By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All rights Reserved.


This edition of my greening article departs a little from the traditional style I’ve established in earlier posts.

I’ll be starting out with ad-libs (e.g., opinions) on five items that reflect my observations of energy and general greening technology and its associated swings but NOT provide you with a rationale or other justifications for my thoughts. Accuse me of venting — blowing off steam — Fine, if you don’t do this occasional, also your mind has died, or at least turned into a prune. – Call this a case of I Believe!.

Call them doc_Babad’s five-jaundiced weltanschauungs — the darker side of the 2010 vision.

  • Let Keeping Studying things Until We Die — More experts then ever refused to make decisions on dealing with the forthcoming and near future from climate change. Rising sea levels, doubts, hurricanes and tornadoes and of course floods and forest fires.Their rationale — they need to do more research to reduce their uncertainty. As my philosophy professors and even my father noted, not taking action is a decision. Check out Naomi Oreskes’ new book called “Merchants of Doubt” listed I the reference section.A typical risk analysis, not the guys who figure the worst oil rig blowout, or the worst likely flooding of New Orleans, add defenses, in depth — likely expensive – to counter uncertainty. However, that is politically incorrect.
  • Bearing False Witness — A new class of experts continues to dominate the public debate about energy, climate change and/or any other science based issue such as public health including vaccine safety, caused of cancer, tobacco based disease and our newest daemon, cell phone radiation risks. These folk, who have jumped outside of the technical the areas of their science and engineering training and hove spouted fear, uncertainty, and doubt. This reminds me an old IBM technique called FUD, to an every hungry media and a mostly scientifically illiterate public.Most of these folks have never had a paper on their new avocational expertise published in a peer reviewed journal and feast on traded mutually supporting reference that have no basis in measured truth. Although stretching the point it reminds me of the ultra orthodox rabbis in Israeli cling to their truth that that anyone who doubts their ‘given’ truth’ must not be Jewish.My I suggest this new year that they and theirs opt for having an auto mechanic perform any needed surgery on them when needed, its cheaper — all the mechanics need to do is suggest that they’ve read the manual and so are obviously then qualified.
  • The nuclear renaissance in the western world seems almost stillborn. Why inexpensive natural gas, poor or false lifecycle accounting for costs of wind and solar energy, depression lowered energy demand, and the lack of any desire to take risk on behalf of western governments and the local banking system.Even France a long tome advocate, efforts are slowing down because of the mismanagement of the construction of Areva’s {Nuclear} new generation reactors and the Germans still say Nein. …and of course the Brits are moving cautiously and Australians are still thinking about it despite having the free worlds larges supply if uranium.The good news is that China, India, and the Koreans are not stopping their efforts, albeit they start from a small installed reactor base. Did you know America has the largest installed base of installed operating reactors 104 accounting for 20.2% of our baseline power) with France coming in only second at 58 but accounting for 75.2% of the grid load. More interesting, the wealthy countries in the middle-eastern countries are getting on board, as perhaps are the Brazilians.
  • A Unworldly Solution to Climate Change — Politicians around the world have balked in working together, internationally, con dealing with climate change. Some small individual nations are taking the lead but only within their boundaries or regions. Alas the later are victims of the ‘pimple’ effect when compared to the greenhouse emissions fro the USA, Russia, China and other off shore manufacturers.It is always comically surrealistic, if not fully tragic, that the USA is making some measured progress is lowering industrially produced green house gases by outsourcing the work. That gives us a two-stage benefit. We look greening the too often looked down upon dirty manufacturing capability… e.g. Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, that blight our nations — the heartland that made us great and strong after World War II.
  • Turn Off the Sun — This option, tongue in cheek of course, is an observation of the effects of the almost universal American nuclearphobia about radiation, be it sunshine, radio frequency for cell, phones, medical diagnostic procedures, and of course nuclear electricity in decision making and risk adversity. Of course, except when there is a case of food bacterial based poisoning, then there’s a hue and cry… and the search for a scape-goat. As a society, we almost totally ignore the toxic material in our mass produced foods, potential mutagens in our cosmetics, polluted water systems, and the gas chamber effects of urban air pollution. As far as last item goes, if the concentrations were higher, the agents might have been put to use by the Nazi’s during the Holocaust – alas they were too slow to meet the Third Reich’s goals.

No, I’m not giving up on either American ingenuity and ability to decisively act in a crisis, nor of the creative energies of mankind to overcome political and belief structure based paralysis, as usual; but years end finds me a bit maudlin and introspective. Could it be because I turn 75 in a few months? Or is there a deeper root cause?

Perhaps we need to rearrange our democracy, add criteria for being the franchised, along the lines of Heinlein’s Star Ship Trooper? I am of course aware that Winston Churchill remarked: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (Nov. 11, 1947)

Folks, the 5-fold path to enlightenment on these issues seems to elude me — I just don’t get it. So I’d better get on with this months greening related tid-bits.

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WARNING: This issue is more focused on Nuclear than usual. I’ve never claimed to be either unbiased or to provide a balanced treatment of energy and environmental options. I only state that I will do, to the best of my ability, read all relevant references documents in my considerable references collection. Look for added and more current information by preceding each citation’s use with web searches. I shall give the option, where I deem comments and ad-bibs are appropriate, a fair shot based on those references.

The New Snippet Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Orde,

  • Did You Know – The Word is out! Call it a dump even if its state of the art technology
  • With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too, some day soon, Congress
  • With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too
  • America’s Oil Crude Oil Habit — Hey folks be fair, everyone has the right to their choice of a ‘Fix’
  • When the Assembly Line Moves Online — It’s all beyond Charlie Chaplin’s Imagination
  • Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Face More Obstacles in U.S. — Were back to  the 2010-2012 version of the China Syndrome, with a whimper not a bang this time.
  • How To Stop Global Warming – Even If You Don’t Believe In It

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Did You Know – The Word is out!

Yup, according to Gwyneth Cravens. One of my favorite born again ‘nuclear related authors’ who is a long time-well respected environmentally focused author.

— “A memo went out long ago from Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear organizations: “Always say ‘dump’! Never say ‘repository’ or ‘storage site’!”  “Dump” conjures up a vision of dump trucks backing up to a hole in the ground and letting loose their nasty cargo in a helter skelter fashion. If only city dumps were as tidy as those strictly regulated nuclear waste repositories!

“Words with negative connotations that are repeated over and over have a powerful effect on public.”

Folks, I’m sure if I asked, Gwyneth would send me several examples, … but that a trivial game. Her articles and books are always exceptionally well documented and referenced.

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With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too, some day soon, Congress

Ever since the late 1980s, Duke Power’s CEO James Rogers has been beating the drum for green energy as an answer to global warming, putting him in the vanguard of climate-change activists. But what’s most remarkable is that Rogers happens to be the CEO of Duke Energy Corp., the huge electric and gas utility that ranks among the U.S.’s biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

Moreover, that dubious distinction is one the Charlotte, North Carolina, utility won’t be relinquishing any time soon. It is the only power company in the U.S. that is simultaneously building two coal-burning plants, which are due to come online in 2012. And coal, although it is both abundant and cheap, is a notorious pollutant compared with natural gas or nuclear power. What explains the apparent paradox between Rogers’ green persona and Duke’s seemingly retrograde strategy? A self-proclaimed pragmatist, he argues that a climate-friendly future will require a 40-year forced march. So how do new coal plants fit into this scenario? For those detail, check out the link!

Which of All The Alternative Energy Sources Holds The Most Promise? — If you look out over the next decade, the Environmental Protection Agency is going to write a set of regulations requiring us to shut down as much as one third of the existing coal fleet [of plants] in the United States. And that coal fleet is going to have to be replaced by something. Will it be natural gas? Will it be nuclear? Will it be renewables? One of the great challenges confronting us is what mix of those three do we need to replace one third of the U.S. coal fleet.

What Drives Your Interest In Green Energy? — I’m in the business of making billion-dollar decisions, and as a pragmatist, I ’m an advocate for advancing [green] issues, in part so that I can deliver on my job one: making energy as affordable, reliable and clean as possible. Whether it’s a coal plant at $3 billion or a nuclear plant at $12 billion to $14 billion, I can make more-informed decisions about huge investments that will last 50 years if I know the[environmental] rules, even though a cleaner carbon footprint in our generation facilities is going to translate into higher prices.

What Do You Say To People Who Deny Global Warming? — There’s a wide number of people that don’t believe it, for a variety of reasons. But even if it didn’t exist, what would I change about my strategy?

We are building plants today that are modernized and have significantly reduced the emissions per kilowatt hour. We would be doing that anyway.

The Institutional Investor by Frances Denmark, 29 Oct 2010.

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America’s Oil Crude Oil Habit — Hey folks be fair, everyone has the right to their choice of a ‘Fix’

Every petroleum crisis in this country — whether triggered by foreign suppliers flexing their muscles, a price spike at the gasoline pump, or a spill that causes untold environmental damage — heightens demands that the U.S. wean itself from oil. So, predictably, in reaction to the colossal BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico, lawmakers and corporate heavyweights are dusting off past proposals and crafting new ones to kick the national addiction.

Doc Sez — Sorry, to day I’m again feeling cynical — Even the financially troubled PB has pockets deep enough to buy most of entire congress, its called lobbying coupled with political contributions, made all the more murky by the recent US Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to be treated as ‘people’ with no requirement for disclosure. If that does work then perhaps the US Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and Business Round table can join big oil in keeping the status quo. On the other hand, the Saudi’s and other Middle Eastern countries are investing in nuclear energy, perhaps, being more comfortable with taking along view, they know something America doesn’t or refuses to acknowledge.

On Monday, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D. Ore., outlined an ambitious plan to transition American cars and trucks to alternative fuels, reform and-use laws to make communities less dependent on cars, and shift more freight from 18-wheelers to trains and barges. The freshman senator is also calling on the White House to create a National Council on Energy Security. A week earlier, six-term Sen. Richard Lugar, R. Ind, introduced legislation to raise automobile fuel-efficiency requirements yearly and expand the federal program encouraging advancements in biofuels.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing the Energy Department to designate at least five test sites for electric cars. They want Uncle Sam to help pay for the installation of charging stations in those communities and to give residents tax breaks for buying plug-in vehicles.

Doc Sez: There’s lot more, check it out— Perhaps tomorrow I will regain my optimism! Alas, I’m having real problems distinguishing between show and tell, type posturing, and real initiatives that may roll back our dependence of oil.

Bottom Line — No other nation is so thoroughly hooked on oil. Even though Americans constitute only 4 percent of the world’s population,  they consume 20 percent of its petroleum. Of the 20 million barrels this country uses each day, 13 million are imported. And about 70 percent of the black gold burned in the U.S. goes to power vehicles.

The Fly, Other Than Politics, in The Ointment — Every time gasoline prices skyrocket, lawmakers look for ways to cut domestic oil use. When the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries embargoed oil to the United States in 1973, Washington required automakers to produce more-efficient cars and pushed electric utilities to turn to fuels other than oil. Please recall that starting with President Carter, to some degree all of our presidents tried and FAILED.

National Journal Group Inc, by Margaret Kriz Hobson, June 19, 2010.

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When the Assembly Line Moves Online — It’s all beyond Charlie Chaplin’s Imagination

In “Modern Times,” Charlie Chaplin, second from left, was mired in monotony. Today, many repetitive tasks are being parceled out on the Internet.

Do one assigned task on your computer. It shouldn’t take you more than two seconds. Repeat 14,399 times. Congratulations! Your eight-hour workday is complete.

No such workplace yet exists, but with the fiendishly clever creation of standardized two-second tasks, delivered to any computer connected to the Internet, it is now technically possible to set up. Microtask, a start-up company in Finland, has come up with the software that delivers such tasks. [] The company offers to take on “dull, repetitive work” — like digitizing paper forms or business cards — for prospective clients. As it says in a video on its Web site, “Microtask loves the work you hate.”

The company is in a position to love that work because not one of its 12 employees actually performs it. Its software carves a given task into microscopically small pieces, like transcribing a handwritten four-digit number in a tiny rectangle on a form. (Handwritten numbers and letters are the bane of text-recognition software.) These tasks, stripped of identifying information about the client or the larger task, can then be distributed online anywhere.

The approach shows how the online concept of widely distributed work has evolved since it was pioneered by the Mechanical Turk service, introduced by in 2005. Mechanical Turk [] resembles an online bulletin board. Businesses post income-earning opportunities, with rewards for each task completed. Turkers, as the independent contractors are informally called, choose a task they like and are qualified for. Recent offers included 2 cents each for finding the contact information for 7,500 hotels and 3 cents each for answering questions about 9,400 toys.

Miriam Cherry, an associate professor of law at the University of the Pacific, tried Mechanical Turk and says she found out for herself that the compensation was meager. “My assistant and I tried but we couldn’t make minimum wage,” says Professor Cherry, who presented an argument last year in the Alabama Law Review [ 60/Issue 5/cherry.pdf] for extending minimum-wage laws into cyberspace.

Fascinating – Check out the rest – This is an idea not even my Science Fiction addiction had turned up!

The New York Times, by Randall Stross, October 30, 2010

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Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Face More Obstacles in U.S.Were back to  the 2010-2012 version of the China Syndrome, with a whimper not a bang this time.

With erect posture and clear gray eyes, Chuck Provini still looks like the Marine who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1969 and was repeatedly decorated for bravery in Vietnam.  Chuck Provini, chief executive of Natcore Technology in Red Bank, N.J. He fumes at strangers who call him a traitor for agreeing to manufacture in Zhuzhou, China, a new solar panel production device that his company developed in the United States.  “I love my country,” said Mr. Provini, chief executive of 10-employee Natcore Technology in Red Bank, N.J. “It makes me crazy that I’ve got countries that want to do things with us, but not here.”

Mr. Provini acknowledges that further refinements are needed to the technology, which involves replacing a costly furnace in the manufacture of solar panels with a room-temperature process. But his experience in trying to commercialize it highlights the challenges that clean energy entrepreneurs face in the United States — and the opportunities that await in China. American venture capitalists are the main source of money for many clean energy start-ups because most commercial banks are leery of lending to businesses with no proven revenue. But venture capitalists are reluctant to make long-term financial commitments, Mr. Provini said, and want clear timetables for when they can get their money back with a profit.

“They want to come in, make a killing and get out,” said Mr. Provini, who spent most of his career on Wall Street, including as president of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management.

He said he spoke with a Congressional aide and visited a Washington law firm, Baker Botts, seeking advice on government assistance. But available grants came with too many restrictions, and were hard to find and apply for, Mr. Provini said. What Natcore really wanted was money for its own research and help finding joint-venture partners with the right technology.

Investors in Brazil, Taiwan and particularly China were more interested, he said.

There lot more details posted, check it out. Alas, Sez Doc, this is a more typical story than not. From my, albeit limited reading (e.g., the Economist, Business Week, the Sunday Times and the Wall Street Journal on line) American venture capitalist have gotten the take not risk that require waiting for more than 3-5 years for a payout.

“I feel what China is doing is taking chances on new technologies, investing relatively small amounts of money understanding that some of those technologies will blossom,” Mr. Provini said.

Matt Rogers, an adviser to the United States energy secretary, said his department had many grants available of all sizes, and that the competitions for them effectively identified companies that investors might also want to finance. “We have the best technology,” Mr. Rogers said. “I think we have the best manufacturing here in the United States.”

However, many Chinese clean energy executives are skeptical of Rogers assertions, saying that the United States was losing its lead even in the production of the sophisticated factory equipment needed to make solar panels, and now retained an advantage only in the earliest stages of research.

The New York Times, By Keith Bradsher, September 8, 2010

Also Check Out:

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How To Stop Global Warming – Even If You Don’t Believe In It

In the global-warming debate, scientists are, admirably, still trying to save the day. Last week, the American Geophysical Union announced plans to mobilize about 700 climate scientists in an effort to improve the accuracy of media coverage and public understanding of their field. Separately, a smaller group of scientists organized by John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota said it was putting together a “rapid response team” to bring accurate climate science to public debates.

On the face of it, such efforts certainly make sense. The scientists hope, not unreasonably, to bring more attention to the climate-change crisis. More crucially, they seek to halt the slide in public opinion on the issue, with recent polls finding Americans’ belief in the evidence for global warming on the decline, along with their view of the need for immediate action to slow climate change. And it’s true that science education, when done well, may help accomplish these goals.

But will it lead to meaningful policy? Or will this latest round of efforts instead result in another spate of news stories about scary end-of-the-world scenarios, another series of debates over whether global-warming science is a hoax and more wasted time — time we don’t have? There is good reason to think that those who are worried about climate change would make greater progress — especially among Republicans, who profess increasing skepticism about warming — if they focused less on arguing the scientific reality and more on building support for specific solutions that all sides can agree on.

The first problem with focusing on the science debate is that the spectacle of dueling scientists confuses people. We have already seen this story unfold in the media: Two opposing sides, given similar exposure, argue about complexities that most Americans feel they have little ability to assess. Instead of focusing on the causes of climate change in simple terms that people can grasp and act upon, it is all too easy for scientists to get trapped in a debate with skeptics about whether they can prove that warming is real and how they can show definitively that its effects are imminent. Faced with this sparring, it becomes fairly easy for the average person to dismiss climate change as an open question and cross it off the list of things they need to worry about.

Unfortunately, the global warming debate increasingly turns more on political belief than on scientific fact. Until relatively recently, environmental issues were largely nonpartisan. Republican presidents such as Richard Nixon have historically achieved significant environmental gains, and voters across party lines used to express fairly equal levels of support for environmental protections.

There’s more – do the check references thing!

Congress, member of both parties, must start by focusing on climate-friendly policies and stop assuming that we must first achieve unanimity on global warming science. People can support the transition to a carbon-free energy future without believing, or even knowing, that it might influence glaciers, coral reefs or Arctic ice.

There is a long list of carbon-reduction measures that strong majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents firmly support, including mandating better fuel efficiency, increasing federal funding for clean-energy research, spending more for mass transit, raising efficiency standards for homes and other buildings, and requiring utilities to produce more energy from renewable sources. They even support limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – just as long as they are seen as anti-pollution measures, not “caps.”

The Washington Post, by Meg Bostrom, November 14, 2010

Also See:

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA. If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source. Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

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Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming [Hardcover] by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway; Published by Bloomsbury Press; 1 edition (May 25, 2010) has some well written review of the book, others can be googled.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in thi,s Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad


Previous Greening Columns

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