Is He For Real?

(Hat tip: several posts at www.nationalreview.com)

 

Yesterday, in an aside to our accolades regarding grants from DEQ to fund the conversion of nine diesel trucks to compressed natural gas (CNG) for fuel, we mentioned that President Obama was slated to announce federal loan guarantees for the construction of two new nuclear reactors in Georgia.  That announcement is all over the media outlets today, both mainstream and “new” media, and the conservative elements of the latter generally share both our support and our skepticism.

 

Obama has finally announced his support for something that makes sense.  Nuclear power is safe, clean, and even carbon friendly.  Why the skepticism?

 

Lots of reasons.  We’ll start with the form of his support, namely the underwriting of loans.  Rather than promoting an expedited permit approval process as other nations have done, he is simply guaranteeing the debt – because no other creditor will since it takes so long to gain approvals.  Such approvals must come from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has not approved the construction of a new nuclear reactor in over 30 years.

 

The Chinese, upon deciding to embark on a nuclear power program, visited the United States about four years ago to gain an understanding of the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor.  They purchased one, along with the specifications, have now reverse-engineered it and are building four of them along with 2 European Pressurized Reactors and 15 reactors of their own design.  Meanwhile, the NRC has not yet approved the AP1000 for construction in this country.

 

From National Review –

 

The NRC granted preliminary approval several years ago, but then asked Westinghouse to elevate a protective shield to guard against attacks by hijacked airplanes. (To see how ludicrous this concern is, take a look at this video. Last week I asked a couple of airline pilots what would happen if they crashed their plane into a reactor. “Planes are built on the beer-can principle,” they said. “The shell is very thin and they maintain their structure because the air is pressurized inside. Once that pressure is released, they’re very fragile. Trying to knock down a nuclear containment with one of these planes would be like trying to knock it down with empty beer cans.”)

Westinghouse returned two years later with an elevated shield. The NRC took one look and said, “Hey, that thing might fall down in an earthquake.” So it’s back to the drawing boards once again.”

 

Much as he is doing with domestic oil production, Obama can publically endorse countless nuclear power plants and gain the conservative support that comes with those endorsements, so long as he knows that the NRC will prolong the actual approval process.

 

Storage and disposal of the waste generated from the use of nuclear fuel is another reason for skepticism.  The NRC can’t issue a license for construction and operation if there is nowhere to put the spent fuel, and Obama just defunded the waste storage facility project at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.  That leaves only on-site storage of waste, which obviously has limitations.

 

But does it?  The French, who are years ahead of this country in terms of nuclear generation technology, have been “reprocessing” their fuel, to the point that they now store the waste from 30 years of producing 70% of their electricity in nuclear facilities in a room that is said to resemble a basketball gym.  And new technology being developed by TerraPower in Bellevue, Washington, will use waste uranium in “hyper-fast” reactors that continue to consume the spent fuel.

 

So while the closure of Yucca Mountain does not of itself assure the demise of a nuclear power program, Obama can probably depend on radical environmentalists to tie alternatives up in court for generations.  Their panacea is “renewable energy” in the forms of wind, solar, and now wave energy.

 

The Hayride has offered numerous articles dissuading the credibility of wind and solar power generation, and as recently as this week pointed readers to a feature at the American Thinker reporting on decaying wind farms that were no longer operating because their government subsidies had expired and they were no longer economically feasible.  And today, at USA Today, we find a report on the construction of a wave farm off the coast of Oregon.  This “power plant” will only cost $60million, and will power a total of 400 homes!

 

As reported in that article,

 

Wave power now costs five or six times as much as wind power…

 

and we know how cost effective wind power is.

 

But wind, solar, and wave power are environmentally friendly, and don’t contribute to global warming.

 

Mr. Obama seems unable to discuss nuclear expansion without associating it with legislation to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.

 

Per an Associated Press article,

The president cast his push for more nuclear energy as both economically vital and politically attractive to the opposition party. He announced more than $8 billion in loan guarantees to build the first nuclear power plant in nearly three decades, part of a nuclear initiative that could draw essential backing from Republicans.

At the same time, he asked Republicans to get behind a comprehensive energy bill that expands clean energy sources, assigns a cost to the polluting emissions of fossil fuels so that nuclear fuel becomes more affordable, and gives both parties a rare chance to claim common ground.

Doesn’t the president read the papers?  The science of global warming is now strongly suspect, to be kind.  And he could have read about it at (courtesy of National Review)

 

# No mention by the New York Times
 # No mention by the Washington Post
 # No mention by USA Today
 # No mention by ANY major U.S. newspaper EXCEPT the Washington Times
 # No mention by the Associated Press
 # No mention by Reuters
 # No mention by UPI
 # No mention by ABC News
 # No mention by CBS News
 # No mention by NBC News
 # No mention by MSNBC

 

Well, maybe he doesn’t know that a leading proponent of global warming has now acknowledged that the “medieval warm period” appears to have been warmer than our present day climes, and that he “misplaced” the data that supports his famed “hockey stick” graph.

 

An exhaustive investigation of the vaporizing credibility of the science supporting global warming claims is well beyond the scope of this discussion, but suffice it to say that the science is profoundly in question, is no longer credible, and is not worthy of citation in support of legislation to regulate carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.  To that point, the science is so unsettled that such legislation should no longer be discussed, but Obama assumes we’re uniformed in that regard, and continues to carry the torch.

 

To what end?  What are business leaders now saying on that subject?

 

Three members of the US Climate Action Partnership, two of which were founding partners, dropped out of the coalition yesterday.  ConocoPhillips, Caterpillar, and BP America indicated that the proposed laws were “unfair” to their industry segments.

 

The bills “have disadvantaged the transportation sector and its consumers, left domestic refineries unfairly penalized versus international competition, and ignored the critical role that natural gas can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Jim Mulva, ConocoPhilips chairman and CEO.  (from Breitbart,com)

 

Even closer to home is a dialogue in National Review from a reader in Houston (emphasis added) –

 

I attended a luncheon at the Federal Reserve Branch in Houston where one of the speakers was the economist for the Federal Reserve – El Paso branch.

His presentation mainly concerned Houston and how the city was positioned given the current economic doldrums (thankfully he was optimistic that the city would emerge from recession earlier than the rest of the country); however a main portion of the presentation involved his expectations for a very depressed hiring market for the next 2-3 years, meaning unemployment would remain stubbornly high in the rest of the country.

During the Q&A session, I felt compelled to ask the obvious question:  Did he believe that the healthcare reform and related tax proposals, the proposed cap and trade legislation and the consequent increase in energy costs, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the agitation for higher taxes on the wealthy, the proposal to increase corporate tax rates, the proposal  to increase capital gains taxes, the trial floating of ideas such as a national VAT and removal of the earnings cap on FICA, the more robust regulatory bureaucracy . . . did he believe any of these uncertainties were depressing hiring?

He stated yes, without a doubt and proceeded to relay a conversation he had with a local chemical company regarding their 2010 capital expenditure budget.  When asked what the company intended to invest in 2010, the response was ‘nothing,’ not due to a paucity of good opportunities, but because it was impossible for the company to calculate a rate of return given all the uncertainty over cost of labor, energy prices, regulatory mandates and the like.

There you have it – why we applaud the Obama administration for endorsing nuclear power yet remain skeptical of his sincerity.  His endorsement, in the form of loan underwriting, keeps the government’s finger in the pie, but does nothing to improve the process. 

 

His endorsement is tied to legislation to regulate carbon emissions, i.e. fossil fuels, but the justification for such regulation has been thoroughly undercut, and companies affected by such legislation are withdrawing their support of the efforts.  Meanwhile, they’re acknowledging that they will not invest and will not hire until such threatening legislation is taken off the table.

 

Finally, his endorsement of nuclear power is tied to economically disastrous and highly inefficient forms of renewable energy.

 

Thus, we’re skeptical.  If Obama wants our sincere and heartfelt support, he will provide for nuclear waste disposal, will take demonstrable actions to significantly streamline the approval process, will lay to rest the concerns about climate change legislation, and will reduce the subsidizing of renewable energy programs to National Science Foundation grants for fundamental academic research rather than extravagant, taxpayer supported operating subsidies.

 

We close with an interesting history lesson, and perhaps (the reader can decide) a parable.

 

Thomas Edison, known for inventing the light bulb, also founded General Electric for the purpose of developing the equipment and technology for the transmission of electricity.  He believed that this electricity would be transmitted in the form of DC, or direct current.

 

George Westinghouse, a less familiar but equally prolific inventor known for braking systems for rail cars, saw the potential for electric transmission, but was adamant that it would be in the form of AC, or alternating current.

 

Today, General Electric is in the wind turbine business (and owns NBC, Obama’s media cheerleader).  Westinghouse is in the nuclear reactor business.

 

Electricity is transmitted as an alternating current.  Westinghouse was right.

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