Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Solar Fraud

I was perusing a rummage sale a couple weeks ago when I came across the book “The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Won’t run the World”. Always interested in hearing both sides of an argument, I had to pick it up, and I’m very glad I did. The author, Howard C. Hayden, is a theoretical physicist, with no ties to the energy industry (renewable or otherwise). It was so refreshing to read a straight-forward, logical evaluation of renewable technology – an absolute pleasure and a reminder of why I chose mathematics and physics as my undergraduate fields of study.

Born in 1970, I was raised (along with the rest of recent generations) listening to the siren’s song of renewables, which would soon be raining down limitless free energy and breaking our dependence on foreign oil. “Solar will soon be cost effective”, “The answer to our energy problems comes up every morning”. I went to graduate school at UW- Madison and spent a year and half in the world renowned Solar Energy Laboratory. I listened to speeches and lectures about the “promise of renewable energy” and sat in on the Wisconsin Utilities Advance Plan sessions where they set goals of 20% of our state energy production to be generated by renewable energy at “some point in the future”.

Well, here we are in 2009, with a president and congress moving aggressively to punish producers/consumers of conventional energy, and it is a scientific fact that renewable energy is still unable to provide a significant portion of our energy needs. According the Energy Information Administration report released May 15, 2009, “other renewables” (biomass, geothermal, solar and wind) and miscellaneous energy sources generated only 3.5% of our country’s electric power. 3.5%!!! How can you hope to run a technologically advanced nation on only 3.5% of its required power? Would you be happy if you went into a restaurant and they gave you only 3.5% of your requested food purchase, because the “restaurant experts” know better than you how much you should be eating?

Even at 100% efficiency for solar conversion (that is, full daylight at noon in the tropics being completely converted to energy), you would need a land area roughly equivalent to the state of Minnesota completely covered with solar panels. How could a project with that large of an environmental impact ever hope to be developed when faced with current regulatory hurdles? Couple this with the inherently unpredictable nature of solar (the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow - only Al Gore and his ilk are a predictable source of hot air) and the difficulty of tying production from the best resource locations to where the energy is needed, and it is blatantly obvious that we are not ready, and may never be ready, to run our country completely on renewable energy.

It is my impression that the majority of those who rabidly advocate renewable energy and nothing else are either (a) incapable of basic math or (b) those who have never gone without energy/tried to live solely on renewable or (c) both of the above. I have met some exceptions to this rule, people who walk the talk, generally living a very modest Luddite-type lifestyle in one form or another. They are few and far between.

I have traveled a fair way down the “renewables only” road. I have used an outhouse at night with a -40F windchill barking at my backside. I had friends who tried out sawdust toilets for a while. Have you ever seen a five gallon poopsicle? That’s what happens when you set a full sawdust toilet bucket outside that can’t be emptied right away because you’re in the middle of a snowstorm. No thanks – I’ll stick with indoor plumbing. I’ve relied primarily on firewood for heat in a Wisconsin winter. You don’t feed the stove, you freeze your house (including your indoor plumbing, if you’re a radical like me) and you once again freeze your backside. It’s a lot of work to cut and haul firewood and an inconvenience to be tethered to your home. I really like that nifty propane tank in the backyard that protects my house from freezing if I can’t be there to keep the home fires burning. (The robins like it, too. They’re raising their second brood of babies under the tank lid.)

I have built a passive solar super-insulated home and installed a solar water heater. A “passive” home means an active homeowner. If you don’t open and close your window insulation at appropriate times, you will lose more than you gain. And when the sun doesn’t shine for a month (for instance, last December) I am once again very fond of that nifty propane tank that I’ve got for backup. I’ve baked in a wood stove and a solar oven, too. I’m sure I could probably get used to it if I absolutely had to, but, wow, it is so much easier to touch a button or turn a knob and have temperature controlled cooking surfaces at the ready. It’s like magic – honestly!

Despite all its warts and its critics, our utility system gives us a quality of life only dreamed about by many people. Energy is life. It keeps us fed and clothed and housed, it entertains and educates us, expands our horizons.

While I continue to be a supportive of renewables and an environmental steward, I know the limitations of the technology, which were eloquently summed up in Dr. Hayden’s book. (BTW, a lot of the reviews on that trash the book site anthropogenic global warming as a reason for supporting renewables regardless of their expense and other issues. My response is that AGW is a load of horse pooey. See "Watt's Up?" on the side bar.) I encourage you to do your own research and become an educated energy consumer.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Really Expensive Mistakes

I think the widespread lack of understanding of basic math is coming back to bite our country in the *ss. You listen to the news and the supporters of rampant government spending, and they never seem to grasp that all that money has to come from somewhere. Sure, you can print up more, but then it becomes worthless, just like the promises of our current administration in DC.

Let's take a looksee at the "dire predictions" of what would happen without the stimulus bill (from American Issues Report:

In early January, a joint paper [PDF file] by Dr. Christine Romer, then the nominee to chair the Presidential Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein from Joe Biden's advisory team painted a bleak view of a world without the off-budget stimulus plan. This paper drove the administration's agenda on the stimulus bill and helped formulate the calculus that gave a much higher priority to public-works projects as opposed to tax cuts and business incentives. Failure to act, Romer and Bernstein warned, could have dire consequences (page 5):

The U.S. economy has already lost nearly 2.6 million jobs since the business cycle peak in December 2007. In the absence of stimulus, the economy could lose another 3 to 4 million more. Thus, we are working to counter a potential total job loss of at least 5 million. As Figure 1 shows, even with the large prototypical package, the unemployment rate in 2010Q4 is predicted to be approximately 7.0 percent, which is well below the approximately 8.8 percent that would result in the absence of a plan.

Yet, here we are, after burdening ourselves, our children and grandchildren with crushing debt, and what have we got to show for it?

Unemployment is actually worse than they predicted without the stimulus package. And we haven't even gotten started on government healthcare. Government control of healthcare will lead to rationing and the death of innovation. I'm not okay with that.

Check out this article from Health Informatics:

EMRs May Do Away With the Docs that Use Them
Posted on: 5.5.2009 8:37:39 AM Posted by Sam Bierstock, MD, BSEE

The President has announced his goal to digitalize our nation's medical record system. If achieved, this wonderful and lofty notion would certainly reduce medical errors, increase the quality of care delivered, bring consistency of care to our citizens, reduce costs associated with delivering health care, and quite possibly drive the physicians who are supposed to use them out of business.

The buzzards are already beginning to circle.

Physicians and nurses are the most pressured of all professionals, with expectations of their performance and its unimaginable responsibilities beyond the comprehension of people who have never made life and death decisions hundreds of times a day. With every decision and action comes the risk of being held liable and losing both their profession and their assets. The very mechanics of using electronic medical records in their current state of development has complicated the lives of many clinicians who use them and have been slow in being adopted for that reason. With luck, that will change.

What few people realize is that using a computer to document every decision, every action, and the assessment of every piece of information that streams to clinicians in real time represents a major change in the way clinicians have to think and work, and an audit trail that has begun the salivation process of every malpractice attorney who has finally realized what is about to be imposed on the medical profession. An electronic medical record system can track how long a doctor looked at a document, if he or she scrolled down to read the entire thing, how long it took a doctor or nurse to respond to an alert or notification of an abnormal result, how long it took for them to answer their email, and the accuracy of their every assessment, thought and action. It can track whether their decisions and actions meet the most recent guidelines or research results in a world where thousands and thousands of new papers and research are published every week.

This may sound wonderful for those receiving care, but how many people reading this article would want to use such a system in their work knowing that their every thought and action could be audited and evaluated by others who make their living suing you for everything you own?

What happens when it's you or your loved ones who are denied care because you don't meet the government criteria? What happens when China stops buying our debt? This house of cards is going to come tumbling down with a mighty roar. The Founding Fathers must be turning over in their graves as the Constitution is trampled into the dust.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Liberty and Tyranny

Not much time to post today, but this just struck a chord and I had to share the link:

Liberty and Tyranny
by Mike S. Adams

For the past few years, I’ve been arguing that those who like to be called “liberals” should instead be called statists. You know these people. They are the ones who, full of righteous indignation, speak incessantly of injustice and oppression in America. They also speak, in sentences full of smug self-assurance, as if they and only they possess the empathy and intellectual fortitude necessary to provide “solutions” to a host of social “problems” thrust upon a good people by a bad “society.” ...

Read the rest of Mike's post here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Doctor Utopia's ISM

Via Kate at SDA:

My how things have changed. So sad to see so many people guzzling the ISM.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Stowers Story

"Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases." - Thomas Jefferson

The latest update on the Stowers from the Journal of Whole Foods and Nutritional Health.

Chatting Bacteria

Imagine that!