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View Diary: Can the U.S. achieve 20% wind energy by 2030? (64 comments)

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  •  Completely wrongheaded (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NBBooks, terabytes

    In 1941, the US had ample adaptable manufacturing capacity to make things like tanks and aircraft, in the form of thousands of fully equippped factories which were geared up to make automobiles, tractors and locomotives.

    And also in 1941, the US had a huge industrial workforce with metalworking and other technological skills which ported directly over into war manufacture.

    Neither one of those conditions obtain today.

    The majority of the factories have been shut, and in many cases their capital equipment has been crated up and moved offshore. What part of "gone" did you not understand?

    The old industrial workforce is mostly of Medicare age now, and the kids in the pipeline behind them don't have the skills because it didn't make sense to train such people up for jobs that were going to be offshored anyway.

    And if you think you can wave a wand and get competent modern machinists out of an overnight shake and bake course, starting with contemporary American high school grads who can't even do fractions, there is no help for you even in medicine.

    In brief, you don't know what the fuck you're talking about. This is a "clap louder" solution if ever there was one.

    People like your faithful correspondent spent decades jumping up and down trying to get people's attention onto the deindustrialization problem, shouting "WE ARE GOING TO NEED THIS STUFF ONE DAY!"

    Now the day is here. And the capacity is not.

    For Pete's sake, Boeing can't even get the 787 out the door, and aerospace manufacturing is (or was supposed to be) one of America's remaining bastions of industrial competence. Res ipsa loquitur.

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    •  No. (0+ / 0-)

      Sorry.

      Fact is most of that industrial capacity was sitting idle because of the depression. There was little technical innovation because there was no market for innovative products.

      The idea that the US was an industrial powerhouse churning out huge quantities of high tech products in 1941 is just flat out wrong.

      It took two to three years to ramp up production which included building factories and training workers and engineers to produce high quality, high tech products like fighter planes, bombers, ships and even M1 rifles.

      Go back and read the history.

      •  I was evidently not clear (0+ / 0-)


        Fact is most of that industrial capacity was sitting idle because of the depression.

        Inarguable.

        But, idle or not, there WAS CAPACITY.

        There no longer is.

        In a similar manner, there were many workers with industrial skills at that time. Many were unemployed or underemployed at the start of the war, but THOSE SKILLED WORKERS EXISTED.

        They no longer do.

        Your argument is one which von Braun had pegged: that since one woman can produce a baby in nine months, by putting nine women on the job, you'll have the baby in a month!

        Doesn't work that way. Sorry. Manufacturing on a large scale cannot be jumpstarted from scratch overnight -- and in many ways the US is back to scratch -- unless you are willing to use the methods which Stalin used to flash-industrialize the USSR. I don't think that any of the wind power partisans are willing to go that far.

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        •  "Overnight"? (0+ / 0-)

          Who said that?

          Let me guess, you're either a nuclear power advocate or a nuclear industry representative.

          •  Overnight (0+ / 0-)

            I'll give you a metric for it. In manufacturing terms, "overnight" was what the US managed in the early 1940s.

            Which we were able to do because the manufacturing capacity existed in other forms in this country at that time. In this country, at this time, it no longer does.

            We can't domestically even make enough steel plate armor or ammunition for Iraq. Boeing can't get enough locally sourced screw and bolt fasteners to put their jetliners together. These are real symptoms of a real underlying disease: industrial dystrophy.

            Let me guess, you're either a nuclear power advocate or a nuclear industry representative.

            Wow! That didn't take long. Straight to the ad hominem. Or it would be if there was anything wrong with either.

            I'm an advocate for nuclear. And solar. And wind. And tidal. And fusion research. And solar power satellites. And radical conservation. And gerbils running on freaking Habitrail wheels.

            What precisely the ultimate mix will turn out to be is a function of careful analysis and planning. Reliance, as in your suggestion, on things that aren't there any longer, like an American industrial base, reflects no such care. It is the sheerest folly and the worst sort of magical thinking.

            The ultimate problem with rapid renuclearization is that we have exactly the same problem there that we have with wind: the manufacturing capacity is GONE.

            America used to be able to make the precision stainless steel pressure vessels for pressurized water reactors. We can't do that any more. The only place that we can get them now is from a facility in Japan. Which is booked up for the next couple of years because smarter countries got in the queue ahead of us first.

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            •  So we're finished. (0+ / 0-)

              Game over.

              The USA is dead.

              So is the planet. Global warming can't be stopped because it will take ten million years for the US to implement industrial production to make wind turbines, solar panels and other new power technologies, if the US can even do it at all.

              Damn.

              Oh well, thanks for letting me know.

            •  In my judgement, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NoMoreLies, A Siegel

              Rex Manning is 1/3 correct, and marquer is 2/3 correct. I was writing on industry and finance 15 to 20 years ago, when the Volcker nightmare nearly finished off U.S. manufacturing (how it chaps my ass that Volcker is being trumpeted these days as some sort of great financial sage).

              There are three bedrock industries for any advanced economy: steel, auto, and machine tools. Of the three, machine tools is the smallest, and gets the least attention, but is by far the most important, because it is machine tools that make the production equipment that make everything else. Steel is, well, steel. Try and imagine what your life would be like without steel rebar in the concrete under your house.

              Auto is probably the most controversial to include as the most important three industries, because it's become rather clear that we as a society have failed miserably at honestly tallying the true, hidden costs of a transport sector dominated by autos. I mean the whole anti-surburbia schtick as laid out by James Kuntsler and friends. But the undeniable fact is that it was automobiles that moved the U.S., Europe, and Japan off of economies based on steam and coal.  

              But the really crucial industry is machine tools. No economy can do nothing if it cannot produce its own machines. Gotta have them. Which means you need to have skilled machinists. Now, I have been surprised to learn at how much capability and skill still resides in the U.S. in this area. But as marquer insists, quite correctly I believe, what we have left now is a mere shadow of what once was. I know of retired tool and die makers in their 80s who have  gone back to work because tooling companies simply cannot find any young Americans with the required skills. Tool and die makers are probably the most highly skilled machinists there are. I know that entire school systems have shut down their industrial arts programs and sold off the machine tools generations of American machinists once trained on. I know, because I've been to the auctions and sales, and I've dealt with the people who buy and sell the equipment. It probably takes at least ten to fifteen years to get a machinist skilled enough to do precision prototype work or tool and die making. And we just don't have them. Another big problem is that a lot of machining done today is CNC (computer numerically controlled) and the people operating them really do not hone the skills of machining. They probably know and understand the basics of machining, but since they use CNC equipment all the time, they are not building up the skill sets required to become advanced machinists.  

              Anyway, it's an interesting question, and I look forward to us as a country rolling up our sleeves and getting to work answering it.

              I do want to throw this in - the managers and financiers and economists who pushed all this free trade and free market theory are basically the people most responsible for the situation we're in now. For them I have nothing but contempt. The irony, of course, is they're the bastards who have made the millions these past 20 years. There's a debate now about how much to re-regulate the financial system, with the Wall Street types threatening that if it gets too heavy-handed, they will move overseas. I say, fine, the sooner they go screw up someone else's economy, the sooner we can get ours straightened out.

              A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

              by NBBooks on Wed May 14, 2008 at 06:41:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sigma, summa, QED (0+ / 0-)


                There's a debate now about how much to re-regulate the financial system, with the Wall Street types threatening that if it gets too heavy-handed, they will move overseas. I say, fine, the sooner they go screw up someone else's economy, the sooner we can get ours straightened out.

                The first candidate who says that in those words gets my money, my vote and my volunteer hours. I sadly haven't heard that yet from any of 'em.

                I have mixed feelings about Volcker. He was up in front of the National Press Club a few weeks ago, and was asked, "What do we do if we get in a dollar crisis?"

                He said, "You're in one."

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              •  Crafts rely upon guilds (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                A Siegel


                Tool and die makers are probably the most highly skilled machinists there are. I know that entire school systems have shut down their industrial arts programs and sold off the machine tools generations of American machinists once trained on. I know, because I've been to the auctions and sales, and I've dealt with the people who buy and sell the equipment. It probably takes at least ten to fifteen years to get a machinist skilled enough to do precision prototype work or tool and die making. And we just don't have them.

                We might be able to get the training curve a bit more flat, but you're totally correct that these skillsets require a lot of accumulative learning.

                It used to be that there were apprenticeship systems whereby kids at the high school level were able to begin to pick this stuff up early. And who were able by their late twenties to begin to make the sort of steady, family-sustaining money that built the midcentury middle class in America.

                All that's been torn down and burnt up and will have to be rebuilt before we can do anything else.

                I caught a comment recently from someone who remembers working at Boeing in the 1950s. Many of the engineers there at that time had not been to engineering school! They had started as apprentices, then been machinists, then gone through a second apprenticeship and in-house training program to get certified as engineers.

                Astonishing. And that was the generation which gave us legendary Boeing aircraft like the 707 and B-52.

                But it took time. And we're really short on time.

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