.

Published in: on June 21, 2010 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment