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  • Archive for the 'Environment' Category

    Give Me Land, Lots of Land

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th April 2014 (All posts by )

    This would appear to be the new theme song for the Fed-Gov’s Bureau of Land Management – that bane of ranchers like Cliven Bundy – as well as a whole lot of other ranchers, farmers, loggers, small landowners, and owners of tiny bits of property on the edge of or in areas of spectacular natural beauty, west of the Mississippi and between the Mexican and Canadian borders.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Big Government, Business, Civil Society, Current Events, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Law, North America | 4 Comments »

    The Old Shell Game

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd April 2014 (All posts by )

    Saw a bumper sticker today that said, “I’m a member of the 99%, and I vote.”

    …intended to imply, surely, that members of the 99% (based on income) have common economic interests on which they should be voting together.

    But a professor of environmental studies, on the one hand, and a welder working in the oil/gas industry, on the other, do not have common economic interests, even if their incomes are exactly the same. Quite the opposite..the professor is likely to profit from a more restrictive approach to energy infrastructure, whereas the welder is likely to suffer economically from those same policies.

    An inner-city couple concerned with getting their kids a good education does not have common interests with the local head of a teachers’ union striving to maintain antediluvian policies and consequent low standards, even if they are in the same income bracket.

    The game the Democrats and their media sycophants are playing is this: to try to focus public attention on generalized income-based class conflict in order to divert attention from the preferential treatment given by government to certain groups at the expense of others.  The hope is that if sufficient anger can be generated and directed at “the rich,” people will be less likely to reject those politicians who want to cripple America’s energy infrastructure, leave the public schools to continue their multigenerational wrecking program, etc etc.

    Posted in Education, Environment, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 7 Comments »

    Chicagoboyz Observe Earth Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd April 2014 (All posts by )

    Who says nothing is sacred?

    save the bags

    This blog post made from 100% recycled post-consumer bullshit.

    Posted in Environment, Leftism, Photos, Religion | 13 Comments »

    Spiritual Battles and Contemporary Politics, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 21st March 2014 (All posts by )

    A couple of weeks ago, I commented on an article by Joseph Bottum about the search for spiritual meaning as a driver of “progressive” politics.

    Comes now an essay by David Goldman–The Rise of  Secular Religion–which is in part a review of Mr Bottum’s new book, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America. Recommended reading. Excerpt:

    America’s consensus culture, Bottum argues, is the unmistakable descendant of the old Protestant Mainline, in particular the “Social Gospel” promulgated by Walter Rauschenbusch before the First World War and adopted by the liberal majority in the Mainline denominations during the 1920s. Although this assertion seems unremarkable at first glance, the method that Bottum brings to bear is entirely original. A deeply religious thinker, he understands spiritual life from the inside. He is less concerned with the outward forms and specific dogmas of religion than with its inner experience, and this approach leads him down paths often inaccessible to secular inquiry. The book should be disturbing not only to its nominal subjects, the “Poster Children” of post-Protestant America, but also to their conservative opposition. The battle is joined on a plane far removed from the quotidian concept of political debate.

    Closely related: Carbon Dioxide as Original Sin. Excerpt:

    Thanks to this new green faith, our smallest acts have incalculable repercussions. The world seems literally to hang on whether we leave the water running as we brush our teeth, take the subway rather than drive, or flick off the switch as we exit a room. The humblest objects are alive with meaning. Bruckner calls it “post-technological animism” (33). Environmentalist discourse, he suggests, is a variation on the Fall of Genesis: eating of the fruit of the tree of scientific knowledge has driven us from God-given Paradise.

    (link via American Digest)

    Also see Paul Gottfried on the lack of interest in logical argument prevalent among today’s leftist campus professors, and how this differs from the attitudes of their predecessors of a few decades ago. Indeed, if contemporary “progressivism” is a religion, it is not a religion of the intellectual system-building type represented by, say, Saint Thomas Acquinas or William of Ockham, but rather of the most emotionally-driven type of snake-handling fundamentalism.

    Also related to this topic of spiritual hunger as a driver of political belief: Arthur Koestler’s novel of ideas The Age of Longing, which I reviewed at length here:  Sleeping with the Enemy.

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Environment, Human Behavior, Leftism, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, USA | 25 Comments »

    Random Links

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st March 2014 (All posts by )

    -Will Israel Be the Next Energy Superpower? – A balanced, thoughtful look at recent developments from Arthur Herman. There is cause for optimism.

    -Wildlife photographer pleads guilty to violating Endangered Species Act – The gist of the story is that some guy was photographing “endangered” birds from less than 500 feet away, which apparently is a violation of the Endangered Species Act, and was turned in to the feds by zealous environmentalists who saw him do this. Of course he copped a plea. If he had taken his chances in court he could have ended up in jail for years. As it is he may still do time and will end up with a felony conviction and probably a big fine to make an example of him. The birds he supposedly harassed aren’t even rare, merely locally rare in Florida, and he didn’t harm any of them. At most he should have been fined a few hundred bucks and warned to stay farther away from the wildlife. But nowadays everything is a federal crime with draconian penalties, and you can’t fart in a wetland without violating some rule. And the enforcement agencies have to justify their budgets. He should have left the birds alone, but his punishment is cruelly excessive. Some of the comments in response to the article are remarkably heartless. Not just the EPA but also the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Park Service deserve substantial defunding.

    -Possibly my best blog post ever.

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Humor, Israel, Law, Law Enforcement | 10 Comments »

    Pollution In India

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The NY Times recently had an article about the high levels of pollution in India’s capital city, Delhi.

    Beijing’s air pollution has reached such toxic levels recently that the Chinese government is finally acknowledging the problem – and acting on it. But in New Delhi on Thursday, air pollution levels far exceeded those in Beijing, only without any government acknowledgement or action.

    When I was in India in late 2012 I too was overwhelmed and amazed by the level of smog and pollution in the capital. When you blew your nose, particulate matter came out in your snot. This photo taken below is out the window of our tour bus and you could not see large office buildings along the roadside a few hundred feet away.

    The tuk-tuk in the photo (it is a three wheeled semi-motorcycle used as a taxi) is green and yellow because those are the official colors of vehicles using CNG, designed to reduce pollution, which are also used for city buses. Unfortunately the streets are clogged with traditional gas powered vehicles and myriad ancient looking diesel trucks which more than make up the difference.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, India | 7 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 7th January 2014 (All posts by )

    A Winter’s Tale. An appropriate post given today’s temperatures.

    Saint Alexander of Munich. Alexander Schmorell, a member of the anti-Nazi student resistance group known as the White Rose, has been canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

    Deconstructing a Nazi Death Sentence. The transcript of the verdict passed by the “People’s Court” on members of the White Rose provides a window into the totalitarian mind.

    Despicable. US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Istanbul, compared the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing to the nine Turkish activists killed by the IDF as they tried to break Gaza’s naval blockade.

    Appropriate Reading and Viewing for Obama’s Surveillance State.

    Six Hundred Million Years in K-12.

    Some 3-D Printing Links.

    Aerodynamics, Art History, and the Assignment of Names.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Aviation, Christianity, Current Events, Education, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Israel, Obama, Philosophy, Religion, Tech | 1 Comment »

    Backroads in the Eagle Ford Shale Country

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Typical South Texas landscape – Taken north of Goliad


    This last Saturday was the second day of Christmas on the Square in Goliad, Texas. I had a table there, as a local author, but the cold was so pronounced that the whole event was rather a bust … but it did mean that folding up and coming home early allowed some time for taking pictures on the way back. This is a part of Texas which overlies the Eagle Ford Shale formation, and over the last five years I have noted a good many changes along the route, and in the small towns that we pass through on a semi-regular basis. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Current Events, Entrepreneurship, Environment, North America, Uncategorized, USA | 14 Comments »

    Attention Brits: There Are Expanding Career Opportunities For You…

    Posted by David Foster on 14th November 2013 (All posts by )

    …in the fields of chimney-sweeping and firewood sales.

    Some of this is just because people enjoy having and using a fireplace, which is good…much of it, though, is apparently because people can’t afford to heat their houses due to increasing energy prices, which is not so good.

    I wrote about similar phenomena in Germany, here.

    Posted in Britain, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Germany | 13 Comments »

    Pretty Gutsy

    Posted by David Foster on 24th July 2013 (All posts by )

    A new coal-fired power plant is planned for Georgia.

    To be built near Sandersville, GA. 850 megawatts, supercritical boiler, extensive equipment for reduction of SO2 , NOx, particulates. mercury and sulfuric emissions.

    It takes a certain amount of courage to embark a project such as this one, given that we have a president who has declared war on coal:

    “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can, it’s just that it will bankrupt them.”

    –Barack Obama, January 2008

    Posted in Business, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, USA | 21 Comments »

    A Winter’s Tale

    Posted by David Foster on 25th January 2013 (All posts by )

    “It is so cold in here,” said Gretchen. “The fire is almost out.”

    “I will go to our woodpile and bring more wood,” said Hans.

    “There is none left, Hans,” replied Gretchen sadly. “We have used all our wood that we saved for the winter.”

    “I will go into the great forest,” responded Hans, “and bring more.”

    “Hans!” said Gretchen with alarm. “The forest wardens will take you! I have heard that there are more of them, and they are fiercer than ever toward wood thieves!”

    “Nonetheless, I must try, dear Gretchen,” replied Hans firmly, “for you and for the little ones.” He put on his thin overcoat, opened the door, and stepped outside into the icy, howling blast.

    A folk tale from the Middle Ages?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Europe, Germany, Leftism | 20 Comments »

    Parody Has Now Become Impossible

    Posted by David Foster on 13th January 2013 (All posts by )

    A government-funded videogame featuring a black alien female superhero delivered to Earth to fight global warming is about to be released. The game was inspired by the artist’s “sense what we do on Earth impacts the universe − not just pollution destroying the ozone layer, for example, but our thoughts and how we organize gender roles and social systems also have impact.”

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Environment, Media, Obama, USA | 14 Comments »

    India Pollution

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th November 2012 (All posts by )

    In the US we hear frequently about the environment and how we are doing so much damage to our environment. It would be good for people to visit India to see actual pollution in action on a large scale.

    As we drove around Delhi, the smog was amazing, even with all the vehicles that converted to CNG from diesel (in this picture you can see a tuk tuk in “CNG” yellow and green colors). In this photo there are a couple of huge office buildings right off the road but you can’t even make them out in the smog. We asked our guide if the CNG over diesel made any difference and he said that in the days before the conversion “if you wore a white shirt outside it would be colored grey from all the soot in one day”.

    This photo shows a jet flying over a famous minaret in Delhi. You can see the smog there, too.

    I felt like one of those cartoon characters where when you cough “dust” flies out of your mouth. One of my close travel mates blew her nose and it just came out black. And we were in a tour bus much of the time that was just from being outside seeing the monuments (and then getting herded back in the bus).

    With the CNG and investments in public transport it seems that India is trying but the current state seems unimaginable to a Westerner. I really don’t think that I’d be able to survive in Delhi for an extended period of time since I have allergies unless I never left the house.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Environment, India | 16 Comments »

    Global Warming ended 15 years ago

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th October 2012 (All posts by )

    There is still considerable talk about global warming, or as it is now termed, “climate change.” California is about to destroy a large part of what is left of its economy by initiating a new “Cap and Trade” program that will spike energy costs and drive more employers from the state. New reports are casting more doubt on the reality of “climate change” and now there is more information that warming ended in 1997. The past two years have shown a definite cooling trend.

    The world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago, according to new data released last week.

    The figures, which have triggered debate among climate scientists, reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.

    This means that the ‘plateau’ or ‘pause’ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996. Before that, temperatures had been stable or declining for about 40 years.

    There is even new debate among climate scientists.

    Some climate scientists, such as Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, last week dismissed the significance of the plateau, saying that 15 or 16 years is too short a period from which to draw conclusions.

    Others disagreed. Professor Judith Curry, who is the head of the climate science department at America’s prestigious Georgia Tech university, told The Mail on Sunday that it was clear that the computer models used to predict future warming were ‘deeply flawed’.

    Even Prof Jones admitted that he and his colleagues did not understand the impact of ‘natural variability’ – factors such as long-term ocean temperature cycles and changes in the output of the sun. However, he said he was still convinced that the current decade would end up significantly warmer than the previous two.

    California, of course, is not going to wait to see if the trend continues with cooling.

    Oct 2 (Reuters Point Carbon) – California Governor Jerry Brown has signed two bills related to the use of revenue raised through the sale of carbon allowances, although details of how the money will be spent won’t be determined until next year.

    The bills are the first to address the estimated $660 million and $3 billion in revenue that will be generated during the first year of California’s carbon cap-and-trade scheme, which begins in January.

    The first bill creates a new account for the revenue to be deposited into, and directs the Department of Finance and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to develop an investment plan for the funds.

    That plan, expected to be released in the spring of 2013, will be submitted for approval to the legislature as part of the governor’s budget and will be reviewed and updated on an annual basis.

    It doesn’t matter that the state is going broke. Left wing pieties still rule California.

    Posted in Big Government, Britain, Business, Diversions, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Leftism, Political Philosophy | 7 Comments »

    Energy Policy (or lack thereof) Killing the Consumer

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 21st September 2012 (All posts by )

    Around a decade or so ago a lot of things began to change in the world of residential HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). What I am going to discuss here is HVAC centric, but can apply across any industry where the government can (and does) make rules that on the surface mean “well” but in reality, just end up costing the consumer bucks$$$.

    About five years or so, the manufacture of central air conditioners was mandated to be no less than thirteen SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating). The previous minimum was ten SEER.

    On the surface, this doesn’t appear to cause too many problems, besides cost the consumers more money on their initial installation, since the 13 SEER product cost more money (more raw materials to get that energy savings). Sadly, the engineering and physics (which can’t be mandated) told us different.

    From an article by Michael Prokup (sorry can’t find the link):

    Older evaporator coils operate at lower temperatures and pressures than modern evaporator coils.

    Without getting into too heavy of an engineering discussion, this means that basically, the new 13 SEER units won’t work well with the old evaporator coils that sit on top of the furnace. The air conditioning cycle uses condensation and evaporation of a chemical (at this time, it was R-22) to move the heat from inside the house to the outside. Moving from 10 SEER to 13 SEER changed the whole game. No longer could a contractor come to your house and simply replace the outside condensing unit – now the evaporator had to be replaced, adding a lot of cost to the job – especially if the inside unit was sheetrocked into a closet, or was in some other type of area that was difficult to access. Apartment building owners were also affected by this.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Energy & Power Generation, Environment | 30 Comments »

    Another Tragedy – Another Perspective

    Posted by Ginny on 12th September 2012 (All posts by )

    Borlaug saves, Greenpeace kills.

    Posted in Bioethics, Environment | 4 Comments »

    “In Defense of Everglades Pythons”

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th August 2012 (All posts by )

    Partial sanity about the environment.

    The included video interview with the journalist Emma Marris is interesting. She makes the reasonable points that 1) the environment is always changing, so determining a baseline for “pristine” is impossible, 2) humans are part of the environment and 3) many natural environments that we take for granted, such as Hawaiian forests, are populated heavily by “non-native” species that were introduced so long ago that no one now thinks to object to them. This is the environmentalist version of Saint-Exupéry’s observation that people who object to technology are typically objecting only to new technology.

    Why is this mere partial sanity? Marris points out that the pythons are here to stay but doesn’t seem to consider whether allowing people to hunt them might be a good way to control the snake population. But perhaps I am being too critical.

    (An earlier post on this topic is here.)

    Posted in Environment, Video | 5 Comments »

    Tearing it all Down

    Posted by David Foster on 12th July 2012 (All posts by )

    The fact that some environmental groups want to destroy existing dams, in the name of returning rivers to their natural states, is of course old news. Now, though, they have moved beyond the tearing down of dams and want to destroy bridges as well.

    And, in the case of the historic Stoneman Bridge in Yosemite National Park, it appears that they may well get their way.

    Environmentalists claim to have great respect for the works of nature. (Though–given the number of cars I see with environmentalist bumper stickers and the windows rolled up tight on beautiful days–it seems that quite a few of them want to minimize their actual contact with the natural environment.) But, all too often, they seems to have no respect at all for the work of human minds and hands.

    Related: Frankly, my dear, I do need a dam

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Politics | 6 Comments »

    Powering Down in Arizona

    Posted by David Foster on 12th July 2012 (All posts by )

    George Will writes about the the attack that Obama’s EPA is conducting against the Navajo Generating Station, which together with the coal mine that feeds it represents an important factor in Arizona’s economy and an important source of employment for members of the Navajo tribe.

    Will notes that the NGS provides 95 percent of the power for the pumps of the Central Arizona Project, which routes water from the Colorado River and which made Phoenix and most of modern Arizona possible. A study sponsored by the Interior Department estimates that the EPA’s mandate might increase the cost of water by as much as 32 percent, hitting agriculture users especially hard.

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Politics | 9 Comments »

    The End of the Air Conditioning Age?

    Posted by David Foster on 5th July 2012 (All posts by )

    …and of the entire era of reliable and affordable electricity?

    Is it hot where you are? Have you been enjoying your air conditioning? Appreciate it a little more after the power has come back on after an extended outage?

    The American economy has made air conditioning broadly affordable, even by those whose incomes are fairly low. But how many people are going to be able to afford their A/C if electricity prices rise to the $.70 or $.80/kwh range?

    Remember, Barack Obama said (in 2008) that under his plan, electricity rates would “necessarily skyrocket.” The only things that have prevented such skyrocketing from happening so far are (a) the unwillingness of Congress to pass a cap-and-trade bill, and (b) the vast expansion in supplies of natural gas–a key fuel for electricity generation–driven by advanced fracking technologies. In a second Obama term, neither of these factors would likely be operative. A court decision has now given the EPA the ability to do pretty much what it wants to do regarding regulation of CO2, and in an Obama administration, what it wants to do is to shut down America’s coal-based electricity generation. Also, the scale of the success of oil/gas fracking clearly took the Obama administration by surprise, and in a second Obama term there would be far more regulatory effort to tie the hands of this industry and limit the development of America’s natural gas resources.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Germany, USA | 20 Comments »

    Britain Revives Central Planning… for Electricity

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 3rd June 2012 (All posts by )

    This is the second of a series of posts on recent events in the world electricity & energy market. Here is Spain.

    Britain’s Energy Policy

    Britain has a mostly de-regulated electricity market for generation. One item that must be considered with electricity is plain old geography; Britain is an island and must generate all their electricity locally. Thus they can have costs either significantly higher or lower than those found on mainland Europe, because it is difficult to use arbitrage (in the form of transmission) to resolve price imbalances. Correction – Britain imports 5% of her electricity from France in a cross-channel cable. Thanks to commenter Jim Miller for pointing this out.

    Like most of Europe, Britain is in the thrall of the greens, and their favorite tool is to mandate a certain percentage of energy to come from “renewables” (wind and solar, for semi-practical purposes), while hounding coal on environmental grounds and nuclear on whatever grounds they tend to come up with at the time. Natural gas represents almost 50% of current energy today. This article from the Economist provides a good summary of the British market.

    While Britain traditionally has gotten much of its natural gas from local drilling, LNG imports from overseas provide a higher percentage today. According to this article, LNG imports represent 25% of British usage, while locally drilled gas has fallen by 10% from the prior year. Britain traditionally has relied on the North Sea for its natural gas and oil production, but these fields are in long term decline.

    In 2011, the UK initiated a surprise tax increase on North Sea oil and gas producers. The percentage of tax on profits increased from 68% to 80%, an increase of 12%, per this article. This sharp rise in taxation was a surprise under the supposedly Tory administration, because it is typical of more of a labor “carve up the pie” view of the world than one I would typically expect under the Tories that “incentives drive behavior”.

    This article discusses the impact of ever changing tax policies in the UK on investment in oil and gas rigs.

    The hike prompted furious reaction from the industry. Mark Hanafin, director of Centrica Energy, told the Telegraph: “the North Sea is the second-largest oil-producing region in the world after Saudi Arabia. It’s a national treasure for the UK. The government is utterly destroying that. I wish people would step up and say you just can’t do this. Capital is leaving the country and going elsewhere”.

    Who could have predicted what would happen next? Oil and gas produced since the tax hike has dropped by the most since records have been kept, per this article:

    UK natural gas production in the third quarter of 2011 slumped to the lowest level since records began in 1996, at 103TWh (terawatt hours), Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) data show. This also represented the largest year-on-year quarterly decrease ever seen, down 29.4pc on the same period last year.

    Now that the British government has dis-incented investment and damaged their oil and gas industry through erratic and socialistic behavior, what’s next? A central-planning, top down new “plan” for the electricity sector, of course.

    As summarized in the Economist article (which failed to mention the negative impact of tax incentives on natural gas’ decline, a serious oversight):

    Renewable technologies account for a mere 7% of current supplies… government pledges to cut planet-heating (ed – their words) emissions and get 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020… the industry regulator reckons that around $315 billion USD needs to be spent by 2020. Investment currently amounts to $6-9B USD / year. But the move to greener power in Britain must be achieved without infuriating voters already upset at high bills.

    The government expects the private sector to finance the renewables (wind, solar and new nuclear) that they plan to have in place to meet the 15% target, while shutting down older nuclear plants and coal plants, as well. It is very difficult to entice the private sector to make these sorts of investments, however, unless they know in advance that they can recover the high and otherwise un-economical costs for these renewable power through the life of the facility (30 years or more). These costs, obviously, must in the end be borne by either residents or corporations (the business sector).

    I would love to be a “fly on the wall” if you tried to convince any rational financial institution to invest in these sorts of projects, knowing that Spain just abandoned all their subsidies midway through (decimating their industry) and that the UK has a history of changing tax regimes with gas and oil extraction (see above).

    Even the economist, which unfortunately is a cheerleader in this sort of central planning, sums it up dimly:

    It is doubtful that the draft bill has enough detail to break the current hiatus in energy investments. It is still unclear how prices will be determined, how often they will be reviewed, and how contracts will be implemented. Uncertainty about the form of the contracts compounds existing investor fears about the durability of government price guarantees on energy.

    While these government fantasies about supposedly rational private sector investors ploughing funds into un-economical renewables continues, a backup plan of sorts is occurring because they are extending the life of existing, older nuclear plants that they were planning to close. Keeping these plants alive defers the enormous (and likely significantly under-estimated) costs of building new nuclear plants, which are summarized here at wikipedia. From my perspective I would be willing to bet that none or perhaps 1-2 at best nuclear plants would ever be built going forward in the UK post the disaster in Japan; the greens are too strong and they will protest and drag the process out for an eternity. Other than one plant that came on line in the mid 1990′s, all the plants are from the 1980′s and 1970′s and dreams of a nuclear renaissance in the UK ring just as hollow as they do in the US. Here is an article about re-licensing British reactors. Britain’s ageing nuclear reactors, which were due to close in the next decade, are set to be kept open under a plan approved by the industry’s regulator.

    In a move that could have far-reaching implications for the government’s energy policy, the Office for Nuclear Regulation has told the Guardian it is working with the country’s dominant nuclear operator, the French-owned company EDF, to extend the life of its eight nuclear power stations in the UK, and that it is “content for the plants to continue to operate”, as long as they pass regular safety tests.

    Well there you go. Before the ink on the plans are dry, they’ve already backed down on one of the key tenets of their mad plan. I guess that is progress. But there is no way that their math can work as far as bringing new investment into the system since utilities and power generators won’t ‘add’ to their investment in this climate at the level needed to mothball such critical elements of their power generating infrastructure.

    It is quite sad to see that the UK, which had once been a leader in electricity de-regulation, with lower prices to show for it than most of their European counterparts, to propose to effectively nationalize or central plan out an entire industry. All this under a Tory government, too. It seems that cooler heads have prevailed by keeping the nuclear stations open longer, and the collapse of the renewables market in Europe will likewise be a precedent that the UK will not want to follow.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Britain, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment | 9 Comments »

    A Defensive Victory Against Administrative Tyranny

    Posted by David Foster on 31st May 2012 (All posts by )

    In 2005, Mike and Chantell Sackett purchased a small lot in Iowa (.63 acres) for $23,000. When they began to lay gravel on the land, which is located in a residential neighborhood, they were hit by an EPA compliance order informing them that the property had been designated a wetland under the Clean Water Act. They were ordered to stop grading their property and were told that they would face fines of up to $75,000 per day if they did not return the parcel to its original state. When the Sacketts attempted to contest the order, the agency denied their request for a hearing.

    The case went to the Supreme Court, and in March, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the court, said that the Sacketts are entitled to appeal the EPA order, rejecting the agency’s claims to the contrary. “The [law’s] presumption of judicial review is a repudiation of the principle that efficiency of regulation conquers all,” Scalia said in the decision. “And there is no reason to think that the Clean Water Act was uniquely designed to enable the strong-arming of regulated parties into ‘voluntary compliance’ without the opportunity for judicial review — even judicial review of the question whether the regulated party is within the EPA’s jurisdiction.”

    Scalia also noted that the Sacketts’ property bore little resemblance to any popular conception of a wetland, protected or not.

    “The EPA used bullying and threats of terrifying fines, and has made our life hell for the past five years,” said Mr. Sackett. “As this nightmare went on, we rubbed our eyes and started to wonder if we were living in some totalitarian country. Now the Supreme Court has come to our rescue and reminded the EPA — and everyone – that this is still America.”

    Read this post…the personal cost of big-government thuggery…for more on the Sacketts’ ordeal.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Environment, Law, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 9 Comments »

    Natural Gas: Past, Present, and Future

    Posted by David Foster on 14th May 2012 (All posts by )


    The hot energy story of the last few years has been the vast expansion in the available supplies of natural gas, and the very significant economic implications thereof. I though it might be interesting to take a look at the past, present, and future of this commodity.
    The first known use of natural gas was by the Chinese, circa 500 BC…they captured gas from places where it was seeping to the surface, transported it in bamboo pipelines, and burned it for a heat source to distill seawater and capture the resulting salt and fresh water. The modern gas era began circa 1800 with the use of gas for lighting–initially of streets and later of homes and other buildings. Since there was no network of gas wells and long-distance pipelines, the gas used for these applications was usually not true natural gas, but rather “town gas,” made by heating coal. (Gas stoves seem to have become popular circa 1880, and apparently had quite an impact….I’ve read that the term “gas-stove wife” was enviously applied to women who were so fortunate as to have one of these appliances and were thereby spared the labor of tending a wood or coal stove, and hence had some leisure time available.)


    The transition from coal gas to true natural gas had to wait on the build-out of a long-haul pipeline network, which took place mainly from 1920 to 1960. Although electricity became the glamor “fuel” and displaced gas in many cases for cooking and heating, the generation of electricity itself has in recent years become a major source of gas demand. Natural gas is also important as a feedstock for the production of fertilizer and of various plastics. By the early 2000s, there were serious concerns that the US was running out of natural gas–see for example this 2003 TIME Magazine story. The article cites Alan Greenspan’s concerns that high nat gas prices would make us uncompetitive in many industries, as well as citing direct economic pain inflicted on consumers. The only solution seemed to be large-scale imports of natural gas via LNG (liquified natural gas) ships. (Gas is far more difficult to transport than oil, because it needs to be liquified in order to make the volumes manageable, which in turn requires refrigerating it to very low temperatures.) In late 2005, US natural gas prices hit an inflation-adjusted level of almost $16 per million BTUs.


    The price is now about $2.50 per million BTUs. What happened?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Politics, Tech, Transportation, USA | 8 Comments »

    Read and Weep

    Posted by David Foster on 5th April 2012 (All posts by )

    In Britain, an 83-year-old woman has been told that she must find a new medical practice, because travel to the one she has been attending for the last 30 years involves an unacceptable carbon footprint.

    Posted in Britain, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Health Care, Transportation | 8 Comments »

    Reviving the Garden

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd March 2012 (All posts by )

    One of the best things about buying a house and retiring from the military was being able to feel free to actually get serious about a garden. I went through a phase of planting roses – many of which have thrived and survived – and a long project to rip out the existing lawn, back and front, and put in xerioscape plants. The back yard was the place that I put the most into, though. Because of the layout of the rooms and the windows in them, the back was the part I looked at the most. And because of the peculiar soil composition – a foot or so of heavy, dense clay laid down over an impermeable layer of caliche which apparently goes all the way to the core of the earth – getting certain things to thrive and grow in it has been a challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Environment, North America, Photos, Real Estate | 4 Comments »