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Modest (insipid) Green New Deal proposals miss the point – Part 1

All over the globe now there are cries for a Green New Deal. What constitutes the GND is another matter. Like the concept of the Job Guarantee, there are now countless versions springing out of various groups, some that only seem to offer a short-term, short-week job or other arrangements that fall short of the way Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) constructs the concept. There is only one Job Guarantee in the modern parlance and that is the MMT concept. Other job creation programs are fine but they should stop using the term Job Guarantee, which is a comprehensive macroeconomic stability framework rather than a job creation program per se. In the same vein, all manner of proposals seem to have become part of the GND. The problem is that many of these proposals sell the idea short and will fail to achieve what is really required – a massive transformation of society and the role the government plays within it. The imprecision is exacerbated by progressives who are afraid to go too far outside the neoliberal mould for fear of being shut out of the debate. So we get ‘modest’ proposals, hunkered down in neoliberal framing as if to step up to the plate confidently is a step too far. This is Part 1 of a two-part blog post series on my thoughts on the failure of the environmental Left and climate action activists to frame their ambitions adequately.

Many years ago, my research centre did work on issues relating to climate change – we modelled the employment impacts of shifting out of coal fired power to renewables, we developed a Just Transition framework to provide an adjustment structure for workers displaced by government decisions to engender these shifts.

At various public forums and presentations over many years, I also have argued strongly for a ‘rules-based’ approach to addressing climate change, as opposed to a ‘market-based’ approach.

This ‘rules-based’ approach would exploit the currency-capacity of the government – this dovetailing MMT nicely with climate action solutions.

Most people ignore the fact that the ‘market’ is just a government creation anyway in a modern monetary system – it is defined by law and regulated by policy choices.

I have always considered that anything like what we think of as a Green New Deal would have to have the government at the centre and not just altering rules about markets.

I mean nationalised, centralised solutions.

Further, it is fine to grow some vegetables and have a water tank in your garden with some solar panels on the roof. But these localised solutions are not of the scale required to match the problem. They might deliver solace to the home maker but will not save the globe from environmental destruction.

In this blog post – Climate change – Australian government further entrenches the market myth (August 29, 2012) – I discuss those views in more detail.

There is also a video presented there of a panel I was on in November 2009 with the then Federal Energy Minister talking about these matters.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission produced the program and the Transcript is available – HERE.

You will see that I argue that there is a fundamental choice to be made between a market-based solution or rules-based regulation to curb emissions.

This distinction – choice – is not central in the public debate because of the dominance of the neo-liberal ideology. Even The Greens are not advancing rules-based regulation in any coherent way.

The important point is that carbon trading schemes (CTS) are neo-liberal constructs which start with the presumption that a free market is the best way to organise allocation.

They recognise market-failure – that is negative externalities arising from the fact that the true cost of carbon use is not reflected in the final price we pay in the goods and services that rely on it and hence we over allocate resources to those industries.

But these trading systems then propose to use price incentives to reduce emissions through price incentives.

These trading systems amounts to nothing more than a privatisation of the commons asset which we call the atmosphere. The carbon trading systems create private property relations over public space.

I cannot believe progressive thinkers (including The Greens) would ever contemplate supporting such an approach.

In this blog post – Australia’s response to climate change gets worse … (November 15, 2009) – I present a fairly thorough critique of the orthodox and progressive approach to these issues.

There are many reasons why progressives should oppose these approaches.

The problem is that the Greens’ parties around the world have become the political front-line in the fight against climate degradation.

If you take a moment to analyse the policy positions, say of the Australian Greens, you will get a feel for the problem.

I have discussed my views on the Australian Greens in this blog post (among others) – Neo-liberals on bikes … (July 11, 2012).

On the Australian Greens’ – Home Page – we are told that “The time to act is now”.

Why?

… right now, things are getting serious. We’re seeing the impact of climate change all around us, threatening communities now and the quality of life we’ll hand over to future generations.

Now more than ever, politics needs a shake-up. We need to send a message to the major parties and demand strong action on climate change.

Climate activists regularly invoke the urgency of the problem. Now. Now. Time is short.

We get regular photos from far-flung places like – Alert (Canada) – reporting damage to permafrost, which has captured massive amounts of carbon but is now melting.

These scary scenarios definitely suggest urgency and I sense the climate denialists, like mainstream macroeconomics, are in retreat now as the evidence mounts that something rather bad is unfolding with respect to our impact on nature.

The urgency invocation is matched with eloquent calls for radical action – and these calls are increasing conglomerating around the Green New Deal banner.

But when one actually investigates the sort of action that is proposed – it soon becomes apparent that there is a massive shortfall in rhetoric and proposed action.

Consider the sort of action the Australian Greens propose – the quotes are from their current policy platform with my short assessment following.

1. “By making corporations pay their fair share, we can fund the things that benefit everyone: action on climate change, free TAFE and uni, dental care covered by Medicare and 500,000 affordable community homes.”

Thereby perpetuating the myth that taxes fund government expenditure on progressive pursuits.

2. “We will establish a new, publicly owned competitor to the private power companies, dedicated solely to driving down your costs instead of driving up its profits … we’ll increase competition in the existing retail market and end the profit- at-all-costs business model.”

Not nationalisation but competition to drive down prices. Profits stay in the system.

3. “ending toll road rorts” to enhance public transport.

Not ending private toll roads – just the rorts.

4. “We will create publicly owned energy and banking providers and stop Labor and Liberal governments from further privatising our essential services, including the electricity grid and the NBN.”

Not reversing the privatisation – just not letting it spread further beyond its already extensive reach.

5. “A green economy is one where we tax pollution and use that revenue to support households and transform our energy sector to renewables … we will legislate to re-introduce an economy-wide carbon price on direct emissions from facilities which emit more than 25,000 tonnes of CO2-e per year”

Market-based transition.

6. Supporting “global trading and offset markets”.

How will they control the rorts in the international markets? How will they stop heavy lobbying from large polluters for under priced permits, a problem that plagues the European Union Emission Trading Scheme?

How will they ensure that offset system do not have disastrous effects in poor countries and regions?

How will they address the exploitation of local subsistence communities in poor countries that has been rife as a result of dodgy offset schemes in existing trading systems?

The Australian Greens are not an isolated case.

The US Green party tells us it is “left-wing” in orientation and want to “Enact an emergency Green New Deal to turn the tide on climate change”.

Think about that – an emergency GND.

Its – Policy Platform – rehearses all the right ‘motherhood’ statements about climate change and has some very optimistic targets relating to reducing greenhouse gases and the like.

Despite these targets having had little impact to date.

But, what economic policies will they introduce to motivate this emergency GND?

We read:

Enact a Fee & Dividend system on fossil fuels to enable the free market to include the environmental costs of their extraction and use.

Yes, truly.

And:

We will enact this same fee on imported fossil fuels a second time to give the free market an incentive to wean America off foreign oil and gas.

More market!

And:

Pay for adaptation to climate change in countries with less responsibility for climate change.

More market!

I didn’t find one mention of nationalisation but lots of mentions of “decentralized” activity, “re-localized” activity, taxes to create incentives.

I could go on.

Have a look at the European Greens, and other Green parties around the world. You will see a similar orientation.

And driving this sort of market mania are contributions from people like Amory Lovins, from the Rocky Mountain Institute. A relatively recent incursion into the debate from Lovins was published in the New York Times (April 18, 2019) – A Market-Driven Green New Deal? We’d Be Unstoppable – where the title tells you almost everything.

I was reminded by this by an excellent article by Ted Nordhaus that was published in the latest Issues in Science and TechnologyThe Empty Radicalism of the Climate Apocalypse (Volume XXXV, No. 4, Summer 2019).

I will consider Ted Nordhaus’ intervention in more detail in Part 2 of this series.

But first, back to Lovins.

I first read his work in 1976, as a student when he published his famous article in Foreign Affairs (Volume 55, No.1, October, pp65-96) – Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken? (which is behind a paywall now on the Internet – if you have library access the article is available from JSTOR at https://www.jstor.org/stable/20039628).

This is the article that set the pattern of how I consider the progressive environmental movement started to lose its way.

It was a commentary on US energy policy and was written not long after the famous Club of Rome publication in 1972 on – The Limits to Growth.

I just looked at my version and it was 211 pages long and sold for $US2.75. Clearly all those fiscal deficits since have cause prices to rise (joke – do not quote me – just laugh!).

They published computer simulations which showed that the current rate of economic growth was unsustainable in terms of the rate of resource depletion.

It really started the environmental debate around the world and attracted massive criticism from mainstream economists at the time (for example, Robert Solow) as being the work of “amateurs making absurd statements about economics”.

The point here is not the accuracy of the predictions presented (they were quite inaccurate and reflected the state of computing capacity at the time, in part) but that the scene was being set for people to challenge the material growth obsession by economists in the context of the natural environment.

What followed on almost immediately was the – 1973 oil crisis – when the OAPEC (the precursor to OPEC) imposed an oil embargo on nations supporting Isreal during the Yom Kippur War, which was an Arab attempt to regain land illegally seized by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967.

The price of oil rose by around 400 per cent in roughly six months after the embargo was imposed.

Many people started jumping on the energy bandwagon at that time and I always thought of Lovins first major article (cited above) in that context because he sought to outline and contrast “two energy paths that the United States might follow over the next 50 years”.

At the time, Lovins had the ear of governments and researchers intent on developing an alternative energy path.

There was a lot of reasonable discussion in that paper.

He claimed that the US should reject the dependency on fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and, rather, take what he called the “soft path”.

Much of his concern for the fossil fuel path was based on the financial cost of the capital investment required and he questioned President Ford’s capacity to fund the energy requirements with compromising other necessary public programs.

He wrote:

Diverting to the energy sector not only this hefty share of discretionary investment but also about two thirds of all the rest would deprive other sectors which have their own cost-escalation problems and their own vocal constituencies. A powerful political response could be expected.

By this time, the US was floating the dollar and was a currency-issuer. So Lovins was already framing the discussion about optimal energy policy in the growing neoliberal terms about government financial constraints.

Worse was to come.

He talked about the need for individuals to take local action to save energy use:

1. “we can plug leaks and use thriftier technologies”.

2. “we can make and use a smaller quantity or a different mix of the outputs themselves, thus to some degree changing (or reflecting ulterior changes in) our life-styles.”

3. “We might do this because of changes in personal values, rationing by price or otherwise, mandatory curtailments, or gentler inducements.”

4. “car-pooling, smaller cars, mass transit, bicycles, walking, opening windows, dressing to suit the weather” etc.

One gets the drift.

The “soft path” deploys what he considered to be “soft technologies” = “flexible, resilient, sustainable and benign” – which have five characteristics:

1. “rely on renewable energy … sun and wind”

2. “are diverse … energy supply is an aggregate of very many individually modest contributions …”

3. “flexible and relatively low-technology …”

4. “matched in scale and in geographic distribution to end-use needs …”

5. “matched in energy quality to end-use needs” – which relates to not using “premium fuels and electricity for many tasks for which their high energy quality is superfluous”.

The emphasis is on “small scale”, localised and individual action. His alternative “hard path” scenario involves centralised solutions to providing energy.

But what really turned me off at the time was his emphasis on market solutions.

Lovins wrote:

Though economic answers are not always right answers, properly using the markets we have may be the greatest single step we could take toward a sustainable, humane energy future. The sound economic principles we need to apply include flat (even inverted) utility rate structures rather than discounts for large users, pricing energy according to what extra supplies will cost in the long run (“long-run marginal-cost pricing”), removing subsidies, assessing the total costs of energy-using purchases over their whole operating lifetimes (“life cycle costing”), counting the costs of complete energy systems including all support and distribution systems, properly assessing and charging environmental costs, valuing assets by what it would cost to replace them, discounting appropriately, and encouraging competition through antitrust enforcement (including at least horizontal divestiture of giant energy corporations). Such practicing of the market principles we preach could go very far to help us use energy efficiently and get it from sustainable sources.

That was in 1976.

I was appalled that the progressives would gather around this approach that saw making the ‘market’ freer (in the parlance – removing subsidies etc) as being the “greatest single step” to climate action.

As a young student who was working to develop alternative skills in economics to arm myself against the mainstream market approach to everything, Lovins writing appeared to be a progressive surrender.

His most recent Op Ed in the New York Times (cited above) on the Green New Deal continues this theme.

We read about a “business-led transition” to define the Green New Deal path.

Lovins and his co-author write:

1. “the Green New Deal … will need to harness America’s immensely powerful and creative economic engine, not dismantle it.”

2. “This means unleashing the market in sectors where we already know how to profitably reduce emissions (electricity, transportation, buildings), creating markets for solutions in areas where there aren’t yet enough answers (heavy industry, agriculture) and fixing market failures (unpriced carbon, for instance, or rewarding utilities for selling more electricity rather than cutting your bill).”

3. “we should let competition and flexibility rule our electricity system”.

4. “correcting our biggest market failure by putting a price on carbon by taxing it …”

5. “Fully leveraging the power of the market through smart, trans-ideological policy would make us unstoppable.”

This reliance on the ‘market’ is fraught, especially if we are truly talking about an emergency.

The typical economist says that you can pay for pollution through growth.

Mainstream economists think that the solution is to refine the alleged trade-off between economic growth and pollution by ensuring that all costs are accounted for in the prices offered to the market.

This assumes that there is some known pollution level that is safe.

But market systems do not know when a biological system dies – so we need to be more risk averse than economists would recommend.

Conclusion

As Ted Nordhaus convincingly observes:

At a moment when advocates make a range of demands that are simultaneously vague and controversial, from ending capitalism and economic growth to rejecting materialism and consumption to reorganizing the entire global economy around intermittent sources of renewable energy, almost no one, in either electoral politics or nongovernmental organizations, seems willing to demand that governments take direct and obvious actions to slash emissions and replace fossil energy with clean …

Practically, the specific decarbonization policies advocated by environmentalists and progressives are incremental, lukewarmist, and neoliberal, boiling down to some variant of either regulating corporations to stop them from doing things that produce carbon emissions or subsidizing them to use energy and other technologies that reduce carbon emissions—mostly the very small set of technologies and practices that environmentalists approve of: wind, solar, bioenergy, electric vehicles, and organic farming.

In Part 2, I will explore these ideas and Ted Nordhaus’ intervention in more detail (Monday).

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 20 Comments
    1. In Sweden big emitters of CO2 are again invested in energy-production and are now making huge profits on carbon-trading. When the swedish energyproduction monopol was privatized (into foreign oligopolists) some 25-30 years ago electric-heavy industries were induced to sell their energy-plants (hydropower-plants mainly). Since then no one takes responsibility for the transfer-capacity of our electic-grid. This huge problem is now exacerbated due to the massive windpower-expansion which are now threathening corporate investments in regional urban areas. We are looking forward to future electric black-outs like in Germany. First neoliberal agendas selling out crown-jewelry and since 15 years more and more of extreme and onesided environmentalist-approach. Their tunnel-vision focus are really putting long term sustainability at risk making short term chocks a real possibility. Ideology is destroying logic!

    2. Soft approaches as listed here are just window dressing. The actual energy use is barely touched on by renewables. Today they represent, including hydro, about 4% of the energy output we use.
      To visualise the bigger picture there is in Wikipedia the “Cubic Mile of Oil” article.. 316 days to consume that amount of petroleum. Plus 0.81 CMO for coal,0.61 for natural gas etc all closing in on 3CMO. Since we are still in growing economies it will only take c.20 years to double [at 3.5%p/a]
      So see What extra equipment we will need? 5200 coal fired plants; 200 hydro dams each the size of the Three Gorges Dam, , or 2600 nuclear power plants; 1,640,000 wind turbines; 91,250,000 solar panels. All that just to stay the same as today. It ain’t gonna happen1

    3. One of my problems with the (UK in my case) Green Party is its anti-nuclear power stance. I can understand why people are wary about nuclear power (I was myself for many decades), and extreme cases like Three-Mile-Island, Fukushima, and Chernobyl are always trotted out (a bit like Weimar, Zimbabwe and Venezuela being trotted out in the mainstream macroeconomics world). (And the recent, and apparently highly-successful drama-documentary based on events at Chernobyl will not have exactly helped nuclear’s public image).
       
      But after a lot of careful reading, listening and watching, I’ve changed my mind, and am now a firm advocate of the right kind of nuclear power, both to replace our ageing collection of PWR/LWR’s, and to provide more future capacity, especially to replace our existing fossil-fuel power generation (and also our fossil-fuel heating). By the right-kind of nuclear power, I mean such things as Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs), as pioneered by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, or Integrated Fast Reactors (IFRs), as pioneered by Argonne National Laboratory. Both systems have their advantages (and challenges), but they share a common feature which is being inherently safer than today’s “conventional” PWRs, which have to be pressurised to thousands of PSI, whereas MSRs and IFRs run at atmospheric pressure, and because of their basic design, are not prone to meltdowns.
       
      Another advantage that they both share is that they can use the existing stock of spent fuel from today’s reactors, and “burn” it as fuel, reducing it to waste which is much less difficult to deal with. And if run in “breeder” mode (which the IFR was specifically designed for), they produce more fissile material than they consume, and so could eliminate the need for further uranium mining.
       
      The book “Prescription For The Planet – The Painless Remedy for our Environmental Crises” by Tom Blees, discusses how IFRs could be used, and much else besides, including an idea (also from Argonne) for a vehicle engine which burns boron, producing boron oxide (and no CO2), which is captured and re-processed for reuse.
      It’s fascinating, and I highly recommend it. The entire book is available freely as a PDF here:

      http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/pdfs/P4TP4U.pdf

      Some well-known environmentalists, such as James Lovelock, Mark Lynas and George Monbiot have come out in favour of nuclear power. James Hansen, one of the leading climate scientists has argued that only nuclear power can replace our dependence on fossil fuels and make a sufficient difference to our CO2 emissions in a suitable time period.

      Renewables have their place, certainly, but cannot compete in terms of energy density with either fossil fuels or nuclear, and since fossil fuels are eventually going to be eliminated, then nuclear seems to be the only option, at least to provide the bulk of the electric power generation, and certainly the essential (reliable) “baseload”.

      Friends of the Earth did briefly reconsider their position on nuclear energy, but in the end decided that their original position was the right one. They are well-meaning people, I am sure, but in this case are being unrealistic. For example, they highlight the problem of existing nuclear waste, but their statement on their webpage that “Renewables are the answer to our nuclear energy problem” does not address the problem of existing nuclear waste at all. Both MSRs and IFRs, as mentioned, could directly address this problem. There would still be waste, but it would only need to be stored for a few hundred years, rather than thousands.

      I should add that as the nuclear industry has to be, and is, tightly regulated, it lends itself to Bill’s concept of a “nationalised, centralised solution[s]”. Admittedly, the 2010-2015 Tory-NeoLiberal-Democrat Coalition foolishly ruled that any future nuclear new build would have to be led by the private sector. However, that is a “voluntary constraint” which could be reversed by some future, more enlightened government.

    4. The climate issue really highlights the damage neoliberalism causes to humanity.

      Not only that neoliberalism is causing untold damage to regular people by austerity, it marches the human race into oblivion.

      Deeply embedded in neoliberalism is the idea that we are NOT supposed to aim for policy outcomes that we desire and that we must depend on the market to do so because if we aim for the outcomes we desire, bad outcome will certainly happen because intervening in the market is UNNATURAL.

      Its a powerful and thorough brainwashing that is perpetuated by our most educated and well-versed individuals in our universities.

      People who are much smarter than me in my field often hold quite amateurish view of the economy and politics. I have had a lot people whom I respect say non-sense to me that Trump is a Kremlin puppet or that the free-market will solve everything.

      We often look onto these people and believe that they got the situation under control. After all, they know economics and I don’t.

    5. In 1969 NASA put men on the moon in one of the most costly government programmes ever and it was splendidly succesful. Not even a decade later government spending is considered totally powerless, damaging even to private enterprise. We have had nearly no progress on environmental issues since. ITER has a 15bn budget, which is nothing, and takes 10 years to build, which is longer than the whole development from Kennedy’s speech to Apollo 11. It’s as if we’ve become collectively impotent.

    6. forgive me , if im asking the bleeding obvious,

      but has anyone from the mmt school actually outlined a detailed policy and organisational framework for the jobs gaurantee.

      how would the bureaucracy actually impliment it, and what organisational structures would need to be set up .

      is there any mmt scholarship out there that actually outlines the nitty gritty

    7. Maihash, perhaps you could start with ideas about how such a bureaucracy could be started. I mean that most sincerely. It is from little acorns that big oak trees grow.

    8. Watched a video yesterday of a panel discussion of the climate change/mass extinction crisis. Participating were several prominent voices of the left, along with Stephanie Kelton. When Stephanie finally had the chance to explain how we would “pay for” the drastic environmental actions necessary to address the crisis, attempting to introduce MMT into the discussion, you could tell from the facial expressions of the other participants and their lack of follow up questions that they just didn’t get it AT ALL. How old these once cutting-edge leftist voices looked. How dated and drearily predictable their thinking. How smugly closed off they were to learning anything new, even if it involved THE KEY to actually doing what they wanted done.

    9. @ mahaish,

      I’m positive that here in the past blog posts Bill has done exactly that.
      However, I’m not good at finding stuff in an archive. I hope Bill comes here and points you and us to those posts of his from many years ago.

      @ Mike Ellwood,
      A very interesting reply. A thumb up or 5.
      If Jim Hansen is for it then I’m for it.
      I’m also for enhancing global dimming *now* ASAP by having every airliner spew SO2 into the air as high as they fly. I decided that yes, we don’t know who will be damaged more from this than if we do nothing. However, we do know that all others will be helped more. The every fact that we don’t know who will be harmed makes it less evil. And we should *now* ASAP be spraying sea water into the air above the Arctic Ocean to make clouds to cool the water there. MMT says we can borrow to pay for these things. And they don’t cost much compared to taking CO2 out of the air by the giga ton.

    10. @ Newton Finn,
      Yes, I’m sure they don’t get it.
      This surprises me a lot. When faced with a bill you have to pay to avoid being killed by a loan shark in 5 minutes *and* having a money man right there willing to make a loan to you for that, who in their right mind would ask themselves or anyone, “How will I pay that back?”

      Add in the fact that there is an economist there with a Phd. and a Professorship at Stony Brook who is telling you, “Don’y worry, you will never have to pay that loan back, ever,” then it makes even less sense.

      The closed mind is a terrible thing to see. Or whatever makes the point better than “see”.

    11. Mahaish,

      I posted a link but it’s caught up in moderation.

      Meanwhile, google this. It’s Bill’s CoFFee (University of Newcastle) and Jobs Australia’s comprehensive report on the Job Guarantee initiative, everything you want to know:

      “Creating effective local labour markets: a new framework for regional employment policy.”

    12. ‘This’ is ‘the point’?
      ‘Nor is there a green new deal route out of this problem.  As a recent letter to the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, authored by Natural History Museum Head of Earth Sciences Prof Richard Herrington et al., warns:
      “To replace all UK-based vehicles today with electric vehicles (not including the LGV and HGV fleets), assuming they use the most resource-frugal next-generation NMC 811 batteries, would take 207,900 tonnes cobalt, 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate (LCE), at least 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium, in addition to 2,362,500 tonnes copper. This represents, just under two times the total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters the world’s lithium production and at least half of the world’s copper production during 2018. Even ensuring the annual supply of electric vehicles only, from 2035 as pledged, will require the UK to annually import the equivalent of the entire annual cobalt needs of European industry…
      “There are serious implications for the electrical power generation in the UK needed to recharge these vehicles. Using figures published for current EVs (Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe), driving 252.5 billion miles uses at least 63 TWh of power. This will demand a 20% increase in UK generated electricity.
      “Challenges of using ‘green energy’ to power electric cars: If wind farms are chosen to generate the power for the projected two billion cars at UK average usage, this requires the equivalent of a further years’ worth of total global copper supply and 10 years’ worth of global neodymium and dysprosium production to build the windfarms.
      “Solar power is also problematic – it is also resource hungry; all the photovoltaic systems currently on the market are reliant on one or more raw materials classed as “critical” or “near critical” by the EU and/ or US Department of Energy (high purity silicon, indium, tellurium, gallium) because of their natural scarcity or their recovery as minor-by-products of other commodities. With a capacity factor of only ~10%, the UK would require ~72GW of photovoltaic input to fuel the EV fleet; over five times the current installed capacity. If CdTe-type photovoltaic power is used, that would consume over thirty years of current annual tellurium supply.
      “Both these wind turbine and solar generation options for the added electrical power generation capacity have substantial demands for steel, aluminium, cement and glass.”
      Put simply, there is not enough Planet Earth left for us to grow our way to sustainability.’
      From The consciousnessofsheep.

    13. Bill said:

      “[..] the point here is not the accuracy of the predictions presented (they were quite inaccurate and reflected the state of computing capacity at the time, in part) [..] ”

      I would not be so sure about that.
      Dr Graham Turner from the University of Melbourne did a follow up and he found:

      “This research paper has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on.”

      see:
      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows-were-nearing-collapse

    14. @ Postkey,
      That has been my gut feeling for many months now.
      That there isn’t enough tons of the rare earth elements in the earth’s crust to provide batteries for every car and truck we already have. I.e., replacing them one for one.
      Let alone adding more.

    15. “As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

      A quote from Dr James Hansen one of the world’s leading atmospheric scientists and climate change activists.

      These means a price must be placed on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions and this represents a reliance on ‘market forces’ to be the main economy wide driver of the essential transition to environmental sustainability. This is in addition to other forms of government initiated action such as through planning, direct investment, regulation, streamlining of regulatory approvals, research and development, public education, other taxes, providing low interest loan finance, trade protection to assist with the establishment of local industry sources of materials, components and systems, subsidies and other incentives.

      James Hansen, Bill McKibbon and their associated organisations 350.org and the Citizen’s Climate Lobby call for a steadily rising carbon fee and full dividend to citizens.

      “a price to be placed on each tonne of carbon from major emitters (he’s suggested a “fee” – because “taxes scare people off” – of $15 a tonne that would rise $10 a year and bring in $600bn in the US alone).”

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/12/james-hansen-climate-change-paris-talks-fraud

      https://citizensclimatelobby.org/energy-innovation-and-carbon-dividend-act/

      The advantages of the market mechanism of a carbon fee and dividend are it cost effectively prices in the environmental cost of CO2 emissions and thereby disincentivises CO2 emissions and conversely improves the economic advantage of sustainable alternatives across the entire economy, not just in the narrow but vitally important area of electricity generation. This fee and dividend model is revenue neutral so encounters less political resistance from conservatives, free marketeers as well as the vast proportion of the population that currently struggle with existing living costs. Once citizens continue to receive the carbon dividend, popularity for it will likely further increase thus entrenching this policy until the near complete phasing out of fossil fuel usage.

      The problem is that mainstream mass media ownership has never been more concentrated in the hands of the existing elites and the big business oligarchy that in the main do not want to move away from the wonderful cash cow the fossil fuel industry has been, and that also now have effective control of the democratic political process with an increasingly confused, distracted or disinterested electorate. The job of transitioning to environmental sustainability must be substantially completed globally within the next 12 years. This means ambitious Green New Deal transitions must begin on a substantial scale within the next few years in the main emitting nations.

      “The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.”

      https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/

      The Australian Greens do support a carbon fee but do not propose a full refund or dividend which is more politically difficult to enact but does provide more fiscal space for direct action IF this policy were to be implemented. I share Bill’s concerns about global trading and offset markets for CO2 emissions. Policies in any case evolve with political and other circumstances and the Green parties throughout the world remain far closer to the needed position than any of the political parties of the right, the centre or the left.

    16. To denigrate any political party for saying that taxes allow more spending by the national government is a bit unfair when taxes do indeed add to the fiscal capacity for national government spending even for currency sovereigns if those nations are operating at the full employment condition which is indeed where they should be operating. Many in the Australian Greens do support a MMT compliant Job Guarantee program but most members are not aware of MMT and the associated JG and instead like the idea of a Universal Basic Income. This is an education issue and the Australian Greens unlike most other parties allow and encourage members to become involved in policy development and I have also been involved in policy development in many areas but have been limited by available time.

      On the projections for rare earths and other raw materials needed for a global transition to environmental sustainability, the estimates given by Postkey are way overstated. There are many existing equivalent technologies in electric motor/generator designs for example that use far less rare earths with only negligible efficiency penalties. There are so many technological paths that can be taken and human ingenuity is a huge and limitless resource. In any case recycling of the many materials utilised by a sustainable global economy must be an essential regulatory requirement. Our wasteful consumer society must also be greatly moderated which is also a policy of all international Green parties.

      In answer to both John Doyle who estimates the task is just too big and Mike Ellwood who concludes that wind and solar are not able to provide the energy needed to maintain an equivalent material living standard to our current one – in Australia’s case a fully sustainable and affordable energy plan was first published in 2010 by the Melbourne University centred ‘Beyond Zero Emissions’ organisation. This plan could have been substantially complete by now but the Australian electorate is still being fooled into voting for climate change denialists ultra conservative federal governments and for far right parties that also serve the existing destructive oligarchies.

      “Released in 2010, our plan detailed the technologies and costs to upgrade our electricity grid to clean renewable energy. It showed that within 10 years solar and wind (including concentrated solar thermal power and storage) could meet over 90% of energy needs, and the extra cost to households would be only $8 per week. Since 2010 the cost of renewables has plummeted, technology has advanced, and renewables are being installed at record rates.”

      https://bze.org.au/research/renewable-energy-plan/

      Pumped hydro has also been demonstrated as being able to provide sufficient cost effective base load power on demand in combination with a fully renewable electricity generation sector that promises to be cheaper in total to build and especially to run than new build coal fired power stations, and far cheaper than existing nuclear power technologies in Australia’s circumstances. The major powers will no doubt invest in nuclear power but Australia and much of the rest of the world will not need to head down this more dangerous and expensive path.

      http://theconversation.com/want-energy-storage-here-are-22-000-sites-for-pumped-hydro-across-australia-84275

      https://www.snowyhydro.com.au/our-scheme/snowy20/

    17. “As with all techno-utopians, Butler is guilty of misapplying Moore’s Law to an area that is far more obviously susceptible to the second law of thermodynamics. Condensing a silicon chip to fit into a smartphone is one thing, inventing a technology that can concentrate extremely diffuse solar energy to the density achieved by millions of years of subterranean compression and heating of solar energy locked up in prehistoric plants is a different matter entirely.”
      From: The consciousnessofsheep.

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