Here I Am

Michael Cain

Michael is a systems analyst, with a taste for obscure applied math. He's interested in energy supplies, the urban/rural divide, regional political differences in the US, and map-like things. Bicycling, and fencing (with swords, that is) act as stress relief.

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128 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Couple thoughts:

    Water shortages are going to a be major issue throughout the entire southwest which you do touch on. It wouldn’t surprise me if over 30-50 years the SW starts to lose population or its growth is massively curtailed due to lack of water. The arid or desert parts of the west are actually most of the west. Norcal, Portland and Seattle might end up ruling the west.

    Social media will prevent people from different coasts becoming culturally seperated and divided.Report

    • North in reply to greginak says:

      Well it depends on agriculture. There is an enormous amount of water available in the west for dense population if the enormous federal and state subsidies of desert agriculture were scaled back or eliminated. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the dense voter rich urban areas finally engage in an actual fight with the vote poor rural areas over water.Report

      • greginak in reply to North says:

        Where is all the water in the West for dense pops? In the NW there is lots of water but not really in the SW.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

        The Ogallala Aquifer is in big trouble. Phoenix had the foresight (and the cojones) to obtain water rights but there’s only so far they can take that proposition. The Colorado River is another ugly dogfight: it’s been consistently over-allocated. Denver’s in trouble. California’s in trouble. Driving I-10 from Phoenix to LA, you can see those huge pipes going up into that mountain ridge.

        It won’t matter how much these various entities fight over it, the West is over its carrying capacity. It’s a bunch of hungry coyotes fighting over an already stripped to the bone deer carcase.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Denver (and the Front Range in general) doesn’t have a water problem, it has a water management problem. Outlaw residential grass and Denver has water it doesn’t know what to do with. Outlaw irrigation of corn to feed the ethanol factories and the Front Range from the Palmer Divide to the Wyoming border is in much the same situation.

          The Lower Colorado River Basin is going to be… ugly.Report

  2. Damon says:

    But we’ve already determined that sucession is illegal, so it just can’t be done!

    *wrings hands*Report

  3. Simon Kinahan says:

    What about gas? Gas powered power stations are cheap, can be made quite small, and are very easy to switch on an off. Gas is clean, and since the US suddenly appears to have a great deal of it, also very cheap.Report

    • zic in reply to Simon Kinahan says:

      And many generation plants have already installed co-generation facilities to avail themselves of which fuel is cheaper.Report

    • North in reply to Simon Kinahan says:

      The scenario does seem to hand wave away the entire frakking related advances in oil extraction and natural gas production. Funny thing is people know about a lot of oil that was uneconomical to extract at previous prices but becomes so as oil prices rise. Peak oil keeps finding higher and higher peaks as the price goes up. Still, fundamentally there is a ceiling. Fossil fuel reserves are finite; of that there’s no doubt.Report

      • greginak in reply to North says:

        My guess is people will learn to tolerate very high gas prices before significant changes are made. Certainly people drive less as prices go up. But i don’t see major changes like more public transport, less road funding, etc any time soon.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to North says:

        I think we’re a little too early in the frakking deployment to know whether or not it is sustainable.Report

        • Simon Kinahan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          In what sense? Production enough volume to move prices is on stream already. The only potential problem is if the worries about groundwater turn out to be substantiated.Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Simon Kinahan says:

            The only potential problem is if the worries about groundwater turn out to be substantiated.

            Generally, the environmental impact of large-scale fracking efforts is totally unknown at this point. Not just groundwater, but potential leaks, spills, etc. People mined coal for a long time before black lung became a political issue.

            I’m also not entirely certain that we’ll be progressing in our fracking at our current rate, let’s just say that.Report

        • Trends say it’s sustainable, and there’s more than just shale. At some point if shale gas becomes uneconomical, there’s always methrane hydrates that WILL become economical at some point in the next 20-30 years and the US has vast vast reserves of that off its continental shelf.Report

    • dexter in reply to Simon Kinahan says:

      Gas is only cheap if one doesn’t factor in the environmental cost or the defense budget. I have heard projections ranging from three to five degrees temperature increase from tar sands.
      If half of what the people who care about our unborn grandchildren say is true gas is very expensive.Report

  4. zic says:

    I could have written a similar post focusing on water, with the west facing shortages.

    But I’m sort of troubled by the notion that the East has a shortage of renewable energy sources. Before this was even a topic of discussion, 40% of my mix is from hydro. That’s standard mix; and we’re talking some big generating companies including FLP. There are windfarms and bio generators coming coming onto the grid, and research on tidal generation, with a unit already in the Gulf of Maine showing tremendous potential.

    Peak oil seems to have really meant peak easy oil, the tar-sands variety and other forms that need more refining seem plentiful, but that’s an impression I have, and one I’ll let WillH or others with more/better industry knowledge address. My concerns here aren’t supply any longer, it’s carbon loading the atmosphere.

    As SimonKinahan said, natural gas production.

    Water, on the other hand, is an interesting conundrum for the west. By my estimations, already a much bigger problem then energy will be for the East.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to zic says:

      Yeah, we’re about at peak oil, or so. But that’s peak of production, basically, and more an index of demand versus supply. Of course there will be more supplies, they will just cost more, and become more and more energetically infeasible.Report

  5. North says:

    Hmph well barring some huge advance in wind or tide (I doubt it, wind is variable and tide has been spinning its wheels for decades) I’d put bets on a nuclear renaissance. If energy prices rise very much reprocessing becomes economical which throws the question of storing waste (there’ll be very little) out the window.
    Raise prices even more and then heavy water nuclear becomes economical, the Canadians have been doing it for decades now. I just don’t see us running out of electricity.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

      I sure wish you were right, North. Trouble is, going nuclear only trades one set of geopolitical devils we know for another set of devils we know somewhat less well: uranium finds, like oil, always seems to crop up in awful places.Report

      • North in reply to BlaiseP says:

        True BlaiseP. But there’s a great deal of the stuff rolling around here in North America for the near and mid term and, of course, there’s all kinds of potential fuels waiting for someone desperate for electricity to sling some serious science at them. I know you don’t think much of thorium but there are others.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

          Truth is, I wouldn’t care what fuels the reactors. Some folks hear “nuclear reactor” and break out in a rash of assholes. Most people in point of fact. (spreads hands wide) Damned near everybody, North. This country is so afflicted with the dumbass, so eaten up with idiocy, so absolutely clueless to the geopolitical trick bag into which we’ve put ourselves over time, it’s almost pointless to even mention this fact. You’ll just hurt these people’s feelings.Report

          • dexter in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Blaise, Some studies have indicated that there has been a 28% increase in thyroid problems in children born in Hawaii and western states since Fukushima. Anybody that isn’t worried about nuclear power is everything you said in the last sentence of your diatribe.
            While I am about 90% convinced that nuclear power could be safe if, and this is a huuuuge if, nobody lied so the plant could run longer and make more money, I am 110% convinced that we don’t know how to store something that dangerous for thousands of years.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to dexter says:

              Look, here’s the problem in a nutshell: the US Navy has been running reactors off a basic safe design for many decades. When Thresher went to the bottom, that reactor survived. It scrammed, exactly as it should have. Thresher imploded into thousands of tiny pieces — everything except its reactor. It’s still at the bottom, safe as milk. That was 1963.

              This custom reactor designs like Fukushima and Three Mile Island and the rest of these crazy-ass designs, they’re nothing but trouble. France put in a standard reactor design, something like 56 Westinghouse reactors and they haven’t had Problem One over the years. They planned to recycle their nuclear waste from the very beginning so they never had the problem with disposal. There was some concern about burying some residual nuclear waste so the French said “we’ll just stockpile it so we can keep an eye on it” and the furore died down.

              Now France is trying to screw around with more custom reactors and they’ve gone over budget.

              American reactors are so stupid, it’s like burning the bark off a log and throwing the whole thing, still blazing away, into the trash can. We don’t have a good fuel reprocessing infrastructure: Jimmy Carter, that ass, thought it was a bad idea. As such, yes, you’re absolutely right, given the stupidity of building reactors which won’t survive a disaster like Fukushima. But that’s not universally true.

              If you’re going nuclear, you need three things: a standard reactor, standard training and a standard reprocessing / disposal regime. The US Navy graduates the best nuclear techs in the world but the morons in Washington who send their nuclear-powered ships and submarines here ‘n there are too stupid to realise they’ve already got the solution in uniform.Report

              • North in reply to BlaiseP says:

                This, so very much this.

                Dexter, just for the record, France reprocesses their fuel and then stores what is left over in glass casks. The waste that cannot be recycled that has been produced in the entire lifetime of the French nuclear industry amounts to the volume of a high school gymnasium.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

                What’s needed is a thorough review of nuclear power, with a full and frank concession to the anti-nuclear folks, admitting the obvious. For the last fifty years, the nuclear power industry has behaved like maniacs, lying to us and lying to themselves. Dozens of reactors, billions of dollars spent, tons of nuclear waste, that shit will be blazing away as far distant forward from us in time as the Sumerian civilisation was in our past.

                The US Navy needs to take this matter in hand, immediately. I wouldn’t trust these utilities with anything sharper than a marshmallow. Institute SUBSAFE protocols all the way through.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to North says:

                France actually has a fairly serious spent fuel problem in that its high and medium radioactive waste is 1: difficult to handle after reprocessing and 2: has no permanent storage site. Right now they keep it stored at La Hague, but that’s a temporary solution and they’ve yet to come up with a permanent way to deal with it. It’s true that the vitifried waste is about the size of a rugby pitch, but it’s still really nasty stuff ™ that needs a good long-term storage solution.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Difficult is as difficult does. France and Japan have a policy and a procedure for reprocessing, Japan’s rather worse than France’s: Rokkasho is a bureaucratic mess.

                The USA doesn’t have anything of the sort.

                Given that a coal-fired plant emits more radionuclides than a nuclear power plant and its ash creates megatons of really nasty stuff ™, when it comes to the feeding of beasts and mucking out their stalls, there’s always a trade off in both horsepower and electrical power. The half-life of politically nasty tatemae as it decays to stable honne is about as long and dangerous as anything in the barrels and the ash heaps.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Four things: you left out a culture that takes safety and maintenance seriously rather than as things that can be gutted when management bonus time comes around.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I believe that was addressed @23, noting this country is afflicted with a terminal case of the dumbass.Report

              • dexter in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Mike’s reply is very close to my thinking. I believe we could do nuclear, but I do not trust the corps to tell the truth. The only people that lie more than politicians are the corps that tell those marionettes in Washington what to write into law.
                How many windmills could we build for the cost of one nuclear plant. How much solar energy could we produce if, instead of giving the highly profitable oil companies entitlements, we used that money for solar panels?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to dexter says:

                Look, these are the strategic variables in energy.

                1. Congruency with market demand.
                2: Total upfront costs before a single watt is generated.
                3: Cost of megawatts over the life of the power plant
                4: Uptime, consistency and reliability
                5. Power transmission loss.

                Solar and wind only become viable if they’re very close to demand. If we reduced transmission loss — which we could do — at massive #2 upfront cost, they might become more viable. They currently get failing marks at #4. Perhaps if we can work out how to store that power for later usage, their marks might improve somewhat.

                Nuclear has massive upfront costs. Those could be substantially reduced with standardised reactors. Nuclear also needs water for steam and cooling. But it’s reliable and the #3 cost is surprisingly low.

                Oil doesn’t play a role in power generation: it’s not the same problem domain. Gas does play a large role, especially in #1, with peaker plants. When demand goes up, a peaker plant can spin up to meet that demand.

                An optimal wind turbine can only reach 59% efficiency. It’s a mechanical nightmare keeping one running. You’ll find the largest wind turbines running at just north of 7 Mw. San Onofre generates 1.24 Gw. So, lessee, that’s 1240 Mw, you’d need 165 of the biggest wind turbines in the world today running full out 24/7/365. And that’s not going to happen.Report

              • North in reply to dexter says:

                Like Blaise said, Dex, neither wind nor solar can provide base load power. Also solar panels have both serious toxicity problems of their own on disposal and huge rare earth bottlenecks for production.

                Now I’m down with strict regulation of nuclear power. Much more strict than there has been. My own primary point is that when environmentalists start happily talking about how much of a crunch on electricity we’re going to have nuclear isn’t something they can hand wave away. Try to seriously ration energy and the artificial culture of fear about nuclear power that we maintain in the US is gonna go out the window.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to dexter says:

              Some studies have indicated that there has been a 28% increase in thyroid problems in children born in Hawaii and western states since Fukushima.

              Imma need a citation on that one.

              Fukushima wasn’t anywhere near long enough ago for that to crop up in any sort of longitudinal study and anything short term probably wouldn’t cover Hawaii *and* the western states.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP says:

        If uranium ever goes over the 23,000 yen per kilogram, we’ll be able to get loads of the stuff out of seawater. It’s not a huge problem, as there’s lots of things under development to make it easily recoverable from non-traditional sources.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to North says:

      I wouldn’t. Who funds fusion?Report

      • North in reply to Kimmi says:

        I leave fusion out of my mental calculus for nuclear Kimmi me dear. It’s just too magic. If someone pulls it off then we’re probably talking singularity. Until that point I find it more practical just to assume it will remain twenty years away from feasibility for the rest of my lifetime.Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to North says:

          ITER’s coming online this year. If all goes well with it, we’re talking a useful tokomak design within 5-10 years. Commercial scale development is something else, of course, and there’s always problems with how to deal with waste products, even with fusion. But it’s more feasible now than it’s ever been.

          It’s just the US government isn’t spending much money on it while the Europeans and Japanese are.Report

          • Fnord in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            If all goes well with it, we’re talking a useful tokomak design within 5-10 years.

            Fusion has been 10 years away for 50 years. But never let it be said that we’re not making progress. After 50 years of hard work, it’s now 5 years away!

            We’ll get fusion eventually, no doubt. There has been progress. But relying on it as a solution in the immediate future is probably a mistake.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Fnord says:

              I don’t think anyone’s really relying on it as a solution, it seems to me everyone’s already written it off as a potential solution in the next 20 years, hence the reason why we have long-horizon experiments like ITER. Once ITER is up and running though, we’ll have a better idea of how net energy fusion will work, or won’t work on the scale of a 10x energy generating tokomak. That’s progress, even if it won’t solve our energy woes by 2040.Report

          • ITER’s coming online this year. If all goes well with it, we’re talking a useful tokomak design within 5-10 years.

            Simply not true. The current official ITER schedule calls for first plasma in 2020 and first deuterium-tritium fusion in 2027, so we’re 14 years away — if there are no additional delays — from the first instance of the reaction that they’re pinning their hopes on. ITER itself won’t be used to generate electricity. The project’s schedule calls for the DEMO system, ITER’s successor, to begin generating power in 2033. After an indeterminate period of DEMO operation, they plan to design PROTO — the prototype for a commercial reactor. And there are game-breakers all along the way. For example, no one knows if the structural materials they’ve chosen will stand up as predicted in that kind of neutron flux — that’s one of the questions ITER is supposed to answer.Report

          • North in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            From your lips to God(ess?)’s ear Nob ol’ buddy.Report

  6. Citizen says:

    Do you think if we pushed compact theory far enough and then statization of the lands that secession could be avoided?

    Is there not a case to be made that the people could have retained their state and in addition have a national government at an equal but not greater than level upon ratification?Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Citizen says:

      Let’s make it a more detailed hypothetical. Land turned over to the states, the only strings being that they have to provide the kind of services that the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service have. No federal payments to the states to cover that — it’s their land now — but the states keep all of the royalty monies instead of half. Some of the states could afford it. Wyoming could pay for it just out of the increased coal royalties; California, Colorado, and Washington could probably swing it out of their state budgets; I think the voters there would accept the necessary small tax increases. Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico? Almost certainly not. Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Utah could go either way.

      There are a lot of complications. Some of the capabilities needed — eg, air tankers for fighting forest fires — should be shared. FERC is the final authority for resolving conflicts over siting electricity transmission facilities on the federal lands, and new transmission will need to be built (IMO). Do the states get the big hydro systems located on public lands? The BPA and other power administrations operate across state lines and at least BPA deals with Canada. Does BPA report to Oregon and Washington? How much “real” authority over the public lands can be given to the states as long as they remain part of the US is a difficult question to answer.Report

  7. Creon Critic says:

    There’s going to be a heavy “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” element to this reply, so with that said. Pick any 30 year pair within the last 100 years. How difficult was it to get right technological, political, and geostrategic concerns three decades hence?

    Let’s look at 30 years ago: USSR still a big deal, the Internet not a big deal, heck, personal computing maybe the beginnings of the bigger deal it was to become but not yet pocket smartphone level. Speaking of cell phones a 1983 cell phone was, let’s say, a substantial device.

    All of which to say, there are quite a few technological innovations that could cut through some of the concerns you mention. I don’t even have to reach for the singularity, just developments in materials science and biotech could seriously push back on the energy concerns you highlight. I don’t know how difficult genetically modifying sugarcane is or whether nano-scale solar power is a promising avenue, but those fields have to be good for something beside putting ears on the backs of mice and writing IBM in really small print.

    People like nice things, like European vacations, and the US certainly likes the nice thing of being the dominant global military power. Capitalism, when it isn’t collapsing in on itself, has a record of delivering nice things. I think its, um, courageous to bet against that record continuing. Also, in the area I know a bit more about, I don’t get the power transition you’re describing for the US. It took two all consuming world wars to drop Britain down from top tier to middling power, energy is really going to push the US off its pedestal towards regional power status?

    tl;dr, techno-utopia ahead, sort of.Report

  8. George Turner says:

    I just don’t see other Western states being foolish enough to tie themsselves any closer to California, which would certainly be the politically dominant partner. California is completely unable to manage its own budget, to the extent that Congressmen have discussed the legalities and precedents for suspending its statehood when it goes belly-up, much the way Michigan has intervened in Detroit by appointing emergency managers.Report

    • trumwill mobile in reply to George Turner says:

      Err, once the Republicans couldn’t stop them from doing so, the state’s democratic leaders fixed the budget rather quickly.Report

      • From what I understand, this was accomplished by, well… let’s not use the word “raiding”…, the emergency funds in the state.

        This is not something that can be done a second time.Report

        • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

          So they fixed it then. If avoiding a complete meltdown doesn’t qualify as the time to use emergency funds, i’m not sure what does. they also raised taxes and cut services. Every bodies is happy.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

            I don’t know that “fixed” is the right word insofar as “fixed” implies foreseeable sustainability to me.

            We’ll see, of course.Report

            • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

              The biggest cause of the financial problems for the states and the country was the giant recession. Since the economy is slowly improving that suggests things are fixed for the foreseeable future.Report

              • zic in reply to greginak says:

                It’s imperative to keep looking down upon CA liberalism as the penultimate problem.

                (If you’re curious, the other coast is ultimate, first or last depending on if you’re measuring by the sun stream or the jet stream; but ultimate, nonetheless, as the OP indicates.)Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to trumwill mobile says:

        Well, I wouldn’t say “fixed”, but it’s much closer than it’s been since 2000.Report

        • greginak in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          Pat- Fair enough. It would be interesting to hear your take on the Cali. financial situation. It is certainly used a political football in national politics to prove whatever point is convenient. I’ve read a few things about the current state of “fixedness” from other Cali people. What is your view?Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to greginak says:

            We’d be a lot better off if we did two things: sent broke people back to their state of origin so that our social welfare bill wasn’t covering a good chunk of imports from states where their welfare support sucks (I’m looking at you, everywhere with terrible Medicaid support), and legalized the illegal immigrant population so that we could put them on the tax rolls. I’d hazard a guess that those two things alone might put us in the green, really.

            I’m not happy with the school funding, but that’s a problem with the way the money is distributed more than anything else. I think there’s probably enough total cash in the system.

            I’d also like to repeal Prop 13 and let the urban cycle send retirees out of neighborhoods that were built for families, but nobody wants to encourage grandma to move out of her neighborhood.Report

            • Can’t California add a residency duration requirement? No Medicaid until you’ve been here a year? Or does Medicaid disallow that?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Will Truman says:

                I honestly don’t know.

                I don’t see that it would fly, though. We’re a softhearted bunch, more or less. Unless you commit a crime. Then we want to kill you.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

                The Supreme Court says no:


                It violates the Privileges and Immunities clause of the US Constitution.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to NewDealer says:

                Furthermore, wrote Stevens, there was no reason for the state to fear that citizens of other states would take advantage of California’s relatively generous welfare benefits because the proceeds of each welfare check would be consumed while the plaintiffs remained within the state.

                Um. I think I’d have to disagree with the good Justice on this logic.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              “We’d be a lot better off if we did two things: sent broke people back to their state of origin so that our social welfare bill wasn’t covering a good chunk of imports from states where their welfare support sucks”

              As I said below, this violates the Privileges and Immunities clause of Article IV and the Fourth Amendment. States don’t have the right to exclude other American citizens (there might be an exception for parloees but that has more to do with the scope of their parole order). There is a right to domestic travel.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                There is a right to domestic travel, but not for immediate benefits. I thought of it like in-state tuition residency requirements. I guess the difference is that Medicaid, even though states put a lot of money into it, is still a federal program.

                I don’t think I like that ruling. It puts generous states like California at an unfair disadvantage.Report

              • 975 in reply to Will Truman says:

                14th Amendment. You are a citizen of the state in which you reside. Go reside in another, and you are a citizen of it. Citizens can’t be discriminated against.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to 975 says:

                As long as you intend to make it your permanent resident/domicile. I am not a citizen of Oregon because I decide to spend go there for a three day vacation.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to NewDealer says:

                I perhaps should not have specified Medicaid, in particular.

                California’s social safety net covers a number of things that many other states do not. We have a number of state-level lower income support programs, for example, that are funded at the state level.

                There is quite possibly some free riding going on there, I’m guessing likely. I can’t say for certain, this is beyond my scope of knowledge, but just looking at the state-immigrant population (people who live in California who were born elsewhere in the U.S.) I think we have more than our fair share of other states’ expats.

                To be clear, I’m not advocating throwing them out on the street. I would just like it if people in such-and-so conservative state didn’t harp so much about how California is overly generous and liberal when their relatives are part of our social safety net, here. Yes, your state runs a much more trim ship. Bite me.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to NewDealer says:

                I would just like it if people in such-and-so conservative state didn’t harp so much about how California is overly generous and liberal when their relatives are part of our social safety net, here.

                And I would add, conservative states that accept more than the 50% federal Medicaid reimbursement rate that California gets. If California got the same 74.3% reimbursement rate that Mississippi gets (to choose the worse example), it would free up almost $15B in California General Fund dollars. Even Texas’ 69.3% would free up over $5.5B. Add the Medicaid rate as a criterion and Alaska and Wyoming are the only two red states that get to bitch. With barely 1.3 million people between the two of them.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:


                Those numbers are thrown off by the willingness of California to spend more for more generous services*. Despite the fact that the federal government spends less as a percentage of overall spending, federal HHS spends more per-capita in California than it does in Texas (not Mississippi, though).

                * – Which, to be sure, I’m not criticizing. I can think of worse places for the state’s money to go.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to NewDealer says:

                No. Or at least, while I may be wrong, I don’t think so. The federal reimbursement rate to the state is determined by a simple formula: everyone gets 50%, then the formula calculates if you’re “poor” enough to get a higher rate. Everything a state spends, so long as it is covered under the Medicaid minimum requirements, or an expansion covered under an approved waiver, is reimbursed at exactly that rate. California is a rich state under the statute; they get 50% of their approved spending reimbursed. 14 states are “rich” and get the minimum match.

                California is generous in terms of who is covered, and to a lesser extent, what is covered. I believe all of Medi-Cal is covered under waivers, so they get 50% (care they provide not covered under a waiver or the original federal statute is all on the state’s dime). Texas is poor, so even though their eligibility requirements are tighter than California’s, and they don’t cover as many things, they get a higher reimbursement rate. Mississippi, falling into the dirt-poor category, gets an even higher reimbursement rate.

                The PPACA locked California’s eligibility rules into place. I am a slight expert on the effect of this part of the PPACA because as a staffer for the Joint Budget Committee in Colorado, I had to run around like crazy to make sure that a particular JBC-sponsored bill died. Said bill put all of the state’s federal Medicaid money at risk because there was a chance that it made ineligible a dozen or so people who were eligible under the state’s Medicaid rules that were in force at the time the PPACA became effective.

                California has been quite generous in who gets covered (this may turn out to screw them under the terms of the PPACA, compared to a state that was not previously generous this way). They’ve been relatively generous in what gets covered. OTOH, what they pay some of the care providers is, IMO, a fairly clear violation of the basic Medicaid language. No way is the (IIRC) $12.50 they pay a provider for an office visit sufficient to provide access to care equal to the population in general, which is what the federal statute requires. If the feds decided to be nasty, Medi-Cal is probably nonconforming and all of the federal Medicaid reimbursements could be withheld.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

                It was hardly a 5-4 controversial decision. It was a 7-2 blowout with Scalia, Kennedy, and O’Connor joining Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Souter.

                This is not the decision of an activist or partisan Supreme Court. It is a basic reading of the Privileges and Immunities clause of the US Constitution.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                I’m not saying it’s activism. Just that it doesn’t sit right with me. College education isn’t a right in the constitution, but neither is Medicaid. I get the rationale (and think P&I is a good thing). I just don’t think it should apply here (at least, as it pertains to a relatively minimal waiting period).Report

              • I might feel more comfortable about it if there was something the states could do. Like “For your first two years* here, we will only honor whatever commitments the state you left would have had.” Something like that. By the reasoning of the ruling, even that wouldn’t be acceptable.

                * – My initial thought was “No benefits at all for a year. Maybe that would be prohibitive. I’d need to think on it. Two years in that case would definitely be problematic. But if Cali were willing to honor Idaho’s commitments, then two years would seem more fair.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

                That’s because there is no right to a college education in the United States Constitution. If there was, the case above would apply.

                That being said, you can also live in a state for a year and get in-state tuition. So someone could declare that Cal was their domicile and get In-State tuition for their sophomore to senior years of college.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                That may be the case in California, but it other states if you move somewhere and start school immediately, you are not an in-state resident for the duration of your education. You basically have to move somewhere, wait out a year, and then start. (This is relevant to me as we have moved around a lot, and I have been interested in maybe going back to school.)Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to NewDealer says:

                I’m not sure of the current status in Texas, but when I was there in the later 1970s, the state Supreme Court ruled that UT couldn’t impose more strict residency requirements than the state did for other purposes. So basically, register to vote, register your car, get a Texas drivers license, and use the same physical Texas address on all of those (a dorm room was fine) and you qualified. I think they may have weaseled something so they could still ding you for out-of-state the first semester, but by the second semester you were good.Report

              • They’ve made this more difficult, the domicile requirement is a bit more strict from what I recall.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

                Part of the Privileges and Immunities clause does cover stuff like a right to earn a living.

                South Carolina once declared that a commercial fishing license for South Carolina residents costs 50 dollars. Out of staters needed to pay 2500 dollars. The Supreme Court ruled that Unconstitutional:

                7. Section 3379, S.C.Code, requiring nonresidents of South Carolina to pay a license fee of $2,500 for each shrimp boat and residents to pay a fee of only $25, violates the privileges and immunities clause of Art. IV, § 2, of the Constitution. Pp. 334 U. S. 395-403.

                (a) The privileges and immunities clause was intended to outlaw classifications based on the fact of noncitizenship unless there is something to indicate that noncitizens constitute a peculiar source of the evil at which the statute is aimed, and, in this case, there is no convincing showing of a reasonable relationship between the alleged danger to the shrimp supply represented by noncitizens, as a class, and the severe discrimination practiced upon them. Pp. 334 U. S. 396-399.


              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                I can more easily understand the SC decision than I can this one.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              We’d be a lot better off if we did two things: sent broke people back to their state of origin so that our social welfare bill wasn’t covering a good chunk of imports from states where their welfare support sucks (I’m looking at you, everywhere with terrible Medicaid support)

              As much as the idea of a welfare state collapsing under the weight of the moochers it attracts warms my heart, is this really that much of an issue? Do people really move to California just to get better welfare?Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Maybe some.

                I would say plenty of people move to California for social liberalism. The Bay Area still has a free to be what you want to be vibe even if it is now super-expensive.

                Others move for weather and job opportunities. We have a lot of winter haters here.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I’d say people move to California for the reasons anybody moves to California. However, from forever ago to 2010 the population in any given year was more than half non-native (right now it’s just under that).

                Since new arrivals have generally less access to their own family safety net, I’d guess they’re more likely than people who grew up here to have access to resources other than aid.

                Now, there are two big advantages to immigrants: they usually come with schooling and ready to join the workforce (provided there are jobs, this is actually a huge win for the receiving state), and it may be the case that people who are re-locating are statistically more likely to have high value employment opportunities than not (I honestly don’t have a good feel for the odds on that one).

                But when half of your population are people that came here, if they come here late enough they haven’t contributed to the social welfare pool before they start taking from it.

                How big of a problem is it, really? I don’t know. Undocumented workers are a bigger issue because they don’t pay an appropriate share of the tax burden.Report

              • I know at least a couple of people who moved to Oregon specifically because of their comparatively great benefits for kids with disabilities. Stevens apparently barred California from denying services for the first year on the basis that people wouldn’t move to California for the benefits. I’m not sure he’s wrong on that point, but I’m not sure he’s right on it, either.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

                I can definitely see parents who have children with disabilities doing it. Birth defects aren’t really confined to the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum the way reliance on regular means-tested welfare is. So you have parents who are resourceful enough to do the research, run the numbers, find jobs good enough that they’re not taking more in pay cut than they’re gaining in benefits, and move to Oregon.

                With the typical means-tested welfare recipient, I don’t know if I can see it happening. I keep hearing from the left how unreasonable it is to expect the unemployed to move to where the jobs are, because they just don’t have the resources.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to George Turner says:

      I find myself constantly amused by the conservative obsession with California and their certainity that it will — sooner or later — collapse into a liberal apocalypse.

      It was almost as funny as watching my Governor prance around California trying to beg businesses to leave that liberal, regulatory hell-hole and come to Texas. I don’t think he quite understands why they don’t…Report

      • Mr. Blue in reply to Morat20 says:

        Rick Perry goes to California to draw attention to Rick Perry. Bringing employers over would be great – and we’re doing pretty well as far as that goes – but we don’t really need a governor – definitely not that governor – to do it. It’s publicity.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Morat20 says:

        Texas does a great job bribing companies to relocate with huge tax breaks, preferential land deals, etc.

        Thinking of drawing up a post on this at some point and have been gathering data on it, actually.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to George Turner says:

      For all of her problems, California would still by a the fifth largest economy in the world if she were an independent nation.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to NewDealer says:

        That’s a slight exaggeration. It’s more like 8th or 9th, IIRC.


      • Brandon Berg in reply to NewDealer says:

        Which is not to say that California is an exceptionally wealthy state. On a per-capita basis, it’s 12th in the nation. It just has a very large population.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          We still have Google, Apple, Intel, Hollywood and most of the rest of the entertainment industry, Genentech, some of the best universities in the world.

          And really temperate weather.Report

        • It’s still well above the US national GDP per capita. And on total GDP it’s up there between Brazil, Italy and Russia…which is pretty good company to be in for a state of 32-35 million people.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            In per-capita terms, it’s about 10% above the national average. The list is…fascinating. DC leads the pack at $175k. Delaware is next at a hair under $70k, followed by Alaska, Connecticut, and Wyoming(!) in #5. I’d guess that Wyoming’s high per capita GDP is due probably due natural resources and a small population. America’s Norway.

            I don’t know whether that list is PPP-adjusted. It doesn’t say it is, so I assume not.Report

    • I just don’t see other Western states being foolish enough to tie themsselves any closer to California, which would certainly be the politically dominant partner. California is completely unable to manage its own budget, to the extent that Congressmen have discussed the legalities and precedents for suspending its statehood when it goes belly-up, much the way Michigan has intervened in Detroit by appointing emergency managers.

      I find the notion of Congress criticizing California’s budget amusing, given that Congress is borrowing a trillion dollars a year for operating expenses, debt that will most likely be paid off by printing money (or its electronic equivalent), an option that they don’t offer California. I note for the record that interest payments on the federal debt this year will be larger than California’s entire state budget. If the Federal Reserve ever lets interest rates go up, interest on the national debt may be larger than all of the western state budgets combined.

      I’ll absolutely agree that the “rest of the West” can’t stand on its own. But given a choice between being tied to California or being tied to the East Coast, I think the rest of the West would be better off going with California. At least California understands when I say “irrigation” or “big water project” or “forest fire management” or “BLM bastards” or “wind and solar”. On the East Coast, not nearly so much. Or “light rail”. With the exception of Las Vegas, every major metro area in the West has some form of light rail up and running, and most are expanding or have plans to do so. Federal tax donor/recipient calculations are usually suspect, but there’s no question that California is a substantial donor, and little doubt that the West as a region is a donor.Report

  9. LeeEsq says:

    Doesn’t this argument have a major flaw that most people in the Western states do not want to succeed from the Union?Report

    • trumwill mobile in reply to LeeEsq says:

      He’s arguing that in 20 years, for the reasons listed, they will.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to trumwill mobile says:

        Thats what you get from non-careful reading. I seriously doubt that even if all the predictions come true in twenty years that we’ll see a rise in secessionist feeling in the Western states. These things take a long time to build and we don’t even have any rumblings.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Which is why I say it’s at least 25 years out. There are things that the East could do to help things along. Like, the first time the federal government decides to drop the designation on half of one of the big wilderness areas so that natural gas drilling can take place, and the gas all goes into a pipeline to Illinois or Ohio or Georgia. One of the local curmudgeons used to write regularly in his column in the Denver Post that if the governor really cared about the people of Colorado, he’d send the National Guard out to blow up the existing pipelines that haul gas that far, so Colorado could go back to having cheap NG.Report

          • I still think that you overstate the extent to which distance might become an issue. While avgas is likely to go up and not come down, shale gas reserves, plus methane hydrates are likely to make transportation at least feasible by ship. And of course there’s always tea clippers for really valuable and perishable goods.Report

            • It’s hard when you’ve decided that you’ve got one paragraph to say why lots less liquid hydrocarbon fuel is important. I think the military aspects may end up mattering more than the others. IMO, the civilian population in 50 years won’t accept the costs (not just financial, but opportunity) of putting enough of the available liquid hydrocarbon supplies into a military the size we now have. A nuclear carrier sans all that lovely JP8 for the air wing and diesel for the screening elements isn’t a carrier strike force, it’s a target — particularly in a world where everyone is getting better at building missiles and such. And those are applications where energy density and tankage weight are important. A drone with the performance requirements of an F-35 for speed, range, agility, armament, and payload isn’t going to be that much smaller or lighter.

              How much of the US identity is tied up in being the biggest baddest military power on the planet? The world’s policeman (well, except for all the nasty situations where we’re not). I don’t know. I do think that absent a global military role, it’s easier for people to think of themselves as Westerners or Easterners. If the East and West think of each other as “us” and “them” enough of the time, the split’s a done deal, all that remains is bickering over the details.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Michael Cain says:

                We are already spending literallyjoebiden about a hundred bucks a gallon to fuel a pointless campaign on the far side of the world. I think you underestimate the military’s ability (both now, in the past, and in the future) to always take their vig off the top of the public purse.

                Plus, I think you underestimate how much the military industrial complex still provides decent paying working class jobs (many unionized) and 2nd order economic effects to a good number of western communities. (esp compared to say, New England, where the remaining presence is largely confined to the two shipyards at Kittery & EB)

                Last, the West is closer to Asia, which is where everything interesting in the next 100 years will take place.Report

  10. Fnord says:

    The current trend is for a smaller world, rather than a bigger one. You posit a decline in fuel availability will reverse that trend. OK, let’s go with it. But what actually happens when you get peak oil combined with the improving communications technology that’s driving the current shrinking of the world? I’m not sure this leads to the regionalism you describe; it’s certainly not obvious that it does.

    Peak oil, as you’ve described it, makes travelling all distances more difficult. At least once you get above what can comfortably be walked (or maybe biked or covered by a non-gasoline transit network). Neighborhoods and city centers might become more close-knit, where the transportation is still manageable. But that’s not the kind of regionalism you’re talking about, and traveling between LA and Seattle becomes more difficult and expensive, just like traveling between LA and New York. Indeed, you say, even driving across town becomes not something to do lightly.

    Meanwhile, electronic communication gets better and better and easier and easier. It seems almost inevitable that the importance of electronic communication is going to rise. Sure, travel from LA to New York gets a lot harder and hence a lot rarer. But all travel gets a lot harder and hence a lot rarer. You don’t travel, you videochat. And whereas, even now, there’s a big difference between travelling 200 miles versus 2000 miles, electronic communication is more or less independent of distance. If the default mode of long-distance interaction is electronic, those geographic regions become LESS salient, not more.Report

  11. Aaron W says:

    I have never actually really understood the point of the federal government owning so much land in the West. Admittedly, though, I don’t know much about the history and politics of it. It seems, though, based on an entirely naive and ahistorical perspective that if the federal government was having budget issues, they could easily sell portions of this land to the private sector if it needed to generate some revenue. Not only would this generate a one-time boost to revenue, but it would also be efficiency-maximizing (i.e. promote economic growth) in the long-run since I doubt that the federal government is using this land in the most productive way possible.Report

    • zic in reply to Aaron W says:

      Long ago, when the nation was young and hadn’t yet got around to a national income tax, that land was the ‘money in the bank,’ so to speak. When something needed doing, one of the funding mechanisms was selling federal lands.Report

    • greginak in reply to Aaron W says:

      The Feds took ownership of the lands that nobody else wanted. They would lease lands to ranchers at low rates and the ranchers were plenty fine with that. They sold some lands, made some into parks, and allowed resource extraction in other cases. There are plenty of reasonable gripes in the West about fed land ownership. There are also other gripes that are people who are upset they can’t get a good deal anymore or are just unhappy about how the land is used. To be clear about the last statement, there are always people happy vs. unhappy about public land usage. Just because my ox got gored doesn’t mean i’m oppressed, it means my preferred usage wasn’t’ allowed or got a preference. That is life. There have been land use battles locally that i wasn’t happy about the Fed or State decision and others where i have been happy.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

        The Feds took ownership of the lands that nobody else wanted.

        Nobody worth mentioning.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

        It’s not a question of being oppressed. But it’s not unreasonable grounds for objection. Particularly given the sheer size of the federally-managed lands. “Quit yer bellyaching, you still get half your state” doesn’t strike me as a particularly good retort.Report

        • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

          I think a lot of people were fine with Fed ownership as long as they got what they wanted. If the argument is “Fed ownership is bad when i don’t get what i want, but fine when i do” than that isn’t an argument i’m all that sympathetic to. Up here in America’s Saudi Arabia we have lots’o’fed land. As long as the fed’s lease it to BP, everybody is just ducky. People love hunting moose on Fed lands up until the fed’s don’t want to regulate wolves to create more moose for bad or unlucky hunters.

          I think there are reasonable objections to Fed ownership. I just don’t think people always make them. This is a disagreement we’ve had before, i know that. But many of the complaints i hear are more of the “they won’t give me what i want AND they let those other guys get what they want, therefore life isn’t fair” arguments. I’ve heard those arguments made by BOTH sides on motorized vs. non-motorized, hunter vs environmental, oil vs environmental debates.Report

          • zic in reply to greginak says:

            I would see more federal/state owned lands; sensitive habitat and particular focus on bio-corridors.Report

            • greginak in reply to zic says:

              Z- So would i. Protecting habitat , parks and recreational land are, to me, public good and will not be addressed by the market. So more of that is good to me.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

            At the end of the day, Texas gets to pass laws for 98% of its state and New York for 99% of its state while Idaho gets to pass laws for 50% of its state. I really, truly struggle to find why Idaho is the problem for thinking that maybe the land should be used for this and not that. If it were in Idaho’s hands, they could settle a whole lot of it themselves. That doesn’t mean that everyone would be happy, but I’m not sure on what basis I should look askance at Idaho’s attempt to have a greater say on what is or isn’t done in Idaho.Report

            • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

              Like i believe in mythical places like Idaho and middle earth. History is a PITA. Idaho has less of a say because of the way the country was colonized and developed. If it had been developed from West to East then most likely the Adirondacks would be a far more pristine area and the Sawtooth’s would be far more developed. Of course the West is harsher with bigger mountains and all that.

              Path dependence is a harsh mistress. None of that means people in Idaho deserve less say or will be happy with it nor do i see that explanation lessening their feelings. But Jellystone or Hells Canyon are still Fed areas that protect unique treasures. If locals want to put up strip malls in them, then there is a problem. I’m not against localism, but also think, as i stated above, enviro protection/natural areas are a public good and that we are a nation.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

                I don’t have a problem with set-asides. Nor do most Idahoans, I don’t think. Nobody wants to see Yellowstone turned into an amusement part not the least of which residents of Wyoming. But most federal lands aren’t Yellowstone. Not all of Church needs to be set-aside to have something wonderful and marvelous there. The primary issue is that the people who actually live here get very little say in it. People live here. It’s not just a set-aside place to make urban environmentalists feel good about themselves.

                I know I keep harping on this, but over half of Idaho is set aside. For Idaho in particular, this is really problematic because a great bulk of it is in the middle of the state. So there’s no way to connect Pocatello and Moscow except a real roundabout through Montana or out to Boise and up through McCall (ever taken that drive? Not pleasant in a way that you can’t appreciate looking at Google Maps).

                I don’t really see any problem with Idahoans thinking that some should be protected, some should be developed, some should be turned over for logging, and so on. I’m not saying that these policies were put into effect to screw Idaho (it’s mostly, as you point out, a function of history). But I think the area is looked at with a disregard for the people that actually live there (here).Report

              • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

                I understand how much of the west is Fed owned. I have driven all over the West although i admit to have only drive down the eastern side of Idaho. I don’t particularly disagree with much of what you have said. There is room to accommodate more varied land uses in some places and still preserve a lot of land. Also Fed designation has done a hellava lot to protect NA ruins and history all over the west. If we had done as well by the living NA’s as we have their history it would be good. But still, plenty of NA ruins would have been bulldozed or trashed without the Feds.

                However this is more than just making urban enviro’s happy. That is weak stuff. Plenty of eviros live way deep in the woods and wander all over those public lands. Conversely there are people who push for more hunting on public lands up here who cater to urban hunters from the lower 48. Lots of Californians and other of “those” types agitate for more game animals here.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

                Likewise, there is a lot of protection I (nor anyone out here) really object(s) to. I’d definitely put NA preservation high on that list. If Idaho talks about tearing those down, I think we’d be on the same side. I see that as a fraction of what we’re seeing here.

                (I probably should have specified “East Coast.” California, Oregon, and Washington have to deal with a lot of the same issues. Those that live in those states that enthusiastically welcome the preservation… power to them.)Report

              • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

                There’s a lot of decision making about public lands that is actually based on science; particularly in National Forests. There is a specific public process that includes local (and is weighted toward) local residents in developing management plans, and those management plans are, by law, updated every ten years.

                This goes to one of my huge pet peeves; folks grousing and complaining about Federal government but mostly never lifting a finger in an internet search or attending a hearing to actually find out about the topic with which they’re peeved. That’s a basic responsibility of citizenship: it’s publicly posted, it’s your responsibility to seek it out.

                And only making laws for 50% of Idaho? That’s almost as funny as the election-night maps showing the giant red US and the itty-bitty blue US; because 100% of Idaho’s residents are also covered by Idaho’s laws, (exceptions for tribal lands), even though half land in the state is publicly owned.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

                I didn’t say 50% of the population, I meant 50% of the land. Which, for matters of regional public policy, actually matters a great deal. The areas in between one population center and the next matter.Report

              • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

                I know you didn’t say 50% of population; that was exactly the point; there are multiple ways of viewing these things; and the red/blue election map was the view you took; but land mass =/= legal representation in our democracy. Thankfully, we are not a nation where the right to participate in the political process is linked to land ownership.

                But achieving your goals within the process is linked to participating.Report

  12. Francis says:

    California’s water picture is enormously complex; people who flatly assert that water is “subsidized” for the most part have no idea what they’re talking about.

    To start with, there are three distinct conveyance systems: (a) the Colorado River projects (which include the All-American canal and the Colorado River aqueduct), governed by the Law of the River, (b) the State Water Project (or SWP) which brings water out of the mountains northeast of Sacramento, across the Bay-Delta, south across the western side of the Central Valley and all the way down to San Diego, governed by a mix of state and federal law; and (c) the Central Valley Project, a series of federally funded projects, the largest of which moves water north, up the eastern side of the Central Valley, and governed almost entirely by federal law, most recently the Central Valley Improvement Act. The water rights, distribution of water beneath ag and urban, environmental impacts and water pricing for each system are very different.

    More generally, though, the term “subsidy” has very little meaning in the context of large-scale water projects. Yes, very few taxpayers lived in Los Angeles when the federal government decided to build Hoover Dam. In return for the investment, the recipients of the water and power generated thereby have sent an enormous stream of taxes back to DC, grown an enormous quantity of food, and built one of the great cities on the planet. Quit yer bitchin; you’ve been paid back.

    As to allocating between urban and ag, urban users tend to be able to afford higher prices. But they also require higher quality and much higher reliability. And if long-distance shipping is becoming prohibitively expensive in this hypothetical future, then I suspect that farming lobbyists will have a very powerful argument that urban users need to rip out their lawns before farms take a major cut in allocation. It’s called eating.

    Going forward, California is entitled to 4.4 million acre-feet of water annually off the Colorado River, and those are the most senior rights. We’ll be fine. It’s Nevada, Arizona and the Upper Basin states that are facing the most serious challenges. One thing those states can do is to pay for desal plants in Southern California, then get California to leave water in the River in return for taking the desal water. But that’s verry expensive.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Francis says:

      More generally, though, the term “subsidy” has very little meaning in the context of large-scale water projects. Yes, very few taxpayers lived in Los Angeles when the federal government decided to build Hoover Dam. In return for the investment, the recipients of the water and power generated thereby have sent an enormous stream of taxes back to DC, grown an enormous quantity of food, and built one of the great cities on the planet.

      You don’t even have to look at the taxes sent back. The big federal projects were run like a business, more or less. The federal money was treated like it came from a bond issue. Water users are charged fees to cover the principle and modest interest based on a 50-year payback period, plus operational costs. Same for electricity users — with a few seasonal exceptions, the electricity isn’t given away, it’s sold, with revenues going into the federal government. At the dam, big dams were wonderful investments — but it took the federal government to settle land ownership, water rights, and assorted other issues.Report

    • North in reply to Francis says:

      Dude, the fact remains. The water is sold to agriculture at massively below market rates. If the water pricing were allowed to fluctuate to meet demand (and water quality issues would be very quickly fixed if they were) then you’d see a massive flight of agriculture out of the deserts and the cities would have plenty of water.Report

  13. Kolohe says:

    I don’t think transport energy costs makes as much of difference as you hypothesize. We had a continent spanning country when it took three days to get from New York to California. (we even had one when it took 3 weeks.) And the cliche is that the center is called ‘flyover country’ already.

    Airline travel may become more expensive in the future, but that would be more a reversion it being a mode of the elite. And more likely, it will still be available to the upper middle class. Either way, that’s a way of keeping political cohesion. And like gregniak says in his first comment , communication will still be the same or better than it is now, even if transport is too pricey.

    The other thing is that higher energy transport prices are unlikely to stem the flow of ‘stuff’ (as compared to people). Particularly across oceans. Water transport is remarkably efficient, energy wise. (it’s why canals were the hotness until the railroads came along). Containerized cargo has been the real revolution in globalization. Can’t find the cite, but I remember reading it takes as much energy per unit mass to ship something from Shanghai to Long Beach, as it does to take it from Long Beach to Denver.Report