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Elon Musk At War With German Environmentalists Protesting His New Gigafactory

Elon Musk At War With German Environmentalists Protesting His New Gigafactory

It was just a couple of days ago that we first reported that Tesla would need to cut down “thousands of trees” in order to build its Gigafactory 4 in Germany.

In that article, we noted that the company needed to clear so much forest space to put up its factory that dozens of protesters recently organized a gathering known as a “Forest Walk” to protect against Tesla’s tree removal activities at the site, according to Teslarati

The protesters were dressed in yellow vests, replicating the “Yellow Vest Movement” in France and are also concerned about what the deforestation may do to the drinking water in the area.

This past weekend, in a fit of hilarious and ironic virtue signalling cognitive dissonance, Musk responded to the criticism, saying on Twitter “this is not a natural forest — it was planted for use as cardboard & only a small part will be used for GF4.”

Oh, well in that case, just cut down as many trees as you want, Elon. 

Musk also responded to criticisms about water usage at Gigafactory 4, lying saying “Tesla won’t use this much net water on a daily basis. It’s possibly a rare peak usage case, but not an everyday event.”

Company planning documents, however, estimate that the factory would need about 98,000 gallons of water per hour. 

The company remains in the process of “jumping through hoops” to get the plant up and running, according to Bloomberg.

One of those hoops included clearing the area of wartime bombs. Disposal officers carried out controlled detonations of seven wartime bombs on Sunday at the site.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Powering the Tesla Gigafactory

Powering the Tesla Gigafactory

Tesla has repeatedly claimed in publications, articles and tweets from Elon Musk that its Reno, Nevada Gigafactory will be powered 100% by renewables.  Specifics on exactly how Tesla plans to do this are sparse, but the data that are available suggest that Tesla’s 70MW rooftop solar array won’t come close to supplying the Gigafactory’s needs and that the other options that Tesla is now or has been considering (more solar, possibly wind, battery storage) will not bridge the gap. As a result the Gigafactory will probably end up obtaining most of its electricity from the Nevada grid, 75% of which is presently generated by fossil fuels.

Lest there be any doubt about Tesla’s claim that the Gigafactory will be powered with 100% renewables, here are some tweets from Mr Musk:

July 27, 2016: Should mention that Gigafactory will be fully powered by clean energy when complete

June 8, 2018: Gigafactory should be on 100% renewable energy (primarily solar with some wind) by next year. Rollout of solar has already begun

August 25, 2018: Tesla’s Gigafactory will be 100% renewable powered (by Tesla Solar) by end of next year

Plus this excerpt from the January 2016 Gigafactory tour handout:

(The Gigafactory) is an all-electric factory with no fossil fuels (natural gas or petroleum) directly consumed. We will be using 100% sustainable energy through a combination of a 70 MW solar rooftop array and solar ground installations.

Plus this one from Tesla’s “press kit”:

The Gigafactory is designed to be a net-zero energy factory upon completion. It will not consume any fossil fuels – there is no natural gas piped to the site nor are there permanent diesel generators being used to provide power … The entire roof of the Gigafactory will be covered in solar array, and installation is already underway. Power not consumed during the day will be stored via Tesla Powerpacks for use when needed.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Driverless Cars and the Cult of Technology

We constantly hear that driverless cars are just around the corner. We’re told they will revolutionize transportation and enable us to continue using our car-based transport and land-use system. If they’re made by Tesla, they’ll be powered by magic, solar-powered, super efficient batteries and we’ll all be able to keep living our hyper-mobile, hyper-consumptive lifestyles without any damage to the environment. The only problem is we’ve been hearing about all this for the last five to ten years and there’s no evidence that it’s anything but the same old technological, utopian dreck that we’ve been hearing since General Motors debuted “Futurama” at the 1939 World’s Fair.

Technological utopianism fueled by science fiction is nothing new. If you’ve never seen it, watch Disney’s short animated film “Magic Highway” from 1958. It’s remarkably similar to this recent promotional film for an Elon Musk tubular underground transportation systemin Los Angeles. They’re both fantasies that maintain our inefficient, car-oriented transportation and land-use systems and help the Automobile Industrial Complex retain its stranglehold on our imaginations. They’re also fantasies that dovetail with corporate capitalism’s fantasy of automating the entire workforce and using technology to eliminate jobs and reduce costs.

In many ways, driverless cars have all the makings of a massive cult–the Cult of Technology. This is the idea that technology will somehow solve the problems of human greed, over-population and over-consumption of planetary resources, and therefore will also solve the related problems of climate change, waste, pollution, and species extinction. It’s an old fantasy but one we still buy into. It preys on our laziness and gullibility and it distracts and deludes us so much that we can’t see basic realities staring us in the face.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

More Evidence The Economy Is Deteriorating

More Evidence The Economy Is Deteriorating

“Financial-market and economic prospects remain far shy of the hype and headlines, amidst tanking consumer optimism and negative revisions to recent reporting.” – John Williams, Shadowstats.com

The economy may seem like it’s doing well if you are part of the upper 10% demographic. Though, in reality, for most of the upper 10%, doing “well” has been a function of having easy access to credit. NASA Federal Credit Union is offering 0% down, 0% mortgage insurance for mortgages up to $2.5 million.

Someone I know suggested the tax cut stimulus had run its course. But the narrative that the tax cuts would stimulate economic activity was pure propaganda. The tax cuts stimulated $1 trillion in expected share buybacks and put more money in the pockets of corporate insiders and billionaires. The average middle class household spent its tax cut money on more expensive gasoline and food. Since the tax cut took effect, auto sales and home sales have declined. Retail sales have been mixed. However, it’s difficult to distinguish between statistical manipulation and inflation. I would argue that, net of real inflation and Census Bureau statistical games, real retail sales have been declining.

As an example, last week Black Box Intelligence released July restaurant sales. While comparable store sales were up 0.54% over July 2017, comparable restaurant traffic was down 1.8%. On a rolling three months, comp sales are up 0.46% but comparable traffic is down nearly 2%. With traffic declining, especially a faster rate relative to the small increase in sales, it means the sales “growth” is entirely a function of price inflation. If Black Box Intelligence could control it’s data for price increases, it would show that there is no question that real sales are declining. I have been loathe to recommend shorting restaurant stocks because, for some reason, the hedge funds love them.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

If You Read Between The Lines, Global Economic Leaders Are Telling Us Exactly What Is Coming

If You Read Between The Lines, Global Economic Leaders Are Telling Us Exactly What Is Coming

Sometimes, a strongly-worded denial is the most damning evidence of all that something is seriously wrong.  And when things start to really get crazy, “the spin” is often the exact opposite of the truth.  In recent days we have seen a lot of troubling headlines and a lot of chaos in the global financial marketplace, but authorities continue to assure us that everything is going to be just fine.  Of course we witnessed precisely the same thing just prior to the great financial crisis of 2008.  Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke insisted that a recession was not coming, and we proceeded to plunge into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Is our society experiencing a similar state of denial about what is ahead of us here in 2018?

Let me give you a few examples of some recent things that global economic leaders have said, and what they really meant…

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk: “We are definitely not going bankrupt.”

Translation: “We are definitely going bankrupt.”

Tesla is a company that is supposedly worth 51 billion dollars, but the reality is that they are going to zero.  They have been bleeding massive amounts of cash for years, and now a day of reckoning has finally arrived.  A severe liquidity crunch has forced the company to delay payments or to ask for enormous discounts from suppliers, and many of those suppliers are now concerned that Tesla is on the verge of collapse

Specifically, a recent survey sent privately by a well-regarded automotive supplier association to top executives, and seen by the WS , found that 18 of 22 respondents believe that Tesla is now a financial risk to their companies.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Not So Happy Motoring


It hasn’t been a great month for America’s electric car fantasy. Elon Musk’s Tesla company — the symbolic beating heart of the fantasy — is whirling around the drain with its share price plummeting 22 percent, its bonds downgraded by Moody’s to junk status, a failure to produce its “affordable” ($36,000 — Ha!) Model 3 at commercial scale, a massive recall of earlier S Model sedans for a steering defect, and the spectacular fiery crash in Silicon Valley last week of an X model that may have been operating in automatic mode (the authorities can’t determine that based on what’s left), and which killed the driver.

Oh, and an experimental self-driving Uber car (Volvo brand) ran over and killed a lady crossing the street with her bicycle in Tempe, Arizona, two weeks ago. Don’t blame Elon for that.

There’s a lot to like about electric cars, of course, if, say, you’re a Google executive floating through life in a techno-narcissism bubble, or a Hollywood actor with wooly grandiose notions of saving the planet while simultaneously signaling your wealth and your “green” virtue cred. Teslas supposedly handle beautifully, ride very quietly, have great low-end power, and decent range of over 200 miles. The engine has something like twenty moving parts, is very long-lasting, and is easy to repair or change out if necessary.

Are they actually “green and clean?” Bwaahaaaaa….! Are you kidding? First, there’s the energy embedded in producing the car: mining and smelting the ores, manufacturing the plastics, running the assembly line, etc. That embedded energy amounts to about 22 percent of the energy consumed by the car over a ten-year lifetime. Then there’s the cost of actually powering the car day-by-day. The electricity around the USA is produced mostly by burning coal, natural gas, or by nuclear fission, all of which produce harmful emissions or byproducts. But the illusion that the power just comes out of a plug in the wall (for just pennies a day!) is a powerful one for the credulous public. The cherry-on-top is the fantasy that before much longer all that electric power will come from “renewables,” solar and wind, and we can leave the whole fossil fuel mess behind us. We say that to ourselves as a sort of prayer, and it has exactly that value.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Yet Another Year of Magical Thinking


A peculiar feature of the human condition is that a society in distress will call forth intellectual witch-doctors to put on a colorful show that distracts the supposedly thinking class from the insoluble quandaries that portend serious trouble ahead. This feature is on display these days in the person of freelance space pioneer Elon Musk. He intends to establish a human colony on Mars of one million people by 2040.

Musk, who is also developer of the Tesla line of electric cars and businesses that make solar-electric gear and batteries, has tested a series of space vehicles, most recently last week’s celebrated launch of his Falcon Heavy Rocket, said to be the most powerful in the world. It is just the precursor of the soon-to-come colossus Musk calls the BFR (“Big Fucking Rocket”) that will convey as many as 200 people at a time to their new home on the Red Planet.

NPR reporter Ari Shapiro was rhapsodizing about this “Space-X” project last week on the airwaves, lending it the media stamp-of-approval. And since NPR is a major news source for the US thinking class especially, you can be sure this meme of colonizing Mars is now embedded in the brains of the Pareto distribution (“the law of the vital few”) who affect to be thought leaders in this land.

There’s an old gag about the space race of yore that goes something like this (trigger warning to the ethnically hyper-sensitive):

The UN convenes a General Assembly session on space travel. The ambassadors of various nations are asked to talk about their space projects. The Russians and the Americans tick off their prior accomplishments and announce plans to explore the planets. Finally, the ambassador from Poland takes his turn at the rostrum.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

There Is Just One Thing Preventing Elon Musk’s Vision From Coming True: The Laws Of Physics

There Is Just One Thing Preventing Elon Musk’s Vision From Coming True: The Laws Of Physics

When Elon Musk stepped on stage at Tesla’s product-launch event earlier this month, he knew the market’s confidence in Tesla’s brand had sunk to an all-time low since he took over the company a decade ago. So, he resorted to a tactic that should be familiar to anybody who has been following the company: Shock and awe.

While the event was ostensibly scheduled to introduce Tesla’s new semi-truck – a model that won’t make it’s market debut for another two years, assuming Tesla sticks to its product-rollout deadline – Musk had a surprise in store: A new model of the Tesla Roadster that, he bragged, would be the fastest production car ever sold.

Musk made similarly lofty claims about the battery life and performance of both vehicles. The Tesla semi-trucks, he said, would be able to travel for 500 miles on a single charge. The roadster could clock a staggering 620 – more than double the closest challenger.

There was just one problem, as Tesla fans would later find out, courtesy of Bloomberg: None of it was true.

In fact, many of the promises defy the capabilities of modern battery technology.

Elon Musk knows how to make promises. Even by his own standards, the promises made last week while introducing two new Tesla vehicles—the heavy-duty Semi Truck and the speedy Roadster—are monuments of envelope pushing.

To deliver, according to close observers of battery technology, Tesla would have to far exceed what is currently thought possible.

Take the Tesla Semi: Musk vowed it would haul an unprecedented 80,000 pounds for 500 miles on a single charge, then recharge 400 miles of range in 30 minutes. That would require, based on Bloomberg estimates, a charging system that’s 10 times more powerful than one of the fastest battery-charging networks on the road today—Tesla’s own Superchargers.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Are Electric Cars As Clean As They Seem?

Are Electric Cars As Clean As They Seem?

electric car

Tesla’s unveiling of its mass market Model 3 sparked a global interest in making electric vehicles the next big thing in automobile manufacturing. But can the category’s green agenda keep up with its metal and recycling needs?

The concept of bunking the traditional engine for a non-gas guzzling counterpart has been here for decades, but creating an ecosystem for battery charging and bringing vehicle costs down was a challenge for decades.

The sheer force of Elon Musk’s vision is building the infrastructure needed to sustain millions of electric cars in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. Most major manufacturers have joined the enthusiasm to ditch old-school engines to construct the international fleet of tomorrow.

But this new step doesn’t solve all of the world’s environmental pollution issues related to transportation. The extraction of rare earth minerals, the disposal of lithium-ion batteries, and the sourcing of the energy that powers charging stations are all issues that plague the future of the green argument for electric vehicles.

As Wired notes in an article from last year, electric vehicles are most efficient when they’re light. That way, they need minimal energy to transport their valuable cargo. In search for a light material to carry and conduct batteries, scientists discovered the power of lithium—a highly conductive metal that adds little burden to the vehicle’s frame.

Discovered in 1817, this key ingredient is mostly extracted from deposits in the United States, Chile, and Australia. The most cost-effective method for lithium processing involves pumping salt-rich waters into special evaporation ponds that eventually produce lithium chloride. Then, a special plant adds sodium carbonate to turn the former lithium chloride into lithium carbonate, a white powder.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Can Puerto Rico go 100% solar?

Can Puerto Rico go 100% solar?

With seasonal variations in output of only around 30% Puerto Rico is at an ideal latitude for solar power, and despite generally low capacity factors (caused by cloudiness) it can be argued that if solar doesn’t work there it won’t work anywhere. And as the results of this post show 100% solar generation can in fact be made to work in Puerto Rico – but only by installing enormously costly amounts of battery storage. The island could be repowered with gas for a small fraction of the cost. (Inset: Average Puerto Rico annual solar radiation.)

INTRODUCTION

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island with an area of 9,000 square kilometers, a population of 3.4 million and a nominal per-capita income of $29,600, about the same as Italy. It is an “unincorporated territory” of the U.S (more details on what this means here). The island has historically generated almost all of its electricity from fossil fuels, with 47% coming from petroleum, 34% from natural gas, 17% from coal and only 2% from renewable energy in 2016.

Since Puerto Rico’s electricity infrastructure was heavily damaged by Hurricane Maria it has been proposed that the island should take the opportunity to abandon fossil fuel generation and convert entirely to solar. Leading the charge, as usual, is Tesla’s Elon Musk, who has already shipped a small number of storage batteries to Puerto Rico but doesn’t want to stop there: From the BBC

Elon Musk says he can rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid with solar: The company says it has powered small islands, such as Ta’u in American Samoa. There, it installed a solar grid which can power the entire island and store enough electricity for three days without any sun. “The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico, too,” Mr Musk tweeted.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Homework Assignment

Poor old Karl Marx, tortured by boils and phantoms, was right about one thing: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. Thus, I give you the Roman Empire and now the United States of America. Rome surrendered to time and entropy. Our method is to drive a gigantic clown car into a ditch.

Is anyone out there interested in redemption? I have an idea for the political party out of power, the Democrats, sunk in its special Okefenokee Swamp of identity politics and Russia paranoia: make an effort to legislate the Citizens United calamity out of existence. Who knows, a handful of Republicans may be shamed into going along with it. For those of you who have been mentally vacationing on Mars with Elon Musk, Citizens United was a Supreme Court decision — Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 558 U.S. 310 (2010) — which determined that corporations had the right, as hypothetical “persons,” to give as much money as they liked to political candidates.

This “right” devolved from the First Amendment of the constitution, the 5-4 majority opinion said — giving money to political candidates and causes amounts to “freedom of speech.” The Citizens United ruling opened the door for unlimited election spending by corporations and enormous mischief in our national life. Then-President Obama — a constitutional law professor before his career in politics — complained bitterly about the opinion days later in his State of the Union address, saying that the court had “reversed a century of law to open the floodgates, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.”

And for the next seven years he did absolutely nothing about it, nor did the Democratic Party majority in congress. Rather, they vacuumed in as much corporate campaign money as possible from every hokey political action committee (PAC) from sea to shining sea, especially in the 2016 presidential election starring Hillary “It’s My Turn” Clinton.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Musktopia Here We Come!

It ought to be sign of just how delusional the nation is these days that Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X is taken seriously. Musk continues to dangle his fantasy of travel to Mars before a country that can barely get its shit together on Planet Earth, and the Tesla car represents one of the main reasons for it — namely, that we’ll do anything to preserve, maintain, and defend our addiction to incessant and pointless motoring (and nothing to devise a saner living arrangement).

Even people with Ivy League educations believe that the electric car is a “solution” to our basic economic quandary, which is to keep all the accessories and furnishings of suburbia running at all costs in the face of problems with fossil fuels, especially climate change. First, understand how the Tesla car and electric motoring are bound up in our culture of virtue signaling, the main motivational feature of political correctness. Virtue signaling is a status acquisition racket. In this case, you get social brownie points for indicating that you’re on-board with “clean energy,” you’re “green,” “an environmentalist,” “Earth –friendly.” Ordinary schmoes can drive a Prius for their brownie points. But the Tesla driver gets all that and much more: the envy of the Prius drivers!

This is all horse shit, of course, because there’s nothing green or Earth-friendly about Tesla cars, or electric cars in general. Evidently, many Americans think these cars run on batteries. No they don’t. Not really. The battery is just a storage unit for electricity that comes from power plants that burn something, or from hydroelectric installations like Hoover Dam, with its problems of declining reservoir levels and aging re-bar concrete construction. A lot of what gets burned for electric power is coal. Connect the dots. Also consider the embedded energy that it takes to just manufacture the cars. That had to come from somewhere, too.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blowout Week 167

Blowout Week 167

There are some people you just can’t hold down. One of them is Elon Musk, who has offered to solve South Australia’s grid problems within a hundred days by installing Tesla utility-scale batteries and not to send a bill if the fix doesn’t work, thereby displaying true confidence in the future of energy storage technology. As a reward for this generous offer he gets to be the feature story in this week’s Blowout.

BBC: Elon Musk offers to fix South Australian power network in 100 days 

Elon Musk, boss of electric car firm Tesla, says he can help solve South Australia’s power crisis within 100 days – and if not he’ll do it for free.

The offer follows a series of blackouts in the state. On Thursday, Tesla executive Lyndon Rive had said the company could install 100-300 megawatt hours of battery storage in 100 days. When asked on Twitter how serious he was about the offer, Mr Musk said if Tesla failed, there’d be no bill. “Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?” he tweeted in response to Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Australian software maker Atlassian. Having offered to “make the $ happen (& politics)”, Mr Cannon-Brookes then told Mr Musk: “You’re on mate.” Mr Musk went on to quote a price of $250 per kilowatt hour for 100 megawatt hour systems. The state of South Australia has suffered from blackouts since September last year, leading to a political spat over energy policy. Battery storage is one of several options the government is looking at to help ensure reliable power supplies as Australia grows more reliant on intermittent wind and solar power.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Warren Buffett’s Quieter Quest to Kill Solar in the West

Warren Buffett’s Quieter Quest to Kill Solar in the West

Not a month goes by without a story of some assault on solar-friendly policies by utilities, or by the Utility Commissions that are often in their pocket.

During the holidays at the end of 2015, it was Nevada’s utter dismembering of its net metering policy. Nevada is—or was—one of 42 states that offered net metering, a program through which customers with solar arrays are compensated for the energy they produce on their rooftops or in small installations connected to the electric grid.

NV Energy Inc. unleashed this full frontal attack on the program that—in one quick vote of three unelected commissioners—pulled the rug out from under 17,000 solar customers and eviscerated at least 8,000 solar jobs. And the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) was happy to oblige.

Nevada has the highest number of solar jobs per capita in the United States, but for how long?

As Nevada’s PUCN invited this “solar black hole” over one of the nation’s sunniest states, many pointed out how NV Energy fought tooth and nail against the successful net metering plan, and ultimately secured its demise.

NV Energy, the state’s largest utility, is a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy. This net metering battle was high profile.

Many have pitched it as a Buffett versus Musk showdown, as NV Energy’s demands would prove to cripple Solar City’s business in the state, which was dependent on a consistent net metering program.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers

The really big item in last night’s 60-Minutes newsbreak was that the latest Star Wars movie passed the billion dollar profit gate a week after release. That says just about everything you need to know about our floundering society, including the state of the legacy news media.

The cherry on top last week was Elon Musk’s SpaceX company’s feat landing the first spent stage of its Falcon 9 rocket to be (theoretically) recycled and thus hugely lowering the cost of firing things into space. The media spooged all over itself on that one, since behind this feat stands Mr. Musk’s heroic quest to land humans on Mars. This culture has lost a lot in the past 40 years, but among the least recognized is the loss of its critical faculties. We’ve become a nation of six-year-olds.

News flash: we’re not going Mars. Notwithstanding the accolades for Ridley Scott’s neatly-rationalized fantasy, The Martian (based on Andy Weir’s novel), any human journey to the red planet would be a one-way trip. Anyway, all that begs the question: why are we so eager to journey to a dead planet with none of the elements necessary for human life when we can’t seem to manage human life on a planet superbly equipped to support us?

Answer: because we are lost in raptures of techno-narcissism. What do I mean by that? We’re convinced that all the unanticipated consequences of our brief techno-industrial orgy can be solved by… more and better technology! Notice that this narrative is being served up to a society now held hostage to the images on little screens, by skilled people who, more and more, act as though these screens have become the new dwelling place of reality. How psychotic is that?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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