Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The benefit of Obamacare:
We now know how many people have the problem most often cited as the reason for last years’ health overhaul legislation... The Medicare program chief actuary predicted last spring that 375,000 would sign up for the new risk pool insurance in 2010. But by the end of November, only 8,000 had done so. As Amy Goldstein reports in The Washington Post, this includes 75 in Virginia, 80 in New Hampshire, 97 in Maryland and a whopping 700 in North Carolina.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The problem with overly progressive taxation:
Nearly half of California's income taxes before the recession came from the top 1% of earners: households that took in more than $490,000 a year. High earners, it turns out, have especially volatile incomes--their earnings fell by more than twice as much as the rest of the population's during the recession. When they crashed, they took California's finances down with them.

Mr. Williams, a former economic forecaster for the state, spent more than a decade warning state leaders about California's over-dependence on the rich. "We created a revenue cliff," he said. "We built a large part of our government on the state's most unstable income group."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Republicans are more scientifically literate than Democrats or independents:

Astrology is not scientific64.3%55.7%75.1%
The benefits of science exceed the harms73.3%66.2%78.0%
Understands the need for control groups in testing79.8%81.4%82.1%
The earth's core is very hot94.2%92.6%94.6%
Demonstrates a basic understanding of probability87.9%90.0%91.8%
Not all radioactivity is man-made79.2%78.5%85.9%
Father, not mother, determines a child's sex72.0%74.7%77.3%
Lasers are not made by condensing sound waves63.4%70.9%75.1%
Electrons are smaller than atoms71.4%71.3%72.8%
Antibiotics do not kill viruses55.7%55.4%65.8%
Continental drift has and continues to occur90.1%90.6%87.9%
Humans evolved from other animals57.6%50.7%41.5%
The earth revolves around the sun79.2%73.9%81.5%
It takes the earth one year to rotate around the sun75.8%78.8%78.9%
Respondent will eat genetically modified foods66.1%69.4%73.1%
The north pole is on a sheet of ice67.0%59.7%63.4%
Not all man-made chemicals cause cancer when eaten46.6%46.4%52.6%
Exposure to radioactivity doesn't necessarily lead to death67.5%67.1%77.0%
Exposure to pesticides doesn't necessarily cause cancer55.5%57.9%66.8%

Friday, March 18, 2011

How safe is nuclear power as a source of energy? It is helpful to look at the alternatives. In the United States, 48.5% of all electricity is generated by coal, as opposed to 19% by nuclear power. So, what is the human cost of coal power generation? In 2009, 18 Americans were killed mining coal. In China alone, 2,631 miners died in 2009. And 2009 was a good year for coal. In the decade ending in 2009, there were an average of 31 U.S. and 5,028 Chinese deaths annually.

In contrast, according to the WHO, the total death count from the Chernobyl disaster will be approximately 2,200 people. There have never been any fatalities in the US or western Europe from nuclear power. In other words, the entire number of deaths worldwide from nuclear power--over fifty years--is less than half of that that coal power kills every year. And that is even before considering climate change effects from CO2.
The dangers of nuclear power:
You read that right. According to the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, there were 35 fatalities associated with wind turbines in the United States from 1970 through 2010. Nuclear energy, by contrast, did not kill a single American in that time.

The meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979 did not kill or injure anyone, since the power plant's cement containment apparatus did its job - the safety measures put in place were effective. Apparently the safety measures associated with wind energy are not adequate to prevent loss of life.

Nuclear accounts for about nine percent of America's energy, according to the Energy Information Administration, and has yet to cause a single fatality here. Wind, on the other hand, provides the United States with only 0.7 percent of its energy, and has been responsible for 35 deaths in the United States alone.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Radiation released from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor in Japan:

via MIT's Nuclear Science Engineering blog.
San Francisco's big push for low-flow toilets has turned into a multimillion-dollar plumbing stink.

Skimping on toilet water has resulted in more sludge backing up inside the sewer pipes, said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the city Public Utilities Commission. That has created a rotten-egg stench near AT&T Park and elsewhere, especially during the dry summer months.

The city has already spent $100 million over the past five years to upgrade its sewer system and sewage plants, in part to combat the odor problem.
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Now officials are stocking up on a $14 million, three-year supply of highly concentrated sodium hypochlorite - better known as bleach - to act as an odor eater and to disinfect the city's treated water before it's dumped into the bay. It will also be used to sanitize drinking water.

That translates into 8.5 million pounds of bleach either being poured down city drains or into the drinking water supply every year.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The energy efficiency of trains:
When Amtrak compares its fuel economy with automobiles (see p. 19), it relies on Department of Energy data that presumes 1.6 people per car (see tables 2.13 for cars and 2.14 for Amtrak). But another Department of Energy report points out that cars in intercity travel tend to be more fully loaded — the average turns out to be 2.4 people.

Even if a particular rail proposal did save a little energy in year-to-year operations, studies show that the energy cost of constructing rail lines dwarfs any annual savings. The environmental impact statement for a Portland, Oregon light-rail line found it would take 171 years of annual energy savings to repay the energy cost of construction (they built it anyway).

Public transit buses tend to be some the least energy-efficient vehicles around because agencies tend to buy really big buses (why not? The feds pay for them), and they run around empty much of the time. But private intercity buses are some of the most energy efficient vehicles because the private operators have an incentive to fill them up. A study commissioned by the American Bus Association found that intercity buses use little more than a third as much energy per passenger mile as Amtrak. (The source may seem self-serving, but DOE data estimate intercity buses are even more efficient than that

Often lost in the discussion about rail, is that the energy efficiency can vary quite dramatically based upon the type of rail and it's use. Light rail, commuter rail, high speed rail and freight rail all have very different energy consumption rates.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How energy efficient is light rail?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mass transport in Europe:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How effective is health care at reducing the rich-poor gap?:
A group of researchers followed almost 15,000 initially healthy Canadians for more than 10 years to see whether universal access to health care meant that the rich and the poor were equally likely to stay healthy. The answer? Not even close.

The researchers ran the data two ways: High-income patients vs. low-income patients, and highly educated patients vs. less educated patients. Over the course of the study, the high-income patients were only 35 percent as likely to die as the low-income patients, and the highly educated patients only 26 percent as likely to die as the low-income patients. And the problem wasn't that the low-income and low-education patients were hanging back from the health-care system. Because they were getting sick while their richer and better educated counterparts weren't, they actually used considerable more in health-care services.

The problem, the researchers say, is that the medical system just isn't that good at keeping people from dying. "Health care services use by itself had little explanatory effect on the income-mortality association (4.3 percent) and no explanatory effect on the education-mortality association," they conclude.
The unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid already exceed $106 trillion. That's well over $300,000 for every man, woman and child in America (and exceeds the combined value of every U.S. bank account, stock certificate, building and piece of personal or public property).

Copyright © Swing Right Rudie
A notebook to myself