Monday, April 21, 2014

Moral equivalent of war

Back when I was a college freshman, much time was spent in the dorm's break room passionately discussing the events of the day.  While these bull sessions were often hopelessly uninformed, they served a useful function by making us defend our intellectual positions and making us engage the world we hoped to soon be a part of.  One idea that I still remember quite vividly was the notion that if the planet were confronted by an alien invasion or some similar threat, the USA and USSR would stop the expensive and pointless Cold War and join forces to attack that external threat.

So now we as a species find ourselves facing a threat that completely dwarfs any possible threat posed by a few alien invaders.  Climate change will affect every human on the planet irregardless of race, class, or nationality.  So the common threat already exists.  And yet there are folks who are actively agitating to restart the Cold War 25 years after most of us thought it was over.

Today's essay is about some reasonably enlightened Ukrainians who think that an investment in renewables would free them from their vassal status to Russia.  Well, it would.  Not only that, but eventually Ukraine will have to join in the effort to reduce global carbon emissions so now is as good a time as any to get started and the current dust-up with Russia is as good a reason as any.

Except.  If people were actually serious about this they would have started the process back in 1991 when the USSR broke up and Ukraine was stuck being a permanent importer of energy.  Changing the energy mix powering the society requires time, resources, organization, and superb planning—not exactly the sort of conditions one finds when the government isn't legitimate and the economy is being strangled by the IMF.  Given Ukraine's location on planet earth, any conversion to renewables is going to be extremely difficult under the best of circumstances.  A country teetering on the verge of a civil war is not going to produce sophisticated and nuanced solutions to existential problems.

Back in the 1970s when Jimmy Carter tried to arouse the citizens of USA to confront the problems caused when we became a net importer of energy, he said that solving the energy problem was the "moral equivalent of war."  Then he threw a few dimes at the problem, pulled on a cardigan sweater, and told us to get used to being colder—proving he didn't actually believe his own speechwriters.  For if he had been serious, we would have seen billions applied to the problem, an organized system of industrial planning, a cooperating Federal Reserve, and the other measures used to fight World War II.  Because Carter's suggested measures were so pathetic, his phrase "moral equivalent of war" was soon shortened to MEOW.  And then came Reagan who made Carter's fecklessness look positively enlightened by comparison.

Renewables seen as Ukraine's road to energy independence from Russia

RT  April 18, 2014

As a way of becoming less reliant on Russian conventional energy Ukraine is talking to US investors who want to put money into alternative energy like wind and solar.

“Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine indeed brought energy security concerns to the fore,” as Bloomberg quotes Olexander Motsyk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the US said at a renewable-energy conference in Washington on Thursday. “I strongly believe the time has come for US investors to discover Ukraine, especially its energy.”

To get away from Russian natural gas as the primary source for heat and electric power, Ukraine seeks wants to invest in biomass heat plants, wind and solar power.

US and European officials have been trying to find ways to help Ukraine limit its dependence, including the possibility of US approval to export liquefied natural gas.

Vadym Glamazdin, the managing director of the Energy Industry Research Center (EIRC) suggests heating in Ukraine accounts for about 40 percent of all gas imported from Russia. This could be replaced with renewable energy within three to five years.

According to his words by 2030, renewables could account for about 15 percent of Ukraine’s electricity supply, currently it is only 2 percent.

The EIRC research shows that the most likely and adoptable form of renewable energy for Ukraine are biomass and biogas, as the nation’s network of electric-power lines and substations can’t easily adjust to the addition of significant amounts of wind and solar energy.

“The resources are there,” now the major challenge is to attract investment, Todd Foley, a senior vice president for policy and government relations at the American Council on Renewable Energy said.

One biomass plant could replace 24,000 natural gas boilers EIRC officials said. more

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