Saturday, January 30, 2010

MPG Miles Ponzi Gullibility

The Green Machine is livid. I have heard of Z cars. For my readers in the UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand us Yanks pronounce the letter Z as Zee not Zed. Datsun Nissan has high performing Z car that first came out as the mighty 240 Z. The 1969 Camaro Z 28 was perhaps GMs finest muscle car even though it was Gangrene and not Green. I loved the shape, style, and performance of that year’s Camaro as I was just finishing high school and we went to the moon that year. Enough nostalgia I want to report about a new group of Z cars. These are The Pon Z cars. After Burn in Hell Madeoff hit the news the world was again alerted to financial Ponzi Schemes. My task as the Green Machine is to alert the average Joe or Jane of Thermodynamic Ponzi Schemes. This task would normally fall to the US EPA or US DOE but both bureaucracies are DOA (dead on arrival) or even worse DAU (don’t ask us).

Our major villain this week is Fisker Automotive the wannabe company Alfalfa Gore and Joe Biding His Time are backing with millions of our tax dollars. Fisker claims a fuel efficiency of 100 miles per US gallon for their Karma. Their sleek Karma rode over my Dogma Pon Z car has a mass of 4,650 pounds. I have estimated based on the most efficient generation of electricity in a brand new state of the art combined cycle natural gas power station the behemoth Karma will at best achieve 33 miles per gallon. I will make these calculations available to anyone who wishes to check my math. So how does Fisker make the claim? They do this through miraculous math provided to them by none other than the US EPA. The EPA is the guardian of the mileage stickers on new cars and therefore should accurately reflect the conversion of fuel to electricity and then to automotive fuel efficiency in plug in or pure electric vehicles. However, some moron in the EPA has established that electricity on a gasoline equivalence basis has three times the actual energy it really possesses and now Fisker can claim three times the MPG for their plug in.

The financial news on Fisker and their battery supplier A One is that A One has raised money from the public in their stock sale, and A One will now invest some of that money in their customer Fisker so that Fisker can show the US government they have enough cash to qualify for the loans to build their factory in old Joe’s backyard in Wilmington Delaware. Of course the whole deal was sold to us on the basis that Fisker’s cars get 100 MPG using the nonsense math the US EPA uses. Of course my Congresswoman who is a thermodynamic neophyte thinks her vote is doing good. Let’s wake up and realize this makes Burn in Hell Madeoff look like he could have got away if only he had said the money was being invested in a new advanced battery automobile company.

Tesla is another company who announced they wish to have an IPO some time in the future and they too are at the trough of government loans. Tesla on their home web page claims their Roadster is twice as efficient as a Prius. This is hog wash and the Roadster is a highly priced high performance car that does not need to attract customers on efficiency. This high efficiency claim it is good PR for their fund raising for the future “affordable” sedan that I doubt will ever be economical and our tax dollars will likely be lost supporting its development. My estimate of the real fuel efficiency of the Tesla Roaster is 57 MPG. Tesla has spent over $300,000 to produce each of the 1,000 roadsters it has sold for $100,000. I got this data from the shelf registration Tesla Motors filed for their potential IPO. This 3 to 1 ratio is reminiscent of the fiction the US EPA uses to calculate electric vehicle MPGs. Perhaps MPG really does mean My Pathetic Government and old Woolsey over your eyes is just the tip of an iceberg.

I did write an email to Congresswoman Woolsey this week after watching the State of the Union address, and hearing President Obama discuss a deficit of trust. I am sharing that email with you

The President hit the nail on the head tonight in his State of the Union address. There is a deficit of trust between the people and their "representatives" in Washington DC. Of course there would be more trust if those who are in Congress would actually meet those who they represent in Congress. Ironically, above the President on the podium these words are inscribed "In God We Trust" Let me tell you those words ring true as I have zero, I repeat zero confidence in Congresswoman Woolsey ability to understand thermodynamics. Perhaps the Congresswoman should take note of the president's words and more so of the inscription above the podium.

I remain a citizen simply requesting the opportunity to meet my Congresswoman. I do this because I do trust in the power of the American people to demand representation and improve their own lot.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pulling The Wool Over Our Eyes

My blog this week is about the wonders of wool. No doubt that wool can do more to save energy than my Congresswoman. Donning a wool sweater or wrapping oneself in a wool blanket allows one to turn down the thermostat several degrees. For an example of energy savings let us assume the outside temperature is 40 degrees F (5 degrees C) and we keep our house at 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) if we wear a nice wool sweater. If you do not wear that sweater you will keep the house at 72 degrees F (22 degrees C). The heat loss through the windows, walls and roof of the house is proportional to the difference in temperature inside the house minus the temperature outside the house (called the delta T). In our example in case 1 with the sweater on the Delta T is 28 degrees F and in case 2 where we wear no sweater the Delta T is 32. The furnace inside the house has to make up for the heat loss and in our examples the furnace will have to operate at an increased rate of (32-28)/28 when no sweater is worn. This means the furnace will have to work 4/28 or about 14% harder to keep the higher temperature home heated with the implication that your heating bill will be 14% more expensive.

The thermodynamics of heating is a simple proportional and linear relationship between heat loss and Delta T. Driving a car at a faster speed does not increase gasoline use in a simple proportional or linear manner. The rolling resistance of a vehicle is proportional to the velocity but the aerodynamic drag (resistance to passing through the air) is proportional to the third power (cube) of the velocity. Hence the work the engine has to perform and correspondingly the fuel the engine consumes is far greater than 14% when the velocity you travel increases by 14%. This brings me to my main point of the blog that relates to the wonders of wool for our Congress and in particular my Congresswoman. They believe the material is best used for the purpose of pulling it over our eyes. The saying pulling the wool over your eyes goes back almost 200 years and came to us from the Milwaukee Sentinel and Gazette in October 1839 "And we ask one question that they dare not firmly answer, whether they are not now making a tolerable attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the people."

The origin of the phrase may well have come from woolen wigs worn by people in olden days and pulling their wigs over their eyes prevented them from seeing what is going on. Well Congresswoman Woolsey my hair is natural and you can’t trick me. I know that you voted to give away my tax dollars for Betamax energy projects that will neither turn down the thermostat nor lower the velocity of travel of the vehicles. All they will do is line the pocket of a few “alternate energy proponents”. Perhaps the Congresswoman and her leadership will take note of this week’s Senatorial election in the Bay State where folks had their eyes wide open and realized the turning right on red may yet save the country some fuel. It is time for the Bay Area to follow the Bay State and realize that after riding a Donkey for sixty years has taken us nowhere. I am not sure an Elephant is any better to ride so let’s get energy independence by being independent. This July 4 will be the 234 anniversary of declaring independence from the King who wore a woolen wig. I expect it is also the beginning of a new era of the American people waking up and realizing that folks in wool suits in DC heat our House of Representatives with hot air that comes from their mouths. I am still waiting to meet with my Congresswoman and seek representation in my House of Representatives. I have been promised by her staff that this year she will be home more often than last. Guess what it is an election year of course she will. Her election catch line may be “Pull the Woolsey Over Your Eyes”. Perhaps I will run against her and mine will be “Be Green Vote Leveen”. I will get one vote for sure.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


When most of us think of energy efficiency we probably think of buying an Energy Star appliance or replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. While those efforts do save a few kilowatt hours used in our homes and businesses, large amounts of energy are saved or gained with industrial cogeneration. Cogeneration involves capturing heat wasted by industrial processes to make surplus electricity. By putting that waste heat to work, plants can double their efficiencies. And the energy savings can really add up.

A prime example is outlined in the new book $20 Per Gallon, by Christopher Steiner. West Virginia Alloy’s silicon plant uses 135 megawatts to bake quartz in its 6,000 degree Fahrenheit furnaces. That’s enough electricity to power 120,000 homes. This year, the plant will debut a retrofit to capture the waste heat currently being vented to the atmosphere. For $75 million, a giant vacuum system will duct off the 1,400 degree exhaust to make steam that will produce around 50 megawatts of free electricity. Efficiencies at the plant will double. To make that amount of electricity it would take $300 million worth of large wind turbines. So it’s relatively cheap. Plus, WVA stands to save tens of millions of dollars per year in electricity costs, making it the lowest cost silicon supplier in the world.

Another way to go about cogeneration is how United States Gypsum is reconfiguring several of its drywall plants. Typically they dry the wet gypsum slurry in 700-degree natural gas-heated ovens and use electricity from the grid for other applications in the plant. When retrofitted, they will burn natural gas turbines to make electricity for the plant and use the 900-degree exhaust to bake the sheetrock. Again, efficiencies double and USG saves tens of millions of dollars in energy costs annually. This type of cogeneration could also be used to power and heat entire city blocks in densely-populated urban centers.

The Department of Energy estimates 135,000 megawatts of cogeneration opportunities exist in the U.S. Since efficiencies typically double, there would effectively be 67,000 megawatts generated for free. By the way, that’s the equivalent of $3.75 trillion worth of solar panels! Cogeneration has more bang-for-your-buck efficiency than any other green technology and will certainly be a part of our energy future.

~Mark Bremer, Green Explored Contributor

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Should you buy cans or bottles of beer?

Many readers of the Green Machine drink beer and are concerned about their carbon, land, and water footprints that result from their choice of packaging for their beers. There is great debate of whether to opt for aluminum cans over glass bottles. From a taste and quality perspective there is a bias towards glass bottles. I am no beer aficionado and my opinion on quality and taste can only be based on the fact that aluminum cans are coated and do not likely impart any taste to the beer. Also in a blind taste test if the subjects drink the beer out of a glass rather than the original container it has been shown that there is no statistical difference or preference between the two methods of packaging beer.,2933,582616,00.html

Beer packaged in an aluminum can also has a longer shelf life as no oxygen can enter the beer. Caps on bottles do not completely seal out oxygen in the air from diffusing into the bottle and reacting with the beer. Also beer is sensitive to light and photoreactions occur in beer, therefore a can that completely blocks the beer from light is preferable even to amber glass bottles. For the purposes of our eco analysis I will assume that good beer in either method of packaging has no taste difference or price difference and that the consumer is basing their selection purely from a Green perspective.

The analysis of comparative carbon, water and land foot prints is dependant on the following primary parameters. The distance from the brewery to the point of sale, the distance of the brewery from the point of manufacture of the container, whether the container is manufactured from virgin or recycled material (the recycle rate for containers in that location), the distance of the container manufacturer from the recycling center or the glass or aluminum foundry, the source of energy used in the glass or aluminum foundry, and the volume of beer within the container. A local brewery in a major metropolitan area like San Francisco, that does not transport the beer very far for sale nor haul empty bottles very far from their point of manufacturer should continue from a green perspective to use glass bottles unless the recycle rate for aluminum cans is more than 75%. Below this threshold of recycling the mining of bauxite and the upgrading of bauxite to alumina and the final refining of aluminum from alumina simply is too energy, land, and water intensive to displace new glass bottles from an Eco footprint perspective. Remember that the simple act of recycling a single beer can saves the equivalent amount of electricty to run your television three hours.

For larger breweries that are less proximate to their markets, aluminum cans even with a recycle rate of only 50% are likely the more eco friendly option. If the aluminum smelter is in Iceland and the electricity for the smelter is generated by hydroelectric dams, then there is no doubt that an Icelandic brewery should use aluminum cans and not glass bottle. Also I am fairly certain that Iceland has a relatively high recycle rate on their beer cans.

The nutrition value (energy content) of a 12 ounce can of beer is approximately 150 Calories. This is only one half of the energy that was required to produce the can if the aluminum was made from virgin bauxite. If the can was made from recycled aluminum, then the energy content of the beer is about fourfold the energy content of the can. SAB Miller is selling some pretty anemic beer now with only 57 Calories, in this case the sickle cell beer has the same energy content as the can made of recycled aluminum. Drinkers of this type of beer with only 2.5% alcohol don’t really care about taste they only care to be true Green Machines and their selection of this brand is all about eco footprint. Here is an interesting link to the calories in various beer brands. The greater the alcohol content the greater the calories. This makes sense as alcohol has carbon bonds with hydrogen that yield energy when metabolized.

I have used up my space for this week’s blog and I will therefore continue the discussion on beer in my next blog. As they say Skal for Cheers in Iceland. I bid you all Skal and I hope the beer you drink does not hurt your skull. Here is a link on from Denmark on how to say Cheers in many countries.

Please provide comments below. And please recycle all of your beverage containers, plastic, glass and aluminum

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Did we start on the green brick road in 2009?

My fellow blogger Mark blogged about gasoline taxes and hiway funds in the previous blog. The data for 2009 US gasoline consumption just came out and once again the average Joe is using more gasoline than they did in 2008 when prices were higher. This got me thinking of a super gasoline tax to make a real dent in gasoline consumption. Here is the Green Machine's idea on this.

Like Dorothy in the wizard of Oz we are also searching for the Emerald Green City at the end of the Yellow Brick Road. Our President went all the way to Copenhagen Denmark to tell the other world leaders that the USA is changing its course and will emit far less carbon dioxide in 2020 than we did in 2005. Is this path forward a fantasy toward that emerald green future or are we really going to do it this time? The reality lies somewhere between fantasy and achievability. The USA is the Saudi Arabia of energy waste and we certainly can be much more efficient.

It is the New Year and also a new decade so can we turn over a new green leaf so to speak? Certainly we can be far greener in our daily lives. Collectively and primarily due to the recession the US lowered its carbon emission in 2009 by five point six percent over 2008. While most of the reduction in emissions was due to lowered industrial output, there is no doubt that leading corporations, institutions, and our federal, state and local governments have all embraced the idea of a more fuel efficient future. Many citizens are also keen to green up. However, the citizens of the good old US of A need to put their green money where their mouths are. In 2009 gasoline usage increased by zero point two percent over 2008 when gasoline was extremely expensive. This is a pathetic indictment of the average citizen who simply drives more when gasoline costs less.

I suggest a gasoline tax of at least one dollar a gallon to drive fuel economy. We consume one hundred and thirty eight billion gallons of gasoline a year in these United States. One hundred and thirty eight billion dollars a year could do quite a bit to help America green up. Each of the two hundred and fifty million citizens over age five should be given a bicycle (made in America of course) by our government. At two hundred dollars a bicycle this will only cost the government fifty billion dollars and is needed for only one year. If just ten percent of the citizens then use the bicycles instead of their cars and trucks we would make a dent in the gasoline consumption. The fifty billion dollar stimulus to produce all those bicycles will employ at least a million folks for the year and at least at the end of the year we will have bicycles instead of billions given to fat bankers who I doubt can balance a bicycle yet alone a balance sheet.

The remaining eighty eight billion dollars should be spent as follows: Forty four million motorists will be selected at random and each given two thousand dollars for the year if and only if they carpool at least three times a week with at least one other person. This would mean one hundred and thirty two million less car trips a week. The average car trip to and from work consumes two gallons of gasoline. Doing the requisite math with folks carpooling fifty weeks in the year we would save thirteen point eight billion gallons of gasoline or ten percent of all the gasoline we consume. Combining the bicycles with the carpooling I have already presented policy that can achieve the seventeen percent energy savings in gasoline simply by a tax on gasoline. You see there really is an Emerald Green City with fewer cars, more bicycles and not so scared crows with brains. All it takes is leadership from the lying kings of the concrete jungle who are not cowards.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Changing Federal Gasoline Tax Structure

When gasoline prices go up, as they did in 2008, people use less gasoline. That year, Americans drove 100 billion fewer miles than the year before. So in a world of peak oil and rising gasoline prices, fewer miles will be driven. That also means fewer emissions, fewer crashes, and crumbling roads. Huh?

Gasoline taxes are the main source of funding for road and highway systems. When less gasoline gets used, less tax money gets collected. Much less. In 2008 it was about $800 million less. Ouch. Making matters worse, the cost of asphalt and other construction costs go up with higher oil prices. Our nation’s roads and highways are already in need of repair and replacement because of their general age. One out of four bridges in the U.S. is “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete”. One out of seven miles of pavement is rated “not acceptable”. How will we pay for the fixes when gasoline tax funding decreases?

One solution is to change the structure of the gasoline tax from a fixed amount to a percentage. The Federal government currently charges the same 18.4 cents per gallon whether the price of that gallon is $2.25 or $4.50. If the gasoline tax were changed to 10% per gallon, the government would receive 22.5 cents on $2.25 gas and 45 cents on $4.50 gas. The extra taxes will more than offset the revenue decrease when fewer miles are driven. This measure is politically difficult, but will become necessary as our surface transportation system funding problems deepen.

Another solution is to charge usage tolls for rush-hour travelers. In 2003, London implemented a usage toll system to charge vehicles entering its central business district. License plates were photographed and the drivers charged up to $14 to enter. Since then London has seen a 30% decrease in congestion, 25% increase in average vehicle speed, and a more efficient bus system with 37% more riders and 24% less wait time. Air pollution was reduced, as well. Carbon dioxide emissions decreased 20%, smog-inducing nitrogen oxides decreased 18% and unhealthy particulate matter dropped 22%. To top it all off, the system pulls in a net profit of $200 million annually. Similar systems have been implemented in other European cities with success. It is only a matter of time before major American cities implement similar solutions to deal with crowded, crumbling roads.

~Mark Bremer, Green Explored Contributor