Friday, May 28, 2010

Bangladesh, Another Energy Bill, The Witless

Bangladesh We’ve been doing a number of posts about the Deepwater Horizon and how the experience of nuclear energy might act as a useful guide going forward, but let’s look at the actual nuclear energy experience today.

We admit to no longer being surprised by news of a country wanting to deploy nuclear energy. Still:

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov witnessed the signing of the agreement between Russia's atomic energy corporation Rosatom and the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

Bangladesh had requested the Russian authorities to assist in establishing two nuclear reactors with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts each by 2015, the spokesman said.

This is an excellent example of a country moving forward with nuclear energy where it might have chosen coal-fired plants to aid in its progress. This way, its people gain the benefits of modernization while avoiding some of the pitfalls. And it sounds like the Bangladeshi really need it:

Growing concern over power shortages led Bangladesh to consider nuclear energy as natural gas reserves are fast depleting and most coalfields remain unexploited.

Bangladesh now has nearly 60 power plants, mostly decades old and all fueled by gas or coal.

See? As Bangladesh moves forward to the next generation of energy plants, it moves to the next generation of energy. Good move.

And as for Russia’s involvement? Well, the lumbering bear has proven pretty limber on canvassing its neighbors on their nuclear needs. Can scarcely blame them for exercising some capitalistic know-how.

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We were curious to know how Bangladesh saw this news and found this editorial in the Dhaka Daily Star. Bottom line: they’re for it:

The agreement between Bangladesh and the Russian Federation on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy is certainly a milestone in the history of Dhaka-Moscow relations.

Okay.

the deal is a bold and feasible step that promises dividends in our energy sector.

Better.

For Dhaka, it signifies a new direction in energy policy prioritization and diversification.

All good.

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So if you want to lower carbon emissions in this country but are reluctant to tackle all such emitters simultaneously – cars, electricity generation, farm animals – which might you do first?

Electric utilities are responsible for about a third of the country's annual emissions of heat-trapping pollutants, and they have been involved for about 15 years in a similar market-based mechanism that has successfully reduced acid rain. The power industry is also the most threatened by the prospect of U.S. EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act.

So now that we’ve picked one, why not build an energy bill only around it and leave the others out, at least for now?

"We do need to price carbon to make nuclear power and wind and solar and some alternative technologies economically viable."

That’s Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who worked on the Kerry-Lieberman energy bill but bailed out a few weeks before its unveiling. Graham is offering thoughts about this because he’d like to see a bill that can get through the Senate and he’s not sure the current one can. He’s not alone.

Beyond Graham, several other Senate Republicans seen as critical for passing a climate bill have also expressed an interest in a less sweeping plan for controlling greenhouse gases, including Sens. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, George Voinovich of Ohio and Richard Lugar of Indiana.

If there’s anything that’s a key to the difference between the two parties, this is it: Democrats want to tackle all aspects of a policy issue at once while Republicans favor an incremental approach. Both parties have defensible arguments, but problems develop when there’s no attempt at compromise. That seems to be where Graham would like to find a way forward, although his compromise is distinctly Republican. (Lugar says he will be introducing some legislation soon that adopts Graham’s approach, so we’ll know for sure when that happens.)

Writer Daniel Samuelsohn sees the politics here: what politicians would like to avoid in an election year is anything resembling a “gas tax,” so shearing off auto emissions takes care of that. We’d just add in that farm state politicians really hate making farmers angry, so that could equally explain the absence of that domain.

Generally, Republican alternatives to legislation have done poorly, so let’s see if this one bucks the trends. We’ll be interested in how Lugar’s bill treats nuclear energy and whether it will be as comprehensive toward it as Kerry-Lieberman.

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In the department of the mind bendingly witless, writer D.A. Barber over at the Huffington Post asks “Are Obama’s Energy Plans Jinxed?” and proposes that after the recent mining and oil problems, it’s time now for something to happen in the nuclear sphere:

What's scary is -- if disasters come in threes -- President Obama is giving the nuclear industry a new life through loan guarantees.

Words fail.

A view of Dhaka.

3 comments:

Brian Mays said...

Heh ... "if disasters come in threes ..."

Leave it to the Huffington Post to provide a platform for superstitious nonsense.

DocForesight said...

If that is a picture of Dhaka, I need to get out more (or just use Google Earth more to take virtual vacations)!

That Republicans offer little in legislation or "alternatives" seems to stem more from the fact that they are the minority party and the Dems appear to be led around by the nose courtesy of the environmental lobby - for whom nuclear power is like kryptonite.

"Comprehensive" legislation also seems to fail under its own weight at trying to please everyone. Go for incremental steps rather than broad, sweeping, "bold" attempts. IMHO.

Rod Adams said...

I added a comment to the Huffington Post article, reminding the author that if disasters really do come in threes, then we should all breathe a sigh of relief. There have already been three fossil fuel related disasters this year in the eastern portion of the United States. The first one, the one that the author at Huffington Post had already forgotten occurred on February 7, 2010 in Middletown, CT when a natural gas explosion destroyed a new generating plant construction project, caused a boom heard 15 miles away, cracked the foundations of homes more than a mile away and killed 6 construction workers.

The other two were the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, WV, and Deepwater Horizon off the southern coast of Louisiana.

Each of the three disasters, which together have killed almost exactly the same number of people as Chernobyl did during the accident and in the 20 following years, had the same root cause.

They all happened when an explosive mixture of clean natural gas and air got sparked by something.