Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Power & Energy

Santee Cooper plans to build a new coal-fired power plant in the Pee Dee region and a lot of the environmentalists are up in arms. Let me try to put some things in perspective. From what I have read, this plant will be the most state-of-the art coal burning power plant in the United States, with the best technology for clean emissions. Sure, it is a business proposition for Santee Cooper. Just as important, having the power supply for business and industry, manufacturing and residential demands may help South Carolina compete globally for jobs or be the deciding factor that keeps these jobs here and not moved to China.

It is not funny that I mentioned China. If we want to discuss clean air and emissions from coal-fired power plants, we need to note that China is bringing a new power plant on-line weekly if not daily! Most of which are coal burning. There are no regulations on these plants - none - concerning the emissions. That is why the U. S. didn't sign the Kyoto Protocol - because the regulatory burden would have been on U. S. manufacturing and power producers, not China and other developing nations. I am not saying that we need to have a laissez-faire attitude about the environment. We need to make sure that Santee Cooper does what it plans to do - use the latest technology to insure that the emissions there are as clean as possible. But at the same time, I think the environmentalist dollars (and there are a bunch) could be better spent encouraging Congress to put as much pressure on China to do something about its emissions. I mean, heck, something would be better than nothing, right?

If we want to talk clean power, then nuclear is the answer. There again, the environmentalist movement has been its own worst enemy in that arena. The U. S. has not permitted a single new nuclear power plant in over 30 years, due to the efforts of the environmentalist movement. Now, however, even the environmentalists have come to agree, in part I believe, that nuclear power is the cleanest power available at the present time. We need to get moving in this country on permitting nuclear power - for the environment and for lessening our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. The failure to do so has put us behind nations like France and England in terms of clean energy production. Furthermore, thanks to an Executive Order issued by President Jimmy Carter, the U. S. only gets about 5% of the available energy from each uranium fuel rod by not recycling. France gets about 95% of the available energy from each fuel rod, resulting in less waste and more proficiency.

Don't get me wrong here. I, too, am concerned about air and water quality in South Carolina and I will go to bat for the environment any day when it makes sense. But commonsense tells me that the environment in South Carolina is at the mercy of states to our west, really. The prevailing jet stream winds bring a lot of crappy stuff to our air. Instead of blowing on by us and out to sea, they hit another wind source, coastal winds blowing in from the ocean, which stall the jet stream, stymie the pollutants and cause them to fall in our state. Maybe a lobbying effort to have power plants in Georgia and Tennessee put on the latest scrubber technology on their exhaust stacks would be better for South Carolina than fighting the Santee Cooper plant.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Port" is a four-letter word

Ok - so "Port" is a four-letter word. But I think it is a dang good four-letter word that should be used more often by officials in South Carolina! Let me advocate a little for the Port of Charleston and SC Ports Authority.

Why did Charleston, South Carolina become a major city in the 1600's and lead to South Carolina's dominance as an economic player in the early years of this country? Yes, rice and indigo, along with other great agriculture crops of the plantation era contributed. But without a way to get the goods to market (think port here, please), South Carolina would not have been the leader that it was and still can be.

I recently heard Senator Leatherman give opening remarks as the chief Delegate to the Southeast U.S./Japan trade conference in Tokyo, juxtaposed alongside Governors and Secretaries of Commerce from seven other Southeastern states. He said some great things in his remarks about South Carolina. But how can you discuss international trade and not mention the SC Ports Authority and the Port of Charleston?!

Everybody in South Carolina talks about the need for jobs and has an eye on foreign investment as a means to make these jobs happen. We praise the Dubai announcement in Orangeburg County and hold BMW out as the State's poster child for economic development. But without the Port of Charleston, would these be realities in South Carolina?

There is no doubt that we will have to continue to improve and expand our highway systems in order to support Port growth. One attractive thing about the Port of Charleston is how quickly the container trucks can hit the open road (Interstate Highways) delivering the goods. A terrific rail access and interstate system is what helped Dubai make its decision to locate the inland port in Orangeburg, I'll wager.

Some highlights that I would love to see SC Governor Mark Sanford, Sec. of Commerce Joe Taylor and Senators like Hugh Leatherman be able to cite off the cuff: 1) The history of the port at Charleston; 2) 45' deepwater-plus channel to handle the largest container ships in the world; 3) 3 container terminals with one new terminal under construction; 4) tremendous private investment in distribution centers around the Charleston area to handle distribution functions at no cost to the state; 5) averaging 41 container moves per crane per hour; 6) two hours or less to open ocean sailing.

The Port of Charleston is a jewel in the State of South Carolina's crown. Use it to make South Carolina shine on the world stage. I can assure you that Virginia, Georgia and Florida all held their ports out as shining examples of their states being "OPEN FOR BUSINESS" to companies like Sony, Canon and Toyota.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lost Respect for Nobel Prize

Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize? Well, all that means to me is that I have less respect for the Nobel Peace Prize now. I plan on writing about global warming at some point. I am still studying the issues and learning. Is the earth warming - no doubt in my mind - but in the 1970's we were hearing of a new ice age. I think things run in cycles, though. Even political topics run in cycles; prior to the global warming debate it was concern over the hole in the ozone layer. Have you heard of that topic lately - nah..... We are on to the next crisis that can fund our campaigns/lobbying efforts/causes. I am amazed that someone like Al Gore can spout half-truths (much of what was used in his movie has been revealed to be inaccurate spins) and be heralded by the Nobel group as the new champion. If not for the hypocrisy.....I would have an easier time with it all. Please check back for later blog posts on global warming and energy........JD

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Attending SEUS Conference in Japan

Representative Jeff Duncan attends Southeastern US/Japan trade conference in Tokyo.

Continuing my research and education about the global economy and how the world is changing, I have chosen to attend the Southeastern US/Japan trade conference in Tokyo this week. All of the General Assembly had been invited to participate by the South Carolina Department of Commerce, with only Representative Billy Witherspoon and myself from the House and Senators McGill and Leatherman from the Senate attending.

This trip, paid for myself, will further my introduction into the Orient, the Pacific Rim economic development arena and it's close alliance with the Southeastern United States. South Carolina is blessed with many Japanese companies and we hope to attract even more, as Japanese firms are wonderful corporate citizens and employers. In the Laurens/Newberry areas, we have firms like Kimura, Fukoku, Komatsu, along with Fuji in Greenwood and a heap of other SC/Japanese ventures.

Senator Leatherman offered the opening remarks on behalf of South Carolina, along with representatives from other states including Gov. Purdue of Georgia; Gov. Bredesen of Tennessee; Gov. Riley of Alabama; and the Sec. of Commerce from Virginia, North Carolina and Mississippi.

I look forward to future Blogs about how the world is changing and, more importantly, how South Carolina can change to embrace it.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

21st Century Great Wall of China

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the global economy lately and the things I saw in China when I was there in 2005. We traveled to Guangzhou and Beijing on the trip and I was amazed at all of the new construction, infrastructure and growth I witnessed. And the cars! My previous thoughts of China did not include that many vehicles.
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is criticized for quoting Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, but I would guess that most of those critics have not read the book. I have; and what I saw in China makes it hit home even more.
In Guangzhou, we met with some logistic businesses centered around the brand-new Guangzhou-Baiyun airport, which we flew out of later. This airport had opened just 30 days prior to our visit. There was a new superhighway leading out to the airport, beautifully landscaped; there were tremendous logistic, custom and banking facilities surrounding the airport. You can GoogleEarth this airport and see what I am talking about. Wow! Here is the point:
While meeting with the logistics folks, jet-lag set in for me, so I got up and walked around this new office building. Looking outside into the logistics park, I noticed some Chinese workers installing a storm drain or sewer line - pre-cast concrete pipe probably 3 feet in diameter. We had seen the shanty area on-site where the workers lived earlier. This group of men were installing this pipe with shovels, wheelbarrows and hoes. In fact, I could see a good distance in this area where the new construction was taking place. The only modern equipment I saw was a roller packer. These guys were installing all this by hand.
Now, I juxtapose this with a quick side trip to the Great Wall on the Saturday morning before we left. The Great Wall runs high along the mountains' ridge in the Baldaling area where we were, just north of Beijing. This fortifying wall was built by hand, by peasant labor. Huge granite block by block, brick paving stone by brick paving stone, were carried up to the ridge and laid in place, all by hand. A tremendous task covering thousands of miles.
My impression was that the new Chinese economy is being built by modern-day Emperors using the labor of peasant workers, much the same way that the Great Wall was built. The buildings, the ports, the logistic areas, the airports, the highways. All being built the same way.