Rationing Will Be The Answer

As was shown in 2008, free markets work quite well until they don’t. At that point governments step in and take whatever measures are necessary to stop a complete collapse. Who even in 2007 thought that governments would print over $20 trillion dollars to stop what would have easily been a 1930’s-style crash? Those that expect a rapid collapse of civilization both underestimate governments readiness to act to forestall any social upheaval that threatens the rich and powerful, and the extent that wasteful economic activity can be rapidly stopped when required. Prior to World War 2, my grandfather ran a successful newspaper shop, with much of his profits coming from selling sweets (candies to those in North America). Along came WW2 rationing, sweets were deemed not to be critical, and he had to close up his shop. He was not allowed to sue for his lost “future profits”, he just had to deal with it. Continue reading

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100% Zero Emissions Electricity In Canada

If there is any country in the world that should be able to deliver zero emissions electricity, it has to be Canada. It has been blessed with a huge hydro-power endowment that can provide the dispatchable base-load power required to balance intermittent renewables. There is also the significant nuclear electricity generating capacity that can be kept in place until they can be replaced with the new renewables. Finally, it has many excellent sites for the situation of wind turbines. Given that the country is located in the lower-insolation north, there is much less possible benefit from solar (although solar water heaters would be a good addition). A real exception may be the summer months in the far north, during which that region receives greater insolation than the equator. Continue reading

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Methane Hydrates, The Next Shale Gas?

The talk a few years ago about an imminent peak in oil and gas production was proven incorrect by the technological strides made to access shale oil and gas resources. It seems that governments, exploration companies, and even the United Nations are striving to make the next technological leap – this time into accessing the gas resources available in methane hydrates. These are frozen combinations of gas and water that are stable at high pressures and low temperatures, found in Polar Regions and on the seabed (mostly shallow waters near continents and on continental slopes). Continue reading

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Our Current Situation And The Two World Wars: Capitalism, The State And War by Alexander Anievas

Alexander Anievas (2014), Geopolitics in The Thirty Years Crisis 1914-1945, University of Michigan Press

It is now inevitable that within the next few decades, humanity will be riven by crises created by the clash between its exponential growth and the Earth’s limits. The impacts may be greatly exacerbated, and the responses possibly crippled, by the way in which our modern societies are structured and operate. Alexander Anievas’ book covers a previous time when there was a fundamental crisis within the international order driven by the differing rates of capitalist development between countries in the first half of the twentieth century, and the internal and international conflicts that ensued. This was the birth period of global capitalism, and what we may witness in the next few decades is the death of that very same global capitalism as it exhausts the limits of the Earth. Continue reading

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Worrying Deceleration In The Growth Rate of Wind & Solar

The latest report from the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the Twenty First Century (sponsored by the United Nations)[1] is witness to is a significant deceleration in the growth rate of wind and solar capacity increases. For wind energy, the yearly capacity growth rate has subsided from about 20% up to 2010 to around 14% now. Solar capacity growth has decelerated from around 40% to around 20%. Continue reading

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Cleaning Up & Closing Down Coal Bad For The Climate?

Across North America and Europe, and now China, there have been focused civil campaigns together with government actions, to reduce the usage of coal in electricity generating plants. On the face of it this can only be unqualified good news, as a major source of carbon emissions is reduced. Unfortunately, there are two big complications to this good news. Continue reading

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The Panic Of ’32?

The current period reminds me of the period of Perestroika (openness) in the old Soviet Union in the late 1980’s, which instigated media and intellectual freedom, a process put in place by then President Gorbachev to help open up and modernize Soviet society. This ran far beyond what the communist leadership had intended, helping to invalidate the regime as the scale of its crimes, lies, and inconsistencies were laid bare for all to see[1]. The door of media and academic freedom can only be opened a little before uncomfortable truths and realities fundamentally threaten the status quo. Continue reading

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The Complexities Of Increasing Weather-Dependent Renewable Energy Usage

Any transition to weather-dependent energy sources (wind and solar) faces two major hurdles. Firstly, in the absence of cheap massive-scale energy storage, they need to be balanced by other sources that can be easily ramped up and ramped down. In nations such as Canada and Norway, which have abundant hydroelectric capacity not impacted by possible climate change induced drought conditions, this may not be a problem. For countries that can import and export relatively significant and variable amounts of power from and to other countries, such as Germany[1] and Denmark[2], the problem may also be somewhat reduced. At least until such renewables provide a significant amount of the energy supply, Germany only reached 5.9% electricity share for solar and 13.3% for wind in 2015 (with electricity being less than half of energy usage). As nuclear and coal-fired power stations do not lend themselves to rapidly varying output, dispatchable gas-fired power stations have been the logical fallback. As the penetration of wind and solar increase, the reliance on these gas-fired sources becomes much greater. The same capacity is being paid for twice, once for the wind and solar installations and secondly for the reliable variable-output fossil-fueled backup capacity. Once the cost of such standby capacity is taken into account, the relative cost of wind and solar is greatly increased[3]. Continue reading

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2016: Is The El Nino Showing Us Where The Edge Of The Climate Cliff Is?

The last time the Earth had an El Nino event like 2015/16 was in 1997/98[1]. The two events are actually very much alike, peaking at about the same time in the first year and at about the same temperature in the Nino 3.4 section of the equatorial Pacific. In the 1997/98 case the jump in temperatures and year-on-year increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide lasted through the summer of the second year, with the first few months of the year being extra-hot. Continue reading

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British Petroleum 2016 Energy Outlook : Reasonable Base Case Assessment?

The yearly Energy Outlook publication by B.P.[1] provides a good “reality check” with the enthusiasm of the green growth crowd, while at the same time providing a highly optimistic view of future liquid fuel supplies and the acceptance of natural gas as a climate friendly fuel. Continue reading

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