The Pixie Dust Energy Source – John Ransom – Townhall Finance

 

The Pixie Dust Energy Source – John Ransom – Townhall Finance .

Solar is the power of the future and the power of the past. What solar isn’t, is the power of the present. That’s because using solar power to generate electricity is expensive. Still. And that’s not going to change anytime soon, no matter how many political fundraisers are held by solar advocates.

According to Bloomberg, recent price decreases in solar equipment have driven costs from about 25 cents per kwh to 17 cents per kwh for photovoltaic (PV) powered solar energy, the least expensive form of solar power deployable at scale. But that’s a far cry from the average retail price for electricity as of June 2011. In May, according to the US Energy Information Agency, customers paid 9.70 cents per kwh for electricity generated by conventional means, nearly half of solar’s cost.

For decades, solar’s advocates have predicted that economies of scale, technological advances and pixie dust will soon kick in allowing the world to hold hands, sing songs and enjoy the “free,” and limitless power of the sun. 

The amount of energy available through solar is astonishing and bewitching, true. Because of the huge mass of energy available through solar, there’s no doubt that solar has potential to solve many of the earth’s energy problems. It just doesn’t do so right now. Nor will it ever be “free.” Heck, it might not ever even be cheap.

The sun does provide quite a bit of energy. According to NASA we use an equivalent of 1/10,000 of the sun’s available energy here on earth in fossil fuels. While 30 percent of solar energy that reaches us is reflected back into space, what’s left over is more energy in one year than all the energy that can be created by fossil fuels combined, ever.

Capture, conversion, storage and transmission of solar energy at costs close to fossil fuels however remains elusive.

So, the reality of the sun’s “free” energy continues to fall far short of the promise year after year despite rosy predictions. Devotees from Bloomberg New Energy and the IEEE have predicted that soon solar energy will compete with coal-the cheapest of all the energy sources- in price. Even assuming sunshine and salad days for solar, BrightEnergy.com says that “[b] y 2050, it is expected that solar PV will provide 11 percent of global electricity production, corresponding to 3,000 gigawatts of cumulative installed capacity.” That seems like a pretty modest target for an energy source that competes with coal for price. And it underscores the uncertainty of solar’s future.

The truth is that no one really knows what the future for solar is, in part because government is muddying the waters.

Take, for example, the world’s biggest publicly-traded solar company, First Solar, with a market capitalization of roughly $1.4 billion as of August, 2012. Last year at this time, the company was worth $6 billion.

First Solar makes photovoltaic solar panels and does a very good job of it. Their revenues have climbed from $500 million to $3.12 billion since 2007. But the stock has tumbled from a high of over $300 as Obama was elected to around the $17 range by the end of July. Why would a company that has seen its revenues grow six-fold, see its share price tumble $283?

Mostly the stock price volatility reflects on-again-off-again government support for solar company winners and losers. Europe has cut back subsidies while the federal government continues to muck up its loan guarantee program. First Solar won’t be as attractive to investors in the marketplace without generous subsidies provided by governments, especially those governments in Europe. 

“We believe that First Solar remains well positioned to flourish in a market with low or no subsidies once the market consolidates,” says brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald, “and we suggest that investors wait for a more opportune time to accumulate shares.”

Consolidation is broker-eese for “a lot of these companies are going out of business.”         

Government money has been put into converting customers to solar rather than into primary research aimed at brining costs down so that the marketplace can convert customers on the basis of economics. That because it’s been cheaper for solar companies to beg for government money than it has been to do research; and in the sort-term government money has been much more lucrative to shareholders and to consumers lucky enough to cash in on subsidies especially in Europe.

As to jobs? Forget about it. It’s a net negative.  

“In principle, tens of thousands of jobs have been created in the German PV industry,” says the leftist UK Guardian, a supporter of solar, “but this is gross jobs, not net jobs: had the money been used for other purposes, it could have employed far more people. The paper estimates that the subsidy for every solar PV job in Germany is €175,000: in other words the subsidy is far higher than the money the workers are likely to earn. This is a wildly perverse outcome. Moreover, most of these people are medium or highly skilled workers, who are in short supply there. They have simply been drawn out of other industries.”

That isn’t to say that research into cost cutting and innovation isn’t being done by solar companies today. But no one really knows how the solar market will survive if the governments- Europe, US, China- cut off life-support.

The patient might survive or it could be brain dead already.

It’s time to pull the plug solar and find out.

 

On Earth Day, I Expanded My Carbon Footprint – John Ransom – Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary

On Earth Day, I Expanded My Carbon Footprint – John Ransom – Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary.

To celebrate “earth day” this year, I decided that I would do what the Obama administration just hasn’t been able to figure out: I would stimulate the economy by the conscious expansion of my carbon footprint.

So I ran the air conditioning for a while in my house.

I also turned all the lights on in the house. Well, actually, I just didn’t turn off the lights my kids turned on. Through this process of reverse attrition, at one point, all the lights in the house eventually were on.

I call this Ransom’s Law: The amount of lights you have burning in the house is in direct proportion to the ratio between the kids and the adults living in the house.

Mathematically it looks something like this: 

an =12p Z p-pf(x)e-inxdx =12pZ p-pf0(x)e-inxdx= limn?∞12pZ p-pfdn(x)e-inxdx = imn?∞12pZ ∞-∞gdn(t)Z p-pe-inx|x – t|1-αdxd=12pZ p-pUµα (x)e-inxdx. 

When the last light, the refrigerator light, stayed on because someone forgot to shut the fridge door, I shouted out: “Hurrah for our carbon footprint!”

Later in the day I revived the quaint custom of the Sunday afternoon drive with my wife. I hit every red light, accelerated quickly to use more gas, used busy streets for more stop- and-go traffic and ran the air conditioner in the car at full blast

We made frequent stops at friends’ houses to urge them to get out and expand their own carbon footprint.

Because here’s the essential dichotomy that the country faces: We won’t get out of the economic slump while we have leaders who think that everything has to be rationed except for other people’s money.

This is especially true about energy. Energy quite literally is the fuel on which our economy runs. More fuel, better performance.

Let’s have a plan that stops rationing energy and instead uses much, much more energy.  

Obama and friends don’t seem to understand that plentiful energy creates more money, more economic activity; that the more we drill for domestic sources of oil and gas, and the more we use cheap, plentiful coal, the more prosperous the country is going to become.

And if the folks in Washington aren’t going to cut spending, the least they could do is let the rest of us use the economy so that deficit isn’t as big.

If you are a teacher and you want smaller class sizes, tell the Obama administration to quit mucking around with regulations that keep the economy under the liberal thumb. Class size will go down when local economies pick up and more local revenues are created that fund schools. The school budget crisis is largely driven by poor economic conditions, not low tax rates.   

If you are a government employee who is worried about the gap in your pension funding, then write a letter to the president and tell him to turf his environmental allies on the Keystone pipeline. Your pension expands when the economy expands. Were it not for the oil and gas industries, your pension would face an even graver shortfall than it does today.  

A recent report from Sonecon, an economic advisory firm that analyzes the impact of government policies, studied the investment results from the two largest public pension programs in 17 states. The study covered approximately 60 percent of all the public pension assets in those states. The assets were invested on behalf of teachers, firefighters, police and other public employees.

According to the report, “The average rate of return on investments by these funds in oil and natural gas stocks was seven times greater than the average return on their investments in all other assets. This ratio ranged from a low of 2.7 to 1 to a high of 40 to 1.”

If you are an activist worried about inexpensive housing for the poor, high energy prices don’t help make housing more affordable. High energy prices hit the poor the hardest.

According to Bloomberg/BusinessWeek “Energy costs this year will represent 24 percent of after- tax income for families earning $10,000 to $30,000, up from 14 percent in 2001. Families with after-tax income from $30,000 to $50,000 will spend 7 percent of their earnings on electricity, according to the study.” A quarter of the income of low-paid workers goes to energy costs. That means for the first two hours of every workday, a low income worker is just paying a light bill.  

If that were a tax, liberals would be out with the hue and the cry about how unfair energy prices are. But it’s OK when it comes to energy, because the green lobby writes checks to politicians while poor people don’t.

One thing is for sure: If Obama is forced to choose between the poor and his well-heeled donors, he picks the donors every time.  

The best government program for the poor, isn’t one that puts people in conflict, it’s one that ensures that energy is cheap, domestic and reliable.

“This is probably the biggest stimulus we have going,” Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research told the WSJ.

According to the Journal “$145 billion will be spent drilling and completing wells this year, up from $13 billion in 2000.” And it’s not costing taxpayers anything.           

Five years ago, many labored under the false assumption that the world was quickly running out of carbon-based fuels. But today we know that that’s not true.

While it’s estimated that Canada may have as much as 2 trillion barrels of oil in reserves, “the U.S. Geological Survey estimates the [US] has 4.3 trillion barrels of in-place oil shale resources centered in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming,” said Helen Hankins, Colorado director for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management” according to the Associated Press.

4.3 trillion barrels is 16 times the reserves of Saudi Arabia, or enough oil to supply the US for 600 years.

Building out the infrastructure to drill and transport that oil just from the Rocky Mountains in the US could supply literally ten million jobs for American workers, while supplying literally millions of barrels of oil per day, repairing our energy security for the next century. The end result would be the creation of about $15 trillion in wealth over the next ten years, with almost $4 trillion in revenues net to the federal government all without raising taxes.

So go ahead. Help me expand this country’s carbon footprint. It’s the best green investment that we can ever make.  

Stuck On “Stupid Liberal” Mode – Mark Baisley – Townhall Finance

 

Stuck On “Stupid Liberal” Mode – Mark Baisley – Townhall Finance.

BLACK MARKET TOILETS
My dad builds custom homes in California and the regulators at all levels routinely give him new, maddening impediments to practicality.  The example that I remember most had to do with toilets. 
In response to the apparent public outcry about excessive tank capacity, sales of toilets that exceed 1.6 gallons per flush have been banned throughout America.  United States Senator Rand Paul recently told a senior bureaucrat at a Senate hearing, “Frankly, my toilets don’t work in my house, and I blame you.” 
If you are like Senator Rand and don’t think that it makes sense to have to flush twice to make up for a deliberately insufficient vortex, you can buy a Canadian-made 3.5 gallon toilet on the black market.  Can you imagine having that crime on your rap sheet?
POISONOUS LIGHTBULBS
The government’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the Energy Department also thought it would be really swell if Americans would use less electricity to match their new toilets.  So, they made some suggestions, through nationwide mandates, that we replace our bright, warm, inexpensive light bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). 
CFLs don’t lend as much ambience, they are vastly more expensive, and they take a while to warm up before they can perform their singular purpose in our lives.  But, they do provide an element of mercury for you to deal with when they burn out or break. 
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that, if your CFL light bulb breaks, first get all people and pets out of the room, shut down your air conditioner for several hours (another excellent suggestion for saving energy), and thoroughly collect every bit of glass and powder into a sealed container. 
The government’s Energy Star program argues that this mandate actually reduces mercury emissions in American households because CFLs demand less electricity from mercury-generating coal plants that poison the fish we eat.
FUNNY THING ABOUT PHOSPHATES 
About a year ago, I called the manufacturer of our dishwasher with a performance complaint.  The 10-month-old appliance was simply no longer getting the dishes clean.  The repair guy approached the situation like the main character on the TV show House
His assessment was that all three name-brand detergents we had on hand were too low on phosphates to get the job done.  It turns out that ours is one of millions of households victimized by the latest regulation – low detergent phosphates.  We now dump in twice the normal amount of detergent and set the cycle to “stupid liberal mode” which runs the dishwasher for nearly three hours, using 50% more water and electricity.
BOGUS BUREAUCRATS
It is hard to believe that these busybody bureaucrats are simply trying to improve the environment.  Evidence to the contrary includes the results of an investigation by the Government Accountability Office.  They received an Energy Star label for their application of a gas-powered clock radio (really).  
With a full staff of uniformed gropers at every airport, Obamacare and government controlled thermostats on the horizon — I mean, if one were to undertake the goal of listing the most personally intrusive acts that a government could commit against its people, I think this list would just about be it. 
With their hands in my pants, my physical health, my home, and even my toilet, I have never felt so uncomfortably close to my government.

Yeah, When Monkeys Fly Out of Your Tailpipe – Mark Baisley – Townhall Finance

Yeah, When Monkeys Fly Out of Your Tailpipe – Mark Baisley – Townhall Finance.

Imagine wind powered houses and solar powered automobiles.  Now imagine monkeys flying out of your tailpipe, Wayne Campbell.

The greenies’ dream of forcing the American culture into an undernourished energy consumer is alchemy pure and simple.  But reality eventually wins every contest and even a Soros-funded campaign cannot turn environmentalist idealism into gold.

One of the greatest blessings of living in the 21st Century is that we can rapidly transport ourselves and our groceries in affordable vehicles at speeds up to 75mph.  There are very good reasons why gasoline and diesel have supplied the power for our cars and delivery trucks for over 120 years.

The worthy exploration of fuel source options for transportation has pretty much narrowed to gasoline, diesel, and electricity.  In spite of conspiracy theories to the contrary, gasoline engines squeeze just about every bit of power that can possibly come from a gallon of petrol.  Passenger cars enjoy the power of acceleration called for in the frequent start and stops of city driving.  Diesel supplies a slower ignition for efficient piston-pushing torque and long engine life.  Both of these liquid fuels can be safely loaded by the consumer.

Natural gas is wonderfully abundant in the United States and can be used for powering a vehicle.  However, it must be carried in pressurized tanks that can only be loaded by trained personnel.  The natural gas delivered into homes via gas pipes is under a very low level of pressure that could not be used to fill a car’s tank.

Hydrogen does not look like it will be the answer to fueling cars anytime soon.  The challenge is in producing the hydrogen onboard just before being ingested into the special engine.  Storing hydrogen in a fuel tank would be akin to driving a bomb through the neighborhood.  This would also put auto body repair shops out of business ;-)

There is a promising place in our society for electric cars.  While they may not work well for the occasional vacation road trip, recharging nightly for daily commutes does seem workable.  The best news is that domestic fuel for powering our homes with the needed electricity is very abundant.

Natural gas is downright cheap these days and coal remains plentiful.  Recent experiments with boron is also showing promise as a way to develop nuclear power with less radiation leftovers.

I would personally love to see more electric vehicles on the road, improving our air quality even more than the impressive accomplishments of the past thirty years.  This would require more electric plants powered by America’s smart people and their natural resources.  A lot more jobs, too.

America is absolutely rich with fuel and ingenuity.  Along with our neighbor nations both to the north and the south, we could fuel life around the world effectively and cleanly.  The greatest obstacle to environmental responsibility are the environmentalist radicals.

Two steps could get us to green living; the defunding of controlling bureaucrats, like the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, and new software that doesn’t make us sit at red lights like lemmings when there is no oncoming traffic.

I Like Big Trucks And I Cannot Lie – Katie Kieffer – Townhall Conservative

I Like Big Trucks And I Cannot Lie – Katie Kieffer – Townhall Conservative.

So, fellas! So, ladies! Do you want cheap gas and big, safe rides? Then, drill. Drill. Drill a healthy life.

No, I’m not Sir Mix-A-Lot. I simply think we should responsibly utilize our natural resources to improve the security and prosperity of all Americans.

Think about the last time you moved, went camping or took your boat to the lake. Did you wish you drove a Smart car? Or, did you wish your ride were bigger?

When it comes to cars, big is better. Bigger cars are safer. They haul more people and things. They typically ride higher—providing the driver with a better view. And, they are more comfortable (tall people can drive them without needing a chiropractor’s alignment.)

On the flip side, bigger vehicles use more gas and allegedly hurt the environment. So, let’s solve these two challenges.

Gas prices will go down when oil is plentiful and there is certainty in the marketplace. So, we should promptly drill for oil.

“Not so fast!” environmentalists will object. “We can’t drill for oil if we care about reducing climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Well, environmentalists are behind the times. Liberal politicians and the Obama administration admit climate change is a flawed theory by failing to offer realistic “alternative” energy plans and by avoiding climate change as a selling point for new energy policies.

In May, T. Boone Pickens, an oil tycoon and supporter of alternative energy told a Pennsylvania town hall meeting that the President “…has never told us how we’re going to get off the Mideast oil, and no one’s ever asked him.”

The Obama administration has eschewed defending his historically-high fuel-efficiency standards on the basis of environmental concerns. Environmental considerations are “…barely mentioned as (administration) officials negotiate with automakers, environmentalists and others, particularly about the contentious car and light truck rule…” the Washington Post reports. Instead, the President stresses how stricter rules will save consumers money on gas.

On July 29, the Obama administration pressured the auto industry into accepting new mileage rules requiring cars and light trucks to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon on average by 2025 (the existing average is 27 miles per gallon).

Remember the $80 billion auto bailout? The New York Times explains, “the industry’s meek acceptance of what are considered extremely challenging fuel-economy goals is a marked retreat from years past, when the (auto) companies argued that consumers would not be willing to pay for the technology needed to meet higher mileage requirements. …In the end, though, Detroit was faced with an undeniable political reality: there was no graceful way to say no to an administration that just two years ago came to its aid financially.”

Capitalism can develop alternative energy in a safe and timely manner. The President’s proposals do not rely on natural, free market competition. His plans merely pressure private enterprise to evolve ahead of its time.

Technology requires time to develop and become affordable. Could anyone afford the iPhone 9 if it came out in 2012? For the few who could, would they be buying a quality product? How could Apple possibly infuse five years worth of development and consumer feedback into the iPhone in just one year?

Toyota began developing hybrid technology in 1965 and did not introduce the first Prius in Japan until 1997, 32 years later. The Obama administration’s rules ignore the fact that technology simply does not develop overnight.

Plus, without government subsidies, fuel-efficient cars will likely be significantly more expensive than ordinary cars. If consumers pay substantially more for fuel-efficient cars upfront, are they saving money or breaking-even? The new fuel-efficiency rules essentially require Americans to buy brand new cars and become guinea pigs for technology that will not have sufficient time to develop.

The latest AAA survey shows 54 percent of American drivers “…don’t want the financial burden of a new car, so they’re keeping their older ones running,” reports USA Today. Americans are struggling. This is not the time to muscle them into buying new cars.

Meanwhile, the President still refuses to allow companies to drill for oil at a normal pace. Over a year since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, he’s still stalling American drilling.

Shell has spent five years and almost $4 billion perfecting drill methods for four exploratory wells off Alaska’s North Slope. Yet the President has only granted Shell conditional approval and cautioned that Shell must still “…win a number of secondary permits…” before drilling, reports the New York Times.

How much risk, money and time must companies expend before the President will approve American oil production that could slash oil prices? If he would increase production, we wouldn’t need to worry about driving around cars that could resemble expensive deathtraps.

Stuck On “Stupid Liberal” Mode – Mark Baisley – Townhall Finance

Compact fluorescent light bulb

Image via Wikipedia

Stuck On “Stupid Liberal” Mode – Mark Baisley – Townhall Finance.

BLACK MARKET TOILETS
My dad builds custom homes in California and the regulators at all levels routinely give him new, maddening impediments to practicality.  The example that I remember most had to do with toilets. 
In response to the apparent public outcry about excessive tank capacity, sales of toilets that exceed 1.6 gallons per flush have been banned throughout America.  United States Senator Rand Paul recently told a senior bureaucrat at a Senate hearing, “Frankly, my toilets don’t work in my house, and I blame you.” 
If you are like Senator Rand and don’t think that it makes sense to have to flush twice to make up for a deliberately insufficient vortex, you can buy a Canadian-made 3.5 gallon toilet on the black market.  Can you imagine having that crime on your rap sheet?
POISONOUS LIGHTBULBS
The government’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the Energy Department also thought it would be really swell if Americans would use less electricity to match their new toilets.  So, they made some suggestions, through nationwide mandates, that we replace our bright, warm, inexpensive light bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). 
CFLs don’t lend as much ambience, they are vastly more expensive, and they take a while to warm up before they can perform their singular purpose in our lives.  But, they do provide an element of mercury for you to deal with when they burn out or break. 
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that, if your CFL light bulb breaks, first get all people and pets out of the room, shut down your air conditioner for several hours (another excellent suggestion for saving energy), and thoroughly collect every bit of glass and powder into a sealed container. 
The government’s Energy Star program argues that this mandate actually reduces mercury emissions in American households because CFLs demand less electricity from mercury-generating coal plants that poison the fish we eat.
FUNNY THING ABOUT PHOSPHATES 
About a year ago, I called the manufacturer of our dishwasher with a performance complaint.  The 10-month-old appliance was simply no longer getting the dishes clean.  The repair guy approached the situation like the main character on the TV show House
His assessment was that all three name-brand detergents we had on hand were too low on phosphates to get the job done.  It turns out that ours is one of millions of households victimized by the latest regulation – low detergent phosphates.  We now dump in twice the normal amount of detergent and set the cycle to “stupid liberal mode” which runs the dishwasher for nearly three hours, using 50% more water and electricity.
BOGUS BUREAUCRATS
It is hard to believe that these busybody bureaucrats are simply trying to improve the environment.  Evidence to the contrary includes the results of an investigation by the Government Accountability Office.  They received an Energy Star label for their application of a gas-powered clock radio (really).  
With a full staff of uniformed gropers at every airport, Obamacare and government controlled thermostats on the horizon — I mean, if one were to undertake the goal of listing the most personally intrusive acts that a government could commit against its people, I think this list would just about be it. 
With their hands in my pants, my physical health, my home, and even my toilet, I have never felt so uncomfortably close to my government.

EDITORIAL: Close enough for government work – Washington Times

EDITORIAL: Close enough for government work – Washington Times.

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