Is Theodore Nugent Vegan?

14 09 2010

The EPA since the beginning of time, when I was born maybe, has provided city and highway mileage ratings for light vehicles.  Who among us users of the antiquated medieval English unit system of measurement doesn’t understand miles per gallon?  Who doesn’t know exactly what a mile is and exactly what a gallon is?  I would challenge you to rods, chains, cubits and ells.  My father used to estimate lengths in rods in the farm field.  All I figured out is that a rod x a half mile is an acre.  Very logical.

EPA to the rescue, again.  They are floating the idea of a precise letter grading system to replace the outdated and incomprehensible mileage rating system.  If they succeed with this upgrade, we dolts won’t have to understand complicated numbers and metrics such as miles and gallons.  It will be color coded too so for those of us without a four-year degree in English who have trouble with the complicated alphabet can participate too.  When reciting the alphabet, if I can just get past D, I can typically go the distance.  Once I get momentum, say around H I can usually rattle off all 54 letters – but the colors will take the pressure off my alphabet skills.

These letter/color coded flashcards are supposed to level the playing field so electric vehicles can be rolled into the rating mix, of course to account for completely different fuel mix than petroleum-based fuel and operating cost.  But the truth is, this is absurd and I’ll get to that in a moment, but it is also a political bone for the makers of “electric” vehicles.  Process, objectivity and simple mathematics are out the window.  Subjectivity and political pandering are unwelcome aboard.

Most people who are major electric vehicle advocates probably think they are emission free.  It is true if you draw your box around the vehicle, but the electrons need to come through the box from somewhere.  Indeed, according to a local dealer of electric all-terrain vehicles, they are emission free.  An electric ATV is probably the most ludicrous application for an electric vehicle I’ve seen yet.  Show me an environmentalist shopping for a camouflaged electric ATV to drag his lifeless victim of senseless violence out of the woods and I’ll show you Ted Nugent gobbling down “mmm mmm good!” tofurkey in a PETA ad.

I veered off-road there a little – cheesy pun alert.  Electric vehicles do reduce carbon emissions, barely in some cases, depending on the electricity generating fuel source.  With Wisconsin’s mix, an efficient hybrid or even diesel is most likely to have lower carbon emissions than an electric alternate would have.

So let’s examine the examples in the Autopia piece.   Apparently, if the vehicle is electric, it automatically gets an A+.

They indicate 100 mpg equivalent based on 34 kWh to move the vehicle 100 miles.  The 100 mpg equivalent is completely bogus because it does not account for electric generation efficiency, which is typically 30-40% on average depending on generation sources.  It is therefore more like 30 mpg, which is not surprisingly about the same as a decent conventional car – which is why the net emissions are about the same per our earlier analysis:  Electric Vehicles – Clean & Efficient. Oh no, the carbon emissions for this teacher’s pet are zero.

The other thing is that the driving range of the gasoline-vehicle is conspicuously missing from the second set of stickers.  The range of the electric vehicle is 99 miles, which of course looks like it is maxed out, all the way to the right, as high as it can go.  For the gasoline report card? – nothing.  It seems to me the range on the gasoline model should be about 700 miles, and that is generously low because it is set by the limits of the frail driver.  The machine could go for at least 7,000 miles maybe with periodic 5 minute refueling stops, until the owners manual says it’s time to rotate the tires.

The other perverse irony in this is that the cheap cost of operating the electric vehicle is largely due to the cheap fuel cost: of FOSSIL fuel and uranium.

In summary, take the benefits of inexpensive coal but not the carbon baggage that comes with it.  None of it!  Zero emissions.

As my JV basketball coach used to say, “if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, what a wonderful world it would be.”  Ice cream would have no calories.  Three quarter pound Penn State burgers from Sloopy’s, and fries with mayonnaise would give you six pack abs, bulging biceps and a year-round tan.  Dogs would always poop in the weeds where there would be no deer ticks and they wouldn’t shed or puke on the carpet, eat your favorite sandles, or scratch up the hardwood floor.  We wouldn’t need deodorant.  Teenagers would teach their parents how to maintain financial solvency and control every wild urge their former hormone-saturated bodies have.  Favre would retire.

written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP





Get a Grip

10 08 2010

As you may have heard, this year China powered past (cheesy pun warning) the United States in total energy consumption.  Apparently, back in 2007, they surpassed the US in carbon emissions.  This makes sense as almost 70% of China’s electricity is derived from coal as compared to just under 50% in the United States.  In the U.S., nuclear and natural gas make up most of the other 50%, roughly split evenly with renewable energy rounding out the 100%.

In recent years, or especially since President Obama moved into the White House, there have been multiple verbose incomprehensible cap and trade policies drafted, but they are dead for now.  By the way, I maintain my position that substantial nationwide carbon limits are not going to happen in my lifetime.  If it didn’t happen since Obama took office with a filibuster-proof senate and a large majority in the house, it ain’t going to happen anytime soon.  Why?  Democrat senators from Midwestern states where coal is still king (not that this is a good thing) and coal producing states like West Virginia result in filibuster, if not an outright minority.  E.g., Jay Rockefeller will vote party line on everything but carbon caps.

There remains one possibility, however – that carbon caps may be legislated through the courts, which of course is not how things, especially major things like this, should become the law of the land.  In one example, the EPA in 2007 was handed the power to regulate carbon dioxide because it is a “pollutant” per the clean air act.  Again, this is like declaring water, another vital molecule that makes biological life possible, a pollutant because water kills.  Recall, I wrote on the blog a few weeks ago you can die by drinking too much water.  People drown, to the tune of 400,000 deaths worldwide each year[1].  Floods devastate communities – at least $3 trillion per year[2].  Water causes lightning, which kills about 24,000 per year[3].  And heat wave deaths – always have a large component of high humidity.  Aside from illegal activity (human smuggling), when was the last time you heard of heat related deaths in Arizona?  You don’t.  It’s Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, Kansas City, Little Rock.  Water is dangerous.

You may be thinking, there’s nothing we can do about water.  Really?  How about banning swimming in rivers, lakes, and oceans and slapping $1,000 fines on people for not WEARING their floatation devices?  Move everything out of the 500 year floodplain.  Mandate air conditioners for every household and if you can’t afford one the federal government will provide one.  Sound familiar?  Thousands of lives would be saved per year.

The bottom line is, 98% of legislators are too cowardly to vote for the right thing, or wrong thing I guess, if it threatens their political career.

Sorry.  I got way off track.  I can’t help but railing against the preposterous.  Life has risk.  Is there anything, ANYTHING, worth doing if there is no risk?  There are costs and there are benefits.

Back to China.  China’s energy consumption has DOUBLED in the past 10 years while the United States’ energy consumption has decreased slightly.  For all intents and purposes, it’s been flat.

Here is something that will knock your socks off – since 1999, China has installed 416 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants.   “So what?”, you may be thinking.  A gigawatt is like a trillion dollars.  To give that perspective, a trillion dollars in $100 bills wouldn’t fit in a three car garage, tightly packed and stacked to the rafters Likewise 416 gigawatts can be generated by 832 large 500 megawatt power plants or 208,000 wind turbines by nameplate capacity.  This is eighty giant coal-fired power plants per year!!  And they have 330 more giant power plants on the drawing board.  Over the same period, the United States has built coal plants totaling 12 GW, or a measly 24 giant power plants.  China is averaging 80 per year, while the U.S. is averaging 2.4 per year.  GET A GRIP!

This is like giving Lance Armstrong a two day lead in the Indy 500 with his bicycle (he would be the US) but China has just taken the lead with the typical 225 mph Indy car.  It’s actually worse than that. It’s more like me running the Indy 500 versus the 225 mph Chinese Indy car passing me by.

In 2006, China generated as much electricity from coal as did the United States.  At the time they had 484 GW of operational coal plants.   Very roughly, they’re adding 10%, at least per year.  This blistering pace will fade with time, but it is fair to say they will have double the coal-fired electricity generation compared to the U.S. within 5 years.

Conclusion:  If we are truly concerned about carbon emissions and climate change, China has to do something.  The reality however is that whatever the U.S. can stomach will be of zero consequence considering the Chinese Indy car.  Unlike the floating continents of garbage that is choking the mighty three gorges dam and the 100 tons of benzene spilled in the Songhua River, carbon dioxide makes its way around the globe.  It doesn’t matter where it comes from.


[1] http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/other_injury/en/drowning_factsheet.pdf

[2]http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/floods-profile

[3] http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_history/intl_safety_initiative.html

written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP