Coal Fold 2: One-Two Punch (Plus…)

I wrote previously that coal is just not that hot of a fuel.  Compared to natural gas, coal isn’t logical for electric generation, and getting less and less logical with time.  Meanwhile, solar power is getting cheaper every year, with grid parity on the way in a few short years (maybe one).  In some places, parity has already been reached.  Coal pushers still try to tell us that they’re the reliable, American energy.  The claim is that solar (like wind or other renewables) varies, and cannot keep power grids stable and consistent in the face of demand.  What they conveniently forget to tell you is: Coal isn’t too hot at that, either.

As solar prices keep crossing parity, along with the rest of the portfolio (gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, etc.), there will soon be no credible pitch for coal.  My advice: get out.  If you’re exposed to coal financially, sell.  If you’re actually looking at a coal seam, get out via the nearest exit ASAP, and find a new career.  Of course, nothing ever really goes away, as I’ve stated multiple times.  There’ll be a transition period, and even after that the grid will cling to legacy plants.  However, there is no coal growth on the horizon; it’s a matter of coal staying level or contracting, and at what contraction rate.

Electricity use varies through the day, and today’s grid does “load following” to match supply with demand.  In a few situations, usage ramps up strongly, and utilities call on “peaker plants” to fulfill demand.  It is thus desirable for generation to be throttleable, or in grid terms “dispatchable.”  This holds when you can’t find ways to smooth out usage (“peak shaving”), or store electricity on these large scales.  Coal lobbyists then claim they are dispatchable, but no, coal really isn’t. Continue reading


I’ll Give Them Credit

Out with the old...

Out with the old… with the new!

…in with the new!

Again, almost 2015.  My bank tossed their old bulbs and installed LEDs because… they’re a bank, and it’s almost 2015.  Obsolete lighting technology wastes energy, and thus money.  LEDs make money, as banks are supposed to do- certainly any bank of mine. Continue reading

Coal? …Fold

For all the issues with gas via fracking, at least it’s not coal.  Whine all you want about some “war on coal,” it’s just a lesser fuel, from both a chemical and financial standpoint.  Natural gas has been displacing coal since the Eighties- oooh, that tree-hugging Reagan!- due to Wall Street hassles, not so much today’s environmental movement.  I’ll get to Wall Street, though.

People who do physics, and in particular thermodynamics, become familiar with condensed matter issues, separate from the rest of the field.  Solid-state physics (and to a lesser extent true liquids) have issues versus gases and plasmas.  Namely, their enthalpies of fusion, and of vaporization.  In street terms, it takes energy to melt a solid into a liquid, and still more energy to vaporize that liquid.  Lots of energy.

This matters because only gases burn.  Yup, hard for people on the street to understand, but coal itself does not burn; neither does wood or any other solid.  Liquids, neither (technically).  Condensed matter must be heated to produce volatiles; only then do those volatiles mix with oxygen and burn.  That volatilization energy isn’t free, of course- it had to come from the previously-burnt volatiles.  This is partly why campfires are hard to light.  Coal, wood, and other solids are like land animals, trying to tread water before they can even start paddling forward.  Gaseous fuels, though, are like fish, swimming because… they’re fish, and they swim rings around land animals without a thought. Continue reading

Sony is going TO DELL

Trinabulatrons continue.  After bleeding more money, in more quarters, Sony has announced a recovery plan.  Step 1: abandon PCs entirely- no more Vaios.  Yes, what was once the cornerstone of the electronics revolution is now a deathtrap, and Sony must pull a Dell-out.  Sony will still operate the handset business they bought out from Ericsson- apparently they can’t afford not to be in phones.

Step 2: set up televisions into a wholly-owned subsidiary.  In other words, a deathwatch.  Propping up a “new company” serves notice to that group: shape up, or you’re toast.  The TV line can no longer sup off other divisions, without its own profits.  The TV people must now find profitability somehow, or failure will be open and obvious, no accounting tricks.  Big-Sony would then be willing and able to kill, sell, or do whatever to little-sony.

All told, 5,000 people will get the ax, and Sony will take a $1 billion charge.  Willingly- the company did this because the alternatives would cost even more.  If you do not join the future- even the newer future, from a previous future- you’ll find it thrust upon you.  Even Sony.

4 Light Bulb… Snore

I just bought… an incandescent bulb!  Oh wait, weren’t they banned?  The exemption list is long:441z

  • Anything under 40 Watts
  • Anything over 100 Watts
  • Appliance (fridge/stove) bulbs
  • 3-Way bulbs
  • Candelabra bulbs, reflector (“silver end”) bulbs
  • Infrared-specific lamps
  • Rugged (vibration, shatterproof) bulbs
  • Colored lamps, plant lamps, “black lights” and “bug lights”
  • Tube bulbs (T-type) over 10″ long
  • Most types of stage lighting
  • Plus several more…

Not to mention stores are still selling “new old stock.”  One could argue the so-called “incandescent ban” is, in effect, a test of reading comprehension. Continue reading

Followup: Blind Cyclops Still Blind

The NCTA is resorting to ads: ‘Life without cable leaves a hole.’  Well, here’s a hole:

399I fill it just fine- a future without cable company crap is fine by me.  Leaving oil companies stuck with a hole in the ground is a bit more complex, but we’re working on it.

Leaving the Blind Cyclops

I post a lot about transformative technologies and new business models.  Folks, it’s time for The Big One: television.  TV, at least as we know it, will die… and by murder.  Not only do many, hungry competitors want a nice, juicy back for knifing, but television’s own execs see the future coming, and want out of “the old way.”

I’ll give NBC a little credit.  As other networks took little real initiative (beside disc sales, and via iTunes), NBC went for Hulu, and went big.  NBC saw how the playing field was shifting, and tried to get ahead of the game.  Besides, the web allows “rating” and targeting of desirable demographics in a way Nielsen and affiliate schedules can’t- this playing field is profitable.

And the game is shifting.  Monitors were “HD” way before TVs; Apple’s Retina Macs were arguably “4k” slightly before home 4k.  Monitors, as content-agnostic, act as TVs easier than TVs can be everything else.  Apple gets it, selling a set-top box for your not-TV jobs (except for gaming, hmmm…).  On the backside, broadband internet can do episodes just fine; the issue is sports and action movies, and even then just for crappier broadband. Continue reading