Monday, May 22, 2017
Renewable Fuels have consequences too.
Paul Hawken, hawking his new book, " Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, seems to have forgotten the theme of his previous book, "The Ecology of Commerce":
"the origins of issues with respect to the environment must reside deep in the longings of people to lead fruitful lives ... while causing as little suffering as possible to all and everything around us".
However, as the course of American politics traveling ever rightward, replete with the never-ending hagiographic adulation of Ronald Reagan, coupled with the Maniacal insatiable greed impelling the rush to ruin via stoking the polity's desire for More, More, More, Bigger, Faster, Now!, evinced by the already well-off American middles class during the Bush error demonstrates, the fantasy Hawken entertains of humanity's most earnest desire being to lead "fruitful lives", is, or should have been, eclipsed by one that (like both Adam Smith did for economics and the United State's founding fathers' philosophy did for political institutions) better takes into account and exploits humanity's real longings and intractable failings.
Because it's become apparent that mankind's real desire has nothing to do with anything as edifying as leading fruitful lives. Additionally, Humanity, in reality, could care less about any suffering that our actions may cause on anything around us, but comes far closer to realizing the atavistic dreams of a Reich-like ascendancy of Nietzsche's Superman, desirous of nothing less that the complete subjugation of all they survey and its replacement with one dedicated to the fulfillment of their crass materialistic dreams, one that endows us with the ability to crush underfoot and grind into submission everything crawling on the earth that threatens to impede the attainment of our most trivial pursuits.
Although it serves our egos and our pretensions to altruism, the propensity to mold mankind into the image and likeness of our conception of Man as a being ruled by reason is, like humanity itself, doomed to failure.
And both of these hypotheses are best dissected by studying the real dynamics that are the basis of our government and our economies, and our concept of our lives as we live them in this most modern of worlds: the source of the energy that runs it and the enabler of procuring that energy, the Military and the arms trade that is its enabler, together with the entity that undergirds them both: Democratic governments that cater to the conception of self-rule while undermining it by spawning a Military Industrial Complex (a Corporate-sanitized phrase used to mollify the populace into accepting the transition from a civilian economy into The Wehrmacht) we've created to over-rule any objections to its existence and its infiltration into every aspect of our lives. In other words, to turn Democratic institution into pillars of Fascism by disguising their takeover by the military.
This is, of course, best illustrated by the sarcastic phrase, "I'm from the Government and I'm here to Help", that was uttered by the same man who was responsible for the largest build-up of military forces in the history of the world. And yet those military forces are part of that self same government Reagan so derided. Yes Ronald Reagan, that hero to millions of Americans, is the man who purposely set out to undermine rule by civilian government, replacing it with military rule, because civilian rule is just, oh so lame, and he did so with borrowed money and the manipulation of the price of Oil in an Economy he hailed as Free-Market, even as he actively changed it to one that, via a tsunami of deficit spending, was reconfigured to cater to the source of its largest demand: the Government. But this time in the guise of military expenditures, thus perverting it so completely it has never regained its ability to serve the civilian sector except as a second thought, all its major innovations having been created by and for the Military procurement process, only then "spinning them off" to the civilian sector, mimicking the process FDR/Truman used to massage it to pour billions into first creating a Nuclear bomb and then to sell its bastard son, Nuclear power, disguising and minimizing its dangers and limitations so as to justify the enormous expenditures required for its continued existence.
This is the same trick, with a different sleight of hand that Hawken uses to placate his readers (well, to sell his book, really) with Utopian dreams of a future of easy living with no fossil fuel hangover, even as the very atmosphere that hangs over our heads gets more and more saturated with CO2, methane, water vapor, and various other heat-trapping gasses. A kind of 21'st Century cartoonish return to, not the Jetsons, as we prefer to imagine ourselves, but to the Flintstones: a humanity unable (thanks to religious indoctrination started while we are still at an age of total vulnerability and dependency) to move beyond the Stone-age mentality of supernaturalist superstition, overlaid with all the trappings of a modernity of which they rarely understand either its genesis or ramifications. Both of which have far more to do with the manufacture, selling, maintenance and deployment of an unconscionable tonnage of war-mongering-enabling Weapons of Mass Destruction on a scale that dwarfs the economy of all but the most powerful of Countries. And those countries in turn, have every aspect of their economies, from Burger King to KFC, from ipones to apples, attuned to meet the needs of the military, because the military has, more than any other facet of economic life, an unquestioned and unquestionable access to public monies; access that is unaccountable, access that is unaudited, and, as a result of those two features, access that always and everywhere, eventually becomes access that is completely irresponsible. And like any power that is absolute, it is totally, incorrigibly, corrupt.
And that is also what Hawken's book is, irresponsible. Because the first item of his top ten list of things that'll drawdown CO2 and reverse global warming (first let me note, that the top ten list has nary an item that has anything whatsoever to do with a drawdown, which would entail the removal of greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, not the mere diminution of the rate at which they are being spewed into it) he places refrigerants and points to an article by Brad Plumer in which he explains the transition from CFC's to HFC's as refrigerants and the ongoing transition from HFC's to HFO's, which are promised to be far less effective at heat-trapping than the HFC's currently used and don't, at least theoretically, punch a hole in the ozone layer as CFC's (Freon) did, well, do, but far fewer are used nowadays. (Which wouldn't matter in the least if the externalities of manufacture and sale were borne by the companies that profit therefrom. But Capitalism cannot survive, could not even exist, if those who poison and destroy that from which they derive their profits were made accountable for their dissemination in the first case and ravenous destruction in the second (the burnt-down rain forests for example, the combustion of which pours CO2 into the atmosphere while simultaneously destroying a vast engine for its removal, all to produce biodiesel, sold to the public as "green" fuel ... Flintstones, Meet the Flintstones). Like Superdump sites that must be cleaned up at taxpayer expense while the profits derived from the poisoning of the sites in the first place are safely sequestered in the pockets of those who had no need to take those costs into account. If they (the HFC manufacturers) did have to, the refrigerant gasses would never find their way into the atmosphere in such prodigious quantities in the first place, since the companies that use them would be held responsible for making sure they are never released from their products, as the functioning of said products never demands the refrigerant be released).
But here, if nothing else we run up against Jevon's paradox. In the very next sentence, Mr. Plumer sites the statistic that what we're still calling "third world demand" is on pace to install some 700 million air conditioners. This could result in total HFC concentrations in the atmosphere rising by 140 percent:
"Basically, we stopped one environmental problem only to confront another."
Well, not exactly. "We stopped one environmental problem only to create yet another" environmental problem would be more accurate. We've yet to actually confront the problem, else there'd be no need for Mr Plumer's article. But this is the language the so-called progressives like to use, because, given the fact that the economy is a Wehrmacht, we adopt everything militaristic, from the fact that "You're killing it" has become praise, to the fact that all Silicone Valley firms name their conference rooms "War Rooms" to glorify the military and enhance their own sense of self-importance, glorifying their mundane tasks of configuring a router to the point of national importance, to the substituting of the phrase "to confront" to replace the actual reality, of "to CAUSE", a problem. And no, this choice of words was not accidental. The biggest disservice that computerization has done to the collective subconscious is to convince everyone that things just come about without the necessity of effort. But just as War Room has to be decided on and agreed to and then a service hired to make a placard with the name and number (most firms have many War Rooms on their "campuses"), and then a different service hired to then align and install the sign on the door, similarly, an article has to be written and words consciously decided upon, and the word "confront" was purposely chosen and agreed to by at least one editor, as it makes it less obvious that it was engineers who created the problem in the first place, and to keep the reader from asking the obvious question: What unforeseen (because, in our naivete, we give them the benefit of the doubt that it was indeed, unforeseen. It more than likely was not however, it's just that those who brought up the objection that it had 10,000 times the global warming potential of CO2 were silenced) negative consequences will this new refrigerant gas produce?
But that's a question I don't know the answer to, although I suspect there are those that do. But what I do know is that the manufacture, distribution, installation, powering and maintenance on 700 million air conditioning units that do not exist today but will exist in the not-to-distant future, per the projections of these green-thinking authors, who fail to mention a thing about how many of the millions of AC units already in existence would need to be replaced, nor how such an enormous increase in production, would impact, via the tremendous amounts of CO2 created from all this energy-intensive activity, the supposed savings from the replacement of HFC's with HFO's.
If you then take into account the installation of the units, the mining of the materials to make, not just the AC units themselves, but also, this being third world countries, the infrastructure over which to transport the energy to the end user, the miles of copper, the heat produced by overcoming resistance over the transmission lines, the conversion of the fuel into usable energy, and the heat content a 400ppm CO2 atmosphere already has us blanketed under, you begin to see that the premise of their whole argument is highly suspect. When one next considers their argument that those objections are met with the statement that the units will encourage "the adoption of 100% clean, renewable energy" you know the entire argument is specious, as there is no such thing as renewable energy ... if there were you would not need renewable fuels. This is not just semantics, the difference is very real and their choice of the term renewable energy calculated.
Renewable fuels is actually a misnomer as well, of course, as all the fuels necessary for a mass-produced machine would all have to be renewable, such as gasoline, butane, propane, all are renewable, like your gas tank is refillable. But energy itself is never renewable, it must be generated; some form of some kind of matter or another form of energy must be transformed into the type of energy you wish to use to power your devise. And what gets released in this conversion process everywhere in the universe, is heat. So if you were to complete the entire installation of the additional 700 million AC units, remembering that AC is, along with the refrigerators sitting in every modern kitchen, the biggest energy hog you own, the additional energy needed to run them would be prodigious. But whereas Fossil fuels are indeed the worse offenders in terms of the heat they produce (or at least are assumed to be, although when a battery in something as small as a Samsung smart phone generates enough heat to produce an explosion, one can't really be sure of that, and no one's about to tell you the truth on the subject).
But the ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere is no longer the historical 280, but an elevated 400ppm, at its minimum, so all that heat we're producing by generating, not renewable energy, but energy that must be generated again once it's used up, then, even if it's using fuels that release no additional CO2 into the atmosphere, it will increase the level of global warming by an astounding amount, because the very fact that the term "Renewable Energy" is bandied about tells the real story, and that real story is that no one is contemplating, never mind initiating, any diminution, never mind cessation, of energy production. The only diminution of energy production envisioned is that via the combustion of fossil fuels. However by all indications, whether by reading derivative contracts, or government-to-government contracts (how do you think the Saudis are going to pay for the $350Billion of War gear they've just reportedly contracted with the US President to procure? Solar cells?) it's clear that only after every last drop of oil has been squeezed out of the ground, only after every last molecule of natural gas has been ignited, and only after every last ingot of coal has been torn from mother earth, will energy from non-CO2 producing sources be the only one used, and by that time, the CO2 blanket covering the planet, efficiently keeping in all the heat that energy conversion, transmission, and re-conversion into the form the end devise uses will be so thick that little of the heat thereby generated will be able to escape into space.
Like Elon Musk, or any of the stalwarts of Silicon Valley, Hawken is selling his book and selling you out to make a fast buck. Like politicians that prostitute themselves while pretending to be in Government "Service", when the only interests they serve are their own, such claims of miracles of science should carry the same weight as any claim to miracles. They should be looked at askance, if not totally rejected, because miracles don't occur. Although fuels can be renewable if the source from which they are derived continues to produce, energy has to be generated and its generation always comes at a cost, and one of those costs is always heat, and every person who can read Paul Hawken's book knows this. You know this. But you just don't want to hear my smart-Alecky rants that remind you. But, although you don't have to like it, it gives you a different perspective, I hope. One that helps you quickly identifies the people who are blowing bubbles in the air to distract you from the truth that you already know, by using terms that sound oh-so PC in order to tell us we can have our cake and eat it too, so will allow us to go on as though nothing is wrong. Everyone wants that. I want that (well, not the Wars, and the hunger, and the cruelty, the homelessness and the hate, but other than that ... the science part .. the TV, planes, modern medicine, and, of course, computers).
But there is something wrong, deadly wrong about the current scenario, and no one wants to contemplate it. But unless we do, how can we ever at least try to change it? And inventing a new refrigerant to enable the acquisition of 700 million AC units to people who've lived without them their whole lives is just going to slather another coat onto the Uh-oh Zone layer.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 6:34 PM