I’ve corralled a mishmash of rather preposterous short stories for the year end rant. This will be historic so be sure to pass it on to your enemies.
Case 1 comes from Engineered Systems Magazine or ES Magazine. I was catching up on my stack of trade magazines over Christmas weekend (is this sick or what? – but it can be about as entertaining as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). September’s “Case in Point” features an energy-saving project for Bangor Maine’s Discovery Museum, delivered by Honeywell. An audit was followed by implementation of cost-effective measures. The audit was completed in 2008 using the “Field Automation Service Technology” tool (FAST – I love acronyms – this is for real, theirs). Findings included the not-so-unusual deferred maintenance like plugged air filters and heating/cooling coils among some more capital-intensive measures apparently.
One of the measures was to install a dual fuel boiler burner to take advantage of cheap natural gas as opposed to $3 fuel oil. The results “dramatically impacted the museum’s bottom line”. The museum paid $2,732 for fuel oil in March 2007 and only $39 in March 2008. Well gaaaauuuullly! (1) fuel oil is stored in tanks on site so you can spend money on fuel when and how you want and (2) they switched from using fuel oil to natural gas. To ensure the savings persist, Honeywell was generous enough to throw in three years of service contract to maintain fresh filters. So what were the real savings??
Case 2 begins with the opinion guys from The Wall Street Journal noting that the EPA is regulating the bejesus out of heavy industry, and in particular the utility industry. This is to start in earnest after the first of the year, with EPA chief Lisa Jackson leading the way.
Starting in the midst of several salvos, the WSJ says utilities are being “forced to choose between continuing to operate and facing major capital expenditures to meet the increasingly strict burden[s], or else shutting down and building replacements [power plants] that use more expensive sources like natural gas. Either way, the costs will be passed through to business and consumers as higher rates, which is the same as a tax increase.” My major problem with this is the usual case of government making things more expensive for the private sector, and guess who takes the beating? It won’t be the government.
But even more bizarre and fishy smelling is a bunch of utility CEOs cheering on the EPA in a letter published in response to the Journal’s rant – like this will be good for their business. They say that “Contrary to the claims that the EPA’s agenda will have negative economic consequences, our companies’ experience complying with air quality regulations demonstrates that regulations can yield important economic benefits, including job creation, while maintaining reliability.” And throwing rocks through windows stimulates the economy and makes for carpenter and window factory jobs too. This doesn’t pass the laugh test.
In the latest shot, the Journal points out the agenda driving the do-gooders – higher prices driven by other utilities as noted above, but the higher expenses don’t apply to certain utilities that are heavy in nukes. This makes perfect sense.
A strong word of advice for these CEOs: play with the devil (U.S. Government) and you WILL get burned by command and control coming from Washington. It’s only a matter of time before you will be looking down the long barrel yourselves.
Case 3, just in time for the warmer weather, airport snow removal by heated pavement! OMG! Of all the insane ideas, including air conditioning in 19 soccer stadiums in Qatar, manmade islands in Abu Dhabi and indoor ski slopes and ice rinks in the Marina Mall, this one tops them all. Calculating the heat loss would melt a mortal Hewlet Packard RPN calculator. Larger airports in cold climates, like MSP and ORD would require a small star (like our sun) to keep the concrete above freezing in worst-case weather. And per my crude calculations, ORD has roughly 14 miles of runway that would take roughly a half million cubic yards of concrete alone (this is from me, a civil engineering / aviation zero). This doesn’t include tarmacs or the infrastructure like underground rivers of antifreeze required for heating. And just think of the disruption.
This is a really bad joke for an idea. Intervention by someone with a brain may be required. This comes from people who throw the number “trillion” around like it equals 10 million. I forget where/who I was listening to but they didn’t use the word “trillion”. They used “thousand billion” in it’s place – much more effective.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP