Don’t Get Me Started, Regulars and Shorts

Don’t Get Me Started: Fuel Guarantees?

By John deJong

1980: Diesel Mercedes. 2007: Nuke Power.
by John deJong
Fuel Guarantees?

1980:diesel Mercedes

2007: nuke power

When I see "Flexfuel" Suburbans and Escalades these days I'm reminded of the '70s and '80s when the diesel Mercedes was all the rage with the luxury car crowd. While probably not their main reason to choose that car, avoiding the rising cost of gasoline was a nice perc. Diesel, it was thought, would weather the coming storm of high energy prices because it was a by-product of gasoline refining and as a by-product would avoid the market gyrations of gasoline.

Conveniently for them, diesel-fueled vehicles were not subject to mandated emissions controls. So, we still have a few of those dinosaurs around to remind us of the danger of "grandfathering" pollution-belching technologies. As if the hundreds of dirty coal-fired power plants the Bush administration has given new leases on life are not enough of a reminder. The only problem was that diesel prices kept pace with the cost of gasoline-albeit a little lower, because diesel doesn't need to be refined to reduce pollution emissions.

The drivers of those Escalades and Suburbans are looking for a guaranteed source of fuel for their gas guzzlers and the American auto industry is trying to sell as many gas guzzlers as they can before Congress passes really meaningful mileage standards. The point is, those gas guzzlers drive up our prices for gasoline and home heating as well as putting out more pollution per vehicle mile and keeping us in Iraq, and toadying to Saudi Arabia and….

So Utah is now being asked to choose (or rather is being told by a legislative committee) what mix of energy sources will solve its future energy needs. Kinda like Dick Cheney's 2001 secret plan to give the reins of America's energy policy to the energy industry.

And, thanks to generous campaign contributions, nuclear power is now in the mix. Think of it as Inflex Fuel. Once we've sunk $10-20 billion into a nuclear power plant, we're stuck with it for time and eternity (or its radioactive halflife, which is close enough for this plane of existence). That's $10-20 billion that won't be invested in conservation or alternative energy sources.

The nuclear power industry would like Utah to pass a law similar to the ones passed in eight other states, that allows the nuclear power industry to bet that electricity demand will rise to unprecedented levels. The catch is its our money they're betting with.  If the projections turn out to be wildly optimistic (or pessimistic depending on your point of view) the rate payers would have to pay fo the excess capacity.

What's for nuclear power industry companies not to like? They're monopolies, under government regulation (or should I say, "under-regulated government-aided monopolies") and they get their capital from rate payers. Imagine Henry Ford pushing to build a new assembly line for Model-Ts so every family can have two Model-Ts in the garage, then getting the legislature to pass a law that has families who choose not to get a second car pay for the assembly line.

Nuclear power is being touted as the carbon dioxide neutral "eco-friendly" source of energy. But even nuclear power has embodied energy. The energy needed to build the plant, mine, transport and refine the fuel and finally bury or reprocess the waste fuel  and decommission the plant has to come from some place, whether it's solar, oil, coal or nuclear. Nuclear power plants are currently responsible for one-fifth to one-third of the CO2 produced by a gas-fired power plant, according to a report prepared for the Green parties of the European Parliament, a calculation based on the availability of high-grade ore. When the world's supply of high-grade ore runs out (as it will all too soon if nuclear power lives up to the nuclear power industry's hype) the net release of CO 2 for nuclear power plants will exceed the amount released by gas fired power plants. But who's looking that far ahead?

Kangaroo Diversion

Cops, the courts, and Guantanamo

What little the public has seen of the "legal" proceedings at the Guantanamo Bay detention center have always had a Keystone Cops quality to them. Now Lieutenant Colonel Stephen E. Abraham has stepped forward to confirm that characterization. As reported in the NY Times, Abraham submittted an affidavit in the case of Guantanamo detainees recently decided in the detainee's favor by the Supreme Court. He describes a deeply flawed hearing procedure, used to rubber stamp decisions commanders had already made. Often intelligence reports, he said, relied only on accusations that a detainee had been found in a suspect area or was associated with a suspect organization.

Is it any wonder that the most prominent case to come out of Guantanamo was that against Osama bin Laden's chauffeur? I guess that's aiding and abetting (and cooking for) the enemy, but what's the point? The Bush administration's failure to capture Osama called for a high-profile diversion. The kangaroo court quality of the Guantanamo proceedings has provided that.

Our Spokesperson

Republican Senators, Republican Representatives… Salt Lake needs a Dem mayor

Salt Lake City needs a mayor in the mold of Rocky Anderson. With two Republican Senators and two Republican Representatives in Washington, not to mention the dominance of Republicans at the state level, the voices of progressive Utahns had been muzzled, until Rocky stepped up to the plate. Salt Lake City needs a mayor who will continue in that role.

To my mind the only two candidates who fill the bill are Ralph Becker and Jenny Wilson. We don't need a Republican in the general election because he'll never prevail in Salt Lake City, no matter how much money he's raised.

Of course, we need a mayor who knows how to manage the city, but the city can run itself fairly well. All the capable Chief Assistants to the Assistant Chief and their ilk take care of that. What we need in a mayor is someone who has the vision thing and the skills to make it happen.

Jenny Wilson has the advantage of plenty of name recognition. Her father was Salt Lake's mayor from 1976-1985, and her able service on the Salt Lake County Commission has added to her patrimony. She would make an excellent mayor.

Ralph Becker has worked quietly behind the scenes on your behalf at Republican Central (aka the Utah House of Representatives) for over 10 years. That's the only way a Democrat is going to get anything done up there, where the limelight is reserved for Republicans. His accomplishments, which include successfully sponsoring the Quality Growth Act, Utah's first Energy Policy Act and funding for the LeRay McAllister Critical Lands Fund, have garnered him credit; lesser acknowledged are the many ill-advised bills he has managed to block. He, too, would make an excellent mayor.

The best course for Salt Lake City will be a general election where two viable-and in Salt Lake City, thank God, that means liberal-candidates try to out-vision each other and voters decide which of two grand visions prevail. I want the campaigning in the general election to be a synergistic exercise, not a zero-sum debate.

John deJong is associate publisher of CATALYST.

This article was originally published on July 30, 2007.