Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Corporate Treason, a Modest Proposal

       Corporate Treason, a Modest Proposal
          plus comments

The climate’s changing, almost certainly due to CO2 emissions. 97% of the world’s climate scientists agree that we’ll have to leave most of the carbon fuels in the ground to avoid dangerous global warming; but of course the fossil fuel corporations don’t want to do that, and they are rich and powerful and (like all corporations) sociopathic.
But it occurs to me that if those corporations are sociopathic enough to betray all of civilization for short-term gain, then they are also sociopathic enough to betray each other for long-term gain. I therefore offer this Modest Proposal: that some one of those corporations do the following:

1. Sell all of their still-productive wells and mines to their competitors;
2. Invest heavily in renewable energy;
3. Switch sides in the climate-change debate. Specifically, bribe the legislatures to mandate leaving most of the coal, gas and oil in the ground.

In short, sell off their wasting assets to their rivals, then pay the State to forbid them from using those assets! What a sweet scam!

1. I think ‘renewable energy’ should really be called ‘owned power’. If you own a geothermal well, or a solar farm, or a wind farm, then you have a license to print money; whereas any power source requiring fuel is at the mercy of outsiders. Really, fueled power should be called ‘rented’ power. Owned power is a source of endless power in both the physical and political senses.
2. Wind and solar are on the rise, but they’re intermittent, and so require either grid coordination (and hence are not really owned power) or storage batteries (an underdeveloped tech, needing R&D and investment). However, for the purpose of corporate treason, I think deep geothermal is poetically appropriate, for it uses the same deep-drilling tech they now are developing to chase after vanishing oil.
3. I see that the Rockefeller foundation is divesting from fossil fuels, and switching sides on the AGW debate. That is, they are following my corporate-treason advice! No-one should ever accuse the Rockefellers of lack of adaptability.

Monday, September 29, 2014

On Climate-Proofing Civilization

          On Climate-Proofing Civilization

The climate’s changing rapidly lately, almost certainly due to CO2 emissions, but nothing will be done because the fossil fuels corporations are rich and powerful and (like all corporations) sociopathic. The process will probably go to completion, come hell or high water. (Likely both!)
So the way forward is adaptation. How to climate-proof civilization? We’ll have to rebuild it anyhow, once the seas rise and flood out the coastal cities. So billions will pack and move uphill, but to what?
I propose that we move as much as possible indoors, where we have climate control. In economic terms, this is ‘import substitution’ for the city. Import substitution is pricy but a long-term winning strategy.
Thus vertical farming, hydroponics and aquaponics. This saves on pesticides, herbicides, transportation, and it’s water-efficient too.
Water will be a problem. Too much here, too little there. But there’s desalinization, and there’s pulling water from the air. Neither has been done much; rivers and rain are cheaper; but if those become unreliable or unpredictable, then we’ll just have to pay up. Forced technical evolution.
As long as I’m fantasizing about closed systems, let me put in a good word for the plasma torch. Feed your city’s waste stream into it and zap everything down to atoms. So long dioxin and viruses. Out of it comes ‘fuel gas’ = CO + H2, a feedstock for fuel, fertilizer and plastic. Put the fertilizer into the hydroponics, and that’s a closed loop.
The plasma torch also emits ‘slag’, which is a mix of all the other elements. Nowadays they put this into a clay-lined landfill, but I say we send the plasma through a mass-spectrometer, and get out pure elements, ready for industrial use. How’s that for recycling?
While we’re at it let’s separate out the radioisotopes, for radiological cleanliness and industrial use. For instance, put a pinch of C14 into a glass sphere doped with phosphors, and you’ve got a light that’ll shine for millennia.
All of this is energy-intensive, and we’re running out of fossil fuels, which is forcing climate change. Solar and wind are fine, and getting cheaper, but I cannot imagine technologies more vulnerable to climate change. Also they’re intermittent, and they have a big footprint. The intermittency can be cured by efficient energy storage, but this tech needs invention and investment. The land footprint might create land-use conflicts. Turf wars; how retro.
Old-style nukes have repeatedly disgraced themselves; but I hear good things about LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactor). But even nukes are fuel-based, which is not what I have in mind. So I was wondering about deep geothermal. Small footprint, continuous, zero-emission if done right. Can this be done affordably at gigawatt scale? Note that the drilling technology it needs is now being pioneered by the chase after ever-deeper oil.
Put it all together: deep geothermal power, plasma torch recycling, vertical hydroponic farms, water pulled from the air. Put it all under an air-conditioned geodesic dome and voila; a city you can plant anywhere. Climate change? Droughts, hurricanes, high seas, desertification, lethal hot-and-humid heat-shock weather? Who cares? It’s the Anthropocene, baby, get with the program.
Do note that most of these technologies will also be useful in space. Or put it this way; future Earth might become an alien planet. You can’t go home again.
Perhaps you, dear readers, know cheaper ways to climate-proof civilization. And probably I’m missing some necessary techs. And no doubt there will be political effects from all this technological centralization. If it’s heat-shock weather outside the dome, then you don’t want to be kicked out of town.
Not everyone can afford to build a climate-proof city. So how to live low-tech in the Anthropocene?
Comments and suggestions?

Friday, September 19, 2014

On the Stipend, 2: discussion

          On the Stipend, 2: discussion

“Paid for how much?  Enough for the jobless to live on, with a little bit more for small luxuries.”
 Let’s just admit defeat, and recognize that the jobs are never coming back.

“A stipend stabilizes society by giving everyone a stake in the system.”
 Everyone except for the taxpayers.

“... this amounts to plutocracy insurance; buying off the poor to quash rebellion.”
 A stipend like that will not calm down the masses.  Here’s why.
“Some radicals say, ‘We do not propose to abolish wealth.  We say, abolish poverty.’  The fact is you cannot abolish poverty without abolishing wealth.  For wealth is relative.  One can be sensible of it only in contrast with poverty.  What is poverty?  What is wealth?  There is no absolute measure.  Only contrast.  In that hut over there the people seem wretchedly poor.  That is because habitations have improved.  Not long ago, historically speaking, the royal family would have lived in a hut like that.  The king himself.  The poor now have more than the rich had a few generations ago, more of everything to eat and wear and enjoy.  They are none the less torn by envy because others have more.” -- from “Harangue” by Garet Garrett

That’s not defeat. That’s victory over the curse of Adam.
Of course we are approaching an economics of superfluity; it has been visible for a century.

PMA; seconded about defeating the curse of Adam.
Robots are how industrial man proposes to achieve hunter-gatherer man’s liberty along with farmer man’s security.
But also agreed that envy and ambition will remain, despite everyone having full bellies. The natural strife of society will not decrease with the abolition of absolute poverty. Man is born to trouble, sure as sparks flying upwards. Relative rich and relative poor will remain; in fact I am counting on them remaining, for then competition and innovation will also remain.
If you get a pet rock, then that does decrease the value of my pet rock; but your not going hungry does not decrease the value of my not going hungry. So not all wealth is relative.
BJ; what you denounce is state-based welfare; you don’t have to pay for it, but there’s only one choice. What I propose is a market-based stipend; each gets a sum to spend as they wish. If we are to do a Keynesian counter-cyclic stimulus at all, then the poorest are the best dispensers of the stimulus money; they’ll spend it all, as efficiently as possible, on what they need most. Thus the economy gets going, in a direction closest approximating filling real needs, for the poorest are the ones most uncomfortably aware of real needs.
Funding the stipend? Nontrivial! Doing it right? (i.e. enough to live on, phases out slowly enough for work to pay) Also nontrivial! But I submit that in a sense all of civilization is an immense stipend. Civilization dispenses certain benefits to all, rich or poor, worthy or unworthy, free of charge or scrutiny. That’s the point of civilization.
Oh and one more thing; a point of nomenclature. In the first stipend essay, I described the stipend-receivers (i.e. the poorest) as being “paid to consume”, and thus as “job creators”. This is factually accurate; consumers _are_ the job creators, by definition; they are the ones whom the jobs are done for. Now, there also exists another economic class, also called “job creators”; but this is an Orwellian reversal, for the CEOs thus described make their fortune by _destroying_ jobs, by automation, outsourcing and other tactics. Their drive for efficiency increases output, so they do have a role; but that role should not be mis-stated. They are job destroyers; that is their job; one which lately they have done very, very well.

The problem is that the stipends AREN’T free, whether they are “invade Iraq” “goodies” or “Publik Skoolz” ”goodies” and as you’ve probably figured from my sarcasm, there’s a serious argument as to whether they’re valued anywhere close to the cost.  They may even be valued NEGATIVELY.  So if a person’s money is stolen for a Public Schooling for their kid, and  they DON’T value the public schooling anywhere NEAR what it cost them in taxes, or even at all, or they would even pay to avoid it, even if their kid DIDN’T go to school at all, then the money they’re spending on private schools may be like the money we have to spend on guns when Bill Clinton gives us “night basketball” or some other nonsense.  That sort of “free market Keynesianism” you’re discussing sounds more like Disaster Capitalism to me.

Hmmmm.  I’ve been a Welfare worker and I’ve been a Welfare client (“I’ve looked at Welfare from both sides now...”), and I can tell you from my own observation that people on a stipend do not cease being productive if they have any health at all.  I’ve seen old Black grannies save up their Welfare money to buy yarn and needles, knit everything from blankets to dresses, and sell the same for a profit at a yard-sale.  I’ve seen Welfare unemployeds fighting for places in line to sign up for factory jobs.  I’ve seen others take up underground and illegal jobs -- numbers-running, drug-selling, whoring -- to make extra bucks.  I’ve seen ADC mothers buy seed and plant backyard gardens to improve their children’s diets, and then swap the excess with neighbors.  In my own case, Rasty and I are living on Social Security, and doing our damndest to plant a fruit-orchard.  What all these examples have shown me is that being on a guaranteed stipend does not necessarily create dependency, and certainly doesn’t stop people from being productive.
As an Anarchist, I’d have to say that, when dismantling a government, we should leave the stipend for the poor to the very last.  Given a free and intelligent society, there would be few enough really poor people that the “stipend” could be maintained by private (which includes group, don’t forget) charity.