My views are my own... but I can be persuaded by the facts
Byline: Bill Moore
Some three years ago now, I sent a $10,000 cashiers check to a used car dealer in Southern California. It was to pay for - sight unseen - a then newly off-lease 2016 Fiat 500e pure electric car, which was only available in California. Sure, I'd seen a dozen or so photographs of it and I even checked out the dealership lot on Google Earth just to ease my mind.
A week later - and $1000 paid to a transporter to haul the car to Nebraska - it arrived: a stylish gray with orange accents, a sun roof, 0-60 in 8.8 seconds acceleration. Thankfully, the battery charged up to over 100 miles of ''estimated'' range.. a number that would vary wildly depending on the time of year - winter vs summer - and where and how I drove the car.
I knew the EPA rated it at 84 miles of range on a full charge of its now comparatively puny 24kWh lithium battery. This was not going to be a car you'd willingly drive cross-country. It was strictly a ''city EV'' perfect for where I live and for 99% of my driving: and that was the point. We still own a 2009 Prius with less than 70,000 miles on it. It works just fine if and when we want or need to take a longer trip while getting 45 or so miles per gallon. But at our age (I just turned 75), neither my wife nor I enjoy long road trips anymore, so the Prius sits most of the time - and I've learned after two 12V battery failures - to periodically trickle charge it. Ironically, the last failure got me an appearance on CNN!
No, most of my driving now is electric in the fun and frugal 500e, which I am pleased to see Stellantis plans to reintroduce to North America 2024, one with some 150 miles of range. Not surprisingly, it's a top seller in Europe and adding that half door was a smart move. Getting in and out of the backseat is hard even if you?re young and nimble, but other than that, the car is just pure delight to drive and it costs a fraction to "fuel" (using the 110V charger) in my garage at night or when the wind is blowing good and strong across the Southwest Power Pool (spp.org).
We really started to appreciate having the 500e as Covid 19 raged and gas prices peaked at $5 a gallon in our area. Our local utility rate is just under 12 cents a kilowatt hour. Assuming I depleted that battery charge to 0 and recharged it to its full capacity - a long 24+ hour process with the slow, 3kWh onboard charger, it would cost less than $2.80. (FYI - 24kWh is approximately equivalent to just over 2/3 a gallon of gasoline). How far will your ICE go on that little fuel?
Most of our driving is in-town: usually for grocery trips, haircuts every few weeks or infrequent trip to the dentist: that sort of errand. I work from home, but when I did have to commute to an office, the round trip would be 25 or so miles: easy for the Fiat.
Last week, I was invited to give a talk to the local chapter of the IEEE. It was "out-of-town", half way to Lincoln, but only 46 miles round trip. I could take Interstate 80 or US highway 6. I opted for the latter: going 55 would deplete the battery more slowly than 75-80 on the Interstate. Good thing, too, 'cause the temperature had dropped close to 20 F. That 108 miles of range I started with at home, rapidly began to diminish the further away from home I got. While I did turn on the seat heater, I avoided the cabin heater: it immediately reduces the range by a good 10 miles. I got to Parker's Road House, site the meeting, with just over 60% of range left after driving only some 23 miles. Maybe I should have driven the Prius, I thought to myself. I needn't have worried. After the meeting, I drove home, arriving with about 30% SOC in the battery. (I did have a backup plan. There are 3 Level II charging stations along the drive home, if I had needed a quick boost).
But it served as a reminder of both the benefits and drawbacks of this "first generation" electric car. It is perfect for what it was designed to do: efficiently, nimbly, affordably, get you and 3 other passengers around town. That is does with aplomb. It is just the right-sized vehicle for 90+% of all the driving I do. Now, I recognise that I am in a somewhat unique position: there's just my wife and myself, we can afford to own a second car - one that is very fuel efficient, but that we don't need to drive much of the time - and we have the security of a two-car garage and convenient access to at least 120 volts of electricity.
For us, the Fiat 500e is the right-sized car in terms of practical range, operational costs, and interior space needs. It's cute, sporty, fun to drive, has a delightful sun roof, and is damn quick off the mark. Its Bluetooth phone access is maybe second best feature I like the most after its amazing quiet, quick acceleration.
I am starting to see more writers advising to not buy an EV based on the size of its battery or the range it offers, but on HOW you use the car on a day-by-day basis. Buy only as much of a EV as you practically need and you'll likely save a LOT of money. I did!
First Published: 2022-11-21
Byline: Bill Moore
Early this summer I heard that my local county here in eastern Nebraska was looking for election poll workers, the folks who help run the actual ballot distribution and collection at the polling place. Concerned about reports of election fraud in the national media and just a bit curious about how the process works, I volunteered. Surprisingly, I got a letter from the county election commission saying I had been accepted and should report on such-and-such day to the courthouse for a training class, which I dutifully did. It was 90 minutes of dozens of slides on the vote count process: who could vote, what happens if a voter isn't registered, etc., etc.
Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming and it also was obvious that every effort was being made to prevent cheating. One example, you can't just walk into polling place, vote and then move on to another location and vote again. If your name is not in the registered data sheet or your address doesn't match, you can't vote, though you can complete extra paper work and then vote provisionally, your ballot only counting in the final tally IF the vote commissioners approve you as a legitimate resident and authorized to vote. We had this occur some 14 times at the polling place I served as a "clerk" yesterday.
Actually, I was more or less a trainee since this was my first time. I looked over the shoulder of the two ladies who had previously worked my precinct. Every voter was asked for their last name, first name - if necessary - and requested to cite their home address. If their name was in the registered voter log and their address matched - and 98% did - they had to sign the log and then they could proceed to the ballot judge position where they were handed their ballot - always inside plastic sleeve - but not before being instructed on how to complete the ballot. Then the judge directed them to a voting booth or near-by table to complete the ballot. Once completed, they slipped the single sheet ballot into the locked ballot box, handing back the sleeve to the second judge, who then handed them the traditional "I Voted" sticker.
The duties of a poll worker starts at 7 AM when you begin the setup. You put out "Vote Here" and a "No Guns Allow signs, a precinct map, sample ballots, etc. You set up the portable booths, double check the ballots, making sure you have all the necessary report forms, provisional ballot envelopes, registration forms, even an electronic "Express" voting machine with the ballot in Braille for the seeing impaired.
Yesterday, voters at our precinct, Number 70, began to line up before 8AM when the polls officially open. Once they did, there was a steady surge of "vote-before-work" voters. After the morning rush hour, voters arrived at a fairly steady rate, as it turns out (on average) one about every 57 seconds! - though in actuality they came somewhat in waves.
My role as the team's newbie, was more or less as a "floater" - I called myself alternatively, "an intern" or "trainee" and eventually, a "relief pitcher" giving the two lady clerks chances to take a break. In the afternoon, around 4pm, the locked morning (AM) ballot box was picked up by commission workers and replaced by a second, empty PM ballot box. I noted that the judges and precinct director had to visually confirm this. It was at this point that the line of voters began to back up: school was letting out and morning shiftworkers headed home. The commission couldn't remove the first box until the last ballot given out prior to their arrival was completed and dropped in the AM box. It turns out that voter, a diligent lady in her 30's I'd guess, sat in a comfortable chair with her smart phone and apparently researched every candidate and proposition on both sides of the ballot, effectively preventing the voters arriving behind her from voting. As the line got longer, I shifted into "crowd control" mode - recalling my years as an Continental Airline gate agent whose flight was either delayed or cancelled. I explained to the waiting voters what was happening and why. As the line got longer and started to snake back on itself, the commissioners, who had come to collect the first ballot box, decided to let the waiting voters begin to be processed, making sure only the afternoon ballot box was used. Shortly after that the lady, who inadvertently caused the delay, walked up to the judge and slipped her ballot into the AM box, allowing the commissioners to remove it to where those ballots would be counted.
By 6 PM, we were all starting to count the minutes until the 8PM closing when we could lock the doors and begin tabulating the votes: making sure that the number of signatures on the voter registration logs matched the number of ballots given out. While I helped tear down the voting booths and retrieve the various signs and precinct map, the clerks began their tabulations, a process they and the precinct director did over and over again because, wouldn't you know it, the count was off by one. Out of 687 ballots given out to voters, we were one shy. For the next 40 or so minutes, the numbers were counted and recounted. Since the PM ballot box was locked and couldn't be opened, we had to settle for that one discrepancy: 1 in 687 ballots unaccounted for. By the way, that 687 is a record for Precinct #70. By comparison, the late June special election saw just 80 some votes cast in 12 hours!
After some 13 hours and 45 minutes, we hauled the ballot box and other paraphernalia out to the director's SUV and called it a night. He would run the box to the commission on his way home. I was tired, but happy the day was over, and delighted to have been a part of the process...and comfortable with the realization that, at least at the polling site level, every effort was made to insure a safe, valid election. My fellow workers - we are paid $10 a hour - were diligent, conscientious, hard working people. And two years from now, we get to do it all over again, since our appointment runs two election cycles. Oh joy!
First Published: 2022-11-09
Byline: Bill Moore
My Republican US Senator voted for it, I just discovered. My state university endorsed it. In fact some 47 Republican members of the US Senator supported it with their "yes" votes back in 2021, but I only learned of the Growing Climate Solutions Act today after reading a reference to it on a Florida political website in regards to the results of an online poll of 1000 supposed voters.
The headline of the article entitled "Poll: Voters say U.S. is on the 'wrong track,' want climate solutions" attracted my attention attention for two reasons: the use of the term "wrong track", which I've seen used with some regularity during run-ups to elections, usually by conservatives, and the phrase "want climate solutions."
As I rightly surmised, from a conservative perspective that usually means an "all-of-the-above" policy, a.k.a "drill, baby, drill" and build more nuclear power plants (just not in my backyard). In other words, maximize the exploitation of as many natural resources as possible, especially the fossil fuel kind, as capitalism can afford. As the article states, "it is more important than ever that the United States embrace an all-of-the-above approach to energy polticy."
Curiously, the article noted,"The poll also found, for the first time ever, that a majority of voters (51%) support Republicans' efforts to address climate change."
What Republican efforts, I thought to myself? Why the "Growing Climate Solutions Act," of course.
"...78% of those polled support passage of the Growing Climate Solutions Act, a bill that passed the U.S. Senate with the support of 47 Republicans" in July of 2021. Zip has happened since. In fact, despite having 27 Democratic senate co-sponsors, one more than Republicans, Govtrack.US give the measure just a "3% chance of being enacted..."
Which brings me to the title of this blog, "Can You Tell Me What the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 Is?" Honestly, I'd never heard of though it could significantly impact the future of the state's economy, which is primarily agriculture-based. So what is the GCSA? In a nutshell, it "seeks to make it easier for farmers and ranchers to participate in voluntary carbon credit markets and to get a fair share of the carbon credit revenue they generate." Basically, it's a bill focused on a very narrow subset of the population that would allow those farmers and ranchers who wish to play the carbon credits game to be dealt in. It might have some impact on climate change, possibly through carbon sequestration in the soil, but I suspect it would do little to reduce rampant food prices and could even drive them up.
Do you think the average American voter, be they Republican, Democratic or Independent, really care all that much for a piece of legislation with questionable impact? Is this how to get America on the "right track," and honestly, what the hell does that mean? Talk about subjective terminology. It's like "one man's trash, it another man's treasure", or "never let a good crisis go to waste."
If I asked you, one-on-one, Is America on the right or wrong track? How would you answer? It really depends on your personal circumstances, which likely influences your political outlook. Personally, I think America under Republican control would be train wreck of totalitarian fascism. You might, on the other hand, see the country as slip-sliding into socialist, godless communism. Which is the "wrong track", which is the "right" one?
I seriously doubt the people who were polled had the slightest notion of what the GCSA was and probably only told it has the support of the Republican Party (as well as some Democrats). The bright spot of the survey, however, are the words "particularly wind and solar power."
Yesterday, I had the chance to chat in our driveway with Angie Lauretison, the Democratic candidate for state senate for our local district. We chatted about her campaign and her views and positions on some different issues. A comment she made spurred me to whip out my phone and ask Google to show me the SPP.ORG website, which tracks electric power generation across a huge swath of the Great Plains. My local utility is a participating member. Over the last several days, wind power in the region has been contributing more than 70% of the grid's generation! I showed her the pie. She was surprised, to say the least. She was not aware of the contribution wind makes to our regional power pool. I also pointed out that nuclear power was contributing zero percent to the grid! Now that's not because we don't have nuclear power plants. There's one just down the river from me in Brownsville: and another further south in Kansas. (The Fort Calhoun facility is being decommissioned).
I suspect the reason the pool relies more on wind than nuclear is likely due to their cost disparity. A megawatt of power from a nuclear plant is said to cost $175, while the same megawatt is $40 from wind or solar! Both coal and natural gas are more expensive than wind now.
I would guess that Angie's Republican opponent also would be surprised by what's really happening in power generation, despite the fact that apparently at some "gut level" their respective constituents sense that renewables - as promulgated by recent bipartisan Congressional legislation, led by the Biden administration - is trying to create the economic and political environment that encourages investment in and development of sustainable, efficient, cost-effective, climate-friendly energy generation for all.
First Published: 2022-11-04
Byline: Bill Moore
Meet Peter (left) and Paul (right). Peter is 80 and still trims trees for a living. Paul is a retired Air Force colonel and physician who once ran the local base hospital. They, like me, were enjoying a beautiful Fall afternoon with a 3 mile-long ride around Walnut Creek lake, a small NRD flood control dam project a mile from my house here in Nebraska.
I stopped to chat because I noticed one of them was riding a nice electric-assist bicycle. It was Paul's. He'd had it a year, he told me and bought it so he could "keep up" with Paul on his conventional, manual pedal road bike. But Peter wasn't the only "boomer" riding an e-bike. Heartland B-cycle, a local shared bike service, had just installed new electric-assist bikes at the recreation area parking lot on the east side of the lake. A pleasantly surprising number of folks where also out for a spin, something I try to do with some regularity since moving nearby five years ago.
Yesterday I was checking the code I had written to display - in augmented reality - some once-native wildlife: bison, whitetail, pronghorn and elk [see below] at various GPS locations around the lake that I had mapped out earlier in the day. Just before coming across Peter and Paul, I had verified that the trio of elk cows were where I had placed them in my a-frame html page. Disappointingly, I couldn't claim the same for the other digital avatars - bison, deer and pronghorn. Not sure why at this point. I have come up with a Plan B to test the code a bit closer to home.
I decided to comment on my ride yesterday because in my daily routine of curating EVWorld.com's RSS database with as many EV world-relevant news items as I can find each day, I have noticed a growing number of stories related to e-bikes: both pro and cautionary. Below is a list of some of them over the last 30 days.
As I explained to the two gentleman, I have been riding and writing about e-bikes for something like 20 years now. I was riding the Falco Maverick [500W rear hub motor] that the kind folks at Falco gave me some 5 or more years ago to review and then let me keep it. In that time I have ridden countless miles: to, around and back from the lake is 5-6+ miles depending on which route I take. The ride takes me about 30 minutes. Note, I try to manually peddle as much as my knees and 75 years-old stamina allow me, reserving electric-assist for hills and headwinds.
Not only am I pleased to see a steady stream of advocacy articles for e-bikes, but more importantly, more and more local people actually riding them and obviously enjoying the experience. If you haven't tried one yet, I can whole-heartedly endorse the experience. It can be a life-changer!
First Published: 2022-10-30
Byline: Bill Moore
While attending dinner last night for Patty Pansing Brooks (Democratic Party candidate for Nebraska Congressional District One) the husband of one of the dinner guests asked me how I justify driving an electric car (he's somewhat of a skeptic, drives pickup) and flying to visit our daughter in Seattle. Easy, I replied. It's as efficient as you driving your pickup there.
Now truthly, I had only a hunch this was true - I actually asked an airline pilot at SEATAC about 737 fuel burn before our flight home last month -- so I decided this moring to fact check myself. Here's what my math shows.
Alaska Air typically operates Boeing 737s nonstop from OMA to SEATAC, a distance of 1,367 air miles. According to Google search, a 737 will burn some 2437 gallons of jet fuel during the 3:15 hour flight. Every time we've taken the flight, the plane has been full. That's some 147 seats, not counting the air crew. AS's typical load factor hovers around 77% on its network, so I went with that number: 113 passengers on average.
2437 gallons of Jet A / 113 pax = 21.56 gallons burned per passenger
1367 miles / 21.56 gallons = 63.4 miles per gallon (mpg) per passenger.
So, in theory, flying to Seattle would give us better fuel economy than driving our Toyota Prius getting 45-50 mpg, assuming a nearly full flight, of course! The fewer the passengers, the lower of per passenger "fuel economy."
Now, please double check my math, it's never been my strong point, but if it's accurate, that's sure a helluva lot more energy efficient than driving a very efficient hybrid, not to mention the standard American pickup! And when we eventually get to green hydrogen-fueled commercial aircraft, it will be even better!
First Published: 2022-10-06
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