By on May 13, 2011

When I saw this in the distance, I hustled up to see what it was, hoping it was part of an Airbus or Boeing of some type. It wasn’t, unfortunately. Do you know what it is?

That’s right! It’s a blade for one of the GE or Siemens wind turbines, very possibly allocated for T. Boone Pickens’ Midwestern diaspora of wind turbines somewhere. Wind power has all sorts of little problems associated with its adoption, from the relatively high rate of turbine failure to the amazing efficiency with which wind farms massacre entire flocks of migrating birds, but perhaps one of the most serious questions I would ask would be: Are they net positive energy? I’ve read that some solar panels are “energy-negative” for the first eight to twenty years of their existence. If wind turbines are similar, then we might as well admit the truth: nearly every “alternative energy source”, from biofuels to solar, is a very pretty modern home built on a Victorian foundation of oil and coal.

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116 Comments on “Alright, Who Ordered The Wings?...”


  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    It’s a Celica.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    It look s like a wing for a wind turbine (plenty of those around these parts).

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I see these all the time living in Iowa. If there is one thing we have a lot of it’s wind, especially during the presidential primaries.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    This oversized load of politically correct BS is part of a multi-pronged, power-seeking device.

    http://www.aweo.org/problemwithwind.html

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      All energy is subsidized. The difference between these and oil is a) these are pushed by people you don’t like, and b) oil, like corn, has been subsidized for so long that the subsidy is practically structural and no one thinks about it any more.

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        If you want to get rid of such subsidies, then get rid of all of them: batteries, ethanol, wind, etc. It’s easy to take shots at oil companies, especially when gas prices are rising over $4 per gallon (playing the role of David against an enormous corporate Goliath is a great way to score political points).

        The real problem is the fact that the government does far more to hurt oil production than help it. The oil industry already faces a higher marginal tax rate at 41 percent compared to 26 percent for the rest of businesses in Standard & Poor’s 500. Instead they should provide access to our country’s domestic energy reserves, roll back regulatory burdens on companies and lift the de facto moratorium on offshore drilling permits. More energy resources might would mean more stable prices, but the logic seems to escape those in Washington. They help to cause the very shortages that lead to increased prices and then demonize the very companies they impede.

        For the politicians attacking the oil industry it might feel good in the short run, but it’s not a long-term solution to America’s energy problems.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        The real problem is the fact that the government does far more to hurt oil production than help it.

        Add up what it costs to “secure” the Middle East and then think about that statement again.

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        We’re talking domestic supply here. Not the Middle East and not even Brazil (who we have no qualms making low interest loans to develop their oil resources).

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        I always find it interesting that people never include health and environmental costs into their equations. We reap all the benefits and let future generations worry about the mess…

        When I worked in the woods we always had a rule that we followed if we stayed at someone’s cabin: Always leave the place better than you found it. With the mess we’re leaving behind, future generations will likely be cursing us for a long time to come.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        We’re talking domestic supply here.

        That doesn’t matter, unless you’re talking about pulling a Venezuela, nationalizing oil production, and deciding not to participate in the world market.

        Allow unrestricted oil drilling and you’ll see oil leaving on tankers to China and no change in the price at the pump.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I don’t curse the people who used up all the whales, cut down all the trees, or shot all the buffalo. I curse all the people who use emotional arguments to damn the current population to a reduced standard of living.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        Classic ressentiment? (and that’s not a spelling error)

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Nazi suppression of the very concept of ressentiment suggests that it is a quality of socialists, not their detractors. Nice try though.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        Good counter. Like many such notions, however, it can easily be extended beyond its original usage without straining the meaning too much.

        The principle of leaving things better than you found them is not a mere “emotional argument”, by the way. The kicker, of course, is what one means by ‘better’, but that’s a much larger topic.

      • 0 avatar
        sfdennis1

        @CJ quoted

        “I don’t curse the people who used up all the whales, cut down all the trees, or shot all the buffalo. I curse all the people who use emotional arguments to damn the current population to a reduced standard of living.”

        And that, in a soundbite, pretty much sums up your view on everything. I’d posit that you have absolutely no authority whatsoever to make those decisions which impact FUTURE GENERATIONS’ standard of living, or ability to live at all.

        But of course, trying to reason with someone who only has extreme self-interest at heart is like ‘yelling into the wind’. (Wind that could power a cleaner-energy turbine.) And it’s clearly the ’emotional manipulators’ who are to blame here…pointing out those pesky consequences of our short-sighted actions. It would be laughable if it weren’t so insidious.

        Here’s to celebrating a future world without whales, trees, buffalos, clean air, mountain glaciers, future generations, or anything else that stands in the way of YOU and your self-perceived needs to avoid any change and maintain your precious current standard of living.

        Well done, sir. Ayn Rand just had an orgasm in Hell.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        sfdennis, obviously you’re incapable of learning. Otherwise you’d have noticed that the same people claiming to know how industrialization effects the climate have been claiming to know it for 4 decades, but they’ve had to revise how they claim it will effect the climate any number of times. The first Earth Day was ‘celebrated’ in 1970, the frauds behind it predicted: a new Ice Age (Newsweek); a world “eleven degrees colder by the year 2000” (Kenneth Watt); by 1985 air pollution to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half (Life magazine); by 1995 between 75 and 85 percent of all species to be extinct (Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson); mass starvation (Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes). Making food, jobs, and energy luxuries based on the work of left wing liars is evil. I’m glad you believe in hell, as it is the only appropriate reward for your type.

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        “We’re talking domestic supply here.

        That doesn’t matter…”
        Yes it does. The more oil the more stable the price, all things being equal.

        “Allow unrestricted oil drilling and you’ll see oil leaving on tankers to China and no change in the price at the pump.”

        The tankers will soon enough be leaving for China, because they will be drilling and extracting in the Gulf of Mexico while we fiddle with windmills.

      • 0 avatar

        Wind turbines repay the energy investment required for manufacturing, transport, operation, dismantling, and disposal in 3-6 months. http://www.wind-energy-the-facts.org/en/environment/chapter-1-environmental-benefits/energy-balance-analysis.html

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        Great info, David. Thanks for that.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        What energy source subsidizes oil? I often hear that oil is subsidized, but I know of no energy source large enough to pay for it. I’m pretty sure oil provides more energy than is invested into it.

        “Wind turbines repay the energy investment required for manufacturing, transport, operation, dismantling, and disposal in 3-6 months.”

        Wow, they’ve really improved. When I worked in the power generation industry and our company was getting ready to install its first wind turbines almost a decade ago, the payback was about 25 years. With a three to six month payback, I doubt we’ll see any other form of electrical power installed until a revolutionary new energy source is invented.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      Be nice to use a site where there is newer info then from circa 1998 to 2003, ya think?

      There is no free lunch anyway you slice it…

    • 0 avatar
      The Walking Eye

      The first defense ever listed when combating clean(er) energy is that it takes X amount of energy to create it. Yep, but we can’t get cleaner energy systems without building them, and we gotta use what we have now to make them. We can’t magic things out of the air and into existence. If we increase the amount of cleaner energy production systems, then stuff starts needing less “dirty” energy to be made. And besides, what’s so wrong with practicing a little conservation?

      • 0 avatar
        chuckR

        If we lose a little on each and every clean energy production system, do we make it up on volume?
        And by lose, I mean money and net energy.
        There is no Moore’s Law in alternative energy, seemingly no economy of scale either.

    • 0 avatar

      The energy return on investment of wind turbines is around 20:1. Contrast that with nuclear plants, roughly 10:1

    • 0 avatar
      Doc

      This idea that taking military or diplomatic action in the middle east is tantamount to subsidizing oil is a bunch leftist conspiracy theory nonsense.
      We are in the middle east for a number of reasons including protecting our ally Israel and yes protecting allies that we trade with.
      We would go to war to protect England if we needed to. Would that be subsidizing the supply of Range Rovers?

      • 0 avatar
        MattPete

        If you don’t believe it’s about oil, then you are naive.

        As for Israel — Israel is a big boy now and can protect themselves. Likewise, that ‘ally’ of ours has made us a lot of enemies. Anyway, protecting an ‘ally’ that keeps poking at hornets nests and acting against our best interests seems pretty silly to me, and I have a feeling that the “protect Israel” mantra is partially driven by the evangelical crowd.

      • 0 avatar

        Having served three years in the ‘Raq and the successful, non-UN mission Multi-Force in the Sinai, I have to disagree with you Doc. Got here in 2003 with the lie of WMD which never got searched for as far as we knew. Now, the city of Baghdad was a destruction zone, every building in the city was damaged in some way, by us or the Iraqis after liberation. Every building was picked through, ratted out, and non-funtional except one, one that we guarded with a fierce determination and the first we piled T-Walls over. Take a guess? The Iraqi Oil Ministry. All of it was intact down to its files. Shoots holes in your “can’t be true cause its a leftist conspiracy” argument.

        As for Israel, they can take care of themselves quite well without us. Oil is the driving concern.

        One hundred years ago England was run primarily by coal. Come WWI, the rest of Europe had changed to Oil, and England was nearly crippled by the lack of updating to the new future. Your argument, as I understand it, is to stick to oil until it runs dry and then try to figure something out? Pretty short-sighted if you ask me.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        It’s not about subsidizing oil. It’s about control of that resource, a necessity for maintaining power in the world.

  • avatar
    Benya

    Jack, I don’t know how long it takes for wind turbines to recapture their energy cost, however, I admire Mr. Pickens for attempting to make money off of it. Except for nuclear and geothermal, ALL of the energy we use is derived from the Sun. It seems Mr. Pickens has figured out that sunlight, and the wind that is powered by sunlight, can be thought the same as oil that is rain down from the sky. Who ever figures out how to capture it is going to make a bundle.

    • 0 avatar
      N Number

      I’ve been saying this for years. Think of energy density. Most of it ultimately comes from the sun. Solar is direct energy, but it cannot be densified. Wind is also virtually hallow. Ethanol is slightly densified through biological processes. Hydro-power is an effective solar battery that stores energy (after the solar power has evaporated and carried water up hill). Finally, petroleum is the ultimate in solar batteries. After plant and plankton matter have been grown by the sun, it was buried and then the earth’s tectonics heated and compacted it until you’re left with some of the highest density energy we know, outside of nuclear. It’s been eons in the making and is very hard to compete with.

    • 0 avatar
      N Number

      If we assume one megawatt per turbine (some can produce more, some less) and we look at a windfarm with 50 turbines, we’ll see that we are producing about 50 megawatts of power at peak capacity, which will be unpredictable. If we look at one coal plant, one turbine can produce 400 megawatts. Which has more moving pieces, the windfarm or the coal plant? That’s over 50 times the amount of moving parts to produce one eighth of the power. Don’t forget how labor intensive it is to perform maintenance 150 feet off the ground. With coal at $15 per ton, the ONLY way that windfarms can compete is through government subsidies and they will NEVER be able to sustain a baseload.

    • 0 avatar
      zerofoo

      “ALL of the energy we use is derived from the Sun.”

      Almost correct – nuclear energy is not derived from the sun. It’s a close cousin though – both were formed after the big bang. The sun is actively undergoing fusion, while uranium is waiting for enrichment and ultimately fission in a reactor.

      Anyway, we need to harness all the energy available to us in any way possible – solar and nuclear combined. The rest of the world wants to live like the west – excluding any energy source from this process will only result in unhappy people – and that usually leads to unrest.

      -ted

      • 0 avatar
        N Number

        Praxis,

        Very true, but I assumed that when I mentioned the price of coal. Trucks, shovels, explosives, trains and loadout facilities all require maintenance, but it is all contained within the price of a ton of coal. Yes, a wind farm can run all day without any infrastructure bringing energy to it, but the construction and maintenance costs for such a small amount of power kill them when compared to the cost to operate a coal plant.

      • 0 avatar
        afuller

        Did you miss the part where he said,

        “Except for nuclear and geothermal, ALL of the energy we use is derived from the Sun.”

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      Or you could say all major energy sources are nuclear as the sun is a fusion reaction – not sure about geothermal but I’m sure we can tie nuclear in there some how

    • 0 avatar
      Doc

      It sounds like it would be cheap but it is not at about $97.00/mwH as compared to about $104.00/mwH for Nuclear but natural gas plants make electricity for about $66.00/mwH. And of coarse natural gas, coal and nuclear plants make electricity all of the time, not just when it is windy as has been mentioned in numerous comments.

  • avatar
    uncleAl

    I am in the energy business. The wind turbines are almost energy neutral, but not quite. Between manufacturing, transportation, assembly, site preparation, power line construction, etc., etc., they would have to produce rated output for 31 years to make as much energy as they cost. Due to wind variability they generally produce about 30% of rated output for about 23 years, so to answer the question they cost more energy than they make at the current state of the art.

    What they really excel at is getting government grants, low interest loans, pollution credits and on and on. Really no better than ethanol in helping with our energy needs.

    Another government sponsored boondoggle. I like nuclear, but not as it is deployed today.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Interesting – I assume you have a link to back up your allegations?

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Aren’t you mistaken with solar? All the numbers i hear is a few years

      ps. According to the Greenpeace numbers nuclear power plants are net energy negative but i don’t believe Greenpeace numbers

      • 0 avatar
        M 1

        EVERYTHING is net energy negative, otherwise we’d have a major thermodynamics issue to explain…

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        Life?

      • 0 avatar
        healthy skeptic

        I’m guessing Greenpeace is full of it there. Nothing beats nuclear for energy density. Not even close. It’s like a million times more energy dense than coal.

        If we are in fact net energy negative for nuclear, we are really screwing it up somehow.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        But mining Uranium uses more energy per kilo uranium than coal. Also enriching cost a lot of energy and 10 feet of concrete isn’t effortless either.

        @M1

        Everything is net energy Zero but we’re talking about useful energy

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Philosophil: “Life?”

        MC Hawing explains:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bueZoYhUlg

        The earth is not a closed system; it powered by the sun. You have to count the entropy created in the sun against the organized matter of life.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @UncaleAl: “I am in the energy business. The wind turbines are almost energy neutral, but not quite. Between manufacturing, transportation, assembly, site preparation, power line construction, etc., etc., they would have to produce rated output for 31 years to make as much energy as they cost. ”

      The numbers that I can find differ from your number by about a factor of >31 — most claim that wind turbines make back their manufacturing-energy in timeframes that are between 3 months and a year:
      http://www.bwea.com/ref/faq.html#payback
      http://www.orion-energygroup.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11&Itemid=14
      Tripple the most pessimistic value to include installation athe transmission lines (remember that wind farms share a lot of infrastructure), and it still looks like you’re off by a factor of at least seven…

      So, where does your number come from?

      T. Boon Pickens is also “in the energy business”. The more I study energy issues, the more I find that his plan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickens_Plan) seems to represent what I think the future holds, even though I don’t share his goals and I probably have drastically different ideals. Your comment implies that you would think Pickens’ investment in wind power is foolhardy. If so, what did he get wrong?

    • 0 avatar
      Doc

      Here is an article that talks about natural gas, but has cost per mwH for various sources of electricity.
      It is from the Reason foundation.
      http://reason.com/archives/2011/05/10/environmentalists-were-for-fr

  • avatar
    LectroByte

    Coal Cares! Read all about the problems with Wind and Solar here:

    http://www.coalcares.org/cleanenergy.html

    ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      fabriced28

      This piece contains a few real gems of PR BS, whatever your opinion is about coal or wind power:
      Wind turbines can kill up to 70,000 birds, Coal particulate pollution, on the other hand, kills fewer than 13,000 people per year.

      So what’s best? coal, obviously!

      another kind of argument, just as mind-boggling:
      If everyone can collect and distribute [solar] energy, there is no guarantee of that energy’s quality. Would you trust your neighbor’s four-year-old child to operate on your kidney?

      Tell me if you see any kind of comparison between electricity and a kidney?

      If I get back to the more serious topic, the main problem of wind turbines lies in their current short life span, something that engineering progress will eventually solve. Just as for cars, durability is far more affected by cost-cutting or wrong engineering decisions than the 1% initial energy saving obtained in the cost-cutting process would suggest.

      It’s quite cheap, in terms of initially used energy, to double the life span of something as simple as a turbine generator. I hope fatigue engineering will progress a lot in the next decade to allow for that…

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Also, cats, buildings with windows, and many other things are a *much* bigger threat to the bord population:
        http://www.fws.gov/birds/mortality-fact-sheet.pdf

        They estimate that cats kill hundreds of millions of birds every year. They found that, just in Wisconsin, farm cats kill 39 million birds a year.

        Not that killing 70,000 birds is a good thing, but it looks pretty trivial compared to 97 million to 970million birds per year that die from hitting windows. If this were the kind of problem that would change the course of our society, instead of merely a way to say “be quiet, hippie!”, we would have stopped using glass in windows long ago.

    • 0 avatar
      1996MEdition

      You have to love the kid with his inhaler happily skipping through the green field in front of the coal-fired power plant….priceless!

      exploding bat lungs
      depressive, suicidal tower climbers
      people going stark raving mad
      entire families and villages fried by solar
      63 million butterfly tornadoes!

      How does the person writing this live with themselves?

    • 0 avatar
      MidLifeCelica

      WTF is that supposed to be? If it’s satire, they need to be funnier. If they’re serious, then that’s one of the worst collections of pseudo-science claptrap I’ve ever suffered reading through. Not a patch on the Creationist Museum website, I suppose, but getting there…

      Edit – didn’t even notice the Celica! Same color as mine too

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      Awesome, free inhalers!

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    So who’s the first to put one of those on the back of their Civic?

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Not only how long will they operate before they pay for themselves, but how much energy was used to manufacture transport and construct them? The killing of migratory birds is no joke, but it’s one of my favorite envioronmental purist ironies-a category of which there are many. Where would our economy be, where would we be strategically if we’d spent the money we’ve blown on wind turbines on building new refineries and new oil fields on this continent? Certainly not paying $4.00 for a gallon of gas. It makes no sense at all to import oil from anywhere when you have your own, because of enivronmental concerns.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I agree largely but oil will run out eventually – it is finite and demand is increasing. So sure open up, responsibly, new fields but plan for the future. Any new technology, where it is plug in cars or solar panels will go through a learning curve. Just look at computers in the 1970’s and compare the size, performance and cost with a pc built today.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The sun will expire as well. Better fire up Microsoft Project and start making a plan!

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        CJ – the sun is going to expire in billion of years. Oil in a somewhat shorter timeperiod – be serious. Even you must admit we will run low on oil in a few decades time. Not a massive concern now but something to be aware of. Denial is not a viable option.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        There are more known reserves now than at any other time in history, so talking about the end of oil is anything but being serious. The words you are looking for are manipulative, disingenuous, treacherous, villainous, fear-mongering, and evil.

      • 0 avatar
        Doc

        I am not sure if I believe that oil will run out. Petroleum comes from decaying organic matter which is mostly insects and plants not from dinosaurs like I was taught as a kid. That organic matter continues to decay.
        I am not sure when or if we will run out and I am not sure anyone knows.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Doc: “I am not sure if I believe that oil will run out. Petroleum comes from decaying organic matter which is mostly insects and plants not from dinosaurs like I was taught as a kid. That organic matter continues to decay.”

        You are technically correct; the oil comes from thinks like swamp matter that decayed millions of years ago, rather than tyrannosaurus carcasses or whatever. And if you’re willing to wait around another dew million years, some of today’s organic matter will turn in to oil.

        The question is: what are you going to do in the meantime, and how are you going to live that long? Inquiring minds want to know!

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      No one wants to build new refineries, in fact all of the majors are trying to sell thiers, refining is the lowest margin portion of the oil process, so unless the governement offers major incentives (the same evil incentives being given to solar and wind) thier won’t be any new refineries built (not to mention the cancer rates and very rare types of cancer that have a tendency to show up near them). Any new refineries to be built will be built in a) India (worlds largest by far is already under construction) or b) in the middle east so that the producers can take a larger share of the pie, how do either of those scenerios help the US?

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Chicken and egg, which came first? The reason refineries are so low margin is pollution and safety regs expense along wiht the NIMBY effect. You could roll back the regs to something less costly but still protective of the community and environment and streamline the permit process and you would see more refineries started in short order.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @rnc, Mike AR et al,: In addition to the EPA regs and NIMBY, when the oil companies in the US consolidated (merged) several years back, they had excess capacity. Which, I’m sure is part of the reason why they’re trying to unload facilities. Additionally, the productivity from each refinery has increased. They’ve managed to have the same output from fewer refineries.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Refineries are low margin because there are to many of them. The US consumed more oil in 1978 than at any moment since then so you need fewer refineries than there are

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      “Where would our economy be, where would we be strategically if we’d spent the money we’ve blown on wind turbines on building new refineries and new oil fields on this continent? Certainly not paying $4.00 for a gallon of gas. It makes no sense at all to import oil from anywhere when you have your own, because of enivronmental concerns.”

      Number one: If you build a refinery you need product to refine. Why are there no new refineries in quite a while – I am under the impression that one or perhaps 2 are currently under construction, but like Wal Mart energy firms find they make more money by making current facilities more efficient.

      Number two oil exploration: How much oil is in ANWAR? Not much in terms of the needs of the United States. Where else is exploration or production being limited? The Gulf coast is slowly coming back on line. There is little oil left here, period.

      Will wind give us all the energy we need? No. Will it help? It sure will! Same with solar. Conservation and mass transit too.

      Look at it like a greedy mofo: The more sheeple ya get on cattle car mass transit the less idiots in your way! Driving enthusiasts should favor mass transit and anything else that gets cars off the road and reduces demand for oil.

      I might drive 80-85 but I keep the house around 60 in the winter and 76 or so in the summer. Fans and blankets work wonders, ya know – my monthly budget payment went from 235 to 206 through conservation in a period of rising electric and steady gas (used for heat in my house) rates.

      Choose what you like the most and live that way – and if you can afford it all good for you!

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      Wind power’s reputation for bird kills comes primarily from the antiquated 80’s-era Altamont Pass windfarm. The turbines there are all smaller, higher-RPM models. They’re like airborne Cuisenarts. Combine that with a fact that the windfarm happens to be situated in a major migratory route, and you have a recipe for slaughter. Since Altamont was an early windfarm, it gave wind power a bad name for bird kills.

      Modern turbines are huge and lower-RPM (blade tip velocity is constrained, regardless of size), with lots of empty space for the bird to fly through. Bird kills still happen, but they’re not as endemic.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Any word lately about capturing the energy within tidal flows?

    Dam Fundy Bay!!!!!!

    San Francisco Bay and others.

    Look at all that moving water sloshing around.

    In and out, out and in.

    There’s “gold” in them thar currents, me buckos.

    I guess.

    The Geysers plant north of the Frisco Bay area?

    The hot water is hard on the infrastructure but can that be overcome?

    C’mon, metallurgists… humanity needs thee!!!!

    Tap into the Yellowstone caldera!!!!

    With the many brilliant to semi-brilliant minds infesting this place….

    Oh, right.

    Entrenched special-interests controlling so much of the USA political and economic infrastructures it IS conceivable to me that viable energy creation plans/ideas/etc. will either be ignored or shunted aside as logical thought is when bureaucrats gather and commence conniving as how to increase the wealth flow upwards, ever upwards.

    An Old Coot’s shanty-bound opinion.

    Perhaps a rich widow lady would repel old-age personal economic stagnation.

    “Hey, baby… let’s rub our wrinkles together and watch the Lawrence Welk show.”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Any word lately about capturing the energy within tidal flows?

      Dam Fundy Bay!!!!!!

      Fundy can put out a sustained 200MW and could do much more. That’s not bad at all, and in good locations tidal is scaling past 1000MW. The best part is that tidal is consistent, unlike wind.

      There’s environmental concerns with tidal in much the same way there is with wind or non-megadam hydroelectic, which is to say it’s there and it probably would affect life on the seafloor, but it’s not catastrophic. I imagine tidal will get some serious attention in Japan in the next few years.

      ETA: the Russians are prposing an 86GW (!!!) facility in Penzhin. That’s enough to power, oh, the UK.

    • 0 avatar
      MidLifeCelica

      They just have to make them tougher…the test turbine didn’t last very long before it got damaged.

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2010/06/11/ns-fundy-tidal-blades.html

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Obop wins thread…

      I would imagine that the parts for the first steam engines were shipped by horse and wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_power#Current_and_future_tidal_power_schemes

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Where would our economy be, where would we be strategically if we’d spent the money we’ve blown on wind turbines on building new refineries and new oil fields on this continent? Certainly not paying $4.00 for a gallon of gas.

    Probably about the same place we are now. There’s not that much cheap oil in North America anywhere, oil is fungible anyway, and as we’ve just witnessed, the price of crude isn’t all that well-linked to the price at the pump.

    It makes no sense at all to import oil from anywhere when you have your own, because of enivronmental concern

    Again, oil is fungible. Even if you really didn’t want to import it, there’s nothing stopping, say, China, from importing yours. This happens in Canada now.

    The reason there’s a moratorium on domestic oil production should have been made really obvious by Deepwater Horizon. If you get a look at the tailing ponds in the Alberta tar sands, you’ll see another reason. Migratory birds? How many went down fouled in those ponds per year?

    Wind, obviously, isn’t going to solve the problem of energy use not being sustainable. Neither would tidal power, selective geothermal, smart grids or so forth. On the other hand, “Drill, Baby, Drill” is equally tunnel-blind.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      You start out being wrong and misinterpret everything to avoid admitting it. If we were still producing the majority of our oil at home, that’s billions a year that would be going to domestic jobs, domestic capital, and domestic tax revenue. Canada isn’t crying over their departing oil to China. They’re receiving the money that we spend importing things from China. Even if we wound up selling our oil, it would only help us by improving our trade balance, protecting our savings, and creating US jobs. You’re worse than blind. You’re lying to perpetuate the dismantling of our economy.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      If we were still producing the majority of our oil at home, that’s billions a year that would be going to domestic jobs, domestic capital, and domestic tax revenue.

      You’d think this, but no. You’d see a pocket of localized wealth in areas that could produce oil, corporate profits (which, if they’re taxed, see the taxes passed down to the consumer) and little else.

      Canada isn’t crying over their departing oil to China. They’re receiving the money that we spend importing things from China.

      I bring up Canada because it does exactly what you say the US should be doing: allowing full-scale domestic oil extraction.

      Excluding the fact that there’s not that much oil in the US anyway, the benefits you’re speaking of aren’t nearly so dramatic, especially outside of Alberta, the Toronto Stock Exchange, and a few oil company boardrooms. Most of the country still runs 8-10% unemployment, we still had a recession, and we still buy cheap stuff from China. And we still pay $1.40/L for gas.

      The only reason we haven’t been hit so hard is because we actually had the foresight to regulate the snot out of a banks because, when the recession hit, Alberta’s oil-driven economy nosedived with commodity prices.

      You’re worse than blind. You’re lying to perpetuate the dismantling of our economy.

      No, I’m point out that you are proposing a solution based on an ideological talking point that, in the real world, doesn’t bear out. Your economy is in shambles for reasons that have nothing to do with oil (unless you count the debt from military spending in the middle East), and wouldn’t be fixed by drilling for oil domestically, even if you had the domestic oil reserves to drill for.

      Develop a sane tax regime, bust the balls of your banks and rationalize your spending. “Drill, baby, drill” is a distraction and a sound bite.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I spent what only seemed like an eternity in Nova Scotia in the mid ’90s. A local summed up the blight thusly: we had programs for everything and it was great until all the jobs left. I guess nobody has figured out the connection yet, but oil is a crutch for Canada, not a cause of your self-inflicted malaise.

      • 0 avatar
        Dimwit

        On of the big points that everyone overlooks is that oil props up our economy just because we have it. World markets have forever factored in the oil into our dollar price, into our productivity and of course our GDP.

        Or do you think that a country with the same population as Morocco deserves a table at the G8? Hell, Ethopia has over double our population but I wouldn’t want to live there. We’re lucky, not just good.

  • avatar

    Why is this newsworthy? Here in central Texas I’ve been seeing these on the highway for years. They travel in three’s to wind farm sites. There’s a company nearby that also makes some of the motors for these things.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      Why is this newsworthy?

      I’m not sure myself. There’s a pretty large windmill farm in eastern NM that I see from the air whenever I fly to Clovis, NM or central-western TX. There’s also a large wind farm right around Palm Springs, CA. Several others. Makes sense as the freakin wind is so prevalent around the southwest.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Mmmmm… wings… getting close to lunchtime on the East Coast… must resist wings… Aaaargh!

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    2010+ Ford Mustang

  • avatar
    chuckR

    TANSTAAFL

    http://tinyurl.com/wind-power-limits

    This is a short article on an investigation of limits on wind and wave power – potentially causing climate change not alleviating it.

    Still merely a hypothesis, maybe there is something to it, maybe not. Interesting account of very challenging work to consider planetary scale thermodynamics.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Where is Don Quixote when you need him?

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Why hasn’t more effort been put into geothermal? It would seem to be a potential font of relatively clean energy.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Iceland and New Zealand have, but geothermal is kind of like tidal or hydroelectric in that respect: you need favourable geography.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Residential geothermal is pretty easy to do at new construction time, though, and not so demanding on the geography. I am surprised that very, very few builders offer that option.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Residential geothermal is a great solution for lightening HVAC load. It’s like solar water heating that way: a good offset, and one that overlooked for sexier stuff like photvoltaics or turbines.

        The problem is that it’s costly up-front, which is a pity.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Geothermal works best in milder climates during the winter months. Around here builders generally recommend a back-up furnace or some other source of heat for really cold days in January and February.

  • avatar
    cheapthrills

    Although the discussion so far has been very good, it’s way too serious for a Friday. I’ll happily oblige to lowbrow it a bit:

    MINE’S BIGGER! (And more German)

  • avatar
    The Walking Eye

    Subsidies, generally, are put in place to jump-start a particular sector to help them compete with established companies or create a new profit center. Oil was originally subsidized due to it’s high cost of extraction, but now that they have brought those costs down all the subsidies do is boost their profits. Same with agricultural subsidies, which 80+% go to the huge farm corporations. The problem isn’t subsidies, it’s getting rid of them after they’ve done what they’re supposed to.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Wind turbines kill far fewer birds than stray cats or tall buildings. I’d avoid putting them in popular migratory paths, but otherwise it’s a wildly overblown problem.

    The Audubon Society has taken the position that wind power is a net positive for bird life, in comparison to fossil fuel pollution.

  • avatar
    Fusion

    Modern wind turbines are very much positive in net energy over their lifecycle.

    http://www.eoearth.org/article/Energy_return_on_investment_%28EROI%29_for_wind_energy
    That is a study from a Professor of Boston University that analysed 119 wind mills from several different decades regarding their “EROI” (Energy Return on Investment, so basically net energy), taking into account production, transportation, construction, operation and decomissioning. The average result is an EROI of 25 over the lifetime of the wind mill (including concepts) or an EROI of ~20 only regarding already operating windmills (with quite a lot of them from the 80s…)

    Modern wind mills, meaning very large rotors, modern transforming equipment installed in high-wind areas (especially off-shore) are able to reach EROI’s of 35 and higher.

    To compare – the estimated EROI (different study though) of offshore oil/gas extraction in the gulf of mexico is somewhere between 10 and 25.
    See here http://www.simulistics.com/publications/eroi-us-offshore-energy-extraction-net-energy-analysis-gulf-mexico

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    We’re omitting another potential benefit of windmills.
    Use the shredded poultry downstream to feed the starving victims of the economy.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I know I know…

    It is a picture taken by a distracted driver? Ray LaHood is shaking his finger in anger in your general direction.

    What? Too Zen?

  • avatar
    George B

    Interesting question regarding the payback time vs. useful life of wind generators. Additional costs include construction of the natural gas powered generator that supplies power on the days when the wind isn’t blowing fast enough and power lines to carry electrical energy from sparsely populated windy areas to customers. Might be better to simply build relatively clean peak load natural gas generators as close to customers as possible first and then add wind generation if it becomes significantly less expensive than using natural gas. OK for government to fund wind energy research, but don’t ramp the scale to large wind farms until there is a path to payback.

  • avatar
    Dave W

    Reading TTAC for information on energy policy is roughly equivalent to reading Consumer Reports for information on enthusiast cars.

  • avatar

    Boeing covers their wings while in transit. Having been a Seattle-area commuter for most of my life, I’ve shared the road with many a wing moving between Everett/Renton/Seattle Boeing plants. The front is a standard Paccar tractor, but the rear axle is a piloted set of eight wheels with a “driver” sitting as low as an Elise driver but holding a steering wheel the size of the Titanic’s. Quite startling when you first see them. The whole wing assembly is covered by a large yellow tent-like structure. You can see some photos of them here.

  • avatar
    prattworks

    These kinds of editorials would be laughable if they weren’t so painfully bad. It’s the sort of cringeworthy editorializing that Brock Yates and Csaba Csere used to engage in at Car & Driver magazine, and that ultimately led me to quit subscribing. Whether you agree with them or not, hearing car guys attempt to speak with authority on politics or economics is a painful departure from why I, and I think most readers of automotive journalism, read automotive press.

    For me, reading about great cars and driving experiences is an escape from the noise of daily life that is largely made up of uncivil political banter. Through great automotive writing I can immerse myself in something apolitical and be reminded of the sheer joy of driving feed my fascination with design and engineering. For me, Peter Egan is the gold standard – always classy, evocative, and clearly understanding that the joy of automobiles is tied to emotion and the music of life. Adding politics is unwelcome noise.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    +1 On both points. Some of the political editorializing on TTAC lacks even the veneer of objectivity which, in my opinion, renders it almost useless. Worse, Jack Baruth seems to have exhausted his supply of funny or interesting personal stories. His forays into economics and politics pale compared to his insight into selling cars or describing certain members of the opposite sex.

    With respect to Peter Egan, I read his columns in both R&T and Cycle World and have been doing so for many years. It’s a joy to read his work. He’s an island of civility and wonder in the sea of self-important blather that is modern media.

    Finally, Cycle World has one other columnist whose work is without equal, Kevin Cameron. His explanations of the deep details of technology as well as the history and context thereof set the highest standard.

  • avatar
    timschevyz

    Hi
    I have a 1978 fiat ,that runs great, But needs some body work, Any body knows anyone that may be interested in it. Thanks Tim

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