Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wind Turbines - What Should Be a New Auto Industry


from http://www.manitowoccranes.com/site/GB/NREN20091030a.aspx - also a lesson in getting the camera lined up correctly, as that is not a leaning tower of Pisa knockoff. It actually stands 113 meters tall (370 feet) and if it is not vertical it won't work. The wind turbine is an E70 (~ 2 MW) and was installed 3 years ago. The tower is made of reinforced concrete sections assembled onsite. Enercon is a big proponent of tall towers made from reinforced concrete - as steel tends to be too flexible for tall towers, and is also quite expensive compared to concrete. Besides, they have a 300,000 square meter (3.2 million square feet) factory that churns out concrete towers..

Actually, when you think of wind turbines, you tend to think of the completed unit, really big, turning gracefully in the wind. Or maybe you think of a conniving and nefarious cabal of coal, nuke and natural gas executives busy setting up astroturf groups who conjure up all sorts of specious arguments against wind turbines, especially ones hard to prove or disprove because they center around beliefs. For example, the "Anti's" have flocked to the arguments around infrasound (you can't hear it but it can be measured, and what will that do to your quality of life or the value of the ex-urban potato palace within a mile of a proposed or actual wind turbine...?). But, you don't often think of concrete and cranes, except when you see wind turbines being installed... Or of the 8,000 components that go into an average commercial scale wind turbines (one which produces electricity at commercially viable costs).

This crane is a "mobile" one, and not a "crawler" (has a track instead of wheels to move the crane around). The crane is rated for 450 tons, which is similar to the 400 ton rating of the quite commonly used Manitowac 16000 (who also make the GMK 7450 pictured) which has tracks and is a common site at a lot of wind farm installations in this country. But a model 16000 is a pain to transport (requires about 16 big trucks) and set up, especially for community wind projects involving only a few or even one turbine, and the set-up time can take longer than the tower/nacelle/blade installation time (about one day with good weather). This 7450 unit would only take about 4 trucks worth of equipment to set up, and it can be driven to the site. So some clever USA engineering - Manitowac is a USA company (Manitowac Wisconsin is its headquarters) but with operations in a lot of locations throughout the world - a problem (high cost crane transport and setup) is solved, and the installed cost of wind turbines can be lowered and made more efficient, especially for community wind projects. Of course, we don't have a lot of community wind operations in this country due to seriously messed up renewable energy pricing systems, which no doubt brings some joy to the aforementioned cabal of climate wreckers...

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) just put out another report on Green Jobs - it's 100 pages, but has lots of pictures and graphs, and is pretty easy reading - see http://www.ewea.org/fileadmin/ewea_documents/documents/publications/reports/Green_Growth.pdf. And it has the lowdown on the most important short term aspect of wind turbines - they are really good for an economy, and job creation systems themselves, too. Longer term, they are also good for an economy, as they provide electricity production with no fossil fuel consumption and associated CO2 pollution from that fossil fuel consumption, no possibility of a nuke catastrophe, no massive mis-allocation of money to hyper-costly nuke projects that are forever experiencing cost overruns, as well as stable, reasonable priced electricity. And lots of both blue and white collar direct jobs, which in turn support lots of other employment, pay taxes and help pay for some modicum of civilization. It turns out that way back in 2010, 238,000 "full time equivalent" jobs (direct and indirect) had been created in Europe's wind industry - mostly in Germany, Denmark and Spain, and was worth about $US 43 billion. By 2020, at current rates (which may be a bit conservative), they are looking for an industry contributing about $US 127 billion (0.6% of European GDP), and employing 520,000 people. By 2030, they expect about $US 234 billion and almost 800,000 people to be employed.

Big plans, but then, where the winds are - offshore in much of Europe - that covers a lot of territory. It is also expected that wind will be THE major electrical generation technique for Europe in terms of delivered energy, though solar PV may have large larger capacity values and a larger quantity of money invested in it (it is a much more expensive way to make electricity). Wind turbines will deliver more electricity than will coal, nukes and natural gas. But, it is increasingly offshore where they must go, as onshore for a lot of Europe has what are considered by US standards, pathetic wind resources (with the exception of Norway, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal and a lot of France, Italy and Greece).

Meanwhile, in the US, it looks like half of the 70,000 people employed in the wind biz are to get "Riffed" by the end of December, once wind turbine installation rates crash and the industry either goes into hibernation or finds export opportunities in South and Central America - this is due to the end of the mediocre incentives now in effect. Maybe the right wingnuts in the teabagger faction of the Congress will see the light (unlikely) or get booted in the November 2012 elections (quite probable in many instances). Or maybe next year, when the strategy of ruining the US economy so that President Obama can get blamed for a ruined economy loses its luster, they will change their tune a bit. After all, a lot of those jobs are in places like Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Colorado and Iowa, and we can generally count of Congresscritters to fend for local interests, though in this case, maybe not.

After all, when GOP stands for Grand Oil Party, and all the oil companies are evolving to natural gas companies (most of the oil in North America has been found and tapped, so methane is most of what remains), well the money behind the GOP will want a return on their investment, both in rented politicans and in drilling. Natural gas prices have to rise considerably to make this a profitable business once again, and that means demand for natural gas has to rise to use up the recent surplus of natural gas (and this surplus has trashed both prices and profitability in the natural gas business). In fact, the darling of the fracking scene - Chesapeake Energy - seems to have gotten into lots of trouble of late - see http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/bill-powers/is-chesapeake-energy-going-bankrupt and http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2012/05/15/chesapeake-shares-keep-falling-but-maybe-its-time-to-buy-the-debt/. Oh well, Chesapeake is not an "oil major" with the ability to wait out this temporary collapse in prices and it could get snapped up at as quite a bargain by one of the "big boys" or by some gamblers and hedgeis on Wall Street. But a lot of people will collectively lose tens of billions as creditors are forced to eat it, thousands of workers get laid off and whatever pensions or equivalents they thought they had evaporate into the waiting coffers of some of the "1%"

But regardless, there is a big future in wind energy, especially when a country like the US has several multiples of the current national electricity consumption in the form of high quality onshore wind and near shore ocean winds. There is no good reason why at least 1 million people could not be working right now in the wind biz in this country. It should be comparable to the auto industry in employment and economic contribution to our country.

So, need a job? Lots of people do (an estimated 25 million could use a full time job) in this country - take it from the former US Labor Secretary, Robert Reich: http://robertreich.org/post/23301640941.
Not all will be/could be/should be employed in the wind biz, but a decent sized wind turbine installation rate (made possible by things such as Feed-In tariffs or similar efforts at price sanity) could stimulate up to 5 million people's employment (1 million direct jobs, and lots of indirect ones). And this means both blue collar and white collar, college educated and not college educated. As a matter of fact, it is unlikely that the abysmal post graduating employment rate for college graduates will improve until the wind industry starts living up to its potential. And not just with the R&D part of the biz (this only employs a small fraction of those in the biz, and most of the R&D employment will be in Europe, due to our recent history of trashing renewable energy opportunities (2000 to 2012)). All those factories also employ college grads, and the services supplying them employ more college grads. Besides, what's wrong with getting that Art History degree paid it off with a factory job that pays a middle class wage, especially since we have way too many Art Historians for the tax monies available to support them. Plus, employed people pay local taxes and these employ teachers en masse (who are all college grads, too) and lots of other governmental workers, who also tend to have higher education levels than the general public.

And it will also be good for the crane business, too. Look, here is a more recent model, just introduced to make wind turbine installation less costly and more efficient:


from http://www.cranestodaymagazine.com/news/manitowoc-launches-grove-gmk-6300l/. That lower concrete tower section is about 28 feet in diameter and 12 feet high and it weighs 72 tons. And accompanying this is the gnashing of teeth from the pollution based electricity cabal, as well as cries of "Curses, foiled again!", reminiscent of Boris Badenov..... After all, there goes another slice of the market for coal, natural gas and nukes....

DB




Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Big News and Hidden News

From the good folks at Wind Power Monthly magazine: http://www.windpowermonthly.com/news/1129821/Enercon-build-biggest-E-126-wind-farm-date/ - the first of the 38 x 7.5 MW wind turbines being installed at a Dutch wind farm called Windpark Noordoostpolder. By most European land based wind turbine arrays, this is a pretty larger one - 285 MW for just these machines, with an expected combined output averaging 95 MW. Up at the 135 meter level, average wind speeds are 9.1 m/s, which, for onshore Europe, is righteously impressive, but which would be quite common in the US Midwest. However, Enercon CHOOSES not to participate in the U.S. wind market.....

The Enercon E126 is a very impressive energy production system, and these are also visually really impressive. The tower is 135 meters tall (443 feet), and when the blade is at it's highest point, it would be 198 meters (almost 650 feet) off the ground. It also takes the world's biggest crawler crane (A 1600 ton rated Terex or equivalent - most U.S. turbines are installed by cranes rated at 400 tons, such as the Manitowoc model 16000 - http://www.manitowoccranes.com/MCG_MC/Products/EN/model16000.asp). The only steel used in the tower is tensioning cables and rebar - otherwise it is made of reinforced, pre-stressed concrete sections made in a humongous factory and installed like a jigsaw puzzle on site. And yes, it has an elevator to the top on the inside of the tower, as otherwise that is one long vertical climb.

The blades of the E126 are the most efficient used in the industry, partly due to their peculiar shape and also due to the "winglets" on the blade tips that prevent air moving across the blades from "spilling" off the end of the rotor. At 61.5 meters in total length and as a unit and a total pain to transport on land, each blade is segmented into two parts - a mostly steel inner short section and a mostly fiberglass reinforced polymer outer part (and much longer than the inner section) that is assembled on site. The total blade weight is 31 tons, which is beefy by most other wind turbine blade standards.

Aside from the trademark lower green painting on the tower, Enercon units are noted for their lack of a gearbox and also the avoidance of permanent magnet generators that use rare earth elements - especially neodynium for "NIB magnets". The generator often has up to 108 poles, and operates in the 5 to 11.7 rpm range. Because of the need for multiple poles (so that the turning rotor electromagnet encounters a usable number of north-south pole change per unit time) the generator has a very large diameter of almost 30 meters (34 feet), as well as a lot of mass (several hundred tons). To accommodate the large generator diameter, the nacelle has a distinctive "egg shape". This is the heaviest nacelle of any wind turbine with a combined weight of close to 500 tons, most of which is due to the mass of the generator.

The Enercon wind turbines tend to be expensive, but they are also very competitively priced on a long term basis. They also tend to have fewer maintenance issues (mostly related to not having a gearbox or a generator that operates at 1200 to 1800 rpm). These are presently being installed in many countries, but Germany is their major market, where they have close to a 60% market share. There are several windfarms in Canada and Latin America that use them, and 1 GW worth are to be installed in Quebec in the near future (though they had to promise significant local manufacturing content to wind that deal). However, it is unlikely that any E126 models will be installed outside of Europe in the near future. Due to the need for tall towers to tap winds fast enough to justify installation of E126 units, concrete towers must be used - steel towers would simply be too flexible and too expensive. For example, the base of the E-126 tower is almost 16 meters - over 50 feet - in diameter, and that will not fit under any overpasses. It is the need for factories that make the concrete tower sections near where the turbines will be located that limits where these can be installed (though Quebec is getting a concrete tower factory for the smaller 2.3 MW Enercon turbines).

Enercon is not a public corporation - it is privately held, owned mostly by its founder and inventor (an electrical engineer) of many of its key features. As such, when the owner feels that the U.S. market for wind turbines - potentially the largest in the world - is not worth the bother, maybe we in NY State should ask the question of "Why is this?"

The simple answer is the lack of a sane pricing system of systems - particularly (but not exclusively) the lack of a Feed-In Tariff system - in NY State. For example, consider Canada, where Enercon units have been installed in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. At present, about 12% of Canada's 5.4 GW capacity is provided by Enercon wind turbines - a mix of large wind projects and community scale (1 to 5 turbines). Only Ontario has had a FIT pricing system for a while (Nova Scotia just instituted a community scale one) - the rest have had Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) won via a bidding process with other competitors. Of course, a FIT system would be helpful, and this company is a very strong advocate of them.

So, if NY wants to attract a wind turbine manufacturer, they need to consider a FIT pricing strategy. Enercon is one of the few major wind turbine manufacturers that has not installed a U.S. manufacturing facility - and since companies like GE, Vestas, Siemens, Suzlon, Gamesa, Acconia and Nordex already HAVE DONE SO, they are unlikely to do "me too" facilities in NY State when their existing new U.S. factories are underutilized (Chinese manufacturers are unlikely to set up factories here because so much of their "IP" is stolen/licensed  from American and European companies).

Food for thought.... as the only way to motivate new wind turbine installations in NY State is to deal with the severe negative consequences of both "price uncertainty" and "tax avoidance subsidy addiction". When combined with the recent collapse in NY State electricity prices, these will kill off almost all new wind turbine installations in 2013 in NY State when "Pumpkin Time" happens at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2012/January 1, 2013 (end of the important MACRS and PTC/ITC Federal subsidies for wind turbines).

Don't forget, the clock is ticking. And if you think that a last minute compromise with a sufficient number of "sane Congresspeople and Senators" will come to the rescue, perhaps you have really seriously underestimated the amount of extremist zealotry and anti-science/anti-"Age of Reason" embodied in a significant number of Republicans now in office, especially those in the "Teabagger" camp, as well as those friendly to or in fear of the 'baggers. Unfortunately, a lot of environmentalists and renewable energy advocates are gambling that sanity will pierce the veil of Teabaggery that is threatening a significant demise in the US wind turbine industry for a significant period of time.

"Do you feel lucky, punk?" was a signature phrase of Clint Eastwood in his "Dirty Harry" movies - and the question for sane energy advocates is, what is your equivalent of a 44 Magnum that you have pointed at those apparently crazy ones pushing so hard for dirty energy and fossil fuel dependency? Appeals to the common good, to logic and even to self-preservation never seemed to work out for Harry when dealing with psychopaths and  people totally willing to do nasty on others unless they got their way (and often they would do nasty even if they got their way). "Well, do ya?" will be answered soon enough, and there are over 37,000 U.S. jobs in the balance, just for starts.

DB

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Fracking Window


One of the new RE Power 2.05 MW MM92 wind turbines installed by Everpower at their Howard Wind Farm in Steuben County, NY (so far 25 installed, two more to go). It sure beats looking at a pontification advertisement by noted horse admirer and local wealth extractor (from NY State taxpayers, usually), Carl Paladino. Photo by jmilligan via http://www.panoramio.com/photo/59168980.

And this beautiful picture is also a frackers worst nightmare in NY State. Call it the fear of God, fear of irrelevancy, or fear of being as useful as the mammary glands on a bull, and also the fear of going broke, but the last thing frackers want is more wind turbines to depress natural gas usage which keeps natural gas (=Ngas) prices in the pits. Wanna stop fracking? Well, that's also in the picture, but you have to look careful and read between the lines, as well as be practical.

Speaking of the bellicose one (CP), during his failed campaign to be Governor of NY, he really pushed hard to be the most fracking friendly wannabe Governor of that season. But, it was all for naught, and it turns out by being stealthy and saying nothing, the frackers are probably further towards their goal with the now Governor Cuomo and his allies in the NY Senate than the master of the obnoxious, Carl.

But, fracking is about as popular as smelly feet among the majority of NY'ers - especially once they get to know it - so there is a bit of a Mexican Standoff at present in NY. On the one hand, prices for methane have collapsed along with industry in NY (industry used a lot of Ngas, so anyone who drills and strikes methane is going to lose money on the deal at present and in the near future, due to depressed Ngas demand). The combination of depressed industrial demand, more energy efficiency and slightly more natural gas production - much of it a by-product from incredibly profitable crude oil production - has clobbered prices to near $2/MBtu (and MBtu is roughly 1000 standard cubic feet, alias a million British Thermal Units). And it costs around $4 to $8/MBtu to break even on the cost to produce Ngas from a "dry gas" fracking well. Drilling now means losing money now, unless an appreciable quantity of hydrocarbon "liquids" can also be extracted at the same time. And the traditional way to buffer the spot market price with a hoped for future price that is greater than the cost to produce it now is via the Futures Market. But, nobody is able to sell Ngas in the Futures Market at viably profitable levels in 2012 (they are either booked solid or so many customers have been burned from futures contracts bought when prices were higher, or assumed to be higher in the future - contracts bought in the 2005 to 2010 era). That scam is done, as is the likely fate for companies relying on high Ngas Futures prices at the present time.

But on the future horizon lies those commercial scale wind turbines. They are the frackers nightmare in ways that solar PV can never be (solar PV is really expensive way to make electricity compared to that which the RE Power turbines can make it for, even in a moderate wind speed state like NY). In fact, solar PV is probably a big distraction that the fracking backers will seek to exploit. This is because the cost to make electricity on an UNSUBSIDIZED basis via that wind turbine in the picture is less than 9.2 c/kw-hr at outrageous money costs (7.7% for 20 years). But, with the NYSERDA RPS subsidy, that gets dropped to 7.2 cents/kw-hr or less for the next 10 years. And, if you go offshore for financing (like Canada and Europe), maybe you can get money at 5% for 20 years (sure beats Florida real estate, or Irish real estate investments for that matter) and the wind sourced electricity production cost drops to 5.6 c/kw-hr. But what about those Federal subsidies that, for now, do exist - in this case the Section 1603 30% rebate and the MACRS rapid depreciation? Odds are, the Section 1603 can drop the initial decade electricity production cost to near 3.4 c/kw-hr. And the rapid depreciation (MACRS) - via lots of avoided taxes on other income that the owners have - means that close to a zero cost for the initial 10 years and a 5.6 c/kw-hr cost for the next 10 years would result. Plus, the marginal cost to produce electricity - which is what the turbine owners would bid in at for NYISO daily auctions - is close to 1 c/kw-hr. They (wind turbine owners) will ALWAYS underbid Ngas sourced electricity makers in NYISO DAM (Day Ahead Auctions) auctions. ALWAYS.

These days, there is no growth in NY for the use of Ngas for heating - that market is shrinking due to people and businesses becoming more efficient with their use of Ngas. Better insulation on houses and buildings combined with lower temperature set points are taking their toll on Ngas usage. Even big users - like EtOH biorefineries - have gotten more efficient, cranking out slightly larger EtOH yields with 5% less Ngas used last year. Hooray for efficiency! Waste not, want not still rings true....

So, what is going to grow the demand for Ngas in the US without any additional investment except with more drilling (Ngas to oil plants cost $25 billion a pop, and Ngas liquification (LNG export) plants also cost around $5 to $10 billion per "train")? Why, that would be converting Ngas into electricity, especially since the current capacity usage of gas to electric plants is way below 40% in the U.S. And under the right situations, Ngas used to make electricity can make coal and nuclear generation extremely profitable too. Oh what a happy club of polluters we would have if only more Ngas could be used to make electricity! Think of the awesome parties, and all the happily (and maybe legally, too) bribed politicians as well as the bountiful profits TV station owners can haul in (all that corporate propaganda about "clean gas" makes lots of profits for TV stations and advertising companies), a consequence of increasing Ngas usage, increased Ngas prices and especially Ngas based profits. Party on, dudes and dudettes....

But then there are those infernal party-poopers and all round killjoys, those wind turbines and their owners. They just cream off the extraordinary profits right out of the electricity generation business - see http://wagengineering.blogspot.com/2011/06/merit-order-effect-in-wny_06.html for an example of how this works in NY State). Bummer...

Except, that is, if you want to stop frackers from trashing a significant part of rural and upstate NY. Or if you are that minority who actually is concerned about Global Warming and actually want to  do something about it. Well, you can do something about it, and not just by giving rich people extraordinary ways to avoid paying taxes via investing in something ecologically and environmentally sensible. You might want to help out by finding about Feed-In Tariffs, and supporting efforts to get electricity from non-polluting sources priced on the basis of the cost to make it plus a reasonable profit. Here is one possible way to start the ball rolling - contact the local Sierra Club, United Steelworkers rep, or check out this bit of awesome reading and then go to town on politicians who are a bit too friendly with frackers and a bit too wimpy when it comes to job creation via renewable energy... http://newyork.sierraclub.org/documents/Clean-fitreport.pdf.

The Ngas producers have a tiny pricing and time window to shoot for - as fracking gas is expensive gas to extract on an "all-in" basis, and the sky is no longer the limit on prices once the present overcapacity glut is dealt with (and it is being dealt with via less and less Ngas drilling and more drilling for oil). At $10/MBtu, electricity costs around 9 cents/kw-hr to make, but at $2/MBtu, electricity costs around 3 cents/kw-hr to make. The range at which Ngas prices (and thus new wells drilled) are viable is somewhere in the $6/MBtu (6 c/kw-hr electricity) to $9/MBtu; after that it is much cheaper to make electricity with wind turbines. And we all know that the Ngas people are only in it for the profits, so at prices less than $6/MBtu, many frackers are losing money. Commercial scale wind turbines now have put a ceiling on Ngas prices. We need to keep narrowing the Ngas profitability window by making sure wind turbines can be economically viable, and by not allowing Ngas producers to off their "external costs" - like trash water disposal - onto others. And then we can work on shrinking the demand for Ngas for heating via electrically powered groundwater heat pumps. Keep shrinking Ngas demand and more jobs get made, too, as heat pump manufacture and installation is also a great way to stimulate an economy, especially when it is the wind that powers the compressor in the heat pump.

Sound like a plan?

DB


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Peak Oil Update - A Decade of Observation

Sometimes a graph comes along that says a lot and is really easy to understand. Here is one of them, via http://gregor.us/oil/global-oil-production-update-eia-revises-two-decades-of-oil-data/ with hat tip to http://www.declineoftheempire.com/2012/04/a-peak-oil-update.html:



This plots the sum of crude oil plus "lease condensate" (a mix of hydrocarbons boiling between those of pentane (35 C or 95 F), hexane, benzene and on up recovered from natural gas wells; these liquids remain liquids at atmospheric pressure at "normal temperatures", such as Earth's present average (was 59 F, now near 60 F)). You can use most of these compounds in gasoline, and maybe a few in diesel oil or kerosene, too.

Of course, in 2000, the world oil price was starting on a significant upward march (it as about $13/bbl), and by the end of 2011 it was near $100/bbl, with an average oil price inflation rate of 14.6%/yr (in effect, doubling every 5 years but in a somewhat noisy manner). Now, conventional economic theories hold that if the demand rises but the supply does not at some price, then prices need to rise and then more supply will be brought on the market. Since 2005, that no longer applies to oil - higher prices have really not resulted in higher crude plus condensate supplies. And that's why we call this phenomena "Peak Oil".

In fact, new oil supplies HAVE been brought onto the world market, but those have barely been able to compensate for the depletion of existing wells (about 4 to 6% per year). So, as with the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, we are running faster and faster just to stay in place. But at such a cost for oil importing countries like the U.S! We export over $1 billion/day to keep ourselves supplied with sufficient oil (about half of what is consumed in the U.S. is imported) to keep our society functional. That means about 8 to 10 million bbls/day of imports are needed nowadays - though at least we are consuming less oil each year. That process of decreasing consumption arising from higher prices is called Demand Destruction - higher prices force (most) consumers to consume less. At least THAT economic principal works, though not so effectively. Think what the price will have to be for our country to drop all oil/oil productions consumption down from 19 million bbls/day to 10 million bbls/day if a 1% change in supply can tweek prices by about $20/bbl. Ouch...

So what might be the cure for this disease? Consume a lot less oil, get to these lower consumption levels ASAP (i.e eliminate all oil imports, even those from Canada and Mexico), and work to eliminate all oil consumption since domestic production (which peaked in 1972 for the U.S.) won't last forever. We no longer use oil to make electricity except in some minor cases, and oil is also becoming too expensive to use for heating homes and business, except in exceptional cases (like no access to natural gas) - all resulting from higher oil prices.

We have arrived at the top of the oil consumption mountain. It's downhill from here, in terms of the amount of oil that will be exported from countries that can still export the stuff. But as far as the price for oil goes, the uphill section has really just been encountered. Think $200/bbl by 2016, with gasoline at $8/gallon.

Think it's time to trade in the proverbial Oinkmobile (in the U.S. in 2010, average gasoline fuel efficiency was around 22 mpg, versus 42 mpg in Japan and Europe)? How about that sub-urban lifestyle, too - so much like Apartheid that its hard to tell them apart - which was built based on copious gasoline consumption because gasoline was cheap and plentiful. But cheap plentiful gasoline has morphed into expensive, and getting pricier, faster gasoline, which is only available if the money is available. For the vast majority of Americans, money is getting tighter and tighter, too, especially since in 2009, the "1%" hauled in 93% of any income gains, and that also appears to be on track for the last two years. Oh well, evidently it is important to keep the rich kids separated from the non-rich children for various and sundry reasons, and if that shows up as a difference in average melanin content in the skin, well, just don't call it racist. Call it potatoes, or call it a statistical blip, and better yet, just don't discuss it in public (the Mittens suggestion). Yeah, never mind...

DB

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