Stupidity About Las Vegas

Just a quick note about some incredible stupidity on TV. On the CMOI channel (the description says “Cinemoi is the home of film and fashion, a celebration of international style. It showcases feature films, fashion from around the world, environmental documentaries and children’s programming.) they are having a rant about oil on the series “Earth From Above”.

Some guy from France touring with the guy who made the Veggie Bus (and drove around the USA on used cooking oil). They are full on ranting about the “Running Out Of Oil” panic / fantasy. No problem there. (Heck, I did some of the work 30 years ago leading to the fad of veggy oil in Diesels. I’m all for the omnivorous Diesel eating our garbage cooking leftovers). I think they said the guy with the vegetable oil bus was Josh Patel.

No, what got me going was that they chose to use Las Vegas as their “Poster Child” for “oil waste” and how they were doomed, doomed I say when the oil runs out. That it was crazy to build houses and suburbs here “in the desert” as there was “no water” and no-anything-else and the Air Conditioners ran 24 hours a day. Even the strip has the lights on All The Time!!!! When the oil runs out, real soon now, it is all DOOMED!!!

What Makes This So Stupid

It would seem they didn’t notice that giant lake, Lake Mead, just on the other side of the hill. I’d have thought the long line of power boats headed that way would have tipped them off…

Lake Mead

Lake Mead

Original Image

They certainly were not willing to put in the (near trivial) effort to find out that Las Vegas only grew up once the lake was in place. See, all those lights and A/C and all are not powered by oil, they are powered by hydroelectric power from Lake Mead / Boulder Dam. That, BTW, is also where they get all their water.

Rather than being a poster child for the oil wasting horrible consumption society, it is a poster child for “sustainable development”. They did not need to chop down any forests to clear the land, nor drain any swamps / marshland, nor plough under the prairie. They tend to build with tile roofs ( natural and recyclable material) and with a lot of stucco and masonry (all for heat moderation). Concrete slab floors too. (Concrete is made from stone, in large supply, and as it cures absorbs CO2 so that made in the production is removed from the air. It can be recycled too.)

So here is this party paradise, that depends on renewable energy and recyclable matrials that doesn’t destroy a lot of high value habitat in the making… THAT is the place they choose as a poster child for oil?

I think I’m seeing why I don’t watch that channel much. It’s aimed at emotional airheads with no depth of understanding at all. No history. No technical grasp. No questioning what is spoon fed to them. Sigh.

(As “filler” between episodes of that show they have a fashion show on. Lots of glittery sheer fabrics that are undoubtedly synthetics and made from petrochemicals. Aimed in terms of style at “all the right people” with lots of slinky and “good for a night out at a high end place”… rather like those in Las Vegas… Clearly “logical consistency” isn’t their strong suit…)

The next segment is all about ranting on coal. Why a story about oil is looking at coal can only be explained by political motivation. (Their star interview is with AlGore…) So I’m about to swap back to something less brain dead. All they are doing is saying “Coal and oil BAD. Coal and oil DIRTY” and some “Solar and wind save the world”… so a load of political propaganda, very very short on any thinking. Lots of ‘buzz words’ and no numbers at all. Even “incalculable CO2 from coal burning each year.” Really? Don’t we know exactly now much coal was burned? Do the math… How they think you can do any kind of sane engineering or economic analysis or decision making without numbers is beyond me. Numbers seem to be beyond them.

At any rate, choosing Las Vegas as a poster child for oil use is just stupid. In spades. ;-)

Sidebar on Laughlin

Just south of Las Vegas is the little town of Laughlin. It sprang up next to the river once it was tamed by the dam. But after the electric power was shared out, one presumes. Why do I say that? They have a coal powered electric plant just to the west of down town. (“Downtown” is a half dozen nice casinos along the river. You can catch a boat between them and swim if you like. There’s even a camp ground ‘outside of town’ all of about 2 miles up stream. A great place to go, BTW.) So I asked about it. They have a ‘coal slurry’ pipeline from somewhere ‘up north east’ toward Wyoming. Several inches in diameter. The powerplant is a square box with heat shimmers coming off it and not much more. IIRC there were some “smokestacks” but the emissions were not visible. Go Scrubbers!

I wanted to buy a house there, but the spouse didn’t. It’s a great place to visit and party, and a lot more comfortable than Las Vegas, IMHO. Nearby (leaving town toward the West) is Christmastree Pass. It is more or less a dirt road well suited to trucks and 4 x 4 vehicles. I crossed it in a Mercedes 240 D sedan ;-) but low ground clearance vehicles might be a bit challenged. Also be ready for dirt and carry water.

Another example of a great little development. Due to the dam stabilizing the water flow, they have plenty of water. Their electricity is dirt cheap (due to being coal based) and they are in a place that doesn’t cost forests or plains their wild life.

Had the developers of the dam not all claimed the electricity (including Los Angeles) there would be plenty from the dam to run this little town too. But the coal feed is a very low cost and low impact solution too. The water from the slurry is used in the facility for their water needs, so everything in the pipe gets used. (Until the realtor told me what it was, as we drove past it, I had no idea. Just a big sandstone colored building…)

Other than an individual Earth Ship, I can’t think of anyplace that would be more suited as an example of living with minimal impact on the world than these places on a small patch of an otherwise large and low life presence desert, supported by one dam, and making a water paradise in the desert for miles in all directions. My first choice of the ideal “retirement place” would be an Earth Ship somewhere in a near desert (enough rain to support low water gardens and trees). Close behind it would be Laughlin and an RV Garage with RV and boat. Many of the houses had garages sized for a bus sized RV. The lake is very near. I like to fish and swim with cold beer nearby. So do a lot of other folks. Boat, RV, or home. All three with everything you need. Ah well, the spouse likes to be near the shopping mall…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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18 Responses to Stupidity About Las Vegas

  1. omanuel says:

    Thank you, E.M. Smith, for your effort to awaken Happy Hominans (sheeple) to reality.

    That is remarkably like the information George Orwell tried convey in “1984.”

  2. Speed says:

    The job of TV is to deliver eyeballs to advertisers. If your advertisers are selling dumb products to dumb people then dumb programming is appropriate.

  3. Gail Combs says:

    After reading Speed’s comment I now know why I gave up TV in 1974 a few years after I graduated from college.

    The Greenies generally have a problem with reality and this is a great example. Too bad the gradual assault on the American education system has churned out brain dead emotion governed lemmings in record numbers.

  4. Zeke says:

    Now Gail, try not to blame the victim as much as all that! (: Remember that 50-60% of kids drop out of high school in California. Perhaps this truancy rate is actually a sign of innate intelligence. lol

    Youtube is crawling with hardline communists constantly carping about coal and oil. It is like walking into a scary movie – something like Jacob’s Ladder – a real horror show. You ought to see the hilarious responses I have gotten from these people on the rare occasions I have said anything.

    Scientists who engage in this are mugging an unsuspecting public, like thugs, and making extremely deceptive suggestions about what is gained and what is lost.

  5. Gary Turner says:

    Re the Spouse: You mean there are no malls in Vegas? I don’t recall ever thinking about shopping while in Vegas, but none? ;)

  6. Terry Jackson says:

    The mall comment elicits a smile. If one needs 875 pair of shoes, a mall is possible, But if not shoes, what does a mall offer.

    The California tax system is set up to drive the productive away. Clearly you are considering. Rep points to you.

  7. DirkH says:

    “So here is this party paradise, that depends on renewable energy and recyclable matrials that doesn’t destroy a lot of high value habitat in the making… THAT is the place they choose as a poster child for oil?”

    Nice… Here in germany I frequently hear the story of how Las Vegas is wasteful etc… Didn’t know about Lake Mead.

  8. DirkH says:

    Speed says:
    11 February 2013 at 1:18 am
    “The job of TV is to deliver eyeballs to advertisers. If your advertisers are selling dumb products to dumb people then dumb programming is appropriate.”

    The PROBLEM is that the TV peoplep themselves have fallen prey to the drug they produce…
    (Stupid or Evil? The eternal riddle…)

  9. Petrossa says:

    You can’t blame them, they are French. Over here hardly anybody speaks anything but French or Arabic so their access to information is rather limited.
    For reasons best known to the French government they steadfastly maintain the AGW party line and the peak oil mantra.
    Still now, with the weather forecast on tv, the words ‘global warming’ are frequently interposed as a matter of fact thing. Even weirder still, being 98% ‘green’ in their electricity production they have big windfarm plans. Fortunately they are broke so that won’t happen anyday real soon but still.
    As the well known joke goes:
    If the world ends move to France, there everything happens 15 years later.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    @Speed & Gail:

    I tossed my TV in about 71. Lived happy without one until the ’80s… when I married a person who came with one… Now I mostly keep it pegged to selected news shows, a couple of documentary channels (that I often complain about… like History Channel) and the odd “entertainment” show. ( NCIS has caught me, as has Big Bang Theory. And I’m hooked on Dexter whenever they have a new season…) But the bulk of my (mumble) hundred channels is a wasteland of swill…


    Well, I’m trying… ( “Yes, very trying.” ;-)


    Maybe the dropping out rate is a good thing. FWIW, on the “show” they were interviewing people on The Strip and asking them if they were “Worried about running out of oil” and “Worried about Global Warming”. I have to think they didn’t have a lot of ‘believers’ to work with, as what they showed were several folks basically saying “Sure, we run of out oil someday. So what? I’m not worried. We’ll think of something.” and a guy with big arms and a tattoo saying “Global warming? Not worried at all.” (several others had similar responses on AGW.)

    If Vegas is any indication, folks are just blowing them off on the Big Scare Story. So they had to resort to “Tsk Tsking” about how these folks were sure going to be surprised when The Bad Thing happened and it all comes to a crashing end…. except it won’t… because it is powered by water from Lake Mead… And if that ever isn’t enough, then then can just send some of Palo Verde power up that way as it is already tied into the same grid structure and has room to add more units… Basically, the folks there “have clue” that there isn’t a whole lot to worry about and we have more than enough technology to fix anything that does pop up.


    I ought to mention that at one time it was called Boulder Dam as it is built in Boulder Canyon, and the town of Boulder City is where the workers lived. Then, for political reasons, it was renamed Hoover Dam. I tend to use either name, but prefer the original one.

    @Dirk H:


    The powerplant is located at the toe of the dam, with wings that extend downstream 650 feet along each canyon wall. The turbines are designed to operate at heads ranging from 420 to 590 feet. The final generating unit, N-8, was installed at Hoover Dam in 1961, giving the dam a total of 17 commercial generating units. Installation of Unit N-8 brought the powerplant’s rated capacity to 1,850,000 horsepower. Two station-service units, rated at 3,500 horsepower each, increased the plant total to 1,857,000 horsepower. In terms of electrical energy, the total rated capacity for the plant was 1,344,800 kilowatts, including the two station-service units, rated at 2,400 kilowatts each, at the end of 1961. Between 1982 and 1993, the 17 commercial generating units were uprated with new turbines, and new transformers and breakers were installed, raising the plant’s capacity to its current levels of 2,991,000 horsepower and 2,074,000 kilowatts

    So about 2 GIGAWatts… and it tends to run at high capacity… It is roughly the same as 2 nuclear power plants ( often about 1,000 MW each here). The Palo Verde nuclear complex near Phoenix is 4,000 MW so about 1/2 that.

    In 2000 the Palo Verde nuclear plant generated 30.4 million megawatts of power.
    About 4 million people in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas receive power generated by the Palo Verde plant.

    Out of about 35 Million MW-hr theoretical 24×365.

    So about enough power from the dam to support 2 million people.

    Says “Annual generation 4.2 billion KWh” where the above “rough guess” was about 15 Billion, so would imply a 1/3 or so utilization factor. So there are some large unknowns in how much of ‘name plate’ capacity is being generated by the dam vs Palo Verde (and what the rainfall was in the year in question). Still, it’s a lot of power.

    “The latest statistics show more than 1.9 million people reside in Clark County. ”

    Now there is a lot more to Clark County than Las Vegas, and some of the power is shipped off to L.A.; but this shows a rough parity between the power produced by the dam, and the total consumed in the whole county… (The entire population of all of Nevada is only 2.7 million, so it almost covers the entire State demand…)

    Pretty much in nice balance with nature…

    And yes, once we started sorting “folks who can do math and science” into engineering, math, and business majors; and those who could not into “social sciences”, politics, arts, and “media” we pretty much guaranteed “air heads” all around in media and government. Probably why they get along so well together…

    @Terry Jackson & Gary Turner:

    In Vegas there are some shopping malls now (less back when we were looking 25 years ago). In Laughlin or Boulder (where I was interested) even less… Our basic conflict is that I want a “toy farm” away from major population and SWIMBO wants a choice of a half dozen major malls (and a dozen minor) with 20 miles to anything that looks like bare dirt… (where ‘bare’ means devoid of buildings…) So we compromised. We live close to many malls… and I get to talk about Toy Farms…

  11. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M. BTW: How much would it be the REAL price per barrel of oil, right now? That´s at the root of all cheating.

  12. Ralph B says:

    I believe that coal plant is on a reservation and run by Native folk. Not that it makes much difference but maybe it is less likely to have the enviro-nuts shut it down
    Dams are usually peak load carriers with a small base load. If Boulder was to run full bore for an extended period ole lake mead would be a puddle (exaggeration). Also there is probably some water rights as well that limit the generation. That is what a nice big nuke has going for it. Put in online and run at 100% load day in day out. Let the GT’s and hydroplants carry the peaks.

  13. Steve C says:

    “Numbers seem to be beyond them … At any rate, choosing Las Vegas as a poster child for oil use is just stupid.”

    In fact, if numbers are beyond you, you might do better not to think about Las Vegas at all … although for sure Las Vegas would welcome you with open arms. ;-)

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    Hmmmm….. You might be on to something there. Folks in Las Vegas tend to have a high numeracy (even if not great, it takes some number skill to just add up the cards you hold…) so maybe that’s why so many folks where “no worries” about oil and Global Warming in the interview. They had some sense of the numbers of “when” and “how much”…

    @Ralph B:

    There are coal plants on reservations, but not in Laughlin. Mostly over in Arizona. (Some rather large). Laughlin was nearly nothing prior to the dam being built. Why? The Colorado river was prone to massive flux changes. Sometimes nearly dry, others a wall of water. Couldn’t build near the river, and away from it was “stinking desert”. The power plant there is quite small and surrounded by other parts of the city. Not on a reservation. Frankly, what caught my attention about it was that it was just so darned small and, well, cute. It was a surprise to think you could put a coal plant inside a couple of hundred foot box, have it look like a giant garage or warehouse, run it ‘just in time’ on a slurry pipeline, and put it smack dab in the middle of your suburbs and blend in.

    Yes, the day to day “mix” of power used in the SouthWest is a bit complex. We have nukes (mostly Palo Verde these days, as San Onofre has had some “issues” and getting it restarted has become a political football. A gaggle of hydro scattered over pretty much every state, and some large coal plants (mostly toward Arizona IIRC). Then the sporadic money loosing Grande Scheme solar and wind things in California. Oh,and the Pacific DC Intertie brings Washington State hydro to Los Angeles… Washington State is something like 70% hydro powered. All of them running at different times and rates to match the load.

    The Lake Mead hydro is never zero. There are specific water demands downstream (not the least of which is a fairly constant river level near Laughlin for the casino boats ;-) with a load of it historically going to L.A. (but IIRC the “Los Angeles Water” part was a much smaller fraction, they were just allowed to buy/use some of the Arizona water until such time as Arizona grew to need it; which they have done. So now more goes to Arizona, less to L.A., in keeping with the original contract). So the river run is kept more stable than many other hydro places. There is a very small lake / dam just up stream of Laughlin, so there may be some degree of ‘buffering’ done for peak surges using it. Not sure they can hold a whole day worth, though…


    I’ve seen this attitude frequently among Hispanic culture folks. I don’t know why. There is a tendency to connect cost to price and assert morality about it (forgetting ‘property rights’ in the process). Oh, and usually no allowance for “cost to market and transport”…

    Cost to produce is the money needed to make a thing. Price is the money folks will pay for it.
    There is no natural connection between them other than that if price is below cost the company will go out of business. Cost to transport to market and market a good is added on top of Cost to Produce.

    So you can find the ‘real price’ of a barrel of oil quoted daily all over the world. Last time I looked Brent was running about $110 and WTI was about $89. (The difference being due to quality differences and that WTI has a pipeline / shipping shortage to get it to Europe.) That is the “real price”.

    But I presume you meant instead “a fantasy price based on cost to produce and nearly no profit.”…

    Now if I can make, say, “Wheaties” for $1 a box, and you will pay me $4 a box, is that “cheating” or is that “a good business”? Hispanics tend to “cheating” while Anglos tend to “a good business”. (No, not all; just a bias in each culture). Now if it actually uses 10 cents of wheat to make Wheaties, and the guy who transports them to market and sells them makes $2 of the total, who is “Cheating”? The maker turning 10 cents of wheat into $2 Wheaties (and paying a lot of taxes and wages in the process) or the marketer taking $2 Wheaties and selling them for $4? (But making them conveniently available to you 24×7 at the local store… everywhere in the world…) Isn’t the “real price” of Wheaties closer to 20 cents?

    Oil is no different. The “cost to produce” oil ranges from about $2-4 / bbl in Saudi Arabia to about $56 / bbl for some tar sands to $80+ / bbl for some shales. (To more for some even worse shales.) Folks will pay about $80 to about $120 / bbl, so that pays for folks to turn Canadian Tar Sands into more oil, and start working on those shale oils. (That oil then goes to refiners who have about a $0.5 to $1 cost to turn a gallon of it into ‘products’ and get them to market, along the way for the USA; Federal and States tack on about $.50 of taxes per gallon.)

    So is it “cheating” for Saudi to take the price the market offers even though they can pump oil very cheaply? If they sold at $12/bbl (which they did at one time) then they run at full capacity and squander their oil wealth very quickly, collapse, and end up in poverty sooner. That would also drive the Canadian oil sands companies out of business and cause other wells around the world to be ‘shut in’, some to never restart as shutting down some wells damages them.

    Do not the Saudis own their own oil? Can they not decide to pump, or not pump, the amount that suits THEIR needs for a longer term source of income? Is it “cheating” for the plumber to charge more than the gardener?

    You see, that is one of the beauties of a market economy. All that emotional baggage of “who deserves” and “who is cheating” and “who is the Senator’s cousin” all gets flushed. (At least, in markets without corrupt governments “regulating” for the benefit of their cousin…) I produce and put on the market. You decide to pay, or not pay. A transaction only happens when we are both accepting of the terms. By Definition we both find the deal an advantage.

    So if I can make hand made horse shoes at 10 / day and you can make a machine that forges them at 10 per minute: Are you “cheating”? If that puts me out of business are you A Bad Person? If mine cost $10 each and yours cost $0.5 each, are you “cheating” to sell them for $5 each? (That is not just a hypothetical. My Grandad made horseshoes on a forge in the smithy in the barn… factory machines ended our family trade.)

    Now lets go back to that bowl of cereal. I’m especially fond of Malt-O-Meal. It is essentially milled malted grain in a box. Maybe 20 cents worth of grain if you push it, and the processing doesn’t add much to the cost to manufacture. Last time I bought some it was pushing $4. That’s about a 20 x “uplift”. $80 oil, divided by 20 is $4. Gee, not that far out of line for Saudi after all. (And the others are even at cheaper ratios) Is General Mills “cheating” to charge so much for a box of breakfast cereal?

    The plumber could fix my plumbing for minimum wage. Other folks live on minimum wage. What makes him so special? It’s just pipes and doesn’t take a whole lot of college… So he charges over $100 / hour. About 15 times what minimum wage is in many States. Is he “Cheating” to charge so much? (Or maybe it’s just not as pleasant to work with heavy “shit pipes” laying in the dirt under a house as compared to being in a temperature controlled office sitting at a desk watching a door as “security”…)

    The price is what something is worth, delivered where it is desired, when it is desired, in the form which is desired. IF you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Go make your own. (And you CAN make your own. I’ve looked at the tech and it is quite possible to make your own gasoline from trash with something that would fit in one small room. It will just cost more than the ‘big guys’ as they are very efficient and ‘small scale’ isn’t.) Or would you be happier with two gas stations; one selling Saudi Gas for $1 / gallon, but with 20 miles long lines and always sold out and the other with $5 / gallon gas from shale? As Saudi is near zero of consumption in the Americas, that Saudi Station is going to have gas about 1 week out of the year….

    I’d rather have gas always there, and the price wandering between $3 and $4 as needed to balance demand against supply, so I can decide when to do what as I desire. I’m happy to let the Saudis (and the Canadians and the Mexicans and even Evil Bastard Hugo Chavez in Venezuela) have their “cut” and make profit directly proportional their their relative advantage at pumping oil. They are not “cheating”, they are providing a service I want. And doing a damn fine job of it too. That Saudi has easier to pump oil and Canada has hard to produce tar (and Venezuela has both…) doesn’t really matter to me. It just means we use the ‘easy stuff’ before moving on to the ‘harder stuff’ at higher prices. Now, for them, it does mean some make more money than others. Just like the plumber makes more than the gardener…

    Envy. One of the Deadly Sins…

  15. Tim Clark says:

    { So we compromised. }

    I’ve always told folks I want to live in a TePee on 1000 acres, but my wife wants a mansion in the middle of the parking lot of a shopping Mall.
    We live in a nice house on a golf course.
    Best I could do. I’ve got a panoramic view of two fairways and a green.

  16. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: Then the Dollar it´s 1/110 of a Barrel of oil….mmmmm. You see?

  17. gofer says:

    Vegas has a very efficient system for capturing runoff and grey water to use for watering their many golf courses.

  18. Ralph B says:

    I haven’t been there in a couple years, thought that plant was on the Arizona side. Haven’t looked it up on maps but where it is doesn’t matter. Your point about the whole area is, and I agree with you.

    Then we have the politicking around nukes. New research though is showing hormesis rather than risk from low lever radiation exposure. All those wasted billions…

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