Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 26, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Unemployment

  |   Video
  • Arizona Department of Commerce economist Dennis Doby has the latest unemployment figures.
Guests:
  • Dennis Doby - Economist, Arizona Department of Commerce


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
According to the Arizona Department of Commerce, Arizona's job losses slowed slightly in April. At the same time, the Education and health service sectors recorded their first over-the-year job losses since 1990. I spoke with Dennis Doby. Thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Dennis Doby:
No problem.

Ted Simons:
Are you surprised that the jobless rate did not go up?

Dennis Doby:
I was surprised to see the unemployment rate to decline, but on a monthly basis it can be a little volatile. I expect the general trend to be upward through the rest of the year.

Ted Simons:
National numbers, national numbers go up, we don't. Any explanation besides volatility?

Dennis Doby:
Very difficult to explain. A lot of the states had the same patterns, basically unchanged or down a little bit. I don't have a good answer for that one.

Ted Simons:
A couple of ideas here for Arizona's numbers. Increasing number of folks is not looking for work anymore.

Dennis Doby:
The rate is measured by those actively looking for work, if they have come into the discouraged worker category that is one explanation. Another is people moving out of the state for greener pastures.

Ted Simons:
We talked in the past about this U rating, something that is higher, including more folks than just those actively searching for work.

Dennis Doby:
On the national level they put out what they call alternate measures of -- they don't call it an unemployment rate, it has a fancy rate. U-3 the official rate for the country and U-6 being the highest rate which pulls in the people who will be working part-time that want full-time. Those people not actively looking for work. And it counts them in a manner where they would show up as being unemployed and that rate is about twice as high as it is for the official rate. Now, on a monthly basis, the data is not available. But they're talking about putting that on a state level, at least on a semiannual basis. There is data for calendar 2008 on the B.L.S. web site.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned this. The idea that folks might be leaving Arizona. Are we talking seasonal workers or long-time residents? Who are we talking about here?

Dennis Doby:
Certainly the seasonal workers, agriculture work moves from area to area with the crops. Construction employment, we have construction levels that we have not seen since 1997. A lot of loss in that particular industry. A lot of it is probably not going to come back any time in the near future. States like Louisiana, where they're rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina that are showing gains in construction employment. It is possible that some people, if they don't want to leave the industry, have moved to other states for higher job possibilities.

Ted Simons:
Are there areas of the state that seem like they're getting hit harder than other areas?

Dennis Doby:
I think there are areas, greenly county, mining has gone down, price of copper has declined, those areas are being impacted by that particular industry more so than others. But the entire state is basically losing employment, and it shows in the numbers.

Ted Simons:
So, this isn't necessarily the start of something good, this last number. It could very well be an aberration.

Dennis Doby:
Well, on a monthly basis it is possible that one month does not a trend make. We might see another month or two of further declines over the year. It is nice to see at least for one month -- we still have an over the month loss of 1,600 jobs. Comparatively speaking March to April of 2008, it was 11,000 versus 1,600. We have seen the rate slow. Which is probably a good thing. We hope that trend continues.

Ted Simons:
The idea that some sectors get hit harder than others. Construction, rough shape, retail sales.

Dennis Doby:
Definitely, continued losses in construction, across the board, building, heavy, special trades’ construction. Retail trade is down. Increases in professional business services. Employment services was up over the month, temporary help agencies. Maybe that is an indication that some of the firms on a temporary basis are bringing people in. On a bad note, we have seen hospitals decline, education, health services by about 600. That is an industry where we have been showing growth. Leisure and hospitality --

Ted Simons:
Are you seeing the same kinds of numbers corresponding to what we have here?

Dennis Doby:
Not really. Our construction industry is being impacted by our housing lows. If you do a state-by-state comparison, in March we were ranked on over the year job growth 50th out of 50 states. In April, we shot up to 49th, passing Michigan by a tenth. So, we're having problems in Arizona that maybe some of the other states, especially in the middle agricultural, heavily resource states, middle of the country are not having.

Ted Simons:
Last question, what do you see for, let's say, the rest of the year? Do you see the jobless rate going on?

Dennis Doby:
I expect it to continue upward into the 8% range at least. Improvements in the job markets. We will have the over the month losses but the rate of loss we expect to slow.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us.

Dennis Doby:
Happy to be here.

Nuclear Energy

  |   Video
  • Go inside Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station as workers refuel the Unit 3 reactor and hear what an ASU expert has to say about the future of nuclear energy in Arizona and the U.S.
Guests:
  • Dr. Keith Holbert - Associate Professor, School of electrical, computer and energy engineering, Arizona State University


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
The nation's largest producer of nuclear energy is located right here in Arizona. Palo Verde nuclear generating station can produce 4,000 megawatts of electricity a Year. That's enough to meet the needs of four million people, roughly the size of Metro Phoenix. The United States hasn't built a nuclear plant for quite some time, but some people in the industry think nuclear energy is on the verge of making a comeback.

Randy Edington:
It is an exciting time because of the potential for further growth in nuclear. I think the public as a whole is much more aware of our energy needs and not just the short-term energy needs, but the long term. I think nuclear should be available piece of that, and the more people understand it and look into it, I think it is a very selective piece, a good piece, and I am looking forward to building more nuclear plants.

Ted Simons:
Joining me is Dr. Keith Holbert, an associate professor for the school of electrical, computer and energy engineering at Arizona state university.

Keith Holbert:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
What is the state of nuclear power, nuclear energy in America and in the world?

Keith Holbert:
Let me start with the world. We like to think of ourselves in the U.S. as being ahead technologically. It turns out what is being referred to is the generation three nuclear power plants; we're actually a little behind. Japan, Taiwan, they're already building and have completely constructed the new generation of nuclear power plants. There is four in Japan, two -- two almost nearing completion in Taiwan. There is two more in Europe of a different type that -- a few years out now will be built. Here in the U.S. we have not built anything or finished a nuclear power plant since 1996. But if you go back and look at the reason for that, it actually -- a lot of people would point that the Three Mile Island accident, but if you take a closer look -- and Three Mile Island, keep in mind, was in March of 1979. But if you back yourself up a few years to 1973, and use that as a reference point, a few years before that, we were growing electric use-wise tremendously, like 7% per year. If you look and say I'm growing at 7% per year, when am I going to double? I'm going to double my electric use within 11 years. They're saying we are going to have to build a lot of power plants, large power plants and build them fast. Along came the oil embargo of 1973. Our use of electricity dropped to about 2.7%. Suddenly we didn't have all of that need any longer.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. You mentioned the new generation of power plants. How do they compare and contrast with what we remember being built decades ago?

Keith Holbert:
Well, I would think of them as evolutionary, not revolutionary. Evolutionary meaning we already have the technology. Let's build upon it rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. What you will see is advances in terms of new, more passively safe power plants. Passive safety meaning that it doesn't require activation of some system to keep the plant safe.

Ted Simons:
I have a quote here, and I want your comment on this. Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says he sees no need to build new coal or nuclear plants. Is he right?

Keith Holbert:
I don't think he is right. I think it would be -- I think he is pointing towards green energy, renewables, and I think that is a very good thing to do is to have green power plants, but when we start looking, we need a balance, a portfolio, if you will, of power generation, and purely to have green energy, we have to think about, well, two leading green would be solar and wind. The wind does not blow all of the time. The sun does not shine all of the time. We need something that is available, what I would refer to as dispatchable. You can turn it on and off as needed.

Ted Simons:
We have a graphic that shows how much electricity is produced in different forms, and nuclear is up there. Do you see this kind of thing, like -- as we see here, a lot of little names up there, then you have coal and natural and nuclear. Do you see more of those little slices getting bigger or how do you see this?

Keith Holbert:
If you look at the graphic, if you go through the top three real quick, coal is half of our electricity. And then natural gas and nuclear basically 20% each. There is 90% of our electricity coming from those three. Hydro another six percent. Hydro won't change. We are not going to build any new, large-scale hydro units. Looking at coal, if we're serious about climate change, we are going to have to do something about the coal. We will have to have the carbon --

Ted Simons:
To build one right now doesn't make economic sense. Your thoughts.

Keith Holbert:
I would disagree with that. They are capital intensive. I would liken it to a hybrid car. You are going to have to pay more up front, but once you have that vehicle, in that case power plant, you are going to pay less for the fuel. The government has recognized the fact that nuclear power plants are capital intensive, and in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, they allocated $18.5 billion for really loan guarantees. Right now the Department of Energy has a whole list of applicants, and they are narrowing it down to three nuclear sites that they are going to guarantee the loans for building those power plants.

Ted Simons:
We have a graphic on proposed sites for nuclear facilities here in America. These again aren't sites online, these are proposed.

Keith Holbert:
Correct.

Ted Simons:
You know, we talk about cost prohibitive and that criticism. The other comes to safety. It always seems like this is there. Just where does that stuff go? Where does the waste from a power plant, a nuclear power plant go?

Keith Holbert:
Well, right now it stays there at the power plant. Initially after it comes out of the reactor core, it sits in a, what's called the spent fuel pool, and it cools down thermally and radioactive-wise. After a few years, it is cool enough thermally and radioactive wise to put it in what is called dry CASK storage there at the plant site. Ultimately the government has guaranteed they will take possession of the nuclear waste. As electric consumers, you and I have been paying on our electrical bill, they have amassed $30 billion -- they have promised to take the nuclear waste.

Ted Simons:
There still is -- have they -- the technology today is it considerably better in terms of safety than it was 20, 30 years ago?

Keith Holbert:
In terms of safety, I separate safety from the nuclear waste issue, the nuclear waste issue, where we're going to put the spent fuel is a political football in my mind. We're becoming smarter technologically to engineer things to be safer. When you look at even the Three Mile Island accident, the biggest loser was the utility in terms of the loss of their investment.

Ted Simons:
What is the future of nuclear energy in Arizona; let's start here, and in the rest of the country?

Keith Holbert:
I think in Arizona we won't see a new nuclear unit for a few years, to maybe like 2022, something like that, but where we will see new nuclear units will be the southeast within the United States. I mentioned the three contenders, if you will, for that D.O.E. funding. They're basically all in the southeast. The contenders for example, in south Texas, Maryland, the South Carolina, Georgia area. That will be the places I think we will see our first units. There is an interesting tidbit here. The Tennessee valley authority has decided to finish a unit that they ceased construction of in 1985. It will probably be the first new nuclear unit in about three years, maybe four, to come online in the 21st century in the U.S.

Ted Simons:
My goodness. Real quickly, the answer, do you see the answer, a lot of folks do, as diversifying? Real quickly, is that the way we have to go?

Keith Holbert:
Having a diverse portfolio is a smart idea, yes.

Ted Simons:
Very good. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Keith Holbert:
Thank you.

Supreme Court Nominee

  |   Video
  • ASU law professor Paul Bender talks about Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Guests:
  • Paul Bender - ASU law professor


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening, and welcome To "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. President Barack Obama's choice to replace Justice Souter on The U.S. Supreme Court is Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor. If confirmed by the Senate, She will become the first Hispanic, and only the third woman, to serve on the nation's high court. Joining me to talk about the President's nominee is A.S.U. law professor Paul Bender. Always good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Paul Bender:
Nice to be here today.

Ted Simons:
Who is Sonia Sotomayor?

Paul Bender:
You just said. She is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals to the Second Circuit. She has been there for what, ten years. Before that she was a district court judge, which is really important, because there is nobody on the current Supreme Court who has any significant experience as a trial judge or a trial lawyer. And since so much of what the court does is -- has got to be enforced, applied by trial judges, I think it is really useful to have somebody on the court who has that kind of background.

Ted Simons:
It is surprising that none of the other justices have experience in trial.

Paul Bender:
Not only in trials, but in litigation. I remember when Ruth Ginsburg got on the court; she had argued five cases before the Supreme Court. She had argued more cases before the Supreme Court than the whole rest of the court combined.

Ted Simons:
My goodness.

Paul Bender:
John Roberts, current Chief Justice, he is really the only one, active chief litigator before the court. The court has turned into a collection of professional federal judges, most of whom who have very little real-world experience, even as corporate lawyers. These are people who have been in the federal system and as judges for a long, long time.

Ted Simons:
What does she now bring to the court?

Paul Bender:
Well, she brings, I think, primarily her background. She was born and grew up in the South Bronx in a public housing project. Raised by a single mother. Her father died when she was nine years old, basically an inner city ghetto. And she did very, very well at school and got a scholarship at Princeton, and did very well and went to Yale and did very well there. There is no one on the court that has that background. Clarence Thomas grew up in a relatively poor area, but it was a rural area. There has been nobody on the court who has shared that experience at all. I can't think of anybody, anything like that. So that, to me, that's the main thing she brings, plus her perspective as a member of a minority group that has suffered a lot of discrimination and that is now a very sizable minority group in the United States. She has that. And her experience as a judge, people think she is a very good judge. All of that stuff. And she is a woman, and, you know, a lot of legal questions affect women differently from the way they affect men. It would be nice to have more than one woman on the court. She brings all of that kind of stuff.

Ted Simons:
Early criticism. Let' start from the left. She is not the intellectual force, if not in terms of, you know, legal expertise, vocal, up front, she doesn't look like she would be that match for Scalia.

Paul Bender:
He likes to entertain the crowd for oral arguments and -- so far as I know, her intellect is easily the match of his. She is not a spectacular person, that is not her personality, but that does not have any effect on what goes on in terms of the court's decisions. I think the people on the left who are a little disappointed with her would hope that she would be much more of a liberal, much more jurisprudential to the left. No one on the court has a liberal kind of agenda since Justice Brennan and Justice Marshall left the court. By that agenda, I mean the agenda that resulted in things like the Miranda case, and Roe against Wade, reapportionment decisions, Brown and Board of Education. Those are all things that were revolutionary in their time, and I think people who think that she is not liberal enough wanted somebody who would do that kind of thing. Nobody in the court now who you could imagine being a leader and getting the court to rule school segregation is unconstitutional. If that issue had come before today's court or these judges had been the judges then, they wouldn't have done it. It took some creativity and some -- and some real feel for real-world problems to do that. So I think those people probably would rather have somebody more that way. It wouldn't make a difference in terms of the decisions today. That would be the only person going there and might attract one or two other votes. Might make a difference five or ten years from now.

Ted Simons:
Critics from the right, early argument seems to be a quote she made a few years ago that courts are where policy is made. Looking her up, I have seen that mentioned a few times. A lot of question marks coming from the right. Your thoughts.

Paul Bender:
I don't know the quote. And I don't know what context she did it in. Courts obviously, policy has something to do with courts because courts have to interpret the law. Interpretation is not a mechanical process; it is a process of judgment. Interpreting your ideas of what societies should be like -- does the equal protection call for racial school segregation -- it is those kinds of judgmental calls that judges have to make. I hope that is what she meant. I can't believe she thinks of herself as a principle policy maker, but interpreting the constitution, more importantly, interpreting statutes. Most of her cases do not involve the constitution, they involve federal statutes. Those statutes are not clear as crystal, as they say, and they need some interpretation, and you need to know what they do, where they're coming from, what the purpose of them is, and that's where policy comes in, or your understanding of the policy comes in.

Ted Simons:
What does this decision by President Obama say about his ideas on the Supreme Court? What he sees the court as being or what it should be?

Paul Bender:
I think, you know, one appointment doesn't tell you a lot. It tells you something. I think it shows that he was quite sincere when he said he was looking for people that not only had the intellectual horsepower to be on the court but had empathy, but had an ability to see things from other people's point of view, to understand what the law did to other people, and I think this is a person like that. I think it shows that he really meant that, and that he is very interested in having a diverse court membership, having a Hispanic on the court, having another woman on the court. I think the most important thing, as I said before; someone coming from an inner city background that had all of the problems that people from those backgrounds had that are not shared by people who grew up in upper middle class circumstances. I think it shows that he is alert to all of that. I would expect that his future appointments would be people of similar kinds.

Ted Simons:
Does it indicate what his next appointment might be? Taking care of this one now, what is he going to take care of next?

Paul Bender:
No, it really doesn't. There used to be a New York seat on the court, and a southern seat, and a New England seat, but that is not true anymore. So, who the next appointment will be is a product of a whole lot of things. First of all, who is leaving the court? You know, if Clarence Thomas were leaving the court, there would be a strong feeling that there ought to be a black person. If there were another black person on the court and then Clarence Thomas left, that would be something else. That kind of thing comes into play. And what is going on in the world at the time. Some issues are lively at a time, and a president might want to stay away from somebody who has an interest in those because they would be a lightning rod for -- how popular the president is. This president is very popular right now. If he is ever going to -- that's interesting, because if he was ever going to put something over that might be criticized, this would be the best time to do it. His popularity is not going to go up, I don't think. He hasn't done that. He picked somebody very moderate, maybe liberal, but quite moderately liberal. That is the way he has been governing.

Ted Simons:
Always a pleasure. Thank you for joining us.

Paul Bender:
Thank, you Ted.

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