July 14, 2008

Not not The Onion

From The Onion, although it didn't take a lot of imagination to come up with this:

Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble To Invest In

WASHINGTON—A panel of top business leaders testified before Congress about the worsening recession Monday, demanding the government provide Americans with a new irresponsible and largely illusory economic bubble in which to invest.

Clearly, the next bubble will be alternative energy. We're all going to get rich off investing in start-ups that will build automobiles powered by phosphorescent bacteria.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

31 comments:

SFG said...

We need nukes. It's the only thing that works. At least it works for the French.

Anonymous said...

What? No Steve Sailer?

http://rangit.com/blogs/famous-bloggers-do-you-recognize-these-faces/

halfbreed said...

Sfg is right. I heard recently (haven't confirmed it) that even the Sierra Club is pro-nuke these days. It's clean, and it's cost effective, and it's efficient...As far as a new bubble, biotech's always a possibility.....As far as the Onion goes, Steve, let's give them a little credit. You capture -- and mock -- the absurdity of the Big Lie very well, but they do a great job with all the little lies most of us live by.

Justin Halter said...

Ha! My favorite:
"Once we have a bubble to provide a fragile foundation, we can begin building pyramid scheme on top of pyramid scheme, and before we know it, the financial situation will return to normal."

Garrett Hardin said...

SFG, we don't "need" nuclear power. we need 6.5 billion less people in the world.

As for halfbreed's Sierra Club assertion, that ridiculous organization is so entrenched in this rotting system I'm surprised it hasn't petitioned to have Obama and McCain heads carved into Mt. Rushmore.

The only people I've ever met who think nuclear power is in any way clean are those who measure time by financial quarters, rather than generations.

That said, after the oil goes, La Raza is going to need something to drive to its various jobs at Chinese and Hindu mansions and factories - it might as well be bacteria-fueled autos.

Anonymous said...

Is alternative energy really a scam? Seems to me that a lot of power can be harnessed from the sun and the wind.

Anonymous said...

I checked out the "Famous bloggers" list. I'm not a techie nor a liberal (the folks who dominated), so I maybe recognized only 10% of the list. Some observations:
a. Wow! Very whiter people, indeed.
b. Some of these women are trying too hard and need to stop. Check out #136 for the worst offender followed by the blogger @ #61 who besides having her bra exposed, writes for the quaint sounding, "Go Fug Yourself".

As for Steve's comment, I agree. One of the annoying things about environmentalist extremists getting upset because we are not getting off oil Right Now is that they betray an ignorance of the principle that GDP at purchasing power parity correlates well with how clean a place is. Corrupted politicians aren't the problem for the calls for rollbacks on drilling restrictions. The problem comes from the middle-class mom and dad who have reached a point where the cost of fuel is unbearable and it was reached so quickly that adjusting lifestyles comfortably is impossible. Also, some of these environmental laws, the government subsidized recycling program and especially the Alaskan drilling restriction, exhibit religious fanaticism.

Chief Seattle said...

That parody sounds like an echo of the Texas oil-bust era bumper sticker, "LORD, GIVE US ONE MORE CHANCE. WE PROMISE WE WON'T SCREW IT UP THIS TIME".

testing99 said...

Yes, Alternative energy IS a scam.

Disclosure, I was briefly a part of a clean energy initiative by Clinton's Energy Dept. to promote US companies in China. I was a very low-level peon. But at Beijing this is what I learned:

1. Wind power was hideously expensive. I think it was something like 20 times more than coal, but the interior had neither transmission lines nor coal so it was better than nothing.

2. You cannot store wind power. Use it or lose it, and it obviously cannot "peak" -- think hot summer afternoons when everyone gets home and turns on the AC. Wind is of course unpredictable and you could end up with days of dead calm and no power.

3. Solar is hideously expensive and hugely capital intensive. You either heat water through focused mirrors to run typical steam turbines, or vastly inefficient solar electricity directly through photo chemical reactions. There's some research being done on the latter, but it's years away.

You still can't "peak" power generation, you can't generate at night, and you can't store power either.

By contrast, nuke and natural gas plants, while ugly, polluting, and in the case of nuke plants offering long term risks for radiation poisoning, can "peak" power generation, run at night, and the power is stored through nuclear fuel or natural gas. The same holds true for "clean" coal which is super-heated to burn out lots of the impurities, and scrubbed before exhaust is vented. All are hugely capital intensive. If built right though, they can last 30+ years.

NONE of them are going to run your car though, much less planes or boats. For that we need oil. Biodiesel is a waste of time since it always takes in more than it puts out energy wise, even in Brazil's sugar cane fields.

I can say no sane utility would want much energy coming from either wind or solar because they have to put out power 24/7 for customers, even if it's dark, cloudy, or calm.

America has lots of coal, we can pay the money to burn it (relatively) cleanly, along with nukes. We still need oil though, but having lots of cheap electricity would take the burden off of energy inputs for a lot of things.

Whiskey said...

I'll add the Onion is sort of righter than they know ... with loss of productivity growth, and decline in wages / real income based on shifting jobs overseas and a race-to-the-bottom wages/working conditions with China's cheap labor, America has become a poor place to invest.

Not only are regulations onerous while not providing transparency to make informed judgments (looking at you Sarbanes/Oxley), there is not much innovation and/or capital investment in manufacturing which has historically driven advancing economies.

This is one reason I favor a national industrial effort to create a fabrication lab in space to use Zero G and micro-gravity to "proof of concept" new metallic alloys and other materials. If America can make metals (and work them) that no one else can, maybe metals that can cheaply filter salt water into fresh say, that's a source of wealth beating oil beneath arabia.

You can get alloys to combine in space in ways they don't in Earth's gravity. This is a huge opportunity to whoever grabs it first.

Martin said...

"Whiskey said...

You can get alloys to combine in space in ways they don't in Earth's gravity. This is a huge opportunity to whoever grabs it first."

You can also waste money in space in ways that you can't on Earth. This is an opportunity we have already exploited

headache said...

Its already begun. Apparently the big automakers are buying into startups which produce all sorts of fancy batteries and drive mechanisms. In the financial press here in Germany (big biz yahoo club) they are hyping the new bubble and floating the same crap that those who don't get onto this train early are going to lose out. So the intelligent thing now would be to do the opposite of what they say. What would that be? Buy oil stocks?

Martin said...

"Testing 99 said....

3. Solar is hideously expensive and hugely capital intensive. You either heat water through focused mirrors to run typical steam turbines, or vastly inefficient solar electricity directly through photo chemical reactions. There's some research being done on the latter, but it's years away."

I see that you are ignorant in a wide variety of areas. Direct solar conversion by photo-chemical reactions? Huh? You mean photo-voltaic (a solid-state, electronic process, not chemical)? We have had PVs for nearly 50 years, and in recent years they have gotten relatively efficient (nearly 30%). They still need work. And yes, a solar power plant would be capital intensive - you mean to say that a coal-fired or nuclear plant isn't? They could potentially serve as a useful complement to nuclear power, which I believe will be necessary too.

And what people need to be clear on is that in order to employ nuclear power in a big way, we need to use breeder reactors. Otherwise the amount of nuclear fuel available in the world is not so great.

"NONE of them are going to run your car though, much less planes or boats. For that we need oil. Biodiesel is a waste of time since it always takes in more than it puts out energy wise, even in Brazil's sugar cane fields."

Not necessarily. That may mostly be true, and it is almost certainly true for the ethanol we produce from corn in the U.S. I have read that Brazil's ethanol production from sugar-cane does exceed break-even, but only because the cane production is labor-intensive (i.e., it is done by peasants with machetes) - not a model we would want to emulate. And by the way, sugar-cane is used to make ethanol, not bio-diesel. But obviously, details are not your strong suit.

Perhaps it was a good thing that you were only a low-level peon in that abortive clean-energy initiative.

Anonymous said...

The only people I've ever met who think nuclear power is in any way clean

Yawn. Another emotional anti-nuclear argument. Usually these are from the left, but this time it's from someone naming himself after the lifeboat ethics guy -- who had four children!

If you know physics, you know that nuclear wins out in any comparative analysis. Unless you want to abandon modern civilization (you know, showers, sewage treatment, MRIs, running water), you need electricity. That's true for 6.5 billion people and it's true at 100 million people.

When you need electricity, you need to account for the hidden costs of any other power supply when thinking about deaths (e.g. with oil, military expenditures are nontrivial; with coal, you've got mining fatalities, etc.).

Anyway, people who've done the math -- like physicists and Turing Award Winners -- see that nuclear clearly wins out. I have never seen a numerate opponent of nuclear power.


John McCarthy, Turing Prize Winner

http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/index.html

This Web page and its satellites are aimed at showing that human material progress is desirable and sustainable. People have worried about many problems. These pages discuss energy in general, nuclear energy, solar energy, food supply, population, fresh water supply, forests and wood supply, global engineering, pollution, biodiversity, various menaces to human survival, the role of ideology in discussing these matters, useful references. Other problems are discussed in the main text including minerals and pollution.

The sustainability pages are essentially done, although I plan to improve them and respond to inadequacies people find. Having done my best to show that material progress is sustainable, I can justifiably turn my attention to the future and present ideas about what progress people will want and what can be achieved. The emphasis is on opportunities rather than on inevitabilities.

Most of the contentions of these pages are supported by simple calculations based on readily available numbers. Here's an illustration. Slogan: He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.
With the development of nuclear energy, it became possible to show that there are no apparent obstacles even to billion year sustainability.(1) . A billion years is unimaginably far in the future.



David Mackay, Cambridge physicist

http://www.withouthotair.com/
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/20/mackay_on_carbon_free_uk/

A topflight science brainbox at Cambridge University has weighed into the ever-louder and more unruly climate/energy debate with several things that so far have been mostly lacking: hard numbers, willingness to upset all sides, and an attempt to see whether the various agendas put forward would actually stack up.

Professor David J C MacKay of the Cambridge University Department of Physics holds a PhD in computation from Cal Tech and a starred first in Physics, so we can take it that he knows his numbers. And, as he points out, numbers are typically lacking in current discussion around carbon emissions and energy use...

Most of us don't see basic hygiene, decent food and warm houses as sinful luxuries, but as things we can reasonably expect to have. This means that society as a whole needs a lot of energy, which led MacKay to consider how this might realistically be supplied in a low-carbon fashion. He's coming at the issues from a green/ecological viewpoint, but climate-change sceptics who are nonetheless concerned about Blighty becoming dependent on Russian gas and Saudi oil — as the North Sea starts to play out — will also find his analysis interesting. Eliminating carbon largely equates to eliminating gas and oil use...

MacKay concludes that nuclear scales up easily, and does so without dominating the country the way wind, solar, tidal and biomass do. The scale of engineering required, in terms of megatons of steel and concrete or areas of land and sea taken up, is enormously down on that needed by useful amounts of renewables....

Even MacKay admits that fast breeders and oceanic uranium together would power the entire human race at hoggish American levels for well over a thousand years, or at current European consumption for several millenia. He also says that known thorium reserves, used with current tech, would run the whole race at rich-westerner levels for several decades.

There's also a thing called a thorium energy amplifier reactor which would be a lot more efficient. If it works as its Nobel prize-winning designers predict, known thorium reserves would run six billion people at American luxury for sixty thousand years.

Anonymous said...

See also:

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/nuketour/2007/index.html

And in this as in seemingly all matters that bedevil Western Society, the Chinese are hardheaded and unemotional.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.09/china.html

While the West frets about how to keep its sushi cool, hot tubs warm, and Hummers humming without poisoning the planet, the cold-eyed bureaucrats running the People's Republic of China have launched a nuclear binge right out of That '70s Show. Late last year, China announced plans to build 30 new reactors - enough to generate twice the capacity of the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam - by 2020. And even that won't be enough. The Future of Nuclear Power, a 2003 study by a blue-ribbon commission headed by former CIA director John Deutch, concludes that by 2050 the PRC could require the equivalent of 200 full-scale nuke plants. A team of Chinese scientists advising the Beijing leadership puts the figure even higher: 300 gigawatts of nuclear output, not much less than the 350 gigawatts produced worldwide today.

Perry said...

From the comments expressed here I would suggest there is a knowledge gap. Testing99 is going the right way and to assist the rest of you, including Martin, the following sites are where you play "catchup"

http://www.icecap.us/

http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/

http://www.climateaudit.org/

These two links are to articles which define the crass stupidity of politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.

http://www.globalwarming.org/node/2440

http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2008/06/madness-exposed.html

If the maths are too hard for some, I give thanks that person is not in a position of authority. Unfortunately, the UK has had maths dunces in government for more than 11 years and the Conservatives as just as dyslexic.

The lunatics are running the asylum. The Chinese are taking over in Africa and the West does not see it. http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2008/07/fiddling-while-africa-burns.html

The ISAF has missed the bus in Afghanistan.
http://defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com/

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

headache said...

I agree with anon about Nuclear winning out. It’s really simple: Uranium contains 1000 times the equivalent energy as the same mass of coal. And that’s in the non-enriched state. If we use breeders, and the tech is there, we can get out about 50 times more energy. Wind, solar, bio and coal just fall off the scale in comparison. Fusion is not ready and may never be. Water power makes sense and that is why all available water power has already been harnessed. It’s because water is so much denser than air so the impulse is so much larger and you can run some serious-sized turbines off it. All the rest is just playing games and costing the taxpayer.
In Germany the windmill industry is subsidised to the tune of 40 billion EURO (not USD) per year. Just for ideology and so a couple of deranged green pols can feel good about themselves. And so about 100000 people can be employed. It’s a lot cheaper just paying them for staying at home.
The future of transportation is clearly electricity, at least in cities. And it will come from Nuclear running on enriched uranium. Coal can be used to make fuel for the army, airplanes and trucks/overland cars. The rest of the oil must be pumped from Alaska, North Sea and bought from more friendly nations such as Brazil.
Hydrogen is just a shit storage mechanism for electricity and good for specialist applications such as satellites and U-boats.

Hibernia Girl said...

Did you see the chart accompanying the Onion piece?

"The Next Big Bubble? -- These are the economic bubbles Americans would like to foolishly invest in to take their minds off the current fiscal crisis most."

Number 1 is 'Illegal immigration futures.' ;-)

Shouting Thomas said...

... "they are hyping the new bubble and floating the same crap that those who don't get onto this train early are going to lose out. So the intelligent thing now would be to do the opposite of what they say. What would that be? Buy oil stocks?"

No, I think that intelligent strategy would be to invest heavily in the next bubble, then sell out before the bubble bursts.

This is the moral I would draw from the internet bubble. A lot of people made millions in that Ponzi scheme. The trick is to sell out just before the house of cards collapses.

Martin said...

"Perry said...

From the comments expressed here I would suggest there is a knowledge gap. Testing99 is going the right way and to assist the rest of you, including Martin, the following sites are where you play "catchup""

What did I say that was wrong? Tell me.

David said...

garrett hardin said

we don't "need" nuclear power. we need 6.5 billion less people in the world.

That's an interesting policy proposal. How do you propose, practically speaking, to get rid of them? By doing your share to choke off energy?...Oh, I see. Hitler was not ambitious enough, eh?

But how would the kill-off be halted at the correct number?

geronimo mctavish said...

2.You cannot store wind power. Use it or lose it, and it obviously cannot "peak" -- think hot summer afternoons when everyone gets home and turns on the AC. Wind is of course unpredictable and you could end up with days of dead calm and no power.

Well thats not entirely true, Ive seen a pumped storage station in North Wales in the UK.

It was built years before anyone was really bothered about wind power. Simply put it uses cheaper off-peak power to pump water uphill and lets it run downhill to power turbines at times of peak demand. Its surely applicable to the issue of erratic wind (and solar) power generation. Im not saying its the magic bullet for making these systems viable but its a partial solution.

g. mctavish said...

Didnt realise but that Wiki link does specifically mention wind/solar.

Garrett Hardin said...

"Yawn. Another emotional anti-nuclear argument. Usually these are from the left, but this time it's from someone naming himself after the lifeboat ethics guy -- who had four children!"

You can't use "yawn" pejoratively -that's my schtick.

Thanks for cutting and pasting a few scientists' viewpoints though. I wonder what they think about race and intelligence? Or I wonder if it's possible to trot out some prize winners who swear, swear global warming is here, right now, and it's all caused by man?

As far as your - yawn - "civilization" assertion, how has every civilization the world's ever known until the last century managed without electric can openers and gas powered weed wackers?

Glad to see China's leading the way though, as in all things. What a nation to emulate when it comes to environmental decisions. The masks I wore in Beijing and Harbin were tres outre.

Nuclear power produces nuclear waste. Nuclear waste is different than other waste. It's radioactive. Search diligently for the emotion in those sentences.

Anonymous said...

Solar and wind can TOO be stored. Jerry Pournelle can tell you that. You use the wind and solar to pump water uphill to an upland reservoir during sunny / windy times. Then you open the dam and make hydroelectric when you need it.

And, testing 99, you're wrong about coal not being able to run your cars. The Germans, while being bombed in WWII, figured out the Fischer Troppe process to turn coal into fuel liquids.

Biodiesel is not, either, a waste of time. The problem is the irrational hysteria in regards to the hemp plant. Industrial hemp contains so little THC, it would require you to smoke a pound to get high.

But the hemp plant is one of the most prodigious oil producers that exist. It's a weed. You just about can't not grow it.

Ask the DEA how difficult it is to exterminate.

Also, research is ongoing into the field of high-temperature superconductivity. If achieved, you build superconducting power lines to store your wind/ solar - generated electricity. Of course, the amount of silver that will be required presents another problem, since easily-mined silver may have been mined out and may, in fact, be more rare than gold and above-ground silver has been consumed and discarded in all those old computers.

It ain't a question of oil OR coal OR uranium OR wind OR solar.

We need 'em all, and we need it yesterday.

Josh said...

"So Sen. McCain,how do you feel about going nuclear?" "Fantastic idea! I think we should do it immediately! Sure,some whiners out there may be concerned-but not me! Lets do it now! Environmental damage? Bah! This is the best way,trust me! I know these things!" "So you will push for nuclear energy..." "Uhm...what?Energy?...OHHH! Energy,oh yeah,heh heh I thought you were talking about bombing Iran!"

David said...

France is "leading the way" on nuclear.

But Iran should not follow. Or else.

Garrett Hardin said...

"That's an interesting policy proposal. How do you propose, practically speaking, to get rid of them? By doing your share to choke off energy?...Oh, I see. Hitler was not ambitious enough, eh?"

Wow, Godwin's law invoked after a mere twenty-something comments. Kudos, David.

Policy? Why, everything mentioned on this blog over the course of its existence. Did Ethiopia's population have to double in the twenty years since I've left high school? Did the world have to add tens of millions in the year since
David has? Are the Congolese or whoever clamoring for that utterly necessary electricity or are certain whiter whites doing it for them?

Sisyphus said...

Good article on the subject of the coming alt energy bubble (and asset bubbles in general):

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/02/0081908

Martin said...

"Garrett Hardin said...

Nuclear power produces nuclear waste. Nuclear waste is different than other waste."

Yeah, it's different. Over time, it becomes less radioactive. However, heavy metal waste, like mercury or cadmium, stay heavy metals forever.

Nuclear power will need an extensive infrastructure for breeding fuel and reprocessing waste. But coal and oil already entail an extensive infrastructure. Nuclear is the only long-term source of electricity that can be operated on demand, without auxilliary storage. It will be absolutely necessary, despite the reservations of certain persons of your aquaintenance (an argument which is, incidentally, nothing to me).

Ronduck said...

headache is right, it has already begun. Here is an article from MSN money hyping the new trend:

http://tinyurl.com/6fsrkz