Friday, June 27, 2008

Crimes Against Humanity?

I received an email recently from one of my grad school buddies (who shall remain nameless) asking the following question:

  • "When are you going to write about the article on Drudge about the NASA chief calling for oil company executives to be charged with crimes against humanity? This has so many great angles, government employees calling for citizens to be charged in an international court, a scientist who would rather imprison a voice of dissent rather than argue the scientific merits of his position, the whole tie in with former NASA employees who had a different opinion."
Well, my first response was that this had to be a joke that he was playing on me to get me to post something silly. So, I did a little research on the matter. While it wasn't the "NASA chief" making these claims, it was James Hanson, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Father of AGW Science Scare Tactics. Most people leave off the "Scare Tactics" portion of his title, but I like to be thorough and complete in my writing. Hanson is also the guy that will tell you that he was "censored" by the Bush administration for having to put his NASA related (i.e., government funded) public presentations through the standard review and approval process required for ALL government releases of information. If you read this Guardian article, he doesn't sound at all censored to me. He sounds like a stark raving lunatic.

The email question says it best. A government scientist is calling for trials of the oil company executives for funding research in an area that just MIGHT affect the bottom line of their companies. Are these international trials going to be held in Salem, Massachusetts? Will I (and thousands of other scientists that don't believe that AGW is a big deal) be "invited" to attend these trials or will we just be dragged there and put in the stockade while the world "experts" selected and funded by Hanson's agency determine our fate?

Let's back up a second: High crimes against humanity? I think he is placing these executives and scientists in the same category as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Joseph Stalin, Josef Mengele, Pol Pot, Chairman Mao, and the list goes on. Failure to believe in JUNK SCIENCE that tells us that a trace gas will cause all sorts of havoc if we don't sacrifice to the AGW gods is now morally equivalent to genocide in the mind of Hanson (and some others). Someone please tell me that "Dr." Hanson will be back on his meds soon. If not, please tell me that he will be relieved of his duties at NASA before the Bush administration leaves office next January (it should happen TODAY).

Well, Cable (I mean, "nameless"), that is all the energy I have on the subject for now. Perhaps, I will get to write on this again before the United Nations-Tribunal for Deniers of the Significance of Anthropogenic Global Warming (UN-TDSAGW*) assembles in Salem. If not, writing MPU has been a fun ride.


*Perhaps this acronym will become as common and recognizable as UNICEF, but I sincerely hope not.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Nuclear Renaissance?

A common question that arises when people find out that I am a nuclear engineer is, "Do you think that nuclear power will make a comeback in the U.S. after such a long time since the last nuclear plant was built?" I suppose this question comes up because the "new" energy policy that brought us the silly idea of ethanol as part of the solution to our energy problems also included the idea that next few nuclear power plants (the next generation) built should receive a LARGE subsidy from the Department of Energy. While I disagree with the idea of subsidies (whether energy, agricultural, or cultural), I am beginning to wonder if the renaissance in the nuclear industry discussed in Nuclear News is real.

Why do I think there might be a real change in the energy portfolio in the U.S.? Well, I can think of two really good reasons:

  1. The diffusion of a finite number of anti-nuclear activists across multiple proposed projects will make the success of each of the projects more likely.
  2. The "presumptive" nominees of both major political parties seem to buy the snake oil that Al Gore and his buddies are selling.
To elaborate a little further on the anti-nuclear activists, I have always believed that there were only a small number of hard-core activists. The reason that they have been successful is because they could show up at every proposed nuclear site and make a good show of "community" concern. As the number of proposed sites increases, the disruptive nature of this small group of dedicated activists is diffused. Another change (pre-certification of standardized designs) in the regulatory climate that takes away all technical issues except site specific ones has taken away another tool of this group: the endless delay tactic that costs the utilities time and money.

Why does the global warming stance of the major political candidates matter for a new nuclear future? Well, the likely outcome of this November's election will be a Democrat controlled legislature with a President whose stated beliefs will lead us to some form of carbon taxation. This means that nuclear capacity that doesn't generate carbon dioxide may move from just being clean, safe, and reliable to being the economic choice as well. A study (results published in Nuclear News) has shown that a $45/metric ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation will make the nuclear option economically favored over both coal and natural gas for new capacity.

Let's be clear. I don't actually believe the idea that nuclear power needs carbon taxation to be economical. However, if the opportunity presents itself to demonstrate its capability due to this ridiculous policy, I am all for it. And, in answer to the original question, I really do think that nuclear power will make a comeback.


For the curious among you, there are currently 15 submitted Construction and Operating License Applications (COLA) and 15 that are classified as "Forthcoming" COLA. Here is a breakdown of their locations:
  • Submitted
    • 4 in South Carolina
    • 2 in Texas
    • 2 in Alabama
    • 2 in North Carolina
    • 2 in Georgia
    • 1 in Maryland
    • 1 in Virginia
    • 1 in Mississippi
  • Forthcoming
    • 5 in Texas
    • 4 in Florida
    • 1 in Idaho
    • 1 in Michigan
    • 1 in New York
    • 1 in Louisiana
    • 1 in Pennsylvania
    • 1 in Missouri

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Do You Believe in "The Fever"?

Not too long ago, former Vice President Al Gore won an Oscar and shared a Nobel Peace Prize for telling the world that the earth has "a fever" and humans are the cause of it. As a commenter on one of the blogs I frequent pointed out, Irena Sendlar (nominated for the same Peace Prize) rescued 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto during World War II, but lost out to Al Gore who made a slide show. It is just a little bit ridiculous.

In any case, Gore told us that the fever was caused by things like driving big SUVs, using lots of electricity, and flying around the world on private and commercial jets. My question to you is, does Al Gore really believe this junk that he spews on a regular basis? And if he does, what kind of sociopath does that make him?

I am asking that question in all seriousness. On June 17, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research released the latest energy use numbers for Al Gore's family home in Nashville. The numbers show that the family home used 213,210 kilowatt-hours of electricity last year (~10% increase from the previous year). This means that, in an average month, his house uses about 19 times more electricity than the average American home. AND, this is after the Gores spent thousands of dollars in energy efficiency upgrades. (By the way, if you live in an average American home, you use about 11,000 kilowatt-hours in an entire year.)

I don't know about you, but if I really believe something to be true, my actions tend to follow that belief. Sooo, if I were responsible for convincing millions of people that they should feel guilty (and pay huge carbon taxes as penance) for causing the earth's meltdown, I would make changes in my life that reflect that. Here are just a few things I would not do if I BELIEVED the global warming B.S.:

  • Use more electricity each month than 20 average American families.
    • I would look for some ways to downscale.
  • Fly in a private jet to attend climate change "summits" in Bali.
    • Teleconferences are much more carbon friendly to the earth.
  • Drive around in those fever causing SUVs.
    • The Secret Service would have to really justify it for me.
On the other hand, I genuinely respect someone like Ed Begley Jr. (although I don't agree with most of the things he believes). Some time back, he was convinced that American lifestyles were harming the planet. So, instead of making a slide show and throwing an Oscar party, he made a LOT of changes. He started recycling everything, installed solar panels and wind generators, modified his exercise bike to charge his solar batteries, and much more. Most people can't afford to do what he has done, but he has put his money where his belief is. More people should do that. I don't know that I would want to hang out at a cocktail party with Ed because I am afraid of the conversation that would ensue when I threw away my napkin, but he does "practice what he preaches."

So, until I see the former VP living the life of Ed Begley Jr., I will think he is a snake oil salesman and/or a sociopath that doesn't care about how his actions affect the rest of the globe. I believe those are the only options left to me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gas Is Cheap?

Lately, nothing that I have read or heard has lifted my bad science barometer ("It's pronounced thermometer" for you Seinfeld fans) enough to generate the emotions needed for a post. However, I have been thinking about gas prices quite a bit. I know everyone has complained about the high price of gasoline. Although I hate the fact that it takes $50 to fill my Honda Accord, you are not going to see the standard complaints here.

My thoughts have been focused on this question: Do we really need an alternative to gasoline? This may seem like an odd thought when you see signs like this:

So, why do we still use gasoline? If any of the alternatives (ethanol, methanol, bio-diesel, waste vegetable oil, fuel cells, electricity, compressed natural gas, water, or whatever) were cheaper, then we would have no problem making the transition. As a matter of principal, I think that Americans would DEMAND that the cheaper transportation alternative make it to the market NOW. That tells me that the gasoline that costs us $4, $5, or $10 per gallon is still the cheapest means of travel that we can find.

Am I a masochist that wants to pay $10/gallon for gasoline? No, but I understand the reality of what happens when we decide as a country (that should be read "Democrat Controlled Legislature") not to drill for oil in our territories that we know contain the lifeblood of industrialized economies. Why should Americans expect to have cheap energy when we continue to elect representatives that stand in the way of that very thing? Before you go too far down the path of seeing me as a pure Republican backer, you should know I feel the same way about John McCain, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins (all Republican Senators).

So, you guys tell me. At what price do you change your lifestyle? When do you DEMAND something different?

As for me, until I see a change in what we drive and a different type of fuel going into it, I will continue to believe that gasoline is our CHEAPEST option.


Update: I think Vaclav Klaus (President of the Czech Republic) has been reading my posts.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Memories of my Grandma Hazel

I really don't want to be a downer to anyone, but there is something that I feel I just have to write about. It has absolutely nothing to do with what I normally discuss. While I was in the Netherlands, my 85 year-old great grandmother died. When most people discuss their great grandmother she is often a woman that they have heard stories about, remember vaguely from distant memories of childhood, or have never met.

Grandma Hazel was much different than that.

She attended weddings, graduations, family reunions, Sunday get-togethers, special anniversaries, and anything else that MIGHT have a dance. She did all of these things until just a few months before she passed away. Her obituary noted over 100 living descendants, and a slideshow at the funeral had pictures of her with just about all of us at various points in our lives. Among the MANY pictures was a five generation shot that included Sophie, and it made the sting of losing my Grandma and my Granny (my mother's mother) even more deep.

So, what do I remember about Grandma? Here are a few things that really stick out:
  • I remember playing at the playground near her house with Amanda and my cousins Shane and Freddie. The funny thing is that Adam is missing from those memories of that playground for some reason.

  • I don't recall a single time that I saw Grandma without a smile. I know for a fact there were times when she was unhappy and faced really hard times (she was widowed in 1962), but I don't think that you could ever have seen that from her disposition with her grandkids.

  • I remember that Grandma loved the Independence Day celebrations at the Vandervoort Picnic Grounds. Mainly, she loved to dance and there were always at least a couple of dances during the 4th of July week.

  • I remember that I was taller than Grandma in about the 5th grade. I am not exceptionally tall, but Grandma was probably 5 feet tall when she wore her high heels.
There are so many more memories, but rather than continue down Memory Lane, I guess I'll just leave it at that. I will miss Grandma Hazel a great deal, and I am pretty sure that over the next few years as we add children, nieces, and nephews to our family that I will fully realize how much she was a part of all our lives.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Border War

I have struggled to find a good topic since returning to North America. Thankfully, the legal system in the U.S. is always screwed up enough to provide me with something to write about. In this case, I have an order (from June 3, 2008) from U.S. District Judge James Nowlin (Western District of Texas-Austin Division) in a case between Wal-Mart and a Texas woman (Ruth Waggoner).

I don't know what the dispute is about, but apparently the attorneys are squabbling over where the Wal-Mart corporate representatives will be deposed. Miss Waggoner's attorneys want the deposition to take place in San Antonio while the Wal-Mart lawyers want the deposition to happen in Bentonville. Judge Nowlin seems to be a little ticked that the attorneys can't even decide on where to do this kind of thing and are wasting his time with deciding something like this.

Anyway, he declares that he is sympathetic to both parties for the same reason: The football rivalry between the Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas Longhorns. He takes two really big swipes at the Razorbacks, then he declares that the Longhorns and USC Trojans played the game of the 21st century when the Longhorns won the BCS Championship for the 2005 season.

At first, I thought it was pretty funny. Then, I decided that it must be one of those "internets" kind of deals that you always find in email forwards. Well, I would have been stuck in limbo over it had the Wall Street Journal Legal Blog not declared it to be real.

So, there you have it. A judge with a pretty good sense of humor seems to have plenty of time to follow his favorite college football team. He's also got the judicial appointment for life going for him, "Which is nice." By the way, the deposition is ordered to place in Texarkana (500 State Line Drive) with each party staying on their respective side of the border.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Return of the Blogi

To anyone who is still dropping by this site let me say, "HOWDY!" I haven't posted for over a week because I just got back from spending that time in the Netherlands with little to no internet connection. I presented a paper on improved control rod reactivity curves for the Annular Core Research Reactor at the 13th International Symposium on Reactor Dosimetry. The Netherlands was beautiful, and I saw lots (and lots) of wind turbines. They are pretty impressive close up.

I just wanted to post something to let everyone know that the blog had not died. So, I ran across this on the "Watts Up With That" blog:

Greenhouse Calculator

What is it? Well, I am hoping that you will follow the link and calculate the age at which you should die to insure that you don't use "more than your fair share" of the earth's resources and report it back to me in the comments. My magic number is 2.5 years. What this means is that 32 years ago my mother should have put a pillow over my head and killed me in my sleep (anything else would have made her cruel, right?).

The website is targeted at educating 9-13 year olds on their destructive future lifestyles. I am guessing someone with a very low carbon footprint does not have broadband internet access, but that is JUST a guess. Anyway, please chime in with how much past your fair share of living you have gone (mine number is +32). If you don't want to give a differential that might reveal your age, just let me know your age of "responsible" death, whether you have passed it yet, and your thoughts on this type of indoctrination. Uh, I mean, education. I REALLY do hope that this carbon footprint website doesn't lead to increased suicide rates because of ridiculous guilt trips in young, impressionable websurfers out there who ride to school in their parents Hummers, live in Al Gore type of houses, and have big allowances.

Also, even if you have to change your answers, make sure you get to see the greenhouse pig explode. I am pretty sure that it was meant as a real horror show.

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