A Nuclear Energy Update

Posted on March 13, 2015
Posted By: Ferdinand E. Banks
Topic: Nuclear
 

Try thinking about and remembering the following. France and Sweden may still have the largest nuclear inventory per voter in the world, and they also once enjoyed the lowest electricity prices in Europe, and perhaps the world. Their nuclear reactors also have an admirable safety record, despite the 'advanced age' of some of this equipment. Something else that you should find of interest, and which deserves close attention, is that according to the CIA 'Fact Book', Japan is one of the most nuclear intensive countries in the world, but at the same time, on the average, its residents have the longest life expectancy in the world for a major power. The life expectancy in non-nuclear Denmark (and non-nuclear Norway) is below that of nuclear intensive Sweden and very nuclear intensive Japan. The CIA 'fact book' has Monaco at the top of life expectancies, but tiny (and rich) Monaco is 'surrounded' by nuclear intensive France. According to the Japanese government there were no casualties at Fukushima that can be attributed to nuclear failure, and according to the U.S. government, none at all at Three-Mile Island. As for Chernobyl, the casualty count provided by the Russian government is not something that I repeat because it sounds too low. There are more than 400 reactors in operation today, many are being constructed at the present time, and even more are in the planning state, and I find it easy to accept that there will be well over 500 in a decade. Some of those reactors might be breeders, and according to Professor Jeffrey Sachs (of Columbia University and the Earth Institute) nuclear is the only sensible way to deal with the climate disruption problem.

THE MAIN ORDER OF BUSINESS

The above introduction should get readers into the rhythm of the present short article. But please take my advice and do not expect this service from The International Handbook on the Economics of Energy (2009), which is more than 800 pages, and contains many articles. It ignores nuclear energy however, and thus strikes me as incomplete, but maybe that doesn't matter. On the basis of a brief perusal, I believe that like most publications that ignore nuclear where the energy future is concerned, it deserves to be considered pedagogically worthless.

Thus I begin this contribution with the following cheerful message: the nuclear facility at Fukushima was constructed about 40 years ago from blueprints prepared another 5 or 10 years earlier. Suddenly it was a victim of one of the most powerful earthquakes ever experienced in Japan, and also in the path of a destructive tsunami that featured waves 40 meters high along a 100 kilometer stretch of the Eastern coastline.. To some extent the survival of the Fukushima nuclear facility could be described as a structural miracle, and as indicated by the testimony of Swedish diplomat and nuclear expert Hans Blix, its survival demonstrated what we have the right to expect from future generations of (technologically superior) nuclear equipment.

The bottom line here is that exuberant claims about the utility of nuclear energy should not only be tolerated, but promoted, and where the teaching of nuclear economics is concerned, as much emphasis should be put on history as on economics, because history is where the truth about nuclear is to be found.

Moreover, Sweden is the perfect country in which to study both disciplines. About 45 percent of the electric production capacity in Sweden (in Megawatts) is accounted for by nuclear, although annually - at various times in the past - nuclear probably provided at fifty percent of the electric energy (in Megawatt-hours) produced in Sweden. Initially, nuclear and hydro gave Sweden some of the lowest cost and price of electricity in the world (and the same is true of the output of carbon dioxide). The pointless deregulation of electricity put an end to that very favourable arrangement.

More significant, the Swedish nuclear inventory of 12 reactors was installed in slightly less than 14 years, which was a feat of technological brilliance that in some respects was analogous to the expansion of the United States Navy and Air Force in the years immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (At least eight of these Swedish reactors were produced by ASEA, which was a Swedish firm that inexplicably was moved from Sweden to Switzerland in 1988, becoming the A in ABB, or Asea Brown-Boveri.)

Something I never fail to stress in my formal lectures or informal harangues is the importance of moderately priced electricity in an industrial economy, and on that score Sweden was once in the forefront of world economies.

Unfortunately however, that lovely situation turned out to be unacceptable to the local anti-nuclear booster clubs, who together with self-appointed energy experts from Sweden and elsewheere unleashed a torrent of lies and misunderstandings about nuclear energy that eventually resulted in the bad news for consumers of electricity that sometimes characterizes the Swedish electric market. During the last few years, the price of electricity to households in Sweden has occasionally been extremely high, although - wisely - electricity may still be sold to Swedish industries at a lower price.

If we take a careful look at the time series of global macroeconomic growth from the end of the second world war (WW2) to the present, we can distinguish two distinct segments. The first is comparatively smooth, and stretches from the end of WW2 until the middle of the l970s, or shortly after energy prices began to rise in an unexpected manner.

The second segment, from the middle l970s to the present, which I discuss briefly in my forthcoming energy economics textbook (2015), featured an irregular growth that doubtlessly resulted from the occasional drastic increases in all energy prices that began

with the first oil price shock, and whose impact effect was a slowdown in the rate of the

productivity growth in almost every industrial country.

This was a kind of 'sneak preview' of the macroeconomic meltdown that would begin in the latter half of 2008. Another consequence of the energy price rise - i.e. oil plus other energy resources - was stagflation, or the simultaneous occurrence of inflation and increased unemployment.

Unless national energy structures are 'adjusted', these miseries might accelerate if the prices of the main fossil fuels begin to escalate again, which is a misfortune that I consider likely, though perhaps not in the short run, and which I prefer not to discuss here. I will suggest however that this judgement particularly applies to oil and natural gas, and initially will likely be due to geopolitical rather than geological causes.

In case a possible 'adjustment' for countries like Sweden is necessary, I would like to suggest reinforcing hydro, if hydro is present, with an optimal collection of renewables and alternatives, as well as maintaining the presence of nuclear, increasing its efficiency, and eventually adopting the next generation of reactors and its variants in both present and smaller sizes. I also think it 'politic' to assume that nuclear will be an indispensable complement to (and not substitute for) any conceivable mix of renewables and alternatives, and also to accept that a fraction of these renewables and alternatives would be an optimal political but suboptimal economic concession to voters and politicians who are deeply offended by the success of science and engineering in their countries, which happens to be the situation in Sweden.

As Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's economy and energy minister, made clear, "we have reached the limit of what we can ask of our economy." What he meant - but obviously could not say - was the limit of what could be asked if the proposed liquidation of nuclear energy in his country becomes a reality. Notice the word "if", because a genuine as opposed to a synthetic dumping of nuclear will never take place in Germany or Japan. Gabriel also said that "Germany had been financing the learning curve on renewable energy for other European countries", which might be the reason that he has called what he regards as the Swedish portion of that 'debt' due.

To be specific, Gabriel understands as well as I do that wind and solar can NEVER replace nuclear in Germany, nor any other civilized country, nor was that the intention of his government, even if it sounded good to persons who consider it elegant to believe lies and misunderstandings. The replacement in Germany is - and will remain for a while - imported electricity and coal, and so he contacted the Swedish prime minister (Mr Lofven) and humbly requested that the Swedish firm Vattenfall should not abandon its coal mining activities in Germany, which apparently was about to happen, even though the lies that the directors of Vattenfall once spread across the world about their CCS (or 'carbon capture and sequestration') activities in that country probably set a new record where contempt for the intelligence of Swedish and German politicians and journalists are concerned, and also some of the employees of their firm.

If that is true, then other countries should not make the mistake of trying to assist them. Instead, the governments of countries that export electricity to Germany should attempt to reintroduce German voters to reality rather than helping to prolong the fantasy of their counter-productive energiwende, and one way to do this is to drastically reduce electricity exports to Germany, which will keep electricity prices from rising in their own countries. Thanks for nothing, Germany, is the proper farewell here, and an unmistakeable gesture of disrespect should also be tendered politicians in every state or city who deem it correct to increase the price of electricity in their countries in order to make a success of the attack on local living standards which is the unspoken means and end of the so-called ENERGIWENDE!

REFERENCES
Banks, Ferdinand E. (2015). Energy and Economic Theory. London, New York and Singapore: World Scientific.
_____. (2015). Energy Economics: A Modern First Course. (In Process)
_____. (2007). The Political Economy of World Energy: An Introductory Textbook. Singapore and New York: World Scientific'

 
 
Authored By:
Ferdinand E. Banks (Uppsala University, Sweden), performed his undergraduate studies at Illinois Institute of Technology (electrical engineering) and Roosevelt University (Chicago), graduating with honors in economics. He also attended the University of Maryland and UCLA. He has the MSc from Stockholm University and the PhD from Uppsala University. He has been visiting professor at 5 universities in Australia, 2 universities in France, The Czech University (Prague), Stockholm University, Nanyang Technical
 

Other Posts by: Ferdinand E. Banks

Climate change: A short note - December 16, 2015
Helpful Thoughts About Coal - December 10, 2014

Related Posts

 
 

Comments

March, 15 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

No comments. Well, I can live with that because I am only saying what I have been saying for hundreds of years about nuclear, which is that it is not going to disappear, but is going to become more frequent on the energy scene.

In addition, if you check out my new book ENERGY AND ECONOMIC THEORY, I do Everything I can to emphasize that lies and misunderstandings are still important in the great World of energy, but it may be true that lies and misunderstandings about nuclear are less important than they were at this time last year. The Japanese are NOT going to dump their nuclear capacity, while the Energiwende in Germany is operating on borrowed time.

Moreover, as I tried to explain to several members of the ANTI-NUCLEAR BOOSTER CLUB at a Singapore Energy Week,, technological progress will change a lot of minds about nuclear in a decade or so. The reactor that Bill Gates is financing is going to be a nightmare for some ANBC members , although ´many club members will change their minds about nuclear when they look at their Electric bills...unless of course they like being made fools of by some of the utilities.

One more thing. I published an article about nuclear several years ago that received all sorts of negative comments. I have no problem at all with negative comments, because at the end of my first year in engineering school, the Dean of engineering called me in and told me (and my mother) that I was hopeless, and the commanding officer of the Infantry Leadership School at Fort Ord presented me with the same evaluation. However I would greatly appreciate NOT BEING TOLD that nuclear is on its last legs, and soon our energy needs will be supplied by wind and sun.

March, 16 2015

Richard Vesel says

Give it some time, Fred! Most of us aren't on Energy Pulse over our weekends ;-)

I feel that most of the nations who have used nuclear over the past several decades will be forced to face the realities of carbon reduction sooner or later, and a partially nuclear future will be a component of that picture, perhaps up to 25 or 30% of the total generation mix in the existing nuclear nations, by 2040, hopefully sooner. Responsible hydro facilities should be encouraged as well. There are places and ways to use hydro well, with minimal environmental impact. Places that are projected to be wetter than in the past might feel more secure channeling that precipitation into productive use, rather than just letting it runoff into the distant sea someplace.

I also feel that it would be better to negotiate regional energy strategies rather than give the old high ho salute to neighbors with whom you have small policy disagreements. Wind and solar in Germany have provided considerable returns, just as significant geothermal investments in Iceland a couple of decades ago provided them with absurdly low cost power now. First comes investment, then comes benefits. Investments may not pay us very handsomely, but our children and the generation after that should live better off because of the investments we make on their behalf. That's the way infrastructure is supposed to work. Very long and reliable paybacks.

RWV

March, 16 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

The thing that has provided considerable returns in Germany is a manipulation with subsidies, and lies and misunderstandings. As for regional energy strategies I would like to agree, but Sweden and Germany can't be together in theory because Germany has an inferior energy setup and Sweden - meaning me - would have to pay.

But this doesn'g mean that they won't have a regional strategy, because a majority of the politicians in Europé would see their mothers and fathers and souls for a crack at an international job. And unless I am mistaken, so would Mr Obama. I mean, his 8 years are almost over, and I doubt if he will return to the South Side of Chicago if he can avoid it.

March, 17 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

SEE in the above should be SELL, and speaking of a politician selling his soul for a crack at an international job, I can cite the previous Swedish prime minister. Realizing that while many of his countrymen are highly intelligent, but cannot add and subtract, he opened the Swedish borders for more than 80 thousand migrants a year.

Needless to say.he didn't do that because he Thinks that Swedish cooking is for the birds.

March, 17 2015

Bob Amorosi says

Fred, great to see you are still writing on this forum about nuclear. We will badly need more nuclear in the future, but it will take a long time I'm afraid for our politicians to wake up and realize this.

Here in Ontario Canada we consumers are paying dearly with ever increasing energy billing rates year after year, largely due to the increasing number of solar and winds farms being hooked up to the grid. On many days the added generation from these sources on a windy day or a sunny day cannot always be absorbed by increased demand. Sometimes we can't even give the extra energy away for free, and our grid operators have to actually pay another jurisdiction across our provincial borders to take the extra energy produced off our grid ! The extra costs eventually show up on our utility bills in what is called a "global adjustment" to our rates. It is just crazy.

March, 17 2015

John K. Sutherland says

Okay, I'm back. I had a busy spell writing a load of books; sixteen at last count, though it's a stretch to call some of them 'books'.

Good to see you are still writing Fred.

You are also evolving in other, 'politically correct' directions, going from 'Global Warming' to 'Global Climate Change' to 'Climate Disruption'. The language changed, so that those who could not keep up with the empirical data, could strive to be always right, no matter what happened to show them to be wrong.

I thought, and hoped, that you would have caught on by now.

However, Good words, as usual on Nuclear.

John.

March, 18 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Thanks Bob. Great to get this news from you and I will use it Before the sun goes down today.

And John, actually it is only 13 books, with Another on the back burner. But I still have my memories. Expelled from engineering school, expelled from infantry leadership school, fired from Hughes in L.A., etc etc, and those memories might carry me as far as 16, although I doubt it. 14 will satisfy me.

March, 18 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

You are hereby quoted Bob, but let me note that into every Life some rain must fall, Everybody I meet casually these Days wants to live in Canada. Your country must have something to offer, but I am not going to speculate on what it is.

March, 19 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Excuse me guys, but I Think that the engineers, managers and scientists are getting somewhere. If I had written the above article 5 years ago, a regiment of self-appointed energy experts would have cursed the ground I walk on, and more important swore that nuclear was on its last legs.

Good call, Fred. You deserve to win this one.

March, 21 2015

Malcolm Rawlingson says

I too have been away Fred...in sunny St. Lucia where all their electricity is generated by diesel fuel - and very very expensive.

You probably know what I am going to say because I have said it before - but for those that do not yet get it here are some facts to consider.

The world population of 7 billion people is increasing at about 132 net new human beings PER MINUTE. That is the number of births per minute minus the number of deaths per minute. (240 - 108). Do the mathematics. That is about a quarter of a million new people PER DAY. That is a small US town every single day of the year.

If anyone thinks for a second that the electricity requirements (even basic requirements) can be supplied by wind and solar or even hydroelectric facilities please stop reading this and read Alice in Wonderland because your are in a fantasy world.

Don Hirschberg wrote on this site some time ago that to meet even basic electricity requirements we will need to bring on a 1000MW plant every single week for 50 years....and that is just for the people we have not counting the exponential increase in population that is occurring relentlessly.

I am a proponent of nuclear power - not because of some misplaced ideology but because it is the only way we have of producing electricity on the scale that is necessary without destroying our environment. I have operated both coal and nuclear power plants in the nearly 43 years I have been in the power business and without question nuclear is the safest means of generating electricity. All the spent fuel from all the nuclear power plants in the world is safely stored none of it is in the environment. All the used fuel from coal and oil burning plants - including tons of mercury, lead and other harmful materials is dumped into the atmosphere.

Solar and wind have their place and I am not against them. On islands like St. Lucia they are a good fit with a sunny climate year round and continuous trade winds reasonably attrractive capacity factors can be achieved and the cost to the economy will be much less than imported oil.The population is only about 200,000 people so I would suggest that solar and wind and not nuclear is the best fit here.

However when I see political opportuntsts like Ms. Merkel and the Swedish anti-nuclear mob (with a similar bunch of lunatics in Britain) suggesting you can run an electricity intensive economy on solar and wind I can only sit back in disbelief that people actually think what they say is the truth.

As Fred has noted, not a single person was injured at Three Mile Island. Not a single person died as a result of radiation exposure at Fukushima and approximately 30 persons died (mostly some very brave fire fighters) at Chernobyl. By contrast well over 4000 persons perished at Bhopal and the long term death toll substantially higher than that. Coal mining deaths are commonplace as are deaths at oil refineries and other industrial facilities. These, by some sort of twisted human logic are considered "acceptabe" and rarely make the news. Hundreds have died in aircraft accidents in the past year - tens of thousands have died in car accidents. By any measure you care to name nuclear power is demonstrably the safest industry in the world bar none. I challenge anyone here to provide evidence to the contrary.

Also regarding Fred's article ...... this excellent safety record has been achieved with what is now old designs and old equipment. What was never made public by the media was that many of the local population were seeking shelter INSIDE Fukushima because these were the ONLY structures that survived the earthquake and Tsunami. If designs developed over 50 years ago can withstand such a catastrophe what we can build now can survive anything that mother nature can throw at it.

And of course nations with common sense like China, India and the United Arab Emirates fully understand that and are building a nuclear intensive energy infrastructure at a dizzying pace. China is bringing a new 1200 MW plant on line every month and is expected to surpass the USA in the number of in service plants within a decade. Of course the anti-nuclear booster club (to borrow Fred's words) has no sway in China. They prefer - and see the wisdom - of not choking their population on coal burning plant emissions.

Germany on the other hand sells their electorate the storey that electricity is being produced from wind and solar when in fact it is being produced by nuclear (from France, Sweden and Czech Republic) and coal (lignite from East Germany).

If the west continues down this ideologically driven path it will sow the seeds of its own destruction and is indeed doing that as we speak.

Nuclear will produce the bulk of electricity in years to come simply because there is no other viable large scale option....unless you want to return to the dark ages of course.

Malcolm

March, 21 2015

Malcolm Rawlingson says

If anyone takes the trouble to check my numbers the net birth rate actually is about 190,000 new people per day but I think the birth rate is higher than 240 per day...those are the ones we know about. But while we can wrangle over the exact numbers it is still one helluva lot of humans. Malcolm

March, 21 2015

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Fred, Well of course nuclear is not "dead". Worldwide the industry has never been healthier. There are more nuclear power plants under construction right now than at any time since the 1970's and the number of in service plants will exceed 500 within just a few years. Japan will get back into nuclear power...it has no choice. So will Germany when it realises the economic destruction that is occurring there and the Merkel Circle gets kicked out.

Unfortunately the realisation that you cannot build an industrial economy on wind and solar will likely be far too late for most western economies.It will be interesting to see the US reaction to China surpassing them as the largest economy in the world. Powered by hundreds of clean, safe and reliable nuclear reactors and fuelled by nuclear materials produced in fast breeder reactors their electricity system will be completely independent of fuel imports....forever.With low and predictable energy costs and zero energy imports China will continue to be the manufacturing powerhouse of the world and relegate the USA to the economic backwaters - just as the USA did to the UK after WW2. History has a habit of repeating itself and we are witnessing that now.

The writing on the wall is in Mandarin and the power behind the Chinese pen writing our history will be nuclear energy.

Malcolm

March, 22 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

And so on and so forth, as I say in my lectures. The only thing left for me here though is to appropriate some some of the comments above and elsewhere and grind out Another article.

My question for members of the anti-nuclear booster club is, what is the Point in being so _______ wrong? Isn't it clear which way the wind is blowing? In every civilized country in the World managers, engineers and scientists are telling their governments that they have no choice but to turn to nuclear if they want to protect the living standards of their Citizens.

Incidentally, the people receiving that advice are for the most part as aware of nuclear issues as the people offering it, but like Ms Merkel they like chilling out in those great government jobs, and after that international jobs in places like Brussels.

March, 22 2015

Malcolm Rawlingson says

I could not agree with you more Fred. We see it here in Canada too. Always time and money to go on junkets around the world while the taxpayer foots the bills. There is always the money to go to UN conferences on climate change/warming/cooling/little ice age/flavour of the day conferences in far off exotic places producing tons of the dreaded CO2 gas to get there.

Never see these people at nuclear conferences where real energy issues (and the real energy solutions) are discussed.

Conclusion is of course that they are in it for the money and the prestige, the comfortable international positions and book tours thereafter. Blair, Merkel, Obama, Harper - all tarred with the same brush.

But as I have always said - the people get the politicians and the Governments they deserve.

Malcolm

March, 23 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

I dont like those people going on junkets, but it doesn't really worry me. What worries me is the tendency that these people have to sell their countries out, and here I put Mr Obama at the top of the list. What he wants, after his wasted 8 years in the White House, is the rest of his Life smiling or scowling into cameras in some gorgeous international setting.

March, 23 2015

Malcolm Rawlingson says

No doubt he will make a great poster boy for impoverished African Nations...you know the multi millionairre poster boys that have no connection (real or imagined) with the poor souls that work hard all day to support them. Malcolm

March, 24 2015

Richard Vesel says

In western democracies, the general populations are becoming less technically familiar with nuclear power, and more familiar with unscientific rubbish propagated through the internet. The analytical and research skills necessary to develop and informed opinion, and thus an informed voting policy, escapes, oooohhhhh, 98% of the population, I would guess. (This also applies to a lesser degree for anti-GMO foods, anti-vaccination blather, etc.) Today, knowledge is NOT power - it is a rare commodity, and is often left out of the list of ingredients necessary in our political representatives.

As the world becomes more and more dependent upon, and saturated with advanced technologies of all sorts, it would be better for humanity as a whole to evolve into political systems which are not designed around 17th, 18th, 19th, or even 20th century global chess matches, but rather toward benign democratic technocracies. You shouldn't even be able to run for political office if you don't value or understand science, can't do math, are a technological Luddite, or can't separate religion from political and economic goals.

Moving into a nuclear future is going happen a lot faster in countries where stronger and more visionary central planning is the rule, rather than in places where herding and consoling cats is political norm.

RWV

PS - Fred, why do you insist on bashing Obama for no just cause. Just wait until we have to put up with the likes of his predecessor again, if that ever happens. I shudder to think of the consequences.

March, 24 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Agreed, George W. was a disaster for all of us. But as for Mr O. - whom of course I prefer to George W. - he is just hopelessly ignorant. The problem for me is that he talks like he could make a difference, and perhaps he has the intelligence to make a difference, but his ignorance gets in the way. The key thing now is that he finishes his term of office without giving the person who takes his Place the idea that they should duplicate his style and actions. I dont mean the trillions of dollars he has wasted and is wasting, but running off at the mouth about things that a cheap politician like him obviously does not understand.

Let me tell you what I want. I want actions taken to make the schools of America superior to the schools of every country in the World, This should be the goal, whether it is accomplished or not Before the middle of this century, and everyone would have to contribute. The thing of interest here is that the schools of the district of Chicago from which the Chief Executive came were unsatisfactory, and they seem to have been completely ignored by that gentleman. I just hope that they haven't forgotten how to excel at football - American football of course.

March, 24 2015

Malcolm Rawlingson says

While I gave a huge sigh of dismay at your post above Richard, I do agree with much of what you say. I don't think it needs to be that way though because, like Fred, I believe the root of this ignorance lies squarely at the door of our education system. It ought to be compulsory for all students to have a good...indeed very good...understanding of the physical sciences and mathematics before being allowed to graduate from any school anywhere....perhaps I would even go so far (reluctantly so) as to prohibit voting if you do not. Of course this is exactly the way it used to be. Only the well educated or landed gentry were allowed to vote in years past and universal suffrage has only come about in the 20th century. In parallel of course throughout the same period the world has become completely technology dependent while the population is less and less educated in the subject that really matter to society. It is so bad that informed opinion is virtually impossible.

But that approach has huge repercussions and is a political non starter in western nations. which is why the Chinese will own the future - and us.

I don't really have much of an opinion about Obama...he is just one more in a string of useless and ineffective presidents since Linden B that have betrayed the American Constitution in ways its authors would have considered unimaginable. Every time the American public has bought into the media driven election frenzy when the real power lies elswhere in the world than in the Office of the US president.

While we idolise "sports" and pay the people that kick balls or pucks about or play rounders millions of dollars a year while our scientists and engineers earn a pittance America willl get exactly what it deserves....a crumbling infrastructure and a slow decline into a backwater economy. All the signs are there. It is just a matter of time now.

Malcolm

March, 25 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Not a good understanding of those things, Malcolm, but certainly an understanding. I dont Think it possible to force a sizable percent of students to have a genuinely GOOD understanding of math and science, but an understanding is definitely possible for most.

In the fire direction center of Heavy Mortar Company of the 38th Infantry Regiment during the short time that I was the (acting) boss there, the people doing the computing were quite ordinary Americans, and without a higher education, but I don't remember having to correct any of them, and if they had made mistakes it is possible that I wouldn't be Writing this, because I would have been blamed. The same was true in Germany - until I was fired of course, and sentenced to have a 14 month paid vacation.

I don't expect the Ivy League (Yale) student George W. to understand the importance of education, but Obama does, and yet he talks about sending marines to Australia (to drink beer, because there is nothing else for them to do there). Now that is what I mean by hard core ignorance.

March, 25 2015

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Don't think you can force anyone to learn anything but our system and methods of encouraging an interest in the sciences and maths subjects is woefully inadequate. James Dyson of Dyson vacuum cleaner fame has said many times that while the west discourages engineering study and the number of engineers per capita graduating from British Universities is in decline the reverse is true in China which every year graduates more engineers than the entire western world combined. Engineering is of course the application of the physical sciences and without good physics and maths there are no engineers. The outcome over time is clear. China will surpass the US as the worlds largest economy and we will all be buying not only all our Christmas lights and dollar store items from China but our nuclear reactors, aereoplanes, trains, buses, cars and military equipment from them too. China just took third place ranking for exports of military hardware. With a US buried in debt and lacklustre presidents like Obama, George W at the helm China will simply surge on unabated. With 4 times the population of the US it is just a matter of time before China will impose its political and social fabric on the rest of the world. The fault will be entirely ours for failing to educate our kids in the things that matter. Degrees in political science, philosophy, social studies and all that garbage should be scrapped. Read about them for sure, be interested in them OK, but degrees ,in them - what earthly good are they. I read a statistic (not sure what year it was ...... 2010 I think) which said that in that year the USA graduated 50,000 lawyers and just over 1000 petrochemical engineers. I suppose we could always get our energy from burning law degrees. Malcolm

March, 26 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Malcolm, it's all disgusting to me, but two things are certain. I - Ferdinand E. Banks - knew that all this was going to happen on the basis of the Korean war, and if Americans didn't/don't want the rest of the bad news to happen, then why REELECT people like George W. and Obama. Sure, even dummies like those two deserve a few years in the White House if they know how to get them - that's what democracy is all about - but why REELECT them.

March, 26 2015

Richard Vesel says

Gentlemen,

The education system is currently the cat-toy of the of the rightwingnutjobs here in the USA, who suffer from all of the other maladies which I mention. They do not value a good education, because thoughtful informed and literate voters are far less inclined to swallow their liquid manure, um, I mean, political views. They continuously keep trying to take the "public" out of "public education", defund programs that raise the level of the playing field for the disadvantaged, and keep trying to inject religious fairy tales into SCIENCE curricula. It never ends. They cannot think beyond their own personal wallets, much less think outside the box.

It didn't use to be like this. But the Neo-con kook brigade has taken over the conservative side of our politics, and removed virtually all reason and societal responsibility from it. They worship only the dollar, and preferably the dollar they can personally pocket at the expense of those who don't have many of in the first place.

Until the conservatives theorists start taking their Prozac again, and come down from their flaming mania of greed and denial, things will not change here.

And Malcolm, we have another point which we can agree upon. As those with extraordinary physical talent, or managerial skills for herding physical talent, can make 7 and 8 figure annual salaries, while top intellectual capacities are treated like disposable commodities, our ability to advance, progress, and improve our standards of living (nationally and globally), are going to suffer. As far as I am concerned, there isn't a single person on the planet who is worth more than $2M in annual compensation, much less a college football coach, golfer, baseball player or quarterback. Putting a salary cap on those kinds of positions will not harm them much commercially, and perhaps our youth will spend a little more of their energy focusing on things that matter, rather than trying for careers as sports figures. Same goes for CEO's, etc. $2M a year is ENOUGH for anyone...

March, 26 2015

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Gentlemen is the finest Word in the English language, but having said that let me confess that I am not interested in the composition of political parties or the incomes of sports figures and celebrities.. The Point is to keep dummies like George W. and Obama out of the White House. Something that has become obvious during the last few years is that the president of the US has enormous Power, and is in position to provide the schools that the country needs without the help of Richard Vesel or Fred Banks, especially the latter. But how are we going to get those schools when an ignoramus like Obama spends his time thinking about sending marines to Australia or the Bolivian panhandle.

March, 26 2015

Malcolm Rawlingson says

I share your disinterest in these matters Fred, except that the common denominator is the mentality that allows ridiculously high salaries for people that kick balls about or knock little white balls into small holes in the ground is the same mentality that allows idiots like the last series of Presidents to get elected...as you say some more than once.

In the years since I graduated I have observed a precipitous decline in the quality and breadth of engineering and scientific education - not just in the USA - but across the Western world. I have personally witnessed honours engineering graduates that are unable to read engineering drawings or even know what the symbols mean. People that are full of theories but lack any common sense altogether. I would not ask these graduates to design a shoe box let alone a nuclear power plant.

By stark contrast it has been my pleasure to work with many Chinese and Korean (South) graduates who despite a complete language barrier, different alphabet and different cutural norms are able to produce elegant designs that work. While there are exceptions on either side of those observations I fail to see how North America in particular...and the West in general - will be able to compete with hoards of very well educated engineering graduates who REALLY know their stuff. What are we going to do - send in the hoards of lawyers and stock brokers we have trained. Or perhaps we think we can rebuild our infrastructure with golfers, football players and politicians.

When you have a President that vetoes an important piece of North American infrastructure for nothing more than political gain when every study done over the past 5 years says categorically that Keystone is a safe pipeline then we are all doomed.

In the news...well at least the news that I read.....the Chinese Government has now taken over Pirelli - the largest tyre manufacturer in Europe.

The Chinese have the money, they have the power and they have the brains - we are in their way.

Malcolm

March, 31 2015

Richard Vesel says

Malcolm,

We are in agreement in 5 out of the 6 paragraph points you make above. Huzzah! ;-)

RWV

Add your comments:

Please log in to leave a comment!
back to top

Receive Energy Central eNews & Updates