Monday, November 02, 2009

Costco And Al Gore


First, I love Costco. My wife spends a fortune there. Great merchandise; great prices. So, I was more than a little peeved when the latest issue of The Costco Connection magazine showed up with this cover:

Mr. Gore, in my opinion, is probably the greatest snake oil salesman of all time and the fortune he has amassed since leaving office is a testament to his silver-tongued spiel and the gullibility of his followers. This flim-flam wouldn't be so offensive if his personal life style was consistent with his message. But, as reported in News Busters...

In 2007, to a sensational reception the TCPR noted that the Gore family burned through energy at an amazing rate saying, "Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh -- guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359."
Then he pushes his own investments in second-rate energy production while bad-mouthing the sources that actually work:

His statement that wind-generated electricity is competitive as a mainstream source is wrong on several counts. First, the percent of electricity generated from wind-power is minimal.

Year-to-date, coal-fired plants contributed 44.7 percent of the Nation’s electric power. Nuclear plants contributed 20.6 percent, while 22.3 percent was generated at natural gas-fired plants. Of the 1.1 percent generated by petroleum-fired plants, petroleum liquids represented 0.7 percent, with the remainder from petroleum coke. Conventional hydroelectric power provided 7.4 percent of the total, while other renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind) and other miscellaneous energy sources generated the remaining 3.7 percent of electric power (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Net Generation Shares by Energy Source:
Total (All Sectors), Year-to-Date through July, 2009
Wind-generated power is a portion of the 3.7% comprise of so-called renewables.

Secondly, what Mr. Gore conveniently neglects to mention are the significant government subsidies to get the generators purchased and installed, without which the generators would have lifetime negative payback.

Thirdly, he fails to mention the pesky fact that due to the erratic power generation of these windmills, the more traditional power plants must always be kept running to provide power to homes and businesses... and to keep the rotors of the windmills turning to prevent their shutdown [see "parasitic loads" page 3].

Meanwhile, Mr. Gore questions the viability of nuclear power which makes up fully 1/5 of the generated electricity in the U.S. and is expanding worldwide as an emissions-free source of power. Perhaps Mr. Gore should go to France and discuss his opinions with the French people and government. Certainly, the new generation of nuclear power plants will be better than the older one... most technology improves with time, but I'll take the reliability and environmental preservation of nuclear plants over the mess that wind generators are making... including killing birds and causing problems with many humans from the strobe effects.

Oh, and then there is that little problem of hooking up this wind turbine farms to the power grid.... And then there is the issue of "green jobs."

It seems the power of the windmill is more the power of a windbag.

Costco should stick to its formula for merchandising success and stay out of the quack science of politicians.



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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)