Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Snowed in

When people ask me how anyone can put up with a Minnesota winter, my answer is pretty simple—stay indoors. I mean, even the snow plow drivers can stay inside a heated cab. Of course that means you have to have projects to keep sane—reading a stack of books, fiddling with a blog, or binge-watching TV or YouTube. I my case, I have been spending a bunch of time setting up a studio so I can explain my version of a Green New Deal as I wrote it in a book called Elegant Technology: economic prosperity from an environmental blueprint. It was published in 1992 and as you can see, this title is a LOT clunkier than GND. Building a video set-up involves making a bunch of decisions from whether I should wear a cap on camera to whether I am going to capture and edit 4k footage.

Below is some video I captured out my office window of the nasty blizzard last weekend. I actually went out in that weather to move my car so they could plow our parking lot. -36°F wind chill. There was nearly 1/4" of ice under the snow—I scraped so hard, I broke my ice scraper. Plenty of reason to go back inside to work on my editing software.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 23, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 23, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

A Centuries-Old Idea [by Alexander Hamilton] Could Revolutionize Climate Policy
Robinson Meyer, February 19, 2019 [The Atlantic, via PDOC executive committee member Kathy Kaufmann]
This is a lengthy article, but very important because it puts the Green New Deal solidly in the correct context of the actual Hamiltonian policies which created the USA economy. Meyer's weak point is a lack of hostility to the laissez faire, free trade, market fundamentalism that are always the opponents of Hamiltonian nation building policies.
....the Green New Deal is a leftist resurrection of federal industrial policy. It is not an attempt to control the private sector, according to its authors; it is a bid to collaborate with it. And it draws on a set of ideas with a rich American history, extending long before the great World War II mobilization to which the Green New Deal is regularly compared. 
“This goes back to Hamilton, the daddy of it all,” says Stephen Cohen, a professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley. He argues that industrial policy has birthed the transcontinental railroad, the cookie-cutter suburb, the home appliance, and the computer—nearly every major American economic transition since 1776. 
In short, the Green New Deal’s supporters hope that industrial policy can now bring forth another transition—to cheaper energy, faster trains, and an altogether more climate-friendly economy. “The core of the Green New Deal, if you just look at the projects, is just like industrial policy, industrial policy, industrial policy,” says Rhiana Gunn-Wright, a policy researcher at the think tank New Consensus who helped draft Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal. “It’s very, very, very central. The Green New Deal is one of the largest interventions in U.S. industrial policy in a long time.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s love of industrial policy did not come from nowhere. In the past few years, a group of scholars has revived an old school of economic thought that says a strong manufacturing policy is an absolute necessity for large, developed nations. They argue that the United States has neglected its domestic manufacturing sector since the 1980s, a move that risks national failure.
This is the crucial policy question on which any successful government is decided.  For example, Meyer writes midway through the article:
Some mainstream economists aren’t as convinced that industrial policy could transform the future of the United States. Many of the ideas in the books have not been “closely vetted” theoretically and may lack empirical evidence, according to Michael Greenstone, an economics professor at the University of Chicago who previously worked in Barack Obama’s White House.
It is exactly because of such economic malpractice typified by economists and advisers such as Greenstone -- and the Obama administration was brim full with them -- that Barack Obama's presidency was such a sharp disappointment for the majority of Americans, which made possible the rise and victory of conman grifter Donald Trump. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 16, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 16, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

The most uplifting story, I think, is at the end: 3 philosophers set up a booth on a street corner – here’s what people asked.

Climate crisis and Green New Deal
Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 2-11-19]

Bavarian conservatives forced to go green as wildlife campaign breaks records
[Global Handelsblatt, via Naked Capitalism 2-15-19]
“A record 1.7 million people in the southern state signed the petition, called ‘Save the Bees,’ in just two weeks. The organizers, the Ecological Democratic Party, or ÖDP, comfortably beat their 1-million signature target, or 10 percent of voters. Because the threshold was passed ahead of a mid-week deadline, the state’s conservative government is forced to act. Under Bavarian state law, the ruling coalition, led by the right-wing Christian Social Union, must put forward a cross-party bill and organize a referendum in the next six months…. The four-page document calls for detailed amendments to Bavaria’s nature protection laws and for fundamental changes to farming practices in the state. One such amendment demands an increase in the share of organic farmland to 30 percent by 2030, from just 10 percent today. Non-organic farmers will be forced to reduce their use of pesticides. The petition also requires all farmers to create more diverse habitats within their agricultural holdings, to better support wildlife.”

China and India Lead the Way in Greening
[Earth Observatory, via Naked Capitalism 2-14-19].
The world is literally a greener place than it was twenty years ago, and data from NASA satellites has revealed a counterintuitive source for much of this new foliage. A new study shows that China and India—the world’s most populous countries—are leading the increase in greening on land. The effect comes mostly from ambitious tree-planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries. 
Ranga Myneni of Boston University and colleagues first detected the greening phenomenon in satellite data from the mid-1990s, but they did not know whether human activity was a chief cause. They then set out to track the total amount of Earth’s land area covered by vegetation and how it changed over time. 
The research team found that global green leaf area has increased by 5 percent since the early 2000s, an area equivalent to all of the Amazon rainforests. At least 25 percent of that gain came in China. Overall, one-third of Earth’s vegetated lands are greening, while 5 percent are growing browner. The study was published on February 11, 2019, in the journal Nature Sustainability.
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 2-15-19].
The mammoth task of making all buildings more energy efficient — yes, all, just like the Green New Deal says — hasn’t cowed the authorities in Europe. The German Energy Agency calculates that to make the country’s building stock almost carbon-neutral by 2050 about 1.4 percent of buildings a year will need to be refurbished; the current rate is about 1 percent, so the goal looks ambitious, but not unattainable.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The economic nutcase behind the coup attempt in Venezuala

The economic takeover of the country with the largest oil deposits is being planned by a Milton Friedman disciple from Venezuela. He is currently at Harvard—that rat's nest of neoliberalism. Some say ideas don't matter. Well strap yourself in—apparently this guy has the ear of Donald Trump. Just ghastly!

Ricardo Hausmann Is Taking Milton Friedman’s Lessons to Venezuela

Tanya Rawal-Jindia | February 9, 2019

For a few years now, there has been a tendency to compare Donald Trump to Richard Nixon, but the more urgent comparison in the face of the Venezuelan crisis is one between two well-pedigreed economists: Milton Friedman and Ricardo Hausmann.

Under Nixon’s reign, Milton Friedman was the “intellectual” who started to gain excessive power. Friedman was a trained economist, earning a doctorate at Columbia University, with teaching and research stints at the Universities of Chicago and Stanford.

And under Trump, we have another trained economist: Ricardo Hausmann. He received his doctorate from Cornell University and is the director for the Center of International Development at Harvard University.

For years now, Ricardo Hausmann has been suggesting that the solution for Venezuela’s socialist “crisis” is a U.S. invasion or “intervention.”

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Financing the Green New Deal

Sister Ellen—Keep on preaching the truth as demonstrated by the successful social actions of North Dakota's Non-Partisan League, the KfW Bank of Germany, and FDR's RFC. The BIGGEST single impediment to a more enlightened approach to the oncoming catastrophe that is climate change is the fact that we allow our monetary system to be run by thieves.

The Financial Secret Behind Germany’s Green Energy Revolution

Ellen Brown | January 26, 2019

The “Green New Deal” endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D.-N.Y., and more than 40 other House members has been criticized as imposing a too-heavy burden on the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it. However, taxing the rich is not what the Green New Deal resolution proposes. It says funding would come primarily from certain public agencies, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and “a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks.”

Funding through the Federal Reserve may be controversial, but establishing a national public infrastructure and development bank should be a no-brainer. The real question is why we don’t already have one, as do China, Germany and other countries that are running circles around us in infrastructure development. Many European, Asian and Latin American countries have their own national development banks, as well as belong to bilateral or multinational development institutions that are jointly owned by multiple governments. Unlike the U.S. Federal Reserve, which considers itself “independent” of government, national development banks are wholly owned by their governments and carry out public development policies.

China not only has its own China Infrastructure Bank but has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which counts many Asian and Middle Eastern countries in its membership, including Australia, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia. Both banks are helping to fund China’s trillion-dollar “One Belt One Road” infrastructure initiative. China is so far ahead of the United States in building infrastructure that Dan Slane, a former adviser on President Donald Trump’s transition team, has warned, “If we don’t get our act together very soon, we should all be brushing up on our Mandarin.”

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Tesla buys Maxwell

The guy who was an ultra-capacitor geek n college has purchased probably the most promising next-gen storage technology. My guess is that this is the start of a promising relationship. Capacitors will probably never run an EV for a host of real-world reasons. But because they can charge and discharge so rapidly, they can certainly help—especially in leveling the loads in real-world traffic conditions.

But the real reason for Tesla's hookup with Maxwell is likely to be their ability to make a superior anode that doeasn't use cobalt. Cobalt is found greatest quantities in parts of the world known for corruption, major human rights abuses, and violence. Relying on such a rickety supply chain for a critical part of a manufacturing process is something to be avoided at all costs. With this purchase, Tesla will be able to make cobalt-free anodes that are objectively better.

Fred Lambert over at Electrek has much wisdom to add about this high-level Industrial Class hookup.

And Autoblog explains the importance of ultracapacitors

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 2, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 2, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

A Serious Green New Deal Would Take Up One-Third of the Economy—Are We Ready for That?
Marshall Auerback, February 2, 2019  [Economy for All, (Independent Media Institute), via Naked Capitalism 2-2-19]
There’s no question that deep pockets will be needed, given the scale of the task at hand. Multi-trillion-dollar levels of spending, in fact, will be necessary if we want to follow what the science is telling us needs to be done.... From a practical standpoint, it would make sense to offer parallel incentives to the fossil fuel investor class; rather than have them drag their heels, why not entice them into a profitable line of business?

Absent this alternative use, the source of the demand will be met by the Far East, and the Green New Deal will become a job creation program for Asia, not the United States (as well as creating huge unemployment). We will therefore face a very difficult trade-off between heavy protectionism (at much higher prices) to stimulate investment in productive capacity in the United States or much larger trade deficits.

Ironically, as Jon Rynn, a fellow at the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems, notes in his book, Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The Power to Rebuild the American Middle Class, “suburban sprawl” came about by virtue of hundreds of billions of dollars of federal government spending via Eisenhower’s Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, and the G.I. Billthat provided loans to millions of returning soldiers to buy homes (and make builders like Fred Trump rich), the build-out of suburban water and road infrastructure. An infrastructure bill therefore cannot simply modernize existing structures, but can and must help to reverse these trends by featuring more public transport and more public housing in densely populated areas. 
Above all else, labor must not simply be treated as a rounding error in this process. As Brian Kohler put it, if environmentalists and politicians aiming for a sustainable economy “fail to understand the jobs issue, you will create a confrontation that you cannot win. You will force us into an alliance with our employers and you, we, society and the environment will all be the losers.”
Francie Diep, January 24, 2019 [Pacific Standard - 1-24-19]
I think these numbers are on the low, low side. They begin at $200 billion. As the above article notes at beginning, it's going to be a couple trillion.
If you're looking for numbers, this report is the closest thing I've seen to quantifying the Green New Deal. It published in 2014, at the behest of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. A team of economists from the University of Massachusetts­–Amherst calculated what would be needed to cut the U.S.'s carbon emissions by 40 percent in 20 years. The study found that the American government and private companies would have to invest a collective $200 billion a year, the government should collect about $200 billion a year in carbon taxes, about 1.5 million jobs would be destroyed, and 4.2 million new jobs would be created. 
"We could extrapolate, based on the work that we've done here, just to get some really rough numbers," says Heidi Peltier, one of the researchers who worked on the report. So: If a 40 percent emissions cut cost $200 billion a year and created a net 2.7 million jobs, then a 100 percent emissions cut might cost $800 billion a year and create a net 6.8 million jobs. "It's not necessarily going to be linear like that, but it might give us a ballpark, at least," Peltier says.