Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another promising African export... the sun!

Or at least electricity from the sun. There's a pretty damn cool win-win energy utopia right around the corner... but I'm not betting on the humans to seize the day...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Smart City

The chain-smoking bearded fellow in this picture is Jaime Briales Guerrero, who works for the Agencia Municipal de la Energía in Málaga.

Briales is an impressive and enthusiastic advocate of electric vehicles and smart grids. Between drags from his cigarette (which somehow adds to his gravitas), he explained to us that Málaga presently has a very small number of EVs, which pose no real challenges to the electrical grid... but significant electrification of transit, on the scale of, say, 25% of vehicles, would lead to possibly catastrophic demands on the grid. Hence Málaga's participation in a very interesting project, Zem2all, funded by a generous grant from the Japanese government, to study electric cars and how different kinds of consumers would use them and adapt to them.

One issue being examined in the project is how important it is to have super-fast charging stations, as opposed to letting people charge their car overnight at home or all day at work. Elon Musk's vision for Tesla, for example, seems to be that you will be able to "gas up" your EV in not much more time than it would take to gas up your Civic. Jaime's view, based on their early findings, is a little different: Most EV drivers readily adapt to the regime of planning their slow charging... fast charges are reserved for emergencies and unanticipated contingencies.

Another dimension being explored by Zem2all is the possibility of using EVs as storage devices in a smarter grid. For example, your car is sitting at home fully charged, and you receive a text from your friendly local power company: "We need some juice... Could we pay you to tap a little bit of your car's electricity for the grid?"

Málaga has some other very interesting energy conservation projects, including its smart grid Smart City Málaga project. Pretty cool, and unexpectedly well ahead of Silicon Valley. I like this town.

(Non-) wage growth for recent college grads

This is discouraging news. But it would have been interesting if the authors had plotted wage growth for another comparison group, namely workers of the same age group (21-25) as recent college grads but without a college degree. One presumes those folks may be hurting even worse.

Median weekly earnings in the U.S. economy:

Liberal delusions

Kevin Drum hits the nail on the head here, as far as I am concerned.
Look: Obama made some mistakes. He should have done more about housing. He shouldn't have pivoted to deficit-mongering so quickly. Maybe he could have kept a public option in Obamacare if he'd fought harder for it. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But probably not. Like it or not, America was not poised for a huge liberal wave in 2008. It just wasn't. It was poised for a fairly routine cycle of throwing out the old bums and electing new bums, who would, as usual, be given a very short and very limited honeymoon. Democrats actually accomplished a fair amount during that honeymoon, but no, they didn't turn American into a lefty paradise. That was never in the cards.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

James Garner, RIP

I still think of The Rockford Files as my all-time favorite TV show, although having seen an episode or two recently, it has not aged as well as I might have hoped. Still, Garner was an irresistible natural, and the show's gritty, shaggy-dog sensibility was an essential aspect of 70s pop culture at its best.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Condemned by history"

John Quiggin's analysis of the Australian right's views on climate policy applies pretty well to our very own Republicans as well. At least we don't have a carbon tax to repeal, should the GOP regain power.

Sad. Infuriating.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Have you been inside a hydroelectric plant? Now I have. The facility at El Chorro, outside Málaga, is interesting for the fact that during periods of low demand they pump the water up the cliffs to a reservoir to store the energy in anticipation of periods of higher demand, when it will be released to drive the turbines below. The beautiful, rugged canyon in which the dam and hydro plant sit is most famous for the treacherous Caminito del Rey, which can be seen from the dam. Our group did not hike up the caminito, but descended into the hydro facility, which was a pleasure. Why? Big, old machinery, doing what it's supposed to do, day after day...

Some of the big turbines were whirring (loudly), while others sat idle, being maintained.

In the control room, this exquisite old console is apparently no longer functional, but is a beautiful example of mid-century high-tech design. Imagine this baby in your living room!

In the machine shop, there is evidence that people have been working here for a while...