Saturday, April 21, 2018

Nuke Jersey! (In the Best Way)

I am a big booster of nuclear power. It's probably the single issue I've moved furthest on over the past five years (from "not caring about it one way or the other" to "big booster"). The reason is simple: nuclear power (which is carbon emission-free) is an essential part of moving to deep decarbonization in the electricity sector, and deep decarbonization in the electricity sector is essential to stopping global warming.

On this score, recent (good) news out of New Jersey provides a compelling illustration. A new energy package offers subsidies that will keep nuclear power plants operational for the foreseeable future, while also supporting new renewable power resources. Why does that matter? Well, consider the alternative we're witnessing in Ohio and Pennsylvania:
[T]here are four nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania that are slated to close prematurely. Last week, the research consultancy Brattle Group released a report analyzing the impact of those retirements, which are all taking place in the PJM regional energy market. 
The results are startling. Closing those four nuclear plants would wipe out the carbon emissions benefits of all the renewable energy installed in the PJM energy market in the past 25 years
Simply replacing the lost nuclear power with renewable energy would cost $2 billion a year, and that enormous investment would not replace or prevent any fossil fuel generation.
The emphasis is mine, but read it again. In terms of carbon emission cuts, losing nuclear power is equivalent to losing 25 years worth of renewable energy installation. Without these nuclear plants, just getting back to even (not replacing any new fossil fuel plants) would cost $2 billion/year.

If the nuclear plants in New Jersey closed, the same thing would happen. New renewable installations would simply be replacing lost nuclear energy -- which means no net reduction in carbon emissions. With the nuclear plants still operating, by contrast, new renewable resources will knock out natural gas plants -- providing a genuine reduction in carbon emissions.

As the linked article concedes, the New Jersey package isn't policy optimal (a carbon pricing scheme would be best). But given politically feasible options, it isn't bad. Importantly, when states treat nuclear power as a linchpin of deep decarbonization, that's a major net win for climate policy hawks.

So kudos, New Jersey. Nuke away.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Paul Ryan's Last Call

Paul Ryan only has a limited time left on Congress. If there are amends to be made, it's time for him to make them now. Priorities that haven't been passed? Time to push them through. And so what is foremost on Paul Ryan's mind right now? What does he envision as his congressional swan song?
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) aims to pass another massive tax cut this summer, which Republicans hope will rev up the GOP base and improve the standing of Republicans at the polls
Of course. A fitting end for a man who, above all else, favored gutting social programs in order to engage in massive upward redistribution of wealth to the most affluent Americans.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

When Will Republicans Turn On Trump?

The answer is "never". Or at least, never so long as they're in the majority. But I still would just bank on "never".

Of course there will be exceptions. But when it comes to the main bodies of the Republican Party -- basically, elected politicians, party officials, and of course, Fox News -- I'll stand by that answer.

Every once in awhile, someone will post about the latest development of some Trump scandal and say "this is the beginning of the end of the Trump administration". What makes it different? It varies.

  • It might be that the investigators leading the charge are unquestionably non-partisan, or even registered Republicans themselves;
  • It might be that the scandal implicates some issue area allegedly near-and-dear to the GOP base (e.g., a sex scandal turning off religious conservatives);
  • It might simply be that the findings are just too explosive to ignore.
So let me make it clear: It won't happen. There is no amount of Trump malfeasance that will cause Republicans to turn on him en masse. A murmured word of caution here, a "ill-chosen words" there, but that's it. That's the lesson of the past several years -- I have no idea where anyone gets misplaced optimism that something just has to change as things get worse.

If the investigators are Republican -- guess what? Now they're "the deep state"! If it seems to impact the GOP base's precious moral values -- forgiveness is limitless (if you think GOP conservatives actually care about family values in any context where it isn't smashing gay couples, I have a bridge to sell you). 

If it threatens basic notions of national security, electoral integrity, or core American values -- well, we're getting a crash course in just how little the Republican Party and its various apparatchiks care about those things. Which is to say -- virtually nil.

The only way this might change is if they're punished sufficiently at the ballot box (among the most disastrous consequences of the 2016 election was that it taught Republicans that limitless brinksmanship, conspiracy-peddling, and open racism would not be punished by the electorate). At which point it would be moot anyway. But I suspect even in the minority the GOP will continue backing Trump to the hilt -- investigations are witch-hunts, oversight is government propaganda, hearings are grandstanding.

Don't depend on the GOP to turn on Trump. They won't. They're his. And so right now, if you ride with the GOP, you ride with Trump.

Monday, April 16, 2018

If Only The Holocaust Weren't So Jewy

First, an employee at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam was told to stop wearing a kippah -- on the grounds that it might violate the museum's "neutrality" policy (neutrality as to what? Between having Jews and not having them?).

Then, a Quebec parliamentarian attacked a Jewish colleague for wearing (you guessed it) a kippah ... on Holocaust Remembrance Day (did you guess that part, wise guy?). The aggrieved legislator complained (I swear I'm not making this up) that it was unfair for the Jewish man to wear a kippah in session when he wasn't allowed to wear his political party's lapel pin.

#AllAccessoriesMatter

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A New Environment Roundup

We're closing the political theory term with a unit on ecologism/environmentalism. In honor of that, a roundup that includes nothing on that topic whatsoever:

* * *

C. Thi Nguyen explains how echo chambers are like cults. The problem isn't lack of competing information per se, the problem is that the echo chamber has built-in narratives for why alternative information sources aren't trustworthy and can be discounted.

Eric Ward is interviewed by Tikkun on the subject of identity politics.

We often talk about a "free speech crisis" on liberal college campuses. But there are a slew of avowedly right-wing (generally Christian) universities that barely pretend to allow for a diversity of opinions on campus.

ICE's Philadelphia office seems out of control.

Two British intellectuals (one whom served on the Chakrabarti inquiry, no less) give a history of antisemitism on the British left -- one that by no means starts with Jeremy Corbyn.

As teachers walk out in Kentucky in a push for higher wages, Governor Matt Bevin (R) blames them for exposing children to drugs, sexual assault, and violence. You'd think if teachers were that important -- not just responsible for educating youth, but also the sole bulwark against them being physically and sexually abused -- they'd be worth paying more.