• Insider

    We’re All Turning Japanese

    Japan is the proxy for our future
    by Gregor Macdonald

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 5:40 PM

Executive Summary

  • As goes Japan’s efforts to rescue it’s economy, so will go the U.S. and E.U.
  • Japan’s options:
    • Outsource its manufacturing base
    • Replace as much human labor with automation as it can
    • Rush to trade its depreciating currency for hard assets around the world
  • What Japan is telling us about the Keynesian endpoint

If you have not yet read Part I: Abenomics’ Dismal Anniversary, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

Japan Is Reflecting the Future of Western Economies

While many observers continue to follow Europe as the proxy for post-growth dynamics in the OECD, it’s actually Japan that merits the closest analysis.

Much farther along in its post-growth phase, bloated with government debt and having tried a number of big-bang initiatives over the decades, Japan not the U.S. or Europe is leading the way. The country has never really recovered from the gigantic property and stock bubble over twenty years ago.

As proof, just consider the biggest trading story of the past 12 months. Was it the Federal Reserve’s intention to taper? How about the chaos in emerging market currencies in countries like India and Indonesia? Or perhaps the continued economic depression in peripheral Europe, as countries like Spain, Portugal, and Greece re-run the 1930s, with mass unemployment and people burning wood from forests to say warm? No, not even such dramatic suffering in Europe was enough to move markets or the EUR currency much this past year.

Instead, it was Abenomics and the front-running (and then chasing) of wildly huge moves in both the Nikkei and JPY that helped drive liquidity and speculative juices across all markets. It is not a coincidence that the peak of this frenzy in May heralded the peak in many markets.

But Japan has more than a financial problem. Despite the hand-wringing about Japan’s debt, the world has ignored for some time now Japan’s debt-to-GDP, GDP on an absolute basis, and Japan’s low cost of capital. Japan borrows. Japan prints. Japan devalues. But the world doesn’t care.

An issue the world may finally begin to care about, however, is that Japan has failed to launch itself out of deflation and is making very little progress in its struggle now. Indeed, Japan has a demographics problem and a resources problem that far outweigh its financial problems. To this point, instead of launching into recovery, Japan is running with the resources Red Queen, as every step of its currency devaluation is met with rising costs to import the raw materials Japan uses to make its goods. For comparison, Japan’s monthly exports are running around 5750 billion JPY. This is not impressive, either in relative or absolute terms, as the first chart showed in this report. With regards to exports, Japan has merely regained the higher level seen over the past few years.

But Japan’s import costs have soared. Yes, it’s not encouraging that Japan still runs a trade deficit, but it’s more concerning that Japan is running such a large energy deficit. (As a side note, the details of Japan’s import costs are not easy to come by; they are produced in an obscure PDF that is buried in the Ministry of Finance’s website. The international press deals mainly in the headline numbers, but the details are quite revealing.) Since Fukushima in 2011, and with the further pressures of currency devaluation, Japan’s cost to import energy has absolutely blown out nearly doubling from 1,400 billion JPY per month to levels above 2,200 billion JPY per month:

Let’s pause here and consider the fearsome truth that Japan currently faces and the world may be coming to understand. Japan’s cost to import of energy is averaging around 35% of its earnings from all exports. And the situation can’t get better. Imagine: There is no prospect, none, that Japan can decrease the import of coal, oil, or LNG it needs to run its manufacturing base. Japan, Inc. runs on the spread between imported resources and exported goods. The above chart does not even include iron ore, copper, wood (yes, wood), foodstuffs, and other industrial metals and chemicals that Japan buys from the rest of the world each and every month.

Options for Japan

The OECD is plagued by either high resource costs, high labor costs, or both. Japan has a few options in this area and can follow the lead of both the U.S. and Europe:

  • Japan can outsource its manufacturing to an OECD country like the U.S., which has very cheap electricity rates. Or to Africa, or other locales in Asia, where coal-fired power keeps electricity rates low. Like the U.S., which outsources its own high cost input in this case of the U.S., labor Japan may need to become much more aggressive in offshoring its manufacturing base.
  • Japan, should it export more of its manufacturing to other domains, could then pursue robot and other automated manufacturing at home. Remember, Japan needs to concentrate, always, everywhere, and at all times, on the spread between energy inputs and manufactured outputs. Machine Intelligence will make an impact everywhere, in the U.S. and Europe as well. But the most efficient use of Japan’s high-cost electricity would be to take as much human labor out of its productive capacity and replace it with automated machinery.
  • Japan could also start buying up property around the world, using its currency to aggressively acquire agriculture, dividend-paying equities, real estate, and infrastructure. By throwing away its depreciating currency, Japan could offset some of the losses in its human labor market by simply paying people to retire early. Again, you can already see vestiges of this in countries like the U.S., where structural unemployment has effectively closed the door on many workers ever returning to the workforce, as corporate earnings keep growing.

Japan’s predicament also helps to make clear that the United States and Europe, while also stuck in a post-growth era, are not likely to encounter such harsh limits any time soon. Europe stagnates but is a very efficient energy user. U.S. oil demand has essentially crashed, electricity rates are low, and we enjoy cheap natural gas, while at the same time we are building huge new capacity in wind and solar. All is not well in the U.S. or Europe, to be sure. However, no mechanism like Japan’s energy limit or Japan’s need to continually devalue hangs over the U.S. or European economies imminently. Analysts are going to have to adjust to this new reality in which stagnation and slow growth never lead to recovery, but never lead to any meaningful crisis either. (Indeed, as the frustrating set of circumstances carries onward, more people may actually start to wish for a crisis to flush the rot from the system).

Conclusion

Unless you believe that a volatile period in socio-cultural conditions is about to unfold in either the U.S. or Europe, Japan should now be your pole star to discern nearly all big oscillations and trends in global markets. Everything from commodity prices, to currencies, to equity prices will eventually have to answer to Japan. If you believe that global trade is going to pick up, and that emerging markets are going to return to a growth phase, then Japan will tell you first with a breakout of exports. If reflationary policy continues to make weak, plodding gains in both the U.S. and Europe, you can be sure that Japan will also be contemplating even more stimulus. Overall, it would be hard to envision global stock-market new highs, unless the Nikkei, too, sees new highs.

Japan’s race with the resource Red Queen is precious and valuable because it is the more acute, more perfect version of everything that plagues the rest of the developed world. While debt analysts like Kyle Bass wait for “the math” to play out in Japan’s credit markets, one is tempted to ask the following question: Why have international markets not already punished Japan, when its debt to GDP is already the highest in the developed world? (See accompanying chart from The Economist magazine showing Japan’s debt-to-GDP climbing steadily towards 250%.)

The answer is that Japan really has an energy problem, not a financial problem. In our post-growth world, the global economy remains trapped in the three senior currencies of the OECD: the USD, the EUR, and the JPY. Love them or hate them, the rest of the world does not command enough share of global trade to punish the OECD for its financial excesses. However, Japan’s impossible energy math will eventually be revealed to global financial markets, and unless a new set of radical measures of the kind cited here are undertaken, it will become clear that reflationary policy will have finally reached its terminus in Japan.

This is exciting! For years, most observers have wondered about the Keynesian endpoint. But ecological economics tells us that if enough resources even marginal resources are available, then Keynesian stimulus can “roughly work” for more years than one might have anticipated. Yes, the world increasingly runs on lousy, low quality, high-cost resources. Wealth, in traditional terms, is very much in decline. But this can go on for some decades.

What’s exciting about Japan is that an industrial island, a titan of the post-war era that arbitraged cheap energy, will be leader as unlimited reflationary policy finally, and I do mean finally, runs into the resource limit. That is why from here on in, it will be critical let Japan be your guiding light to the seemingly endless skirmish between the decline of the OECD, low growth, and central banking’s attempt to fight reality.

~ Gregor Macdonald

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28 Comments

  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 12:58am

    #1
    Vedha Reddy

    Vedha Reddy

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    How does it play out in the rest of the world?

    Greg, thanks for the thought-provoking article. Everything that you have said about Japan is becoming visible rapidly. What is hard to grasp is the option you have suggested about outsourcing manufacturing to Asian countries. Wouldn't the energy cost still play out the same way? Coal is also a finite resource. The countries with leading coal reserves are US, Russia, China, Australia, India & Germany. Will they be willing to undertake manufacturing for Japanese companies and be paid with depreciating currencies?
    Also, you have said that this will be the future for OECD countries. This is not limited to OECD countries. It applies to non-OECD countries also. I have been closely watching the developments in India and feel that the same dynamics are playing out there too. I am very interested in hearing your thoughts on what you foresee in the rest of the world (Asia, Africa & Latin America) 

    Thanks in advance!!

     

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  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 2:42am

    #2
    debu

    debu

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    Idled Nuclear Power Plants

    Re your contention that "There is no prospect, none, that Japan can decrease the import of coal, oil, or LNG it needs to run its manufacturing base." surely you overlook the fact that all but one of Japan's nuclear power plants are idle and have been so largely since the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster which has led to a surge in thermal coal and LNG imports for electricity production.

    It is the intention of the current LDP government to eventually bring as many NPPs back on-line as soon as possible (starting sometime in 2014, I believe).  If successful in doing so coal, LNG and and to a lesser extent oil imports should decline in volume significantly.

     

     

     

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  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 3:15pm

    Chris Martenson

    Chris Martenson

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    About those nuclear power plants

    [quote=debu]Re your contention that "There is no prospect, none, that Japan can decrease the import of coal, oil, or LNG it needs to run its manufacturing base." surely you overlook the fact that all but one of Japan's nuclear power plants are idle and have been so largely since the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster which has led to a surge in thermal coal and LNG imports for electricity production.
    It is the intention of the current LDP government to eventually bring as many NPPs back on-line as soon as possible (starting sometime in 2014, I believe).  If successful in doing so coal, LNG and and to a lesser extent oil imports should decline in volume significantly.
    [/quote]
    The Fukuhima disaster continues unabated, and I wonder just how many idled nuclear power plants will be brought on-line.  My guess is somewhere less than "all of them."
    Perhaps a few of the newer ones, away from the shore, in seismically safe areas, or at least relatively safe.  
    One thing that the people of Japan (and the world) have learned is that a lot of corners were cut during the construction and operation phases of the Fukushima plants, which sows seeds of distrust around the remaining idled plants.  
    Arnie Gunderson of the Fairewinds Institute recently did some random sampling in Tokyo and determined that all of the soil samples would be considered nuclear waste in the US:

    I am Arnie Gundersen from Fairewinds and today I am at the Regulatory Information Conference put on by the NRC in Washington D.C. So today, I am in Washington D.C. Couple of weeks ago though, I was in Tokyo and when I was in Tokyo, I took some samples.
    Now, I did not look for the highest radiation spot. I just went around with five plastic bags and when I found an area, I just scooped up some dirt and put it in a bag.
    One of those samples was from a crack in the sidewalk. Another one of those samples was from a children’s playground that had been previously decontaminated. Another sample had come from some moss on the side of the road. Another sample came from the roof of an office building that I was at. And the last sample was right across the street from the main judicial center in downtown Tokyo.
    I brought those samples back, declared them through Customs, and sent them to the lab. And the lab determined that ALL of them would be qualified as radioactive waste here in the United States and would have to be shipped to Texas to be disposed of.

    Perhaps the world and Japan are now ready to accept living with radioactivity in their daily lives, but if so I can only marvel at the rapid and radical shift in what we're willing to accept that's happened over the past few years and decades.
    Are we really that numb now?  It feels like some sort of cultural PTSD, one brought about by the shock of discovering that our actions have consequences, and we don't like them, so we don't look at them too closely.

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  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 3:25pm

    #4
    Mots

    Mots

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    Missing parts about Japan

    The info about good Japanese jobs being lost and being replaced with part time jobs, higher unemployment is spot on, although I think that the employment situation in the US is worse in this regard than in Japan.

    True Debt to GDP ratio  is different:
    Overlooked  is the big picture: total debt to GDP ratio:
    The US total debt to GDP ratio is about 275%  In Japan it is much less, probably much less than 100% (probably a  third of the US) because Japan is the biggest CREDITOR nation in the world, (non federal govt debt/credit included gives a much different picture) This shows up as individual Japanese owning their federal debt, PLUS owning a big piece of American industry/companies, etc.

    YEN Currency is not plummeting
    Currency is not weak, not really, it is way way overpriced still.
    The Japanese currency, even now after all of the ballyhooed "drop" in value is still WAY OVERPRICED considered historically and considered on a value basis.  The yen to $ ratio should be Y125 or more and the yen has been exorbitantly overpriced recently, and even now is way overpriced at 100 yen to $. Basic commodities (foods such as fruit/vegetables/fish/ gasoline etc)  even NOW are actually less cost in dollar equivalents now then they have been for many many years.

    Why cant shrinking countries naturally have smaller GDP:   Why does GDP per se have to increase when the population has been decreasing for the 4 years (albeit  not much) and more  importantly the total working age population of Japan has been plummeting.  Why isn t even a similar GDP  under these circumstances a healthy thing?  Even the issue  of "not having enough locally grown food" relates to this and is not an issue to many Japanese that I have queried because of the understanding that the amount  of food, gasoline, energy etc. needed in the future is expected to drop much.

    Awareness: The Japanese people are well aware that their currency should blow up and may quckly lose much value.  A very popular, recent movie X-Day (Aibou series) details this problem specifically.  I recommend watching this  movie (English subtitles)  There is no analogous popular understanding in the MSM of America on this topic.  The Japanese instituted a national tax of 5% (will go to 8% next April and later to 10%).  Although this does not address  the problem well,  there will  be at least a little money coming in from national sales tax after the collapse, for some payments to retired people.  People I talk to are aware of a possible collapse and point out that they  had  a bigger collapse 80 years ago (think firebombed Tokyo, nuked  cities, mass starvation etc) and can deal with it when it happens. They are not led around by the nose from the likes of CNN, other  mass media and seem less afraid  than many doomers and gloomers here, when considering the same facts. 

    Debt vs Investment:  The extreme indebtedness of America is a result of wasting money on war and bombs, and infrastructure is crumbling, and  needs much capital investment going forward to prevent Detroitization of the country.   In a sense US debt ='s war = collapse into 3rd world status.   In contrast the extreme (naational govt) indebtedness of Japan is the result of building up fantastic infrastructure.  Japanese national debt = a healthy infrastructure  That is not necessarily a bad thing.  They dont need trillions of investment to keep from sliding into a hell hole.  On the other hand, their old retired population will lose income and face a  catastophy of sorts, which will be addressed on a community basis (I note here that Japan has had most experience promoting and using local currencies, primarily to deal with this issue.  Yes, Japan is leading the way, but I think that we can get some solutions from Japan and not just consider Japan a pathetic squashed bug on a windshield, althought the latter sentiment is better at selling newspapers and blog subscriptions.

    THE REAL STORY IS BEING IGNORED
    The real story is a mercantilism REPEAT of the 1930's wherein other Asian countries especially Korea have silently (why is this ignored????) dramatically dropped the value of the won, yuang etc, and thereby stolen markets from the Japanese. The yen is extremely high (even now) and the won has become extraordinarily low.  This is the most important reason for the Japanese activities yet is IGNORED by the pundits.  The number one concern of the Japanese powers that be, is the health of the companies there.  The companies (for example) got the govt to change labor laws to eliminate real good full time jobs and replace with part time (a la US style).  Now they are trying desperately to get the yen down to a normal level, and still NOT succeeding: they need another 25% drop before they can even begin to compete again on a normal basis, while the Koreans have gone much further towards cheapening their currency over what it used to be.  The real (ignored) story is that Japanese companies are getting screwed by Chinese and Korean undervaluation of their currencies.  History (1930s?)  is repeating.

    The Energy Story
    The Japanese are replacing nuclear power with solar electric power very aggressively, although this topic as well seems ignored here.

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  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 4:10pm

    Chris Martenson

    Chris Martenson

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    Japanese Renewables Are Moot

    [quote=Mots](...)
    The Energy Story
    The Japanese are replacing nuclear power with solar electric power very aggressively, although this topic as well seems ignored here.
    [/quote]
    Mots,
    The issue of soalr electric power is 'ignored' around here for Japan as it is in most places because the contribution of solar, wind and other 'renewables' (are solar and wind really "renewable" when the panels and turbines have to be made using non-renewable energy sources?) is just miniscule compared to conventional sources.
    The most recent estimate I could find with a quick search shows that prior to the March 2011 earthquake, Japan 's renewables were just 2% of 65%, or 1.3% of total electricity produced.

    By the end of 2011 (most recent data I could find) renewables had not really made any significant headway:

    The reasons are probably the same as they are everywhere; renewable electricity is expensive and it is unreliable and cannot be used as base load.
    Yes we NEED better electricity storage options!
    I think this recent article sums up the difficulties in Japan rather well.

    Japan's growth in renewable energy dims as nuclear strives for comeback
    July 07, 2013
    The shining light that was once Japan’s renewable energy industry is beginning to dim as reality sets in and it faces competition from a rejuvenated nuclear power industry.
    The green energy industry was buoyed by the nation’s distrust and fear of nuclear power triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
    According to a February nationwide survey by the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, 34 of the 79 solar energy producers who responded said they had given up on at least one solar power project.
    Roughly 45 percent of those respondents cited difficulties in land procurement, followed by 25 percent who said they had problems joining the power grid.
    One such project in Hokkaido, located near the New Chitose Airport, called for a 100-hectare solar power generation facility. The site adjacent to the Abiragawa river remains covered in weeds to this day.
    "We call it an April 17 crisis," said Hiroaki Fujii, the 43-year-old executive vice president at SB Energy Corp., a Tokyo-based company that designed the plans.
    On that date this year, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. said it would only purchase a total of 400 megawatts of electricity as part of the feed-in tariff system from the so-called mega-solar power plants, each with a generation capacity of 2 megawatts or more. That amounts to turning down as many as 70 percent of the 87 applications to sell it power, filed through March, with a combined output capacity of 1.568 gigawatts.
    One Hokkaido Electric official justified the decision: "Our power grid has a limited capacity. Accepting too much power from solar plants, where output levels fluctuate wildly depending on the weather, compromises a stable supply of electricity."

    So I don't think that the recent gains in solar in Japan are being ignored so much as they are ignorable, at least for now.
    This is pretty much true everywhere...as fast as solar and wind make gains, they are still tiny fractions of the overall picture.  Reporting usually confounds the issue too.
    For example, it is easy to read headlines like "solar installations up 100% in 2012!" which sounds great, but if ordinary electricity generation gained 3% in 2012 that could be even larger than solar's 100% gain in terms of GW so solar actually lost ground in terms of its composition of the total.
     

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  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 5:58pm

    #6
    Mots

    Mots

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    3 Nuke Plant equiv Replaced with Solar Electric in Japan 2013?

    Thank you for addressing this issue.  Your focus on reality makes this the best blog site to spend precious time on.  I learn much here.

    However,the situation in Japan is changing rapidly and the 2011 data is out of  date it seems:

    Over 5 Gigawatts of New Solar Electric in 2013
    "U.S. research firm IHS predicted the Japanese photovoltaic market would surpass Germany as the largest solar revenue market with 120 percent growth this year, installing more than 5 gigawatts of new capacity, with projects more than 2 megawatts in size being the major driving force behind the triple-digit growth rate. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted that such commercial and utility-scale projects would boost solar installations to a range of 6.1 gigawatts to 9.4 gigawatts in 2013, making Japan the largest solar market in the world after China."

    One Nuclear Plant is about 0.5 to 1.4 Gigawatts
    According to EIA Nuclear Stats:

    The capacity of nuclear power plants in the United States in 2008 ranged from 482 megawatts at the Fort Calhoun plant in Nebraska to 1,317 megawatts at the Palo Verde plant in Arizona.
      
    5 gigawatts of new solar electric in just 2013 alone is only "peak" power: on the one hand, this is produced when energy needed the most, on the other hand, this is not 24 hour power.  Since solar is only a small proportion, presumably this 2013-new 5 gigawatts truly eliminates the need to turn on the equivalent of 3-10 nuclear power plant  during peak times (presumably natural gas power plant)  On a historical perspective, ramping up renewables with 5 gigawatts in a single year after new policy (40cents/kw hr rebate)  seems significant.  Lets see what happens next year.  And  the year after. I think that anyone who bets  that solar electric will cost more energy and money to build in the future is wrong. I forsee the equivalent of all decommissioned  nuke plants replaced  by solar  within 6 years. But even one nuclear power plant replacement power is noteworthy to me, although not interesting to others it seems.

    Further considerations:
    Solar Electric on every rooftop?
    the last Japanese prime minister declared  that he wanted solar on every single rooftop in Japan and Japan incorporated agreed with him. Govt ministries rule, and Abe cannot easily stop this policy. 

    Energy Recovered  vs Energy Invested: progressively favorable for solar electric
    Technology advances in semiconductors are real and significant.   The   energy and material costs for making solar panels continuously decreases.  This is not analogous to fossil fuel recovery where we  look forward to getting less energy out for energy investment in the future.  Solar electric is providing more energy out per energy invested all the time.  I dont have recent figures but note that Japanese companies are using much less materials per watt than a few years ago.  I think that solar electric will be a major or  even dominating energy source 25 years from now.  If all costs (such as environmental) are included solar electric has already won.  

    Base Load? OK!
    I installed 7,000 $ worth (5000 watts) of monocrystalline solar panels in Japan this Spring and routinely harvest enough power from them (500 watts) soon after the sun comes up, to make coffee.  Even during a rainstorm I can get this kind of power, and when no rainstorm and during the day, I get 3000-5000 watts for heat storage, dish washing, electric clothes dryer, air conditioning etc. To use solar electric for baseload, we need to wash clothes and dry them during the day, wash dishes during the  day, heat hot water during the day, run pressure tanks during the day, run fridges  and freezers to lower  thermostat setting during  the day.  I get complete off grid lighting (night lighting) from 400$ of batteries that only discharge 5% at night and are charged by two solar panels during  the day (LEDs).   I am using to heat hot water (showers) and others want to copy me.   I cannot have this experience in the US because everything has to be so big and instant and refuse to turn/program applicances to run when energy is available.  I dont understand why others say solar is not feasible.  Things have changed.  Solar electric has arrived.  We  just need to learn how to use it (think like a plant, that does  light reaction in the day and dark reactions  at night).  Fossil  fuel usage requires conduits/fresh  air waste air considerations, ignition etc to use.  Solar requires us to schedule main energy uses during the day when energy is available.  Gradually, people will figure this out.  We changed our behavior to optimally use fossil and we can make adjustments for solar, and most of the "baseload"  issue will melt away.
    A group of community minded people can deal with baseload this way.  The Japanese seriously altered their baseload after Fukushima, for example: rescheduling vacations to shut down entire buildings and departments to adjust baseload, turn off large proportion of elevators, remove hall lighting, turn off ALL lights in major offices and office buildings and  let people sleep at their desks during lunchtime to avoid energy consumption,  stop wearing neckties and suit jackets etc.  We always assume that the rest of the  world thinks and acts like us, have the same problems, and will use energy, solve energy problems the same way we do.  I have not seen anyone describe why the expected blackouts did not occur in Japan after Fukushima.  If we  are going to learn from Japan's  decline etc, why arent we going over such things?  
    The title to this article was "We are all turning Japanese."  I dont think so.  

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  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 8:09pm

    #7

    rhare

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    Do the math....

    [quote=Mots]

    5 gigawatts of new solar electric in just 2013 alone is only "peak" power: on the one hand, this is produced when energy needed the most, on the other hand, this is not 24 hour power.

    [/quote]

    This is a very important part.  We have a 13kW system in sunny NM.  Over the 3 years, we are producing right at 23,500KwH/year, or about 64 kWh/day.  So that means you can count on about 5 hours/day averaged throught the year at your rated capacity.  That means you get roughly 1/5th the rated power of the PV over a 24 hour period.

    A 5gW PV array is equal to a 1gW nuclear or fossil fuel plant that runs 24x7.

    [quote=Mots]

    Since solar is only a small proportion, presumably this 2013-new 5 gigawatts truly eliminates the need to turn on the equivalent of 3-10 nuclear power plant  during peak times (presumably natural gas power plant)

    [/quote]

    I think 3-10 is stretching it since only right around noon do you even get close to rated capacity (which you have to discount about 30% due to inverter and other losses).

    The PV target set by Japans government is 10% of capacity by 2050.  That leaves a mighty large 90%.

    We can look at it another way.  In 2011, Japan used 859,700,000 MWh.  So assuming you can shift all that demand to only when solar is available and you don't increase demand at all,  assuming you can get about 5MWh/day (better than what we are seeing) from a 1MW PV array, means you need about 471 GW of capacity (859,700,000/(5*365)).  Or at the current expected rate of installation for this year (5.3Gw), you will need 89 years.

    That's assuming no growth, time shifting all needs, and doesn't take into account any of the other energy used, just electricity.

    [quote=Mots]

    On a historical perspective, ramping up renewables with 5 gigawatts in a single year after new policy (40cents/kw hr rebate)  seems significant.

    [/quote]

    It is significant. You have a huge subsidy, nearly 4x the cost of power.  Who pays that?  Printing by government can do wonders for a while, but eventually that will have to be paid by someone. 

    [quote=Mots]

    But even one nuclear power plant replacement power is noteworthy to me, although not interesting to others it seems.

    [/quote]

    You seem to miss the point, we do consider it interesting, but as CM has pointed out and hopefully the math shows you is that while important it's just not significant.  Particularly when you have a government hell bent on growth, which requires more energy - more than enough to wipe out any gains made by solar.

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  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 10:12pm

    #8
    Chris Martenson

    Chris Martenson

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    More Solar Math

    Mots,

    I appreciate your passion and I really want the math to work, so help me out here.

    Just using coal as a single proxy for the scale of the issue, let's look at a chart of the growth in coal use over the past few deacdes, focusing on the time between 2000 and now, which is when China really came into the scene as a major consumer.

    I note a roughly 4 gigatonne increase primarily driven by China, but India is in the mix, too.  At about 2,500 KWh per tonne, this translates into 10 Peta watt hrs (!!) (or ~1x10^16) of increased coal consumption.

    If Japan has installed 5 GWs and there are, generously, 6 hours per day, 365 days a year (which is very, very generous, as you know, with cloud cover and all...), then this will generate 10 Tera watt hrs (or ~ 1x10^13).  This means that the world would have needed to to install 1,000 times Japans own "#2 in the world" 5GW in order to offset the the coal consumption increase over a fifteen-year period (the chart extrapolates to 2015...).

    A thousand years, or a thousand efforts just like Japan's, just to offset the coal consumption...then there's natural gas and other forms as well.  Assuming I've done my math right.

    It's not a one order-of-magnitude gap, but a three order-of-magnitude gap...at least on a global scale.

    This is not to say that we shouldn't be pursuing solar with all due vigor; we should, but in terms of analyzing its potential near-term impact on the use of fossil fuels, it's still being dwarfed by increases in the use of traditional fossil fuels.

    The most immediate thing we should be doing is studying how Japan managed to lose 30% of its electricity-generating ability and culturally managed to get by without serious blackouts, riots, and all the other ills that I am certain would visit other OECD countries if they had to cope with a sudden 30% loss of electricity going into the summer months.

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  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 10:19pm

    #9
    Mots

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    "do the math"

    Math is favorable for solar electric, which is NOT an insignificant part of energy production going forward

    Utilities have to fire up temporary power to handle peaks in the afternoon when solar contributes most.  Therefore solar provides the most expensive power and is not mathematically equivalent to night time in a 24 hour period.  Also for the math, you have to factor in the fact that nuke plants are often off line and when on line, often cut down to half power at night.  Everytime an earthquake happens many plants shut down for some period of time since they cannot start up again suddenly.   A country with constant earthquakes certainly shuts off nuke plants sometimes.   Your math needs to calculate this.  some nukes in the US are not on very much.

    Re: math for 40 cents per  kw hour. That is Japan price and mathematically is definitely not 4 times the cost of production.  I dont think that a government is printing money to "pay" for this allegedly bogus renewable energy (actually rate payers are paying a small fee).  My impression was that the 40 cents was near the true cost of power in the afternoon, at or below the apex of peak power. This comports with the high billing rates and directly decreases the amount of natural gas that has to be imported.

    even under your calculations (which I disagree with) you admit that Japan adds one large nuclear power plant worth of solar electric this year alone.  I think that the effect is much more than this.  By the way, I dont lose 30% power from my panels because I dont use an inverter for most of my solar electric consumption.  Also, monocrystalline cells and superior circuitry can get you much better usage through the day away from maximum solar energy time.   

    I am in the solar electric-technology industry and I am convinced that cost and performance and price have improved dramatically such that a country without fossil resources at this moment already can profitably use solar electric.   So you dont believe me that solar electric is a game changer but think that it is uneconomical and insignificant.  Hindsight analysis a few years from now will reveal more.  Technology has definitely advanced and does not stop.  The past (even 3 years ago) is NOT a guide to the future and the present is much more favorable than most people realize.  

    btw: you say that the govt there is "hell bent on growth" and seem to indicate that consuming more energy is desirable generally or to a country.   It is clear to me that Japanese people are not "hell bent on growth."  Quite the opposite.  Furthermore all energy discussions I  assume are with a mind  towards  what a sustainable community needs (what WE need going forward, and we are not judging based on how we might hang on to our beloved  nuclear energy and fossil fuel or exponentially increasea our megajoules petroleum lifestyle).  Solar electric should not be judged by how well it helps us increase exponentially energy usage.  Reliability, and local consumption/production are very good winning points in favor of solar electric. Many people on this blog are contemplating buying and using solar electric for future prosperity and resiliance.  I dont think that they are comparing solar electric with nuclear electricity. I think that "doing the math" may not compute.  

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  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 11:07pm

    #10

    Arthur Robey

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    Forget the Maths.

    Do the research.

    With a 35 year population doubling time and a conversion ratio of energy into food of about 10 to 1, nothing we have on hand will cut the mustard. It is the usual hall-of-mirrors thinking. Salvation lies not in what we already know, but is what we have yet to discover.

    What we need is something completely from Left Field. Is success guaranteed? Whenever is success ever guaranteed?

    What worries me is that there is something completely screwy about the foundations of physics and our hall-of-mirrors is preventing us from seeing the get-out-of jail free card.

    To this end I have ordered "The Science Delusion." By Sheldrake.

    P.S. Please remember Time2Help's Backfire Effect before responding.

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  • Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 11:14pm

    #11
    Mots

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    Solar Math

    Solar electric enters a world that is moving away from fossil fuels and in which technology greatly decreases the amount of energy needed to sustain a happy lifestyle. We dont need to consider how to augment the nations-of-the-world coal production with solar electric and have to conclude that solar is hopeless and worthless.  Further, technology (esp solid state  electronics) is improving in this regard and is changing the "math":

    Ex. The first use arguably of energy has always been for lighting. Semiconductor technology advances have changed that game so completely in the last few years that solar electric easily can handle that one.  Cooking during the day likewise.  btw my picture is me driving my 36 inch wide electric cultivator.  I have 2000 watts solar energy in my garden and use  it for my garden tools.  That is an example of lower but smarter  energy use (fossil motors are much heavier, expensive etc) that obviates the tired old way of thinking that we need all that coal and fossil fuel to have enough food.  Also by the way, good quality solar electric gives much energy when the sun is low or when it is raining but is not being used normally.  If you study the technology you quickly find out that the EQUIPMENT is designed from an old paradigm perspective wherein at less than 20 percent sunlight you are NOT expected to get energy, efficiency drops way off for most equipment and most makers dont even bother to provide specifications at those "worthless" light levels.  But now the panels cost so little, that you can get plenty of power when it rains, if you bother to put up the panels and use more  intelligent equpment.  Things can be much better if one focuses on local.

    The future that we have been contemplating is one where we do not buy crap from China and throw out constantly, where we dont use 100kw motors (ca 100 hp) to move our butt 10 miles to the store to buy a loaf of bread,  etc etc.   When you look at past trends of an inappropriate lifestyle and consider how to extend or increase those lifestyles and coal productions by replacing coal use or any other substitution, isnt such analysis perpetuating that tired old, dying paradigm?  

    we need radical change NOW.  the most significant value of solar electric is that solar electric allows sustainable communities to create and use energy locally and  now at a very good price.  Why not consider how to survive the necessary radical change that must occur instead of continuing the old way of destroying the earth?  I prefer to consider the economics of electricity production in my neighborhood, or at least in my house.  When you "do the math" you find out that the cost of  self-generated solar electric at home is billions of times cheaper  than the cost  of nuclear at home, and many times better than virtually everything else.  Isnt that the real math?  Why arent we thinking about what we really need  instead of trying to figure out how to keep an old dying way of life?

    You moved to this perspective already in stating the desirability of "studying how Japan managed to lose 30% of its electricity generating ability and culturally managed to get by without serious balckouts, riots and all the other ills that I am certain would visit other OECD countries if they had to cope with a sudden 30% loss of electricity going into the summer months"  so my criticism stops.  I think that the example of Japan is truly an example of a small community.   

     

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  • Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 4:39am

    #12

    Gregor Macdonald

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    Narmada

    You are right, there are fewer and fewer options left for manufacturers to secure either cheaper energy, or cheaper labor, or both. The Lewis Turning Point has been reached in China. Though probably not yet in India, or Africa. (Lewis Turning Point: eventually you run out of cheap labor from the countryside, as you urbanize, and wages bottom, only to go higher).

    That said, Japan has high wage costs like the rest of the OECD. To this point, it has been a titan--really an absolute monster--at achieving greater levels of energy efficiency in manufacturing. I'm not sure how much farther they can improve. This is why I say Africa could be a prime destination for them (cheapest labor), but you are right: electricity rates are starting to levelize around the world.

    As for Non-OECD countries, ex China, I do think they have much to capture still ahead, as they transform from super low wage countries to higher wage countries. True, India has so many problems, it's scary. However, they can indeed choose to burn more coal, import some LNG, and build renewables at a time when their wage structure is still very, very low.

    I just think Japan is in the worst position of all. Truly.

    G

     

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  • Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 4:46am

    Gregor Macdonald

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    debu

    Yes, I purposely did not address the nuclear issue for two reasons. One, it's a large subject on its own. Two, I have covered the nuclear issue (and Japan) here at Peak Prosperity before-- | see: Returning to Simplicity https://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/returning-to-simplicity/70143That said, I agree it feels odd to have not dealt with the nuclear issue here. But my view is that Japan is not, in fact, going to restart alot of its nuclear fleet. Indeed, the issue of aging plants no longer being economic--which we are starting to see here in the US--is going to be a factor in Japan. As you may know, Japan like the US was one of the early adopters of nuclear energy. Ergo, their fleet is aging.
    You are no doubt right, some of the idled plants will come on line again. But at what rate? Certainly not fast, and certainly not all.
    Meanwhile, Japan may be happy to return to low cost coal at a time when coal prices are down, and China's slower rate of consumtpion has taken alot of the heat out of the price.
    I saw articles in 2011, saying Japan would soon and surely restart its nuclear fleet. It's now 30 months since the epic earthquake. At this point, I prefer to start analyzing Japan as a country like Germany -starting to transition towards a post nuclear powergrid.
    G

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  • Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 4:55am

    Gregor Macdonald

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    Mots

    It's actually quite incredible to witness the rate at which Japan is adding solar. I keep various Excel spreadsheets on both a country, and a global level, and it appears that Japan may add nearly 10 GW in 2013--which would match China. Even if Japan "only" adds 8-9 GW that is still amazing. Much of this will be rooftop and residential, so in some sense Japan is already very, very busy trying to solve the power problem. At least, every MW the residential sector can re-create via solar is a MW the industrial sector can "have back" if you will.I agree with you, of course, that the math of Japan's debt is not going to sink the country the way pure debt analysts anticipate. However, as the world moves on and needs Japan less, or as you point out--as Japan simply gets smaller--it may become advantageous to global markets to make Japan pay, finally, for its gargantuan deficit spending. I don't have a timeline for that moment, however, as the last 5 years has shown the global economy is still very trapped in the three senior currencies, with the USD, EUR, and JPY paying virtually no penalty for their respective economic records.
    G

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  • Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 5:13am

    Gregor Macdonald

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    Mots and Chris: Coal and Solar

    Recently both Citigroup and Goldman (GS) produced reports on the slowdown in global coal growth. At least, the headline to each report emphasized this theme, and each report relied heavily on the emerging truth that China has in fact slowed its rate of coal consumption. However, in the interior of the GS report (which was excellent btw---Currie and his team have been very good for a decade, especially calling the oil repricing in 2004), it showed that at current growth rates global coal demand would add another billion tonnes over the next 5 years. Why? Because even at "slow" growth rates, coal demand plodding along at 2-3% per year implies a tremendous BTU call on coal. And yes, this is the slower rate that everyone is now so excited about, as China demand slows down!Consider:
    A very large thing, growing steadily but at a slow rate.
    A very small thing, growing steadily at a fast rate.
    I count myself as both a solar and coal fanatic. I can be found doing a deep dive into the data, on both, nearly every week. Coal has been a fave theme for me for a decade. Solar, more recently in the past few years.
    My conclusion: you would be astonished at how much progress solar will make by 2020. BUT, you may even be more astonished how maddeningly difficult it will be to catch coal. Coal has the benefit of path dependence across the Non-OECD, and Chin'a reduced call will only keep coal prices lower for longer which will help distribute coal more effectively to new users.
    Coal has been very, very good to Japan. The Mid-East LNG sellers may gouge Japan, making them pay 18 or even $20 per million BTU in the Winter. The global price of oil is equally something Japan can do nothing about. As I mentioned, Japan can and is (and will) build lots of solar. But, like Germany I see the creep back to coal as a sign of things to come.
    G

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  • Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 12:02pm

    #16
    Mots

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    Coal and Solar

    Thank you for the excellent summary.

    I am on this site partly to keep an ear to the ground and respect such info.

    However,  the times they are a changing and small community resiliance is the name of the game for me.   I  dont give a squat about what the government collectives and their bankster sponsers do with big coal,  big nuke, or even big solar.   The Big Story, at the end of  a long day (years from now?) will be what WE DO to build resiliance in our small communities.  

    Japan as a country feels and behaves as a small community. That small community spirit is not captured in your graphs and charts.  The human spirit, thus expressed is more important than  all the coal, uranium and oil in the world.  

    Most of what is reported  about Japan from western "experts" is viewed through western bankerized sunglasses  and is either wrong or irrelevant and unapprehended by  blogsters who merely read endless charts of narrow issues from the perspective of their subjective viewpoints.  I dont agree with the premises and conclusions about Japan.

    "Peak prosperity" will not come from rescuing  the banksters and government collectives with yet more exponential energy. Instead  it will come from individuals making their own energy, food and other wealth at the community level.  I think that this site has lost sight of this most important point and is off track.

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  • Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 1:28pm

    Adam Taggart

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    Mots?

    [quote=Mots]"Peak prosperity" will not come from rescuing  the banksters and government collectives with yet more exponential energy. Instead  it will come from individuals making their own energy, food and other wealth at the community level.  I think that this site has lost sight of this most important point and is off track.
    [/quote]
    Mots -
    I was confused by this comment, as sounding the warning klaxon on the world's current unsustainable exponential energy demands is a primary mission of this site, as is also promoting/enabling "individuals making their own energy, food and other wealth at the community level".
    I don't see anything in Chris or Gregor's comments that suggests anything otherwise. Can you elaborate on how you're arriving at this impression?

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  • Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 4:15pm

    Quercus bicolor

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    Adam Taggart wrote:Mots

    [quote=Adam Taggart]
    [quote=Mots]
    "Peak prosperity" will not come from rescuing  the banksters and government collectives with yet more exponential energy. Instead  it will come from individuals making their own energy, food and other wealth at the community level.  I think that this site has lost sight of this most important point and is off track.
    [/quote]
    Mots -
    I was confused by this comment, as sounding the warning klaxon on the world's current unsustainable exponential energy demands is a primary mission of this site, as is also promoting/enabling "individuals making their own energy, food and other wealth at the community level".
    I don't see anything in Chris or Gregor's comments that suggests anything otherwise. Can you elaborate on how you're arriving at this impression?
    [/quote]
    Adam,
    I'm guessing that Mots is saying that - given we have little influence over what governments and large corporations do, it's not worth focusing our attention on them.  It is more valuable to focus on community-scale resiliency.  It seems to be in line with his earlier post about how bloggers' (and I guess again he means Gregor, Chris and perhaps others) focus on  data readily available on the internet rather than boots-on-the-ground experience in Japan has them miss the overall feeling of what communities in Japan are doing to address the issue. 
    I know that Peak Propserity needs to reach people that are still very much immersed in the world of finance and politics and need that perspective about where governments and big businesses are up to in order to understand the predicament we're in and be motivated to action.  So personally, I think the focus on what governments and large corporations are up to is nessecary.
    Maybe the answer is for those of us who've already gotten the message is to spend more time on the Resilient Life part of the website and less time over on this side.
    Steve

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  • Fri, Sep 13, 2013 - 1:53pm

    #19
    twostepsbackward

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    What a waste of energy all this is...

    [Hidden - Jason.  This post is by Bob.]

    ...when we could very easily convert vented energy and manage energy produced better, and to effectively eliminate the need to build out new power plants and save in non renewable resources.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=nearly-200-gigawatts-of-us-energy-i-2010-08

    I agree, the community level is the path of least resistence.

    I also see Japan's land mass as very small compared to the United States and every incremental increase in power generation to be easily managed for efficiency, and is then visually more community like as everyone lives close to one anothers, not like the suburbia here in america which I would argue is a terrible waste of energy as the power and heat of electricity is lost traveling the power lines. To wire and have the efficiency of stacked living spaces is much more efficient than powering the larger landscapes of the McMansions, our suburbs, are a quick thought and could be way off target from a fact based study. Are all facts even correct? Are facts really that concise?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/data-visualization/americas-energy-where-it-comes-from-where-it-goes/

    We spend $433 Billion dollars on Imported oil a year. I would think our shale production has lowered this a bit for this year but this is a stable enough number for me.

    We waste (it is estimated) over 100's of billions of dollars each year, That is minimally 30% of our oil imports and dollar costs, wasted! If we became more energy efficient we could get awfully close to energy independence then, couldn't we? Imagine the cost to police the Middle East so that we assure the free flow of oil. The savings of 30% in military costs if this was an apples to apples comparison. I could then imagine a daisy chain of positive outcomes to capturing the energy we waste.

    Why do we plan to export natural gas when to liquify it and transport it are so energy inefficient, and could give our nation a boost as a manufactuering hub as we would have the lowest cost of energy in all of the world?

    Why do we export our coal for the same reason?

    Coal and Natural Gas are energy GOLD, and our dollar would be enhanced in value if we retained these assets, used them as barter for things we are short of like REE's (rare earth elements) and worked our way out of our debt (with loses and a negotiated settlements on entitlements because the math don't work), stopped consuming from the future, and saved more.

    Spending whatever it took to invent a commercial battery storage system would be a grand plan, and I have read that if we incentivized this then the brilliance of Man would figure this out. We must do this.

    http://conservationcenter.org/energy-division-main/energy-efficiency-101-2/

    To sum this up, I agree with Mott's, start at home, then community, then communities, then State, then Goverment but, I would like to eliminate goverment as the spent hot air in our nations capitol is energy that is just too contaminated to be a part of the solution.

    Lastly, we waste in electricity more each year than it costs the US taxpayer to fund Food Stamps, about a 95 Billion dollar industry. Food for the transitioning worker and their families is not the issue, waste, in every part of our lives is, so is the most important and humanitarian thing we could do as individuals is to start at home preserving the power we waste. Instead of being concerned with candy bars, potato chips and lap dances (all of which I do not think Mom is buying with her food stamps incidentally) we should wrap ourselves around the idea of conservation and making those changes like putting in more efficient light bulbs in our homes. We do get petty sometimes, don't we?

    Mr.Gregor, how much is 100 Billion (perhaps 100 billion more in wasted dollars) dollars in coal costs? Just the cost, not to include environmental degradation and lost wages. 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supplemental_Nutrition_Assistance_Program

    Some additional thoughts:

    How much will Fukashima cost the world?

    It is estimated that the US taxpayer has or will spend 4 to 6 TRILLIAN dollars fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a lot of money!!! Devide $433 Billion dollars into 6 Trillion and how many years worth of oil is this? Build out a state of the arts electric power grid, a state of the arts rail system, and so much more in this country and you will never get to 6 Trillion dollars. We really need to "taketwostepsbackward" and see what is going on.

    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-28/world/38097452_1_iraq-price-tag-first-gulf-war-veterans

    I applaud Motts for attempting to do just this in his very consciencious thread here.

    What is the cost to police the trade routes throughout the world and why is this burden the United States alone? My opinion is you can't in one breath hold a negative opinion of the United States if you aren't spending your treasure securing these lanes for commerce yourselves. So, the world by not carrying their collective weight in this arena are then subject to be captured by the powers who do. I say go for it, spend billions on your own Army, Navy and Marine Corp and I'll reduce my force and responsibilities and bring these resourses home making our countries citizens more secure.

     

     

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  • Fri, Sep 13, 2013 - 5:22pm

    #20
    RoseHip

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    Inversion

    Mots wrote:

    "Peak prosperity" will not come from rescuing  the banksters and government collectives with yet more exponential energy. Instead  it will come from individuals making their own energy, food and other wealth at the community level.  I think that this site has lost sight of this most important point and is off track.

    My impression of what Mots wrote is this. As I look out at the world operating around me what I see at the top of the decision making pyramid is Economy and all else is a subset to this, even ecology. This folks is an inversion! This creates a false construct requiring each and every one of us to live in this make believe world, doing things in ways that is damaging ourselves and the world around us. So what Mots said resonated with me because the Really Really important stuff "The Ecology" of Peak Prosperity is all located on the Resilient Life side, which should be at the top of our decision making pyramid getting the most time and attention and Peak Prosperity "The Economy" side should be a subset of it, otherwise you are modeling the same behavior and extending the energetic of the inversion, meaning we have to try hard to make the meaningful changes in our lives. This just shouldn't be....

    Most people, not all, visiting Peak Prosperity are paying attention to the articles, comments and thoughts put forth from the recognition that all decisions stem from the all mighty ECONOMY. Even you Adam eluded to this topic

    As I mentioned above, I was disappointed that the scope of the resiliency-buildling resources we offer through PeakProsperity.com wasn't really covered in this article (the positive "creating a world worth inheriting" part of what we do). It's what I spent the most time talking about with the reporter. I guess it wasn't deemed as "newsworthy" as the risk of a renewed economic downturn  🙁

    Why would they see this and report on it as it's not the focus of your body of work at Peak Prosperity? I think if this site wanted to take a next step forward and provide the leadership to help us community members be even more resilient we would all have a conversation about potential changes to help reverse the inversion on this site fostering a whole host of powerful exchanges.

    The longer this inversion is allowed to operate, the greater the risk for bad outcomes will be. We should be exchanging powerful stories about Sacred water, Salmon, soil ecology ect.., as opposed to Japan, Syria, Monetized debt. This is just not natural. This site has the potential to do really amazing things and already has, and I am in full support to help realize those potentials. We are in this together.

    Rose

     

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  • Fri, Sep 13, 2013 - 6:56pm

    #21
    Chris Martenson

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    Re: Inversion and what we really need to be doing

    RoseHip wrote:

     the Really Really important stuff "The Ecology" of Peak Prosperity is all located on the Resilient Life side, which should be at the top of our decision making pyramid getting the most time and attention and Peak Prosperity "The Economy" side should be a subset of it, otherwise you are modeling the same behavior and extending the energetic of the inversion, meaning we have to try hard to make the meaningful changes in our lives. This just shouldn't be....

    Of course, you are right, and the question I sit with constantly is how to go about making any meaningful change in the dialog now, while time remains.

    If we dig deep enough, we find that no amount of light tweaking, new gadgets, or impressive new technologies are going to be able to fully cover the gap that will be left when fossil fuels either are all burned up or we decide to leave them in the ground because of global warming.

    So we are left with only one option, eventually, which is to try and get by on a lot less, which, thankfully, we can do and do well without much fuss or lifestyle impact. Better yet, we might even craft a higher quality of life for ourselves in the process.

    But how did we get so far off track?

    Somehow we humans became disconnected from nature, from our place in the dance of life, and even from each other, and lost a lot along the way, and now we "correct" those insults by creating new technologies and gadgets and forms of entertainment designed to plug the holes left by our detour into a world of our own making.

    I attribute a lot of our cultural malaise to the fact that we no longer live naturally, or with nature, at all. As if we could just take several hundreds of millions of years of careful programming and do better, without really understanding any of the complexity or subtlety of nature.

    For example, we are only just beginning to scientifically appreciate that perhaps, maybe, the trillions of symbiotic organisms that live in our gut may - just may - have something to do with our health and well being or lack thereof, if out of balance. Imagine that!

    So the primary 'wound' that needs to be healed, if humans are going to have a shot at being a relatively durable species on this earth, is one of disconnection. From each other, certainly, but more broadly from all of life.

    But I have very few good ideas (yet) about how to raise the level of the conversation to this sort of understanding, and I do focus on the economy a lot, because that's where the same principles and dynamics are playing out and which will, undoubtedly, have a very large impact on everyone, whether they read this site or not.

    Great and worthy scientists and poets and statesmen have been pointing out that the economy is really just a subset of ecology, and yet here we are with very little mainstream traction. So the question here, then, is how to go about doing this?

    One way is to become the change you wish to see. That's what Mots is doing, and many other people on this site, and it really not only makes sense, but it HAS to be done. There's no point in agitating for change that you yourself are unwilling to undertake.

    Said another way...in the Tantric tradition, one of the principles is As within, so without. If you want to experience the outside world differently, then you have to change your inner world. As you shift your perspective and the energy and intentions you bring to the world, the world will change around you.

    All of the great people in history that are truly admirable to me, Gandhi and Mother Teresa come to mind, were completely authentic and true to their principles. What they wished to manifest in the world around them they already carried inside of themselves.

    This is something that I have personally discovered to be both true and very powerful in my own life. As I have undergone internal shifts in awareness, consciousness, and taking as much responsibility for my actions and thoughts as I can, I have noted profound shifts in how my wife, children, friends, and even strangers respond to me.

    As within, so without.

    Said one more way...you (I, we) cannot fix the world from the outside in; it has to be from the inside out.

    So...how can our culture fundamentally place ecology, the environment, or the earth first if we are not yet even holding ourselves first? That has me stumped, and so I think that instead of trying to fix the world, we really just need to fix ourselves.

    Because, really, any harm that we do on the outside, also harms us on the inside. Ruining an ecosystem ruins us too. We lose the abundance, the resilience, the beauty, and everything else the ecosystem had to offer.

    In truth, the world is a place of endless abundance, if we view it the right way and see it as something that we need to work within, rather than a place of scarcity requiring us to subdue, dominate, and accumulate as strategies to avoid periods when less is available.

    Permaculture is one bright spot for me because it shows people diving in deeply to really understand and work within the natural systems, allowing human intelligence and effort to become extraordinary accelerators of natural processes.

    Soil can be rebuilt at a rate 100 times faster than nature. Food output can be many multiples of what nature would ordinarily provide by planting carefully, thinning, tending, and moving nourishment where and when it is needed.

    What we are capable of is really amazing and worthy of our natural talents, but, I have to confess, simply being a consumer is a most degrading term. There's nothing special about consuming. Everything does it. It's like holding ourselves up as special by describing ourselves as "breathers." Whoop de do.

    At long last, humans will either tuck themselves cleverly and peacefully into the available resources, or they won't, and this assumes that we're leaving sufficient resources for non-human life as well.

    But how to change that narrative? The only way I know is to look in the mirror...that is the only person I can control.

    As within, so without....

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  • Fri, Sep 13, 2013 - 9:02pm

    #22
    Doug

    Doug

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    Joined: Oct 01 2008

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    eco

    I have long viewed economy and ecology as the same thing, or at least they should be.  The problem in incorporating them is that we don't have a common language.  To discuss them rationally the values inherent in one realm should be discussed in the same terms as the other.

    F'r instance, all those ecological values could be discussed in terms of dollars or, vice versa, economic values could be discussed in terms that would incorporate all the so-called externalities that are normally left out of economic formulae.  Perhaps standardized units such as food production per acre, or board feet per acre, or oxygen production per hectare of forest, or surplus CO2 produced per unit of time could be developed and used to describe what is now discussed in dry dollars or GDP.

    This notion is probably fanciful and naive, but unless and until we can discuss all the different values of the eco's in the same language, we will never truly appreciate them as making up one whole: gaia, mother earth, the blue marble, resources, life.

    Doug

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  • Fri, Sep 13, 2013 - 11:55pm

    #23

    sand_puppy

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    Joined: Apr 13 2011

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    Chris' post reminds me of Mary Oliver poem

    Chris' post, and a number of others' recent remarks, reminds me of a Mary Oliver poem, The Journey.  I especially like her description of all the voices shouting their bad advice and learning to hear a "new voice, which you slowly recognized as your own."

     

    The Journey

    by Mary Oliver

    One day you finally knew
    what you had to do, and began,
    though the voices around you
    kept shouting
    their bad advice-
    though the whole house
    began to tremble
    and you felt the old tug
    at your ankles.
    "Mend my life!"
    each voice cried.
    But you didn't stop.
    You knew what you had to do,
    though the wind pried
    with its stiff fingers
    at the very foundations, though their melancholy
    was terrible.
    It was already late
    enough, and a wild night,
    and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
    but little by little,
    as you left their voices behind,
    the stars began to burn
    through the sheets of clouds,
    and there was a new voice
    which you slowly
    recognized as your own
    ,
    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world,
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do-
    determined to save
    the only life you could save
    .

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  • Sat, Sep 14, 2013 - 12:06am

    Mots

    Mots

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    Joined: Jun 18 2012

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    Endless abundance

    You covered all the points rather well.  "In truth the world is a place of endless abundance......" and "What we are capable of is really amazing"   and I empathize with the sentiment ", simply being a consumer is a most degrading term. There's nothing special about consuming. ...humans will either tuck themselves cleverly and peacefully into the available resources or they won't...But how to change that narrative?"ANSWER: We change it by a. behavior and b.  engineering.
    BEHAVIOR The  self sufficient lifestyle promoted here is a good start for a.  
    BUT The mistake is that we follow the nuclear and coal industry by using their statistics and logic for modelling life in the future based on technology of the past.  This is  wrong. Even in solar energy. I was shocked  to see that solar circuitry and devices/systems (solar panel to controller to battery to inverter) have been developed around the nuclear/coal model and are necessarily very inefficient.  Using the nuclear/coal electric industry model we need megatons of batteries to do laundry, heating, dishwashing etc because no solar at night.  NONSENSE.  If you schedule just a little bit there is virtually no baseload issues and a very small amount of batteries are used for nighttime lighting.  I have to develop my own circuitry to do this.  BUT I get virtually 100% efficiency for hot water heating and potentially can cook food 100% without going through the wasteful (over 20% loss in voltage conversion, 10% to charge batteries, 10% to convert  back to DC etc) nuclear/coal mindset  circuitry.  
     My point is that we overlook and undervalue technology in at least two ways.  One, as individuals we do not learn science and technology and default into becoming MSM parrots or just follow nonsense and not think for ourselves.  Energy, food, resources, life necessities: these are all technology issues and we are steeped in the old ways: we need to challenge the present stasis.  Even those megatons coal, nuclear world consumption statistics that you follow, only have life/meaning because some technologist years ago created a use for that stupid, previously useless coal and uranium.  Two, we worship past data from past TECHNOLOGY achievements and assume that future technology is the same. Coal and uranium ONLY have meaning because of (yesteryear's) technology.  The megatons of coal and uranium energy sources bandied about are yesterday's technology products and have context from yesteryear's engineering accomplishments.  In the future we DONT need anywhere near the amount of energy to get the SAME luxurious lifestyle.  This is my main disagreement.  A good example is LED lighting. NOW (but not even 5 years ago) for two 200$ of solar panels and 200$ batteries (replace every 10 years) and a little circuitry, I can light up a home night and day with NO FUEL expense when using LEDs. That is a game changer.  What did that lighting cost (in resources) 100 years ago, 50, 10 years ago?  My setup has been running autonomously for 6 months now and I get lots of lights 24 hr with very little  battery discharge.  
    Engineering: I was surprised to see how much electricity is available when it rains and in early morning if enough cheap solar panels are used with appropriate  circuits (I have to build my own circuits).  The bankster organized industries are ignoring this stuff (do not profit from the future resiliance lifestyle) and we must rely on individual inventors working out of their garage. For example a guy in Nevada www.techluck.com has a 200$ circuit (would be 50$ I guess if not made by his hand) that can use  600$ of solar panels to generate hot water for showers even in  the winter when thermal solar does not work.  In rebuilding an old warehouse on  my island I am forced to install 48 volt DC and 120 volt DC circuits as well as design and build my own controller circuits to harvest this energy and avoid the old technology trap.  This is because everyone wants to copy the old nuclear/coal way of doing things.   Solar electric requires a new mind set for real use. This is normal for new technologies.  My point is that real game  changers exist. Arthur from Australia is always talking about this topic.  I suggest that this blog focus on results.   It is NOT appropriate to get sucked into the bankster  paradigms of megatons coal and nuclear for large institution bankster funded administration of a good life to individuals.  Local community resiliance is totally different and provides wonderful surprises.  But we have to learn and use technology. Internet surfing and chit chat crap analysis of bankster coal and nuclear data doesnt work.  
    One last point: I was surprised recently to find out that some of the same people that provided us cheap, very high quality consumer electronics are diligently working to create local community resiliance energy technolgies.  The company I am thinking of calls  this chisan chishou (地産池消) "locally produced, locally consumed" and has a large group to develop local community energy。How many American consumer electronic companies have any understanding of, much less an entire department devoted to developing self reliance products?  America and American thinking is not the center of human development any more.  The bankers have seen to that.  We need to abandon our American financial arrogance and think outside the box of American bankster financial analysis.  I am extremely optimistic about the future. But I had to get outside of the center of a collapsing empire order to see.
     
    [quote=cmartenson]

    RoseHip wrote:
     the Really Really important stuff "The Ecology" of Peak Prosperity is all located on the Resilient Life side, which should be at the top of our decision making pyramid getting the most time and attention and Peak Prosperity "The Economy" side should be a subset of it, otherwise you are modeling the same behavior and extending the energetic of the inversion, meaning we have to try hard to make the meaningful changes in our lives. This just shouldn't be....

    Of course, you are right, and the question I sit with constantly is how to go about making any meaningful change in the dialog now, while time remains?
    If we dig deep enough, we find that no amount of light tweaking, new gadgets, or impressive new technologies are going to be able to fully cover the gap that will be left when fossil fuels either are all burned up or we decide to leave them in the ground because of global warming.
    So we are left with only one option, eventually, which is to try and get by on a lot less which, thankfully, we can do and do well without much fuss or lifestyle impact. Better yet, we might even craft a higher quality of life for ourselves in the process.
    But how did we get so far off track?
    Somehow we humans became disconnected from nature, from our place in the dance of life, and even from each other and lost a lot along the way, and now we "correct" those insults by creating new technologies and gadgets and forms of entertainment designed to plug the holes left by our detour into a world of our own making.
    I attribute a lot of our cultural malaise to the fact that we no longer live naturally, or with nature, at all. As if we could just take several hundreds of millions of years of careful programming and do better, without really understanding any of the complexity or subtlety of nature.
    For example, we are only just beginning to scientifically appreciate that perhaps, maybe, the trillions of symbiotic organisms that live in our gut may - just may - have something to do with our health and well being, or lack thereof if out of balance. Imagine that!
    So the primary 'wound' that needs to be healed if humans are going to have a shot at being a relatively durable species on this earth, is one of disconnection. From each other certainly, but more broadly from all of life.
    But I have very few good ideas (yet) about how to raise the level of the conversation to this sort of understanding, and I do focus on the economy a lot because that's where the same principles and dynamics are playing out and which will, undoubtedly, have a very large impact on everyone, whether they read this site or not.
    Great and worthy scientists and poets and statesmen have been pointing out that the economy is really just a subset of ecology, and yet here we are with very little mainstream traction. So the question here, then, is how to go about doing this?
    One way is to become the change you wish to see. That's what Mots is doing, and many other people on this site, and it really not only makes sense, but it HAS to be done. There's no point in agitating for change that you yourself are unwilling to undertake.
    Said another way ... in the Tantric tradition one of the principles is As within, so without. If you want to experience the outside world differently, then you have to change your inner world. As you shift your perspective and the energy and intentions you bring to the world, the world will change around you.
    All of the great people in history that are truly admirable to me, Gandhi and Mother Teresa come to mind, were completely authentic and true to their principles. What they wished to manifest in the world around them they already carried inside of themselves.
    This is something that I have personally discovered to be both true and very powerful in my own life. As I have undergone internal shifts in awareness, consciousness, and taking as much responsibility for my actions and thoughts as I can, I have noted profound shifts in how my wife, children, friends and even strangers respond to me.
    As within, so without.
    Said one more way ... you (I, we) cannot fix the world from the outside in, it has to be from the inside out.
    So....how can our culture fundamentally place ecology, the environment, or the earth first if we are not yet even holding ourselves first? That has me stumped, and so I think that instead of trying to fix the world, we really just need to fix ourselves.
    Because, really, any harm that we do on the outside, also harms us on the inside. Ruining an ecosystem ruins us too. We lose the abundance, the resilience, the beauty and everything else the ecosystem had to offer.
    In truth, the world is a place of endless abundance, if we view it the right way, and see it as something that we need to work within, rather than a place of scarcity requiring us to subdue, dominate, and accumulate as strategies to avoid periods when less is available.
    Permaculture is one bright spot for me because it shows people diving in deeply to really understand and work within the natural systems allowing human intelligence and effort to become extraordinary accelerators of natural processes.
    Soil can be rebuilt at a rate 100 times faster than nature. Food output can be many multiples of what nature would ordinarily provide by planting carefully, thinning, tending and moving nourishment where and when it is needed.
    What we are capable of is really amazing and worthy of our natural talents but, I have to confess, simply being a consumer is a most degrading term. There's nothing special about consuming. Everything does it. It's like holding ourselves up as special by describing ourselves as "breathers." Whoop de do.
    At long last, humans will either tuck themselves cleverly and peacefully into the available resources or they won't, and this assumes that we're leaving sufficient resources for non-human life as well.
    But how to change that narrative? The only way I know is to look in the mirror...that is the only person I can control.
    As within, so without....
    [/quote]

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  • Sat, Sep 14, 2013 - 9:50pm

    #25

    Casey

    Status: Member

    Joined: Nov 02 2009

    Posts: 17

    0

    re: Inversion

    Thank you, Chris, for your eloquent and universally philosophic post above, and you, Mots, for your exquisite thoughtfulness.

    Changing the dialogue, and facing skeptical and sometimes hostile audiences from "within," is a daunting but requisite challenge; indeed, nothing of gracious longevity will come but from changed human behavior.  Refocusing and redefining a clear vision of quality of life and eschewing certain notions of what constitutes a reasonable standard of living will provide the way.

    Live simply so that others may simply live.

    The adventure continues .  .  .

    c.

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  • Mon, Sep 16, 2013 - 12:32am

    #26
    gbcm

    gbcm

    Status: Member

    Joined: Sep 03 2009

    Posts: 35

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    Do the Math --- properly

    Hi CM & PP community,

     while I believe in energy source diversity, just like I believe in plant diversity etc as espoused by permaculture (PC), I want to scream when I hear yet again, about the evils of nuclear power and how it can be replaced by renewables.

    1. renewables have to be made with non-renewable imputs such as 'rare earths' which are difficult to extract and refine, needing much energy and creating serious pollution and byproducts that are very problematic (why do you think the US allowed Chine to dominate RE's ?) - thorium is one which could be put to good use , but because the fossil fuel indistry in the IOUSA is in total control of politics, and has corrupted government agencies like the ' EPA ' (LOL). I suggest that people see Gaslands 1&2 --- the aerial shots of the massive numerous fracking wells that are despoiling the landscape and poisoning the water, leeching methane into the atmosphere causing a far greater 'greenhouse effect' than even coal, and the callous destruction of peoples lives. And with a 'green' president  "I have a dream (drone) " , who is the number one advocate of fracking ----- OMG.

    2. renewables have a limited lifespan --- 15-40 years for 'well maintained solar panels' --- do you know anybody who regularly cleans their solar panels --- which loose efficiency from day 1, and have a measurable annual failure rate and can be damaged by wind blown objects, hail etc. Ditto wind turbines which have also to be maintained, have gear box failures etc and have to be replaced after a mere 25years ! These are not low tech devices, like quaint 18th century windmills, and if Jim Kunstler is right , in a "world made by hand", will they be replaceable at the end of there life. And while we're at it --- whose going to dismantle these babies and 'recycle' them ? I bet some green group will declare them 'heritage' and campaign for their preservation --- as a tourist attraction and for 'nesting' - God give me strength !     In an energy constrained world, tourism will be a thing of the past - the only 'tourists' will be refugees!

    3. The intermittancy of wind and solar, and the lack of storage, and the need for extensive backup remains an unsolved problem. In a world of ever increasing electricity consumption, 'renewables' will never catch up to the needs of a modern society, as examples above illustrate. Solar farming reminds me of modern agriculture, be it a real or hobby farm --- the great majority cant survive long term without off-farm support/income/backup --- the dire predicament of agriculture as shown by aging demographic of farmers (shades of Japan) , the continual corruption of agriculture by multinationals enforcing the use of monoculture cropping, pesticides & industrial fertiliser dependancy, genetic modification to capture all seed production rights, and the failure to address soil conservation and desertification ---- OMG ---- in a nation where one in seven is on food stamps you would think the populace would be aware and concerned about the state of agriculture. Every time I see a 'urban PC' program I want to scream!      Look at the imputs --- fertiliser (organic of course) soil (biodynamic of course), plants, endless mulch, watering systems, ----- all of which cost $$$$$$$$$ and energy --- cant people see the difference between boutique and subsistance ??? Urban PC is a small part of the overall solution, and it will fail in cities in an energy constrained world !

    4. the hazards of nuclear have been greatly over stated --- there was NOT a nuclear explosion at Chernoble nor 3Mile Island nor Fukeshima ----- and there NEVER can be a nuclear explosion at a nuclear plant --- only a complex, well amde nuclear bomb can generate a nuclear explosion ! - the explosions that occured were caused by hydrogen generated by the excessive heat because of the loss of cooling associated with the plant failures ---- the number of people killed by all nuclear power plant events in the entire history of nuclear power is much less than those who die in the coal industry each year in China --- let alone the rest of the world !             And when it come to waste --- give me a break. The waste generated by the coal industry per month is many times greater than the entire history of NP. Coal ash with heavy metals and uranium are generated by the thousands of tons per day in large coal fired plants, haphazardly disposed of in shallow landfill providing a permanent source of pollution to the water tabel and those whose inadvertantly build over these 'reclaimed sites' --- look it up !                                 All nuclear waste, that hasnt been dumped at sea, whereabouts is known because it is valuable --- did you know that US regulations are that all nuclear waste has to be stored in venues from where it can be retrieved for the next 50years ? Nuclear waste contains much unused burnable nuclear fuel that can be recycled and will be able to be completely burned by modern, gen4, ultrasafe reactors that the Chinese and other are building --- its been estimated by Prof Barry Brooks that the US 'nuclear waste' may be enough for 750 years of electricity generation at current levels ! To reverse the ignorance about this Chris must have an in depth interview with climatologist, Prof Barry Brooks whose website "BraveNewClimate" is a must read for those who want sophisticated analysis and explanations of the challenges of climate change and why nuclear must be a central part of the solution !                                A recent post exposing the shear hysteria and ignorance about Fukeshima is a great read and a good introduction to the site.http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/09/06/willacys-fukushima/#more-6208  -- Remember, Japan has recovered from 2 real nuclear experimental explosions which the US conducted in 1945 (please see the "Fog of War" for context). Also at BNC site, see why the term 'nuclear waste' is an oxymoron - its only a waste if you dont use it ! http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/07/29/nuclear-waste-series-p1/ ---- please read all 4 parts of this very informative series .

    5. The cost of nuclear power is way beyond what it should be, because of one factor - insurance. Despite having an extremely low problems over the last 60 years, in the US and other countries where the "free market operates" ( LOL ) insurance is set at prohibitive rates for new enterants, to say nothing of the planning difficulties imposed by unfetted, biased, ignorant local action committees, backed by the carbon based industries ---- look at the contrast with 'fracking' --- In China, the government provides the insurance backing, just as the IOUSA Fed government does with cleaning up after Sandy and other 'natural' disasters --- and Fukeshima, where the overwhelming an mount of damage and all the deaths was due to the tsunami --- not the NP plant ! --- I rest my case ! 

    6. What to do with old nuclear plants ? - moth ball them ! - after all the foot print is so small, that the land loss is inconsequential - not like Detroit , and if Mish is right, within 1 - 2 decades, cheap robots will dismantle these plants, and run the new gen 4 plants, better and more reliably than humans (sic)  ----- Chernobyle has been an extraordinary gift to the local enviroment - the exclusion area has reverted to an extraordinary wilderness with abundant wild life, and even humans are returning without decernable ill effect ----- read posts on BNC. Will the same thing happen around Fukeshima - very likely!  Remember, its all about the dose - while large doses will be fatal, small to medium doses of radiation are harmless or even therapeutic - think radiation treatment for cancer and the fact that those whose background radiation is higher than average live longer - a phenomena known as homeisis (see Radiation and Reason by Prof Wade Allison) 

    7. The great Prof Al Bartlett , who died recently,  famously said that humanities greatest failing was to not understand exponential growth ( ie. simple math) - well I think you have to add the failure understand basic statistics --- which leads to an understanding of relative risk --- if the chance of dying from a vacination is measured in the one in several millions, but the chance of a baby dying from hooping cough is 1 in 100 ---do the math and tell me why people still believe vacination is bad and causes autism even though the latter is completely false and the orginator of the terrible lie has been completely exposed and banished from his profession ---- ditto nuclear is much safer that alternatives but to hell with the evidence ---- and this in a society that is ruled by statistics in the form of political polling, TV ratings, consumer preferences etc etc ---- in the era of 'everyone is a google expert', and blogs are increasing at such a rate that the internet will collapse from its own weight soon, anecdote reins supreme over scientific method, which is based on data collection, the validation of the data integrity and then using statistical analysis to see if the data means something, and wether it can be used to change or not --- as opposed to beliefs ---- lets concentrate on the data and how its validated or else the powers that be will sell you their version as the truth and then what you get is Peak Oil denialism, climate change denialism and Wall St corruption of Washington denialism !

    Cheers, GB

    PS gold denialism still is widespread - if the bankrupcy of India continues unabated, then the outflow of gold from India could destroy the gold price like no other event in gold history! Understanding the psychology of 'deflationary economics' is essential --- low prices lead to the expectation of lower prices!

     

     

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  • Mon, Sep 16, 2013 - 6:03pm

    #27

    Snydeman

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Feb 06 2013

    Posts: 632

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    Oops!

    "regarding our abberant relationship with our natural environoment"

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  • Mon, Sep 16, 2013 - 6:04pm

    #28

    Snydeman

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Feb 06 2013

    Posts: 632

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    In a much simpler note...

    I'm not sure if anyone else has read Daniel Quinn's book "Ishmael," but that is the book that started me down the path of self-awareness regarding our abberant relationship with our natural environment and the tragic consequences that will play out if we continue down the path we are currently on. It is from that book that something Chris just posted on Friday reminded of this: We did not get expelled from the Garden of Eden by God, but rather we imposed exile from it on ourselves by ceasing to view the garden as a garden. It is an object to be conquered and controlled. For when gorilla is gone, what hope is there for man?

    I apologize that I can not offer the depth of insight that many other posters on this site can offer. My chosen field of study is history, not economics, and while all of my historical knowledge and historical modes of thinking allow me to see the same potentially imminent collapse that others envision, I do not have the deeper economic understanding to even remotely add anything to that dialogue.

    What I DO have, however, is a deeply, deeply held gut and spiritual instinct that the gig is up and that we are so far out of balance with our natural world that we are bringing destruction down upon ourselves; destruction that may be far closer and sooner than most realize.

    This surprises me to no end, though: When I show many of my friends and peers the two gardens I built and planted upon this past summer, the pioneer princess stove we purchased and installed (at high cost in money), and the resilience-focused efforts to learn new skills and gather methods to survive any potential crisis...how so many of them laugh, call me a "One of those Preppers," and discount the gut feelings they have shared with me that the gig is up. It's a mass trust in the "system" I've not thought possible.

     

     

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