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Computing a Winner, Fusion a Loser In US Science Budget

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the gotta-pay-for-those-fighter-jets-somehow dept.

Government 196

sciencehabit writes "President Barack Obama has released a $3.901 trillion budget request to Congress, including proposals for a host of federal research agencies. Science Magazine has the breakdown, including a big win for advanced computing, a big cut for fusion, and status quo for astronomy. 'In the proposed budget, advanced computing would see its funding soar 13.2% to $541 million. BES, the biggest DOE program, would get a boost of 5.5% to $1.807 billion. BER would get a 3% bump to $628 million, and nuclear physics would enjoy a 4.3% increase to $594 million. In contrast, the fusion program would take a 17.6% cut to $416 million—$88 million less than it's getting this year. Although far from final, the numbers suggest another big dip for a program that has enjoyed a roller coaster ride in recent years. In its proposed 2013 budget, DOE called for slashing spending on domestic fusion research to help pay for the increasing U.S. contribution to the international fusion experiment, ITER, in Cadarache, France.'" The Association of American Universities has issued a letter disapproving of the amount of research funding. The Planetary Society has broken down the proposed NASA budget.

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Politics ahead. (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 7 months ago | (#46407085)

Lets see how this comes out of the congressional sausage factory before we get too excited. Much of the spending is going to be contested. Budgets are also common places to stick unpopular riders, so there will probably be a few nasty surprises snuck in.

Re:Politics ahead. (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#46407299)

There will be some pet projects tucked into every appropriations bill.

That's collectively exhaustive of the options for getting the votes necessary to pass a budget.

It's not the worst system in the World, but never fear, they're not finished yet, either.

Re:Politics ahead. (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46407345)

Lets see how this comes out of the congressional sausage factory before we get too excited.

Indeed. Normally, when congress creates a budget, they completely ignore the president's proposal. These suggested spending levels are more or less meaningless at this point. In the final budget, the value of the science to our society will be given far less consideration than the need to steer spending to particular congressional districts. Livermore, CA, where most fusion spending takes place, has a Republican representative with no seniority. Being Republican helps, since they control the House. California also has two Democratic Senators (good, since Democrats control the Senate), with plenty of seniority. On balance, it looks like fusion could do pretty well.

Re:Politics ahead. (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46407425)

Livermore, CA, where most fusion spending takes place, has a Republican representative with no seniority.

Gak! Sorry, I was looking at an old map before redistricting. Livermore is now in a different district, with a Democratic representative with no seniority. Not good for fusion funding.

Re:Politics ahead. (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 7 months ago | (#46407453)

"Democratic representative with no seniority. Not good for fusion funding."

Soooo you're freely admitting it's nothing more than pork? Because it is, at least in the case of NIF.

Re:Politics ahead. (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46407815)

Eh, more like pork can benefit the country, in addition to the representative's district, or it can hurt the country and benefit the rep. And our country will get outraged about both, use that to slash the former, and continue the latter unabated.

One of the problems the US constitution failed to address structurally was a process for creating a budget that limits corruption through checks and balances. Other modern liberal democracies with more recent constitutions don't have this problem to the same extent.

Re:Politics ahead. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407971)

"Other modern liberal democracies"

The founders knew very well the dangers of a democracy and our Constitution is specifically designed to not be a democracy.

Of course those protections have been changed subtly and overtly over the years, and nowadays only token attention is even given to the Constitution anyway.

But you know all that, you just *want* to be able to call us a democracy because it sounds so *modern* and *for the little guy* and all of that bullshit.

In the end it all comes down to the same old thing though doesn't it? You just want to be able to take the other guys shit. We know.

Re:Politics ahead. (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46408093)

"Liberal democracy" isn't the same as "democracy" dumb-dumb. It refers specifically to a democracy where the rights and freedoms of its citizens are structurally protected.

Re:Politics ahead. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408413)

Oh go fuck yourself asshole.

Statists hide themselves behind language and have done so for years, and for a reason. Telling the truth is anathema to a socialist or a communist and it is well known that the public is largely stupid and can be led by the nose to vote by a determined effort in the media and elsewhere in society.

Liberal - Progressive - Democrat, words are essentially meaningless to a tyrant. Statists do not care one dammned bit about individual liberty or the rule of law, all they care about is power and money. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar or an idiot, or both.

Oh and then there's also the other part. Stealing from those who produce is evil and wrong. So how do you like that statist? You are a stupid evil lying asshole, *and* you are going to hell for it to boot.

Fuck you.

Re:Politics ahead. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408671)

Tea Party is against Pork Barrel Spending

Re:Politics ahead. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408771)

Speaking of which here is one of your 'liberal' champions of individual liberty.

http://dailycaller.com/2014/03/05/darrell-issa-angrily-adjourns-oversight-hearing-after-lois-lerner-pleads-the-fifth/

A criminal thug, lying and obfuscating the truth. Plotting and conspiring against the pepple under color of law and in concert with the Democrat party and by default with the support and direction of the president. Holding the 5th amendmend over our heads and depriving true individials of thier constitutional rights of free speech.

How do you like that you rat fucking statist pig. HOW DO YOU FUCKING LIKE THAT?

It's about Obama! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407091)

I saw Obama's name in the article so I'm going to comment that the dems suck donkey dick! Don't you just love first posts? ;)

Change department name (-1, Troll)

isa-kuruption (317695) | about 7 months ago | (#46407103)

... to "gotta-pay-for-those-social-welfare-benefits" dept.

DOWNVOTING BEGIN!

Re:Change department name (-1, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46407283)

... to "gotta-pay-for-those-social-welfare-benefits" dept.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/21/air-conditioning-military-cost-nasa_n_881828.html [huffingtonpost.com]

DOWNVOTING BEGIN!

You deserve downvoting, because you are a liar and/or an ignoramus [truth-out.org] who nonetheless speaks authoritatively.

Your opinion is worth less than nothing, as it is based on faux news.

Re:Change department name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407305)

Pointing to a Huff Post article that misrepresents costs is ignorant. Just sayin.

Re:Change department name (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46407317)

Pointing to a Huff Post article that misrepresents costs is ignorant. Just sayin.

Which costs does it misrepresent?

Re:Change department name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407415)

... to "gotta-pay-for-those-social-welfare-benefits" dept.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/21/air-conditioning-military-cost-nasa_n_881828.html [huffingtonpost.com]

So? I agree that NASA should have a larger budget in proportion, but if you're going to have a military so big, I don't want everyone to have heatstroke in the desert.

Re:Change department name (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46408481)

The point, I believe, is what does having a military that big actually do for us? Let us beat soundly upon a bunch of cobbled together resistance in a desert country nobody cares about except for their oil, giving the local terrorist groups a massive shot in the arm with our abuses and cowardly combat tactics? (Yeah, sure, drones and airstrikes may be more efficient in terms of friendly lives spent and the corresponding social backlash back home, but from the opposite perspective what sort of man slaughters people without even giving them a chance to fight back?)

Cut the military 20% and you wouldn't change our strategic position notably, while freeing up tons of funds that could be spent on things that may actually help the country. We'd still be spending more on the military than the next many, many countries combined, most of whom are allies.

Re:Change department name (2)

stdarg (456557) | about 7 months ago | (#46409267)

Let us beat soundly upon a bunch of cobbled together resistance in a desert country nobody cares about except for their oil

That's a HUGE "except" right there, until we're weaned off the stuff in the next few decades (hopefully).

but from the opposite perspective what sort of man slaughters people without even giving them a chance to fight back?

You can't seriously think that's the terrorist perspective. In asymmetric warfare, the smaller group rarely gives the bigger group a chance to fight back, or they'd be destroyed pretty quickly. Most tactics in asymmetric warfare involve hiding before the enemy can retaliate, and using surprise attacks to your advantage. Not to mention terrorists have no problem attacking people who have no capability to fight back (women and children, wounded people in hospitals, etc) even if you did give them the chance.

We'd still be spending more on the military than the next many, many countries combined, most of whom are allies.

I haven't read a study about this, but common sense says that comparing our dollars to China's dollars and Iran's dollars doesn't make sense because they have different purchasing power. One of the big costs in the military, even today when it's so driven by technology and equipment, is manpower. If China's soldiers cost 1/5 what we pay, then we may be outspending them but not necessarily getting more for it. You can't necessarily use economy-wide purchasing power parity figures either because I suspect a lot of military expenditure falls outside the normal economy, especially in some countries.

Re:Change department name (2)

isa-kuruption (317695) | about 7 months ago | (#46407423)

Or let's look at a source that doesn't specialize in enema tasting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org]

25% federal budget goes to Medicare and Medicaid, 23% to Social Security (totalling 48%).

Defense spending is 18%.

I'm sure the numbers are skewed more towards Medicare/Medicaid and Social security for Obama's 2014 proposal.

Now go back to your hole and stop getting news from the biggest shitrag in the world.

Re:Change department name (2)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 7 months ago | (#46407575)

25% federal budget goes to Medicare and Medicaid, 23% to Social Security (totalling 48%).

That's misleading. Social Security is paid for with Social Security withholding-- it actually pays more into the budget than it pays out.

Likewise, Medicare is paid for by a separate fund, which goes into the medicaid trust fund..

Re:Change department name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408037)

"Likewise, Medicare is paid for by a separate fund, which goes into the medicaid trust fund."

Trust fund?????!!!!!!?!?!?!?!

WTF are you people smoking?

THEY HAVE SPENT ALL THAT MONEY. MULTIPLE TIMES OVER. AND THE WILL NOT STOP DOING SO EITHER.

There is no trust fund. The money is gone, they stole it and spent it. We are 17T in debt. Soon interest on the debt will exceed what we pay JUST FOR DEFENSE.

And what floors me is that you lot just stand there saying "more please!".

Math - how does that work?

Re:Change department name (4, Informative)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | about 7 months ago | (#46408853)

THEY HAVE SPENT ALL THAT MONEY.

Who are "THEY"? The people running Medicare? No, that's not right.

The point is not that "we're fine"; we're not.

The point is that trotting out Social Security and Medicare as examples of why our budget is broken is misleading. These programs are funded through separate withholdings, withholdings that exceed the cost of said programs. Perhaps these programs are "too much", and we should decrease their scope along with their respective withholdings. Perhaps they're "not enough", and we should increase their scope along with their respective withholdings. Perhaps they're "just right", and we should leave them alone. In any case, these programs have very little to do with our current budget woes, as the funds to pay for them are being collected just fine.

That the money collected specifically for these programs is instead misappropriated or borrowed against is no indictment of the programs themselves. Yes, the money has already been spent. No, the money has not already been spent on these programs. You can start pointing at social welfare programs as the primary drivers of deficit spending once you show me how gross tax receipts are sufficient to cover defense spending and all the other shit that's paid for out of the general fund. I say that as someone who works in the defense industry.

Re:Change department name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408963)

"The point is that trotting out Social Security and Medicare as examples of why our budget is broken is misleading."

I didn't mean to say that and didn't think I did, nevertheless I completely agree.

That said, Social Security and Medicare are themselves poor solutions to the problems they are supposed to be addressing, and at that they are only the tip of the proverbial iceburg.

The government from end to end is inefficient, corrupt, wasteful and evil. There are things it should be doing that it does not (protect the borders, enforce laws equally, recognize and protect the citizens individual liberties and rights) and there are untold numbers of things it should not be doing that it does (NLRB, DOE, DOA, let's see, how long can one go on?).

That we are 17T in debt is enough to stand on it's own. Our childrens children have been sold off into slavery.

But no, I am not blaming SS or Medicare alone for all of this wrongdoing. Does that help? :-)

Re:Change department name (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#46409343)

The Social Security Trust Fund and Medicare Trust Fund are illusions.

In both cases, the money goes into the General Fund to be spent, and is "replaced" with an Interest Free Intragovernmental T-Bill.

Which means that when SS/Medicare start spending more than they take in (within ten years, unless they raise SS/Medicare taxes on you young people), the Trust Funds will redeem those T-Bills, which will be paid for by borrowing from the public or raising taxes.

Note that if the Trust Funds did not exist, when SS/Medicare start spending more than they take in, they will be paid for by borrowing from the public or raising taxes.

If the net effect of something existing is exactly the same as the net effect of it NOT existing, it can safely be assumed that it doesn't actually exist.

Re:Change department name (1)

isa-kuruption (317695) | about 7 months ago | (#46407429)

Oh yeah and let's not forget that it was OBAMA that cut NASA's budget and cancelled the shuttle program. You're worthless as a human being.

Bush cancelled shuttle [Re:Change department name] (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407677)

Oh yeah and let's not forget that it was OBAMA that cut NASA's budget and cancelled the shuttle program. You're worthless as a human being.

Not quite true-- in fact, it was Bush (the George W. one) who cancelled the shuttle program. Obama actually added one more shuttle flight (STS 135) after the proposed cancellation last flight. By the time Obama got into office, they had already shut down the program-- it was a matter of just flying the stocks remaining. (the last flight that Obama added was, basically, using up the last of the tanks.)

The reason Bush put forth to cancel the shuttle program was to use the savings to fund a new vehicle development program named "Constellation," but the funding for Constellation kept getting cut-- it never was enough to fund the program that they had proposed.

Predictable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407133)

Fusion... we dont want that to get in the way of OIL

fusion is expensive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407167)

I think it is rational to reduce fusion research. Solar, wind and breeder fission reactors are likely to be cheaper than fusion power.

Re:fusion is expensive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407235)

Maybe advanced computing can be used to simulate fusion reactors. If it works for nano-material research and weapons testing, then it should work for fusion.

Re:fusion is expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407463)

A large portion of the fusion budget is computer based theory work, and one of the main research goal/mission statement things from DoE on plasma physics is to do Verification and Validation of computer modeling , i.e. make sure that computer models work both according to theory and quantitatively match experiment. This is both because of a push toward computational research for some time, and because of the end goal of a power plant reactor would rely heavily on computer models for feedback and control systems as opposed to a huge array of diagnostics that research reactors have.

Re:fusion is expensive (4, Informative)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 7 months ago | (#46407473)

> Maybe advanced computing can be used to simulate fusion reactors

They've been doing that since the 1960s. The simulations say it all worked 25 years ago.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LASNEX

I'm not convinced more simulations will help.

Re:fusion is expensive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407493)

All the advanced computing in the world is useless if you can't perform verification and validation against experiment.

Re:fusion is expensive (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 7 months ago | (#46408663)

The fusion community are huge users of high-performance computing. So even if they're not sinking money directly into building and operating actual reactors, there's plenty of work to do on the computing side.

Breeder fission maybe. When it's not windy ... (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about 7 months ago | (#46407805)

Breeder reactors may very well work out well. We'll see.

Wind power is a very nice supplement to use when it's windy, so it works well in addition to base power in certain geographical areas. Wind is NOT base power simply because it's not windy all the time. When it happens to be windy, you can dial back your natural gas or nuclear generation (base) for an hour.

Solar electric is great for locations where you can't easily run a power line, like a vacation cabin in the wilderness. However, it costs over ten times as much as natural gas or hyroelectric. Your monthly electric bill is probably around $150 right now. If you switched to solar, it would cost $1,500 / month. That just doesn't work. Direct solar preheating, on the other hand, works well in many locations. (Let the sun warm your water before it goes to the water heater.)

For electricity and vehicles, there are two / three choices for base load - fossil fuels or nuclear. Fossil fuels can be divided into traditional (coal, heavy oil) and cleaner (natural gas).

Re:fusion is expensive (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 7 months ago | (#46408651)

And this conjecture is based on, what, exactly?

Fusion reactor performance, measured by triple-product, is improving faster than Moore's Law. Who's to say that eventually, reactors will be built that not only work economically, but even cheaply?

Re:Predictable. (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 7 months ago | (#46407171)

Fusion... we dont want that to get in the way of OIL

Whereas there are certainly some oil lobbying groups that will push this line I doubt if this is the government's reasoning. If they thought that it was likely that it would produce a commercial energy source in anything but the extreme long term I expect the US government would love to have US patents on unlimited, sustainable energy. I can just see the "change of heart" where suddenly everyone must sign up to to CO2 emission targets - and use US patented technology as a large part of meeting them!

Re:Predictable. (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | about 7 months ago | (#46407177)

Except Fusion is a pipe dream.
And research into Fission is only being funded on a half govt half private funding model that prevents new entrants to the field (and discourages anybody but billionaires from trying to fund revolutionary fission).

Re:Predictable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407279)

Yeah, fusion is a pipe dream. The All Seeing Eye has spoken, and these researchers are all losers.

Re:Predictable. (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 7 months ago | (#46407495)

> Yeah, fusion is a pipe dream

Indeed.

> and these researchers are all losers

No, its bunker mentality. Same in the fission world, maybe worse there though.

Commissioned PV is under $1.25 a watt. If you don't understand what that means, then you should go look it up.

There is no way that any of the fusion devices anyone is working on will ever be able to match that, even if they do get it to work. And so far, they can't even do that.

Re:Predictable. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407519)

Solar is infinite dollars per watt at night.

Re:Predictable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408419)

Good thing day is about 6 hours away.

Multiple electrical production means (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 7 months ago | (#46407769)

Commissioned PV is under $1.25 a watt. If you don't understand what that means, then you should go look it up.

A "watt", for solar, means one watt of electrical production at noon on a cloud free day.

Since peak power usage (in the US) tends to be in the afternoon, that's excellent up to about 10% market penetration Above that, you need energy storage, which is currently not cost effective, although there are several systems that are coming along in the future and look good. However, storage adds to the cost-- it's no longer a dollar a watt if you have to operate and pay for a storage system.

Solar is also less effective in winter (shorter days) and in locations with significant overcast.

Solar is great-- for some utility applications. The true answer is, there is room for multiple approaches to technology development.

Re:Multiple electrical production means (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 7 months ago | (#46409031)

> Since peak power usage (in the US) tends to be in the afternoon, that's excellent up
> to about 10% market penetration Above that, you need energy storage

40%

http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/03/variable-renewable-power-can-reach-40-percent-capacity-very-cheaply/

> Solar is also less effective in winter (shorter days) and in locations with significant overcast.

Luckily peak usage matches PV input very closely south of the mason-dixon. We're not so lucky up here in Canuckistan, but it still works OK when you examine the charts:

http://www.ieso.ca/imoweb/marketdata/markettoday.asp

> The true answer is, there is room for multiple approaches to technology development

Absolutely! Which is precisely why I talked about a bunker mentality. The fission industry is *rabidly* defensive against any and all alternatives. Here's some examples:

http://matter2energy.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/why-solar-is-nuclears-best-friend/

Re:Predictable. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407441)

Except Fusion is a pipe dream.

Looks at sun... slightly blinded... um, yea, fusion, that'll never work.

Re:Predictable. (1)

Tyler Durden (136036) | about 7 months ago | (#46407773)

So what would be the budget for creating a medium-sized star?

We know it works - Teller showed us (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 7 months ago | (#46407609)

We know it works - the tricky bits are scaling it down and keeping it under control.

Re:We know it works - Teller showed us (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 7 months ago | (#46408273)

We know it works - the tricky bits are scaling it down and keeping it under control.

We know it works at large scales. We don't know if it works at small scales. Since the entire goal is small-scale fusion (i.e. something that doesn't require an entire solar mass of hydrogen to maintain), we really don't yet know if it works as a viable contained power source.

Re:We know it works - Teller showed us (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | about 7 months ago | (#46408649)

It's always like that, we know it works, but, there are lots of poops that are conveniently hidden.
My opinion is quite simple, the people making decisions don't really want fusion to work, they want to say they are funding it, while it's always ways out in the future.
Fission is commercial, and could be an order of magnitude safer and two orders of magnitude more efficient (per ton of radioactive material mined) if we invest about 10% TOTAL of what's being spent every 10 years on fusion, or just one years funding of fusion.
But the US government is only interested in funding fission in a game of market cards where only be big boys get to play.
Until we take the gas and oil paws off government this will continue.
Notice hydrogen fuel cells were always in the future. It took Elon Musk making electric cars viable now, and the whole speech changed into fuel cell cars in the market in the next 12-24 months.
Call me crazy, but If you are defending fusion either you are coning us or you are in the con.
Lets first perfect fission, let's make nuclear fission reactors that use 99% of radioactivity (two orders of magnitude safer than today), let's make nuclear fission reactors that are neither gigantic pressure cookers nor use tons of material that react violently with sodium. Let's end the self fulfilling prophecy that fission must be expensive and unsafe.
The we can perfect fusion over the next 50 years.

Re:We know it works - Teller showed us (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | about 7 months ago | (#46408667)

Correction: Call me crazy, but If you are defending fusion either you are coning us or you are being conned.

Re:Predictable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407265)

Oil.... we don't want that to get in the way of COAL.

Except for the small detail that oil exists and is better than coal. So you don't see too many coal-fired boats, locomotives, power-generating plants or factories these days.

Yeah, so besides the fact that oil works and exists, it's just like fusion power. You have a sharp mind! Let me guess, you also think colonizing Mars and 3D printing space elevators are possible in the next few months, right?

Re:Predictable. (0)

tomhath (637240) | about 7 months ago | (#46407327)

Nuclear (including fusion) doesn't get in the way of oil. It gets in the way of Obama's goal to fund start-up companies specializing in wind and solar. He wants those companies to grow because they will be beholden to democrats for their existence.

Re:Predictable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408811)

Nuclear Energy mismanaged themselves and should blame only themselves

Hello, Barack? This is kettle (0, Troll)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 7 months ago | (#46407219)

For a guy who pissed away billions on failed solar companies, you'd think he could cough up some decent coin for fusion power research. But nooOOOOOoooo...

Re:Hello, Barack? This is kettle (2, Funny)

mikael (484) | about 7 months ago | (#46407245)

Solar power did work - but the utilities suddenly saw it was eating into their peak demand profits.

If $1,500/month home electric = "did work" (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 7 months ago | (#46407907)

Solar electric costs ten times as much as hydro or natural gas. So if everyone was using solar power, instead of paying $150 / month for your electric bill, it would be $1,500 / month. If paying $1,500 / month for electricity is your definition of "did work" you must be that filthy 0.0001%, mega wealthy.

Yes, I'm aware that if you're the only one using solar, politicians will force al of your neighbors to pay the bill. Subsidies "work" when 1,000 people are all subsidizing one guy. We can't all subsidize ourselves $1,500 / month though.

If you enjoy solar, talk about the solar that DOES work - direct solar (pre)heating, for example. Let the sun warm your water before it heads to the water heater. THAT works. Solar electric, not so much, though it is a good way to power a low end calculator.

Re:If $1,500/month home electric = "did work" (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 7 months ago | (#46408471)

> Solar electric costs ten times as much as hydro or natural gas

It costs about 2x, max. Compared to nuclear it's already at parity:

http://matter2energy.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/green-apples/

You can do the calculation yourself.

a blog starting with "change all the numbers" (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 7 months ago | (#46408931)

You keep posting that, a blogger who starts his post with "change all the numbers, because solar is way more effective than the manufacturers rate their systems to be". That blogger WISHES solar was only twice as expensive. The DOE price survey says solar customers actually pay ten times as much.

Re:If $1,500/month home electric = "did work" (1)

afidel (530433) | about 7 months ago | (#46408801)

Bullshit, utility scale solar is down to $.11/kWhr as of Q4 2013 (down from $.21 in 2010 when the DoE started SunShot) which is less than double the $.056/kWhr total cost for new natural gas plants.

DOE says AVERAGE 35. Maybe 11 at 1PM in SoCal (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 7 months ago | (#46408883)

DOE says the national average is 35 cents.
I don't know where you got 11 cents. Is that the marginal cost at 1PM on a sunny day in Southern California? Is that the panel manufacturing cost, ignoring installation, trackers, distribution, etc .?

Re:DOE says AVERAGE 35. Maybe 11 at 1PM in SoCal (1)

afidel (530433) | about 7 months ago | (#46408987)

It's the current installed cost [greentechmedia.com] of utility scale solar.

Re:Hello, Barack? This is kettle (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 7 months ago | (#46408211)

The notions that solar power doesn't work and that solar power hurts utility company's profits are not mutually exclusive. It is called negative power prices. Due to laws requiring utilities to buy wind and solar power at any time, combined with the inability to store or transport natural gas supplies due to lack of pipelines, the cost of electricity often becomes negative where the power company pays customers to waste electricity because of unpredictable excess capacity. This hurts utility company earnings as well as being wasteful and counterproductive to the economy and environment.

Re:Hello, Barack? This is kettle (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#46407255)

The donors and bundlers were in solar. Get some in fusion.

Re:Hello, Barack? This is kettle (0, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46407293)

For a guy who pissed away billions on failed solar companies, you'd think he could cough up some decent coin for fusion power research.

Solyndra was known to be a failure before it even got out of the gate. That was a corporate handout, plain and simple. That was not a solar company. That was a handout-receiving company.

Re:Hello, Barack? This is kettle (1)

abies (607076) | about 7 months ago | (#46407433)

I think that everybody's patience can get a bit thin after 60 years of waiting... I would probably spend a lot more money in 4th gen fission research rather than chasing fusion holy grail.

Re:Hello, Barack? This is kettle (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46408585)

The reason everyone is still waiting is that funding keeps getting cut. Way back when they estimated that workable fusion was 20 years away, at then-current funding levels. Now, 60 or 80 or whatever years later they *still* haven't received cumulative funding equivalent to 20 years at the initial funding level. But progress-per-dollar has proceeded more-or-less as estimated, and at current funding levels we should have fusion in 20 years or so.

A sad statement on political priorities.

Re:Hello, Barack? This is kettle (3, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 7 months ago | (#46407499)

Another way of looking at it would be "I wasted a lot of political capitol on solar power, and all it got me was a lot of trouble. Lesson learned: Americans do not care about clean energy. Thus, I don't either."

Citizens get the government they earn. I hear more hate about the billions spent on solar power than I do about the trillions wasted on Bush's wars. If Obama were a smarter man, he'd invade Cuba or something, dump the rest of the budget into coal, and get elected a third and fourth term.

Fusion is the future! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407227)

Now we won't have any because all money goes to advanced computing = NSA's decryption center. :(

Subsidizing the NSA (1)

EngineeringStudent (3003337) | about 7 months ago | (#46407261)

I wonder how much the explosion in computing budget, something not precedented by any actual increase in opportunity in the market or the technology ecosystem, is driven by a desire to enable NSA data-collection, something that our "freedom loving" president aggressively supports.

The only recent "big" thing is big data, like Hadoop/Couch/non-RDBMS.

What is the DOE going to do with all that budget? They are going to buy big computers, and do thing with them.
Is in investment in big data going to have a higher chance of payoffs for those folks who are spying on grandma? I don't see why not.

Are they spying on grandma? Of course they are. Of course they are. They can't not spy on grandma. When they say "they have protections" and "rule of law" they might, possibly, be talking about yesterday or today - but they have the data for tomorrow. They have no right and no substance when they talk about what might not be done to the data tomorrow. Like all weapons too horrible to use - it is only too horrible to use until it isn't.

The IRS would never target political parties, or religious groups, right? the NSA arguments come from the same source and report to the same powers.

Re:Subsidizing the NSA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407455)

You do realize that this science budget is very small compared to the NSA's?
We are talking less than half a billion for high performance computing.
The NSA's budget is about 52 billion dollars.
http://www.theverge.com/2013/8/29/4672414/leaked-snowden-documents-reveal-details-of-surveillance-budget

To give some perspective, that 3 NASA budgets and 10 Drug Enforcement Agency budgets.

Re:Subsidizing the NSA (1)

the gnat (153162) | about 7 months ago | (#46409159)

The NSA's budget is about 52 billion dollars.

To give more perspective, the last time I checked, the entire federal budget for non-NASA basic scientific research (including cancer, infectious diseases, clean energy, etc.) didn't even come to that much.

Better to cut all ITER funding (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 7 months ago | (#46407333)

and give the money to our own domestic fusion researchers. If ITER ultimately leads the way to a marketable fusion reactor I am sure we can either licenses the tech or let foreigners build the plants - far cheaper for the tax payer while supporting our own alternative research.

Re:Better to cut all ITER funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407549)

If we cut out all funding for either we incur penalties that will cost us more than our contribution.

Win for Nuclear Phyics. (1)

AlabamaCajun (2710177) | about 7 months ago | (#46407363)

While most will hear politics I see a good move.
On big projects we move away from a cowboy Fusion project to the fundamentals of the same physics, In layman's terms, we stop putting a lot money into attempting to build our own project when we already fund and work on the same joint effort with other countries. Any money in Physics with emphasis on nuclear physics is a win for all the fields. So we don't have a home grown mega donut in the near future. What we do is make a wiser investment into tech that will get us there with more knowledge of the project when we do fund it. Let the private sector pump money into it, that is were the same folks doing the Obama-bashing wanted to do business in the first place. I say that not so much for the politics as science is more important then the halls of congress. It's the big companies like GE, Exxon, BP, Boeing etc that have the potential to gain from it in the future they need to pay forward this time.
We need science and tech multiple arenas now because we changed the world. Other countries have move to computing and non-fusion physics to grow where the US has been for decades. Many countries have pushed hard to gain computing advances to get ahead of what we had going for so long now. Just look at the number of computer trojen and viral intrusions we are seeing from international sources than before we released Stuxnet. Now we are forced to move forward on something that I only hope will take us places in physics that we are not getting to now. If we can get physics and computing down in 10 years then return with federal dollars to boost what the private sector has been working on then we might have a small sun burning in Sandia labs or on Boeing campus producing gigawatts of competitive energy.

Re:Win for Nuclear Phyics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46409007)

This does not belong under the political "Kettle" header Please move it!

Power brokers hate free energy. (1, Interesting)

Zeio (325157) | about 7 months ago | (#46407377)

The world is controlled by two things: Those who create, broker and distribute energy. And those who create, broken and distribute capital (debt instruments known as modern currency).

The last thing the people in charge of the world would like is cheap or free, limitless energy.

Dont kid yourself, the scientists do little jack russel terrier flips and jumps for money, and if the money brokers of the world dont want cheap and free energy, guess who is not getting funding.

Re:Power brokers hate free energy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408067)

Oh it's broken all right.

Re:Power brokers hate free energy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408933)

To Cheap To Meter does not apply to Fisson thou

Fusion is a solved problem (1)

Framboise (521772) | about 7 months ago | (#46407391)

It makes sense to cut in traditional fusion research. Indeed, by now it is clear that the best and cheapest practical fusion energy reactor for the foreseeable future has been found in the form the gravity stabilized fusion reactor called Sun. With declining costs solar panels already compete with conventional nuclear reactors. If the trend continue to ~2020 even coal and oil might be seen then as too expensive in regards of solar energy.

   

Re:Fusion is a solved problem (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 7 months ago | (#46407521)

> even coal and oil might be seen then as too expensive in regards of solar energy

They already have too much to worry about *right now* from natural gas and wind to start worrying about PV in 2020.

You know wind in the US hit just over 5 c/kWh for a while there, right? Nuclear is 6 to 8 (the plant down the road from my house is 8.5 c/kWh).

Natural gas 3.5, solar electric 35 (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 7 months ago | (#46408019)

Since you brought up the actual numbers, I figured I'd add those in. So we have:

Nuclear 7 cents
Natural Gas 3.5 cents
        --------
Solar 35 cents (10AM - 4 PM only)
Wind 5 cents (when wind is between 30-40 MPH)

The two groups are separate because the top two are base power - reliable sources available all the time.
The bottom two are supplementary power - they are available SOMETIMES, and when they are available you can reduce the generation from the base power plants.

Re:Natural gas 3.5, solar electric 35 (1)

Framboise (521772) | about 7 months ago | (#46408483)

Research funding must consider mid to long term planning, so one has to project somewhat in the future, say 2020. There are many such forecasts, but perhaps this one is interesting to quote in view of the origin (US DOE) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/10242882/Solar-power-to-trump-shale-helped-by-US-military.html/ [telegraph.co.uk]

"The US Energy Department expects the cost of solar power to fall by 75pc between 2010 and 2020. By then average costs will have dropped to the $1 per watt for big solar farms, $1.25 for offices and $1.50 for homes, achieving the Holy Grail of grid parity with new coal and gas plants without further need for subsidies. "

only citations ar the US solar energy association (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 7 months ago | (#46408841)

The only two citations I see in that article are a) the solar energy association and b) the head of a solar company. If their claim is in any way hinted at by any DOE report , it's too bad they didn't cite that report. I have a guess as to why they didn't cite anything. I wouldn't be surprised if DOE had run a projection on the scenario that taxpayers might subsidize solar more, so one person using solar would pay less because his neighbors are effectively paying the outrageous cost. They could have also done a "what if" analysis of what would happen IF solar electric magically became feasible.(Starting with 24 / 365 sunshine).

Re:Natural gas 3.5, solar electric 35 (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 7 months ago | (#46408549)

> Solar 35 cents (10AM - 4 PM only)

More like 8 to 15, depending on where you live. You can do the calculation yourself, I'd be interested to see if you come to any other sore of conclusion:

http://matter2energy.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/green-apples/

> Wind 5 cents (when wind is between 30-40 MPH)

Nope, all in.

> The bottom two are supplementary power

And as another report released this very day noted (available on Ars), you can have 40% intermittent power like PV and wind before you have to do *anything* to the grid. To be clear: no form of energy storage *whatsoever* is required until you get about 40% intermittent.

green blog vs DOE. As long as nat gas 100% capaci (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 7 months ago | (#46408677)

You don't need any energy storage as long as your base power can supply all your needs. Period. If nuclear, hydro, natural gas, and coal can provide all of power, you don't need to store ie solar. Which is good, becuase there is no feasible means of storage. How much wind or solar you have has ZERO effect on that. Sometimes wind will make no power, either because it's not windy enough, or it's too windy. So you need the reliable sources to provide 100% during those times.

I see you've "rebutted" the DOE price survey by pointing to a blogger as your source. LOL. Garfield, the cartoon cat, says your're mistaken.

Re:green blog vs DOE. As long as nat gas 100% capa (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 7 months ago | (#46409231)

> I see you've "rebutted" the DOE price survey by pointing to a blogger as your source.

Yes, I quoted me. A professional in the PV field.

The DOE report in question is based on numbers that are approximately five years old. That's how long it takes them to put reports together. In the last five years, the price of PV has fallen seven times. When you divide by seven, you get my number.

But what's really telling is that the post in question shows you how to do this calculation yourself using up-to-date numbers. But clearly you didn't bother to use the two minutes it takes. Are you really that lazy, or just don't want to admit you might be wrong?

> You don't need any energy storage as long as your base power can supply all your needs. Period

Incorrect, trivially so. If your base load power cannot throttle, when you can't use it all you need to dump it. There are a limited number of places you can do this, and when they run out you have to shut down the plants.

Nuclear is a good example. Most reactors can throttle about 15 to 25% within a 24 hour period, and somewhat less than that on a day-to-day basis. Yet daily power use varies at least 50% practically everywhere. So if you had a 100% nuclear base load supply, you'd have to find somewhere to dump about 30% of it every day.

And that really is like dumping 30% of your money into the turbines, which is precisely why fission represents a fairly small percentage of most supplies, including here in Ontario which has one of the highest penetrations at a little over 50%. If we go any higher, we have to start dumping power. France has pushed this to 75% through a fascinating system of rotating fuelling, but even then they've had to shut down parts of the network during heat waves.

Natural gas is a wonderful dispatchable source, as is hydro and to somewhat less extent, coal. A grid consisting of as much PV, wind and hydro you can make, with NG filling the rest, appears to be the future in North America at least. Such a system is sustainable, low cost, and much lower carbon than the one we had five years ago. And it's not just "nice to have", it's the fact on the ground: coal and nuclear plants are being turned off as I write this, while NG, PV and wind compete for title of "fastest installed".

Re:Fusion is a solved problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408255)

That said, why are we funding any computing technology?!! The industry has long since been bootstrapped and is the fastest growing on its own. Google, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Intel, AMD, and nVidia have this down pat. For the Federal Government to be funding computing research is a huge waste of time. It make me sick how all this money is being misallocated let alone being spent.

Really? REALLY? (2)

Martyn Hare (3546791) | about 7 months ago | (#46407599)

Seriously? Computing can handle itself. Just don't piss off the community which is willing to output most research for free. The US government should be looking at curtailing copyright laws so that people can study and learn from older technologies, in order to produce better, more stable technology for the future. These increases in budget are modest at best anyway. If the USA were serious, they'd cut the defense budget, quit threatening countries they don't belong in and start contributing to the ivory tower in a more meaningful way by reallocating those funds to real research.

R&D vs. operations perspective (2)

srussia (884021) | about 7 months ago | (#46407707)

The DOE (yes, not the DOD) is currently refurbishing as many as 2,000 submarine-based W76 warheads at a cost of roughly $2 million each.

Make of that what you will.

Re:R&D vs. operations perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408195)

Um, since DOE/NNSA "owns" the U.S. stockpile it makes perfect sense.

Even assuming what you say were true I missed the point. Could you elaborate?

Billions, Trillions, etc. (0)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about 7 months ago | (#46407717)

All this talk of millions, billions and trillions as if they were drops in a bucket, and yet I still know very few people who earn enough to support themselves let alone families or school. I imagine all these people thinking "Retirement savings? HA! First need to eat today!" This is all as their wages are going down compared to the price of rent and food, while their taxes are going up.. Most are just glad they have parents who's retirement they can leach off of.

I have an idea (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 7 months ago | (#46407827)

Maybe they should get their shit together, build something realistic for the long term, and start selling the electricity then. If I invented a magic device that created gold, I'd probably be selling the gold. Just saying.

Fusion as is, is a money sink and a jobs program.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46407841)

Their budget is 100's of millions of dollars and yet they want more $ to continue doing the mediocre work they're doing with laser and tokamak research.

Instead take 100 million and give it out to 10 different types of Fusion projects at 10 million a piece, including the Dense Plasma Focus and Polywell. Because the conventional approach hasn't worked in 50+ years. And at this point they should be ashamed of their continued failure.

Re:Fusion as is, is a money sink and a jobs progra (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 7 months ago | (#46408347)

$100 million is nothing compared to the scope of the problem. The Manhattan project was around $25 billion over about 4 years. The Apollo program cost $170 billion over about 15 years. The reason why fusion hasn't worked yet is simply because it hasn't been funded to those levels yet.

Re:Fusion as is, is a money sink and a jobs progra (1)

volmtech (769154) | about 7 months ago | (#46409229)

Could be that controlled fusion is imposable and a $trillion a year in research would not produce it. Or the oil companies are spending tens of billions a year to stop it. Either way, fusion ain't happening.

Re:Fusion as is, is a money sink and a jobs progra (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408767)

$50 million of the budget is for a non-standard tokamak, non-laser project, the NSTX. Another $30 million goes to plasma and other design research. They already have a couple projects on the scale you suggest, including RFP and stellerator work, plus separate money for diagnostic development and international collaboration that also goes into such machines as much as tokamaks. The problem with funding 10 projects at the $10 million level, is that there are several already claiming they are ready for the $100 million level. The result is that while they fund dozens of projects across different budget scales, they have limited choice in who can become bigger to keep going, and have to dump those they chose not to become bigger. You can't keep funding smaller projects at $10 million each, as then there will be diminishing returns and they won't actually go toward a workable reactor.

But fusion is only 30 years away! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46408425)

How can they do this now when fusion is only 30 years away?!?!

Cracking crypto and giving it to Exxon. (1)

lasermike026 (528051) | about 7 months ago | (#46408637)

And the conversation goes something like this:

"We must make sure those little shits have no private communication and Exxon dominates energy production. If those dirty unwashed masses where every to gain political control and self sufficiency it would be the end for all of us."

Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46409365)

We are constantly faced with cuts in our domestic programs/R&D.. If you ask me we are just cutting our own throats.

Wouldn't it be easier, and more beneficial to the USA, to cut all the BS foreign aid to everyone else?

Advanced computing = gain to fusion research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46409395)

Advances in computing can lead to advances in fusion research. This may be a short-term loss for fusion, but net gain in the long-term.

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