“Green” Energy: Materials-Intensive–And It Matters

There is now considerable momentum behind wind and solar power generation.  In addition to the governments pushing these technologies, there are many companies intending to profit by manufacturing and implementing these systems–also companies intending to get “sustainability” points for using them–and a nontrivial part of the financing industry licking their chops at the prospect of raising the necessary capital.

While wind and solar systems do not directly consume fuels, they do consume capital, that capital representing the labor and materials (and also the energy, in various forms) necessary to manufacture and install them.  Some of these materials are relatively scarce at present, and are sourced from problematic locations under questionable conditions.

Here is an interesting and quite detailed study on “green” materials and sourcing options, from the International Energy Agency.  Worth careful reading for anyone interested in energy issues, technologies, and politics.  Note that in addition to China’s development of its internal resources of the relevant materials, that country is developing strong trade and financing relationships…which may evolve to neo-colonial or even full-colonial relationships…with other countries possessing such resources.

And here are a pair of articles arguing that the only way for the US to acquire the requisite materials for a “green” energy transition will require close collaboration with China…that if the two greatest greenhouse-gas emitters on this planet can’t work together, we’re all going to be living in a more or less literal hell. The authors of these pieces don’t seem to be very concerned about the risks of US dependence on China for our energy supply; they seem more concerned about the risks of a cold war (anti-China) mentality.  (It is also interesting that the word ‘nuclear’ doesn’t appear in either article.)

Comes now a Reuters article, which asserts that: The Biden administration is considering a plan to import the bulk of the materials needed to build electric vehicles and the batteries that power them instead of mining them domestically — a nod to environmental groups that make up a key part of the Democratic constituency, according to a report.  The article goes on to quote an administration source as saying, referring to mining, that “it’s not that hard to dig a hole”…a comment which interestingly echoes Michael Bloomberg’s assertions about farming–“I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer…You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.”  (Bloomberg also made similarly dismissive remarks about manufacturing jobs)

On the other hand, a post at the Seeking Alpha investment blog asserts that Contrary to Rumors, the Biden Administration is Not Abandoning Lithium–that on the contrary, they want to expand both domestic and international supply of this material.  (The author of this piece also notes critically that the Reuters article did not reference a single named source.)

But even if the Biden administration does throw some money at domestic mining and processing, environmental objections and litigation are likely to slow things down considerably…a Trump-style president might be willing and able to blow past such constraints, but Biden/Harris, given their dependence on their party’s extreme Left, will likely find it easier to placate environmentalists by combining a US emphasis on vehicle electrification and “green” energy with a de facto sourcing policy of acquiring most of the relevant materials from outside the United States–including China–which allowing most US mining and bulk processing initiatives to bog down in red tape.

Here’s a follow-up article from Reuters.

As the IEA article notes, “green” energy represents a shift from a fuel-intensive to a materials-intensive energy system.  Few of the prominent/influential advocates of such a shift seem to have given much thought to where those required materials might actually come from.

Wind and solar are more capital-intensive than are fossil-fuel power sources, and mining requires considerable capital as well.  It seems likely to me that the worldwide push for “green” energy and electric vehicles will drive enough capital demands–whether via government or private financing–to have a material upward impact on interest rates.

Thinking, Making, Profiting

256 years ago this month, James Watt made the conceptual breakthrough that enabled a much more efficient steam engine…an engine that would play a major role in driving the Industrial Revolution.  He had been thinking about possibilities for improving the coal-hungry Newcomen engine, then the best available, which lost huge amounts of heat every cycle through the successive heating and cooling of the cylinder walls:

It was in the Green of Glasgow.  I had gone to take a walk on a fine Sabbath afternoon…I was thinking upon the engine at the time…when the idea came into my mind, that as steam was an elastic body it would rush into a vacuum, and if a communication was made between the cylinder and an exhausted vessel, it would rush into it, and might be there condensed without cooling the cylinder.

But in addition to the many details involved in reducing this idea to practice, there was another problem inhibiting the creation of reasonably-efficient steam engines.  The boring of the cylinders…even when the best tools and the highest skills of the day were applied…was so imprecise that considerable quantities of steam escaped around the piston, greatly lowering the overall efficiency of the engine.

Enter Matthew Boulton, who became Watt’s partner, and John Wilkinson, a Boulton associate and foundry operator who was obsessed with all things cast iron.  Boulton and Wilkinson wanted a steam engine to provide the blast for Wilkinson’s foundry, and they wanted an engine with especially-large cylinders…which made the problem of tight cylinder/piston fit even harder to solve.

Wilkinson saw that the technology he had already developed for the very precise boring of cannon could, with some modifications, be adapted to the boring of steam engine cylinders.  Amid “searing heat and grinding din,” he achieved a cylinder, four feet in diameter, which “does not err the thickness of an old shilling at any part.”  With the combination of Watt’s separate condenser and Wilkinson’s improved boring process, the steam engine was ready for the starring role that it was to hold for the next century and beyond.

Key point: It wasn’t only the design of the improved steam engine that mattered, but also the process for making it.

What if Britain had been offshoring its foundry operations, with their “searing heat and grinding din” to another country?  Spain, let’s say.  Given the importance of the interaction between the design talent and the manufacturing talent, would the improved steam engine have been developed in the 1770s timeframe at all?  And whenever it had been developed, to which individuals and countries would the financial benefits of steam power have accrued?

The present-day parallel is the relationship between microchip designers and microchip manufacturing facilities…foundries, as they are actually called.

More about John Wilkinson, here.

An Early and Excellent Example of a High-Technology Product Press Release

The poet/historian  Antipater sings the wonderfulness of the vertical waterwheel as a power source:

Cease from grinding, ye women who toil at the mill

Sleep late, even if the crowing cocks announce the dawn

For Demeter has ordered the Nymphs to perform the work of your hands

And they, leaping down on the top of the wheel, turn its axle which

With its revolving spokes, turns the heavy concave Nisyrian millstones

Learning to feast on the products of Demeter without labour

( circa 65 bc)

 

I would so hire that man for a Marketing Communications job.

 

Biden’s Climate Fixation.

Joe Biden, or whoever writes his stuff, announced that “Climate Change” will be the #1 issue for his administration. What does this mean and portend? There are a number of articles in “Asia Times” that discuss this. I ran across this series at an Australian blog I read ever day, Catallexy Files

In his January 27 “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” US President Joseph Biden declares that his administration aims at “putting the climate crisis at the center of United States foreign policy and National Security.”

Taken literally, this statement – as I think any sober observer of today’s situation in the US and internationally will agree – is a piece of insanity. Joe, please tell us you don’t mean it.

Whatever one might believe about an oncoming climate apocalypse, the urgent domestic and international problems the Biden administration will face in the immediate months ahead have little or nothing to do with the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. They include the likelihood of crises that might decide between war and peace on a short time-horizon.

I am reading the articles, there are 6 so far. I think they are worth a read. The author is a PhD in Math at age 22 from UC Berkeley

The first article

The second

The third.

BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest investment management company with about 8 trillion dollars of managed assets, plays a singular role in US President Joe Biden’s climate policy. Indeed, it looks like BlackRock and the Biden administration are married to each other.

The marriage was consumated, one might say, with the appointments and nominations of prominent BlackRock executives to high posts in the administration. All of them are typical of the “revolving door” phenomenon of leading personnel shifting back and forth between government and big finance.

The fourth.

Most importantly: Given sufficient support for research and development in the context of large-scale infrastructure investment worldwide, ending the era of dependence on fossil fuels could be accomplished without austerity and with a minimum of coercive measures by governments. The major drivers would be higher efficiency, lower costs, competitive advantages.

This would be a natural process if guided by rationality rather than quasi-religious belief in a coming “climate apocalypse.”

Read more

Picking Up The Pieces

Well, two weeks ago we were freezing our butts off. Two days ago, we are having to run the AC because it turned warm, muggy, and humid. And today it’s cold and rainy again. Welcome to Texas. Don’t like the weather? Wait five minutes or a week or two, and it will change. Absolutely-freaking-guaranteed.

However, the damage that a week of sub-zero temperatures did to my neighborhood – the process of picking up the pieces is underway. For the civic stuff – a couple of burst pipes got taken care of by the utility company almost the instant that everyone thawed out. The one house in the neighborhood that burned is still a ruin: the FD had all their hydrants frozen on that night that it burned, couldn’t bring in enough water in the pumper trucks and so the house – which still stands, barely – is a total loss.

Read more

Some Actual Data on the Texas Electrical Debacle

Here is the overall generation mix from February 11–17.  The upper light brown line is gas-fired generation.  The brown line starting at about 10,000 is coal.  Green is wind, the yellow is solar, as is apparent from the daily pattern, and the almost-straight line starting at about 5,000 is nuclear.

Source is EIA…they have a lot of useful data, but you have to poke around a bit to find it.

The ghost of T Boone Pickens hovers over Texas.

Texas is suffering severe power outages as the windmills are frozen and natural gas is having trouble with supply.

T Boone Pickens did not live quite long enough to see what his wind farms wrought.

Pickens focused his advocacy on alternative energy such as solar and wind. The Washington Post says that “perhaps the strangest role” Pickens “has fashioned for himself is his current one: the billionaire speculator as energy-wise man, an oil-and-gas magnate as the champion of wind power, and a lifetime Republican who has become a fellow traveler among environmentally-minded Democrats – even though he helped finance the ‘Swift boat’ ads that savaged” Sen. John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign. In an editorial, The New York Times reported Pickens “has decided that drilling for more oil is not the whole answer to the nation’s energy problems.

Pickens’ “Wind Farms” resemble the Tax farmers of Louis XVI in 1789.

The government of France contracted with private citizens to collect taxes and duties.

Read more

“Learn to Code”…Still a Dem Thing

In early 2020, Joe Biden advised coal miners facing unemployment to learn to code, saying:

Anybody who can go down 3,000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well… Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God’s sake!

I critiqued this ridiculousness in my post Shovel That Code.  (Does Biden think that coal miners stoke furnaces?…That stoking furnaces is a big factor in today’s job market?)

Comes now Obama associate Rahm Emmanuel, with precisely the same advice to unemployed retail workers.

There’s going to be people, like at J.C. Penney and other retail [outlets]. Those jobs are not coming back.  Give them the tools, six months, you’re going to become a computer coder. We’ll pay for it, and you’ll get millions of people to sign up for that.

There is not an infinite demand in the US for entry-level programmers.  Much offshoring of programming work is taking place…see my post about telemigration…and automation of programming work, which has been happening since the introduction of assemblers and compilers in the mid-1950s, is ongoing.

In my post about Biden’s learn to code comment, I said:

Can you imagine what these people would do to the economy if they ever achieved the degree of power that they so avidly seek?

We may find out, although hopefully the Senate will provide some degree of sanity check.

 

 

Book Review: Overload, by Arthur Hailey

Overload by Arthur Hailey

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Heat! Heat in stifling blanket layers. Heat that enveloped all of California from the arid Mexican border in the south to majestic Klamath Forest, elbowing northward into Oregon. Heat, oppressive and enervating…Throughout cities and suburbs, in factories, offices, stores and homes, six million electric air-conditioners hummed.  On thousands of farms in the fertile Central Valley–the richest agricultural complex in the world–armies of electric pumps gulped water from deep wells, directing it to thirsty cattle and parched crops…California had known other heat waves and survived their consequences.  But in none had the demands for electrical power been so great.

“That’s it, then,” the chief electric dispatcher said unnecessarily.  “There goes the last of our spinning reserve.”

I was reminded of this book by the current electrical crisis in California.  It is quite likely the only novel ever written in which an electrical power utility and its executives and employees are the good guys of the story.

The protagonist, Nim Goldman, is VP of Planning for Golden State Power & Light, which in the book is the predominant electrical supplier in California.  The company is wrestling with the problems of accommodating growing electrical demand while facing more and more restrictions from regulators.  To which difficulties are added the impact of an unprecedented heat wave and the threat of terrorist attacks.

GSP&L’s opponents fall into three overlapping circles.  First, there is a mainstream and rather staid environmental organization called the Sequoia club.  Then, there is an activist organization called Power and Light for People. run by an Australian named Davy Birdsong, which wants to replace for-profit utilities with some sort of government entity or collective.  Finally, there is a small but deadly terrorist group which seeks maximum social disruption and sees an attack of GSP&L as the best way to achieve that goal.

The book, published in 1979, is kind of a period piece…the fuels in use are coal and oil, no mention of solar or wind; while there is concern about pollution–especially from coal–no one is talking about climate change; and while there are complaints about high electricity bills and corporate greed, no one is suggesting that Americans be weaned from most of their electricity use and forced to shut down their air conditioners. The story is well-told, although it is kind of a pot-boiler..for one thing, Nim has so much sex, and some of it under such unusual circumstances, that the actual effect is (unintentionally, I’m sure) comic. The technologies of power generation and distribution are portrayed reasonably accurately within the limitations of a popular novel. The fundamental issue of matching supply and demand continuously, in real time, comes across clearly.  One character, Karen Sloan, is a quadriplegic whose very life depends upon electricity–the battery both for her assisted-breathing device and for her powered wheelchair must be periodically recharged, or else…a neat way of illustrating what a serious matter the continuity of electrical service actually is.

Overload would make a great movie, but probably could not be made in the current environment without some switching-around of good guys and villains.

 

 

Covid-19, Remote Work, and Offshoring

The general attitude toward working from home has certainly changed over the last several years.  In 2013, the then-CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, banned work-from-home at her company.  And in 2017, IBM established a similar ban. Both of these actions were based on perceived needs to improve productivity and collaboration at those companies

But in 2020, a lot of companies that moved to work-from home in the Covid-19 environment…because they had no choice if they wanted to continue operating at all…have apparently found it to be working to their satisfaction, and many though not all employees like it, too.  And there is starting to be significant impact on where people choose to live…see these comments from the governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu.  The term ‘zoomtowns’ has been applied to locations where people choose to live and work remotely, based on a locality’s attractive characteristics and good Internet connectivity.

I do think that a comprehensive work-from-home environment can result in losing something in terms of unplanned interactions…I’ve personally observed several significant product and business initiatives that resulted from such interactions, and there are also interesting historical cases. But such things are difficult to measure, and financial benefits and convenience of work-from-home are likely to prevail, perhaps excessively so in some cases.  In any event, the Yahoo! and IBM approach of broad-scale top-down corporate edicts is unlikely to be a good one.

Another kind of remote work involves the use of people at remote locations…though not necessarily at home…to perform machine-control tasks that would previously have had to be done on-site.  The robots being used by Federal Express at its Memphis facility sometimes encounter problems that they can’t solve…they can be ‘advised’ by humans located in San Antonio. There are projects underway to make municipal water treatment plants remotely operable, either for emergency backup (as in a pandemic) or for normal operations, and there are also initiatives focused on remote operation of other kinds of infrastructure, utility, and industrial facilities.

If something can be done by people who are remotely located within the United States, then in most cases it will also be doable by people who are remotely located in other parts of the world.  In my 2019 post telemigration, I wrote about the increasing feasibility of offshoring services work, not only manufacturing.  A lot of this has been going on for software development as well as for customer service.

It may turn out that, in many cases, remote work in the US turns out to be just a waystation on the road to remote work somewhere else.

Retro-Reading

I have a copy of Mechanical Engineering magazine for April 1930. It marks the 50th anniversary of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and contains not only commentary on the past, present, and future of mechanical technology, but also some thoughts concerning the social/economic impact of this technology. Very interesting reading, some of it relevant to today’s issues.

There are excerpts from an address given by the ASME President in 1881:

When the last generation was in its prime our factories were in operation twelve or thirteen hours; “Man’s work was from sun to sun, and woman’s work was never done.”  today man works ten hours, and woman is coming to a stage where she will work where, when, and how she pleases.  Then three yards an hour was the product for a single operative; today ten yards per worker are produced….A single mill operative at Fall River, Lowell, or Providence makes each year cloth enough to supply 1500 of the people who pay her wages by sending her tea.

From the 1930 article on Fifty Years of Power:

Turn back to 1880…It was a machine age, true, but only in spots–and very small spots at that. Along the streams of Eastern communities, mainly in New England, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, were dotted little mills.  Water power determined their original location.  Steam aided their growth.  Within their walls spindles whirred and rolls turned almost as in a modern plant.

Step out of these nuclei of power and the machine age of that day disappears.  On the streets, the horse and buggy, the oil lamp, or gas at best, and the lamp lighter.  Horses for the street and for the plow…In the home, the oil lamp and scrub-board.  Pick and shovel in the ditch. Hod carriers on construction.  Ten-and twelve-hour days of back-breaking labor.  In the worker’s cottage, food and a little sleep…No time or money for reading, music, or play.

Points made in the multiple articles on steam power: the transition from hand-fired furnaces in power stations to mechanical stoker firing…increased steam pressures…and the transition from reciprocating engines to steam turbines.  The result was that cost per kilowatt-hour generated fell from 3.1 cents in 1883 to .77 cents in 1929.

Interestingly, only about half the power consumed in factories in 1930 was in the form of purchased electricity…the rest was self-generated, in the form of either self-generated electricity or of direct mechanical drive.  One type of reciprocating steam engine…the Uniflow..is seen as having a continuing applicability in horsepowers too low for efficient use of the steam turbine.

Indeed, the advertising section at the back of the magazine contains an ad from the Skinner Engine Company noting that the newly-built New Yorker Hotel had chosen five Uniflow engines to generate electricity for the hotel rather than purchasing power from a utility. They claim that hundreds of engines have been installed in stores, office building, hospitals, and factories, and that the savings over utility power has proved so great that the engines brought greater returns on money invested and on floor space than any other department in the business.

Refrigeration was apparently a hot area (sorry) in 1930, and there’s a pretty long article on the topic.  One thing I hadn’t known is that some cities had central systems for cooling, in which chilled brine was circulated through pipes to individual refrigerators in homes and businesses…the refrigerator could then be very simple, with no active parts other than a thermostat-actuated valve. Such systems were in use in Boston and in New York City as early as 1890.  Sort of a “cloud” approach to refrigeration—Cooling as a Service!

Textiles were a very important industry in the US in 1930, and there is a long article on the subject. One interesting subtopic within the article has to do with dyes:

The first use of the chemical or aniline colors dates back to about 1850, when the chemists of Germany presented several new colors obtained by subjecting various fabrics to the action or absorption of liquor holding a derivative of coal tar in solution…America did not make much progress in this direction owing to certain complications and the lack of consolidated action.  What was produced here was in most cases equal to the imported product, but owing to the greater facilities for producing the color, the greater attention given to research, substantial government financial aid, and, primarily, the exceedingly low labor cost abroad, competition was out of the question.  Hence up to 1914 we had practically no dye industry and depended on Germany not only for dyes but also for many valuable pharmaceutical preparations as well as for phenol, the basis for many of our explosives.  

This problem was solved by intensive efforts during the First World War, and “whereas the value of our dye products in 1882 was $1.8 million, which increased to about $3.3 million in 1914–but with the aid largely of foreign intermediates–we now have over 200 firms producing $220 million worth of products, all more or less directly connected with this and allied industries.”

The article briefly discussed an intriguing piece of textile technology–the knot-tying mechanism:

Fifty years ago it was considered a mark of superiority to tie a perfect “weaver’s” knot, a knot that would properly unit the ends of the yarn and stay united while it was passing through the different processes…the number of operators who could tie rapidly and skillfully a series of these knots was limited.

One of the handiest mechanical devices one can see in the industry is known as a “knotter,” which forms a smoothly-tied, not-slipping knot…Just a handful of mechanism, but in the particular processes where it is used it shows an economy of operation estimated at 50 per cent in time and an unlimited amount in patience.

The author goes on to say that now (in 1930) there is equipment for collective tying of knots, bringing 2000 ends of warp together and uniting them by tying in eleven minutes.  Pretty intelligent-seeming for a purely mechanical system!

The woodworking industry was also important in the US in the 1930s, and the author of the article on this industry notes that it had only been fairly recently that this industry had emerged from small-scale operations into mass production. (The author distinguishes between “intimate industries,” those having to do with the home, and “non-intimate industries” such as mining, iron & steel, and transportation, arguing that the non-intimate industries have tended to be mechanized earlier than the intimate ones…not sure this paradigm is really consistent with the very early mechanization of textile spinning and weaving.) There’s an intriguing observation about the emergence of the automobile industry and the characteristics of different American regions:

It is a rather interesting side light on New England industry that the building of automobile bodies first started in the carriage and buggy shops of Amesbury and other parts of northern Massachusetts, while the first gasoline motors and steam engines were made in the machine shops of Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport.  New England had the genius to invent and develop the highly skilled product that was the forerunner of the modern automobile.  New England, however, fell short in vision and daring, and her factories were unwilling to venture their capital and reputation in such as risky experiment as the building of “horseless carriages” that were considered only as a luxury.  It required the daring and venturesome spirit of the Middle West to nurture and develop the tremendous automobile business of Detroit and the neighboring cities.

This is probably long enough for a single post…I’ll continue with excerpts and comments in a later post, to include the magazine’s articles on aviation, railroads, sea transportation, and machine shops…also, some additional social/political commentary.

COVID-19 Update Morning 2-14-2020

There are currently 65,213 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 1,486 fatalities. Of which 4,823 new cases and 116 new deaths were reported in Hubei province, China.
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There are several trends in this update, as well as the headline summary. First Community spreading of COVID-19 is now established in Hong Kong (attached graphic), Japan and Singapore.
COVID-19 in Hong Kong
COVID-19 in Hong Kong
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Second, the shut down of China as an economic power seems near complete. See the JP Morgan coal for electricity usage and the Goldman Sachs economic projection charts attached to this post. The JP Morgan chart shows that while traditionally daily coal consumption – the primary commodity used to keep China electrified – rebounds in the days following the Lunar New Year collapse when China hibernates for one week. This is not the case this now. There hasn’t been even a modest increase, indicating that so far there hasn’t been a return to work.
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2020 Chinese Coal/Electrical Consumption
2020 Chinese Coal/Electrical Consumption
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Short Form — Lack of Chinese coal use/electric power generation indicates the scale of Chinese industries that are shut down…AKA near total.
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And the “Just-In-Time/Sole-Source in China” world-wide, Multi-national corporation, economic shut down virus is gathering a huge economic momentum. Nissan has shut down auto production in addition to South Korea’s Hyundai for lack of Chinese parts. Rumor has it that Ford has the same issue — as their heater coils in their autos are sole sourced in China — and will soon shut down auto production.  Anything cheap or disposable in the world economy is sourced in China, and the Chinese economy is now off-line for the foreseeable future.
Near Term Economic Projections for China
Near Term Economic Projections for China
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Third, China is again playing games with COVID-19 numbers and particularly the announced deaths to keep the death rate at 2.1%, saying deaths were “double counted”?!? (See JP Morgan graphic).
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Dodgy Chinese COVID-19 Infection Numbers
Dodgy Chinese COVID-19 Infection Numbers
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 This has been ‘officially noticed’ by the White House.
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See:
White House does not have ‘high confidence’ in China’s coronavirus information, official says
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Fourth, American COVID-19 are now officially 15 with a case in San Antonio, Texas from a Wuhan evacuation flight and no deaths. I say “officially” as there possible COVID-19 death in Boise, ID. See:
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The possible COVID-19 victim was a 71-year-old man found dead on Feb 9 in an advanced state of decomposition. He returned from China Feb 5. The initial testing came up negative, but additional tests are being run. The cause of death has not been released.
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An idea of what “Community spreading” in Singapore means can be seen in the following report:
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“Singapore Casino employee confirmed with COVID-19; symptomatic Feb 5, hospitalized Feb 9
On February 13, 2020, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) pointed out that the confirmed case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Singapore announced on February 11 is an employee at the casino in Resorts World Sentosa Casino. The employee developed symptoms on February 5 and was hospitalized in isolation on February 9. Travelers who visited the casino during the communicable period (February 4-9) are advised to call 1922, put on a face mask and seek immediate medical attention as instructed if suspected symptoms develop within 2 weeks. Moreover, such travelers should inform the physician of any relevant travel history when seeking medical attention.”
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World Headline Summary:
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o China says 1,716 medical workers have been infected
o Singapore reports largest daily jump in cases amid increased human-to-human transmission
o Hong Kong reports 3 new cases
o Hubei’s new party boss orders quarantine tightened
o President Xi touts new “biosecurity law”
o Hong Kong Disney land offers space for quarantine
o Chinese company says blood plasma of recovered patients useful in combating the virus
o US mulling new travel restrictions

-end-

Shovel That Code

…into that server!

Joe Biden gave coal miners facing possible unemployment some advice:  learn to code.

In reality, of course, programming/coding is a skill that can exist on multiple levels.  Someone writing a simple spreadsheet model for some kind of repetitive tracking problem is working at a different level from someone writing a well-defined module within a large system for a bank, who is in turn working at a different level from someone writing interrupt-level hardware drivers for an operating system, or for someone creating the idea and user interface, as well as the code, for a new consumer-facing product.  Some of these tasks will usually pay less than what a skilled coal miner is paid, some of them will pay considerably more.

And also, programming is not an infinite reservoir of job demand. Much work that previously required considerable high-skill programming has now been largely automated by software tools and/or by complete application systems, and considerable programming work is being offshored–see my post telemigration.

Biden also asserted that:  “Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God’s sake!”

Ignoring the inherent ridiculousness of this claim as a factual assertion…does Biden actually think that manual stoking of coal furnaces is a thing in today’s economy?  Does the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a large count of people employed as stokers?

In reality, the mechanical stoker was invented well over a century ago.  They were common in high-horsepower steam locomotives by 1900, and were and are used in coal-fired power plants.  I doubt if there was much manual stoking going on by 1940, except on steamships…and coal as a fuel for ships was rapidly on its way out by that point, as it was being displaced by oil

Plus, Biden was talking about coal miners.  Does he think that there are coal-fired furnaces in coal mines?  If there were, you would likely get a massive explosion from igniting of any gas in the mine.

Biden clearly understands as little about the software industry as he does about the energy industry.

This is the man who says he was Obama’s point man on a “jobs of the future” initiative.

Can you imagine what these people would do to the economy if they ever achieved the degree of power that they so avidly seek?

 

 

What Future for the Global Auto Industry? Discussion Post

In December, I announced an upcoming discussion of the future of the auto industry and, in particular, of the role and impact of electric cars.  In that post, I included a number of links to worthwhile reading on the subject.  Let’s do the discussion this week, in comments to this post.  I have a few thoughts to get things going:

–It is true, as Vitaliy Katsenslson points out in his essay, that electric cars are much simpler than conventional cars…but I would qualify this statement as mechanically simpler than conventional  cars.  They are significantly more complex electrically and especially in terms of the electrochemistry of the battery…a hidden kind of complexity, but important nonetheless. From what I have read, there seems to be considerable uncertainty about the expected lifespan of new lithium-ion battery models..which lifespan, of course, has a major impact on the overall economics of electric cars.

EVs are expected to have lower maintenance costs and requirements than conventional vehicles, based on their relative mechanical simplicity.  This is probably true, in general, although a lot of the problems with cars these days seem to be with systems other than the engine and drivetrain..airbag sensors, seat actuator motors, various sensors, etc.

–Range limitations and “range anxiety” have been significant inhibitors to EV sales.  Vitaliy K makes the excellent point that it is much easier to set up an electric-vehicle charging station than a conventional gas station, with its underground tanks and consequent regulatory complexities, and he believes we will see tremendous growth in the number of such charging stations and consequent reductions in EV range anxiety.

It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to fully charge an EV (using Tesla as a model and assuming a high-power charger such as Tesla’s “Supercharger’), which implies that people are going to need something else to do while their vehicles are charging, away from home or the office.  Restaurants and shopping centers become obvious venues for charging; however, this leads to another issue, that the driver may wind up being away from the car for a couple of hours or more, tying up the charger for that whole interval: this issue would need to be reflected in the pricing of the charging facility.

Also, while it is true that setting up EV charging is simpler than opening a gas station, it is not necessarily trivial if one is setting up multiple high-capacity chargers.  A Tesla supercharger draws 150KW, so putting 30 of them in a parking lot would result in an incremental peak demand of up to 4.5 megawatts.  I doubt if the electrical systems feeding many restaurants, or even shopping centers, could accommodate 4.5MW of additional demand without some work by the utility supplying the power.

–Efficiency:  It is true that the conversion of stored energy into motion is much more efficient in an EV than an internal-combustion-engine vehicle; this is mainly a matter of the engine thermodynamics.  BUT, if the charging electricity comes from a natural gas plant of a coal plant, you are looking at best at a 60% fuel-to-electricity conversion efficiency, and there will also be losses in power transmission and distribution.  If the electricity comes from solar or wind, then..depending on the time of day and weather conditions of the charging..you may be faced with a double battery storage situation, where energy is stored in a utility or home battery until needed for charging, and then stored again in the vehicle’s battery.  That double-storage situation carries both efficiency losses and, more significantly, additional capital costs.

EVs do have the ability to capture much of the energy that would otherwise be lost in braking, and this is especially valuable in start-stop driving situations, as with local delivery operations, and probably extends the lifetime of the mechanical brakes.

–Performance…EVs have excellent acceleration capability (when adequately powered) due to the torque characteristics of electric motors.  They may be able to achieve very good handling if battery installation provides for a very low center of gravity.

–Climate…not speaking here about ‘climate change’, but about climate in its ordinary meaning.  In a conventional car, heating is basically free, using rejected heat from the engine (ignoring the energy used to power the fan, but that’s a small part of the picture), whereas in an electric car, heat must be generated using electricity from the battery, which of course has a negative impact on range.  Also, the battery itself will have lesser performance in cold weather.  (And the regenerative braking feature is also limited in very cold weather.)

–Relative Costs…a high % of EVs today are either sold with subsidies by national/local governments, are built and sold in response to government edicts, or are bought in significant part for status purposes by individuals and organizations. Can EVs compete on cost head-to-head with IC vehicles on a nonsubsidized, free-choice basis?  This would seem to be largely a matter of how successfully battery costs are further driven down and how long battery lifespans turn out to be in actual service.

It should be noted that electric vehicle sales in China have cooled rapidly…down 44%…since the government reduced most subsidies at the end of June.  What would be the ‘true’ demand in the US without consumer incentives and mix requirement on the manufacturers?

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What Future for the Global Auto Industry?

**An upcoming Chicago Boyz group discussion**

There is much media and analyst discussion lately concerning possible sea changes in the auto industry..which would, of course, likely have major impacts throughout the economy and on society as a whole.  Some of the driving factors worth considering include:

–The government incentives put in place in many countries…in some cases not just incentives but absolute requirements…in favor of electric cars

–The emergence and growth of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft

–The development of partial ‘autopilot’ functions for cars, and the anticipated development of full automatic driving at some future point

–The apparent reduction of interest among young adults and older children in driving and automobile ownership

–Technological factors, including the continued improvements in battery energy storage capacity–but still very limited in comparison to liquid fuels…the continued incremental improvements in internal-combustion engines…and the emergence of new manufacturing technologies, including 3-D printing aka ‘additive manufacturing’.

I’d like to have a group discussion of the possible future direction and shape of the industry…let’s do this sometime next week.  If you’re interested in participating, here are some links that are worthwhile thought-starters.

Vitaliy Katsenslson is a fund manager; his blog is Contrarian Edge–I generally like the way he thinks.  Concerning electric cars in general and Tesla in particular, he says:

You don’t really know the company until you buy the stock. It has happened to mea few times. We did hundreds of hours of research, bought a stock, and that act of buying activated new senses. I started seeing new angles. Something similar happened to me with Tesla, except I didn’t buy the stock, I bought a car.

His ownership experience, and the thoughts triggered by the “activated new senses”, are captured in an 11-part series of posts.  You can get it emailed to you by signing up here.

https://contrarianedge.com/signup-for-tesla-article/

Concerning self-driving cars, here are three articles reflecting various degrees of enthusiasm versus caution:  from Forbes, from Investor’s Business Daily, and from Road/Show.  Also this Financial Times article, which is about the difficulties involved in the interaction of automated systems with humans in other cars or with human pedestrians.

An interesting general discussion of AI misinformation and hype…not primarily focused on driverless cars although it does touch on that subject.

Concerning battery technology, here’s a link on the trends in $/kWh and the future possibilities.  See also my 2017 post on battery materials constraints.

Homework:  Please take a look at the above articles, at least the ones that aren’t behind paywalls..  I’ll put up a post as a place for discussion sometime next week.

Movie Review: The Current War

This movie is focused on the interaction among Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla in the competition to create and build out America’s…and the world’s…electrical infrastructure.  It has gotten mixed and generally not-very-enthusiastic reviews; I thought it was well-done and definitely worth seeing.  Visually, it is striking and sometimes even beautiful, thus worth seeing on the big screen.

The movie gets the outline of the history right; also, I think, the essence of the characters.  Edison is a brilliant inventor and self-promoter who is committed to his DC-based distribution system and will do some more-than-questionable things to get it universally adopted.  Westinghouse, who had invented the railroad air brake (among other things) and already built a large company, sees the value of alternating current, which can be stepped up and down in voltage via transformers and hence can be economically transmitted over long distances.  Tesla, a Serbian immigrant and brilliant inventor, provides the missing link in the form of a practical motor that can run on AC power.  The relationships of Edison and Westinghouse with their respective wives are highlighted, and the future utility mogul Samuel Insull appears as Edison’s young secretary.

I was happy to see the movie’s positive portrayal of Westinghouse, a great man who has tended to be overshadowed by the more-glamorous figures of Edison and Tesla.  (The legions of Tesla fans may be unhappy that Tesla did not get a more central role in the film.)

If this movie sounds interesting to you, better see it soon; I don’t think it’s going to be in the theaters for very long.

Ayiti Pa Nimewo Yo

I. Departure

Our transportation to Aéroport International Toussaint Louverture was a decrepit Honda Civic with no working inside door handles, no exhaust system, and a barely functional starter. The guesthouse driver poured a liter of water into the radiator immediately before starting the engine so that it would not overheat, even though the drive was only 3 kilometers. Our luggage proved too big for the trunk, so most of the team’s belongings were wedged in beneath the open trunk lid, which was not secured by so much as a single bungee cord. Threading through the remnants of at least a dozen barricades on Avenue Gerard Téodart half an hour before sunrise, we high-centered on some rubble and dragged a sizable rock for several hundred meters before the driver backed the car up to dislodge it. After we made the turn onto Boulevard Toussaint Louverture, there were no more barricades, thanks to the proximity of a MINUSTAH logistics base and a Police Nationale d’Haïti station. There were pedestrians, of course—Port-au-Prince is very much a city that never sleeps—but not many, and few vehicles thanks to severely interrupted fuel deliveries, which had nearly stranded us altogether. One of the team members riding in the back seat later told me that the gas gauge was on “E.”

What is happening when a Third World country loses a key component of its energy supply, and what might be the lessons to learn for those apprehensive over a significant breakdown of logistics in the US?

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Journalists

Financial Times recently had an article about a projected luxury dirigible.  Being an airship fan, I wish the venture success. I was struck, though, by a paragraph in the article contrasting the planned aircraft, called the Airlander, with the airships of the 1930s with their “flammable hydrogen fuels.”

Uh…no.  None of the airships of the 1930s used hydrogen as a fuel.  Some of them used hydrogen as a lifting gas, which is a totally different thing from the fuel consumed to power the craft forward. And most American airships didn’t use hydrogen for any purpose…the American airships that came to bad ends mostly did so as a result of weather-related structural failure…which point, one would have thought, might have been relevant to someone writing about the possible future of airships.

But airships are a pretty esoteric subject, after all, so maybe it’s unreasonable to expect a journalist to spend (or get his assistant to spend) half an hour actually learning something about whatever he is writing about.  So let’s talk about something that isn’t esoteric at all, but rather about as timely and important as it gets.  Energy.

I’ve noticed that in articles about energy storage…of which there have been a lot…the writer rarely seems to grasp that kilowatts are not the same thing as kilowatt-hours, and you can’t express the storage capacity of a battery or other storage system in kilowatts. It would be like stating the capacity of your car’s gas tank in horsepower.  (The same principle applies to megawatts and megawatt-hours, or gigawatts and gigawatt-hours)  Yet all the time, I see articles…not just in the general media but also in the business media…talking about the wonderfulness of a battery or whatever that can store 4 megawatts.

For example, here’s a Barrons article referring to a town which has installed batteries “that can hold two megawatts of power.”  Actually, the batteries at this facility can hold 3.9 megawatt-hours of energy…the 2 megawatts of power is about the rate at which energy can be added to or drawn from the system, and has nothing to say about the amount stored.  So if you withdraw power at 2 megawatts, you can do so for a little under 2 hours before the battery storage is exhausted. You need the megawatt-hour number to know that; “2 megawatts” tells you nothing about the storage capacity.

Turning now to television journalism:  I think Tucker Carlson is far superior to most TV commentators in terms of focusing on issues in some depth, rather than just obsessively circling in on whatever is hottest at the moment.  But when recently introducing a guest who was going to talk about a highly-questionable sale to China that was made during the Clinton administration, he said that sale had been of “machine parts.”  Actually, it was of machine tools, as the guest correctly explained.

Machine tools are one of the essential cornerstones of industry, and have been for a long time.  Shouldn’t a person who frequently writes and/or speaks about economic issues know what a machine tool is and why it matters?  Maybe I’m misinterpreting, but I think Tucker’s “machine parts” phrasing indicates that he has no such awareness.

Ben Rhodes, an Obama operative, said of the current generation of reporters:  “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

No doubt true of a large number of those younger reporters who Rhodes manipulated while feeling contempt for. But there are journalists–older and younger–who do have a pretty good grasp of history, geography, and comparative political systems…some of them even have some education or reading in political philosophy.  But even among these, knowledge of technology–and by “technology” I do not mean just “computer stuff”–is pretty close to nonexistent.

And with the vastly increased influence of government over all aspects of the economy–and the even greater (much greater!) influence being sought by the current Democratic Party–such knowledge is pretty important.

Summer Rerun–Of Energy and Slavery

(edited, with updates)

Democratic candidates are demonizing the energy industry–Bernie Sanders even called for the criminal prosecution of fossil fuel executives–believing or at least implying that America uses fossil fuels only because it is to the benefit of these companies, never considering the vital service that these fuels provide to millions of Americans and indeed to the entire world…which reminds me of an earlier article and discussion.

Christopher Hayes, writing at The Nation in 2014, asserted a connection between human slavery–in particular, human slavery as practiced in the US prior to 1865–and the use of fossil fuels. Specifically, he argues that the reluctance of energy companies and their investors to lose the financial value of their fossil-fuel assets is directly analogous to the reluctance of pre-Civil-War southern slaveholders to lose the financial value of their human “property.”He also asserts that environmentalists attacking the use of fossil fuels are in a moral and tactical position similar to that of the pre-war Abolitionists.

His article reminded me of a few things.

1) Sometime around 1900, a young PR man who had recently been hired by GE in Schenectady realized that he had a problem. He had gotten his job through glowing promises about all the great press coverage he would get for the company. But his boss had called him in and announced that he had “a terrific front-page story” about a 60,000-kilowatt turbine generator that the company had just sold to Commonwealth Edison. The PR man accurately realized that this story would get maybe a paragraph on the financial pages. Looking for ideas, he went to see GE’s legendary research genius, Charles Steinmetz, explaining that headlines need drama, and “there’s nothing dramatic about a generator.”

Steinmetz picked up a pencil, did a little calculating, and quickly determined that this one rotating machine could do as much physical work as 5.4 million men. The slave population in the US on the eve of the Civil War had been 4.7 million. To the young PR man, Steinmetz said: “I suggest you send out a story that says we are building a single machine that, through the miracle of electricity, will each day do more work than the combined slave population of the nation at the time of the Civil War.”

2) Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, visited a shipyard in New Bedford shortly after obtaining his freedom. Here are his comments on observing a cargo being unloaded:

In a southern port, twenty or thirty hands would have been employed to do what five or six did here, with the aid of a single ox attached to the end of a fall. Main strength, unassisted by skill, is slavery’s method of labor. An old ox, worth eighty dollars, was doing, in New Bedford, what would have required fifteen thousand dollars worth of human bones and muscles to have performed in a southern port.

3) Speaking of GE, Owen Young was a farm boy who grew up to become chairman of that company. To his biographer Ida Tarbell, he provided a vivid word-picture of what life had been like for a farm wife back in the slightly earlier times. Here, he remembers Monday–wash day:

He drew from his memory a vivid picture of its miseries: the milk coming into the house from the barn; the skimming to be done; the pans and buckets to be washed; the churn waiting attention; the wash boiler on the stove while the wash tub and its back-breaking device, the washboard, stood by; the kitchen full of steam; hungry men at the door anxious to get at the day’s work and one pale, tired, and discouraged woman in the midst of this confusion.

The reality is that non-human mechanical energy has been and continues to be a liberating force for humanity. A society which makes little use of nonhuman energy can maintain a small and wealthy aristocracy, but broad-based prosperity requires extensive use of nonhuman energy sources–and with today’s technological realities, a large portion of this energy needs to come from fossil fuels.

Hayes does not seem to understand, or want to recognize, that the benefits of an energy source accrue not only to the companies and individuals who develop and own that energy source, but also to the people of the society at large. (The benefits of the coal and oil (and later natural gas) burned to power the turbines made by Owen Young’s company did not go only to the resource owners and to GE and the utility companies, but also to the farm housewives about whom he spoke.) At one point in the Hayes article he seems to reach the edge of this understanding — “Before fossil fuels, the only way out of this drudgery was by getting other human beings to do the bulk of the work that the solar regime required of its participants” — but does not really follow up on it. The thrust of his article is that the elimination of fossil fuels would require energy companies to give up something like $10 trillion in wealth. He does not focus on what the American people as a whole would have to give up.

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Worthwhile Reading

Anthony Kronman, a professor of law at Yale, writes about how an obsessive focus by academia on ‘diversity’ (as that term is now used) is destructive of individuality and the search for truth.

Victor Davis Hanson observes that the Robert Muller’s “dream team,” loaded with Ivy Leaguers, was expected to devastate Trump’s legal team, which had scarcely a Harvard man or woman in sight.

Electricity problems in Sweden – looks like these are being driven by the closing of nuclear plants, the increased reliance upon wind, and the failure to build adequate transmission capacity to collect the wind turbines with the loads.

More Heinlein Stories

I recently posted a brief review of The Man Who Sold the Moon, a 1950 story about the first lunar trip, and thought some reviews of other early Heinlein stories might be of interest as well.  (For those who haven’t yet read these stories, I’ve tried to minimize spoilers.)

Let There be Light (published in 1940).  Archie Douglas, a scientist, tries to pick up a very attractive woman who is dining by herself. She politely turns him down, but it soon transpires that she is the very same Doctor M L Martin with whom Douglas has a scientific meeting scheduled.  (M L = Mary Lou.)  Initially, Archie refuses to believe that a woman so attractive could have such outstanding scientific credentials, but he is soon convinced, and the two begin a research collaboration that quickly develops romantic overtones.

Their effort initially focuses on the development of electroluminscent light panels, making use of Mary Lou’s earlier research on the firefly–but when Archie’s factory-owner father faces the prospect of being run out of business by discriminatory electric rates imposed by the power cartel, the pair decides to reverse the process and efficiently create electricity from sunlight.  They succeed…but the power cartel is not happy about the prospect of cheap distributed generation and will do anything to keep them from bringing their technology to market.

A fun story, with lots of snappy banter between the pair.

The Roads Must Roll (published in 1940).  Larry Gaines, chief engineer of the Reno–San Diego roadtown, is explaining the rolling-road technology and its social/economic impact to an Australian visitor.  These ‘roadtowns’ are huge multistrip conveyor belts:  passengers can get on at any point and then, depending on the length of their journey, move from the initial 5mph strip all the way over to the 100mph strip.  More conducive to intermediate stops than the Elon Musk approach!

The fast strip is wide enough to allow shops and restaurants to be located on it…Gaines and his visitor are conversing while having lunch at Jake’s Steak House. (“To dine on the fly makes the miles roll by.”)  The Australian (who is Transport Minister of that country) is impressed with what he has seen and what Gaines tells him about its usefulness and social impact–but he demurs politely: “”isn’t it possible that you may have put too many eggs in one basket in allowing your whole economy to become dependent on the functioning of one type of machinery?”

Gaines responds that the potentially-serious reliability issue is not with the machinery, but with the men who tend it: “Other industries can go on strike, and only create temporary and partial dislocations…But if the roads stop rolling, everything else must stop; the effect would be the same as a general strike: with this important difference:  It takes a majority of the population fired by a real feeling of grievance, to create a general strike, but the men that run the roads, few as they are, can create the same complete paralysis.”

“We had just one strike on the roads, back in ”sixty-six.  It was justified, I think, and it corrected a lot of real abuses–but it mustn’t happen again.”

Gaines is confident that there will be no such problems in the future, he tells his guest: the engineers who manage the road’s operation are now part of a military-like organization with high esprit de corps:  indeed, they are graduates of the United States Academy of Transport, and even have their own song, to the tune of “Those caissons go rolling along.”

Just then, Gaines’ coffee lands in his lap.  The strip has abruptly begun slowing to a stop.  He soon discovers that members of his workforce have fallen under the spell of an ideology called Functionalism, which holds that people who do the most critical work in a society should have political power to match. And, what is more, the primary instigator of the rebellion is…Gaines’ own deputy.

I’m not sure whether the technology would really be workable–with strips running at speeds up to 100mph, it would seem that the resulting winds would create an insoluble problem, even with Heinlein’s proposed solution (partitions to isolate air flow between the different strips)  But it’s a good story, and points out a real potential issue with critical infrastructure operated by key, hard-to-replace personnel.

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Heat and the Movies

Hot weather encourages feelings of gratitude for the existence of air conditioning, the primary inventor of which (at least as far as a practical system goes) was Willis Carrier.  His original motivation was not the improvement of human comfort, but rather solving air quality problems affecting the operations of a printing company.  But A/C was quickly applied to the dehumidification and cooling of human was well as industrial environments.

Initially, systems were large and expensive and hence better-fitted to businesses and other environments serving a lot of people than to individual homes.  One of the first industries that adopted air conditioning was the motion-picture theater industry, starting with an installation at Sid Grauman’s Metropolitan Theater in 1922.

It makes sense to believe, and seems to be generally accepted, that the introduction of A/C had much to do with the great success of the movie industry…if the theater was one of the few places in town where you could be cool, then it would be nice to have enough new movies constantly coming out to justify going the the theater as often as possible.

The same phenomenon applied with department stores…starting with a Hudson’s in Detroit in 1926…though I would think A/C was not quite as impactful in that case as in the case of the movies.

BUT, with the introduction and constant improvement of home air conditioners, the process would have likely gone into reverse: if you can be cool at home, there is less incentive to “go to the movies” unless there is something showing that you really want to see. Similarly with retail..although until the introduction of the consumer Internet, you still needed to go to a store for most things.

It is pretty common that a technology that helps a particular industry at one point will, later and with further development of that industry, harm that industry.  Another example is the newspaper industry:  one of the great enablers of the growth of the newspaper industry was the telegraph (along with the high-speed printing press and the Linotype machine.)  But as digital communications (of which the telegraph was an early example) developed into data networks and ultimately the Internet, the ability to conveniently extend the information flow into the home was devastatingly harmful to that industry.

Returning to the air conditioner, another impact of this technology has been geographical: making areas that were previously not-so-desirable for reasons of climate much more generally inhabitable…as in the cases of the US south and southwest.

A/C is a significant consumer of energy in the form of electricity, and as it is more widely adopted in places such India, it will have a major impact on electricity consumption in those countries.

Thoughts?  Other industry examples?

A New Insult-Meme!

In a discussion of ‘alternative energy’ at a social media site, someone raised the practical issue of the difficulties involved in high-volume energy storage.  Someone else came back at him with a comment to the effect that “climate-solution deniers are as bad a climate change deniers.”

This is probably just the leading edge of a new insult-meme:  I expect to see a lot more of the climate-solution-denier accusations being made.  We are getting uncomfortably close to a pervasive climate of Lysenkoism.

In Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon, set in the Soviet Union, his character Rubashov (an old Bolshevik who is now on trial for his life) muses:

“A short time ago, our leading agriculturist, B., was shot with thirty of his collaborators because he maintained the opinion that nitrate artificial manure was superior to potash. No. 1 is all for potash; therefore B. and the thirty had to be liquidated as saboteurs. In a NATIONALLY CENTRALIZED AGRICULTURE, the alternative of nitrate or potash is of enormous importance: it can decide the issue of the next war. If No. I was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle. If he was wrong …”

and

“We know that virtue does not matter to history, and that crimes remain unpunished; but that every error had its consequences and venges itself unto the seventh generation. Therefore we concentrated all our efforts on preventing error and destroying the very seeds of it. Never in history has so much power over the future of humanity been concentrated in so few hands as in our case. Each wrong idea we follow is a crime committed against future generations. Therefore we have to punish wrong ideas as others punish crimes: with death. We were held for madmen because we followed every thought down to its final consequence and acted accordingly. We were compared to the inquisition because, like them, we constantly felt in ourselves the whole weight of responsibility for the super-individual life to come. We resembled the great Inquisitors in that we persecuted the seeds of evil not only in men’s deeds, but in their thoughts. We admitted no private sphere, not even inside a man’s skull. We lived under the compulsion of working things out to their final conclusions. Our minds were so tensely charged that the slightest collision caused a mortal short-circuit. Thus we were fated to mutual destruction.” (emphasis added)

The assertions now being made that anyone who challenges catastrophic CO2-caused climate change is complicit in the deaths of thousands/hundreds of thousands/millions parallel the above rather closesly.

Koestler’s Rubashov also observed that it had become “necessity to drill every sentence into the masses by vulgarization and endless repetition; what was presented as right must shine like gold, what was presented as wrong must be as black as pitch; political statements had to be coloured like ginger-bread figures at a fair.”  

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Iran’s RQ-4N Shoot Down, Pres. Trump and the Expiration of the Carter Doctrine

It’s become something of a regular occurrence for the American mainstream media to blow a foreign policy story because of their Trump Derangement Syndrome. Yet they seem to have greatly sunk to new lows in missing the real importance of events leading to the 19 June 2019 Iranian shoot down of an American drone.

RQ-4N BAMS-D (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance-Demonstrator)

President Trump has ended the 1980 Carter Doctrine!

The free flow of oil from the Persian Gulf is no longer a “Vital Interest,” thanks to frac’ing, for a near energy independent USA.

BACKGROUND

CENTCOM confirmed Last Wednesday night of 19 June 2019, in international air space over the Strait of Hormuz, an Iranian surface to air missile (SAM) battery shot down a US Navy RQ-4N BAMS-D (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance-Demonstrator) Global Hawk. The ~$120 million drone in question was a navalised version of the USAF Global Hawk, used as proof of concept for the production MQ-4C Triton. It was essentially an unarmed, jet powered, sail plane with the wing span of a 737 jet liner and several tons of sensors. The drone fills the mission of the U-2, at similar altitudes, without the risks of a human pilot in the event of a shoot down.

RQ-4N Shoot Down Map
Pentagon RQ-4N Shoot Down Map with Drone and SAM launch battery location.

Iran has claimed it used it’s ‘Third of Khordad’ domestically built SAM system, operated by the IRGC, to shoot down the drone. This SAM system is described as a copy or derivative of the Russian Buk M3 / SA-17 GRIZZLY that incorporates the Bavar 373 missile that, in turn, appears to be a derivative/copy of the Soviet 5V55/SA-10B with additional controls. If you think of it as a late model Raytheon MIM-23 Hawk medium-range surface-to-air missile battery firing an early version of the MIM-104 Patriot PAC 1 missile, you would not be far wrong.

Press TV Tweet of Iranian SAM
Press TV Tweet of Iranian SAM

It was this lack of a human pilot, either as a death or a prisoner of war, that saw President Trump jump off Iran’s scripted “escalation ladder.” Instead of destroying a SAM battery and converting 150 odd IRGC missile operators into another “Martyr blood sacrifice” for the Mullah regime to celebrate. Pres. Trump responded with cyber-attacks on Iranian missile control systems to remind the Mullah’s of the West’s technological “Black Magic” and additional economic sanctions that will cause further payroll cuts to both the IRGC and it’s over seas terror networks. (Truth be told, the new economic sanctions threaten the Mullah’s power far more than any set of tit for tat military strikes.)

And in a move treated as an afterthought, if the MSM mentioned it at all, President Trump ended an era in American Middle Eastern Foreign Policy.

END OF AN ERA
It has been almost 39 & 1/2 years — 10 years before the Cold War ended — that President Carter pronounced access to Mid-East oil a “Vital Interest” that the United States would go to war to protect.

Our two wars in Iraq both have that date, and that policy, as their starting point.

Now that era is over.

Last week Pres. Trump forged a completely new Middle East Foreign policy for America. Specifically, Pres. Trump took the opportunity Iran’s military escalations leading to the shooting down of the RQ-4N to end the January 23, 1980 “Carter Doctrine” expressed as follows —

“…An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

This is how Vandana Hari at the Nikkei Asian Review put it:

Asia has most to lose if Middle East turmoil hits oil supplies
As US-Iran tensions, can crude importers defend their interests?
JUNE 21, 2019 14:21 JST
https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Asia-has-most-to-lose-if-Middle-East-turmoil-hits-oil-supplies

“U.S. President Donald Trump says he might take military action against Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. But he has indicated he won’t necessarily jump in to protect international oil supplies from the Middle East if they are under threat from the Islamic Republic.

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The position, articulated by Trump in an interview with Time magazine on June 17, should not come as a surprise, even if it appears to be at odds with the Pentagon beefing up aircraft carriers and troops in the Middle East in recent weeks, citing a threat from Iran.

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As Trump spelt out in the interview, the U.S. is no longer as dependent on oil from the Middle East as it was, thanks to burgeoning domestic production.

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Air Force General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasized the message a day later, pointing out that China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea were heavily dependent on supplies moving through the Strait of Hormuz, and needed to protect their interests. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made similar comments.”

The pronouncement above was the full “Bell, Book and Candle” exorcism of American foreign policy — President, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State.  And please carefully note that it happened two days before the RQ-4N was destroyed.

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While “freedom of navigation” on the high seas over all and the Persian Gulf in particular remains a “major interest” of the United State of America.  It is no longer one which America will automatically go to war over.

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In ending the Carter Doctrine, President Trump has fulfilled his 2016 campaign promise of “No More Iraq’s.”

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By changing the cost benefit calculations of Middle-Eastern oil — no more free riding on American protection of Persian Gulf Sea lanes — the only way a nation can “win” internationally now is by “getting close” to the American hyperpower.

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If you are functionally anti-American.  You get nothing but higher insurance rates included in your price of oil to cover the political risk premium of lacking American protection.  China is now paying  -defacto- and additional American oil tariff via much higher insurance rate on the VLCC tankers moving Mid-East crude oil to the Far East.
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Japan and South Korea could get lower insurance rates if they send naval forces to the Gulf to work with the US Navy.  Or they can replace Mid-Eastern oil with exported US oil.
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China, not so much.
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As a correspondent put it in an e-mail to me when I mentioned the above to the list he and I are in —

HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!

.

That’s a good one!

.

“You all need to defend YOUR oil shipments through those NASTY Straits of Hormuz.  The U.S. don’t need that filthy Middle East blood-oil no more.  In fact, if you don’t want to spend the money and lives pounding sand in Iraq, Kuwait and Iran, we have some FINE Texas frackin’ goodness to sell at a SPECIAL price, just for YOU, our friends and allies for SO many years!”

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Snicker, choke, GASP….”

The American Left has finally gotten what it always wanted…no more “Blood for Oil in the Middle East.

Somehow, I don’t think President Trump delivering that reality to them will make them very happy.

-End-