Sunday, August 15, 2010

Beyond the Sidewalks

Considering the plethora of recent literature on the subject of "prepping" for survival as the socioeconomic meltdown inexorably approaches, it may be beneficial to hear the experiences of one who has "been there, done that".

We lived with various "sustainable" combinations of wind, hydro, solar and diesel generated power for 20 years both aboard our sail boat and our off-grid ranch. With both wind and hydro there are substantial costs (in addition to the initial capital investment) associated with bearing, brush/slipring and armature replacement not to mention impeller deterioriation. In considering all of these various forms of alternative energy the cost per kilowatt hour needs to be factored in.

We found that the average cost of grid supplied energy ranged between 12 and 15 cents per kilowatt hour as opposed to an estimated 40 cents plus per kilowatt hour for solar and hydro power when equipment replacement costs are factored in.  The special ambient conditions necessary for availing one's self of hydro and wind energy do not obtain for the vast majority of shore side locations.

So called fossil fueled sources of energy generation obviously make economic and logistic sense only for limited and emergent situations due to their need to be fed.

True stand alone applications where no grid source of power is available will require a means for the storage/regulation of the energy for utilization during windless and sunless periods. For heating purposes a mass consisting of water or other heat storage material such as metal or stone can suffice. For electrical energy storage, current technology forces us into the utilization of batteries and they are not cheap. This old sailor-cum-homesteader found the use of deep cycle lead acid 6 volt "golf cart" batteries to make economic sense. True, recent advances in battery technology have improved their efficiency to a limited extent but the initial capital investment remains high. Additionally, lead acid batteries do not thrive on neglect such as repeated extreme deep discharging or electrolyte starvation.

An example of this problem reared its head with one of our native American neighbors living on Yurok tribal land in Humboldt county, California. The tribe received a federal "grant" of substantial funds to erect stand alone photovoltaic power systems at individual single family Indian residences in the Klamath river valley.  The equipment, consisting of a 2 kilowatt solar array on fixed mounts, an appropriate charge controller, 1200 amp hour sealed gel battery bank and a 4500 watt 24 volt to 120 volt inverter with necessary wiring harnesses and separate housing shed were erected near his mobil home in an area SHADED during part of the day. The equipment alone cost in excess of $27,000.00. It was installed by "progressive" student "volunteers" from Humboldt State University who upon completion of the project advised our neighbor (whose only source of power previously had consisted of a succession of 600 watt gasoline generators obtained at Costco) that he could begin using his home "just as if he lived in town on the grid".

Needless to relate, our neighbor and his family proceeded to purchase appliances such as irons, toasters, heaters and television sets. Within a week he was knocking on our door requesting help with his non working electrical system.  The hippies volunteers were unavailable to assist him.  So much for the "turnkey" taxpayer government supplied "sustainable" systems provided to "disadvantaged" minorities.

A major consideration in view of the approaching societal disintegration as regards emergency or backup energy systems is security. "Law" (yes, those are scorn quotation marks) enforcement, should it continue to function, will inevitably have its hands full maintaining "order" in a population reduced to desperation and energy systems are especially vulnerable to theft and vandalism not to mention a confiscatory government itself. I have written elsewhere of our own experiences but will leave it to you dear reader to acquaint yourselves with various post apocalyptic scenarios ranging from Mad Max to mere Hobbesian squalor.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A New Litigiuous Industry?

I don't know how many of you dear readers are aware of the tempest that has recently exploded concerning the issue of "intellectual property" as it applies to the internet and specifically the "blogosphere". In any event, thus far over 91 lawsuits have been filed in the federal district court of Nevada. These suits generally claim "theft" of copyrighted material by mostly small mom and pop web sites and blogs. The suits have been filed by a firm called RightHaven  and the defendants for the most part have not received prior to the filings any cease and desist orders or demands to remove the objectionable material.

Thus far the bulk of the allegedly stolen material has been copied, excerpted from or linked to publications in the daily Las Vegas (Nevada) Review Journal whose publisher is Mr. Sherman Frederick. His decision to assign copy rights to his newspaper's material to RightHaven in order that they, rather than his newspaper, pursue litigation is explained in a column/blog posting dated 28 May 2010. I will neither quote nor paraphrase Mr. Frederick here and indeed link to his screed with considerable trepidation.  If you, dear reader choose to follow the link I would advise you to read it carefully and pay special attention to the comments before drawing your own conclusions.  There are even those who connect (tenuously) the RightHaven staff to White House officials.  You decide.

Mr. Frederick, in his analogy to an auto displayed and "stolen" from his front yard seems to engage in what could be termed in the opinion of this humble blogster "tortured" logic.  He also links to a National Public Radio interview on the prior "scooping" of the McChrystal piece in Rolling Stone magazine  but does not allude to any instance in which his publication suffered any such outrage.

It would appear that the Review-Journal is a business enterprise. That is, they display paid advertising which is incidentally viewed by web surfers following links to their site. If bloggers and other web sites fail to attribute material lifted from the R-J they should by all means be placed on notice to cease and desist and sued if they fail to do so. However, it seems counter productive to prosecute in the federal courts those who avail themselves in good faith of the doctrine of "fair use"  with attribution and links. Unless of course such a strategy is your business model.