Posted by Al Cooper on 14 April, 2011 at 7:13 am. 71 comments already!


There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

The first place I read that was in one of Robert Heinlein’s novels.

Nothing is free.

We can not create energy; we can only convert it from one form to another.

Every conversion of energy from one form to another takes energy leaving you less energy than you had when you started.

Hydroelectric: water flowing downhill, courtesy of gravity, has kinetic energy (mass in motion) which turns a turbine, which turns an electric generator. A “generator” is not an accurate name for what happens. An electric “generator” converts energy form mechanical to electrical; therefore it is a “converter” and it does not generate anything. This conversation of energy will heat the “generator” causing a loss of energy to heat. This heat loss comes from friction in the generator’s bearings, from hysteresis loss in the generator’s core, and the resistance of the conducting windings of the generator. Energy will also be lost in the resistance of the conducting cables that distribute this electricity.

Coal fired plants: coal is burned to heat water to turn it into steam, that steam is used to turn turbines, which drive generators to convert that mechanical motion to electricity. The same losses apply, plus some heat is lost up the chimney, and some heat is lost in the friction of the bearings in the turbine.

Natural gas: natural gas is burned to drive turbines, which drive generators to convert mechanical motion to electricity. The same losses apply, plus some heat is lost up the chimney, and some heat is lost in the friction in the bearings of the turbine.

Nuclear: heat from radioactive decay is used to heat water for steam, which drives a turbine, which drives a generator to provide electricity. The same losses apply as above.

Conversions: (remember each conversion has losses, every time you convert energy from one form to another, you lose energy, and you will not get out what you put in)

Hydroelectric: mechanical to electrical, one conversion.

Coal: coal to steam to mechanical to electrical, three conversions.

Natural gas: gas to mechanical to electrical, two conversions.

Nuclear: radioactive material to heat to steam to mechanical to electrical, four conversions.

Solar: sun to direct current, to alternating current, two conversions.

Wind: wind to alternating current, one conversion.

My Ford F150: gas to mechanical, one conversion.

Looks like the best choices would be hydroelectric, wind, and my Ford F150.

(The Ecotards oppose all except wind and solar)

Wind generators only work when the wind blows; if it is blowing too hard the wind generator is turned off. Wind generators take thirty to fifty years to recover the costs of construction and installation, depending on the wind, at which time it will have to be replaced. You will not break even; you will lose money on wind power.

Solar: solar panels will not last long enough to reach the break even point. Solar panels will not pay for themselves.

The only justifiable use for wind or solar power is in a remote area where conventional power is not available. Even then you would be better served by hydroelectric power, if running water is available.

My Ford F150 is twenty one years old, still works, and should last another twenty years.

I can drive it 248,928 miles for the cost of a Chevrolet Volt. I can drive it 109,285 miles for the cost of the Volt’s replacement battery. The Volt’s battery weights 400 pounds; that equals 65.57 gallons of gasoline which will take my F150 1,114.69 miles at which point I will not be carrying a 400 pound weight. The Volt has to be charged every forty miles, which takes hours. The electricity to charge this Ecotrard vehicle comes from coal, gas, hydro, or nuclear electric plants through the power grid. The only thing the Volt can do is make some Ecotard feel good. It actually adds several conversions of energy to the cycle. IE: after the grid; battery charger (which has losses) to a battery (which can not give back what it takes) to a DC motor (which has losses). When the battery is discharged a gasoline motor takes over to make DC current to drive the DC motors. The discharged battery still weights 400 pounds which this supplemental motor has to carry. (WOW that is what you could call efficiency, if you were obama or some other idiot).

There were electric cars why back when they were called “horseless carriages”, they were not practical then and they are not practical now.

You can not ignore the laws of physics. You must take into account the energy density of matter when choosing your source of energy and the safety of storing that energy.

Propane or compressed natural gas requires a heavy pressurized storage tank.

Hydrogen causes metal to become brittle and is very hard to store and control.

Gasoline can be stored in a simple plastic bottle and has more energy per volume than either of those.

Gasoline burns; hydrogen explodes.

The safest energy source for automobiles is gasoline or diesel, easy to store and control.

The issue of waste.

Hydroelectric does not have waste products.

Coal, natural gas, diesel, and gasoline, release co2 which plants love and need more of.

Wind generators consume a lot of energy and materials in their manufacture and they kill lots of birds; you could say that their waste is dead birds. But there is also the tailings from the mines that provide the various ores that go into the materials that make the blades, transmission, turbine, and electronic controls for the wind “generator”, once again a “generator” converts energy from one form to another, it does not generate anything. Did you know that when the wind does not blow, wind generators use electricity from the grid to turn the blades? (Something about flat spots on their bearings) Wind farms take room; each wind generator needs an area to itself, no other wind generator within a certain distance. A wind farm capable of supplying the Oklahoma City metro area would be the size of the OKC metro area and you would still need a coal, gas, or nuclear power plant for the times when the wind does not blow, or when it blows too hard; wind generators are shut down in winds over a certain speed. In Oklahoma the wind blows too hard very often. A normal Oklahoma wind gust could bring down a wind generator; that would be a very expensive “waste”.

Wind generators are incredibly noisy and the flickering shadows can drive you nuts. Do not support wind generators until you have spent at least 24 hours within 100 feet of one when the wind is blowing and the blades are turning. Also make very sure that you live on the southwest side of a wind farm so the debris from that wind farm carried by a tornado will not fall on you. Wind generators often stand 300 feet tall and have 200 foot blades, which will make for some very serious debris.

Solar panels work when the sun shines, less than half the day (if it is not cloudy). Their waste is the tailings from the mines that provide the various ores that go into the materials that make the panels and the shaded ground where nothing grows, well, OK, maybe mushrooms, or mold, or things that go bump in the night.

Nuclear does not have to have waste, we can build plants that reprocess and reuse their waste again and again until what is left is not hazardous. A lot of nuclear “waste” is used for medicine. Krypton for example can be used to make light bulbs. Radiation can be used to sterilize food that will store without refrigeration indefinitely; have you ever heard of MRE’s; that stands for “Meals Ready To Eat”, these MRE’s feed the military in the field and have for decades. You can treat milk with this process and it will store without refrigeration for years and still be nutritious. Any food could be stored this way; then people without electricity could have food that does not perish.

Alternative energy has nothing to do with energy independence.

We use oil for transportation, aspirin, and about 6,000 other products.

NO amount of alternative energy will affect that.

In case you missed that, NO amount of energy used to provide electricity will affect our need for oil.

For a parting note: do not support solar, wind, ethanol, or democrats until you have done the math. Anyone who cannot do math is two or three notches below human.

And just a little rant: the consequences of foreign oil dependency include a lack of security and a high cost of everything.

Oh, a brief note about ethanol. It takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than you get back out of that gallon. The only justifiable use of ethanol is in a glass with ice.

I think now I will consume some (amber colored) ethanol.