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Dark City, San Francisco? 504

Posted by timothy
from the whistling-whistling-whistling-dark-dark-dark dept.
tavern writes: "San Francisco is going to start rolling blackouts today! I can see the headlines for the Onion tomorrow, 'United States Declared a 3rd World Nation'" The article reads like something out of Atlas Shrugged -- parts shortages and clogged intakes for power plants' cooling water are contributing to the energy strain. However, from this piece, it seems like the (intentional) blackouts remain potential rather than actual. Can anyone out thataway comment on the power situation as it affects you? (I'd be out buying a UPS right now ...)
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Dark City, San Francisco?

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  • um - if you don't like that absolute Gem of a city, why don't you move someplace else, like Orlando?

    In Orlando, the strippers can't even strip.
    (they tried to skirt that law by exploiting the "artistic performance" loophole, so at all the strip joints, for a while last year, every Thursday was "Shakespeare night". I shit you not.)

  • What about a Fiero? They only made em from 84-88.

    Or the incredibly fast Buick Regal T-type and Buick Grand National. Those were made from 197x to 1987. Those are arguably the last true musclecars.

    3.8L SFI Turbo V6. Very clean burning, and some of them get 25-30 MPG. Not bad for the size of them, or how fast they are.

    Many consider them a collector's item. They're also a great body to build replica's of other cars onto. (e.g., there are "lamborghini" conversion kits for Fieros).

    Highly. The Fiero is an insanely cool car. But, you know, most people think that they're front wheel drive, or that they're cheap plastic, or that they're dangerous, or that they're poorly built. Or they get scared of the fact that the gas tank sits between the driver and passenger.

    In fact, Fieros are groundbreaking in many respects. They're the first mass-produced plastic-bodied car, a role model for the Saturn and the Pontiac TransSport/Montana/Lumina APV. They've got amazing brakes, rear wheel drive, four wheel independent suspension with double A-arms up front, a weight ratio of 49/51 rear, and they were the most crash-safe vehicle when they came out (35 MPH front impact).

    And the gas tank couldn't be in a safer place: by the time the gas tank ruptures, you'd be dead from the impact anyway.

    While they had design problems - mostly due to the fact that they're really an economy car, not a sports car, and they don't stand up well to the hard driving most of them experience - they're a great little car. And a milestone in American automobiles.

    BTW, how do new cars get to survive long enough to be someday considered "vintage" if they all go into the crusher in 10 years?

    Well, the guy to whom you're replying said it himself. He's painted a broad stroke (with the exception of RX-7s and Porsches, of course) that there were no cars worth saving since 1980.

    Of course, that's absolute bullcrap.

    How about a Dodge Omni GLH, which is a 4-door Dodge Omni hatchback with a 2.2L or 2.5L turbocharged motor built by Shelby? How about the Mustang 5.0 of the '80s? How about the Cordoba and Mirada personal luxury cars? How about the first K-cars as (slow-moving and mundane) museum pieces? Hell, in 20 years, people will be collecting the very first minivans and SUVs. I guarantee it.

    And does the cot off date for "vintage" and for "smog test exemptions" advance each year?

    No, actually, it seems to go *back* every year. It starts in 1966 now, though *everything* must pass a basic standard (ie. no blue smoke, no obvious problems) before that. It's gonna be really interesting if they try to hook a Ford Model T or something like that up to a tailpipe sniffer - those had driver-operated ignition timing, so it will depend on the skill of the guy testing the car.

    It's completely ridiculous, since these things don't account for any percentage of the total miles travelled in any given year.

  • Basically, the california power shortage is attributable to a number of factors, NONE OF WHICH ARE ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION.

    This is a LIE. There is no good reason for California to need to import electricity at all, since we have a lot of oil, gas, and hydro resources here in state, and plenty of places to put power plants. The problem is that environmental rules have made it impossible to build nuclear power plants at all since Diablo Canyon, and almost impossible to build power plants at all, because there's always some pseudo-environmental group of NIMBYs who can clog up the approval process enough to make any project uneconomic.

    Meanwhile, it's a bunch of stupid liberal (but I'm being redundant) economic regulations built into something the liberals called deregulation that have caused the immediate crisis.

    • A ban on futures contracts in power. Probably to "prevent speculation" or some other such liberal bugbear. So, not they couldn't contract to buy from out of state.
    • A requirement that all independent suppliers get paid the highest price. A subsidy intended for the windfarmers, that benefits out-of-state producers.

    California's environmental regulations provide much more benefit to lawyers than to the environment. Most other western states have much simpler systems, where taking a shit doesn't require permits from 5 different agencies with mutually incompatible requirements, and manage to obtain virtually the same results, except for the increase in legal fees that California has "enjoyed".


  • oh yeah, and rust is mainly a problem in the snow belt because of the unnecessary practice of salting roads. Sand? Cinders?

    I agree. I hate salt, it's nasty. Sand would be great, except that it doesn't dissolve like salt does, so when it gets washed into sewers, it clogs them. That's the primary reason why sand isn't used.

    Salt kills plants and trees,

    And the sand that makes it out of sewers gets into streams and collects on the streambed, which kills all the aquatic plants.

    it's non-renewable, it essentially DOUBLES the cost of car ownership for people living in areas where roads are salted (cars last on average half to a third as long as they would otherwise for a given climate). There are alternatives that are safer, cheaper, and more environmentally sound, but the politicians are too wrapped up. It was actually an argument FOR salt to say that it increased economic activity by dissolving people's cars, and giving detroit auto workers jobs.

    I've never heard of an ice melter that's as good as salt for less money. It sucks, I agree, but unless someone wants to open up the budgets a bit, we're stuck with it.

    The Province of Ontario was looking to ditch salt because of its hidden costs: damage to pavement and cement. It causes millions of dollars of damage to bridges and stuff every year. Until the purse strings are opened a bit more, we're stuck with it.

    Until then, I keep the welder handy so that I can weld in new patch panels on my daily driver, and I powerwash then Tremclad the underside every autumn.

  • Or how about nuclear power, the French way? The plant costs a bit more to make because of all the stuff you need to contain the liquid sodium, but despite that, it's much easier to maintain than a water-cooled plant because the sodium doesn't corrode the pipes. I don't exactly know the full details, but apparently, despite the chemical reactivity, liquid sodium is a much safer coolant than water. Besides, you need very little of it, since it's a metal, so you can dump water on it in an emergency and not worry about a catastrophic hydrogen explosion. The French also use a particular kind of breeder reactor, which uses up almost all of its fuel, instead of 5% or so, nearly eliminating waste. Yeah, it costs a lot up front, but it's clean and safe and it lasts. Nuclear power has come a long way since the Chernobyl reactor was designed. Sure, fusion will be the paradise, but that's a long way off. Fission the French way is arguably cleaner than even hydroelectric, (missing from your list, though many may not know why) because of the effect the dam has on the ecosystem.
  • The building that I am in now can opperate normaly off a back up diesel generator for 5 days with out refuleing. That also goes for some of the casinos here in Vegas. The only way you can tell if the power on the strip is out is if the street lights are off. Travis
  • Let's try implementing things like solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power on a large scale before we conclude nuclear fission is environmentally friendly.

    Uh, well we have. Technology hasn't advanced enough to make solar practical (like destroying desert eco systems by covering them with solar collectors is anymore friendly), California has hundreds of motionless windmills in the altamonts, (we tried, we really did!). Let's see. Geothermal. I'm willing to give it a try. Ship us a volcano and we'll hook it up. Tidal power. Now this hasn't been tried on a large scale, true, but whether it's successful or not, the marine life is going to want to have a word with you.

    I'm not a nuclear avocate (yet) but I get tired of people assuming those in favor of nuclear power are not ecologically conscious or informed.

    J

  • There is a lot of good detail, background and opinion on this whole debacle in the discussion over on kuro5hin.org [kuro5hin.org] about this issue. I'm still not sure who started it all though.

  • Who calls this a free market? It's not a free market, it's a "differently regulated" market.
    -russ
  • The politicians are trying to blame the free market to cover for their own problems.

    Free market and de-regulation are in no way synonymous. Deregulation was an attempt to replace the government monopolized power production in CA with a free market system. An attempt that failed thanks to the machinations of several powerful energy companies which hijacked the plan and replaced the government monopoly with their own. They then went on to schedule "scheduled matinence" at peak months of consumption to drive up the wholesale price and pad their profits. Thankfully the CA Attorney General is currently investigating these alleged acts of collusion.

    The private sector only constitutes a free market when there are multiple players in the industry. An industry dominated by one or two entities (as the CA wholesale electricity market is) can not operate as a free market. In those situations a deregulated market is simply less free than a regulated market. A fact that right wing ideolouges (such as the CA GOP that created this fiasco) who don't understand the term "free market" choose to ignore.
  • We all know the reason California is out of power is because of all those energy-sucking PCs.

    We also know that Americans continue to grow obese [psu.edu] at an alarming rate, and that sedentary individuals such as computer operators and programmers are particularly prone to gaining unwanted weight.

    Ladies and gentlemen, you can solve BOTH of these crippling problems with one fantastic new product from Preposterous Corporation!

    The Preposterous Power-Cycle(TM) is a specially modified stationary bicycle with an attached generator that produces electrical power as you pedal! Just hook the Power-Cycle(TM) to your desktop computer and voila -- not only can you burn calories and keep fit while working, you can help to reduce California's energy crisis by becoming an environmentally-friendly "human power plant"!

    The Power-Cycle(TM) features a real-time display that shows how much power you are delivering to your system. Like a mountain bike, it offers 24 gears, so you can optimize your pedaling rate to your computer's energy needs. Planning to start a floating-point intensive calculation that you will make your Pentium III consume an extra 20 watts? Just upshift to a higher gear so you get more current with each turn of the crank!

    The Preposterous Power-Cycle(TM) even includes a built-in 100 kVA uninterruptible power supply that charges as you pedal, so that your computer won't run out of power and crash if you need to step away for a moment to use the restroom. Trust us, the Preposterous Corporation has thought of everything!

    Order your Preposterous Power-Cycle(TM) now, and lose weight while you save the environment! Operators are standing by!

    And, if you order now, we'll even include a Preposterous Potato Battery [biglobe.ne.jp] absolutely free!

    Don't wait -- CALL NOW!

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  • I'll respond to your little flame here...

    I was not stating that Nuclear power was the answer, just that it was AN answer, and probably better than any of those you listed. Did you know, that using conventional wind power arrays, over 1/2 OF THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES would have to be covered to produce enough power?

    The word Nuclear brings up too many negative feelings in most people. These feelings HAVE KILLED VIRTUALLY ALL WORTH-WHILE RESEARCH IN FUSION IN THE UNITED STATES. There are some researchers in Canada, and France working on stuff that may make a fully functional fusion power plant possible in the next 20 years(there are some US researchers working on this also, but not as many as Canada and France have looking at it). I doubt there will ever be one constructed in CA.

    Enviromentalists are generally so full of it, that they can't see their left shoe from their right. Take Hydro-Electric power. Yes, this was once praised by enviromentalists, till it caused the NEAR EXTINCTION OF SEVERAL TYPES OF FISH. Do you favor the complete distruction of an ecosystem for a few KW of power? There are several promising avenues of power research going on right now, including Orbiting solar arrays, and nuclear fusion. But DESTROYING THE LAND is not the way to go.

    Admittanly, there are a few good places where geothermal, wind, and solar power could work. But the true keys here are: superconducter research, nuclear research, orbital research, and conservation research.

  • This law will never pass in California without a loophole for historical or vintage cars. There are WAY too many vintage car nuts out here. My home town has 3 car shows every summer.

    Pretty much any car made after 1980 shouldn't be included in the loophole though. Anyone who wants to restore a car made after 1980 ought to have their head examined, because they're all crap (not IMO - it's just a fact). (except maybe Mazda RX-7, or any Porsche).


  • oh yeah, and rust is mainly a problem in the snow belt because of the unnecessary practice of salting roads.

    Sand? Cinders?

    Salt kills plants and trees, it's non-renewable, it essentially DOUBLES the cost of car ownership for people living in areas where roads are salted (cars last on average half to a third as long as they would otherwise for a given climate). There are alternatives that are safer, cheaper, and more environmentally sound, but the politicians are too wrapped up. It was actually an argument FOR salt to say that it increased economic activity by dissolving people's cars, and giving detroit auto workers jobs.
  • I said not a large explosion. Because liquid sodium is such a great conductor, so very little of it is needed. Since liquid sodium is much less corrosive to metal, you can have more complicated valve structures to automatically cut off flow under whatever conditions you like, and you can make them smaller so they can be closer to the reactor, allowing them to cut off flow very quickly. Sure, there would be a small sodium explosion, but just as an M-80 will not set off a nuclear bomb (though possibly destroy a toilet) the explosion will not have a significant effect on the ability to rapidly cool the reaction with water.
  • You can check out the current CA system load here [goatse.cx]. Oops, sorry about that, try here [www.caiso].
  • (yet another response) -

    It's also a PROVEN FACT (wish I had a link) that a person who owns a car that is 30 years old is saving energy; instead of buying a new car every 2 to 5 years, keeping the old car running keeps the auto industry from building a new car, and all the energy consumption and pollution that entails.

    nuff said - crushing the old cars would be a STUPID law. I know a person (www.kgcna.org) who owns a 1958 VW Karmann Ghia, that, though the car is exempt from emissions, has no catalytic converter, no fuel injection, mechanical ignition system, STILL passes modern California emissions.
    It's not OLD cars that cause pollution, it's OLD cars that are not properly maintained (-er, and the huge oversized monster fucking gas guzzling drag racing muscle cars from the 1970's).
  • That's right, my right to trash the planet ends where your back yard begins.

    That's why we have tort law. If I trash your back yard, you can sue me. Simple as that. So stop complaining, and (if folks are really f*cking up your land) start suing.

  • by bdigit (132070) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:52PM (#512399)
    "Can anyone out thattaway comment on the power situation as it affects you? " - No. My power will be out when it affects me.
  • In the linked article [sfgate.com]:

    UPDATE: The California Independent System Operator has downgraded Thursday's Stage Three power emergency to a Stage Two emergency, ending the threat of rolling blackouts across the Bay Area.

    Cal ISO spokesman Patrick Dorinson said that the combination of conservation and added power buys during the day has enabled the ISO, which oversees California's power grid, to avoid proceeding from a Stage Three Electrical Emergency issued at 9:30 a.m. today to the more drastic step of a rolling blackout order.


    --
  • by nicjansma (266771) <nic@ni[ ]net ['cj.' in gap]> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:53PM (#512402) Homepage
    As quoted from the site: UPDATE: The California Independent System Operator has downgraded Thursday's Stage Three power emergency to a Stage Two emergency, ending the threat of rolling blackouts across the Bay Area.
  • by Aaron M. Renn (539) <arenn@urbanophile.com> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @06:55PM (#512404) Homepage
    The politicians are trying to blame the free market to cover for their own problems. They forcibly separated generation from distribution, de-regulated pricing on the supply side, enacted regulation that made it virtually impossible to build new capacity, and maintained strict control over retail rates. A recipe for disaster.

    Look at what has happened to natural gas in the Midwest. My gas bill was over $400 this month because the price has quadrupled. But I don't have to worry about running out of gas. Supply and demand balances everything out. If gas rates were frozen at old low levels, no one would conserve - voluntarily - and we'd have rolling service interruptions too.

    Put the blame 100% on the California legislature for passing this botchwork law.
  • The "situation" was fixed by an emergency purchase of some large number of megawatts from out of state.
    Here's [sfgate.com] an article from the local rag. It'll be interesting to see what happens next time. I'd love the city to go dark, even if it meant a spendy cab ride (I normally take the local LRT home.)

    Nice bonus: paranoia at work lead to all of the development servers being shut down. Counter-Strike all afternoon!

    jfb

  • nope - still stand by what I said. Those cars are all crap.

    Except the 5.0 Mustang, whose memory is now totally tainted by the turd they stamp the Mustang badge on today.

    You said it best, the Fiero is an economy car. It WOULD have been cool if it wasn't a cheap piece of plastic junk. How does one restore a Fiero anyway? You can pound out dents and weld in replacement panels in sheet metal. Fieros will just dust away once all the OEM plastic panels dry up.

    And as far as the grand national goes, that 3.8l Buick engine was one of the least reliable engines GM ever produced. Also one of the most used. Wonder why GM (Chevy/Buick/Olds) is no longer #1? I blame that engine.

    In 30 years, when I see someone park a fully-restored Aztec at a classic car show, I will laugh my ass off - it's a worthless piece of crap now, and 30 years does not make a car a classic.
  • don't you mean "thanks to their shiny new decentralized freemarket system"

    Let's see...

    - Government mandates that PG&E sell off their generating capacaty.
    - Government creates a bureau that buys and sells electricity.
    - Government mandates that they sell electricity at a fixed price.
    - Government mandates that they buy electricity at whatever the generating companies ask.
    - Government puts the cut-off switch in the hands of said bureau.

    Sounds like central planning to me.

    "A free market is a great idea. We should try it some time."

    Sounds like central planning to me.
  • I lvive in Silicon Valley and we've been at stage 3 alert for months.

    All the dire conclusions as to why though are by and large nonsense. The priamry reasons are two fold:

    (1) Its been a cold winter and northern california uses a LOT of electric heat (very inefficient).

    (2) Our winter month power needs are met in a large part by power bought from Washington. Its been hellishly cold in Washington this year and they haven't had much to sell us.

    The whole "we're goign broke" thing is a seperate issue raised by the power utilities (as much as they'd like to tie them together) and its not 100% clear its even true.

    Yes the prodcuers have raised prices way up BUT many of the smot major producers are owned by the same holding companies as the utilities. So while their utilities are losing money, their power plants are raking it in. The ACTUAL amount of money being made or lost is pretty much hidden.
  • He didn't get impeached because he got a blowjob in the Oval Office. He got impeached because he lied under oath, encouraged subordinates do the same thing, and obstructed justice among other things. Go re-read Starr's report and this time skip to the last section where he outlined the laws broken. Thank you for reinforcing my opinion that all leftists are sex-obsessed idiots.

  • Contrary to what those in other sections of the world may think (what? you don't keep up with everything that happens in California? why not?), this is not exactly a new topic.

    It comes down to, essentially, a truly awful economic decision and a great deal of FUD spread by (who else?) the power companies and the media.

    Deregulation started in 1995, when the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) [ca.gov] in San Francisco started studying the possibility. Other states (most notably New Jersey/Delaware/Pennsylvania/Maryland, which forms one power region) had managed to successfully deregulate power, so California figured it was a Good Thing (TM).

    The bad economics come in when you realize that it was only the wholesale market that was deregulated, but that Southern California Edison (SCE) [sce.com] and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) [pge.com] were under a CPUC-imposed rate freeze, which meant they could not raise their rates.

    Added to this was a requirement that Edison, at least (I'm not sure about PG&E), was forced to divest itself of its power plants. These power plants were bought up by companies that were essentially startups. The new generators of electricity raised the price of electricity, and SCE and PG&E were stuck.

    It amounts to a larger version of the rent control in my hometown of Santa Monica - costs may rise but the end-users pay a fixed rate set by the government.

    An interesting side note for those who care to research further - San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) [sdge.com] was under no such rate freeze, and prices, predictably, tripled this summer. SDG&E, you notice, is not facing bankruptcy, because they are free to raise their rates.

    As for the environmental "cartel" whining about nuclear power, it was my last knowledge that both Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant north of San Luis Obispo and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS, aka "the iron tits" due to their unfortunate shape) were both running (with some exceptions due to kelp in the intake at DCNPP).

    The cities of Los Angeles, Pasadena, Glendale, Riverside, and San Bernadino (among others) are NOT affected, no matter what FUD you may see in the national media, because they have municipal utilities which have long-term contracts and were never regulated (the CPUC has no authority over municipal utilities).

    You can check the status of the grid at the California Independent System Operator [caiso.com]'s website, but it may be down (slashdotted without ever being posted on slashdot, imagine!) We have had no rotating outages yet. Let's hope the broken system gets fixed soon.
  • we never shot uranium core bulletts.

    You've got to be kidding. It's been widely known that the US and other countries use depleted uranium rounds for years. Their extra mass helps make them good anti-tank rounds for the A-10, for example.

  • Diablo Canyon is in "my backyard".

    I have taken the tour. The building is most impressive. Nothing is going to break or collapse, even in a very strong quake. Then my wife took a geology course at the local community college. The one fault that caused the controversey isn't the only local fault. There are several others. Most of them minor. We're a fairly geolocially stable region here, (compared to the rest of California).

    Anyway, the plant is going to be shut down in something like 2012. That's a buttload of money to spend on a plant that only operates for like 20 years. Couldn't they have found someplace else?
  • that sounds like the libertarian arugment. Which is funny, because if everyone else was driving a polluting car, and it was causing me problems, I think I could set aside something like a few thousand dollars to pay a lawyer to sue everyone(?!) and then what - I'd have to PROVE in a court of law (without the aid of government-funded studies) that my air supply is damaged - that my health is endangered. . . yeah, right.
  • by BigBlockMopar (191202) on Friday January 12, 2001 @10:31AM (#512432) Homepage

    The flaw in this analogy is obvious. Electrical energy is a resource that can be produced in practically limitless amounts, given the right technology.

    No, it isn't. If it's practically limitless, why are the rolling blackouts in California an issue?

    However you make electricity, you still make noxious waste, whether it be spent radioactive fuel rods, or dead fish from the hydroelectric dam, or greenhouse gases from a fossil fuel plant.

    A photovoltaic cell (solar) requires more energy to manufacture than it will produce over its entire life.

    The silver bullet that will eradicate all of the problems with electrical consumption (harnessed fusion) is even further off than zero emissions cars.

    So, your thinking and your understanding of the world is flawed. You don't think about where the electricity comes from.

    Therefore, if you can have such luxuries as you >17" monitor, I'll have my 1974 model car.

    Clean air isn't something we can create (at least, not yet) - it is by definition a lack of pollutants. Therefore, the best way to make more energy is to generate more, the best way to make more clean air is to pollute less.

    Of course! It's so easy to do! I'm a good person, I can run my big and inefficient 17" monitor because they can always generate more power, even though that power is derived from [insert ecological threat here]!

    You make no sense.

    What you're basically telling me is that *you* can have *your* inefficient big monitor, and *I* can't have my allegedly inefficient old car?

    Of course, energy conservation is important, too; a ban on old refrigerators might be a good idea, it's just not practical to enforce.

    Sure! I have a 1956 QuikFrez. Nice fridge, though it can't keep ice cream worth a damn.

    Where'd I get it? When I first moved out on my own, I was driving past an appliance shop and I spotted it sitting by the scrap metal bins. I managed to get it into the back of my old Chevette and tied it into place. Bringing it home, I found that the compressor was bad.

    I shrugged my shoulders, drained the freon (a friend of mine bought it off me), and pulled the fridge to pieces. New insulation. New magnetic door seal gasket, custom made for me. New paint job, Honda's white paint. New thermostat. New compressor, with R134a (ozone safe) freon.

    Now, are you going to take that away from me because it's an old fridge? Because it really isn't. It's a new fridge that happens to be in an old cabinet.

    Cars, on the other hand, have to be individually licensed, so inspecting them for emissions is more than practical.

    Electric bills have to be paid individually, so going into peoples' houses to look for energy-wasting old fridges and 17" monitors is more than practical. Maybe they can save us a whole lot of trouble and look for subversive materials while they're there, you know, like the copy of Socialist Worker that you keep on your coffee table?

    I find the hatred for environmental legislation that some people exhibit to be profoundly disturbing.

    I find the willingness to give up your basic rights to privacy, possession and maintenance of those things that you've bought or built to be frightening.

    Of course I'm pro-capitalist and pro-industry

    Sure you are.

    but people's health and quality of life have to be maintained.

    Think about it this way:

    If my old fridge were so inefficient, how many years would it take for a new fridge to pay for itself with the electrical savings? My electric bill gives me a vested interest in making sure that my appliances are efficient. (Why do you think I spent over $300 for a *good* compressor for that fridge and then hours cutting appliance-grade styrofoam to shape to fit into its curved top? I could have repaired the old one and left the original fiberglass insulation in there.)

    If you want to splurge with a 17" monitor, I'll splurge with my old car.

    This doesn't mean a ban on industry, just the diversion of some resources into minimizing the impact on the air and water.

    Too often, these things are unrealistic or just simply stupidly planned.

    For example, if you're running a power plant that's been operational for 30 years, because the power plant is old, it doesn't have to meet modern emissions standards. It would be rather unfair to have to make the owner spend $10 million for an unforseen upgrade.

    Now, if you're considering replacing that power plant because you want something that's going to give you more power for every ton of coal that you burn, and yet you have to spend $10 million in pollution controls that your old plant didn't have to have, how long will it take you to recoup that $10 million in additional energy efficiency? Probably longer than your shareholders want.

    So, if there were no rule, the upgrade would have happened, and the power plant would produce x more kWh of electricity for every ton of coal burned. More electricity produced from each ton of coal means that less coal is required to meet demand, and therefore less emissions occur.

    However, because there was a rule, the power plant bumps along as it did, inefficient as before, because the cost of new pollution controls makes it impractical in any business sense, burning more coal than it needs to, and therefore producing more nasty by-products.

    Before catalytic converters were added to cars, cars did have more emissions of unburnt gasoline (hydrocarbons) than they have now. But sulphur dioxide was absolutely unheard of in car exhaust.

    So, all the tree huggers whined, and the EPA demanded that cataclysmic converters be added to cars. Gas mileage went down, because the engine has to push exhaust gases past this new restriction in the exhaust pipe. And while unpleasant smelling but relatively harmless HC was removed from the exhaust, the small amounts of sulphur in the fuel were catalyzed into sulphur dioxide, which promptly floats up into the clouds to combine with water and form acid rain.

    Good job, environmentalists. See what happens when you don't ask a scientist before you start writing your Congressman?

    Today, cataclysmic converters are de rigeur, despite their gas mileage (which means more emissions!) penalty and the sulphuric acid which falls from the sky and kills lakes and forests.

    Here's what I'm saying: everyone has a vested interest in energy efficiency. Businesses, individuals, environmentalists. Restrictions and laws that are designed to help more often than not end up creating their own problems which impede the normal tendency of the marketplace to improve products and services.

    However, anytime any government gets involved in anything, it gets screwed up. It's been proven time and time again. The places where the governments are most intrusive are also the poorest, dirtiest places on earth. Look at India as an example. I understand their parliament debated for months as to whether they should allow Coca-Cola to be sold there - all the while people are starving to death.

    Car companies switched to electronic ignition from Kettering points back in the 1970s because the market demanded better drivability and gas mileage, and technology made the price reasonable. Likewise, modern fuel injection systems and overhead cams would have been adopted for market reasons, without government intervention. When gasoline is burned at its stoichiometric optimum of 14.7:1, it produces the most power with the least emissions. Power translates to engine efficiency and therefore gas mileage; emissions reductions go hand in hand with that.

    It gets worse. It's arguable that the current SUV craze is based on government-legislated Corporate Average Fuel Economy laws. After all, the Feds told the car companies that all their carlines had to have an average fuel consumption. Over the years, this was increased and increased and increased. Cars like the Caprice Classic, Impala and Crown Victoria are being squeezed out.

    And yet, the market shows that some people still want a big and heavy car. Ask an SUV owner why they like their SUV; weight is a recurring theme.

    So, because trucks are exempt from CAFE rules, the car companies started to build big land yachts that are technically trucks. The SUV was born. 4x4 isn't even the prime motivator anymore. Look at how many Blazers, Durangos, Explorers - hell, even Jeeps, are 2WD.

    The buyer wants a big, heavy car, but can't get one. So, instead, he buys the next best thing. He buys a station wagon with leather seats that has been built onto a truck frame. Sure, because of its huge frontal area and the excess weight of a frame that was designed for carrying around sheets of drywall, it consumes twice the gas of the Caprice Classic that he wanted. But since the Caprice is discontinued, he bought the next best thing.

    Neat, huh?

    I've heard that CAFE will soon start to be applied to a manufacturer's truck lines, too. I assure you, this will backfire, too. I don't know how, I can't predict it. But mark my words, and remember them ten years from now: I guarantee that somehow the market will again turn environmentalist rules against the environmentalists.

    And since when did anyone have a "right" to drive? By democratic legislation, cars have always had to be roadworthy, safe, and operated by a governmentally licensed driver.

    When on the road, yes. However, your simple right to possession takes over when it's parked in your driveway. Possession is 9/10 of the law.

    If you want to say that a car has to be registered as your possession while it's parked in your driveway and not being driven, I'd suggest that my next step is to ask when I have to register my other possessions, like my computer, my kitchen knives, my TV set, my telephone, etc. with the government authorities. After all, all of these devices either consume precious energy or can be used in subversive and dangerous ways.

  • 2) Blame deregulation for the energy shortage! Can't have liberals blaming their eco legislation or (gasp!) call for repealing some of it.

    I'd like to point out that these problems didn't appear when ecological protections were passed, only after deregulation. Can't have conservatives blaming their economic policies or (gasp!) admitting that they screwed up.

    The only areas in California that weren't threatened with rolling blackouts or large rate increases were cities with municipal utilities. Strange how they came through unscathed, isn't it...

    Thoroughly, California made its own mess and ought to be forced to wallow in it. You're all screwed and it's your own fault.

    Aw, we love you too.

    Just because our state has all of the hot girls in bikinis (we loan 'em to Hawaii occasionally) is no reason to get snippy.

    Seriously, the energy commission that engineered deregulation was bought and paid for by the power companies, so they could sell off their old and decrepit power plants to new companies for cash. However, during all of the buying and selling, none of them really thought about having to provide power. Not that it really hurts them: they get to raise rates without having to generate any more electricity. All income, no expenses--now that's a business model!

    The point is kind of moot however, because the rolling blackouts never happened (a massive rate hike is underway however).


    ---
    I'm high on Elf Life [elflife.com]!
  • In fact, we voted for the idea (it was a state ballot initiative, sponsored by, you guessed it, the power companies). Well, not we, because I'm a minor, so I can't vote. And even if I could vote, I would have voted against it. But the fact remains, Californians have themselves to blame for the fiasco, and I'm too weak to refrain from pointing out that I called it. Lessee, there's an oligopoly on power. Power is a necessity. Even my retarded Econ teacher would be able to tell you that that's an inelastic market, and that people will more or less pay whatever they have to. That means that the corporations (Hey! Guess what? They're int he business of making money!) will do whatever they feel like if they think it'll make them some bucks. They're not nice guys. They're businessmen. They really couldn't care less if your Linux box was about to break the record for uptime. They want some money, and they wanna do what they wanna do to get it.
  • b) Solar is very cost effective if you allow the companies to charge more for it *and* require people to pay for it when the company provides it. You just need to pass a law which requires people to pay the additional costs for solar AND pay the company and extra 1% or 2% profit on top (multiplied by the percentage of the power which is solar).

    I'm not sure I understand--let me try to summarize this. You're saying, "solar is very cost-effective, it just costs more". WTF? Have you no economic sense whatsoever? By the same token, generators run by people on hamster wheels are cost-effective.
  • by devphil (51341) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @09:30PM (#512461) Homepage


    Stupid Intel chips use too much power.

    If all the hot Silicon Valley companies would switch to PowerPC chips, power consumption would go way down. :-)

  • [rant] Because of the way natural gas pipelines are (and the location of various bottlenecks), British Columbia is in essentially the same market for natural gas as California. Now, because of all your bullshit anti-nuclear legislation, you're sucking down all the natural gas in sight, and it's caused our natural gas prices to skyrocket. We had nothing to do with your stupid laws, and no control over your ridiculous policies, but we have to pay the price. We have poor old ladies freezing their asses off in our cold Canadian winter because they can't afford to heat their homes any more, and it's your fault. Assholes... [/rant]

    When will you figure out that nuclear and hydro are about as good as it gets? Most of our power is hydro, which is cheap and clean... You guys could buy some CanDu nuclear reactors off us--they're quite safe. Worst case accident, the reactor overheats, the heavy water (which is the moderator) boils off, and the reaction stops because it's no longer moderated. No Chernobyls, no Three Mile Islands, no fuss, no muss.

    California would be a really great state if you could only get rid of those wackos making the stupid laws...
  • I claim no knowledge of California's rolling blackout problems. However, I have worked at coal fired power plants and I do work in the manufacturing industry (durable goods).

    When law after law gets passed and it becomes $500 million more to build a plant, nobody builds them. It's very simple. Companies must make profits and you can't make one trying to cost out that much scrubbing hardware. The numbers don't work. Eventually, you'll wind up with a lot less capacity than you have demand for.

    Many posters have already commented that it's time to "pay the piper". I agree. When you have to find a way to build the plant so that the only thing coming out of the stack is water vapor, you will also find that it is a fiscal and physical impossibility.

    It makes a lot more business sense to build your plant in another state where you can install a reasonable amount of emmissions equipment such that your plant has no environmental impact. It seems as though any manufacturing plant or automobile built or sold in CA must replenish the ozone layer or it is explicitly illegal.

    Environmentalists can sit out on their front porches on those dark nights and look at the stars while taking in some of that fresh clean air. You better not let anyone catch you burning a candle and reading a book! Those things emit carbon monoxide.


  • Heh. What about the cars that, BY DESIGN, had an oil resevoir on the top of the engine and just let it all slowly drip out the bottom? Hey! The dirt road absorbed that!

    For sure! Kept down the dust!

    Back when I was a kid at the cottage my parents rented, the highway department used to actually go through and oil the dirt road with used motor oil.

    Just up the bank from a lake, at that. (Lac Cameron, Laurentian Mountains, southwestern Quebec, Canada)

    That was about 1983-1984. Horrible as it sounds, at the time, this was thought to be a perfectly acceptable practice.

    Fortunately, used motor oil is now quite a valuable commodity. It's readily recycled into new motor and machine oil, so it doesn't get dumped very often.


  • You forgot the "stealth" factor with respect to photo speed radar guns. The hood reflected incoming radiowaves up, while the radiator coils below the hood were slanted and reflected the radiowaves down into the ground. So almost nothing reflects back to the radar gun!

    Yeah, all one would need to do for complete stealth would be to hang a CD from the rear view mirror to deflect a laser speed trap. [sigh]

    First off, radar waves are a kind of radio wave, in a band called "Microwave", because the wavelength is so short. They're highly directional, like light; but they pass through, and are reflected by, the same things as ordinary radio waves. Radar speed traps usually run in X-band, which is about 12GHz, and is usually generated with a Gunn diode with a 1/2 wave antenna poking into a piece of waveguide.

    In a Fiero, the hood - the *whole* hood - is plastic. Microwave energy will go right through it, hit the firewall behind, and bounce back to the gun. The Doppler effect (the same thing that makes a train whistle appear to change in pitch as it goes past you) is read by a computer which then calculates your speed and puts it on the display (and therefore onto the impending speeding ticket).

    Yes, the radiator - which is aluminum, and is angled at about 35-40 degrees forward - will reflect some of the energy toward the ground. But there'll be more than enough coming off the car's steel unibody for the cop to get a good read off you.

    And, no, the CD hanging from the rear view mirror doesn't stealth you from laser speed guns, despite the urban legend that every Home Boyzzz in a chainsaw-mufflered Integra seems to believe.

    Here's what you do if you want to avoid police radar: don't drive like an idiot. Speed limits are in place because many people aren't capable of driving faster than the speed limit on a given stretch of road. Actually, most people around here are probably marginally capable of a given speed limit at best.

    And if you must drive like an idiot, use brains. Look around the electronics surplus places for an old X-band magnetron. You don't need precision, you need one that fires. That's all. Probably your best bet for finding one is scrapped marine radar equipment.

    Then, you need a slotted antenna, and a right angled waveguide bend. Make sure that you put choke to flat as you're assembling it, and make sure all the surfaces are clean. You want the magnetron behind your radiator support and the antenna's slots facing the road in front of you. Put a big piece of heatshrink tubing over the slotted antenna to keep crap out of it. Relax, the heatshrink is transparent to microwave energy.

    Now, you need a radar detector (hide it but install it carefully) and a 12 volt strobe light. And a DC regulator that suits the filament voltage of your magnetron.

    Hook the voltage regulator up so that the magnetron's filament on whenever the ignition is on. Hook the strobe light's high voltage output across the magnetron's pulse leads (usually both the filament leads referenced to ground). Hook the strobe light up so that it starts firing when the radar detector detects something. Hide the whole arrangement so that it's invisible. The radar detector is legal, the rest of this is a big FCC fine if the cop wants to push it.

    What happens?

    The magnetron is a tube. Most marine magnetrons are rated between 2.5kW and 25kW of output power at 12GHz. Note that this is for a very short duty cycle pulsetrain. (In radar terms, this is the "trigger" pulse.) Now, like most tubes, the filament takes a few seconds to heat up, so you want this warm whenever the ignition is on.

    In driving, with the magnetron already nice and warm, the radar detector working, if a cop points a radar gun at you, the radar detector will turn on the strobe light circuit. However, instead of the strobe light, the strobe circuit pulses the magnetron and makes it fire. Net power output? Can't tell you, but you can calculate it from the strobe circuit's output voltage, capacitor ratings and the magnetron type you scored. Basically, though, it's gonna be short pulses of a *hell* of a lot more than the 100mW or so that the radar gun is firing at you. Peak power at the top of the pulses would probably be in the range of a kilowatt. RMS power probably under 5 watts. Way more than enough.

    You will foul the gun's receiver section. In fact, you could theoretically damage it.

    As for risks involved, you're running an unlicensed transmitter. You can be fined by the FCC for that. Health and safety? Don't stand in front of it when it's firing. No, it won't give you cancer, it's not ionizing radiation, but, like a microwave oven, the burn hurts *a lot*. Be careful of the high voltages you're using to pulse the magnetron.

    Credentials for telling you this? Take a look at my User Info here. Yeah, I work for Litton Marine Systems. Yeah, I do all sorts of really weird things for them, from computers to designing radar equipment. And yeah, I built one of these, and while I've tested it with a police radar gun, I've never had the balls to install it in a car. Oh, and yeah, I had a 1985 Fiero 2M4 SE, 5-speed transmission; bought it for $350 bucks and rebuilt the motor, replaced the clutch and changed all 6 balljoints in the suspension myself. I know those cars quite intimately.

    As for thwarting a laser speed trap? Get out the sandblaster and frost your windshield. Then paint the whole car, windows included, with flat black paint. I think this system may have adverse side effects, but it would work.

  • by Cederic (9623) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @11:41PM (#512479) Journal

    Rolling blackouts do not happen in all major metropolitan areas.

    They don't happen in London.
    They don't happen in Birmingham.
    They don't happen in Manchester.

    Oh, you mean all AMERICAN metropolitan areas?

    Personally I find it bewildering that the US is unable to produce enough power to keep going. Even though the UK is not always able to meet peak demands, when we do have a shortfall we can cover the extra by using spare capacity from France. Who in turn can call on half of Europe.

    If that can be done in Europe, where we don't even speak the same language, and have a history of hatred, xenophobia and kicking the French, I'm stunned that the US can't do the same.

    ~Cederic
  • In Japan, they also are running out of power. To compensate, they literally are throwing solar panels on everyone's roof they can. These installations are done by the power company for free with the understanding that any excess electricity goes to their grid for free. Blocks upon blocks of houses have been equipped like this.

    I wish I had a link to give out, but unfortunately I only know about this through seminars. Granted, solar panels are usually ugly (there are roof shingle versions, but they are expensive and output less power than the big ones), but would you rather be ugly with power, or beautiful without it?

  • The new Sun campus in Santa Clara has huge Onan diesel generators outside each building. We got to test them during an outage last summer. The grid dropped, and the gen sets kicked in about 30 seconds later. UPS protected systems were fine, everything else died and had to be rebooted. When the grid came back, there was no noticeable cutover brown-out. All in all, it worked well. All our critical systems are protected by UPS's. I was working on a docked laptop at the time, and just had to wait for my monitor to power back up. The laptop ran off it's battery while the gen set started. :-)

    Temkin

  • There are no rolling power outages. Shell Beach is across the bridge. And you, you will sleeeeeeeeeep... (smiles and extends hand across face as you close your eyes and fall to the ground)...
  • Now would be a prime time for GE and other companies to release their home power generation systems. They all work a bit differently, but the basic concept is that you slap this air-conditioner sized box in your garage, hook it up to some supply (hydrogen, propane, natural gas, etc...). The box runs the supply through the fuel cells and produces power for your home.

    Definitely the wave of the future.


    -
    The IHA Forums [ihateapple.com]
  • CNN is headquartered in none other than Conservative Atlanta, Georgia, hardly liberal.

    Georgia has a democratic governor and the Mayor of Atlanta has sued gun manufacturers for liability in the death of children shot by the weapons they made. Atlanta and the State of Georgia, are hardly some kind of liberal-free zone. CNN is a liberal news agency. Its creator, Ted Turner, is a liberal.

    It's up to you to decide if the word liberal has negative connotations.

  • I have to admit you have an interesting position. But you see, when you have a foreign country's internal policies affecting your own country, aren't your foreign policy/ambassadors supposed to say something to the other country? In other words, wouldn't you expect your canadian politicians to do something about it? Oh wait- that would invlove a spine within your contry's foreign policy department. So, that's more of a 'fuck you, canadian foreign policy'.

    California has a colossaly different eco-system, society, and economy than British Colombia. First off, the average person per square mile in BC is something like .01, where in CA it's something like 4. I am sure those aren't accurate numbers, but the metropolitan areas create a huge energey demand. Deregulation has failed us here in CA at this point. But CA has historically been far more progressive than other US states. It doesn't work? Ok, we'll figure it out and fix it. That makes it more of a 'Fuck you and the political system you rode in on.'

    As for the extinction of species, you need to do a little more geography. Your neighbors to the south have LA, San Francisco, San Diego, but last time I checked the rain forests that are being destroyed that are exctincting species is a little further south - like Brazil and other areas in that whole other continent (see Canadian Foreign Policy above). That makes this more of a 'Fuck you and your crack cocaine-based facts'.

  • by dubl-u (51156) <2523987012&pota,to> on Friday January 12, 2001 @12:18AM (#512506)
    When the topics are technical, Slashdot has a really good signal/noise ratio. Smart things get modded up; stupid things get modded down and/or stomped on.

    Here, though, we see what happens when it's a topic where people don't know much about. The volume is just as high, the opinions are just firm. But most people are just talking out their asses, and moderators are giving big points to Limbaugh-like rants without a scrap of fact in 'em.

    Since this article already has enough opinion, I'll just stick to a few facts and some interesting links.

    I live in San Francisco, so I've been following this closely. A very interesting site for the curious is the California Independent System Operator [caiso.com], an organization responsible for the long-distance high-voltage lines and the power that flows over them. They have a FAQ [caiso.com], a diagram that shows how the power flows [caiso.com], and an up-to-the-minute graph showing projected and actual power load [caiso.com]. (I say we all pick a time tomorrow to turn off everything and see if we can make the graph drop.)

    Personally, I use 100% renewable power from utility.com [utility.com]. (I actually pay less than others, but I'd happily pay more for my green preferences.) They are certified by Green-e [green-e.org], a non-profit that verifies the power content. (The typical mix for California uses only 12% [ca.gov] renewables, with 20% coal, 20% large hydroelectric, 31% natural gas, and 16% nuclear. (Yes, large hydroelectric is counted separately; it's not considered very environmentally friendly these days.)

    There are several good articles in the New York Times about all this, including one on following the money [nytimes.com]. There is also one on how Texas plans to do it differently [nytimes.com]. And as subscribers to The Economist [economist.com] know, California's deregulation was a pretty shoddy job compared to other utility deregulations around the world.

    So those of you who lay the blame entirely on environmental regs from California's own special blend of fruits, nuts, and flakes should research a little further. You'll find a picture that's much more interesting and complex: political dithering, a lack of foresight, corporate greed, and plenty of plain old stupidity are involved.
  • Couldn't be all the idiots that have thousands of computers running 24/7. Nor could it be all the fancy electric appliances, dishwashers, dryers, refrigerators, garage door openers. Nor could it be the fault of the consumers of not changing energy hogging ways, could it? Nope, its those darned environmentalists. Yep, them green sap suckin eco freaks that live in the woods with no electricity, plumbing, etc. Yep.. its all there fault.
  • I would like to know where all those whining enviornmentalists agaist nuclear power are now... IN THE DARK!! I guess they just love the luxury of having power now do they? ----- "There comes a time in life when you must take a piss in the sink." -Peter Ovalsky, Second Poem
  • > Thoroughly, California made its own mess and ought to be forced to wallow in it. You're all screwed and it's your own fault.

    So, the utilities vigorously opposed the 1996 legislation, and the governer only signed it because his hand was forced by anti-business interests?

    --
  • The head of L.A. Power saw this crisis coming. He did not join the bandwagon to deregulate. Now, L.A. customers don't have to worry about the blackouts. Also, L.A. is producing power for the rest of the grid at super inflated prices. This is one time deregulation turned into a massive failure.

    The core of the problem is basic business stupidity. All the new electricity resellers are bound by price controls. The high cost of of fuel means that they now have to sell for less than it costs to produce.

    Hence, blackouts. What a clusterf%!k!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    San Francisco is going to start rolling blackouts today!

    So? Several years ago, when I lived in the Baltimore area, I remember having rolling blackouts during the hottest parts of the summer because people were using all the available energy on air conditioning.
  • Not that simple. Add "hot water boils to make steam" and "steam exhaust from turbine is cooled to condense it to water" steps, or you cut the efficency down. Considerably.
  • by diane (304260) on Friday January 12, 2001 @12:46AM (#512525)
    Well, some of the environmentalist literature that I've read suggest that european equipment tends to be about twice as efficient as the amazingly wasteful american stuff. No I can't support that claim, other than perhaps americans just tend to waste too much by living in big houses, driving big cars, and just generally using stuff larger than they need.
  • by SlushDot (182874) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:49PM (#512531)
    You wanted:

    (1) no nuclear reactors (waste/safety issues)
    (2) no coal fired power plants (air emissions issues)
    (3) no diesel fired power plants (air emmissions again)
    (4) no hydroelectric plants (harms [cuddly species of the day]'s habitat)
    (5) in fact, no new power plants at all ("not in *my* backyard!")
    (6) you shut down existing plants from (1), (2), (3), and (4)
    (7) Solar and geothermal don't seem to work like you think... or at all (i.e., operate at a loss).

    Well, congrats... your air and water still suck. Species are still going extinct. You put all your eggs on natural gas which is now drying up and prices skyrocketing, you're freezing your asses off and whining about power shortages, high prices, and rolling bloackouts.

    And now you:

    (1) want continued legislation to FORCE other states to sell power to CA companies headed into bankruptcy? (Who wants to sell to deadbeats?)
    (2) Blame deregulation for the energy shortage! Can't have liberals blaming their eco legislation or (gasp!) call for repealing some of it.
    (3) Don't give a flying fuck that other states have to pollute more to keep CA on electrical welfare?

    Thoroughly, California made its own mess and ought to be forced to wallow in it. You're all screwed and it's your own fault.

    What will you do? Here's my prediction: Democrats will do ***NOTHING***. They'll sit and endure the rolling blackouts and come up with bullshit to justify them to the people. They will wait for republicans to propose building more power plants, and repealing the legislation preventing their construction. They will quietly vote to approve these measures amid much muttering and while speaking against it or more likely, will simply abstain on eco-law repealing bills to give republicans a majority (among remaining legislators who actually vote) to let the bills pass. Then when anyone, ANYONE complains about air quality or water pollution or nuclear waste in California they will "blame republicans for rolling back all our hard work to protect your environment." Saying they never voted to support that legislation. Yeah right.

    You want power? Then you have to get dirty *just* *like* *everyone* *else*. TANSTAAFL, you know?

    IMO, Republicans ought to continue the staredown with democrats until they start repealing their own legislation. Make the basterds squirm and swallow their own bullshit pride. As for the populations without power? Well, at least they'll learn what voting for liberals results in (stone age living) and will know better and teach their kids better in the future.

    Um, did I miss anything here?

    Free tip for CA denizens: The Plan to steal your cars from you via smog regs is already well underway. Start fighting it now. Basically it combines (1) smog check rules DESIGNED TO FAIL A PERCENTAGE of cars (with an eventual goal of 97% of all cars over 10 years old) with (2) rules that make it ILLEGAL to keep an unregistered vechicle on your property. (1) + (2) = State power to STEAL YOUR CARS and crush them into cubes. See http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/1223/sb42/smo gflyer_5.html [geocities.com] for more details.

  • > He did not join the bandwagon to deregulate.

    One thing's for sure, whether for good or ill: the deregulation movement in the USA has been set back 50 years by what's been happening in California. This is the first argument that will be brought up by anyone who wants to block a bid for deregulation.

    --
  • Recall the HomeGen 7000 system GE was said to have available sometime in 2001?. The Slashdot link can be found here [slashdot.org]. It looks very promising, all you need is a gas line and then you got instant electricity. If GE got these things out now in California, I'm sure alot of people would pay anything to get one..

    It appears that GE removed the product description off of their page however. If anyone is able to find a mirror or more info on GE's site, just reply to this comment and attach it. It's a pretty neat system.

    --Kumba
    "And all this vegetable world appeared on my left foot, as a bright sandal formed immortal of precious stones and gold: I stooped down and bound it on to walk forward through eternity." --Milton 21:4-14 (Bruce Dickinson's The Chemical Wedding: The Alchemist)
  • >So you're saying it's impossible to generate electricity for the needs of people without seriously polluting the environment? Hope you enjoy what you create.

    Maybe he is. It's not nice. But "not nice" doesn't mean "not true". Deal.

    Paranoid conspiracy for the day: Gov. Davis has talked about using the power of eminent domain to seize generating assets. That's loony stuff.

    But what do you suppose happens when PG&E and Edison International go bankrupt (as a direct result of Davis' inaction)? If you're a creditor, maybe $0.10 on the dollar for the assets looks pretty good.

    Davis "nationalizes" the assets for pennies on the dollar. Becuase there are more sheeple who'll think he's "saving them" than shareholders whom he'll have buggered with a megawatt-powered dildo.

    Aaw... fuck if I care, I've got PCG and EIX put options. Already taken enough off the table to pay for my electric bill no matter what the liberals do.

    That's the funny part about governments buggering shareholders to "save the people". The gummints get the votes. But there's always a buck to be made off the decline.

    I'd still rather live in a state where enviro-w33nbag laws just allowed alternate power generators to fire 'em up and let 'em rip. Or better yet, where we had nuclear plants that produce zero emissions to begin with. But hey, if the enviro-freaks wanna slaughter my state's generators, the least I can do is pick up a few bucks from the corpse.

    Wonder how many "poor people" have the same opportunity? (Ah, liberals, gotta love 'em for savin' the poor once again!)

  • Not to mention the fact that with all their air-cond, huge fridge, big lighting, etc... the average american use twice as much energy as the average west-european, whose level of comfort is not so much different.

    Oh I forgot, everyone pointing those facts is an anti-american green comie propagating false rumors. Everyone NEEDS a big SUV.
  • ...if there's bad weather regionally or nationwide, there might not _be_ any excess to buy.

    Actually, bad weather leads to more electricity being produced, in our parts of the world. But then 55-60% from our power stems from hydro :>

    Thanks for the interesting elaboration

  • Well... my obvious thought was that cars do it...

    And, well, this kind of resource wasn't available for 'decades', ultra efficient flywheels.

    IIRC, it was Roseman Motors, or someone similar, doing research on ultra high speed ultra efficient flywheels?

    You are a dork. Oh well.

    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • by .@. (21735) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:04PM (#512561) Homepage
    Rolling blackouts happen. They've happened in Silicon Valley before, they happen in all major metropolitan areas.

    I used to be the senior Unix admin for the largest nuclear power company in the US. Here's the abridged version of how these things happen:

    1) There's a huge stock-market-like brokerage for energy across the USA.

    2) Power companies are basically market players, betting on energy futures. They use data to predict the energy usage for a given day, and buy any they can't produce to cover the overage.

    3) Power companies, like any other entity trying to predict a nonlinear chaotic system, fail miserably from time to time, and they end up eating into their reserves.

    4) The power companies, in coordination with state and local governments, have contingency plans in place that ensure there's enough energy left in the reserves to maintain critical and emergency services, even though it may mean halting delivery to all other customers.

    5) In the meantime, the brokers at the power companies frantically try to buy extra energy from the brokerages. But it's a free market, and last-minute ergs cost much, much more than those bought with foresight. Further, it's a finite resource...if there's bad weather regionally or nationwide, there might not _be_ any excess to buy. So you're stuck depleting your reserves, and hoping the hospitals, police, and other infrastructure components don't go dark longer than their backup systems can cover.

    It's common. And it's going to get worse in all major metropolitan areas over the next 10-20 years. Get used to it.
  • >Let's try implementing things like solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power on a large scale before we conclude nuclear fission is environmentally friendly.

    Solar: And this helps you heat your home at night... how? (Note that we don't yet have superconducting storage batteries. Nor do we have cheap photovoltaics.) And this helps the Midwest and the North... how?

    Wind: And you're saying that there's enough land mass for wind farms? And you're saying the same envirol00ns won't oppose the wind farms for the measurable impact they have on bird behavior? And this helps anyone living anywhere but the coastal mountains... how?

    Geothermal: Nice idea, but not enough unless you're Iceland or Hawaii. (Come to think of it, all three put together aren't enough, but that's really the problem, ain't it?)

    Nuclear: All the power you want, when you want it, 24/7/365. And unlike the preceding three, scalable.

    Hate to break it to you, but there are real scalability problems with any zero-emission technology other than nuclear fission.

  • >The Altamont farms produce most during summer nights when there is relatively constant and predictable wind blowing from the coast into the Valley.

    ...and regrettably, that's precisely when demand for power is lowest!


  • I'd recommend wiring one of these to your UPS when expecting long blackouts. Its a 12V, 125Ah marine battery and each one added should provide several hours of entertainment and lighting when the grid's out.

    For sure, that's a great idea.

    However, you don't need to specify marine batteries: Around here, Wal*Mart sells deep cycle batteries primarily meant for electric trolling (fishing) motors. They're off the shelf, relatively cheap (<$100) and will happily power an appropriate UPS.

    If you can't find that, you can use a car battery, if need be. But a car battery doesn't like to be completely discharged; the plates are designed for short-duty high current use (starting the engine).

    Deep cycle = best bet. Car battery = in a pinch.

    If your UPS's existing battery has 6 cells (12V), this will work. If your UPS battery has 12 cells (24V), you'll need to put two batteries in series. If you want more battery time, put two (or more) batteries in parallel. Any good auto parts store will sell the cables and battery terminal posts. If you're mixing batteries, it's a very good idea to make sure that the batteries you connect together are identical and charged to the same level. Otherwise, you get into situations where one battery charges another.

    Generators optional.

    Your car is a great way of replenishing the batteries if you've got a long blackout. Just remember that your alternator is not designed for use as a battery charger: if the battery is really dead, it's best to wait until the power is back on and use the real charger. And if you've got a bunch of batteries in parallel and they're all low, charge them one at a time: Alternators can be expensive to replace.

    Another suggestion, which I built for my parents who were affected by the Great Ottawa Ice Storm a few years ago. A car battery, a 1970s GM internal regulator alternator, a Briggs and Stratton gas engine and one of those Statpower AC inverters (500 watt rated) - all screwed to a board - were able to provide enough power for them to use lights (sparingly) and be able to watch TV and stuff.

  • You still ignore the whole issue of economics-as-motivation. Please allow me to restate his argument, and perhaps add a bit of my own commentary. Note, btw, that while I use "natural gas" and "electricity" as two power sources here, I don't really mean to refer to them specifically. The economics work with any two sources.

    If it's extremely expensive to heat your home by gas, those who can no longer afford to use gas will switch to electricity or other sources. This is a Good Thing, because (if the market is untampered with) the relative prices of different means of heating accurately reflects their costs. That is to say, at such time as it becomes cheaper to heat a home with electricity, either:

    • The cost of generating or using electricity has gone down. This may be due to the creation of a new reactor, increased equipment efficiency, etc.
    • The cost of gas has gone up -- likely due to scarcity. It may be that increased population has raised demand, that natural sources are running dry, or for many other reasons. In short, though, a major increase in the price of gas reflects a Good Reason why people should use less gas.
    Note that I said "use less gas", not "continue to take current measures like turning off the heat when out of the house" (which is apparently what you think is justified when your gas bills are at $98, but likely less than what you'd think appropriate at $400). At the higher prices, it may seem more appropriate to pay the costs involved in alternate energy sources or other, more serious ways of reducing your gas production. You may turn off your heat in any event. You won't change your home's heating system unless it saves you more than it costs. Here's the thing: If it saves you more than it costs, then it's worthwhile -- not just for you, but for society as a whole.

    Which is to say: If natural gas is so scarce or electricity so plentiful and efficient that natural gas is not the most cost-effective way to heat your home, then using natural gas to heat homes is either wasteful of an increasingly rare resource, or outdated in comparison to newer and more efficient methods. Making natural gas's prices artificially low encourages people to use this method, even if it's outdated or draining on limited resources.

    And btw, I'm fully aware of the whole cold fusion research situation. I don't see what it has to do with this discussion.

  • by BigBlockMopar (191202) on Friday January 12, 2001 @05:37AM (#512573) Homepage

    I wouldn't sit a car battery right on my carpet. At least get one of those plastic battery cases to contain any acit that might leak out (esp while charging the battery).

    A fast food tray is enough. I occasionally bring a cold battery in from outside to charge it. Theoretically, acid shouldn't leak out while you're charging - if it does, you're charging it too hard and the escaping hydrogen is pushing the acid out of the cells where it spills to the floor.

    Having said that, batteries aren't always perfectly sealed, even with the caps on the cells...

    If you hear your battery making noises like a frothy bubbling sound, stop charging: you're overcharging it. Be careful that the switch on the charger is *below* the battery, because the frothy bubbling is lighter-than-air and extremely flammable hydrogen. Do not smoke near the battery.

    Make sure that wherever it is that you're charging the battery, you've got it well ventilated. I always wear a pair of safety glasses and keep a box of baking soda around just in case the battery blows up. And it does happen. It looks like the Hindenburg, only smaller, and shooting hot sulphuric acid around.

    When you're using the battery, you can worry a little less about ventilation: they only give it off when they're being charged.

    Remember that a lead-acid battery, however inelegant and unrefined they may be, packs a hell of a lot of energy in a small space. You don't want to release that energy without being careful how it's controlled. A good car battery can make a 1/4" diameter screwdriver shank glow bright cherry red in under 5 seconds. And I've seen an engineer lose a finger because the iron pinky ring that engineers wear got shorted across a car battery. Red hot iron ring around a finger = amputated finger.

    Be careful and respectful of the power of a battery.

  • I'm already doing that, thank you very much!

    No halogens, half my house is 25W flourescent, I don't do Christmas lights, my computers are off at night when I'm not home, etc.

    So, what's my next step? I still have to face the stupid power problems. What else can I do? I'm planning on replacing my windows with double paned low E versions, upgrading my ventilation with a HRV unit sometime. I can go as low as I want, but if that means everyone else starts to use it instead, I want a solution that helps to loosely couple me from the rest of the problems. A 24 hour energy cache would be marvelous, but I'm not sure that can even be accomplished!

    So, what other suggestions do you have?

    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • Isn't that like asking "Everyone not here, please raise your hand?"

    ---
  • Accually we do know what to do with the waste. However fear of normal nuclear plants may be less today, but fear of recycling the waste isn't going down. That waste is almost fully recycelable, if anyopne cares to do it.

    The US military recycles all their nuclear waste, but it is illegal for non-military waste to be used for military purposes. Likewise the French recycle all their waste and don't have a problem. (I think only the US has a waste problem)

  • I work in San Mateo (20 minutes south of SF), and we've been watching these [caiso.com] all day. Our major systems are all ups'd, but it would still suck to be without power.....
  • >Stupid Intel chips use too much power. If all the hot Silicon Valley companies would switch to PowerPC chips, power consumption would go way down. :-)

    Five minutes of blackout (well, 5 minutes beyond what their backup generators can bear) at Intel's fab oughta do the trick ;-)

  • > The politicians are trying to blame the free market to cover for their own problems.

    From this http://www.local.org/californ.html [local.org] (emphasis mine) -
    The California House and Senate have passed legislation to deregulate the state's electric industry and
    to force California ratepayers and taxpayers to pay $27 billion to bail out the state's three investor-owned utilities. The measure represents a major victory for the utility industry and Wall Street, and a major setback for consumers and local communities, who face a decade of utility bill surcharges and restrictions that will prevent most Californians from getting access to competitively priced power.

    The bill passed unanimously in both the Assembly and Senate. But many parties feel blindsided after expeting the bill to die. Although the $27 billion bailout made in the bill bill compares to the Savings and Loan crisis in sheer dollar volume, it received little press coverage the following day other than reports of a promised ten percent rate reduction for residents and small businesses.

    The Bill, allegedly giving customers a "choice" about electricity suppliers, contains provisions which lock residents and small businesses with the monopoly utilities until 2002. Beyond 2002 the Bill adds hurdles that customers must jump before leaving the monopoly, making it likely that only a few will benefit even then.
    Oh, yeah. That was written in 1996, between the time the legislation was passed and the time it was signed.

    Then there's this report [ucan.org], apparently dating to just before the legislation took effect in early 1998 (subtitled "Offering the Worst of What Competition Has to Offer Small Customers") -
    The California law requiring competition for electric service by January 1998 will lead to little meaningful competition for the small business or residential customer during 1998.


    The report, compiled after a 26-day survey of 132 electric service providers registered with California Public Utilities Commission, will serve as the first of an on-going evaluation of the electric market.

    Of the 132 companies contacted:

    - 20% of the registered companies are not providing service at all;
    - 17% of the companies plan to provide service exclusively to business customers;
    - 34% of the companies are difficult to contact and did not return UCAN's' phone calls (we called each provider at least two times).
    - 21% (28 in total) companies are offering electric service to residential customers in California.

    Of the 28 companies that are providing service to residential customers:

    - 32% of the companies have no information on planned rates;
    - 26% of the companies have viable service offers;
    - 74% of the companies have questionable or extremely questionable service offers;
    - 18% of the companies are offering "green" power only
    Then there's this piece from a Greenpeace consultant [thenation.com], which Netscape's show page info dates to before December '98 -
    But in California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and other state legislatures, consumer and environmental interests have so far been routed by utility lobbyists.


    What galls California consumer groups most is AB1890's $28.5 billion stranded-cost bailout, much of which is for PG&E's Diablo Canyon reactors and Southern California Edison's San Onofre nuclear plant. "The manufacturers cut a backroom deal granting themselves preferential rates and giving the utilities a massive nuclear bailout, plus all sorts of corporate welfare, before the public had the slightest idea of what was going on," says Dan Berman, an energy expert and co-author of Who Owns the Sun?

    The legislature's package contains no funding for consumer advocacy groups, but it does allow a staggering $89 million for industry advertising.

    With California as a model, the pro-utility tide at the state level has thus far been overwhelming. "AB1890 was a mugging," says Charlie Higley, a senior energy analyst with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project. "Then Pennsylvania was a mugging. Massachusetts was a mugging. The industry just owns too many state legislatures."

    Representative Tom DeLay of Texas last year [1997?] proposed what some call the "Enron Bill," which would ban stranded costs from being passed along altogether, a position shared by the right-wing, "free market" Heritage Foundation. Enron had bitterly opposed stranded costs as a barrier to competition in California. But then it bought Oregon's Portland Gas & Electric, which wants a bailout for its failed Trojan reactor. Demonstrating the complexity of cross-interests, observers note that "suddenly Enron's attack on stranded costs has been muted."
    And here's another oldie (Oct '98) from Salon [salon.com] -
    An epic $30 million-plus California electoral war over billions in utility subsidies has bitterly divided the national environmental community.


    It also handed the state's three dominant utilities -- Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric -- some $28.5 billion to subsidize capitalinvestments in generators unable to produce electricity cheap enough to sell competitively in a market increasingly dominated by inexpensive natural gas. In the California market, the investments were concentrated in two nuclear reactors at San Onofre, between San Diego and Los Angeles, and two more at Diablo Canyon, outside San Luis Obispo. According to their owners, these plants would almost certainly shut down in the face of cheaper juice coming from generators powered by methane.

    [Q: What is the current status of these generators?]

    "Prop. 9 voids the bond sale on which the phony rebate is based," says Gunther. "It ends the stranded cost rip-off. It demands the utilities compete on an even playing field, which they obviously don't want to do." Prop. 9 also has the support of the Sierra Club, Consumer's Union and the League of Women Voters.

    According to campaign filings, the utilities have already raised almost $30 million to defeat Prop. 9, and have lined up some 2,000 organizations, including industrial and retail trade organizations, chambers of commerce, both major parties, most elected officials, the state's major unions and many of its civic and ethnic coalitions as well as certain environmental groups. "They've called in every favor they've bought over many years of carefully giving out donations," says Gunther. "They've gone all out."

    Prop. 9's supporters have raised well under $500,000, and Gunther predicts the utilities will "outspend us 100 to 1, maybe more. It shows how much they stand to gain."

    "The utilities have spent so much now the only thing they might prove is you can buy a referendum with unlimited money," says Hauter.

    The above are small excerpts from full-sized articles; you may want to read them in full if you are interested in the history of this mess. I found them by googling for AB1890, and preferentially read the older ones that turned up.

    And yes, you're right: the CA legislature did screw up. But they're hardly the only ones who supported the deal and are now avidly trying to find someone else to blame.

    --
  • I'd recommend wiring one of these to your UPS [attaway.org] when expecting long blackouts. Its a 12V, 125Ah marine battery and each one added should provide several hours of entertainment and lighting when the grid's out. Generators optional.
  • the relative prices of different means of heating accurately reflects their costs

    No it doesn't... it reflects the cost of production/extraction, not the cost to mankind as a whole when the environment is destroyed. That's were regulation and the governement come into play, as only them can fix the price of environement degradation (but it seems it doesn't do so in many country unfortunately).

    If environmental cost was reflected into petrol prices, we would all use hydrogen/air presure/whatever-energy cars instead of relying on gas to go around. And all power plant would run on nuclear too (because let's face it, it's much easier to dispose of a few radioactive waste than of billions of tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere)
  • >Can a energy cache be built and maintained? [flywheel, etc]

    Yes, but not yet.

    If we can mass-produce high-temperature superconducting wire, we can build your idealized energy storage device.

    For large enough tanks of liquid nitrogen, I think we may actually be at that point - there are a couple of superconductor firms that are building prototypes of "generators" that are basically trailer-truck-sized tanks of superconducting coils. Load 'em up with power when it's cheap. Sit 'em in the yard, bleeding a small amount of current out of 'em to run the motors that keep the LN3 cool until a $DISASTER strikes. Drive 'em to the disaster site and plug 'em in.

    (Of course, if there's ever a coolant leak while the things are fully-charged, get the hell outa dodge...)

  • Most enviromentalists seem so focused on the negatives of nuclear power and research, that they don't realize that it is one of the most enviromentally friendly answers to electricity out their.

    Let's try implementing things like solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power on a large scale before we conclude nuclear fission is environmentally friendly.
  • This is EXACTLY what America does, just think of each state as an individual country. America, as a whole, has plenty of power. California, by itself, does not. Stupid, dumbass regulators imposed a price freeze on how much power companies can sell electricity for, which is significantly below what they would have to pay to buy out of state electricity. As a result, California is out of power. The COUNTRY is not, just as Europe will probably never run out of power, but California is, because precisely as you said, from time to time we have to buy electricity from neighboring states.
  • by SpiceWare (3438) on Friday January 12, 2001 @05:51AM (#512600)
    California is requiring a certain percentage of all cars sold to be "non-polluting"(what a joke - the power's got to be generated SOMEWHERE - so there WILL BE pollution) which has been taken to mean electric cars.

    Auto makers will be heavily fined if they don't meet the minimum percentage; however, I find it hard to believe that people are going to run out to buy electric cars if they won't be able to charge them whenever they need to(which will be quite often due to the limited range).

  • I was visiting the HP facility in Cupertino last summer when the temperature starting hitting 115F, and the demand from air conditioning units was just too great. What I hadn't realised was that major power consumers (like HP) get maybe 15-30 minutes warning, and the chance to close things down. There's clearly a protocol within HP as to how to deal with this, as only a few people were running round like lunatics shutting things down. Most people were turning off their workstations and wondering if they should just head off a couple of hours only, particularly those in cubicles some way from natural light.

    On a related note, 115F really _is_ too hot.
  • In my country (The Netherlands) several utility companies now offer two kinds of power: 'conventionally' generated and 'environmentally clean' power. The former is generated mostly by natural-gas fired plants, the latter is generated by wind/sun/tidal/etc. generators. The environmentally 'clean' power is a little more expensive, but that does not keep people from choosing this option. Why, you ask? Well, probably because people know that there are more ways to calculate the cost of energy besides tallying the electric bills. If you add up the EXTRA costs from environmental damage caused by traditional power plants (even natural-gas fired, relatively clean as they may be), you'll probably end up with higher costs than the 'environmentally friendly' generated power.

    If you sign a contract with the utility company for 'natuurstroom' ('natural power'), they do not rewire your house so that the power actually comes from windmills etc. Instead, they guarantee that they will add to the amount of your power consumption in environmentally friendly power generation capacity in one form or another. Where I live (in the 'polder' (reclaimed land)) this probably means wind generators. Elsewhere, it might means a tidal power plant, etc.

    Of course, you have to trust the utility to actually make good on their promises. The contract you sign is co-signed by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), who are supposed to be a 'trusted third party' to alleviate any doubts you may have about the utility company (which is, after all, a purely commercial entity in The Netherlands...).

    Maybe a system like this would work for environmentally-conscious California as well?
  • Most of the *really* smart geeks live in parts of the Valley that don't charge $2k-$3k for 800 sq. ft. apartments with 3-year waiting lists.

    They live in other areas of the valley, where that much money will get you a 1,000 sq. ft. apartment, with only a 1-2 year waiting list.

    SF's nothing but web hacks and other New Media types. The engineers, admins, architects, and designers are on the Peninsula and in East and South Bay.

    ...and when the media says "SF", they mean "SF Bay Area". That includes /. See http://www.caiso.com/SystemStatus.html for details. NANOG-L held that the first would occur in RWC, home of MAPS, @Home, and others. But then, they were scheduled for 4-8pm PST, and it's 9 minutes after that deadline, with no outages.
  • Recycle? Into what? France has tried to use it in what's called 'surgenerators'. *Extremely* costly, dangerous, it's being dismantled after having cost billions of $$$.

    There's no easy way to get rid of nuclear waste; the doable thing is to put them in a place far far away. Expensive, and you have to keep in mind that those wastes are still going to be dangeous in thousands of years. Who knows what's going to happen in the mean time? (Think, earthquake).


    --

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @10:46PM (#512614)
    Speaking of envirol00nz, aren't we all glad the electric car hasn't caught on? I mean, if you thought gas[oline] prices had gone up...

    (Yeah yeah, actually I think electric and hybrid vehicles are pretty cool... it's just that we'd be completely hozed, as opposed to just somewhat screwed, if the "targets" for ZEVs had actually been met...)

  • You are correct that Diablo Canyon exists and is nuclear and provides power. You missed the part about it being the reason why there are no more nuclear plants being built in the US. It was designed in the 60s to cost a few hundred million USD. Somewhere around the beginning of construction my father (a geologist) pointed out the existence of a nearby offshore fault to a PG&E engineer over dinner (or something like that). Combine that and the resulting litigation with some not so minor construction issues and you have a state of the art power plant that cost almost $10,000,000 in 1970's era dollars instead of. That killed nuclear power in California. It's never had a problem but the industry is never going to take that kind of financial risk again.
  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Friday January 12, 2001 @02:01AM (#512617) Homepage
    Ah, the mandatory Slashdot liberal-bashing, anti-environmenal rant.

    Well, congrats... your air and water still suck. Species are still going extinct. You put all your eggs on natural gas which is now drying up and prices skyrocketing,

    Typical anti-environmentalist propaganda. Because a few environmental regulations that managed to squeeze by intense corporate lobbying and Republican opposition don't suddenly solve all the environmental problems in the world they should be repealed? Here's a question; what would the air quality be like without these emissions laws? Of course, the typical right-wing reaction to environmental problems has always been to a) spread FUD and personal attacks, and b) ignore the problem (what pollution?). They ignore the science, they ignore quality of life issues, all in an insane attempt to squeeze out a little bit more money for the corporations. The right has no environmental policy other than to pretend it doesn't exist. And natural gas is drying up? How come I haven't seen headlines to that effect? It would be a news item a lot more significant than California's energy shortages.

    you're freezing your asses off and whining about power shortages, high prices, and rolling bloackouts.

    Freezing? Yes, we all know what a tundra California is. And anyone "whining" about high prices has been doing it for a while, since the end-user pricing is set by the government.

    (2) Blame deregulation for the energy shortage! Can't have liberals blaming their eco legislation or (gasp!) call for repealing some of it.

    The "deregulation" involved freeing up the price utility companies pay the power generators; the cost to the end user is fixed by the government. Something which the utility companies fought for so they wouldn't have to risk actually seeing their prices go down to competition. Kind of backfired on them; they figured they'd make out better in the end if they didn't have to lower prices, and gambled that they wouldn't have the price they pay for the energy themselves shoot up. Of course the ultimate origin of the energy shortage is simply the fact that too many people are using it; logical thing would be to (gasp!) limit use, and since nobody seems to be too interested in doing that it has to be forced (i.e. blackouts). The bizarre thing is that companies who will obsess over every little expense their business runs up see nothing wrong in leaving the lights, air conditioning, and computers on all night when nobody's there.

    Free tip for CA denizens: The Plan to steal your cars from you via smog regs is already well underway. Start fighting it now. Basically it combines (1) smog check rules DESIGNED TO FAIL A PERCENTAGE of cars (with an eventual goal of 97% of all cars over 10 years old) with (2) rules that make it ILLEGAL to keep an unregistered vechicle on your property. (1) + (2) = State power to STEAL YOUR CARS and crush them into cubes.

    Are those capitalized words supposed to inspire shock and a surge of emotion? There is a terrible air pollution problem in California; the emissions standards are designed to alleviate this. Very few older cars may be able to pass these inspections. Whether your car's driving on your property or on the highways, it's still polluting a common resource; the air we breathe. Or would you accept it if someone moves next door to you and starts burning huge piles of tires 24 hours a day (why not? it's on his property!)

    In the end, as much as the right tries to make it all sound like some secret conspiracy, auto emissions standards in California didn't just appear out of nowhere; they've been a topic of conversation for years, and the voters of California chose their representatives. This isn't some shadowy liberal plan; the majority of people there decided they wanted a cleaner environment, so they voted that way.

    --
  • Well, congrats... your air and water still suck.

    Of course it may be true that the air is still dirty in an absolute sense, but that does not mean that the pollution regulation has been a failure. Air quality (at least in Southern California) has gotten dramatically better, as anyone who has either A) examined any statistics about air quality or B) actually lived there for an extended period can tell you. But I guess that people like you who favor pollution can't possibly grasp the idea that Californians as a group both understand the consequences of and are willing to pay the costs of our expensive anti-pollution legislation. That would destroy your idea that anyone should be allowed to pollute to their hearts' content without consequence.

    (2) Blame deregulation for the energy shortage! Can't have liberals blaming their eco legislation or (gasp!) call for repealing some of it.

    Gee, a system that allows power producers to charge essentially unlimited prices but doesn't allow the resellers to pass the costs on to consumers (and doesn't allow long term contracts to prevent price gouging during peak consumption periods) couldn't have anything to do with the resellers going bankrupt could it? No, the fault must be exclusively with environmental regulations, since you don't like them. Damn the facts, full speed ahead.

    What will you do? Here's my prediction: Democrats will do ***NOTHING***. They'll sit and endure the rolling blackouts and come up with bullshit to justify them to the people. They will wait for republicans to propose building more power plants, and repealing the legislation preventing their construction.

    Well, guess what. You're wrong. California's Democratic administration has reversed the policy of the previous Republican one and started giving approval for new power plant construction already. But don't worry and let silly things like facts get in the way of your rants. Go ahead and imagine what's happening instead of bothering to do any research to find out. You wouldn't want inconvenient data to interfere with your theories.

  • > I get slight brownouts all the time that (without a UPS) are just enough to reset my computer... It really pisses me off, but a small UPS fixes it right up!

    I never realized how unstable my neighborhood power was until I bought a UPS. I bought it due to frequent thunderstorm blackouts, and it's only good for about 5 minutes. But it beeps whenever it cuts in, and tips me off to micro-brownouts that don't even make the lights flicker.

    I get them like clockwork on summer mornings, a little earlier each day as it gets hotter, presumably indicating when enough air conditioners are on to make the reserve capacity have to kick in. But I get them lots of other random times, too.

    --
  • by god, did I say that (253932) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:11PM (#512632)

    I would like to know where all those whining enviornmentalists agaist nuclear power are now... IN THE DARK!!


    Not necessarily a bad place to be. One of the results of the famous New York City blackout of a few decades ago was the ludicrous hike in that city's birth rate 9 months later :-)

    Course, we're talking about San Francisco, here, which is a completely different basket of fruit.

    --

  • by divec (48748) on Friday January 12, 2001 @02:37AM (#512651) Homepage
    You're quite right. The problem in California is not that the government has realised the environment is an asset with value. The problem is that they won't let the laws of supply and demand kick in and raise the price of polluting for the consumer. If people aren't paying for the damage they do then market economics can't work its magic.
  • by divec (48748) on Friday January 12, 2001 @02:47AM (#512660) Homepage
    It's called private property. Perhaps you've heard of it? There are these nifty ideas called "property rights" too.

    Remember, the whole point of government is to provide the public with services -- not to protect them from themselves. Even if it would improve my health if you steal my car -- pay me or not -- it still isn't Morally Right.

    The point is, when you drive your car, you damage *my* air supply, *my* environment etc.. So you're infringing *my* property rights. I [should] have a right to stop you doing that, or at least a say.
  • by dtr21 (120759) on Friday January 12, 2001 @02:48AM (#512669)

    Over here in Eurpoe, we've had emissions control for years now. The Government occasionally runs ads encouraging people to use less energy. And shock horror the majority of people I know support environmental regulations

    Why? Because we appreciate that there are finite amounts of resources, and that we have to manage not squander them. I'm fed up of hearing from Americans how bad environmental regulations are because "they hurt our bottom line." Another piece of myth designed by right wing Conservatives who are too afraid of change.

    Car sales are still doing well, few people object to having to ditch the old cars (many of which are far more dangerous, less fuel efficient, have fewer features, and require lots of expensive maintenance anyway) and recycling initiatives are growing. Hardly the "Corporate Nightmare" the Conservatives would have you believe.

  • by DrHyde (134602) on Friday January 12, 2001 @02:58AM (#512676) Homepage
    Just compare living standards in .uk and .us (approximately the same) with power consumption per head in the two countries. .uk used 331.482 billion kWh in 1998; .us used 3.365 trillion kWh - as near as damnit ten times as much. .uk population is approx 60 million; .us population is apprx 276 million - 4.6 times as much. Therefore power consumption per head is a shade over twice as much in .us as in .uk.

    Yep, I'd say that explains why London doesn't have rolling blackouts. Well, that and the fact that it is possible to have sensible regulations, something which many .us commentators fail to realise when they voice their kneejerk reaction that regulation is doomed to failure.

    All figures from http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/
  • by BigBlockMopar (191202) on Friday January 12, 2001 @06:45AM (#512685) Homepage

    There is a terrible air pollution problem in California; the emissions standards are designed to alleviate this.

    There is a terrible energy crisis in California. What I propose is designed to alleviate this. Read on.

    Very few older cars may be able to pass these inspections.

    Very few 17" or greater monitors use as little energy as a 15" monitor.

    Whether your car's driving on your property or on the highways, it's still polluting a common resource; the air we breathe.

    Whether your monitor is being used to surf the web or for kernel-bashing, it's still using excess energy on a common resource, the electrical grid.

    Therefore, I propose that we have a law that bans people from being able to connect to the Internet if they have a monitor bigger than 15".

    Further, as the next phase of the program, I propose that if we *see* a 17" or bigger monitor in someone's home, we remove it from their property because destroying these energy wasting and inefficient big monitors will serve the greater good.

    Scared yet? This is *exactly* what is done to those of us who love and cherish old cars. Even if you have no interest in old cars, you've got to realize what a profound and dangerous reduction in personal freedoms this is.

    I'm all for clean air. That's why I maintain my vehicles well. Old vehicles don't count for a huge percentage of the miles travelled. Old age, wear and accidents control the quantities of old vehicles on the road quite effectively as it is, and without an erosion of your freedom or mine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:23PM (#512712)
    The science is there. The problems these days are political in nature.
    First you have waste disposal, which is a much nicer problem with nuclear power plants than with say coal. Nuclear plants produce less waste and conveniently locate it in one place so that it can be properly managed. Coal plants, in contrast, spew their waste all over the place. The waste from a coal plant is a much _larger_ problem but one that's easier to ignore. And no matter what ignorant environmentalists would like you to believe, nuclear waste isn't inherently any worse, or more dangerous, than other kinds of toxic waste that we have to deal with all the time. The solution is to lock it up in the ground in an appropriate place, and there are lots of areas that are appropriate. The problem is entirely political; people don't mind so much a toxic chemical waste dump, but they're afraid of a nuclear one because of the word "nuclear". And for some reason I don't understand, they'd rather breathe toxic waste every day than have it locked up in the ground where it MIGHT, *possibly*,
    one day, leak out and harm the water quality in the area (as if nobody would notice, and as if there aren't ways of resolving that).
    As for newer, cleaner plants, the political problem there is that you end up with a lot more material that could be used to make nuclear weapons. It's as simple as that... fuel and waste from a conventional plant are almost totally useless in weapons production, and the modern reactors would produce some amounts of material that would potentially be useful for making bombs. Not that there is really much of anyone who has a real use for a nuclear weapon and doesn't already have it.
    Thank you for your time.
  • by cluge (114877) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:37PM (#512724) Homepage
    Things to remember in these situations

    • If it affects me it's more important than anything else in the world, and someone better fix it!
    • If the TV/Paper/Radio tells me it's so and so's fault I will believe it
    • I want mroe power produced now GOD DAMN IT
    • No nuclear power please
    • No power plant within 500 miles of where I am cause thats my back yard
    • No hydro electric, and why you are at it tear down those stupid damns. The fish can't have sex
    • You May NOT under any circumstances burn ANYTHING to produce power
    • Oh yeah, and deliver my new SUV gasguzzler mobile with electric everything to the new house with 1.2million electric appliances in them

    Uhm, gee sparky, lets do the math. Is anyone suprised that there might be a problem with atitudes like those above? Lets try to be a LITTLE bit sensible. AND by the way, the CA power situation was PARTIALLY deregualted. So saying that the free market is the problem is not entirely correct, saying that deregualtion is the problem is not entirely correct. Sayint that stupidity and ingnorance is the problem would be correct.

  • by sulli (195030) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:34PM (#512784) Journal
    I remember well when there was a real, unplanned blackout in San Francisco for about 6 hours. It happened back in 1998 [sfgate.com] - it was quite a surreal experience.

    I was working from home that day and discovered that my ISDN line didn't work (used that at the time for telecommuting); but this happened frequently on my block (unreliable power [sfgate.com]) so I figured I'd just go to the office. I went out to the car, and when I discovered that the electric buses didn't work, and the streetlights were out, it became obvious that nobody was going anywhere. My neighborhood coffee shop ran out of hot coffee very quickly, as EVERYONE needed some [sfgate.com], and so I distinctly remember carrying home pre-ground french roast to make with my stovetop espresso maker.

    It turned out that PG&E (that poor, suffering company in the news these days) had massively fucked up a maintenance job: [sfgate.com]

    The problem, utility officials said, originated with a PG&E construction crew error during the installation of a new transformer at the San Mateo substation. The crew violated procedures and neglected to remove a safety ground wire before re-energizing that portion of the substation.

    When the switch was thrown, electricity bypassed four 115,000-volt lines that supply power to the Peninsula and San Francisco and instead plowed into the ground.

    Fortunately the circuit breakers did their thing and prevented all sorts of chaos (other than power loss) on the power grid. But PG&E certainly did not make a good impression that day!

  • by MemRaven (39601) <kirkNO@SPAMkirkwylie.com> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @07:45PM (#512790)
    Uhm, hate to spoil you with this, but in my understanding, the energy market deregulation was a last-ditch effort by a bunch of people who were just (about to be?) turned out of office in droves.

    The Republican-controlled state legislature AND governor's mansion have since been replaced with Democrat-controlled legislature and governor. When the legislation to deregulate passed, the GOP knew the writing was on the wall.

    I hate to tell you this, but we knew not to trust the bastards, and they got us in the end. Blame that CA state GOP, not the voters.

  • While we haven't had blackouts yet, my electric bill is up about 300% since start of deregulation

    To compare the cost of a solar power system (or wind or water power) to grid power:

    - Design a system adequate for your needs.
    - Compute its lifetime.
    - Compute its cost, including purchase price, consumables, and maintainence costs over its lifetime.
    - Compute the monthly payment if you took out a loan for that amount, running the lifetime of the system. (Don't forget tax credits and mortgage tax breaks if you finance it as part of your house.)
    - Compute your average monthly number of kilowatt-hours generated.
    - Divide the monthly payment by the monthly kilowatt-hours. This is your cost per kilowatt-hour.

    The cost per kilowatt-hour of solar photovoltaic systems has been getting close to the crossover with respect to grid power. For some applications (like country houses or small-loads like illuminated billboards and traffic signs) where the instalation and fixed-costs of grid power are high it's already crossed over - which is why you see so many panels these days. It also beats diesel generators for portable power now.

    A big enough jump in the grid's generation cost (such as the one in California, thanks to their shiny new centrally-planned socialized electric system) might push it over even for urban residences.

    And California is a good spot for solar. At the latitude of the SF Bay area, for instance, insolation is about 5 solar hours per day. Once you're east of the coastal range (unless you're just downwind of a gap in it or on the west side of a still higher mountain) there's little daytime fog or cloud cover.

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