MannGram    Nov 2005
  Open Letter to comrades Fidel & Raul Castro

Greetings to the main ministers of your republic.
I offer some comments on what I've received, 
indirectly, from a esident of your capital.  My 
purpose is to assist Cuba in avoiding some 
blunders in energy technology, and to move toward 
appropriate technology.

>"Walter Lippmann" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>[CubaNews] Cuba Considers New Modes of Energy Production
>  Some tell me the quality of these new
>compact flourescents is not great and they break quickly.

	Correct.  There are some short-lived 
types.  It will be interesting to see how fast 
the Indian compact-fluorescent industry improves; 
they can be very goodir best ceiling-fans are 
better than the best Chinese fans I know of.
	Whether or not a fluorescent has actually 
broken in service or failed for some other 
reason, it then constitutes hazardous waste to a 
degree that the dreaded inefficient tungsten bulb 
doesn't.  NZ's leading surgeon of children has 
reported wounds that are extremely difficult to 
heal when children are accidentally cut by broken 
fluorescents (or TV screens).  The phosphors 
needed to do the fluorescing include some rather 
toxic materials which can lurk in the wound.  So: 
whether or not it has yet broken while in your 
control, dispose of any fluorescent lights as 
toxic.  I don't know how to do this in my own 
city; perhaps Cuba can create a disposal system, 
if it has not already done so.

>   I've
>also heard talk of electric shower heads, something which in
>the past were purchased illegally by people who had friends that
>bought them at diplomatic shops.  Now it's turned out that the
>amount of energy used to heat peoples' showers by heating water
>on the stove is more than the amount it would take if an electric
>heater at the shower-head is used to heat just the water the
>bather wants at the time of the shower.

	It may not matter much, but this type of analysis deserves scrutiny.
	If the electricity is generated by 
fuel-fired power stations as I assume to dominate 
the Cuban grid, one unit of grid energy heating 
the water in the instant-boost electric shower 
heater requires c.3 units of heat generated at 
the power station (with all ancillary emissions 
of toxic gases, carbon dioxide, etc).
	Your indigenous oil & gas are news to me. 
Watch out the waste streams from the refinery 
don't get sold cheap for inappropriate uses.  And 
certainly don't let Reagan's buddies Bechtel 
build any power stations  -   or anything  -  in 
your country.

>   I'll surely appreciate
>being able to get a hot shower right away!  My shower water is
>heated mostly the traditional way: water heated on the stove
>and mixed with cold in a large bucket in the shower.

	If the stove is running anyhow, for other 
purposes, using a local renewable fuel supply 
(e.g prunings from fruit trees), Lippmann's 
system is efficient.  Compared with a power 
station far from his property, it has a certain 
downmarket peasantish image; as a broadly 
pro-peasant energy researcher, I say "so much the 
better".  Smuggling in grid-reliant hi-power 
water-heaters is a far worse idea.
	The system sketched by Lippmann falls 
short, however, of the category 'appropriate 
technology'.  It's too dangerous.  Too many 
scaldings, some crippling or even lethal, result 
from carrying around gallons of near-boiling 
water in domestic circumstances.  There should be 
no bulk hot water above 55 C in residences.  The 
way to get hot water from a stove is: having 
burned the fuel thoroughly, with an excess of air 
in a ceramic-lined closed stove, slap a 
water-jacket around the flue shortly before it 
exits the building.  A minimum module is 3 turns 
of close-packed 20mm copper helix.  Cubans who 
can keep those old Yank cars going can bend these 
water-heater helices by hand, I bet.  This 
water-jacket thermosyphons into an insulated 
attic tank.  How many Cuban houses have attics?
	Now let me get really warmed up against 
Lippmann's favourite diplomatic sneak-in.  The 
'electric shower-head', if it is to boost say 4 
L/min from cold to c.40 C, draws c.8 kW from the 
mains.  This fact alone rules it out.  It will 
cause a certain number of domestic fires by 
adding such a large fraction of peak current to a 
residence that may well have been wired for only 
a few dozen kW in the first place.  A 
mains-powered device of such high power, if used 
only a small fraction of the time, requires the 
grid to provide peak power with a poor load 
factor.  Even if used with a high load factor, in 
what transliterates from Japanese as 'water 
business'  -  frequent showers entailed  - 
electricity should not be the main method of 
heating water.  It is too precious to degrade to 
low-temperature heat.
	Solar water-heating typically gives by 
the end of even a cloudy winter day a couple 
hundred litre of tepid water (c.25 C) which then 
needs 'only' a 3 kW resistance heater to boost it 
to shower temp.  That booster should be in the 
tank, with 'quick recovery'  geometry, not in the 
shower booth near a lot of metal which is 
extremely well earthed in many old showers.  The 
wiring to any mains-powered 'electric 
shower-head' if installed by amateurs is liable 
to kill a certain number of Cubans.
	Now I can see where this 8 kW swindle may 
be less important than, say, intermediate-range 
missiles threatening much of the USA with A-bombs 
in response to the USA's existing threat 
installed in Turkey.  But if Cuba is to do for 
appropriate energy technology what is so widely 
admired in organic horticulture, let's join hands 
on this one.  Domestic hot water is somewhere 
near the technological heart of peaceful hygienic 
civilisation; 10^4 W mains-powered heaters have 
very little part to play in it.

	The idea is growing on me to visit that 
victimised isle.  The news has largely been good 
since Russian aid slowed so drastically; most 
famously, urban organic gardening has been 
developed to wide admiration  It is a pity that 
self-sufficiency should require so strenous an 
impetus as the drastic needs so quickly forced 
upon Cuba; but that seems to be what it takes for 
a nation-state to turn in the direction of 
sustainability, away from the consumerism 
characterising the modern industrial-military 
complex whether mainly capitalist or mainly 
	I imagine it will be convenient during 
any such R&D consulting if I'm not threatened 
with any USA trade; the Cuban govt presumably 
sees by now the advantages of continuing the 
boycott.  A decade hence Dubya jr (whoever that 
may turn out to be) will doubtless be pleading 
with Cuba to trade   ...  Play hard to get, Raul 
& Fidel   ...   I gather you've done pretty well 
without Yank trade, so I hope you keep it that 
	 I've not been to Cuba; if the NZ Govt 
were to proffer me as a consultant, would the 
Cuban govt rely on USA Olde Lefties for advice 
which could block my visit?   :-}

>  And just
>last week I began to hear of the electric rice-cookers finally
>starting to be distributed here in Havana. They've been distributed
>in Eastern Cuba previously and some of them have found their
>way west to Habaneros and others, sent by families and friends
>in the East as gifts to friends in the west.)

	A decently-insulated, slow-startup model 
would presumably be a mere 10^2 W load on the 
mains, so no serious objection is immediately 

	The NZ mixed economy which nurtured my 
generation was planned by the W B Sutch approach. 
Some lifelong friends were bureaucrats in that 
system of import licensing, and I believe the 
system was largely uncorrupt.  NZ industries thus 
prospered with protection which was not often 
abused.  If the Cuba govt wants to know what I 
think, I can tell them for nothing to continue 
the ban on hi-power  mains-powered 'electric 
shower-head'.   Get serious about simple 
flat-plate SWH and you won't need any HW booster 
of 10^4 W.  Slap water-injection on petrol and 
diesel engines.  My webpage will orient you on 
these appropriate technologies.  Nice to know you 
don't need them Russians, eh?  We got some cheap 
oil from them for a few decades but mainly 
imported Pom and, increasingly, Yank stuff.
	I assume Cuba will develop commercial 
activities something along the lines of Tito's  - 
capitalism allowed up to some scale around a 
half-dozen employees plus own family, but main 
corporations state-owned.  Good luck in 
preventing foreign takeover of major public 
assets  -- as done in Sri Lanka, followed by the 
betrayal of public enterprise by Rogernomics in 
NZ, The Plutonium Blonde in UK, etc.  We can 
converge from different directions onto decent 
mixed-economy democracy.  We can help each other.


>Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
>Prensa Latina, Havana
>Cuba Considers New Modes of Energy Production
>Havana, Nov 24 (PL) Cuba will increase oil production and generate
>more electricity using the accompanying gas and other variants
>such as wind energy, President Fidel Castro said.
>The statesman spoke at the Round Table Discussion broadcast on
>Wednesday night on Cuban radio and television to explain new
>increases in electricity prices and increased wages, pensions
>and social security.
>He pointed out that a revolutionary program to save fuel and
>increase power generation is underway using more efficient and
>cheaper technologies and formulas.
>In order to achieve that goal, drilling machines, massive amounts
>of energy-saving saving bulbs, low-consumption electrical appliances
>and power generators have been imported to upgrade Cuba's power
>system and eliminate blackouts.
>"There will be not a single gasoline truck left after they are
>replaced by diesel, which is much cheaper," stressed the Cuban
>president when listing a series of measures being taken, including
>tightening control to avoid illegal sales at gas stations.
>That task is being undertaken by thousands of social workers
>who have run gas stations in the provinces of Pinar del Rio and
>the City of Havana over the past few weeks, a measure that will
>spread to the rest of the country.
>Those centers now collect much more money than before, said Fidel
>Castro, adding that clandestine sales of tens of millions of
>dollars were even discovered.
>He added that some 300 million dollars have been invested in
>the saving strategy to import, at half the cost, refrigerators,
>electrical rice cookers, fans and other electrical appliances
>that have a lower power consumption compared to those used in
>most Cuban homes.
>Fidel Castro noted that on the short and medium term, the country
>will be able to invest in development up to 70 percent of what
>it spends today on power generation and oil consumption.

Robt Mann
consultant ecologist
P O Box 28878  Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand
(9) 524 2949