A time for ideology

The main 3 Parties barely disagree with each other any more, in this country. We live in a time when the prevailing economic system is consuming the ‘ecosystem services’ that facilitate it in the 1st place, and when that economic system has just comprehensively failed in its own terms and shown (literally) the bankruptcy of its own economics. It would be a real tragedy and indeed an act of collective madness at such a time to go from Tweedledum to Tweedledee, especially when the Tweedledee in question (the Conservative Party) has shown even less awareness than Tweedledum (New Labour) of the meaning of this massive visible economic failure and failure of economics, the financial meltdown. (Inheritance tax cut anyone, now?)
  No. Now is a time for ideology. A time for ecologism; a time for investment (in a Green New Deal), not cuts; a time to redefine ‘progressive’ as meaning movement in the direction of equality. Now is the time to break the 3-Party consensus.
  A dream only? No; for here is an interesting straw in the wind: at the most recent byelection, in Norwich North, the only Parties to gain votes, and substantially so, were the Green Party (for which I was the candidate) and UKIP. Two avowedly ideological Parties, both (in deeply different ways) deeply inimical to the unsustainable status quo. Neither the LibDems (usually byelection maestros) nor even the Conservatives (supposedly the Government-in-waiting) were able to gain voters from Labour’s dismal situation and showing. The electorate are actually deeply fed up with the corruptly ‘pragmatic’ political class, and the coming General Election will surely see the largest-ever vote against the failed 3-Party consensus. The real secret of British politics then is that ideology is on the march again, and that the Green Party and UKIP (and possibly also others less savoury) will surely reap what the dying old politics has sown, within the coming year.
  Let’s make sure that it’s the Green Party, and not the others, who prosper from this situation.

Latest rubbish from ‘REFORM’

http://bit.ly/d7abM :This blog post is absolutely right, in saying that “As soon as middle earners are excluded from welfare, services and levels of support deteriorate.” When you abolish good universal benefits and make them means-tested or provide ‘targetted’, then then those benefits will lose perceived legitimacy, and within a decade the rich will be pressing to abolish the benefits in question altogether, on the grounds that “We never see any of this money, so why should we pay for it? These benefits go to people who should learn to stand on their own two feet…”
‘Reform’ is really on a roll now: two shite reports within a week… Here’s my criticism of their rubbish report last week: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2009/10/reforms-road-to-ruin/

Yes to Goldstone!

You can’t get much more impartial or magisterial than Richard Goldstone.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Goldstone OK, the man may have Zionist sympathies (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1251804583376 ); but he is a great man with a great record… the Israeli government’s refusal to accept his report is nothing less than an international disgrace.
Please consider signing this petition to endorse the Goldstone report and its acceptance by the UN Human Rights committee if you have not done so already. I was sent a link to this petition from the No.10 website, asking the
Prime Minister to support the Goldstone report at the UN. I have done so, I hope you now will, too!:
[There is currently a counter-petition to this that has almost three
times as many signatures…:
http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoToGoldstone/ ]

Don’t build roads if you want to help pedestrians!

In the EDP today, a big frontpage piece on the (excellent) new city centre vision. But: The spin from the County about how the NDR is a precondition for the city centre vision is just a big and desperate lie. YET the EDP are reporting it as fact.
It is ludicrous to pretend that a pedestrianisation strategy would be complemented by a massive and prohibitively-expensive road-building project…
For all things Rupert, goto

Why no-growth economics? – The answer in a few sentences

Zero-growth theory is the most scientific form of economics – mathematical economics (Georgescu-Roegen) as developed by ecological economics (Daly and Costanza: energy economics, and economics that takes ecology seriously). The basic point is this: the economy is a subset of the ecological system, not vice versa. Endless economic growth is a fantasy in a finite system. And we face the gradual decline of low entropy energy and materials into high entropy wastes, which is a very real limit that physics imposes on economics.

Thoughts for the day

The great political task of our time, in a country such as Britain: _Not_ raising the ‘living standards’ of the poorest, but rather: narrowing the rich-poor gap.
The great moral task of our time: _Caring_ enough about the future to moderate our consumption of the Earth, enough.
The great work of our time: Having the vision to do our great political/moral tasks & the good sense to know that this will make us HAPPIER.

U.S. on Edge of Massive Reduction in Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Important info from the reliable Lester Brown: good news, for once!
Earth Policy Institute
Earth Policy Release
October 14, 2009

Emissions Drop 9 Percent in Last Two Years


By Lester R. Brown

For years now, many members of Congress have insisted that cutting carbon emissions was difficult, if not impossible. It is not. During the two years since 2007, carbon emissions have dropped 9 percent. While part of this drop is from the recession, part of it is also from efficiency gains and from replacing coal with natural gas, wind, solar, and geothermal energy.

The United States has ended a century of rising carbon emissions and has now entered a new energy era, one of declining emissions. Peak carbon is now history. What had appeared to be hopelessly difficult is happening at amazing speed.

For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. In 2008, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent, and carbon emissions by 3 percent. Estimates for 2009, based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data for the first nine months, show oil use down by another 5 percent. Coal is set to fall by 10 percent. Carbon emissions from burning all fossil fuels dropped 9 percent over the two years.

Beyond the cuts already made, there are further massive reductions in the policy pipeline. Prominent among them are stronger automobile fuel-economy standards, higher appliance efficiency standards, and financial incentives supporting the large-scale development of wind, solar, and geothermal energy. (See data at www.earthpolicy.org.)

Efforts to reduce fossil fuel use are under way at every level of government—national, state, and city—as well as in corporations, utilities, and universities. And millions of climate-conscious, cost-cutting Americans are altering their lifestyles to reduce energy use.

For its part, the federal government—the largest U.S. energy consumer, with some 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles—announced in early October 2009 that it is setting its own carbon-cutting goals. These include reducing vehicle fleet fuel use 30 percent by 2020, recycling at least 50 percent of waste by 2015, and buying environmentally responsible products.

Electricity use is falling partly because of gains in efficiency. The potential for further cuts is evident in the wide variation in energy efficiency among states. The Rocky Mountain Institute calculates that if the 40 least-efficient states were to reach the electrical efficiency of the 10 most-efficient ones, national electricity use would be reduced by one third. This would allow the equivalent of 62 percent of the country’s 617 coal-fired power plants to be closed.

Actions are being taken to realize this potential. For several years DOE failed to write the regulations needed to implement appliance efficiency legislation that Congress had already passed. Within days of taking office, President Obama instructed the agency to write the regulations needed to realize these potentially vast efficiency gains as soon as possible.

The energy efficiency revolution that is now under way will transform everything from lighting to transportation. With lighting, for example, shifting from incandescent bulbs to the newer light-emitting diodes (LEDs), combined with motion sensors to turn lights off in unoccupied spaces, can cut electricity use by more than 90 percent. Los Angeles, for example, is replacing its 140,000 street lights with LEDs—and cutting electricity and maintenance costs by $10 million per year.

The carbon-cutting movement is gaining momentum on many fronts. In July, the Sierra Club—coordinator of the national anti-coal campaign—announced the hundredth cancellation of a proposed plant since 2001. This battle is leading to a de facto moratorium on new coal plants. Despite the coal industry’s $45-million annual budget to promote “clean coal,” utilities are giving up on coal and starting to close plants. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), with 11 coal plants (average age 47 years) and a court order to install over $1 billion worth of pollution controls, is considering closing its plant near Rogersville, Tennessee, along with the six oldest units out of eight in its Stevenson, Alabama, plant.

TVA is not alone. Altogether, some 22 coal-fired power plants in 12 states are being replaced by wind farms, natural gas plants, wood chip plants, or efficiency gains. Many more are likely to close as public pressure to clean up the air and to cut carbon emissions intensifies. Shifting from coal to natural gas cuts carbon emissions by roughly half. Shifting to wind, solar, and geothermal energy drops them to zero.

State governments are getting behind renewables big time. Thirty-four states have adopted renewable portfolio standards to produce a larger share of their electricity from renewable sources over the next decade or so. Among the more populous states, the renewable standard is 24 percent in New York, 25 percent in Illinois, and 33 percent in California.

While coal plants are closing, wind farms are multiplying. In 2008, a total of 102 wind farms came online, providing more than 8,400 megawatts of generating capacity. Forty-nine wind farms were completed in the first half of 2009 and 57 more are under construction. More important, some 300,000 megawatts of wind projects (think 300 coal plants) are awaiting access to the grid.

U.S. solar cell installations are growing at 40 percent a year. With new incentives, this rapid growth in rooftop installations on homes, shopping malls, and factories should continue. In addition, some 15 large solar thermal power plants that use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and generate electricity are planned in California, Arizona, and Nevada. A new heat-storage technology that enables the plants to continue generating power for up to six hours past sundown helps explain this boom.

For many years, U.S. geothermal energy was confined largely to the huge Geysers project north of San Francisco, with 850 megawatts of generating capacity. Now the United States, with 132 geothermal power plants under development, is experiencing a geothermal renaissance.

After their century-long love-affair with the car, Americans are turning to mass transit. There is hardly a U.S. city that is not either building new light rail, subways, or express bus lines or upgrading and expanding existing ones.

As motorists turn to public transit, and also to bicycles, the U.S. car fleet is shrinking. The estimated scrappage of 14 million cars in 2009 will exceed new sales of 10 million by 4 million, shrinking the fleet 2 percent in one year. This shrinkage will likely continue for a few years.

Oil use and imports are both declining. This will continue as the new fuel economy standards raise the fuel efficiency of new cars 42 percent and light trucks 25 percent by 2016. And since 42 percent of the diesel fuel burned in the rail freight sector is used to haul coal, falling coal use means falling diesel fuel use.

But the big gains in fuel efficiency will come with the shift to plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. Not only are electric motors three times more efficient than gasoline engines, but they also enable cars to run on wind power at a gasoline-equivalent cost of 75¢ a gallon. Almost every major car maker will soon be selling plug-in hybrids, electric cars, or both.

In this new energy era carbon emissions are declining and they will likely continue to do so because of policies already on the books. We are headed in the right direction. We do not yet know how much we can cut carbon emissions because we are just beginning to make a serious effort. Whether we can move fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate change remains to be seen.

# # #

Lester R. Brown is President of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008), available for free downloading and purchase at www.earthpolicy.org/index.php?/books/pb4.

*Parts of this Plan B Update were published in the Washington Post on September 20, 2009.

Data and additional resources at www.earthpolicy.org


Media Contact:
Reah Janise Kauffman
(202) 496-9290 ext. 12
Research Contact:
Janet Larsen
(202) 496-9290 ext. 14
Earth Policy Institute
1350 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 403
Washington, DC 20036

What’s wrong with talking about ‘global warming’?

One really basic point seems to have escaped people's attention. Framing
the issue as 'Global Warming' is completely hopeless. As conservatives
such as Frank Luntz have long known, 'global warming' sounds nice, and
'climate change' sounds harmless, even positive.
The first reframe is this: it's 'global over-heat', or 'global cooking',
or 'global over-heating'… It has to sound like what it IS.

Rupert Read
Green Party Councillor, Norwich.
[If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob@gmail.com]

The Tories’ ever-decreasing circles of (un)greenness

The Tories’ ‘Green Deal’ at their conference was as un-green (nuclear) as expected…we can in fact expect environmental issues to get pushed further and further back now that the Tories and Labour are arguing in ever decreasing circles about cuts and the economy…I think the fact that the environment didnt warrant a mention in Camerons’ ’10 Key Pledges’ to the Sun says it all really….

Left Foot Forward…

Excellent News! I have recently been invited to join the exciting new political blog ‘Left Foot Forward’ – a non-partisan blog for progressives providing evidence-based analysis on British politics, news and policy developments.

Left Foot Forward is focused purely on the quality of policies and furthering progressive goals, particularly:

  • A proactive and sustainable economic policy that creates jobs, pulls Britain out of recession and towards a low-carbon and more equitable future.
  • Public services that work for, and are accountable to, local people and leave no one behind.
  • Safe communities where poverty and inequality are tackled, and the victims of crime are put first.
  • A multilateral foreign policy to tackle climate change, poverty, nuclear proliferation, genocide, terrorism, and disease.

Below is an extract from my first contribution to the blog, entitled “Who can cut the hardest? The narrative firms up”. You can follow this link to read the article in full and to check out the rest of the site – it’s full of excellent comment and analysis!

“Anyone listening to the Today programme this morning, as discussion began of the Conservatives’ plan to raise the retirement age, could be in no doubt as to how much the media consensus has firmed up behind a virility contest among politicians over who will cut ‘hardest’.

The BBC’s news-media team were clearly delighted to be able to start talking not just about where the ‘inevitable’ cuts had to fall, but about what things that people like (such as pensions, as opposed to bureaucracy or waste) politicians would now promise to cut, as reported earlier on Left Foot Forward.

Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror has described this as “macho politics”; and who can afford not to look macho? The agenda has been set: there must be massive public service cuts, and some at least of those cuts will cause real pain…”