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Monday, April 09, 2007

Profound innumeracy put out by MIT

Matthew Yglesias writes and quotes

As outlined in the MIT interdisciplinary report on "The Future of Nuclear Power" I think it's likely that the solution to climate change problem involves greater quantities of nuclear-generated electricity and very likely that the solution involves a greater proportion of energy needs being met through nuclear power. That said, John Hood's view on how this might come about seems odd:

Nuclear power seems part of what I see as an emerging Left-Right-Center "deal" on climate change. No, I haven't given into alarmism. I still think the projections of global catastrophe from human-induced warming are unwarranted based on what I've read and heard. But if you don't seen the current drift of the debate, you aren't paying close attention. The elements of the deal might be something like this: 1) continue to remove restrictions on nuclear power as a future source of household energy; 2) raise taxes on motor fuels by a significant amount, fully offset by reductions in other taxes (state sales or income taxes would be my preference, as I'd prefer state rather than federal action here), which would discourage fossil fuel use; 3) spend the tax proceeds on improving highways and bridges, thus alleviating the nation's worsening congestion (which has a cost in air quality), and funding some new research into alternative energies; and 4) change state and local land-use regulations to allow more mixed-use developments that reduce the length of work commutes and make non-auto travel at least a little more likely.

Notice that Hood spends the revenues from raised taxes on motor fuels twice, since they are "fully offset by reductions in other taxes" and spent "on improving highways and bridges, ... and funding some new research into alternative energies.

John didn't you momma or some of your homeboys in the hood ever tell you that you can't have your cake and eat it too ?

More seriously, Hood seems to think that the Right cares about nuclear power (or maybe that would be the center) and would accept changes in zoning imposed on localities by the federal government and an increased gasoline tax in exchange for reduced restrictions on nuclear power. Give me a break. The ideological right is opposed to compromise on principle and refuses to admit that global warming exists. The not so ideological right follows the money.

For decades, new construction of nuclear power plants has been happening at too low a rate (0 per year) to finance enough uhm campaign contributions to seriously interest Republicans. I mean how much money do Babcock and Wilcox, Kerr McGee and Westinghouse have left between them ? One hint, I am typing this on a product of the owner of Westinghouse, which has bigger fish (3 eyed or otherwise) to fry. Babcock and Wilcox is a division of McDermott inc
(I've never heard of them either) and Kerr McGee is a subsidiary of the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. Big business has a lot of friends on the right, but formerly big business doesn't (the Republican party is no longer the Washington office of the railroad trust either).


Anonymous said...

Fair enough. I didn't explain in my post that the "deal" would be to agree to offset the foregone sales or income taxes with lower spending on, says, corporate or agriculture subsidies. That would essentially transfer budget authority from relatively ineffective or even counterproductive spending to useful infrastructure investment.

Gerry Wolff said...

There is absolutely no need for nuclear power in the US because there is a simple mature technology that can deliver huge amounts of clean energy without any of the headaches of nuclear power.

I refer to 'concentrating solar power' (CSP), the simple but effective technique of concentrating sunlight using mirrors to create heat, and then using the heat to raise steam and drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station. It is possible to store solar heat in melted salts so that electricity generation may continue at night or on cloudy days. This technology has been generating electricity successfully in California since 1985 and half a million Californians currently get their electricity from this source. CSP plants are now being planned or built in many parts of the world.

CSP works best in hot deserts and, of course, these are not always nearby! But it is feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity over very long distances using highly-efficient 'HVDC' transmission lines. With transmission losses at about 3% per 1000 km, solar electricity may be transmitted to anywhere in the US and Canada too. A recent report from the American Solar Energy Society says that CSP plants in the south western states of the US "could provide nearly 7,000 GW of capacity, or ***about seven times the current total US electric capacity***" (emphasis added).

In the 'TRANS-CSP' report commissioned by the German government, it is estimated that CSP electricity, imported from North Africa and the Middle East, could become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe, including the cost of transmission. A large-scale HVDC transmission grid has also been proposed by Airtricity as a means of optimising the use of wind power throughout Europe.

Further information about CSP may be found at and . Copies of the TRANS-CSP report may be downloaded from . The many problems associated with nuclear power are summarised at .

Robert said...

Dear John Hood
Thanks for explaining and big thanks for commenting on my humble (wrong word) modest (uh uh) low traffic blog.

Dear Gerrywolff

Thanks for the excellent comment. I didn't no CSP was so advanced (I last remember it as a Carter administration pilot project). I should have thought of how heat can be stored.

I still think that nuclear power generation can be made safe with new technology (modular pebble bed reactors). I think that would also be useful for waste disposal.

I don't think there is a need to choose.

Also I really like algae in tubes from greenfuel