Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why Are We Still Working?

Australian Leftist site "New Matilda" published recently an article under the above heading that has received some attention in Leftist circles. It is a long and rambling article in a typically Leftist way.  Verbosity is used to substitute for clarity of thought.  So I have had to read it twice to follow what the author was getting at. But an early paragraph summarizes the inspiration of the article:

"As long ago as 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by now, people in technologically advanced societies wouldn't need to work much at all. When Keynes said this, advances in technology were yielding extraordinary increases in productivity. The implications seemed obvious. If it took less time to produce what we needed, surely we'd work less."

And the author, basically, does not know the answer to the puzzle in that. Along the way, he comes out with nonsense like "we have also seen a vast proliferation of new jobs that only seem to exist to keep people working"

He makes some reasonably accurate generalizations such as "Instead of everyone working less, what seems to be happening is that experienced workers, in professions which are still in demand, are working more, while the young, the old, and those with skills which no longer attract investment have difficulty finding work"

And you are supposed to be outraged by that instead of seeking to understand it.  The effects of credentialism, for instance, go unmentioned. See here and  here as starting points on that topic.

But eventually we get to the point of the article:  "Capital, like technology, is largely blind to human need. Capital goes where the profit is. If there was profit in healing minds and saving species, some of it would go there. While there is more profit in alcohol, gambling and deforestation, more of it will go there"

Which is of course a classic Leftist fallacy, a direct descendant of the Communist motto:  "From each according to his ability and to each according to his need".  It's "the system" that is at fault, you see.  Society is not ordered in the way the Leftist wants.  Leftist priorities are not the normal human priorities.  So the existing human priorities must be CHANGED!  And Communism certainly tried that.

OK:  The fallacy that our apparently young thinker has fallen into is that capitalism does not reflect human needs.  Yet it in fact does exactly that.  People communicate their needs very graphically by putting their hands in their pockets and buying what they want.  Capitalism is the most basic form of democracy.  The individual makes his/her own choices about his/her own life.

Confronted with that, the Leftist immediately subsides into authoritarianism.  People must have their choices taken away and have BETTER choices enforced!  Our present writer is not explicit about that but even a little knowledge of history will tell you where that sort of thinking leads -- to brutal tyranny, not the promised Garden of Eden.

And what the Communist motto overlooks is that people's needs are infinite.  So neither capitalism nor Communism will ever satisfy them fully. 

An example of that which has been rather bemusing to me lately is the upsurge in cruising.  People go aboard large and lavishly appointed ships and sail around in circles!  You couldn't make it up!  And people of quite humble background are doing it -- and doing it often.  That is so much so that I have acquired the polite habit of asking friends:  "When is your next cruise?". 

So what is going on?  What has happened is that the super-efficient ship-construction techniques of places like the Meyer Werft in Germany (Which is located INLAND!) has brought down the cost of ships -- and third-world crews have cut the cost of operating them.  And the very big cruise ships of today also make good use of economies of scale.  So the bottom line is that the cost of cruising is now well within the reach of average people. So it has become a "need" for quite a few people I know.  They feel that their life is enhanced by it.  And who am I to say it is not?  A Green/Leftist would say it is not but I am a true-blue conservative.

So that is the reason we keep working.  The ingenuity of the many people who create capitalism provides so many attractive things that we want them.  And we have to work to fulfill those wants.

But it is an individual choice.  It may be apparent that I don't go cruising.  I have a comfortable income in my old age but I live simply and end up giving away twice what I spend on myself.  I do eat out on many occasions but usually at places where I can get a dinner for $10 or thereabouts!  You might be surprised at how good such dinners can be.

So what capitalism provides is individual CHOICE.  That would seem hard to criticize but in their authoritarian way, the Green/Left do criticize it.  The only choice they campaign for is for death:  The choice to have a abortion.

AussieBum chief reacts to claims Australia Day undies are offensive to Indigenous culture

The "cultural appropriation" nonsense again

AussieBum's chief executive says he was naive to the fact its Australia Day underwear featuring dot paintings, boomerangs and a cartoon depiction of a traditional Aboriginal person could cause upset.

The company has received criticism for its festive undies on social media, kicked off by National Indigenous Television host Nathan Appo who tweeted: "I think it's disrespectful to indigenous people of this county on so many levels."

AussieBum CEO Sean Ashby said the company had received three formal complaints via email, the first of which he acted on, recalling an original design which featured the Australian flag on top of what looked like Uluru.

"It wasn't even Uluru, it was a mountain, however, I can also see it could be interpreted that way," Mr Ashby told the ABC.

"I saw [the design] as inclusive but then when I had one person email me and point out some really obvious issues, which quite frankly I was naive to ... the penny dropped and that product was taken straight off the line."

    "I find the 'Ausday' hipster and brief designs very offensive to myself and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Australians (many on social media already), and to all Australians, given there is a stylised, stereotypical and offensive version of an Aboriginal person standing on one leg," the complaint email read.

    "Along with the imagery of Uluru and boomerangs accompanying this image in the promotional material for this design, this amounts to cultural appropriation and racism, rather than celebration or respect for Aboriginal peoples and their cultures."

"At the end of the day it really was just naivety to an issue in Australian culture and one that is so sensitive," Mr Ashby said referring to an exclusion of Indigenous people in society." Mr Ashby said.

He said the underwear's detail was first noticed after hype around the advertising model's "missing" belly button.

"I'm concerned with @aussieBum's Australia Day underwear campaign. Where's his belly button?!?" TV personality Dr Brad Mackay tweeted.  From there, criticism moved to the underwear's design.

"At that stage I was taking a position that we're going on about leg of lamb and we're getting too sensitive with the culture that is Australia ... but once I got that email, the penny dropped," Mr Ashby said.

He said the commotion would cause him to take more care when creating future designs.

"Unfortunately as we evolve as a culture we are in a multicultural society and sadly, Indigenous culture is now considered a separate culture to our own. I'm just realising how sensitive it is," he said.

"I don't want to be a person that will add to that debate. I feel I've brought a subject out that I wish wasn't there."


Newspoll: NSW Labor leader Luke Foley hit by Baird's popularity

The standing of NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has hit a new low as the Baird government continues to sweep all before it. The latest NSW Newspoll, conducted exclusively for The Australian, shows that the gap between Premier Mike Baird and Mr Foley as preferred premier is now wider than ever.

Mr Foley is preferred by just 15 per cent of voters, compared with Mr Baird's 58 per cent.

Mr Foley's standing has declined since the last Newspoll. His satisfaction rating has dropped four percentage points, to 31 per cent, while his dissatisfaction -rating has climbed two percentage points, to 39 per cent.

These are slightly worse results than the previous opposition leader, John Robertson, recorded a year ago before he resigned as Labor leader.

The rise of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister means federal and state leadership and voting intentions are now closely aligned. December's federal Newspoll showed just 14 per cent of those polled preferred Bill Shorten as prime minister over Mr Turnbull.

Mr Baird remains the country's most popular politician, although Mr Turnbull rivals him.

Mr Baird's satisfaction rating is 61 per cent, down from 63 per cent in the last NSW Newspoll. Mr Turnbull's is 52 per cent, down 8 per cent after a rocky end to 2015 with the defection of Ian Macfarlane to the Nationals and controv-ersy surrounding Mal Brough.

Mr Baird remains Australia's most popular leader because so few people dislike him. His dissatisfaction rating is just 22 per cent.

And unlike Mr Turnbull, his popularity is not a result of a honeymoon. Only 17 per cent of voters are undecided, and he has proven enduringly popular since becoming Liberal leader and Premier in April 2014.

This latest Newspoll shows that the Baird Coalition government would easily win a NSW election held now. The two-party-preferred result is 56-44 per cent, unchanged from the previous poll.

This is slightly higher than the solid election win Mr Baird enjoyed in March. Theoretically, assumi-ng a uniform swing, the Coalition would win back two seats from Labor on these figures.

The Coalition primary vote is 1 per cent higher, at 48 per cent. In a state with optional preferential voting, this suggests it's almost impossi-ble for the Coali-tion to lose at its current support levels.

The Labor Party has the oppo-site problem. With primary support at just 33 per cent, unchanged from the previous poll, it would have to rely heavily on Greens and independent preferences to have any chance of beating the Baird government. But with the option-al preferential voting, it's not given that the preferences would automatically flow to Labor.

The Greens continue to record a very consistent 10 per cent of the vote, which suggests that Labor has a long-term problem in capturing the Left of politics.

The March election saw the Greens beat Labor in the inner-city seats of Newtown and Balmain, and capture the north coast seat of Ballina from the Nationals.

The Baird government continues to make every post a winner. In November, it sold a 99-year lease for its electricity transmission business Transgrid for $10.258 billion, making it a near certainty it will have more than enough funding for its $20bn infra-structure program after the sale of a half-share in two other businesses, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy. The bumper price also means the government can accelerate key projects, with the prospect of having some completed in time for the next election.

The poll was taken before the announcement that the government was proceeding with a series of council amalgamations, a policy likely to create continuing grassroots opposition to the government over the coming months.


Capacity Factors And Coffee Shops: A Beginner's Guide To Understanding The Challenges Facing Wind Farms

Geoff Russell, a rational Greenie, uses the numbers to show at length below what an absurdity wind farms are.  He shows that there is no way they can be the mainstay of an electricity supply.  He favours nukes as a carbon-free power supply

It's still `all about the baseload', writes Geoff Russell, in this simple guide to understanding the limitations of energy sources like wind farms.

Renewable-only advocates claim that we can build a reliable, clean electricity system using mostly unreliable sources; like wind and solar power. And of course we can; the theory is simple, just build enough of them.

Coffee shops operate rather like our current electricity system; there are a few permanent staff who are analogous to what are called baseload power stations. Additional staff are hired to cover the busy period(s) and correspond typically to gas fired generators.

The renewable alternative is like running a coffee shop with a crew of footloose narcoleptics who arrive if and when they feel like it and who can nod off with little notice. Would this work? Of course; just hire enough of them.

Any criticisms of renewable plans is typically subjected to execution by slogan: That's soooo last millennium; baseload is a myth!

I've used something like this coffee shop analogy elsewhere, but it doesn't capture other critical features of electricity sources . let's begin with the capacity factor.

Capacity factor

When someone talks about a "100 megawatt" wind farm, this refers to its maximum power output when the wind is blowing hard. Energy is power multiplied by time, so if it's windy for 24 hours you'll get 24 x 100 = 2400 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electrical energy. But actual output over the course of a year is obviously only a percentage of the maximum possible and that percentage is measured and called the capacity factor; typically about 33 percent for wind.

A rooftop solar system is also labelled according to its maximum output and also has a capacity factor. averaging 14 percent in Australia but only 9 or 10 percent in the UK or Germany.

Nuclear plants also have capacity factors because they usually need to be taken off line every year or two for refuelling. Typical percentages are 90 in the US and 96 in South Korea.

You can't compare electricity sources without understanding capacity factors. Since the capacity factor of a nuclear plant is about 90 percent and that of rooftop solar is about 14 percent and because 90/14 = 6.429, then you'd need to install 9,000 megawatts worth of solar panels to match the amount of electricity you'd get from a 1400 megawatt South Korean APR1400 nuclear reactor over a year (6.429 x 1400 = 9,000).

Which is more than double the 4041 megawatts installed in Australia between 2007 and the end of 2014.

Matching supply and demand

But 9,000 megawatts of solar panels is still very different to 1,400 megawatts of nuclear, even if both produce the same amount of electricity annually. With 9,000 megawatts of PV panels, you don't control the output and on any day it will range from nothing at night through to 9,000 megawatts if it's hot, cloudless and the right time of day.

In contrast, 1,400 megawatts of nuclear power can be adjusted to match demand; turn it down, turn it up.

Below is a picture of the output of some German nuclear plants. Note that the output of one plant, KKI 1 (Isar), is pretty constant. That plant began operation in 1979, which is about the vintage of the seemingly immortal but obviously false anti-nuclear claim that nuclear plants can't follow load; see Margaret Beavis's recent NM article for a 2015 misstatement.

Brokdorf, on the other hand, is a little newer and has been operating since 1986 and has no trouble ramping up and down. Not only can most nuclear plants load-follow (this is the technical term), it's increasingly necessary in Germany because of the growth of wind and solar; it's a thankless task but somebody has to do it!

Now you understand why it's silly to do what non-technical journalists like Bernard Keane have done, and compare costs per kilowatt of solar with those of nuclear without understanding the capacity factor; let alone grid costs or load-following.

But the capacity factor is also important for another deeper reason and it will take us back to that coffee shop.

First, imagine a small city with a constant electrical demand of 1,000 megawatts and a wind farm supplying, on average, 333 megawatts. Assume the rest is supplied by gas. Given the capacity factor of wind, we can infer that the peak output of that wind farm is about 1,000 megawatts.

What happens to excess electricity?

Now consider what happens if you triple the size of your wind farm.  Since you now have (a maximum of) 3,000 megawatts of wind power, you'll be averaging 0.33 x 3,000 x 24 megawatt-hours (of energy) per day; which is 100 percent of demand; excellent.

But what happens when it's really windy? The output is then triple the demand; so, without storage, that electricity gets dumped.

Dumping electricity on your neighbours isn't a nice thing to do if they don't need it at the time.

Wind farms, like any low capacity factor unreliable electricity source, are fine when they are a small contributor to a large grid, but not so fine when their surges are large relative to the demand on the grid; then they become a veritable bull in a china shop.

How does this look in coffee shop terms? If you run your coffee shop with a large bunch of narcoleptic staff, then some of the time they'll all be awake and rearing to go, but there'll be few customers and your staff will be twiddling their thumbs at best and getting in each others way at worst.

But perhaps the analogy is broken? Instead of a single wind farm, we could have multiple farms spread over a huge area and interconnected so that the wind must surely even out; never blowing hard (nor totally calm) at all sites. Certainly this sounds plausible. but what actually happens?

John Morgan looked at the Australian data on wind power in an article a couple of months ago on

In the 12 months to September 2015, Australia had 3,753 megawatts of wind power across the National Electricity Market (which excludes WA which isn't connected) and the daily average output ranged from 2.7 percent (101 megawatts for 24 hours) to 86 percent (3,227 megawatts for 24 hours).

This isn't so different from what would happen with a single 3,753 megawatt wind farm. So despite expectations, there were times when it was pretty windy almost everywhere and other times, including runs of multiple days, when it was pretty damn still almost everywhere.

The overall capacity factor was measured at 29 percent. So despite expectations, many wind farms, even in a big country like Australia, aren't that much different to one very big one. And you really do have to worry about being becalmed.

I argued in my last New Matilda article that wasting battery capacity papering over the deficiencies of wind and solar will reduce our ability to solve our clean transportation problems.

Copper plates and real networks

Clearly if many wind farms are intended to even out supply, then they need to be interconnected.

A study commonly cited in Australia supporting the feasibility of a 100 percent renewable system is that of Elliston, Diesendorf and MacGill.

One assumption of that study was that electricity can flow freely from where-ever it is generated to where-ever it is needed.

This is called the "copper plate" assumption; it assumes the continent is just one massive copper plate conducting electricity everywhere at high speed.

But real interconnectors have to be built, and how much connectivity do low capacity factor sources need? A European study found that the grid capacity to transfer electricity under a 100 percent renewable scenario needs to be ramped up by between 5.7 and 11.5 times; depending on the quality of service required.

The "flow freely" assumption occupied just one sentence of the Australian study but conceals a wealth of problems and complexity. The EU goal is that member countries provide interconnection capacity equal to just 10 percent of installed capacity. by 2020.

The need for extra national interconnections is mirrored internally within the larger countries by the need for extra internal interconnections. In Germany this is being implemented under the Power Grid Expansion Act (EnLAG) involving 3,800 kilometers of new extra-high voltage lines.

These lines aren't being built without protest. The path of least resistance will be wildlife habitat; to avoid concerns both real and imagined over reducing property prices and health risks.

To extend the coffee shop analogy to cover distributed wind farms, we move from a single shop to a WindyBucks Chain of shops spread over the country.

The European study implies that making this work will require not just extra staff but a fleet of lightening fast taxis to shunt the staff around from shop to shop. This is so that when we have too many baristas in Cairns, we can shunt them down to cover for those having a kip in Hobart.

Again, the theory is simple; just add another layer of duct tape until it holds together.

Markets, profits and planning

There's one not so obvious way in which the coffee shop analogy breaks down. Coffee shop staff get paid by the hour, not by the number of coffees they make; but users of electricity pay for what they use, not for what is generated.

Does anybody want to pay 10 times the going rate for a coffee just because there happen to be 10 grinning baristas twiddling their thumbs behind the Espresso machine?

If not, then consider what happens to electricity prices during our imagined tripling of wind capacity. Remember, we started by assuming wind provided about 30 percent of electrical energy, so when we triple the number of farms and the wind is blowing pretty strongly everywhere, they'll be generating about triple what we want.

In a free electricity market where suppliers bid for electricity, the price will dive. So while it's very profitable to build a wind farm when total wind energy is less than the capacity factor, it soon becomes very unprofitable because nobody wants your product; you also create a mess that somebody has to clean up by building extra grid magic to handle power surges.

Why didn't people see this coming a decade ago? Probably somebody did, but they were "Sooo last millennium"!

This article has tried to explain as non-technically as possible some of the problems that arise as penetration rates of intermittent electricity sources rise. I've used wind as a concrete example, but the same problems occur with any low capacity factor sources.

It may help people understand why Germany is burning half of her forestry output for electricity to provide some level of baseload power amid the renewable chaos. She could be, and should be, maximally expanding forests to draw down carbon, but instead, her logging and fuel crop industries are booming.

But the German use of baseload biomass to paper over renewable deficiencies isn't just a love of lumberjacks and hatred for wildlife - when AEMO (Australian Electricity Market Operator) reported in 2013 on the feasibility of 100 percent renewable electricity, both her scenarios were "Sooo Last Millenium" and postulated a baseload system underneath the wind and solar components; either biomass (Log, Slash, Truck and Burn) like the Germans, or geothermal (ironically driven by heat from radioactive decay within the earth).

Technical readers should consult John Morgan's articles a and b in addition to the various papers and studies he mentions.


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