Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How Trump built the Wall of Shame

Did Donald Trump build a wall? Yes he did! Is it on the Border with Mexico? No. This wall is one that exists within the confines of the White House and it's ancillary executive buildings, and it is called the wall of shame. The wall of shame is a big wall. It's huge! And Americans can see it Big-League. It is so big, in fact, that people from all around the world can see it.

Once seen, cannot be unseen.

Keywords upon which this wall has been built are insanity, corruption, antagonism, and pseudoscience. Since these words constitute the foundation of the wall, we cannot see the words directly. However, the stones that have been placed upon it are evidence to show that it's there. This foundation wouldn't support any other stones. A fair stone would fail to hold the other stones, as it at its core is incompatible with the foundation. 

Let's dissect this wall because we've been beating around the bush for too long, no more metaphors. What are you talking about Mathijs?

The trail of broken promises starts with the election of Trump himself. He is on record saying that he would take on Wall-Street; keep the minimum wage where it is, while simultaneously promising to raise it (which is breaking a promise before you can ever enact any action); Wouldn't take vacations and time off; Drain the swamp and kick out the establishment; Lock Hillary Clinton up; Fix the rigged system; etc. ad infinitem. Trump has already made so many-often times conflicting-promises that he can't possibly fulfil them all. In fact he is breaking them at break-neck pace.

Let's take a brief look at the Cabinet of Donald Trump.

Steven Mnuchin - Secretary of the Treasury.

One thing cannot be said about Secretary Mnuchin, and that is that he cannot count his beans. In fact, he is so good in counting beans that he has worked at Goldman Sachs  for seventeen years (yes, that big Wall street firm). He also owned an investment company called Dune Capital Management, which invested in some of Trump's building projects, and strangely enough this firm actually got sued by Trump. How awkward that must be. Or is it? Subsequently, in 2009, he bought IndyMac-a residential lender-and renamed it to OneWest, which he subsequently sold to the CIT Bank (not to be confused with CITI Bank), of which he became a board member, until his designation as Secretary of the Treasure.

Now something about this tells me that those who voted for trump have been duped. Didn't Trump promise to empty the swamp, and rid it from the establishment? And didn't he promise to be hard on Wall Street? Then how is it possible that an established banker/investor from wall-street ends up as head of the Treasury Department?

Who else could qualify for this job? At this moment the answer is: Anyone who is put forward as a candidate by Donald Trump. No matter how-or good-your qualifications are, the Republican side of the Senate will put you into office, no matter how much you were grilled by Senators Warren, Sanders or Franken. Why? because narrative now trumps facts. It's not a question of who is being put forward to fill a certain position, it's about the proverbial colour of his tie, the promises he made, whether he can fulfil them or not. Qualifications? Shmalifications...

Tom Price - Secretary of Health and Human Services

In a country where the Measles have actually almost been eradicated thanks to vaccines, Tom Price is a former physician who is opposed to mandatory vaccinations. 

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has something interesting to say about the Measles, and I quote :

Before the measles vaccination program started in 1963, we estimate that about 3 to 4 million people got measles each year in the United States. Of those people, 400 to 500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 developed encephalitis (brain swelling) from measles.

I would say that the vaccination program against the measles was effective. Do note that according to the CDC Measles Data and Statistics document roughly 146,000 people die from the measles each year, worldwide. In the same document the CDC postulates that thanks to vaccines from 2000 to 2013 there was a 75% decrease in Measles mortality, which equates to 15.6 Million deaths prevented. Despite heavy vaccination efforts, in 2015 people died from the Measles in the US. This man was part of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, of which some believed that Vaccines caused Autism, which isn't strange because the AAPS is a highly politicized organisation, which has-according to their own website-openly campaigned against Obamacare...

Also note that Trump himself is on record in claiming that vaccines cause autism...


Additionally, and potentially worse, Price is a staunch advocate of repealing Obamacare. Trump has already signed an order which makes it possible to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and Price is the man with the sledgehammer. 

I suppose that this is contrary to what Americans truly want? Is it safe to assume that there will be government financial aid left to those in need of it for medical reasons? Even 10% of Republican leaning US citizens are in favour of a program that pays their medical bills according to PEW. And it seems to be fair to assume that there are groups of people in the US who cannot participate in private schemes to insure their health / secure their medical costs. These are the people who should be protected.





























Besty DeVoss - Secretary of Education

Now this one cuts the cake! According to the ethics report of January 20th, 2017, She actually owns a stake in a Student Loan Debt Collecting firm called Performant Financial Corporation. This is a business that gets awarded debt collection contracts by the Department of Education!!!

Why would she be in favour of expensive schools? I could call them charter schools, private schools or whatever-else-than-public schools. I think expensive schools will do. Is it because they are more expensive, and cause more debt? What about the tuition costs for college and university programs? She knows their value in terms of debt collection profitability. This very dubious indeed, and I wouldn't entrust my education department to such a person. My pick would be someone from the world of education, someone with experience in moulding a public school system to create higher value for their students. It doesn't seem like Betsy DeVoss is the ticket.

Qualifications? Schmalifications! Right!?!

Rick Perry - Secretary of Energy

Gunning with Rick Perry from Texas may be one of the strangest picks of them all. He wants the "all-of-the-above" energy strategy. Yes he thinks wind turbines are cute, even though they kill the occasional bald Eagle or two; and yes he thinks shiny solar panels could make him some money; but he really loves Fracking for oil and gas. And why the hell not? He's from Texas, isn't he? He doesn't believe in climate change, so why the hell would he put a stop to the exploitation of natural gas and oil? It gets worse since he is on record telling the Senate Committee that he wants to be investing his time and energy in developing and expanding "clean coal". We all know that there's no such thing as clean coal. But since coal-country bob had to keep working, coal is the election buzzword.

Yes, I said coal-country bob, and I think that the US should invest in coal-country bob. Not because I want them to live from mining and burning coal. No, those are out. We should've stopped burning coal somewhere in the 70's, long after John F. Kennedy found out hat nuclear energy should've become the clean power source of the future. No coal-country bob is an excellent, hard-working, rural American with essential skills. We could use them in a plethora of different jobs. What about becoming a forester? Or a technician in a nuclear power plant? Or a builder? Or a factory worker? Or a policeman? Or a mail man? Or a nurse? Or a farmer?

Rick Perry will keep coal-country bob stuck in the mine for another decade... Ask yourself if that's a good thing.
 




































We've now had a series of executives whose questionable track-records have been laid barely bare. We haven't had all the bricks in the wall of shame yet. Consider the biblical literalist and creationist Mike Pence as VP; Too racist to be federal judge Jeff Sessions as attorney general (I shit you not...); or Exxon's (the climate change science obfuscators) Rex Tillerson as secretary of state; Or Wall Street Establishment Wilbur Ross; Or anti-abortion lawyer Andrew Puzder; Or establishment politician and lawyer Robert Lighthizer as trade representative; Or climate change denier Scott Priutt as head of the EPA; and so on and so forth...

One of the most important promises that Trump made has been shown to be broken is the one where he promised to be harsh on Wall Street, and to be anti-establishment. We may note that he meant anti-democratic or anti-federal establishment. Not his kind of conservative / Christian establishment. You see what I did there? I merely added some qualifications and adjectives. The ones Trump left out when he was making promises he couldn't keep. Or did he?
  























So how did the citizens of the US and their country end up in this imbroglio? 

It all comes down to gullibility. Even smart friends of mine, whom I hold in high regard, came out and said that Trump might be a good leader, and that the nation would benefit from his leadership.I haven't spoken to them since, but I suspect that their opinions may have change for the lies and failed promises of Donald Trump are slowly but surely stacking so high that they will even trump the Wall of Shame.

I think that the outrage that is taking hold of US Citizens is entirely justified. For this cabinet is a disgrace. I sincerely hope that the damage Trump's administration might wreak will be mitigated by fierce and successful opposition.




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Response to : The dream of cheap nuclear power is over.



  Submitted to Bloomberg Editor James Greiff :


Mr. Greiff,

I would like to respond to the following article : The Dream of Cheap Nuclear Power Is Over - Januari 31st.
Please see documents attached.

With kind regards,
Mathijs Beckers



In the introductory paragraphs of The Dream of Cheap Nuclear Power Is Over, author Smith speaks about fantasies of  futuristic and complicated nuclear power plants and how France and Finland are becoming better at storing spent fuel. However, he seems to have become disenthralled, partly because of the 2011 Fukushima accident. The cost of the subsequent evacuation and the progress of solar are considerations for Smith to convince himself that "a nuclear world won't come true anytime soon." Could anyone explain to me why the title is so definitive? Especially because the author concludes that this paradigm may not be true if certain conditions are met i.e. nuclear fusion & small cheap fission reactors.

I agree with Smith that nuclear energy is a far better option over fossil fuels, especially because it causes no detrimental effects to health and environment. So far so good. 

Smith, however, decides to base his conclusion on a metric at which nuclear energy goes off on a tangent compared to fracking and solar power, namely CAPEX (Capital Expenditure). CAPEX is what it costs to build something like a fracking well or a solar power plant or a nuclear power plant. CAPEX however should be placed in a different context, and this is something practically everyone does before investing in said energy source. The question is : "How long can we reliably expect to profit from this investment?"

A fracking well lasts as long until it depletes; A solar power plant will be viable for Roughly 25 to 30 years; and we may contrast this with 60 to 80 years for a nuclear power plant. 

Suppose that we're still on the low end of the spectrum in terms of longevity and we spend roughly $2.4 billion on 550 Megawatt similar to the Topaz PV plant in California. Note that we have to account for stranded assets in the form of capacity factor. Solar has a capacity factor of roughly 25.8% according to the EIA. If we account for capacity factor and a lifespan of 25 years we get the following figures :  $676.5 thousand per effective Megawatt per year.  

Let's compare this to the $9 billion nuclear power station. From the documentation shared by Smith we may account for a 2,000 Megawatt reactor facility.  The capacity of nuclear, according to the EIA, is roughly 92.3%. This gives us the following figure for a 60 year lifespan : $81.3 thousand per effective Megawatt per year. 

Now we have uncovered the actual capital costs of solar and nuclear. The discrepancy is telling. Solar is 8 times more expensive than nuclear energy in terms of capital costs. If we have to account for the backup which is required by solar we will probably end up in the double digits if a discrepancy between nuclear and solar is concerned. Also note that even if we would double Solar's longevity we would still reach $338.3 thousand per effective Megawatt per year. This means that this argument comes down to efficiency, and in terms of efficiency, nothing beats nuclear energy.

True costs are measured in Levelized Cost of electricity or LCOE. And LCOE comprises all costs associated to a plant, including decommissioning costs. LCOE is pretty much in flux. As of yet LCOE for solar, and wind are on par with nuclear. But this depends entirely on where the technology has been implemented. 

There are two important metrics which are omitted and should be considered. The first being the ancillary benefits of nuclear in terms of the production of essential isotopes for medical and safety purposes. The second being the input of materials required per unit of energy produced. From my own analyses it turns out that nuclear, again, is vastly superior to any other power source when it comes to putting materials to effective use, which means that we are also minimizing the amount of materials required.  

As it stands, the argument that Nuclear's capital costs are "gargantuan" is moot, as it has to be put into the correct context. In terms of CAPEX you buy more bang for your buck when you invest in nuclear rather than solar, and the disparity is quite large.

It is my contention, in contrast to Smith's, that nuclear energy is the power of tomorrow. Consider for instance Terrestrial Energy's licensing plans for a 400 MWth liquid fuel reactor, called the IMSR400, which can be used for industrial heat and electricity. And this is something solar cannot do, it cannot cogenerate, or provide the essential heat required for heavy industrial processes, which would otherwise be fuelled with gas and coal. There are dozens of startups just like Terrestrial Energy which are edging closer to commercializing their designs, most notably Bill Gates's Terrapower. And all of these startups aim to make nuclear significantly safer, cheaper and easier to build than contemporary reactors upon which Smith's argumentation rests. We may therefore conclude that the title should be "we may dream a little longer about cheap nuclear power."

It is entirely possible that this mail has been sucked into the void of e-mail filters, and therefore I will publish this letter on my blog as well.

Thies out...

 

Letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren



Senator Warren, Dear Elizabeth,

I watch US politics from afar, and I've become a great admirer. My name is Mathijs Beckers and I live in the Netherlands, and I specialize in energy analyses. Particularly from a materials invested per unit of energy produced viewpoint.

If we are serious about mitigating our damaging influence on the climate we're going to need advanced nuclear energy working together with all the possible renewable energy sources at our disposal.

Evidence suggests that current production rates of essential materials are well below required levels and this means that in order for a 100% renewable energy portfolio to work, we need to start increasing mining operations exponentially, subsequently causing more greenhouse gas emissions and thus causing more environmental damage.

Contemporary nuclear energy is significantly more efficient in terms of materials used. Advanced nuclear opens up possibilities to include Thorium (which is now a waste material from mining activities) and bomb-grade plutonium - hence making sure that we start dismantling the nuclear weapons stockpile and turning the fissile material into energy, rather than keeping people hostage with them.

Additionally, advanced reactors will be able to produce essential isotopes required for medical applications and space exploration.

Finally, it could be a tremendous force in the jobs sector, as advanced reactors are being developed with modularity in mind. Building them on the principles introduced by Henry Ford. These, compact, liquid fuelled, reactors could be one of the new export products of the United States, thus helping to bring jobs to many people.

I hope you don't think that it is unbecoming for a Dutchman to comment on US legislation, but do remember that climate change doesn't care about borders. It is a worldwide problem. Since the US leads, if you enact the right kind of policies, the world will follow. And we've been kicking the can down the road on advanced nuclear reactors, and therefore catalyzing this development has now become more necessary than ever before.

With kind regards,
Mathijs Beckers

Author of Highway to Dystopia, Science a la carte, the non-solutions project


Response to : The Incredible Shrinking Nuclear Offset to Climate Change

Recently Sharon Squassoni,  Director and Senior Fellow of the Center of Strategic International Studies, wrote an article in which she tries to show us why nuclear energy is becoming obsolete in the face of "impressive" economic developments of renewables. She aluded to nuclear as being "A climate cure worse than the disease"

I beg to differ, and therefore have written this brief response.

Dear Sharon,

I've read your article, and I think that you're applying the wrong metrics to your line of reasoning.

You should try: Materials invested per unit of energy produced over the lifetime of technology X.

Subsequently you should look at material production rates and try to determine the likelihood of said material production rates to be increased so that they can accommodate the required growth in wind and solar.

Only then can feasibility really be weighed. The question should be, what can we do to mitigate man-made carbon emissions? And the answer should be : create an all-inclusive energy mix in which there is an emphasis on R&D on technologies which can be scaled up quicker and more effectively —especially in terms of material usage efficiency.

You might think that "China’s ambitious nuclear power plant construction, which is the envy of the global industry, is dwarfed by China’s accomplishments in the renewables sector." But this growth is insignificant contrasted with what ought to be done i.e. decarbonizing somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 TWh on a global scale. Good luck doing that on RE alone.

Besides, the discrepancy between projected primary energy demand, and subsequent required end-use efficiencies is grossly overestimated (especially by 100% RE / WWS proponents).

Attached you will find my most recent work on this issue.

In CC you will find guides of mine, simply to help them keep track of my activities : Dr. Alexander Cannara, Dr. Ken Caldeira, Dr. James Hansen.

With kind regards,
Mathijs Beckers

It is entirely possible that this mail has been sucked into the void of e-mail filters, and therefore I will publish this letter on my blog as well.

Thies out...

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

The dawn of a new age... will it be a good one?

Donald Trump has been inaugurated today. In his wake Mike Pence (Vice President), Betsy deVos (education), Rick Perry (energy), Ben Carson (housing) and a great host of other people. If pressed on the depth of knowledge in their areas of interest, they buckle under the weight of having no reasonable and well-substantiated answer, and resort to typical political evasive behaviour. It's just hot air, no substance. And I say this well before these people get the chance to prove me wrong. I've watched their antics from afar for years now, and have little confidence that I they will embarrass me.

In trying to establish whether the Climate Change section on the White House webpage had really gone, I only found this:



Here I was scratching my head, thinking what else I could (not) find on the "new" White House webpage. Let's have a look at this:

An America First Energy Plan
Energy is an essential part of American life and a staple of the world economy. The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.

This sounds like music to my ears. However, on a second glance it conveys a dangerous message. Freeing the US from their dependence on foreign oil is essential, but does this mean that the US will cut their fossil fuel consumption? I'm afraid this is not the case. And we will learn that there's only three real energy sources according to Trump and his administration:


For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.

The Climate Action Plan, amongst other things, comprised of policies and plans to mitigate deforestation and lowering fossil fuel subsidies, I don't know whether lifting these restrictions will immediately cause harmful effects. However, we may note that pristine US forests have been clear cut to feed European biomass-fired (read tree-fired) converted ex-coal plants, like the Drax power plant in England. Will lifting these restrictions revitalize the deforestation machine, and increase exports of wood and "biomass" to other countries? It's a golden opportunity waiting to be grasped, and as the freshly installed administration is "yuge" on trade and profit, no bounds will be set to the amount of denudation which will ensue.

On the other hand, it is also the signal that major oil and car companies will get a renewed lease on their favoured source of money, the thirst of internal combustion engine. Why challenge them to evolve, if you can make it easy for them to continue to extricate themselves from blame and keep using finite earthly resources. I know the climate change argument lands on deaf ears here, but at least acknowledge that the combustion economy is harmful to humans and their health in general.

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves...

Aren't there more meaningful jobs to create? How about training the most excellent teachers the world has ever seen? I assume that investing in a bright and intelligent and well-developed generation of children must be one of your top-priorities, right? How about training nurses and doctors to take care of your fellow countrymen? Teach cops how to restrain themselves and realize that they are public servants? What about expanding national laboratories and helping universities gain more funds to accommodate more students and perform more research and gaining the upper hand in terms of intellectual and technological fortitude? What about taking pole position on Generation IV nuclear power development and deployment? That would be inspiring, that would be visionary, that would make America really great! A frontrunner in modern technology, rather than clinging on to old principles and dying industries, with people who scream wolf, but don't invest in themselves and fail to adapt to changing circumstances. Is that what the US has become? A bunch of hypocrite "pull yourself up by your bootstrap" people without actual bootstraps?

...especially those on federal lands that the American people own. We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure. Less expensive energy will be a big boost to American agriculture, as well.

3Perhaps there are expenditures which can be cut that would amount to the means required to do the same things. I thought that Republicans were fiscally conservative? As a Keynesian I don't understand why you don't invest in progress.

The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.

When was the last time you've sent a telegram? Or have seen a phone-booth on the corner of the street?  Coal is a thing of the past, just as horse-drawn carriages are.

Clean coal is an oxymoron in and of itself. Besides, the fact that the coal industry in the US has been hurting for so long is merely thanks to the fact that the US has not been able to wean itself of coal in the first place. A great portion of US electricity generation comes from coal. And it is one of worst sources of energy on the planet. We can prove that the coal-industry itself kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year due to respiratory diseases contracted thanks to the harmful emissions from coal-burning. Don't tell me you don't acknowledge this too...

In addition to being good for our economy, boosting domestic energy production is in America’s national security interest. President Trump is committed to achieving energy independence from the OPEC cartel and any nations hostile to our interests. At the same time, we will work with our Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti-terrorism strategy.

How will this work if you don't buy their oil any more? This is a vacuous statement that conveys both the wish to become independent from OPEC and simultaneously staying dependent. Simply take a look on who sits in OPEC : Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar, Indonesia, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Nigeria, Ecuador, and Angola.

So basically you want to work with the OPEC minus 8 countries (assuming that you want to keep trading with Iraq).

And what does it mean to have a positive energy relationship with countries? And what does this do to counter terrorism? It's all quite nebulous to me. If someone can tell me how this works, I will be immensely grateful.


Lastly, our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment.


Then clean coal and shale should be out of the question. The denudation they bring about is unheard of. Ever took a minute to check the Apalachian Mountain range and see the damage mountain top removal has wrought on this most magnificent landscape?




We also have staggering combinations of open pit coal mines and endless patchworks of fracking wells in Wyoming.

 
 

Or take a look at the areas in which fracking is popular. (For instance just south-west from Forth Worth in Texas)



You can spend hours at a time looking for fracking patchworks across the North American continent. Just start in Texas and go up all the way to Edmonton, Canada, and beyond. Endless patchworks of fracking wells east of the Rocky Mountains.

Don't worry about another big gulf oil spill. And let's not worry about aquifer intrusion, or methane gas leaks, because you don't care about these things. Oh wait...

If your idea of a prosperous US is an increase in fracking and coal exploitation, I can tell you that it is incongruent with the claim that you want to show good stewardship over your lands.


Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.

So get a move on, start by fixing the water supply of the Flint residents.


A brighter future depends on energy policies that stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health. Under the Trump Administration’s energy policies, that future can become a reality.


I agree wholeheartedly. However, the focus of US energy innovation, development, and deployment should be on high-energy-density nuclear power (keeping current fleet up to date and running, and investing heavily in generation IV reactors), some (augmented) hydro, a lot of geothermal, some solar and a little wind. Why? If you care about water and air quality, nothing beats a power source without an exhaust pipe.

Investing in a dying industry is bad business. All you are doing is postponing the day of judgement for coal, oil and gas. The people in these industries could be saved by a Trump administration, by helping them moving towards working with newer, more efficient technologies. Rather than keeping them clinging on to the past. Tell me, how exactly are you helping these people move on once their source of income has become obsolete?


It seems that the White House webpage has been purged of the words climate change, equality, sustainability, accountability, responsibility and sensibility. And the choice for people like DeVoss, Perry, Carson, and Pence only exemplifies the ineptitude to do something really meaningful for your country. All you can see there is regression... Donald, you deny scientific principles simply because it doesn't suit your agenda and the agendas of those who have been investing in your cabinet. I am deeply concerned about your consecutive actions. Will you actively damage our research capabilities, and destroy the decades worth of knowledge that has been gathered by your most reputable research labs and institutes?

I think we are in deep trouble. And by WE, I mean the world population. For the influence the US has on the entire world is profound and every action undertaken in your White House has the potential of reverberating around the globe.