Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Not So Green Queen

Old Lizzie The Second is pure gangrene with her big old castles. The photo shows her in blue as I could not find her dressed in green. Here is a report from Yahoo.

Queen tried to get UK poverty fund to heat palace

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER and GREGORY KATZ, Associated Press Writers – Fri Sep 24, 5:19 pm ET

Even a monarch needs a little help from time to time — especially when the cost of heating those drafty old palaces spirals past $1.5 million a year.
But a request for assistance from a government fund that provides subsidized heating to low-income Britons has caused a spot of bother for Queen Elizabeth II, long one of the world's wealthiest women.
Her Majesty's application in 2004 was politely turned down by the government — in part because of fear of adverse publicity — and quietly forgotten until The Independent newspaper published the correspondence Friday after obtaining it via a Freedom of Information request.
The documents quote an unidentified functionary as gently reminding the royal household that the program was meant for people in need, not the upper crust, and he noted the potential public relations disaster.
"I also feel a bit uneasy about the probable adverse press coverage if the Palace were given a grant at the expense of, say, a hospital," the official said. "Sorry this doesn't sound more positive."
Chagrined palace officials confirmed the account on Friday. A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said royal officials explored the possibility of getting money under the program as a way to reduce the monarchy's cost to taxpayers by making the palace more energy efficient.

She said the royal household did not know at the time that the government money was targeted for low-income Britons. She spoke anonymously in line with royal policy.
The revelation touched a nerve at a time when Britain is facing severe budget cuts in the midst of a prolonged recession.
Graham Smith, spokesman for the anti-monarchy group Republic, said the queen's attempt to access low-income funds was shameful.
"It is clear evidence of the contempt the palace has for ordinary people in this country," he said.
Some Londoners agreed.
Nick Bowring, a 23-year-old fitness instructor, said he didn't think the queen should get help paying heating bills. "There are people who need it a lot more than she does," he said.
The queen's finances have been controversial in the past, with occasional debates about whether Britain's head of state — whose role is largely ceremonial — costs taxpayers too much.
The 84-year-old monarch has royal residences across Britain, including Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Sandringham House in eastern England. Other residences, such as the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and St. James's Palace in London, are used as offices or for functions.
She has many other assets, including an extensive art collection and a fleet of the world's finest automobiles at her beck and call, although the royal yacht has been sold.
Buckingham Palace has been in royal hands since King George III bought it in 1761 and has been the official London residence of Britain's monarchs since 1837. While it has magnificent gardens and grand state rooms with priceless paintings and furniture, large parts of the sprawling 775-room palace have not been modernized and are cold and drafty. Many of the rooms used by staff are downright dingy.
Insulation is poor and the heating system needs replacement, as do many of the windows, which lack proper glazing. Thermal imaging testing, used to identify and measure energy waste, showed heat escaping through palace windows, the roof and cracks in the walls.
Taxpayers fund the royal household to the tune of $60 million (38.2 million pounds) a year, which the monarch's official website points out costs Britain's 62 million people less than a dollar (62 pence) each.
It notes that royal spending has been cut substantially over the past two decades, dropping from $138 million (87.3 million pounds) in the 1991-1992 fiscal year to $60 million (38.2 million pounds) this year. That amount doesn't include the cost of providing security for the queen and her family.
The queen also receives $12.5 million (7.9 million pounds) of public money each year to pay for staff and other costs, an amount that has not risen in 20 years.
The accounts show the government spent more than $23.4 million (15 million pounds) on the upkeep of royal residences including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and almost $6.2 million (4 million pounds) on royal travel.
While some criticized the queen for trying to get still more government help, others defended her.
Ian Laming, a 49-year-old carpenter, said the government should have OK'd her request.
"She helps a lot," he said, adding that the monarch was a big boon to the U.K. economy.
"You just have to walk down to Buckingham Palace to see all the tourists."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Obama Calls In For Votes

Another week and another trillion pennies wasted by the Feds. The President made a grand speech this week about how brilliant his team was in spending recovery money on technologies of the future. Yeah the election is near and the speeches are heating up. The President happened to make this week’s speech by calling into the opening of A 123’s new lithium ion battery plant in Michigan.

"This from WBUR dot org

BOSTON — A123 Systems of Watertown has opened what is says is the largest lithium ion battery manufacturing plant in the country, in Livonia, Mich.
President Obama phoned in to the grand opening, calling it the birth of a new industry.
“I am calling to congratulate A123 Systems on this tremendous milestone,” Mr. Obama said.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm called the stimulus-funded project a start for her hard-hit state.
“A123 represents a slice of success for Michigan,” she said. “This commercialization and taking this technology to scale, putting Michigan workers to work in it — and the partnership that grows in it — can be replicated not just in Michigan, but in this country, to keep advanced manufacturing jobs here.”
Many of the 300 employees who were at the event are former auto workers.
A123 got a $249 million grant from the federal stimulus, and an additional $125 million in state tax incentives to build its factory in the Detroit suburbs. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick acknowledged that the Bay State could not offer a competitive package to build closer to company headquarters in Watertown.
A123 also plans to open another plant near the Motor City next year.
Despite the fanfare, there are big commercial hurdles to battery technology in cars."

I love the last line of the WBUR dispatch. The fanfare was for vote getting this November. The reality of thermodynamics and reaction kinetics that translate into economics will be evident when the bucks given to A 123 and other Betamax companies runs out and we are left holding the dead battery that results.

Some positive news for the week in that some really hard working and smart guys did manage to achieve the target of a 100 mpg vehicle that is not some slight of hand like Raser (now trading below 30 cents a share) and their political team of Arnie and Senator Orin Hatch. Readers have to admit that I am fair and balanced in knocking the opportunists on both sides of the isle. Here is the news report on the teams that shared the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize. I like the Edison as it rhymes with Edsel.

"WASHINGTON (September 16, 2010) – The X PRIZE Foundation, an educational nonprofit prize organization, and Progressive Insurance, the country’s fourth largest auto insurance group, today, at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., awarded $10 million to three teams who successfully completed the rigorous Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The winning teams—Edison2 of Lynchburg, Virginia; X-Tracer of Winterthur, Switzerland; and Li-ion Motors Corp. of Mooresville, North Carolina—emerged from an original field of 111 competing teams, representing 136 vehicle entries from around the world. The winning vehicles were showcased to an audience of auto industry, business and government leaders. Each of the winning teams was also presented with a towering bronze trophy designed by Harry Winston, Inc.
The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE was launched in 2008 to inspire a new generation of viable, safe and super fuel-efficient vehicles capable of achieving 100 miles per gallon or the energy equivalent (MPGe). Now, after nearly 30 months of vehicle and business plan development, on-track testing at Michigan International Speedway which included dynamic safety testing by partner Consumer Reports, and laboratory verification at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab, three vehicles emerge as winners:
$5 Million Mainstream Class Winner:
• Edison2 “Very Light Car #98” (Charlottesville, VA)
• Economy: 102.5 MPGe
• Fuel: E85 ethanol
• Boasting the lowest drag coefficient of any car with four wheels tested in the GM wind tunnel and at the Chrysler Proving Grounds, this vehicle demonstrated over 100 MPGe on the test track, and verified in the lab, under stringent testing conditions using a highly innovative small displacement engine. Its low weight of just 830 pounds is a tribute to its use of light weight materials, reduced engine displacement and a host of other weight-saving innovations.
$2.5 Million Alternative Side-by-Side Class Winner:
• Li-ion Motors Corp “Wave II” (Mooresville, NC)
• Economy: 187 MPGe
• Fuel: Battery Electric
• This side-by-side two-seat battery electric car was built on a lightweight aluminum chassis and weighs in at only 2,176 pounds, despite the weight of its powerful lithium ion batteries. The Wave II demonstrated outstanding
• low mechanical and aerodynamic drag that resulted in 187 MPGe in combined on-track and laboratory efficiency testing, a 14.7s zero-to-60 mph acceleration time, and over 100 miles range over a real-world driving cycle.
$2.5 Million Alternative Tandem Class Winner:
• X-Tracer Team Switzerland “E-Tracer #79” (Winterthur, Switzerland)
• Economy: 205.3 MPGe
• Fuel: Battery Electric
• This tandem two-seat vehicle combines the best of motorcycles and automobiles. This clever design has two extra outrigger wheels that deploy at low speed to stabilize the vehicle. At 1436 pounds, the E-Tracer is able to deliver over 100 miles in range, led the competition with over 200 MPGe in combined on-track and laboratory fuel efficiency and achieved a zero-to- 60 mph acceleration time of just 6.6 seconds.
The awards ceremony participants included Representative Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; Progressive Insurance President and CEO Glenn Renwick; X PRIZE Foundation Chairman and CEO Dr. Peter H. Diamandis; Representative Edward Markey, Chairman, House Energy and Environment Committee; Cathy Zoi, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Senator Mark R. Warner, U.S. Senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Also present at today’s announcement were several of the other vehicles that competed in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. Specifically, vehicles on display included: Spira4U, of Thailand; Commuter Cars’ Tango of Spokane, WA; amp’d Sky of Blue Ash, OH; Aptera 2e of San Diego, CA; RaceAbout of Finland; TW4XP of Germany; Western Washington University’s Viking 45 of Bellingham, WA; the ZAP Alias of Santa Rosa, CA; The West Philly EVX of Philadelphia, PA; and Illuminati’s Seven of Springfield, IL.
While the prize has now been awarded, the journey continues for the winning teams. They will immediately begin leveraging their winning status, prize money and connections made over the course of the competition to catapult their vehicle into the consumer market. Under a U.S. Department of Energy-funded technical assistance program, qualified Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE competitors will also gain funding support for access to key automotive expertise and test facilities. The aim of the program is to assist teams in readying their vehicles and technologies for introduction to the market.
“We’ve seen a shift in the market since we first launched this competition, and a greater awareness by people everywhere to think more seriously about the actions we take, and how they affect our environment,” noted Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. “Gas mileage ranks as one of our top concerns when purchasing a new vehicle and I believe strongly that the innovations showcased throughout the life of this competition will continue to impact and improve our car buying options for the future.”
“Congratulations to the winners and to all the teams who competed over the course of this competition. Their innovations and hard work are truly inspirational,” said Glenn Renwick. “We’re extremely proud to support a competition that will result in more super fuel-efficient vehicle choices; choices that will make people’s lives better.”
The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE is the second X PRIZE awarded by the X PRIZE Foundation, known worldwide as a leading organization for bringing about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity through incentive prizes.
For detailed information about each winning team and to learn more about the competition, visit
For all the highlights and drama of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE, please tune in to a one-hour documentary entitled, "X PRIZE Cars: Accelerating The Future" debuting tonight (September 16) at 9PM ET/6PM PT on the National Geographic Channel.
The X PRIZE Foundation prides itself on making the impossible, possible; addressing the issues that people prize the most.
The goal of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE is to inspire a new generation of viable, super fuel-efficient vehicles that offer more consumer choices. Ten million dollars in prizes will be awarded to the teams that win a stage competition for clean, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 Miles per gallon or energy equivalent (MPGe). The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE will place a major focus on efficiency, safety, affordability, and the environment. It is about developing real, production-capable cars that consumers will want to buy, not science projects or concept cars. This progress is needed because today's oil consumption is unsustainable and because automotive emissions significantly contribute to global warming and climate change. The ten million dollar purse and partial funding for prize operations was provided by Progressive Insurance. Additional major funding for education, outreach, and technical operations was provided by $9 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. Additional funding for prize operations was provided by Cisco and private donors. For more information about the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, please visit or email
Progressive, founded in 1937, is one of the country’s largest auto insurance groups and a leading insurer of motorcycles, recreation vehicles, boats, and commercial vehicles. The Company offers competitive rates and innovative products and services that meet drivers’ needs throughout their lifetimes as well as 24/7 online and in-person customer and claims service. One of Progressive’s Core Values is Excellence. To the Company’s more than 24,000 people, it simply means seeking constant improvement. Over time, this has meant introducing revolutionary ideas that make car insurance easier to shop for, buy and use. It’s this same innovative spirit that’s behind the Company’s sponsorship of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE will inspire innovation that will produce more fuel efficient vehicle choices, helping to make a difference in people’s lives. Progressive’s products and services are available locally through more than 30,000 independent insurance agencies in the U.S., online at, and by phone at 1-800-PROGRESSIVE (1-800-776-4737).
The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. In 2004, the Foundation captured world headlines when Burt Rutan, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, built and flew the world’s first private vehicle to space to win the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. The Foundation has since launched the $10 million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, and the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The Foundation is creating and conducting competitions in four prize groups: Exploration (Space and Oceans), Life Sciences, Energy & Environment, and Education & Global Development. The Foundation is widely recognized as the leader in fostering innovation through competition. For more information, please visit "

More from a report by The Environmental Transport Association of the UK on the Edison 2

"The Automotive X Prize, a competition to find the best super-efficient vehicles capable of 100mpg (or energy equivalent), has been won by the Edison 2 Very Light Car. This fuel efficiency equates to 120mpg imperial.

The Edison 2 four-seater design was today awarded the top $5m prize. The vehicle uses a rear-mounted, single-cylinder motorcycle engine running on a blend of 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent petrol to produce 40 horsepower.

In order to qualify for the main prize, vehicles had to have four wheels and be capable of carrying four people a distance of 200 miles on one load of their chosen fuel.

In addition, they had to be capable of accelerating from 0 to 60mph in 12 seconds and reaching a top speed of 100mph."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

PG&E Pathetic Grotesque and Evil

I am extremely saddened by the explosion and fire that occurred two days ago here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Four lives were lost, scores of homes were damaged, and 37 homes were burned to the ground when a high pressure natural gas transmission line ruptured and ignited in the suburban town of San Bruno. I work all but two miles away from the site of this horrific tragedy and a couple of my co-workers lost their homes. The cause of the event (note I do not call it an accident) was the rupture of an old and probably severely corroded underground steel transmission line that conveys natural gas under high pressure to users in San Francisco.

The line was a 30 inch pipeline that was buried underground in 1956. The operating pressure of gas transmission lines exceeds 200 psig and this line may have been operating under even greater pressure. The gas distribution lines to you home operate at reduced pressure and the gas lines within you home operate at even lower pressure as the utility installs a pressure regulator with your meter. The following link from the American Gas Association explains how gas is conveyed from the gas well to your home.


PG&E our local electric and gas monopoly is embarking on a program to install smart electric and gas meters for its residential customers. These meters are expensive and pretty worthless to the consumer. PG&E is hyping the program on the basis that the consumer will be able to view and analyze their energy usage. Yeah we can view and analyze our energy usage but who is going to turn off their refrigerator simply because we now know the refrigerator is using electricity. The whole program that will be paid for by the consumers is a way of PG&E getting rid of meter readers and making more profit, it does not save one kilowatt hour of usage. PG&E now joins BP as having a second name given to it by the Green Machine. Its new name is Pathetic Grotesque and Evil. This utility should have been spending money to replace 54 year old transmission lines that run directly under heavily populated towns, not wasting our money on some hair brain schemes of smart meters and other junk science they are promoting. These idiots are buying several modified trucks from Raser the wealth eraser that made the claim of the 100 mpg Hummer. Raser has hoodwinked PG&E into claiming they will have service trucks that get 100 mpg. Come on PG&E forget the hype and stick to the basics of why you were granted monopoly rights for gas and electric service. Yes you are supposed to provide safe and efficient gas and electric service.

The fools in Washington DC who have spent over ten trillion pennies on the junk science of fool cells, hyped batteries, and not so smart meters also should share the blame in this tragic event. Just as the guys who were overseeing BP’s operation in the gulf the morons who pretend to work for our government should be telling utilities to replace any buried gas transmission line that is over forty years old. President Obama if you want to have a stimulus package that actually provides jobs and has a legacy that does some good lets spend ten trillion pennies on rebuilding our dilapidated and very dangerous system of underground gas, water and sewer lines. When the ruptured line that was first installed in 1956 I have to believe the engineers of record assigned no greater than forty years of useful life to the system. They also specified steel pipes that were US made in mills owned by US Steel or Bethlehem Steel. The replacement pipe will likely be sourced from China as our steel industry has collapsed just like everything else about us. The moronic Jolly Green Giant Governator was on a trip to Asia so he was not at home to deal with the crisis. Hey Arnie bring some steel pipe home so we can repair the pipeline! Arnie the idiot made a joke while his plane was flying over Alaska en route to the Orient that he could not see Russia as a way of chiding Sarah Palin. Of course Sarah tweeted in response that Alaska has a surplus and does not have a failed economy. We all remember the high point of Sarah’s VP campaign two years ago that she was proposing a high pressure natural gas transmission line to deliver stranded gas in Alaska to the markets of the lower 48. I just hope that when that line gets built neither BP nor PG&E have anything to do with its design or operation and that someone remembers to rebuild the line in 2050. Of course the natural gas may have run out by then and the line could just be used for sewage that will still pour from politicians and CEOs mouths.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

GM = Great Morons

For my readers who read my blogs several years back, you all know how I said (over and over) that General Motors was being run by morons. Well the truth of the stupidity of Rock Wagoner (CEO) and his executive team now comes out in a book by Steve Rattner the auto czar that was appointed by President Obama to get GM straight after our government gave them billions of our tax dollars to save the company. In 2002 I witnessed first hand how dumb Larry Burns the vice president of research and strategic planning at GM was. He presented a paper at a conference on hydrogen fuel cells. He presented data that violated the laws of thermodynamics and showed data that his production of hydrogen had more energy leaving the system than was entering the system as natural gas. I pointed out his error to him a fax I sent him. The idiot responded in an email to me that his brilliant understudy one Byron McCormick the head of the fuel cell program at GM had given him the calculation. I exchanged several emails with Byron to explain the mistake in his calculations and of course he never retracted the false claims as GM was receiving a slew of money from Sam The Sham Badman the then Energy Secretary for President Bush (GW). A first year chemical engineering student studying Thermodynamics would not have made the basic error that the head of fool cells at GM had made. I predicted back in 2002 that GM was doomed as it was being run by thermodynamic idiots.

Here is an article that appeared today on CNBC about Rattner and his disdain for the stupidity and sheer incompetence at the top of GM when he had to save the company from its own management.

Rattner's Book Shows Ghosn Could Have Had It All
Published: Friday, 3 Sep 2010 | 10:29 AM ET Text Size
By: Phil LeBeau
CNBC Correspondent

As advance copies of former Auto Czar Steve Rattner's book start to filter around, one of the more intriguing nuggets is the story surrounding the interest Rattner had in Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. In his book Rattner says he offered the GM CEO position to Ghosn, but the Renault-Nissan boss politely declined. That offer and rejection says a lot about both Rattner and Ghosn.

For Rattner its yet another example showing that he and the auto task force had little use for Rick Wagoner, Fritz Henderson, or many of the other GM executives. This is not the first time we've heard this. Rattner and his team concluded early on the only way to re-make and save GM would be booting out the old guard with old views of the auto business. It speaks to the reason they brought in Ed Whitacre Jr. as chairman. They wanted and got fresh blood that would eventually purge a lot of the old GM leadership.

As for Ghosn, the story shows his desire to add GM in a Nissan-Renault alliance was more important than the chance to run GM by itself. And in fact, Rattner's book says that when Ghosn turned down the GM CEO offer he indicated he wanted GM to join his alliance. Some might find this baffling. I don't. Ghosn has instilled a culture in Renault-Nissan that he wants and believes in. Why would he give that up to go through the long road of gutting and changing GM?

Ultimately Steve Rattner trying to lure Ghosn confirms what we suspected at the time and what we know to be true now. The White House was hell bent on re-making the GM leadership with aggressive executives who would take advantage of the lifeline that had been thrown to the auto maker.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thank Thorium

I am providing you all another positive blog regarding a heavy element that may do some heavy lifting in providing electricity in the future. That element is Thorium. I suggest going to this web site and read a little about Thorium and how it has merit as a nuclear fuel for electric power generation.

My bet is that in twenty years we will be generating electricity using Thorium as a fuel. In fifty years we will generating a bunch of energy using Thorium. Thor is the Norse god of Thunder. Thor battled the Ettins. My job is to battle the oxymoron cretins

This from wiki on Thorium

Thorium (pronounced /ˈθɔəriəm/ THOHR-ee-əm) is a chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90.
Thorium is a naturally occurring, slightly radioactive metal. It is estimated to be about three to four times more abundant than uranium in the Earth's crust. It has been considered a waste product in mining rare earths, so its abundance is high and cost low.
Thorium was successfully used as a breeding (fertile) source for nuclear fuel – uranium (233) in the molten-salt reactor experiment (MSR) from 1964 to 1969 (producing thermal energy for heat exchange to air or liquids), as well as in several light water reactors using solid fuel composed of a mixture of 232Th and 233U, including the Shippingport Atomic Power Station (operation commenced 1957, decommissioned in 1982), but a thorium-uranium mix was only used at end of life to demonstrate Th-to-U breeding. Currently, the Japanese Fuji project and officials in India are advocating a thorium-based nuclear program, and a seed-and-blanket fuel utilizing thorium is undergoing irradiation testing at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow.[2][3]
Advocates of the use of thorium as the fuel source for nuclear reactors, such as Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia, state that they can be built to operate significantly cleaner than uranium-based power plants as the waste products are much easier to handle.[4] According to Rubbia, a ton of thorium produces the same energy as 200 tons of uranium, or 3.5 million tons of coal.[5] Edward Teller, co-founder and director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, promoted thorium energy until his death, and scientists in France, Japan, India, and Russia are now creating their own thorium-based power plants.[6] One leading commentator is calling for the creation of a new Manhattan Project, stating that the use of thorium fuel for energy would "reinvent the global energy landscape . . . and an end to our dependence on fossil fuels within three to five years."[5]
When used in molten-salt reactors, thorium bred to 233U removes weaponization dangers, because no uranium exists in solid form and the reactor runs continuously, with no shutdown for refuelling—all thorium and fissile uranium is consumed and any undesired gases and uranium/plutonium isotopes are flushed out as gases (e.g., as uranium hexafluoride) as the hot, liquid salt is pumped around the reactor/exchanger system.