Tag: energy

Feb 08

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Activism – A Participant’s POV by NancyWH

January 21, 2015  SOTS Address

It was suggested I diary about how NYS was able to ban fracking, as our fellow humans in Pennsylvania are dying to know how we pulled it off.  The problem is, I don’t know I was a participant, not an organizer.  

So I decided to write this from a participant’s POV, as getting people to participate is what adds up to victory.

Personally,  I would love to repay the people from towns like Dimock, PA, who showed up to our Albany rallies with bottles of contaminated water, and their personal stories of what fracking has done to their homes, families, and communities. IMHO, getting there boils down to three main points.  Please proceed below, and I will explain.

Sep 29

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Yet another windy response to “What is Capitalism” by Annieli

I’ve been writing diaries here as a matter of praxis, that is, bringing theory and practice together as dialectically critical action, this is yet another attempt to make the somewhat odious task of understanding the core of marxist thought and applying it to coherent contemporary circumstance. This example shows the fundamental problem in taking an oppositional stance to capitalism as anti-capitalist thinking, how to discuss the alternatives as types of post-capitalism, and what comes afterward in terms of development. One first must understand the materialist approach to history and see capitalism’s place. Human development as cultural/social development laid upon nature’s development is always sets of uneven development even in terms of the prehistoric, knowing that many different versions of humanoids did at some moments live in parallel, some evolving to survive and others not, in a godless ecological struggle. Similarly uneven development exists for each of the historical stages of human social/economic development often described as Modes of production and the Five stages of history. Where it can get complicated is specifying the forces of production.

History can be described as divided into these stages

2.1 Primitive Communism

2.2 Slave Society

2.3 Feudalism

2.4 Capitalism

2.5 Socialism

2.6 Communism

We can still see echoes of more primitive relations even today in the informal economies of barter as forms of primitive communism and the indentured labor of some immigrant labor whether in this country or others. Enslavement exists in many forms in these uneven developments whether as actual human ownership in sex traffic or wage slavery as in globalized mass-market, corporately-owned consumer industries. Socialism or collective ownership of the means and forces of production has been achieved at various historical moments with varied success and failure and always exists as a non-totality in that other historical stages have and continue to exist in an uneven relationship and in various evolutionary forms.

This diary’s example will be of necessity a schematic version applied to the current situation of wind energy production in the United States signifying those uneven stages of historical development

The economy in which these modal stages are situated have three moments: production circulation consumption, which as a circuit reproduces itself. that is. each consuming moment induces a new, subsequent producing moment, much like the dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis producing a new thesis.

Writers who identify with historical materialism usually postulate that society has moved through a number of types or modes of production. That is, the character of the production relations is determined by the character of the productive forces; these could be the simple tools and instruments of early human existence, or the more developed machinery and technology of present age. The main modes of production Marx identified generally include primitive communism or tribal society (a prehistoric stage), ancient society, feudalism, and capitalism. In each of these social stages, people interact with nature and produce their living in different ways. Any surplus from that production is allotted in different ways. Ancient society was based on a ruling class of slave owners and a class of slaves; feudalism was based on landowners and serfs; and capitalism based on the capitalist class and the working class. The capitalist class privately owns the means of production, distribution and exchange (e.g., factories, mines, shops and banks) while the working class live by exchanging their socialized labour with the capitalist class for wages.

In order to apply this to wind power, the task is to project those stages as simply as possible. Wind is basic yet necessarily tied to other natural factors of production in terms of marine or terrestrial environment. It appears greater in various locations yet even those quantities are not consistent even seasonally and as a natural resource are difficult to capitalize upon. More problematic is its availability as seemingly costless, yet also impossible to accumulate in any surplus in its natural form, hence its designation as a common-pool resource. If you put up a windmill you are being a primitive communist until the height or appearance interferes with your neighbors. As you derive power whether as grinding mill, water pump, or electrical generator, you accumulate various types of materially transformed surplus. Its subsequent transformation into “wind capital” comes in the means by which power is produced and its relation to the entire productive circuit. In the mercantile or feudal case of grinding grain or pumping water it comes from being one part of producing other goods, whereas as under capitalism it can be not only an industrialized farm but as in the case of mineral exploitation, speculative contracts auctioned off among capitalists over a very long cycle of manufacturing, siting, and operating. These are of necessity coexisting uneven developments whether you have a single subsistence farm windmill in the Southern Hemisphere or a massive industrial wind farm fueling a national energy grid in the Northern Hemisphere. As has been mentioned here and elsewhere in DK, alternative capital accumulating organizations with a public/social purpose, whether organized cooperatively or collectively continue to emerge with varying success to resist the hegemony of capitalist energy corporations. Just as the development of the Cape Wind turbine farm off the shore of Massachusetts is less about the capital and labor needed for construction or the deconstruction of class narratives about environmental hazard or aesthetic blight, than the fictive capital embodied in auctioned speculative leases and their relation to the corporate energy oligopoly of the New England electricity grid. Unevenness occurs in the scale of such endeavors since the NIMBY-ness of small scale backyard wind turbines ranges from the quaint reproduction of historical windmills to the pathological fear of eyesores, noise, and dead birds.

May 26

Abundant Energy Beats Energy Starvation All Hollow

Jack Oswald once told the Digest it’s a mistake to be thinking about simply shifting from an energy-starved world based on fossil fuel reserves, to an energy-starved world based on clean energy.

“What we need is energy abundance,” he said. “If you have enough energy, you don’t have to think twice about pumping the water of some some gigantic Lake Tahoe two thousand feet further up the mountain, and using that proven system for energy storage…”

The only thing worse than pumped storage is all the other schemes for energy storage to correct the gaping flaws in intermittent energy.

Jack Oswald plans to improve on Mother Earth’s evolved means of dealing with the abuse of Mother’s powerful captor, the old divil Sun who will one day devour her.

The limitation that Electrofuels seek to overcome is the problem of photosynthetic inefficiency. Few plants utilize more than 4 percent of available solar radiation, and the theoretical limit has been placed at around 10 percent, no matter what efficiencies are developed through microbial engineering. By contrast, solar PV systems have captured up to 25 percent, and one day will do more.

Yet, liquid fuels have a place – both for reasons of energy storage and energy density. Electric cars have proven a tough sell, and one reason is range anxiety and the huge cost of battery-based energy storage.

Intelligence and ingenuity, forethought and foresight like that of Jack Oswald takes time to overcome the cupidity and stupidity of the wind and solar crowd that are taking a detour from reason and thus aiding the fossil fuel purveyors and deniers.

For Oswald’s ideas on improving on Mother’s evolution see:

http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/…

We inhabit a water world of vast energy sources and choose to seek out scarce, expensive and troublesome sources while poisoning the water so it is undrinkable.

We can do better and must if we are to survive.

Best,  Terry

Apr 19

Next Big Oil Spill Disaster Set for the Arctic

Shell Oil is on its way right now to a location less than 15 miles from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. “Shell has proposed drilling up to four shallow water exploration wells in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea this summer, beginning on July 1,” Subsea World News reported last month.

The potential harm from a BP-scale spill is almost beyond comprehension,” David Yarnold, president of the National Audubon Society wrote at the Huffington Post.

If there is a spot on Earth as sacred or as critical to the future of our wild birds as the Gulf of Mexico, it is probably the unspoiled Arctic. Here, hundreds of bird species arrive every spring from all four North American flyways — the superhighways in the sky that birds use to travel up and down the Americas. Here, they mate, lay eggs and raise their young. Here also, many of America’s remaining polar bears make their winter dens along the coasts.

Siri wrote earlier today on Daily Kos on how the BP-spill in 2010 has caused unprecedented mutations and deformities in ocean life in Gulf of Mexico. Today, I’ll look at how our government and Big Oil are setting the stage in the Arctic for the sequel to Deepwater Horizon disaster. The script is already written and the leading actors are already on their way to the set.  

Mar 12

Pique the Geek 20120311: More on Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is back in the news since the Ohio Department of Natural Resources indicated that it was likely that disposal of those fluids after the actual fracturing operation was likely the cause of seismic activity in the Youngstown area, the largest of which was a magnitude 4.0 on 20111231.  It turns out that it us usually not the fracturing activity itself that caused the seismic, but rather deep well injection for disposal of the spent fluids after use.

This not the only potential problem with this procedure, however.  I have written about the process before, but am returning to give a more in depth treatment of it.  I was first drawn to the subject when earthquakes occurred in Guy, Arkansas last year.  The Guy area is not known for seismic activity, but sure enough after deep well injection of the spent fluids began so did the earthquakes.

Before we look at the potential problems with this process, we should look into why it is done and some historical background.  It turns out that the process is over a century old.

Feb 25

The Price at the Pump: It’s All About Speculators and Profits

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The price of gas at the pump has risen sharply since the beginning of the year and is expected to continue to rise through the summer. The demand for oil and refined products has fallen over the last year, there is a surplus of oil on the market and the United States is exporting more gasoline than it’s importing. In the absence of supply and demands, the main factor is speculation on the world market that has been driven by the latest threat of military action in the Middle East and other smaller factors like the growth of emerging countries such as China and India.

Since oil prices are the biggest component in the price of gasoline, pump prices are soaring. AAA said Tuesday that the nationwide average price for a gallon of gasoline stood at $3.57, compared with $3.38 a month ago and $3.17 a year ago. It takes about $6 more to fill up the tank than it did this time last year – and last year’s gasoline-price surge helped take the steam out of the economic recovery.

Defining what percentage of today’s high oil and gasoline prices is due to excessive speculation, driven by Iran fears, is something of a guessing game.

“I put the Iran security premium at about $8 to $10 (a barrel) at this point, which still puts crude at about $90 or $95,” said John Kilduff, a veteran energy analyst at AgainCapital in New York.

The fear premium is the froth above what prices would be absent fears of a supply disruption – somewhere in the $80 to $85 range for a barrel of crude oil. It means that even with the extra cost put on oil from Iran fears, prices are at least another $10 higher than what demand fundamentals would dictate.

Why? Financial speculators.

What should the price of oil be if left to conventional supply and demand market fundamentals? Canada’s the largest supplier of imported oil to the United States, which now actually produces more than half of the oil it consumes. Production and delivery costs for a barrel of oil from Canada are about $75 a barrel. The market-fundamentals cost for a barrel of oil is in that ballpark; above that, speculation sets the prices.

“It’s as simple as that,” said Gheit, who has testified before Congress and called for regulatory limits on speculation in commodities markets.

Historically, financial speculators accounted for about 30 percent of oil trading in commodity markets, while producers and end users made up about 70 percent. Today it’s almost the reverse.

President Obama barely mentioned this in his energy speech this week and his energy policy offered no solutions to controlling the speculators.

One of the possible solutions that has been mentioned is to reduce the amount of refined product that the US is exporting. There are arguments that both support and discredit this as a solution:

Most of the ongoing increases in gas prices can be traced to geopolitical concerns and rampant financial speculation that have run up the cost of crude oil. And yet, if U.S. refiners limited themselves to domestic sales, there would be a glut on the market, and diesel and gasoline prices would inevitably drop.

“The other countries are willing to pay more than we would,” said James Hamilton, an economics professor and blogger at the University of California, San Diego. “And that’s the price we pay, too, what they’re willing to pay.”

Hamilton said that’s how things work in a global market. “If you are a refiner and you’ve got gasoline to sell, you want to sell it where you can get the highest price,” he said. “If Mexico is willing to pay a higher price to Americans, you’re going to want to sell it to them instead of Americans.” [..]

“I do not support an outright ban of exports,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program for the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen. “And I don’t want to see the government regulating retail prices. But I don’t think that it is in our best interests to be exporting at the rate at which we are.”

Slocum suggests that exports of petroleum products “should go through a regulatory barrier to assure that they aren’t resulting in higher prices for Americans, or otherwise hurting the economy.”

That’s what happens now with U.S.-produced crude oil. Oil companies aren’t allowed to export crude without permission from the Department of Commerce, which, by law, checks to make sure “that the proposed export is consistent with the national interest”. [..]

Any attempt to limit exports would, of course, be met by ferocious resistance from the refiners. Their profit margins would drop, and refiners would inevitably warn that with less money to reinvest, there could be shortages in the future.

But the many refineries owned by large, vertically integrated oil companies that own the oil production facilities as well are hardly hurting for money. In fact, when oil prices go up, as they are now, their profits go up as well; it doesn’t cost them any more to get the oil out of the ground — somewhere around $30 a barrel — but they get to charge as much as the market will bear.

No politician, not even the President, wants to stop the flow and profits to these “oil-garchs” and the flow of cash to their campaign coffers. That said, another solution that can be done is to temper the war mongering in the Middle East. Instead of threats of military intervention with Iran which even our military and national security advisers agree would be disastrous, a more reasoned diplomatic approach could go a long way to curbing the speculators. When President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu at the White house next month, he needs to stress the need to temper the saber rattling.

Sep 11

On Not Doing 9/11, Or, Right Now, I’ve Got A Desk To Clear

I’m going to be really honest with you: after all the fights at the mall to get just the right present for everybody and the giant hassle of going to the Post Office so I can get the perfect stamps for my cards – and then worrying that I left someone off the list – I am just not in the mood to do a 9/11 story.

And it’s been getting worse every year. I mean, just like the “It’s Christmas Every Day Store”, I know there’s one of the “9/11 Every Day” stores open, in the all-too-human form of Rudy Giuliani, and I’ve learned to live with that, but it seems like they got started with the 9/11 earlier than ever this year – and by the time the TV memorials and analysis and retrospectives are all over, to paraphrase Lewis Black…I’m going to hate freedom.

In an effort to stave off this fate, we’ll be headed in a different direction today: I have three stories to pass along; each is important enough that you really should know about them, and yet they’re each very much bite-sized and easily digestible.

It’s all good stuff…so let’s get right to it.

Aug 15

Sunday Train: The Texas Wishbone Regional High Speed Rail

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Back in the 90’s, Texas tried to get an Express HSR system off the ground (that is, a bullet train system somewhere in the 125mph to 220mph range) with the “Texas Triangle” project. It was to be an entirely privately funded project. Not surprisingly, competing against the heavily  publicly subsidized interstate highway and air travel systems, it did not get off the ground.

More recently, the Texas T-Bone was proposed, based on the Dallas to San Antonio leg of the Triangle and a route from Houston to Temple, then running north to Dallas with connections south to Austin and San Antonio.

While the Texas T-Bone seems to be the current plan of the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation, this is more of an advocacy group than an official HSR Commission or Rail Development Commission.

Given that we are in between periods of substantial federal funding for High Speed Rail, I thought this might be a good time to take a look at the prospects for Regional HSR, in some of the existing rail corridors within the “Texas Triangle” region … and so arrived at the Texas Wishbone.

Aug 08

Sunday Train: Pushing for a Rapid Rail HSR Station in Ravenna, Ohio

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

OK, now, thanks to John Kasich, we are not going to get started on that Rapid Rail HSR network before 2015. Indeed, Democrats would probably have to take back one of the two Chambers of the State Legislature to be able to hit the ground running on getting that Rapid Rail HSR network going in 2015.

On the other hand, if you never lay the foundation, you always end up with an outcome you don’t like.

And I don’t like the way that the Ohio Hub connects to Summit and Portage Counties, so I want to work on how to get a station in Ravenna added to the Ohio Hub.

The reason its on the Sunday Train is threefold: maybe somebody can give me a great tip; maybe somebody can get an idea for something they can work on where they live; and its about making more sustainable transport options available to a medium city and a variety of inner and outer suburban landscapes.

Jul 18

Sunday Train: Republican Great Train Robberies

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Freedom

Two stories over the last week underlined the determination of the radical right wing that dominates the Republican Party to sabotage America’s future and betray our national security and the interests of our children and grandchildren:

Jul 11

Sunday Train: Chairman Mica to Cities ~ Screw You

Burning the Midnight Oil for Progressive Populism

Chairman Mica says:

this proposal maximizes the value of our available infrastructure funding through better leveraging, streamlining the project approval process, attracting private sector investment, and cutting the federal bureaucracy, … Most importantly, this six-year proposal provides the stability states need to plan major transportation improvements and create long-term jobs.

Decoding that, Chairman Mica is saying: “Screw You, Cities”.

And of course, a bit of “screw you countryside” too, since those votes can be taken for granted.

Jun 26

Sunday Train: Making a ‘national HSR plan’ into a National Network

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Way back before the Super Bowl, the White House had a series of exciting announcements, covered at The Transport Politic under the heading The White House Stakes Its Political Capital on a Massive Intercity Rail Plan.

That article is accompanied by the map reproduced here ~ and I stress that the map if Yonah Freemark’s work, not a map presented by the White House ~ of what a HSR system that rises to the “80% of Americans” target would look like.

And one reaction to that map is the same as the reaction to the designated DoT HSR corridors: how is that a national network? Its just bits and pieces.

How to fix this image problem, while also providing a substantial upgrade to the program, below the fold.

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