Tuesday’s Forum

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Donald Trump sues Bob Woodward over The Trump Tapes for $50m

    In the suit filed in the northern district of Florida on Monday, lawyers for Trump said their case “centers on Mr Woodward’s systematic usurpation, manipulation and exploitation of audio of President Trump”.

    They also alleged that one conversation was deceptively edited, citing a comparison with a recording made by Hogan Gidley, a Trump aide, at Mar-a-Lago in Florida on 30 December 2019.

    That recording, the suit says, contains an exchange in which Woodward tells Trump: “This again is for the book to come out before the election.”

    Only the best lawyers…

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I find it more than a little humorous that the great patriotic pretender Jair Bolsonaro wants to stay here during his country’s current difficulties.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The plummeting cost of renewable energy, which has been supercharged by last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, means that it is cheaper to build an array of solar panels or a cluster of new wind turbines and connect them to the grid than it is to keep operating all of the 210 coal plants in the contiguous US, bar one, according to the study.

    “Coal is unequivocally more expensive than wind and solar resources, it’s just no longer cost competitive with renewables,” said Michelle Solomon, a policy analyst at Energy Innovation, which undertook the analysis. “This report certainly challenges the narrative that coal is here to stay.”

    The new analysis, conducted in the wake of the $370bn in tax credits and other support for clean energy passed by Democrats in last summer’s Inflation Reduction Act, compared the fuel, running and maintenance cost of America’s coal fleet with the building of new solar or wind from scratch in the same utility region.

    On average, the marginal cost for the coal plants is $36 each megawatt hour, while new solar is about $24 each megawatt hour, or about a third cheaper. Only one coal plant – Dry Fork in Wyoming – is cost competitive with the new renewables. “It was a bit surprising to find this,” said Solomon. “It shows that not only have renewables dropped in cost, the Inflation Reduction Act is accelerating this trend.”
    “Forcing essential coal capacity off the grid – without reliable alternatives and the infrastructure to support them – will only deepen reliability and economic challenges,” said Rich Nolan, president of the National Mining Association, in November.

    “Look to our friends in Europe, who blindly rushed to close coal plants at a rapid pace and are now working from Germany to Denmark to bring those same plants back online. The global energy crisis is real and imposing costly burdens on people around the world and here at home; taking deliberate steps to intensify that crisis is reckless and unthinkable.”

    Not that he has a dog in this fight. Nosiree, a totally unbiased person.

  4. Jen says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: He can both have a dog in the fight and be technically correct. He’s right that the current natural gas squeeze has meant the reopening of both coal-burning plants and coal mining. IIRC, Germany also either stopped the planned decommissioning of a nuclear plant or brought a recently-closed one back online.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: He’s more than a little hyperbolic. What is going on in Europe has zero equivalency with US energy. We are not and never have been dependent on Russia for (40% ?) of our energy needs. They allowed a wolf in the door and are now paying the price for it.

    The biggest thing holding us back right now is “storage to cope with intermittent delivery.” While a problem, it is not an insurmountable problem.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    A Small Boat, a Vast Sea and a Desperate Escape From Russia

    The idea was the start of a daring and daunting journey in which the two men set off in a small fishing boat with a 60-horsepower motor to travel hundreds of miles over several days — past Russian border guards and through the treacherous Bering Sea — to win asylum on U.S. shores. It was a desperate quest for freedom, and one that did not go according to plan.

    When this occurred, I read the news story that was pretty bare bones, the fleshed out tale is an outline for a movie.

  7. Jen says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Ah, gotcha. I was taking the statement about Europe reverting to coal in isolation.

    The biggest thing holding us back right now is “storage to cope with intermittent delivery.”

    Storage is a big issue, but I’m not sure it is the “biggest thing holding us back.” There are a whole bunch of complex issues that overlap one another. Some parts of the grid need major upgrades before they are able to handle additional renewable resources (this is part of the infrastructure bill, so some headway). Battery storage, as you note, is nowhere near where we need it to be. Many of the “easy to build” out renewable locations are producing, which means that new sites need to be procured and in some areas, renewable providers are meeting steep resistance from local communities. We’ll also need to meet growing demand, which means all of these resources will need to increase dramatically, and we’ll need new transmission lines (which are also challenging to site).

    These challenges are not insurmountable, but they are hard problems and do not have simple or quick solutions. We’re going to be cutting it very close for a number of years between meeting demand and expanding renewable capacity.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    This is true:

    There are a whole bunch of complex issues that overlap one another.

    NIMBYs are everywhere.

    Ameren (STL’s electricity provider) has a pump back operation on top of Profit Mountain for times of peak demand. Basically it’s a big lake on top of the mountain where they release the water thru turbines and it flows down into a lake at the bottom. Than at night the water is pumped back up to the top. I’ve been there and it’s pretty damned impressive.

    It wouldn’t be a solution for everywhere (certainly not in flat as a pancake Kansas) but that is one way to store energy.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: No edit function. Wanted to add that the upper reservoir failed due to design flaws and Ameren’s failure to heed warnings from the plant superintendent. The flood made quite a mess.

    A memo from Richard Cooper, superintendent of hydroelectric plant, indicated that the reservoir had a “Niagara Falls” style overflow on September 27 at the same spot that was breached (caused by wave action related to winds from Hurricane Rita). Another Cooper memo had also indicated that Cooper had warned that gauges used to monitor the water height in the reservoir were malfunctioning in October.

    No one was killed by the failure. The superintendent of Johnson’s Shut-Ins and Taum Sauk State Parks, Jerry Toops, his wife and three children were swept away when the wall of water obliterated their home. They survived, suffering from injuries and exposure. The children were transported to a hospital in St. Louis and later released. One child was treated for severe burns which resulted from heat packs applied by rescue workers as treatment for hypothermia.

    The flood continued downstream 4.3 miles on the East Fork of the Snake River to the dam on the river supplying the Lower Reservoir for plant. The dam of the lower reservoir, which by design is able to hold much of the capacity of the upper reservoir, withstood the onslaught of the flood. By storing most of the deluge it spared towns downstream, including Lesterville and Centerville, from a damaging flood. A voluntary evacuation order was issued for those areas, but there was no damage. The high water was totally stopped at Clearwater Lake 29 miles below the Lower Reservoir, the dam of which was not damaged by the rising waters.[23]

    It’s a miracle nobody was killed.

  10. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    It is being reported that George Santos is recusing himself from his House Committees.
    So…the guy who isn’t in any way who the voters in NY3 were told they were voting for, is now not even representing them, a single vote in the House essentially being meaningless.
    Polling – from before this recusal – says that over 70% of the voters in NY3 want him to resign.
    I expect that number will only grow.

  11. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    I’ve seen similar set-ups outside of LA, as well as in TN. Damn impressive machinary.

  12. BugManDan says:


    It wouldn’t be a solution for everywhere (certainly not in flat as a pancake Kansas) but that is one way to store energy.

    If an area has enough slope for a river, they have enough for a pump back station. A lot of them are located on rivers. I know they have at least one in the KC area and there is one on the Grand River in OK so not exactly mountainous. Lack of water would probably be a bigger problem in western KS than flatness.

  13. Sleeping Dog says:


    A few weeks ago in the Times there was an article on a massive pump back project in Portugal that is nearing completion. Its development was not without controversy as a couple of valleys and a few towns will be sacrificed.

    As with all energy production, there is no free lunch.

  14. Stormy Dragon says:

    Bob Born, the ‘Father of Peeps,’ has died

    Ira “Bob” Born, known as the “Father of Peeps,” died on Sunday. He was 98.

    Just Born Quality Confections, the Pennsylvania-based company that makes various candies, including the chick-shaped marshmallows, confirmed Born’s death in a statement. The company said that Born will be “remembered as a tireless and passionate advocate for the candy industry and a wonderful supporter of our community.”

  15. CSK says:

    Since Trump will inevitably lose this suit, if he doesn’t drop it before the deposition stage, what is the point of it? All I can guess is that he wants to prove to MAGAs that the press treats him “very unfairly,” to use one of his favored locations. But the MAGAs already believe that.

    He once said that he enjoyed suing writers because it bankrupts them and costs him only a few dollars. Does he think that’s going to work with Woodward and S&S?

  16. MarkedMan says:


    If an area has enough slope for a river, they have enough for a pump back station

    My understanding is that it is now so simple, and that there are relatively few areas where pumped hydro is cost effective. Matt Ferrell had a podcast on this. If you haven’t seen his stuff, he essentially spends the first 2/3 of a podcast giving the upside, and then the last bit talking about the drawbacks.

  17. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Some of my relatives will be in deep mourning at this news.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @Stormy Dragon: General Warning to the World, Re Peeps: Do not substitute for marshmallows in s’mores, as their melting point is a lot higher and they hold the heat for an incredibly long time. My family is painfully experienced in this due to the fact that they lived a few miles from the Peeps outlet store and could buy them by the case-load for a song.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @OzarkHillbilly: When I saw that he was president of the National Mining Association, I simply assumed he’d be hyperbolic. It’s his job as president to believe that coal is the “bestest ever” power source and to keep them coal cars runnin’. It’s why I taught my students to consider the biases of the sources they use. The number of agencies that offer opinions that are unbiased is probably really small to begin with and even if the agency genuinely has no dog in the fight, the people who write the position papers still will bring their own to play.

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    The second link in my previous comment was supposed to be @Jen. My apologies.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @daryl and his brother darryl: @BugManDan: I wouldn’t think that a pumpback system would be efficient given that it should take as much energy to pump the water back to the top as it generated, but I’m not an engineer, so it would be easy for me to be wrong.

  22. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    It takes more energy to pump water up than what you can get from it when it comes down.

    Pumped hydro is not an energy generating system, but an energy storage system. If the wind farm generates X energy when X-Y energy is demanded, you can either discard the excess or store it. Pumping water uphill for later use accomplishes this, albeit with losses in energy output. The thinking is that some loss of energy is better than losing all the excess energy.

    Beyond that, the stored energy is to be used mostly when demand exceeds the supply the wind farm can manage at a given time. Largely this means when there’s no wind, or slower-moving wind.

  23. BugManDan says:

    @MarkedMan: So the more head that the system has, the more power. But at fairly low head, you can produce power. The OK plant that I mentioned (Salina Pump back Plant) only has a 200 ft head and produces 260MW.

    A huge issue, especially with the ones that use rivers is ecological (as the podcast mentions). I do some environmental work for one and there is a huge area of the river that is a wet desert caused by the river reservoir levels going up and down daily and the amount of sand that collects behind the dam. In addition, fish are killed in the turbines. Now the one I work at is not solar/wind. It has a power station in the river and at the pump back reservoir. So it chops up fish day and night!!

  24. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    Yes – it is considered a storage system. But the water is pumped up when energy demand is low and costs are cheaper. Then run downhill to generate power when demand is higher and costs go up.
    The two biggest variables in hydrogeneration are flow rate (turbine size) and head (height difference between the two reservoirs). To make the system work you need as much of both as possible.
    Given adequate flow rate and head, theoretically the delta is profitable.

  25. Mu Yixiao says:

    The robot apocalypse has been delayed for an undetermined time due to technical difficulties.

    The Marines attempted to put an AI [security monitoring] system to the test and see if a squad of Marines could find new ways to avoid detection and evade the cameras.

    “Eight Marines — not a single one got detected.”

    Read more to find out how!
    (Seriously, read it. It’s worth the 60 seconds.)

  26. gVOR08 says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl: WIKI has a good article on pumped storage hydro. It seems a natural for making up for the intermittency of wind and solar. I’m developing a pet peeve over seeing articles about should we use wind, or is nuclear better, or what about natural gas as a compromise, and maybe we should cut down methane instead of CO2 and maybe we should be doing hydrogen fuel cells instead of electric cars and what about airplanes. My response is a) we’re an incredibly wealthy country and b) we’re talking about best case massive migrations, tens of millions of dead, and large portions of the planet uninhabitable or worst case, the end of civilization as we know it. Yes, do all those things, see what works. WTF?

  27. MarkedMan says:

    @BugManDan: Pretty cool. I’ll have to check that out.

  28. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Somehow, I expect Bolsonaro to end up in American politics before too long. Rep. Bolsonaro? Governor? I don’t know,

    But it’s too vile and stupid of an idea to not happen.

  29. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    Yes, indeedee.
    The “all of the above” strategy is only sensible.
    Our office, in a re-purposed 19th century mill building, uses hydro (the original mills power source – only now with a modern turbine), solar, and a pond-loop version of geo-thermal.

  30. MarkedMan says:

    @BugManDan: So a little further googling seems to indicate that pumped storage energy generation requires significantly less investment when it is coupled with a regular hydroelectric generation. In that case it takes advantage of the existing power generation during periods of high flow to pump water up the hill. I’m not exactly clear on why it needs to get pumped up at all, unless there so much water it can’t be captured by the existing resevoir? In any case, I can believe saves money over having to build and fill two lakes and a shaft to connect them, as well as the pump/generator infrastructure. But it would think (but don’t know) that there should be a lot more sites that could add that kind of capacity to existing hydro power.

  31. Michael Cain says:


    Beyond that, the stored energy is to be used mostly when demand exceeds the supply the wind farm can manage at a given time. Largely this means when there’s no wind, or slower-moving wind.

    Public Service Co. built a 320 MW 1.2 GWh pumped hydro system in Colorado back in the 1960s. For many years it was the spinning reserve and load fine-tuning system for the entire state. With decent head, they use relatively little total water compared to thermal power plants that draw consumptive cooling water. There are a number of projects in various states of licensing in the US Western Interconnect, often near the sites of coal-fired plants that have been, or will be, retired. Those plants usually have quite senior water rights and are close to transmission lines.

  32. Michael Cain says:


    I’m not exactly clear on why it needs to get pumped up at all, unless there so much water it can’t be captured by the existing resevoir?

    The reservoirs behind most dams have multiple obligations: power generation, flood control, irrigation source, recreation. Over the course of a year there are times when water must be released, or held back, or otherwise manipulated. There’s a very large proposed project that would use Lake Powell as its lower reservoir and replace a significant amount of the jobs and revenue that the Navajo Nation lost when the Navajo Power Station was decommissioned.

  33. BugManDan says:

    @MarkedMan: If the reservoir in the river is run of the river or an overflow dam (which is also run of the river) they don’t have much effect on river levels except right at the reservoir and, those are small (really just a widening and slowing of the river) , so they don’t have much storage. Just enough for daily-ish generation, and the extra they need for pumping up to the higher reservoir.

  34. BugManDam says:

    @BugManDan: I should have said that run of the river dams are more related to an old mill dam than the huge dams that form the huge “lakes” throughout the US.

  35. Stormy Dragon says:


    Jair Bolsonaro applies for six-month tourist visa to stay in US

    Because of all the Republicans calling 1/6 perpetrators “tourists”, Bolsonaro thinks a tourist visa is specifically for people involved in failed coup attempts.

  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy (and several others): Thanks for the explanations and examples. They helped me see what I’m looking at quite a bit.

  37. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Somersaulting 300 meters, my heart…

  38. dazedandconfused says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    “You could hear the Marines giggling…”

    …and ROTF/LAO was a junkyard dog.

  39. Michael Cain says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Yet most of these would have been identified without a lot of trouble by one or more of the traditional methods. Basically, that look for a blob of pixels that aren’t supposed to be there, and that can be tracked from frame to frame. At least identified as suspicious enough to bring in more sophisticated traditional methods: IR, LIDAR or other sweeps, etc.