30 June 2011

Gemasolar power plant still produces electricity even dark

Gemasolar power plant near Seville in southern Spain is the world's first solar power plant that can generates electricity during the night. The solar power plant comprises 2,650 solar panels that spread over 185 hectares of rural land with heliostat mirrors for 95 percent of solar radiation on a receiver at the center of the giant plant.
The plant is actually a collaborative effort between Abu Dhabi's Masdar energy company and a branch of the Spanish engineering firm Sener called Torresol Energy. Heat up to 900C is used tanks molten salt heat, creating steam to power turbines £ 260 million station.
But, unlike all other plants, solar heat stored in these reservoirs can be released from up to 15 hours in the night or during periods without sunlight. The sun of southern Spain claims rather solar energy during most of the morning allowing the plant to produce clean, green electricity to an estimate 270 days a year, three times more than other solar energy projects. It is planned to generate 110 GWh per year that would be enough to power about 25,000 homes in the region of Andalusia.

29 June 2011

28 June 2011

No Comment Necessary

25 June 2011

More Evidence This Recession May Be A Depression

I have been arguing the point for a couple of years that we are in a depression not a recession. If you take the gains in "financial services" away then the economy is still shrinking. We all know these gains are falsely propped up as the FED gives away gambling money in QE1 & QE2 to those "financial services" multi-nationals. Ted McLaughlin from Jobsanger has posted this timely and insightful piece that backs up my assertion.


While the pundits argue about whether the current recession is over or not, most Americans know the country has not recovered and may not for many more years. Millions of jobs have been lost and the few jobs currently being created can't even cover the new entrants to the work force. Wall Street may be doing well, but there is no doubt on Main Street that the recession rages on.

In fact, it may be worse than just a recession. It may actually be a full-blown depression. The evidence for this is mounting. A few days ago I wrote a post that showed the percentage of Americans that have been out of work for over six months has exceeded the percentage during the Great Depression. At least 6.2 million people, or 45.1%, of the 13.9 million unemployed in this country have been out of work for longer than six months (and that doesn't count the people who have given up trying to find work).

Now there is more evidence we may be in a second Great Depression. It has now been confirmed that the price of houses has dropped 33% since the start of the recession. That's more than the 31% that the cost of houses fell during the Great Depression. And the fall in prices may not be over, since the banks have a glut of homes they have repossessed and are still foreclosing at a record pace.

It's even worse when you consider that the modern drop in prices has occurred in less than four years -- a much shorter time than it took during the fall in the Great Depression. Paul Dales, senior economist at Capital Economics, put it this way for his clients, "The sharp fall in house prices in the first quarter provided further confirmation that this housing crash has been larger and faster than the one during the Great Depression." He predicts the prices will fall at least another 3% the rest of this year (making a total of 5% for the year).

Currently there are 4.5 million homes where the owners are at least three months behind on payments or banks have issued a foreclosure. The normal yearly average is only about 1 million. That tells us that the housing crises, like the jobs situation, is not going to be solved anytime soon.

The Great Depression was not actually called a depression until years later. At the time it was just a serious recession. I think it's becoming more likely every day that a few years down the road people will be referring to this period of history as the Second Great Depression.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

24 June 2011

The nominee to replace Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, told a Senate committee yesterday that the Defense budget "is by no means the cause of the huge deficits we are incurring today." he's wrong. How can a department that eats up more than 58% of all the nation's discretionary spending not be a big cause of the national deficit? No other country in the world spends even half as much as the United States does on its military. Is it any wonder that there's not enough money left to help hurting Americans without increasing the deficit? The military budget is a bloated budget-buster and needs to be sharply reduced.

And don't give me that tired old Republican argument about Social Security and Medicare being the budget busters. Those programs are not paid for with income tax revenue (like the above programs, including the military) and are not a part of discretionary spending. They are paid through payroll taxes (like FICA), and any fiscal problems they have could be easily fixed by raising or abolishing the cap on the amount of income subject to those taxes (a move that would not affect the amount paid by working or middle class wage earners at all -- but just make high-income earners pay the same percentage as everyone else).

The chart above was taken from the pages of Think Progress.

22 June 2011

The GOP Jobs Fix

21 June 2011

GOP Comes Up With Another Cuckoo Idea

I wrote a post the other day about stupid Republican ideas, and one of the GOP congressman I discussed was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California). This nut showed his idiocy by coming up with his own solution to global climate change. He decided we should clear-cut all the world's rain forests (evidently having slept through high school science where it is learned that trees use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen). His dumb idea would obviously just make things worse, not better.

But Rohrabacher is not one to rest on his laurels (as idiotic as they are). He is determined to make sure that everyone understands his complete lack of brain function. Yesterday Rohrabacher was visiting Baghdad and had a suggestion for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. He thinks the Iraqis should pay for the privilege of being invaded and occupied by the United States. Here is what he said:

“Once Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country…we would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the United States some of the mega-dollars that we have spent here in the last eight years."
“We were hoping that there would be a consideration of a payback because the United States right now is in close to a very serious economic crisis and we could certainly use some people to care about our situation as we have cared about theirs.”

I find it incredible that any American politician, even a Republican, could make such an obviously insane suggestion. The United States invaded Iraq without any good reason -- other than George Bush's vanity and Dick Cheney's meanness. We destroyed their infrastructure and economy. We started a civil war. We drove millions out of their country. We killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. And we still occupy their country (about 50,000 U.S. soldiers remain there). And this fool thinks the Iraqis should pay us for our vicious and destructive behavior.

This Republican may still have a pulse, but he is beyond doubt totally brain dead. It wouldn't surprise me if he also wanted our torture victims to pay for the honor of being water-boarded.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

20 June 2011

19 June 2011

Right-Wing History - Beyond Weird

Right-wingers are fond of making up history as they need. Whether it is from ignorance of what actually happened or just plain old dishonesty doesn't matter. The effect is the same -- they feed people an inaccurate and untrue vision of history, especially American history, to back up their own ridiculous beliefs. For them, history is little more than propaganda.

The media had a lot of fun with Sarah Palin last week when she said Paul Revere warned the British with gunshots and the ringing of bells that they weren't going to take American's guns. Any school child knows she was a long way from the truth, but I honestly think Palin spoke from ignorance. She didn't know what the real story was, so she gave her own version of it.

But there are much more insidious right-wingers out there spouting false history -- and they are fooling people (because they are telling them what they wish was true -- not what is true). One of the worst of these is David Barton (pictured), who claims to be a historian. Barton has regularly misused history to support his fringe right-wing christian views. He claims that Benjamin Franklin (and other founders) would have opposed "net neutrality" (although the idea of an internet was a couple of hundred years away). He also says the United States broke away from England because England supported slavery (completely ignoring the fact that the English outlawed slavery long before America did).

But a few days ago he may have come up with his most outrageous re-writing of American history yet. He now claims that the Founding Fathers debated the teaching of creationism versus evolution, and came down on the side of creationism. Here is his comment on the christian Daystar network:

"The founding fathers…already had the entire debate on creation/evolution…and you've got Thomas Paine, the least religious of the founding fathers, saying you got to teach creation science in the public school classroom, the scientific method demands it!"

He completely ignores the fact that Charles Darwin was not even born until 1809, did not publish On The Origin Of Species until 1859, and did not publish The Descent Of Man until 1871. He doesn't explain how the Founding Fathers could have known about and debated evolution decades before the idea was even presented.

And this is the "historian" lauded by many on the right like Rep. Joe Barton. Mike Huckabee even said that Americans (including children) should be forced at gunpoint to listen to Barton's version of history. But since facts are not important in right-wing politics and economics, I guess there's no reason to assume they should be important in their version of history either.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

18 June 2011

Watching a Crash in slo mo

There's a lot going on in this deceptively simple chart so let's take it one step at a time. First, "Total Credit Market Debt" is everything - financial sector debt, government debt (federal, state, and local), household debt, and corporate debt - and that is the bold red line (data from the Federal Reserve).

Next, if we start in January 1970 and ask the question, "How long before that debt doubled and then doubled again?" we find that debt has doubled five times in four decades (blue triangles).

Then if we perform an exponential curve fit (blue line) and round up, we find a nearly perfect fit with a R2 of 0.99. This means that debt has been growing in a nearly perfect exponential fashion through the 1970's, the 1980's, the 1990's and the 2000's. In order for the 2010 decade to mirror, match, or in any way resemble the prior four decades, credit market debt will need to double again, from $52 trillion to $104 trillion.

Finally, note that the most serious departure between the idealized exponential curve fit and the data occurred beginning in 2008, and it has not yet even remotely begun to return to its former trajectory.

This explains everything.

It explains why Bernanke's $2 trillion has not created a spectacular party in anything other than a few select areas (banking, corporate profits), which were positioned to directly benefit from the money. It explains why things don't feel right, or the same, and why most people are still feeling quite queasy about the state of the economy. It explains why the massive disconnects between government pensions and promises, all developed and doled out during the prior four decades, cannot be met by current budget realities.

Our entire system of money, and by extension our sense of entitlement and expectations of future growth, were formed during and are utterly dependent on exponential credit growth. Of course, as you know, money is loaned into existence and is therefore really just the other side of the credit coin. This is why Bernanke can print a few trillion and not really accomplish all that much, because the main engine of growth expects, requires, and is otherwise dependent on credit doubling over the next decade.

To put this into perspective, a doubling will take us from $52 to $104 trillion, requiring close to $5 trillion in new credit creation each year of that decade. Nearly three years has passed without any appreciable increase in total credit market debt, which puts us roughly $15 trillion behind the curve.

What will happen when credit cannot grow exponentially? We already have our answers; it's been the reality for the past three years. Debts cannot be serviced, the weaker and more highly leveraged participants get clobbered first (Lehman, Greece, Las Vegas housing, etc.), and the dominoes topple from the outside in towards the center. Money is dumped in, but traction is weak. What begins as a temporary program of providing liquidity becomes a permanent program of printing money needed in order for the system to merely function.

17 June 2011

Construction and Monitoring of the First US Passivhaus Public School Building

Here is the text of the paper I presented in Austria @ the International Passivhaus Conference:

Construction and Monitoring of the First US Passivhaus Public School Building

16 June 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On

By Bill McKibben

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Missouri, you should not ask yourself: I wonder if this is somehow related to the huge tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that—together they comprised the most active April for tornadoes in our history. But that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advised to try and connect them in your mind with, say, the fires now burning across Texas—fires that have burned more of America by this date than any year in our history. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been—the drought is worse than the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if it’s somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you’d have to also wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest—resulting in record flooding across the Mississippi—could somehow be related. And if you did that, then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming. To the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself, over and over, the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods—that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these records are happening at once: why we’ve had unprecedented megafloods from Australia to Pakistan in the last year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. Focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the anchorman up to the chest of his waders in the rising river.

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year-drought in the last four years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the last decade—well, you might have to ask other questions. Like, should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal-mining? Should Secretary of State this summer sign a permit allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might have to ask yourself: do we have a bigger problem than four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline?

Better to join with the US House of Representatives, which earlier this spring voted 240-184 to defeat a resolution saying simply “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself if last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heatwave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields might somehow be related. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It’s very important to stay completely calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the US Chamber of Commerce told the EPA in a recent filing: there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re telling themselves in Joplin today.

Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign 350.org, and Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College.

15 June 2011

Construction and Monitoring of the First US Passivhaus Public School Building

Here is the text of the paper I presented in Austria @ the International Passivhaus Conference:

Construction and Monitoring of the First US Passivhaus Public School Building

14 June 2011

Another Step Away From Democracy - Toward Plutocracy

This is some bad news for those of you who enjoyed living in a representative democracy. A misguided federal court judge, James Cacheris (appointed by Ronald Reagan), has decided that the rich and the corporations don't have enough power in the United States and has rendered a decision he hopes will rectify that. The judge has thrown out indictments against two men who were charged of reimbursing political donations made by other people from corporate funds.

This amounted to a corporation donating money directly to a political candidate, which is (or was) illegal. The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court had unwisely allowed corporations to spend as much money as they wanted in campaign advertising (but did not extend this campaign spending to allowing direct donations to candidates). Judge Cacheris' decision extends the Citizens United decision to also cover direct contributions by corporations to political candidates.

The judge claims the Citizens United case made corporations equal to people on all campaign spending issues, and since individual people can donate money directly to a candidate that means corporations can also do that. I think this judge has misread the ruling and made a grievous error in judgment, but considering the current make-up of the Supreme Court I doubt the judge will be overturned. Instead, I expect the court will jump on this chance to expand their ruling giving corporations even more power.

In modern political campaigns, money talks. And individual donors cannot hope to match the huge donations of corporations. That means the candidate that offers corporations more will get the most money in campaign donations. We were already too far down the road to plutocracy (a country ruled by its wealthy class), and this terrible decision just kicks the country even farther down that road to the death of democracy and the ascendancy of plutocratic government.

I don't care what the Supreme Court says, corporations are NOT people, and they shouldn't have the rights guaranteed to all American citizens. They are a business entity interested only in making ever larger profits, and the good of the country or its citizens doesn't enter into those business decisions. In fact, a corporation will act against the best interests of American citizens as long as it enhances the bottom line (more profits).

It may be too late, but a movement needs to be started in America to pass a new constitutional amendment -- an amendment that would deny the rights guaranteed to citizens to any corporate entity. That amendment should define "person" as a living breathing human being and restrict right to those humans (including the right of free speech). Does anyone really think our Founding Fathers (who wrote the Constitution) ever envisioned or would approve of giving business entities the same rights they guaranteed to citizens? Of course not.

Ask yourself -- is corporate rule the best form of government? That's where we're heading if somethings not done -- and soon.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

13 June 2011

No Comment Necessary

12 June 2011

God Gives The OK

Good news for all the fundie nut-jobs out there. Michele Bachmann asked god if she should run for president and he gave her his approval (or at least that's what she told an Iowa Public Television station). Look for the official announcement in the next couple of weeks

11 June 2011

No Comment Necessary

10 June 2011

No Comment Necessary

09 June 2011

No Comment Necessary

08 June 2011

This Candidate Makes Bachmann & Palin Look Sane

Oh My! Just when I was beginning to think the field of Republican presidential candidates was about as crazy as it could get, they go and prove me wrong. The field is about to get a candidate that is so over-the-top that he makes candidates like Santorum, Palin, Gingrich, Bachmann, and Cain look like moderates (and that's damn hard to do).

The site of Religion Dispatches is reporting that Roy Moore (pictured) has formed a presidential exploratory committee and may actually announce his candidacy this Friday when he speaks at the Christian Reconstructionist Institute. That should turn the Republican clown show into a full-blown comedy extravaganza!

You may remember Moore as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who refused to remove a copy of the 10 Commandments from his courthouse when ordered to do so by a federal judge. That little incident got him kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court for failing to obey the Constitution. He then ran for governor of Alabama -- and finished fourth in the Republican primary with about 19% of the vote.

Moore is not just a christian. He believes that American law should be based on the Bible (his own interpretation of the Bible). I doubt that he stands a snowball's chance in hell of actually getting the Republican nomination, but he certainly adds a new level of crazy to the campaign (and I hear he has already been touring Iowa).

The Republican race for the nomination just keeps getting better and better -- for Democrats.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

07 June 2011

No Comment Necessary

06 June 2011

A Priceless story of Justice

The American banking system has been pretty brutal to homeowners since the start of this recession. That have foreclosed on a record number of homes and seized them, and that still continues at record levels to this date. But this story is about a couple who turned the tables on a bank -- and "foreclosed" on the bank itself.

The whole thing started when a Florida couple, Warren and Maureen Nyergues, bought a home that was owned by the Bank of America. The couple paid cash for the home, so no mortgage was ever needed or issued. But if there's a way to screw up a bank can usually find it, and the Bank of America did just that -- they issued a foreclosure notice on the home that didn't even have a mortgage.

Naturally, the bank wouldn't listen to reason and the couple had to take them to court to get the foreclosure notice lifted. After lifting the foreclosure notice, the court ordered the bank to pay the couple's legal fees ($2,534). It looked like the matter was settled, but once again the bank found a way to screw up. After waiting for five months the couple still had not received their check from the bank for legal fees.

The couple then did exactly what the bank would have done after not being paid -- they went to court and got a court order seizing the bank branch and its assets. The couple's attorney, Todd Allen, then showed up at the Bank of America branch with two Sheriff's deputies. Allen said, "I instructed the deputy to go in and take desks, computers, copiers, filing cabinets, including cash in the drawers."

The bank's manager was shaken and locked the attorney out of his office while trying to figure out what to do. As Allen said, "Having two Sheriff's deputies sitting across your desk, and a lawyer standing behind them, demanding whatever assets are in the bank can be intimidating. But, so is having your home foreclosed on when it wasn't right."

It took about an hour but the bank finally issued a check for the full amount of the legal fees. They also apologized for the delay. And the attorney and deputies went away without seizing any property.

Allen's final statement was, "As a foreclosure defense attorney this is sweet justice." Amen to that!

05 June 2011

Is this a Joke?


04 June 2011

DOE Shows The South How To Save Energy

Tennessee has the second highest energy consumption in the nation due to its lack of energy efficiency in state building codes. The DOE and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are building a demonstration with the TVA at the Campbell Creek subdivision near Knoxville, Tennessee to show the cost advantages of energy efficiency.

For the test, three houses that look identical were built next to each other, and remotely controlled appliances operate identically in each house. The first one was built to the building code used in Tennessee. The middle house was built to California energy efficiency standards. The last house was a zero (fossil) energy house powered by a solar roof.

The cost to run each proves to be dramatically different.

The three houses are identical, except for the solar on the roof of the third
Inside the three houses, identical activity performed by robotic actions gives a side by side comparison of energy use. Each day, in the three houses, three fridge doors open and close at the same time. TVs in the three houses all go on and off at identical times. Dishwashers and clothes dryers, computers and microwaves, all the identical appliances in the three turn off and off at the same moment.

The resulting electricity bills range from $2,555 a year ($7 a day) to run the lax building code type style home, down to almost half ($4 a day) or $1,460 for the California-level retrofit home, and a mere $365 a year ($1 a day) to run the super efficient and solar home.
The largest savings of the retrofit house over the first simply came from having the heating and air conditioning ducts and system inside the house. Putting heating and cooling outside is still legal in some states in the South.

Homes in the South use 44% of US energy, with only 37% of the population. The South has the lowest rates of market penetration of Energy Star appliances and per capita spending on electric utility energy efficiency programs is just one fifth the national average.

“We should just make it illegal in new homes to put heating and cooling systems anywhere outside the envelope,” said Jeff Christian, building researcher with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a partner in the project along with the U.S. Department of Energy. “Why would we waste 35-45 percent of the energy?”

The local builder who built the three 2,400 square foot houses called the project eye opening. “Every house built today has insulation installed, but it only takes a little gap in the insulation and it’s like a window’s open all the time,” said Kerr with Michael Rhodes Construction.

03 June 2011

Vertigro - Algae is the answer to our Oil Dependency


02 June 2011

International Passivhaus Conference

I am sitting in the airport waiting for my final flight on the return from the International Passivhaus Conference. I'd like to share some quick observations:

1) We (the US) are far behind in both technology and know how in a field that we lead 30 years ago - Energy efficient construction.
2) The US market has very little interest in pursuing such things and as such it will take legislation to really move it forward. alas I am afraid this is still a decade or more away.
3) Countries that understand the future markets of the world are adopting this technology aggressively. I was at the meeting last conference one year ago when the Korean delegation made the agreement for official recognition. Within the last year they have built both residential and non-residential projects, already have a Korean made PHI certified window (there are none in the US after at least three years of begging) and they are breaking ground on three apartment towers (20 stories) of Passivhaus construction, those are only the ones I know of. They have also adopted Passivhaus as the energy design system for all buildings by 2017. They know where the future is.
4) China is aggressively pursuing at least 2 large scale PH mixed use developments.
5) Even small Latvia has PH certified components being made in their country.

How long will we continue to hide our collective heads in the sand as the world embraces this century and we are longing for the 1960's. It may be time to find a more forward thinking forum for those of us that have beaten our heads against the US ignorance for so many years.

~~ Cheers - Adam

01 June 2011

GE sees solar cheaper than fossil fuels in 5 years

Solar power may be cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels and nuclear reactors within three to five years because of innovations, said Mark M. Little, the global research director for General Electric Co. (GE)

Of course, being cheaper than new nuclear isn’t hard when cost curves are moving in opposite direction (see “Does nuclear power have a negative learning curve?“).

Here is the solar cost curve (in blue) from the recent IPCC report on renewables:

Experience curve in logarithmic scale for the price of silicon PV modules [in blue]…. Reductions in the cost or price of a technology per unit of capacity understate reductions in the levelized cost of energy of that technology when performance improvements occur

This takes us through 2010. The Bloomberg piece on GE notes:

The cost of solar cells, the main component in standard panels, has fallen 21 percent so far this year, and the cost of solar power is now about the same as the rate utilities charge for conventional power in the sunniest parts of California, Italy and Turkey…..

So we continue to march down the cost curve, and not just in module cost but in every aspect of solar deployment, including financing and installation (see “Sungevity partners with Lowe’s: Innovative business models are bringing solar to the general public“).

“If we can get solar at 15 cents a kilowatt-hour or lower, which I’m hopeful that we will do, you’re going to have a lot of people that are going to want to have solar at home,” Little said yesterday in an interview in Bloomberg’s Washington office. The 2009 average U.S. retail rate per kilowatt-hour for electricity ranges from 6.1 cents in Wyoming to 18.1 cents in Connecticut, according to Energy Information Administration data released in April.

Solar-panel makers from Arizona to Shanghai are expanding factories to add more cost savings that analysts say will sustain the industry’s expansion. Installations may increase by as much as 50 percent in 2011, worth about $140 billion, as cheaper panels and thin film make developers less dependent on government subsidies, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast.

Leading experts and companies alike have all told me they think this price is doable in the 2016 realm — with continued price drops after that (see also Chu’s Department of Energy seeks to cut solar costs 75% by 2020 in its “Sun Shot” program). The future of PV is sunny!