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Fri Feb 8, 2013, 12:14 AM

Stewart Brand: Why Environmentalists Must Accept Nuclear

"Environmentalists grasp at straws a little with wind and solar," says Stewart Brand. As the U.S. backs construction of new nuclear plants, the godfather of the green movement explains why it's the right move for the planet.



http://theenergycollective.com/ansorg/182876/environmentalist-stewart-brand-nuclear-energy?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=The+Energy+Collective+%28all+posts%29

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Reply Stewart Brand: Why Environmentalists Must Accept Nuclear (Original post)
wtmusic Feb 2013 OP
kristopher Feb 2013 #1
FBaggins Feb 2013 #9
PamW Feb 2013 #23
dumbcat Feb 2013 #43
gcomeau Feb 2013 #2
phantom power Feb 2013 #3
wtmusic Feb 2013 #5
dbackjon Feb 2013 #4
kristopher Feb 2013 #6
dbackjon Feb 2013 #7
FBaggins Feb 2013 #12
diane in sf Feb 2013 #20
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #8
wtmusic Feb 2013 #10
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #11
wtmusic Feb 2013 #13
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #17
wtmusic Feb 2013 #19
appal_jack Feb 2013 #21
wtmusic Feb 2013 #27
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #28
joshcryer Feb 2013 #14
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #15
joshcryer Feb 2013 #18
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #22
joshcryer Feb 2013 #24
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #25
joshcryer Feb 2013 #29
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #30
joshcryer Feb 2013 #31
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #32
joshcryer Feb 2013 #33
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #34
wtmusic Feb 2013 #37
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #38
wtmusic Feb 2013 #39
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #40
wtmusic Feb 2013 #41
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #42
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #44
kristopher Feb 2013 #45
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #46
hatrack Feb 2013 #16
HooptieWagon Feb 2013 #26
jpak Feb 2013 #35
wtmusic Feb 2013 #36

Response to wtmusic (Original post)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 05:32 AM

1. Brand is not an authority on this topic

Last edited Mon Feb 11, 2013, 11:33 AM - Edit history (2)

He can't discuss the meat of the issue - view his TED debate with Jacobson and witness his lack of ability to deal with valid information that contradicts his assertions:




See also:
Wind, solar power paired with storage could be cost-effective way to power grid

8:51 a.m., Dec. 10, 2012--Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today’s electricity expenses, according to new research by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College.

A well-designed combination of wind power, solar power and storage in batteries and fuel cells would nearly always exceed electricity demands while keeping costs low, the scientists found.

“These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive,” said co-author Willett Kempton, professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. “The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage — which we did by an exhaustive search — and to calculate costs correctly.”

The authors developed a computer model to consider 28 billion combinations of renewable energy sources and storage mechanisms, each tested over four years of historical hourly weather data and electricity demands. The model incorporated data from within a large regional grid called PJM Interconnection, which includes 13 states from New Jersey to Illinois and represents one-fifth of the United States’ total electric grid.

Unlike other studies, the model focused on minimizing costs...

http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2013/dec/renewable-energy-121012.html


The paper is available for free here:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378775312014759



We don't need nuclear power to meet climate goals and keep the lights on
It would be a folly to think that there is no hope of tackling climate change without nuclear power

by Natalie Bennett, the leader of the UK Green party, and Caroline Lucas, the UK's first green MP

...is there really no hope of tackling climate change without nuclear power? This is certainly what the nuclear industry wants us all to think. But analysis using the government's figures shows that we don't need nuclear power to meet climate goals and keep the lights on.

Renewable energies, together with combined heat and power, energy efficiency, smart grids, demand management and interconnection, are the building blocks of an alternative energy future. The path we take is a matter of political choice, not technological inevitability.

As for coal, the emissions performance standard in the energy bill should rule out all new unabated coal, although it needs strengthening to ensure the operation of any fossil fuel plant is compatible with the decarbonisation of the power sector by 2030.

Importantly, we also need to stop subsidising the fossil fuel industry. Coal, oil and gas have enjoyed decades of support that the renewables sector can only dream of.

And with the energy bill set to deliver a backdoor subsidy for nuclear...


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/feb/08/nuclear-power-climate-change

Stewart Brand’s nuclear enthusiasm falls short on facts and logic
By Amory Lovins
Supporting technical details and citations for this post can be found here: “Four Nuclear Myths” (PDF).
http://www.rmi.org/Knowledge-Center/Library/2009-09_FourNuclearMyths

I have known Stewart Brand as a friend for many years. I have admired his original and iconoclastic work, which has had significant impact. In his new book, Whole Earth Discipline: an Ecopragmatist Manifesto (Viking), he argues that environmentalists should change their thinking about four issues: population, nuclear power, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and urbanization. Many people have asked me to assess his 41-page chapter on nuclear power, so I’ll do that here, because I believe its conclusions are greatly mistaken.

Stewart recently predicted that I wouldn’t accept his nuclear reassessment. He is quite right. His nuclear chapter’s facts and logic do not hold up to scrutiny. Over the past few years, I’ve sent him five technical papers focused mainly on nuclear power’s comparative economics and performance. He says he’s read them, and on p. 98 he even summarizes part of their economic thesis. Yet on p. 104 he says, “We Greens are not economists” and disclaims knowledge of economics, saying environmentalists use it only as a weapon to stop projects. Today, most dispassionate analysts think new nuclear power plants’ deepest flaw is their economics. They cost too much to build and incur too much financial risk. My writings show why nuclear expansion therefore can’t deliver on its claims: it would reduce and retard climate protection, because it saves between two and 20 times less carbon per dollar, 20 to 40 times slower, than investing in efficiency and micropower.

That conclusion rests on empirical data about how much new nuclear electricity actually costs relative to decentralized and efficiency competitors, how these alternatives compare in capacity and output added per year, and which can most effectively save carbon. Stewart’s chapter says nothing about any of these questions, but I believe they’re at the heart of the matter. If nuclear power is unneeded, uncompetitive, or ineffective in climate protection, let alone all three, then we need hardly debate whether its safety and waste issues are resolved, as he claims.

In its first half-century, nuclear power fell short of its forecast capacity by about 12-fold in the U.S. and 30-fold worldwide, mainly because building it cost several-fold more than expected, straining or bankrupting its owners. The many causes weren’t dominated by U.S. citizen interventions and lawsuits, since nuclear expectations collapsed similarly in countries without such events; even France suffered a 3.5-fold rise in real capital costs during 1970-2000. Nor did the Three Mile Island accident halt U.S. orders: they’d stopped the previous year. Rather, nuclear’s key challenge was soaring capital cost, and for some units, poor performance. Operational improvements in the ’90s made the better old reactors relatively cheap to run, but Stewart’s case is for building new ones. Have their economics improved enough to prevent a rerun?

On the contrary, a 2003 MIT study found ...


http://grist.org/article/2009-10-13-stewart-brands-nuclear-enthusiasm-falls-short-on-facts-and-logic/

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Response to kristopher (Reply #1)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 01:00 PM

9. Of course he's an authority... and he absolutely demolished Jacobsen

Jacobsen’s presentation is halting and uncomfortable… and he's the one who was incapable of dealing with presented facts. Instead he continually returns to imagined facts. He also continues some of his total BS lines of argument like only counting the tower itself for wind’s footprint (entirely dodging three valid points and the fact that solar's footprint can't play that game) or (better yet) scoring the assumption that continuing nuclear power will necessarily result in a city being destroyed with nuclear weapons (Brand easily demolished that nonsense… but as has been proven here time and time again, that’s not hard to do).

The easy win is found in the introductory statement: The more people understand about climate, they more they worry. The more people understand nuclear power, the less they worry. I’ll add that the more they’re taught to fear it, the less they understand – since the fear is often based on lies (as with the nonsense claims about thyroid issues with children near Fukushima).

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Response to FBaggins (Reply #9)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 10:39 AM

23. AGREED!!

FBaggins,

I totally agree with you that Brand demolished Jacobsen.

Jacobsen technical errors were numerous and naive.

However, those who are not schooled in science, like kristopher; won't recognize the errors as errors because they don't know any better. They accept anything that Jacobsen says as factual because they don't know enough to know that Jacobsen was wrong.

Any weapons physicist knows that the link between nuclear weapons and nuclear power reactors is tenuous at best. Every nuclear weapons state, including the USA; had nuclear weapons before they had commercial power reactors. In fact, commercial power reactors are really very poor at making weapons grade material. Every nuclear weapons state that uses plutonium made that plutonium NOT with a commercial power reactor, but with special weapons material production reactors, like those at Hanford and Savannah River in the USA; which are specially designed for the purpose.

Jacobsen exhibited an almost childish grasp on the relevant physics.

PamW

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Response to PamW (Reply #23)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 01:21 PM

43. I also agree.

Brand definitely won that debate.

I'm new here, but lurked on DU2 many years ago for awhile. Life events overtook me and I lost interest in environment and energy activism. Now I am back and hoping to catch up.

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Response to wtmusic (Original post)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 10:23 AM

2. xkcd...

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Response to gcomeau (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 10:31 AM

3. nice

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Response to gcomeau (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 11:23 AM

5. I'm down for that

but my printer chokes on "826,000 in" for page height

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Response to wtmusic (Original post)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 11:21 AM

4. He is 100% correct

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Response to dbackjon (Reply #4)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 11:39 AM

6. No, he isn't.

He is parroting nuclear industry myths.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #6)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 11:51 AM

7. I will take your disapproval as a sign I am correct

Since you are generally wrong about everything when it comes to nuclear.

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Response to dbackjon (Reply #7)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 02:48 PM

12. Now that's not fair

His spelling is usually correct.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #6)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 07:51 PM

20. I like a lot of what Brand has to say, but he's wrong about nuclear.

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Response to wtmusic (Original post)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 12:26 PM

8. H. T. Odum had something to say about situations like this.

Some principle or other...

Oh yeah, this one:

"The maximum power principle can be stated: During self-organization, system designs develop and prevail that maximize power intake, energy transformation, and those uses that reinforce production and efficiency."

It looks to me like civilization-as-complex-system is doing what it always does. It's trying to maximize its power intake. Same as it's doing with wind, solar, hydro ..

Oh, and in this corner of the ring we have the current and former heavyweight energy champion of the world! Let's hear it for ...THE FOSSIL... still the undefeated champion after Two Hundred Years!!!

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #8)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 02:36 PM

10. Wouldn't it be great if we could maximize power intake

while minimizing carbon output?

I wonder how best to accomplish that.

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #10)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 02:47 PM

11. I frankly don't think it's possible.

As long as energy is available and affordable to somebody, if it's not being used, the system is not maximizing power intake and will adapt to correct that situation.

The system adapts to organize the delivery of maximum energy and other resources to keep the machine running and growing. And "keeping the machine running and growing" is the inherent structural goal of every complex adaptive system. Everything else takes second place.

The corporatizing of culture, the use of unappetizing technologies, and the spread of waste products of all kinds was inevitable. It was not done by deliberately malignant human control, but by inexorable system pressures. Those pressures are the true source of global corporatization and the enabling Shock Doctrine/Security State philosophies that have sprung up to protect it, along with the complete cultural disregard for the safety of human beings in the process of producing resources and energy. Social justice and equity don't even register unless they make the system more able to fulfill its mandate of power growth.

This is the logical extension of Dan Quinn's totalitarian agriculture and putting locks and guards on the granaries e,000 years ago. That's why The System is so damned resilient and hard to take down, or even alter. this is also what what Marvin Harris' "Primacy of Infrastructure" principle says in a different way. The Man is not running the show, as much as he tells us he is. Man is not running things, as much as we tell ourselves we are. The source of this river of discontent is buried in the organization and structure of living matter and complex systems.

This idea is extremely distasteful to those of us who have been raised in a progressive, left-wing, humanist context. I was raised like that, and this realization was devastating. Nevertheless, I'm convinced of its truth.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #11)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 03:44 AM

13. Energy is available to both of us right now

That isn't being used. why not?
What is"the system"? Why do you use the word and its plural interchangeably?
How can you justify drawing analogies when the current state of civilization is without precedent?
Across this river of discontent remain ripples of humanism which, by your theory, not only are useless but should have been destroyed long ago. Why?
By "man is not running things", I'm assuming you're referring to some theoretical macro scale (on a good day, we're certainly both running our computers). Total control is not necessary to run things - man, and other species , are remarkably adaptive and able to improve to improve their lot by design and intent. How can you assume that the inherent unpredictability of the future guarantees descent into apocalypse?

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #13)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 02:41 PM

17. Good questions.

I do use the singular and plural of "system", but I'm trying not to do so interchangeably. Every complex system is a what Arthur Koestler called a holarchy, or what ecologists are coming to call a panarchy. At any level a system is composed of smaller systems, and is in turn a part of some system larger than itself. So when I use the term "system" in the singular I'm trying to refer to the most inclusive system at the level of organization I'm discussing - the top-level system under consideration. When I use it in the plural, I'm trying to talk about the component systems that make up the higher-level system.

In this case when I say "The System" I'm talking about civilization as a whole. I've used the term "civilization-as-complex-system" but that's a bit clunky. Perhaps there is language that makes this distinction more clear - I'm open to suggestions.

The sub-systems that make up civilization-as-complex-system include (but aren't limited to) nations and national groups, national governments, international governance and regulatory organizations, cities and municipal groupings, economic and financial systems, corporate and business systems, legal systems, education systems, security systems (military, intelligence and police), educational systems, energy distribution systems, agricultural systems, communications systems, transportation systems, organized religions, family units and the individuals that compose them, and on down into individual humans: digestive, respiratory, nervous and endocrine systems etc.

All those component systems interlock to form the super-system that we call civilization. Many civilizations have existed before ours, the main thing that's without precedent in ours is the scope and scale of it. What sort of higher system is our civilization a part of in its turn? Things get murkily philosophical at that point, so I won't speculate too much except to say that perhaps our civilization has its place in the larger system of life itself. And if so, what even higher system is life itself a holarchic component of? It gets metaphysical really fast...

Your first question was why don't I use all the energy that is available to me? I have two answers to that.

The first answer is that I, GliderGuider, do in fact use about all the energy that is available to me. "Availability" is mediated by the cultural mechanism of money, and I spend most of my income on housing that required much energy to build and takes more to maintain, on heat, light, food, operating a vehicle, and paying for various goods and services that require energy to supply. I think that most of us are in a similar situation. As a citizen of a modern, northern, industrial nation I'm in the top tier of energy use on the whole freaking planet just to survive, so I'm definitely doing my part to serve The System.

The second answer is that The System is so vast that even if some people don't "do their part" as I do, and live below their means, it doesn't much matter. Others who live above their means by accumulating debt make up for it. To The System it's only the aggregate power throughput that matters. It's similar to the situation with workers in a large corporation. Some work very hard, to the point of jeopardizing their own mental, physical and social health, and they make up for the inevitable percentage of slackers. What matters to the corporation is not individual performances so much as the aggregate throughput, as expressed in the bottom line of profits.

Given the recent 200-year performance history of The System, as measured by GWP, energy consumption, and growth in size and complexity, it's doing very well at maximizing its aggregate power throughput.

Next let's look at humanism and the role of the human mind in the creation, direction and maintenance of The System. This is probably going to be the hardest issue for me to communicate.

When I start talking about The System's "goal" being to maximize power throughput, that the operation of this principle shapes human society at all levels, and that human beings can be viewed as agents of that principle, our ego recoils automatically. The idea smacks of determinism or fate, and seems to take the notions of free will and voluntary choice out of the picture. It's a blow to our pride, and it doesn't seem to agree with the way we see things working around us. After all, it looks like things happen in human systems because people do them, right?

Let's look at things from an historical perspective first. Human beings started off with the idea that the Earth was flat, because that's what it looked like. Then we thought about things for a few thousand years. As our knowledge grew more sophisticated, we first suspected and then proved, that our eyes were deceiving us - the world was in fact round. But the sun went around the Earth, and we were still at the center of the universe. After all, just look for yourself - you can see the sun travelling around the Earth across the sky, it's pure, incontrovertible common sense. But along came Copernicus, and shoved Man off center stage. The sun, not the Earth or Man, was the center of the universe. Then we thought about things a bit more, and realized that even this perception was an illusion - our sun and its attendant solar system is an infinitesimal part of an incomprehensibly vast and complex universe.

Now stir in the recent research on unconscious decision making by Benjamin Libet and others. It shows that what we believe to be fully voluntary choices are actually made ahead of time, out of view of our conscious minds. When the decision is presented to our consciousness, one of its main roles is to rationalize it in such a way that it can claim ownership of the choice, and in some cases make it seem socially appropriate. This mechanism plays a role in most decisions that have socially loaded content - things like climate change denial, collapsitarianism, of the acceptance or rejection of nuclear power are examples everyone here is familiar with.

These two streams (one astronomical, one psychological) imply that voluntary human agency in the real world may not be as strong as we believe it is. In a sense, my idea that we are to some extent involuntary agents of a larger, quasi-intentional System of Civilization is just another signpost on the road that leads through Copernicus, Galileo and Libet. To use a thespian metaphor, it appears to lead towards a view of the universe in which each of us is not a director of the play, but one actor among many, all reading from some self-writing, self-organizing script.

This doesn't imply that the human mind is insignificant in events at our scale. After all, even actors have to interpret their parts well for the play to get good reviews. What it does mean is that the stage on which we play our parts may not be quite as expansive as it seems to us. And of course, in order to do a good job, the actor must understand what the play is about. "What's my motivation in this scene, Mr. DeMille?"

I have no idea if the whole play is going to end in a catastrophe or not. I do know that for many people this play of life is already a catastrophe, and the prognosis for humans on this planet is looking a bit grimmer every day. However, there are no guarantees of success or failure. If we choose to behave as though we are the directors, then it should come as no surprise that we can do little to shift the unfolding story-line. If we choose to change our view of what's going on, it may present us with a brand new, potentially more effective way of interpreting our parts. If it doesn't, we can always go back to doing what we've been doing - the activism, the education, the exhortations, the arguing and angst that we know so well. But if it's not working for us, why not think about changing ourselves first?

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #17)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 07:17 PM

19. I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful answer

even though I haven't had time to digest it yet.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #17)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:41 AM

21. One of the most cogent posts I've seen in a long while. Thanks. n/t

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #17)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 11:57 PM

27. All of us see the world and try to construct a mental analog,

a model if you will, that makes sense to us. There's no way we can comprehend and analyze the whole of it so we simplify by necessity.

My model looks at your model and sees something overcomplicated to the point of uselessness. Mine, for better or worse, boils down to:

1) My more or less objective perception of the current state of affairs
2) My estimation of where things are headed
3) My personal assessment, based on my ethics, self-preservation, and past experiences as to where things should be headed
4) My ideas at what might bridge the gap between #2 and #3.

That's all that matters to me. I don't necessarily believe in free will, but I believe the determinism that guides our fate is much more complicated than you make it out to be - because this "maximizing power throughput" stuff is not only has no analog in human events, but in any other animal species. It's an attempt to formalize behavior like Bertrand Russell tried with logic - tempting, but doomed to failure. People and animals have consciously changed their behaviors to ensure survival - that's part and parcel of the deterministic way they're wired. People, arguably, are even capable of changing the way they change their behaviors. How can metabehaviors be explained in terms of simplistic power-throughput equations? It's not a monkey typing Shakespeare, but a sea slug.

As an example - if your theory was correct, the CO2 output of the US would have gone up as the economic growth has returned in the last few years. But it hasn't. A cynic can look at that result and create all kinds of excuses for why it's an illusion, but can't justify them - the fact is, at least to some extent, that public perception of the problem of global warming is acting as a stimulus for behavioral and/or policy changes. Activism that includes changing ourselves. We can argue all day whether it's enough to make a difference, but even allowing that discussion is an admission that we aren't doomed to a predetermined fate. We're simply not as helpless as you think we are.

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #27)

Tue Feb 12, 2013, 08:09 AM

28. I'll make a strong claim for the simplicity of this framework.

Last edited Tue Feb 12, 2013, 09:16 AM - Edit history (3)

IMO this theory is a foundation that supports all of human history - all the major and most of the minor historical events for the last 10,000 years - with one principle (Odum's Maximum Power principle) and a single corollary (Harris' Primacy of Infrastructure). That seems more like parsimony than complexity to me.

Of course, for me the fundamental question I ask about the world is "Why?" Why is the current state of affairs what it is? Why are things heading in the direction they appear to be? Why can't we seem to do anything to change our course, to make GlobCiv 1.0 a more humane place to live? This theory answers precisely those questions.

Unfortunately, in doing so it steps radically outside the humanist worldview that has developed over the last two hundred years, that we all ascribe to. That entrenched worldview makes this theory a hard sell. It flies in the face of all the stories we've told ourselves about who we are, all the ideas we have used to give our lives meaning. As a result, it's uncomfortably dissonant with the way most people view the world - which may be the source of your comment, "We're simply not as helpless as you think we are." That's a classic humanist protest.

The framework does not imply that "the CO2 output of the US would have gone up as the economic growth has returned in the last few years". First of all, the worth of GDP as a measure of "economic growth" has been buggered beyond repair by the flim-flam artists of Wall Street. It's loose definition lets them count all kinds of leverage, debt accumulation and asset destruction as "growth". When you look deeper, at the manufacturing numbers, between 2005 and 2010 China's manufacturing output increased about 70%, while America's declined by 1.2% and the EU went down almost 9% according to World Bank figures. This completely agrees with the MPP, which implies that energy will always flow to the place in the global system that can make the most use of it. So the energy has flowed to China and its growing energy-intensive production, and away from the US and the EU, whose production is losing steam. QED.

Something I haven't addressed yet in most of my public posts on this theory is where it leaves the question of human values. I recently said that Gandhi's dictum, "Become the change you wish to see in the world" is absolutely correct - as far as it goes. I think he left out one important caveat - "Because in the end all you can change is yourself."

I was challenged on this, with the observation that Gandhi created enormous change. My response was that Gandhi indeed created enormous change, but only at the levels of values and some social institutions - the superstructure and structure of society. He had no impact on the level of India's use of resource technologies, or on their progress in using more and more energy and raw materials to become a more materially "successful" society - or on their birth rate. In other words, he had virtually no impact on the level of the infrastructure.

The same can be said about all the other great social leaders of history, from Mandela and MLK all the way back to the Christ and the Buddha. All of them created enormous change in the human world of values, and some of them caused some changes in social institutions, but they had virtually no influence on the course of development of our infrastructure.

That doesn't mean their lives were useless - far from it. People have to live in the world, and get along, and find meaning in their lives. Their great teachings have enormous value for that. But my position is that we shouldn't expect even revolutionary changes in those areas of life to affect the way we use energy or metals, or to bring down birth rates. Those things are governed by our infrastructure - the technology we use to interface with the natural world we live in - and that aspect of human development appears to be remarkably impervious to purely human dreams. We humanists may not like that, but that's what 10,000 years of history shows.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #11)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 05:13 AM

14. I think that's a bit wonky GG.

As long as energy is available and affordable to somebody, if it's not being used, the system is not maximizing power intake and will adapt to correct that situation.


There is only so much energy an individual can use. I mean... turn on all your lights, all your appliances, every single thing that requires electricity in your home. There. You've just met your maximum quanta of energy expenditure. Now you might say, "hey, I'm energy efficient and I actively act to not use energy" or something like that, but the point stands, because even if that's true, you still have an upper bound of physical energy consumption. It helps that you live in the developed world and have already accessed the highest standard available (so you can't reasonably say that you have the potential to grow your energy needs further).

Of course, this all hearkens back to the Jevons thread where everybody got it wrong, so... :twisted:

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #14)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 08:18 AM

15. The global economy is expanding. The world population is still growing.

It's not ME who uses the energy, it's we - the global we. The system is global, not local, and has a lot of sectors that are growing and need energy. Jevons has nothing to do with it.

My region puts in more wind or nuclear or hydro or whatever, and stops bringing in coal to burn. So the coal we used to use or might have used if we hadn't built the wind or nuclear or hydro or whatever is promptly sold and shipped somewhere else that doesn't have enough wind or nuclear or hydro or whatever to meet their needs.

It's about growing global economies that in aggregate always seem to need more energy, and having multiple energy currencies like fossil fuels, or technologies like wind and nuclear that can be shipped around to meet those needs.

This isn't rocket science.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #15)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 03:53 PM

18. Yeah, that's the paradox of capitalist development, though.

It's not a statement about energy use in a theoretical developed world scenario outside of capitalism. I swear I had this conversation before, but now I'm on the other side of it I suppose.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #18)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 09:34 AM

22. I respectfully disagree.

Capitalism is just the most effective economic system we have yet discovered. "Effective" in this case means effective at harnessing all the power currently available, and making new power sources available as efficiently as possible. Many other economic systems have been used over the last 10,000 years. While they were less effective than capitalism, they served the "system of civilization" quite well to harness the energy available at the time. They were successively out-competed by other systems that were more effective.

"Capitalism" doesn't give a flying fig about people's values and dreams though - especially if they lie outside its core activity of harnessing power effectively. Capitalism isn't about our values and dreams, it's about being the most effective power-use system ever developed by mankind.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #22)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 04:52 PM

24. Capitalism required inequitible development globally.

It wouldn't have worked if all the developing countries grew as quickly as the industrial world. It wouldn't even have been able to be considered capitalism, because that's not a grow or die scenario. Populations would've been kept under 3 billion or less. Capitalism required a lot of low wage bodies to build everything out, and it happily fed those bodies to be our subordinates. As we can see in the developed world birth rates are either evened out or negative. It just goes to show what a good lifestyle with access to birth control can do for people.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #24)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 05:20 PM

25. How do you get a scenario where every country grows at the same rate?

Europe had a 300-year head start, and the USA had that background as well as oil, other resources and virgin territories - occupied only by Indians .

The only reason birth rates have gone down in the industrialized world is because we developed technology to do our power processing, so we didn't need as many people.

As well, multiple energy-dependent systems don't ever grow uniformly. There is always non-uniformity in access to energy and other raw materials, and geographic differences to boot..

I'm still convinced that GlobCiv 1.0 turned out the only way it could have.

3 billion people all neck and neck at half of a European level of energy consumption (or whatever) doesn't sound like Utopia to me either.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #25)

Thu Feb 14, 2013, 05:41 PM

29. Smart primitivists realizing private property is a scam.

Realizing that the shaman was out to fuck them over.

That's how it happens.

Instead of the shaman saying "I can cure your ills" the shaman says "I think this might work to cure your ills." Now, primitivists of the time did know of natural cures in nature, that they discovered themselves, or whose information was emancipated from the shaman (aloe type plants come to mind, poisons to dip tips of darts in, and such).

So it's easy enough for the primitivist to say "Shaman, you have no authority over me." But this is a very difficult prospect because nature is pretty rough, even with community built homes, and even with a good climate. And fear, uncertainty, doubt, they make you look to someone who can fix problems in the community.

With this knowledge it only took a smart guy to wield deity-like powers and claim that he (or she in a few cases) were the law of the land with power infused in magical scepters (that did nothing, but had a good mindfuck for the populations). Of course, with power comes empire, so eventually the Romans came along and while they had a remarkable standard of living, they had ambitions to spread out too much and allowed their culture to fester (had they been against war and massive expansion and slavery I think the world would look a lot different today). The fall of the Roman empire is in many ways similar to the current fall of Civ 1.0, because it overreached without the technological knowledge to prevent its own demise. They could've continued Romes' debauchery while expanding out had they kept education up and not been reliant on the plebs to keep them going.

As information flow became more pervasive, it became more and more difficult for these deity-types to hold power, and as people began to have education, the authority figures had to change tack with how they approached the situation. Originally they had suppressed thought in every way they could. Eventually, the side that won was science and reason based, and it built up an industrial system and a high standard of living in an astonishingly short period of time (given the time frame of recorded human history, 10k+ years, where which 97% of that time we were warring with one another, raping, pillaging, and overall more violent than in any time before).

Now, where does private property come in here? Private property, the concept of non-possessive property is the way this sort of thing is enforced. A king-deity declares that he owns all of a kingdom, he has built a hierarchy of authority, and automatically built a class system whereby some live better than others on the backs of others. A king cannot possess an entire kingdom, maybe their castle, house, or whatever, but that's it. So his "ownership" of the kingdom is private property. For a king to "have" an entire kingdom requires the citizens of that kingdom to be controlled, to control the citizens of a kingdom requires a hierarchy of authority. So you have farmers, then mill workers, then clothes makers, then police or security or enforcers, and such.

Without that authority everyone would have become a farmer, a mill worker, a clothes maker.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #29)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 11:33 AM

30. Wishing up scenarios is one thing. Real life is quite another.

The power laws of self-organizing systems say that's not the way the world works. Pareto observed that power flows to the powerful few, and the tail of the power law distribution stays long and flat. Realization, awareness, values and beliefs have nothing to do with that - it's a fundamental principle of self-organization.

The whole point of belief systems, from the sanctity of private property to the Protestant work ethic and up to organized religion itself, is that they explain and support the development of society-as-system along the self-organization principles described by Odum and others. They do not control it. We can no more alter those principles by changing our belies than we would be able to jump off a tall building and fly by changing our beliefs.

In the case of social organization and the distribution of power, all that awareness and realization can give us is a clearer understanding of what's going on. Like with gravity, there are some aspects of reality that belief cannot alter, no matter how much we wish it to be so.

In the words of the Serenity Prayer,

"Grant me the courage to change to change the things I can,
The serenity to accept the things I cannot change,'
And the wisdom to know the difference."

There is a lot of reality that doesn't respond or correspond to the last couple of hundred years of egoic humanist self-congratulation. The way societies and civilizations self-organize is a prime example.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #30)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 09:03 PM

31. There are examples. See the Aka.

Of course, you rightly note that power and aggression relationships do lead to our type of system, and I am not saying that the scenario outlined is remotely feasible.

Whether the system can be changed is a foregone conclusion. Violence is going down, poverty is going down, inequality is going down, it's all "getting better." At the cost of many lives, but it's "getting better." As far as whether we can actually do anything about it to speed up the process, I don't know. I think yes, but probably not. Not before catastrophic climate change hits us.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #31)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:12 AM

32. Remnant low-energy cultures like the Aka, !Kung, Pirahã and Penan

Their continued existence says nothing about how a high-energy culture develops. I claim that the presence of high-density, high-quality energy sources and the means to exploit them them, fundamentally, involuntarily and forever changes the course of human social development.

Human society naturally evolves to make maximum use of the energy. This is why the global community can't (not won't but actually can't) ever go back to H-G social systems or values so long as high-density energy remains to be used. We can take cues from them for our personal values and the creation of small tribalesque groups within the bosom of Mother Culture, but such changes cannot and will not flow out into culture-at-large. The core natural principle governing the evolution of self-organizing systems fully guarantees it.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #32)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 03:37 PM

33. It's hard for me to see how high energy equates authoritarianism.

The current culture of authoritarianism is the problem.

The simple go to response is that algae use more energy than us and yet they are in harmony with nature.

Why can't we be?

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #33)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 07:44 PM

34. The issue is energy quality, and work

Algae use straight single-level photosynthesis - low energy density is the primary hallmark of low energy quality. This is were the issues of emergy analysis and transformity come into play. In order to increase the energy quality it needs to be transformed by successive levels of processing and concentration. A typical empower transformity flow looks like this: sunlight => algae => coal => electricity => computer-driven information.

The higher up the empower scale the system climbs, the more structure is needed to control the work process. Algae don't need much structure, while civilizations need a lot. The (energetically) cheapest, most effective way for a system to gain large amounts of structure and control is to organize as a hierarchy. Hierarchies have limited spans of control at each level, so it's easy for each level to exercise tight control over the energy transformation process of the level below. If every level in the hierarchy exercises control over the operation of the level below (that is, people at every every level buy into the same story of control) the whole enterprise runs more efficiently. And tight hierarchical control = authoritarianism.

This is why H-G societies get by with little structure. They mainly use low-quality energy sources, primarily the direct result of photosynthesis and natural animal growth. As a result they need a lot of territory for the sunlight to do its work. Then agriculture enters the picture and suddenly you need control over things - there are fences to mend, fields to tend, grain to store, animals to herd, food reserves to protect and distribute. So you get the beginnings of hierarchy - farmers, merchants, an authorized-force class to protect the surplus, and somebody to direct the whole operation - like a chieftain or king.

When coal-driven industrialization enters the picture the hierarchy gets deeper and wider: you add factory laborers, managers, factory owners, bankers, more police, merchants, people to transport raw materials, finished products and waste, and whole host of specialties. Dozens of new levels of hierarchy spring up, and the level of control becomes more draconian at each level. Each level lower in the hierarchy gets squeezed harder to maximize their work (or more technically their power production - the transformation of energy per unit of time), while the upper levels who exercise the control avail themselves of the surplus wealth.

It's actually hard for me to see how a large power-maximizing system could work any other way. We could have a system that worked differently, but it wouldn't maximize power. That goal would have to be discarded, and since it's the engine of the whole enterprise, right back to to algae and thunderstorms, it's going to be hard to do. I think it's impossible unless you're prepared to enforce a loss of coherence in the system, which for a complex system means dissolution.

The goal of this system is not to make a good life for people, but to turn as much fuel as possible into work, waste products and waste heat as fast as possible. Over the last 10,000 years the system has evolved into an extremely efficient entropy-maximizing engine, and the last two hundred years have been spectacularly successful in this regard. It sucks to be us, but it is what it is.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #34)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 11:46 AM

37. It sucks to be you?

Sorry, but you'll have to speak for yourself.

GG, when you claim that the "goal of this system...is to turn as much fuel into waste products" you've jumped the shark. Waste is (by definition) not a goal.

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #37)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 12:10 PM

38. Tell it to the laws of thermodynamics. nt

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #38)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 12:13 PM

39. Thermodynamics says nothing about goals

and when you're trying to communicate your ideas, words matter.

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #39)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 12:27 PM

40. OK, how about "ultimate end state"?

My point that Human beings are entropy engines in the service of a universal system that has the achievement of thermodynamic equilibrium as its driving force. Waste heat is the way it gets there - the ultimate end state - and maximizing waste heat is the fastest way to get there.

Humans are the most effective agents of the Maximum Entropy Principle yet developed by evolution here on Earth. We follow the dictates of the Maximum Power Principle to accomplish this. We are really, really good at it.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #40)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 12:32 PM

41. How are you defining "waste"?

Another term which is meaningless from a thermodynamic standpoint.

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #41)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 01:07 PM

42. Waste heat = an increase in system disorder = entropy

It's right there in the Second Law.

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

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #39)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 01:33 PM

44. By the way, thanks for your comment about language.

I do want to convince my audience of the correctness of the underlying principle. And since it's a radical idea (in every sense of the word) it will pay to be careful in my language. I will take your advice and watch my words. Thanks.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #44)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 01:55 PM

45. "low energy density is the primary hallmark of low energy quality"

That isn't true; a fact that all life on this planet can be thankful for.

What you are actually talking about is energy storage and transportability.

The most useful form of energy is electricity.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #45)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 02:39 PM

46. Sorry - it's actually low energy "transformity" that's the hallmark of low quality.

Last edited Mon Feb 18, 2013, 03:16 PM - Edit history (1)

In this view, sunlight is the lowest quality energy and and information is the highest. Electricity stands just below information in our current understanding of energy quality.

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

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #11)

Sat Feb 9, 2013, 09:01 AM

16. Someone, somewhere, will do it cheaper and dirtier with the same energy sources . . .

Because to do so means maximizing through-put and "efficiency" (in the economic, if not ecological sense) and because to do so means acquiring some sort of short-term (these days, a human generation or two) advantage.

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Response to wtmusic (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 05:39 PM

26. Stewart Brand...hadn't heard that name in a while.

One of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters (the first Hippies), founder and editor of The Whole Earth Catalog, led the PR campaign to get NASA to publish a picture of Earth from space. The guy has been around, glad to see he's still alive and being an activist.

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Response to wtmusic (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 10:18 AM

35. Stewart Brand is a nutjob that makes money bilking RW nutjobs

with Happy Nuclear Talk.

yup

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Response to jpak (Reply #35)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 11:35 AM

36. Thanks for kick

The anti-nuke gene is right next to the RKBA gene, and both provide a convenient bypass around the intellect.

The more people who see this "original liberal" with an intelligent view on energy, the better.

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