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Michael Hoexter: The Only Way Forward: A Pedal-to-the-Metal Plan for Energy System Transformation — (Pt. 2 of 3)

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By Michael Hoexter, a policy analyst and marketing consultant on green issues, climate change, clean and renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives. This is the second of three parts. Part one is here.

Policy Instruments to Realize the Pedal-to-the-Metal Plan

The above list of technological changes to radically reduce and eventually zero-out society’s emissions using current and near-future technologies would represent the largest construction project in the history of humankind by far, occurring over several decades. While these developments are required to preserve something that resembles society and what might be called appreciable human wealth, in themselves they are not objects of desire for significant portions of the public nor do many private investors see attractive returns in them, so that it cannot be said that market demand currently exists for this type of transformation. Still, many individuals would probably come to enjoy, for instance, the amenities offered by the zero-carbon infrastructure once built, as political battles and the battles around finances, land use and the noise and inconveniences of the construction period had receded into the past.

Furthermore, as I have argued, even if that demand existed, the visible or invisible hand of the market would be insufficiently skilled at creating the coordinated infrastructural systems that are here prescribed. While it would be ideal if we were to set a price on carbon and let, as is current lore, the “market do its magic”, market actors could not “see” far enough into the future to plan for a net-zero carbon emitting society, nor would it be in their immediate economic self-interests to do so. Many of the foundations of the net-zero carbon society would then be designed either directly by government actors, according to an overall high-level plan or set of principles similar to this one, or by private sector actors following strictly enforced regulatory codes that yield a very-low or net-zero carbon outcome in the near term.

Aside: Government as Foundation of All Complex Economies

While the specifics of government action to implement the Pedal-to-the-Metal Plan will be sketched below, it first makes sense to clear away remaining disinformation and prejudice about government in all types of complex economies, the type of economy that has dominated the world for the past two centuries. The dominant model of the economy communicated by neoclassical economics is that government is an “add-on” or intruder in a fundamentally state-less market. In that state-less market, the basic social and economic interaction is that of ungoverned buyers and sellers finding each other and meeting each other’s needs and desires through exchange of goods and services. The neoliberal political movement, now dominant in parties of both the Right and nominal “Left”, has attempted to further marginalize government as an instrument of economic change by claiming that markets are always “better” or more efficient ways to organize the economy than via government planning and commissioning of various agencies or projects.

Despite these ideological paeans to markets that are erroneously built into the frame of contemporary political and economic discourse, in reality, neoliberal political actors have enthusiastically reinforced the military and repressive functions of the state as well as increased government supports for large financial and corporate entities. To these neoliberals, government is a government of convenience and it is often convenient for government to direct its repressive apparatus at the less privileged or foreign “Others” rather than at themselves, at their patrons, and their excesses or misdeeds.

Because of the academic dominance of neoclassical economics and the political dominance of neoliberalism, frank and open discussions of the reality of government’s role are few and far between. The lack of a reasoned and empirically valid discourse on government’s role has in turn hampered democratic control of the instrument of government. There is a very vocal class of true believers in the neoliberal/neoclassical vision calling themselves libertarians that claim to pursue the chimerical ideal of a stateless or almost stateless economy and complain loudly of any activities of government that supports the less advantaged. Claiming to speak with the authority of the classic liberal tradition and for freedom, this group has pulled most parties of the Right and many in the center and moderate “Left” into a position where they cannot openly endorse government support for the less well-off. The combination of academically respectable neoclassical economics with the fanatical but relatively privileged political minority of libertarians, enables government’s role to be discussed only in disparaging terms and without full clarity.

As government will play a critical role in the transition to a post-carbon energy system, it makes sense to address and/or preempt the inevitable screams of protest from neoliberals and libertarians. The libertarians will claim that the Pedal-to-the-Metal Plan is designed as a “statist” takeover of the economy, ignoring the fact that all complex economies are more or less “statist”. Libertarians also “like” the state when, as I mentioned earlier, it is convenient for them: when the state is repressing others they don’t like or respect or when it makes the wealthy wealthier. Government plays a critical role in any economy which those libertarians or neoliberals would want to live: if that were not the case libertarians would be open neo-primitivists or lawless brigands of which very few of them are. The binary “statist” vs “libertarian” or its equivalent (“government” vs. “market”) misleads most contemporary thinkers about the economy into thinking that the activities of the state are not in fact integral to the economy as a whole. In this environment the discussion becomes “more” or, it seems always preferably, “less” state rather than “how” the government can better serve the people and their aims and welfare.

The role of government in complex societies is empirically obvious but in the context of the above multi-decade, multilateral propaganda campaign it makes sense to re-state its functions with regard to the economy:

1) Supply and management of a national currency
2) Supply and administration of a legal system and enforcement of contractual obligations
3) Prohibition/inhibition of damaging behaviors (via legal and economic methods)
4) Stimulation, creation and financial support for socially valuable functions and behaviors (via fiscal policy and moral support)
5) Provision and maintenance of vital public infrastructure and services
6) Funding and delivering basic and advanced education
7) Regulation of interest rates and the private banking system
8) Long-term planning, networking, and social coordination beyond the scope of individual private sector concerns
9) National defense
10) Maintenance of scientific data collection and analysis systems
11) Maintenance and funding of a program of basic scientific and technological research
12) Maintenance and funding of basic and exemplary national cultural goods
13) Protection of significant natural resources.

In any and every viable complex economy and society, in which either libertarians or non-libertarians would want to live, governments are delivering these functions, even though neoliberals and libertarians express an ideological dissatisfaction with the fact that government is the supplier. To the naïve listener, neoliberals and libertarians can only appear to “know better” about government’s role in the economy, only if the fictions of neoclassical economics and libertarian political smears about government’s complete fallibility are mistaken for a description of economic and social reality.

The Pedal-to-the-Metal Plan Produces a 15-20 year Wartime Economy for Peaceable Ends

Even though government is the sine qua non of any complex economy throughout history, the self-rescue of complex societies in the face of the human-caused climate crisis will require a level of government involvement which is very much beyond the tastes and ideals of neoliberals or libertarians. The plan does not yield a “hedonic paradise” or utopia for either Right or Left but instead the rewards and privations of a wartime economy stretched out over a period of 15 to 20 years. There will be a lot of work to do and some of it will seem laborious. The type of work available and the amount of work (more) will change. Some businesses will thrive and others will need to adapt quickly or go out of business. Much of the economic activity that we currently engage in, with the technologies that we use, will be either gradually or immediately altered by the movement away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy and efficient use of energy. Some enjoyable activities that are currently cheap will become expensive while new enjoyments will take their place. During the period of its building, we will not necessarily slip easily into the zero-net carbon society; there will be bumps along the road, for some more aggravating than for others.

The critical element in a wartime economy (without fighting a war) is the exercise of the authority of government to expand public finances as a proportion of the economy as well as regulate and alter the entire economy to serve a mission deemed to be in the common good. To do so, government needs to achieve a high degree of legitimacy, a legitimacy that is often conferred by attack by an external enemy. In our current period, government does not have this level of legitimacy though it has more potential legitimacy than the highly vocal but deluded libertarian Right (or for that matter the “real” far left) give it. In order to implement this plan, large scale social movements would need to emerge that would effectively hold government accountable to the task of protecting its people and rid to a great extent the legalized corruption of government in its current plutocratic form. A government that is recognized as defending only the 1% cannot reasonably or effectively institute a wartime economy, especially one that will last for at least 15 years.

Because of the influence of neoliberal and libertarian ideology in current understandings of what government can and can’t do, it makes sense to pre-empt, again, the inevitable objections from this quarter head on. Realizing early on that climate change requires massive government action, many neoliberals/libertarians and those on the political Right who share their views have tended to deny that human-caused climate change either exists or if it exists it is not a problem worth addressing. As Joe Romm has written, the Right has denied climate change because it doesn’t like the solutions to climate change, i.e. a pro-active government that will transform society’s energy system and with it, no doubt reordering or disturbing some of the traditional hierarchies of power and wealth which the Right has historically seen as its mission to protect.

Unfortunately, the moderate Left and “centrists” that have had a hand in governing over the past two decades in the US, Europe and within the UN have shared with the Right the neoliberal ideology of government, so have avoided realistically describing government’s potential for action and then implementing decisive actions of government in the face of climate change. They take overly seriously the objections of the extreme Right and mainstream neoclassical economists that government is necessarily inefficient and tyrannical, while, they state or imply, markets are always democratic and liberty-enhancing. The implementation of their favored climate policy, carbon pricing, in an actually effectual form with an explicit and escalating carbon price, also requires a level of legitimacy of government action in the economy that “left” neoliberals tend to gloss over in making every effort to show that their policies are “market-based”. Whatever role one allots to carbon pricing within the broader framework of climate and energy policy, one cannot have an effective carbon price without widespread recognition that government has a legitimate right or even duty to intervene quite drastically in markets and in the decision-making calculus of consumers.

The “real” non-neoliberal Left, which in current American parlance would be considered further left than what some media pundits call the “far Left”, sometimes sees in action on climate change simply an extension of its historical mission, the leveling of traditional hierarchies of power and wealth. While it is true that there is a social leveling potential in government action on the scale of a wartime mobilization, the purpose of transforming the energy system is not identical to that mission either, somewhat contrary to the fears of the Right. Pouring climate action into the mold of traditional Left-Right arguments is fundamentally misleading because it doesn’t grapple with the actual requirements for the self-rescue of civilization to be effective. While the Left will be more comfortable with the idea of decisive climate action, that action will not necessarily yield the social utopia of the Left.

The Engine of Energy System Transformation: An Ethically-Driven, Dirigiste, Monetarily-Sovereign, Data-Open, Entrepreneurial State

The essential characteristics of government that are crucial in implementing the Pedal-to-the-Metal Plan are an ethical commitment to future generations, dirigisme, monetary sovereignty (or its effects), data openness and public entrepreneurialism.

A) Ethical Commitment to Future Generations – While most will claim that they have an ethical commitment to future generations, “talk is cheap”. If government acts purely or largely in the short-term interests of some or maybe even all of the current generation in the context of an unsustainable economy, it will by necessity exclude future generations from its policy orientation and actions. Rather than take politicians’ claims of ethical probity at face value, social movements motivated by concern for this and future generations will need to continue to hold politicians to an ethical standard that “deals in” future generations as well as serves the needs of the current generation in a more sustainable form.

B) Dirigisme – “Dirigisme” is French for “director-ism” and refers to a policy orientation of the State/government directing investment and taking an active managerial role in the economy. To implement the Pedal-to-the-Metal Plan, government must take on the leading role of overseeing investment and managing energy consuming activities within the economy at large via publicly-discussed, transparent planning that supports the goal of rescuing civilization from its fossil fuel dependency. In dirigisme, the public purpose has priority over any given private or corporate goal, though contrary to some of the fears and smears of the Right and center, the result is a government-led mixed economy and not a Soviet-style command-economy. A dirigiste economy can be more or less democratic, more or less authoritarian depending on the transparency and interactivity of its decision-making and viable channels for redress of excesses in government exertion of power in the economy.

C) Public Enterpreneurialism – The government will have an increased role as the creator of new enterprises or institutions that address the energy transition and increasing effects of climate change on the population. As much of the infrastructure to transition to a renewably generated electricity driven society will not yield much in the way of profits to investors, or if it did, those enterprises that owned the infrastructure could choke the economy, government must either financially support and heavily regulate new private services or found new public enterprises to deliver these services. In addition there will an intensified role for government in investing in scientific and technological research related to energy and climate. There are many such enterprises that will need to be either expanded, repurposed and/or refunded. As examples, some new public enterprises that will need to founded in the US are:

  1. Renewable Electricity Transmission Authority – Modeled on the existing federally owned transmission facilities in the Western U.S., a high voltage DC network of transmission lines needs to be built to connect high value renewable energy sources to where energy is consumed. This authority might also develop coordination between the regional grid management organizations in terms of energy planning and energy management, as well as the day-to-day “market operations” of the regional grid managers.
  2. investor-owned railways in the US would need to be bought out by government and, as in some European countries, the rail rights of way would have to be operated as a non-profit public benefit corporation. This is to enable a massive build-out of rail and electrification of rail which are beyond the means of and not in the immediate economic interest of the investor-owned railways. These companies could form operating companies that run rail services on the federally-owned rights of way, thereby building on their existing core competencies in rail management. Multi-tracking all but the most sparsely traveled stretches of track would be part of the work of this authority as well as creating a realistic grade separation plan for existing and new rail lines.
  3. Increase Government Clean Energy Research Budgets 10 Fold – An already-existing entrepreneurial function of government that needs to be magnified under the Pedal-to-the-Metal Plan. There are some who exaggerate the need for innovation but research into energy related science and technology must continue at a much accelerated rate, especially in the area of energy storage.

D) Data Openness – While the government directing the effort to meet the climate challenge and transform our energy system must operate from a plan, the success of the plan must be measured according to data such as slowing level of emissions and eventual stabilization or even reduction of carbon levels in the atmosphere. The plan or government’s actions must not then be taken as objects of veneration or belief but subjected to the scientific method in as many aspects as possible.

E) Monetary Sovereignty – The vast public investments to shift society’s energy system will require government leaders to have the policy space necessary to spend trillions of dollars (or, in another nation, large amounts of the national currency) over and above levels of taxation. Only fiat-currency issuing governments, i.e. monetarily sovereign governments, can spend independently of the amount of taxes collected. Of course, the amount of spending required might lead to excess liquidity, unacceptable levels of currency devaluation, and inflationary pressures which can be counteracted by a number of policy instruments including carbon taxation, price controls, and voluntary methods like public bond sales. In the case of a Pedal-to-the Metal Plan for the Euro-Zone, those governments that have given up their own currencies would either need to re-issue national currencies or create a European fiscal union.

Actions of Government: Execution of the Plan

A government as described above would then need to execute the Pedal-to-the-Metal Plan or its equivalent. There is not enough space here to rehearse the obvious process required for such a massive project to be undertaken effectively. A number of institutional arrangements within government are possible but a good portion of the activity of government would be taken up over a two decade period by implementing the plan, mostly in the form of building infrastructure as described above. As there are other ongoing commitments of government, it might be that a Climate Change Plan Authority would be set up under the supervision of legislators and government executives. This authority would draft a detailed spending and management plan to achieve the technological and climate goals of the plan. A timeline for the achievement of individual plan objectives would be set up. Ambitious, rapid but also arbitrary deadlines for achieving objectives would then be put into place.

In the example of the US, Congress would authorize spending on the plan, which would result in several trillion dollars of additional government expenditure per year. As a monetarily sovereign government like the US can choose to spend without regard for balancing budgets, government leaders and economists would adjust taxation and other aspects of fiscal and monetary policies with an eye to potential inflationary pressures that might endanger the economy overall. On the other hand, once committed to acting on climate change with rapidity, concerns such as inflation become subordinate technical issues rather than the transcendental, ultimate evil that is ascribed to it by right-wing economists.

A fiat-currency issuing government such as the US federal government is then not “taking away” taxpayer dollars to spend on changing our energy system(even though these changes are of benefit to the taxpayers individually and as a whole). The government will need to raise some taxes to shape consumer and business behavior (see below) and to reduce the amount of money in circulation after the large increases in federal expenditure. The Pedal-to-the-Metal plan calls for new taxation to partially counteract the potentially inflationary push of the required government spending contained within the plan. However the notion that there must be a one-for-one increase in taxes to “pay for” federal spending is technically wrong and economic damaging to a weak economy like our contemporary one, starved of liquidity due to income inequality.

While in the US we are currently facing a government that is trimming its size, the Pedal-to-the-Metal Plan would increase the number of government employees to actually execute the plan and deliver the projects and services that will fall to government. In addition, there will be millions employed by government contractors who will be delivering project-based services to government, determined by a bid process. On the other hand, the hiring of new full-time government employees if they are fulfilling a valuable service to the public should be considered as preferable in many instances to the outsourcing the delivery of vital public services to private corporations.

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70 comments

  1. spacecabooie

    Eminently worthwhile, notwithstanding (or better, to take advantage of) its expense, would be the revitalized North American Water and Power Alliance project, but I have seen neither it nor President Kennedy’s (Parson’s Corporation) original NAWAPA mentioned in Parts 1 and 2.

    Why would this be so ?

  2. psychohistorian

    Please understand that while I support some/most of the paths forward, without addressing how government starts acting for the masses instead of the folks that own it all is delusional.

    This is that same argument I have with the MMT folk…..nice theory but you are ignoring centuries of class based inheritance that has brought us to this juncture.

    I argue that tilting at this windmill while ignoring the structure of our existing society is wasted effort.

    Or am I just suppose to wait for the third installment when you tell how you propose wresting control away from the existing plutocrats to implement your humanistic government that energy transformation happens in?

    Your plan only works if the plutocrats are removed from control or undergo some “enlightened” awakening…pun intended.

    We need more than energy transformation, MMT and agreement on population control to save our world. We need a functioning society that is not the plutocratic led one we have and efforts to look in other directions for solutions is wasted effort, IMO

    1. from Mexico

      I agree.

      Even if one gives carte blanche to Hoexter’s plan, which I certainly do not (although there are some parts I might agree with), where is the political will to implement it to come from?

      The US government is experienceing a legitimacy meltdown, which should be more than apparent to anyone who is paying attention to the ongoing debate over Syria.

      And having been influecned by the structuralists, I for one believe that a much more profound and meaningful ontological and epistemological meltdown underlies the government’s legitimacy meltdown.

      When a civilization’s “ruling mythology,” as John Gray puts it, “hits the wall,” it’s not typically a pretty sight:

      “The Big Ideas podcast: Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’

      Philosopher John Gray and Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee are among those joining Benjamen Walker to consider the legacy of Smith’s much-abused phrase”

      http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/audio/2011/oct/06/big-ideas-podcast-adam-smith-audio

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        If I want to hear “There’s no political will” I’ll talk to a Democrat who wants to make excuses for Obama.

        Fact is, if there were the political will, this program would already have happened, so this logic is an ugly combination of tautology combined with defeatism.

        There was no political will for a Declaration of Independence. Until there was.

        There was no political for Abolition. Until there was.

        There was no political will for Women’s suffrage. Until there was.

        There was no political will for Civil Rights. Until there was.

        There was no political will for gay marriage. Until there was.

        This comment seems to take the view — as do apologists for Obama — that “political will” drops mysteriously from the sky, perhaps as a some sort of reified philosophical construct like a change in the ruling mythology.

        I disagree. I think that political will comes from people doing politics in accord with their values and interests, in this case the value of preventing climate disaster, and interests as spinoffs from what’s needed to get the job done.

        From observation, one of the most will-sapping constructs there is — and our betters are very happy indeed to have us wallow in a supine state — is TINA: “There Is No Alternative.” This series of posts is important because it presents an Alternative — agree or disagree with the plan, its one way to break through TINA.

        Rarely has Marx’s epigram “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it” rung more true than on this thread. Sadly.

    2. diptherio

      If nothing else, posts like this provide a counter-narrative to the chorus of “TINA.” IMHO, we need to have discussions about both wresting the political system from the clutches of the plutocrats and what a more just and sane system might look like. We can’t expect everybody to address every concern in every post, now can we?

      That said, I disapprove of the title. The ONLY way forward…oh really now? How about a possible way forward? That seems more accurate to me…

    3. Michael Hoexter

      I don’t know if you have followed my argument (it is a long one) but the point of this plan is to solve a problem that we have. In the process of solving that problem a number of social and political problems need to be solved as well. On the Internet and in the comments sections of blogs such as this one, it is all too common to find exactly what you are looking for: the expression of a set of political opinions, usually complaining about the concentration of power and/or wealth among people who are viewed as “bad”.

      Instead I’m starting from a position where I’m looking at a problem that our entire species has and then seeing what are the barriers to solving that problem. I think it’s a change of pace…but you are seeming to prefer here a restatement of a political “old time religion” at least that of the sub-group that you identify with.

      1. anon y'mouse

        you’re not trying to solve A problem. you are trying to solve about a hundred different problems, and each of those contains about a hundred more.

        and then, when someone has concerns about your suggestions, you bely your stated purpose of “putting it forward for discussion & amendment” by criticizing their world-view, or what you perceive as their world-view.

          1. anon y'mouse

            it goes against the purpose, and not the substance of their critique usually. it is ad hominem, with or without the insulting part. it is one thing to point out that a given system, technology etc. presupposes a certain kind of world-view or social organization, and another to start calling people utopians who want it all their own way.

            none of us are going to get anything all our own way, and most rational people realize that. but if someone’s devised system is really reliant upon a lot of things that are potentially morally abhorrent, or socially undesirable, it is worthwhile to point that out and see if some mutually satisfactory solution is possible, and perhaps even more elegant and simpler to achieve and so on.

            also, because people’s values and beliefs generally can’t be pigeonholed into one bin into which everything they believe and think and do is consistent with that bin. we are all, to some extent, hypocrites. I have orange juice and chocolate in my house right now, but can still critique the way the world has been shaped to bring those things to my doorstep, and worry about my own unwillingness to give them up.

  3. Cassiodorus

    First off, I can’t agree with this characterization:

    The neoliberal political movement, now dominant in parties of both the Right and nominal “Left”, has attempted to further marginalize government as an instrument of economic change by claiming that markets are always “better” or more efficient ways to organize the economy than via government planning and commissioning of various agencies or projects.

    Please see the Philip Mirowski piece here, and read his book as well. The neoliberals have no beef at all with “government as an instrument of economic change.” However, that having been said, what the neoliberals want is government as a creator of markets upon which the working class will be dependent.

    Neoliberals, then, are not “anti-government” — they simply want government to insure that ordinary people will be participants in market transactions, rather than having government encourage said ordinary people to participate in economic life outside of market economies by, for instance, growing their own, making their own, foraging, sharing, bartering, forming communal and cooperative economies, receiving goods and services free from the government, and so on.

    All of the neoliberal nonsense about “free markets” is intended as mere pablum for the masses. The neoliberals understand well that “markets” have nothing to do with being “free,” especially if (per neoliberal intentions) one is forced by imposed economic circumstances to participate in them. “Markets,” as they are continually created and recreated by neoliberal states in response to the ongoing economic crises of the neoliberal era (1973-present), are continually imposed upon the public to preserve the profit rate for the big corporate clients of neoliberal states.

    I guess my complaint here is that there really isn’t enough in “pedal-to-the-metal” about freeing people from markets or neoliberalism, because I think it rests upon a misconception of what neoliberalism is. Fundamental to any serious plan for reducing carbon emissions is shutting down the carbon markets by freeing people from obligatory participation in them. New markets will simply compete with the old ones, leaving the markets susceptible to manipulation by vast economic powers; you have to free people from compulsory market participation.

    I’m also confused by this economic thought:

    The government will need to raise some taxes to shape consumer and business behavior (see below) and to reduce the amount of money in circulation after the large increases in federal expenditure. The Pedal-to-the-Metal plan calls for new taxation to partially counteract the potentially inflationary push of the required government spending contained within the plan.

    You do understand how dollar hegemony works, don’t you? The United States government has coerced the Fed into printing up, whatsitnow, $16.7 trillion dollars in national debt money. If this money were constrained by neoclassical doctrine, it would have already created a vast inflation. But it didn’t, because these vast quantities of dollars are held in reserve by banks, whose previous reserves of dollars will all lose their value if said banks let them go. Thus the US government has a blank check to create and spend as much money as it wants, as long as the banks holding dollar reserves continue to maintain the value of the dollar.

    Thus this prescription of taxes to “rein in inflation” confuses the heck out of me. The problem in this era is not inflation, but rather deflation, as monetary hoarding means less and less for those who can’t get in on the hoarding bonanzas.

    In short, then, I would like to see a plan more thoroughly focused upon the fate of the working class in the era of climate change, because the super-rich folks currently in power don’t really need you, your plan, or your thinking.

    1. Michael Hoexter

      For some reason you are trying to pick this apart sentence by sentence without reading on…

      This wasn’t a dissertation on neoliberalism, but if you read on in the piece (and I’ve also written this elsewhere)you would notice that I say that neoliberals see government as a “government of convenience” for them and their patrons. They like government that serves the already wealthy and powerful.

      But it is a critically important operation of neoliberalism that its exponents CLAIM that government is a suboptimal solution. This removes a democratic, broad discussion of the benefits of government action from the public sphere because government action is stigmatized. This effectively allows the use of government action to be concentrated more for the benefit of the economic and political elite.

      In the process though, some of the crazier “libertarian” and other right-wing neoliberals actually can do damage to the instrument of government upon which they too depend. It’s self-defeating even for them..

      1. psychohistorian

        I agree with you that government is stigmatized and we need good government to survive/control our bad human tendencies.

        We do not have that sort of government now and need to work toward defining and implementing good governance. IMO, the first step in that direction is wresting control of our current government from the plutocrats and their brainwashed and faith based followers…..the ones that changed the US motto to In Gawd We Trust when it originally was Out of Many, One (E Pluribus Unum)

        IMO, the way you do that is to change the fundamental rules of inheritance so that the class structure is flattened to where none can buy/unduly influence “public” governance.

  4. Nobody

    Imagine a car motoring on a long treadmill. Putting the “pedal-to-the-metal” can’t make the car go fast enough to keep it from going backwards and crashing off the back end of the treadmill; the treadmill is moving too fast.

    We have to turn the car around and throw it into reverse so we can see the crash coming and prepare for it, not try to outrun it, which we cannot do. The car is incapable of going that fast and besides, it is almost out of gas.

    Not much substance in that analogy, I know, but that is how I see it.

    Your prescriptions, while commendable, can only make the treadmill slow slightly, and improve the car engine’s efficiency to make the gas last a bit longer. I don’t see them preventing the crash, even if we could get them implemented by our government of the corporations and rentiers, by the corporations and rentiers, for the corporations and rentiers. But I am Nobody, what do I know?

    Creative descent or chaotic descent. Our choice. I think the chaotic descent will win out because that is what we gravitate towards. We love to sow chaos everywhere we go and then we try to impose order to contain the chaos that we ourselves sowed. Is that sane? Are we sane?

    1. Another POV

      The car is incapable of going that fast and besides, it is almost out of gas

      Actually, it’s the perfect analogy.

      Is that sane and are we sane? Asked and answered on both counts. Chalk that one up to the amazing power and allure of fossil fuel energy.

    2. JTFaraday

      “Creative descent or chaotic descent. Our choice.”

      I agree that if the situation is as dire as Hoexter indicates, then it would be wise not to neglect the “creative descent” angle.

      However, it seems to me that most of the public policy writers we see on the internets are possessed of narrow one track minds that are not capable of promoting a plural approach to any complex problem. Which would seem to be just what complex problems require.

      This seems so obvious to me that I am 99% certain that you can’t take anything they say at face value. I arrive at this conclusion after several years of observation.

      You, as a member of the public they seek to submit to their will, may be sincere about the problem. But they’re not. All that talk about the common good and saving the world and TINA is just part of the hard sell authoritarianism of some interested party’s foregone conclusion.

      That interested party may be the policy writer or it may be someone else. Or it may be that their interests have now fused, which is just what happens when you pay someone to do something for you.

      If their chosen cure-all is the wrong one, well, f*ck you. That was the whole point of the exercise anyway.

      I was struck by Hoexter’s attack on the “neo-primitivist” idealists in Part 1. I really do fail to see how his indictment of them does not hold for himself as well.

  5. F. Beard

    The role of government in complex societies is empirically obvious but in the context of the above multi-decade, multilateral propaganda campaign it makes sense to re-state its functions with regard to the economy:

    1) Supply and management of a national currency. Michael Hoexter

    Yes, but according to L. Randall Wray, the national currency need not be legal tender for private debts since its exclusive role for the payment of government debts is sufficient to drive its value. Why over specify unless a policy goal such as a universal bailout with new, full legal tender fiat requires it?
    .
    .
    7) Regulation of interest rates and the private banking system.

    IF the private banking system were truly private, it would need little regulation besides the vigorous enforcement of fraud and insolvency laws.

    Btw, does it make sense to allow another source of fiat creation, i.e. the central bank, to reduce the policy space of the monetary sovereign? The policy space to deficit spend without price inflation?

  6. Somebody

    Yuh, for one very small, but curiously indicative, point: a “high voltage DC transmisison network…” is prescribed. This overlooks the reason that alternating current is used in all existing electrical transmission networks all over the world: the varying voltage permits the use of a coupled inductor (called a “transformer”) to supply line voltage from high voltage lines (high voltage, less current for given power, less I-squared R heating and loss of energy). Transformers are not perfectly efficient, and any design can only handle a certain amount of power, but they are a great deal better than any other known method say, to take 48KV Direct Current and convert it to line voltage.

    Which describes many of the diasspointments in this three part essay; they come from less than a conscious recognition of why the technology of the present came to be the way it is. Which is not to defend the technology of the present. But it is to say that restructuring proposals not cognizant of the fact that one can carry around a hundred and thirty thousand btu of very controllable burning in a convenient liquid called a “fossil fuel” tend not to go too far. Ideas about govrnment and fiat money notwithstanding.

    1. Michael Hoexter

      “Somebody”,
      Apparently you don’t know much about electricity transmission. HVDC is the method of choice for transmitting large amounts of electrical energy over long distances…it is the lowest loss method and happens to have the advantage of almost zero EMF near the lines. Also is more compact than a high voltage AC line. You can look it up on the Internet by simply inputting the words “high voltage DC” into a search engine… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-voltage_direct_current

      The question then remains, why you decided to write an ignorant 2 paragraph smear under an anonymous handle on this post. Why waste your time writing what is obviously drivel?

      1. anon y'mouse

        this is the second time I’ve seen you smear people for being anonymous.

        some of us have valid reasons to remain anonymous. some of us have been stalked, in real life, by people who knew our real names.

        I really don’t want to have to move, eventually to another state, to feel safe in my own home again.

  7. optimader

    Flesh our the annual Gigatherms of power generation, you intend on rejiggering to “zero carbon emission” then recontemplate: “…occurring over several decades…”

    I think you off by at least a century.

  8. Susan the other

    Well, I liked pretty much all of what Michael just said. His tone sounded a tad lobotomized given how critical our situation is. The sentence that puzzled me was about establishing the “monetary sovereign (or its effects)” I’m really puzzled about our weird hybrid of a central bank. It is a central private bank. How do we do the required demolition to turn it into a true system of sovereign money? If we have learned one thing since 2008 it is that the banksters will always find a way to rake it in, spoiling all public gains. And another thing that remains to be analyzed is that the transition to sustainable carbon emissions is going to have to slam on the breaks on all our old bad habits. Everything from wasted energy to filthy manufacturing practices to a fantasy market full of fantasy products most of which end up in a very real garbage dump, or the Pacific or Atlantic gyres. Recycling should be one of the biggest goals.

    1. JTFaraday

      “His tone sounded a tad lobotomized”

      Well, maybe it’s work for hire. I think I might have once told one of my employers I was like a walking corpse–you better believe I meant it too.

      You’re not going to try telling me there isn’t an electricity/ electric car/ electric transport/ electric everything industry out there, are you? I think even Chevy, finally, has “a Volt.”

      Maybe electric is not really Hoexter’s thing. Maybe he’d really rather be floating in a rowboat somewhere, with Rousseau–”Man is born free and everywhere is in jobs.”

      You never know. Our industrial and post-industrial corporate economic dependency certainly makes for some strange bedfellows.

  9. allcoppedout

    I’ve long been in favour of doing something big on energy supply and some wider issues. My pedal to the metal would be a job (earnings) guarantee through national-international service.

    Like psychohistorian I think there are things we have to address first:
    1. rich bastards, inheritance, private property and parasitic economic rents
    2. education – which is in the hands of 1 and pretends relations between hard work and reward, that it has a major role in meritocracy and equal opportunities – all obviously absurd
    3. proper evaluation of the work to be done and what attitudes we should have about work as we move on the 0 to 100% continuum of robot heaven
    4. a range of thorny problems on population control, obligations to do certain kinds of work, prevention of capture of politics by accumulated money
    5. genuine estimation of real unemployment once bullshit jobs are understood – my guess 60% – think how they comb populations to get soldiers
    6. no reliance on rose-tinted views of the reward for hard work in the past – these stories rarely turn out to be true

    As with pedal-to-the-metal itself this list is longer in reality. Wars end and soldiers get de-mobbed. We need a view of ‘after’. In the UK we have a long history of not paying our soldiers and sailors – this continues with miserable treatment now. I guess we are really looking forward to something like a three-day week with very long holiday entitlements.

    For these and many other reasons I think the problem is we can’t see that current economics-politics is a busted flush and we can’t hang around expecting a good old days recovery. We are scared of the radical change needed, but also hark back to various myths of hard work and self-improvement designed to suggest all the rich got there that way. A sensible green future is going to be a lot more than woollies and gardening. Once we realise what we can do with sensible planning, it all changes.
    3.

    1. F. Beard

      In the UK we have a long history of not paying our soldiers and sailors – this continues with miserable treatment now. allcoppedout


      “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts. “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
      Malachi 3:5-6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

  10. Kurt Sperry

    I, unlike most here I suppose, found part one a fairly comprehensive and reasonable list of proposals for transitioning to renewable energy. It is also an unusual pleasure to have the author willing to wade into the comments section and defend their piece–something sadly really rare to find on the internet.

    I find the “doomer” consensus here at the same time cynical and naive–cynical in its locked in presumption that the political system is not just strongly resistant to any change contrary to the desires of a monolithic oligarchical ruling class but literally and absolutely incapable of doing so and naive in its utopian longing for some post-apocalyptic/industrial/political pastoral future where we all live sustainably in some romantic white middle class Whole Earth Catalog permaculture dreamworld.

    I think the current first world lifestyle is largely indefinitely sustainable–at least to a significant minority of the world’s population or a smaller total population–following a plan similar to that which Hoexter has proposed, and I think that idea annoys those who find that lifestyle inherently profligate and morally offensive in the same way old school “work ethic” protestants find welfare, leisure and fun profligate and offensive.

    If Hoexter’s or a similar vision of a sustainable future that isn’t essentially post-industrial is unrealistic or unimplementable it will be as much because people on the “left” have embraced a naive millenarian post-apocalyptic vision of the future as because the corporatist neoliberals and cartoon villain energy tycoons conspire to prevent it.

    1. from Mexico

      @ Kurt Sperry

      So let’s sumarize here. Is this what you’re saying? Anybody who doesn’t march in lockstep with Hoexter’s plan:

      1) Is a “doomer” — “cynical and naive–cynical” and “locked in” the “presumption that the political system is not just strongly resistant to any change contrary to the desires of a monolithic oligarchical ruling class but literally and absolutely incapable of doing so”

      2) Is “naive” in their “utopian longing for some post-apocalyptic/industrial/political pastoral future where we all live sustainably in some romantic white middle class Whole Earth Catalog permaculture dreamworld”

      3) Believes “the current first world lifestyle…is inherently profligate and morally offensive in the same way old school ‘work ethic’ protestants find welfare, leisure and fun profligate and offensive.”

      4) Has “embraced a naive millenarian post-apocalyptic vision of the future,” or

      5) Is one of the “corporatist neoliberals and cartoon villain energy tycoons”?

      1. Kurt Sperry

        So let’s sumarize [sic] here. Is this what you’re saying? Anybody who doesn’t march in lockstep with Hoexter’s plan:

        1) Is a ‘doomer’ — “cynical and naive–cynical” and “locked in” the “presumption that the political system is not just strongly resistant to any change contrary to the desires of a monolithic oligarchical ruling class but literally and absolutely incapable of doing so.’

        2) Is “naive” in their “utopian longing for some post-apocalyptic/industrial/political pastoral future where we all live sustainably in some romantic white middle class Whole Earth Catalog permaculture dreamworld”

        3) Believes “the current first world lifestyle…is inherently profligate and morally offensive in the same way old school ‘work ethic’ protestants find welfare, leisure and fun profligate and offensive.”

        4) Has “embraced a naive millenarian post-apocalyptic vision of the future,” or

        5) Is one of the “corporatist neoliberals and cartoon villain energy tycoons”?

        Lockstep. Heh, nice try at the strawman. I guess. Short answer: no. A “doomer” is one whose vision/plan requires as a starting point a more or less total collapse of society and goes from there. Popular literature is rife with these post-apocalyptic narratives. Even popular TV. They fascinate and sell because they are inherently dramatic and hold the promise for a clean sheet reordering of society. I’m not trying in any way shape or form to preemptively criticize alternatives, this is a subject well worth discussion. But full blown “doomer” scenarios probably are a better fit for screenplays and sci-fi than foundation stones for building a political action plan.

        I don’t want to be constrained to an Amish-tech world or only consume the organic foods I can grow or raise on my property or by bartering and I suspect I’m not alone there. All power to those who do and I hope it works out great. I, however, would rather imagine (and inhabit) a modern world with high speed public transport, where I can buy oranges even though I live in Washington State, a world with internet, cell phones and movie theaters and electric cars and fashion and high and low culture–football games, rock and roll, symphonies and Shakespeare. I think Hoexter’s piece here is one guy’s pretty well thought out and valid opinion among many on how we can maybe make that future happen. The technology mostly exists for us to quickly transition to renewables and keep most of our toys and vices. The effort and political will required to do so however is huge. We have to collectively somehow build solar arrays the size of small European countries in deserts and wind farms everywhere and smart grids and probably develop ideas barely thought of now to make it happen. Raising chickens and squash in the backyard and bartering won’t get it done–although it might help a bit.

        1. from Mexico

          Kurt Sperry said:

          A “doomer” is one whose vision/plan requires as a starting point a more or less total collapse of society and goes from there. Popular literature is rife with these post-apocalyptic narratives. Even popular TV. They fascinate and sell because they are inherently dramatic and hold the promise for a clean sheet reordering of society. I’m not trying in any way shape or form to preemptively criticize alternatives, this is a subject well worth discussion. But full blown “doomer” scenarios probably are a better fit for screenplays and sci-fi than foundation stones for building a political action plan.

          Well, that helps. Now we know exactly what it is you mean when you speak of “the ‘doomer’ consensus” you “find” here.

          con·sen·sus (kn-snss)
          n.
          1. An opinion or position reached by a group as a whole: “Among political women . . . there is a clear consensus about the problems women candidates have traditionally faced” (Wendy Kaminer). See Usage Note at redundancy.

          2. General agreement or accord: government by consensus.

          http://www.thefreedictionary.com/consensus

  11. anon y'mouse

    this post should’ve come before the first. it lays the some of the groundwork for the plan of action.

    the plan is still co-optable by corporate interests, though. and this portion seems actually MORE difficult to achieve than the work in that plan.

    1. from Mexico

      I very much enjoyed your comments yesterday.

      I thought that you and Cassiodorus said some things that very much needed to be said.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Unfortunately, I kept thinking of Socialist underpants gnomes:

        1. Collective ownership of the means of production.

        2. ????

        3. ????

        At least the Underpants Gnomes proper had step 3: Profit.

        I don’t make a judgment on socialism pro or con as an implementation of Hoexter’s requirements statement, but you can’t beat something with nothing; and you can’t beat a plan with a plan to have a plan.

        1. anon y'mouse

          more pegging someone to make fun of their ideas, or my lack of same.

          I never said I was a socialist. to be honest, I don’t like labels because I am a “what works?” kind of person who finds that a conglomeration of the best ideas from everywhere are probably best.

          in other words, I TRY not to be an ideologue in the sense of a fanatic. I can’t help but be one in the sense of being a fanciful dreamer.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Personally, I’m glad to see a concrete alternative proposed. It’s like a way forward from depression; the important thing IMNSHO is to get moving (within reasonable limits, of course). TINA seems to me to be a depressive position.

            Adding: From Mexico classified you and Cassiodorus together, so I was responding to the socialist part.

            1. anon y'mouse

              any one of us can come up with a laundry list of desired futures. it is the value that underlies that laundry list that needs ironing out.

              if we are to come together for merely the purpose of “saving the environment” for all time, then we really need to ask ourselves WHAT are we saving it for? for economic rapine to continue over the mass of humanity for the sake of a few?

              the values bind us together in solidary AND inform The Plan, do they not? no, we’re not all ever going to agree on every little thing, but we do need to find the broadest base possible.

              if this system is put forward into action the way it is, and is so easily co-opted, just as our post WWII heavenly ideal mostly-capitalistic society was, what is to stop future humanity from enduring the same process or cycle that we have. it will be very easy to turn a massive governmental bureauracracy that can spend an infinite amount of money into existence from one which buys solar cells and rehabs people’s homes, to one that heavily subsidizes medical “care” that will bankrupt you should you attempt to use it.

              making it a system that is easy to implement in a stick and carrot incentive kind of way nearly ensures that some companies, major or minor, will turn to production for that WWIII “for the environment” economy and make a shit-ton of money, which they will utilize to do what our military industrial complex did in fact do after, and by using, the great -opportunity- of WWII. yeah, so that was a good cause too. and look how IT turned out.

              those are my concerns. all I can do is lay them out. I don’t know how to combat them. i’m just an unemployed, 37 y.o. clueless social science student who will probably end up working at Target (if they’ll have me) after I get my degree this year. I can’t solve my own life, much less the world. but I can say what what worries me.

            2. Crazy Horse

              Lambert, the problem with the post is that it is anything but a “concrete alternative proposal.” It is a wish list, ungrounded in technical or political reality. Many items on the wish list are ethically desirable, and if in fact they were implemented the world ecosystem might stand a better chance of survival. But if wishes were jet planes then pigs could fly.

              In response to yesterday’s part 1 of the series, I attempted to identify three courses that real world trends may lead toward. It seems that anon y’mouse was one of the few readers to whom that approach made sense.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                I could be wrong, gawd knows. It’s a long thread that goes in a lot of directions. Can you give me a link to the comment you refer to? Thanks.

                Adding … It’s our job to change “political reality.” It drives me nuts that people take “political reality” as a given. Technical reality, perhaps even less easy.

              2. anon y'mouse

                Crazy, I find it even more likely that we are going full-scale nuclear and these are just the test balloons for public sentiment.

                it appears the only answer to keep the system as constituted going. tonight on 60minutes, they had more stories of robots replacing workers. they left the discussion at “well, it potentially replaces those workers” at that, and didn’t even try to answer the “what next?” question. what next is the rest of us begin to act like 3rd world primitives, combing trash heaps for vital goods.

                in this way, all groups will “get what they want”. that dude upthread, who sees our system as infinitely sustainable —for a small portion of the society (presumably himself and his caste)— followed by the posts that say “I want oranges in Washington and electric cars and ……(all that fun stuff, because I deserve them).” those upper class types get what they want, and us primitives get what we want, just not in the way that we ideally would have liked. but hell, the powerless never have a choice, do they?

                these types exemplify and are aligned with the interests that will justify and rationalize the sacrifices that they will not be forced to live with themselves. those of us in the third world (or, the that portion of it extending into the 1st world) will just have to live with selling our cash crops of coffee and cocoa to barely survive, and pray that they don’t set up a nuclear plant near us.

      1. anon y'mouse

        hey, because it’s your pet plan it can’t be commented upon in any but a positive light?

        are you one of those types that doesn’t want to hear anything but constructive criticism? sometimes flaws are easier to see than workable solutions.

        should the writer be commended for trying to solve one of the most difficult problems facing humanity? no doubt. that almost goes without saying.

        this series of posts has thus far revealed some unfortunate things about human personality that I always desire to forget, especially when defense of one’s pet ideas comes up.

        1. from Mexico

          Yep, the Bolsheviks had a plan to transform the world, as did the Nazis.

          How did those plans, based as they were on the will to knowledge and will to power, work out?

          1. steve from virginia

            A stupid plan is worse than no plan at all.

            A self-deluding so-called ‘plan’ is either propaganda or it is a form of suicide*.

            (Jonestown, Guyana, where the ‘Drinking the Kool-Aid’ meme came from. They had a plan, too.)

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          Er, no? I mean, come on. Not (a) “my” “pet” plan, but (b) pointing out that a plan can be co-opted by corporate interests amounts to pearl-clutching. Heck, the People’s Liberation Army turned into a corporate empire. Not saying that’s inevitable, of course. Perhaps we might do better.

          1. anon y'mouse

            your example almost proves some kind of point. since i’m dim and no historian, i’ll try to make it and potentially make a fool of myself, but ok. I am a fool most times.

            systems driven by a certain logic tend to go to their extremes. China’s cultural revolution and our “eat the poor” are examples of the same kind of process at work. at the risk of fatalism, these things might be baked into the cake from the very beginning.

            if we humans really were as smart as we believe we are, our society would not be experiencing massive upheavals like that which seem to occur with so much regularity. we would be learning from our mistakes, and improving upon the model and making minor refinements as we go along, moving from strength (and stability) to greater strength. perhaps this is the real progress eluding us, and not the constant change portrayed as strength (let’s not get into an “all is change, it is the ONLY truth” kind of discussion right now) that we seem to experience.

            instead, we lurch around from extreme to extreme rather than trying to use our rational minds to determine what kind of logic the system we are going to adopt operates by, and what its potential negative outcomes are. we act like people walking in a forest with no map who go “let’s go down this way. it looks nice from here” and end up in one gigantic morass after another, when we really intended to end up in a specific, entirely different place.

            I don’t expect that we can see the future, but I think that the vested interests have definitely been driving the bus in the direction that they wanted it to go and it is now ending up there. perhaps China did not anticipate the cultural revolution, or being faced with the fact that their system “didn’t work” in light of the -progress- as it was portrayed- of the west. perhaps they have turned themselves into another element in the machine because they saw that it was the only way they could achieve what they wanted for their people. meaning, it was more forced upon them by the logic that the rest of the world and those most powerful in it were operating by. I don’t know.

            but, i could be wrong, their society and culture is truly old and i doubt they’ve abandoned it, nor left behind many of its truths. i think they see their path as enabling them to be what they were destined to be, without throwing out everything in favor of some fad.

            that could be an ignorant romanticization, and i’m not excusing the negative effects of what they’re doing out of some kind of “this is my idealized form of Communism (or whatever) in the flesh” fantasy. i just think our culture, and its focus on progress as a religion, rapid change (especially technological) and throwing out all of the old as passe’ all of the time is rash, dangerous, hubristic, and tosses a lot of good ideas on the scrap heap long before they have been exhausted of their usefulness.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              With the PLA reference, I was making the narrow point that saying there’s a danger from corporate interests when proposing a policy change is a lot like saying water is wet.

              On the positive feedback loop/exponential growth stuff, I agree; I call it “doubling down on #FAIL” and DC does it a lot.

              I don’t know why, in the general case, humans will turn off the governors on a happily functioning stable state commons and blow it up; it happens pre-capitalism, so that’s not it….

    2. JTFaraday

      I’m 99% certain it’s already co-opted by corporate interests.

      I also agree with what From Mexico said.

      1. from Mexico

        In addition to interest, plans can also be co-opted by ideological conceits, or by a combination of interest and ideological conceits.

        This was already covered yesterday, and very eloquently so, which is one of the reasons why I singled out Cassiodorus as having said some things which I believe needed to be said. To wit:

        Cassiodorus says:

        September 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm

        Human nature can stay as it is. Human beings are already “pro-social creatures” in every way imaginable, though what this means is that we are also “pro-ideological creatures” in that we create an ideological or mythical or religious unity to explain the social unity of the world. This social unity extends, more specifically, to the various peoples (the classical Greeks referred to “ethnoi,” whence our word “ethnic”) of the world, their internal relations with one another, and their “foreign relations” with outsiders.

        The historic expansion of the capitalist system over the past five centuries, moreover, has required a reorganization of that ideological unity, to favor a social order based upon entrepreneurs, markets, and consumer life based upon sales. If we are to survive the coming crises, it is that particular ideological unity, and not “human nature,” that needs to be changed. My recommendation is that an ideological unity based upon the science of ecology be universally adopted, and that we reorient culture toward ecological stewardship one ritual at a time.

        anon y’mouse and Cassiodorus, in my opinion, are radical, revolutionary thinkers who have the ability to think outside the box. Biological evolution is of course extremely slow, but cultural evolution can be quite rapid, taking place over centuries if not decades. Just because one thinks capitalism is in its final death throes does not throw one into the socialist camp. Something entirely new might evolve, which doesn’t look like either capitalism or socialism.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Well, that’s why one proposes plans, since when people see potential concrete material benefits that accord with their values, they want to implement them, and sometimes that brings change to systems.

          So, sure, I’d like to see some sort of “Third Way” between capitalism and socialism (or anarchism (or liberatarianism)). But these matters seem a little vague to me right now. Are you sure you’re not confusing a desire to think outside the box with actually having done so?

      2. Michael Hoexter

        Your certainty here is delusional and the casual way you are spreading falsehoods is repulsive. I have devised this plan on my own, unpaid and am taking substantial risks in putting it out here in public. Yes, this plan, if it gets close to implementation might be coopted by large corporations or other powerful interests …but this would be the case with any large endeavor. I have tried to build safeguards into the plan but more could be built into it, I’m sure.

  12. Kurt Sperry

    Any plan will have to be to some degree co-opted by the wealthy and powerful to succeed. They aren’t going away if history is any guide. I do think the will of the many can bend the will of the few and if we find ways to effectively narrow wealth disparities any way we can it will potentiate the process of change. The power of the oligarchic elites must obviously be reined in as a precondition, but they aren’t really either very smart, very clever or very wise–they only operate on a raw power basis. And they as a group have by far the most to lose so they actually begin from a weak bargaining position, one thing we often forget I think. And the more they steal from us the weaker their position once a negotiation is finally forced on them.

    I’m quite confident they will walk themselves into a position where they lose leverage as long as they see a line of carrots leading them there. And rugged self-interested individualists that they (think) that they are, once placed under pressure will inevitably lose cohesion, break into factions and begin to turn on themselves. At that point, change will be possible if not inevitable. And I’m convinced the “elites” will voluntarily take us right to this point because their ruggedly individual self-interests lead them stright there and that’s as deep as they are accustomed to thinking.

    1. from Mexico

      Kurt Sperry says:

      …the oligarchic elites…aren’t really either very smart, very clever or very wise–they only operate on a raw power basis.

      I could not disagree more, with the hardest-hitting rebuttal I’ve come across to your claim being this by Michael Parenti:

      And then there were a whole crop of liberal publications… And the charge was to criticize the empire, but never criticize it in the way it was really happening. Criticize the empire because the people who are building this empire, the people who own most of the world, the people who destroyed whole countries and walked away fabulously rich, the people who developed new means of undermining any kind of independence anywhere in the world, these people were stupid. They’re not as smart as those of us stuck away at various universities who are writing these little books, like Chalmers Johnson.

      And so we got critical analyses of American policy, but the criticism was always about how confused our policymakers were. The liberal critics are never happier than when they can rock back on their heels and say: “How confused these leaders are.”…

      And I did a little gathering of the adjectives they used from these various books I mention… Their critiques of US empire characterize US interventionist polices as, quote…”reckless, misguided, inept, bumbling, insensitive, overreaching, self-deceptive, deluded, driven by false assumptions, and presuming a mandate from God.” This policy “was laden with tragic mistakes, and imperial hubris”… They saw this as “a mindless proclivity embedded in the American psyche or culture.”

      Well, I want to argue, and I did argue in this book, and I think I showed it, that empire is not something that is done just because people are overambitious or misguided or inept, or they don’t have your guidance…because you’re so much smarter than all those guys are… It’s imperialism. The empire does imperialism. That’s the process of empire… There are real material interests at stake. There are fortunes to be made many times over. Behind Colonel Blimp there stood the East India Company and the Bank of England. Behind Teddy Roosevelt and the US Marines there stood the United Fruit Company and Wall Street. The intervention is intended to enrich the investors and keep the world safe for their system, for their system of investment, for their system of expropriation, their system of trade, their system of misusing labor and the like.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKhRE61VE0E

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Yes, there’s a case to be made that the ruling class is smart, clever and wise if the score is kept in terms of hoarded wealth and power. By their own standards they are obviously all three. My own subjective scoreboard would show a different ordering. And yes I understand, the ‘ineptitude’ trope can be unduly exculpatory when the real motivations are sociopathic. How much self deception has been done in the form of believing one’s favorite politician is making “mistakes” or “unfortunate but necessary compromises” when clearly they are acting only in their own naked self interest?

  13. John Cafferky

    Michael,
    Back in the eighties when I could still describe myself as a young scientist we went through all the scenarios of how to deal with the greenhouse gases. The problem with wind and solar is the erratic nature of the production, especially wind which produces electric power in proportion to the cube of the windspeed. Solar as evereyone knows goes off grid at night. We need to develop a substantial storage system for energy and to-date the only one that actually works on any large scale is hydro.

    I have no doubt that humanity must act, but we must act intelligently. In the immediate short term we have to increase the thermal efficiency of coal plants. If we can double the efficiency we halve the emissions. The high tech natural gas palants are capable of 56%. With proper research we can sequester 30-35% of the present carbon dioxide. Conservation makes up the rest. We have four challenges: storage for renewables, efficiency, sequestration and conservation.
    Thank you for carrying the torch,

    John Cafferky

    1. Michael Hoexter

      John,
      Thank you for your comment and kind words…

      In my estimation, efficiency investments are best concentrated on the demand side because it enables easier transition to zero carbon generators. If we repower coal plants to increase their thermal efficiency, the expectation will be that that plant will function for another 20 years. Long before 2040, I would like to see all coal plants shut down.

  14. doubter

    It would destroy the world, Possibly.

    Pedal to the metal replacement of all energy infrastructure would require the consumption of massive levels of fossil fuels. not just a marginal increase but a several fold increase.

    Look at what has happened over the past 10 years in Indian and China, Multiply by 3 as north america/europe attempt to do the same thing. At the end you come out with a greener energy system with fewer emissions but to get there we have to engage in massive use of fossil fuels for mining, manufacturing, transportation and construction. Until our green energy infrastructure is in place all of the energy for this effort comes from our existing fossil supplies.

    A better solution is to replace on redundancy, just make what ever the replacement is is zero emission.

    1. Michael Hoexter

      This is a critical area for the implementation of the plan. The execution of the plan itself will increase emissions temporarily but I propose counteracting voluntary emissions reductions by conservation efforts and the smart use of telecommunications to reduce energy use and the demand for energy overall. This is an “all hands on deck” plan and in the spirit of the effort, I think we should see people wanting to participate by reducing consumption and energy use in areas where it is possible to do so.

      In working out the actual implementation, the emissions generated by the construction projects involved will need to be compared to their projected benefit. Areas for voluntary emissions reductions to counteract the emissions from construction should be part of the planning itself.

      Replacing on redundancy is waiting too long…we are an unsustainable path right now and the infrastructure we now have can last for decades…we need to retire high emissions sources like fossil power plants and oil refineries “prematurely”.

  15. steve from virginia

    There is a ‘arranging deck chairs on the Titanic’ undercurrent to this exercise on the part of Mr. Hoexter.

    His plan is another centralized, energy guzzling mega-project, a target rich environment for those ready to blow up business as usual.

    – As long as the status quo appears to function, it will be given every sort of support … as it has been since the start of the Industrial Revolution. When the status quo becomes obviously dysfunctional, to the degree that managers are stripped of their credibility, there will not be the resources needed to deploy large scale enterprises to ‘replace’ the status quo.

    – If the status quo becomes dysfunctional it will be on account of its prior success at stripping needed resource inputs — that is, capital. Once the capital is gone it is gone forever, as in 100 million years gone. We aren’t simply burning up our granchildrens’ legacy, we are burning up the legacy of granchildren out 5,000 generations and more.

    – We could have used our resource patrimony to explore then inhabit the near-earths in our solar system starting maybe 500 years from now but our bosses gave us what we wanted instead: a billion little metal, self-propelled carts to ride aimlessly around in. The choice was the stars or the carts and we chose wrong.

    – Hyper-wicked problem: we didn’t know we had a choice until it was gone.

    Comes Mr. Hoexter who promises we have all sorts of choices: the fact that he is here and making the promise is evidence that the possibility of choices has vanished and that Hoexter is a canny charlatan or a fool.

    Sorry, just calling ‘em like I see them.

      1. steve from virginia

        Wicked problems = are incomplete or undetermined offering no straightforward solutions or good/bad choices only an array of ‘lesser evils’ that in turn redefine the problem. Wicked problem choices have large unintended consequences. The wicked problem is revealed by the choice or by way the choice is taken … by the way the choice frames the problem or draws its outline.

        The hyper-wicked problem = a time- rather than a choice problem. Hyper-wicked is revealed by the appearance of a choice which is actually the formalized absence of choices. The destruction of the possibility of choices, is the problem … The emergence of the hyper-wicked problem takes the form of false choices, ‘Trojan horses’. With the hyper-wicked, every choice makes the problem worse or they are pointless gestures: ‘doomsday choices’ … when you find out about the hyper-wicked problem it is too late to do anything. This is my own term, BTW.

    1. Michael Hoexter

      Steve,
      I think your vision as expressed here is distorted by your own wish to remain passive in the face of the challenges we face. If you disagree with this proposal, I challenge you to come up with an alternative….

  16. American Slave

    I see the ice caps in the ocean melting away so sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me as with my part one comment. But sometimes I get tired of the oil company lies that even so called environmentalists spread.

    I will try to give detail with out being to long. When it comes to corn ethanol there is a right way to do it as some small local farmers in areas are doing.

    The first step is the wet milling process http://www.ethanolrfa.org/pages/how-ethanol-is-made (near the bottom of the page) which produces corn oil that can be used to power the tractor and a generator at the plant for electricity while using the exhaust heat to power the vacuum distillation process and also makes animal feed besides ethanol.

    Then the distillers grains are feed to the animals which make manure which is feed into a biogas plant as well as leftover distillers grains http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biogas to make biogas which can be burned in the generator to power the ethanol plant and fertilizer for the field.

    So all I can say is don’t take the oil companies word for it and do a little research because a lot of small and medium farms are closing down anyway and the land sits there unused like in southern California because people don’t want to pay a lot for food yet there is so much land that can be used.

    I myself prefer oil from algae or ethanol from Jerusalem artichoke as they grow anywhere and need almost nothing while making over 1000 gallons per acre but as far as animal feed corn ethanol does mix in with the food cycle more than the oil companies want you to know.

    1. American Slave

      And now on to my rant. I don’t know how to say this with out it being to ad hominim but the left seems to be losing ground and I used to be progressive left but it seems from some commenters that there finding themselves in the progressive right like im starting to move into.

      And a good example of this is renewable energy, and believe it or not there are people on the progressive right who want it because they don’t like big business monopoly or big oil so when they decide to go renewable they go all out irregardless of input cost just like the oil companies don’t care about the ridiculous amount of energy it takes to make the metal for an oil refinery or the pipes for the 30’000 foot deep wells they drill or the energy intensive welding but they just build that crap anyway.

      And here we have the progressive left and there against something but there also against the alternatives even tho wind and solar make more power than they use to make and I remember going on a tour at a solar cell plant in Germany where we got to see a power meter of the daily power use and they said that a modern made solar panel (back in 2006) makes its power back in 3 years.

      So on that note id like to see the left fixed but I don’t know how anymore they just seem to shoot themselves in the foot.

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