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.

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 state-owned.
        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 way.
        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 apparent.

        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