Swedish Town Wants Nuclear Waste Dump

OsthammarSwedenNuclearWasteSite2010-05-20.jpg“Osthammar is competing for the right to host a storage site for radioactive waste.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

After reading Petr Beckmann’s The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear, a few decades ago, I became convinced that nuclear power was being rejected in the United States due to irrational fears based on a failure to make reasonable estimates of the costs and the benefits.
Isn’t it ironic that the irrational fear of nuclear power is at long last being overcome mainly by the irrational fear of global warming?

(p. A10) . . . , in Osthammar, . . . as many as 80 percent of the 21,000 inhabitants are in favor of the nuclear waste dump. The town is now one of two finalists among the communities in Sweden that vied for the right to host the dump.

Sweden, which swore off nuclear power after less than 20 percent of Swedes approved of it in a referendum in the 1980s, would seem an unlikely place for such a competition. But it has reversed course recently and plans to begin building new nuclear reactors, adding to the 10 it already operates.
But legislation requires that before any new plants can be built, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, better known by the initials SKB, must first create permanent storage space for the radioactive waste the reactors produce.
In most countries, of course, people would sooner allow a factory hog farm or garbage incinerator in their backyards than a nuclear waste dump. But in Sweden, SKB found 18 of 20 possible towns near proposed sites intrigued by their proposition. Then it had to whittle the list down to two, Osthammar and Oskarshamn, both already the site of nuclear plants.
SKB recently said it would ask the Swedish government later this year for permission to build the storage depot in Osthammar. If the government gives the green light to Osthammar over Oskarshamn, construction could begin some time after 2015, officials said.
Claes Thegerstrom, a nuclear physicist who is the chief executive of SKB, attributed the new attitude of Swedes toward nuclear energy to fears of global warming. “In the 1980s nobody was mentioning CO2,” or carbon dioxide, considered the major cause of global warming, he said. “Now, it’s on the top of the list of environmental issues.” Since they burn no fossil fuels, nuclear power plants do not produce carbon dioxide.

For the full story, see:
JOHN TAGLIABUE. “Osthammar Journal; A Town Says ‘Yes, in Our Backyard’ to Nuclear Site.” The New York Times (Tues., April 6, 2010): A10.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated April 5, 2010.)

Beckmann’s wonderful book was:
Beckmann, Petr. The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear. Golem Press, 1976.

Wozniak: “It Was as if My Whole Life Had Been Leading Up to this Point”

(p. 155) It was as if my whole life had been leading up to this point. I’d done my minicomputer redesigns. I’d done data on–screen with Pong and Breakout., and I’d already done a TV terminal. From the Cream Soda Computer and others, I knew how to connect memory and make a working system. I realized that all I needed was this Canadian processor or another processor like it and (p. 156) some memory chips. Then I’d have the computer I’d always wanted!

Oh my god. I could build my own computer, a computer I could own and design to do any neat things I wanted to do with it for the rest of my life.
I didn’t need to spend $400 to get an Altair–which really was just a glorified bunch of chips with a metal frame around it and some lights. That was the same as my take-home salary, I mean, come on. And to make the Altair do anything interesting, I’d have to spend way, way more than that. Probably hundreds, even thousands of dollars. And besides, I’d already been there with the Cream Soda Computer. I was bored with it then. You never go back. You go forward. And now, the Cream Soda Computer could be my jumping-off point.
No way was I going to do that. I decided then and there I had the opportunity to build the complete computer I’d always wanted. I just needed any microprocessor, and I could build an extremely small computer I could write programs on. Programs like games, and the simulation programs I wrote at work. The possibilities went on and on. And I wouldn’t have to buy an Altair to do it. I would design it. all by myself.
That night, the night of that first meeting, this whole vision of a kind of personal computer just popped into my head. All at once. Just like that.

Source:
Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.

China Exports to U.S. Are Smaller than Trade Stats Imply

ImportedContentInExportsGraph2010-05-20.gif

Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A2) The WTO says world trade fell 12.2% in 2009. On Friday, the organization predicted that trade would bounce back sharply this year, rising 9.5%.

But these figures don’t tell the whole truth about trade.
According to some economists, trade in finished products–the things consumers actually buy, such as cars, computers and iPods–declined by much less than 12.2% last year. That is because as much as two-thirds of the value of goods that go into trade statistics represent intermediate parts, which are imported from other countries and used to make finished products that then get re-exported. Economists call this the “valued-added effect.” If the value of imported parts were stripped out, however, global trade would have declined by between 4% and around 8% last year, economists say.
By ignoring the multinational composition of goods, conventional trade data also make trade imbalances between some trading partners seem larger than they really are.
China imports a huge quantity of parts from places like Japan and South Korea, but when those components are assembled into finished goods and shipped to the U.S., all the pieces count as Chinese exports, inflating the U.S. trade imbalance with its most polarizing trade partner.
A study by the Sloan Foundation in 2007, for example, found that only $4 of an iPod that costs $150 to produce is made in China, even though the final assembly and export occurs in China. The remaining $146 represents parts imported to China. If only the value added by manufacturers in China were counted, the real U.S.-China trade deficit would be as much as 30% lower than last year’s gap of at $226.8 billion, according to a number of economists.
At the same time, the U.S. trade deficit with Japan would have been 25% higher than the $44.8 billion reported last year, because many goods that China and others export to the U.S. contain parts purchased in Japan.

For the full story, see:
JOHN W. MILLER. “THE NUMBERS GUY; Some Say Trade Numbers Don’t Deliver the Goods .” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., MARCH 27, 2010): A2.

Government Financing Is Not Best Method to Finance Creativity

(p. B4) Government financing is not the best method to prod companies to be creative, said Edmund S. Phelps Jr., a professor of economics at Columbia University who won the Nobel Prize in 2006. But he said it could work.

He spoke at the forum about dwindling innovation in the United States economy. China, India and Brazil are catching up with innovative output, he said, but not Russia.
A high-technology start-up, he said, inherently runs more risk if it can present its product to only one potential buyer — the government — rather than to a range of customers, some of whom may want the product, he said.
“If Russian politicians see that their own prosperity, and that of their people, lies in a more arms-length relationship between the government and business, that would open a lot of possibilities,” he said.

For the full story, see:
ANDREW E. KRAMER. “Russia Plans to Promote Technology Innovations.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., February 4, 2010): B4.

Not All Entrepreneurs Believe in Property Rights

OdomBobbTitanCement2010-05-20.jpg“Titan Cement’s Bob Odom in March at the site of a proposed plant near Wilmington, N.C. The company says hundreds of jobs would be created.” Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.

Is it just me, or does entrepreneur Lloyd Smith, quoted below, come across as a bit arrogant in believing the government should enforce his view of what Wilmington should be like, even if that means violating the property rights of the owner of the land on which the cement plant will be built? (And even if that means that would-be janitor Ron Givens remains unemployed.)

(p. A3) WILMINGTON, N.C.–The old economy and the new economy are squaring off in this coastal city, which is having second thoughts about revisiting its roots in heavy industry.

Titan Cement Co. of Greece wants to build one of the largest U.S. cement plants on the outskirts of the city and is promising hundreds of jobs. The factory would be on the site of a cement plant that closed in 1982 and today is populated mainly by fire ants, copperhead snakes and the occasional skateboarder.
The proposed $450 million plant by Titan America LLC, Titan’s U.S. unit, is welcome news to Ron Givens Sr., a 44-year-old unemployed Wilmington native. Mr. Givens’s father supported 12 children while working at the former Ideal Cement plant, and Mr. Givens and two brothers have now applied for jobs with Titan. “I will apply for janitor if that’s what is going to get me into that plant,” he said.
But thousands of opponents have petitioned local and state politicians to block the plan. They object to the emissions from the plant and say it will scare off tourists, retirees, entrepreneurs and others who might otherwise want to live here.
An initial state environmental review has dragged on for two years, and critics of the plant have filed a lawsuit seeking to further broaden the review. The governor, amid public pressure, has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to probe the plant’s permitting process.
“That’s their tactic: Delay, delay, and at some point Titan will leave,” said Bob Odom, Titan’s general manager in Wilmington, of opposition efforts.
Among the most vocal opponents is a fast-growing class of high-tech entrepreneurs and telecommuters who moved to Wilmington in recent years, drawn to the temperate climate, sandy beaches and good fishing. They argue the plant, by curbing the community’s appeal, will cost more jobs and tax revenue in the long run than it produces.
“I think we can be discriminating,” said Lloyd Smith, a 43-year-old entrepreneur who moved here from northern Virginia in 2001 and founded Cortech Solutions Inc., a neuroscience company with nine employees and about $5 million in annual sales.
The standoff in Wilmington reflects a broader tug-of-war across the country as communities try to kick-start employment. It is unclear how much manufacturing will power the long-term U.S. economic recovery–even in southern states that have long embraced heavy industry but have begun to feel the new economy’s pull.

For the full story, see:
MIKE ESTERL. “Clash of Old, New Economy; Cement Plant Is Resisted by Some Neighbors Who Would Rather Lure High-Tech Jobs.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 6, 2010): A3.

ServicesManufactureGraph2010-05-20.jpg

Source of graph: scanned from print version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

Wozniak on the Motives and Rewards of Inventor and Innovator

(p. 147) The whole thing used forty-five chips, and Steve paid me half the seven hundred bucks he said they paid him for it. (They were paying us based on how few chips I could do it. in.) Later I found out he got paid a bit (p. 148) more for it–like a few thousand dollars–than he said at the time, but we were kids, you know. He got paid one amount, and told me he got paid another. He wasn’t honest with me, and I was hurt. But I didn’t make a big deal about it or anything.

Ethics always mattered to me, and I still don’t really understand why he would’ve gotten paid one thing and told me he’d gotten paid another. But, you know, people are different. And in no way do I regret the experience at Atari with Steve Jobs. He was my best friend and I still feel extremely linked with him. I wish him well. And it was a great project that was so fun. Anyway, in the long run of money–Steve and I ended up getting very comfortable money-wise from our work founding Apple just a few years later–it certainly didn’t add up to much.
Steve and I were the best of friends for a very, very long time. We had the same goals for a while. They jelled perfectly at forming Apple. But we were always different people, different people right from the start.
You know, it’s strange, hut right around the time I started working on what later became the Apple I board, this idea popped into my mind about two guys who die on the same day. One guy is really successful, and he’s spending all his time running companies, managing them, making sure they are profitable, and making sales goals all the time. And the other guy, all he does is lounge around, doesn’t have much money, really likes to tell jokes and follow gadgets and technology and other things he finds interesting in the world, and he just spends his life laughing.
In my head, the guy who’d rather laugh than control things is going to be the one who has the happier life. That’s just my opinion. I figure happiness is the most important thing in life, just how much you laugh. The guy whose head kind of floats, he’s so happy. That’s who I am, who I want to be and have always wanted to be.
(p. 149) And that’s why I never let stuff like what happened with Breakout bother me. Though you can disagree–you can even split from a relationship–you don’t have to hold it against the other. You’re just different. That’s the best way to live life and be happy
And I figured this all out even before Steve and I started Apple.

Source:
Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.

U.S. Jobs Lost Due to Law Restricting Mexican Truck Drivers

CarbonlessPaperMachine2010-05-20.jpg“Carbonless paper comes off a coating machine at Appleton Papers in March. Mexican tariffs have hit sales.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A5) APPLETON, Wis.–Congress’s vote last year to keep Mexican truck drivers south of the border was good news for DuWayne Marshall.

Mr. Marshall, 49 years old, owns a truck and hauls loads all over the U.S. from his home in Wisconsin. “Why should I have to compete against Third World drivers within my own borders?” Mr. Marshall asked during a break on a run to San Diego. “By closing down the borders, we are saving American jobs.”
Elizabeth Villagomez, 38, isn’t so sure. A single mother of two teens, she has worked at a paper plant in this community near Green Bay for 15 years. After the Mexican government retaliated against the trucking ban by slapping $2 billion in tariffs on U.S. paper, produce and other goods, orders plunged and managers began slashing shifts and overtime for the unionized work force.
“The company has done all it can to cut costs,” Ms. Villagomez said. “I’m at the bottom of the list if they have layoffs. It’s kind of scary, not knowing if you’re going to have a job.”
. . .
At Appleton Papers Inc., the fight over who can drive a truck across a border 1,600 miles away has translated into falling wages and rising anxiety.
Rick Bahr, head of the United Steelworkers union local that represents more than 500 employees at the Appleton plant, said six shifts have already been cut, cutting down on overtime.
“The battle ends up union versus union, truckers versus the paper workers,” Mr. Bahr said. The national steelworkers’ union has been supporting the Teamsters on the issue of Mexican trucks in the U.S.
Nearly half the company’s revenue, about $420 million last year, comes from carbonless paper sales. Its largest foreign customer is Mexico. After Mexico put a 10% tariff on carbonless paper, revenue from Mexico fell to $37 million in 2009 from $46 million in 2008.
Now, more Mexican customers say they will look for alternative suppliers to avoid having to bear part of the tariff costs. Just last month a major customer told Appleton it was going to get its carbonless paper from a European producer.
Even before the tariffs were imposed, the company had seen business hit by the economic slowdown and had cut its work force in 2008 and stopped other benefits, such as reimbursing tuition and matching workers’ contributions to their 401K retirement plans. Company officials said it was hard to quantify what part of the business downturn could be blamed directly on the tariffs, but they noted that Appleton sold 18% fewer tons of carbonless paper in the U.S. last year, compared with 2008. The number of tons sold to Mexican customers was down 24%.
Inside the plant, the machine that coats 4,000-pound rolls of paper to make it carbonless was idle one recent afternoon. Once run 24 hours a day, it is now used only half that time.
Kevin Bunnow, 50, a 33-year veteran of the plant, said the reduction in shifts had meant a wage cut of several thousand dollars last year.
“When elephants fight, the grass loses,” he said. “It didn’t take me long to realize, we’re the grass.”

For the full story, see:
GARY FIELDS. “Trade Dispute Divides Workers; It’s ‘Union vs. Union’ as Ban on Mexican Trucks Cheers Drivers, Triggers Cut in Hours at Paper Plant.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 6, 2010): A5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)