Archive for Family Joules

One hundred hours of despair

There are people who, if they’re not actually laughing off catastrophe, at least can deal with it without going to pieces.

I am not one of those.

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Tracking of a sort

I wasn’t at home at the time, so I missed all of these OG&E emails:

2:42 pm: “An outage has been identified near [address]. Our crews will restore power as quickly as possible.”

2:52 pm: “Our crews will work as quickly and safely as possible to restore your power. The estimated repair time for the power outage near [address] is 3:38 PM.”

3:17 pm: “We show that the power is back on at [same address].”

Then again, had I been home, I’d have missed them anyway, because the power was off and I haven’t set up mail on the iPhone just yet.

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No longer current

When I let it be known that I’d taken delivery of a refurbished iPhone, a friend of mine asked, reasonably enough, what shape the battery was in. As it happened, an iOS update provided a tool for finding out exactly that. Under “Battery health,” declared the phone, we find 88 percent of maximum capacity. The automotive equivalent, perhaps, is to be found in the Nissan Leaf with 10, maybe 11, out of 12 available bars.

But batteries don’t retain their vigor forever:

When people come in to buy a used Leaf, they aren’t asking about the interior, or the electric motor, said Dave Marvin, dealer principal of three Nissan dealerships in Texas and Southern California.

“Their No. 1 concern is the health of the battery,” Marvin said. “Having an affordable, well-thought-out battery replacement program would be a great benefit because it helps address that concern.”

Spending $8,000 on a new battery pack and related components for a first-gen Leaf does not make financial sense, Marvin said.

Taking the longer view:

Among the biggest concerns is resale value. With no refurb solution, owners will essentially be forced to throw a car onto the secondhand market needing thousands in repairs. Sure, they could foot the bill themselves, but why bother replacing the most expensive component in your vehicle just to sell it? Likewise, why would the average used-car buyer choose to spend the cash when they’re already in search of a bargain? Wouldn’t it make more sense to go the internal combustion route or simply splurge on a new EV with superior range?

Yep. You can already see this manifesting on the used market. Almost no one is buying a used electric; as a result, they’ve become dirt cheap — though the tax incentives affixed to new BEVs and lower fuel costs also contribute. The situation is less pronounced with hybrids, but they’re also likely to depreciate a bit faster than their un-electrified counterparts.

“Early adopters,” said the man who spent over $100 on a pocket calculator in the 1970s, “always get screwed.” (I have reference to, um, me.)

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Your mileage may vary

Some people are unable to comprehend a simple disclaimer:

The suit, filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Seattle law firm Hagens Berman, asks $1.2 billion in damages for customers it claims are overspending on fuel.

The legal action piggybacks on the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of Ford’s testing procedures for the 2019 Ford Ranger in April. However, the civil suit also ropes in the F-Series — claiming that customers could spend upwards of two grand in gas they never budgeted for.

“We did the math and based this lawsuit on our own independent research. Ford’s fuel economy promises are all smoke and mirrors,” Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, told the Detroit Free Press. “Ford’s lies about the F-150 are masking the truth: Consumers are paying far more for these trucks than meets the eye. Over the lifetime of the vehicle, we believe F-150 owners are paying more than $2,000 more for fuel.”

“Fuel-economy promises?” On what planet? Because it sure as hell isn’t this one.

Like just about every other class-action suit since the founding of Rome, this is a naked cash grab wrapped in consumer concerns, and even if Ford has to fork over a billion dollars, members of the “class” aren’t going to get anywhere near $2,000.

This guy is trying to tell it like it is:

I can say, in general, if you cannot hit the EPA mileage, it is YOUR fault. If you think you can drive a turbo engined product the same as you do a non-aspirated vehicle, you are an idiot. As someone who has a long history of beating the EPA mileage out of every product I have driven (and I’m no hypermiler), I can say that if you exceed the speed limit, you are a clown — you are costing yourself dearly. If you make lots of short trips and don’t batch them together, you are an idiot. And if you race to stoplights and take off like the start of a NASCAR race, you are an idiot. And if you don’t bother to check your tire pressure, you are an idiot. Those things will impact your mileage significantly enough for you to miss mileage sticker claims.

“But they promised!” Three-year-olds everywhere are rehearsing for their day in court.

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Fund us, please

Apparently OG&E doesn’t think an insert in the monthly bill is sufficient warning to the customers, so I got this in email:

Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company (“OG&E” or “Company”) is seeking an annual increase of approximately $76.6 million, which reflects a 4.4% increase over rates set in July of 2018, to recover increased business costs and electric infrastructure investments including costs associated with the Sooner Scrubber and the Muskogee Conversion projects.

The increase, as proposed by OG&E, would raise a residential customer’s bill by approximately 7.7% when compared to current rates. This equals about $7.55 per month on the average residential customer bill. As proposed by OG&E, General Service customers would receive a rate increase of 4.4%. For the industrial rate classes both Power and Light customers (PL) and Large Power and Light customers (LPL) would receive rate increases ranging from 4.6% to 9.8%.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (“Commission”) is scheduled to begin hearings before an Administrative Law Judge on OG&E’s request for a rate increase on May 29, 2019, at 8:30 a.m., and continuing each business day thereafter until the hearing concludes, in Courtroom 301 on the 3rd floor of the Jim Thorpe Office Building, 2101 North Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105. After the hearing, the Commission will issue its final order and any rate changes will become effective after the final decision is issued.

The only really bothersome aspect of this is the timing: if the hearing is right after Memorial Day, the increase, or whatever percentage the Corp Comm allows, will hit in mid-summer.

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In lieu of extension cords

I can’t even come close to be surprised at this:

In our little community of 150 homes, some “sustainability” folks formed a HOA committee and they decided we should have a charging station. Hilarity ensued when the quotes came in — just to install the hardware: $75K to $300K. If used regularly, power bill is over $10K annually.

Rather a lot of people have turned up in fora to boast of how much they’re not spending on gas, and that’s fair, but I’m betting most of them have no idea what they’re paying for traveling kilowatt-hours.

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This will not end well

I’ve had issues with gas stations before. I remember gassing up a loaner G37 one day and not knowing how to open the fuel door. (Hey, my I30 has a proper remote release on the driver’s door.) I got to act foolish for a few moments, one of which I spent looking for the owner’s manual, which the dealership had thoughtfully removed, presumably shrinkwrapped in storage for the benefit of the ultimate buyer. Eventually, I was able to get gas and get going.

Yeah, I was dumb. But I wasn’t this dumb:

Eventually, one of the laughing fellows behind the camera got out and gave assistance to the distressed damsel.

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That touch of green

It’s a clever balancing act, but it’s still an act:

The Texas plant producing General Motors’ body-on-frame SUVs is clean and green, even if the vehicles it builds are anything but Prius-like.

In August, the 43 turbines of Southern Power’s 148 MW Cactus Flats Wind Facility became operational in Concho County, Texas. GM, along with General Mills (the tastier GM) both have contracts to purchase power from the facility — in GM’s case, some 50 MW of it per year. That means it can now claim its Arlington, Texas assembly plant is 100 percent powered by renewable energy. The Environmental Protection Agency just placed GM at No. 76 on its list of the country’s largest green power users.

The General is pledged to go full-renewable by 2050, and this is a substantial start — but it’s still sort of amusing that they start with the plant where they build Suburbans and Yukons XL.

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They paved paradise, put up a power plant

And to their dismay, the idea didn’t pan out:

One of the first solar roads to be installed is in Tourouvre-au-Perche, France. This has a maximum power output of 420 kW, covers 2,800 metres squared and cost €5 million to install. This implies a cost of €11,905 per installed kW.

While the road is supposed to generate 800 kilowatt hours per day (kWh/day), some recently released data indicates a yield closer to 409 kWh/day, or 150,000 kWh/yr. For an idea of how much this is, the average UK home uses around 10 kWh/day.

The road’s capacity factor — which measures the efficiency of the technology by dividing its average power output by its potential maximum power output — is just 4 percent.

Four hundred nine kWh per day? In the summertime, I can burn up 409 kWh in about a week, all by myself.

Now it is possible to get usable numbers out of solar:

[T]he Cestas solar plant near Bordeaux, which features rows of solar panels carefully angled towards the sun, has a maximum power output of 300,000 kW and a capacity factor of 14 percent. And at a cost of€360 million, or €1,200 per installed kW, one-tenth the cost of our solar roadway, it generates three times more power.

Fourteen percent still doesn’t sound like a lot, but the laws of thermodynamics assure us we won’t be getting numbers up toward 100 percent.

(Via Coyote Blog.)

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Doc Octane plots against us

And he leaves behind a dilemma:

It took a while to burn up what low-octane, ethanol-containing fuel was still in the system, but once it did, the tractor’s engine suddenly ran smoother, and the sputters all but all but disappeared. So now I know that either the ethanol or the low octane in the other gas is what was causing the trouble. I just don’t know which.

Premium runs for well over $3 a gallon around here, which isn’t great, but still better than $4 a gallon. If the octane is the determining factor, less expensive, slightly-higher-octane premium gas would be better. It took running a lot of the regular through this tractor to make the trouble appear, so if I were to experiment I’d need more than a gallon, but preferably less than a full can.

The manual might tell me ethanol is the culprit, but I’ve read that about all lawn-mower engines — and this is the only one — walk-behind or riding — that’s ever had trouble with the grade of fuel I put in it.

The deleterious effects of ethanol, as I understand them, are cumulative over long periods of time: seals and such deteriorate. I would not want to extrapolate from automotive experience, since almost all modern-day cars and/or trucks are able to fiddle with ignition timing to compensate for octane rating, something I suspect is not true of lawn tractors. But this sentence may give it away: “It took running a lot of the regular through this tractor to make the trouble appear.” Which implies an almost-empty fuel can, which in turn implies some sort of heavier-than-gas gunk that sank to the bottom of the can.

An experiment suggests itself: get some 87-octane E-zero, if it’s anywhere nearby to be had. (Locally, it’s about $2.90 a gallon, 35 cents or so higher than 87 E-10.) Interestingly, 91-octane E-10 runs about $3.10, but I’ve been paying $3.219 for 91-octane E-zero, and using 5 percent less of it.

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The Gas Game (back again)

Oklahoma Natural Gas is once again offering the Voluntary Fixed-Price Plan, in which you either take your chances with the market, or you pay this random-sounding number. From the flyer announcing this year’s version:

We’ve already bought a portion of our winter natural gas supply at fixed prices, so we know its cost. We’re making that natural gas available to those who wish to enroll … at $3.155 per Dekatherm for the 12-month period beginning November 1, 2018.

Gas bills in these parts comprise a service charge, a franchise fee, and tax, over and above the actual cost of gas, which, under state law, they can’t mark up. During the summer, when my gas use is less than 1 Dth, I expect a bill around $40. But winter is coming, and I’ve seen consumption as high as 0.4 Dth per day. Still, at that level of consumption, a 12-Dth monthly bill at $3.155 per Dth works out to — about seventy bucks. Almost nominal.

The first year of this plan, I should note, the preset price was $8.393 per Dth. I passed it up, and saw spot-market prices as high as $12. Lesson learned.

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Juice preservation

One of the primary objections to electric cars is so-called “range anxiety”: omigod what are we to do when the battery starts to fade? A TTAC commenter has a suggestion:

The solution to range anxiety is a 200+ battery and a small gas tank with a small gas motor. If the battery goes flat, the gas engine propels the car while recharging the battery. A slightly raised CUV/SUV, for example, could have plenty of battery at the floorboards while still looking offroady (it’s not going creek wading, anyway).

Then the manufacturer could stage an around-the-country or cross-country challenge between the highest MPG gas car, the highest range electric car, and the combo gas/electric. The gas car would have to stop every three hours for fuel, the electric every three hours to recharge, and the combo every five or six hours to fill up with a bit of gasoline. The electrics could recharge overnight with no time penalties, since they would do that under normal usage anyway.

They could present it Top Gear style, and live-cast it on Periscope or Twitter or whatever. Once the public sees that the new Ford Rangefinder won’t leave you stranded on the way to Grandma’s house, it would become generally accepted as a car to seriously consider when the current lease contract runs out.

The three presenters/drivers could tally up the scores at the end on a large whiteboard, with total CO/NOx/CO2 emissions, total MPG, total cost of fuel and electricity, down time to refuel, and miscellaneous offbeat challenge scores to determine the winner.

Think of it as the reincarnation of the Mobil Economy Run.

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Keep your damn corn

By most estimates, ethanol as a component of motor fuel costs a few percentage points in fuel economy; in my own car during the summer, the difference has been 1.3 mpg, or about 4.5 percent. What are we getting for this tradeoff? Nothing good, says the EPA:

An extensive report from the Environmental Protection Agency found that including ethanol into the U.S. gas supply is wreaking havoc on the atmosphere and soil.

In a study titled “Biofuels and the Environment: The Second Triennial Report to Congress,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that ethanol derived from corn and soybeans is causing serious harm to the environment. Water, soil and air quality were all found to be adversely affected by biofuel mandates.

“Evidence since enactment of [the Energy Independence and Security Act] suggests an increase in acreage planted with soybeans and corn, with strong indications from observed changes in land use that some of this increase is a consequence of increased biofuel production,” read a portion of the 159-page report.

The ethanol mandate has negatively effected water quality, with greater biofuel production resulting in more harmful algae blooms and hypoxia. While most algae is harmless to water, some forms — such as the kind produced in Lake Eerie from biofuel feedstock — has emitted toxic chemicals into the water. This harmful algae can consume the oxygen in the water, a process known as hypoxia, killing other wildlife.

Um, “Erie” is the name of the lake. “Eerie” is a town in Indiana.

Increased irrigation — fueled by growing demand for ethanol — has also taken a toll on the ground, with the report finding “grassland-to-annual-crop conversion negatively impacts soil quality because it increases erosion and the loss of soil nutrients.”

Back in middle school, we were taught the necessity of crop rotation: you can’t plant the same damn thing over and over again without damaging the soil. Evidently this is no longer being taught.

Essentially, the study found that biofuel mandates are boosting production of corn and soybeans. Large-scale production of these crops is causing environmental degradation. The EPA also found that — at least in some instances — using ethanol in lieu of gasoline resulted in worse air emissions.

“[A]ir quality modeling suggests that production and use of ethanol as fuel to displace gasoline is likely to increase such air pollutants as PM2.5, ozone, and SOx in some locations,” read a section of the report pertaining to air quality. While traditional gasoline contains more CO2, ethanol-based fuels have more nitrogen oxides (NOx), which can be more harmful to human health. NOx can exacerbate asthma by causing inflammation of the respiratory airwaves, with long-term exposure resulting in decreased lung function.

We’ve had ozone alerts all last week. And no matter what you heard, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Ask any tree.

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Dreaming of full service

You may remember this from just about a tankful ago:

[L]ast month, when I pulled up to my usual filling station, did my usual painful exercise to get myself out of the car, and only then discovered that the card reader was inoperative. None of my cards would save me in this case. Rather than go through a second round of contortions, I pulled the Walking Appliance out of the back seat, wheeled myself into the store, and peeled off three twenties. This of course necessitated a second trip into the store to retrieve $17 or so in change, but it demonstrated pretty clearly who rules.

This week, I pulled up to a different station, closer to home and dealing in E0. (You want ethanol, you go to the beer display.) I did my usual painful exercise to get myself out of the car, and only then discovered that the card reader was inoperative. The Walking Appliance would not get me up the very steep path to the retail store. With a little help from passersby, I managed to get into the store proper and swipe $60 on the old Mastercard. Forty-five dollars later, another neighbor pointed out that at the far end of the building was an actual ramp, which up to that point I hadn’t noticed, and while I’ve lived around here for a decade and a half, I didn’t need a ramp for most of that time, which explains why I hadn’t noticed it.

Later this week, I assume the store will change that sixty-dollar debit to a forty-five-dollar debit.

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You could call it “crumbs”

Accompanying this month’s electric bill was this little blurb:

Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company (“OG&E” or “Company”) is seeking an annual increase of approximately $1.87 million or 0.01 percent, to address the 2017 Income Tax and Jobs Act, and to recover increased business costs and electric infrastructure investments the Company has made since 2014.

The increase, as proposed by OG&E, would raise a residential customer’s bill by less than 0.01 percent when compared to current rates. This equals about $0.01 per month on the average residential customer bill. As proposed by OG&E, General Service customers would receive no rate increase. For the industrial rate classes both Power and Light customers (PL) and Large Power and Light customers (LPL) would receive no rate increase.

So basically, they’re asking for enough money to pay for the administrative costs of asking for enough money. I’m waiting for the nearest consumer advocate to point out that industrial customers will pay nothing extra, while we poor slobs in the residential market might get hit for 30, maybe even 40 cents a year.

How this rate request responds to President Trump’s tax package is left as an exercise for the student. Certainly I can’t figure it out.

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I wonder what this guy drives

A TTAC article about possible buyer confusion among hybrid-car shoppers prompted this rejoinder from a chap who does not recommend this class of vehicle:

Just stay the hell away from hybrids. Worst of both worlds as far as I’m concerned. They have generally been slow testosterone killing machines that suck the very life out of you as you drive to your destination. And worse still, they cost you more upfront then you’ll ever make back in fuel savings.

Flat out, hybrids are a scam. You really want to save money? You really don’t care what you drive so long as you get from point A to point B? Get any used econobox. There is no advantage at all to a hybrid.

I submit that “slow testosterone killing machines” really needs a dash somewhere.

What does he drive? I have a feeling he has a pickup truck — with a six-cylinder engine, because his wife wouldn’t let him have a V8.

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Gas gauged

Even our Best and Brightest occasionally head down the wrong road:


Shaquille O’Neal has a doctorate in education, but everyone has a brain fart occasionally. His came on the TV show Inside the NBA, which can be classified as either a sports talk show or a comedy. The subject is how to save money on gas, which devolves into a comedy of errors as each participant focuses on a different aspect of the problem.

It’s about two minutes in before Shaq figures out his math error, but the logic problem remains. The price of running this particular car is going to be the same no matter how often you stop for gas or how much you put in. And the entire cast is ignoring the fact that the size of the tank really has no bearing on its mileage. What really matters is how how many miles you can drive on a gallon of gas.

“The Duality of Humor and Aggression in Leadership Styles.” If that isn’t a Shaq doctoral capstone, I don’t know what is. (Yes, it was; he completed his degree work in 2012.)

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When my preferred Shell station abandoned the brand, I started hitting up Circle K stores, most often the one at NW 39th and Penn. One thing has been consistent: the 50-cent gap between unleaded regular and V-Power.

Wednesday I noticed I was lower on fuelstuffs than I’d expected, and I pulled into the EZ Mart on the way home. (Wednesday, weatherwise, had the unpleasant feel of a day in early February.) The Mart, which for years has eschewed ethanol, was 50 cents higher for regular than the nearest Circle K. Weirdly, though, the premium for Premium was a mere 30 cents.

If this means anything, I’m not quite sure what it is, although Circle K has been closing some of its stores lately.

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21st-century scoot

Everything old is new again:

Vespampêre scooter prototype

“Vespampère” is a classic Vespa scooter, revised to accommodate electrical propulsion. Not having to schlep around an engine and fuel tank has made the original smallframe design feasible once more.

This variant by Giulio Iacchetti is apparently not going to match up with Vespa’s own electric, due out Real Soon Now, but I applaud the concept just the same.

(Via American Digest.)

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Charge right down the street

This isn’t too much of a surprise:

Volkswagen’s ongoing penance for its diesel-emission scandal includes a serious investment in the United States’ EV charging infrastructure.

I did not, however, see this coming:

Electrify America (a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group) has announced it will be partnering with Walmart to install electric charging stations at 100 stores in 34 states across America. That way you can help save the environment while you’re stocking up on plastic cups and single-serve coffee pods that will end up being dumped into the ocean.

However, you can’t fault VW for that. It’s not the automaker’s fault citizens of the world think they can offset rampant consumer waste by purchasing an electric car. Besides, this is a wildly shrewd move on the part of both Volkswagen and Walmart. The store wins because the sites will be located near highways, encouraging low-charge automobiles to pull over and spend time shopping while their vehicle takes on electrons. Volkswagen wins because it has to do this in the first place and has a lot to gain by building a relationship with one of the biggest retailers in North America — if not the whole world.

Plus there is untold value in setting up charging stations in a place people are likely to frequent. That takes away some of the fears associated with range anxiety, and might just convince some shoppers to go electric. It’s a genius-level play, at least until e-commerce gets to a point where none of us ever leave the house.

And if there’s anything at all to those stories about Walmart’s checkout staffing, or lack thereof, you’ll almost certainly leave the store with at least 50 percent on the battery meter.

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What’s mined is yours

While a city in New York state contemplates restricting the mining of cryptocurrencies to save on electricity, a startup in France is going its own way, so to speak:

French startup Qarnot unveiled a new computing heater specifically made for cryptocurrency mining. You’ve read that right, the QC1 is a heater for your home that features a passive computer inside. And this computer is optimized for mining.

While most people use laptops, back in the golden days of computer towers, you could heat a room with a couple of desktop computers. And heat is still one of the biggest challenges when you’re building a data center. You have to cool thousands of computers that run 24/7.

My office is unheated; the A/C runs 24/7 to keep the server tower unsweaty. So I comprehend this dynamic quite well.

The QC1 features two AMD GPUs (Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX580 with 8GB of VRAM) and is designed to mine Ethers by default.

You can set it up in a few minutes by plugging an Ethernet cable and putting your Ethereum wallet address in the mobile app. You’ll then gradually receive ethers on this address — Qarnot doesn’t receive any coin, you keep 100 percent of your cryptocurrencies.

At the current price for Ethereum — you may mine other currencies if you’d prefer — the QC1 will give you about $120 a month, which may not seem like a lot from a $3600 machine, but if the price goes up … well, yeah, it’s a crapshoot, but it would be a crapshoot even if you didn’t have a dedicated mining box.

(Via Fark.)

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What’s yours is mined

Plattsburgh, New York is contemplating restricting the mining of cryptocurrency:

The City of Plattsburgh is moving toward installing a moratorium on energy-sucking commercial cryptocurrency mining operations. Such a moratorium may be the first of its kind in the nation, Mayor Colin Read said.

“This would give us some time and allow us to explore this more,” he said. “This has increased our power usage and put us over our threshold, and it is affecting our ratepayers.”

The problem is that mining for cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, absorbs a tremendous amount of energy in generating the virtual currency, explained Municipal Lighting Department Manager Bill Treacy.

And, well, there’s only so much energy at the city’s disposal:

As part of the Municipal Electric Utility Association since the 1950s, the city is allotted a certain amount of inexpensive hydropower generated on the St. Lawrence River.

The cheap power has allowed the city to maintain attractive electric rates for households and businesses for more than half a century.

How much are the miners using?

[A]t times they have used up to 11.2 megawatts of power per month, which can be about 10 percent of the city’s power supply — more than is consumed by Georgia-Pacific, one of the city’s largest users… [W]hen usage is high, the system is in jeopardy of going over its allotment of inexpensive hydropower. When that happens, the city must buy much more-expensive power on the open market to supplement its supply, which drives up the cost for consumers, Treacy said.

Joe and Susan Sispack are demonstrably not keen on $30-$40 increases in their monthly electric bills.

(Via Stephen Green.)

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You’re my polar opposite

Toyota, having contemplated the design of future electric cars, has perforce been required to take a fresh look at magnets (how do they work?):

Electric motors found in EVs use magnetism to create rotational energy, which is then transferred to the axle shafts and drive wheels. Without straying too far into the technological weeds, the motor utilizes magnets, along with alternating current, to create a rotating magnetic field with which to spin the rotor, thus creating a means of propulsion. And batteries aren’t the cheapest things in the world.

Toyota’s plan is to eliminate the use of terbium and dysprosium in these magnets, and halve the use of neodymium. (Hands up if you’ve ever heard of these metals.) The automaker expects neodymium demand to outstrip supply by 2025, making it a good time to start leaving it in the rear-view. Instead of these rare earth metals, Toyota will use lanthanum and cerium. Both of these metals are 20 percent cheaper and less likely to skyrocket in price as EV sales rise.

Former chemistry student here. Of course I’ve heard of them. And I have a fair-sized chunk of neodymium in my own highly non-electric car: it’s part of the magnet that moves the voice coil of the subwoofer hanging off the rear deck.

And here’s rather a lot of the stuff, in spherical form:

(No thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which really hates these things, though apparently more for the swallowing risk than for the magetism. Title swiped from Freezepop.)

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What’s yours is mined

Nearly half the electrical power in Iceland is going to create cryptocurrency:

Iceland is facing an “exponential” rise in Bitcoin mining that is gobbling up power resources, a spokesman for Icelandic energy firm HS Orka has said.

This year, electricity use at Bitcoin mining data centres is likely to exceed that of all Iceland’s homes, according to Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson.

He said many potential customers were keen to get in on the act.

“If all these projects are realised, we won’t have enough energy for it,” he told the BBC.

Johann’s figures are startling:

[H]e expects Bitcoin mining operations will use around 840 gigawatt hours of electricity to supply data centre computers and cooling systems, for example.

He estimated that the country’s homes, in contrast, use around 700 gigawatt hours every year.

Iceland has a population of about 350,000, not quite as many as Bakersfield, California.

(Via Fark.)

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Meanwhile where it’s warmer

OG&E, not fighting an Oklahoma ice storm for the moment, is sending crews to a place where they generally don’t have ice storms:

Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. crews and trucks soon will join a widening effort to restore power to Puerto Rico, the utility said Tuesday.

Fifty OG&E vehicles are scheduled to be delivered to Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Thursday. From there, the trucks will be loaded onto a barge and sent to Puerto Rico.

Fifty OG&E crew members are set to leave for Puerto Rico on Jan. 13 and begin work on the island two days later. Those crew members will work for 20 days before being replaced by another 50 OG&E crew members for another 20 days.

About 3500 utility workers are currently in Puerto Rico, where power may or may not be 65 percent restored:

The 65 percent figure given for power restoration in Puerto Rico could be misleading by failing to measure how much electricity is actually reaching customers, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The estimate by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority [PREPA] that nearly two-thirds of the grid was back on line only accounted for the amount of power being generated, but Hurricane Maria destroyed PREPA’s ability to gauge how much of that power was reaching homes, Corps officials said.

An $81 billion disaster relief bill, about double what President Donald Trump initially requested, has stalled in Congress and likely won’t be taken up until January.

And who knows if even $81 billion will be enough?

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A good long run

A century and a quarter, and then some, but those days are gone:

In 2007 President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which, among other things, was intended “to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles.” Americans have been blaming President Obama ever since for taking away their incandescent light bulbs.

Now, almost exactly ten years later, John Flannery, the new head of General Electric, has announced that they are out of the bulb business. Many are outraged, blaming Obama and the EPA, writing comments like “another American industry lost, gone to China. The EPA demanded the change from filament to fluorescent to save energy. Now LEDs, invented here, now made in China.”

This is not, incidentally, the first “innovation” to occur on W’s watch for which Obama got the blame: remember when all the car companies in Detroit went down the porcelain facility?

(Via Fark.)

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They don’t want to go on the cart

By now, you’d figure that Saab would be every bit as dead as Generalissimo Franco. Certainly the car company is done for. But their last product, an electified 9-3, keeps on keeping on, though today, it’s nobody’s business but the Turks’:

In case you don’t remember, the former hub of the Ottoman Empire purchased the Saab 9-3’s license from National Electric Vehicle Sweden while it was still attempting to convert the model into a marketable EV in 2015. But, despite being the absolute perfect project to give up on, nobody has.

The plan was to make the electric 9-3 “the national car of Turkey.” That’s a little weird considering the model ended its life as an American-owned Swedish car, using General Motors’ Epsilon platform, that was later sold to Dutch automobile manufacturer Spyker and eventually NEVS back in Sweden. But, considering Turkey’s national sport is semi-erotic oil wrestling, this might be another case of the Republic embarking on something my Western mind can’t fully appreciate.

Just incidentally, if “semi-erotic oil wrestling” shows up in some future “Strange search-engine queries,” now you know why.

And the Turkish government is revved up, so to speak:

Turkey launched a joint venture of five local industrial giants to produce its first domestically-made car on Nov. 2.

Five suppliers — Anadolu Group, BMC, Kıraça Holding, Turkcell, and Zorlu Holding — will jointly manufacture Turkey’s first indigenous car.

At the ceremony at the presidential palace in Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed his gratitude to the firms and promised his “full support” for the venture. Prime Minister Bınalı Yıldırıım also delivered a speech to mark the launch of the landmark venture.

Erdoğan vowed to buy the very first car himself.

BMC, incidentally, was originally a joint venture with British Motors Corporation. Amusingly, BMC now exports buses to the United Kingdom. Anadolu Group is a partner with Isuzu.

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It’s almost as if they knew

After a succession of indifferent speaker systems, I connected my work box to a JBL Harmony, an all-in-one unit (AM/FM/CD/Aux) that in its day, which would have been the end of the last century, competed with the Bose Wave system. (It had a rather Boselike price, too.) I bought it in 1999. Thursday the battery in the remote finally died.

Impressed that I’d gotten eighteen years out of that little metal disc, I punched “2025 battery” into the grocery order form at Walmart Friday night. One result was returned: a two-pack by Rayovac (which, when I was a kid, was spelled “Ray-O-Vac”) for $4.73. I supposed the price was okay, or at least consistent with similarly constructed batteries I’ve purchased over the year. “But do I need two?” I asked myself. I mean, I don’t figure to be around for another eighteen years, let alone thirty-six, and I have nothing else that takes a 2025.

I picked up my order Saturday afternoon. There was one substitution among my 23 items: the batteries. Unable to provide the Rayovac two-pack, they gave me a single Energizer. For $1.74.

At least now I don’t have to worry about what happens after 2035.

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Gaming the gas once more

Oklahoma Natural Gas is reinstating the Voluntary Fixed-Price Plan, a quirky deal made possible by a quirky state law which says they have to pass gas to us customers at cost. From this year’s flyer:

The price you pay for the natural gas you use each month is Oklahoma Natural Gas’ average cost for the gas we’ve purchased under a variety of contracts. The cost-of-gas portion of your bill varies each month based on how much you use and what we paid for that supply.

It’s been fairly warm of late. During the billing period, I used a meager 0.628 dekatherms, worth $3.37. (The rest of my bill, about $40, was service charges plus taxes and such.)

We’ve already bought a portion of our winter natural gas supply at fixed prices, so we know its cost. We’re making that natural gas available to those who wish to enroll in the Voluntary Fixed-Price Plan at $3.945 per Dekatherm for the 12-month period beginning November 1, 2017.

Inasmuch as my last bill shows a Fuel Cost of $5.369/Dth, I expect this will save me a few bucks in the winter. Greatest usage last winter was 11.5 Dth in January; I’m not expecting anything worse than 13 or 14 this time around.

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Reach out and charge someone

Well, that was nice of them:

Tesla used to offer the option to buy a Model S or Model X with a 75-kWh battery pack software-locked at a capacity of 60 kWh. The option would result in a less expensive vehicle with a shorter range, but the option to pay to remotely enable the longer range at a later stage.

Some of those owners reported this morning having more range than usual in their vehicles.

A Tesla Model S 60 owner in Florida reached out to us with almost 40 more miles than in his usual full charge and a new “75” badge in his car software.

While he didn’t ask for it nor knew why it changed, Tesla had temporarily unlocked the remaining 15 kWh of the car’s software-limited battery pack option to facilitate the owner’s evacuation.

We reached to Tesla and a representative confirmed that the company has put in place the emergency measure to temporarily extend the range of the vehicles of Tesla owners in the path of Hurricane Irma.

Unfortunately, Tesla likely isn’t in a position to upgrade everyone’s battery packs. And I’d hate to be looking at the touchscreen if (when?) they roll back the upgrade.

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