This spring, the EPA will likely reduce the amount of corn ethanol that must be blended into our fuel supply by about 1.3 billion gallons (for a total of about 13 billion gallons) simply because our transportation system can’t absorb any more of it without exceeding a 10% blend, risking damage to cars. This is called the “10% blend wall.” Unlike beef, or chicken, gasoline, or smart phones, ethanol consumption isn’t consumer driven. In general, because consumers could care less about corn ethanol, fuel blenders also could care less about it except as an economically viable anti-knock additive in more modest quantities. They have to be forced to blend more of it by the government. Unless or until some unforeseen consumer demand arises, mandated blending will be necessary to keep the corn ethanol industry solvent.
And just as importantly, where is future growth going to come from? We can’t use all of our corn crop. This isn’t new technology. We’ve been making moonshine by distilling ethanol from fermented seeds and fruit for thousands of years. CONTINUE»
It makes little sense to be anti-solar energy in this day and age, although it does make sense to do it right. Even solar can be done wrong. Usurping farmland, forest, or pristine desert tortoise habitats for solar should be against the rules.
I was motivated to do this post by a rare, cloudless, 50 degree day in the dead of winter. CONTINUE»
Five Year Ownership Costs for a Chevy Volt
Like a lot of headlines, the one I chose for this article isn’t true. I borrowed it from a website I found in a link in another article called True Cost Of Owning A Chevy Volt Might Surprise You.
When I went to the same Edmunds Cost To Own website used by the original article and plugged in my zip code and quotes from my own insurance company, I found the following out-of-pocket expenses including purchase price after five years at 15,000 miles per year: CONTINUE»
I just spent two weeks on the Galapagos Islands. Their economies are driven almost entirely by Eco-tourism. Like the rest of us, the people of the Galapagos Islands are utterly dependent on affordable sources of energy for their existence.
As a result of a fuel tanker grounding and attendant oil spill in 2001, a consortium of energy companies from the G7, calling themselves e7 (created to bring renewable energy to developing nations), funded the installation of three wind turbines on San Cristobal, an island in the Galapagos archipelago, to minimize the amount of fuel that had to be delivered to run the generators. They also created a trust fund for maintenance and eventual removal of the turbines at the end of their twenty year life spans.
My youngest daughter is studying in San Cristobal. Her class took a field trip to the power station shortly after my arrival. I sent along a list of questions.
Like the Hummer once was, the Tesla is a status symbol (but for a different crowd). Considering its outrageous price tag, one would be hard-pressed to argue that it is a practical car for the masses. But that’s OK with me, because the Tesla is an ambassador for all electric cars through a process called “status by association” (which is what name dropping is all about). We are social primates… like it or not, status seeking is built into our genes.
On the flip side, it could harm the image of electric cars if this latest trend of catching on fire continues, or accelerates. I’ve looked into the statistics and have concluded that, to date, a significantly smaller percentage of Tesla’s catch on fire than conventional cars. Although, that could change with time. Two spectacular fires in almost as many weeks is not a good thing. A lithium fire with exploding batteries is something to behold and makes good copy. It’s also dangerous if the driver should be incapacitated. To date, no Nissan Leaf has caught fire. 35,000 Leafs have been sold in the U.S. compared to 15,000 Tesla Model S sedans. But that might change as well.
All conventional cars have the potential to catch on fire. A few years ago I ran over some bricks in the road that did $2,300 worth of damage to my car’s undercarriage and spilled gasoline all over the road. This Tesla caught fire a few weeks ago a few miles from my office. Just thought I’d share some differing perspectives I found on the subject:
“… a Model S collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle. The car’s alert system signaled a problem and instructed the driver to pull over safely, which he did.”
From the Kent Regional Fire Authority crash report:
”Driver stated that he hit an object in the HOV lanes of SB 167. The car started to run poorly and he pulled off the freeway.”
Before the Chevy Volt (a plug-in hybrid) went on sale, Volt Chief Engineer Andrew Farah openly acknowledged that the extreme temperatures found in the Southwest have the potential to permanently reduce the battery pack’s capacity to store energy:
“The Volt may not be right for everyone. If you live in the Southwest, depending on how you use your car, the Volt might not be right for you.”
So what is a manufacturer to do if a given customer’s driving habits consistently exposes his or her battery pack to excessively high temperatures in a place like Tucson, or charges it five times a day, or maybe applies a blowtorch to it? As it turns out, the answer depends on what the warranty says, not so much on what the owner’s manual warns you not to do.
This is a professionally rendered, engaging piece of filmmaking. It is as honest and accurate as any documentary you are ever likely to see, providing a much needed counter-balance to the decades of misinformation from anti-nuclear groups.
My review will be in the form of a critique of Ed Lyman’s review “Put Pandora’s Promise Back in the Box” (9) on the Union of Concerned Scientists and Citizens blog called All Things Nuclear.
Bosch has just entered the EV charging market with its simple 240 volt Power Max charging station for $499.00. Considering that dishwashers, clothes dryers, and hot water heaters can cost less than that, you can bet that the price for this small, relatively simple device will eventually be a lot lower. The Ecotality Blink charging station in my garage cost about $1,200. Neither is actually a charger. They are devices that interface with the charger carried inside the car. How fast you can charge with 240 volts is ultimately limited by the charger that came with the car. The difference is that the Blink station interfaces with the internet, allowing the DOE to study my charging habits, which is fine by me because they paid for it.
The Ecotality Business Model
Ecotality is also installing Level 2 (240 volt) charging stations in business parking lots. For now, charging is free but eventually you will be charged for your, ah, charge. I don’t see this business model having a long-term future. An analogy might be a company that designed a hitching post tailored for Henry Ford’s first car design (that looked a lot like a buggy) which might have seemed like a great idea by car and saloon owners until they realized you don’t need a hitching post for a car.
Click here to see a YouTube video of these turbines in action. The sound you hear is the wind blowing.
Any visitor to the dry side of Maui (where I am presently vacationing) can’t help but notice the wind turbines. Like all energy sources, wind has its downsides. There’s now a scar gouged out of the mountainside to create an access road to them, and at night the mountain has a series of blinking lights up one side. Wind farms are notorious for messing up natural vistas.
At first glance, it didn’t seem likely to me that they will kill many birds, and I’m sure they studied the topic well, but just seconds before I hit the record button to video the turbines at close range, a large flock of seabirds flew through my view finder with the turbines in the background. What a shot that would have made. The public doesn’t have access to the base of those turbines to see if there are any dead birds lying around. Hawaii already has a very large number of endangered bird species.