Following the announcement of Ben Laden's execution by US special forces, I found the following items notable:
- nobody (other than a few idealists on the blogs) found it strange that Western statesmen and politicians bragged about the execution of a man, whatever crimes he may have committed. Assassination has become a tool of State policy again, and most people seem to find that normal. This is rather disquieting; the damage to the rule of law and to civil rights from the past 10 years of expansion of the State "security" apparatus appears irreversible;
- there have been notable calls in the media for an end to the occupation of Afghanistan, and even for an end to the GWOT ("war on terra"), but politicians are not following suit. If anything, the tone has been to emphasise the increased risk of terror attacks in the short term. The uselessness of the attacks and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan was underlined by the usual suspects, but not beyond; It does not seem like we'll get out of our siege mentality not will lose our thirst to kick (brown) people's asses at great expense anytime soon
- while the contrast between the revolutions in various Arab countries and the "califate" promoted by Ben Laden has been much touted, the fact that both the authoritarian regimes and Ben Laden were direct consequences of the West's policies to "secure" access to oil resources (in that we de facto funded them via our purchases of oil, and tolerated them as long as they did not attack us directly, like Iran or Ben Laden) has been largely glossed over. There still is no serious discussion of the fact that Islamism has largely been created because, for a long time, it was the only route that was allowed to protest hated regimes in Arab countries, and that our support for these regimes made us the enemy of the populations of these countries; we still don't have any policies to wean ourselves off of oil as a matter of priority.
In short, Ben Laden's death is largely irrelevant. He was successful beyond his wildest dreams in that we conducted horrible policies that killed millions and alienated many more in the Arab world, we gave up our own civil rights and freedoms in a pointless quest for "security," we spent untold amounts of money on a massive military/security apparatus which is not going away any time soon, and we did not do a thing to solve the underlying problem (our addiction to oil).
Maybe that death is providing closure to Americans, but for me it's just a reminder of how bad our policies have been in the past 10 years, and how far we are from doing anything about that.
Standard & Poor’s put a “negative” outlook on the U.S. AAA credit rating, citing rising budget deficits and debt.
“We believe there is a material risk that U.S. policy makers might not reach an agreement on how to address medium-and long-term budgetary challenges by 2013,” New York-based S&P said in a report today. “If an agreement is not reached and meaningful implementation does not begin by then, this would in our view render the U.S. fiscal profile meaningfully weaker than that of peer ‘AAA’ sovereigns.”
The US government is the entity which has the ability to create dollars, and to allow the existence of individual banks, companies and, yes, rating agencies. That a (US-based) rating agency feels presumptuous enough to say that it believes there are entity more creditworthy than the US government tells us all we need to know about the perceived power of "the markets" vs the politicians at the helm of the US government. That reactions to these news will be new calls to cut the deficit demonstrates that the capture of the government by finance is complete...
... except that government, at all times, has the power to change this. That people in position of political power choose not to use that power, and even agree with the fiction that this power no longer exists does not mean that this power no longer exists!
Just like the fact that the mantra of "balanced budgets," (used to cut on socially useful services) was thrown out when the vital needs
of the country of the banks required it in 2008, and various countries like the UK and the US have gone through 3 years of previously unthinkable 10%+ budget deficits, and money was found very easily to do so, the same may happen with the chokehold financiers hold on political power: it's unbreakable until it isn't, because the "lock" is only in people's minds, and not at all in the real world...
Just look at Libya and Syria: what happened was unthinkable until people believed it was possible. We just need to work on triggering that change in collective beliefs...
I was invited to speak in Brussels earlier last week about the financing of energy infrastructure. It was a breakfast organised by the European Energy Reviewand Interel.
I had the opportunity to make a presentation outlining some of the points I've made here on many occasions (the importance of the cost of capital, the difference between profitable and cheap, and the fact that "market-based" policies are not technology neutral) and as these themes are not specific to Europe but also largely apply to the USA I'm copying the slides below the fold with some accompanying comments.
Added to my Wind Power series with the usual disclosure: I advise wind developers on their financing needs
he final outcome and cost of the nuclear accident at Fukushima are yet to be determined but the obituary of the nuclear industry has already been written, and one competing source of power has already been declared the absolute winner by the Serious People: natural gas.
To fill the gap, renewables are likely to receive a boost. But there will also be a need for a reliable power generation that works even when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. Gas-fired power plants are quick and cheap to build, and natural gas is plentiful in the US. It could also be abundant in Europe and China if American production techniques can be imported. (FT)
Despite a push to increase power generated from renewable sources such as solar and wind power, the wind doesn't blow all the time even in Northern Europe, and the sun is notoriously elusive. Renewables aren't cheap either, in part because they need other methods of power generation to back them up because they generate intermittently. Despite improved technologies, coal is still a relatively dirty fuel, while switching to oil in a $100-a-barrel world doesn't seem appealing either. But there is a fuel that's plentiful, and becoming more so, emits significantly less carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour generated than coal, and where power stations can be built and online in a relatively short time: natural gas.(WSJ)
The theme is eerily similar: renewables are nice, but unSerious (not "reliable," too expensive) so we need to rely on the big boys. Coal is a bit too dirty to be pushed openly, so gas is it. Cheap, abundant, clean and quick to be ramped up. Case closed.
Or is it? Let's take all of these arguments in turn.
Added to my Wind Power series
Apparently the Spiegel has decide to declare the end of the nuclear age, following the serious incidents at the Japanese plants. I must say I don't buy it yet, even as it's obvious that the politics of nuclear just got a bit more complicated for supporters even if the facts don't really support that.
On my side, here a few non-obvious facts about the incidents of the past few days:
A few months ago, kos offered us the opportunity to receive action and information emails, and I duly signed up.
Except that now, I get these action emails twice: to the email I provided when I signed up to that service, and to the email I used to create my dKos account (I actually even get it 3 times, as I have a dormant account, Energize America, which was created back in 2006 when I worked on that community project, and is no longer in use).
So I wonder: what's the point of asking people to sign in to an email service if you're going to spam them anyway with the emails?
Sometimes, a graph says it all. This one is from ExxonMobil's yearly review of energy statistics and trends, called Energy Outlook: A view to 2030:
as usual, the full disclosure: I work in the wind business, helping projects get financing, and I write about wind - full list of articles here
The 2010 statistics for offshore wind came out this week, and they look pretty good:
With 308 new offshore wind turbines installed in 2010 - an increase of 51% in installed wind power capacity on the previous year - offshore wind power experienced a new record growth in Europe. In total, 883 Megawatt (MW) of new capacity, worth some €2.6 billion, were installed in 2010 in nine wind farms in five countries, making a total of 2,964 MW.
(...) 2010 saw an improving financing environment with private banks, financial institutions like the European Investment Bank (EIB), utilities and pension funds backing the sector. Two major deals completed in 2010 highlighted the brighter financial outlook: Thornton Bank C-Power and Trianel Wind Farm Borkum West both came to financial close.
Pope: Sex education attack on religion
"I cannot remain silent about another attack on the religious freedom of families in certain European countries which mandate obligatory participation in courses of sexual or civic education," the pope told the ambassadors.
Civic education is an attack on religious freedom? Sex education is a classic, and maybe not so surprising, but civic education?? Seriously? That's useful of the pope to confirm that he basically considers any information to the masses to be evil... But of course it is the nasty atheists who are intolerant.
One of the trends of our times has been this creeping move towards something that looks like feudalism, ie a system where wielding uncontested power (political or economic) becomes more important than what that power is used for. A more authoritarian, more unequal, and, ultimately, poorer world.
Those at the top have decided they didn't care that they could be better off, in absolute terms, in a fairer world - they are happy that they are richer, relatively speaking, and more powerful, in the system they are slowly bringing back by corroding all the great institutions that made our prosperity in the second half of the 20th century - good government, strong unions, the rule of law for (almost) everybody and good education and healthcare for all.
Some push that ideology out of naked shot term self-interest. Many support because it is wrapped in the name of individual freedom (be entrepreneurial ad successful!) or validates their life (you earn what you deserve / you deserve what you earn); many go along because they yearn for simpler days when "people knew their place" or because they think their freedom and opportunity is hampered by some evil parasitic other.
As you know, I'm firmly (and rightly or wrongly) in the camp of those who are seriously disappointed with our current crop of leftwing politicians and who are quite pessimistic about the short term economic outlook. One of my diaries from this summer (Judging Obama) still sums up my views on the divide within the community and the positions of both sides.
One of the results of this mood of disappointment has been an inability to get worked up lately about politics, and to write anything much.
Another reason for my silence has been that I've been inordinately (and thankfully) busy at work. As you may remember, I created my own company earlier this year, after 15 years in the banking world, to help developers find money to build their renewable energy projects, in particular in the offshore wind sector where I've been involved in the past 5 years.
Well, I'm pleased to announce that the first transaction to happen with my new company's help was signed last week last week.