Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Cash for Clunkers Impacts

Friday, July 31st, 2009

So as the news has been busy reporting, the government bailout Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), aka “Cars for Clunkers” has quickly exhausted it’s ~$1B[1] budget. The legislation allows people to get $3500 to $4500 per trade-in for cars that get 18 mpg or less. The amount of the rebate is based on the improvement in mileage on the new car. If the mileage improvement is at least 4 mpg, the rebate is $3500. If the mileage improvement is at least 10 mpg then the rebate is $4500.[2]

Assuming an average rebate of $4k, approximately 250k cars have been traded in. If each of these vehicles drives an average of 12k miles per year,[3] that’s 3 BILLION miles driven per year. If each of these cars just qualifies for the rebate (i.e. 18 mpg), this would equate to 166.666 (etc.) million gallons of gas. If each vehicle is replaced with a new vehicle getting an average mileage increase of 7 mpg to 25 mpg, the gas used would be reduced to 120 million gallons. That’s a savings of 28%, or almost 47 million gallons of gas per year. That gas at $2.50 a gallon will save $117 M to the consumer per year. The atmosphere will see a CO2 reduction of 8.8kg[4] per gallon or 414 million kilograms (or 414 gigagrams) of CO2 per year.

Assuming these new cars are kept and driven for 5 years, the consumer will see a savings of $583 million on the government’s $1B investment. Of course, there is additional economic reward since some of these cars would not have been otherwise sold. and the dealers still get to sell the trade-ins for some amount of profit.

Environmentally, there are probably cheaper ways to save 47 million gallons of gas per year, but getting people into more efficient cars has to be a good thing in the long run.

  1. That’s 1e9 dollars for the Europeans. []
  2. Trucks and SUV’s follow different rules which you can read about yourself on the site. []
  3. Average miles driven from EPA Greenhouse Gas report. []
  4. Ibid. []

Interesting ideas about Oil.

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

I’ve been reading back blog entries from Tesla Motors which are rife with pro-electric anti-internal combustion engine rhetoric. I find it rather reassuring that an honest to goodness real business enterprise is working on this. With any luck, they will continue to revolutionize the US auto industry.

Anyways, I just read an old post where their CEO, Martin Eberhard, commented on President Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address. He made two comments with regards to energy planning and cars which made me sit back and think for a while. You can read his post first if you wish, or just trust my interpretation. It’s ok, this post will still be here when you get back.

Caught up? Ok… here are the two “Hare-Brained Ideas”[1] that seem pretty reasonable to me.

  1. Allow CAFE standard credits to be traded on a market between car makers.
  2. Avoid exploiting US domestic oil resources specifically so we will still have them when the ‘foreign oil’ starts running out.


  1. His words, not mine. []

Science stimulus remains largely intact…

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

According to the mailing I get, the bill being presented to the Senate on Monday largely preserves the additional funding for science programs:

Agency Original Senate bill budget amt
Proposed cut this morning % prop cut Cut in final compromise % final cut Final compromise bill budget amt Science funding you preserved
NASA $1,502,000,000 $750,000,000 50 $200,000,000 13.31 $1,302,000,000 $550,000,000
NSF $1,402,000,000 $1,402,000,000 100 $200,000,000 14.26 $1,202,000,000 $1,202,000,000
NOAA $1,222,000,000 $427,000,000 34.94 $200,000,000 16.37 $1,022,000,000 $227,000,000
NIST $575,000,000 $218,000,000 37.91 $100,000,000 17.39 $475,000,000 $118,000,000
DOE enrgy effy & renewbl energy $2,648,000,000 $1,000,000,000 38 0 0 $2,648,000,000 $1,000,000,000
DOE offc of science $100,000,000 $100,000,000 100 $100,000,000 100 0 0
Totals $7,449,000,000 $3,897,000,000 52.32 $800,000,000 10.74 $6,649,000,000 $3,097,000,000

Thanks to Shawn Otto at ScienceDabate2008 for the update.

An open letter to the Senate…

Friday, February 6th, 2009

To the Honorable Charles E. Schumer, Honorable Kirsten E. Gillibrand and the rest of the U.S. Senate:

Certain science and technology funding cuts are being proposed by the effort led by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
As an engineer working in the communications and technology sector, I am a witness to the increasing difficulty to find skilled scientists and engineers. Our nation is slipping from its position as the pinnacle of innovation and technological achievement because of our failure to support fundamental scientific research. Institutions such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others are critical to this investment. These organizations are in a position to immediately provide grants and other support to researchers who are ready to put that money to work in our economy.
The Department of Energy’s funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy and basic science research are also on the chopping block. These are exactly the technology areas which can provide economic and security benefits for years to come.

Please, assure that this stimulus package will remain an investment in America which will pay dividends into the future. Our children are counting on it and so are we.

The text of this message was submitted to Senator Schumer’s website. In addition, Senator Schumer’s Syracuse office was contacted by phone. Senator Gillibrand has not yet been reached. Her old offices have been turned over to the Clerk of the House of Representatives and her new office voice mail is full! Apparently, she hasn’t even gotten keys to her office yet!

Edit: For what it’s worth I wrote this before I saw the Bad Astronomer’s post, but check out his thoughts also.

Congratulations President-Elect Obama!

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

As I was watching CNN pan around the enormous crowd in Chicago looking forward to celebrate the election of Senator Obama, I heard Nate cough slightly in his crib.

I realized then, that should these predictions hold (and it looks pretty certain), that Nate will grow up in an America where the President does not have the same skin color he does. Should President-Elect Obama serve for 8-years, it’s quite probable that Nate will carry this as the image of the first President he ever knew. [1]

That seems pretty significant to me, and I hope this is just one sign of the beginning of a new, less divided America.

Edit (11:33PM):
I just listened to Senator McCain’s concession speech. You know, if he had been speaking in positive gracious terms like that for the last 6 months, this election might have been much closer. I hope he does return to his more centrist roots and provides a rallying point for Republicans to unify with the Democratic majority. I’d love to see the centrists run this country for a change, instead of the flip-flopping polarized politics of the last 12 years.

Edit (5 Nov 7:20AM):
If you didn’t hear the speeches, I’m really sorry you missed them. Here are the transcripts:

  1. I’m guessing that at the age of 6, the President is not something that sticks in your head. []

You know what to do!

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

What spending freeze?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

That didn’t take long. Remember that spending freeze I just wrote about… and how NASA is squarely in the group of programs subject to the freeze?

Bad Astronomer discusses a Wall Street Journal article where McCain has promised $2 Billion to support NASA.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE NASA. I think NASA should be funded in much larger proportion to the current budget. Currently the non-military space program gets about 0.6% of the current budget, or $56 per American. I think I spend more than that per month on my cable bill.

What gets me going is how somebody can talk about increasing $17B by $2B and call it a spending freeze. I would love a nice 11% salary freeze right about now too.

Some might call it lying.

Freeze spending, really!?

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

So in the final Presidential debate, Senator McCain said “And I recommend a spending freeze that — except for defense, Veterans Affairs, and some other vital programs, we’ll just have to have across-the-board freeze.”[1].

On October 20th, while campaigning in Missouri, he said “I will freeze government spending on all but the most important programs like defense, veterans care, Social Security and health care until we scrub every single government program and get rid of the ones that aren’t working for the American people.”[2]

So let’s break this down a bit:

  • “Freeze government spending…” Ok, that seems meaningful, I won’t say “good”, but at least meaningful.
  • “… on all but …” Uh oh… here it comes.
  • “… defense, veterans care, Social Security and health care.” Woah. Could we have picked any LARGER programs to except from the ‘spending freeze’? I guess “vital programs” really means “expensive programs”.

So how much of the government budget is McCain really looking to control with this approach?
According to the US Government Budget Office historical data for Fiscal Year 2009, in 2007 total government receipts were $2,568 Billion (thousand-million for the Brits) as follows: $1,163B in personal income tax, $370B in corporate taxes, $870B in social security taxes and $46B from other sources.
Outlays were $2,655 Billion (I’m fairly certain this does not include “Supplemental Funding” like the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or bailouts) as follows: Defense $522B, Human resources $1,672B, Physical resources $165B, Interest $227B, Other functions $138B[3] and Offsetting receipts -$68B. We need to break down the Human resources further to get to the Senator’s other line items as follows: $119B is Education, $253B is Health, $330B is Medicare, $549B is Social Security and $70B is Veteran’s benefits and services.
I’m guessing that “Health and Medicare” are wrapped up in the “health care” subject.

So out of a $2,655B Federal outlay (not including the wars which undoubtedly fall under the “defense” bucket), $522B + $253B + $330B + $549B + $70B = $1,724B (65%) is completely free to grow. The remaining $931B (35%) gets frozen.

The items which will be capped include (in order of decreasing size): Education, Transportation, Community Development, Justice, Natural Resources & Environment, International Affairs, Agriculture, Science and others.

So strong talk, but if he said it like this “I’m going to freeze spending on 1/3 of the budget and let the rest grow as needed” would it sound like it meant anything? No? Well, that’s really what he’s saying.

Is that what you want? You decide. Vote.

  1. Quote from transcript []
  2. Remarks by Senator McCain in Belton, MO, []
  3. General science, space and technology gets a mere $23.6B of this pie. NASA gets about $17B of that, but the DoD space program gets more: on the order of $20B. []

It’s the economy, stupid.

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

As seen on digg:


I’m not sure that “Elitist” is really the argument I would be making with this image, but it’s hard to argue which set of statistics is more typical of the average US citizen. I suppose if the economy really tanks he can always sell his jet. Are you prepared to give up your jet?


Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Let me put this in a language that the Christian fundamentalists might understand:

When Jesus sat down with the sinners and tax collectors did he ask for preconditions? Was he naive and irresponsible to do this?

McCain would say “yes”. What do you think?

10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

12On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”[1]

  1., New International Version, Matthew 9 V10:13 []