The Ergosphere
Friday, January 15, 2010

Who will admit Haiti's real problem?

Even before the earthquake, Haiti was a disaster area.  Massive shantytown slums surround cities.  Deforestation runs rampant as people push into protected watershed areas trying to feed themselves.  Roughly a million people only eat due to the World Food Program.  And long before these issues came to the fore, Haiti was known for being a hotbed of HIV.

No amount of reconstruction will address these issues.  This means reconstruction is futile without looking at the underlying cause.

One major cause of Haiti's problems is overpopulation.  There are too many Haitians to feed on the land of Haiti, and not enough other resources to employ them; the result is grinding poverty and starvation only held off by massive food aid.  People who live in shanties cannot build to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes; the Dominican Republic, on the other side of Hispaniola, is notable for having no prominent reports of deaths or damage in this news cycle.

The obvious solution is a one-child policy for the nation, starting with free condoms.  Unfortunately, many powerful pressure groups in the USA treat any suggestion of population control or even birth control as tantamount to genocide.  This means the suffering cannot be addressed, and the escalation of every hiccup of Nature into a humanitarian disaster will continue.

We deny reality at our own risk.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Was Cadillac listening?

That was me, then:

A quieter car, which requires fewer trips to the gas station and can start its climate control at full bore with the flick of a switch (even a remote switch), is a better car and ought to command a better price.

And late last year:

The self-inflicted wound on GM's part is that the Volt is a Chevy, not a Cadillac.  A $40,000 pricetag on a Caddy isn't an issue.  The ultra-smooth drivetrain is just made for a luxury car.  Features like electric A/C are tailor-made for integration with OnStar so you can text the car from the country club or mall and have it cool and comfy by the time you get to it.

And this is now:

Cadillac unveils plug-in hybrid luxury concept car

DETROIT – They're calling it the luxury car of the future that will serve as a "personal headquarters."

It's the Cadillac XTS Platinum concept car, and General Motors Co. unveiled it Tuesday at the Detroit auto show.

Concept cars are displayed at shows to gauge consumer interest, and they often are the basis for future products

. The XTS, which can run on a rechargeable battery-powered electric motor or a 350-horsepower V-6 engine, has touch-screen entertainment, and navigation and information systems, GM says.

It's about time, Cadillac.  You could have taken the PNGV technologies under your wing and had this years ago, but you still appear to be first in the segment.  Leadership isn't a lost art in the USA. 

Now that PHEV is coming in at the top, it is time to exploit it for all it's worth.  Use the OnStar phone to turn on the climate control remotely, or text you when you bring it home and forget to plug it in.  Use the GPS nav system (Denso makes that, no?) to anticipate energy demand for things like long grades and charge the battery up or run it down accordingly.  Have it learn the typical driving of the owner and adapt to it.

Get a jump on Europe and Japan.  Show us what happens when luxury meets green.  Make a name for American engineering again.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The rot goes all the way to the top

From Bloomberg, via Yahoo:

Geithner’s New York Fed Told AIG to Limit Swaps Disclosure

Hugh Son Thu Jan 7, 6:00 am ET

Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then led by Timothy Geithner, told American International Group Inc. to withhold details from the public about the bailed-out insurer’s payments to banks during the depths of the financial crisis, e-mails between the company and its regulator show.

AIG said in a draft of a regulatory filing that the insurer paid banks, which included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Societe Generale SA, 100 cents on the dollar for credit-default swaps they bought from the firm. The New York Fed crossed out the reference, according to the e-mails, and AIG excluded the language when the filing was made public on Dec. 24, 2008. The e-mails were obtained by Representative Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The New York Fed took over negotiations between AIG and the banks in November 2008 as losses on the swaps, which were contracts tied to subprime home loans, threatened to swamp the insurer weeks after its taxpayer-funded rescue. The regulator decided that Goldman Sachs and more than a dozen banks would be fully repaid for $62.1 billion of the swaps, prompting lawmakers to call the AIG rescue a “backdoor bailout” of financial firms.

“It appears that the New York Fed deliberately pressured AIG to restrict and delay the disclosure of important information,” said Issa, a California Republican. Taxpayers “deserve full and complete disclosure under our nation’s securities laws, not the withholding of politically inconvenient information.” President Barack Obama selected Geithner as Treasury secretary, a post he took last year.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Revisiting Green Freedom

A discussion at Futurepundit which wound its way around to hydrocarbons produced with nuclear energy produced this comment, which really merits its own post...

I went over the Green Freedom overview again.  It's not specific about power and efficiency, but the figures given are no cause for optimism:  $4.60/gallon at the pump (page 8).  The investment of $9.6 billion for 18,400 bbl/day of gasoline is a cost of more than $500k/bbl/day, compared to $100k/bbl/day for tar sands [correction:  ~60k/bbl/day for tar sands, $100k for coal-to-liquids].

The hypothetical plant produces 5000 tonne/day of MeOH and reforms it to gasoline.  The HHV of 5000 tonnes of MeOH is about 114 TJ, while the LHV of 18.4 kbbl of gasoline is about 94 TJ (I am not sure such a high efficiency is realistic).  The daily generation of a 1.3 GWe nuclear plant is about 112 TJ, so the author's numbers appear to be off by a substantial fraction; they must be missing something, like the energy required for CO2 capture or losses in electrolysis and methanol synthesis.  The electrical figures they claim on page 6 are 55 kJ/mole just for CO2 recovery (after the credit for the co-produced hydrogen).  The overall electric energy demand is 410 kJ/mol CO2, so the power consumption for just that segment is 790 MW.  Each mole of CO2 requires 3 moles of H2 (CO2 + 3 H2 -> CH3OH + H2O) of which only 1 mole is co-produced, so working backwards from their 355 kJ/mol credit an additional 710 kJe/mol CO2 is required for another 1.37 GW.  The total electric power required is 2.16 GW, or roughly 1.5-2 Gen III nuclear reactors, not one.

It makes a heck of a lot of sense to compare the energy requirements and capital expense against alternatives, such as PHEVs.  18,400 bbl/day (773,000 gal) at 35 MPG is 27 million miles per day.  Putting 2.16 GW into PHEVs at 250 Wh/mi is about 210 million miles per day.

Suppose for a moment that we need to build and power a fleet of 10 million vehicles which drive 40 miles per day each.  These can either be Chevy Volts at 250 Wh/mi or next-gen Chevy Aveos at 35 MPG.  Fueling the Aveos would require 11.4 million gallons/day or 14.8 "Green Freedom" plants at $9.6 billion apiece, total capital cost $142 billion/year.  Charging the Volts would require 4.17 GWe or perhaps 4 AP-1000's at maybe $3.5 billion apiece, total $14 billion.  Building the Volts might cost an extra $8000 per vehicle (which will come down) or $80 billion/year, total cost $94 billion/year at the beginning and falling to perhaps half that over time.  Residual value of batteries is an unknown, residual value of the vehicles might be a lot higher due to the long life of electrical systems.

That's the comparison against other ways of making vehicle fuel.  How does it compare against other ways of reducing carbon emissions?  Using nuclear power to replace coal and NG so that NG can displace petroleum (a nuclear Pickens plan) is just as effective for GHG reduction.

4.17 GWe of nuclear power displacing coal at 346 g/kWh is 34.6 thousand fewer tonnes of CO2 per day; if it displaces NG instead at 206 g/kWh, it reduces emissions by 20.6 thousand tonnes/day.  5000 tonnes of MeOH contains 1875 tonnes of carbon, which would form 6900 tonnes of CO2.  Even on what should be its best point, "Green Freedom" falls short by a factor of 3 against diverting fuel to NGVs.

"Green Freedom" appears to be aimed at perpetuating the market for petroleum.  It isn't competitive until oil is around $150/bbl and the entire downstream infrastructure would still be built around hydrocarbons.  If you want to make the USA free of oil imports, nuclear-electric is much cheaper than nuclear-hydrocarbon.

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