Thursday, May 19, 2011

Timber Road Wind Farm in Ohio

Introduction
Horizon wind is now owned by the international electricity company and also wind turbine developer EDP (Energias de Portugal - see http://www.edp.pt/en/aedp/Pages/aedp.aspx). They are a hugely capitalized company that has decided to grow by building and installing and often owning commercial scale wind farms. Recently they started construction of the Timer Road project in Ohio - see http://www.windpowerengineering.com/tag/payne/

Discussion
EDP bought Horizon Wind from Goldman Sachs (the Banksters Extraordinaire) several years ago for a bit over $2.2 billion. Goldman had purchased a company called Zihlka a couple of years earlier for a bit over $1 billion; the previous owners just did not have the capital to do big wind farms, and obviously Goldman did have that. One of their first projects was to install Ny's largest wind farm (Maple Ridge) in partnership with Atlantic Renewables (who got bought up eventually by Scottish and Southern (big Scottish electric utility), who then got bought up by Iberdola. Little Fish getting eaten up by bigger ones... Anyway, the combined Maple Ridge is about 322 MW, composed of 196 x Vestas V82 x 1.65 MW units (all imported from Denmark via the port of Oswego). Since then, EDP/Horizon has been developing away.....

Which brings us to the 99 MW Timer Ridge wind farm. This is the first large scale development in Ohio, and it will cost around $200 million to buy the turbines (55 x Vestas V90 x 1.8 MW) and install them, and given how bad the recession has been to Ohio, the 200 or so construction jobs will be greatly appreciated. These turbines will be made in Colorado (tower, blades AND nacelles) and then shipped by train to the closest destination to the site; Vestas prides itself in minimizing transport costs. The location can be seen from this site: http://www.thewindpower.net/wind-farm-map-16017.php?PHPSESSID=b1e39c0034e9625983efd19143c5f9c4
The wind farm will be located in a really flat part of Ohio, near Fort Wayne, Inidana (NW Ohio), which is one of the windier parts of the state. Indiana now has over 1000 MW of wind power, and this has been possible because of the "old" monopoly style electric system (same in Ohio), where the grid monopoly in that part of the state also owns most of the generation facilities (generally coal burners, some nukes). The delivered price of electricity in both Ohio and Indiana is much cheaper than in NY, despite the low price for generated electricity these days in WNY (less than 4 c/kw-hr). Of course, all this coal based electricity is highly polluting, so cheapness comes at a price...

Anyway, what made the Ohio wind farm possible was a 20 year long term Power Purchase Agreement between Horizon and the local monopoly in that part of Ohio/Indiana (American Electric Power, or AEP). In Ohio, monopolies were forced by state legislation to buy or source at least 12.5% of their electricity by some recent legislation passed by Democrats in 2010 (Senate Bill 221). Obviously, no such legislation would pass now in Ohio, given the current crop of reactionary Republicans, who are now extremely unpopular after just a few months in office.

The V90 units (see http://www.vestas.com/en/wind-power-plants/procurement/turbine-overview/v90-1.8/2.0-mw.aspx#/vestas-univers) come with either an 80 or 95 meter tower option, but no details are available, so far. The V90 turbine has a power ration of 3.53 square meters of rotor area per kw of generator capacity, which is higher than most turbines in the US (average is about 3.1). And it turns out that this is a very economical way for AEP to get their electricity. Supposedly this will provide for 27,000 homes, and at about 10.5 MW-hr/yr per house, this implies about a 32% to 33% net output for the turbines. There are also many Ohio companies who make components for these, including Timken (bearings). Jobs are good....

AEP has been a staunch proponent of pollution based electricity - notably coal and nukes. However, they will do fine by this project - no capital required, and all the costs get passed on to customers, anyway, via the PPA. Nuke based electricity would be at least 3 times as costly (well over 20 c/kw-hr on a minimum $12 billion investment), and that would have been an epic money-loser, generating lots of frowns on Wall Street.

As for NY State, so far, no PPA's seem forthcoming from any company, or from the two NY State owned utilities, NYPA and LIPA. The no PPA scenario is an unfortunate consequence of our gambling based electricity pricing system, where no incentives for long term actions (like a 20 year PPA) seem to exists - everything is short term based. Oh well.... And until that happens, don't hold your breath waiting for any new wind farms in NY State, though there are rumors of Evergreen wanting to install their first NY wind farm near Hornell... No banks will loan money unless a price is defined, as the "maybe you'll get your money back and maybe not" doesn't cut it these days. And thanks to 3 years in a row of enormous losses by electricity price hedgers, that option is also closed...

DB

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Year in NY Renewables - 2010

Introduction
The NYISO 2011 "Goldbook" recently came out online - see

2011 NYISO Load and Capacity Data “Goldbook“ http://www.nyiso.com/public/webdocs/services/planning/planning_data_reference_documents/2011_GoldBook_Public_Final.pdf. This document lists all electricity generators in the state, where they are located, what their rated capacity was, what the energy source for that generated electricity was and how much electricity they sold onto the grid. The total quantity of Made in NY electricity was 139,357.3 GW-hr/yr, which is an average output of 15,908.4 MW (15.9 GW). This was 42.2% of the rated winter output and 39.4% of the rated summer output. Average imports of electricity (mostly from Quebec, Ontario, Ohio and Pennsylvania) were about 2.3 GW, or about 1/8th of the electricity consumed in NY State.


Discussion

Most of the electricity made in NY is "pollution sourced" - from nukes, coal, natural gas and oil, but a considerable portion - close to 20% - comes from renewable energy sources. Most of that is hydroelectricity based. If pumped hydroelectric storage is also included, NY has the capacity to instantaneously make 6430 MW, though in 2010, hydroelectric output averaged about 2851 MW, or 17.9% of the electricity made in NY. This averages about 44.3% of the rated output of our hydro capacity. When the pumped hydro (which was 1400 MW of capacity, but only utilized 6.5% of its capacity - maximum is about 50%, since pumping has to also take place) is ignored, an average of 2760 MW was produced by 5031 MW of capacity, with a net utilization of about 54%.


Of course, most of the hydro generation takes place at Niagara Falls (1375 MW plus 57.3 MW from the pumped hydro unit) and at Massena (756 MW), and this adds up to 77% of NY's hydro generation. However, NY has a lot of small and medium capacity hydroelectric generation. There are 338 small and medium hydro units that made a total of 629 MW, averaging about 47.5% of the 1323 MW of listed capacity. Almost all of this small and medium hydro has been operating for decades, though some potential expansion may be possible. Contrary to popular belief, hydro output varies considerably on a yearly and seasonal basis - the biggest water flows obviously happen in the spring with snow melt season. NY State is not a desert, and the water and hills combination is great for hydroelectricity generation.


The poor utilization of pumped hydro storage - especially at Benheim-Gilboa (1160 MW capacity) is somewhat sad, and one of the reasons downstate prices tend to be higher that they should be. However, this is because the stored energy is needed to prevent a blackout that could happen if one of the two nukes at Indian Point (25 miles north of NY City on the Hudson River) has a sudden cut-off (and these do happen) in production. When those happen, the Gilboa facility kicks into gear, while arrangements are made to reroute 1100 MW to the NY City area (there is only 8 hours of storage at full output at this site). Meanwhile, at the Lewiston pumped hydro site, the 57.3 MW of average output is 23% of the site capacity, or about half of what could be produced from this unit. That means that Gilboa's investment is tied up supporting those highly undesired nukes at Indian Point - this very expensive NY State owned site was only used 2.9% of its rated capacity. This is a great example of corporate welfare, as those nukes should be paying NY State back for its cost and operation, since it's main use is in supporting those nukes. Gilboa could be used to stabilize a lot of wind energy output for NY State (about 2,000 to 10,000 MW of capacity, or close to 7 times what is now installed), but that can't happen as long as those infernal nukes constantly at risk of an emergency shutdown place the grid stability at such risk.


The non-pollution sourced electricity for NY can be arranged into hydro, pumped hydro, wind, landfill gas and refuse (trash), though that latter category is somewhat controversial (but, no dollars are exported to buy the raw material). Landfill gas is, in many ways, also a form of trash burning. The numbers, in terms of average MW, are:


Hydro: .................................... 2759.4

Pumped Hydro ....................... 91.4

Wind Turbines ........................ 289.1

Trash burners ......................... 216.1

Landfill gas ............................ 90.6

Wood/biomass ....................... 36.0


Total ........................................ 3482.6


This works out to be about 21.9% of NY's generated electricity, or about 19% of the total electricity used.


The hydro generation is what distinguishes NY State from many midwest/Appalachian states (in contrast, more than 95% of Michigan's electricity is now pollution sourced, and most of that is coal). But, wind turbines are now the number 2 source of renewable homegrown electricity. Unfortunately, there is little prospect for any increase in that as long as our pricing system is warped so significantly in favor of old, paid off generation sources in general and pollution based, rapid pay-back systems favoring natural gas in particular. And while NYSERDA, the state agency charged with expanding the renewable share of NY's electricity mix, certainly tries hard, it cannot overcome the "Pollution Prejudice" that is a part of the present NYISO pricing system in conjunction with the depressed electricity prices that are a consequence of The Great Recession that presently plagues NY State.


The performance of NY's wind farms is also not good, or at least not what was hoped for and/or promised. The present capacity (less the recently installed Hardscrabble and Geneva wind turbine projects) is 1276.3 MW; with an average output of 289.1 MW, this gives an average of only 22.65%. The best performing wind farm is the Munnsville one (28%), followed closely by the Steelwinds (27.55%) array, and the worst one is the Madison County one (inappropriate Vestas V66 turbines at 17.7%). Most of the wind turbines in NY are the GE 1.5sl units, Clipper C-96's or Vestas V82's, which are designed for moderate to fast wind speeds. In the U.S., the average utilization is near 35%, but this may be a consequence of the fast wind speed resources in the midwest and Texas. If the average output of the Munnsville units were replicated statewide, wind turbine output would average near 357 MW.


Given the similar wind resource and similar turbines (80 meter hub height, a power ratio of about 3.1 square meters per kw of capacity), three observations seem apparent. One is that there may not be enough space in between each turbine, and their is too much "wind stealing" in the wind farms. Another may be that the up-time of the turbines in NY is not as good as it is in the midwest, and that the owners are scrimping on maintenance, due to the poor economics of wind turbines in NY at present. Finally, these types of wind turbines are not well suited to NY winds - instead, we need what are called "Low Wind Speed Turbines" installed on taller towers. NY is neither flat nor a desert/semi-desert, and there are a lot of surface obstructions to the flow of wind - notably trees, hills and buildings. Such turbines are now commercially available, and have a power ratio of more than 4 square meters per kilowatt (m^2/kw) of capacity, and towers up to 120 meters are now available.


Any future wind turbines installed in NY will have to focus on increasing the net output of those turbines, which are only getting about 66% to 75% of the money flow from sales of electricity that they should be getting. And odds are, taller turbines will be needed to tap the faster and less turbulent winds that exist at 100 meter and 120 meter hub heights versus 80 meter hub heights. The winds present at the 40 to 80 meter heights are probably more degraded by surface roughness, so so an unacceptably large fraction of the blade rotation circle is not providing sufficiently energetic winds to produce electricity.


Of course, none of this is too relevant with today's ultra-low electricity pricing, which provides close to or less than zero motivation to install new wind turbines. In general, taller towers cost money (about $500,000 for an extra 20 meters of height using steel tower sections), which adds to the price of the wind turbines. Part of the reason that the Hardscrabble wind farm was so expensive ($200 million for a 76 MW project) was the use of 100 meter towers (adding at least $17 million to the project cost). Hopefully it is worth the extra effort, as the 45 meter long blades used at the Hardscrabble array will always be at least 55 meters above the ground, and more than 80 meters above the ground for about 63% of the time. In contrast, a GE 1.5sl can be as close to the ground as 42.5 meters, and is above 80 meters only 50% of the time.


Of note: no solar PV array in NY was designed to feed significant output onto the grid, so, in effect, all PV based electricity was "on site" made and used. Anyway, it is very hard to see how 40% of NY's electricity will be sourced renewably by 2015 or 2020. It looks like the present situation will be about all that is installed for several years, until electricity prices rise significantly, so the "15 x 15" or "25 x 15" or "40 x 15" plans will ever come close to being filled. Bummer. Time for some sensible pricing policies for renewable electricity.....


DB

Friday, May 13, 2011

Angella Merkel's "Come to Jesus" Moment with Nukes

Introduction
Angela Merkel is the Prime Minister of Germany, and also a quantum chemist by trade. One of the tools of the trade in that field is probabilities - for example, what is the probability of going from one quantum state to another (used to design photovoltaics, LED's, fluorescent lighting and MRI's, for example). She would be no stranger to statistics - how to use and abuse them. She is also quite aware of many of the details of nuclear energy/nuclear fission, too. And also how CO2 induced global temperature and climate changes happen, as well as what would be the effect of rising ocean levels on the lowland areas of Germany (a lot of prime agricultural area in the northern part of Germany is very close to sea level in altitude).

Until recently, she was a strong proponent of nuclear energy as a way to provide acceptable cost electricity without CO2 pollution. But after she saw the first hydrogen gas explosion at the Fukushima reactor complex, well, that was a "Come to Jesus" moment for her. You can read more about this at http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-05-09/germany’s-unlikely-champion-radical-green-energy-path. And the result is that a very conservative leader of Germany will now be leading her country to a renewable energy future in a way that no other major country can match.

Oh well, it also helps to have a Renewable Energy Feed-In Law in place. That is the secret of Germany's renewable energy success to date, and how it can realistically replace all nuclear sourced electricity (now about 20% of the country's electricity) in less than 10 years.

And, attention NY State politicians: you could do this, too, but you need a sensible renewable electricity energy pricing system(s), something which does NOT exist in NY at the present time. No Feed-In Law (at best) or Quebec style Power Purchase Agreements with NYPA and LIPA (second best option) means effectively no significant new installations of electricity in NY State - it's that simple.

Discussion
Up until the partial core meltdowns (3 reactors, including a reactor vessel melt-through of the 6" thick pressure vessel for Unit 1) and the problems in four spent fuel rod storage pools, Ms. Merkel had been supporting the nuclear revival in Germany, much to the dismay of environmentalists, renewable energy advocates and the renewable energy industry. To facilitate new nukes, some massive subsidies would be needed for them, and she was prepared to deliver those subsidies. She was also prepared to allow old reactors to get "life extensions", including ones with the same design as the Fukushima ones (GE boiling water reactors (BWR's) made in the 1970's). After all, no CO2 is produced in the nuclear fission reaction, and total CO2 emissions via nukes are around 60gm CO2/kw-hr of electricity, about 15 times less than for coal and about 8 times less than for natural gas (which almost always has to be imported, too, requiring exports of money). Global Climate Change will not be kind to Germany, as significant parts (especially northern parts) will be flooded out with the Greenland icesheets as well as glaciers on the Alps melt/decompose.

The quoted odds of a partial core meltdown were listed as something like less than one chance in 100,000 reactor-years for BWR's. With approximately 438 reactors operating worldwide, that would be one "oops" per 228 years, assuming the current number are kept constant, and supposedly newer ones are even less prone to an "oops" than the older ones. The Soviet accident at Chernobyl was explained away as sloppy operations/primitive Soviet design, and unlikely to occur in the west (Three Mile Island was cited as an example of a success in the face of an "oops", since only the reactor was damaged, and not too much radioactive material escaped (at least compared to Chernobyl, anyway) - officially, that is).

But then came not one but THREE reactor core meltdowns, and THREE massive hydrogen (which was made by reaction of the red hot zirconium clad fuel rods with steam) gas explosions in Units 1, 2 and 3. Well, it was pretty obvious that once in 100,000 or one in a million reactor-years statistic was just a lie, or to put it kindly,"an overestimation of safety and security". In fact, that statistic implies a Gaussian (bell curve) probability/predictability of a partial core meltdown, but this is just completely inappropriate, as continuous probability distributions are inapplicable in this case. These are nuke disasters are "Black Swan events" (see http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/TAS.pdf), unpredictable, but even worse, known to occur far more frequently than is deemed socially acceptable in Germany. Japan is a technologically advanced country, and if it could happen there, it can happen anywhere, including Germany.

Maybe this decision is all political; if you support nukes in Germany these days, you will be kicked out of office, as there is no significant public support for nukes. And in spite of all the money than many German companies want to make on designing, constructing and making parts for them, that is now irrelevant. And we are talking big money with regards to making and operating new nukes, lots of jobs (about 100,000 job-years per 1 GW reactor in direct jobs) in a country hurting for jobs and lots of bank financing fees for each nuke, plus all that avoided natural gas and coal purchase from abroad which the German government also considers as important.

So, the three least safe (oldest) BWR units were shut, and will never be restarted. Four more were stopped and are now being thoroughly inspected and also may never start up again. Now plans to install new reactors are scrapped, and all reactors in Germany will be shut down as of 2021. Germany was getting 20% of its electricity from nukes, and this electricity is to be replaced by.... renewable energy. How's that for a bold promise?

And by U.S. standards, the renewable energy potential of Germany, aside form the North Sea, is pathetic. Wimpy solar potential, and mostly very sub-standard wind resources, a location averaging at the 45 to 50 degree latitude, not much of a growing season and densely populated, too. Any renewable energy they make would most likely be more expensive than that which could be made in the U.S. But no matter, this is the path they are on. And they have a "secret" asset (at least to almost all U.S. politicians, who seem pretty brain dead when it comes to renewable energy pricing systems and what makes renewable energy implementation possible) which will more than overcome the U.S. wind, solar and biomass potential - they have sensible renewable energy pricing.

So, they will use ingenuity to enhance the efficiency of wind turbines -0 things like taller towers (120 and 135 meters versus the 80 meter "standard" in the U.S.), more aerodynamically efficient blades (Enercon and their patented "winglets" on its blades), gearless technology, and high volume, high quality manufacturing. And they will proceed to populate the North Sea with 5 MW and larger wind turbines, in conjunction with Danish, Spanish and French companies/countries. Biomass and biogas is playing an increasing role in co-generation/electricity production, as little is going to be allowed to go to waste. Their solar photovoltaic industry has been a windfall and wonderful event for their chemical industry (that's how PV materials get made), and Germany has a major PV industry. And with their Feed-In Tariff (FIT) system, hundreds of thousands of people can now be investors and electricity producers, and this is becoming ever more popular.

The FIT system allows investors a very decent chance of making a reasonable return on an investment in a renewable energy system, because the prices German utilities are required to buy this electricity are set on a cost plus reasonable (and none too high, either) basis. But, bankers love it, because they can loan out money and lots of it with a tremendously high possibility of getting repaid. For example, a $4 million dollar wind turbine only requires a 5% ($200,000) down payment; in the U.S., a 60% equity share ($2.4 million) would be required for the same unit. The huge volume of renewable electricity has actually forced the price of polluting (nukes, coal, natural gas) down via the Merit Order Effect, making these systems less profitable (their prices are set on the marginal price system used in NY State, though during windy times, polluters actually have to PAY people to take their electricity (it gets put into pumped hydro storage, for example).

No one claims that Germany has the cheapest electricity in the world, or even in Europe, but as a result, people get really efficient with it. And it turns out for most forms of renewable (wind, biogas, biomass, offshore wind), people and companies CAN afford it. Besides, the so far 300,000 jobs and billions in wealth created by the FIT system is considered a fair trade. As for PV, this is now a major export business, too, and a major source of employment. After all, what's the use of having cheap electricity if you can't have a job to pay for this cheap (but, no money, no honey) stuff? And what happens when the natural gas or coal runs out? See
http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-05-13/peak-coal-year for the coal aspect, and just ONE of the downsides of not going the renewable route. And if you have delusions of endless natural gas supplies, you need to read this: http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-05-12/will-natural-gas-fuel-america-21st-century-new-report.

As for jobs, renewable energy can be a prodigious job creator, especially via a FIT system. The reason the FIT system was evolved was mostly as a JOB CREATION system for high quality manufacturing; the pollution free electricity was just the frosting on the cake, so to speak, though that situation is changing to one where the energy will now power up larger and larger amounts of the country. And once these get paid off, the price for this electricity will drop like a rock.

As an example of what can be done with sensible renewable electricity pricing, consider the Bard Gruppe, which did not exist to any extent 5 years ago - see http://www.bard-offshore.de/. Their first wind turbine model was a 5 MW (new ones are 6.25 MW) one designed for offshore only, in conjunction with their distinctive "tripile" foundation. Aside from a couple of pilot projects in some harbors, their first project is a 400 MW wind farm located in 40 meters of water almost 60 miles offshore next to the Dutch border. By now, it's over 25% complete (55 MMW now feeding into the grid, completion expected this year). The total project will cost about $1.8 billion, and then two more just like this are in the works. That is what is possible with a FIT arrangement. Meanwhile, the Cape Wind project struggles on, with financing now their major challenge, though we wish them well. But there are so many extra hoops the Cape Wind developers have to go through versus what Bard 1 had to do despite the much greater technical and construction challenge of deep water far offshore versus the shallow water close to shore project in Massachusetts.

We in America have hobbled ourselves severely, and in effect, given away the store with our crazy gambling based, tax-credit (= subsidies via avoided taxes on the super-rich investors for a project) electricity pricing system. We revel in cheap electricity with respect to the generation price, yet pay absurd costs to monopolies to distribute it; in NY, transmission, distribution and connection is more than twice as much as is the price generated electricity. Pension funds don't invest in U.S. wind offshore farms not because they don't want to but because their is not financial stability for the offshore business (or onshore, for that matter, in the U.S.), but in Europe, they sure do. We can't even put our savings to work, but are instead rewarded by gambling on commodity prices (like oil), which just raises the price of oil higher than it should be. Cute...

So, if you want to make a hundred thousand of so jobs in NY in a value added, create real wealth mode that also makes the world a better place, the best place to start is not subsidizing "public private partnerships" in industries like "pharma" that are a decade past their prime. It's as simple as getting a sensible renewable electricity pricing system, and then letting the people of NY get to work. Or is that too much to ask? Must we instead only allow subsidized industries and Wall Street Gambling to rule, to the detriment of the vast majority of our state's people?

Oh well, maybe I don't really want to know the answer to that one.... as there is not enough beer in the state to drown out the wrong answer for most but the right answer for some extremely rich, extremely predatory few. And their friends in the nuke industry, too....

DB

Friday, May 6, 2011

Education Comments & Wind Power

Recently, there was an Education Town Hall in Buffalo, attended by about 400 people or so - see
http://artvoice.com/issues/v10n18/week_in_review/time_out_on_schools. Maybe you were even there...?

I read that the graduation rate for black males in Buffalo was 25% last year, and the average high school graduation rate for all Buffalo was somewhere really south of pathetic. But, it's not like there are a lot of actual employment possibilities of significance for those with only a high school diploma in much of the country these days, let alone on the Niagara Frontier. Part of this reason is that there is just no respect for those who exchange their labor for money unless this is actually non-productive work (as in FIRE (= Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) employment). Probably the same for education work, and as evidenced by Kaleida's attempt at wage and benefit give-backs to make up for their bad business decision to proceed with the Vascular Center, health care, too... but, that's a bit of a digression. So who's to blame for the pathetic high school graduation rate? Or the pathetically low probability that a college graduate this year will even be able to find a job requiring their college degree (the 2007 peak of 57% dropped to 18% in 2008, and was not much better than 20% for 2009). But, those college graduates that don't postpone jobs for grad school ARE getting jobs - the ones that in the past would have been filled by those with high school degrees. Which also helps explain why those with high school degrees only have such a high unemployment rate - they are getting bumped for minimal wage jobs by those with enhanced educational experiences.

Of course, that can't be a great motivator for getting that high school degree, since unemployed and underemployed is the same whether you are educated or not in terms of income.... And while there are lots of reasons while manufacturing has taken it in the shorts, so to speak, here is an important reason why so many families in this region no longer have viable employment: http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/heading_south_u.s.-mexico_trade_and_job_displacement_after_nafta1
And this affects all skill levels - after all, no factories means no need for engineers in production activities, and lots of college educated support people also are no longer needed (accountants, lawyers, PR, media, advertising, HR, sales, etc). So factory loss also affects the college educated crowd, and in a big way. For evidence (and a really depressing experience), check out what passes for a SUNY Buffalo "job fair" these days - pretty much restricted to mercs (mercenaries), cannon fodder (armed forces), policing, Repo (home foreclosure, repossesion of loaned items) and Pharma Sales "opportunities". Ugh... try this on for size (warning, not a happy one..) http://www.inflation.us/collegebubble.html

So far, few want to even admit the obvious.... that there is ALSO a glut of highly skilled, highly educated people in WNY. And employers in the private sector in this region seem especially incapable of using their talents, even when those employers are, in effect, extensively bribed (or incentivized, so to speak) via tax avoidance, low interest loans, cheap electricity, low interest loans, etc. And it's probably nothing personal, on an individual level most would like to be able to hire more people. And those who went to the recent meeting probably want a fix to what's wrong as evidenced by high drop-out rates and on average, poor test scores by Buffalo's high school attendees....

So, for the next education conference in Buffalo, perhaps these facts could be considered:

a) The strongest correlation between educational success and no success (= no graduation, poor grades, poor comprehension of what passes for being important knowledge, etc) is POVERTY. Minimizing poverty is the best way to improve grades and improve graduation rates. This is a well proven, and in the U.S., usually a conveniently ignored fact.

b) POVERTY is strongly correlated to employment, obviously. If you want to minimize poverty, you have to maximize employment possibilities for the unemployed/impoverished for whom a better education is supposedly intended, and/or an education for their kids..

c) Since private industry does not want to hire or is incapable of hiring sufficient numbers of people at living wages (though they will hire a select few for atrociously high wages in the executive management realm - as in Kaleida (http://wnymedia.net/the-answer-lady/2011/05/kaleida-squeezes-its-workers-for-60000000/), National Fuel Gas (abbreviated as NFG), SUNY Buffalo, UB Foundation, etc) - what to do? If they won't hire people because there is NO DEMAND for what they might make or for what services they might render, maybe other options need to be considered. Such as taxing the unproductive and stashed assets of the wealthy who own much of the corporate world and putting people to work directly. Or else taking steps to stimulate demand for useful things (and not redundant, already in existence things, like existing Universities and Hospitals) by removing some of the "speculative and gambling" tax-like arrangements that the "predator sector" (FIRE) imposes on society.

d) The motivation for educational success is significantly provided by the probability that actual employment at wages that support a middle class life is sufficiently high enough. When that probability of viable employment approaches zero for a large segment of Buffalo, well, motivating those kids to go to school, let alone getting anything of value out of school becomes more difficult than leading a non-thirsty horse to the Scajaquada Creek and trying to force them to drink that yucky water. Also, check out this: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/05/09/974409/-Why-Life-in-High-School-Is-More-Absurd-Than-Ever.

e) Educational success is also somewhat of a family affair - those whose parents or parental figures are educated/appreciate an education tend to do better than those whose parents perceive no value in education (just leaves you unemployed, but a lot deeper in debt). More Catch 22, and mostly curable with viable employment for the parents of the kids going to school.

f) Some horrid solutions to the "not enough jobs/too many people" scenario is to decrease the number of people, rapidly - often by war (US "Civil" War, WW1, WW2), genocide (Rwanda, Turkey/Armenia, Europe in WW2, Bosnia in the 1990's), starvation and protein deficiency (China in Great Leap Forward, North Korea), or societal insanity (the present Congo "rape-fest"/butchery zone). And there is the time honored tradition of slaughtering women by accusing them of witchcraft/health care skills - that was good for a 15 million person population readjustment in the Middle Ages (rumors are that some teabaggers have a yen for this one). But, those are horrid. The civilized way to go is hire people, ASAP, and put them to work doing things that make our country a better place, and these days, more energy sensible.

So much of what I heard in the recent Education Town Hall reporting was adults looking for a scapegoat as to why so many Buffalo children don't see any value in education (maybe the lack of scholarships to SUNY Buffalo for Buffalo high school grads is a factor? - After all, the UB Foundation and related only spends 8% of its annual expenditures on tuition for poor people - see http://wnymedia.net/the-answer-lady/2011/05/the-skim/). Maybe if we looked at the situation through the eyes of a Buffalo High Schooler - and not as employed adults, often with college degrees surrounded by other employed adults with college degrees - and saw what they saw in terms of future money income, a more educational experience might be the outcome of the next meeting. Otherwise, we will probably get another exercise in mediocrity, exemplified by US Education Secretary Arne Duncan:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/05/05/973502/-A-teachers-royal-smackdown-of-Arne-Duncan

Lastly, most ways of stimulating demand and increasing employment when private industry does an impressive FAIL (as was evidenced in The Great Recession - at least a 7 million jobs lost arrangement) is what was done by the great NY Hero of the Economy Harry Hopkins (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Hopkins), and yes, this involves government deficit spending. Mr. Hopkins oversaw a massive government hiring of people in the winter of 1933 - the Keynesian Stimulus approach - and this kept a LOT of people (more than a million?) from starving and/or freezing to death, though that fate was not uncommon for poor people during those times.

BUT, there is a way to massively stimulate economic demand without government spending and bribes in the form of tax avoidance for uber-rich people, and that is in the replacement of our pollution based electricity production system (about 80% of NY's electricity is provided via polluters). All you have to do is make manufacture of green energy systems economically viable by creating a demand for them. And to do that, all that is needed is to price the product of these systems - renewable electricity - at a rate that is equal to the cost of production plus some socially defined reasonable profit/return on investment - around 5% to10%, depending on what they are. This could put some of the (so far, "only") $2 trillion in corporate stashed away cash to work, as well as the $1+ trillion in banks/"bankster organizations" like Goldman Sachs. They have NO VIABLE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES for that money (and then there is a lot more from rich individuals and "Hedgies" - Hedge Funds) in the U.S. at the present time. So much for job creation by those rich people that Republicans in the House and Senate have imagined as "The Job Creators"...

So give them some viable investment opportunities, as well as the rest of us "normal people" who wish for more than 0.25% from savings accounts in banks. Take the value-less added, socially destructive and inapplicable-to-renewable-energy risk out of electricity pricing in NY State. Disconnect renewable electricity pricing from pollution sourced electricity (nukes, coal, Ngas, oil), and put it on a cost plus reasonable return basis. And if banks fail to step up to these massive investment/loan/loan income opportunities, set up a NY State Green Bank for that purpose (it will be an income stream for NY State, too). After all, when those banksters can scam stock holders, governments, consumers and other investors via front-running, swaps, commodity futures/derivatives on those bets, other rigged gambles, etc, you would think WC Fields' comment in "My Little Chickadee" applies:

"Mister, Is that a game of chance?" asks a prospective poker player.
"Not the way I play it" says Mr. Fields, ever so truthfully...

To get the job of replacing most of our pollution based energy systems done in NY State about 4 million job-years of direct employment is needed, as are $271 billion over 20 years (repaid by electricity and ex-Ngas users) - see http://wagengineering.blogspot.com/2011/04/peak-oil-and-wind-power-in-ny-for-2011.html. And then there are spin-off jobs to be had (multiplier effect). No taxes needed to fund this, and any bonds for a NY Green Bank are readily repaid using interest from loan money that comes from reliable repayments of loans based on sane pricing for renewable energy in NY State. BTW, with enhanced economic performance, tax revenues also rise.... And if you use more expensive routes to make electricity, well, that also creates more jobs (somewhere, hopefully here) manufacturing those systems.....

Or we could moan and groan about those slacker kids and what sometimes passes for adult supervision (take some extreme examples, apply it to almost all, and "mission accomplished"), ad infinitum, call in Wall St and the Hedgies for their "educational treatment" and get another education in how to get fleeced of a lot of money. But without a cure for the "leading the horse to that yucky Scajaquada Creek water" problem, there will be no perceptible improvement in graduation rates or test score performance. But hey, Wall St is close to Madison Avenue, so with the right media campaign, we can be convinced that something is happening even though the SOS mode is really occurring.

DB

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