Monday, May 10, 2010

Minnesota, Malaysia, Mcopenhagen

Akeley-Minnesota-Paul-Bunyan Here’s something we’ve been expecting for quite awhile:

The Minnesota House has voted to roll back a 16-year-old ban on new nuclear power plants.

The provision was added to an energy bill Thursday on a 73-59 vote. It was the first time the House has approved the proposal, which passed the Senate last year.

This has seemingly taken forever – the Senate voted last year – but no complaint from us if the state is proceeding judiciously. Easy enough to put it on a back burner in our mind while waiting for the next step. But, assuming Governor Tim Pawlenty signs it, another state ban gone.

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The government of Malaysia has approved the construction of a nuclear power plant with possible assistance from China or Japan. The reactor is scheduled to start operations in 2021 and will help to meet the country's soaring energy needs.  Chin said a nuclear plant was needed to meet the country's increasing demand for energy due to industrialization and to ensure energy security.

Chin is Malaysia’s Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui, and we really like his directness;

"Nuclear energy is the only viable option towards our long-term energy needs. Our energy generation mix is rather unhealthy at the moment because we are using too much gas and coal," said Chin.

This is what we hope for: that countries beginning the process of industrialization work to create an energy industry built around clean energy sources.

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And we suppose that leads us to the Copenhagen tapes – albeit without tape - a recording taken during the meeting of world leaders at last year’s COP15 global warming conference – and we really mean of the world leaders.

We followed COP15 at Nuclear Notes and became a bit discouraged as the conference, which was touted to produce a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, did no such thing, instead bringing forth the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord.

This is far from nothing – 120 countries have signed on to it so far - but it did demonstrate the difficulty of any process that sets out to find consensus among so many countries with conflicting agendas - in very broad terms, the conflict pitted the needs of developing world against those of the developed world, with China and India in the former camp well able to throw their weight around.

Reading through Der Spiegel’s account, there’s nothing really there that couldn’t have been derived from the outcome. The main benefit is that the tapes put a human face (often frustrated human faces and sometimes even very unattractive faces) on the world leaders. Here’s the section on President Obama:

Like the Europeans, the US president was also intent on securing a commitment to protect the climate from the new economic superpowers, China and India. "I think it is important to note that there are important equities that have to be considered," he said, with a distinctive note in his voice that suggested the foresight of a statesman.

Obama reminded his fellow leaders that the industrialized nations are also dependent on the will of their citizens to contribute to saving the climate. "From the perspective of the developed countries, in order for us to be able to mobilize the political will within each of our countries to not only engage in substantial mitigation efforts ourselves, which are very difficult, but to also then channel some of the resources from our countries into developing countries, is a very heavy lift," Obama said. Then, speaking directly to China, he added: "If there is no sense of mutuality in this process, it is going to be difficult for us to ever move forward in a significant way."

Finally, Obama addressed the diplomatic snub the Chinese prime minister had delivered with his absence: "I am very respectful of the Chinese representative here but I also know there is a premier here who is making a series of political decisions. I know he is giving you instructions at this stage."

But then Obama stabbed the Europeans in the back, saying that it would be best to shelve the concrete reduction targets for the time being. "We will try to give some opportunities for its resolution outside of this multilateral setting ... And I am saying that, confident that, I think China still is as desirous of an agreement, as we are."

That “stabbing Europeans in the back” thing? – well, Obama had a clear sense of the problem and acted productively to avoid a collapse of the negotiations – that would have been a far worse outcome. Also, this is Der Spiegel’s account, so it might be expected to play the European perspective fairly strongly.

Pau Bunyan is located in Akeley, Minnesota. That could be you in his hand if you pay a visit. Paul Bunyan did not come out of Minnesota history; he’s a 20th century figure created (probably) by James McGillivray in 1910. Most of his narrative accoutrements – Babe the Blue Ox, the big axe – came along later.

1 comment:

DocForesight said...

There's a Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, MN (NW corner of the state, not far from Lake Itasca - headwaters of the Mississippi).

MN Senate still has some prickly reservations about spent fuel - watched their committee meeting online recently. Too much ignorance among the legislators about nuclear.

You'd think that during their summer month they would make better plans for winter. Go Vikes!