Thursday, February 09, 2012

Thursday Morning Links

1. You can now be fined $1,000 for throwing a football or a Frisbee on the beaches of L.A. County.

2. Not only do members of Congress benefit from being exempt from the insider trading laws that apply to the rest of us, but a Washington Post investigation has identified 16 members of Congress who have recently taken actions that provided millions of dollars of benefits for specific programs, groups or organizations that are directly connected to their immediate family members.

3.  The nation known for its iconic windmills --the Netherlands -- is throwing in the towel on offshore wind power, as Dutch officials have determined the country can no longer afford large scale subsidies for expensive wind turbines that cannot produce electricity at economically competitive prices.

4. From Ed Morrissey on the importance of Indiana becoming the first rust belt state to pass right-to-work laws - a milestone event for a manufacturing-based state where unions controlled large portions of the labor force.

5. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin announced this week that 10 states have signed on to her plan to replace aging government vehicles with ones that run on compressed natural gas. Together, the group of states plans to buy 5,000 natural gas vehicles.

HTs to Warren Smith, Dwight Oglesby and Ben Cunningham.

35 Comments:

At 2/09/2012 11:27 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

On the rust belt and right to work---since the 1970s, unions have all but been obliterated from the private sector.

In addition, our economy has become globalized---meaning the supply side has exploded, with labor, capital, services and goods pouring into the USA (although lately the GOP wants to keep labor out).

Also, since the 1970s, transportation, telecom and much of the financial industries have been deregulated to good effect (remember telephones or airline tickets, or passbook accounts Regulation Q?).

The Chicken Inflation Littles don't get it. The economy is no longer inflation-prone, in fact the opposite.

The Fed needs to get very aggressive to promote economic growth.

 
At 2/09/2012 11:47 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

The economy is no longer inflation-prone, in fact the opposite.

I'm not sure you can say the economy is no longer inflation prone. I mean, if the government were to just start printing money and never stop, then inflation would occur. Combine that was permanently low interest rates, and you got yourself a recipe for disaster.

I'll agree with you that there are better market checks on inflation (floating exchange rates and the like), but to then say that we are no longer inflation-prone is a rather perilous jump. Don't forget that during the late 80's and 90's, we were touting that we have learned so much about macroeconomics that we are no longer prone to recessions.

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.

Remember, it's very easy to look at models and put in inputs, get back outputs and say "here is our solution!" That's what were doing with the Fed right now. But to think that these models can account for all possible variables and make reasonable policy recommendations, well that's not knowledge. It's the pretense of knowledge.

I'll agree with you that right now is not an economic environment conducive to massive inflation, but we need to be careful: the economy is growing and jobs are increasing. At some point, interest rates will have to adjust.

 
At 2/09/2012 12:38 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

I would say the Netherlands decision is a pretty strong condemnation. But this is not only about the price of electricity.

This says that the reduction in airpollution [if there actually is any] PLUS the value of the electricity produced is not worth the cost oer and above the cost of electricity produced by conventional means PLUS the damage caused [if any] by the pollutants emitted.

If that decisionis made on the price of electricity alone, then conventional power gets the value of the hidden subsidy which amounts to what it would have to pay for the damage[if any] caused by its poolutants to other people's property.

Another way to consider it is that the people have voiced the opinion to their representatives [and power suppliers] that they are of the opinion that they are better off absorbing the property damage than paying the power company what it would cost to prevent said damage, the value of the electricity being equal [to the lowest cost sourc] in either case.

This strikes me as being less about the cost and value of electricity [which we have a good handle on] than the cost and value of cleaner air, which we do not have a handle on. This decision sets one boundary on the price Dutch people are willing to pay for cleaner air.

It is a long slow process, but eventually "the market" will set reasonable boundaries around the prices people are willing to pay for cleaner air.

 
At 2/09/2012 12:58 PM, Blogger Michael Hoff said...

The Dutch should just come to Pennsylvania! Hell, our state just handed over $13 million to a wind farm that's blighting my beloved Allegheny Mountains. Monstrous, inefficient, bird-bashing eyesores, and PA is dumping cash it doesn't have into them.

 
At 2/09/2012 1:20 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

micheal-

you should see what the UK is doing.

the subsides there per KWH actually exceed the price of electricity by multiples.

they are going to wind up with forests of useless windmills no one wants to maintain.

i have no idea why people find wind energy so seductive.

of all the "green" power, it's the one that cannot ever work.

it's simple physics.

power over sweep from wind is a third power function of windspeed.

thus, a turbine that generates 10mw at 20 mph wind generates 4mw at 15 and 1mw at 10. at 22, you have to shut it down or it blows.

this is why wind farms wind up generating 15% of faceplate.

worse, it's unpredictable and therefore is useless for baseline power. you can't shut off other plants and count on wind, so it winds up unable to replace anything. it takes DAYS to bring a coal or nuclear plant up to temp. the same is true with big combined cycle nat gas. so windfarms are not even green as they cannot replace anything at all. you need to run all the old plants too.

what stuns me is that this is all well known, yet politicians just love wind. it's the absolute worst way to put power into the grid.

 
At 2/09/2012 1:37 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Who is going to enforce the Frisbee and football throwing ban, and other code violations on the beaches?

Lifeguards.

From the 37 page Beach Ordanance, section 2.20.083:

"The Los Angeles County Sheriff shall the authority to train the lifeguards in any skills necessary to cary ou their code enforcement duties described in this section."

This seems to be a broad deferrel by the Sheriff to lifeguards of "skills necessary" and "authority".

 
At 2/09/2012 1:41 PM, Blogger Michael Hoff said...

Morganovich --

I'm sure everyone involved in this boondoggle knows wind's limitations. But like anything else in PA, it's not about the stated outcome. It's about whose palm is getting greased. Most corrupt state in the nation.

 
At 2/09/2012 1:47 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

But this is not only about the price of electricity...

I understand your point, Hydra, and from an externality POV it makes sense, but what the article is talking about is that the Netherlands simply cannot afford to keep spending the subsidies to make wind power cheaper. In other words, the action needed to be taken to correct the externality is too expensive for the Netherlands.

 
At 2/09/2012 1:48 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"Most corrupt state in the nation."

clearly, you've never been to rhode island.... :-)

i remember buddy cianci getting voted back in as mayor my freshman year in college. he had just gotten out of jail where he had been tosses because, the last time he was mayor, he had a bunch of state troopers hold a guy down while he burned him on the face.

no joke he ran on "the streets were safer when buddy was in office".

of course, he's now in jail again for corruption, bribe taking, and kickbacks...

 
At 2/09/2012 1:53 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

jon-

wind does not make sense, even from an externality standpoint because it does not reduce any emissions of any kind.

the other plants still have to run because wind cannot be a part of baseline power. wind cannot replace "dirty" power (though in the developed world it's not very dirty anymore), so it does not reduce externalities, just jacks up costs.

that said, if solar cycle 25 comes in as expected (and it looks dalton minimum weak according to projections), we are gonna want all the CO2 we can get in about a decade.

the last time we saw the sun that weak was the little ice age. temps like that would kill a staggering number of people from famine.

 
At 2/09/2012 2:07 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Forgive me Morganovich, for I was unclear.

What I meant to say was from the externality theory, where we assume wind completely replaces fossil fuels, Hydra's point made sense. I agree with you that, realistically and in it's current incarnation, wind power makes no sense.

 
At 2/09/2012 2:10 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

http://www.eike-klima-energie.eu/news-cache/germanys-green-energy-supply-transformation-has-already-failed/

here's a great article on the damage "green" energy has done to germany.

the full report is worth reading.

 
At 2/09/2012 2:31 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Jon-

Unit labor costs are lower today than in 2008.

That is deflationary, not inflationary.

Real estate is selling at half price. Stocks are where they were in 1999.

The United States of Nippon.

 
At 2/09/2012 2:33 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Buddy: Who is going to enforce the Frisbee and football throwing ban, and other code violations on the beaches?

Lifeguards.
"

This might seem like a great use of those otherwise idle resources, but one must wonder whether swimmers can schedule their emergencies at times when lifeguards aren't otherwise occupied writing frisbee citations.

 
At 2/09/2012 2:40 PM, Blogger www.greenworldbvi.com said...

As a Brit, I can say that the UK also is planning an extremely aggressive offshore wind program. I guess based on Holland's experience, we'd be be really careful!

 
At 2/09/2012 2:43 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Benji,

"(although lately the GOP wants to keep labor out)"

And you want to import Mexico's poverty. Working out great for California.

 
At 2/09/2012 2:48 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

morganovich: "here's a great article on the damage "green" energy has done to germany."

Thanks. That IS a great atrticle.

Heres the condensed version:

"So far, after tens of billions of euros spent on renewable energy systems and higher prices for consumers, not a single coal or gas-fired power plant has been taken offline. To the contrary, old inefficient plants have been brought back into service in an effort to stabilize the grid. "

 
At 2/09/2012 2:49 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

bunny-

"Unit labor costs are lower today than in 2008.

That is deflationary, not inflationary."

you say this over and over again despite having had it explained to you 100 times that it's a nonsense statement.

unit labor costs are calculated USING inflation. thus, you cannot use them to say anything about inflation.

it's circular reasoning.

you have the memory of an etch a sketch.

 
At 2/09/2012 2:55 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"This strikes me as being less about the cost and value of electricity [which we have a good handle on] than the cost and value of cleaner air, which we do not have a handle on."

That's right. If you can't price something, why would you think you should pay more to reduce it? Even assuming, just for a moment, that wind power actually could reduce air pollution.

 
At 2/09/2012 2:58 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

also:

declines in real estate prices are not deflationary in the way you repeatedly claim.

it only matters to a tiny portion of buyers who are buying for the first time.

for most, it's a massive drop in net wealth and buying power.

a new house may be cheaper, but the one you have now is too, so your currency devalues.

thus, for most, it's not any cheaper. in fact, it's more expensive because with so much equity wiped out, you can't make a down payment or worse, if you are underwater, you need to pay cash to sell and then find a downpayment.

your grasp of inflation is so specious as to be utterly meaningless.

 
At 2/09/2012 5:11 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

unit labor costs are calculated USING inflation. thus, you cannot use them to say anything about inflation.

In the interest of fairness, Morganovich, Unit labor costs are often cited as a measure of inflation. Whether or not they are a good measure is a different story, but Benjamin's not entirely wrong to use it as a measure.

However, that being said, I still think it's a jump to claim deflation is here to stay.

 
At 2/09/2012 6:09 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

jon-

you're missing a bunch of context here.

benji things low unit labor proves low inflation. he makes that argument all the time.

he then makes the absurdist leap to "deflation" which is not to be found anywhere.

even using the BLS's shenanigan laden CPI, inflation averaged what, 3.5% last year? that's 75% over the general target.

if we dig into numbers not "adjusted" by the BLS, it looks much worse. the census bureau data on imports and exports show double digit price rises there.

they also show that in absolute dollars, imports were up nearly 3X what exports were, so far from being "export friendly" the weak dollar has been acting as a way to import inflation.

contrary to the bizarre fantasyland benji seems to inhabit, inflation is alive and flourishing here in the real world and growth targeting from the fed has never worked.

you cannot print prosperity, only destroy it by trying to.

 
At 2/09/2012 8:10 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Hydra, I suggest a cost benefit analysis is appropriate. What exactly is the benefit of wind power? I can't determine one.

Is it to change the climate? Black soot reduction would do much more for much less money.

If it is about clean air, as you suggest, nuclear power is probably better at producing more electricity per dollar with clean air.

Is it to feel good? I suggest love and/or sex as a lower cost solution.

 
At 2/09/2012 8:15 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Maybe Netherlands learned the hard way...

From the UK Daily Mail: Why the £250bn wind power industry could be the greatest scam of our age - and here are the three 'lies' that prove it

 
At 2/10/2012 9:57 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

to my mind, the real question is going to be "what can we turn all the abandoned wind farms into?"

that's a bit of a tough one. they make terrible lofts.

these things are going to be a needless blight on the landscape for decades.

 
At 2/10/2012 1:00 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

morganovich: "these things are going to be a needless blight on the landscape for decades."

Yes, it will be a long time before they are viewed fondly as quaint relics.

 
At 2/10/2012 2:06 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


On the rust belt and right to work---since the 1970s, unions have all but been obliterated from the private sector.

Thank business-side intimidation.


From Ed Morrissey on the importance of Indiana becoming the first rust belt state to pass right-to-work laws - a milestone event for a manufacturing-based state where unions controlled large portions of the labor force.

The out-of-state-influenced pattern legislature chose to make Indiana a backwards Southern state. That is, freedoms are reserved for the few and work arrangements are worse for workers as they have been in the South.

The bad old days of the company town are going to come to Indiana save for the scrip.

 
At 2/10/2012 10:03 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Fundamentally, I agree with Jon and Morgan ovich.

Except, given that wind power produces some power, how can it be that the conventional plants burned just as much fuel as before?increased demand?

Netherlands has decided that this method of having [some] electricity and [ some ] cleaner air is too expensive. It remains to be seen what the next choice is.

It seems to me that, at best, wind power is a partial auxiliary. If morganovich is correct, it is not even that. The problem I have with his argument is that it is an anti wind argument, rather than an argument about how we can rationally explore a path that leads to the lowest total cost. Arguing for or against a single thing is unlikely to lead to the best answer.

I doubt even morganovich would argue for a return to unbridled use of high sulfur coal with no emmission controls and no mine safety rules.

One more point, subsidies for wind do not lower the price of electricity. The price for That is always the lowest price of production available. But whatever sorcery we buy from provides us with electricity and some external costs. With wind power the subsidy is the external cost.

Consider it this way: if you buy power from a coal plant, part of your bill is for electricity, the rest is a subsidy you pay to the power company to run their scrubbers and bag houses. You pay for electricity, and for cleaner air. Same as with wind turbines, except they don't need bag houses.

Even so, morganovich is probably correct in his conclusion that the value proposition is not there yet. I just disagree with his approach of rejecting that there might be one, out of hand.

Like the container ship that flies a giant kite to reduce fuel consumption, a total solution is not necessary.

 
At 2/10/2012 11:58 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

I think big coal plants are actully banks of smaller boilers, so they can respond to changes in demand (or the availability of wind power) in quanta of smaller boilrs that fire up relatively quickly.

They can increas or decrese the amount of coal going into a boiler and the amount of air) within a considerable range, before they have to make the decison to bring on or shut down another boiler.

They also have gas fired units for more immediate needs. They need not be located at the coal unit, either.

 
At 2/11/2012 12:03 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

to my mind, the real question is going to be "what can we turn all the abandoned wind farms into?"


Melt them down for coal boilers.

I'm working on a design for a super efficient vertical boiler that extracts practically all the energy before the top of the stack, and the pollution is effectively dispersed by the freewheeling tubine blades.

 
At 2/11/2012 12:42 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

http://marthasvineyard.patch.com/articles/allen-farm-wind-turbine-exceeds-expectations


Harcourt: Since the NSTAR approval on 12/29/2011, this system has generated 22298 kilowatt hours of clean energy. This is enough to offset:

•30207 lbs. of CO2 emissions, the main cause of global warming
•32978 miles worth of CO2 emissions from the average American car
•732 days of electricity usage in an average American house.



===============================

Yeah, well, except it is one or the other of the above, not all at once. The way this is stated is misleading.

 
At 2/11/2012 12:50 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

Hydra, I suggest a cost benefit analysis is appropriate. What exactly is the benefit of wind power? I can't determine one.


I agree, but all of your suggestions that follow would equally need cost benefit analysis.

You make some big assumptions non of which are well proven.


Which will kill more people, in industrial accidents: mining transporting and burning coal, or manufacturing, trnsporting, assembling, and maintaing ginat wind turbines?

I don't think anyon knows, and that is only one of the many cost equalities that would need to be balanced before a total cost comparison could be made.

I think you are probably right, for now, but it may not always be the case.

Should we know and understand what the economic issues are and when they may change over time, or whould we just say, hey, netherlands tried it and gave up, fuggedabout it?

 
At 2/11/2012 12:54 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

wind does not make sense, even from an externality standpoint because it does not reduce any emissions of any kind.

================================

I see your point but I think that is a little strong.


The amount of power a wind turbine produces fluctuates, but over time the cost is very predictable.

Cannot say that for coal or gas, or even Nukes: the cost of nukes went up considerably after Fukushima.

 
At 2/11/2012 10:08 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

3. The nation known for its iconic windmills --the Netherlands -- is throwing in the towel on offshore wind power, as Dutch officials have determined the country can no longer afford large scale subsidies for expensive wind turbines that cannot produce electricity at economically competitive prices.

The tide seems to have turned on the AGW/Alternatives fraud. The German press is starting to run critical articles claiming that it was duped. So is the press in the UK and Australia. Eventually, even the American media will notice that things did not work out as predicted and will wonder why all those hundreds of billions were wasted on useless activities.

 
At 2/11/2012 10:10 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

i have no idea why people find wind energy so seductive.

They were told tall tales by mountebanks and charlatans who had friends in the press. Most people actually believed that warming is bad, that we have been warming, and that the warming was caused by CO2 emissions. If you believe that then wind energy becomes seductive, particularly if you do not understand science, engineering, or economics.

 

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