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Libertarian Leanings

Libertarian Leanings is a new column by by Peter Burrows, who blogs at silvercityburro.com and can be reached at elburropete@gmail.com.

It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Grant County Beat.

By Peter Burrows 11/21/18 elburropete@gmail.com 

New Mexico is now ruled by Democrats, top to bottom, and one of the first things we can expect these Democrats to do is to raise New Mexico’s minimum wage, now at $7.50 per hour, to perhaps as high as $15. I expect there will be a few stupid Republicans who will go along with this.

Some of you are thinking: “Stupid?! Those are Republicans who CARE, Burro, you heartless Libertarian POS.”

Sigh.

By Peter Burrows 9/3/18

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is notifying cities around the state that their local panhandling laws are unconstitutional. Here is Silver City’s notification:

www.aclu-nm.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/ltr_to_mayor_ladner-_silver_city.pdf

If the ACLU has its way, and it looks like it has a very strong case, anybody walking in downtown Silver City can expect to be approached by someone who will ask for money. The ACLU says such a person is exercising a First Amendment right of free speech, and any laws that restrict that right, such as designating certain areas as no-begging zones, are unconstitutional.

 - Peter Burrows - elburropete@gmail.com- Blog: silvercityburro.com.

Mexican drug cartels had estimated 2016 revenues from the sale of illegal drugs in the U.S. of as much as $50 billion. They’ve used that money to corrupt local and state police forces, political parties, businesses and ordinary citizens. What this means is that there are many Mexicans who are not directly involved in the illegal drug trade who profit from it.

The same can be said of the United States. Drug dealers spend money on cops, politicians, real estate and legitimate businesses. How big the penumbra of legitimate economic activity that emanates from the illegal drug business is a big unknown.

By Peter Burrows 7/13/18 elburropete@gmail.com  www.silvercityburro.com 

In 2012, the U.S. White House Office of Drug Control Policy asked The RAND Corporation to estimate the market size of four drugs: cocaine (including crack), heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine (meth). Their report, released in 2014, estimated that, “drug users in the United States spend on the order of $100 billion annually on all four drugs (in 2010 dollars),” a figure they estimated to have been constant for a decade, with big shifts in the drugs purchased, e.g. meth up, cocaine down.

The report did not add the expense of police, judges, prisons and street crime associated with illegal drugs. Of course, there is no way to put a price on the hundreds of deaths associated with drugs, from cops to gang-bangers to innocent bystanders.

By Peter Burrows 7/9/18 elburropete@gmail.com  or silvercityburro.com 

Have you heard of political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez? You will. The 28-year-old just won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th Congressional District, beating an incumbent Democrat who had held the seat for 20 years -- 20 years! -- and who outspent her by a factor of eight. And it wasn’t even close: she beat him by 15 points.

How did she do it? It doesn’t hurt that she looks a little like Julia Roberts. She’s also an articulate campaigner who exudes warmth and self-confidence. She’s very likable, but the secret to her success may be that she’s a Hispanic who sounds like Bernie Sanders. She wants Medicare for all, tuition-free college, a guaranteed Federal job for everybody, and she’d abolish ICE and impeach Trump. Democrats around the country are enthralled.

However, before the lovely Ms. Ocasio-Ortiz becomes the Democratic nominee for President, they might want to consider the demographics of her district, as laid out by Star Parker in her July 4 column. The Census Bureau breaks down the demographics as 50% Hispanic, 9% black and 16% Asian; 45.8% are foreign born and 67.8% do not speak English at home.

Reply to Steve Fischmann

1) In my article I wrote: "Fischmann made the incredible statement, as reported in the Beat article, that storage was 'substantially cheaper' than natural gas-generated electricity, currently the cheapest fossil fuel-based electricity."

The Beat's quote in its 5/16 story was incomplete. The Daily Press's 5/12 article quoted Fischmann as saying, "There is recent bidding in Colorado to provide energy credits. Wind plus storage and solar, plus storage was found to be substantially cheaper than the cheapest natural gas."

My apologies to Mr. Fischmann. I should have realized that no one on earth would claim storage alone was cheaper than natural gas.

To quote my 5/19 correction: "Regardless, since the amount of storage included in those bids was not disclosed, and since the bids were only 15-20% higher than stand-alone solar and wind, one commentator wisely noted that there was probably 'only a limited amount' of storage involved."

2) In my article I wrote: "Fischmann doubled down, claiming there was a large-scale storage project underway in New Hampshire that subsidizes homeowners because it saves the utility money."

Mr. Fischman says he did not say that, rather that he said, to quote from his letter today, "that both Vermont and New Hampshire had successful projects they are planning to expand."

The Beat quotes Fischmann as saying, "There are large-scale storage projects. In New Hampshire they are giving incentives to home owners and subsidizing them because they save the utilities money."

Interested readers will have to go to the Daily Press recording of the forum to get Fischmann's exact quote. I guess "large-scale" is the contention. I'll concede the point. Interested readers may also want to google the article I referenced, "Liberty Utilities Proposes Battery Program for Lebanon, Valley News 4/4/18." That article will reveal this is a hugely subsidized small-scale experiment in distributed storage.

3) In my article I wrote: "Fischmann also claimed that San Antonio, Texas, was getting cheap energy from Austin Energy, 'which is 50 percent renewable'."
Fischmann claims he did not say that, but he did admit that he had said Austin Energy was at 50 percent renewable. "I was slightly off. They will be at 50 percent by 2020."

Here's the Beat's version: "Fischmann: I have a suggestion that we learn from successes, not just failures. San Antonio, Texas, has cheap energy through Austin Energy, which is 50 percent renewable."

I'll concede Steve is correct that he did not say San Antonio was buying electricity from Austin. I'm not going to watch the video to confirm this.

Enough.

The issue in this little tempest-in-a-teapot is the cost of storing electricity from renewable sources, specifically solar and wind. In my article I quote the investment banking firm Lazard, a big backer of renewables: "Although alternative energy is increasingly cost-competitive and storage technology holds great promise, alternative energy systems will not be capable of meeting the base-load requirements of a developed economy for the foreseeable future."

It is entirely possible that with enough transmission lines, solar and wind can be hooked up over a large enough geographical area to provide enough electricity for a medium sized city. To say NO storage will be necessary because when the sun doesn't shine, the wind is blowing, is far-fetched even for an "eco nut," a term I have never used.

What would be the cost for such an effort? How much would such a scheme cost for New York City, Chicago, even Albuquerque? How about for the entire country? How about with zero subsidies?

Mr. Fischmann asserts that the cost of storage is falling fast and "the reliability of battery technology is improving so rapidly that you can toss past assumptions out the window."

Fine. How about assumptions in the here-and-now?

One would assume that there are no coal plants being built anywhere in the world thanks to the economics of renewables. One would be wrong. Technologically advanced nations such as Germany and Japan, and many others not so technologically advanced, are building new coal-fired generating plants.

One would assume that large storage battery prices are falling. Not yet. Tesla just RAISED the price of its PowerWall battery from $5500 to $5900. (Interested readers can google "Tesla Australia Battery" to determine if I have been guilty of "horrifically misleading" estimates of storage costs. Tesla is successfully operating these huge batteries, but "cost" is the issue.)

One would assume that where renewables are growing in use that utility bills would be decreasing in cost to consumers. Where? Not in Germany, Denmark, California or New Mexico.

Finally, my thanks to Mr. Fischmann for his review of my article. He was correct to raise those points that were inaccurate. However, his continued uncritical support for renewables and storage as viable for TODAY is why I'm still voting for Sandy Jones!

 By Peter Burrows

5/19/18 elburropete@gmail.com

My subconscious has been grinding away for couple of days about something I wrote in my article on the PRC elections. I rechecked, and sure enough, I had made a big mistake when I wrote that Xcel Energy had received bids for wind-plus-storage electricity and solar-plus-storage electricity at 21 cents and 36 cents per kWh respectively.

The proper numbers should have been 2.1 cents and 3.6 cents per kWh, which explains the enthusiasm those numbers generated in the press, as they are far lower than what would be expected of bids that included storage, even after the 30% investment tax credit.
Regardless, since the amount of storage included in those bids was not disclosed, and since the bids were only 15-20% higher than stand-alone solar and wind, one commentator wisely noted that there was probably only "a limited amount" of storage involved.

By Peter Burrows, elburropete@gmail.com - silvercityburro.com 5/18/18

I attended the forum last week for the two Democrats running in the primary for Public Regulations Commission, District 5, Stephen Fischmann and incumbent Sandy Jones. The Grant County Beat and the Daily Press covered the meeting with excellent articles.

As would be expected at any forum of Democrats, both candidates made ritual genuflections at the altar of "the little guy" and then proceeded to defend a program, net metering, that favors wealthy electricity users at the expense of all other rate payers. (See my recent article, "What is 'Net Metering' and Why Should You care.")

Live from Silver City

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