There are times I have to chuckle, although this is not likely to be very funny.
The world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, appears to have cut both its oil production and export in December, according to the latest update by the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI), an official source of oil production, consumption and export data.
If you remember just days ago Saudi Arabia said they "would not allow" the price of oil to rise over $100.
Well, it's $105 this morning, and that's definitely over $100.
Just a week or so back I was in Orlando and paid $4.03 for diesel on the way home, and that sucked. A good part of the state is right near or at $4, and while we're 15 cents or so cheaper (if you look closely enough) that's up bigtime over just a couple of weeks ago.
Nationally, we're also up about 20 cents on gasoline over the last month, and that's not good either. But heh, we're constantly told that this won't matter to the broader economy.
In a word: Nonsense.
Look, 20 cents a gallon doesn't sound like a lot. But the average commuting car get around 25mpg combined cycle in actual use (despite the claims otherwise) and a whole lot of people commute 50 miles a day (both directions.) So this is about a half-a-buck a day per person in impact, which in turn works out to about $15/month.
There goes about a quarter or so of the so-called "payroll tax cut" you were "given" by Obama -- never mind that the tax cut is a scam in the first instance, as it simply removes money that Social Security will need down the road -- and soon.
It gets worse of course if gasoline keeps going up. If, as some predict, we hit $5/gallon gasoline by summer, that entire "tax cut" will be gone and more.
Commodity prices -- and the cost of living generally -- are always the brake on the globalization/devaluation game. If the fools at the White House and Fed boil you slowly enough they hope you don't notice, but few people in truth don't notice. Most are well-aware of what's going on in this regard; who could (honestly) miss the ramp in food and energy prices in their daily lives?
When you couple this with collapsing demand the lie is put to the standard "supply/demand" claims of many in regards to energy. The fact is that gasoline consumption has fallen dramatically in terms of gallons consumed, which says quite loudly that people are getting squeezed. As I reported with the retail sales numbers so is food at home when inflation-adjusted, which again strongly suggests that people are unable to buy what they want in the grocery store -- never mind that those retail sales numbers ignore population growth as well.
On this President's day make sure you say "thanks" to our fine folks in DC for refusing to clean up the mess in Aisle 3 after the crash of 2008. We'd be well on our way to recovery by now if they had -- as it stands, we're in for a world of hurt in 2012 and '13.
The two reactors at the San Onofre nuclear-power station near San Clemente, Calif., will remain shut down this weekend while federal safety officials investigate why critical—and relatively new—equipment is showing signs of premature wear.
The problem surfaced Jan. 31, when one of the units sprang a leak in a pipe called a steam tube, releasing small amounts of radioactive steam and tripping radiation alarms. Operators shut down the reactor four hours later.
The problem rests in the steam generators in these plants (they're pressurized water reactors.) These are sort of like a car radiator, except that both sides are in water (if you have a boat with an inboard engine you've probably got a heat exchanger that is much like this in the cooling system.) The steam generator has primary water under very high pressure that takes the heat off the nuclear reaction and uses it to boil water in the secondary side, which turn turns the generating turbines. The advantage of this design is that the water on the primary side never boils and it is physically isolated from the steam turbine equipment. Since the primary side water becomes activated over time (that is, it is somewhat radioactive) this prevents the turbine equipment from being contaminated -- at least in theory. A boiling-water reactor (such as in Fukushima) on the other hand has only one loop; there are advantages and disadvantages to both designs.
Unfortunately like a car radiator these tubes wear out and can leak. Due to the high pressures and temperatures involved the tubes are made out of a special alloy.
These reactors were shut down a couple of years ago after the original steam generators had deteriorated to the point that they needed replacement -- they were nearly 30 years old at the time and had reached the end of their service life. The replacements were made out of a somewhat different alloy that was intended to address cracking problems that had intermittently shown up in the old design.
But now, with only two years of runtime on the new generators, some of the tubes are 10-20% eroded and a few had reached 35%. This is important because the usual engineering standards allow for 30% erosion at which point the tubes must be taken out of service, and when about 10% or so of the total have been removed from service the entire generator has to be removed and either reworked or replaced. This is a rate of deterioration that is several times that of the original, more than 5x as fast as expected!
Mitsubishi Heavy made the new replacements -- the old ones were made here in the United States. Of course Mitsubishi Heavy is a Japanese company, but one wonders what the original source of the materials that went into that tube bundle actually was.
So here's the question: Was the choice of alloy wrong -- an engineering failure -- or was there a manufacturing and inspection problem responsible?
And if the latter, where did the materials come from that the tubes were fabricated out of, and exactly where did that fabrication take place?
I suspect that I'm not going to like the answers to these questions.
When you're being stupid, there is only more and less stupid -- that is, it's a matter of degree.
AKRON, Ohio - FirstEnergy will close six older coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland by September 1 due to environmental regulations.
Bay Shore Plant, Units 2-4, in Oregon, Ohio; Eastlake Plant; Ashtabula Plant; Lake Shore Plant, Cleveland; Armstrong Power Station, Pennsylvania; and R. Paul Smith Power Station, Maryland are the six plants that will be retired.
529 employees will lose their jobs, and in addition there will be further tax losses occasioned by the shuttering as well, along with all the pass-through economic activity (everything from lubricants to cleaning supplies to the paper for the copiers) that disappears as well.
Why? Because we're stuck on stupid.
We have an intelligent way to use coal for energy production. We can use it to power our cars and make electricity at the same time.
Instead, we should be using nuclear energy from thorium for our electrical generation in liquid salt technology reactors. These run at a convenient temperature to provide process heat to convert coal to liquids. And the best part of it is that coal contains thorium itself, so we get multiple benefits:
But heh, we instead want to remain stuck on stupid, and then "crack down" on emissions from these coal plants, driving them offline.
That's just fine provided you don't mind when there's not enough energy to sustain economic progress.
There's a better way folks.
Ps: Pickens was bloviating this morning on CNBC again. Please do look at a long-term natural gas price chart before believing that crap. Yes, it's cheap now compared to diesel, but now is not always the future, and in addition while we have quite a bit of natural gas (as we have quite a bit of oil) the question is why we would build an entire new infrastructure for something that will again become scarce and thus expensive in another 10, 20 or 50 years, when we can have 500 years or more of energy security. Pickens' self-interest in this is amusing, but it's bad policy.
Long viewed as a remedy for the world's dependence on fossil fuels a fraud upon the public, the solar industry is dimming as makers of panels used to harness the sun continue to fall by the wayside.
There, fixed the lead sentence for 'ya...
There is still light on the industry's horizon. Electricity demand globally is set to rise over the next few years, as developing nations gobble up power and suffer from power-plant pollution—a problem that solar can help alleviate. And as technology advances and costs drop, solar-panel makers can supply power without a need for heavy government subsidies.
Look folks, solar is an interesting idea but it's not economically viable. It requires ridiculous amounts of land to be dedicated to it and it only works when the sun is shining (obviously), which isn't all of the time. Industry and personal users, on the other hand, would like electricity to be available any time the switch is thrown. This sets up a rather serious problem, and that's before we start talking about money, which is also an issue.
Solar has never been viable without government subsidy, and that is unlikely to change at any time in the near future. If and when it does it will rise all on its own without a need for anyone to hand out "free money."
But the numbers do not support any sort of mass-investment on this technology. Among other things manufacturing is energy intensive and creates a pollution problem. We've "solved" that by shoving it in the corner (in China), just like we have with so many other things, but in fact that's a public fraud as well.
I'll be interested in solar when it is cost-effective standing alone as a peaking source. There it might indeed, some day, be worthwhile. But the competition for peaking plants today is natural gas, which today is also quite cheap. It may not be tomorrow, but today it is.
As a base load source solar is next-to-worthless as it simply is unable to provide energy on a 24x7 basis, and that's what's required in that role. Whether or not we like it solar simply doesn't pass the economics test as a prime energy source -- and there's nothing that indicates that in the reasonably near future it will.
Ps: The one place where solar does make sense is as a direct domestic hot water heating source, although a backup such as a conventional water heater is also required. This is economic if installed when the house is built or there is room for the required reconfiguration of the domestic hot water system at a reasonable cost -- which is usually (and sadly) not true in existing construction.
Ok, which political candidate(s) wish to pick up and run with this?
H/t: Abn0rmal on the forum, extended and fleshed out a bit....
Let's enact legislation offering an "X Prize" of sorts for development of old -- but new -- nuclear technology.
The award shall be open to any firm that has a corporate charter in the United States. The device shall fit three definitions:
The rules for the contest are:
That's it. Simple, harder than hell to "game", and we (hopefully) wind up with at least three and likely more entities and designs -- along with at least three such plants. With the exception of the prizes the framework for development and commercial use of the technology shall remain valid for future entrants and expansion. Assuming there are (at least) three winning entrants this should produce at least three working designs that have fully-laden construction costs of $2 billion a copy or less.
Do you want to both get off foreign oil (forever) and stop burning coal for electrical generation (forever)? Then this is what you support. Coal is an excellent feedstock for the Fischer-Tropsch conversion side of the plant (into synfuel) and it also contains thorium (13x of it in energy content .vs. the energy released by burning the coal directly for energy production) thus enabling effective replacement of existing coal-fired electrical plants and resolution of the "foreign oil" problem. We have enough coal in proved reserves to provide us with hundreds of years of energy via this path. We have sufficient thorium for literal thousands of years of power generation. And nothing prevents you from getting the carbon for the Fischer-Tropsch conversion from other places (such as the atmosphere in the form of CO2); essentially any convenient sources of carbon and hydrogen will work although the cost-effectiveness of any given source will vary.
Other than Bill Still (who has already announced his intent to support such a general energy paradigm) who else wants to solve our energy problems?
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