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Old 03-13-2008, 08:19 PM   #81
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Just google up safety statistics for all types of energy. I think you will find that nuclear is documented to be the safest on a death/injury per MW produced. How many coal miners die each year around the world?



Coal plants are allowed to spew their waste (including mercury) into our atmosphere. Hold coal to the same standard, and you would need to shut down every coal plant.

Add me to the 'tax gas' posters as the way to push conservation. Then let the free market devise the alternatives.

-ERD50
Coal miners usually die because of unsafe working conditions. Air pollution laws are designed to restrict emissions. In the event of a nuclear accident, emission laws are usesless.

As I stated in my previous post, we need to commit to finding and developing safer energy alternatives than to coal and nuclear.
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Old 03-14-2008, 01:28 AM   #82
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The best possible energy source would be a fusion reactor. I hope I live long enough to see a commercial model (and I hope world governments provide a few $ for research).
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Old 03-14-2008, 02:30 AM   #83
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I tend to agree, we could just let the free market work this out.
The only problem with the free market is that it is composed of businesses that will not aggressively solve the problem... and not in a proactive way. You are much more likely to have big business game it and take advantage of us.


Look at the subprime mess. It is another example of business gone bad. Sure some customers took the loans, but business wanted to take advantage of it. To the the point that the ultra-conservative Bush administration and appointees see that hands off mean the vermin come out from under the rocks.

Massive energy infrastructure projects will take government involvement. No one else will be able to fund it to get it going.

I have come to the conclusion that the Bush administration has been stonewalling the energy issue. I saw GWB in an interview. I do not believe much that comes from him. The program is not aggressive enough and it is loaded with oil industry subsidies.
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Old 03-14-2008, 06:39 AM   #84
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But what about plants that were built before these supposed improvements were developed? How safe are they? And even if there are ways to regulate these reactors in the U.S., don't tell me that ALL other countries are particular in regulating their nuclear plants, especially third world countries. Do you honestly believe that when nuclear accidents occur, resulting radioactive contamination respects national borders?
I'm not sure what any of this has to do with the building of new nuclear reactors, which is what was being proposed.

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The post by Insanity is right on.
I assume you read this part: "I don't like putting too many eggs in one basket, so the nuclear basket has a place in my philosophy. I'm comfortable with that because the newer generation of reactors are much safer and I see the safe re-processing and storage of nuclear industry waste as a political, not scientific problem."

Conservation and new energy sources are very important, yes, but throwing out the nuclear option because of concerns that something bad might happen is shortsighted. All technologies have dangers associated with them.

On a side note, here's an article outlining some of the alarming dangers of solar energy: The Hazards of Solar Energy
Nuclear fusion, people! Wake up!
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Old 03-14-2008, 08:22 AM   #85
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On a side note, here's an article outlining some of the alarming dangers of solar energy: The Hazards of Solar Energy
Nuclear fusion, people! Wake up!

Now that's funny.
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Old 03-14-2008, 08:41 AM   #86
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The only problem with the free market is that it is composed of businesses that will not aggressively solve the problem... and not in a proactive way. You are much more likely to have big business game it and take advantage of us.


Look at the subprime mess. It is another example of business gone bad. Sure some customers took the loans, but business wanted to take advantage of it. To the the point that the ultra-conservative Bush administration and appointees see that hands off mean the vermin come out from under the rocks.

Massive energy infrastructure projects will take government involvement. No one else will be able to fund it to get it going.

I have come to the conclusion that the Bush administration has been stonewalling the energy issue. I saw GWB in an interview. I do not believe much that comes from him. The program is not aggressive enough and it is loaded with oil industry subsidies.
Neither extreme of "all gov't" or "all private" is best for our whole economy.

Generally, private is best for most goods. The gov't is usefull for public goods, or when private markets don't internalize all the costs (pollution), or markets have some characteristics which prevent efficient competition (for example, local electical distribution seems to be a "natural monopoly" so we regulate it heavily).

I look at our present "energy infrastructure" and notice that it was overwhelmingly funded with private dollars. The gov't has been involved primarily in preventing or regulating monopolies and limiting pollution.

We've failed to internalize the national security implications connected to oil. That requires gov't action to adjust the incentives, but it doesn't mean that the gov't needs to fund a complete replacement with tax dollars.
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Old 03-14-2008, 09:16 AM   #87
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The only problem with the free market is that it is composed of businesses that will not aggressively solve the problem... and not in a proactive way. You are much more likely to have big business game it and take advantage of us.

Look at the subprime mess. It is another example of business gone bad.
Yes, sometimes the short term goals of a free market do not align well with what we really need long term.

But that is not unique to business - government is rife with it.

Govt - subsidies to oil companies.
Govt - subsidies to corn, ethanol, etc.

One could make a very long list. I'm not sure, but I suspect that Govt would loose if we kept a dollar weighted score. Neither system is perfect. As Independent stated, they both have their place.

Read 'The Omnivore's Dilema' to get an idea just how far reaching govt intervention can be. Corn subsidies have affected nearly everything about our food supply, and are probably responsible for much of the health and obesity problems in America today (artificially cheap supply of empty calories, the dangerous forms of e-coli are only found in corn fed beef ), and some serious environmental issues (corn uses huge amount of petroleum based fertilizers, pesticides, and strips the lands of topsoil and nutrients).


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I have come to the conclusion that the Bush administration has been stonewalling the energy issue.
I'll agree with that statement if you replace the words 'Bush administration' with 'every administration since Carter'. I fail to see what the other guys have done that was so proactive, even when Mr 'think of the grandchildren' was in the White House.

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Old 03-15-2008, 05:39 AM   #88
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I'm not sure what any of this has to do with the building of new nuclear reactors, which is what was being proposed.
Regardless of the state of the art of new reactors, the problem of disposal of nuclear waste has not yet been solved. An accident involving transportation of this material (such as a train wreck) could cause incalculable loss and lingering radioactivity. On the other hand, when a train or truck carrying, say, LPG or gasoline crashes, the immediate damage is severe, but not as long lasting as that involving nuclear waste products.
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Old 03-15-2008, 06:45 AM   #89
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Yes, sometimes the short term goals of a free market do not align well with what we really need long term.

But that is not unique to business - government is rife with it.

Govt - subsidies to oil companies.
Govt - subsidies to corn, ethanol, etc.

...

Yes Gov't is not the best approach... but it may be the only approach to get things headed in a new direction. Bidness can partner and take over a after things get rolling.


Subsidies or tax breaks to help get things rolling seems ok to me. Incentives for big oil to produce oil make very little sense to me. They are the cause of much of the pain... a little competition in the marketplace would do some good. Ethanol... probably with switch grass is the likely direction. The government could lease government land to grow the stuff and work it with some sort of competitive bid for short-term use to grow switch grass and cellulose based products for ethanol. This could be handled similar to tobacco to ensure that our food supply is not cannibalized for ethanol. If some regulated approach like that seems to not work then we can adjust. Any initial implementations will need to be adjusted because someone will not look out for the interest of all of us and game the system into the ground!
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Old 03-15-2008, 08:20 AM   #90
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For a site with above average $ knowledge, wouldn't this discussion be more effective if the unit cost or relative costs of conventional power, solar, wind, ethanol, nuclear were mixed in? I could not find a table or summary via Google that showed them all on the same basis - does anyone have one? From what little I know, the unit costs for solar and wind are 2-3X higher than conventional. And they are intermittant as has been established. Those who say let's maximize solar and wind and then use conventional power plants to make up the difference - I don't think you can efficiently stop and start power plants as needed when solar and wind aren't providing. I realize there is a chicken and the egg situation re: unit costs, ie at some point they will converge and investing in alternative energy R&D hastens that day - but the question is are we close enough to make it worthwhile. Consumers talk the good talk, but most aren't willing to pay a premium for anything, whether there is a higher principle at stake or not (if you don't believe it, go look at the CPI threads). Energy is clearly a big issue, and there are a lot of good ideas, but no way to resolve them if we don't start with some real unit costs, no?
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Old 03-15-2008, 08:22 AM   #91
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As I stated in my previous post, we need to commit to finding and developing safer energy alternatives than to coal and nuclear.
The French have been heavily dependent on nuclear for years now.

How many French have been killed in nuclear accidents?
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Old 03-15-2008, 08:25 AM   #92
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To the the point that the ultra-conservative Bush administration and appointees see that hands off mean the vermin come out from under the rocks.
What was ultra-conservative about the Medicare prescription boondoggle? What's ultra-conservative about unilaterally deciding to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a war under false pretenses? What's ultraconservative about runaway spending and racking up three trillion more dollars in debt?

You are mistaking "conservative" for "neocon," and they are not one and the same. IMO, Bush is not a true "conservative" in the Barry Goldwater sense, and neither are his neocon pals.
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Old 03-15-2008, 08:54 AM   #93
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Midpack, it just seems like there are too many variables for as simple a chart as you'd like:

• natural variables for wind/solar...

• bureaucratic variables for nuclear
are we talking new gov.-subsidized French reactor or Seabrook?.. are labor and materials costs similar from place to place?

• and various variables for "conventional power"
is that coming from oil, coal, methane, hydro? Mix and match? Where, when, who, and at what market rate that day?? What are the country, region/state, city incentives? regulations? taxes? subsidies?? What is going on at your particular oil/coal/methane/hydro source (Canada, Iraq, Russia)?

All these differ for every individual place on the planet.. Consumers wanting to 'talk the good talk' on a consumer level really can't do much more than to look at the area around them and make personal conservation, consumption and purchasing choices based on that.. often the local energy companies or state offices have pertinent local data available.

A couple of anecdotes:
In a small area of Northern VT electricity is dirt cheap, since they happen to get it from Canadian hydro. Next town over that doesn't have that service pays a lot more.

No Good Citizen Goes Unpunished - Freakonomics - Opinion - New York Times Blog
Charlotte SC residents encouraged to reduce consumption due to drought, do so, and see water prices go up.

Here in Italy there is a tiered pricing system for water and electricity (not sure about methane) by which you pay less per unit for everything up to a certain amount, a middling price for amounts over that, up to a price that really reams you at the third, highest, consumption level.


-----
I know that doesn't answer the larger political questions. I think it's hard to get REAL unbiased cost/benefit analyses on a lot of what gov.s and the "free" market really do. I just follow the general line that things that tend to make us self-sufficient are better, renewable is better, and reducing consumption where possible is better.
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Old 03-15-2008, 08:58 AM   #94
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For a site with above average $ knowledge, wouldn't this discussion be more effective if the unit cost or relative costs of conventional power, solar, wind, ethanol, nuclear were mixed in? I could not find a table or summary via Google that showed them all on the same basis - does anyone have one?
It might be possible to find such a table, but what we are talking about here is that the present unit costs (as we see on our electric bill, etc) don't fully capture all the real costs. If we want to get a real picture of the relative merits of various energy sources, then these costs might need to be factored in. "Other costs" would include environmental damage, military/geopolitical costs to assure secure supplies of that energy, disposal costs, etc. Again, some groups have tried to quantify these things, but it gets very political very quickly. For example, some people (maybe imnxpat) are very much against nuclear power and cite the waste disposal issue as a concern. Coal power production produces thousands of times more waste, but spreads it over hundreds of miles. This waste kills thousands of people every year, and reduces the quality of life for everyone. Still, apparently this is a better scenario than having all the waste in one concentrated cask that can be disposed of properly (because some day "something might happen . . .") So, how would we quantify the various perceptions of risk in this one little case?

The other potential problem (other than un-internalized costs) is the potential for insufficient lead time.

-Govt-sponsored rifle-shot incentives for a particular technology (hybrid cars, ethanol, etc) will produce boondoggles, waste, and probably won't get us closer to the goal. Look at the end-to-end energy use and pollution of hybrid cars and it's easy to see that a "regular" simple, cheap, efficient small car is far better for the environment--but govt (i.e. you and me) are subsidizing hybrid buyers and not those who buy a Honda Fit. Why? Because folks who wanted to "do something" using the power of government latched onto "hybrids as the next big thing. Same with corn-based ethanol.

There should be a cold assessment of all the costs, determine if the market is providing incentives different from those of our national interests, and then (if warranted--I hope it isn't), provide taxes/incentives to make the prices produce the result that is needed. And, to be effective, the incentives need to be predictable and long-lasting (otherwise investment won't flow to many of the useful approaches).
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Old 03-15-2008, 08:58 AM   #95
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Here in Italy there is a tiered pricing system for water and electricity (not sure about methane) by which you pay less per unit for everything up to a certain amount, a middling price for amounts over that, up to a price that really reams you at the third, highest, consumption level.
When I lived in California the electric utility did this as well. Those who put the greatest strain on supply basically paid for their impact on demand and overall pricing. At the highest tier, prices per unit were close to double the base rate.

It's kind of a shame we can't try this with gasoline and see if that affected demand in any real way.
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Old 03-15-2008, 09:32 AM   #96
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Regardless of the state of the art of new reactors, the problem of disposal of nuclear waste has not yet been solved.
But either has the problem of waste disposal from fossil power plants. So do we close them all down too?

What are we doing with the sulfur and mercury that coal plants put into the air? What do you think causes acid rain? Very convenient to just ignore this, but then say nuclear has to handle their waste. And remember, people living near a coal plant are exposed to much more radiation (from the natural radiation in coal that gets spewed out the stack) than the people living near a nuclear plant.

In fact, nuclear has and advantage in this regard- at least all that waste is contained and we can do *something* with it. It doesn't get spread all over the planet, making it difficult/impossible to deal with.

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Old 03-15-2008, 09:47 AM   #97
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Subsidies or tax breaks to help get things rolling seems ok to me.
Well, I might be OK with that also - but it depends *how* they do it.

What I don't want to see are incentives for *specific* technologies (like ethanol, hybrids, CFLs, etc). I don't expect my legislatures to be experts in technology, and I don't want them choosing 'solutions'. Even if they get some of them right, it is far too limiting.

The general approach of raising taxes on energy sources relative to their environmental damage would be better. Couple that with a progressive rate structure as ladelfina mentioned. That would push conservation, and it would motivate business to provide alternate energy sources. I'd much rather see a free market compete to fill that need, than to have Congress 'bless' a specific technology.

Just think of this ethanol mess. Not only have we not gained much from it, but it has raised costs in other areas and , more importantly, there has been an 'opportunity cost' - it has distracted us from developing *real* solutions. What a waste.

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Old 03-15-2008, 10:16 AM   #98
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It's kind of a shame we can't try this with gasoline and see if that affected demand in any real way.
I'd love to see that. Imagine if every licensed driver got a debit-type card each month. That card would be good to reduce taxes on the first X gallons and progressively add taxes for gallons used beyond that each month. If you don't have a card, you pay the full tax rate.

I wouldn't even care about 'fraud'. If you have a license, but hardly drive, sell your card on the open market - since people would still be paying, it would still push conservation.

I would get some satisfaction knowing that I could get my gas for $3/gallon average by limiting miles, carpooling, etc - and the SUV driving, leave it idling for 20 minutes types would be paying $5/gallon average. I bet that would change behaviors pretty quickly!

Again - phase it in over a period of years so that people have time to respond.

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Old 03-15-2008, 09:55 PM   #99
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Yes Gov't is not the best approach... but it may be the only approach to get things headed in a new direction. Bidness can partner and take over a after things get rolling.


Subsidies or tax breaks to help get things rolling seems ok to me. Incentives for big oil to produce oil make very little sense to me. They are the cause of much of the pain... a little competition in the marketplace would do some good. Ethanol... probably with switch grass is the likely direction. The government could lease government land to grow the stuff and work it with some sort of competitive bid for short-term use to grow switch grass and cellulose based products for ethanol. This could be handled similar to tobacco to ensure that our food supply is not cannibalized for ethanol. If some regulated approach like that seems to not work then we can adjust. Any initial implementations will need to be adjusted because someone will not look out for the interest of all of us and game the system into the ground!
It's not like the gov't is ignoring switchgrass, it's funding research. SDSU: Ag Experiment Station But you can see that it's a long ways away from prime time.

In fact, the DOE finances lots of energy research. The president requested $7.2 billion for FY 2008, which was above recent years but below the big numbers in the 1980s Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Reps :: Press Release :: Subcommittee Focuses on DOE FY08 Budget

IMO, the problem is that we keep looking for the free lunch - the domestic, environmenatly friendly, energy source that's cheaper than oil and coal. In 30 years and probably hundreds of billions of research, we haven't found one.

Meanwhile we import higher ratios of oil, other countries get wealthier and better able to bid against us, and oil country governments remain disfunctional.

If we want to do anything in the near term about oil (or about CO2, if that's your concern), we need to accept the fact that the replacement isn't going to be as cheap.

That's the first thing that we accept when we tax oil (or carbon). Once alternate sources don't have to compete with the cheap (subsidized) fossil fuels, private investors will commit dollars. And, I think, they'll do it much more efficiently than gov't.

At the same time, users will get more efficient - something that won't happen if gov't simply subsidizes another energy source.
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Old 03-15-2008, 09:58 PM   #100
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When I lived in California the electric utility did this as well. Those who put the greatest strain on supply basically paid for their impact on demand and overall pricing. At the highest tier, prices per unit were close to double the base rate.

It's kind of a shame we can't try this with gasoline and see if that affected demand in any real way.
It seems to me that it's much more efficient to tax all gasoline (actually crude oil) and then rebate the tax on a per capita bais. This increases the marginal cost for everyone, but generates a net profit to the people who use the least.
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