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    Tesla and the Uncertain Middle Class

    Tesla is about to release its Model S sedan. Despite operating at a loss, despite never having turned a profit, despite being the recipient of government loans (which the right wing hates about the Volt), despite its stock price dropping due to perceived competition from the Toyota RAV4 EV, some Wall Street pundits are still bullish on Tesla.

    Why? Well it promises decent range:

    Tesla: The Time Has Come

    The Tesla Model S will give you significantly more range than a Nissan LEAF or any other practical all-electric car to date. The Nissan is EPA-certified at 73 miles on average. Tesla claims 160 miles for the base version of the Model S. ...

    Tesla will also sell you an alleged 230-mile and a 300-mile version of the Model S. Each step up is $10,000 more.
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    The Hydrogen Dog and the Quadrium Cat

    The public reputation of nuclear power plummeted after the Fukushima meltdowns, but many in the energy sector still see nuclear fission as the only way to keep the lights on and stave off climate change. No private entities, and vanishingly few governments, though, want to spend billions to build new plants, so at least one manufacturer is offering smaller pre-packaged units. Will, The Stars Align for Small Nuclear Reactors?

    The Westinghouse Electric Company has lined up Ameren, a St. Louis-based electric company, as a partner for its small modular reactor project. Getting a strong indication of commercial interest is critical because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can review only a few of the many proposed reactor designs and gives priority in the licensing process to those with a stronger chance of getting built.

    Some utility analysts have argued that small reactors would be good “drop-in replacements” for 1950s and 1960s-era coal plants that are now being retired, given that that their generating capacity would be about the same.
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    Blood or the Volt

    About a month ago, former GM vice-honcho Bob Lutz gave up on rational argument with Limbaugh, Hannity and the like:

    I Give Up On Correcting The Wrong-Headed Right Over The Volt

    I am, sadly, coming to the conclusion that all the icons of conservatism are (shock, horror!) deliberately not telling the truth!

    This saddens me, because, to this writer, conservatism IS fundamental truth. It only damages its inherent credibility with momentarily convenient fiction.

    So, Mr. Krauthammer joins the list of right-wing pundits I no longer take seriously. After all, how do I know they’re telling the truth when the subject is one I’m not as familiar with as the Volt?
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    Electric Vehicle: Positives and Negatives

    In, Stop Bashing Electric Cars!, Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, complains about adverse media coverage:  

    It’s not often that you hear national elected officials and media pundits rooting against a growing American industry — especially when it’s reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil. It’s also unusual for them to argue against job creation, global competitiveness, even against innovation.

    Strangely, that’s what’s happening to the U.S. electric vehicle industry.

    Particularly striking is how far removed public debate on electric vehicles is from the facts. Our industry is growing fast, adding jobs throughout the supply chain and selling more vehicles and components than ever. The future is bright, but you’d never know it from some of the commentary.

    There certainly have been right-wing attacks on the Chevrolet Volt and General Motors—ultimately intended to discredit President Obama. But there have also been straightforward discussions about unflattering facts, such as the still narrow market share of EVs and hybrids, the Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma battery packs that failed and 'long tailpipes'—the actual environmental impact of manufacturing and driving electric and hybrid vehicles. Encouraging the media to accurately report the pros and cons makes more sense to me than Wynne's plea that the media do his job by promoting the industry.

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    Locked, Loaded and Guilt-Free

    We were driving past the new location of East Coast Gun Sales a few weeks ago, and I told my wife I had been planning to check out the new store. They had been advertising their move to a larger location, with added facilities like a gun range, for over a year. I was thinking it would be interesting to fire off a few rounds with different caliber weapons and see what it felt like. "They went out of business," she said. She didn't know why.

    According to the Altoona Mirror, back in 2007, East Coast's owner James Faith, and Michael Kurty, a police officer and firearms instructor, had been demonstrating a rebuilt mini-Gatling gun during a social event at a sportsmen's club. I'm not sure if this was before or after the chicken Kiev. The Gatling had an electrically-powered magazine, which soon jammed. So Faith unplugged the magazine, while Kurty, the firearms instructor, helpfully stood right in the path of the barrel. Because with no electricity, how could a weapon filled with bullets—which contain gunpowder—possibly fire?

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    Hot and Cold Running Fusion

    In, 500MW from half a gram of hydrogen: The hunt for fusion power heats up, ExtremeTech trumpets a potential efficiency breakthrough in magnetic confinement fusion, the type used at ITER:

    Basically, to keep fusion going you need to sustain a temperature of around 11 million degrees Celsius, which requires a huge amount of electricity. Fusion chambers are usually lined with heat-resistant carbon tiles in an attempt to reduce wastage, but the problem is that protons and neutrons escaping from the fusion reaction hit the wall, cool down, and then bounce back into the reaction, reducing the temperature. Electricity must then be used to increase the temperature back to 11 million Celsius.

    The PPPL [Princeton Plasma Physics Lab], led by Bruce Koel, have found that a thin layer of lithium metal (the third element in the Periodic Table) absorbs these protons and neutrons, preventing them from bouncing back into the pot, and thus reducing the power requirement of keeping the fusion reaction going.
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    See Shell Sue by the Sea Shore

    I often stop at a gas station/convenience store near Breezewood PA for their chicken tenders and potato wedges. Sometimes I buy gas, too. After the Macondo blowout and Deepwater Horizon spill, they covered up their BP signs with Shell tarps. They eventually got permanent signage, but I wonder what sign will go up next.

    Shell’s Lawsuit Against Environmental Organizations Invites Disaster

    Shell is suing 12 environmental organizations to preempt legal challenges to exploration in the Arctic Ocean. The environmental groups include, among others, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Audubon Society, Oceana ... and the Sierra Club. Crazy isn’t it, Shell, a $378 billion company, attacking the National Audubon Society? It’s a bully image that can only hurt, and Shell should know better because it’s happened to them over and over again.
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    Clean Car Calculator

    I ran across UCSB's Clean Car Calculator in a comment, and while it seems fairly slick, it could be better: grew out of a homework assignment for Energy and Resource Productivity, a graduate course at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management taught by Professor Sangwon Suh. Initially, the assignment asked students to compare two vehicles—one conventional gas engine and one high-efficiency—in terms of their total lifetime costs. This net present value (NPV) calculation unearthed surprising results. Most of the students had anticipated that purchasing a high-efficiency vehicle, such as a Toyota Prius or Chevrolet Volt, would cost more over the lifetime of the vehicle (i.e. that savings from the higher fuel efficiency would not be enough to offset the higher upfront cost of the vehicle). Instead, we were surprised to not only find that established hybrids paid themselves back in fuel savings, but that newly released vehicles, such as the Volt and Leaf, were also extremely affordable.
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    EV Politics and Promotion

    First, the San Francisco Chronicle sheds light on the Republicans anti-GM, anti-Tesla, anti-anything Obama strategy:

    GM, Tesla fight politicization of electric cars

    GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson has complained about the political atmosphere that surrounds the Volt.

    "Sometimes I feel bad for President Obama," he said this month after an appearance at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. "This car was designed and committed to well before he was president, and it's called the 'Obamacar.' It's not the Obama car. I'm proud and I'm pleased that he thinks highly of it, but it's all on us. It's not a political issue."

    The automaker accused Republicans and the media of hyping claims that the car caught fire during testing, which forced temporary layoffs at the Volt plant in Detroit.

    Tesla, which received a $465 million Department of Energy loan, has dropped pursuit of new federal loans, raised private cash and plans in July to start deliveries of its $50,000 S car, claiming it is on its way to the mass car market.

    "We applied during the Bush administration, and we were approved under the Obama administration, so as far as we're concerned, we at least had a bipartisan relationship for the loan," said Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes. "We got one of first loans and we used it to build the car that is now going into production in a U.S.-based facility. ... I'd like to think we're pretty much a case study on what the loan program was designed to do."
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    Fix When Fail

    The Infrastructurist blog shut down in January—but not because we have been paying more attention to our aging infrastructure.

    Rivers and canals carry an enormous amount of goods through the hinterlands—coal, grain, fuel oil. Water transport is cheaper than railroads, and far cheaper than trucking. Monongahela or "falling banks," was the native American name for one such river, and we have built a series of manmade structures intended to keep it navigable by large vessels. At what is now Pittsburgh, the Mon joins with the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River, which is in turn the largest tributary of the Mississippi. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has posted two parts of a four part series on the locks and dams along nearby rivers.

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    Your ticket, sir

    For an example of profits trumping fair traffic policing, The Consumerist blog cited a Canadian Yahoo article, Cellphone ticket baffles senior with no phone:

    A Winnipeg couple is shaking their heads, wondering why they got a ticket for talking on a cellphone while driving — when they don't own a cellphone.

    Laszlo Piszker and his wife, Margaret, were pulled over by two city police officers in the 2500 block of Portage Avenue on Friday.

    Piszker was handed a $199.80 ticket, even after he urged the officers to search him and the car for any sign of a cellphone.

    "I told them, 'Do whatever it takes. There's no phone in here; never has been. I don't know anything about the phone.' But they won't have it," ...

    Immediately after getting the ticket, the couple went to a nearby police station to complain.

    Piszker said the officer there laughed and suggested the ticket was likely issued to fill a quota.

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    Absolutely Fabless

    During his keynote speech at the Energy Innovation Summit, Dr Steven Chu cited an ARPA-E grant recipient, Envia Systems, which has announced, "a more energy-dense lithium ion battery that it says will be cheaper than today's batteries and allow for an electric car with a 300-mile range."

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    The World's Dirtiest Oil

    TransCanada is moving ahead with the Southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline that would take oil, and synthetic oil from tar sands, from Cushing, Oklahoma to the refineries and ports near the Gulf of Mexico. A White House press release stated:

    The President welcomes today's news that TransCanada plans to build a pipeline to bring crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf of Mexico. As the President made clear in January, we support the company's interest in proceeding with this project, which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight year high. Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production.
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    The Bricked Battery Affair

    I watched a brief video on Motley Fool last weekend to the effect that Tesla Motors is a good investment while Zipcar has probably grown to its upper limit within walkable urban cities. But I'd be concerned about the bricked Roadster battery reports, which are getting fierce on both sides. A dogpile search shows dozens of stories like "Tesla Downplays Danger of Bricked Battery" and some that ridicule anyone that wouldn't already know that batteries will discharge. Meanwhile, self-proclaimed experts on Slashdot swear that LIon batteries couldn't possibly be fully discharged because they found an old cell phone once and recharged it.

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    Cold Fusion Believers and Homecoming Queens


    As we've seen in the comments to my last two posts, cold fusion, or LENR, has many skeptics and some firm believers. Scientific American describes a film, The Believers:

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    It's Going To Be Complicated

    Gasoline is expensive, getting more expensive, and that threatens our wide-ranging American way of life, y'all. The conservative solution seems to be drill, baby, drill and frack, baby, frack and pipeline, baby, pipeline. Others are looking for the big technological breakthrough—the dilithium crystals that will keep the Starship America on its continuing mission.

    In his latest Technological Update, Tom Whipple feels that there are two possible sources of energy that might replace fossil fuels. The bad news is that one is hydrogen. The worse news is that the other is cold fusion. Whipple is being cautious in his writing, but he still gives LENR more credence than do most of us:

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    Fracking, Drilling OK in Theory

    In UT: No Evidence of Groundwater Contamination from Hydraulic Fracturing, Rigzone lets fracking off the hook:

    No direct connection has been found between hydraulic fracturing and reports of groundwater contamination, according to a study released Thursday by the Energy Institute at The University of Texas of Austin.

    The study found that many of the problems linked to hydraulic fracturing are related to common oil and gas drilling operations such as casing failures or poor cement jobs.

    Researchers also concluded that many reports of contamination can be traced to above-ground split or other mishandling of wastewater produced from shale gas drilling, rather than hydraulic fracturing per se, said Charles "Chip" Groat, an Energy Institute associate director who led the project.

    "These problems are not unique to hydraulic fracturing," Groat said in a statement.
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    Longtails to Long Tailpipes

    My massage therapist now rides a big black Yuba Mundo cargo bike, or longtail, like the one in the video above. While I was on the table he raved about the financial advantages of ditching his car, skipping the bus and cycling around town. He had even let his Zipcar membership lapse. He likes riding in an upright posture, because it takes stress off his arms, which are his tools. He's been riding all winter, which has been mild, but I do see people riding in the snow. I haven't been willing to try that, even though Dmitry Orlov says it is common enough elsewhere:

    Donal's picture

    Hofmeister-Patzek Debate

    The video above efficiently trims the discussion to one hour. The debate proceeded as I expected.

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    Keystone XL & $5.00 Gasoline

    An email from warns that the Keystone XL pipeline project is already being revived. You can sign a petition against that action here. While we follow the unfortunate death of Whitney Houston or the trial from the unfortunate death of Yeardley Love, or even the GOP Primary follies, oil interests are trying to pull a fast one:

    Senate Trying To Sneak The Keystone XL Pipeline Onto Obama's Desk Through An Unrelated Bill

    After last month's decision by the Obama administration to reject the 1,700-mile-route of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Republican lawmakers are trying to revive the controversial project by attaching it to transportation legislation.


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