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Comment Re:US Freezes to Death (Score 1) 347

Perhaps I'm mistaken. I recall an entity that wanted to build a wind farm but the shortest path to a population center meant crossing a national park or something.

Yeah, probably there have been individual transmission line bans for reasons like that. Which are entirely legitimate, by the way. But it's not the main thing holding wind power back.

Of course no private entity stepped up to build a uranium fuel reprocessing plant. If no one is able to build a new nuclear power plant then who is going to buy the reprocessed fuel?

Companies have been able to build new nuclear plants for years, permits have been issued, and some construction has taken place. TFA is about a recent freeze which isn't expected to last long. The reason you don't see more nuclear plants is economics.

My "beef" is not with the Department of Energy specifically, it's with the federal government in general. The Department of Energy gets special attention today because of this ban on nuclear power plant permits, the ethanol subsidies (making the news because of the drought in the Midwest), the solar power subsidies, and because of the subsidies to a foreign electric car company.

The DOE does not regulate power plant construction; that's the NRC. The DOE does not provide ethanol subsidies; that's a Congressional handout to the farm industry. (Incidentially, those subsidies expired this year, although the Renewable Fuel Standard that Congress passed is still here.)

The DOE does subsidize solar power and electric vehicle companies. I don't agree that none of them produce real benefit, but that aside, that's not the only thing the DOE does. Most of its budget is actually nuclear national security, it does R&D, etc.

The Department of Energy did[n't] ban the fracking for natural gas but the federal government is doing its best to stop the construction of any new oil wells.

Good.

While oil wells produce crude petroleum they also produce vast quantities of natural gas. If we can't drill for oil then we can't drill for natural gas either, they both come from the same hole.

Most of the long-term growth potential of natural gas in this country will come from fracking, which isn't banned by the federal government.

Comment Re:US Freezes to Death (Score 2) 347

Wind power might actually pan out as cheap and viable if only the federal government would let someone run the wires from where the wind blows to where the people need the electricity.

Wind power isn't expensive because of the government banning transmission line installation. Take Texas, for example. It probably has the largest "bottleneck" of wind supply due to lack of transmission lines. But they've received permission to install plenty new capacity. The main problem is lack of regional demand for renewables, which are still more expensive.

Natural gas seems to be booming despite the best efforts of the federal government to stop that too.

What are you talking about? The federal government hasn't tried to ban natural gas or tracking. They've very recently (April) started putting in environmental regulations to govern fracking. Are you arguing that these are unnecessary and companies should be free to operate using whatever process they want with no oversight? Heck, even the American Petroleum Institute welcomed the move, as an improvement over a patchwork of organizations that have been looking at regulations.

The problem of nuclear waste is a creation of the federal government. They decided that we cannot recycle the "spent" fuel from current reactors.

Incorrect. Carter instated a ban on nuclear reprocessing (due to proliferation concerns). Reagan rescinded it.

We supposedly have a Department of Energy to solve these problems. What are they doing for us?

The DOE awarded a contract for a MOX reprocessing plant in 1999. The contractors went way over budget and still haven't finished the project. For that matter, no customers stepped up even with government subsidies.

We need to trim down the size of government, getting rid of the Department of Energy is as good of a place to start as any.

Yeah, like nuclear reprocessing is the only thing the DOE does. Let's wipe out the whole department. What's your beef with them anyway? Note that the DOE doesn't regulate power transmission, fracking, or nuclear power plant licenses; those are FERC, a new interagency working group (maybe eventually to be transferred to the EPA), and the NRC, respectively. And the nuclear reprocessing example I gave above is really an issue with the private sector, not the federal government.

Comment Re:Not for any definition of "real time" that I kn (Score 1) 140

As the AC pointed out, by your criterion nothing occurs in "real time" (unless it's on your own worldline), thus rendering the term effectively meaningless. Your post is just silly overeducated nitpicking (and I say this as someone who went to grad school for GR). You probably scream "there's no sound in space" at the movie screen, too.

Comment Re:Why is NASA studying things best left to the NO (Score 1) 122

Who said the manned space program is NASA's main purpose? Have you read either the Space Act or their mission statement? Earth observation and science has always been a major part of their purpose.

Furthermore, you have no idea how NASA is funded, do you? It's not like if all of NASA's Earth observation activities were shifted to NOAA, Congress would suddenly give NASA more money for the manned space program.

Finally, it's kind of comical that you seem to consider Earth observation satellites "only vaguely space-related at best".

Comment Re:One or both lied? (Score 2) 91

Iran got an advanced centrifuge design from A.Q. Khan that is extremely difficult to operate in practice. (We also interdicted the supply of some of the advanced machine components it requires.) For some reason, they stuck with it, and eventually got it to work. That's why it's taken them so long to get significant enrichment.

Now, if they were on a crash program to build a bomb, they could have abandoned it and pursued a simpler earlier Soviet design. So I agree it's not their first priority. Indeed, the fact that they stuck with the expensive but efficient technology suggests that they want more than to just "build a bomb".

However, that doesn't preclude a dual program, to pursue civilian uses, but retain the option of building a bomb as well. I suspect that's their real intention, and there is evidence that they've done some preliminary weapons work (such as implosion devices and delivery systems, IIRC). Iraq actually used (chemical) WMDs against them in the 1980s, and with all the U.S. activity in the region, they may eventually want a deterrent.

Comment Re:Climate Change (Score 1) 122

I can't see how this furthers the exploration of space,

It doesn't further exploration of space. My point is that exploration of space is not the only thing NASA does, nor the only thing that it is tasked to do.

which seems to be the very last priority on the budget sheet these days, and the one that gets entirely cut first.

I'm sympathetic to cuts in both exploration and science, but my point is that NASA is supposed to, does, and should, do both.

Furthermore, my reading of this year's NASA budget indicates that Earth Science got a 0.2% cut over the previous year, while Exploration got a 6.5% increase. ("Science" as a whole got a 0.2% increase, due entirely to a 3.7% boost to Planetary Science, which IMHO also counts as space exploration.)

Comment Re:Climate Change (Score 2) 122

But this isn't scientific discovery, since gravity was already discovered 150 years ago.

Oh good grief. Talk about tortured logic.

Let me explain this to you simply: the scientific purpose of GRACE is not to "discover gravity". It is directly to measure the Earth's gravitational field. Indirectly, it is to discover a lot of things about geoscience (ice dynamics, hydrology, etc.).

I may also point out to you that (as has been noted elsewhere in the comments) the Space Act which chartered NASA explicitly states that part of its mission is to expand human knowledge of the Earth (using spaceborne technology).

Comment Re:Detecting anthropogenic movement on the surface (Score 1) 122

Partial answer: GRACE has a horizontal spatial resolution of several hundred kilometers. I think its time resolution ends up being monthly, after a lot of post-processing of data from individual orbits (not realtime). So pretty far from what's required. There's talk of a GRACE follow-on mission with 1 angstrom inter-satellite distance resolution (compared to its current micrometer resolution). Not sure what that would translate into in terms of Earth's gravity field resolution.

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