Newt Gingrich, The Last Bolshevik  

Posted by Big Gav in

Guy Rundle’s latest missive from the campaign trail looks at Newt Gingrich’s intellectual roots (not a phrase you would associate with any other Republican candidate save Ron Paul, whose roots are wildly different), echoing some of the content from Fred Turner’s book "From Counterculture To Cyberculture” (Fred had a somewhat jaundiced view of the outcome of Stewart Brand and co hooking up with Newt in the 90s) - No one understands how utterly unconservative Newt Gingrich is.

Today’s appearance wasn’t Newt at his most energetic. The big old dog has been, as have all candidates, on the road for ten weeks solid now, and they’re all showing the strain. Ron Paul wisely takes two days in every seven off. Rick Santorum is showing the strain of, well, failure, and the illness of his three-year-old daughter. Mitt Romney has the greatest physical stamina of the four, but the least in existential terms – since he doesn’t believe much of what he’s saying anyway, his stump speech has now become a discontinuous series of lines, punched home with effectiveness but no life. Newt still has the belief, but the sheer physical oomph ain’t there.

He is, after all, carrying a lot of weight – he looks like a man who got up one morning and decided to wear a barrel, and then put his pants on over it anyway. That massing, topped with white hair in the style of an eight-year old boy from 1961, completes the weird look. Today his blonde 3.0 wifebot Callista stayed by his side throughout the speech, laughing and smiling on queue, like there was electric cabling running into her brain stem, a slight whirring sound each time her head turned, her hair a helmet made of super-metal mined from passing asteroids.

They look like what they are: aging cashed-out strip mall developer, and the widow of his business partner, having moved to Boca Raton, and now putting too much energy into the condo management committee. When he’s on form, he can dispel that demeanour, with a burst of energy and righteous anger. Then he becomes a raging bull, and you wouldn’t want to be in front of him. You’d have to be churlishly one-sided not to admire Gingrich at his height – his response in South Carolina, on the accusation that his claim that Obama was ‘the food stamp President’ was racist: "I don’t care if it makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn someday to own the job!” to cheers, was magnificent, and should be a little chastening for anyone who thinks that a Gingrich candidacy would be a slam dunk for Obama.

But that’s at full throttle. At lower speeds, Gingrich tends to stall a little, for all but the true believers. The delivery is pat and professorial – he was, believe it or not, a global pioneer of environmental studies – and the pose of taking on the establishment collapses into victimhood and borderline paranoia. For anyone who knows this man, the claim to outsider status is absurd beyond belief, and only wilful blindness or deep-fried stupidity on the part of his followers can ignore this champion of earmarks (unrelated local spending grants attached to major bills), this K street lobbyist, and influence peddlar to the highest bidder.

No-one should be able to ignore a personal morality that is not merely hypocritical, but disgusting by all moral standards – divorcing two wives, when not one, but both of them suffered from cancer at the time. His first wife, mother of his children – and also his high-school geography teacher, whom he wed age nineteen – was dumped while in hospital, by phone.

While serving as speaker he was loathed by colleagues, wholly disorganised, and then forced out, after which he was fined three hundred thousand dollars for ethics violations. Through all that time he was prosecuting the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal with great force, even as he attempted to persuade his second wife to accept his relationship with Callista. Son of a man who didn’t stick around, and stepson of a military man who beat him throughout his childhood, he is that distinctive American political product, a self-styled conservative incapable of governing his own appetites, a one-man incontinental congress.

When in the 90s, he inadvertently revealed that he had shut-down the government in a stand-off with Bill Clinton – a stand-off the Republicans lost – because he had been given a seat down the back in an Airforce One trip, he was universally depicted as a huge baby, and there wasn’t much that artists had to alter to achieve the likeness.

That drive, going off in all directions at once, extends to his politics, and it was well on display in a hangar on the edge of town. Gingrich’s pitch is always towards action – "when I am elected President I will ask Congress to stay sitting through January, and to repeal Obamacare, repeal Dodd-Frank [the bank regulation bil], repeal Sarbanes-Oxley [a 2002, enhanced orporate regulation bill, passed by a Republican congress], so that I will have those bills on my desk to sign on the 20th January.”

That always gets a big cheer, and there’s a lot more like it. The appeal is not to the idea of the President as CEO of a country – that’s Romney’s schtick – nor to Ron Paul’s implicit appeal to the idea of an 18th century President, abolishing a whole lot of stuff, and then running the office part-time, as a free people pursue their divers happinesses. Instead, it’s a revival of the Reaganite notion that a President makes war within and without the borders – political war inside, abolishing, shaking up, reorganising, synthesising – and actual war without, annihilating enemies.

Though it cloaks itself in the language of the Constitution and the Revolution, it is nothing like the state that the eighteenth century revolutionaries imagined — a settled, pious inward looking free people (and, erm, their slaves). Gingrich’s vision is Promethean, expansionary, transformative. Though he talks of reducing the size of government, and would certainly take an axe to social programmes if he could, he is no proponent of the nightwatchman state. He wants bigger, better, more, now sooner. He wants the qualitative transformation of human existence by the application of the scientific technological revolution in every sphere of existence.

His Americanism is not that of Jefferson or Hamilton still less of Calhoun or Rothbard, and not even of Ayn Rand – it is the America of Buckminster Fuller, of Norbert Weiner, of a more aggressive Bill Gates, and a smarter Jack Welch. Gingrich sees the US as the manifest destiny of humanity, but he sees that destiny as unrealised. He doesn’t want to balance the budget and get on the gold standard. He wants the private sector to go to Mars.

Gingrich is a true revolutionary, the last Bolshevik, of the Rightist tendancy, the Bukharin de nos jours. When you hear him talking about not merely colonising the Moon, but having the 13,000 residents of it apply for US statehood, what do we hear but this: "Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser, and subtler; his body will become more harmonious, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above these heights, new peaks will rise.” Which is Trotsky.

Indeed, the case of Newt Gingrich, his intellectual and political history is so extraordinarily interesting, that there is no space to do anything but scratch the surface here. But the gist is this: Gingrich taps into a utopian stream of the twentieth century that came to be identified with post-war America, but began on the radical left – the idea that finding the right state form to unleash humanity’s productive forces was the true path to human liberation, and that technology would do the rest. The Bolsheviks differed within themselves on the immediate state form – would it be wholly socialist or harness the forces of capitalism – but it is they who introduced this idea to global politics.

Over the ensuing decades, when people departed from the movement, they took that promethean urge with them. One who did was James Burnham, a writer of the 30s and 40s, who wrote the Managerial Revolution, a book which argued that scientists, engineers, and managers were now running the joint, creating their own path to class victory in both the US and the USSR. One of Burnham’s followers was a bloke named Alvin Toffler, who wrote seminal 70s book Future Shock, to be found wedged between The Dice Man and The Joy of S-x in many a 70s bookshelf.

Future Shock and Toffler’s other books, such as The Third Wave, pointed out that we were heading to an information and post-industrial society at a time when Detroit was still the heart of the US, and the economy was organised around the making of stuff. Toffler, like Burnham, had passed through the Communist movement, and retained a scepticism towards bourgeois notions of politics.

And Gingrich? Gingrich was a follower of Toffler’s, has written introductions to his books, and been inspired by him, and often spruiked him in public. Toffler believes that US political institutions are obsolete; Gingrich believes – or says he does – that they are the form of the future. That prometheanism, that futurism, is what fuels Gingrich’s disdain for Obama, a social democrat whose programme most neatly corresponds to Karl Popper’s notion that piecemal social reform should try and make people’s lives somewhat less worse.

In Gingrich you see something triangulate between Marx, Mussolini, Toffler and sundry others, an investment in nation and species, an utter disinterest in the fate of the individual. None of his supporters really understand that, or how utterly unconservative he is. He flatters and coos to them with the stories the want to hear. They do not want to go to Mars. They want to go to 1960, when America roared with industry, ran the world, and was not talked back to, when material production, not fiddling with screens, was at the centre of life, and when all this goddam multifarious. "It breaks his heart seeing foreign cars/filled with fuel that isn’t ours” goes a line from Made in America one of the country rock songs they pump out at these events.

They want to hear about strength, and enemies, and enemies within, and the vanquishing of them. Newt wants to talk about how poor high school kids could pay for their astrophysics degrees by being cyber janitors at cloud schools run by Apple and Oprah, or something. The journos in the back suck their pencils, and wonder at adults like teenagers who won’t face their nation’s problems, and worship a Golden Baby, telling them what they want to hear, to the music of jets, already warming up for the next gig down the road.

NASA finds 2011 9th warmest year on record  

Posted by Big Gav in

Ian McPherson points to this recent video from NASA on global temperatures - NASA finds 2011 9th warmest year on record.

The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. Nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.

In the Developing World, Solar Is Cheaper than Fossil Fuels  

Posted by Big Gav in

Technology Review has an article about the developing world leap-frogging straight to solar power in the absence of reliable grids - In the Developing World, Solar Is Cheaper than Fossil Fuels.

The falling cost of LED lighting, batteries, and solar panels, together with innovative business plans, are allowing millions of households in Africa and elsewhere to switch from crude kerosene lamps to cleaner and safer electric lighting. For many, this offers a means to charge their mobile phones, which are becoming ubiquitous in Africa, instead of having to rent a charger.

Technology advances are opening up a huge new market for solar power: the approximately 1.3 billion people around the world who don't have access to grid electricity. Even though they are typically very poor, these people have to pay far more for lighting than people in rich countries because they use inefficient kerosene lamps. While in most parts of the world solar power typically costs far more than electricity from conventional power plants—especially when including battery costs—for some people, solar power makes economic sense because it costs half as much as lighting with kerosene.

Hundreds of companies are swooping in to grab a piece of this market.

"This sector has exploded," says Richenda Van Leeuwen, senior director for the Energy and Climate team at the United Nations Foundation. "There's been a sea change in the last five years."

The sudden interest is fueled by the advent of relatively low-cost LEDs, she says. Not long ago, powering lightbulbs required a solar panel that could generate 20 to 30 watts, since only incandescent lightbulbs were affordable. LEDs are far more efficient. Now people can have bright lighting using a panel that only generates a couple of watts of power, Van Leeuwen says.

But such technological improvements aren't quite enough to open up the market. High-quality LED systems, with a pair of lamps and enough battery storage for several hours of lighting, cost less than $50. The systems can pay for themselves in less than two years, but the upfront cost is still too steep for many people.

Plans for sea energy device Searaser  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The BBC has a report on a wave power design from Britain - Plans for sea energy device Searaser.

A Devon inventor's electricity from seawater generator could be sited at 200 points around the UK coastline.

Energy firm Ecotricity wants to develop a commercial Searaser for testing off Falmouth in Cornwall and put hundreds around the coast in five years. Dale Vince of Ecotricity said the potential was "enormous".

The Searaser machine works by using wave energy to pump water up to container tanks and the water is then released to a hydro-electric turbine.

Searaser is the brainchild of British engineer Alvin Smith from Dartmouth. He came up with the idea about 10 years ago while he was playing with an inflatable ball in a swimming pool.

Searaser pumps seawater using a vertical piston between two buoys - one on the surface of the water, the other suspended underwater and tethered to a weight on the seabed.

As the ocean swell moves the buoys up and down, the piston works like a bicycle pump to send seawater through a pipe to an onshore turbine to produce electricity or to a coastal storage reservoir. It can then be released through a generator as required.

Rick Santorum, Communist ?  

Posted by Big Gav in

Crikey's Guy Rundle, still serving his sentence on the US campaign trail, has a look at Republican contender (albeit close to also-ran) Rick Santorum's family history (while kindly ignoring the terrible fate Santorum's name - like Thomas Crapper before him - has suffered) - A Pinch of piss in Sth Carolina as Santorum sells lunch pail nostalgia.

The Springdale Historic Conference Centre was the usual, symbolic deal — a historic home, lit to the gills, with a plain oblong building behind, slapped up in minutes. Families were streaming past the house and up the pathway, in actual Sunday best. At the head of the path, a morbidly obese Santorum supporter had set up the badges stall, so everyone had to step through the flowerbed to get around him. No one said a word.

“That doesn’t seem to be the best place to set up.”

“Oh yeah, I guess so.”

Everyone had a slightly floaty, Xanaxy air. Perhaps this was relaxed southern charm. Then three black SUVs pulled up, and the candidate stepped out, with three staffers and three secret service agents, all of these bald and black-coated and nothing like his supporters, more like a Fast and Furious sequel had just turned up. In the middle of them all, the candidate, in his now-signature sweater-vest, curly-hair and addled grin, looked jaunty, a Pennsylvania Italian-American, not a lot like the southern folk among whom he had found a following. He bounded in through the open faux-french windows, all energy — and then realised that he was at the back of the press pen, and there was no route to the stage. How the hell had he pulled out a draw in Iowa?

Three days after the New Hampshire primary, and Rick Santorum is still in the game, purely on the strength of the surprise Iowa result. No one, but no one had predicted that he would get anything like that vote, even though he was the last conservative standing, after the Right’s speed-dating fiasco through Bachmann, Perry and Gingrich at the end of 2011. Santorum had flatlined throughout, he had no serious money, and he had no organisation to speak of in New Hampshire. He’d taken the usual route of the last chance longshot, effectively moving to Iowa for several months, and working “every one of its 99 counties” as his tagline went.

Since Iowa’s main crop is corn, it was a case of coals to Newcastle, because Rick Santorum, more than any candidate, has planted himself firmly in the faith and family camp. Ron Paul had his gold standard end the Fed thing, Newt Gingrich wants to build Facebook on the moon or something, and Rick Perry is still campaigning off executing innocent people, but Santorum, the sole Roman Catholic, has planted himself at the centre of the values vote. Standing before an echt banner at the Peachtree, which read Faith, Family, Freedom, he yowled:

“I always thought that banner should read faith plus family equals freedom!” to moderate enthusiasm SC style. Santorum’s credentials — he is not only opposed to abortion, but to legal contraception, he has seven home-schooled kids — should have make him a shoo-in for the religious Right, but there have been problems along the way. The religious values vote is overwhelmingly evangelical, and until recently overwhelmingly anti-Catholic. South Carolina is the home of Bob Jones University, whose founder calls the Pope the “anti-Christ”. Yes, that’s absurd, but these people believe Adam and Eve rode to church on dinosaurs so, y’know.

By the time the South Carolina primary came around, the evangelicals had failed to endorse a candidate, even though Newt Gingrich was a serial adulterer and Mitt Romney was a Mormon, which the evangelicals regard as one up from being a children’s party magician. Having run more or less equal fourth in New Hampshire, with 10% of the vote, Santorum needs to separate himself from the pack. At the end of the first week, he had gone from 19% to 16%,and the base wasn’t firing.

Consequently, at the Springdale, he was laying it on with a trowel. There was plenty there for anyone who wanted a constitutional theocracy, and enough to freak out anyone who thought that might not be the best idea.

“You know in the old USSR, some of you are old enough to remember that [all of them were, except those too young to remember SpongeBob] and every time they had a new leader, they’d rewrite the history books, well that’s kinda what the progressives do. But we hold these truths, these truths to be self-evident, that we are endowed with certain rights by … who, by who? …”

“By our Creator!” the audience replied in unison.

“We are children of God,” he continued, “because we’re made in his image.”

On it went, the full American theology, a flagrant Christianist misconstruction of Thomas Jefferson’s specifically Deist rendering of reality.

“The pursuit of happiness!” Santorum said, “The founding fathers didn’t mean pleasure! They meant living in accordance with God!”

By now I was getting shouty in my head, wanting to raise the bit where Ben Franklin got closer to God via two whores in a bath in Paris. But Santorum was already on to de Tocqueville ”read Alexis de Tocqueville! He knew how great we are!”

No, you read de Tocqueville! He thought democracy would turn you into an atomised mediocrity! Nurrggghhh!

The first part of Santorum’s speech was the most Messianic version of American exceptionalism on offer in the primaries so far, and drew in his grandfather coming over from Italy, to pursue freedom and escape fascism. In the second half, he outlined an economic plan that could have been straight out of Mussolini.

Having enunciated a constitution promising limited government, Santorum then outlined a program that was pure corporatism, a fantasy projection by which America gets back its manufacturing base. Santorum’s “Made In America” plan is a scheme not merely to reintroduce a degree of high-end manufacture, but to get back the sort of full-bore grunt jobs that have long since gone east.

“The average manufacturing job makes 77 thousand dollars a year. Those are the sort of jobs we can get back, if we can get high corporate taxes off the back of business and get those businesses back!”

The argument is a fantasy of course, and of a particular kind, for it reaffirms the idea that a certain type of America could be returned — solid, blue-collar jobs requiring nothing more than a high-school diploma, and offering a wage guaranteeing a life that would elsewhere be seen as middle-class. The message has resonated in Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania whose towns are rusting wrecks, and in South Carolina, where the final departure of textile mills has cost the state much of its sense of self.

The contradiction between a minimal constitution, and the proposal for a federal industry policy that would draw energy and talent away from new industries and into old non-viable ones disappears only if you enter into the full fantasy that Rick Santorum is selling more than any other candidate — that the Constitution is a guarantee not merely of liberty of a sort, but also of prosperity, and dominance. This element, always present in American campaigns, has become obsessive this year, therapeutic. The crowds can’t get enough of it.

“Being exceptional doesn’t make us special,” Santorum noted in a barely consistent caveat, before noting “but we kinda know we are”, which brought a self-indulgent giggle from a section of the audience. They all do it, save Ron Paul, but Santorum is the one selling the most all-embracing nostalgia, the whole package, the Stars and Stripes on the lunch-pail vision.

He wrapped up with a bit of business about what a busy year this is for him family-wise, and how he shouldn’t be running … “but” (long pause) “it’s my dooty”. He has a low and portentous delivery that is sinister and compelling. He is a professional politician, of course, who has poured out the pork, souvenired the earmarks, opened his doors wide to lobbyists, and supported a whole raft of big government legislation.

One can usually find the gales of exceptionalia in US politics either amusing or merely blathersome, but there is something about Rick Santorum that gets under my skin, and it has nothing to do with his positions on sexuality, etc, which is simply consistent religious conservatism.It is instead the total fiction that he makes of his family’s history, as a way of inserting it into the national myth, and a fairly suffocating version of it at that. After all, Santorum’s father, a doctor in state-run veterans’ hospitals throughout his career, credited the New Deal-era GI Bill as “making his life”, allowing him to return from World War II and not have to slide straight into a job. The GI Bill was exactly the sort of “socialist” bill that Santorum purports to not merely despise, but believes is a net drain on the economy, and a debilitating enslavement to big government.

When your father is on record as saying that the government helped make the life that in turn made yours, there is something deeply dishonourable in traducing it — not merely on his behalf, but for the millions who gained better lives out of that initiative. It is part and parcel of the simple, total mythology that seems essential to holding national self-belief together. Going back one generation further, it got weirder —  Santorum’s grandad Pietro came to the States in 1925 to escape Mussolini — but as a Communist, escaping fascist death squads. He later returned to Italy, where The Daily Beast found the other side of Santorum’s family — “I have visited them,” Santorum said in his speech, “they are wonderful people, but they are nothing like me” — and they were all Communists. That is all simply part of the complex history of the 20th century. But like doctored photos in the USSR, as the man said, Pietro Santorum has had a flag inserted in his hand, in a grainy photo at Ellis Island.

Rundle also casts a jaundiced eye over Obama's "State Of The Union" speech (just to demonstrate he is an impartial observer of both Republican and Democrat politicians, and carefully avoiding the use of the "f" word) - Obama rolls his tanks onto the GOP’s country-club lawns.
They call the north-west “the forgotten coast”, and it’s an eerie and beguiling stretch — cheek-by-jowl with the metropolis, the roaring new cities of the eastern “space coast”, the foreclosure lands of Orlando — yet decades away from it. No convenience stores or schmick fast-food outlets here — the gas comes from ancient stations that sell nothing else, save for souvenir baskets made from shells, and Doritos.

The place even has its own time zone — central time, an hour behind the east coast, extending halfway into the state, stopping at the Apalachicola River, except where a town decides different. Go into an old weatherboard trading post for a burger, and the clock’ll show it an hour behind the place 10 minutes back along the road.

Given all that it was inevitable, perhaps, that the bursts of Christian rock (“come to our Creator/dude don’t wait till later”) and identikit nu-country (“I stopped driving my rig three years ago, when Cheryl-Anne got cancer/she said don’t ask ‘why us’ babe, cos you know we got the answer/ it’s those three sons we raised to men/it’s the flag we raise each evening, when …”) would be interspersed with warnings of disaster — of an America “we have four more years to save”, of a “country disappearing beneath our feet”, of the “trickery and manipulation” of the grand “community organiser in chief”, of Hitler and Stalin, of the income tax system being based on need and “from each according to their needs, to each …”.

Yes, every second or third station, beamed from Panama City, from Pensacola, from Carrabelle, there was measured panic from the paid ranters of the Right: from Rush Limbaugh, from Fox News Radio, and from crazed locals (“I’m so angry I can’t even speak right now! Here’s an ad for gold investing!”) stirred up by what Limbaugh called the “class warfare rally”, otherwise known as President Obama’s 2012 state of the union speech.

While Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich went at it hammer and tongs up and down the peninsula, Obama had launched his 2012 re-election campaign, with an address that liberal commentators assessed as less partisan than previous years, but which, to me, had the distinct feel of the President rolling his tanks onto the GOP’s country-club lawns.

Wrapping his remarks in the killing of bin Laden, at the opening and closing of the speech, Obama presented a combative politics, emphasising the idea that “fairness” should be at the centre of American life, that as a principle, “no one earning more than a million dollars should pay less than 30% in tax”, and laying claim to the notion of “teamwork” as part of the American experience, relating it to the teamwork of the Navy SEALS team. If you’re of an internationalist leftish persuasion I wouldn’t read this bit while consuming liquids:
“Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Asian, Latino, Native American, conservative, liberal, rich, poor, gay, straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind. You know, one of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats; some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates, a man who was George Bush’s defence secretary, and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.

“All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves.

“One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job: the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other, because you can’t charge up those stairs into darkness and danger unless you know that there’s somebody behind you watching your back.

“So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our union will always be strong.

“Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.”

Well, I did warn you, didn’t I? Now you need a new laptop.

The speech was the first time that Obama has really laid claim to the bin Laden raid, and to the fact that, through his lethal drone wars, he has effectively crippled al-Qaeda far more effectively than Bush, etc, managed to do. But it’s linking it back to the domestic fight that is particularly audacious — and effective, because it gives him a way of anchoring his centre-right social market politics — or Marxist communism, to use the Right’s technical term — in American traditions.

For years the Right have sought to claim ownership of individualism, and the collective purpose that any society craves, by assigning them to separate spheres — the military is the collective enterprise that protects borders and allows the individualist society to flourish.

That’s a simple story, and easily told. Obama pushed the military model into the centre of civilian life, which leaves the Right the unenviable task of clarifying their objection without insulting the notion of collective effort. At the centre of every story told by every vet, is always collective — of how you did what you did for your unit, your buddies, the man or woman next to you. By fusing that to the domestic effort, Obama creates a platform to make the contrived nature of the Right’s account of American life obvious. It was pretty audacious, I thought, and I was surprised that the US press made very little commentary on the manoeuvre. But it was also of course not merely a move to the Right, but a leapfrog across.

When you start to use the military as a model for collective social action, you’re well into corporatism, and perhaps something more. I wouldn’t use the “F” word here, though I’m sure many will, because it is neither accurate nor useful, even metaphorically. Really, it’s a form of liberal imperialism, maintain an empire abroad while slowly drawing back its borders and power projection, while extending collective aspects at home, through an appeal to patriotic unity.

The hope, I suspect, is that the emotions attached to power projection can be swung around to the domestic sphere. The Democrats can then own this energy, and leave the Right with very little. ...

Amid their decrying of class warfare and envy and the like, they really have no idea how that “individualism” (an inaccurate portrayal of 1776, in any case) comes across to tens of millions: as atomisation, lawlessness and a wasteland where the strong rule the weak, inheritors rule workers, white black, native born immigrant, and the like. The whole military-civilian thing scares the bejesus out of me, and sets up for worse ahead, but I couldn’t suppress a cheer that he was taking the fight to them, and the notion that a mildly tilted tax system might be “communistic class envy”.

Moving over to the usually ignored left side of the political divide, TomDispatch has an article arguing that government serves some sort of useful purpose - Why Climate Change Will Make You Love Big Government .
Look back on 2011 and you’ll notice a destructive trail of extreme weather slashing through the year. In Texas, it was the driest year ever recorded. An epic drought there killed half a billion trees, touched off wildfires that burned four million acres, and destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and buildings. The costs to agriculture, particularly the cotton and cattle businesses, are estimated at $5.2 billion -- and keep in mind that, in a winter breaking all sorts of records for warmth, the Texas drought is not yet over.

In August, the East Coast had a close brush with calamity in the form of Hurricane Irene. Luckily, that storm had spent most of its energy by the time it hit land near New York City. Nonetheless, its rains did at least $7 billion worth of damage, putting it just below the $7.2 billion worth of chaos caused by Katrina back in 2005.

Across the planet the story was similar. Wildfires consumed large swaths of Chile. Colombia suffered its second year of endless rain, causing an estimated $2 billion in damage. In Brazil, the life-giving Amazon River was running low due to drought. Northern Mexico is still suffering from its worst drought in 70 years. Flooding in the Thai capital, Bangkok, killed over 500 and displaced or damaged the property of 12 million others, while ruining some of the world’s largest industrial parks. The World Bank estimates the damage in Thailand at a mind-boggling $45 billion, making it one of the most expensive disasters ever. And that’s just to start a 2011 extreme-weather list, not to end it. ...

These days, big government gets big press attention -- none of it anything but terrible. In the United States, especially in an election year, it’s become fashionable to beat up on the public sector and all things governmental (except the military). The Right does it nonstop. All their talking points disparage the role of an oversized federal government. Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist famously set the tone for this assault. "I'm not in favor of abolishing the government,” he said. “I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." He has managed to get 235 members of the House of Representatives and 41 members of the Senate to sign his “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” and thereby swear never, under any circumstances, to raise taxes.

By now, this viewpoint has taken on the aura of folk wisdom, as if the essence of democracy were to hate government. Even many on the Left now regularly dismiss government as nothing but oversized, wasteful, bureaucratic, corrupt, and oppressive, without giving serious consideration to how essential it may be to our lives.

But don’t expect the present “consensus” to last. Global warming and the freaky, increasingly extreme weather that will accompany it is going to change all that. After all, there is only one institution that actually has the capacity to deal with multibillion-dollar natural disasters on an increasingly routine basis. Private security firms won’t help your flooded or tornado-struck town. Private insurance companies are systematically withdrawing coverage from vulnerable coastal areas. Voluntary community groups, churches, anarchist affinity groups -- each may prove helpful in limited ways, but for better or worse, only government has the capital and capacity to deal with the catastrophic implications of climate change.

Consider Hurricane Irene: as it passed through the Northeast, states mobilized more than 100,000 National Guard troops. New York City opened 78 public emergency shelters prepared to house up to 70,000 people. In my home state, Vermont, where the storm devastated the landscape, destroying or damaging 200 bridges, more than 500 miles of road, and 100 miles of railroad, the National Guard airlifted in free food, water, diapers, baby formula, medicine, and tarps to thousands of desperate Vermonters trapped in 13 stranded towns -- all free of charge to the victims of the storm.

The damage to Vermont was estimated at up to $1 billion. Yet the state only has 621,000 residents, so it could never have raised all the money needed to rebuild alone. Vermont businesses, individuals, and foundations have donated at least $4 million, possibly up to $6 million in assistance, an impressive figure, but not a fraction of what was needed. The state government immediately released $24 million in funds, crucial to getting its system of roads rebuilt and functioning, but again that was a drop in the bucket, given the level of damage. A little known state-owned bank, the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank, also offered low-interest, low-collateral loans to towns to aid reconstruction efforts. But without federal money, which covered 80% to 100% of the costs of rebuilding many Vermont roads, the state would still be an economic basket case. Without aid from Washington, the transportation network might have taken years to recover.

As for flood insurance, the federal government is pretty much the only place to get it. The National Flood Insurance Program has written 5.5 million policies in more than 21,000 communities covering $1.2 trillion worth of property. As for the vaunted private market, for-profit insurance companies write between 180,000 and 200,000 policies in a given year. In other words, that is less than 5% of all flood insurance in the United States. This federally subsidized program underwrites the other 95%. Without such insurance, it’s not complicated: many waterlogged victims of 2011, whether from record Midwestern floods or Hurricane Irene, would simply have no money to rebuild.

Or consider sweltering Texas. In 2011, firefighters responded to 23,519 fires. In all, 2,742 homes were destroyed by out-of-control wildfires. But government action saved 34,756 other homes. So you decide: Was this another case of wasteful government intervention in the marketplace, or an extremely efficient use of resources? ...

When thinking about the forces of nature and the nature of infrastructure, a slightly longer view of history is instructive. And here’s where to start: in the U.S., despite its official pro-market myths, government has always been the main force behind the development of a national infrastructure, and so of the country’s overall economic prosperity.

One can trace the origins of state participation in the economy back to at least the founding of the republic: from Alexander Hamilton’s First Bank of the United States, which refloated the entire post-revolutionary economy when it bought otherwise worthless colonial debts at face value; to Henry Clay’s half-realized program of public investment and planning called the American System; to the New York State-funded Erie Canal, which made the future Big Apple the economic focus of the eastern seaboard; to the railroads, built on government land grants, that took the economy west and tied the nation together; to New Deal programs that helped pulled the country out of the Great Depression and built much of the infrastructure we still use like the Hoover Dam, scores of major bridges, hospitals, schools, and so on; to the government-funded and sponsored interstate highway system launched in the late 1950s; to the similarly funded space race, and beyond. It’s simple enough: big government investments (and thus big government) has been central to the remarkable economic dynamism of the country.

Government has created roads, highways, railways, ports, the postal system, inland waterways, universities, and telecommunications systems. Government-funded R&D, as well as the buying patterns of government agencies -- (alas!) both often connected to war and war-making plans -- have driven innovation in everything from textiles and shipbuilding to telecoms, medicine, and high-tech breakthroughs of all sorts. Individuals invent technology, but in the United States it is almost always public money that brings the technology to scale, be it in aeronautics, medicine, computers, or agriculture.

Without constant government planning and subsidies, American capitalism simply could not have developed as it did, making ours the world’s largest economy. Yes, the entrepreneurs we are taught to venerate have been key to all this, but dig a little deeper and you soon find that most of their oil was on public lands, their technology nurtured or invented thanks to government-sponsored R&D, or supported by excellent public infrastructure and the possibility of hiring well-educated workers produced by a heavily subsidized higher-education system. Just to cite one recent example, the now-familiar Siri voice-activated command system on the new iPhone is based on -- brace yourself -- government-developed technology.

Why Cassandra's task is hopeless  

Posted by Big Gav in

Ugo at Cassandra's Legacy has a downer post about fishing in the south pacific (quoting the NYT) - Why Cassandra's task is hopeless.

Eric Pineda, a dock agent in this old port south of Santiago, peered deep into the Achernar’s hold at a measly 10 tons of jack mackerel — the catch after four days in waters once so rich they filled the 17-meter fishing boat in a few hours.

Mr. Pineda, like everyone here, grew up with the bony, bronze-hued fish they call jurel, which roams in schools in the southern Pacific.

“It’s going fast,” he said as he looked at the 57-foot boat. “We’ve got to fish harder before it’s all gone.” Asked what he would leave his son, he shrugged: “He’ll have to find something else.”

Oil Supply as a Strategic Risk  

Posted by Big Gav in

The NYT has an article about a recent paper in "Nature" of peak oil - Oil Supply as a Strategic Risk.

Concerns about the climate have not inspired a lot of action lately on global energy policy. Now two professors are arguing that supply concerns and rising oil prices ought to be enough to get governments moving, even if the climate does not.

In an opinion piece released on Wednesday by the journal Nature, James Murray of the University of Washington and David King of the University of Oxford point out that global oil production appeared to hit a cap of about 75 million barrels a day in 2005. Since then, they note, small supply bumps have caused big price gyrations, yet even when prices spike above $100 a barrel, supply appears incapable of rising to meet the demand.

The professors make only a glancing mention of the term “peak oil,” a widely promoted and widely attacked concept, but their argument resembles some of the less feverish versions of the peak oil case.

They essentially argue that oil supply now represents a large strategic risk to global economic growth, and that smart governments ought to be developing comprehensive plans and pushing hard to move their citizens into more efficient cars, onto public transit and so forth – a greener energy path that would also be good for the climate. ....

Variations of the oil-peaked-in-2005 argument have been made by others, but rarely in the pages of Nature, the world’s most august scientific journal. I would expect this one to get a lot of attention, and probably a lot of criticism because of its high profile. One gap I see is that the professors fault the United States government for inaction but never mention some of the things it is doing, like imposing tougher regulations on the fuel efficiency of cars. Dr. Murray said in an e-mail that the authors were limited by space constraints.

The required energy transformation “will take decades, so we must begin as soon as possible,” the professors write. “Emphasizing the short-term economic imperative from oil prices must be enough to push governments into action now.”

Physibles: The Road To Printcrime  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Cryptogon points to an announcement from "The Pirate Bay", outlining a new category that would seem to be a precursor to what Cory Doctorow dubbed "Printcrime" - New Category on The Pirate Bay: Physibles.

New category.

We’re always trying to foresee the future a bit here at TPB. One of the things that we really know is that we as a society will always share. Digital communication has made that a lot easier and will continue to do so. And after the internets evolutionized data to go from analog to digital, it’s time for the next step.

Today most data is born digitally. It’s not about the transition from analog to digital anymore. We don’t talk about how to rip anything without losing quality since we make perfect 1 to 1 digital copies of things. Music, movies, books, all come from the digital sphere. But we’re physical people and we need objects to touch sometimes as well!

We believe that the next step in copying will be made from digital form into physical form. It will be physical objects. Or as we decided to call them: Physibles. Data objects that are able (and feasible) to become physical. We believe that things like three dimensional printers, scanners and such are just the first step. We believe that in the nearby future you will print your spare sparts for your vehicles. You will download your sneakers within 20 years.

The benefit to society is huge. No more shipping huge amount of products around the world. No more shipping the broken products back. No more child labour. We’ll be able to print food for hungry people. We’ll be able to share not only a recipe, but the full meal. We’ll be able to actually copy that floppy, if we needed one.

We believe that the future of sharing is about physible data. We’re thinking of temporarily renaming ourselves to The Product Bay – but we had no graphical artist around to make a logo. In the future, we’ll download one.

Peak Timber ?  

Posted by Big Gav in

The BBC has a look at an ANU study into timber depletion in the tropics - 'Peak timber' concerns in tropics.

Current tropical timber practices are not sustainable and nations should consider the "implications of 'peak timber'", a study has suggested.

A team of researchers says the standard cutting cycle of 30-40 years is too short to allow trees to grow to a volume required by commercial loggers.

As a result, they add, the pressure to harvest primary forests will continue, leading to ongoing deforestation.

The findings have been published in the journal Biological Conservation.

The scientists used logging on the Solomon Islands as an example because it was, in some respects, "a microcosm of the challenges facing sustainable forest management in the tropics".

They said the industry had been a major source of government revenue for a number of years.

Yet, they added: "For nearly a decade, the nation had been warned that the volume of timber annually harvested from native forests was too high and, if unchecked, that timber stocks would be seriously depleted by 2012.

"In 2009, the Central Bank of the Solomon Islands asserted that (the) exhaustion of timber stocks had arrived even earlier that predicted and its economic consequences were likely to be severe."

Pushing the limit

The team - made up by Dr Phil Shearman and Jane Bryan from the Australian National University, and Prof William Laurance from James Cook University, Australia - said the trajectory of the country's timber production (a rapid increase in production, followed by a peak and then a decline) was akin to the 'Hubbert curve', which has been observed in the exploitation of non-renewable resources, such as oil.

"It is occurring in the Solomons because timber extraction has occurred at a rate far in excess of the capacity of the forests to regenerate commercial timber stocks," they wrote.

Solar Frontier to supply world's largest CIGS solar plant  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Reuters has an article on what will be the world's largest thin film solar power plant - Solar Frontier to supply world's largest CIGS solar plant.

Japan's Solar Frontier has reached a deal to supply up to 150 megawatts of its solar panels to a California power plant that will one day be the world's largest solar installation made from an up-and-coming technology know as CIGS.

The company, a unit of Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, called it "a landmark moment" for CIGS technology, or solar panels that use copper indium gallium selenide as their raw material. Once completed, the project with a unit of France's EDF Energies Nouvelles will supply enough electricity to power 35,000 homes.

CIGS panels have been slow to penetrate a market dominated by silicon-based equipment, although they have long been seen as a potential challenger to traditional panels because they cost less to manufacture and have the potential to generate nearly as much electricity from the sun's light.

Solar Frontier is the world's largest CIGS manufacturer.

Pascal's Wager, Climate Change And Peak Oil  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The Edge has their annual "question" series of articles up, with tech publisher Tim O'Reilly looking at climate change through the prism of "Pascal's Wager" - Pascal's Wager.

In 1661 or 1162, in his Pensees, philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal articulated what would come to be known as Pascal's Wager, the question of whether or not to believe in God, in the face of the failure of reason and science to provide a definitive answer.

"You must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then?...You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is."

While this proposition of Pascal's is clothed in obscure religious language and on a religious topic, it is a significant and early expression of decision theory. And, stripped of its particulars, it provides a simple and effective way to reason about contemporary problems like climate change.

We don't need to be 100% sure that the worst fears of climate scientists are correct in order to act. All we need to think about are the consequences of being wrong.

Let's assume for a moment that there is no human-caused climate change, or that the consequences are not dire, and we've made big investments to avert it. What's the worst that happens? In order to deal with climate change:

1. We've made major investments in renewable energy. This is an urgent issue even in the absence of global warming, as the IEA has now revised the date of "peak oil" to 2020, only 11 years from now.

2. We've invested in a potent new source of jobs.

3. We've improved our national security by reducing our dependence on oil from hostile or unstable regions.

4. We've mitigated the enormous "off the books" economic losses from pollution. (China recently estimated these losses as 10% of GDP.) We currently subsidize fossil fuels in dozens of ways, by allowing power companies, auto companies, and others to keep environmental costs "off the books," by funding the infrastructure for autos at public expense while demanding that railroads build their own infrastructure, and so on.

5. We've renewed our industrial base, investing in new industries rather than propping up old ones. Climate critics like Bjorn Lomborg like to cite the cost of dealing with global warming. But the costs are similar to the "costs" incurred by record companies in the switch to digital music distribution, or the costs to newspapers implicit in the rise of the web. That is, they are costs to existing industries, but ignore the opportunities for new industries that exploit the new technology. I have yet to see a convincing case made that the costs of dealing with climate change aren't principally the costs of protecting old industries.

By contrast, let's assume that the climate skeptics are wrong. We face the displacement of millions of people, droughts, floods and other extreme weather, species loss, and economic harm that will make us long for the good old days of the current financial industry meltdown.

Climate change really is a modern version of Pascal's wager. On one side, the worst outcome is that we've built a more robust economy. On the other side, the worst outcome really is hell. In short, we do better if we believe in climate change and act on that belief, even if we turned out to be wrong.

But I digress. The illustration has become the entire argument. Pascal's wager is not just for mathematicians, nor for the religiously inclined. It is a useful tool for any thinking person.

Selective bigotry  

Posted by Big Gav in

It's a shame this will probably be Ron Paul's last campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, as he has a unique ability to generate intelligent commentary from non-partisan political observers that all the other drones lack entirely. Salon has an interesting take from David Sirota, noting "Some of Paul's stances are odious. But our racist drug war and Islamophobic invasions are equally offensive" - Our selective stance on bigotry.

If they have any value at all anymore, presidential election campaigns at least remain larger-than-life mirrors reflecting back painful truths about our society. As evidence, ponder the two-sided debate over Republican candidate Ron Paul and bigotry.

One camp cites Paul’s hate-filled newsletters and his libertarian opposition to civil rights regulations as evidence that he aligns with racists. As the esteemed scholar Tim Wise puts it: This part of Paul’s record proves that he represents “the reactionary, white supremacist, Social Darwinists of this culture, who believe … the police who dragged sit-in protesters off soda fountain stools for trespassing on a white man’s property were justified in doing so, and that the freedom of department store owners to refuse to let black people try on clothes in their dressing rooms was more sacrosanct than the right of black people to be treated like human beings.”

The other camp tends to acknowledge those ugly truths about Paul, but then points out that the Texas congressman has been one of the only politicians 1) fighting surveillance, indefinite detention and due-process-free assassination policies almost exclusively aimed at minorities; 2) opposing wars that often seem motivated by rank Islamophobia; and 3) railing against the bigotry of a drug war that disproportionately targets people of color. Summarizing this part of Paul’s record, the Atlantic Monthly’s Conor Friedersdorf has written: “When it comes to America’s most racist or racially fraught policies” affecting the world today, “Paul is arguably on the right side of all of them (while) his opponents are often on the wrong side.”

So which side is right? Both of them, and thanks to that powerful oxymoron, Paul has become a mirror reflecting back our own problematic biases. Specifically, his candidacy is showing that the conventional definition of intolerable bigotry is disturbingly narrow — and embarrassingly selective.

This reality is best demonstrated by those voters who say they detest Paul not because of his extreme economic ideas, but because they feel his record represents an unacceptable form of racism. These folks will likely tell you that their alleged commitment to policies promoting racial equality has moved them to support Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, politicians who, of course, support bigoted civil liberties atrocities, Islamophobic foreign invasions and a racist drug war.

In making such a choice, then, these voters are tacitly embracing the definition of unacceptable bigotry as only hate speech (Paul’s newsletters) and opposition to civil rights laws (Paul’s odious position), but not also various forms of institutional bigotry that their favored candidates support and that Paul has fought to end. Incredibly, this selective definition asks us to ignore many of the most destructive tenets of what legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s celebrated book calls “The New Jim Crow.” And yet, as the reaction to Paul proves, it is precisely this definition that pervades so much of American society.

To be clear: Noting this hypocrisy is not meant to urge a vote for Paul (I’m not a Paul supporter), nor does it absolve those Paul fans who wholly ignore the objectionable parts of their candidate’s record on race. Instead, it is simply meant to argue that if we’re going to have a long overdue discussion about bigotry, then let’s have an honest conversation about all forms of bigotry — not our current talking-points-driven screamfest that rightly criticizes one kind of prejudice but wrongly tolerates other forms of prejudice that are often just as destructive.

Australian Government tries to hide its own peak oil report  

Posted by Big Gav in

I find myself somewhat surprised some local peak oil activists managed to get the odious Piers Akerman at the awful Daily Telegraph to print this story, but I guess stranger things have happened - TOD ANZ points to the story - Australian Government tries to hide its own peak oil report.

The Daily Telegraph has revealed how the Australian government has attempted to suppress its own report on peak oil. The response from the New Zealand government had been equally secretive and obfuscating.

The Report by the Australian Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) is called “Transport Energy Futures; long-term oil supply trends and predictions” and can be downloaded as a pdf
The 470 page report concludes that world oil production will peak in approximately 2016 and then begin to decline for the rest of the century and beyond.

"Given the growth in deep and non-conventional oil balancing the shallow decline in conventional production, it is predicted that we have entered about 2006 onto a slightly upward slanting plateau in potential oil production that will last only to about 2016-eight years from now (2008).

After that, the modelling is forecasting what can be termed ‘the 2017 drop-off’. The outlook under a base case scenario is for a
long decline in oil production to begin in 2017, which will stretch to the end of the century and beyond. Projected increases in deep water and non-conventional oil, which are ‘rate-constrained’ in ways that conventional oil is not, will not change this pattern."

The report has never been published on an Australian Government website (unlike all other BITRE reports), but has now mysteriously appeared on a French website (leaked?) and from there has now gone mainstream.

The top Australian cleantech predictions for 2012  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Giles Parkinson has left The Climate Spectator to start a new site called REneweconomy. One of the first posts has a range of comments from leaders of Australian cleantech companies - The top Australian cleantech predictions for 2012.

It is clear that 2012 will be a critical year for cleantech in Australia. Costs for many technologies are falling rapidly, but critical decisions will be made about renewable energy targets and support mechanisms.

The carbon price will finally be introduced, the shape and purpose of the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation will be decided, reviews will be held into the Renewable Energy Target and many of the regulatory issues surrounding the energy industry, and on solar tariffs, tough decisions may be taken on programs such as Solar Flagships, and more funding will start to flow into cleantech R&D. And, of course, there will be the final version of energy White Paper.

We asked the heads of Australia’s cleantech companies and industry groups what they predicted for the year. This is what they said:

Lane Crockett, general manager, Pacific Hydro

“For the Chinese, 2012 is the year of the dragon, but for Australia 2012 must be the year we move on renewable energy. After a number of years of policy uncertainty driven by constant adjustments to the LRET and a protracted carbon price debate we should start to see some confidence return to the market as these important reforms are hopefully now well and truly bedded down. Critically, 2012 sees compliance obligations of energy retailers under the LRET scheme start to escalate substantially.

“This will help to soak up any remaining oversupply of renewable energy certificates and should signal a strong surge in contracting activity. If liable parties are tardy and don’t prepare sufficiently for future escalating obligations they may find themselves paying substantially more for certificates than they were anticipating and rue the lost opportunity to lock in long-term low cost compliance. Underlying this opportunity is the combination of excess wind turbine manufacturing capacity and a strong Australian dollar leading to some of the lowest cost turbines for some time. Hopefully 2012 will be a year to remember for all the right reasons.”

Evan Thornley, CEO Better Place

“2012 is the year of the electric car. It’s the year we’ll look back on and say: that’s when the transformation started – the biggest and most profound transformation to transport in over a century. Every major car-maker in the world has electric models either in production or in development. The auto industry has recognised it. Capital markets have recognised it. Governments have recognised it. Here in Australia, electric cars will arrive on our shores in mass volumes for the first time in the second half of the year. This means people can finally exercise a choice to drive something faster, quieter, cheaper and greener.”

Miles George, CEO, Infigen Energy

In the Australian renewable energy sphere I expect:

· the effectiveness of the large scale renewable energy target scheme will be significantly enhanced as residual surplus small scheme RECs are absorbed, and the scheduled review of the scheme confirms a stable future regulatory regime for the large scale renewable energy industry

· political partisanship on climate change response will diminish, and carbon emissions pricing will become much more widely accepted.

· wind and solar PV technologies will continue to significantly improve their cost competitiveness with burning fossil fuels, whilst other renewable energy technologies will struggle to keep up with the pace

· carbon capture and storage technology will increasingly be recognised as a pipe dream ...

Jack Curtis, head of Australia and Asia-Pacific, First Solar

‘2012 will mark the year that Australia’s first utility-scale solar project becomes a reality – with the Greenough River Solar Farm to be fully operational mid-year. In the second half of last year, the Federal Government’s ‘Clean Energy Future’ package was released, and with it the possibility of two new independent bodies: the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). This year will be critical as it relates to the establishment of their respective mandates and their ability to support new project development in 2012.

“The Gillard Government has suggested that the CEFC could be functioning by mid-year. Both of these bodies will be vital to encouraging the next level of renewable adoption in Australia. Their ability to operate autonomously in concert with the private sector is also essential. If implemented effectively, our view is that the CEFC should alleviate the medium-term commercial viability gap that exists for emerging renewable technologies. Most importantly, the CEFC needs to facilitate and encourage private sector participation and adoption of new technologies.

“We had some positive movement from state governments last year, especially the ACT, with the announcement of a ‘reverse auction’ tariff program being established for large-scale solar. Outside the ACT, we also expect to see more utility-scale solar PV projects in development throughout Australia, with Western Australia being a key location given its strong macro drivers for solar. First Solar’s goal is to be the most bankable execution mechanism for utility-scale solar projects in Australia with a focus on driving the adoption of solar more broadly and a significant reduction in the cost of delivering solar electricity.”

Michael Ottaviano, CEO, Carnegie Wave Energy

My predictions for 2012 ….

· Solar pv will continue towards retail parity price driven by cheap Chinese manufacturing dominance,

· Wind turbine manufacturing will move in the same way to emerging market sand with the same result – costs also approaching pricing parity (although, unlike solar, at the wholesale level) and the slow decline of western turbine manufacturers (only investment in innovation and development of proprietary technology will be effective against China’s cheap cost of labour and capital),

· Billions of Euros will be committed in the EU offshore wind market – France will be the latest country to announce multi-GW projects

· The start of the Australian carbon price and resilience of domestic economy leads to renewed local interest in cleantech focused on carbon sequestering technologies such as Pacific Pyrolysis

· A shake out in marine energy as a few well capitalized and advanced developers deliver first commercial scale projects alongside major EU industrial partners including Carnegie who will commence construction of its first multi MW CETO project, ...

Warren Buffett's Long Quest to Build A Geothermal Power Plant  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Forbes has an article on Warren Buffett's interest in geothermal power - Warren Buffett's Long Quest to Build A Geothermal Power Plant.

Here’s a sobering sign of the challenges facing the geothermal industry: Even Warren Buffett has spent the better part of a decade trying to build a single geothermal power plant in California.

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, which is controlled by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, received the green light from state regulators back in 2003 for its 159-megawatt Black Rock project in the desert east of San Diego. But by 2008, MidAmerican’s CalEnergy subsidiary had yet to break ground on Black Rock as required by its license, and with the economy in free fall as the financial crisis took hold the California Energy Commission granted the company a three-year extension to begin construction.

With that deadline approaching last month, regulators gave CalEnergy another three-year extension after the company cited obstacles ranging from financing and securing a spot on the transmission system to a steam pipe shortage, according to commission records. CalEnergy now has until Dec. 18, 2014 to start putting steel into the ground.

“I’d love to see this industry develop faster,” Karen Douglas, a member of the California Energy Commission, said in something of an understatement at a geothermal industry roundtable discussion in San Francisco on Wednesday.

That’s not just a bureaucratic platitude. Douglas, the former chair of the energy commission, noted that existing geothermal plants currently provide 4.5% of California’s electricity and are crucial to meeting the state’s ambitious renewable energy targets, especially as aging nuclear power plants are mothballed in the years ahead as their licenses expire. ...

After all, geothermal plants, which tap reservoirs of underground hot water to create steam that drives electricity-generating turbines, use decades-old technology that produces power around the clock, unlike solar and wind. And given there’s a potential 7,000 to 8,000 megawatts of geothermal energy to be tapped in California, the opportunity would seem to be boundless.

The short answer is the geothermal industry looks a lot like the oil and gas business but without the outsized profits. There’s the same steep upfront costs of drilling for wells that may come up dry – geothermal prospectors can spend tens of millions on exploratory drilling. And while an oil well can put a petroleum company in the black as soon as the crude starts flowing, a geothermal developer won’t see a dime until a power plant is licensed, built and begins to generate electricity, a process that can take years as Buffett has discovered.

Mitt Romney's Seduction of America  

Posted by Big Gav in

Guy Rundle really must have done something terrible to be sentenced to cover the entire American presidential campaign, starting with the Iowa caucuses. No doubt he'll be utterly depressed and his writing will devolve into stream of consciousness rambling in a few months, but for the time being he is relatively lucid and capable of turning out the occasional witty phrase, including this little effort on Mitt Romney's appeal to the average Republican voter - New Hampshire is Romney country, but not impressively .

Yet for all the hoopla, seasoned observers noted that it has been one of the quietest NH primaries in recent memory, and one of the least interesting. "Live free and die of boredom" the New Republic remarked, punning on the state's motto, while others noted that the campaigns had opened only a fraction of the offices they would hitherto have run.

The crews in the breakfast room of the (blank) Hotel agreed, breaking off from grousing about the accom ("I'm going to spend a day on websites denouncing this hotel," one said) to agree. "In '08 they all had offices in Nashua, Rochester, Claremont, all the towns," a grizzled camera veteran (he was about 33) said.

Now each team has an office in Manchester, and Ron Paul has one in Concord as well, and that's about it. Though Romney has been the clear front runner throughout, the paucity of on-the-street campaigning has not been due to any lack of competitiveness, with Paul and Huntsman pulling all stops out to gain ground, and Gingrich settling into a campaign of deep and abiding hatred towards Romney.

Instead, 2012 marks the first year in which Tweeting, Facebooking and other social media political work has become as occupying of volunteers' time as actually working the footpath. True? Who knows. It may simply be that, Ron Paul aside, the candidates can't rock out a significant volunteer force because they are simply unable to body forth a genuine political vision, for all the talk of "greatest country in the world, etc".

For the truth is that, after the tumultuous rise, and then very ordinary presidency of Barack Obama, there is no great premium on messianic politics on any side -- merely a growing realisation that any return to better economic days will be a slow and partial process, and that the country is on the lee side of global economic domination. The sentiment has favoured Romney, who has hustled the state like a dull man wearing down an exciting woman, to be rewarded, through sheer hateful persistence with the music to every average seducer's ears: "Oh, all right then."

Yeah. All right. Air punch.

Rundle also notes that Romney found the New Hampshire campaign something of a grind, due to the "Paulite" army supporting Ron Paul - Romney fails to impress in New Hampshire.
In New Hampshire he’s been pushed to a deeper and longer campaign that would otherwise be required by the manic energy of the Ron Paul campaign, a now wholly insurgent force on the right, with additional foot soldiers drawn substantially from the anti-war left, and thus outnumbering every other campaign by about three-to-one. Across the granite state, the Paulites are everywhere. Other campaigns have festooned the state with road signs and yard signs; the Paul campaign seems to have people at every traffic light and roundabout waving with a degree of genuine enthusiasm that Romney could do with a measure more of, and the Paulites a decided amount less. Northern New Englanders, in their horse blankets and dad jeans, look like the cast of Gossip Girl compared to the Paulites, who favour downmarket Trot style.

Through immense hard work, they’ve pushed Ron Paul — a man who sounds like Chomsky, when he doesn’t sound like Ayn Rand — into second place, running at 20-21%, against Romney’s 40% rating, with Santorum a distant third at about 10%. Romney must see them occasionally, from his motorcade, and grind his teeth to nubbins. Had he left them to run wild, who knows where his rating would be now? So he’s been grinding out appearances ever since, to nail down a victory he could already count on, and it shows in his demeanour. ...

“I’ve spoken to 10 people, I’ve got one New Hampshire supporter — and he’s leaning towards [John] Huntsman,” one told another. ”Oh where?” she said, and ran off.

Camera crews were queued up two and three deep on the actual voters who were there. Those leaving, into the raw wind, and past the white clapboard houses surrounding the school found themselves yelled at by the Paulites, accusing them of being dupes of shadowy powers.

“Wall Street candidate bought and sold,” they yelled, confusing those for whom, as far as the Republican Party went, that was rather the point.

Rundle also notes Romney's debate performances in South Carolina haven't exactly been inspiring wither - Gingrich on points in latest debate, but Paul lit the room up.
Mitt Romney has sailed about as close to defeat in South Carolina as he is likely to, with a disastrous performance in the first of two South Carolina debates.

Repeatedly pummelled by Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum on matters as diverse as his Massachusetts governors’ record, his conduct at private equity firm Bain Capital, his refusal to release his tax returns, and more besides.

Romney was nervous and scatty in response, unable to project authority. Gingrich, by contrast, ran the room, clearly establishing his own authority and gaining that rare thing, a standing ovation, putting his nearest conservative rival, Santorum, in the shade. ...

That’s what Gingrich has been saying all along, as part of his claim that the selection of Romney is a false hope. By his confidence, force and authority Gingrich confirmed a lot of that. By bringing his battiness — he is the Jack Donaghy of the GOP, always muttering about Ronald Reagan and “lean six sigma” — he reminded people that he can’t be trusted to not shake the rivets loose entirely by August. That was in evidence when he was brought back to his suggestion that school janitors could be sacked, and replaced by children.

That has led to much fun, but such needling only makes Newt stick to it all the more. If you have five high-paid janitors in an NYC school — by high-paid, Gingrich means about $65,000, from a man who took $2 million in consultancies from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — Newt argues, you could get rid of three of them, and replace them with 20 poor children doing part-time chores, which would encourage them to come to school, learn responsibility, etc, etc. Yeah cos kids love chores. And the best way to lift families out of poverty is to employ the children first. Who all just love chores. And can be ably co-ordinated by two adults. And will not raise public liability issues by frying themselves on bad wiring, heating systems, etc.

God, where to stop? Gingrich was lucky in a way that the topic had been raised by Fox presenter Juan Williams (ex-NPR), in order to quiz on race-baiting — Gingrich had raised all this by saying that he was going to go to the NAACP and tell them this “to help them out” — in an era of a president who “created more food stamps than pay cheques”. The whole shtick is pure dog-whistling for a southern crowd (though there is every chance that Georgia-raised Newt believes it all), but Gingrich managed to turn it around for the Fox audience saying that it was politically correctness “and I will keep on telling people how to get a job, get a better job, own the job”. Applause. Standing ovation.

Gingrich on points, but a win also for Ron Paul, though many will see it as a loss. Repeated questioning on foreign policy had Paul enunciating an entirely moderate line — that bin Laden should have been arrested (“they arrested Eichmann”), that there should be a “golden rule” in international law, and that if you keep bombing people,they get murderously angry at you. These all elicited booing from the audience — and Paul, getting older and more tired these days, wasn’t as focused as he could have been — but it pushed the GOP to a sort of crisis. Everyone else sounded pretty literally fascist — defend the constitution through the NDAA, kill our enemies anywhere*.

The sight of someone saying this stuff from a Republican platform is driving them mad — indeed, today Bill Kristol called for Paul to be expelled from the party. Paul couldn’t be happier. Asked if he thought that the campaign had got too negative, he responded that the only problem with his Santorum ad was that he couldn’t get all the dirt in. I don’t share the leftish enthusiasm for Paul in many quarters, but he runs 40,000 volts through events like these, and is unflinchingly direct.

Project to pour water into volcano to make power  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The Boston Globe has an article on an enhanced geothermal power project in Oregon - Project to pour water into volcano to make power.

Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant volcano in Central Oregon this summer to demonstrate new technology they hope will give a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to live up to its promise.

They hope the water comes back to the surface fast enough and hot enough to create cheap, clean electricity that isn’t dependent on sunny skies or stiff breezes — without shaking the earth and rattling the nerves of nearby residents.

Renewable energy has been held back by cheap natural gas, weak demand for power and waning political concern over global warming. Efforts to use the earth’s heat to generate power, known as geothermal energy, have been further hampered by technical problems and worries that tapping it can cause earthquakes.

Even so, the federal government, Google and other investors are interested enough to bet $43 million on the Oregon project. They are helping AltaRock Energy, Inc. of Seattle and Davenport Newberry Holdings LLC of Stamford, Conn., demonstrate whether the next level in geothermal power development can work on the flanks of Newberrry Volcano, located about 20 miles south of Bend, Ore.

“We know the heat is there,’’ said Susan Petty, president of AltaRock. “The big issue is can we circulate enough water through the system to make it economic.’’



Adelaide Now has an update on some South Australian geothermal projects - Geothermal projects may make it in 2012.
DELAYED geothermal projects could make it across the line this year as two SA-focused companies move further toward producing power, the industry association says. Geothermal company Geodynamics plans to drill its Habanero-4 well in the first financial quarter, taking it toward producing power to Innamincka.

Australian Geothermal Energy Association chief executive Susan Jeanes said "this is the year the industry can prove itself"'. She said the Geodynamics project, that suffered a major setback with a well blowout at Habanero 3 well in 2009, would also work toward fracturing rocks to achieve circulation of super hot water for its 1MW plant.

SA geothermal company Petratherm has drilled a deep well at its Paralana project north of the Flinders Ranges and completed a successful fracture. ...

Ms Jeanes was upbeat about the industry saying if the drilling work was successful this year it could help lead the whole sector forward. "We expect, that given (Geodynamics) successfully proved the concept with Habanero one and three that they will be successful with Habanero one and four because they are drilling into the same geological structure," she said. "That success at Innamincka will provide a huge boost of confidence in the sector, then the sector hopes that will be followed by a successful well at Paralana."

Petratherm managing director Terry Kallis said plans to begin drilling on a second deep well in the Paralana project were still on track for later this year despite TRUenergy's exit. "We haven't changed our plans. we're still on track to look to drill later this year," Mr Kallis said.

Blackout Wednesday: The Time Has Come  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

There is plenty of protest on the web about US congress plans to censor the internet (they aren’t the only control freaks who want to do this of course - the Australian government has been every bit as bad on this issue, as have many others, from China to Iran). The Daily Reckoning has but one example of the torrent of complaint about this (pardon the pun) - Blackout Wednesday: The Time Has Come.

The blackout is a choice, and a brilliant one, made by founder Jimmy Wales in consultation with the whole Wikipedia community. It is a protest, a statement, a symbolic warning to the world of what can happen if governments attack the free flow of information.

The online protest is directed, in particular, against two bills roiling around Congress right now, called SOPA in the House and PIPA in the Senate. Early versions have been tabled. The Obama administration has said that it opposes the current versions, but the opposition was weak and suspiciously nuanced.

People who are digitally aware and politically savvy know that this is only round one. The attempt by governments to block information flows on the Web will continue in new and different bills and regulations. No new laws are even necessary; government possesses the power now to crush the information age on a bureaucratic whim.

In fact, this goes on every day. That's because governments everywhere, in all times and places, want to control information and will use all their power to do it. It is also because the legal framework that rules how information is produced and distributed is fundamentally corrupted by the fraudulent notion of "intellectual property," which, if consistently enforced, would put an end to the Internet as we know it...

- Just this past week, a judge ruled that a 23-year-old British college student can be extradited to the US for a 10-year prison sentence, all for linking to other servers that illicitly host copyrighted content;

- Late last year, US officials shut down 150 domains without hearings or trials on grounds that they were suspected of selling goods that violate trademark law. It was done on "Cyber Monday" for a reason: It was an announcement to the digital world that government is in charge;

- In the spring of last year, the FBI arbitrarily shut down every online poker domain they could find and seized the bank accounts of some of the largest and smartest people who play online poker - and all of this happened before the recent announcement that online poker is being re-legalised;

- Earlier in the year, the Department of Homeland Security seized 84,000 domains and put up an announcement that each was trafficking in child porn. Problem: It was all a mistake. Not one was actually guilty. To date, there has been no explanation of how this could have happened

- In 2010, the feds seized some 73,000 domains for the crime of linking to content that was said to be distributed illegally in violation of copyright.

Already, the damage of this sort of thing is enormous. Ten years ago, the Internet represented liberation, a new frontier of innovation, commerce, opinion sharing and spontaneous organising. Today, more and more people are consumed by fear. Bloggers are unclear about what existing law does or does not allow. No one knows for sure how to define "fair use." The deepest pockets are winning case after case. Faced with this uncertainty, many are choosing less over more content - which is exactly what the government and private monopolists want.

The Wikipedia protest is a way of saying: If this kind of thing continues and ends up institutionalised in new legislation, there will be no more Wikipedia, which is the No. 1 content-rich site on the Web and the main way people learn today (how far we've come from the debunking that was common only five years ago).

And this is just one example. Individual blogs would only contain government-approved content. Search engines would only produce only government-approved sites. Digital entrepreneurship would be suffocated by fears of threats, confiscations and jails. It is hard to see how even Facebook and Twitter could survive.

It is just marvellous that Wikipedia has taken this bold direction, and it is only possible because of the unique nature of the media in question. Many large businesses during the 1930s tried their best to protest New Deal price controls. But they could hardly shut down their giant stores. The revenue loss would have been devastating, and the victims would have been the employees. So in the end, the private sector was forced to submit to the controls. It was the same in the 1970s with wage and price controls. How could the merchants resist?

But digital enterprises are in a different position entirely. They can vanish with a few clicks, giving the world a conjectural look at what happens when the state attacks the lifeblood of innovation and progress. Small changes in the law can have a gigantic effect. Just as one click can shut down this site, one law can do the same.

It is not only Wikipedia. Others are doing the same. WordPress, the open-source platform that powers nearly a quarter of new websites and has the most-popular content management system on the Web, has also stepped out in front with a call for action: "Normally, we stay away from... politics here at the official WordPress project...Today, I'm breaking our no-politics rule...How would you feel if the Web stopped being so free and independent? I'm concerned - freaked right the heck out about the bills that threaten to do this, and as a participant in one of the biggest changes in modern history, you should be, too."

There are many such examples. And even if successful, it is not enough. With or without SOPA, digital freedom is under attack. For example, ICANN, the gateway for all domain registration, is now requiring a verified official identity, supplied by government, for domain ownership. This change sets the stage for continuing shutdowns and strangulation.

The struggle is intensifying, and the sides are very clear: It is the government and old-line media companies that depend on the state's laws versus everyone else. Everyone else consists of the independently active, privately owned global society that lives and thrives in the digital age. The astonishing innovations of this age have taught an entire generation about the miraculous power of information generation and delivery, about the capabilities embedded in the spontaneous actions of individuals, about the capacity of people around the world to generate order and progress through cooperation and exchange.

2011: The Year Data Centers Turned Green  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Wired has a look at the slow greening of data centres last year - 2011: The Year Data Centers Turned Green.

The amount of data the world stores is on an explosive growth curve. According to research outfit IDC, the digital universe will grow 44 times larger over the course of the decade, thanks to the rise of worldwide obsessions with things like social media and cloud computing. And that means more data centers.

But this data center boom comes at a time of high energy prices and heightened concern about carbon emissions. The days of cramming truck loads of servers into a room and firing up a bunch of industrial air-conditioners to cool them are over.

Data center operators are gaining control of their energy bills and earning green points by increasing data center efficiency, from server processor chips to warehouse-size buildings. There’s no how-to manual on building green data centers. The industry is feeling its way on energy efficiency — and no two data centers are alike.

Out of necessity, the huge Internet players — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Yahoo, and Apple — are finding ways to use greener energy and get more out of the energy they use. Google has continued to earn praise for its energy and environmental practices, and Facebook is actually sharing its progress with the rest of the world. This year, it launched the Open Compute Project, encouraging the rest of the industry to exchange technologies and techniques for building efficient data centers.

2011 was a banner year for green data centers, with dozens of state-of-the-art facilities opening for business. Here, Wired takes a look at nine of the more innovative facilities that came online in 2011, rating each by Power Utilization Effectiveness (PUE), the industry standard measure of a facility’s energy-efficiency. PUE is ratio of all electricity a facility consumes to electricity used by the IT equipment it houses.

The ideal — 1.0 — means a facility’s lighting, power, and cooling systems consume no power and its power distribution system is perfectly efficient. Most data centers are in the 2.0 to 3.0 range, meaning ancillary systems and losses consume as much or more energy than the electricity used to run the servers, but the cream of crop have PUE ratings well below this range.

Top 10 Clean Tech Stories of 2011  

Posted by Big Gav

CleanTechnica has a look at the top trends in cleantech last year - Top 10 Clean Tech Stories of 2011.

1. 40% drop in cost of solar. ...
2. Wind energy driving down the price of electricity. ...
3. The Solyndra non-scandal. ...
4. Solar energy industries employ a ton of people. ...
5. Google & Facebook going clean. ...
6. Electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging stations roll out. ...
7. Lack of strong federal clean energy policy. ...
8. Wind penetration hitting record levels in U.S. and abroad. ...
9. Fukushima. ...
10. Better Buildings Initiative. ...

Energy And Water  

Posted by Big Gav in

The SMH has an article on water and energy - Energy use sucking up a precious resource .

Australia's future growth is predicated on the expectation that China and India will continue to emerge as economic behemoths. But the explosion in energy use on which Australia's current boom is based is accelerating the water debt in both China and India.

The link between energy and water is rarely discussed, yet is of huge consequence. The problem was encapsulated in Steven Solomon's book, Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization (2010). He later updated the dilemma in the Journal of Energy Security:

''Pumping, conveying, and treating water is extremely energy-intensive. Water is very heavy - 20 per cent more than oil - and massive volumes are required to sustain modern society . . . each day every person living in an industrialised nation personally consumes about [US]1000 gallons [3785 litres] embedded in the food we eat . . . ''

Think of that cup of coffee and its 140 litres. Or a single steak, which requires almost 10,000 litres of water to produce.

Solomon continues: ''While the 13-fold increase in energy use in the 20th century is often heralded as the signature factor in the unprecedented prosperity of a world population that has quadrupled to over 6 billion, it has been accompanied and also leveraged by a nine-fold increase in freshwater use . . .

''The largest single water user in the industrialised world is the energy industry. Prodigious amounts are needed to produce nearly every type of electricity and transport fuel across the energy value chain . . .

''But scaling up alternative technologies on a sustainable, massive level faces serious water scarcity hurdles. Getting additional oil out of existing wells through enhanced oil recovery techniques uses 15 to 1000 times more water. Potentially game-changing new coal, gas, and oil shale-based unconventional fuels that are shaking up world oil and gas markets are almost all roughly three to five times more water intensive . . . ''

It may seem counter-intuitive to be discussing water shortages in Australia after two of the wettest years in a century. The dams are high, Queensland and Victoria have had record floods, even the desert inland is awash. Last year was the third-wettest since we began keeping national records in 1900, following the second-wettest year on record. Both years were dominated by La Nina.

It was too much of a good thing. For the previous 10 years Australia suffered a long dry. The soil lost moisture. Thousands of hectares were also cleared for wheat and cotton. For soil conservation, the worst possible event with so much dry topsoil was for a sustained period of torrential rain. The erosion would be fearsome. That is exactly what happened. Today the land looks healthy, but thousands of square kilometres have seen topsoil eroded. We reached peak soil in eastern Australia a long time ago. The slow exhaustion of the soil has been hidden by the use of fertilisers. That is why the major food basket of Australia, the Murray-Darling Basin, is officially listed as ''at risk'' by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. ...

Insurance Australia Group, which owns NRMA, among other brands, predicts that floods, fires, heatwaves and drought will grow more extreme and Australia will be one of the countries most affected by climate change.

Our great emerging trading partners, China and India, will be no better off, because of water stress.

China's groundwater reserves are already over-exploited, and water tables are dropping. China has a strategic water shortfall. It has almost four times the population of the United States but only the equivalent of one-third of America's water resources.

India is worse off. It depends on the monsoons and flows from the Himalayan glaciers, which are retreating. India must sustain 20 per cent of the world's population with just 4 per cent of the world's freshwater. The strain is showing. In 1980, there were 2 million wells in India. Today there are 23 million. If wells are dug too deep, saltwater seeps into the aquifer causing irreparable damage. This is happening.

The Ganges is polluted and threatened by the loss of flow from the Himalayan glaciers. Water volume on the Indus - a river crucial to both India and Pakistan - is down 30 per cent.

As India's middle-class grows rapidly, its food and energy consumption leads to soaring water consumption. Something will have to give. Wealth or water.

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