« Tyranny | Main | Reefer Madness »

February 08, 2008

Comments

"By the way, no link, but the last estimate I read put the SA pebble bed prototype up around $7000/kw investment. (Compared to a coal burner of $1500/kw). Nobody in their right mind will ever build a lot of those."

Projecting the cost of a prototype onto a hypothetical standardized production model seems questionable.

I'm going to comment once on nuclear power, and otherwise try not to, because I don't have the technical expertise to make a sustained argument, and thus I won't.

But for the record, I'm pretty sympathetic to examining the possibilities of building new nuclear power plants of a standardized design.

The lack of standardization was one of the many insane parts of the earlier waves of U.S. nuclear power plants, along with innumerable other design and safety issues.

Nonetheless, we have some 100+ nuclear power plants running the U.S. longer than I've been alive, with no one dead. France has a far more impressive record. It's more than you can say for what coal mining has brought us.

Wind and sun aren't available at all locations 100% of the time.

Disposal into the ground at a single site poses a danger at, at most, a single site on the planet. There are plenty of dangerous sites on the planet; the overall addition doesn't strike me as apt to lead to a tribe of mutants fighting a planet of the apes, and I'm not inclined to worry that much about the trouble of ten thousand years from now. Call me over-optimistic, and I'll deal, since I read a lot of the comments here as overly pessimistic about the possibilities. Getting sufficient trained personnel isn't something I'm apt to believe is a real problem, for instance, if we actually care to bother to simply do it.

Generally speaking, I think there are sound reasons to be cautious about fission reactors, but there's also a lot of knee-jerk rejection.

But I'm not going to argue engineering, or get into a back and forth on the details. I'm just mentioning, in case anyone is interested, that I think there is, in fact, a good case for carefully moving ahead on some further nuclear power production development, rather than dismissing it out of hand. Neither wind nor sun nor geothermal will be able to supply a majority of our power needs any time in the near or midterm, according to any possible projection I've seen.

I'm not apt to respond to questions on the topic; I'll sit back and let y'all have it out with each other.

All I have to say about the ad is that I kept waiting for Will Ferrell or Andy Dick to show up. Nuff said.

Many thanks to all involved for the very informative nuclear and other power subthread.

"Orthodoz"?

Yes, a little known but remarkable sect, they refer to themselves as "God's Sleepy People".

Thanks -

I'm not in the target demographic but I hang out with a lot of people of the appropriate age -- yay grad school! -- and I think that a substantial majority would find Hillary's ad lame, with a non-negligible minority find it hilarious as kitsch. Neither reaction is what she'd be going for, though.

Also, in re Schuster's remark, I'm guessing (based on what little I've seen of him) that nick's explanation is correct: he was trying to be hip and failed utterly. Much like Hillary's ad, come to think of it. There are many acceptable uses of "pimp" nowadays (sorry, Bruce) -- nick covers the basics here [go nick go!] -- and Schuster looks like he went for one and missed. I've never seen in him the barely-repressed misogyny and absolute Clinton-hatred I've seen in Mathews, whose continued employment mystifies me. The only way he's getting off the air, though, will be if a sufficient number of MSNBC's target demographics complain both to them and their advertisers; I have no idea who or how, though.

"Yes, a little known but remarkable sect, they refer to themselves as 'God's Sleepy People'."

Ah, yes, and they deeply resent the heretical "NoDoz" breakaway members. Thanks, Russell!

I may be more Orthodoz than I had realized.

But sometimes I stay awake for marathon sessions of days, just to feel dirty and to do the forbidden.

And my insomnia makes it hard for me to fulfill all the rituals.

But our Grand Rebbe, who is permanently in a coma, of course, sets the example for all of us. Why, all his children are also all in comas, they're so respectful and religious!

And now it's one of the five daily times for napping. Back soon!

Yup. Unintended consequences. Must.Resist.GW.comments…

OCSteve...sigh. Haven't we been through this on TiO? Many people (like me) who believe that GW is a serious problem also believe that corn based ethanol is very very bad.


Not often I disagree with you, but let the cities run everything?

That would be democracy. I'm unclear on why someone in Wyoming deserves many more votes than someone in California. Perhaps because they love America more?

Yes, a little known but remarkable sect, they refer to themselves as 'God's Sleepy People'

Hmm...Do they accept converts or is this one of those religions you have to be born into?

While we're picking on this survey, I also thought it was interesting that they asked about "Jewish", "Moslem" or "strict? (strong? not sure of the exact word but I assume it means highly religious or something similar) Christian". The implication, to me anyway, is that people in the Netherlands think that Christians can be mellow about their religion but Jews and Moslems are always fanatics. Or have I missed the cultural implication entirely?

You guys are snobs. The video is corny & lame, but lameness & corniness is a proud presidential campaign tradition in this country. That said, I sure hope no consultant got some exorbitant fee for it.

About that Hillary ad:

1) The storyline they're using -- VH1 Behind the Music -- is for discussing bands that were finished by the late 80s or early 90s. Kids today don't use the term "shredding" very much. And they mainly listen to bands which are still actively making music. I don't think the target demographic would think this video was aimed at them.

2) The implication -- that kids support Obama because he's cool -- is insulting.

3) The pacing and comic timing are awful. This thing seems to have been designed by committee.

In summary: that campaign ad is full of fail.

Fully recognizing that prejudice is alive and well in many human hearts (whether in the US, the Netherlands, or anywhere else), the categories listed are, as it so often seems to me with questionnaires, not the relevant ones.

If I had to say who I wanted in high office, my answer not be based on categories like Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, etc. It would have to with candidates' beliefs about what it means to live in a diverse secular society. I would vote against anyone who said that civil/secular law should be made identical with their "religious" beliefs. This goes for atheists who might argue (as some have done) that parents shouldn't be allowed to teach religious beliefs to their children because doing so is child abuse.

Maybe some of the responses to the questionnaire include this reasoning mushed up in the rest. Even then, the replies would include some amount of stereotyping as to which religious denominations are more likely to include people who want their beliefs to run the lives of the rest of us.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17500316/>Amazon sugar cane (and soy), for example.

Uranium is nothing more than a heat source, really no different than natural gas or oil or coal. It isn’t that complex. Instead of generating heat from the combustion of fossil fuels, you generate heat through the friction created by the controlled splitting of atoms. Once the heat leaves the reactor compartment, nuclear plants are identical to convention plants. I’d be happy to get into any level of detail on this.

The magical ‘upkeep’ or ‘recurring’ costs associated with nuclear plants are no different than those associated with conventional plants (other than excessive government regulation based mostly around irrational fears, see above). I’d ask to what upkeep and recurring costs people are referring.

@Bill:

Chernobyl.

Disposal.

Radiation sickness and deaths in the mining process.

Coal sucks too, I'm willing to stipulate.

But please, don't go into any further level of detail.

Dianne, the thing about "Christian" in a highly secularized European country is that it is something most people were born into (no denomination hopping like in the US), and regular Christians are people who go to church to marry, and for funerals.

The "strict" ones display their religious affiliation in some additional way and appear to take it seriously. In that way they are in the same class as observant muslims etc. They take their direction in life from religious teachings more than from the observable and changing reality. This is (seen as) a questionable trait for politicians.

Gary, I took dutchmarbel's explanation to mean that the words "Christian", "Muslim", and "Jewish" refer to people who are serious observers of one of those faiths. People who are secular in orientation, no matter what their background, might not bother the people responding in that poll, but if they take their religion seriously then it's a problem. Which might be an anti-religious bias, though again it might not. I'm a believing Christian but there are many fellow Christians whose religious beliefs regarding certain political issues bother me a great deal, to the point where I would not want them in office. I might be among those who might be among those rejecting a "very Christian" politician in that poll, depending on what meaning I thought I was supposed to assign to the phrase "very Christian".

Now of course that may not be what dutchmarbel meant and even if it is, it might not be what the poll responders meant. Or some of them might be bigots and some of them only opposed to religious reactionaries.

Though that word "very" is potentially bothersome. Why distinguish between Jews and Muslims vs. "very Christian"? I suppose the assumption there is that the ordinary person is Christian, but not serious about it and everyone else is a nut. Though apparently the class of serious Christians are more whacked out than the class of all Jews, though not quite as scary as the class of all Muslims.

I think we need a better poll.

Kvenlander,

Note the frequent use of the word "if" in that article as well as this: "And while sugarcane cultivation is minimal now in the Amazon, some environmentalists fear growing demand for the fuel could push cane growers there." . Precious little cane is being grown in Amazonia. Hopefully it will not increase and if the growers are smart, they'll look to the cerrado instead. It's much better suited for cane.

The far greater risk is from soybeans, especially as the demand for soy products grows in China. Perhaps we can start a thread on discouraging people from eating tofu.

Donald: I agree, the poll could have been better. But in my (possibly biased) world view, a Jewish or Islamic person is just as likely or more likely (especially in the case of Jewish) to have been born into the faith and observe it only for marrying and burying as a Christian. Hence, my concern about the apparent bias against all Jewish or Muslim people but only certain Christian people. Even if I suspect that in practice, Gary Farber's biggest obstacle to becoming Dutch PM wouldn't be his religion, but his, er, frank and forthright (aka undiplomatic) way of discussing controversial issues. (Assuming, of course, he got over that little citizenship problem.)

Uranium is nothing more than a heat source, really no different than natural gas or oil or coal. It isn’t that complex. Instead of generating heat from the combustion of fossil fuels, you generate heat through the friction created by the controlled splitting of atoms. Once the heat leaves the reactor compartment, nuclear plants are identical to convention plants. I’d be happy to get into any level of detail on this.

Aside from the fact that I really doubt any of us needs the condescending 9th grade explanation of how a fission reactor operates (except, apparently, Bill, who seems to believe that "friction" is apparently involved somehow, which is . . . incredible*), this is astonishingly naive.


*I mean, seriously. Friction? Someone teach this man about neutrons and energy and such, please.

Instead of generating heat from the combustion of fossil fuels, you generate heat through the friction created by the controlled splitting of atoms.

Um, what!?

"I suppose the assumption there is that the ordinary person is Christian, but not serious about it and everyone else is a nut."

Seems like. I appreciate the explanations, and it's certainly true that a good part of it might be secular anti-religious feeling, but it still looks to me as if there's an inevitable implication that because you, to whatever degree, profess a religion or identity as a member of a non-Christian religious group, the question of whether that identity in any way prevents you from having identical political beliefs from the respondent isn't even worth asking: the assumption that it does is simply inherent.

This seems problematic.

Is there a difference in this from believing that a Catholic politician is unacceptable, because Catholics have to follow the orders of the Pope, or that a Protestant from a given isn't acceptable, because they'd have to follow that sect in some command that would interfere with their political judgment, other than that in this case, Christians aren't having those assumptions made about them unless they're "strong" Christians?

That is, if such assumptions were still being made today, in Holland, or in a hypothetical country, if we prefer, about Christians, regardless of what they actually believe, would that be any different?

I'm not asking because I think Donald or anyone is disagreeing with me: I'm asking to see if others might have other enlightening observations and perhaps corrections.

To clarify, the binding energy is released from the Uranium, in the form of fission products moving away from each other quickly. The fission products are slowed through interactions with other matter (AKA ‘friction’), which gives off heat, which is used to warm water, which is used to create steam, which makes turbines spin.

Chernobyl and disposal were covered above. To check on Uranium poisoning in the mines, I’ve referred to an opposition fact sheet and their only arguments are:

1. Death rates are higher in worldwide Uranium mines than they are in manufacturing and construction. Which means nothing because mining is more dangerous than manufacturing or construction.
2. That ‘there is no safe level of radiation’. Which is a false and obstructionist argument. A typical nuclear worker gets more radiation from the granite in the post office than he does at work. The 5,000 mrem whole body limit has been around for generations.
3. And then the obligatory ‘dispossessing indigenous cultures and peoples’ argument.

http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/resources/edkit/21uramine.pdf

"Even if I suspect that in practice, Gary Farber's biggest obstacle to becoming Dutch PM wouldn't be his religion, but his, er, frank and forthright (aka undiplomatic) way of discussing controversial issues."

As a reality check, here is an absolutely typical example of my undiplomatic way of discussing controversial issues.

Judging by the Anti-Defamation League's surveys, it looks like Holland is not necessarily more anti-Semitic than the US. Irritatingly, they use slightly different questions for their US and European surveys, but the Dutch are less likely to think that Jews have too much power in the business world than Americans (11 to 20%), though more likely to say that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country (46 to 31%).

The magical ‘upkeep’ or ‘recurring’ costs associated with nuclear plants are no different than those associated with conventional plants (other than excessive government regulation based mostly around irrational fears, see above).

This is completely and utterly false. I honestly don't know where to begin.

I’d ask to what upkeep and recurring costs people are referring.

I'd ask that you try reading the 10+ point list of recurring costs that I laid out maybe 20 comments prior. I'll provide you with cites if you actually bother to respond to some of it.

I'd also respectfully suggest that you familiarize yourself with some basic principles of nuclear fission before you make an even bigger fool of yourself trying to discuss this. I really do mean that sincerely, and not as an insult -- I mean... "friction"? Wow.

Friction? Hmm, I always thought it was called radiation.

Randy: Shhhh! This is funny.

Remember, kids: friction is the engine that makes the wheels turn!

- From an article in my undergrad humor magazine advertising PHY 507: "Physics For Perverts"

Is Bill an Israeli? Because that all read like some second-rate Zion's friction, to me.

Bill, you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

Gary, part of the problem might be in the poll itself. Why ask about Jews and Muslims in general, vs. "very Christian" Christians? The responder might be led to assume that "Jew" or "Muslim" means "religious" Jew or "religious" Muslim. Secularists sometimes think all religious people are inherently irrational and while I may not like this , it's a different thing from antisemitism or anti-Muslim hatred. Also, the poll should ask questions that would distinguish between feelings about religious people who favor some sort of theocracy and those who don't and questions that would determine whether the responders think all people in a given religious category have the same beliefs about political issues.

All that said, the numbers are disturbing, which is why it'd be nice to have a poll that asked more precise questions.

I do find it startling that the French are apparently able to surmount the many obstacles that prevent the US from benefitting from nuclear power. Perhaps some profitable consulting work is possible. I note that the French seem able to have a nuclear power station up an running in 7-10 years.

I also love the cheery insouciance of "you just burn coal". I am British and have actually seen a coal-fired plant close up. They are very complicated, very dirty and also apparently somewhat radioactive. Admittedly they can't burn their way to China, but they do do a very considerable amount of environmental damage every damn day. You can clean them up considerably but it makes them (surprise) more complex and expensive to build.

People have a nimby reaction to nuclear power because they envision glowing green glop barely contained by cracked concrete. They do not realize that coal produces vast slag heaps full of heavy metals. I cannot cite it but I would wager that heavy metals contamination is a greater public health risk than radioactivity of any kind.

The US is blessed with vast natural resources and a petrol price that is so low that people use cars to cross the road (anecdotal, but yes I have seen that happen). Join the dots. The cheapest and most enviromentally friendly energy source of all is conservation.

The richest, most powerful, most technologically advanced nation in the world would be able to dunk this problem (as the French did) if there was any motivation to do so.

I think the categories of people "very Christian", "Jewish", and "Muslim" are all Other to "regular secular Christians". Jews actually do much better than muslims or christians in this poll.

(BTW, I'm not trying to defend the poll, just trying to explain the strange groupings of people. And I'm not defending the prejudices apparent in the results.)

By the way, Orthodoz are of course the tribe that reached Australia.

Oh, please, Chuchu. At least he got the uranium part right, and the splitting-in-two bit was pretty close.

"By the way, no link, but the last estimate I read put the SA pebble bed prototype up around $7000/kw investment. (Compared to a coal burner of $1500/kw). Nobody in their right mind will ever build a lot of those."

Projecting the cost of a prototype onto a hypothetical standardized production model seems questionable.

Gary: Besides the technical difficulties associated with the more advanced design, pebble bed reactors involve a significant ongoing cost due with fuel processing -- each spherical "pebble" is a ceramic nuclear fuel in a graphite moderator, as opposed to, e.g., a simple fuel rod in more conventional reactors. The pebbles aren't cheap or easy to make.

The magical ‘upkeep’ or ‘recurring’ costs associated with nuclear plants are no different than those associated with conventional plants (other than excessive government regulation based mostly around irrational fears, see above)

Use your common sense, please. Something as simple as a pressure relief valve cannot be vented to atmosphere in a nuke plant, unlike a gas-fired boiler. You can't change a pump seal without special equipment. Not to mention the fact that every two years or so you have to pull the fuel rods out and dump them in a pond. Of course nukes require much more maintenance cost than anything else.

The pebbles aren't cheap or easy to make.

Cheap enough? Easy enough?

I showed the ad to my local Youth Vote Demographic (age 18) and she said:

Hint: anything that is flagrantly *made up* is not going to improve anyone's image, because the image that comes across is, "I will make stuff up if I think it will make you like me". DUH.

I left the "DUH" in so you know I am quoting Actual Youth.

In conclusion: Senator Clinton, please never again give money to whoever thought this was a good idea.

That's true, Slart. At least he didn't claim that nuclear power comes from alien space bats.

I think that nuclear power is something we need to pursue in the US because I think it's the only currently viable way to replace coal as base load on our electric grid. I'm in favor of developing wind/solar/whatever, but none of those are really appropriate to replace coal plants.

And say what you want about nuclear power, it's a damn sight cleaner and safer than coal power. Burning coal is about the dirtiest way to produce power that there is. Mining coal is dangerous and environmentally toxic. Burning the coal creates a tremendous amount of waste, most of which we don't have to account for because we let coal plants use the skies as their sewer.

At least he got the uranium part right

Actually, he was talking about mined uranium, most of which isn't even suitable as reactor fuel (i.e., it's mostly U-238), and he left out, e.g., thorium and plutonium...

Cheap enough? Easy enough?

I feel like I may be missing a joke, but I was just trying to suggest one of the reasons that a pebble bed reactor might be much more expensive to maintain than other designs.

I'm in favor of developing wind/solar/whatever, but none of those are really appropriate to replace coal plants.

Uh, why not?

that a pebble bed reactor might be much more expensive to maintain than other designs.

Helium's gonna be a big problem, too.

Michael:

Hillary is now the Democrats' Rudy

The comparison is bogus. Hillary has about half the delegates so far. Indeed, as Markos pointed out, it is statistically very unlikely that *either* candidate will have the nomination sewn up before the convention. *That's* the problem.

I think the categories of people "very Christian", "Jewish", and "Muslim" are all Other to "regular secular Christians".

That's the basic problem: What about the regular secular Jews/Muslims? Why assume that all Jewish or Islamic people are religious (with some hint of assuming fanatically religious) but only some Christian people are?

You can clean them up considerably but it makes them (surprise) more complex and expensive to build.

The last time I spoke to a senior engineer who designed and built emissions control technology for fossil fuel plants, I was lead to believe that such technology is not a large component of the coast of building and operating a power plant. But it is possible that my father was lying to me.

People have a nimby reaction to nuclear power because they envision glowing green glop barely contained by cracked concrete. They do not realize that coal produces vast slag heaps full of heavy metals. I cannot cite it but I would wager that heavy metals contamination is a greater public health risk than radioactivity of any kind.

I don't envision anything of the sort and I'm well aware of problems associated with coal. It is more than a little arrogant to assume that everyone who disagrees with you about nuclear power is an ignorant fool who doesn't understand basic physics.

I don't think that an industry that has been as spectacular a failure as the nuclear industry has should be trusted with more massive subsidies absent some evidence of actual progress. What have we gotten for our subsidies so far besides additional future government liabilities and guarantees for decommissioning, cleanup, and waste disposal? We still don't have the advanced "new" reactors that nuclear power proponents have been hawking like carnival barkers for over 30 years. Why?

The US is blessed with vast natural resources and a petrol price that is so low that people use cars to cross the road (anecdotal, but yes I have seen that happen). Join the dots. The cheapest and most enviromentally friendly energy source of all is conservation.

So, how many miles do you think Americans drive each year on journeys that are less than a mile long? I'll give you a hint: its a tiny number compared to the total mileage driven by Americans. I'm sure it makes you feel good to bring up trivial facets of car culture, but it would be more useful to focus on the fact that right now, in the US, many people have no choice but to drive great distances. Lots of companies set up shop miles away from affordable housing and the only way for workers to get there is to drive 15 or 30 or 50 miles each way every day. That's the part of car culture that actually counts in terms of fuel consumption.

The richest, most powerful, most technologically advanced nation in the world would be able to dunk this problem (as the French did) if there was any motivation to do so.

I think that's more than a little naive. The French have been largely successful because they've built a massive centralized government bureaucracy cloaked in secrecy operating at high levels of professionalism. Americans really aren't good at doing that and our attempts at to replicate it in ways more congenial to American culture have been abject failures.

I'd also point out that the US has never succeeded in building a supersonic jetliner like the Concorde or a decent high speed rail system like the TGV. There are some things that the US is just not good at and pretending that America is a superior country in all respects is unlikely to lead to fruitful lines of inquiry.

I suspect that in practice, Gary Farber's biggest obstacle to becoming Dutch PM wouldn't be his religion, but his, er, frank and forthright (aka undiplomatic) way of discussing controversial issues.

Actually the Dutch are infamous for being direct and blunt to the point of rudeness. Conversations between Dutch and Belgian (circumspect and conflict-averse) parties are a foyer of cultural caltrops.

OCSteve:
Hilzoy: we'd have to apportion Senate seats by population.

Not often I disagree with you, but let the cities run everything?

Steve: Please think of a way to translate this so it does not mean, "let the actual people who live in the country run everything". That would be the nice interpretation. The not-so-nice one is, "let the non-white people have a share of the power in proportion to their share of the population".

"We still don't have the advanced 'new' reactors that nuclear power proponents have been hawking like carnival barkers for over 30 years. Why?"

Because of lack of political support. Yes, it would require public investment in one form or another.

It's not a technical question, and neither is anyone claiming the free market will be sufficient.

Not often I disagree with you, but let the cities run everything?

Steve: Please think of a way to translate this so it does not mean, "let the actual people who live in the country run everything".

He doesn't have to, since it objectively doesn't mean that.

The content is irrelevant. In the form "Let X be A," "Not-x should therefore be A" is a logically fallacy. It simply doesn't logically follow.

So there's no need for Steve to alter what he wrote, to make clear that it doesn't mean what it couldn't logically mean.

Here's a very handy chart outlining the electoral college imbalance and how heavily it favors rural states -- the bottom line is that a vote in Wyoming counts for over three times as much as a vote in California. That's a big gap.

I should also say that I don't think it's helpful to impute racism as a default explanation when a perfectly non-racist defense of the federal nature of the United States structure of government is available.

It's inflamnatory and apt to raise high the emotional level of any discussion; I think it's unhelpful to make the accusation as the very first response unless it's absolutely clear it's an appropriate analsysis.

If you must, the release of Uranium’s binding energy gives off big chunks of the former Uranium molecule, particulate radiation (beta, neutron, and alpha), and electromatic radiation. All traveling at high speeds.

The chunks and particulates interact with mass and create heat through friction in the fuel and cladding.

You may have me on that portion of the energy released in the form of electromagnetic radiation. It undergoes the photoelectric effect, Compton scattering, and pair production/pair annihilation. In the end though, they create heat as well. But that gets into Quantum Physics and the actual creation of mass when things get above 1.02 MeV.

Trying to keep things simple.

Coal plants are base load power plants. Base load plants run 24/7 (except for maintenance) and put out a constant level of energy. Base load power is usually 35-40% of peak load. Both nuclear and coal plants are well suited to this role.

There's currently no solar or wind technology that can fill the role of base load power. Wind power is variable, based on weather conditions and other factors. Solar power only works during the day.

Actually Turbulence I would not presume to comment on the veracity of your father. If he says that retrofitting coal plants to make them cleaner is not a sinificant cost then I was mistaken and rejoice.

Nor am I ascribing to anyone in this discussion the "green glop" idea. I do believe that, contrasted to popular acceptance of nuclear power in France many ordinary people in the US (ie the people in who's backyards we are puttin a plant or disposing of waste) have a "Simpsons" vision of nuclear power generation. That undoutedly makes deployment of powerplants more difficult.

I would be grateful if you could provide me with the statistics about US car use that you are looking at? Do you believe that current usage of cars is efficient? The location of work with respect to workers is of course a two-way street. I can locate on cheap ground out of town because I know that people will drive there.

Naive? Given the current US adminstration I have to chuckle a bit when you talk about France having a "massive centralized government bureaucracy cloaked in secrecy operating at high levels of professionalism". Admittedly the professionalism is missing (sorry, could not resist).

I am not American, but you guys are famous for energy and knowhow. You have put people on the moon dammit. You are a very capable and energetic culture. How can you say "the US is just not good at" infrastructure/large projects. Look around at things like Airbus, TGV, GSM etc and get good at them.

Because of lack of political support. Yes, it would require public investment in one form or another.

It's not a technical question, and neither is anyone claiming the free market will be sufficient.

Are you saying that there hasn't been political support for nuclear power over the last half century? Or that there hasn't been enough?

Lots of countries have invested vast sums of public money into nuclear power and as a result we have...little to show for it. The first pebble bed reactors were built over 40 years ago, largely with public investment. And today, 40 years later, Bill is still yammering on about how we're going to have totally awesome pebble bed reactors that will solve all our problems, any day now, they're just over the horizon.

The idea of nuclear power is attractive, but the technical obstacles to practical nuclear power generation are very substantial and it is simply not the case that all technical problems can be resolved with enough research and determination.

Both nuclear and coal plants are well suited to this role.

So're hydro plants -- and geothermal and tidal plants if you can make 'em.

There's currently no solar or wind technology that can fill the role of base load power.

Assuming you don't count batteries, either chemical or kinetic.

Solar power only works during the day.

Which actually makes it uniquely suited to easing peak-load requirements.

Wind and solar also both have the advantage of local usage -- if you place them at the edges of the grid you essentially get a free 15% bonus in power generation based on transmission loss.

I am not American, but you guys are famous for energy and knowhow. You have put people on the moon dammit. You are a very capable and energetic culture. How can you say "the US is just not good at" infrastructure/large projects. Look around at things like Airbus, TGV, GSM etc and get good at them.

Nuclear power requires a lot of oversight, regulation, and attached bureaucracy. If there's one thing I'll concede that France is better at than the U.S., it's bureaucracy.

Some other aspects to the equation are (a) France is already committed to nuclear power and couldn't change if they wanted to, so part of the question for us is just whether we want to go that route; (b) France is a small country and doesn't have the same logistical problems we do with long-distance power transmission, and (c) the more centralized French government lets them cut through a lot of the NIMBY problems that are simply more structurally intractable in the U.S.

In other words, it's not as simple as "innovation" and "know-how." The issue is that what works in France doesn't necessarily work in the United States, and we need to consider what solution is the most cost-effective and logistically feasible here.

Being an open thread, fighting over paper ballots in Ohio.

(c) the more centralized French government lets them cut through a lot of the NIMBY problems that are simply more structurally intractable in the U.S.

Indeed. Given that the federal government is unable to even get a long term nuclear waste disposal site operational in the face of political opposition, I'm skeptical that we'll see lots of new nuclear plants springing up anytime soon. After all, doing so would require fighting communities that host the plants, host the fuel processing facilities and host the rail lines over which nuclear materials must pass.

The idea of nuclear power is attractive, but the technical obstacles to practical nuclear power generation are very substantial and it is simply not the case that all technical problems can be resolved with enough research and determination.

Erm, you are aware that there are currently very many nuclear power stations in daily operation worldwide? I seems to me that there is some aspect of "practical" that I am missing here. Perhaps a cost-comparisom with oil or coal prices?

I cannot judge how powerful NIMBY can be in the US. I do note that France backed off on the Superphenix project because the "environmentalist" opposition went as far as firing rockets at the containment building, so perhaps it is a problem everywhere.

My perception in this is that a French voter can be convinced that it is in the best interests of France not to be reliant on external suppliers of energy. The American voter, accustomed to cheap fuel, cannot. That leads directly to a difference in political will. I would call France's decison, given their lack of other energy sources, strategic. The US has not yet been pushed up against that strategic decision, but it will come.

I would be grateful if you could provide me with the statistics about US car use that you are looking at? Do you believe that current usage of cars is efficient? The location of work with respect to workers is of course a two-way street. I can locate on cheap ground out of town because I know that people will drive there.

Sorry, I have no stats on hand. I'm not sure what you mean by efficient though. Certainly, the current state of affairs is not one I prefer. But my whole point here is that preferences are a red herring: people in the US need to drive in order to work. They certainly don't enjoy blowing two hours of their day stuck in traffic commuting. The problems here involve issues of subsidization, land use and zoning policies, and white flight; they are not simple. We can discuss those if you want, but talking about how lazy Americans use cars to cross the street doesn't get at any of those issues and those are the issues that actually matter.

Naive? Given the current US adminstration I have to chuckle a bit when you talk about France having a "massive centralized government bureaucracy cloaked in secrecy operating at high levels of professionalism". Admittedly the professionalism is missing (sorry, could not resist).

That's my point though. When the US government engages in massive centralized programs cloaked in secrecy with no real oversight, disasters occur. We end up with SDI or the Iraq War or the continuing environmental catastrophe of cold war nuclear weapons production or a network of secret prisons in europe.

The French are better at this sort of thing. They have a lot more respect for bureaucracy as a profession and the quality of their bureaucrats is correspondingly higher. We've had Donald Rumsfeld and Douglas Feith.

Sorry to post in bits but "France is a small country"? It is smaller than America indeed, but you could get very, very lost in it. I fail to understand how the size of the country relates to the distance between plant and consumer, except as an upper limit?

I assume smarter people than me look carefully at usage, population centers and transmission loss and site plants accordingly, ie not too far away.

"The French are better at this sort of thing."

And that's why the U.S. space program never landed men on the moon, and Hoover Dam were never built.

But it's not a matter of political support. It would be wrong and questionable to say that it was, rather than a technical question; instead, it's a matter of fighting communities that host the plants, host the fuel processing facilities and host the rail lines over which nuclear materials must pass, which means that political support has nothing to do with it.

Erm, you are aware that there are currently very many nuclear power stations in daily operation worldwide? I seems to me that there is some aspect of "practical" that I am missing here. Perhaps a cost-comparisom with oil or coal prices?

Yes, there are many pressurized water reactors operating worldwide. Those reactors all have significant problems that Bill is hoping to alleviate with pebble bed reactors. I believe that a 2003 MIT study on the future of nuclear power concluded that costs for power generated by those reactors is significantly greater than costs for power generated by other sources.

My perception in this is that a French voter can be convinced that it is in the best interests of France not to be reliant on external suppliers of energy.

France is very reliant on other nations for its energy needs. As mentioned above, nuclear plants are good base load sources of energy but that is a double edged sword: it means that you can't spin up or spin down to respond to fluctuations in demand (and demand does fluctuate significantly). Consequently, you need alternative energy sources and sinks to provide surge power or to accept surge power when local demand falls. Where are those alternative sources and sinks? In neighboring countries mostly. After all, almost all of France's power is generated by nuclear plants... That's why a small grid failure in Cologne, Germany can leave 5 million Parisians without power.

Now any interconnected grid will suffer problems like that to some extent, but nuclear-heavy grids are far more vulnerable. That suggests to me that you can't build a viable grid based mostly on current nuclear technology: you need more flexible energy sources in order to respond to demand fluctuations. More importantly, getting most of your energy from nuclear power means dependence on other nations, just of a different sort.

The issues that you allude to "zoning", "white flight" I am not competent to discuss, better yet, I suspect they are not relevant.

What this comes down to is the impact on behaviour of the cost of petroleum. I pay about $8 to put a US gallon of petrol in my car. The cost of driving to my work is then a factor in any job I take. It then becomes a factor for any employer wishing to retain my services.

The original London train network was created by employers moving their employees into town to work as cheaply as possible.

Bluntly, if it was not so incredibly cheap for Americans to drive, you would quickly find very many ways to cope. Until that time comes (and it will) you will not create infrastructure of any kind. There is no payoff.

That is what the "cheap shot" about driving across the road is about: driving in the states is so cheap that doing silly things with it has no significant downside.

Being an open thread, fighting over paper ballots in Ohio.

I mentioned this in another thread over a week ago, with local coverage from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but I'll be damned if I can find the comment now. What's fun is to read the comments on this issue in articles at Cleveland.com. The Republican d-bags there are calling it an effort by the Democrats to steal the election via ballot box stuffing. Despite the fact that this is, you know, a primary.

Found it! I knew I didn't just dream it.

And that's why the U.S. space program never landed men on the moon, and Hoover Dam were never built.

I'm not sure why you feel the need to respond with such sarcasm. The discussion so far has been relatively congenial and well informed. But if that's your contribution, I won't begrudge you.

Yes, the US built a really big concrete dam. Over 70 years ago.

Yes, the US sent men to the moon. Before I was born. And as a result of that, we got what exactly in exchange? Lots of useful things I'm sure, but mostly lots of practice developing weapons technology.

But hey, why would you bring up our moonshot work when you can talk about the amazing manned space exploration feats that NASA has brought us today? The space shuttle is a national engineering joke; why the government would construct a vehicle that Richard Feynman believed would blow up 1% of the time remains unclear. Aerospace engineers across the country don't know whether to weep or to laugh when they consider it.

In the 1970s we had a single orbiting space station and today we have...a single orbiting space station.

But it's not a matter of political support. It would be wrong and questionable to say that it was, rather than a technical question; instead, it's a matter of fighting communities that host the plants, host the fuel processing facilities and host the rail lines over which nuclear materials must pass, which means that political support has nothing to do with it.

You may wish to reread the comment that seems to have lead to this response. I asked you to clarify what you meant. If you have no interest in doing that, just say so. Or do nothing. There's no call for responding with sarcasm though.

More substantively, I still don't know what you mean when you say public support. It seems that public investment is one component and I believe that there has been substantial public investment in nuclear power in the US and other countries.

Now the opposition of those communities stems in no small part from the technical problems. If we had awesome nuclear technology that produced dramatically less waste then I believe you'd likely see less opposition to disposal facilities and rail transport. If we had pebble bed reactors, then I believe you'd see less opposition to siting power plants in many towns. But we don't have those things.

In a country like France, the government has a lot more leeway to push past those technical problems but that doesn't change the fact that they exist.

Anything that is operational will have problems. Things that have not be done are of course perfect. I note that despite their myriad flaws the PWRs seem to be soliering on, producing reliable stable power and not killing anyone (except dear old Chernobyl of course).

You cite an incident that is, on a European scale a failure of load balancing. I accept your argument about the inflexibility of nuclear supply, but surely you must accept that there is a very big difference between dependency on a neighbour for load balancing (while remembering that France is the worlds largest electricity exporter) and depending on imports for base supply.

The issues that you allude to "zoning", "white flight" I am not competent to discuss, better yet, I suspect they are not relevant.

If you "suspect" that issues zoning and white flight are not relevant to the issue of where people in the US live vs. where they work, and driving patterns overall, "not competent" barely scratches the surface! The issue of gas costs aside -- and yes, you're correct, American drivers don't pay anywhere near the true cost of driving, not in gas taxes and not in road upkeep costs -- if the cost of gas in the US went up to something akin to what Europeans pay tomorrow, it would change very little, thanks to the issues Turbulence raises that you dismiss as not relevant.

When I lived in Northern Virginia, I had to live about 16 miles from my office. Driving, despite the fact that it took me nearly an hour every morning, was faster than taking the Metro, due to the amount of time it would take me to reach the Metro station -- five miles away -- on surface streets. Why didn't I move closer to work? Well, because then, instead of my rent costing me $1,650 a month, it would have cost me about $2,200, a price I was neither prepared to pay nor would have been balanced by any transportation savings.

Why would it have been so much more expensive? Because of crummy zoning which prevented housing above a certain density or over a certain number of stories. When you artificially restrict housing density via zoning, you make it more expensive to live there, so more people have to live farther away from their jobs.

So yeah, there's a lot more at work than just the cost of a gallon of gas.

The issues that you allude to "zoning", "white flight" I am not competent to discuss, better yet, I suspect they are not relevant.

I'll give you a brief explanation and you can decide how relevant you think they are.

My wife works near Washington DC. We'd like to live in the city and not own a car and take public transit to work, as we have done in Boston. We can't do that because she works in the technology sector and all the companies where she got job offers are located far outside the city, in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing except highways. So she commutes 20 miles from a suburb to her office by car. She could reduce her commute but her housing costs would increase greatly.

Why are there so few large technology companies located in cities? Because technology folk don't live in cities, they live in suburbs. Why do they do that? Because white folk in general have decided they prefer living in the suburbs than in the city. Why does that preference exist? In part because white folk aren't comfortable sending their kids to urban schools with lots of minorities and in part because the local-control property-tax funded nature of American education ensures that suburban schools are going to have far more resources than urban schools and no one wants to sacrifice their kids' futures by opting for a lower quality school.

As for zoning, it is difficult to build residential housing within walking distance of commercial facilities like grocery stores or movie theaters. That means that doing just about anything in the suburbs requires a car. So whole communities develop premised on the notion that every adult has a car.

These issues do not completely explain why Americans drive so much, but they are part of it. And these issues do have a large feedback component to them where constraints cause people to make bad choices which reinforces the original constraints.

Look, my wife and I want very much to live in a city and use only public transportation. We can't afford to. We have a lot more resources than many people in the US and if we can't do it, I can guarantee you that lots of others can't either.

Bluntly, if it was not so incredibly cheap for Americans to drive, you would quickly find very many ways to cope. Until that time comes (and it will) you will not create infrastructure of any kind. There is no payoff.

I don't think sweeping generalizations of such complex and interdependent systems are likely to be correct. If you wanted to dramatically lower the amount of driving people do, you would need to significantly increase housing density. Those sorts of infrastructure changes take decades to effect. There's nothing "quick" about the coping that would need to happen: infrastructure changes on this scale are slow.

I also don't think european-level pricing would make as big of a difference as you suspect. For a commuter that drives 50 miles each day and works 200 days a year driving a car that gets 30 miles per gallon paying $8 per gallon, we're talking about an annual cost of $5300. Right now they'd be paying about $1900 (assuming a gas price of $2.85 per gallon). Now $3400 per year is a lot of money, but compared to the other costs its not that large, especially when those costs involve giving up the equity accumulated in your nice suburban home as you try to sell when no one is buying because everyone is moving to higher density residences.

You cite an incident that is, on a European scale a failure of load balancing. I accept your argument about the inflexibility of nuclear supply, but surely you must accept that there is a very big difference between dependency on a neighbour for load balancing (while remembering that France is the worlds largest electricity exporter) and depending on imports for base supply.

I'm afraid I don't see this very big difference. Perhaps you can explain it to me in more detail. It seems that in either case, if your supplier screws up, your grid goes down.

You talk about France being the largest exporter as if it were only a good thing. I have no doubt that power exports bring in lots of revenue for France. However, France is dependent on those countries that import its power. If they stopped importing power, then the French grid would be adversely impacted because you can't spin down a nuclear reactor easily. France is dependent on importers.

Bluntly, if it was not so incredibly cheap for Americans to drive, you would quickly find very many ways to cope. Until that time comes (and it will) you will not create infrastructure of any kind. There is no payoff.

I don't mean to pile on, but this is the same basic trope as 'a free market will solve all our problems'

Speaking of public transport, when I was in the UK this past summer, I was shocked at how expensive it was to travel within the country. Is it just the privatization of the rail system or something else? Ironically, it looked like the bus system had online booking that lowered the prices substantially, but it required having your schedule planned out well in advance, something that was not available to me as I was chaperoning students.

I skipped the ad as I'm sure I'm antiquated.

To me, 39 and female, the "pimped out" comment was deserving of abasing apology. "Pimp my ride" and "pimp your daughter" have vastly different connotations.

However, as I the only person who thinks that, if I were a superdelegate, Chelsea Clinton would be extremely easy to resist. "Hi Chelsea...Your mom?...Mmmmmm....Well, I'll certainly think about it...Thanks for calling....Yes, yes, I'll think about it." It just seems an extraordinarily weak gambit. If Chelsea had extraordinary powers of persuasion, surely she'd be speaking at events? Set Cantwell on her fellow Senators, that might be hard to resist.

Why, all his children are also all in comas, they're so respectful and religious!

My girlfriend's in a coma. I think I like it.

===========================

I notice that the advocates of nuclear power have not answered either the high cost of mining Uranium, nor the need for cooling water in a world where clean water is becoming more and more scarce.

=============================

I think the ad is offensive to Bill. He really can play the sax. Now Ms Clinton is claiming to be as cool as him, but without the talent to back it up. Blergh.

I don't know, getting a call from Chelsea would be infinitely preferable to getting a call from Mark Penn. The key thing about sales is getting one's foot in the door, so I think Chelsea would at least have the advantage of 'gee, I wonder what she is going to say?'

I hope I don't get asked why I'm using her first name instead of calling her Clinton.

"...nor the need for cooling water in a world where clean water is becoming more and more scarce."

Since any water used in nuclear power plants doesn't need to be suitable/"clean" for drinking, I'm unclear as to the connection.

Obama Wins Nebraska and Washington.

[...] Mr. Obama received nearly 70 percent support in Nebraska, compared with 31 percent for Mrs. Clinton. He also had 67 percent support in Washington state caucuses, compared with 32 percent for Mrs. Clinton with returns tallied from about one-half of the state’s precincts. There were 78 delegates at stake, the largest single prize of the night.

With the Democratic contest so close, excitement ran high, as did turnout. In Nebraska, the Web site of the Omaha World-Herald reported that organizers at two caucus sites were so overrun by crowds that they abandoned traditional caucusing and asked voters to drop makeshift scrap-paper ballots into a box instead. Traffic backed up on Highway 370 in Sarpy County, south of Omaha, when thousands of voters showed up at a precinct where organizers had planned for hundreds.

In Washington, the Democratic Party reported record-breaking numbers of caucus goers, with early totals suggesting turnout would be nearly be nearly double what it was in 2004 — itself a record year — when 100,000 Democrats caucused.

[...]

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee won the Kansas caucuses by a wide margin Saturday, showing that he is still attracting voters even as the majority of the Republican Party is beginning to coalesce around Senator John McCain as the nominee.

[...]

With the Saturday events, 29 of the 50 states have selected delegates for the Democratic Party, according to The Associated Press.

Louisiana to come.

Wow, this is really interesting. Check this map, and observe that Obama swept Eastern Washington, the Inland Empire that's as opposite liberal Western Washington, with Seattle, as night and day.

Eastern Washington is geographically, culturally, and politically, near-identical to Idaho, and not at all to Western Washington.

I was figuring Obama to win big in Washington due to the appeal of an outsider/liberal type amongst Seattle-type/Western Washington liberals, and Clinton to take more establishment Democrats in the east.

But this is the results before the West has come in.

Huh.

Hilzoy --- the video is that lame and this assessment is coming from a 28 year old. I am not sure if I truly count as 'young' any more and part of that target audience, but it was damn lame. Obama might have been able to do the hyper non-ironic irony and do it well, but it is not Clinton's brand to advertise that way

Gearing up the machine against Obama. They're getting worried it might not be Clinton.

The Supreme Court case is a nice touch.

Wow, what a lot of response and I am falling off he edge of the day here...

More briefly than this deserves my slightly fluffy Parthian shot:

"Not compentent" mr T means what it says, I am not sufficiently informed about such matters to argue with you, but thankyou for the education effort.

So far the mass of stuff you are introducing seems to be symptom rather than cause. The "white flight" topic in particular opens a can of worm large enough to start many hares (yes I did mean to say that).

My work is either 18 or 31 kms away depending on the office I go to. I use trains and underground and sometimes bike the 18km one. This summer I shall certainly bike the 31km one. More to the point, my employer caps what they will pay for milage but has bought me a season ticket that works on every but of public transport.

Yes I would rather have the problem that I needed to waste some supply than the problem that I was structurally unable to fulfill a need. But I was not precise: France's partners will provide the same balancing services independant of the oil price that is the point. France does need to sweat the uranium price but most certainly not the volatile, rising, controlled by not terribly nice regimes, oil price.


Infrastructure changes slow. Yep. But as I always say to my small boy, anything that you do not get started with takes forever. Anyone raising your gas prices should also considerably improve your public transport. I remain dismissive of the "Americans can't do that" argument on infrastructure, with the rider that infra is a dance of government regulation and private provision.

Zoning. Hmmm. I can walk the shops easily and bike to bigger ones, though I might get the car out for a big weekly. It would need to change. Having huge tracts of housing with ne'er shop between them is just daft. But is it is a daftness that is suppoorted by cheap driving.

I welcome your contribution lbjp. UK public transport is like so much UK infra sometime great often cruddy. Not my poster-boy. Structural failure of investment over a long period. As to the trope, somebody had better start solving your problems and I would always propose an amalgam of regulation and innovation. Given that private enterprise has never been motivated asked to solve public transport issues in the US it might have something to contribute. If the question where posed and government put bounds on the acceptable responses.

Thankyou for a stimulating discussion and good night=morining.

All but ~8 counties in Washington have reported, and with the sole exception of Douglas County -- which had all of 85 voters -- Obama has crushed Clinton by more than 2-1 in every single county across the state so far, with 76% precincts reported.

King County, which includes Seattle, went 72%-27%-1%, with 83% precincts reported.

I'm unsurprised.

All but ~8 counties in Washington have reported, and with the sole exception of Douglas County -- which had all of 85 voters -- Obama has crushed Clinton by more than 2-1 in every single county across the state so far, with 76% precincts reported.

Sorry, but the EASTERN Washington vote (as you noted) surprised the heck out of me. Wow.

King County, which includes Seattle, went 72%-27%-1%, with 83% precincts reported.

Guess they didn't need me after all (at rehearsal and at auditions)...

Gary: "And that's why the U.S. space program never landed men on the moon, and Hoover Dam were never built."

Those are actually good examples of what the U.S. has traditionally been seen as good at -- large, ambitious projects that exceeded expectations -- as opposed to competent bureaucracies that do the boring, behind-the-scenes, nuts-and-bolts stuff, which we're really not all that good at. I mean, just based on your own examples -- look at the current state of the TVA and NASA.

There's a little bit of stereotyping involved here, but it's also not crazy to say that the U.S. tends to excel at entrepreneurialism and innovation whereas most European countries tend to be better at bureaucracy and maintenance. Think German and Swiss engineering, for example.

Also,

Since any water used in nuclear power plants doesn't need to be suitable/"clean" for drinking, I'm unclear as to the connection.

An open-cycle nuclear plant means irradiated water and a risk of leakage. Since plutonium is pretty much one of the most toxic things on earth, there's a serious concern about whether the runoff from a plant jeopardizes downstream supply or might get into the groundwater.

Even in a closed-cycle plant, the risk of leakage is definitely a concern, and then there's of course design problems to deal with as well -- increased safety costs money; that's the basic theme for this entire discussion.

I thought Turbulence might have been talking about the need for heavy water in reactors along the CANDU design, but I don't know. Regardless, pollution is definitely an issue no matter what.

"I mean, just based on your own examples -- look at the current state of the TVA and NASA."

Nothing to do with the larger point -- and I'm going to repeat that three times from now on, since some folks (not you, Adam) don't notice even when I repeat it two times -- nothing to do with the larger point, and did I mention this has nothing to do with the larger point? -- but Hoover Dam is on the border of Arizona and Nevada, and is run by the Bureau of Reclamation. I haven't heard it's in decline.

The Tennesse Valley Authority covers most of Tennessee, parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, and small slices of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.

I'm unclear what connection they have that you're making.

It says here, incidentally:

[...] TVA has recently made news by again reducing its workforce and by beginning new campaigns to improve its public image. It has also received acclaim from pro-nuclear organizations for its work to restart a previously mothballed nuclear reactor at Brown's Ferry Unit 1 (since completed). In 2005 the TVA announced its intention to construct an Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor at its Bellefonte site in Alabama (filing the necessary applications in November 2007), and in 2007 announced plans to complete the unfinished Unit 2 at Watts Bar. (TVA is the owner and operator of the Browns Ferry, Sequoyah and Watts Bar nuclear power plants.)
A google on "Tennessee Valley Authority" and "scandal" turns up the most recent references as 1986, although there's an early hit on a piece from 2001 on the need for reform. Then it's mostly references to Calvin Coolidge, and Teapot Dome.

Nothing via a news search, either. But I'm no student of the TVA in recent years, I must say.

Turb: ...sigh.

Yes we have been through it, and I avoid it here for the most part. I want to say again that I appreciate you engaging me on the topic at TiO. I felt it was a useful thread.


Doctor Science: Please think of a way to translate this so it does not mean, "let the actual people who live in the country run everything". That would be the nice interpretation. The not-so-nice one is, "let the non-white people have a share of the power in proportion to their share of the population".

Huh? You read quite a lot into a one line comment. Where I am coming from – I grew up in Upstate NY (way before HRC). Politically, we were (and they still are) disenfranchised. Can’t outvote the city. That’s it. No need to look for racial crap.

Gary,

Brown's Ferry 1 was the one I mentioned upthread that caught fire when employees used a candle to look for air leaks. Human error and fissile material just don't go together well.

96% precincts reported, and Obama took every single county in Washington State except for the the 85 votes of Douglas County, of which he got only 38% to Clinton's 62%.

Nebraska, 99% reported, Obama 25,986 67.5%

Hillary Rodham Clinton 12,396 32.2%,

Uncommitted 99 0.3%.

And Obama won Louisiana; a clean sweep of all three states, massively. 53%/38% so far, with 67% reporting.

OCSteve,

Sorry for sighing. FWIW, I greatly appreciate your willingness to engage on the subject at TiO and your patience in responding.


Are upstate voters really disenfranchised? As in, does NYC get a larger share of state money than it should based on its share of the population? Or are you saying that NYC voters are so numerous that the upstate denizens can't outnumber them?

Also, I should say that my first reading of your comment was similar to Dr Science's. I figured that I was misreading though because you've demonstrated that you're not a racist and it wouldn't be consistent with the other things you've written. My first impression came about because I have met people who use the phrases "urban" or "city dwellers" as shorthand for "blacks"...and unfortunately, the effect of the Senate (and the primary system for that matter) is to amplify the votes of white folk.

Sorry to post in bits but "France is a small country"? It is smaller than America indeed, but you could get very, very lost in it. I fail to understand how the size of the country relates to the distance between plant and consumer, except as an upper limit?

OK, first and most important thing to understand is that power transmission isn't free. You have to step it up to an extremely high voltage and then step it back down again to make it economical, and even then you still lose a significant amount of electricity in transit.

So, with that in mind: relative to the U.S., European geographic and population characteristics are way, way more conducive to centralized, grid-based electricity systems.

For example: to get power out to, say, West Texas, you have to run one line all the way out there, which means (a) building it, even though almost no one lives out there and never will, (b) maintaining and repairing it, even though access is next to impossible, and (c) paying a premium just to use it, because no matter what you do, the inefficiencies of long-distance power transmission means you'll probably lose about 15-20% of the power just sending it.

(Fun Bonus Fact: about 8% of all electricity in the U.S. is wasted in transmission.)

In Europe, on the other hand, two things tend to change the picture: (a) The population and infrastructure is much more evenly distributed, so there's fewer middle-of-nowhere rural destinations like West Texas or Nowhere, WY; (b) There's often an urban center "on the other side," so to speak, so you often have the option of importing your energy from a neighboring country rather than wasting money running lines out to your rural areas. There's nothing on the other side of West Texas but more West Texas.

So -- again -- the type of energy solution that works in France or Iceland doesn't necessarily work in the U.S., and all of the things mentioned in this thread are important factors (and yes, zoning -- and more specifically, suburbanization -- is a huge issue that absolutely needs to be accounted for in the discussion).

I find this kinda hilarious, for some reason:

[...] [In Nebraska] With 83 percent of the vote counted, Obama had 68 percent compared to Clinton's 32 percent, with 18,382 total votes for Obama compared to Clinton's 8,807. Fourteen voters were uncommitted.
My italics. 14 whole people in the entire state of Nebraska's Democratic Party couldn't make up their minds. You'd almost think most people were opinionated, or something.

Obama also swept the Virgin Islands, for what it's worth. No matter that Richard Branson now owns them.

(That's a joke, von.)

Politically, we were (and they still are) disenfranchised. Can’t outvote the city.

Even in NY state, rural areas are not disenfranchised, they're a minority. On the national level (which we're talking about), rural areas are a minority with *disproportionate* power. Why should each person in a rural state deserve *more* political power than each person in an urban state?

Sorry about bringing in race, Gary, but this is the US and we have no politics that does not include racial politics. It's sad, but it's true.

The US population is currently about 80% urban, 20% rural. I think OCSteve is arguing that in a strict majority-rules democracy, the urban majority would get their way 100% of the time, whereas it would be more fair for urban areas to get their way 80% of the time, rural 20% of the time. Am I right, Steve?

But what hilzoy is arguing is that we've got a situation that gives rural states *more* than 20% of the power, and urban states less than 80%. And the real losers will be minorities within the urban states, because they will be just as outvoted as the rural states feared to be. And here's that unpleasant racial angle, creeping in again.

Actually, he was talking about mined uranium

How can you tell?

Nothing via a news search, either. But I'm no student of the TVA in recent years, I must say.

Well, me either; I was probably stretching a bit there. I should have just stuck with NASA ;)

Slartibartfast:

Actually, he was talking about mined uranium

How can you tell?

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic, but the part where Bill said "'Extracting' the Uranium is easy. You dig it from the ground," was what tipped me off.

The chunks and particulates interact with mass and create heat through friction in the fuel and cladding.

Really? Neutron capture is the same as friction? You learn something new practically every day, on blogs.

Ah, well. Digging it from the ground is easy. Separating out the isotopes; that there's the hard part.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad