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January 31, 2006

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Note that Cornyn might be referring to the debate about whether ethanol makes any sense to use at all. Interesting recent post on the subject at Mark Kleiman's samefacts blog.

Re nuclear, hasn't France managed to make an economic go of it (passing over the waste problem)?

Do you think that is how most Americans understood and were meant to understand that passage of the speech, Gary? Really?

Hell, it's not how I understood it, and I've worked two summers an environmental nonprofits as well as being married to a freaking environmental economist. (I didn't think much about what it meant, because I have observed enough to know that what it was NOT going to be, was a serious attempt to deal with energy dependence let alone environmental issues. But if you had asked me to guess that little interpretation sure would not have been obvious.)

I realize that his promise doesn't necessarily mean that we'd make up for it with increased consumption--the point is, he doesn't rule it out, and combined with the administration's five year record on this issue--what steps do you think he will take to actually reduce consumption?

Cornyn is pro-ethanol as far as I can tell.

Do you think that is how most Americans understood and were meant to understand that passage of the speech, Gary? Really?

Hell, it's not how I understood it, and I've worked two summers an environmental nonprofits as well as being married to a freaking environmental economist. (I didn't think much about what it meant, because I have observed enough to know that what it was NOT going to be, was a serious attempt to deal with energy dependence let alone environmental issues. But if you had asked me to guess that little interpretation sure would not have been obvious.)

I realize that his promise doesn't necessarily mean that we'd make up for it with increased consumption--the point is, he doesn't rule it out, and combined with the administration's five year record on this issue--what steps do you think he will take to actually reduce consumption?

Cornyn is pro-ethanol as far as I can tell.

I can't find a good American study, but here is a comparison of different costs per megawatt/hour from Finland:

Nuclear 23.7
Gas 39.2
Coal 44.3
Wind 50.1
(I presume that peat and wood aren't major viable options in the US).

And of course the comparisons are on 8000 hours per year for everything except wind which only gets 2,200 hours due to wind variables. That means you need about 4 times as many wind generators as any other type since you can't get as much out of them as often. (Actually I'm not even sure that helps since battery technology doesn't allow for storage of such large amounts of electricity). Wind costs almost twice as much as nuclear power.


I would guess the local weather conditions and the state of technology would have to be factored in when evaluating wind. Also probably the quality of coal available for that comparison.

Seem to recall the hope that fuel cells will help with the storage question.

I'd guess that wind power is only good as a secondary, supplemental energy source. It isn't windy every day. Small turbines in everybody's water supply lines might be as helpfull.

Umm, its because it takes a lot of land for windmills to make the energy of just one nuclear power plant. And wind power is really bad for birds.

Not so much, anymore, I'm to understand. You can actually Google this stuff if you're interested in finding out.

Interestingly, I often see this response rapidly thrown out by people who are otherwise manifestly uninterested in talk of species preservation. Not that I'm accusing you of this, Sebastian, but the group of people who like to toss out "Wind power is stupid and kills birds" is unlikely to overlap with the group containing people who might say, "We need to protect bird habitats."

This tends to confirm my theory that, while nuclear power is better than the old coal plants, the much greater interest that conservatives show for nukes than, say, wind power is less based on economics than sheer spite. Sure, the government can subsidize energy, but none of that hippy dippy pollution free-crap for us--give us some old fashioned uranium, damn it.

Heaven forbid that someone might be an anti-fan of ethanol because, currently, it makes us more dependent on fossil fuels, not less. Not saying Cornyn is informed enough to hold this distinction; it's just as likely that this point of view exists because ethanol subsidies tend to benefit the corn-producing states. Come up with a methodology for producing ethanol fuel that doesn't require a boatload of power to distill, and I'll be a bit more of a fan.

than, say, wind power

Take a look at who's opposing wind power and where, and then we'll talk. I'll give you a hint: opposition crosses party lines.

For more on the ethanol issue, just go read the always excellent Engineer-Poet. You might search his blog for mentions of ethanol, or simply start off with this and this. He's also got some remarkably good discussions of energy storage methodologies for automotive use, among other things. E-P has done a great deal more of the math than practically anyone else doing public commentary on these issues, and (as far as I can tell) done it thoroughly and well.

I don't know if this should go in the stats thread or here,

One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters, was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle East in 2025.
link

I mean, if you aren't going to take stats literally, why bother.

lj,

Lincoln knew the reason why. Something about fooling some of the people all of the time...

FWIW, here is some data from last year from Jerome a Paris:

Electrical costs

The required investment for wind is less than any alternative except gas. There is also quite a bit of room for improvement due to economies of scale possible for wind since the components are shop manufactured and field installation is minimal. On the other hand the investment for nuclear is based on France; they have many reactors of one design built in the 80's and financed them with government borrowing. Any nuclear program in the U.S. would not start out that low in investment.

Wind is quicker to put online also, requiring only a couple of years rather than 6-7. Low investment rules now in the U.S. What you are likely to get if you do not build wind is not nuclear but coal plants by the dozens. This is in fact what is happening, AFAIK.

Corn ethanol is a possibility on the edges but the investment costs are big. Scrub grass or algae have essentially not left the lab stage as of now. Scale-up would take 10-15 years even if it turns out to be economic. They can probably be neglected as a factor by 2020. FWIW, my own WAG is that cellulosic conversion to ethanol will never look as good as simply burning the stuff to make steam. We'll start using trains again before we make the investment in scrub grass.

"Sebastian, but the group of people who like to toss out "Wind power is stupid and kills birds" is unlikely to overlap with the group containing people who might say, "We need to protect bird habitats."

The reason you raise it is because the instersection between people who hate nuclear power and those who want to protect bird habitats is high.

" On the other hand the investment for nuclear is based on France; they have many reactors of one design built in the 80's and financed them with government borrowing. Any nuclear program in the U.S. would not start out that low in investment."

But we are talking about a shift nuclear power when we do so. Therefore the cost of the first plant isn't the issue. The cost of plants in general is the issue. Nuclear power is about 1/2 the cost of wind power, has much less of an environmental footprint than coal (which it is somewhat cheaper than for all except the cleanes coal--which isn't the coal that would make the majority of the new power) and takes much much less room than wind power.

Sebastien, I think some nuclear power is inevitable. I'm just pointing out that right now no utility in the U.S. that is sane is going to pony up 3 times the investment for a nuke plant over a coal or wind plant because it looks better over a twenty year period. Low investment rules.

"That's just silly, though maybe you were making a joke."

More or less. It's tricky to do on the internet, particularly after swearing off smilies. I would be astounded if the uniformed SS grew large enough to take over the National Guard's duties. Hopefully, I'd be astounded from a different country.

Whether I'm an idiot like Michael Moore or an entirely different sort of idiot, I didn't realize that there already was a uniformed SS division. I don't particularly remember seeing people in uniforms around national figures, just guys in suits and sunglasses with wires sticking out of their ears and odd bulges, but possibly I simply assumed anyone in uniform was from the military and dismissed them.

I'm happy to hear that "events of national importance" has a legal definition. That does cut down on the possibilities for abuse, although the definition can, presumably, be expanded and "discrection" invoked.

FWIW, my own WAG is that cellulosic conversion to ethanol will never look as good as simply burning the stuff to make steam.

If we could only figure out how to photosynthesize the stuff.

"Do you think that is how most Americans understood and were meant to understand that passage of the speech, Gary? Really?"

Well, the whole speech is written pretty much at a 12-year-old level of sophistication. The whole thing is that simple-minded, simplistic, and simplifying, in every area and every phrase. I grant that that's probably necessary to be "understood" by Congress and the public, though I'd prefer a President who aims somewhat higher and sets an example for people to reach, myself. I'm hardly surprised that President Bush wouldn't go in that direction, though.

From today's Times, the obvious:

Economically, energy analysts said Mr. Bush's goal of reducing Mideast oil imports would have little practical benefit because oil was traded in world markets and its price was determined by global supply and demand, rather than bought from one country by another.

"If the United States was zero-dependent on Middle Eastern oil, but the rest of our allies among consuming nations were just as dependent, then a disruption anywhere is a price increase everywhere," said Lawrence Goldstein, the president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, a policy analysis group in New York.

Digressively, I'm completely with you on this, by the way:
Of course, before futzing around with subsidies we should be talking about a carbon tax, cap and trade, replacing those ridiculous midwestern coal plants, raising the CAFE standards--internalize the externalities & let the market work.
But, as so many have pointed out, admitting you have a problem is the first of the Twelve Steps, so Bush at least made a valuable baby-step with the "America is addicted to [Middle Eastern] Oil" line (although we only get somewhere around 8-9% of our oil from the Mideast, anyway; it's Europe and Japan that take most of it; the distribution is pretty much a matter of oil-line and tanker logistics, as well as which flavor of refinery infrastructure you've built to deal with which flavor of crude).

DaveC notes: "It isn't windy every day."

It is in some places, and those places are where you want to build your wind farms. There's also some interesting research into airborne windmills.

Diane: "I would be astounded if the uniformed SS grew large enough to take over the National Guard's duties."

Of all the things to worry about, I'd rate this as up there with the likelihood that the Postal Service taking over the National Guard's duties as being far more likely.

And I don't think that's terribly likely. I could detail why the Secret Service isn't going to become the National Guard, but don't feel inclined to if no one takes the suggestion seriously. But the two organizations pretty much have nothing in common beyond carrying guns.

"That does cut down on the possibilities for abuse, although the definition can, presumably, be expanded and 'discrection' invoked."

I'm vastly more concerned about the way this whole nutty concept of "free speech zones" has become a norm. It's utterly anti-American as hell, antithetical to free speech, and if we're looking for signs of incipient proto-facism that can be expanded into yet further suppression of free speech, I'd point to that as one. I had the impression that the Constitution says that the entire United States of America is a "free speech zone," with only relatively trivial exceptions.

It's one thing to take very limited and reasonable steps to prevent violence at events, be they campaign rallies or "events of national significance," but another to simply disallow protest of any kind near them.

In a lesser way, the whole thing of campaigning only to hand-picked audiences where dissent or even unflattering questions have been weeded out isn't technically a violation of free speech at a campaign rally or even an official event, but it's pretty damn creepy. Compare and contrast how Bill Clinton dealt with unruly attendees at events, campaign or official: he let in hecklers, answered the heckles, and said people were only removed if they were actually disruptive and after they'd been allowed to speak.

That Bush has recently, with his poll ratings consistently in the toilet, finally, in his fifth year in office, done a couple of events before unpicked audiences, hardly makes up for his choices in his past five years, and the way he campaigned before that.

"I don't particularly remember seeing people in uniforms around national figures...."

No, they're not. That's not their job; that's what the non-uniformed Secret Service does; we don't, in fact, have a Praetorian Guard in the U.S., although Richard Nixon did come up with some Ruritanian costumes he wanted the Uniformed (I almost wrote "uninformed") guys around the White House to wear, but that proposal was laughed at to death before it was ever put into effect.

The Uniformed Division are the guys who stand around buildings and at entryways; they're fixed position guys, and don't need or have the skills you need to be out hunting counterfeiters (the original job of the Secret Service, you know, and still a main task) or evaluating crowds while moving, which is a heck of a lot harder.

They also stand on top of the White House with a couple of Stingers, by the way.

"...although the definition can, presumably, be expanded and 'discrection' invoked."

Discretion, but, yes, that's a possibility, though it's one that would have to be reported in the press were it to occur. However, the Secret Service isn't all that large an organization, and any expansion would have to be authorized by Congress. I wouldn't turn an utterly blind eye to the organization, but I really don't see anything particular to worry about for now as regards the Secret Service.

And I'm really not complacent about our national police/investigatory/armed agencies, honest. But I would and do direct vastly more concern at the unleashing of the FBI and NSA as agencies to pay attention to, at this time. It's also likely passed most people's attention that far more other agencies's internal protective units and divisions have been given guns and powers of arrest in recent years, though I don't have a list handy, and it's not something I'm particularly worried about insofar as creeping fascism, but more simply something to note and watch.

I'm vastly more concerned about the way this whole nutty concept of "free speech zones" has become a norm.

It's the norm here, too. Fascists are we, apparently.

"It's the norm here, too. Fascists are we, apparently."

I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure ObWi is not, in fact, a government. Or a free speech zone, and a good thing, too.

I'm not guilty of not paying my ObWi tax and having failed to fill out my ObWi tax forms, am I? [looks around anxiously]

Although there are times I find the place plenty taxing.

"But, as so many have pointed out, admitting you have a problem is the first of the Twelve Steps, so Bush at least made a valuable baby-step...."

Talking to myself, although not while walking down the street and yelling, I might go so far as to note that it's also a pretty large step for Bush away from his stances for all these years up to now of "Energy problem? What energy problem?" and "the answer is drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is infinite and will answer all our energy needs for billions of years to come!"

He didn't even mention ANWR this time.

Though like I said, the money he suggested is just restoring what he cut, and the money for wind was just a piddling few million, when stepping that up by two orders of magnitude might be nice. After all, we can afford to give $22 billion to the insurance industry, and deficits don't matter, so I think we can spare a few hundred million.

"It's the norm here, too. Fascists are we, apparently."

I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure ObWi is not, in fact, a government. Or a free speech zone, and a good thing, too.

I'm not guilty of not paying my ObWi tax and having failed to fill out my ObWi tax forms, am I? [looks around anxiously]

Although there are times I find the place plenty taxing.

"But, as so many have pointed out, admitting you have a problem is the first of the Twelve Steps, so Bush at least made a valuable baby-step...."

Talking to myself, although not while walking down the street and yelling, I might go so far as to note that it's also a pretty large step for Bush away from his stances for all these years up to now of "Energy problem? What energy problem?" and "the answer is drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is infinite and will answer all our energy needs for billions of years to come!"

He didn't even mention ANWR this time.

Though like I said, the money he suggested is just restoring what he cut, and the money for wind was just a piddling few million, when stepping that up by two orders of magnitude might be nice. After all, we can afford to give $22 billion to the insurance industry, and deficits don't matter, so I think we can spare a few hundred million.

Gary: I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure ObWi is not, in fact, a government.

Correct, this is not a government. Nor, it should go without saying, is the SOTU address a government. Now, we could discuss the possibility for there being some perfectly good reasons for having certain rules in place while the government executes its various functions, or we could pretend that the First Amendment meant that you could say or do anything, anywhere, at any time. Or maybe there's a third choice; I wouldn't be at all surprised if you had one at hand.

CaseyL: My problems with the antis are that, one, their concerns are pretty transparently racist

I lean pretty strongly toward immigration restrictions; does this make me a racist, or just make my concerns racist? Are the Scandis racist retroactively for not having open immigration? Or, perhaps, are there some perfectly legitimate reasons for restricting immigration that are not racist?

Questions abound.

I guess I crossthreaded, there, but so far what I posted has yet to show up.

"It's the norm here, too. Fascists are we, apparently."

I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure ObWi is not, in fact, a government. Or a free speech zone, and a good thing, too.

I'm not guilty of not paying my ObWi tax and having failed to fill out my ObWi tax forms, am I? [looks around anxiously]

Although there are times I find the place plenty taxing.

"But, as so many have pointed out, admitting you have a problem is the first of the Twelve Steps, so Bush at least made a valuable baby-step...."

Talking to myself, although not while walking down the street and yelling, I might go so far as to note that it's also a pretty large step for Bush away from his stances for all these years up to now of "Energy problem? What energy problem?" and "the answer is drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is infinite and will answer all our energy needs for billions of years to come!"

He didn't even mention ANWR this time.

Though like I said, the money he suggested is just restoring what he cut, and the money for wind was just a piddling few million, when stepping that up by two orders of magnitude might be nice. After all, we can afford to give $22 billion to the insurance industry, and deficits don't matter, so I think we can spare a few hundred million.

An update on Abdallah Tabarak, by the way, whom Katherine and Hilzoy have mentioned here before.

Yeep, sorry about the multiple posts. I kept getting various 502 and other error messages, and each time reloaded to see if the comment had shown up anyway, and it hadn't.

It's also taking forever and a day for a comment to finally get through, above and beyond the usual double loading to get the full page and the usual couple of minutes it takes to load each time.

"Nor, it should go without saying, is the SOTU address a government."

I missed something. How did the SOTU get into this?

John Boehner is the new House Majority Leader, by the way.

I missed something. How did the SOTU get into this?

I think you must have missed the part where I read "free speech zones" and thought: he must be talking about Cindy Sheehan being hauled off. Try to read my mind a little better, willya?

So, ok, probably bad thinking on my part, if you can even call it that. Like it or not, though, there is a radius around the president that is effectively (if temporarily in terms of earth-fixed coordinates) no longer public property. This manifests itself in various ways and to various degrees including restriction of freedom of movement, speech and freedom to bear arms (this last I haven't tried but I imagine that one's concealed-carry permit would probably not be honored close to the prez). All of this has been true for every president including the ostensibly non-fascist Democratic ones. And yes, it's probably getting worse, but I believe Clinton also did some escalation of this sort of thing.

"...think you must have missed the part where I read 'free speech zones' and thought: he must be talking about Cindy Sheehan being hauled off.'

Well, since if there's a "free speech zone" near Congress, I've not run across that information, and I don't believe I've yet ever uttered/typed that name you mention online, no.

I was faintly agog that if one read Memeorandun yesterday, there was apparently only one news story that day, and eight billion blog posts about it, but not more than faintly, since that dynamic is the downside of the site.

And it does evidence the fact that political blogdom is yet even far worse, overall, in being a mindless herd of copycats than the dread "MSM."

Which is why I try to keep my own blogging of front-page headline stories, or at least the top ones, more towards the minimal side than not. Who needs to regularly blog front page pieces, unless you desire a readership of people who don't bother to read even the front page of a good newspaper, i.e., ostritches (changed from a ruder word)?

But I digress.

"Like it or not, though, there is a radius around the president that is effectively (if temporarily in terms of earth-fixed coordinates) no longer public property."

I don't recall discussing security precautions, save in a penumbra via mention of the Secret Service. I'm fairly sure that mentally beaming political opposition is not actually physically dangerous to the President, although you wouldn't know it from the way the King-Emperor acts.

I'm also unclear on the dangerous properties of tee-shirts, and even of the potential physical danger of being asked a harsh question.

"All of this has been true for every president including the ostensibly non-fascist Democratic ones. And yes, it's probably getting worse, but I believe Clinton also did some escalation of this sort of thing."

These would be excellent points, in regard to that which I'm discussing -- handpicking only supporters to be allowed into official public speeches of the President, and not just campaign events, and only allowing questions that have been submitted in writing in advance, and vetted -- aside from the whole "being completely untrue" part of the "this has been true" assertion.

"...aside from the whole 'being completely untrue' part of the 'this has been true' assertion."

Allow me to modify that to grant that -- and this is competely off-hand, nondefinitive, and just my memory -- the first use of a "free speech zone" that I recall was at the Seattle WTO talks/riots in 1999, and was done at the direction of Democratic Mayor Paul Schell, likely at federal suggestion/direction. But a) it's one thing to try to stop riots, and another to keep protestors miles away from, and utterly out of the sight of the King/President/Emperor; b) George W. Bush has pretty much never not used them that way; and c) I was, as I said, speaking as much about President Bush's unparalleled record of being unwilling to speak in front of any audience that hasn't been triple-checked to allow only friendly questions, until the last month or so, when his poll ratings for months have been consistently down in the thirties and forties for approval. As I said, Clinton's approach was not remotely like this, nor any past President's.

The recapped version of SOTU 2006.

BUSH: Anyway. A hopeful society doesn't cut ethical corners and understands the value of every life. So I'm asking you to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning, selling or patenting human embryos, creating or implanting embryos for experiments and creating human-animal hybrids.

CONGRESS: *wakes up* Human-animal hybrids? Seriously?

JOHN KERRY: I've always wanted to have wings…

TED KENNEDY: Nobody cares, John.

BUSH: Anyway, human life is a gift from our creator, and he didn't make any weird half-human half-goats like you see in those Greek statues. So don't be trying to make any of those because we will stop you.

DEMOCRATS: Narnia wasn't real, doofus.

BUSH: So, now that I have crushed the dreams of children who have wanted to see a centaur, we move back to compassion and hope.

They named a panda after a Rush song?

I prefer to think they pre-named the song after the panda (:

And Jes, here's the true SOTU.

Pikers.

in the spirit of a totally open thread, i'll return to early comments.

I'm fully on board with the chimera thing, and think it should be extended to interbreeding between phenotypes of the same species so as to prevent such crimes against euphonia as the "Labradoodle." Do it for the children.

as the proud owner of what is apparently called a gewfie (golden retriver/newfoundland), i have to just accept that hybrids=good. while she may be stubborn and oppinionated, it only gives her more character. besides, have you ever seen a black golden body with a newfie head framed by golden eyes?

yeah, cute as all get out. at this point, i'm actually an advocate of breeding this cross true.

also, yes, i have a cat that barks. i guess it just happens....

Since we have an open thread handy...

Oil Graft Fuels the Insurgency, Iraq and U.S. Say

I guess this means Iraq can pay for its own insurgency.

I was first in the UK about 20 years ago for 2 weeks with my wife. I never got over the jet lag. I was back in the 90's for business. Both trips had memorable faux pas. "Two countries separated by a common language" indeed.

argh, wrong thread, sorry.

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