STUCK ON THE HAMSTER WHEEL

10 02 2008

Some people just don’t get it, and even those who try can’t find their way out…

In China, the cold snap means more CO2 will be pumped into the air, warming things further and opening up more of the Arctic Ocean to pump moisture into the atmosphere….

 At one of Datong Coal Group’s other main mines, the regular quota is 150,000 tons of coal a month, according to one worker. But officials are now asking workers to quadruple that figure to 600,000 tons for February.

“We’ll do it,” said Wang Kuikui, 53, who has worked in the mine for 27 years. “We’ll get 600,000 tons.”

Mr. Wang usually gets three days off for the Lunar New Year, but his leave is now canceled. He earns about $200 a month and lives near the mine in a mud-and-brick, two-room home with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandson. And Mr. Wang is considered fortunate because he has a job at a larger, safer state-owned operation. His son cannot get a job at the same mine and makes money doing odd jobs.

Meanwhile, some people in Kansas haven’t figured out that they’re not in Kansas any more:

Wayne Penrod, Sunflower’s environmental policy manager, told the Senate committee that expanding the state’s use of coal in generating electricity was good for the rural economy.

“Our rural economies need low-cost energy supplies to remain competitive,” Penrod said.

Coal is the best alternative, he said, because it will take too long to build nuclear infrastructure and natural gas is too expensive.

Penrod said Sunflower would earn $25 million annually to manage the new electric generating station for out-of-state companies, including Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association of Denver.

And even those who understand that we have to change the details of our daily lives find it’s hard to get out of the habits you grew up with:

Ann Hancock, the executive director of the Climate Protection Campaign, a nonprofit based in Sonoma County, a wine-growing area north of San Francisco, said that the county and its nine municipalities signed climate-protection agreements with enthusiasm more than five years ago, committing to bringing down greenhouse-gas emissions. Then they tried to figure out how.

“It’s really hard,” Ms. Hancock said. “It’s like the dark night of the soul.” All the big items in the inventory of emissions — from tailpipes, from the energy needed to supply drinking water and treat waste water, from heating and cooling buildings — are the product of residents’ and businesses’ individual decisions about how and where to live and drive and shop.

“They’ve seen the Al Gore movie, but they still have their lifestyle to contend with,” she said.

“We need to get people out of their cars, and we can’t under the present circumstances,” because of the limited alternative in public transportation, Ms. Hancock said. And the county’s many older homes are not very good at keeping in the cool air in the summer or the warm air in winter. “How do you go back and retrofit all of those?” she asked.

Boy, oh boy…shouldn’ta used up all the personal credit on the new clothes and the flatscreen and the ORV and the RV and the SUV, shouldn’ta burnt up all the national credit trying to seize and secure Iraq’s oil fields.  The doublecross confluence of collapsing personal credit and a bankrupt Federal government leave us unable to take the steps we need to take to adapt to the changing situation, and the government unable to do the right thing and help the less fortunate–who are turning into a voting majority of Americans.  If only we had someone to vote for….

But, in South Carolina, of all places, the legislature got it:

House: Nuclear energy not “renewable”

By SAMMY FRETWELL
sfretwell@thestate.com

The S.C. House defeated a plan today to define nuclear power as a “renewable” form of energy after conservationists complained that it could set back efforts to develop solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.

A compromise presented by Rep. Ben Hagood, R-Charleston, avoided a potentially lengthy floor debate between proponents of nuclear energy and those who oppose it.

Many lawmakers favor nuclear power as a way to limit pollution that adds to global warming. But by a 114-0 vote, the House agreed it wasn’t worth including nuclear in the definition of renewable energy.

If the South Carolina legislature can agree unanimously on something like that, maybe there’s hope for the world, eh?

And in the Washington Post, of all places, some guy named Hank Steuver gazes into a crystal ball:

At first, people will go where they always went in times of disaster or need. Not to the Red Cross shelter, but to Wal-Mart.

For a year or so, people won’t like to describe themselves as homeless. But after a while it will be impossible not to notice, in the box store parking lots, a phenomenon that will look like a 24/7 tailgate party that keeps growing: Coleman grills, ice chests, portable DVD players, hamburger buns and Special K breakfast bars. The American campout. In the Great Depression, Roosevelt saw a third of a nation ill-housed. Here you are, in an alternate reality, in the Second Great Depression, ill-housed yourself.

After a while, the 18-wheelers won’t arrive on time, or at all. Supply will be seriously out of whack with demand. Prices make no sense at all. You’ll feel swept up in something out of control, and the only consolation will be that it’s happening to everybody you know.

I hope he’s being pessimistic… 





AFTER THE MONEY’S GONE

30 01 2008

Two good stories about why the economy is just going to get screwier…

The black box economy

 …there’s a collective confidence that the market is strong enough to correct itself, and that experts in charge of the financial system will understand how to mount a vigorous defense.

Should we be so confident this time? A handful of financial theorists and thinkers are now saying we shouldn’t. The drumbeat of bad news over the past year, they say, is only a symptom of something new and unsettling – a deeper change in the financial system that may leave regulators, and even Congress, powerless when they try to wield their usual tools.

That something is the immense shadow economy of novel and poorly understood financial instruments created by hedge funds and investment banks over the past decade – a web of extraordinarily complex securities and wagers that has made the world’s financial system so opaque and entangled that even many experts confess that they no longer understand how it works.

US slides into dangerous 1930s ‘liquidity trap’

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Davos

Last Updated: 12:29am GMT 25/01/2008


The United States is sliding towards a dangerous 1930s-style “liquidity trap” that cannot easily be stopped by drastic cuts in interest rates, Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz has warned.

*** 

Professor Stiglitz, former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said it takes far too long for monetary policy to work its magic. This will not gain much traction in the midst of a housing crash.

“People have been drawing home equity out of the houses at a rate of $700bn or $800bn a year. It’s been a huge boost to consumption, but that game is now up. House prices are going to continue falling, and lower rates won’t stop that this point,” he said.

“As a Keynesian, I’d say the biggest back for the buck in terms of immediate stimulus would be unemployment assistance and tax rebates for the poor. That will feed through quickly, but set against the magnitude of the problem, even a fiscal stimulus package of $150bn is not going to be enough,” he said.

As Ted Koppel asked on NPR today, “Where is this $150B coming from? Are we going to borrow it from the Chinese or just print it up?”

 

 





Richard Heinberg on the ongoing train wreck

26 01 2008

Heinberg writes:

It’s becoming increasingly clear that 2008 will be a catastrophic year for the US economy, and therefore probably for that of the world as a whole. The reasons boil down to two: continuing and snowballing fallout from the subprime mortgage fiasco (exacerbated by an orgy of debt-leveraging), and record-high, continuously advancing oil prices.

as i comment in the post below, some developers in Maine obviously don’t get it, and 14,000 acres of Maine woods may have to pay the price








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