The energy scene: Notes & links 11/7/13

Mr. Buffett’s Coal Train by Rick Bass for the Washington Spectator.

The Tongue River Railroad, which is partly owned by financier Warren Buffett, wants to lay track to carry sub-bituminous coal from Otter Creek in southwest Montana to existing railroads and then to ports in the Pacific Northwest for shipment to China.   The company would be allowed to take the property of ranchers in the area by eminent domain.   This coal is so dirty that burning it is illegal in the United States, but people in communities along the rail lines would have to breath the black dust from open coal cars.

U.S. lays out strict limits on coal funding abroad by Reuters.

Historically the mining and burning of coal is a greater hazard to human life and health than any other known energy source. It would be a good idea to find substitutes even if it were not a contributor to global warming. The United States government has announced that it will not contribute to World Bank funding of coal plants except in extremely poor nations that have no alternative energy sources, or for plants that use coal capture and sequestration to limit pollution, a technology that is not commercially viable. But evidently this concern is not shared by Warren Buffett or by Chinese electric power utilities.

Prominent Climate Scientists Go Nuclear by Desi Doyen for the Brad Blog.

James Hansen and three other prominent climate scientists say that threat of global warming due to burning of fossil fuels is so great and so imminent that nuclear generation of electricity is preferable.  In spite of the Fukushima disaster, I would be in favor of building a new generation of nuclear power plants, using up-to-date technology (maybe the French could supply them).  What I’m not in favor of is continuing to operate existing U.S. nuclear power plants past their scheduled decommissioning dates.

Urbee 2: The 3D-Printed Car That Will Drive Across the County by Popular Mechanics.  Hat tip to Don Montana.

Google cars vs. public transit: the U.S. problem with public goods by Ethan Zuckerman.  Hat tip to Tobias Buckell.

American inventors are coming up with the kind of stuff I read about in science fiction stories 50 years ago.  Why, then, do we Americans have such a hard time accomplishing mundane things, such as clean, efficient, convenient and reliable bus and train service?

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