Obama, Overtime and Saez-Piketty

Obama’s new overtime rules will change business practice. What does they speak to: injustice, inequality or something else?

The July 1, 2015 New York Times Business section carried an analysis by Noam Scheiber on proposed new Overtime rules, Obama Overtime Rule Scratches the Surface in Helping the Middle Class.

Noam Scheiber, New York Times

Fig 1  Noam Scheiber, New York Times

Obama proposes new Overtime (OT) rules to help to push back the income inequality that has been growing in our country for decades. The Rule raises the threshold for people who may be exempted from additional compensation for more the 40 hours work in any week. These exempt workers are paid by salary, not by time clock records, and are not compensated for any additional work hours beyond the those 40.

Mr. Scheiber’s first comment is very accurate – Obama’s new Rules will have almost no affect on Middle Class income.

This is because it changes how to improve compensation for job related work hours beyond the standard 40  hr/wk. OT pay is not part of a contract, it is fortuitous money that occasionally arrives but cannot be included in a budget.  This rule will do little to nothing to offset the social income pump that shifts money from the lower wage workers into the accounts of the ultra wealthy.

Noam Scheiber ties the lack of effectiveness to the income inequality studies published by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. The analysis ends with a solid discussion of what really is needed to begin addressing our ongoing income shift.   We examine his points with observations to underline his basic conclusions. Click any image for full resolution.

Overtime (OT) Pay

click for our discussions on economic inequality

Currently, a salaried worker who makes above $23,660 may be classified by the company as an exempt employee (not eligible for OT pay).  Let’s examine whether a change would make a difference. Continue reading

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TPP to Piketty – The Slow War

Trans  Pacific Partnership, Retirement Security, and Piketty income inequality are backdrop to slow but very real warfare.

The TPP issue is not an isolated topic but part of deep background to an unspoken but real efforts to change the structure of the American republic.  We discuss it with 2 other issues. Our Outline:  TPPRetirement SecuritySaez Piketty inequality trends

The TPP negotiations are connected to the economic security now and in the future for retirees which is also tied to Thomas Piketty’s results on inequality. Click any image to see full resolution form.

TPP  Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement

The TPP is desperately wanted by Obama and top Republicans.  There has been strong behind-the-scene maneuvering to give Obama fast track negotiation authority.

Barack Obama 2009-2016Barack Obama‘s fast-track negotiation authority has past through the House and Senate. He can now do with it as he wants.  He claims it will boost our trade, increase our net wealth, and be very good for the other signatories.

He may be right about that last point. You might agree with his other points, if you are one of the leaders of our largest corporations, or are the scion of one of our “old wealth” families.

Our Slow Revolution   It is bad for the rest of us, though.  The TPP is the current battle ground in our 35 year (and counting) struggle to convert our populist democracy into an hereditary oligarchy.  There has been much written about the trap TPP represents.

James Surowiecki

Fig 2 James Surowiecki, Columnist, New Yorker

Dean Baker

FIg 3  Dean Baker, Co-director, CEPR

James Surowiecki, Columnist for the New Yorker Financial Page, highlights  the frightening  issue of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), posted his analysis of TPP implications.

Our opposition follows both arguments. Continue reading

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NIF Notes_Hohlraum Spring-2015

Tiny target chambers may become rugby footballs. Will these save ICF/IFE?

During the early spring (2015), the National Ignition Facilty (NIF) at LLNL released/published several modifications to the target design that are worth mentioning.

  • One is the realization that the gossamer tents used to hold the spherical targets in place actually cause detrimental asymmetry in the resulting implosions. Report
  • One is the demonstration that thinner ablative shells around the targets implode faster, with better spherical symmetry and with no shell mixing into the fuel that that might poison ignition. Report    most exciting of the three.
  • One was the future shift to a new hohlraum chamber shape, changing the current (nearly) open cylinder to an egg shaped one with holes in the two ends.

These are all good steps forward; here we discuss the Third point, on the chamber that surrounds the target to be imploded.This is called the hohlraum (German for hollow cavity).  Click any figure to see its full sized image.

Fig 1 shows both the old and newly proposed designs. The images are of the two assembled hohlraums in their mounting frames.

  • Old:  Standard style:  cylinder with rounded end caps.  10 1/8 mm long by 5 3/4 mm inside diameter (ID), with rounded end caps and large hole for the laser beams. Images show the symmetry is damaged by very large diagnostic ports in the side.
  • New:  Proposed prolate spheroid rugby design:  11 mm long  by 7 mm maximum ID (one published proposal).  Diagnostic ports are not as visible – must be present!
Holhraums cylinder + rugby NIF

FIg 1  NIF hohlraum designs.  Left– standard cylinder, 5.75 mm ID.   Right– new rugby, 7 mm max ID.  Top– concept designs for the two types, with 2.2 mm capsule located at center of cavities.  Bottom– images of actual chambers. Hohlraum photos:  LLNL

For reasons we discuss here, cylinders have not worked very well. So NIF scientists propose replacing the standard shape with a larger and more interesting one. Continue reading

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Physics – Science or Ideology?

Should physics theories be tested – or just accepted?  So asks essay the in New York Times

Adam Frank  and Marcelo Gleiser discuss whether Physics has moved beyond the need to be checked.  Their essay (Sunday New York Times 2015-Jun-7) is on science vs empirical evidence (experimental verification)

“Today our most ambitious science can seem at odds with the empirical methodology that has historically given the field its credibility”

2015 Marcelo Gleiser 450x450

Fig 1B  Marcelo Gleiser, physicist

Frank Adams, astrophysicist

Fig 1A  Adam Frank, astrophysicist

“How did we get to this impasse?” they ask.  Then they discuss the Higgs particle that generates a core part of any particle’s mass.  It was predicted 50 years ago and measured last year.

The Higgs is the “lynchpin of … the Standard Model” of particle physics, a powerful mathematical theory that is known to contain problems, but can not be extended.  New theories have elegant math, are each hailed as “the” organizing principle of the universe, but have not predicted anything new.  Are our standards for science changing? Continue reading

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NIF Notes_tents Spring 2015

The NIF fusion lab reports that their target support structure could hurt implosion results – our discussion.

During the early spring (2015), the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at LLNL released/published several modifications to the target that are worth mentioning.

  • One is the realization that the gossamer tents used to hold the spherical targets in place actually cause detrimental asymmetry in the resulting implosion.
  • One is the demonstration that thinner ablative shells around the targets implode faster, with better symmetry and with no shell mixing into the fuel that could poison ignition. Report    most exciting of the three.
  • One was the future shift to a new hohlraum chamber shape, changing the current (nearly) open cylinder to an egg shaped one with holes in the two ends. Report

These are all good steps forward. Here, we discuss the First result on tents.  All our links are to no-charge reports from phys.org, an important source of physics updates, out of the U.K.

Gossamer Tents

Support Tent

Fig 1  Support Tent

A tent is the support structure that holds the spherical target capsule in place. Made of 2 very thin plastic membranes that encapsulate the target.  You can see for yourself how this works using a ping-pong ball and sheets from a roll of kitchen plastic wrap.

Fig 1 is my (very slight) markup of an image LLNL makes available.  Tent sheeting has been tested with thicknesses from 12 to 300 nm. Very fragile since a molecule of “plastic” might be only 10 nm in mean diameter — sheets 1 to 30 molecules thick!  They mention that the thicker ones are more reliable with heavy targets. Continue reading

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NIF Notes_shells Spring-2015

NIF reports tests with capsule designs that illuminate the path toward great results

During the early spring (2015), the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at LLNL released/published several modifications to the targets worth discussing.

  • One is the realization that the gossamer tents used to hold the spherical targets in place actually cause detrimental asymmetry in the resulting implosions. Report
  • One is the demonstration that thinner ablative shells around the targets implode faster, with better spherical symmetry and with no shell mixing into the fuel that that might poison ignition.   most exciting of the three.
  • One was the future shift to a new hohlraum chamber shape, changing the current (nearly) open cylinder to an egg shaped one with holes in the two ends. Report

These are all good steps forward; here we discuss the Second point, on target shell thickness.  A test of the survivability of a thin walled capsule is important because of worries that if the wall is too thin, it will break up during the  implosion and poison the resulting core.

T Ma PhD

FIg 1  Tammy Ma, NIF Scientist

We are discussing the April 2015 published paper with  Dr. Tammy Ma as its lead author.

As with most facility physics work, 74 authors are listed, including Drs. Hurricane and Edwards. Many of these 74 were not involved in writing the paper, but were deeply involved in capsule issues, diagnostic operations and analysis, computational analysis, and other such activities very necessary for success.

The investigators fired NIF beams with the same power level into 3 different targets with different ablative shell thicknesses. Only one “popular press” source, phys.org, has taken notice of these data.

So, though not much other notice has been made, these results are extremely important.  Here’s hoping that NIF leadership pays attention! Continue reading

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Fortunetelling killed by Time’s arrow

Precognition / clairvoyance / prescience?  Not in our universe!

The gypsy soothsayer says “Cross my hand with silver and I will tell you your true future.”

If such actions could be possible, over our past 70,000 years, the soothsayer’s guild should have become the absolute monarchs of the world.  Ms. Soothsayer must be a charlatan!

Future sight cannot happen – time flow will not let it.

Precognition, and other psychic magic

James Randi skeptic

Fig 1 A  James Randi (1928-…)

The Randi Challenge    James Randi (“The Amazing”), stage magician and skeptic of psychic adepts, offers a $ 1M  prize to anyone who can demonstrate psychic mind-over-matter abilities that he can neither duplicate nor explain.

Many candidates have attempted his challenge for the big prize – not one was psychokinetic, not one was telepathic, not one was clairvoyant.  Not one verifiable psychic seer, ever!  Losers, all.

Figs 1  shows Mr. Randi who is also founder of the James Randi Education Foundation, the group working to bring rationality into our society.  For many years, Randi has ranked as one of my top intellectual heroes! Continue reading

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KMS Fusion – an addendum

KMS Fusion, an early ICF group mostly remembered for its mashup of good science and bad politics. This is our historical addendum.

An excellent article on the beginning of ICF (inertial confinement fusion) was posted on January 28th by ScienceLine’s Chelsey Coombes.  This is a summary of Alex Wellerstein‘s presentation at the October 2014 meeting of the New York Academy of Science.

Wellerstein is a respected science historian specializing in American Classified research, and is located at Stevens Institute of Technology.


Fig 1    Early ICF labs cited in this report

Coombes’ (and Wellerstein’s) good discussion of the early days of inertial confinement fusion traces development of the LLNL  indirect drive approach and the KMS fusion direct drive alternative (see Fig 1).  We also discuss, in passing, ICF efforts at LANL.

We add a missing link to the KMSf  story, one that I have never seen mention in any published description of the early days of fusion energy research.  This small band of researchers produced some of the best results in ICF physics in the 1970s and even the ’80s, but their leadership made stunningly bad political mistakes and succeeded in being ignored by History. Continue reading

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KXL threatens US environment -Not energy -Not climate

Keystone XL is is a threat to US environmental integrity. Its Senate vote is near.

The bill forcing development of the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline build is about to be set before the president.   The proponents say it is about (A) permanent jobs and lots of them, and (B) oil independence for good ol’ U.S. of A.   It is about neither.

Bridger Poplar System kills life

Fig 1  Fish kill in Yellowstone River from 2015  leak of Bridger Pipeline’s Poplar System

The American issue is truly about the transport of dangerous but profitable product through delicate environmental structures.

Pipelines leak.

Here is a good discussion about a very recent demonstration:   Does the Yellowstone River Oil Spill Foreshadow The Future… ?   Posted by , care2.com.   Fig 1 shows a bit of its toll.

The issue as a bullet list –

  • Transport of processed tar sands involves solvents to keep the stuff fluid (dilbit, see our Index for other KXL discussions)
  • These solvents are chemically active hydrocarbons, they attack most things.
  • These are things that would destroy you, were you to drink some.
  • When oil pipelines break, solvents are the first things locals have to deal with, the tar-like residue is another, either to be cleaned up later, or labeled “unimportant.”
  • Sometimes consequences extend far beyond the folks initially bothered by the issue.

Fig 2 shows the location of this month’s (2015 Jan 17) Leakage. Bridger Pipeline’s Poplar System 83 is near the route for KXL, it dumped into Montana’s Yellowstone River.  Continue reading

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Fusion Paths Not Taken -4

Secretive Tri Alpha Energy makes fusion progress. Has private backers and Government ones too, but –Russian– not U.S.

We finish our Fusion Paths Not Taken  series by looking at Tri Alpha Energy (TAE).  TAE was started with the explicit goal of using the difficult  p-11B fuel and did not want any part of the toroidal strategies in vogue at that time that were commonly considered incapable of reaching the required temperatures.  Tri Alpha was the center of advocacy for the fuel, and has weathered continuous criticisms.

p-11B is the aneutronic (non-neutron generating) fuel that would perfectly complete the fusion dream.  Except that

  • the temperatures required for maximum fusion are in the range of 1½ – 5 thousand million of degrees. the standard D-T fuel is 10 times lower.
  • it has the lowest maximum probability of fusion events per ion-ion collision of all proposed fusion fuels of D-T and D-3He.

Click any image to see its full sized version.

Tri Alpha Energy SpecificationsTri Alpha Energy (TAE)           p-11B
Dale Prouty

Norman Rostoker ca2003 400x433

Fig 1:  Norman Rostoker  1925 Aug 16 — 2014 Dec 25

Tri Alpha Energy (TAE) was formed in 1998 when  Norman Rostoker, professor of physics at the University of California – Irvine was joined by Hendrik Monkhorst to set up the company near UC-Irvine.

Hendrik Monkhorst

Fig 2:  Hendrik Monkhorst

Monkhorst was from the CBFR project at the University of Florida.   Michl W. Binderbauer (UC-Irvine) was the co-author of the 1998 proposals CBFR + p-11B paper and current CTO at TAE.

The goal was to develop a compact reactor that did not use fuel that emits neutrons and  Continue reading

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Fusion Paths Not Taken -3

Outlier LPP proposes Dense Plasma Focus and the hardest fuel!  Do they really have a chance?

In these final two posts, we discuss proposals that use magnetized target fusion ideas but both have the goal using p-11B fuel at successful start up.

We  discussed p-11B, earlier.  It generate 3 alpha particles (helium nuclei) and no neutrons; but it demands temperatures in the billions of degrees and it has a much lower probability of fusion-per-collision than either D-T or D-3He, the other commonly considered fuels.

There is a lot of skepticism in the fusion community relating to these two small companies. Each deserve its own discussion. Click any image to see its full sized version.

LPPF SpecificationsLPPF                                                      p-11B
Eric Lerner
DPF fusion, Focus Fusion power

Eric Lerner

Fig 1: Eric Lerner with the FF-1

2014 Dec 24 :  LPP announces pending name change to LPPF, initials only.  Currently, its web page is unchanged.

Dr. Lerner has been on the DPF quest for many years, and assembled his LPPF company for a realistic try at making an FF device operational.  His test bed is called FF-1. Continue reading

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Fusion Paths not taken 2

Do magnetized plasma targets offer options for smaller, cheaper fusion power?

In this part -2 of our Paths Not Followed series, we discuss 3 proposals that show promise of being fusion game changers.  All consider manipulating blobs of plasma isolated from any coils that generate magnetic fields for confinement.

All our proposals involve fusion concepts with a compact toroid  (CT) also known as a magnetized target fusion (MTF) object, i.e., blobs of magnetized plasma whose self-fields are sufficiently stable to provide confinement.  People sometimes use MTF and MIF (Magneto Inertial Fusion) interchangeably.

Magnitized Target Fusion, Field Reversed Configuration, Colliding PlasmaThe internal fields in a CT will hold it together for a time (much) longer than required for thermal drift to dissipate an similar but unmagnetized blob.

  • General Fusion                         D-T
    Inject an MTF blob into a chamber, generate shock to cause implosion fusion.
  • Helion Energy                         D-3He
    Use 2 MTFs for colliding plasma targets, pinch the stagnation to fusion conditions
  • HyperV  Technologies           D-T
    Plasma Jet Liner.  Fire many high speed MTFs to collide, stagnate and form a high energy liner to partially compress a target plasma blob. Magnetically pinch the target to final stagnation and fusion.

Continue reading

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Fusion Paths Not Taken – 1

Magnetically confined plasma fusion was abandoned decades ago. Has their time come?

Magnetic fusion concepts require coils to form the field.  One path that is still being proposed is to embed the coils into the fusion-grade plasma because confinement can be nearly steady.

Cusp, quadrupole, quadrapole,octupole, octopole

Fig 1:  Paths not taken: Cusps and multipoles  —quadurpoles, octupoles

We discuss 3 proposals that hold some promise of being game changers.

  • Polywell proposal from EMC2
  • CFR proposal from Lockheed-Martin
  • Dynomak proposal from the University of Washington’s graduate school in fusion energy research.

These are small companies formed during the 35 years — since American magnetic fusion funding was decreased to a strangulation level.

They are usually near universities, to pursue ideas that are not in the tokamak mainstream of thinking.

Make no mistake, these companies want to be the change agents in the fusion community.  They all believe Continue reading

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Stirring the Fusion Pot

8 companies are looking for non-government funding of their innovative fusion ideas.  Hoax or real?

There are a number of reports in the recent months of Amazing! New! and Simple! ways of generating fusion power. Fraction of the cost of mainline fusion designs! Power cheaper than coal! Whoosh! What could be better than those?

  • Just try our one simple trick and get all the free energy you want! Oh? Sounds like a phishing ad – maybe like those in the side boxes at Yahoo News.
  • Or maybe … could they have the real thing, that simple step?
    You know – the one that works!
click for our list of other fusion strategies

This post is the lead-in to our new series called Fusion Paths Not Taken about the wanna-be game-changers operating in the fusion energy arena. Or, at least, those that are making a fuss in the news media.

Fusion reactor proposals

Fig 1: Reactor concepts from programs looking for support

FIg 1 shows 7 of (at least) 8 hot fusion aspirants who are generating breathless reports on new ways guaranteed to make fusion power.   And Hey! they each need private funding.   These show scaling to human size (the Helion concept Continue reading

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Saving Production Rules

If California can do it for chicken eggs, why can’t we do it for all goods sold in America?

The Oct 4 print copy of the New York Times Business section has the report (on-line) on the recent United States District Court ruling by Judge Kimberly Mueller in favor of a California law.

Fig Chicken Factory. source farm sanctuary.org

Fig 1:  Chicken Factory – products banned in California

California had passed a law that all eggs sold there had to be from chickens living in a volume large enough to stand, lie down, turn around, and stretch wings to the fullest extent.

If the hens were in tighter confinement, their products (eggs) could not be sold in California.  Fig 1 shows such a “factory farm,” source is http://www.farmsanctuary.org/  Continue reading

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How To Peel A Mango

Peel a mango, remove its pit, without mess and in less than a minute. Same for any other stone fruit.

Mangoes are my favorite fruit.  This even though they have a bad reputation for being really messy, wasteful to peel, and knife-dulling stringy to remove from the pit.  Other than that, there is nothing better!   Today, I was slipping a mango from its peel and sliding the pit out when I was overcome with grief for those who were never shown how.

This is a post about peeling fruit – really.  The method works for any stone fruit like peaches and plums.  Once I had a boss who laughed at me for peeling a plum, but that is where you find the insecticide residue, so I feel vindicated.  A friend once called me a “fruit nut” because I like fruit over  chocolate;  so I get mangoes, he gets small boxes of raisins.

Choose the fruit.  A mango should be purchased firm/hard.  I envy those who live where they grow on trees and are branch ripened, but here, at our markets,  soft mangoes have probably gone bad.  Buy mangoes a couple days before you want them and let them ripen in the kitchen.

Mango Tools

Fig 1  You need a knife, spoon, clean board, a bowl and a mango

Fig 1 shows the all the tools needed to cleanly slide the peel and slip the pit.

Click any image to see full resolution.

The pit of a stone fruit is not a sphere, but 2 flattened halves pressed together with a clear rim or septum where they join.  On a peach or plum, the peel shows an indented line from stem to tip, right above the septum.  Continue reading

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Gini Index demonstrates Saez-Piketty Inequality

The Gini index demonstrates Saez-Piketty trends. These two very different markers show that inequality is increasing.

The trend line for the Gini index (Gini)  is well correlated with the trend line from Saez-Piketty Inequality (SPI) studies, although these two ways to estimating inequality are unrelated – different techniques employed by different economists using different resource bases.

We present this result as a graph through time, discuss what Gini and SPI indicators mean, and examine why the Gini marker, part of the standard U.S. Census Bureau (USCB) report, is intrinsically hard to use.          Click any image for full resolution.

Gini Index of Inequality

The  Gini index is a value devised by the Italian Corrado Gini and meant to indicate the “level” of a country’s inequality. Gini uses data about a country’s economy to calculate a single value G that ranges from 0 to 1. The bigger the G number, the more unequal the society. Continue reading

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Business Startups and Inequality

FiveThirtyEight posted on the decline of startups.  Who would have thought of Saez-Piketty inequality?

New information shows that startup businesses in the U.S. have been following a declining trend since 1977.   This was posted by Ben Casselman, chief economics writer at Nate Silver’s well known FiveThirtyEight.com blog.


Fig 1   Ben Casselman

Casselman presents several graphs – The charts show that the startup fraction of all existing enterprises has been decreasing for decades. Established businesses had little to fear from disruptive new techniques traditionally brought to maturity by newly started business wanta-bes  –  at least in America.

He points out  “Entrepreneurship is a critical source of jobs in the economy.  Perhaps even more importantly, it is a major driver of productivity growth.”  This growth is fueled by new ideas and techniques championed by the entrepreneurs who want to do new things. Continue reading

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Are Tuition Costs Exaggerated?

Claims that college tuition rate rises cause problems are wrong. Or are they?

Do rising college costs exclude some and force others into crippling loans that weaken their future?  Maybe that’s nonsense!  Maybe the exact opposite is true – aren’t trends showing lowering in actual payments, making higher education easier for all?  Maybe this means graduates have a better future than ever before.  LastTechAge uses tuition values from the colleges and accepts the first view.  Some folks argue for the Maybes.

David Leonhardt, New York Times

Fig 1  David Leonhardt, New York Times

David Leonhardt in his New York Times Upshot column (Tuesday 29 July 2014) gives a strong pushback. Mr. Leonhardt is one of the NYT’s outstanding reporters and is managing editor of the Upshot website.  Leonhardt’s comments are probing and edgy, perhaps a bit more sympathetic toward the monied Right.

LastTechAge posted Government data showing that, for the decade prior to 1980s, college tuition followed inflation, then abruptly started rising, following the Saez-Piketty inequality curve.  This is a clear and visible data trend, but, if wrong, we should acknowledge it.

As always, click any figure to get a full resolution image.

The data

Here are Leonhardt’s two basic charts.. Continue reading

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Should oil trains get limited liability?

Exploding oil cars do not deserve a waiver from the costs they generate.

Warren Buffett has requested that oil train companies get a liability limitation – just like nuclear power plants, so reports Heather Smith  in her 2014 Aug 6 column in Grist.

Casselton oil train explosion

2013 Dec – tanker collision with another train.  Casselton, North Dakota.

The immediate reason is the recent destruction in Lac Megantic (Quebec, 2013 Jul) when a tank train hauling extra thin and flammable shale oil exploded.  1.6 Million gallons of oil took 47 lives and 30 buildings.  See Grist link for Quebec image.

The rail company, Montreal Maine and Atlantic, had $25M in insurance, but 10 times more was needed to merely clean up their mess.

MM&A declared immediate bankruptcy, the owners walked away, and Canadian taxes (including from the survivors and local owners of lost businesses) is being used to clean up and rebuild.


Warren Buffett

Buffett (who owns Irving Oil which transports lots of oil) wants a guarantee of limits to liability and cites the Price-Anderson act which limits liability in the nuclear reactor industry.

He wants something similar so that future misadventures are covered by taxes, not personal wealth.

Though Buffet is one of the ‘good’ 0.01 percent, it is not too surprising that he would move to cover his own interests. Continue reading

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