Aug 31, 2009
F.A.Q.: Everything you've wanted to know about health care reform
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Superheroes team with the Mouse: What will happen to our heroes at Universal Studios now?
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Aug 30, 2009
After our foray to GCFB yesterday, we decided to have a light dinner of popcorn and a Klondike Bar (What Would You Do For A Klondike Bar ???),
and we watched Scanners. In todays age of CGI, it was subtle, but in its day it was leading edge.
Today was a quiet morning, spots of sunshine and yet bouts of overcastedness (my own word :o) I headed out about noon for a quick weight workout, and then on to mow the lawn, trim some trees in case we can play horseshoes next weekend, do a spot of weedwacking, and work on the marsh path. Always good to get some outside time in, especially when the sun started shining for real for the last 30 minutes.
Currently watching Barclay's and Tiger, while he is not in the lead, he is honing his game, and there are three more events left for the FedEx Cup :o)
Beth is making enchiladas, and we are going to have some Sangria, and watch Da Bears.
Hope your Sunday is going well and that you are getting ready for another week in the grind.
Aug 29, 2009
Sheeba (bastard kitty) came in at 0830 to make sure we were awake :o)
A spot of coffee for me and Lipton Green Tea for the Birthday Girl. We lazed around on the computers, watched Senator Kennedy's funeral service. Ted Jr. made a very moving remembrance speech, and Patrick did a nice job. Then it was President Obama with the eulogy, I think he showed proper reverence, humility, and poise - he is such a great orator.
Then it was a quick jaunt to Big League to get my hairs cutted :o)
When I got back home, we decided to head up to our new favorite spot in Mishawaka, Granite City Food and Brewery, and had appetizers (flat bread pizza and a quesadilla), a couple of Mugs ($3.45 for a 25 oz brew), and then ordered a couple of Growlers to go. A Growler is a 2-liter container of their nicely brewed beer. That converts to 67.6 ounces, or a little more than 5.5 beers. The refills on Tuesdays and Thursdays are only $5, so that makes it less than a $1 per really good beer :o)
Hope your Saturday is nice, and Sunday even better.
I think it is very cool that President Obama will deliver an eulogy. Senator Kennedy often frequented the spot to pray for his sick family members, as the Lady was believed to have healing properties.
Today, he is being interred at Arlington Cemetery.
Rest in peace Ted.
Aug 28, 2009
An unusual experiment featuring equal parts science, environmental optimism and Native American capitalist ambition is unfolding here on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in southwest Colorado.
With the twin goals of making fuel from algae and reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases, a start-up company co-founded by a Colorado State University professor recently introduced a strain of algae that loves carbon dioxide into a water tank next to a natural gas processing plant. The water is already green-tinged with life.
The Southern Utes, one of the nation’s wealthiest American Indian communities thanks to its energy and real-estate investments, is a major investor in the professor’s company. It hopes to gain a toehold in what tribal leaders believe could be the next billion-dollar energy boom.
But from the tribe’s perspective, the business model here is about more than business. “It’s a marriage of an older way of thinking into a modern time,” said the tribe’s chairman, Matthew J. Box, referring to the interplay of environmental consciousness and investment opportunity around algae.
And whatever was chosen had to be at least technically feasible, if not immediately profitable. The 1,400-member tribe also has a long history of herbal medicine use that made growing algae for fuel appealing, Mr. Box said. “It reminded people of herbs that are helpful here, like bear root, which is harvested in the mountains,” he said.
“This is still a very young industry, with a lot of claims out there that are sometimes difficult to believe,” said Al Darzins, a group manager at the lab’s National Bioenergy Center. Mr. Darzins said Solix’s model was different from most: the algae is grown in closed bags, lined up vertically in the water tanks, with the intent of increasing yield. But for every hopeful, he said, the crux will be controlling costs.
If Solix can expand its operations to a commercial scale, the Southern Utes will have certain first ownership and operating rights in Solix plants throughout much of the Western United States. Karl Jacob, the director of public finance in state and local government ratings at the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s, tracks Native American economics and has assigned the Southern Utes’ debt a AAA rating, the agency’s highest. Mr. Jacob said the tribe had proved a canny investor by doing its homework and not moving too fast.
Aug 27, 2009
Perhaps the most offensive infomercial you'll ever see is an advertisement for a spray that claims to be able to prevent butt-stink and every other odor no single deodorant would dare to tackle."Aspray goes where other deodorants can't. Aspray your butt," the announcer boasts. "Aspray under your arms. Aspray your feet. You can even Aspray your privates."Then, to top it off, a woman is shown crossing her legs and spraying her crotch, followed by this line:. "Aspray is safe for all your odor zones."MSNBC told The Washington Post the network aired the commercial once in the overnight hours and will never air it again. Instead, it is a sensation on YouTube.
The "Doc Bottoms Aspray" -- it's pronounced A-spray, though most certainly intended to be remembered for an alternative pronunciation -- seems more like a Saturday Night Live skit than a real product.
Case in point, the commercial includes a supposed testimonial from sweaty contractor "Lanny F.," who proclaims in animated fashion, "I've got odors in special places," later noting: "My butt."You can get two Aspray containers for $14.95 plus $7.95 shipping and handling each. That brings the total to $30.85. But wait, there's more. You also get the "Pocket Shot," which we're told is "Perfect for on the go or give it to your smelly friend."Charming.And there you have it: the special recipe for getting a product noticed for the depths it has plummeted. The best part is all this publicity is free -- a big savings over the cost of airing an infomercial.Oh yeah, it is good for a laugh, too.
I found this over at walletpop.com :o)
Aug 26, 2009
We have heard that dishwashers are better from a water savings perspective, it was great to find this at walletpop.com that shows the comparison of sink versus machine washing. Cheesy, but informative :o)
Appears the video is touchy, bottom line is that sink washing is about 24 gallons versus 7.3 gallons for a dishwasher. Much better for our scarce water supply. Click the above link to watch the video :o)
We have all heard the jokes, "there were checks left in the checkbook," or "they accepted the card."
For me, it was not a joke, but a reality. The above mentality was what, 10 years ago, caused me to be on the verge of bankruptcy. I was in a very unfulfilled marriage and was very unhappy, and the money issues was a big part of the picture. You see, the harder I worked, the faster it was spent. It was a death spiral.
Fast forward to today. Beth and I are by no means frugal, but we are definitely more on the tightwad side of the fence, and of the same mindset. If we do not have the cash in the bank, then we are not going to buy, period! Today, our only debt is our primary mortgage, and we are paying that off at a 20 year versus 30 year clip. Together, we rock :o)
If you wondered what inspired the entry, take a look below, and if you want more detail, click the link.
Aug 25, 2009
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 20, 2009 – American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) will apply for funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Coal Power Initiative Round 3 to pay part of the costs of installing the nation’s first commercial-scale carbon dioxide capture and storage system on its Mountaineer coal-fired power plant in New Haven, W.Va.
The application deadline is Monday (8/24/09). AEP’s application will seek $334 million, about half the estimated cost of installing the system that will use a chilled ammonia process to capture at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from 235 megawatts of the plant’s 1,300 megawatts of capacity. The captured carbon dioxide, approximately 1.5 million metric tons per year, will be treated and compressed, then injected into suitable geologic formations for permanent storage approximately 1.5 miles below the surface.
The system will begin commercial operation in 2015, according to the company’s application for funding.“Commercialization of carbon capture and storage technology is an essential component in a successful climate strategy for this nation, which relies on coal-fired generation for about half of its electricity supply,” said Michael G. Morris, AEP’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Coal is a low-cost, abundant domestic fuel source, but its use is a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions.
“First-movers like AEP who push the commercialization of technology will face higher costs than those who wait for others to act, costs that would be borne by our customers,” Morris said. “But without efforts like ours, the availability of solutions for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants will be needlessly delayed. It’s an appropriate use of federal stimulus funds to spur the advancement of this technology and to offset the financial penalty facing our customers and our company for taking the initiative.”
For this commercial-scale project, AEP is forming a diverse technical advisory committee that includes recognized experts in the field of geologic carbon dioxide storage. This group will include participants from Schlumberger Limited, Battelle Memorial Institute, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Ohio State University, West Virginia University, The University of Texas, Ohio Geological Survey, CONSOL Energy, and the West Virginia Department of Commerce Division of Energy. Additionally, Schlumberger will work directly with AEP to design and deploy the carbon dioxide storage system at Mountaineer.
AEP and Alstom will begin operating a smaller-scale validation of the technology in September at the Mountaineer plant. That system will capture up to 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from a slipstream of flue gas equivalent to 20 megawatts of generating capacity. The captured carbon dioxide, more than 100,000 tons a year, will be compressed and injected into suitable geologic formations for permanent storage approximately 1.5 miles below the surface.
No federal funds are being used for the validation project.
Aug 24, 2009
Aug 23, 2009
Aug 22, 2009
Aug 21, 2009
Did not want to let that situation linger, so we called the power company, and based on weather forecasts, decided on this morning to have them come out and drop the line. The plan was to use the ladder and extendo-saw to trim the limbs and reduce the risk.
So this morning, to get in the spirit, I put on my SawIV T-shirt and headed out. When the power company (the same one I work for :o) guys showed up, I found out that their drop the line meant to actually disconnect the end of the power line and coil it up - not just open the disconnect. When we went out to assess the situation, they volunteered to trim the branches and fall the tree, much easier than disconnecting and reconnecting the drop to the house.
So, after less than an hour, and some good chatting up my fellow company workers, they were on their way to the next job, and we were off for several hours of work to chainsaw and stack the downed tree. A great morning, with a better than expected outcome.
So, after showers and such, we are chilling this afternoon, getting caught up on some bills and future blog entries, and sliding into the weekend, which is weather forecast to be awesome. May your weekend be awesome as well :o)
Aug 20, 2009
Aug 19, 2009
Aug 18, 2009
Aug 17, 2009
Although the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that only about 12% of U.S. citizens have ever tried the drug, virtually 100% of those of us old enough to handle paper money have touched the stuff. A new study found that up to 90% of the paper money in the U.S. contains minute amounts of cocaine.
The study, funded in part by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, found that bills circulating in the nation's capital, Washington D.C., contained the dope 95% of the time. Apparently, there a cocaine-free twenty is even rarer than a pork-free spending bill. The lowest levels were found in Salt Lake City, Utah. Overall, the percent of U.S. paper money showing traces of cocaine has risen by almost 20% in just the last two years.
The scientists tested currency from four other countries as well. Our Canadian neighbors are about as likely to contaminate their currency, while in China and Japan less than one in five bills are toot-infused. The authors of the study conjecture (and we hope this is true) that much of the blame can be put on currency-counting machines, which can spread coke as fast as grade-schoolers pass along the flu. One of the study's authors was quoted by Science Daily as saying "You can't get high by sniffing a regular banknote.." so you users can put your wallet away. Me, I'd rather avoid coke and the swine flu, so I might just start carrying more Sacagaweas and fewer Washingtons.
Aug 16, 2009
How do you know you had a productive day? - You know it is a productive day when you can smell your own sweat. That was my early afternoon adventure today :o)
We got a decent start on the day, getting up around 9 AM. After reading the paper and getting caught up in the blogosphere, it was out to take care of the yard work.
It has been so hot here this week, with no rain, that things are drying up nicely. We have eleven acres, about six of which are marsh, and when things have been wet like this year, I can not cut the wildlife path we have established. Today, I was finally able to get the circle completed (after last weeks cuts on the legs, I headed out with jeans on today). To get the path re-established, I had to make six passes with the cutting deck at its highest position.
We also have two half-whiskey barrels near the house that we have tried to grow Morning Glories, but that has been hit and miss, especially since we had the new garage built. So we decided that we would move them. The first step in that movement is to find a new place for the recycling bin, so I made a little patio and driveway for the bin. As I was building the patio, the heat and humidity started to take their toll, the lack of movement caused the sweat to pour. It took me long enough to get the little patio and driveway built that I did not relocate the half-whiskey barrels relocated. That will be an activity for another day :o)
We really enjoy watching Tiger play in a major tournament, so I headed to the showers at about 2:30 PM. Another measure of a productive day in the yard is when I hit the shower and there is a dirty river going down the shower drain. As the dirt and sweat roll off me, I feel invigorated.
I love doing yard work in the heat of the summer, it is satisfying on several levels :o)
Hope you had a great Sunday and are in a positive frame of mind for the coming week.
Aug 15, 2009
Money market accounts and certificates of deposit are safe, but they provide very little return on your investment. This fact, and the invigorated stock market, provoked one of my bankers, Dobrinka, at the local Santa Monica Wells Fargo branch, to ask for advice on how I would invest $25,000 if I was just starting out.
This is a common question although the starting point in terms of cash varies. It certainly makes a difference how old the person is, their general knowledge about investing and finance, and the particulars of their financial statement.Here is what I suggested sticking to regular themes I have written about before and broadly speaking would be a conservative approach emphasizing safety, diversity, liquidity, dividends and the potential for growth far exceeding cash in the mattress or in a money market account. I also think that it is important for beginners to educate themselves so my suggestions include an educational aspect.
It is critical to protect yourself against market volatility as best you can and this goes double for when your just starting out. For this reason Step No. 1 is to put about a third of the funds in bonds. This is very conservative, provides a high yield and dampens market volatility. It is a baby step in the right direction.
For this portion of the funds I recommended the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (NYSE: BND). You can buy 100 shares for about $7,800 as of yesterday's close. It pays about 4% and can be cashed out if need be almost immediately.
Historically, equity will appreciate faster than debt, and index funds have beaten stock picking 80% of the time while costing less to own. For the next third of the money, Step No.2, I recommended the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSE: VTI). This will pay about a 3% yield and owns thousands of stocks. It closed yesterday around $51. If you buy 150 shares it will cost about $7,700.
These two funds would actually be a good start for most people and if that was all they owned and they want to sleep easy it would be enough without any other moves. However, if that was the case I would invest one third in bonds and two thirds in stocks. These two investments give you a higher yield than cash and you will own a very large segment of the bond and stock market. Together it will consume $15,500 of your $25,000 leaving $9,500.The next step is not essential, but I recommended it because I think it is important to ones education to feel ownership in something specific: read the annual reports and become familiar with the workings of the market and business in general.
Step No.3 adds four stocks in different industries, that have long histories of superior management, branding power, dividends, admirable balance sheets and they are in businesses that have been around and will be around a long time. I have written about all of them and the most recent post is linked.
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) closed at $60.59 so say 50 shares costs about $3,100.
Olin Company (NYSE: OLN) closed at $14.18 so say 150 shares costs about $2,100.
United Parcel (NYSE: UPS) closed at $54.53 so say 50 shares costs about $2,800.
Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) closed at 27.17 so 100 shares costs about $2,700.
These four buys total $9,700, but I am confident my inquisitive banker friend can come up with the extra $200. Some people might recommend getting equal dollar values of each stock and let the number of shares be odd numbers. This might be alright for large numbers of shares but not for so few. It is better not to have odd lots. These figures are close enough to balanced.There are many more solid companies that one might include, but I think the point has been made about the approach to take. When it comes time to invest the next $25,000 I would alter the mix some. I would split the money equally between the stock index fund and the individual stocks and exclude the bond fund reducing it as a percentage of the total, favoring equity over debt.
Sheldon Liber is the CEO of a small private investment company and the principal for design and research at an architecture & planning firm. He writes the columns Chasing Value and Serious Money. Disclosure [by Sheldon]: I own shares of everything discussed BND, VTI, JNJ, OLN, UPS, and WFC.
Aug 13, 2009
Aug 12, 2009
With my last bank statement, I saw that I was getting a whopping 0.1% rate on my checking account and an astronomical 0.6% rate on my savings account.
I had planning on doing some banking on Monday, and thought to investigate Certificate of Deposit (CD) rates and open one for our Rte66/cruise/car/legal funds we have established. The National Average for Money Market funds is 0.12%, for Deposit Accounts is 0.37%, for CD's is 1.14% for 12 months, and 2.38% for 60 months. I believe that interest rates will rise over the next year or two, so certainly do not want to lock in a 60 month rate.
I have an ING - Orange savings account associated with my stock investment account, and they are giving a 1.4% rate, so I did my transfers on-line today. If you do not already have an account that you can secure a greater than 1% rate on, below are a couple of places you can increase your savings return rate:
Money Market, USAA, 1.06%, www.usaa.com
Deposit Account, Bank of Internet, 2.5%, www.bankofinternet.com
1-Year CD, NewDominion Bank, 2.26%, www.newdominiondirect.com
Aug 11, 2009
So, which dog do you think he faced? :o)
Aug 10, 2009
After performing our duties as citizens on Saturday (attended a Congress Corner with our congressman), meeting a fellow blogger on Saturday evening (Hi Jamie, Shawn, Jazz, and Evan :o), watching golf on the telly Sunday (go Tiger!), and a great concert last night - Alice Cooper RAWKS!!!, today was a ketchup day :o)
Today, I went and did some banking, trimmed some bushes, mowed the lawn, made a garbage can patio [What is that Ken you may ask yourself, and that is why there is a picture to the left :o)], and did some letter writing and home finance/budget chores. Beth has a roast going, and we will most likely scrounge up a bottle of red wine, pop in a movie, and have a relaxing evening.
Hope your Monday was tolerable, and that your week is a good one. Is it Friday yet?
Viruses, grueling journeys, monoculture diets. U.S. honeybees have had it rough lately, and millions have perished from the mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD). But now some of the nation's bees have a new threat to contend with: ants. And not just any ants. These ants are crazy—Rasberry crazy ants (Paratrenicha species near pubens), to be precise.
Named for their helter-skelter scamper, which contrasts with most ants' standard rank-and-file march, the tiny invasive ants were first noticed in near Houston, Texas, in 2002 and have been destroying electronics, pestering picnickers and gunking up sewage pumps ever since. And now they have started to go after local honeybee hives, according to a recent Associated Press report.
Beekeepers say the omnivorous ants swarming the hives appear to be less interested in the sweet honey inside than they are in the bee larvae there. And once a hive is decimated, the ants will take over and use it to raise their own young. One beekeeper reported that the ants had destroyed about 100 of his hives in the past year. Aside from the crops they help to pollinate, the bees also produce about 4.9 million pounds of honey a year, the AP said.
But these insidious ants have yet to gain state recognition as agricultural pests, which would free up more money for research into their lifecycles and biology. But in order to gain that title, the Texas and U.S. departments of agriculture require more study. And many feel that time is of the essence.
"This is absolutely idiotic," Tom Rasberry, an exterminator and the ants' namesake, told the wire service. "If killing honeybees does not put it in the ag pest category, I don’t know what does."
These ants are on the march—or scatter, as it were. Local researchers note that they are spreading north at a good clip and are now found in more than 10 Texas counties. They're easily transported accidentally through trash and plant material, according to the information on the University of Texas A&M Center for Urban & Structural Entomology Web site. Bees and electronics don't seem to be the only targets of these crazy ants. They also appear to have a taste for everything from ladybugs to fire ants. But even the experts are frustrated by the lack of knowledge about these new nuisances.
"There are literally thousands of things we need to find out," Rasberry said, "otherwise we're going to do just like we did with the fire ant and wait until it was too late."
Aug 9, 2009
Then it was on to the Morris Center for Performing Arts, in South Bend, for some Blue Oyster Cult as an opener, not bad, but nothing compared to the main act :o) The main act was Alice Cooper, and while not a great vocalist, he is a consummate performer and his Rock Opera was exquisite. We had a great time, and just now, two hours after the show, the ringing in the ears is starting to subside.
I was one smart cookie by taking tomorrow off, because I knew there would be a wind down after such a great show. I will leave Beth to give you musical details, just know that we had a great time and it was a great show. Below are a few pictures to whet your appetite :o)
Ten reasons to beware the Bear
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Aug 8, 2009
First was Marty, a really nice guy with a great sense of humor.
Second was Mark, what a peach :o)
Tonight was Jamie, and she and her family are adorable, and as an added bonus, they are local. We look forward to getting together again [do not believe what you read at her site, I am as serious as I come across in my blog, and there is not a single funny bone in my body :o)]
If you want details, go to Beth's or Jamie's blogs.
As a life long Republican, it was not an automatic, nor at the beginning, an easy choice to vote for Obama for President and Donnelly for Congress, but based on their demeanor, their philosophies, and their genuine care for their constituents, I am proud to say that I voted for them both. This decision was validated today when we went to a Constituent Corner meeting featuring Congressman Joe Donnelly.
His focus was going to be to sit down with individual constituents to assist with their needs, a worthwhile endeavor in its own right. But based on the size of the crowd (150-200) crammed into a local Martin's supermarket Cafe, he decided to do a town hall type format first, then do the one-on-one thing. I was so impressed with his patience, his willingness to answer questions, and the way he kept the meeting from getting out of control. He emphasized that he was in town for the whole month, and that he would take the time, each and every day, to hear all opinions. As people raised their voices, he told them he would not call on them, and he asked several times for folks to respect each other. He used the Chocolate and Vanilla analogy to acknowledge that we have differences of opinion and likes and dislikes, but that does not make one or the other either right or wrong.
There certainly is a lot of emotion and controversy regarding the health care proposals. I was struck with the amount of general anger that was in the crowd. I was also dismayed with the amount of misinformation that the crowd had absorbed. There were questions about rationing of health care, about the counseling for euthanasia, about how people are comparing Obama's administration to the Nazi regime, and how the health care bill will over time supplant private insurance.
I did get to ask Congressman Donnelly a question regarding something our CEO talked about yesterday at our all hands meeting. Our CEO has been prominent in the cap and trade legislation talks, and also about energy policy. His concern about health care is that individual state utility commissions could challenge our health care costs and challenge us to match what ever public option or cooperative arrangement ends up in the final bill. So my question to Congressman Donnelly (we do not know yet whether it was caught on TV or by the paper :o) was along the lines of "Are there provisions in the bill to prevent public commissions or shareholders from challenging companies to abandon their private plans for the less expensive public option?" His response is that that option is disallowed by the bill, and that he would get back to me with more detail. One of his staffers came up after the question and asked me to write down my question and contact information. I am confident I will get a phone call or e-mail from him with a more detailed answer.
When it was all said and done, I made a point of shaking his hand, and he looked me in the eye and said thank you. I think having legitimate questions versus the usual rhetoric meant something to him :o)
All in all, very interesting to be there, we are glad we went. Guess that is enough for this entry, and there is always Beth's take on this, which I have not yet read :o) So I am posting mine and heading over to Nutwood.
I certainly know that I do my share to spread the wealth :o)
My question to you is whether you are one of the rats feasting on the abundance, are you filling the can with waste, and most importantly - are you thankful for what you have?
You know how we feel about recycling and going green, so when I saw this cartoon on my calendar (Thanks Kim & Steve), and with the way our whole economy and behaviors are changing, I felt it said a lot.
Over the last few years, we have certainly been striving to simplify our lives, and we certainly feel very at peace with that.
Aug 7, 2009
Aug 6, 2009
I downloaded the few entries that were made there, and may re-post them as I move forward. I find that with my schedule and such, a single blog does the trick.
So from time-to-time you may find a Financial Forum entry here, or a Project Management Thought.
For those of you who were followers, thank you so much for signing on as followers to my now "dead" blogs, but you all were followers here, so never fear, nothing has been lost :o)
Cash For Clunkers sales report details - trucks take a big hit
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The goal International Battery, a high-tech start-up, is industrial revolution. Racing against other companies around the globe, they are on the front lines of an effort to build smaller, lighter, more powerful batteries that could help transform the American energy economy by replacing gasoline in cars and making windmills and solar cells easier to integrate into the power grid.
The batteries would not only replace the fuel tanks in millions of cars and trucks, but would also make windmills and solar cells more practical, by absorbing excess energy when their production jumps and giving it back when the wind suddenly dies or the sun goes behind a cloud.
But first, companies like International Battery will have to tweak the chemistry of their devices and improve the manufacturing process, bolstering the batteries’ capabilities. And prices will have to come down — a problem that is far more daunting when it comes to batteries for vehicles and the grid, because the packs are hundreds or thousands of times the size of those for handheld electronics.
Nearly all battery research now focuses on lithium ion batteries, which made their consumer debut in 1991 and have since replaced nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal-hydride technologies in many portable electronics. Lithium is the third-lightest element on the periodic table, which allows for far greater energy density. A lithium ion battery that will move a car one mile weighs less than half as much as a nickel metal hydride and one-sixth as much as lead acid.
The engineers face a difficult challenge. The batteries have to store a lot of energy in a small, light package, scoring high in a quality known as energy density. They also have to absorb energy and give it back quickly, a factor called power density. Think of a battery as a bottle for energy, and the power density as the size of the bottle’s neck. Good power density means a shape like a peanut butter jar, easy to fill or empty; low power density is more like a wine jug with a narrow neck.
The batteries have to charge quickly and withstand thousands of cycles of charge and discharge. They have to dissipate heat without catching fire. The batteries must function in Maine winters and Texas summers. Engineers have met almost all of these goals, but not simultaneously in one product. And they are still way off on price: the components remain far too costly. But they are trying, devoting more and more resources to meeting that goal.
In 1991 the Advanced Battery Consortium was founded and set a near-term target for developing a battery that would cost $150 per kilowatt-hour of storage. (A kilowatt-hour sells for about a dime and will move a car three or four miles.) Eighteen years later, prices are in the range of $750 to $1,000. By comparison, a lead-acid battery in a conventional car costs less than $100 for that much capacity, although it is much too heavy to build an electric car around and not durable enough.
Now the Energy Department has a new goal: $500 by 2012. One reason for the optimism is the infusion of money that Washington is preparing to get the job done. The $2 billion in new grants planned this summer includes $1.2 billion for companies manufacturing battery cells and complete battery packs, $350 million for electric drive component manufacturing and $25 million for battery recycling.
The Obama administration is also hoping to drum up market demand. In March, President Obama, visiting a testing center for electric vehicles run by Southern California Edison in Pomona, announced tax credits of up to $7,500 for consumers who buy plug-in hybrid vehicles. Such models get some of their energy from the power grid and some from gasoline. But when it comes to a genuine mass market for an affordable plug-in hybrid or all-battery car, “we don’t quite know how to get there,” said Mr. Miller, of Ford.
The mastery of battery technology is key and we still have a lot of work to do.
Source: The New York Times/ Matthew Wald