Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.
Display:
No, sir. Efficient resource allocation can only be carried out by the undistorted market.

Don't you know anything?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 11:18:01 AM EST
Fusion research is very well funded at least in part because a lot of it is dual-purpose applicable to fusion bomb theoretics, and defense budgets are very large. it is for example quite difficult to see how the laser ignition facility could possibly ever evolve into a power design, but for optimising bomb designs? Right on the money.
The second reason fusion is so well funded is that governments around the world would really like a nuclear reactor that greenpeace would not picket. I think this reasoning is mistaken, because greenpeace would likely picket the fuck out of a fusion reactor that actually got wired into the grid because they long ago degenerated into a pr and fundraising machine.  

However, if one wanted to throw billions at prototype nuclear energy, fast reactors would be a much cheaper and faster bet. One could build prototypes of all the main possible designs for less than 25 billion, even being quite pessimistic on cost, and complete the lot of them in.. about 5-7 years?  Perhaps a bit more if you want to include a liquid clorides design as the swiss work on that is quite dusty.

by Thomas on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 03:42:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm. Actually, the precise price tag would depend a whole lot on how you accounted for the plutonium going into the fuel for the prototypes. If you count this as "Destruction of weapons materials" at a price of zero, then the total budget is low. If you count the cost it took to create the plutonium as part of the weapons programmes... ouch. The swiss molten cloride design alone needs multiple tonnes of the stuff.
by Thomas on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 03:47:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it is for example quite difficult to see how the laser ignition facility could possibly ever evolve into a power design

The fusion researchers in the Slashdot interview actually do lose a few words on that, even say that the laser ignition project is explicitly military research. However, how does your claim apply to on-going tokamak research? I don't see much applicability to hydrogen bombs (actually I see none but could have missed some).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 05:39:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The second reason fusion is so well funded is that governments around the world would really like a nuclear reactor that greenpeace would not picket.

That reasoning is mistaken, because all 'practical' fusion routes produce neutrons, which make things radioactive.

by njh on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 11:41:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
However, this irradiated matter is not in danger of blowing all over the place, and the scientists in the slashdot interview claim progress in finding irradiation-optimal materials (meaning short half-lifes).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 04:23:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The rate question (in years) of the investment is critically important. Saying that we're $x away from some capability is interesting, but you need to think about when the disaster hits if you don't develop solutions fast enough.

Personally, I think we're quite a ways beyond the point of sustainability, and are headed for a civilization crash. That's maybe just pessimism and disaster pron. But in any case, the problems are HUGE.

So not only is it necessary to calculate the required investment, but also to figure out the rate of investment.

by asdf on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 02:10:35 PM EST
I think that, in the end, in the case of fusion, "X years" has a high relevance, too. The researchers argue that increasing investment level to speed up development has its limits, too, because not all the research can be done in parallel (you need to build multiple prototypes one after the other). If I am reading thm right, then the minimum is about 20 years. In 20 years, I expect multiple renewables at price levels below today's 'commercial' levels, and it is also clear that tokamak-based fusion won't be cheap at least in the first five or ten years: so as baseload plant, I suspect it will be economically unviable unless someone finds another couple of dozen billions to roll it out in grand style quickly.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 05:48:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So to make time and not money the limit, doubling the funding would be enough.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES!
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 03:04:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The USA, which has its own currency, the US$, could simply declare a national priority of energy independence and fund $80 billion/year of money that is simply credited to the accounts of the selected research programs. One immediate beneficial result would be the explosions of various heads amongst 'the serious'.

If the range of projects is intelligently chosen it would be hard to miss totally, and even if we did, how would that be a worse use of the money than our ongoing adventure in Afghanistan? etc. etc. As a major side effect this level of expenditure would be a noticeable boost to employment. And as a direct effect, those programs that made it into production would pay for the entire project.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 12:03:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, there are two sorts of investment needed: technical and social. For example, a certain amount of spending can provide a certain technical capability for wind power energy. However, somebody also needs to figure out how many windmills will be allowed by society.

Areas of concern include:

  • population control
  • water supply, how important are irrigated gardens?
  • willingness to sustain climate change
  • transportation, how much travel is to be allowed?

...and plenty of others...
by asdf on Thu Apr 12th, 2012 at 02:13:50 PM EST
asdf:
For example, a certain amount of spending can provide a certain technical capability for wind power nuclear energy. However, somebody also needs to figure out how many windmills nuclear reactors will be allowed by society.

Just to take another example.

asdf:

water supply, how important are irrigated gardens?

What matters is irrigation methods. I'd rather ask how important it is that farmers should continue to use massively wasteful methods to irrigate maize, soy, etc. But gardens too should be subject to limits.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 01:47:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
much of the planet might look like this in 20 years

i hope the aesthetic brigade will rescue these beasts and blend them better into nature, but this kind of system could be an exo/endo-skeleton, around which landscaping can be designed.


"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 10:01:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, so I might argue against the idea that garden irrigation should be limited.

Colorado Springs, for example, is in a "semi-arid" area, and gets around 300 mm of precipitation per year. There is NO REASON for a town to be located here. It was built as a railroad tourist town, then became a TB sanitarium town, and then a military town, and recently an evangelical town. There is essentially no industry other than call centers for Bible Ministries.

So when they built the town, the idea was that it would be irrigated and made to look like a town in a humid climate. So we built canals and tunnels and dams and treatment plants and all sorts of other infrastructure to allow us to have nice lawns and parks and gardens. We pump millions of liters of water from the western slope of the Rocky Mountains (which would normally flow via the Colorado River down to the Pacific ocean on the coast of Mexico) to the eastern slope (where it flows via the Arkansas river to the Gulf of Mexico.) Because of all that infrastructure, it's practical and pleasant to live here. (If you can manage to ignore local politics.)

At this point, now we have a built landscape where around 400,000 people live. They moved here based on an assumption that this is what the landscape would look like. Just like the aqueducts of Rome, or the sewers of Paris, or the underground rivers of London, the infrastructure has a huge impact on the livability of the system.

So why should we suddenly disallow me from watering my grass, just because the Californians want to grow lettuce in their desert? (They might ask the opposite question!)

by asdf on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 11:51:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's cool. Nobody in their right mind would want to send that water down to Las Vegas.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 03:09:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, so this diary got promoted, I better add a few more thoughts:

1) To emphasise again, this is not about which energy sources we choose to invest in, but the fact that we have a major infrastructure problem and it appears we do not have the psychological capability to make that investment.

I'd guess that a poll of all the ET factions might take a notional $80 billion and split it between nuclear fission and wind and solar and some other renewables. My point is not to argue that mix, but to note that as a culture, we've lost the ability to actually make that $80 billion investment in anything other than war (it seems.)

2) So if we've lost that ability, how did we lose it?

For today, I'm going to start with Hayek. That's a simplification, there are many others who are part of the intellectual mix, but Hayek is a convenient starting point.

As ever, the problems start with someone getting something right and then extending it too far. Hayek makes a powerful critique against central planning on the grounds that it leave no room for "local knowledge." In the context of many "high-modernist" governmental attempts to re-engineer agriculture in particular, this critique was very accurate.

However, there was little balance in much of Hayek's work on this topic and even less balance in those who followed him and amplified on it. As a result, slowly it has become less and less culturally acceptable to engage in truly large projects.

Truly large projects involve centralised planning, because in order to gather the necessary resources, at least an outline design must be created to show how the project fixes some problem worth all that effort.

Now let's be clear, the bigger the project, the larger the chances of problems in implementation. But slowly we're convincing ourselves that those problems can never be surmounted and the results can never be worth the effort. In particular, the strongest element of the current cultural critique is that the initial central design must always be wrong and so nothing of that scale should be attempted.

That element is bolstered in turn by Hayek's (nonsense) endorsement of "spontaneous natural social and market order" has infected our understanding of how we got to where we are. As a culture we are coming to believe that human social and technological development spring from the market and that market springs out of nature. No infrastructure is present in this "just so" story.

A better analogy for human development might be a long, slow, painstaking fight to construct order in the midst of chaos. Order that is scaffolded by all the infrastructures we design and invest in. Then we might realise that for all the problems with big projects, if we want to continue to progress, we need to find ways to make them happen.

I'll note as an aside that the social technology of managing both large project and projects of complexity have both continued to progress. The software that we use in particular, is an example of very complex entities that we have found ways to build and use. It's not perfect, but it's good enough to make life better.

This is all kind of hazy, but I think the cultural drift to learned helplessness is a key challenge for every progressive issue, be it energy supply, climate change, poverty, education or health...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 04:55:51 AM EST
Doesn't this:

the project now has a core group of backers and a signed agreement between 12 companies wanting to move forward with the $555 billion renewable energy belt.

contradict your point? $555 billion is a phenomenal sum (even for bankers.) But apparently it's being taken seriously as an investment.

Now - of course it would be more organised if the ECB decided to unclench its anal muscles and threw some cash around as a Keynesian investment. An international green energy program would create energy that would be owned by national governments, or the Euro region as a whole - or even the world - instead of by private investors who want everyone to pay them an investment tax.

And on a smaller scale the UK has been investing heavily in off-shore wind. So there's certainly some ability to do useful strategic investment.

Fusion, of course, continues to be a boondoggle with a 'real soon now' payback time - something that hasn't changed for more than fifty years now. The fusioneers replies say that it's going to cost $x billion just to build a single working reactor. Roll-out after that will take at least another decade, and may not be much cheaper than current fission nukes.

But I think your point isn't really so much about investment and strategy, as political dynamics. There's no standard narrative about social investment. There is a standard narrative about 'austerity'.

There was a short diary on dKos recently about someone's experience of domestic abuse. What's interesting is that over the last few decades there's now a standard narrative about what relationship abuse is, why it's bad, and how to recognise it.

But there is no equivalent - yet - for economic and political abuse. Which is a problem, because after Hayek, Thatcher and Reagan we have a political and economic culture which is systemically abusive to entire populations.

Sadism is built into the system. It's not even about counting beans or making cool new stuff - it's about a minority lying to, disrespecting, and beating down a majority until the majority becomes unable to imagine that some other political reality is possible.

Pointing out that it's very similar to relationship abuse - because it is, with many of the same features - makes it a personal experience for everyone, instead of an academic economic abstraction.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 06:29:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't this:

the project now has a core group of backers and a signed agreement between 12 companies wanting to move forward with the $555 billion renewable energy belt.

contradict your point? $555 billion is a phenomenal sum (even for bankers.) But apparently it's being taken seriously as an investment.

However, it is a private project (even if with EU and national government endorsements), and I maintain my opinion that it is primarily a means of greenwashing for the companies involved and actual construction will never reach the proclaimed scale.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 07:02:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
.. This depends a lot on how workable north africa looks to investors as an industrial  enviorment - Solar in the sahara has easily a full order of magnitude lower production costs per kwh than solar in europe does (ridiculusly low land costs, much higher annual insulation), and HVDC is shockingly cost effective, so selling power from north africa into european peak daytime demand looks like it ought to be a money maker. The schemes to store power with molten salts and whatever, not so much, but grabbing a big chunk of the the high-value peak demand market?
by Thomas on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 07:23:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the sahara has easily a full order of magnitude lower production costs per kwh than solar in europe

Do you have actual figures on that? I don't buy it. Land costs are only a small part of the costs in Europe already, and insolation is not an order of magnitude bigger, while you have to add transportation costs and a risk premium, and there is also the issue of getting new power lines laid across Europe (which is not solely an economic question, and even the economic part is not solely a money question).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 07:29:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Figures would require significant practical experience of building solar power stations in the sahaha, so no, this is "napkin" math. I am however reasonably sure that it is correct napkin math, because largescale greenfield solar is impractical and unacceptable both in europe, as it involves destroying farmland. The relevant cost diffrential is thus between that of rooftop work in europe and building in the desert.
Add the fact that the sahara gets 3-6 times the sun, and, well. At the point of production, 10 times cheaper is a conservative estimate.
The rights of way for the power grid upgrades are the biggest issue, but I think there are ways to solve this problem. First one that comes to mind is to pay the railroads for the right to run powerlines along tracks.
by Thomas on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 04:38:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
3-6 times the sun? That is... substantially in excess of the figures I have seen, which were in the 2-3 region.

And the biggest issue is probably the capital cost of grid expansion, because we cannot rely on it being funded at a sensible rate of < 5 % plus risk markup - we'll be looking at 10-15 % funding cost before you're done adding up all the bankster tribute.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 04:48:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This "bankster tribute" is another connected symptom of what I'm talking about... the religious notion that a project is purified by private funding, is a different stream of thought to the one I've identified, but it's part of the same big issue, I feel.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 05:02:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely. It is central to any understanding of the current crisis to understand the social function of the doctrine of 'sound finance' and the purifying power of private bank bid-ask spreads.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 05:42:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow. Kalecki nailed it.

Impressive to think that was written sixty years ago, but depressing it's not more widely known.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 06:50:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Considering what else was going on in the world sixty years ago, I find that less "impressive" and more "disconcerting," to be perfectly honest.

Here's hoping that this time around we can have the wartime inflation without the war.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 07:46:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Less important than 'what we have learned' is 'what we have forgotten' and why it was forgotten - Kalecki, Keynes, Fisher, Veblen, Pecora,....

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 02:25:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
largescale greenfield solar is impractical and unacceptable both in europe, as it involves destroying farmland

Farmland areas (where I don't support solar either) aren't the only surfaces available for large-scale solar farms. Dumps, former industrial or military facilities, dams, the roofs of large industrial facilities also provide for unhindered sunshine and ideal mirror position and economies of scale, and at least the last type also provides for shorter grid connection and zero real estate costs. (Note BTW that in Germany, the feed-in tariff for greenfield areas was discontinued at the end of 2009.) And the price differential between the smallest rooftop and the largest greenfield plant isn't that big, either: if you look at feed-in tariffs as benchmark, then around 36%.

the sahara gets 3-6 times the sun

According to maps here, even most of England, Denmark and Southern Sweden get between 900 and 1,100 kWh/m² a year, while in the Mediterranean, you get between 1,500 and 2,000 kWh/m² at most places. You don't get better than the latter in Tunisia and northern Algeria, but the bulk of the Sahara is in the 2,000-2,500 kWh/m² range.

All in all, the factor is more like 1-3 times, with 3 times only if you compare Edinburgh and the Libyan-Egyptian-Sudanese border region. So if you build a multi-megawatt PV plant in Egypt to supply some mine locally and put panels on a privater home in Edinburgh, then the price per kWh differential will be about 4 times; but if you compare a plant in Andalusia and one in Tunisia both supplying Europe, the latter will have no benefits at all in production and all the disadvantage in grid connection and risk premium.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 08:46:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the feed-in tariff for greenfield areas was discontinued

I mean farmland areas.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 09:14:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tarrifs are not an accurate measure of the diffrential in cost - rooftop work carries quite a substantial premium and is slow - and that will make up an ever increasing fraction of the total cost of an installation as the price of the solar cells themselves drop. The only way rooftop solar ever gets cheap is if the cells are integrated into a standard roofing tile, and put up when a roof needs (re)building regardless, because in that scenario, the marginal labour cost of the installation will be very close to zero (not actually zero, as someone will have to hook up an inverter, but as a faction of the total cost of putting up a roof, zero is a good approximation)

still, the big advantage sahara solar has over european solar is that is not subject to seasonal variation that is directly oppositional to seasonal varation in demand. Winter always comes, winter always wants kwhs.

by Thomas on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 10:30:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely this has already been posted, but if not:

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/23602

70 MW of solar cells, in Japan, covering 314 acres (127 hectares)

by asdf on Sun Apr 15th, 2012 at 11:18:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
grabbing a big chunk of the the high-value peak demand market?

Speaking of that, solar indeed does a nice job of that already, to the extent of pricing out some peaker plant projects, and lately even intermediate regime coal. Here is the power graph for today from the Leipzig Energy Exchange:

(Left is actual production, right is the prediction, yellow is solar and green is wind.) Having looked at this graph on several days now, I am thinking that for an even better fit with the diurnal cycle (that is the morning bump), the import from far away that would do good would be along the east-west axis.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 04:17:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, 555 among 12 partnes is less than 80 per partner which is Metatone's limit.

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 07:24:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good strong analogy.

I'll take it a step further. asdf posted his belief in a potential social/environmental breakdown. Should this occur, and i believe strongly in the possibility, it's because of abuse of the relationship between humans and the world around them.

In this diary we're discussing the potential for investment, perhaps on a grand scale, which actually serves society. What if we could fund fusion, or breeders? What if we could fund north African HVDC solar?

We're asking this of a society which shits in its own bed. Poisons its water. Creates earthquakes through fracking. Expands lethal factory farming from the developed world to the developing. Creates virulent bacteria from overuse of anti-bacterials in all manner of ways.

I just read that the artificial colors applied to nails of the female of the species has proven to be highly cancerous, and many ingredients are already banned in Europe for other uses... for just one of a thousand arcane examples of a society out of balance.

Hell (Babel), you can't even have a decent debate anymore, what with the ability of constant media propaganda, highly efficient at that, bombarding the naive senses.

We live in a world where advanced understanding is ridiculed, including what's known as spiritual understanding but which could now easily be called advanced scientific understanding.

The evidence is there for the reading, that this is an ill society, getting more ill daily, all the while a large minority understands the illness very clearly.

And we ask this society to make some hard choices about necessary technologies and how to fund them?

This society doesn't even understand what it's already funded and produced.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 07:10:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What if we could fund XXXXX?

We could but we have, on a societal level, been convinced that we cannot. TPTB that have control of the inputs to public opinion and the outputs of the mass media want to discredit the use of government for any purpose other than as air cover for their ongoing looting. And awareness of THAT is especially something that they do not want to gain further currency.

It is only the disfunctional attitudes that have been sold successfully to the public on behalf of the looters that stop us from doing all that we want and need to do. The only real solution is to get the looters in jail. There is little doubt that they are, as a class and individually, guilty of many felonies. Here. But their capture of the system is so complete that they are not prosecuted.

Just because it is old news does not mean that it is not still vital to any solution.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 09:30:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:

Fusion, of course, continues to be a boondoggle with a 'real soon now' payback time - something that hasn't changed for more than fifty years now. The fusioneers replies say that it's going to cost $x billion just to build a single working reactor. Roll-out after that will take at least another decade, and may not be much cheaper than current fission nukes.

coudn't agree more... if you add all the $ invested this last half century, and those currently requested, we'll see solar/wind has made an economic end-run around around this phantom technology.

ThatBritGuy:

There's no standard narrative about social investment. There is a standard narrative about 'austerity'.

when was there ever a standard narrative about social investment? FDR's new deal?

ThatBritGuy:

Sadism is built into the system. It's not even about counting beans or making cool new stuff - it's about a minority lying to, disrespecting, and beating down a majority until the majority becomes unable to imagine that some other political reality is possible.

Pointing out that it's very similar to relationship abuse - because it is, with many of the same features - makes it a personal experience for everyone, instead of an academic economic abstraction.

this is so powerfully true... if not worth a diary (it is!), it would make a great book subject, seeing how you write.

nations as abusers is nothing new, but abuse of their own populace has perhaps never attained such a virulence as presently, never have so many fallen into 'learned helplessness' as now.

we are all as lab rats, and our researchers have no more use for us unless to practice self-interested cruelty upon, now the growth-a-gogo years are winding down ever faster.

the force of their assumption that we'll stay laying down under it is the bluff that is begging to be called.

once people realise they are the guardians of their own mental balance and take steps to do so better, then they realise just how crookedly the game of success is rigged. until that personal epiphany of sovereignty, they remain utter pawns in the myriad, labyrinthine maze of illusion, in which it is written that all have a chance at the brass ring, rah rah predatory capitalism... (except they leave out the adjective, as it isn't genteel to say it out loud).

it's like a spell we have to somehow collectively snap out of...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 09:50:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
melo:
nations as abusers is nothing new, but abuse of their own populace has perhaps never attained such a virulence as presently...

This is contradicted by conditions in ancien regieme France, as described by Robert Young and others, but that world had a much lower level of overall production and energy uses, and we are well on our way to recreating such extremes in income distribution in our wonderful post modern societies.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 11:09:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
point taken, populations have been treated very badly through history by their leaders. of course there's no way to do more than speculate, but let's remember how much smaller the populations were then, and the difference in the way power is being wielded.

there was a clearly defined edge where the 'common folk''s interests ran up against the sheriff of nottingham's blackshirts, the hard power, the iron fist that always was the ultimate arbiter of the state's boundaries, the truncheon to the head of the OWS supporter, the nazi firing squads etc.

there wasn't much soft power then, peoples' minds were being bent equally silly by religions, sure, but that's going fast now in the 'foist' world.

now there's a finely stitched velvet glove over the iron fist, called democracy.

now there's one 'religion' left standing, with 'gods' like jamie dimon and blythe masters rarely visible through the mist of their luxurious privacy by the dazzled followers, high priested by the corzines, madoffs, kashakaris, abramoffs who model 'how to make today's reality work for you', for the deacons below them then distributed down to the capillary level, where fathers are telling their sons at 12 years old that only money buys significance, peace, time and a 'good life', and relative to money nothing matters except tribal loyalty... that intelligence and depth are always subservient to wiliness and cunning, therefore focus on those talents, always take the short cut if you think you can get away with it, cheating isn't cheating if it's to put bread on your family's table etc.

and then just when things seem black and white you meet someone in the 1% who is navigating the experience heart in hand, but it's pretty rare.

it is incredible how many contradictions human personalities can accommodate.

if there is a god, i imagine he created free will in humans on a very hasty impulse, or an exceptionally casual whim.

i guess if the universe is infinite, there's a plethora of planets to burn try madcap, throwaway ideas.

and if there isn't then we are swirling in one strange evolutionary eddy, while the rest of sentient creation gazes at us in horrified compassion.

when we were grunting apes, we were surrounded by the wherewithal to create mars rovers and ipads, but did any of us have a remote glimmer that such a future was possible?

is that how it feels looking at the human race now, surrounded by the wherewithal to live wonderful lives and see our environment thrive from our attention?

can we surrender our need to dominate and learn dominion instead? we're a family with a branch gone rogue which has learned to take advantage of the rest of us, and make us think we like it, or we should, and besides, TINA.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 01:36:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
There's no standard narrative about social investment.

Not today, no. If we listen to what was said in the post-war era we can hear what Metatone is talking about.

Metatone:

A better analogy for human development might be a long, slow, painstaking fight to construct order in the midst of chaos. Order that is scaffolded by all the infrastructures we design and invest in. Then we might realise that for all the problems with big projects, if we want to continue to progress, we need to find ways to make them happen.


A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES!
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 10:11:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dead on that my point is not about specific numbers or particular technologies - it's about the narratives.

Overall I see us descending into a learned helplessness where we treat more and more things as "like the weather" - markets are a good example.

Of course, "learned helplessness" is a common feature of the abused side of an abusive relationship, so you're definitely on to something there.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 12:03:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My empirical impression is that really big projects need to be purely public in nature. The social technology of managing them may have progressed, but the economic engineering of contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors doesn't seem able to bring off high-quality high-spec results.

An example is the French nuclear industry, which was capable of delivering results in the 80s and 90s and incapable of doing so nowadays, in its semi-privatised state.

The French culture of state-sponsored big projects seems to be entirely dead; killed by ideology. No more Concordes, no more TGVs.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 07:47:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No more worldwide eradication of diseases, no more CFC phaseout...

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 08:25:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"we do not have the psychological capability to make that investment"

I would rephrase this to capture the point that what's lacking is the sense that the problems require such an investment. The U.S. of A. had no problem at all blowing a huge pile of money in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the price of gas goes up to $10 per gallon, then there will be enthusiasm for electric cars, passenger rail, etc. If the power transformers in the grid start burning up due to the electric cars, then there will be enthusiasm for grid improvements.

If the temperature gets higher, the enthusiasm for air conditioning will rise, even if it requires burning even more coal...

by asdf on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 12:15:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This diary well problematizes the impact of weak economic and political ideas imposed on societies by the self interested use of disproportionate wealth by the few. What is really needed is for this to be packaged into a form suitable for publication in magazines such as Harper's, The Atlantic, Discovery, etc. or in Sunday supplements of major newspapers with links/references to supporting articles at a similar level critiquing 'mainstream economics' and its lack of relevance to our current situation. People need to understand that we are currently operating in a "full steam to oblivion" mode, why that is the case and what are the reasonable and possible alternatives.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 11:27:00 AM EST
Actually Harper's did publish a very interesting series of articles on the present-day situation by Louis D. Brandeis, rolled into a book called "Other People's Money.

The first article came out on November 29, 1913.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 04:18:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OPM, "Other people's money! The only way to go!" was advice given to me by a silicon valley veteran back in the mid '70s. Amazing how there truly is nothing new under the sun. We have seen this socially organized looting before and we know how it ends. Equally impressive is how little it gets taught, especially to those who take the 'power disciple' courses in college and go into business or government. Critical views of our societies are better left to the arts and letters and renegades from within the 'power disciplines' can be marginalized. And in the law, renegades are usually defense or plaintiff's attorneys and, with no sense of irony at all, are labeled as 'greedy'. What fine societies we have.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 09:01:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Two points:

A big part of the appeal of the neolib think is the seductive belief that problems will solve themselves. 'Let the forces that be work it out and we will have a self-organizing optimal equilibrium.' Which is similar to the beliefs of the ecology movement or environmentalism. 'So why should we undertake complex political, organizational, and technical work to get big things done, when it's all marred in 'inefficiencies', 'compromises', and 'corruption'? We can sit back and enjoy the show!'  

Secondly, things do tend to get more and more complex and difficult (exponentially so). The leaps and nice things that we desire are getting more and more out of our reach. Up to the point where we seriously have to consider whether they are worth the effort.

Fusion is a prime example. As the MIT researchers said: they don't even know how many PhDs they'd have to churn out (fast) to get things going if the money was there. Ugo Bardi describes a three-to-five-years law of industrial research and how it pertains to tokamak research: "If a project produces no useful results in five years, then there are good chances that it never will." ITER is a basic research project not an industrial one but it is sold as such: energy for all! a few watterbottles of fuel per family! Sometime... in the second half of the century? Even if it was possible we could not afford to build and run such gargantuan machines (99% certain).

Also, it can be convincingly argued that tokamaks have such severe, inherent disruption problems that they will never [commercially] produce electricity. So why double down on tokamaks?

So instead of very high risk/somewhat high reward projects, how about some low-risk/high reward schemes? A min-max strategy. E.g. it has been posited that for all the money that goes into tokamak research they could give out free solar water heaters to every household. We should still support research, even the crazy stuff, but we should move on when things don't work. As for the big projects, I'd like to see some strategic buildout of vital infrastructure like rail or energy (efficiency). That kind of project doesn't necessarily need more research or gizmos. But care and attention are paramount. So how do we get those back? Someone has to strike gold and actually complete successful projects. If the benefits are there for everyone to experience, trust in competence will be built. And if people (collectively) undertake such projects themselves in their own lives it builds care and attention. Maybe this is the drink talking...

BTW: how do you like the "Raga Desh - Imrat Khan - 1989 Proms" recording? Still as good as in your memory of it?

by epochepoque on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 04:19:54 PM EST
Secondly, things do tend to get more and more complex and difficult (exponentially so). The leaps and nice things that we desire are getting more and more out of our reach. Up to the point where we seriously have to consider whether they are worth the effort.

One of the biggest issues is the fight against the internalized myth of infinite expansion (which gives us access to a belief in infinite complexity as well). Cultural inertia and propaganda are problems, yes, but I think a lot of the resistance to expanding sustainable energy systems and cutting back on nuclear specifically comes from the fact that said myth has to die for us to do so. It cuts very deep for a lot of people on this planet, and for many I think it's their primary myth for describing what it is to be human and why we are here.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 04:44:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Honestly, I still didn't dare listen to it yet.

It's such a good memory, the temptation to relive it is strong, but the fear of spoiling it is strong too.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 04:52:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Which is similar to the beliefs of the ecology movement or environmentalism. 'So why should we undertake complex political, organizational, and technical work to get big things done, when it's all marred in 'inefficiencies', 'compromises', and 'corruption'? We can sit back and enjoy the show!'  

That's a very wide brush tarring a complex AND still powerfully diverse group of people and ideas.

nobody's perfekt, and all movements have their own mistakes and silliness... but come on. Are you one who understands the ecology in which this "civilization" lives that you can deride the one thread which brings a little health into the equation?

Surprised no one else picked up on this mistake. Guess i'll just sit back and enjoy the show.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 07:12:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Surprised no one else picked up on this mistake.

I did not see it as a 'mistake' so much as a question of balance, perhaps because I have had occasion to be annoyed by some aspects of the environmental movement myself. Which is not to say that I don't support saving the environment - to the extent we can.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 09:10:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Crazy Horse:
Surprised no one else picked up on this mistake. Guess i'll just sit back and enjoy the show.

i thought my snark meter had broken.

it's the far right religious fatalists (of divers national stripes) who think like that. Destroy us Jaysusss, we are such self-hating filth kick all our miserable sinning asses to kingdom come...

the more hollywood the better, for their taste.

it's fantasy to think we can turn it around institutionally until more individuals see the point of sacrificing at least some of our globegobbling lifestyles and do something about it so others can have a life.

institutions are notoriously turgid and serve as brakes on doing things too swiftly, but there's no time to take them on as they are, so politically well-defended and inertial.

a more direct, populist approach might work, but first more and more people have to dare wake up.

with all the alarms triggering, it's no wonder that's exactly what's happening, arab spring and all. it's just still too fragmented globally to do more than flare up sporadically, topple some tinpot who's overstayed his shelf life... then back to BAU, with more uniforms and religion than before.

unlike the 1%, whose private jets are welcome wherever there are ** hotels, golf, gambling and beaches.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 09:19:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i meant 6 stars, put 6 up there but only 2 came out, done got html'd i think.

doesn't make sense with 2 stars, although that's prolly what's in store for everyone if we're lucky, till we pass the resource bottleneck/singularity whatever, and the utopia fairies dispense baby palomino unicorns to the strains of kumbaya.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2012 at 09:25:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw it and still gave the comment a 4.

The only understanding of that phrase I could reach was either a reference to certain environmentalists' rejection of large industrial schemes (which I don't share), or a reference to certain environmentalists' belief in a natural equilibrium which would establish itself if only we would stop "meddling" with Nature. Another belief I don't share, that finds its roots (for most in the Western world, at least) in Enlightenment thinking about the natural state, and is paralleled by economic-liberal equilibrium beliefs.

But it's true epochepoque's brush is very broad there.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 02:09:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what I meant. I didn't want to diss environmentalism in general or say they just sit back. The "sit back" part applies to the neolibs.
by epochepoque on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 02:44:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've given it a four as well, particularly because the links and nested links are so damn good.

But to discount the "ecology movement" with such a broad brush is completely false, despite wide environmentalism having its own problems to solve... like all pirate movements.

I'm thinking the link between corporate poison and finance was never completely clear to them. Yet we have Mike Roselle, a founder of Earth First! and the man who put the teeth back into the Stop Mountaintop Removal effort, going to live in coal country to foment direct action. His efforts attract the attention of Reverend Billy Talen, who then takes direct action to the lobbies of the Wall St. banks who finance mountaintop removal. And piles coal waste in the lobbies, while having his gospel choir singing.

and bingo, some of them stop, as it's just too bad for their image.

Perhaps epoch's wording was poor, perhaps doesn't quite understand how widespread the poison is within the system, but it's a false meme to spread.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 03:01:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
epochepoque:
As for the big projects, I'd like to see some strategic buildout of vital infrastructure like rail or energy (efficiency). That kind of project doesn't necessarily need more research or gizmos. But care and attention are paramount. So how do we get those back? Someone has to strike gold and actually complete successful projects. If the benefits are there for everyone to experience, trust in competence will be built. And if people (collectively) undertake such projects themselves in their own lives it builds care and attention. Maybe this is the drink talking...

In the 19th century Nils Ericson - older brother of John Ericsson of Monitor fame - headed the building of much of the Swedish railroad net. For finishing his projects on time and under budget he eventually got ennobled as well as statues in both Stockholm and Gothenburg. So if we see it from the pov of society, giving status for things that actually matter appears to be a good thing.

Both Nils and John also grew up on the Göta kanal project that connected Gothenburg with Stockholm and essentially gathered all the top technical expertise in (then very rural) Sweden. So I don't think it is just the drink, it is also the historical experience.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES!

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Apr 14th, 2012 at 03:45:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Occasional Series

24 July 2014
by dvx - Jul 23
59 comments