Helmut and I were talking about how badly research funds are needed to develop better energy technologies and to evaluate possible mitigation schemes for global warming. I mentioned the great research boom of the 1960s, in which government led the way. During the 1980s, that approach was destroyed by greedy corporations who said they could do all that, much better than the government. And now we see the results. Ezra Klein has a nice graph illustrating the collapse of research funding. He uses it to make a different point, which I'll address later in this post. I'm wondering if that research boom is tied to the good economics of those times. Any economists who want to tackle this with me, leave a comment or e-mail me.
Ezra is bitching about how President Obama never does what Ezra and many other pundits, bloggers, and just plain gripers want him to do: get in the middle of the fight. Or maybe duck into a phone booth and emerge as Super-Prez! Sorry guys, cellphones have eliminated phone booths. I've maintained that 1) the Prez is leaving the work of citizens up to us and 2) he doesn't want to make every issue about him, which would happen if he intervened as much as the gripers want. It seems to me that I've seen more articles lately suggesting that we citizens need to be making our support (or not) clear to our elected representatives as they make fools of themselves and us, but I've been distracted and haven't collected those links.
Part of this gripe is that Obama isn't getting stuff done. At the Carnegie Nuclear Policy Conference last week, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon listed all the things relating to Obama's Prague speech on eliminating nuclear weapons that have been done in the two years since then. Today is the anniversary of that speech. Scott Sagan gives an accounting here. And the dumbest idea in missile technology has been left behind: loading ICBMs with conventional explosives, so that a recipient country wouldn't know if it was being nuked.
Back at Fukushima, it appears that the report of an isotope beloved of those pushing the "re-criticality" meme was mistaken. As I've pointed out, basing a theory on one measurement is pretty silly in a chaotic situation like this.
I would also take this with a grain of salt. There are a couple of vu-graf sets out there of what some people think, with a bit of modeling, may have been the sequence of events at Fukushima. Like the "re-criticality," this is largely speculation based on far too few data points. "Nuclear forensics" sounds very CSI, cool and accurate, but a friend who has been looking at the iodine isotope data much more closely than I have says that it just doesn't make sense. That could be because the data are bad, or because things we don't understand are happening.
Don't get on George Monbiot's bad side. He's looked at Fukushima and decided that the evidence is that nuclear energy is safe. He's posted two op-eds on that subject in the Guardian and now is taking on Helen Caldicott. I heard her speak a few weeks back and managed to identify some of the problems that Monbiot documents exhaustively. There's more I'd like to write on this subject, too, but I have to get back to BEIR VII.