Drumbeat: November 10, 2012

Climate Change Report Outlines Perils for U.S. Military

WASHINGTON — Climate change is accelerating, and it will place unparalleled strains on American military and intelligence agencies in coming years by causing ever more disruptive events around the globe, the nation’s top scientific research group said in a report issued Friday.

The group, the National Research Council, says in a study commissioned by the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies that clusters of apparently unrelated events exacerbated by a warming climate will create more frequent but unpredictable crises in water supplies, food markets, energy supply chains and public health systems.

US energy infrastructure is vulnerable

When people think about climate change and energy, they naturally are drawn to thinking about clean technology, carbon capture, or emissions. We're thinking about mitigation, in other words.

However, as Sandy showed, our energy infrastructure is at high risk to the effects of climate change as well. There is a need to adapt to the effects of a changed climate.

US releases more diesel to ease fuel shortages after Sandy

(Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Department on Friday said it would release an additional 100,000 barrels of diesel from the nation's emergency heating oil reserves to help ease fuel shortages in Connecticut due to Hurricane Sandy.

The release from the emergency stockpile comes as the U.S. Northeast continues to grapple with severe fuel supply disruptions after a massive storm swept through the region last week.

Drivers grapple with NYC gas rationing after Sandy

NEW YORK (AP) — A return to 1970s-era gas rationing seemed to help with hourslong gas station lines that formed after Superstorm Sandy, but it didn't end a fuel-gauge fixation that suddenly has become a way of life for drivers in the nation's largest city.

New York Gasoline Rationing Cuts Lines as Transit Expands

Gasoline rationing came to New York City and Long Island, reducing lines at filling stations, and commuting options expanded as the region worked to recover from the damage caused by superstorm Sandy and a snowy nor’easter.

New Jersey to restore most power by Saturday, governor says

New York (CNN) -- After his state's coastline took the brunt of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that he expects power to be almost fully restored statewide by Saturday night.

"Life will be back -- for most of New Jersey -- to normal come Sunday," he told reporters.

Sandy: Tempers heated among New Yorkers still in the cold

OCEANSIDE, N.Y. A rally was scheduled on Long Island Saturday for fed-up utility customers to voice their frustration about still being without power nearly two weeks after superstorm Sandy struck, CBS Station WCBS reports.

Oil Rises as Consumer Sentiment Gains

Oil advanced as data showing U.S. consumer confidence climbed to a five-year high, helping ease concern that a political stalemate in Washington will lead to a fiscal crisis.

Futures rose 1.2 percent after the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment for November increased to 84.9 from 82.6 the prior month. Prices fell earlier on concern U.S. lawmakers will be unable to compromise and avoid automatic spending cuts and tax increases at the start of 2013.

China may cut retail fuel prices: analysts

BEIJING - China will likely cut gasoline and diesel retail prices next week, as crude oil prices have dropped close to the price adjustment threshold, analysts said Saturday.

The price cuts could be between 300 yuan ($47.62) and 350 yuan per tonne, analysts said. It would mark the fourth cut in fuel prices this year.

OPEC: Crude may hit $ 155 by 2035

In its annual World Oil Outlook, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries also projects that a barrel of benchmark crude will cost $ 155 by 2035, compared with under $ 100 now.

Peak Oil, Global Warming and Business

So hurricane Sandy was a wakeup call for many people and their attitudes toward global warming. But I have been trying to make the point for many years that global warming or climate change or whatever euphemism you decide on, is really just one side of the coin. The other side is the availability of fossil fuels to begin with.

In simple terms, the earth is a finite hunk of water, rock and living matter and the term finite is well chosen. Resources like fossil fuels maybe quite large but they are not infinite and that has to mean that at some point the resource can be depleted. Peak oil is all about depletion. It’s the point beyond which production will not increase and all that is left is limited supply and increasing demand. When that happens prices rise.

Saudi Arabia to be self-sufficient in gas by 2021

EDDAH -- Saudi Arabia will remain self-sufficient in natural gas, with production and consumption rising to 131 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2021 from an estimated 94.8 bcm in 2011, BMI said in "Saudi Arabia Oil and Gas Report Q4 2012".

However, the report noted that though refinery expansion is proceeding broadly to schedule, Saudi Arabia cannot claim the same about its gas exploration and development program. "Drilling has again been delayed in the Empty Quarter, which is a further sign of a frustrating process that may leave the Kingdom short of gas as demand continues to rise. There has been little apparent progress on plans to boost productive capacity from the current 12 million barrels per day (b/d) to 14-15 million b/d."

Egypt to increase gas supply to Jordan: Minister

Egypt will increase the natural gas supply to Jordan to 60 million cubic feet (MCF) daily, the Kingdom's Energy Minister Alaa Al-Batayna stated, according to Egypt's MENA news agency .

Egypt supplies natural gas to Jordan through the Arab Gas Pipeline, which runs from Egypt to Syria, passing through Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon.

Greece to Hold Oil, Gas Licensing Round in First Half of 2014

Greece plans to hold a licensing round for the exploration of oil and natural gas in the Ionian Sea and south of the island of Crete in the first half of 2014, the energy ministry said.

Shell: Egypt’s ample resources could meet domestic supply

The Country Chair and Managing Director of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, Jeroen Regtien, talks to the Daily News Egypt, highlighting the company’s vision in post-revolution Egypt, the impediments curbing the organic growth of the sector and voices his suggestions on how the government can resolve structural hindrances.

Twin explosions strike southern Syrian city

BEIRUT (AP) — Two large explosions shook Syria's southern city of Daraa on Saturday, causing multiple casualties and heavy material damage, the country's state-run news agency and activists said.

‘Sanction-hit’ Tehran bans luxury imports

TEHRAN, Iran (Agencies): Iran’s sanctions-fighting “resistance economy” suddenly got a lot leaner, less flashy and perhaps a bit more uncomfortable. The Islamic Republic announced Thursday a ban on imports of 75 so-called luxury products — ranging from high-end cars to coffee to toilet paper — part of efforts to promote domestic products and stem the outflow of dollars and other foreign currency as Western economic pressures increasingly choke off Iran’s commerce and critical oil revenue. It’s the most sweeping measure so far to batten down the Iranian economy, although the move is not likely to leave showrooms and store shelves empty.

Fuel train derails, explodes in Myanmar, leaving 25 dead

The accident occurred Friday morning when a train traveling from Mandalay overturned near the Chet-gyi rail station in the Kanbalu township, near the Myanmar-India border, the Ministry of Information said. The train was hauling seven cars containing gasoline and two cars containing diesel.

When the cars overturned, several began to leak. The 25 people killed were "fetching petrol" from the derailed train cars when three of them caught fire, state-run New Light of Myanmar reported.

Coal company announces layoffs in response to Obama win

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- A coal company headed by a prominent Mitt Romney donor has laid off more than 160 workers in response to President Obama's election victory.

Murray Energy said Friday that it had been "forced" to make the layoffs in response to the bleak prospects for the coal industry during Obama's second term. In a prayer circulated by the company, CEO Robert Murray said Americans had voted "in favor of redistribution, national weakness and reduced standard of living and lower and lower levels of personal freedom."

Ethanol Going Ugly Turns Bush Plan Into Obama Test

U.S. ethanol production is headed for the first decline in 16 years, jeopardizing the nation’s drive to boost alternative fuels, as higher costs and lower demand close plants.

Shrinking distilling margins have resulted in a 14 percent drop in output this year to 827,000 barrels a day, or 12.7 billion gallons annually, Energy Department data show, 500 million gallons short of the amount refiners are mandated to use under a 2007 law that calls for escalating consumption of the biofuel. That would be the first yearly decrease since 1996.

The false choice between palm oil and RI forests

There need not, however, be a trade-off between palm oil, forests and communities. It is possible to grow more crops, including oil palm, while keeping forests, and also cutting rural poverty.

In order to do so, companies and investors must lead by supporting sustainable production on land that has already been cleared, while also ensuring that local people benefit and consent to new plantations. Global markets and the governments of major producer countries should give stronger support to such efforts.

Volvo Electric Car Fast Charging Technology Being Tested

One of the challenges of owning an electric car is the wait time you have to endure for a vehicle to recharge if you run out of power in the batteries during your day, or if you are looking to just “top off” while you run into the grocery store to get some items. Volvo seems to think it has an answer to that time issue, unveiling a new fast charger it claims cuts recharging time to just 1.5 hours. That’s still a bit to have to wait, but it is claimed to be up to six times faster than other on-board devices, so one could say that’s an improvement at least.

Dumb home turns smart with change of lightbulbs

Home automation — the ability to control every aspect of your home's daily operation, from the dishwasher that turns itself on after you've left for work to a heater that warms up the house before you wake up — hasn't caught on. Too many competing standards. Too much fiddling with settings. But the new Philips Hue LED light bulbs could finally flip the switch for American homeowners by tying them to something they already love: their smartphones.

World's first web-based environmental science textbook (Robert K. Kaufmann, Cutler J. Cleveland)

Environmental Science is the world's first introductory textbook that is entirely online. Environmental Science provides thorough coverage of the key topics in environmental science, and integrates ecology, economics and policy using energy and material flows and a systems perspective. The science underlying sustainability is simply told through examples of cutting-edge content and real-world applications.

'Meatless Mondays': LA urges residents to turn vegetarian one day a week

Both the spiritual home of the hamburger and a haven for the health-obsessed, Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to support the Meatless Monday campaign. The nonprofit initiative, started in 2003, is associated with Johns Hopkins University's public health school.

Ideas on protecting New York from future storms float to surface

The killer storm that hit the East Coast last month and left the nation's largest city with a crippled transit system, widespread power outages and severe flooding has resurfaced the debate about how best to protect a city like New York against rising storm surges.

In an Era of Fiscal Cliffs, Seeking Ways Obama Can Preserve the Planet, on a Budget

The glaring gap between the yields of basic crops in poor and rich countries offers huge low-cost opportunities to improve people’s lives and cut environmental impacts from farming. The U.S. Agency for International Development is already busy in this area, but I’m sure some shifts in priorities could have a big impact.

The cold hard truth about coal

Most of the coal that B.C. produces and exports is metallurgical, or coking, coal used for steel making – rather than thermal coal used to generate electricity.

Domestic Oil Boom, Climate Change Concern Could Derail Keystone XL Permit

Environmentalists say Pres. Obama has more reasons than ever to deny the pipeline, including his renewed focus on tackling climate change.

California Carbon ‘Crippled’ by Buyer Hesitation

California carbon is trading at a record low as legal threats, political opposition and rule changes plague the days leading up to the first auction of permits under the state’s greenhouse-gas program.

UN: Sandy shows need for action on climate change

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that one of the main lessons from Superstorm Sandy is the need for global action to deal with future climate shocks.

Dealing with oil-Qaeda

For years, energy executives have funded a massive campaign to deny the reality of climate change.

Behind New York Gas Lines, Warnings and Crossed Fingers

The center of the problem was Linden, N.J., oil industry executives said, the heart of the metropolitan supply chain and a place where New York officials have no jurisdiction. It is where the Colonial pipeline ends, bringing petroleum products up from the Gulf of Mexico, and where the Buckeye pipeline begins taking petroleum products to Long Island and other areas.

Six- to eight-foot waves surged through the area, crashing into a Phillips 66 refinery and into a cluster of terminals on or close to the Arthur Kill waterway that receives refined products from the Colonial pipeline and local refineries for shipment throughout the region.

In addition, while the main pipelines have recovered power, 20 or so terminals in and around Linden will take more time to build to normal operations. Eight to 14 are in various stages of repair and limited operations, while 6 are still out of commission. Docks were flooded and damaged, along with equipment that lifts refined product to the barges from pipelines and tanks. The surge blew out control-room windows and lifted and damaged marine docks and lifting equipment essential for putting the products on the barges.

sandy wasnt a "super" storm such as katrina, just the area it hit, really. i lived off grid for 8 full days! luckily i had my portable solar generators. just a 40 watt panel on shop cart with charge controller, agm deep cycle batteries and an dc/ac converter.
it was enough to have a light, listen to tunes and run the laptop. a bonus is that the system will start my john deere snow blower with electric start option. i still froze.not enough juice to run a heater or pump water.

which really bugs me. i got 3 kw photovoltaic system on the roof that just looked purty for 8 days. iffen i had a few big batteries i could have limped through the disaster without having to stand in line with a gas can like 25% of the folks in my section of town did. they had the portable gaz-o-leen powered electric generators. i guess i has to get one to complete my "bug in bag".

sandy was so big where could a survivalist bug out to anyway? new mexico? indiana?

if you can track the sun it collects 40% more energy than a fixed mount system. that is why i put my systems on a cart. this feature is especially useful in the winter with low sun declination.

Nice, humbug! ...and a chicken in every pot..."

is chicken meat? then no chicken for me. believe me, it's nice to have a light, some tunes and the laptop as one freezes to death.

Roof panels were grid-tie?

yes, grid tied. the only way they sell 'em in jersey...unless you spring for big BIG bucks!

I was looking at Sunny Island and such to fix that. Expensive, but would make a grid-tie array into an off-grid anytime needed.

The issue with batteries as they now exist - they are scrap every few years unless you opt to choose something like Fe-Ni batteries which are pitched as lasting for decades.

The short life of batteries is often exaggerated, particularly if you have a well-designed system, meaning that the batteries are recharged nearly every day (on average, you produce 30-50% more than you use). Batteries have pretty much doubled in price over the last 10 years, with solar coming down about the same amount, so the new recommended design guidelines really pamper the batteries, since they are now the most expensive thing.

With a well-designed off-grid system, you should expect 7 years from "golf car" batteries, such as Trojan T-105, 10 years from L-16 types, and 15-20 years from 2-volt deep cycle batteries such as Rolls.

If you are on-grid, and just use them for backup (i.e., they are floating nearly all the time), you should get 15 years even from "cheap" golf car batteries.

I'm using costco golf cart batteries on my offgrid system, got them in 2008, and no performance decline I can tell. The key is probably that they are never discharged below 12.7v except during grid outage. On most days the batteries just function as a surge buffer and brief hiatus buffer (clouds blow by, etc). Most of the day the float voltage is pretty high - the little blue $5 ebay LCD meter on my office wall says 13.55 volts at the moment; and the usual night low is about 12.78v. When used this way, seems like they can last a long time.

I was going to get some of those meters but they don't want to ship them to Mexico, I have absolutely no idea why.


If you know someone who is going to the US arrange to have it delivered to them while they are there. Or depending on the import laws of Mexico get it sent to someone who then sends it to you as a private package.

Yeah, that's what I might do but the trouble is my contacts tell me about their trips when they get back :(


Social networking: level Latin American. Time to develop your skills :)

When researching solar tech for my RV, I ran into this fantastic article: http://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/the-rv-battery-charging-puzzle-2/

He discusses how solar can be done right in an RV - some common misunderstandings, etc. One particular point he brought up I found interesting was how DC line losses caused by using too thin wiring can total up to the output of a full panel! So it pays to use thick wiring, tweak up your charger to keep the batteries truly topped off. The article is long but well worth a read.

Won't the Zantrex XW series or Outback Radian series hybrid inverters yield the same ability for less money?

Often yes, especially for small systems.

quick browse on the web:
Xantrex XW4024 (4kW) is $2952
Sunny Boy 4000US is $2132,
but now you got to buy a Sunny Island for $3800 too.

I like Outback for small systems - sealed, rugged.
Xantrex for medium systems.
When you get a large system, the cheaper Sunny Boys may work out the same or better.
The new Sunny Boys also have a built-in DC disconnect and are in a NEMA 3R box,
the Zantrex is only in a NEMA 1, so you'd need to find a spot indoors - so depends on your location.
The Sunny Island is more expandable than the Xantrex, both have a lot of bells and whistles to integrate other generation sources.

The Xantrex and Outback will probably want a separate charge controller/Max Power Point Tracker for optimization, the MPPT is built-in to the Sunny Boy.
But if you're in difficult shading environments, maybe you want a per-panel MPPT like the SolarEdge.
Or even go with micro-inverters like the Enphase (but now you're back to needing a Sunny Island, Xantrex XW, or some other battery backup system like a MagnaSine, since micro-inverters are AC output).

"I was looking at Sunny Island and such to fix that. Expensive, but would make a grid-tie array into an off-grid anytime needed."

Why not just add a service disconnect and a charge controller? The nice thing about a service disconnect is you then have all your circuits available for use. You likely wouldn't have enough battery backup to use everything, but at least you can use whatever subset you choose and your batteries will handle, and no need to wire separate circuits.

Takes more than just 1 disconnect.

In a typical grid tie system, all the panels are connected in series. For battery charging you'll need at least some of the panels reconnected to parallel configuration.

You could make up a parallel harness using MC-4 connectors, but taking them apart and reconnecting every time there is a power failure would be a hassle. Also it's something I would only do at night to avoid the high voltage and current.

See KalimankuDenku Heavy caution: below.

Of course, those Cart Batteries would be happy enough to take some juice off the Rooftop Panels' lines.. I realize not everyone is going to be willing to take on hotwiring or repatching their own Arrays, but you're only a couple small steps, and maybe just a couple more AGM's away from considerably boosting or so your backup system. (That rooftop PV could also be live-firing your fridge and freezer on any sunny day, with maybe just a modest battery in line to keep things kosher during cloud-passes.. and then Those become your stored energy, not a pricey Battery Bank. Surplus could go right to a Heat Pump or a Resistive Coil in a Water Tank, so you're keeping almost every possible watt!)

I'm glad you've set yourself up as well as you have, but am still a bit mystified by how much you seem to deride it.

A little solar batch heater to top it all off, and you could have a nice warm tank to sit on as well!

I realize not everyone is going to be willing to take on hotwiring or repatching their own Arrays,

Question is, how do you hotwire or re-patch panels that have been set up to provide 300+V DC to grid tied string inverters, to charge a 12, 24 or even 48 V battery bank?

I'd much rather have a transfer switch that disconnects me from the grid and connects me instead to a source that fools the grid tie inverters into thinking that everything's OK and keep pumping out the juice. If I'm not mistaken, that is pretty much what the SMA Sunny Island does, in conjunction with Sunny Boy Grid Tie inverters. So if Humbaba has Sunny Boy inverter, it should not be too much of a stretch to add a Sunny Island and I'm sure, in hindsight, he'd think the extra cost was worth it. If he's not using SMA products then his suppliers are going to have to get very creative.

Post Sandy, I sense a huge market opportunity for anyone who can solve this problem, using retrofits to a variety of manufacturers systems that, do not carry with them huge penalties in cost/complexity.

Alan from the (Sunny) islands

As usual, the answer is kind of 'It depends..'

If you've got the old standard (?) 36 cell circuited panels, giving a nominal ~18.v that serves as a 12 volt charge source, then you'd have to consider a bit of an arduous repatch that brings a string or a few of them out of the Series config and into parallel.. or .. a DC/DC Converter, or the inverter/charger that is set up for that voltage.. etc.

The point is that the parts are (largely) modular still, so you do have choices. (But also some learning requirements..) Many of the options might not be exactly 'off the shelf'.. but It's just so grating to hear people claim that they have KWH's of PV on their rooftops, and think that they're stuck because of State Policies or a Cover Panel that the Installer screwed shut and it says NO ENTRY..

People should be told that these panels that they own will offer up good, Not-from-concentrate Juice whenever there is light striking them, and they can give themselves permission to access it.

The full-monty Grid/Battery Inverters are possibly the most convenient and simple way to approach it.. but in a situation of real need, those factors will go way down the priority list.

Heavy caution: These solar arrays may be wired to produce power at 300 or even 600 Volts of direct current. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar//pdfs/sda_michael_johnston.pdf If your fingers brush against a high-voltage direct current connection, the current may cause your hand to close around it and you can not let go. There be dragons behind that panel.

If the plan is to lower the voltage so that ancillary lower voltage batteries can be charged through a lower voltage charge controller to power a lower voltage inverter in an emergency, then a D.C to D.C. convertor might work.

In making "off-line" power supplies, power supplies that run off of the A.C. power line, the first thing that might happen at the front-end is that the A.C. is turned into D.C. (say with rectifiers and capacitors). This high-voltage D.C. is then fed to power convertors that make the lower voltages needed by the application... like inside your computer, for example. So, there are off-the-shelf D.C to D.C. high-voltage to low voltage convertor modules available off-the-shelf for people building power supplies in low-volume.


Lambda 300VDC to 48VDC

Eltek 300VDC to 24 VDC

There are also modules to charge batteries from 300VDC:

Analytic Systems 300VDC to 12, 24, 48V battery chargers

The problem might be that in a grid-tie system without batteries, there are no batteries to clamp the voltage going to the proposed emergency power system. Maybe this adds the complication of needing a charge controller (often PWM) and a battery bank (or a lot of capacitance) after picking-off the voltage from the solar panel array. Would a reasonably sized charge-controller/battery-bank/inverter hooked into the solar panels to provide emergency power be cost-effective and easy enough to do to be worth messing with?

The Analytic Systems 24 Volt battery charger works with an input of 280 Volts to 360 Volts D.C.. Many D.C. to D.C. convertors have under-voltage lock-out. I don't know if the Analytic Systems battery charger locks-out at high-line or simply explodes.

While certainly a nice looking charger, the BCD-610 at about $1340 is 9 times the $150 price of a Zantrex C60 PWM charge controller! http://www.affordable-solar.com/store/solar-charge-controller/xantrex-c6...

Edit: At that price, many other options are avail - eg dedicated panels for the charge controller, or a backup hybrid inverter, which provides a lot more for the money - or a bit of creative wiring - a few 36v panels paralleled to a 24v PWM C60 charging a 24v bank wired to a 24v inverter should be fine efficiency wise - no MPPT controller needed. Some inexpensive lugs (less than a dollar each) from Del City or Grainger's and a $50 hydraulic crimper from Harbor Freight and you're off to a good start - the heavy gauge wiring is what costs here, but sometimes deals can be found. If I am way off the mark someone educate me!

The C60 is an ancient technology, it just connects the panels to the battery at a high frequency with variable duty cycle.
It wastes e.g. 10x the energy if the panels output 10x the voltage of the battery.

The BCD uses a DC to DC converter that converts excess voltage to more current, and is claimed 75% efficient over the input voltage range.

That said, the manufacturing costs between the two is miniscule, probably < US$10. Xantrex should replace the C series with the more efficient design. They would get a marketing boost for that, IMO.

The problem might be that in a grid-tie system without batteries, there are no batteries to clamp the voltage going to the proposed emergency power system. Maybe this adds the complication of needing a charge controller (often PWM) and a battery bank (or a lot of capacitance) after picking-off the voltage from the solar panel array.

From what I vaguely remember (I'm not an EE) it is relatively easy to fool a grid- tied inverter into operating without a grid, but the inverter can be immediately destroyed by a voltage surge when your backup batteries finish charging,depending on what sort of load the inverter is experiencing at that moment.

For smaller loads a computer ATX power supply should run from 150 or 300 volts. The AC in normally just gets rectified onto a capacitor so DC should do the same. There are ratings up to 1000W or more but I would never trust them above 1/2 that for long. Plenty of fresh air, for the fan(s), needed too. They'll push out 12V and 5V with most of the power at 12V, RTFM.If you really want to get smart...er, take a risk, the 12V output can be tweaked over a limited range and that may be helpful with gear that runs off a, nominal, 12V battery.


I have tried, but not been successful at getting an ATX ps to work sans the rest of the pc. I have read on forums that all it takes is to ground the green wire. I do that and it only comes on for a second & shuts down. Any ideas what I'm doing wrong?

The PC power supply has a voltage monitoring circuit. You need to connect the 3.3 volt sense to 3.3 volt source. Pin 8 - power good can be monitored on that pin.

Thanks, but that wasn't the problem. However you did prompt me to do some more online research, and found my problem was 5v minimum loading.

Now, I just need to figure out how to do that tweak to get the 12V up to battery charging level.

Just google on

adjustable atx power supply

brings up a whole list. Yep, minimum load is the issue. There are plenty of pages that tell you how to make a bench PSU from an ATX PSU and they normally include a wire wound resistor to give some load, modded one for bench. Often the fans can give enough load but not always. You could always use a few LEDs as a lamp to act as the load.


If you are handy with a solder iron and have access to a bunch of old PC (XT/AT) power supplies, remember those things were designed to act as a 300V to +/-12V and +/-5V converter. They do isolate, and I suppose with a little tweaking, they could serve as 12V battery chargers. I believe the most common SMPS chip in them was a TL494 , although it was commonly remarked to house numbers.

These power supplies had a rather unusual startup circuit that let the power supply free-run until it built up enough power to run the switching regulator circuit. It used the current transformer to free-run the inverter until the SMPS control chip powered up and took over.

I have seen many cfl tube assemblies run off of 300VDC internally. It will require a little redesign of the power interface to get them to safely run from a 300VDC bus, but the basic core of some of these things are already designed to run from 300V. ( 120VAC run through a voltage doubler front-end, just like on a PC power supply front-end ).

I have seen some of the newer ones and they were driven by a very specialized IC and from what I could tell were useless for anything other than what they were designed for. Its the older units that I found the most useful. That is the ones made from two discrete transistors, a little ferrite transformer, a larger ferrite choke, a DIAC for startup, and several other ancillary resistors/capacitors. The 300V ones were obvious by their voltage-doubler interface to the 120VAC line. The ones that have the bridge rectifier are 150 volt units.

If you have some old burned out 120V CFL's, split the base open and study its inverter. Lots of clever design ideas are hidden in that little PCB in the base of those things. Every one of these I have cracked open had a very clever little ferrite core inside with three windings of about three turns each. This little transformer was the heart of the pulse timing circuit, timing determined by how long it took the primary winding to saturate the core, then the transistor drive would flip the opposite direction and cycle repeat. Study this little circuit and a whole mess of doors open as to how to build all sorts of power converters. You will find most of the components you need already on the PCB of the device headed for recycler. I will warn you about reusing the electrolytic capacitors... they are by now old and are apt to have problems - its just the nature of the beast. Use new electrolytics. I have found all the magnetics, IC's, diodes, transistors, resistors, ceramic and mylar capacitors fair game for feedstock to build my gadgets with. Even if you mess up the windings on the large ferrite transformers, the cores are quite useful. They can be stacked for other designs. Those little cores in the CFL bases are extremely useful for building magnetic timers - allowing you to build drive circuits with a fraction of the parts and orders of magnitude more reliability than monostable based designs.

You can also make extremely accurate DC ammeters with them by arranging one as an oscillator and passing the current you want to measure on one wire through it ( 1 turn ). The DC in that wire will cause the core to saturate on one direction faster and retard it in the other direction; the DC reading will show up in how much it throws off what should be a perfect 50% square wave. The advantage is you do not drop any of your current you are measuring across a sense resistor.

If you are an electronic tinkerer, maybe this will give you a few ideas. You will experience a lot of grief if you go tinkering around with something like this if you are not familiar with SMPS design, so take my post with a grain of salt. ( SwitchMode Power Supply = SMPS ; Compact Fluorescent Lamp = CFL ; DIAC is a trigger diode )

There is an equivalent to the TL494, used in some ATXs, but it has a lower current drive rating, KA7500. Old ATX PSUs are good sources for MOSFETS, schottky diodes and lots of other goodies. Only managed to dissect 1 CFL and that died because of a polyester capacitor rather than electrolytic. I have one duff one I need to take out so I may check the same cap and see if it can be fixed. Interesting comments on the magnetic timing.


It seems that the simplest solution would be to tap the high voltage string at the point where the voltage is in the range of whichever charge controller is being used. Put a diverter (transfer) switch at that point. We call it 'center tapping' with a string of batteries. You won't get the full array output, and it's advisable to switch both poles (+ -), but this seems cheaper/easier than some options being suggested. I've built a simple transfer switch like this using a small (4 position) sub panel (Square D QO series). Two dual-pole breakers: One breaks the string and sends power to the charge controller, the other sends power through the rest of the original string and on to the grid inverter. My setup only allows one of the breakers to be closed at a time. I've used it to tap a 72 volt string to power a 12-36 volt DC water pump.

Yes, for one string of panels. The separate 300 Volt strings of panels are gathered to a 300 volt combiner. There are typically no common points among the array of panels where they have been gathered to a lower voltage combiner.


Robin at Midnight Solar has some offshelf backup for existing systems. SMA is the only gear "design" to do AC Coupling over 0-100% of Solar Availability and Battery needs. I'm was told that the new US Sunnyboy TL Series can NOT freq shift to modulate AC Output, something a firmware could fix? AC Coupling is quickly becoming mainstream and is a fast growing segment of solar. Non SMA gear takes some extras since you have to divert the unused power to hot water tank or somewhere to keep the PV array online. Microgrids are finally arriving to the party late. Check out the pdf on AC coupling.


Question is, how do you hotwire or re-patch panels that have been set up to provide 300+V DC to grid tied string inverters, to charge a 12, 24 or even 48 V battery bank?

You use something like the outback flexmax and have a disconnect to wire to the mac 150 VDC for said controller.

PV Open Circuit Voltage (VOC):
150 VDC absolute maximum coldest conditions / 145 VDC start-up and operating maximum


Pay attention to the ground-fault protection if re-arranging or tapping a low-voltage panel array to make <100V.


The arrays do not have lower voltage points. Only individual strings of lower voltage panels have such taps.


320V charge controllers for much lower voltage batteries are rarer.

Hooking a 320V inverter or battery charger to an array without 320V batteries is going to be strange.



Nice system but it needs to be a bit larger. Check out our systems:



If you could connect that 3kW system that is on your roof to a large battery bank you would have it!!

You've been taking lessons from Fred :)


Coal company announces layoffs in response to Obama win, above:

"The American people have made their choice. They have decided that America must change its course, away from the principals [sic] of our Founders," Murray said in the prayer, which was delivered in a meeting with staff members earlier this week.

"Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corporation for the...

...damage we've done, indeed, continue to do to your creation and to those who have chosen a different path yet have no choice but to face the consequences of our greed, denial and short-sightedness, for generations to come.

Say "AMEN"!


David Roberts at Grist has a great article (hat tip Energy Bullitin)on coasl's finaicial problems:


Key take aways:

Coal is getting more expensive to produce.

Why? First, the easiest-to-reach coal has been mined, which means coal companies have to dig deeper and go after thinner seams and smaller deposits. That costs more, in both energy and money. And second, transportation costs, mainly the cost of the diesel fuel that runs the trains that carry the coal, are rising.

regarding West Virginia:

Remaining southern West Virginia coal beds are thin, he said, meaning more rock has to be mined to get the coal — decreasing productivity and increasing cost.

More beds are split, with partings,... also decreasing productivity and increasing cost. Reserves are in relatively small, scattered blocks, in rugged terrain where it’s difficult to achieve the efficiencies of a single mining complex where everything feeds into the same preparation plant.

Powder River Basin (Wyoming)

several PRB mines are seeking to expand, to extend their lives. But in almost all cases, those expansions would push into areas where coal is deeper and harder to reach, pushing costs even higher

Combine this with low natural gas prices and we get the distressed financial shape of many US coal companies (with Patriot going bankrupt)

The only hope lies in export but forces in western states will fight coal shipping terminals to Asia- another route is to ship south to Texas and out the gulf- but shipping adds more costs and if renewables continue to get cheaper there may be no financial will to invest in expensive transportation infrastructure as it will be seen as too big a gamble- recent gambles on coal have gone bad. Illinois has a lot of good coal but it is deep underground and on top of prime farmland- which may be more valuable at this point.

When I was in Wheeling last weekend there were coal sponsored political ads everywhere- the streets were lined with "Stop the war on coal- fire Obama" signs. Coal prices will certainly go up in the future as Asia seeks more and more-

So the the question I have for you all is: what will go up faster? Coal prices or the costs of extraction and transportation?

To answer your question:

Relative to other coal on the market, coal from within the USA will be more expensive to produce. So coal from elsewhere (Australia? The 'stans? See coal post up currently on TOD) will be less costly to purchasers. Or actually investment in future production will be made where extraction costs are lowest, and this will not be in the USA. So future production will be increasingly outside the USA.

This fact is indicative of at least some exercise of democracy. Less democratic places can force coal production upon the populace. Some populaces will even welcome it. NIMBYism will limit coal in the USA. Along with alternatives, conveniently.

But that gap between production cost and selling price is ever shrinking. Someone here has been illustrating that with oil production. Extraction costs are rising faster than prices...

but it is deep underground and on top of prime farmland

had to smile there for a second - I can't imagine what the poor farmland over there in Illinois is like!

In the long term the utility of the coal to the end user far exceeds the cost to transport it. What matters is are there cheaper sources available and what are the politics and return on investment in infrastructure (closely linked factors).

From what I have learned in the transportation industry coal delivered to utilities from Wyoming/Montana basin by rail has doubled the cost from at the mine (rail transport equals mining cost). Eastern utilities using the same delivered coal have as much as 2-1/2 times the cost of mining. The problem is the railroad's ability to set high prices to create high profits and dividends, called "pricing power". The Surface Transportation Board, which regulates rail transport rates, has not been siding with the utilites when they object to high rates from the RR's. I do not see this trend changing and in fact predict that coal transport rates will continue to climb faster than inflation and in step with oil prices or at a higher rate.

Coal in the long term will be priced out of certain markets, even some export markets, IMO. The mined cost of coal may be below nat. gas, but after adding the RR transport coal is higher than nat. gas for many users.

The governor of Texas wants to fast track several new coal fired power plants, which require coal trains to come in daily. This is not a real climate friendly move, but it IS very Texan.

Calguy - And apparently it's also very Chicago. A Texas coal-fired plant can't be built without EPA approval whether the gov approves it or not. Just as the White Stallion plant in coastal Texas received its final Clean Air permit (an ironic name, of course) from the current Washington administration. But instead of a short train ride from the port 60 miles away the coal will be hauled half way across the country from Illinois for the next 30+ years. Much of the coal burned in Texas has been imported from overseas for decades. But for some odd reason the WS plant will buy domestic coal. Perhaps Illinois coal burns cleaner. Yeah, that's it...that's the reason.

Just a couple of Texas coal plants burn coal from Columbia (last time I looked, many moons ago).

The Fayette coal plants (2 x 590 MW + 445 MW) owned by Austin Energy & LCRA uses coal railed down from Wyoming. This is more typical.

Kentucky & W VA coal is getting thinner and deeper. Illinois and Wyoming-Montana still have large economic deposits AFAIK.


Interesting how PBO faces attack from all sides:

- He hates coal, is waging a war on coal, hurting miners and raising electricity rates for hard-working Americans

- (or) He is a shill for Illinois Coal

- He doesn't do enough to keep American jobs from being off-shored and to have Americans buy American coal

- (or) He is a shill for Illinois Coal

- His clean air EPA Green Nazis are killing American jobs and raising prices

- No, in the special case of the White Stallion plant, he is playing fast and loose with clean air regs and will harm Texans in order to pay off his Chicago cronies!

- But wait: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted an air pollution permit for the power plant 15 months before the EPA unveiled the new rules for mercury emissions.

- But wait:

Developers of the White Stallion Energy Center say the federal rules, formally known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, cannot be achieved with existing pollution controls and, thus, prevent them from securing financing for the $2.5 billion project.

The company has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the rules. Several others have followed its lead and now are part of one consolidated case.

From the Houston Chronicle:


More recent developments:


Representatives for environmental groups walked away disappointed from a meeting of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality this morning, after TCEQ made it clear that it would not pull its air permit for the White Stallion Energy Center.

Looks to me as if PBO and the EPA are walking on eggshells and 'playing nice' with the TCEQ...maybe offering up a little deference to states' rights and the once-republic of Texas to avoid a pillorying on Faux Noise Limbaugh et al.

Have you joined the EDF and the no coal coalition of Matagordo County to engage the TCEQ, EPA, the utility, the county governance, etc to provide letters, petitions, telephone calls, face-to-face meeting with these officials to make your voice heard? Same with state legislators, the governor, your Congressional representatives, etc. Help write and fund bill boards, letters to the editors of the local papers, get PR on the TV machine on the local news...



Your knowledge of NG resources in the area and your knowledge of energy issues in general would bolster your credibility in this contest.

Collect some funds and hire Paul from Halifax and his posse to come down and create enough negawatts to offset the need for this coal plant and the one planned for Odessa as well.

Ulan - A quick and somewhat sad short course on Texas politics: nothing and no one will stand in the way of any business expansion in Texas. Are you aware that in the last few years Texas has added more jobs than all the others states COMBINED. Some good paying jobs...many not so good. I've only lived in Texas and Louisiana but I suspect few other states can rival our pro-business attitude. Also I know some of the inside players that "protested" the White Stallion plant. Their protest was primarily a negotiating ploy: cut the right deal with them and their objections would disappear overnight. You may have heard one recent popular motto: Don't mess with Texas. A better motto would be: Don't mess with Texas businesses. And it might surprise folks but the one industry the state regulators keep a tight control on is the oil industry. All the others IMHO, including utilities like White Stallion, the S Texas Nuclear plant and the giant S. Texas wind farms, get to run with much less interference.

I've travelled through parts of the Appalachians.

I've been too Tyrol. The climate and terrain are very similar. But the human geography cannot be more different. The heartbreaking misery and poverty thanks to the domination of coal there are something to behold.

Time to bite the bullet and force the region to develop other economies.

Or maybe not? What if it just goes down further? Nothing "makes" economies develop other than the people there, and bootstrapping is not necessarily possible.

Actually Südtirol belongs to Italy since 1919; the remaining not longer connected Austrian parts Osttirol and Nordtirol like the other Austrian federal states made the transition from mostly agricultural regions to industrial regions after WWII: As Bohemia as the industrial heartland of the Austrian Empire was now behind the iron curtain and considered to be lost for the west the USA decided to industrialize the rest, therefore, within the the Marshal program Austria generous fundings and was able to build new industry, around 1970 the Austrian government deceided after hard internal discussions to peg the Schilling to the D-Mark in order to force the (new) Austrian industry to compete with the German, this worked very well.
Of course it helped that Tirol was and still is a very attractiv destination for (mainly German) tourists.

I've mostly been to the Zillertal, but I did also take the train to Brennero. The particulars of what developed in Tirol don't matter to my view all that much, but what matters is the sheer diversity. Appalachia has nothing but coal and misery.

"Appalachia has nothing but coal and misery."

Not so.


Having lived there I can agree. It is one of the best places in the country. Always amazed me that people who would never think of using pejoratives about ethnic minority groups, have no problem with calling Appalachian Americans the prejudice and disparaging H word.

Two of the links above:

Hmm, wonder if the industry has some inside knowledge about the carbon tax being considered as part of the fiscal cliff compromise:

Re coal layoffs in Utah

UtahAmerican Energy, Inc. (formerly Andalex Resources), is a bituminous coal underground coal mine and lignite surface mining company, headquartered in Sandy, Utah. UtahAmerican is a subsidiary of Cleveland, Ohio based Murray Energy Corporation

Mines operated by UtahAmerican and managed by Genwal Resources Inc.:

Aberdeen mine (Federal fines for flagrant violations relating to potential fire and explosion hazards)
Centennial mine
Crandall Canyon Mine (mine collapse killed 9)
Horse Canyon Mine
Pinnacle mine
Smokey Hollow mine
West Ridge mine (layoff 102)
Wildcat Loadout mine


A flagrant violation is defined as "a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory safety and health standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injury."

Relatives of the dead miners testified before the House Committee on Education and Labor that Murray Energy, the company that owned the Crandall Canyon mine, valued production over safety.

In 2006, the mine was cited for several safety violations, including lacking the required number of escape routes.[7] Murray said that the safety violations were trivial and included violations such as not having enough toilet paper in the restroom.[8] In addition, a practice[9] referred to as retreat mining was being conducted in some portions of the mine in which the coal had been removed by room and pillar method. The extraction of material literally creates a 'room' while the ceiling is supported by the 'pillars' of coal that remain. Retreat mining refers to the common practice of removing the pillars while retreating back towards the mine entrance.

On March 10, 2007 the north barrier pillar suffered from a rock burst, in which pressure causes material from the walls and ceiling to explode inward into the excavated spaces. No miners were injured and all equipment was recovered from the affected area, but the partial collapse closed off that area and forced the mine to instead extract coal that had a higher ash content. The company depended on the low-ash coal to meet its contractual obligations, however, so on March 21 a meeting was held in which it was decided to return to the south barrier pillar. This pillar was adjacent to the north barrier pillar. The March 10 event was never officially reported to MSHA, as required by law. Robert Murray claimed to be unaware of the incident but minutes of the March 21 meeting, released in January 2008, revealed that he had in fact known about it.[10]


Re: Climate Change Report Outlines Perils for U.S. Military

I attempted to find that report on the NEC web site, but was unsuccessful. If anyone else finds it, please post a link...

E. Swanson

Summary: Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis (2012)? $58 for the full report, it seems.

You can download the pdf for free ...

select ... [Free PDF Access: Sign in to download PDF book and chapters] ... on the side panel.

If you don't have an account with NAP, select [Continue as Guest], submit your email adddress and they will assign a temporary password and access to the download page.

You can select either the whole report or separate chapters. It's free

Thanks, Seraph
Your advice worked for me... it's a very interesting document.


Yes it is...

As they say in the UK ... we're buggered. Or, as those from NZ or the land of Oz would say … We're stuffed.

The operative word to remember in that report is DECADE not decade[s]

The report covers 2010 to 2020

Also the 2008 classified report mentioned below [probably] included the analysis about the impact of the megadrought on Mexican migration into the US. Thats 75 million people who will be looking for a new home.

That was the striking thing to me. The time frame is 10 years.

Of course the CIA has to consider the worse case scenario, but still...that's a really short time frame.

Black Dog et al:

I went to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA publication sites (at least the ones I found at first search on the open web.

Although I didn't find the 2008 Report on Climate Change (it looks like some of yuze may have found it on other sites), there are other interesting products free/releasable to the public:

Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World (120-page PDF..looks rather interesting to the TOD crowd:


From the pre-Executive Summary 'Global Landscape' table of 'Key Uncertainties':

Key Uncertainties

Whether an energy transition away from oil and gas—supported by improved energy storage, biofuels, and clean coal—is completed during the 2025 time frame.

...Are they kidding?

I wonder if there is a 'Global Trends 2030' report due out this year?

On the other hand, they look pretty prescient here wrt NYC (not so much the NYSE), but not for the 'World reaction':

October Surprise. In this world, depicted in a diary entry of a future US President, many countries have been preoccupied with achieving economic growth at the expense of safeguarding the environment. The scientific October Surprise. In this world, depicted in a diary entry of a future US President, many countries have been preoccupied with achieving economic growth at the expense of safeguarding the environment. The scientific community has not been able to issue specific warnings, but worries increase that a tipping point has been reached in which climate change has accelerated and possible impacts will be very destructive. New York City is hit by a major hurricane linked to global climate change; the NY Stock Exchange is severely damaged and, in the face of such destruction, world leaders must begin to think about taking drastic measures, such as relocating parts of coastal cities.

DNI Report and Publication archive top page:


CIA 'Library' page:


Government Printing Office Federal Digital System (Links to numerous USG Report):


CIA FOIA Reading room:


NIC collection:


The article you cited at the top of this DB links to an article that says there was a classified 2008 climate change report. A reasonably curious person may wonder what information they developed about climate change they determined warranted that protection.

I was going to add this to my first post on the subject, but it merits its own space.

The folks who published the Global Trends 2025 report I cited have done something new: they have created a Global Trends 2030 site, complete with many moderated blogs on different topics. They are doing this to cast their information-gathering net wider.



Whoa...I clicked into a blog on this site about population and found this post hailing the wonderful benefits to increased U.S. population growth (this blog is titled 'Demographic Morning in America':


a sample:

(...) This promise continues to manifest itself with strong population growth. For example, over 90 percent of U.S. population growth since 2000 has come from immigrants or the children of immigrants. Because of this trend the population of the United States is predicted to increase by an additional 30 percent between now and 2050.

A growing population means that the base of citizens that can be taxed will increase, making it relatively easier to fix our deficit, and with less pain, since it will be spread across more people. It also means that we will have the resources to continue to staff our military, and that we will have a robust working population that will support our retiring baby boomers. Most importantly, as the United States grows and becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, it will lead to more innovation, and more entrepreneurship. (...)

(...) Strong population growth will also help the U.S. internationally. China is often cited as one of the central potential threats to American power. Yet when we compare fertility rates we get a different picture. China’s fertility rate, at 1.56, is below replacement. This means that China’s population is, in fact, shrinking. In contrast, the U.S.’s fertility rate, at 2.08, shows a population that is growing. This will be a challenge for China, and one that will limit its ability to project power internationally over the medium and long-term. (...)

No Limits To Growth in this guy's worldview...those with the most people and war toys is winner! All your resources are belong to us!

Under a limits to growth scenario a growing population can still be a benefit - but not in the way this guy thinks. A growing population will be useful as cannon fodder for human wave style warfare, if a nation is ruthless enough.

The guy is just another technocrat or technician trying to overcome the technical obstacles to advancing the system he's affiliated with. There will be other technocrats or technicians who disagree with him and put forward other fixes, they may even be in opposition, but all will be basically trying to do the same thing. Advance down a one way street, always adding to the positive feedback and hobbling any negative feedbacks. Our ecosystems taking the fallout from every step forward regardless of the intentions, good or bad, of the person that took the step.

Now, I'm going off to wreak technological hell on the environment, cutting firewood, because I need to keep warm. If I'm a good technician, I will find faster, more efficient ways to do it and will be rewarded for doing so by having more wood for less effort (or money if I sell it). I will benefit whilst our ecosystem will suffer from me advancing our technological progress. Multiply my efforts by 7 to 9 billion people and you have our future, a predicament with outcomes. The death of our natural world, the death of our technological civilisation or some grey area inbetween?

"Red man make little fire, keep warm standin' close. White man make big fire, keep warm choppin' wood."

Nice quote! I like that version better than what seems to be the 1891 original . Perhaps the same meaning, though.

"The white man builds heap big fire and sits far from it, while the red man makes little fire and hugs it close."

And this one from Lappland: "Make a big fire, and sit close to it."

The Jevons Paradox restated: efficiency is killing the planet.

Yes, an intractable problem. We cannot go back and yet to go forward seems like suicide. Ho hum!

It depends, and is application specific.
I've been switching to LED and CFLs from incandescents in my house and although my power usage (and bill) for lighting literally is a fraction of what it was I don't use more lumens; my demand for lumens per sqft has an upper limit. Similarly with my car. I have a hybrid, use considerably less gas but don't drive more.
I understand that lowering unit costs in a developing society is likely to increase total consumption but you have to take into account what the constraint to more unit demand is - and in my case, which likely is quite typical in the west - 10 bucks more or less on my electric bill do not dictate demand though clearly in other societies it very well may be.
In my specific case increasing efficiency is decreasing total demand, but, like I said, if my constraint to more consumption was the number of currency units it likely would be different.


Jevons paradox can be countered with Leibig's law of the minimum.

Reminds me of when I read about the Newfoundland cod fisheries. For hundreds of years they were fished with small sailboats, rod and reel during summer days. Nice steady yield. But then they introduced big motorized trawlers with sonar and radar, capable of operating almost the whole year round. Obviously this was far more "efficient". Big business and big government loved them - greater efficiency being the way of the future. How did that turn out?

Zurich, Switzerland, Nov. 7, 2012 – ABB, the leading power and automation technology group, today announced a breakthrough in the ability to interrupt direct current, solving a 100-year-old electrical engineering puzzle and paving the way for a more efficient and reliable electricity supply system.


Better IGBT? Could this be a price breakthrough for HVDC transmission?

The link you posted said "... very fast mechanics with power electronics ... ",
so I'm thinking not (just) about IGBTs or similar solid state things.

search US patent applications for Assignee Name = ABB and Abstract = high voltage
gives about 20 applications in 2012.

This one is interesting:

Direct link to doc number 20120256711 - when ABB adds another application, the above search result will fail:

can't see the images?
www.pat2pdf.org is your friend, use app # 20120256711 to get the pdf.

Some of the solid-state IGBT switches act to unload the current through the mechanical switch as it opens and many more IGBT switches bypass the mechanical switch for a small amount of time afterwards. This is to extinguish the arc within the mechanical switch. The opened mechanical switch protects the solid-state IGBT switching elements that unloaded the mechanical switch just before it opened.

The mechanical switch has a multiplicity of paths that open simultaneously within a dielectric insulating fluid. The contacts are driven by high-speed electromechanical actuators... perhaps such as voice-coils or the d'arsonval motors found in disc-drives.

The head motors in disc-drives are good into the kilohertz, by the way, for applying force.

So I take it these "high-speed electromechanical actuators..." can produce 60 cycle AC from DC.

ABB is only offering the technology as a circuit breaker. Sometimes these things have a very short lifespan. A friend of mine is using some really cute/tiny power relays (contactors) for fault isolation in electric vehicles. They have a rated life of 10 (ten) cycles.

The disc-drive head motors could certainly drive contacts to make an electromechanical inverter. They could be used in this way to make the all-time rugged, isolated, fault-propagation-stopping command/base drivers for IGBTs, too.

Ah..... the old days........ Back, again, to the 32V wind-powered farm....



Notice that he was able to fix it with a file. You generally can not fix a modern solid-state Xantrex with a file.

I used a head motor to construct a negative impedance under one foot of the bridge of a mandolin from within the body of the instrument... infinite sustain and self-oscillation... an electro-acoustic instrument. No excursion was required from the motor: it all too easily covers high notes. The idea was to convolve a set of filters with the simpler instrument and render a violin. I'm not pursuing this or the Styrofoam version.

This year's AGU meeting will host a session of interest to TODers:

Union Session on Fossil Fuel Production, Economic Growth and Climate Change (U42A)

There will be a Union Session (U42A) held during the AGU Fall Meeting titled, "Revisiting Limits to Growth: Fossil Fuel Production, Economic Growth and Climate Change." Union Session U42A will be presented on Thursday, 6 December, 10:20 AM–12:20 PM, Moscone South 102.

The session chairs are James W. Murray (University of Washington) and Jim Hansen (Ravenna Capital Management). The invited speakers include Charles Hall (SUNY Syracuse), Christopher Nelder (Freelance Energy Analyst), David Hughes (Post Carbon Institute), James Hamilton (UC San Diego), and Pieter Tans (NOAA ESRL). Bio sketches and abstracts can be viewed here.

For more information about the Fall Meeting, visit the AGU Fall Meeting 2012 Web site.

Our new 'Tier 3' refrigerator arrived Thursday and has been installed and running for @ 48 hours. It is virtually identical to our 8 year old model: same manufacturer, size (exactly the same exterior dimensions), different color (wife decided she hates stainless). Per a Kill-a-watt meter, the old unit was using 1.36 kwh/day, average, over the last year. In the 24 hours since 10 AM Friday, after being loaded with fresh groceries, the new unit has used 987 watt-hours, in line with the claimed 364 kwhs/year from the energy usage tag. This translates to about $13.24 savings/year at average rates in local gridweenieworld; more significant here in off-grid land.

One of the first things I noticed was that the new refrigerator's walls are almost 50% thicker (2.9" vs. 2" in the old unit. With the identical exterior dimensions, this translates to about 1/2 a cubic foot less interior space (per manufacturer's claim - 20.5 new vs. 21 old), an acceptable trade-off for us. The compressor also sounds different and seems to start easier. Also, the ice maker has been slightly downsized, which is fine. Not sure if the energy use rating includes the ice maker. We ordered the unit during an "energy star sales tax holiday" a couple of weekends ago when disposal fees were also waived. The big home store threw in a 10% discount and free ice maker. Total cost was $804. At current grid rates, the cost difference between keeping the old unit and buying the new unit would be paid back in about 60 years... though this is misleading, as we would have needed to replace the old fridge at some point anyway. A similar non-tier unit was about $140 cheaper, making the differential pay-back a little over a year.

I'll leave the Kill-a-watt meter attached for a while to get better data.

What's "Tier 3"? I'm unfamiliar with that notation. I ought to upgrade the fridge, will look for 2.9 inch insulation - that is a handy statistic to look for, thanks. Please continue to post information.

"What's "Tier 3"?

Answer: The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) is a nonprofit public benefits corporation that works to develop initiatives for its members that include such organizations as U.S. and Canadian energy offices, utilities, research and environmental groups, to promote the manufacture and purchase of energy efficient products and services. The CEE also partners with manufacturers, retailers and government agencies.

One such initiative is the Super Efficient Home Appliance Initiative (SEHA), which provides specifications of super efficiency by establishing tiers of energy performance manufacturers may choose to meet for washers, refrigerators, dishwashers, and room air conditioners.

While consumers have become familiar with the Energy Star rating and the process for appliances to qualify, the CEE tier remains a mystery to many. But it's a notable that should not be ignored, because it provides further detail of energy efficiency, and that means energy savings to the consumer.

This tier compliments the already popular Energy Star qualification and has been applied based on the Modified Energy Factor(MEF) and the Water Factor(WF) for a given product, as supplied by the manufacturer.

So while an Energy Star appliance is known to be efficient, for the best electricity and water efficiency, also look for the CEE Tier. There are three levels of CEE tiers, I, II and III, with the highest number (III) being the best for energy efficiency.

For more about how the CEE Tier is calculated, visit the CEE site.

BTW: The sales manager at the big home store had no clue what CEE Tiers were ("Energy Star is Energy Star"), so I educated him a bit. Many States are requiring Tier III for rebates and tax credits, mainly on HVAC systems.

I dug out the paperwork on my refrigerator I bought 4/2010. Can't find anything about a tier rating.

On the Canadian side of the energyguide card, it does say "Type 3", is that it?

It shows using 416kwh/yr (21CuFt).

What do you think the remaining life was? 30 years or more lifespan used to be common (remember the old round cornered units that latched shut?), my impression is modern units don't come close.
Remaining life is a very important part of the calculation - lots of carbon tied up in the manufacture of these things.


Have you taken a look at the Watt's Up meter, either the Pro or Net versions? These have data logging - the Net version even connects to a network. The data logging allows tracking over time rather than the end result. It's said that the non-net versions are the only ones recommended for monitoring inverter generators but I'm not sure how true that is - I blew the fuse in my P3 testing my generator (replaced with a wire works fine now). I use my Watts Up to figure battery depletion in my RV when I return home and plug into shore power. Another benefit is that these have a cord and don't just stick into the wall covering the other outlet.

We got a GE GTH18EBT , also Tier III, 18 cubic feet, but only about $500 at Home Depot, and we got an energy rebate of $150 on it. Just under 1 KWH/day.

Uptop - Running Your House With IPhone Apps

Talk about loosing resilience. Most of us haven't found it difficult to do stuff manually and all this does is make things more complex. It may sound neat but why add another layer of complexity. We need to simplify not "complexify (tm)".


It's just plain dumb -- more silly toys to amuse small minds.


When all you have (to sell) is a Smart Phone, every problem looks like it needs a complicated solution.

It's a lemma, derived from the theorem: When all you can find in the golf bag is a Driver, everything looks like a long shot

and which has this corollary: Instead of puttin' the hammer down on every challenge, sometimes it's better to pick up a screwdriver or maybe a pair of pliers.

Not everything can be beaten into submission. Brute force has limits too.

I completely disagree. Some technologies can help move us to a more efficient world, and Philips has been a great contributor to low-energy lighting. Kudos for a product that adds a really neat reason to look at LED lighting - why not have some fun with color. Not everyone wants to wear the hair shirt.

Has everyone forgotten about induction lamps? They are an old technology, but today's advances in switching power supplies are making the ballasts a lot less expensive to manufacture.


Sylvania has made this kind of lamp under the name "Icetron" for ages.

Kinda pricey, but the cost would come down if these things took off. They claim a 100,000 hour lifespan for these things. Looks to me they would last the life of the house.

My main beef with LED is lumen depreciation with use, and their heat dissipation requirements. I would hate my LED's lifetime cut short by the mechanical life of a fan.

I wouldn't object to Apps for tracking energy use, in particular to send an alarm that might reveal a leak or a heavy draw left on by accident.. (and as a Landlord, I'd like a general monitor available for my other building, to keep it running efficiently..) and in concert with some basic data-logging in order to see where the systems are working and how they could be improved.. and I have also allowed my mind to toy with bits of automation that would involve shuttering windows or greenhouse spaces, air handling setups or doing other basic shifts from Day to Night mode, or following the weather.

But generally, I agree that having your lights or dishwashers go on and off for you like compliant little househelpers plays to my ear like the auto features in new cars that follow some odd algorhythms for when to lock the doors on you, how long to dim the dome lights etc.. Those programs can go to the same Digital Desert Island as Clippy, the old Microsoft Helper Tool.

They give 'help' a bad name.

I've decided that all of my inputs to my 2008 Mini Cooper are only suggestions to the computer. It gets to decide if they are worthy of attention and when.

Just dumb...

Phillips may make a great bulb, but they also have this:

Apple Sells Philips’ Color-Shifting Wireless Lights

Starting tomorrow, Apple will sell a kit of four Philips LED bulbs and wireless hub for $199 at Apple’s stores in the U.S. and make additional bulbs available for $59.

People can download an iOS or Android app to not only adjust lighting—on, off, or dimmed—but also control the color. A person can, for example, use a whiter light in the morning or a warmer, yellow light at night. People choose from a color palette and can even reproduce colors from photos.


Exxon shuts pipeline after oil leak offshore Nigeria

Exxon has shut a pipeline off the coast of Nigeria's Akwa Ibom state after an oil leak started by an unknown cause, the company's local unit said on Saturday.

The U.S. major's outage will add to production problems in Africa's biggest crude exporter, after fellow oil majors Shell and Eni reported recent disruptions at onshore sites due to Nigeria's worst flooding in 50 years.

news From Russia, with love.


Drought in several former Soviet States was the main culprit, and was devastating, with more than twenty percent of the crop failing in the Ukraine and a fall of over fifty percent in the steppe state of Kazakhstan. Turkey and Australia also saw production crash.


Exposure to low-level radiation can cause leukemia, U.S.-Ukraine study of Chernobyl cleanup workers finds. WASHINGTON — Protracted exposure to low-level radiation is associated with a significant increase in the risk of leukemia, according to a long-term study published Thursday in a U.S. research journal.

I'm too lazy to look them up, but last summer I saw some satellite photos of the fires raging in Russia that made the U.S. fires look like nothing. There were about 25 large, major fires there and zero media coverage.
There's also concern that fires that might break out in the forests around Chernobyl would re-release much of the contamination there back into the atmosphere.

Yesterday I went to a Commonwealth Club event which consisted of a “discussion” with Bill McKibben and John Hofmeister. McKibben, of course, is the 350.org guy. Hofmeister is the ex CEO of Shell Oil and now associated with a raft of policymaking organizations including Citizens for Affordable Energy and is listed as a “distinguished sustainability scholar” at ASU.

I was appalled that these two characters are considered important players in the energy/environmental arena. They came off as caricatures of an overzealous liberal and an oil company shill respectively. The “discussion” went on for about an hour without either of them making any serious effort to understand or come to terms with the other’s viewpoint. While my sympathies lie generally with McKibben's agenda he seemed to be mostly focused on shouting “fire” and touting the street demonstrations that his organizations has been involved with around the world. I got no sense that he understood the need to affect government policy in an effective way.

Hofmeister, on the other hand, was either completely dishonest with himself or the audience. The number of connections this person apparently has with the government was really depressing considering his, to me, cynical pushing of the oil industry agenda while pretending otherwise.

"I got no sense that he understood the need to affect government policy in an effective way."

The only way to do that is to make the Government dependant upon you for its survival, then threaten to kill yourself unless the Government do what you say. If you believe that BAU is going to bring about disaster and Government is dependant upon BAU to survive, there is no effective way to alter government policy. Essentially you have to wait for the crisis to strike, or bring about a crisis to force the issue. McKibben appears to be attempting the latter, which is fair enough given no other alternative.

Trouble is, altering government policy will not fundamentally change anything as they will be sidelined and marginalised if they even tried. Governments do not control the world in which we live, they have to adhere and submit to the technical methods and processes of our technological civilisation. They cannot cross the lines drawn out for them by the social, political and economic sciences, the technocrats that advise and approve their every move and all the other sub-systems which control the Governments behaviour.

Looking for a political "deus ex machina" to get us out of our perilous situation is a waste of time and will only lead to disappointment IMO.

We wasted billions on what some tried to convince us was an existential war, the Iraq war. This was based upon an unscientific conjecture that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. As it turned out, our civilization is the one with the weapons of mass destruction in the form of carbon emissions, which are invisible, but are there nonetheless.

Global warming is an existential threat, but most people don't know it yet. When they finally figure that out, a successful effort to do something significant about it will require a paradigm shift where hundreds of millions of people are willing to engage in massive behavioral change with the primary goal of avoiding a disastrous future. There is very little benefit to them in the short run. I cannot fathom our short run oriented society making such a shift even in the face of clear future disaster. The wiring simply doesn't work that way.

Many of those directly affected by Sandy are now screaming with great passion at their government and their local utilities. If only that passion could be directed to some change that would actually make a difference for the future.

Disclaimer: It may very well be that nothing can be of much benefit at this point. Pain and suffering is probably baked into the cake. And I do mean baked.

What we need now is toleave the planet alone to self heal for a millennium. Either collective suicide, or move out to the space colonies. Neither will happen so watch the planet burn.

Sorry, we are out of realistic options.

Hey hey JW,

Well, maybe. I've been wondering at what point a major disaster would be preferable to the continued increase in CO2 from BAU. For example: Where would you put the equivalence between full scale nuclear war and burning all the fossil fuels we can find? Are they roughly equivalent at 4 degrees of warming or 6 degrees. How bad does the forecast for overshoot, climate change, resource depletion need to be before nuclear war is clearly a better option?

Alternatively, we could end BAU much more easily by, say, releasing a weaponized pandemic like drug resistant H1N5. But would that really change BAU once the pandemic was over? Would we just resume our previous trajectory?

The Soviets genetically modified smallpox so that existing vaccinations were ineffective.

With modern ability to disperse smallpox, and the fatality rate, it could be a game changer.

Part of this would be the collapse of infrastructure during a pandemic. I wonder @ electricity, water & sewage if something comparable to the Spanish flu epidemic returned.


There's been a spate of anthrax deaths in Europe recently, seemingly from heroin. About 10 years ago a Korean pig farmer died from swine flu, a weaponised strain developed by the US military IIRC. New strains of this and that popping up all over the place. Who knows what is actually going on, whether its man or nature rolling the dice, it would seem someone or something is messing with the odds.

Given that a pre-industrial lifestyle is impossible for 7 to 9 billion people and the same can be said for a highly technological one too due to resource constraints. Something needs to happen to match the population to the new resource base and somehow that always seems to happen. Last time it was the Black Death which relieved the pressure at a time when overshoot was already causing severe problems.

After Fukashima, I'm really starting to question our collective ability to deal with the "after" effects of any pandemic long term.
Such a great planet to live on,why are we so blind?

Do you have citations to the allegation that the USG weaponized Swine Flu and killed a Korean pig farmer 10 years ago?

I think it is important to cite referenced to extraordinary claims such as this.

Like I said, it's from memory about 10 years ago. And there is no allegation now, nor was there then, it was unexplained. That's why I remember it. Although Russia accused the US of using biological agents during the Korean war, the US also seemed pretty reckless about testing drugs, chemicals and such on human populations (eg. LSD on a French village), security issues with missing stuff too (eg. lost nuclear weapons). In Britain they discovered a stash of WW1 chemical weapons on a disused army base being redeveloped for housing. Who knows what remnants of bygone research and fieldwork may still be around and in whose hands (eg. German chemical weapons were dumped in the Atlantic IIRC after WW2). Where did the anthrax come from in the suspected contaminated heroin?

Seemingly there is currently a swine flu virus (Sw-1204) doing the rounds in Korea, possibly two mutations away from being pandemic capable.

I'm not casting assertions, just that there are possibly serious risks out there that people are unaware of. We sometimes see the odd ripple on the surface indicating movement below.

Full scale thermo nuclear war is probably prefearble to burning all CO2. Reaching 600 PPM CO2 is within range, and that level is game over.

I cannot fathom our short run oriented society making such a shift even in the face of clear future disaster.

Short run oriented, short term thinking, out of sight out of mind, short term memory, are all attributes of a civilization without the long view. We're the frog in the rising temp. pot only concerned with 'now', not what happens once we've toxified ourselves consuming the yeast. On the surface we seem like a smart species, but just under the surface lies a primordial urge to have what we demand now irrespective of consequences. Until that consiousness level rises we are destined for the challenges of a much harsher planet.

This post reminded me of a phrase that I have heard so, I decided to look up "the worst of men and the best of bees". Turns out that it was a line from Karl Marx's Capital

A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.

When I think of the phrase, I think of the fact that human beings can draw data from more than their immediate surroundings and look at history and create models of stuff before they make decisions but, apparently that's not exactly what Marx was getting at.

The fact is that we have the wherewithal to predict the outcomes of many of our actions with some amount of certainty but, as others have said it seems we are hard wired to concentrate on short term gratification ae the expense of long term risks. In that respect we are no smarter than yeast. Speaking of which, what ever happenned to Bob "totoneila" Shaw?

Alan from the islands

So far as I know, Bob Shaw is doing well. He lost interest in peak oil, and moved on to other things.

Ah! Yes. The science of lying is called "Spin", a branch of the science of Propaganda. PR, Lobbying and Electioneering are more scientific offshoots. I'm sure the dismal performance of the US and British in their attempts to agitate their respective populations to war with with Iraq, caused intense effort to improve the scientific techniques.

Next time, the politicians will be obliged to use the improved techniques. If they don't someone else will, that's the way it goes, progress cannot be restrained even if it drives us over a cliff.

(all kneel)
ALL: Hail, Poetry, thou heav'n-born maid!
Thou gildest e'en the pirate's trade.
Hail, flowing fount of sentiment!
All hail, all hail, divine emollient!

An update on the NY/NJ power situation from Bloomberg News:

100,000 N.Y. Homes, Businesses Face Months Without Power

About 100,000 homes and businesses in New York City and Long Island were so damaged by Hurricane Sandy that restoring power to some of them may take months, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

About two-thirds are on Long Island’s south shore, with 36,000 clustered in Staten Island and the Rockaways where the most flooding occurred, Cuomo said yesterday at a news briefing.


About 434,140 homes and businesses, mostly in New York and New Jersey, remained without power as of 2 p.m. local time yesterday, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

See: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-10/100-000-n-y-homes-businesses-fa...


Sounds like the problem is the buildings are totaled and have to be replaced.

“You have some people who have buildings and have homes that you cannot turn on the power until that building or home is repaired or replaced,” Cuomo said. “Those are going to be the most difficult situations.”

No doubt many of these buildings will be condemned and demolished, or will require extensive repairs. That said, you'll need the services of a qualified electrician to replace a service mast or main panel or to repair damaged house wiring, and I suspect they'll be hard to find -- the backlog of service calls for even relatively minor repairs could easily span several weeks, and then you'll have to arrange for an electrical inspection before you can be reconnected. And so the clock ticks. Godspeed to one and all.


A good % of these homes will have damaged masts and/or damaged roofs.

Damaged masts need to be repaired or replaced by a qualified electrician.

Water dripping in on interior wiring is enough reason for the utility not to turn a home on.

But neither necessarily means a totaled building.

Long wait for

Yep. From personal experience, cost is quite high as well.

We were charged basically US$1000 just to replace the riser (the electrical pole the 3 power wires use to connect between the utility pole and the house).

Also had to coordinate between the power company and electrician to make sure power was shut down for disconnection/reconnection.

Personally feel it is a total PITA, that burns time and hurts the wallet.

I documented my experience, too: http://mrflash818.livejournal.com/122496.html

Based on my personal experience: I myself would now like about a week's worth of 2kW of self power capacity, either from PV or a FF generator, for the next time a Big Bad Thing happens.

Dont have any spare funds to get any at the moment, but seems a wise investment for the future.

If it is your bad neighbour's tree roots, sodium chlorate works well. Surprising how fast the tree curls up.


It seems safety regulations in the US are far more strict than they are on my island. Following the passage of hurricane Sandy here on October 24th power was restored to the area surrounding my dad's home on Sunday November 4th but, the 100m (~100yd.) service wire that connects to the public supply had been snapped by a fallen tree. I had my farm hand use his machette to clear the tree off the line and since I had no idea how long it would be before the work crews got to the area, I pulled the line back into the property to avoid it being stolen.

It turns out that the crews worked over the weekend so the farm hand was not at work to show them the wire and they had moved on. When I visited last week Wednesday just before nightfall, I was lucky to spot a utility company supervisor who told me a crew was replacing a defective transformer about a mile up the hill and could re-connect us when they were pasing back down.

I found where they were working and watcheyed them finish installing the transformer using light from flashlights. They called somebody to turn off the 13.8 kV feeder before attaching a "short and ground" connection to it using insulated apparatus. The workman then connected the new transformer, after which he removeid the "short and ground" connection and called for the feeder to be switched back on. The feeder was off for less than ten minutes.

No such precautions were taken when restoring the connection between my dad's house and the 110/220V local distributioney lines. The workman just used a fibreglass lader and was carefull. IIRC he didn't eiven weyear gloves. I don't recall ever hearing of any utility workers being killed while working on live 110/220V cicuits but, there was an incident less than two weeks ago where at least one was killed when somebody didn't follow procedure and energized a 13.8kV feeder prematurely or so the supervisor I dealt with last week told me.

I was just glad I caught those guys since, once they move on from an area, there is still so much work to do elsewhere that, who knows when a crew will be able to get back to you. This particular crew was not from this region but, the south of the island and is probably still working long hours seven days a week to try and clear the backlog of faults. I suspect that the more remote areas in the mountains will not get electricty back by Christmas.

All it cost me to do the re-connection was a round of beers for they guys (they were done for the night)!

Alan from the islands

The Jersey Shore is populated with many small municipalities. In one county alone, about $10 billion assessed value of rateables were in the Category 2 hurricane flood plain, which is roughly the extent of flooding. Some of the smaller municipalities have severely reduced rateables, and many owners will no longer pay their property taxes.

It will be interesting to see whether a significant number of these municipalities go out of existance.

Good time to be a repairman I guess.

Naturally no one will relocate to higher ground, and government will not ban rebuilding or repairing houses in the flood prone areas. Humans do not grasp something so rational and logical.

Bob Shaw's question: Are humans smarter than yeast?

Rail's new oil rush

In a market that is short on pipeline space and heavy crude sells at a big discount, one oilsands producer has found a way around the bottleneck.

Southern Pacific Resources, which began trucking out initial production from its new McKay Thermal Project three weeks ago, will open a dedicated rail terminal in a few weeks just south of Fort McMurray and ship its product in leased tanker cars via CN Rail all the way to Natchez, Miss.

From there, it's just a short barge ride down the Mississippi River to one of the eight refineries in Louisiana, where the crude will fetch $20 to $30 a barrel more than it could at the congested terminal hub in Cushing, Okla.

Assuming the Mississippi River has sufficient water for a barge loaded with oil to float.

Why corporations are flocking back to downtown Toronto

Jason Johnstone feels like a new man since he switched workplaces this spring.

It wasn’t the job that was killing him so much as the lifestyle.

Until May, he’d been living downtown and commuting to work in Mississauga. It used to be commonplace for businesses to take advantage of low rents in the suburbs; employees would pay the price in long travel times. But when SNC Lavalin offered Mr. Johnstone a new job, he was pleasantly surprised to find his new workplace would be located downtown.

SNC Lavalin is not alone. Companies are increasingly sucking up higher rents for more central locations, where they can draw from the pool of young, highly educated workers moving into newly built condos that are sprouting up in the city centre.

The demographic is expected to grow as Toronto’s downtown intensifies and planners concentrate on creating “live, play, work” communities. As Mr. Johnstone, 30, makes clear, the offer of a centralized life is a huge draw for some employees. “It’s turned my commute from about an hour’s drive to a 30-minute walk,” Mr. Johnstone says. “I sold my car after I got this job. I decided to walk, I lost weight, I felt like my lifestyle got better. I’m saving money, and can spend my disposable income in other areas.”

In the 1980s a migration was occurring to the suburbs, with many companies leaving downtown. “That was all part of urban sprawl, as people were moving to the suburbs and wanted to be closer to where they worked,” Mr. Menkes says. “Downtown Toronto really hadn’t seen much new office development from the early 1990s right through until 2009. There was about an 18-year period where there weren’t any new office buildings completed.”

But the province’s decision to create a buffer zone around urban sprawl caused planners and developers to turn their sights back towards downtown intensification. That strategy is now really taking off with the growth of mixed-use projects that combine some elements of retail, office and residential space, as well as the new projects that are pushing into areas such as the southern pocket of the core.

Hilarious Re: Shell and Egypt..

Wasn't just 3 years ago when Egypt was a net exporter of O+G?...

Shell is putting in place a strategy to blame the MB for the falloff in oil and the attendant budget strains that it poses for the Egyptian government...

Here are two articles I posted on Egypt in 2010 and 2011:

Energy Trends > Egypt

The August, 2010 post begins with:

Egyptian’s enjoy the “good life” as much as anyone and are proving happy to drive to it in the new suburbs outside Cairo. Unfortunately, the higher level of energy consumption associated with suburban living could be Egypt’s undoing.


Hurricane Sandy and the Disaster-Preparedness Economy

FOLKS here don’t wish disaster on their fellow Americans. They didn’t pray for Hurricane Sandy to come grinding up the East Coast, tearing lives apart and plunging millions into darkness.

But the fact is, disasters are good business in Waukesha. And, lately, there have been a lot of disasters.

This Milwaukee suburb, once known for its curative spring waters and, more recently, for being a Republican stronghold in a state that President Obama won on Election Day, happens to be the home of one of the largest makers of residential generators in the country. So when the lights go out in New York — or on the storm-savaged Jersey Shore or in tornado-hit Missouri or wherever — the orders come pouring in like a tidal surge.

It’s all part of what you might call the Mad Max Economy, a multibillion-dollar-a-year collection of industries that thrive when things get really, really bad. Weather radios, kerosene heaters, D batteries, candles, industrial fans for drying soggy homes — all are scarce and coveted in the gloomy aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and her ilk.

It didn’t start with the last few hurricanes, either. Modern Mad Max capitalism has been around a while, decades even, growing out of something like old-fashioned self-reliance, political beliefs and post-Apocalyptic visions. The cold war may have been the start, when schoolchildren dove under desks and ordinary citizens dug bomb shelters out back. But economic fears, as well as worries about climate change and an unreliable electronic grid have all fed it.

Interesting article.
The trouble with a "Mad Max Economy" is that the calamity you plan for may not be the one that hits you.
All those people in Jersey recently with generators and no fuel. Gas lines to standby generators can break in a quake. Stored food goes bad. And no individual is prepared for a radiological disaster or a bacteriological or virus outbreak.
It seems to me our time and money would be better spent on electing better leaders.

Jaybyrd - True: sh*t happens. So why not prepare for some of the more likely sh*t? Quake breaking NG lines? Not much to worry about here in the Gulf Coast. In 61 years living in hurricane alley I've never lost NG service once. I don't have NG now but wouldn't invest the money in such a system if I did. I have a small cheap gasoline fueled generator: big enough to keep the ice box running, a few light and fans. Enough to get by in acceptable comfort. With the propane grill we can get by for a few weeks on no electricity without much problem. This investment costs a lot less than a couple of weeks in a motel.

Most everyone I know is oil patch and virtually all have such capabilities. None of which will be of much help if your house is destroyed. There's sh*t you can prepare for and sh*t you can't. Everyone makes their own choices.

Natural gas spaghetti lines are buried in the ground and the electrical distribution network is strung up at tree-top level.

Thank goodness it wasn't cheaper (or practical) to distribute gas overhead!

Although there are also cases of the gas lines breaking and rows of houses burning down. Plus, when the wave action compromises the gas lines, they shut them off and salt water gets in the pipes. Some locations are looking at months to get back in service.

Electrical distribution overhead would be more robust if they just cut down every tree or limb that could fall and strike the line or a pole. But the tree lovers whine about doing that.

That's hardly the key problem.. there's the annoying way that trees have of Growing, so that even all the trimmed trees don't stay trimmed for all that long. Tons of labor, fuel, tools and continual vigilance..

But if folks need to keep pointing at the greens for all their problems.. so be it.

Trees are pretty much the key problem. The solution is to cut the tall ones at ground level and herbicide the stumps so that they don't grow back. Then plant short trees that will not reach the wires when mature. Or plant tall trees on the other side of the street or in the back yard where they can't strike the utilities.

A secondary problem is the joint use of poles with the phone and cable companies. We still have some quite large plastic insullated twisted pair copper cables on poles and even some paper-insulated lead-sheathed arial cable. This, and the coax, should be replaced by fiber-optic PON or by wireless. This would limit pole breakage from excess cable weight and wind-loading.

I took this picture in Bedford, MA:

People say it's expensive to keep trees trimmed, but they do it here, and power is cheap....

Once upon a time people would complain about their precious trees, especially in the traditional neighborhoods. Then the ice storm came. And they complained about no power...for a long time. Eventually the power came back on.

Since then, not much complaining. If you want trees, buy a bigger lot...in a neighborhood with buried cables.

The trucks run around year long, keeping right-of-ways clear. You do generally get a choice as to whether you want to keep the wood cut on your property or not.

I stand with many New Orleanians that realize that trees are here 365 days/year - and are well worth an extra day without power once a decade or so.


Housing cooling load would rise if you started cutting down all those trees. Trees provide this pleasant effect on a hot day... it's called 'shade'.

And isn't it a bit nuts to suggest we go around cutting down trees because of a hurricane whose systemic cause was climate change?

Cutting down trees isn't going to help us reel back in some of the CO2 we've dumped into the atmosphere. It will do the opposite! And add to summertime electricity demand as a result of increased cooling load.

Beware of unintended consequences.

Here the trees are trimmed by the ayutamiento's alambrado department. They are trimmed. If you want shade, fine, just keep them away from the wiring because they will be trimmed. Trim them yourself, be decorative if you want but make sure they are safe to the wiring. It is not just hurricanes, trees fall down for a lot of reasons: rot, hit by motor vehicle, pest damage etc. Tree growth itself can impact cables, branches grow, branches drop. You don't have to cut down ll the trees to make the wiring safe and you can still get shade, it just takes those commodities that seem to be in short supply, thought and planning ahead.


It takes electricity to make NG work. A few years ago Texas nearly lost NG because electric companies were ordered, during a severe freeze, to serve consumers before businesses, so the NG companies were cut -- even though much of the electricity is generated from NG.

We can hope Texas has gotten smarter about this, but I wouldn't bet the ranch on it.

The natural gas processing plants I used to work at all had their own backup generators - NG powered, of course. During the lightning season the plants used to disconnect from the grid and run on their own generators because the chance of a lightning strike knocking down the grid was too high.

At least one plant managed to negotiate a negative electricity rate from the local utility, first because it provided base load for the utility, which couldn't shut down its coal-burning plants overnight, and second because it agreed to supply backup power to the utility in the event that one of its coal-burning power plants tripped. The gas plant could supply its customers on line pack (the gas already in the pipeline) for several days in the event of a supply interuption, whereas the electric utility couldn't tolerate an interuption that lasted for more than a fraction of a second.

Nowadays, all the old gas plants I used to work at have a brand new NG powered peaking unit sitting right next to them. Most likely, the gas plant has first dibs on the electricity the power plant produces, but the electric power plant is likely making more money than the gas plant does..

Nowadays, all the old gas plants I used to work at have a brand new NG powered peaking unit sitting right next to them.

How big are the peaking units? Is the development of these driven by the growth of intermittent power sources such as wind and solar?

Last line in article;

“The wives in this area don’t want jewelry for Christmas. They want generators.”

reminds me of the ex's dislike of camping. Flush toilets are non-negotiable.

If neither the State nor the utility can keep the lights on, then it's up to the individuals. I wonder if upscale apartments will start installing and advertising back-up generators. If the building also has hot water heat that pairing could be designed to also keep the building warm in the winter.

IMO, it is likely that a sizable percentage of one percenters own or will own a slab mounted natural gas or propane powered backup generator (starting cost installed, about $8,000 in Texas).

You don't have to be in the 1% to have propane backup. You can buy a 1000 watt bi-fuel generator for $1000 that will run for days off a 20lb BBQ tank if the natural gas supply goes out. Bigger ones cost more money and use more propane. And, if you have a propane BBQ you can cook and heat water with it, or use a camp stove.

You can also buy a small propane refrigerator that will also run on a/c power as an alternative. People claim they will run for a month on a 20lb BBQ tank - but that's probably variable.

You can also buy propane lights, propane heaters, etc for emergency use. Just make sure you have enough of those 20lb BBQ tanks on hand.

I would have to recommend the 2000W model for someone less experienced in generator sizing.

Hah! All this chatter about gensets when I have been preaching for years the far superior merits of a stirling CHP (combined heat and power).

Totally quiet, clean exhaust with some free oxygen still in it, burns anything, including chairs and tables as well as blown-down trees, lasts more or less forever.

And-- yess, yes, is not available on the market. briggs is cheaper, and people don't seem to be able to think of life cycle costs. Especially those briggs-types , who have looked at the stirling seriously about every decade, and every decade turn it down for the very same simpleminded reason-"why do anything different, we are making money now."

BTW, they do NOT turn it down for mfg. cost reasons, their cost estimates are astoundingly low, to me, anyhow, but still higher than a briggs, which is near dirt cheap.

PS. I have a really awful looking but functional one kw stirling hanging over my woodstove in the shop as I speak. When I get some honest data I will report it. ( Yep, been saying that for months--"nobody's perfect").

Wimbi, just put on your IEA hat, and put out the data you've got with the promise of 'corrections' at some point in the near future..

Any chance you'll be offering a tour someday? I'm getting one of my projects almost done now, so the pending project list is going to be down in the very few hundreds soon. I'd like the Sterling section of my lists to become a little less hypothetical, if I can.

"Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you will give me your kind attention for a moment, I would like to describe this device over in this dark corner, But first, I ask you to put on the special glasses we issued at the door which allow you to see what could'a been there if things had gone right instead'a what"s actually there on account'a the way things actually did go.

Now, please note how slick and polished everything is, and what a nice logo we have on the side, evoking all sorts of green thoughts in your head along with a deep desire to shell out some green my way.

Next, note this big funnel up top, wherein you can throw any old trash, like sticks, deer fat, crankase drainings and all that sorta stuff. Or, if you insist on being squeaky clean, nice dry logs of the kind you buy at the store all wrapped in plastic. -- Ahem--and if nobody is looking, you can also toss in the plastic- burns real hot.

What's it for? Oh, I almost forgot, this thing makes electricity, same as a wall outlet. How much, well, as much as you feed it. And how much is that? Ah, last I looked, I think it was about 1Kg/kW-hr. But that was a long time ago. Maybe it was 1.5kg/kW-hr. But does anybody really care when you have a 20 ton tree squatting on your back porch?"

The advantage of the larger slab mounted units is that they can handle the base house load + generally one AC/heating unit.

Well, yes, if you're in the 1% the slab mounted one with automatic switchover might be for you. If you're in the 99%, the 2000 watt one with a bunch of extension cords might be more in your price bracket. You can just use fans and sweat harder to deal with the heat.

Plus, you can take the 2000 watt one in your car along with your propane stove, propane lights, and propane heater on your camping trips. Or if things go really bad.

Folks need to make a carefull analysis of what they want (or rather need) to run off from a generator, before buying one. Be sure to include start up surge for any appliances you expect to run.

A few months ago we had a major wind storm. This storm came earlier than is typical around here, and the trees still had leaves (think big sails). Power was knocked out in many parts of Anchorage. At my house it was three days or so before power was back up. No big deal for us, being outdoors types we have lots of headlamps, extra batteries, etc. My only real concern was keeping our supply of frozen fish in the freezer. I have an almost new 3 KW Craftsman generator that we had purchased awhile back through Craigs List. It can easily run the freezer, the fridge, and a couple of lights, with juice to spare. It is portable, more or less, though a bit big and heavy. But it does the job for what we want, which is mostly about running the pumps in our baseboard hot water heating system (in winter), and running the frig and freezer (in summer).

However, my neighbor had a really small (1 KW I think) generator and was trying to run just his refrigerator, but the generator couldn't handle the start up surge, and kept cutting out when he plugged in the frig or freezer. Being good neighbors, I let him borrow ours for a couple of hours a day to cool his freezer and fridge.

Size does matter (at least with respect to generators).

Jeez, I have a perfectly ordinary house with ordinary things in it, and the wattmeter I put on my inverter, looking at the whole house usage, has never read over 1400 watts. That was today, when my wife was using the vacuum cleaner and the fridge and freezer went on.

at the same moment, I was getting 1500 watts from my 2000 watt rated PV.

Something funny going on here with all these huge gensets. Has anybody listened to James Hansen?

My modest size chest freezer only uses about 80 watts when running, but when it first starts up it needs about 1200 watts for a second or so. One can see that on a kill-a-watt meter if one looks at its momentary display. This is typical for a freezer or refrigerator. I tried, and my very small generator, officially rated 900 watts, cannot start that freezer. But my actual intended use of that tiny generator is to charge my batteries, if for some reason (clouds, snow), in an extended outage, the PV input is not enough. The inverter can easily start and run the freezer (and frig and boiler and more) - it's rated up to 4000 watts surge (Xantrex Prosine 2.0). My backup power system is 4 golf cart batteries and about 800 watts PV. I'm on the grid but this system does not feed into the grid. Total expense was about $4000, but I did all the labor myself.

BTW, charging big batteries from a generator, efficiently, is not easy. Typical stand-alone chargers are too slow, especially on the AC waveform that comes out of a cheap generator, and the direct 12V output that many generators have is even worse. My big inverter includes a smart and efficient charger built-in, that can deliver up to 100 amps and can handle less-than-perfect AC input, and I also stashed an IOTA DLS-30 inverter-type standalone charger as a backup.

Some of the Kill-a-Watt have a peak measuring ability. If anyone is thinking about getting a KaW for these purposes look into getting the peak type, wish I had.


I doubt the transient on our frig is very high -probably a few hundred watts. I suspect the more modern efficient models have lower transients. I do agree about those big gensets, seems a bit excessive -and I bet the minimum rate of fuel consumption is high which could be crucial if you have a long outage and can't replenish the fuel supply.

My 4,000 W generator powered by propane can not run my 1,200 W microwave oven (because the AC voltage drops too low), but my 1,440 W inverter powered by my batteries and photovoltaic panels has no problem with it. The power rating of a generator must be considerably higher than the power required by its load.

Sounds like volts, amps, watts - pick 2


Yep. I run my house on a 3.5kW inverter. Has no problem with transients. The batteries store less than one day's use, and are charged by the 2kWp PV and a 1kW stirling running on the woodstove. Average house usage is 5.5kWhr/day, which I can cut down if needed to about 3.

If a house has a combustion space heater, it could easily have a full time generator built in-- if we lived in a sane world where we don't kid ourselves about effect of energy use.

Way to get saneworld- put the full cost on energy.

BT, Assuming your gen puts out 240V, get a stepdown transformer like a THG-5000. I've picked up a couple cheap on e-bay.

I wonder if upscale apartments will start installing and advertising back-up generators.

They already do, at least in NYC.

And in Bangkok, and most cities where power is less reliable.

Silly title, but good article in terms of information, at least for standby generators.

RE: Dealing with oil-Qaeda

The original of the piece at Tom Dispatch says:

And at the top of the list of those who know what's going on are the fossil-fuel companies with their unprecedented profits and unbearably overpaid executives and shareholders.

Just like those running asbestos, lead paint, and tobacco companies who knowingly continued to do harm for profit after the scientific verdicts on their products were in, energy executives undoubtedly are more aware of what the burning of fossil fuels actually means for this planet than most of the rest of us. They certainly don’t know less than the reinsurance types who have launched a campaign of climate change awareness within the insurance business or New York’s Mayor Bloomberg, whose magazine Bloomberg Businessweek just had the blunt cover headline, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

And if they know and haven’t taken steps to prepare us for a fierce weather future or to switch us over to an alternative energy economy, if they’ve just kept on pouring money and effort and ingenuity into the frizzling of this planet, then let’s face it, they are the business equivalents of terrorists. In fact, for years they’ve funded a massive campaign to deny the reality of climate change. Only recently, Chevron made a last minute contribution of $2.5 million to a Super PAC dedicated to reelecting Republican members of the House of Representatives (who could, of course, block any legislation detrimental to an oil company). Realistically speaking, we should think of them as oil-Qaeda and we already know one thing: the strikes against us that they are at least partially responsible for are only going to grow more devastating.

(Tom Dispatch, emphasis added).

Stumbled on the North American Drought Monitor. I had been looking for a N.A. version as the Ag Canada drought maps present info in a much different format...

North American Drought Monitor Overview

The North America Drought Monitor (NADM) is a cooperative effort between drought experts in Canada, Mexico and the United States to monitor drought across the continent on an ongoing basis.

Here's the latest map (dated September 30, 2012; Pre-Sandy)

And here is the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map...

Things aren't looking good for the corn belt. And corn ethanol producers are already going bankrupt.

Ethanol Producer New Energy to Sell Assets in Bankruptcy

Canada’s New Corn Belt Attracts Hot Money to Bargain Farmland

Canadian farmers in the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, long one of the greatest wheat-growing regions on Earth, have started planting corn, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Nov. 12 issue. The corn zone for government crop-insurance coverage reaches to Dan Mazier’s farm near Justice, Manitoba -- about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of the U.S. border -- and ends right along a road that divides his property.

“I told them the sun shines on both sides of the road, but they haven’t caught up to the weather yet,” said Mazier, who sowed the grain for the first time this year. “So I only plant it south of the line.”

Corn’s new appeal to Canada’s prairie farmers is based on two things: climate change and price. Growing seasons in the prairie provinces -- which border Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana -- have lengthened about two weeks to as long as 120 days in the past half-century.

Wheat acreage in Canada is becoming corn acreage. And corn acreage in the U.S. will decline with climate change.

Trouble is there is only so much arable land in Canada, the rest is Canadian Shield.

BPA sums things up for us...

Mandated Corn Ethanol’s Ripple Effect on Global Commodity Prices and Food Security

As U.S. farmers grow more corn and less soy, Brazil takes up a greater share of the soy market, which causes a land use change. As corn demand rises, prices rise and wheat becomes substituted for corn in livestock feeds. Thus, the wheat price rises. (We are seeing this right now.) As wheat prices rise, consumers throughout the world shift from bread to rice, causing rice prices to rise.

Lots of graphs, so do click through.

Our farmstead is still in the "exceptional" category. We are celebrating today cause we got 7/10ths of rain last night.

Gun sales are booming. I hear the local show was a madhouse. Stores are selling out.

One thing you can say about Obama, that man sure can sell guns!

Before and after the previous (2008) elections hysterical claims that Obama will take people's guns away, or restrict sales, were rampant. And nothing happened. Why do they expect it again now? I don't get it.

Because of the expectation that he'll be less restrained in his second term. And rumors (speculation circling the 'tubes) that he's (1) going to do a super-Brady deal, and (2) he's going to sign a UN gun control treaty.

Besides, any reason to go to a gun store is a good enough reason, isn't it? At least you have something to tell the wife when you drop another grand. Heck, we don't buy any of this, yet my wife wants a pistol for the first time.

It still puzzles me. The UN treaty deal sounds to me like totally crazy conspiracy nuttiness, as there is no such treaty under discussion, and nobody's pushing for it, AFAIK. But then the black helicopters are coming any day now :-) As for a Brady deal, that's up to Congress, which hasn't changed much in this latest round of electioneering.

The conspiracy nut-cases are usually referring to 20 year old Agenda 21.

Which also ties to REXX84 and UN rewilding project. Work in various executive orders, comments by various "leaders", bulk ammo buys by the SS Administration / DHS, the video of President Obama telling some lady "he's working on gun control", claims like New York State turning away National Guard because they had guns, and past history of other Nation States that banned guns along with the NRA working with Newt Gingrich on the last big gun law and its a very rich agar to grow whatever theory you want.

And yet - older ties exist it seems.

If one digs around there is are claims on the Internet that Obama's gun control is nearly or exactly a copy of Nazi Gun Control. But others claim that isn't true: http://jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/GCA_68.htm

Plenty of reasons to ban guns - but for whatever reason the Leadership isn't willing to do it via a proper Constitutional amendment.

private ownership of firearms will //never//be banned in the U.S. as we know it.

The REXX84 etc examples that you list which some people cite as cause to stock guns and ammo are /not/ 'a rich agar' but in reality a thin gruel of paranoia.

Here is a not-farfetched theory: What is the gun and ammo makers stoke these paranoid fires in order to move more product?

People who worship guns are going to but more guns and ammo. It is what they do. Could likely be classed as another OCD variant.

private ownership of firearms will //never//be banned in the U.S. as we know it.

Such is the case for various classifications of citizens. Those with mental problems. Or in some States ex-felons. (thus your attempting to frame gun ownership as OCD makes for the same kind of legal catch 22 of you can only have legal marijuana with a tax stamp and you have to present the weed to get the tax stamp.)


1) Paranoids do have real enemies.
2) What about the reaction of the US and its military to things like WMD? At what point does your OCD claim apply to a Nation when it attacks others over non-existent threats?

The bans on gun ownership in certain cases to ex-felons and people with certain mental disorder are not new, and not indicative of any Obama-led 'take the guns and ammo away' plan or conspiracy.

I did not say that any level of gun ownership is OCD, but meant that the folks who buy gun after gun after gun, and loads of ammo, and do it out of some unreasonable fear of the USG or the zombie hoards coming over their wire, are OCD.

Regarding your point#2 above, I do not disagree with your distaste for the U.S. pretense about WMD as 'justification' for the Iraq war, but I don't see how this ideas became part of a discussion over some U.S. citizenry's paranoia about PBO and '2016: the Movie' etc and their resultant obsession with stockpiling guns and ammo.

I will reiterate my position once more:

Neither PBO nor the majority of the Democrats in Congress now have a plan to 'take people's guns away', nor will they attempt to do so now that PBO is in office for another four years. They didn't have such plans four years ago either, or 8 years before that...

Gun control in the U.S. has meant for decades now the ability to achieve a tight shot pattern on your intended target location on the body. Plain text: the idea of any further 'gun control' laws in the U.S. seems Dead On Arrival for the for now and the foreseeable future, In My Opinion.

'they will take your guns away' is one of those 'only important at election time' issues (including abortion and 'welfare queens') which Faux Noise Network, Limbaugh, et al trot out every election cycle to 'whip up the passions of the base'.

Obama even loosened up the rules on bringing guns into National Parks.


Neither PBO

I don't know what is in the heart of President Barak Obama. It is interesting that you do however.

Yet others have a different information and therefore a different opinion:

During the meeting, President Obama dropped in and, according to Sarah Brady, brought up the issue of gun control, “to fill us in that it was very much on his agenda,” she said. “I just want you to know that we are working on it,” Brady recalled the president telling them. “We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar.”

nor the majority of the Democrats in Congress now have a plan to 'take people's guns away',

It doesn't take a 'majority' to 'plan' - just one who keeps introducing a bill 'till it gets passed.

, nor will they attempt to do so now that PBO is in office for another four years.

And here I agree with you. Instead its far simpler to address the ammunition as was attempted in 1995


They didn't have such plans four years ago either, or 8 years before that...

You've used alot of wiggle words. Like Majority. Or "they".

All the huffing and puffing about what Obama is going to do - Remember that Romney actually did sign a law banning some types of guns in 2004.

How about other things "Republicans did" WRT guns

In 1969, journalist William Safire asked Richard Nixon what he thought about gun control. "Guns are an abomination," Nixon replied. According to Safire, Nixon went on to confess that, "Free from fear of gun owners' retaliation at the polls, he favored making handguns illegal and requiring licenses for hunting rifles."

It was President George Bush, Sr. who banned the import of "assault weapons" in 1989, and promoted the view that Americans should only be allowed to own weapons suitable for "sporting purposes."

It was Governor Ronald Reagan of California who signed the Mulford Act in 1967, "prohibiting the carrying of firearms on one's person or in a vehicle, in any public place or on any public street." The law was aimed at stopping the Black Panthers, but affected all gun owners.

Twenty-four years later, Reagan was still pushing gun control. "I support the Brady Bill," he said in a March 28, 1991 speech, "and I urge the Congress to enact it without further delay."

One of the most aggressive gun control advocates today is Republican mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York City, whose administration sued 26 gun manufacturers in June 2000, and whose police commissioner, Howard Safir, proposed a nationwide plan for gun licensing, complete with yearly "safety" inspections.

Another Republican, New York State Governor George Pataki, on August 10, 2000, signed into law what The New York Times called "the nation’s strictest gun controls," a radical program mandating trigger locks, background checks at gun shows and "ballistic fingerprinting" of guns sold in the state. It also raised the legal age to buy a handgun to 21 and banned "assault weapons," the sale or possession of which would now be punishable by seven years in prison.

In the Senate, the story is much the same, but the senators' votes are on record, and we can see in no-uncertain terms that the Republicans supported the assault weapons ban just as much as the democrats. Here's how the actual vote went down:

Number of Democrats voting for the AWB: 50/53 (94.3%)
Number of Republicans voting for the AWB: 45/47 (95.7%)

In My Opinion.

That's the interesting thing - I've provided links and references. So that others can decide.

You chase after phantom menaces, and you do it with gusto!

Enjoy your firearms, and be safe!

The country is solidly in thrall to the NRA, so please don't lose any sleep.

You chase after phantom menaces, and you do it with gusto!

No - I cite events and provide links. Like the Sarah Brady comments - it seems you have no response beyond handwaving. (Just like the "worry about Democrats taking your guns" crowd has no response when shown Republicans are equal opportunity gun takers.)

Enjoy your firearms

I do not own any to "enjoy", thanks however in telling me to enjoy what I do not have tho.

The country is solidly in thrall to the NRA

The country likes its gun based violence - 60% of the regular budget goes to the military. So there is an active selling of the culture of violence.

Your dock goes on the docket

After deregulation, many cottagers and municipalities will find themselves navigating the courts


Indeed, cottagers and municipalities faced with development on nearby waterfront lots may soon wish that the federal government had been more balanced in its amendments. Paddlers may encounter lower water levels and anglers may regret the loss of fishing holes due to unannounced physical barriers affecting flow rates. To everyone’s consternation, Transport Canada will remind us that it no longer tracks or approves the activities that obstruct 99 per cent of Canada’s waterways. By going to deregulatory extremes, these amendments force Canadians to rely on the leaky, pricey lifeboat of common law to protect our right to navigate.

Will Amos is the director of the Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Ottawa. Ian Miron is an articling student with Ecojustice.

Removing regulations to make it easier to build pipelines and expand the tar sands is going to make it harder and more expensive for everyone else. Of course it's only more expensive if you can afford a lawyer to sue, otherwise your out of luck.

After federal changes to waterways rules, 90 per cent of protected lakes lap on Conservative shores

Almost one third contained in Ontario cottage country ridings held by Tories Clement and Devolin

By GLEN MCGREGOR, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The vast majority of lakes that retain federal protection under the government’s proposed changes to waterway rules lap up against ridings held by Conservative MPs.

While revisions to the Navigable Waters Protection Act has stripped federal oversight from thousands of Canadian waterways, 90 per cent of the lakes that will still be designated as protected are in Tory territory, a Citizen analysis shows.

It's important for the economy that red tape be cut, except where it protects the playgrounds of the 1%.

"It's important for the economy that red tape be cut, except where it protects the playgrounds of the 1%."

Sounds similar to Ted Kennedy's stalwart objection to that Cape Cod Windfarm.

Taking apart Tories' Party Line on China-Canada Treaty

A Conservative MP's letter attempting to soothe citizens worried about FIPA is misleading says expert Gus Van Harten, who breaks it down item by item.


Rick Mercer Is Mad about the Canada-China Treaty

Canada's angriest man is at his angriest with this rant against the proposed Canada - China investment treaty. Accountable government? Transparent government? Or a government so unaccountable it's transparent.

Gas Lines Point to a Need for Resilience

Hurricane Sandy demonstrated the vulnerability of our dependence on gasoline for transportation and emergency generators

Alex Wilson

Moving toward resilience

The solutions to these problems are many-faceted. Relative to the need for generators, we should build greater resilience into our homes. All homes should be able to maintain livable conditions in the event of loss of power or heating fuel. This is a familiar refrain of mine.

We can do this with much better building envelopes (significantly higher insulation levels, triple-glazed windows, tighter construction) and passive solar gain. With such features, the temperatures in those homes should never drop below 45 or 50 degrees Fahrenheit, even in the middle of winter if there’s no power and our heating systems can’t operate.

Alex Wilson in an opinion he wrote in Fine Homebuilding a number of years ago...

Mandate passive survivability in building codes

Passive survivability is a life-safety issue. How long could you live in your house without power or fuel?

The reality is that the future portends more-intense storms that could cause extended power outages, an ever-present risk of terrorism that could target energy-distribution networks, and higher energy costs along with fuel and water shortages. It makes sense to design passively survivable homes and apartment buildings—along with schools and community centers—with those possibilities in mind.

I now believe that passive survivability is a life-safety issue and should be mandated into residential building codes (similar arguments also apply to commercial building codes). Passively survivable residences will protect the lives and well-being of residents. With loss of electricity or heating fuel in winter, a passively survivable home will never drop below a temperature deemed adequate to keep the house livable. The residents will remain safe, and pipes won’t freeze. Furthermore, when such an energy-efficient home is without power or heating fuel, it can be maintained at more-comfortable conditions with just a small amount of heat from a kerosene heater or a woodstove.

The National Association of Home Builder's has worked hard to ensure that homes are "unpleasant" in a power outage.

Snow in July

Posted on December 1, 2008 by Tedd Benson

Now, for today’s villain: The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has won another important battle. It helped defeat a proposal to raise the energy efficiency requirements of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and the International Residential Code (IRC). This story was reported in the November issue of Energy Design Update by outgoing editor Martin Holladay.* The proposal was affectionately called the “thirty percent solution” because it combined a number of easily and inexpensively implemented improvements to reduce energy consumption in new homes by thirty percent.

While thirty percent may seem like a lot, it’s important to understand the current regulations are pretty much on the floor. They allow the typical home to be a virtual energy sieve and a severe economic burden for homeowners when energy costs rise to reflect their real value. The millions of homes built to these standards are also a huge barrier to achieving energy independence as a country. One of our biggest problems today is to find a way to upgrade the energy performance of the existing housing stock.

"How long could you live in your house without power or fuel?"

Limiting factor here is water. It's all electric pumps from deep wells.

"Passively survivable residence". I like that, nicely conceptualised, survivable by default, I want one. Maybe we should expand it to "passively survivable lifestyle", which is basically what I'm trying to achieve, although I hadn't thought of it such neat terms. It will make explaining to people what it is I'm up to so much easier :)

N.J. man used Toyota Prius as power source during hurricane

Sakala, who purchased his Prius Hybrid back in the summer to save money on gas, told NBC New York, that for the last week he has powered his home, including light, laptops and a television on three quarters of a tank of gas. Years ago the Paramus native read about the how the Prius could be used as a power source and thought this moment was a better time than any to give it a try.

According to NBC New York, Sakala was able to power a few lights, as well as his laptop and modem with a 100 watt power inverter some heavy extension cords. Later on, he switched to a 300 watt inverter in order to power more lights. Power was finally restored to his block on Thursday.

What about this is special to the Prius? One can run a small inverter off the battery of any car, and turn the engine on once in a while to charge it. This is very inefficient use of the fuel though. Only a tiny portion of the energy from the fuel ends up in the battery charge. A very small generator and a charger with an efficient design would have provided the same utility using a fraction of the fuel. If one does not have a standalone battery can use a battery in a car that way, without turning on the car engine.

Conversely, just to power some LED lamps and a laptop, one can use a rather small solar panel, as some have shown examples thereof above. A $100 solar panel and a $100 inverter would suffice.

Now, a true plug-in hybrid with a bigger battery and the ability to output more heavy-duty power from it would be useful. But a household backup power system can be built for a lot less money than the cost of such a vehicle.

Something, a product, that would be really useful to those who suddenly find themselves living in their cars trucks and vans would be a really small power generator set. 100 Watts at 12V for battery charging would be great. Thermoelectric? Propane? Weed-whacker engine? Running the engine IS a waste. Solar isn't as easy as it sounds, though it helps in the cases where it is possible to deploy it. Even then, at night, a lot of the van people still wind-up running their engines.

Something like this:


Doesn't look like they are selling it yet.

Ah, yes, a fuel cell would be great.

Someone mentions an ammonia powered fuel cell as a possibility.

As a small back-up system fuel cell would be great, I would like to have one that is fueled with methanole so I could easily store the fuel or one that runs with propane or butane.

What do TOD'ers have to say about this...

Microsoft's Real Time Speech Translation demo (English to Chinese)

From an article

Rick Rashid, Microsoft’s Chief Research Officer, took to the stage at Microsoft Research’s 21st Century Computing event held in Tianjin, China to show off the tech. After a brief chat about how much language translation over the last 60 years, he went on to demonstrate his own voice being translated into Chinese pretty effectively, and most importantly the Chinese was spoken using his own voice.

Microsoft has employed deep neural networks in order to achieve this. His English words are first translated into Chinese (the easy part), then the word order is changed to suit the new language ready for reading. After that, the Chinese is output using samples of his own voice. To achieve this, Microsoft took several hours of a native Chinese speaker’s voice and about an hour of Rashid’s speech. The system is then able to combine the two to produce a realistic-sounding Chinese version of Rashid.

Hmm, perhaps they've made some progress since the day when the MIT AI lab came up with the first English-Russian translation machine. They gave it the phrase "The flesh is weak but the spirit is strong." Translated to Russian and back to English, it came out as: "The vodka is good but the meat is rotten."

with Microsoft's reputation for, cough, reliability I can see some really seriously embarrassing moments ahead. I also wonder which company they bought to get it.


It's from MS Research, they actually do a lot of good stuff once in a while like kinect.

That technology was bought in.


Yup I looked it up. You are right, wrong example. It's done by a company called PrimeSense. The inventors are it's founders.

good stuff once in a while like kinect.


If put into practice, Microsoft’s plan could mean that the film you’re watching suddenly stops playing if it detects that you’ve got more people squashed on to the sofa than the licence allows. You’d then be prompted to buy a more expensive licence to keep watching. It’s as if Big Brother had built 1984’s Telescreen not to monitor the population but to ensure no one was pirating the Two Minutes Hate.

It's like Star Trek's Universal Translator!

Though if it really works and becomes cheap and affordable, I think we'll really lose something if people stop learning other languages. Learning another language changes your brain...for the better.

Yes but it will break down language barriers (if it really becomes cheap and affordable) which are a constant source of friction. Though I'd hate to depend on a machine for everything. Small languages will lose out as they don't have a comparable presence to merit a statistical modeling.

I think it's most visible impact in the foreseeable future will be on call centers.

I don't know whether this was posted previously, but my wife just read it to me; it might be entertaining to some here... "Post-apocalypse Nerd Farm"


I don't know what to do with this. It is a coal fueled steam boat built in 1891. So far nothing new. But this one has... weels. It can actually move on the rail tracks. Perfect when there are no water ways connecting two lakes. In this case there was a water fall, and they built a short bit of rail around it, wich the boat then used.


Well, no need to worry about any of this anymore. The US will be energy independent, and will be an oil exporter to boot, in the not too distant future

Everybody just go home now, and enjoy BAU.

This is the top story in the new Drumbeat. Please move the discussion there.