04 July 2009

Some time to ponder

I do, of course, support Gov. Palin.

I make no bones about it: I voted for her in the last Presidential election, not her running mate.

Her political skill to actually carry out what she promised to do in the way of reform against her own party and to ensure that the people of Alaska are not over-run with well meaning, wrong headed bureaucrats and mandates so they can survive the harsh climate and region are things the MSM and her attackers have not bothered to look at.  If she had done this on the Left she would be applauded for weeding out bad apples and making sure government does things 'smart' and 'right', and they would approve the gusto of a woman to attack corruption in her own party so that her State may get better politics in the future.  Needless to say the Left and some sclerotic parts of the Right don't hold up standards like that any more.

Those standards are now on the ground, trampled with mud by those who clamor for ever more government, ever more shackles from it, ever more taxation... and ever less liberty for the common man.

There are many such standards now on the ground, their defenders shot out from under them because winning has truly become 'the only thing' to the point where America can experience 'one man, one vote, once'.

Gov. Palin walks off with those standards to herself and if she wants to hang them on a wall to show that they are remembered while she takes leave of politics, then that is fine with me.  Other standards just like those ones sit on the field to be picked up by others.  And others are seeing that they can be picked up.


With that said I have said that there are two States necessary for the United States to come through to the end of hard times and win out to a better future: Texas and Alaska.

Why are these vital?

Energy concerns top the list, and both of these States have resources, skill and knowledge on how to find and get to necessary and vital resources so that our economy can thrive while we seek different ways forward on energy.  That cannot be done with a sagging economy.  What is the reward for inventiveness in a sagging economy when the current 'alternative' energy sources are not efficient enough nor economically made in such quantities so as to support the growth of an economy.  The best of the best is roll-to-roll printing of solar cells, yet people will not buy those if they are out of work.  Nor will they buy them if we get hyper-inflation.  Even worse is that they are derived from printing technology, and need very few people to manufacture them, thus giving the economy of scale necessary for mass production.  In the last major downturn in the Great Depression, people could not afford much in the way of printed materials then for the good reason of it taking food off their tables.

Nor can we roll out a huge infrastructure upgrade without first figuring out where the energy will come from to distribute it in the first place.  You can't run office buildings, homes, schools, etc. on even the cheapest solar collection platforms.  The problem is the amount of energy coming into an area means that any loss due to physics of absorption, reflection, and simple dust on the collectors reduces just how much energy you can get... before seeing how much you lose in creating useful energy at the end of it.  Biomass systems are notorious for not converting energy well, reducing viability of soil for future crops without intense agriculture, and, generally, serving as a better source of human and animal food than human energy to run our technology.

Algal biomass is very effective, cheap and requires a commitment from heavy industry to retrofit on a mass scale.  Even getting high production units in place and pumping up the number of facilities making them by a factor of 20 still leaves you with decades to begin to erode oil and natural gas in our economy.  The scale of the US economy dwarfs what seems to be the scale of the output of such systems... plus they still need to get energy from someplace and can only be considered a partial capture of existing waste energy for such production facilities that utilize them.  They may bump up the efficiency of overall use of energy by as much as 10%, but for much of the industry utilizing carbon based fuels to make such algal systems work, that is only moving from 35% to 45% efficiency.  These systems do not produce without source energy and raw materials and thus are not 'creators' of energy but 're-capture' systems that only boost energy use efficiency by a fraction of original energy input.

Luckily algal biomass can create light crude to feed into the existing system.

Too bad we aren't building refineries to meet the energy needs of the Nation, which means that captured crude may just have to be shipped overseas to get refined... so we will pay shipping costs going and coming, along with middle-man refinery costs, with all the overhead instead of just doing it at home cheaply and efficiently and removing the transfer time and additional costs.  I kid you not  on this.  Direct production to refined fuels still needs to meet all quality standards and just which grade of fuel you want must be decided up-front, otherwise you need to replace the biomass... thus light crude, an admixture of many long chain hydrocarbons easily broken down into many fuel types is preferable to single fuel output.

Any other fuel, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, etc. requires a major change in the distribution system of energy as they cannot use the current systems due to the chemical nature of them.  Making cheap hydrogen requires cheap energy or a very cheap system to get, capture and store hydrogen either locally or via central production.  And vehicles to run on it, which also need storage systems for same.  If you invest in 'flex fuel' vehicles now, and the next fuel isn't on the flex list, then you have put a gambling chip down on the economy that then does not help it.  No matter what you want to adapt to, if something different and better is found that is more economical, then you have a sunk cost with zero returns.  Mandating that is like any other mandate: you expect others to pay for your 'good idea'.  If it truly is a good idea, then you don't need to mandate it as people will demand it and get it in the marketplace.  To date the people of the United States have made better decisions than their government has in this arena.

The best of the terrestrial alternatives is the interesting work done on the Bussard fusion system (the electrostatic containment, not electromagnetic ones we spent decades trying to make efficient).  As a device that can yield energy at the atomic scale and get a lot more from that than from chemical energy sources, or that is used in diffracting hydrogen from water, it has the great promise of fusion: cheap, reliable, plentiful, safe nuclear energy.  The first test system is being stood up and tested on a public/private basis as no one wants to take a jump into this on their own.  Neither the government nor private sector wants to put the modest cost in, about what it would take to make a 'flex fuel' add-on for vehicles in plant space and cost, not materials just the plant itself without equipment.  The equations that Mr. Bussard worked on in the early 1960's were re-worked by him in the years before his death and demonstration, table-top systems can be made in high school science classes, so this has the promise of good demonstration at the small scale and efficiencies at the large scale.  Because our hydrogen needs are small when using fusion, we won't lose much water, we will gain some oxygen and have zero 'carbon footprint' while slowly shifting out older coal and natural gas plants for electrical production, if this works.  Thus the upgrade cycle for older fossil fuel plants now would be a gutting of the plant, itself, and replacement with fusion systems... at probably a lot less space.  Conversion of plants is a cyclical outlay to be budgeted and the energy produced is constant, so by the time you get to the main power plants you can have converted the emergency ones to have already taken the load.  Net result is more energy in less space with less cost. You want clean electricity?  Nuclear via fusion or 3rd or 4th generation fission systems is the way to go.  Time to do it?  About 20 years for a thorough conversion if low cost, and 30 years+ with higher cost (modern fission systems).

Why are Texas and Alaska important?  Any conversion to any new source of energy is a multi-decade project that needs to be spread out over time so as not to cripple the economy.  When the economy is already flagging, adding costs to it so as to convert to a new energy system in a short period of time will just gut the economy as this cannot be done on a private basis without a thriving economy.  Government trying to do it will ensure cost over-runs, abuse, higher taxes, lower efficiencies and leave you at the mercy of government for the energy to run your life and livelihood.  The moment government wants to do something 'good' that only 'discomforts a few', and that 'few' is in the tens of millions of individuals, then you don't have any 'good' able to justify that save war.  And the next war is a 'come as you are' sort of affair, so buy your stuff up front, which we are no longer doing.

To get to the other end of the fiscal insanity in DC the US needs to rely on a few, key States to show us the way OUT of this mess.  Texas is primary as it has not just the energy wherewithal, but also has the 'defend yourself at the border' problem  The Nation isn't doing that, either, and so Texas may be one of the first to call up the Citizen Militia... not the National Guard but the unregulated militia (from the federal side, not the State side).  Texas looks to be key in the 'put up or shut up' deal of the Nation having borders, and if the federal government can't or won't defend them, then the States can and must do so for their own safety.  That is Article I, Section 10 of the US Constitution.  All border States should seriously consider this issue as the greatest power in the Nation is not its companies, not its government, not its retail goods outlets, but the source that makes all that possible: the American people.

Alaska is next not only as a resource center, but with critical skills for a new frontier:  common sense.

You don't go to hug trees in Alaska unless you need kindling for the fire you have to start because your car went off the road into a ravine during a snow storm and no one has missed you yet.  Or can get to you.  But the cold and wolves can.  You stop worrying about your 'carbon footprint' so that you can still remain a functioning carbon based life form.  The reason that Alaska (plus Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Maine... to name a few) are critical is that they hold some of the last Do-It-Yourself spirit of frontiersmanship in the US.  Alaska is paramount as the citizens there are coming to understand energy concerns and apply frontier principles to it.  Those frontiersman States hold a vital key to the last energy resource of America and we will not get it without that frontier opening.

If all our climate, indeed most everything on the surface of the planet, has a motive factor it comes from one source of energy.  That source cheaply, cleanly, efficiently shifts tons of matter into energy every second of every day.  We get a tiny fraction of a fraction of a fraction diffuse percent of it.  The sunk cost to put up new production facilities to capture that energy at low cost is an investment to all our future energy needs and to change the economics of energy entirely.  Terrestrial solar energy has the problem of getting only a fraction of that tiny fraction that gets to our space in orbit.  Just a few hundred miles above your head, the source energy doesn't get degraded by our atmosphere.  The systems to capture such energy, even very inefficiently, is low if you make the capture devices from our greatest resource we shall ever have within easy reach: the Moon.  For the cost of the Apollo mission this could be done.  For the cost of incentives over two decades to encourage businesses to produce the means to get to these areas and start building the essentials we will gain the benefit of slowly shifting carbon producing and other pollutant producing industry off of the planet.

You don't get to there with bureaucrats, governments, regulations, and all the lovely things we create protected by an atmosphere, living in a biosphere, and thinking we know enough to say we are altering it.  No, to get to it requires energy knowledge, wherewithal and frontiersmanship for a place where there is no climate, no air, no water, no life... save that which you bring to it and make yourself. 

America is stuck on planet Earth, navel gazing.

We now pick at lint in the navel and think ourselves ever so grand.

As a people and a Nation to survive with liberty, we cannot do so for much longer as our ever loving protector, the one with the goad, the jail, the lash... this thing we invest our negative liberties to so as to protect us... now it seeks to strap us down and call that 'good'.  Feed us pap until we shrivel from lack of nutrients.  Then fit us with chains of benign softness and ask us to beg for its lash and tell government that it feels ever so good to work for it... as a slave.

Some welcome those fur-laced straps, and the goad of the baton to us, as a people.  They think they will guide this necessary evil once they make it into a pure evil.  Yet they, too, are being fitted for those things they beg to have done to others and debase themselves ever faster to reach such moral decrepitude as to depend upon the punisher for sweet cakes... and the lash... so that they can do as they are told.

I do, indeed, support Gov. Palin no matter where she goes, and if it is away from the spotlight, then none can say that she did not do good in her time in office as Governor.

America, however, needs to stand up and look away from its navel and pull the choke chain leash on this beast we call government and remind it that it serves to protect.  It needs some meals taken from it so that it can drop weight and get about its job as it is now too fat to actually protect anything... and far too hungry to be safe to us.

Otherwise we will have to fight it in the streets, and that will not be good, at all.

We do need a few States to show good economic sense, frontier spirit and the ability to demonstrate that liberty, given its head, is a great boon to us all.

That goes far beyond one State.  But it is a necessary State.

May the good people of Alaska choose a worthy representative as Governor.

They will need it.

And so will we.


Bloviating Zeppelin said...

I have always enjoyed Palin; she had that unique ability to massively piss off the Left; if she were ineffective or powerless, she would be placed infinitely on IGNORE MODE. Yet, despite having receded from VP candidate back to governor she has been the target of an unrelenting campaign to denigrate her ethics via continual allegations of violations, ALL of them completely unsubstantiated.

I fear, however, she has done herself a disservice by choosing this time to walk away from an elected office.


A Jacksonian said...

Mr. Z - I do like and admire Gov. Palin. She has faced more, deeper and more disingenuous attacks than Richard Nixon ever did. No one, ever, would make rape jokes about Nixon's daughters. Ever. Period.

Even so to get through this period of time Alaska needs good governance, and if Gov. Palin does truly believe that she is not helping in that office due to the constant vitriol and negative impact that is having on her State (not just her and her family) then she has had the wisdom to step away. That is much harder to do with CW against you, but CW proves itself to be wrong as much as right so it is not a standard to go by.

I truly wish her well in whatever her decision is as she has proven herself to be a decent person, a good governor and has given us pause to see how someone who has come from a relatively poor background can make good... and be ravaged for that ALONE. Something has gone seriously awry in our Nation when THAT becomes the reason for vitriol, and it is not healthy and has no good end at all.

Matthew Tripp said...
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