Monday, February 26, 2007

The Goracle (with feet of clay) 

Instapundit links to this item about Al Gore's energy usage at his (apparently opulent) home in Nashville. His annual cost for gas and electric service in 2006 came to over $30,000. That's Thirty. Thousand. Dollars.

Hannity & Colmes led their program tonight with this story. The representatives from the Left made all kinds of excuses, saying Mr. Gore is buying 100% "green" energy and is installing solar panels to help reduce his carbon-based energy use, etc., etc.

Some thoughts:

Solar panels have been around for a long time. Why is this champion of the environment just now getting around to installing them?

Mr. Gore may be buying "green" electricity, but the physics of the power grid are such that the energy he's buying may never actually reach his meter. What he's really doing is buying "green" electricity in the same amount of his actual kwh usage, which electricity gets dumped onto the grid, possibly at times other than when Mr. Gore is actually using it. If the grid didn't exist, he'd have to produce the "green" electricity right there on his property, and build enough generating capacity to meet his maximum load. Odds are that would cost him a lot more than the $18,000 per year that comprises electricity's share of his total bill. There are, after all, economies of scale.

Moreover, by using electricity, Mr. Gore's adding to overall demand, and if Mr. Gore is connected to the grid, the power company has to have generation on line capable of meeting his share of that demand. One issue with "green" sources of electricity is that they often don't produce energy when it is needed. For example, solar only generates electricity during daylight hours; wind generators only produce electricity when the wind is blowing. Electricity must be used as it is produced, it cannot be stored. (It can be converted to other forms of energy, for example chemical or mechanical, which can be stored in batteries or in pumped-storage hydroelectric facilities and then reconverted to electricity, but such conversion is costly and results in significant losses of energy in both directions.) In the electric utility industry, "demand" translates to power plants on line and available to generate electricity when someone turns the lights on, while "energy" translates to fuel immediately available to be burned, water behind dams, wind or sunshine.

According to the linked item, about 40% of Mr. Gore's energy bill is for natural gas. Last time I looked, there were no commercially viable "green" sources of natural gas. Pretty much all of it comes out of the ground. Oh, there are some relatively small scale methane recovery projects that obtain gas from landfills and cow manure, but they are not meaningful in the big picture. The only way to cut back on natural gas usage is to conserve. We don't know how well insulated Mr. Gore's house is, nor do we know whether he's using the most efficient water heaters. (Space heating and water heating are the two biggest uses of natural gas in most homes. Heating swimming pools and spas can be big uses, too. Pool heating is a very good function for direct solar heating, but it's not clear from the article whether Mr. Gore has a pool or, if he does, how he heats it.

All this tells me that Mr. Gore is rather behind the curve, considering he's a poster child for the global warming crowd. As someone said, he talks the talk, but so far he's not real good at walking the walk.

In the interest of full disclosure, in my checkered past I worked in the gas and electric utility industry, and the subject matter of this post comprised a large part of my conversations every day at work.

(0) comments

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What if ... 

... the bad guys are waging biological warfare on us at a very low level and in an indirect way? How's this for a scenario:

There have been stories in the media lately about a mysterious disease of honeybees causing something called colony collapse disorder, in which entire hives of bees are wiped out. Scientists don't know the cause.

Honeybees are essential to the health of America's agriculture industry, especially tree crops like nuts, apples, oranges and cherries. Only the bees are able to pollinate the flowers, which is necessary for the production of fruit. A shortage of honeybees means lower crop yields, higher prices, and all kinds of economic ripples.

Suppose someone like al-Qaeda or Iran has developed a bioweapon that affects honeybees? It would be unlikely to cause immediate alarm at DHS because it doesn't affect humans directly, and being infectious, it would spread all over the country once introduced. Heck, it wouldn't even have to be brought into the US, merely released in Mexico or someplace further south and over time infected bees would migrate from there to here (See any story on the spread of "killer bees.")

Suppose, further, that the foregoing is true and whatever evil genius invented the cause of colony collapse disorder is working on similar under-the-radar plant and animal diseases. (Think, e.g., mad cow disease, or any of the various diseases that attack maize.) Imagine the havoc it would cause to America's economy over the long term, at least until the brains at various universities and government agencies figure out how to stop the infection(s). The maize angle would be particularly pernicious, because it is food for both humans and animals, and now the government is pushing ethanol as an alternative fuel.

One big problem with bioweapons is, once unleashed they cannot easily be controlled or stopped, and they have the potential to infect the entire world. But there's nothing that I've noticed in the activities of al-Qaeda and their ilk to date that suggests they're big on environmentalism. Frankly, I don't think they care if they destroy the Earth, because they are convinced of their heavenly reward, be it virgins or raisins.

Once again, if I can think up something like this, then so can the bad guys, and I sincerely hope that the people who are assessing threats to the US (who are undoubtedly smarter than I) are also thinking about it, and about what to do to meet the threat.

(0) comments

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My Bank of America Story 

Bank of America has been taking a lot of flak lately for its recently announced program of issuing credit cards to customers who don't have Social Security numbers (read, persons illegally in the US). Well, I don't think much of that plan, but assuming that BofA is correct in stating that they're doing nothing illegal, I think the onus is on Congress to change the law to prevent this kind of thing.

Our elected representatives should amend the law to prevent banks from aiding and abetting gate crashers and/or do something to ensure that US immigration laws are enforced to the greatest extent practicable. (By the way, I think our immigration laws are generally too restrictive as to numbers, on the one hand, and too lax as to security, on the other.) If Congress won't do that, then our remedy as citizens (non-citizens still don't have the right to vote in federal elections, last time I looked) is to exercise our franchise and turn the rascals out.

But pending any of that happening (look out for flying pigs), I'd like to share with you my experience with good ol' BofA:

It was 1968 and I was in my first job after graduating from college, working for an agency of the US Government. I opened an account with Bank of America and took advantage of the Government's direct paycheck deposit program. (Such programs were rare back then.) All went well for several months. Then, one day ...

I received my pay voucher on a Friday as usual, which indicated that my salary had been duly deposited in my BofA account. I wrote checks to pay various bills over the ensuing weekend, as was my habit, and on Friday evening I wrote a check to the local grocery store.

On Monday, my co-workers and I received a letter on Treasury Department letterhead stating that our paychecks had not in fact been deposited on Thursday night previous due to some glitch in the system, notwithstanding that vouchers had been issued stating that the deposits had been made. The letter went on to say that the deposits would be made that day, Monday. (Like many young people at the time I was living paycheck to paycheck, not having had much opportunity to save anything.)

When I got home that night, there was an envelope in my mailbox from Bank of America. Inside the envelope was a form letter saying that one of my checks had been returned NSF, and that my account had been charged an overdraft fee. The check that I had written to the grocery store on Friday overdrew my account by one cent! One. Cent! A penny!

Since I was a regular customer at the store, I went there and explained to them what had happened, showed them the letter from the Treasury Department and asked them to resubmit the check. All was well.

The next day, I had another letter from BofA, stating that at least one more check had bounced on Monday, the day the direct deposit was actually made (and of course, more overdraft charges were assessed). I went down to the bank and asked to speak with the manager. I explained what had happened, showed him the letter on Treasury Department letterhead, and then asked two questions: (1) Was the direct deposit in fact made on Monday? and (2) If so, why did the checks that were presented that day bounce?

The answers were: (1) Yes; and (2) It's the Bank's policy to post drafts against the account before crediting deposits to the account.

I was apoplectic!

I then asked the manager if he would at least recredit the overdraft charges since I had in good faith believed that I had sufficient funds in my account and that the problem was neither of my own doing nor was I aware of it until notified by the Government, as proved by the letter from the Treasury Department.

Answer: No, we don't reverse overdraft charges as a matter of policy.

I closed my account immediately and have not since done business with BofA, to this day. When BofA bought MBNA last year, I cut up my MBNA Mastercard. Neither have I learned anything about BofA's business practices that that indicates they have become more customer friendly (although I must admit that I haven't exerted any effort to find out). I have also told this story to hundreds of people over the years, and I sincerely hope it has influenced them not to deal with Bank of America.

I bet those people without Social Security numbers have no clue about the kind of business they're dealing with.

Then again, if BofA treats them the same way I was treated, it just might, over time, reduce the inflow of illegal immigrants.

(0) comments

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Obama's Wasted Apology 

On Sunday Barack Obama, in an appearance at Iowa State University, said that the Iraq war "should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged, and on which we've now spent $400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.'' (Video is available here.)

Realizing immediately that he had committed an, er, unforced error, he started spinning it in an interview immediately following the event, and said, "What I meant to say was those sacrifices have not been honored by the same attention to strategy, diplomacy and honesty on the part of civilian leadership that would give them a clear mission."

How, um, articulate that was!

Whatever he meant to say, Barack Obama's "apology" for saying that the lives of our 3000 dead heroes in Iraq were "wasted" just doesn't cut it. Here's what he said in New Hampshire, a day after making his little boo-boo:
"Well as I said, it is not at all what I intended to say, and I would absolutely apologize if any of them felt that in some ways it had diminished the enormous courage and sacrifice that they'd shown. You know, and if you look at all the other speeches that I've made, that is always the starting point in my view of this war.''
So he says he would apologize if any [military families] felt that his statement had diminished the magnitude of the sacrifice made by them and their loved ones. He didn't unequivocally say he was sorry for making the statement, he didn't unequivocally apologize for what he said.

I for one am getting sick and tired of non-apologetic apologies from politicians when they swallow their foot up to the knee. They never admit to making a mistake, and by adopting that strategy it makes them seem insincere and self-absorbed. These guys are supposed to be smart--what kind of idiots do they take us voters for?

Obama has very little public record on which to judge his fitness for the Presidency. He has given us a little glimpse of the kind of man he really is under the political facade, and the first impression isn't pretty. Reminds me of John Kerry.

(2) comments

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?