Crash of the Bumblebee — MY COMMENT

by John Brian Shannon

READ PROFESSOR PAUL KRUGMAN’S ARTICLE “CRASH OF THE BUMBLEBEE” HERE…

Supposedly, the bumblebee is not able to fly according to all the known laws of physics. But fly it does and it does so adroitly.

So too, according to all the known laws of working political models (those are called countries) Europe is not supposed to work. But it does so and is as adroit as any bumblebee will ever… be. Ahem.

Since the ashes of WWII, Europe has risen like the Phoenix of lore, from self-destruction to become a fully-fledged working model. Europe has many disparate parts, you would expect it to be unwieldy and it should definitely not fly. But it has surpassed everyone’s expectations – including the expectations of many European citizens and I daresay, some of Europe’s greatest leaders past and present.

A tip of the hat must always go to the foresighted American politicians of 1945-1950, who gave their blessing to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and feed it’s people, until the Europeans could again feed themselves. Even after that the U.S.A. pursued a successful European project with vigour. There were many disagreements and even outright arguments between the Americans and the Europeans from 1945 right down ’till the present day. No doubt, there will always be differences of opinion, but so much more has gone right, than wrong over the past 67 years.

Differences aside, the U.S needs a successful Europe and Europe needs a successful America. Neither can afford a disaster on the other side of the pond.

The American Civil War can be considered America’s coming-of-age moment, while the gradually coalescing Europe, still fresh from reunification with it’s Eastern European counterparts, post-Cold War, must now forge some kind of coming-of-age moment for itself – or history will indeed pass Europe by.

One such test is the present ‘Eurozone Moment’ — where the wealthy northern European’s (where most of the euro-dollars live) must find a way to co-exist with their poorer southern cousins, who are in hock up to their nostrils.

If Europe can find a solution now, it may well be written down by future historians as Europe’s coming-of-age moment, the glorious moment when Europe realized that she is, in totality, greater than the sum of her individual parts thereof. Let’s hope Europe is self-aware at that level.

What time honoured political strategy could assist us here? I’m glad you asked. For one of the best-tested and time honoured practices for success is, the strategy of win-win.

But how to apply this to the present Eurozone Moment?

By simply finding many different things which will work to mutual advantage, where both sides can gain some amount of benefit. It doesn’t have to be an exact science. Forward progress is forward progress. On some matters, the north may gain more and on other things the south may gain more. What matters here is the need to not lose the Moment! And, to find multiple ways to succeed together.

The simplest idea in the world here is to create some kind of Euro-stock in order to ‘buy-down’ the interest rate of the southern European nations, especially the ones which are deeply in debt, or which have high unemployment and/or stagnant growth.

How could this profit the northern Euro stock-holders? The market works the same, anywhere you go. Price things over 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years. Investors will make money on the spread between the estimated price vs. the actual selling price.

If Spain, just for example, is having trouble affording the payments on the debt it owes, it doesn’t really matter that Spain isn’t carrying a lot of debt compared to some countries, what matters is, they can’t make the payments. How better to help Spain pay it’s debts, than to lower the interest rate on the money they owe? If 10% interest rates are killing them, then maybe those same multi-billions of debt financed at 2% interest, won’t.

If northern European’s can make money on buying down the interest rate for Spain, then Spain will be better able to fix it’s economy.

I would call that a win for northern European investors (whether sovereign, institutional or private) and a win for Spain.

That’s how to make a country (or a bloc of countries) pull together — instead of pulling itself apart. That is how to make Europe fly. The trick is to be there when needed, not after the crash.

John Brian Shannon writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics from British Columbia, Canada. His articles appear in the Arabian Gazette, EcoPoint Asia, EnergyBoom, the Huffington Post, the United Nations Development Programme – and other quality publications.

John believes it is important to assist all levels of government and the business community to find sustainable ways forward for industry and consumers.

Check out his personal blog at: http://johnbrianshannon.com
Check out his economics blog at:
https://jbsnews.wordpress.com
Follow John on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/#!/JBSCanada

Greek and French Voters Overturn Austerity

By John Brian Shannon

Greek and French voters have overturned austerity in Europe, but voters have really overturned a change to sustainable economic policies.

The structural changes there have caused some level of financial problems for individuals and families.

But the alternative was to let the outrageous, drunken-sailor spending continue until there was nothing left of the economies in question. Eventually that would have caused a real pan-European depression  – instead of five years of austerity in only those countries foolish enough to have overspent themselves for decades.

It is the obscene deficits which have run year after year (and have piled up into unaffordable debt) that are responsible for the lowered credit ratings in those countries and the poor economic performances found only in those particular European countries, it must be said. I note that the rest of Europe is doing quite well – even accounting for the combined drag and multi-billion euro bailouts of Greece, Portugal and Spain.

Blaming austerity, is like blaming the doctor who is now fixing your broken arm for the original accident — as you drunkenly stumbled out of the casino! The Greek economy was a basket-case long before austerity ever arrived and it will be a basket-case now that austerity is leaving Greece.

Greek and French citizens have voted for the former glory days of unrestrained spending with lots of toys and goodies from their governments – and to hell with paying for it!

“Let the EU bail us out forever, for tonight, we drink like drunken sailors!” And, if you think that isn’t being hollered at full volume at many thousands of cantina’s and spilling out on to the streets of Greece tonight, you’ve never been there!

Follow John Brian Shannon on Twitter: https://twitter.com/@JBSCanada

The Economist online — Watts Next? | MY COMMENT

What will be fueling the world in 2030?
The Economist online | January 25, 2012

MY COMMENT —

“THE world will consume 40% more energy in 2030 than it does today, according to BP’s World Energy Outlook, though the rate of growth will decrease…” — The Economist

Global primary energy use
Global primary energy use

On sustainability front-runners, Germany, Spain and Argentina

Germany, Spain and Argentina are getting close to 25% of their electricity from solar, wind, geothermal and hydro power. It’s a safe bet that within five years, those targets will be met or exceeded.

On top of all that, Germany is shutting down it’s entire nuclear power industry by 2022 and is ahead of schedule there too. (They’re German’s after all!)

A new industry is taking hold in Germany, the UK and in other European countries – pure vegetable oil is being used to fuel (formerly) diesel cars and trucks.

It’s NOT bio-diesel as there is no petroleum diesel mixed into the veg oil fuel. Bio-diesel is a different product altogether, but IS available there as an optional fuel. (minor alterations are needed to the vehicle in order to use each different kind of fuel)

See: http://www.vegoilmotoring.com/eng/

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On German environmental law

“The 2012 EEG sets a minimum requirement of not less than 35 percent of renewable energy in electricity supply by 2020, not less than 50 percent by 2030, not less than 65 percent by 2040 and not less than 80 percent by 2050.

However, the law actually sets a target of between 35 and 40 percent of supply within the next decade. This conforms to a decision made by the Ministry of Environment in 2010. Rather than reducing its commitment to expanding renewable energy, Germany has codified a more aggressive target than in the previous law.”

This quote is from:
http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/07/germany-pas

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At the same time as all the above is occurring

The UK has already dropped it’s feed-in tariff for sustainable electricity. Germany is lowering theirs twice within a 12-month period.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/20/solar-panel-price-drop

It’s a simple equation, solar panel prices have dropped dramatically in the past 24 months, which is why Solyndra (and others) failed.

In 2011, China passed both the U.S. and Germany as the world’s largest manufacturers of solar panels and wind turbines.

Here’s a basic, but excellent link for you:
http://cleantechnica.com/2011/12/30/german-solar-power-production-surges…

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On conventional nuclear power

Many nuclear plants are getting close to the end of their lifetime. It is often less expensive to build new, state of the art nuclear plants – than to refurbish or renovate old plants to meet modern standards – as the Japanese are now finding out.

A majority of Japan’s 54 nuclear plants are shut down for inspection since the Fukushima disaster. Japan has just inked a deal with Saudi Arabia to purchase more oil to make up for the loss of all that nuclear power generation. How much more oil? THREE TIMES Japan’s total 2010 oil imports from all sources!

See: http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article560501.ece

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On ‘Modular” nuclear power:

To help you get up to speed in the modern nuclear power age, here is some general info.

Old, large nuclear plants all over the world, are nearing the end of their (safe) lifetime. They need to be decommissioned as soon as time and circumstance allows. Germany is decommissioning all their plants by 2022. Japan has shut down most of it’s 54 nuclear plants – a few may restart if, after rigorous inspections they are deemed safe enough.

The trend now is towards much higher safety and security standards and much smaller nuclear power plants – so called ‘modular’ nuclear power.

Here’s a great link for modular N-power:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/uciliawang/2012/01/20/feds-to-finance-small-…

If you need more info on this use keywords “modular, nuclear, power” on Google, plenty of info there.

Modern and safe, modular nuclear is the perfect partner for solar and wind power – as N-power can quickly ramp up to meet demand (at sundown) or when wind speeds suddenly drop. Nuclear does this far better than any other electrical grid partner.

The sore point with nuclear for decades – apart from old, obsolete N-plants has been ‘spent’ fuel rods. Some types of fuel rods require secure storage facilities and continuous cooling for 20,000 years(!) which significantly add to the cost of nuclear power.

Those old rods are hot and can become very dangerous if allowed to come into contact with the atmosphere, or if mis-handled in any way. Terrorist incidents are always a danger with both nuclear plants and long-term storage facilities, again, adding to the overall cost of nuclear.

Yet, there is a solution if the option is chosen. France’s nuclear power plants can ‘burn’ our ‘spent’ rods and eventually render them into a low radioactive state and France can store those (almost) fully-spent rods. The cost to dispose of N-rods in this way are much lower than 20,000-year storage.

Safe transport to France is imperative.

What I have outlined above is not the entire solution to all of our electrical power generation requirements, but can be considered huge steps in the right direction.

We need voices on this to make it happen.