The editor-in-chief of the Iserlohner Kreisanzeiger und Zeitung (IKZ) daily Thomas Reunert dedicated an entire page on the topic of wind energy last Sunday, bearing the headline: “The Norwegians Are Giving Us The Finger!”
It is an interview with a former professor from the University of Bielefeld, Dr. Kurt Gehlert, 75, an expert in mining. It focuses on the state of Germany’s Energiewende (transition to green energies), particularly wind power and the illusions of energy storage technology.
The sub-heading reads
Dr. Kurt Gehlert is certain that the Energiewende has already failed. Or we will drown and cover ourselves in wind turbines.”
Germans pushing the Energiewende are aiming to see 80% of Germany’s energy needs being met by green energies by 2050. Some are even calling for doing away with natural gas, in addition to coal and oil.
But the monster-sized insurmountable obstacles loom as German policymakers begin to scramble in a confused state of denial.
Germany’s alternative baseload-capable sources, such as hydro and biogas, are severely limited and account for only 11.5% of Germany’s total energy supply today. Moreover there still does not exist a viable technology for storing the irregular supply of wind and solar power. Gehlert says these technologies are nowhere near being capable of taking on the role of providing a reliable baseload.
The 75-year old professor points out that although there is a huge capacity of wind and solar energy already in place, often both are not available because they are weather-dependent. Gehlert tells the IKZ that the media like to give the public the impression that the technology is not far away, but the reality is that it is nowhere near in sight.
Energy storage concepts such as accumulators, power-to-gas, compressed air storage are plagued by low efficiencies and sky-high costs. He reminds readers that using electric car batteries as a storage media is also a pie-in-the-sky-vision. Gehlert tells IKZ :
It sounds like a good idea and so let us illustrate it using a rough calculation. In 2020 it is planned to have 1 million electric cars on the roads in Germany. If we tap into them and remove 50% of the average 25 kwh charge capacity, then we will extract enough power from them (12.5 x 1000000 =12.5 gigawatt-hours) to cover Germany’s needs each day for 25 minutes and 17 seconds; Germany’s total daily consumption is 712 gigawatt-hours. And then all the electric car owners will have only 50% of the range available for their next trip.”
Gehlert also tells the IKZ that pump-storage is also not a solution for Germany, calculating:
In Germany about 125 times more storage lakes than what exists today would need to be constructed by 2050. This area and topography simply does not exist at all.”
On the idea of using Norway’s, Switzerland’s or Austria’s mountainous regions to build the necessary pump-storage capacity, Gehlert tells the IKZ :
The Swiss are reacting allergically, and the Norwegians are giving us the finger.”
Go ruin your own landscape, and leave ours alone.
And even if it was possible to use pump-storage in foreign countries, Gehlert tells the IKZ that in order to bring the power from the above-mentioned mountainous countries to the big consumption centers in Germany’s industrial heartland, it would require the construction of about 70 high voltage power lines ranging from 300 to 1200 km in length!
Gehlert also scoffs at the idea of using wind-power-to-gas as a method for storing energy, which would be used to fire gas turbines to produce electricity in times of low-winds. And expanding the calculation to 50% constant electrical power from wind energy would require about 470,000 German wind turbines (Currently there are about 25,000). Gehlert elaborates:
The figure is difficult to fathom. Germany has an area of approximately 360,000 square kilometers. That means each of the 470,000 wind turbines would have 0.76 sq km.. The city of Iserlohn alone has an area of 125.5 square kilometers and so would have 165 wind turbines.”
The IKZ asks Gehlert to summarize:
The Energiewende under the given conditions in Germany is a failure […]. The policymakers state in a worried manner: Our predecessors have left behind a disillusioned population.”
Ontario Power Generation owns 20 nuclear power reactors. Two of them permanently shut down. Six more scheduled to be retired by 2020.
The largest nuclear power station in North America is the Bruce NPP, located close to the shore of Lake Huron. The Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) is sited on land adjacent to the eight operating reactors at Bruce. At WWMF, radioactive reactor wastes of all kinds from all of Ontario’s reactors are stored in surface or near-surface facilities. In recent years, because of the removal of large volumes of materials from inside the cores of these reactors and other materials connected directly to the core reactor vessel, the amounts and levels of radioactivity have gone up dramatically in the nuclear waste inventory at WWMF.
These wastes will remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. No one denies this elementary fact. But corporate bodies can not tolerate the concept of a never-ending liability, one that may require repeated expenditures far into the future, so they want to devise a protocol by which they can abandon these wastes. OPG describes the project as having four phases — construction, emplacement, closure, and abandonment. The object of the exercise is to abandon the waste. That is one of the chief motivations for burying nuclear waste — it’s a case of “out of sight, out of mind”. If and when this dangerous radioactive material escapes from the repository, as has happened at two such deep underground nuclear waste dumps in Germany and one in Carlsbad New Mexico — it will be somebody else’s problem. Not OPG’s. And not CNSC’s. Those bodies will have washed their hands of all responsibility. And if the radioactive material leaks out in the future, people will have no idea what those materials are or how to deal with them, and no resources to do so, because amnesia inevitably follows abandonment.
Alternatively, CCNR advocates a policy of Rolling Stewardship, by which the waste will never be abandoned but will be constantly monitored and kept in a retrievable condition indefinitely. We know how to package this waste very well so that it does not contaminate the environment. This information and this responsibility must be passed on to each successive generation with all necessary documentation regarding the dangers involved and the necessity of retrieving and repacking the material before any leakage problems develop. The necessary authority, information, and resources can be ceremonially transmitted to the next generation by means of a formal inauguration ceremony every 20 years or so. With the advance of knowledge and engineering capability, each generation will hopefully be able to do as well or better than the previous generation, until one day there may be a method for genuinely neutralizing these wastes or otherwise rendering them harmless. In the meantime, when the Bruce site closes down, the waste should be removed from the vicinity of the Great Lakes for greater security.
Abandoning the waste, as OPG plans to do in Phase 4 of their proposal, is not a solution to the problem. It is simply a corporate strategy for terminating liability.The waste is dangerous for much more than 100,000 years. The Great Lakes came into existence only 10,000 years ago. The pyramids of Egypt were built about 5000 years ago. OPG brags that it has studied this geological formation for 10 years. Over a period of 60 years, the USA has tried 8 times to locate a safe underground waste repository for its spent nuclear fuel, and it has failed all 8 times.
Why would anyone want to permanently lodge all of Ontario’s nuclear waste (except spent fuel) from all of its nuclear reactors right beside one of the most important reservoirs of fresh water in the world — the Great Lakes? The answer is simply: convenience. That’s where the reactors were built, so that’s where the waste has accumulated. And that’s where waste from other reactor sites has been dumped. There is no other reason for such proximity to the drinking water supply for 40 million people.
Gordon Edwards, PhD in Mathematics (Queen’s University), co-founded the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, and has been its president since 1978. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Gordon’s website.
Waste outside an abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation, Cameron, Arizona (Image from ehp.niehs.nih.gov)
As part of a cleanup settlement, the US will pay out more than $13 million to start dealing with hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation territory. Navajo officials tell RT it is just the first step on a long road ahead.
The money will be put into an “environmental response trust” managed by the Navajo Nation with the support of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
“It will provide us with funding to do a very specific task under the cleanup process that’s authorized by the federal superfund law,” Stephen Etsitty, executive director of the Navajo Nation’s EPA, told RT’s Ben Swann.
The funds will cover evaluations of 16 abandoned mines throughout Navajo lands, chosen from a list of 46 priority sites. There are hundreds of sites that still need to be addressed. By one estimate, there are more than 1,200 abandoned uranium mines within the borders of the Navajo Nation, a 27,000-square-mile territory stretching across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
The EPA says it has repaired 34 homes, surveyed 521 mines, compiled a list of 46 priority sites for cleanup, and performed stabilization or cleanup work at nine mines so far. The agency has also provided safe drinking water to more than 1,800 families.
A 2014 settlement set aside $985 million from a multi-billion dollar settlement with subsidiaries of Anadarko Petroleum Corp to clean up approximately 50 abandoned Kerr-McGee mining operations in the Navajo Nation.
Federal surveyors found rich uranium deposits on Navajo lands in the 1940s, and the government authorized private contractors to extract the ore for US weapons and energy needs. About 4 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from the area between 1944 and 1986, after which the mining was halted. The federal government, through the Atomic Energy Commission, was the sole purchaser of the ore until 1966.
Navajo miners worked without any kind of protective gear or decontamination protocols for wages sometimes less than $1 an hour. In her 2011 book, Yellow Dirt: A Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed, journalist Judy Pasternak wrote that the miners suffered radiation exposure four times that of the Japanese exposed to nuclear bombs during World War II.
In the 1950s, cancer rates among the Navajos were so low, they were thought naturally immune, wrote environmental journalist Sonia Luokkala. By 2004, cancer had become the leading cause of illness and death among the Navajo.
A 2014 survey by the EPA of about 500 abandoned mines found radiation levels up to 25 times higher than normal. Many of the mines with the highest radiation levels were found within a quarter mile of human habitation.
“Chronic exposure is definitely one thing we want to get a better understanding of,” Etsitty told RT. Many of the Navajo live in the remote areas of the reservation, often close to the abandoned mining pits that have since filled up with water. Humans and animals drink the water from the pits, often not aware of the possible issues with radiation or toxicity.
“We still have not completed meaningful public health studies to begin answering those questions,” Etsitty said. The DOJ settlement should offer a little bit of help in the process, but merely surveying the extent of the contamination and environmental impact will take much more money and time.
For over two decades now, US planes have been dumping tons of pesticides over Colombian coca fields.
Originally the Colombian government wholeheartedly supported the ridiculous notion of mass killing all vegetation in attempt to cull the drug trade. However, it is no longer a secret that the health effects of long-term exposure to glyphosate are less than desirable.
Just last month, the World Health Organization was forced to admit that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
The recent acceptance by the mainstream that Monsanto’s Roundup causes a slew of negative health effects has sparked fear and infighting among the Colombian government.
According to the AFP,
Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria said last week that Colombia should “immediately suspend” spraying — a move vehemently opposed by Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, who said it would “give criminals the upper hand.”
The row erupted just as US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid a visit to Colombia, which the United States sees as one of its closest allies in the region.
The politicians who are fear-mongering about stopping the program are likely scared of losing the hundreds of millions in funds received annually from the US to combat the cultivation of this plant.
Daniel Mejia, the head of Colombia’s Center for Research on Security and Drugs explained why they are worried about the program. “We carried out a study that showed fumigating caused dermatological and respiratory problems and provoked miscarriages,” he said.
Even if dumping massive amount of carcinogenic pesticides from airplanes was a good idea, it’s not effective. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, this program has aided Colombia in reducing its coca fields from more than 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres) in 2001 to 48,000 hectares in 2013. However, they conveniently left out the increase seen last year.
The amount of land under coca cultivation in Colombia jumped 39 percent in 2014 to 112,000 hectares (about 27,000 acres), according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Cocaine trafficking in Latin American region has caused a slew violence and turmoil, including the Colombian civil war. However, this turmoil is a direct result of prohibition spearheaded by the United States.
Colombia never had a cocaine trafficking problem until the US-funded war on drugs began its destructive path across South America.
During the 1980s, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia were responsible for 65%, 25% and 10% of the world’s coca production respectively. By 2000, however, the US “war on drugs” in neighboring Andean countries had turned Colombia into the world’s largest cocaine producer by far, representing 90% of the total, according to a report from the from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The coca plant is one of the most beneficial and astonishingly resilient plants in the world. Resistant to drought and disease, coca needs no irrigation and the alkaloids it contains provide a myriad of medicinal uses. From its analgesic effects to digestive aid, coca’s positive influence in medicine is vast.
The plant has played an important role in history dating back to the Pre-Inca period.
According to a study published by Harvard University in 1975, (Nutritional Value of Coca Leaf (Duke, Aulick, Plowman 1975)) chewing 100 grams of coca is enough to satisfy the nutritional needs of an adult for 24 hours. Thanks to the calcium, proteins, vitamins A and E, and other nutrients it contains, the plant offers even better possibilities to the field of human nutrition than it does to that of medicine, where it is commonly used today.
However, the state cares not about the benefit of such a plant, only that it can be turned into a white powdery substance and snorted to stimulate long and often nonsensical conversations. Instead of cultivating the plant for its benefits, the immoral war on drugs drops carcinogens from airplanes to stop its growth.
The president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, is avoiding any stance on the aerial spraying program whatsoever. According to the AFP, his staff said the final authority on the matter is the National Narcotics Council, which falls under the Justice Ministry. In the meantime, however, the spraying continues.
A forest fire near Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear site may cause problems for communities a long way from the area as the dispersal plumes can transport radiation further to the north, nuclear safety expert John Large told RT.
RT: How dangerous is the situation in your opinion? Do you agree with ecologists who say the smoke will spread the radiation?
John Large: I spent some time in Ukraine in 2006 and I assessed the Chernobyl situation interviewing about 30 scientists and engineers who were working on the aftercare of Chernobyl. Brush fires and forest fires were the greatest concern in terms of the means by which you can disperse a secondary radiological impact from the original dissipation that occurred in 1986… What you have in Chernobyl in the exclusion zone and the further way you have an area that has been abandoned for farming, abandoned for management. That means you’ve got lots of brush and young wood growing out of control. Let me assess that – a big fuel load to have a fire. That means that the biological load is very high, so the radiation particles can be dispersed. Take down the chemistry as well. The chemistry is the way in which the strontium and cesium from the radioactive strontium and cesium from the reactor are bound here, and of course the elevated temperature of the fire and plus all the plume and aerial dispersion – means that could transport it hundreds of kilometers, particularly to the north, to Belarus. So there are more problems here for communities that are long way away from the site. What I had hoped was that the Ukrainian officials would have had in place firefighting capacity greater than they normally would have at any other area of Ukraine, because it certainly needs to be protected not just now but in the longer term as well.
We know that Ukraine is cash-strapped. There was a responsibility for its neighbors, Russia, the EU, not Belarus as much because it’s in an even worse financial situation, but there was a general responsibility to protect this area from another bout of radioactive dispersion.
RT: What lessons can be learned from this particular incident then to make sure that the brush and the forest doesn’t catch light again, or if it does, to make sure that site is secured?
JL: It is not the reactor, it is not the location of the reactor that is the problem – it is the dispersal plumes from the original accident – that is the problem. If there are radioactive materials on the ground now and then it’s engulfed by forest fire maybe 40-50 km away from the reactor. But that deposited radioactivity is re-suspended into gas, blown high into the atmosphere by the heat of the flames, and then of course it settles somewhere else. And it may be those communities to the north that are not prepared to have this new radiation plume and deposition and fallout come down on their communities.
RT: Do you think there should be a common international strategy and response for situations like this?
JL: We’ve seen recently with Chernobyl, with Windscale in the 1950’s in the UK, and particularly now with Fukushima that the radiation doesn’t respect any international boundaries. So an international effort is required for this type of catastrophe, all potential catastrophes. I would have thought that the EU or Russia would have healed their scars over this and got together and put some efforts and resources into controlling this and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
One of the major barriers blocking U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign for his mammoth international trade deals — the TTIP with Europe, and the TPP with Asia — is: other countries want the freedom to make up their own minds about the safety or dangerousness of the foods they allow to be sold within their borders.
The Obama Administration insists that no nation has that freedom. In fact, all participating nations would be removed from that responsibility and authority. The Obama trade deals propose to replace that national authority, and basic national sovereignty on these important matters, by decisions that would instead be made by international panels, whose members will be appointed by international corporations, which have their own profits at stake in these matters. Consumers and others will be ignored: they will not be represented in the proposed panels. Nor will any government be represented there. That soverignty will instead be transferred to the billionaire families who control and derive their income from these corporations.
On Friday, April 24th, Agence France Presse headlined “US Stresses Opposition to EU Opt-Out for GMO Imports,” and reported that, “The United States underscored Friday its opposition to a new European Union plan to allow member states to block genetically engineered imports after bilateral talks on a transatlantic free-trade pact.”
President Obama’s Trade Representative, Michael Froman, who is a Wall Street banker and a longtime close personal friend of the President, said on April 22nd that he was “very disappointed” that the EU wants to allow individual EU nations to “opt out” of automatic approval of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that the international panels will approve to be marketed everywhere. Furthermore, Froman’s assistant said that the U.S. rejects “a proposal to allow EU member states to ban products deemed safe by Europe’s own scientists.” He was referring there to the half of scientific papers that find GMO foods to be safe. However, those papers were produced by companies that manufacture and market GMOs. The other half of the scientific papers on GMOs, the half that were produced independently of the GMO industry, have not found GMO foods to be safe — to the exact contrary. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative ignores those papers.
On 8 July 2009, Agence France Presse headlined “Scientists Warn of Hazards of GMOs,” and reported that an article in the International Journal of Biological Science co-authored by world-leading scientists, reported that, “Agricultural GM companies and evaluation committees systematically overlook the side effects of GMOs and pesticides.” An accompanying study, “How Subchronic and Chronic Health Effects Can Be Neglected for GMOs, Pesticides or Chemicals,” found “a significant underestimation of the initial signs of diseases like cancer and diseases of the hormonal, immune, nervous and reproductive systems.”
The United States does not regulate GMO foods, because the patents are owned mostly by U.S. companies, and the U.S. Government doesn’t want to get in the way of their selling their patented products. Consequently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration takes any given GMO manufacturer’s word for the safety of its GMO products. U.S. President Obama wants to promote U.S. trade by convincing all other countries to sell GMO foods. His TTIP and TPP are supported by the GMO industry, which has approved their GMO foods and allowed their product-labels to not mention that some or all of the ingredients are genetically modified crops.
One of the major advantages of GMO crops is that they can survive the use of herbicides — weed-killers — that kill natural crops. (The GMO-seed manufacturer also markets the pesticide or herbicide; these are chemical companies, and GMOs are a complementary or synergistic product-line for them. For example, the leading herbicide “Roundup” is from Monsanto which produces the GMO seeds that tolerate it.) Another advantage is that the foods can stay longer as looking and smelling fresh, which also lowers the cost of production, and yet the consumer doesn’t even know that the food is actually stale — the food is competing against costlier-to-produce non-GMO foods and so driving them off the market by the lower price, which leaves more and more food-production dependent upon GMO makers such as Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow Chemical. The lower price is obvious; the lower quality is hidden. It’s race-to-the-bottom international ‘competition,’ in which the aristocracy reap all the winnings; the public get the losses.
A recent news report from independent food scientists was bannered “FDA Product Safety Declaration Misleads Nation—Again” and it contains references to many recent scientific papers that find GMO foods to be dangerous, and harmful to human health.
An international analysis, “A Comparative Evaluation of the Regulation of GM Crops” was published in 2013 in the scientific journal Environment International, and it concluded by saying that, “Regulatory bodies are not adequately assessing the risks of dsRNA-producing GM products. As a result, we recommend a process to properly assess the safety of dsRNA-producing GM organisms before they are released or commercialized.” The Obama Administration is trying to prevent that from happening; and their proposed TTIP and TPP international-trade treaties are crucial components of achieving this objective. In the United States, GMO-producers are granted the right to self-regulate, and this practice will become the standard worldwide practice if the TPP and TTIP become passed into law.
The U.S. Government is doing everything it can to spread to other nations the same deregulatory policies that American companies rely upon to market their products inside the United States. On Friday, April 25th, a key U.S. Senate Committee approved a “Trade Promotion Authority” bill to help rush through the U.S. Senate the approval of Mr. Froman’s TPP trade deal with Asian countries. For a summary of the regulatory practices around the world regarding GMO crops, see here. A discussion of the votes in the U.S. Senate on the measure that was proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders to allow individual states to establish their own regulations requiring the labeling or indication of whether or not particular food ingredients are GMOs (since the federal Government refuses to consider such a proposal), is here, and it shows that even some allegedly progressive U.S. Senators voted the GMO industry’s way on that bill to regulate it, which failed, on a vote of 71 to 27. One might call this the Monsanto Congress, because the U.S. House is even more conservative than the Senate. Of the 27 U.S. Senators who voted for the Sanders bill, 24 were Democrats, 2 were Independents, and 1 was Republican. 43 Republicans, and 28 Democrats voted against it. The Obama Administration had lobbied against the bill, in order to continue the GMO industry’s free reign over America’s food-supply.
When Barack Obama campaigned for the Presidency in 2008, he said, “Let folks know when their food is genetically modified, because Americans have a right to know what they’re buying.” But as soon as he won the Presidency “The new president filled key posts with Monsanto people, in federal agencies that wield tremendous force in food issues, the USDA and the FDA.” And whereas Republican news-organizations such as Fox ‘News’ criticized him as being a Muslim Marxist, he was actually implementing policies that continued those of the Republican George W. Bush Administration on this and on many other issues. Yet, no matter how far to the right Mr. Obama actually was, he was portrayed as a ‘leftist’ in Republican ’news’ media. And yet, still, even today, the vast majority of Democratic voters approve of his actions as President. They still believe his rhetoric, even though he has lied to them constantly and even filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that lying in politics must continue to remain unrestricted not only at the national level but also in each and every one of the states. Consequently, in the United States, there is no effective political opposition to the large international U.S. corporations. (And, under the Republican Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, corporations now have virtually unlimited freedom to use stockholders’ money to purchase politicians.)
Hillary Clinton is a big supporter of the GMO industry, and the response of liberals to that is to ask her to give them rhetoric they like on the matter, just as Obama had done when he was running for President in 2008. In other words: they will campaign for her to become President if she will only lie to them as Obama did to them. What liberals are demanding is rhetoric; but if they get it from her, then the industries that are funding her Presidential campaign won’t be worried, because she has a solid record of doing what her financial backers want her to do. As long as Americans don’t care when a politician has lied to them, lying to them will continue to be the way to win public office — especially considering that America’s international corporations now have been granted by the Republican U.S. Supreme Court a ‘free speech’ right to purchase the U.S. Government. And now that the Supreme Court has also ruled that political lies are a Constitutionally protected form of speech, those ads don’t even need to be true. If the American people don’t care about honesty, then they won’t have an honest government, because America’s corporations can then buy any U.S. Government they want — they’ll have total impunity if the U.S. public don’t even care about honesty in their government. There are no legal penalties for political lying; so, if there are also no political penalties for it, then the U.S. can only be ruled by lies and their liars. Should that be called “fascism”?
According to the generally progressive Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio (who, along with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders is one of the Senate’s three leading opponents of Mr. Obama’s proposed international-trade treaties), President Obama has been lobbying Senators more insistently and more intensely on getting them to grant him “Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority” to ram these treaties through, than on any other single issue since Obama first became President in 2009. No issue, not even Obamacare nor any other, has been as important to Obama as is his getting signed into law the TPP and TTIP. It would certainly be the culmination of his Presidency if he succeeds. It would be his crowning achievement. He and his heirs will be amply rewarded if he succeeds; and that’s apparently what he really cares about. He has shown it by his actions as President, not by his rhetoric to voters. After all: Americans, it seems, don’t really care about honesty. All they really care about is rhetoric that pleases them. They merely want to be told what they want to hear.
Perhaps this is the reason why no progressive has entered the Democratic Presidential contest against Hillary Clinton. If the only realistic possibilities to become the next President are her and her Republican opponent (whomever he will turn out to be), then America will continue to be a de facto one-party State, and this will be the U.S. international-corporate party, in both of its factions or nominal varieties, controlling the U.S. Government. The only comprehensive scientific study that has yet been done finds that the U.S. has, in fact, already been ruled in this way for some time. (The history of how it came to be this way, starting gradually after the end of World War II, is the subject of my latest book.) Obama is merely implementing it more; he didn’t start it. He is implementing it more than even Republicans were able to do.
Obama wouldn’t have been able to do this if he didn’t come bearing the label ‘Democrat.’ And Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill was the key person to subordinate that Party to Wall Street. Hillary and Obama are following in his footsteps. Obama’s “Change” occurred actually when Bill Clinton became President in 1993. It simply hasn’t been much recognized until now. Today’s Democratic Party started when Bill became President. That’s when the one-party State, with the national Democrats playing the role of the ‘Good Cop’ to the national and local Republicans’ role of the ‘Bad Cop,’ in the eyes of the Democratic Party’s electoral base of deceived liberals, actually began to take over the U.S. Government, for the benefit of, and service to, America’s aristocracy.
This is why both Obama and Clinton are big supporters of essentially unregulated GMOs. It’s sort of like unregulated Wall Street: the profits get privatized, while the losses (poor health etc.) get socialized.
Yatsenyuk inspects forest fire in the exclusion zone. After visiting the zone, the Head of Government told journalists at the airport:
The situation is under control. Fire stations are from Chernobyl at a distance of about 20 km. Our State emergency service actively works to cut off the spread of fire. The localization of the fire involved three aircraft, one helicopter and a significant amount of equipment. There sent forces, including the Ministry of internal Affairs. This fire is the largest since 1992. But we cope, perform, and we will actively inform.
Answering a question about the situation with background radiation Arseniy Yatsenyuk said:
I was informed that the situation is normal; there are no changes in the background radiation level.
The fire encompasses the plutonium burial areas. According to State Emergency Service (GSChS) the fire blazes already near the village. It is 13 km from the station. People are close to panic. The Deputy Director on scientific work of the Museum of Chernobyl, Anna Royal, said:
The fire had already moved in close to Chernobyl, the radioactive waste burial site. There is one of the most polluted places. Nearby the burial of radioactive waste. Plutonium is one of the most dangerous elements that infects the haematopoietic system of a person. As long as nobody touches it, this element is not dangerous. But if in the street the wind and the fire, plutonium particles can rise a meter and be transported over long distances.
Meanwhile, as reported by the interior Minister Arsen Avakov, to extinguish the fire involved the national guard. In Kiev, there are rumors that some deputies of the Verkhovna Rada and members of the government have taken their families out of town.
The Ukrainian National Guard has been put on high alert due to worsening forest fires around the crippled Chernobyl nuclear power plant, according to Ukraine Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
Earlier the country’s emergency ministry said there was no danger posed to the sealed-off power plant from the three forest fire flashpoints in the region.
“The forest fire situation around the Chernobyl power plant has worsened,” a statement on Interior Minister Arsen Avakov’s Facebook page says.
“The forest fire is heading in the direction of Chernobyl’s installations. Treetop flames and strong gusts of wind have created a real danger of the fire spreading to an area within 20 kilometers of the power plant. There are about 400 hectares [988 acres] of forests in the endangered area.”
Avakov says the Ukrainian prime minister has called an emergency meeting on how to tackle the situation. Police and National Guard units are on high alert.
Ukrainian emergency services say 182 people and 34 vehicles have been dispatched to fight the fire. Mi-8 helicopters and three An-32 water dropping airplanes are also working at the scene. The efforts are being coordinated from a mobile emergency headquarters.
There is a lot of public debate around the rates utilities charge solar customers, but very little of it shows an awareness of the embedded technical and philosophical issues.
This posting will seek to provide a general context to help sort out issues in that ongoing debate. It will focus on transmission for simplicity’s sake, but the concepts can be extended to generation as well.
Part of the problem is that people associate rates with costs. Rates are crude ways to collect costs that work out on average. Early innovators can often take advantage of rate structures to get more than they pay for. But as usage patterns change and as more consumers “game” the system – rates need to be refined and adjusted. For example, for many years many systems did well charging residential customers just a flat energy rate. Based on the average use of their customers over the year they were able to collect their fixed cost and variable costs. However, for example, some areas saw increasing numbers of summer cottages that used only limited amounts of energy. Charging for their limited usage did not accrue enough to cover the fixed cost for providing the meter, the line and their usage. Some utilities corrected by adding a fixed monthly charge. People get irate when they have to pay something they did not before. They rarely realize that perhaps before they were getting below cost service and that as rate structures are exploited they need to change.
Traditionally the costs of transmission service were collected from consumers through their electric energy usage charges. For homes with behind the meter solar the price of the transmission cost can’t effectively be distributed for them across regular usage hours. While transmission costs are driven by peak demand periods, it would be extremely cumbersome and costly to individually monitor and bill residences for their contribution to transmission costs. Rate methods are devised to get approximate appropriate charges from individual customers, but these rate methods need to keep up with changes in how customers use (and “game”) the system.
Customers with their own generation are receiving a different service from the utility than traditional customers and traditional cost structures will not work for them. They are benefiting from back up service that will not be paid for by their use under existing rates in most cases. Extra costs are incurred to provide backup service to residential solar customers from the grid. Utilities can’t collect transmission expenses from them that are spread out across hourly energy costs. To recoup the costs associated with backup, utilities either can have a general charge for backup, charge backup customers’ extremely high costs when it is needed or subsidize them by charging rates designed for higher usage customers. The subsidized approach was acceptable when roof top solar made up a small portion of the customer base. The inequity could be ignored because supporting fledgling renewables did not cost other customers much and was seen as desirable or not worth the trouble to fix. This approach will cause problems with higher penetrations of intermittent renewables.
To get away from the emotion generated by consideration of renewables here is a short discussion of potential philosophies around cost sharing.
Imagine you are having a contractor do some work in your backyard for a cost of $8,000. You learn that your neighbor is planning a similar smaller project that will cost him $4,000. You talk to your contractor and he can combine both jobs and do it for $10,000. There are multiple ways that the $2,000 savings could be apportioned.
Business Model: You go to your neighbor with an offer that competes with his. Perhaps because you are overseeing all the work, he would prefer to have you do it for $4,000 or perhaps you have to lower the price some to be competitive. But basically you seek to use your capabilities to meet your neighbor’s need and offer him some small benefit, so you can maximally offset your costs.
Subsidy Model: Perhaps you decide to treat your neighbor. If you decide to pay more than $8,000 for the combined project you are subsidizing your neighbor. He could see anywhere from a $2,000 to $4,000 benefit from the combined project from this approach. There likely needs to be some other motivating factor to make you accept this arrangement.
Incremental Cost Model: You pay the $8,000 for your share and charge the neighbor the $2,000 increment. The neighbor gets his project at half of what his cost would be otherwise, as the entire $2,000 saving goes to benefit him. You’ve done your neighbor a favor, but received no benefit.
Shared Savings Model: You and your neighbor each reduce your cost by $1,000 or perhaps you each reduce your cost by 20%. This provides benefits to both parties and encourages cooperation from both sides.
None of the above models are generically right or wrong, but may be more or less applicable in various situations.
Hypothetical renewable example
Imagine a system with a level of solar roof penetration such that the transmission system would cost $10 billion for combined service to traditional and solar rooftop customers. If the system only served traditional customers it would cost $8 billion. A system to serve just the solar rooftop customers would cost $4 billion. Let’s look at the models introduced above in the context of this example.
Business Model: the utility would seek to get as close as possible to $4 billion from the solar customers to provide benefits to their traditional customers. I don’t believe anything approximating such an arrangement has or would occur in the electric utility industry. Such a model would cripple the potential for most self-generating customers who require grid back up as they do not have other feasible alternatives.
Subsidy Model: The traditional full service customers could be responsible for most of the costs. This is the model which dominates the utility industry today. At small penetration levels the costs are not large for the traditional customers, but as costs increase they can get very burdensome increasing the risk of a death spiral. A death spiral would occur if rising costs to traditional customers cause defections to solar customers and the reduced customer base has to continue subsidizing the growing base of solar customers.
Incremental Cost Model: Here the traditional customers are held neutral and the solar customer reaps all the benefits of the combined system. This is a controversial model today because it makes it very difficult to justify solar programs in many areas.
Shared Savings Model: For those familiar with cost accounting, charging renewable customers their fully allocated costs would be one way of doing this. I don’t know anywhere that this approach is currently being seriously and successfully advocated in cost of service studies for renewables, though it is generally common for other classes of service. (I welcome reader input and enlightenment here.) It would greatly reduce the risk of a death spiral but it would also greatly delay the implementation of renewable resources until such time as they were more cost competitive.
History, inertia and the desire to support renewables have resulted in significant support for the idea that traditional customers should subsidize renewable customers. Perhaps this is coupled with the idea that traditional customers should be punished while renewable customers should be rewarded. Many of the battles around charges to solar customers are just over what the appropriate degree of the subsidy should be. Moving away from the subsidy model engenders great conflict. I have not read all the details, but I believe the Salt River Project’s controversial pricing plan is just trying to recoup the incremental costs of serving rooftop solar. (Perhaps they are asking for some help with shared/common costs. Any help readers?) In the press Salt River Project has been accused of “penalizing” solar customers, being anti-competitive, sabotaging their customer’s right to choose and far worse.
We need to move the public debate so that it is not just about the level of subsidy utilities should provide to solar. The subsidy model nearly guarantees that if the system transitions to high levels of local renewables there will be a major death spiral collapse as the traditional customer base erodes and the subsidized population increases. While some envision utilities as highly profitable entities with deep pockets that can well afford massive subsidies, in fact, the subsidies come from the ratepayers. Whether utilities pay for their system through money collected from their traditional customers or backup customers, their profits are in the hands of their public service commissions. Unlike the utilities, which will make money if they work with their regulators, ratepayers will be materially impacted by the cost sharing model selected. Indirect taxes placed upon electric utility ratepayers are terribly regressive and in the area of rooftop solar they result in significant wealth transfers from the less affluent to the more affluent.
Renewable subsidies disproportionately impact the poor, impacting their quality of life. To avoid these effects traditional customers should pay no more than incremental costs. If as a society we want to offer subsidies to rooftop solar we should consider funding it through a less regressive and punishing approach. That source will likely be less convenient to target but far more appropriate.
Aside from the appeals to fairness for ratepayers, the other models have further benefits. They send appropriate price signals to encourage more rational choices. They could help provide better flexibility for a transition to a renewable future that avoids price collapses and is open and potentially better able to serve newer and better “clean” energy alternatives.
Following on from the conclusion of the International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, Argentina’s union of doctors and health professionals, FESPROSA, has issued a statement throwing the support of its 30,000 members behind the decision:
“The organisation [IARC] has just released the results of a study that overturns the agribusiness model. Thus the complaints that affected residents and scientists outside the orbit of corporations have been making for years have gained renewed momentum,” FESPROSA said in the statement.
“In our country glyphosate is applied on more than 28 million hectares. Each year, the soil is sprayed with more than 320 million litres, which means that 13 million people are at risk of being affected, according to the Physicians Network of Sprayed Peoples (RMPF). Soy is not the only crop addicted to glyphosate: the herbicide is also used for transgenic maize and other crops. Where glyphosate falls, only GMOs can grow. Everything else dies.”
“Our trade union, the Federation of Health Professionals of Argentina (FESPROSA), which represents more than 30,000 doctors and health professionals in our country, includes the Social Health Collective of Andrés Carrasco. Andrés Carrasco was a researcher at [Argentine government research institute] CONICET, who died a year ago, and showed the damage caused by glyphosate to embryos. For disseminating his research, he was attacked by the industry and the authorities at CONICET. Today, WHO vindicates him.”
“Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.”
“Health authorities, including the National Ministry of Health and the political powers, can no longer look away. Agribusiness cannot keep growing at the expense of the health of the Argentine people. The 30,000 health professionals in Argentina in the FESPROSA ask that glyphosate is now prohibited in our country and that a debate on the necessary restructuring of agribusiness is opened, focusing on the application of technologies that do not endanger human life.”
Translation by GM Watch
A court in Japan has issued a landmark ruling against the resumption of activities by two atomic reactors at a nuclear power plant, overturning an approval by the country’s nuclear watchdog.
The district court in the central prefecture of Fukui issued the injunction on Tuesday to prohibit the restart of the number 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant.
Last December, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) gave the green light to switch the reactors back on, saying they met tougher safety standards introduced after Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Disputing that ruling, a court official said, “The safety of the reactors hasn’t been secured,” adding that the watchdog’s new standards were “lacking rationality.”
Kansai Electric Power Company, which operates the plant, called the ruling “extremely regrettable and utterly unacceptable” and said it would appeal it.
Another court is slated to rule on the restart of two other reactors in southern Japan later this month.
Public sentiment over nuclear energy in Japan has been badly scarred following the country’s worst nuclear accident at Fukushima in 2011, when multiple reactors experienced meltdown after their cooling systems were disrupted by a magnitude-9 earthquake, which also triggered a devastating tsunami. The destroyed reactors have leaked radiation into air, soil and the Pacific Ocean ever since.
The incident, which is regarded as the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, also led to the evacuation of 160,000 people from areas near the power plant.
All of Japan’s 48 reactors went offline following the Fukushima disaster.
There’s a popular movement in Sicily called No MUOS. MUOS means Mobile User Objective System. It’s a satellite communications system created by the U.S. Navy. The primary contractor and profiteer building the satellite equipment at the U.S. Navy base in the desert in Sicily is Lockheed Martin Space Systems. This is one of four ground stations, each intended to include three swivelling very-high-frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters and two Ultra High Frequency (UHF) helical antennas.
Protests have been growing in the nearby town of Niscemi since 2012. In October 2012, construction was suspended for a few weeks. In early 2013 the President of the Region of Sicily revoked the authorization for the MUOS construction. The Italian government conducted a dubious study of health impacts and concluded the project was safe. Work recommenced. The town of Niscemi appealed, and in April 2014 the Regional Administrative Tribunal requested a new study. Construction goes on, as does resistance.
I spoke with Fabio D’Alessandro, a juornalist and law school graduate living in Niscemi. “I’m part of the No MUOS movement,” he told me, “a movement that works to prevent the installation of the U.S. satellite system called MUOS. To be specific, I’m part of the No MUOS committee of Niscemi, which is part of the coalition of No MUOS committees, a network of committees spread around Sicily and in the major Italian cities.”
“It is very sad,” said D’Alessandro,”to realize that in the United States people know little about MUOS. MUOS is a system for high-frequency and narrowband satellite communications, composed of five satellites and four stations on earth, one of which is planned for Niscemi. MUOS was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The purpose of the program is the creation of a global communications network that allows communication in real time with any soldier in any part of the world. In addition it will be possible to send encrypted messages. One of the principal functions of MUOS, apart from the speed of communications, is the ability to remotely pilot drones. Recent tests have demonstrated how MUOS can be used at the North Pole. In short, MUOS will serve to support any U.S. conflict in the Mediterranean or the Middle East or Asia. It’s all part of the effort to automate war, entrusting the choice of targets to machines.”
“There are many reasons to oppose MUOS,” D’Alessandro told me, “first of all the local community has not been advised of the installation. The MUOS satellite dishes and antennas are built within a non-NATO U.S. military base that has existed in Niscemi since 1991. The base was constructed within a nature preserve, destroying thousands of cork oaks and devestating the landscape by means of bulldozers that leveled a hill. The base is larger than the town of Niscemi itself. The presence of the satellite dishes and antennas puts at serious risk a fragile habitat including flora and fauna that exist only in this place. And no study has been conducted of the dangers of the electromagnetic waves emitted, neither for the animal population nor for the human inhabitants and the civilian flights from the Comiso Airport approximately 20 kilometers away.
“Within the base there are already present 46 satellite dishes, surpassing the limit set by Italian law. Moreover, as determined anti-militarists, we oppose further militarizing this area, which already has the base at Sigonella and other U.S. bases in Sicily. We don’t want to be complicit in the next wars. And we don’t want to become a target for whoever attempts to attack the U.S. military.”
What have you done thus far, I asked.
“We’ve engaged in lots of different actions against the base: more than once we’ve cut through the fences; three times we’ve invaded the base en masse; twice we’ve entered the base with thousands demonstrating. We’ve blocked the roads to prevent access for the workers and the American military personnel. There has been sabotage of the optical communication wires, and many other actions.”
The No Dal Molin movement against the new base at Vicenza, Italy, has not stopped that base. Have you learned anything from their efforts? Are you in touch with them?
“We are in constant contact with No Dal Molin, and we know their history well. The company that is building MUOS, Gemmo SPA, is the same that did the work on Dal Molin and is currently under investigation subsequent to the seizure of the MUOS building site by the courts in Caltagirone. Anyone attempting to bring into doubt the legitimacy of U.S. military bases in Italy is obliged to work with political groups on the right and left that have always been pro-NATO. And in this case the first supporters of MUOS were the politicians just as happened at Dal Molin. We often meet with delegations of activists from Vicenza and three times have been their guests.”
I went with representatives of No Dal Molin to meet with Congress Members and Senators and their staffs in Washington, and they simply asked us where the base should go if not Vicenza. We replied “Nowhere.” Have you met with anyone in the U.S. government or communicated with them in any way?
“Many times the U.S. consuls have come to Niscemi but we have never been permitted to speak with them. We have never in any way communicated with U.S. senators/representatives, and none have ever asked to meet with us.”
Where are the other three MOUS sites? Are you in touch with resisters there? Or with the resistance to bases on Jeju Island or Okinawa or the Philippines or elsewhere around the world? The Chagossians seeking to return might make good allies, right? What about the groups studying the military damage to Sardinia? Environmental groups are concerned about Jeju and about Pagan Island Are they helpful in Sicily?
“We are in direct contact with the No Radar group in Sardinia. One of the planners of that struggle has worked (for free) for us. We know the other anti-U.S.-base movements around the world, and thanks to No Dal Molin and to David Vine, we have been able to hold some virtual meetings. Also thanks to the support of Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space we are trying to get in touch with those in Hawaii and Okinawa.”
What would you most like people in the United States to know?
“The imperialism that the United States is imposing on the countries that lost the Second World War is shameful. We are tired of having to be slaves to a foreign politics that to us is crazy and that obliges us to make enormous sacrifices and that makes Sicily and Italy no longer lands of welcome and peace, but lands of war, deserts in use by the U.S. Navy.”