Sunday, October 25, 2020

Trump, Biden clash again over fracking, oil industry at final debate

President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden clashed again Thursday night over energy policy and how reform would impact American workers.

During their debate in Nashville, Tenn., Trump accused Biden of embracing a radical environmental agenda that would ban fracking and destroy the oil industry.

"He was against fracking," Trump said. "He said it ... until he got the nomination, went to Pennsylvania, then he said -- but you know what Pennsylvania, he'll be against it very soon because his party is totally against it."

"Fracking on federal land, I said, no fracking and/or oil on federal land," Biden shot back.

The exchange highlighted a point of contention that has come up numerous times in the race as fracking has been credited with providing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S.

During a 2019 Democratic primary debate, Biden was asked whether there would be "any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?"

Biden's response: "No, we would -- we would work it out. We would make sure it's eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, either -- any fossil fuel."

During Thursday's debate, Trump pressed Biden on whether he would shut down the oil industry.

"I would transition from the oil industry, yes," Biden responded.

Biden has also endorsed the Green New Deal, which calls, among other things, for dramatic reductions in carbon emissions by 2050. Conservatives have criticized the plan, arguing it would impose burdensome costs on U.S. families and businesses.

However, Biden and others on the left maintain that the country faces catastrophic consequences if it doesn't act to combat climate change. They've also forecasted massive economic benefits from the associated investments in infrastructure and other energy projects.

Biden's website claims his investments would create "millions of good, union jobs rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure" in addition to "1 million new jobs in the American auto industry."

Support Next Generation Nuclear Power Generation with Better Regulation

Nuclear fusion is always 20 years away, or so goes the saying. Yet scientists are convinced that this time, it is closer than ever. A group of researchers at MIT recently published a series of seven papers purporting to prove the viability of a compact nuclear fusion reactor that the former are developing. As opposed to fission plants that split uranium atoms to release energy, fusion reactors mimic the sun’s energy production by colliding hydrogen atoms. This “fusing” process releases four times more energy than a fission reaction, while producing far less radioactivity and waste. If the MIT research is accurate, then the future of nuclear energy is very bright indeed.

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), a type of next-generation nuclear fission technology, are also being developed, largely through private sector leadership. Though not as revolutionary as fusion technology, these smaller nuclear plants promise to be cheaper, faster to build, and safer than their older counterparts. Importantly, the fission technology is already fully established and commercially viable.

Much of the optimism surrounding nuclear advancements pertains to private-sector innovations being generated and fine-tuned by scientists and engineers around the world. Indeed, these innovators are rightly seen as the flag-bearers of the most revolutionary energy source discovered by humanity. Yet, it is impossible to overlook a crucial hurdle for any kind of innovation: the regulatory process. And while it’s typically best to keep bureaucracies away from new innovations, it is here that the government has the opportunity to learn from past mistakes, and be both bold and pioneering.

The major problems facing next-generation nuclear power, be it fusion or small modular reactors, are the licensing and regulatory requirements prescribed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). For decades, the only commercially viable nuclear plants have been large, light water-cooled reactors that have more or less remained stagnant in terms of design. The NRC has taken a prescriptive regulatory approach to these existing technologies. That means that the agency creates specific safety features and designs that each project must adhere to, rather than setting safety standards that allow companies to experiment with the most effective design, to submit for approval.

Not only does such an approach stifle innovation in reactor designs, but it also is representative of a better-safe-than-sorry, over-zealous regulatory regime. Studies show that nuclear regulations introduced in the 1970s increased the quantity of concrete per megawatt by 27 percent, electrical cable by 36 percent, steel by 41 percent, and piping by 50 percent.

One of the reasons why regulators have taken such a heavy-handed approach to nuclear power is the perceived danger of nuclear accidents. While the safety concern is overblown even for traditional designs—studies indicate that nuclear power is responsible for the fewest fatalities of any energy source—the NRC approach is downright absurd for next-generation nuclear reactors. Indeed, both fusion and SMR designs build in passive safety mechanisms that automatically shut down a plant in case of an accident. Applying an outdated, existing regulatory framework to a new generation of different, advanced reactor technologies is the surest way to stifle much-needed innovation and scale.

While SMRs have already been going through this process with the NRC, at great cost in money and time, regulatory streamlining is needed to further boost the rollout of these small reactors, and provide fusion designs a smooth path to commercial viability. Ensuring certainty in the regulatory process is crucial to the future of nuclear energy.

First, it is vital that any licensing process designed by the NRC be performance-based and technology-inclusive, rather than prescriptive. Indeed, as the British scientist Matt Ridley and I have pointed out on this website before, innovation thrives off of experimentation, trial and error, and creativity. Allowing various reactor designs to compete for cost-effectiveness and safety will place upward pressure on innovation, and downward pressure on both time and cost.

Second, as has been called for by the Director of the Fusion Industry Association, nuclear fusion and fission should be entirely separated in the regulatory process. Given fusion reactors’ inherent safety designs, it would be counter-productive to confine them to the regulatory paradigm of fission reactors. A specific framework must be devised that only applies to nuclear fusion reactors, and avoids entangling older generation regulations with newer, safer plant designs. This framework should take into account fusion’s dramatically lower risk profile.

Ultimately, innovation comes from the private sector and scientists, but can only thrive when unencumbered by government distortion. While it is of course sensible for politicians to ensure that next-generation nuclear reactors are safe, a more market-based, light-touch regulatory framework is necessary to avoid stifling innovation. A clear pathway that provides regulatory certainty for decades to come is crucial in ensuring that the United States stakes its place as the world-leader on next-generation nuclear technologies.

World wheat crop tips record

Greenies are constantly warning that we about to run out of food. We're not

Thomas Malthus, Adolf Hitler and Paul Ehrlich are the best known prophets of food shortages but there are many others. It is a perennial scare

IMPROVED late-season yield prospects in greater Europe and Australia have lifted the estimate for global wheat production by 5.9 million tonnes (Mt) from the previous Agricultural Market Information Systems (AMIS) estimate released last month.

The lift was offset by a total 1Mt decline in projections in Canada and Argentina.

The net 4.8Mt increase lifts the forecast for the world 2020-21 wheat crop to a record 764.9Mt, pipping by just a few million tonnes the previous records set in 2019-20 and 2017-18 (chart 1).

This month’s upward revisions included Australia and the EU, both up 2.2Mt from last month’s estimate, a 1Mt lift for the Russian Federation, and Ukraine up 500,000t.

Utilisation in 2020-21 is expected to grow at a slightly faster pace than projected earlier, supported by stronger feed use in China.

Trade in 2020-21 (July-June) is also expected to grow following brisk import demand, especially by China and Egypt.

Stocks ending in 2021 are lifted by almost 3Mt following this month’s upwards revisions in the EU, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine.

Conditions mostly favourable

In Argentina, conditions are mixed, with recent rainfall in the south improving conditions. However, in the north and west regions, crop conditions are poor and mostly irreversible due to prolonged dryness throughout the season.

In Australia, conditions are generally favourable except for Queensland which experienced persistent dryness and Western Australia following a dry September.

By contrast, New South Wales is showing exceptional conditions with an expansion of sown area.

In Canada, spring wheat harvest is progressing under favourable conditions with slightly above average yields expected.

In the EU, winter-wheat sowing has begun under generally favourable conditions except for France and Romania where dryness from the summer persists.

In the Russian Federation, spring-wheat harvesting is wrapping up under favourable conditions. Winter-wheat sowing is progressing under dry conditions, particularly in the south, which is hampering emergence and more rainfall is needed before winter dormancy.

In Ukraine, sowing of winter wheat is beginning under mixed conditions due to drought across much of the country, which is delaying sowing for much of the crop.

In the US, sowing of winter wheat is ongoing under favourable conditions.

Cleaner Faster? Trump to Let Dishwashers Use More Water

The Trump administration has finalized plans to release a new rule allowing one class of dishwashers to clean a load in less than an hour.

Dishwashers on average take about two and a half hours to wash a load of dishes because of government regulations, more than twice as long as it took the appliances to clean plates, glasses, utensils and other items a generation ago, according to data from Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank.

The Energy Department finalized the rule Monday, and the actual regulatory text will be posted in the Federal Register by the Department of Energy in two weeks, according to administration officials.

“President Trump has once again made good on his promise to free Americans from ludicrous government regulations—this time bringing a commonsense reform to dishwashers,” Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought said in a public statement. “Dishes now washed in an hour or less! This is yet another example of President Trump’s promises made, promises kept on deregulation.”

The Department of Energy received a petition from the Competitive Enterprise Institute to define a new class of products under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act for residential dishwashers.

The new product class would cover dishwashers with a cycle time, for the “normal” cycle, of less than one hour from washing through drying, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

The Energy Department published the petition and request for comments in the Federal Register on April 24, 2018. The department granted the petition for rulemaking and proposed the new product class.

The Energy Department will consider appropriate energy and water use limits for such a product class, if adopted, in a separate rulemaking, according to OMB.




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