Palliative Energy Measures

Perhaps you have encountered the medical term: palliative care. Webster’s dictionary defines it as “A medicine or form of medical care that relieves symptoms without dealing with the condition’s cause.”  Palliative care is given when the patient is dying, and medical treatment is no longer being given to address that, but is given instead to make the patient more comfortable.

The reason for this blog is that it reminds me how to think about the recent news from shipping giant, Cargill, that they are adding sails to their ships to reduce their carbon footprint.  Some might celebrate this because it does slightly reduce fossil fuel use, eventually.  When you count the energy required to create and install those sails, you realize it will be a long time before there is a net benefit.  But that’s a sidebar issue.

Let’s go back to the definition of palliative … it relieves symptoms but does not address the cause.  The cause of carbon dioxide releases in Cargill’s case is that they are shipping goods that could have been grown or produced locally.  Why?  To save money because it is less expensive to grow or produce products elsewhere.

This begs the question: why are we putting a sail on a ship burning massive amounts of petroleum to bring us products that could have been grown or produced locally?

Manufacturers in this country now ship wood abroad to be made into furniture that is shipped back to the US to be sold for use in homes and businesses here. Why?  Because the furniture is less expensive and can therefore produce higher profits.

On the flip side, ships deliver food and necessities to people living in places that can’t sustain life.  Should people be living there?  Why have we chosen to feed and house people who should move?  Since the dawn of time, all living things have moved to where they have water, food, and an environment where they can survive on local or regional sources.

One comedian I remember pointed out that the starving people in the deserts didn’t need us to send food, they needed U-Hauls.  And while that sounds harsh, there is a reality there we seem to be missing when we image the ships as being “green” with their new sails.

What happened to that bucolic model of farmers and neighboring communities working symbiotically to get through life together? Sure, we ship spices from distant lands … but those fit on the backs of camels.  And we ship other specialty goods from other lands, but those are not the mainstay of life.  Contrast that with Cargill shipping food around the world … that’s quite a bit different, now isn’t it?

Notice that nobody is pointing out that adding sails to these fossil-fuel burning behemoths are simply palliative energy measures.  This is a clever form of greenwashing.  This is deceptive marketing used to persuade the public that the organization is environmentally friendly.  They celebrate the sails because they can “show progress” toward some elusive goal by measuring carbon against a historical pattern and to “buy time” until real sustainable change is palatable.

Why is it that we miss the blinding flash of the obvious?  Could it be that they have no incentive to think about and try to fix the fundamental malady … world transport vs. local sustainability?

Palliative … all just palliative!

The Charging Connundrum

A recent announcement about fast charging has me scratching my head.

Chinese battery giant CATL has unveiled a new fast-charging battery—one that the company says can add up to 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) of range in 10 minutes. That’s faster than virtually all EV charging today, and CATL claims the new cells, which it plans to produce commercially by the end of 2023, will “open up an era of EV superfast charging.”

Let’s make this really simple.  Assuming the kWh needed to go 250 miles is 80 kWh and the charge cycle is 10 minutes, that means that on average the car will place an electric demand on the circuits of about 480 kW.  We all know that the first minute of that charge cycle will be close to twice that, so that one EV will require 1 MW of power to charge the car.

Who the hell is going to justify an investment like this, no less has that kind of electric infrastructure where these chargers are likely to be placed.  Plus, there is no way this technology can be backfitted to existing charge sites unless they plan to reduce the number of charge spaces.

Why am I the only one asking the electrical engineers and utility system planners to stop this nonsense?  And, as if that wasn’t crazy enough, we have Ford filing a patent on in road charging.  Gee.  That means we are going to add miles to the vehicle while it is traveling down the road.  So, let’s assume the car is going 60 miles per hour to make the math easy … or a mile per minute.  Let’s imagine that the charging panel is 250 ft long also to make the math easy since this is about one twentieth of a mile.  Each mile we want to add to the battery while it is crossing this grid in about 3 seconds on average or in aggregate achieving it in 2 seconds would mean that each mile would take 360 kW of power.

The whole idea is so ludicrous I am just wondering where all the engineers went?  Oh, I forgot … everyone is waiting for the government giveaways to fund infrastructure.

Oh, and I also forgot that utilities love to build things that wind up in rate base.  How nice that some are pushing them into this!

Where oh where is the least cost planning that was so foundational to the industry?

Hummingbirds are Going to Hell!

We did not put out our bird feeders out this year since we are spending so much time away from the house this summer.  Needless to say, we didn’t put out our hummingbird feeders either.

Whenever we do I am reminded about how different they are from sea gulls. When I would go fishing and come to shore to clean the fish the first gulls to see me would screech loudly to attract all their friends.  It didn’t matter how many fish I had caught … they would screech and within minutes every gull within earshot was there waiting for me to finish cleaning the fish.

Yes, they might try to grab something from another gulls grasp, but they seemed quite communal in their approach. By contrast, I have watched gulls repeatedly try to steal food from pelicans, some going so far as to land on the pelican’s head and just peck at anything hanging out of its mouth. 

Here is a picture I shot of one gull sitting next to a pelican after several attempts. As I watch the birds in our yard feeding from the bird feeders they seem perfectly polite, each waiting their own turn.  That is, until a cardinal comes along who tends to drive away any other bird to get to its preferred perch.

However, there is nothing more antisocial and greedy than a hummingbird.  We have two feeders in the area and any hummingbird on any perch in any feeder becomes hostile to any other hummingbird even getting near one of those feeders.  There are a total of 8 perches they could use, and two of them on each feeder would permit them to feed without even seeing each other … but no … they just never let another hummingbird eat when they are there.

How on earth did this bird species get to be this way?  And, why is this a universal trait within the hummingbird species?  If we ever needed to see an example of anti-communal behavior in the animal species, hummingbirds take the cake!

Bending the Curve?

I am sure you remember this adage from the health care industry about our collective responsibility to act responsibly with COVID 19.  I tracked our progress weekly and wrote a summary of how we were doing right here in our community and compared that to other parts of the US and the world.  I offered alarms when there seemed to be an uptick in our cases and offered encouragement as we all tried to be good citizens.  The goal of course was to avoid overloading our healthcare system. 

It is striking to me that we are not offering the same public tracking information for our concerns over carbon emissions.  The data is all there as the chart here shows.  Why aren’t we offering insights into how we are doing?

Perhaps the reason is that the curve is going in the wrong direction … it is getting worse at an increasing rate.  We have bent the curve in the wrong direction.  How can that be with all the world talking about this plus the last few years of COVID 19 supposedly thwarting economic growth?

If you have been following my blogs, you know precisely why the curve is bending in the wrong direction.  A part of it is that we are simply not retiring coal as the pundits promised (see China, India, and Pakistan), and all of these EVs, solar panels, and batteries embody years of carbon dioxide in their production.  All this is of course driven by the increasing appetite of the world for things we take for granted here in the US.

We are spending money like drunken sailors yet nobody can give us any cost-benefit analysis to justify it.  We have alarmists and scare tactics prodding us on to throw more money at EVs, solar and wind, yet all of these are going to further bend the curve in the wrong direction.

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

The Side Show

Most of us grew up with the three-ring circus presented by Barnum and Bailey or Ringling with animal, acrobat, and crazy feats demonstrated live and in real time.  People were on tightropes high above us and animals were uncaged.  We saw parades of elephants seemingly dancing to music, and then there was the side show.  It was, as its name implies a relatively small area with a separate fee to see people or animals who were a bit off the mainstream norm: bearded ladies, etc.  As Wikipedia points out:

These might be partly a freak show exhibiting “human oddities” including “born freaks” such as midgets, giants or persons with other deformities, or “made freaks” like tattooed people, fat people or “human skeletons”- extremely thin men often “married” to the fat lady, like Isaac W. Sprague). However, for variety’s sake, the acts would also include “working acts” who would perform magic tricks or daredevil stunts.

Remember, I grabbed this from Wikipedia.  Notice the language and descriptions which are no longer acceptable.  Frankly, I am surprised Wikipedia still uses the term freak and describes these individuals as human oddities.  Think about it.  We are no longer free to use language like this, or to “make fun” of any of our human variations which the site describes as human oddities.

We have had our boat in Sarasota which was the winter home for all those animals and people in the Ringling circus.  They have a fabulous museum there commemorating all this.  The animals are gone.  The side show is gone.  This is all due to public pressure, and most people today would probably defend their demise.  But, when asked by an American magazine interviewer during the 1919 tour if the circus whether it would ever be altered by progress, Ringling responded: “It never will be changed to any great extent, because men and women will always long to be young again. There is as much chance as Mother Goose or Andersen’s Fairy Tales going out of style.”

Mother Goose is now a sexist label and fairy tales are being rewritten … see Disney’s remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs along with a host of other famous attractions.  So, we now have hypersensitivity to political correctness.  Yet, at the same time, we have a side-show of our political process which grows in size and intensity every day.

Why are we so insensitive to the political incorrectness of our politics?  Why aren’t they embarrassed when they behave so poorly?  Could it be that our politicians like the political incorrectness of their own behaviors because it is the red meat they feed to their devout lapdogs to keep them distracted from the main event in their circus?

Yep … I think so.  No … I know so!