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I have owned or had use of plug-in electric vehicles for more than a decade starting with a production converted Pontiac Fiero with solar panels on it named Destiny2000 by its converter/manufacturer Solar Electric Engineering. I named that electric vehicle my EV SOL. With that vehicle I learned that even just having 50 miles as total range an EV was a practical car to own and drive. Over the hood of that vehicle I have preached to thousands of people the benefits of owning a plug-in vehicle. However, (pause) when people have asked me would an EV be practical in a rural community, I have always told them that plug-in vehicles don't meet everyone's needs and having to travel long distances such as those found in farming and rural communities were not conducive to owning an electric vehicle. Keep in mind that my view was colored by my 50 mile range and that I was speaking from total ignorance having never lived in a rural community.

Now just might be the perfect time to test my ignorant assumption. You see I have moved to a largely farming, rural community. I have also put a gap in my plug-in driving. My EV SOL is in need of some serious repair and, frankly, I wasn't sure if I would be able to own an EV out here where the distances between towns are long and charging opportunities are minimal. Having been a super proponent of plug-in living, not having an EV felt very, well, uncomfortable. I knew that a plug-in range extended vehicle like the Volt would work fine out here since there are plenty of gas stations to keep that vehicle going even without plugging in. I felt that a plug-in hybrid or range extended EV wouldn't have been a real challenge to my assumption. A challenge would be to have a pure electric vehicle out here. I can't afford a Tesla model anything right now. The challenge would be seeing whether a more commonly sold EV, one such as the Nissan, Leaf, would test my assumption that pure electric vehicles are not suited for rural driving. If I owned an EV with a commonly available range of around 90 miles or so, would it work?

Surfing the Internet to my surprise I found that a Nissan dealer that was only about 55 miles away was having a spectacular sale on used Nissan, Leafs. This dealer had made a commitment to the Leaf and had plenty of new vehicles on the lot, as well as, a commendable inventory of used vehicles. This opened the door to the possibility to truly challenge my assumption. Because I was afraid that my suppositions were true I wanted to make sure I had an EV that had features that would compensate for its limited range. First thing that came to mind was DC quick charging. The nearest city to where I live was just inside my total range and I hoped that by having a quick charger this would allow me to go into the city, do business and enjoy the amenities, quick charge and return home. With the Nissan, Leaf the thing I was looking for was CHAdeMO quick charging.

Out here, chances are that the only charging available would be at my home. Since I was planing to use the EV a lot I needed a means to fast charge at home, or so I was thinking. I can't afford to install a DC quick charger at home, the Leaf, I felt, would need a minimum of a 6.6 kw onboard charger. My thinking was that the sooner the vehicle charged up at home after one of its long local trips the more available and useful the vehicle would be and the greater the chance that it would work as a practical vehicle in this rural community. The Leaf with the 6.6 kw charger could charge up from a fully depleted battery to full in about 4 hours provided that the station can match or exceed the 6.6 kw juice. After that there were things of comfort that I wanted, but nothing of significance. It was time to find a vehicle that fit my needs.

With sales information in hand and other errands to run in the big, far away city, with my wife navigating we made our way to look at some Nissan, Leafs. When we got to the dealer lot it was crowed with vehicles, but just as they said in their ads, there were dozens of Leafs to choose from. We found the sales person that I had contacted while making inquiries and we narrowed down the search to a few 2013s that met the criteria and were low in cost. Many of the vehicles that I had seen online had already been sold, a testament to the popularity of the vehicles in this northerly midwest city. We test drove a Brilliant Silver SL. It was nothing new to me. I had dest driven and have been given rides in Nissan, Leafs since 2011. I knew what it was like, so when the ride was over my wife and I decided that we wanted the vehicle. Several hours later we left with the vehicle and were heading for home. This is where the adventure really begins.

Being an experienced EV driver before we left home I had mapped out the route we were going to return on an online map. The shortest distance between the dealer and home was 55 miles. The route was simple and straight. My wife had suggested another route that was 75 miles long that would take us by the airport, a route she knew well and was comfortable with, but I felt that we couldn't risk it. This was a new vehicle to us, but it was still a used vehicle. I had no idea if the batteries would actually do the 90 miles. EPA's range rating of the Leaf was only 75 miles. The Leafs milage guesser read 90 miles, however, we were going to do all the miles on highways, the worst kind of driving for EV range. My preplanned route was going to be the way we were going to go because it was the shortest, period the end.

We were to leave the dealer just about rush hour and the streets were going to be clogged. My wife and I decided that we would go out to eat and wait for rush hour to subside a bit before heading home. The sales person made a suggestion for a restaurant and so we decided to go there since it was only a mile or two away. He gave me instructions on how to get there and away we went. I didn't put the route home into the navigation system because we weren't going home just yet, we were going to eat dinner. I followed the instructions, go right on the service road, left on to the road that goes over the highway, left on the highway, then right (what I forgot was he said the right after going under such and such bridge after such and such road). I didn't expect that I would be flustered by this new city's highway system. Nearly immediately after leaving the dealership I found myself on a wrong superhighway with few exits. I looked in my rearview mirror and the car behind me appeared to be my wife driving behind me. I looked to the first exit, which was a several miles down the road, to turn off and refigure my route. I began to worry about how these extra unplanned miles were going to impact the trip home. At the first exit I began to signal that I was going off the road and when I entered the exit lane the vehicle behind me didn't move into the exit lane. I jumped back on to the highway and wondered what my wife was thinking by not following me. Looking in my rear view mirror I noticed that my wife's car was driving erratically going way off onto the shoulder. Was my wife trying to signal me to stop on the shoulder of the road? Suddenly, a vehicle raced past me and pulls into the lane right in front of me that looks identical to our family vehicle, the one my wife was driving behind me. Then I realized that the vehicle I thought was my wife's car was not my wife's car, my real wife was now in front of me and not driving erratically. I assumed she wanted me to follow her since we were now on an unplanned detour. However, she was driving much faster than I was and I, nervous about the range, kept trying to drive a little slower to help with the range now that we were in uncharted territory. Eventually the distance between us was filed with other vehicles with my wife's car far ahead of me. Exits are coming and going and she was not leaving this highway to stop.

Eventually, I see her pull off at an exit and I follow her making sure that it is our vehicle and not one that just looks like our vehicle. She pulls into a small strip mall that has a couple of restaurants in it and I pull in next to her. She jumps out of the car and says, “How did you get behind me since you pulled off back a few miles?” I returned with a puzzled look on my face, “I followed you off the exit from the highway.” It turned out that she had been so far a head because she also thought that the vehicle behind her was me and that I was keeping up with her fast pace. We laughed ate dinner and told each other the trip so far from our particular vantage points. She moving fast to get around the vehicle that was similar to her's because it was driving erratically and was worried that the driver was drunk and would either hit our “new” car or crash in front of her. She told me how she was panicked when the vehicle she thought was mine exited the highway behind her. She thought that I was having car troubles and pulled off the highway to find a place where she could call me and come and get me. She, being more familiar with the highways here having grown up in the area, knew that I had gone on the highway that was her suggested 75 mile route home. She assumed that since I had gone onto that highway that I must have decided not to stop and eat and just drive her route home. When she pulled in front of me and took the possition to lead our tiny caravan that was her assumption, we were going home on her route, and that is why she wasn't stopping at the exits. At this point we were near the airport and doubling back would only add miles to the trip. The shortest distance home from our current stop was the rest of her route. I didn't know if we would make it, but I had driven electric before and knew I could extend the range a bit by applying hypermiling techniques and crossing my fingers. There were no guarantees that this adventure was over.

We set off on the road again, and with rush hour traffic, my desire to go slow and my wife's desire to keep to the speed limit separated us again. The only difference being that once past the airport the scenery became familiar. I recognized landmarks and strip-malls and places where my wife and I had been. That familiarity helped keep me calm as the miles and minutes that seemed like hours went by. At least if I didn't make it home I could call my wife and tell her where I was with some certainty. I stuck to my hypermiling as best as I could while keeping up with traffic as best as I could. When I got to the place where we, on her route, transitioned off the superhighway to travel on smaller roads I knew I was almost home.

As I got to the smaller roads I saw in front of me the vehicle my wife was driving turn into a bank parking lot. I followed her in and when we got next to each other she told me she was pulling off the road to wait for me to pass. (She was confident that I would make it that far.) She asked me how my miles were doing and I looked down at my guestimator and we had about 30 miles of range left. For me this was kind of a Loaves and Fishes thing because I knew we had already gone more than 60 miles guestimated when you subtract the 30 miles guestimate where we were now from the 90 mile guestimate where we started from. However, I also knew that we were less than 30 miles from home, and we would be on local roads that are typically kinder on EV range mileage. I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the trip home.

When I pulled into my driveway I had 16 miles left on the guestimator and the low battery warnings had just appeared on the dashboard. For curiosity sake, I looked at the trip odometer on the Leaf and it showed we had traveled 80.1 actual miles from leaving the dealer. Add to it the 16 miles I had left that would mean that this Nissan, Leaf had somewhere around 96.1 miles actual range. That would mean that the range circle around my home was significant. I could easily go places with in 40 miles from my home and not have to think about whether I would need a charge to make it back home.

So the first test to my assumption that a rural living location is not a place to have an EV has been tested. Can you make it back from the dealer to your home on a single charge while being directionally challenged? The answer is yes. Even when you don't go your carefully planned route there is enough range on a Nissan, Leaf to get you home and then some. I know that question of the dealership and coming back home wasn't really part of the equation, but it certainly became a lesson learned.

Next blog will be on charging an EV on a regular 110v outlet in a rural setting. This is because my purchase of the Leaf was done in some haste to take advantage of the special prices the dealer was offering at that time. Because of the snap purchase of the vehicle I didn't have time to purchase and install a 6.6+ kw charging station ahead of time as I wanted to. So, charging, the adventure continues.

First published in EVWorld.com

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Fri Jan 09, 2015 at 07:19 AM PST

Lower Oil Prices in an EV World

by joelado

What do declining oil prices mean for alternative fueled vehicles, plug-in hybrids and EVs? If anything is to be learned from the past periods where gasoline prices have dropped precipitously it is that they spell death for alternative fuels. Dropping oil prices are a very bad thing for all alternative fuels and most likely will be a very bad thing for electric vehicles and plug-ins as well.

From 1981 to 1986 reduced demand and overproduction created a large amount of oil not being consumed in the open market. I remember going to an area that had refineries at the time and seeing a large number of oil tankers just sitting, anchored out on the bay waiting for their turn to hook up to the refineries. The refineries were not operating at full capacity and when they shipped out their inventory as product, then and only then would they allow for the oil tankers to hook up. This five-year-long period has a direct correlation to the improved fuel economy that vehicles were required to achieve by the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standard laws passed in the 1970s. These laws took effect during the later part of the 1970s and the first part of the 1980s. Fuel economy for automobiles reached somewhere around 27 miles per gallon on average in 1986. Even though these laws may have been put in place during that period of time, it was consumers that rapidly embraced smaller more fuel efficient cars coming from Japan. It was a natural reaction after rising gasoline prices hit them hard in the pocket book and spurred deep recessions in the 1970s. It was a reaction that the US automobile manufacturers were slow to embrace.

 photo gasohol_zps76210d8d.jpg

Consumers also embraced alternative fuels. Even though the sales of such vehicles were small in number, electric cars made the scene with Bob Beaumont’s Sebring Vanguard Citicars and other brands in the mid 1970s. Although electric vehicles had some impact for alternative fuels it was ethanol that was the biggest entry for alternative fuels, typically blended with gasoline. Demand and pricing was such that independent stations selling ethanol blended gasoline sprang up to sell the stuff starting in the corn belt of the Midwest. By the end of the 1970s major oil companies jumped in the game. Despite being heavily subsidized the number of biomass ethanol producers dropped 47% by 1985. Gasohol as a readily used term to describe 10% ethanol blended gasoline disappeared from America’s vocabulary, and the gasohol independent stations disappeared from the gas station landscape.

I remember a Freedom Gasohol station on route 1 south of Alexandria, Virginia that stood abandoned for over a decade. It stood there as a reminder to me of how fortunes can change very rapidly for investors in alternative fuels. It was also a reminder to me that history is an important teacher. Those who don’t know history are likely to make the same mistakes as others have in the past. The United States by allowing for oil and gasoline prices to drop again without a price floor is reliving a past where alternative fuels were pushed from public awareness.

What is causing the prices to drop today is largely an over supply similar to that of the 1980s. Probably also caused by an anticipated dramatic increase in the CAFE gas mileage requirements signed into law in 2009, but that is not all. John Maynard Keynes referred to a phenomena that tended to keep prices high even though demand drops as “the sticky nature of prices.” Let me explain it to you in a more understandable way. Let’s say you have a house that you borrowed $90,000 for and put $10,000 as a down payment. Let’s say later you want to move from the area and want to sell your house. However, in the in-between time prices of houses comparable to yours have dropped to $70,000. Let’s say you still owe the bank $85,000 and you want to get back the cash you put into the home. You are going to be reluctant to drop the price to $70,000. You most likely will list your home at $95,000, where you will at least get back your down payment. However, the market demands a lower price. Once you get over the shock and accept the reality of the new price being $70,000 you will still have to deal with the bank. The bank is going to not accept a sale that is below what you owe them. So the price again can’t go below the $85,000. When the bank finally comes to grip with the reality of the market and accepts market pricing they will still want to have a say in what they will accept in terms of an offer. Basically, people and businesses get used to prices being a certain amount and have locked in their expenses and expected profits at that price. It is hard for them to move off of that expected price. When prices drop fast like they have with oil and gasoline lately, there are other factors at play. There has to be a willingness by the oil companies to sell at lower prices. The question is what are those other factors for the oil producers that have them willing to sell oil for far less money? Demand has lowered by 13%, so why are we seeing a 50% or more drop in oil prices and why are oil producers willing to accept that asking price when demand exists above that 50% drop in price?

There are odd other factors in the oil markets that make them not react to typical economic conditions, however, surplus crude oil is going to have a strong downward pressure on prices, and when coupled with other factors we get the big price drop. Wall street analysts point out that the price move by OPEC and in particular Saudi Arabia has to do with them believing that the cost factors in US fracking shale oil are high and that by dropping the price of oil OPEC might be able to stop US production since at a certain price per barrel of oil US shale oil becomes unprofitable. Saudi Arabia hopes that by maintaining market share they will be able to increase prices at some later date after the shale oil producers leave the market. Analysts point out that this is flawed thinking, because as soon as prices rise again to where shale oil becomes profitable these producers will comeback online to produce oil again. Since this idea is easily viewable as flawed this may not be the reason for dropping oil prices. I just don’t think the Saudis are stupid.

Other analysts think that the price drop might be a coordinated political move by Europe, Saudi Arabia and the United States to have an affect on global politics. They say that Europe has a desire to weaken Vladimir Putin’s meddling in the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia wants to keep Iran from attaining nuclear weapons and destabilizing the region, and the United State wants to keep Venezuela from influencing Cuba. The high price of oil funds all of Russia, Iran and Venezuela’s extracurricular activities. For the US, Europe and Saudi Arabia a drop in oil prices keeps Russia, Iran and Venezuela in check. If it were true, it seems to be working. Russia’s economy is on the verge of collapse, which, we would hope would curb Putin’s meddling in Ukraine. Iran seems to be coming around to the idea of negotiating a nuclear deal with the west, without oil propping them up they may be more willing to negotiate their nuclear ambitions away for a removal of the sanctions restricting their sale of oil. Venezuela has stopped subsidizing oil to Cuba and, despite other reasons given, many experts say that that is the main reason behind Cuba’s push for better relations with the US. I have already seen an article about US oil companies working with Cuba to do oil exploration there. However, this seems far fetched to me and rather complicated given the entities past cooperation. Also, the United States government and in particular this administration have very little influence on oil companies that are humongous international entities. Although Saudi Arabia might be able to control its oil output, Europe and the United States most likely would not be able to do much in this alliance to influence the price of oil. Which leads me to think that it is probably something else entirely that is leading to the willingness to accept a much lower price for oil.  

It could be that oil companies maybe trying to reconstruct demand that was destroyed because of high oil prices and the deep recession it triggered. Oil companies and oil producing nations are hoping that consumers will abandon their thrift ways and go back to overusing petroleum in the form of big cars and trucks, or they may be hoping that consumers will not keep fleeing petrol powered vehicles for alternatively powered ones. This is, I believe, a very important possibility.


What is the one thing that can change the oil demand landscape where it would become irretrievable if it were to actually take hold? Alternatives. For example, we are multi-food consumers. If the price of a single food goes dramatically upward, we simply don’t purchase that food and choose an alternative food to eat. Therefore one source of food can’t jack up its prices and remain in the market for long. In real world economics prices always settle at an equilibrium between price and supply, and the price of whatever can be substituted for that item. The ability for consumers to choose a comparably priced alternative keeps the price of any item in the food market in check. Electricity in most of the United States is far cheaper than gasoline and therefor electric cars provide a competitive alternative to gasoline powered vehicles. This has proven to be a threat to the monopoly like hold that oil has had over the market of car fuels. When electric cars were just a novelty, oil producing nations and oil companies were unconcerned with electric cars and other alternatives and therefor jacked up prices. However, electric cars have sold well over a quarter of a million vehicles last year. That constitutes a real threat that oil sales can’t recover from.

My feeling is that oil companies and oil producing nations don’t want their gravy train to end and they are taking a momentary hit on extreme profits to kill alternatives. That is why I believe there is so much willingness to accept such a precipitous drop in the price of oil of 50% or more for a mere 13% drop in demand.


This blog was first posted on EVWorld.com.

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Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 04:09 AM PDT

Gold

by joelado

Zeus with a laurel crown. Gold stater from Lampsacus, Mysia (ca. 360–340 BCE), obvers
Remember when real estate was the only sure bet investment? It had real... estate value. You could pass it down to your children. You could live on it, or in it. It had physical size and was tangible. However, its value went up and up and up, far beyond its real affordability. Why? How? Because the banking game had changed and people who were not bankers were throwing money at unsophisticated ordinary citizens and telling them they could afford these homes and the extra demand pushed the price of houses up. When the houses became more expensive they just increased the amount of money they could loan people of a certain income. Prices went even higher and these non-traditional bankers started making loans to people without checking their credit worthiness or doing a check on anything. Volume was the watchword for these brokers. With every loan they made they collected a fee, and they experienced none of the consequences if the loan went bad after. Then they turned around and sold these mortgages in pieces of paper, telling the purchasers that the value of their paper was guaranteed because, even though these were risky investments, they were backed by something of real value, actual houses, which at the time was an unmistakably safe investment. Real estate had only gone down in value twice in the United State's history and that was during the Great Depression and again during the Reagan years associated with the savings and loan crisis. Even though the new bank/brokerage houses were doing the very same things that lead to the Great Depression, in their eyes, the United States was an endless ocean of prosperity, it was like the atmosphere or the seemingly limitless number of fish in the sea, their illegal activity couldn't possibly pollute it or diminish it, at least not to the extent that it would create any real damage to our economy. For them there wasn't any danger of the United States going into anything that remotely looked like a Great Depression; to the new bank/brokerage houses that was like talking about ancient history. Things were different now. We have smart phones and super fast computers; we drive sophisticated cars that run on gasoline. Besides, real estate is real estate and will not go down in value. Unfortunately, we know now that that type of thinking is ludicrous. So use that critical thinking to think about what people are telling you about our money and gold?
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Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 09:57 PM PDT

Gold Revisited

by joelado

United States commemorative Coin
Remember when real estate was the only sure bet investment? It had real… estate value. You could pass it down to your children. You could live on it, or in it. It had physical size and was tangible. However, its value went up and up and up, far beyond its real affordability. Why? How? Because the banking game had changed and people who were not bankers were throwing money at unsophisticated ordinary citizens and telling them they could afford these homes and the extra demand pushed the price of houses up. When the houses became more expensive they just increased the amount of money they could loan people of a certain income. Prices went even higher and these non-traditional bankers started making loans to people without checking their credit worthiness or doing a check on anything. Volume was the watchword for these brokers. With every loan they made they collected a fee, and they experienced none of the consequences if the loan went bad after. Then they turned around and sold these mortgages in pieces of paper, telling the purchasers that the value of their paper was guaranteed because, even though these were risky investments, they were backed by something of real value, actual houses, which at the time was an unmistakably safe investment. Real estate had only gone down in value twice in the United State’s history and that was during the Great Depression and again during the Reagan years associated with the savings and loan crisis. Even though the new bank/brokerage houses were doing the very same things that lead to the Great Depression, in their eyes, the United States was an endless ocean of prosperity, it was like the atmosphere or the seemingly limitless number of fish in the sea, their illegal activity couldn’t possibly pollute it or diminish it, at least not to the extent that it would create any real damage to our economy. For them there wasn’t any danger of the United States going into anything that remotely looked like a Great Depression; to the new bank/brokerage houses that was like talking about ancient history. Things were different now. We have smart phones and super fast computers; we drive sophisticated cars that run on gasoline. Besides, real estate is real estate and will not go down in value. Unfortunately, we know now that that type of thinking is ludicrous. So use that critical thinking to think about what people are telling you about our money and gold?

The true value of gold is what others are willing to give up or do to get it from you. Gold, just like real estate, only has value when conditions are right to support that value. The value of gold is relative to the value of its importance to what you buy given a particular set of circumstances. Let me give you an example. If I am starving and I will die soon if I don’t get food and I have gold in my pocket, I will want to exchange that gold for food real fast. Gold has no value for me in comparison to food. However, if the food supply is limited and the person who has food also needs it to survive, my gold is worthless. It is worthless to both or us because you can’t eat it and survive. The decision of whether you will get food at all for your gold depends on either the goodness of the food holder’s charity or the timing when the food holder thinks there will be more food. Chances are the food holder will only give you at most a portion of his food for gold, and more likely then not, he or she will want all your gold for an amount of food that will most likely not sustain you. You can substitute anything that has a myth of value for the word gold here, such as jewels, platinum, stocks, bonds, money and even mansions. Let me explain. During the Bataan Death march wealthy people signed over mansions for food only to die anyway. Suddenly faced with dying their mansions weren’t that valuable anymore. Back to my point, things only have value relative to their worth during a given circumstance. It is an illusion to thing otherwise. So I am going to ask you, why do you think gold is any different than paper money? When you ask your self this question I want you to remember how real estate was discussed at the beginning of this post?

Paper money is the truest form of exchange under trading goods themselves for goods, or at least it should be. It truly has no value on its own. The value of paper money is in the exchange of goods. For example, socks are worth a buck a pair, let's say, and shoes are worth 10 bucks. You can also say shoes are worth 10 pairs of socks. Money is just a medium of exchange. If you put gold into the equation things get more complicated. Let's say that you purchase wool and knitting needles with 2 bit of gold and you make ten socks. You go to buy shoes but the person isn't willing to sell you his shoes for your 10 socks. He wants gold. He says you have to have ten bits of gold first. So you have to go to someone who has gold to buy gold but the only gold in this economy is the gold you first used to purchase your wool and needles that you used to make socks. You go to him and he wants three pairs of socks for the one bit of gold, because he wants to rent the shoes from the guy with the shoes when he goes outside and renting shoes only costs one bit of gold and he plans to go out a lot. Now, think of this simple example on a Macro level. Why is gold valuable? One reason is that it is not a common metal found in abundant quantity. It is scarce compared to the demand for it. Just imagine how valuable gold would be if it was the medium of exchange for the world’s economy. Very few people would be capable of possessing it. All the gold in the world would not equal all of the active money being handed over for goods in a single day in the current size of our world’s economy. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that gold simply doesn't work in a modern economy as it didn’t work in my example about the socks.

There is another factor, perhaps an even more important one about how money works in our economy that makes using gold not beneficial to the ordinary citizen. The factor is how ordinary people and businesses create added value goods. Money is created in an economy by adding value. For example, clay has little value alone. You or I, if we know where to look for it, can probably get clay for free. However, you take that clay, shape it, glaze it and fire it and it becomes a useable bowl. This is something that has value to a lot of people. Let’s say that those people specialize in making spoons, or soup or something else. Let's say you have made more bowls than you need and you want to explore the idea of not using your hands to eat soup out of your bowls. You are willing to exchange a bowl that you made to a person who has made spoons in excess of what they need. You come to an agreement that the bowl is worth four spoons. The value of the clay, plus your know-how and labor now has a measurable value in spoons. Spoons, in this example, become the de facto currency since compared to other goods spoons have a traded value when it comes to bowls. Bowls have an exchange value measured in spoons, thereby creating the “spoon” standard. Substitute currency for spoons and now the bowl has an added value over clay of some figure of money. You, the lowly bowl maker has just created money in an economy over the value of nearly valueless clay. This happens almost every time goods or services are exchanged in our economy. I know it is hard to believe, but you can replace the word “profit” quite comfortably with the words “value added” without messing up the meaning too badly. You purchase bowls in bulk that are priced at a value added over clay, and you sell the bowls in smaller quantities in a nice display at your retail establishment at an added value over bowls purchased in bulk. Every step of the way creates money. In order to deal with the ever-expanding value of raw materials being turned into value added goods you need something that will grow with it, and gold can't do that. In order for gold to keep up with this enormous engine of economies creating money, mining of gold would have to be on a level comparable to how we mine for coal or drill for oil. Gold, like oil and coal is a finite commodity. We probably in a year or two after switching to a gold standard would begin talking about peak gold. Currency, however, doesn’t have these problems. It is just a medium of exchange. The value of goods and services should not be based on the currency, but the value of your goods or services against all goods and services. What makes the value of money go up or down isn’t a factor of the money itself, but its supply in the economy. In order for money to not go up or down in value is how close the government agency hits the mark of how much money was created during a particular period. In the United States the agency in charge with matching the production of money so as not to create inflation or deflation is the Federal Reserve.

Our reserve bank tries to keep the amount of money in our economy at the level of the economies creation of money. This is a bit of guesswork and is not an exact science. If they project to low then the value of currency will increase and you have deflation, if they put too much money into the economy the value of currency will decrease and you have inflation. The Federal Reserve adds or detracts money from the economy by printing money and lending it to the banks that circulate it into our economy in the form of loans. If interest rates are high, fewer people get loans and the money supply in the economy drops, if interest rates are low, loans are more affordable and many more people barrow money and increase the money supply.

The Federal Reserve is not a private institution; it is, however, an independent institution wholly owned by the Federal Government and the therefore owned by the citizens of this country. It is independent to free it from politics, so that it may act in the best interest of the citizenry. It has two mandates, the first is to keep inflation under control and the second is to keep unemployment low. It makes a profit over its expenses and hands its profits to the US Treasury. The Federal Reserve is necessary because we industrious Americans keep taking things that are worth nothing or of little value and making them more valuable,  (i.e. making clay into bowls). We create money in our economy and so the money supply has to increase with that. The Federal Reserve controls interest rates at the bank level by the interest rates it is willing to lend to banks. (Oh, so that is why they report the Federal Reserves interest rates so much on the news.) The interest rates asked for by the Fed are directly linked to two things, the cost of borrowing and the rate of inflation; however, inflation has other factors affecting it as well. Remember that when interest rates are high people and businesses tend to barrow less. This dampens economic growth, but maybe necessary to slow down inflation. If it makes interest rates low then businesses and people tend to barrow more and grow their businesses and employ more people. However, more money flowing to people and businesses tends to increase demand and that causes inflation. Remember the example of the cost of real estate? Banks made credit to people wanting to buy houses really easy and it inflated the prices of homes? Low interest mortgage loans that were too easy to get by nearly everyone, caused housing prices to go up and up, in other words, caused there to be inflation in the housing market. This can happen with an entire economy such as one the size of the United States as well.  

Gold doesn’t have the capacity to do anything that the Federal Reserve Bank can do to regulate inflation or deflation. Gold doesn't allow money supply to keep up with money creation, which is what happens in a sound economy. Gold is a limited supply commodity that is finite. All the mined gold in the world today would fill up a little over two Olympic sized swimming pools. It won't reach to cover the entirety of the United State’s economy and there ain’t a prayer that it will cover the worlds economy.

Moving to the gold standard would probably cause a supreme amount of deflation. Deflation has economic problems that can be just as bad as inflation. If we tried to use gold as our currency, we would have massive deflation. Massive deflation leads to money hording rather than investing and banks can’t lend because the value of things are going down. Deflation is mostly associated with depressions.

Just like what happened in the housing market and the supposed incorruptibility of the value of real estate, we have been manipulated in believing the value of certain things such as gold don’t go down only to have them change in value dramatically.  If you can’t remember back 14 or 15 years ago to the end of the 1990s let me remind you, gold had gone down in value to a 22 year low. That means that those who had purchased gold close to their retirement as a sure bet in the late 1980s, for the intervening 22 years of their life, they would have seen their savings drop by 69%. If someone had saved 100 thousand dollars and purchased gold with it in the late 1980s, at the end of the 22 years, provided that they hadn’t touched it for living expenses, they would have had only $31,000 worth of gold by the end of the 1990s. If they would have kept their money as cash in a bank, they would have been far a head even while earning relatively low interest on their deposit.  I am sure with every drop in the price of gold during those 22 years; investors were told that gold had enduring value, that you can’t beat gold as an investment, etc. etc.  But the reality was that gold went from a high of over $800 per ounce around 1980 to a low of somewhere around $250 in 1998 and stayed there until 2001. That drop in value would have given us an inflation rate of over 14% a year for 22 years on average. The truth of the matter is that most of that 69% drop occurred in the first 5 years. Most average citizens would have experienced an inflation rate of 50% or more per year. 50% inflation for half a decade would have been devastating to our economy. Given this historical reality anyone can understand why gold doesn’t work as a currency anymore.

If we truly are thinking of social and economic justice then think of this. One percent of the wealth of the United States is controlled by 1% of the population. Murphy's golden rule: whoever has the gold makes the rules.

During deep recessions there isn't a lot of economic activity so interest rates come down to encourage companies to barrow and pump that money into the economy. That part of our economy is not working the way it should work. Businesses are holding huge amounts of cash on the sidelines. They don’t even need to barrow to do what they may want to do. Growth has stopped and many businesses have gone out of business. Ordinary citizens have gone bankrupt or had their homes foreclosed on or are upside down on their mortgages. The housing market, which would normally be the leader out of a recession, is still in very bad shape with trillions of loaned dollars are still at very high risk.

How did we get in this mess? We repealed a very important law called Glass-Steagall. Glass-Steagall prohibited investment houses from entering into the mainline banking business of lending to homeowners and small businesses traditional loans. Allowing investment houses, now often referred to as investment banks, into traditional banking is what created the mortgage crisis and destroyed our economy. It is Wall Street for the last decade and the Republican controlled congress of the Clinton era and not the Federal Reserve that screwed things up.

In conclusion gold simply isn’t a good investment right now since it is at economic bubble values, gold won’t hold its value over time because investors will abandon it so that they can use the cash from its sale to invest in something else that will be growing in value or proclaimed to have the ability to retain its value over currency, also, gold won’t be a good substitute for US currency because there just isn’t enough of it around to make it a practical currency. In order for our economy to work we need a money supply that can grow with the creating of money that happens naturally in a healthy economy. Currency that has no real commodity value such as paper and coin money is an ideal medium of exchange as long as the supply is controlled in the economy the way the Federal Reserve controls the entrance of money into our economy. We as a nation could reduce the swings of inflation and deflation of our currency by instead of only backing the US currency with the full faith and credit of the US government, we index the value of the US dollar to the cost of goods commonly traded between countries. This would enhance the dollar as “the” exchange currency by having the US government promise to exchange the US currency with supplies of goods on the index. This would make the Federal Reserve’s job a lot easier since heavy swings of inflation and deflation would largely be non-existent.  The Federal Reserve would only have to get close to what the money supply should be for that time period, but the index value would be the ultimate arbiter of the value of the currency. In other words sell your gold and invest in yourself and in things with which you have experience.  

Discuss

Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 01:00 AM PST

The Chevy Volt Punch List

by joelado

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Chevy Volt charging in front of Old Mazda 323 electric conversion

For those of you who are not familiar with a punch list it is a term that normally comes from the construction industry where the owner is allowed to withhold final payment unless the contractor fully completes items in the contract. The owner typically goes through the property inspecting it and pointing out this or that uncompleted item and adds them to a list and once those items are completed payment is made. The punch list I am talking about is different. In my Chevy Volt punch list the items I list are the items that I hope GM will improve in future iterations of the Chevy Volt over what I have in my 2011 Volt. I don’t have access to a 2012 or 2013 model year so some of the suggestions may have been fixed in subsequent model years, however, from my perspective as an owner of a 2011 Chevy Volt, if I were to buy a new Chevy Volt, these are the things I would want changed.

Number one on my list is that GM should offer the Chevy Volt with the shorter version of its front rubber air dam as standard equipment. I don’t know if this is offered in the new version as standard equipment, but when I purchased my Volt there wasn’t a shorter version option and that stupid air dam hits everything. I was told I could get a shorter air dam if I paid some money to have it changed. Pay for something that GM should have figured out was a problem just by driving the car around in normal roads? I don’t think so. The air dams length was a design problem that should have been caught early in the design/testing cycle and I shouldn’t have to pay to have it fixed.

Number two on my punch list is the radio connected to all functions of the car. This leads to this inevitable problem. You had a good night out and your favorite hard rock song comes on the radio, so you crank it up as you pull into the driveway.  You turn off the radio before shutting down the car. The next morning you get in the car and begin to drive to work. You realize that the car isn’t heating or cooling so you hit the climate button and BOOM!!! BULLS ON PARADE!!! fires out of the speakers slamming you back in your seat. If you weren’t awake before, you are now. Why the Chevy Volt has every button on the controls made so your radio turns on as well I don’t understand. Whatever the reason for this to happen, it makes driving uncomfortable. They’ve got to fix that.

Number three is the cap over the plug-in socket on the car. The cap on that thing never opens when you push the button on the door, and only opens when, if you have fingernails long enough and strong enough to do this, you push the plug button on your key fob while simultaneously jamming your fingernail or credit card into the edge of the cap and pulling. It seems to stick more when it rains. I said only opens using this technique, however, it also seems to have a nasty habit of opening while driving if regular keys happen to hit the cap open button on the key fob when it is in my pocket. It would be nice if the door were more motorized, then, when you get a charge door open warning on the dash all you should have to do is push the button on the door or your key fob and it will close by its self. Also, figure out what is making it stick and fix it. Please.

Number four on the punch list should be doing something about the traction control computer and its warning to the dash display. I don’t know if everyone experiences this but if my Volt goes over a series of bumps such as rumble strips, a series of painted lines or just a tightly grouped collection of cracks or small pot holes the traction control warning comes on and I loose my braking ability for a split second. This is scary and if GM is listening they should really look into this problem. I don’t believe it is anything serious or even that dangerous, but for driving control comfort it is uncomfortable.

Number five would be for GM to put a light in the charge port. This isn’t a problem that I have encountered often, however I have been in a dark parking lot where the lighting was coming from the other side of the vehicle and I struggled to get the car plugged in. I simple ring of LED lights would do the trick. Something to make the charge port more visible in the dark would be a big help.

Number six would be to add a flexible fuel option or just make all Volts flex fuel vehicles. Ethanol in agricultural regions of the United States are becoming more and more in tune with the idea of producing their own fuel from plant matter or biomass. So you see that more and more stations are dedicating a pump or two to E85, (85% Ethanol, 15% gasoline). I want to use as little petrol as possible and being given the option to have my liquid fuel backup be mostly free from petroleum based product would be something that I as well as many Volt owners or Volt owners to be would like.

Seventh would be to move the inboard internal combustion engine to the Atkinson cycle instead of the Otto cycle. The Otto cycle is the cycle that internal combustion engines use to work best as being a direct power source to the wheels. Non-hybrid cars use the Otto cycle. You press the accelerator and the added gasoline gives you more power and torque. However, the Otto cycle is far less efficient than the Atkinson cycle. The Atkinson cycle is designed for maximum efficiency. The engine would be set to operate at its most efficient cycle to generate electricity and therefore increase the miles per gallon the Volt would get when using the backup engine. The batteries would be used to smooth out the need for greater power when suddenly accelerating. GM said that they chose the Otto cycle instead of the Atkinson cycle because drivers would expect for the engine to change pitch in noise when they depress the accelerator pedal. This doesn’t follow logically since most of the time Volt drivers will be using electricity and they don’t get any audio cues from the nearly silent electric motor. GM, how about you give us the better gas mileage instead. If we needed to hear the roar of the engine we would have bought a car with only an internal combustion engine as its power source.

Eighth would be price. It seems that when GM offers prices on the Volt that are $6 to $10 thousand less than the current sticker price the Volt sells extremely well. I have written about how incorrect GM’s Volt pricing strategy is before in my posts here at EV World. A survey among first adopters put the optimal price at far below what GM set as its actual price. The price to have wide acceptance of the vehicle among general automobile consumers would naturally be lower than that. A price point around $34,000 before any incentives would make the Volt a best seller.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my Chevy Volt. I have driven home built and experimental electric vehicles for years before getting my Volt and the difference is amazing. The Volt is an electric car with no drawbacks of an electric car. I fill up for local driving maybe once a year, which makes me very happy. I have been able to take my Volt cross-country without batting an eye. For those not familiar with electric vehicles the idea of getting stuck somewhere without a charge looms large before they actually purchase. Once you get used to driving an electric vehicle range issues largely disappear. The Volt eliminates that barrier to purchase with its configuration. My Volt is fast, quiet and responsive. It meets nearly all of my needs nearly all of the time. It is comfortable, more comfortable than many ICE cars I have owned, and stylish. But my Volt isn’t a person and it can be improved. When I studied Japanese management the word we used to describe this was, “Kaizen.” It means the progressive long-term betterment of something or the continuous improvement of something or some process. As long as the Chevy Volt continues to improve it will have no equals. Thank you GM for taking this all important step in to the future, however,  Kaizen.

Discuss

Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 02:34 PM PST

An Immigration Story Revisited

by joelado

On May 25, 2006 I wrote a piece that attempted to offer the Democratic Party advice on how to handle the immigration issue. I titled it “Democratic Advisor: Immigration.” You can read it by following this link. http://www.dailykos.com/... .

In that piece I argued that the reason for our immigration situation was faulty law. Immigration through out the entire history of the United States has always been motivated by a desire for a better life. The idea that we only let people who have no need to come to the United State because they are financially well off is at odds with the fundamental reality of why immigration happens. Look to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty to understand how European immigration was viewed a century ago.

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Compare that to the immigration policy as it has stood for almost 60 years, which at times has become ridiculously stringent, practically forcing huge numbers of people without means to choose to enter the United States by illegal means.

Please read on. The most compelling parts of this essay are beyond the fold.

Continue Reading

Lyndon Johnson

http://www.youtube.com/...

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/...

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the Congress:

I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in that cause.

At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man of God, was killed.

There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our democracy in what is happening here tonight. For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government -- the government of the greatest nation on earth. Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.

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Tue Oct 02, 2012 at 05:19 PM PDT

Oil Alternatives are Now Necessary

by joelado

It seems that the same technique used to get a great abundance of natural gas out of the ground is also being used to get more crude oil out of, new and old, wells greatly increasing their production. The production increases by using Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking has put so much crude oil on the market that it has significantly lowered imports of oil coming from outside North America. In comes the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada. You would think that tar sands crude would finish the job on imports and the United States would be independent from sources of oil outside the North America continent. By a strange twist the Canadian Keystone XL pipeline crude isn’t bound for us. The entire thrust of the pipeline through the heart of the United States is because the company established to build the pipeline, TransCanada, failed to garner the right of way for the pipeline to be built from the tar sand fields of east Alberta across Canada (transcanada) to the west coast terminals in Vancouver, British Columbia. Not far to go compared to its travel to the gulf, but the Canadian environmentalist stopped them quite effectively.

The purpose of TransCanada was to get their tar sands crude to the west coast ports to ship it to Asian countries that will pay top dollar for it rather than sell it to the United States, which is now experiencing somewhat of a glut of oil and would not pay top dollar. However, having been blocked from its original plan the company decided that it would have an easier time going through the United States to Gulf coast terminals and perhaps sell some to the refineries there as a way to sweeten the deal. The oil companies and refineries at the same time got an idea as well.

The crude coming through the pipelines would not be theirs; however, a new market was growing around the world for finished refined goods that come from crude. They had all the crude oil they needed to produce gasoline for the United States from non-tar sand sources. They didn’t want to produce too much gasoline for the domestic market and thereby reduce the price of gasoline. However, if they spent the money for the extra refining needed to process the tar sands crude they could sell products like gasoline and diesel to the world at a margin well worth the investment. So the entire plan for the Keystone XL pipeline has been hatched and it doesn’t include lowering the price of gasoline in the United States. The number of jobs that will be produced that will be permanent jobs will be minimal. A few more refining jobs, some pipeline maintenance workers and maybe a job or two at the terminal connecting to the tanker ships where all this oil and oil products will be eventually loaded up and shipped elsewhere.

The increases in production will have virtually no effect on US prices for gasoline since they are being used to feed the increasing demand for oil coming from countries such as China and India. As more and more economies emerge from third world status into the global economy their increased demand for oil will drive prices ever higher. That is unless our United States elected officials work to prevent our excess production and the Canadian tar sand oil traversing our country, from being shipped overseas. To create the excess supply that will bring down prices we need for that stuff to stay here. (Not that I want it to stay here, I am an environmentalist. What I am doing is poking holes in the argument that we need the Keystone XL pipeline because it will reduce the cost of gasoline for American consumers.)

We can only effectively solve the affects of high priced gasoline in the United States in three ways, either a tremendous increase in domestic output of oil that creates a surplus of oil, or reducing our consumption significantly thereby creating an oversupply here in the United States, or that the we look at possible substitutes or alternatives to oil to moderate demand on oil by providing consumers choices. The first approach, increasing our domestic supply has happened, however, with exports our price dropping excess oil can be shipped overseas where the emerging economies will grow to soak up all of that extra production. The push to reduce demand is also happening. The government’s dramatic increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards has pushed new car fuel efficiency dramatically upward thereby reducing the growth of the demand for oil. The high price of gasoline has also dampened demand significantly and moved consumers to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles and less gasoline. Yet, these two major factors have not had a significant effect on the price of gasoline as of late, which is an example that oil doesn’t follow normal economic assumptions. There is greater than good chance that oil prices are dictated and manipulated quite effectively by individuals and groups who control its supply. In this case the third option, which is to find other ways to power our vehicles, may be the only true way to control oil prices. Unlike finding more oil, substitutes have a strong moderating effect on future oil prices because consumers can switch to a substitute if oil prices get too high. Alternatives or substitutes for oil provide a more effective competition. International prices can’t go up but so high since the height of their price depends on the height of the price of its competing alternatives. Remember if oil becomes more expensive than an alternative fuel then everyone will switch to an alternative to save money; that is if they can.

The three oil substitutes that need the fewest infrastructure changes for distribution are ethanol, natural gas and electricity. Unfortunately ethanol prices have risen dramatically in recent weeks because of the drought in western and mid-western states. Making ethanol a real alternative would also added demand to a commodity that is not used to the demand levels of crude oil. Shifting America’s motive power to ethanol will probably push prices up much higher and production would be limited by land availability. There are also ethical problems using a food crop to power our vehicles. Natural gas, on the other hand, has a very strong distribution network already in existence, it is in abundant supply and is far less expensive than gasoline. If vehicles were made to be multi-fuel vehicles, taking both natural gas and any combination of ethanol and gasoline we could be heading down the path of providing the vehicle owner with what the motive fuel arena really needs, which is a lot more choices in fuels. Electricity has the added advantage of being produced from a variety of fuel sources such as natural gas, coal, nuclear, as well as renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power. This variety keeps prices for fuels under control by distributing demand among a wider variety of fuel suppliers.

The ultimate solution to the oil price problem would be a vehicle that can take advantage of all three fuels. This vehicle would be a multi-fuel vehicle capable of taking advantage of gasoline or natural gas, or even liquid petroleum gases such as propane or butane. It would also be a flexible fuel vehicle able to use 100% gasoline all the way to 100% ethanol and any mixture in between. Ideally this vehicles combustion engine should be reserved to play a backup role as a range extended generator for an electric vehicle similar to the Chevy Volt and the Fisker Karma set up. In this way the owner could easily choose between fuels to the one that allows him or her to keep more of their hard earned income to use for other purposes. It is the other purposes that will spur the economy onward and upward.

All three fuels, ethanol, natural gas and electricity, when combined would provide choices to consumers and provide a moderating force on run-away oil prices. They would do that by competing with each other to provide the lowest price so that each can hold onto a share of the fuel market. There are other reasons for using alternatives to oil such as the lower impact on the environment and lowering our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Still, for strictly economic reasons, alternatives are now a necessary strategic response to preventing future economic hardships caused by oil price increases and volatility.

Discuss

Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 02:16 PM PDT

Not Your Father's Energy Thinking

by joelado

Energy is found in many, many forms, many of which we name and think of as substances. We often call things like oil, coal and natural gas energy. We call the companies that extract these substances energy companies, but these substances are not energy and the companies that extract these substances are not energy companies. Have you seen a shake-it-up flashlight? Ever walk barefoot on sand that was so hot it burned your feet? Ever watch a sail boat move across a bay? Energy is equal to the movement of your hand, it is equal to sun shine beating on the sand, it is a breeze flowing though the air. Energy is energy and it cannot be created nor can it be destroyed, it is merely converted from one form to another. We don’t loose energy as we use energy; energy becomes dispersed. It goes from being directed and useful to being spread out and less useful that is only if it is not contained or recaptured. This energy stuff is hard to understand because we have wrapped language around it that is more metaphor than a correct understanding of energy.

Movement is energy that can be converted into other forms of energy such as the movement of water through a water mill wheel moves the grinding stone to make flour. In a hydroelectric dam that energy is used not to turn a grinding stone but a turbine, which spins a generator to produce electric energy. In much the same way the movement of your hand in a shake-up flashlight accumulates electrons either in a battery or in a capacitor and then the electrons/electricity move through the light circuit and are converted into light. Movement = energy, energy = electricity.

In the hydro-energy cycle the sun heats up water that converts to vapor, vapor becomes less heavy then air and travels up in the atmosphere where its heat energy is dissipated. It eventually condenses back into water and ice around small particles of dust, once heavy enough it returns to earth in the form of rain and snow it collects in the streams and flows down hill by the force of gravity. We capture gravitational energy and covert it to mechanical energy as in the form of a flour-mill or in the turbines that produce electricity.

Let me break for a quick aside. Huge dams don’t have to be built to capture this cycle. It is money interests, politics and poor engineering that have given us the gigantic hydroelectric dam. We can do much the same energy capture by making small structures over various places along a river that allow the river to flow freely and yet capture its movement so we can harness the power of the hydro-cycle with minimal impact to the environment and without endangering wildlife and vistas. It is only poor engineering and shortsightedness by those involved that has given rise to the giant hydroelectric dam.

Have any of you gone on to your roof on a sunny day?  Were the roof shingles hot? Where did that heat come from? You are right. It came from the sun. We build roofs to protect us from the sun and rain. When the sun hits our roofs it turns sunlight energy into heat energy. That heat energy radiates through the rafters into our attics and ends up heating our houses. We spend energy mostly from burning substances to remove that heat energy from our houses through the use of air conditioners. Instead of fighting energy with more energy and pollution, why not use the roof’s surface to make electricity and hot water? Solar panels are one of the more benign ways to capture energy. They capture energy from sunlight and turn it directly into electricity. If not photovoltaic solar panels, we should at least be looking at using the sun’s rays to produce hot water. We use hot water everyday. Making hot water would also allow us to heat our homes through radiant floor heating. The sunlight energy is hitting our roofs anyway.

Ever go out in a storm and see the trees whipping around? That movement is a sign that there is energy out there applying force to the branches to move them around. What is making the branches move? Oh, wind, of course. Wind power makes sense since the wind blows trees, leaves and dust around. Why not put it to use generating electricity? Wind has been used for thousands of years as a source of energy. In farms across America windmills on top of towers were how farmers pumped water out of the ground for their livestock. In Ocean City, Maryland the trees are all bent over in one direction because most of the year the wind blows constantly in one direction. Going to the beach in the winter is amazing. All the flags are tattered because of that constant, heavy wind. I looked at the power lines stretched along the highways of the ribbon like islands along the coast coming from some far away power plant where literally tons of coal are burned every day to produce electricity for these sea shore towns, all the while there is wind traveling through and over and around the buildings. Thousands of watts of wind power only being used to provide the flapping motion in flags.

There are other sources of energy that have minimal environmental impact and have gone largely unused such as geothermal, wave action conversion systems, tide conversion systems, systems to take advantage of the steady ocean currents, harnessing the power of the jet stream and ambient temperature conversion systems. WE LITERALLY ARE BATHED IN ENERGY. As Obi-Wan Kenobi said of the force the same can be said of energy, "It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." We don’t have to burn a single thing to get useful energy from our surroundings, and converting or capturing all that energy and turning it into electricity, the cleanest and most universally useful form of energy, is a no-brainer. We can convert various naturally accessible energies to electricity and we can use electricity to produce heat, light, radio waves, microwaves, electron beams, motion and on and on.

The solar powered vehicles of the World Solar Challenge run for more than 30 hours during the race at average speeds greater than 60 miles an hour, powered only by sunlight hitting the surface of the vehicles. Thirty hours is only the length of time of the race however, these cars can travel continuously on the power of the sun. (Google: Xof1) What this proves is that we can make vehicles that can get their energy to move from their surroundings alone. This is quite a radical departure from our standard idea for transportation; however, it is one that can help us think of energy in a different way. It used to be that we couldn’t think of a vehicle that used anything other than gasoline or diesel. Then came ethanol first as a blend and then with the advent of flexible fuel engines vehicles that can take up to 100% alcohol. We have come to learn that there are vehicles that can be powered by natural gas and liquid petroleum gases like propane.  Now we have electric vehicles in the mix. All these things have merged to allow us to think of automobiles as possibly being fueled differently. Electric energy generation can be though of in this way as well, and there is where the connection to electric vehicles changes the entire paradigm. If electricity can come from renewable energy sources and electric cars use that electricity, electric cars are renewable energy vehicles. Yes you can power a car with a wind turbine.

Energy is found in many forms and much of it is convertible into electricity. In our human history we have used biomass (wood in a fire) to keep us warm when it was cold and to cook our food. Then we learned to tame animals and hitched rides on their backs. The grazing that the animals did provided the energy we needed for transportation. We discovered how to use the wind to travel over water with sails and later we harnessed the movement of water and wind for mills to grind grain. There we stood for hundreds of years until we discovered that coal burned especially hot and water expanded tremendously as steam when boiled. With that knowledge we powered the first industrial revolution, then came oil and we got another shot in the arm for industry. Then our tinkering with electricity led us on a different path. Innovations turned away from energy and transformed our world through the advent of the computer and access to information. The usefulness of electricity has proven to be far more world changing than any other form of energy however, we were still generating it just one step up from the caveman burning wood. Our thinking surrounding energy had not changed significantly for over 100 years. However, electric vehicles allow us to think of energy differently. For example, our breaking systems in cars had not evolved that much from pressing a piece of wood against a wheel to get it to stop and we referred to the heat energy given off by friction brakes as waste heat.

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Regenerative braking is part of that out of the box thinking that is opened up when we think of powering our vehicles with electricity rather than through internal combustion. Before stopping a car meant converting momentum energy into heat energy and transferring it to the air, now it means taking momentum energy and converting it into electric energy to slow down and storing that electricity in batteries and then using that energy captured through regenerative braking now in the batteries to over come inertia, which then deposits the energy in momentum energy again. When I look at the Metro rail trains around Washington, DC the most evident feature of their undercarriage is their huge disk brakes. When the all-electric trains slow down to stop at a station, part of the sound that you hear is the braking noise from those monstrous disk brakes. I look at those disks and think what an absolute waste. The Metro trains using regenerative brakes could help power the trains going up hill with the trains trying to maintain a controlled speed while going down hill. The engineers who designed those trains just don’t get it.

To get it you need to think of energy in a different way. For example, the idea of one central location providing the energy needs for a wide area, especially by using fossil fuels, when we think about it, should seem ludicrous. Nikola Tesla made the big electric power plant possible with AC power originally to move the energy harnessed from Niagara Falls to Albany, New York, but energy is abundant and all around us. We don’t need to do it that way anymore. The water movement in your pipes when you are taking a shower has energy in its motion sufficient if captured to power a clock. We see the heat of the day move Mercury up the thermometer, ambient heat turned into the motion energy of an expanding metal fluid. That expanding metal could push a piston that would turn a crank that would turn a gear that would spin a turbine that could produce electricity. When you start thinking out of the box like this, you discover that the number of ways to produce electricity from the energy around us are innumerable.

To solve the power plant problem we need to arrive at a more distributed or self generated form of energy generation. This new way of thinking of and capturing energy can be for all of us. It is only a matter of investment, smart design and strong political action.

Even if we don’t fully move to renewable and distributed energy production, when it comes to our personal vehicles, we can make a difference. Trying to wring out greater efficiencies, and lower and lower pollution standards out of millions of internal combustion engine cars on the road is ridiculous. As internal combustion engine cars get older they become less efficient and pollute more and more. It is infinitely easier to regulate and convert a single power plant then millions of power plants on our roads and highways. Electric cars, even when being powered by coal in a power plant are far more efficient then gasoline powered cars.

The renewable electricity that I purchase for my home also powers my Volt. The energy I put into my car when going up hill comes back to me when I am going down hill. The energy I put into getting up to speed comes back to me when I am braking with regenerative brakes. Energy is momentum. An object in motion remains in motion. Energy is potential as a rock high on a mountain about to be cut loose and travel down the mountain with great force and speed. Energy is the movement of wind. Energy is heat on a hot day, the movement of waves, the tide coming up and going down, the warmth that you feel when you hug your loved ones. Energy is sunlight knocking electrons around on a solar cell and those electrons traveling down the attached wire into a car battery where it can be used later to move the car through an electric motor. If we concentrate on what energy really is we can find energy enough for all we wish to do with it without ever having to burn, pollute, fight wars for, or pay extortionist prices to get at it. All we need to do is think of energy in a different way.

Discuss

Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 10:40 AM PDT

Strictly Rhetorical

by joelado

We as moderates and progressives have a hard road ahead. We typically can’t see why the right holds its extremist views. We can’t understand how a group of sometimes seemingly intelligent people could have it so wrong. The first thing that we are failing to see is that the Republicans have a packaged rhetoric that allows people who may have feelings about their President that they can’t or won’t express, at least openly, for fear of larger societal repercussions to express there vitriol. The Republican rhetorical package allows them to speak in code that expresses racial sentiments without being slammed for saying out and out racist things. The Republicans have used this basic leverage about the President being different to wedge in expressions about all sorts of issues that don’t fall in line with most people’s inner most beliefs, however, people use the rhetorical packages because it allows them to appose the President. So they latch onto the program language that is fed them by right wing media outlets. They have packaged response to use about everything our President has done or says that always turn it into a negative. They also narrow their information gathering to right wing sources, which we know are not news at all but an enormous grinding propaganda machine for right wing pundits.

The only place left for influencing people is through personal contact. This is where we fall down. We have nothing to fight the programming that people have internalized. We have nothing to reprogram them back to thinking about their inner most values. With the Republican party they feel they are the insiders. They say seemingly outrageous things, claim to believe the unbelievable and easily accept convoluted constructs provided to them my the Republican Party, all to justify their desire to bring back the world to a status quo that never was, where only white men earned money, held political office and the government never assisted anyone. The vast majority of the Republican Party is almost to the point of cliché, white Anglo-Saxon, protestant. When Republicans talk about “American Exceptionalism,” what they are really talking about is WASP exceptionalism. When the Tea Party says, “We the People,” the don’t mean all of us, they mean WASPs we the people, but add an M for males, WASPM. Woman are not invited unless they fall into some Stepfordian construct.

I propose that we develop our own disciplined rhetorical responses. Not so that we can act like robots as the right wingers do, but so that we can inject doubt about what the right wing rhetoric is really doing. Our rhetoric should be designed to correct the packaged dogma of the right-winger propaganda machine. Below is a list that covers some starting points in how we might respond. I am thinking that this will make little balls of confusion ricochet around the right wing minion’s minds and maybe, just maybe put enough confusion and doubt on what they are being fed by the pundits to alter their programmed attitudes towards their President. Enough, I hope, that they might start straightening out what they know with what they are being told and see the light.

Affordable Care Act
National Romneycare - Currently the right wing calls the Affordable Care Act Obamacare as a way to refer to it in a derogatory manner. To get the balls bouncing around you should refer to it as National Romneycare. “Oh, you mean National Romneycare?” Then you can explain that the Affordable Care Act is modeled closely after the program that Mitt Romney put in place in Massachusetts, with the people in that state really liking it. The question that would develop in their minds would be something like, Obamacare is National Romneycare? This will either move people away from thinking that Obamacare is really, really bad, or get angry at Mitt Romney for having created the germ of  Obamacare. The equation leads to a simple math that either Obamacare = National Romneycare = good, or Obamacare = National Romneycar = bad, but both work to our advantage

Read the Affordable Care Act - The right wing makes all sorts of claims that are not true about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare or better yet National Romneycare). The full text of the act is available online, go to http://www.healthcare.gov/... . Go to the link and search each untrue claim tossed at you and tell the person doing the tossing that there is no language that states whatever claim they are making in the act, since at this point none of them are true. (i.e. Muslims and Christian Scientists are exempt. No language about that. You can’t change insurance companies if you change employment. Nothing about that. Death panels. Not in there. Etc.) If they persist on claiming that these things are true, then send them the link and ask them to read the act themselves. Before you let them off the hook, however, tell them all about the good things that the Affordable Care Act offers.

• Provides coverage for pre-existing conditions.
• Lowers prescription drug costs.
• Allows families to keep their children on their healthcare plans until they are 26.
• Makes health insurance affordable for ordinary folks by reducing premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
• Gives millions of Americans access to affordable insurance choices through a new competitive health insurance market designed to keep costs down.
• Puts American families in control of their own health care.
• Holds insurance companies accountable to keep premiums low.
• Offers free preventive care.
• Prevents denials of care.  
• Provides for better chronic care.
• And adds a decade more of solvency for Medicare.
• Also, it reduces the deficit by $143 billion over next ten years and by $1.2 trillion more over the following decade; reins in waste, fraud and abuse, and it pays for quality care over quantity of care.

When faced with the word Obamacare say thank you Obama for Obamacare and then mention things from the list above.

Outsourcing vs. Insourcing

Hit on Global-Tech, the Chinese outsourcing company that Mitt Romney invested $14 million in.

Relevance vs. Romney being out of touch

Don’t say middle class. Say, “ordinary folks.” Don’t refer to the middle class, make it personal and inclusive. Use the word “us” to describe problems that the Republicans caused to hurt the middle class. “When the Republicans deregulated the banks it caused a mortgage crisis that hurt the middle class us.”
“When the Republicans deregulated the banks it caused a mortgage crisis that hurt ordinary folks like you and me.”
Using the words, “middle class,” just sounds like you are talking about somebody else. Don’t use it unless you have to. For special emphasis use “We, the people.” This makes it populist and popular. It empowers the listener and makes the speaker sound as if the speaker and the listener are united.  

Deregulation
It was the Republicans who damaged our economy and deregulation was the tool they used to hurt ordinary folks.  

Other things to consider
Run against George W. Bush and compare Romney to GW.
Run against all republicans and highlight extreme positions and laws passed around the country.
Bring in the Transvaginal Ultrasound controversy set up by right wing republicans in Virginia, or the forcing women look at their forced ultrasounds.
Run against the Tea Party in particular. Describe extremist views held by prominent Tea Partiers and compare them to the values of America or just put them out there and leave them there. Ordinary folks will look at those views and decide for themselves not to be associated with such extreme positions and such an extreme group.

I want to hear your ideas of what kind of language we need to arm ourselves with in order to blunt the rhetoric coming from the organized right wing machine.

Discuss

Thu May 24, 2012 at 09:36 AM PDT

National Plug In Day, 2012

by joelado

National Plug In Day will be held on Sunday, September 23, 2012, and is an unprecedented nationwide observance drawing global attention to the environmental, economic and other benefits of plug-in electric vehicles through simultaneous events staged in cities nationwide.

Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association are teaming up to plan for this effort, which will sound the bell through plug-in parades, tailpipe-free tailgate parties, test-drives and other grassroots activities.

The goal of National Plug In Day is to get owners of plug-in cars together with the general public. The general public can then talk to the owners of these vehicles and hear what the cars are like to live with in the real world. We are hoping that this will motivate more members of the public to consider a plug in vehicle for themselves the next time they are thinking of purchasing a new vehicle.

It is my hope that this year’s event move from being solely United States observance to being an event that includes many more cities in the U.S. and many international one as well. To make this happen we need organizers everywhere. The Sierra Club is offering assistance to what they call “City Captains.” City captains will be the point of contact for organizing the National Plug In Day event in a particular city.

Below the fold is an Email with contact information to get started.

Continue Reading

Wed May 23, 2012 at 07:30 AM PDT

You Might Be a Republican Tool if ...

by joelado

You just might be a Republican tool if ...

• You think Big Oil has our best interests in mind
• You think Health Care in the US is something everyone can afford
• You think Fox News -- is either fair, or balanced
• You think Corporate Raider Mitt Romney, actually cares about "creating jobs"
• You think that Jesus supports lying if used to defeat liberals
• You worship the idea of Jesus but reject all his teachings, like helping the poor, healing the sick and feeding the hungry
• You believe Ronald Reagan balanced the budget
• You believe the Iraq war was morally justifiable
• The only solar company you can name is Solyndra
• You're chaste on Sunday but doing the chasing the rest of the week
• You're secretly gay while supporting anti-gay legislature in Congress
• You think protecting Freedom and Liberty, means surrendering Freedom and Liberty ...
• You think the uterus, is the only thing worthy of Federal Inspections
• You think the government is out of place defending woman from rape but the government shoving a probe into a woman’s vagina against her will is OK
• You think that the quarter-billionaire graduate of Harvard law and business school is the regular guy and the modest, community-minded graduate of Harvard law school is the elitist snob
• You think jobs programs are wrong but vulture capitalists firing an entire workforce to give a few rich people millions is OK
• You support Super PACs having the right to freedom of speech, but want ordinary citizens to shut up
• You think any war is good since it puts money in your campaign contributor’s pockets
• You think birth control is an aspirin held tightly between Your knees
• You believe Mitt Romney saved the American auto industry
• You believe that Jesus was first and foremost a capitalist
• You think that all of the unemployed in this recession are just being lazy
• You think the government shouldn’t pay for food stamps to hungry citizens but should offer billions to oil companies
• You think that the government shouldn’t pay government employees to do government work but should pay contractors whose CEO’s get millions of dollars to hire employees to do government work
• You think George Bush and waterboarding got Osama bin Ladin
• You think Barack Obama is the result of a selective breeding program done by an alliance of far-thinking communists and Islamic fundamentalists back in 1961 to destroy America by getting us to elect a mixed-race kid with a funny name to president
• You think children should pay for their own health insurance by working as janitors
• You support the troops is by putting yellow ribbons on your car but won’t hire a veteran to work in your company
• You think the purpose of government is to make you rich while making everyone else poor
• You are going to prove that there is rampant voter fraud by committing voter fraud, but you get caught because you are the only one committing voter fraud
• You believe that W inherited a lousy economy from Bill Clinton and Obama's economy is all his fault
• You think the reason Republicans lose elections is because they aren't conservative ENOUGH
• You think Ronald Reagan would be elected as a Republican today

Kosac Jamess started this off with his post "You just might be a Republican if" http://www.dailykos.com/... on the Daily Kos. For me it worked somewhat but wasn't nearly enough. Jeff Foxworthy normally keeps this up for a long time, some times an hour. What I have done here is gathered up a bunch of these "You might be a Republican if" things from myself and others and I am challenging you to keep it up in the comment section. Don't put in comments saying you agree with this comment or that comment. We are all Kosacs here. We agree. The idea here is to think of cleaver and funny add-ons to the list. So try your hand at it. You might be a Republican Tool if...

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