The Bigger Boeing Long Beach Story

Boeing is leaving Long Beach, and California is no longer in the business of manufacturing aircraft as it has done for over a century. It is the end of an era, and this video offers a glimpse at what was the final hope for the airframe assembly business in California.

One point of note in the video is that the reporter actually reached out to Governor Jerry Brown’s office to see if they were talking to Boeing about keeping an assembly facility open in Long Beach, but the office was gently evasive. If that has you scratching your head, that is because this reporter did not tell the whole story. Boeing still has around 18,000 employees in the state, a far cry from the heights of the Cold War, but still one of California’s largest employers.

All of this points to a larger fact. While aircraft are no longer flying out of factories in California, there is a large and thriving aerospace industry here still. According to A.T. Kearny, 203,000 direct jobs and 511,000 indirect jobs can be attributed to the aerospace industry in California, more than Hollywood and agriculture combined. The industry is a lot harder to see, but it is still there, even as airplane factories across the Southland fall under the wrecking ball.

Getting Power Plants Off of California’s Beaches

If you have spent much time along California’s beaches, you will have come across an odd sight: conventionally-fired power plants perched on our shores.

The need for these beasts to be taking up our seashores has long since been eliminated by technology. What is more, California’s energy needs have been falling even as generation capacity has been rising with the addition of massive wind and solar plants. So why are utilities – including NRG – looking to build fossil-fuel fired plants along our shorelines?

Taking the McGrath Peaker run by NRG as an example, and acknowledging that none of the issues involved are simple, Werner Keller explains why these plants no longer make sense, and why the land they and their support infrastructure takes up should be returned to nature. You may not agree with Mr. Keller, but you must acknowledge that these plants are due for a re-think in light of California’s emerging energy picture.

Tesla Energy in Perspective

Did Tesla Just Kill Nuclear Power? – Forbes.

Did Tesla Just Kill Nuclear Power? - Forbes

Okay, let’s start by getting a couple of things out of the way.

First, I have a gigantic soft-spot for Tesla for a lot of emotional reasons. The company is California born-and-raised, and represents the seeds of an economic renaissance. It is based in Hawthorne in the heart of the Dust Belt, that long string of aircraft factories eviscerated by the post-Cold War downsizing of Southern California’s aerospace industry. The cars are gorgeous, innovative, and, of course, no-emission. And Musk is a fellow member of my tribe.

So I am a tad biased.

Second, I believe that private enterprise has an essential role to play in moving us to a cleaner, more environmentally-friendly future. Tesla is proving that.

So I am doubly biased. But let’s dive into the topic of the day: Tesla Energy and its proposed Powerwall home and business energy storage system.

At its basic level, the idea is to take power from the grid when rates and usage are low and store it for usage anytime. Not only should this drop the rates people pay for electricity, it would help eliminate the need for power companies to build plants to compensate for high usage periods. Tesla says that it would also allow for us to store solar power or wind power we generate at home and use it when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.

In short, the Tesla Energy Powerwall could be an incredible breakthrough in moving more of us to solar and wind power.

All to the good.

But before we all rush to the Tesla website and place our orders, we need to understand the full costs of the technology.

Raw Materials: First, we need to think of where the materials are going to come from? If millions of homes and businesses shift to Tesla, will we need to increase mining of rare earths for the inputs into the batteries? If so, what are the environmental costs of that mining, and who will bear them?

Manufacturing: Where will the batteries be manufactured and under what circumstances? Today, they’ll be manufactured in Nevada. But what about the long term? Is Tesla eventually planning on having these made someplace where the government doesn’t worry so much about the environment?

Logistics: Will these be exported or shipped from overseas, thus raising the carbon footprint of the product?

Disposal: How long will the batteries last? What happens when the time comes to replace these batteries? Will they be recyclable? What percent? How much will be dumped into landfills?

I am excited about the technology, enough so that it may be enough to push me into converting my home to solar. But if this turns out to be less an environmental step forward than it is a First World Feel Good technology, I will save my money and look for other ways to cut our energy use.

UPDATE: Corrected the product name from “Powerall” to “Powerwall.” By the way, Tesla Powerwall is a trademark of Tesla Motors. 

Werner Herzog on LA

“I moved to Los Angeles because my wife and I decided we had to live in the city with the most substance in the United States. And I do not regret it for a second. Don’t be misled by the superficial glitz and glamour of Hollywood. It’s the city with the most cultural substance.”

Werner Herzog

via Werner Herzog’s Thoughts On Los Angeles Are Pretty Great: LAist.

Amen. Though I think San Francisco and LA run pretty much neck-and-neck…

Living in the Age of Airplanes

Living in the Age of Airplanes.

In the new National Geographic film “Living in the Age of Airplanes,” narrator Harrison Ford says that aviation has changed our world permanently.

With respect to the creators of this wonderful film, may I offer some moderation: perhaps aviation has not changed our world. It has, however, changed our species and the way we relate to our world.

More than perhaps any other single factor, the perspective afforded by aviation and its offspring, space exploration, have made us aware of how tiny, how fragile, how isolated, and how precious this planet is for all of us.

Like no other place in the world – whether Kitty Hawk, Seattle, or Toulouse – California is the cradle of aviation and aerospace. True, most of the great, cavernous airplane factories and their satellite subcontractors no longer punctuate the California landscape the way they used to. But flight runs deep in the bones of this state, and if you know where to look, you can still see how aviation formed California, how California formed aviation, and how the quest for the sky and the stars is a core part of our future.

To understand how, though, we must begin by exploring the past. In the coming weeks, we will be posting a series of pieces examining California and aerospace.

We welcome your thoughts.


On Why LA is Not Brooklyn with Sunshine

Los Angeles vs. New York City – The Atlantic.

Conor Friedersdorf’s riposte to The New York Times’ contention that, hey, it is now okay to live in LA because, at its best, LA is just like Brooklyn.


Friedersdorf quite correctly suggests that anyone coming out here looking for New York With Twelve Months of Sunshine should save the airfare. There is much that is wonderful about New York, and there is much that is wonderful about LA, and unless you come seeking what makes LA different, why bother leaving your bloody fifth-floor SoHo walkup in the first place?

Anyway, read the article in The Atlantic. It is far more eloquent and less apoplectic in its defense of the City of the Angels than I am in this post.

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