Posts Tagged ‘energy’

A Few Timid Questions on “Climate Change.”

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

The discussion on Global Warming, has shifted to “Climate Change” as the warming has slowed or stopped, depending on your politics. Now there are a few rather timid questions being asked about this highly charged topic.

“Doubt has been eliminated,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and UN Special Representative on Climate Change, in a speech in 2007: “It is irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation. The time for diagnosis is over. Now it is time to act.” John Kerry says we have no time for a meeting of the flat-earth society. Barack Obama says that 97 per cent of scientists agree that climate change is “real, man-made and dangerous”.

This is the consensus of politicians. Scientists ? Read the resumes of the people pontificating on Climate Change. How many are real scientists ?

A Member of Parliament with a Physics degree, was ridiculed by the BBC for questioning Climate Change.

Peter Lilley, a long standing member of the energy and climate select committee, has made a formal complaint to director general Lord Hall after discovering that mandarins had issued an apology following claims he made that the effects of climate change were being exaggerated.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s ‘What’s the Point of The Met Office’, Mr Lilley stated that, while he “accepted the thesis that more CO2 in the atmosphere will marginally warm up the earth”, he questioned the assertion that global warming would be as dramatic as is being portrayed in some scientific circles.

Mr Lilley, who graduated with a degree in natural sciences at Cambridge University, said: “I’m a ‘lukewarmist’, one who thinks that there won’t be much warming as a result of it, and that’s the scientifically proven bit of the theory. Anything going on the alarmist scale is pure speculation.”

Sounds mild to me.

Mr Lilley was horrified to discover that the BBC later placed “health warnings” on the programme’s website, and issued an apology for “giving voice to climate sceptics” and failing to “make clear that they are a minority, out of step with the scientific consensus.”

The apology was written to listeners who had complained, including academic Dr Andrew Smedley, of Manchester University, and then re-stated on the BBC Rado 4’s programme Feedback.

That sounds like “Trigger Warnings” in American university life. This sort of thing has gotten more common the past 20 years. Why ?

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Entropy takes over.

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Another excellent post from The Belmont Club, Which I read every day.

The barbarians of ISIS destroy ancient artifacts, in an outrage like those committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s rejection this month of international appeals to halt the destruction of much of Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic heritage — their leader Mullah Mohammed Omar termed them idols — indicates that those most determined to impose their vision of a perfect Islamic state are firmly in control.

That article was from the period before the US invasion. Many artifacts were repaired but that will stop and the destruction will resume after we leave.

The Mosul destruction is to be expected everywhere the Takfiri tide rises enough to control an entity.

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China and Russia

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

The future is unrolling before our eyes as idiots parade around in the US not knowing what they are doing.

I am always amazed at how prescient Tom Clancy was.

Richard Fernandez has a post about China and Russia’s resources in Siberia. That was the plot of the Tom Clancy novel, “The Bear and the Dragon.” In it he predicted a war between China and Russia for the riches of what he described as “The Northern Resource Area.”

The battle of Khalkhin ended Japan’s plan for ” Hokushin-ron”

800px-Hokushin-ron-Map

Clancy’s concept was that China would some day adopt this strategy and it seems to be coming to pass. The Soviet Union, prior to the German invasion of 1941, was strong enough to repel Japan, which concluded a nonaggression treaty, this freeing their rear for Pearl Harbor. Now, Putin’s Russia may not be strong enough to repel China. David Goldman sees the Chinese strategy in a time of US weakness and fecklessness.

Everything in tragedy happens for a reason, and the result always is sad; most things in comedy happen by accident and the outcome typically is happy. Sino-American relations are not destined for conflict, although that is possible. The misunderstandings that bedevil relations between the world’s two most powerful countries remain comedic rather than tragic. That probably is as good as it gets, for no amount of explanation will enable Chinese and Americans to make sense of each other.

Where the Chinese are defensive and cautious, the Americans tend to perceive them as aggressive; where the Chinese are expansive ambitious, the Americans ignore them altogether. The United States is a Pacific power accustomed to maritime dominance.

Under Obama, few can understand US foreign policy, least of all him.

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The Comet and the Shirt.

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

Comet_aug3-copy

Comet_from_40_metres_large

The European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet this week.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of malfunctions. In the first, the “harpoon” that was to anchor the lander malfunctioned allowing it to bounce around a bit.

These revealed the astonishing conclusion that the lander did not just touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko once, but three times.

The harpoons did not fire and Philae appeared to be rotating after the first touchdown, which indicated that it had lifted from the surface again.
Stephan Ulamec, Philae manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center, reported that it touched the surface at 15:34, 17:25 and 17:32 GMT (comet time – it takes over 28 minutes for the signal to reach Earth, via Rosetta). The information was provided by several of the scientific instruments, including the ROMAP magnetic field analyser, the MUPUS thermal mapper, and the sensors in the landing gear that were pushed in on the first impact.

The result of this mishap was that the lander, which was using solar energy to recharge batteries, was not positioned properly to absorb the very weak sunlight energy at that distance.

But then the lander lifted from the surface again – for 1 hour 50 minutes. During that time, it travelled about 1 km at a speed of 38 cm/s. It then made a smaller second hop, travelling at about 3 cm/s, and landing in its final resting place seven minutes later.

That is quite a move and the result has been a very limited experiment as the lander has now shut down due to low battery power.

The landing, as sensational as it has been, has been completely overshadowed by a controversy over the shirt worn by the project director at the press conference.

shirt

The shirt seems to have images of scantily clad women on it and the world’s feminists erupted in wrath.

“No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt,” tweeted The Atlantic tech writer Rose Eveleth.

The poor dear ! The incident reminds of the hilarious (to me) incident with Larry Summers, when he was the President of Harvard. He made the mistake, when meeting with faculty, of musing that, perhaps, women were less interested in science than men. The result was a huge controversy that resulted in his resignation. The funniest (again to me) response to his comments was this:

The most remarkable feminist exercise in self-parody was that of MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, who famously told reporters that she “felt I was going to be sick,” that “my heart was pounding and my breath was shallow,” that “I just couldn’t breathe, because this kind of bias makes me physically ill,” and that she had to flee the room because otherwise “I would’ve either blacked out or thrown up.” The poor dear ! I wonder if she can stand the sight of blood ?

Even law professors of otherwise libertarian leanings are outraged !

And I will be more provocative: In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than space travel.

Back to Glenn:
… Then some women noticed that one of the space scientists, Matt Taylor, was wearing a shirt… featuring comic-book depictions of semi-naked women.
Some women noticed? Everyone noticed! It was an extremely showy shirt, and Taylor chose it for some reason. We were supposed to pretend we didn’t see it? It’s not as though the “some women” made something out of nothing. To blame the women for making this a topic is to impose a burden on us all to shut up about something obvious. If Taylor had wanted to keep everything focused on the achievements of the team he was on, he wouldn’t have picked that shirt. Why attack the women?

Why indeed ? They are only reacting inn the way their hormones dictate. After all, colleges are now having to include “Trigger Warnings” in course materials and even descriptions of classes, lest sensitive female and transgender students be wounded.

To add to the amusement, there is actually research (performed prior to the present atmosphere of intimidation) on sex differences in mathematical ability in children.

In the November 2000 issue of Psychological Science, for example, a team headed by Vanderbilt University’s Camilla Persson Benbow summarized earlier research showing “sex differences in mathematical precocity before kindergarten”; “sex differences in mathematical reasoning as early as the second grade (among intellectually gifted students)”; and “pronounced sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability” in a 1980 study of 9,927 intellectually talented 12-to-14-year-olds.

That would never be allowed these days.

The shirt, by the way, is sold out. He gets to keep his tattoos, I guess, and that should suggest his sartorial taste.

The other issue, ignored by almost all the female commenters on the event, is the choice of energy source for the lander.

The comet is, after all, powered by solar panels that need six or seven hours of sunlight per day to recharge the batteries.

its solar cells are only receiving an hour and a half of sunlight each day instead of the six or seven hours needed to recharge its batteries for extended operation. If nothing is done to improve its orientation, Philae likely will exhaust its battery and shut down sometime during the next few days.

It has already shut down.

The next issue is whether there is enough sunlight energy at that distance, 317 million miles from earth. The other alternative would be nuclear power, which has been used on other probes.

For more than 50 years, NASA’s robotic deep space probes have carried nuclear batteries provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. Even the crewed Apollo moon landings carried nuclear powered equipment.

However, the United States’ supply of plutonium-238, which fuels these batteries, called radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), is running low. Experts worry that ambitious planetary science missions in the future may have to be put on hold until more of the radioactive substance is available.

With the current state of the nuclear power industry, that may be a while.

Craig Venter and biofuels

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Biofuels have gotten somewhat of a bad rep with conservatives because they are linked to Obama’s green energy boondoggles. Steve Hayward, at Powerline, thinks that success will be enough to turn the greenies against them. First they will be genetically engineered and will be developed by “Big Oil” partnering with entrepreneurs like Craig Venter who deciphered the human genome with private resources. He was in competition with the government funded “Human Genome Project.” My book review of Venter’s autobiography is here.

Venter does well in explaining his research and the article follows it well.

Venter said in an interview, “It’s pretty obvious that there’s nothing in the natural world to make the levels that are needed,” and he pointed to algae oil yield volumes needing approximately 20,000 gallons per acre equivalent of algae.

Venter and his research team, of course, in spring 2010, successfully created the first synthetic bacterial cell, which was controlled completely by a synthetic genome. Or as Venter explained it in his recent interview, as the first cell “to have a computer for a parent,” or “designed DNA on a living system.” Venter now says he has increasingly realized that a fully synthetic cell is the way to go to create competitive algae fuel. When it comes to tweaking naturally occurring algae cells, he says, “you’ll never get there with that. We need a fundamental change to how we approach all this.”

This will be enough to antagonize the Luddite Greenies who are ideologically hostile to genetic engineering. Some writers are already predicting problems.

Venter, the first mapper of the human genome and creator of the first synthetic cell (pictured above), said his scientific team and ExxonMobil have failed to find naturally occurring algae strains that can be converted into a commercial-scale biofuel. ExxonMobil and Venter’s La Jolla, Ca.-based Synthetic Genomics Inc., or SGI, continue to attempt to manipulate natural algae, but he said he already sees the answer elsewhere — in the creation of a man-made strain. “I believe that a fully synthetic cell approach will be the best way to get to a truly disruptive change,” Venter told me in an email exchange.

Venter made his remarks before a conference this week on the future of energy at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., and in subsequent emailed replies to questions.

When announced in July 2009, the Venter-ExxonMobil alliance of colossals attracted wide publicity. It called for ExxonMobil to spend up to $600 million if publicly undisclosed milestones were reached in the lab. The Wall Street Journal said the partnership might signal “a coming of age” for algae biofuel. Greenbang fretted that the alliance might actually prove “unholy,” but not Gigaom, which said it could be “algae’s big break.”

The terms of the alliance omit the fully synthetic approach that Venter is now advocating, so he is conducting “an ongoing dialog” with Exxon about a new agreement, he said. He appeared to suggest that such a new compact would require more Exxon investment.

If I were in charge of investing in alternate energy research, I would take what Venter says very seriously.

I assume that our skill set in this area has been one of the attractions for Exxon to work with us. Our success at building the first synthetic cell is only from last year and had not been achieved when we formed the agreement between SGI and Exxon. So I would say it is an ongoing dialog.

The future lies with algae and modifications of coal. Ethanol is a dead end. Venter is not the only one interested.

One of the dangers of using the synthetic algae cells is the fear that the cells could somehow be let loose on the outside world, which Venter admits could wreak havoc like turning the oceans into a sea of lipids. But Venter says that designing an organism that has self-destructive properties (it can’t live outside a lab, or it dies with a certain time period) could contain such an organism.

Algae oil company Solazyme, went public this year, and plans to commercialize its algae fuel in the coming years. Solazyme tweaks existing efficient algal strains and grows its designer algae in fermentation tanks without sunlight by feeding it sugar and then using existing industrial equipment extracts the oil. Solazyme’s stock is trading a bit under $10, way down from its IPO price of $18.

I would bet on Venter, first of all because he thinks in terms of private, profit making business. His record is pretty impressive and he has hired a lot of the world’s experienced scientists. I have previously written a number of blog posts on related topics, here, and here, and here, and here.

It’s interesting that the Titanic is being eaten by “Rusticles” that that are eating the iron in the hull. Bacteria that eat iron in an oxygen-free environment are only one of the marvels that are being discovered in the depths of the ocean and in hot vents in volcanic pools.

Afghanistan, Egypt and Obama

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

I have previously posted my opinion that Afghanistan is not worth the cost. I stated my reasons why we should leave here and here and here. Nothing has changed there but a lot is happening elsewhere in the Middle East.

Egypt’s escalating tensions amount to the first real foreign crisis for the Obama administration that it did not inherit. The crisis serves as a test of Obama’s revamped White House operation. Daley, a former Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, is now running a staff that is briefing Obama regularly on Egypt.

They have handled it badly. This is a very dangerous time for us. The Egyptian Army seems to be siding with the protesters. That may or may not last.

The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that Egyptian army officers in Cairo’s central square have tossed aside their helmets and joined the crowd. “The Army and the people are one,” they chanted. MSNBC’s photoblog shows protesters jubilantly perched on M1A1 tanks. The real significance of these defections is that the army officers would not have done so had they not sensed which way the winds were blowing — in the Egyptian officer corps.

And even as Mubarak tottered, the Saudi king threw his unequivocal backing behind the aging dictator — not hedging like Obama — but the Iranians continued to back the Egyptian protesters. The Saudi exchange tumbled 6.44% on news of unrest from Cairo. Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that Israel is “extremely concerned” that events in Egypt could mean the end of the peace treaty between the two countries. If Mubarak isn’t finished already, a lot of regional actors are calculating like he might be.

But Washington will not be hurried. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that President Obama will review his Middle Eastern policy after the unrest in Egypt subsides. The future, in whose spaces the administration believed its glories to lie, plans to review its past failures in the same expansive place. Yet time and oil wait for no one. Crude oil prices surged as the markets took the rapid developments in. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu observed that any disruption to Middle East oil supplies “could actually bring real harm.”

Of course, Mr Chu should not worry as we have wind and solar to take up the slack. Actually, we get our oil from Canada and Mexico but the price of oil shifts with the world’s supply.

The present Obama commitment to Afghanistan is ironic since he promised to bring troops home but he has declared that Iraq was NOT necessary and Afghanistan is. This is slightly crazy. The Iraq invasion was an example of US power being applied in a critical location; right in the middle of the Middle East. Afghanistan is a remote tribal society reachable only through unreliable Pakistan. It has minimal effect on world events. We went there to punish the Taliban for harboring the people who attacked our country. Thousands of them have been killed. We have little of interest there now. We should have left last year.

With a Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a Muslim Brotherhood that may keep Egypt in neutral or tacitly accept Teheran’s leadership, how could things possibly get worse?

They can if Saudi Arabia starts to go. And what response can the U.S. offer? With U.S. combat power in landlocked Afghanistan and with the last U.S. combat forces having left Iraq in August 2010, the U.S. will have little on the ground but the State Department. “By October 2011, the US State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police and this task will largely be carried out by private contractors.” The bulk of American hard power will be locked up in secondary Southwest Asian theater, dependent on Pakistan to even reach the sea with their heavy equipment.

This is not where we want to be. The problem is that Obama and Hillary and the rest of this administration have no concept of strategy.

The Obama administration made fundamental strategic mistakes, whose consequences are now unfolding. As I wrote in the Ten Ships, a post which referenced the Japanese Carrier fleet which made up the strategic center of gravity of the enemy during the Pacific War, the center of gravity in the present crisis was always the Middle East. President Obama, by going after the criminals who “attacked America on 9/11? from their staging base was doing the equivalent of bombing the nameless patch of ocean 200 miles North of Oahu from which Nagumo launched his raid. But he was not going after the enemy center of gravity itself.

For all of its defects the campaign in Iraq was at least in the right place: at the locus of oil, ideology and brutal regimes that are the Middle East. Ideally the campaign in Iraq would have a sent a wave of democratization through the area, undermined the attraction of radical Islam, provided a base from which to physically control oil if necessary. That the campaign failed to attain many of objectives should not obscure the fact that its objectives were valid. It made far more strategic sense than fighting tribesmen in Afghanistan. Ideology, rogue regimes, energy are the three entities which have replaced the “ten ships” of 70 years ago. The means through which these three entities should be engaged ought to be the subject of reasoned debate, whether by military, economic or technological means. But the vital nature of these objectives ought not to be. Neutralize the intellectual appeal of radical Islam, topple the rogue regimes, and ease Western dependence on oil and you win the war. Yet their centrality, and even their existence is what the politicians constantly deny.

Events are unfolding, but they have not yet run their course; things are still continuing to cascade. If the unrest spreads to the point where the Suez and regional oil fall into anti-Western hands, the consequences would be incalculable. The scale of the left’s folly: their insistence on drilling moratoriums, opposition to nuclear power, support of negotiations with dictators at all costs, calls for unilateral disarmament, addiction to debt and their barely disguised virulent anti-Semitism should be too manifest to deny.

Leftism is making common cause with Islamic terrorism. Why ? I don’t really know. Some of it may be the caricature of Jews making money and being good at business. Some may simply be the extension of animosity to Israel extending to all Jews. The people behind Obama are not free of these sentiments. His Justice Department is filled with lawyers who defended terrorists at Guantanamo. Holder seems uninterested in voting rights cases if a black is the offender. He was even unwilling to say that Islamic terrorism was behind 9/11.

Because it will hit them where it hurts, in the lifestyle they somehow thought came from some permanent Western prosperity that was beyond the power of their fecklessness to destroy. It will be interesting to see if anyone can fill up their cars with carbon credits when the oil tankers stop coming or when black gold is marked at $500 a barrel. It is even possible that within a relatively short time the only government left friendly to Washington in the Middle East may be Iraq. There is some irony in that, but it is unlikely to be appreciated.

I would add a bit to this from one of my favorite essays on the topic. It compares Gorbachev to Obama.

Nor are the two men, themselves, remotely comparable in their backgrounds, or political outlook. Gorbachev, for instance, had come up from tractor driver, not through elite schools including Harvard Law; he lacked the narcissism that constantly seeks self-reflection through microphones and cameras, or the sense that everything is about him.

On the other hand, some interesting comparisons could be made between the thuggish party machine of Chicago, which raised Obama as its golden boy; and the thuggish party machine of Moscow, which presented Gorbachev as it’s most attractive face.

Both men have been praised for their wonderful temperaments, and their ability to remain unperturbed by approaching catastrophe. But again, the substance is different, for Gorbachev’s temperament was that of a survivor of many previous catastrophes.

Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

In another passage:

There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

With an incredible rapidity, America’s status as the world’s pre-eminent superpower is now passing away. This is a function both of the nearly systematic abandonment of U.S. interests and allies overseas, with metastasizing debt and bureaucracy on the home front.

The turmoil in Egypt is a test that, I fear, Obama and his Secretary of State, will not pass.

UPDATE: The situation in Egypt festers with an ambiguous statement by Obama no help. Here is an example of how Reagan handled the Philippine overthrow of Marcos. A very different approach.

UPDATE #2: A column by Charles Krauthammer is indispensable reading today.

Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.

The House of Mubarak is no more. He is 82, reviled and not running for reelection. The only question is who fills the vacuum. There are two principal possibilities: a provisional government of opposition forces, possibly led by Mohamed ElBaradei, or an interim government led by the military.

ElBaradei would be a disaster. As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he did more than anyone to make an Iranian nuclear bomb possible, covering for the mullahs for years. (As soon as he left, the IAEA issued a strikingly tough, unvarnished report about the program.)

Worse, ElBaradei has allied himself with the Muslim Brotherhood. Such an alliance is grossly unequal. The Brotherhood has organization, discipline and widespread support. In 2005, it won approximately 20 percent of parliamentary seats. ElBaradei has no constituency of his own, no political base, no political history within Egypt at all.

He has lived abroad for decades. He has less of a residency claim to Egypt than Rahm Emanuel has to Chicago. A man with no constituency allied with a highly organized and powerful political party is nothing but a mouthpiece and a figurehead, a useful idiot whom the Brotherhood will dispense with when it ceases to have need of a cosmopolitan frontman.

The Egyptian military, on the other hand, is the most stable and important institution in the country. It is Western-oriented and rightly suspicious of the Brotherhood. And it is widely respected, carrying the prestige of the 1952 Free Officers Movement that overthrew the monarchy and the 1973 October War that restored Egyptian pride along with the Sinai.

The military is the best vehicle for guiding the country to free elections over the coming months.

El Baradei also attempted to intervene in the 2004 US elections by releasing a letter that alleged US forces had allowed radicals to steal hundreds of pounds of explosives in Iraq by failing to guard the facility. After the election, it was proven that the letter was not true. The man is anti-American and a liar.

The coming energy crisis

Friday, January 14th, 2011

The Obama administration is still in the throes of global warming mentality. They have cancelled leases for oil and gas in the huge deposits in western states like Montana. The vast boom going on just to the north in Alberta has not impressed Interior Secretary Salazar. They want to take millions of acres out of the energy search by naming them wilderness, just as Bill Clinton created a huge wilderness area out of good potential energy fields at the end of his administration. They have not made nuclear power plants any easier to build. The Gulf oil leases are still blocked and the moratorium, while allegedly ended, continues in a slow down. The only energy and his acolytes are interested in is “renewable” such as wind and sun. These are boutique power sources and even these are being blocked by Democratic politicians.

But the project is hardly shovel ready. Several regulatory hurdles remain, and opponents of the wind farm have vowed to go to court, potentially stalling Cape Wind for several more years.

For years the Cape Wind project has been the focusof pitched battles splitting politicians and environmental groups. While some environmentalists are prepared to go to court to stop the project, other major groups, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, support it.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, whose family compound overlooks Nantucket Sound and who died last year, had opposed the project, saying it was a giveaway to a private developer.

It has taken nine years to get this far. In California, another lefty state, a big solar project is being fought by enviros and Democrats. I wonder if the left wants any energy developed. It seems insane but we are getting very close to a tipping point when there will not be time to build new projects and find more oil and gas.

The Democrats, and the vast array of “activists” whom they enable, have demonstrated hostility to all practical forms of energy production and distribution. This is not just a matter of oil & gas drilling: as we have discussed many times on this blog, the U.S. electrical system faces a problematic future. There is every likelihood that, under a Democratic administration/Congress:

a)The building of new coal plants would go from “difficult” to “impossible”
b)The building of nuclear plants would continue to be virtually impossible
c)Even the building of new natural-gas-fired plants would be severely delayed by environmental lawsuits and regulatory maneuvering based on the CO2-is-a-pollutant theory.

Solar and wind, beloved of Democrats, have their uses, but they also have their limitations. I see no evidence that either Obama or the Dem Congressional leadership has any interest in understanding the technical and economic factors that govern the extent to which these technologies can be practically employed. The intermittent nature of wind and usable sun, the difficulty of storing electricity, the supply-chain constraints which govern the large-scale introduction of any new technology–there is much less interest in these things than in the glib repetition of catch-phrases. And even the use of environmentally-blessed technologies will be greatly inhibited by environmentalist protests against the transmission lines required to connect these systems to the cities that need their power. These activists would, of course, gain great impetus from a Democratic administration.

Obama talks a lot about the middle class. The existence of a large and affluent middle class is enabled by widely available and reasonably priced energy, especially electricity. If electric rates are driven up by a factor of 2X or 3X, as is entirely possible with Democratic policies, there will be not only a direct effect on consumers, but an effect on virtually all workers as U.S. businesses–especially manufacturing businesses but also things like data centers–become less competitive.

Lenin once remarked that “Communism is Soviet power plus electrification.” Our present “progressives” seem more interested in de-electrification. Where the New Deal (and the Soviets) wanted to build hydroelectric dams, today’s “progressives” are, for the most part, more interested in destroying them.

Remember, electrical infrastructure is a long-leadtime item, and if we dig outselves into a deep hole in this matter, it will take a long, long time to dig ourselves out..

That was written in 2008. Read the whole thing. It did a pretty good job of predicting the Obama administration’s policies.

The delusions of the greens

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

There is still considerable debate about “renewable energy” and the subsidies necessary to make it even marginally competitive. In fact, the wind and solar energy industries are toys that are funded by the left in their delusional fixation on global warming. Spain learned just how expensive these subsidies can be but was the darling of the progressive left for a while.

UPDATE: There is now squabbling in the administration over these subsidies with General Electric, a big corporate welfare recipient, threatening to “go to the private market for funds.” Well, if they could do that, why are taxpayers paying for this ?

Spain has been at the forefront of producing clean energy, especially wind energy. By producing 11.5% of its overall energy through wind turbines Spain has become the 3rd largest producer of wind energy after Germany (2nd) and US (1st). Whereas many European countries like the UK are dragging their feet around the figure of 7300 MW, Spain has an ambitious target of achieving 20,000 MW by 2010.

Unfortunately, the bill came due.

Only two years ago, Spanish solar energy companies feasting on generous government subsidies expanded at a feverish pace, investing €18 billion (then worth roughly $28 billion) to blanket rooftops and fields with photovoltaic panels. They briefly turned the country into the top solar market in the world.

Spain’s subsidies for solar were four to six times higher than those for wind. Prices charged for solar power were 12 times higher than those for fossil fuel electricity. Germany and Spain received about 75 percent of the world’s photovoltaic panel installations that year.

Suddenly facing a deep recession, a collapsing housing market and a ballooning budget deficit, the Spanish government cut the rate paid for photovoltaic power by about 29 percent last year and put a limit on new solar installations at 500 megawatts per year. It is now considering additional tariff cuts that may reach as high as 40 percent and may even be applied retroactively, according to local newspaper reports.

The real future of power generation is coal. This is the future.

Fortunately, the US has the largest coal reserves in the world. There are cleaner ways to use coal for power. That is the way we will provide power for the future. It will be a struggle because the left is obsessed with the religion of global warming.

Eventually we will probably use nuclear power to generate electricity and the use of electricity for transportation will probably be part of the future. Maybe we (You. I won’t be around) will drive cars that draw power from embedded strips in the pavement. I am convinced that coal and nuclear is the future. Wind and solar have serious limitations that will always limit their use to small geographic areas. Arizona and California may be able to provide a lot of power from solar. I looked into it when I lived in Orange County. But for the needs of industry and the general population, the need will be filled by coal and nuclear.

Why Sarah Palin resigned as governor of Alaska

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Sarah Palin has been harshly criticized for her inexplicable decision to resign half way through her term as governor. This has been used to allege she is unstable, that there were corruption charges coming against her and even that she and Todd were considering a divorce. This was all political spin and the lies have not stopped coming. Now we get another glimpse of Alaska politics and an explanation of what happened to force her out.

Joe Miller, a tea party candidate for Senator, won the Republican primary defeating Lisa Murkowski, daughter of the governor who appointed her and almost the last of the Republican machine that ran Alaska for 50 years until Sara Palin beat Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary for governor four years ago. Ted Stevens has died and Lisa is the last of the pork shippers. Her decision to run as a write-in candidate was partly due to her sense of entitlement and partly pressure from the corrupt machine in Alaska that was in a panic that clean politics was about to break out. An article in National Review today explains much of this. Hans von Spakovsky was a member of the Justice Department under George W Bush and has written a number of pieces in support of the two career DoJ lawyers who have attacked the political decision to dismiss the New Black Panther case after it was won. That case is part of a trend that began when Obama was elected and appointed Eric Holder as Attorney General.

The latest shenanigans by Alaskan election officials and the Voting Section of Justice’s Civil Rights Division show a dangerous willingness to bend regulations in furtherance of political objectives.

Here is the background: After Joe Miller defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary, Murkowski decided to run as a write-in candidate — meaning that her name would not be on the ballot, and thus that ill-informed voters will not be reminded at the polling place that she is an option. But on October 15, the Alaska Division of Elections decided to provide polling places with posters listing write-in candidates and their party affiliations. The list would obviously help Murkowski.

The problem is that posting such a list violates the Election Division’s own regulations, which specifically state that “information regarding a write-in candidate may not be discussed, exhibited, or provided at the polling place, or within 200 feet of any entrance to the polling place, on election day.” That’s why the Election Division has never provided a list of write-in candidates in any election in the past.

Alaska politics has been corrupt since statehood. Republicans have dominated but Democrats are no less corrupt. The other scandal going on over the Miller election has concerned an accidental recording of the staff of a TV station in Anchorage planning a political “dirty trick” on MIller. Miller has been portrayed as a hick and a know-nothing in spite of the fact that he graduated from West Point in 1989 and Yale Law School in 1995. Why is this such a huge focus of the left ? Because he is the Senator who could give the Republicans, not only the majority, but the conservative majority. Lisa Murkowski is part of the corrupt machine of Alaska politics. That corrupt machine was defeated by Sarah Palin and is now facing another defeat by a tea party supported candidate who will not “go along to get along” as Lisa has. They will literally do anything to stop him as they did anything they could to stop Sarah, including filling hundreds of phony ethics complaints that would have bankrupted her family while they stopped the business of the state of Alaska. She has strong opinions about these people and is not shy about expressing them.

Hell hath no fury like a corrupt politician rejected by the voters. Murkowski is now saying she may not caucus with Republicans if elected. She sounds like Charlie Crist, doesn’t she ? How long before Bill Clinton is in Alaska talking to Scott McAdams? If he can remember his name.

Sarah Palin defeated the corrupt Frank Murkowski, renegotiated the gas pipeline contract to get a better deal for residents, and enraged the corrupt establishment in Alaska. When she returned to Alaska after the 2008 election, they made her life hell. Now they are trying to do the same to Joe Miller for daring to interrupt the gravy train and its last engineer, Lisa Murkowski.

In spite of all this, Miller is still winning.

More here. “Out of context” means they got caught red handed.

Cyberwarfare

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

We may be entering an era when cyberwar is a real threat, at least to some. I was a computer programmer in 1958-59 but that is the stone age of computing. The machine I programmed was An IBM 650 which was so primitive that it did not use hexadecimal code. This was even before FORTRAN was written so I claim no current expertise. Later, after medical school, I took some computer science courses and learned to program in Pascal and C. Still later, I learned Visual Basic but never got very far in C++ so I am pretty much a neophyte in Object Oriented Programming. The term, often abbreviated to OOP, is a way of creating small pieces of code that can be reused over and over without rewriting it and the attendant risk of error. It is also faster. This also applies to modular programming and the differences are explained in the wiki entry.

It now appears that a new “worm” has been created by someone that is capable of attacking the Iranian nuclear program. Roger Simon is the only one I have seen so far discussing it and its implications. This involves small devices called PLCs, or “Programmable Logic Controllers” some of which run your washing machine. They are the heart of computer controlled machinery, such as the 30,000 Iranian centrifuges that are purifying Uranium 235. What if all those 30,000 centrifuges went crazy, spinning so fast that they self destructed ?

This brings up the subject of Stuxnet, a computer “worm.” It attacks one specific system, the Siemens company’s SCADA systems. It happens that Siemens designed and built the SCADA systems that run its nuclear program. What a coincidence !

Has the war with Iran already begun ? Maybe.

But just as television news was transformed by technology before the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and politics was transformed by social networking before it appeared that Twitter would bring about a second Iranian Revolution, process and progress need crystallizing events, where the political and cultural significance of technological innovation becomes indisputable.

Such a moment came in July with the discovery of a worm known as Stuxnet, which sought out a particular version of the Siemens’ SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems that control power grids and industrial plants. According to Ralph Langner, an expert in industrial control systems who published a study of the worm last week, Stuxnet was capable of taking over SCADA controls in order to deliver a kinetic attack by causing critical systems to physically malfunction. The systems infected weren’t randomly targeted: a majority are in Iran.

It’s an interesting idea. A lot of Windows 7 code was written by Israeli engineers. Maybe their target is more than the nuclear program.

Stuxnet is an even more dramatic transformational event: warfare is never going to be the same, at least while the underlying protocols governing the Internet create these kinds of systemic vulnerabilities. But even if there was agreement to rewrite these protocols starting tomorrow, such a project would take a decade. So, let the damage assessment begin. Who knows? By demonstrating how Iran could so very easily experience a Chernobyl-like catastrophe, or the entire destruction of its conventional energy grid, the first round of the “war” may have already been won.

Unfortunately, the Chinese have been working very hard at the same sort of thing and we had a determined cyberattack on the Pentagon e-mail system two years ago. This may be what war looks like in the future.

UPDATE: Some body is noticing.