The Carbon Rush Of The 21st Century  

Posted by Big Gav

The SMH Business section this weekend dedicates the front page to an article called "Carbon is the new Black".

WHERE there's muck, there's brass. The climate change debate in Australia has been all about the politics of pain, focused on the cost to the economy, business and consumers and the risk of a "greenhouse recession" if government mishandles the fix to the problem. But while there will certainly be costs for companies and consumers, many businesses will be making lots of money in the new low-carb world.

With both sides of politics now committed to introducing carbon trading, and a price on carbon emissions, the investment outlook in many key industries has been transformed. Some sectors could struggle, while others will flourish. Whole new industries will emerge, based on the suddenly viable alternative technologies that will spring up in response to the new demands to reduce CO2 emissions. New financial markets will be created to make the system work.

Welcome to the Carbon Rush of the 21st Century, a potential bonanza that, globally, could make the 19th century gold rushes look small by comparison.

But the precise path to the future - and the biggest winners and losers - will depend a lot on who wins the election later this year. While both sides now agree on the broad framework for solving the problem, they differ on crucial aspects, creating a new layer of uncertainty for business at least for the next year or so.

Crucially, neither side has specified their short and medium-term targets for reducing CO2 - and won't until after the election. And that means the likely carbon price that will emerge is difficult to estimate even if you could predict the uncertain election outcome. But the price that emerges is central to which of the alternative technologies become economically viable, as well as the broad path of investment in existing generation technologies.

"Any reasonable form of cost for carbon dioxide would immediately make a whole suite of alternative generating technologies competitive to our very cost-effective fossil fuels," the Government's adviser on the nuclear industry, Ziggy Switkowski, said in an interview this week. "And so nuclear would become more competitive, wind, solar, eventually geothermal … and then the market will decide where the investment funds should flow," he said.

"The higher the price of carbon, the larger the 'swing' towards no or low-carbon intensity sources of electricity generation and, more importantly, away from coal-fired generation," says CommSec utilities analyst, Paul Johnston. ...

The SMH also has an article on the proposed Anvil Hill coal mine and the imaginary "clean coal" window dressing being used to pretend the emissions from this coal won't exist.
TECHNOLOGY being touted by the State Government as a solution to coal's climate-change pollution may not be commercially viable until after the giant Anvil Hill coal mine has closed, the Federal Labor Party and industry experts say.

Despite repeated warnings from the world's top scientists that substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions must be made in the next 10 years, the Government on Thursday approved the Upper Hunter project, a coal mine so big it will be responsible for up to 530 million tonnes of CO2 pollution over the mine's 21-year life. That CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for 100 years. But in a reannouncement of a commitment first made in March, the Premier, Morris Iemma, said yesterday his government would spend $22 million on technology aimed at improving the efficiency of coal-burning or that captures CO2 from coal and buries it underground.

The federal Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, said he did not expect carbon capture and storage technology to be viable until 2030. Scientists and industry experts say the technology could be ready anywhere between 10 and 40 years from now, while the International Panel on Climate Change said most of the deployment of such technology would not occur until after 2050.

A third of all CO2 emissions due to human activity come from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, underlying the race around the world to find either replacement energy sources, or a way of disposing of the CO2 generated when coal is burnt.

The emissions from Anvil Hill are so great they would exceed the 115 million tonnes of CO2 the Government has promised to avoid by 2030 by promoting renewable energy such as wind power. Mr Iemma made it clear yesterday his government's first priority was to protect the already heavily subsidised coal industry, not to cut emissions by reducing demand for coal-fired electricity. "It is a real opportunity in saving the coal industry and tackling climate change," said Mr Iemma, referring to the $22 million investment in the "clean coal" technology. "Greenhouse gas emissions from power stations will be captured and pumped into deep underground rock formations for permanent disposal."

However, the Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, admitted no suitable sites had been identified in NSW to bury CO2, which could mean piping the gas interstate to be buried.

Approving Anvil Hill and other new coal mines negated the Government's existing climate policies many times over, said the campaigns manager for Greenpeace, Stephen Campbell. "None of the coal from mines like Anvil Hill will ever be used in a power plant using geo-sequestration technology. All of the greenhouse pollution they create will be emitted to the atmosphere, fuelling dangerous climate change."

Resource Investor's "Peak Oil Passnotes" asks What Price Energy Security ?.
If the quest for energy stability is one that the world’s major economies want to pursue, then things are not going well. If you take a second to stand back and look at the countries that produce large quantities of energy then it seems obvious that we are destined to have some major problems. That is if you like cheap energy. If you like high prices then things look good.

The attempt by right wing fundamentalists in the U.S. and the U.K. to secure energy supply through bombs, tanks and the blood of hundreds of thousands is failing. And failing fast. Just like the state-capitalists of the Soviet Union failed in their own attempt in Afghanistan. Iraq may no longer pose a threat to U.S. power-interests, in as much as it will not be invading any of its neighbours any time soon, but the anticipated stream of cheap energy has distinctly failed to materialise.

Perhaps the only Saddamite law left on the statute books by the U.S. was the one that forbade negotiations with trade unions. But now it appears that even this is disintegrating. Unions have formed in Iraq, the Iraqi Oil Workers Federation is the umbrella organisation, and this week the government said it would arrest its leaders after strikes were threatened. Now that’s democracy.

Instead the government has been forced into negotiations, in part due to the endless wrangling over the dubious oil law. That is if “death squads” do not kill the union leaders first. An interesting parallel with anther staunch U.S. ally such as Colombia, the only country where Thanksgiving turkeys have a better chance of annual survival than a union representative. But still, the road to the wonderful idea of a 5 million barrel a day Iraq is a long way off. ...



Grist has more on Ecuador's offer to not develop an oil field in the Amazon - if someone pays them $350 million a year. Maybe they'd be better off if someone gave them $200 million a year in solar panels, wind turbines and grid equipment - a gift that keeps on giving...
Ecuador offered to play "Let's Make a Deal" this week, suggesting that it could afford to keep a pristine area from oil drilling if developed nations and green groups ponied up some cold, hard cash. "We are willing to do this sacrifice, but not for free," said President Rafael Correa, who suggested that $350 million annually for 10 years would suffice. "This is an insignificant figure compared to what is spent on the Iraq war," Correa added. Zing!

The $350 million figure is about half what the country expects could be profited from developing Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini, Ecuador's biggest oilfield. The ITT is partially within the 2.5-million-acre Yasuni National Park, an area home to indigenous people and so biodiverse that -- fun fact! -- there are nearly as many species of trees in 2.5 acres as in the entire U.S. and Canada combined. But developing the ITT could feed approximately 12 days of global oil consumption. So it's a tough call.

I haven't quoted The Energy Blog much lately, which has been a bit remiss of me, so I might throw in a bunch of interesting recent posts. First "Why Not Plug-in Hybrids Now?". In the meantime, regular Toyota Prius hybrids are setting sales records.
CalCars testified before the California Air Resources Board's review of its historic Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate. Part of their testimony, which represents their proposed way to respond to carmakers reluctance to use today's batteries to build a demonstration fleet of PHEVs, was as follows:
If left on their own, an unknown number of years from now, one or more carmakers might begin to produce some quantities of PHEV passenger vehicles.

Why not sooner? They're waiting for affordable, 40-mile range, life-of-vehicle batteries. Yet the best way to test and evolve systems is to put them on the road. What if California said to carmakers, "We'll make it easy for you?" Please don't scrimp on safety -- but on the other factors, we'll go all out to help you get started." (By the way, we're in a race. If we don't act, we hope Washington State, Texas, or the US government will make it happen...) ...

The first large demonstration fleets will give carmakers market research from drivers and help them "get PHEVs right" by improving other aspects of the car. They will help ensure that the public has realistic expectations about PHEVs. Meanwhile, the ARB will be able to address in parallel issues involved in PHEV certification for mass-production cars. And while carmakers get ready for volume production, given the rapid changes in the energy storage industry, they may have even better battery choices in as little as two years. ...

Maybe their testimony makes clearer the position advocated by The Energy Blog for some time.

Next, a look at Mitsubishi Claiming The Highest Commercial Solar Cell Efficiency.
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (OTC:MIELY) announced on May 31 its achievement of a world record photoelectric conversion efficiency rate of 18.0% in a 150mm square practical use multi-crystalline silicon solar cell, an improvement of 1.2% over their previous models.

They claimed to have achieved the world’s highest conversion efficiency rate of 18.0% by adding a low reflectivity surface texture on the multi-crystalline silicon as well as developing a process to print electrodes on the surface of the silicon (metallization) and reducing shade loss of front grid electrodes. In the same surface area as previous products, they have achieved a 7% greater electric output, making it suitable for even smaller installations such as narrow roofs.

In October of last year, Kyocera announced it achieved an efficiency improvement in its polycrystalline solar cells, taking them to 18.5%, although it is not clear when they will commercialize their cell. SunPower claims 22% efficiency, but for monocrystalline solar cells, which have higher efficiency than polycrystaline cells, but are more expensive. SunPower is currently in production with these 22% efficiency cells.

It may be nitpicking to argue over 0.5%, but Mitsubisihi certainly is aware of the Kyocera announcement and it is brazen of them to make this claim. I gather they are using the practical use qualifier to cover themselves as Kyocera has not announced any specific plans to commercialize their cells. In any event it is good to see that efficiencies of commercial solar cells are going up. ...

Apparently Brazil May Become The First to Produce Economically Viable Cellulosic Ethanol.
Brazil's is likely to be one of the first countries in the world to produce economically viable cellulosic ethanol, participants at the Sao Paulo-based Ethanol Summit said earlier this week. Some excerpts from the story at cattlenetwork.com
The reason is simple: Feedstock costs alone account for a full 75% to 80% of the cost of ethanol produced from residual biomass, whether it comes from sugarcane, wood chips, switchgrass or corn husks, said Isaias de Carvalho Macedo, a researcher at the country's Interdisciplinary Center for Energy Planning, or NIPE, at the University of Campinas.

At the same time, Brazil already has much of the logistical infrastructure in place to collect the excess sugarcane mass, or bagasse, which will also cut down on initial costs, said Helena Chum, a senior adviser at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab. "In the U.S the harvesting of corn stover and all that infrastructure still needs to be put in place," she said. "Here in Brazil, it already exists." Together, Brazil and the U.S. jointly produce more than 70% of the world's ethanol. However, Brazil is the world's lowest-cost ethanol producer and the leading ethanol exporter.

If new ethanol technologies take off, Brazil could almost double its ethanol output - set to hit over 20 billion liters in the ongoing 2007-08 season - to 36 billion liters per harvest, without expanding planted area beyond its current 6 million hectares, said Nilson Zaramella Boeta, the head director of Brazil's leading private cane research center, the Center for Cane Technology, or CTC.

Just a handful of years back, it cost $6 per gallon to produce ethanol from residual biomass in the U.S., Chum said. "Now it's fallen to about $3 per gallon in 2007, while the cost of producing enzymes has fallen 20-fold in the past four years," she said. "Enzymes have to cost about 5 U.S. cents per liter here in Brazil, just for us to begin thinking of its economic viability," said Elba P.S. Bon, the scientific coordinator of Brazil's Bioethanol Project. "Right now, 12.4 U.S. cents per liter," she added. By 2012, if the cost-cutting trend continues, the cost of producing ethanol via cellulosic technologies could slip to a cost-effective $1 per gallon, said Chum.

Meanwhile Jim considers whether or not Ethanol Pipelines Are A Good Idea ?.
Iowa Congressmen Leonard Boswell has introduced bipartisan legislation to increase the availability of alternative fuels at gasoline stations across the country. The legislation calls for funding a study to find out whether underground pipelines would be a good way to transport ethanol and biodiesel.

The bill, if it passes Congress and becomes law, will direct the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct an ethanol pipeline feasibility study to analyze the technological, economic, regulatory and financial issues in transporting ethanol via dedicated ethanol pipelines. This legislation will also direct the energy department to research the technical factors that prevent transportation of ethanol and bio-diesel in existing pipelines.

While I support the ethanol industry, especially the cellulosic ethanol industry, this idea has limited appeal to me. Without doing any analysis it would seem to me that all the ethanol that could be produced could be consumed within 500 miles of its point of production. Cellulosic ethanol can be producd in a much wider area than corn ethanol which reduces the need for pipeline. The ethanol that is necessary as an additive to gasoline, for areas beyond 500 miles, can be moved by rail or truck tanker as is done today. We must look foreword to the production of biobutanol that can be transported in existing pipelines. We will always have a need for some liquid fuels, but as plug-in hybrids and EV's become available the need for liquid fuels will be reduced and we will have the time necessary to develop biobutanol and a distribution network before U.S. petroleum reserves become critical.

According to IEO2007 world production of unconventional liquids (including biofuels, coal-to-liquids, and gas-to-liquids), which totaled only 2.6 million barrels per day in 2004, is projected to increase to 10.5 million barrels per day and account for 9 percent of total world liquids supply in 2030. They project that petroleum production will increase enough to produce the balance of 118 mbd of liquid fuels needed by that date.

I do not believe that 109 mbd of petroleum will is possible in 2030, more like 90-95 mgd, but I do believe that plug-in and EV's can be produced in large enough quantities to fill in the gap. I also believe that the production of biofuels could be quite a bit higher than projected by IEO.

Jim also believes that Gallium and Indium supplies will be a limiting factor on production of CIGS solar cells - "It's not just climate and population that are bottlenecking".
Some of you (at least one) have questioned my belief that resources of Gallium and Indium may limit the production of CIGS solar cells. I ran across a forum that had a post on the same subject. An article, 'Earths natural wealth: an audit', that came from the NewScientistis Environment, 23 May 2007 was posted. One paragraph is as follows:
Take the metal gallium, which along with indium is used to make indium gallium arsenide. This is the semiconducting material at the heart of a new generation of solar cells that promise to be up to twice as efficient as conventional designs. Reserves of both metals are disputed, but in a recent report René Kleijn, a chemist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, concludes that current reserves "would not allow a substantial contribution of these cells" to the future supply of solar electricity. He estimates gallium and indium will probably contribute to less than 1 per cent of all future solar cells - a limitation imposed purely by a lack of raw material. ...

And a final post from The Energy Blog for Terra Preta fans - Using Biochar in Soils Traps Carbon and Increases Crop Yields.
Biopact has a post on the merits of 'biochar' as a means of reducing carbon in the atmosphere. I had been planning a post on the subject, but they have done a good job.
New research confirms the huge and revolutionary potential of soils to reduce greenhouse gases on a large scale, increase agricultural production while at the same time delivering carbon-negative biofuels based on feedstocks that require less fertilizer and water. ...

The Australian trials of 'agrichar' or 'biochar' have doubled and, in one case, tripled crop growth when applied at the rate of 10 tonnes per hectare. The technique of storing agrichar in soils is now seen as a potential saviour to restore fertility to depleted or nutrient-poor soils (especially in the tropics), and as a revolutionary technique to mitigate climate change. ...

Agrichar is a black carbon byproduct of a process called pyrolysis, which involves heating biomass without oxygen to generate renewable energy. Pyrolysis of biomass results in the production of bio-oil, that can be further refined into liquid biofuels for transport (earlier post, on Dynamotive's trials). When the agrichar is consequently sequestered into soils, the biofuels become carbon-negative - that is, they take more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than they release. This way, they can clean up our past emissions. ...

Tyler has a good post in Clean Break and a longer article in the Toronto Star on the subject, while Cornell University has a Bio-char site for those of you interested in more reading.

Energy Bulletin has a food roundup of food and agriculture news, including this piece on a book called "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations".
“Predictably-and understandably- more pressing problems than saving dirt usually carry the day,” writes David R. Montgomery. But as his new book, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, details, we are losing the brown stuff far, far too quickly. Unlike maritime dead zones and radical climate change, cases in which we have little historical knowledge on which to draw, we do have some sense of what happens to civilizations that abuse and lose their dirt. The book’s conclusion takes little comfort in history: “Unless more immediate disasters do us in, how we address the twin problems of soil degradation and accelerated erosion will eventually determine the fate of modern civilization.” (Never mind the echoes of that useful old tip “If nothing else kills you, cancer will.”)

For terrestrial life forms, dirt is where it all begins. It is “the skin of the earth-the frontier between geology and biology,” a thin, fragile living blanket that covers a hard, rock planet. Early on, Montgomery, a professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington and author of King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon (2003), examines the organic and geologic processes that produce soil and cause it to erode. Given enough time, these competing tendencies tend to bring about an equilibrium in soil characteristics and soil type specific to a given place. Agriculture, of course, alters things.

With more thoroughness than narrative snap, much of Dirt is given over to an environmental history of civilizations, which wax and wane over hundreds and thousands of years as they plow up their topsoil, push their land to its limits in order to feed burgeoning populations, and watch the exposed dirt wash or blow away. It then becomes a matter of moving on to steeper, poorer land, importing food (as in the case of imperial Rome), melting away into the jungle, or slaughtering one another over rare arable land. This dirt’s-eye-view of history provides an interesting perspective on a vast range of topics, from the vanishing commons and the rise of private estates in Europe to the drive to colonize the Americas, from slavery and the Industrial Revolution to floods and famines in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century China. And no book on dirt can pass lightly over the Depression-era Dust Bowl or its lesser-known Soviet counterpart.

Montgomery decries the loss of soil husbandry, the intelligent and long-term stewardship that good dirt requires if we are continuously to extract food from it. Instead, factors such as population growth, a variety of economic ideologies, absentee land ownership, and the profit-driven imperatives of fossil-fuel, agrochemical, and machinery producers continue to press- worldwide-for maximum immediate yield, leading to erosion rates orders of magnitude higher than that at which soil is formed. What is needed, writes Montgomery, is agroecology in place of agrochemistry-a matching of practice to place, an intelligent mimicry of nature in place of genetic jiggering and the ever-less-effective application of ever-dwindling petrochemicals. Urban agriculture, efficient small-scale organic farms, and no-till methods on large-scale farms point a way forward. With the world losing an astonishing 1 percent of its arable land each year (that’s from a 1995 study, so say good-bye to 11 percent of it and add another billion mouths to feed), Montgomery warns that it is time to treat soil “as a valuable inheritance rather than a commodity-as something other than dirt.”

The SMH reports that developing nations are not budging to pressure from the (hypocritical) G8 nations about reducing carbon emissions.
The leaders of five major developing nations have signalled they would not bow to pressure from the Group of Eight to commit to binding targets in the fight against global warming.

Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa insisted on Thursday, a day ahead of talks with G8 leaders, that their "different capacities and interests" must be considered when tackling climate change. Yesterday China, the world's number two emitter after the US, reiterated that rich nations must take the lead on cutting greenhouse emissions. "Considering both historical responsibility and current capability, developed countries should … help developing countries ease and adapt to climate change," the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, told a meeting of the so-called Plus Five group of emerging nations.

The G8 leaders had agreed on Thursday to seek "substantial" cuts in global emissions and "seriously consider" the target of cutting climate-changing gases by at least half by 2050.

After a meeting in Berlin to agree their position, the Plus Five group said they needed help from more developed nations in combating the pollution caused by their rapidly expanding economies. "Regarding matters that will be discussed in Heiligendamm with the G8 countries, the leaders were pleased to note opportunities for joint collaboration in the fields of cross-border investment, research and innovation, climate change, energy and development," a statement from the leaders said. India said it would not waver in its refusal to accept mandatory restrictions on its output of greenhouse gases.

The SMH also has an article from Richard Branson on how aviation industry needs to act on climate change, not just talk
about it
.
I AM the first to admit that I am a relatively recent convert to the need to tackle climate change. I was inspired after meeting former US vice-president Al Gore, who convinced me that I could play a part in convincing others that it was time for urgent change.

Why have I so strongly set out my green ambitions for Virgin Atlantic and other parts of Virgin? Because, from the books I've read and the scientists I've met, I am certain the world is heading for environmental catastrophe if we carry on as we are, relying on fossil fuels to improve our daily lives. Our children and grandchildren will never forgive us for doing nothing to stop climate change.

I am an airline owner and, yes, we have done our bit to cause environmental damage. But now we have to do something about it.

Our planet needs the biggest step-change of them all. We need technology to be developed that will reduce carbon emissions by all airlines, which contribute nearly 2 per cent of global emissions. If we had much cleaner and more efficient planes, then we could start to reduce the contribution we make to climate change.

We all have a responsibility, whether as airline owners, manufacturers or engine makers, to reduce the carbon and noise footprint that has grown over the years. Doing nothing should not be an option for any airline, whether based in Australasia, America, the Far East, the Middle East or Europe.

We've set out a series of initiatives over the past year to help clean up our act and lead the rest of the industry into action. Virgin has pledged $US3 billion ($A3.6 billion) over the next 10 years — from the profits and dividends of its transport businesses — to be spent on developing the clean fuel of the future.

We have also been trialling the towing of our aircraft, without engines running, to runways. This has saved some six tonnes of carbon dioxide a flight, a small but important step in understanding the different ways we can cut fuel burn. With our pilots using the continuous descent approach technique more often, we can save even more fuel. CDA means pilots begin their descent from high altitude much earlier, leading to a slower, smoother approach.

We've recently ordered 15 new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, each of which will cut our fuel burn by up to 30 per cent a flight, after we take delivery in 2011. These aircraft also have a much smaller noise footprint, which will be a major improvement for the communities that live around busy airports and those under flight paths ...

David Neiwert from Orcinus has a post at FireDogLake slamming Ron Paul. Some of the criticism seems fair enough when viewed as a purely political statement (if you're a genuine leftie like David and are diametrically opposed to most libertarian ideas) and the criticism of the alignment of some of Paul's beliefs with those of the black helicopter folk is worth keeping in mind (the Paul worship that goes on amongst the Alex Jones crowd always makes me pretty uneasy), but I think he's largely missing the point, especially when criticising progressives for jumping on the Paul bandwagon - if they are genuinely doing that then they simply aren't listening to Paul when he (accurately) says he is the most conservative member of Congress - and he has said it in pretty much every interview I've seen lately.
I have to admit that when Rep. Ron Paul announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, I didn’t raise much of an eyebrow, even though I am a longtime Paul watcher. After all, he’s run before; his 1988 Libertarian Party candidacy attracted little attention because he ran mostly from the fringe, and his views haven’t changed substantially over the years.

What I didn’t expect was that his anti-war advocacy would attract as many evident admirers from the left as it seems to have, particularly those who are dissatisfied with Democrats’ apparent fumbling of the Iraq war issue. Certainly, the message boards at liberal outlets like Crooks and Liars who’ve carried factual counterinformation about Paul have been flooded with raging defenses of the man, as have some of our comments threads.

To what extent this is an illusion created by Paul’s legion of True Believers is difficult to ascertain. Paul is very well organized online — much of his support is derived from this — and it’s entirely likely the flood of “liberals” and “progressives” who are busy arguing that someone like Paul is worth forming an alliance with are, in fact, simply part of Paul’s corps and they’re doing their part to muddy the waters and ultimately attract new supporters in a “Third Way” kind of strategy.

And to some extent it seems evident that they’re succeeding. Mostly, they seem to be taking advantage of a combination of amnesia among those experienced enough to know better, and simple ignorance on the part of progressives who’ve never heard of, or paid any attention to, Ron Paul previously. They hear Paul’s carefully crafted antiwar rhetoric and his critique of the Bush administration — all of which elide or obscure his underlying beliefs — and think it sounds pretty good, especially for a Republican.

As my cohort Sara has already explained, there’s a real problem with that — namely, for all of Paul’s seeming “progressive” positions, he carries with him a whole raft of positions well to the right of even mainstream conservatives.

A more important point, though, that’s overlooked in all this is that Ron Paul has made a career out of transmitting extremist beliefs, particularly far-right conspiracy theories about a looming “New World Order,” into the mainstream of public discourse by reframing and repackaging them for wider consumption, mostly by studiously avoiding the more noxious and often racist elements of those beliefs. Along the way, he has built a long record of appearing before and lending the credibility of his office to a whole array of truly noxious organizations, and has a loyal following built in no small part on members of those groups.

And it’s equally important to understand that he hasn’t changed his beliefs appreciably in the interim. Most of his positions today — including his opposition to the Iraq war — are built on this same shoddy foundation of far-right conspiracism and extremist belief systems, particularly long-debunked theories about the “New World Order,” the Federal Reserve and our monetary system, the IRS, and the education system.

A lot of people do genuinely believe in small government, free markets and individual liberty, and these aren't inherently racist beliefs, regardless of the parallels you can draw to various dubious movements. I think Neiwert comes close to playing the same game here that the LaRouchies do - choosing various connections and extrapolating (ie. he's coming close to being a conspiracy theorist himself).

A lot of people on the traditional right seem to be aware that the Iraq war is totally out of order and that the Bush administration has managed to be more corrupt and "big government" in nature than any previous administration, and they've also been more authoritarian on civil rights issues than any government in recent history. Ron Paul is currently filling a gap which does actually have the high moral ground on these issues - and he doesn't have much competition from supposedly mainstream politicians (one commenter called him the right's version of Dennis Kucinich) - the question should be why so few active politicians (unless Al Gore returns) are making the same stand on these issues. If they were, you wouldn't have to worry about some of the people Paul has associated with in the past or support him currently...

On a purely practical note, Neiwert seems to be unaware of the benefit Ron Paul provides to the Democrats and to the left - he is creating a wedge in the Republican party and encouraging debate about the worthiness of the Iraq war - you'd think the value of this would be clear. And as (a) his chances of actually winning the election are small, and (b) he'd likely be facing a Democrat controlled house and senate, you'd think the time to start criticising him would not be now if you are a progressive. As one commenter(25) noted:
Of course many antiwar progressives that are beginning to consider backing Paul are aware of his libertarian background and how he would work to undermine much of what the Democratic Party has accomplished in last 70 years. But:

He is opposed to the Iraq war. More importantly he is opposed to those policies endorsed by both parties that led to this war. (i.e. Does the United States really need 600 oversea military bases? Does it need to police the rest of the world? Was the war against Serbia necessary?) He has traction with those people who feel strongly on these issues.

He is the only candidate in either party who has vigorously criticized the undermining of our civil liberties that has occurred beginning with the Patriot Act, wire taps etc. Too many Democrats have been silent on these issues.

So the question comes down to this. Are we willing to risk social security in our efforts to both stop a war that could easily go nuclear and reverse the governments assaults against personal freedoms enshrined in the bill of rights.

I suppose many here are not aware that Germany had the most highly developed social welfare system in the world beginning in the 1880s and was re-established after the devastating inflation of the 1920s. Hitler never dismantled that system. If I had to choose today, I would risk social security to combat war and fascism.

BTW. I am an active member in the Democratic Party and will not likely join with Paul. But I understand those people on the left who may yet support him. You shouldn’t dismiss them lightly.

I'll close with Kevin at Cryptogon, making the fallback doomer argument about clean energy (which also gets applied, in much less practical settings, to the idea of free energy) - if we had plentiful clean energy we'd end up choking on our own rubbish. Obviously I disagree with this, although I'd see switching entirely to clean energy as just one step we need to make - adopting "cradle to cradle" manufacturing processes throughout our industrial systems is another necessary step (and don't even start on the "population bomb" argument - there are good solutions to that which simply involve education, economic opportunity and letting people move to cities)...
What if a genuinely viable clean power source became available to people everywhere?

What would happen?

My guess is that the pace of collapse would accelerate.

The clean green energy would allow scenes like the one below [indonesian waterborne rubbish collector] to be repeated wherever there are raw materials waiting to be turned into trash. It would, in other words, make the last 150 years, look like a walk in the park.

I’ve written, many times now, that collapse wouldn’t be pretty, but it would be a massive improvement on the way things will look if this system continues on for another twenty years.

If this is the scene in Indonesia now, what will this situation look like after another couple of decades of progress? The pace of progress might even accelerate as the clean energy technologies are rolled out. Progress might even spread to the few remaining places in the world that have not been destroyed by it.

In an ironic twist to that situation you see above, the river is becoming so clogged with trash that the operation of the massive hydropower station at Lake Saguling is threatened. The lights could literally go out because of this. The factories would close.

Is this it in a nutshell? Is this all civilization really does? Choke itself to death on its own trash? Or, will we be able to wield clean power in a way that does not accelerate die off and collapse? ...

2 comments

Hi, Debbie of Right Truth here. Thanks for checking into the Sunday Reading List today. To answer your question as to whether I count your site "left" or "right" ... I don't classify you either way. I think of your site as more 'informational', letting folks read the articles you link to and decide for themselves. If I had to classify you, I would choose Independent. Am I right, (correct?) heh

Got it in one - well done...

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