FRESH DIRECT

You live in New York and you don’t use Fresh Direct? Seriously?

IF IT’S NOW OK WITH THE MORMONS . . .

‘The Mormon church for the first time has announced its support of gay rights legislation, an endorsement that helped gain unanimous approval for Salt Lake city laws banning discrimination against gays in housing and employment,’ reports the Associated Press.

Can passage of ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) be far behind?

EDUCATION

Along with health care and energy, it heads the list of what we need to get right. So yesterday’s statement from DFER (pronounced DEE-fer) was encouraging . . .

Democrats for Education Reform commends the Obama Administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan for their steadfast support of the bold and innovative Race to the Top fund, and supports the new guidelines announced today. DFER hailed those states that have made substantial policy changes in anticipation of Race to the Top, and called out states that have dragged their feet in producing true, ambitious and fundamental reforms.

“Today marks the official start of President Obama’s historic Race to the Top school reform initiative,” said Joe Williams, executive director of DFER. “In the final guidance, Secretary Duncan has shown that he is dead serious about real school reform and about kicking off a Race to the Top that truly lives up to its title.”

. . . as was this New York Times overview.

WIND

Patrick Gallot: ‘As David MacKay points out in Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air, measuring electricity-generating capacity in terms of of homes powered [as you did yesterday] is very imprecise and misleading. But using the numbers from the article you linked to, and looking at this graph of US energy usage and throwing in a wind power capacity power factor of 35% (again, from your link), my best guess is that we’d need between half a million to 2.5 million of those 2.5MW turbines to power the entire country, including transportation. That would require between 1 to 5 Montanas. And it would cost between 1 and 6 trillion dollars, assuming it does scale up with no limiting factors, diminishing returns or other problems.’

☞ If we could indeed do this for just $1 trillion (which we can’t), it would be the bargain of the age. Even $6 trillion over 10 years would be a steal – 4% of our GDP for a decade to become energy independent and cut pollution to near zero? Clearly, it’s not going to happen this way – wind to the exclusion of all else. For one thing, I can’t wait for solar panels to drop further in price, even as battery storage takes the hoped-for quantum leap, so many homes can become largely energy-independent all by themselves. Still, from these back-of-envelope gross simplifications (and the example of Spain), one gets a sense of what is possible. It’s exciting and hopeful.

Dana Dlott: ‘Over the years I have noticed an important rule about electricity generating sources: the thing you do not have is always infinitely better than the thing you do have. . . except. . . you don’t have that thing. So for instance nuclear fusion is infinitely better than nuclear fission because we don’t have fusion. A state full of windmills is infinitely better than the about 100 nuclear power plants we do have because…. we don’t have a state full of windmills. This is of course because one is comparing hopes to realities.

“We do know for certain that it is perfectly possible to run a country on nuclear power, just ask France or Japan. There can be absolutely no doubt about this. But nobody knows for sure how bad/good it would be to try to run a country on wind power. It might be great. Or not. If we have a few wind farms that are successful, that does not tell us how life would be with an entire country full of them. The guys who invented automobiles around 1900, Henry Ford and so on, thought cars were pretty safe. They had no way of knowing there would be a future where 40,000 Americans were killed each year in cars. If somebody had been able to say, ‘this newfangled invention is going to kill 40,000 people every year,’ that would have been the end of the car.

“Just to explain why wind power might not be great, maybe we can make a guess how many people would be killed each year making a country run on wind power. You do not manufacture and install those giant towers with giant blades without accidents, some of them fatal. This is why more people die repairing roof tiles than repairing nuclear power plants. Lovins says wind turbines work 98% of the time, so if you had a million of them, there would be 20,000 of them needing repairs at any given moment. The 40,000 guys climbing on them and fixing them are going to have accidents and get hurt or killed. Windmills kill birds. We have some idea of how many birds an individual windmill kills, but a farm as big as an entire state? Once in a while, on average after 100 million cycles (this is the case when there aren’t any screwups, more frequently when there is a bad batch), one of the giant blades breaks and huge flying pieces of debris are thrown around onto whoever is near or onto neighboring windmills. All this is not to say wind power is bad, just that everything has its plusses and minuses and we ought to keep them in mind, which we are not doing when we compare the power source we do not have to the ones we already have.”

☞ Well said! But can windmill repair be more dangerous than skyscraper window-washing? Maybe the Spaniards can tell us. As for the birds, maybe we could generate scary hawk sounds to keep them away – though I guess that could attract hawks.

Have a great weekend.

 

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