Energy Monsters

“People do not go to hell after death. The designers and builders of hell are human beings. The designs and buildings are almost completed. It is becoming difficult to add more hell.”
– Tamo-san

If I were to make the claim, prior to the American Civil War, that to wish for an end to slavery in America, was monstrous, because its downfall would entail the suffering of millions of white southerners, who would become jobless and hungry, some may have been so inclined to call me a monster. My point here is not to compare the degree of suffering that may or may not happen to us soon, to the suffering that may or may not have happened in the Confederate states, had they ended slavery, but to illuminate the actual reality, rather than the perceived reality most of us know. Some believe, that it is monstrous to wish an end to civilisation.  I have highlighted some of the current atrocities being committed today, in previous posts, here, and here. The next few posts will examine even more of the monstrous activities our civilisation is engaged in. This is an effort to give credence to the notion that our culture is doomed, and the sooner it ends, the better. And furthermore, to dispel the illusion that this way of reasoning is “monstrous”.

mon·strous adj

  1. Shockingly hideous or frightful.
  2. Exceptionally large; enormous: a monstrous tidal wave.
  3. Deviating greatly from the norm in appearance or structure; abnormal.
  4. Of or resembling a fabulous monster.

Giant Earth Movers
Often we hear about how the marvels of technology will save us from the coming decline of world energy supplies. I would challenge anyone to tell me how one could possibly build something more “monstrous” than the aberration shown above. It is the largest earth mover in the world, built by the Krupps corporation, shown here crossing an interstate in Germany. You can see the power point presentation here. The monster cost 100 million to build, and weighs 45,500 tons, watch the power point for more info on that. This was one of the most terrifying things I have seen in a long time. These are the depths we must now go to, in order to extract coal from open-pit coal mines. Coal is mostly used to generate electricity, and to produce 1 joule of electricity, you need to extract 3 joules of energy from coal. With peak oil now clearly a reality, large utility companies like Peabody, and Dominion, are frantically building new coal-fired power plants nationwide. This is the “solution” to peak oil for corporate America. Co-op Americareports:

Major power companies and the current White House administration are telling Americans that coal is the future of affordable energy. But increased greenhouse gas emissions, dangerous coal mining, mercury pollution, increased asthma and human health problems, and dramatic groundwater waste are costs that no one can afford. Tell the CEOs of power companies Peabody and Dominion and their Board members to heed the call of shareholders and their power customers and halt climate change, stop building new coal plants, and shift the billions of dollars they are spending on coal into green energy like solar and wind as well as energy efficiency.

While this type action is a good start, it ignores or fails to understand the enormity of the problem. We don’t need to simply “tell” the CEO’s about it. We are the ones using the electricity, if we don’t want coal-fired power, than we need to “Powerdown”. Richard Duncan explains in his update to the “Olduvai Theory” about the immense costs associated with the continued production and maintenance of the electricity grid. I wrote recently at peakoil.com:

I think a common misunderstanding about the feasibility of alternatives, is that most proponents don’t really see the total cost of implementation, everything from the direct costs, to the electricity grid. Without electricity, we cannot produce anything, and the investment required to maintain what we have today, is staggering, consider this, from Richard Duncan’s update to the “Olduvai Theory”:

Permanent Blackouts are Coming. The third catch, according to the Olduvai Theory, is that sooner or later the power grids will go down and never come back up. The reasons are many, The International Energy Agency (IEA, 2004) estimates that the cumulative worldwide energy investment funds required from 2003 to 2030 would be about $15.32 trillion (T, US 2000 $) allocated as follows:

  • 1. Coal: $0.29T )1.9% of the total),
  • Oil: $2.69T (17.6%)
  • Gas: $2.69T (17.6%)
  • Electricity: $9.66T (63.1%).

Thus the IEA projects that the worldwide investment funds essential for electricity will be 3.7 times the amount needed for oil alone, and much greater than all of that required for oil, gas, and coal combined. The OT says that the already debt-ridden nations, cities, and corporations will not be able to raise the $15.32 trillion in investment funds required by 2030 for world energy. (Not to mention the vastly greater investment funds required for agriculture, roads, streets, schools, railroads, water resources, sewer systems, and so forth.)

This is why, despite the optimism of some energy experts, the electricity grid will be more and more difficult to maintain, as oil prices climb, and the effects of peak oil set in. The amount of money needed to continue to build giant earth movers is going to dry up, because no company in the world is going to invest in electricity generation when their is no return on investment, we are already in that position now. This is evidenced by the massive number of mergers among power companies, like Constellation Energy of Baltimore recently purchasing FPL of Florida. This illustrates the monstrous nature of our electricity production, and the inevitability of its demise. It should also be duly noted that in medieval times, coal was considered an extremely poor source of energy, because it turned the skies black. Europeans only came back to coal after they exhausted the wood supply in surrounding forests. So much for the wonders of technological progress.

Alberta Tar Sands

The tar sands in Alberta are often coveted as the “solution” to peak oil. Without devolving into an “alternatives” discussion, here is a photo essay from “Technology Review”.

Where the oil sands lie close to the surface, mostly near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta, they can be mined. In the effort to get at these sands, areas have been drained of wetlands and stripped of boreal forests, which play an important role in climate regulation and carbon storage. Their destruction contributes to the greenhouse effect.

Equipment used by oil-sand miners includes tractors with top-mounted radiators and cooling fans to protect their engines from oil particles and sludge, thousand-metric-ton shovels, and the Caterpillar 797. This colossal dump truck weighs more than 500 metric tons when empty. When its tires wear out after about a year, they are reused as cattle feeders. Producing crude oil from the Alberta sands is an energy-­intensive process. Giant digging and transportation machines use commensurately large amounts of fuel. Refining and welling technologies consume roughly 300 cubic meters of natural gas per barrel of recovered oil. Environmental watchdogs estimate that, as a result, producing a barrel of oil from the Alberta sands releases two to three times the volume of greenhouse gases that traditional oil production would. By 2015, production from the oil sands is projected to release 94 megatons of greenhouse gases. Oil sand retrieved from surface mining is crushed and then moved to a processing plant via “hydrotransport.” As the sand, mixed with water, tumbles through transport pipes, the clumps of bitumen, sand, and water begin to loosen.

The sand-and-water slurry is dumped into tanks with hot water, where it separates into three layers: sand, bitumen froth (impure bitumen), and a middle layer that is further treated to extract bitumen. Bitumen froth is also treated to remove impurities.

Oil companies create ponds in which to dump millions of cubic meters of the sandy, toxic by-product of oil-sand processing. These “tailings ponds” are characterized by salt and acids. Here, a worker installs a scarecrow to keep birds away.

I would qualify this, along with the giant earth mover, as “Beyond Monstrous“.

Cuba and U.S. Propaganda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above billboard reads:

“200 million children in the world sleep on the streets, none of them are Cuban.”

If you are going to measure the relative success of a nation, you must observe real, quantitative factors. Good indicators are poverty, literacy, and infant mortality. So lets look at what is actually there, as opposed to the disinformation we have had hammered into our collective subconscience.

The accepted perception of Cuba is a poverty stricken, politically repressed country. But this is illusory. The end product of 40 years of imperialist propaganda against a sovereign nation, with a democratically elected government. There is certainly political repression in Cuba, which is obviously not good, but we don’t know for sure how accurate the reports are, and neither do most people, because almost all reports of it, come from either the US media, or Cuban’s who disapprove of the Cuban government. But this is not the topic of this discussion, and besides, if we were really worried about political repression, we need only look to our own government. Come on, what political repression?, you say, we have no political repression here in the US, no, of course not, we have free speech. Yes, thats true, if you want to redress your grievances with the government as the constitution requires, you are free to do it in the barbed wire “free speach” pen down the street from the political event. As a disclaimer, let me say I don’t really know all the facts about the Cuban government and Castro, and I am not glorifying it, or voicing support for it. I am just trying to set the record straight. The statistics are readily available from the UN and even the CIA factbook. Because of this, I have a major problem witht some of the absurd rhetoric that I have been reading, for example: Aaron at peakoil.com wrote:

And Cuba’s economy is now largely based on the black market. The Cuban “solution” is widespread poverty, drugs, prostitution & gambling.

Black market? Think economic blockade, a criminal economic blockade, which has been unilaterally held up by the U.S. for 40 years, despite the efforts of the U.N. For example, here are the results from the 2004 UN vote for a resolution against the U.S., to end the economic blockade:

General Assembly calls for end to US embargo against Cuba
The resolution passed with a vote of 179 in favour, four – the Marshall Islands, the United States, Israel and Palau – against and the Federated States of Micronesia abstaining.

And the November 2005 vote:

– 2005: (A/60/L.9): 182 to 4

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the resolution means anything though. Fortunately, the “coalition of the willing”, the Marshall Islands, and Palau also voted with the US. Israel almost always votes with the US, and as you must know, the US, THE global empire, can veto any UN decision, all they need is Israel or the UK to vote with them, and from time to time, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. However, the United States deems all resolutions pertaining to the US itself to be irrelevant.

Can you imagine what would happen to the US if most of its trading partners were eliminated? You could watch the collapse unfold within days. I often hear the above arguments and laugh, especially when you compare some of the arguments to the United States, recently Bill Bonner from the Daily Reckoning wrote:

During the 1950s, Cuba was no paradise, but it must have come close. American tourists – especially the rich – came by the boatloads. There, they could gamble, drink, swim in the warm sea, take drugs, smoke fine cigars, fish, and relax. Everything was cheap, sweet and warm: the hotels, the liquor…the women. The island was growing rich off of tourism and exports to the United States. By 1957, Cuba had the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America (the 13th lowest in the world), and the third-highest number of physicians and dentists per capita – more than Britain. In terms of literacy, daily nutrition, and access to mass media, Cuba was a leader in Latin America and crowding the heels of many developed, Western nations.

Valid points? I think not. The rich certainly did come by the boatloads, and many came for the “warm” women, because under Batista, women were denied reasonable employment:

Prior to 1959, the only “jobs” available to women were those of domestic servant and prostitute — Cuba was even known as the “whorehouse of the Caribbean.” Since the revolution those “jobs” have been all but completely eliminated, while an continually increasing number of women are entering into the labor force in all fields or taking up positions in government. Cuba has the world’s most advanced system of benefits for mothers-to-be, and free birth control and abortion has been made available to all women. Also, Cuban women are guaranteed a living wage whether they work or not, so they do not have to marry or remain married out of financial considerations. In Cuba, whether a couple or not, both parents are obligated to support their children. No child is considered illegitimate, and both men and women are responsible for the maintenance of the home.

Yes, Mr. Bonner’s warm women didn’t really exist after the revolution, as this source states:

Cuba, considered to be free of prostitution since the 1960s, is experiencing an increase in prostitution and prostitution tourism as a result of the poor economy. (Jeszs Zzqiga,”Cuba: The Thailand of the Caribbean” Independent Journalists’ Cooperative, 18 June 1998)

The increase, like the small percentage of the population that has fled, was a direct result of being cut off from oil supplies, ALL of Cuba’s problems are a result of this and the sanctions. Regarding women, here are some interesting numbers:

Women In Parliamentary Seats

  • Haiti 4%
  • Honduras 6%
  • Brazil 9%
  • Colombia 12.2%
  • United States 14%
  • Mexico 15.9%
  • Argentina 31.3%
  • Cuba 36%

Source:United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 2003 Human Development Indicators and Project On Human Development

The US is almost as impressive as Columbia. In Cuba, 50% of all skilled workers or professionals (including physicians) are women & 29% of management positions are held by women. Impressive, but Mr. Bonner would rather see women in their rightful place, yes? As prostitutes and domestic servants?

Next we hear that “Cuba had the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America (the 13th lowest in the world), and the third-highest number of physicians and dentists per capita – more than Britain. In terms of literacy, daily nutrition, and access to mass media, Cuba was a leader in Latin America and crowding the heels of many developed, Western nations.” Today the statistics for infant mortality are as follows:

  • United States 7.00
  • Cuba 5.80

•The number of deaths of infants under one year old in a given year per 1,000 live births in the same year.

Interesting, now it looks as though Cuba’s is one of the best in the world, not just in Latin America. And literacy in 1957 was about 50%, as Mr. Bonner notes, and was the best among Latin American countries, and today, it is a whopping 99.8%, again among the best in the world. Cuba is a great example of what to do in a post-peak oil scenario, because they did it. Certainly, Cubans lost an average of 25 pounds after the cutoffs, but they survived. What do you think America would look like with the same conditions applied to it? Do you think the worst that we would see is an increase in prostitution, and black market economies, and weight loss? And Doctors? He is right about that, but they were almost all Euroeans, isn’t that great!, Cuban’s didn’t have access to those jobs. Today 1 in 10 Doctors and Scientists in Latin America is Cuban, even though Cuba has only 2% of the population. So, my question is, how do you define widespread poverty? Here are the stats:
Human Poverty Index*

  • Haiti 42.3%
  • Honduras 20.5%
  • Brazil 12.2%
  • Mexico 9.4%
  • Colombia 8.9%
  • Cuba 4.1%

Lower is better.Source:United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 2003 Human Development Indicators and Project On Human Development

It is hard to find tables including the US with developing nations, although the US ranks below many, for example, as George Monbiot reports:

The US is the only rich nation with teenage pregnancy levels comparable to those of developing nations: it has a worse record than India, the Philippines and Rwanda

And what about the Human Poverty Index for the US, you ask? Human Development Reports says the US has a 15.8 compared to Cuba’s 4.1. And yes, Mexico has a much better Poverty Index than the U.S.

The total poverty in the US as of 2003 was:

In 2003, the poverty rate was 12.5 percent, or 35.9 million people, up from 12.1 percent, or 34.6 million people in 2002.

And in 2005 the USDA reported:

More than 38 million Americans go hungry, including nearly 14 million children Waltham, MA, Oct. 28, 2005 –Hunger in American households has risen by 43 percent over the last five years, according to an analysis of US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data released today. The analysis, completed by the Center on Hunger and Poverty at Brandeis University, shows that more than 7 million people have joined the ranks of the hungry since 1999.

Who is it that has WIDESPREAD POVERTY? Not Cuba. America is the one with widespread poverty. But to really understand why the US media paint such a grim picture of Cuba, you must first pull back the curtain of propaganda, and also look past the imperialistic economic measurement that is GDP. As we all know, a countries poverty rate can go from 50% to 90% at a time of constant GDP growth. However, as globalsecurity.org point out after admitting that Cuba’s illiteracy rate and infant mortality rate are the best in Latin America, (they will not admit best in the world), they point out:

On the other hand, many economic and social indicators have declined since the 1959 revolution. Pre-Castro Cuba ranked third in Latin America in per capita food consumption; today, it ranks last. Per capita consumption of cereals, tubers, and meat are today all below 1950’s levels. The number of automobiles in Cuba has fallen since the 1950’s — the only country in Latin America for which this is the case. The number of telephone lines in Cuba also has been virtually frozen at 1950’s levels. Cuba once ranked first in Latin America and fifth in the world in television sets per capita. Today, it barely ranks fourth in Latin America and is well back in the ranks globally.

So there it is folks, right from the horses mouth, successful societies are not measured in terms of income equality, discrimination, social services, hunger, homelessness, health care, education, or any of these trivial ideas, “Development” is strictly and completely relegated to how many morbidly obese cell phone users, SUV drivers, McMansion dwellers, and foreign made plasma flatscreens owners you have! Welcome to America.

All above statistics were compiled from UNESCO, UNDP, UNSD, EPICA, CIA World Fact Book, UNICEF & the Cuban Ministry of Public Health.

Anarchy and Democracy

Daniel Quinn wrote in "Ishmael":

In such places where animals are simply penned up, they are almost always more thoughtful than their cousins in the wild. This is because even the dimmest of them cannot help but sense that something is very wrong with this style of living. When I say that they are more thoughtful, I don't mean to imply that they acquire powers of ratiocination. But the tiger you see madly pacing its cage is nevertheless preoccupied with something that a human would certainly recognize as a thought. And this thought is a question: Why? Why, why, why, why, why, why, why? The tiger asks itself hour after hour, day after day, year after year, as it treads its endless path behind the bars of its cage. It cannot analyze the question or elaborate on it. If you were somehow able to ask the creature, Why what? it would be unable to answer you. Nevertheless this question burns like an unquenchable flame in its mind, inflicting a searing pain that does not diminish until the creature lapses into a final lethargy that zookeepers recognize as an irreversible rejection of life. And of course this questioning is something that no tiger does in its normal habitat.

That stung me when I first read it, it occured to me how similar it is in Humans, how we start out rebellious and passionate dreamers, than after we realize we must spend our waking life completing some meaningless task away from our family and friends, we give up, reject all our dreams and passions, and assimilate to the slave lifestyle in exchange for material posessions. And since material posessions cannot make us happy, we also require hard drugs like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, paxil and prozac, in order to survive this maladaptive life. To quote John Zerzan about what the worst case scenario would look like:

People could just be so conditioned that they won't even notice there's no natural world anymore, no freedom, no fulfillment, no nothing. You just take your Prozac every day, limp along dyspeptic and neurotic, and figure that's all there is.

I think we may already be there. Einstein said we will not solve our problems with the same thinking that caused them. Democracy does not exist in the US, Congressman have a 99% incumbancy rate, and we get to vote for one of two puppets, who are appointed by the wealthy elites to run the big corporate slave machine. A centralized government in a capitalist society, has one job, to protect capital and property rights, period, never has this been different, the masses simply are given the idea that they have some control, and behind the scenes, the elites refer to us as the "rabble". Even in government statistics we are known as "consumers". We send our children at a young age off to what amounts to educational concentration camps, where they learn how to live a regimented, ritualistic, scheduled life, to prepare them for work in a factory, and pound out any trace of imagination, and passion from them. We than procede to drug the children who don't cooperate with ritalin. Total anarchy would be difficult because our society is too complex, and we have had all our survival instincts bred out of us, so without the overlords feeding us, the majority would cause quite a bit of chaos at first, but we all know that chaos is coming regardless of that. But the sooner we throw off the chains that bind us, the better. The current government, no matter who is in charge, will only continue to make matters worse. They will not get re-elected unless they perform for their masters. Therefore, like in a multi-national corporation, every decision must be made in the interest of profits, they will LOSE THEIR JOB if they make a decision that benefits people over profits, it really is that simple, thats how it is set up, and it runs itself.

The fact is that revolution is easier than reform, and preferable. However, replacing a totalitarian dictatorship with a proletarian dictatorship is not the answer, they are both centralized dictatorships, we need to ELIMINATE government.

After hurricane Katrina, the people in New Orleans, after quite a bit of chaos, once again found community. They didn't depend on the government to provide for them, they formed small bands and cooperated to survive. I have experienced this behavior also after hurricanes Frances, Jeanne, and this year Wilma. When the lights go out, we emerge from our climate controlled boxes and realize that none of us can survive without cooperation, and that when communication, and mass media is cut off, the only thing that exists is what you see in front of you, with your own two eyes, the only people that matter are the ones around you. Politics, and govenrment cease to exist when you are forced to take responsibility for your own life. I assure you, it will be easier to do now, rather than wait until the trucks stop pulling into Wallmart and Safeway. At least now, we still have the means to adapt to a new lifestyle. Humans are the most adaptable creatures on earth, and make no mistake about it, we DO NOT NEED RULERS. Anarchy comes from the greek anarchos, or "without a ruler", thats all it means, and its all we need. Perhaps Freud put it best when he said:

"civilization is something which was imposed on a resisting majority by a minority which understood how to obtain possession of the means of power and coercion."

And this is why division of labor was created, and along with it varying degrees of slavery for 99% of the population, and power and wealth for the 1% minority.