On Helping Republicans, Or, Next Time You Need A Bad Idea, Try These

I have spent a number of years complaining about the interactions between Democrats and Republicans, but after the recent events involving the Keystone XL and civil liberties cave-ins, I’ve decided it’s time to stop complaining and embrace the madness.

But I also feel like there’s an ugly edge to all this…that hasn’t really been fully exploited.

I mean, Republicans have tried to force through a lot of disgusting ideas this Congress as they’ve held various bills hostage, but it seems like, if they really tried, they could do so much more.

But I’m not here to complain, I’m here to help; that’s why today we’ll be trotting out a few ideas of our own that Republicans can attach to bills throughout 2012, with the assistance of certain errant Democrats.

It’ll be fun, it’ll be festive, but most of all…it’ll be an exercise in Civic Responsibility, and in these difficult times, that’s something we could sorely use.

1) Above all, the needs of the army need to be taken into consideration. For instance, it will scarcely be possible to avoid, here and there, leaving behind some trade Jews who are absolutely essential for the provisioning of the troops, for lack of other possibilities. But in each case the proper Aryanization of these enterprises is to be planned and the move of the Jews to be completed in due course, in cooperation with the competent local German administrative authorities.

--From a planning document written in 1939 by Reinhard Heydrich, as reported in the book Documents of the Holocaust, edited by Yitzhak Arad, Israel Gutman, and Abraham Margaliot

So let’s start with the economy: the Census Bureau tells us that nearly half the population is now poor or near-poor, and something needs to be done. With that in mind, I’d propose the “Economic Freedom and Upward Mobility Act” (HR 4377), which would establish a series of military catapult sites along the US border where carefully selected poor folks would be given, literally, economic freedom and upward mobility, even as we instantly reduce the number of impoverished persons in the United States.

Civil rights are important, but not at any cost; that’s why the “Election Cost Control Act” (HR OU812) would allow States to empower local officials to preselect winners in various elections, saving the taxpayer the time and expense of having to count the votes for all those losing candidates.

Messaging matters, and there’s no reason Republicans have to be the bearers of all the bad news: Mississippi Congressman Hatesem Lotsabunch confirmed to me in a phone call yesterday that he will take my suggestion and introduce the “Voter Education Act”, which would require President Obama to wear a giant red, white, and blue dog whistle on a thick silver chain every time he appears in public between the date of passage and November of 2012. (For the record, I actually suggested a gold chain; he thought that was a bit “uppity”.)

We have a serious immigration problem, but I think we can take a page from the Newt Gingrich playbook and introduce the “Guest Worker Protection and Identification Act” (GWIPA).

Here’s the idea: Gingrich has proposed creating a class of persons (“worker residents”?) who are allowed to live and work in the USA, but are never going to be allowed to have US citizenship. The problem is that it will be impossible to quickly tell who is a legal worker resident and who isn’t. Under GWIPA, government-issued armbands would be provided for all legal worker residents to hold their photo ID; as long as they always wear the armband, they’ll be protected from having to show papers to law enforcement officials as they go about their daily business.

Governors as diverse as Rick Perry, Jan Brewer, and Robert Bentley have demanded that the Federal Government finally get serious about “securing the border”; the “Nuclear Assault Mine/Border Legislation Act” (NAM/BLA) is my “if you’re crazy enough to support Rick Santorum, why not this?” proposal to make that happen. The new law would order the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to work together to develop, manufacture, and deploy small “assault-sized” nuclear land mines along the Mexican border as a way to deter illegal immigration.

"Well you look perfectly idiotic in those clothes!"
"These aren't my clothes!"
"Well, where are your clothes?"
"I've lost my clothes!"
"Well, why are you wearing these clothes?"
"Because I just went GAY all of a sudden!"

--Cary Grant, as David Huxley, from the 1938 movie Bringing Up Baby

Finally, let’s take a moment and consider one of the vital social issues of the day.

It is apparently still possible to lock down some GOP votes by going “hard negative” on the LBGT community, if what I’m hearing from the candidates is to be believed (I was particularly struck by Mitt Romney’s ability to twist on this issue: in the last GOP debate, in one single sentence, Romney said he felt there should be no discrimination against the LBGT community…but that there should be no same-sex marriages), and I have a proposal that allows the GOP to appear to be moving to a better place while ensuring that nothing ever changes at all:

The “Mitt Romney Legal Access Beyond Intimidation Act” (MRLABIA) would do two things: it would repeal the Federal Defense of Marriage Act – and, in the Mitt Romney tradition, it would also add a new provision into law that prevents same-sex couples from entering into contracts for the purposes of marriage, thus ensuring “a perfect flip-flop, every time”, as they might say on an infomercial somewhere.

So there you go: instead of relying on the usual “poison pills”, I’m challenging the GOP to try out a few of these ideas – and I’m also challenging much of the American media to try and tell the difference between some of these ideas and the present reality; just at the moment that won’t be easy, and, all humor aside, I think that might actually be the saddest part of this whole exercise.


it was quite a surprise to certain republicans...

,..when they found out what "tea bagging" was; imagine how long it will take before they stop supporting the basic concept of nam/bla?

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

I think the Keystone Pipeline is necessary.

It will help us achieve energy security and will bring the nation needed private industry jobs that are not government related. This will help our economy. I don't understand why reasonable people would be opposed to it.

i'll take that question.

folks in nebraska became concerned about the route of the pipeline because it passes right over a major aquifer, and there is no environmental review law in nebraska (well, there wasn't; now there us). as you might imagine, folks there want some kind of assurance that the water they drink and irrigate with won't be contaminated.

and that's the next issue: what's in that oil? in order to move oil derived from tar sands through this pipeline, you have to add various chemicals that make this oil more "contaminatable" if it should spill...and it will...so that's not good.

but none of that addresses the truly big question: what is energy security, really?

i would suggest to you that every day we burn oil, every day we don't run away from oil at full speed, every day we lock ourselves into a product that will forever be more and more expensive...we're less secure.

as it is now we're paying about $300 billion a year/$25 billion a month to import oil, and that can't be making us more secure; importing oil from canada is still importing oil - and it's still sending the money right out of our economy.

if india and china want to chase after what will soon be $200 a barrel oil, let them, but we would be a lot more secure if we were producing lots more electric power here to drive vehicles; we would be more environmentally smart to get off coal as well.

jobs? it doesn't take that many people to actually build a pipeline (the estimates seem to be settling in at around 5000 to 6500), and it takes even fewer to maintain one once it's built.

on the other hand, we could employ many times that number just throwing up windmills, and it's a pretty fair guess we would employ more than that down at the nissan leaf factory (which just happens to be in tennessee), which could take that windmill power and translate it into transportation.

oil is a dead end, it ain't making anyone more secure - and if all the arguments we've heard already weren't convincing enough to get your attention, consider that once the pipeline is built, there's nothing that ensures the folks at the downstream end won't just load the oil on a ship and sell it to the highest bidder...which means after all this is over, we still might not be be any more "secure" - or less so - than we are now.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Seems like a low estimate....

for employment. I remember seeing that number from the State Department, like they know a lot about construction right? As a comparison over 28,000 people were employed to build the Alaskan pipeline. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construction_of_the_Trans-Alaska_Pipeline_System

The pipe doesn't make itself and the welding of pipe together requires labor. I can see where this would be large boost to the economy at a time when we need to put people to work.

The fact is our economy needs oil, maybe we can wean ourselves off at some future time but we can't now. Those Chevy Volt cars are not cost effective. I won't buy one will you? Right now we simply don't have a viable alternative to oil. So there is no need to beat ourselves up over it, just continue researching alternatives but deal with reality in the present time.

There is a risk to the environment in every thing we do, mitigating the risk is what engineers and contractors do. So all of the issues with any aquifers can be dealt with in the design.

Obviously this is good for our security by cutting down on our reliance on oil from the volatile middle east. This is a win for everybody. It makes so much sense to build it.

so start with the estimates:

department of state is on this because it's an international issue, but they get access to any technical assistance they need, and we can all see the work and complain or compliment as appropriate. the 6500 number, on the other hand, is keystone's, and i would suggest it's probably the highest likely number of workers we'll see.

why 6500 now, and 20,000 in 1970?

well, start with productivity gains: hr won't need file clerks (computers took care of that), and there are a thousand other ways we see productivity gains impacting job sites; beyond that, doing a project like this in the lower 48 reduces the need for workers as you shorten the supply chain and work in weather that doesn't look exactly like "ice road truckers". (fun fact: the dalton highway that alaska's ice road truckers use was built for the alaska pipeline job.) there will be "near-arctic" work...but those will be canadian jobs, not usa jobs.

(by the way: ever seen an automated pipline welder? that's more jobs no longer needed.)

the reason you don't grant permits and them design a pipeline is because the design itself might create problems that can't be addressed by the permitter in advance; the same kind of thinking gets you nuclear power plants built on earthquake faults that were discovered during build and a nuclear waste repository that will leak into the groundwater through the basalt that makes up yucca mountain (which, of course, is why we are now abandoning that project after many billions spent).

alternatives to oil?

most americans drive less than 40 miles, one-way; that is well within the range of several battery-only cars that are on the market today (the leaf is the best known, more are coming), and with the installation of a few hundred thousand charging stations we will be on our way.

as for the volt: the technology (small engine operates at a constant speed, turns generator, powers wheel motors) has been around in locomotive form for 75 years, and it will be relatively easy to scale this down in price as production goes up. (consider that a variable-speed engine and transmission with driveline is not that inexpensive to build either; the volt's engine is cheaper to build and it has no need for a tranny or driveline, and a "ford fiesta-sized" version of this car could even run on an air-cooled engine.) take out the nice seats, and the nice stereo, and the luxury trim package, and that volt might become a $25,000 "malibu-like" vehicle that gets better than 50 mpg - except for the first 40 miles after a charge, when it uses no gas at all.

where do we get the power for that? solar is getting cheaper real fast (that's actually what killed solyndra: a cheaper solar technology has come along), and wind today, right this minute, blows out power as low as $.04/kWh, which is cheaper than most anything other than coal and hydroelectric, even if masses of windmills will create their own problems...and lots of maintenance employment.

oil is not security, and sending $300 billion a year out of the country ain't either, even if a lot of it is to canada. and that $300 billion...it's going to go up, inevitably.

ask yourself this question: should we wait for gas to get to $5 a gallon before we "cut the cord"? $6? If we don't act, those prices will come, and when they do, we'll wish we had.

finally, consider this: we are spending $800-900 billion a year in defense budget, and a lot of that is oil-related, either in the form of direct spending in a place like iraq and afghanistan, or in the form of defense agreements that require usa troops to be ready to defend someplace like the saudi oil fields. getting out of oil brings that money back home, and it also makes the saudis responsible for their own repression, instead of making us just as responsible.

sorry...one more point: you'll soon be able to buy a battery-powered mitsubishi for about $22,000 - and that car will save an average driver almost $1500 a year on gas. (it's reported it costs about $3.50 to "fill up" the car for 100 miles vs. $8.00 for a hybrid car that gets 50mpg.)

that's a real thing, just about to come to market (it's out in '12), it goes 60 miles on a charge (it can be recharged in 15 minutes at a charging station), and it will never use a drop of gas...and if you can keep it driving for 15 "average driving years"...it actually pays for itself in gas savings.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Still don't trust the State Dept numbers

I have some experience in the construction field and that automated welder works in the shop, not in the field. No I don't trust the State Department data, they don't have a clue how to run a major project. There are reams of examples on projects where they have wasted our taxes. That's a long project over several states, I'm thinking the State Dept is low, but whatever, we need the work.

The Chevy Volt has been a failure due to explosive safety concerns and due to cost. The taxpayer is on the hook for $250,000 per car. Solar energy is not cost competetive, sorry that is the fact. Sure the price of cells has come down but you still have to convert the DC to AC. Windmills have been a failure in killing birds and in just not working.

I wish there were alternatives to fossil fuels but right now there are none. I drive a diesel myself and have been looking into making my own diesel fuel from cooking oil.

On balance I believe the keystone pipeline would be a major positive for us both economically and for national security.

a few comments:

--state department is not running anything here, except for a permit review, and as someone with construction experience i assume you can discern between the two functions of permit review and general contracting with relative ease.

--there are a number of automatic "in the field" pipeline welding systems, including the weldcrawler and the passo tsa; in the two linked videos you can see them in action.

--as for alternatives: the volt is going to have to be designed with a better battery enclosure, but that's no big deal, and it surely doesn't "fail" the technology, which, as we previously noted, has been in use for more than 75 years (in fact, every diesel-electric locomotive on earth is just a great big chevy volt).

of course, we also have all-battery designs, and besides the leaf (of which there are already lots on the road) and that mitsubishi, you can now pre-order a '12 ford focus all-electric, or a fiat 500, and kia will do a limited korean release of their own all-electric in '12.

and then there's tesla, which may just have a really good 2012.

--we're again covering old ground, but public utilities operate wind farms all over the usa, which is prima facie evidence that such alternatives exist. have you been following the gop debates? even rick perry will tell you that wind farms are good business, and he's proud that texas is the national leader in wind farming.

--no matter how you slice it, oil equals insecurity, plain and simple.

want a couple examples?

the us navy maintains at least three carrier battle groups in and around the straits of hormuz at all times, and we're now opening a new base at adelaide, austraila, so that we can support at least one other battle group for operations around the straits of malacca. that's 1/3 of the "surface combat navy", more or less, and there are another couple of battle groups to "rotate" them; put it all together and that's half the surface navy on "oil patrol".

think of it as a hidden tax on gas; add to it the cost of keeping how many troops and how much prepositioned gear ready for mideast combat?

who attacked us on 9/11? 19 saudis, that's who. and how did we treat sdaudi arabia after 9/11? did we light them up just like we did afghanistan? nope. did we invade? did we topple the government that provided aid and funding for our attackers? nope.

now why would that be?

you think it might be because we're addicted, and they're our dealer?

that, my friend, is oil insecurity, and as long as we're still addicted, we'll still be insecure. keystone doesn't fix that; instead, it makes the problem worse by delaying the inevitable.

if you're addicted, more accessible heroin ain't the way out of your problem. instead, you gotta quit, and that's where the usa is right now.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Cost effectiveness needs to be a consideration

Since when does the State Department do permit reviews? Isn't that the job of the EPA? Sounds like there is duplication of effort. There is a lot of that in our government. The Corps of Engineers is also involved with permitting.

The automatic welding sounds interesting. I don't believe that it has proven to be cost effective for construction yet in every case. In power plant construction, they still use labor to do the welding.

If we can keep our energy supply in this hemisphere, we don't need all those carriers and other ships over near the Arab world. This pipeline does that. In addition our reserves of natural gas are higher than previously known.

I remember reading that the wind turbines in Minnesota were having problems in freezing of their bearings in the winter. It goes without saying that wind turbines are cyclic energy supply and not base load due to the variability of wind. Does the bird killing of the wind turbines bother you?

Does it bother you that the first cost of battery cars is so high? At least the Chevy Volt is. It requires $250,000 subsidy per car.


That puts it way out of my price range. If the cost could come down, I could see them becoming a good commuter car, not one to use for traveling though.

New energy sources have to be balanced on cost to the consumer. With our federal deficit being as high as it currently stands, we cannot afford the open checkbook any more.

so right off the bat:

we are importing about half of the 18 million barrels of oil we use every day, and that's because there actually aren't any saudi arabias left out there, despite what canada would tell you.

we'll get a bit of oil out of there...but there is no doubt that oil is a finite resource, and that we cannot extract enough to fulfill our own needs for all that many years, much less china's and india's as well...and even if we don't care about the effects of climate change.

in the end, it's a lot like arguing in 1890 about whether whale oil is still the fuel of the future.

so...how do you deal with the irregularity of wind?

distribution of generation is one way (it's almost never not windy everywhere), you throw in other sources of renewables (solar is coming fast, believe it or not), you put rooftop generation to work (which, again, is already rolling out), and you supplement with fossil fuels when there's no other option available.

winter and windmills?

there are a variety of prop aircraft that operate in temperatures that a windmill in minnesota would consider mild, and they do it with far higher levels of applied stress at the bearing; if they can do it, windmills are certainly fixable.

do i worry about the effect on birds?

yup...just as i worry about the effect of acid rain on birds, and the effect of climate change on their habitat, both of which are far bigger issues than windmill deaths have proven to be so far.

cost of batteries?

we are all worried that "big lithium" will take over from "big oil", but a123 is the big american entrant in the game, and the more we have this stuff built here, the better, if only because it will take the issue of currency fluctuation off the table.

beyond that, this is all about economy of scale, and if you don't believe me, consider the evolution of rechargeable and "swappable" battery technologies in areas like tools and entertainment devices: they've all started out expensive, and a billion or so units later, they're selling this stuff at the discount stores. automotive batteries are more similar to tool batteries than you might think (a123 is the world's largest maker of batteries for tools and the tesla battery supplier), and as with most things technology, high price is a function of newness.

finally, a note about that $250,000 figure you keep quoting: if you just take a minute to think about the variables in the problem, you'd realize that the only way you can make such an estimate is if you know the total number of chevy volts that will ever be sold, and you know that the same r&d will never be applied to any other project.

since neither of those facts can be known today, the estimate is invalid on its face and cannot be accepted as factual.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

I so admire your patience

in dealing with a person who, if history is any indication, will cover his ears and deny the logic of logic. Such is life in a world of faith-based fantasy.

Good on you, Fake. And happy holidays to your and yours. Thanks for a steady presence in our little fishbowl.

it's a pleasure...

...to swim with the fishes, and for what it's worth, no snow this year, unless we want to go chase it down - but my fancy new shovel thinks this no snow situation is like a present all its own, and i'm not disabusing it of the notion.

patience? seems to me that what we've been trying to do here is paying off now, and i love talking to the frank burns-sses of the world, especially as there is a larger audience looking at this same conversation.

the tea party is facing its own case of "buyer's remorse", all of a sudden, and if you think about it, we've pushed the entire country in our direction, even as they have scared so many with their own behavior; all that said, i hope frank finds a good place and that people who are reading this see what makes sense and what doesn't.

which is all kind of a long way of wishing all y'all a great holiday season, too, and i can't wait to see what's coming next.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Have there been other Christmas' without snow?

Of course, weather is cyclic as we all know.

I like your name by the way, Fake, it fits. I use my real name as I have nothing to be ashamed of.

I know you all think and hope the Tea Party will just go away, but I don't think there is much chance of that. The Tea Party just might rescue us and keep us from destroying ourselves by over spending. Certainly most Americans are in agreement as evidenced by the recent wave elections.

I'm also looking forward to 2012 as I see good things finally happening to bring this geat country back.

you don't like anonymous speech?

are you not aware that common sense was published anonymously?

and it wasnh't just paine, madison, et al: did clemens use his real name? voltaire?

to help make the point, consider that the cato institute and the aclu both agree with me on this.

as for the tea party, here's what the actual polling from 11/29 has to say:

In the 60 districts represented in Congress by a member of the House Tea Party Caucus, Republicans are now viewed about as negatively as Democrats.

it's a good idea to keep in mind that political correctness comes in many forms...including a blind adherence to the "tea party"...and you don't want to get caught in a situation where you can't see the bigger picture because you're locked into a point of view.

as for the snow: it does vary from year to year, as might be expected; last year was moderate, and the year before we had a huge amount of snow, all the way into april. as a result, not having to shovel is a mixed blessing around here: it can be an immense amount of work, especially wet snow, but no snow in winter means a water shortage in summer, as much of western washington's drinking water comes from snowpack.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

You sir are acting on faith....

the faith that solar and windmills will be as cost effective and functional as fossil fuels when they are not without subsidies. So who is using logic, it certainly is not yourself.

And I have resolved to not allow the mediocrity of political correctness ruin my Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you.

we subsidize oil far more...

...than we subsidize renewables.

remember that conversation we had about half the navy being on "oil patrol"? that is an oil subsidy, pure and simple, and it's costing us an amount of money that's in the hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

even forbes magazine has been complimenting obama for going after the $40 billion in direct cash subsidies we will give oil producers over the next 10 years:

There is no good economic argument for either of these tax breaks. They are simply statements that "we won't tax you for the cost of doing business like we would if you were in any other industry because ... we like you!"

again, that was forbes magazine saying that, not me.

we subsidize the hell out of oil, so why not give renewables the same treatment?

(by the way...you know why we began to subsidize oil, all those years ago? to help jump-start the industry...and to this very day, they can't seem to get by without subsidies either, can they?

we also subsidize the nuclear industry, and there wouldn't be a nuclear power plant operating today in the usa if we didn't.

we also subsidize coal-fired power plant operators, icluding duke energy.)

and i do appreciate your kind christmas wishes; i hope you're having fun as well...and let's hope the relatives don't get out of hand...

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

National defense does not subsidize oil.

Your argument is rejected as having no basis. National defense is the only really basic role of government. It has nothing to do with oil. So you can remove that point from your argument. We would have a strong national defense regardless of our energy source.

I think we should pursue a better deal with oil subsidies or leases. We should reduce those subsidies as well. We can also eliminate those ethanol subsidies. We can no longer afford to do business as usual.

national defense absolutely subsidizes oil...

...and the way you can tell is by looking at where we deploy the forces.

there is no strategic significance to the straits of hormuz...except for the fact that much of the world's oil must pass through that narrow passage.

why are we so closely allied with saudi arabia, to the point that we gave them a pass for being the actual source of 9/11?

there is no other reason for that alliance except oil - and our national defense policy is very much oriented to defending that supply of oil.

who are the world's biggest "threat nations"?

that would be pakistan, somalia, russia, iran, north korea, israel/palestine, and egypt - and if you look at where we've been deploying the most military assets, it's afghanistan, thanks to 9/11...but beyond that, our basings and troop deployments have been fixated on iraq, kuwait, bahrain, diego garcia, and the european assets that support them...in other words, a "persian gulf" defense policy.

that is the cost of oil, and if we weren't paying a third of a trillion dollars to import it every year, we would have no more interest in saudi arabia than we do latvia today.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

You argument does not hold water.

I've already rejected it so quit rehashing your story line. The activities in the Gulf are recent military interventions and were not related to oil. How about every other military action prior to the Gulf, how were they oil related? Again, I'll repeat myself. We would have a strong military force regardless of what energy powers our light bulbs.


well, you can dismiss all you want, but the reality is that we've been intensely guarding the straits of hormuz since the early '80s (in other words, more or less since the opec embargo and the start of the iran/iraq war), and that reality is why the navy wants 14 carriers, not 11 or 12.

why do you think we cared if iraq invaded kuwait? do you think it was because we were really worried about kuwait's...attachment to democracy?

that was an oil war, and what we were all really worried about was that iraq might go after the saudi oil fields. remember that?.

ever heard of saidi aramco? ever think it was just an amazing coincidence that we have since become strategically attached at the hip to the world's second-largest oil producer?

why do you think virtually all the us military's "prepositioned stores" have been situated to support wars in the middle east?

it's to defend the oil.

do you seriously think we have all that stuff based over there because we think yemen or lebanon or iran represent some sort of existential threat? even ron paul will tell you that it's not about that at all...it's about defending oil.

we would indeed have a military without an "oil defense policy" - but we would have a smaller military, and that represents exactly how you get at debt and deficit: you cut spending.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

by the way...

...have you noticed that suddenly we're all a-flitter about hormuz? notice how it's sudden;y back in the headlines?

as because we're worried about...the supply of oil.

and that means every dollar we're spending to defend that oil...is, indeed, a taxpayer subsidy to oil.

and of course, it's money we wouldn't be spending if we weren't using oil as a transportation fuel.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

No thanks, I'll stick with the known energy sources first.

Oil is finite, but there is also natural gas. Don't get me wrong, I support alternative energy as well when its cost effective. Right now it's not without huge government subsidies which we cannot afford. The Solydra scandal is just unfolding, there are others as well. Additional research is needed to get solar and windmills cost effective. In the meantime we will have to rely upon fossil fuels to reduce the cost impact on the consumers. The Canadian pipeline is a great opportunity for us in the short run to create jobs and to give us energy security. We'll have to see if Obama continues to give into the environmental extremists and tries to stop the pipeline. He won't be able to shift the decision past the election like he wanted, and therefore it will be a campaign issue. It will be his oppotunity to show if he in fact supports job creation and energy security.

You offer lots of interesting information that are rignt now grouped as maybe's or might's but fossil fuels are certain energy opportunities in the present. With the federal spending deficit as high as it is, we can't continue to tilt at windmills, Don.

tilt at windmills?

according to this handy excel document, florida power and light alone operates about 1.6 gw of capacity from wind right this very second.

the three largest califiornia windmill sites also produce about the same about of power; total up the 20 largest usa wind project operating right now plus the california sites (which are owned by several operators), and you get about 6 gw of generation working, right now...and none of that is faith, or maybes, or open to doubt: they are all up and running, and they are working, today, amd they're doing it without "huge cost subsidies".


you will have failures when you invest in technology, and it's true if you're a government or an angel investor. we are decades into operating the fast flux reactor complex in idaho, and we don't know if we'll ever succeed in making that work - but big bets can bring big rewards, and we've taken "taxpayer" chances on potential failure for the whole history of this country, starting with lewis and clark and continuing today as we launch missions to mars.

and the idea that republicans are getting sanctimonious because money might have gone to the politically-connected makes me unable to drink a liquid while laughing.

ask john boehner sometime why we needed two engines, at the time of purchase, for the single-engine f-35 fighter, and see what he says.

we don't know if there is real trouble here or not, nor do we know if the rest of the $36 billion or so that's out there will turn out to be good investing.

the big question, i assume, is whether government should invest in risky technology at all?

well...air mail was created to jump-start the aviation industry, which worked out fairly well as an investment. there would be no nuclear power if we hadn't taken a risk, nor space travel. we have a greatly advance biomedical industry thanks to the support of the human genome initiative...and, of course, al gore invented the internet (ok, we all know he didn't, but darpa did, and that was us taxpayer dollars all the way). and, of course, there was that whole transcontinental railroad/land grant colleges "thing" lincoln did back in the day...

technology investments pay off huge, which is why we keep doing 'em, and i want 'em done well, but taking the attitude that government has no role here ignores our entire national history and a couple hundred years of investment success.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

I don't doubt that Florida has windmills.

My point is the huge federal subsidies that helped build them. The cost per MW is too high.

If Obama is going to repay his campaign donors with government contracts, the least he could do for the taxpayer is pick successful businesses. Solyndra is just the tip of the iceberg. Didn't Obama campaign saying that he would not do this? Did he lie to us again on tv? http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0611/56993.html Energy is the key component to our economy, we need reliability not perhaps it will work. We don't need to be raising everyones electrical rates for them either. Why punish the public for political paybacks?

It will be interesting to see if he approves the loans and contracts to Light Squared whose technology interferes with GPS. Now that will really piss off the public!

what happens to wind generation costs...

...if you back out the subsidies?

that's an excellent question, and in 2001 an effort was made to get at that answer.

the study looked at the danish experience of the prior decade; they concluded that prices for windmills were getting close to the cost of power from fossil fuels. (see the chart on p 15 of the .pdf.) since then, of course, the cost of fossil fuels is up, and so is the efficiency of windmills - and that means that it's just about the same cost now to produce with wind; again, that's why the $.04/kwh number keeps coming back to the conversation, which compares rather well to the more or less $.025/kwh that we're paying for power produced by coal.

(the subsidy situation works like this: utilities are required to buy power at prices higher than the cost of production - but it is possible in that "math environment" to know with certainty the actual cost of producing power from windmills, ex. subsidy; that's why the $.04 number stands up to analysis.)

one other note: if you go back to the excel that was linked earlier you'll notice that much of fpl's wind generation is actually sited along the oregon/washington border; that's because the columbia gorge is not just a great place to grow wine grapes, it's also kind of the saudi arabia of wind, with lots of steady breezes that are neither too fast or slow for turbines with blades of 100 foot long or more. the midwest is another such location, and the combination of the two sites offer enormous potential for future growth.

finally: we already produce 3% of usa generation with wind, and that means reliability of the technology is an issue that is more or less worked out; what is happening now is about efficiency, which is why blades are getting longer on the one hand, and, on the other, rooftop "supplemental" generation is now starting to come on line.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

there are a variety of strategies that can be used...

...to turn renewables into base load; the three primary techniques are to distribute generation geographically (it's always windy or sunny somewhere), incorporate storage technologies to recover excess power you're generating now when you can't later, and install a smart grid to connect it all together (the current grid is not well suited for the "uploading" of power from millions of sources).

you might like a longer explanation, with lots of exquisite technical detail: that's no problem, and it's waiting for you right here.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Specific information on Smart Grid

Smart Grid Sherpa

Disclaimer: I work for KEMA.


The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Who pays for this system?

It should not be the consumer. It isn't fair to dump the cost of these initiatives on the ratepayers. The rate payer wants to make sure he's paying the lowest cost for electricity and doesn't care where it comes from. Our factories and plants should not pay for it either which raise prices for consumers. All costs should be born by the utility if they choose to implement these ideas.

This is one of those big projects

that can only be done by We the People of the United States. Or Uncle Sam, if you like :) Call it stimulus, call it investment, call it national security, it needs to be done in a big way.

No money left...

sorry we're tapped out. Obama made the decision to send stimulus money to state and local governments and those governments chose to use that money to balance their budgets.

We are fixing to get into the spending cutting mode. We will not be increasing the spending. I believe that I can safely say that without stretching my neck out too far.

So answer me this

Is it more important to cut government spending, or to create jobs?

There is no such thing as "expansionary contraction."


The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Both need to be done.

We have to get away from this crazy idea that creating government jobs helps the economy, it don't. We need to be creating policies that stimulate private industry not local governments.

How do you propose to do both?

How do you propose to slash government spending and at the same time attain "full employment"?


The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Stimulate the private economy, not government.

If we can stimulate private industry by any means necessary and by getting our congress to focus on this problem, then private industry creates jobs, which in turn creates tax revenue. The former government workers will have to get a job in industry. I'm not in favor of socialism, are you?

How about enacting policies to bring industry back to this country instead of in Red China? I don't know about you but the products that we are getting from overseas are junk. Dishwashers, washing machines, etc don't last too long and the cost to repair is more than the cost to buy a new one.

When we build a bridge...

...that is stimulating private industry, becuase bridges are built by contractors, paid for by the government. When we build a ship or a jet fighter or an airport, we are stimulating private industry, because all those things are built by contractors, paid for by the government. When we build schools, that stimulates private industry, because those things are built by contractors, paid for by the government.

All those contractors will then have money in their pockets, to spend on food and housing and cars and college for their kids.

The really good thing right now is that we can build these things with very cheap borrowed money (less than 2% on the 10-year Treasury bonds).

Your mileage may vary.


The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Agreed and that's what we should have done.

So that the stimulus actually buys tangible things for our country instead of frittering it away on state and local governments that have inflated budgets. As Obama himself said, those shovel ready projects weren't very shovel ready.

lots of government jobs...

...stimulate the economy.

take teachers away, and the economy most assuredly suffers; that's why every successful emerging nation on the face of the earth, including this one, has made education the center of their economic development policy. (remember lincoln and the land grant colleges?)

cops surely grow the economy. again, take away cops, and see what happens to business. same with the fire department. you think no prisons would make for a better economy?

nasa grows the hell out of the economy. so does food inspection, and the faa, and camp lejune. and the national academy of sciences. and the cdc.

you don't think roads create jobs?

ports and airports don't create jobs? national forests and grasslands and water resources and oil resources on public lands don't create jobs?

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

How much spending is enough?

Tell me Fake, how many assistant principals are enough? How many policemen in the school are enough? Do we really need all those teachers with many parents choosing not to educate their children in public schools due to the unruly students who are coddled instead of being kicked out? We spend more and more money each year on public education and we have no good results to show for them. We're doing something wrong. Since when did we decide we need to send kids to PreK? Total waste of money, it's just the public paying for day care. Believe me there are plenty of savings could be made in public education. How did our Department of Education get so large? We can do things smarter, we have to. We can no longer afford business as usual.

No we should not cut cops, we should cut their overtime and the generous retirement plans that allow them to retire in their 40s.

NASA should have its role cut to do what is was doing in the 60s and 70s, like going to the moon and space shuttles, not in working with the moslems or doing anything with climate. There is too much duplication of effort. Weather monitoring goes with NOAA not NASA.

Food inspectors are ok, but there is too much overhead that should be cut.

Roads are state responsibilities not federal. Here in NC we build all those elaborate road systems in the east that are underutilized and can't get the state to finish the outerbelt in Charlotte. Reprioritizing is called for.

Government has expanded way beyond it's intents and we haven't been paying attention. Now we are finally seeing how big it's gotten and changes are called for. Major cuts are called for to reduce the federal deficit. Look how big NPR has gotten, we need to get out of entertainment among many other things.


well, first of all you can look to "no child left behind" for an explanation of how department of education has grown so much in importance the past decade...but why is a department of education bad, and why is "local control of schools" always good?

when your local board of education is debating whether to teach creationism as science...you need federal help.

and why is it so terrible that smart people study education and then promote better ideas to local school boards?

that's how you fix schools; running around going "no! we know better than anyone, and our own prejudices are good enough, so...no!" isn't.

as for homeschooling: about 2% of schoolkids in the usa are homeschooled, and we know that because it's measured by...wait for it...the department of education!

that suggests we do, in fact, still need the teachers.

just to add to the discussion...as it turns out, there's been a change in the education field: school districts had been sending the teachers out to seminars and workshops for continuing education; now the trend is to do that work "in-house", which saves districts money, but requires that some teachers who were in classrooms become "teachers of teachers", and that shows up as "too many administrators" to many observers.

why send kids to pre-k?
because it's a very, very, smart idea.

the brains of little kids are "spongier" than they will ever be again, and you impart an immense amount of information to those kids, including teaching them things they would have spent kindergarten learning, like group socialization, colors, shapes, and, most important of all, language skills.

2-year-olds are the most efficient learners of languages of any of us, and it goes down from there, so why in the world would you want to waste the best years of your kid's life?

but don't take my word for it; here's what the bill and melinda gates foundation (yes, that bill gates) has to say about early education:

The first five years of a child’s life go by quickly. They also last forever. During this period, children’s brains are developing faster than at any other time in their lives. Long before kindergarten, children learn the skills they need to succeed in school and life. Research has shown that quality early learning can make a big difference—especially for disadvantaged children—by closing the achievement gap that starts before kindergarten. It’s a smart investment that helps build a stronger education system and a more competitive workforce for the future.

(note the conversation about "disadvantaged" kids? helping those kids today also means they're less likely to be helping themselves to the contents of your living room when you leave the house tomorrow...)

where is the excess overhead in food inspection?
what are you talking about, specifically?

yes, many roads are funded by state and local governments (as are many police, fire, and teaching jobs)...but those are all government jobs, so once again, we have examples of government jobs, that, by their very nature, stimulate the economy.

and now you have a problem with nasa working with islamic people?

if you truly believe that, you have a problem, a real one, and seriously...you gotta get some help.

hating people because of their religion is never good, not for any reason, and you really ought to know better.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Yeah Wow.

Local control of schools are better with regards to the elimination of layers of Bureaucracies. We haven't been minding the store and the Department of Education has mushroomed in size and scope. It should be cut back to a small panel that sets objectives and guidance, not control. There is a myth out there that increased spending improves education, it doesn't look at the results. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/09/does-spending-more-on-education-improve-academic-ac...

The Pre K program over time does not improve a child's education. It ends up being subsidized day care. http://www.lrainc.com/swtaboo/taboos/headst01.html

I have a problem with NASA spending money ant time going outside what we pay it to do. They have no business engaging in outreach to Moslems. Can you explain any benefit to the American taxpayer for this program? Spending has gotten out of control. Where do you get that I hate Moslems? I never said that. I hate wasteful spending, that's all.

of course there's money.

we identified $17 trillion in potential loan funds for banks and non-banks during the tarp, et al process, and we don't need $17 trillion to weatherize and build grid and get out of oil.

it is possible to get some or all of the weatherizing money back, you know, by lending it out and collecting the savings either in power bills or from ratepayers (capacity gained from conservation can be cheaper than buying new generation; that's advantageous to ratepayers and stockholders).

investment in smart grid will be paid by ratepayers over time, just as ratepayers are paying for the "dumb grid" today, and if we want to jump-start the process for employment stimulus reasons we can lend the money out up front to utilities and collect it back over time. in such a scenario the taxpayer can make some returns and the ratepayer gets the advantage of lower interest rates.

and let me tell you, there are plenty of good reasons for government to make the investments in reducing the cost of power for a region - or to make it available in the first place - and while you may not care if we help new york or whatever, we are a better america, by far, thanks to programs like the tva and the rea and the bonneville power administration and from projects like hoover dam. every one of those has been a giant success story, and i just can't imagine someone saying "hoover dam was a horrible idea. nevada, arizona, and california can just go suck it!".

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Here we are in a recession....

and you want to raise utility rates, sounds like a large amount, just so we can make it easier for utilities to do their job. I don't think so.

it now appears...

...you've either begun to stop paying attention to what's being written or you're just objecting to object, but...as we noted above, what ends up happening is that savings from these new grid installations make up for the money being spent; in fact, the utility's stockholders and ratepayers end up ahead over the long-term...and since it's a government loan we're talking about to get the process started, it's possible to structure that loan to have payments begin after savings begin to come in, say, three ot five years down the road.

smart grid is an investment, not "thrown away money", and as with other capital investments, it pays off over time, just as the current grid has paid for itself over time.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Good since there are savings...

don't come to the rate payers and ask for an increase in their monthly bills to pay for this. If there are future savings, then the Utility should finance this initiative fully with no rate increase. Once the rates go up, they never seem to go back down.

Ratepayers always pay

Ratepayers always pay for the costs of public utilities, generally speaking. Ratepayers are paying for Cliffside, ratepayers are paying for the new NG station in Richmond County, ratepayers are paying for smart grid infrastructure. Ratepayers pay to extend power to a new subdivision or a new manufacturing facility or a new data center. For the regulated utilities, (Duke, Progress, and Dominion), the retail rates are set by the Public Utility Commission, with the intent to cover the utility's cost and provide some reasonable (and relatively fixed) profit. For coops, rates are set my the customer/members of the coop, and elected governing boards set rates for munis -- all of whom purchase power wholesale from one of the generators.

The real question is whether kWh avoidance or kW reduction through energy efficiency initiatives is more expensive for ratepayers than is increasing generating capacity. And if we want to talk about all the costs that should be borne by the utility, we should include all public health and environmental costs.

The other point that is often not understood is that electricity costs in the southeastern US are extremely low compared to other parts of the country.


The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

The justification must be made...

for a rate increase. If Duke can show that energy demand is going up, then they can get justification for building a new power plant.

We've paid for the public health issues by installing scrubbers and Nox reduction equipment. Don't come back to us with any more rate increases just to make your job easier.

And don't come back to us and raise our rates so that we pay what they pay in New York City! You better have better justification than that. It won't fly, I promise.

No argument here...

And if demand continues to grow unabated, rates will continue to skyrocket as fuel becomes more scarce.


The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

No worries...

we have vast coal and natural gas reserves. Nuclear fuel is plenty. Demand is growing due to more people moving down here to get away from the socialistic policies in those Blue states. We also have a very nice climate and a beautiful state.

one last note:

state leads the permit review on this one because of the international issues involved; environmental reviews are done at the state and federal levels, and epa staff is available to state.

there are serious questions as to how well state has performed on this review, and that's why the administration wants to take a longer look at the permitting process before moving forward.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

"Frank Burns"?

I'll believe that's your real name just as soon as you produce Hot Lips Houlihan.

Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson