Friday, April 12, 2024

Is The U.S. Power Grid Truly Unsustainable Without Fossil Fuels, Nuclear Energy?


The March 29 WSJ editorial (The Coming Electricity Crisis) made a bold claim, specifically that the combination of A.I. and climate rules are pushing the U.S. power grid to "the breaking point."  The Journal's Pooh-Bahs quoted former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to the effect: 

"We're not going to build 100 gigawatts of new renewables in a few years."  

In other words, utilities will have to rely more on coal, gas and nuclear plants to even get us to 2030.  Failing that look for massive blackouts and power grid snafus - and that's assuming there are no violent 'extracurricular' events from the Sun as it ramps toward sunspot maximum.

There are, in the lower 48, three major interconnected systems that comprise the power grid — one covering everything east of the Rocky Mountains (the Eastern Interconnection), one for everything west of the Rocky Mountains (the   Western Interconnection), and  one for Texas- governed by ERCOT.   The power system that serves 95 percent of the state is intentionally isolated from the rest of the country.   This has been deliberate given a severely deregulated energy system is incongruent with regulated ones.  In this case Texas features a competitive wholesale power market but which offers scant incentives for investment in backup power. 

Given this background, how accurate is the WSJ editorial claim?  In fact, it is more spot on than many on the left may wish to acknowledge. As long ago as 2012, , Matt Savinar (Life After the Oil Crash) showed that NONE of the renewable sources usually cited: from wind to geothermal to solar will do squat to totally replace the energy now being consumed for our entire infrastructure, from powering a military-industrial complex with umpteen bombers, and now missile defense, plus more tanks for occupations and wars, not to mention sustaining growth in industries (e.g. aircraft and car manufacture), new computers, maintaining the electrical power grid.  And that was way before bit coin mining which consumes gigawatts each year.   (And the WSJ editors inform us:  "About 20 gW of fossil fuel power are due to be retired over the next two years.")

For reference, current yearly U.S. energy consumption is roughly 97 EJ. To put the numbers in a harsher perspective, any serious major effort to "decarbonize" the planet will require an amount of clean energy on the order of 100 trillion kilowatt-hours per year  or 360 EJ. To reach this target even within 3 decades the world's nations would need to add 3.3 trillion more kwh of clean energy every year. Solar and wind simply cannot scale up to that level in that time, so the only remaining form of energy - apart from fossil fuels - is nuclear and at least one climate scientist (James Hansen)  has recommended such incorporation . 

As Jay Hanson ( has pointedly noted:

“The fact that our society can‘t survive on alternative energy should come as no surprise, because only an idiot would believe that windmills and solar panels can run bulldozers, elevators, steel mills, glass factories, electric heat, air conditioning, aircraft, automobiles, etc., AND still have enough energy left over to support a corrupt political system, armies, etc. Envision a world where freezing, starving people burn everything combustible -- everything from forests (releasing CO2; destroying topsoil and species); to garbage dumps (releasing dioxins, PCBs, and heavy metals); to people (by waging nuclear, biological, chemical, and conventional war); and you have seen the future. “

But how accurate is he? One needs to process that different kinds of energy resources have fundamentally different "qualities". For example, a BTU of oil (oil before it is burnt) is fundamentally different than a BTU of coal. Oil has a higher energy content per unit weight and burns at a higher temperature than coal; it is easier to transport, and can be used in internal combustion engines. A diesel locomotive wastes only one-fifth the energy of a coal-powered steam engine to pull the same train. Oil's many advantages provide 1.3 to 2.45 times more economic value per kilocalorie than coal.

This means you need that factor increase in coal to equal a similar amount of oil, to get the same work done.

Ditto with solar. Unlike energy derived from fossil fuels, energy derived from solar power is diffuse and also extremely intermittent: it varies constantly with weather or day/night. If a large city wants to derive a significant portion of its electricity from solar power, it must build fossil-fuel-fired or nuclear-powered electricity plants to provide backup for the times when solar energy is not available. Solar power has a capacity of about 20 percent. This means that if a utility wants to install 100 megawatts of solar power, they need to install 500 megawatts of solar panels. This makes solar power a prohibitively expensive and pragmatically poor replacement for the cheap and abundant fossil fuel energy our economy depends on, especially if one intends to use it operate missile factories.

Back to the grid, what are the key components and issues?

  The primary problem with the U.S. power grid is the lack of volt-amp-reactive (VAR) dynamic compensation elements. Instead, an array of conventional methods are employed to give a rough equivalence to true VAR-compensation. If instead of this approach, HTS dynamic synchronous condensers (see Fig. 1) were more generally used many advantages would accrue, including:

i) Large Q (imaginary) power output
ii) Rapid dynamic response
iii) Minimizing of switching transients
iv) Long term reliability from the stable operating temperature (of HTS coils)

To better grasp the HTS condenser’s remarkable abilities, a basic inductive physics set-up (often employed to teach physics students) is useful. We obtain a U-shaped magnet wrapped with n turns of conducting wire. Then the magnetic flux induced in the gap is proportional to nI (product of no. of turns n by the current I) and inversely proportional to the gap length, x. Thus:

Flux ~ n I/ x

Note as x is decreased, the flux gets larger. In like manner, the closely spaced iron teeth in rotor and armature of a conventional motor are closely spaced precisely to enhance the flux by minimizing the gaps. Logically then, a machine with HTS rotor coils and no iron teeth has much greater effective gap between the armature coils and magnetic components in the core.

This lowers the flux, but this is compensated for by the fact the high current density HTS wire is so fine that many more turns n are allowed. This enables any HTS device to generate a much greater flux than its conventional counterpart.

When d.c. HTS rotor coils spin they generate a time –varying flux that induces an rms excitation voltage  V exc   according to Faraday’s law such that: 
V exc    = - d(F)/dt

Where 'F' is the magnetic flux.

Meanwhile, the a.c. armature current  
I a  induces a back emf ( V B) in the armature coils that is proportional to I a but out of phase with it. The proportionality constant is denoted as X S the synchronous reactance. Then:

V exc    =  X S I a   - V B

Now, the sum of the two voltages induced in the armature coil must equal the grid voltage: V G  so the out of phase reactive armature current coupled to the grid is given by:

I a    =  X S  (V exc     -   V G

Note what happens above if the grid voltage  
drops below the level set by V exc  say to  V exc /10 or 0.01 (V exc).   Then the HTS synchronous condenser injects capacitative current into the grid. If the converse holds, and V G > V exc, the condenser injects inductive current. (Since recall the current lags behind the voltage). Most importantly, the magnitude of V exc can be adjusted in seconds by changing the HTS rotor coil current.

It is precisely the "hair-trigger" control over V exc  that allows a dynamic response to the VAR-compensation needs of the grid.

Thankfully, first generation HTS wire-based dynamic sychronous condensers have already been field tested by the TVA (Tennessee Vallee Authority), and additional orders have been placed. This is good, but such technological enhancements need to be made throughout the U.S. grid to bring us up to date, as electrical power needs ramp up. In addition, we simply cannot take nuclear power off the table prematurely.

This will be especially important as global warming is exacerbated, with mean global temperatures` expected to increase by a further 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, which actually may be an underestimate.  See e.g.

See Also:


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Rural WI Voters Are Convinced Trump Is "Anointed By God" - Can They Be Rescued From Their Delusions?


                  "I'm the father of lies, but my dummies don't believe it."
                                    "Thank you, my MAGA muppets!"

 Reading the recent piece Monday (p. 1A, 'He's anointed': Donald Trump's Wisconsin faithful cloak the 2024 race in messianic zeal) in the Milwaukee Journal -Sentinel had my brain ready to blow a gasket.   Therein, the Journal -Sentinel contributors- Lawrence Andrea and Molly Beck- reported that before Republicans sat down for their “Lincoln-Reagan-Trump” dinner here late last month, "they bowed their heads for a prayer centered squarely on November."


"A local pastor began by saying “we pray for these upcoming elections” and asking God to be “with every ballot box or be with every voting station.” He hoped young people would see that “America needs their votes.” 

“This isn’t really a battle of Republican versus Democrat. It’s not even a battle of conservative versus liberal. It’s a battle between good and evil, God and the devil,” Giganti said to cheers and whistles. 

“And we must choose God.

Translation: Meaning these fools must choose Donald Trump, meaning a metaphorical Devil in the guise of a human presidential candidate.  One need only cite another quote to validate this infection. Take Pam Nowak, interviewed by the J-S:

He’s anointed from God,” Nowak said.

But why would any truly righteous deity "anoint" a traitor, coward, and pussy grabber? Nowak has no answers, other than that her personal deity sees something special in Trump. Or rather, and more likely, his feral (nee demonic) energy has seizeed her brain and caused her to see a "holy" guy when a hellish one really inhabits the form.

Most rally attendees interviewed at Tuesday's event told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the issue key to their support is immigration. Which is difficult to believe, given Trump had his Reepo brigands scuttle perhaps the most sane and comprehensive border bill ever put forward, e.g.

GOP Goes To Obstruction of Sane Immigration Bill To Ding Biden - Under Orders From Trump 

Yet  University of Wisconsin-Green Bay freshman Nate Kromrey, 19, said:

"We should have secure borders, lower the inflation rate, lower crime and then lower gas prices." 

 Kromrey said the fall election will be his first as a voter but given the kid's profound lack of information about issues one hopes he doesn't vote, period.   Indeed, his comment discloses that youthful Wisconsin voters are every bit as dumb and uninformed as young Michigan voters. And likely many others who can't seem to keep facts straight, including that the inflation rate IS lower e.g.

Latest WSJ Survey Finally Reveals Extent Of Americans' Economic-Financial Ignorance 

As well as crime, i.e. from a March 21, Newsweek piece:

The FBI crime data released on Tuesday showed a drop in nearly every type of crime from the fourth quarter of 2022 to 2023

As for gas prices, refinery capacity and the ongoing war in Ukraine have put these largely beyond President Joe Biden's  control - see e.g.

Why Biden can't bring gas prices down (

Would these Wisconsin voters really rather put Trump in office to try to bring them down when the mutt has vowed a 10 percent tariff on all imports, from all nations??  Give me a break.

This mental detachment to the point of schizoid psychosis also begs the question of why so many - self-proclaimed Christians - have no problems with Trump's pussy grabbing admission (on the Access Hollywood tape) as well as other perversions, i.e.

Why Do White Christian Evangelicals Worship A Pervert Prez Who Loves Spankings & Golden Showers?

They are even prepared to give this roach the benefit of the doubt when he changes his mind (purely for his own political gain) on one of their pet issues, abortion.  They rationalize their Trump fealty and worship by shrugging shoulders and saying: "Heck he could just change his mind again."

Failing to see it isn't a case of changing Trump's mind but of Trump manipulating his deaf, dumb and blind followers with lies.  But then, perhaps these MAGA minions forget that according to Christian scriptures "Satan is the Father of lies."

What remains is the hope that a majority in the battleground states don't fall under his sway and stream of lies.  Failing that, we could be facing the destruction of whatever remnant of democratic institutions remain. Along with labor rights, civil rights, environmental protections, social wage policies and public goods and services across the board.  Not to mention the imposition (via Trump's Project 25) of a brutishly draconian and punitive autocratic regime.  As blogger Amanda Marcotte notes (see first link below):

"For those still unaware, Project 2025 was created by a coalition of MAGA forces, including all these Christian right groups, to draft the blueprint for Trump to use to destroy rule of law and force an authoritarian agenda on the nation if he gets back into power. They are especially keen on abusing presidential powers to impose a Christian nationalist worldview, complete with abortion bans, reversal of LGBTQ rights, and a crackdown on sex education and contraception usage. They know Trump will do whatever they ask of him, which is why they aren't sweating this whole thing where he pretends to be moderate to sucker the mainstream press."

Basically, there is no margin for error or indecision in this upcoming election. It is a case of either voting Blue (for Biden and Dems) or opting to take us all down a bottomless draconian shithole. As for the Wisconsin rubes convinced Trump is "anointed by God" to deliver the nation from evil, they need to examine their own threadbare, miserable lives to ask why they have allowed one psychotic narcissist's lies and mockery to so profoundly fuck up their brains. To the extent of being convinced this traitor and coward is their only lifeline to a decent life.

See Also:

by Amanda Marcotte | April 10, 2024 - 6:39am | permalink

— from Salon

On Monday, with great fanfare, Donald Trump released his "plan" on abortion in a video posted to Truth Social. As with most things Trump says, the short statement was an avalanche of lies. He claims overturning Roe v. Wade was "about will of the people." In reality, strong majorities of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court's actions. He claims "all legal scholars" on "both sides" wanted to repeal Roe, another lie. Most legal scholars, except far-right ones, agree the right to privacy is justified by the Constitution but that such a dramatic reversal of precedent is bad law. He claimed, as he does routinely now, that Democrats want abortion "after birth," a vile lie that has become normalized through brute repetition. But the most consequential deceit is from Trump implying — but notably never actually saying — he's on the "leave it to the states" bandwagon.

Despite all his word games, Trump has never believed there's a legal reason to avoid a national ban. Before they settled on this cleverly dishonest video, his campaign was leaking trial balloons to the press about considering a 15- or 16-week ban. As the Washington Post reported, "as president, he backed a national 20-week ban." So he's lying when he claims to believe this "shouldn’t be a federal issue."

But most telling is the muted response on the Christian right. The anti-abortion group SBA List said they were "disappointed," but promised to "work tirelessly" to elect Trump in 2024 and that "he will get there" on a national ban. Alliance Defending Freedom, which argued the Dobbs case before the Supreme Court that ended Roe, completely ignored Trump's statement. Americans United For Life, Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation, Turning Point USA: All loudmouthed fundamentalist groups, all angrily anti-abortion, and all responded with either silence, or in some cases, eager support to Trump's video. Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, a longstanding anti-feminist group, seemed confident Trump will stick by the forced childbirth cause.

That's because they all know it's a crock, and Trump will sign any abortion ban a Republican-controlled Congress passes. Moreover, they all know that, if he gets into the White House, Trump will abuse executive powers to create a backdoor ban on most, if not all abortion, by using the defunct-but-never-repealed Comstock Act to legally persecute those who transport drugs or materials that are used in abortions. They know he will do this, because they are all involved in developing the plan to do so, through Project 2025.

....As Melissa Gira Grant wrote at the New Republic, "On January 20, 2025, conservatives plan to resurrect a 150-year-old defunct law to ban abortion across the nation." And as she notes, "This is not a secret plan—far from it." It's published and heavily talked about in right-wing circles."


Jeff Sharlet's Article: "Trump The Chosen One To Run America" - Yeah, From Hell 


by Maya Boddie | April 8, 2024 - 6:32am | permalink

— from Alternet

Donald Trump's "Messiah complex" perhaps, may have reached its peak last month when the former president announced he was selling $59.99 'God Bless the USA' Bibles.

Laura Brodie noted in a TIME Magazine article the MAGA hopeful's recent antics include telling his supporters "that he’s suffering for their sake, sharing a faux courtroom sketch of Christ at his side, and circulating actor Jon Voight’s bizarre claim that he is being 'destroyed as Jesus.'"

Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson, in a Sunday, April 7 op-ed for Milwaukee Independent, submits, "Trump is not the first president to compare himself to Jesus Christ."


by Robert Becker | April 8, 2024 - 6:18am | permalink

Equal to endless lies are endlessly self-serving fantasy projections that defy reality

Know anyone who lies all the time? Eventually, except for cultists, credibility vanishes. Know anyone who spouts absurd, laughably wrong-headed predictions? Trump the lead Chicken Little is thus special, managing to hit bottom when bad lying impels bad predictions. Behind all such devilry is the arrogant, fake self-confidence that lying seers must be right because they’re the ultimate know-it-alls. For a partial list, Trump’s jaw-dropping bluster self-anoints himself both incapable of error and the world’s great expert at everything. Why, this model of modesty knows more than world-class stars in science, climate, money, debt, pandemic diseases, war, ISIS, courts, lawsuits, trade, taxes, technology, drones, even the weather.

And so the culmination of this bluster is to commit political blackmail if he’s not made dictator-for-a-day: only Trump stands between the entire USA and catastrophe – from a guy who only picks primitive yes-men. Lying about the present facilitates inventing your own future – but instead of some visionary futurist, Trump is now the buffoon of doomsday predictions. The latest lie/fake projection is that America will implode, indeed will “no longer exist,” if he’s not re-elected. That tantrum of logic awards his non-election with a one-to-one-correlation, equating his fate with America’s entire critical mass.

She writes, "In 1866, President Andrew Johnson famously did, too," and, "While there is a financial component to Trump’s comparison that was not there for Johnson, the two presidents had similar political reasons for claiming a link to divine power."

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Eclipse Mania Grips "Millions" - But How Many Want To Learn The Astronomy Behind It?


                           Fig. 1 Basic diagram for spherical reference frame
                      Total eclipse seen from Burlington, Vermont

"I think the moments leading up to it were surreal. The lighting changes, and it was unlike any lighting I've ever experienced in my life, like something you can only see on set or manufactured," she said. "And then when it actually happened, it was... I had like a genuine giggle that was only brought on prior by, like, a roller coaster."  - Burlington VT  eclipse viewer

It was perhaps the country’s most viewed celestial event ever, spreading the darkness of the moon’s shadow across the homes of some 32 million people, including in major cities from Dallas to Cleveland and smaller communities such as Russellville, Ark., and Littleton, Maine. Millions more flocked into the 115-mile-wide path of totality, while the moon blocked at least half of the sun’s face across most of the rest of the United States.

Millions, including excited school children, put down cell phones yesterday to pay full attention to one of the most sensational space spectaculars: the total eclipse of the Sun.  In televised specials from ABC, CBS, in places as far removed as Dallas, Indianapolis and Cleveland the temporary night brought a range of emotions all generated by awe.  In Indy kids told ABC's Gio Benitez how they now wanted to study astronomy and maybe even learn how such awesome celestial events occur.  

But do they really? Or is this merely part of the media hype?  Let's actually introduce some basic spherical astronomy to see how these solar eclipses are predicted.   The basics of eclipse prediction begin with the spherical reference frame (Fig. 1) used in most spherical astronomy texts.  It then follows on by calculating what we call the "Besselian elements" (which are also used to predict occultations).

Thus a line EC follows the z-axis from the Earth's center directed outwards as shown.  The plane DBA is called the "fundamental plane" to which EC is normal (i.e. at 90). Similarly, EA and EB mark the x and y axes, respectively.  

We proceed by taking (a, d) to be the apparent right ascension and declination of the Sun and  (ad to be the corresponding coordinates for the Moon.  We then let (a,d) be the right ascension and declination of point C on the reference sphere.  We then let (x,y,z) be the rectangular coordinates of the Sun.  Then if X is the Sun's position on the sphere:  

x = r cos AX,  y = r cos BX,  z = r cos CX 

with r the Sun's geocentric distance.  Then if A is the pole for the plane CPB (and on the equator) we have: PA =  FA = 90o .   Hence, the right ascension of A is (90o  + a) and therefore the angle <XPA =   90o  + a - a ) .  

Since PX = (90o  -  d) we have for the first Besselian element:

x = r cos d  sin (a - a)    

We then refer to the spherical triangle PBX, for which BP = d. 

Also since angle <APB = 90o    then  <XPB =  180o   +  a - a.  

Hence, the next Besselian element:

 y =  r [sin d  cos d - cos d sin d cos (a - a)]

Going to the spherical triangle PCX we have: PC = 90o  -  d, PX = 90o  -  d

  And: <XPC  =   (a - a)   

Hence: z =  r [sin sin d - cos d cos d cos (a - a)]

Analogous to the preceding we can derive the corresponding equations for the Moon with (x',y',z')  the corresponding rectangular coordinates.

x' = r1 cos d  sin (a - a)    

y' =  r1 [sin d  cos d - cos d sin d cos (a - a)]

z' =  r1 [sin d sin d - cos d cos d cos (a - a)]

Since the x-axis is parallel to the line joining the centers of the Sun and the Moon we must have:

x = x'  and y = y'

Thus the coordinates (x,y) or  (x', y') are the coordinates of the center of the Moon's shadow on the fundamental plane, so that:

r cos d  sin (a - a)     =  r1 cos d  sin (a - a)   

r [sin d  cos d - cos d sin d cos (a - a)] = r1 [sin d  cos d - cos d sin d cos (a - a)]

r [sin sin d - cos d cos d cos (a - a)] =r1 [sin d sin d - cos d cos d cos (a - a)]

So at any instant the respective values, r, r1, a, d, ad

may be presumed known.

 As a further - and final note - the formulae can be put in a simpler form since at or near the time of eclipse a, d  are little different from  a and d. We can write:

r1/ r =  b

Which can also be expressed:  b =  sin P/  sin P1

Since by definition: 1/r = sin P and 1/ r1 = sin P1

Thus b can be computed at any time, and is a small quantity on the order of:


Writing: [(a - a) +  (a   -  a)] for  [(a - a) ]

We obtain:

sin (a - a) [1 - b sec d cos d cos (a - a)]  = 

[b sec d cos d cos (a - a)]sin (a - a

Or, with sufficient accuracy:

a =   a -  b sec d cos d (a - a)  / (1 - b )

Similarly, for Besselian element d:

d =   d -  b (d’ -   d )/ 1 - b

And the quantities a and d can be calculated at intervals of one hour, even with this basic (i.e. trig) approach.

To be sure, awe and wonder in response to a total solar eclipse are a natural accompaniment of the event-  especially when shared with so many others - who may be of a different mind politically, culturally.  But to fully appreciate what one beholds one needs to grasp it at least at a basic level.  That understanding, often via mathematics, does not destroy wonder and awe, but enhances it.  Also, showing our science is real and can actually predict these events, many thousands of years in advance. Does it take away the "magic"?  Nope, it shows that our human minds can develop tools to probe and uncover many aspects of the cosmos.

See Also:

Post Eclipse - Can The Awe and Wonder Be Translated Into Learning, Scientific Endeavor? 


Selected Questions -Answers From All Experts Astronomy Forum (Astronomical Coordinates)