When Leaders Lack the Knowledge to Lead (Podcast Episode 66)

Listen to the Podcast Here Here’s the situation: You and I are screening candidates for an important job, and we need to make sure we select the very best person for the position. Let’s make believe that every house in our country is connected to a huge water supply system.  There are thousands of lakes, rivers, and streams that supply water for the system, and millions of homes and businesses that draw on the water system for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and all kinds of industrial purposes. Let’s also pretend that we’re not allowed to store the water; we have to draw it from the spigot as we consume it.  This means it’s critical that our water supply be reliable and virtually uninterruptable.  If the supply were to be interrupted industries will have to shut down and people won’t have anything to drink.  If an outage were to last very long then people will get desperate and some may even die. Because our national water supply is so important to our survival and our way of life, our government has decided it would be wise to put some regulations in place to ensure the system is reliable and secure, and to make sure business transactions for water remain fair and above the board.  This is the job we need to fill: The head of this important government agency. So before we start to screen candidates we need to think about the core competencies and knowledge the applicants for the position need to have: First of all, candidates or this position need to have a firm technical grasp on how the water system works.  Without the requisite technical background they’ll be unable to make wise, informed decisions. The person for this important job needs to have leadership experience because this government agency employs many thousands of people and prior leadership experience will ensure the organization runs smoothly and efficiently. Also, the candidates need to understand the principles of water laws and regulations, because this government agency’s role is to apply and interpret these laws. Finally, the leader of our Federal Water Regulatory Commission needs to be fair and unbiased because the opportunity for abuse of power and influence is great, and the consequences even greater. Guess what – we have our first applicant for the position!  She has a Masters Degree in mathematics and a law degree, and is an attorney.   She has 30 years of experience in a very successful private law practice representing clients in the water business.  Her clients have been mostly wealthy individuals, companies, and politicians with interests in a small but growing part of the water...

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House Releases Draft Climate Change Bill and A Bit of Nuclear Nistory (Podcast Episode 65)

Listen to the Podcast Here Operation Sea Orbit – 1964 (Front to Back: USS Enterprise, USS Long Beach, & USS Bainbridge) The Markey / Waxman Climate Change Bill Momentum is building towards greenhouse gas regulation in the United States. Two weeks ago the house of representatives released draft climate change legislation sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Edward Markey. On Friday the US Environmental Protection Agency turned up the heat when they declared CO2 and other greenhouse gasses “hazards to public health” and labeled CO2 a pollutant. This action gives the EPA authority to regulate CO2 emissions even if congress does not pass legislation focused on curbing greenhouse gas releases. The Waxman/Markey draft legislation would evoke a national renewable energy portfolio standard that will force electric utilities to get a large percentage of the energy they sell from renewable sources. The legislation defines renewable energy as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, and wave energy. The required percentages would phase in starting at 6% in 2012, increasing to to 25% by 2039. Calendar year Required annual percentage 2012 ……………………………………………………………………. 6.0 2013 ……………………………………………………………………. 6.0 2014 ……………………………………………………………………. 8.5 2015 ……………………………………………………………………. 8.5 2016 ……………………………………………………………………. 11.0 2017 ……………………………………………………………………. 11.0 2018 ……………………………………………………………………. 14.0 2019 ……………………………………………………………………. 14.0 2020 ……………………………………………………………………. 17.5 2021 ……………………………………………………………………. 17.5 2022 ……………………………………………………………………. 21.0 2023 ……………………………………………………………………. 21.0 2024 ……………………………………………………………………. 23.0 2025 through 2039 ………………………………………………………… 25.0 Utilities who are unable to meet the mandated standards would be fined $50 per megawatt hour of every megawatt they sell that exceed the renewable limits. That penalty could very quickly bankrupt companies that fail to comply. For example, a single 1000 megawatt coal fired power plant would be fined $1.2 million per day. This is a nearly impossible mandate to meet. If this provision becomes law several things will happen: There is already a huge amount of capitol flowing into wind and solar energy because of the lucrative subsidies that pay much of the installation costs, plus tax credits that some states and the federal government have put into place to encourage investment into these politically favored but uneconomic energy sources.  Taxpayers are already footing a lion’s share of the expense of installing most wind and solar power plants. A national renewable portfolio standard will cause even more demand for these intermittent power sources. Unfortunately there is no way the supply can keep up with demand.  Utilities in areas of the country with plentiful hydo power will initially be able to meet the standards, but most of the USA has little hydro power.  According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2007 the combined total for wind, solar, wood and other biomass, and geothermal accounted for...

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Nuclear Expansion Grows Near & Oyster Creek Gets 20 More Years (Episode 64)

Use the podcast player here. President Obama Promotes International Nuclear Fuel Bank At a speech delivered in Prague, Czech Republic this week President Obama advocated establishing an international nuclear fuel bank. The idea is this: countries who pledge not to develop nuclear weapons programs and who do not enrich uranium would have the assurance of a stable fuel supply for their peaceful nuclear energy programs. Countries who posses the ability to enrich uranium under the International Non-Proliferation Treaty would provide the service for the international community. Much of the initial fuel in the bank would come from diluting weapons grade uranium, essentially continuing efforts begun by Russia and the USA to reduce weapons stockpiles. President Obama also indicated support for the fuel bank to be located in Kazakhstan, a proposal that was endorsed by the European Union in March. The EU has already pledged $33 Million for set-up expenses, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would have the lead to set up standards and policies and overseeing operations of the bank. An international fuel bank would eliminate at least one of the obstacles that nations perceive in setting up new civilian nuclear energy programs. If they have no uranium or thorium resources of their own, or no ability to enrich the fuel, they will have to rely on other nations for their fuel supply. As with any commodity with a small number of suppliers, the potential for collusion and political leverage are high. In principle a fuel bank would provide greater assurance that if nations invest to build nuclear power plants they will be able to acquire fuel to run them. Oyster Creek License Renewed for 20 Years This week the Nuclear Regulatory commission granted at 20 year license extension to the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey. The license renewal followed almost four years of safety and environmental analysis and deliberation by the Atomic Safety Licensing Board. Anti-nuclear groups waged a vigorous fight against the plant’s life extension, but in the end they were, according to the board, unable to provide any scientific analysis or evidence to support their claims that the plant is unsafe. The NRC called the Oyster Creek review the “most extensive license renewal review to date.” In addition to the analysis done by the NRC staff and the ASLB, the license extension request was reviewed by the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards. In the end the NRC commissioners approved the extension on a 3 to 1 vote, the lone dissenting commissioner was Gregory Jaczko. The Changing Face of the NRC Commissioner Jaczko, who holds a PhD in Physics, is considered by...

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