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User Journal

Journal Journal: Employment

President Obama wants to add wage insurance to unemployment insurance so that taking a lower paying job doesn't blow your mortgage. This sounds like a reasonable response to lower job security, though adding it to the earned income tax credit might be a better move. A place where the President has done well is in trying to place veterans in jobs. And recent work shows veterans children are, still suffering from their fathers' service. Government policy can have very direct consequences for workers.

One place we may anticipate this is in energy policy, where we will be shifting more and more away from coal mining. Now there a currently more jobs in renewable energy than in coal so over all, the policy boosts employment. But, it can't do that right where coal miners live. Tennessee has attracted silicon refining which helps and employment is high there. But a pound of silicon is worth 200 pounds of coal, so, with time, the material volume can't keep up with the effort involved with coal extraction. The potential of the world market notwithstanding, renewable energy will have less employment in the end than fossil fuels. It will enable more employment in other sectors by making energy cheaper, but energy sector employment must ultimately shrink as getting energy becomes a very passive pursuit.

So, it is encouraging the the President linked rebuilding our transportation system to helping out coal miners, because that is a job that is big enough to cover their numbers. And, instead of wage insurance, I'd urge signing bonuses. GM owes the President. The BOLT should be built in coal country at wages higher than for mining. And, there should be a signing bonus for every experienced miner who quits to work on the BOLT. It should be a rapid transition that makes it very hard for mines to retain employees.

A raise and a bonus should be the reward for leaving the mine.
User Journal

Journal Journal: PAX SOLARIS

Solar is the most conservative power source ever and, once adopted, will never be displaced. It is really the nature of conservatives that makes it this way. Conservatives used to hate coal because unions got such strength from organizing mines. But now they love coal because the unions are busted owing to mechanization. Coal has a flag wrapped around it.

But, conservatives also like to believe in free markets. And solar power is becoming cheaper than coal. And, once deployed, it involves very little labor. So solar power ends up looking more like an investment than a seed for revolution.

This is really key. Once deployed, solar power becomes the glorious patrimony which all good conservatives are honor bound to defend just like family values.

Conservatives have supported wind power to some degree and nuclear power is glorious patrimony these days so it gets reflexive support as well as anti-antinuke support. But the only real competitor for the affections of conservatives for solar is natural gas. And, conservative supporters of natural gas are wrecking its advantages by attempting to export it.

There isn't a free market in natural gas or oil outside the US so natural gas exports mean higher prices domestically. Solar power will thus beat the price of natural gas all the sooner because it can hold on to the efficiency advantages it accrues through investment in technology while natural gas will not owing to foreign market manipulation.

Many of the things that make conservatism objectionable will also evaporate when solar power is fully deployed. The military hegemony in the Mid-East will be much less fraught, and the superabundance of energy will make conservative objections to population policy less grating. Conservatism will grow. PAX SOLARIS will likely be longer lasting and more conservative than PAX ROMANA. And that is about as conservative as it gets.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Taxoholics 3

During the StepItUp campaign to get Congress to set a policy for the United States to cut carbon dioxide emissions 80% by 2050, I had a chance to talk with Steny Hoyer about what practical steps might help. One thing we discussed was using a tax on carbon to bring down demand and improve the economic environment for substitute ways of producing energy. He'd been thinking about it and had noticed how large a tax would be required and how some were suggesting a shift in taxation for social security. His point that this would be destabilizing for social security since it would take it out of its insurance model of funding was thoughtful.

Since then, the Supreme Court compelled the EPA to consider the dangers posed by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and, the danger having been recognized, regulations have been promulgated to reduce emissions. Thanks @BarackObama

It turns out, Congress already acted when it passed the Clean Air Act. So why do we still here about a carbon tax, when regulations are doing the job?

Some think that markets have a magical efficiency that regulations can never match. This point of view is mistaken because it confuses market efficiency in distributing goods with effective policy.

But mostly it seems to be willing blindness. As an example, Charles Komanoff claims that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards increase owing to increased fuel prices. Basically he is urging that Congress make a carbon tax to get Congress to increase CAFE standards. A very circular and confused mode of thinking, but also wrong in the premise. CAFE standards were first implemented to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and have been increased because the EPA determined that GHG emissions are dangerous. Those are national policy issues not some worry about prices.

We can see further confused thinking when he discusses price elasticity. It is very well known that price does not affect gasoline consumption much. People still have to get to work. Over the long run, high gasoline prices do slow the economy creating unemployment and people don't go to work, but that is macroeconomics, not elasticity. Komanoff dances around this but tellingly claims that elasticity is better for industrial consumers with more options for substitution while simultaneously claiming that the carbon tax is not laid squarely on the backs of people who need to get to work. More confused thinking.

Komanoff also misunderstands the problem. He wants to slowly phase in his carbon tax, but action is needed urgently for GHG emissions. He also wants to reduce but not eliminate emissions, but that ship has sailed from a dock on the River Seine, and mathematically, a tax just can not bring emissions to zero, only regulations can do that.

A carbon tax, regardless of its other impracticalities, is just too little too late and a pointless distraction promoted by confused thinking only.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Academic Honor Code 2

I went to schools with academic honor codes. I remember deep qualms when it came time to assent to these codes. I agreed that cheating was dishonorable, but I also worried that reporting others for cheating was dishonorable, and that was a part of the codes. My daughter recently reported a social media cyber bullying situation and had it taken down. Someone got suspended too. She is less of a fence sitter than I was.

I notice now a severe case of academic cheating. Major fossil fuel companies knew about global warming from their own academic research and then lied about it.

Schools with honor codes need to address this if they are holding investments in these companies. As a matter of honor, they must divest. Harvard started an honor code last fall. President Drew Faust can not retain academic integrity and still oppose divestment.

Of schools with honor codes only Stanford has committed to divestment, and so far, only from coal, though the biggest academic cheaters seem to be oil companies.

It will be worth watching to see if the schools with honor codes will live up to them and divest from companies that promote academic dishonesty.
User Journal

Journal Journal: 61 reactors a year 4

Not long ago, four climate scientists wrote about nuclear power . It is not hard to look up how much uranium can still be mined at a reasonable cost. In terms of how quickly we use it now, there is about 80 years left.

The climate scientists pointed out that fossil fuel electricity generation could be replaced if 61 reactors a year were built for 35 years. So, 61 reactor per year. 35 years: 2135 reactors. 5.3 times number of current reactors. On average over 35 years, the rate of uranium consumption goes to 1+5.3/2 current rate, about 3.65 times faster. Available uranium will last 80 years with no change so 22 years at the new rate. So, we'd run out of uranium before finishing the build.

It is fine to propose this kind of scenario for renewable energy, but for technology that requires fuel, you need to check that there is some fuel. That is, after all, why we pursue fusion energy. We realized in the 1970s that both coal and uranium would run out. Duterium is abundant enough that it doesn't have that problem.
User Journal

Journal Journal: 61 reactors a year

Not long ago, four climate scientists wrote about nuclear power . It is not hard to look up how much uranium can still be mined at a reasonable cost. In terms of how quickly we use it now, there is about 80 years left.

The climate scientists pointed out that fossil fuel electricity generation could be replaced if 61 reactors a year were built for 35 years. So, 61 reactor per year. 35 years: 2135 reactors. 5.3 times number of current reactors. On average over 35 years, the rate of uranium consumption goes to 1+5.3/2 current rate, about 3.65 times faster. Available uranium will last 80 years with no change so 22 years at the new rate. So, we'd run out of uranium before finishing the build.

It is fine to propose this kind of scenario for renewable energy, but for technology that requires fuel, you need to check that there is some fuel. That is, after all, why we pursue fusion energy. We realized in the 1970s that both coal and uranium would run out. Duterium is abundant enough that it doesn't have that problem.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Shutting down the right to petition

The Bill of Rights includes a right to petition the government for redress of grievances. When the government has erred, the people must demand redress. But what happens when the government makes a mistake, and then shuts down the petition process?

That is exactly what is happening now at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

"Last year, a federal appeals court sided with the states of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, which argued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrongly assumed spent reactor fuel eventually would move to a permanent waste repository, even though the Obama administration canceled the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada."

Previously, the courts had ruled that Yucca Mountain would not work, and data fabrication by government scientists had put into question the ability of the Department of Energy to even manage such a project.

As a result, the NRC is not allowed to issue licenses for nuclear power plants until it clears up this mistake, though is seem happy to give up on proper procedure and allow nuclear power plants to operate without a license.

So, now the people are supposed to have their say, exercising their right to petition their government through the public comment period. But the NRC is closing up its ears, cancelling public meetings and shutting down our constitutional right.

While it may be a fair point brought up by "Janet Phelan Kotra, who worked for the commission for more than 28 years and served as project manager for the waste confidence issue for 14 years, [when she] said the proposed new rule is improperly based on the idea that the commission has confidence in the safety of long-term storage at reactor sites rather than on confidence that a permanent repository will become available in a reasonable time frame." Telling everyone else to just shut up seems like a violation of a very primary right.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Is Indian Point Next to Close? 1

Nuclear power plants are retiring early all over the country and planned power uprates are being canceled. With the recent decision to close Vermont Yankee, it comes to five closed reactors and five canceled uprates.

Now Entergy, the troubled owner of Indian Point close to New York City, is issuing denials that it will close Indian Point just as it had until so recently issued denials that it would close Vermont Yankee.

A second law suit has been filed against Energy by security employees saying the Indian Point plant is vulnerable to attack. And with the checkered history of violations by Entergy on this score, it seems likely that the coverups described in the suit have been occurring as per usual. Vermont Yankee was on the list of the ten most likely to retire early constructed by analyst Mark Cooper (linked above).

  • Palisades (Repair impending, local opposition)
  • Ft. Calhoun (Outage, poor performance)
  • Nine Mile Point (Site size saves it, existing contract))
  • Fitzpatrick (High cost but offset by high market clearing price)
  • Ginna (Single unit with negative margin, existing contract)
  • Oyster Creek (Already set to retire early)
  • Vt. Yankee (Tax and local opposition)
  • Millstone (Tax reasons)
  • Clinton (Selling into tough market)
  • Indian Point (License extension, local opposition)

So is Indian Point. I'd guess that chances are better than nine to one that it will be next.
 

Earth

Journal Journal: Fossil Fuel Use Cuts Body's Internal Radiation Burden

Many discussions of nuclear power on slashdot are polluted by references to completely bogus calculations at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory web site that claim that coal power plants emit more radiation into the environment than nuclear power plants. This is completely bogus because when coal is burned, the uranium within it remains in the ash and its concentration is no greater than in typical low carbon soils. You might as well say that a bulldozer pushing clay soil around is releasing radiation into the environment. Why? Because the uranium in coal comes from the soil out of which the primaeval forest grew. When the coal is burned, you just get the soil components back. It always seemed curious that a national laboratory, even one so captured by the nuclear industry, would be yanking everyone's chain like that, making such preposterous claims. It could just be stupidity. But....

One thing about fossil fuels is that they have been isolated from the atmosphere for a very long time. That means that the carbon-14 produced by cosmic ray impacts with nitrogen nuclei in the atmosphere that they originally contained has pretty much decayed away. So, when fossil fuels are burned, carbon-14 in the atmosphere is diluted with respect to carbon-12 in the atmosphere. But that diluted mix is just where our food comes from, and since we are what we eat, we end up with less carbon-14 in our bodies. If we were to instantaneously double the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the amount of carbon-14 in our bodies would go down by half. This would cut the beta decay rate from carbon-14 in our bodies by half and the combined beta decay rate from potasium-40 and carbon-14 by about 12%. If we subsequently removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to control the climate, carbon-14 would be removed together with carbon-12 and the internal radiation burden in our bodies would remain low for thousands of years as carbon-14 production would catch up on a timescale similar to the decay timescale for carbon-14 (5700 years).

Now, potasium-40 decays are more energetic than carbon-14 decays but carbon-14 in incorporated in DNA and thus decays may have a greater chance of inducing mutations, the apparent origin of cancers.

Nuclear power use, on the other hand, only increases radiation exposure, it does not decrease it. And it does so for long long after there has been any benefit from the power generation. While there are immediate cancer risks in the chemical components emitted from coal, gasoline or diesel burning, those risks are incurred by those benefiting from the fuel use and are not transmitted down the ages. The long term cancer legacy, in fact, is reduced cancer risk owing to reduced internal radiation burden.
Earth

Journal Journal: Fossil fuel use cuts body's internal radiation burden 3

Many discussions of nuclear power on slashdot are polluted by references to completely bogus calculations at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory web site that claim that coal power plants emit more radiation into the environment than nuclear power plants. This is completely bogus because when coal is burned, the uranium within it remains in the ash and its concentration is no greater than in typical low carbon soils. You might as well say that a bulldozer pushing clay soil around is releasing radiation into the environment. Why? Because the uranium in coal comes from the soil out of which the primaeval forest grew. When the coal is burned, you just get the soil components back. It always seemed curious that a national laboratory, even one so captured by the nuclear industry, would be yanking everyone's chain like that, making such preposterous claims. It could just be stupidity. But....

One thing about fossil fuels is that they have been isolated from the atmosphere for a very long time. That means that the carbon-14 produced by cosmic ray impacts with nitrogen nuclei in the atmosphere that they originally contained has pretty much decayed away. So, when fossil fuels are burned, carbon-14 in the atmosphere is diluted with respect to carbon-12 in the atmosphere. But that diluted mix is just where our food comes from, and since we are what we eat, we end up with less carbon-14 in our bodies. If we were to instantaneously double the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the amount of carbon-14 in our bodies would go down by half. This would cut the beta decay rate from carbon-14 in our bodies by half and the combined beta decay rate from potasium-40 and carbon-14 by about 12%. If we subsequently removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to control the climate, carbon-14 would be removed together with carbon-12 and the internal radiation burden in our bodies would remain low for thousands of years as carbon-14 production would catch up on a timescale similar to the decay timescale for carbon-14 (5700 years).

Now, potasium-40 decays are more energetic than carbon-14 decays but carbon-14 in incorporated in DNA and thus decays may have a greater chance of inducing mutations, the apparent origin of cancers.

Nuclear power use, on the other hand, only increases radiation exposure, it does not decrease it. And it does so for long long after there has been any benefit from the power generation. While there are be immediate cancer risks in the chemical components emitted from coal, gasoline or diesel burning, those risks are incurred by those benefiting from the fuel use and are not transmitted down the ages. The long term cancer legacy, in fact, is reduced cancer risk owing to reduced internal radiation burden.
Power

Journal Journal: Mitigating deep oil spills

A mile below the surface of the ocean, conditions are different. The pressure of the water increases the boiling point of the water above the autoignition temperature of crude oil. Water could act as a sort of diesel chamber at that depth. With an oil spill plume rising from the ocean floor, mixing enough air from the surface into the oil could consume the oil completely in a self-sustaining reaction. Heat from the reaction would heat the surrounding water and turbulence would provide complete mixing of the oil and air, oxidizing the oil to carbon dioxide and water. Getting the air to the sea floor might be accomplished with off-the-shelf equipment. Electric air compressors could be arranged in stages down to the bottom each stage feeding a standard fire hose within its tolerance, with pressure increasing from stage to stage to balance the water pressure at the stage depth. Electric power might be supplied from a naval vessel. Once air can be introduced to the oil plume, a standard flare can initiate the reaction. Hot complete combustion at the bottom of the ocean may have greater environmental benefits compared with incomplete combustion at the ocean surface. Because off-the-shelf equipment is involved, this response might be faster than other responses.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Vermont Senate Debate on Entergy Video

Video streaming of the Vermont Senate Debate on Vermont Yankee is here: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?NoCache=1&Dato=20100224&Kategori=NEWS03&Lopenr=100224011&Ref=AR&template=mogulus

User Journal

Journal Journal: Slashdot Stalker Replies

Apparently there are limits even to replying to replies to your own journal entry. So, this is to say welcome to my journal stalker. http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1561690

User Journal

Journal Journal: VT Nuclear Expert on DemocracyNow 1

A slashdot stalker has been pestering me about dry cooling so I've used up my replies for now. For those following the Vermont Yankee saga, Arnie Gundersen is on DemocracyNow! today providing details. http://www.democracynow.org/

Businesses

Journal Journal: Tuppence in the Sun

Mr. Dawes Sr. If you invest your tuppence wisely in the bank, safe and sound, soon that tuppence, safely invested in the bank, will compound! And you'll achieve that sense of conquest, as your affluence expands! In the hands of the directors, who invest as propriety demands!

The lyrics to the song that follows this bit of wisdom in the musical Mary Poppins can be found here. The next song, Step In Time is much more energetic and it is perhaps understandable that a song about compound interest would fail to catch on.

We are seeing a lack of propriety these days in a number of financial transactions. The slicing and dicing of risk seems to have led to a questions of what value many securities have if any at all. But, if you want to take on projects that extend over a substantial period of time, credit markets are likely to be a part of what you do.

One thing we need to do is transform how we get energy and a number of options include long term components. Nuclear power, for example, extends so far into a climatically uncertain future that it is seeking extra help with finance through federal loan guaranties.

While renewable energy is forever, its implementation can be taken in 10 to 25 year chunks so it fits much better with standard lending terms. Further, risk is low so while raising capital though venture mechanisms can happen, it is also attractive to banks, especially since renewable energy equipment can serve as insured collateral. This is why so much of the financing for renewable energy is coming from institutions like Credit Lyonnais and Morgan Stanley especially in the commercial sector. In the residential sector, solar power equipment is being rolled into mortgages for new home construction while installers for existing homes are getting savvy at helping customers find financing through secured credit based on increased equity.

But, what if you want to follow the commercial sector model of separating ownership of the equipment from the use of the equipment in the residential sector. Individually financing each deal, as might work for supplying Walmart with solar power, becomes time consuming and thus expensive. What is needed is an aggregate instrument. One way that aggregation has been used with propriety is the securitization of leases. CVS, for example, financed its eastern expansion based on the security provided by the fact that it had property leases to conduct its business. This brought them lower cost financing since the aggregated leases were more secure than individual leases.

One way to secure low cost credit to allow the long term use of solar power on homes is to secure the credit on the basis of an aggregate of rental contracts which assure repayment of the debt. So long as those contracts are sufficiently attractive that few of them are likely to be broken (they save customers money) then you have a low risk security that does not require high interest. This is the form of financing that Citizenre (discussed here in February) has adopted for its solar power equipment rental business. Shaving the cost of financing puts it in a better competitive position than attempting to work out deal-by-deal financing, so much so, that it can afford to ignore state-level rebates available to individual purchasers of solar power equipment.

There is certainly room for venture capital in the solar power business, especially for high risk new technology development. But, for deployment of proven technology, the model being adopted in the commercial sector using more traditional financing leads to cost savings that are important for market competitiveness. Carrying this over to the residential market, with its much larger roof space resource, will likely rebalance the solar market towards an acceleration of its current 30% annual growth.

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