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Refugees and the Extraeconomy

We are seeing the shocking result of human trafficing in the Mediterranean. Hundreds of men, woman and children drown as they are shipped (sometimes locked up) on rickety boats from Lybia. Italy, being easiest to reach, has the burden of rescuing these people, and the honour of treating them humanely, and letting many of them in to Europe.

The debate seems to center around how we should stop this stream of immigrants, with more patrolling, harsher treatment of traffickers. Wheter we should distribute those that arrive alive over the whole territory of Europe. There are two solutions that nobody is talking about: 1. Send the people back, drop them on the Lybian shore and 2. Make it easier for them to stop migrating by supporting ways to live along the route.

Lybia keeps immigrants in prison. The situation there is horrible, barely water, sanitation and food. So sending them back should probably be done with some plan to improve those conditions in mind.

But looking at the routes, it’s hard to understand why Nigeria would be a source of refugees because of it’s wealth of oil. Apparently this oil is not used to stabilize its society (maybe a lot to ask as they just recently had real elections). Is Boko Haram chasing people towards Europe? Of course violence and human rights abuses justifies people fleeing, but how far should they have to go?

In general we would assume that if there is local opportunity for employment and a normal life, people would not try to reach Europe (at least not uneducated women with children). Between The main sources of refugees and Europe there are regions in which could be temporary or permanent homes with some help. The closer to the problem zones they can stay, the more likely they will eventually return home.

We are probably underestimating the savagery in some parts of Africa, but there are large parts where there is not much fighting (probably the most resource poor). How hard is it to establish safe zones on de Mediterranean coast? Are warlods in Lybia involved in the trade? Anyway the absolute number of refugees is not that big (not like in refugee camps elsewhere in Africa). Anything would be better than seeing people drown.

Africa needs help, not only against war and violence, but also to cope with climate change. Luckily, with some sensibile interventions it is possible to improve the outcome, in the video above farmers in Mali talk about how simple ‘contour trenching’, or digging ditches perpendicular to the direction of rain water floods, increased the millet yield threefold. That means the land can now carry three times the people! Peter Westerveld pioneered this approach which also includes creation of microclimates and rain/cloud ‘conveyor belts’. He observed that trees create clouds, clouds create rain and so planting trees or simply enabling them to grow through contour trenching can carry water (by cloud) to dry areas, and keep it circulating in the topsoil and atmosphere. The greening effect of this attracts all kinds of life. Simple ditches can thus revive a whole landscape.

Climate change will cause drought in large parts of Africa. The World Bank predicted this and suggested poor farmers would buy ‘rain index futures’. But you can’t insure against continuous drought, and if people run away from the places that climate change makes uninhabitable the process of desertification won’t stop. It is necessary to fight the degradation and drive a change in Africa that makes it a more hospitable continent. This may in turn stem the refugee streams. It may take time, but the only option is to improve things, not run away from them.

Extraeconomics

Perhaps the approach to providing better food security can be done by Extraeconomic principles. When western companies come in with trucks to build shelters and and poor concrete and such. They may on the one hand just subsidize European companies, and on the other make climate change worse. This is the trouble with any free market economy approach to climate change : Its like trying to put out a fire with gasoline (literally).

You can optimize the cost of renewables to zero

A much better approach is to start with a zone, either inhabited or not, and try to make it an autonomous self sustaining territory. One that doesn’t need to import or export to keep its population alive. This is what we call an Extraeconomic zone.

Fossil fuels used for the harvesting of natural resources is like fuel in a lawnmower, and as long as the fuel doesn’t run out, the lawnmower doesn’t stop

The difference of an extraeconomic zone compared to an economic zone is that there is nobody trying to grab its assets or resources to sell on the global market. There is no banks offering fossil fuel credit seeking interest and contact with the global market is restricted, the bulk of what is produced is not for sale. Its a bit like a plantation, but one for Mother Earth. Even though the people in it may earn a regular wage, the zone as such does not serve the global economy, it only serves the purpose of restoring the atmospheric CO2 balance.

Growing trees for the sake of capturing carbon means you can’t sell them for wood

Examples are large tree plantations that don’t sell the trees, but turn them into charcoal for dumping into the ground (reverse coal mines). Agriculture without fossil fuel fertilizer, aiming to increase soil carbon as wel as growing harvests of CO2 capturing crops, meanwhile sustaining the population in the zone. Creating wealth and biodiversity abundance without the intent to slaughter and sell, only to sustain more life.

 You can’t use fossil fuels to restore the climate

It may sound like hippy talk, but it will be necessary, and even desirable. Right now the move towards local autonomy is gaining traction in every corner of the planet. In germany people are subsidized to generate their own solar electricity, store it in their own Lithium batteries for use in the evening, then of course they can (eventually) sell it locally to the water company, or to local restaurants and factories, in effect reducing dependence of activities on more distant sources including the world economy. Renewables being distributed by nature will turn the world in a patchwork of autonomous (but connected) communities.

Dutch Rainmaker Windturbines can provide water where there’s none right now, allowing food to be grown and villages to develop

A special aspect of extraeconomics is that it works any place where there is renewable energy potential (technically anywhere on Earth). Once you have energy you can use it to turn the driest desert into an oasis. This turns the classic idea of economics on its head, which looks for economic factors or locations. This is because fossil fuels are scarce and you have to optimize. With renewables that may still be the case, but rest assured, they won’t stay scarce.

Extraeconomics : Investing money to create a self sustaining community that doesn’t create a return, but only serves the abundance and health of life on Earth

If you apply energy to any place on Earth you can let people live there. A good example (using fossil fuels) is Dubai isn’t supported by its natural surroundings, it was created and is on 24/7 fossil fuel life support. Dubai is just an extreme example, but the world economy as a whole (with its senseless logistics f.i.)  is similary on a permanent fossil fuel high.

Fossil fuels being scarce have to be distributed through principles of competition. This means a region that wants it has to sell something to earn the money to buy the fuels (or have the biggest army and a printing press like the USA). Consequence is that only areas where the world economy can extract some resource recieve credit and fuel, the rest has to either scrape by or elect a government that sells their natural/mineral resources. Renewables don’t create these dynamics. They allow for many independent ‘extraeconomic’ zones.

Extraeconomic zones could be designed, created and protected under protection of an alliance of countries like the UN

Extraeconomics says : How can people live here, take care of themselves and restore the environment without help over long periods of time. They can be situated within normal economic regions, or be created in places nobody is interested in, even at sea. This thinking takes a new look at our planet and sees plenty of options to fix global warming and perhaps provide shelter for refugees..

 

 

 

 

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Handige Electrische Personenbus

De overgang naar electrisch is een langzaam proces, er wordt verwacht dat het wagenpark langzaam wordt vernieuwd (duurt 20-30 jaar). Conversie van bestaande auto’s (zogenaamde aftermarket benadering) staat nog op niemands radar. Een enkele hobbyist stelt een kit samen maar that’s it.

Toch is het goed dat er modellen op de markt komen die zinvol dienst kunnen doen, zeker in het segment van het kleine busje. Daar rijden er zoveel van rond die ons dagelijks roet en chemische middelen cadeau doen (ten koste van onze levensduur) dat menige stad er over denkt om ze volledig uit de drukke delen van de stad te verbannen. Vracht leverancies dan maar met een locale electrische bus, of met de electrische boot, zoals in Utrecht.

Op de AutoRai is momenteel een bus van Nissan te zien, de E-NV 200. Als niet auto expert maar zeer fanatiek roethater hebben we het apparaat kunnen bewonderen. Zeer voor de hand liggend eigenlijk, een motor voor, accus als bodemdeel. Verder niet geoptimaliseerd. De range 170 km met een lading van 500 kg. Dat is toch een nuttige afstand, zeker als je op je bestemming kunt opladen terwijl je bijvoorbeeld een keuken installeert.

Die 500 kg is de belading waarbij de range is bepaald. Het kunnen ook zeven passagiers zijn. Met dit soort busjes weet je in ieder geval waar je aan toe bent in vergelijking met de hybrides, waarvan de specs nog aleens optimistisch kunnen zijn.

Busjes zijn uitermate geschikt om electrisch te zijn en bestaan ook al jaren in die vorm. Het hoeft er niet strak en aerodynamsch uit te zien en het chassis is toch al gemaakt voor gewicht dus die accus kunnen er wel bij. Met het toenemen van de range (toch wel 30% te verwachten in de komende 5 jaar) en het lichtere onderhoud (geen olie, motor, pakkingen etc.) zou het voor veel bedrijven nu al een winner kunnen zijn.

 

 

 

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UHV Solar Panels at Solar Solutions

Ultra High Vacuum collectors spun off of CERN activities

Ultra High Vacuum Solar

From accellerated particles to eh, accellerating particles..

Solar thermal panels are quite common, but their yield and generated temperatures are relatively low. Non-vacuum go to about 80 Celsius, vacuum tubes go higher, but both are limited in their utility because many processes require higher temperatures.

The temperature of something depends on the speed at wich its atoms and molecules vibrate or move around. The faster they do that the hotter the material

One of the optimization problems of these systems is the loss of heat due to convection currents of the air in the collectors/panels. The heat causes the air to circulate and this helps transport heat from the hottest parts (inside) to the coldest (the outside). This limits the capacity of systems especially in winter when air temperatures are below zero.

Solar energy is high even in winter. The main problem is losing it to the air after having absorbed it. Vacuum prevents that.

There are several solutions to this problem, one is to compartmentalize the space in which air likes to move, but has adverse effects on the absorption and leads to occlusion of the collector parts of the pannel. An easier solution is to replace the air with another gas (done in double glazing) or remove it all together. This last option is tried in vacuum panels and tubes.

A good reason to try to reach higher vacuum and temperatures is that the higher the temperature differential created the more energy can be extracted

Vacuum means no air, no air pressure inside, but that stil leaves te air pressure outside, which is about 1 kg / cm2 at sealevel. The weight on one m2 is 10.000 Kg! Tis means that if you remove all air from a space the forces on it will become considerable. Because of this vacuum tube solar collectors have used tubes, cilinders, a shape able to withstand a lot of pressure. Due to the shape of tubes the area actually able to collect solar energy is limited, causing a kind of tradeoff between increased efficiency and yield/m2. Still vacuum these collectors can generate high temperatures even when it is freezing cold outside.

SRB Energy High Vacuum Solar Collector (reaches 450 Celsius)

One drawback of the common vacuum tube collector is hat the strength of the vacuum is not that great. Vacuum means no gas, and even though glass is a formidable gas barrier some will sneak in over time,and the vacuum will be lost. The higher the vacuum the faster it is lost. This has meant that leakage points have been avoided, so we have seen all glass tubes, which have the drawback of being fragile and tubular (so less space efficient).

The glass-metal seal is a key to allowing high vacuum to persist. Innovations in this regard came from CERN in Switzerland, an unlikely source as they run big particle accelerators, or maybe not so if you consider that vacuum is a big part of letting protons, electrons and such fly at near light speeds.  RSB Energy was spun of off CERN. The above collector is for sale for large projects.

It now seems there is another company that uses a similar vacuum seal technology called TVPSolar in Italy (which seems unrelated to SRB Energy) that is marketing a Solar Thermal collector with a little lower max temperature 300 Celsius, which is enough for many important applications. This technology beats all other solar technologies, including fresnel, parabolic trough and vacuum tubes.

SRB Energy is ramping up production in Spain and Italy, distributing as far as Chile

Funny detail which poses a challenge with high vacuum is the fact that when you try to pump out gas from a chamber, you can reach a point where there are next to no molecules flying around anymore to separate from the low pressure space and move to the high pressure space. To find the last gas molecules (which can still amount to significant heat loss). The way to do this is by using a material that reacts strongly with the gas, something that ‘rusts’ easily. These so called ‘getter‘ materials suck up the last gas molecules in the panel. The result is a panel fit to generate heat for industrial, airco and domestic use, with output temps reaching their heights no matter how cold it is outside.

The heat market has really been married to gas for decades now, and it is natural that gas tries everything to remain attractive to this market. But solar thermal heat is now ready for continuous heat intensive industrial processes, and they don’t involve all the trouble gas is causing including international disputes, earthquakes, fracking toxicity and landscape destruction and last but not least : recurrent cost. To compete in an environment with increasing renewable capacity, the adoption of renewables is the only way, and a better, healthier and life friendly way.

If you are interested in these products in the Benelux you can contact Zonneboilerpro.nl TVPSolar or SRC Energy.

 

 

 

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Competitive Emissions Reduction : Climategames

The climate negotiations in Paris have very little teeth. Most countries are at emissions reduction trajectories that are almost natural considering the advantages of renewables over fossil fuels. Not trying to set binding targets makes the COP20 very weak, but the question could be asked: Is that the right strategy anyway. Herman Scheer already dismissed it as “Globally acting, locally postponing”, a deeper problem may exist.

A carbon emissions satellite image

How do you know what impact a climate target will have on your economy? You really have to know your economy to begin with, then there are many unknowns to consider, especially in a free market economy. What would setting a global reduction target to stay below 2 degrees mean anyway? What counts is how it would be executed, and setting that in some kind of contract is next to impossible.

COP Meetings are basically fossil fuel representative gatherings where they can argue about who can use the most the longest

Even if a system gets introduced to curb CO2 emissions, for instance the Emissions Trading System or ETS, we see that it is on the one hand used to financialize (increasing emissions) and on the other hand weakend by an abundance of ‘rights’, there will be a 2 billion surplus in 2020. Such a solution that is introduced over a large zone proves less effective than the cure to its flaws applied in the UK : A local carbon tax that leads to a minimum price for ETSes bought by companies in the UK.

Perhaps states should not be asked to agree on targets, but compete over them. They should show to be the lowest emitter year on year or even month on month in return for a serious bonus. Judgement should be pooled in one organization under the UN, or IPCC. A constant tally of all emissions per jurisdiction should be kept and every month and year, a reward for reduction should be payed out from a global fund everyone pays into. The goal would be to lower the emissions per capita and even make them negative (something some consider impossible, but which is as simple as planting a tree and not burning it).

A precentage reduction metric would slow down progress eventually, because 5% of 100 = 5 but 5% of 20 = 1

What is lacking right now is insight into the numbers. There are complex models but we have not seen a ranking of countries by emissions that is detailed to show individual actions that led to the reductions yet. Many states instead still choose (or are corrupted into) increasing emissions.

Divide the CO2 above a territory by its surface area and you have its CO2 score. This score could be compared by month or even week, year on year. Ranking is by approximation of 1990 CO2 ppm levels.

A competitive system makes it unnecessary to agree, except on the rules of the competition, which are pretty clear and will become more clear as more satelites can observer CO2 pollution directly. Of course care must be taken to find the sources of CO2 so to attribute them correctly. Alternatively this can be considered a ‘known bug’ competitors simply have to deal with.

Climategames can be divided in leagues, with the little league for developing countries taking small steps and the big league for big countries

It’s a “I don’t care how you do it, just do it!” method that seems much more efficient than giving the fossil fuel economy every opportunity to defend itself in COP negotiations.

Climate lottery

Another way to incentivise action is to have a running lottery. The advantage is that it delivers bigger prices (to fewer). A point about any climate game is that it has to reward the citizen, not the government. Then if you consider the popularity and low cost of lotteries citizen will appreciate it when they recieve prices for their territory making most headway. The choice of which territory gets a reward is based on science, the choice of who will recieve that reward is based on a lottery.

 You are in the lottery by definition, or maybe you have to sign up to be able to recieve a price

Perhaps the lottery can use the metric of the trajectories so that if a country is faster than it’s business as usual trajectory it gains points.

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Self Defence Against Extinction

The dutch state has been sued in court by the Urgenda Foundation and supporters for putting its citizen in harm’s way by not adopting more agressive emissions targets. We are waiting for the verdict which (in the best possible world) will take the form of a minimum mandatory emissions trajectory. Greencheck also looked into the legal options regarding the climate threat around 2010. We first looked into suing the state but didn’t consider a human rights or international justice approach easy to execute. We also investigated another option, which is self defence (against extinction).

To that end we where able to talk to a lawyer at a established law firm located in The Hague, for free. The question we asked was : “Is there a way to justify direct action against pollutors based on defending yourself against the ultimate effects of that pollution.” The ultimate effects of the current pollution (be it with CO2 or otherwise) of our environment is that humanity goes extinct. This is a scientific certainty if we do not act more responsibly and a big risk by now even if we do.

Holland has self defence laws that allow you to destroy property and even kill if you do it in defence of your own life. If you are woken up by a burglar and he confronts you on the stairs and you kick him down it, causing serious injury, the judge will rule that you did this because you feared for your life, not because you had an intent to harm. This defence wouldn’t work normally because the pollutors, take for example internal combustion cars, are not a direct threat to our lives and safety (at least most of the time). We can simply avoid them.

Civil disobedience may be the best direct action for now 

The discussion with the lawyer came to a case where a girl killed her father after years of abuse (these things get extreme, of course killing anything is not under discussion here). There wasn’t a real cause at the moment she acted, but she had been fed up with the accumulation of abuse. The judge accepted that she experienced a temporary madness in which she killed her father brought on by many small (or bigger) abuses over a longer timeperiod. She was not punsished for her behaviour.

Long periods of abuse can cause moments of madness

Analogous one could say (in principle) that any individual that has to confront polluting cars on a daily basis, or read about species going extinct, environmental damage and moves by companies and individuals to further destroy and pollute the world we live in, could build up a rage against this which could express itself in a brief episode of madness and rage, directed at for instance a car or property of the ones doing the polluting. The damage done in such a moment of madness could be dismissed by a judge, because we are allowed to defend ourselves to real threats.

A climate-mad individual would not know where to start

Of course it is not a clear cut defence, because causality and reasons to feel abused have to be made understandable. The person in question has to be sensitive to the pollution. Any such act can not somehow follow from understanding this self defence option, because that would not constitute an act of madness anymore. But if a person knows that his/her surroundings he/she are what supports their lives, and identifies pollutors as directly harming the integrity of this support, then that person could after fighting the urge to disrespect the property of the pollutor for a long time, fail to subdue him/her self one time, and go mad, damaging whatever embodyment of that pollutor presents itself during that fit of rage.

Inhibition can fail

This type of reasoning shows an interesting aspect of justice, namely that scientific causality is not really respected or seen as an adequate motivator per se. Consider that using scientific methods that are agreed upon by the majority of scientist, and a judge that also believes in these methods (and the subsequent reliability of causal chains considered highly likely as a result), it should be easy to justify damage to CO2 pollutors as they threaten our lives indirectly and sometimes even directly.

Dead oceans are certain if we don’t act, and dead oceans produce gasses that kill oxygen breathing organisms on land, plants and animals. This happened before.

For instance the acidification and deoxygenation of our oceans will bring about the production of toxic gasses in them that will most likely kill all large land mammals and plants. It has done so before and all the conditions for a repeat are met. So you know this and you find it unacceptable and you damage a car or something that is part of the cause. Court respects expert opinions, so such acts of self defence (or indeed protection of fellow citizens) should be considered just. Will it?

If an enemy has many seemingly harmless embodiments, can we say we fight that enemy if we disable the embodiments?

Many people today know about the prospects of humanity in the next decades and the effect activities around us every day influence those prospects. As the damage becomes more real in the form of floods and droughts more people will see that you can rely on scientific predictions. Even the dutch state believes that by 2100 hunderds of thousands more will die because of climate change in Holland. It seems there is ample reason for more people to go crazy and judges (at least in Holland) to accept that. Especially because there is are many ways for society to avoid this calamity, and all involve stopping the current pollutors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Climatecase or the the Court Case against the Dutch State over Climate inaction

The dutch state is in court, sued by the Urgenda foundation and about 800+ individual citizens. They crime it is accused off is one against future generations, it is accused of not doing enough to target an emissions trajectory that allows global average temperatures to remain below 2 degrees Celsius more than pre-industrial levels.

It is a difficult case, because the causality and direct victimization are hard to prove. Also there needs to be some benefit from any conviction which will take the form of the court ordering the dutch state to keep with a certain more agressive emissions reduction trajectory.

The demands are not unrealistic, because several european and non european countries are targeting twice the reductions Holland is targeting. So clearly judgement there is that this is the right thing to do, and feasible. Holland is stuck with a right wing government that has paralized en effective response to climate change since about 2007.

This option of legal action is advised by the legal experts, it has taken 3 years to develop its momentum and justified recourse to the court (because you can’t go to court if the government was somehow responsive to the demands). We investigated the options for another tactic one can apply for climate action which is altogether more agressive, but worth mentioning in this context, it is described here.

Right now the judge is considering many aspects of the case, from whether it is up to a judge (instead of politics) to consider these facts to whether the claims made by the state are true and those made by Urgenda are true, to whether there are real victims and benefit. It could be the case is dismissed on a technicality, it could be the case is dismissed because any order to act is superfuous (the state is considered to be doing or promising to do enough). We will know more on june 24th, when the verdict is delivered.

Basic agreed assumptions

  • Climate change is man made and can be influenced by policy
  • Current policy is not ambitious
  • Furthermore
  • Holland has had twice the ambition but this is reduced by the right wing government
  • Emissions Trading Scheme
  • The scheme will retain a surplus of about 2 billion rights
  • Many states have suplemantary carbon taxes to reduce CO2 This is allowed within the EU

Carbonleaking

  • Emissions moving elsewhere due to measures
  • Companies moving to less strickt countries
  • Predicted that any reduction of emissions will be 82%-88%
  • Carbonleaking to outside the EU is not observed

 Lawyer explaining to the court that reducing emissions early is a lot more effective than later, and that one can lose the chance to control temperatures below 2 degrees.

Further Remarks

  • The court can not argue that it can’t act because of ineffectiveness
  • The state claimed it was tied to EU ETS, this is not true
  • The economic crisis has caused an emissions reduction
  • Emissions targets need to be independent of the economic situation
  • The state will have to choose stronger targets to achieve their stated reduction goals
  • Germany targets a 55% reduction in 2030 which is much more ambitious than the EU target
  • English reports show that the EU target of 40% in 2030 does not suffice
  • The EU economy will suffer 0,04% from more ambitious climate policy
  • If the EU doesn’t stive for more ambitious targets the cost will have to be carried by emerging economies
  • The EU talks about 80% in 2050, but 80-95% was originally required
  • The EU target of 40% is not certain due to a ‘flexibility clause’ that requires all members to match the commitments.
  • To achieve a 40% reduction in 2050 we need 25% reduction in 2020

The court should and has no reason to not dictate at least 25% in 2020 The court can dictate a faster trajectory, as is followed by Germany We have 1000 Gigaton emissions left, which will run out in 2035, meaning that we should be 100% carbon neutral in 2035. This means we have to do the maximum possible at the shortest possible terms. Current trajectory makes 2 degrees Celsius unavoidable. This drives citizen to demand the court to order the state to take stonger action. Remarks second lawyer

  • What the state does is a matter of politics.
  • The state has been locked up in a “You first” mentality.
  • All negotiations have failed to meet the required targets.
  • We are facing 4 degrees catastrophic climate change.
  • Dutch government is aware it is not meeting targets.
  • Binding reduction targets are no longer the goal of the climate conference.
  • Holland doesn’t negotiate at the COP 20 meeting.
  • Targets for the COP20 meeting are already set and for 2030.
  • All emissions should stop asap
  • CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years
  • Warming is linear with emissions
  • Zero emissions is expected to be reached in 2050-2070

Dutch State Defence Responses

  • State is aware of climate change and the need for action
  • Since 1995 governmental action was to keep below 2 Celsius degrees warming
  • Holland can not do it alone
  • Holland is pleading for climate action at the COP20 meeting in Paris
  • There is no legal binding law telling Holland to reduce emissions
  • The emission reduction target can not be checked on validity by the state
  • Any decision by the judge should be to some advantage, what is that advantage? It has to be new law. And a judge can not order the creation of new laws.
  • As long as Holland is acting on the climate threat a supplementary ruling by the judge is unecessary.
  • With current targets extra measures are needed to achieve 40% reduction in 2030.
  • Climate problem is a global commons problem, needs to be tackled together
  • Limits should be widespread and pervasive in each industry plus monitoring.
  • In 2014 Holland has -pledged- 100 mljn in the green climate fund.
  • Human rights only valid within the participants of the human rights agreement
  • It is not yet sure that the 2 degree targets are not going to be met.
  • Risk will always remain
  • EU court judges climate and other diseaster responsibility in terms of specific risks and victims.
  • State considers itself to have a wide margin for action, so it can not be forced to specific constraints from Urgenda
  • Judges should not talk about specific targets
  • The conditions of the unjust act are not met, there is no clear causal link.
  • Also the human rights act does not force countries to protect its citizen.

More details to follow..

Verdict

Verdict will be delivered on the june 24th at 10:00 am.

Link to the text of the Urgenda side (dutch)

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The Key to a Sensible Basic Income System

A Basic income has been on the lips of a growing number of people. Switzerland recently held a referendum on it, an income of about 2500,- Euro per citizen. Some pundits (not real thinkers) like Guy Standing try to create a new class of people, the Precariat, just another name for ‘the poor’, trying to sell raising people out of poverty as somehow the effects of a basic income (duh).

 

There is nothing miraculous or innovative about the benificial effects of giving poor people some money

What is wrong with his ideas we explain below. Other ‘examples’ are the way Alaska pays its citizen an annual divident (because it sells its oil). Again nothing different from simple common economics. Also quite often people are shown talking about a basic income as a response to automation, focusing on job losses and the impossibility to find any work that generates income. Still most of these people miss the key ingredient that would make their argument solid as a rock, because : Yes, automation is making it impossible to earn a living for a growing number of people.

Wealth =  Materials x Skills x Energy

The big mistake or ommision in these examples and debates is the focus on money and jobs. This focus leads to a lack of attention to the key incredient necessary to support a basic income. Most people don’t understand that if you say : “Money is not enough to support a basic income, in fact, if you need it you will surely fail” because to them money is something independent of everything else, a controlling currency that can be applied to problems like water quenches thirst.

Money is a means of exchange, so if you think it has value you have to specify what money represents to make that true

Money represents something. You may say it represents everything you can buy with it, but that hides the fact that to MAKE everything you can buy with money you need something more fundamental, which you have to be able to buy with the same money. That something is energy. To buy bread you need to buy the energy to bake it, plough the field, irrigate, mill, transport etc etc. Right now that energy is owned by oil/gas/coal or renewable enery companies first. They need money or they won’t deliver the energy. You need that to happen to have your basic income. Unless you find a solution to that need, you will see one of two things:

  1. You can’t get people to make the money available, the energy lobby doesn’t allow it, money given away will buy their stuff.
  2. You get a stipend, a bit of money accepted by the energy lobby. This money however does not create a sustainable basic income situation you envision (the Alaska situation).
  3. Even if the energy lobby is ok with it, banks don’t like the idea because it decreases the competitive atmosphere that drives companies into debt. They will lose customers as well as a way to scare workers into doing shit jobs.

The idea of the basic income can not work unless the resources needed to sustain the recipients of that basic income to come from the recipients. So we can create a basic income society that lasts forever with any group as long is this system does not depend on anything from outside the system. As long as we use fossil fuels or renewable sources that are not part of the system that condition can not be met.

You can’t build a basic income scheme if you are dependent on people outside it to support it

Doing an experiment where people recieve a bit of money without  having to work for it without creating a closed system is simply subsidizing the manufacturers. It has been going on for decades in the form of easy jobs, economic booms like the dot.com and housing bubbles. The economy provides people with a basic income when it makes it easy to earn the money to sustain onesself. Now because fossil fuels are under growing pressure, these types of incomes are being cut and the fight is between those that think the ‘precariat/poor’ should die and those that want to find a solution.

A working Basic Income scheme

What basic income scheme would work? The answer lies in looking at the complete system, including all the inputs needed. The key to making it work lies in not depending on anyone for the basic necessity of energy. Energy combined with skilled labour (and automated systems) can use available resource, waste even and recycle it into whatever is needed. This is how farmers lived for millenia, with fixed recyclable biomass, solar energy (and occasionally wind), and locally manufactured technology.

We don’t claim we should go back to some primitive society, only that those societies where autonomous, people didn’t have to work all the time, there was always something to do for who wanted it, and there was plenty of food for everyone. Today we can do even better. The setup we can choose is the following:

  1. People wanting a basic income can pool their resources to unburden the food supply chain from all recurrent energy cost. Farmers can produce all the energy they need to work the farm themselves, make fertilizer themselves, repair their equipment themselves. This is the firs step. Using a new currency a basic income is distributed to those in the pool that allows them to get their daily food, essentially for free or in return for a bit of work. This is an example of an extraeconomic closed system, but it can be interwoven in normal society.
  2. The pool of basic income initiators will replace all energy needs in important parts of the economy with renewables in return for currency to buy the products created with the energy. Either the raw materials will become owned by the basic incomers or they will set up renewable based waste recycling plants to gather them where nobody wants to look. This is part of a strategy to reduce cost by applying renewables, and creating currency to allow those that reduced the costs to buy the now nearly free products.
  3. Basic incomers adjust their lifestyle to fostering a growing closed, mostly local system that provides them with what they need. They can use automation, technology and their own labour, but what they guarantee themselves is that they can stay alive and healthy.

There is even a perfect demographic to become basic incommers, and those are the pensioners and retired people of the world. If they invest their money into the renewable resouces to build local closed systems to sustain themselves, they will not only secure themselves against fossil fuel calamities but will also be the first generation to enjoy a truely sustainable lifestyle.

Money can facilitate trades that are not possible by barter, so introduction of a currency in itself can free up economic potential

The observation that poor people benefit from free money is nothing to be surprised about. What they mainly observe is that money can create economic liquidity, meaning it can allow equitable exchange of work over larger timespans. This is true even if the money doesn’t buy anything to begin with.

Wrongheaded VPRO documentary about Basic income

‘Duh’ talk : Money for poor people activates them

Generation basic income

Basic income as a way to deal with outliers?

Basic income2013

Karl Widerquist talking about basic income

More sources to be added soon.

 Basic income meetup

 

To our Podcasts

Driving as a Service

Yep, integrated

We’re witnessing a development in car driving that has yet unexplored consequences. It is an example of automation and it should lead to less cost for all, because computing power is dirt cheap and cars will be all electric and freely charged (because sunlight is free isn’t it?).

But an alternative scenario is more likely. It is one in which autonomous driving becomes a service you need to subscribe to. How to introduce it? Through the trusty tool of big everything : Fear.

Already some are comparing the safety of autonomous vehicles to those with drivers. As the security standards of driverless cars have to be higher than cars with drivers the safety argument will be used to push every car towards being autonomous. This opens up some possibilities.

First people will be told they are irresponsible if they drive their dangerous cars themselves, and slowly driving will become a thing of the past, everyone sitting in cars moving from A to B autonomously.

As this happens there will already be quality difference between one autonous car and another. Differences in acceleration, turning, routing, general speed and ability. This will develop in a competition between almost equal systems. This happens because fossil credit banking will create a competitive environment to load each competitor to the maximum with debt. A trick they use all the time.

Driver monitoring station, empty of course, what don’t you get about ‘autonomous’

Because of the ubiquity of wireless, autonomous cars will become centrally controlled by a big computer that models the movements of all cars. This allows predictive driving, anticipating roadblocks and adapting speed to allow optimal interweaving of traffic. All this requires a lot of computing power, in fact, it will be the question if what will be claimed is computed will actually be, because routing problems are NP complete, meaning the time to compute them explodes very quickly and real answers soon take more time to compute than there is left in our universe. Multiply that by a couple of billion cars.

So the centrally offered driving service will never be perfect, and will require real computing power (even if such is not delivered, meaning as a non driver you can no longer oversee whether the car drives a smart route or not). We’ll have bronze driving for suckers in the lowest cost electric cars, then silver driving for workers that need to be on time and feel rewarded, and gold driving for those that don’t need to be anywhere they don’t want to be. All subscription services, monthly fees.

If you don’t work hard to earn enough, your driving will SUCK

Result : Everyone will be paying for their car on a contiuous basis again. Autonomous cars turn out to be a gateway to totally dependent cars.

This scenario nicely demonstrates that it is possible to gain no freedom from automation, especially if it delivers a complex service we can’t perform ourselves. In the case of driving many will be scared away from driving themselves, hoping to live longer easier lives. But all will have to work to earn the money to drive somehow, just like today, while we are seeing a window open where we buy a car and never have to pay for fuel or driving again (Tesla being the most prominent).

There’s a lot more to say about the future mentioned above, but let’s see if the scenario painted actually materializes.

To our Podcasts

Negative Renewables Prices and the Extraeconomic Paradigm

We’ll say it first, with good reason : Prices of renewables will go negative soon. This will be a result of two factors: 1. Production cost will go negative, meaning production can happen without returns 2. Governments will adopt a policy of maximum rollout speed, aided by the negative costs.

How can cost of anything go negative? The first step is to be able to originate the products without help. Think of a well spring which produces water, it has to because of geology and rainfall patterns. Nobody has to buy water to replenish the spring, it flows on its own. The same way solar panel producers will find they have reduced cost in the supply chain to zero, and can go negative. How is this done? By using renewables in every step, renewables owned by the producers themselves.


Negative electricity prices in the US

Paint a scenario in which a solar panel factory has to source its silicon, glass, aluminium from different producers. First it cuts cost by using solar electricity to refine the Silicion (which has to be separated from oxygen and purified in an energy intensive process), this already happens. Then it can cut cost by turning the glass manufacturing in gas based to electrical, and providing the glass producer with solar panels to cover its melting needs (another silicium oxide proces by the way). Third it sources the alumium from iceland, where it is processed using geothermal heat at competitive cost. This is the start of the process of cost reduction, but ultimately the cost will not only be zero, they will go negative. How?

 Negative prices in Europe

For a while now we have seen negative electicity costs in the european market. Germany at times produces to much wind electricity, and as storage is being delayed by the fossil credit based economy the market price of megawatthours of electricity can go as low as minus 200 Euro. This has promted a dutch aluminium smelter to restart its operations. How nice if you can melt aluminium when the cost of doing so is zero or negative!

There need to be many changes in the production and logistics chain to get real negative prices, so a bonus for installing solar for instance, but it is an eventuality that seems unavoidable. Not only because it makes good business sense, but also because for instance, energy storage will lag behind the rise in production, so the use of the energy in production processes will become very attractive and stay attractive for ever. The obstruction of storage by the central distributing fossil based producers will bite it in the tail.

Holland will soon have an aluminium smelter, its own silicon refiners and solar panel factories. It can recycle glass with clean energy. It may be the first to produce at negative prices, extraeconomically, if it doesn’t sell to the international market.

Of course governments, as they are being cleansed of climate denier and fossil fuel lakeys, will become more agressive in preventing the catastrophic changes we (as predicted by the IPCC) see unfolding under our eyes. Part of that is not only going carbon neutral, but going seriously carbon negative. It will be come clear that we can do that, so leaders will step up that will do that. Like Paris no longer allows a roof to be carbon neutral, dictating it has to be either a green or a solar roof, governments will dictate there can be no unused space, roof or garden that could catch carbon or reduce emissions.

This possibility of negative prices shows the invalidity of classic fossil credit based economics

But there is another step that will change the game completely. That is the advent of what we call Extraeconomics. Extraeconomics is the framework of thinking about Extraeconomic zones. What are those? Extraeconomic zones are zones that 1. Have no ties with the world economy, 2. Run entirely on renewables and 3. Are dedicated to increasing carbon capture. They will come about because economics is too greedy and to dirty to fight climate change effectively. We have written about this before see here.

The key to Extraeconomics is to aknoweldge two facts : 1. Economics is about exploitation of available resources. Not the creation of them. Using fossil fuels. and 2. Renewables redraw the map of economic viability of our planet. Areas that before looked like they where uninhabitable now suddenly look perfectly capable of sustaining life.

The first fact is what has been getting us into this diseastrous state of near depleted resources, toxic oceans and atmospheres. The reason being that the economic model works like this : You see an opportunity to create a product or service of value? Ok, we give you the fossil fuel credit to bring that about. In return you help us keep money scarce (pay interest) and we can enjoy some of the fruits of your labour.

What this amounts to is :

  • You : “Hey, a pristine forrest! If I had fuel for chainsaws, trucks and the sawmill, I could sell the wood into ‘the market’!”
  • Bank : “Ok, here’s fuel credit. We’ll be rich!”

Versus

  • You : “Hey, these are fertile lands for tree planting. If I plant trees here and wait 12 years I can cut them down and do the same thing as the other guy.”
  • Bank : “Hold on! That’s 12 years of investment without returns! And how much fuel do you need? Not much huh? Ok, scram buddy!”

The above happens every time when the value to be traded is a result of a long process. This is why resources are being depleted. Oil itself is a good example, it’s “Get rich now” stuff as opposed to waiting 250 million years for plant biomass to fossilize and turn into coal, oil etc.

So there needs to be a separate paradigm to restore and replenish earths resources, and it can not be based on bank investment models (which are designed to run a fossil fuel credit system). Even though one may invest fossil fuels in an extraeconomic project, it will never produce a return to any lender and what is more shocking, it will produce value without bringing it to the market. What it will do is keep the community running it alive and well.

Extraeconomics is about overproducing carbon capturing commodities and not selling to the market

We will see that with the rise of renewables and the dire situation humanity finds itself in combined with the feasibility of extraeconomic projects, these projects will be set up and extraeconomic zones will grow in the heart of Africa, Australia, Chile and other now barren regions. The oceans similarly will become a tool to grow food and recapture carbon. All these things will be possible because renewable energy is so much more abundant than fossil energy ever was, and it is spread out over the surface of earth. It will bring about a revolution from the myopic city oriented visions of the future to one where people live across the globe, connected, productive and happy. One in which ‘classic’ economics is dead, and nobody is mourning.

 More about the carboncredit economy and extraeconomics