Monday, September 08, 2008

Economics: Trade (and Trade Deficits) <> Wealth Transfer

The otherwise excellent Pickens Plan contains one notable misstatement:

"At current oil prices, we will send $700 billion dollars out of the country this year alone — that's four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.

"Projected over the next 10 years the cost will be $10 trillion — it will be the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind."

Pickens Plan, The Plan (emphasis mine)

The local blogger FreeMarket has picked up on this in his Pay us like you owe us piece - this is simply commodity trade, not wealth transfer.  It might best be argued that a) trading dollars for oil unduly affects our balance of trade, and b) we might find better things to trade our dollars for...

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rant: Pyramid Schemes

Ok, so maybe they're not illegal pyramid schemes, but they sure are pyramid schemes in that the incentive is more about recruiting sub-associates than they are about providing any kind of value-add, as in the traditional distributor/middle-man business model.

10-12 years ago, my wife (to be) and I were invited by her then boss to attend a session about Excel Communications (anyone know where they went off to?) which promised cheaper phone service and income potential at the same time.  For an initial fee, of course, as well as the discomfort of bugging friends and neighbors for business.

7-8 years ago I went to a "job interview" which turned out to be a pyramid scheme initiation session to sell detergents.  When I discovered what the meeting actually was about I immediately left - the people in charge actually openly laughed AT me for passing up such a wonderful opportunity...

Then the other day I come across Ignite/Stream Energy (whose website I will not dignify with a link).  Same scheme:

Directors are Independent Associates who choose to enroll in the Ignite Services Program. Directors will receive a marketing kit (Power Pack), training, home office support, and downline organization and commission reports. The initial cost of the
Program is $329*, with an annual renewal fee of $99. Any Independent Associate who purchases the Ignite Service Program may cancel in writing within three (3) days of the date the IA Application and Agreement is received at Ignite (i.e.,  Start Date) and receive a full refund.
* Residents of Connecticut, Maryland and North Carolina pay $199, residents of Maine, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota pay $249, and residents of Louisiana, Utah and Washington pay $299.

And here's what you are supposed to earn:


How many fools will be parted from their money this time

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Links for 2007-04-04 []

Sent using Rmail R|mail.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Links for 2006-10-30 []

Sent using R|mail.

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Different Kind of Hybrid

MIT researchers at the startup company Ethanol Boosting Systems, LLC, claim to have come up with a gasoline/ethanol hybrid engine that approaches the efficiency of today's gasoline/electric hybrids.

From an article at Power Online ("A VertMarkets Marketplace for Industry Professionals"), the design is based on boosting engine output through a combination of a turbo and ethanol injection.  By using ethanol rather than gasoline, the effective octane rating increases to more than 130 which greatly reduces the chances of engine knock.  This allows for a much higher compression ratio; for compared to a conventional engine, in EBS' design more than twice the amount of air and fuel can be combusted, producing a proportional increase in power over a conventional design with the same engine volume.

The additional efficiency appears to be gained purely from smaller engine sizes, with less weight.  However it is achieved, EBS estimates efficiency gains over a regular turbo-charged engine to be in the range of 25-30%.

While a classic gasoline/electric hybrid also uses the electric motor to boost performance when needed, there doesn't seem to be any reason why these two technologies couldn't be combined to form a gasoline/ethanol/electric hybrid.  Make it a plug-in on top of that, and we'll have a gasoline/ethanol/coal & nuclear (providing the electricity) hybrid car...  I envision a car that operates like an electric car at speeds upto 35 mph, uses the ethanol injection to accelerate to highway speeds, then continues to cruise on gasoline.  Then, when braking, it recouperates some of the lost energy through regenerative braking.

Of course my vision is not likely to come to fruition: this all comes at a cost - about $3000-4000 above that of a conventional design (gas/electric hybrid premium of ~$3000, plus gas/ethanol premium of $500-1000).  Gas would have to come back to well over $3/gallon and stay there to make that worthwhile in the US. In Europe however, it seems like it ought to be an attractive option.


Labels: ,

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Links for 2006-09-29 []

Sent using R|mail.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 29, 2005

News from the Skycar Team

  • Letter from the President, August – September 2005
  • Interesting point:

    ...having multiple-sizes available to deal with the specific demand will make sense. In this case the 84-passenger mile per gallon can be nearly maintained during all flights. Today the average automobile carries 1.2 persons, so that a Skycar® fueled consumption per passenger mile would exceed that possibly, even with the best hybrid car.
    See the article for a chart of common transportation options plotted on a speed vs passenger-miles per gallon.


Friday, September 09, 2005

10 Talking Points for Plug-In Hybrids

The California Cars Initiative provide 10 Talking Points for Plug-In Hybrids. The second point is key:

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) simply add a second cleaner, cheaper, and domestic energy source for your car: electricity.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 25, 2005

More on Ethanol

The Case for Ethanol by Anna Halpern-Lande.

" the next 10 years, ethanol feedstock will move from harvested corns and sugars to the vast amounts of cellulosic waste that currently are landfilled or burned. Cellulosic material -- such as rice straw and hulls, wheat straw, forestry waste, and corn stover -- are all currently problematic for farmers and foresters. However, these materials can be transformed using enzymatic processes into sugars and ligin. The sugars can be processed into ethanol, biodiesel, or other specialty chemicals, and the ligin can be used as a clean fuel source, potentially allowing the ethanol facility to use zero net energy in its operations.

"Using cellulosic waste will be critical if ethanol markets are to mature. The recently passed energy bill creates a nationally mandated threshold to 7.5 billion gallons, which would result in 5% of gasoline displaced by ethanol. If, as some estimate, our capacity to produce corn-based ethanol will max out at around 10 billion gallons, we simply will not have enough corn. Corn stover -- the stalk and leaves from corn -- along would add 7 to 12 billion gallons of ethanol capacity."

So the optimistic estimate is for corn-based ethanol (including stover) to reduce our gasoline consumption by 15%. That doesn't sound like a whole hell of a lot, but I guess it's a step in the right direction. Hopefully, as the industry matures, the tax subsidies will diminish. Yeah, right. Not as long as Iowa is one of the first primaries/caucuses...

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

More on hybrid/electric cars


Paul MacCready Speaks Out ...on efficiencies, energy, and why we need electric cars

Labels: ,

Monday, July 25, 2005

On Ethanol's Energy Balance

There's been some talk in the media lately about the Plug-In Hybrids' 500 miles per gallon (imported) gasoline fuel efficiency; based on these cars' 100 mpg capacity and the fact that they could theoretically run on 80% biofuel and 20% (imported) gas.

But more coverage was recently given to David Pimentel and Tad Patzek and their report that stated

"it takes at least 29% more energy to convert maize and other biomass feed stocks into ethanol than the amount of fuel produced by the process."

Now, of course, the study has been solidly refuted, and these refutations have also been widely covered in the media, though mostly in the mid-west.

So - one biased study claims a -29% energy balance, another equally biased study claims a +167% energy balance. They call this science? With as much as $1/gallon in tax incentives for ethanol producers, it's hard to know who to believe.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Outcome Grim at Oil War Game

The problem: Outcome Grim at Oil War Game
A (partial) solution: Plug-In Hybrids

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 20, 2005

As Toyota Goes ...

Thomas Friedman endorses hybrids: As Toyota Goes ... - New York Times

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It's the Batteries, Stupid.

From The Committee on the Present Danger: OIL & SECURITY by George P. Shultz and R. James Woolsey

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - The Campaign to Save Electric Cars

Help protect the few remaining Electric cars currently available: - The Campaign to Save Electric Cars

Labels: ,

Monday, May 09, 2005

AC Propulsion -- Plug-In HEV with Vehicle to Grid Power Flow

AC Propulsion converted a Jetta to a serial hybrid, with plug-in and vehicle-to-grid power flow capabilities. Interesting stuff: Business Information: AC Propulsion -- Plug-In HEV with Vehicle to Grid Power Flow

They also have a 3.6 sec 0-60 all-electric sports car with a 300 mile range. Why do we need hydrogen-based fuel cell vehicles?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

More on Plug-In Hybrids

EV World: The World of Electric, Plug-in Hybrid, Fuel Cell and Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Labels: ,

Monday, April 04, 2005

Air/Electric Hybrid

For a completely different type of hybrid: Pneumatic Hybrid Electric Vehicle.
Wonder what the energy losses are in "filling the tank" (pumping ambient air to 300 bar)?

Labels: ,

Plug-In Hybrids

Why should a hybrid vehicle not be able to be plugged-in at night to recharge the batteries?

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 03, 2005

You Can't Save Daylight

About the insanity that is "Daylight Saving Time": CBS News | You Can't Save Daylight | April 2, 2005 23:30:01

I want my hour back.

Labels: ,