Saturday, October 12, 2013

                                       Corn Likker,  Food Prices, and Red Handed Proof

           It takes a lot of power to force anything down the throats of an industry as powerful  as the oil industry, but  with little help from a few  key senators, a few dozen congressmen, and a few million unthinking useful idiots in the environmental camp, big agriculture managed to figuratively   force big oil into bed  back in '05, and has kept forcibly  that otherwise shameless huzzy there  ever since, in spite of  all her   screaming  and crying, and  the  late "but better late  than never"  sympathy of thinking environmentalists.

         Now don't get me wrong. I'm about as far from being a fan of the oil industry as a rational person can get.The most I'm willing to say for the oil industry  is that it is a necessary evil, and that we  simply must have oil  and have it in  humongous quantities  for now and  for a hell of a long time to come because without it our entire economy will collapse about as fast as  a sand castle in a tsunami. Hopefully we will eventually figure out ways to  get by without  oil- at least without very much of it.We better, because there is inevitably a time coming  when only modest quantities of oil are available and then only at exorbitant prices. But I digress.

         The oil industry is not one situated by it's long   record of less than sterling behavior  to get much sympathy or respect when it  tries for the  high moral ground, but once in a  while even a seasoned    crook is telling the truth when he says he didn't do it.

     I have a couple of relatives who have made good solid careers out of being convicts; they like it so well that whenever they   get out thrown out of the pokey, they manage to get back in again in a matter of months - which is much  faster than most of us can find a full time  job these days, given the state of the economy and Obama care......
           One of these guys is has such a reputation as a prolific worker that I have  been seriously asked if I thought that he  really did  break into four different houses in four widely separated neighborhoods in  one day-to which inquiry I replied with  due modesty that although the family takes considerable and justified pride in his professional  accomplishments, the truth of the matter is that he simply wasn't  up to it, what with the  necessary drives from one house to another and  the  trips  he had to make to stash the loot, and stopping for  lunch and gas and dropping off  his kids at school- somebody else   burgled one of those  four houses, as was later proven in court.

       But still, three widely separated jobs of that sort in one day, along with looking after getting the kids to school, is right much of an accomplishment, and so far as we know, it's a local record. I guess an urban burglar could do four jobs in a day,  easy, if he stuck to small stuff like silver and laptop computers, but my cousin - now he goes in for more substantial goods, such as  billiard tables, and ya can't expect a man to  move  one of them heavy  suckers and still hit three more houses the same day , even if they are real close together.

      The truth of the matter is that in this particular case, that   slick and nasty oily old ole   industry is telling the truth when it says that ethanol is a bad deal for  them and the consumer.

      The consequences of this   forced relationship have proven to be serious indeed, but  the general public   has  fallen for the industry's endless false  but highly skilled  and well orchestrated protestations of innocence. Most people simply don't have a clue as to just how bad a deal  the ethanol mandate has proven itself to be  for  us as individuals and as a country.

       I'm not going to have time today  to go into detail in respect to the many ill effects  the subsidized manufacture  corn likker-moonshine- by the  millions of barrels  is having on our economy and our environment . I'm  just  going to briefly mention the worst effects for the moment  and leave it to you to look around  a little  to see for yourself  just what the facts are.

    But  I will come back to this topic some day soon and go into some depth  depth and put up some  links that will   help you develop a deeper understanding of the many  ill effects of growing so much corn and  manufacturing so much ethanol.

           The worst short term result of the ethanol mandate has been  a  substantial  across the board increase  in the  prices of basic or  staple foods   which has pushed tens of  millions of people around the world  to the very brink of starvation, and created hardships for more millions of  working class  and unemployed Americans.It's  caused every body else's  grocery bills to go up too , but  if you're reasonably well off by American standards,  food is dirt cheap anyway   and couple more bucks for a nice beef roast  is no big deal.

       Beyond  this rise in food prices- which has  put my own family   and most people I know in the position of eating  a lot less prime  ribeye than we  would like - the ethanol mandate has resulted in  many  millions of tons of fertilizers, pesticides,  diesel fuel, coal, and natural gas being used  wastefully - so wastefully  that it is highly questionable if there is even  a net gain in energy after all the production,  manufacture , and distribution costs are properly  tallied up.

       The ethanol mandate has also resulted in  millions of acres of farmland that would otherwise be idle - and resting up   for future use- being   put into  monoculture corn, which in and of itself  results in substantial harm too the soil and to the wider environment  due to loss of wildlife habitat and water pollution- a  secondary result of  using so much  fertilizers and pesticides.

     Here's the red hot proof of the connection between  ethanol and food prices I promised you in the title of this post.

    You  might want to copy this article for later reading - it's the sort of thing that tends to disappear  sometimes.

     The ethanol industry has steadfastly maintained that  it is not responsible for  record high corn prices since the mandate took effect, and it has enough clout that not many mainstream news media have been willing to question that claim for fear of losing the advertising revenue  brought into their businesses  by companies associated with  big agriculture.

      Here are a few little  industry insider quotes from the article  that inadvertently  blow aside the  curtain  and  allow us a good look  at the  moonshine wizard.

        "Because of the dramatic economic impact on commodity markets"  translated into plain English reads  roughly :   

       ' We're pxxing in our pants because without the mandate we're noncompetitive and we know it. Ethanol prices will collapse, and  with the crash in ethanol prices, the price of corn will collapse too, because   a huge portion of the nation's corn crop is used to make ethanol. There will be a follow on effect in the  prices of  a lot of other commodities too; fertilizer and soybeans for instance will be cheaper.Chicken, pork and beef be  will be cheaper. And even though we mostly got 'em by way of govt subsidies and fire sales, and have very little of our own money tied up in them,  we're triple pxxxxd because we'll have to sell our  moonshine factories for scrap if we were to lose the mandate or if it gets  cut back very much. A whole lot of people have been making a whole hell of a lot of money out of this thing, and we ain't about to give up our  gravy train without leaving plenty of  bloody hair and   eyeballs littering  the sidewalks around  congressional offices".  

         "I believe we are competing head-to-head with Big Oil"  translates as  bullxxxx pure and simple.
        If  the moonshine industry were actually competing with anybody- other than all the other voracious pigs  lined up in DC hoping to   latch onto one of the  federal sow's countless tits- it wouldn't need a mandate.

      "In our opinion, they are going to be very defensive to give up any gas tank share - they are going to defend their share at all costs" translates as:
    "We have a huge war chest and we own a few key senators and a bunch of congressmen,  and the big time farmers who dominate  corn state politics are backing us to the hilt, because they're  making ten times as much money  these   days as they used to, before the ethanol mandate doubled the price of corn for them."

   Sometime soon I will post an extensive followup going into detail as to why mandated ethanol is such a bad deal for everybody except the people getting rich  from it.

                                                   Hybrids Compared to Pure Electric Vehicles

                This is a followup  to the longer post about "lecterc  cars" and it might make more sense if you read that one first.

       Klem and I believe that battery electric vehicles - which do not have a gasoline or diesel engine at all-will eventually own the road, inso far as personal cars are concerned , because we think that future models will   go far enough on a charge, and sell cheap enough, to take over the automobile market place.

        We aren't opposed to hybrids. are opposed  to hybrids. to the contrary, we think  a well designed and well built hybrid, and especially a plug in hybrids is a great vehicle.Hybrids in our opinion will become more popular year after  for  a long time to come. We just believe that  pure electric  cars will  eventually  outsell hybrids by a wide margin.

                The purpose of this post is to explain  why we think this is so , as well as  make the case for hybrid cars-  especially  plug in hybrid cars- as opposed to conventional cars.

 Klem is going to do the talking, since he enjoys it more than I do.

      Now where wuz we last time? We left off talking about  batry only cars, what they  call bev's  for short for batry 'lecterc vehicles.So this will be the first time we have talked about hybrids more than just to mention 'em in passing.
         A hybrid  has two sep'rit  motors to make it go, one that  is rightly called an engine , cause it runs on gas or diesel, and the other one ah 'lecterc motor.The 'lecterc motor is there partly to help the gas motor along   when you need more power, but mainly it is  to help out with the gas mileage. It takes an extra large  extra heavy duty  batry   for the 'lecterc motior  to work, and them kind of batry's cost an arm and a leg, which is  the main reason  hybrid cars cost a lot more than reg'ler cars. Now if the car is made so you can plug her up and charge up that big ole batry, 'n drive  on'lecterc power  alone, for a pretty  good piece,  it's  ah  plug in hybrid ruther than jist a plain old hybrid.

       A plain hybrid  will run a right smart cheaper on gas than a reg'ler car the same size drove the same way. It gits better mileage for two reasons, mainly. One is that ah hybrid  car gen'rilly has a smaller motor than it would otherwise, unless it is a hot rod hybrid. Ah  smaller motor always gits better mileage unless there is sump'thin wrong with it, ever thing else equal. The 'lecterc motor kicks in when you floor it and need the extry power, which is why you kin git by with the smaller motor.

        The other big reason ah hybrid gits  real good mileage, spercially around towm is what they call regenerative braking.what this means is that  if you're going down the road at fifty five, and hit the brakes, the lecterc motor  is switched by  the computer from being a motor  to being a generator, and most of the energy you put in getting the car up to fifty five is  put back in the batry ruther than heating up the brake rotors 'n  pads, which is what happens to that fifty five to zero  energy when you hit the brakes in a reg'ler car.

         Hybrid cars have some other built in  tricks too, like the motor cutting plumb off when you stop at a light, and starting back up so smooth and quick when you let off to the brakes and touch the gas you won't even notice it hap'ning.. So you don't burn no gas idling at the light. 'N most of the newer ones will run at low speeds  for a little ways with  the gas motor not even firing up, so long as the batry is charged up good , which  saves some  gas in  slow stop and go traffic.But the batry in a plain hybrid ain't big enuf to go very far at all, and not very fast either. A mile or two and fifteen or twenty miles an hour is in the ball park for most of 'em so far.

     Now a plug in hybrid is a dif'runt story. Ah plug in has a really big batry. A Chevy  Volt is by far and away the most popular plug in hybrid  right now, so we will use a Volt for air  example. Ah  Volt is rated to go about 35 miles  on average on a charge. It  won't go that far if you run it too hard, or the weather is real hot or real cold and you  use  the heat or the ac a lot. But on the other hand if you drive it easy  at thirty or forty miles an hour on a good road it might go over fifty miles before the gas motor  ever has to kick in. So you can drive ah Volt as much as two or there thousand miles on a tank of gas if you don't go very far, say thirty miles or so,  any given trip and always plug her in and give her time too git charged all the way up  before you drive her agin.

       Lot's of people have done it.

               Of course charging her up ain't free-  but most places you can buy enuf j juice  for ah dollar to take you as far as four dollars worth of gas, 'n that adds up real fast if you  drive ah Volt ever day about as far as it will go on the batry.

      But it still don't quite add up to enuf that  most folks will save enough  money on gas  by buying a  Volt to come out ahead unless they  plan on keeping it and driving it a long time, and gas goes up some too. But if it turns out that gas goes up a whole lot, anybody that has one  could come out smelling like a rose,  and  they will will prob'ly git  a whole lot more for ah Volt at trade in time a few years down the road than they  would for a  plain gas car  if  gas  is up a dollar or two a gallon, which could  happen easy enuf.

      Now less take ah look unner the hood  'n the floorboards 'n in the trunk 'n see where the money goes  when the factry's build these kind of cars.

       Now ah Volt is ah  real good car,  but  there ain't no gitting around the fact that they sell kinda high. The single  biggest reason they cost so much is that they have to have all the parts, except a transmission ,that  a regular gas car has plus that monster batry 'n that big 'lecterc motor . Beyond that, it also has a large generator built into  that is driven by the gas motor, which in turn drives the  electric motor that drives the car- anytime that big ole batry is discharged.The rest of that high price comes from guv'mint motors  ah needing to git back some of the money they spent  designing the car  'n gitting  ah factry   converted to build  'em.

              So just to make it clear I'll say it twice; a Volt runs on it's batry if it is hot 'cause you've  charged it up; if it's discharged because you have driven her  without plugging  her up afterward, she runs on the  gas motor  which drives the generator which drives the 'lecterc motor that drives the car.

         Now our 'pinion, mine and Mac's is that  after a few more years, the price of them big old batry's is going to come down to where most  people will be satisfied with a pure 'lecterc car 'cause it will run fur enuf and cheap enuf to satisfy 'em.

              Ya got to r'member that a pure 'lecterc car  don't need no gas motor at all, an it don't need no  transmission, neither, 'n them is the two most 'spensive parts about a car  that are  apt to need fixing and servicing.

             'Lecterc motors  er dirt cheap compared to gas motors 'n all the stuff that has to be there for ah gas motors  to run, from the radiator  up at the front bumper  to the tail pipe out to the back bumper.

        Take off what you save by doing away with the gas motor 'n the transmission 'n a bev ought to sell cheap,'n it would to ' cept for two problems.That big ole batry still costs ah arm and a leg an the car kumpnies is still paying off all the  money that it costed them to    learn how to build a good batry powered  car, and paying off the money  it costed to build the factry's they need to build the batry's and the 'lecterc cars.

           If they had of just stared making  plain old gas 'n diesel motors ten or fifteen years ago,  they would  cost so much that nobody but a rich man could afford a car ah tall.But they been making  'em a over a hunnert years now, 'bn in that hunnert years  they have learnt how to make 'em  cheap  so long as they make a whole lot of 'em.
          This is what yer call "economies of scale" in perfesser talk. All it means in plain 'Merican  talk  fer an 'zample is like this. If you  spend ten dollars a day to lease   ah car jiist to have it a settin' there ready to go, and you don't  drive it but five miles ah day, it costs you two dollars a mile before you even put  in some gas.

            But if you drive her  fifty miles a day, and put in ten dollars worth of  gas, then your cost ah mile drops down to  to forty cents a mile. Car factry's 'n bartry factry's aint cheap, 'n  they  gotta get ah big price for what come's out of 'em till the git the volumes up, 'n that's goin' ter take a few years  yit.

    Batry's  are ah goin' to git cheap in ah few years as shore as shooting.  That's what always hap'ns when people starts buy'n a whole lot of anythang that comes out of a factry by the thousand n tens of thousands.

         Take fer 'zample ah double over head cam  fuel injected   turbo charged four valve motor.  Thirty  years ago a three hunnert horsepower three liter   motor like that costed twice   more than a whole car costs these days- with ah double over head cam fuel injected three liter  three hunnert horsepower motor  standard equipment!.the reason for it being so high back then is r that it was a very low volume motor for  a top end hot rod type of car.These days it's what they stuff under the hood of  most any junior sized hot rod.

      N' when them batry's git cheap enuf, an they put out twice what they do now for the same size 'n weight, most  people are going to be plumb satisfied with ah  new BEV considering how cheap it will  be to run it  'n keep it up.I can't say this often enuf or loud enuf  to hurt my case- ah pure 'lecterc car that is well made is going to be a keep it till you're plumb sick of looking at it  car.      

            But in the mean time it might pa ya to look inter gitting a car like ah Volt, cause  it will run dirt cheap  if  it suits yer driving pattern, 'n  it might easy outlast two ordinary  cars'n heres the reason why.Ask any good mechanic, or anybody fer that matter that knows a whole lot about cars, and he will tell you that  short trips and cold starts are car killers.if you havew a choice between buying two cars exactly alike   in every way except one has fifty thousand miles of  'round town short trips on it, and the other one has a hunnert thousand miles of  long  open road commuting trips on it,  the car with the hunnert thousand miles is  by a long shot the best deal- if you are going to keep it and drive it till it is wore out.
        Now  this don't seem reasonable until you take a good look at how a car gits wore out and starts nickeling and diming ya to death a few hunnnert bucks at a pop for repairs.

    So let's just take that look.First thing  ya do is open the door-once for a two mile trip, once for a thirty mile commute.That's fifteen times as much waer 'n tear on the guts of the door  in one trip. Then ya buckle up  'n start the motor- fifteen times as much wear an tear on the starter n the ignition switch.Ya start 'n stop 'n speed up n slow down a half a dozen times in that two miles 'n the transmission   has to change thru the gears a half a dozen times 'n ya hit the brakes the same six times. Now a long commute will still have some starts 'n stops and speeding up 'n slowing down at both ends of of it, but the  biggest part of the commute  is not putting hardly an wear 'n tear at all on the car, and the wear and tear per mile is a whole lot less.Changing gears is what wears out a transmission, not miles. Using them is what wears out brakes.Tires will last two or three times as long on the open road as they will in town.

          Now there ain't no real  easy way to ''xplain why short trips is so hard on gas, n diesel motors, but i'll do the best I can.The oil don't work  it's best till it gits hot.'N none of the  hunnerts of parts in a gas motor  that fit  closer together than the thickness of a hair fits exactly right till they git hot too- metal parts   git bigger when they heat up'n shrink when they cool off.When the fit ain't right, it's like a shoe that don't hit- it'll put a blister on yer foot. That bad fit  fit on the parts of a cold  motor wears  'em out real quick.Depending on who you talk to,  ah mechainic er an engineer will tell you that a cold car motor wears out from four or five times on up to ten times as  as fast as ah hot motor.

    Now ah 'pure 'lecterc car ain't got no transmission, an ah 'lecterc motor an ain't got hunnerts of parts that are fitted as close as the thickness of a hair and ah  whizzin' around an ah pounding up and down  thousand uv times a minute, all uv 'em   kept from  siezing up  by a few drops of oil spread so thin  you can't even see  it edge on with yer eyes- you can't see ah   five thousandths of an inch gap between tow parts. Ah cold start don't put no extra wear on ah'lecterc motor, 'n as i've said before, it's damn near impossible to wear out ah 'lecterc motor.

         Now if yer ketch on quick, you already seen why ahVolt might easy outlast two  reg'ler cars- 'xept for that big ole question mark  beside uv that big ole batry.  It iain't got no transmission to go bad. 'N the gas motor don't even fire up most times if you go less than thirty miles or  so  'n you keep her charged up 'tween trips.So you could easy put a hundred thousand miles, or two hunnert thousand, or even more, on a Volt, 'n still have a gas motor that ain't hardly got no miles on it at all.N' miles , specially cold miles, is what wears out a motor, not time. Yer Italian  loafers don't  wear out in yer closet when you ain't  wearing  'em , an yer Volt gas motor ain't wearing out  under yer hood  when it's jist along fer the 'lecterc ride.

         Now maybe that batry in yer Volt won't  take you but fifteen  or twenty miles  when it  is finally wore out- but  thats still fifteen er twenty gas free miles, 'n yer gas motor ain't gonna be wore out! 'N  unless me 'n Mac misses our guess real bad,  by the batry  is wore out, a new batry will be cheap enuf , n gas will be high enuf  you won't mind having to git a new bartry  put in,  knowing yer Volt will still be good fer another ten years of no  transmission   'n no  likely gas motor  motor trouble   'n near no gas bill driving.

            Now this 'bout all ah got to say fer now bout 'lecterc cars , 'xcept  for one  er two last thangs.It pxxxxd me off so bad when the guv'mint bailed out guv'mint motors I swore I'd never own anuther  guvmint motors car  er truck. I'm still mad  'bout it, but I'll probly git over it in time to buy me a second hand Volt  one of these days .

         'N I'm not  sayin ah Volt is  any better than a whole o' lot of  other plug in hybrid cars  you can buy right now, or will be able to buy pretty soon.It's jist a handy 'xample.

          Course I ain't mad about the four percent loan the guvmint gimme  to buy my farm, ner  the lake they paid for  fer me to fish in, ner the tax write off the give me  that  put that tricked out f250 in my driveway.'N it don't hurt my feelin's none that they send me a soil bank check fer not farming most uv my place neither, cause to tell ya the truce th, I'd   ruther rent some the rest  the land out 'n   drive my truck 'n  farm the place  by filling out some more applerkashins at the aggercultur dept   fer more  free money ta fix the place up right.I do like to git out there  on  the tractor  one in a while but  not ever day no more.

           'N it don't hurt my feelin's none that the county is thinking 'bout giving me a property tax''xemtptshin  if I promise not  ter subdivide the place, ,cause I'm on my own  three hunnert acres uv paradise, 'n I ain't even thinking  about livin' no where else anyway.

    Fair is fair, ain't it?  If you can't whup 'em , ya need to think about joinen' up with 'em.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

                                                           Fuel Cell Cars?  

  Klem and I have  been on the phone again,  discussing  an announcement from Toyota that they expect to be able to  sell a fuel cell car  for a hundred grand  hopefully in 2015.

             Now Klem and I will be the first to admit that we don't know enough about fuel cells to  say a whole lot about how well they might work, or how much they might cost--- some considerable number of years down the road.

       But it's pretty obvious that they will necessarily cost a heck of a lot  for a good long while to come for at least  one simple reason; the market for them so far is pretty small, and  just about all the ones that are being made are designed for stationary use.So if and when  Toyota , or some other company   finally  gets one    up to snuff to put it in a production car,  it seems  to be a  pretty sure thing that it will take a while for somebody else- a fuel cell company-  to build  one or more plants and train the workers to manufacture them  in quantity.

     Klem and i are convinced that   battery powered electric cars and very light trucks  are going to own the road  within the foreseeable future,  because we think battery prices are coming down fast enough, and gasoline and diesel prices are going to rise fast enough that the typical driver will find it to his advantage to own a battery electric vehicle in the not too  distant future.

            If we're right , in  five or ten years a  basic battery electric vehicle won't cost much if any any more than a similar  internal combustion engine vehicle,  most people will  be happy to   live with the limited driving range of a battery powered car in  order to save megabucks on gasoline and routine maintenance and repairs. People who  do need a long range car and can afford only one car  will most likely  buy a plug in hybrid   because  by then  plug in hybrids 's will   be  their  cost effective choice of vehicle.
         We don't have anything against plugin hybrids;we just think that in the end,  most people are going to prefer a bev to a hybrid to an ice car.As a matter of fact we   think plug in hybrids  will soon be a cost effective option    for anybody who can get good use out of  one - for example someone such as a commuter who can  put  a couple of hundred miles a week on a new Volt   mostly on battery power and thus use very little gasoline.The price of a Volt is coming down, and the price of gas is   going to be going up a lot faster than the price of electricity.

       But  plugin hybrids  and pure electric cars are both unfortunately still on the pricey side,  even though  the sales volumes and competition between manufacturers are now  up to the point that   prices are coming down. Our own scientific wild axx guess is that it will be  five years or  longer before buying a pure electric or plug in hybrid  is  a better option than an ordinary car  from a straight   dollars and cents point of view.

        Now if it takes the  electric and plugin  segment of the car business five more years to catch up with ice cars on a dollars and cents basis, considering the start they have already, how long is it going to take for fuel cell cars to catch up starting from scratch?

    And while it probably won't take very long to fuel up a fuel cell car - there is  the little problem of there not being any place  to fuel up to be dealt with.

     Here's Klem's take on  this question of fueling up a hydrogen powered car versus charging up a  battery powered car.

    Hidergin is hard stuff to work with cause the only way to hannel it is in pressure tanks,  just like compressed natcherul gas, ' cept it's worse, cause it will leak right thru ah steel tank er a steel pipeline,  which you will know about if you hannel hazardous materials  like a trucker does  if he hauls haz mat.

   Now the main reason that you don't see a whole lot of  trucks running on natcherul gas is that there  just ain't no hardly places ah tall   for truckers to fill up on ng.  We'ad be a burning it if we could, cause it's a lot cheaper than diesel.Putting in ng pumps costs a heck of a lot of money, and takes up space, and if a truck stop ain't right on a ng pipeline- well,    it ain't likely going to work to try to haul it  to the truck stop like diesel fuel cause its too bulky, ya can't git enough in a tanker truck  to make it work out.

           It might work money wise  to haul hidergin, or it might not, but one things for sure- there ain't no hidergin pipelines to deliver it all over the place 'n nearly all of it would have to be trucked to the places that retail's it.

     Now when ya git right down to it, there ain't hardly no place that you can go with a car that you are very fur from  reddy killerwatt 'n ah extension cord  is all you need to plug up yer 'lecterc car.Course it takes a good while to charge up, but  you can charge up anywhere you can plug in.

    You might have to wait  a while on chargin' stations  to go in at stores'n 'partment houses, but you ain't got to wait for the 'lectricity  lines  and  the power plants to get built.

 A couple of 'electricians  kin put in a charging station in a few hours most  places,'n stores 'n resterants 'n 'partments is gonna have  'em  awaiting  for you, cause they are going to be selling you some juice while you're  spending your money on  clothes 'n dinner 'n rent.

    This is why  batry cars is gonna have it all over on  fuel cell cars for a long  time for sure, and maybe for good.