In the original myth of Prometheus, the hero ascends mount Olympus, where he fools the gods and steals fire from them [The myth then morphed into him going to the underworld.] Returning to the surface world, this fire is given to humanity and used to build civilization. But Zeus becomes angry with Prometheus and condemns him to be tortured for eternity.
Recent information made available thru the Freedom of Information Act indicates some important details of the myth have been left out. It turns out the gods knew Prometheus was coming and was planning to rob them. So the gods hid all of the good fires and left only the worst one behind for Prometheus to steal [Prometheus wrongly assumed there was only one kind of fire]. Thus Prometheus returned to earth with the wrong fire and with the wrong intent and correspondingly built the wrong society.
There is now a place for a new kind of Prometheus. One who works with the gods instead of stealing from them and uses the best fires, which the gods hid from Prometheus in the places we have only now started to look for them – in the wind, in the sea and in the sun.
It is time we started working with nature – instead of stealing from it, harnessing the power of renewable resources in wind, solar and sea-based technology. And with these we can build a new civilization.
Mostly real progress is slow. It took decades to end slavery (which gave way to wage slavery in many places). It took longer to get even some of the most basic rights for women in this country. It took a decade of protest to end the Vietnam War. Decades for gay marriage. I am doubtful multi-partner marriages will be legalized in my lifetime.
Early in my clean energy campaigning career (the 1990s), a renewables expert explained that they preferred we not call it “alternative energy” because this was not our long term objective. And for decades we have heard “wind is not ready from prime time” or “solar is too expensive for utility scale application”. But when someone says that to you these days, you should respond with the same incredulity you would if someone suggested we strip women of the right to vote. “Hey, have you been living under a rock?”
The triple meltdown at Fukushima hit the accelerator for clean energy solutions in a number of countries. Perhaps most dramatically in Germany, where parts of this shift have been underway for decades. If you stay closely on top of the German energy transition (called Energiewende) you will have no doubt heard that in the early stage after closing reactors after the Fukushima disaster the country was actually opening more coal fired power stations.
But as the bar chart above shows, the “Fukushima means more coal in Germany” story is old news. These distortions were caused in part by their being a number of incomplete high tech coal plants in the pipeline when Fukushima hit and distortions in the European carbon tariffs which (hopefully temporarily) were favoring coal. As the longer term graph above shows, unlike many countries, Germany is serious about reducing it’s carbon footprint. Central to it’s success is that more than half of the renewable investment in Germany in recent years has been from individuals (including farmers) rather than large utilities or governments.
Japan is arriving later to the party, but is still showing up in significant ways. Most recently there has been an explosion in the number of companies registering to sell electricity. These include Honda Motors, Panisonic, Softbank and some giant Japanese homebuilding companies. This is critical, because unlike Germany, Japan has 10 nuclear power utilities which have had a monopoly on electricity sales. The government for it’s part has (like Germany did) created above market pricing for power which is generated from renewables. Even before the opening of the market, Japan has seen a surge in home/business electric generation for personal/industrial use. The Japanese court just handed anti-nuclear activists a rare victory in stopping the restart of 2 reactors.
Japan, unlike the US, does not have a single authority to restart it’s currently closed 48 reactors. Even the newly restructured safety authority is telling the Abe administration that they need to check with local governments before restarting reactors, even if the safety authority says it is okay. Recently elected anti-nuclear provincial governor Taizo Mikazuki of Shiga prefecture on July 13th, indicates that the Abe governments plans to restart reactors are far from secure. The longer Japan continues to function will all of it’s reactors off and without blackouts, the less plausible the utilities arguments are that they are completely necessary to run the country.
Germany has the solar profile of Alaska. Japan has very few conventional energy resources. Both countries are using tax structures, market mechanisms, feed in tariffs and public education campaigns to change the ways they produce energy. Germany is ahead of schedule to close all it’s reactors by 2022. Japan currently has all its reactors closed. These were the number 3 and number 4 nuclear countries in the world (after the US and France).
It is far form a done deal, but the above graph shows an important trend. It is worth pointing out that at a 25% capacity factor, the installed wind power worldwide represents the equivalent of 35 full size reactors – which is still a long way for replacing the almost 400 operating reactors worldwide, but if you compare it to 6 reactor equivalents in place in 2009, you can see that this real progress in energy is moving right along.
Everyday i check my Google news filters to see what is happening in the field of nuclear reactors worldwide. What strikes me doing this is the nuclear PR machine has figured out how to wire the mainstream media (MSM) echo chamber for the result it prefers. Some silly press release about Westinghouse winning a uranium fuel contract will be reported far and wide. Yet somehow most of the US MSM missed that Switzerland is phasing out of nuclear and that 95% of Italians voted against nuclear power in a binding referendum.
If you go a step further in and read the comments on these nuclear news stories, you will often hear nuclear power should be expanding worldwide (especially Thorium reactors) and that two exemplary national models they US should follow are France and China.
France: Nuclear boosters love to point at France. With 75% of it’s electricity from 58 reactors and very low retail electricity prices, it totally makes sense. Starting with the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, the French made it national policy to dramatically increase their energy independence by building out a major nuclear fleet. And build they did.
While nuclear proponents continue to celebrate this choice, they are living in the past. Recently Reuters is reporting that nuclear power in that country has been capped at 63.2 GW by the government. Practically, this means new built reactors can only come online after old ones are replaced. Specifically, the sole domestic French reactor under construction is at Flamanville. Like all other EPR reactors in the west, it is years behind in completion and more than 100% over budget. This reactor can only come online when another reactor (in this case Fessenheim) is shut down.
France has no serious plans for the construction of new reactors. EdF is refocusing on maintaining the existing fleet. Areva is busy trying to sell reactors overseas (though it has abandoned the US). In fact, the current French plan is to drop nuclear as a fraction of the total energy supply to 50% by 2025. Instead of new reactors, France is investing in, wait for it … expanded renewables.
China: Nuclear boosters love China. China has 20 reactors running and is currently building 28 more. It has by far the most ambitions nuclear construction program in the world, with over 1/3 of all actively being build reactors globally. But before you cry out “let China lead the way,” let’s look briefly at two things: Reactor Safety and Chinese Renewables.
Reactor Safety: The most important conclusion from the special parliamentary panel of the Japanese government on the Fukushima meltdowns was that it was a human-made disaster. Specifically, the regulator of the reactors was far more concerned with the nuclear construction industry and its profits, than they were with public safety. Insufficiently high sea walls, inadequate evacuation plans, and insufficient liability insurance are just some of the results from this failed regulatory situation. These paved the way for the disaster.
China is worse, far worse. There is basically no independent safety inspection or regulation in China. At one of the only press conferences ever given by China’s nuclear regulator, which happened some months after Fukushima, they admitted that they had found 14 problems at the reactors in the county. No word about where they are, how severe the problems were, if there will be any disciplinarian action against staff or management for these failures. Since this March 2012 report, i have only seen one other report on the Chinese regulator. In this the French nuclear construction companies are complaining that the Chinese regulators are overwhelmed and don’t show up at all like they do in the West.
In the old Soviet reactor construction projects they used to tell the safety people they cant slow the project. When regulators instructed reactor operators to close plants, often communist party bureaucrats would overrule these instructions. This safety culture failure helped lead to Chernobyl and a myriad of other less reported nuclear disasters which have contaminated huge swaths of land. China has far less regulatory oversight than the old Soviet Union. The industry must basically regulate itself. Libertarians will be thrilled, the rest of us are legitimately concerned.
Chinese Renewables: While having slowed in recent months, the Chinese economy is still by most measures booming. And while they have the worlds most ambitious nuclear program, it is dwarfed by both each of two renewables program. The Chinese wind program (which is already the largest in the world) and their solar PV program (which is on target to be the largest in the world this year) are both already larger than their nuclear program and are growing faster. Bloomberg is reporting that 72% of new energy investment between now and 2030 in China will be real renewables. US safe energy and climate disruption activists would be thrilled with this level of commitment.
So when someone tells you we should follow the French and Chinese examples, you can respond by saying “by that, you mean prioritizing renewables over nuclear” and see if they agree.
[Update: Please read the comments at the end of this post for the proper history of what has happened at East Wind Community in Missouri regarding Personal Shelters. They are the ones who have pioneered it, and the story i have in this post is slightly wrong. I will fix it in the coming days. Paxus]
Egalitarianism is tricky. It starts out tricky because we don’t even have a common definition of it in the income sharing communities where I spend most of my time. The relevant parts of the principals from the Federation of Egalitarian Communities which describe it are:
- Hold land, labor, income and other resources in common.
- Assumes responsibility for the needs of its members, receiving the products of their labor and distributing these and all other goods equally, or according to need.
- Uses decision making which gives members an equal opportunity to participate, either through consensus, direct vote, or right of appeal or overrule.
- Works to establish the equality of all people and does not permit discrimination on the basis of race, class, creed, ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
[There are other FEC principals, like non-violence and sustainability, but these are not the core of egalitarianism.]
So what is missing from this important list? For starters the idea that all work is evaluated as equally worthy. An hour of my time spent writing a blog about communities is worth the same as an hour spent making a hammock or cooking a meal for many members.
One aspect of egalitarianism (that is touched upon in the second point above, but some FEC communities take much further than others) is that we are trying to avoid envy. We do this in part by avoiding the uneven distribution of our collective resources, except in agreed cases of need (for example golf carts for people with mobility problems at Twin Oaks is a needs based intentional unequal distribution).
Which brings me to the controversial idea of personal shelters. The FEC communities provide housing for our members. In several cases these communities are located on pieces of land large enough for members to build their own housing separate from typical dorm-based housing. We call these usually small buildings “personal shelters”.
Quite some years ago East Wind community (on over 1,000 acres in the Ozarks) decided to permit their members to build personal shelters. This resulted in some handy/artistic folks building some really beautiful places. The problem is that these structures created envy. The bigger problem was when the original builder/owners left, they created a fairness problem. Members who had not been involved in the work of creating these shelters could potentially end up in housing that felt much nicer than what most people living in the community had access to.
The problem this created ultimately lead to East Wind banning the creation of more new personal shelters. Twin Oaks has never permitted them, largely because of East Winds’ experience. Acorn wrestles with permitting them and so far has not allowed them. Some Acorners who were really excited about the idea left to form new communities where such things are possible.
The arguments against personal shelters which GPaul outlined to me, late one night while we were driving back from a Point A gathering in NYC are:
- Energy Use/Carbon Footprint
- Psychic Space
One of the things income sharing communities do especially well is minimize their ecological impact. The dormitory style buildings we have share kitchens, bathrooms, living space and meals. This low impact living is very hard to achieve without a lot of people under the same roof. Personal shelters are usually just one or two persons under a roof.
The fairness issue is covered.
The issue I had never heard before was one of psychic space. In a regular community residence dorm, you know you can stand in the hall in front of someone’s room and not worry that you are infringing on their space. The same is not true of personal shelters. The space they take up is much larger than the physical footprint of their construction. Peoples don’t know how to behave around them and this can cause discomfort and confusion.
Do you think the benefits outweigh the costs?
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
I believe in Aliens.
There I said it.
As you may know, I am pretty open about a wide-variety of things, including, but certainly not limited to my polyglamorous relationships, my obsession with twerking, and my desire for some radical heteronormativity in my life. (while of course still maintaining my polyglamorus status.)
I must come out of the space ship, although I hold some reservations about coming out of the space ship. I feel like I will be judged negatively and that the anti-nuclear activists and the communities movement will shun me, that I will have gone too “woo woo” or maybe people will think I’ve simply gone of my rocker. Perhaps if this was just a small part of me people would understand.
But, its not.
I think spreading the truth about Space Aliens and their involvement on earth is some of the most important activism we can do. I want to be the Chelsea Manning of Extra Terrestrials. The information NEEDS to be out there and people NEED to know that aliens are among us.
You may be thinking “wow paxus has finally snapped.” As if I haven’t already, excuse me.
The rest of you are thinking ” gee, I wonder why he thinks this.”
And a small number of you, the true truthers, are thinking “yes I believe too, please go on.”
I will gladly tell you the story of how I first became aware that Aliens are real AND living on planet Earth. I am especially excited because this is not one of the stories that I tell on loop at every event ever.
When I was in the Czech, protesting nukes, I met a women named Eleanora. Eleanora was, well, odd to say the least. Her diet is one example, she specifically like invertebrates. She always said in her weird, practically indistinguishable accent “It es so much easeiar to eat dah invertabras, you do not eben ned to peek meat off das bones! You jest squeese it out.” Of course I found it to be ridiculously adorable and we spent many nights together, discussing the protein humans are missing and how nukes may destroy the planet, you know, typical radical type stuff. Another odd thing, she introduced me to twerking, before twerking was a thing, she shared a great love for it.
One night we had plans to spend time together in one of the downtown areas of the czech, she called me and told me that she could not come out that night, she didn’t feel very well. She sounded like she had been crying and I asked her if maybe I could just come over instead. After some conversation she agreed.
When I got there she complained about feeling “allown on dis planet.” and feeling like “All the odders like me have jest given oop and become followers.” At first I thought this was just your typical activist breakdown. You know “The worlds gone mad! Nobody cares!”
But, I became fascinated about how often she used the terms “on dis planet!” and finally it escalated into her practically yelling “And dere destroying the galoxy for the rest of us!”
All the emotion faded from her face, realizing she had said a bit too much. I could see it in her face and me desiring transparency asked her to please explain herself. She took a deep breath and told me that she was a Extra Terrestrial from a somewhat nearby Solar System and that she was hear to try and stop humans from poisoning the universe. She said that her species is somewhat related to hers, but that they had blue hair and some other traits.
Suddenly it all made sense, why Eleanora was constantly buying brown hair dye, while being upset about using such nasty chemicals, and why we never played with her genitals. I didn’t complain because I rather enjoyed all the fellatio I was receiving.
This led to years and years of Eleanora introducing me to her underground ET politcal groups and explaining to me the various species of aliens, some being related to humans, some being shape shifters. Cats are aliens that take advantage of humans parental instincts.
Remember when I hitchhiked on boats?
Well the whole reason was so that I could get far enough out to sea so that I could get picked up by a spacecraft to and go visit Eleanoras family on the celebration of some religion from their planet.
I have more information, but I have been to space and back multiple times since then.
This information needs to be out.
I know this is a lot to spring on all of you, but I swear it is all true. Its as true as my love for twerking.
Transparency is my favorite thing and this is no different.
The essence of this article is that progress is happening so fast in solar power that it is hard for even people tracking it closely to keep up.
Originally posted on GreenWorld:
When I began working at NIRS in 1985 solar power was just a dream. Oh sure, President Carter had put a few solar panels up at the White House (which President Reagan promptly took down, just to make sure everyone knew there would be no future in solar), and a few, mostly off-the-grid types had installed solar PV at their homes, which was expensive and sort of worked–especially if the homes weren’t too electricity-dependent. But solar power was a future energy source. It was way too expensive and not efficient enough for prime-time.
The same was true for wind power, for that matter. And even natural gas was just a blip on the nation’s electricity generation radar. Coal was dominant, providing well over 50% of the nation’s electricity. Nuclear was edging close to 20%, a figure it eventually reached but never topped (and now is back down to about 19%…
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