Wednesday, September 29, 2010

James McMurtry - We Can't Make It Here (Anymore)

Electricity usage exhibits a massive demand curve, peaking in the afternoon and sloping down at night. The peaking plants used to produce afternoon power are highly inefficient to operate (see graph), and drive up your utility bill. Although electrical bills reflect the average price of production, peak power really skews this calculation. Thus, programs and policies such as smart metering are gradually gaining support as governments look for solutions to smooth the natural demand curve.

There are some really cool things you can do with smart metering. I even wrote a policy proposition paper over smart meters to land my current job. Ironically, I'd like to see smart metering rendered useless.

My approach to solving issues of demand curve requires a technological leap or two, but isn't that far off. As energy storage systems (batteries, flywheels, pump storage, etc.) become more efficient, you can (economically) store more energy to release during peak demand hours. Then you can smooth the supply curve and produce at a constant level all day long. At four in the morning power plants would produce excess that is stored. At four in the afternoon electricity is underproduced, but the excess is then released into the system.

This makes electricity really cheap because crappy peaker plants are phased out. As a result, we get to keep more energy-intensive industries at home. As the U.S. postures closer to a tariff tit-for-tat with China, we might even regain some lost manufacturing such as steel production. Making tangible things domestically again would be really, really sweet. Additionally, more efficient energy storage solves problems of intermittency with renewables and makes the hippies happy.

Cheaper electricity, economic development, facilitation of clean energy, and awesomely huge flywheels across the nation. Furthermore, the prospect of smoothing production without screwing with demand minimizes deadweight losses. These are things you can't argue with. The title of this entry is one of my top 5 favorite songs. Even if you're not a fan of Americana, it's hard to argue with the greatness of this joint.

Look How Much Peaking Power Costs In The Summer!

Graph stolen from: 'Demand Side Management,' Energy User News, August 2004, Volume 29, No. 8

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

White, Black, Green: I Like Bags of Tea, Ranked Thusly

I don't have any great desire to live in a house - as long as I've a decent sized kitchen and some storage space an apartment is just fine. What I would miss is a garage/work area. That's the real reason home ownership is important to me.

We've had a week now to examine the impacts of last Tuesday's primary results. The Tea Party (Express) caught more than a few stares, and has proven itself a force to be reckoned with. I want to respect these guys as a small government proponent, I really do. But until I see a Palin rally highlighting the inappropriateness of government intervention in prostitution, marriage, and drug use (particularly marijuana), I fear the rhetoric remains superficial. Also, you can't be neocons anymore - even your misguided attempts to idolize Reagan gloss over the fact he got the hell outta Lebanon and was much more prudent about putting troops on the ground (terrorization of Nicaraguans notwithstanding). True conservatives hate meddling in the affairs of other nations, particularly via military action. The best hope for tempering this teabag movement of with reasoning may come from an unlikely source: the man once mocked for hosting a show with puppets making crank calls as a lead in (more on this later in the week).

I set a really lofty goal for myself yesterday. I'm scared to reveal it because there's a fair chance I'll fall flat on my face, and talk without action is bragging without having done anything. But I'm gonna try, cognizant of the fact that sometimes you simply bite off more than you can chew. Like a hippo.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

They Took Our Jerbs!

Topeka Capital-Journal headline today:

Kobach to outline new SoS role

Acknowledging their refusal to properly capitalize (a constant bugbear of mine), it's important to move on and focus on what this will mean. While the outcome is anyone's guess, smart money is on the snake oil salesman further extending his anti-immigrant agenda into the Secretary of State position. Some derivation of a definition that calls for eliminating voter fraud and prosecuting second tier causations wouldn't be surprising. Then he just needs to demonstrate how an undocumented worker could possibly vote (committing voter fraud), and it's within his job purview to hault it. Our second tier causation in this instance being illegal immigration, Kobach could then assume responsibility for eliminating the scourge in the state of Kansas. Voila, Kobach can now do whatever's necessary to prosecute undocumented workers in Kansas given their potential to commit voter fraud. As an added bonus, he just happens to know a private law firm able to assist the state in eradicating this menace.

I'm not sure what Kobach's price was for 'advising' on the Arizona provision, but he got paid consulting fees for writing unconstitutional legislation that was struck down within a couple months. Kansas has enough budget problems without paying this jackass for worthless legal advice - let's not put him in office.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Already Praying for Basketball Season

At least the ACC should be, because it got embarrassed this weekend. You know who didn't get embarrassed? Michigan, Kansas, and the Dakotas. Seriously, a North or South Dakota team has beaten KU and Minnesota in consecutive weeks. I'm also impressed with how Oregon really looks ready to step up and replace USC.

Other sporting news requiring comment:
-The Royals picked up Pat White. I've never attended a minor league game, but would like to seem him play.
-Penn State finally lost a volleyball match. I watched the national championship last year, and even then they looked dominant. Stanford finally got their number.
-Colorado won't be joining the Pac-10 next year, and I don't blame the conference. I'm sure they're experiencing buyer's remorse, especially after sampling the product they bought this summer (CU got beat down 52-7 by California today). Personally, I don't think this is fair. I want to kick them out of the Big 12 now.
-I don't know if BYU's pursuit of independence was a good gamble. If you think the Mountain West becomes a BCS conference, it's probably not a good gamble. Granted, the MWC is losing one of its consistently best teams in Utah. However, Air Force, TCU, Boise State, and Fresno State form an undeniable core of talent to argue for BCS bowl game inclusion. Add BYU to the mix, and that's a better top half than most BCS conferences can offer (looking at you, ACC). Add solid bowl teams Nevada and Wyoming, and I can't imagine an Arizona or Missouri team having tremendous success in the MWC over the next decade.
I've digressed a bit to justifying the Mountain West receiving BCS automatic qualification, but with reason. If the conference does (and it should) earn its way in, BYU passes up the opportunity for mucho dinero garantizado shared by the schools every year. BYU wants to be the 'Mormon' Notre Dame? Notre Dame whined its way into a deal it didn't deserve, and the football establishment should repeat its mistake. BYU shouldn't expect to profit from the BCS getting smart. And the idea that there's enough national interest to warrant a major television deal? That dog just ain't gonna hunt.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Who's Ready?

September 9, 2010: a U.S. District Court judge rules 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' unconstitutional. Additionally, the ruling contains a rebuttal of the argument that openly gay military personnel adversely affect readiness; it even argues that the policy has a 'direct and deleterious effect' on the military. As evidenced by my previous work, I should be a district judge for coming to this conclusion six months sooner. That's right, I win the race to prove DADT bad.

I'm not a liberal, but I'm increasingly considering myself a Democrat. Democrats seem to be owning things that facilitate military success in recent years. Climate change mitigation (which Pentagon papers have now identified as a threat to our soldiers' lives in future years): Dem-owned. Not doing stupid stuff to offend Muslims and thus not incite violence in the Middle East (i.e., oppose Islamic community centers, proclaiming a Muslim president would be evil, etc.): Dem-owned. Opening overseas dialogue to encourage reconciliation and avoid brinksmanship: Dem-owned. Keeping our eyes on the ball in Afghanistan by not invading Iraq: Not Repub-owned, but the spineless refusal to oppose the invasion meant the Dems were essentially providing tacit support. Point is, if a Republican says we should do it to support the military, someone's making money off the deal.

I've been taking another stab at 'A People's History of the United States,' and have come to the conclusion there's no excuse for having money and not making more off of war. The next time government gets a little neoconny (we'll see how November elections go), if you aren't investing in Boeing and General Dynamics, you don't deserve your wealth.