So many frauds, so few Nathan Robinsons


The 21st Century United States has been cursed with two of the most appallingly inane “geniuses” so far, people who have cult-like followings that regard them as grand public intellectuals in spite of all the patent bullshit that spews from their mouths. They are, of course, Jordan Peterson and Elon Musk. Future historians will be mystified by their popularity, because there’s so little there there, and what there is so tainted by lunacy that it will persuade no one.

They aren’t even from the United States. Some ineffable aspect of American culture has drawn them in and allowed them to flourish here — maybe it’s atmosphere of oblivious ignorance and worship of money? We’re like the Burnt-Over District of countries, where con artists can flower and succeed.

Anyway, Nathan Robinson has already deconstructed Jordan Peterson (and also Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, and Ben Shapiro — he’s the wrecking ball we need), and now he turns his gaze to Elon Musk. A small sample:

Musk’s preference for hype and exaggeration over follow-through and diligence has created a great deal of dysfunction within Tesla, as journalist Edward Niedermeyer reports in Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors. Little that Musk says can be trusted. He has promised to fill space with his satellites to provide a powerful new alternative internet infrastructure—but this isn’t going to happen, though it may well massively inhibit the ability of actual scientists to do their work and ruin the night sky. His Neuralink company talks of uploading brains to computers and implanting chips that will be “like a fitbit in your skull”—but this is unlikely to happen either, and the MIT Technology Review says what has been revealed so far is “neuroscience theater” with little evidence to back up Musk’s astonishing promises. From the announcement that Tesla would switch to building ventilators to help COVID patients to the “mini-sub” that proved inferior to old-fashioned diving skill in the cave rescue, Musk comes up with flashy world-saving schemes one after another and rarely delivers. (Some of the schemes aren’t world-changing, just obviously doomed, as when he attempted to launch a competitor to the Onion called Thud.) Niedermeyer notes that, “Each of these announcements struggled to withstand close examination, ranging from mere exaggeration to quasi-delusional fantasy,” but “many outlets reported these developments unquestioningly,” contributing to Musk’s “legend as a twenty-first-century Renaissance man.” So many of these plans are from the “F.M.” world, and when you read analyses by science and tech writers from the “A.M.” world, you realize that the line between Elon Musk and Elizabeth Holmes is thinner than you might think. (When the Barnumesque B.S. is exposed, it can be extremely amusing, as when in a live demonstration, the “armor glass” windows on the Cybertruck were easily smashed.)

Niedermeyer documents the way that Musk’s claims sometimes border on outright fraud. Niedermeyer believes Tesla may well have pretended it could charge cars faster than it could in order to qualify for a state tax incentive scheme, and as he reported began to see that “potentially massive gaps existed between Tesla’s carefully cultivated image and reality—yet the company was capable of saying and doing whatever it thought it needed to maintain its reputation.” Tesla even required some owners to sign non-disclosure agreements when it agreed to repair problems with their cars, which created a minor scandal when it became clear that the agreement’s text would keep people from being able to tell government regulators if there was a safety issue. Niedermeyer also reports a shocking incident in which Musk personally called the employer of a blogger who had been debunking Musk’s claims online (the blogger was anonymous but had been doxxed by Musk’s fans). Musk threatened vague legal action, and the employer asked the blogger to stop commenting on Tesla, which he did. (Niedermeyer says the company has also repeatedly engaged in “blatantly defamatory smear[s]” of journalists who report critically on it.)

I’m glad we’ve got at least one real skeptic working in journalism, but of course, we’re all going to read the article and nod in agreement, and Musk will go on being the world’s richest spoiled 12 year old brat.

Comments

  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Musk is weird, in a somewhat good way.
    SpaceX is his saving grace. It all depends on the team he cultivates. It is the team that develops his wild ideas.
    Hyperloop seemed like a fantasy, and inspired teams to develop it, and seem to be getting it within reach.
    His fantasies about Mars are over the edge.
    I find it hard to settle on any particular attitude about Musk. He does some good things and spouts some loony ideas.
    You know, Nikola Tesla was similar: a mix of genius and lunacy.
    oh well, who knows.

  2. raven says

    … as grand public intellectuals in spite of all the patent bullshit that spews from their mouths. They are, of course, Jordan Peterson and Elon Musk.

    I saw this and you left out Sam Harris.
    Then down a paragraph, “(and also Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, and Ben Shapiro.”
    There are a lot more than two dubious public intellectuals.

    The right wingnuts have spawned their share. Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump, Rush Limpbrain, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Laffer, Boghasian, Steve Bannon and so on. They don’t tend to last too long before one scandal or another takes them out or gets them banned from twitter.

  3. says

    How much time did Peterson actually spend in the US between his 2016 rise to fame and the start of the pandemic boarder lockdown? I get the impression he stayed up here and just wrote a bunch of stuff.

  4. Rob Bos says

    He dismisses Starlink way too quickly. Gwynne Shotwell is a brilliant leader who has delivered on an amazing scale. Starlink is already delivering high bandwidth low latency internet to most of the planet, right now. Still not super reliable, but it is happening.

  5. consciousness razor says

    Niedermeyer documents the way that Musk’s claims sometimes border on outright fraud.

    I’m sure the bitcoin stuff is legit though. At the end of the day, he’s just a regular, hardworking guy who wants to send me to space.

  6. raven says

    How much time did Peterson actually spend in the US between his 2016 rise to fame and the start of the pandemic boarder lockdown?

    Quite a lot.
    He was at Harvard before moving to U. of Toronto.
    He did tours of the USA in large venues that were sold out and widely covered in the media.

    Don’t forget that the USA is a world leader in lunatic fringes with a large population of 328 million and a lot of money floating around.
    Peterson is a hate merchant reflecting people’s hate back to them for money.
    Follow the money.

    I don’t even see why we let him into the USA.
    Peterson is a terrorist or terrorist enabler and we have enough of our own of those right now.
    The Canadian government at least has designated the Canadian founded Pathetic Boys as a terrorist group.

  7. says

    Whenever I run into a Musk fan I’m immediately aggravated. I’ve spent too many years studying and working with electricity and machines to be impressed by that charlatan. The only “skill” Musk has is his money and ability to hire people to do his thinking for him. Last week’s debut of the Boring Company’s loop in Vegas illustrates how incompetent he really is.

  8. snarkrates says

    The thing I worry about most with Elon is his obsession with “getting off the planet”. Mars is never going to support a human population large enough to be sustainable. It will always be hell to live there. And Elon doesn’t understand the first thing about spacecraft reliability or the history o spacecraft design. And if he fails, it will set commercial spacecraft back by a decade.

  9. numerobis says

    Musk fans are aggravating but then so are those who claim he’s a complete fraud who never delivers anything. Tesla actually builds cars. The rockets actually get to space — and part of them actually land. Starlink actually provides internet service as expected, and there’s little reason to believe it can’t work. Musk was, in fact, a leader in these companies.

    That Musk is a bad person who is exploiting the system for obscene personal gain doesn’t imply that my car is fake.

    The anonymous blogger that got silenced was part of a group of people trying to manipulate the stock price via direct and outlandish accusations of fraud (outlandish as in government regulators worldwide needed to be cooking the books for it to make any sense). Disseminating conspiracy theories on the internet is kind of a big social problem. The SEC only recently started to take online chatter on discussion groups and blogs as something maybe it should think about maybe regulating, just like it regulates other communication channels that seek to manipulate stock prices.

  10. gorypdx says

    What is this obsession with bashing Elon Musk and his companies? I mean, I too wish he wouldn’t be an occasional idiot on Twitter, but he’s no trust fund kid. Back in the mid-90’s he was living in an office with his brother and showering at the gym. On at least one occasion he put every last dime into Tesla to save it from bankruptcy and he has famously slept at the factory for weeks during “production hell.” He might be a hard boss to work for, but SpaceX and Tesla are the two companies engineering students would most like to work for because they do interesting and necessary work.
    As for Tesla not delivering… my Model 3 could use better carpet, more sound insulation, and a hatchback, but it’s the most fun of any car I’ve ever driven, it gets better every 3 weeks or so with a software update, and uses a fraction of the energy of my Honda Fit. Oh, and if you’ve never used Autopilot in a traffic jam or on a long road trip… you don’t know what you’re missing. I’m sure they’re out there, but I’ve never met a Tesla owner who didn’t love their car.

  11. Rich Woods says

    @consciousness razor #6:

    At the end of the day, he’s just a regular, hardworking guy who wants to send me to space.

    But does he want you to come back home safely?

  12. consciousness razor says

    But does he want you to come back home safely?

    Now wait just a minute…. I’d have to leave home? He never mentioned anything about that.

    I was just hoping to be in space (maybe time as well, if I can afford the deluxe package), since not being in it has been sort of inconvenient for me. But okay, I’ll pass. Just not worth it.

  13. jenorafeuer says

    Ahhh, the distinction between A.M. and F.M. worlds, I haven’t heard those terms used in a while.

    (For those unfamiliar, in this context it refers to the distinction between ‘Actual Machines’ and ‘F***ing Magic’. First ran into that terminology in the Turkey City Lexicon.)

    Rob Bos @5: astronomers absolutely hate Starlink, because the satellites are bright, shiny, fast moving, and all over the place with difficult to calculate orbits, and they keep making streaks across photographs that can take a long time to take pictures of faint stars. They hate Starlink even more because making the satellites less reflective and less disruptive would have been easy, and not only did SpaceX not do that, but when the astronomical community started pointing out what could be done to make the satellites less disruptive, Musk’s response was to accelerate the launches to try and get more of them into orbit before anybody could require any changes. Bluntly, it’s the same sort of attitude of building developers who rush to knock down historic buildings before they can get any sort of protected status applied to them.

    Starlink causes problems for people, and rather than accept the proposed fixes, Musk deliberately made things worse to have a fait accompli.

  14. raven says

    They hate Starlink even more because making the satellites less reflective…

    How hard would it be to paint them black?
    I could do that in a few hours with paint and a brush.

  15. donfelipe says

    And the Musk defenders show up here…

    I don’t even understand the basic praise this guys gets for Tesla. He bought the company, which makes a product that has been fundamentally the same for a century. Sure they have electric motors, but electric cars are not new and there are better more economical cars being produced by other companies. The whole thing about him risking his life savings requires you to take him at his word, which cannot be trusted. I don’t believe for a minute a guy who is the offspring of South African imperialists is ever going to be poor, much less cares about the masses. This might explain his disdain for public funding and resources and his entire rich-guy outlook on the world.

    This guys isn’t even an engineer. He didn’t design the Tesla or SpaceX rockets. He leveraged his money and connections to get other people to do the labor while he reaped the rewards. The people who fall over themselves praising him are the type always looking for a hero, failing to realize there will never be someone to live up to that status because all of our fates our intertwined.

    Society has to work together to solve problems, and exclusive solutions like the Hyperloop, self-driving cars, and tickets to Mars will only perpetuate inequality.

  16. snarkrates says

    gorypdx: “…SpaceX and Tesla are the two companies engineering students would most like to work for because they do interesting and necessary work…”

    I notice you say “engineering students” rather than “engineers”. That is because Elon pays like shit, expects folks to work under insane conditions and hasn’t ever stopped tweaking design. He is the quintessence of the old saying that it’s better to be lucky than good. Tesla is the Gamestop of car companies.

  17. unclefrogy says

    Some ineffable aspect of American culture has drawn them in and allowed them to flourish here

    money and market size same thing that has allowed china to become a monstrous success and a real economic powerhouse.

    @16
    maybe people are looking for some hero to enshrine, some one to pin all their hopes and dreams on all the time
    rather then plod along in their finite time struggling through reality while being afraid to face the uncertainty .

    the difference between Nicola Tesla and Musk is Tesla actually made things while being a little obsessive and did not become fabulously wealthy in the business.

  18. consciousness razor says

    The whole thing about him risking his life savings requires you to take him at his word, which cannot be trusted.

    And even if you did that, you’d also need to ignore all of the public spending that goes into his private companies, mainly to enrich him….

    He has even started a tunneling company that proposes to solve urban transit problems, which has been given a nearly $50 million contract by the city of Las Vegas to construct a short (less than one mile) tunnel around the city’s convention center. It’s being billed as an “underground people mover,” but Curbed notes that “what’s being built appears to be more of a mechanism for giving one-minute test rides in Teslas” (on the city’s dime, of course). Other tunneling plans have already been scaled back or abandoned.

    […]

    Of course, one of the biggest Musk Myths is that he is a self-made entrepreneur, whose work shows what “private enterprise” can accomplish. Despite Musk’s contempt for regulations, Niedermeyer shows that Tesla was unable to survive in the free market, and only exists today thanks to a $350 million Department of Energy loan that came at a crucial time. A Los Angeles Times investigation in 2015 revealed that Musk’s empire was built on $4.9 billion in government support. People were able to buy expensive Teslas, for instance, partly because the government paid them to buy electric cars in the form of tax credits. Travis County, Texas, “has offered a $14.7 million (at minimum) tax break for the building of a Tesla factory” and “[a] Nevada factory was built on the promise of up to $1.3 billion in tax benefits over two decades.” Now, with Joe Biden’s giant infrastructure bill set to give out $174 billion more in electric vehicle investments, Musk is sure to receive a new windfall.

    How much work could NASA being doing instead of SpaceX? Not sure, but it’s also a lot.

  19. gorypdx says

    Musk detractors are nearly as annoying as Tesla fan boys. Would y’all feel better if the billionaire a-hole put his money into oil refineries and pipelines? Love him, hate him, or be indifferent, but Musk’s companies are disrupting a couple industries ripe for change.
    Personally, tho, after a Mitsubishi, a Ford (Europe), a Toyota, and two Hondas Tesla made me excited to buy an American designed and built car. And after hearing a lifetime of excuses from Detroit Tesla’s sell like hot cakes in Europe (and yes, I know some now come from China).
    Also, I’ve always calculated the efficiency of our cars (character flaw) and I figure that we save over $100 per month on fuel costs just for my wife’s commute compared to our Honda Fit. That’s $1200 per year we are now not giving to Exxon and Shell and the billionaire a-holes that own them. It also helps that here in the NW about 70% of our electrons are renewable, but hopefully in a couple years we’ll have solar on the roof to whittle down that last 30%… maybe even Tesla solar.
    I hope this doesn’t make me a heretic…

  20. consciousness razor says

    Would y’all feel better if the billionaire a-hole put his money into oil refineries and pipelines?

    I would be happy with no billionaire assholes, so that there’s no such thing as a vast hoard of “his money” to put into anything. (In reality, as I mentioned above, we’re talking about lots of public money.)

    Why are you even asking how I’d feel? What does it matter? Do I actually get to vote on any of this? Is that how it works now?

    Anyway, it sounds like you’re not really in the right place. I can’t tell you how to get there, but I’m sure you can just take your Tesla and use a fucking map.

  21. DanDare says

    Providing the large battery to South Australia while the conservatives were tryingto blame wind and solar for the energy problem there was a game changer. It altered the flow of Australian politics and defanged Scott Morrissons push for more coal.
    Looking at each of the industries Musk has thrown his control into I see massive lean and agile iterative development, using grandiose targets as an attractor for development.
    Its a simple pattern. It works and brings us forward. I don’t care about musk himself much.

  22. says

    @#9,

    The thing I worry about most with Elon is his obsession with “getting off the planet”.

    If it makes you any better — it doesn’t for me, but maybe you will view it differently — that’s just PR for the rubes. The real purpose of Musk’s SpaceX program is to build orbital transport for the US military, promising delivery of troops or ordinance anywhere on the globe in an hour, which I’m sure won’t have any unintended consequences in terms of preemptive retaliation from nuclear nations. The “we’re going to Mars” stuff is just a clever red herring to get critics to focus on something the company doesn’t really care about.

    @#10, numerobis:

    Tesla actually builds cars.

    This has very little to do with Musk. Tesla was already building cars when Musk bought his way in. People assume he must have helped because he is referred to as a “founder”, but he only gets that title because when he bought into the company, he made it part of the deal that “founder” would be his title. He literally did not found the company, and did not join it until after it was already producing things. (If you remember the bit in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal where Reacher Guilt bought portraits of dead people and had their names changed to his own by deed poll? It’s similarly deliberately misleading in an evil way.)

  23. John Morales says

    Vicar:

    People assume he must have helped because he is referred to as a “founder”, but he only gets that title because when he bought into the company, he made it part of the deal that “founder” would be his title. He literally did not found the company, and did not join it until after it was already producing things.

    Be informed:
    Tesla’s Founders On Elon Musk And The Early Days

    Elon Musk is the most famous CEO of Tesla, but he’s not the company’s founder. Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded the company in 2003 and were the original executives. CNBC sat down with them to talk about the idea for Tesla Motors, the battery, Elon Musk and building its first car, the all-electric Roadster.

    They’re rather guarded, but it’s still informative.

  24. unclefrogy says

    <blockquote.Love him, hate him, or be indifferent, but Musk’s companies are disrupting a couple industries ripe for change.

    well things are in a state of rather rapid change but I think it is a stretch to attribute Musk with anything like a cause of those changes. I think the most you can say is like any good hustler and opportunist he is dong a pretty good job of taking advantage of the situation and going with the apparent direction of the forces of change seem to be going. What puzzles me is how many do not and instead spend all their energy and fortune resisting change. (i am guilty of that myself all too often)
    uncle frogy

  25. wzrd1 says

    I consider his “stellar” repudiation and I consider one cold, hard legal fact.
    An NDA that attempts to cover a crime is an unlawful NDA and worse, in many areas, is in and of itself a felony.

  26. KG says

    The real purpose of Musk’s SpaceX program is to build orbital transport for the US military, promising delivery of troops or ordinance anywhere on the globe in an hour – The Vicar@24

    Source? That doesn’t sound much more realistic (in the next few decades) than flying people to Mars. How many troops, or what quantity or ordnance, could even a fleet of Musk’s rockets transport?

  27. wzrd1 says

    @KG, the US DoD itself has reported research into rapid transport of equipment and supplies via suborbital delivery systems. That’s been repeatedly in the news. One thing holding things up is avoiding a system that possesses an ICBM or cruise missile profile, as the launch of such could result in a nuclear response.
    The national leadership was sold on a low and slow research and development pathway, rather than Russia’s nuclear powered cruise missile and nuclear cobalt salted torpedo.
    I do know that planners have been salivating over the idea of being able to deliver a brigade sized element anywhere on the globe “within hours” for quite some time and there has bee work done with suborbital heavy lift lifting body aircraft. Lift at high Mach and skip to target by skipping off the atmosphere is a technique that even Neil Armstrong was testing in his pre-Apollo days and was also build into reentry profiles for missile warheads, including the now abandoned IRBM missiles like Pershing II.
    The biggest hurdle isn’t the technologies needed, but in justifying to Congress a real need for such capabilities.
    Frankly, I’m against such programs due to their destabilizing effects of being able to land a brigade or larger force to beyond antipodal distances rapidly. Therein lies the pathway into all manner of misadventure.
    https://spacenews.com/white-house-officials-recommends-slow-approach-to-high-speed-suborbital-transportation/
    Use some of the terms in tailoring a search for such military programs.

  28. Kagehi says

    #1 The difference is that Tesla actually knew engineering, he didn’t have “teams” run with his wild ideas for him, while he sat around rambling about all of the crazy ideas he had. Do we know, at all, if Musk can so much as solder wire, never mind “engineer” shit? Because.. yeah, I haven’t seen even a badly made op-ed from him, in a fake lab coat, gesturing at the colored beakers he “works with”, never mind him lifting a screw driver.

  29. Kagehi says

    Lets be clear, I think Musk is a PT Barnum. While this works, and continues to work, toward the betterment of the world, all his other mad hatter ideas may not.. matter too much, he is wasting money on them, and a lot of it public money, not his own, but.. its not any worse, probably, than all the f-ing public money that gets funneled into utterly useless stuff by the government, which helps no one at all, save for which ever corporations “sell” their crap to the project. What bugs me about Musk is that being a PT Barnum, its not a case of if, but when some crazy thing fails to work, isn’t tested well enough, or is just so stupid it murders public trust in which ever company does it, and… then what? Where do all the other “good” idea that might still be floating around in those companies go, after he “sells” himself into infamy, or laughability?

    At some point this “has to” go disastrously wrong for almost everyone involved. And, somehow we keep failing to learn from the lesson of other companies, which had 500 great ideas and failed to ship them until after someone else had a better alternative, because 50 of those ideas where all, “different ways to do X, and we can’t decide which one to actually put all our time and money into!” There are whole videos on some of the youtube tech channels about, “What the F went wrong with this product and the company behind it?”, and its almost always, “Well… the company had 4 competing ideas, no sense of direction as to which one to focus on, and the one they finally picked didn’t bloody work right until someone else shot it out of the water.” Laserdisc being a good example of this. Instead of focusing on that, they also wasted time with 2-3 other similar ideas, failed to make any of it work, and literally a) VHS killed it, since it was a clunky, oversized mess, by comparison, and b) someone else was already working on the freaking beginning tech for CDs. They had a “prototype” in like.. the late 60s, more or less, but didn’t get a stable, “working” model out until almost the 80s, or something close to that….

    Musk is, himself, this whole mess in one single ball of wax – 490 loony ideas, and 10 maybe good ones, most of which are not even “his”, and all he is really functioning as is the literally ring master, who decides that the elephants should be brought out before the clown car. A fine, wonderful, and necessary, job, if you don’t want another bloody Philips/MCA. But… its still a freaking circus, where every crazy act someone can come up with gets trotted out for a turn, not a world faire, where the idea is the only present the “best of the best”.

    And, its all great, until the the damn elephant decides to sit on the clown car.

  30. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Providing the large battery to South Australia while the conservatives were tryingto blame wind and solar for the energy problem there was a game changer. It altered the flow of Australian politics and defanged Scott Morrissons push for more coal.

    Yea. A gamechanger because of overhype and not because of any technical merits. Lithium battery storage at grid scale as a solution to the intermittency of solar and wind is hype. That battery that you’re talking about IIRC can store about 5 minutes of total electricity demand for South Australia. You would need about 2 orders of magnitude more in order to keep a solar wind grid with high up-time comparable to today. At that level of consumption of lithium, the whole world trying the same thing would be ludicrously expensive at today’s prices, and we wouldn’t be dealing with today’s prices because it would require more lithium than in all worldwide lithium reserves and resources.

    For climate change et al, the only real worldwide solutions that exist involve a large amount of nuclear, and likely much more nuclear than today. This is according to most leading climate scientists and also the IPCC reports. Anyone who tells you differently is wrong.

  31. John Morales says

    Gerrard, talk it down as much as you want.
    Fact is, it’s being expanded, and its success has made many other commitments to such grid-stabilising facilities. Why? Because it’s been an unadulterated success story.

    Wikipedia:

    After six months of operation, the Hornsdale Power Reserve was responsible for 55% of frequency control and ancillary services in South Australia.[30] By the end of 2018, it was estimated that the Power Reserve had saved A$40 million in costs, mostly in eliminating the need for a fuel-powered 35 MW Frequency Control Ancillary Service.[35] In 2019, grid costs were reduced by $116 million due to the operation of HPR.[36] The battery usually arbitrages 30 MW or less, but in May 2019 began charging and discharging at around 80 MW and for longer than usual, increasing wind power production by reducing curtailment.[37][38] FCAS is the main source of revenue.[23][39] When the Heywood interconnector failed for 18 days in January 2020, HPR provided grid support while limiting power prices.[40] This event was the main contributor to Neoen’s €30 million ($A46.3 million) operating profit from Australian battery storage in 2020.[20]

    Oh yeah, and its genesis was basically due to Musk’s character — he made a bet with another rich guy who was bemoaning SA’s then-problematic grid issues, he walked his talk.

    Elon Musk placed a wager that the battery would be completed within “100 days from contract signature”, otherwise the battery would be free.[15]

  32. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    its success

    How is it a success? It makes money from playing the frequency regulation markets and not by selling electricity. Your own quotes reinforce my narrative. This is not a success at showing that all solar wind grids can work. It shows that a trickster overhyper like Musk swooped in to a distorted market with favorable government subsidies and managed to make some money by swindling out the taxpayers and electricity rate-payers.

  33. John Morales says

    Gerrard:

    How is it a success? It makes money. It did (and) does what it’s supposed to do.
    It’s being emulated.
    :)

    It shows that a trickster overhyper like Musk swooped in to a distorted market with favorable government subsidies and managed to make some money by swindling out the taxpayers and electricity rate-payers.

    You are so very ignorant!

    (You just don’t know it)

    At the time: (https://www.afr.com/politics/scott-morrison-mocks-sas-big-battery-as-like-the-big-banana-20170727-gxjqbz)

    Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has put noses out of joint in South Australia after likening the state’s proposed giant battery to the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour.

    In Adelaide where he had just delivered a speech attacking Labor’s claims of growing social inequality, Mr Morrison called the battery the “Hollywood solution” and suggested Premier Jay Weatherill had been taken for a ride by billionaire and Tesla founder Elon Musk.

    “It is so at the margin it barely is worthy of a mention,” he said.

    “I mean, honestly, by all means have the world’s biggest battery, have the world’s biggest banana, have the world’s biggest prawn like we have on the roadside around the country, but that is not solving the problem.

    “That’s just trying to say, ‘bright shiny thing over here, don’t look at the thing over there’, that’s an old trick from a politician.”

    He said “30,000 SA households could not get through watching one episode of Australia’s Ninja Warrior with this big battery. So let’s not pretend it is a solution”.

    Under an historic agreement struck earlier this month between the SA government and Mr Musk, SA will be home to the world’s largest lithium-ion battery which will store energy generated by wind power and be used to help provide back-up when needed.

    Mr Morrison said Mr Musk was good at self-promotion and “I think he saw Jay Weatherill coming”.

    That’s our current Prime Minister who made the very same points you are making — also the guy who brought a lump of coal to parliament to spruik it [https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/feb/09/scott-morrison-brings-coal-to-question-time-what-fresh-idiocy-is-this]:
    Whatever the question was in the parliament on Thursday, the answer was: “South Australia has just had a blackout and, if Bill Shorten becomes the prime minister, all the lights will go off around the country.”

    Australia would become like South Australia, “struggling all too often in the dark” as the prime minister said at one point – because Labor was drunk on renewable energy, or suffering from coal-o-phobia, the fear of black rocks.

  34. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    So, if Hitler said that the sky is blue, then you would conclude that the sky is not blue? It’s like the fallacy fallacy. It’s basically just an ad hom.

  35. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    And if you want to play the battle of experts, I still have most of the leading climate scientists on my side and the IPCC reports. You have… GreenPeace, the Australian Green party, and other Green organizations with well known and well documented anti-science policy positions on a variety of topics, such as anti-GMO. I’ll stick with the real scientists, thankyouverymuch.

  36. John Morales says

    Look, you said the Hornsdale plant was a flop, I said it was a success.
    That much is indisputable. Prevents blackouts, saves the government money, makes a profit. There are multiple big batteries around the country (even around the world) either already in place or being constructed.

    And it’s purely because of Musk’s silly bet, over Twitter.

    Welcome to C21!

    BTW, on your hobby-horse, this might amuse you:
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-15/sa-power-networks-to-control-solar-exports-in-adelaide-trial/100070068

    South Australia’s electricity distributor will undertake a trial of tough limits on how much power some solar panel owners can export to the grid.
    […]
    It says the change is needed because new solar panels are overloading some parts of the grid, increasing the risk of blackouts and damage to equipment.

    Basically, too much solar rooftop power going into the grid. Go figure.

  37. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Prevents blackouts, saves the government money, makes a profit.

    It makes a profit. I see no evidence that it saves the government plus taxpayers money.

    Praising Horndale as a success in this context is just as silly as praising a bandaid as a success after an intentional self-inflicted cut, saying “see, the band-aid is working!”. In this case, the solar, wind, and distorted market structures and government subsidies are the cut, and the Horndale plant is a band-aid. Is the whole plan – cut and bandaid – a success? No.

    Worse, you want to go further than the current results. You want to do the equivalent of cutting off your whole arm with the plan “the band-aid will be able to regrow the arm”. Bandaids don’t regrow arms. The earlier demonstration of stopping minor bleeding is not a demonstration that it grows arms. The existing demonstration that a large battery plant can make money off frequency control services is not evidence that a larger battery can keep the grid up with lots more solar and wind. In fact, I have demonstrated that it cannot by citing the lack of sufficient availability of lithium resources and reserves.

  38. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Why is this news article quoting battery size in units of power (watt) and not energy(joules or watt-hours)? I guess they assume their readers are incompetent. Why are you linking this article to me? I didn’t get past the headline. Are you incompetent? Or are you taking me to be incompetent?

  39. John Morales says

    Power output is what they can do, power storage is what they can hold.
    Point of the news article was to show that multiple systems exceeding the Hornsdale plant’s capacity and output are being built in multiple states in Australia. They’re also being built worldwide — and remember, at the time (2017) it was the biggest in the world — now, it’s a minnow though it’s 50% bigger than it originally was.

    While I’m here:

    In fact, I have demonstrated that it (a battery) cannot (run the grid) by citing the lack of sufficient availability of lithium resources and reserves.

    Batteries and Li-ion are just technologies, though I note lithium is the 25th most abundant element on Earth. It just wasn’t that important until Li-ion came about, so extracting it was not a priority. Other batteries are possible, many with very common elements.

    Also, there are many more “green” technologies suitable for grid-scale storage. Main problem is the initial investment cost, but a lot are very scaleable.

    Among those, note hydrogen can be got from water (even atmospheric moisture!) by electrolysis, and is now economically storable and transportable. So, what to do with all that excess wind and solar power, I wonder? ;)

    (That’s leaving aside grid technology itself — that’s changing too, and it sure need to do so)

  40. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    though I note lithium is the 25th most abundant element on Earth.

    It’s a simple thing to look up worldwide reserves and resources, and calculate the li requirements for approx 20 TW days. It’s not pretty.

    Other batteries are possible, many with very common elements.

    Gish gallop without even bothering to actually do it.

    All which are much more expensive than li ion, or which are unproven or vaporware, or which suffer even more from material shortage problems.

    There’s a reason that basically all large batteries of this type are lithium.

    Also, there are many more “green” technologies suitable for grid-scale storage. Main problem is the initial investment cost, but a lot are very scaleable.

    Another implied gish gallop. Excepting hydro, they all suck even more than batteries for various reasons, and new hydro cannot scale that much, and it’s often environmentally destructive to boot, and the creation of artificial reservoir changes the plant debris decomposition biological pathway, leading to more co2 equivalent emissions. The problem is especially pronounced in tropical area with shallow reservoirs AFAIK, and this causes certain hydro dam power sites to release more co2 equivalent than a replacement coal power plant. IIRC, the most recent IPCC reports mention this but say that the science is new and the preliminary numbers are not included in their scenarios.

    The point is that if any of your gish gallop actually worked, foolish places like Germany and Australia would be building them. They’re not. Instead, Australia is being swindled by Musk.

    Among those, note hydrogen can be got from water (even atmospheric moisture!) by electrolysis, and is now economically storable and transportable. So, what to do with all that excess wind and solar power, I wonder? ;)

    Is it now? Citations please. Economically storable compared to what? In what context? Same questions for transportable. If it’s so great, why is Australia building more toxic batteries instead of this wonderful hydrogen storage future? I can tell you why it’s not great. Because round trip efficiencies for grid scale hydrogen storage are around 30%, and closer to 15% assuming a peaked open cycle turbine. And hydrogen is still a giant pain to scale.

    So please, keep believing your duped or lying politicians and their toxic green allies instead of listening to the leading scientists and IPCC reports.

  41. John Morales says

    Gerrard:

    Gish gallop without even bothering to actually do it.

    <snicker>

    I do feel bad; I’ll stop poking you now.

  42. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    I feel bad for the future generations that will have to deal with the incredible environmental damage that were doing because obstinate people like you refuse to listen to the science.

    About power to gas approaches. One fact often overlooked in this discussion is that many industrial equipment cannot be frequently cycled. It great greatly decrease the lifetime of the equipment. Apparently hydrogen electrolyzers are no exception.

    https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1149/2.0421908jes

    All of these estimates are being made by people who should know better, but they never even consider these well know effects in their model. Explicitly: power to gas is about taking excess solar and wind, producing hydrogen, which can be used when solar and wind are not producing. All of the modeling on this just assumed for no good reason that there are no negative effects on electrolyzers from this frequent turning on and off. It’s pathetic. The entire green energy thing is a sham for so many well known reasons, and you have to ignore all of them to even pretend that the cockamamie scheme can work.

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