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« Illegal Negotiations | Main | Another Private Space Adventurer »

Platitudes

Rudy Giuliani made a campaign stop in Tallahassee the other day, and offered the assembled these thoughts:

He said one of his first acts as president would be to put the country on a path to produce more ethanol than Brazil, re-start nuclear-power-plant construction, and heavily invest in solar power.

Giuliani said the United States should prioritize energy independence much like it did the space race, when Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson fired up the gears of industry and imagination after the Soviet Union beat the U.S. into space.

The result was a bipartisan thrust to the moon that transcended several presidencies and spawned a generation of national pride and scientific spin-offs.

''Politics aside and national interests first. Not only did it help us ultimately win the Cold War, it helped us in countless other ways, in scientific development and products,'' Giuliani said...

..."We can do the same thing with energy independence. But we've got to have a president who knows how to get things done.''
He said he supported continuing to aggressively pursue space exploration. He also said more oil drilling should be an option explored to reduce reliance on foreign oil.

Two points. First, few people who talk about making energy development a "moral equivalent of war" have actually thought the notion through, particularly when it comes to comparing things to Apollo.

We're all used to hearing people who say "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we (cure world poverty, have world peace, fill-in-the-blank). What's foolish about this statement, usually, is that they're comparing a purely technological achievement, amenable to sustained applied engineering, to social problems that are not solvable by throwing money at teams of engineers.

But people who use the argument to say that we should solve the energy problem are seemingly on more solid ground, since this is, in theory, something solvable in that manner.

Of course, the problem is that it's still an apples/oranges comparison. Solving the energy problem involves coming up with cost-effective solutions for new energy sources that are competitive with fossil fuels, and particularly petroleum. But Apollo wasn't about cost effectiveness. It was about achieving a technical goal regardless of cost. So it still remains a flawed comparison. Certainly, it is to be hoped that, by investing large amounts of money, we can come up with processes that can increase the supply and reduce the cost of non-greenhouse energy sources. But actually, history doesn't encourage us that when a government program pours large amounts of money into a search for a technology, particularly an energy technology, that it has a fruitful outcome. Synfuels and windmills, anyone?

Moreover, that's a goal that companies should be (and in fact are) seeking regardless of whether or not there is a large taxpayer-funded initiative. No one would expect a private company to fund Apollo (which is not to say that no one should expect a private company to send people to the moon), but one would expect private companies to look for lower-cost replacements for current energy sources, since this would provide a huge payoff.

The second problem is that the phrase "space exploration" is so nebulous. When it comes out of a politician's mouth, it's like mom and apple pie. Who's against "space exploration"? Yes, there are a few, but they aren't a significant voting block. One can be in favor of space exploration, but that doesn't mean that one favors space settlement, space development, affordable access to space, etc. It could be "manned" or "unmanned" "space exploration." I doubt if Giuliani has given any thought to these issues (few politicians other than Newt Gingrich have). I suspect that he is simply expressing a motherhood statement on a convenient stump.

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 06, 2007 01:20 PM
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Rudy Rudy Rudy...throwing out those useless statements wont get you to the White House.

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 6, 2007 03:56 PM

Rand: I don't disagree with any of what you're saying here. I am curious, however, what you think of the Automotive X PRIZE (100 mpg car) that's being reviewed, and whether or not you think it will be more effective than the government energy programs Giuliani seems to advocate. They're trying not only to inspire a technological advance with a technology race (as well as actual car races), but also to have it packaged in a marketable and manufacturable way. To accomplish that their rules are more complicated than those of the original X PRIZE, where they went for the technological demonstration and left the business follow-up for the subsequent businesses to work out.

Posted by Ray at April 6, 2007 04:09 PM

"Rudy Rudy Rudy...throwing out those useless statements wont get you to the White House.

Robert"

Bob, they all do it except for mabey BR on the Dem side and Newt on the Rep side and Newt isn't running yet and proabally wont if Fred jumps in..

Posted by Mike Puckett at April 6, 2007 04:57 PM

Posted by Mike Puckett at April 6, 2007 04:57 PM

Of course "most" of them make such nonesensical statements...that doesnt mean that they can get to The White House with them...the sad thing is that it shows that the legacy of Apollo is completly misplaced in culture and politics in this country.

Absent the value of putting men on the Moon FIRST and the PR value during the cold war, the effort had no value worth its cost. The legacy of it today is a buracracy that is driftless, incompetent, and virtually useless...consuming federal dollars and like the welfare queens, accomplishing nothing.

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 6, 2007 05:27 PM

Well, I'm glad he mentioned re-starting nuclear research, though the real way to re-start the nuclear revolution would be to educate the public, kill the hysteria, and start sawing through the forest of red tape which strangled nuclear energy in it's cradle.

Government won't do that, even with nominally small-government parties in charge, unfortunately - all the incentives run the wrong way.

We've known the solution to the "energy crisis" for 50 years, but progress in this country has ceased. It reminds me a bit of John Galt's engine sitting in a trash heap.

Posted by Aaron at April 6, 2007 05:51 PM

An excellent essay, Rand. Well worth noting is this point:

one would expect private companies to look for lower-cost replacements for current energy sources, since this would provide a huge payoff.

This is arguably one of the stupidest aspects of any proposed government program to find a new energy source. There are only two possibilities:

(1) There exist new energy sources with a lower marginal cost than fossil fuels. In this case, private industry would already be all over it. Fossil fuels are absurdly difficult and costly to get out of the ground, unless you're in the Middle East. The capital cost is huge, the required development time years and years, and the risk unpleasantly high (because of fluctuations in the price of oil, geological uncertainty, et cetera). Any energy source that credibly promised to end up being cheaper and easier to produce than fossil fuels would have folks like Exxon and Chevron all over it. They would love to have something to sell other than oil, and that has a lower production cost.

Since they're not all over it, this is a big warning sign that the smartest minds in the business -- scientists and engineers with all kinds of PhDs and decades of experience -- have not yet been able to find anything that even slightly promises to be cheaper or easier than imported fossil fuels. Anyone who ignores this expert opinion is an idiot.

(2) Perhaps there are alternate energy sources that reduce CO2 emissions, say, or don't involve importing oil from the Middle East, but they are significantly more expensive.

In this case, it's silly to have the government pay for the development program through taxes. Taxes come from consumers anyway -- why not just have the consumers pay directly? Tax oil products, e.g. gasoline, until the price of energy from imported oil goes high enough that alternate energy sources become cost-competitive. At that point, private industry will develop them (see #1).

Furthermore, having government pay the development costs doesn't help get the economy onto the new energy source once it's developed, because it's marginal cost is still higher than oil. So you'd have to subsidize the new energy source. Again, this is a silly roundabout way of proceeding. Just tax oil until the new sources become competitive, and the market takes care of the rest.

If this sounds annoyingly intrusive, it is. But that's what happens when you make a political decision ("we must become energy independent!") which makes no sense from a strict economics point of view.

Will this happen? Of course not. In theory we want to be energy independent, but not in practise -- not if we have to actually pay the costs to do so. I view this as a good thing, personally. I can see no significant advantages to "energy independence" other than smug self-satisfaction, and there are massive drawbacks. If the price of energy inside the US is artificially inflated, the price of US goods will jump above world standards, and we can look forward to a significantly lower standard of living and an exploding trade deficit.

I can understand why government people like the idea, however. The extra money that comes from pricing oil way above its market price will go to the government as taxes. Government always likes getting its hands on billions of dollars.

Posted by Carl Pham at April 6, 2007 06:00 PM

The cynic in me suggests that Rand and Oler are dead wrong. Platitudes are exactly what gets one into the White House, for the most part. Get too specific, and one risks alienating half the voters no matter what those specifics are. (There are exceptions, of course, such as Reagan in 1980 and I hope next year will be one of them.)

Posted by MarkWhittington at April 6, 2007 07:39 PM

Carl, thorium and the liquid-fluoride reactor can provide energy in sufficient amounts to displace fossil fuels, and are based on technology demonstrated at Oak Ridge National Lab back in the 1950s and 60s. The technology was killed in the mid-70s because the AEC wanted to build the fast plutonium breeder, and the military wanted weapons-grade plutonium. It's high time to visit that decision and reconsider thorium. Unfortunately, most of the people familiar with the technology are dead.

Posted by Kirk Sorensen at April 6, 2007 08:00 PM

Posted by MarkWhittington at April 6, 2007 07:39 PM

Mark.

Your candidate in 2000 USED NOTHING but platitudes in running for office and has used them since that time to try and govern ("the next smoking gun could be a smoking mushroom")...so I can understand why you think that.

But real leaders LEAD, they dont babble on about non existant threats or continue to mistate things to the American people when their babble has been found out (Dick Cheney recently on Rush)...

I agree with you on this point...since the Dems are headed for naive oblivion to the dangers facing us....hopefully in 08 the GOP faithful can summon up the courage to resist nutty righties and try someone with some you know leadership.

(and half a brain would be nice as well...)

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 6, 2007 08:34 PM

"But real leaders LEAD, they dont babble on about non existant threats or continue to mistate things to the American people when their babble has been found out"

Par for the course for your side, which is actually trying to pretend that there is no War by banning the phrase "Global War on Terror."

My suspician is that history will be far kinder to President Bush than the haters and the psychotics are who blame every bird that falls on some conspiracy in the White House. He has proven steadfast in the primary struggle of our age, even while people on your side want to pretend that there is no struggle.

I was actually, by the way, thinking of Bill Clinton.

Posted by MarkWhittington at April 6, 2007 08:49 PM

I see your points Rand Simberg but at least
- produce more ethanol than Brazil
- re-start nuclear-power-plant construction
are concrete measurable goals.

Guiliani is known for getting things done. The way I see it he used Apollo as a symbol, a political symbol of unity and achievement towards a common pragmatic goal. I doubt he or anyone else thinks it will be exactly the same (although less dependence on oil means less money towards a certain part of the world, oh and Venezuela too).

Well, Norway too actually but I don't mind ^_^ (I'm norwegian).

I would hope that he would also restart such programs as this one that were axed during the Clinton administration. Its completion and use would greatly reduce the arguments from those afraid of nuclear power (particularly waste storage which is the current showstopper number one).

Carl: most investors are very risk-averse and rightly so. I think your comment underplays that. Regardless there are other ways governments can help rather than tax petrolium to death. I'm no fan of increasing taxes and I know that goes for Guiliani too. However presently petrolium is subsidised in the US and I'm not too keen on subsidies either, a gradual subsidy cut as cost-competitive alternatives grow makes sense to me. These are dangerous waters though since energy is an essential part of the economy as a whole, it has to be slow, careful, and controlled.

Government can help out in many ways to let alternative energy sources take their rightful place (some of these have NewSpace parallels). Remove red tape (enormous for nuclear) which incidentally cuts government spending if done right, provide financial incentives like insurance guarantees (once again a huge showstopper for nuclear power), apply funds for research & development (there are many interesting nuclear research projects in addition to the one linked above and they're often not expensive either), and in general do whatever helps progress in a sensible manner.

Removing red tape while guaranteeing insurance necessitates designs that are safer and better and that's where a R&D drive fits in Apollo style imho.

Oh and he said "aggressively pursue space exploration", agressively at least sounds better than if it wasn't there at all but I'd like some real meat as well, perhaps some space blog could ask for an interview or more details?

Posted by Habitat Hermit at April 6, 2007 08:50 PM

Posted by MarkWhittington at April 6, 2007 08:49 PM

If Mark we triumph in this fight in Iraq it will be because of the strong backs of the US military, not because of IDIOTS like Cheney and Condi et al who essentially made up one reason after another, which have not turned out to be accurate to go into Iraq.

They made them up Mark. And you are one of hte people who carry water for them. Cheney on "Rush" was back peddling his "nonesense" mistatements that have been repudiated and shown to be "false" over and over again...and yet the far right laps them up.

We were sent on a fools errand by fools, who mislead the country time and time again and then stuck with a bad strategery long after almost everyone with half a brain had figured out that it wasnt working (people with a brain knew it wouldnt work before it was tried).

Now we are in it and we have to win...but "your" candidate and his administration have 1) lost public support, 2) let people like John Murtha whip them time and time again, and 3) have come up with so incompetent an administration they cannot even fire their own attorney's.

History, who knows how history will record these times because history is written by "the victors"...but when we win, it wont be this administration that does it...it will be whoever comes next.

There isnt one thing that they told us about Saddam and Iraq that ahs turned out to be true...so much for returning "honor" to The White HOuse.

LOL

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 6, 2007 08:55 PM

haters and the psychotics are who blame every bird that falls on some conspiracy in the White House.

Posted by MarkWhittington at April 6, 2007 08:49 PM

As oppossed to those who blame everything on Bill Clinton...?

LOL

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 6, 2007 09:03 PM

Robert I don't think you should call a Ph.D with a stellar academic and business record like Dr. Rice an idiot, at least not if you want to avoid being perceived as a namecalling moonbat (it's not really like the rest of your post helps either but that part just gets way too rich).

I probably wouldn't mention this if it wasn't for you describing yourself as some sort of centrist in other posts.

I guess I'll throw the GOP propaganda machine better known as Wikipedia at you:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condolezza_Rice

Did you know she used to be a Democrat? Bet you didn't ^_^

Oh and you might want to check the background of the others as well although they don't compare to Dr. Rice's level.

Posted by Habitat Hermit at April 6, 2007 09:24 PM

Posted by Habitat Hermit at April 6, 2007 09:24 PM

I am sure "Condi" would have done great in dealing with the Soviets, but it is hard to see how her performance in any part of this administration in terms of Mideast Politics or "the war on terror" (a stupid term) has been anything but idiotic.

It is a binary solution set.

Either Condi and the other "geniuses" of this administration did not bother to listen to people like Zinni, Owens, others who had some experience in Mideast politics...

OR they rejected their views, views which have turned out to be "spot" on in terms of what happened...

So which would you say that they and "Condi" are?

Rice babbled her way to idiocy with statements like..."the next smoking gun could be a smoking mushroom" and "our troops will stay as long as necessary but not a day longer".

She doubtless is a bright individual...so is Bill Clinton.

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 6, 2007 09:35 PM

Posted by Habitat Hermit at April 6, 2007 09:24 PM

actually I would add this...I dont know what you have done all your life, but I knew who Condi Rice was and her background long before Bush the old was POTUS...

As well as the background of all the other "merry people" prime actors of this administration.

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 6, 2007 09:37 PM

I don't know you Robert and you don't know me, but I know one thing; you didn't actually read the wikipedia article because otherwise you would at least get your mushroom cloud quote right and perhaps even discover how extremely active and fairly successful (given the circumstances) Dr. Rice has been in the Middle East (and elsewhere).

Did you know the teacher who inspired her to study foreign affairs was none other than Albright's dad? Did you know she worked as an intern in the State Department during Carter?

Go on, it's not that much to read.

As for binary well that's just another way of saying things are black & white, if you really think these things are simply binary you have an extremely long way to go no matter who or what you prefer.

And thanks for dragging Bill Clinton into this because I actually like the guy (not so keen on all of his policies, some were better and some suffer from hindsight, a few things I'm extremely grateful for while simultaneously ashamed of Europe) but he sure seems much smarter than many recent Democrats (notice how he doesn't whine about or hate Bush?). Not so smart when it comes to women and lying but here's a clue for you; nobody is perfect. I know that because my world isn't binary.

Posted by Habitat Hermit at April 6, 2007 11:22 PM

re: govrnmnt throwing money at the problem

Well, the petreoleum issue is being solved by small startup car companies. Some smaller, some bigger, one of them is headed by a certain Elon Musk

what i am talking about, is after decades of big car companies and govrnmnt programs dragging their feet in EV development, small startups are springing up everywhere and just doing it.

Look up Tesla Motors, Phoenix MotorCars, ZAP/Lotus Zap-X crossover, and lots of smaller players.

Electric drivetrains are coming, and going to rid us of direct oil dependence. It leaves us with the problem of producing clean electricity, but it still decouples the energy production from energy consumption point in transportation and is a big step forward.
Its going to take a while before risk-averse big automakers bite the bullet and head to full electric route, but some are doing it already on a small scale ( Subaru R1E, Mitsubishi MIEV and GM Volt which is believed to be a greenwashing/PR excercise alone but you never know ) .
Note that Subaru and Mitsu are the two japanese carmakers practically forced to be innovative, because flops on traditional markets.

Posted by kert at April 7, 2007 12:47 AM

Carl, thorium and the liquid-fluoride reactor can provide energy in sufficient amounts to displace fossil fuels, and are based on technology demonstrated at Oak Ridge National Lab back in the 1950s and 60s.

Kirk, burning $100 bills or diamonds can provide energy in sufficient amounts to displace fossil fuels. The problem is, it's a lot more expensive. One thing the alternative-energy folks have to get through their skulls, if possible, is that the issue is not technology or science but economics. There is no energy tech out there -- with the exception of that ol' pie-in-the-sky nuclear fusion -- for which science or engineering problems are the major barrier to adoption. It's economics, pure and simple. It just costs a lot less (on the margin) to get energy from oil and gas than anywhere else.

With regards to your breeder reactors, that will work for electricity generation, although switching to them would raise the price of electricity substantially, because you've got to build all those big plants and supporting infrastructure -- float whopping big construction bonds -- whereas the oil, coal and gas plants running now are pretty much paid for already.

But bear in mind electricity generation only accounts for about 40% of our total energy use. Transporation accounts for about 30%, and you can't put nuclear reactors into cars, trucks, and airplanes. So you need more than breeder nukes.

Government research isn't really going to do anything because it isn't a question of missing know-how. It's a question of making the decisions and paying the (high) additional cost. We already know how to power the entire country with nuclear reactors and fuel cells if we're willing to pay the cost, and accept the lower standard of living and decreased international competitivity that implies.

* That said, I think one area that government can and should take action is standard nuclear power. That's because previous government action has artificially raised the price of nuclear power by holding it to absurdly higher levels of safety than its fossil-fuel cousins. If those actions were reversed, the price of nuclear power would fall and there'd be more nukes pretty quick.

Posted by Carl Pham at April 7, 2007 02:13 AM

Carl: most investors are very risk-averse and rightly so.

Think this through. Are you really talking about risk? If so, if you're saying investing in new energy tech is so risky private investment won't touch it, then you're saying it almost certainly won't work. That's what it means to make a very risky investment -- you're probably not going to get your money back. Is that what you really mean? And if so, why on Earth should the taxpayers invest their hard-earned cash in blue-sky crazy projects that are very unlikely to work out? Surely there are better uses for tax money. Subsidizing the purchase by poor people of more efficient, more modern appliances and cars, if nothing else. Very little risk there.

Or when you say "risk averse" are you really saying "stupid" or "short-sighted"? Are you thinking private investors are too stupid or too short-sighted to invest in the alternative energy tech research which you're confident will, in fact, pay off (which makes it a low risk investment)?

In that case, I think you're naive about goverment and business. The people making investment decisions for Exxon are not stupid. You don't get to that level by being anything other than very smart. Furthermore, they have no problem thinking a decade or more down the line. For example, Chevron's 2004 discovery of a major oil reservoir in the Gulf of Mexico (the Jack Field hit) will take 9 years to develop and cost nearly $2 billion before it turns a profit. From their initial ventures into the Gulf through to profit is probably a journey of 10-15 years.

Furthermore, taking a look at the behaviour of Congress over the last few years gives me zero confidence that those fools have a vision that goes out any further than the next 2-year election cycle. Heck, they've got a first-class actuarial disaster staring them in the face with Social Security and they can't bring themselves to even talk about it. Every year the budget is late through some grandstanding or other and the Treasury forks out a few billion in pointless interest. If Congress had a credit score from Equifax it would probably be negative.

Anybody who's lived off of Congressional appropriations can tell you that it's a roller-coaster. One year you're in favor, the next year you're not. Feast followed by famine. Congress has never been good at sustained, steady focus on a problem. Why would that change for alternative energy research?

Posted by Carl Pham at April 7, 2007 02:45 AM

If it was up to me I'd give Doc Bussard $5 million and tell him to get to it and prove his reactor design will work.

Mike

Posted by Mike Borgelt at April 7, 2007 04:03 AM

Mike:

Spot on, except that Dr. Bussard has himself said that $200 million would be needed.

A few points here:

Electrostatic-fusion power plants can be designed to use fuels that create zero radiation when burned - not sure, but I believe the boron-11/proton reaction was discussed. All the products are charged, so no neutrons to make the machinery radioactive - and it's probably possible to extract the energy directly as electricity, much more efficient as well.

These plants also look as if they will be small enough to be used in large buildings and very large vehicles - trains and ships, for example. Maybe even large trucks.

No explosion hazard. None. Unlike fission.

And as a bonus, it also looks as if it is possible to change the fields in such a way as to make a fusion rocket out of it - which would give us the Solar System, maybe the galaxy, as a side benefit.

Why hasn't it happened already? Simple. Entrenched interests. What happens to the power company if most of their big customers no longer need them? What happens to the fossil fuel industry if their sales of heating fuels all but disappear?

Bill Gates has given billions of dollars of his money to a foundation, run by himself I believe, whose main focus is helping Africa - an effort doomed to failure for the foreseeable future if for no other reason than that most of the cash would end up in Switzerland.

It's his cash of course, but maybe someone might persuade him to invest a small (for him!) amount in Dr. Bussard?

Of course, fusion my this method has some more side benefits. Byproducts can't be diverted to weapons use, unless you can find a use for small amounts of helium. And it cuts off the flow of money to terrorists at source.

Posted by Fletcher Christian at April 7, 2007 05:06 AM

Robert spews: (and half a brain would be nice as well...)

I assume that means YOU won't be on any ticket.

HH says: at least not if you want to avoid being perceived as a namecalling moonbat

Too late. Robert is doing again the little thing that makes debate impossible. Its spewing hatred and vitriol as fast and as heavy as you can. Both sides of the aisle do it and its nothing new, but it sure doesn't help. Its pretty much a given that no one is going to change their mind in this blog. But that shouldn't stop civility. Its been an observation of mine that most people in high offices can be treated like children. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by Mac at April 7, 2007 06:56 AM

The cynic in me suggests that Rand and Oler are dead wrong.

What is it that I'm "wrong" about? I sense a straw man ahead.

Platitudes are exactly what gets one into the White House, for the most part.

Ah. There it is. When did I claim otherwise?

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 7, 2007 07:06 AM

I don't know you Robert and you don't know me, but I know one thing; you didn't actually read the wikipedia article because otherwise you would at least get your mushroom cloud quote right

Now you know, as have the rest of us for a while, that Robert can't be bothered with informing himself, or getting things right. He's too busy with his keyboard diarrhea.

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 7, 2007 07:10 AM

It seems that this country is really schizoid
about the whole "energy thing"... a lot of
people give lip service to "reducing CO2
emission" and "ending dependence on foreign oil"
etc., but whenever fuel prices go up a bit it
turns out that such concerns matter much less to
them than their sense of entitlement to cheap
gasoline.

The situation that would be most conducive to
the emergence of alternatives into practical
use would be _increasing_ gasoline prices, such
that "but it would be More Expensive..." becomes
less and less valid af an objection, and the
natural action of free markets will respond to
the demand. Yet whenever gasoline prices go up a
bit, the newspapers report it as Bad News - just
across the page from yet another "Scientists are
Worried about Global Warming" story!

-dave w

Posted by dave w at April 7, 2007 08:05 AM

BTW, I think some filter on the comment system
is jumping at shadows again: I had to change
the last word in my previous comment because
I got a "could not be posted due to questionable
content" error message: what's "questionable"
about a 7 letter word that starts with "arti" and
ends with "cle" and means "a story printed in a
newspaper or magazine"?

-dave w

Posted by dave w at April 7, 2007 08:11 AM

Too late. Robert is doing again the little thing that makes debate impossible.

Posted by Mac at April 7, 2007 06:56 AM

I know...quoting the facts...there was no smoking mushroom, no weapons of mass destruction, no links with Al Queda...nothing that Condi or George or Donnie said was accurate.

annoying isnt it?

You bought it, they took you hook line and sinker...

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 7, 2007 08:12 AM

Did you know the teacher who inspired her to study foreign affairs was none other than Albright's dad? Did you know she worked as an intern in the State Department during Carter?

Posted by Habitat Hermit at April 6, 2007 11:22 PM

ZOUNDS

I knew those things and knew who Condi's sister is etc etc all without reading a Wiki article...

An informed citizerny is essential to a free state.

I also know that there was no WMD, no threats to the US, no unmanned drones ready to land on our cities, no nuclear weapons with Saddam, I knew that the plan to invade Iraq wouldnt keep the peace or grow a government, I knew Rummy's plan sucked, (Mark Whittington use to think we were going to overwhelm Iraq with 20-50,000 troops..LOL)

I knew all those things...

And I have never bought into right or left wing rhetoric.

enjoy

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 7, 2007 08:16 AM

Now you know, as have the rest of us for a while, that Robert can't be bothered with informing himself, or getting things right. He's too busy with his keyboard diarrhea.

Posted by Rand Simberg at April 7, 2007 07:10 AM

I know it is annoying when someone brings in the facts...like the facts on perjury and no WMD...

some of us are governed by facts not ideology...

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 7, 2007 08:17 AM

Mike Puckett writes:

Bob, they all do it except for mabey BR on the Dem side and Newt on the Rep side and Newt isn't running yet and proabally wont if Fred jumps in..

Does this mean I can actively campaign for Bill Richardson and avoid being slapped with a "moonbat" label? I am still thinking about getting very active for Governor Richardson here in the suburbs of Chicago (Obama country).

Rudy? He's toast, especially if Bernie Kerik gets indicted as is rumored. Kerik was Rudy's suggestion for Homeland Security Chief, as I recall.

So who will be be? Newt? Fred Thompson? Mitt Romney? Jeb Bush?

What about Huckabee? (I've said this before but I still love Huckabee's slogan: "Give Hope another chance!" He and Bill Clinton share a home town.)

Posted by Bill White at April 7, 2007 08:29 AM

If we can put a man on the moon

As soon as someone pulls out that cliched, the immediate response should be "we haven't been able to do that since Nixon was running the country and we were also fighting a war in Vietnam." (And any response which mentions Bush as the new Nixon shows that you can discount the person even further.)

Posted by Raoul Ortega at April 7, 2007 08:54 AM

Bill, Rudy's toast anyway because it looks more and more like he is going to announce. FWIW, anyone who ain't FT is toast period! This guy is RR V2.0. Even Oler will have to love him!

Posted by Mike Puckett at April 7, 2007 09:30 AM

"Does this mean I can actively campaign for Bill Richardson and avoid being slapped with a "moonbat" label?"

Sure, but you would have an easier time losing the label if you stay away from Kos, DU and Glue Huffers post. You won't ever catch me posting over at Freep even under an assumed name. Those places are so inbred, they are pointless and a waste of time other than a source of derision. If you don't want fleas, don't lie down with dogs.

Posted by Mike Puckett at April 7, 2007 09:38 AM

Let's consider the topic of gov't taxes to increase petroleum costs. This has been implemented widely across the EU countries. One would expect to get a good sense of what "alternative energy" options currently truly exist by looking at what is widely used there.

Answer? To the best of my knowledge -- bicycles, Mopeds, tiny cars, trains, windmills, nuclear fission, lower standards of living and a per capita auto fuel usage only 20% that of the US. Conspicuously absent, are the fantasy technologies: fusion generators; electric , hydrogen , fuel cell , bio diesel, methanol cars.

So the evidence clearly indicates that there isn't an economic alternative to gasoline for cars at prices up to European levels ($6 - $7 per gallon).

US and European data is comparable, but not identical, due to complicating factors such as geography (Euros live closer to their destinations) and capital investments (Euros have mass transit already in place and cars are have higher fixed costs).

Thus creating such a taxation/price-fixing scheme of a European scale here in the USA wouldn't be expected to create magical new technologies as it would only roughly double the market size for non-gas vehicles not create a new marketplace.

Posted by Fred K at April 7, 2007 09:54 AM

So who will be be? Newt? Fred Thompson? Mitt Romney? Jeb Bush?

Posted by Bill White at April 7, 2007 08:29 AM

Bill:

I am a McNasty guy and have been for sometime...although until his recent showing over Iraq I have been somewhat dissapointed with him....

But...

The interesting thing this year is that I believe that there is going to be an oppurtunity in both parties for a "second wind" to blow through the nominating process.

In past sequences unless someone has clearly started to dominate the process of nomination as the votes are actually counted there have always been someone in the middle of the process who has "boomed" a bit...the best known one is Jerry Brown. Gov. Moonbeam actually started getting traction well into the process.

The process is so early now that a "second wind" could come before the votes are even voted...ie in September both the GOP and the DEMS could experience some "fresh faces"...notably in the Dems...The Goreacle and on the GOP Fred Thompson.

I have contributed to McNasty and will at this point continue to although I must admit that I am intrigued with the persona of Fred Thompson and Duncan Hunter.

Both to me are Ronaldus the Greatesque ...ie they are in their manner and speeches and most importantly vision (the thing that bothers me about McNasty right now...) larger then life. They see a Republic that is different from today and seem to be able to speak of it in coherent and moving words.

Duncan HUnters speeches are well moving and compelling. Fred Thompson's speeches are similar...

What is impressive on the Dem side is Obama. He has put together an amazing campaign that seems to be both grass roots in nature and sprinkled with seasoned professionals that seem to be slowly making the trains run on time. I dont like his politics are his vision for America (as I understand it now)...and as a whole do not feel safe with any of the Dem candidates...except possibly Richardson maybe...

I would feel that The Republic is in safe hands with Hunter, Thompson, or McNasty.

They are everything that this administration is not.

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 7, 2007 09:59 AM

re: Conspicuously absent, are the fantasy technologies: .. electric ..., bio diesel, methanol cars.

Except that you are wrong. There are many cities in europe increasingly going the electric transportation route, and might it surprise you that in London, there are around 1000 battery-electric cars of a certain make on streets, each costing 8000.
Yes, that eight thousand pounds. Thats just one brand, and sales are picking up speed.

Basically, here is a newsflash: Electric cars are not a fantasy technology, they are becoming a reality real fast. Even GM has picked up on it again. Here is a good long recommended reading list:
http://www.autobloggreen.com/category/ev-plug-in/

Posted by kert at April 7, 2007 10:23 AM

So the evidence clearly indicates that there isn't an economic alternative to gasoline for cars at prices up to European levels ($6 - $7 per gallon).

Fred, I think you're clearly right, and it's an important point. That's why I pointed out Kirk's breeder reactors won't do anything for the 30% of our energy use that goes to transportation. It's very difficult to replace gasoline in engines, because nothing else (aside from tiny nuclear reactors) comes close in terms of energy storage density. Only with gasoline can you dream of putting 100 pounds of fuel in your vehicle and driving your family across the state at 65 MPH.

That said, you could still get some substantial changes in the 40% of our energy that goes to electricity production by taxing the heck out of oil. It is worth noting that as the price of oil has climbed naturally over the past 20 years or so, some alternative tech for electricity production has become more competitive. Wind power is the obvious example. In some places it's now competitive with oil and, lo and behold, windfarms are being built by private investment. No magic goverment program elixir required.

But I do agree with you that the inevitable byproduct of taxing oil to shift electricity generation to alternate energy sources will be a reduced standard of living. It has to be. You can't get something for nothing, and if you're going to go to a more expensive energy source, the wealth to pay for it has to come from somewhere. It's only the same credulous people who believe in perpetual motion machines that think some really clever technology could make it possible to have our cake (enjoy low prices relative to our incomes) and also eat it (not be using cheap imported oil).

Posted by Carl Pham at April 7, 2007 12:18 PM

Carl said:
"Furthermore, taking a look at the behaviour of Congress over the last few years gives me zero confidence that those fools have a vision that goes out any further than the next 2-year election cycle"

And that's actually my answer sort of; being risk-averse is all about making the right decisions as to what gets you the highest amount of profit both short-term and long-term. If there is a substantial risk of failing to gain sufficient profits (for any multitude of different reasons) then most investors aren't too keen. As both the costs and risks involved rise the number of interested investors rapidly approach zero - as it should.

While there are plenty of companies and investors who would like to build, own, and run nuclear plants the current legislation and political and social climate makes them think it's far too risky. As things are I wouldn't argue against them.

So I don't think we actually disagree all that much on that particular point. When it comes to the R&D bit and the "Apollo drive" I see it as a way of breaking through all the ill-informed public and political noise surrounding nuclear "anything". One has to get most people (i.e. the leadership within both main political parties) aboard on making something "new" that puts just about everyone at ease (even if the "new" isn't necessarily all that new as a concept or technology to insiders).

As for Europe I'm glad several have already pointed out that Europe is trying (and has been for at least a decade) to find and use alternatives and they're about the same as in the US. Just like there is limited but growing use of various biofuels in the US the same goes for Europe and some farmers grow fuel (i.e. suitable biomass, among them mustard seeds) rather than food (the EU has traditionally always produced surplus food that just gets dumped and it's a way to end that and at least scale back on the horrendous farming subsidies). Denmark's coastline has plenty of windmills, several countries are building new nuclear plants (although some have tried to do the opposite because of political insanity, most noteably Germany and Sweden), at least one norwegian company is working on further perfection and refinement of clean coal processes and another (Norsk Hydro) is involved in wave-generated electricity outside the coast of Portugal (a prototype plant started in 2005).

Those are off the top of my head and represent the usual mix of government and private initiatives of which I'm sure many might ultimately fail -far too early to tell.

I would like to add that most oil & gas companies (at least western ones) are actually involved quite heavily in alternative energy R&D. It's almost trivial to replace or tune engines for appropriate replacement fuels as long as they aren't used in an arctic climate. What is not trivial at all is to establish the supply logistics for the replacement fuel itself. The logistical problem is presently the main bottleneck both in the US and the EU since it's a chicken and egg problem (the micro-economics of gas station pumps).

Naysaying any and all possible alternatives is a bit dangerous on its own. It comes very close to believing in the zero-sum fallacy, there is such a thing as wealth creation.

Posted by Habitat Hermit at April 7, 2007 07:50 PM

Where does one begin, Robert, how about the fact that Zinni; CentCom chief in the late 90s, did
nothing to halt Al Queda's advance at the time
it was moving to finalize its major strike against
the US. Re; December 1998 PDB Bin Laden determine
to strike; this was five monthes before the Kosovo
operation; which aligned us with the Al Queda associated KLA. On the Iraq front he organized the Desert Crossing war games, big deal, predicting 400,000 troops to secure Iraq, with
no assurances. Of course, if we had deployed that
many troops, we would be that much more stretched now, without resulting to a draft, how well would that have worked. Owens, who's that the official
at SAISC, former Deputy Chief Naval Operations; what was his part in this Now Robert are you saying that Saddam never had WMDs, that he had them in the 1980s and 1990s or what. Rice was an Eastern European area expert; her Ph.d was on the Czech army mobilization in the 1960s; as was her predecessor Dr. Albright; the daughter of her
mentor Dr. Korbel. Ironically, Baathist and Nasserite political organizations operate along
East Bloc organizations structures. Now maybe you meant Gen. Odom, who received scathing reviews
by Bamford as NSA director, and who as far back
as 1999, was considering getting us involved in
the Kosovo conflict thru a massive intervention
from Hungary. Dr. Brizinki, another East Europeanist, back in the Carter administration, who approved the tilt toward Iraq, and the Saudi
-Pakistani ISI Gen. Intel. influenced arms & material pipeline to the Afghans; how well did
that turn out again Your complaint is that a Middle East expert. Now you're not going to rely on those interviews with Saddam and Mani al tikriti as the final word are you. Richard Clarke,
the great Cassandra on these matters, spent the
1980s negotiating these self same basing rights
for US bases on the Peninsula. Didn't he know
that Wahabbism cosniders infidels on. Now I do fault them for taking 12 to 18 monthes to fire
a US attorney; talk about swift retaliation. Then again it took about a year and half to amass the
Iraq force; and they called that a 'rush to war'
a rush to war! Like landing the Operation torch
in March 1943; right around the Time the Germans
and the Italians had beaten the British, and moved
their proxy Haj Amin Husseini's forces to do to
Jerusalem what the Ukrainians had done a yeat and
a half earlier. With the Germans seizing the Saudi
oil fields not long after that.

Getting to serious manners, there's a major flaw
in the "Manhattan Project" or even in the "Moon
shot parallel to pursuing energy independence.
With the first two, you're talking of adaptations
of principles of physics, to technical, and mechanical means. We know what works, and we know
the flaws. Nuclear is most effective, but radiation and disposal of waste materials makes
it problematic. The clean forms of energy are impractical, and even harmful to environment; (wind ; Martha's vineyard) Ethanol, has the cost
factor, and whether one considers corn, or switchgrass has a major impact on the availa-bility of livestock and basic food stuffs. Shale
derived oil is a possibility , but has limited
applications for the greater solution. Hybrid
cars, seriously, give me break. Hydrogen might be practical in the long run, particularly if
H3 from the moon is source fuel; same for fusion.

Another problem; arises when people say: some European countries are beginning. . .The problem
si you can't honestly compare apples and oranges,
if you're going to compare carbon dioxide emissions, heath care costs, energy usage, et al;
you make the clearest comparison; Continent wide;
Europe to the US, US to Russia, et al. Specially
when one does per capita breakdown. NowUS/Canadian
comparisons don't really pass muster; they have the same length; however the latter has 1/10th our populations.

Now as to the candidates; McCain, would have been
good; if he could only focus on the issue at hand
and not erroneously associate his plight with enemy combatants, not sandbag judicial
nominations,not treat the religous right as the greatest threat to the nations (that was last
time; along with McCain Feingold)not get involved
in regulating professional sports, seriously.
for "heaven's" sake, not give the media ammunition
by repudiating his own message (re the Shorja market and the effect of the surge)So I guess he's
out. Hunter, would be great, after all If we really felt like electing a true Vietnam Vet; why
not a self made Veteran of the 173rd Division, whose son like McCain, Daley, Webb, is or has been in Iraq. But his protectionist stance as well
as his premature hostility toward China, would probably sink him. Choosing Hunter, sort of contradicts your "American first" stance. Choosing paul; amkes me think, huh. The choice is probably between Guiliani (and Thompson if he gets in) Now Romney is out, not for his ameteurish
adlib on Cuba, or for his flip/ flops (They were
about a campaign that was waged a decade ago)But
they'd probably play the scary "Mormon" card

Posted by narciso at April 7, 2007 08:03 PM

Apparently, in Robert's world nothing can change. Our, enemies can't evolve or adapt their tactics to circumvent our defenses. If they succeed at anything its because we want it to happen and likely gave them the means to do so. In fact he proves to be incapable of changing his rhetoric by the fact that he is still bringing up tiresome arguments, about a old subject, that nobody can do anything about at this point in time. He proves that...

"Its pretty much a given that no one is going to change their mind in this blog."

Or, on the entire internet for that matter. Thats why it is entirely pointless to argue with someone on the internet. The internet is too remote of an interaction and experience in order to provide the type of life affirming experience one needs in order to accept a change in attitude or logic.

I've personally had experiences where I have told someone how something works: x,y,z. Only to have them skeptically nod and quietly go on there way. Then, that same person came back and said, "Oh remember how we weren't certain how this worked, my teacher explained it in class the other day and it works like this: x,y,z." Nevermind, the fact that I was certain how such and such worked and in fact recited the exact same details only which they conveniently forgot as they most likely just refused to think I knew and understood something and they didn't. That might mean admitting, "Gasp! That person is actually smarter and more knowledgeable about that particular subject then me!"

For that person it was the legitimacy of being in the classroom having information relayed by an parental figure in a formal position that instantly elevated that person's willingness to change. An internet comment thread isn't going to do that for most anybody. That's why I just normally say my peace and then just move on to the next article. Everyone on the internet acts as if they are ever above reproach - can't beat 'em join 'em.

Posted by Josh Reiter at April 7, 2007 08:42 PM

Where does one begin, Robert, how about the fact that Zinni; CentCom chief in the late 90s, did
nothing to halt Al Queda's advance at the time
it was moving to finalize its major strike against
the US.

Posted by narciso at April 7, 2007 08:03 PM

very naive and ill informed comments...

Zinni as CentCom can recommend but under "our" system he cannot take unilateral action...in other words he has to get the Commander in Chief to go along.

I find your words amusing since I recall the "outrage" at the bombing of teh "asprin factory" in Sudan (which probably set back OBL's chem warfare plans by sometime) by the far right in amusing tones.

the same guy who recommended striking the "asprin" plant was the guy who told Bush the WMD was a slam dunk...

LOL

it is so funny watching the ideologically impaired rattle on.

the same people who were going into hyperventalation over Clinton doing what he should have done in Afland and the Sudan would have turded the big one had Clinton tried to do anything "more" in terms of OBL....

And then there is the matter of Bush sitting by and doing NOTHING as the countdown to 9/11 unwound...

not to mention him sitting by and doing little or nothing on 9/11.

LOL

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 7, 2007 09:01 PM

Apparently, in Robert's world nothing can change. Our, enemies can't evolve or adapt their tactics to circumvent our defenses.
Posted by Josh Reiter at April 7, 2007 08:42 PM

what an absurd statement...

in my world things are evolving and our enemies modify their tactics...sadly faster then this administration is at thinking on its feet.

LOL

as for "old arguments"...

When people in this administration continually get things wrong and little right it is hard to avoid bringing that fact up!

I know it is annoying to the true believers...but it is funny to me.

The far left and the far right...peas in the pod...

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 7, 2007 09:04 PM

Posted by narciso at April 7, 2007 08:03 PM

Sorry your post is a bit long to quote things...

Saddam and WMD.

I am saying by the time Bush and co (including the well suited Condi Rice...and heeled as well) were making the "smoking mushroom" claims...to claim Saddam had WMD that could attack the US was babble.

Babble.

Babble without proof...here is how it was prudent to know that Saddam didnt have WMD when Bush an company said he did...

We had special ops teams in Iraq for sometime before we went boots on the ground with conventional forces...When Colin had to go to the UN with drawings and the like, one knew that despite looking very hard for it...we had not found it.

put another way...if we had found it, we would have showed it.

the AL tubes etc...all BABBLE.

LOL

and you bought it didnt you? Hook line and sinker.?

Dont feel bad a lot on the right did.

Robert

Posted by Robert G. Oler at April 7, 2007 09:08 PM

"Rudy? He's toast"

If you're certain of that - and right - you can make a lot of money at www.intrade.com. He is still the favorite, though the gap has narrowed (at this moment, it is 29.5 Giuliani, 20.8 Thompson, 18.2 McCain, 16.7 Romney).

Posted by jjustwwondering at April 8, 2007 03:49 AM

HH, I think much of what you've said is valuable and spot-on.

But I still wonder if you're a little muddled on what government can and should do in terms of risky investments. That isn't necessarily a criticism. The best economists in the world are a little muddled about it, about what is the most effective role of government in investment.

Generally speaking, government investment differs from private investment only in that it's involuntary and overseen by lawyers (Congresspeople) instead of accountants and businessmen. The source of the money is pretty much the same: most of the tax money in the US comes from the wealthy, and essentially all of it comes from what we might call the "investing class", people with enough income that they invest at least part of it.

Furthermore, taxes and private investment are competing goods. If people are taxed more, they invest less, and if they are taxed less, they'll invest more. So we really do have a choice of one or the other, not both.

So when do we choose a tax-funded program instead of a private-investment funded program? I'd say, whenever you've got a project where the benefits are easily understood by everyone, but the best approach, while well-known, is understood only by very specialized people. Best example is public health. Everyone can easily understand the benefits, when they experience them, of polio vaccines, water free of diphtheria bacteria, et cetera. So, in the end, when the project is achieved, people don't really mind having their wealth taxed to achieve it.

But only people with well above average intellligence and a lot of schooling can understand how to run the project successfully -- how to invent vaccines, keep water supplies free of bacteria, etc. So you don't want investors overseeing the project as closely as they would in the private funded case. They'll make terrible decisions. You really do want a cadre of experts not particularly answerable on a daily basis to the investors (i.e. taxpayers) running the show. Hence, here's a case where a tax-funded project is preferable.

Alternate transportation fuels? I dunno. It's not as complicated as vaccines and bacteriology, but it's more complicated than the idea of saving up to buy a house (which we leave entirely in private hands). Furthermore, the benefits of running your economy on oil versus nuclear are not really clear to most people, even when they happen. People aren't very good at understanding those kinds of macroeconomic things. (Otherwise they'd never dream of supporting even-odd day gasoline rationing, as they do.)

P.S. What's up with the interleaved Iraq war thread? I'm wondering if Rand could put up a post on the shocking price of apples and have certain commenters connect this inevitably to the Iraq war.

Posted by Carl Pham at April 8, 2007 03:32 PM

Carl Pham I basically agree with just about everything in your last post except I don't think you're right about when government funding is preferable to private funding. Not that the things you mention can't be part of it all or even right, just not as a general rule.

I think it has to be decided on a case by case basis. If the outcome is reasonably equal or better then I would prefer private over government. Might sound simple but it's actually the opposite; it's the lack of simplicity that reduces my opinion to those two things (I sort of wish I could avoid it but for every general example I think of I seem to also find counterexamples, it all comes down to details and circumstances).

However one thing I do think government investment can do (preferably in addition to other government actions as well as private investment) is to be fairly fast at both creating support for and speeding up a project. This says more about the structure of our societies than anything else though.

I don't think we're purely in the economical realm when it comes to this question and that might be part of the reason why economists and everyone else (including me of course) become a bit wobbly or muddled on the subject.

Posted by Habitat Hermit at April 9, 2007 02:10 AM

"We already know how to power the entire country with nuclear reactors and fuel cells if we're willing to pay the cost, and accept the lower standard of living and decreased international competitivity that implies."

Why would nuclear power lower the standard of living?

Posted by Norm at April 9, 2007 02:56 AM

That's why I pointed out Kirk's breeder reactors won't do anything for the 30% of our energy use that goes to transportation.

What's more, the breeder reactors won't even reduce the cost of electricity. If uranium becomes very scarce, they might be able to reduce the increase in the cost of electricity from nukes that that would cause. I do not expect this to occur in any sustained way anytime soon, though.

Nuclear power will continue to use the once-through cycle without reprocessing, except when the alternative fuel cycles are heavily subsidized.

Synfuels and windmills, anyone?

These are actually advertisements for government involvement. The technology has advanced considerably. Synfuels became uncompetitive with oil at $12/barrel after the oil crash, but are very competitive at current oil prices (projected IRR of >100% for year for mine-mouth FT coal in Wyoming, for example), in no small part because government programs helped mature the relevant technologies.

There exist new energy sources with a lower marginal cost than fossil fuels. In this case, private industry would already be all over it.

This is not clear. The problem is that discovery and maturation of a new technology is a positive externality. In such situations, the free market tends to underproduce relative to the economically optimal point. Patents and other IP protection might enable the innovators to capture profits from these benefits, but they might not (and these laws are already interferences with the free market, so admitting them but decrying direct government subsidy is a bit hypocritical.)

Posted by Paul Dietz at April 9, 2007 06:47 AM

The babble about what the MEDIA reports on the reasons for going to Iraq the second time is misleading. It doesn't matter if WMD was there or not. The only excuse the administration needed was the SEVENTEEN reasons that 'ol Saddam gave us to go back.

If you'll remember...Saddam started the war by invading Kuwait. Saddam lost that war. Saddam signed the cease fire. Saddam broke the cease fire repeatedly (which essentially is ALL THE REASON WE NEEDED). Saddam ignored those really effective UN sanctions. Saddam ignored SEVENTEEN resolutions by the UN (more of that effectiveness). Saddam also KNEW we would come back...but his little pea brain failed to inform him that he would lose...again.

So, dear Robert, if you want to spew history...then plz spew all of it.

Posted by CJ at April 9, 2007 10:16 AM

CJ says: Saddam ignored those really effective UN sanctions. Saddam ignored SEVENTEEN resolutions by the UN (more of that effectiveness).

You are, of course, correct. However, keep in mind that most anti-Iraq war arguers will say that the UN didn't give the US the right to enforce the resolutions, so the punishment for blatantly ignoring them turns into US Imperialism. I guess we should've just bombed another aspirin factory instead...

Posted by Mac at April 9, 2007 11:29 AM


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