The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The US Can Have a Boom Economy Six Months from Whenever It Gets Serious

From Architecture DiY

One of the great problems in the US — and most of the Western world — is that we have been unable to accomplish anything important for over 50 years. The last significant US project was the moon landing. Failure or muddled success is the norm, now. The US even loses or muddles all its wars, and when it “wins,” as with Libya, well, they “made a desert and called it peace.”

Because nothing really works, and because every effort is half-assed (some tax cuts and an underfunded program run by corrupt incompetents) we don’t think anything big CAN be done.

But plenty of big things were done in the past, and recently by other countries like China (who just industrialized in record time and build unbelievable amounts of infrastructure.) We have, in the past, been able to put up buildings almost overnight, send a man to the moon, mobilize most of the population, etc, etc, etc.

None of this is impossible today, it is especially possible for the US (other countries it can be hard for, because the international order is set up to cripple small and medium countries’ ability to act independently, but the US set up the order and is still a superpower, even if it is in marked decline.)

So, if you’re the US and you finally get serious, you can have a boom start in six months with a real Green Deal (no caviling, no trimming).

You make a mandate to get every single building energy neutral at least. The Federal government effectively guarantees all mortgages; it sets the norms. You state that no mortgage is considered conforming starting in a year to three years if it doesn’t meet the new standards.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)

You then offer the funds for the refit. This isn’t a gift, it is paid out of savings on utilities: half to the building owner so they win, half to the government. If you insist on doing this through financial markets, then half goes to the entity who puts up the fund.

You MUST create a proper auditing group to inspect a significant number of the buildings, so that there isn’t widespread fraud.

These refits are about passive and active solar, proper insulation and so on. Back in the 90s, it was possible to build an energy neutral building at -40 degrees Celcius, we can certainly refit buildings now.

Another conforming mortgage change is that lawns are no longer legal except on golf courses. Specify ecologically sane alternatives.

You take over/break up/heavily regulate all utilities, and have them do proper maintainance and set up grids which allow people to feed energy back in. Utilities are going to take huge income hits with this plan, so you’re going to have to support them, but that means taking them public or regulating their profits, dividends, and so on. You move grids and generation to as local as possible, because there is vast loss in energy by long distance transmission and because solar (passive and active) works best locally, because you need to store heat during sunny periods (both daily and annually). Of course, solar is not the only energy you use, and the emphasis is on reducing energy draw, and even more than changing the energy mix.

High-speed rail is a dead obvious thing to do, and proper high-speed rail is faster from city center to center when you take into account things like traveling to and from airports and security theater. A huge high-speed rail build-out, similar to the 50s expansion of highways, is an easy win (and traveling by plane sucks).

Note that most of these jobs cannot be off-shored or out-sourced. Refitting buildings is manual labor; building high-speed rail is done locally, and there are domestic companies who can build the trains. China dominates solar power, but there are ways to build up US industry, simply by equalizing prices through industrial policy. This can be done so both China and the US win; it doesn’t have to be zero sum.

Farming is a huge source of carbon emissions, but it doesn’t have to be. This isn’t about everyone going vegan, there are ways to make animals expel a lot less methane by changing their feed. Regenerative agriculture produces higher outputs per acre than standard industrial agriculture and requires more workers. If you want to break up the big farms, there is some evidence that small farms also produce more (ideal roughly what one person can work, which doesn’t mean no machinery.)

Vast planting of trees in cities in another no-brainer, as is an expansion of mass transit. Standard asphalt roads are expensive and have to be constantly re-paved. Moving them to alternatives like cobbled streets will lead to fewer emissions and reduce city budgets massively over time, again the alternatives take a lot of labor (if you’ve ever laid cobbles you’re wincing at the thought, but cobbles aren’t the only alternative).

There are a bunch of other things to do (for example, rebuild wetlands around cities and on the coast; build sea walls around cities which are too low, blah, blah), but the point should be obvious by now: You can help the environment, produce a massive number of jobs, and create an economic boom. It isn’t hard, though it is complicated. You simply have to have the will to do it.

Further, if you can get it going, it will soon have massive support because it will create a truly good economy for the first time in 50 odd years. People will have better things to do than squeal about red state/blue state bullshit, the era will be like the post-war period: People are making money, and having kids and politics would be, in fact, largely consensus-driven because everyone sees that what is being done works.

I first outlined this back at The Blogging of the President 16 years ago. Others have also suggested similar plans.

The most fundamental, irritating thing about the world today is that we know what to do to fix most of our problems, we just refuse to even consider doing any of it because we have corrupt, psychotic, decrepit, and incompetent leadership and populations who support them. We roar towards the abyss, staring in horror, refusing to simply turn the wheel. It’s amazing to see, a true lesson in how pathological human societies can be.

Boom, essentially tomorrow, any time we want it. Well, if we don’t leave it until our civilization is actually collapsing and we no longer have the resources. Which is the current glide-path.


The West Proves Its Incapacity with Covid


Full Interview on the Current Situation and the Future


  1. Stirling S Newberry

    Would that you were Secretary of Energy or Agriculture.

  2. NR

    “made a dessert and called it peace.”

    Ian, I think you meant “desert” there. Good article otherwise, though. America could do so many good things–all that’s lacking is the political will.

  3. Ian Welsh

    Ah yes, a lovely parfait! Yummm.

    Fixed, thanks.

  4. Plague Species

    America could do so many good things–all that’s lacking is the political will.

    It’s lacking much more than that. There is a huge impediment that must be removed, the rich, and it can’t and won’t be removed via politics.

    The rich deserve their just desserts (sorry, I couldn’t resist). An ethylene glycol cake will do the trick.

  5. Chicago Dyke

    i want to live in the green high rise! i love the fact that you are using that image. no concrete, tho. people need to learn to walk on organic surfaces that aren’t always completely flat. artists who depict future cities should incorporate more of that.

    otherwise, yes. ian is correct, as usual. nice post.

  6. NR

    If we had the political will, we could do these things regardless of what rich people wanted. We could also break their power at any point we chose.

    But we simply haven’t chosen to do that.

  7. Joan

    America already has a stencil for a much lower energy and economically viable future: our past. American towns had trolleys and local rail, and thriving small businesses run by skilled craftsmen that produced what the community needed. People lived in town and worked in town, so their commute was on the trolley or on foot. Farming and butchering was local. All we have to do is go back, forget this horrific hallucination of centralization and globalism and return to a time when our communities were functional. Plus, if we do this by choice rather than when climate change forces the issue, we can choose what we keep from the present, say, examining infrastructure from 1910, but keeping women’s suffrage and the polio vaccine. I personally think Americans should do this on their own without help from the federal government, in case that help never comes. Accept that you live in a third world country, look around and evaluate what you can do.

  8. Dan

    What you are describing is still largely an industrial society with lots of “first world” humans continuing to “prosper” by engaging in industrial activity which is being conducted so as to largely increase commercial activity, because said humans have so indoctrinated themselves into believing that’s the only way to live.

    I mean, you can start with the simple questions surrounding inputs. What are they, where are they, are there enough of them? Who’s living where they are? Do the people there care that you have “interests” in resources on their land? What are you going to do to get those resources (both as far as overcoming local opposition and methods of extraction?

    These questions are of course continually asked by the National Security State. To say the answers they arrive at aren’t pretty, either from an environmental or humanistic perspective, would be the understatement of all eternity.

  9. Dan

    I would argue that “thinking big” is a big part of the problem. It seems to always lead to complexity, and complexity is a problem in and of itself. Not the “complexity” of the natural world as it is, rather the complexity humans create in their futile attempts at trying to come to some ultimate understanding the world.

  10. Dan

    Perhaps the US could have a boom economy if it got serious, but anyone seriously concerned about global warming or the environment wouldn’t be arguing for one.

  11. On the other hand, deseret could be good. Could be bad. Could be indifferent.

    The first thing let’s do (after we do that) is rebuild our education system. Half the country are the stupidest people in the world. Rebuilding an education system would of course require traveling hand in hand with the dismantling of the church, and the hateful toxicity of religion.

    That ain’t gonna’ happen.

    On the bright side, just think how cool it is to be an active participant in an evolutionary iteration! We of our ten thousand year period of pleasant weather have been fortunate, well… if the trump-bug don’t get us the next one will. Fires, floods, hurricanes, oh my. Plagues, rising seas. Not all will die, though it won’t necessarily be the strong, or the well-provisioned, who survive.

  12. Willy

    As for political will, do you really want to bash your head against brainwashed death cultists, who’ll just tighten their embrace on lunacy as a result? (not to be confused with my own sport of mocking them, encouraging them to circle their drains more tightly)


    There were 72 million Trump voters. I believe the number of rightists and leftists voting opposite their peers was approximately even, making that stat a wash. I’ll assume 72 million plutocratic supplicants, for now. That means they make up 30% of all eligible American voters, and only 22% of all Americans. We don’t need to submit to the tyranny of the minority.

  13. S Brennan

    To have a green world you have to start someplace definitive. Which is when the whole thing falls apart…I’ll list my top two positive priorities and watch the hilarity ensue.

    1] Abundant, much cheaper than coal-generated electricity.

    2] Abundant low-cost desalinization plants using the much cheaper than coal-generated power.

    The good news is, in spite of Covid-20’s massive destruction across the globe, it has, through necessity, shown that a significant number of people do not “have to go to work” daily. GM has found that productivity in certain sectors has dramatically improved.

    If what we have learned from Covid-19, through sheer necessity, is systemically employed, companies and workers will profit mutually, existing infrastructure will better utilized and subject to less wear and tear. People will be free to live where they can afford…and landlords will suffer for decades to come!

    Based on my reading of the tea leaves, this “creative destruction” already happening. It has only been obscured by the media’s need to show the world in shades of black to tip the election to Biden, a need that will continue until Biden is installed. While I despise Biden and his cadre of “vote blue no matter who” supporters it will bliss to have the media go back to being the useless lick-spittles they were under Obama and Bush.

    And I do note that a brighter world awaits…no not because anything his supporter base says is true, don’t be silly. But, we should see a widespread vaccine[s] by 2021 June.

    Perhaps we could see Joe Biden given a Nobel Peace Prize as he takes office? I am sure that the Sanders supporters, who so enthusiastically backed Biden after Bernie folded, [again], like a cheap lawn chair, would be thrilled to see a replay of Obama’s foreign and domestic triumphs…preceded, [again], by a Nobel Prize! Anyway, we’ll see a brighter world when Covid-19 bites the dust in 5-7 months from now…and Trump’s focus on vaccine research will be credited to Biden…oh to listen to the rewriting of history by this blog’s political hacks.

  14. Ten Bears

    There’s an Amendment for that, Willy, for “just in case we need to rise up in rebellion and throw down a tyranny of a minority imposed upon the majority.” I’ve read that Amendment a thousand times, in three languages, and nowhere in that Amendment does it say anything about a tyrannical government (or religion), nor does it define either the majority or the minority; just says “in case we need to rise up in rebellion someday and throw down a tyranny of a minority imposed upon the majority.” In fact it doesn’t even actually say that but that is moot in the generally accepted vernacular, is beside the point, the implication handed down to us (((over the ages))) is “we might need to rise up in rebellion someday and throw down a tyranny of a handful of ignorant loudmouths imposed upon the rest of us.”

    By the book it’s why we have cops but …

  15. Stirling S Newberry

    “To have a green world you have to start someplace definitive. ”

    Stop measuring things in terms of coal. Let’s start there.

  16. Ché Pasa

    Boom, essentially tomorrow, any time we want it. Well, if we don’t leave it till our civilization is actually collapsing and we no longer have the resources. Which is the current glide-path.

    Resources aren’t really going away, so that’s something of a reddish herring. As for the Collapse, we’ll see. It’s been predicted for generations now, and somehow, by the skin of our teeth if not by a miracle, civilization has survived.

    Those minor points aside, however, the thing is we don’t have all this rebuilding and reimagining and reconstruction going on whether we want it or not because our rulers won’t have it. They are often not the rulers we would choose if we had a real choice, which we don’t. Our rulers are chosen for us in an elaborate charade of “elections” which in turn produce (almost) exactly the kinds of governments we don’t want but can do little or nothing to change.

    The way to get what we want, assuming we have some kind of coherent and comprehensive vision for the future, is not through elections. They merely serve to confirm what the ruling class has already decided we can or can’t have and what direction we will or won’t be allowed to go.

    Even the election of Orange Man Bad served as confirmation of what the ruling class (or at least a faction of it) had already decided would be our fate. Every crisis being an opportunity, they made the very most of it. We would be enabled to amuse ourselves to death while plague ravaged the streets and the entire world — except at the highest levels — went to hell in a gold-plated handbasket at breakneck speed.

    The other faction of the ruling class is now saying, “Welp, we better slow down this trainwreck a little bit, or we might get our hair mussed.” But nothing fundamental will change. It wouldn’t have changed with another term of Orange Man Bad, either. The train would just be driven faster and more wildly, that’s all.

    We can get off this track by either eliminating the ruling class — which is difficult and not very nice — or by making it impossible for the train to continue on regardless of the ruling class.

    Or alternatively, we can convince our rulers to do the right thing for once in their worthless lives.

    Interestingly, the rightists figured this out a long time ago and they have been applying their lessons learned for decades. The “leftists” and even many of the would-be revolutionaries go along with it because why not? At least it’s something. And if we’re amused along the way to perdition, it’s gravy, no?

    Want something different? Make it so.

  17. jeremy

    Time to come off the hallucinogenics Ian …

  18. Plague Species

    Here’s the conundrum. First, it must ultimately be a comprehensive global response. Yes, it needs to start with some nation, and America is as good as any nation to start it in earnest, but ultimately for a plan to be successful, every single person on the planet must abide by it, by and large.

    Second, an entirely new economic system must be developed to reward all the various actions that lead to radical contraction to sustainability. A new statistic opposite of GDP must be developed by which we measure this standard. Many measures must be developed, in fact. Gross National Contraction (GNC), for example.

    Third, and this is one of the conundrums, historically, accumulated incentives have allowed for economic disparity and ultimately power disparity with the creation of a ruling class that has accumulated more incentives and then used those accumulated incentives to further create a world of growth that further grows their accumulated incentives at the expense of the living planet. We need to rethink and undo that dynamic. Incentives cannot be designed to be used to further growth of any kind, be it growth in production or otherwise, and I say otherwise because any form of growth ultimately ends up being growth in production of one sort or another.

    Finally, the wealthy elite, those with all the accumulated incentives who are addicted to growth, will do everyhting in their power to prevent changing the growth equation. If you plan on wresting control of the levers from their cold dead hands, there will be blood and you must be prepared to have blood on your hands. It cannot and will not be done peaceably. Many are not capable of, or up to, this mandatory task. It’s the dirtiest work of all, but it must be done. It’s the only option the wealthy elite have allowed and they allow it because they do not believe you have what it takes and they may very well be right. They’ve been right so far.

  19. Daniel Lynch

    Mechanical Engineer here. No, most buildings will never be energy neutral. A Green New Deal would actually INCREASE greenhouse gas emissions (China is an example — it is already doing the equivalent of a Green New Deal and yet its emissions are up, not down, and certainly not zero).

    I designed and built my own house, with 16″ thick walls, passive solar, super-insulated, etc., but I still have to heat it in the winter, and that will never change. There is no such thing as energy neutral heating in a cold climate.

    By the way, the manufacturing of insulation is a very dirty, energy-intensive process, and installing insulation is a dirty, unpleasant job that NOBODY enjoys doing. The claim that a GND would create good jobs is complete bullshit by people who have never actually performed those jobs.

    High speed rail requires concrete & steel to build — both very carbon-intensive. Perhaps in the long run it would reduce net energy consumption compared to our current reliance on highways, but in the short run it would INCREASE emissions.

    Solar panels require energy to manufacture as well as lots of nasty chemicals. In the long run, they might produce more energy than was required to build and install them, but in the short run, it produces emissions.

    GHG emissions correlate to GDP. Booming economy = booming emissions. Not to mention all the other negative impacts on the environment.

    Exceptions are service economies, financial economies, or tech economies (which are really financial economies) but those economies don’t actually produce anything useful and rely on imports from countries that do produce real stuff. No one can point to an example of a booming green self-reliant economy because it can’t be done.

    Since all consumption has an impact on the environment, what we need is less people, consuming less stuff. We need rationing. We need population control. We need restrictions on travel, since travel is energy-intensive. We need to lower the national speed limit to 15mph so bicycles can share freeways with semi trucks. Stop peddling the GND religious cult and face reality.

  20. bruce wilder

    In political economy, I think we may lack the political (will), because the economics part is such total crap: we simply do not have the shared capacity to think through these problems, to see what is fundamental and order our thoughts, our conversation, our dialectic accordingly.

    We have an economics of course, and indoctrination in economics is a major industry — truly a major industry with business schools, university and college economics departments, thousands of business and trade journals in which economics is used for its jargon and the pervasively “understood” concepts it propagates of “the market” and “cost-benefit”, not to mention systems of statistical measurement and financial and managerial accounting, all professionally administered.

    The problem is that it leaves us collectively and individually ill-prepared to think through the kind of profound shift to an alternative path that becomes daily more imperative as secular catastrophe looms over our posterity certainly and, indeed, threatens the precarious in the present generations.

    Economics has its critics and always has, I suppose. Marx, a German philosopher doing journalism, made himself one of the great classical economists and a world-historical figure in a threadbare coat, writing “a critique” of the British classical economics. The criticism of neoclassical economics, its methods and pedagogy, has risen to a crescendo since 1970 at the near margins of the academy with so far precious little result: the new textbooks written “from a fresh perspective” (with and without billionaire funding or student enthusiasm) look like the old. Radicalism is benchmarked against the reactionary Liberal, Keynes, from 80 years ago (“post-Keynesian”!? — I would hope everyone is by now)

    Just in this comment thread, we have some of the crumbs, the fragments of disorganized thinking that this intellectual deficit leaves the discourse. I mean no disrespect to individual commenters if I mention some but not all. Truly. “Complexity” “cheap, abundant energy” “growth” “the rich” None of the individual writers are wrong, in my view. The problem is that these are disordered fragments — in the common discourse certainly if not in any singular philosophy.

    This is all by way of preface to expressing my disagreement with Ian’s thesis, “. . .we know what to do to fix most of our problems, we just refuse because we have corrupt, psychotic, decrepit and incompetent leadership and populations who support them.” I do not think “we” do know — individually and in small groups we have some ideas, some notions — but collectively we most emphatically do not and there is scarcely any recognition at all that we desperately need to think it through together at every level — from global scientific modeling to business planning to community meetings to television documentaries to educational study. As some commenters have hinted, we need new concepts, new statistics, new “incentive structures” and institutions. The kind of coordination needed in the decentalized activity of billions requires some common frameworks of understanding that are just not there, despite how “obvious” some aspects of the crises and the need to respond in certain directions may be. The evident “stupidity” and ignorance of the general population is down in part to the misdirection of education and journalism, consequent again in part to the intellectual poverty of neoclassical economics (and its political step-child, neoliberalism).

    The concept of “The Great Reset” — mentioned in earlier comment threads — rapidly gaining assent among the 0.1% is a dark shadow of this collective failure to think through the common problems and to involve a broad swathe of the population in doing so. The ptb, no smarter for the most part than any here with the selfishness of wealth obtained from predation and parasitism compounding the ideological selfishness of class consciousness unnegotiated, are going to do something, if the rest of us do not find a way to overcome our collective paralysis. And, it will be ugly and cruel. Be sure of that.

  21. S Brennan

    Reading Bruce Wilder’s comment and then rereading my own I realized I left one VERY important detail [and thanks to Stirling for adding hilarity on cue].

    When I said:

    1] Abundant, much cheaper than coal-generated electricity.

    2] Abundant low-cost desalinization plants using the much cheaper than coal-generated power.

    I meant to say:

    1] Abundant, [zero emission] much cheaper than coal-generated electricity.

    2] Abundant low-cost desalinization plants using the [zero emission], much cheaper than coal-generated power.

    Fusion is already here; superconductors have been reaching ever higher functional temperatures. The multi-national ITER is already a dated design and it’s not even completed; the USA over the last three years has upped it’s game dramatically in practical fusion development. Sadly, that will soon change in Biden’s 2022 budget [if the Biden “transition team” is calling it’s shots honestly but, our sunk research dollars will now push forward developments in Europe and Asia, those benefits will flow back to us, albeit sans the associated science/engineering/high skill trade jobs and at higher cost.

  22. Willy

    Coal consumption has finally taken a severe dip in Germany the last two years, with solar now being cheaper. Solar is a slam dunk for the usual desert places where not much else can be done with the land, but cloudy Germany? For solar generation that place is now ranked very high, up there with far sunnier places like Israel and Australia.

  23. Ché Pasa

    When was the last time we had a General Strike? 1934? And then only on the West Coast? Why doesn’t some Black Hat pull the plug on the electronic jots and tittles that constitute most of the wealth of the Highest of the Mighty? Hundreds of thousands of acts of sabotage day in and day out would cripple the ruling class to the extent they might retreat to their compounds and never re-emerge.

    These are among the many things that We the People, or parts of the polity, can do to make it impossible for the ruling class to rule. Elections aren’t going to do it.

    What, then, takes the place of our corrupt and incompetent (from our pov) rulers? No, democracy in an emergency — and we face multiple emergencies — isn’t the way to go. Nor is fascism, which merely confirms the corporatist rule we live under anyway, with a gloss of ugly entertainment.

    What do you do? Leave it up to God and Nature? Or what?

  24. jeremy

    Interesting to note that never is the issue of human population overshoot discussed in any meaningful way.

    The “Great Acceleration” doesn’t just coincide with the exponential growth in the human population, it derives its potential for planetary ecocide from it. We are now on the vertical of that graph.

    Until as a society we come to terms with the need to ‘degrow’ our global population then every “green scheme” is just a delusional proposal whose real purpose is to generate a profit for somebody, somewhere – electric cars, vertical farming, retro-fitting buildings etc etc.

    So we’re going to continue to go for growth (‘Boom’ indeed), ultimately driving ourselves at full speed into the proverbial brick wall.

    Civilization is a heat engine and externalities be damned.

  25. Plague Species

    But Willy, for solar to fit the current economic paradigm, there must be planned obsolescence built into it, be it by strategically stepped technological advances or directly building the product to fail sooner than it should or would. This promises a proper, estimable ROI. That process is wasteful and not sustainable. Solar becomes a growth bubble that still relies on the fossils ultimately to get it done. If you haven’t seen Planet of the Humans, you need to watch it. Yeah, I know, it’s Michael Moore, but forget about that and watch it with an open, critical mind. We simply cannot grow our way out of this unsustainable predicament. As Daniel above correctly states, the only way clear of it, and even this is not a given, is less people producing and consuming far less. It’s really a simple equation. Applying that simple equation is the difficult part.

  26. Zachary Smith

    Sir, I suspect you cut/pasted most of your post from rightwing “denier” site. Much of it is just nonsense.

    Back in the 90s, it was possible to build an energy neutral building at -40 degrees Celcius, we can certainly refit buildings now.

    When I moved into my present dwelling repairing air-leaky windows made a tremendous difference in both my heat bill and comfort level. Cost-effective “refitted” buildings is surely a good idea. That said, I’m partial to new construction. Not too far away a huge new suburb is being built on some former corn fields. The homes are on postage stamp lots, and they have as little insulation as the builders can get away with installing. Worst of all is how flimsy the structures are! The solutions are not too difficult, and not very expensive.

    The link is to a couple of old files I combined and uploaded. (Quite possibly the Canadians now have house plans which put the “Lo-Cal” design to shame – they’ve been the world leaders in this field.)

    Fat walls are the way to go. Making those walls with substantial wind resistance can be done as well.

  27. Ten Bears

    Throw a monkey wrench in it, Che`, random acts of sabotage, senseless acts of destruction. There’s a challenge though, for now at any rate: collateral damage, peripheral harm. How do we gum up the deep state without harming our friends and family? How do you blow the dam without flooding the valley? How do you burn the church when there may be hostages hidden inside?

    Deface all denominations of currency with a green sharpie …

  28. S Brennan

    “In 2016, industrial consumers paid EUR 0.1505 per kilowatt hour, according to Eurostat. Energy costs more in Germany than almost anywhere else in the EU, where the average cost is merely EUR 0.119 per kilowatt hour….Why is energy so expensive in Germany?

    The country [Germany]is attempting to transition from fossil fuels and atomic energy to renewable energy sources. This change comes at a steep price, which is funded by levies and taxes on Germany’s citizens and companies. Industrial consumers carry a tax burden of 45.5 percent in Germany, higher than in Italy (42.5 percent), Denmark (35.4 percent) and Austria (30.4 percent). By contrast Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria’s tax burdens are less than 2 percent.

    …just a few days after the government issued its report [patting itself on the back], consulting firm McKinsey published its own findings…the success of renewable energy [in Germany] has been possible only through heavy subsidies. The initiative’s goals – and most importantly the reduction of carbon dioxide — are becoming more unrealistic, McKinsey says. Out of 15 key performance indicators McKinsey defines, only one has improved in the past six months, while 10 actually have gotten worse.


    On average, France is a net exporter to Germany, at around 10 TWH/year people bring up “examples” of Germany exporting electricity to France purposely neglecting that during those “examples” France is export FAR more to Spain, Italy, Belgium/Netherlands & Swiss than it receives from Germany…apparently these “solar advocates” never heard of an electrical grid and doesn’t understand that, yeah, on hot sunny days solar is a reasonable solution if you don’t mind the land use issue. Having worked in the Mohave Desert last year for NASA I can tell that solar farms are a HUGE use of land, ugly as sin and have led to the local extinction of many species. And wind farms have the same issue, nobody whose ever been near a wind turbine operating would want to have a house anywhere near one.*



  29. Ché Pasa

    Over and over again, our rulers have told us “NO!” we can’t have nice things, we can’t have life-saving things, we can’t do anything much about the climate, we won’t be able to get through this pandemic without a lot of losses among the non-ruling classes, and more and more of us won’t have enough wherewithal to get by. Too bad, so sad, quoth the rulers. We can’t afford much of anything for you.

    After hearing this and versions of it for decades, regardless of who we elect to office, going back at least to Reagan as governor of California (ie: 1967), it should be apparent we can’t get what we need and want through the normal processes. Ain’t gonna happen.

    Ian proposes rather straightforward adjustments that will start restoring some kind of balance and begin addressing our many unmet needs and some of our desires for a better and sustainable future.

    No problem with that. The problem is that the ruling class is unconvinced and will continue to say “No!” till Doomsday. Doomsday for us. Not them.

    It is, for example, the policy of the US Government and its owners that We, the Rabble, are to get sick and die — preferably quickly and in large numbers. Not enough, of course, but it’s a start. Call it a downpayment on the cull to come.

    The answer is to make it as difficult as possible or utterly impossible for the ruling class to continue to rule. You can bet that the other side (whatever it may be) will be out and about attempting to do just that, and as we know, they don’t usually have the best interests of anyone but themselves in mind.

  30. bruce wilder

    I get the feeling that our rulers think they will shortly be well able to do without the majority of the human population: robots can do the work and the planet can survive better with fewer human mouths to feed. If they do not need the common man to substitute for factory machinery or as cannon fodder, and the common man in his consumerist greed threatens ecological collapse well, who makes those hard choices about what “we” can afford?

    It is horrendous to think we have advanced to the point where an engineered population crash can be thought to be in mitigation of the costs of unrestrained greed, but the human instinct for sacrifice to appease the gods is written on the black soul of Man

  31. nihil obstet

    We are already past the point of having more workers than are needed. The rich have more money than they know what to do with. Their point is to win highest status through most money.

    A couple of questions come to mind about the world with the commoners eliminated. First, it’s an engineered world with a lot of machinery. How do you control the engineers when there’s no fear of falling into the commoner class? That is, how do you keep them loyal to elites when they are no longer themselves elite? You will need security forces to protect yourself from the engineers and machinists and from the other rich people. How will that work when you no longer need tame governments to keep the great commoner class under control? And how do you create the illusion of value? Eventually, one oligarch will own it all on paper.

    We can envision a world where rational amoral elites have eliminated hoi polloi, but there are always the same problem we have now, simply moved up the authoritarian ladder.

  32. Willy

    S. Brennan, once again towing the conservative fossil baron line, badly.

    Germany was an early adopter of renewable energy and wind & solar were considerably more expensive at the time that those investments were being made. The ancillary effect of all that investment, however, is that it helped the industry as a whole achieve economies of scale, to where new wind & solar are now much cheaper.

    If you want to look at new installations, then Texas is the place. New solar farms are starting to displace even gas usage in the state. Germany will eventually get there but will have to pay down their initial investments first.

    The cost of electricity by state:

  33. GlassHammer

    Well in the U.S. the first problem is the chain that binds “Material Reality” to “Individual Material Interest” to “Politics” to “Political Movements” to “Using the Government to Plan an Economy” is broken and can’t be used to pull a sustainable future into the present.

    You see each link in the chain we need has been intentionally replaced by a link that cannot pull the future forward without breaking under the strain.

    The chain we currently have binds “False Consciousness” to “Individual Identity” to “Tribalism” to “Honor Cultures” to “Using the Government to Settle Grudges”.

  34. Plague Species

    Without the yardstick of the hoi polloi, it all falls down. It can and will fall down for other reasons too, but the yardstick of the hoi polloi is at the heart of this decadent system. Tony Montana is as erudite as Karl Marx in his admonition to the wealthy elite, just replace “bad” with “poor unwashed.”

    You need people like me.

    Without healthcare workers to take care of you, I’m addressing the wealthy elite here, when you’re ill, without teachers to teach your brats, without garbage men to pick up your garbage, without cops to protect your assets, in otherwords without essential workers you take for granted and don’t appreciate and sh*t on and f*ck over daily, you are nothing. I would submit you are nothing but a construct any way, but that’s too much for the hoi polloi to grasp when they must suffer the very real visceral effects of the construct that is you and all your manipulative malevolent machinations.

  35. Tony Wikrent

    My one quibble — and it is not small — is that the modern conservative and libertarian movements were expressly designed, created, and lavishly funded by rich reactionaries to attack and destroy the post World War Two “liberal consensus,” which was the same as what Ian describes here. Heather Cox Richardson provides the details of this in her book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for America (Oxford University Press, 2020):
    “In 1951, William F. Buckley Jr., a devout Catholic fresh out of Yale, the son of an oilman, suggested a new approach to destroying the liberal consensus. In God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom,” Buckley suggested that the whole idea that people would, make good decisions through argument based on evidence—the Enlightenment idea that had shaped America since its founding—was wrong. Had that been true, Americans would not have kept supporting the government activism launched by the New Deal. Americans’ faith in reasoned debate was a worse “superstition,’,’ he said, than the superstitions the Enlightenment had set out to replace.”

    “Rather than continuing to try to change people’s beliefs through evidence-based arguments, he said, those opposed to the New Deal should, stand firm on an “orthodoxy” of religion and individualism’ and refuse to accept any questioning of those two fundamental principles. Buckley’s book showed how this should be done. Rather than making a reasoned argument that fairly presented others’ positions, it misrepresented the views of the professors with whom Buckley disagreed, claimed that the wealthy white Yale-educated Buckley was a ‘member of a persecuted minority, and smeared supporters of the liberal consensus as the tools of socialists and atheists. (p. 152)”

    We have to find a way to counter conservative and libertarian ideology. But as Corey Robin and Philip Mirowski have both argued, the left is philosophically incapable of this. Marxism and socialism are fundamentally flawed because they posit that human nature is very malleable and will radically change once property ownership is eliminated. As Charles Beard began arguing in the 1930s, after contemplating how people reacted to his “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution,” the views of Madison and Hamilton actually were more effective: you can never get rid of the conflict caused by economic factions, but you can design a government with checks and balances that is able to regulate that conflict. The key is to always maintain a view of what the General Welfare is, and strive for it. Not coincidentally, conservatives and libertarians today argue that the General Welfare mandate is a critical error in the Constitution. See, for example, Utah Senator Mike Lee’s speech to the Federalist Society a couple years ago.

    I think the left basically shoots itself in the head by believing that the Constitution was established to perpetuate political control by property owners, while ignoring how rich reactionaries like the slave owners worked assiduously to reinterpret the law and the Constitution, and destroy its original meaning from within. (Yes, ironic that the lackeys of the reactionary rich call themselves “originalists” in this contest. Just like the Federalist Society is more accurately called the Anti-Federalist Society — which name the FS’s founders actually considered when they formed it! ).

  36. StewartM


    Apparently, reading the comments here, some of the commentariat here likewise holds to a variant of “you can’t have nice things”. A big problem is, we’ve really not done anything on a ‘big’ R&D scale into these types of things since–well, the early 1970s. We’ve not done that as all our firms’ earnings has to be sucked up into the Wall Street Maw for them to play their paper assets ponzi schemes.

    Back when we have a high confiscatory tax rates, firms like Ma Bell and Eastman Kodak even ran *pure* (not applied) R&D labs–they had to do *something * with their money, as they could not funnel it to Wall Street due to those high taxes. Add to that government-funded R&D back then. But today companies that used to spend 10 % or more of earnings on R&D spend < 3 %, if that.

    Don't let the crippled tech and R&D of today limit one's notion of what's possible.

  37. S Brennan

    “S. Brennan, once again towing the conservative fossil baron line..” – Willy

    Another comment that displays the vigorous ignorance your posts are noted for.

    When it comes to carbon emissions, the ANTI-NUCLEAR GROUPs PAID BY COAL & OIL to protest [sound familiar?] any funding/research/development/building of nuclear and fusion energy has been the biggest impediment to lowering the world’s carbon footprint. The USA stopped being the leader in this type of research during the Nixon/Carter years.
    Google Search: [Did coal and oil fund anti-nuclear protest?] I’ve already read several books on the subject but…

    If I paraphrase, then old Willy will ask for a single link that ties five thoughts together for him in a neat little bow. Willy is a fine example of today’s lazy minds that need to be spoon fed thoughts…Obama/Clinton/Biden D’s and Bush/Romney R’s all have a bipartisan love of the Willies in the world.
    Are Fossil Fuel Interests Bankrolling The Anti-Nuclear Energy Movement?

    “It’s ironic and begs the question of why the traditional environmental movement is so vehemently opposed to nuclear energy, especially since it is the only fuel that can burn around the clock without releasing any carbon emissions. While this writer has had good relations among all those along the environmental continuum for 16 years, critics will maintain that it is the fossil fuel interests that have bankrolled some of the legacy groups.

    In 1970, a leader of the petroleum industry and the head of the Atlantic Richfield Co. named Robert O. Anderson contributed $200,000 to fund Friends of the Earth, an organization that is strident in its opposition to nuclear energy, citing both safety and cost issues. The topic is part of a book by F. William Engdahl titled Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Orders, says Rod Adams, author of the blog Atomic Insights.

    “The discovery moved Anderson up to exhibit number one in my long-running effort to prove that the illogically tight linkage between ‘environmental groups’ and ‘antinuclear groups’ can be traced directly to the need for the oil and gas industry to discourage the use of nuclear energy,” writes Adams.

    He goes on to say that oil and gas marketers are savvy and realize that transparent donations would be viewed with a jaundiced eye by journalists and others. By surreptitiously giving money, Adams says that those in the fossil fuel sector could establish proxies to do their fighting for them.”

    “Why Nuclear is in Crisis.” This is a summary of how anti-nuclear organizations — allied with, funded by, and invested in fossil fuels and renewable energy — have been working for over 50 years to kill our largest source of clean energy. [link inside of link at bottom]

    “Zero Dark Nuclear.” April 4, 2018. Seven nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania produce 30 percent more power than all of the solar in the United States. If they are closed, the future of our largest source of clean energy is dark.” [link inside of link at bottom]

    “Greenpeace’s Dirty War on Clean Energy, Part I: South Korean Version,” July 25, 2017. Describes Greenpeace’s efforts to replace nuclear plants in South Korea with natural gas and renewables.” [link inside of link at bottom]

    “Why the War on Nuclear Threatens Us All,” March 28, 2017. Article describes effort by Ohio and other coal-polluted states in the 1970s to deploy nuclear energy to reduce pollution — and how Sierra Club and Ralph Nader fought nuclear and sought coal instead.” [link inside of link at bottom]

  38. Willy

    I never said anything against nuclear, or even about nuclear. And now you’re trying to stuff me into a nuclear-hater box which you’ve prepared for me.

    Sorry but you got suckered into revealing yourself. A true progressive would’ve corrected my first bait comment, correctly.

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