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.
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
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
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?
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?
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
Thu Apr 2nd, 2015 at 07:23:29 AM EST
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Thu Mar 12th, 2015 at 06:41:16 PM EST
I will probably be a random poster
This is really to say thanks for all the posts people have made
DoDo, railways were always worth travelling, your diaries sold some to my wife.
Thu Mar 12th, 2015 at 02:56:50 AM EST
It's an all too common story across the world: a government tries to boost its green credentials with a support scheme for renewables, but when it proves an unexpected success and established power companies see a serious market share threat, the nascent industry is choked to death one way or another. Stark examples include the ceiling for total wind power introduced in Austria and Hungary about a decade ago, or the end of the support scheme in Bulgaria just recently. Under the cover of austerity, the transition to renewables can be killed even when they already reached a high penetration, as demonstrated by the example of Spain's retroactive elimination of subsidies.
So is it possible to create a momentum for renewables that carries on even when facing opponents with the worst intentions?
One can argue that Denmark comes close: while Anders Fogh Rasmussen's government did manage to bring new wind power installations to a near-stop over a decade ago, that was only temporary as they found the two big utilities became supporters and off-shore wind took off. Now, looking at the latest numbers from Germany, I see something similar at work.
by paul spencer
Wed Mar 11th, 2015 at 02:02:19 PM EST
For those who don't know, I have 3 partners in an LLC, and we have been working on the following project for the last 3 years. Looks like we are getting close.
Here is our latest update report. It re-introduces some of the history of the project as a device to remind folks on our e-mail list about certain development details, since I only send out an update about every 6 months or so.
Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 09:11:27 PM EST
Here's the text of a presentation I did March 4, 2015 at Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's Building Energy conference in Boston, MA. This was the first time the conference addressed urban agriculture.
Everybody eats and it's primarily solar powered. We are all solar powered through the food that we eat. Officially, we produce between 95 and 100 quadrillion btu's of energy per year in the US, an amount that's remained steady for the last 15 years or so while the GDP has continued to increase. However, we don't count any of the sunlight that powers photosynthesis on the crops we consume. All that sunlight is "free" and not included. A back of the envelope estimate is that there's at least 300 quadrillion btu's of sunlight required for the photosynthesis that grows our food. Our world is solar powered, has always been solar powered, will always be solar powered until the sun dies out.
Everybody eats and, by last count, 35% of all households in America, or 42 million households, are growing food at home or in a community garden, up 17% in the last five years. Gardening for food tends to go up in times of economic distress. Add those households which grow flowers or have a houseplant and I'd estimate about half of us garden.
Everybody eats, half of us garden, and everybody poops. In a fully functioning ecosystem "waste equals food." Cities, neighborhoods, and buildings are all beginning to be seen and designed as metabolisms, taking in raw materials, processing them, and producing wastes which can then be used as a feedstock for other processes. We are becoming biomimetic and learning from such fellow creatures as termites how to control heat and cold and humidity. Termites also "garden" and keep livestock, one of the ways that the temperature and humidity remains constant within their mounds. We are also learning how we can design ecological systems to process our own wastes safely into fertilizer and food.
Sat Mar 7th, 2015 at 04:27:04 PM EST
Back in December I told that I embarked on a quest to watch some movies I missed over the last few years. At some point this changed into a quest to view recent classics of Japanese cinema.
I present short critiques grouped into four comments. Which ones have you seen (especially of the Japanese ones)? What were your impressions? What relatively recent movies would you recommend? (I mean especially the not most recent which I can no longer capture in the cinema.)
Sat Feb 28th, 2015 at 04:23:41 AM EST
Considering the interest in alternative currencies, I did not want to leave the discoveries of this community sitting inside a long comment thread. In particular since a write-up I did in Swedish got some attention.
front-paged by afew