Energy and Global Warming News for April 23: GE to debut gearless offshore wind turbine; Supreme Court to look at GM crops; Big energy storage in thin films

GE to Debut Gearless Offshore Wind Turbine to Rival Siemens

General Electric Co., the world’s second-biggest maker of wind turbines, plans to introduce a 4 megawatt gearless wind turbine for offshore use in 2012 in a challenge to market leader Siemens AG of Germany.

Government incentives and pricing pressure for onshore models amid the economic slowdown make the offshore market more attractive, Mete Maltepe, global sales leader for wind energy at GE, said in a telephone interview on April 20.

Customer feedback on the offshore turbine has so far been positive, Maltepe said. GE is using technology acquired in its August takeover of the ScanWind unit of Morphic Technologies AB in Sweden to take on Siemens and Vestas Wind Systems A/S of Denmark. The purchase marked a change in tack for the U.S. company, which has mostly focused on the onshore market.

“It’s a good turbine, the direct drive is key,” Maltepe said. In the onshore segment, “there are notable headwinds in pricing. We are reducing costs and improving the performance. There is pressure on margins and we’ll have to see if we can hold them up.”

GE, with a 12.4 percent share of the overall on- and offshore wind turbine market by capacity, is head to head with Vestas, which in 2009 held the top spot at 12.5 percent, according to Danish consultants BTM Consult APS.

Munich-based Siemens, with 5.9 percent of the overall market and the top spot in offshore models, is installing as many as 10 of its new gearless 3 megawatt turbines for both offshore and onshore use this year, with large-scale production planned to start in 2011. Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel on Feb. 10 declined to say if his company also plans to develop a gearless turbine.

Direct drive or gearless turbines reduce the number of moving parts in a unit and increase reliability, helping minimize costly open-sea maintenance. Such technology accounted for about 14 percent of installed capacity last year, BTM said. Offshore wind park operators include Germany’s Enercon GmbH and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. of China.

Big Energy Storage in Thin Films

Energy storage devices called ultracapacitors can be recharged many more times than batteries, but the total amount of energy they can store is limited. This means that the devices are useful for providing intense bursts of power to supplement batteries but less so for applications that require steady power over a long period, such as running a laptop or an engine.

Now researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia have demonstrated that it’s possible to use techniques borrowed from the chip-making industry to make thin-film carbon ultracapacitors that store three times as much energy by volume as conventional ultracapacitor materials. While that is not as much as batteries, the thin-film ultracapacitors could operate without ever being replaced.

These charge-storage films could be fabricated directly onto RFID chips and the chips used in digital watches, where they would take up less space than a conventional battery. They could also be fabricated on the backside of solar cells in both portable devices and rooftop installations, to store power generated during the day for use after sundown. The materials have been licensed by Pennsylvania startup Y-Carbon.

An ultracapacitor is “an electrical energy source that has virtually unlimited lifetime,” says Yury Gogotsi, professor of materials science and engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, who led the development of the thin-film ultracapacitors. “It will live longer than any electronic device and never needs to be replaced.” While batteries store and release energy in the form of chemical reactions, which cause them to degrade over time, ultracapacitors work by transferring surface charges. This means they can charge and discharge rapidly, and because the electrode materials aren’t involved in any chemical reactions, they can be cycled hundreds of thousands of times. Researchers have begun developing thin-film ultracapacitor materials but have had difficulty getting high enough total energy storage using practical fabrication methods, says Gogotsi.

Study details at least four epic droughts in Asia

A study of tree rings provided Thursday the most detailed record yet of at least four epic droughts that hit Asia over the past millennium, including one that helped end China’s Ming Dynasty in 1644.

Data collected over the past 15 years for the study is expected to help scientists understand how climate change can unleash large-scale weather disruptions.

Any drastic shifts to the seasonal monsoon rains in Asia, which feed nearly half the world’s population by helping crops grow, could have serious socio-economic consequences, according to scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

They mapped out past droughts and their relative severity by sampling the wood of thousands of ancient trees across Asia. Among them was a drought that caused tens of millions of people to starve to death in the late 1870s.

“Global climate models fail to accurately simulate the Asian monsoon, and these limitations have hampered our ability to plan for future, potentially rapid and heretofore unexpected shifts in a warming world,” said lead author Edward Cook, head of Lamont’s Tree Ring Lab.

Prior to the study, published in Friday’s edition of Science, reliable instrumental data collected in Asia — such as temperature, rain accumulations and winds — only dated back to 1950.

The scientists pointed to some evidence that monsoon changes are driven at least in part by variations in sea-surface temperatures, with some speculation but no certainty that warming global temperatures could modify and possibly intensify these cycles.

The Key to Fixing Global Warming? China

It’s late November 2009, and US energy secretary Steven Chu is leaning against a fake sink in a fake kitchen. Chu is 62 years old and athletically trim with graying black hair.

He’s wearing a rumpled pin-striped suit, argyle socks, and gold-framed glasses. Chu is a renowned physicist, a cabinet appointee, and the winner of a Nobel Prize. But that’s not why he’s now being treated like a rock star. This morning a small crowd of scientists, politicians, and local businesspeople are flocking to him because he’s got cash, specifically $75 million in stimulus funds for the Ohio subsidiary of the American Electric Power utility.

Chu likes to ask questions “” a lot of questions “” and he can dive deep into the details of any science or technology issue very quickly. Today he’s touring a lab run by AEP just outside of Columbus, Ohio, that includes a model kitchen full of energy-saving appliances. Standard protocol would suggest that he smile vapidly and hustle along. But almost immediately, he starts to wonk out with Ray Hayes, the lab’s white-bearded manager. They talk power meters and the feasibility of sensors that can measure which gadget is sucking down what power. Chu is enjoying himself, his hands buried in his suit-pants pockets. A small crowd, including Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, follows the men around the room for a while, but everyone soon loses interest and strikes up side conversations. (“I didn’t know what the hell he and Ray were saying,” Brown later admits.)

Finally Chu is ready to do what he came to do. He walks outside to a tent, where in front of AEPers and politicos he announces the grant. He knows that all politics is local, especially in Ohio, a battleground state with high unemployment and strong unions. This is “a farsighted state,” he says; he mentions Toledo as the “solar valley of Ohio” and talks about the state’s prowess in manufacturing.

Still, he can’t help himself, and after a few minutes he departs from his prepared remarks. “I just came back from visiting China with the president,” he says, no longer reading. When he was there two years ago, there was little interest in doing anything about climate change or carbon emissions. “That is no longer true,” he says. “The president of China, the premier of China, the vice premier of China are all saying, ‘This is a very big deal for us. If we continue business as usual, continue to grow our carbon emissions, it would be devastating for the world, devastating for China.’ But they also say, ‘This is our great economic opportunity.’ And for that reason, they’re investing over $100 billion a year in the clean energy economy.”

SEC’s climate change transparency

Transparency is a cornerstone of our economy.

For investors, that means being entitled to hear about the risks of an investment before making a long-term capital commitment.

You might not commit, for example, to a computer chip-maker whose silicon costs are about to triple, or a clothing manufacturer whose factories are caught up in civil unrest overseas. Or you might invest and then pressure the company to address its issues.

That’s why the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new climate change disclosure guidance is important. It outlines the type of information that publicly traded companies facing material effects from climate change should be disclosing.

This is what regulators are supposed to do “” get ahead of the curve as business risks and opportunities change.

Climate change is a classic material risk to businesses.

It is clear that a changing climate affects virtually all companies. Recent droughts and water shortages in California, for example, have led to dramatic reductions in hydropower use “” and more than $1 billion in losses for the state’s agriculture industry. Melting ice in the Arctic is expected to have far-reaching effects on shipping and energy exploration.

Climate change is also a risk because it is altering behavior. Governments at all levels, here and abroad, are mandating greenhouse gas reductions, cleaner electricity generation and energy-efficiency initiatives. Consumers are demanding change. Large emitters are facing lawsuits.

Supreme Court to take first look at GM crops in case with NEPA implications

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Tuesday involving a federal judge’s temporary ban on a breed of pesticide-resistant alfalfa, setting the stage for the court’s first-ever ruling on genetically modified crops.

Legal experts do not expect a blockbuster decision on the merits of regulating modified plants such as Monsanto Co.’s Roundup Ready alfalfa, but the case, Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, has drawn widespread interest because the justices could issue a ruling that would raise or lower the threshold for challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Environmental groups, which frequently use the statute to bring lawsuits against government agencies and industry groups, “don’t expect anything good” to come from the Supreme Court’s eventual decision, said David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel at the Sierra Club. It seems that some of the justices are “on a kick to gut NEPA remedies,” he said earlier this year during a panel discussion on environmental law at Georgetown University.

That sense of foreboding is compounded by the fact that the case comes from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a frequent source of environmental cases struck down by the Supreme Court. Last year, when the Supreme Court overturned five decisions favoring environmentalists, four had come from the 9th Circuit (Greenwire, June 25, 2009).

The Monsanto case stems from a 2006 lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Led by Phillip Geertson, a producer of organic alfalfa seeds from Adrian, Ore., the plaintiffs claimed that Roundup Ready alfalfa could spread its genes to alfalfa in neighboring fields, potentially preventing the other farmers from marketing their produce as organic.

Organic farmers convinced the court that they faced a “likelihood of irreparable harm” from genetic contamination, securing a ban on planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa that would remain in place until the Department of Agriculture concludes an environmental review.

“The court of appeals approved an injunction that is so broad that it prohibits beneficial activities that pose no risk of harm whatsoever,” attorneys for Monsanto wrote in their petition for Supreme Court review, which was granted in January. “If not reversed, the Ninth Circuit’s holding threatens to make blanket injunctions all but automatic in NEPA cases arising in that circuit.”

Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Humane Society of the United States filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court not to accept Monsanto’s argument, saying such a ruling would hinder their ability to rely on the statute “to ensure a meaningful consideration by federal agencies of the impacts of their actions on the environment, and particularly wildlife and plants.”

Michael Senatore, vice president of conservation law at Defenders of Wildlife, said his organization has not been involved in the issue of modified crops but wanted to weigh in because of the case’s potential impact on environmental litigation.

“It is a NEPA case, and NEPA has fared exceedingly poorly in the Supreme Court — I think it’s 0-for-13,” Senatore said. If the organic farmers lose, he added, “we could get another adverse NEPA ruling that could have implications for the work that we do.”

Scientist questions safety of new Westinghouse reactor design

A former nuclear industry engineer now affiliated with anti-nuclear groups has urged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reject Westinghouse Electric Co.’s new AP1000 reactor design, claiming it would be “inherently less safe than current reactors.”

Anti-nuclear advocacy groups released yesterday Arnold Gundersen’s study, which concluded that the reactor’s steel liner would be vulnerable to rust leaks. Because of a new design element in the AP1000 reactor, the study says, “there is no backup containment” behind the steel liner should a leak develop.

Westinghouse spokesman Vaughn Gilbert said the reactor would be safe despite backup containment because its steel liner is three to four times thicker than that in any existing plant. The containment was designed to prevent the leaks that have occurred in previous generations of reactors, he said.

“In the unlikely event that there was some corrosion, we’re confident it would be readily visible and corrected during plant inspections,” Gilbert said.

The new reactor design would be used in several U.S. nuclear proposals currently under consideration by NRC. Southern Co., which recently received $8 billion in federal loan guarantees, plans to build two of the reactors at its Vogtle facility near Waynesboro, Ga.

The company has received approval to begin site work, though NRC has not yet approved Westinghouse’s design.

38 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for April 23: GE to debut gearless offshore wind turbine; Supreme Court to look at GM crops; Big energy storage in thin films

  1. prokaryote says:

    Senators Struggling Over Climate Compromise

    U.S. senators writing a massive climate-change bill struggled on Thursday over how to reduce carbon dioxide pollution in the transportation sector, Senator Lindsey Graham said, adding that he did not yet know whether a measure would be ready by Monday.

    “The transportation sector is a problem,” Graham told reporters. “We’re just dealing with that.”

    Graham, a Republican, has been collaborating with Democratic Senator John Kerry and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman on a bill they hope to sketch out on Monday, but which will face an uphill fight this year.

    Asked whether the trio will be able to meet that deadline, Graham responded, “I don’t know yet.”

    The fight over how Congress should reduce pollution that scientists blame for global warming was unfolding as environmentalists celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

    “Earth Day 2010 must be a reflection point that helps make this the year the Senate passes comprehensive climate and energy legislation,” Kerry said in a statement.

    He called it “our last and best shot” at finding 60 votes needed in the Senate for controversial bills such as this one to clear procedural hurdles.

    Adapt or die.
    In coming years people will look back to today and how wise our decison been for the future of our civilization and security.
    A comprehensive energy & climate bill will help to build a better economy and create new jobs. To stay on the destructive path we have been for decades, against our very own planet, is no option any longer. The climate already hit tipping points and our planet changed considerably over the past years and will further do so. There is no execuse not to act now and adopt meassures for a clean energy future.

  2. substanti8 says:

    If Industrialism 2.0 is supposed to inspire me, the prospect of heavy involvement by corporations like General Electric just aint’ gonna do it.  Here’s an excerpt from the long litany of abuse that has been perpetrated by the nuclear giant:

    In their 2002 report, “”Titans of the Enron Economy: The 10 Habits of Highly Defective Corporations,” United for a Fair Economy gave a “special Lifetime Achievement Award” to General Electric “for scoring the highest average rank across all 10 bad habits, the only company to outrank second-place Enron.  GE exceeds Enron’s score by an astonishing 45%.”

  3. peachtree says:

    Joe, Sorry to post this OT, but can you respond to this interview with Judith Curry, whose views you have endorsed before and posted here?


    [JR: At some point next week. Busy time for me!]

  4. Bob Wallace says:

    GE has also redesigned their turbine blades so that the turbine is 25% more efficient than earlier models.

    Getting the gears out, the efficiency up, and moving off shore to where winds are much more reliable and steady is going to be a very big deal.

    Floating wind towers/turbines now being developed means that wind farms can be built in deeper waters. Think the very windy NW coast where the Pacific sea floor drops off quickly.

  5. mark says:

    thanks, very interesting.

  6. Leif says:

    When we get turbines off shore that much we start to get onto the gulf stream current and since the turbine is there and the power cable is there perhaps we can marry some tide generation as well.

  7. prokaryote says:

    Fungal Disease Spreads Through Pacific Northwest

    The most striking thing about this fungus is that it’s popping up and establishing itself far afield from its usual range — possibly because of climate change.

  8. Bob Wallace says:

    Turbines along the Florida coast where the current gets pinched between FL and the Bahamas are being studied.

    I can see a HVDC line along the East Coast reaching from Florida with its current and sunshine up to Nova Scotia with its extreme tidal power. Tie in off-shore wind farms along the way. Pick up biomass generation in the Northeast and the hydropower of Niagara.

    Hook that to the HVDC system under development to bring wind from the Midwest to the East, the HVDC system to bring Texas wind north, and you’ve got an ‘east of the Rockies’ “Desertec”.

    Desertec – Europe getting ahead of us one more time…

  9. prokaryote says:

    @Bob Wallace, hydropower and dams: Would be nice to read some more facts on this.

    Hydroelectric power’s dirty secret revealed

  10. Leif says:

    Perhaps we could name it Survival-Tech.

    It would beat the hell out of a bunch of oil platforms and I cannot imagine it much more expensive either, with the added advantage of not running out of fuel in a few years.

    As the East Coast ruminates on this latest Gulf event, they might even begin to see the light themselves.

  11. substanti8 says:

    Building a giant wind turbine requires large energy inputs – from mining to manufacture to distribution.  What is the Energy Returned on Energy Invested for a 1.5 MW wind turbine?

    The marketing materials on the General Electric web site are silent about this issue.  But I couldn’t help but notice that their 12-page brochure mentions “return on investment” four times – even in a presentation that is light on the text and heavy on the panoramic vistas.

    This means that as we build our brave new Industrialism 2.0, we will be repeating the same old mistakes with the capital investors leading the way toward the same old inequitable distribution of wealth.  The corporate mergers have already begun, and the prime operating principle of these monsters will be investor profit, not saving the biosphere.

  12. David says:

    In other climate news, Anthony Watts has once again outdid himself with Eurekagate-gate. Eurekagate was the claim that the record high temperatures measured in Eureka, Nunavut were obviously erroneous. Eurekagate-gate arose when poor Anthony forgot to account for the fact that Eureka is surrounding by the frigid Arctic Ocean and temperatures are highly dependent on the wind direction. You would think a retired meteorologist would have more familiarity with such coastal effects.

    Too bad he doesn’t take his own advice in the title of his most recent post and retire from blogging.

  13. Leif says:

    “Building a giant wind turbine requires large energy inputs.” Substanit8, #11: Those deep sea oil platforms do not grow in trees either. Nor does the miles if drill pipe and product pipe and storage. Oh, don’t forget the supply ships that must visit those stations at about 3,000 gallons of fuel a day. Helicopters to transport crews. Tens of thousands of gallons of specialized drilling mud back and forth. This just scratches the surface. Miles of anchor cable and numerous 12,000+ pound anchors. Some of this is also necessary for wind energy but you must not disregard the daily contribution of energy required to pump oil.

  14. substanti8 says:

    Leif, nothing I wrote was meant to imply that petroleum does not also require energy inputs.  But I suspect it still has an EROEI that far surpasses all of the alternatives, including wind.

    Reducing population and reducing affluence are basically taboo in most industrialized societies, especially the United States.  But that has not stopped Richard Heinberg from directly confronting this denial.  The promo for his latest writing project states the case better than I have:

    In Searching for a Miracle: ‘Net Energy’ Limits and the Fate of Industrial Society, Richard Heinberg examines 18 energy sources by their “net energy” and nine other criteria.  Published jointly by Post Carbon Institute and International Forum on Globalization, the report is intended as a non-technical examination of a basic question: Can any combination of known energy sources successfully supply society’s energy needs at least up to the year 2100?  In the end, we are left with the disturbing conclusion that all known energy sources are subject to strict limits of one kind or another.  Perhaps the most significant limit to future energy supplies is the “net energy” factor – the requirement that energy systems yield more energy than is invested in their construction and operation.

    The report explores some of the presently proposed energy transition scenarios, showing why, up to this time, most are overly optimistic, as they do not address all of the relevant limiting factors to the expansion of alternative energy sources.  Finally, it shows why energy conservation (using less energy, and also less resource materials) combined with humane, gradual population decline must become primary strategies for achieving sustainability.

    So there you have it – acknowledging both the elephant (P) and the rhinoceros (A) in the room.

    I = PAT

  15. Bob Wallace says:

    prokaryote #9 – That’s a misleading article. It blasts dams for releasing CO2 and methane.

    “Hydroelectric dams produce significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, and in some cases produce more of these greenhouse gases than power plants running on fossil fuels.”

    Then later the article drifts back toward reality. It talks about CO2 and methane that are released as submerged plants rot. Emissions that occur during the first ten or so years of the reservoir’s life.

    Two problems here. 1) Those released greenhouse gases are not coming from previously sequestered carbon like fossil fuels. 2) The problem is temporary. Build a fossil fuel plant and the release of previously sequestered carbon goes on for the life of the plant.

    The ‘seasonal colonization’ problem he talks about is also bogus. No plant matter of any importance grows on most reservoir banks. What does grow is annuals (mostly grasses) that would have decayed and given up their carbon within a year any way.

    Bad article. Bad author.

  16. Bob Wallace says:

    prokaryote #9 – some more.

    Are you aware that Niagara is already plumbed for hydro and kicking out a whole bunch? Has for years.

    And are you aware that there are approximately 80,000 dams existing right now in the US and only 2,500 or so are used to generate power? Many were built for navigation, flood control, or water storage/irrigation.

    A good number of those existing dams, perhaps 15% – 10,000+, should be potential power producers. There should be that many with adequate head, flow, and proximity to transmission lines. At the moment there are a half dozen being converted to power producers. If costs turn out the way developers have projected look for this activity to increase.

    And another good number should be usable for pump-up storage. We’ve already got several pump-up storage facilities around the country and are building more.

    No need to build any more dams. Just use the ones we have.

  17. Leif says:

    Substanti8, #14: I fully agree with you that overpopulation is a problem, over consumption as well, inefficiency, no doubt, war, a given, as well as other atrocities to sustainability and require accounting. In the end, I still feel that the answer to all is that Capitalism, and by extension, corporations must be charged with sustainability first and profits secondary. Humanity cannot survive for long with these two powerful forces not embracing humanities’ long term sustainability and the survivability of earth’s life support systems . Capitalism and corporation’s disregard for life is so complete that neither can see that without the life support systems supplied by earth even they are toast. Their vision reaches no further than the bottom line on the balance sheet. Their trust in the dollar guarantees their personal survival even when all us remaining pesky life forms are erased. Little do they know.

  18. Bob Wallace says:

    “corporations must be charged with sustainability first and profits secondary”

    Unrealistic. Corporations exist to make profit. (For the most part, there are a few exceptions.)

    It’s up to governments to set limits on corporations. Governments must create the boundaries of the playing field in which business will be allowed to seek profits.

  19. substanti8 says:

    Perhaps the corporate form needs to be abolished altogether.

    I raised this issue because I would like people to question not just the form of capitalism (such as fossil fuels vs. “renewable” energy) but the system itself.  General Electric wading into wind power seems the perfect symbol of a failure to address the mammoth underlying dysfunction.

    I’m not a proponent of a state-run economy, but it seems clear that we need to start imagining and then advocating radical departures from a system that is fundamentally premised on no limits.  We need far more than Obama would (or could) ever do.  Capitalism doesn’t “care” what’s being produced, as long as there’s surplus production (and endless growth) to feed the insatiable “return on investment” for unaccountable capital investors.

    I would like to see the centralized system of capitalism replaced with decentralized economies.  We desperately need a revival of local communities.  The juggernaut of capital and its pawns in Washington can only be broken if citizens and local governments have the courage to resist and break civil laws, especially the Interstate Commerce Clause.  I’m talking about blocking the Wal-Mart trucks at the county line, for example.  Unfortunately, I don’t see the making of any such revolution among the rams and ewes of TV Nation.

    I could say more, but I’ll shut up.

  20. Bob Wallace says:

    There are things about “the corporate form” that are just fine, even necessary.

    Let’s say you have a great idea. A new way to make solar panels that are more efficient and could sell for less. But you don’t have the millions of dollars to get your idea to market.

    You’ve got to turn to others, convince them to invest some of their money in your idea. But would they invest if by doing so they put their entire net worth at risk?

    Without the protection of the corporate structure someone might invest ten thousand of their five hundred thousand dollar net worth in your company and by doing so place the other four hundred and ninety thousands dollars at risk. If one of your employees, say, was drinking on the job and ran over a kid in a crosswalk (and you had failed to make the last insurance premium payment) your company get sued. You might loose and get hit with a multi-million dollar penalty, and as part of paying off the judgment your investor’s assets would be seized.

    No one would ever invest in businesses (that they didn’t directly control) if it put everything they owned at risk.

  21. Bob Wallace says:

    “1)Capitalism doesn’t “care” what’s being produced, as long as there’s (2)surplus production (and endless growth) to feed the insatiable “return on investment” for (3)unaccountable capital investors.

    I would like to see the centralized system of capitalism replaced with decentralized economies. We desperately need a revival of local communities. (4)The juggernaut of capital and its pawns in Washington can only be (5) broken if citizens and local governments have the courage to resist and break civil laws, especially the Interstate Commerce Clause. I’m talking about blocking the Wal-Mart trucks at the county line, for example.”

    (1) True. Corporations are neither moral nor immoral. They are amoral. Corporations are a legal structure, not an individual with a “soul”.

    (2) Corporation require neither surplus production (in their best interest to not produce surplus goods) nor endless growth. Plenty of corporations/businesses crank right along doing just fine, producing income without engaging in endless growth.

    (3) See my previous post. Investors need to be protected. Not the capital they have invested in the corporation, that’s totally at risk, but their other assets.

    (4) We need campaign financing law changes in order to cut down on big money influence on elected officials. We’ve put our elected officials in a terrible position. We force them to raise enormous amounts of money to get into office.

    (5) The actions you suggest are foolish and will not work. Take yourself down to your local big box retailer and throw yourself in front of their delivery trucks. Let’s say the police give you a pass, you would be picked up and tossed into the nearest dumpster by your fellow community members, angry because you were interfering with their shopping.

    We (the greater public) will not “buy local” nor “buy American” if it means paying appreciably more. WalMart learned that lesson. They tried “made in America” and found that other stores were importing merchandise and undercutting them.

  22. substanti8 says:

    Bob, thanks for your replies.  To reduce the size of my response, I only addressed some points of disagreement.

    “just fine, even necessary”

    The corporate form is necessary for what?  Much of your argument seems to presuppose large scale.

    “But you don’t have the millions of dollars to get your idea to market.”

    Then I would say that person is thinking too big.  Part of embracing small scale is creating social limits against large scale.

    “someone might invest ten thousand of their five hundred thousand dollar net worth”

    I reject the premise.  In order for anyone to have such wealth, there has to be extremely inequitable wealth distribution within the society (such as we have today).  For comparison, the worldwide annual per capita gross domestic product is about 10,000 U.S. dollars.  Continuing with a system premised on injustice would increase the probability of future resource wars.

    “No one would ever invest in businesses … if it put everything they owned at risk.”

    But that argument seems to presuppose the continuation of a society in which individualism greatly overshadows collectivism.  In contrast, I argue for greater collective action at the local level.  Thus, the question would not be whether an individual takes economic risks, but whether a community takes risks.

    “Corporation require neither surplus production …”

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear.  By “surplus” I don’t necessarily mean production that cannot be consumed (although plenty of that occurs in the capitalist system).  Rather, I’m referring for the need to create surplus wealth to pay investors.  Many authors have written about this.

    “Plenty of corporations/businesses crank right along doing just fine, producing income without engaging in endless growth.”

    Without growth, they are targets for takeover and less attractive to investors.

    “Take yourself down to your local big box retailer and throw yourself in front of their delivery trucks.”

    Yes, straw men are foolish.

    As I wrote yesterday, we desperately need a revival of local communities – to replace this hyper-individualistic society in which our large-scale social structure has isolated us from nature and from each other.

    These ideas are not new.  Read Kirkpatrick Sale or Leopold Kohr or the numerous books and articles about secession and decentralization.

  23. Bob Wallace says:

    Investor protection is necessary in order to get people to invest. Risk must be contained to money invested and not to total wealth of the investor.

    Small might be very beautiful, but it often is totally impractical. Starting a new company to produce, say, an excellent EV battery would take hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Wealth is unequally distributed. That’s the facts on the ground. Pretty much always been that way and pretty much always will be. Equal distribution, how’s that worked in socialistic countries?

    It’s not “surplus wealth”. It’s a fair return on investment. If investors can’t make money they won’t invest. Period.

    Yes, small corporations can be eaten by larger ones if they don’t structure themselves to prevent it.

    Yes, we would probably have more pleasant lives if we were to revive our communities. But we aren’t going to make our TVs, computers, cars, etc. on a local level. We’ve gone global and there’s no going back. We all want maximum “goodies” for our buck and it’s just not efficient to produce in mom and pop shops.

  24. prokaryote says:

    And temperatures were set to nudge 70F (21C) today as the mercury continued to climb on the hottest weekend of the year so far.

    Gemma Adams, 24, from Portsmouth, was on the beach with pals and said: “It’s never too early to start on your suntan! It almost feels like summer, it’s that hot.”

    Bhubaneswar: Breaking News! There is no respite from the unprecedented heatwave conditions for people in Orissa. Western Orissa is worst-hit. Talcher recorded a maximum of 46.2 degrees Celsius yesterday.

    According to unofficial reports, the sunstroke death toll in Orissa has gone up to 53. All schools in the state have been closed from April 20.

  25. Bob Wallace says:

    prokaryote – looking like this will be the year we cook.

    Back to the dam article you linked – I remembered something. The author makes a big deal of the vegetation left to rot underneath the water.

    When I lived over in the Sierra foothills a new dam was built, enlarging an existing reservoir and flooding new land.

    As they were building the dam they opened the ‘to be flooded’ land for people to harvest firewood. By the time the water started to rise the trees were gone and the brush had been piled and burned. Nothing got submerged other than grasses.

    That’s one of the problems with the article. The author simply assumes all new dams will submerge large amounts of vegetation. And that assumption does not hold.

  26. Leif says:

    Interesting discussion Bob and Sudstanti8: While Bob makes good points I must come down on the side of substanti8. There is plenty of people in the world to sell stuff to and remain in business. The problem is that TOO many people do not have access to money to buy stuff and so corporations only design and sell to the market. Even going so far as to build planed obsolescence into their product to enhance market share. Secondly small investors are brutalized in the market place by the big fish. That needs to change. I would love to invest but am forced to invest in low return CDs etc. for protection. The system is stacked against the small investor and poor. Capitalism must be structured to lift the poor in a sustainable manor as well as supply the rich in an equitable and sustainable fashion.

  27. prokaryote says:

    Forest epidemic is unprecedented phenomenon, still getting worse

    Climate change means more fungus for the northern hemisphere – all lifeforms. (See my post 7#)

  28. prokaryote says:

    Good point Bob Wallace, i thought this article on hydro was a lit to creational (Starting with the headline).

  29. substanti8 says:

    “totally impractical”

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Decentralization is only impractical if you start with the premise that large scale is better than small scale.

    “Wealth is unequally distributed….  Pretty much always been that way and pretty much always will be.”

    Wow … so much for “hope and change”.

    “Equal distribution, how’s that worked in socialistic countries?”

    Equitable, not “equal”.  There is a difference.  But my comments here are actually a disguise for the Bolshevik plot that you have so expertly revealed.

    “We’ve gone global and there’s no going back.”

    We’ll see what nature has to “say” about that.  I think industrialism is due for a massive comeuppance.  It would be nice if people realized the need to change, instead of clinging to a system that represents less than 1% of humanity’s experience.

  30. prokaryote says:

    Scientific Society Revises Climate Change Statement: science advances

    The position paper makes clear that natural causes cannot explain the warming that we see.

  31. prokaryote says:

    The oldest and largest trees within California’s world famous Yosemite National Park are disappearing.

    Climate change appears to be a major cause of the loss.

  32. Bob Wallace says:

    “Decentralization is only impractical if you start with the premise that large scale is better than small scale.”

    There is an economy of scale which can’t be beat by wishful thinking. Can you imagine the cost of a computer if each was built by hand?

    And there is an advantage of manufacturing close to the source of the raw materials in the case of industry which starts with big stuff and sells little stuff.

  33. prokaryote says:

    Floods Cause Chaos in China (video)

    Heavy snow, sandstorm hinder China quake relief

  34. prokaryote says:

    Hazards of extreme weather Hazards of extreme weather

    Despite global moves to pre-empt the adverse effects of climate change on humanity, the situation seems to be getting worse. The World Health Organisation recently raised the alarm over the hazards posed by extreme weather conditions being experienced in various parts of the world.

    WHO, in an article published recently, alerted the world to the adverse effects of human activities on global climate, with serious implications for public health. According to the body, “Climate and weather already exert strong influences on health; through deaths in heat waves, and natural disasters such as floods, as well as influencing patterns of life-threatening vector-borne diseases such as malaria.”

  35. prokaryote says:

    38 total number of dead in North China coalmine

    Heavy snow, sandstorm hinder China quake relief

  36. prokaryote says:

    Physicians have warned that the current unusual weather condition – dry, dusty, hot and humid – could aid the spread of infectious diseases like meningitis, measles and chicken pox; and cause dehydration, exhaustion, headaches and skin afflictions across the country. They also warned that the harmattan haze would make bacteria and viral infections, including cold, cough and catarrh to spread faster.

    Nigerians have, however, been urged not to be alarmed by the unusual heat waves but take more fluids to rehydrate the system and to reduce their exposure to the weather as much as possible by wearing mouth and nose masks where and when necessary. Besides, the foggy weather has caused heavy revenue losses to various airlines, after flights cancellation.

    The world has, in recent times, been assailed by extreme weather conditions. While some nations are facing severe cold, flooding and snowfall, others have had unprecedented heat waves. An environmental expert, Dr. Adeleke Adedoyin, said, “We are reaping the fruit of over-exploitation of natural resources and emission of poisonous chemicals.”

    China recently experienced severe sandstorms with tons of sand turning Beijing’s sky orange. China’s National Weather Bureau warned that the air quality was “very bad for the health.” Workers and tourists were found covering their faces. The storm has been linked to the country’s fast expanding deserts, which now cover one-third of the country because of overgrazing, deforestation, urban sprawl and drought. The Chinese Academy of Science has estimated that the number of sandstorms has jumped six-fold in the last 50 years to two dozens a year.

    Despite its global dimension, climate change has a disproportionate impact on poor nations as a result of inadequate health infrastructure, lean resources and slow response to emergencies. WHO estimates that every year, about 150, 000 deaths occur worldwide in low-income countries owing primarily to the adverse effects of climate change such as crop failure, malnutrition, floods, diarrhoea, and malaria.

    With the continued industrial pollution going on in many industrialised nations, including the United States, Germany and China, it is evident that many of them are yet to comply with the resolution reached at the climate conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark. These nations are expected to adjust their machines or change them. There have been genuine calls on countries to intensify research into wind-generated energy and other clean sources of energy rather than relying solely on crude oil energy.

    As the world’s leading culprit in gas flaring, Nigeria needs to act immediately to end the practice and save its endangered environment. Meanwhile, the nation’s health authorities need to stage enlightenment campaign on the dangers of exposure to the dry, hot and dusty weather, particularly by people predisposed to respiratory ailments.

  37. prokaryote says:

    Mongolian dzud kills millions of domestic animals

    A dzud, an extreme winter phenomenon with temperatures as low as -52.6 degrees F, has caused significant suffering and death to approximately 3.4 million livestock in Mongolia, to date.

  38. prokaryote says:

    UN agreement to allow people to check local pollution online