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Comment: EV and being "green" (Score 1) 229

I assume GM has done studies on how much electric vehicles save on carbon emissions. How does GM defend itself against claims that electric vehicles are no better, or worse, for the environment than diesel or gasoline engined vehicles? In the USA a large portion of utility electricity comes from coal and natural gas. In some places electricity comes from burning fuel oil, a very dirty source of electricity.

Can GM defend an electric vehicle as being "green" when the potential buyer lives in a place where the electricity comes from coal or fuel oil?

Comment: Re:Battery tech on 2500 and 3500 pickups? (Score 1) 229

My uncle worked at a Buick/GMC dealership when those were offered. I asked him how many he sold, told me zero were sold. This dealership had a customer base that was largely farmers and factory workers looking for a middle of the line reliable ride. These people aren't the kind to buy the new shiny tech so perhaps a poor example.

Also, being a largely rural community the customers tended to need to drive considerable distances regularly. Battery electric does not do well with that.

From what I've seen those that would use a welder away from utility power would tend to buy an ICE powered welder, basically the generator is built in with the welder. I don't see much of a market for such a large inverter on a commodity vehicle.

Comment: Re:Night (Score 1) 437

To all of those that posted doubting my math that we don't have enough material in the world to make a nation sized storage battery:

To all those hating on my "rare earth" comments, my fingers jumped ahead on my thoughts about the battery when I meant the comment on rare earths only for the magnets in the flywheel motors. No rare earths metals in the batteries. Will need gobs of rare earth metals for efficient flywheel storage.

If you dispute the need for rare earth metals in the flywheels then so be it. With the earth's core made of nickel and iron it's quite likely we won't run out of those elements to make flywheel storage work. Problem still lies in the cost of producing the flywheels. Efficiency gains can be made in using the densest materials we can find in creating these flywheels. What elements in the earth's crust is abundant and dense? The top two on my list would be tungsten and... uranium. If we are going to mine uranium then why waste it in making an energy storage flywheel if we can use it as an energy source?

I thought you people cared about preserving the environment. You'd rather be digging up all kinds of lead for huge batteries, or steel for flywheels, than just get a little bit of thorium and uranium for a nuclear reactor. Shame on those of you suggesting pumped hydro, do you not feel for the delta smelt?

The way I see it solar and wind are environmental disasters just waiting to happen. They will kill birds in flight, disturb the landscape, poison the water, and I haven't even got to all the mining needed for the materials required yet. Solar and wind don't sound so "green" any more, do they?

Comment: Re:Building nuclear illegal in CA (Score 1) 437

Notice that when the sun shine, there is no need to use natural gas, so gas use is reduced. Your argument is mistaken.

You seem to have missed a very important data point I have already given. Combined cycle power is twice as efficient as gas turbines.

I'll give a simple example. Assume that whenever the sun shines the solar panel produces maximum power. Assume that when the sun does not shine that all power comes from gas turbines. Peak power usage is not at noon, but at about 6:00PM, when the sun sets. So about half of the energy used is produced by solar, half by natural gas. Now assume that there were no solar panels, or natural gas turbines, but instead only combined cycle natural gas. Combined cycle is twice as efficient as the gas turbines so for the same fuel we get twice the electrical energy. In both situations we burn the same amount of fuel and get the same amount of electricity. Because it takes a lot of material and labor to make a solar panel the energy it produces costs twice what that same energy would be from combined cycle. Because gas turbines burn twice as much fuel as combined cycle that energy costs twice as much. So, we get the same energy, burning the same amount of fuel, and pay twice as much for it. A total loser.

My very simple example ignores a lot of what happens in the real world, most notably that solar power produces the same output at noon as it does at twilight. Real world means that relying on solar mean increased carbon output or only very slight reductions. Either way it means a near double increase of cost in electricity.

I'll go one step further, just to twist the knife. Solar power is right now about 20% efficient for common utility grade panels. Theoretical efficiency for photovoltaic panels is near 60%. Theoretical efficiency for a solar power heat engine is 95%, current efficiency is about 30% with future expected efficiency near 75%. To be kind I'll give solar power a 3x gain on efficiency, and say that makes solar power cost 1/3 what it does now. Solar power now is estimated to cost between double and triple what coal, natural gas combined cycle, nuclear, and hydro, cost. Those four power sources are near equal in price. Being kind again I'll say the price is only double, and we will assume future manufacture costs remain the same so future solar would cost only 2/3rds what electricity costs now. A win then, right?

Not so much. Solar power only works during the day. We'd need something to not only store that solar power but produce enough excess to store for the night. Now we have to first double the solar power produced, which turns 2/3rds the cost to 4/3rds the cost. Then we need to pay for the storage mechanisms, since we are already at a loss I don't see a point to speculate that cost.

What if we don't store the energy? Use something else to make up for the night time? Like natural gas turbines? That gets back to what I laid out before, but instead of a double in cost we get something like 1.5x the cost. What if we use wind? Wind doesn't always blow and costs the same or more than the natural gas turbines. Going any further and we have a grid much like we have now except with perhaps solar contributing perhaps 15% to 20% rather than what we have now where it's less than 1%. Going any higher than that 15% and there is a risk of destabilizing the grid from severe weather and the odd solar eclipse.

Comment: Re:solar and wind are just proxies for natural gas (Score 1) 437

You are talking about what solar might be able to do in ten years. That's nice, but I suggest we talk about now. Right now we have second and third generation nuclear reactors which can burn uranium at an efficiency of 0.5%. With that terrible performance nuclear already has, compared to solar power, lower carbon output, longer operation lifespans, shorter energy payback, and lower costs at the meter.

Now I'll talk about what can happen in ten years. Solar panels might be able to go from the 10 to 20% efficiency to perhaps 40%. Theoretical limits place photovoltaic panels at 60% or so. A heat engine that runs from solar power has a theoretical efficiency of 95% but real world efficiency would be more like somewhere between 20% and 60%, not far from where they are now. So, we can expect a gain of efficiency that is double to triple of what we have now, given more time we might get a quadruple gain.

Nuclear power now takes 0.5% of the fuel, boils water, and runs a heat engine with an efficiency of about 20% to 30%, more advanced reactors that are currently operating may get as high as 40%. Fourth generation nuclear reactors like WAMSR (waste annihilating molten salt reactors) and LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactors) burn 99% of the fuel. They do not boil water but instead use carrier salt and gas turbines, allowing the use of temperatures and technologies capable of 60% efficiency. This translates to an efficiency that is merely double to an efficiency that is 1000x what we have now, depending on how one defines efficiency.

Then there is the matter that nuclear power works in all weather, at all altitudes and latitudes, day or night, with an operational up time of about 85%. For solar to compete with that on cost requires material technology developments, and energy storage developments, far beyond what we have now. These same technologies would also benefit nuclear power.

You can place your bet on solar power but I won't.

Comment: Oil price has hit a six year low! YAY! (Score 1) 437

The solar power people should be celebrating right now. Oil is now the cheapest it has been in six years. Why should they be celebrating? Because oil price is a proxy for energy prices. If oil is cheap then all energy is cheap.

If oil is cheap then energy sources like oil shale and tar sands look like a bad idea. If oil is expensive then that makes oil shale and tar sands look profitable.

I hear so many times how we need to make oil expensive to save the whales, or whatever needs saving this week, and that just sounds counter to the basics of economics to me. We need to make oil cheap. Make it so cheap that no one wants it.

I can buy one ton of dirt for $5, I've done it. Why can I buy dirt that cheap? Because no one wants it. If people wanted it then it would not be that cheap. It costs more in the fuel to get it than the dirt itself costs. Make oil the same and no one will go get it. Make energy so cheap that no one will bother to expend the energy to get the oil.

How do we make energy so cheap that no one bothers to drill for oil? Well, I have an idea. My idea does not involve carbon credits, energy taxes, or any of that because all of those raise the price of energy. Raise the price of energy and things like coal and oil shale is profitable. DO NOT TAX CARBON!

Another thing, who makes the most profit from oil? It's not the oil companies. It's not the refineries. It certainly is not the local filling station. It's the government. Taxes on fossil fuels makes the government piles of money. They aren't going to kill their golden goose. Demanding a raise in carbon taxes only makes the government more dependent on fossil fuels.

Solar panels cost the government money, they subsidize their production. Where does this money come from? Oil taxes. What happens if solar power replaces oil and the tax structure stays in place? The government runs out of money. When the government gets serious about solar power then we will see it taxed. Not only do solar power subsidies take money from the poor and give it to the rich people that can afford solar power it is holding solar power back.

Solar power subsidies is holding it back. The solar power industry exists to maximize government subsidy, not energy output. Remove the subsidy and the industry must either make something that can compete with oil or fade out of existence. Our economy cannot support losers forever.

Comment: Re:solar and wind are just proxies for natural gas (Score 1) 437

Let's do this math here. Nuclear power is the most hated power source in existence. Nuclear power requires massive government subsidies to survive. After all of that it is still the most expensive energy source we have. So, explain to me why we have not shut them all down already?

Money wins every time.

That's right, money wins every time. The only way a nuclear power plant can survive the onslaught of demands to be shut down is because they make gobs of money. Nuclear power provides something like 20% of the electricity consumed in the USA. If we shut them all down we simply could not produce enough windmills and solar panels to make up for that.

Why haven't solar and wind power replaced nuclear power already? Because money wins every time. Solar is, at best, three times the cost of nuclear. Wind costs about double.

If you want to talk about government funds in nuclear power then we'd have to talk about all the money the government has put into solar. That money has been piled on and it still cannot compete with nuclear.

Comment: Re:Building nuclear illegal in CA (Score 1) 437

NASA studied space based solar extensively for years and it will never happen. The energy required to get the material into orbit to create the solar station cannot be returned in the lifetime of that station. Barring some great leap in solar power technology it simply cannot be feasible.

Just stop with the space based solar.

Comment: Re:Night (Score 1, Insightful) 437

It would also require more rare earth elements than exist in the earth's crust. Perhaps that is an exaggeration but not by much, mining enough lithium, cadmium, or whatever, is not trivial. We just do not have the capacity to produce that amount of electricity storage in batteries.

I held out promise for technologies like flywheel storage as it was a simple technology, requiring not much more than a motor/generator and a weight. I then realized that such devices would be expensive, require considerable maintenance, and still require significant amounts of rare earth elements to produce.

Other storage technologies have similar problems. Water storage requires differing elevations and, obviously, large amounts of water. Compressed air storage requires suitable caverns. Molten salt storage requires vast resources as well.

None of these can compete with even first generation nuclear power, and we have fourth generation nuclear power coming on line soon.

Comment: solar and wind are just proxies for natural gas (Score 1, Informative) 437

This study claims a reduction in carbon emissions from solar power but I've read studies that show increased carbon emissions from solar power. Why is that? Because solar power is very poor at matching when people use power. Sure, people tend to turn stuff off at night when the sun is down and turn them on when the sun shines but the load curve seen by utilities shows a peek power usage at about 6:00PM, when the sun is setting and solar power has already begun to wane.

How does this translate into increased carbon output? When solar power wanes there needs to be a power source that can be brought up to power quickly and still be inexpensive enough that it is economical. That is where natural gas comes in. Instead of using highly efficient combined cycle power, which takes hours to come up to power, the utilities use natural gas turbines. Combined cycle power plants get about 60% efficiency, gas turbine power plants might get 40%. Turning the turbines off and on burns more fuel, reducing the effective efficiency.

So rather than using a highly efficient combined cycle power plant a utility that must accommodate the quickly changing output of solar power must use less efficient gas turbines. The more solar power on the grid means more gas turbines. More gas turbines means less efficient use of natural gas. Therefore there is no net reduction of carbon emissions from use of solar power.

Then comes the argument for storing the solar energy for use when the sun does not shine. That adds cost. We have nothing that can store electricity that is cheaper than burning natural gas or coal, using nuclear power, or using hydro power. If solar power is to become cheap enough to compete with coal and nuclear then we need a means to store electricity that is cheap.

The problem then comes in that any technology that makes storing electric energy cheap also makes coal and nuclear power cheaper. Then why not just make solar power cheaper? Because that will never solve the problem of the sun going down.

Solar power is a dead end. Solar power would have to be cheap enough to make up for the costs of its manufacture and storage as well as compete with coal and nuclear. While we might run out of coal in 300 years we just cannot run out of nuclear fuel, it is just too common.

Then there is the environment disaster that is caused by the manufacture of photovoltaic panels. Making them requires significant amounts of water, toxic chemicals, and lots of energy.

Solar power is not the answer. Nuclear power is the answer. I know someone is going to point out the nuclear waste that comes from nuclear power now. My answer to that is Waste Annihilating Molten Salt Reactors. These things eat radioactive waste. If it is radioactive then it is fuel. If it's not radioactive then it's not waste any more, right?

Comment: Re:Useless (Score 1) 75

by blindseer (#49076203) Attached to: Canada's Next-Generation Military Smart Gun Unveiled

Encrypting the data transmitted is nearly trivial. There are numerous encryption algorithms out there that can sufficiently prevent eavesdropping of the data. Techniques beyond mere encryption can further prevent jamming, false data being sent, and such that can be equal security issues.

What concerns me more is that these rifles will be sending out radio beacons of their location. Various techniques can be used to keep power output low, spread the data out so it doesn't stay on a single frequency, and otherwise diminish the radio beacon properties of a transmitter but that does not make it go away. A sneaky radio is hard. Someone with just a wideband radio receiver can detect if one comes close. This might be enough to trigger a mine.

I don't see recharging as much of an issue. The rifles will need to have ammo replenished, be cleaned, etc., adding the step of checking the batteries does not seem to be too much to ask.

Comment: Re:Smart? (Score 1) 75

by blindseer (#49076007) Attached to: Canada's Next-Generation Military Smart Gun Unveiled

I don't understand, just because the suspect is not holding a firearm does not mean they are incapable of killing an officer/soldier, nor does it mean that use of a firearm to stop the suspect is somehow illegal, unethical, or otherwise improper. Blunt objects, fists, and feet kill more people than handguns.

Also, what if the cell phone is the trigger to a bomb? Or a gun in disguise?

Here's another idea, if a person comes face to face to someone in uniform and pointing a rifle at them does not immediately empty their hands and put them where they can be seen perhaps, just maybe, that person deserves to get shot. If you want to be the one that wants to argue with the cop/soldier that it's only a banana then I'll be sure to send flowers to your funeral.

Comment: My body, my choice (Score 0) 740

by blindseer (#48966397) Attached to: New Jersey Gov. Christie: Parents Should Have Choice In Vaccinations

I find it odd that there seems to be such a high correlation between people that advocate for the choice to abort their pregnancy and those that advocate for mandated vaccinations. I would think that people that advocate for being able to choice to get one potentially life altering medical procedure would advocate for the choice in all such procedures.

The opposite is equally odd, pro-life people (those advocating removing the choice of aborting a pregnancy) also tend to be those that advocate allowing parents to choose whether or not their children get vaccinated. To them "my body, my choice" doesn't have the same meaning. The way I figure that this apparent dichotomy can be resolved is that a parent cannot choose to terminate a pregnancy under the "my body, my choice" mantra because the fetus is a separate body from that of the mother. But also in the case of a child does the parent have the authority to vaccinate the child under that logic? Does the parent "own" the body of the child? I suppose not but then the government cannot claim ownership either and order the child to be vaccinated. If anyone should have authority over the health of a child it should be the parent, not the government.

Liberals want to let people choose to terminate a pregnancy but not to choose to not have their child vaccinated. Liberals claim to be all about people's ability to choose but only if people choose to do what the liberals want them to do. Conservatives seem to believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and also seemingly in that order. Liberty would allow for abortion but that would violate a higher priority of preserving life, therefore conservatives don't believe in abortion.

Does allowing parents the liberty to not have their children vaccinated violate the higher priority of preserving life? Perhaps it does. What seems to be common among conservatives is that while parents should be free to choose to not have their children vaccinated there is also a belief that parents should choose vaccination. I agree that parents should get their children vaccinated unless some medical condition exists that would place the child at risk. I also don't like the idea of the government telling parents how to raise their own children. Let the parents choose, not some unelected government bureaucrat.

In Nature there are neither rewards nor punishments, there are consequences. -- R.G. Ingersoll