Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rhetoric and Action at the U.N.

china-nuclear-plant As you may have heard, President Barack Obama gave a speech at the United Nations about climate change yesterday. Now, just to get it out of the way, he had nothing or next to nothing to say about nuclear energy. If nuclear is there, it is there implicitly only.

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We can assume Obama would like to have come with more to offer – above all, an energy bill that addresses climate change. If the tea leaf readings about cryptic statements from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) are correct, there will be no bill this year.

Much of the speech echoed the health care speech Obama gave last week in that it focused on the need for action.

But I'm here today to say that difficulty is no excuse for complacency.  Unease is no excuse for inaction.  And we must not allow the perfect to become the enemy of progress. 

That does sound more directed to Congress than the U.N., but Obama talked to the international community as well.

But those rapidly growing developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in the decades ahead must do their part, as well.  Some of these nations have already made great strides with the development and deployment of clean energy.

Asking developing countries to forego the rewards of cheap fossil fuel based electricity because the developed world created a potential disaster reaping those rewards first has a tinny ring to it.  (Which doesn’t mean Obama isn’t right – renewable and sustainable energy sources give the developing world a head start the developed world did not have.)

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China startled everyone:

China's new national plan on climate change offered few new targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but outlined how it intended to meet the goals it has already set, analysts say.

This includes the use of more wind, nuclear and hydro power as well as making coal-fired plants more efficient, the document outlined.

But:

"China is a developing country. Although we do not have the obligation to cut emissions, it does not mean we do not want to shoulder our share of responsibilities," Ma Kai, chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission, said.

There’s some significant wiggle room in there. And we’re pretty sure this didn’t de-wiggle it:

"We must reconcile the need for development with the need for environmental protection," he said, adding that China wanted to "blaze a new path to industrialization".

But one has to say this knocks the wind out of the argument that China (and India) have to go first if America is to move. Point to China.

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The gap in rhetoric and action between the U.S. and China didn’t go unnoticed.

“China and India have announced very ambitious national climate change plans — in the case of China, so ambitious that it could well become the front-runner in the fight to address climate change,” U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer told The Associated Press on Monday. “The big question mark is the U.S.”  [India announced its climate change plants last year at a G8 summit.]

Gulp! Never doubt the U.N.’s ability to slap the North American beast when it gets a chance. Remember, too, that the administration has the EPA ready to do some heavy duty regulating if Congress gets cold feet.

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Um, so how’s that going?

[Sen. Lisa] Murkowski [R-Alaska] is one of several senators planning to use the measure to limit the Obama administration's authority to regulate greenhouse gases. She may introduce an amendment [to the 2010 EPA funding bill]that would prohibit EPA from regulating heat-trapping emissions from stationary sources like power plants and industrial facilities for one year.

Presumably, that one year ban aims to give Congress a chance to act.  We don’t know how likely such an amendment is to succeed or how Obama might respond to it.

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Today, Obama spoke about North Korea and Iranian nuclear ambitions, but aimed for an overall more conciliatory tone than the Bush administration had done. He also made note that the U.S paid its dues to the U.N., a change from several previous administrations. He was followed by Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi, who overshot his 15 minute speaking limit by over an hour. Coming up: Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Interesting times at the U.N.

A Chinese nuclear plant. It’s worth noting that China, India and other countries that adopt nuclear, hydro, etc., are starting with the very latest technology. Not that Europe and America need fear fuel rods crashing through containment walls, but very soon, there will be a notable disjuncture between “developed” countries and “developing” countries when it comes to the latest and greatest technology. We’ll let you decide how worrisome that is.

12 comments:

SteveK9 said...

The fact that China and India will have modern nuclear plants doesn't worry me at all. It is disappointing to realize that the FIRST Westinghouse AP1000 will be completed in Sanmen, China.

Ioannes said...

With Obama in office and anti-nuke Jackzo in charge of the NRC, there will be NO new US nukes. Sure, Bush appointed Jackzo in a deal with Harry Reid, and pro-nuke Pete Lyons was put in the Commission (at NEI's suggestion) to balance things out. But in June of this year Lyons was let go and Jackzo was promoted over pro-nuke Dale Klein who had been the Chairman. Mark my words (as I told you BEFORE the election) - Obama means NO new nukes. Period.

Chad said...

I posted this before, but since loannes always repeats himself, I thought I would do the same.

I have little doubt the VC Summer 2&3 and Vogtle 3&4 will be built. If these projects keep on budget and on time, the most reasonable anti nuclear argument will be dismissed and more orders will follow. In fact, Dominion will likely make one in the next 6 months.

Since this adminstration has take office, there has been no change in progress of these projects.

I don't like that Jackzo was appointed Chairman, but he was the only Democrat on the commission. The commission is suppose to have 2 Commisioner's from both parties and 1 from either.

DocForesight said...

since the UN is a dysfunctional international money-pit, I don't know that paying our dues "on time" is a positive move. Heck, they won't even authorize an independent audit. Who's hiding what from whom?

Overall, what is correct, IMHO, is that the developing countries will reap the benefit of the past 60 years of engineering and the billions of R&D dollars invested to bring nuclear power plants to their current advanced state.

Now, if we can just get the NRC to fish or cut bait, we can regain the engineering, construction and export superiority we had 30 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Even more important than settlement expansion, is nuclear proliferation.

NO SERIOUS DISCUSSION can take place on nuclear arms reduction and non proliferation until full exposure takes place of the massive, secret ISRAELI nuclear arms arsenal in the Negev desert, that is currently completely outside of IAEA inspection.

To do so and ignore this ‘giant elephant in the room’, would simply be nonsensical.

It would lead to a situation whereby not only US foreign policy lies with the Israeli lobby but also global military and political control.

Such a decision would be indefensible.

Luke said...

I have a strong suspicion that the picture depicts a coal-fired plant, not a nuclear plant.

The tall exhaust stacks are usually a giveaway; they're absent from nuclear units.

David Bradish said...

Luke, some BWRs have a stack, here's a picture of Browns Ferry. I think it has to do with the releasing of gaseous effluents from the reactor. Btw, is your paper that you wrote debunking Caldicott still available online? The last link I have from you leads to a different domain now. thx

Alex Brown said...

Well, i'm not sure whether or not its intentional, but the picture is very clearly a coal plant. You can clearly see the 4 boilers and two smokestacks. Looks like maybe four 800MW super critical units.

Alex Brown said...

Actually about 10 minutes of research shows it to be only 200MW units.

http://www.industcards.com/st-coal-china-n.htm

I'm not sure if the makers of this blog keep putting coal plants on their pictures on purpose or not. A person with even the slightest knowledge of electricity sector should be able to tell the different types of power plants apart with a passing glance.

David Bradish said...

Wow Alex. Thanks for the info. I hope to be as smart as you someday. That way, when I go to other people's blogs and find a mistake, I can tell them how dumb they are. :-)

Alex Brown said...

Well, you gotta admit that its kind of ironic if a person is a lobbyist for something and cannot even identify a picture of what they are lobbying for.

David Bradish said...

I guess we're just not as perfect as you, Alex. Oh well.