atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#3310: EPA moves to make natural gas more expensive.

That's the correct way to read this Arse Technica story about the EPA emplacing new regulations governing both fracking wells and pipelines.

It's the "pipeline" part that's going to cost all the money. They conveniently leave that out of their headline: "The rules affect the pipeline transport of natural gas as well as production,..."

Isn't that wonderful? I wonder how many thousands of miles of natural gas pipeline there are in the United States. Gee, natural gas has been falling in price thanks to the bounty that fracking has given us. Nice of the EPA to move so quickly towards pushing it back up.

Thanks, Obama! Thanks, Democrats! Thanks, EPA! Thanks, Nixon!


* * *

So Congress wants to change the tax breaks you get for saving for retirement:
Tax incentives for employer pensions, 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts and other savings programs rank among the largest breaks in the tax code, costing Washington more than $200 billion a year in lost revenue.
Oh, isn't that horrible? It costs D.C. $200 billion a year to LET US KEEP OUR OWN GODDAMNED MONEY!!

I am thoroughly sick of this idea that--when we get to keep money we earned through the sweat of our brows--it's somehow a "cost" that government has to "pay for". NO IT ISN'T.

When you earn your paycheck, that is YOUR MONEY. The government is taking some of it away from you by force. And what this story is talking about is YOUR CONGRESSCRITTER SCHEMING TO TAKE MORE OF IT FROM YOU AT GUNPOINT.

...and that $200 billion per year is really going to make a dent in the THIRTEEN HUNDRED BILLION DEFICIT!

* * *

I'm sorry I'm shouting so much today. I can't help it.

* * *

The inevitable Downfall parody on Obama eating teh doggy. And this is one of the funniest Downfall parody subs I've seen. "I leave him alone for one afternoon, and he ends up dinner!"

Oh, mercy.

* * *

Oleg discovers the wonders of the Peoples' Demokratik Republik of Illinoistan. "It’s bad enough that violent crime exists. It’s worse when the state government sides with the criminals and makes the rest of us easier to victimize."

Actually I think he already knew, and is just emphasizing the point. Not that it really needs emphasis, considering that Illinois is the least-free state in the union.

* * *

Bluesun on the underwhelming nature of the Space Shuttle. He thinks he's going to alienate people by saying what he says about it.

Well: somewhere in my archives I've got an excellent rant on the near-total waste of engineering that comprised the Space Shuttle, and I don't have time to dig it out now; I've got to be at church at 3:30 and then I'm going to be there for a few hours. Therapy, rehearsal, choir practice--*sigh*.

But I have ranted before--at length!--about how the Saturn V was a superior launch system to the Space Shuttle in just about every important respect, even when you include the fact that most of the Saturn V is disposable.

The only advantage given by the Space Shuttle is that it can return to Earth with a payload. It was possible for the shuttle to go up, grab a satellite, and haul it back down again.

Did they ever use that capability? I'm sure they must have, but nothing is coming to mind.

But the shuttle's payload capacity was 20 tons. Compare that to the Saturn V's payload of 100 tons. A Saturn V first and second stage put up Skylab. (Okay: technically it wasn't a Saturn V but a Saturn-something-or-other, because "Saturn V" is the three-stage configuration that puts a moon mission into orbit. Just ignore my ignorance of the convoluted NASA model nomenclature; it's not really germane to the discussion.)

In fact, Skylab was based on a Saturn V third stage.

The shuttle has an apogee of some 400 miles. It was never capable of going farther than low Earth orbit. When it was designed (starting in the early 1970s, while they were still flying moon missions!) it was meant solely to fly to a chimerical space station, something bigger and more elaborate than Skylab.

The space station was to be the destination for the shuttle, and the shuttle was to be the way the space station would be built and supplied. The station was, in fact, to be built using space shuttle fuel tanks--at least in part--so the tanks were designed to be easily disassembled and modified for that purpose.

Number of space shuttle external tanks boosted to orbit: 0.00

Number of space shuttle external tanks dumped into the Pacific Ocean: [all of them]

NASA told us that the shuttle would be able to fly weekly, that it would make access to space so routine and cheap that the cost-per-pound to orbit would plummet. Well, it never did, because the shuttle cost $1 billion per flight; its main engines had to be overhauled after each flight and in fact each orbiter required extensive refurbishing after a mission because its thermal protective system was fragile.

The main engines themselves--gadzooks, read Feynman's What Do You Care What Other People Think? for a thorough discussion of the liabilities of the SSMEs. The SSMEs would run for a few minutes per flight, total, after which they have to be overhauled--because of how they were designed; they weren't designed for reuse without extensive maintenance.

Imagine if a commercial airliner needed its engines overhauled after each flight. How much would it cost you to fly? Commercial air travel would be impossible.

Absent all other considerations, though, it would mean employing a lot of jet mechanics. That's NASA's main mission: employ government engineers, technicians, and bureaucrats. That "explore space and do science" thing is just how they justify their budget.

And--worse--because it's a government agency, the engineering takes a back seat to politics. Both the Challenger and Colombia accidents were avoidable. Both happened because bureaucrats overrode engineers.

Challenger happened because the bureaucrats didn't listen to the engineers who said, "It's too cold to launch!" The O-rings that sealed the SRBs were inflexible due to freezing temperatures, and the thing blew up.

Colombia happened because the bureaucrats said, "We have to eliminate CFCs from our programs! ZOMGWTFBBQ TEH OZONEZ!!!" The CFC-free insulating foam was harder than the kind that was originally specified, and it caused severe damage to the (too fragile!) heat shield, and the thing broke up on re-entry because even the high-zoot aluminum alloy used in the Shuttle melts when exposed to 2,000° plasma.

But as I said above the engineers weren't blameless, either.

The whole thing was a political boondoggle, with congresscritters arguing over which state got what component of the thing; Nixon gutted NASA's budget and that put an end to the totally reusable system that had originally been designed.

Meanwhile (to hear Larry Niven tell it) NASA engineers were trying to burn the Saturn V plans in order to eliminate any competition to the "Space Transportation System".

I've got the beginnings of a story about a NASA engineer in an alternate universe where the Shuttle was never built and NASA kept flying Saturn Vs, and where gutting the space program had been politically impossible despite the public's lack of interest. Here's what my main character says about the shuttle:
I recalled, from my primary school days, the talk that had been bandied about, the discussions of building a reusable system: they’d called it the Space Shuttle and it had been based on the X-20 Dynasoar concept. But Congress had resisted it; many legislators thought there was nothing wrong with the Saturn V, and they boondoggled the Space Shuttle to death. The final configuration—which would have spread the construction and operation budget through many congressional districts—would have been a morphodite; solid rocket boosters lifting a giant fuel tank with the shuttle itself hanging off the side, its own engines fed from that fuel tank and boosting the mass of the shuttle itself. The solid rocket boosters were supposed to be reusable, but the giant tank would not have been; and for all the expense of developing and flying this system, the shuttle could only boost about 1/5th the payload of a Saturn V.

I had written my master’s thesis on some of the design flaws of the Space Shuttle. The solid rocket boosters alone were rife with hazards; I didn’t see how a single O-ring could keep the exhaust gases contained. It seemed to me that they had to work perfectly, every time, and any leak would be disastrous—but what if a leak impinged on that giant fuel tank? It was full of liquid hydrogen and oxygen, for crying out loud, and it was about as thick as an aluminum can, in spots. You’d be able to see the explosion for miles, and it was sure as shooting that the shuttle itself wouldn’t survive that.

No, I liked a rocket capsule with an ejection tower. If the booster developed a serious problem at least you had a chance of surviving it. The “Space Shuttle” idea was dangerous and stupid.
* * *

This Chuckle Brothers comic strip reminds us the day the laser was invented. Well, okay, the day the first laser was actually first operated, not invented. Whatev. It would have been better actually to run this strip on May 16, though.

..."laser", because the maser was invented first. The first maser was opeated in 1953, and because light and microwaves are both electromagnetism the quantum mechanics work exactly the same way. (The machines required to emit laser and maser radiation are, of course, very different, but only because the freqencies of the EM radiation are so vastly different.)

I can remember when the only way to build a laser was to take an extremely expensive synthetic ruby rod and surround it with a helical flash lamp.

...52 years later, we use lasers in everything. The laser is a technological shmoo; you can use it for just about goddamed everything you want to do. Some time ago in Trains magazine I read how lasers are used to transmit sound to railroad rail in order to ultrasonically check it for cracks!

* * *

I have an hour before I've got to start getting ready for my busy afternoon; and I'm thinking that I might want to go get some food or something first. *sigh*

I got up and made mac and cheese with tuna, but it doesn't seem to be doing the job I need it to do. Damn it, I hate my metabolism.

* * *

Yes I ate some.

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