News IOUSA: the Movie

1. Jul 27, 2009

Pupil

http://vimeo.com/2119049" [Broken] Has anyone seen this movie? How did our budget get so out of hand? What can we do to balance it and get out of debt? The film doesn't really give any options to fix the problem.

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2. Jul 27, 2009

Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Re: Debt

Perhaps you could cite the highlights rather than forcing everyone to watch all 30 minutes.

Coming out of WWII, our debt was at 122% of GDP. What followed was a period that produced the highest standard of living the world had ever seen. The ratio of debt to GDP dropped continuously from the end of WWII, until Reagan took over.

Right now the debt to GDP is at something close to 75%. The real danger is a flatline GDP because then our increasing debt becomes more and more significant. This is why it is critical that we renew our ability to create wealth through manufacturing, information technologies, green technologies, and energy independence. This is what Obama is talking about when he refers to long-term growth.

Here is a graph that we have referenced many times.
http://img193.imageshack.us/img193/3747/nationaldebtgdp.gif [Broken]

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3. Jul 27, 2009

Pupil

Re: Debt

That graph was in the video, but animated and extended back to the founding of our country. It's in the first 5 minutes of the video if you'd like to see it (we were completely out of debt only once in 1835, which I thought was pretty incredible).

I don't understand what you mean by a 'flatline GDP'. Are you talking about having a larger debt than GDP?

So we can increase wealth (and thus our situation) through investing in the areas you mention, but what specifically should we do (for instance to get energy independence)? Surely we will need to balance our budget much more efficiently as well. What should we change in the budget? Perhaps also raise taxes?

I realize no one wants to watch a horribly long video, but you can get the gist of it in the first 5-10 minutes. It really would be worth the time to watch.

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4. Jul 28, 2009

Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Re: Debt

I mean that it is critical that we continue to grow the GDP. We can sustain increasing debt provided that it doesn't overwhelm the GDP as a percentage. It is just the same as a bank looking at one's debt to income ratio. The greater the income a person has, the more debt they can afford to carry.

We need a WWII sized effort to develop wind energy, conservation technologies, and alternative fuels. I prefer to avoid the use of nuclear power, but that is probably in the cards as well. We will need it if electric cars become price competitive. However, I see no chance that nuclear power plants could possibly be build quickly enough.

The Obama admin realizes that what will ultimately bury us is the cost of medical care. That is why he puts such a high priority on passing a viable health plan.

While just today Bernanke was on The News Hour, on PBS, talking about the need to pull back on spending over time, the economy is such a mess after Republican control that deficit spending is unavoidable [at least we are spending here instead of in Iran!]. The working theory is that by spending more now and growing the GDP, and avoiding a flat GDP, we will end up with less debt [debt to GDP ratio] than if we don't spend the money now. Japan is often referenced as the model to avoid. They failed to act agressively enough [as the Republicans would have us do] and ended up with a flat economy for more than a decade.

Simply raising taxes can end up reducing the GDP and having a negative effect. There is a difficult balance to be found, which is what Obama and his team are trying to do.

One of the best hopes for an alternative fuel source is algae.

Ironically, based on the original numbers from the Department of Energy's Aquatic Species [algae] program, we may be able to eliminate the need for imported crude for about the price of the Iraq war. That would account for over half of our trade deficit [more at times, up to perhaps 70%], which directly affects our GDP.

Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
5. Jul 28, 2009

Pupil

Re: Debt

Half our trade deficit is crude oil!? Holy freakin' crap! And here I was thinking it was mostly small merchandise (coffee cups and what not) that was cheaper to make overseas (all the outsourcing).

Wouldn't solar energy be the best method for replacing our energy consumption? For the most part, all our energy comes from the sun, so why not skip the middle man and go straight for the solar power?

But in WWII we had a debt equal to 122% of our GDP. Isn't that the 'flatline GDP' you want to avoid?

6. Jul 28, 2009

Pengwuino

Re: Debt

What do you mean it all comes from the sun? You can't replace gasoline with solar. You'd need to replace gasoline with something such as hydrogen that can be produced by solar. However, there are difficulties in even doing that. Then there's maintanence of solar panels... then the pollution produced in creating them.. then location to consider... it's quite complex. It will certainly be a component of any energy plan but certainly not the "best" method that we could just use willie nillie.

7. Jul 28, 2009

mgb_phys

Re: Debt

Yep, next time you see an ad for a pickup truck wrapped in the stars and stripes trying to convince you that a true patriot only drives a huge 10mpg vehicle remember that the oil it is burning comes from the A-rabs (actually it mostly comes form the Canadians - but don't tell anyone)

It's difficult to store large amounts of electricity cheaply and efficently so there is a certain problem with people wanting to turn things on at night. But the majority of the US domestic electrical consumption is in the southern states to run AC, so solar power during the day could make a huge difference.

No huge debt with a booming economy isn't much of a problem. It's like the house your parents bought in the 60s/70s they paid what today would be a months salary - the growth (and inflation0 of the 70s made the original amount negligble. The current debt is like you buying a $million home now which is still going to be a lot of money in 20years 8. Jul 28, 2009 Office_Shredder Staff Emeritus Re: Debt The crashing of the economy was actually a ploy by the Bush administration to drive the US creditors out of business, reducing the US debt by up to half. An executive at Bank of America was tipped off, and the industry blackmailed Bush to the tune of 787 billion dollars 9. Jul 28, 2009 Pupil Re: Debt I mean all of our energy comes from the sun. Literally. Something like 98% of the energy on the Earth is from the sun (the rest being tidal and energy from the Earth itself). I would think that this would be reason enough to focus on harnessing that energy. Obviously there are going to be maintenance problems (as with any equipment over long periods of time), and other issues, but couldn't we say the same or similar things about the other energy methods that don't give us 98% of our total energy? http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/oxygen-0731.html Would this be considered a leap forward in that area? [/quote] But the problem the video was pointing out was that our debt was really about$56.4 trillion, which is way, way more than we can account for by having a good couple of years in the economy.

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10. Jul 28, 2009

mgb_phys

Re: Debt

Yes but meaningless, it's like saying that since the Earth is 1/3 iron and 1/3 Oxygen we should base everything on rust.

If it works and is efficient enough it would help

That's only three years of GDP, so with 20years of double digit growth like those after WWII it would disappear.

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11. Jul 28, 2009

humanino

Re: Debt

And we give away pretty much everything of it, fortunately otherwise energy would continuously grow on Earth until it explodes. For one high energy photon, we give away lots of low energy photons. Our lives and economies rely on producing entropy. However, it is more efficient to produce entropy from an even less entropic source of energy than the photons from the Sun : the photons are created by thermonuclear reactions as you know. So this energy comes from thermonuclear industry, does it not ?

12. Jul 28, 2009

Pengwuino

Re: Debt

Do you have a source for that? That's quite interesting. I live in a desert and we also crank up hte AC out here in central california and I'm quite familiar with the power we chew through with it. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if A/C's were the biggest user of power, but I definitely want to see some numbers about it.

As far as that MIT thing, I've always thought the biggest problem is that we haven't figured out how to make significant advances in the efficiency at which the energy is actually captured in commercially available panels. The article comes off to me as saying that we have an abundance of energy production during the day that just needs to be stored so we can use it at night.

13. Jul 28, 2009

mgb_phys

Re: Debt

Of course it's from New York trying to justify why they are much greener than the south.
But it does suggest that rather than huge desert solar farms and massive storage/transmission systems you might be better off just putting 10m^2 of solar panels on your roof wired directly to the AC.

Efficiency on the panels isn't necessarily the major problem if space is unlimited, then a 10% panel that costs 1/4 as much as a 20% panel is a good buy.
The problem with any renewable is the reliability of supply and getting it to the customer.
Some of this you can just do with economics, if you price the power according to supply the customers will adapt to use it most efficently.

14. Jul 28, 2009

Pengwuino

Re: Debt

What is that a graph of?

So are you saying that if you remove the problem of storage, that solar is economically viable enough to go beyond the few % that it is responsible for at the moment? Or that the problem is simply a large, if not the only, hurdle in making it a main generator of power?

15. Jul 28, 2009

mgb_phys

Re: Debt

sorry the caption must have been a separate image = Average annual residential electricity usage by city, 2000-2005 (Kilowatt hours per customer)

Viable economically or technically? Hard to judge, a lot of the projects are built in areas that get extra local grants or rely on green power levys which skews the figures a bit (although that's true of banks and car companies these days!). Commercial viability also depends on interest rates future oil price and the state of the economy (demand)

Interestingly out of the most recent plants two in Europe at about 50-60Mw are using photovoltaic while the US equivalents tend to be heating fluid->turbine system. The build costs are roughly the same, we wil have to see which turn out to be the best in use.

A very interesting new approach is for the customer to not demand a reliable supply.
Google recently built a datacentre in Belgium with no cooling (normally the main cost). When the temperatures local get to high for the passive cooling system they simply shut down machines and move the load to another country. It's much easier to switch your google query to another server than to ship gigawatts of power across the country to keep your system running. A few big cold stores also do this, they have enough thermal inertia to keep cold for a few days with the power off so in return for cheaper power contracts they allow the supplier to disconnect them rather than bring new power plants on line if there is too much demand.

Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
16. Jul 28, 2009

Staff: Mentor

Re: Debt

Note though that since residences don't have much in the way of internal space loads, they are very different than businesses. For businesses, the energy usage is much flatter and so I don't think what you claimed can overall be said to be true.

....or did you mean "residential" when you said "domestic"?

....note also that the occupancy density of a residence also matters there, as does the source of winter heating (electric heat pumps are more feasible in the southern states).

17. Jul 28, 2009

Staff: Mentor

Re: Debt

Not that I agree with that starting premise, but if we assume "a WWII sized effort" to eliminate fossil fuels from our economy, nuclear power plants most certainly could be built quickly enough. Perhaps more to the point, wind power plants could almost certainly not be built at anywhere near the pace nuclear plants could, given an appropriate timeframe.

18. Jul 28, 2009

mgb_phys

Yes, I meant residential as in not-commercial.
I was just surprised that power (or at least electric) usage was so much higher in the south.
I suppose AC is low efficency, so it takes a lot more power to cool a house by 10deg than heat it, and houses in the south have traditionally not been well insulated. The figures are also skewed if most northern houses use gas heating rather than electric.

The important point though is that AC is a great ultra-local market that is perfectly in sync with amount of sunshine - so it really would be worth having direct solar powered AC units.

19. Jul 28, 2009

Pengwuino

Re: Debt

That is quite a silly comparison to say the least (I definitely agree with you there's some bias in trying to show NY as "greener"). Of course, you're comparing 3 waterfront cities with a city in the hottest part of the country, and 2 cities in texas with only 1 being near water (which is the gulf of mexico of all places).

That sounds like you'd have to build more datacenters than you need. I would guess that means that cooling the servers requires such a tremendous amount of energy that it is infact, more economical to build that second data center and just switch off between them? Makes sense considering how much a household AC costs vs. how much the energy to run it over its lifetime costs.

A bit off topic but the news just had a little story related to what we're talking about. There's some company talking about gathering energy in space and beaming down, the usual story. However, they claimed they could transmit to any point in the US, 24/7 and be gathering energy 24/7. Is it just me or does that not make any sense. How could something orbit with all those criteria in mind?

20. Jul 28, 2009

Staff: Mentor

Re: Debt

New York city has nothing in common with those other cities. NYC is mostly small high rise apartments, much less likely to use anywhere near the amount of electricity that someone in a large single family dwelling would. Not to mention that most of the energy used in NYC would be for heating in the winter which is most likely gas. What was the point of the chart? Would you post a link to the original document this was in so that we can see what the context was?

Edit: I see where your point was that in the south, a large part of electrical consumption can be attributed to a/c. I would agree with that.

Due to the number of high rise apartments, and offices for that matter, in NYC, solar would not be a feasable alternative.

I saw a documentary recently on a new housing developmemnt that wa replacing electricity with solar, and from what they were saying , solar would not provide enough power to run the a/c for an average home in the south. Of course it would help.

Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
21. Jul 28, 2009

mgb_phys

It's on wiki but is originally from (http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc2030/downloads/pdf/greenyc_climate-change.pdf [Broken]) it also claims that NYers are far greener overall because Texans drive 50mi to work in pickups whereas they all take the subway.

The interesting point is the complete incomprehension of people about how expensive AC is. Our company's US offices in Houston have practically no insulation, no double glazing and the inside of walls are hot to the touch. I pointed this out and was told (as if I was a moron) that they didn't need insulation because it never got cold there.

Data centres need a vast amount of cooling, for every watt of electrical power you need 3-4 Watts of AC to cool them. The cost of the actual computers is almost negligible.

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22. Jul 28, 2009

Pengwuino

:rofl: DUH! Wait, how were you touching the insides of the walls? People around here know exactly how much AC costs. It probably costs a couple grand for the AC alone just to cool it in our house per year.

How efficient (or inefficient) are cooling systems anyhow? That's pretty crazy to think of considering for each watt, not all the energy goes into waste heat.

23. Jul 31, 2009

Staff: Mentor

Sorry I missed this before:
I don't know the history of building codes, but that isn't acceptable today and so buildings like that will gradually be phased-out.

For the south, heat gain through a bad wall in summer probably equals heat loss in winter, but in the north, the heat loss is much worse than the heat gain. In other words, it takes much more energy to keep a building without much interior load warm in the winter than cool in the summer. For an office, though, in the south, there is essentially no space/skin heat load. The only heat load would come from a ventilation requirement. In the north, offices still need cooling in the winter (depending on their geometry, but this is generally true), and they get that essentially free from cold outside air.
A good rule of thumb is that air conditioning requires about 1.3 kW per ton for residential and light commercial A/C and 1.0 kW per ton for a high efficiency, large building system (a chilled water plant and cooling tower). In watts per watt, that's 3-3.5 kW of cooling per watt of electrical input power. So your efficiency ratio is upside-down. That's under new energy efficiency regulations, btw - two years ago, standard residential and light commercial units were 25% less efficient than they are today.

So why does air conditioning seem so much more expensive? Simple: gas and oil, which are used for heat, are far cheaper than electricity. Gas heat costs about 1/3 to 1/2 what electric heat costs, per btu or kWh. Plus, unless you have a combined energy bill, you probably aren't adding your electricity and gas together to get your real heating bill.

There are a lot of old buildings with rediculously bad energy efficiency, like the one you mention. Over the next decade or so, most of those will go away. Average commercial HVAC energy usage 10 years from now will probably be half of what it was 10 years ago, and HVAC is something like 30% of the energy usage of a commercial building.

Ironically, though, one big thing standing in the way of this is the so-called "green movement", particularly when it comes to LEED. LEED is something that building owners and architects put on advertising to say that they are being energy efficient and "sustainable", but the reality is that LEED does not require energy efficiency beyond what building codes and standards require and it promotes architectural practices that decrease building energy efficiency. But that's ok because LEED doesn't require building owners to prove their energy consumption before they mail them that pretty, platinum or gold plaque.

Last edited: Jul 31, 2009
24. Jul 31, 2009

mgb_phys

I said for every watt of electrical power input you need to run the servers (and which ultimately is distributed as heat) you need 3 - 4 watts of cooling power to remove it.
That's roughly the same as your numbers.

It is even less efficient that domestic AC because you aren't trying to cool the average temperature in the air - you are trying to ensure that a 1cm^2 of CPU producing 100-200W doesn't go over 85C in spite of only having a poor airflow path to it.
You can improve this in modern centres with carefully designed air flow and custom racks , but in most centres you need to hugely over cool (18-20C) to get enough cooling power into the servers.

25. Jul 31, 2009

rootX

I haven't watched the movie yet but US was running big deficits (which it shouldn't have) when Canada surpluses in the years before recession.

To fix the problem, government need to raise taxes and reduce expenditures during the strong economic periods IMO.

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