Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 15, 2005

Billmon: 04/15

III. Apocalypse Now and Then

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II. Life Imitates the Whiskey Bar

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I. Kulturkampf

I'd rather try to persuade the voters that progressives will defend those values than promise them phony remedies for problems that ... are beyond government's power to solve.

Posted by b on April 15, 2005 at 6:32 UTC | Permalink | Comments (19)

April 14, 2005

Billmon: Tom Turtle

Meet Tom, a Chelydra serpentina -- the common snapping turtle.

Posted by b on April 14, 2005 at 19:09 UTC | Permalink | Comments (53)

Billmon: Moon of Alabama

A big THANKS to Billmon for promoting this site with his piece: Moon of Alabama

A warm WELCOME to everyone who passes by for the first time. Feel free to poke around and to comment. Bookmark the site and come back.

You may want to check some recent posts here like Jérôme's Energy Return On Energy Invested, Condoleezza's Evidence by Bernhard or some great artwork by commentator anna missed.
There is also always an Open Thread around for otherwise off topic comments and -most important- there are threads for all Billmon posts.

Now why the f... IS this place named Moon of Alabama? Check here.

Posted by b on April 14, 2005 at 17:17 UTC | Permalink | Comments (37)

China's $ Problem or $'s China Problem?

An article in the FT today puts the US-Chinese economic/trade relation in an interesting perspective, i.e. from the Chinese point of view.

China's leaders are preparing their people for an end to the policy of pegging the renminbi to the US dollar, the bedrock of economic policy for a decade. [This] would have big implications for China's economic management and, some in Beijing think, for its development strategy predicated on foreign direct investment inflows and export-led growth.

China's exchange rate is also central to the growing debate over whether the current imbalances in the global economy - whereby the US has a large current account deficit while other countries accumulate dollar assets - can be sustained. Pressure on China to alter its exchange rate is particularly strong from Washington. The US Congress may force President Bush's administration to take more aggressive steps to curb the trade deficit with China, which this week ballooned to a new record.

This is another look at global imbalances and their domestic implications both in China and in the US, and some suggestions for the Us domestic politics.

China's dollar dilemma (Financial Times, 14 April)
Some economists wonder if US lawmakers know what they are wishing for. China and other Asian countries have - because of massive dollar purchases to prevent their currencies appreciating - emerged as the financiers of the US's current account and fiscal deficits, providing cheap capital that has kept the dollar's decline orderly and helped bring economic growth and low interest rates.

Sooner or later these countries may decide this is no longer in their interests. They face capital losses on their reserves as the dollar declines, while running the economy according to an exchange rate target means abandoning control of domestic policy. Market rumours of possible slower accumulation of dollar reserves, or diversification into other currencies, by smaller Asian countries have caused volatility in financial markets in recent months. A shift in China's exchange rate policy could have a far greater effect.

China's current policies are to the advantage of the US (and obviously in the interest of China's export-led growth), but they also have some downsides for the Chinese:

There would be capital losses if the renminbi appreciated. Economists estimate three-quarters of China's foreign reserves of more than $600bn are held in US dollar assets.

Yu Yongding, a member of the monetary committee of the People's Bank of China, the central bank, acknowledges that it is difficult to calculate an ideal level for foreign exchange reserves. But he says of the current level: "There is no doubt whatsoever that it is too high, entirely unnecessary and a waste of financial resources."

A shift in exchange rate policy would also allow the government to use monetary policy for domestic goals, rather than subordinating interest rate decisions to the management of the renminbi. This might be very useful at a time when, according to many economists, the Chinese economy is in danger of overheating.
(...)
Exchange rates are subservient to China's overarching aim of maintaining annual economic growth of about 7 per cent to 8 per cent, creating the 15m to 20m jobs a year that the government believes are needed to maintain social stability and meet expectations of higher living standards.

Indeed, the debate over the renminbi goes to the heart of the way China has built its economy since Deng Xiaoping lifted it out of its post-Maoist torpor in the late 1970s. Foreign investment has produced jobs but has in some eyes turned China into little more than a processing centre for goods that are sent on to the US and Europe.

Guo Shuqing, formerly head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, said in a recent interview with a state-run newspaper that "indiscriminate support of exports" and "fake foreign investment" had begun to cause problems for the economy. "We should gradually reduce the preferential treatment to exports and seriously review our foreign investment policy," he argued.

The current global arrangements are really like a drug:

  • they have provide a boost to the parties - the US gets to consume cheap goods on credit, the Chinese get export-led growth and standards of living;

  • many constituencies are now  "hooked" and cannot function without it: Chinese exporters (including a number of Western investors), the US authorities, happy to be able to have spending power at no apparent cost (just print more money), and Chinese authorities who have found an easy way to avoid social unrest.

But there are growing nasty side effects, both on a global scale and domestically:

  • the global unbalances have been discussed in other threads, so I won't go back into them, but there is a growing worry that they are unsustainable and that there is a real risk of a "hard landing";

  • in the US, the trade deficit with China is causing politicians to push for corrective measures, the most frequent ones being protectionism; there is also the fear that outsourcing the industrial base of the country to China is hollowing out the country and leaving it with bad jobs at Wal-Mart in a self-feeding vicious circle. But China is only the symptom of the above unbalances, and blaming the symptoms will not cure the underlying problems;

  • in China, more interestingly; there are growing voices to say that the current model of growth is no so advantageous for China, as it unduly favors exporters (which are not really Chinese) and does not help to develop a domestic market so much; also, the scale of the monetary unbalances is having a toll internally as the country struggles with towering reserves on which it bears a risk that they will lose value and which are becoming increasingly hard to "sterilize" as the capacity of the domestic bond market is saturated. The threat of inflation is becoming very real again and this is a risk that Chinese authorities really want to avoid.

And like with Iran, US pressure is counter-productive:

If China's policymakers are in accord on one issue, it is that the exchange rate system should not be used as a tool to assuage US ire over the bilateral trade imbalance. "No country can base its currency policy on bilateral trade imbalances," says one senior Chinese official. "If that was the case, then Washington should be pressuring Saudi Arabia to revalue its currency."

Bert Keidel, a former economist at the World Bank in China and former Treasury official who is now with the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, a Washington-based think-tank, says pressure from the US is not helpful. However much sense it might make for China to change its currency regime sooner rather than later, US pressure is likely to produce the opposite result: "There is one constituency which says, if this is what the Americans really want, then screw them."

As with all drugs, addiction makes it hard to stop, and all parties are hoping that a "soft landing" can be found. And who knows, it might be possible if you did not have reckless spenders in the White House (Stirling Newberry's latest diary - go read it) keen on making the bubble ever bigger to blow it in favor of the narrowest of constituencies, the ultra-rich and the big corporate bosses.

Rather than blaming the Chinese for what are mostly homegrown problems, the Democrats should focus on the following:

  • the main culprit is Bush's reckless deficits which forces the country to rely on foreign capital and creates a nasty dependency (Irresponsible - and dangerous for national security);

  • the debt thus generated additionally is used to give money to the ultra rich (as previous tax cuts and the latest repeal of the estate tax show) and to the greedy corporates that would rather invest in China than in the US (policy hijacked by narrow interest groups);

  • meanwhile some of the underlying  reasons why firms are not investing in the USA (out of control health care costs, stagnant purchasing power) are not being addressed (they don't care about the average American's economic situation)

Posted by Jérôme à Paris on April 14, 2005 at 12:14 UTC | Permalink | Comments (26)

Billmon: 04/13 bis

Gunga Din

about the Coalition Formerly Known as the Coalition of the Willing...

Posted by Jérôme à Paris on April 14, 2005 at 5:23 UTC | Permalink | Comments (15)

April 13, 2005

EROEI PR

Energy Return on Energy Invested - Public Relations

During the research for my nuclear energy post, I came across this graph:

050413_nucl_eroei

It shows a highly favorable EROEI for nuclear plants. Of course, as it comes from the World NuclearAssociation, hardly a neutral party, I took it with a grain of salt and chose not to include it in my post.

The funny thing is that I received the following press release yesterday:

The press release is from Vestas, the (Danish) largest manufacturer of wind turbines today (with more than a third of the world market):

A V90-3.0 MW offshore wind turbine has to produce electricity for just 6.8 months, before it has produced as much energy as used throughout its design lifetime. In other words this turbine model earns its own worth more than 35 times during its design lifetime.

Furthermore, compared to the V80-2.0 MW offshore wind turbine, the 6.8 months constitutes an improvement of approximately 2.2 months.

If installed on a good site, the V90-3.0 MW wind turbine will generate approximately 280,000 MWh in 20 years - thus sparing the environment the impact of a net volume of approximately 230,000 tons of CO2, as compared to the figures for energy generated by a coal-fired power station.

The above-mentioned are two of the results from a life cycle assessment (LCA), which Vestas completed of a V90-3.0 MW wind turbine in 2004. The calculations prove the environmental advantages of Vestas turbines also when taking the whole life cycle into consideration.

A life cycle assessment is both a mapping and an evaluation of the potential impact of the wind turbine on the external environment throughout its lifetime. The life cycle assessment for the V90-3.0 MW wind turbine is divided into four phases.

- The production phase, which covers the period from obtaining the raw materials to the completion of the wind turbine

- Transport of the wind turbine components and erection of the wind turbine

- Operation and maintenance throughout the 20-year design lifetime of the wind turbine

- Disposal of the wind turbine.

Vestas provides a more detailed summary of the life cycle assessments as well as more detailed reports (see the links in that page); I'll just steal one graph:

050413_vestas_comparison_lca_uk_1

But the nucleocrats also provide some detailed studies, summarised in this document which regroups a number of findings which I have no way to assess but which look well-researched. The graph above summarises the main finding, i.e. that nuclear energy supposedly has a great EROEI.

So, who will help me to make sense of these numbers?

Posted by Jérôme à Paris on April 13, 2005 at 13:25 UTC | Permalink | Comments (51)

Billmon: 04/13

UPDATE:

He may be a demented old war criminal, but he's a funny demented old war criminal. And in my book, that still counts for something.

Gin Rummy

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(Scene: A somewhat seedy looking diner somewhere outside of Houston, Texas. A line of nattily dressed corporate vice presidents -- looking distinctly out of place in such a dive -- sit at the counter reading menus. Behind the counter, Jack Abramoff, in apron and paper cap, is taking orders. There's a pass through in the wall behind him, and in the kitchen we see a sweaty Tom DeLay, in a greasy apron and paper cap, working the grill.) ...

Order Up (you wil love this meal)

Posted by b on April 13, 2005 at 9:57 UTC | Permalink | Comments (8)

April 12, 2005

Euro (de)Population

The EU has just released its new demographic projections (pdf, 4 pages)

The conclusion is simple: France and the UK are the next power couple of Europe.

050412_eu_pop_graph_pasted

faute de combattants, as they say in France (for lack of fighters - elsewhere)...

So will they fight or will they talk?

Over the next two decades the total population of the EU25 is expected to increase by more than 13 million inhabitants, from 456.8 million on 1 January 2004 to 470.1 million on 1 January 2025. Population growth in the EU25 until 2025 will be mainly due to net migration, since total deaths in the EU25 will outnumber total births from 2010. The effect of net migration will no longer outweigh the natural decrease after 2025, when the population will start to decline gradually. The population will reach 449.8 million on 1 January 2050, that is a decrease of more than 20 million inhabitants compared to 2025. Over the whole projection period the EU25 population will decrease by 1.5%, resulting from a 0.4% increase for the EU15 and a 11.7% decrease for the ten new Member States.

050412_eu_pop

This will be the first time ever that you have a peace time decline in the population of a significant polity, so it is an event with fairly unpredictable consequences.

It is usually addressed either by people who worry about the financial balance of the pensions plans, as the number of older people grows in absolute and relative terms, and by demagogues who fuel the fears about immigration.

Isn't it time that we had a real debate about what kind of society we want? How will we care for our elders? Who will care for them? Will they even need to be cared for (as all studies show that people live older AND healthier until the last few months of their lifes)? And what kind of politics will that bring?

And as far as France and the UK are concerned, the fact that they will be the only two large countries in Europe (possibly with Turkey) with populations still growing will give them a lot more clout then the declining powers like Germany, and it is going to lead to interesting realignments of interests within the union. We'll see, especially as I am doubtful of the population growth of the UK in virw of their recent natality rates, which have declined significantly in the past 5-10 years. We'll see.

Posted by Jérôme à Paris on April 12, 2005 at 22:17 UTC | Permalink | Comments (28)

Billmon: 04/12

Music for F-you boys and virile females: High Fidelity

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Straight From the Ass's Mouth

Breaking the Senate filibuster on judicial nominees not only would make it easier to obtain lifetime appointments for fellow wing nuts, it would also be the opening wedge for getting rid of the filibuster entirely -- making it easier for a slender GOP majority to pass all kinds of fun stuff, maybe even the Constitution Restoration Act. Or perhaps some sort of Emergency Enabling Act. . .

Posted by b on April 12, 2005 at 16:55 UTC | Permalink | Comments (18)

WaPo Self-censors Report on Bolton Hearing

An Associated Press piece is available at the Guardian and the Washington Post website in different versions suggesting that the Washington Post is self censoring.

The piece by Anne Gearan, AP Diplomatic Writer, is titled 'Senators May Have Blown Cover of CIA Agent' and refers to yesterdays hearing of John R. Bolton at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

During the hearing, Senators Lugar and Kerry referred to a National Intelligence Officer by the name Fulton Armstrong. The Washington Post version (also in print on A10) of the AP piece does not name Mr. Armstrong like AP does, but inserts instead the phrase '[the person in question]'.

The full transcripts of the public hearing are available through the New York Times and do include the full name of Mr. Armstrong.

The AP piece itself is dubious. Mr. Armstrong is known to be a National Intelligence Officer working on Latin America issues. In the summarize of a Council of Foreign Relations discussion available here he is referred to as "Fulton Armstrong/National Intelligence Officer for Latin America". More information on his career is available through schema-root.org. There are reports available on Cuban-Exile sites that do mention Bolton and Armstrong in the discussion about alleged, overblown Cuban bio warfare preparations.

Two questions to ask:
- Why is the Associate Press suggesting "Senators May Have Blown Cover of CIA Agent" when a simple Google search turns out that there was no cover to blow on the person in question in the first place?
- Why does the Washington Post believe it has to edit the AP piece and to hide the full name, mentioned in a public hearing, from its readers by printing '[the person in question]'?

What is your take?

UPDATE: Jeffrey Lewis, the Arms Control Wonk, has additional bits

Reference:

The Washington Post's version of the AP piece:

During a hearing on John R. Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton and members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee referred to the analyst as "Mr. Smith." They were discussing one of the officials involved in a dispute over what Democrats said was Bolton's inappropriate treatment of an intelligence analyst who disagreed with him.

"We referred to this other analyst at the CIA, whom I'll try and call Mr. Smith here," Bolton said at one point.

But the committee chairman, Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) mentioned a name that had not previously come up in public accounts of the intelligence flap.

In questioning Bolton, Kerry read from a transcript of closed-door interviews that committee staffers conducted with State Department officials before yesterday's hearing.

"Did Otto Reich share his belief that [the person in question] should be removed from his position? The answer is yes," Kerry said, characterizing one interview. "Did John Bolton share that view?"

The Guardian version:

During questioning on John R. Bolton's nomination to be President Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton and members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee referred to "Mr. Smith" as one official among several who were involved in a dispute over what Democrats asserted was Bolton's inappropriate treatment of an intelligence analyst who disagreed with him.

"We referred to this other analyst at the CIA, whom I'll try and call Mr. Smith here, I hope I can keep that straight," Bolton said at one point.

Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., both mentioned a name, Fulton Armstrong, that had not previously come up in public accounts of the intelligence flap.

It is not clear whether Armstrong is the undercover officer, but an exchange between Kerry and Bolton suggests that he may be.

In questioning Bolton, Kerry read from a transcript of closed-door interviews that committee staffers conducted with State Department officials prior to Monday's hearing.

"Did Otto Reich share his belief that Fulton Armstrong should be removed from his position? The answer is yes," Kerry said, characterizing one interview. "Did John Bolton share that view?"

Posted by b on April 12, 2005 at 8:16 UTC | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thread Open

News, views, opinions ...

Posted by b on April 12, 2005 at 6:18 UTC | Permalink | Comments (103)

April 11, 2005

Billmon: 04/11

Krazy Kristian Kook

On 'Dobson and his fellow ayatollahs'

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The World Turned Upside Down

Well, it's only the House upside down, but a very nice lecture in contemporary history.

Posted by b on April 11, 2005 at 17:51 UTC | Permalink | Comments (10)

Consumer Experience

The vacuum cleaner nozzle has some problems and I drew the task to care for a spare part. I hate to fight with customer services. The machine is several years old and I expected trouble.

I wrote down the model number and got on the web. After four clicks through the Miele site I reached the repair part order page. But damn, how archaic, there was nothing I could do online, just a phone number. Well, at least it was toll free.

Expecting a long callcenter hassle I first grabbed a fresh cup of tea.

First surprise - I did get connected within ten seconds and rerouted to the right desk in another ten.
Second surprise - a friendly female voice asking understandable questions. Within one minute she had looked up the part number and had it entered together with my address into her system.
Third suprise -  she said the part would leave their warehouse this afternoon and be delivered by regular post service within two days max. Costs are €48.34, payment is cash on delivery. She also recommended some herb pills for my sore voice.

Time to drink that tea now. Mhh, what are the other products this company sells....

Posted by b on April 11, 2005 at 12:27 UTC | Permalink | Comments (18)

Billmon: 04/10(2)

Not really Ex yet, but soon to be: The Ex-Terminator

Posted by b on April 11, 2005 at 6:11 UTC | Permalink | Comments (31)

April 10, 2005

The Nuclear Option

050409_nrg_nucleaire_id207

I have been requested to write about France's nuclear energy programme. It's a huge subject, and I have already spent too many hourse researching it, so what I will do now is provide a brief summary and a number of links that I have found for those of you that are interested in finding out more.

For the surrender-monkey-lovers amongst you, you can also go read my third installment on the French campaign for the referendum for or against the EU Consititution: EU Constitution - France Votes (III) What if it's no?


So here we go.

Nuclear energy in France is big:

050409_energy_generation_by_source

France is the second largest producer of nuclear energy after the US, with 58 reactors (104 in the USA) on 19 sites.

Map of French nuclear plants (click on the "Nuclear" icon on the right)
More detailed map with the technical parameters of each nuclear plant (1 page pdf))

As this document (Nuclear Power in France - why does it work?) describes, nuclear energy was first developed at a leisurely pace in the 60s and given a massive boost when the oil crisis struck. A massive programme was launched by the public authorities in 1975, which led to the wholesale replacement of fuel and coal-fired power plants by nuclear ones.

050410_twh_nucl_7304

(Source)

This was a fully centralised programme. EDF, the national electricity operator (then a monopoly) borrowed money with the sovereign guarantee of France to pay for it. It was built for the most part by French companies, but interestingly, it used a US technology (pressurised water) under license (developed by Westinghouse) because it was cheaper than the technology (using graphite) which had been developed so far in France. All 58 plants use the same technology, although the more recent reactors are more powerful than the earlier ones. All the companies involved in that effort were eventually consolidated into Areva, which is now the main industrial player in the sector and involved in the whole nuclear chain, from uranium mining to plant construction, and fuel processing and treatment:

050409_nuclear_cycle


EDF is the operator of all plants, but safety is regulated by an independent watchdog, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (website in French only, as far as I can tell). Environmentalists say (in French, again) that the watchdog cannot be considered to be independent as it is a government department and the State is the owner of EDF and strongly pro-nuclear... I am going into this debate here but provide various links below if you want to investigate further...

Thanks to the fact the all plants are identical, have been bought under a very long term plan (over 25 years) and are operated by a single entity, operating costs are quite low. The final cost of electricity per kWh also benefits from the fact that funds for the programme were borrowed using the very low rates that highly rated sovereign countries can obtain, and amortised over very long periods (initially 30 years, but the life of the older plants has been officially extended to 40 and it is likely that they will be further expansions). 5% interest rate over 40 years vs 8% over 20 years makes a huge difference, and the overall cost of electricity in France is very low. France exports electricity to all its neighbors, including the UK and Germany, and is competitive in all markets.

European Electricity prices in 2002 (click on picture for a bigger version, or on the link for the original)

050410_prix_elec_europe_2002

Please note that, despite pretty much everything that you read in the financial press, EDF has NOT RECEIVED a centime from the French government in the past 25 years. Quite the opposite: it has regularly been "raided" by the government when there were budgetary crises (through special taxes or "dividends"), and it has also been used to fight inflation (by being forced to lower its prices regularly). It is a highly competitive electricity producer, and that's the main reason why there are few competitors in France - it makes no sense to build new plants when you already have a massive supply of very cheap electricity.

I put out the following table in my previous diary on wind power:

Cost of production for various technologies, not taking into account externalities.


(my calculations from various sources which I'll be happy to provide upon demand. I have modified some numbers somewhat to avoid giving out any confidential information when necessary)

The nuclear numbers come from this study made by the French Ministry of Industry (see a summary in English (pdf, 4 pages))

050410_comp_prix_elec_eng

That table shows the importance of the interest rate hypothesis and thus the value in this industry of having a national player able to capture value on the financial markets by borrowing a lot cheaper than private operators.

On the emissions side, with nuclear making 80% of production and hydro another 10%, France's carbon emissions are logically amongst the lowest in the industrialised world:

050409_emissions_co2

The other big advantage of nuclear is to avoid dependency on foreign supplies for electricity production. A good fraction of the uranium is imported, but it comes from friendly countries like Canada or Australia, as well as from some African countries with a "friendly" French presence like Niger. France thus produces 50% of its energy needs overall from domestic sources, versus 26% in 1973.

The last big topics are that of plant decommissioning and nuclear waste.

Two big reports on these topics have been published by independent bodies in recent weeks, so there is a lot of information available, unfortunately most of it is in French. The debate is quite lively here, but I have not found many references in the English speaking press. Here are the reports:

Parliament evaluation of nuclear waste management options (March 2005, in French)

Cour des Comptes report on decommissioning and nuclear waste (in French; the Cour des Comptes is the financial watchdog for all public entities, it is fiercely independent).

The summary (15 page pdf, in French) of the document of the Cour des Comptes is as follows:
- risks linked to operations are well identified
- risks linked to waste management are well identified and managed. Decisions on long term storage are pending (they are due in 2006, see next report)
- decommissioning and waste storage are well estimated and amount to about 10% of production costs. However, the absolute numbers are quite high.
- current provisions by the 3 main actors of the sector (EDF, Areva and CEA, the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, which runs R&D and manages some of the older reactors) amount to 71 billion euros
- full transparency is required in the accounting of these provisions and their plans of use (these should be set in stone and not be subject to short term contingencies). Only Areva fulfills this requirement at this point.

As regards the long term management of nuclear waste, a specific agency, ANDRA was created by a 1991 law, with a 15 year mission to find a long term solution for nuclear waste. 3 axis or research were examined: (i) separation and transmutation (transforming nuclear elements into other, less noxious, elements by chemical processes and isolating the more radioactive ones from the rest) (ii) long term permanent storage of waste in deep geological layers and (iii) temporary storage of certain elements in the expectation that they can be processed at a later stage.
All 3 are expected to be pursued, and the choice of the site for long term geological storage, that of La Bure, in Eastern France, is close to being made.

The report proposes to pursue all 3 and sets a detailed plan over the next 35 years to organise it. It provides detailed estimates of the expected cost of the whole process and proposes to create a specific fund, to be funded by the nuclear industry, to pay for it over the corresponding period.

Other reports (such as this one, Lifetime of Nuclear Power Plants and New Designs of Reactors (in English, for once)) address the question of how and when to replace the existing power plants in the long term. France has now taken the decision to build a demonstration version of the "EPR" (European Pressurised Water Reactor), a new generation of reactor built on the same technology as the existing ones, with incremental improvements. It would be built by Areva and Siemens, and has also been ordered by Finland.

France is happy with nuclear energy and intends to continue using it on a large scale. It has workes so far because it has been run in a highly centralised way, with one operator with the full backing of the State under a very long term plan. Both the operator and the public supervisory body have a strong engineering culture with an emphasis on technical excellence and safety, and they are generally trusted, despite occasional lapses in transparency which are increasingly corrected nowadays.

The full costs of the programme appear to be mostly accounted for, and nuclear plants have provided cheap electricity to France over the past 20 years at no cost to the public purse.

If this appears too good to be true, well, maybe it is! I don't claim full neutrality on this topic, being French, and an alumni of the same engineering school as many of the top people at EDF and Areva, but, as you may be remember, I am a big supporter of wind power and I still see a need for nuclear energy as the "base load". Let's be clear: it's going to be nuclear or coal, and I will let Plan9 (from dKos) argue how much worse coal is!

That's it for now.

To keep you busy, here are a few more links on the topic that I have found interesting, coming from both nuclear proponents and opponents (you know, fair and balanced and all that):

Nuclear energy today (OECD, 2005)

World Nuclear Association's "Nuclear Energy made simple

LockerGnome encyclopedia on Nuclear Power

Office for Nuclear Affairs of the French Embassy in the US

EDF's page in English on nuclear energy

Areva's description of its industrial activities in the "nuclear cycle"

2004 Report on Nuclear Safety (114p, pdf, in French)

Breakdown of electricity production and CO2 emissions (click on the respective links for separate pop up windows.)

'Learn more about Plutonium' page (6 page pdf)

Sortir du nucléaire (getting away from nuclear energy) the French umbrella group of most anti-nuclear associations (in French only)

Greenpeace's "End the nuclear threat"

Eole vs Pluton, a Greenpeace campaign comparing the costs of investing in nuclear energy or wind energy in the future.

Posted by Jérôme à Paris on April 10, 2005 at 22:09 UTC | Permalink | Comments (41)

Heritage Foundation Doubts Bush MBA

The Heritage Foundation says Bush's MBA may not be the real thing.

This Reuters report on Ben Bernanke as a possible successor for Alan Greenspan cites William Beach from the conservative Heritage Foundation:

[He] said Bernanke possesses one credential crucial for any Greenspan replacement: The ability to translate econo-speak into plain language.

"Bush is going to want to appoint someone who can sit down with him and speak in a language he understands," Beach said.

According to his official bio

President Bush received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1975.

The second-term Required Courses in the Harvard MBA program includes

Business, Government, and the International Economy (BGIE)

This course introduces tools for studying the economic environment of business to help managers understand the implications for their companies.

Students will learn the impact of:

  • National income and balance of payment accounting
  • Exchange rate theory
  • Political regimes

An examination of both the gains and problems arising from regional global integration covers:

  • International trade
  • Foreign direct investment
  • Portfolio capital
  • Global environmental issues

That sounds like an awful lot of econo-speak to me. Heritage's Beach thinks that's not "a language he understands". Thereby Beach doubts the value of Bush's MBA degree?

Do you? Leave your comment and/or ask him.

Posted by b on April 10, 2005 at 20:41 UTC | Permalink | Comments (7)

Copywrong

The Internationale is still under capitalist copyright control, as is 'Happy Birthday to You'. 

Meanwhile Sony has patented `The Matrix´ idea:

According to the patent, which was granted in the U.S. in 2003, the method of brain stimulation centers on low-frequency pulses that stimulate the neural cortex without requiring any kind of implant.

(the sex industry would love that technology, but)

Sony reportedly described the patented technology as speculative work, and conceded there have been no experiments with it yet -- and no prototype device exists.

So one obviously may patent pure speculation that something may work in future, without an idea how it may work and without any experiments and prototypes?

Two points on why this is wrong are obvious to me:

1. Unreasonable copyright stifles new art (in The Internationale case a movie) and patents like the above will stop anyone working in that field to develop something that might turn out to work like the idea Sony patented.

2. If laws like those covering copyright and patents become unreasonable they are not accepted by the public and will be circumvented or ignored. This creates a general aversion against the "rule of law" and undermines the society.

Posted by b on April 10, 2005 at 16:40 UTC | Permalink | Comments (5)

Billmon: 04/10

About the "rule of law" nonsense: A Measure of Justice

Rarely has a conviction given me such pure physical pleasure:

Convicted in the nation's first felony case against illegal spamming, Jeremy Jaynes, 30, on Friday was sentenced to nine years in prison for bombarding Internet users with the junk e-mails.

My only regret is that the jury didn't see fit to sentence young Jeremy to the full medieval rehabilitation routine (including a nice, long counseling session on the rack), followed by drawing and quartering.

Posted by b on April 10, 2005 at 9:31 UTC | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 09, 2005

Sujet Libre

Pour toutes discussions, commentaires, articles, émotions, enthousiasmes à partager.

Le précédent: Open Thread 05-35

Posted by Jérôme à Paris on April 9, 2005 at 22:34 UTC | Permalink | Comments (68)

Billmon: 04/09

On Unitarian Jihad

Posted by b on April 9, 2005 at 18:19 UTC | Permalink | Comments (8)