SI
SI
discoversearch

 Politics | Rat's Nest - Chronicles of Collapse


Previous 10 | Next 10 
To: Wharf Rat who wrote (12973)1/12/2012 10:35:41 AM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 16125
 
Occupy sustainability: the 1% is blocking the transition to a renewable energy economy
by Dan Miner

In order to make our society sustainable, we have to deal not just with environmental issues and climate change, but with the economic crisis and the depletion of natural resources. The most effective responses will deal with all four at once. While climate change response has mostly been blocked, the Occupy movement is rapidly emerging as a major political force.

Occupiers are planning next steps for 2012, looking at new ways to get the public involved, and refining their visions for a more just society. We need to protest and withdraw from corrupt, unsustainable systems and simultaneously create new systems that are both equitable and sustainable. The transition to a sustainable, renewable energy economy can be a valuable addition to this discussion, since it addresses environmental issues and climate change, slows depletion of natural resources, and builds an economic infrastructure not controlled by the financial elites.

The 1% absolutely does not want us to realize how urgently this transition to a renewable energy economy is needed.Their power and profits depend on keeping the unsustainable fossil fuel economy running as long as possible.

They’re heavily invested in it. Of the 10 largest global corporations, 6 are oil companies. The International Forum on Globalization has identified the world’s top 50 individuals whose investments benefit from climate change and whose influence networks block efforts to phase out pollution from fossil fuels. To continue making as much money as they can, they would have us wait until it’s too late to make a successful transition.

The consequences of our addiction to fossil fuels include the terrible pollution associated with fracking, tar sands development, offshore drilling spills, and coal-fired power plants, and vulnerability to volatile fuel prices and unstable foreign energy supplies. Perhaps we could tolerate those costs of the energy status quo, but we can’t live with the catastrophic climate change it will surely trigger. The pushers of fossil fuels, the world’s largest corporations and their allies, don’t want us to know another world is possible.

Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, says that climate change response requires immediate adoption of policies hated by the free market right: reversing privatization; relocalizing much of the economy; scaling back overconsumption; bringing back long-term planning; heavily regulating, taxing and even nationalizing corporations; and cutting military spending. As she says, “Climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.” Right wing activists understand that climate change response and the abuses of unchecked free market capitalism are just not compatible.

But climate change response of the scale needed to work will only take place if there is a massive, popular effort to get corporations out of politics. The 1% is opposing this. It is lobbying to reduce regulation and oversight on fossil fuels, which will make these pollution problems and climate change worse.

The 1% also doesn’t want us to know that getting off fossil fuels is inevitable, and that a successful transition to a renewable energy economy is not guaranteed. It’s only possible if we stop the 1% from blocking the transition, and start building it now, while we still can.

World crude oil production has been on a plateau since 2006, despite efforts to find more. Discovery of new oil fields peaked in the 1960s. Many analysts – including the US military – predict that in the next few years oil supply will fall short of demand and go into permanent decline. This will lead to shortages and high prices, which will continue the economic slowdown, and high unemployment. Of course, this is on top of whatever financial crises are already waiting in the wings. The longer we wait to get the transition started, the more difficult and costly it will be.

Climate change and the limits to fuel supplies and natural resources may be abstract, but lead to very material consequences including food shortages, natural disasters and wars. The world’s largest corporations have calculated that they profit more from maintaining their monopolies on the world’s food, commerce and transportation systems than from preventing human suffering and death. Blowing the whistle on the financial elites blocking the renewable energy transition is one place to start. Another is by organizing to create the renewable energy economy at the local level.

Further collaboration between the Occupy and sustainability movements

To respond to climate change, resource depletion and economic injustice our society has to be transformed from top to bottom: from energy, housing, food and agriculture, transportation, urban planning, and local economic development, to industry and manufacturing.

Although transformative federal action in these areas may be blocked, organizers may find opportunities to address these matters locally with little resistance. Projects can benefit the 99% by offering relief from continuing economic turmoil, encouraging production of local goods and services, lowering bills, redirecting the flow of money from large corporations to small businesses, and laying the groundwork for more democratic and just communities. Such projects would be natural ways to extend the values central to the Occupy movement, get more citizens involved, and pressure elected officials to do their parts. They might look less like protests, and more like other parts of the alternative economy now getting underway - consumer and worker cooperatives, barter networks and credit unions.

Two areas to explore for potential projects are energy use and the food system. Residential energy conservation retrofits still offer low hanging fruit. They reduce energy bills, reduce fuel use, reduce pollution and carbon emissions, improve health and can create vast numbers of weatherization jobs. Unlike the rest of the NYC manufacturing sector, food production is steadily growing. The thriving local food movement and city officials are working together to create a regional food system, which can employ many more area residents in all phases of agriculture and food production.

Projects that enable people to benefit from accelerating the renewable energy transition locally could appeal to broader audiences than the sustainability and social justice movements have activated so far. We need to connect the dots between the many such projects already out there and the broader context of why they’re needed. Sharing the stories of these projects widely will help them get replicated, and catalyze the creation of new projects. With a world to be transformed, we’ve got all the motivation we need.

Read the full version of this article.

Please post your suggestions and comments below, or contact beyondoilnyc@yahoo.com.

***

Full spectrum sustainability: bringing together the climate change and economic justice movements
Dan Miner, Beyond Oil NYC
A sustainable world that works for the 99% is possible, if we can respond to climate change, economic injustice and resource depletion at the same time. The transition to a renewable energy economy can be a valuable frame for that discussion. Just as the financial elites brought about the economic crisis, they are blocking the renewable energy transition to reap more profit from their fossil fuel investments. Because of fuel depletion as well as climate change, further delay may prevent a successful transition. Social justice and sustainability advocates can blow the whistle on the 1% for this issue too, and collaborate to speed up the transition locally. Read full article

energybulletin.net

Share Recommend | Keep | Reply | Mark as Last Read | Read Replies (1)


To: Wharf Rat who wrote (12974)1/12/2012 10:38:42 AM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 16125
 
The Faustian bargain that modern economists never mention
by Dr. Gary Peters
Historically people have shifted their belief systems in various ways. The Greeks and Romans believed in numerous gods and goddesses and attributed all kinds of powers to them. Then the great monotheistic religions came along and people began to believe in just one god, though they honored him under different names.

Recently, beliefs have shifted again, with people worshipping just one part of a god, the invisible hand. Thanks to Adam Smith and those who followed him, especially the current neoclassical economic theologians, we have seen such an increase in the world’s wealth and sheer numbers that it is hard to imagine life before the industrial revolution, with its shift from mostly human and animal muscle power to the energy dense fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas. It is also hard to imagine that humanity could someday slide back into another age of scarcer and more expensive energy, but that is a possibility that cannot be excluded from our thinking.

The Faustian Bargain

What about the Faustian bargain? It remains deeply hidden from view because its exposure by the high priests of modern economics would force us to rethink how we live and why we live this way, as well as what we’re planning to leave for future generations. The Faustian bargain goes something like this: Thanks to the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels, humans (really just a small minority of them) are able to live richer lives today than even the queens and kings of yore could have dreamed of.

Furthermore, we’ve used some of those finite resources to increase food supplies and to expand the human population, which provides the economic system with both more workers and more consumers, a necessity to keep the economy growing under our current economic model. The world’s population increased from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7 billion today, and we add about 80 million more each year. Humans have quickly become the most numerous megafauna on the planet.

The other side of the bargain, the side hidden from view and never mentioned in economics texts is this: At some undetermined time in the future, one that creeps ever closer, this economic system, fed by energy and other resources at ever increasing rates at one end and spewing out waste products at rates that cannot be absorbed by Earth’s ecosystems at the other, is unsustainable. What that means is simple enough: Industrial society as we know it cannot go on as it has forever—not even close.

Our economic system must exist within Earth’s finite limits, so recent and current generations have sold their soul to the devil for temporary riches, leaving the Devil to collect his due when the system falls apart under its own weight and the four horsemen of the apocalypse ride again across the world’s landscapes. None of this will happen tomorrow or this week or this year, but our economic system is faltering at both ends.

For many, if not most, of the world’s population life may become more difficult, incomes lower, and uncertainty greater. It does not mean the end of the world, as some predict for 2012, but it will mean that future generations probably will not live like current ones. Rather than admit that the current system cannot be sustained, the affluent and powerful will do everything possible to maintain the status quo.

The Fallacy of Long-Term Economic Growth

Economic growth remains a mantra for politicians and corporate leaders, including the banksters who brought us the Great Recession. Even President Obama, like presidents before him, speaks regularly about “growing the economy.” But nothing in the real world suggests that economic growth can continue forever. Nor does much evidence support the notion that economic growth has been a good thing for either the planet or billions of its human residents. It looks more like a colossal Ponzi scheme.

One of the most optimistic supporters of modern economics and its marvels is Tim Harford, who wrote, in his book The Logic of Life, “The more of us there are in the world, living our logical lives, the better our chances of seeing out the next million years.” This may be the dumbest thing an economist has ever written and he shows not even the slightest understanding of the planet on which we live. Homo sapiens has only been around for about 200,000 years, so another 800,000 years at the rate we’re going seems absurd. If our population were to continue to grow at an annual rate of only 1.0 percent, slightly less than our current growth rate, then our numbers would increase to over 115 trillion in just the next thousand years. You can play with the growth rate if you wish, but you cannot escape the cold hard fact that human population growth must stop. Only economists seem to miss the fact that economic growth must stop.

Among the high priests of modern economic theology, Paul Krugman came closer than anyone to admitting that growth could not go on forever on our planet. In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times (12-26-10) he wrote, “What the commodity markets are telling us is that we’re living in a finite world [my italics] ….” He went on to mention the possibility of peak oil production and even climate change, both of which threaten the modern economic system, but then, returning to the faithful fold, he wrote, “This won’t bring an end to economic growth….” He admitted that our lifestyles might have to change but gave no clue about where and how that might come about or where it might lead.

Economic reality and economic theology don’t fit together very well. In 1988 Edward Abbey wrote, in his book One Life at a Time, Please:

It should be clear to everyone by now that crude numerical growth does not solve our problems of unemployment, welfare, crime, traffic, filth, noise, squalor, the pollution of air, the corruption of our politics, the debasement of the school system (hardly worthy of the name ‘education’), and the general loss of popular control over the political process—where money, not people, is now the determining factor.



Today, 24 years later, virtually every word of Abbey’s statement is truer than ever, yet politicians and economic theologians continue to preach that if we can just grow the economy (local, state, national, and world) then all will be well again. You need not look far or deeply to see how wrong they are and what price we’ll pay when the Devil comes looking for our collective souls.

Among economists, Herman Daly is one of the few who has tried to reveal the Faustian bargain for what it really is, as is apparent in this statement from a Dec. 26 article, Rio+20 Needs to Address the Downsides of Growth:

Even though economies are still growing, and still put growth in first place, it is no longer economic growth, at least in wealthy countries, but has become uneconomic growth. In other words, the environmental and social costs of increased production are growing faster than the benefits, increasing “illth” faster than wealth, thereby making us poorer, not richer. We hide the uneconomic nature of growth from ourselves by faulty national accounting because growth is our panacea, indeed our idol, and we are very afraid of the idea of a steady-state economy. The increasing illth is evident in exploding financial debt, in biodiversity loss, and in destruction of natural services, most notably climate regulation.



As a geographer, I look for signs in my local cultural landscape that look ominous, from potholes in streets to for sale and/or for lease signs strewn around our city like leaves after a storm. Ours is a small city, with about 30,000 residents, yet our city manager, in an end-of-the-year report, pointed out that we would need some $80,000,000 to repair our current infrastructure, a figure out of all proportion to our physical and residential size. That amounts to nearly $2,700 for each man, woman, and child. He also pointed out that our city is operating with below necessary numbers of police, fire, and emergency responders. The potholes will get larger in 2012 and beyond.

Though these and other problems are widely distributed across the nation, I think the infrastructure issue alone is symbolic. The U.S. is becoming a “pothole culture,” one in which the pothole is a symbol of our inability to accomplish all kinds of things any more. (See recent New York Times article.) Other nations are on their way as well.

Despite the continued whirring of the world economy, most people here and elsewhere are not getting anywhere and are feeling jilted by the system they’ve depended on for decades because they thought it could be sustained forever. It cannot, but that doesn’t mean life cannot go on, it means, instead, that we need to move in new directions, but we won’t do that until we understand what is making so many people so unhappy. We need to realize that instead of believing bigger is better we need to decide to favor better over bigger, quality over quantity, less over more.

Two examples illustrate the point that the world economy has exceeded both Earth’s ability to provide ever more inputs and its ability to absorb and purify excessive wastes. Crude oil is a good example of the first; carbon emissions and global warming good examples of the second. Both were mentioned by Krugman, but he provided no details about how we might deal with either issue, nor did he say how economic growth would continue without confronting these and numerous other raw material and waste issues.

First Example of Limits to Economic Growth: Crude Oil

Given that most Americans have a knowledge of history that doesn’t go back much over a month or two, it is no surprise that they cannot conceive of a time without cars, gasoline (preferably cheap), and a pattern of settlement that requires the use of both—our modern suburban landscape. For many years the U.S. was the world’s largest producer of crude oil and the largest exporter of it as well. In 1970, however, our oil extraction reached a peak and then started down hill. We became an importer of oil and today import more oil than any other nation, even though we still produce lots of oil and our extraction has been increasing in recent years.

Since about 2005 the world’s extraction of crude oil has been almost flat, despite prices that rose at one point to around $147 per barrel. Though we may not know for a while whether the world has reached its peak oil production or not, we do know that it will. In the meantime we know that traditional oil fields are getting more and more difficult to find, are harder to get to, and will be more expensive to develop. Alternative sources of oil, such as the Athabascan tar sands, are abundant but also expensive to develop and environmentally undesirable. Substitutes for gasoline, such as corn ethanol, are not only nonsensical from either an environmental or an economic viewpoint, they are also diverting food from humans (mostly via animals) to SUVs, driving food prices upward.

Figure 1 below, by mathematician Tom Murphy on his Do the Math blog, in post called, The Future Needs and Attitude Adjustment, provides a deeper historical perspective on oil production and industrial societies.



Figure 1: Image by Tom Murphy. Original caption: "On the long view, the fossil fuel age is a blip, with a down side mirroring the (more fun) up side."


You don’t need any knowledge of either deep history or the unpredictable future to get the point of this graph (unless, of course, you are an economist). Like Earth itself, the supply of crude oil is finite, even if we don’t know exactly how much is there, where it all is, or how much of it we can ultimately recover. Though we can tweak this curve, argue about its shape, and nibble along its edges, the basic fact remains: World oil extraction will reach a peak, probably sooner rather than later. After that, extraction will decline, though along what kind of curve we don’t know for sure. Just as the Stone Age did not end because of a lack of stones, the oil age will not end because of a lack of oil. Rather, it will end because what is left of the oil supply will at some point cost far more than it is worth; it will take more energy to extract it than we would get from it.

Knowing this, the prudent course would be to wean ourselves from this energy source as soon as possible, in order to treat our addiction before it is too late. However, we live in one of the most competitive periods in world history. Not only do Americans not want to be parted from their cars but millions of Chinese, Indians, and others are lining up to get their first taste of “the freedom of the road.” That is one of the reasons why, despite a sagging world economy and lower crude oil consumption in the U.S. in recent years, the price of crude oil has hovered around $100 per barrel through most of 2011 ($98.83 on Dec. 31).

Second Example of Limits to Economic Growth: Carbon Emissions and Global Warming

Burning fossil fuels to provide energy at the input end of our economic system results in a combination of outputs or waste products that cannot be removed or neutralized quickly enough by our ocean and atmosphere. That leads to an increasing amount of gases and particulates gathering in both, changing the chemistry of both the ocean and our atmosphere. Among the gases is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that we know plays a role in how Earth’s atmosphere is warmed. Adding more carbon dioxide to our atmosphere is analogous to turning our heater up a little—we get more heat.

We know that the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere has gone from about 280 parts per million around 1850 to 390 parts per million in 2011, an increase of just over 39 percent. Though we did not discover how to measure the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide directly before the mid-1950s, we do have a careful record of what it has been doing since then, as shown in Figure 2 below (from Wikipedia):



Figure 2. The Keeling Curve of atmospheric CO2 concentrations measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory. (From Wikipedia)


It is hard to miss the upward trend in the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere since 1958. Few scientists would identify a source for this trend outside of humans and our burning of fossil fuels. Figure 3 below shows how much more carbon dioxide humans are adding each year through the burning of fossil fuels, setting a new record for emissions in 2010 ( source):



Figure 3. Greenhouse Gas image from Yahoo News


It also shows the major contributors, China and the U.S. The failure of the U.S. to lead the world toward an economic system less dependent on fossil fuels is monumental. Modeling shows that rising carbon dioxide emissions can be expected to lead to global warming.

Conclusions

Though causes and effects may be difficult to connect, the outbreak of protests around the world in 2011 doesn’t seem coincidental. From the Arab Spring, to Greece and other European countries, to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S., and even to demonstrations in Russia, people have taken to the streets to protest governments, corporations, and policies that are affecting their lives in negative ways. TIME magazine in 2011 chose “The Protestor” as its person of the year.

The are several reasons for people to be angry and upset. High oil prices and more extreme weather conditions have been driving food prices upward and high gas prices act as a tax on consumers, slowing modern economies. In addition, in the U.S. awareness has grown that most of the gains of economic growth are going to the top one percent (or less) of the population. Figure 4 below from Mother Jones (“ It’s the Inequality, Stupid,” by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot, March/April 2011) says all one needs to know about inequality in the U.S. today.



Figure 4. Average Income Per Family Distributed by Income Group. (From Mother Jones)


Figure 5 below from the Congressional Budget Office shows how things have changed for different income groups in recent decades in the U.S. Citizens who are not in the top 1% are coming out very much worse than those at the top, whether they realize it or not.



Figure 5.


Even as nations continue to prop up banks and the Fed plays games with trillions of dollars, the general feeling seems to be that the “pothole culture” or its equivalent is spreading, that the benefits of what economic growth there is are not being shared equitably, and that many places cannot even maintain what they have in terms of infrastructure. Frustration is widespread, and much of it seems connected to what may be first signs that our modern industrial economy is breaking down. An analogy might be those first tiny pools of oil that you start to see under your car, warning you softly that things may be going wrong.

Unless humanity recognizes the bargain we’ve made with the Devil, and soon, we’ll saddle ourselves or posterity with paying the Devil his due. We cannot treat our current addiction to fossil fuels and economic growth until we admit we have them. Perhaps the best advice I’ve seen lately came from John Greer, who wrote:

Right now, as the limits to growth tighten around us like a noose and an economy geared to perpetual expansion shudders and cracks in the throes of decline, one of the things that’s needed most is the willingness, in a time of gathering darkness, to locate what lamps can still be found, and light them.



Is anyone out there listening? You can bet the Devil is!

energybulletin.net

Share Recommend | Keep | Reply | Mark as Last Read


From: Wharf Rat1/12/2012 11:02:58 AM
   of 16125
 

Okay, Romney, Now You’re Just Lying About Solar: The Industry Needs to Hold Candidates Accountable
By Stephen Lacey on Jan 10, 2012 at 9:00 am


Republican presidential front runner Mitt Romney is catching a lot of flak for his comment in New Hampshire yesterday that he “likes to fire people” who provide him services he doesn’t think adequate.

While everyone was busy interpreting the meaning of that comment, Romney made a more decidedly firm — and bizarrely false — statement about solar investment. While the solar industry saw a record amount of installations and investment in 2011, bringing in more venture capital dollars ($1.81 billion) than any other cleantech sector, Romney claimed that investors “pulled back in that industry” after the Solyndra debacle:

He compared the way Bain Capital helped start Staples, a company that acted lean for its first years and received just $5 million of capital investment, with the way Solyndra acted after receiving $530 million from Washington, getting fancy corporate offices.

“When people saw what Staples was doing, they got into the same market too. But when other solar companies saw Solyndra get $530 million from the government, investors pulled back in that industry,” he said. “So instead of encouraging solar development, the Obama administration hurt it.”

Actually, the exact opposite happened — U.S. solar installations more than doubled in 2011, with last year seeing a $1 billion investment from Bank of America for the single largest residential solar project ever.

If Romney were being graded on the PolitiFact scale Truth-O-Meter scale, the Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire meter would be completely off the charts.

At this point, with the Solyndra debacle fading out of the headlines, why pay attention to a ridiculous statement like this at one at a campaign stop in New Hampshire? Because this was at a meeting with 300 members of Nashua, New Hampshire’s Chamber of Commerce — a group of people who have enormous influence over the business decisions of the state’s second-largest city.



Romney has danced around this argument before. But now the former business man is doubling down on a preposterously false claim about the solar industry, feeding fellow business folk with a heaping spoon full of BS to satisfy the talking points of radicals within his party who will do anything to marginalize clean energy.

This is the kind of nonsensicial, out-of-touch statement that has become the political mantra of presidential candidates, even from a candidate like Romney, who was a former champion of clean energy technologies while governor of Massachusetts.

Maybe he’s tricked himself into believing this statement by now. The only way he’s going to “un-learn” these lies are to hear from people who actually represent the industry.

So if you’re a member of the solar industry in any of the states soon to be holding primaries or caucuses, are you going to let the candidates get away with making these kind of statements on the campaign?

thinkprogress.org

Share Recommend | Keep | Reply | Mark as Last Read | Read Replies (1)


To: Wharf Rat who wrote (12976)1/12/2012 11:04:45 AM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 16125
 

Germany Installed 3 GW of Solar PV in December — The U.S. Installed 1.7 GW in All of 2011
By Stephen Lacey on Jan 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm


And the Germans did it at roughly half the price.

In the lead up to another 15% reduction in Germany’s feed-in tariff (the price paid for solar electricity fed into the grid), the German solar industry finished 2011 off with a bang — installing 3,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic systems in December.

Let’s put those figures in perspective: In just one month, Germany installed almost twice as many megawatts of solar than the entire U.S. developed during all of 2011. Preliminary figures show Germany ended the year with roughly 7,500 MW of installations; the U.S. ended up with about 1,700 megawatts, according to GTM Research.

Oh, and I should probably mention that the Germans installed all of that solar at almost half the price. The average price of an installed solar system in Germany came to $2.80 in the third quarter of 2011. In the U.S., it was about $5.20 in the third quarter.

Why the disparity? The Germans have a much more mature solar market. The country’s simple, long-term feed-in tariff makes financing projects less expensive, and has created a sophisticated supply chain that allows companies to source product, generate leads and get systems on rooftops efficiently.

Some criticize feed-in tariffs for not creating a “market” like we imagine in the U.S. The activity we saw at the end of 2011 is representative of what happens every year in Germany: because the incentives are dropped down to meet market pricing, there is always a rush in December to install systems quickly. But isn’t that what we do in the U.S. when tax credits and rebates are about to expire?

It’s fair to criticize feed-in tariffs like those in Spain and the Czech Republic which caused an unsustainable boom before crashing down. But when looking at the numbers and pricing that the German solar market continues to post, there’s still a very compelling argument for states and municipalities to consider moderate, long-term pricing mechanisms like feed-in tariffs

thinkprogress.org

Share Recommend | Keep | Reply | Mark as Last Read


From: Ron1/13/2012 8:23:02 AM
1 Recommendation   of 16125
 
Chris Nelder: U.S. after all these years, still has no credible energy policy:
financialsense.com

Share Recommend | Keep | Reply | Mark as Last Read


From: Wharf Rat1/13/2012 10:42:25 AM
   of 16125
 
Energy Efficiency Lives! Devastating Debunking of Rebound Effect and Breakthrough Institute By Climate Guest Blogger on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm


Our fact-checking revealed that empirical estimates of energy rebound cited by the Breakthrough Institute are over-estimated or wrong, and they contradict the technological reality of energy efficiency gains observed in many industrial sectors. For journalists, the Rebound Effect is a trap—it is a man-bites-dog story that never happened.

Energy efficiency policies work, a new study finds, especially when they are broad and deep and sustained, as in the case of California.

by Shakeb Afsah and Kendyl Salcito and Chris Wielga, in a report for CO2 Scorecard

Summary

Energy efficiency is an over-rated policy tool when it comes to cutting energy use and CO2 emissions—that’s the basic message promoted by the US think tank the Breakthrough Institute (BTI), and amplified in major news outlets like the New Yorker and the New York Times. Their logic is that every action to conserve energy through efficient use leads to an opposite reaction to consume more energy—a “rebound” mechanism, which, according to the BTI, can negate as much as 60-100% of saved energy, and in some cases can backfire to increase net energy consumption.

In this research note we refute this policy message and show that the BTI, as well as its champions in the media, have overplayed their hand, supporting their case with anecdotes and analysis that don’t measure up against theory and data….

We provide new statistical evidence to show that energy efficiency policies and programs can reliably cut energy use—a finding that is consistent with the policy stance of leading experts and organizations like the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the World Bank. Additionally, we take our policy message one step further—by using new insights from the emerging multi-disciplinary literature on “energy efficiency gap,” we recommend that the world needs more energy efficiency policies and programs to cut greenhouse gases—not less as implied by the BTI and its cohorts in the media.

thinkprogress.org

Share Recommend | Keep | Reply | Mark as Last Read


From: Wharf Rat1/15/2012 10:39:46 AM
   of 16125
 


Key US oil supplier may cut off spigot Sunday

It's unclear how much of Nigeria's production would be affected. At worst, the country's 20,000 unionized oil workers could take as much as 2.4 million barrels of daily crude production off the market, striking at the heart of Nigeria's oil-dependent economy.

Even if strikers are only partially successful, fears of tightened global supplies could raise oil prices by $5-$10 per barrel on futures markets next week. Gasoline prices would follow, rising by as much as 10 cents per gallon and forcing U.S. drivers to spend an additional $36 million a day at the pump.







Share Recommend | Keep | Reply | Mark as Last Read


From: Wharf Rat1/16/2012 10:07:01 AM
   of 16125
 
Last time I looked, Zakaria ignored oil. Not any more...

Zakaria: Why oil prices will stay high
Editor's Note: Be sure to catch GPS every Sunday at 10a.m. and 1p.m. EST. If you miss it, you can buy episodes on iTunes.

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

The next time you pay $3.50 dollars for a gallon of gas, stop and think about a basic rule of economics. When demand is low and supply is strong, prices should fall. Right?

Now apply that to oil. People drive less in the winter. The American economy is slow. The Euro Zone has stalled. China and India are slowing down. So demand for oil worldwide is low. So why is oil trading high at $113 a barrel, more than twice the price it was trading at five years ago when the global economy was booming? What in the world is going on?

There's a school of thought that suggests the global economy is doing better than we think. China and the U.S. are proving resilient to Europe's problems and so traders are expecting renewed demand in the world's two top economies. But another school of thought argues we're in the midst of a bubble. Speculators have been driving up the price of oil and eventually it will crash.

Now I think that the economic fundamentals really can't justify oil prices at their current levels. The real driver of high oil is not the stuff you find in the business section of the newspaper - the demand for oil in India and China. It's on the front page: Global politics.

You see, traders worry about risk. And the biggest risk to oil supplies is the threat of war in the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, in Nigeria mass protests are raising worries about the supply of fuel from there. Venezuela is in a slow-motion collapse because of Hugo Chavez's mismanagement. There have also been protests in Russia, the world's top oil producer. And remember the fallout of the Arab Spring - Libya's oil production in 2011 was severely curtailed. Iraq continues to disappoint with its oil output and its recent political tensions certainly haven't made things any better.

So a mix of war rhetoric and local troubles in key oil states are factors driving up the price of crude. And that translates to higher prices at the pump. Now that logic suggests that prices will fall when the news calms down.

But perhaps not. Perhaps oil producers want these sky high prices. Usually the major oil producers understand that keeping prices too high in the short term means people start finding alternatives to oil. They start driving more efficiently; they start looking for alternate energies. But this time, oil states face crucial challenges. Look closer at the Arab Spring. The only oil rich country that has been forced into regime change is Libya. Why? The Gulf states lavish subsidies and salary increases on their citizens. They've upped spending to record levels to suppress any popular discontent.

I saw some striking numbers this week: Look at the "break-even" costs for the world's top oil producers. That is the minimum price at which these countries need to sell oil so that they can balance their budgets.

Russia now needs oil at $110 a barrel to manage its finances. For Iraq, the number is $100. Even Saudi Arabia now needs oil to trade around $80 a barrel just to balance its budgets. The numbers are also high for Algeria, Qatar, and Oman. Only a decade ago Saudi Arabia was able to balance its budget with oil prices averaging around $25 a barrel.

So now it is in these countries' interest to keep oil prices high, which they do by curtailing supply in one way or the other. This is perhaps the most lasting impact of the year of global protest: High oil prices.

So, the bottom line is an oil crash seems unlikely. Even though the engines of global growth are sputtering, be prepared for a period of expensive commutes. Maybe it's time to trade in your Escalade for a Prius.

For more of my thoughts throughout the week, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and to visit the Global Public Square every day. Also, for more What in the World? pieces, click here.

globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com

Share Recommend | Keep | Reply | Mark as Last Read


From: Wharf Rat1/16/2012 10:16:49 AM
   of 16125
 
Back in the day, urban gardens everywhere
by Erik Curren
In the eighteenth century, villages, towns and cities had almost as many gardens as buildings.

Have you ever walked through your neighborhood, noticed a vacant lot, and wondered why nobody had bothered to plant a garden there, instead of just letting the land sit around empty?

Now, of course, plant and insect people will tell you that no land is empty. Even the humblest weedlot plays a role in urban ecology.

But I’d wager that few vacant lots are under the control of a wildlife manager or urban forester. Instead, it’s clear that most empty lots just sit there, waiting for the the real estate market to improve. Hardly the highest and best use of scarce urban land.

In the past, people never would have let good land in a well populated area go to waste. Just take the example of the UK town of Guildford, 27 miles southwest of London. Transition Network co-founder Rob Hopkins recently unearthed an 18th-century map of the town showing how yesteryear’s version of smart development revolved around maximizing in-town photosynthesis:

We see, for example, that the hospital has its own vegetable garden. The Free School has its own orchard. While many of the houses have their own gardens, others appear to have allotments out the back, large pieces of land divided into plots. In the center of the map is a cluster of coaching inns, each of which have yards full of vegetable gardens. Behind every house, on every piece of ground, food is being grown. It is an extraordinary snapshot of a time when food production was the principal form of urban land use after roads and buildings.



Down with lawns! Hopkins isn’t trying to romanticize the bad old days when life was harder and standards of living were much lower, but instead, “to marvel at what a really local food culture looks like in reality for those of us who have no living memory of such a thing.”

And of course to suggest that, if we’re smart now and lucky later, maps of our towns in the future might show just as much urban space under cultivation as Hopkins’s 18th-century map of Guildford does.

Today, I wince when I see a wide expanse of expensive urban land going to waste. And I cringe when I see, even worse, some status-conscious property owner subjecting God’s own sun, rain and soil (not to mention the devil’s own petroleum products) to the insult of producing fodder for a riding lawn mower.

But if the sight of huge toxic lawns, acres of parking lot or neighborhoods blighted by brownfields sprouting broken glass and rusted shards of beer cans is repulsive, then, with apologies to Tommy Lee Jones’s sheriff in The Fugitive, the vision of a garden behind every warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse, is sublimely beautiful.

And planting mini-orchards of apple, pear and cherry trees in every median strip, on every sidewalk and in every public park could help our cities and towns provide a new kind of prosperity to their residents.

Gardening our cities would be easy, cheap and fun for all. Why wait? Volunteer citizen efforts are a great start, getting neighbors together to make sure everybody’s planted their own backyard. But to really spread, you have to start gardening some of those vacant lots.

It may be time to re-work local property tax. Instead of taxing parcels that have a building on them at a higher rate, why not tax vacant lots more — unless of course, their owners plant food gardens or allow someone else to do it. Then, reward that civic-minded property owner with a big discount on her property tax bill.

Call it the Food Security Tax Break.

– Erik Curren, Transition Voice

energybulletin.net

Share Recommend | Keep | Reply | Mark as Last Read


From: T L Comiskey1/17/2012 5:48:53 PM
1 Recommendation   of 16125
 
Herschel telescope revisits cosmic classic


By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent,


BBC News
Eagle Nebula: The region is tens of light-years across and is in the process of birthing stars



Europe's Herschel space telescope has produced a majestic new version of a classic astronomical target - the Eagle Nebula (also called M16).

Share Recommend | Keep | Reply | Mark as Last Read | Read Replies (2)
Previous 10 | Next 10 

Copyright © 1995-2014 Knight Sac Media. All rights reserved.Stock quotes are delayed at least 15 minutes - See Terms of Use.