I hate to do this, but…

July 6, 2009

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…I couldn’t stop myself.  I don’t like to make fun of well-meaning people, but sometimes…

This letter was in the New York Times today, or rather, in the Soviet equivalent in…1929?

To the Editor:

Citizen Osterbrook knocks down the straw man of zero-emissions coal-fired power plants to prop up arguments for a path towards bourgeois endorsement of old, dirty, dangerous technology.

He is mistaken when he says that new energy needs cannot be met with clean energy sources alone. We must stand with our forward-thinking leader and comrade on this, and meet our new energy needs by commanding the technologies of the future.

Instead of perpetuating coal, let us instead become again that country that, when put to the test, built socialism in one country!

Wind and solar power can meet our new energy needs through technology available today. All we need is the political will to harness it. Naysayers like Mr. Osterbrook will leave us in the dustbin of history!

Isaac Bloom
Minneapolis, June 29, ?

Read the original, here.

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The facts come back to bite RFK…

June 16, 2009

Gypsy_fortune_teller_copy

About a year ago, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made some statements in an article in Vanity Fair magazine about energy, the economy, and the future of the world.  So many people make predictions, so few are checked.  In the excerpt below, he didn’t fortell – he just assumed the future would resemble the present and the past.  Such statements accumulate in the great dead-letter file of improbable prognostications in the sky .  I have highlighted a few statements that struck me as sadly, or amusingly, out-of-date given the news as it stands in June 2009.

Today, we don’t need to abolish carbon as an energy source in order to see its inefficiencies starkly, or to understand that this addiction is the principal drag on American capitalism. The evidence is before our eyes. The practice of borrowing a billion dollars each day to buy foreign oil has caused the American dollar to implode. More than a trillion dollars in annual subsidies to coal and oil producers have beggared a nation that four decades ago owned half the globe’s wealth. Carbon dependence has eroded our economic power, destroyed our moral authority, diminished our international influence and prestige, endangered our national security, and damaged our health and landscapes.  [I guess he saw the crash coming.  Forget about derivatives, it’s carbon’s fault.]   It is subverting everything we value.

We know that nations that “decarbonize” their economies reap immediate rewards. Sweden announced in 2006 the phaseout of all fossil fuels (and nuclear energy) by 2020. [Let’s take some bets on whether or not they will come close to this goal!]   In 1991 the Swedes enacted a carbon tax—now up to $150 a ton—and as a result thousands of entrepreneurs rushed to develop new ways of generating energy from wind, the sun, and the tides, and from woodchips, agricultural waste, and garbage. Growth rates climbed to upwards of three times those of the U.S.   Iceland was 80 percent dependent on imported coal and oil in the 1970s and was among the poorest economies in Europe.

Today, Iceland is 100 percent energy-independent, with 90 percent of the nation’s homes heated by geothermal and its remaining electrical needs met by hydro. The International Monetary Fund now ranks Iceland the fourth most affluent nation on earth. [Iceland is now bankrupt.  Affluent, perhaps, but not exactly a growth model to imitate closely.] The country, which previously had to beg for corporate investment, now has companies lined up to relocate there to take advantage of its low-cost clean energy.

It should come as no surprise that California, America’s most energy-efficient state, also possesses its strongest economy.  [I believe RFK is related somehow to the Governator, who could give him an earful.]


More Green

April 17, 2008

Spring is sprung, and I found myself with a big fat DWR (Design within Reach) catalog on my table that asks the question (square of grass front and center on the cover) “What is green?” Looking through the catalogue, I had the feeling that I was participating in an irony so blatant that I wondered if I was missing a secret joke. From the look of the pages, green is MONEY!

DWR has nice stuff, some fascinating, some beautiful, some just a bit weird. Aside from the odd accessory and some very well designed and affordable chairs, the furnishings it showcases are on the expensive side. Some are extremely expensive, and virtually none of it is for the great mass of the consuming public. Ikea, maybe. Walmart, never! So, green in DWR becomes another in the long series of political/cultural ideologies as fashion statement. In this case, the statement of a certain hip, well heeled, highly educated, and eco-sensitive slice of the consuming public.

I don’t mean to knock DWR – they have nice stuff, as I said. It’s not their fault we live in the silly world we do. Hippydom became a fad too. I recall reading an account of the Arts and Craft movement in America that pointed out that in American houses, the ceiling beams were often simply hollow simulacrae rather than hefty oaken supports – image over substance. So it goes…

Green has been on my mind: Soylent Green, and green architecture reviewed in this nice book from Taschen. It starts with a lengthy philosophical survey/rant on the history of architecture from the eco perspective. It’s hard to tell sometimes whether he is advocating or critiquing the more extreme and outlandish views of the apocalyptic fringe of environmentalism, but the book itself is handsomely done – as always with Taschen – and has some fascinating buildings in it.