January 12, 2009

Think Green, Think Big

Since the cost and the environmental impact of a construction project don't matter anymore as long as Barack Obama is for it, here's a green infrastructure plan expensive enough even for Paul Krugman's taste: The North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA):

Let's generate huge amounts of carbon-free hydroelectric power and turn the western half of the USA green (in the literal sense) by diverting a small fraction of the water from Canada's vast but almost-useless rivers that flow north into the Arctic Ocean. While we're at it, we can turn northern Mexico green, too. (Here's a promotional video from the 1960s.) Thayer Watkins writes:

The North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) is a project for diverting to the western U.S. and northwestern Mexico water from rivers in Alaska and Canada which now flow into the Arctic Ocean. In addition to providing irrigation water to arid parts of North America NAWAPA would also generate considerable amounts of power and provide some subsidiary benefits such as stabilizing the level of the Great Lakes. The project was formulated by the Los Angeles engineering firm of Ralph M. Parsons Company and got some attention in Congress, particularly from Senator Frank Moss of Utah, but is not politically feasible.

Canadians were outraged that Americans were planning to steal their precious bodily fluids, and were angry when George W. Bush mused about buying water from Canada in 2001. But, that's POT (Pre-Obama Thinking). We don't need that kind of negativism anymore, now that we have Obamagic.

In terms of engineering the project is feasible. A series of dams on the headwaters of the Yukon, Copper, Kootenay, Fraser, Peace, and Columbia Rivers can divert their flows into reservoirs. Included among these is the 500 mile long Rocky Mountain Trench, a natural formation which has 16 times the capacity of Lake Mead on the Colorado River. From the Rocky Mountain Trench the water would flow into Montana and central Idaho. The dams would generate electrical power but not all of it would be marketable. Some of the power would be required to pump the water over some mountains in Idaho to a canal where it would flow south along the border area of Utah and Nevada. Here the water flow would be divided into two branches. One would go southwest to Nevada, California, and northwestern Mexico. The other would go east to Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. This is the main element of the project. A subsidiary part would take water from the Peace River by canal to the Great Lakes and thereby linkthe praire provinces of Canada with the St. Lawrence Seaway. Other subsidiary elements could link the system to the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver, British Columbia and link Lake Manitoba to the Hudson Bay.

As envisioned by the R. M. Parsons Co. the system would deliver 120 million acre-feet of water annually; 78 million to the U.S., 22 million to Canada, and 20 million to Mexico. According to Parsons this would enable Mexico to triple her irrigated acreage, irrigate an additional 40 million acres in the U.S. and 7 million in Canada. NAWAPA would generate 70 million kilowatts of power; 38 million for the U.S., 30 million for Canada and 2 million for Mexico. Parsons estimates that all this would cost $100 billion in 1964 dollars. In 1989 dollars that would be about $339 billion.

Heck, Paulson and Bernacke can burn through $339 billion in just a few of their wild weekends.

Stanford computer scientist John McCarthy wrote about a decade ago:

We won't need any such grand projects for the forseeable future, but when and if our descendants need enormous increases in water supply, they can get them, perhaps at expense comparable in relation to per capita GDP to the expense our immediate ancestors spent on water projects. Probably the expense in proportion to the GDP of the region benefitted will not be as great as the 1904 Owens Valley aqueduct was in proportion to the GDP of Los Angeles at the time.

At that time, the population of Los Angeles was 200,000 and the per capita income for the U.S. was $1100. The cost of the project was $23 million. Therefore, it corresponded to 1/10 th of a year's income for the inhabitants of the area. 1/10 th of a year's GDP for the U.S. would come to $800 billion. It doesn't look like we will have to spend that much for increased water supply in the near future, but we'll do it if we have to. ...

Around 1900 people thought in large terms. Recently, it has become fashionable to think small.

39 comments:

Chief Seattle said...

But Steve, who will pick all the lettuce on all those new irrigated acres?

Still, it's an awesome plan, just in the shear audacity to rework the plumbing of a continent. It's completely true that people think small these days. There's nothing equivalent now to the dam building of the 30s or the highway program of the 50s/60s or the space program. But efficiency, like size, has diminishing returns after a while, and it sure feels like the pendulum has started to swing the other way on so many issues.

Anonymous said...

this sounds good. increase the water supply and agricultural output so that mexico can grow to 300 million people and the usa to 1 billion. good idea.

then maybe we can finally 'compete' with the rest of the world on the global stage.

yes the problem with mexico and the usa is that the populations aren't large enough.

that's the ticket.

headache said...

John McCarthy is full of shit. That Krugman job is going to come out at least 4 times the 600 b. they dream about. All those lovely tunnels through uncharted rock strata, and those lovely dams on mushy foundations, the canals which need embedding, the landowners who will go berserk, the corrosion issues and depending on whether the GOP or Dems rule, the Dem environmental attack dogs.

Anyway, Russia tried something like this to deal with the dry south during their great leap forward under communism. The result was that the ecology got messed up and the hydro-electrical/irrigation yield was not worth it. It’s a common wisdom amongst engineers that you best just optimise nature's gift and not try and rearrange the landscape. But then liberals never gave a damn for nature anyway, unless they could block conservatives.

Kyle said...

Yes, there sure are a few unharnessed natural power resources still out there in the world. Could the earth sustain a much high total human population?

I don't see why an HG Wells' Time Machine scenario can't actually come to pass: the elites above ground living an eden-like existence and the subhumans underground live as slaves entirely out of sight.

The total population of the earth could be a 100 billion (or even 1 trillion) underground slaves. The elites on the surface could control the slaves with a population of only a few million or maybe much less.

The key is to keep the slaves compartmentalized underground. It would help to breed them for blindness or deafness or both. With a 100 billion slaves working efficiently they could mimic the energy output of petroleum.

But the elites would have to maintain giant industrial farms on the surface in order to feed the enormous number of underground slaves.

HG Wells was correct to envision speciation i.e. a biological/genetic divergence between the elites and the slaves resulting in two species of humans.

Modern science could produce some really amazing slaves. They could be extremely strong brutes with strong work related intelligence but incapable of any other kind of thought.

Yes, this is the sort of satanic crap that the globalists are planning for the not too distant future.

headache said...

Another thing which amazes me is the ignorance of Krugmann and McCarthy. Many of the hydro projects of 1900's have been silting up or been shut down in order to restore natural flow to the rivers below. What's for sure is that the original river landscape has been permanently scarred and the operation/maintenance did not turn out as simple as was envisaged.

Hydropower is generally cool but the higher up in a river the better. That's why Swiss hydro is basically a success story, whereas the Aswan is already silted up and the Three Gorges Dam will become one of the largest environmental disasters yet. But Krugman and co, being the liberals they are, just ignore all the protests of their party friends over most of these dams or the advice of specialists and go and submit an even larger fantasy. Liberals can afford to ignore everybody because they are special. Anything to make Obama and themselves look grandiose. Why don't they rather build a huge golden “Colossus of Rhodes”-type statue of Obama in Chicago just like they are planning to do of Mandela in South Africa? Then we can have the Big Man syndrome in our face for say 50 mio. USD instead of having leaking canals, silted dams, collapsing tunnels and salted plains for say USD 3 trillion? So everybody gets worked up about the 600 Billion Bush blew in Iraq for oil and instead want to blow 3 Trillion on concrete. Maybe Bush was smarter after all?

TangoMan said...

I'm sure that the Canadians would be more favorably disposed to having productive people and enterprises move to Canada, you know, where the water is still plentiful, rather than contenting themselves with the landscaping that this plan envisions. Wealth creation, increased tax base, and a more vigorous economy beat the prospect of just expanding their southward flowing river systems.

Those people who bought in the deserts should have given some thought to how secure their water access was.

Anonymous said...

A plan of Stalinist dimensions.
Gorbatschow stopped a similar one in Siberia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_river_reversal
Siberian river reversal

Anonymous said...

As I recall the Soviets proposed a similar plan to divert the Ob and Yenisei. Too big a project for the USSR during its decline.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous commentors: let's have huge, gargantuan projects to show what big deals we are.

Maybe if we have that many green pastures, we can go back to "family formation"-supporting policies. If we have irrigation all over the place, women may stop being cheap status sluts and suckers for alpha-parasites and go back to motherhood. We can even have "plant a child today" campaigns. Jolly good idea.


JD

Anonymous said...

Somehow, the idea of putting large amounts of water into a tectonically active zone worries me a bit. Wouldn't the weight of these giant reservoirs and the lubrication of the extra water make earthquakes more likely?

Anonymous said...

"this sounds good. increase the water supply and agricultural output so that mexico can grow to 300 million people and the usa to 1 billion. good idea.

then maybe we can finally 'compete' with the rest of the world on the global stage.

yes the problem with mexico and the usa is that the populations aren't large enough"

What is wrong with 1 billion people in America? By your tone, we're just supposed to know. Explain it to me.

Anonymous said...

The classic Canadian view is that we keep our water to ourselves, the Southwest United States dries up up blows away, and we allow some better-behaved Americans and other high-value immigrants to boost our population up to around 80 million as we become the economic centre of the continent in the age of global warming/global drought.

dearieme said...

But won't the polar bears die of thirst?

J said...

Steve, Thanks for reviving the Parson project! But we were born too late, the time of heroic mega-projects taming Nature has passed, ours is a time of small people who are impotent in face of the Delta smelt and the "mighty" Leopard frog. See, even The Terminator's Delta Vision task force was unable even to advance the miserable Delta Project. We are still waiting for the first JCB to start digging the dirt. To carry out even a fraction of the Parson Project, Giants would be needed, like Joseph Stalin, and they don’t walk the face of Earth anymore. Only Stalin's iron will built the Belomor (White Sea – Baltic) Canal.

The idea of turning Arctic rivers Southwards is obvious but only the Russians were able to do something about it. In 1970 they diverted the Pechora and Kama Rivers toward the Volga and the Caspian Sea in the south in western Russia. A 70-mile stretch was levelled with three 15 kiloton nuclear devices. In 1980's twelve Arctic-bound rivers were proposed to be redirected to the dry south. At the time it was feared that the projects would change the climate (cooling it), but the climate changed without any assistance and the South of Russia is drying up while the rainfall in the North is increasing and the freshwater flowing into the Arctic. Today even the Russians are impotent when faced with a Leopard frog.

In summary, I am rather skeptical about President Obama tackling the Parson Project.

Jim O'Sullivan said...

I respectfully disagree. The adherent's belief in environmentalism is a religious conviction of the strongest sort. Too strong for even Obama to overcome. Just wait. They'll fight it to the death. They will lie down in front of the bulldozers. They'll claim that it would contribute to the shrinking of the Arctic ice sheet. Or something.

RobertHume said...

How about building lots and lots of nuclear power plants like France has? Then we can plug in electric cars. That would actually work. Hate to be so boring.

Acilius said...

Hmmm...

"Some of the power would be required to pump the water over some mountains in Idaho"

How big a quantity is each of those "somes" covering? "Some mountains in Idaho" have very high elevations, after all.

Another question- every hydrodynamic system peters out sooner or later. So how long until this one would turn into the world's biggest collection of mudflats?

Anonymous said...

Forget it, Steve, it's Chinatown!!

Anonymous said...

"Steve, Thanks for reviving the Parson project!"

Yeah, thanks! Great band!

Matt Parrott said...

Let's finish the dam that blocks the flow of human resources from our Southern neighbor so we don't need to build a canal to pipe in natural resources from our Northern neighbor.

Diversity politics always remind me of a nursery rhyme I learned in kindergarten.

"There once was a woman who swallowed a fly..."

Eric said...

For the same money we could build, what, 100 nuclear power plants and desalinate all the water we need with enough power left over to thumb our noses at the Saudis and Venezuelans.

This is stupid.

Anonymous said...

"A plan of Stalinist dimensions.
Gorbatschow stopped a similar one in Siberia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_river_reversal"


From the wiki: "In 1971, at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna the Soviets disclosed information about successful earthworks on the route of the Pechora-Kama Canal using detonations of three 15-kiloton nuclear devices spaced 500 feet apart, claiming negligible radioactive fallout."

Good God! I did not know that.

SKT said...

A while ago you wrote that San Francisco's crazy Democrats might have actually had it right all along by limiting growth, because in modern California, what is growth? More Mexicans.

With this scheme, what will it actually bring to the Western U.S., except more Mexicans?

Perhaps it's better that water costs rise and squeeze out further illegal immigration.

Anonymous said...

"Around 1900 people thought in large terms. Recently, it has become fashionable to think small."

Sad, but true. Americans, probably Westerners in general nowadays, really are afraid of progress.

This is the first I've ever heard of this plan.
Personally I think it's a shame the US didn't annex Baja California and Sonora after the Mexican War. I've read proposals for a canal to be built from the Gulf of California to the Salton Sea. This canal would allow the now heavily polluted Salton Sea to drain out to the Gulf and allow Gulf water to fill the Salton Sea. Indio or some other inland California city could become a seaport. Desalination plants could be built for the Salton water to be used as drinking water or irrigation water. I've even heard proposals to flood Death Valley...although that doesn't sound as feasible.

-Vanilla Thunder

J said...

Vanilla Anonymous,

Salton Sea is 70 meters under sea level so it would be difficult to drain it out to the Cortez Sea. It must be pumped. Annexing Sonora and Baja California would not advance the project but would cause endless wars. And you cannot dump your pollution (the Salton is manmade) on somebody else.

nist said...

Eric said...
"This is stupid."

This is SWPL.

Anonymous said...

"Good God! I did not know that."

There was a time when Soviets thought of nuclear devices as generic building blocks for all their pet projects, from construction, space propulsion to electrical generation. If something required force, they came along with a nuke.

sj071 said...

Think Green, Think Big?

All hail Bernie Madoff, our new Stimulus Czar!

Anonymous said...

'What is wrong with 1 billion people in America? By your tone, we're just supposed to know. Explain it to me.'

Why don't you explain it to yourself?

Anonymous said...

"And you cannot dump your pollution (the Salton is manmade) on somebody else."


Why not? It is done to the US all the time(not that we try and stop it either).

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with 1 billion people in America? By your tone, we're just supposed to know. Explain it to me.

How about you explain to us what's so self-evidently great about a social democracy consisting of a billion people, 'cause the opposite thesis is real effing simple: people take up space and generate waste. We don't like living on top, underneath, and a**hole to elbow with each other and each other's sewage. That's why we don't have 12 kids each and vote with our feet for green space. The last thing we want is hubristic social engineering idiots like you trying to turn the place into Rio de Janiero.

Please shut up and move to Mexico City.

--Senor Doug

J said...

They'll claim that it would contribute to the shrinking of the Arctic ice sheet.

O'Sullivan, the last claim was the opposite, that the loss of inflowing fresh water will cool the Arctic Ocean and provoke a new Ice Age.

Or something. Probably something.

There is an endless supply of idealist blond WASP and freckled Jewish girls willing to throw themselves in the way of the caterpillars in order to save Earth.

Or something.

I just come from the Imperial Valley, where the lining of a canal built in 1900 has provoked an transnational conflict. And the Delta Project, where the supposed rights of the Delta smelt are considered superior to the common human good and nothing can be done. We have fallen in the power of a mysterious sect, the Greens, that considers itself representing the higher interests of nature, and rules what is right and what is wrong following to misunderstood newspaper popular science.

No canals will violate the sacred burial lands with canals nor disturb the eco-sanctuary of the Leopard Lizard. Forget it.

Lets spend the money in re-inforcing the EPA bureacracy.

David Davenport said...

Annexing Sonora and Baja California would not advance the project but would cause endless wars.

Why? Baja California would be much easier for Americans to homestead than, say, the West Bank.

How d'ya think Texas, etc. became part of the USA?

Anonymous said...

J, relax. I was speaking of the past. I'm not calling for anexations and wars of annexation now.
I've read proposals for Salton Sea canals here:

http://tinyurl.com/8bthu9

http://tinyurl.com/88xtah

Anonymous said...

"Good God! I did not know that."

There was a time when Soviets thought of nuclear devices as generic building blocks for all their pet projects, from construction, space propulsion to electrical generation. If something required force, they came along with a nuke.


So? So did we, back in the day we could still Think Big in terms of engineering marvels:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Plowshare

A few dozen nukes out of the armories seems a small price to pay for a new sea-level waterway through Nicaragua (nicknamed "the Pan-Atomic Canal"), dontcha think?

Or check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Chariot_(1958)
for an artificial harbor in Alaska. Nuke, baby, nuke.

Stephen Myles St. George said...

I'll be damned if my Canadian government approves this bullock to benefit the U.S. and Mexico (!) at the expense of future Canadian power.

Heck, I'll be first to donate to, and vote for the opponent of whoever approves this bondoggle.

headache said...

Reading about how SWPL's masturbate about hydro as the ultimately clean source of power, and working on just such a project, being confronted with all the nitty-gritty, dirty, boring non-SWPL technology etc. and knowing that I will not see a SWPL anywhere close to the project kinda makes me laugh.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

What is wrong with 1 billion people in America? By your tone, we're just supposed to know. Explain it to me.

What's wrong with it is that there would then be many more people like you.

Ronduck said...

Steve wrote...

Around 1900 people thought in large terms. Recently, it has become fashionable to think small.

Actually, in many circles it has become fashionable to not think at all.