Energy Independence

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 12:38 AM EDT
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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant on the lakeshore just south of South Haven is drawing national scrutiny now that it's been shut down for the eighth time in two years.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says the aging facility is a poster child for our nation's lack of a comprehensive long-term energy policy.

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I don't know about you, but I don't take much comfort in the fact that the 80-or-so gallons of radioactive waste that leaked into Lake Michigan two weeks ago was, as the Palisades people described it, "highly diluted."

After all, that plant has been shut down a lot over the years—not just recently. And the people at Palisades have had tons of practice at projecting peaceful, easy feelings in the face of one unsettling problem after another.

But what can we really expect from a plant that was built more than 40 years ago at a cost of $180-million dollars—and now holds the dubious distinction of being one of the NRC's four worst nuclear plants in the United States.

It has entered the patch, patch, patch phase of its life span and the NRC is now making rumblings about giving it just four more years before pulling the plug. And whatever happens, its not to be taken lightly.

The Palisades reactor provides 18 to 30 percent of the electricity used in West Michigan. Some 600 people work there.

The lives of thousands of people hang in the balance.

But the truth is, the United States remains uncertain of where its headed in this 13th year of the 21st century.

We've long backed away from building nuclear power plants. They're deemed too dangerous after what happened in Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, and Fukushima.

Not to mention, they're enormously expensive--$5 to $10 billion each now—and return on investment is slow, and therefore kind of unpopular. But they produce no greenhouse gasses.

France, for the record, has about 60 nuclear plants—gets 80 percent of its energy from them—the highest in the world; and 85 percent of the reactors are owned by the government.

According to surveys, the French love their reactors.

On the other hand, in the U.K., a number of reactors were so unprofitable they could not even be sold, so they were actually given away to companies who wound up needing government bailouts to stay afloat.

In Germany, reactors are slotted, for now, anyway, to be decommissioned completely in the next nine years.

And in China, meantime, they're building them like crazy.

But we in the United States have no policy, no direction, no national sense where we're headed.

It's true and exciting that with new ways of finding abundant oil and natural gas reserves, we are quickly reducing our dependence on the middle east.

But both enterprises are ecologically problematic. From the very real fear of spills to the still-unknown hazards of fracking.

It's also true that we're learning more and more about the renewable powers of sun, wind and waves.

But we have no policy.

Maybe that's the way it ought to be: where things are determined by a free market; where entrepreneurs chart our energy futures. Where what's profitable will work.

But I have long wondered why we can't muster our best and brightest—to assemble, agonize, analyze, argue and chart a new energy direction for this country: One with focus; one that appreciates our environment as a legacy for our children; one that makes efficient and affordable use of what we have.

I hear politicians talk ad nauseum about achieving the American dream in this the greatest country the world has ever known.

There are a number of components to making any dream come true—and among them, not the least of them—is reliable, affordable energy.

And without the kind of road map into the future that a comprehensive energy policy would provide, it's reasonable to fear that we will wind up with energy that, while profitable to some, will be for the rest of us neither reliable nor affordable.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.
Energy Independence
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Business News

Last Update on April 23, 2014 07:29 GMT

WORLD MARKETS

TOKYO (AP) -- Shares were mixed in Asia today as weak data from China sapped upward momentum from an overnight rally on a flurry of deals in the pharmaceutical sector.

A preliminary survey of Chinese manufacturers by HSBC showed slight improvements in prices and demand, but contractions in new export orders and employment in April. The results were expected, but helped pull Hong Kong's Hang Seng index down 0.6 percent to 22,592.41. Shares in mainland China also fell.

Sentiment was also buoyed by a solid start for Seibu Holdings Inc. whose shares rose 5 percent in the morning after an initial public offering in its relisting on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The dollar was relatively flat against the euro and the yen. Benchmark crude oil fell to near $101.50 a barrel.

THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's a busy day for earnings reports, but there's also a fresh gauge of the housing market on the schedule.

The Commerce Department releases figures on sales of new homes last month. Yesterday, the National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes slipped 0.2 percent, citing a tight supply of available homes and rising prices.

Also today, HSBC releases its monthly flash purchasing managers index for April.

As for earnings, Procter & Gamble, Boeing, Delta Air Lines and Reynolds American release their quarterly financial results before the market opens.

Michelin reports first quarter sales and Ericsson presents its quarterly results.

After the market closes, Apple, Facebook and Safeway release their results.

GENERAL MOTORS-IMPALA INVESTIGATION

DETROIT (AP) -- Federal regulators are investigating the 2014 Chevy Impala after a driver reported that the emergency braking system activated multiple times without warning.

The driver says that in one instance, the Impala was traveling at 40 miles-per-hour with no one in front of it when the brakes activated. The car was rear-ended. No injuries were reported.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened the investigation to determine whether the alleged defect is widespread. More than 60,000 Impalas of the 2014 model year are on U.S. roads.

The investigation is unrelated to GM's recent recall of 2.6 million older model Chevrolets and other cars for defective ignition switches.

JAPAN-TOYOTA

TOKYO (AP) -- Toyota kept its position at the top in global vehicle sales for the first quarter of this year, outpacing rivals General Motors and Volkswagen.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday that it sold 2.583 million vehicles in the January-March period, ahead of Detroit-based GM at 2.42 million and Volkswagen of Germany at 2.4 million.

The Japanese automaker's first quarter sales rose by more than 6 percent from the same period the previous year. GM's sales grew 2 percent, while Volkswagen's added nearly 6 percent.

Toyota finished first last year with a record 9.98 million vehicles in sales, remaining the top-selling automaker for a second year in a row. General Motors Co. finished second and VW third.

Toyota is targeting sales of more than 10 million vehicles this year.

COAL ASH SPILL-NORTH CAROLINA

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Duke Energy says that removing all of the company's coal ash away from North Carolina's rivers and lakes would take decades and cost up to $10 billion, with the state's electricity customers likely footing nearly all the bill.

Duke's North Carolina president Paul Newton is telling state lawmakers that the company needs flexibility to consider more cost-efficient options that include leaving much of its 100 million tons of toxic ash in place after being covered with giant tarps and soil.

State officials say all 33 of Duke's unlined dumps are contaminating groundwater.

Environmental groups are calling for new legislation requiring Duke to move its coal ash to lined landfills away from waterways following the massive Feb. 2 spill in Eden that coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge.

NORTH DAKOTA-FLARING MEETING

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- North Dakota oil companies don't like a proposal that would have the industry cut back on oil production to control the amount of natural gas that's being wasted.

Companies spoke out against the proposal at a hearing yesterday in Bismarck. Instead, the industry wants regulators to consider self-imposed steps to curb natural gas flaring.

North Dakota drillers currently burn off, or flare, a record 36 percent of the valuable gas because development of gas pipelines and processing facilities haven't kept pace with oil drilling.

Oil industry officials have pledged to capture 85 percent of the gas by 2016, and 90 percent within six years as infrastructure catches up with oil development.

Watford City physician Lyle Best says slowing oil development would improve many problems in the state, including flaring.

AUSTRALIA-F-35 FIGHTERS

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Australia has increased its order for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters by 58 to 72 to be fully operational by 2023 in a declaration of confidence in the troubled stealth war plane.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday he expects the additional 58 U.S. jets, developed by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. will cost 12.4 billion Australian dollars ($11.5 billion).

The F-35 is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program and has been troubled by schedule delays and cost overruns.

Abbott says he is confident that the cost of about AU$90 million per jet will continue to fall with time.

Australia is a funding partner in developing the F-35 and ordered its first 14 jets in 2009.

BLOOMBERG-EUROPE-CITY INNOVATION

NEW YORK (AP) -- Twenty-one European cities from Cardiff, Wales, to Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, are finalists in a lucrative innovation contest devised by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the finalists Wednesday. They will compete for a grand prize of 5 million euros, or nearly $7 million, and four 1 million euro awards. Winners will be announced in the fall.

The cities were asked for projects that could solve major social or economic problems or make government more effective.

A few examples: Amsterdam wants to create an online game to engage unemployed young people in finding jobs across Europe. Madrid wants to make energy out of the heat thrown off by underground infrastructure.

Kirklees, in England, envisions citizens pooling resources ranging from cars to unused space to expertise.

MICROSOFT-BING IN CLASSROOMS

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Microsoft is expanding a program that gives schools the ability to prevent ads from appearing in search results when they use its Bing search engine. The program, launched in a pilot program earlier this year, is now available to all U.S. schools, public or private, from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

The program is meant to create a safer online environment for children, but also promote use of Bing, which trails market leader Google Inc.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. is also giving away a first-generation Surface tablet computer to schools where community members sign up to use the ad-supported version of Bing outside of the school. Sixty parents and friends who do 30 Bing searches a day could earn their school a Surface in a little over a month.

CALIFORNIA BUS CRASH

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The mother of a teenager who was among 10 people killed in a fiery Northern California bus crash is suing the bus company and FedEx.

Attorney A. King Aminpour says the negligence suit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles asks fpr $100 million.

Seventeen-year-old Jennifer Bonilla, of Los Angeles, was on a bus taking students to tour a university April 10 when it was struck by a FedEx truck on a freeway in Orland.

Five teens and five adults died, including both drivers.

Some witnesses say the FedEx truck was on fire before the crash. The lawsuit alleges FedEx trucks have a history of catching fire.

Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx Corp. declined to discuss the litigation but says it's cooperating with investigators.

A call seeking comment from the bus owner, Silverado Stages, wasn't immediately returned.

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