05 September 2009

SSPW Chair Charges DOE, ARPA-E with "Not Doing its Job"

SSPW Chair and Space Advocate Darel Preble in his mail to lists suggests that DOE and ARPA-E is being too risk averse and not paying adequate mind to the real job it has been given.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: darel preble
Date: Fri, Sep 4, 2009 at 4:32 AM
Subject: ARPA-E & Gerard O'Neill visit to EPRI
To: ssi_list@yahoogroups.com
Cc: sa@astronist.demon.co.uk

As EPRI responded to Gerard O'Neill, (and this applies equally well to ARPA-E), "Professor O'Neill, we believe all of your technical arguments. But you must understand that in the utility business, the only risk we are willing to take is the risk that tomorrow, water will not flow downhill."

What O'Neill should have responded with is that EPRI, in particular, and DOE in general, is still failing to do the job they were chartered and hired to do, which is to pursue leading edge research which normal electric power companies are prohibited from doing by the public trust they operate under. EPRI is not and never has been in the electric utility business, they were supposed to be a government research lab for electric power research that power companies cannot do!

As it is, EPRI and DOE continue to be essentially the establishment fossil fuel industry and their stockholders - which means they have focused their research on such "leading edge topics" as how to burn coal one tenth of one percent more cleanly and efficiently. In the short run (their research horizon is 6 months) this is inconsequential, but after thirty years of wearing fossil fuel blinders we are about to pay a terrible penalty for cowardice in Congress and the Presidency and the general failure to communicate these festering issues from within the electric power industry. Hopefully, we can minimize the disaster. But like the Titanic's lookouts, we are examining the iceberg ahead and wondering how much damage it is likely to cause. We continue doing nothing on the scale required.

... ...

Related to yesterday's interesting debate referenced at the Economist (below) is the fact that as the moderator noted from Gordon Woodcock's (a legendary space flight expert) comments,
"The cost reduction factor ultimately needed relative to the current NASA Constellation system in development is on the order of a factor of 50 (no one has an accurate estimate but it is bigger than 10 and less than a few hundred)." Sending NASA back to the moon will not achieve these reductions..

The only way to afford men on the Moon, IMHO, is to involve them in trade with Earth. Gordon says that is impossible - certainly - unless the cost to orbit is drastically cut. The only way to do that is to vastly increase the orbital space market. The only market that can demand such massive volume is Space Solar Power. Under such low cost to orbit circumstances, men in space could arguably engage in trade by supplying parts and services for a growing Space Solar Power system, which Japan is now engaged in a well-financed program to begin building.

Stephen Ashworth recommends a follow-on debate, along the lines of: "Resolved: the Constellation programme should be abandoned, and NASA should base its return to the Moon on a growing commercial infrastructure in low Earth orbit." That is the real question facing US policymakers today. - Stephen Ashworth, Oxford, UK


Re: ARPA-E & Gerard O'Neill story

Posted by: "Keith Henson" hkhenson@rogers.com hkeithhenson

Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:54 pm (PDT)

On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 12:44 PM, Combs, Mike<mikecombs@ti. com> wrote:
> Here's an interesting Gerard O'Neill story, told by Gregg Maryniak during his debate with Mike Gold on the Economist site (http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/360):
> NASA must send humans to the moon to reduce the perceived risks that are barriers to investment in operations in the Earth-moon system and beyond. Governments historically reduced commercial risk by sponsoring or conducting expeditions that eventually led to economic activities and human settlement. Gerard K. O'Neill of Princeton University told me of a meeting that he once had at the Electric Power Research Institute, the research organisation sponsored by many US electric utility companies. As engineers and scientists they were impressed by the fact that utility scale power had been beamed wirelessly, with collection efficiencies of nearly 90%. They understood that using lunar materials to build these orbiting collectors would profoundly improve the economics of such systems. But their issue was perceived risk. They said, "Professor O'Neill, we believe all of your technical arguments. But you must understand that in the utility business, the only risk we are willing to take is the risk that tomorrow, water will not flow downhill." NASA having humans (and robot precursors and assistants) operating on the lunar surface and within the Earth-moon system will reduce perceived risk and be critical to gaining the experience and the financing necessary for commercial space operations.
> ----------
> So for anybody who assumes there was a rejection of the logic of High Frontier
> in the electrical utilities industry, there wasn't. There was just a reluctance to take the risk.

> In practical terms (getting things done) it has the same effect.
> Keith Henson

From the Glen Beck talk show yesterday (via R&D magazine's AP Feed

"Speaking of unicorns and fairies, what do they have in mind to replace 48 percent of our national energy source once they bankrupt it? Will Van Jones sprinkle pixie dust on giant windmills to make up the difference? I mean, that's what they have to do, because we're nowhere near being able to convert our wind or solar power. Will progressive pigs fly right out of Van Jones' butt and pedal bicycles to power the turbines attached to our power grid?

"For the most part, the turbines -- the pigs can't fly out of his butt and pedal the turbines -- because there is nothing attached to the power grid. Even T. Boone Pickens after his massive ad campaign dropped his plan for the wind farm, with wind turbines, west Texas, bringing up power lines all the way to Dallas where the people live, why was it scrapped? Ten billion dollars price tag might have something to do with it.

"With a track record like these progressives have, why would you listen to them on anything? We're destroying the farms. We're destroying energy. We're destroying jobs. We're destroying industry."


Darel Preble
chair, Space Solar Power Workshop

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