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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

California's Power Problem, Paid for by the Rest of Us

So, there's some sort of "movement" afoot by some gaggle of Californians to secede from the rest of us not living in paradise. While this movement is largely political, it does raise some interesting questions about how the departed will deal some pressing issues, one of which is where it will get its power to run its cool high speed rail, not to mention businesses and homes and industries.

As noted in this Forbes piece from 2016,California's Growing Imported Electricity Problem
California now imports 33% of its electricity supply from fast growing neighbors, with about 65% of that coming from the Southwest and 35% coming from the Northwest. These numbers increase most in summer months when air conditioning loads peak. Imports have been rising rapidly: in 2010, California "only" imported 25% of its power.

Per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, California imports because "its wholesale power markets in the region are relatively open and generation from outside the state is often less expensive." In fact, California imports about 6% of its electricity from out-of-state coal-fired power plants, with another 14% coming from "unspecified imports," of a cloudy origin that is generally attributed to hydropower, gas, nuclear, and other renewables.
Well, now. California has shifted (at the cost to its citizens in high energy prices) some of the cost of energy production (pollution, etc) to other states. Again from the Forbes piece:
And as seen with the 2015 drought, where low water levels had hydro dams producing 80% less power than normal, future generation and imports of hydropower will be restricted by climate change worsening drought. This is very bad news for California's already precarious power market: hydropower plays a "very important role in maintaining system reliability, because of the flexibility it provides system operators."

It's crucial to remember that drought and less hydropower available in the Northwest was a determining factor in California's "2000-2001 Power Crisis" that cost the state $50 billion in added energy costs, illustrating the problems of California's over-reliance on outside energy (California also unsustainably imports over 90% of its natural gas, the nation's fastest growing major fuel, and the source that other states will increasingly lean upon most to meet the Clean Power Plan).

At the time, neighboring governors rightly complained about California's unwillingness to build new generation capacity in the 1990s even though its demand was rising (proof here).

Further, EPA's new plan could force many of those coal plants that California imports from to shut down, leaving the state even more vulnerable to brownouts and blackouts (concerns continue to be raised nationally about policies that are lowering the reliability of our power grid: Eaton reports that blackouts already cost the U.S. about $150 billion a year).
Why the highlight on the "natural gas" section above? Take a look at this chart from here:
That same source notes,
California’s single remaining operational nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon Power Plant, accounts for less than one-tenth of total generation. California used to have multiple other nuclear power plants, including the Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, the Vallecitos Nuclear Center,[15] and the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant,[16] in addition to various other smaller experimental or prototype reactors which intermittently supplied power to the grid, such as the Sodium Reactor Experiment. However all of these reactors have been shut down due to both economic[17] and social[18] factors. Currently, the owner of the Diablo Canyon plant, Pacific Gas & Electric, has plans to shut down the two reactors at the site in 2025.[19] This lost generation will be made up with renewables.
Well, renewables better work hard. The Forbes piece notes that at least one major solar project is not exactly 100% pure:
This dominance of natural gas in California is "bordering on the absurd." Just look at California's troubled Ivanpah solar thermal plant near Nevada, being "paid four to five times as much per megawatt-hour as natural-gas powered plants." But, very quietly, Ivanpah has become a big natural gas plant.

That's because Ivanpah uses gas to preheat water that goes into boilers mounted on three 459-foot-tall towers, allowing "heat from the sun – captured by 352,000 mirrors – to make steam more quickly. The steam turns the turbines that produce electricity."

In 2014, enough natural gas was used at Ivanpah to meet the annual power needs of 17,000 California homes, or over 25% of the plant's total projected electricity output. Thus, Ivanpah is a hybrid gas and solar power plant,...
More to the point, the rest of the country is subsidizing this "hybrid" plant
Although owned by Google, NRG Energy, and Brightsource, who have a market cap over $500 billion, "The U.S. Department of Energy granted Ivanpah $1.6 billion in loan guarantees. As a green-energy project, it also qualified for more than $600 million in federal tax credits." Production is often 30-35% below expectations, a lack of generation that has increased the calls for Ivanpah to shutdown.
Ah, who pays for those loan guarantees and federal tax credits? The American taxpayer, most of whom do not live in California.

A long time ago I took an economics course which used as a text a book, Tanstaafl (There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch) - A Libertarian Perspective on Environmental Policy (and, yes, the concept is from Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress)- about which Amazon's blurb says,
In its most basic application, the TANSTAAFL principle is a simple statement of reality: everything of value has a cost. The TANSTAAFL principle can also be interpreted as a mandate for a policy of full-cost pricing. In a world where resources are scarce, everything has a cost. Scarce resources are used most efficiently when the price paid by the final user reflects all costs, including waste disposal, harm from pollution, and depletion of non-renewable resources.
Now, Californians already pay the highest energy prices in the country, but I am not sure they paying "full cost" pricing - instead, they seem to have shifted some large part of that burden to the rest of us. But should the element seeking secession prevail, the cost of independence might prove much higher than expected.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Breaking Chinese Blackmail Chips : "Japan team maps 'semi-infinite' trove of rare earth elements" and the world is better off

Reported by the Japan Times , a very big story for the future of technology - Japan team maps 'semi-infinite' trove of rare earth elements
Japanese researchers have mapped vast reserves of rare earth elements in deep-sea mud, enough to feed global demand on a “semi-infinite basis,” according to a new study.

The deposit, found within Japan’s exclusive economic zone waters, contains more than 16 million tons of the elements needed to build high-tech products ranging from mobile phones to electric vehicles, according to the study, released Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports.

The team, comprised of several universities, businesses and government institutions,
U.S. Navy photo
surveyed the western Pacific Ocean near Minamitori Island.

In a sample area of the mineral-rich region, the team’s survey estimated 1.2 million tons of “rare earth oxide” is deposited there, said the study, conducted jointly by Waseda University’s Yutaro Takaya and the University of Tokyo’s Yasuhiro Kato, among others.

The finding extrapolates that a 2,500-sq. km region off the southern Japanese island should contain 16 million tons of the valuable elements, and “has the potential to supply these metals on a semi-infinite basis to the world,” the study said.

The area reserves offer “great potential as ore deposits for some of the most critically important elements in modern society,” it said.

This discovery seems to free Japan and other countries from being blackmailed by China, which has, it is alleged, threatened to or actually cut off the export of rare earth elements to countries in order to force them to alter policies or engage in Chinese approved actions. Here's a report from 2010:
Beijing denied reports it had prevented shipments of the rare minerals that many of Japan's top exporters, such as the world's biggest automaker Toyota, rely on to make cutting-edge products ranging from car batteries to computers.

But traders in Tokyo said China had blocked exports to Japan of key minerals by slowing down administrative procedures in ports in Shanghai and Guangzhou to prevent materials being loaded on ships.

"We heard from our officials in China that the shipping of rare earths (to Japan) was suspended on September 21," a spokesman for Japanese trading house Sojitz in Tokyo told AFP.

Japan on Friday said it would release a Chinese fishing boat captain arrested earlier this month after a collision between his trawler and two Japanese coastguard vessels in a disputed area of the East China Sea.
In addition, China has "adjusted" export quotas on occasion - thus increasing the price of these elements, as reported by the Wall Street Journal in China Cuts Export Quota on Rare-Earth Metals (also in 2010):
China cut its quotas on first-half exports of rare-earth metals around 35%, a move likely to feed trade tensions and concerns among global buyers after an even deeper cut late this year.

China supplies around 95% of the world's rare-earth metals, which are used in high-tech batteries, television sets, mobile phones and defense products. Beijing's decision to cut export quotas by 72% for this year's second half sparked criticism that China was taking undue advantage of its position to raise prices.
China's export quotas are stoking trade tensions less than a month before Chinese President Hu Jintao visits with U.S. President Barack Obama. "We are very concerned about China's export restraints on rare-earth materials," a spokeswoman from the U.S. Trade Representative's office said Tuesday. "We have raised our concerns with China and we are continuing to work closely on the issue."

In trade talks this month, U.S. trade officials were unable to persuade China to ease restrictions on rare-earth metals, according to a USTR report to Congress released last week. The report said the U.S. will continue to press Beijing on the issue and would consider bringing the matter to the World Trade Organization.
Some 2013 analysis from Amy King and Shiro Armstrong here:
China has managed to dominate the global rare earth metal market because it can produce rare earths at low cost due to distorted factor markets that suppress prices. In the case of rare earths, cheap land, energy and labour (unregulated against workplace dangers) minimise costs, and severe environmental damage are not factored into the cost of production. Chinese policy-makers have been risking WTO action by gradually reducing the production of rare earth metals instead of addressing the underlying failures in labour and environmental standards. In August 2010, at a meeting with Japanese business leaders at a Japan-China economic forum, Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming cited Chinese concerns about environmental protection and national security as the reason for this decision.

China now has to demonstrate to the WTO that the restrictions on production and exports were in fact directed at cleaning up the industry and addressing its serious environmental impact, not some misguided attempt to restrict global supply.
Given what we know of China's level of concern over enviornmental matters, I would think such proof might prove hard to come by. Further, it is difficult to say it is a "misguided attempt to restrict glogal supply" when such a level of control comports very well with the types of power levers China's leadership loves to pull and their general "bully boy" approach to things. Reminds on of OPEC in the days before the U.S. fracking business broke their oil supply scam.

Thus the Japanese discovery seems to break the risk of that blackmail and breaks that lever. Nice!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The Fat Man "Murder Plays the Horses"

About The Fat Man:
The Fat Man, a popular radio show during the 1940s and early 1950s
was a detective drama created by (or at least credited to) Dashiell Hammett. It starred J. Scott Smart in the title role, as a detective who started out anonymous but rapidly acquired the name 'Brad Runyon'.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Free Audio Version of Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783

From Librivox, a spoken version of The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 read by Jim Locke, free of charge.

You can download the entire recording and put in on your iPod or iPhone or MP3 player if you

Here's the Introductory by way of a sample

You can also find the print version (in several electronic formats) at Project Gutenberg here.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

On Midrats 8 April 2018 - Episode 431: Turkey Moves in the Syrian Civil War in Afrin

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 8 April 2018 for Episode 431: Turkey Moves in the Syrian Civil War in Afrin:
As the Islamic State Caliphate's territory in Syria is shrinking to just a few isolated pockets, rebel force opposing Assad lose more an more ground, and Kurdish led forces solidify lines, another chapter in the Syrian civil war is about to begin.

Time will tell, but the Turkish move in to Afrin may have been the opening.

What is Turkey trying to accomplish, and how does this complicate the interest of the Kurds and their American, French and other partners, Russians, Iranians, and the Syrians supporting Assad?

For the full hour our guest to examine this question and related issues will be Michael Goodyear.

Michael is a law student at the University of Michigan Law School and holds degrees in History and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. His research focuses on the history, culture, and politics of the Balkans and the northern Middle East.

As a starting point for our conversation, we will reference his recent article in Small Wars Journal, Paradigm Shift in Syria After Afrin.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can also pick the show up later by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Friday, April 06, 2018

"Hospital Ship" (Korean War)

USS Haven (AH-12), was the lead ship of her class of hospital ships built for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Laid down as SS Marine Hawk, she was transferred from the Maritime Commission for conversion to a hospital ship, and served in that capacity through the end of the war. She was redesignated APH-112 (evacuation transport) in June 1946 for participation in Operation Crossroads, returning to her original AP-12 designation in October 1946. Haven participated in the Korean War and eventually ending her military career acting as a floating hospital in Long Beach, California. She was later converted to a chemical carrier and scrapped in 1987.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Topic for Discussion: ""How to Meet the Strategic Challenge Posed by China"

How to Meet the Strategic Challenge Posed by China from David P. Goldman in Hillsdale College's Imprimis
China poses a formidable strategic challenge to America, but we should keep in mind that it is in large part motivated by insecurity and fear. America has inherent strengths that China does not. And the greatest danger to America is not a lack of strength, but complacency.
China, like Russia, responds to its past humiliation by challenging American power. It would be naïve to expect the Chinese or the Russians to be our friends; the best we can hope for is peaceful competition and occasional cooperation in matters of mutual concern. But it is also important to recognize that American policy errors exacerbate their suspicion and distrust.
Here in the West, we have a concept of rights and privileges that traces back to the Roman Republic—we serve in the army, we pay taxes, and the state has certain obligations in return. There is no such concept in China. Beijing rules by whim. The Chinese do whatever the emperor—or today, the Communist Party—asks, hoping they will be rewarded. But there is no sense of anything deserved. The idea of the state held together by a common interest as in Cicero, or by a common love as in St. Augustine, is unknown in China. The imperial power is looked on as a necessary evil. The Chinese had an emperor for 3,000 years, and when they didn’t have an emperor they killed one another. It’s all very well to lecture the Chinese about the benefits of Western democracy, but most Chinese believe they need the equivalent of an emperor to prevent a reprise of the Century of Humiliation.
Along with ensuring internal stability at all costs, China’s leaders are determined to make China impregnable from the outside. We hardly hear the term South China Sea these days, because that sea has become a Chinese lake. It has become a Chinese lake because the Chinese have made it clear they will go to war over it. There’s a Chinese proverb: “Kill the chicken for the instruction of the monkey.” China has an even greater concern over Taiwan. The Chinese Communist Party is terrified that a rebel province like Taiwan can set in motion centrifugal forces that the Party will be unable to control. So the adhesion of Taiwan to the Chinese state—the imperial center—is for the Chinese government an existential matter. They will go to war over it. By demonstrating their willingness to fight over the South China Sea, they are demonstrating that they will fight all the more viciously over Taiwan.
China’s “One Belt, One Road” policy, announced by President Xi in
2013, is a plan to dominate industry throughout Eurasia—both by land (belt) and by sea (road).

...And what they propose to do with “One Belt, One Road” is repeat that experiment throughout all of Asia—to Sinofy every country from Turkey to Southeast Asia.
Turkey plans to be a cash-free society in five years. Chinese telecommunications companies are rebuilding the Turkish broadband network. Turkey has given up on the West and is becoming the western economic province of China.

The impact of what China is doing is felt all over the world. Former allies of the U.S., including former NATO members, are orienting towards China. Russia—which has become totally dependent on China—has quadrupled its energy exports to China, providing China with land-based energy imports in case the U.S. tries interfering with seaborne energy traffic.
Worth reading and pondering the whole thing.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Yemeni Rebels Attacking Ships in Red Sea

The on-going proxy war in Yemen leaks into the Red Sea again, Coalition forces foil attack on Saudi oil tanker
The Saudi-led Arab Coalition forces foiled on Tuesday an Iranian-backed Houthi militia attack targeting a Saudi oil tanker. Col. Turki Al-Malki, spokesman of the coalition, said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency that the tanker came under attack at around 1.30 p.m. on the international waters, west of the port of Hodeidah, which is under the control of armed Houthi militias.

The ship sustained minor damage in the attack, which was thwarted by swift intervention of the coalition’s naval ship. According to Al-Malki, the tanker, accompanied by the naval ship, resumed its voyage northward.

“This terrorist attack poses a serious threat to the free maritime navigation and international trade through Bab-el-Mandeb strait and
the Red Sea, in addition to causing environmental and economic damage. The continuation of these attempts highlights the danger of these militias and those behind them to the regional and international security,” he said.

Hodeidah port has become a launch pad for terrorist operations as well as for the smuggling of rockets and weapons, Al-Malki said while stressing that the command of the coalition forces will take all the necessary measures and means to maintain security and stability of maritime navigation and international trade on Bab-el-Mandeb strait and the Red Sea region.

He reiterated the need to place Hodeidah port under international supervision and prevent its use as a military base to launch attacks against shipping lines.

Monday, April 02, 2018

U. S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 26 February - 28 March 2018 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 22 - 28 March 2018

Of particular note from the WTS:
U.S. Maritime Alert 2018-004A: Threat type: Potential GPS interference. Geographic area: eastern Mediterranean Sea. Multiple maritime incidents have been reported in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in the vicinity of position 32:24N –029:29E between 18-22 March 2018. These incidents have not been confirmed. The nature of the incident is reported to be GPS interference. Five vessels and one aircraft operating between Cyprus and Port Said, Egypt, have reported GPS disruptions/interference occurring over extended periods and resulting in either inaccurate positions or no position.Exercise caution when transiting this area. Further updates may follow.

Sunday, April 01, 2018


Mark Chapter 16

1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the [mother] of James, and Salome,
had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

2 And very early in the morning the first [day] of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any [man]; for they were afraid.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Hey, Navy Ship Designers - Need Lightweight and More Protective Armor for Ships? See What the Army Has

Researchers may have started a Blast Protection Revolution according to WRAL News in Raleigh:
New research from North Carolina State University and the U.S. Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate shows that stainless steel composite metal foam (CMF) can block blast pressure and fragmentation at 5,000 feet per second from high explosive incendiary (HEI) rounds that detonate only 18 inches away.

“In short, we found that steel-CMF offers much more protection than all other existing armor materials while lowering the weight remarkably,” says Afsaneh Rabiei, senior author of a paper on the work and a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State. “We can provide as much protection as existing steel armor at a fraction of the weight – or provide much more protection at the same weight.

Good for the Army and NC State University, but the Navy needs to get into this, too. More protection at light weight has significant possible uses for design and construction of ships and aircraft. Weight savings means increased ranges among other things.

Friday Film: "Coast Guard Auxiliary" (1940)

Private boat owners and civilian crews in the service of their country.

So how's your Morse code and semaphore?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The Pacific Story "Guam New Outpost in the Pacific" (1946)

Guam, where "America's Day Begins" - strategic value

On Midrats 25 March 2018 - Episode 429: Making Sense of Natsec's Madness with Phil Ewing

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 25 March 2018 for Episode 429: Making Sense of Natsec's Madness with Phil Ewing:
If you've lost lock during the news-cycle imbroglio on what is important in the national security arena, then you need to take an hour out and spend an hour with us for a few from the eye of the storm.

Our guest for the full hour will be Phil Ewing.

Phil is NPR's national security editor. He helps direct coverage of the military, the intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and other topics for the radio and online. Ewing joined the network in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously he served as managing editor of and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.

From the budget battles on the Hill, the Navy's fight for its future fleet, to Russia's freezing of the cherry blossoms (hey, it could happen) - we'll cover it.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can also pick the show up later by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Friday, March 23, 2018

So, you might never has asked, what does an older, retired gentleman (by act of Congress) do on a relatively nice Friday afternoon when rain or worse is forecast for the weekend?

I take my new toy out and play with it, of course! The throaty roar of an MG and the glory of a ragtop on a sunny afternoon in the spring-

1974 Midget. When my younger son retrieved his 1968 MGB from my garage, there was a hole that needed filling. My favorite driving companion, with whom I shared a 1969 MGB in the days before children, approved the transaction.

Revisiting A Less Expensive Path to Growing the Navy: Great Things Come in Small Packages

Orignally posted 17 Dec 2015, but still relevant today as we discuss growing the U. S. Navy:

The U.S. Navy's newly designated "frigate" (nee "Littoral Combat Ship") is not a dead program, but it ain't all that healthy, either, as set out in Pentagon Cuts LCS to 40 Ships. This has set off some "I was right and you were wrong -ism".

Really, the FF/LCS is not the first Navy ship design that proved to be - uh - less than optimal.

It probably won't be the last.

Let's suppose we ask the question that underlies the size of our fleet: What do we plan to do with it?

If the answer is long-range standoff missions, then it would seem aircraft carriers and their assigned air wings are one part of the answer.

If the answer is killing submarines that might threaten our country or those aircraft carriers, it should be clear that ASW attack submarines are a large part of the answer, along with long-range maritime patrol aircraft and real honest to goodness ASW destroyers.

If the answer is support of forces ashore, then perhaps the new Zumwalt-class destroyers are part of the answer.

USS Pegasus (PHM-1)
If the answer is local sea control in contested waters in narrow straits, inshore, then the answer probably is a force deigned to go into harm's way in those waters. As set out in this 2001 Wall Street Journal article by Greg Jaffe describing a 2000 war game:
The U.S. is at war with China, and U.S. Navy commanders are using a new breed of ship called Streetfighter to sail perilously close to the Chinese coast.

There, the small, fast, inexpensive warships -- designed to go into harm's way and, if necessary, be lost -- hunt down Chinese subs and missile launchers hidden among fishing boats and cargo ships. Some Streetfighters are sunk by enemy fire, and casualties are high, but they help the U.S. win earlier than the military pros had projected.
The Streetfighters existed only on paper. But their performance in that mock battle was enough to convince the war college's director, Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, that a fleet of Streetfighters could give any foe fits -- provided the Navy is willing to endure casualties.

"Streetfighter is alive, well and an inevitability," he crowed.
Even then, there were "cautious" voices, like a now former CJCS,
Some top Navy commanders have grave doubts. "I look at the Streetfighter concept and worry that we are saying, 'It's OK to lose ships,' " says Vice Adm. Michael Mullen, commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet in Norfolk, Va. Others question whether sailors in an all-volunteer force would sign up to serve on the ships, or whether Congress would approve the money to build them.
Yeah, well, the FF/LCS is a lot of things, but it does not appear to be so robust that if confronted by a threat it wouldn't be "expendable." More from Cebrowski:
The 58-year-old admiral immediately homed in on one of the most vexing weaknesses in the current fleet. In the past 10 years, the proliferation of cruise missiles and cheap diesel subs has made it easier for enemies to strike U.S. vessels. A recent General Accounting Office report concluded that the Navy's ability to deal with the threat posed by cruise missiles and diesel subs in coastal regions was "marginal" and that nothing the Navy is currently buying will "provide adequate protection against improved versions of these weapons."

To protect its precious ships and crews, the military leadership is pushing them farther and farther out to sea, where they are safer but not nearly as effective. "We've become risk-averse," Adm. Cebrowski says.
Re-read Adm Mullen's comment again to see what Adm. Cebrowski was speaking about.
The idea of building a new class of small ships had been kicking around at the Naval War College and the Naval Post Graduate School, where retired Navy Capt. Wayne Hughes, one of Adm. Cebrowski's former commanding officers, had been playing with some concepts. Adm. Cebrowski had been thinking about the need for a new class of small ship as well. So he and Capt. Hughes put the concept on paper.

Because Streetfighters would be cheap -- one design would cost only about $70 million a ship, compared with as much as $1 billion for a new destroyer -- the Navy would be able to buy hundreds for the price of one 10-ship carrier battle group. The ships would operate along crowded coastal waters, hiding in coves and springing out to destroy enemy subs, hunt down mines and disrupt enemy missiles that could more easily target larger, slower ships.

After a few days or weeks of heavy fighting, the bigger ships would move in and take over the fight. Some Streetfighters would be lost, and some sailors would die. "Streetfighters must be designed to lose," Capt. Hughes wrote at the time. "If the ships become too costly or too heavily manned, commanders will be unwilling to put them at risk."
I am not sure in this age of near real time satellite imaging that "hiding in coves" might still work, but there is that "quantity has a quality all of its own" thing.

The fun one can have imagining a fleet with a combination of large capable ships and small, fast "sea-going fire ants" boiling out of hiddie holes is immense. Capt Wayne Hughes' The New Navy Fighting Machine: A Study of the Connections Between Contemporary Policy, Strategy, Sea Power, Naval Operations, and the Composition of the United States Fleet suggests:
The “New Navy Fighting Machine” promotes a wider mix of ships, in a more numerous fleet, with better-focused capabilities, to meet a range of scenarios in green and blue water environments. The new fighting machine does this within an affordable SCN (Ship Construction Navy) budget ceiling, because the U.S. defense budget already dominates defense spending in the rest of the world.

The fleet’s new component is a green water force of small vessels to fulfill the three sea service chiefs’ maritime strategy of collaboration and support of theater security operations now manifested in Navy global fleet stations. The green water force also includes coastal combat forces, and additional reconnaissance for the land and sea side of a littoral. These capabilities are achieved with 10% of the SCN budget.
How many "green water ships? Hughes suggests 240 (+400 inshore patrol craft). Hughes rightly compares the need for a new command to drive developing this green water component of naval power to that that developed Naval Aviation in its infancy. Hughes:
We also show, in rough outline, that the new fighting machine is better suited than the present projection-heavy 313-ship1 Navy to support regional conflicts and, if it should become necessary, to constrain Russian ambitions.

Submarines in greater numbers are central to the maritime strategy, but within a constrained budget the larger force cannot be exclusively nuclear powered. We find that diesel submarines with air-independent propulsion not only allow twice as many submarines, but they also nicely complement the SSNs in the critical scenario.

Because the United States has not conducted an opposed amphibious landing in nearly 60 years, the new fighting machine emphasizes amphibious lift rather than amphibious assault. We stress the unparalleled success of national sealift in timely delivery of ground forces where needed, when needed, and for as long as needed. It is a national treasure that has received too little attention. We assiduously maintain this strong sealift component in the new fighting machine.

The study does not eliminate high-end warships, the individual capabilities of which are unmatched by any other nation in the world. To do so would end America’s maritime superiority. On the other hand, a Navy of only large, multibillion dollar warships will result in a smaller and smaller force that cannot fulfill its roles around the world. Some of those roles, maritime interdiction operations and coastal patrol for example, can be handled by smaller ships in greater numbers.
That 313 number above has now shrunk to 272.

Some are going to debate the building of new frigates or corvettes to boost ship numbers. I suggest instead building the "green water" force using technology that already exists. Further, I suggest building up a corps young officers to drive these new toys hard with some LCDR and CDR supervision.

If you don't think there are some young people who like this idea, see this from 2012 New Navy Fighting Machine in the South China Sea by a couple of then Lieutenants, Dylan Ross and Jimmy Harmon:
This thesis advocates fleet growth as articulated in Hughes' New Navy Fighting Machine (NNFM) study. Comparisons of the NNFM, the U.S. fleet, and the PRC fleet demonstrate both the disparity facing the American surface forces, and the near parity obtained in the NNFM. CT through unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), and naval obscurants provide American surface forces increased staying power and tactical advantage. Scouting and communications networking through a theater wide constellation of airships provide the American fleet with persistentsituationalawareness of the battle space, tactical communications with subsurface forces, and improved emissions control (EMCON) measures for surface forces. The distributive properties of the NNFM, combined with this study's CT [counter-targeting] and scouting findings, offer American surface combatants success over the PRC Navy in the SCS scenario.
And who wouldn't like to drive one of these:

or be the a squadron CO of 8 or 10 of these:

We could do worse than building a few of these.

In fact, we have done worse. Too bad the PHMs like Pegasus were killed. We could have had 38 years of experience with small fast, heavily armed war ships by now. "Coulda, shoulda."

Friday Film: Harbor Security - British Maunsell Forts During World War II

Homeland defense, British style, with artificial island fortresses:

Background here

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Now Hear This "USS Philadelphia" (1951)

On Midrats 18 March 2018: Episode 428: Battleflags, Korean Battles, and the Joys of Unexpected Archeology

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 18 March 2018 for Episode 428: Battleflags, Korean Battles, and the Joys of Unexpected Archeology:
Put yourself in the shoes of a museum curator. You have the funds to conduct some much needed preservation on battleflags captured by the US Navy from the War of 1812. To do
USNI News Photo
that, you have to remove them from their home for almost a century.

What happens when you all of a sudden find they are not alone? They are covering something else?

No, this isn't another "National Treasure" sequel, but things that actually unfolded last year at the US Naval Academy. For naval history buffs, this was an exciting time and an opportunity to explore some relatively unknown chapters from our history.

For almost all Americans, when you mention American forces coming ashore to do battle on the Korean peninsula, they think of Inchon and 1950.

Well, we came ashore earlier and fought another battle, in 1871.

When you hear about the American navy vs. pirates, you think about the waters off the Horn of Africa in this century. What about off China in the 1850s?

Join us Sunday to discuss the history and the battleflags of pirates and forgotten kingdoms with returning guests, BJ Armstrong, CDR USN and Claude Berube, LCDR USNR.

BJ Armstrong, PhD is an Assistant Professor of War Studies and Naval History with the History Department of the U.S. Naval Academy. He holds a PhD in War Studies from King's College, London.

Claude Berube is the director of the Naval Academy Museum and recently completed his doctoral dissertation through the University of Leeds on Andrew Jackson’s Navy.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can also pick the show up later by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Monday, March 12, 2018

U. S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 5 February - 7 March 2018 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 1 - 7 March 2018

Of particular note this week from the WTS:
(U) MEXICO: On 1 March, the U.S. embassy in Mexico issued a travel alert for a popular tourist destination in southeast Mexico. This came a little more than a week after an explosion on a ferry in Playa del Carmen injured more than 20 people, some of them U.S. citizens. The alert was issued the same day as another explosive device was found on another ferry owned by the same company in Cozumel, another tourist hub in the area. According to the alert, which advised U.S. travelers to exercise caution, purchase travel and medical-evacuation insurance, and contact the nearest embassy or consulate for assistance. (;

Though it seems to defy logic, the Mexican government is denying that this is a "terrorist" act as set out in Mexico: Crude bomb caused ferry blast; terrorism ruled out:
Prosecutors said they believe there is no motivation for a terrorist group to have carried out the attack and also think criminal gangs would not have done it, knowing it would draw unwanted attention and increased security.

"Responsibility by terrorist organizations or organized crime has been ruled out," Deputy Attorney General Arturo Elias Beltran said at a news conference.
He added that the bomb "had a very limited capacity" and "was not intended to do major damage."

The Feb. 21 explosion ripped through the upper section of the ferry as it was moored to the dock at Playa del Carmen, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the vessel.
As a result of the investigations, it can be concluded that the remnants of the explosive artifact (in the Feb. 21 incident) show similarity to the one discovered days earlier, and it is clear that it was a rudimentary or homemade artifact," the office said.

On March 2, another object said to be a possible bomb was found attached to the underside of a ferry belonging to the same company whose boat was bombed earlier. That vessel was anchored about 500 yards (meters) off Cozumel. There were no passengers aboard at the time, and authorities said it had been out of service for over 10 months.

Investigators are pursuing multiple lines of inquiry but have not made any arrests or advanced a definitive theory about a motive for the explosion.
I guess it could be some sort of labor dispute, but the definition of terrorism is not stretched by calling the planting of even "rudimentary or homemade" devices to influence actions by some party. As even Wikipedia has it,
Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror, or fear, to achieve a financial, political, religious or ideological aim.
I suppose, though, that using that word might shake up the local tourism industry a tad.

Important Strategic Input: "U.S. Navy Carriers: Strike Range Expansion Is Critical"

If you are going to influence shore based powers, you need to be able to reach out touch them if need be.

This is addressed by Jerry Hendrix in this National Review piece, U.S. Navy Carriers: Strike Range Expansion Is Critical
The United States Navy needs to make some hard choices if it wishes to remain relevant in the Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2AD) security environment that lies ahead of it. It must begin to adjust its strategy as well as its accompanying shipbuilding and aircraft-procurement plans to enable it to fight and win within the emerging great-power competition. This new environment, at last recognized in President Trump’s National Security Strategy and the Secretary of Defense’s National Defense Strategy, requires the Navy to strike enemy capitals and other vital centers of gravity from range, but the Navy’s decision to bypass a carrier-based strike asset, and now even to push off its acquisition of an unmanned mission tanker, suggest that it is not taking A2AD great-power competition seriously. Its decisions place the future relevance of the entire maritime service, at least as it is presently composed, at risk.
We also discussed this on Midrats on 11 March 2018 - and Dr. Hendrix joined us - the discussion rolls through the show, but especially beginning around the 44 minute mark:

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On Midrats 11 March 2018: Episode 427: Midrats March Madness ... well, mostly Navy talk

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 11 March 2018 for Episode 427: Midrats March Madness ... well, mostly Navy talk:
Now that we're near the end of 2QFY18, it's time for another Midrats Free-For-All!

Just Sal from the blog CDR Salamander and Eagle1 of EagleSpeak covering the latest developments on the maritime and national security front.

If you have topics you would like us to address, send them to us on twitter at @cdrsalamder or @lawofsea, join the chatroom while the show is live ... or even call in.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can also pick the show up later by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

National Energy Security: Self Inflicted Energy Wounds That Hurt Taxpayers But Benefit Speculators

Here's a little known tale of how the "environmental" crowd dips into the pocketbook of ordinary Americans while doing little or nothing to improve the environment. You may never have hear of RINS, but here's a lttle background from the EPA to set the table for what follows:
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), which amended the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) further amended the CAA by expanding the RFS program. EPA implements the program in consultation with U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy.

The RFS program is a national policy that requires a certain volume of renewable fuel to replace or reduce the quantity of petroleum-based transportation fuel, heating oil or jet fuel. The four renewable fuel categories under the RFS are:

- Biomass-based diesel
- Cellulosic biofuel
- Advanced biofuel
- Total renewable fuel

The 2007 enactment of EISA significantly increased the size of the program and included key changes, including:

- Boosting the long-term goals to 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel
- Extending yearly volume requirements out to 2022
- Adding explicit definitions for renewable fuels to qualify (e.g., renewable biomass, GHG emissions)
- Creating grandfathering allowances for volumes from certain existing facilities
- Including specific types of waiver authorities

The Clean Air Act provides EPA authority to adjust cellulosic, advanced and total volumes set by Congress as part of the annual rule process.

The statute also contains a general waiver authority that allows the Administrator to waive the RFS volumes, in whole or in part, based on a determination that implementation of the program is causing severe economic or environmental harm, or based on inadequate domestic supply.
Here's a handy chart that shows what Congress thinks is a good idea for the total volume of "renewable fuels" in our future:

The Congressional Budget Office prepared a 2017 report on "Issues for the Renewable Fuel Standard"

What may you take from that report?

  1. Transportation fuel costs will increase'
  2. Minimal effect on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) (absent some "technology development")
  3. While the goals of the Energy Security and Independence Act is to reduce "dependence on foreign oil and reducing GHG emissions" no part of the Act refers to the impact of technology such as fracking that could allow the U. S. to cease needing "foreign oil"
  4. The EPA issues, for qualifying fuels (defined in slide 6), a "renewable identification number (RIN) attached to each gallon. These RINs are required to be submitted by fuel suppliers "on the basis of their use of petroleum-based fuels"
  5. "RINs can be traded and banked"
  6. The guesstimates made by the planners in putting together this program did not anticipate that technology might make vehicles more fuel efficient thus creating issues. See slides 9 and 11.
  7. EPA decision makers can affect the price of food and transportation fuesl. (slide17) Note that on slide 19 that "Ethanol accounts for 40% of the corn produced in the U.S. 
  8. Slide 23: "for each 100 gallons of gasoline or diesel they sell, suppliers are required to submit  - 1.6 biomass-based diesel RINs                                                                                                    - - 3.4 additional advanced biofuels RINs                                                                                        - - 8.3 additional renewable fuel RINs (met with corn ethanol) 
  9.  CBO's renewable RIN price estimate for 2017  was $1.55 to $2.10                                                                                                                                                                        

Yeah, exciting stuff. But here's what happens in the real world, the trading of RINS is putting American refineries and refinery workers at risk - which has a potentially serious effect on national security - because without refineries and their workers, where will we get fuel for our aircraft, ships and military vehicles? Senator Cruz of Texas (of course) has taken up this issue as reported by the Oil & Gas Journal in
Time has come to overhaul RINs, Cruz tells Philadelphia refinery workers
US Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called for a cap on the price of renewable identification numbers (RIN) to halt speculation and preserve jobs at refineries. "We're here because the jobs, and the men and women whose livelihoods and families depend on those jobs, are at risk from a broken government regulation system that isn't working, and that we have to fix," he said a Feb. 21 rally at Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES).

PES cited dramatically higher prices for the renewable fuel credits the Environmental Protection Agency administers when the refiner declared bankruptcy nearly a month earlier (OGJ Online, Jan. 23, 2018). "In the year 2012, this refinery-the largest refinery on the East Coast-paid about $10 million for RINs. Then the RINs market broke. The price skyrocketed from 1-2¢ each to as high as $1.40 each," Cruz said.

"This means that last year, in 2017, this refinery spent $218 million buying RINs. That is more than double the payroll of the men and women sitting here," Cruz said. "Now, how many think the refinery should be wasting money on government licenses that don't pay a damned thing rather than paying your salaries? It doesn't make any sense. It is nuts."
"Here's the crazy thing: Of the $218 million [PES] paid for RINs, do you know how much ended up in the pockets of Iowa corn farmers? None. The money doesn't go to the corn farmers, and it doesn't go to the ethanol producers. Instead, billions [of dollars] are being made by Wall Street speculators and giant integrated companies that are earning a windfall on this broken regulatory system," Cruz said.
It's been a problem for a while. Here's a NYTimes report from 2016, High-Price Ethanol Credits Add to Refiners’ Woes:
Stiff competition, heavy regulation and high operating costs make for some of the lowest profit margins in the petroleum industry. And in the last year, profits have been even harder to come by because of the global fuel glut that has translated into bargain-basement prices for the gasoline and diesel that refiners produce.

But lately, the game has been tougher still for people like Jack Lipinski, chief executive of CVR Energy, an independent operator of two refineries in Oklahoma and Kansas. The problem involves a soaring cost that is outside of his control.

This year, on top of everything else, CVR Energy will have to spend as much as $235 million on credits for renewable fuels. That is nearly double what the company spent last year on the credits, and it exceeds the company’s total labor, maintenance and energy costs.

Mr. Lipinski blames the federal program that requires CVR to buy the credits, but he also suspects a role by unknown market speculators who may be driving up the costs of the credits.
Finally, it is worth noting who ultimately pays the price for cost increases to refiners - it's the American public, to whom the costs are passed on with higher gas and diesel prices at the pump.

By the way current retail gas price hikes are related to the refineries performing maintenance and shift over to producing different blends of gas for the warmer season to come.