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Germany Wants to Keep Data Away from the NSA with a Europe-Only Network | Motherboard

Germany Wants to Keep Data Away from the NSA with a Europe-Only Network | Motherboard.

By Victoria Turk

Pictured here together at the G20 summit last year, Angela Merkel will discuss proposals with Francois Hollande on Wednesday. Image: President of the European Council/Flickr

Last week we reported on the European Commission’s proposals to cut back the US’s influence over internet governance in face of NSA spying revelations. But it looks like German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants even stronger steps to combat US surveillance of European web users: she’s called for a kind of walled-off network that would keep European data away from prying American eyes.

Reuters reported that in Merkel’s weekly podcast on Saturday, she announced plans to talk with French President Francois Hollande about building a “communication network” to maintain a higher level of data security for Europe’s web users. “Above all, we’ll talk about European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic,” she said. “Rather, one could build up a communication network inside Europe.”

Germany has been a particularly outspoken critic of NSA and GCHQ surveillance tactics in the wake of revelations leaked by Edward Snowden, and for good reason. The country seems to have been heavily targeted in the spying allegations; even Merkel’s own cell phone was allegedly tapped by the US government, while a potential electronic “spying tent” was discovered on top of the British embassy in Berlin, not far from the German parliament.

Since then, Merkel has been trying to get the US to agree to a “no-spy” agreement, but it looks like Obama’s administration won’t play ball (and given the clandestine nature of spying it’s hard to fathom how much trust could realistically be invested in such an accord).

This latest announcement launches a new counter-espionage offensive, and according to the Independent, it could just be the first of many to come. They cite German magazine Der Spiegel, which claimed to have uncovered plans for a “massive” increase in German anti-spying measures, such as surveillance on the American and British embassies in Berlin—a kind of cycle of surveillance on surveillance that seems the inevitable farcical conclusion of a saga in whicheveryone’s spying on everyone else.

As for the communications network proposal, the idea is to keep Europeans’ data under European data protection regulations. The problem is that, while the internet is a global network, different countries have different laws on privacy. Germany has particularly strict rules on personal privacy—perhaps a result of its Nazi and Communist past, in which oppressive surveillance played a regrettable role.

When Germans’ data leaves the country, however, it’s not necessarily protected by those laws (and could, for instance, be creeped on by the NSA). Merkel also singled out Google and Facebook for basing their operations in places with much less stringent data protection. She didn’t name the country, but Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky points out both companies have their headquarters in Ireland.

Merkel will meet with Hollande on Wednesday to discuss the idea, and France has said they agree with the proposals. It’ll nevertheless take more than that to get anything off the ground. For a start, France and Germany only represent two companies out of Europe, albeit powerful ones. It’s not clear exactly how far their proposed European network would extend, but any closed networks like this risk undermining the global nature of the internet, which the European Commission last week emphasised it was keen to preserve. There are also practical questions, like what happens when you want to send emails from America to Europe, and vice versa?

Moreover, Germany and France have different data protection laws, and a shared policy would likely need to be adopted if a Europe-wide were scheme to work.

News agency UPI also points out that a European network likely wouldn’t be “NSA-proof” (a term we’ve seen bandied around a lot recently, not always very convincingly). They referred to a January interview with German broadcaster ARD in which Edward Snowden said that keeping data off US soil and in national cloud systems wouldn’t be enough. “The NSA goes where the data are,” he said. “If the NSA can pull text messages out of telecommunications networks in China, they can probably manage to get Facebook messages out of Germany.”

THE BROKEN LIMB & BURST PIPE FALLACIES Washington’s Blog

THE BROKEN LIMB & BURST PIPE FALLACIES Washington’s Blog.

Posted on February 11, 2014 by JimQ

“Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of man to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.” – Henry Hazlitt – Economics in One Lesson

Saturday was the first day since a double shot of snow and ice storms hit the Philadelphia metro area on Monday and Wednesday I had a chance to drive around Montgomery County and witness the devastation firsthand. Over 750,000 homes lost power at the height of the ice storm on Wednesday and over 100,000 remained without power this past weekend. The mainstream media has become such a farce and propaganda machine for vested interests, it is essential to verify with your own eyes everything they report as fact. Their purpose is to entertain the consciously ignorant, exaggerate threats to keep the low IQ multitudes fearful, and function as mouthpieces for the ruling class. Deceitful corporate executives, mendacious government apparatchiks, and oblivious teleprompter reading media talking heads have been utilizing cold weather as an excuse for every poor earnings announcement, horrific employment report, and dreadful decline in retail sales. It certainly has nothing to do with decades of stagnant household income, awful monetary and fiscal policies, or the consequences of Obamacare.

We have become a delusional state dependent upon fallacies to convince ourselves our foolhardy beliefs, ludicrous economic policies, corrupt captured political system, and preposterously fraudulent financial system are actually based on sound logic and reason. Some fallacies have been perpetrated intentionally by the ruling class to manipulate, sway and deceive the populace, while others have been willfully employed by millions of techno-narcissistic iGadget addicted zombies as a substitute for thinking, reasoning and taking responsibility for the course of our nation.

You have men who constitute the unseen true ruling power of the country making a conscious and intentional effort to peddle fallacies to the masses in order to manipulate, mold, and corral them in a manner beneficial to the ruling power, financially, politically, and socially. The ruling class has been hugely successful in their capture of the public mind, creating a vast majority of the willfully ignorant who desperately grasp at fallacious concepts, beliefs, and storylines in order to avoid dealing with reality and being accountable for their actions and the actions of their leaders.

The fallacy being flogged by government drones and the legacy media about companies not hiring new employees because it has been cold and snowy during the winter is beyond absurd, except to someone who lives in the cocoon of Washington D.C. or regurgitates words processed on a teleprompter by paid minions of the ruling class. If you live in the real world, run a business, or manage employees, you understand weather has absolutely nothing to do with your decision to hire an employee. An organization takes weeks or months to hire employees. They don’t stop hiring because it snowed on Wednesday or the temperature was below normal. The contention that hiring has been weak for the last two months due to weather is outlandish and based upon flawed logic and warped reasoning. It is so illogical, only an Ivy League economist could believe it.

The other fallacy being pontificated by retail executives in denial, cheerleaders on CNBC and the rest of the propaganda press is weather is to blame for terrible retail sales over the last quarter. Again, this argument is specious in its conception. The retail executives use weather as an excuse for their failure in execution, hubris in over-expanding, and arrogance in pursuit of quarterly earnings per share and bonuses. CNBC and the rest of the Wall Street media pawns must provide lame fallacies for the corporate fascists regarding our downward economic path or the masses my wake up to reality. Protecting and expanding the wealth of the parasitic oligarch class is the one and only purpose of the corporate media.

Think about whether cold and snow in the winter will really stop purchases by individuals. If you need a new shirt for work or a pair of sneakers and it snows on Wednesday, you will wait until Saturday to make the purchase. Groceries will be consumed and replenished whether it is cold and snowy, or not. If an appliance or car breaks down, weather will be a non-factor in the new purchase decision. The proliferation of on-line retailing allows everyone to shop from the warmth of their homes. If anything, bad winter weather often spurs stocking up of groceries and the purchase of items needed to contend with winter weather (salt, shovels, coats, hats, gloves). Only an asinine spokes-model bimbo on CNBC could non-questioningly report the press release excuses of retailers. Critical thinking skills and journalistic integrity are non-essential traits among the propaganda mainstream press today.

Revealing the truth about pitiful employment growth and dreadful retail sales would destroy the fallacy of economic recovery stimulated by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve and fiscal policies of the Federal government. The ruling class must perpetuate the myth that central bankers pumping $3.2 trillion of debt into the veins Wall Street banks and Obama dumping $6.7 trillion of debt onto the shoulders of future generations in order to cure a cancerous disease created by debt, has revived our economy and cured the disease. The unseen governing class cannot admit their traitorous actions have impoverished the working middle class, destroyed small businesses, depleted senior citizens of their savings, and warped our economic system to such an extent that recovery in now impossible. If the ignorant masses were to become sentient, the ruling class would become lamppost decorations.

After discovering water pipes at my rental property had burst due to the extreme cold weather and witnessing the widespread damage caused by the mid-week ice storm, I immediately thought how overjoyed my favorite Keynesian, Ivy League, Nobel Prize winning, New York Times scribbler, Paul (destruction is good) Krugman must be. All this destruction and devastation will be a tremendous boost to the economy according to Krugman and his ilk. This intellectually deceitful, morally bankrupt, despicable excuse for a human being spoke these words of wisdom three days after the 9/11 attacks:

“Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack – like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression – could even do some economic good. So the direct economic impact of the attacks will probably not be that bad. And there will, potentially, be two favorable effects. First, the driving force behind the economic slowdown has been a plunge in business investment. Now, all of a sudden, we need some new office buildings. As I’ve already indicated, the destruction isn’t big compared with the economy, but rebuilding will generate at least some increase in business spending.”

He had expanded his broken window beliefs to broken buildings, broken nations, and a broken people. You can’t keep a cunning Keynesian down when they need to propagate discredited fallacies in order to feed their own ego and promote foolish debt fueled spending by government, consumers and corporations as a solution to all economic ills. It makes no difference to a statist like Krugman that Frederic Bastiat had obliterated the preposterous notion that destruction and the money spent to repair the destruction was a net benefit to society, 164 years ago in his essay – That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not SeenBastiat’s logic is unassailable. Only the most highly educated Princeton economists don’t get it.

Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James B., when his careless son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation – “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade – that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs – I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.

I wonder whether the myopic focus on only immediate impacts and inability of ideologues to understand unintended consequences is premeditated or just erroneous reasoning. The broken window fallacy can now be extended to broken limbs and burst pipes across the Northeast. Huge trees have been toppled, limbs and branches are strewn on the properties of homeowners across the region, homes and businesses have been physically damaged, and power outages wrecked profits at small businesses. Society has gained no benefit whatsoever from the mass destruction wrought by these storms. Thi

s weather induced ruin exposes GDP calculations as useless and misleading regarding the true economic health of the nation. The hundreds of millions in destruction will not be factored into the GDP calculation, but the spending by homeowners and businesses to remove downed trees, fix broken roofs, replace burst pipes and clean-up debris will be factored positively in the GDP calculation. The inevitable politician response will be increased government spending to repair damage to infrastructure. This will also be additive to GDP. Krugman will get a tingle up his leg.

CNBC’s Cramer & Liesman will rave about the unexpectedly strong GDP in the first quarter as proof the economy is doing great. The fallacy that GDP growth and stock market gains are beneficial to the average American will be flogged by the propaganda press at the behest of the ruling class until the last vestiges of national wealth are confiscated by the oligarchs. In the real world, the destruction caused by the harsh winter weather will not benefit society one iota. GDP will reflect the immediate short-term seen impact of the cleanup and repair of property damage. GDP will ignore the unseen opportunity costs which were lost and the long-term consequences of expenditures made to put property back in the condition in which it started. Destruction does not create profit, except in the Keynesian world of Krugman and his Ivy League educated sycophant cronies.

There are 2.5 million households in the Philadelphia metro area. There are hundreds of thousands with trees down, pipes frozen, gutters smashed, roofs leaking and electrical infrastructure damaged. An individual homeowner with a couple of large trees down will need to pay $500 to $1,000 for a tree service to remove the debris from their property. Considering the median household income in Montgomery County, PA is $75,000, that is not an insubstantial sum.

The homeowner did not anticipate this expenditure and will react by not dining out, taking a shorter vacation, not buying that new couch, or not investing in their small business. A landlord who has to repair busted pipes will incur added expense, resulting in less profit. Less profit means less taxes paid to the state and federal government, exacerbating their budget deficits. The landlord will defer replacing that old air conditioner for at least another year. Multiply these scenarios across the entire Northeastern United States and you have the long-term negative financial implications outweighing the short-term boost to GDP.

The Keynesian fallacy of increased economic activity being beneficial is annihilated by the fact homeowners and business owners are left in the same condition as they were prior to the storms, while the money spent to achieve the same property condition was not spent on other goods and services that would have truly expanded the economy. The fallacious government engineered GDP calculation will portray destruction as an economic boost. Keynesian worshiping economists and government bureaucrats observe this tragedy as only between two parties, the consumer who is forced to repair their property and is denied the pleasure of spending their money on something more enjoyable and the tree service company who experiences a positive impact to their business. They exclude the appliance store, restaurant, or hotel that did not receive the money spent on repairing the property. It is this third unseen party who is left out of the equation. It is this third party that shows the absurdity of believing destruction leads to profit and economic advancement. The national economic output is not increased, but highly educated government drones and Wall Street captured economists will point to GDP and disseminate the fallacy.

This leads us to government in general and the fallacy that government spending, government borrowing, and government programs are beneficial to society and the economy. Legalized plunder of the populace through income taxes, real estate taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, cigarette taxes, license fees, sewer fees, tolls, and a myriad of other ass raping techniques is used to subsidize crony capitalist special interests, the military industrial complex, faux wars on poverty, drugs and terror, a failed public education system, vote buying entitlement programs, and a tax code written to benefit those who pay the biggest bribes to the corrupt politicians slithering around the halls of congress.

Government is a criminal enterprise designed to take from the weak and powerless while benefitting the connected and powerful. The government extracts the earnings of citizens and businesses at the point of a gun and redistributes those funds to special interests; funding boondoggles, wars of choice, foreign dictators, and the corporate and banking interests who control the puppet strings of Washington politicians. State organized and legal plunder designed to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else is the delusional fallacy permeating our cultural mindset today.

President Obama declared my region a disaster area, allowing for government funds to supposedly help in the cleanup efforts. Again, the fallacy of government intervention benefiting society is unquestioned by the ignorant masses. Local and State governments are required by law to balance their budgets. The never ending progression of storms and record cold temperatures has already blown the winter storm budgets of transportation departments across the region. Gaping potholes are swallowing vehicles and will need to be repaired.

Government spokespersons and politicians tell the public not to worry. The government will come to the rescue, even when the funds officially run out. They won’t react the way a family would react to a budget overage, by cutting spending in another area. We have had mild winters in the recent past when the winter road budgets were far under. Did the government set aside this surplus for winters like the one we are currently experiencing? Of course not – they spent it on some other boondoggle program or useless shovel ready bridge to nowhere. Government politicians and their lackeys do not look beyond their 2 year election cycle.

The government budget overages due to winter storms will show up in the GDP calculation as a positive impact. A snowplow pushing snow to the side of the road and a crew filing a pothole has put the roadway back into the condition it was prior to the bad weather. The roadway is exactly the same. The money spent could have been used to pay down debt, fund the government pension shortfalls which will overwhelm taxpayers in the foreseeable future, or be given back to citizens to spend as they choose. There has been no net benefit to society.

No government spending provides a net benefit to society. Every government program, law, regulation, subsidy, tax or fee gives rise to a series of effects. The immediate seen effect may be favorable in the eyes of myopic politicians and an ignorant populace, but most government intervention in our lives proves to be fatal and unsustainable in the long-term. Whatever short-term benefits might accrue is far outweighed by the long-term negative implications on future generations. All government expenditures are foisted upon the public either through increased taxation or state created surreptitious inflation.

We have a country built on a Himalayan mountain of fallacies. We are a short-term oriented people who only care about our present situation, giving no thought about long-term consequences of our policies, programs, laws or actions. Critical thinking skills, reasoning abilities, and a basic understanding of mathematical concepts appear to be beyond our grasp. We’d rather believe falsehoods than deal with the harsh lessons of reality. We choose to experience the severe penalties of burying our heads in the sand over using our God given ability to think and foresee the future consequences of our irrational choices. We suffer from the ultimately fatal disease of ignorance, as described by Bastiat.

This explains the fatally grievous condition of mankind. Ignorance surrounds its cradle: then its actions are determined by their first consequences, the only ones which, in its first stage, it can see. It is only in the long run that it learns to take account of the others. It has to learn this lesson from two very different masters – experience and foresight. Experience teaches effectually, but brutally. It makes us acquainted with all the effects of an action, by causing us to feel them; and we cannot fail to finish by knowing that fire burns, if we have burned ourselves. For this rough teacher, I should like, if possible, to substitute a more gentle one. I mean Foresight.

It’s a big country and one fallacy doesn’t fit all. Some fallacies are committed purposefully by evil men with evil intent. The Wall Street financial elite, big corporations, big media and their politician puppets fall into this category. Other fallacies are executed by people whose salary depends upon the fallacies being believed by the masses. Middle level bankers, managers, journalists, and bureaucrats fall into this category. And lastly you have the willfully ignorant masses who would rather believe fallacies than look up from their iGadgets, Facebook, and Twitter and think. The thing about fallacies is they eventually are buried under an avalanche of reality. If you listen closely you can hear the rumble of snow beginning to give way on the mountaintop. Fallacies are about to be crushed and swept away by the real world of consequences.

“Wall Street had been doing business with pieces of paper; and now someone asked for a dollar, and it was discovered that the dollar had been mislaid. It was an experience for which the captains of industry were not entirely prepared; they had forgotten the public. It was like some great convulsion of nature, which made mockery of all the powers of men, and left the beholder dazed and terrified. In Wall Street men stood as if in a valley, and saw far above them the starting of an avalanche; they stood fascinated with horror, and watched it gathering headway; saw the clouds of dust rising up, and heard the roar of it swelling, and realized it was only a matter of time before it swept them to their destruction…

But it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.”

Upton Sinclair – The Moneychangers

 

How the electric power grid works

The Importance of Being Prepared | The Daily Sheeple

The Importance of Being Prepared | The Daily Sheeple.

shutterstock_123085243

By Lee Flynn

Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said, “I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best” (Source: Quotery.com). Some people falsely believe that being prepared is the sort of thing that is only reserved for fear mongerers and doomsday enthusiasts. However, being prepared does not mean that you want the worst to happen. On the contrary, it means that, although you hope for the best, you are simply ready for anything that might come your way. In the same way that you get insurance in case your health declines, it is important to take out your own “insurance policy” for every area in your life. This might include food storage, home repairs, budgeting, or any number of tasks.

Large-Scale Disasters

The most common motivator for people when it comes to preparedness is the type of disaster that gains international attention. Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and all manner of natural disasters have a habit of igniting the prepping spark in many people. Such occurrences are often unpredictable and can leave hundreds of people without homes or even, sadly, their loved ones. However, even those on the outskirts of a disaster can suffer dire consequences. At the very least, they may be trapped in their homes for days on end, perhaps without power or water. This is where your emergency food and water comes in handy.

Smaller Catastrophes

However, although these are the ones which gain the most attention, natural disasters are not the only, and certainly not the most common, reason for needing to keep certain emergency items in your home. You might not have considered it before, but a sudden job loss could come from nowhere and make it extremely difficult to feed yourself and your family. If you have stored some basic food items in your house, you will be grateful that you can dip into your supplies when the time comes. Other examples of smaller, but still meaningful, catastrophes that could affect you include power cuts, local water contamination, or even just a spate of bad weather.

Being Prepared in Every Area of Life

Louis Pasteur once said, “in the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind” (Source: Quotery.com). Food storage is a good place to start, but preparedness extends to just about every part of a person’s life. Practices such as budgeting your money, carrying out necessary home and car repairs, and obtaining every kind of insurance, are all ways in which we protect ourselves against an unknown future. Keep and emergency survival kit in your home, and include important and potentially life-saving items inside. If you take these sorts of things seriously, when the worst does happen, the situation itself will be far less serious. Preparedness is not something that is reserved for those who are fanatic or obsessive; it is something that is important for anyone who cares about protecting their life, and the lives of those close to them in the face of a future that will forever remain a mystery.

Lee Flynn is from the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, UT. After Lee spent years preparing himself, his home and his family, he decided he had to do more. In his free time, Lee helps educate those who want to do the same. After obtaining a bachelors degree from the University of Utah, Lee moved to the Salt Lake Valley where he now lives with his wife and daughter.

Delivered by The Daily Sheeple

Crash on Demand: Energy Descent Scenarios

Crash on Demand: Energy Descent Scenarios.

by David Holmgren, originally published by Holmgren Design  | TODAY

This is Part 2 of David Holmgren’s new essay Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future, which updates his Future Scenarios work. Read Part 1 here

Is time running out for powerdown?

Many climate policy professionals and climate activists are now reassessing whether there is anything more they can do to help prevent the global catastrophe that climate change appears to be.   The passing of the symbolic 400ppm CO2 level certainly has seen some prominent activists getting close to a change of strategy.  As the Transition Town movement founder and permaculture activist Rob Hopkins says, the shift in the mainstream policy circles from mitigation to adaptation and defence is underway (i.e. giving up).[1]

While political deadlock remains the most obvious obstacle, I believe at least some of that deadlock stems from widespread doubt about whether greenhouse gas emissions can be radically reduced without economic contraction and/or substantial wealth redistribution.  Substantial redistribution of wealth is not generally taken seriously perhaps because it could only come about through some sort of global revolution that would itself lead to global economic collapse. On the other hand, massive economic contraction seems like it might happen all by itself, without necessarily leading to greater equity.

The predominant focus in the “climate professional and activist community” on policies, plans and projects for transition to renewable energy and efficiency has yet to show evidence of absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that do not depend on rising greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of the global economy.  For example, the contribution of renewable technology installation to reduced GGE in some European countries appears to be balanced by increased GGE in China and India (where much of the renewable technologies are manufactured).

The Jevons’ paradox[2] suggests than any gains in efficiency or tapping of new sources of energy will simply expand total consumption rather than reduce consumption of resources (and therefore GGE).

Richard Eckersley in his article ‘Deficit Deeper Than Economy’ identifies the improbability of ever decoupling economic growth from resource depletion and green house gas emissions.  He states “Australia’s material footprint, the total amount of primary resources required to service domestic consumption (excludes exports and includes imports) was 35 tonnes per person in 2008, the highest among the 186 countries studied.  Every 10 per cent increase in gross domestic product increases the average national material footprint by 6 per cent.  By 2050, a global population of 9 billion people would require an estimated 270 billion tonnes of natural resources to fuel the level of consumption of OECD countries, compared with the 70 billion tonnes consumed in 2010.”[3]

Time seems to be running out for any serious planned reductions in GGE adequate to prevent dangerous climate change without considering a powerdown of the growth economy.  The ideas of degrowth[4] are starting to get an airing, mostly in Europe, but the chances of these ideas being adopted and successfully implemented would require a long slow political evolution if not revolution.  We don’t have time for the first, and the second almost certainly crashes the financial system, which in turn crashes the global economy.

Is time running out for bottom up alternatives?

Like many others, I have argued that the bottom up creation of household and community economies, already proliferating in the shadow of the global economy, can create and sustain different ways of well-being that can compensate, at least partly, for the inevitable contraction in centralised fossil fuelled economies (now well and truly failing to sustain the social contract in countries such as Greece and Egypt).  When the official Soviet Union economy collapsed in the early ‘90s it was the informal economy that cushioned the social impact.  Permaculture strategies focus on the provision of basic needs at the household and community level to increase resilience, reduce ecological footprint and allow much of the discretionary economy to shrink.  In principle, a major contraction in energy consumption is possible because a large proportion of that consumption is for non-essential uses by more than a billion middle class people.  That contraction has the potential to switch off greenhouse gas emissions but this has not been seriously discussed or debated by those currently working very hard to get global action for rapid transition by planned and co-ordinated processes.  Of course it is more complicated because the provision of fundamental needs, such as water, food etc., are part of the same highly integrated system that meets discretionary wants.

However, the time available to create, refine and rapidly spread successful models of these bottom-up solutions is running out, in the same way that the time for government policy and corporate capitalism to work their magic in converting the energy base of growth from fossil to renewable sources.[5] If the climate clock is really so close to midnight what else could be done?

Economic crash as hell or salvation

For many decades I have felt that a collapse of the global economic systems might save humanity and many of our fellow species great suffering by happening sooner rather than later because the stakes keep rising and scale of the impacts are always worse by being postponed.  An important influence in my thinking on the chances of such a collapse was the public speech given by President Ronald Reagan following the 1987 stock market crash.  He said “there won’t be an economic collapse, so long as people don’t believe there will be an economic collapse” or words to that effect.  I remember at the time thinking; fancy the most powerful person on the planet admitting that faith (of the populace) is the only thing that holds the financial system together.

Two decades on I remember thinking that a second great depression might be the best outcome we could hope for.  The pain and suffering that has happened since 2007 (from the more limited “great recession”) is more a result of the ability of the existing power structures to maintain control and enforce harsh circumstances by handing the empty bag to the public, than any fundamental lack of resources to provide all with basic needs.  Is the commitment to perpetual growth in wealth for the richest the only way that everyone else can hope to get their needs met?  The economy is simply not structured to provide all with their basic needs.  That growth economy is certainly coming to an end; but will it slowly grind to a halt or collapse more rapidly?

The fact that the market price for carbon emissions has fallen so low in Europe is a direct result of stagnating growth. Past economic recessions and more serious economic collapses, such as faced by the Soviet Union after its oil production peaked in the late 1980’s,[6] show how greenhouse gas emissions can and have been reduced, then stabilizing at lower levels once the economy stabilized without any planned intention to do so.  The large number of oil exporters that have more recently peaked has provided many case studies to show the correlation with political upheaval, economic contraction and reductions in GGE.  Similarly many of the countries that have suffered the greatest economic contraction are also those with the greatest dependence on imported energy, such as Ireland, Greece and Portugal.  The so-called Arab Spring, especially in Egypt, followed high food and energy prices driven by collapsed oil revenues and inability to maintain subsidies.  The radical changes of government in Egypt have not been able to arrest the further contraction of the economy.

The effects of peak oil and climate change have combined with geopolitical struggles over pipeline routes to all but destroy the Syrian economy and society.[7]

Slow Contraction or Fast Collapse

The fragility of the global economy has many unprecedented aspects that make some sort of rapid collapse of the global economy more likely.  The capacity of central banks to repeat the massive stimulus mechanism in response to the 2008 global financial crisis, has been greatly reduced, while the faith that underpins the global financial system has weakened, to say the least.  Systems thinkers such as David Korowicz[8] have argued that the inter-connected nature of the global economy, instantaneous communications and financial flows, “just in time” logistics, and extreme degrees of economic and technological specialisation, have increased the chances of a large scale systemic failure, at the same time that they have mitigated (or at least reduced) the impact of more limited localised crises.

Whether novel factors such as information technology, global peak oil and climate change have increased the likelihood of more extreme economic collapse, Foss and Keen have convinced me that the most powerful and fast-acting factor that could radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions is the scale of financial debt and the long-sustained growth of bubble economics stretching back at least to the beginnings of the “Thatcherite/Reaganite revolution” in the early 1980s.  From an energetics perspective, the peak of US oil production in 1970, and the resulting global oil crises of 73 and 79, laid the foundations for the gigantic growth in debt that super accelerated the level of consumption, and therefore GGE.

Whatever the causes, all economic bubbles follow a trajectory that includes a rapid contraction, as credit evaporates, followed by a long-sustained contraction, where asset values decline to lower levels than those at the beginning of the bubble.  After almost 25 years of asset price deflation in Japan, a house and land parcel of 1.5ha in a not too isolated rural location can be bought for $25,000.  A contraction in the systems that supply wants are likely to see simultaneous problems in the provision of basic needs.  As Foss explains, in a deflationary contraction, prices of luxuries generally collapse but essentials of food and fuel do not fall much.  Most importantly, essentials become unaffordable for many, once credit freezes and job security declines.  It goes without saying that deflation rather inflation is the economic devil that governments and central banks most fear and are prepared to do almost anything to avoid.

Giving credence to the evidence for fast global economic collapse may suggest I am moving away from my belief in the more gradual Energy Descent future that I helped articulate.  John Michael Greer has been very critical of apocalyptic views of the future in which a collapse sweeps away the current world leaving the chosen few who survive to build the new world.  In large measure I agree with his critique but recognise that some might interpret my work as suggesting a permaculture paradise growing from the ashes of this civilisation.  To some extent this is a reasonable interpretation, but I see that collapse, as a long drawn-out process rather than resulting from a single event.[9]

I still believe that energy descent will go on for many decades or even centuries.  In Future Scenarios I suggested energy descent driven by climate change and peak oil could occur through a series of crises separating relatively stable states that could persist for decades if not centuries.  The collapse of the global financial system might simply be the first of those crises that reorganise the world.  The pathways that energy descent could take are enormously varied, but still little discussed, so it is not surprising that discussions about descent scenarios tend to default into ones of total collapse. As the language around energy descent and collapse has become more nuanced, we start to see the distinction between financial, economic, social and civilisational collapse as potential stages in an energy descent process where the first is fast changing and relatively superficial and the last is slow moving and more fundamental.

In Future Scenarios I suggested the more extreme scenarios of Earth Steward and Lifeboat could follow Green Tech and Brown Tech along the stepwise energy descent pathway.  If we are heading into the Brown Tech world of more severe climate change, then as the energy sources that sustain the Brown Tech scenario deplete, and climate chaos increases, future crises and collapse could lead to the Lifeboat Scenario. In this scenario, no matter how fast or extreme the reductions in GGE due to economic collapse, we still end up in the climate cooker, but with only the capacity for very local, household and communitarian organisation.

If the climate crisis is already happening, and as suggested in Future Scenarios, the primary responses to the crisis increase rather than reduce GGE, then it is probably too late for any concerted effort to shift course to the more benign Green Tech energy descent future.  Given that most of the world is yet to accept the inevitability of Energy Descent and are still pinning their faith in “Techno Stability” if not “Techno Explosion”, the globally cooperative powerdown processes needed to shift the world to Green Tech look unlikely.  More fundamental than any political action, the resurgent rural and regional economies, based on a boom for agricultural and forestry commodities, that structurally underpins the Green Tech scenario, will not eventuate if climate change is fast and severe.  Climate change will stimulate large investments in agriculture but they are more likely to be energy and resource intensive, controlled climate agriculture (greenhouses), centralised at transport hubs.  This type of development simply reinforces the Brown Tech model including the acceleration of GGE.

While it may be too late for the Green Tech Scenario, it still may be possible to avoid more extreme climate change of a long drawn out Brown Tech Scenario before natural forcing factors lock humanity into the climate cooker of 4-6 degrees and resource depletion leads to a collapse of the centralised Brown Tech governance and a rise of local war lords (Lifeboat Scenario).

The novel structural vulnerabilities highlighted by David Korowicz, and the unprecedented extremity of the bubble economics highlighted by Nicole Foss suggest the strong tendencies towards a Brown Tech world could be short lived.  Instead, severe global economic and societal collapse could switch off GGE enough to begin reversing climate change; in essence the Earth Steward scenario of recreated bioregional economies based on frugal agrarian resources and abundant salvage from the collapsed global economy and defunct national governance structures.


[1] See  Why I’m marking passing 400ppm by getting back on an aeroplane by Rob Hopkins published on Transition Culture on 16 May, 2013

http://transitionculture.org/2013/05/16/why-im-marking-passing-400-ppm-by-getting-back-on-an-aeroplane/

[2] During the early stages of the industrial revolution English economist William Stanley Jevons noticed that a doubling in the efficiency of steam engine technology led to an increase rather than a halving of coal consumption as businesses found more uses for the available power. See the Coal Question (1865).

[3] See Deficit Deeper Than Economy http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/deficit-deeper-than-economy-20130929-2umd3.html#ixzz2js46nGBp

[4] See Wikipedia article for overview of movementhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrowth

[5] Of course true believers in global capitalism’s capacity to reduce GGE in time, still abound. See for example Christian Parenti’s piece from Dissent, reposted at Resilience.org, which is amusingly titled A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisiswhich is actually a plea for activists to forget trying to reform, let alone build systems based on sustainability principles, in favour of getting behind the power of corporations and governments to make big changes quickly (to get GGE falling fast enough).

[6] See for example, Peak oil and the fall of the Soviet Union by Douglas B. Reynolds on The Oil Drum.

[7] See Guardian article by Nafeez Ahmed.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/earth-insight/2013/may/13/1?INTCMP=SRCH

[8] See Trade-Off, Metis Risk Consulting & Feasta, 2012

http://www.feasta.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Trade-Off1.pdf

[9] leaving aside the issue of whether the energy descent future will be a permaculture paradise or not.

Acknowledgements
Thanks to Rick Tanaka, Maureen Corbett and Daryl Taylor for comments and corrections

Ten Reasons Intermittent Renewables (Wind and Solar PV) are a Problem

Our Finite World

Intermittent renewables–wind and solar photovoltaic panels–have been hailed as an answer to all our energy problems. Certainly, politicians need something to provide hope, especially in countries that are obviously losing their supply of oil, such as the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the more I look into the situation, the less intermittent renewables have to offer. (Please note that I am not talking about solar hot water heaters. I am talking about intermittent renewables added to the electric grid.)

1. It is doubtful that intermittent renewables actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

It is devilishly difficult to figure out whether on not any particular energy source has a favorable impact on carbon dioxide emissions. The obvious first way of looking at emissions is to look at the fuel burned on a day-to-day basis. Intermittent renewables don’t seem to burn fossil fuel on day-to-day basis, while those using fossil fuels do, so wind and…

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Thatcher had secret plan to use army at height of miners’ strike | Politics | The Guardian

Thatcher had secret plan to use army at height of miners’ strike | Politics | The Guardian.

1984 Miners' Strike at Orgreave

Ranks of police face the picket line at Orgreave Coking Plant near Rotherham in June 1984. Photograph: Pa/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Margaret Thatcher was secretly preparing to use troops and declare a state of emergency at the height of the miners’ strike – out of fear Britain was going to run out of food and grind to a halt, government papers released today reveal.

The 1984 cabinet papers, released to the National Archives, show that Thatcher asked for contingency plans to be drawn up to use troops to move coal stocks, despite official government policy ruling out the use of service personnel. A plan involving the use of 4,500 service drivers and 1,650 tipper lorries was considered capable of moving 100 kilotonnes a day of coal to the power stations.

A separate contingency plan, codenamed Operation Halberd, to use troops in the event of a dock strike, had also been drawn up.

The files show that there were two moments during the government’s bitter year-long struggle with the miners when Thatcher and her ministers “stared into the abyss” and glimpsed the possibility of defeat.

The first came in July 1984, when Britain’s dockers joined the miners on strike. The Downing Street papers show that Norman Tebbit, then Thatcher’s employment secretary, wrote her a “secret and personal” letter warning that “I do not see that time is on our side”.

In the face of secret estimates that they would run out of coal stocks by mid-January, Tebbit suggested urgent measures be taken, including opening a new front against the rail unions, to win the strike by October.

“In practice, we could not go right up to the brink,” he told her. “I am much concerned that the NUR and Aslef [the rail unions]which are so reducing the transport of coal and coke to the power stations are being carried out at very little cost to the unions, and at no cost to the individuals taking this action,” said Tebbit urging legal injunctions be taken out against them.

The second moment came that October when the combination of doubts about power station stocks and a strike ballot by Nacods, the pit deputies’ union, threatened a total shutdown in British coal production.

The secret list of “worst case” options outlined to Thatcher by Whitehall’s most senior officials included power cuts and even putting British industry on a “three-day week” – a phrase that evoked memories of Edward Heath’s humiliating 1974 defeat by the miners that brought down his government and which must have sent a chill down Thatcher’s spine when she read it.

The Cabinet papers also reflect the violence of the dispute that saw its bloodiest battle between police and flying pickets at Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire in June 1984. They show that in August 1984, the Association of Chief Police Officers told the prime minister that the miners, “frustrated by the failure of mass picketing, are taking to ‘guerrilla warfare’, based on intimidation of individuals and companies”.

They also show that senior Home Office officials shared the popular picket-line view of the Metropolitan police. The Met units sent to the picket lines are described as having been “valued in violent confrontations” but more likely to increase tensions the rest of the time.

The Home Office also told Thatcher that the most notable development in police tactics during the strike – the policy of “stopping and turning back” busloads of flying pickets on the motorways – was not the “unmixed blessing” it had been officially seen as. Officials pointed out that while the police had to know where the pickets were heading to intercept them, once they had turned them back, they had no idea which other picket lines they had gone to join.

The Downing Street papers also provide further confirmation of the role of David Hart, a shadowy old-Etonian, charged with organising and funding the working miners’ anti-strike movement, and nicknamed the “Blue Pimpernel” in Tory circles. Thatcher’s personal diary lists at least three face-to-face meetings with him at Downing Street, and in October 1984 a note on the file shows that he had phoned her in alarm that the press had found out that he had direct access to her. He told her he was “infinitely deniable”.

The papers also show the widely publicised “return to work campaign” was in reality “no more than a trickle” during the first six months of the strike, with no more than 500 going back to the pits in July.

Thatcher’s own handwritten notes on “possible strategies for the coal and docks dispute” paper for the 18 July meeting of Misc 101, the special cabinet committee on coal that she chaired, outlines the details of the plans to use the army. It involved using 2,800 troops in 13 specialist teams that could be used to unload 1,000 tonnes a day at the docks, but would require a declaration of a state of emergency to ensure they had access to the port equipment, such as cranes, that they needed.

The “secret” paper for the meeting spelled out the dangers a week after the dockers had walked out: “The political and economic stake[s] are much higher for the government in the coal dispute than in the docks dispute. Priority should therefore be: end the dock strike as quickly as possible, so that the coal dispute can be played as long as possible,” advised Peter Gregson, head of the Cabinet Office civil contingencies unit.

The agriculture minister, Peggy Fenner, advised that Britain would not run short of food supplies within the next 10 days but panic buying could drastically alter that. There were however looming shortages likely of certain kinds of fruit and veg, bacon, oil and fats and hard wheat.

Gregson added: “Even if no problem over food and oil … serious disruption to industry will soon be felt and there will pressure on government to find a solution.” He reminded Thatcher that troops had not been used to break a dock strike since 1950 and could bring more severe picketing and law-and-order problems.

The prime minister asked the attorney general to advise on how far it was possible to use troops to unload the food imports under a state of emergency even though there was not an immediate threat to the “essentials of life”.

Minutes of the secret cabinet committee, Misc 101, reveal Thatcher and her closest ministers were unsure of what to do: “It was not clear how far a declaration of a state of emergency would be interpreted as a sign of determination by the government or a sign of weakness, nor to what extent to which it would increase docker support for the miners’ strike.”

The armed forces minister, John Stanley, reported that troops could actually be provided on “a considerably larger scale” than the 2,800 in the plan. His pledge was never tested though, for that weekend the dock strike that had paralysed 61 ports for 12 days crumbled and was called off. It was immediately followed by Tebbit’s secret plea for tougher action to bring a swift end to the strike.

But Thatcher met this wobble by calling in Sir Walter Marshall, the head of the Central Electricity Generating Board, who reassured her that the coal stocks were not in danger of running out and that the power stations could be kept going at least until November 1985.

The second “darkest moment” came in October 1984. Thatcher had to contemplate possible power cuts and a three-day week if the threatened strike by Nacods, the pit deputies’ union had gone ahead.

Everything was done to avert that prospect and when it was called off the relief in Downing Street was palpable: “The news was announced this afternoon and represents a massive blow to [Arthur] Scargill,” read the “secret and personal”‘ daily coal report for Wednesday 24 October.

The strike was to drag on to the following March but the struggle had long been lost by then.

Pakistan’s Power Shortage Problem Is Country’s Biggest Threat

Pakistan’s Power Shortage Problem Is Country’s Biggest Threat.

 

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