Why must energy reporting always mislead?

There’s a new story on BNEF explaining how the cost of wind power is now less than any other resource in the UK and Germany. That alone is confusing, because, depending on your definition of cost, that was already the case. In fact, it’s always the case: on the margin, the cost of wind energy is $0. It’s the machine you’re paying for.

But the article is even more puzzling because it then goes on to explain that what is happening is that renewable energy generation is displacing the generation from fossil units, so that their capacity factor (that is, utilization) goes down. This makes their fixed costs a larger percentage of their total costs, and makes all-in €/MWh higher than wind’s all in €/MWh.

Okay, that makes sense as far as it goes, but there’s one complication: they still need the fossil units to make the system work. That is, as solar and wind generate more energy, you may use your coal machine less, but you can’t operate the electric power system without the coal machine. Cheap, massive, and ubiquitous storage, of course could change this, but for now, we’re not there.

So that begs the question, exactly what turning point have we reached? Building more solar and wind exacerbate this situation (I will not call it a problem) so I’m pretty unclear on what this piece is saying.

I occupy a very lonely position on renewables. I want them, I think they’re important, and I think we need much more. They can be part of solving our huge climate problem. But, unlike most boosters, I don’t think renewables are a free lunch — that is, they will be, all-in, cheaper than our current system).

 

When is it okay to age?

I was reading an article written by a venture capitalist the other day, in which he made it clear that any company developing software for a desktop computer was a dinosaur, and the future was absolutely, 100% mobile.

It caused neurons to fire in a region of my brain that I’ve been trying hard to suppress for the past few years. Call it to the medulla getoffmylawngotta.

I started thinking that smart phones are great when I’m, you know, on the move, but for 99% of my computing needs, I strongly prefer to sit in front of my computer with Gibibytes of memory, a huge SSD, many-cored many-issue out-of-order processor, 30″ monitor, and Apple keyboard. It’s just better.

Here’s another thing: CD’s. I liked CD’s. I bought a lot of them when I was young. I had tapes, too. CD’s were better than tapes. I never said, “oh, those CD’s aren’t as good as tapes,” but I do think it sometimes with file based music. Why? I’m smart enough to come up with solid reasons, like the fact that with a CD you really do control the music. You want to sell it or lend it to a friend? Done. Or that the CD has physical properties, which is sort of nice in and of itself. Are these arguments bogus?

Does it even matter if they’re bogus or not? They’re a sure sign that I’m starting to get old.

It all begs the question, must I continue to fight this impulse? Hiring managers in Silicon Valley hiring say hell effing yes, I must. But I’m getting tired of them, too, because I’ve seen their bullshit cult of newness for decades now, and it’s old too.

Better and new are not the same. And composing anything OVER 140 characters on a phone is pure punishment.

 

More wasted words on guns

My news feed is filled with a statistics and run-downs concerning gun violence in America. I find the evidence compelling. Guns are correlated with gun deaths. Lax gun laws are correlated with gun deaths, and living in the US seems correlated with being killed by gun.

The evidence is strong, like this or this or this, but it’s also the same evidence we all read the last time one of these tragedies happened, and, as we’ve all noticed, the evidence moved the needle on gun policy. Nobody should be surprised. The gun rights crowd aren’t interested in this kind of evidence. Jeb Bush’s Kinsleyan “stuff happens” gaffe the other day should give us insight. Perhaps the gun rights people seem see all this carnage as a necessary cost of a tangible freedom they hold more dearly than life — at least, life in the abstract.

Now, you might think that’s crazy, but crazy or not, if that’s how the people you are trying to persuade see things, then trotting out the same old statistics after every shooting incident should have little or no effect. And, in fact, that seems to be exactly the case.

So, notwithstanding certain cliched definitions of insanity, I suggest a new strategy is in order. I do not have a brilliant suggestion, but I think at the core, we need to figure out how to separate moderate gun owners from more extreme pro-rights organizations, like the NRA. One idea is to create a new gun enthusiasts organization that’s better than the NRA. Better insurance. Better youth programs. Cooler vests and hats. A glossier glossy magazine. And a reasonable interpretation of the 2<sup>nd</sup> amendment. What else can be done?

I dunno, but a political strategy is in order. The goal should be to weaken the constituency in favor of extreme gun rights and create a constituency in favor of controls. It’s a long-term project. Stats on FB will not get us there.

 

A new blog

Creating a new vanity blog in the year 2015 is more than a little absurd. Yet, these days, I admit, I’m more drawn to quixotic enterprises than ever. As a result, this exists.

My goal is not to turn this into a place to vent political opinions or screeds, but as a calm place to discuss the absurdities of our world with old and new friends. I hope you’ll join in, and together we’ll keep each other a bit more sane than we might otherwise.

The Thoreau quote above relates (I think) to the tendency of us to get caught up in the things, institutions, rules, gadgets, websites, jobs, etc, that are suppose to make our lives better, but which end up sucking up our lives rather than freeing them. The quote also relates to my desire to create a forum that does not exist merely to deliver my friends to advertisers.

Don’t expect much thematic consistency here, except perhaps that most topics will be about the things that fly by all the time that only make sense if you don’t think about them very much. Also, if I can convince a certain co-blogger to engage, there will be #zoning.

Best regards,

Dave