Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, Government, Politics, Science, Technology — Rick Moran @ 10:58 am

One of the few commendable parts of the Stimulus Bill was the money devoted to seeking alternative energy sources. I don’t believe it will lead to “millions of new jobs” - that’s pure politics and doesn’t take into account the millions of “old” jobs that will be lost. Experts are divided whether there will be a net gain in employment - and we won’t see any evidence of that for a couple of decades.

But the president’s emphasis on developing these technologies is spot on. And, I think to a very large degree, his approach is a sound one.

Everyone agrees we must wean ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, and eventually we must radically alter the economy in order to deal with declining oil supplies.

It isn’t really a question of drilling. The fact is, the world is partially a victim of America’s success in in applying our soft power in ways that have caused an explosion of economic activity in the third world that has resulted in massive increases in demand for oil the world over. China and India - two huge nations - are seeing big increases in their energy needs every year. Coal is only a stopgap measure for both - not only for its problems with carbon emissions but the suffocating air pollution that goes with it.

Globalization, coupled with our developmental aid over the last couple of decades, has caused a revolution in living standards. OPEC nations are at near capacity in supplying clients with oil and the price remains high. This should tell you that the demand curve is outstripping supply. And the gap is getting wider.

(The question of whether we are already at “Peak Oil” production is separate to the question of current supply. There are encouraging signs of some new finds in South America and the Caribbean, but those fields will only delay the inevitable crunch by a few years at most.)

So the quest for renewables is both necessary and immediate. And the president has come up with a plan via the stim bill that will ratchet up research and development while allowing the market to pick winners and losers.

It’s really the kind of public-private partnership that we need to see the kinds of innovative technologies that will revolutionize the way we live and change the economy in ways we can barely fathom now.

Why not let the market handle the whole thing? Ordinarily, that would be the optimum solution. But we’re talking about dollar amounts for basic research that are far beyond the capacity of any company to pay for - or generate the speed necessary to make this transition before supplies really start to pinch.

The days when a Thomas Edison could fund his own lab and turn out miraculous invention and invention are gone. While we shouldn’t entirely dismiss the work of American tinkerers, the fact is, in order to overcome the technological and engineering problems associated with making us independent of foreign oil, develop “clean coal” applications, take us to the next level in solar, wind, and car battery power, and fix our electric power grid, it will take the massive infusions of cash into research that Obama is proposing.

Oversight, as this New York Times editorial mentioned at the time of the stim bill passage, will be vitally important:

Eighty-billion dollars is still a lot of money. And the federal agencies overseeing its disbursement must provide strong regulation and firm guidance to ensure that it is spent wisely. Money invested in a modern electricity grid, for instance, will have been badly spent if it is used merely to build transmission towers to move energy from old coal-fired power plants. It will be well spent if it helps move clean energy, such as wind and solar power, from, say, Texas, to distant cities that need it.

That is just one of many provisions that will bear close watching as the money flows to states, cities and businesses.

Yes, there is some waste in the bill - including monies earmarked for AMTRAK and a dubious high speed rail project. But there is also a long overdue $11 billion in grants and $6 billion in loans to develop a “smart grid” for our electrical needs. Europeans are far ahead of us in this area and once completed, the new grid will not only make our energy use more efficient, but also provide better service to electricity consumers while keeping cost increases down.

I am also a little dubious about the $25 billion the government is spending to “weatherize” homes and retrofit government buildings to be more energy conscious. Given past history, bureaucrats always seem to find ways to redefine what “retrofit” means. Look for a lot of bells and whistles added to government buildings without much in energy savings.

That said, we should be excited about a tenfold increase in monies given for research into better car batteries (they are improving almost every year), and a tenfold increase in developing “clean coal” technologies. Of the latter, I am less excited simply because the entire coal industry is going to be decimated if cap and trade goes through in the senate. Developing a costly solution for an industry that is being shoved to the sidelines may not be the most efficient use of that money.

But the $20 billion in tax incentives to develop alternative fuels and energy sources is the key. Note that the incentives will not favor one company over another and could set off a gold rush toward energy innovation that would almost certainly hasten improvements in these technologies. For instance, we will probably discover just how viable energy produced by wind power can be when used on an industrial scale. It won’t work everywhere - just as solar power will have its limits. But the trick is to come up with the right combination that will dramatically reduce our dependence on oil.

Obviously, no plan is without its drawbacks. It will take decades to see the kind of progress that will really make a difference. Alternative energy sources currently supply less than 3% of our needs. It will take a sustained effort over many years to bring these technologies online, and the national will to make changes in how we think of energy and how we use it. No easy task, that, as President Obama said at MIT yesterday:

Now, while the challenges today are different, we have to draw on the same spirit of innovation that’s always been central to our success. And that’s especially true when it comes to energy. There may be plenty of room for debate as to how we transition from fossil fuels to renewable fuels — we all understand there’s no silver bullet to do it. There’s going to be a lot of debate about how we move from an economy that’s importing oil to one that’s exporting clean energy technology; how we harness the innovative potential on display here at MIT to create millions of new jobs; and how we will lead the world to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. There are going to be all sorts of debates, both in the laboratory and on Capitol Hill. But there’s no question that we must do all these things.

Countries on every corner of this Earth now recognize that energy supplies are growing scarcer, energy demands are growing larger, and rising energy use imperils the planet we will leave to future generations. And that’s why the world is now engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century. From China to India, from Japan to Germany, nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to producing and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I am convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation. It’s that simple.

I would quibble with the president and add that the bio-tech revolution - one we are currently leading but in danger of falling back - will also determine which nation “leads the global economy.” But he is correct to make the search for viable renewables into a race.

And given this excellent head start, I wouldn’t bet against America just yet.


Nick Loris at the Heritage blog also finds some good things in the president’s speech at MIT. But he also points out what I did - that the idea these programs will result in a net gain of jobs is dubious at best.

But the green stimulus, free lunch rhetoric neglects the costs, both real and opportunity costs, that come with a government stimulus. Heritage analyst Ben Lieberman writes that a green stimulus is actually a contradiction in terms: “Support for renewables would likely cost more jobs than are created. For example, subsidies for wind and solar energy would, at least from the narrow perspective of the wind and solar industries, create new jobs as more of these systems are manufactured and installed. But the tax dollars needed to help pay for them cost jobs elsewhere, as would the pricey electricity they produce.”

Our analysis of the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill finds that there will be 1.9 million fewer jobs by 2012 after accounting for green jobs. Job losses would grow to 2.5 million by 2035. This makes us a cap and trade naysayer, who Obama attacks towards the end of his speech.

I really wish the president would simply stick to promoting these programs as a spur to innovation rather than some kind of jobs program. He is on much firmer ground, as Loris points out, when talking about the spirit of entrepreneurship that these monies will ignite.


  1. Sorry, but this is nonsense. The fact that it’s the government is doing the spending should be a tip-off that its not good economics. It is, in fact, creating yet another “bubble” which will burst in time with predictable results.

    The government should get the hell out of the way. Foreign oil? We’ve got lots of our own. Go get it!

    Comment by Geoffrey Leach — 10/24/2009 @ 12:03 pm

  2. riiight, Geoff, because the government should never ever take the lead in funding infrastructure, except for interstate highways, and the transcontinental railroad, and the internet, and Morse’s telegraph, etc, etc, etc.

    let’s face it– the government does serve some useful purposes, and sometimes giving private industry a kick in the pants is one of them. it’s not exactly outrageous or unprecedented.

    Comment by brooks — 10/24/2009 @ 12:25 pm

  3. Among all of Obama’s numerous pushes, this is one of the few I generally agree with, but the “green jobs” riff is just a riff.

    The items that involve lower-skilled manufacturing will be done in China or Mexico because we’ll need these goods to be cheap in order for the economics to have a chance of working. Those that involve high-end manufacturing will be capital-intensive and won’t involve a lot of new workers. The pushes that involve home construction will be at least partially done by contractors hiring illegals just as is done now. Those that involve government will be done by the lavishly paid, politically connected, unionized contractors who do government work.

    Just because it is “alternative” doesn’t mean it lives in some zone by itself outside the forces that shape the rest of the economy.

    Comment by Foobarista — 10/24/2009 @ 12:51 pm

  4. The President’s approach to renewable energy policy is, in great part, to artificially increase the cost of conventional energy so that alternative sources become “competitive” sooner. This is the wrong approach.

    Energy ceases to be “alternative” when its cost reliably sinks below the cost from current incumbent sources. We’re there for solar starting this spring. Under the right physical conditions, you can get a solar power plant watt for cheaper than a coal power plant watt.

    At the same time, we have the issue of how long we should hold onto our existing plant versus chucking it early and rebuilding our capacity using this new economically viable solar. This is a question that the government is infamously bad at and the free market does better. Obama wants to nudge us to retire the old capacity faster. That’s a mistake that is going to cost us money.

    In the end, batteries may not matter and money spent on improving them may be money thrown down a rat hole. A battery competitor, ultracapacitors, has gotten a major boost due to the addition of carbon nanotubes in their construction and we may end up not using batteries in a decade’s time. Is the government going to play fair between these two technologies? I’m dubious that campaign cash won’t have a bad influence.

    Comment by TMLutas — 10/24/2009 @ 1:08 pm

  5. Unfortunately, I feel that the Democrats’ energy policies have been cribbed straight from interest groups such as Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and the NRDC, regardless of how realistic they may be.

    It’s unlikely we could run our present civilization on renewables such as solar and wind power, the things always put into the public’s mind, nor is it likely that conservations efforts will yield much net savings in the face of continued population and (hopefully) economic growth. Nuclear power, the most obvious choice to displace coal and reduce emissions in the electricity sector, is off-limits because of the dogmatic opposition by the aforementioned NGOs. Hydropower, one of the few renewable sources that can provide baseload power and the largest single contributor to our renewable energy today, is already well-developed and there’s environmental opposition to exoansion - indeed, there’s pressure to dismantle some of it. What are never appreciated by the general public are that (a) the diffuse nature of solar and wind require construction on such a massive scale that it seems incredible we’d give over that much of our land to energy production, and (b) these sources produce power intermittently and (in the case of wind) unpredictably, and yet there is no large-scale, cost-effective way to bank power from them that we can scale out.

    Numerous examples can be seen in Europe. For instance, Denmark, which gets up to 20% of its power from wind, relies heavily on being able to use the other nordic countries’ ample hydro resources as a kind of bank - this clearly isn’t scalable to the rest of Europe, let alone the US. Also seldom mentioned are the low capacity factors of these sources, which run at best at 40% or so, and typically much less. Again using Denmark as an example, only 10% of annual power production comes from wind. Germany is now coming to grips with the failure of their expensive renewables-only approach and now need to decide whether to bow to Green-party dogma and shut down nuclear plants, which means, incredibly if you believe climate change is a real problem, the construction of new coal-fired ones.

    On oil production, it’s true that the US can’t realistically replace it’s oil imports with expanded domestic drilling, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Oil supply and demand are relatively inelastic over the short term, and therefore small changes in available supply can have a big impact on the price. Domestic production could help keep us out of the inelastic zone where prices skyrocket, thus helping us in two ways: (1) at least some of what we spend on oil would stay in the US, and (2) the lower prices apply to every barrel, including the ones we’re still importing. As for the long lead times involved, this is a specious argument, as it could be made about doing almost anything. Certainly, our leaders in the next decade may be glad that we chose to put some projects in the pipeline. Unless one thinks we’ll no longer be using any oil by the time these projects could be in production, they’ll still make sense.

    Biofuels are a tragicomic example of political decision-making overrulling market decision-making to produce an idiotic result. The corn ethanol program produces very little net energy gain once you factor in the massive fossil energy inputs required to produce fertilizer and distill the fuel. It also comes with a huge environmental cost in the form of fertilizer run-off which has formed “dead zones” in some of our waters. Plants capture at most 1% of the available sunlight; in contrast, a photovoltaic solar panel with today’s technology gets 15%, and up to 20% for ones now in the labs. This 15:1+ disadvantage simply can’t be overcome, and this is before all the further losses attempting to refine the plant material into fuel. To the extent that waste biomass can be used for fuel one could make an argument for doing so, although frankly it is far simpler, extracts more net energy, and requires no new technology to simply dry the material and burn it in combined-cycle gassifiers to produce power. But certainly, if we are willing to give over land to energy production, it makes more sense in the face of the 15:1 up-front differential to build solar facilities rather than grow biofuels, with the added benefit that otherwise-useless (desert) land can be used and the food supply need not be impacted. Yet we continue with our failing biofuels programs - so much for an adminstration that was going to be governed by science.

    Incidentally, MacKay estimates that it would take a solar facility the size of the state of Arizona to power the US (assuming a breakthrough in storage allowing excess power to be drawn down at night). This gives one the idea of the absurdity of not even looking at nuclear while persuing renewables at all costs.

    In short, the NGOs and their allies in the Democratic party are selling the public a dangerous energy fantasy wherein conservation efforts and expanded renewables are going to get the job done. The result of these policies, aside from raising costs for all of us, will be slow energy starvation, continued reliance on coal for most of our electric power (with, regrettably, the attendand CO2 emissions), and very likely an increase in our reliance on natural gas (which still produces emissions) as a “temporary” measure for both power and, perhaps, for vehicles.

    This is not to suggest that there aren’t some among the Democrats, even within the administration, that are at least admitting we might need nuclear power for a while, or that have figured out, correctly, that vehicle electrification is a better bet than biofuels. Still, the Democrats have a hard time shaking off the dogma of the NGOs that are very good at getting angry mobs of protesters to show up when needed to block nuclear plants, drilling, etc. The Democrats’ plan doesn’t add up, unless you admit we’re going to stick with goal and natural gas, damn the CO2 consequences.

    This is an issue that I think conservatives, of which I consider myself one, could embrace. Rather than continue to attack the majority of Americans that are concerned about climate change, a reasoned argument about a better approach to dealing with it could be made, one that “adds up” per MacKay rather than advancing a fantasy. For those skeptical about climate change, the issues of energy security and resource depletion should still have some punch.

    Comment by Doug — 10/24/2009 @ 3:42 pm

  6. I like what you are thinking……Pres BO has been selling this as a jobs program…..he should promote it as breaking our dependence on foreign oil…..and let the jobs take care of itself….

    Comment by Silvio — 10/24/2009 @ 3:52 pm

  7. Sorry, forgot to say that MacKay refers to professor David MacKay, whose book “Sustainable Energy Without All the Hot Air” should be required reading for all our political leaders and anyone else concerned about energy policy. He writes from a UK perspective (he’s a physics professor at Cambridge) but does look a bit more broadly, and the basic issues and tradeoffs apply world-wide.

    Comment by Doug — 10/24/2009 @ 4:01 pm

  8. But the president’s emphasis on developing these technologies is spot on. And, I think to a very large degree, his approach is a sound one

    I don’t know who has seized control of this blog but I want you to know we won’t stop until we get Moran back safe.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 10/24/2009 @ 4:49 pm

  9. I like the idea of turning Arizona into a solar plant. We wouldn’t have to deal with John McCain as a senator anymore.

    Comment by John Galt — 10/24/2009 @ 5:08 pm

  10. @Doug:

    “Unfortunately, I feel that the Democrats’ energy policies have been cribbed straight from interest groups such as Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and the NRDC, regardless of how realistic they may be.”

    So it doesn’t matter if the policy or ideas are good or not . . . the prime issue is the source? A good idea from a “bad” source is worse than a bad idea from a “good” source?

    Interesting. Utterly terrifying, but interesting.

    He’s setting up for another “Obama Is Teh Stoopid” post. I’m betting Monday.

    Not hard to predict since I disagree with about 90% of what this president has done and what he has proposed.

    You people have the intellectual subtlety of a brass band.


    Comment by busboy33 — 10/24/2009 @ 6:03 pm

  11. I don’t agree with you; nuclear technology is already developed and doesn’t need massive infusions of cash to start producing clean renewable energy. The problem is with the mindsets like yours that refuse to consider this optimal solution to the energy problem.

    Comment by Black Rabbit — 10/24/2009 @ 7:47 pm

  12. nuclear energy certainly has its positive sites but also drawbacks e.g. waste. Let’s say conservatives generally favor nuclear energy, ok? now just convince folks in Wyoming, Alabama, Oklahoma that we need to leave the waste there. Easily done? I don’t really believe in this ‘one technology solves all problems’ approach. However, to invest into renewable energy is a no brainer for me. Doug, why so pessimistic about present and future advances in technology to exploit renewable energy sources. Almost unamerican..(just kidding).

    Comment by funny man — 10/24/2009 @ 11:51 pm

  13. funny man: “now just convince folks in Wyoming, Alabama, Oklahoma that we need to leave the [nuclear] waste there”

    I believe that the French have been successful with on-site reprocessing.

    Comment by Geoffrey Leach — 10/25/2009 @ 4:31 am

  14. The source matters if you have reason to suspect their recommendations don’t add up. The NGOs have distinguished themselves by opposing things rather than supporting them. About the only thing they consistently support is conservation. Sounds good, until you start wondering if that alone can meet all our energy needs. Once you admit that inevitably some power will still have to be produced, you’re back to asking the hard questions about how. Lovins could be regarded as the prototypical spokeman for their point of view, and he’s dogmatic, especially about nuclear power. Their plans simply don’t add up. But hey, with the Democrats in their pockets and now running the whole show, I guess we’ll find out. In the end, the laws of physics win. Here’s my bet: we’ll start relying more and more on natural gas as a bridge strategy until the renewable-powered utopia arrives. Meanwhile we’ll continue to offshore businesses that consume lots of energy while continuing to import their production, but we’ll be able to pat ourselves on the back that we’ve reduced our per-capita emissions even as world emissions have gone nowhere but up. It’s California’s energy policy on a national scale.

    Comment by Doug — 10/25/2009 @ 10:35 am

  15. Funny man:

    I’m not pessimistic, I believe I’m being realistic. I was a child during the 1970s energy crisis and I remember it well. Back then, fusion power was just a few decades away. Here we are 30 years later and it’s still decades away. The point isn’t that research into new technologies isn’t worth doing - the point is that it’s foolish to bet the planet on breakthroughs that might not occur. In renewable energy, the breakthrough we don’t have, and might not get, is storage. Up to about 10% the existing grid can absorb intermittent sources, beyond that some sort of scalable storage solution is needed. I emphasize scalable because there are existing solutions such as pumped hydro that, while effective, can’t realistically be expanded to support the whole grid. I don’t want to still be burning coal 30 years from now because we won’t consider nuclear power and are still waiting for Godot on power banking. What you’re likely to see is a very expensive strategy involving natural gas-fired stand-by plants. If you have such plants operating at less than capacity, it’s obviously going to be expensive. Furthermore, you’re relying on yet another depeleting fossil fuel that still produces emissions, albeit lower ones. The other concern is the sheer scale. At some point I expect to see environmentalists opposing the carpeting of our desert ecosystems with solar facilities. And, I have to say, I’d most likey find myself in agreement with them. Problem is, they won’t support nuclear either. They’ll end up opposing everything except, I suppose, a return to the 18th century.

    Comment by Doug — 10/25/2009 @ 10:44 am

  16. Baffling.

    First, there is NOTHING NEW here, so why speak of “Obama is proposing”? … You could have written this column the day after Bush’s 2007 State of Union, where he went for all this kind of stuff. The Federal Government has ALREADY been funding this research to the tune of billions its not what “Obama is proposing”, its what Clinton/Bush/Congress have been spending for years.

    Also, it’s a strawman to speak of some self-funding tinkerer as the only alternative to Federal money. In fact, we do need money to fund innovation and it doesnt have to come from a wannabe Edison’s pocket. The Venture Capital community has been pouring a lot into “green technologies”. Billions, in fact.

    Last, saying ‘its a great idea’ then pointing out “Yes, there is some waste in the bill”, identifying the billions (and not mentioning even more billions) wasted, undercuts the argument. Doubtless you could find some project with positive ROI if you are throwing billions at a problem… but CO2 sequestration from coal power plants? Tried and cost overruns have gone galore. Solar? Still way too expensive and sucking up a lot of money in subsidies. Ethanol? Billions down the drain every year. In fact, a better plan is to cut the spending that is wasteful, like ethanol subsidies 100%, and use that money to have an R&D only (no massive subsidies) on a few of the most promising technologies.

    MOST of the alternative energy R&D and subsidies do NOT work, its probably a 20% work/ 80% dont work ratio. So there is much value in puncturing this phony balloon that all such programs are automatically good, and going after wasteful programs. There is perhaps some merit in pointing out that private-public R&D subsidies, while wading dangerously into industrial policy/corruption areas, at least is less wasteful than straight out subsidies like ethanol, wind/solar power giveaways, etc.

    And for those desperate to make an anti-obama angle, let’s be clear. The “throw money at it” approach to alternative energy has been a bi-partisan policy, so we cannot fault Obama for doing no more than upping the ante via the stimulus.

    This column, like the subsidies for ‘green energy’ themselves, misses the opportunity to have proper critical analysis of what works and what doesnt. The failure of a critical approach to workability in alt energy will result in bloated and underperforming Govt programs. We know this will happen because its happened - again and again (SynFuels, hydrogen cars, fuel cells, Co2 sequestration, solar - all have gotten billions and little of it has paid off). It’s wrong to treat such waste as some kind of inevitability in the overall package.

    PS. #11: Nuclear energy does need R&D support. We have 1970s era PWR technology, but next-gen safer modular fast lead-cooled reactors need R&D as do other alternatives. A balanced approach would include nuclear energy with other energy types on a level alt energy playing field.

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 10/25/2009 @ 1:47 pm

  17. “nuclear energy certainly has its positive sites but also drawbacks e.g. waste.”

    Not much of a drawback. The ‘waste’ is used fuel that could be recycled, about 96% of the useful energy remains after it goes through a once-through reactor. If recycling is great for all our other resources, why not nuclear fuel?
    Is it bad because the French do it? Jimmy Carter shut down reprocessing due to concerns over proliferation. 30 years of experience should have taught us that a domestic civilian reprocessing capability has zero to do with RPNK’s and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

    “Let’s say conservatives generally favor nuclear energy, ok?” A majority of Americans favor nuclear power.

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 10/25/2009 @ 1:57 pm

  18. Agree that the nuclear waste problem is vastly overstated by those whose true goal is to kill nuclear power because it sounds “scary”, and doesn’t fit in well with the rainbows and unicorns that are supposed to be the linchpin of the “new economy”.

    All of the waste that this country could produce would fit easily inside the Yucca Mtn facility in Nevada, which contrary to what you’ve heard is located in some of the most stable geology in the country and is quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

    Yucca Mtn has been talked down for years by Harry Reid, because he took money from the Las Vegas casino owners who feared that Atlantic City and other gaming destinations would be able to use this against them somehow in the fight to gain tourist dollars.

    The entire nation’s future energy security is being sold down the river because Harry Reid wants to guarantee that some casino owners continue to beat the odds. So much for science as a basis for public policy.

    Comment by wws — 10/25/2009 @ 3:01 pm

  19. Doug,
    I generally agree with you. However, other measures e.g. making our cities more compact, cars and houses more energy efficient, developing solar and wind energy shouldn’t be neglected.
    You are about my age then (ballpark). Then you remember that part of the problem was also the nuclear industry’s PR problem. That was in large part their fault and made people uneasy. That is not surprising when you look at the carefree attitude that prevailed in the 50s and 60s. A lot of the (military) nuclear waste is still giving us problems (superfund sites). You might argue that it is a lot better today (true) but many people still don’t trust the industry. That’s why I don’t believe it should be a partisan agenda.

    Travis Monitor:

    ok, the majority of Americans favors nuclear energy. Fine, you are from around Austin. What are the odds nuclear waste is going to be deposited in Hill Country? Or anywhere in Texas for that matter? Good luck with that.

    Comment by funny man — 10/25/2009 @ 6:24 pm

  20. Actually with our own oil and with coal to oil technologies that are currently available we have at least as much oil as OPEC does and possibly more. It is time for us to go get it with every thing we have. This means jettisoning the theory of man caused global warming or at least questioning it. I’m not sure about it but what I am sure about is our attempts to solve this problem that might not even be a problem at all are literally killing us!!

    Openning up all of the sources for drilling an building more refineries probably will create milliions of jobs in a very short amount of time. Also, cutting the maximum corporate income tax rate from 35% to 15% combined with other tax incentives may encourage companies to bring more manufacturing jobs back to America that have been outsourced.

    Comment by B.Poster — 10/26/2009 @ 2:09 pm

  21. I generally agree with you. However, other measures e.g. making our cities more compact, cars and houses more energy efficient, developing solar and wind energy shouldn’t be neglected.”

    Why is this either/or and not both/and? DO both! … if the goal is energy independence and getting off of fossil fuels (not sure we need the latter, but if we do) then we need ALL OF THE ABOVE.

    The real risk is wasted money in directions on things that simply dont work or are economically unwise. In terms of cost-effectiveness nuclear energy > wind > solar, so billions on solar while ignoring nuclear is wrong.

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 10/26/2009 @ 7:46 pm

  22. “ok, the majority of Americans favors nuclear energy. Fine, you are from around Austin. What are the odds nuclear waste is going to be deposited in Hill Country? Or anywhere in Texas for that matter? Good luck with that.”

    1. the entire national nuclear energy waste stream is quite small volume-wise.
    “All the used nuclear fuel produced by the U.S. nuclear energy industry in 50 years of operation—approximately 60,000 metric tons—would, if stacked end to end, only cover an area the size of a football field to a depth of about 7 yards.”
    This is a tiny fraction of the volumes from any other industrial process at large scale.

    2. Most nuclear used fuel is currently safely stored on site at active nuclear power plants, including the plants in Texas. The South Texas plant that services Austin is one. It takes up little space and is generally quite safe.

    3. Because nuclear waste streams are small, it is feasible to store ALL the nuclear used fuel in a single repository. hence, yucca mtn. It’s a good idea, better than spreading it out, especially when it comes to tracking this stuff down and dealing with it long term (ie centuries). However, you cannot underestimates govt’s capacity for taking a simple idea and turning it into an expensive boondoggle, and you cant underestimate the duplicity of the eco-whackos, who oppose the better solution for nuclear used fuel (either reprocessing or a single repository) and force the least acceptable solution (near-permanent onsite storage) as the de facto solution.

    I’ve concluded that anti-nuclear activists are in fact the enemies of the environment, wittingly or unwittingly. The reality is that nuclear energy is safe and environmentally friendly.

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 10/26/2009 @ 8:07 pm

  23. “The entire nation’s future energy security is being sold down the river because Harry Reid wants to guarantee that some casino owners continue to beat the odds. So much for science as a basis for public policy.”

    Indeed. This is a classic case of selfish pandering trumping the public interest, and fear-based NIMBYism gone mad.

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 10/26/2009 @ 8:51 pm

  24. Travis,
    didn’t I say we should do both?

    I agree that you can put some blame on anti nuclear activists but some blame also has to be on the side of the nuclear industry. For example, you don’t trust the government but you expect folks to believe the assurances of an industry? Based on past performance? Would you trust the government more if they were more open? In your case probably not but the same goes for the industry. Even if they were much safer now (which they are) some will still remember Three Mile Island etc. Mistrust of authority is very American attitude and that goes both ways left, right, Buchanan, Nader, Paul etc

    Comment by funny man — 10/26/2009 @ 9:50 pm

  25. “Travis, didn’t I say we should do both?” If so, excuse my expression of violent agreement.

    “I agree that you can put some blame on anti nuclear activists but some blame also has to be on the side of the nuclear industry. For example, you don’t trust the government but you expect folks to believe the assurances of an industry? Based on past performance?”
    The civilian nuclear power industry in USA has been highly regulated and for the most part has a tremendous track record of safety.

    ” Would you trust the government more if they were more open?”

    “In your case probably not but the same goes for the industry. Even if they were much safer now (which they are) some will still remember Three Mile Island etc. ”
    In TMI, there was a tremendous scare 30 years ago, but at the end of the day, nobody died. As the saying goes, more people died in the back of Ted Kennedy’s car. Compared with the deaths of coal miners, the deaths in transportation or construction, civilians western nuclear power is very safe as an industry. (Chernobyl is non-comparable: USSR technology based on unstable graphite reactors that had no containment vessels due to being built in 1950s by a communist govt careless about human lives.)

    In fact, the containment vessel at TMI worked, the release of radiation was miniscule, and the various safety margins were proved out. Since then, much has been improved because of the hundreds of reactor-years of operations improving training, operations, efficiency, etc. We have had no incidents at the level of TMI since then.

    “Mistrust of authority is very American attitude and that goes both ways left, right, Buchanan, Nader, Paul etc”
    A truism that doesnt tell us why we should distrust those who inform us of the safety of nuclear power but trust those who push expensive boondoggles with promises of ‘you really need this because global warming is a crisis’ when it manifestly is not. It’s time to stop being sheep over Govt claims and UN IPCC politicized BS climate reports. Dont trust any UN bureaucrat over 30.

    I dont trust the Governmentv or industry to tell me nuclear power is safe. I look at the track record and make my conclusions: 100+ reactors in operation and no serious incidents since Three Mile Island 30 years ago. Zero deaths due to nuclear power accidents throughout its entire history. If the airline industry was that safe, there would be less than one airline crash every 30 years.

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 10/27/2009 @ 8:24 am

  26. The alternative energy bubble burst in Spain when Spain figured out it couldn’t afford it (analysis showed that for every AE job created 2 were lost).

    The alternative energy bubble burst in Germany when Germany figured out it couldn’t afford it.

    The bubble will burst in America if we decide we can’t afford the subsidies.

    Now none of the deployment of wind and solar will do anything about our real problem: liquid fuels.

    Now I do applaud research to lower costs until AE can compete without subsidies. But that is not happening.

    I do like the fact that the US Navy is working on Polywell Fusion.

    Bussard’s IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    Comment by M. Simon — 11/3/2009 @ 4:17 am

  27. The margins are very thin re: neutron embrittlement for older reactor vessels. I hang out with reactor operators at another site (I’m a former Naval Nuke) and I have to say what I heard scares me.

    We need to replace older plants pronto.

    Comment by M. Simon — 11/3/2009 @ 4:22 am

  28. BTW I shouldn’t say no research is being done. The focus is on deployment for technologies not ready for prime time. If it goes badly it will set back AE by decades. Carter already did that to us 30 years ago. Why repeat what we already know is stupid?

    Comment by M. Simon — 11/3/2009 @ 4:24 am

  29. The US is loaded with conventional energy sources:


    If we developed every known resource we have enough oil (at roughly $40 to $50 a bbl) to last 50 to 100 years. What is stopping us? Greens.

    We have 50 to 100 years of proven reserves of natural gas. So much that exploration has declined a lot in the last couple of years.

    We should be developing that and our own oil to ease the transition instead of sending the money to the Middle East (a small fraction of our use - but still)

    Comment by M. Simon — 11/3/2009 @ 4:32 am

  30. Making cities more compact is easy. You destroy infrastructure, rebuild it, and tell people where to live. That could work. In America. If we raise taxes high enough.

    Comment by M. Simon — 11/3/2009 @ 4:36 am

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