Friday, March 25, 2011

The real debts

Amidst all the talk about the seriousness of various national debts, something very important is forgotten.  The debts that seem to concern everyone are pretty trivial.  They barely even exist on paper these days.  In fact one of the big problems facing the banksters is that they failed to do the appropriate paperwork and now find it difficult to foreclose on mortgages.  Money, as we now know it, exists as pure information stored in a computer somewhere.  Creating and canceling debt using such a system involves a few keystrokes.

The debts we are running up with the planet, on the other hand, are very real indeed.  In fact, we are informed that in one year, we burn as much oil as was created in 5.3 million years.  Our lifestyle cannot be sustained for the simple fact that we cannot consume the earth's carbon "capital" as such rates without soon going bankrupt for real.

To compound the problem, we are allowing the banksters and their trivial debts keep us from addressing our real debts.

Leading Climatologist on Fukushima
'We Are Looting the Past and Future to Feed the Present'
By Katrin Elger and Christian Schwägerl
Leading German climate scientist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber talks to SPIEGEL about the lessons of the Fukushima disaster, the future of nuclear energy in Germany and why our society needs to be transformed. "We consume as much oil in one year as was created in 5.3 million years," he warns.
SPIEGEL: Who or what is to blame for the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima?
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber: The earthquake was merely the trigger. The crazy logic we apply in dealing with technical risks is to blame. We only protect ourselves against hazards to the extent that it's economically feasible at a given time, and to the extent to which they can be controlled within the normal operations of a company. But the Richter scale has no upper limit. Why is a Japanese nuclear power plant only designed to withstand a magnitude 8.2 earthquake, not to mention tsunamis?
SPIEGEL: Presumably because otherwise electricity from nuclear power would have been too expensive.
Schellnhuber: The entire affluence-based economic model of the postwar era, be it in Japan or here in Germany, is based on the idea that cheap energy and rising material consumption are supposed to make us happier and happier. This is why nuclear power plants are now being built in areas that are highly active geologically, and why we consume as much oil in one year as was created in 5.3 million years. We are looting both the past and the future to feed the excess of the present. It's the dictatorship of the here and now.
SPIEGEL: What's your alternative?
Schellnhuber: We have to stop constantly ignoring the things that are truly harmful to our society. This includes nuclear accidents, but also the prospect of the Earth becoming between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius (11 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer by the year 2200. Only when we have taken the possibility of maximum losses fully into account can we decide whether we even want a specific technology. more
And a reminder of some of the real costs when nuclear power goes bad.
A Quarter Century of Suffering
Fukushima Strikes Close to Home for Chernobyl Victims
By Uwe Buse   03/23/2011 
For those who once worked at or lived near the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the images from Fukushima are all too familiar. Now, 25 years after the accident at Chernobyl, they are still suffering the consequences of the disaster -- and are fighting for justice.
Yuri Andreyev has seen it all before. The plume of smoke belching out of the reactor, and the ominous crackle of the Geiger counter, the reassuring words of politicians, and the suicide squads of volunteers. The reports coming out of Japan remind Andreyev, once a supervisor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, of the accident 25 years ago that exposed hundreds of thousands of people to high levels of radiation and led to tens of thousands of deaths.
On April 25, 1986, Andreyev had just finished work when colleagues initiated an experiment to test a new voltage regulator in Reactor No. 4. They switched off the emergency cooling systems, deactivated the automatic emergency shutdown for Reactor 4, and triggered a chain reaction that soon spun out of control. At about 1:24 a.m. on April 26, Reactor 4 exploded.
The blast ripped a protective plate weighing more than 1,000 tons off the top of the reactor, and the shockwave obliterated the roof, exposing the melting core and blowing radioactive fission products several kilometers up into the atmosphere.
Because Yuri Andreyev's shift had ended at midnight, he was home when the explosion occurred. Andreyev lived in Pripyat, a city visible from the nuclear power station. When he realized what had happened, he hurried back to his workplace in the control room of Reactor No. 2. The aim was to keep the first three reactors under control, and thus prevent a catastrophe from becoming apocalyptic. Andreyev, like his counterparts in Fukushima 25 years later, remained at the power station, and risked his own life to save those of millions of other people.
Radiation: A Slow, but Reliable Killer
Andreyev and his colleagues improvised. There were no procedures for dealing with emergencies on that scale. They spent weeks desperately battling to regain control of a situation that would eventually cost many lives.
Yuri Andreyev's was not one of them. Indeed he survived the disaster relatively unscathed. Today he lives in Kiev, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the ruined power plant, and earns his living as the president of Chernobyl Union Ukraine, an association of Chernobyl veterans. He is now the spokesman for some 220,000 sick, disabled and dying people. "There used to be 356,000," says Andreyev, sitting in his office. Radiation is a slow, but reliable killer. more
Of course, wind farms will never produce the sorts of calamities caused by a runaway nuke.
Battle-proof Wind Farms Survive Japan's Trial by Fire
Kelly Rigg
Executive Director, GCCA
Posted: March 17, 2011 02:34 PM
As the world collectively holds its breath to see how the Fukushima crisis plays out (the quote of the day has got to be: "The worst-case scenario doesn't bear mentioning and the best-case scenario keeps getting worse...") there's a positive story which is not yet being reported.
Despite assertions by its detractors that wind energy would not survive an earthquake or tsunami the Japanese wind industry is still functioning and helping to keep the lights on during the Fuksuhima crisis.
Colleagues and I have been directly corresponding with Yoshinori Ueda leader of the International Committee of the Japan Wind Power Association & Japan Wind Energy Association, and according to Ueda there has been no wind facility damage reported by any association members, from either the earthquake or the tsunami. Even the Kamisu semi-offshore wind farm, located about 300km from the epicenter of the quake, survived. Its anti-earthquake "battle proof design" came through with flying colors.
Mr. Ueda confirms that most Japanese wind turbines are fully operational. Indeed, he says that electric companies have asked wind farm owners to step up operations as much as possible in order to make up for shortages in the eastern part of the country:
Eurus Energy Japan says that 174.9MW with eight wind farms (64% of their total capacity with 11 wind farms in eastern part of Japan) are in operation now. The residual three wind farms (Kamaishi 42.9MW, Takinekoshirai 46MW, Satomi 10.02MW) are stopped due to the grid failure caused by the earthquake and Tsunami. Satomi is to re-start operations in a few days. Kamaishi is notorious for tsunami disaster, but this wind farm is safe because it is locate in the mountains about 900m high from sea level.
The largest wind farm operator in Japan, Eurus Energy with about 22% of all wind turbines in Japan, is a subsidiary of Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) which operates the Fukushima nuclear facility. Right now, it is likely the company is very happy about its diversified portfolio:
While shares in the Tokyo stock market have fallen during the crisis, the stock price of Japan Wind Development Co. Ltd. has risen from 31,500 yen on 11 March to 47,800 yen on 16 March. more

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