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It reads like a call for "reasonable centrists" to step up to the plate and "find the balance between the extreme claims."

But of course the problem with reasonable centrists is that the center is not reasonable, and has not been for a long time.

- Jake

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

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 06:35:46 AM EST
Good comment in the articles comments:

British energy policy is a dark underworld of fanatics | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian

You're against wind energy Simon, we get it.

Especially in Northamptonshire it seems - you don't live there by any chance do you? And as you've done so much reading, you'll know that wind operators don't get paid a penny for building them(as you clearly imply). They only get paid for the units of green energy made. So no wind = no energy = no money.

So you need to make up your mind whether they're enormously subsidised or inefficient, because they can't be both at the same time.

Just sayin', like.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 06:39:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
pointedly put... the centre between crazy and crazier is not sane.

reasonable centrism in a loony bin is eating your shoelaces, not banging your fool head against the wall till tarantino'd or swanning around thinking you're napoleon.

it's a measure of how topsy we've turved, when 'reasonable centrism' has become an oxymoron.

over-oxygenated morons, hmm.

that's why nothing short of total re-invention of capitalism can save it from its own self-inflicted demise.

people before profit, basically.

lost of brains gonna explode trying to grok that after so many decades of orwellian social engineering, better get yer splatter suit on...

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

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 07:07:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
British energy policy is a dark underworld of fanatics | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian
We face a "peak oil" crisis, or we do not. We face a nuclear winter, or not. We can live for ever on shale gas, or it causes earthquakes. The world is doomed anyway (James Lovelock) or not doomed at all (Nigel Lawson). All Europe could be wired to the Saharan desert, or perhaps only in theory.

Ah, people disagree fundamentally, so let's just dismiss all opposing arguments as the ramblings of fanatics... and then wrap your own biased opinions in this fake stance of neutrality. On the latter, I particularly like how he terms the aim of CO2 reduction "cooling".

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

by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 07:28:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
His two other recommendations at the end come in the form of quotes from professors who we are supposed to not consider fanatics like everyone else in the debate (nor quoted out of context):

...My view is reinforced by the Welsh scientist, Sir Roger Williams, in his 2009 British Academy lecture. He remarked his "greatest hope among renewables is of tidal power ... both predictable and potentially substantial". He supported the Severn barrage, a sacrifice of landscape preferable to putting the Cambrian mountains under wind turbines.

Another trusty is Dieter Helm, Oxford professor of energy policy, who makes the seemingly obvious point that since gas is cheap and prevalent and has lower emissions than coal, the biggest carbon gain is won by a straight switch from coal to gas.

The Severn Barrage, not a significant sacrifice of landscape? (And he compares it to on-shore rather than off-shore wind?) And all that for at most 8.5 GW? And switch to more gas when domestic extraction is in decline?

I also checked out the second source, this Dieter Helm. Jenkins gives an air of neutrality by characterising him as "Oxford professor", although his homepage implies more direct involvement in the government policymaking Jenkins decries:

Current appointments include: Independent Chair of the Defra Natural Capital Committee, Member of the Economics Advisory Group to the UK Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change.

During 2011, Dieter assisted the European Commission in preparing the Energy Roadmap 2050, serving both as a special advisor to the European Commissioner for Energy and as Chairman of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on the Roadmap. He also assisted the Polish government in their presidency of the European Union Council.

Previous appointments include: membership of the DTI's Sustainable Energy Policy Advisory Board from 2002 to 2007, the Prime Minister's Council of Science and Technology from 2004 to 2007, Chairman of the Academic Panel, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until 2012, and the DTI's Energy Advisory Panel from 1993 to 2003.

Helm has a recent presentation (rather crappy) on the issue of the role of natural gas in decarbonisation. What he is about is advocating a shale gas future, and talks about "the end of 'peak oil' and 'peak gas' nonsense".

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

by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 08:07:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Shale gas of course means a difference in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional natural gas. Recent research on the subject:

BBC News - Shale gas 'worse than coal' for climate

Greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas are predominantly down to two things: carbon dioxide produced when the gas is burned, and methane that leaks out while the well is being exploited.

Figures from the US government and industry indicate that at least a third more methane leaks from shale gas extraction than from conventional wells - and perhaps more than twice as much.

...Figures from this research team indicate that over a 20-year period, the net warming impact of using shale gas is worse than coal - and, perhaps more surprisingly, that conventional gas may be worse than coal as well.

Over a 100-year timeframe, conventional gas is almost certainly better than coal - but shale gas could be worse.

(The actual paper is here, and there is an accompanying second paper on indirect CO2 emissions here.)

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

by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 08:41:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From a GHG perspective any advantages for gas of either type likely depend on the efficacy with which the gas is kept in the intended pathway to consumption throughout the life-cycle of the resource. At present the cost of leakage is largely externalized by the energy producers and then cost is minimized while impact is maximized by systematic neglect of leakage.

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 Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 12:21:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even Jenkins himself suffers from personal preferences, which makes his piece a remarkable schizophrenic read.

The world I'd use is "hypocritical".

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

by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 06:42:05 AM EST
And he begs his own question:
I trust to science and am ready to believe there is some great mathematician, some Fermat's last theorem, who can write an equation showing where energy policy should turn. I have never met him.

The equation would start with the current market price of coal, gas, oil, nuclear and so-called "renewables". That would give simple primacy to coal and gas.



guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 06:44:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where I again note the inability to distinguish production price and market price on the part of free-market proponents...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 06:57:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, for free-market proponents it's axiomatic that marginal price equals marginal cost. Price equals cost plus markup doesn't fit their worldview.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 09:16:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, their economics can not account for price or profits - which is almost certainly a PR advantage for energy sector proponents of free-market proponents.

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 Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 12:24:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and

What Jenkins truly wants is a Honest Broker - someone who steps above the swamp fed by streams of conflicting information.

Despite the grandiose intro, I think towards the end of the article it's quite clear that what Jenkins wants is something more specific and more biased: no support for wind, especially on-shore wind.

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

by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 06:45:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On an aside, I still don't get why The Guardian had to hire the former editor of The Times for op-eds, of all people. His 'sacrificing the beauty of the British landscape' rhetoric would fit well into his old paper.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 06:53:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of their slow drift to the right.

Reasons:

  1. The Guardian thinks of themselves as essentially a CENTRE-left paper, mostly centre and balanced, Jenkins is there for the balance against the historical presence of Milne and others.

  2. Jenkins is actually mostly Kenyesian, which makes 1 in 10 of his columns more sense than you'd expect.

  3. There's a fair number on the left who are basically now old and small 'c' conservative, especially about things like architecture and landscape.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 07:39:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Metatone:
There's a fair number on the left who are basically now old and small 'c' conservative, especially about things like architecture and landscape

(Having built their little retirement nest in the countryside).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 09:28:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thinking out loud.

 After a night of sleep I'd say that Jenkins justifies his own preferences by concluding there is no honest 'mathematician' he can approach. So he can make do with the ones he likes personally.

I don't see that as a reason for ample derision - which I also see in the responses here - but for despair.

I'm combining the feedback of Migeru and Jerome on this - these displays amount to religious sermons, for each its own flavour. The complexity involved should only allow technocrats in the temples - so the question becomes, do we have faith in technocrats to lead us through the desert?

by Nomad on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 02:11:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After a night of sleep I'd say that Jenkins justifies his own preferences by concluding there is no honest 'mathematician' he can approach. So he can make do with the ones he likes personally.

This is a major crackpot indicator. The syllogism goes roughly like this:

  1. Establish that the only evidence which counts is that produced by people who have no vested interest in the outcome whatsoever. (Or some other arbitrary unachievable standard that you would never apply to any other area of your life - two particular favourites of mine are "science doesn't know everything" and "but conventional medicine can't cure cancer either.*")
  2. Establish that no evidence presented meets your perfect Platonic ideal form of EvidenceTM. (Surprise, surprise...)
  3. Having thus thrown out all the evidence, pick whatever fairy tale most appeals to you.

You see this technique employed all the time by anti-vaccination crackpots, libertarians, global warming deniers and similar such shills.

- Jake

*What makes it this fallacy rather than the tu quoque fallacy is that scientific medicine is actually quite good at curing many sorts of cancer. So the fallacy amounts to insisting that until science can cure all cancers, you should choose old wives' tales over effective medicine.

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

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 02:38:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
these displays amount to religious sermons

Which displays? Do you dispute that there have been legitimate arguments and counter-arguments in the debate (whether you/Migeru/Jenkins means the general debate or the one on The Guardian or the one here in this diary)?

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

by DoDo on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 03:50:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd say that Jenkins justifies his own preferences by concluding there is no honest 'mathematician' he can approach. So he can make do with the ones he likes personally.

I do think that what he does is even worse: he presents the ones he likes personally as different, as fundamentally closer to neutrality than those he denounces as fanatics. The sentences referencing Dieter Helm are immediately followed by and contrasted with a jibe at government choosing the most expensive options.

The complexity involved should only allow technocrats in the temples

If it came to this, which ET members would you count among the technocrats in the temples? As for other experts, would you count Helm among them? (He is an economist, not an engineer.)

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

by DoDo on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 03:57:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As for other experts, would you count Helm among them? (He is an economist, not an engineer.)

And as such certainly well-versed in delivering sermons in temples...

- Jake

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

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:00:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why? Because idiots with prejudices like Jenkins are given a loudspeaker?


The complexity involved should only allow technocrats in the temples - so the question becomes, do we have faith in technocrats to lead us through the desert?

The point of technocrats is that they try to rely on facts and can be checked by other technocrats and experts, which is how technocrats and experts are supposed to work (i.e. with respect, if not to "truth" at least to the scientific method which allows for verification and the weeding of false ideas and opinions).

And even in energy there are hard facts. It is in fact rather easy to distinguish between hard facts, assumptions about the future, and political preferences - for example, the capacity factor of a plan is a fact, the price of gas in 10-years time is a guesstimate and the discount rate used to value a kWh produced in 10 years' time is a political choice.


Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:09:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The point of technocrats is that they try to rely on facts and can be checked by other technocrats and experts, which is how technocrats and experts are supposed to work (i.e. with respect, if not to "truth" at least to the scientific method which allows for verification and the weeding of false ideas and opinions).
Do you believe technocrats do, in fact, work as they're supposed to work? The problem with technocrats is that they claim to be apolitical and objective when in reality they're likely to be just blind to their own prejudices, or worse, trained to be blind to the assumptions underlying the methods they use.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:55:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In my impression (based on several personal discussions and reading articles and forum discussions) energy sector technocrats in former communist countries (and I'm talking about the engineers here) are almost uniformly against renewables, citing decades-old studies prepared by Western Big Energy. And that applies to the younger generation, too: I think there is a groupthink permeated via universities. For the purposes of confirming your point, it doesn't even matter who is right, just that there are regional differences in the certainties of energy sector technocrats.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 05:11:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In sum, technocrats are not scientists. At most they're technologists. And engineers are not trained in the scientific method, but in what works. Heck, not even scientists are trained in the scientific method anymor, but in what's publishable.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 05:19:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In what sense are the various minions of Big Money who are steering the crisis technocrats?

That word is pure undistilled propaganda. The reality is they're Money Party apparatchiks and they'll do what apparatchiks always do - repeat the Party line word for word.

With the exception of Merkel, who - unforgivably - has a physics PhD, I suspect most of the rest can barely operate a TV remote.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 05:27:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In what sense are apparatchiks and functionaries not technocrats?

The French Grandes-Écoles system is one big technocrat/functionary/apparatchik factory. Trichet is a prime example of its output. Unlike Draghi he hasn't actually ever worked for the private sector so it's not obvious why he should be classed as a "money party apparatchik".

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 05:37:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because - in my definition at least - technocracy requires some basic level of scientific literacy and critical thinking.

Anything to do with economics or money falls at the first hurdle, because economics and money are primarily political - which is to say they're about power for its own sake, and not about the common good, or social improvement, or reality-based decision making, or any of those other fine things.

After a token start in engineering - with management and social science - Trichet's education was almost entirely political, so I'm not sure why you think he's a technocrat. (Being labelled as such in the press hardly counts, of course.)

A true technocrat would have spent a significant part of their career building stuff that works and/or doesn't fall down. Most of the so-called technocrats have never come close to this - with predictably hilarious consequences.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 07:15:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The main problem with the economics profession is not that it suffers from a shortage of engineers.

- Jake

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

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 07:32:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because - in my definition at least - technocracy requires some basic level of scientific literacy and critical thinking.

And, like I said in a parallel comment, it's obvious that this can be ascertained with the naked eye.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 08:26:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not obvious - it requires the scientific method, and political feedback mechanisms that appreciate same.

But apparently it's equally not obvious that practical politics is mostly about lying and making shit up for personal gain, that there really isn't much else going on, and that the only consequences that matter are the ones that lead to personal gain for a tiny minority of the population.

If something keeps happening, and the same people keep benefiting from it, why are we still discussing whether it's deliberate and not some freak entirely accidental byproduct of poor reasoning skills?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 08:40:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
today it is obviously perverted even in the places where it has irked in the past. That doesn't mean it is necessarily perverted.

I'd note that our power systems seem to be better managed and provide cheaper electricity (externalities are something else) when they are run by engineers rather than politicians/lawyers/MBAs.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 10:06:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Technocracy works, sometimes, which can be said of many other systems as well.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 11:11:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because there are practically only "idiots" with prejudices with loudspeakers or there are people with prejudices - Jenkins is an example of what he himself bemoans.

That may work just fine for technocrats, because it can be ignored as marginal noise, but for a society at large, I find it pretty depressing.

Secondly, hard facts are one things. It's what people do with them that concerns me.

by Nomad on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 05:06:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're not a million miles away from Plato's argument for rule by "philosopher kings". Do you believe that "rule by philosopher king" is "good government" or "better government" necessarily?

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 05:54:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And rule by idiot or mendacious pundit is an improvement? Because once you discredit the technocrats to the extent they've been discredited, that's what you get. cf. pretty much everything.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 05:59:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The technocrats did a fine job of discrediting themselves. See here.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 06:56:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm saying that the self-styled Philospher is indistinguishable to the naked eye from the mendacious pundit (a Sophist in Plato-speak). Plato did not explain how his Republic would avoid government capture by the sophists.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 07:04:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well Plato was a dangerous idiot himself, so I'm not sure why anyone should care what he thinks.

Honestly, most of his ideas were either dangerous, misleading, or just plain wrong - not just in a basic sense of not matching reality, but in the much more slippery sense of being seductively appealing and rhetorically influential, to the extent they sent the West off in some very self-destructive directions.

You could make a good case for the current crisis being a perfect example of self-styled philosopher kings believing they know what's best for everyone else, while talking and thinking utter nonsense.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 07:19:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Plato was a dangerous idiot himself, so I'm not sure why anyone should care what he thinks

I'm just saying that people with Engineering degrees extolling the virtues of Technocracy in itself rather than as it actually exists sounds definitely Platonic to me.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 08:28:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not extolling the virtues of technocracy, so much as pointing out that the word doesn't mean what you seem to think it means and that it's being used in a rhetorical way to undermine useful reality-based input from competent scientists and engineers.

If anything, engineers mostly don't get politics because they assume everyone else on the planet is either already an engineer or should learn to think like one.

The reality - which is that some people people are trained to think like liars and thieves, and that these people run the planet - isn't an inconvenient truth you'll find on most engineering courses.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 08:36:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If anything, engineers mostly don't get politics because they assume everyone else on the planet is either already an engineer or should learn to think like one.

Which is why Engineers are mostly unfit for governing human beings.

Why are we talking about Technocracy, again?

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 08:47:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The debate is a manifestation (an epiphenomenon, if I may) of quasi-religious disagreement.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 06:43:38 AM EST
there are no right choices, there are only choices that follow political preferences - such as the discount rate applicable to public infrastructure, and the discussion of how much of the electrical system deserves to be called "public infrastructure"

Then there is a simpler issue: energy is a very complex system and most people who talk about it seem to understand all small bits of it. There's a reason why one of my articles is called "the cost of wind, the price of wind, the value of wind" as these 3 concepts are quite different...

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 07:18:12 AM EST
Isn't the big unspoken frustration in Jenkins article - unspoken because he's probably unable to articulate it - that few people talk about the issue in "system" terms.

One problem is that it's against the religion of the right wing to talk about anything in terms of system - they don't believe systems exist, only markets.

Another is that Jenkins himself isn't good at thinking about systems.

Finally, systems reality has a "left-of-centre" bias - regulation and collective action and planning are all big tools in working with improving systems - but people like Jenkins just don't like that.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 07:44:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes you nailed it. They think ungoverned markets are system enough and believe at core that any system at all other than honest, raw self-interest, being our oldest survival trait, will always be' corruptable through disonesti human weakness and worse tyranny will then be inevitable.
Unfortunately history seems to favour their argument...

Yet their argument, because it's fear-based, is a permanent invitation to regression and will have to be elaborated until we See in sufficiently important numbers, world-side, and Will the changes necessary to permit our species to evolve, and survive the challenge we have stubbornly, myopically worsened by ignorant acceptance of the greedily destructive way of doing business we have been born into.
An Anti-system. If there ever was one.

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

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 08:02:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He lost me when I got to this bit :

European Tribune - "Energy policy is a dark underworld of fanatics"

The public sums allotted in grants and price enhancements to green energy - with 8 million people facing fuel poverty

Eat up your dinner, think of the starving millions. If we stopped subsidising green power, there would be no more fuel poverty.

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

by eurogreen on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 08:02:15 AM EST
Dearly beloved, let us pretend not to know anything verifiable about anything. And in the dark confusion of fanatical utterances, let us conclude with the Severn barrage that is running a media push at the moment, and with "trusty" fossil-fuel proponent Dieter Helms. And let us, in passing, shaft wind power at every opportunity.

Amen.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 09:23:35 AM EST
when he means "truthy"?

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 09:27:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Trusty | Define Trusty at Dictionary.com
a well-behaved and trustworthy convict to whom special privileges are granted.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 09:35:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see there have been plenty of previous mentions of Helm on ET...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 09:55:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...including Helen's quote of a previous Jenkins op-ed on the virtues of replacing coal with gas rather than wind.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 10:00:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, back in the day when I was naive enough to waste time reading Jenkin's nimbyist neo-Luddism

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 12:58:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As usual in political discussions, crucial assumptions are made from the outset without discussion, even though they will control the entire saga of energy for the next century.

  • Continuity of global social and economic stability.
  • Maintenance of first world standard of living.

Based on historical observation, it seems pretty obvious that both of these are extremely unlikely. Any significant military activity has a huge impact on local power supply and demand. And as China enters the marketplace the relative standards of living are certain to be adjusted.

For example, a serious government-sponsored effort could destroy the energy infrastructure of any national opponent with little effort. When we invest in energy infrastructure, we ignore that possibility.

For example, the entire issue of energy supply would be overturned overnight if first world demand were slashed by 90%. When we plan our energy infrastructure, we assume that this is not even open for discussion.

So a test to see if you actually have a neutral arbiter in the discussion is to see whether topics of this sort are on the agenda. Up to now, they have not been.

by asdf on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 11:43:48 AM EST
Introduced before, the Kaya identity incorporates the standard of living in GDP.

It also is used by the IPCC, which does consider, in veiled terms, the scenario you sketch.

1.3.1.2 Intensities - AR4 WGIII Chapter 1: Introduction

The challenge - an absolute reduction of global GHG emissions - is daunting. It presupposes a reduction of energy and carbon intensities at a faster rate than income and population growth taken together. Admittedly, there are many possible combinations of the four Kaya identity components, but with the scope and legitimacy of population control subject to ongoing debate, the remaining two technology-oriented factors, energy and carbon intensities, have to bear the main burden.

You're talking about a massive reduction of energy intensity, while the focus of most people is on driving down carbon intensity - also IPCC scientists.

by Nomad on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 01:41:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What I'm talking about is the foolishness of investing in energy system designs that don't confront basic technological weaknesses: Fukushima.

Or, what about the fact that we have--America, Europe, China, everywhere--built distribution grids that cannot withstand Solar events that are KNOWN to occur. And that when such an event occurs, huge populations will lose access to electricity for months or years. That means: no water, no transportation, no food, no communication, no heat, no nothing. Which means millions of people in perfectly civilized countries will die. This is a KNOWN possibility, although one can argue about the probabilities. And the result will swamp any concern about whether the energy usage will grow by x% or x.1% per year for the next century.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/03/120308-solar-flare-storm-sun-space-weather-science-a urora/

What if some rogue country decides to explode an atomic bomb in a major port? You could "solve" Italy's energy supply problems overnight by simply wiping out the national economy. Where is the protection against this?
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/10/ff_radioactivecargo/all/1

The problem is that we have political discussions at a high level, ignoring the technical risks that show up at the detail level, and then ignore the protestations of the technical experts who warn that the plans are not sound. The basic assumptions, e.g. "there will not be a tsunami higher than x" are not adequately evaluated or accounted for.

It's a matter of multiplying a small probability by a disastrous consequence, not liking the answer, and agreeing to ignore that factor...without further discussion.

by asdf on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 02:39:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then I misread your first comment. Having read it again, and this comment, I agree with the gist of what you write. Yet humanity has a streak of course-correcting only after a disastrous fact, hardly ever before. History is riddled with it.

I'd say it's inherent to the system - with a known possibility with a low probability that has not occurred, we take our chances. All the rest is fodder for CGI doom-scenario's on National Geographic which we can switch off at our own leisure.

BTW, the effects of a solar storm as strong as in 1859 would be enhanced also because the earth's magnetic field has been weakening for at least 150 years, with a loss of strength estimated up to 15%.

by Nomad on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 03:17:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
we have--America, Europe, China, everywhere--built distribution grids that cannot withstand Solar events that are KNOWN to occur

Let's qualify that. Shorter lines mean lower induced voltages. If there is a warning, transformers can be disconnected, meaning a planned blackout without equipment damage. For warning, NOAA, NASA and ESA established space weather forecasts. Of these, NASA's Solar Shield offers transformer-level prediction, and this year they began to expand it to Europe. Of course, this is still in development and still comes far short of a full solution that would involve the mandatory installation of anti-GIC systems.

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

by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 03:25:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is kind of a point here- Energy politics are often toxic, with the proponents of various kinds of energy buzily fighting each other. Over all, for example, green organizations have most likely done more to stop the production of nuclear kwh's being produced than they have for getting "green" kwh's produced. (So far, at least) - which means that the winner of that debate has been coal.

This is not unavoidable! In theory, at least, a heck of a lot of groups should be able to sign up to an energy policy that was simply a list of dates for when the coal plants get turned off, and leave it to utilities to replace them with anything clean, but in practice, this never gets suggested, despite being a far less corruptible policy than the current system of subsidies.

Not sure why?  Do energy advocates lack the courage of their convictions, and not truely belive in their heart of hearts that coal can be replaced? 'ts a theorem that fits facts uncomfortably well.
Or more cynically, do people just fear picking so explicit a fight with king coal?

by Thomas on Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 05:52:15 PM EST
Methinks "fight king coal" is quite compatible with the development of the aims of British energy policy, with its focus on nuclear, shale gas and off-shore wind; and its Thatcher-era history of gas vs. coal. The fact that the British nuclear programme is stillborn and on-shore wind is blocked is another matter.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:01:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to mention that...


Over all, for example, green organizations have most likely done more to stop the production of nuclear kwh's being produced than they have for getting "green" kwh's produced. (So far, at least) - which means that the winner of that debate has been coal.

... is simply wrong, even if the definition of "green organizations" is quantified, or even "green kwh's." For (only) one thing, green organizations are virtually powerless against Big Coal, particularly in amurka (and China... and even Germany.)

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

by Crazy Horse on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:10:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mostly thinking of nuke plants that were never built, completed or activated largely due to very well organized opposition from greenpeace and allies, rather than politically motivated shutdowns, which is a much shorter one.
by Thomas on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 06:36:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]

 green organizations have most likely done more to stop the production of nuclear kwh's being produced than they have for getting "green" kwh's produced. (So far, at least)

The push for wind, solar and offshore wind in Germany happened before the nukes were canned. And the wind, solar and offshore wind capacity will be built before the nuclear plants are shut down...

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:05:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is kind of a point here- Energy politics are often toxic

There, much better.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:06:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are no "mathematicians" with the correct formulas and spreadsheets to analyze vast and complex energy systems. How can that be? There have been many studies and cost analyses which even try to take into account the whole system complexities. So why can't we point to a spreadsheet which gives us the answer?

Externalities. Repeat. Externalities.

Without agreement and follow on quantification of externalities, no one will have a number which reflects this civilization's quest to power itself. Simple sentence, but very hard to understand idea.

Externalities range from national security issues to climate wars, the presence of mercury in the food chain and your own organs, the beginning of research showing hydraulic fracturing for both oil and gas to be worse than coal for the climate, the list is long if not endless.

How exactly should health care costs be included, or nuclear disaster insurance?

Should propaganda costs be included in energy assessment studies? (This idiot mentions "Mongolian metals," an obvious reference to wind generators using various rare earth magnets. Which ignores the fact that 3 years ago the very first commercial PM gen-sets were introduced to the industry, and then only from Chinese companies anyway. Only during the past two years have the first European commercial PM gen-sets begun to hit the market. They remain a small subset of wind turbine production, and mini-subset of global use for other technologies, like the idiot's mobile phone and car.)

The benefits of stopping the use of poison to power a civilization which can't yet evaluate the meaning of poison is the reason the push toward renewables began in the first place. We mostly fight against blindness, or ignorance, not against Long Term Cost of Energy analysis.

The same system which has governments going to the private sector to finance the running of nations, which prevents the Euro from healing itself, is the system which decides on how to fuel the world.

(Physician, Heal Thyself)

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

by Crazy Horse on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 03:49:43 AM EST
Case in point:

The most toxic aspect of windpower is not rare earth magnets. It is the production of tens of thousands of rotor blades each year, none of which can currently be recycled. The production process itself is both toxic and dangerous to the workers. We've gone forward on the assumption that the end result is better than other energy alternatives.

Because the wind industry has reached a certain global critical mass, the industry tries to work around potential negatives.

Bayer has just announced it is amalgamating all of its global research on blade chemicals into one central effort, HQ'd in Denmark. They have a series of different epoxies and resins, even new potential production technologies, which vastly decrease the toxicity of rotor blade production. At the end of the day, blades will not only be safer to produce and easier to recycle, but will also be more uniform in weight and strength (leading to less cyclical loading of the power train), and lighter (leading to less steel in the turbine.)

I'm not advocating that developments in wind technology such as this solve the topsoil or water problems facing civilization, but...

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

by Crazy Horse on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:01:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, this from Jenkins
I trust to science and am ready to believe there is some great mathematician, some Fermat's last theorem, who can write an equation showing where energy policy should turn.
is bullshit. Who's asking him to believe that? Can't be the mathematicians, must be the economists. I bet he doesn't even know what Fermat's last theorem is, or why it is in no way analogous to the problem at hand. No wonder
I have never met him.
It's not like Jenkins would be able to tell a great mathematician if he saw one, except it they were preceded by their reputation.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:04:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me launch a discussion on another topic related to the article. Jenkins suggests that the forces behind British government promotion of wind power are similar to the forces behind the promotion of nuclear (lobbies and fanatics). But what is it, really?

At first sight, off-shore wind looks like a potential fosterer of a strong lobby: developers are energy majors and construction is a major business. However, unless things changed since I last looked, both developers and manufacturers are predominantly foreign. So I don't think that the off-shore wind lobby is that strong. So in my reading, the Cameron government's support for wind is more akin to Merkel's nuclear exit: motivated by Cameron's greenwashing strategy to make the Tories look more modern (the full support of the coalition partner is secondary here). Or is there more to this?

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

by DoDo on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:32:38 AM EST
The UK has a large hydrocarbon offshore operation which is exploiting declining fields. Even the dumbest politician should be able to see that (a) British hydrocarbons will not last forever, and (b) having a large offshore construction sector, which will gradually lose its current raison d'etre over the next few decades, gives Britain a comparative advantage in offshore wind.

Then again, perhaps I overestimate the intelligence of the dumbest British politicians. After all, Tory Bliar seemed to grasp neither point.

- Jake

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

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:53:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia: War of Currents
Edison carried out a campaign to discourage the use of alternating current, including spreading disinformation on fatal AC accidents, publicly killing animals, and lobbying against the use of AC in state legislatures. Edison directed his technicians, primarily Arthur Kennelly and Harold P. Brown, to preside over several AC-driven killings of animals, primarily stray cats and dogs but also unwanted cattle and horses.  Acting on these directives, they were to demonstrate to the press that alternating current was more dangerous than Edison's system of direct current. He also tried to popularize the term for being electrocuted as being "Westinghoused". Years after DC had lost the "war of the currents," in 1903, his film crew made a movie of the electrocution with high voltage AC, supervised by Edison employees, of Topsy, a Coney Island circus elephant which had recently killed three men.
Which goes to show that rule by engineers is the best of all possible political systems.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 11:15:14 AM EST
However, Edison was a businessman, not an engineer.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 12:55:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He was an "inventor", and if he was "just" a businessman he managed to pass himself into the collective memory as an engineer.

Though some people accuse him of buying other people's patents and so on. Like Microsoft.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 01:12:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if he was "just" a businessman he managed to pass himself into the collective memory as an engineer.

See, a successful businessman. Most inventors become one out of obsession or love with some idea, Edison became an inventor because he met an inventor in his quest to become a businessman and realised there is money to be made. Then he laboured hard to find a working idea, and used his first (and possibly only) invention to establish the prototype of a modern private sector research lab, with patent rights for the research of his employees belonging to him. Stealing/buying the inventions/patents of others came on top of that.

Like Microsoft.

Precisely. He was the Bill Gates of his age.

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

by DoDo on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 01:21:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What was Bill Gates' "first (and possibly only) invention"?
by gk (gk) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 04:08:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think he can be legitimately called the (co-)founder of BASIC.

And he did write some compilers at one point. I think.

- Jake

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

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 06:23:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He co-wrote an efficient(ish) BASIC interpreter. Which he tried to sell, going against the give-it-away hacker culture of the day.

But BASIC had been around for a while when that happened, and if he invented anything, it was a marketing model that turned M$ into a monopoly of sorts.

There are numerous stories about his indifference to code and product quality. So, arguably, the other thing he invented was a 'modern' software business that was more interested in screwing over its customers than in selling products that worked well and helped people.

Equally arguably, he invented a de facto software and hardware standard for mass-market PC technology, which helped make many things possible when it collided with the Internet.

But there's no evidence of foresight there. He appeared to want to dominate the market because he could, not for any more noble or thoughtful reason.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 24th, 2012 at 06:41:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He co-wrote an efficient(ish) BASIC interpreter. Which he tried to sell, going against the give-it-away hacker culture of the day.

But BASIC had been around for a while when that happened, and if he invented anything, it was a marketing model that turned M$ into a monopoly of sorts.

For comparison here is Edison's 'first' invention:

Quadruplex telegraph - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The technology was invented by American inventor Thomas Edison, who sold the rights to Western Union in 1874 for the sum of $10,000.

The problem of sending two signals simultaneously in opposite directions on the same wire had been solved previously by Julius Wilhelm Gintl and improved to commercial viability by J. B. Stearns; Edison added the ability to double the number in each direction.

It was a good idea, but still only an evolutionary step, and the most noteworthy point was how he sold it and what he made with the proceeds.

He later 'stole' the ideas of others by having his lab develop minor improvements upon already patented technologies and acquiring patents on that, then he marketed it more efficiently than the original inventor.

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

by DoDo on Fri May 25th, 2012 at 03:05:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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