January 25, 2009

Political Judaism

Questions: If political Islam is bad, why is political Yahedut, or Zionism, good? How can one be encouraged but the other damned? How can anyone be surprised that the triumph of one leads to the reaction of the other?

Tribalism is tribalism.

human rights

January 23, 2009

It's not destruction if it's "green"?

Robert Redford writes at Huffington Post ("Utah Lands Win a Reprieve at the Dawn of a Cleaner, Greener Future") that "a federal court acted last weekend to protect more than 110,000 acres of stunning Utah wilderness that otherwise would have been sold by the outgoing Bush administration to the dirty fuels industry."

He says that "What inspired me most was when Judge Urbina wrote that the 'development of domestic energy resources ... is far outweighed by the public interest in avoiding irreparable damage to public lands and the environment.' Finally, the greater good has prevailed over the profit of the few."

Then it starts to fall apart:
Destroying our natural heritage will do nothing to solve our energy challenges for the long-term, which to me, is even more reason to act. I will continue to keep a vigilant watch over these lands, while working to build a cleaner, greener energy foundation for America. With endless untapped reserves of efficiency, solar, and wind power, we do not need to choose between affordable electricity and one-of-a-kind landscapes. We can have both.
Because meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management plans to establish coordination offices to expedite the permitting of renewable energy projects and associated transmission facilities on BLM-managed lands. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 calls for the development of 10,000 MW of non-hydropower renewable energy projects on public lands by 2015.

How did Mr. Redford think those reserves of wind and solar would be tapped to a degree that would do something that might appear "to solve our energy challenges for the long-term"? How much of our natural heritage is he ready to see destroyed for large-scale solar and wind power development?

(10,000 MW of installed wind capacity requires at least 500,000 acres, or almost 800 square miles, plus heavy-duty roads (opening the land to more development and its flora and fauna to more abuse) and transmission infrastructure). 10,000 MW of actual production -- on average (wind turbines actually produce at or above their average rate, which is 20-30% of their installed capacity, only 40% of the time) -- would require 4 times that amount of land, to produce nominally only about 2% of the country's electricity, which 40,000 MW of wind would be nullified by 1 year of average growth in demand. Obviously, big wind is a dead end that could easily be obviated by the less photographically iconic options of efficiency and conservation.)

"The development of domestic energy resources ... is far outweighed by the public interest in avoiding irreparable damage to public lands and the environment."

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights

January 12, 2009

How many divisions has the Pope?

Uri Avnery, of the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, writes (click the title of this post for the complete essay):

NEARLY SEVENTY YEARS ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called “the Red Army” held the millions of the town’s inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.

Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz.

This is the description that would now appear in the history books – if the Germans had won the war.

Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as “hostages” and exploit the women and children as “human shields”, they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured. ...

War – every war – is the realm of lies. Whether called propaganda or psychological warfare, everybody accepts that it is right to lie for one’s country. Anyone who speaks the truth runs the risk of being branded a traitor.

The trouble is that propaganda is most convincing for the propagandist himself. And after you convince yourself that a lie is the truth and falsification reality, you can no longer make rational decisions. ...

People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions. “How many divisions has the Pope?” Stalin sneered. “How many divisions have people of conscience?” Ehud Barak may well be asking.

As it turns out, they do have some. Not numerous. Not very quick to react. Not very strong and organized. But at a certain moment, when the atrocities overflow and masses of protesters come together, that can decide a war.

The failure to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.

Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.

If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but unvanquished, in face of the mighty Israeli military machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a victory of mind over matter.

What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.

In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.

Hamas made me do it!

No matter how one feels about Hamas, the elected representatives of Palestine, resorting to racism and propaganda -- as in this shockingly vile cartoon printed, e.g., in Sunday's Valley News (Vt./N.H.) -- is uncalled for. It demeans not its intended target, but the artist and those who cheer him on.

Even Hamas's critics can not deny that it is Israel, not Hamas, who is killing the women and children of Israel.

Hamas has not sponsored a suicide attack since 2005.

[[[ ]]]

The death toll at the time of this writing is about 905 Gazans dead (275 of them children) and 13 Israelis (3 of them not soldiers, and 4 of the 10 soldiers killed by "friendly fire") since the invasion began 2 weeks ago.

[[[ ]]]

If Hamas did not exist, Israel would have had to invent it to justify their continuing race war.

Indeed, they helped Hamas to oppose Yasser Arafat's PLO and the threat of peace.

human rights

January 4, 2009

George Monbiot trashes animal rights movement

A few weeks ago, George Monbiot, the bold defender of all that is middle-class left, wrote a very good article about the monstrously vague Protection from Harassment Act in the U.K., which can be invoked to outlaw pretty much any protest as "alarming" or "distressing". He writes how the security forces, as well as industry and developers, use it for just that purpose. As he notes,
With the exception of animal rights protests, these campaigns in the UK have been overwhelmingly peaceful.
And so The Guardian continues its own campaign against the animals rights movement, tarring an overwhelmingly peaceful group with the "distressing" tactics of a very few. Monbiot and the rest have cheered on the very harassment of animal rights protesters that he now decries against causes he agrees with. Whoops!

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

New York Times portraying big wind more truthfully?

Today's New York Times included to pictures with a wind turbine. The illustration by Guido Scarabottolo accompanying "The End of the Financial World as We Know It" by Michael Lewis and David Einhorn in the Week in Review section includes an industrial wind turbine as part of the system of financial shenanigans of the past decades:

Industrial boondoggle

And in the front news section, the continuation of the front-page article on Obama's intended aid to workers includes a photo by Larry W. Smith for the European Pressphoto Agency of a wind turbine in Kansas, clearly establishing it as an industrial construction and suggesting its futility in the shadow of established truck and car transport:

Industrial wind in Kansas

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism

January 1, 2009

A problem with truth: Wind Works Long Island

Promoters of an industrial wind energy plant off the shore of Jones Beach, Long Island, New York, attempted some time ago to debunk a few of the findings of Eric Rosenbloom's paper "A Problem With Wind Power". It is a weak effort, but since it is occasionally cited as definitive, it requires refutation. Below is the entire piece, with answers inserted below each "distortion" and "truth" pair.

The Distortion
"No power plants have been shutdown in other countries with wind turbines because wind is an intermittent resource.

The Truth
Both Germany and Sweden have shut down nuclear reactors with the intent of supplying the loss of capacity with wind power (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8058171/)&(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4536203.stm)

Intent is very different from what actually happens. In fact, Germany has essentially halted their planned shutdowns of nuclear plants and will now extend their operations. Germany is planning 26 new coal plants, 8 of them on a fast track for 2010. Sweden has not in fact shut down any nuclear plant and is now planning to build new ones.

The Distortion
If you build wind turbines you need backup generation

The Truth
Electric grid systems can handle a certain percent of wind power without needing additional generation. The 140MW able to be produced by the wind park is within these parameters. The grid is already designed to compensate for loss-of-load contingencies when large power plant units suddenly become unavailable.

Because a system can handle contingencies doesn't mean that's the way it should be operated normally. Furthermore, as the system is already designed to handle dropouts of major suppliers, then it would have to be expanded to also be able to handle sudden drops in production from a wind energy plant. In other words, most of the time the system can indeed already deal with large fluctuations of wind production, but it then also has to still be able to handle the loss of a major supplier or two -- so more excess capacity is needed to ensure reliability.

The Distortion
Because other electric generators need to be running at lower efficiencies in ‘spinning reserve’ they will actually pollute more than the avoided emissions from the wind turbines

The Truth
The fact is: electrical generating units are constantly varying their outputs, starting and stopping, as the demand for electricity rises and falls throughout the day. When not running or burning less fuel, they pollute less!

This "distortion" isn't even in Rosenbloom's paper. Nevertheless, the fact is that running thermal plants at a lower output than their ideal, running them in spinning reserve, ramping them up and down, and starting and stopping them -- all of this increases carbon emissions per unit of electricity supplied. It is like stop-and-go city versus smooth highway driving. Wind -- intermittent, highly variable, nondispatchable -- on the system would increase all of these inefficient uses. Whether or not that inefficiency would cancel the theoretical savings of taking wind energy into the system is easily determined by records of fuel use. And so far, there is no such evidence of less fuel use per kilowatt-hour provided on any grid. In fact, coal use in the U.K. and the U.S. has increased in recent years relative to electricity use.

The Distortion
Other countries are reducing their subsidies for wind power

The Truth
This is what is supposed to happen with any industry as it reaches a sustainable point in any market. E.g. Spain began to reduce subsidies in 2002 and their wind generating capacity still grew 33% in the last two years. (in the USA fossil fuels still receive very large subsides despite overwhelming market penetration)

Development in Germany has slowed dramatically with a decline in subsidies, and development in the U.S. has gone up and down with the existence of the Production Tax Credit. Spain continues to fund its wind industry with future carbon credits sold to others. The fact is, the wind industry lobbies hard for subsidies and could not thrive without them. In the U.S., compared with 44 cents for coal, $1.59 for nuclear, and 25 cents for natural gas (the three main sources of electricity in the U.S.), wind received $23.37 per megawatt-hour of its electricity production in 2007, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (click here). And that's only federal (not state or local) financial (not legislative) intervention and ignores the 5-year double-declining-balance accelerated depreciation that is available to wind.

The Distortion
The German Energy Agency report issued in February 2005 said increasing wind generation would raise costs by 3.7 times

The Truth
Completely false. We encourage you to visit the agency's website and read their report to see for yourself that Mr. Rosenbloom’s claim was uniformed [sic] (http://www.deutsche-energie-agentur.de). The true additional cost per household is 12 euro a year.

Obviously, this means that projected increases of electricity costs would be 3.7 times more with a large wind program than without. Dena's page for the publication states that "[t]he expansion of wind energy will cost private households between 0.39 and 0.49 euro cents per kWh in 2015". That's up to 25 euros for 5,000 MWh. Table 8 in the English-language summary shows the different costs between expanding wind and not from 2007 to 2015 under three pricing scenarios: While the cost increase from 2007 to 2015 for private households ("nonprivileged consumers") is 1.9-2.8 times more with wind, for industry ("privileged consumers") it is 3.8 to 5 times more.

Rosenbloom's paper also puts this economics issue in the context of several studies having concluded that the goal of CO2 mitigation can be achieved much more cheaply by other means. The Long Island [N.Y.] Power Authority rejected the project in Long Island Sound for simple economic reasons.

The Distortion
The US Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the use of monopole towers as a means to mitigate bird deaths

The Truth
Completely False, the document Mr.Rosenbloom cites, actually promotes the use of monopoles to mitigate bird deaths. It appears he didn’t read his own citation. (http://www.fws.gov/habitatconservation/wind.pdf, pg.6 statement #1)

The FWS recommendation to use monopole towers (on page 3 of the document) is simply an acknowledgement that lattice towers provide roosts. It does not suggest that using a monopole tower makes it safe to operate a wind turbine in flyways and feeding and gathering areas. While the industry points to the tower design to absolve itself, the problem remains the giant blades, both directly and by the turbulence behind then, not to mention habitat fragmentation, degradation, and destruction.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism