The Era of Cheap Gas is Over

Feb 17th, 2015 | Posted by

This blog has the sad duty to report that the era of cheap gas is over – by which I mean the “era” that lasted from the fall of 2014 to the end of January 2015.

The global collapse in oil prices was not going to last, no matter how much people wished and hoped it would be some kind of return to an assumed normalcy of low prices. The decline was driven by the Saudis’ desire to break some of their rivals, especially Russia but also North American shale producers, by crashing the price of oil. That has been accomplished, and so it’s now time to let the price start rising again.

California drivers have already begun to see the effects:

The state’s average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline has jumped 36 cents since the end of January, reaching $2.79 on Monday, according to GasBuddy.com. Prices are rising throughout the country, but not as quickly, with the national average climbing 20 cents this month to hit $2.25.

Some observers want to believe that the price will remain low for some time:

“Those prices that we got used to in 2011, 2012, 2013 — I don’t see those coming back anytime soon,” Cinquegrana said.

I don’t agree with him – California’s average price will soon be above $3, which is has been the norm ever since 2006. There have been occasional crashes in the price since 2006, notably in 2009 and again at the end of 2014, but $3 and above is the new norm. Peak oil is still real, and the only way to have cheap transportation costs is to move beyond oil. There’s no getting around that basic fact, and that’s one reason why high speed rail remains so important to California’s future.

  1. Jerry
    Feb 17th, 2015 at 12:33
    #1

    The true cost of oil (gas) never includes the cost of the wars for that oil.

  2. TomTom
    Feb 17th, 2015 at 13:52
    #2

    Except when that oil was released by Middle East countries in response to American oil production going up finally, resulting in lower prices, you are just 100% right on, man.

  3. agb5
    Feb 17th, 2015 at 14:00
    #3

    Where is your evidence that breaking Russia and U.S. shale has been accomplished?
    Russia and US shale will produce and sell all time high quantities of oil in 2015 from already drilled wells. U.S shale output will drop off in a few years if no new wells are drilled.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Even if new wells are drilled, US shale output will collapse within about 5 years.

  4. trentbridge
    Feb 17th, 2015 at 14:25
    #4

    “Dead cat bounce” – pure and simple.

    Investopia: A temporary recovery from a prolonged decline or bear market, followed by the continuation of the downtrend. A dead cat bounce is a small, short-lived recovery in the price of a declining security, such as a stock. Frequently, downtrends are interrupted by brief periods of recovery – or small rallies – where prices temporarily rise.

    I’d say the crude market is going to test it’s lows again before any sustained recovery in oil prices.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Nope. It’s going to follow the pattern predicted in the Deutsche Bank report a few years back on Peak Oil. Go find it. I’ll wait. :-)

    Oh, OK. Oil prices will drop, causing exploration to be cut. Oil will rise, causing demand to drop (as people switch to electrically-powered things, walking, biking, etc.) Repeat until total demand for oil is close to zero.

    We’re watching this already.

  5. john burrows
    Feb 17th, 2015 at 16:53
    #5

    There is about a 100% probability that the era of cheap gas would end the day after Israel goes after Iran’s nuclear facilities—Should that happen.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No. Iran sells most of its exports in gasoline-grade petroleum to Japan. The impact on the U.S. would be a decline in the need for US Treasuries which would be balanced out a little bit by international demand for Treasuries rising elsewhere.

    joe Reply:

    Yes, because the Strait of Hormuz is 21 miles wide and a well known oil transportation choke point.
    Yes, because instability drives up speculation and prices.

    wikipedia: About 20% of the world’s petroleum, and about 35% of the petroleum traded by sea, passes through the strait making it a highly important strategic location for international trade.[1]

    joe Reply:

    and here’s what can stop sitting duck oil tankers:

    “Tehran is quietly fielding increasingly lethal symmetric and asymmetric weapon systems, including more advanced naval mines, small but capable submarines, coastal defence cruise missile batteries, attack craft, and anti-ship ballistic missiles,” the report’s declassified executive summary said. http://www.janes.com/article/42880/pentagon-report-says-iran-is-fielding-anti-ship-ballistic-missiles.

    Vice Admiral James Syring, the director of the US Missile Defense Agency, submitted a statement to a Congressional subcommittee in June saying: “This ballistic missile has a range of 300 km, which means it is capable of threatening maritime activity throughout the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.” Vice Adm Syring confirmed the AShBM had been flight tested, but did not comment on whether it was operational.

    The Khalij Fars would be harder to intercept than Iran’s conventional anti-ship missiles due to its significantly higher velocity (said to be Mach 3) and parabolic trajectory.

    Mach 3. with a 300 KM range.

    Eric Reply:

    guess we need to get those rail guns tested and mounted. or the new upgraded block IV tomahawks.

    joe Reply:

    On an oil tanker which are often not even US registered ships??

    Mach 3 is 2,283MPH. Detect, target and launch a sufficiently powerful counter measure at a Mach 3 target. The strait is 21 miles wide.

    You need Japanese Anime to invent a counter measure for this attack.

    Joey Reply:

    Mach 3 seems pretty fast by everyday standards, but anti-ship missiles capable of that kind of speed have been around since the 1960s.

    joe Reply:

    The Iranians have these?

    Joey Reply:

    The USSR did, at the height of the Cold War. We have our share of conflicts with Iran right now but they’re not particularly interested in all-out war. Not that it takes a supersonic cruise missile to sink a tanker anyway.

    joe Reply:

    Thanks for the pointless distraction.

    Joey Reply:

    What’s the distraction? My point is that (1) Nations which with the US has had much worse relations than Iran possessed this technology and (2) Regardless of whether Iran has the capability or not they aren’t going to use it.

    Joe Reply:

    Excuse me.

    I forget which year we or a close ally bombed a Russian nuclear plant. Was that the plot of “xmen first class?”

    Joey Reply:

    We can’t take responsibility for everything Israel does. There’s a reason why US-Israel relations have become somewhat shaky in recent months, Iran being a major point of contention. And none of this points to any imminent (or future) plan to close off the Strait of Hormuz.

    joe Reply:

    “We can’t take responsibility for everything Israel does.”

    We don’t take responsibility – we have to react to those who hold us responsible and who know we have leverage.

    It will be US made airplanes and bunker busting bombs that are dropped on Iran.

    Iran having weapons and a Navy with capability to close the Strait of Hormuz and our counter measures are evidence that there is plan to close the strait and a plan to keep it open.

    Joey Reply:

    I’m still not seeing the evidence of this imminent war you keep referring to.

    joe Reply:

    Where did the goal posts get moved this time?

    You rock – blockquote would hold so back much of this creativity. Why quote when you can declare fact?

    Joey Reply:

    Well what are we arguing about then? You seem to be imply that an armed conflict between is likely

    here

    It will be US made airplanes and bunker busting bombs that are dropped on Iran.

    and here

    Iran having weapons and a Navy with capability to close the Strait of Hormuz and our counter measures are evidence that there is plan to close the strait and a plan to keep it open.

    Israel bombed one of Iran’s nuclear plants. Could it be considered an act of war? Yes. Has Iran actually mobilized to retaliate and declare war on Israel? The last time I checked, no.

    Under what other circumstances would Iran actually move to close the strait?

    joe Reply:

    John wrote:

    There is about a 100% probability that the era of cheap gas would end the day after Israel goes after Iran’s nuclear facilities—Should that happen.

    “Under what other circumstances would Iran actually move to close the strait?”

    Define move.
    Iran would place assets on alert and run exercises. Also could run intentionally viewable tests of missile capabilities. We run Naval exercises and move assets.

    Then the market will react. Oil would rise in price. Diplomacy takes over. Unless there is some screwup or accident.

    Iran has to have a credible capability and they really do have a capability to screw up oil shipments. These are tankers that take time to maneuver and have a large signature.

    Closing the strait means the risk of ships passing is too great and commercial shipping chooses to delay. Now the economy is hit.

    In an all out war closing the strait means a hostile force is turned back or also chooses to not engage by passing. If we lose a few Mil ships to mines/missiles – it also hurts our ability to bluff and sale so the missiles jump.

    Joey Reply:

    Iran has to have a credible capability and they really do have a capability to screw up oil shipments. These are tankers that take time to maneuver and have a large signature.

    I don’t dispute that they have that capability. I only dispute that they would use it. Iran has made it clear that they’re not particularly interested in further isolation in the international community, and I doubt that they’d benefit from instabilities in the oil market either.

    Zorro Reply:

    And I don’t think they’re designed with penetrating real armor, just thin skinned Navy and Civilian ships. Not Battleship Armor, aka ships that are meant less than over the horizon combat.

    Joey Reply:

    Not that battleships have been a meaningful part of naval warfare for about 70 years…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    they give Senators with shipyards in their state goosebumps so they do have some use.

    JB in PA Reply:

    Sometimes the Senators have bumps, and sometimes the battleships have bumps.

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g60982-d105445-i45720303-Battleship_Missouri_Memorial-Honolulu_Oahu_Hawaii.html

    JB in PA Reply:

    Yea
    *ucking goosbumps.

    http://blog.hawaii.edu/neojourno/2010/11/10/kamikaze-attack-on-uss-missouri-humanity-in-the-midst-of-war/

    If you are ever in Hawaii take the tour of the Mighty Mo and visit the Arizona.

    After a ship is attacked and sunk, it is common to develop an oil slick.
    The Arizona is continuously leaking a few drips of oil every few minutes.
    In a sense, the Airzona attack is -still- happening as it still leaks oil from the damage from the attack.

    Stand on the memorial. Read the names. Touch the main mast of the sunken ship. Stand over the start of the Pacific war and look across the water at the ship that witnessed the end of the Pacific war. THen tell me about goosebumps and a use for a battle ship.

    Zorro Reply:

    Of course, but what can pierce that armor today? That armor was meant to repel 14″ armor piercing shells, a 5″ gun is no match and I’m not sure if an Exocet missile will do more than explode while making more work for the paint crews.

    When they found the Battleship Bismarck on the bottom of the atlantic ocean on the side of an extinct submarine volcano, they found that 14″ shells from the KGV bounced off the armor, while the 16″ shells from Rodney pierced Bismarcks armor. Of course as usual the main turrets and their supporting barrettes were gone and part of the stern fell off, it was thought that damage from the old obsolete biplanes did enough damage to the stern to cause it to fall off.

    Now if you want to a whole new breed of shell based on a discarding sabot used in Tanks like the M1 Abrams could go in the Iowas, it’s been speculated that such a shell would have a 100 mile range, since its inner core is only 11″ in diameter and very dense, the outer diameter is 16″, just as much range as the new experimental railgun too, but possibly with more power behind than the railgun in its present size.

    joe Reply:

    This is a red herring joey put out.

    Speed’s part of the problem joey locked in on but as usual – his just playing an angle. Now launch one and hit London. That was hard to do with V2.

    Now hit a ship with a conventional warhead. You need guidance systems and target acquisition.

    Now if the Russia took out a US ship we’d be at War. MAD. Mutual Assured Destruction policy stops this from happeneing with nuclear states.

    SO back to the point, Iran has modern missiles that are small and can take out an oil tanker at Mach 3. No counter measures are going to stop it. It’s an act of war. I think bombing a nuclear plant is an ac to war. So tit for tat is what might happen.

    Joey Reply:

    It’s an act of war

    Which is precisely why they’re not going to actually do it.

    Zorro Reply:

    The US Navy has deployed a ship with a Laser turret to the gulf, supposedly it has a 1 mile range and of course any enemy airborne target within 1 mile is dead meat if they are identified as a threat, Mach 3 is nothing compared to the Speed of Light…

    joe Reply:

    Zorro; they have to detect, identify and target. Then initiate a response. Probably multiple launches to overwhelm a defensive system.

    If you ask me, a ship is an easy target. This began in WWII when the US Navy Pacific Fleet in 43 established a picket fence of airplanes, destroyers and light cruisers miles out to take out Japanese planes and kamikaze before they reached the higher value battleships and carriers.

    joe Reply:

    @Joey storming an Embassy which is by definition US soil and holding American diplomats hostage also an act of War. They did it.

    Joey Reply:

    storming an Embassy which is by definition US soil and holding American diplomats hostage also an act of War. They did it.

    But not one that actually provoked armed conflict. In any case, does that event (36 years ago) play into the probability of armed conflict today?

    Zorro Reply:

    @ joe: Considering how fast todays computers are combined with a laser, that detect, identify and target might be very fast, the limitations would be in the ability of the turret to track the target and do that accurately I’d think, I think lasers are the future of AA protection, ships would no longer need magazines for air defense, more room could be devoted to other systems and/or resources instead.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Possibly crackpot question: do we know all these ten-times-over-budget Pentagon gadgets will actually work?

    Zorro Reply:

    Well I’ve seen the railgun work in a static test against a target, it is on CNN news website Here.

    Lasers though have been around for decades, though only recently have lasers come out of development for installation and testing in the field on a Navy Ship as told Here, still 1 mile range at present, in the future?

    Who knows…

    Not too long back there was talk about arming US Fighter Aircraft with Lasers.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Actually, Alon, the insiders say most of the high-tech stuff does not work well.

    This is because it’s not designed to win wars. It’s designed to pay the salaries of the military contractors. Military Industrial Complex — Eisenhower warned us about it, and now it’s a threat to our national security.

    Eric Reply:

    there are no ships in service that have that kind of armor anymore, and no facilities that can produce that kind of armor anymore either. Most ships use void spaces for armor these days.

    Zorro Reply:

    Anime has nothing on the US Navy in reality, the Navy has a ship with a Laser, deployed in the Arabian gulf, Mach 3 is nothing, too slow, Light is much faster than that Dinosaur Speed.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Should that happen, yeah. Bibi’s way too weak to do that without US authorization, and he’s carefully burning every bridge to the Obama administration, and by extension the entire Democratic Party. That’s what happens when instead of a prime minister, Israel has an Adelson lobbyist.

    There was a report in Haaretz that Bibi tried to lobby the Japanese government to legalize gambling, so that Adelson could open a casino. Adelson didn’t threaten to sue for libel, as he would have if it was false, but made another threat, and Haaretz deleted the article. Draw your own conclusions.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And yet the Cheerleaders want to give Adelson a free crazy train. Fail to see much difference.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But nobody is going to use it so why would he care?

    Eric Reply:

    Weak domestically or internationally?

    Domestically, I think that once a war started – certainly a short one rather than an indefinite low-intensity occupation – everyone would be on the leader’s side for the duration of the war (and afterwards, if it appeared to be successful). And this is the kind of attack that would have to be launched by surprise in the middle of the night, so there would be no need for a public consensus before the attack.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Weak in terms of personality. He easily succumbs to pressure, and is bad at making difficult decisions. Unlike Sharon, or even Begin, he’s not one for game-changing international moves. Domestic moves, sure, but the last two he tried (bringing Mofaz-era Kadima into the coalition, merging with Israel Beitenu) blew up in his face. The closest thing he’s done to a major international move, last summer’s Gaza War, was pure mission creep.

    Israel’s also weak internationally in the sense of being incapable to make major moves like that without US authorization. Wars on Gaza, okay, nobody cares. My guess is that Israel could also formally back the FSA and launch strikes against Assad (whether it should is a different story). But Iran is a major regional power, and a direct war there is beyond the Israeli prime minister’s pay grade.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Netenyahu is, however, completely bonkers, and under pressure from even crazier people like Avigdor Lieberman. What if some of his domestic lunatics push him into starting a war with Iran?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The domestic lunatics don’t have that much power. Israel has a fairly strong prime minister, by parliamentary proportional representation standards. Bibi also makes sure to get a centrist fig leaf every time: Labor in 2009, and Lapid and Livni in 2013.

    On top of that, Lieberman is actually pretty weak, himself. He’s like Milosevic, in that to him, domestic autocracy comes first; he will threaten war to make himself look strong, but have no interest in actual war. Now, Nasser was the same and 1967 happened anyway, but Nasser was an autocrat, whereas Lieberman is a me-too who’s not 100% certain to even get past the electoral threshold that he himself increased.

    Even Bennett is posturing more than insane. He pushed for more bombings of Gaza, but when Israel bombs Gaza, the world lodges official complaints; if it were to bomb Iran, the world would respond differently. Ultimately, Bennett’s party is less interested in world war than in more subsidies for settlers and domestic incitement against people who annoy them.

    Nathanael Reply:

    OK, good. That was my optimistic analysis (Lieberman and Bennett were more interested in domestic affairs, conquering the West Bank etc. than messing around with faraway Iran), but I wasn’t sure.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A nuclear attack could be directed at a number of countries.

    A first one would change many more things than “…the era of cheap gas would end…”

    A second strike against the same target or ally would be apocalyptic. The parties would recognize their survival requires the elimination of the ideology warring against them. The Carthaginian approach. Unconditional surrender would only be acceptable with permanent occupation and reeducation.

    TomA Reply:

    No one is nuking anyone. I think we can eliminate that as a realistic scenario. MAD is still a thing.

    synonymouse Reply:

    On the contrary, the tech could not be that hard if we did it twice in 1945, aeons ago, in the age of vacuum tubes.

    Whole regions seem to be falling back, deteriorating, in reverse. Population growth is now probably the cause, ironic since at one level it was necessary for “progress”.

    Fanaticism seems to spring up naturally and spontaneously, like crab grass. The West is impotent, still paralyzed by post-colonial guilt, etc.

    The future belongs to China, not squeamish about dealing with jihaders.

    Useless Reply:

    synonymouse

    > The future belongs to China, not squeamish about dealing with jihaders.

    Wrong, China has the worst jihadist problem of all, because at least 300 Uyghurs are fighting for ISIS in Syria, most of whom would return to China and utilize their hard-learned skills to launch Jihad in China.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, if China decolonized Xinkiang, this wouldn’t be a problem. Most of the other empires have decolonized; China’s a major exception.

    Nathanael Reply:

    (I studied Central Asia in high school. It’s 100% occupied territory, like Tibet. Not Chinese at all.)

  6. Ted Judah
    Feb 17th, 2015 at 17:41
    #6

    The challenging part of this thesis is the idea high speed rail hopes to attract all walks of life when it’s completed. However that is looking less and less likely as the economic recovery continues to redistribute wealth upward.

    I knew transportation planners who were convinced higher gas prices produced ridership, but if so how does that explain Metrolink collapsing on itself?

    Instead, I will argue that high gas prices are part of a specific economic recipe that weakens the US dollar, manufacturing, and interest rates. High speed rail can’t reverse this trend on its own.

    joe Reply:

    Building infrastructure with livable wages stimulates the economy and redistributes wealth.

    It’s the building stuff which matters and paid for with a progressive tax code that pulls more from the upper than lower class.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Actually, no: it’s social spending that redistributes wealth. Scandinavia has about the same level of inequality as the US before taxes and transfers. After taxes and transfers, its inequality is far lower; taxes and transfers here reduce inequality by twice as much as they do in the US (about 47 -> 29 Gini vs. 47 -> 37 in the US). Taxes on the rich here are higher than in the US – marginal rates are about 67%, starting at an annual income of $73,000 – but taxes on everyone are quite high as well: 47% almost from the first krona. There’s also a 25% sales tax. All these taxes fund free health care and education, much better pension benefits than US Social Security, and a guaranteed minimum income. That’s what redistributes wealth. Keeping the Bush tax cuts for people making under $200,000 a year doesn’t.

    joe Reply:

    Actually, yes.

    The New Deal put people to work and produced both jobs for personal income and it built infrastructure that is used today in my location. Many of the bridges were New Deal. That’s a well documented example.

    Today CA HSR is putting people to work with livable wages in economically depressed CV, building infrastructure that will last decades and promote commerce. That’s a correct answer.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Joe and Alon,

    Joe is faithfully explaining how the U.S. used to stimulate American prosperity in the post war period. By contrast, the Scandanavian model is the new hope that non-labor liberals embrace as a way to have your cake and eat it too. In both Britain and America, what liberals have failed to acknowledge is that the Scandanavian model gets attacked because societies are less racially homogeneous.

    The counterpoint in the US was to liberalize immigration so that whites would be no longer a majority and thus an alliance of different groups would embrace and protect the social safety net. So far, that strategy hasn’t worked, though “blue states” like California offer some hope.

    But Joe is correct that you need more than just redistributed taxes to enfranchise all levels of society and build lasting prosperity. The real mystery is what happens until the rest of the state is plugged in to the Bay Area and its dynamic economy. I recognize the political expediency of Fresno to LA, but its not the gamechanger that a San Jose to Fresno route will be.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Lol, I was just complaining on Twitter about Americans who think Scandinavia is homogeneous, and then I saw your comment.

    So, no. You should visit Stockholm before pronouncing it homogeneous. Is it whiter than Los Angeles and New York? Yes. Is it whiter than a random European or American city where people think welfare is for illegals? No. On the contrary: Sweden’s immigrant percentage is actually a bit higher than the UK’s, and much higher than the UK’s was on the eve of Thatcher’s election. American patriots, nativists, and racists (three different groups, but with large overlaps) are constantly amazed by the fact that Sweden allows far higher levels of unskilled immigration than the US while maintaining its welfare state. They have their ideas of what a dynamic economy is, and they’re unwilling to admit that a country that has free universities, universal health care, and a guaranteed minimum income program can be dynamic.

    As for US immigration policy: nothing there looks like it’s about demographic dilution. On the contrary – there’s consensus even among Democrats about letting in refugees from communist countries, who surely tilt to the right, and deporting refugees from fascist ones, who would lean to the left. The Democrats have not made any attempt to make it easier for people to immigrate and obtain citizenship, either; on the contrary, Obama’s deported more people than any other president, and his amnesty program is much more restricted than Reagan’s was. There’s a huge right-wing fantasy about self-hating white liberals who, lacking good white pride, are trying to dilute demographics by letting yellow and brown and black vermin in, but it’s pure projection. Those right-wingers think in terms of racial demographics, so they assume everyone else does, too.

    Zorro Reply:

    Yeah I don’t Goose step, don’t wear Nazi armbands and I won’t vote Republican, but then I have an open mind…

    Lewellan Reply:

    guffaw!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Sweden (which lack the natural resource income of Denmark and Norway) love bringing in more immigrants who are willing to pay high taxes to keep the system going. And America’s problem is that we always had this large underclass of workers who were never absorbed into the prosperity others shared. So no matter how aggressively we adopt a Scandanavian model, there would always be a group left out.

    This divisiveness in my opinion is a vestige of the British political system that thrives on conflict and a focus on real property as the paramount concern of government.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, Norway has very high immigration rates, like Sweden.

    Second, Sweden’s composition of immigrants is heavily tilted toward humanitarian migration, i.e. refugees, the poorest class of immigrants. It’s not like the US, whose immigrants tend to be skilled and unskilled work migrants, let alone Canada, whose immigrants tend to be skilled workers. Not at all. Levels of discrimination against immigrants here are horrific; the sort of racism Americans engage in against black people, the Swedes engage in against first- and second-generation immigrants. Only a few days ago, a video from Malmö made the rounds on social media, showing a cop tackling a child of (I believe) 11 and sticking his face into the pavement for riding the trains without a ticket.

    So no, it’s not that Sweden’s fishing for taxpaying immigrants. Not at all. It just has a self-conception as a Great Humanitarian Society – one that doesn’t engage in wars, only sells weapons to the belligerents (seriously, it’s a major arms exporter); leads when it comes to reducing GHG emissions; gives a large proportion of its GDP, I believe 1%, in foreign aid; and lets in huge numbers of refugees by first-world standards, but doesn’t really care about what happens to them after they get in.

    Finally, the divisiveness isn’t an aspect of the British concern with real property. It’s an aspect of an electoral and political system that encourages bipolar politics and, in the US, relies on huge numbers of veto points rather than on consensus. Scandinavia is traditionally bipolar as well, between the social democrats and the center and right, but relies on norms of consensus and on either coalition friction (when the right’s in charge) or the social democrats’ minority government (when the left’s in charge) to prevent the coalition from running roughshod over the opposition.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The usual number tossed around for New York City is that 40 percent of the population was not born in the US. Unclear if that also includes Puerto Ricans Samoans etc. If the population of Sweden, in very very round numbers is the same as New York City, it’s easier to emigrate to New York City. There’s more of them in New York City. They decide that the rent is too high and move to New Jersey. Or make a bit of money and move to the Island. Or look over Scranton and decide that earning minimum wage in Scranton means they can buy a 1,200 square foot single family house with off street parking and move to Scranton.

    Andy M Reply:

    Humanitarian immigration is mostly a crutch. Immigrants are admitted because the economy requires (or is thought to require) cheap labor. If they weren’t required, they wouldn’t be admitted. It’s purely economical, supply & demand. The humanitarian bit of the story is just PR. A bit like the fols who justify slavery by saying that being a slave in a cotton state was still a gazillion times better than being a free man in malaria and cannibal infested Africa. The cynicism with which profiteers make themsleves to philantropists is heart breaking.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The usual number tossed around for New York City is that 40 percent of the population was not born in the US.

    Yeah, that’s why I’m saying Stockholm’s less diverse than New York and Los Angeles (and San Francisco, and Toronto, and Vancouver). But the US overall is 13% foreign-born and Sweden’s 17% foreign-born; Stockholm is about 25% foreign-born. Most of the US is not New York. I’ve spent a lot of time around New Englanders whose social circles are entirely native-born American; even in a region that the Sarah Palins of the world castigate as Unreal America just like New York, there aren’t that many immigrants.

    Humanitarian immigration is mostly a crutch.

    In the US, it is. This side of the Atlantic, it’s different.

    Think about this logically for a few second. The US has generous residency and citizenship rules, for people from communist countries. Vietnamese and Cuban refugees could get in very easily, while Haitian refugees the US returned to Baby Doc’s Haiti. The reason for this is not economic. What do Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Russian, Romanian, and Cuban refugees have in common that Haitian and Honduran immigrants don’t have? It’s purely political. In the US, the politics is anti-communist; in Europe, it’s human rights. Just because some Americans seem to think letting asylum seekers in equals slavery doesn’t mean the rest of the world is this callous.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I know Swedes see themselves as a force for good in the world and act accordingly. However so does France, the U.S., Israel, and once upon a time, Nazi Germany.

    My own experience is basically that Britain and her colonies can’t build a safety net that is purely redistributive because the other side is too close to a more Imperial and institutionalist system. Literally, you have the Imperial system in the former Roman Empire, the Anglo Saxon system on the other parts of the Continent but in Britain and the U.S. we got both systems.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sure, but it says a lot that Americans say “freedom” and Swedes say “human rights.”

    joe Reply:

    I suppose “human rights” is His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden’s favorite catchphrase.

    Andy M Reply:

    Alon Levy, It is very difficult to repatriate immigrants to a place like Cuba if the authorities there aren’t cooperating (or even talking to you). Thus if you come from a friendly country its cheaper and easier to send you home and immigrants coming for difficult countries can stay because the diplomatic costs of sending them home would be too high. Pure economics. Human rights is pure PR. Government is all about cynicism.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, “diplomatic costs” is a political rather than economic concept.

    Second, the US isn’t just letting Cubans stay. It gives Cubans a very easy path to citizenship, and gives green cards on arrival to post-Soviet refugees. My guess is that it would do the same with Kurdish refugees from Islamist violence if there were a mass migration.

    And third, you won’t believe the sort of efforts countries go to to deport asylum seekers when they don’t have the US’s dualistic asylum policy. The entire economy of Nauru is based on the purpose-built prison camp for asylum seekers that Australia built just so that it wouldn’t have to put them in an Australian prison. Israel is concocting convoluted agreements with multiple African countries in order to return Sudanese and Eritrean refugees while avoiding nonrefoulment laws; Israel deports them to third countries, like Rwanda, which then deport then back to Sudan or Eritrea, and Israel gets to claim it’s Rwanda’s fault if the Eritrean and Sudanese governments murder them.

    Seriously, just because the US thinks human rights is for eggheads doesn’t mean everyone else does. Governments make efforts to further their political choices. Some choose nationalism and war; others choose human rights and peace.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And New York City is 40 % foreign born. It’s easier to emigrate to the US. There’s more immigrants in the US than there are in Sweden.

    joe Reply:

    “Lol, I was just complaining on Twitter about Americans who think Scandinavia is homogeneous, and then I saw your comment.”

    Tell me about Sweden’s bloody and bitter civil war. Homogenous isn’t just about skin colors.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    A civil war that was about how to treat people of a different skin color, yes…

    joe Reply:

    Homogenitey in Sweden is pretty much spot on relative to the US.

    The civil war was a cultural and political power struggle, not a race war.

    President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

    The slaves in the territories and states loyal to the Union and under Lincoln’s direct power were of course still slaves.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Are you really arguing that the US Civil War was not about slavery?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Stealing your material from my old AP US History class?

    Slavery causes the Civil War but not because it was a moral wrong but because the political class couldn’t figure out how to reconcile itself with industrialization. Robert actually deleted me on Facebook as a friend because I pointed out on Twitter because I made the same point as Joe.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That was in the 1930s (by the way, even then, Sweden opted for a higher minimum wage and a social safety net to get out of the Depression). I’m talking now. Show me the successful progressive-tax-and-infrastructure program to reduce inequality in the last few decades.

    Zorro Reply:

    The closest to that would be SSI and todays Republicans hate it, since Nixon signed it into law in 1972 and baggers today want it cut by 31%.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There’s a bunch of stuff in the US – Medicare/Medicaid, SSI, Pell grants, public housing, TANF, food stamps, workers’ comp, EITC. It’s just a hodgepodge of programs that don’t work well together and don’t give poor people enough income to live on. That’s what happens when keeping tax rates low is a bigger priority than eliminating poverty.

    Zorro Reply:

    And almost no one wants to do anything beyond cut, cut and cut, all out of spite.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It’s the poison pill strategy: if you can’t deny minorities rights explicitly, then you have to do it indirectly by weakening the social safety net.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, but. Vermont has a Socialist Senator, heavily Democratic state government, and practically no minorities. And yet, single-payer health care failed there.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Single-payer health care in Vermont was deliberately sabotaged by the federal government. It’ll pass eventually, but the “first you have to set up this convoluted exchange system for 3 years, and you can’t include ERISA-covered people, and….” pretty much sucked the energy out of it.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Yeah, Alon don’t read into the collapse of the public option as a failing of Democrat bona fides. In many states, socialized medicine would look a lot more like Medicaid for all than Medicare for all because of the network consideration. That being said a rural state like Vermont would be a good place to test it out. But as Nathaneal hints, the Lieberman wing of the Democratic Party is really scared of single-payer in a universal context.

    It would basically turn Wall Street and Washington upside down by shutting off a huge source of liquidity in these health insurance premium payments.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Eh. The Lieberman wing is part of the party. I’d be a lot less cynical if liberal Democrats said, “the party wants to move toward universal health care, but a large fraction of it opposes single-payer or a public option and wants the bulk of health insurance spending to remain private.” But of course the liberal Democratic pundits can’t say that, because they’re not trying to accurately describe the political situation; they’re trying to change it by making sotto voce claims. Italian mafia dons say “Mr. Gambini is bad for the business”; American media pundits say “we all know the American people want universal health care and hate private insurance companies.”

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Democratic Party is the right-wing party in the US. The Republican Party is the raving looney fascist death cult party. It’s important to recognize this.

    (It’s also bloody obvious. Just watch what the Republican candidates at the national level say. One of their core principles is denying all of science! Many of them openly espouse theocracy, which is of course unconstitutional.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    …our lack of a liberal party which wins seats is a serious problem. Of course there actually is such a party in Vermont, but not in most of the US.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Alon: There has been no successful program to reduce inequality without large progressive taxes on the rich. EVER. In world history. They are a required component of any such program.

    The only way to reduce inequality is to take money away from the extremely rich people who have a vested interest in increasing inequality.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And spending the money on the poor is not a required component? Postwar America had higher marginal taxes than today’s Sweden. The difference is that it spent the money on ICBMs, military coups, and napalm, rather than on universal health care, social security, and unemployment benefits.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It spent the money on its most highly regarded export sector and lifted a lot of marginal workers out of poverty in the process. It’s open question whether U.S. GDP can grow as fast without defense spending as a major component.

    Still, I’d be happy to beat more swords into plowshares as long as it doesn’t create the same deindustrialization patterns we have seen in the last 25 years….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Did you see how small Switzerland’s military spending is? You don’t need a huge military to have an industrial economy.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It helps if you can skim vigorish from the tax avoidance and money laundering.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Does it? Switzerland’s famous (or infamous) for its banking sector… and yet it still has a huge manufacturing sector. That doesn’t usually happen – London and New York completely deindustrialized, and the rising costs of labor and of living caused by their huge finance sectors have a lot to do with it.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Honestly, for these type of discussions, you have to compare Europe as a whole to the U.S. Alon’s argument is as fallacy-ridden as comparing how much a US state spend per pupil in primary education to a sovereign nation.

    Further, it’s not that I want more defense spending per se. It’s that I don’t think there’s been an acknowledgement of how integral the big defense booms were to boosting GDP and the economy as a whole. I think a lot of the discussion presumes the sort of incredible GDP growth can happen in a pure consumer driven market and I don’t know if that’s true. Now, I’m sure we can have a functioning economy and positive growth, it just might not be like it was…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Didn’t say it wasn’t a required component. Yes, spending the money on the poor (or at least the lower classes) is also a required component.

    But taking the money away from the ultra-mega-obscenely rich is a required component too.

    And in the 1950s the US *did* actually transfer the money to the poor (at least *some* of the poor). GI Bill, for starters, and then subsidies for strong union manufacturing jobs, and I can list other examples if I think about it.

    This didn’t end until the 1980s. The tidal wave of bribe money from the obscenely rich is what was able to end it.

    This is why I think that taxing the power out of the obscenely rich comes first: once you do that, the Congressmen actually start listening to the demands for “well paying jobs”.

    IKB Reply:

    “High speed rail can’t reverse this trend on its own”.
    [Reply]
    TJ, you are so, so correct. It simply comes down to whether we want something better than what we have and how we can achieve it, and perhaps if we want to

  7. Reality Check
    Feb 18th, 2015 at 16:37
    #7

    New bill would declare nightmare stretch of Highway 101 between SF & San Jose the “most important” in the state

    Reality Check Reply:

    Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Kevin Mullin Introduces Bill to Address Congestion Relief on Highway 101

    Assembly Speaker Pro Tem, Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) today introduced AB 378 which seeks to provide a framework for addressing major congestion along California State Highway 101 through San Mateo County.

    Bay Area residents are well aware of and in many instances are benefitting from the strong local economy. However, an unfortunate side effect of the economic recovery has been increased congestion and traffic delays on our roadways including California State Highway 101.

    AB 378 makes findings and declarations that the 48 mile Highway 101 corridor between San Francisco and San Jose is the most economically productive and important highway corridor in California. AB 378 also finds that transportation capacity in the corridor is grossly insufficient to serve the growing number of commuters, leading to heavy and growing traffic congestion and serious overcrowding on Caltrain. In addition, AB 378 declares that in order to sustain the economic engine of the Highway 101 corridor and the quality of life for local residents, swift and decisive action by transportation agencies is needed to relieve commuter congestion. Finally, if statutory changes are needed AB 378 will provide the requisite authority.

    […]

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    BART on El Camino Real

    Joe Reply:

    Thank god the locals made it very hard to expand the caltrain ROW with a unanimous consent vote for approval.

    This is why HSR in the Central Valley is a critical beginning. Every bookend has problems and reasons to redirect the money.

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    Time for grade-separated rail around the Bay and for a five-county board to plan, fund, and bring such a rapid transit network to the voters – like that for BART in 1962.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    BART from Alameda to SF 19th Ave, south on El Camino Real to San Jose and north on the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael, and thanks for your change of tune Robert S. Allen

    synonymouse Reply:

    I’d rather have a second deck for cars on the GG Bridge than fucking BART.

    jimsf Reply:

    I hate to say I told you so, but on this very blog I said that as soon as the economic recovery comes, that the first thing californians will start demanding is freeway upgrades. happens every time. That also goes for public transportation and it will apply to the high speed rail project as well.

    The “we don’t need it and can’t afford it right now” will become ” whats taking so long and why didn’t some plan this sooner!”

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The upgrades on 101 are also to try and build support for overturning the 1974 growth limit initiative in San Jose.

    joe Reply:

    Well jimsf, this is San Mateo complaining about the transit crisis. They approve job growth but not housing. They oppose most traffic flow and transit projects.

    Caltrans already has plans to add lanes and HOV to 101 on the entire Santa Clara Co segment. I wish it included Caltrain service but so far cars cars cars.

    Probably the easiest way to sustain growth and offer traffic mitigation is add dedicated BRT on EL Camino from SF down to San Jose and Express VTA on Monterey to South County.

    Then allow multi story infill with relaxed parking requirements along the EL Camino Real BRT including Atherton. This will redirect development as the economy grows along the corridor.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Express VTA on Monterey to South County-why not increase Caltrain service

    joe Reply:

    Well, both.

    VTA runs commuter 121 and 168 express service with stops at all the South County Caltrain stations and then runs non-stop to either downtown San Jose Diridon or Santa Clara/Sunnyvale.

    The express clientele is better than the local (168 vs 68) because of the higher fare. My spouse has had to use there 68 and it’s not that nice at times. You hit up for money pretty aggressively and sit in the front.

    Joey Reply:

    The funny thing about adding capacity to freeways, especially urban freeways, is that it never seems to be enough – if there’s enough travel demand for the freeway to become clogged, then there’s usually enough latent demand for any new capacity to be eaten up almost immediately. To provide real congestion relief, you need to increase capacity by a factor of 2 or more, and that’s usually only possible with rail.

    Derek Reply:

    AB 378 also finds that transportation capacity in the corridor is grossly insufficient to serve the growing number of commuters, leading to heavy and growing traffic congestion and serious overcrowding on Caltrain.

    That’s a problem that yield management easily solves, even without adding capacity.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    “ leading to heavy and growing traffic congestion and serious overcrowding on Caltrain.”

    This is due more to Caltrain NOT running adequate service and trains that are too short.

    Is this bill going to be about cars, cars, cars, and freeway expansion or will it address the serious underfunding of Caltrain?

    joe Reply:

    Yes. The Bill will be about cars car cars as usual. Probably Toll/HOV lanes.
    They will continue to expand 101 and assure that no cars back up on city streets.

    In 2001 Santa Clara ran 4 trains and 4 101 lanes in south county.
    Caltrans expanded 101 to 8 lanes and now plans additional lanes for HOV/Toll. Train service is down to 3 trains and ridership off the peak prior to the HQ expansion.

  8. jimsf
    Feb 18th, 2015 at 16:56
    #8

    The problem with rising gas prices is the damage to the the economy. Its cuts into american’s disposable income. Luckily we have plenty of domestic energy but the US needs to come up with a policy of using the right fuel for the right purpose.

    Homes should be all electric and electricity should be generated by nuclear plants.
    Petroleum products should be reserved for applications that specifically require petroleum products everything from drugs and plastics to anything mechanical, the military, and so forth and gasoline and diesel for cars and trucks until such time that alternative methods of powering vehicles become the standard.

    The more we use “all of the above” the less dependent we have to be on foreign oil which means the less involved we have to be those countries period.

    For our own domestic security we need to increase production at home have policies that keep those products at home as well. American energy production for American use.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The doohickeys in my house don’t care where the electricity came from. Or the doohickeys connected to the grid almost anywhere.

    There’s very little that needs petroleum. We use it because it’s cheap to use. There are alternatives for almost everything.

    Zorro Reply:

    Some don’t have the money for alternatives.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Nuclear is pointlessly dangerous and expensive.

    Based on the current *exponential* growth of solar panel deployment, and the Swanson’s law drop in solar panel pricing, and the continuing volume-production-related drops in battery pricing, and the slower but still exponential increases in battery production, solar + batteries will cover 100% of US needs inn roughly 2032. (Exponential curves grow fast.)

    No point in wasting effort on anything else.

    wdobner Reply:

    You mean one specific 50 year old design for a nuclear power plant is dangerous and expensive. There are many other designs worth trying before we consign ourselves to the ecological damage of wind and solar.

    Solar and wind growth is not exponential and cannot be exponential. At current growth rates it will be more than 80 years before wind and solar can provide more than 50% of year round demand for the U.S. And that assumes those panels, collectors, and turbines don’t need to be replaced, which they will.

    There’s no point in solar or wind.

    joe Reply:

    There are many other designs worth trying before we consign ourselves to the ecological damage of wind and solar.

    Which means: “assign; commit decisively or permanently.”

    We should do what’s best and not treat this like anything but a choice between nuclear with hundreds of billions if not trillion dollar gov’t effort to make it work better and safer versus a 10+ billion dollar gov’t effort to build renewables.

    My neighbor has solar installed via solarcity which owns the panels and sells him electricity at a lower fee than PG&E and sells excess back to the grid. Or we can build a nuclear reactor with public liability and risk assumption.

    wdobner Reply:

    nuclear with hundreds of billions if not trillion dollar gov’t effort to make it work better and safer versus a 10+ billion dollar gov’t effort to build renewables.

    FLiBe, Terrapower, Transatomic, and the Chinese National Academy of Sciences all put the cost to develop a low pressure, high temperature liquid fueled nuclear reactor in the $1 to $4 billion range. We could develop those reactors, which are intrinsically safe, build a few for around a billion a pop, and still have money left over to squander on weak renewable energy projects. Except that those few nuclear reactors would outproduce every solar and wind farm in California. They’d do it while consuming nuclear waste and actually would be *reducing* the amount of background radiation.

    My neighbor has solar installed via solarcity which owns the panels and sells him electricity at a lower fee than PG&E and sells excess back to the grid.

    Sure, because of Feed-In tariffs and power purchase agreements, which are a direct subsidization of the solar power by the utility. The utility is being forced to buy power from thousands of noisy producers, correct that power factor to balance capacitive and inductive reactance, and then find something to do with the overproduction. Because the feed-in tariffs are fixed, you get paid the same amount even when everyone else’s panels are doing the same thing and the value of energy produced is virtually nil. In fact they’re essentially dissipating the energy from most solar panels in the grid rather than try to route it to something like a data center, which isn’t going to want to deal with such noisy, intermittent power.

    This is quickly coming to a head though. Utilities in OK and AZ have already pushed through legislation that essentially eliminates this subsidization of overproduction and ultimately protects the grid.

    You could rebuild the grid to handle distributed sources, but then you REALLY are talking at least a trillion dollars. More likely around ten trillion dollars across the entire country. And at the end of that rebuild you still wouldn’t have added a single watt of additional generating capacity anywhere.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Get a clue, nuclear shill.

    Solar installation growth rates are exponential, at a factor of (geometric average over 15 years, which is as far back as I could get solid data easily) 1.3 per year. There is no bottleneck visible which can stop this. Even the overnight storage problem has effectively been solved, and going off-grid is cheaper than grid in Hawaii and most of Alaska already.

    So solar will supply all of the US’s current electricity needs in 2032. The elimination of gasoline cars in favor of battery cars might mean that it takes another year for solar to supply all of the US’s 2032 electricity needs.

    Get a clue. Building a *single* new nuclear plant *of any design* would not be completed by 2032. It doesn’t matter what the design is, it would be obsolete before it was finished.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I have to emphasize that. It doesn’t matter how awesome your nuclear plant design is. If you can’t get it up and running in 17 years — and you can’t — it’ll be obsolete before it starts running.

    wdobner Reply:

    Get a clue, nuclear shill.

    I might say the same of you, coal/oil shill. After all, if you don’t want nuclear to provide reliable power you’re going to be burning coal and gas for a very, very long time to come.

    Solar installation growth rates are exponential, at a factor of (geometric average over 15 years, which is as far back as I could get solid data easily) 1.3 per year.

    Yeah, you can do an exponential series fit and get the R-squared values way down. But they’ve fallen short in recent years. Reality is setting in, and nobody is going to invest in production capacity only to flood the market. It’s unrealistic to expect businesses to support an otherwise unsustainable business model because it suits your argument.

    Even the overnight storage problem has effectively been solved,

    How? Batteries? Where are those going to come from? And how are you supposed to charge the batteries, supply and supply your instantaneous needs? You’re piling inefficiencies on top of inefficiencies. First your panel only converts 25% of the energy of the sun into electrical energy, then it only does so ~30% of the time, and now you have to size it to produce 150% of your peak energy need so it can charge those batteries.

    …going off-grid is cheaper than grid in Hawaii and most of Alaska already.

    Okay, but how are Hawaii and Alaska’s experiences applicable to the other 48 states? Neither of them has significant secondary industrial sector activity, which is where most of our non-transportation carbon emissions come from.

    So solar will supply all of the US’s current electricity needs in 2032.

    … in nameplate capacity, and then only if we accept your fantasy that growth will continue exponentially (which, again, it won’t). Given solar’s poor capacity factor it’ll only happen around 30% of the time. The other 60% of the time you’ll be burning through coal and gas to make up for the disparity between nameplate capacity and effective capacity.

    Get a clue. Building a *single* new nuclear plant *of any design* would not be completed by 2032.

    Except Vogtle 3 and 4 are on track to come online in 2017 or 2018. That’s 4 or 5 years after construction began and less than a decade from initial NRC approval. A lot less than 17 years. And they’ll still produce energy at rates lower than utility owned solar power plants, and a LOT cheaper than residential panels with their onerous fixed tariffs. That’s hardly obsolete.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Bzzzt, nuclear shill.

    I already told you. 17 years. That’s what you’ve got. At that point, solar will have completely displaced coal, oil, and nuclear.

    Vogtle 3 and 4 started a very long time ago.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And, nuclear shill, the exponential growth in solar will continue. It’s merely your fantasy that it won’t. You want to fantasize that it won’t because you know that it’s going to stop nuclear from being economic.

    joe Reply:

    BTW

    “At current growth rates it will be more than 80 years before wind and solar can provide more than 50% of year round demand for the U.S. ”

    And this claim is patently false.
    US Solar Energy Capacity Grew 418% From 2010-2014. Growth rate.

    Add a battery to the system and you solve a mass of problems. Wal-Mart stores use solar and battery to store and deliver power off peak.

    wdobner Reply:

    US Solar Energy Capacity Grew 418% From 2010-2014. Growth rate.

    That’s nameplate capacity. Actual capacity is between 25 and 45% of that. Heck, Ivanpah isn’t even producing its nameplate capacity in direct sunlight on 100 degree days. In either event, that growth rate is not sustainable and will quickly fall off, especially once the utilities get sick of paying feed-in tariffs for worthless power.

    Add a battery to the system and you solve a mass of problems.

    Sure, just add a battery, I mean what problem can’t be solved with the ignorant bliss that is innumeracy? Let’s make that capacity factor even worse! Maybe you can get it to 15% if you try hard enough. Where are these batteries coming from? Worldwide production of batteries is insufficient to make even a small dent in the vanishingly small amount of energy production that can be stored. Energy storage is an expensive distraction.

    Wal-Mart stores use solar and battery to store and deliver power off peak.

    So because Walmart takes advantage of subsidization by utilities that makes it right? Is subsidizing your business by using welfare payments to make up for underpayment of employees also a business model to be imitated?

    joe Reply:

    Well you now admit the growth rate for Solar is okay. I think we’re doing well.

    Plants are about 4% effect converting sunlight into carbon bond energy. Panels are somewhere over 25% efficient.

    The impermeable surface of the 48 states/US is about the size of Ohio (USGS/NASA). A photo-voltaic surface coating that produces electricity on some fraction of that area would be sufficient for Star Fleet.

    I don’t know what you mean by innumeracy. My car has a 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Why can’t a home use the similar tech to store electricity? Oh that Musk guy is at it again.
    http://cleantechnica.com/2014/09/22/every-solarcity-customer-will-get-battery-backup-within-5-10-years/

    Most notably, they stated that SolarCity would be including battery backup systems with every single one of its rooftop solar power systems within 5-10 years. Many of those, but not necessarily all of them, would come from Tesla’s planned gigafactory.

    Solar panel costs and battery costs have been coming down fast in the past several years, and that cost reduction is projected to continue. Furthermore, SolarCity and Tesla aim to be in the center of it. SolarCity this year acquired Silevo in order to produce low-cost, high-efficiency solar panels in the US. And Tesla has started building a battery gigafactory in Nevada that, when completed, is supposed to produce as many lithium-ion batteries in a year as were produced all around the world in 2013. With economies of scale, costs should drop tremendously.

    It’s PR but the problem is cost, not technology. Surely the threat of solar/battery to the long term viability of conventional power generators is well documented in the internet.

    Nuclear is dead even with billions in subsidizes.

    wdobner Reply:

    Well you now admit the growth rate for Solar is okay. I think we’re doing well.

    I never debated the numbers, I debated the inference that because growth in the sector is currently exponential it will continue to be exponential. That’s not a sustainable business model. There will be a carrying capacity to the production which will limit future growth, at which time it will grow linearly. In fact 2014 fell short of what would be expected from exponential growth by nearly a gigawatt.

    The impermeable surface of the 48 states/US is about the size of Ohio (USGS/NASA).

    What does that have to do with anything? Are we to let some sort of PV-creating Von Neumann machines loose on Ohio? I can’t say I’d be particularly upset to lose Ohio, but how is that a realistic option? And really it only overshoots our domestic energy production by a factor of around 25 or so. The solar roads meme played itself out when reality kicked in.

    My car has a 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Why can’t a home use the similar tech to store electricity?

    I love how it says “many of the batteries” would come from the Gigafactory. In reality they’ll be tapped out Tesla batteries retired to an easier life at a reduced capacity with longer, slower charge times. But there are already doubts the Gigafactory will have enough lithium to keep itself supplied, so that’s not exactly the best option for long term planning.

    It’s PR but the problem is cost, not technology. Surely the threat of solar/battery to the long term viability of conventional power generators is well documented in the internet.

    It’s only a “threat” because the utility is being forced to pay for a worthless good when supply is high, and then is forced to charge a reduced amount when supply drops. If the utility were able to charge a market based rate for power than they’d have no financial issue with household solar installations. The problem is that your neighbor’s solar panels would cost him money because the utility would pay next to nothing to SolarCity for the power generated on everyone’s roof between 10am and 2pm. So it’s only subsidization that keeps household solar afloat, and even then it’s not a particularly secure thing.

    Nuclear is dead even with billions in subsidizes.

    A billion, singular. As in less than a seventh what goes to “renewables”. And for being “dead” it still manages to produce 20 times the energy of solar from reactors never designed to operate for more than 15 years. That’s a pretty good trick.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Of course there’s a limit to the exponential growth.

    That limit is demand. Once all of our electricity is produced from solar panels, the demand will drop off!

    There is no production-side limit coming any time soon. China is expanding solar panel factories at the same exponential rate, and will continue to do so. The market is *booming* worldwide, because it’s reached daytime grid parity nearly everywhere; nighttime grid parity is dependent on battery tech, so will take a few more years (maybe 5).

    The utilities which don’t transition will go bankrupt.

    wdobner Reply:

    Of course there’s a limit to the exponential growth… There is no production-side limit coming any time soon.

    You keep saying that, but that doesn’t make it true. You can do the math yourself and see that 2014 fell a gigawatt short of what would be expected from an exponential regression.

    That limit is demand. Once all of our electricity is produced from solar panels, the demand will drop off!

    And what business do you think wants to be stuck holding a huge number of solar panel plants when that happens? What investor is going to allow the company he’s poured money into to behave in so reckless a manner? And if China is putting so much into solar, then why are they also the world’s foremost investor in nuclear? Maybe it’s because they can do the math and see that Toronto has about the cleanest electrical energy in the world thanks almost entirely to their two enormous nuclear power plants. This while German cities’ carbon emissions have merely stagnated with the Energiewende and corresponding growth of brown coal consumption (for comparison Cologne hovering at between 400 and 500 grams CO2/kWh, 10 times as much). Solar can’t touch nuclear for low carbon emissions.

    The market is *booming* worldwide, because it’s reached daytime grid parity nearly everywhere;

    “Grid parity” with a fixed feed tariff is no parity. It’s still subsidization, it’s just that now that subsidization is borne by the utility and not the government. Let the utility pay what the market is willing to bear for your worthless electrons when everyone elses’ rooftop solar plant is cranking out the kilowatts and you’ll see just how far from grid parity we really are. Hint: the fact that it still takes subsidies to get utility scale PV plants built is a good clue that you’re nowhere near grid parity.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Stupid nuclear shill.

    Xcel in Colorado just approved a utility-scale PV plant without subsidies — actually, wait, that was two years ago already.

    Yes, there are random year-over-year fluctuations. 2013 showed *MORE* growth in solar installations than a pure exponential curve would predict. This means nothing.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Total battery requirement isn’t really very high. (First of all, areas with hydro already have sufficient nighttime production.)

    Lithium is extremely common and easy to mine. China has undercut other providers, but it’s trivial to set up more mines.

    wdobner Reply:

    Total battery requirement isn’t really very high. (First of all, areas with hydro already have sufficient nighttime production.)

    Battery requirement isn’t very high? This time of the year most Americans are using probably 75% of the energy in their house when the sun isn’t shining. Am I supposed to choose between running the electric stove, the electric heater, or running the computer? If you’re in denial of the magnitude of the problem you’re confronting, then that’s just fine, you can sit in the dark and cold.

    Lithium is extremely common and easy to mine. China has undercut other providers, but it’s trivial to set up more mines.

    Except that with all mining, you’re gonna turn up Thorium if you go digging for lithium in the US. That’s a nuclear waste, so it’s actually the exact opposite of just “set[ing] up more mines”. At least two possible US lithium mining operations have been scrapped before they even started because the lithium was mixed into a Monazite deposit rich in both heavy rare earth elements and thorium. Despite the fact that thorium is natural and totally harmless, it’s fertile, so the EPA considers it a nuclear source material and nobody wants to touch it with a forty foot pole, because they’ll be saddled with disposal costs. Of course if we had some sort of market in which to sell that thorium, and maybe use it somehow, like to generate power, in, I dunno, some sort of reactor, then it’d have a market value and the mining company wouldn’t have the cost of disposal.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The rare earth elements are popular right now. People will eventually pay to dispose of the thorium.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    At current growth rates people will go out and build more factories to make solar panels or windmills. More people will train to install and maintain them.

    wdobner Reply:

    So we end up with our entire economy becoming dedicated to the production and upkeep of these solar and wind farms? Meanwhile we dump untold millions of gallons of herbicides into the ground, spray the undersides of the panels with broad spectrum pesticides, and have millions of migratory birds killed. In what possible way is any of this environmentally friendly? I’ll take fracked natural gas over these things. At least that way someone might actually know what was dumped in the groundwater at some point.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No you want us to find a place to store things for half a million years.

    wdobner Reply:

    No, that’s what *you* want. If we’re not going to contemplate any new nuclear reactor designs then we’re stuck with the long-lived transuranic actinides now stored in dry casks and spent fuel pools as nuclear waste. And between now and when we fall off the nuclear cliff in the 2040s and are forced to retire all our nearly century old reactors (assuming they haven’t blown up), we’ll double our inventory of spent fuel.

    But if we build new reactor designs, such as Transatomic‘s Waste Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor, we can turn 96% of that nuclear “waste” into energy and have a waste stream of around a ton per year for a gigawatt-year of energy. That’s as compared to somewhere between 20 and 35 tons of waste for an equivalent light water reactor. Better yet that waste has a half life of 300 years, which allows something like Yucca Mountain to maintain

    A thorium breeder reactor produces an even smaller amount of long-lived actinide waste. Just 10 kilograms out of a total waste stream of around 1 ton per gigawatt year. The remainder has half lives of around a decade.

    The nuclear waste issue decried by so many anti-nukes is a solved problem. We just have to choose to innovate and implement the technologies that will free us from the blunders of the 1950s. Or we could choose to snub nuclear technology and find something to do with all our nuclear waste for the next 20,000 years. If you really want to take the latter course that’s your problem, I just hope you don’t make it my problem.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Physics is a bitch. New designs reduce but not eliminate the crap that’s going to be dangerous for a very long time.

    Eric Reply:

    Physics isn’t a bitch, politics is a bitch. Nuclear plants produce infinitesimal amounts of “crap” relative to the amount of power they produce, and that little waste can be buried deep underground where it’s unlike to kill anyone in the entire future history of Homo sapiens. The real obstacles to nuclear are panicked NIMBYs who interfere with any potential improvement to the efficiency and safety of the power infrastructure, as long as it has the word “nuclear” in its name, plus the steadily cheaper cost of solar power.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Get back to us when you are finished digging the hole.

    wdobner Reply:

    New designs reduce but not eliminate the crap that’s going to be dangerous for a very long time.

    Yes, that was precisely the point. These new reactor designs reduce the waste, both in volume and half-life. All while producing carbon free energy reliably and using the waste heat to desalinate water or produce carbon free transportation fuels. Oh, and some of the radionuclides in the waste that results will be useful as well.

    That’s as compared to eschewing nuclear, which still leaves us with all our “spent” nuclear fuel (which is still 95% fuel), which will be dangerous for at least the next 20,000 years, and forces us to use coal and gas to make up for the unreliability of wind and solar. The environmentally responsible decision is to build new nuclear reactors to reduce the spent nuclear fuel inventory and produce the carbon free energy solar and wind are incapable of producing reliably.

    What’s really a bitch is that wind turbines and solar thermal plants will always kill birds. That’s a prime example of physics being a bitch.

    Get back to us when you are finished digging the hole.

    The hole is dug. Yucca mountain, remember? Burn up the long lived actinides in the spent nuclear fuel by running it through a Waste Annihilating Reactor and the EPA’s attempts to obstruct the repository’s use by insisting it maintain waste for more than 100,000 years become a non-issue. 300 year half lives are much more manageable, particularly in the far smaller volumes we’d be looking at with a WAMSR type of reactor.

    joe Reply:

    Physics is the problem. Building a secure and dry site defies all we know about dynamics in earth system science.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Yuuca Mountain doesn’t work. Neither does that site in Texas (the WIPP).

    wdobner Reply:

    Joe:

    Physics is the problem. Building a secure and dry site defies all we know about dynamics in earth system science.

    I’ll give you that point if we’re talking about timeframes on the 100,000 year scale. But on the 300 year scale we can be far more certain of our ability to forecast potential changes in a repository. And really we could just leave it sitting in dry cask storage aboveground if we’re really worried about the stability of an underground repository. A couple of parking lots around an existing reactor would probably hold the entire repository for a good long while if we used WAMSRs to greatly reduce the volume and half life of our spent nuclear fuel.

    Nathanael:

    Yuuca Mountain doesn’t work. Neither does that site in Texas (the WIPP).

    The only reason it doesn’t work is because the EPA dictated that the DoE had to demonstrate that the site would not have a radiation release above background levels in the next million years. That’s kinda fair if you’re talking about light water reactor waste with its 100,000 year half lives. But with the reduced and shorter waste streams from WAMSRs, IMSRs, and LFTRs (and what the heck, even IFRs) then Yucca mountain doesn’t have to maintain the waste repository for millions of years. It only has to do so for two centuries at most. But again, dry cask and waste pool storage are both options for those waste streams. Either way, the nuclear waste problem has been solved, we just need to implement the solution.

    Or we could accept our current and growing waste inventory, and eschew new nuclear reactors, at which point we need to find something to do with the LWR waste. If you care about the nuclear waste problem you’d do best to build new nuclear reactors.

    joe Reply:

    “I’ll give you that point if we’re talking about timeframes on the 100,000 year scale. ”

    We are.
    I did some minor but enough consulting on this problem as an ecologist in deserts to see the issues. Even 300 years – you can get an event like a rare snowfall and then a rain event that melts it quickly and driving water penetration past the root zone and man made barriers.

    This stuff is dangerous because of Human behavior/culture

    The current waste problem is temporary storage and high cost – someday they’ll just not pay the bill for monitoring and a CEO will get a bonus. The crap will be at risk of being compromised.

    We as a species are not capable of persistent, long term behavior. Look at Rome and eastern roman empire. A few centuries of stable government and then some revolt or disruption followed by stability. They lasted 1,400 years between Rome and Constantinople / Istanbul.

    Jerry Reply:

    @wdobner
    So if we have waste of, “a ton per year”, or, “10 kilograms” per year, can it be packaged into a rocket and sent into the sun?

    wdobner Reply:

    You’d probably find NASA would want it to go the other way. These reactors can be adapted to produce Pu238, which is used in the radioisotope generators NASA has used for every probe beyond Mars until their most recent Jupiter mission. Just as nuclear “waste” from light water reactors is 95% fuel, not everything in a WAMSR’s waste stream is going to necessarily be waste. Plutonium 238 is just one potential product that can be extracted from the waste stream. Bismuth 213 can be extracted from the Uranium 233 used in a Thorium reactor and could be a powerful anti-cancer treatment. Kirk Sorenstam of FLiBe energy, which is working on a thorium reactor, has said the byproducts of the reactor could fund the development without any electricity or heat being sold.

    IMHO the big take-away is that it’s so much more efficient that existing waste management strategies become viable. We don’t have to resort to firing it into the sun.

    joe Reply:

    NASA uses thermal gradient from decay to power spacecraft which is nothing like what we need. The DOE can manufacture what is needed for space missions – a few pounds per year at most. The energy generated is far less less than a KW.

    wdobner Reply:

    Yeah, that’s it. RTGs, and ASRGs would utilize the Pu238 in the waste from advanced 250MW to 1GW reactors. You didn’t think I was seriously suggesting we use RTGs to supply our own power needs?

    joe Reply:

    How horrible. The Netherlands and Spain have been set back centuries from the desolation of windmills pumping water to reclaim land and for milling grains.

    Solar is especially damaging. My neighbors SolarCity panels sit on his roof, don’t move, don’t smell, don’t make noise, keep the sun off his home and save his ass money over PG&E and cost him squat because it’s SolarCity property. Oh and they pump electrons on the grid when he’s not using the power.

    How many tons of pesticides to they pump on a home roof or in the California desert. Are you even trying to make a coherent argument?

    wdobner Reply:

    Spain isn’t exactly a shining example of a thriving economy. Admittedly their poor economy is not attributable to their eschewing of nuclear power (unlike, say Germany and the Energiewende disaster), but not exactly one you want to hold up as a bastion of economic growth.

    My neighbors SolarCity panels sit on his roof, don’t move, don’t smell, don’t make noise, keep the sun off his home and save his ass money over PG&E and cost him squat because it’s SolarCity property.

    Rooftop solar will never supply all the energy required by the US. Even if we replaced all residential electricity consumption with rooftop solar, that’s just 4.69 quads (quadrillion BTUs) out of the 95 quads used by the US. Residential use of natural gas is just about equal to that. Both amounts are nearly rounding errors.

    That chart should give you some idea of the scale of the problem for solar or wind. You’re looking at having to replace energy sources providing three orders of magnitude more energy than solar energy. Even if we accept the fiction that growth will be exponential, just to replace the 318 GW of coal plants with solar (using installed nameplate capacity between 2006 and 2014) would require 41 years. And again, it’s impossible to sustain this sort of short term exponential growth. OTOH, a couple of factories which churn out a 250MW low pressure, high temperature reactor every two to four weeks will allow us to phase out coal in around half that timeframe, while also allowing cogeneration of carbon neutral petroleum fuels.

    Industrial energy consumption is more than double that of the residential and commercial sectors, and transportation is even greater. In either case they’re not going to be easy to get rooftop solar to supply both the building they’re sitting on and the car, factory, or whatever else.

    How many tons of pesticides to they pump on a home roof or in the California desert.

    Glad you asked. Because of the scale problem with rooftop solar, solar and wind farms will be required if we’re to phase out coal, oil, and gas, but still have something of a modern lifestyle. California and Nevada are of course noteworthy for the solar and wind farms in the Mojave. Except it turns out farming solar and wind are very ecologically damaging. The companies running the solar farms soak the ground under the panels with broad spectrum herbicides to prevent weeds whose leaves could damage the PV cells. Solar thermal plants cook birds alive if they’re unfortunate enough to fly between the collectors and the focus. And the impact of wind turbines on migratory birds have been well documented. In all cases pesticides are used to prevent insects from making homes of our renewable energy collectors. These are not ecologically friendly power sources by any stretch of the imagination. And then there’s the impact of turning so much land over to so little productivity, the increase in distribution losses getting the power over the grid from the generation site to the city, and the carbon generating maintenance activities. PV is already worse than nuclear from a carbon emission perspective, and it only gets worse when maintenance is taken into account.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    the increase in distribution losses getting the power over the grid from the generation site to the
    city

    How is it going to get from the nuclear power plant to the city? There’s very little distribution loss if I’m using the solar PV on my roof to run the ground sourced heat pump that “charges” the insulated tank that I use for heat. In the summer I can sell the excess to people in the city who like air conditioning.

    wdobner Reply:

    Again you focus on the rooftop solar, when that isn’t going to do anything to reduce industrial consumption. So you have to build solar farms in the middle of the Mojave. Then you get to dump that power on the grid and hope you don’t lose too much along the way. We already know Ivanpah is underperforming by a factor of around 60 to 75%. By the time the power gets to LA or LV it has to be incurring a loss of around 80 to 90% compared to DoE projections before the system was switched online.

    If rooftop solar gives you the warm and fuzzies then good for you, but it’s *not* a realistic solution to climate change. If you want to make a meaningful impact without going nuclear for base load then you’re going to have to deal with farms at some point, and that means you have to confront the very real problems present in maintenance of those farms.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Stupid nuclear shill.

    1 — There are no problems in maintenance of solar farms. They’ve all been solved.
    2 — Rooftop solar can displace the majority of commercial and residential energy use, and a fair bit of industrial use as well. You simply haven’t done the calculations.
    3 — industrial use *simply isn’t that high*. 21% of US usage. 29% is transportation!
    4 — *some* of the industrial usage of fossil fuels *cannot* be substituted away: I refer to the use of carbon in steelmaking. This is going to be the last to go, because there is no substitute.

    joe Reply:

    “Rooftop solar will never supply all the energy required by the US”

    Solar doesn’t have to supply all the energy needs. We see goal posts moving as the facts push nuclear into the background.

    As i mentioned before we have the size of Ohio covered in impermeable surface – a simple solar active coating on some fraction of this surface would power Star Fleet. No land impact.

    Ecological damage is overstated. Where do they spray herbicide in the CA desert ? I see cells them on structures, not flat on the ground. Show us a picture of solar panels in a productive cropping field.

    wdobner Reply:

    Solar doesn’t have to supply all the energy needs.

    Ah excellent. Finally one of the wind and solar advocates admits that it’s really all about shilling for the oil and gas industry. Just gotta quash nuclear for a few more years and then it’s nothing but frack gas and brown coal, right? America’s Energiewende! 25 cents a kilowatt and 500grams of carbon per person! But we’ve got rooftop solar and Ivanpah, so it’s got a green veneer! Sure, we could do nuclear + solar/wind, but someone might figure out the solar and wind aren’t actually doing anything, while coal/gas+solar/wind means solar and wind have an assured future in a higher carbon world.

    simple solar active coating on some fraction of this surface would power Star Fleet. No land impact.

    Simple? Do you know what goes into a PV cell? You’d need an area larger than the Cleveland metro area to power the US. And that’s only electricity. You’re not counting all the carbon produced through the direct use of oil, gas, and coal by the industrial and transport sectors. To replace EVERYTHING you’d need around 1/5th of Ohio. Again, solar roads aren’t an option, so you’re going to come up short trying to cover everything with solar panels.

    Ecological damage is overstated.

    The cognitive dissonance that is possible to justify some things is simply astonishing. Are we putting in solar to save the planet or aren’t we?

    Where do they spray herbicide in the CA desert ? I see cells them on structures, not flat on the ground. Show us a picture of solar panels in a productive cropping field.

    Pardon? Why does it need to be “productive cropping field”? Do wilderness areas have absolutely no value and thus can be destroyed as you see fit? No? Good, in that vein: Ivanpah? California Valley Ranch? Genesis Solar Energy? Why do you want a high speed train in Gilroy if you clearly never leave the city?

    Fun thing with solar power in the desert is that you have to clean the dust off the mirrors/PV cells, because the load factor is already so low. Unfortunately if you pour water on the ground in the desert (never mind the insanity of spraying water in the desert, during CA’s drought), something is going to find it and try to use it to live. That usually means a weed. Except that weeds will bind in the tracking motors, they could be a fire hazard, and their leaves can fall off and cause hot spots that destroy PV cells. So you douse the whole area with a broad spectrum defoliant to keep the growth down. And you don’t want insects or rodents using the mirror tracking housings, or even the mirrors/PV cells themselves for shelter if you’re going to have to go out and fix them. So you invest in some pesticides to cut down their populations. What you get is a 10 square mile dead zone all around this “green” power plant.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Pffft. Ecological damage from solar farms is minimal-to-nonexistent, especiallyin the desert.

    wdobner Reply:

    Come on, that’s glibly ignorant. Desert dwelling species are some of the most fragile and endangered species in the country. Their territories range over far larger areas than most forest and grassland creatures fulfilling similar ecological niches. Removing a few dozen square miles is bad enough. But to install a death ray which will cook any migratory bird (say coming up from the Salton Sea) unlucky enough to fly between the mirror and the collector and claim the plant is environmentally friendly is simply insulting to the intelligence of anyone debating the matter.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Also, wdobner, you’re being a fool in exactly the way I predicted you would be. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND EXPONENTIALS. Go back to class and learn how exponential growth works, then you can discuss this like an adult.

    wdobner Reply:

    I’d argue you don’t understand capacity factor. If solar is going to produce 30% of the time, then you can’t install 318 GW of solar nameplate capacity and call it a day. Well you can, but it’s going to be awkward calling Amtrak or UP to haul your CHSRA train through the Central Valley because it’s cloudy that day. To RELIABLY replace coal power in America you need to triple your production and then you’re looking at at least 40 years of production at your fantasy exponential rates.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Stupid nuclear shill.

    YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE EXPONENTIAL FUNCTION. Please go back to school and learn about it.

    You’re claiming that you need 3 times as much solar? Fine, add four years to my estimate. :eyeroll:

    This is basic math.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I’m not sure why you’re denying reality, wdobner. Solar panel deployment growth rates ARE exponential and have been for multiple decades. That’s just a stone-cold fact. They will continue to be. There are no restrictions; factory expansion is *also* following an exponential curve.

    The installation rate is following a (geometric) average growth factor rate of about 1.3 — that is, each year there’s about 1.3 times as much solar as their was the previous year.

    There is no bottleneck in the works which would prevent this from continuing.

    Solar will supply all our current electric needs by about 2032. This is just a fact.

    wdobner Reply:

    That’s just a stone-cold fact. They will continue to be. There are no restrictions; factory expansion is *also* following an exponential curve.

    That’s being totally irrational. Solar panel installations have already fallen short of what would be expected if it were truly exponential. Last year that shortfall was about a gigawatt’s worth of nameplate capacity.

    There are no restrictions; factory expansion is *also* following an exponential curve.

    You say that, but if you take an exponential regression of either installed capacity, or new installations, the simple fact is that 2013 and 2014 fell short of the exponential growth by a fair margin, and 2012 was a simply awful year. It’s easy to spool up production from nothing, but that sort of growth simply is not sustainable.

    The installation rate is following a (geometric) average growth factor rate of about 1.3 — that is, each year there’s about 1.3 times as much solar as their was the previous year.

    I get around 1.4, but same difference.

    There is no bottleneck in the works which would prevent this from continuing.

    Sure there is. These things are being produced and sold by private companies. Why would they want to overproduce and flood the market? The only way anyone is making any money in this game is through subsidies, so what possible business case would there be to overproduce?

    Solar will supply all our current electric needs by about 2032.

    Maybe on a sunny day, between 10am and 2pm, for a week or two centered on the summer solstice. The rest of the year you’re gonna be burning a lot of coal and gas to keep the lights on. And even then, you’ll need to install three times the nameplate capacity to even think about replacing the output of all those coal and gas plants supporting the grid.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Solar is already profitable without subsidies, you idiot.

    Nathanael Reply:

    (not everywhere, but in sunny places.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    I must point again to the fact that solar farms are winning competitive bids, against fossil fuels, without subsidy now. In Colorado and Arizona.

    joe Reply:

    Well, Germany made a huge commitment to solar and it is not a sunny country.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    A gigawatt short of what level?

    Nathanael Reply:

    And 2013 installed more than the nameplate capacity you’d expect from a pure exponential curve. That’s just random fluctuation.

    Stupid nuclear shill.

    Nathanael Reply:

    wdobner: On the off-chance that you’re acutally interested in learning about reality, read this.

    http://www.agora-energiewende.org/topics/optimisation-of-the-overall-system/detail-view/article/solar-energy-emerging-as-cheapest-power-source-in-many-parts-of-the-world/

  9. synonymouse
    Feb 18th, 2015 at 20:58
    #9

    http://www.citylab.com/commute/2015/02/the-sochi-light-rail-is-the-most-epic-failure-in-olympic-history/385580/

    “At $8.7 billion, and its useful life almost over, the Adler–Krasnaya Polyana high-speed railway might just be the most expensive rail project in history.”

    Oh no, we will leave that honor to Jerry “Vlad” Brown’s DogLegBahn.

    MarkB Reply:

    Selective reading. Try again, including this graf:

    “As for the new motorway running from the coast to the mountains, it was hardly necessary in the first place, according to Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. The site says that the road was designed to move 20,000 people per hour, but the maximum capacity of all the resorts that it reaches is a little more than 30,000 people—who were already served by another highway anyway.”

    In short, the story has nothing to do with HSR per se, and everything to do with monument building by authoritarian governments.

    For old time’s sake: PB! Dogleg! IBG! Musk! Gadgetbahn! Pelosi! Bayconic! The Machine! The Ranch! Antonovich! 3/4 of the known Universe!

    Eric Reply:

    “monument building by authoritarian governments”

    More like corrupt contracts for government cronies, but close enough.

  10. synonymouse
    Feb 18th, 2015 at 23:12
    #10

    “…everything to do with monument building by authoritarian governments.”

    I don’t even have to do anything, for old time’s sake. Y’all are doing it for me.

    Nathanael Reply:

    You want monument building, look at the NSA’s monument to spying in Utah.

    CAHSR is a real project.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is a genuine Legacy Monument, inspired by that other real project, the Willie B. Bay Bridge.

  11. Lewellan
    Feb 19th, 2015 at 12:15
    #11

    Says Richard, “Peak oil is still real and the only way to have cheap transportation is to move beyond oil. There’s no getting around that basic fact..” To get around it, one can argue that plug-in hybrid tech has the most potential to reduce fuel/energy consumption, more than all-battery EVs like the Tesla and Leaf, more than fuel cell EVs. I’d make a similar argument for Talgo ‘dual-mode’ (hybrid) passenger-rail. The US needs more cross-country passenger-rail and most routes are applicable to Talgo-type trainsets. US metropolitan areas need more all-electric light rail and electric buses but won’t get them if electricity is dedicated to opulent 200mph HSR. There’s no way to get around these basic facts.

  12. synonymouse
    Feb 19th, 2015 at 12:21
    #12

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/new-york-city-could-see-6-foot-sea-rise-tripling-of-heat-waves-by-2100/

    “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”

    Lewellan Reply:

    REALLY? Yes really. Bigger boat needed.
    And bigger boys with bigger ideas NOT treating each other like buttheads by buttheads.
    Yuh no wut I mean? Treated like buttheads by buttheads?
    Does this message need to keep repeating?
    Keep up the damn gooooood rail planning process ongoing now.

  13. Lewellan
    Feb 19th, 2015 at 18:39
    #13

    Message ONE HUNDRED and ONE won one

    Peter Reply:

    How were your drinks?

    Lewellan Reply:

    Excellent of course!

  14. jimsf
    Feb 19th, 2015 at 20:50
    #14

    The 200 a month I was saving in gas was going directly into my local economy in the form of local contractor pay. Now it will start going to Chevron again. Oh well at least Chevron employs a lot of californians.

    Joey Reply:

    Well it’s not like cheap gas is a fundamental human right.

    joe Reply:

    Nor is a well paying job.

    Good luck.

    Joey Reply:

    For now I’m going to put off that particular question by going to grad school…

    joe Reply:

    I did the same graduating in 1982 when the local economy had 25%+ unemployment.

    The problem now is this is a long term employment and wage slump so beware of debt. Policies deter inflation at the expense of running higher unemployment. That makes carrying consumer debt double difficult.

    Also, in 82 there were still a few state schools which were affordable and their graduate stipend could barely cover cost of education and living expenses.

    Joey Reply:

    Well I don’t expect to be rolling in money in graduate school, but my understanding is that, at least in physics, the stipend plus TAing/fellowships is at least enough to live on.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, it depends on the university, but in the US the good ones pay decent stipends. In math, the range at the high end was in the mid-20s when I graduated – Columbia paid $23,000 and was at the low end of the top universities. Postdocs make a good middle-class salary, if you can get them (the NSF pays $54,000 before taxes, and other research postdocs tend to be in that area).

    Problem is, jobs are scarce. The pay’s better than it was in the 1970s and 80s, in the sense that more universities pay stipends today, and the stipends have also increased a lot in the last 15 years (Columbia paid $12,000 in 2000, though that was clearly uncompetitive with Harvard and such). But journals are getting so many papers nowadays they’re rejecting papers that are better than anything they published 10-15 years ago, good places won’t look at you without papers in the top few journals, second postdocs are becoming a lot more common, the percentage of graduating Ph.D.s who get tenure-track positions is decreasing. and the percentage of teaching done by adjuncts is increasing. In pure math, there are 500 graduating Ph.D.s in the US every year, and last year there were 80 research tenure-track pure math positions; I think this year it’ll be much less, since universities seem to be hiring applied people this cycle.

    The other thing: it really depends on what field you’re in, and you won’t really know it until it’s too late. Some fields are hot, some aren’t. It varies on a pretty short cycle, so by the time you’ll know what will be hot when you apply for tenure-track positions, you’ll probably be a postdoc already.

    Bottom line: do it if you want to be a physicist. Don’t do it otherwise.

    joe Reply:

    “Postdocs make a good middle-class salary, if you can get them (the NSF pays $54,000 before taxes, and other research postdocs tend to be in that area).”

    What I find most interesting is HOW HARD IT IS NOW AND YOU OLD GUYS DON’T GET IT –> now is reversed.

    No Postdocs do not make good middle class salaries. I assure you I had a NSF National Academy Award and was not good middle class income.

    It is a temp job at best and long hard hours. It’s a holding pattern waiting for a good job to open.

    Graduate school is less affordable now and debt is a risk. Stipends have not kept with inflation and it’s much harder to work through graduate school and finish on time. It was not easy in the late 70s and 80s. My CS skills brought in consulting money on the side.

    And when you throw around HARVARD, COLUMBIA and etc you are name dropping large endowed universities.

    If you want a tenure job then combine fields and make a niche. I did Eco and Comp Sci. since I liked the outdoors and making creative abstractions of complex systems. You have math and obsession with transit. Get a geography position in quantitative geography/transit or some angle. I have a dear friend who teaches at a small UT school and works 5-6 courses a year in Math and Comp Sci. He’s happy with that angle. Pay sucks but he is happy where he lives and with what he does.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It is indeed a temp job. But the postdoc pay in the 1980s was, in real terms, marginally less than today. I think it was $21,000 at Harvard, in current dollars, so about $50,000 in today’s dollars, but don’t quote me on that. It’s a middle class income, just with terrible job security.

    joe Reply:

    Where to do come up with this stuff? I was in college in 1980s I doubt you were born. And stop using Harvard as an example.

    I moved to ID for the low cost of living so my stipend was crap but the total cost of living made it the best choice over midwest and eastern schools. Dollar amount is meaningless.

    If you think 50K is middle class then fine. It’s a shitty wage and at Haaavard a real shitty wage.

    Glad to see you stop complaining about how hard college is to afford and that Harvard is affordable. People take a shitty wage because HAAVARD OR STAAAAANFORD positions usually come with a successful lab and are a stepping stone. It ain’t the wage, it’s the brand. I see you like Ivy.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Alon, explain median and average etc. to him.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States

    Alon Levy Reply:

    $50,000 per person is middle class. It’s somewhat more than 1.5 times the average US wage; since there’s a range, depending on how good the uni is and where it’s located, it’s bout 1.5-2 times the average US wage, for a job that you get with the equivalent of 5 years of post-college experience. Not too bad. It’s not like anyone raises a family on that; in the social class in question, at least nowadays, dual incomes are near-universal.

    And Harvard does pay better than places in lower-cost cities (thinking specifically about the University of Georgia as a comparison). It’s not a stepping stone. Well, in college and grad school it is, in the sense that people without publications get postdocs based on how good their advisor is, but in postdoc, it’s just a more supportive research environment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    per household
    2 adults making 12.50 an hour working 40 hours a week make 50,000 a year. In nice round numbers you can calculate without pencil or a calculator.

    joe Reply:

    @Alon Middle-class is a lifestyle not a statistic.

    Compensation for postdoc hours at Harvard in Boston is not a middle class lifestyle. It’s a hardline livelihood at Stanford. The min PostDoc is 40k. Very hard to make it. Not middle class.

    @Adir Two adults working $12.50 means day care and after school care. Also they have to save for college tuition and 401k retirement savings and buy that home and possibly pay off a student loan. Obviously they’re eating and wear clothes as they juggle the 40 hour week and the family.

    No fucken way is that middle class so they don;t save for retirement, little if any college savings and thank god for ACA.

    I asked a MtView resident with 2 year old about their expenses. I used to live there in MTView the 90’s. For locals employer supported daycare and average rent is easily 5K a month.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    half the households in the US do it on less than the median. Which is why it’s the median. There is life beyond upper middle class suburbs.

    joe Reply:

    half “do it” on less than the median.

    With 32.2 percent of children living below this line, the U.S. ranks 36th out of the 41 wealthy countries included in the UNICEF report. By contrast, only 5.3 percent of Norwegian kids currently meet this definition of poverty.

    A third of children are doing it below the poverty line.

    a household income of $30,000 puts you in roughly the richest 1.23 percent of the world’s population. The report doesn’t deal with the type of extreme poverty you see in the poor and developing worlds, where roughly 2.7 billion people are trying to get by on less than two dollars per day.

    2.7 billion are doing it on less than two dollars a day.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Joe, Adi, you’re both comparing an individual who makes $50,000 to a household that makes $50,000. Don’t.

    Also, I have no idea where they got the idea that $30,000 per household is top 1.23%. In the US it’s about top 70%, and the US has 4.5% of the world’s population.

    joe Reply:

    Via WAPost

    Also
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2082385/We-1–You-need-34k-income-global-elite–half-worlds-richest-live-U-S.html
    America IS the 1%: You need just $34,000 annual income to be in the global elite… and HALF the world’s richest people live in the U.S. Global median salary is $1,225, says leading economist

    and
    http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/resources/fastfacts_e.htm via the WA Post

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    having been in the situation of taking temporary, as in it may not be there at any moment, jobs that pay 20k a year, to put food on the table, boo fucking hoo that your stipend is twice as much. And since that’s real close to the median household income in the US, half of the US feels more or less the same way. No one put a gun to your head and made you go to graduate school. And if you picked a field where 90 percent of the graduates don’t get cushy jobs as college professors it’s too bad you didn’t use your undergraduate course in statistics to figure out that you probably wouldn’t get the cushy job. Boo fucking hoo.

    joe Reply:

    “Boo fucking hoo.”

    Apparently living well is not as important as being a tough guy asshole who think median wage means middle class.

    People should be paid better for their labor and the fact we have shitty wages and a crumbling middle class doesn’t justify a salary that doesn’t pay for food, housing, college and retirement.

    You’re a very serious person and can live with gratitude on 20K a year and that makes you a very impressive tough guy. I hope you enjoy canned cat food.

    I have absolutely no intention of setting that expectation for anyone.

    Joey Reply:

    I think there’s an important distinction here. If you don’t have kids $30k is pretty liveable and $50k is a decent wage. If you have kids then what becomes acceptable changes dramatically.

    joe Reply:

    FWIW I was offered a 35K job in 1985 fresh out of a Masters & Physics PhD colleague was offered 40K. That was 30 years ago.

    I’ve lived on far less than 30K adjusted for inflation sharing homes knowing it was temporary during college/grad school and now must aggressively contribute to a retirement savings.

    Factor in a spouse and two children unless middle-class has become mule-class. And put in a funded 401k retirement plan.

    30K where and for how long and working how hard? a Job in Palo Alto, CA vs Twin Falls ID. 50K for a Palo Alto / SV based job is not decent unless it is loaded with benefits likefree tuition for your kids and your spouse works.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Daily Mail is an unreliable source, the UN link doesn’t say $30,000 is global top 1.23%, and you can find US household income distribution statistics that contradict the 1.23% claim in 30 seconds of Googling.

    When you say $35,000 in 1985, do you mean $35,000 in current dollars, or in inflation-adjusted 2015 dollars?

    Adi: people in academia never tell their students those statistics, about how many of them will get jobs. Universities talk about what people do 5 years past Ph.D., which is reasonable enough, but still misses some of the attrition nowadays when second postdocs are common.

    joe Reply:

    the source is a book by world bank economist.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Haves-Have-Nots-Idiosyncratic-Inequality/dp/0465031412

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read Milanovic’s papers and am a regular reader of his blog, and I’ve never seen him make that claim. On the contrary, one of his papers claims that the top 12% of the US are in the global top 1%. $30,000 per household per year puts you roughly in the 30th percentile of the US household income distribution, very far from the 88th percentile. Even $30,000 per individual, which is a bit more than the US mean, is too low; at least on the household level, the US mean, $72,000, is about 65th percentile, which means that there’s a bit more than 1.23% of the world that consists of Americans richer than you, let alone Europeans, Japanese, Brazilians, etc.

    It’s possible that $30,000 per individual was top 1.23% recently – let’s say in 2000, in 2000 dollars – but a) that works out to $40,000 per individual today, and b) as I keep saying and as you keep ignoring, household income and individual income aren’t the same.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s a serious pity all you college graduates don’t grasp the concept of median.

    https://introductorystats.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/when-bill-gates-walks-into-a-bar/

    Median, by definition is the thing in the middle. Which is the major reason it’s called middle class.

    Many of the people who live in households that make less than the median live full and contented lives. Here’s a hint, it’s half of the people in the country. They aren’t all wallowing in pits of despair because they don’t spend their lives manipulating symbols. Or that they don’t live in upper middle class suburbs. Quite a few of them are grateful they don’t live in upper middle class suburbs.

    When your toilet gets clogged you’ll be glad there are people around who do something other than manipulate symbols. And in that particular case, make a very nice living doing it. He or maybe even she doesn’t want a car in the driveway and is quite pleased that they can afford the diesel option on the truck. Which they need to be able to carry around the tools that include the ones to unclog your toilet. Unclogging toilets doesn’t need an advanced degree. Or installing your broadband Internet connection. Or maintaining the electricity supply so that the broadband works. Or the computer and it’s screen turns on. Or looking fabulous behind the genius bar at the Apple Store. Or squirting perfume at you when you are stupid enough to walk into the high end department store.

    joe Reply:

    @Alon

    Milanovic’s papers and am a regular reader of his blog, and I’ve never seen him make that claim..

    Well you’re not reading the links and jumping to conclusions.

    The top one per cent comprises anyone with an income over $34,000 after tax, meaning a family of four must earn $136,000 to make it in the category, according to CNN.

    Apple meet orange.

    @Adir
    Median is a statistic and middle-class is a lifestyle.
    You watched one too many beer commercials. Thanks for standing up for the harding working people out there and protecting them from any suggestion a wage hike would help them – paying people more is an insult to their families. Koch-head.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Okay, so it’s per person, after-tax. Very much not the same as per household before tax.

    Jerry Reply:

    All this talk about money reminds me of Robert Strange McNamara talking in, The Fog of War, when he says that he was hesitant about taking a demotion from being the head of Ford Motor Company to become the Secretary of Defense.
    He said, “You know of course, the Secretary of Defense was only paid $25,000 a year.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Median is the statistic that defines middle class. It’s an apolitcal fact. I’m sorry you get pissed off by arithmetic but that’s the way it works. I didn’t say anything at all about whether or not they should be earning more or the top isn’t taxed enough or what our GINI index is. Middle class is defined by the people in the middle.

    J. Wong Reply:

    The reality is that “middle class” is not well defined, and it’s not based on income, median or otherwise. Even more surprising, most people define themselves as “middle class” even rich & poor.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Meanwhile back in the year one,
    When you belonged to no one,
    You didn’t stand a chance son,
    If your pants were undone

    Jerry Reply:

    But will the average median middle person ride high speed rail?
    And will the hot dogs on the train be cheaper than the hot dogs at subsidized football and baseball stadiums?

    joe Reply:

    Yes. And BYO sandwich if food costs too much on the train.

    The recent article on China’s new year’s holiday travel highlighted HSR is affordable by lower middle and working class. Air travel is much less (or the holiday) by comparison and only affordable by upper and middle class.

    See http://www.cahsrblog.com/2015/02/the-era-of-cheap-gas-is-over/#comment-248366

    jimsf Reply:

    missing the point. point being that family disposable income siphoned off to oil companies come out the pockets of local businesses and their employees.

    Joey Reply:

    So then the problem is dependence on a resource like gasoline…

    joe Reply:

    That’s one perspective. Another is people need more income. If you follow energy prices then also track wages.

    Rent in a walkable community near work reduces energy dependence but assumes the choice of not renting in a walkable community near work is possible. There has to be a choice or else you compete for limited inventory and prices negate the gasoline savings.

    Lewellan Reply:

    There are more incentives to ‘economize’ in driving amount/distances as well as fuel/energy consumption, as I’ve tried to explain, in the hybrid drivetrain tech vs all-electric and should be a part of the discussion.

    Rail rebuilding is ongoing at the ‘blended’ segments before several decades before 200mph actually gets the job done. Continue proposing ‘blended’ rail options to inform those most affected but not fully aware of their true HSR options.

    Sorry if my posts are obtuse at times. It’s my sense of humor trying to argue cleverly
    AND chear up rail builders starting out the nation’s most important passenger-rail upgrade.
    Those who’ve been on a Talgo only once/twice and opinionating Talgo’s are ‘tin cans’,
    they haven’t taken the Talgo enough to judge these finest trains in the World made in USA.
    I keep at it assuming ‘other readers’ can appreciate my perspective.

    I’m working on a killer new argument opposing Keystone XL:

    Pipe the shorter Oklahoma/Omaha/Dakota chain instead. Think about it.
    Upgrades to existing infrastructure.
    Reduces demand for off-shore drilling.
    Reduces rail shipment/marine terminals.
    Probable pipe route options reduce impact.
    Domestic uses before export.

    As a boy, Governor Scott Walker didn’t like to play with toy trains. As a man, he wasn’t
    wasn’t ‘allowed’ to build the better HSR for most corridors.

    joe Reply:

    “Sorry if my posts are obtuse at times”

    Like reading a “Dr. Bronner’s Almond Castile Liquid Soap” label.

    Joey Reply:

    but assumes the choice of not renting in a walkable community near work is possible

    Well I don’t deny that the choice doesn’t exist for many, but shouldn’t making that option available be a desirable goal?

    joe Reply:

    Everyone can’t buy a used car and everyone can’t make due without a car and have a walkable commute.

    Cars cost money and most folks factored that into urban rent. Now the urban life is more desirable than in my day when it was scary and not so cool to live in cities like SF. In the 90’s grad students lived in or near the SF mission when it was not so nice. Not any more.

    You’ll find it harder to afford what everyone wants and the market is about maximizing profit, not accessibility.

    For me the niche was a walkable life in a smaller city core with mass transit options. We have alleys and wide streets but a smaller downtown. Less choice for dining but more access to outdoors.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “Oh well at least Chevron employs a lot of californians.”

    Unfortunately, that extra $200 isn’t going to the pay of a Californian, it’s going straight to the bottom line of Chevron likely benefiting some out-of-state investor.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Actually, the way it works is:
    — Chevron keeps its dividends constant
    — increased profits in the short term are paid to the CEO and other execs as “bonuses”
    — in the slightly longer term, increased income is wasted in “exploration”. This pays a bunch of geologists to go look for oil, which they don’t find, because all the good oil fields have been tapped out. That money is not going to California either.

  15. Amanda in the South Bay
    Feb 20th, 2015 at 08:00
    #15

    *sighs* has this blog turned into Alon vs the world with regards to politics?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I try to avoid getting into these fights :-/.

    Jon Reply:

    Yep, and it’s the only reason I still read this blog.

  16. les
    Feb 20th, 2015 at 08:20
    #16

    Big Bertha finally Found Light at the End of the Tunnel

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwguAPEaRcQ&feature=youtu.be

  17. agb5
    Feb 20th, 2015 at 13:16
    #17

    Oil price to drop now that China’s strategic reserve is filled:
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-02-20/chinese-oil-re-stocking-over-inbound-vlccs-drop-5-month-lows

  18. Jos Callinet
    Feb 21st, 2015 at 12:36
    #18

    In reading Robert’s article here on gas prices, does anyone besides me detect the shedding of crocodile tears?

  19. Jos Callinet
    Feb 21st, 2015 at 12:44
    #19

    Does anyone besides me detect the shedding of crocodile tears in Robert’s article about gas prices?

  20. joe
    Feb 22nd, 2015 at 00:27
    #20

    Chinese New year and Travel

    3. Rail. Another thing that the Baidu map shows is the amazing extent of the country’s railway system, which has expanded by more than 50 percent since 2000. An estimated 145 million people will travel by rail for this Chinese New Year holiday, up from just 105 million five years ago. The map below shows one main line heading West from central China into the massive western territory of Xinjiang at the top left, and a small string of lights illuminating the oasis towns that run along the territory’s western edge. South of there, you can see a few lights representing train stations around Lhasa in Tibet.

    4. Automobiles. While high-speed rail is increasingly convenient, cars are a status symbol in China,

    5. Air travel. Baidu also tracks the brave souls in China that choose to travel by air – an estimated 24 million during this holiday. Air travel is more expensive than trains, and so is mainly limited to the middle and upper class.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/anaswanson/2015/02/20/what-chinese-new-year-says-about-the-growth-of-the-worlds-most-vibrant-economy/

    Oh oh “Middle Class”.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Eventually auto clubs will come to China and the highway lobby. The automobile will become a linchpin of the Chinese economy, just as in the US and equally ubiquitous.

    And HSR will be seriously hurt by the competition.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Do you know how riduclious that is? Do you really not know how populous China is? If autos in China become as ubiquitous as they are in the U.S. it will only be because they’ll be permanently stuck in traffic and unable to move.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Why would they be permanently stuck in traffic? In Europe car ownership is closer to American levels than to Chinese levels, and somehow cars do move, even in dense places like the Netherlands or Belgium or England or Northern Italy. Of course, in all of these areas, the major cities are quite transit-oriented, but outside the major cities, cars are ubiquitous. I can easily see a midcentury China in which Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou have the modal split of Tokyo or Osaka, but the rest of China drives and sprawls. Shanghai would get seawalls to prevent flooding, and the climate refugees in Bengal and the Mekong Delta would be someone else’s problem.

    joe Reply:

    China’s Great Wall of Traffic Jam: 11 Days, 74.5 Miles
    BEIJING, Sept. 3, 2010
    By KATHERINE ZHU via World News
    http://abcnews.go.com/International/chinas-traffic-jam-lasts-11-days-reaches-74/story?id=11550037

    Eric Reply:

    I dunno. China already has cities bigger than any in the US, full of residential skyscrapers far out into the suburbs. Once the hukou system is abolished, it stands to reason that these cities will grow much bigger and no less dense. And not too long after that, China’s population will crest and begin to decrease. At this point, will people really abandon the existing housing near job centers for far-out sprawl with no existing transportation options? Some will (this has happened a little in Moscow), but as a percentage of the population, I sort of expect it to be a small fraction of the population.

    Interestingly, the North China plain (the entire region stretching from Beijing to Shanghai) already has a higher density than say the Dallas metro area…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Why not? Britain didn’t undergo much population increase in the postwar era, and was already very urbanized, and yet many industrial cities depopulated. If I’m not mistaken, Birmingham and Manchester both lost half their peak populations.

    I think US-level sprawl is very unlikely, but Europe-level sprawl could happen.

  21. synonymouse
    Feb 22nd, 2015 at 13:16
    #21

    Rumor has it SMART is talking up 2-man operation.

    Red ink in short order, baby.

    Now you see why I wanted streetcars? Remember I am using the term streetcars because cretins are now ready to call BART “light rail”.

    HART is driverless BART with no walk-thru.

    EJ Reply:

    Hmm, so SMART might actually be a good project, if you’re reduced to making stuff up to make it sound bad.

    Who is calling BART “light rail”? I think you’re confusing it with systems like HART or the Copenhagen Metro, which are sometimes called “light metro” by the Light Rail Transit Association, because they have smaller trains than heavy rail systems like BART or the NYC subway. They are also sometimes called “medium capacity” systems. Most big cities worldwide have some form of metro system.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yeah, they’re calling HART light rail, so I call real light rail streetcars. Pretty soon BART will be calling itself supported duorail. Oh, wait, they already did that.

    Please enumerate your criteria for “light rail”.

    Apparently no cash fares on SMART, only “Clipper”. Plenty of time for the conductor to twiddle thumbs, text, or check his bank account online.

    SMART is going to lose a lot of money and then try to grab bus subsidies.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    SMART is a terrible project, Random Synonymouse bleating or not.

    If could have been http://www.ferroviavalvenosta.it/en/559.asp
    Instead it is http://www.trimet.org/wes/ thanks nearly entirely to LTK Engineering Services, the same fuck-up unemployable-outside-the-SU rent-seeking beyond-incompetent consultants who are making sure Caltrain never enters th 20th (let alone 21st) century.

    It’s pretty much the worst of all FRA and Unique American Needs and crazy high operating costs and crazy infrequent Olde Tyme Commuter Railroading and decades-obsolete equipment and stations that you could imagine, all wrapped up into one out-of-control cost blowout.

    America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals delivering exactly what they deliver, every single time. SMART is pretty much a perfect small-medium example of how they ruin the world. (CSHR being the perfect hyper-scale example.) Death is far too kind a fate for anybody involved.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Olde Tyme Northbay railfans want to recapture NWP glory days. Over the years it has been reported Doug Bosco(owner of SR PD)wants to mine aggregate at Island Mountain.

    So it is FRA Aegis until the money runs out.

    Meantime AC is trying out doubledeckers with 80 passenger capacity in transbay service. Does GGT have the nerve to do the same on the windy GG Bridge?

    http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2015/02/19/ac-transit-double-decker-bus-pilot-program-passengers-ride-free-alameda-contra-costa-transbay/

    Oh, and WMATA is still working out 3rd rail issues:

    https://ca.news.yahoo.com/smoke-appears-washington-subway-system-three-times-two-201837860.html

    EJ Reply:

    It’s pretty much the worst of all FRA and Unique American Needs

    Far be it from me to defend FRA regulations, but until they get changed, they’re not optional, right? If you’re going to run traffic mixed with general freight you’ve got to comply with them.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They are going to have to abandon the freight in order to have a sustainable transit operation.

    Once the losses start to pile up it will be clear an agonizing reappraisal is in order. My guess is SMART will go.

    Nathanael Reply:

    SMART will do just fine, assuming it gets to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. (If it doesn’t, it will have problems.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    One way to put this is that you can incrementally improve almost any problem in rail transportation except for bad line routing. Bad line routing is often baked in for *a hundred years* or more. SMART’s line routing is OK, so it will do OK.

    synonymouse Reply:

    There are no magnet destinations on the SMART route. In the Northbay it comes down to many stops each generating a modest number of trips. It is spread out so when you do reach a locale like the Marin Civic Center you still have a ways to go. And really ugly walking. It is not at all like downtown San Francisco.

    A great part of the ridership is located south of Larkspur, where doodlebuggies will never go, but streetcars could.

    Two-man operation is the coup de grace. They will blow thru their operating funds stash quickly and try to grab bus money. It won’t play and there will be a movement to put the sales tax back on the ballot. SMART will go and NCRA-NWP will stay. BART will be happy – it hates standard gauge competition.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    SMART (in reality, SMART’s rent-seeking self-enriching contractor LTK Engineering Services) made a deliberate decision to operate as an FRA freight railroad without time separation and with massively over-weight, inefficient, high-floor, shit-tastic LTK-designed FRA DMUs. The FRA didn’t force them to do so. The project controlling contractor LTK decided to.

    There are regulations, and then there is being bent over, grasping your ankles, and yelling “REAM ME!”

    We saw even worse at Caltrain, where former “Director of Rail Transformation” declared that it would be “a fun project to work with freight” (in Caltrain’s case there was a clear and cheap and fantastic and untaken opportunity to escape freight and escape FRA altogether or at least to escape all FRA freight compatibility) and the result is that it is now 2015 and Caltrain looks like something out of the 1890s and will operate that way until the end of time. “Ding ding highball on the green” says that conductor to the assistant conductor who relays it to the second assistant brakeman who relays it to the engineer so he can blow the five chime air horn.

    EJ Reply:

    We saw even worse at Caltrain, where former “Director of Rail Transformation” declared that it would be “a fun project to work with freight”

    Really? Oy vey. Other people’s money…

    Especially since, as you say, Caltrain’s agreement with UP lets them kick freight railroads off the peninsula entirely if the adopt technology that’s incompatible (which UP seems to believe OLE is).

    EJ Reply:

    Was it LTK’s decision to use those goofy-ass gauntlet tracks as well? That never made sense to me – if you have to comply with CPUC’s requirements, it seems like movable platforms, like the Sprinter in San Diego county has, would be much simpler.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It was not necessary for LTK to talk SMART into anything. The Northbay insiders really want to be reamed out.

    Their nostalgic vision is the NWP prior to the disastrous 1964 flood which wiped out a large part of the line to Eureka. The Kinku Sharyu doodlebugs are also totally historically correct as ca. 1960 the SP-NWP run Budd RDC’s from Santa Rosa to Eureka. Get the picture?

    synonymouse Reply:

    ran Budd RDC’s.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Richard M is a fool. Let me just say that SMART is a fairly good design and will do OK *iff* it makes it to Larkspur Ferry Terminal. It isn’t great, but it’s fairly good.

    Contrast the Atlanta Streetcar if you want to see a totally misdesigned, misbegotten project. :-( It almost seems like it was designed to poison the well for future projects.

    Eric Reply:

    The purpose of the Atlanta Streetcar is not to be ridden. It’s so that hipsters can watch it go by as they sip their coffee and send out resumes from their Macbooks. As such I predict it to be a resounding success.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    The Atlanta Streetcar will be closed by the end of 2015 and its cars sold to more successful light rail lines. It will be written off as a mistake and soon forgotten.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Adding the thought that Atlanta is not and never again will be a public transportation city. Time instead to widen I-75 to sixteen lanes in each direction through downtown. That is all the city needs to free everyone up to drive wherever and whenever at will, with no concern about getting caught in traffic jams.

  22. Reality Check
    Feb 25th, 2015 at 14:38
    #22
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