Earlier this week I was watching the live stream of the Occupy Wall Street protest, and a fellow worker asked what it was all about, and I realized I needed to start at the beginning with him. So I explained how the Occupy Wall Street protests had come about as a result of historic conditions: the destruction of the Glass-Steagall regulations on banking, which had previously prevented gross speculation and gambling with mortgages but which was swept away by the neoconservatives under Senator Gramm, in the mid-Nineties.
That, I explained, laid the groundwork for the trillions of dollars' worth of speculation in derivatives, those financial instruments of mass destruction, composed of worthless subprime mortgages (that had been produced purely for fees and speculation); I explained how the collateral debt obligations, with their Moodys AAA ratings for poisoned and non-paying mortgage tranches, had led to a gigantic collapse, which in turn caused the banks to stop lending in '08.
The collapse and retraction of capital to pay speculation debts, destroyed jobs and whole economies. Then, rather than bailing out the working people, the banksters took over the Federal government so that the trillions in loans and bailouts were given to the banksters who caused the crisis. So it's literally true, following the money, that Wall Street destroyed the economy, and it is Wall Street and their paid shills in the US government that prevent a recovery. We are in desperate straits because Wall Street stole our money.
On Oct. 6th, 12:00 pm, thousands will gather at the Waterfront near SW Ankeny and Naito Parkway (http://tinyurl.com/44rl474) to march to Pioneer Courthouse Square. This is in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, where thousands have been staying near the Wall Street stock exchange to protest the corruption of Washington politicians, misdeeds of big banks, and the cancerous rein of corporate lobbyists.
Here is a link to the OccupyPortland Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups
*movement has skin in the game
* is therefore different from previous protests incl. Seattle 1999
* is really about wealth distribution
*is quite concerned about transparent participation on an informed basis
* has frightened Wall St (per Journal)
Speaking to Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, liberal documentary filmmaker Michael Moore had a simple message for everyone who’s been put out by the bad economy in America today.
“The majority of Americans are really upset at Wall Street,” Moore said. “Millions of Americans have lost their homes or are facing foreclosure right now. 50 million do not have health insurance. 14 million officially are unemployed, but it’s probably up in the 20 million plus that are actually unemployed. So, you’ve already got an army of Americans just waiting for somebody to do something, and the something has started.”
Coming next week: Project Censored 2012 with Per!
Also next week: Occupy Portland
New oil sightings in Gulf of Mexico
Coast guards are investigating new oil-sheen sightings on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, which they believe could be from the sunken Deepwater Horizon oil platform.
An explosion on the rig in April 2010 triggered the worst spill in the region's history and cost the oil giant BP more than $20bn in clean-up and compensation costs.
The US Coast Guard said it suspected the oil might be coming from the debris of the rig itself, not from any leak in the plugged Macondo well on the seabed. This means that the rig operator Transocean would be financially responsible for any new clean-up, officers explained.
BP and Transocean are embroiled in a multibillion-dollar legal dispute over their respective liabilities for the disaster. Transocean has signalled that it may also try to add the costs of clearing the sheen to BP's bill.
No end in sight for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, Dahr Jamail, September 13, 2011:
The possibility that brings the greatest concern is that oil is leaking from the reservoir straight out of the ground. This situation could be impossible to stop, because the vent would increase in size over time due to the highly pressurised reservoir.
“We can tell you that we recently sent a remote operated submarine down to inspect the Macondo well cap and the relief well cap [...] Both are intact and show no evidence of any oil leak. So no oil is leaking from the Macondo well.” -BP spokesman
“It very well could be from natural seeps [...] What we are saying for sure is that it is not from our well head.” -BP spokesman
Dr Ira Leifer, a University of California scientist who is an expert on natural hydrocarbon oil and gas emissions from the seabed:
- “From what I’ve seen, this new oil and sheen definitely seemed larger than typical natural seepages found in the Gulf of Mexico.”
- “Because of the size and its location, there is a greater concern that should require a larger public investigation.”
- “I see these new observations (of the seep) as the canary in the coal mine that indicates something could be changing at the seabed and should not be ignored and hope it goes away.”
- “It could be a persistent, significant, continuous oil spill again, and that would require BP to go back and re-drill, and block off the pipeline even deeper than they already did, or else they would be liable for whatever the emissions are, forever, because it’s not going to stop for a very long time.”
- “There is natural migration in the area around Macondo, and one of the sites we’ve studied is MC118, about 18 km away [...] The concern is not that human activities caused a fault, but by creating pathways outside the (well) casing, they are allowing oil to travel along the well pipe then migrate horizontally until it intersects an existing vertical fault migration pathway, then reach the sea bed.”
- “Definitely seems larger than typical natural seepages found in the Gulf of Mexico; both because of that and its location, there is a greater concern that should require a larger public investigation.”
“I don’t understand why we’re seeing so much more oil out there right now than we’ve seen in the past [...] We need to dig in and investigate and see what is going on.” -Dr. Ian MacDonald, a professor of biological oceanography at Florida State University, expert at locating natural oil releases on the ocean surface....
Rising costs and re-evaluated risks make nuclear power a poor choice, even for developing nations that can afford it, says José Goldemberg.
There are 440 nuclear reactors operating around the world, providing about 14 per cent of the world's electricity supply. Most were installed 30–40 years ago, when the relative cost of producing nuclear energy made it an attractive option.
After 1985, lower petroleum costs, combined with concerns over nuclear safety (raised by the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island, United States, in 1979 and at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986), stagnated worldwide expansion of nuclear-generated electricity.
But more recently, concerns over greenhouse gas emissions helped spark a nuclear energy 'renaissance', stimulated by government subsidies. Unlike thermoelectric generation using coal or other fossil fuels, nuclear-generated electricity contributes little — on a life-cycle basis — to emissions, and could help solve global warming problems.
Now, the most recent nuclear disaster — at Fukushima in March 2011 — has again dampened enthusiasm. Countries are pausing to re-evaluate nuclear power and ask whether it will truly put them on the right track for sustainable energy.
It is still too early to evaluate fully what the Fukushima accident means for the future of nuclear energy. But several OECD countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan and Switzerland, among others) have already decided to phase out existing nuclear reactors at the end of their useful life and have cancelled plans for new ones.
Before Fukushima, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) predicted that nuclear plants would add 360 gigawatts of generating capacity by 2035, or the equivalent of over 200 new reactors; it is now reckoning on half as many.
This is due partly to diminishing public acceptance of nuclear energy in many countries, but also to the increased costs of nuclear security improvements and of insurance premiums for accident-related damages.
The estimated probability of major nuclear accidents, which was considered very small in the past, has increased significantly. The pre-Fukushima estimate for the probability of a major nuclear accident was roughly 1 in 100,000 for the 440 reactors in operation over the next 20–25 years.
But the likelihood of core melt and containment failure had been underestimated: the accidents in Chernobyl and Fukushima amount to catastrophic meltdown in four nuclear reactors over the past few decades, more than originally assumed.
A simple calculation shows that in reality, the probability of any of the currently operating nuclear reactor having a major accident over the next 20–25 years is 1 in 5000. This means that another major nuclear accident can be expected to occur once every 20 years. Based on the earlier estimate, we were expecting one accident over a 100-year period.
Only 6 per cent of the worldwide capacity for nuclear power is in developing countries: in China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Argentina and Pakistan. But by the end of 2008 more than 50 developing countries had approached the IAEA with interest in installing their first nuclear plant.
Of these, it is unlikely that countries with a GDP smaller than US$50 billion would be able to purchase a nuclear reactor costing at least a few billion dollars. Countries would also need electricity grids with a minimum capacity of approximately 10 gigawatts to accommodate a large nuclear reactor.
Eliminating the countries that do not meet these criteria leaves 16 serious candidates for purchasing large nuclear reactors: Algeria, Belarus, Chile, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
But a close examination of their other potential energy resources, such as oil, gas, biomass or hydropower, indicates nuclear is not the best option for generating the electricity they need.
In all of them, the cost of nuclear-generated electricity is significantly higher than other options, although estimates vary depending on the availability of gas or hydroelectric sites.
In Brazil, for example, the cost of nuclear energy is at least 50 per cent higher than other options. In Iran, gas is abundant and thus a more cost-effective option.
In economic terms, nuclear energy should be a 'last resort option' for supplying electricity.
So what could motivate developing countries to pursue the nuclear option? Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not a priority for them, as they are exempted by the Kyoto Protocol — only industrialised countries are committed to emissions targets.
The main attraction of the nuclear option seems to be the 'status' and prestige associated with mastering nuclear technologies.
In developing countries, nuclear technology has often been viewed as a passport to the first world and to the bureaucratic self aggrandizement of the nuclear establishment.
And since there is no clear distinction between the technologies needed for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and manufacturing nuclear weapons, there are also concerns that new nuclear reactors increase the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation.
Whatever countries' true motivation, under current conditions, and if the question is how to secure energy supplies for future generations in the developing world, nuclear power is not part of the answer.
José Goldemberg is a physicist and Professor Emeritus of the University of São Paulo, Brazil. He has served as Brazil's Secretary of State for Science and Technology and Minister of State for Education.