The Ergosphere
Monday, February 27, 2006
 

Test

I'm trying to see if Yahoo photos will let me link to images.  Here's a diagram I was going to post to "Going negative".

Thank you for your forebearance.

 
Sunday, February 26, 2006
 

Just FYI

Ford's ad for the hybrid Escape (reachable from the link at the top, sometimes) is interesting for what it does NOT say.  I didn't find performance or towing capacity in the specs.

But a little bird told me they're paying really well for each click-through.

UPDATE:  Thanks, folks.  I hope to share that with some of you someday.

 
Saturday, February 18, 2006
 

Tasteless. Offensive. Funny as all get out.

I laughed out loud as I looked at this (warning:  offensive to Christians).

What do you bet that nobody ever produces a Mohammed version?

UPDATE:  Also have a look at this Flash movie about Exxon-Mobil.

 
Friday, February 17, 2006
 

Out of town on rails

The question

Regular readers here will remember that I've pointed to and occasionally discussed the Blade Runner road/rail truck concept.  Well, it came up again in an e-mail discussion the other day (the fruits of which might appear elsewhere).  I pointed out that even a doubling of truck fuel economy over the next 14 years would only cut total consumption by 34% if road mileage continues to increase by even 2% per year; if we could double economy AND switch 60% of mileage to modes which don't burn any fuel, we could increase the savings to 74% *.  I got the following response, which I should have anticipated:

> The question is, CAN we move 60% of that mileage to modes
> which run on electricity in 14 years?

Not having an answer ready meant that I hadn't done my homework.  Better late than never; I went directly to the BTS1 to check it out.  Here's what I came back with:

The roads

In 2003, there were 3,974,1072 miles of highway in the USA, of which about 46,500 miles was interstates3.  The total urban free/expressways (interstates and other) came to 24330 miles; rural interstates are another 32048 miles (total 56378 for all freeways), and other rural arterials come to 97039 miles.

The vehicles

The same year, combination trucks (semi-trucks and vehicles with trailers) travelled 140,160 million miles4.  I could not find the mileage breakdown for this category.

What it takes

Commercial trucking in general seems to have more detailed statistics available5.  Commercial trucks travelled 215,884 million miles in 2003; we're looking for 60% of that, or about 130,000 million vehicle-miles.  Urban and rural interstates accounted for 86,692 million vehicle-miles (almost 2/3 of the target), leaving about 43,000 to go.  Other urban streets account for 58,830 million vehicle-miles, but we probably can't convert lanes of surface roads to electrified rail (save for dual-use, like trolley cars?) so it's questionable how much of that could be electrified.  On the other hand, short hauls away from an electrified artery could be driven on power from flywheels or batteries; this may not be hopeless.  Rural arteries tend to be less heavily travelled (otherwise they wouldn't be rural) and do not account for as much fuel use per mile of road as urban ones.

Electrification of the urban arteries would be best for eliminating diesel emissions in densely populated areas.  This is a two-fer.

What it might cost

It all comes down to money.  Adding two lanes of electrified rail to all interstates and urban free/expressways means ~113,000 lane-miles of rail3; that covers about 40% of all truck vehicle-miles.  Covering the most-travelled 50% of urban truck routes means another ~59,000 lane-miles of rail (plus overhead wires) in urban areas, getting at least half of the remaining 43,000 million vehicle-miles.  Power from flywheels or batteries could make fuel-free, zero-emission jaunts from the main lines to destinations, maybe getting the balance.  It would be close regardless.

This scheme would have a total of about 172,000 miles of rail.  If we could build that out at 20,000 lane-miles per year we'd have it in about 8.5 years.  There's almost 4 million miles of road in the total system3, and rebuilding it every 20 years means at least 200,000 miles of road (much of it 4- and 6-lane) per year.  This looks feasible to start by 2010 and have finished by 2020, with time to spare.  At $2.4 million per lane-mile, the capital cost would be about $270 billion or about $35 billion per year.

Note that this does not include the simple expedient of throwing rails back onto unused rights-of-way and running trucks on it.

What it might save

"Combination trucks" burned about 27 billion gallons of fuel in 20036.  60% of this is 16.2 billion gallons.  At $2.50 per gallon, it would cost $40.5 billion per year; substitution of electricity at 1.5 kWh/mile and 10 cents/kWh (including savings from lower rolling resistance of rail) would cost 19.5 billion dollars per year, for a gross savings of $21 billion/year for energy.  The investment would pay off in about 14 years, not including lower expenditures for pollution control, health, and other external costs of petroleum consumption in general and diesel fuel in particular.  If trucks other than "combination trucks" could use the rail/electric system it would pay off faster, and any increase in fuel prices would do the same.

Note that rail moved about 1/3 more ton-miles of freight in '03 than trucks did7, while consuming only 3.8 billion gallons of fuel8 to trucks' almost 38 billion gallons9.  The more we can make trucks like rail (and efficient as rail), the more we can ship without burning fuel.

Footnotes

* A 2% per year increase in vehicle-miles compounded over 14 years comes to 32%, or 132% of the original.  If fuel per mile is cut in half, fuel consumption falls to 66%, or a 34% decrease.  Slashing another 60% off the fuel consumption by replacement with e.g. electricity cuts the net fuel consumption to 26.4% of the original, or a 74% decrease despite a 32% increase in vehicle-miles. (back)
[1] http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/index.html (back)
[2] http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/html/table_01_01.html (back)
[3] http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/html/table_01_05.html (back)
[4] http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/html/table_01_32.html (back)
[5] http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/html/table_truck_profile.html (back)
[6] http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/html/table_04_05.html (back)
[7] http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/html/table_01_46b.html (back)
[8] http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/html/table_04_17.html (back)
[9] http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/html/table_04_05.html (back)
 

 

Payback time

One of the major issues of energy policy is EROEI, Energy Return On Energy Invested.  If something consumes more energy than it produces (without some other advantage like portability or compatibility), it isn't worth using.  The greater the EROEI, the better the investment.

Some investments use energy to produce on-going savings.  These have to be measured by a different standard; the investment is up front but the return is over a span of time, so both the rate and duration of the return are important.  The payback may be measured in months to decades.  This complicates matters.  (Fiscal rather than energetic payback is a further complication; prices of some forms of energy are rising faster than the discount rate, which makes future returns more valuable than today's investment rather than less.  I will not try to analyze the price of energy and will restrict this to physics rather than economics.)

The housing stock of the USA varies in efficiency with some of it being fairly good and some being notoriously inefficient (early houses with balloon framing and no insulation, or the cheap stock built in the 1960's being examples).  If these buildings are to be updated, the energy invested in the process must be returned during the remaining lifespan and the faster the better.  But how do you measure either the return or the investment?

When in doubt, guesstimate.  It usually gets to the ballpark, and guesstimates can be refined when you get more data.

The standard for residential construction used to be the exterior wall with 2x4 studs (actually 3-1/2 inches thick) on 16-inch centers with fiberglass insulation and skins of plywood outside and sheetrock inside; it was rated at a nominal R-111, with its actual insulating value being quite a bit lower due to thermal bridging via the studs.  The typical wall actually gets about R-9 per various authorities.  The question becomes, if we have such a wall and want to reduce our net energy consumption, what is the best thing we can do to it?

Insulate the living daylights out of it, of course.  I did some calculations of the heat loss of an unimproved 2x4 stud wall versus the improvements which could be added by re-skinning the house with various thicknesses of solid foam insulation.  (I also just, as in Thursday night, made a pass through Home Depot to check current retail prices and the R-values claimed for the materials.)  If the foam monomer is produced from natural gas and the efficiency of production (weight of foam per weight of gas) is 50%, this table sums up what I got for extruded polystyrene (not beadboard) foam insulation:

Base insulation R-value: 9








Insulation value, R/inch 5








Insulation weight, lb/ft3 1.5








Mfgr efficiency, % 50








Heating value of nat. gas, BTU/lbm 23875































Foam thickness, inches 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Foam weight, lbm/ft2 0 0.13 0.25 0.38 0.5 0.63 0.75 0.88 1

Wall R-value 9 14 19 24 29 34 39 44 49
Heating degree-days
Heat loss per square foot of wall, BTU/year
2000
5333 3429 2526 2000 1655 1412 1231 1091 980
3000
8000 5143 3789 3000 2483 2118 1846 1636 1469
4000
10667 6857 5053 4000 3310 2824 2462 2182 1959











Heating degree-days

Energy payback time, years
2000

3.13 4.25 5.37 6.49 7.61 8.73 9.85 10.97
3000

2.09 2.84 3.58 4.33 5.07 5.82 6.57 7.31
4000

1.57 2.13 2.69 3.25 3.81 4.36 4.92 5.48

Types of foam insulation

Polyisocyanurate board is a better insulator than extruded EPS (about R-6.5/inch after aging compared to R-5) and weighs about 2 lbs/ft3 to XEPS's 1.5.  This makes it roughly equal in insulating value to an XEPS board 4/3 as thick; 6 inches of polyisocyanurate is almost exactly equivalent in insulating value to 8 inches of XEPS.  They are also amazingly close in retail price; the optimum cost XEPS board was $17.64 for 4 cubic feet (4 foot by 8 foot by 1.5 inches, R-7.5) while the best-buy polyisocyanurate was $12.34 for 2.67 cubic feet (4 foot by 8 foot by 1 inch, R-6.5).  The polyisocyanurate is very slightly cheaper for the same insulating value, at least in quantity 1.  Which one you'd choose for a given installation would depend more on the immediate price situation and other details (like property taxes from increased "square footage") rather than the specific R-values.

Spray-on urethane does not appear to be even remotely competitive for similar applications.  The kits I found cost around $700 for 50 cubic feet of foam, roughly $14 per cubic foot.  The insulating value is not good enough to justify this cost, but it can be used where rigid board cannot.  Since it is incommensurable with the other two types I will not consider it further.

I did some research on the synthesis of styrene (the monomer for polystyrene) and found that it's derived more from coke-oven products than petroleum per se.  It appears that the raw material for polystyrene may not be affected much by shortages of natural gas or oil.  I had difficulty even finding the molecular structure of isocyanurate monomer (see here), though the nitrogen-carbon ring at the center looked unusual to me; I did not find any hints regarding the typical raw materials for its manufacture.

The payoff

As you can see, the calculated energy payback from the invested fuel is very good; even 8 inches of foam takes a mere 11 heating seasons to pay back its energy of manufacture in an area with 2000 heating degree-days, and just 5 and a half where it's cold enough to make 4000 degree-days.  Unfortunately, the fiscal payback is nowhere near as attractive.  Slapping R-40 of XEPS onto a wall costs roughly $2.94/ft2; under the most severe climactic conditions it would only save about 8700 BTU/year, or 0.087 therms.  If the price of natural gas rises to $1.50/therm it would take over 22 years to pay for itself, exclusive of the cost of structural skins and re-siding.  Even at today's low interest rates, this is not a very attractive investment.  Half that thickness (4 inches, R-20) would save about 11¢/ft2/year at a cost of $1.47/ft2; this would pay off in a bit over 13 years.  At current interest rates, this is moderately attractive.  Greater levels of insulation may pay off faster if combined with a smaller, cheaper heating plant or other economies made possible by the reduced heating load, and tax deductibility of mortgage interest versus operating expenses also adds a bias towards insulation.  This is not a simple calculation.

Conclusion

On a straight EROEI basis, retrofits of foam insulation appear to be a very good investment.  Even the thickest (near-superinsulation) applications will pay off the chemical energy invested in them many times over the life of the structure, and in just a few years in the coldest climates.  The fiscal payback is not nearly so attractive even for the raw materials sans installation costs (at least at retail), unless other factors are considered.

Footnotes:

1. R-value is a measure of resistance to heat transmission, in feet-squared hours degrees-F per BTU.  Divide the temperature difference by the R-value, and you get the heat transmission in BTU per square foot per hour.  The R-value is 1 over the U-value, and vice versa. (back)

 
 

Ergosphere subject index, 2005

Administrivia

June 29:  Change log

July 21:  Tag, you're it
July 21:  Stupid Blogspot tricks

August 9:  Cheers and raspberries

October 21:  New sidebar item: the post queue
October 23:  Ch-ch-ch-changes
October 27:  Seeing what I have not seen before

November 8:  Yes, I don't write enough

December 20:  Sapping energy
December 28:  More Blogger idiocy

Biofuels

June 15:  June biomass roundup

July 1:  THERE's a surprise
July 24:  The money-grubbing mendacity of the ethanol lobby

September 4:  The ethanol mirage
September 5:  Ethanol Mirage II
September 24:  Anatomy of a press release

October 24:  Grass power revisited

December 23:  What can you do with 1.3 billion tons?

Carbon sequestration

July 7:  Going negative

December 31:  The Weyburn option

Chemistry

February 24:  One small step for carbon

June 29:  Zinc: Miracle metal?

December 12:  Meet you halfway

Cogeneration

January 14:  Getting it done

March 17:  Cogeneration @ home
March 20:  I'm sure you knew this already
March 20:  Throw it back

August 19:  A bite-sized cogeneration example

December 28:  Cogeneration could have come to the rescue

Conservation

August 13:  Immediate responses

October 7:  Immediate responses: revive the PNGV

November 13:  Do the math
November 15:  Peak what?
November 16:  Good Gulf

December 20:  Think globally, take care of yourself

Efficiency

October 27:  From bad to worse

Misc

January 10:  News Briefs

February 19:  The Ergosphere turns 1

March 2:  Checking the shelf
March 4:  Read the whole thing
March 14:  Today's chuckle

April 6:  What side are they on?
April 10:  How to be pathetic

May 13:  A list of don'ts.

June 3:  Comment policy

July 12:  Why people still buy Microsoft

August 2:  It's about time
August 9:  Bad writing, bad thinking
August 9:  Quote w/o comment

September 1:  My goal is... to be hated?
September 3:  Re-thinking New Orleans

September 26:  Quote without comment

October 28:  Quote without comment

November 16:  You just can't talk to some people
November 16:  Quote without comment
November 30:  Ruminations of a restless mind

National interest

October 31:  Alternative energy is civil defense

December 1:  AE is civil defense, redux

Nuclear

April 29:  It's (a) mine!

June 13:  SMH: anti-nuke propaganda organ?

Paradigm shifts

July 19:  Super-cooled

Politics

April 29:  It's all gas

June 17:  Dare we call it treason yet?
June 21:  The grand delusion

July 31:  Triage

September 2:  Hurricane-force incompetence
September 10:  Beyond outrageous

October 2:  Sounds much too familiar
October 14:  Best thing SinceSlicedBread
October 24:  Republicans to lose Red America?

November 16:  The MSM doesn't care about ballot-box stuffing
November 30:  DRIVE THAT POINT HOME!

December 13:  Someone has way too much free time
December 14:  Kos-ternation
December 16:  An allegory
December 20:  And a day before solstice, too
December 21:  Target: sugar producers
December 28:  Denialists and echo chambers

Reference

May 12:  The glossary

September 8:  FAQ

December 21:  The Reference Library

Rigor

May 24:  Getting down to earth
May 30:  Not enough science fiction

November 9:  Unit analysis
November 11:  Solar snake oil

Scribblings

September 24:  Scribblings for September 2005

October 26:  Scribblings for October 2005

Solar

Sustainability

June 3:  Fertilize this!

June 9:  Walking the walk
June 11:  Dropped balls

July 27:  Why hydrogen is no route to renewables

August 10:  Petroleum independence as a growth engine

September 10:  A lever and a place to stand

November 9:  Starting the cycle
November 20:  The triumph of exurbia

Transportation

June 19:  Post-oil airliners
June 22:  A post-oil vacation
June 25:  Do hybrids require subsidies?

December 22:  The next domino falls

(per)Verse

September 26:  My home page
September 28:  Verse: Everyman

Wind

March 31:  Forty-two

October 30:  A reconception of marine power

 
 

The Ergosphere turns 2, and open thread

Okay, enough of all the flattery.  Tell me what you really think.

And not just about the blog.  What's on your mind?  Yeah, you.

 
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
 

Better than chocolate

Blogging is a very human activity.  There's dry facts, wet blankets, gut-busting humor, warm camaraderie, hot flamage, cold hostility... the full spectrum.  And then there are the things that make your day.

The following is the "mystery letter" I received last Thursday.  I could have posted it sooner, but for a blogger whose raison d'etre is to promote ideas it looked like it arrived just a few days early.  I'm sharing it with the gracious permission of the author, jffchrstn at netscape dot net (who I hope will document and pass on his plans!).

I have meant to write you for a while now and give you my appreciation for being a voice of possibilities of a different energy future. In finding your posts on the Oil Drum and reading your blog you have inspired me to quit wringing my hands and standing like a deer in the head lights. I am moving forward on finishing my Super insulated retrofit of my great grandmother's farm house and incorporating a combined heat and power unit powered by biomass gasification. The figures you site of different energy sources and your methodology of harnessing those have taught me to look closer at trying to manage the entropy of a fuel source through prioritized utilization and by the best efficiency means. And not to be narrow sighted on ones vision of energy generation and fuel type to the exclusion of better possibilities or combinations.

My original plan for this house has evolved over the years. As I have gained more knowledge and skills my progress slowed because of my uncertainty in my original assumptions. But now I have been gaining a renewed drive and will finish the mechanical portion in the coming months. I want to thank you again. My expanded goal now is that I may help my neighbors and community as the time comes closer to Peak Oil and how that plays out for civilization in the coming years. My fear is that I will not have enough time and money to start and finish all the projects I feel will be necessary to have working and documented. I feel these projects will help me and family live a good life and that I will be able to show others and pass on the theory and plans so that they can copy them and pass it on. I guess this is my version of investment for retirement planning. I will not bore you with a bunch of details of these projects unless you're interested but I would like to ask you if I run into a technical or theory problem if I may call upon you for an opinion or be pointed in a direction to find what I may need. I have not found anyone in my local area that has much of a technical interest in alternative energy let alone someone who could be a mentor. I am always amazed how near sighted and biased people can be in the face of empirical data and the shear denial when you try and extrapolate a future. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read and or respond to this letter.

Jeff Christian

It's everything I was hoping for when I kicked off this blog:

It's the best thing I could have received:  knowledge that it all makes a difference.  (Without this blog, I am nothing.)

Of course, any area where I have knowledge - or where the readers here might - is fair game for questions.  If interest develops I may post threads for exchange of information; open discussion here has already brought up useful things, like pointers to data on the Listeroid engine family.

PS:  Friday is The Ergosphere's 2nd birthday.  There will be a small blog-flurry in celebration.

 
Monday, February 13, 2006
 

Friendly fire

The news Sunday carried a surprise item about the Veep hitting a friend with shotgun pellets in a hunting accident.  (The victim is reported to be in good condition.)  It appears undeniable that the Vice President forgot, ignored or never learned the first rule of firearms safety:  be certain of what you're shooting at, and never aim a gun at anything you don't intend to shoot.

Unsurprisingly, this has caused all kinds of action in the blogosphere and elsewhere.  I think this sums it up rather well:

While the event is newsworthy, I find it most interesting as a metaphor.  This administration is headed by oil men, and Cheney in particular is said by many to have no vision for the USA other than using ever-increasing amounts of oil.  As US production will never again reach its 1970 peak, this means more foreign oil.  Further, it means ever-more-expensive oil.

This means ever greater profits for the oil companies (and oil dictatorships which still have oil to pump).  This is Cheney's bird on the wing:  money, money, money.  But when he shot at the money, he hit the American public.

 
Sunday, February 12, 2006
 

Did you get the message today?

Today, February 12 2006, is the 197th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.  (Happy Darwin Day!)

It is also Evolution Sunday, a day on which hundreds of congregations nationwide (at this writing, the page says 441 in 49 states and DC) have "... come together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science."

That's only an average of 9 congregations per state, but it's a start.

 
Friday, February 10, 2006
 

Energy tax incentives

Here are some links (h/t:  Enviropundit) for energy conservation tax incentives:

Simply Insulate:  Tax info made easy.  Major information for existing homes, data for new homes not present (the site claims that IRS regulations are not available yet).

Tax Incentives Assistance Project:  Runs the gamut from new and existing residential to business to vehicles.

DSIRE:  Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy.

Department of Energy:  the horse's mouth.

(Also added to the Reference Library)

 
 

Quote without comment

Coby at Realclimate wrote:

...faced with the dangers that the best science warns of, based on very voluminous and consistent evidence, it is utterly unacceptable to say "prove it" and tacitly or explicitly endorse a "damn the torpedos, full speed ahead" social policy.

That's one hell of a gamble with something unique, priceless and not ours to damage.

 
Sunday, February 05, 2006
 

Hoping it will go away

I listened to the State of The Union address Tuesday night, and I was very disappointed in the initiatives for energy.  Bush's cronies got theirs; "more research" for clean coal (which others seem ready to build today, judging from the announcements of new IGCC powerplants), and more money for nuclear energy (which has a ten-year lead time and isn't going to start coming on line until a couple of crises from now).  Ho, hum.  He gave token nods to the things that can make a difference fast, and we need now:  hybrid-car batteries and wind plants.  Hydrogen isn't going to be a player for quite a few years, but he increased its already-excessive budget anyway.

With all this money devoted to far-off energy problems, it's significant that he didn't mention one which is looming very close indeed:  natural gas.  Prices skyrocketed along with motor fuel in the aftermath of the hurricanes, and they've not come down very far.  Gas prices have already caused much North American industry to shut down and move overseas, and homeowners have only been spared bills of mammoth proportions by an unusually mild winter.  Had we received the weather that Russia got, we'd have a crisis where we'd have to choose between heating homes, running business and generating electricity because there wouldn't be enough gas to do all three.

Despite the snow falling outside my window as I write this, it appears that we've avoided the crisis that a hard winter would have given us.  But warmth this winter is no guarantee that we'll have it the next, and gas is only going to get more expensive as gas fields get deeper and further out into the water.  Change will take time; if we're going to dodge this problem, we've got to act now.

What could we do in the next 10 months to make things better for next winter?  The simple answer is, anything that makes us need less gas between now and the spring of 2007.  Your summer peaking electricity comes from gas?  Turn up your A/C thermostat and use a fan to maintain your comfort level.  Re-lamp with compact fluorescents and save juice all year.  If you're going to update your windows, do it ASAP.  If you aren't but they're leaky, get some heat-shrink film and put it up as soon as the heating season starts.  Put awnings over the windows that get lots of heat in the summer.  Caulk all those windows and doors, call a contractor to insulate those walls, put another 6" of blown-in in that crawlspace attic.  Dial down the thermostat a few degrees (TODAY) and throw on a heavier shirt and socks; most of us will never notice the difference after a while.  Build some storm windows (I hope to post something on my own simple DIY model before the next heating season).

Notice anything in common about all those ways to avoid a crisis next winter?  Bush didn't endorse or even mention a one of them, explicitly or implicitly.

This administration is a mystery to me.  There are only two possibilties here:  it either recognizes this looming problem or it does not.  If it doesn't, it is grossly inept and incompetent.  The President was smart enough to ask people to drive slower when our gasoline supply was slashed by hurricane damage; this problem is exactly analogous.

If the administration does recognize this problem, its silence must be explained.  The less charitable (some might say cynical, or even paranoid) explanation is that the regime is run by fossil-fuel interests, and the greater the gap between supply and demand the better the price they'll get (or some other personal or political advantage); energy-dependent businesses and families be damned.  In my opinion, this is treason.

The more charitable explanation colors them pathetic rather than treasonous.  This explanation holds that this is a problem that frightens these big, strong people in Washington, and they've decided to hide and hope it goes away.

 
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 

Never another Sony

We interrupt your regularly scheduled energy blogging for a short consumer product rating and rant.

Some years ago, I bought a Sony Discman player.  I took it out shortly after I bought it, put a disc in it and went for a walk.  It didn't play right.  It didn't play right at home after that, either; it would get maybe halfway through most discs and then error out.  The same discs would play fine on my stereo, so it was the Discman.  That thing never worked; I was going to send it back to Sony, but I was so disgusted to have something fail right out of the box that I couldn't bring myself to write the letter.  I think I eventually threw it away.

Come to 1997.  I needed a cheap stereo with a CD player, so I got an Aiwa.  Seemed to work okay.  A couple of years later, it stopped playing some discs; it would error out.  Then it errored out on most discs; finally it stopped recognizing any disc.  Cleaner discs did not help.  I finally resorted to using my Panasonic portable with the car adapter to run through the tape player.  No CD player should fail in just 2 years; I said, "No more Aiwa, ever."

Some time later I saw a news item that Sony had bought Aiwa.  I remember thinking, "So now Sony is going to be the same kind of junk that Aiwa made.  So much for them."  And then, having thought it, I forgot about it.  (You see where this is going.)

Fast-forward to May 2005.  I was looking for a compact stereo which played MP3's on CD-R.  Looking through Best Buy, I found a number of things which had lousy sound, didn't seem to handle discs properly, or didn't work at all (the satellite-enabled boom box wouldn't play anything, or even function on FM; who were they kidding?)  But there was a decent-looking (if somewhat bulky for my purposes) Sony CMT-HP somethingorother with a 5+1 CD changer, and it played my MP3 discs beautifully.

The alarm bells should have been going off in my head, but I didn't remember in time.

The unit worked fine for the week that I used it, then circumstances changed and it wound up being put away for a while.  A few months ago I hauled it out again and put it in the computer room.  The MP3 capability was good, but I noticed something ugly about it:  the CD wouldn't hold its place on a disc if you switched away from it.  It had no resume feature at all; not only wouldn't it recall a position if turned off and back on, it wouldn't even hold a spot when switching to the tuner!  Somehow I'd missed noticing that it had crap software when I bought it.

It didn't do much except play the radio until my favorite station killed its music programming and I was thrown back on my CD collection for background sound.  This started getting repetitive, so I began hitting the library for new things.  This worked fine until tonight.  The machine hit the end of a disc, started its groaning change to the next disc....

And never finished.  And then it wouldn't eject.  Powering it down and back up wouldn't allow an eject.  Holding it face down didn't produce an eject.  It was holding two library CD's hostage, and wouldn't even acknowledge that it was malfunctioning; it just sat there displaying "CD EJECT".

What kind of junk omits basic features from the outset, then has a mechanical failure after just a few months of regular use, and has software so bad it doesn't even note its own failure?

I had to take it apart to get the discs out.  After liberating the library's property from its malfunctioning clutches, I had a choice to make.  I could put it back together the best that I could, and be paranoid about it doing the same thing again in a month... or tomorrow.

Or I could write it off as yet another Sony piece of junk that cannot be trusted with anything ever again.

I refuse to inflict this thing on anyone else.  The main unit is in pieces in the wastebasket.  I have absolutely bought my last Sony, ever.

 
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