Mr. D Goes All Crazy   Leave a comment

I’ve mentioned in the past that I like Karl Denninger’s blog.  Usually (particularly in the realm of economics) he has something interesting to say.

Sometimes, though, his politics trump his own powers of reason.  Case in point

There are a huge number of what some on the right call “Limousine Liberals” that preach all sorts of BS about “energy efficiency”, “global warming” or “alternative fuels.”

Sure.  There’s also a number of people on the right who say the same things, Karl.  What do “some on the right” call them?

Let’s deal with some facts.

Okay, lets!

  1. We have a lot of coal in this country.  It contains Thorium, which is a natural substance that can be used to build nuclear piles.  Said technology was developed and built more than 30 years ago – this is not “pie in the sky” technology.
  2. Each ton of coal we burn up contains 13 times as much energy as that liberated by combustion of the carbon in said Thorium.  We could thus receive the same electrical energy we gain by burning the coal through extracting the Thorium and using the nuclear energy to produce power.  With the rest of the energy, the other 12/13ths, we could then extract hydrogen from seawater (which we have lots of) and convert the remaining coal to either diesel fuel or gasoline.  To put a not-fine-point on this, we throw away more than 100 billion gallons of gasoline (after conversion losses) in thorium tailings alone.  That is damn close to all of our existing gasoline consumption – with ZERO oil being drilled.  (PS: Those are conservative estimates – mathematically, it’s 200 billion gallons!)
  3. We know how to build fast breeder reactors.  It is true that we have a limited supply of U-235, because it is a tiny proportion of the natural deposit in terms of isotopes.  However, we have a lot of U-238 and we can turn that into Pu-239 in said Breeder Reactor.  That produces both more nuclear fuel and electricity.
  4. We like our cars.  We like our Air Conditioning.  We like our electricity, peak load of which is often generated with natural gas.  We like our 3,000 square foot houses, our computers, our bigscreen TVs and other electrical and electronic knick-knacks.  All of these require energy to operate.
  5. A growing economy requires a growing energy output.  There is no escaping this fact, despite it being inconvenient.
  6. We have a lot of oil and natural gas in various forms in the United States.  That includes (but is not limited to) offshore oil and gas, shale on federal lands and more.  We don’t want to stick the straws in the ground and perform other sorts of mining (including strip-mining), but the energy is there.

Not too shabby, except you’ve hidden a broken one in there.  A growing economy does not require a growing energy output.  It requires either a growing energy output, or an increase in efficiency, or transformative technology that increases economic output while replacing older, equally energy consumptive technology.  Or some collection of the above.

Bluntly, “energy scarcity” is artificial.  We have every means within this nation – never reaching beyond our own borders – to supply every single bit of energy we need literally for the next several hundred years, and we can make as much of that energy into liquid hydrocarbons (gasoline and diesel) as we wish.

Energy supply is indeed constrained by lots of factors other than raw physics and currently existing engineering.  Defining “artificial” as “of human origin” then yes, that makes energy scarcity artificial.  It also makes energy supply artificial.  Oh, and the economy, our political system, money, most foodstuffs, etc., etc.  Again, this is slightly nitpicky, but you’ve got bits in here that are pretty blatant rhetorical devices designed to prejudice your readership, so this deserves mention.

Our refusal to be energy independent is political, not practical, thermodynamic, or driven by resource.  It is the product of lies and manipulations by those who claim “environmental awareness”, which in fact is no such thing – it is instead a demand that “someone else” eat the risks that come with the consumption of energy we demand to enjoy, instead of those risks and costs being accepted by us in the United States.

Wait, you missed a lot of context here.  You’re correct, slam dunk, I agree, our refusal to be energy independent is largely political.  In some cases, it may be the result of lies or manipulations by a bunch of people, some of whom claim “environmental awareness”.  Note, though, in some cases, it may also be the result of stupidity by a bunch of people, across the political spectrum.

You’re tacitly condemning one party, and tacitly condemning a subsection of that party, and ignoring the fact that energy independence is a bipartisan problemThree-Mile Island happened in 1979.  Domestic nuclear power basically died off between 1980 and 1990.  1980-1992, who was President?  Reagan, then Bush I.  1980-1992, who controlled which houses of Congress?  Democrats held both in 1980, then we were split (Democratic House, Republican Senate) until 1983, again until 1985, and again until 1987.  Democrats held both houses from 1987 thru 1991, into 1993 and up until 1995. From 1995, through 1999 and 2001, of course, we had all-Republican (along with a nice long stretch where we had a Republican President as well, of course).

Sure, I’ll grant you Clinton vetoed the Nuclear Waste Bill in 2000, but that actually had bipartisan support.  The NEI pushed for Yucca Mountain, in Nevada.  Funding cuts almost killed the project in 2001… who was it that was in control of Congress, then?  Brought back in 2003, who was in control of Congress then?  Now, I grant you the Obama Administration dealt the death blow to Yucca in 2009, unsupported by science, and probably only to save Harry Reid’s skinny butt – this deserves criticism.  However, several people (including some on the right) would hardly call the current Administration anti-nuclear.

But to claim that this is entirely the result of greenies with cases of critical cognitive dissonance isn’t quite fair, now is it?  Six years of an all-Republican government and the Right didn’t exactly push this through, did they?  Maybe that Texas oil man might have had something to do with that?

You’re also ignoring the environmentalists who supported or now support nuclear power, such as Patrick Moore (one of the founders of Greenpeace).  You’re ignoring those on the left who support nuclear power (hint, go here, google those names and “political contributions”.  They don’t all donate to the Right).

Now with these facts let me put forward one of my first principles – that is, one of the things that I simply will not compromise on.

We have no right to demand that other people accept pollution and degradation of their environment to further our way of life.

Right on board with you there.  Too bad you’re a global warming skeptic.

You can gripe about drilling off the coasts – all of them – and argue for shutting it down, along with arguing AGAINST strip-mining for shale and recovering oil sands and similar.  But if you do so you have an obligation to…

… If you enjoy your Air Conditioning in the summer time you may not use it…

… If you argue against coal-fired power plants you may not use electricity anywhere that it is generated using that coal…

Okay, now here is where the wheels start to come off the wagon.  Ad Hominem Tu Quoque!  (I love it when I get to call that one out).  Perfect Solution fallacy!  You can be a hypocrite, that doesn’t make your argument wrong!  You can be forced to make compromises you find disagreeable, that doesn’t make your position that the compromise ought not to be made wrong.

Now, you’re correct, greenies who drive SUVs are probably engaged in special pleading or committing the relativist fallacy.  But for the most part very few environmentalists believe that humankind ought to leave *zero* impact on the world (there are of course exceptions to this rule, we’ll grant you there are crazy environmentalists).  Most actual participating members of the Sierra Club and CalPIRS that I know/knew (the volunteers, that is) do all the stuff that you’d expect environmentalists to do.  Sure, there might be upper class liberals who drive SUVs and donate to the Sierra Club, show up at rallies and largely make themselves feel good about “being green”… but actual treehuggers recycle, cut power use, avoid consumables, bike, work close to home, don’t travel unnecessarily, etc., etc.  This reminds me of Conor’s post from the other day, to digress briefly.

You want to know what I consider being “equitable” if you really believe the crap that is spewed by people like Kunstler and Gore – as a maximum resource consumption point?  I’ll tell you:

  • One bedroom of of no more than 144sq/ft (12×12) for each cohabitating or married adult couple, plus one 10×10 bedroom for each additional single person (including children.)
  • One bathroom no more than 10×8, containing one tub/shower, one toilet, and two sinks.
  • A living room space of no more than 20×20.
  • An eat-in kitchen no larger than the living room.

This puts the “living space” for a household of 4 persons at about 1100 sqft.  That’s what I grew up in and it’s definitely “middle class” by the definitions of the 70s and early 80s.  It is also quite livable and frugal.  Now let’s continue:

  • One television, LCD (not plasma), no more than 400w.
  • Passive cooling only (e.g. basement + fan), no air conditioning.
  • Solar hot-water boosted with electric (remember, no petroleum – so no gas!) when necessary.
  • Your computer is a laptop (low-power netbook), and you own only one.
  • No incandescent lamps, no dishwasher (you have a dishwasher – it’s your hands.)
  • Your clothes are dried on a line outside.  The use of a horizontal (low-water and energy) washing machine is acceptable.
  • No person drives more than 5 miles to work and no petroleum is used to get there and back.  Yes, this means you walk, you bike, or you use a plug-in electric bicycle or golf-cart style vehicle or moped.
  • You do not use, at any time except for bona-fide emergency (e.g. an ambulance ride!) any petroleum-consuming conveyance, including diesel-powered trains, city buses (other than electric trolleys), automobiles or aircraft.  Period.

Well, now, hold on a sec, there Karl.  First of all, you described (mostly) my house.  The dishwasher, well, dishwashers use less water than washing the dishes by hand, and there’s water shortages where I hail from (perhaps unlike Florida), so there’s that trade-off.  We have wall units for air conditioning, which admittedly are not very efficient, but anybody who knows anything about the grid knows that what you’re saying here is a ridiculous metric to measure dedication to environmentalism.

Because, you see, the power grid can’t be turned off. During peak load, you’re actually (somewhat) contributing to power generation -> as you turn appliances on, you up the demand, and peaking power plants (which typically run off of natural gas) need to generate more power to compensate for this – of course, they have to generate it before you ask for it.

Running all the time, regardless, are base load power plants (typically coal and nuclear powered plants).  They have to run to keep the grid from collapsing, and generate power even if nobody is using it.  You can’t even really turn these turkeys *off*, since they take a while to get up to speed.  So, yeah, I could cut out all my energy usage period and live like a caveman.  The net impact on the power generation industry?  Almost zero.  More reading here for those who like reading more thorough analysis.

We’re going to hell in a handbasket anyway, Karl.  I can’t change that, by myself.  Neither can you, for that matter.  Unless/until we get real backing from a large majority of people, it’s just politically impossible for anybody to stop this train.  By your logic, if a vast majority decides to screw us, long term, for short term gain we’re only allowed to protest against this screwing if we don’t accept any of the short term benefits.  Oh, great!  We lose twice!  Once, because everybody is going to lose in the long run, and second, because we can’t even at least partially enjoy the trip.

Those who argue for a “western lifestyle” but demand that others, whether defined as Chinese, Nigerians, Arabs, Mexicans or anyone else “eat” the risk and pollution that comes from their profligate lifestyles, or who argue for you to live as the above while they have their cars, boats, mansions and planes, are both pigs and bigots.

This means you Mr. Gore, it means you Mr. Kunstler, and it means you …

Yeah, uh, Karl?  On absolutist terms,  that means you too.  You take steps to mitigate your impact (just like I do, and like any reasonable person ought).  Sure, Al Gore is probably something of a douchebag, but you’re basically saying we’re all jackasses unless we live like cavemen.  Which is absurd, I could live like a proto-human luddite all I want and that would not only help nobody… it would actually probably mean that nobody would take me seriously.

If you’re trying to convince governments to change their policy, you need to wear a tie and fly around in jets, that’s just the way the world *is*.

I therefore support extraction and production of each and every BTU that I desire to consume right here, inside our borders, where the risk of the production of that BTU falls on ME, as part of the collective known as The United States.

Okay, that’s actually admirable, to some degree.  At the very least, the immediate byproducts of our minerals and energy policy are going to screw up our water and air more than somebody else’s.  And I’m fully onboard and behind you in the push for nuclear power.

But let’s also be honest about the global energy market: China and India (just to name a couple) are moving up in the world.  If we stop buying oil and natural gas from countries that screw over their populace and just supply our own… those countries are still going to sell their oil, and still screw over their populace, they’re just going to sell to somebody else.  The oil market is global, we can’t exactly take our ball and go home (unless you’re talking about interdicting their ability to produce oil and gas unless they play by some sort of global regulatory agency).

The only way to solve *that* problem is to dramatically cut the world’s dependency upon oil as a energy source.  There’s lots of other uses for oil, but we don’t need nearly as much of it if we don’t burn almost all of it.


Posted June 8, 2010 by padraic2112 in politics

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