Brazil and the Iran nuclear deal

You should not evaluate the Iran nuclear deal without reference to data like these:

  • Price paid by Brazil for utility solar power in the October 2014 auction : R$ 215.12 per megawatt-hour  = $68.38 at current exchange rates;
  • Price paid by Brazil for wind power in the April 2015 auction:  R$177.47 per MWh = $56.41.

Why pick Brazil? Recent deals have been struck elsewhere at much lower prices. A company controlled by Warren Buffett has signed a 20-year solar PPA in Nevada for $38.7/MWh, beating the previous record for a plant in Dubai signed in January for $59.8/MWh  (the Nevada deal includes the ITC tax break, worth at most $20/MWH). The LLNL reports that prices for wind PPAs in the US interior in 2013 averaged $25/MWh, again with a tax break, taking the pre-tax price up to about $40. There’s no reason to think that wind prices have risen since.

Iran is unlikely to get these best prices, the fruit of deep and efficient markets. Brazil is medium inefficient and medium protectionist, with stiff local content conditions for getting low-interest finance from the state investment bank BNDES. It has developed an extensive supply chain in wind, but not yet in solar. It’s reasonable to think that Iran could get similar prices to Brazil for an extensive wind and/or solar programme. It should also look at Mexico, Turkey, India and Thailand for realistic benchmarks.

The point is that Iran has absolutely no hope of getting remotely similar prices for civilian nuclear power. You may say: ah, the Iranian nuclear enrichment programme is really aimed at nuclear weapons, not civilian reactors. But it is being advertised by the government, and sold to the Iranian people, as a peaceful civilian one.

But as such it’s a huge waste of money. The output of the prospective Hinkley C EPR in Britain is now advertised at £92.50/MW at 2012 prices, indexed, plus other valuable guarantees. In the USA, the EIA, wearing rosy spectacles, cites an LCOE for new nuclear of $86.1 per MWh; but the schedule and construction costs of Vogtle 3 and 4, with the more buildable AP-1000 design, are slipping badly. An honest nuclear LCOE, based on real not paper construction experience, must now be well north of $100/MWh.

With every year that passes, this gap will become more and more obvious to the Iranians. At the ten-year horizon for new civilian power plants, Iran can meet its electricity needs from wind and solar (with natural gas and hydro for backup) at probably half the cost and at much less risk. On a five-year horizon, the nuclear option does not exist at all.

An expenses-paid trip by Buffett to Tehran would be a good investment by Kerry. Moniz was invaluable in the negotiations as a card-carrying nuclear physicist, but by the same token he’s part of the dwindling club of pro-nuclear old-timers, which Buffett is not.

 
(Recycling a post from 2012, but why not? It still makes sense to me.)

Et tu, Foxman? Then fall, Bibi!

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League tells Bibi he needs to cancel the the speech.

As JFK said when the Wall Street Journal went after Nixon, “That’s like L’Osservatore Romano criticizing the Pope.”

Foxman’s ADL doesn’t lean nearly as Republican as most of the “official” Jewish organizations in the U.S., but if there was any previous occasion when you could see daylight between ADL’s position and the official Israeli government position, I must have missed it. This gives any Jewish Democrat in Congress who wants to stay home nearly perfect cover.

Now the question for Obama is whether to help Bibi climb down reasonably gracefully, or instead to leave him twisting slowly, slowly in the wind. I’d be inclined to let him twist, but of course the President is a far nicer guy than I ever thought about being.

Alan Dershowitz calls Binyamin Netanyahu an anti-Semite

Binyamin Netanyahu, in a Tweet posted today:

“I believe that Jews know deep in their hearts that they have one country – the state of Israel, home for all of us.”

Alan Dershowitz, two years ago:

It’s the kind of virulent hate speech you’d expect to find on a neo-Nazi website or in a Patrick Buchanan column: American Jews who support current Israeli policies are accused of dual loyalty and called “Israel firsters.”

AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) fares even worse: “Saying AIPAC is guilty of dual loyalty is giving it credit for one more loyalty than it holds.”

In other words, this widely respected American organization, and the hundreds of thousands of Jews (and Christians) who support it, have absolutely no loyalty to our nation; their sole loyalty is to the foreign nation of Israel.

This false accusation of disloyalty to country was a central tenet of Nazism, Stalinism and other anti-Semitic regimes. Today, it is the mantra of Jew haters and neo-Nazis.

So, according to Alan Dershowitz, Binyamin Netanyahu is spreading neo-Nazi propaganda.  Abe Foxman, call your office.

 

Barack Obama, Savior of Tel Aviv

Whatever your perspective on the latest round of Israel v. Hamas violence, one impressive development has been the success of Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-missile system. As the Iron Dome system shoots down Hamas missiles over Tel Aviv and elsewhere, let us remember who made sure that it actually got developed: Barack Obama. As The Wall Street Journal reported in 2012:

Despite initial Pentagon misgivings, President Barack Obama has given $275 million to the project since 2010 with the aim of reducing the rocket threat… Iron Dome got a significant boost soon after President Obama came to office in 2009. Mr. Obama visited Sderot as a presidential candidate and told his aides to find a way to help boost Israel’s defenses from the makeshift rockets, his aides said, although defense officials at the time still doubted Iron Dome was the way.

Of course, none of this can be true because as the Right and the GOP keep telling us, Obama is an anti-Semite who hates Israel. So never mind.

Zionism, Colonialism, and the Toxic Conversation On Israel

The New Republic’s John Judis is the latest recipient of over-the-top right-wing attacks on any who would question Israeli policy.  Judis’ book, Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israel Conflict has been attacked as part of a “new worldwide effort to question the legitimacy of Israel” (Ronald Radosh in the Jerusalem Post) and the work of a “faux Elder of Zion” (Rick Richman in Commentary) who “deploys the bigotry of yesteryear” (Jordan Chandler Hirsch in the Wall Street Journal) and insists that Arab massacres against Jews are “justified” (Hirsch and Radosh).

I haven’t read Judis’ book yet, and I can tell that these sentiments are nonsense. Judis is a fair-minded writer; it beggars belief that he would justify Arab massacres against Jews.  More sober reviewers such as Jonathan Kirsch in the Jewish Journal and Gershom Gorenberg in The American Prospect have a lot of trenchant criticisms of it, but they are intelligent enough not to have a conniption fits about policy disagreements and nowhere mention the sorts of absurdities that Judis is accused of.

That said, Judis’ attempt to defend himself gets him into trouble, and does lead me to wonder whether this book is the masterpiece that some are hailing. In particular, I noticed this paragraph in Judis’ response to his critics:

Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weizmann and the British Zionists who helped draft the Balfour Declaration did not aspire to create an empire like that of the British or French, but to be junior partners of the Western imperialist powers. Herzl, who admired Cecil Rhodes, described the Jewish state as “a part of a wall of defense for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism.” The Zionist movement established “colonies” and aspired to create a Jewish state in a territory where, at the beginning of the Zionist movement, Arabs made up 95 percent of the population. American Zionists compared the Zionists in Palestine with American colonial settlers. At the time, colonialism and imperialism were not dirty words they way they are now. So yes, I think much of the Zionist movement—with the exception of Ahad Ha’am and his followers—saw themselves engaged in a mission that could be described as settler colonialism.

Now, I realize that these replies cannot go on too long, and that thus nuance gets lost, but if this response accurately and completely reflects Judis’ views and the message of the book, then that represents a real problem. Whatever Herzl might have thought, the man died in 1904 (13 years before the Balfour Declaration), and the British Zionists who helped draft the Balfour Declaration were nowhere near the core of the Zionist movement that actually created the state in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  David Ben-Gurion and the rest of the Yishuv institutions and leadership had no interest in being junior partners of western imperialism: they loved working with Orde Wingate in the late 1930’s, but basically detested the British and other imperial powers. “We must assist the British in the war as if there were no White Paper and we must resist the White Paper as if there were no war,” said Ben-Gurion. That is not someone who wishes to be the junior partner of imperialism. Indeed, the Mapai leadership was shocked when Israel was not invited to the Bandung Conference in 1956 and Israel’s government leaped at any chance to establish strong relationships with African governments as soon as they were independent.  (The much-ballyhooed Israel-South Africa relationship really did not get going until 1976, after the rest of Africa cut off ties with Israel following the Yom Kippur War).

Thus, “colonialism” represents a deeply flawed view of the Zionist project.  “Colonialism” assumes a metropole to which one is loyal.  The Zionists who actually built the state had little for any metropole and saw themselves as a nationalist movement.  Gershon Shafir, one of the best scholars out there working on this, makes an absolutely crucial distinction between “colonialism”, which Zionism was not, and “colonization,” which it clearly was.  Any time  a group of people moves from one part of the world to another, in one sense it is “colonization.” But to see Zionism as a “colonialist” movement is at best imprecise and misleading.

None of this excuses the hysteria against Judis in the right wing press. But Judis isn’t doing himself any favors in his response — and very possibly, he won’t be doing it in his book, either.