Tag Archives: government waste

Electric Car Stupidity in Hawaii

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will not be surprised to learn that Electric Car stupidity is alive and well in Honolulu.

The Hawaii State Energy Office discusses its Electric Vehicle policies on its website.  The subject is introduced as follows:

To reduce Hawaii’s consumption of petroleum within the transportation sector, the State Energy Office is looking at plug-in electric vehicles (EV) as well as other alternative transportation solutions to address the challenges of modernizing our energy system and building a clean transportation future. Hawaii’s leaders and stakeholders view the adoption and widespread deployment of EVs as a key approach towards the reduction of our fossil fuel dependency

Hawaii’s government officials have put on their rose colored green energy glasses.   The rosy view sees a warm sunny climate that has excellent solar properties, and short driving distances.  Hawaii has been anointed by local government officials as a paradise perfectly set up for Electric Vehicles.

Hawaii has an elaborate subsidy system to encourage energy conservation and to encourage renewable energy.  Very nearly all green energy in Hawaii is solar based, either in the form of solar water heaters or solar electric panels on the roofs of houses.  There is a bit of wind and lots of other things are being tried, but most electricity in Hawaii is produced by burning oil based fuels.

Remove the rosy hue and reality must one day set in.

Absent a dramatic change in battery technology, all intermittent green energy options will continue to be of limited use.  A better battery is an absolute necessity. Today’s crop of batteries are not up to the task.  Hawaii’s politicians appear to be wishing for a world that does not yet exist.  And wishing it were so is usually bad public policy.

Hawaii is executing policy based upon a technology that doesn’t yet exist.   The current crop of batteries are both expensive to manufacture and pollute the world when spent.  Solar panels only work for about 5 hours per day and wind averages about 8 hours a day.  Both are predictably unreliable.  That unpredictable nature will persist until battery technology improves.

Electric vehicles (EV) are exempt from parking fees.  Generous tax credits provide purchase assistance and businesses are given subsidies to compensate for mandatory installation of electric fuel fuel stations at parking facilities where 100 or more vehicles are parked.  Hawaiian Electric offers discounted electric rates for EV.  And Taxi’s have been given generous incentives too.

Solar power does reduce the need for oil power when it is sunny.  People install more solar than they need.  The excess is dumped onto the power grid.  Hawaiian Electric is forced to take it. The excess power is then retrieved from the grid during the evening peak.  This activity destabilizes the grid, making the entire system less reliable and it also shifts costs from those that have solar to those that don’t as everybody else has to pay more for peak energy.

A well healed homeowner can install solar power panels and buy an electric car.  Hawaii pays him to install the solar, then pays him again to buy the car and allows a discount on the electrical power used while allowing free parking where ever he goes.  What a deal….if you own a home and can afford a new car.

Most car charging is done at home at night.  The Hawaiian Electric power grid peaks shortly after sunset.   Both wind and solar are most effective during the day.  Hawaiian Electric is required to provide power 24/7.  Very nearly all power generation after sunset in Hawaii is done via oil fired power plants.  EV’s in Hawaii use one form of oil (electricity) instead of another form of oil (gasoline).

Oil is a very dirty and very expensive way to produce power.  Hawaii is the only state in the USA to use oil widely in power generation.    Modern gasoline cars pollute less than not so modern oil fired power plants.  EV’s in Hawaii produce twice the air pollution and twice the carbon dioxide as an equivalent gasoline vehicle, particularly newer gasoline vehicles that get significantly better gas mileage.

Hawaii’s government has provided  subsidies for all sort of non oil based products.  Biodiesel and ethanol are being encouraged with generous subsidies.  Hawaii’s ability to produce either is extremely limited.

Both ethanol and biodiesel require large tracts of agricultural land.  Land is something in short supply in Hawaii.  Hawaii has to import most food items because they don’t have enough farm land.  Sugar cane, a primary ethanol feedstock, is going away as houses fill up available land.   When I was a small boy, sugarcane was everywhere in rural Oahu.  Not anymore.

Hawaii’s approach is to try a bit of everything and hope that something will work.  The result is lots of subsidies to encourage less electrical usage.  People get government assistance to put LED lighting in their homes, to use more efficient appliances, to install solar water heaters,  and tax credits for solar powered electricity.   And one subsidy that encourages more electrical use…Electric Vehicle tax credits and deals.

And who pays for it, everybody that doesn’t drive an EV and have solar electric panels on their house.   Hawaiian Electric customers pay three times the national average for their electricity, which makes conservation an obvious choice.  It also makes Electric Vehicles more expensive to drive.

Hawaii’s air is dirtier and its electricity costs more because of a misplaced love affair with Electric Vehicles.  If and when a better battery becomes available, the state can force solar power generators to store their own power and use it during the evening peak.  If battery technology improves and if the State adopts reasonable solar panel policies many of my objections will disappear….but until then….




California Dreaming — Don Quixote would be proud

Earlier today I was browsing at the Forbes web site when I tripped across their list of the 20 dirtiest cities in America.  Cleveland made the list, just barely.  Six cities in California made the top ten.

So I thought… a perfect time and place to complain about global climate science.  It doesn’t sound like they are related but they are.  We are spending billions, perhaps trillions worldwide to try to control climate and we are failing.  Perhaps that is not the best use of funds.

California is spending a huge amount of money to try to get the state to use renewable energy for 20% of its needs.  Everybody in the state gets to pay for it in higher utility rates.   Businesses relocate. Energy use goes down and unemployment goes up.  Utility rates go up even more to make up for the lost marginal profit no longer generated by the businesses that have moved to other states.

Every week China opens a new coal fired power plant that more than makes up for any carbon dioxide saved in California…and then they use that dirty cheap power to manufacture stuff that gets imported into California.

If I lived in

  • Fresno (#1 on the forbes list)
  • Bakersfield (#2)
  • Modesto (#5)
  • Riverside (#6)

I would hope for a different set of priorities in Sacramento (#12 on the Forbes list).

Government silliness — Highway mileage markers

Friday the 13th, a good day to change things up a bit and talk about government silliness. Today’s subject… road signs.

Our newest interstate highways have mile markers every .1 or .2 of a mile.  Why?

We used to have mile markers every mile….seemed reasonable to me.  Then half mile markers made an appearance.  I was touring New Hampshire a few years ago  and saw my first .1 mile marker.  I figured New Hampshire is small and they must like to count everything they have.  The markers are showing up everywhere now.  I wonder if  sign companies and defense companies share lobbyists?

I have difficulty figuring out what problem is being addressed by the additional signs.  Governments love to spend money in the name of safety…but I can’t think of a safety angle here.  Were people getting lost in between mile markers on interstate highways?  At 70 miles an hour, and .1 mile spacing, a marker goes by every 5.2 seconds.

All I see are capital and maintenance costs rising.  Sure the installed cost of each sign is probably less than $100,  but if there is no benefit it is pure waste.  I can’t imagine a favorable cost/benefit analysis cost argument.

In Ohio, and other places too I’d guess, there is a sign along the curve on cloverleaf off ramps.  The sign is  a label for the off ramp. One might  say   E 270  S Sawmill Road ramp or something equivalent telling the reader the off ramp they currently occupy.

I am at a loss, I cannot for the life of me understand why the sign is there.    The signs are small and come at you quickly which makes them difficult to read.   I’m not too sure reading the sign while negotiating the off ramp is a good idea.   Perhaps there is another purpose.   OK, but what could it be?

There is a stretch of the Pali Highway in Kailua, Hawaii that has 6 speed limit signs in a quarter mile section of the roadway.   There is no additional traffic entering the highway between these signs.   I wonder what the engineer that placed those signs must have been thinking.  Maybe he had an uncle in the sign business.

I have a theory for why this is happening.

All these projects are funded with Federal  Highway Trust Fund dollars.  The bureaucratic red tape associated with those  funds is substantial (I used to work on these projects so I have first hand experience).  That red tape encourages the various highway departments around the country to do a few large projects rather than many smaller ones because the red tape is a much bigger percentage of a small project’s total cost.

If they have a little extra money left over, they add crap to a big project.   It takes years to get a project approved…and having small projects in the wings to soak up extra money is just too much work.

States don’t want to return extra federal funds to the treasury….so they put crap they don’t want or need into the projects so they can spend the available  funds. After it has been added a few times,  the here to fore unwanted stuff  becomes a necessary part of all future road projects.

And as the states compare notes with each other, the dumb ideas work their way around the country.

Sometimes signs are just plain stupid.   The H1 Freeway in Honolulu used to have signs that said Do not throw rubbish over bridge.  Under the bridge or onto or off the bridge was OK, but not over.   A few years ago the signs were replaced with more pedestrian no littering signs and a fun little bit of Hawaiiana went away.  Every now and then I see one of the old signs on a bridge in an out of the way location and I smile.

Canada dumps the penny, go Canada

I was looking for an excuse to write about my second favorite subject in the world, government waste…when the calendar cooperated.  April Fools Day.  Perfect.

I’ll warn you ahead of time, I’m a bit nuts on this subject.

Canada has just announced that they will no longer make the penny.  It costs the government 1.6 cents to make a penny and Canada is losing 11 million dollars a year manufacturing the item.  In 2011 the US Mint manufactured 4.9 billion pennies and lost a cool $50 million dollars in the process….and we loose money on the nickel too.

The penny has been the lowest denomination coin available since 1858 when the Philadelphia mint quit manufacturing the half penny.   Inflation has worked its magic over time and the lowly penny of 1858 would  have the equivalent buying power of  $2.80 today.

As I think back to 1858, eliminating the half penny was the modern day equivalent or rounding to the nearest $1.40…and cash was the only way to pay.

We haven’t changed the shape or value of coins in over 100 years.  Sure we keep trying to get Americans to use a dollar coin…but we do it so stupidly.   Message to Uncle Sam…the dollar coin needs to replace the dollar bill not supplement it.  People are creatures of habit and we are going to keep using paper dollars as long as they are available.

But no…we make both ….and then run commercials trying to get people to switch….and then when they don’t….we store the coins in vaults…because we don’t have the wherewithal to get rid of the paper dollar.   Lucky thing we live in a credit card world.   We really don’t need coins…or currency for that matter.  Just charge it!

We really need to start over when it comes to coins….and currency too.  A good place to start would be to dump the penny and nickel and stop manufacturing the paper dollar.   I’d add a $5 coin too if I were king.   And a $500 bill.  Inflation exists and will continue.  If we assume 3% inflation, then the currency loses 50% of its value every 26 years….we might as well get started, it’s only going to get worse.

I’d be the first to admit that in a world of trillion dollar budget deficits, a billion here and a billion there doesn’t add up to much….but little every bit helps.