By on July 7, 2008

manhattan_project_lg.jpgFull disclosure. I've made zero. I'm lucky enough to be in a socio-economic bracket (i.e. no mortgage, no children, write my gas off come tax time) where I haven't changed my driving habits an iota. Case in point, I enjoyed a 1,000 mile excursion up to wine country in a gas-guzzling FX50 (review pending) at pretty much 90 mph the entire time. But Sweet Pete doesn't not agree with my lifestyle choices. More on point, he's utterly dismayed at the direction our country is headed, and is using Detroit's tsores as a bellwether for all that's wrong with our country. According to Pete, plenty's wrong. Solution? He's calling for a near Manhattan Project-like national, "mustering [of] this nation's brilliant technical resources and mind power, and unifying it with our manufacturing expertise to forge a new urgency of purpose, with an unwavering focus on getting this country back in shape and on its game." Of course when people talk about big federal projects, what they aren't saying is that we all need to chip in. Only Pete is saying exactly that. Your thoughts?

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63 Comments on “Question of the Day: Do We Need To Make Sacrifices?...”

  • avatar

    If people weren’t willing to sacrifice personally after 9/11, they won’t be willing to sacrifice now.

  • avatar

    This generation has not paid it’s dues yet.
    Those brave souls that serve in the military are a huge exception. My parents and grandparents tell of doing without everything during WW2, even afterwards things were tough.

    Today this generation gets whatever it wants at broadband speed.

  • avatar

    We already have it. It is called nuclear power. We only need to upgrade the grid to run electric cars.

    I’d love to tell the Middle East and Chavez style dictators where to stick their oil.

  • avatar

    If people weren’t so financially stretched to the limit, they wouldn’t need to make sacrifices. They would have had sufficient room in their budget to account for increasing costs, and simply save less than before.

    Americans need to learn to live within their means, and if $5 gas and the mortgage crisis helps them do so, then it’s a blessing in disguise.

    JL, I’m in the same boat as you. 55mph in the right lane would be physically painful, and my time and sanity is worth the gas consumption. And stepping on the gas going through a turn puts a smile on my face every time. You can’t put a price on that. I just feel bad for drivers who use more gas and have less fun.

  • avatar

    I actually have been telling my friends and other blogs that we do indeed need a Manhattan like project to make this nation great again. Does it include some sacrifice? I guess it does. People are paying dearly now for not having sacrificed in the last 20 years.

    Granted not everyone is hurting, i.e. you Johnny but most people are, whether you own a car or not. Prices for food and clothes are up coupled with salaries basically flatlining and let’s not forget about the mortgage crisis!

    It’s been a decade of boom with people running amok and now we are paying for it.

    GM, Ford and Chrysler are perfect example of this living off the fat of SUVs. Can anyone say diversify? Remember the saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? And these are Ivy league grads with big business degrees???

    But yeah I think great things come with Huge Manhattan Projects…look at the atomic Bomb, which some would say isn’t a great thing, but did help establish the U.S. as a great super power. The great public works projects created by FDR which lead to the rise of the great middle class of America. The Apollo missions that led us to the moon and beating the Russians.

    So yeah a little sacrifice is good for the soul and yeah a Manhattan like project might be needed to Bring the U.S. back from mediocrity.

  • avatar

    I am all for it. Want to increase my taxes for a Manhattan type project to create a viable electric car a infrastructure to power them, I would gladly pay higher taxes for it. We put a man on the moon for Pete’s sake, split the atom, came out on the winning end of two world wars, defeated Communism, we are the worlds’s only superpower.

    I honestly cannot believe that such a project is not already underway. We dont even have to do it on our own. The collective GDP of the world’s wealthiest nations should be able knock this out in a week. Raise taxes for a few years to pay for it, the money we save on gasoline would offset the tax increase. Seriously, the lack of collective will to create an electric car and build the infrastructure is truly disappointing.

  • avatar

    From the article: “Our government leaders have placed their own special interests above the overall health and needs of the country at every opportunity.”

    That sounds pretty well in line with any of the the TTAC “Ethanol Boondoggle of the Day” articles.

  • avatar

    Have to say that I agree with “Pete”. If only we had a presidential candidate who was willing to stand up and tell us all some of the unpleasant truths that we need to hear…

  • avatar

    Well, 1138, there has been a “great middle class” in America since 1776, and therefore there was one long before FDR, just so you know.

    As for whether or not we can pull ourselves out of this tailspin, we’ll see.

    I did do some searching online last evening, looking at electric cars available from Chinese suppliers and the price of a “highway speed” compact (wholesale in China before being shipped) was $26,000 with lead-acid batteries and something like $92,000 with Li-Ion.

    In essence, I thought to myself when I saw that, if the Chinese can’t mass produce a compact electric car with 6 cent or 20 cent an hour labor, how in heck does GM suppose they’re going to produce an electric Volt with range extender engine/generator (which is essentially what it is) for $35,000 retail price, or $45,000 retail price, or whatever?

    It also occurred to me that we are pretty well “stuck” with the hydrocarbon economy and we’d better start figuring out how to minimize the use of oil.

    Or it’ll be done FOR us by our enemies.

    How foolish of us to have placed our entire economy into the hands of our enemies.

    Perhaps we Americans deserve what’s coming to us for sheer stupidity. And I don’t just mean our “esteemed leaders” either.

  • avatar

    It depends what you mean by “Sacrifice”.

    Since I moved near a new job 2 years ago (cheaper rent, better paying job), I drive less naturally. I wouldn’t call that “sacrifice.”. Do I think twice about taking the sports car out instead of the bike? Sure. Do I think twice about driving all weekend ? Not at all.

  • avatar

    Sacrifice? Or Invest?

  • avatar

    I did the totally unusual last evening and also watched some TV news, ABC, actually. Like, I haven’t watched network TV news probably in a decade. There happened to have been a story about SASOL, in South Africa (of course, the ABC story line had to remind us of the fact that South Africa had been a nation of aparthied).

    Essentially, the story was that if we pulled our finger out on a national basis (and took and flogged all people objecting to “NIMBY” with 40 lashes – whoops I made that up) and started using American COAL to produce gasoline – as SASOL does – we’d be energy independent for over 250 years.

  • avatar

    A problem I have with the Fed subsidizing/running research with industry – to become “sustainable,” “green,” “energy independent” what have you – is that supporters bring up the Manhattan and Apollo projects.

    The Manhattan project’s goal: Build a nuclear weapon before Germany and Japan.

    Project Apollo’s goal: Landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.

    Both had unambiguous goals and neigh unlimited access to national resources. Neither would be true of a project whose goal is “getting this country back in shape and on its game.” Even “create a viable electric car a infrastructure to power them” leaves a lot of wiggle room.

    Not saying there isn’t room for Federal research money, but this Hail Mary leapfrog thinking probably wont work for GM in the Volt, so why do it on a national scale?

    My $0.02: build Nuke plants backing up Solar/Hydro/Wind power and heavily fund battery research since that appears to be the big hurdle to practical EVs.

    Personally I drive much less and carpool when possible. Not going to trade in my V8 and take a huge depreciation hit to save around $100/month on gas.

  • avatar

    Oh, I almost forgot about the sacrafice issue. I dont sacrafice one bit. I burn through tires at an alarming rate, gulp down premium like its going out of style (maybe it is), but I am starting to think about it. Sacrafice that is. With my annual fuel bill for two cars now exceeding $6,500, lets just say I have been considering my options.

  • avatar

    Already have, sort of. Got rid of the gas guzzler after the first trip above $3 after Katrina. But, I am in you boots. Nothing to worry about but me, so I see no need for more personal cut back.
    Sacrifice is a short run activity, but push comes to shove the market will correct itself in the long run. How, I don’t know but there are several options that are being kicked around. The technology is here it just depends on what will sell and what won’t. Time will tell.

  • avatar

    I’ve made some small adjustments to my driving style, adopting some of the less-obnoxious hypermiling techniques. Living in Manhattan, our car is used only on weekends to get out of town. The mileage is inelastic, about 300 miles per week. We’re not giving that up. We average 25mpg in our CTS doing mostly highway driving.

    But, frankly, I can afford $4 gas. I can even afford $6 or $10 gas. Is better fuel mileage going to be a major factor in our next car purchase? No. We certainly won’t go for a vehicle with lower mileage, but comfort and style are more important. The car after that (we keep cars about 5-6 years) will probably be different, but I expect that to be a result of technology changes more than anything else.

  • avatar

    Yes, we need to stop driving an hour each way to and from work, we need to buy locally made goods whenever possible, we need to shop at farmer’s markets and thrift stores. As a culture we just consume too damn much all around, and our driving habits are no different. Alternative fuels are all fine and good, but you’re not going to change 200 million vehicles to run on pixie dust overnight, and every alternative fuel has advantages and disadvantages.

    I love dead dinosaurs, if you could pack a Philly blunt with the stuff I’d smoke it. But we have to think about how much and when we use it. Gas is cheaper than milk, than bottled water, than damn near anything else you can buy by the gallon, what exactly is everyone bitching about?

  • avatar

    86er :
    July 7th, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    If people weren’t willing to sacrifice personally after 9/11, they won’t be willing to sacrifice now.

    Eh, I seem to remember that president Bush enjoined his fellow Americans to keep shopping and to keep participating in the economy?

    I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity. They did not touch its source. America is successful because of the hard work, and creativity, and enterprise of our people. These were the true strengths of our economy before September 11th, and they are our strengths today. (Applause.)

    He repeated the message in 2006.
    Here’s the shopping brigade:

    I’m sacrificing at the cash register.

  • avatar

    jimmy2x :

    Have to say that I agree with “Pete”. If only we had a presidential candidate who was willing to stand up and tell us all some of the unpleasant truths that we need to hear…

    We did have a candidate who was willing to stand up and tell us some of the unpleasant truths we need to hear. His name? H. Ross Perot, and he was quickly dismissed by the mainstream media.

  • avatar

    IMO this country’s in about the same situation as GM. It’s too late. We blame the teachers, maybe with justification in some cases but certainly not in others, but the teachers can’t compensate for parents being AWOL. Kids are having kids with NO intention of being responsible. People are fat and willfully ignorant. We have a federal legislature that postures and routinely violates their oath to uphold the constitution. We elected a president who was a bum his entire life. He lied and started a war and we reelected him. All this could be turned around within a decade, but won’t. What will eventually grab us though is climate change I think. Unless we act quickly and decisively, we won’t be able to recover.

  • avatar

    Something like 20% of our oil comes from the Middle East, if you don’t want to buy any don’t shop at stations that buy their oil from Saudis, if you don’t like Chavez don’t buy you gas at Citgo.

    History will judge us as not only one of the most powerful but certainly as one of the most utterly paranoid societies in the history of the world.

  • avatar

    The “sacrifice” argument is most often posited by those living in $2mm homes. The air is thick with hypocrisy anytime the “sacrifice” argument is made.


  • avatar

    First, we must sacrifice some of our own money, in the form of taxes, to pay for the collective need for good public transportation.

    Second, we must sacrifice some dividends from our Exxon-Mobil stock, and create a national oil company to drill, refine and distribute oil domestically. Otherwise, any additional oil taken from public lands will only land on the global market and be snapped up by India and China.

    We must sacrifice banks that made bad decisions in the mortgage market, like Bear Sterns, and not use tax dollars to bail them out. Same with the airlines, auto companies, and the (future) crash of the oil speculators, who WILL (ya wanna bet?)ask the government to bail them out when the oil bubble bursts.

  • avatar

    A new Manhattan project? A new moonshot? Give me a break.

    This isn’t about making an atom bomb or sending a man to the moon.

    This is about the reality that the energy intensive lifestyle that Americans have enjoyed is GOING AWAY.

    There are 6 billion people on this planet that want to live JUST LIKE US and they will fight for it tooth and nail just like our forefathers did.

    Maybe the earth can take it, maybe it can’t. My bet is that it certainly can’t take 6 billion people driving like the average American does today.

    We can dump trillions of dollars into making cars that fart water and rainbows but the problem still remains: is the car-centered American lifestyle sustainable (even with miracle cars?)

    The question isn’t whether we should sacrifice, it’s what should we sacrifice for?

    Are we going to dump trillions of dollars to maintain a lifestyle that increasingly doesn’t make sense to maintain?

    or are we going to rethink the American lifestyle to keep the things that make it great while adjusting to the new economic realities that will be forced on our children?

    Personally, I certainly hope that a miracle car comes and enables my kids and their kids to take road trips, be hoons, and live the American dream of fast cars and open roads.

    but let’s be realistic please…

  • avatar

    I’ve made sacrifices. Since I can no longer fly anywhere in the country for $200 round trip, I find myself driving more often. (Also the airport security, lack of service on airlines, etc. have played a part.) Even at $4-5/gallon driving is cheaper in any 30mpg sedan out there and arguably is less fuel per seat mile. Still, I would prefer jumping on a European style bullet train and spending my time drinking beers while watching the countryside whizz past – even more fuel friendly.

    I love cars and am not against a nice drivers vehicle for Sunday drives. However I do think we’ll be forced into changes sooner than later. But, I’m optimistic that’ll lead to a better quality of life in the long run. Face it, gridlocked traffic and things like the current Chrysler vehicle fleet don’t conjure up romantic notions of car travel for me.

  • avatar

    Pete is full of it. We don’t need to sacrifice, we need to start making good decisions. Both individual and collective decision making needs to be improved.

    The execs at the 2.8 consistently make bad decisions. Consumers make bad decisions , voters make bad decisions, elected officials make bad decisions.

    As far as I can tell, the only people holding their own in the failing US of A are the Japanese. It’s apparent then, that we need to let Japanese business men make our decisions.

  • avatar
    law stud

    Nothing beats oil except electrical cars with super-capacitors that hold more power than a battery. Charge in 5 minutes, long range, fast acceleration.

    We need the supercapacitors of tomorrow today for electric cars. Can make electricity with nuclear for zero emissions.

    Electric cars with the right batteries (not yet available) are superior and cheaper than all the other type of fuel burners out there. Forget hybrids and diesels. Expensive and dirty.

  • avatar

    This generation has not paid it’s dues yet.
    Those brave souls that serve in the military are a huge exception. My parents and grandparents tell of doing without everything during WW2, even afterwards things were tough.

    Today this generation gets whatever it wants at broadband speed.

    Which generation are we speaking about in particular? The baby boomers, Gen X, the millenials?

  • avatar

    @GS650G Re: Not paying dues

    Didn’t earlier generations fight in wars so their offspring could have a better life and not have to sacrifice everything just to survive?

  • avatar

    Screw sacrifice? What about the billionaires living off of residual income and interest? They should “sacrifice” something before we do. Screw that!

  • avatar

    A Manhattan Protect for what exactly? The Manhattan Project knew what they were trying to build, an atomic bomb, whoever this Pete curmudgeon is, he doesn’t bother to mention in his article what our “nation’s brilliant technical resources and mind power” whatever they are (GM?, Microsoft? The Fed gov?) should actually build. If you’ve got a real idea I’ll hear it. If its good I’ll invest in it. Thats what capitalist societies do, we put our collective resources toward a good idea, hoping to get positive return on the other side. No sacrifice needed. Apparently moonbeam-Pete is hoping that if we burn what little we have left on the alter of blind faith, some unseen god will reward us manna from heaven.

  • avatar

    I sacrifice nothing. Of course, I’ve always lived within my means. We have no debt, no kids, our petrol burning is down to maybe 400 gallons per year between both of us – less starting in a few months when my other half starts the new job.

    I think the best solution is a phased in gas tax. It raises tax revenues and controls our excessive driving even if oil happens to decline. Those of us who only use our sports cars on the weekends will hardly be affected. Those of us who bought houses 100 miles from LA because that’s all we could afford are screwed.

    I don’t feel sorry for anyone in pain. I have enough savings to get laid off (unlikely) and live for probably 3 years before I need to start changing my lifestyle significantly. Just because most of America is too stupid to see 10 feet in front of them doesn’t mean that everyone has to get punished.

    I say bring on $10 gas. If that means $5 of that is taxes, so be it. Our economy and infrastructure will undergo a change not seen since the great depression – and it’s about time.

    We also need a better education system. I say bring on better tax breaks for certain initiatives like education in order to pay for changes that will actually impact our future. I wouldn’t be opposed to higher taxes for education either – although there’s a lot of fat in other programs to trim first.

    We need to fundamentally change our sense of entitlement – and do it soon. Sucks to whoever wins the election.

  • avatar

    I don’t think its a matter of sacrifice. Because people don’t really NEED the SUVs/high consumption lifestyle. Its something that they have been told they want. And that constant need will never be filled, which is why so many people who have the huge house and the Escelade are still miserable. They always want. Me I’m perfectly happy with a 900sq foot condo and A3 (although I rarely drive it compared to others, I live downtown, walk to work…)

    Of course, the American people will not give up many things because so much of the crap they buy (especially trucks and SUVs) are marketed as expressing ones “freedom” (hello chevy) or they are sold as making you “bigger” (hello toyota). And if Americans like anything is being patriotic and bigger than everyone else.

  • avatar

    We’re already sacrificing, at the pump every time we fill up. Those who have made the most fuel-foolish decisions are sacrificing the most. And that’s exactly what should happen, because it is changing consumer behavior. Let the marketplace continue to work.

  • avatar

    ‘Sacrifice? Or Invest?’ You should never consider what the government does an investment. If it occasionally turns out that some boondoggle is inadvertently an investment, great.

    Hard for me to see past the government’s ‘investment’ in foodstock-based ethanol. Only ADM has anything to be thankful for. I drive right by the stations offering 10% ethanol gas at 97% the price of straight gasoline – because guess what – the energy content is also about 97%. No free lunch and heavily subsidized to boot.

    Little remarked fact about the Manhattan Project. The first bombs were mostly an efficiency advance. Curtis LeMay already had, and was using, the capability to kill 100,000 people on every night mission. It took 300-400 B-29s. After the A-bomb, it only took one. Had neither of the two bombs worked, LeMay had another several hundred B-29s on order.

  • avatar

    RobertSD, so what happens when these taxes has it’s intended effect of reducing consumption? If people forego driving and revenues fall off, what happens to the programs that were funded by this tax stream? The only reason anybody would want any programs funded by gasoline taxes is because they don’t expect consumption to be significantly reduced, and if that’s the case, it’s a pretty deceptive way of trying to siphon money from the people, especially when we both know that such increases in gasoline taxes will not coincide with reductions in personal income taxes.

    What I find most disturbing out of the ‘tax gas and tax it some more’ crowd is not that they’re unaware of the potential damage it could do to the national economy. They’re very aware of it and seem to want it to come crashing down as if trashing the economy is the best way to change things for the better. Seems very nihilistic by my observation.

  • avatar

    like a couple of others have said:
    do good decisions = sacrifices??

    If good decisions were made by all, then there would be no need for sacrifices, but who defines what is a good decision?
    Is is a good decision for somebody to buy an excursion for his/her family of 3? It depends upon what the alternatives are? If said ‘waste of resources’ keeps said person happy and sane and away from a murderous rampage, then, maybe yes, it is a good decision…
    everybody is different…
    what floats your boat may not float mine…

    that’s one of the great things about humanity and our collective society, but will also lead to significant pain and suffering for some…

    But yes: overall – changes need to be made…
    it’s better to choose good changes for yourself than have an outside entity decide changes for you…

  • avatar
    montgomery burns

    Wow. A lot of doom and gloom here. If I were to believe what i was told in high school, I should be freezing and starving in the dark by now. Somewhere I have a book written in the 40’s or 50’s talking about how society was going to be wiped out soon because of the coming end of oil.

    Although I’m a believer in market forces I also believe that there is a role for government investment and regulation. In the 70’s economy regulations and emission regulation had the effect of giving us much better machinery, particularly as the Japanese and Europeans could come up with better vehicles (for the most part) than the domestics.

    Unfortunately we have a totally inept administration in Washington that has done much damage to this country that will probably take many years to undo. Sacrifice? What do we have now? Two wars? Three wars? Lost count. And tax breaks. And the biggest peacetime(?) expansion of the government since WWII. And borrowing money to pay for it all.

    The next POTUS has a 50/50 chance of going down in flames because some very difficult decisions will be made. One way or another taxes will go up, to much howling. The high price of oil will lead to more exploration and opening up of unexplored areas. When the ethanol, hydrogen, bio-whatever fad is over, nuclear (aka nukular) power will be back. Synthetic fuel will become viable. Some incremental improvements to solar will come about.

    And in the end just like past periods of trauma we’ll come out the other side better for it.

  • avatar

    I want to hear your poroposal for safely “disposing” ( storage for 1000’s of years, actually) of the radiaoctive waste and by products?

  • avatar

    @Montgomery Burns:

    You know wars are good for the economy, right? You know that that money ‘spent’ by the government is essentially one giant R&D budget circulated back through our economy. I can tell you right now the next administration is going to reap the rewards for the money this administration was lambasted for spending and take full credit for it.

    For everyone else suggesting we tax the living crap out of people to force ‘change’ by the least efficient means possible government because you’ve analyzed everyone’s lifestyle as that of ‘excessive’ consumption: why don’t you cover for us with the money in your parent’s trust fund?

    I see no reason for doom and gloom- the market is simply correcting itself and is doing so naturally without any government interference nor any need for government interference.

  • avatar

    Sorry to burst a lot of peoples bubbles, but cheap energy is what makes us the number one GDP nation in the world. It’s not evil, and we don’t need to “sacrafice” our energy use in some blind way or have it rationed out to us by well meaning politicians…..(preagnant pause).

    The use of energy is directly proportional to how productive we are as a nation (think physics and how x amount of energy is needed to do y amount of work). That is a fact. Fortunately for us, because GDP is a number that represents the collective choices of everyday individuals to do what is in their best interest, the country with the most individual freedom to use energy, will be among the most productive AND the most efficient. This relationship can be measured using a metric called Energy Intensity (look it up) and the U.S. comes in fourth. That means only three other countries beat us when it comes to how much energy they expend to generate $1 of GDP. That’s pretty good considering our travel distances here in the U.S. are many times greater than those in every other western country.

    Also, the fact that we have major cost of living differentials between urban and rural communities even just an hour away from each other is another MAJOR economic growth driver. This is one of those great mechanisms for lower income families to actually move into the middle class and vastly improve their standard of living. Talk of increasing gas taxes to put an end to this would be absurd.

    A. It would take the cost of living differential mechanism out of play for many struggling families (often forcing them into higher cost/tax, lower quality of life living arrangements).

    B. It would serously hamper the ability for people to “vote with their feet.” (that’s a freedom issue which I do not take lightly)

    C. (Regarding energy and other behavior modification type taxes) When has Government ever created a socialized program that could spend tax payer dollars more efficiently than the individual in charge of their own pocketbook? Just ask yourselves what happened to all that tobacco lawsuit money that was supposed to go towards healthcare for the state recipients…..

    In closing, I’m all for using less energy…if and only if it’s through the means of gaining further efficiencies. And, as proven time and time again, this can only be gained effectively through the free market where individuals are making decisions about their own money and energy useage. Once we put artificial price controls (i.e. excessive taxes, regulations and restrictions) on our energy, just for the sake of cutting back, we might as well flush our competetive production levels down the proverbial toilet, and hand the global economy over to China and India. Then we’ll really have to make sacrafices.

  • avatar

    We do not have a choice about sacrifices. Peak Oil is here and we are experiencing its first effects. There is no infinite consumption possible of a finite resource like oil.

    The first to feel it are the biggest energy gluttons like airlines and GM et al who have attached their corporate wagon to gas guzzlers that are now obsolete. Recreational vehicle producers like Winnebago are in a similar predicament with no way out.

    Even the gas guzzling military may have to curtail a war because of lack of resources to pay for the thousands of gallons it uses every day. If Iran is attacked the price of oil will sky rocket and it may become unavailable to some. The Iranians are not going to let anyone steal their oil without a fight and mission accomplished will end up being even messier than Iraq.

    Individuals living a high energy lifestyle are paying the price. If they have the bucks and many do, they can put off the pain awhile. But in the future as oil production falls a small percentage each year and more people appear on the planet, the price will have to rise exponentially to kill demand.

    At some point even the wealthy will feel the pain as fuel becomes difficult to get at any price. This is the Post Peak Oil future that concerns so many. There are no easy answers. Partial, temporary solutions like ethanol can help, but the long term outlook is dismal.

    Electric cars will overload the grid. Fossil fuel electricity production will become ever more expensive along with oil. And wind generated electricity is no where near ready to take up the slack.

    Sacrifice will be of the forced kind eventually.

  • avatar

    ttacgreg: I want to hear your poroposal for safely “disposing” ( storage for 1000’s of years, actually) of the radiaoctive waste and by products?

    Simple: don’t store it for thousands of years. Burn it instead:

    “The two forms of waste produced, a noble metal form and a ceramic form, contain no plutonium or other actinides. The radioactivity of the waste decays to levels similar to the original ore in about 200 years.”

    Of course, this is all theory, since the US government shit-canned the project 15 years ago. But at least it is well-grounded theory, unlike the ethanol nonsense we are suffering under.

    Nevertheless, I would agree the Manhattan Project is a reasonable model for an effort like this. Recall that very early on, the Manhattan Project management was faced with a design decision to pursue: gun, implosion, or catalytic? Their answer is apropos of today: do them all. Catalytic was quickly shown to be unfeasible and dropped. The gun design was simple, but inefficient. The implosion weapon was a technical challenge indeed on many fronts.

    Build them all. Nuke, wind, solar, geo-thermal, wave, cow-farts, politician slave labor. Let them all compete on a fair, level, field.

  • avatar

    I’m willing to sacrifice, but it depends on what for.

    I am willing to sacrifice money to ensure that our children are the best educated in the world.

    I am willing to sacrifice convenience for the right to live in a democracy that doesn’t use torture.

    I am willing to sacrifice my time to help the underserved get the care they need.

    But I have no interest in sacrificing so Detroit can get its hands on yet more tax dollars to finance some beaurocrat’s pipe dream that will never happen.

    If people want to use less gas, they should use less gas. This isn’t rocket surgury people, it’s common sense. Trade in the Nagravator for a Civic and stop whining. Better yet, walk.

  • avatar

    If I were king (like Mr. Bush was for the past seven years). . . . .

    I would institute and ever incrementally increasing tax on non-renewable energy sources and methods, and plow those tax dollars right back into tax credits for renewable energy sources and methods. A predictably set pace of this taxation and accreditation would allow businesses and society to adjust, plan ahead, go forth in confidence that the rug would not be pulled out from underneath them.

    If we humans think there should be humans here in the future (umm – – isn’t that why we raise families?), then ultimately, the harvesting of solar, wind and other renewables to produce hydrogen or biogenerated petroleum, is the obvious sustainable biosphere friendly answer.

    I am convinced that in the long run we can have our cake and eat it too, of we don’t wait to long to start in that direction.
    I am convinced we are capable of doing this in the long run. We need to adjust our culture and its definitions of what is desireable and what is happiness, what defines a person’s sense of worth and success. Right now there is a planetary worship of the wealthy lifestyle. This is a problem, because based on money,industry and materialism, the wealthier someone is, the more damage they are doing to biological health of our planet. Getting the human population down to less than a billion would be a hugely beneficial thing too.
    I am definetly culpable, even with my small home, driving the smallest cars, practising lots of little conservation measures recycling as best I can, and living frugally on less than $30,000 a year. Certainly in the context of the current ecology-toxic industrial culture, I, as one individual, am inflicting far greater damage to the biosphere than probably 90% of the world’s humans. It is easy to lose perspective here in a non-third world country. Relative to the vast majority of people alive today, I am rich!

    I do rationalize this by saying it is the society I live in, I can take it only so far personally, but I am a member of a system than needs to change as well. I do stay politically attentive and active, make donations to organizations I believe may encourage our society to move in the direction of sustainability.

    Clearly the humanity is, at this time, collectively proceeding in a direction that is unstainable. Take today’s trends, and project then out in to the future. We will either manage our challenges, and control our destiny, or we will blindly, greedily, carelessly push the limits until we hit the wall and crash in disaster, probably famine ans warfare.

    Wake up people! How much CO2 and other artificially generated gasses can we dump in the atmosphere? How many multiple billions of humans can live here at one time? How long before non-renewable resources are gone? What happens when there is no more farmland to produce more food? How many fish can we pull out of the sea before they are gone? How much fresh water is available?
    Do we want any sort of wildlife out there besides rats and cockroaches?

    A hell of a lot of people on this globe are in denial. We need a planetary revolution of reason and rationality prevailing over emotions.

    Ahhh nice rant, I feel better . . . . .

  • avatar

    There was mention above of the “free market” being a solution, I call BULLSHIT! “free market” means the utter polarizaion of weathy and poor, It is greed driven and is basically a destructive monster left to its own. Today, “free market” is code for letting the Natan and Society be literally governed by “free market” forces. That, friends is formula for not legally codified rights, no blind justice, and basically rule of plutocray. Like a wild horse, “the free market” needs to domesticated or it will trample us all.
    I am all for free, shall we call it enterprise, but just like there needs to be checks and balances between the three branches of government, the (suppoded fourth estate press, and voters, Government needs to check and balance this Frankenstien we currently call the “free market”

  • avatar

    If we don’t start making small sacrifices ASAP, we’ll have to make huge ones sooner rather than later.

    It seems that the collective mood this in this country focuses on “me, me, me”, and to hell with the consequences. Everyone is busy buying new toys and wasting resources because that’s what the media tells us is the thing to do… it will make us happy. However, as states, you cannot run a linear system on a finite planet. Whatever happened to a sense of community, the notion of thrift, a hunger for knowledge, and personal integrity. If we think the mortgage meltdown was bad just wait until the credit card crisis begins.

    The youth of today is educated under the notion that “no child left behind” is better, but nobody gets ahead either. We are raising a generation that thinks everything gets handed to them, and they are to be rewarded for the most menial tasks. As a result, not only do they have no book smarts, but also they are terrible at life. They don’t know how to balance a checkbook, work a clothes washer, or use proper English.

    Lastly, we need to bring back the family dynamic. Let’s have dinner at the table again, not drive-thru from McDonalds. No more zoning out in front of the TV watching trashy reality shows.

    I’m not perfect, and I don’t claim to be, but a lot of people need to raise their personal standards fast.

    I’m not sure if I answered the question properly, but rant over.

  • avatar

    We need the supercapacitors of tomorrow today for electric cars. Can make electricity with nuclear for zero emissions.…

    If only this was true. Uranium, as it is found in nature, is mostly U238 and is unable to support fission in typical commercial reactors. In order to be useful as a nuclear fuel it needs to be enriched to U235, a process that requires significant energy to be used. Further, the actual mining, transport, and disposal, oops, I mean on-site storage requires a significant energy investment as well. All of this energy is usually from coal burning power plants. Perhaps if we committed to breeder reactors we could change the energy calculus, but there is no support for such reactors in the United States. Too many people are paranoid about terrorists swiping the plutonium. Just like Doc Brown did to fuel the reactor in the Delorean. While nuclear is going to continue to be a part of our short term energy issues, I believe the disposal issues will be the limiting factor.

    What we need is a breakthrough in material science so we can create fusion reactors. That is where the real answer lies. I don’t think I will be around to see it but this power source would render the question about sacrifice moot.

    TTAC Greg you bring up some very interesting points. We must have “mixed” capitalism where the market has some checks and balances to prevent many of the problems you describe. The key, of course, is how to administer such control and how much control. Occasionally the control and its unintended consequences can be as damaging as the total hands off approach would have been in the first place. But the historical record is clear. Without some form of check/balance, the top .5% will trample whatever is in their way. As history has shown, the “common” people and the environment will take it on the chin while the fat cats laugh all the way to the bank.

  • avatar

    America is no longer capable of doing things for the common good.

  • avatar

    Maybe it’s just the cynical not-quite-GenX’er in me, and maybe I’m being more than a little ageist, but I had some real trouble with Peter DeLorenzo’s most recent column. It came off as a rose-coloured-glasses view of an era of history that, for all it’s nobility of purpose, saw some pretty spectacular (and not in a good way) low points. And personally, I think the Manhattan project–developing a device to kill millions of people as quickly as possible–classifies as a “low point.”

    As someone who did study history, it came off as a kind of generational myopia; the same kind that seems to afflict every generation once they reach this point in their lives: that things were once “better” and have gone to hell since, that the current generation is somehow lacking in ingenuity, drive or moral fibre, and that we need to return to some kind of ideals of the past and/or make some kind of sacrifice. It’s rather asinine to suggest that this generation doesn’t have to face some kind of adversity, or that there’s a lack of a defining moment. Sure, we don’t have a moonshot; we don’t have any number of negative aspects of the moonshot era, either. Personally, I think the development of the Internet and cellular phone are fantastic hallmarks of this particular era, tantamount to the moonshot, but I also don’t know if we’ve really the historical perspective to weigh in on them (or the moonshot, the industrial revolution, etc) definitively. I’m not quite sure if we’ve quite sorted the Enlightenment yet.

    I feel it shows an ignorance of the depth of history: it’s not just dates and wars and kings (or their respective Manhattan projects, Great Walls, Pyramids, etc), it’s the human experience, and that experience hasn’t really changed that much, and certainly not quickly enough to justify DeLorenzo’s take.

    And yes, there’s a particularly dirty breed of politician in office, but this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon–there’s been dirty politics since some clever cavemen rigged King of the Bean. And yes, there’s a CYA attitude in modern corporations, but this isn’t exactly new, either: there’ve been cronies and yes men for as long as there have been rich people to sponge off of. Remember the term Machiavellian? Guess how long ago Machiavelli lived, that should give some kind of starting point.

    Do we need to make sacrifices? Yup. Have we? Sure. Were they as deep as, say, what the civilian population of Europe had to make in the first half of the 20th Century? Not in North America, no, but there’s a big ol’ world out there, and there are whole economic and social cycles in play here that will takes decades, if not centuries, to play out and understand. To imply that the North American Baby Boomers and their immediate predecessors somehow a better class of human being really sticks in my craw.

    Gods did not walk the Earth in 1962.

  • avatar

    I can admire those with a firm devotion to noble and/or altruistic causes (such as alternative fuel, saving the environment, etc). The words of an old Pat Benatar song come to mind, “With the power of conviction, there is no sacrifice!”

    With that said, I’m more partial to the saying, “Get down off the cross….we need the wood!”…to burn for fuel? =)

  • avatar

    golden2husky: In order to be useful as a nuclear fuel it needs to be enriched to U235, a process that requires significant energy to be used. Further, the actual mining, transport, and disposal, oops, I mean on-site storage requires a significant energy investment as well.

    Chemical and mechanical separation activities are based on reactions that occur in the O(eV) range.

    Binding energy, however, is released at the O(millions of eV) range.

    Conclusion: the energy inputs must be negligible compared to the outputs. The 500 tonnes of uranium that were just delivered to Ontario … if we removed the uranium equivalent of the energy used to get it there, you’d probably pull out mere kilograms.

    “Perhaps if we committed to breeder reactors we could change the energy calculus, but there is no support for such reactors in the United States.”

    I sometimes get the impression all the anti-nuclear people stopped reading somewhere in 1972 or so.

    Too many people are paranoid about terrorists swiping the plutonium.

    Then you design fuel cycles that produce intermediate products that are so dangerous it would be impractical to steal them:

    “Because the fuel contains significant levels of transuranics with high spontaneous fission rates, it is not possible to produce nuclear weapons using IFR fuel without centrifugal separation. This is more difficult than enrichment of natural uranium due to the smaller atomic mass difference between Pu-239 and Pu-240 as compared to U-235 vs U-238, and is rendered even more difficult by the high radioactivity of the fuel.” (see IFR link, given above).

    In other words, the terrorists would be better off building their own weapons reactors. Which (1) isn’t going to happen any time soon, (2) even if they did, there isn’t anything you can do to stop them in as much as your commercial power reactor designs are concerned.

    I believe the disposal issues will be the limiting factor.

    Again, this is a fuel cycle issue. Yes indeed, if you build your reactors around a military fuel cycle, you’ll have lots of “waste”, and it will be terribly radioactive for a very long time.

    The solution is ‘simple’, so to speak: don’t do that. Choose a fuel cycle where the final waste stream is only radioactive for a few centuries: the problem is effectively solved. (again, see IFR link, above.)

    But it needs to be mentioned, repeatedly it seems, that the amount of waste that comes out of the current PWR reactor set is microscopic in the grand scheme of things:

    “In 1997, in the 20 countries which account for most of the world’s nuclear power generation, spent fuel storage capacity at the reactors was 148,000 tonnes, with 59% of this utilized.”

    “AFRS capacity in 1997 was 78,000 tonnes, with 44% utilized, and annual additions of about 12,000 tonnes.”

    and so forth. Let’s call it a million tonnes world-wide. At the absurdly low density of 1 tonne per cubic meter (i.e., water), this entire waste load would fit in a cube 100 meters on a side.

    As a comparison, the planet currently burns something like 6000 million tonnes of coal every year. Plug that into you calculator and hit cube-root — and note it is an annual figure.

    What we need is a breakthrough in material science so we can create fusion reactors.

    The prospect here is truly bleak. The neutron flux alone will brutalize any containment vessel we come up with. The embrittled radioactive slag that comes out of those reactors won’t even be useful in a fission reactor as fuel.

    But as you say, maybe someone will announce a miracle tomorrow…

  • avatar

    Some of you guys sure like to wear hair shirts. By practically any objective measure, we’re living better than ever before, yet you’re deep in a funk.

    May I suggest widening your sources of information? Dependence on big media can make one depressed. Even the AP is stuck on the “everything spinning out of control” theme. During some recent travel I was involuntarily exposed to hours of political commentary on CNN and MSNBC. My goodness, they’ve gotten about as unhinged as nut cases like Michael Savage. (Unless it’s just an act to draw a crowd). Not that such rants are new; we once had Father Coughlin and Huey Long to stir folks up. In time they were replaced by other false prophets, and so will the current Chicken Littles.

  • avatar

    I do not like some definitions of the word sacrifice. Anyway, Do we need to make changes that result in letting go of things we value? depending on what goal, yes. What do I need to give up? I dunno. I do not have the power to change global warming. I stop contributing to the problem and still the problem will continue like nothing happened. The question is what can I gain by trying.

    I did not believe in global warming, but I do not want to be wrong. I often think the majority of persons are wrong about many things. Maybe they are wrong about global warming, but perhaps they are correct. So what if I’m wrong? I’m ok with being wrong, but I wanna do what is right to some extent. I’ll see what I can do. Not a sacrifice, a new worthwhile better investment. One which faith and god have a lot to do with, IMO, and Karma. Oh and it will probably hurt to let go of things important.

  • avatar

    We don’t need to sacrifice. We need to adapt and overcome by developing tools better suited for the current environment, that’s all. Every time humanity faces a challenge, technological progress accelerates. I am not worried. In fact, I think the future is excellent. Not only will we ultimately solve the fuel crunch, we will free ourselves from the bloody Middle East in the process. Be patient.

  • avatar

    Conclusion: the energy inputs must be negligible compared to the outputs. The 500 tonnes of uranium that were just delivered to Ontario … if we removed the uranium equivalent of the energy used to get it there, you’d probably pull out mere kilograms...

    True, but my comment was based on another poster’s remark that emissions from nuclear power is zero. That is not correct. Without the burning of fossil fuel you could not mine, transport, and enrich the uranium fuel. So total emissions relative to the amount of energy produced is small but not zero. Also, like to admit it or not, the mining process is messy and polluting. There is no free lunch. Spent fuel that is presently stored on-site requires being immersed in chilled water, and that cooling comes with an energy penalty, too. Of course, total energy out is much greater than what is input from traditional sources.

    I have no choice but to accept that nuclear energy is the short term fix for our immediate energy needs, certainly as far as stationary sources go. If a country chooses to go that route, they have to commit to the full program which will need to address the mining, enrichment, storage, disposal and use of breeders as a means creating a complete energy package. And in today’s environment, acts of terrorism against any nuclear facility must be considered.

  • avatar

    I bought fluorescent light bulbs like Al Gore told me to.

  • avatar

    During WWII, when this country was far less wealthy and sophisticated, we managed to produce 300,000 war planes, and a slew of tanks on very short notice. Producing 1.5 million wind turbines over the next 10 years would provide 40% of our electricity. (Texas is already on planning to produce the wind equivalent of 23 nuclear plants, which is 1/4 of the nuclear capacity of the entire country.) Similar efforts could give us an awful lot of solar.

    Of course, we need decent electric or fuel cell cars to take advantage of that. Meanwhile, new cars could be far more efficient than they are.

    If as a country we get on this now, there will be far less sacrifice later on. Israel is pushing electric cars, and plans to set up fuel stations that will enable people to switch battery packs in minutes.

    The more quickly, and intelligently we act to address the problem, the less sacrifice will be necessary. Furthermore, the first country to produce a lot of wind and solar is going to have a big advantage in the global market. This is why Germany, most of which is further north than any part of the lower 48, is working hard to develop a solar industry.

    As for me, I’m still accelerating hard and driving where and when I want. But I spent 5 Gs to insulate my roof, and I’m worried about our nation.

  • avatar

    the uranium mining process is not just messy; it’s deadly.

  • avatar

    David Holzman: the uranium mining process is not just messy; it’s deadly.

    So is driving a car. In fact, I’d be surprised if the death toll due to all mining/processing world-wide came close to the 40,000 that are killed on the roads in the USA every single year.

  • avatar

    “# brianmack Says:
    July 7th, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    @GS650G Re: Not paying dues

    Didn’t earlier generations fight in wars so their offspring could have a better life and not have to sacrifice everything just to survive?”

    Each generation pays it forward to the next. I don’t think earlier generations thought they were ending sacrifice or struggle at all, they were playing the hand they were dealt. The problem today is people are not even willing to ante up enough or deal.

    We honor those sacrifices with our own.

  • avatar

    Stein X Leikanger: Eh, I seem to remember that president Bush enjoined his fellow Americans to keep shopping and to keep participating in the economy??

    Which was entirely appropriate at the time, as many sectors of the economy had virtually stopped in the wake in the 9/11 attacks. I suppose it would have been better for him to have said nothing, and watched the economy slide into a depression?

    carlosnegros: First, we must sacrifice some of our own money, in the form of taxes, to pay for the collective need for good public transportation.

    We already do that – part of the money raised by federal motor fuels taxes is diverted from from roads and bridges to pay for mass transit and other “demonstration projects” (i.e, bike paths).

    Also, many states have taxes that are funneled to mass transit. In Pennsylvania, for example, a portion of the statewide sales tax is used for mass transit projects.

    carlosnegros: Second, we must sacrifice some dividends from our Exxon-Mobil stock, and create a national oil company to drill, refine and distribute oil domestically.

    Why bother, when we have privately owned oil companies that can do the same thing? The Mexican oil companies are nationalized, and their production levels aren’t that great, primarily because they can’t raise sufficient funds to modernize their facilities and raise output.

    carlosnegros: Otherwise, any additional oil taken from public lands will only land on the global market and be snapped up by India and China.

    The only reason an oil is “snapped up” by India or China, as opposed to the U.S., is because they are willing to pay more for it. Do you really believe that a government-controlled entity is going to turn down the opportunity to make more money selling oil to those nations, if they are willing to pay more than U.S. customers are?

    ttacgreg: Today, “free market” is code for letting the Natan and Society be literally governed by “free market” forces.

    I’ll take that any day over taxpayer funded boondoggles and professional busybodies saying that I need to “sacrifice,” which is a code-word for the busybody class taxing particular behaviors that they don’t like.

    ttacgreg: That, friends is formula for not legally codified rights, no blind justice, and basically rule of plutocray.

    Funny, codified rights and impartial justice first gained real traction in the societies that relied most heavily on the free market to govern their economic system – first Great Britain, then the U.S.

    So there goes that argument.

    Also, capitalism is good at TEARING DOWN the plutocracy and entrenched oligopolies (of which the Big Three is a prime example), which is why, when you discover who is really against the free market, it is usually entrenched business interests, “activists” who dislike change, entrenched labor unions and government-funded groups dependent on tax dollars.

    It isn’t the people who actually go out and risk their money to start a business.

    The simple fact is that, once one stops listening to the Chicken Littles and presidential candidates trying to get elected by telling everyone that they will do everything from reduce gas prices to eliminate erectile dysfunction, one discovers that people (i.e, the free market) are adjusting on their own. Driving is down, mass transit use is up, and the market is moving toward smaller, more efficient vehicles. Higher oil prices are making alternative energy sources feasible.

    Sounds as though the free market is working to me…

  • avatar

    Sounds as though the free market is working to me…

    And yet, there are those who still aren’t satisfied over it.

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