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The Dimming Bulb 2: Peak Electricity

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapgc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 18, 2015

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapComposite Night Image of the Earth taken by the NASA Suomi NPP Satellite in April-October 2012

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LAST CHANCE TO TAKE THE ENERGY SURVEY BEFORE THE COUNT!

A few days ago, doing my usual Web Surfing for Collapse articles to link to on the Diner and our new r/globalcollapse Reddit sub, I ran into an article on the Greanville Post titled WHAT IS EUROPE. CONTINENT OR PENINSULA?

europe-map-of-europe-nightlights-satellite-woodleywonderworksThe article featured as its Header Pic a NASA image of Europe taken at night from Space.  The image is actually just a crop of the much larger composite night time map of the world assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite from April through October 2012, which I reduced in size and heads this article.   The full size pic in all its glory can be accessed by hitting the link under the header photo to the NASA website.

What that article was meant to show was how Europe really isn't a "Continent", although it is defined as such in most of your Geography Textbooks, but really just a Peninsula of the much larger Eurasian land mass.  However, that is not what really struck me when I looked at the Header Pic, what struck me was the vast difference between the Brightness of the Eurozone versus the Darkness of the African continent below, at least the portion of it visible in that cropping.  Africa is the "Dark Continent" in more ways than one here.

During the middle of the 19th century, Africa was referred to as the "Dark Continent," because little was known about the mysterious land itself. The term "Dark Continent" was most likely used for the first time by United States explorer and journalist Henry Stanley.

Obviously, with that thin band of lights on the Northern end of Africa, it's pretty obvious they're burning a whole lot less energy there than is going on nightly on the European Peninsula.  Although most often conversation amongst Energy Kollapsniks TM revolves around the availability of Liquid Fossil Fuels for powering the transportation systems we use, in reality it is the Electricity that defines the culture and lifestyle of Homo Industrialis.  When you look at the whole Map of the Globe lit up like a Suburban McMansion at Christmas, you can actually track the progression of Industrialization; you can see why the countries that are in control of Industrial culture are who they are and why everybody else out there is not particularly happy these days.  I have discussed this aspect of Industrial Civilization and Electricity before in The Dimming Bulb, in this installment I want to look at it from the Historical and Geopolitical perspectives.

You can easily tell where the Industrial lifestyle began, and you can trace it's march around the Globe as well.  The Brightness of the lighting tells the whole story if you know just a little history, and it tells you a lot about where things are going in the future too.  Before we go Back to the Future though, let's do a little review of how this all got started.

Practical application of Electricity began in the mid 1800s, and by the late 1800s the frst central power stations came online in Jolly Old England and in the Northeast of the FSoA.

Central power stations and isolated systems

The first central station providing public power is believed to be one at Godalming, Surrey, U.K. autumn 1881. The system was proposed after the town failed to reach an agreement on the rate charged by the gas company, so the town council decided to use electricity. The system lit up arc lamps on the main streets and incandescent lamps on a few side streets with hydroelectric power. By 1882 between 8 and 10 households were connected, with a total of 57 lights. The system was not a commercial success and the town reverted to gas.[16]

The first large scale central distribution supply plant was opened at Holborn Viaduct in London in 1882[17] Equipped with 1000 incandescent lightbulbs that replaced the older gas lighting, the station lit up Holborn Circus including the offices of the General Post Office and the famous City Temple church. The supply was a direct current at 110V; due to power loss in the copper wires, this amounted to 100V for the customer.

Within weeks, a parliamentary committee recommended passage of the landmark 1882 Electric Lighting Act, which allowed the licensing of persons, companies or local authorities to supply electricity for any public or private purposes.

The first large scale central power station in America was Edison's Pearl Street Station in New York, which began operating in September, 1882. The station had six 200 horsepower Edison dynamos, each powered by a separate steam engine. It was located in a business and commercial district and supplied 110 volt direct current to 85 customers with 400 lamps. By 1884 Pearl Street was supplying 508 customers with 10,164 lamps.[18]

By the mid-1880s, other electric companies were establishing central power stations and distributing electricity, including Crompton & Co. and the Swan Electric Light Company in the UK, Thomson-Houston Electric Company and Westinghouse in the US and Siemens in Germany. By 1890 there were 1000 central stations in operation.[7] The 1902 census listed 3,620 central stations. By 1925 half of power was provided by central stations.[19]

City Lights 2012 - Flat map Lights UK April-October 2012

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapLights NE USA April-October 2012


The wiring spread outward from there, and India got wired up pretty well.

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapIndia Lights April-October 2012

South America a bit less wired.

south-america-space-nightLights South America April-October 2012

Africa barely got wired at all.

Africa_Space_NightLights Africa April-October 2012

So how come India got wired up but Africa did not?  Ask yourself who was running the show in India in the 1800s?  It was the main colony of the declining British Empire, the one the Sun Never Set On because they were running all those new Lightbulbs!  LOL.  The Brits were not at the time in charge of Africa, really nobody was far as Westerners were concerned, that's why it got called the Dark Continent, besides the fact it was populated by dark skinned natives.

As time went by into the early 1900s, a couple of other places got decently wired up, Japan & China.

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapLights China & Japan April-October 2012

In the mid to late 1800s, the Anglo-Amerikan Industrial Empire was in an Expansionary Phase, and the Gunboats of Cmdr. Matthew Perry "opened" Japan forcibly in the 1850s to join the expanding Industrial Empire, as I covered some time back in the Mr. Peabody Visits Japan article. Still in the Coal fired period at this time, the Gunboats weren't using Oil yet.  The Brits were bizzy trying to make China the same kind of colony that India was, but unfortunately had some Boxers willing to fight them on this.

By the end of the 19th century, the Western powers and Japan had forced China’s ruling Qing dynasty to accept wide foreign control over the country’s economic affairs. In the Opium Wars (1839-42, 1856-60), popular rebellions and the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), China had fought to resist the foreigners, but it lacked a modernized military and suffered millions of casualties.

The Chinese weren't happy Kowtowing to the Japanese, and the Japanese weren't happy Kowtowing to the Gaijin Imperialists either, so everybody got in a big ass fight over this eventually.  The fight was called WWII, which got ended with this:

https://awesometalks.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/ng30.jpg

The Nips were outclassed with Industrial Killing and their well wired Island was turned into an Industrial Factory for Carz and Electronic toys, starting with Transistor Radios moving through Walkmans up to the latest in Smartphones, though of course in recent years have had serious competition on this stuff from the other slaves on the Asian Continent from Korea to Thailand to China.

However, at this point in the post-WWII years the further Wiring of the World began to slow, if not come to a complete halt.  With the Victory over Japan and Germany, why was further electrification of Africa and South America not undertaken?  SA is a little more wired than Africa, but not by much.

south-america-space-nightLights South America April-October 2012

As with most places that have been wired up post WWII, it's mostly along the coastline not much going into the interior.  There are a few reasons for this.

First one is that by and large, most population centers and Big Shities lie along the coastlines.  Reasons for this?

1- It's easiest to do trade with many places via boats.  You can put a lot of cargo on a boat and move it around the world over the oceans without using a whole heck of a lot of energy to do it.  In fact in the Sailing Era, that energy was all Renewable.

http://www.portmellon.net/uploads/1/0/0/7/10078822/5846457_orig.jpg

Even in the modern Container Ship era utilizing Fossil Fuels, this is relatively low energy consumption.  The ships can run on "Bunker Fuel", which is basically unrefined Oil.

http://www.transinfo.am/img/services/big/1392130262-7142.jpeg

2- Coastline areas are usually pretty flat land condusive to large scale Agriculture.  The fresh water flows down from higher elevations to these neighborhoods, so you have a continuous source of water if you are at the mouth of a decent size river, long as nobody upstream is using it all or contaminating it.  New York Shity at the terminus of the Hudson River or London at the terminus of the Thames river are typical examples of this.

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/estuaries/media/est01c_600.jpg

http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/14/78514-004-9E98EDAD.jpg

3- It's relatively EZ to get rid of all your WASTE if you are right on the coast.  The Sewage goes into the Big Sink of the Ocean.

https://www.sydneywater.com.au/Publications/Reports/AnnualReport/2007/images/WollongongSTP_above.jpg

Woolongong Sewage Treatment Plant in Oz

So the vast increase in global population since the Industrial Era began has occurred mostly at the coastlines, which of course is not Good Newz with Sea Level rising.  Just ask Miami.

http://www.rsmas.miami.edu/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/miami-flooding.jpg

For the most part, the Build Out phase stopped in the early 1970s at the latest, and the last 40 years has been all about continuing to bring in the necessary energy to all the places already built out to keep running them.  In some of the older industrial Big Shities like Detroit, that has already failed/collapsed.

http://opencityprojects.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/7499108236_7fd417857d_c.jpg

So your next question is just how does all the energy flow INTO the places it still goes to?  This is a pipeline and transport question mainly, although there are many geopolitical conseqences of trying to take energy stores from one location and move them to another one.  Let's look at the current pipeline networks for Oil and NG in North Amerika and Eurotrashland.

http://www.refinerlink.com/userfiles/RL%20MAD%20Pipeline%20Map.jpg

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-YDdCkW9AqmY/UT31FYeVCDI/AAAAAAAABdc/1239kdVouUc/s1600/pipeline+accidents+final+animation1-2.gif


As you can see the greatest density of pipeline networks is in the TX/LA/OK neighborhood, and then filtering up from there to the North East and Upper Midwest.  This of course because in the early days, all the BIG FINDS of EZ to extract low EROEI oil in the FSoA came in these locations, and then that oil needed transport to the Industrial centers of the Midwest and to the Northeast trading ports with Europe.

As the amount of oil that could be extracted at a cheap price inside FSoA borders began to decline, those same networks were used to ship around Oil accessed/stolen from other big repositories on earth, most notably Saudi Arabia of course.  The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) was built to be able to offload oil from VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers), more commonly referred to as Super Tankers.

http://wwwsp.dotd.la.gov/Inside_LaDOTD/Divisions/Multimodal/LOOP/Loop%20Images/clove.gifhttp://wwwsp.dotd.la.gov/Inside_LaDOTD/Divisions/Multimodal/LOOP/Loop%20Images/loop.gif

A few more large pipelines were built as time went by to move the oil out of the ground to the places that were burning it, most notably the Alaska Pipeline:

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) includes the trans-Alaska crude-oil pipeline, 12 pump stations, several hundred miles of feeder pipelines, and the Valdez Marine Terminal. TAPS is one of the world's largest pipeline systems. It is commonly called the Alaska pipeline, trans-Alaska pipeline, or Alyeska pipeline, (or the pipeline as referred to in Alaska), but those terms technically apply only to the 800 miles (1,287 km) of the pipeline with the diameter of 48 inches (122 cm) that conveys oil from Prudhoe Bay, to Valdez, Alaska. The crude oil pipeline is privately owned by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

The pipeline was built between 1974 and 1977 after the 1973 oil crisis caused a sharp rise in oil prices in the United States. This rise made exploration of the Prudhoe Bay oil field economically feasible. Environmental, legal, and political debates followed the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay in 1968, and the pipeline was built only after the oil crisis provoked the passage of legislation designed to remove legal challenges to the project.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/Trans_alaska_international.jpg

http://assets.enuygun.com/media/lib/750x525/uploads/image/2880.jpeg

As the Wiki article indicates, it only became economical to build this behemoth of a pipeline after the Arab Oil embargo of the 1970s drove up the price of Oil.  Lately there has been talk about building a natural gas (NG) pipeline out of there, either going across into Canada to join up with the current system of NG pipelines down there, or along the same route as the Oil pipeline down through Alaska, to be shipped out by liquifying the gas and dropping it onto specialized Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) ships, for sale then to the Japanese and Chinese slaves.

The problem with either of these pipelines being built is that the price you can get for NG doesn't justify the CapEx for building it.  You'll never even pay off building the pipeline, much less make a profit off of it at the current prices.  You would have to bet the price the consumer will pay for it will rise substantially, but how can that happen with fewer people working all the time at ever downward spiralling wages?  So both projects have stalled, although the Alaska Goobernator is still pushing for it because something is necessary to keep the economy running around here as the Oil in the Prudhoe Bay fields depletes and gets lower prices all the time.  He's got a huge hole in the state budget these days, and things are getting desperate down in Juneau.

Stalling also is the drive for further Oil exploration either in the Arctic Ocean or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  Shell Oil recently stopped their exploration there after sinking around $9B into that White Elephant, and this week Da Goobermint decided not to offer up any leases for the oil companies to even bid on.  Why not?  Because they will get the same result that the Brazilians got a couple of weeks ago when they offered up leases for sale in the supposed Giant Oil Reservoirs in Deep Water off their shores.  They got no bidders practically speaking.  Same as the NG pipeline for Alaska, with the price of Oil as low as it is, the CapEx involved in accessing and drilling up this Oil is huge, and you can't pay it off at the prices the consumers of the oil can afford to pay.  Although Environmentalists are gladdened by this decision and hope some Polar Bears will be saved, this decision has nothing to do with Environmental consciousness on the part of Da Goobermint or the Oil Companies.  It's strictly an economic decision.

Now let's move over to Europe, where you see a similar history and similar economic issues as far as continuing to move the Oil from under the ground where it still remains to the places that have been burning it since Oil replaced Coal as the main energy driver for their industrial economy.  First, let's look at the Pipeline Maps for Europe:

http://static1.squarespace.com/static/546f7732e4b095d2722abd0f/t/5499bde8e4b0439c6133934f/1419361773962/?format=750w

http://www.mappery.com/maps/Proposed-European-Crude-Oil-Pipelines-Map.mediumthumb.gif

As you can see, similar to the build out of Oil Pipelines in North America from where the Oil was found down in TX and OK to where it was burned in places like Detroit and Cleveland in the early part of the 20th Century, pipelines were built to take Oil from where it was found in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and bring it to the Industrial Factories  where it was being burned, primarily in Britain and Germany in the early 20th Century.  While the Boxers were fighting in China, you had a similar battle going on in Europe over who would get to control the Oil coming from MENA, and the first big battle was fought for this, that was WWI.

http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/n3mzmahboqu4lhmtgqkp.jpg

The Brits won this war against the Krauts, with the assistance of their then still flush with oil former colony of the Amurkans.  They carved up MENA into a bunch of random countries from the old Ottoman Empire with the Sykes-Picot Agreement to insure the flow of energy would come their way after the war.

The Sykes–Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and France,[1] with the assent of Russia, defining their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East should the Triple Entente succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The negotiation of the treaty occurred between November 1915 and March 1916.[2] The agreement was concluded on 16 May 1916.[3]

The agreement effectively divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian peninsula into areas of future British and French control or influence.[4] An "international administration" was proposed for Palestine.[5] The terms were negotiated by the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and Briton Sir Mark Sykes. The Russian Tsarist government was a minor party to the Sykes–Picot agreement, and when, following the Russian Revolution of October 1917, the Bolsheviks exposed the agreement, "the British were embarrassed, the Arabs dismayed and the Turks delighted."[6]

As you can see here, even prior to WWII and the Holocaust, there was an "agreement" about Palestine, later to become Israel.  Essentially, Israel was designed to be the Military Base from which to maintain control over all of MENA Oil assets.  Endless Military Aid has been furnished to the Israelis since WWII as a means to maintain this control, and the warfare down there between the Israelis and all the Arab states which surround them has been virtually continuous since WWII.

Despite the ongoing wars down there through the time period, overall the Oil was successfully transported through the pipeline system to the factories in Northern Europe, and even the Krauts who lost both WWI and WWII actually did fine here, since the same banksters financed both sides in the battle and after the war was finished, refinanced rebuilding of all the factories in both Britain and Germany that had been destroyed in the war to begin with!  LOL.

Like North America with the building of the Alaska Pipeline, the Northern Europeans also got a fresh infusion of Juice with the discovery of North Sea Oil, and both Britain and Norway got a big bonus from this over the last 40 years, but this bonanza is starting to run thin now, and there are no new good sources of local Oil to be accessed at anything within a reasonable price range to justify the CapEx.  So the Western European Nations are getting desperate for Oil and NG, and their last, best hope for this is…the RUSKIES!

Mother Russia still has a decent supply of Oil left, not just in the Arctic Ocean but out there in the vast land mass of Siberia too!  What's the problem?  PIPELINES!  Getting the Oil from where it still is in Mother Russia to where the Eurotrash would like to burn it will take extensive construction of new pipelines, which in some cases are even longer than the fucking Alaska Pipeline!  Besides that, the Eurotrash are competing against the Chinese, who would like to have new pipelines for this treasure trove of still remaining Fossil Fuel Energy piped in THEIR direction.  Who if either will the Banksters finance for contstruction of said new pipelines?  Just like Alaska, they won't fund either one of them, because there is no Return on Investment (ROI).  in no place left on Earth is it possible to sell the energy at a price the consumer can afford to pay for it.

Knowing all of this, it is now possible to predict where the Lights will go off first and how the Powerdown off Industrial Civilization will proceed.

You have two Legacy Infrastructure Projects here, built out from the beginning of the 20th Century to move the energy around, the Electrical Grid and the Pipeline Network.  Both systems are decaying, and the ROI for either fixing and maintaining what has already been built or for building new ones simply is not there anymore.  It just costs too much to drag the energy out of the ground and move it over to places where fewer and fewer people all the time can afford to burn it.  The persistent GROWTH necessary to finance such a system has come to a halt now.  The population of Homo Sap across the whole planet has exceeded the capacity of the planet to support that population on an Environmental and Resource level, and so that population must and will contract.  The easily accessed Fossil Fuel Energy that allowed for the exponential growth of this population is now all gone, it exists now as CO2 up in the atmosphere.

The population of Homo Sap will begin its decline first in the Peripheral countries, better known as the "3rd World".  Similarly, the Lights will start going off first in these countries, and the Legacy Pipeline and Electrical Grid systems that deliver the Energy to the 1st World Nations will continue to function a while longer, but become ever more difficult to maintain and to continue to input new Energy to ever more impoverished consumers of the Energy, and they too will then begin to shut down one by one at first perhaps, but at some point the whole system will crash.  This may occur in tandem with or shortly after the crash of the monetary system controlling this distribution of Energy.

The Last Big Shities to still have Lights On from central grid power?  In all probability, Berlin,the City of London and New York Shity on Wall Street, the centers of the Finance that built the whole system to begin with.  When the Lights Go Out on Broadway, you can say that TEOTWAWKI has arrived.  It may take a little while yet, but you can watch the progress inward, you can see it happening in real time.  It's not a conjecture anymore, it's reality.

More Econ & Energy Blogs & Rants off the keyboard & microphone of the Rogue Economist, AKA Reverse Engineer

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Collapse Cafe 10/4/2015: UK Special Edition

gc2When Does the Sun Set on Britain?

Discuss this article at the Diner TV Table inside the Diner

Our discussion with Norman Pagett and Jason Heppenstall on issues focused on the UK as the collapse of industrial civilization progresses

Also, don't forget to take the Energy Survey!  We are going to hold it open an extra week because links to the survey were broken when  I launched the Survey.  They have since been fixed.

The Future of Energy Survey

End of More: Interview with Norman Pagett

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on July 22, 2015

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End_of_More

Get the End of More on Amazon.com

Discuss this article at the Podcast Table inside the Diner

Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Norman Pagett, one of the Authors of the End of More, and excellent Primer for people new to the world of Industrial Civilization Collapse and Population Overshoot.  Norman resides in Shropshire, England, right at the heart of where the Industrial Revolution began in the early 1700s with the invention of the Steam Engine, and its early application in pumping the water out of Coal Mines.

In this first part of our discussions with Norman, we go over the early history of the Industrial Revolution and its expansion in the early years.

Much more to come in future episodes.  We have a few hours of collapse chat still to wade through and edit here.  Meanwhile, enjoy our Collapse analysis of the day here on the Doomstead Diner.

RE

Snippet:

http://axisoflogic.com/artman/uploads/2/children_in_coal_mines_-_dickens495.JPG

RE: …I don't know how much do you followed any of the old Dickens stories about the dirty state of London back in the early nineteenth century as a result of coal burning?

Norman: Yes I do. In fact two things which expanded London and other cities as well because all of them was the go to transport that's rail transport and the output of sewage, because if you've got a city with a million people in it you've got an awful lot of sewage and you've got to get rid of it, and the only way you can get rid of it was building a sewage system which could only be built with bricks, and the heat needed in vast quantities could only came from coal. So coal firms were about sixty or seventy miles from London where the bricks were fired and they had to be transported into the city by train, and then from that they use the six million bricks to build the London sewage system, which was then pumped out from the London Centre right to the estuary on the North Sea, and then the big engines out there which pumped the sewage into the sea and was just discharged and got rid of . Now again you're talking not just about pumping the water out of the coal mines you're talking about pumping water into the city fresh water in some way and then taking sewage and pumping it out of the city. So those two processes then enable cities to start growing to much larger sizes than they had ever before and so that was a prrocess there that allowed the sytem to take off…

 

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW!!!

Slogger Trifecta

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog on August 19, 2013

trifecta

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August 19, 2013 · 9:25 pm

At the End of the Day

Over the last few days, cheated preferentes depositors in the Novagalicia Bank  have been demonstrating in Spain. At this morning’s demo they rightly proclaimed themselves to be hard working, thrifty savers who had simply kept their savings there. They can no longer withdraw their life savings, because some hastily manufactured legality has told them they are creditors, not customers.

When, after twenty years hard graft, I finally in 1988 received a large cheque at 3am one morning for my shares in an ad agency I’d helped found, seven hours later I dashed down to the local Building Society and whacked the cheque in. When it cleared three days later – and only then – did I phone my first wife to say “The money’s safely banked”.

Safely. What a rare word that is these days in financial services.

Exactly who do these language-manipulating sociopaths think they are? They are bankers who took money in at minimal sight rates, making eternal profits from their customer base – and then had the gall to introduce service charges. They are blank-faced, goggle-eyed  bureaucrats in Whitehall, Brussels and Washington who approved this weasel terminology as if they might be rubber-stamping the train times to Auschwitz. And they are the multi-faced politicians who perpetually apologise for the indefensible behaviour of those whose money they so desperately need…having failed, year in year out, to keep within budgets.

Feeling safe is about having trust. The EC finally lost the trust of the lenders after the 37th dithering lie about the problem being solved. The ECB lost the trust of the bond markets when it illegally subordinated holders of Greek debt, and then went on to rape Cypriot investors for no good reason at all. Bernanke lost the trust of the American people when he carried on chucking their dollars at an intractable problem intrinsic to neoliberal economics. Parliament lost the last vestige of my trust when it said nothing against the theft of money from Cooperative Bank depositors to save its own neck. David Cameron lost the trust of millions of Britons when he continued to insist there had been nothing improper in his personal relationships with senior Newscorp officials. Congress lost the trust of the entire world when it bickered about the biggest deficit in US history. And last but not least, the Church of England lost any last vestige of trust when it began trying to profit from fracking.

Everything from love to money is based on trust and mutual respect. I no longer love my country, because it is a whore. There isn’t a single institution there I would trust. I can’t even feel that banked money is safe.

But still the apologists for this insane f**ked up fiat currency version of globalist ‘free market’ capitalism witter on, failing as ever to acknowledge that not a single investment market anywhere on the planet is free from artificial (and usually illegal) interference.

Please Britain, don’t put off your protest or jump off the cliff because they tell you to. Switch off the telly, get off the sofa, and tell the bastards where to get off.

· 7:11 am

CRASH2: China plans new gold standard for dominant Yuan

Uncle Sam goes foot-shooting, gets felled by snipers

bondbuy

Last week I posted about how Bernanke has run out of road in his attempt to keep everyone happy. As so often in such circumstances, he’s pleased nobody in the end: not the brokers, not the Asian creditors, and most definitely not the US consumer.

I also posted last week about the huge percentage of US bond-offloading accounted for by Chinese and Japanese dumping. And I’ve posted ad nauseam about the inability to generate spending from people who’s wages one just spent a decade eroding by 30%.

But as America shoots itself in the foot, snipers are busy targeting its head. What follows will explain how.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

From Day One of QE, Ben Bernanke insisted he was showering American consumers with money. Along with millions of other sites, The Slog always maintained he did it to get dividends up, keep the Dow high, and create liquidity/solvency/new business at the banks. Some neat new charts now show us precisely why we were right and he was telling porkies.

In this one, we can see how the supply (aka printing) of money went stratospheric during and after Greenspangling and Bernankenomics, and then upcurved further after 2010:

Fredcrop1There are today almost exactly twice as many dollars in circulation than there were…..but middle America’s share of it went down 30%. So they had less money with less spending capacity. So they spent less, took out more credit – and bought cheap Asian imports. Bang! There go the toes in your right foot.

Now let’s look at what happened as that Nixonian shift off the Gold Standard inevitably turned into Uncle Ben’s buck-showering bonanza:

Fred3cropWhile the supply of Fiat paper rocketed, consumer purchasing velocity fell even faster under QE than it had been doing during the previous pauperisation of the populace. And as blue-collars are now working fewer hours for less money with little chance of further credit, most of the money never reached them….and if it did, they paid off debt rather than indulging in retail therapy. Bang! There goes your right instep. Try to keep your balance now…

There is a growing feeling around the globe (if my contacts are even remotely typical) that after all this mess has finally covered every Westerner in excrement, there will be pressure to end the era of fiat paper. Not only would this be a disaster for the US, it would be a major coup for Beijing: there is every chance that a Yuan set against a new gold standard would make it the dominant reserve currency in short order….especially as the Dollar even now is predictably drifting down in value. China, it seems, has the aim of de-linking the Yuan from the US dollar. And Asian media are increasingly of the view that they will, when the time is right, fix it to gold instead.

China continues to amass gold. In June alone, it imported 104.6 tonnes from Hong Kong. That would bring China’s gold imports from Hong Kong to 1,160 tonnes since the beginning of this year. Officially, China hat around 1,000 tonnes of the stuff. But past experience has shown the Beijing suddenly pops up one day far more of shiny metal than you thought. The real figure is estimated to be around 8,000 tonnes….and likely to pass the US total, audited at 8,113 tonnes.

Yao Yudong, major money-man on the China Bank MPC, has of late been talking about fiat paper being a disaster, and his admiration for Bretton Woods. Further, China has been doing currency swap contracts big time with other countries to bypass the Buck. It has currency swap agreements with Brazil, Russia, Iran, Australia and the UK, to name a few. This aim here is clearly to get Westerners accustomed to the idea of dealing with the Yuan, and seeing it as a new ‘Central Currency’.

Bang! That first assassin’s bullet went straight through your neck. Breathing is getting difficult.

And of course, as I posted in recent days, those interest rates that were never going to rise are, um, rising. Very fast. The American cost of borrowing just doubled. And the Chinese are far and away the biggest sellers of those T-Bonds….which must now offer higher yields.

Oh look America, you just fell over, and your lungs are filling with blood….just as the traders, brokers, and big banking dicks get back to their desks next week, only to see a topping Dow, a falling T-Bond, and a backfiring, stuttering economy. And even though you’re manipulating the gold downwards to repair those bank balance sheets, it becomes even easier for Beijing to fill its boots with that gold.

Bang! That was the rear of your cerebrum coming off. It’s over.

August 18, 2013 · 9:02 pm

At the End of the Day

Lines on the nature of being united in idiocy

I think top marks tonight must surely go to Spain, for its unique ability to get Tom Watson agreeing with David Cameron. Yes, there can be no doubt about it, as long as Spain wants Gibraltar “back”, then the Iberian peoples have the capacity to unite Britain…a set of Islands not so much great any more as disintegrating.

It’s a useful distraction for both sides of course, but none of the fuss from Senor Rajoy holds any water at all. Britain has actually ‘owned’ Gibraltar for far longer and more continuously than the Spanish ever did and – as in the case of the Falklands with Argentina – its inhabitants have no desire at all to be Spanish. But if things get very nasty, I can’t wait to see how Operation Barbarossa van Pumpy in Brussels “handles” it.

At the same time, however, one must recognise the ability of almost any event in the Middle East to have Brit and US pols united in myopia, their respective leaders drivelling on about a Special Relationship that deserves the adjective only in the context of kids who require special needs education. After the demonisation of Assad in Syria comes the glorification of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. I came across some Brits down here on holiday this morning, and they clearly didn’t have the remotest notion which way was up about Egypt’s tragedy….or indeed, who was for what, and why David Cameron wants to galvanise the EU into condemning the wicked military “coup”.

A simple analysis of the Egyptian dilemma doesn’t require that many brain cells. Early in July this year, I posted to say that “What [the US] State [Department] has done is bestow respectability upon the Muslim Brotherhood without in any way changing its truly ghastly attitudes and barbaric behaviour.” Tracing the lineage of this dynasty of deranged thinking, as long ago as November 2011, The Slog suggested that “the [Egyptian] military is playing upon a real fear: Egyptian liberals are sympathetic to the military’s attempt to dominate the constitution-writing process, being rightly fearful of Muslim Brotherhood dominance”.

Now we have MB fanatics desperate to present themselves as martyrs – and the usual figures of dead demonstrators growing with every report by Western news agencies. I can only repeat what I’ve been saying for nearly three years about the ‘Arab Spring’: it is based on Anglo-Saxon ignorance about the fundamental nature of Arab liberalism and Islamist fascism.

Very few international situations are as cut and dried as our mamipulative politicians would suggest: in the end – despite the EU nonsense and the Levitt myth of globalism – every nation is out for itself most of the time. The “deposed” President Mohamed Morsi had, from Day One of his term, worked overtime to marginalise a pro-secular Military in favour of his rabidly fundamentalist associates. There is no discernible difference between what Morsi was up to, and what Recep Erdogan has been up to in Turkey – viz, purging all those elements in the political and military class who support the secular aims of the hero Kemal Ataturk, in favour of his own closet Islamist agenda.

From the very start of this dire history of needless death in the name of a religious leader who is a myth, David Cameron and the US State department have placed themselves cynically on the side of authoritarianism: Cameron because he wants trade deals with Turkey, and the US because they want the oil. Yet  again, it is all about munneeeee. And that root of many evils has placed allegedly liberal democracies on the side of a neo-Nazi, misogynist bunch of religious maniacs.

And in other dramatic news developments today, the BBC’s Newsnight anchor Jeremy Paxman has a beard. I realise that in gay circles this means he has a girlfriend to hide an aberrant sexuality, but there haven’t really ever been any doubts about Paxo when it comes to which way he swings: basically, he would I suspect like to see 95% of politicians swinging from a lamppost. So it is especially sad to see that by far the biggest brain and toughest interviewer at the BBC needs to grow facial hair to catch the fickle gnat’s-length attention of the British public for longer than a tweet.

When the David Kelly affair began the sad descent of the BBC into Government lapdog, Paxman was a steady influence in favour of telling all politicians TGF themselves. After the McApine scam, he once again urged the Governors to face this unpleasant opportunist down. When the Jimmy Savile drivel about him “grooming a whole nation” went full-on tabloid, yet again our Jeremy tried to find some evidence of a spine in the Beeb’s management tier. Having discovered that his employer is, effectively, a mollusc, it is little wonder that he now carries a care-worn, slightly bored air around with him.

To relegate Jeremy Paxman to the margins of our national broadcaster is rather like taking Robin Day’s knighthood away because he gave Thatcher what-for. I’m afraid it symptomatically defines what is wrong with Britain.

A House for the Future

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on July 31, 2013

Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner

It seems we’re all at it now. Those of us dot-connectors who are concerned enough about the future to take action and relocate are scurrying across the face of the planet looking for somewhere we consider the odds might stack up in our favour a bit better than where we were before. Over at Resource Insights, Kurt Kobb can be seen relocating across the vastness of America to a new home in Oregon, the Doomstead Diner’s RE went one step further and is now hiding out somewhere in Alaska and Ray Jason explains why he has taken to the high seas.

As for myself, I chose to take flight from the ostensible safe haven of Denmark and fling myself and my family to the furthest western reach of Britain – namely Penzance in Cornwall. I described my rationale behind the move here, and all I can say at present is that after four months here it feels like the right choice. I did, of course, buy a piece of woodland nearby, which is where I’m crafting my post-industrial career as a woodsman, with the first half acre of chestnut and oak to be coppiced this winter. At some point in the future, perhaps when planning regulations have drowned under their own weight, I’ll build a nice little hobbit hole there. It’ll be somewhere I can put me feet up and roast chestnuts as I eke out my non-retirement in as comfortable a manner as possible.

But that’s future talk. Right now it makes more sense to be within a town, close to the children’s school and also the shops. Which is why we’ve just completed the purchase of a house right in the centre of town.

Now, I would say that it’s been quite a long and fraught process getting hold of this particular house. Not only did I have to take a major loss on otherwise stranded assets from our life in Spain, but I also had to negotiate several fraught months of having that money within the UK’s increasingly fragile banking system, with a major risk of me being asked to bail out one of the TBTF banks with my savings. Nevertheless, the camel passed through the eye of the needle and I was able to spend pretty much every penny on a place that we can now call home and which we own 100% without even a penny of debt.

None of it would have been possible had my father not passed away last year, but I think he would approve of the fact that we have bought what he would term a ‘fixer upper’. That is, the house is solid and the fundamentals are all in a good state, even if it needs something of an overhaul in various areas which I will list below. I’m only setting this out so that others may also start to think about what is important in a house fit for the future, and it’s in no way an attempt to show off my abode as if I’m this week’s  Through the Keyhole mystery person.

It’s perfectly possible, if you have ownership of your own property, to live very simply and cheaply. These people here manage to do so – perhaps they are role models whom we should seek to emulate (as is Joan Pick). With that in mind my criteria for buying a house were relatively straightforward:

– It has to be built to last. Most houses built in Britain after the last world war were not built to last. The one we chose was put up at the end of the nineteenth century, is constructed from heavy granite, is standing on bedrock and shows no sign of it not being able to stand for another thousand years or so. The walls are thick and the foundations are solid.

– It had to be big enough to allow for different economic activities to be undertaken in it, but not so big that it would be unaffordable to heat or maintain. Ours has a basement which can be dug out some more and used as a workshop by my wife for her upholstery business, and  – joy of joys – an office space for me on the top floor. Furthermore, my assumption is that my kids will not be able to afford their own homes in the future, and that they’ll be hanging around in our house far longer than is currently considered normal. With four floors, there should be space for us all.

Under the house
My new office. That old writing desk was rescued from a skip by my father in the late 70s

– It had to be close to amenities so that we can walk everywhere. Our house is a two-minute walk from the shops in the centre of Penzance. The town has pretty much everything you might want, from food stores and cafes, to a hardware store and a library. The hospital is a ten minute walk, the kids’ school a five minute walk and the nearest pub is 98 seconds away (I timed it).

– It had to be easy to retrofit. One of the first things I will be doing is studying the central heating system and figuring out how I can get it running on wood fuel. I have two very heavy and antique wood-burning stoves from Scandinavia, which I salvaged, and which will be useful in our house as soon as I have disconnected the gas. At present all water heating is done by a dangerous-looking boiler in the basement which has a very large gas-guzzling pilot flame.

The boiler. To be replaced by a wood-burning stove with a water tank attached

I’ll be looking to get water heating panels on the roof as soon as I can, and probably solar PV ones as well. At present the government is offering ‘free’ solar panels, although there are plenty of strings attached. I don’t want to get into any debt, but nevertheless may take them up on this offer given that we have no more funds to finance things like that. The house is aligned north to south, meaning the morning sun heats up the back and the afternoon sun hits the front.

There is a carport at the back, big enough for two cars. My plan is to rip up a lot of the concrete and plant a small garden here. There’s also a tiny garden at the front, which will probably just remain ornamental, perhaps with these coffee bushes (the house next door has bananas – everything seems to grow here).

Some coffee bushes and olive seedlings I picked up
The carport – just the right size to make a small enclosed garden

There are, of course, a whole lot of other factors that I need to take into account – especially insulation. But it is a terraced house, meaning that heat is not lost on either side, and the huge thermal mass of the walls at the front and back should be handy for keeping it warm in winter and cool in summer.

– It had to be above sea level. At 40m, up a steep hill from the sea (which is about half a mile away) I’m not too worried about sea level rise and storm surges just yet.

– It had to be affordable. This is one reason to choose the far west of Cornwall. Although house prices are still inflated by the bubble, this is one of the more affordable areas of the UK. Our budget was £200,000, which is about £40,000 less than the average house price. This is still an outrageously high amount by historical standards, and I’m fully aware (and grateful) that by some good fortune we had the money for it.

This alcove should be good for stacking wood in

– It had to be located in a good economic community. Penzance is a smallish market town with excellent trade links. The nearby railway station offers services to London, and everywhere in between, which is why the town thrived in Victorian times as fresh fish and flowers were sent daily to the capital, and tourists flowed in the other direction. Penzance is also a port, and it is easy to get to nearby France and Ireland. The house we have bought was most likely built by a merchant from those times. Given that I presume we will be rewinding the clock and going back to an economic model that will look a lot more like Victorian England than the current fantasy-based economic model, this can only be a good thing.

As you can see from some of the pictures I have included, I have a wealth of junk that needs sorting through. My several years’ dumpster diving in Denmark mean I have a lot of nice old furniture, plus several thousand books and enough old but functional tools to set up a second hand hardware store. It will seem incredible in years to come that I was able to come by all of this stuff for nothing – or almost nothing. In total, I have five large trailer-loads full of ‘stuff’ – two of which are still in far-flung corners of Europe (another Spanish adventure awaits next month), which is the culmination of at least four lifetimes. And even then we are still lacking such basics as a sofa and mattresses – although I’m certain I can get hold of these from Freecycle in the coming weeks.

And below is the view from my new office window which looks out over Mount’s Bay to St Michael’s Mount. It beats sitting in the kitchen staring at a white wall, which I have been doing the past few years writing this blog, but it remains to be seen whether I’ll be able to stop looking at it and actually get some work done.

So that sums up our new abode. It’s been a long and winding journey to get here and it’s emptied the coffers but – as Dmitry Orlov notes – we’re going to lose our money anyway, it’s up to us to choose the manner in which we do so. And that’s just what I’ve done. I have no debt, no pension fund to look forward to, no stocks or shares, no precious metals hidden away and very little cash and no permanent job – but what I do have is a house that is suitable for living in and earning money from into the far future and that, in my opinion, represents a store of real wealth.

It’s the ENERGY, Stupid!

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on March 22, 2013

 
 
Goodbye Denmark. Eight years is a long time to live somewhere.
 
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
 
 
And so begins my second attempt at becoming a free-range organic human being. We arrived in Cornwall last week after two grueling days of driving and one night spent on a ferry in the North Sea. On it we had a cabin with a porthole and I found myself waking in the middle of the night in one of those ‘where am I?’ panicky moments. I looked out at the dark sea beneath a mantle of stars and could see that we were sailing past some oil installations which were lit up like Christmas trees. It was strange to see them out there in the dark as they looked so peaceful and benign, but in my bleary-eyed state my mind began to play tricks and they morphed into aliens straight out of H.G.Wells, come down from the inky reaches of space to suck out the lifeblood of our planet.
 
‘What was I doing?’ I asked myself. ‘Was I crazy?’. Regular readers will remember that I quit my comfortable and well-paid job as a copywriter in Copenhagen and decided to buy a piece of woodland in the extreme southwest of Britain in a bid to distance myself and my family from the vagaries of the industrial system before it grinds to a halt and causes widespread mayhem and misery. I fell into a restless sleep and awoke in the grey dawn and lay there for some time thinking about what lay ahead.
 
It had been a pleasant drive the previous day across Denmark from Copenhagen to Esbjerg, on the west coast. The sun had been shining and everything was crisp with ice. The car struggled a bit with the huge trailer it was pulling, so I kept the speed low to try and conserve fuel. The port was like everything in Denmark; clean, efficient and quiet. We drove onto the ferry and parked up on the cargo deck next to a truck full of pigs bound for slaughter in England. My youngest daughter looked through the metal bars at the worried-looking creatures and has since refused to eat even the tiniest morsel of meat.
 
When we hit Essex the next day the contrast was stark. The weather was foul; wet and windy, and for almost the entire day we battled across England’s tired and overloaded road network, dodging potholes and managing to frustrate drivers who wanted to overtake us. On one section of motorway a number of signs had been erected asking ‘See anything suspicious? Ring this number …’. Motorcycle police were buzzing around and stop and searches were taking place. Was this kind of thing now routine in the UK? After 13 years of living abroad it would be interesting to find out what else had changed.
 
We drove around a section of the notorious M25 London orbital motorway, eager to get through the crushing over-developed southeast. The kids needed to use the toilet so I had to pull in at South Mimms service station – an unpleasant experience and a reminder of how commercialized and crass things had become. It used to be that when driving on a motorway – a public highway – that a sign would alert you to the presence of the next service stop. It would be a simple icon of a petrol pump, and if you could grab a bite to eat there it would also display a knife and fork icon. This has now been changed so that the name of the chain restaurant and oil company is displayed. So, if you really want a Burger King, you know you’ll have to drive an extra 30 miles to get to the next one. It avoids disappointments. If there is a hell, it will look a bit like South Mimms service station, with all its smiling ‘eager to help’ shop assistants, its constant announcement of ‘buy one get one free’ deals and its tables of porky human beings absent-mindedly pushing burgers into their mouths as they play computer games on their iPads.
 
Driving on through the driving rain we eventually escaped the gravitational pull of London and began our trundle down to the southwest. By evening we had just made it past Bristol and then, a couple of hours later, Exeter. Regarded by many as the beginning of the back of beyond, it certainly felt like we were heading into another realm as we passed over the windy sleet-lashed high moors and drove ever onwards towards where the sky was dark and the signs of human life became increasingly scant. Powerful cars with private number plates – Audis, new model Range Rovers, sports cars – roared past us as we traversed those bleak moors in the night. Who were these people? No doubt they were second home owners, heading down from London for the weekend to stay in their idyllic cottages with sea views that locals can no longer afford.
 
It felt strange to return to this, the land of my birth. For all the deadweight of crass consumerist culture that had infested the land, all the ugly cheap housing estates, the soulless motorways, the bottomless banality of the national discourse, the wasteland of popular culture – I knew that beneath all of that the layers of history and the sacred hills and towers and places of great wildness and peace existed still. This is what I was looking for on my return. I also know that there are people here – many people – who have simply had enough of all this plastic culture and have said ‘stop’. Perhaps there aren’t quite a hundred monkeys yet, but we might be up in the mid-seventies in some places.
 
It would be easy to lament the fall, but then that’s a tiring game and it doesn’t leave you a winner. Britain as a modern energy-rich nation, it seems certain, had peaked and was now on the downward trajectory and picking up pace. In Denmark there had been few signs of anything being out of order in the wake of the financial crisis, but in Britain the signs are everywhere and they are not possible to ignore. I’ve only been here a week, but a week is long enough to hear the shrill voices of alarm. High streets are shuttering up, companies are folding, people are worried about their savings and their retirements, poverty is getting worse. People shop in a place called Poundland – which is like Walmart but not as classy.
 
I sat through the Budget on Wednesday, watching it on television as I nursed one of the most savage episodes of flu I’ve ever come down with (‘High quality germs are the only thing we British still do well,’ quipped a friend). For those of you who don’t know, the government’s annual fiscal planning announcements are a spectator sport on a par with the American Superbowl in terms of press coverage and popular discussion. The chancellor, George Osborne, didn’t offer anything new. More giant infrastructure projects, tax breaks for gas fracking companies and, for the masses, a penny in the pound off pints of beer. The opposition jeered and heckled – so much so that the deputy speaker almost had to throw some of them out of the chamber – and then Ed Miliband gave quite a rousing counter speech attacking the government on its economic record. The expected GDP growth figures had been revised down again for the umpteenth time and now the Labour Party were enjoying their position as taunters.

It was enjoyable watching Miliband attack the assembled bunch of privileged millionaires on the opposite benches – the rough and tumble of British politics is in stark contrast to the staid and bland Danish version (even if it is merely a sideshow) – but the really funny thing was that if his party had been in power the economic growth figures would be more or less exactly the same. It should be clear by now that with persistently high oil prices, a Eurozone economy in recession, phase two of the financial crisis popping up in Cyprus, a host of massively over-leveraged large companies in the UK who are soon to face hiked interest rates, maxed-out consumers etc, etc, no amount of austerity easing or borrowing is going to continue to sustain the unsustainable.
 
Speaking of unsustainable, no sooner had I arrived here than the government gave permission for a massive nuclear power station to be built down the road from me. Okay, so Somerset isn’t quite ‘down the road’ but it would be the closest such large nuclear facility to where I live. It will cost £14 billion to build (and then some, probably) but the French utility EDF wants a guarantee on the price of the electricity that it will produce. It’s a safe bet that they want quite a high price for many decades, and if the government grants this then it will lock the country into paying a French company huge amounts of money into the far future, all the while endangering the surrounding land and seas. Local news stations have been giving it a positive spin, swallowing the hype about ‘5000’ jobs being created and interviewing a local dairy farmer who said he expected to sell ‘20% more milk to the thirsty power station workers.’ That’s if anyone will be buying his dairy products at all after the first inevitable leak occurs …
 
If Britain had an energy gauge you would now see the needle heading into the orange area. Nobody, well hardly anybody, is willing to face this uncomfortable fact. Indeed, it is being reported in the news today that Britain will run out of natural gas next week. Yes, you’d better re-read that. A cold front is coming in and covering the country with snow and quite simply, there ain’t enough gas in the system. Gas-fired power stations may also have to shut down, potentially leading to blackouts. But rest assured, the government has told us that we can just ‘go shopping’ for some extra gas in Russia. Hmmm, isn’t Russia currently blackmailing Cyprus over its gas reserves in exchange for bailing out its bloated and corrupt financial sector? How long before that big bear of a country has Britain in a similar head lock? I’ve written before about the coming energy crunch that is due to hit Britain, but I’ve barely unpacked my suitcase before the first wave seems due to strike.
 
But anyway. I’m not focusing on what’s dying, right now there’s just too much to point a stick at. Every end is a new beginning for something else. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Cornwall is an area rich in local producers, crafts people and artisans. Especially right down the end where I am now living, in Penwith. Tomorrow I’ll be attending my first Transition meeting at the town hall, which is but a five minute walk from the house we are renting, and I’ll be getting to meet some kindred spirits who gravitated here for similar reasons to me.
 
Then, if the weather clears up (it was sunny the first few days and has been raining non-stop since) I’m planning to plant a few fruit and nut trees over at our woodland. I have sent off for some replacement worms for my wormery after the last team were euthanized by

The Spreading Darkness

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on October 30, 2012 

 
Britain at night as viewed from space

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights table inside the Diner

As I write these words on a clear but chill evening in Copenhagen, a violent ‘superstorm’ is lashing much of the eastern half of North America. It’s not clear yet what destruction Sandy will leave in her wake but it’s being reported that around 8 million people are without power and that includes much of New York City.

But awe inspiring as that blackout is, the one that caught my eye the other day is the one that is going on in Britain – the one nobody has noticed. It was being reported on in the Daily Telegraph which, in line with its deep distaste of anything ‘environmental’ was spinning the fact that the country is turning off masses of lighting at night as further evidence of the evil do-gooding greenies under the headline ‘Streetlights turned off in their thousands to meet carbon emissions targets’. The bare facts of the matter are thus:

· 3,080 miles of motorways and trunk roads in England are now completely unlit;

· a further 47 miles of motorway now have no lights between midnight and 5am, including one of Britain’s busiest stretches of the M1, between Luton and Milton Keynes;

· out of 134 councils which responded to a survey, 73% said they had switched off or dimmed some lights or were planning to;

· all of England’s 27 county councils have turned off or dimmed street lamps in their areas.

In fairness, it was the Sunday Times that undertook the survey and the DT was just doing some churnalism, but given that the particular Murdoch organ crouches behind a paywall I doubt many people ever got to read it in the first place.

But far from this mass turn-off being the work of ‘hysterical warmists’ (as the paper insists on calling anyone who suggests that atmospheric chemistry can be altered by adding gargantuan amounts of carbon dioxide), it becomes clear that the real reason is money, or the lack of it due to rising energy costs and diminishing public budgets:

Local authorities say the moves helps reduce energy bills, at a time when energy prices are continuing to rise. Several of the big energy companies have unveiled price hikes in recent weeks, including British Gas, npower and EDF Energy – which this week said it was increasing its standard variable prices for gas and electricity customers by 10%.

And:

The Highways Agency said the full-switch off had saved it £400,000 last year, while reducing carbon emissions, and said it planned further blackouts.

Meanwhile 98 councils said they have switched off or dimmed lights, or planned to in the future.

In Shropshire, 12,500 – 70 per cent of the area’s lights – are now switched off between midnight and 5.30am, while Derbyshire County Council plans to turn off 40,000 lights at night. In Lincolnshire, some are turned off from as early as 9pm.

Leicestershire County Council expects to save £800,000 a year in energy bills by adapting one third of the country’s 68,000 street lights so that they can be dimmed or turned off at night.

Caerphilly in Wales no longer lights industrial estates overnight and Bradford dims 1,800 of its 58,000 street lights between 9.30pm and 5.30am. 

People don’t like the dark – it arouses a primeval fear within us; a fear that modern life with its 24/7 strip lighting and permanently-on TV screens was supposed to have banished. ‘Keeping the lights on’ is the emotional hot button used by the proponents of nuclear power and fracking to induce fear in people and browbeat them into accepting dangerous forms of energy. It’s a useful binary: either the lights are on OR we go back to the dark ages and live in caves. That’s what they would like us to believe.

And safety bodies are up in arms about the lights being turned off, as are city dwellers who have bought second homes in rural areas. Here’s my favourite quote from the article:

Caroline Cooney, an actress who complained to Hertfordshire County Council when the lights near her home in Bishop’s Stortford were switched off after midnight, said she faced a “black hole” when she returned home from working in the West End of London.

“My street is completely canopied by large tress and I could not see my hand in front of my face,” she said.

Mrs Cooney, who appeared in Gregory’s Girl and who has also appeared in Casualty, said it was putting people in danger and the council was effectively imposing a “midnight curfew on residents who do not want to take the risk of walking home blind”.

“When I came out of the train station it was just like a black hole,” she said.

“I simply cannot risk walking home in what is effectively pitch blackness.”

However the council told her it could not “provide tailored street lighting for each individual’s particular needs”. 

You have to laugh and I bet the council spokesperson had a bit of a giggle preparing that response. Had it been me I might have gone further and suggested a pair of night vision goggles.

But I don’t think it’s such a bad thing.

In Spain, we used to live in the darkest place in Europe. We were high up in the mountains of Andalucía, on the southern flank of the Sierra Nevada. At night the stars were so clear that if you lay flat on your back it felt as if you were drifting through deep space, which – hey – you were. I had no idea, until then, that you could see tens of thousands of stars with the naked eye.

I had an astronomer friend living nearby who had a giant telescope on his farm house. As a matter of fact, it was so big it practically was his house. When he wasn’t identifying distant star clusters and taking pictures of them he was running a campaign to banish unnecessary light pollution. He had seen how the skies of Britain had been turned into warm orange fuzz, and didn’t want the same thing to happen to Spain.

Unfortunately Spain had other ideas. They positively loved installing 1000w sodium lights on the side of any building that was more important than, say, a dog kennel, making the night even brighter than the day. At least they did – I’m not sure many of them can afford so much powerful lighting any more.

In any case, my friend thought that when you blot out the stars then you lose something. Kids were growing up having only seen stars on cinema screens. That just wasn’t right, he thought. How can you love the universe you were born into if you can’t even see it?

Peak cheap energy may have its downsides, but being able to see the stars again sure isn’t one of them.

Of Mad Men …

Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia

 

Not many people would recognize the name Edvard Beneš, some might identify him as a Hungarian. Others would suggest an obscure novelist or a symphony conductor … obviously intelligent and well-mannered individual, an economist or law professor. He would have a hotel or a library named after him somewhere: take a little time to look up the name Edvard Beneš:

 

Edvard Beneš was born into a peasant family in the small town of Kožlany, Bohemia, ca. 60 km west of Prague.  …  He spent much of his youth in Vinohrady district of Prague, where he attended a grammar school from 1896 to 1904. During this time he played football for Slavia Prague. After studies at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Charles University in Prague, he left for Paris and continued his studies at the Sorbonne and at the Independent School of Political and Social Studies (École Libre des Sciences Politiques). He completed his first degree in Dijon, where he received his Doctorate of Laws in 1908. Then he taught for three years at the Prague Academy of Commerce, and after his habilitation in the field of philosophy in 1912, he became a lecturer in sociology at Charles University.

[…]

During World War I, Beneš was one of the leading organizers of an independent Czechoslovakia abroad. He organized a Czech pro-independence anti-Austrian secret resistance movement called “Maffia”. In September, 1915, he went into exile where in Paris he made intricate diplomatic efforts to gain recognition from France and the United Kingdom for the Czechoslovak independence movement, as he was from 1916–1918 a Secretary of the Czechoslovak National Council in Paris and Minister of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs within the Provisional Czechoslovak government.

[…]

From 1918–1935, Beneš was first and the longest serving Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, and from 1920–1925 and 1929–1935 a member of the Parliament. He represented Czechoslovakia in talks of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1921 he was a professor and also from 1921–1922 Prime Minister. Between 1923–1927 he was a member of the League of Nations Council (serving as president of its committee from 1927–1928). He was a renowned and influential figure at international conferences, such as Genoa 1922, Locarno 1925, The Hague 1930, and Lausanne in 1932.

Beneš was a member of the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party (until 1925 called Czechoslovak Socialist Party) and a strong Czechoslovakist – he did not consider Slovaks and Czechs to be separate ethnicities.

In 1935, Beneš succeeded Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk as President. He opposed Nazi Germany’s claim to the German-speaking so-called Sudetenland in 1938. In October, the Sudeten Crisis brought Europe on the brink of war, which was averted only as France and Great Britain signed the Munich Agreement, which allowed for the immediate annexation and military occupation of the Sudetenland by Germany.

 

Neither Beneš nor any member of the Czecho-slovak government was permitted to attend the conference where the little country was sacrificed to Hitler and his mad men.  The Euro-powers England and France were unprepared for war, they overestimated Hitler’s readiness and demurred. Czecho-slovakia was sacrificed to buy goods that could not be had: peace or greater preparedness. Out of recession and deleveraging of the 1930s, no country had anything but a transient material advantage over the others.

What emerged instead was a contest of institutional restraints, or between restraints on one part versus their absence on the other. There was the high-minded rationalization on the part of the powers versus the total absence of same on the part of the Germans. The German strategic advantage was set in high relief in Munich by Germany’s reasonable and well-intended adversaries. To outmaneuver whatever obstacles Germany might encounter on its path to geographic empire it had only to react to restraint as if it was acknowledgement of fatal weakness. The Germans would demand everything, to threaten annihilation otherwise, to exceed all limits, to put its army on wheels so that it might be turned loose in all directions, to massacre without conscience … to be unorthodox in all things or appear to be so. To be modern, in other words: restraint was prissy and old-fashioned, bourgeois and incompetent. According to German doctrine, there was to be no place in the modern world for anachronistic little duchies and principalities … Negotiations and conferences existed only to produce surrender documents.

After Munich, restraint was synonymous with cowardice and appeasement along with the word ‘Munich’ itself. Hitler was outraged that the appeasement had cost him a war that he was sure Germany would win.

Neville Chamberlain, British ambassador Neville Henderson, German foreign minister Ribbentrop and Hitler at Munich. By 1946 all of these men were dead, all of the European countries and their economies were destroyed.

Sudetenland was handed over immediately after the Munich Accord, announced with fanfare, the rest of the country was annexed by Germany and Hungary within six months. The accord offering ‘Peace in our time’ was not worth the paper it was written on, like so much else within modernity, it was a another false ‘tomorrow promise’.

After Munich, Beneš fled into exile in Britain, after the war he was part of a brief independent Czech government that was eventually undermined by the Soviets in 1948.

Right now ‘Munich 2.0′ spools out right under everyone’s noses: the Spanish public is sold into the abyss by the feckless government seeking to buy a little time. Like the Czechs and Slovaks in 1938, the people have nothing to say about their own fate … which is determined in the shadows by unrestrained and unaccountable mad men (Telegraph):

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy explains the surrender of Spain to the Anglo-American banking cabal in front of the Spanish Parliament, admits draconian terms demanded by EU financiers. Photo: AFP

 

Debt crisis: Spain bows to EU ultimatum with drastic cuts

Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy has raised VAT sharply in a humiliating volte-face and pushed through €65bn (£51bn) of drastic austerity measures to comply with a European Union ultimatum, risking a downward spiral into full depression.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

In Churchillian tones of blood and toil – even as Asturian miners and their wives clashed violently with police after a three-week march on Madrid – Mr Rajoy called for yet another round of cuts, admitting that Spain was obliged to take “urgent” action under the terms of the latest EU summit deal.

“We Spanish no longer have the choice whether or not to make sacrifices. We no longer have such liberty,” he said.

Hours before, the daily newspaper El Pais had stunned the nation by publishing the leaked “Memorandum” imposed by the eurozone’s creditor bloc as the condition for Spain’s €100bn bank rescue.

The draconian terms include an EU takeover of the Spanish financial system, with calls for haircuts on €67bn of junior and hybrid bank debt, a bad bank to wind down crippled lenders, “on-site” raids by inspectors, and intrusive demands across the gamut of fiscal policy.

 

The Washington Consensus succeeded brilliantly in Greece, the obvious reason to apply it with more vigor in Spain.

Chamberlain and Daladier ‘understood’ that Germans would not annex anything more than a small part of Czecho-slovakia. Rajoy understood that Spain would not be subject to severe austerity by the finance sector in return for what amounts to a trifling borrowed sum. Unlike the aggressive, militaristic Hitler, today’s mad men are well mannered and abstract. The outcome for the victims is identical, bondage and pillage. Because no one else will lend to Spain, with no great power England or France — or United States — to rescue her, there is no choice for the unimaginative Rajoy but to sell his country down the river.

Like the hapless Beneš there is certain to be a place in the Spanish rump for the elder statesman Rajoy long after the country is a smoking ruin. Like Beneš, he looks good in a suit.

The Spanish establishment does not understand symmetry. There is nothing to compel Spain to borrow under duress, or to prevent Spain from repudiating the odious- and ill considered debts it has already taken on. If the country had a real government instead of a cowardly fake it would behave the same as the mad men, to stand up to them, to beat the bullies and put them in their place. The establishment fails to understand the economic dynamic that is underway. The cost of submission is no different from the cost of non-submission. Putting the costs of unrestricted capital back upon capital is where it belongs. Spain would abandon its costly ‘prosperity’ but would maintain its sovereignty and the freedom if its citizens to act for themselves. By surrendering, the prosperity is gone and so is the sovereignty. The citizens are free to be paupers or emigres. Spain becomes a colony of Wall Street.

The current tragedy in Europe is unfolding with the same sense of dishonor and inevitability as during 1938. History may rhyme as Mark Twain once said, but it clearly is repeating itself, now. The establishments around the world insist on sacrificing others to the mad men. This strategy fails, appeasement makes these men bolder, they cannot be satiated or even evaded. Their ambition and reach has become universal, they are monsters. They must be destroyed, annihilated and all memories of them done away with. Their tools of destruction which they promote as ‘efficiency’ must be hammered flat and repudiated. The steps leading to Munich failed to bring peace but led instead to a great war, the steps leading to Brussels follow the exact same path. It is the cowardice of the good people, the moral relativism of the disinterested who refuse to see it.

The Europeans and their economic ministers and economics do not understand what it underway. Europe is subject to an Anglo-American credit embargo similar to those implemented in Latin America in the 1980s and in S. Asia in the 1990s. The US gains more from Europe’s bankruptcy than it can gain as return on new credit.

Because the establishment does recognize the energy component to their economic troubles they cannot see the potential gains to others … from Europe’s collapse.

Europe consumes 15 million barrels of petroleum per day: by bankrupting the EU 10 millions of those barrels can be exported to the US instead. This is the equivalent to the production of Saudi Arabia, without all the drilling.

The 5% reduction in fuel availability in the West in 1973 resulted in what was the world’s deepest post- WWII recession, excluding the current recession. At issue is a reduction of 70%.

Analysts blame the European problems on corrupt Greeks and others but these countries did not make the loans to themselves: it takes two corrupts to tango. The Eurozone was a pit of predatory lending under false pretenses (for fake, USA-style ‘prosperity’). The euro was — and is — a defective credit instrument similar to a sub-prime mortgage.

No sovereign can repay finance-level debts, such a thing is impossible. Greece cannot repay, Spain cannot hope to begin to repay.

Not only cannot Greece repay, Germany in full flower of industrial output cannot repay Greek debts. The demand for repayment is a charade and anyone bothering to look for more than five minutes can see that this is true.

The rate of change in GDP year over year is the surplus carried forward over the previous year’s expenses. It is this margin from which a country’s debts might be serviced — not retired — the annual increase in German GDP might be sufficient to partially service Greek debts for that year. Anyone who believes that Germany could repay Greek debts believes in unicorns and fairies.

Keep in mind that GDP growth must also meet other expenses besides service of loans outstanding. Almost all debt service is financed along with principal roll-over.

The Germans object to the obligation to repay Greek debts, it is because such a thing is impossible regardless of intentions.

Greece is dependent upon external sources of (borrowed) capital: Germany genuflects in the direction of capital because Germany itself is just as dependent on external capital flows as is Greece.

If Germany cannot repay Greek debts how can Greece be expected to do so, in the face of a credit embargo?

The embargo is effective because there is no European lender of last resort: what passes for one appears to offer unsecured loans to banking clients which themselves are insolvent. A lender of last resort cannot at the same time be insolvent: the one concept excludes the other. When the central bank takes on the impaired loans of its clients it becomes insolvent, it loses credibility.

Because of system insolvency there are fatal bank runs. These are taking place this minute.

Debts are intractable: they must either be replaced/refinanced with more debts or they must be repudiated, there is no other way. When debts are repudiated, the country is de-industrialized as it cannot import fuel, its money is unacceptable.

The fantasy of industrialization and so-called ‘progress’ is what various ‘leaderships’ including Rajoy’s are loathe to abandon. This is even as industrialization destroys the countries’ economies and the countries themselves. Managements cling to the false promises that have been offered for 400 years, that have brought wealth to a handful of thieves in exchange for Napoleon, revolutions. Communism, Hitler, world wars and great depressions. This, then … is the dividend of concentration and economies of scale, leaving out the complete destruction of the very air, land and water upon which we as living creatures absolutely depend … for a few pieces of colored paper.

If the country does not repudiate its debts, its money is unacceptable anyway as the money is proxy for nothing but unserviceable debts.

This non-acceptance is the end of the road … the end of all the roads.

By repudiating the debts all of the associated wealth is annihilated: wealth = debt. The problem is the foolish Europeans  want to get rid of the debt and keep the wealth. They do not accept that, a) this cannot be done, and b) there is really no such thing as money-wealth.

What comes this way is the contest between the few, the mad men with their machines and their blandishments, their constant readiness to do the world ill for their immediate gain. On the other side of the contest is the void, a bloated dependent (over)population: here is the reason for overpopulation in the first place! Dependents dare not agitate without risking starvation, homelessness or withholding of institutional ‘benefits’. There is the loss of place, a generalized self-contempt, selfishness and institutionalized laziness. Not the stuff of revolutions or reform.

The mad men inch closer to self-immolation, to take the rest of the world with it. This is the end-game of industrialization, the promise of Valhalla the reality of a wasteland.

Keynes was wrong, in the short run we are all dead.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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