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The Arab Spring (including a transition to constitutional monarchy in Morocco) greatly increase the chances of it happening.

Why would you think that? Have we ever hesitated to make business with dictators?

by generic on Thu Jun 23rd, 2011 at 09:46:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is not a simple extractive relationship. It's a matter of building sophisticated infrastructure in countries which are close neighbours, and with which there is considerable interpenetration in culture and population.

Desertec - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Obstacles

Centralized solar energy plants and transmission lines may become a target of terrorist attacks.[5] Some experts--such as Professor Tony Day, director of the Centre for Efficient and Renewable Energy in Building at London South Bank University,[22] Henry Wilkinson of Janusian Security Risk Management,[20] and Wolfram Lacher of Control Risks consultancy[20] -- are concerned about political obstacles to the project. Generating so much of the electricity consumed in Europe and in Africa would create a political dependency on North African countries which have corruption and a lack of cross-border coordination. Moreover, DESERTEC would require extensive economic and political cooperation between Algeria and Morocco, which is at risk as the border between the two countries is closed due to a disagreement over the Western Sahara. Cooperation between the states of Europe and the states of the Middle East and North Africa is also certain to be challenging. Large scale cooperation necessary between the EU and the north African nations the project may be delayed due to bureaucratic red tape and other factors such as expropriation of assets.[20]

i.e. it's got to be a win-win proposition, in countries without crippling corruption and insurgencies, otherwise it's a non-starter.

Algeria is currently the show-stopper. The pilot projects will mostly concern Morocco, so Algeria is not necessarily on the critical path yet.

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

by eurogreen on Fri Jun 24th, 2011 at 05:47:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In any case, to what extent is the higher solar radiation in N. Africa offset by higher transmission line costs and power losses compared to (say) Spain, Greece, Cyprus etc.?  The very high upfront capital costs and political risks would appear to mitigate against investment outside the EU at this point - especially post the Libyan intervention.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jun 24th, 2011 at 05:54:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I see it, we have three variables:
  • Inclination (the straighter the sun hits the athmosphere, the more penetrates - thus more radiation hitting your skin closer to the equator)
  • Clouds (more sunny days gives more output)
  • Transmission

I think the main factor would be that of placing it in a desert, that is a place with little or no clouds. The difference in inclination is not that great and HDVC is very good. Then again I do not know how much cloud you would have to put up with at the best sites in Greece, Spain and Portugal (abbreviation GSP?).

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by A swedish kind of death on Sat Jun 25th, 2011 at 03:28:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It depends heavily on Morocco, doesn't it? Via Algeria to the Mahgreb, via Spanish Sahara to the Trans-Sahel, over the Strait to Spain.

Given either Algeria or Libya, Tunisia to the Italian peninsula via Sicily is also straightforward.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jun 25th, 2011 at 03:29:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But dictatorships are stable. Until they aren't, but Who Could Have Predicted? and being unpredictable you don't have to budget for it and once it happens it is someone else's problem.
In a democracy you have to pay off a lot of groups that you could otherwise pretend to be be able to safely ignore. Of course for the long term viability of a project having to deal with objections before they trigger a revolution is a plus. Are you under the impression that our planning structure is overly concerned with long term viability?
by generic on Fri Jun 24th, 2011 at 07:12:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the reasons corporations will only invest in Africa if the investments are projected to be massively profitable is because of the perceived geo-political risk.  

Of course if they weren't so busy extracting huge profits in the first place, the geo-political risk might be less. However that is the point at which corporate planners and financiers throw up their hands and exclaim that ensuring stability isn't their problem.  They deal with countries as they find them and assess the risks accordingly

Hence Singapore gets massive investment even though it is one of the highest cost places in the world to do business.

Complex businesses (as opposed to simple extraction processes) require a diverse skill mix and a more sophisticated regulatory environment (i.e. bribery only gets you so far). It thus requires a diverse middle class and more sophisticated political structure.  

Generals/dictators are really bad at understanding and enabling complex economies to develop. Democracies are much better at facilitating the complex trade-offs between highly differentiated interest groups and skills sets required

Hence, with few exceptions, participative democracies are better than militaristic dictatorships at developing economically.  Conversely, economically underdeveloped states also tend to be underdeveloped politically - i.e. have militaristic/authoritarian command economies.

The myth that dictatorships are more efficient is one of the great myths of the modern age - unless you measure efficiency in terms of killing and imprisoning people.  

Interestingly, one of the things most holding back US economic development at the moment is an increasingly dysfunctional political system dominated by corporates whose individual interests are inimical to the development of their competitors and the economy as a whole.

It will be interesting to see how China's polity develops in the context of an increasingly sophisticated economy. The strains are certainly there.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jun 24th, 2011 at 07:57:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And that's cool for mining, or oil, or any other business with high variable and low capital costs. Because then you can loot while the looting is good, and then scoot once the shit hits the fan.

But if 90 % of your costs are capital costs, you need the project to survive until you've paid off the last loan.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2011 at 04:04:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yesterday there were the following two headlines in ElPais.com:

The economic crisis undermines the Egyptian transition: Tourism has collapsed and economic activity has slowed down after the January 25 revolt

Tourism in Tunisia collapses after the jasmine revolution: GDP drops, unemployment rises and foreign investment slows down

The narrative being set is delightful. But of course, for the last decade they're not bothering any more to sell capitalism with the argument that democracy needs capitalism to function. Soon they'll be arguing that capitalism needs authoritarian government. As Kalecki said in 1943:

One of the important functions of fascism, ..., was to remove capitalist objections to full employment.


Economics is politics by other means
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2011 at 04:48:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Generals/dictators are really bad at understanding and enabling complex economies to develop. Democracies are much better at facilitating the complex trade-offs between highly differentiated interest groups and skills sets required

This may be true, and I'm inclined to think that the evidence of the last few decades has supported this.  However the contemporary counterexample is China and it's adoption of the Singaporean model of capitalism.  I tend to agree with Žižek that the future of capitalism is likely to be an authoritarian one along these lines.

And then again, the political formations that prevailed during fossil fuel abundance are likely to be different to those prevailing during the era of abundance.

That's not to say that we shouldn't do our damndest to defend what remains of participatory democracy in Europe, encourage it's development in Africa, and encourage the invention more particpatory forms.  We should be under no illusions however that any of that is compatible with the present form of capitalism.

by Pope Epopt on Sun Jun 26th, 2011 at 05:49:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
And that's cool for mining, or oil, or any other business with high variable and low capital costs. Because then you can loot while the looting is good, and then scoot once the shit hits the fan

In the case of China, the almost free abundant resource is not Oil or Coal, it is labour, and once you have millions of people unemployed in a zero social welfare environment, you can throw almost any shit at them and they will still do almost anything to get a job or cash - like selling their own organs.

As you get closer to peak (available) labour, labour become a much more valuable and powerful resource and can achieve a better share out of the fruits of economic productivity.

Thus capital needs unemployment to stay high to maximise its bargaining position - cf US republicans desperate attempts to prevent economic recovery under Obama.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 26th, 2011 at 08:10:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The present form of capitalism isn't compatible with the present form of capitalism, never mind democracy.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2011 at 11:29:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes ~ while anticipating the form of economy over the coming century is intrinsically speculative, anticipating that the current form of capitalism won't be it is straightforward: it cannot survive in the environment it creates.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Jun 26th, 2011 at 01:42:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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