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Costa Rica: 100% Renewable Electricity for 100 Days, Carbon Neutral by 2021

by gmoke Tue May 19th, 2015 at 06:03:10 PM EST

Costa Rica has provided all of its electricity from renewables, usually a mix of 68 percent hydro, 15 percent geothermal, and 17% mostly diesel and gas, for the first 100 days of 2015.  The Tico Times reports (http://www.ticotimes.net/2015/04/22/costa-ricas-renewable-energy-streak-is-still-going-but-what-does -that-really-mean)

"The clean energy streak is likely to continue. Last Friday [April 17, 2015] ICE (Costa Rica Electricity Institute)  released a report estimating that 97 percent of the country's electricity will be produced from renewables this year. This is good news for Costa Rican residents, who will see their electricity prices drop up to 15 percent starting this month."

In 2016, Costa Rica is a launching a satellite to monitor CO2 across the world tropical belt

"...the first Central American satellite, built in Costa Rica, will be launched into space in 2016.  The satellite will collect and relay daily data on carbon dioxide to evaluate the effects of climate change."

Costa Rica announced in 2009 that it plans to be a carbon neutral country by 2021 and they are following through on that planning.

Read more... (602 words in story)

The left alternative to the FN

by redstar Thu May 14th, 2015 at 02:31:41 AM EST

There is, of course, a left alternative to Marine Le Pen and, as often happens in the margins of discussions on this topic, I throw out the name M'PEP, may mention the economists Jacques Sapir or Jacques Nikonoff and spot a link to m-pep.org, regretting the fact that M-PEP is not a political party, but rather more like a think tank. But unlike most think tanks in France, this one is an organic one, obviously not funded by wealthy benefactors or vested european interests, issuing position papers, research, historical surveys and the like. It is often standard left (used here in the proper sense, not the bastardised Labour/PS/PSOE/PASOK/SPD/SD/PvdA/DP form) boilerplate, with the notable, at least here in France, exception that M-PEP is implacably anti-EU on most subjects, notably but not limited to fiscal and monetary matters. Many members are former Chevènementists. M-PEP has been very close to the Front de Gauche all the while maintaining a healthy distance so as to maintain its independence.

M'PEP picks its battles and generally maintains a low profile. It has not wanted to directly get into the electoral process, but has directed electoral initiatives with some success, for instance the resounding rejection in late 2013 by Alsaciens of the Projet du Conseil Unique d'Alsace, essentially a "Europe of Regions" initiative which had been set to popular vote. This initiative had been polling favourably, and that it was rejected (close to 60/40 if my memory serves) was surprising and heartening.

M'PEP, in its recent congress, announced it is to form its own political party. This is a party I wholeheartedly support.

A recent communiqué de presse sets out some of the issues at stake, M'PEP's intended positioning, and what you as interested and informed citizen can do. You can even "like" it on facebook. I provide a translation of this communiqué de presse over the flip.

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What can be done? (Or, whither Maastricht.)

by redstar Tue May 12th, 2015 at 08:02:47 AM EST

A recent satire, published last week in response to M Jean-Claude Juncker's somewhat amusing comments on just who might be behind future efforts to destroy the Eurozone in the event of an untimely Greek exit from the Euro, provoked a fair bit of local discussion.

One in particular brings to the fore a salient and central point to much Eurotrib commentary over the past five and more years:

Being in the Eurozone sucks quite a bit, and looking at countries outside of the Eurozone, being outside the Eurozone quite often sucks a bit less.

So in my mind, the problems created by Eurozone membership are quite plausibly solved by Eurozone exit, the problems created by EU membership not as much. Leaving the Eurozone is getting out of the fire and into the frying pan. Leaving the EU is more likely to be out of the frying pan, into a different fire.

A discussion, below the flip.

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Comrade Juncker's Unseen Foes

by redstar Wed May 6th, 2015 at 07:28:12 AM EST

Our Dear Leader Jean-Claude Juncker made a funny earlier this week, musing about the possibility of grexit and warning his esteemed fellow EU Politburo members of an Anglo-Saxon plot to profit from its aftermath.

As usual, your trusty eurosceptic correspondant Redstar was amused. An apparently not so primus inter pares Juncker seems to be running out of ways to convince Eurozone Finance Ministers of the potentially dire possibilities for the Euro in the event of an inopportune Greek exit; a scary enemy must be found. As the Americans say, time for a Hitler of the Month to scare up...errr...rally the troops, and Comrade Juncker has found just the thing: those evil Anglo-Saxons.  

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The Great Eskate

by In Wales Sun May 3rd, 2015 at 06:22:04 AM EST

Two friends of mine are doing a sponsored rollerskate across the Netherlands starting on May 21st and are looking out for supporters along the way and potentially people with a spare bed/sofa to sleep on too.  

Theirs is a great story of adventure and human spirit.

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Footing the bill in Libya

by Luis de Sousa Fri May 1st, 2015 at 02:12:33 AM EST

Muammar Gaddafi visited Europe for the last time in August of 2010, received in Rome with all the honours of a chief-of-state. At the time he requested five thousand million euros from the European Union to help the fight against illegal immigration. His words were peremptory: "Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European, and even black, as there are millions who want to come in".

One year later Gaddafi would be summarily executed at the hands of an Islamic militia.

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Recycled Solar: Double-Glazed Solar Hot Cap Cloche

by gmoke Wed Apr 29th, 2015 at 01:40:57 PM EST

I was cleaning out my storeroom the other day and came across another recycled solar device that I was fooling with a few years ago.  A one liter clear plastic bottle makes a good hot cap or cloche when you cut the bottom off it.  Plant a seedling, pop the bottomless clear cap over it, and you protect  the seedling from the cold.  It probably adds between 5 and 10 degrees F over the outside temperature by protecting the seedling from the wind and by capturing sunlight in a small, closed space.  My twist on this idea was to find different sizes of clear plastic bottles which could nest one inside the other making a double-glazed hot cap cloche.  A double-glazed hot cap cloche might be able to protect the seedlings even better, keeping that small, closed space even warmer than the outside air.

This afternoon, I planted two tomato seedlings in my garden using this device.  We'll see whether it works.

Comments >> (2 comments)

On SYRIZA, negotiations and compromise

by talos Wed Apr 29th, 2015 at 09:22:49 AM EST

There is a coordinated PR attack against the Greek government, unfortunately also deceiving people from the left, regarding the Greek government's intentions and actions so far. It is far from certain what the results of the negotiations will be, but preemptively announcing SYRIZA's retreat seems to me to be a performative assessment, meant to both flatter the prejudices on which most of the austerian EU governments have built their TINA alternative, and to dissipate international support away from a government that has up to now, in a small but significant way, made the first steps against the dominant narrative, anywhere in the West, over the past 20 years.

So let me put to rest some of the more obnoxious misinformation that is being peddled by "EU / ECB circles" and international media, subservient to the cause of pressuring the new Greek government to submission, by pointing out a few facts...

promoted by afew

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Heartland Institute is Picketing the Pope Next Week

by ManfromMiddletown Fri Apr 24th, 2015 at 02:28:23 PM EST

Crossposted from Daily Kos.

Heartland Institute Heads to Rome to Advise Pope Francis on Climate Policy http://t.co/q8SgHmxkah pic.twitter.com/gSyxxLYDOf

-- Heartland Institute (@HeartlandInst) April 24, 2015

The Heartland Institute (@HeartlandInst) is preparing to picket Pope Francis. Yes, you read that right. They are actually going to Rome in order to picket the Pope.

These are the same people who put up a billboard comparing climate change scientists to the Unabomber, so I'm sure that this picket will be super tasteful.

Actual Heartland Billboard

Comments >> (5 comments)

A Tale Of Two OCAs?

by afew Mon Apr 20th, 2015 at 02:20:13 AM EST

Frances Coppola reposts these charts in an article on Pieria:

It was tweeted by RBS, who captioned it: One of these is an Optimum Currency Area. And the other isn't.

Not so simple, says Coppola.

Optimising the Eurozone

Robert Mundell, the inventor of the Optimum Currency Area (OCA) concept, defined the essential requirement for an OCA as free factor mobility. Since his rather vague definition, though, the concept has been developed further. Economists now generally agree that four criteria must be met for a group of regions or countries to qualify as an OCA:

  • regions/countries should be exposed to similar sources of economic disturbance (common shocks); 
  • the relative importance of these shocks across regions/countries should be similar (symmetric shocks); 
  • regions/countries should have similar responses to common shocks (common responses)
  • if regions/countries are subject to local economic disturbances (idiosyncratic shocks), they must be able to adjust to them quickly.

In practice, this means that regions/countries need a high degree of economic, political and cultural similarity to qualify as an OCA. 

It is now generally understood that the Eurozone does not qualify as an OCA.

But what about the USA?

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Oil Market: Follow the Money

by ChrisCook Mon Apr 20th, 2015 at 06:52:34 PM EST

On 13th January the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and North Sea (Brent/BFOE) benchmark prices both reached lows and the WTI-Brent spread (differential) closed completely and was temporarily reversed. Since then Brent staged a much stronger recovery than WTI, the former rising $14.7 (32.6%) to 23rd Feb,the latter just $3.64 (7.9%).

So the Spread between the two crude oil qualities - historically within a dollar or so - only briefly regained reality.  

I predicted in early 2012 that the crude oil price would collapse to $45 to $55 per barrel after Quantitative Easing (QE) ended....which it did, but took a lot longer than I thought it would. Moreover, I have long said that the departure of crude oil prices from their historic relationship with natural gas, and the massive blow-outs in the Brent/WTI spread to as high as $27/barrel in 2012 were prima facie evidence of 'macro' oil market manipulation on an almost unimaginable scale.

It is self evident that this $11 increase in the Brent/WTI spread in six weeks had precisely nothing to do with a physical oil market where supply and demand changes relatively slowly and where if anything oversupply has increased to the extent that the US - which is flooded with oil - is increasingly likely to lift its decades long embargo on oil exports.

So what on earth is going on?  

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On the RhB 3: the Davos Line

by DoDo Sat Apr 11th, 2015 at 08:05:52 AM EST

In this third instalment of my series on the state railway of the Swiss canton of Graubünden, the metre-gauge Rhaetian Railway (RhB), I follow the line to winter sports centre Davos. This is both the oldest part of the network at 125 years and one of the most heavily modernised (due to rising traffic in recent years). It is also the first in my series to leave the valleys and climb up into the mountains.

ABe 8/12 No. 3507 "Benedetg Fontana", a powerful steep-mountain version of Stadler's "Allegra" electric multiple unit family, just left the Cavadürli horseshoe tunnel on its way to Klosters Platz, high above the valley of the Landquart river
You can actually see three levels of the line: I stood on the highest, which threw the shadows at bottom left, and the lowest runs next to the road visible deep below in the valley

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The P(a)S(ok) recriminations begin

by redstar Thu Apr 2nd, 2015 at 07:23:29 AM EST

Here in France this past Sunday, the Hollande/Valls (PS) government convincingly lost its fourth consecutive electoral test in a little more than a year. This time it was Departmental elections which saw the ruling PS lose roughly half the 61 departments it had previously governed (there are 101 departments in France, most of which went to the polls).

This latest decisive defeat for the ruling party comes on the heels of three major defeats just last year. Starting with European elections (where the PS/EELV ruling coalition lost 10 of their 29 seats in Strasbourg), followed shortly thereafter by Municipal Elections (which saw the PS lose, on top of dozens of smaller cities, the mayoralties of Toulouse, St. Etienne, Limoges, Caen, Reims and Tours, while gaining none) and finally last fall's Senate elections which saw the PS lose control of France's upper house, in a 45 seat (out of 174 standing Senators) swing which saw the UMP regain control of the chamber after 3 years in opposition.

If one lost election is a setback and two a rebuke, four consecutive elections represent a complete disavowal of the current government by the French electorate, left, right and centre. After a brief respite of national sympathy in the aftermath of January's terror attacks, the present government enjoys near record unpopularity (records itself established last year). And regional elections set for later this year promise a fifth resounding and humiliating loss.

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Energiewende: Germany's Energy Transition

by gmoke Wed Apr 1st, 2015 at 11:17:52 PM EST

Tuesday, March 31 I saw Andreas Kraemer, International Institute for Advanced Sustainability in Pottsdam, founder of the Ecological Institute of Berlin, and currently associated with Duke University, speak at both Harvard and MIT.  His subject was the German Energiewende, energy turnaround, energy tack (as in sailing), or energy transition, and also the title of a book published in 1980 (Energiewende by Von F. Krause, H. Bossel and K. F. Müller-Reissmann) 1980 which described how to power Germany without fossil fuels or nuclear, partially a response to the oil shocks of the 1970s, and probably the beginning of the nuclear phase-out.  Chernobyl in 1986 gave another shove in that direction and continues to do so as Chernobyl is still happening in Germany with radioactive contamination of soils, plants, animals, and Baltic Sea fish.

In 1990 the feedin tariff began but it was not started for solar.  It was originally intended to give displaced hydroelectric capacity in conservative Bavaria a market and a bill was passed in Parliament very quickly, supported by the Conservatives (Blacks) in consensus with the Greens and Reds as they all agreed on incentizing renewable, local energy production through a feedin tariff on utility bills.  Cross party consensus on this issue remains today.  This is not a subsidy but an incentive with the costs paid by the customers. The feedin tariff has a period of 20 years and some have been retired.

Solar began with the 1000 roofs project in 1991-1994.   There are 1.7 million solar roofs now although, currently, Spain and Portugal have faster solar growth rates than Germany. Renewables provide 27% of electricity, have created  80,000-100,000 new jobs directly in the industry, up to 300,000 if indirect jobs are added, and is contributing 40 billion euros per year to the German economy.  By producing energy domestically Germany has built a local industry, increased tax revenue and Social Security payments, and maintained a better balance of trade through import substitution.  During the recession that began in 2008, Germany had more economic stability and was even able to expand the renewable sector because steel for wind turbine towers was available at lower prices and financing was forthcoming.

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Getting to Net Zero: Cambridge, MA

by gmoke Thu Mar 26th, 2015 at 04:18:28 PM EST

For the past year, the Cambridge, MA city government has had a Getting to Net Zero Task Force studying the implications of a net zero energy building requirement.  They  finished the draft report on March 16, 2015 and will have an open forum to introduce the study to the public on Wednesday, April 8.

The Task Force defined net zero as "an annual balance of zero greenhouse gas emissions from building operations citywide, achieved through improved energy efficiency and carbon-free energy production," applying it to the net zero target at the community level (citywide).

Net zero new construction (at the building level as opposed to citywide) is defined as "developments that achieve net zero emissions from their operations, through energy efficient design, onsite renewable energy, renewable energy infrastructure such as district energy, and, if appropriate, the limited purchase of RECs [Renewable Energy Credits] and GHG [Greenhouse Gas] offsets."

The objectives for the proposed actions from 2015 to 2035 and beyond include
(a)  ...target of Net Zero Emissions for new construction: New buildings should achieve net zero beginning in 2020, starting with municipal buildings and phasing in the requirement for other building types between 2022-2030.
(b)  targeted improvements to existing buildings: The Building Energy Use and Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) will provide the information necessary to target energy retrofit activity, including, over the long term, the regulation of energy efficiency retrofits at time of renovation and/or sale of property.
(c)  proliferation of renewable energy: Increase renewable energy generation, beginning with requiring solar-ready new construction and support for community solar projects, evolving to a minimum requirement for onsite renewable energy generation.
(d)  coordinated communications and engagement: Support from residents and key stakeholders is imperative to the success of the initiative.

You can read the full report at http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Climate/~/media/6087FF675ADE4D51A6677E689D996465.ashx
and access other information about the Task Force at http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Climate/netzerotaskforce.aspx

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Sisyphean syphilis

by marco Thu Mar 26th, 2015 at 07:50:39 AM EST

If economic crisis were a venereal disease, would we continue to engage in risky economic behavior?

Does short-term gratification always trump long-term health?

Are we just children in the marshmallow experiment?

Are our economic systems doomed by the insufficiently stoic character of the majority of human beings?

Eight years and eighteen days ago, das monde wrote a diary titled Is Civilisation A Pyramid Scheme? in which he remarked:

As I write, financial markets are having a bad day across the world, after a rocky week. Can we make more sense of this than a combination of factors?

The hypothesis is that the modern economy is dominated by ever increasing and ever expanding speculation in stock and real estate markets. These markets will grow just as long as the volume increases. The markets are vastly overvalued due to a pyramid-style growth of the number of players. The markets will fail when there won't be any bottom to add to participants' pyramid.

promoted by afew

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No students for politics and no jobs for commies

by DoDo Thu Mar 19th, 2015 at 02:31:59 AM EST

On the national holiday today [15 March], it was another day of grim protests in Budapest. For the first time in five years, hecklers attended the speech of right-populist prime minister Viktor Orbán, and there were some fights between pro- and anti-Orbán protesters. However, what I want to tell more about is a new low in authoritarian behaviour preceding the protests, and the fate of an acquaintance I ran into at the main opposition protest.

Read more... (19 comments, 587 words in story)

Greek MP Lapavitsas on Grexit

by Upstate NY Sun Mar 15th, 2015 at 03:03:23 AM EST

Greece: Phase Two | Costas Lapavitsas | Jacobin

Schäuble is on record, or at least Greek ministers are on record, stating that Schäuble offered an aided exit to the Greeks already back in 2011. I can see, from the perspective of the German power structure, why they might be tempted by this idea, and I can see it as an objective worth fighting for by a Greek left government, for obvious reasons.

Whether there are divisions within the German establishment on it, I don't really know, because I don't understand the details of the German political debate. But the argument can be so compelling at the general level that I can be reasonably optimistic.

If the Greek side fought for it, and indicated that they wished to accept it, I think that a compromise could be reached that would be in the interests of Greek working people as well, not just the Greek elite, because you would avoid the difficulties of the contested exit.

That is definitely worth fighting for. And I would argue that this is what the Syriza government should be gearing itself for in the coming period. But, I repeat, if that proves impossible, even contested exit is better than a continuation of the current program.

While I accept his implied criticism of Varoufakis and Tsipras is likely right on target (bad strategy, personality clash with EU), this critique and reading of Syriza's strategy is based on the very idea that the EU is at all amenable to a soft Grexit.

promoted by afew

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Brexit: The implications for Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Sat Mar 14th, 2015 at 03:39:43 PM EST

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU should the Tories win an overall majority at the next election due in May.  Never mind that his pledge was mainly to fend off the challenge of UKIP, and that he hopes to have negotiations with the EU in the meantime which might address some of the criticisms many Britons have of the EU. Opinion polls in the UK have been sharply divided on Brexit (with a trend favouring remaining in more recent polls), and any renegotiation of the UK's terms of membership is likely to influence the outcome of the vote.

The fact is however - whether Murdock media inspired or not - that many Britons lack a sense of fellow feeling with their compatriots in EU. They view their security as being guaranteed in large part by the USA and look to the EU as little more than a free trade area with a lot of unwanted immigration and meddling bureaucrats which need to be cut down as much as possible. There appears to be a disconnect between the business elite - generally very much in favour of British membership - and the working and lower middle classes who are much more concerned with the impact of immigration on their job prospects and the social and cultural life of the UK - an impact they blame on the EU, even though net immigration very much predates membership of the EU.

The irony is that there are now more than a million Britons living in France and Spain whose residency status and health care could be severely impacted by Brexit. But many of these don't have a vote, or won't go to the trouble of voting. Some indeed, would vote for UKIP in any case.  The little Englander mentality runs deep even in some of those who have made their homes elsewhere.  Basically many in the UK want the benefits of being part of a large market without bearing any of the costs of social solidarity which the EU ideal mandates.

It is doubtful whether the implications for expatriates or neighbouring states like Ireland will have a huge bearing on any UK referendum debate. The implications for N. Ireland could be very serious indeed.  So much so that the Irish Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) is setting up a specialist unit to consider and prepare for such a development - having stayed studiously neutral and silent on the Scottish independence debate. Follow me below the fold for an initial assessment of what the implications for N. Ireland and Ireland might be.

Read more... (24 comments, 1780 words in story)

Two ruins

by DoDo Sat Mar 14th, 2015 at 08:20:22 AM EST

In the last few weeks, I made excursions to two castles that have been in ruins since Ottoman times, both of them destroyed in somewhat inglorious fashion. So here is a light diary that is a bit of travelogue, a bit of history, and a bit of train blogging.

The partly rebuilt northern bastion and the remains of the exploded main tower of the castle of Nógrád, with the Börzsöny mountains in the background

Read more... (7 comments, 939 words in story)
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News and Views

 22 May 2015

by In Wales - May 21, 41 comments

Your take on today's news media

 21 May 2015

by afew - May 21, 35 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Open Thread 18-24 May

by afew - May 18, 23 comments

168 hours

 Open Thread 11-17 May

by afew - May 11, 103 comments

Seven Days

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