Sunday, June 21, 2009

Musings on Many Things - 2

A few more items crossed my desk and screen this week.

++ Pete du Pont, former governor of Delaware, came out strong in favor of nuclear power plants for the U.S. Apparently he has not read about the high cost of nuclear plants, and the subsequent high cost of the power from them. I question why any Republican wants to raise electric power prices, which will happen if and when nuclear plants are built again.

++ Meanwhile, the natural gas glut grows greater. The U.S. reserves of natural gas are growing ever-larger as more shale gas is added to the number. There is no way nuclear power can ever compete with the overall cost of natural-gas-based power.

++ MIT issued a report on Carbon Capture and Sequestration, primarily focused on coal-fired power plants. Their conclusions include 1) it is very expensive to build, 2) it is very expensive to operate, and 3) there are no good sites for storage once the CO2 is captured. We knew this, didn't we?

++ I gave my scheduled presentation on California's AB 32 to the Los Angeles chapter of AIChE this past week, with an outstanding response from a very knowledgeable and attentive audience. It is always an honor to address any group, and I especially love the questions from my fellow chemical engineers.

++ California's electric utilities signed agreements for great amounts of solar-based power this week. This makes sense, given the 20 percent requirement for renewable power in this state by New Year's Eve of 2010, plus 33 percent by 2020. Wind-power has little room for growth in California, and geothermal has only a few locations undeveloped. Thus, it will be solar.

++ Cap and Trade discussions continue in California under AB 32, with a blue-ribbon panel of advisors announced just a few days ago.

++ There is mounting opposition to AB 32 as California's economy sickens further. This week, the unemployment rate jumped to 11.5 percent, the highest ever. More jobs will be lost in the manufacturing sectors as AB 32 regulations are enforced, starting in 2012. A cement plant in Southern California announced they must shut down because the cost to comply with AB 32 is simply too great. They will discharge 140 direct employees, and that will have a ripple effect throughout the economy. If California continues to build and use concrete, their volume must be imported. The foreign imports likely create far more pollution and CO2 than this California plant.

++ Graduation just occurred for a great many students, and their jobs prospects in California are grim. Having a state minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage surely decreases the total number of jobs. Having a "living wage" in many cities (including Los Angeles) that is higher than the state minimum wage further reduces the number of jobs available.

++ The state of California is in dire circumstances, fiscally. The next fiscal year begins in only 10 days, and the $23 billion state budget deficit remains. The bond rating agencies are prepared to further de-rate California's bonds.

++ Meanwhile, reports are surfacing that Green Jobs are being created by AB 32. I suppose that is true, to a certain extent. After all, somebody will have a job installing the new solar power plants, and connecting them to the grid. Somebody will have a job advising the Air Resources Board about Cap and Trade. But, the coffee shop baristas are losing their jobs as coffee shops shut down. People learn pretty quick that a cup of coffee made at home costs less than the $4 at the corner coffee shop.

++ Today is Father's Day, and I am very happy to have two fine sons with whom to share this day.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

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