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Comment Re:Meanwhile the Volt isn't selling... (Score 1) 1184

The Volt is selling just fine. There's a real reason why the Hammtrack plant is closing for a month and it has nothing to do with the Volt.

Chevrolet Volt Assembly Plant In Hamtramck Idled A Month. But Not Why You Are Thinking

Most people are projecting the Volt to have it's best sales month ever for August. It's doing quite well for a 1st gen plug-in. I expect the 2nd generation to address a lot of the shortcomings of the current Volt (primarily a bit tight on space in the rear seats and fuel economy could be better when the gas engine does run).

Comment Re:it's an arms race (Score 1) 1184

I put my wife and baby in an SUV because, if I have to play those odds, I want them stacked in MY family's favor. Call me selfish. I don't care. That's survival instinct. Put your family in a Smart Fortwo if you wish. Not me.

What's great is that you put your family in a vehicle that you perceive as more safe when you could have just as easily put them in a Fusion instead of an Escape and gotten a vehicle with better safety ratings, better fuel economy, similar interior room and a vehicle which presents much less of a risk to other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists on the road.

But hey - at least it looks tough.

Comment Re:Hawii (Score 1) 252

I don't know about 15%, but I can certainly understand wanting to be cautious - their electricity might be mostly oil, but that doesn't mean those generators can scale up/down on a dime - more than x% might cause problems with the grid.

The biggest issues with integrating PV onto the grid come from large PV plants (MW size) where a single large cloud can cut output of the plant in half in minutes. The other issue can come from how quickly PV plants ramp up and down on clear days - though at the very least this is easily predictable so is more easliy worked around.

The former issue has a couple of solutions - one - don't build huge PV plants - install smaller systems on rooftops where being geographically diverse prevents single clouds from significantly affecting total output. The other is to integrate some amount of grid storage that can reduce the maximum potential ramp-rate to something that the grid can handle.

Hawaii has already done a good amount of R&D into these issues. Some of the results can be found at the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.

The Lanai battery project is a good example.

Comment Re:Hawii (Score 2) 252

I just ran across an article discussing this very issue. It turns out that the price of solar in Hawaii is already financially viable without any extra incentives, and with incentives many areas are hitting the current maximum of 15% solar per interconnection.

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2012/08/hawaii-drives-past-solar-power-cost-barrier-surprised-by-additional-roadblocks

That post and the associated report covers the issues of increasing solar in Hawaii better than I can.

Comment Re:To streamline future posts (Score 1) 311

I would just need to solve the problem of my car not being there during the day when the panels produce most of their energy.

Which isn't really a problem right now - typical grid loads are very low between midnight and 6 am while grid loads are much higher when the sun is shining.

Exporting solar power during the day and importing grid power at night will help improve grid efficiencies since ramping up/down power plants reduces their efficiency.

In fact, many utilities will happily put you on a time-of-use plan which will credit you full retail for peak hour solar production while allowing you to suck down off-peak electricity at a much reduced rate.

Comment Re:A Few Notes on Your Suggestion (Score 1) 736

500M barrels of refined petroleum = 21B gallons of refined petroleum.

Last time I checked 500 / 42 ~= 12, not 21. :-P

Who here would thinks a 16-26% reduction in the cost of a gallon of gas would be a welcome start?

I have no idea how you equate a reduction of petroleum imports with a direct reduction in the price of gas when the price of gas is mostly made up of the cost of it's crudestock, oil.

Nevermind that the ratio of refined products that come from crude is basically 1:1 - if you reduce gasoline production by 1 gallon - you need one less gallon of crude. The percentage of a gallon of crude that actually goes toward gasoline production is irrelevant here.

If we stopped exporting gas to the tune of 0.5B barrels/day - we simply stop importing crude to the tune of 0.5B barrels/day. Which is about 5% of our current crude imports of 9B barrels/day.

Comment Re:A Few Notes on Your Suggestion (Score 1) 736

Not a bad plan overall - but is hydrogen really a byproduct of natural gas production? Those hydrogen atoms don't like to float around by themselves and quickly bind to other atoms.

To get hydrogen from natural gas, I always thought you had to perform steam reforming...

http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/fuels/hydrogen/currenttechnology.html

Comment Re:A Few Notes on Your Suggestion (Score 1) 736

Well said - it's amazing how many people harp on net petroleum product exports while completely missing the point that the crude oil used for those exports completely dwarfs those exports.

Petroleum exports are good since that means we are taking crude, hopefully refining it for a profit and selling it again - but it in no way means that we are any where close to minimizing our dependence on foreign oil.

Comment Re:A Few Notes on Your Suggestion (Score 1) 736

instead of lowering prices to encourage more consumption to increase profit margins

That doesn't make any sense. Lowering prices may increase consumption, but it reduces profit margins, it doesn't increase profit margins. It may increase overall profit, but historically it's been the opposite - high oil prices = high oil company gross profits.

Never mind that while our largest export is gasoline - our exports of gasoline are still completely dwarfed by the amount of oil we import. To put this in perspective, we current have a net export about 500M barrels of refined petroleum products/day. We import about 9000M barrels of oil/day. In other words - if we stopped exporting gasoline, we'd simply lower our oil imports by about 5%. That'd be nice - but still a LONG way to go before we get close to net-zero oil imports.

Regarding gasoline exports - the main reason there are record exports is because some refineries are at very low utilization levels - oil refineries are selling refined products to keep utilization high and attempt to remain profitable.

Margins on refining operations are extremely low. Most of the cost of a gallon of gas/diesel is the cost of crude oil. If you can't keep refinery utilization high, you will lose money if you can't increase prices because of the fixed overhead cost of running a refinery.

That's the primary reason 2-3 east coast refineries are looking to be sold off - their utilization rate is in the low 60% rate - while refineries along the Gulf of Mexico and midwest are in the 90%+ rate thanks to the influx of cheap oil from shale production.

These refineries in the GOM and midwest are making great profits because of the WTI / Brent crude spot price spread. The GOM/midwest refineries are paying about 10% less for crude - the east coast refineries are forced to reduce their margins to compete and in fact they are not able to.

Comment Re:Completely inexplicable... (Score 1) 618

I pay for that as a separate line item on the bill. It is about $15/mo.

That is typically a simple "connection fee" and is used to cover costs of managing your account - this is not used towards Your electrical rate has energy and distribution charges. It looks like you are in California - by law utilities are not allowed to profit on energy charges, only distribution charges. Your typical residential rate has these charges combined into a single per-kWh cost.

The government sits on its hands and appears to be perfectly happy with things as they are - because it knows which side its bread is buttered on.

It's pretty clear that you've given up already. But hey - at least the Intarwebs is a good place to vent and at least pretend you know what you're talking about without actually doing anything about it.

Comment Re:Completely inexplicable... (Score 1) 618

Solyndra failed because their efficiency/price ratio was not good enough to compete. If they had 100% efficient panels then they could charge quite a lot of money for them, and people would be gladly paying.

No, they failed because their energy/price ratio was too high. Even if they could produce 50% efficient panels instead of 10% efficient panels, most wouldn't pay the price premium their product commanded. (Never mind that 100% is not physically possible - their tech was probably only capable of 30% in theory at most) Why? Because space isn't an issue. Would you pay 2-3x more for their panels to save a bit of roof-top space? Their only unique feature was that their "panels" were light and wind resistant - meaning that they could be installed more quickly, more easily and on more roofs where conventional panels would require more labor intensive installs and can't be used at all on warehouse roofs because they are not strong enough.

The government doesn't inflict anything on you for having "too much power". It's the utility company, a private company who doesn't want you generating your own power because that directly eats away at their profits!

That said - most reasonable states have net-metering laws which force the utilities to compensate customers for full retail price of their energy. Most of these are written so that you can use the grid as a battery essentially for at least a year.

Yes - if you generate more energy than you use over a year - the utility will typically only compensate you at wholesale electricity rates rather than retail. But this seems somewhat fair as the utility needs to pay for maintenance of your share of the distribution grid - and with PV systems prices falling like they are, soon everyone in your neighborhood will have their own PV system.

The only way to get the utility companies to do anything different is to get your representatives to write laws to force them to change. Claiming it's the governments fault without doing anything isn't going to get you anywhere.

Comment Re:Completely inexplicable... (Score 1) 618

Solar and wind are enormously expensive

Only because the externalities of burning fossil fuels are not paid for by those selling and/or burning fossil fuels. Even then - wind power is already cheaper than many fossil fuels and solar is rapidly lowering costs.

manufacturing of pure silicon requires lots of nasty chemicals

PV grade silicon does not require nasty chemicals to produce - it can be produced using metallurgical methods - but then this silicon can't also be used for computer chips which does require very high grade silicon. Regardless - it's not difficult to ensure that those nasty chemicals that are used are handled properly such that risks from using them are minimal.

However failures of solar power are far more common, even despite huge injections of public money into those projects (see Solyndra.) The reason for that is simply that solar panels today are not very efficient.

Huh? You are comparing an industry which is over a century old to an industry which is only recently achieving levels of scale to become economical? I've got news for you - there will be more large scale business failures and consolidation in the PV industry in the next 5 years. This is expected as PV reaches the point where it is a commodity product and only businesses with large economies of scale deliver the majority of the market (just like any other major industry today).

Efficiency of solar panels is not the issue or cause of these business failures. A highly competitive PV market is. Today's typical 15% efficient solar panels are more than efficient enough to be useful - after all - since you have 6 kW of PV you know very well how those panels are able to generate enough electricity to power your entire household's annual consumption. Never mind that you can already buy panels over 20% efficient - at added cost per watt of course - which is why most people go with the lower efficiency, less expensive panels.

The main issue is the cost to produce those panels which is dropping quite rapidly - quite a bit more rapidly than expected thanks to massive amounts of silicon manufacturing capacity which has come online in the last 2 years - which is also what led to Solyndra's demise yet made them look promising 4 years ago. And you probably have room to double the size of your PV array - but the cost currently keeps you from doing that.

Comment Re:Well, that should silence the pro-diesel fumers (Score 1) 196

Many of the "diesel performance" guys seem to take glee in producing large amounts of diesel smoke when modifying their rigs.

A quick google/youtube search of "diesel smoke" will turn up lots of hits of people installing "smoke switches", purposefully "smoking" people, etc. Crazy!

There also was some research on particulate emissions on highways which found that gasoline engines have likely been underestimated in the amount of black carbon they emit, particularly ultra fine emissions. These emissions can also be particularly harmful since they are so easily absorbed into the blood stream and body.

New real-time measurements suggest that black carbon emissions from light-duty gasoline vehicles are significantly underestimated

Burning stuff to produce energy is harmful on a large number of levels - yet so many people are resistant to change since the full costs are rarely "paid for" by the people who benefit the most from it.

Comment Re:Slashdot Suspending Editing (Score 1) 599

A true EV like the Leaf can go farther, but 1) the Leaf is slow as shit, and tiny too

The LEAF is not much slower than the Volt - 0-60 is 9-10 seconds or so, Volt is a second faster at most. The LEAF actually beats the Volt to 30 mph.

If you're comparing the LEAF to the Volt, the LEAF is much roomier inside. It can seat 5 (only 4 in the Volt) and a good amount of space in the hatch. As far as overall size - it's the size of your typical hatchback - really medium sized unless you're comparing it to a full-size sedan or a medium/large SUV.

But the real one to beat is of course the Prius, which is downright reasonable at only $23k, though it doesn't have a plug-in option. There is a different Prius model just now coming out, with limited availability, that's a plug-in, but it costs $32k, a whopping $9k more than the regular version, though again the $7500 tax credit probably applies here; don't know if you can get that credit with the regular Prius but I doubt it.

The Prius plug-in only qualifies for a $2500 federal tax credit - the credit is based on the size of the battery and the Prius plug-in has a tiny one good for about 11 miles of EV range per charge. There really is not much difference in the price of the Prius plug-in and Volt similarly equipped after tax credits.

The Prius plug-in with it's 50 mpg can't be beat for long trips. But for your average driving the Volt will use a lot less gas.

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