Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Jul 12, 2011 with 43 responses

Barack Obama: A Mediocre President

In 2008, I believed all year long that Barack Obama would win the presidency. Even when Hillary Clinton was still the favorite to win the nomination, I thought Obama’s charisma would ultimately win him the Democratic nomination, and then the presidency. The night before the election I wrote that I thought he would capture more than 300 electoral votes (he got 356) and would beat McCain by more than 100 electoral vote (the margin of victory was 192 electoral votes). On the night of the election, I wrote a post congratulating him. I was happy to see him elected. But in the same post I also predicted that he would disappoint many.

There is no question that Obama inherited a mess of an economy from the previous administration. And if McCain had been elected, I would probably be writing the same story about him. I think that 100 years from now, history will look back on Obama as having broken important racial barriers. His election inspired hope around the world. But it seems that the ability to give a charismatic speech does not necessarily translate into being a good president. I believe history will judge Barack Obama as a mediocre president.

Naturally Republicans are going to view Obama negatively, but he has come under harsh criticism within his own party. Jon Stewart summed it up like this:

(CNN) – Count Jon Stewart among the legion of frustrated supporters of President Obama.

Appearing on Fox News’ The Bill O’Reilly show Wednesday, the liberal comedian said he thought Obama would do a better job when he voted for him in the 2008 presidential election.

“I think people feel a disappointment in that there was a sense that Jesus will walk on water and now you are looking at it like, ‘Oh look at that, he’s just treading water’ … I thought he’d do a better job,” said Stewart.

Stewart, who maintains he ultimately does not regret his vote for Obama, said he is “saddened” the president hasn’t done more to change the structure of Washington.

“I thought we were in such a place [in 2008], much like the Tea Party feels now, that the country … needed a more drastic reconstruction – I have been saddened to see that someone who ran on the idea that you can’t expect to get different results with the same people and the same system has kept in place so much of the same system and same people,” he said.

Stewart has elaborated that one of his biggest disappointments is that many people who were responsible for getting the country into our current financial state have been left in place to fix the problems they created: “I thought he understood the corrosiveness of the system that existed, and I thought he was going to do more to blow the system up.” New York Magazine just published a sharp critique of Obama’s policies on this very topic, namely that his “failure to demand a reckoning from the moneyed interests who brought the economy down has cursed his first term, and could prevent a second.” The article noted:

“What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe.”

But while Obama has given the financial system a free pass for losing huge sums of money and requiring large taxpayer-funded bailouts, there is one system that Obama has tried to blow up. He has essentially declared war on our domestic oil companies since taking office. This is not surprising; he had campaigned on this theme as well. That was the largest beef that I had with then candidate Obama; that he was so willing to marginalize and demonize the companies that provide over 90% of the nation’s transportation fuel. It is hugely ironic that the billions in taxes paid by the oil companies helped make some of these bailouts possible (as I noted in this story) — yet the oil companies are the ones Obama has chosen to attack.

I expressed concern throughout the presidential campaign over Obama’s energy policy proposals. I felt that he was exceedingly naive, and that campaign naivety has shown up in his energy policies as president. Policies — such as his recent decision to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) — run counter to many of his other positions (e.g., reducing dependence on oil, promoting renewable energy), and increase the risk of future supply shocks. Many observers have already pointed out that oil prices are now higher than they were prior to the SPR release. As this article succinctly put it (subscription required), during a financial crisis you can print more money, but “you cannot print oil.”

As a former Democratic state representative recently said to me “I think Obama’s problem is that he is largely uninformed about energy.” It would be nice, though, if he took some time to inform himself. We know that he has an affinity for visiting renewable energy companies. I wonder if he has ever thought about visiting an oil refinery? He might learn that they make his trips on Air Force One possible.

I think the result of being uninformed is that Obama believes that if he marginalizes our domestic oil companies, that this will lift the fortunes for renewable energy. In fact, far more likely is that as our domestic oil companies are placed at a competitive disadvantage to their foreign competitors, they will curtail production and shelve marginal projects, and we will look to oil imports to fill the gap. That is why I am against policies that I believe will place our domestic oil companies at a disadvantage; this will ultimately weaken the U.S. (I am not, however, against policies that raise the price of oil across the board; those are the kinds of policies that I believe will truly incentivize renewable energy).

But as I scan the Republican field, I don’t see anyone who can beat Obama in the 2012 elections. Palin? Bachmann? No way. (I made my feelings about Palin clear here, and I thought it was a huge mistake for McCain to put her on the ticket. Blame him for unleashing her on the public). Romney? Too liberal for even large segments of his own party, particularly the far right. The Tea Party faction will support Palin or Bachmann, but some of the more moderate Republicans would likely abstain before voting for them.

So what does this all mean? I think Obama gets reelected in 2012, and we must endure mediocrity until at least the end of 2016. I am a firm believer that past performance is a good indicator of future performance, and thus we are unlikely to see any dramatic changes in his policies. Further, unlike his first two years when he had a Democratic majority, he now has to work with a Republican majority who will oppose him at every turn.

That also means 5 more years of naive and counterproductive energy policies. We will probably be treated to more futile releases from the SPR (I wonder when he plans on refilling it?), and a country that is weaker and more dependent on foreign oil at the end of his term.

But Osama bin Laden was eliminated on Obama’s watch. At least that’s something.

  1. By OD on July 12, 2011 at 12:52 am

    I have to say Robert, you have been dead-on with all of your predictions that I can recall reading. It is almost spooky :-) . I believe you will be right in 2012 and Obama will be reelected. It appears the republicans did not learn from the 2008 election with Palin on the ticket, but want to double down and send Bachmann in. Hopefully it is truly just a media circus and neither make it to an actual ballot.

    I do hope you are wrong about his 2nd term. I think he does grasp our energy quagmire, perhaps not to the extent needed but that could all change very quickly. After all, this is the only president that I recall mentioning the importance of high speed rail to our nation’s future in his SOTUA. That was a glimmer of hope, no matter how small, for me.

    [link]      
  2. By paul-n on July 12, 2011 at 1:39 am

    I’m not going to get into the politics of this, since I don’t even live in the US, but I would have to agree with the statement that he seems “uninformed about energy”.  He seems to regard his Energy Secretary, Stephen Chu like some secret weapon, that will magically solve the energy problems.  I expect that Chu is very well informed on energy, but he sure says precious little on the subject.

    The energy policy direction seems unclear.  if he wants to reduce oil imports, increasing domestic production is one of the ways to do that.  yet eliminating the production incentives will have the reverse effect, and just lead to more imports.  For biofuels, there has been continuing policy uncertainty, but specially selected funding for some projects and not others, and the same for renewable electricity.

    When there is uncertainty, often the best business decision is to not invest until the clouds have cleared, and that has not happened yet.

     

    @OD – the fact that he regards high speed rail as being important to the country’s future is, to me, and indication of how uninformed he is.  it certainly hasn;t been important to the country’s past or present, so why is it so vital in the future?

    HSR is the train version of the Concorde – very sexy and fast, but horrifically expensive to build and operate, and it has to be priced such that it is often no cheaper than flying.  

    To date, California has spent $630m on “high speed rail” and has not even put a shovel in the ground.  And the plan they have come up with is basically a train that initially will run from nowhere to nowhere else, because this was the route with the least resistance from property owners.  When it finally does connect LA and SF, it will cost a mind blowing $43bn.

    You could build a  lot more, of the less sexy “express” trains (80-110mph) for that, build them sooner, and make them affordable enough that most people can take them.    The cost of HSR increases exponentially with speed – just how fast do you have to go?

     

    [link]      
  3. By Walter Sobchak on July 12, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Mediocrity would be an enormous improvement.

    [link]      
  4. By OD on July 12, 2011 at 9:41 am

    You could build a lot more, of the less sexy “express” trains (80-110mph) for that, build them sooner, and make them affordable enough that most people can take them.

    I absolutely agree. It is not the mention of high speed trains specifically, they very well maybe DOA as you point out, but the notion that public transportion will be needed. Maybe I read too much into his statement. It wouldn’t be the first or last time, I’m sure :-)

    I think it is extremely hard to guage what a politician personally believes and what is political posturing. I see a lot of the president’s actions as the latter, perhaps I give him too much credit.

    [link]      
  5. By Rolf Westgard on July 12, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Obama has made some relatively small energy blunders – SPR release, cutting Yucca Mtn funding, etc. There is no war on the oil companies in which I own quite a bit of stock. And you, Robert, haven’t offered any substantive ideas of what he should do to get us out of the huge mess he inherited. For suggestions, see Krugman’s columns in the NYT.

    [link]      
  6. By thomas398 on July 12, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I dont know if he’s an uninformed as he is politicaly cynical.  If he goes “drill baby drill” the price of oil probably wont be affected and even worse his base will say he caved in to Big Oil intrests.  He loses more votes by drilling for more oil so he doesnt.   So the SPR release is a political compromise.  We’re stuck with bad policy until a politician is willing to say that higher oil prices are here to stay and there is nothing we can do but conserve and (to lesser degree) move to alternatives.  Politicians are still selling a manifest destiny energy view–a nation without energy limits.

    [link]      
  7. By Kit P on July 12, 2011 at 10:59 am

    “Mediocrity would be an enormous improvement. ”

     

    I agree Walter but I think it would be fairer to say he was the wrong man at the wrong time. Of course so was McCain.

     

    One of the biggest blunders of Obama has been AGW and cutting Yucca Mtn funding to satisfy one extreme end of his base.

     

    Focus! Hey buddy, we are having an extreme financial crisis with high unemployment. I think energy infrastructure are good make work jobs but investment in energy requires confidence that the environmental regulations are not going to change in the middle of a projects.

    [link]      
  8. By Kit P on July 12, 2011 at 11:14 am

    “If he goes “drill baby drill” ”

     

    What is your mantra Thomas? Import baby import! Energy problems are not hard to solve. Put me in charge of the energy police and I will ration the energy Thomas uses top the level he thinks it should be. When I am done Thomas will be using cold water and wash rag for personal hygiene and his days of blogging on a electric power computer will be over.

     

    Excuse the the hyperbole but energy is freedom. Providing an ample supply is doable. If Obama flies Air Force One to another solar thing I hope he chokes on the fuel Air Force One uses. I will point out that Bush supported renewable energy but not to the exclusion of everything else.

    [link]      
  9. By gene on July 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    mediocraty is overly generous, the current and past energy “policy” is quite obviously a set or rules and regs to molify a set of complainers. No structure or sense, our mankind contrib to ghg is small compared to the volcanoes and coalmine fires running all the time. our problem seems to be o’s education, the univdrsity profs and an idiot preacher have had much too much influence.Destruction of capitalism does seem to be his goal, crashing the economy would be the obvious way to do it. lets hope current web alarms are all wrong. re 2012, the media will destroy any person the republicans put up front so o isa shooin.

    [link]      
  10. By Benny BND Cole on July 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I share many of RR’s sentiments in this superb blog.
    Obama has demonized productive people (in the oil industry), a terrible weakness of the D-Party. (I voted for Obama, given the option).
    He did not get us out of Afghanistan (our withdrawal from Iraq was a deal the Bushies inked). In fact, Obama got us deeper into Afghanie, a horrid waste of money and people.
    Obama did not reform Wall Street–our financial system may collapse again, for all I know.

    The sad thing is, Obama is likely a better choice that whatever the warmongers and plutocrats at the R-Party put up.

    [link]      
  11. By rrapier on July 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Rolf Westgard said:

    Obama has made some relatively small energy blunders – SPR release, cutting Yucca Mtn funding, etc. There is no war on the oil companies in which I own quite a bit of stock.


     

    When he demonizes oil companies over and over — as he has certainly done — and suggests they aren’t paying their fair share, singles them out for punitive tax treatment (while leaving other industries with the same tax benefits intact), that is declaring war. He has not attempted to foster any sort of relationship with the oil companies, preferring to work against them despite the fact that they make enormous contributions to the economy and make his lifestyle and that of most Americans possible. He is continuing an old and unproductive Democratic theme of stirring up public anger at the oil companies for votes.

    And you, Robert, haven’t offered any substantive ideas of what he should
    do to get us out of the huge mess he inherited. For suggestions, see
    Krugman’s columns in the NYT.

    Nonsense. Is this your first time here? I have offered up my ideas numerous times. We frequently talk about solutions here. For instance, here or here. What is needed to deal with our energy problems is the kind of bold leadership that I have not seen in Obama (nor have I seen it in previous presidents). It would take political courage to face up to the fact that high gas prices are here to stay — and to develop real plans for adjusting to that reality. Instead, Obama has chosen the paths of the presidents before him: Keep gas prices low at all costs — even if that is in direct contrast to his stated goals on climate change. It is a dysfunctional position.

    RR

    [link]      
  12. By Tim C. on July 12, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Paul N – Why do you “expect that Chu is very well informed on energy?” The US economy runs on oil, coal, and natural gas. Chu is an academic with impressive experience in pure research at the single molecular level, but no real applied research experience, and absolutely zero experience in the oil, coal, or gas industries. There is ample evidence that both Chu and Obama are badly uninformed on real energy issues. Obama, the law professor, is dazzled by Chu’s technical brilliance and academic success. But Obama is blind to Chu’s lack of real world knowledge and practical experience, because Obama suffers from these weaknesses himself.

    [link]      
  13. By Kit P on July 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    “But Obama is blind to Chu’s lack of real world knowledge and practical experience, because Obama suffers from these weaknesses himself.”

    Tim I am sure you know this but DOE is a misnomer. Most of DOE budget has to do with the national labs and reservations associated with the production of nuclear weapons and now the clean up. Chu was head of one of those research places and knowledgeable of some things nuclear. Best I can tell is Chu is a California magic wand waver and not a clue about what it takes to deliver energy on a daily basis.

    [link]      
  14. By Wendell Mercantile on July 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Chu is an academic with impressive experience in pure research at the single molecular level, but no real applied research experience, and absolutely zero experience in the oil, coal, or gas industries.

    Tim,

    I agree. Despite his well-earned Nobel Prize “for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light” and impressive credentials as a scientist, if Doctor Chu had to explain the tasks of an oil or gas well-drilling crew and how they get a drill bit to turn 90 degrees, he would probably be at a loss.

    One of the biggest blunders of Obama has been AGW and cutting Yucca Mtn funding to satisfy one extreme end of his base.

    Kit P.

    I also agree with you. Stopping the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository (YMNWR) was a huge blunder, and wastes work that has been in progress since 1978. The only reason for stopping YMNWR was political and had nothing to do with any technical or safety reason. It will take years and years to make up for the ground we’ve lost in stopping YMNWR.

    [link]      
  15. By thomas398 on July 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Kit P said:

    Excuse the the hyperbole but energy is freedom.


     Really?  That would mean that today’s American’s have exponentially more “freedom” than the Founding Fathers. Most conservatives would disagree with you.  “Energy is productivity and convenience” is the better T-shirt slogan.  Remember how free a country we live in when the Secret Service knocks on your door. 

    Providing an ample supply is doable.

    Really? Your definition of “ample” is just as convoluted as your definition of freedom. Please bestow upon us your plan to raise U.S. oil production at the same rate as consumption over the next ,say, decade.    Or perhaps you have a source to cite?  The oil industry and RR would like to know.

     

    One of the biggest blunders of Obama has been AGW and cutting Yucca Mtn funding to satisfy one extreme end of his base.

    It should be noted that McCain was for Yucca Mountain but against nuclear waste through his state (AZ has at least two). A policy even less coherent than Obama’s.  The govenor of Utah takes the same position. Yucca Mountain didnt have a candidate in the last presidential election or in Nevada’s last senate campaign. 

    Even if Yucca got a “Go” from the Feds.  Its going to take a Supreme Court case to determine if states can ban nuclear waste transportation. Interesting that the Tea Party is for state’s rights (for example its opposition to Obama’s health mandate) except when it comes to energy.

        

    [link]      
  16. By Kit P on July 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    “It will take years and years to make up for the ground we’ve lost in stopping YMNWR. ”

    The conclusion that I drew from working on YMP was that there is a long view. The only thing hazardous arriving in ground water a few hundred thousand years from now is fissionable material that the French process out and recycle. There is no hurry to make a decision but we will need a place eventually.

    “That would mean that today’s American’s have exponentially more “freedom” than the Founding Fathers. ”

    I agree but I have been to both Washington’s and Jefferson’s homes. My home is much more energy efficient. Plus I have no need for slave quarters to house the people who gather fire wood.

    Energy provides freedom not just for rich aristocrats but he poor who now have more time freedom manual labor to teach their kids to read.

    “It should be noted that ”

    That Obama is POTUS and Harry Reid is Senate Majority Leader. These are national leadership positions. So Thomas if you want to make a list of people who promote local self interest and ignorance rather than the common good of the nation, I will agree and not vote for them for national office.

    “Its going to take a Supreme Court case ”

    Nuclear case law is pretty much settled. High level waste has been shipped for years.

    “Interesting that the Tea Party is for state’s rights (for example its opposition to Obama’s health mandate) except when it comes to energy. ”

    Thomas you seem to be pretty good of misrepresenting the view of others so you can avoid stating your own opinion. Clearly, energy is is an interstate commerce issue regulated by the federal government. States are free to provide regulations based local needs as long as the are not more relaxed than federal standards and restrict interstate commerce.

    Since Thomas brought up states rights, most states regulate things like radioactive sources for medical or industrial purposes. Cleanup at Hanford is to WAC (Washington Administrative Code) but have to meet 10 CFR20. There was a referendum in Washington State a few years back restricting the transport of radioactive material. It immediately ended up in Federal Court. In the meantime, small businesses that specialized in medical isotopes started moving to Idaho.

    Now the really stupid part of the referendum is that Washington State want to eventually ship high level waste to YMP. Can you say Hanford High Level Waste Central.

    [link]      
  17. By mac on July 13, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Obama and Chu

    Obama couldn’t have picked a worse energy secretary than Chu, The reason, of course, is that Chu is not an MBA bean counter or lobbyist for the oil industry.

    WOW, we actually got an Energy Secretary that apparently doesn’t work for the fossil fuels industry.

    What a tragedy !!!!

    [link]      
  18. By Wendell Mercantile on July 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Yucca Mountain didn’t have a candidate in the last presidential election or in Nevada’s last senate campaign.

    Eventually the people of Nevada will have to realize it’s time to “Take one for the team.” (The “team” being the United States.) and quit resisting the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository. Nuclear waste has to go somewhere, so why not a sparsely-populated state whose geology has been studied and is well-understood, and where 85% of the land is Federally-owned?

    It’s not as though there will ever be a nuclear waste repository under Connecticut or New Jersey.

    [link]      
  19. By russ on July 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Rolf Westgard said:

    Obama has made some relatively small energy blunders – SPR release, cutting Yucca Mtn funding, etc. There is no war on the oil companies in which I own quite a bit of stock. And you, Robert, haven’t offered any substantive ideas of what he should do to get us out of the huge mess he inherited. For suggestions, see Krugman’s columns in the NYT.


     

    Why in the world would I want to see Krugman’s columns in the NYT? Anytime he comes on TV I change the channel – of course I do the same for Obama.

    Obama’s blunders have been massive in almost every area!

    Maybe he is a good community organizer (I have yet to hear what one of those does except extend a hand) but a horrible president.

    His ‘my way or the highway’ attitude shows his leadership capability.

     

    [link]      
  20. By Michael Cain on July 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Eventually the people of Nevada will have to realize it’s time to “Take one for the team.” … where 85% of the land is Federally-owned?… It’s not as though there will ever be a nuclear waste repository under Connecticut or New Jersey.

    Interesting that you got two of the major causes of western resentment towards the eastern states and the federal government in a single comment: (1) the federal government has a long history of being a pretty bad neighbor in terms of managing its extensive land holdings, and (2) it never seems to be Connecticut or New Jersey’s turn to take one for the team.

    Given the number of open-air nuclear tests that were conducted in Nevada, and the further number of below-ground tests that affected aquifers, it seems reasonable (at least to me) for Nevada to feel like they’ve already done more than their share for the team with respect to nuclear.

    [link]      
  21. By mac on July 13, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Since all this “nuclear waste” is harmless, let’s bury it under Wendell’s house or most certainly under Kit’s house,

    Better yet, let’s bury it under Robert’s house over there in Hawaii.

    [link]      
  22. By Optimist on July 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    But it seems that the ability to give a charismatic speech does not necessarily translate into being a good president. I believe history will judge Barack Obama as a mediocre president. 

    I agree on history’s ultimate judgment. It is worth remembering, though, that good communication skills (including good oratory skills) are a necessary but insufficient requirement for good leadership. A leader who can’t communicate his ideas is no leader at all; hence, Kit P won’t be in charge of Thomas’ energy use any time soon. But being a good communicator says nothing about your judgment, i.e. what you use those communication skills for. This is where the disappointment with Mr. Obama sets in: IMHO, he’s not using his communication skills to tackle the really big problems with any coherent strategy.

    Blaming the opposition for Mr. Obama’s lack of strategy (as Paul Krugman often does) is laughable. Ditto for blaming them for his lack of conviction, i.e. his inability to stick to the plan in the face of resistance. But then this should not come as much of a surprise: the man’s résumé is after all pretty thin.

    Unfortunately, American politics is at a point where having a thin résumé is a distinct advantage. The guy with the thick résumé spends all his time fielding questions on past decisions (“In 1985 you voted for a tax increase… Why should Americans trust you now?”). The guy with the thin résumé gets to define himself in his own words (“If… when I get elected, I will restore American exceptionalism… [cue: applause]). The last three presidents all had thin résumés. Two of them even got reelected, in spite of repeatedly showing how little they knew. As RR predicts, we’re well on our way to reelect the third. And if you like thin résumés, you’ll love Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin.

    Love him or hate him: President Obama is a sign of the times, and a product of US culture.

    [link]      
  23. By Optimist on July 13, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I dont know if he’s an uninformed as he is politicaly cynical.  If he goes “drill baby drill” the price of oil probably wont be affected and even worse his base will say he caved in to Big Oil intrests.  He loses more votes by drilling for more oil so he doesnt.   So the SPR release is a political compromise.  We’re stuck with bad policy until a politician is willing to say that higher oil prices are here to stay and there is nothing we can do but conserve and (to lesser degree) move to alternatives.  Politicians are still selling a manifest destiny energy view–a nation without energy limits.

    I view the SPR release as a combination of several factors, none of them good:

    1. It shows political desperation: “See, I did something about high gas/oil prices…”

    2. It confirms the inability of the Democratic party to stick to their energy policy (expensive energy is good) when faced by angry voters. Leadership, after all, is about leading, not following.

    3. It shows a dreadful understanding of oil markets: what releasing less than 24 hours worth of global consumption will leave a lasting impression? Better yet: it’s all speculators! Chase them off, and we can have our oilcake and eat it, too!

    Depressingly, that leaves us with “drill, baby, drill” as our energy policy by default…

    WOW, we actually got an Energy Secretary that apparently doesn’t work for the fossil fuels industry. What a tragedy !!!!

    Great idea, mac! Maybe it is (over)time we got one of those. It’s at least worth trying.

    [link]      
  24. By Wendell Mercantile on July 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    …it seems reasonable (at least to me) for Nevada to feel like they’ve already done more than their share for the team with respect to nuclear.

    Michael,

    I can understand how the Nevadans feel, I once lived in Wyoming where virtually everyone feels those in Washington DC should just leave them alone.

    Be that as it may, Nevada is still the best place for the nuclear waste depository, and Nevada is not the only state that has already “taken one for the team.” New Mexico; Idaho; south-central Washington around Hanford; western Colorado; Utah; Texas; Paducah, KY; Aiken, SC; and even Niagara Falls, NY did their part during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.

    The people of Nevada will just have to get over it and realize for the good of the country and our energy future, the budget for Yucca Mountain should be restored and it should be opened.

    It’s probably an outdated concept, but their philosophy should be, “Duty before self.”

    Since all this “nuclear waste” is harmless, let’s bury it under Wendell’s house…

    mac~

    If I lived in a geologically-suited area, I wouldn’t oppose a nuclear waste repository where I live. It’s got to go somewhere, and as long as it’s a geologically-stable area and is well-managed, it wouldn’t bother me to live near it. Most people are probably not aware, but there are already nuclear reactors storing their waste in pools and dry casks in this area.

    [link]      
  25. By Kit P on July 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    “most certainly under Kit’s house”

    Not a problem MAC! Take the fission products for my use of electricity, mix it in with molten glass, then take the baseball sized high level waste and surround it in concrete a 55 gallon garbage can for shielding, bury it in the back yard. Done! Perfectly safe.

    Here is the science as to why it is safe. The rate at which the fission products would leach from the glass is less the decay of fission products. Slow down the release to the environment and the radioactive material is gone before it can to us to eat it.

    Do not take responsibility for the waste if your electricity comes from coal. The mountain of ash will bury your house.

    Everyday a long coal train pulls into a coal plant. All that coal either goes into the air or ends up landfill. Several trucks every few years carries new fuel to a nuke plant. No waste, CO2, SO2, NOx, and particulates are released to the environment at the nuke Spent fuel is stored at the plant.

    Five to fifty years later the spent fuel will be shipped way in very robust shipping containers. If you are involved in an accident you should hope it is with spent nuclear fuel and not a gasoline tinker. The former will give the exposure equivalent of eating a banana while the latter will incinerate you.

    While you could safely put spent fuel under my house, we could also dig a tunnel (done) in the side of hill (Yucca Mountain is not much of a mountain). This tunnel is 1000 feet above the ground water. Then you would leave the spent fuel a 1000 feet below the surface and backfill the entrance tunnel. Yucca Mountain for the next couple of hundred thousand year, Yucca Mountain will look like it did for the

    “Interesting that you got two of the major causes of western resentment towards the eastern states and the federal government in a single comment:”

    Obviously Michael Cain has never been to Yucca Mountain. Let me suggest that you first go to SF and taking some training classes from Berkley Bob to help you deal with resentment issues. Next Mike first man up with a nick name because wimps die in the deserts of Nevada. Here lies Mike who died of dehydration full of resentment.

    The federal government has extensive land holdings around Yucca Mountain because they can not give the desolate land away. The Homestead Act did not see Yucca Mountain turned into farmland. No water, no timer, no minerals, no reason for anyone to come live there thousands of years from now.

    Oh gosh, why was Yucca Mountain picked!

    [link]      
  26. By mac on July 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    WE

    [link]      
  27. By Steve on July 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    You are incorrect about reading the Republican party. Romney will be the republican nominee and Chris Christie will be his VP choice. Every four years there is a big statement about how this year is different and that the field is wide open and every four years the republican party nominates the next guy in line. Four years ago they said McCain was too liberal for the party and who did we get If Huckabee has stayed in, he would have had a credible case for being the next guy. Without Huck the field is open for Mitt. Now he will face a contest and will have to address the Palin and Bachman factions but he will emerge as the leader of a united party which anxious to take back power. Christie is a favorite of the tea party crowd and has been successful in restructuring a union-controlled liberal state by engaging a bi-partisan majority in the legistlature. It will be a contest of a college professor and a clown against two grownups. The Obama-Romney debates will be a boring controlled contest to see who doesn’t lose but the VP debate will have the fireworks.

    [link]      
  28. By rrapier on July 13, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Steve said:

    You are incorrect about reading the Republican party. Romney will be the republican nominee and Chris Christie will be his VP choice.


     

    You misunderstand. I didn’t say Romney wouldn’t be the nominee. I believe he will be. I just don’t believe Republicans will turn out in force to support him. Thus, Obama wins the election, and I think he wins against any of the present (or potential) candidates.

    RR

    [link]      
  29. By Optimist on July 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    You are incorrect about reading the Republican party. Romney will be the republican nominee and Chris Christie will be his VP choice.
    Really? No Rick Perry? Chris Christie is going to support Mitt Romney?

    Utter (wild) speculation. Wishful thinking. Fun stuff. But be ready for disappointment.

    [link]      
  30. By OD on July 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    The Homestead Act did not see Yucca Mountain turned into farmland. No water, no timer, no minerals, no reason for anyone to come live there thousands of years from now.

    How insensitive Kit, that is where I was going to build my massive rock fort! Laugh 

    All kidding aside, our country made the decision long ago to go with nuclear power. We can not undo what has been done. We must find somewhere to dispose of this waste and Yucca Mountain, like it or not, is one of the better options for the reasons Kit gave. 

    [link]      
  31. By OD on July 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    But be ready for disappointment.

    I agree. I think his Mormonism will be a major hurdle. Could be wrong, but I always see that brought up when his name is mentioned. I say that as someone with a family full of Mormons, before anyone thinks it’s discrimination on my part.  

    [link]      
  32. By thomas398 on July 13, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    If only the Founding Fathers had given us a top down, highly centralized government like Western Europe or China.  Instead we have this federal system composed of semi-autonomous states lead by governors instead of magistrated provinces.  Citizens can oppose logical, well researched policy just because its unfamiliar. They can elect senators and governors to perpetuate their NIMBY anxiety.   If this kind of unpopular policy was being imposed on a state like Texas, threats of succession would arise. I think I read that Yucca can’t contain all the existing nuclear waste.  What state will be next to “take one for the team”?.  That would seem”fair”.

    There will be off shore drilling down in sight of South Beach Miami before Yucca Mountain opens.  Even if Nevada residents relent, the surrounding governors (Republicans) are against transport through their states.  This will be a hard issue for a Republican president.  I don’t see Romeny telling the Utah govenor to “get over it”.  He’s avoided the question on the campaign trail.

    Think of the Yucca Mountain policy like the Cuban trade embargo, illogical, but because of the peculiar national politics involved–multi-generational.

    [link]      
  33. By Kit P on July 14, 2011 at 9:56 am

    “the surrounding governors”

    Like POTUS and the Seneate Majority Leader, governors must follow the rule of law even if it politically unpopular. Federal regulations for transporting high level waste are well established and tested in court.

    POTUS and the Seneate Majority Leader will be gone soon. If POTUS and the Seneate Majority Leader had bothered to offer some science or compelling reason why the law of the land should be changed then maybe what now is the law of the land would be changed.

    Leadership is explaining why what is unpopular is necessary. Handling of spent nuclear fuel is not a technical problem. It is political problem created by anti-nuke propaganda. So on day one Obama shelves YMP to pay a political debt to Reid. Some time later he goes to a nuke plant to announce a loan guarantee for a new nuke.

    I want to see Obama go to West Virginia in winter and tell those coal miners about China’s leadership in solar. Leadership is not going to California to promote solar, it is pandering. If AGW legislation was a goal, he did no better than Bush or Clinton.

    Pandering is how you get elected the first time. If the extent of your leadership is selling out to China, no amount of pandering will get you reelected.

    I am sure nuclear power will not be an important issue in the upcoming election. It is about jobs. It is not near as bad as when Carter got booted so we will see.

    [link]      
  34. By Wendell Mercantile on July 14, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Even if Nevada residents relent, the surrounding governors (Republicans) are against transport through their states.

    They may be against it, but unless they are ready to have their state troopers set up road blocks at the state line, they can’t stop it.

    But it would never come to that. States are dependent on Federal grants for most of their road building projects. When they accept those grants they sign something called “grant assurances.” One of the conditions of their grant assurances, is they can’t stop lawful Interstate traffic on Federally-funded highways. If they don’t comply with their grant assurances, the Federal government can ask they return the grant, or stop future grants. Not even the governor of Texas is likely to risk losing Federal highway construction money.

    The states surrounding Nevada could restrict the transportation of nuclear waste only on those roads built without any Federal money.

    [link]      
  35. By biocrude on July 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Thomas398 said:

     We’re stuck with bad policy until a politician is willing to say that higher oil prices are here to stay and there is nothing we can do but conserve and (to lesser degree) move to alternatives.  

    Exactly, the special interest groups and politicians only concerned about short term fixes that are sure to get them elected.  in Obama’s case, I think he is still playing it cautiously (albeit I think the SPR release was idiotic and strictly political theatre) but I really, really believe that he is waiting until Day 1 of his second term to make some serious changes that will take about 4 years to begin to pan out, and then we can point to them for the next leader and hopefully continue them into the future.   Make some predictions like RR you say, okay.  Immediately into his 2nd term, President Obama will:
     

    1) Instill a gas tax, and tell Americans the hard truth about our energy consumption and our absolute addicition to petroleum.  

    2) Legalize marijuana – I really think he’s going to do it.   The completely and proven failed War on Drugs could direct a lot of money into more useful programs, like renewable energy and treatment for drug users.

    3) Legalize gay marriage.  

    4) Crack down on Wall Street – Okay, maybe this one is wishful thinking, but it really needs to happen.  Hey, if they aren’t funding his reelection campaign, what does he have to lose by appointing Elizabeth Warren in and giving those bastards some rules to play by.  

    I know 2 & 3 don’t really have to do anything with energy, but that’s my bet…  

    [link]      
  36. By thomas398 on July 15, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Let’s remeber too that progress in the nuclear power industry has been shelved for purely political reasons before.  How many plants have been finished since 3 mile?

    [link]      
  37. By Kit P on July 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    “How many plants have been finished since 3 mile? ”

     

    Most existing nuke plants in the world were finished after TMI. In the US, 58 plants went commercial after TMI by my count. At least 1/3 of the nuke plant cancellations occurred before TMI because too many were ordered based on expected demand growth not materializing.

    [link]      
  38. By Mike on July 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    So what is the definition of a great president. Would history have considered FDR great had WWII not thrust it upon him? What if he had been a two term president that inherited a great depression and started a bunch of programs and then left office without seeing the economy turn around.

    How about Thomas Jefferson? Is his greatness a function of what he did before the presidency? Combined possibly with his luck of seeing the French hard up for cash?

    What about Ronald Regan? Was he a great president? We felt good during his presidency, but was the S&L crisis combined with the seeds of what became the republican right today worth it?

    I think perhaps Lincoln was a great president. Although the civil war was forced upon him, his responses were too innovative, too unique to be a mere coincidence of history.

    I suspect had Obama stayed in the Senate, or had been a republican, he would have been considered a great president. But he is a person who values compromise and process above all else. And he is saddled with a party that’s internal divisions seem to transcend any common thread the democrats might have.

    The question to look for going forward, is whether or not he is able to combine his obvious political talents with his desire to compromise and build coalitions.

    It is possible that at the end of 8 years this president may succeed in destroying the republican party as we know it. A new party could arise (or perhaps the old republican party will come back).

    Mike

    [link]      
  39. By thomas398 on July 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Kit P said:

    “How many plants have been finished since 3 mile? ”

     

    Most existing nuke plants in the world were finished after TMI. In the US, 58 plants went commercial after TMI by my count. At least 1/3 of the nuke plant cancellations occurred before TMI because too many were ordered based on expected demand growth not materializing.


     I think you may be refering to additional reactors on existing plants.  All these additional reactors appear to have been approved before Three Mile, however. 
     

    The World Nuclear Association :

    There have been no new construction starts since 1977, largely because for a number of years gas generation was considered more economically attractive and because construction schedules were frequently extended by opposition, compounded by heightened safety fears following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

    Despite a near halt in new construction of more than 30 years, US reliance on nuclear power has continued to grow. In 1980, nuclear plants produced 251 billion kWh, accounting for 11% of the country’s electricity generation. In 2008, that output had risen to 809 billion kWh and nearly 20% of electricity, providing more than 30% of the electricity generated from nuclear power worldwide. Much of the increase came from the 47 reactors, all approved for construction before 1977, that came on line in the late 1970s and 1980s, more than doubling US nuclear generation capacity.

     

    [link]      
  40. By Wendell Mercantile on July 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Would history have considered FDR great had WWII not thrust it upon him?

    Perhaps Millard Fillmore* (the last Whig elected president) would be considered a great president had he held the job in 1941 and WW II were thrust upon him, eh?
    _______
    * Believe it or not, there are actually schools in the U.S. named for Millard Fillmore.

    [link]      
  41. By Kit P on July 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    “I think you may be refering to additional reactors on existing plants.  All these additional reactors appear to have been approved before Three Mile, however.  ”

     

    Thomas you asked how many were ‘finished’ after TMI. I answered your question. You may be confused by terminology. Also all of those reactors were approved after TMI. Back then a construction permit was issue based on a preliminary design (PSAR) and the operating license based on the final design (FSAR) after the plant was built and tested.

     

    One of the things that delayed many plants was new requirements that had to be designed and installed.

     

    Today, the NRC has a one step process COL (Construction Operating License) process based on a design certified (DC) reactor. The idea is to have a standard design.

    [link]      
  42. By thomas398 on July 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    No new plants have been finished since 3 Mile Island.  All of the additonal reactors that have been added to existing ones were approved before the incident.  Please cite a source that says differently.  I’m sure its similar to the one claiming U.S. oil supply could keep up with demand if Obama adopted a more aggressive drilling policy. It will be easier to put a 30+ year regulatory freeze on nuclear waste disposal than the overall nuclear power industry has had to endure.

    [link]      
  43. By Kit P on July 18, 2011 at 8:27 am

    “No new plants have been finished since 3 Mile Island.   ”

     

    Gosh Thomas, I was at some of them! Those plants were ‘finished’ after TMI. After the plant is ‘finished’ we do testing to the satisfaction of the NRC and the owner of the nuke plant. There would be a hearing with public participation. Then the the NRC would give ‘approval’ by issuing an operating license. After that the utility would operated the plant and make electricity. Then the state utility would allow the plant to become ‘commercial’ and charge customers.

     

    “All of the additonal reactors that have been added to existing ones were approved before the incident.”

     

    This statement shows you do not understand the basics even after I took the time to explain. The NRC back then would issue a permit to start construction. That is called a construction permit.

     

    “Please cite a source that says differently. ”

     

    I sure you can find lots of links that support your mindset, what ever that is. The NRC has a spread sheet that provides the application date, cancellation date or commercial date.

     

    Another concept that might confusion is the concept of ‘additional’ reactors. Some ‘multiple’ reactor sites received a construction permit at the same time and have a common control room. Each reactor has a separate operating license. Other ‘multiple’ reactor sites are reactors that are serpentine from each other.

     

    The number of power plants in the US is based on the need to supply electricity. Each utility forecast future demand and has conservative plans to build new plants. If it turns out that the power plant is not needed, then the order is canceled.

     

    As I have said before, at least 1/3rd of nukes were canceled before TMI because they were not needed. One of the nukes TVA is finishing will not be finished for 8-10 more years. Some claim that makes TVA is not very competent because it will take longer than starting a new plant. TVA has planned to ahead and wants to finish when the electricity is needed.

     

    “It will be easier to put a 30+ year regulatory freeze on nuclear waste disposal than the overall nuclear power industry has had to endure. ”

     

    Again, there was not ‘regulatory freeze’ on new or old reactors. Furthermore, there is not ‘regulatory freeze’ on nuclear waste. The regulation have not changed. POTUS and the Senate Majority Leader have blocked funding of the review process.

     

    If any CEO of an energy company announced that he was refusing to follow environmental regulations as an act of civil disobedience how fast do you think they would get to serve time to demonstrate their convictions.

     

    So why does Kit P not drive down to the capital and perform a citizens arrest on POTUS? It is easier to get a new POTUS.

    [link]      
Register or log in now to save your comments and get priority moderation!