The Top Ten Things Environmentalists Need to Learn

January 29th, 2008
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This came out a lot longer than I expected. However, this is also what is becoming an increasingly large portion of this website. Maintaining the environment is a critical issue especially as evidence of accelerated global warming mounts and as energy becomes more of an issue than it has in recent past. Unfortunately, many of those who claim to be working for enviornmental improvements lack an understanding of a few basic concepts which are absolutely critical to accomplishing anything.

I often find myself in arguments over economics versus environmentalism. This becomes a very difficult situation because the immediate accusation is that I care only about money and need to realize that sacrifices must be made for the good of the planet. I am also told that wind or solar is the answer and the costs and reduction of energy output is acceptable. These ideas that it is okay or honorable to make such sacrifices are overly simplistic and lack a true understanding of the forces at work. To use a phrase I have come to like, they are “Not even wrong.”

Thus, the top ten list…

 

10. Go after pollution sources with the highest benefit/cost ratio, not those which are most noticeable – If you are attempting to make a difference in the world, you should start with the largest problems with the simplest solutions and the least cost in remedying.

For example, underground coal fires produce as much CO2 as all the light cars and trucks in North America and most of those in Europe. The cost of developing a method of fighting such fires and implementing it is likely very low compared to the benefit especially in the context of the amount of effort which has gone into reducing the pollution from cars and trucks.

Similarly, aviation accounts only a small portion of CO2 emissions and there are no apparent alternatives to hydrocarbon fuels for aircraft which do not result in huge tradeoffs. The funds spent on attempting to develop and deploy hydrogen fueled aircraft or some other alternative are very high and there would be tradeoffs in the capabilities and economics of operation. Therefore, it is not wise to invest much effort or funds in such a pursuit.

9. It is always best and often vital to utilize existing infrastructure and capabilities when implementing new methods or technologies. – Any concept for producing more environmentally friendly systems must deal with the realities of the currently deployed infrastructure and the existing manufacturing and maintenance capabilities in place. Those which utilize these assets to the fullest will be the most successful and any which require retooling or major upgrades MUST be capable of doing so in an incremental manner which uses established capabilities wherever possible.

This is important in the context of things like transportation. It is entirely unreasonable to expect that there will be widely deployed hydrogen filling stations or other support facilities in the foreseeable future. Even if the ultimate goal is to establish such facilities, it is necessary that any technologies being implemented must be capable of compatibility with what currently exists in the midterm. For example, plug in hybrids which may be a stepping stone toward future electric-based vehicles but work well with existing technology.

Similarly, it is better to work with manufacturing, refining and distribution technologies that are already available as well as the existing skills of workers. It is better to deploy clean synthetic hydrocarbons, for example, than ethanol on a wide scale because ethanol cannot be pumped through existing petroleum pipelines due to it’s tendency to bind with water.

8. “Natural� “Organic� and “Bio� do not mean “good.� - Some of the most toxic substances known are natural. Furthermore there are times when using an artificial or engineered solution to a problem is far better than using a traditional low-tech or natural approach. Using synthetic substances, engineered approaches and technology can often improve the efficiency of an activity and therefore reduce the need for resources and the overall impact.

For example: a farm which utilizes insecticides and artificial fertilizers to grow a given amount of crops on ten acres may be far better for the local ecosystem than a farm which uses organic methods but requires twice the land be cleared. A common organic farming method for pest control is to import predator insects like lady bugs, however, importing large numbers of these insects may be considerably more disturbing to the local food chain and ecosystem than using a measured amount of an artificial pesticide.

�Nature� was not designed to provide mankind with food, energy and other needs in the most efficient, reliable and sustainable manner. Therefore, engineered or artificial approaches may have better overall outcomes.

7. Plans for the future should not be made on the most optimistic predictions and should consider the most pessimistic reasonable predictions – If you are formulating a plan for providing energy you cannot base it on the assumption that there will be an overall decrease in energy usage. Rather, one must assume that energy needs will continue to grow as they always have, if not faster.

Similarly, no plans for the future should ever be based on the assumption that it will be possible to do something better/faster/cheaper than it can now based on future technologies. One cannot, for example, create say “We’ll just have to develop a more efficient solar cell that is ten times cheaper than what we have now.� There is no guarantee that such research and development in such an area will be fruitful.

�Hope for the best but prepare for the worst� is generally the best policy. Any statement like “Well we won’t need to plan for that because in ten years we’ll be at the point where we’ll only need half as much oil� should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

6. Simply attacking an environmentally damaging activity is not effective unless a better alternative of similar or better economics and usefulness is presented – Protesting a coal fired power plant is, in and of itself, useless, because the plant is necessary to provide electricity. It is even worse to oppose coal, oil and hydroelectric because those are all major sources of electricity. If one wants to phase out something like coal there must be an alternative presented. It is always more effective to promote the alternative than to oppose what exists. If the alternative is accepted, the existing activity being opposed will go away on its own.

It is important that the alternative be reasonable, not speculative and capable of replacing what exists with minimal sacrifice in general. Any alternative which provides additional non-environmental benefits, such as cheaper energy, improved capabilities or better performance (in the case of a vehicle) will aid greatly in promoting the alternative. If such benefits can be presented the likelihood of success is extremely high.

5. Taxation, price increases and caps on energy are inherently regressive and cause great damage. – Regressive means that it has a greater impact on the lower classes than the upper classes and also affect upward mobility and general quality of life. Increasing the price of energy does not mean simply mandating a price or taxing it directly. Any measures which limit energy production will cause an increase in price due to market forces. This includes carbon taxation and carbon capping without providing a variable alternative. Mandating the use of energy technologies which are limited in output or are expensive will likewise increase prices.

High priced energy is a huge burden on the lower classes to a degree much higher than the upper class. Energy is a fundamental expense to living, both directly in the form of heating, transportation and electricity and also indirectly in how it affects production of all goods and services. The price makes up a much larger proportion of the spending of those with less. Thus, an increase in the price of energy DOES NOT make all people conserve energy in an equal manner nor does it prevent frivolous use of energy.

Joe billionaire still fuels up his yatch and barely notices that he spent five dollars a gallon on marine diesel instead of two, but poor families go cold because they cannot afford heating oil at twice the price. In the end, those with the money to adopt cleaner and more efficient technology and with the excesses which can be cut are the least likely to do so. The more likely outcome of higher energy prices is a move to alternative energy sources which offer a lower cost, even if doing so results in more pollution instead of less. An example would be the wood burning stove boom during the 1970′s oil crisis or waste oil burners.

This increases the class divide, as any shortage of such an important commodity will. It causes more poverty and limits upward mobility. The overall reduction in quality of life affects nearly all sectors including health and any burden on the economic system will only make government social programs more burdened.

 

4. It is unreasonable to expect the general public will accept major reductions in living standards or comfort and convenience. Simply put, it won’t happen – There is no point in debating the ethics of driving a big car and taking vacations versus making sacrifices to sustain the environment, because history shows that the public has a very limited tolerance for any measures which directly affect their comfort, convenience and other wants. Therefore, if you want people to drive a car which is environmentally friendly, it must not be a glorified golfcart. It cannot lack air conditioning and be small, slow and lacking in capacity. People will not accept that kind of sacrifice in general.

Because they will not move to environmentally friendly options voluntarily, the next thing which generally is proposed is to mandate very strict limitations on the use of anything from incandescent light bulbs to air conditioners to big engines. The problem is that this will not generally be accepted if there is not an equally viable alternative. People will either skirt the regulations or they will put pressure on politicians to change them. In a democracy, the politicians will always be forced to bow to the will of the people on any matter which is universally disliked.

(They want their damn bread and circus and you’d be a fool to try to talk them into living without them.)

3. Depending on continuous heavy subsidies is not sustainable. – Subsidies exist for a reason and are not always a completely bad thing. They are designed to do things like maintain a strategic capability which is not normally profitable or to stimulate a sector which is important to a country and might now develop on it’s own.

However, when it comes to energy and development, a subsidy cannot be a tow-line, but only a jump start. In other words, it must be for the purpose of establishing a capability which will have value and returns on the initial expenditure. Paying to keep something going for years when it has shown disappointing results is a complete waste. It is not economically sustainable and has low benefit.

It also should be pointed out that “creating jobs� is not an economic benefit if those jobs are entirely based on expenditures which do not result in a tangible payback and rely on direct funding to exist. “Creating 1000 jobs� is not a good thing if the way they were created is by paying 1000 people to do something useless. The sustainability and overall effect must be considered.

2. Every little bit does not help. – There is absolutely no point in perusing technologies or methods which do not have the potential for actually making an ecological difference, especially if doing so will expend funds, energy or other resources without any significant return. Even in cases where there is little overall investment, simply harping on the most insignificant overall issues will at least draw attention away from what credible solutions exist.

In the end, it is not really going to matter if there is .00001% les Co2 in the air in a century. Those technologies which have limited potential are best abandoned to cut losses as soon as it becomes apparent how limited they are. Campaigns against things like iPhones are idiotic, considering the massive discharges of waste by other parts of the electronics industry and other industries in general. Putting a solar panel on your roof might make you feel good but that’s about all it does. Saying “someone has to start� or “if everyone would do it� or “every bit helps� does not count for much when you know that everyone *will not* do it and “every little bit� helps a very very little bit.

1. Sacrificing the needs of an economy for the environment will destroy both. - This is overall and far and away one thing which environmentalists seem to entirely lack any understanding of. There are a lot of claims that sacrifices must be made economically or that “the price of damaging the environment cannot be measured in dollars. We need to consider that cheap power has hidden costs to earth.�

The major problem with this is that the economic health of a society affects nearly all aspects of the society. For example, during times of recession, crime rates tend to rise, health generally deteriorates, general public moral is far less. The effects are far reaching both broadly and individually. When the economy does well, more people have good paying jobs with benefits. More people have healthcare coverage and those who do not are generally more able to pay for healthcare. More people go to college and education in general improves. There are more funds for donation to charities and the government has far more of a taxbase from which to spend.

The impact on the environment is also effected by this for several reasons. It has been said that “environmentalism is a luxury� and this is actually true in many circumstances. In a poor country cars blow out more exhaust because owners are not as prone to good upkeep of the engine and exhaust system. Recycling does not exist in such countries because the funds are not available and the demand for more raw materials is lacking, thus making it less financially motivating to recover materials.

In general, people become far less concerned with the environment when they see that their own lives and the lives of those close to them are not very good. A person does not buy highly efficient lightbulbs or a hybrid car in such circumstances. If they cannot afford oil to keep warm, they will not insulate their home but rather are more likely to start cutting down trees for fuel. They may even buy a simple stove and start to burn garbage for fuel.

An economy is not healthy when it is stagnant. It must not only be growing to be healthy, but to be prosperous it should have the highest possible growth rate while maintaining sustainable funds and keeping inflation in relative check. Only under such circumstances will the government and private organizations have the funds and the ability to tackle environmental issues. The flip side of this is that it means an increase in consumption and in consumerism in general. This equates to more potential for environmental impact.

The key, in the end, is to find ways to keep a robust and healthy economy while promoting good environmental policy. Doing so will increase standards of living, decrease poverty, increase environmentally positive projects and benefit all aspects of life and ecology.

Added (2/5/08):
Having gotten a lot of attention on this article I’ve added a couple of follow-up posts which related to this and which I might suggest checking out. You may also want to check other parts of this blog filed under “environment”.

Agree or disagree your comments are welcome and will not be removed – at least as long as the discussion is factual and substantive. Railings, flaming and profanity are not desired, however. However, although descent is welcome, don’t expect not to be refuted, taken to task or otherwise countered. Feel free to do the same. This is obviously a contentious issue. Any discussion, even if heated, is positive if it stimulates thought and education.

Sources of Greenhouse Gas and a Quick Math Lesson
Stuff “Environmentalists” Should be (more) Concerned About
Does Every Little Bit Really help?
“Green Groups” Give Me Deja Vu

Also, since there has been a lot of discussion of nuclear energy resulting from this, here are some previous posts with relevant information:

Ten Myths About Nuclear Energy
Greenpeace On Nuclear Science
A Graphic Illustration of Nuclear Energy Potential

What is Spent Fuel? – I’m most proud of this one as it addresses an issue most people know very little about. The issue of nuclear “waste” and methods for dealing with it.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 at 11:32 am and is filed under Bad Science, Education, Enviornment, Good Science, History, Not Even Wrong. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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530 Responses to “The Top Ten Things Environmentalists Need to Learn”

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  1. 351
    DV82XL Says:

    McGlashan your answer to the problems of distributed energy is trite, and does not address the issues that I brought up.

    The report you linked to seems to suggest that again a combination of wistful thinking and unlimited money is all that is needed to exploit these resources. Note that the study was done six years ago, before long baseline data from the Danish wind installations were available. Where these to be included in the constraints it would not paint so rosy a picture.

    I was not attempting to insult you, or accuse you of hypocrisy, only pointing out that low energy lifestyles are not to the majority’s taste and any plan to mandate it by fiat is not going to happen in a democracy.

    Your dialectic gymnastics really have no place in a technical discussion. This is one of the biggest problems in debating with non-technical people (or those with an agenda) because opinion counts for very little here, and many seem to think that the issues revolve around opinion. No. It revolves around what is required and what is possible. Unless you understand the underling systems and how they work and are able to critically analyze all the data you cannot possibly come to an informed conclusion. It would appear to me that you have fallen into the trap of only considering evidence that supports your position, rather than approach the issue with the open mind you claim to have.

    You have been given enough pointers to begin your own unbiased research, should you wish, arguing with you here is without you doing the homework is a waste of everybody’s time, including your own.


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  2. 352
    Johan Says:

    McGlashan
    I would not call breeders unproven, but that isnt realy very important so we can ignore that discussion. Even if you pessimisticaly assume breeders wont be a reality for say 50 years it still means uranium is a sustainable resource. Breeders arent realy “needed” until we start running out of uranium and that wont happen for a few hundred years. In any case there is no showstopper when it comes to breeding technology so it will be a reality long before uranium becoes scarce.


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  3. 353
    DV82XL Says:

    The fact is that existing heavy water reactors can burn thorium right now, and that IS proven, and breeder reactors have been running for decades making fissile Pu for weapons. Where this ‘unproven breeder’ nonsense came is beyond me.


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  4. 354
    Rod Adams Says:

    McGlashan, in his long post about the abundant energy sources he has available by luck of geography also let slip his real love:

    I used to work in the Oil & Gas industry here. Ahh the boomtown days of the seventies… The towout of the Ninian Central Platform was something to witness. Largest ever structure moved by man… those were the days… sniff, wipes tear from eye. Mega-engineering glory days indeed. The North Sea’s a mature oil producing province now, there’s no more capital being deployed out there, just a bit of infill drilling and enhanced recovery techniques. Aberdeen, once full of can-do engineers with pencils behind their ears and slide-rules in their shirt pockets, is now full of accountants and asset managers, tapping away in front of their excel spreadsheets.

    I live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. There are probably 4-6 million people who live within 50 miles of my home. We have hot, muggy STILL summers, relatively cold winters, lots of trees, some farms, and lots of industry. Wind mills would probably achieve a 15% capacity factor and solar panels would be almost useless because of clouds, shade, and short winter days.

    We burn coal by the thousands of tons, have a few nuclear plants, use a lot of gas and diesel fuel and burn methane by the millions of cubic feet per minute.

    I cannot imagine ways that my region could survive, much less prosper using anything other than a tiny portion of conventional renewable energy. We can, however, steadily reduce our fossil fuel dependence by building new nuclear plants on the already existing sites and by finding new sites within the region. We could also fit them onto the numerous ships that ply the Chesapeake Bay on their way to and from Baltimore and Norfolk to the open ocean.

    Of course, I never worked for the oil and gas industry and have no nostalgia for the damaging engineering projects that those extractive industries have been causing for a couple of hundred years. Instead, I used to operate a small reactor that could be sealed inside a submarine and operate for decades without new fuel.

    I guess we all have our prejudices. McGlashan has stated that he sees no compelling reason for a nuclear fission based economy – my favorite reason is that it would be far superior to the fossil fuel based economy that we have today. Heck, nuclear plants can perform so well that they are the functional equivalent of a 760 million mile per gallon carburetor.


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  5. 355
    Sexy Don Says:

    So how’s about this. The term “Environmentalist” gets dropped by all the organizations that are basically trying to put up a new social philosophy, because it implies something that they don’t really want except perhaps as a secondary thing. So it goes back to it’s original meaning and the Green party and the Friends of Earth and Greenpeace and all those groups can rename themselves “Anti-market Minimalist Localists” or “Anti-Energy-and-human-activitiy-ists” or something else that communicates what they want. Maybe something like kumquat-ists, as long as they define what it means honestly. They can invent a new goddamned word if they want. Just stop trying to pass yourself off as something you are not all about. It’s damn confusing


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  6. 356
    Finrod Says:

            Sexy Don said:

    and the Green party and the Friends of Earth and Greenpeace and all those groups can rename themselves “Anti-market Minimalist Localists” or “Anti-Energy-and-human-activitiy-ists” or something else that communicates what they want.

    Maybe something like kumquat-ists, as long as they define what it means honestly.

    They can invent a new goddamned word if they want.

    How about ‘Mortocrats’? Appointed rulers of a ‘Mortocracy’, or advocates of such a system.


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  7. 357
    Finrod Says:

    Or in Greek, a ‘Thanotocracy’, administered by Thanotocrats?


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  8. 358
    Finrod Says:

    Pardon my misspelling! Thanatocrats, thanatocracy.


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  9. 359
    blobbles Says:

    There’s a problem here most are forgetting:

    Global warming is causing massive upheavals in the earths natural weather systems. This is a man made problem which we created. It is now futile to reject this. And it’s not getting better – it’s only gonna get worse from now on.

    So what options do we have? We could do nothing drastic, have minimal effect on greenhouse gas production, leading to a future where basically a lot of people (more so in developing nations) become refugees relying on aid and/or relocation to developed nations or are killed. Think about the amount spent on aid from the US last year (both domestic and international) and now think about multiplying this figure by a factor of 10-20 and you might start to get a different idea of the problem. I think that the people that wrote this article from an economics point of view should start thinking about the economics of doing nothing.

    Another option is that we do take some drastic measures. This will not be popular with people in the short term. But if people are educated on the risk of doing nothing, I think you will find that they may be more receptive. People in developing nations don’t see the actual cost of doing nothing. They continue to rely on countries like China and India to provide them with cheep goods (the production of which puts massive amounts of greenhouse gasses into the enviroment) and see no consequences of driving their SUVs and generally polluting to their hearts content. But if you explained the economics of doing nothing I think you will find people a lot more receptive to these drastic measures.

    And individual action does have an effect. It changes attitudes, slowly but surely. If you don’t believe this, then I suggest you shouldn’t *beleive* in things like fashion or any type of word of mouth / advertised change in opinions.


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  10. 360
    Finrod Says:

    Blobbles, did you even bother to read one single line of the original post or subsequent comments?


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  11. 361
    Michael Ejercito Says:

    So what options do we have? We could do nothing drastic, have minimal effect on greenhouse gas production, leading to a future where basically a lot of people (more so in developing nations) become refugees relying on aid and/or relocation to developed nations or are killed. Think about the amount spent on aid from the US last year (both domestic and international) and now think about multiplying this figure by a factor of 10-20 and you might start to get a different idea of the problem. I think that the people that wrote this article from an economics point of view should start thinking about the economics of doing nothing.

    Here is an idea: how about setting off ten megatons of nuclear weapons at a test site?

    A mere one hundred megatons would set off an epoch of cold and dark . This scenario was published by Carl Sagan back in 1983. Therefore, one must assume that a lesser yield would cool things down a little bit.

    If ten megatons is insufficient, then set off another ten megatons.


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  12. 362
    DV82XL Says:

    Jesus Mike, don’t give them any ideas ;)


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  13. 363
    McGlashan Says:

    Just listened to BBC radio programme on Solar Power mega-engineering
    Listen to this and then tell me what’s wrong with it.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/radio4_aod.shtml?radio4/costingtheearth

    More later

    McG


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  14. 364
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Michael Ejercito said:

    So what options do we have? We could do nothing drastic, have minimal effect on greenhouse gas production, leading to a future where basically a lot of people (more so in developing nations) become refugees relying on aid and/or relocation to developed nations or are killed. Think about the amount spent on aid from the US last year (both domestic and international) and now think about multiplying this figure by a factor of 10-20 and you might start to get a different idea of the problem. I think that the people that wrote this article from an economics point of view should start thinking about the economics of doing nothing.
    Here is an idea: how about setting off ten megatons of nuclear weapons at a test site?

    A mere one hundred megatons would set off an epoch of cold and dark . This scenario was published by Carl Sagan back in 1983. Therefore, one must assume that a lesser yield would cool things down a little bit.

    If ten megatons is insufficient, then set off another ten megatons.

    Sagan later stated that some of the data from that was incorrect and that his conclusions were probably wrong or overstated. Anyway, they set off tens of megatons in the 1950′s and early 1960′s. Didn’t do a whole lot.


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  15. 365
    Michael Ejercito Says:

    Sagan later stated that some of the data from that was incorrect and that his conclusions were probably wrong or overstated. Anyway, they set off tens of megatons in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Didn’t do a whole lot.

    He probably misplaced a decimal point somewhere.

    Even scientists are not immune from arithmetic mistakes.


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  16. 366
    Tsakanga Says:

    McG, I’m a little confused, or perhaps more baffled by the string of your comments. You chide us for trying to come up with an engineering solution instead of social solutions popular among environmental groups but then point to a solar mega-engineering project and ask what’s wrong with that.

    Granted, I’m not a solar expert, but the first thing to pop to mind as a possible problem for desert solar installations (besides being a centralized source, which for some reason is evil…) is sandstorms. Whether PV or CSP, one would think the panels and mirrors wouldn’t do too well with the occasional sandblasting. Even if it doesn’t cause physical damage, that’s still time without sun exposure and time until panels/mirrors can be cleared of built-up sand before the plant can get back up to ‘full’ power.

    And might I ask what the point of bringing up the oldest account of hydro or wind power was? if you want to get picky like that, I believe the first energy producing nuclear reactions occurred in the first few nanoseconds after the big bang created the universe, granted no one was around to see it, but that still makes that energy source a few magnitudes of order older than hydro or wind. Along the same lines of pickiness, it could be argued that solar, hydro and wind power are actually nuclear power (the same could be said for fossil fuels, but who wants to claim that red-headed stepchild in these environmentally-minded times?) since the motive force for those cycles is sunlight. This might come as a shock so take a deep breath… Sunlight is radiation. The sun is a big nuclear reactor.

    Oh, no! Its the end of days, hug the ones you love good-bye because, as some ‘environmentalists’ are fond of pointing out, any dose of radiation no matter how small can be lethal and the fact that the planet’s flooded with it from sun up to sun down means we’re all going to start growing third eyes and extra limbs and popping cancers out of every orifice until we’re dropping like flies.

    But wait, that hasn’t happened. Could that mean radiation isn’t the Devil’s mistress? Could that mean the linear-no-threshold model doesn’t hold water? Could that mean radiation is actually a natural occurrence without which the planet we all love so much would be nothing more than a icy chunk of rock floating in space? Could radiation actually be one of the greatest contributing factors to life as we know it? Of course not, that’d be blasphemous…


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  17. 367
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Okay, so on the topic of energy effeciency. I wanted to illustrate the point that turning off lights and getting an energystar PC is not going to save the world. Hence I have made some charts and presented some info on energy usage.

    God, I can’t even begin to say how much freakin work it was making this post and its not even done:

    http://depletedcranium.com/?p=390


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  18. 368
    McGlashan Says:

    Tsakanga,

    I did not say I approved of the schemes mentioned in the radio programme. There is a great deal I find disturbing in the proposed schemes. See if you can spot what they are…

    Till tomorrow,

    McG


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  19. 369
    DV82XL Says:

    Very coy McGlashan; but it’s time for you to fish or cut bait. There are several outstanding items you have not responded to in any meaningful way. It’s about time you did.


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  20. 370
    Justice Says:

    Good grief, a lot of very bitter and hateful people posting here.

    How is this for ‘things we can do’: build an actual working public transit infrastructure! People pooh this saying that it ‘isn’t cost effective’. Roads, the analog of a transit line, are not cost effective either in most cases. The freeways are, just as the trunk lines of transit systems are cost effective. Neither would be without all of the budget-sucking feeders.
    Get lots of buses. Cities can use a random access network – a bunch of lines that just go east-west in a straight line, and a bunch of lines that just go north-south in a straight line, all with frequencies like “every 5 minutes” and run them at varying levels of intensity 24/7. More rural areas can pulse transit routes in and out of a central transfer station every hour on the hour, or every half hour, or every 20 minutes.. with every bus in the area converging with time for everyone to transfer between the parked buses before they all swarm off again. Put bike racks on the buses and in the trains, and give the trains and buses as much support as we give the freeway builders today. Still worried about emissions? Run your buses on electric, or compressed air, or hydrogen, all of which are in use today in major cities.

    Still want to drive your car? Go ahead. Nobody is stopping you. But owning a car today costs an average of about $10,000.00/year according to the AAA, and if you put in a nice bus system and market it as a trendy and upscale way to travel, a lot of people will decide it just isn’t worth the cost and hassle to own their own car.
    It will help the poor, because it will eliminate the “need” to spend a lot on a vehicle, it will free those who cannot now drive. It will create jobs, it will save lives, it will reduce carbon emissions.
    It will not reduce living quality, you aren’t asking anyone to sacrifice anything, and you’d be using 100% technology you can get off the rack today. It’s not any more of a “subsidy” than the heavily subsidized system which it would be picking up from. As a side benny, it makes compact development more attractive, and reduces sprawl.


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  21. 371
    DV82XL Says:

    Justice-

    Of course you are correct, but building large integrated public transit networks are just the sort of big ticket projects that we are saying are needed.


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  22. 372
    McGlashan Says:

    DV82XL

    Hi, hope you’re having a great weekend.

    I sense a certain impatience as you await my contribution… Sorry, I was pretty busy with other stuff yesterday. There’ll be plenty today.

    “McGlashan your answer to the problems of distributed energy is trite, and does not address the issues that I brought up.”

    Ok, I’m really sorry if it was, that’s below my own standards. However, my point remains. UK.gov’s Energy Saving Trust is actively encouraging us here to add micro-generation to the grid. I don’t pretend to be technically qualified to make comments, but all the organisations here are:
    http://www.planningrenewables.org.uk/cgi-bin/resource.cgi?CATEGORY=1008&CLASSIFICATION=1079

    “Note that the study was done six years ago, before long baseline data from the Danish wind installations were available. Where these to be included in the constraints it would not paint so rosy a picture.”

    Noted. I’ve asked my MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) to provide me with more up-to-date and/or realistic information. Meantime, there’s this report on the marine resource.
    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/1086/0006191.pdf
    There’s also this “roadmap” document.
    http://www.scottishrenewables.com/MultimediaGallery/472ce7c4-39af-456f-841d-e70fabdc8233.pdf
    Note the emphasis on demand mitigation.

    “low energy lifestyles are not to the majority’s taste”
    I agree. This is what we hope to change. More to come on the subject from me later today. However, the Scottish quality of life is compatible with a low energy lifestyle, as evinced by the recent recent of the “brain drain” into a “brain gain”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4221516.stm
    You’re welcome to join us.

    “This is one of the biggest problems in debating with non-technical people (or those with an agenda) because opinion counts for very little here, and many seem to think that the issues revolve around opinion. No. It revolves around what is required and what is possible.”
    What is required to chart the best route forward IS a matter of opinion. You are right to point out that I am non-technical; rather, I am a political animal. You suggest I have an agenda, indeed I do; my agenda is to help find appropriate, proportional and sustainable solutions to the energy crunch and climate change challenges that face my local, regional and national communities. By doing so, we intend to provide the global community with a model of best practice.


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  23. 373
    McGlashan Says:

    Rod Adams.

    Hi Rod, how are you?

    “McGlashan, in his long post about the abundant energy sources he has available by luck of geography also let slip his real love… Oil & Gas”.
    I’ll admit it was my FIRST love. But I’ve moved on…

    You and I have more in common than you many people here might think… from your time in the USN are you familiar with these bits of kit?
    http://www.oceanworks.com/hsMilitary.php
    The company I worked for used to dive these things for subsea wellhead intervention and the like.

    I’m intrigued by your Adams Engine pebble bed reactor, and appreciate the intrinsic fail-safe nature of the arrangement. How close are you to having a customer bring an Adams Engine on-line? I sincerely wish you all the very best and hope that you can give up your day job soon.


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  24. 374
    Michael Ejercito Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Justice-

    Of course you are correct, but building large integrated public transit networks are just the sort of big ticket projects that we are saying are needed.

    New York City and Chicago have large integrated public transit networks.

    What places that do not have these networks need them?


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  25. 375
    McGlashan Says:

            Tsakanga said:

    McG, I’m a little confused, might I ask what the point of bringing up the oldest account of hydro or wind power was? …

    Hi Tsakanga

    My point here was that these sustainable technologies can be used to provide useful work no matter the economic conditions. A windmill or watermill is viable in a recession, slump, depression, asset crisis, commodity crisis, liquidity crisis or even a fall, they’ll keep on milling flour, pumping water, sawing wood etc etc etc, with no need to convert the work to electricity as an intermediate stage.

    I’m not for a moment suggesting that western civilisation is about to fall any time soon, if ever, so please don’t take offence at that.


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  26. 376
    McGlashan Says:

    Hi to all!

    Hey doc, my assertion that energy efficiency does not mean a reduction in living standards seems to have exasperated you. Let’s see if I can put a smile back on your face with…

    McGlashan’s Top Ten Ways to Reduce Energy Consumption and Simultaneously Enhance Your Living Standards.

    (Puts on asbestos suit and air-raid helmet) :-)

    Lets start with a quotation:

    “Wealth is about so much more than pounds, or euros or dollars can ever measure. It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money, and it’s time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB – general well-being.
    “Well-being can’t be measured by money or traded in markets. It can’t be required by law or delivered by government.
    “It’s about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture, and above all the strength of our relationships.”

    Who do you think said that? Sounds like a bit of a hippy, a tree-hugger, an anti-capitalist. Indeed no. This was said by David Cameron to a speech to the Google Zeitgeist Europe conference in May 2006. David Cameron is leader of the UK Tory Party; the Conservatives; the tax-cutting party of Business. You’ll remember Margaret Thatcher. The full text of the speech is here:
    http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/story/0,,1780585,00.html

    Now on to my interpretation of how to implement Cameron’s vision. I’ve not implemented all of these myself yet, but they’re on my list…

    10a. Always share your bath or shower with your wife/girlfriend/significant other.

    GWB benefits: You Sexy Beast! Relationships. Self Esteem.

    10b. Not got a wife/girlfriend/significant other? Go and get one, maybe on the internet, or maybe you can find someone more local (see below). Get her moved in as quickly as decency and decorum permits. There – you just about halved your domestic carbon footprint at a stroke.
    GWB: You Sexy Beast! Companionship. Partner in rhetoric & dialectics. Self Esteem. Relationships.

    9a. Never buy new furniture/crockery/glasswear/etc ever again. Instead, when you need (not want) to replace an item, buy antiques. Explore the styles of previous centuries, find out what you like from an overwhelming range of tastes from the Art Deco and Modernism of the last century to the idealism of the Arts & Crafts movement.  Queen Anne stuff is my favourite; built to last! Marvel at the craft of the artisans who formed such artifacts before the onset of the machine age and mass production; before the invention of planned obsolescence and the upgrade cycle. In the UK, if you can show that you are buying antiques as an investment, or to trade, you can claim them as a tax loss!

    GWB: A new pastime. Culture. Prestige. Investment, Tax-deductible.

    9b. Can’t afford antiques? Here in the UK we have a voluntary sector phenomenon; the Charity Shop (or Thrift Shop). It’s kind of like an analog long tail. Here you can buy, for a pittance, a fantastic eclectic mix of more recent antiques, nearly new stuff and the odd incredibly underpriced gem. A few months back I picked up a bit of Riihimaki Finnish glasswear for GBP 1.5 – its worth about GBP 50. A sweat was breaking out on my forehead as I approached the sales counter. Once it was mine I couldn’t get out of the shop quick enough. Another beauty of the charity shop is that they tend to be operated by do-gooder NGO’s, so your money goes to famine relief, truth & reconciliation, intermediate technology projects and the like.

    GWB: Culture. Altruism. Philanthropy. Tax-deductible. Save cash. Social Capital. Self Esteem. Community.

    8. Don’t buy a daily newspaper. Walk or cycle to your local library instead. Make friends with the librarian, he or she is your friend who will source the periodicals and books you want to read, but don’t want to own. He or she is also the gatekeeper to the notice board. The notice board is the centre of your community, your base. Read a healthy selection of the local, national and international press; try to take in the full rainbow of political views. At the library, you might meet some Like-Minded Individuals. (See point 10b). Get involved in some of the community stuff advertised on the notice board. Borrow some books that you’ve not read since high school. You’ll be using the library’s computers, lighting and heat while you’re there (you miser).

    GWB: Up-to-date knowledge of current affairs, global, national, regional and local. Save cash. Culture. Relationships. Social Capital. Community.

    7. Switch off the TV and try not to put it back on again. Remember, the living room is the factory – the product being manufactured is you.
    Bear with me on this one for a moment or two…
    I was horrified when I learned that the budget airlines in Europe are not selling transportation to you; rather, they’re selling YOU as a commodity to the destination city. They get block payments from Dublin Chamber of Commerce, for instance, to guarantee x number of thousands of tourists delivered per year. Likewise, Sky TV (Fox) offer an unbelievably cheap telecoms package here (satellite TV, landline & 10meg broadband for GBP 5/month). However, that’s not what they’re selling; in actuality what is being sold is you, as part of the installed base, to their advertising clients.
    Now that you’re free of the “methadone metronome, the drug of the nation” and beginning to break your conditioning, you can go and do something less boring instead. Read the stuff you got from the library that you’ve not read since high school. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, or Orwell’s 1984 are good. You might also try “The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin” by David Nobbs. That’s the book that changed my life. Go for a walk around your neighbourhood – go for a 20 mile cycle – cook something – practice your rhetoric; sit at your keyboard and perfect your polemic. If your wife/girlfriend/significant other is around, practice your dialectics; pick a subject you don’t really have an opinion about, choose opposing sides, and then attempt to change the view of your interlocutor. Play nice now; no pedagogy, no patronising, no cursing, no sarcasm, no shouting, no automatic gainsaying. Once you’ve reached a synthesis, change sides and do it again. You could do some gardening, finish up some DIY projects.  Listen to ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’. This list is endless…

    GWB: Liberty. Self-Improvement. Relationships. Self Esteem.

    6.  Eat locally-grown food. Try to avoid processed food as much as possible. Forswear the out-of-town mall or mega-mart, supermarket or whathaveyou. Walk or cycle to your local grocery store. They probably already have some local produce. Buy it and encourage them to source more. Tell your friends, family and neighbours about how great the store is becoming. Begin to enjoy the natural variety of seasonal produce.
    Got a garden? Plant something you can eat. Not got a garden? See if your local authority can provide you with an allotment.
    Work in an office, factory, shop? Don’t use the canteen or fast-food joint at lunchtime. Prepare yourself some sandwiches instead. I’m amazed to say that BOTH McDonalds outlets in the centre of town here have closed within the past 12 months for want of customers. A great shame – sometimes a Big Mac really just hits the spot.

    GWB: Save LOTS of cash. Health. Connection with nature. Support local small business. Culture. Social Capital. Self-reliance. Community.

    5. If you’re cold, don’t adjust the thermostat; rather, put on a sweater – trendy! You can get a sweater or cardigan from the Charity Shop. Not comfortable with that? Fair enough… learn to knit, or to tailor your own new clothes. You will be in great demand from your friends and family if you learn this skill. It’s also a skill you can barter in the future if your national currency evapourates.

    GWB: Social capital. Future proofing. Self-reliance. Community. Self Esteem. Prestige.

    4. If you can, telework.

    GWB: Relationships. Free time.

    3. If you can, ditch the car; walk or cycle instead. JUSTICE said that AAA figures are USD 10,000 pa to run an automobile. About 7 years ago, I worked out that I’d save GBP 300 to 400 per month if I ditched the car. With these savings, I paid down my debt and then escaped wage-slavery.

    GWB: Liberty. Health & Fitness. Connection with nature.

    2. Don’t go to the motor-racing, arena tour rock concert, or any other out-of-town electricity or petroleum-driven event. Instead, walk or cycle to the concert hall in the centre of your town and listen to the orchestra.

    GWB: Culture. Community.

    1. Step off the upgrade cycle. Now that you’ve turned off your TV and learned to ignore advertising, you’ll probably not notice the upgrade cycle so much anyway. Find a stable PC hardware/software configuration and stick with it. When your razor needs new blades, buy an old-fashioned cut-throat razor and strop instead. Or go to your local barber. Now you’re off the upgrade cycle for TV, PC, razors, fridges, furniture, automobiles, clothes, phones, watches, jewelry, etc, etc, your self esteem will improve. You will learn to distinguish between necessities and luxuries; between needs and wants. You will finally be free.

    GWB: Liberty. Self Esteem.


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  27. 377
    DV82XL Says:

    Trite, vapid fluff McGlashan, I’m so impressed.

    Your contributions to this debate have been going downhill of late, and are beginning to smell like smoke. Time to man up and admit that your demand for ‘compelling argument(s) in favour of the necessity for the adoption of greater levels of nuclear power’, have been answered. On the other hand you have yet to provide substantive answers to a number of outstanding counter-questions on your proposed alternatives.

    This list of yours is pure weapons-grade balderdash that you are trying to use to obscure the fact that you are out of arguments.


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  28. 378
    McGlashan Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Trite, vapid fluff McGlashan, I’m so impressed.

    Your contributions to this debate have been going downhill of late, and are beginning to smell like smoke.

    Time to man up and admit that your demand for ‘compelling argument(s) in favour of the necessity for the adoption of greater levels of nuclear power’, have been answered. On the other hand you have yet to provide substantive answers to a number of outstanding counter-questions on your proposed alternatives.

    This list of yours is pure weapons-grade balderdash that you are trying to use to obscure the fact that you are out of arguments.

    Hi DV82XL

    An earlier post of mine shows up in my browser as “awaiting moderation”. Maybe it’s the one that provides answers to your counter-questions… this is the text…

    DV82XL
    Hi, hope you’re having a great weekend.

    “McGlashan your answer to the problems of distributed energy is trite, and does not address the issues that I brought up.”
    Ok, I’m really sorry if it was, that’s below my own standards. However, my point remains. UK.gov’s Energy Saving Trust is actively encouraging us here to add micro-generation to the grid. I don’t pretend to be technically qualified to make comments, but all the organisations here are:
    
http://www.planningrenewables.org.uk/cgi-bin/resource.cgi?CATEGORY=1008&CLASSIFICATION=1079

    “Note that the study was done six years ago, before long baseline data from the Danish wind installations were available. Where these to be included in the constraints it would not paint so rosy a picture.”

    Noted. I’ve asked my MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) to provide me with more up-to-date and/or realistic information. Meantime, there’s this report on the marine resource.
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/1086/0006191.pdf

    There’s also this “roadmap” document.
    
http://www.scottishrenewables.com/MultimediaGallery/472ce7c4-39af-456f-841d-e70fabdc8233.pdf

    Note the emphasis on demand mitigation.

    “low energy lifestyles are not to the majority’s taste”

    I agree. This is what we hope to change. However, the Scottish quality of life is compatible with a low energy lifestyle, as evinced by the recent reversal of the “brain drain” into a “brain gain”
.http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4221516.stm
You’re welcome to join us.

    “This is one of the biggest problems in debating with non-technical people (or those with an agenda) because opinion counts for very little here, and many seem to think that the issues revolve around opinion. No. It revolves around what is required and what is possible.”

    What is required to chart the best route forward IS a matter of opinion. You are right to point out that I am non-technical; rather, I am a political animal. You suggest I have an agenda, indeed I do; my agenda is to help find appropriate, proportional and sustainable solutions to the energy crunch and climate change challenges that face my local, regional and national communities. By doing so, we intend to provide the global community with a model of best practice and develop world-leading technology into the bargain. qv pelamis.

    What else is outstanding?


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  29. 379
    McGlashan Says:

    DV82XL

    I sense your frustration.

    I posted a response to your points earlier today. It shows up in my browser as “awaiting moderation”. Hope it comes through to you soon!


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  30. 380
    Dallasite Says:

    I just read EcoFriend’s comments, and I do have to take my hat off to him for being civil. But on the issue of removing this post, I do take issue.

    Remove this post? What do you care? No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to read this, or believe it. If, as you say, these ideas are ridiculous or misinformed or wrongheaded, so be it. I say that your ideas are ridiculous, misinformed, and wrongheaded. Who cares? That’s why we have forums like this, to debate, not to censor or shout down. Let’s allow the people to think for themselves and make up their own minds. You can say that they’re being fed lies by the ambiguous “corporate interests,” but the environmental movement has been just as onesided and deceptive, if not more.

    Let me say at this point that I care deeply about what happens to the environment, and I would love nothing better than to see us embrace cleaner sources of fuel and to conserve. But I also care deeply about PEOPLE, which seems to be more than many environmentalists can say. The idea that life in China or India prior to their industrial revolutions was an agrarian Shangri-la is a myth perpetrated by people who have never known poverty. I spent two years living in the poorest areas of Santiago, Chile, a country whose standard of living is much better than that of China or India. Having lived among the poorest in that country, I can say that I would not wish such poverty on anyone, even if that were the only way the environment could be preserved. I can understand completely why the Chinese and Indians are willing to make the tradeoff of dirty air and water for economic prosperity. Unless you have lived among crushing poverty, it’s hard to understand. Unfortunately, most “mainstream” environmentalists have no concept, or they choose to ignore the burden of poverty.

    At this point, you may be saying, “Well, if global warming is allowed to continue, the poorest will be the most affected.” Maybe, maybe not. Most of global warming’s so-called catastrophes and benefits are projections and hypotheses, not proven fact. But here’s a story to illustrate why the concept that we should ask the poor to not increase their standard of living to help the environment is ludicrous:

    In the North Sea, a Norwegian oil rig caught fire one night. Most of the people aboard were evacuated safely, but as helicopters circled overhead to look for anyone else, they spotted a lone man on the deck of the rig. The fire was coming at him from one side, and the turbulent sea crashed in front of him on the other side, 150 feet below. The flames were too close for the helicopter to reach him. Suddenly he jumped into the water, and miraculously was able to be rescued. When asked what on earth he was thinking when he decided to jump 150 feet into the stormy North Sea, he responded, “I chose probable death over certain death.”

    I would submit that this is the response of every poor country to the charge that their pollution will increase global warming and thus their chances of being adversely affected by global warming. They’ll take probable economic death over certain economic death. You can say, “But it doesn’t have to be that way–we can pull them out of poverty in an environmentally-friendly way.” That’s all fine and good if you can propose such a solution, but where does that end you up in the end? Increased consumption. You CANNOT have a strong economy in which no one consumes. The economy is driven by buyers and sellers, and if no one is buying or selling, you have no economy. Of course there are other factors, but the basic gist is that it’s that simple. No consumption and you have poverty (see my section on what a crushing thing poverty is). Since mainstream environmentalists have such a problem with consumption, I can only assume that either they haven’t thought about the ramifications of such a stand (a likely assumption), or they would like to see us all relegated back to crushing poverty.

    I think this post is great because it offers an alternative to the tripe that comes out from Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Ecofriend, if you are so afraid of debate over whether your policies really help the environment and are feasible, perhaps you should come up with better arguments. Debate will happen whether you like it or not.

    One more item: PLEASE don’t play the “I’m more moral than you because I toe the environmentalist line” card.” If you want to play tit-for-tat, I could say, “I’m more moral than you because I care about helping people live a better life.” But the fact is we’re both fellow citizens of this earth trying to hammer out the best solution that we can, and disagreeing about how to do it. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as we don’t become fanatics. That’s a common tactic used by fanatics–shout the other guy down not because you have the better solution but because you believe you have the more moral solution. Keep trying to save the earth, but don’t be so supercilious and self-righteous about it.


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  31. 381
    DV82XL Says:

    Well said, Dallasite


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  32. 382
    Rod Adams Says:

            McGlashan said:

    Rod Adams.

    Hi Rod, how are you?

    “McGlashan, in his long post about the abundant energy sources he has available by luck of geography also let slip his real love… Oil & Gas”.
    I’ll admit it was my FIRST love. But I’ve moved on…

    You and I have more in common than you many people here might think… from your time in the USN are you familiar with these bits of kit?
    http://www.oceanworks.com/hsMilitary.php
    The company I worked for used to dive these things for subsea wellhead intervention and the like.

    I’m intrigued by your Adams Engine pebble bed reactor, and appreciate the intrinsic fail-safe nature of the arrangement. How close are you to having a customer bring an Adams Engine on-line? I sincerely wish you all the very best and hope that you can give up your day job soon.

    McGlashan – thank you for the kind words. It is nice when someone recognizes that there are branches to an argument that have not yet seen much discussion. It always seems strange to me that people focus on the very large central station nuclear plants and ignore those plants that show a different way of using the amazing power that is stored inside heavy metal atoms. As a former nuclear submarine engineer officer, my perspective has always included very small, extremely safe and easy to operate reactors. Of course, many of my former colleagues would not agree with the last part – my organization worked very hard to make reactor operation seem very challenging. It was part of their quest for control and for skills related bonuses. Most of the difficulty was self-imposed rather than imposed by physics, chemistry or mechanical issues.

    It is interesting that you link to the diving suits – I have some relationship with the diving community in my current day job and have seen similar devices in training situations.

    My point in my comment about your involvement in the oil and gas industry was part of my campaign to make environmentalists take another critical look at the overall effect of their opposition to nuclear energy development. In a competitive industry like the energy industry, established players are the real economic beneficiaries of efforts to restrict the development of any other competitor. Any actions that significantly limit the supply of energy that is available for purchase has the effect of raising the market price point at which supply and demand balance.

    Nuclear power has made a huge impact on the market already – even with the dedicated opposition. The 440 or so reactors currently in operation produce the energy equivalent of 12 million barrels of oil per day – roughly 50% more than Saudi Arabia. It is my humble opinion that the low energy prices of the 1980s and 1990s can be directly attributed to the market working to digest that new supply.

    I cannot help thinking that there are plenty of people in strategic thinking roles in the oil, coal and gas industry that also understand this calculus. I am certain, based on my understanding of human nature and business ethics that they have made and continue to make strategic investments in supporting organizations that fight every new nuclear power project. It is a logical response, but one that few people can recognize. It seems very important to me for people to understand that some “Environmentalists” are simply fronting for the fossil fuel industry.

    Perhaps you are not one of those people, but your background suggests differently to me. Let’s be honest here – did you really cut all ties with oil and gas or do you still have significant interests in your former employers in the form of stocks in your retirement plan? Do you really believe that the environmental effects of burning 6 billion or so tons of coal per year are okay, or should we work hard to find a replacement for the electrical power that is produced by burning that fuel. Even with all kinds of efficiency measures that slow consumption growth or even begin to attack total consumption, there is still a huge challenge that needs to be solved.

    My analysis is that atomic fission provides the best available tool for working that problem, but that it will always have to fight because there are significant economic issues at stake. It is not about safety, proliferation or waste – it is a struggle for the real green – money.


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  33. 383
    DV82XL Says:

    I think there is little doubt where McGlashan’s loyalties lie Rod, he’s been blowing smoke up our a__es since he has got here. You have exposed him for exactly what he is: a shill for legacy carbon.

    For example his link to distributed power and linking micro-generation to the grid ran thought the same issues that I did about the need for network upgrades, and again there would seem to be no indication who would have to bare the cost for this extravagance; certainly not the generating entities, as that would make their operations profitless.

    I smell a rat. Backing Green ideology is one of the surest ways of maintaining the status quo in energy matters. Playing on the remnants of the Protestant obsession with personal virtue and the guilty assumption that prosperity is a cardinal sin, this campaign shields itself from close examination while taking the moral high ground to lecture us on our slothful ways. Meanwhile convinced that there is no other options, their victims are paralyzed into inaction, convinced that any suggestion that will allow growth without damage to the planet is somehow unethical.

    Of late all of this posters suggestions are predicated on this philosophy. The nonsensical list he posted earlier in the thread is a perfect example of this hairshirt Green theology. Consider #2 on his list: ‘Don’t go to the motor-racing, arena tour rock concert, or any other out-of-town electricity or petroleum-driven event. Instead, walk or cycle to the concert hall in the centre of your town and listen to the orchestra.’ or #1 ‘…When your razor needs new blades, buy an old-fashioned cut-throat razor and strop instead. Or go to your local barber…’
    Saccharine prescriptions like these will get everyone onside I’m sure.

    These are non-solutions wrapped up in airs of pseudo-Calvinism that no one will follow, rather they will feel guilty and keep their eyes on the ground in front of them, instead of asking the right questions.


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  34. 384
    jim Says:

    Afraid I must agree not to agree.
    Though I much enjoyed the odd bit of the snark I’ve gotten back.

    Like it or lump it: Mr. Scientist gave us the hot & skinny that our mutual carrying capacity is now shrinking out the back of our rear-view mirrors, years ago now. You’re going for a high-cost high risk answer to a high-cost high-risk crisis.

    Uh. Do you detect a fatal flaw here?

    Black-market connections to the US & UK have recently made the world press as heating up since circa 1999, becoming stronger since – & of having been kept safe by corrupt politicians ( redundant?) while they grow. Presumably they have grown as a result. More nuclear reactors, please!

    Might be a harsh NIMBY response to that plan, methinks.

    The lunge to just keep right on hitting our current (patently & pathologically abusive) energy-jones via ANY route is absurd, thanks to the helpful hint via the aforementioned Mr. Science. Imagine a N.American-level resource-drain, with attendant energy-spike du jour – as inflicted on the current not-so-stable climate, not by 1 billion happy consumers but by 8 to 12 – are your trousers full yet?

    Presumably because I pointed out that the hippy-dippy low-tech/low-input lifestyle might be forced on society by a major increase in demand on the global resource-pool, someone says this means I don’t want our current high standard of living. Makes me LOL!

    I’m judging the situation around what I see (or can reason & intuit accurately what I’ll see next) occurring, NOT around whatever I might personally want or wish for.

    Pollution, transport safety, radiation, keeping the black-market away, cost, & I could keep listing serious negatives but then it gets monotonous.

    I’d prefer for us to shift to long-term clean renewables for energy, you don’t sound like you do, & more snark about it is just pulling my chain pointlessly.

    Chernobyl was the result of – if memory serves – an orgy of junior-staff snark: weekenders, eager to show the regulars how well they could do. Auxilliary power tests, core-flow redirecting tests, max-ups, & on & on. The test I cited, the one given in response, & others still more “ambitious” … the death-toll from which will never be known accurately.

    I anticipated the nature of the replies & hey hey hey, it’s the usual righteous-enthusiast spiel.
    Reading how well you can dance around my questions or valid points is dull as an infomercial.

    Makes me lose interest.

    Wish you the best.


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  35. 385
    DV82XL Says:

    I should say something like ‘don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out,’ but I’ll desist.

    Practical problems need practical solutions, and the “hippy-dippy low-tech/low-input lifestyle” isn’t one of them. More than likely that route will take us to the status of Mexican dirt farmers or worse.

    Our choices are coal or uranium to power us for the rest of this century – there are no others that have any hope of being implemented globally and doing it locally won’t help. When that sinks in we can talk.


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  36. 386
    BillyGD Says:

    I have a question and perhaps this is just being a bit obvious. If the “mainstream environmentalists” think it’s necessary to go back to the stone age to save the world, then okay. But how about this idea: You go after the problems which are actually possible to attack without major economic or lifestyle problems, since everyone will help you with those and we won’t have any disagreement.

    And then after you have extinguished every coal fire and stopped every gas flare and installed gas systems at all the landfills and upgraded all the voltage regulators and all that… then after you can say “okay we’ve run out of the high return on investment stuff now it’s time to start slashing the other stuff.”????

    That is what I do not get. You could start off by doing the stuff that won’t be hard to deal with as opposed to complaining. Your side will be born out when that is proven not to do enough.

    I don’t think we’ve run out of those yet, have we?


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  37. 387
    Q Says:

            Michael Ejercito said:

            DV82XL said:

    Justice-

    Of course you are correct, but building large integrated public transit networks are just the sort of big ticket projects that we are saying are needed.

    New York City and Chicago have large integrated public transit networks.

    What places that do not have these networks need them?

    Most other cities. If you’ve been to new york the subways are wonderful. You bypass traffic and you can get anywhere quickly and easily. Boston is good too but there are some areas not as well serviced. Most other cities in the US don’t have nearly the kind of transit of those. London, I’ve only been there once, but the subway is supposedly very good too.

    It is extremely difficult to put a rapid transit system into an existing city. Busses aren’t all that great. If you really want to get people to rid and for it to be a good people mover, rail is the way to go, especially if at least part is underground so you can go right to where you want without worry. Cities that were built with rail systems early on have it made but it’s damn hard to put it in now. It still should be done though.

    If you go to New York people just above the poverty line and wall street power brokers all ride the subway together. (provably don’t talk to each other too much though). That is an example of getting people to use something by making it work well. You don’t need to force people onto the subway by taking away their cars. They ride it by choice because it works so well.


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  38. 388
    McGlashan Says:

    Gentlemen,

    Let me first assure Rod and DV82XL that I truly have no ties to Oil & Gas, not since about 1998. When I rhapsodically referred to the Boomtown days of Aberdeen in the 70′s and 80′s, I was referring to a time when, as a young man, I knew no better. Indeed, our whole world knew no better then.

    Nor do I regard prosperity as a cardinal sin. Part of my agenda is to find policies which will preserve and enhance my own and my community’s prosperity transitioning the horizon of predictability and forward to a promising future of security and certainty.

    Dallasite says “you CANNOT have a strong economy in which no one consumes”. You might be surprised to learn that I agree. It’s WHAT is consumed that is worth examining in more detail.

    In the 60′s, old duffer Tory Lord Kenneth Clark produced the documentary strand “Civilisation” in which he reviewed the entire artistic and philosophical product of the human race from the first stirrings of culture in neolithic cave paintings to the work of Picasso. He came to a pessimistic conclusion, summarising our current state of development as “heroic materialism”.

    “It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs… The moral and intellectual failure of Marxism has left us no alternative to heroic materialsim, and that isn’t enough. One may be optimistic, but one can’t exactly be joyful at the prospect before us.”

    Well, Clark could not, of course, have anticipated the knowledge economy. Here is a list of economic activities which we buy, sell and consume which do not imply the continuation of the upgrade cycle of Clark’s heroic materialsm. Services and consumables, not possessions. In no particular order:

    Banking, insurance, finance, butchery, bakery, government, logistics, police, fire & rescue, coastguard, design, fine art painting, sculpture, printing, armed services, medicine, mail, dentistry, ophthalmology, archaeology, journalism, politics, grocery, electronics repair & maintenance, tailoring, driving, navigation, facilities management, broadcasting, softwear development, theatre, performing arts, cabaret, music, creative writing, distilling, architecture, translation, songwriting, composing, engineering, tax collection, tourism, hospitality, catering, teaching, library services, property leasing, sport, gaming, clergy, royalty, custodianship, curating, marketing, branding street-sweeping, publishing, mountaineering, aquaculture, theology, cleaning, stewardship, equestrianism, project management, hunting, nursing, caring, tannery, brewing, hairdressing, beauty therapy, plastic surgery, gardening, fishing, farming, invention, research and development, social work, accountancy, law, viniculture, housepainting, physics, cosmology, chemistry, pharmacology, economics, philosophy, history, geography, astronomy, astrology (!), childcare, telecommunications, diplomacy…
    This list is endless.

    http://theworkfoundation.com/products/knowledgeeconomy.aspx

    I do not wish to suggest that manufactured consumer durables; white goods, brown goods, pc’s, telephones, etc are not necessary. I merely and respectfully suggest that we all need to make the distinction between luxuries and necessities and demand from manufacturers a level of quality and utility which lengthens the useful life of those consumer durables which we absolutely must have.


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  39. 389
    McGlashan Says:

    Q.

    London’s subway is a crime against humanity. The users call it “The Drain”.


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  40. 390
    McGlashan Says:

    DV82XL

    Re distributed power systems. EU funding is in place for our next-generation infrastructure in Europe:

    http://www.ecn.nl/en/ps/research-programme/energy-markets/dg-grid/links/

    I very much appreciate your pointing out the criticality of this issue and encouraging me to find out more. I’m genuinely sorry if you thought I was deliberately hand-waving around the issue. That, of course, would not be in my interest.

    It took me a while to determine that our political masters had addressed this major component of our overall strategy, but I feel a good deal better about it now. As I’ve said, you sound as if you have special expertise on this subject. You should come and join us here – come and help. Come and “work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation” that is truly the feeling we have here today.

    Have you examined the Scottish Renewables Roadmap? I’d be very interested to read your thoughts.

    http://www.scottishrenewables.com/MultimediaGallery/55859f4e-a909-4f2b-b0b4-9c740c5346c3.pdf

    This is the document on the needs of Scotland’s transmission network.

    http://www.scottishrenewables.com/MultimediaGallery/4b125889-8412-4945-9c7f-f691de33cce6.pdf

    As I’ve said, you sound as if you have special expertise on this subject. You should come and join us here – come and help. Come and “work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation” (Alasdair Gray) – that is truly the feeling we have here today.

    “If these are the early days of a better nation, there must be hope, and a hope of peace is as good as any, and far better than a hollow hoarding greed.” (Graydon Saunders)


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  41. 391
    Michael Ejercito Says:

            Q said:

    Most other cities.

    If you’ve been to new york the subways are wonderful.

    You bypass traffic and you can get anywhere quickly and easily.

    Boston is good too but there are some areas not as well serviced. Most other cities in the US don’t have nearly the kind of transit of those.

    London, I’ve only been there once, but the subway is supposedly very good too.

    It is extremely difficult to put a rapid transit system into an existing city.

    Busses aren’t all that great. If you really want to get people to rid and for it to be a good people mover, rail is the way to go, especially if at least part is underground so you can go right to where you want without worry.

    Cities that were built with rail systems early on have it made but it’s damn hard to put it in now.

    It still should be done though.

    If you go to New York people just above the poverty line and wall street power brokers all ride the subway together.

    (provably don’t talk to each other too much though).

    That is an example of getting people to use something by making it work well.

    You don’t need to force people onto the subway by taking away their cars.

    They ride it by choice because it works so well.

    It also helps that parking in Manhattan is very expensive.


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  42. 392
    DV82XL Says:

    McGlashan,

    First I am a chemist/metallurgist by vocation, and semi-retired to boot. I spent my career in the bowels of industry moving up from the lab bench to management over the course of time. Consequently I know how to ‘gut a brief’ with the best of them and I cultivated a hair-trigger bull**** detector. During that time I had to quickly learn the fundamentals of a number of fields outside my own area of expertise, so that I could participate in the decision making process.

    Now I am telling you this because I had cause to look at this very subject several years ago and at that time I familiarized myself with the whole issue of net metering and distributed micro generation and the impacts of these ideas on the network as a whole. What I found is that despite the confidence that supporters of these schemes that the issue would be solved, the reality was much more complicated. The fact is that intigrating asynchronous AC and low power DC into the grid efficiently is a non-trivial task.

    Now the material you have linked to doesn’t really address these problems in any satisfactory way, and glosses over some key points and waves some others off with phrases that should give any technically savvy person pause.

    Reduced to a bare bones reading the suggestions seem to be: 1) reduce standards for supply to to the grid for these generators; 2) demand load management by the consumer to reduce the problems to the point where lower grid standards won’t have much of an impact; 3) Depend on interconnects with the rest of the U.K. power network to take up the slack.

    This is the fundamental issue with all intermittent generation: somewhere somebody has to be providing reserve capacity, because that’s just the way it is with this product. In the end there is no way to get around the fact that electricity must be sold and consumed as it is produced, and the devices that use it have been designed to work properly when it is delivered at the right voltage and frequency.

    Scotland may well go down this road and in time will be able to point to installations whose cumulative ‘nameplate ratings’ suggest that all of your needs are being met by ‘green power’ but the truth will be that in the end you will be depending on someone else, someplace else to cover your collective asses.

    So if you think your ‘political masters’ have addressed this problem in any way other than politically (as opposed to technically) you are sorely mistaken.


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  43. 393
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Unless you want to rebuild the whole power grid, possibly into some sort of DC local system with a lot of buffering with submarine batteries, capacitors and huge inductors there’s not a lot of point.

    Imagine being in a major grid control room when some clouds roll into an area where there is a lot of solar and they don’t have spinning capacity. Think of mission control type places and a lot of people all of a sudden shouting.

    “We just lost 80% capacity in Vermont.. now upstate new york”
    “What? How much is that”
    “Um regionally. That’s about 200 megawatts. Um. Wait we’re down to 57Hz in Vermont”
    “what was that?”
    “I think we just lost Montreal”
    “All of it? I don’t know. Do we have any reserve? Call Niagra”
    “Niagra is on the phone. They say they have hydro reserve but can’t use it right now. Two of the transformers on the Adirondack leg are on fire. Niagra four and two are out of phase. They’re dropping”
    “What else is there? What? We’re 10% under volt at Pittsburgh and.. Harrisburg I think we just lost?”
    “Harrisburg is dropped. The regional sub just cut out out. phase error. No. Voltage. No. I think both”
    “ConEd Says they’re dropping. They can’t hold Long Island unless they use the transsound feed”
    “No. Can’t use transsound. Connecticut is already brownout. We’re just trying to keep Boston from going out”
    “Indian Point just cut out. Overloaded. I think New York City is going to… no New York is okay for now, but Phillidelphia is blacked out.”
    “What have we got there?”
    “We have two 100 meg hydros they just came online but it’s too late. We’ll loose New York next if we don’t get more”
    “Virginia says they’re breaking grid or they’ll loose DC”
    “They have a direct..”
    “No. Washington DC. They’re going to try to break to keep Washington DC from going out”
    “There’s a simple cycle in Montreal says they can be online at 400 in two hours”
    “There goes new york.. and Boston…”
    “400 isn’t going to be enough. Unless we cut off Toronto”
    “Report out of Cleavland says transformer explosion fifty possible fatalities”
    “Do we have anything still online?”
    “Um… part of Pennsylvania and … upper Vermont.. no wait I spoke too soon. Maryland is brownout but most of them still up”

    Basically… apollo 13 every time there’s a cloudy day or a break in the wind. It would be baaad.


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  44. 394
    Sovietologist Says:

    The world needs a 70s-style disaster film based on that premise.

    It would be awesome.


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  45. 395
    McGlashan Says:

    DV82XL & drbuzz0

    Aha! Synthesis. Gentlemen, I thank you for your considered responses. I’ll be sure to pass them up the line at this end. Participative democracy – you can’t beat it. Through me, your concerns on this distribution issue will get voiced to policy makers.

    I also thank you for the time you’ve spent.

    And Doc, your dramatisation is splendid! This is exactly the sort of thing you need to do more of to get your message across to the public-level mentality. It’s a cliché, but you do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! We may disagree on a wide variety of stuff, but I think that’s a good bit of politics you’ve achieved there.

    DV82XL, you surprise me. You only criticised two items from my top ten!

    Sincere thanks
    McG


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  46. 396
    DV82XL Says:

    Don’t flatter yourself McGlashan, they are all a crock as far as I’m concerned. Good luck getting anyone to listen, sounds to me like everyone’s drunk the Kool-aid over there, you have your work cut out.


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  47. 397
    McGlashan Says:

    Dallasite et al,

    Poverty in the underdeveloped countries.

    There’s been a fair deal of concern expressed, quite rightly, on these boards that my advocacy of the adoption of low energy policies will condemn forever the 3rd world to poverty. I will not deny that raising the standards of health, well-being, accommodation and culture is a worthy aim for all. However, in any examination of current problems, we would be wise to examine the historical and structural preconditions before suggesting any solutions. I have said elsewhere in this thread that the problems of the 3rd world are more to do with the legacy of colonialism/imperialism and asymmetric trade than with any energy shortfall.

    Please indulge me while I examine this. I humbly hope to demonstrate that, far from being “agrarian shangri-la’s” on one hand or vile subsistence tribal despotisms on the other, India and China were advanced manufacturing economies long before such ideas took hold in Europe. Please excuse the “British” perspective. (By the way, this is NOT the version they teach us at school.)

    Clive in India.

    India had, until it’s unfortunate encounter with the British Empire, enjoyed about 10,000 years of continuous cultural and economic growth. The officers of the Honourable (ha!) British East India Company were in awe of the wealth, plurality, colour, value and depth of the culture with which they were trading in the 1750′s. Exquisitely woven silks, fine porcelain, cotton, tea, coffee, sugar were in wide use across all echelons of an ordered, yet paradoxically chaotic, chimeric and kaleidoscopic society.

    In 1757, after Robert Clive, company officer and commander of the company’s private army arranged, by means far too complicated to explore here (and still not yet fully understood), the conquest of Bengal, the entire value of the Bengali economy was placed at his personal disposal, making him (in adjusted terms) arguably the richest man ever. Thus began the export of India’s wealth and intellectual capital, technology and methods. From mechanised weaving, to steelmaking, administration and management; the accumulated value of human endevour for 10,000 years was transferred through Clive’s administration to the exchequer in England.

    So was funded the foundation and expansion of the British Empire and the spark of the Industrial Revolution. Many Indians today will point to this one event as the genesis of their country’s two-century long descent into poverty. Upon gaining independence for his country in 1947, Gandhi was asked (by an American reporter) “what do you think about western civilisation?” His terse, sarcastic response – “I think it would be a good idea.”

    China, trade and the politics of addiction.

    In 1421, the Chinese Emperor Zhu Di launched the largest voyage of exploration the world has ever seen. Vessels comparable in size to today’s Baltic ice-breakers set off on a series of global voyages to expand the Celestial Empire and bring the whole world into China’s tribute system. The two-year voyages included circumnavigations, explorations of Antarctica and Australia, contact with the Inca Empire, collection of exotic safari animals from Africa and solved the hard problem of longitude navigation about 300 years before the English.

    At home, since about 150 BCE a professional civil service, selected by public examination from all classes of society, administered a system of free-holding farmers and entrepreneurial manufacturers of porcelain, textiles, furnishings, toys, gunpowder, weaponry, decorative goods, printed materials, etc etc, who provided an educated and literate middle class with most of the comforts we would find familiar today. The imperial system was a kind of constitutional monarchy, strictly hands-off. “Heaven is high, and the Emperor far away”.

    By the 1800′s Britain’s demand for those same consumer goods had lead to a currency liquidity crisis in the wake of the (very costly) victories against Napoleonic tyranny in Europe. The solution to Britain’s problem lay just over the Himalya – Indian opium. Vast quantities of the drug were transported from India to China to pay for Britain’s unquenchable thirst for the latest Chinese consumer goods and England’s national obsession, tea. Lots of tea. By the mid 1830′s China’s working class was hopelessly addicted to opium.

    The Qing emperor declared a “war on drugs”. Unfortunately for his people, this also meant “war with the British Empire”. Britain, of course, desired the maintenance of the status quo. Must have that tea! The Chinese didn’t know what hit them. Shock and awe indeed! The British Navy deployed its “black project” the world’s first steam-driven battleship. Thus China was robbed of its social capital, its national vibrance, the value of its very civilisation. So its “century of humiliation” began. Gold, silver, intellectual capital and technology was transferred to England.

    The Dash for Africa.

    By the 1850′s Britain hadn’t so much invented the Industrial Revolution, as stolen it from Asia, and prevented its continuance there. In the push for continued rising prosperity and material wealth, the European powers needed new markets and raw materials.

    In Africa, read “Cecil Rhodes” for “Robert Clive” and “slavery” for “opium”. The “maxim machine gun” for the “steam-driven battleship”.

    Gold! Diamonds! Inflation! The colonization of Africa by white settlers lead to the imposition of repressive regimes and “divide and rule” where the colonizing power would set indigenous tribes against one another, and keep peace by use of military and paramilitary police state control.

    The legacy of these regimes would be inherited by the leaders of the free African states at the end of empire. They inherited the machinery of repression; it was easy for them to become despots. Some, thankfully resisted this temptation; Botswana’s a lovely place, for example.
    Today, the USA and EU maintain restrictive tariffs on the import of key African agricultural produce, in particular rice and cotton. We must not hypocritically bang the drum for free trade while these restrictions remain.

    Britain, USA, The Second World War and the End of Empire.

    In 1941, Britain stood alone in Europe against Hitler. Without the help of the USA, I’d be typing this in German. Actually, more probably Russian. Actually, I’d not be typing it at all, would I? Churchill called USA’s lend-lease aid to Britain (before the USA’s actual entry into the war) “the most un-sordid act in the history of any nation”. But the cost of repaying America’s aid would cripple Britain and end the British Empire. (Churchill says the monetary cost was 8 times the whole assets of the empire in 1941). The austerity of the post war years in the UK was grinding. Food rationing continued until 1954. Reconstruction of some bomb-sites was not achieved until the 80′s. Socialism and trade unionism stalked the land – the “British disease”. By contrast, occupied East and West Germany became the power houses of their respective trading blocs. The USA and USSR may have won WWII, but Britain certainly lost it. We only finally paid our debt to the USA down in 2006.

    Draw your own conclusions about imperialism and capital & technology transfer.


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  48. 398
    DV82XL Says:

    Your point being?


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  49. 399
    drbuzz0 Says:

    And what does this have to do with anything? The US did not enter WWII until 1941 because of the overwhelming popular opposition to going to war in a situation where there was still depression and memories of the first world war. Brittan lost world war II? I think you might want to consider how things were in much of Germany for some time after. Also the fact that WWII was immediately followed by the standoff between the Soviet Block and the West. Eastern Germany suffered for a long time and did not reach the standard of the west until the fall of communism. Given also the fact that for some time after the second world war, the Soviets used Germany and other countries as pawns and thereby necessitated massive spending by the US and other Allied powers in order to shore up the stability of…

    Hey wait a second. What the hell does this have to do with anything?


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  50. 400
    Sovietologist Says:

    I dunno, but Zheng He did NOT reach South America. Gavin Menzies’ book is in the same category of historical writing what Velikovsky is, and Menzies gets increasingly outrageous as time passes.

    Sorry, Menzies is a pet peeve of mine.


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