How it could happen - Dissolution

SUBHEAD: It was a pretty good country, back when there were thirteen states, and we weren’t trying to run the world.

[Author's note: This is part 4 of a 5 parts of a fictional narrative tracing out a scenario of American imperial defeat and collapse. As a bankrupt and divided nation stumbles toward its destiny, the question that remains is whether anything can be salvaged from the American experiment.]

By John Michael Greer on 31 October 2012 for Archdruid Report -

Image above: Map of US after dissolution based on article by Colin Woodward.  From (

Within hours, thanks to news media reporting minute-by-minute from St. Louis, word of the proposal to dissolve the Union circled the globe. The most common reaction was to dismiss it as an edgy joke. One pundit wrote hopefully that the prank might finally bring the convention to its senses. A few articles profiled the two delegates who had written the measure, giving them their first fifteen minutes of fame—they were back in the news two years later, on the occasion of their wedding—and then the media tried to move on to what it considered important news.

Over the days that followed, however, the proposal took on a life of its own. Across the country, in bars and living rooms and grange halls, people talked about little else; public meetings and rallies drew huge crowds, and with each passing day more of them backed the proposal. Meanwhile the online forum set up for comment on the convention’s debates crashed three times in as many hours, flooded by posts about dissolving the Union. By October 4th, the day that the proposal was scheduled for a vote on the convention floor, comments on the forum were running ten to one in favor of dissolution.

Politicians and pundits were discovering to their horror what more perceptive observers had noticed long before—that the United States had long since broken apart culturally, and stayed together only because the power of the federal government put disunion out of reach. Now, though, the unthinkable was an option.

Every region saw a chance to get what it wanted without wrestling with the country’s yawning cultural chasms; western states in which up to 90% of the land was owned by the federal government, and thus exempt from state taxes and fees, ran the numbers and saw how easily they could balance their budgets once all that real estate fell into their hands; ambitious politicians on the state level began to dream of leading new nations; and the thought of getting out from under the massive Federal debt, by the simple expedient of dissolving the government that owed it, was on many minds. For them and many other Americans, dissolution seemed to offer dazzling possibilities, and few considered the massive downsides.

On the night of October 3rd, opponents of the measure counted heads and found that they lacked the votes to stop it. Parliamentary maneuvers kept it off the floor the next day, but that unleashed a popular reaction that convinced even the most sanguine observers that something drastic was afoot. Rallies had already been called for the 4th, and they exploded in size as word got out that the vote was delayed. Across the country that night, crowds gathered and slogans sounded in the firelit dark. St. Louis saw one of the biggest demonstrations, with shouting crowds marching past the convention center for more than three hours. Delegates looked down at the sea of faces, and wondered where it would end.

The proposal to dissolve the Union finally came to a floor vote on the 6th. Despite impassioned pleas from opponents, it passed by a large majority. Another vote abandoned the amendment that would have stopped unfunded mandates—in the absence of a federal government, the point was moot—and a third brought the convention to a close. The moment the final gavel came down, the floor erupted in angry words and more than one shoving match, but the thing was done: what would be, if it passed, the 28th and last amendment to the constitution was on its way to the final test of ratification.

Now Congress’ decision to require amendments to be ratified by state conventions rather than state legislatures came back to haunt the Washington establishment. The power struggle between the states and the federal government had suddenly been overtaken by the people, and if the delegates they elected to the ratifying conventions supported dissolution, there was no way under the constitution to stop them; by law, a US constitutional amendment took effect the moment it was ratified, with no need for enabling legislation or anything else As the crowds marched, though, at least one person was thinking about ignoring the constitution—and he had, in theory, the power to make that happen.

Admiral Roland Waite, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, paced down a Pentagon hallway to “the tank,” the soundproof conference room where the Joint Chiefs met. The Vice Chairman and the heads of the service branches were there, but so were the DCI and DNS, directors of the CIA and NSA respectively, along with key officials from elsewhere in the executive branch. Most of the federal government’s remaining power to make things happen was concentrated in that one room.

“You’ve seen the president.” This from General Mendoza, the Marine Corps commandant.

“Yes.” Waite settled into a chair at the long table in the room’s center. “Every time I go there these days, I wonder if I’m the only adult in the building.” That got an uneasy laugh. “He’s still dead set on a military response,” Waite went on, and the laughter stopped. “Today he ordered me—his word—to get things rolling: troop movements, logistics, everything. He’s got Justice working on the legal excuses.”

“They’ll need ‘em for martial law,” said General Wittkower, the Vice Chairman.

“It’s not just martial law.” Waite leaned forward. “He wants the whole country under military rule. Homeland Security’s working on a list of people to round up, internment camps, that sort of thing.”

“Jesus,” said Wittkower. “He’s talking coup d’etat.”

“Do you think we can make that stick?” Mendoza asked.

The DCI answered. “Best case scenario, yes, but we get a major insurgency out West backed with arms and money from China—no way will Beijing be dumb enough to miss an opportunity like that. Worst case? The National Guard and some Army units side with the states, and we get civil war, again with China backing the other side. Could we win? Heck of a good question.”

“That got asked a lot in 1861,” said Mendoza.

“In 1861,” said Wittkower, “one region wanted out and the rest of the country said no you don’t. Now? The North wants to get rid of the South just as much as the South wants to get rid of the North, and let’s not even talk about the western states. I wish I could say we could count on the Army, but what I’m hearing from our security people isn’t good—and the National Guard is worse.”

“There seems to be a lot of money backing dissolution,” said Waite. “Chinese money?”

“Heck of a good question,” the DCI said again. “America’s made a lot of enemies, and China’s only one of them. We’ve tried to trace the funds, but whoever it is knows how to hide their tracks.”

“What does Wall Street think?” This was from Wittkower.

“Depends on who you ask,” said one of the civilians, a career bureaucrat from Treasury. “Some firms are scared to death of dissolution and some are eager to cash in on it. Military government? That’s no problem, they know they can work with us. Insurgency or civil war is another matter. Even if we win, they’re saying, that’ll trash what’s left of the economy and hand the rest of the world to Beijing. If we don’t win, they’re going to be hanging from lampposts and they know it.”

“Right next to you and me,” Mendoza said. No one laughed; they all knew the commandant was right.

“Here’s the question that matters.” Waite looked from face to face around the table. “Do any of you think we can make it work?” Nobody answered. After a long moment, Waite said, “Well.” He got to his feet. “I think we all know what comes next.”

P.T. “Pete” Bridgeport showed up at eight the next morning for his weekly talk with the president. A genial fixture in the Senate for three terms, he had been an obvious choice to take the vice presidency after Weed resigned. He neither liked nor trusted Gurney, but politics was politics and a job was a job; he put on his friendly smile and went through the door. He found the president staring at a flat screen with a face the color of putty and the expression of a man who had just been strangled.
“Good God, Lon,” Bridgeport said. “What is it?”
The president kept staring at the screen and said nothing. Bridgeport came around to see for himself. A TV newscast showed Admiral Waite in uniform in one of the Capitol briefing rooms. ADMIRAL: GURNEY PLANS MILITARY COUP was splashed across the bottom of the picture. “—a terrible idea,” Waite was saying, his face bland. The words at the bottom of the picture shifted: RESIGNS AS CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS. “But if this is how the American people decide they’re going to exercise their constitutional rights, the military’s job is to salute and say, ‘Yes, sir; yes, ma’am.’”

“Lon,” Bridgeport said quietly, “did you?” He had been told nothing of the military planning, but the president looked at him, and Bridgeport could read the answer in his face. “You’d better pack your bags,” he told Gurney then; his smile was gone, and his voice was suddenly that of the experienced politician explaining realities to a clueless junior. “They’re going to have your guts on toast.”

A president with strong public or Congressional backing could have survived the news, but Gurney had neither. At ten o’clock that morning, the Speaker of the House, ashen-faced, announced that other business would be set aside to consider a bill of impeachment. By the end of the day, nobody doubted that the bill would pass, and a head count of the Senate showed that conviction would follow. That night, Gurney had his press secretary read his resignation and fled the country on a private jet.

President Bridgeport took the oath of office a few minutes before midnight on November 12th, and his inaugural address called on Americans to join together and make the nation work again. Though his personal popularity was high, his message fell on deaf ears. For a great many Americans, Gurney’s failed coup had been the final straw, and Bridgeport’s efforts to rekindle a sense of patriotism were openly compared in the news media to Gorbachev’s attempts to relaunch Communism in the Soviet Union’s last days. Even his executive orders bringing the last US troops home from overseas and scrapping the nation’s obsolete carrier fleet did nothing to shift the terms of the debate.

There was little else Bridgeport could do, because the federal government was dissolving around him. The collapse in the dollar made federal salaries worth next to nothing, when plunging tax revenues allowed the government to pay them at all, and most federal employees simply walked off their jobs. Meanwhile, as the US dollar moved closer by the day to its ultimate value of zero, a pragmatic mix of barter, state scrip and Canadian dollars became the medium of exchange across much of the country.

The first state to ratify the 28th amendment, in a fine piece of irony, was South Carolina, the first state to secede in 1861. The ratifying convention met in Charleston on December 6th, and it took them less than three hours to pass through the formalities and vote for ratification; crowds sang “The Bonny Blue Flag” late into the night. Two days later Colorado met, and though it took longer—a loyalist faction fought hard—the results were the same. Before Colorado voted, Michigan met, and startled observers by voting against ratification. The next day, Iowa and New Mexico met, and voted to ratify.

That was the way it went, day after day, week after week. A handful of states bucked the trend, but only a handful, and the count rose steadily toward the crucial number of 38 states, three-quarters of the total. On January 29, when the Nebraska convention assembled in Lincoln, the count stood at 37 for and 9 against. It was a quiet, businesslike meeting. Once the delegates had been seated and the preliminary business taken care of, by unanimous vote, the convention closed debate and went straight to a roll call vote. By 118 to 32, the 28th amendment was ratified and the United States of America ceased to exist.

Three weeks later, Pete Bridgeport walked to the Capitol for lunch, greeting passersby on Pennsylvania Avenue as he went. The Capitol doors were unguarded these days; he went to the elevator and punched the floor for the Senate lunchroom. That was a restaurant now, serving the famous Congressional bean soup and sandwiches named after dead presidents to help keep the lights on in the old building. He knew the regulars at lunch, but this time Bridgeport spotted a crowd of unexpected faces.

“Pete!” A senator from Pennsylvania—former senator, Bridgeport reminded himself—waved him over. “Your timing’s good,” she said. “We’re inventing a country.”

“No kidding.” He ordered a bowl of soup and half a Harry Truman, paid in Canadian dollars, and went over to a long table where a dozen former senators and representatives sat over half-eaten lunches. The senator’s words were no surprise. New England had just declared itself a republic, nine southern states had delegates in Montgomery hammering out what wags were calling Confederacy 2.0, the republics of Texas and California had been proclaimed, and word was that Florida would follow shortly

The senator filled him in. “We’ve been at the Senate Office Building on the phones with the states all morning. The seven eastern states that voted against ratification are in. So are Ohio and Delaware—they called off their conventions once Nebraska made it moot. New Jersey only ratified because of Trenton; they want in, and Kentucky talked it over and decided they’d rather be with us than with the South. So what we’re saying is, okay, the rest of you don’t want the Union, that’s fine; we still do.”

“Thinking of using the old name?” Bridgeport asked.

“It’s got a nice sound to it, doesn’t it? Here, take a look at the map.” She handed him a printout: the old United States with a new border, marking off twelve states across the eastern core of the continent: from New York and the mid-Atlantic westward through Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky to Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, linking the Atlantic, the Great Lakes, and the upper Mississippi. It was, Bridgeport realized, a viable nation.

The senator looked past Bridgeport, waved. “Hi, Leona. Care to pull up a chair?”

Leona Price had been the District of Columbia’s nonvoting delegate to Congress, and was a lunchtime regular at the Capitol. The senator filled her in, and asked, “How about the District of Columbia?”

“How about the state of Columbia?” Price replied.

That stopped conversations at the table for a moment, but only a moment; the district’s aspirations to statehood had been common knowledge in the old Congress. “Rhode Island’s gone,” said an Ohio congressman down the table, “so, yeah, we’ve got an opening for a little state. You want the position?”

Price grinned. “Have to put it to the citizens, but I’m guessing yes.”

“Just a moment,” said Bridgeport. He left the table, found another lunchtime regular, a former Senate staffer, and talked to him in a low voice. The staffer left the lunchroom and was back five minutes later with a bundle of cloth. Bridgeport stood up, and said, “Can we clear some space in the middle here? This might be useful.” He and the staffer unrolled the bundle. Thirteen stars in a circle, thirteen red and white stripes: a tourist-shop copy of the original US flag lay spread in front of them. Bridgeport said
“It was a pretty good country, back when there were just thirteen states, and we weren’t trying to run the rest of the world. It could be a good country again.”
“It’ll take a lot of hard work, Mr. President,” said the senator from Pennsylvania. She emphasized the last two words. “A lot of hard work.”

They were all looking at him, Bridgeport realized: not just the senators and representatives, but people all over the lunchroom. “I know,” he said. “What do we need to do first?”

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Spector of Military Defeat 8/15/12
Ea O Ka Aina: How it Could Happen - Part 1 Hubris 10/3/12
Ea O Ka Aina: How it Could Happen - Part 2 Nemisis 10/10/12
Ea O Ka Aina: How it Could Happen - Part 3 The Brink 10/17/12
Ea O Ka Aina: How it Could Happen - Part 4 The Line 10/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Real US Map of Regions 10/5/11

Obama steering into Climate Storm

SUBHEAD: If President Obama's 'all of the above' energy policy is pursued, it's 'game over' for the climate.

By Jill Stein on 29 October 2012 for

Image above: Where Jill Stein was arrested. Forest to be cleared for Keystone XLPipline with protesters in trees. From original article.

"The Republicans and Democrats each talk about the election of the other party as the end of the world; maybe they're right," said Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein last night, as the first winds from superstorm Sandy buffeted her on the windy expanse of Boston City Hall plaza. Stein made her remarks at a vigil during a brief campaign stop in her home state. She heads to Texas tomorrow to support the Keystone XL pipeline Tars Sands Blockade.

Scientists tell us that we now have access to five times more fossil fuels than we can afford to burn without triggering catastrophic climate change.

"If President Obama's 'all of the above' energy policy is pursued, it's 'game over' for the climate," said Stein. "Romney once was honest about climate, but now is parroting industry lines. Hurricane Sandy is not the first warning we’ve had; let’s not let there be another such warning before we act decisively to move to a new green economy."

Stein noted that the recent events sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates were the first set of presidential debates since 1984 in which global warming was not mentioned. In response, over 2500 climate activists have signed a statement of support for Dr. Stein and criticizing the failures of the political establishment. See

Meanwhile, drought has blighted 60% of the corn crops in the U.S. and wildfires have turned thousands into refugees. The Arctic ice cap has lost 75% of its ice and dangerous methane gas is seeping out from melting subterranean deposits.

"The President and his Republican challenger are so firmly in the service of the gas, oil, and coal industries that they want to accelerate our plunge down the path of destruction," said Green Party vice presidential candidate Cheri Honkala, adding that, "The only vote that will count for action on climate change in this election is a vote for the Green Party."

At last year’s climate conference in Durban, South Africa, the White House’s team worked to delay the effective date of any international climate treaty until 2020. This will mean eight more crucial years of inaction that scientist universally agree could prove deadly for the planet. In fact, the President is proposing to spend 32 times more on his latest Wall Street bailout initiative, known as Quantitative Easing III, than he is spending on renewable energy.

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala are the only candidates talking about addressing the climate crisis head on by pushing for a 100% renewable carbon neutral economy, with full employment. The Green New Deal that they are proposing would create 25 million jobs in sustainable energy, agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing infrastructure, as well as in social services and public education.

"When we show that we take the climate crisis seriously enough to vote for the Green option, the power of democracy will be unleashed, and our political system will finally respond to this growing threat," said Stein.

Jill Stein Arrested

SUBHEAD: Green Party Presidential Nominee Arrested in Texas, Assisting Keystone XL Protesters

Matt McDermott on 31 October 2012 for TreeHugger -

Green Party candidate for president Jill Stein may be the most-arrested candidate in history: Tar Sands Blockade reports that Stein had helped successfully to resupply tree-sitters in Sacul and Winnsboro, Texas, protesting preliminary land clearance for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, now in their 38th day. Stein was arrested and taken to Wood County Jail.

Stein said:
"The climate is taking this election by storm, breaking the silence of the Obama and Romney campaigns that have been bought and paid for by the oil, coal and gas companies. Hurricane Sandy is just a taste of what's to come under the climate destroying policies of Romney and Obama. We must stand up now and call for climate solutions and green prosperity. The blockaders are heroes. They are on the front line of stopping even worse climate storms in the future."


Why I'm Voting for Jill Stein

SUBHEAD: The goal of achieving 5% of the popular vote for the Green Party and Jill Stein is tangible and achievable.

By Joe Giambrone on 29 October 2012 for OpEd News -

Image above: Jill Stein before arrest protesting Keystone Pipeline clear cutting. From (

[IB Editor's note: There are many who think voting for a candidate with no chance of winning is a waste and possibly worse. This could be argued was the case in 2000 when Gore "lost" by a few hundred "chads" in Florida, while Ralph Nader gathered many of the progressive votes. In toss-up critical states this can be argued to be self destructive to progressives. However, instates like Hawaii, California and New York such a case id hard to maintain. Vote with your heart as well as your mind.]

The Greens are the best hope today in the US for advancing a progressive, sane, legal and ethical agenda. Voting for the Green Party has a tangible goal and benefit, a benchmark to strive for: 5% of the vote.

David Cobb, a Green Party leader, laid out the Party's 2012 election strategy:
a) Receive 5% of the popular vote to qualify for 2016 FEC matching funds
b) Qualify (or maintain) state ballot lines wherever possible
c) Assist local candidates earn media, attract volunteers and GET ELECTED
d) Convince voters to join the Green Party (register Green where possible, and to actively participate in local GP efforts)

This is a strategy to build over the long term. That is the best that conscientious Americans can hope for today. Build over the long term by simply registering Green Party and encouraging your circles to do the same. It doesn't cost you a dime, and it doesn't affect any election at all, but it is a strong symbolic act that builds the party one citizen at a time. It also sends an unequivocal message that delegitimizes the mainstream corporate parties. Without legitimacy, they are far easier targets.

We all know America has a completely fucked-up electoral system. Voting Green Party is one sane, rational response to this abominable situation, which makes logical sense and remains one of the few legal remedies to a government out of control and acting beyond the Constitution and rule of law generally.

The plutocrats and their lackeys in office will not restrain themselves. They don't have to. The only real solution is to replace their functionaries in a populist, democratic upsurge.

The Occupy Movement can send a clear message, in language politicians understand, by registering Green Party and showing up on Election Day to disturb the entrenched powers. They may not win, but they will move the ball just a little bit farther down the field. If one is willing to risk arrest, hypothermia, beatings and tear gas -- why not risk a tick on a ballot line? Or a registration form to add your voice to the Green Party's rolls?

Occupiers should know that Jill Stein and her vice-presidential nominee Cheri Honkala were arrested outside the second Obama/Romney debate and treated like common criminals. Greens have been placed on "no-fly lists" and harassed for opposing the sham democracy entrenched in Washington DC. They are probably under FBI surveillance as well.

The goal of achieving 5% of the popular vote for the Green Party and Jill Stein is tangible and achievable. Most people in the United States live in uncontested states. As the corporate/fascist news harps on about "swing states," most Americans do not live in these states. What about them? What about their votes?

If you live in a state such as California, which is not a "swing state" but firmly in Obama's column, then casting a vote for Romney or Obama is the definition of a "wasted vote." Your vote will not and cannot affect anything. Contrarily, a vote for the Green Party may push that party over the 5% threshold allowing it to qualify for millions of dollars in Federal Election Commission matching funds in the next election cycle. These millions can be used to wake up a much more significant portion of the populace. This scenario is what Democrats fear the most, and they resort to absurd anti-democratic arguments to try and coerce voters into voting for their war criminal in chief.

Earl Ofari Hutchison has warned of the "Naderizing" of Obama and called out "Nader apologists" to atone for their alleged sins and to vote his way. Discarding the actual theft of Florida in 2000 by Jeb Bush and company, which Greg Palast covered for BBC but the US news pointedly ignored, Hutchinson lies about how and why the 2000 election went to Bush. Hutchinson blatantly attempts to delegitimize the existence of third parties in a recent undemocratic and blinded piece of propaganda that should disgust almost every American.

Further disgust should register as a man of integrity, Ralph Nader, who fought for consumer safety and accountability in government for decades, is scapegoated while the documented disenfranchisement of "up to 91,000 voters" from the Florida voting rolls in 2000 is ignored as if it never happened. Further, the counting of the 2000 ballots was illegally stopped in a kangaroo court ruling that effectively ended American democracy. The problems of the US voting system are now so flagrant that Palast counted up "5,220,576 legitimate votes and voters tossed out of the count" in the last presidential election, 2008.

Independent third-party candidates were censored out of the duopoly debates, of course, as is the norm in the "land of the free." However, an independent debate did occur over at, where you can catch the replay online. A second debate between Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian frontman Gary Johnson will occur on Tuesday, October 30th, at 9pm EST/6pm PST. It will be broadcast on various independent outlets such as RT America (Russia Today),, and on Youtube via the Free and Equal website.

I'm not sure how self-described "progressives" expect real change to occur when they vote for the same old imperial / Wall Street shills time and time again. Obama has proven himself -- to Wall Street -- and after raising more than $700,000,000.00 in 2008, Obama is set to top $1Bn this term, having already cashed checks for "$988 million" (Chicago Tribune, 10.25.12). That kind of money buys a lot of immunity from prosecution. It installs people like Geithner and Summers in the top financial spots of his administration. It buys a lot more war, too. Their money, your vote. Whom do you think is represented more in this equation?

I've suggested to Green Party members how to more quickly increase their numbers and build momentum. This strategy is in line with David Cobb's priorities to make the party a legitimate alternative to corporate/elite-sponsored fascism, over the long haul. Let's hope Americans agree and wipe the sleep out of their eyes, turn off their X-Boxes, look up from tapping on their phones about nothing, and smell the collapse all around them. Further, let's hope they decide to do the right thing. Support the alternative you want to see, not the criminals who claim to have you by the balls. Grow a backbone, for God's sake. It's about more than Election Day; it's about every other day in between. You're going to have to work for it if you want to reverse a decline this severe, this dangerous, this overtly unlawful and steeped in fanciful myths about ourselves and our place in the world.

I'm voting Green and FOR Jill Stein, which is a bit of a luxury living in California where a vote for the others wouldn't matter in the slightest. In a swing state, I would probably have to recalculate my tactics, knowing that these are simply tactics. I might even just consider expatriation more seriously (I love you, Iceland, and your brand new Constitution). I would, however, register in the party that represents me best and encourage others to do likewise. Anything else is betrayal, a betrayal of conscience, of values, of one's own ethics. Make your presence matter and reject the elite's call for obedient sheeple. That's not you. You're better than that. This nation is better than that.

• Joe Giambrone is a filmmaker and author of Hell of a Deal. He edits The Political Film Blog, which welcomes well-written submissions and features articles from over 60 fine writers. Reach him at: polfilmblog at gmail.

Climate 911

SUBHEAD: With Frankenstorm Sandy has that moment arrived when we finally "get" Climate Change? We can only hope so.

By Ugo Bardi on 31 October 2012 for Cassandra's Legacy -

Image above: Intersection of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York City.  From cell phone photo supplied by Laura Wilson.

A few weeks ago, I published a post titled "Climate, a 9/11 moment?  (see below) on Cassandra's legacy. In it, I said that we could experience a "9/11 moment" when:

"Something will happen; something so big, so horrible, so terrifying that people will watch the news in TV while telling themselves: 

"It is happening now, it is happening to us!

Does Hurricane Sandy fit the description? For sure it has caused the return of climate change in the mainstream news. Enough to qualify as a "9/11 moment?" Perhaps not, but surely we'll have more of these moments in the future. It is going to happen.

By Ugo Bardi on 30 September 2012 for Cassandra's Legacy -
Maybe the moment will come when everyone will wake up to the climate situation. Something will happen; something so big, so horrible, so terrifying that people will watch the news in TV while telling themselves: "it is happening now, it is happening to us!" That could be a "9/11 moment" or, perhaps, a "Pearl Harbor" moment. Then, we may finally start doing something against climate change.

On the other hand, a general "aha" climate moment may never come. Already plenty of big, horrible, and terrifying things have happened, with most people barely noticing. Think of the melting of the North Pole of this year. It had never happened on this planet for the past 3 million years, possibly as many as 13 million years. Isn't that dramatic enough? Apparently not, because the mainstream press barely mentioned it.

Most people just don't seem to be able to connect the dots, to see the relation of climate change to all what is happening around us. Will we boil a little more every summer, always expecting next summer to be better? Will we run out of oil and blame speculation? Will we starve and blame the financial crisis? We have already seen environmental concerns being swept away from the political agenda by concerns about the financial crisis, the cost of gasoline, jobs, security, and all the rest. So, how are we going to react to the next climate crisis? Maybe retreating even deeper into denial.

Back to many centuries ago, Rutilius Namatianus left us a report from the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire. He saw disaster all around him: Rome sacked, the roads destroyed, the legions defeated, people dying. And yet, he couldn't understand the reasons for what he was seeing. He saw all these events just as temporary reverse of fortunes. Rome has been in trouble before, Rome will be great again, he says.

But none of those in charge during the last decades of the Empire could understand what was happening (with perhaps one exception). They could only keep doing what they had been doing before, always hoping that the following year would be better than the past one. Perhaps that will be our destiny, too. There is a difference, though. If the Romans were blind to what was happening to them, we were warned in advance but we chose to close our eyes.

Nuking the Second World

SUBHEAD: Nuclear power is charming the developing world as the West and Japan recoils from Fukushima.

By Rupert Neate on 27 October 2012 for the Guardian -

Image above: The BHP Billiton's giant Olympic Dam uranium mine project in South Australiais on hold because demand has temporarily 'collapsed'. From (

As the mood in Japan, Germany, Italy and even France hardens, China is restarting its huge reactor program and India is looking to atomic power to shore up its creaking grid.

A nuclear fuel pellet the size of your little finger provides more energy than 800 kilograms of coal or 650 litres of oil – and all without belching any carbon dioxide or other fumes into the atmosphere.

But the intense power of uranium, the raw material of nuclear fuel, was demonstrated to the world by the Fukushima disaster last year. Its price on global markets has collapsed, from a record $136 a pound in 2007 to just $44 last week – a slump so severe that some of the world's biggest miners have decided they're better off leaving the mineral in the ground.

The market suffered further blows in the last month or so as several developed-world governments announced or confirmed plans to move away from atomic power for good.

But even as the west retreats, the nuclear industry may be about to rise again – in the developing world. In the last few days, China announced plans to restart its massive £170bn reactor building programme, intended to create generating capacity so large that it could power the whole of Spain.

Last March, Japan went into lockdown and shut all of its nuclear plants, which had provided 30% of the nation's electricity. Fears of a nuclear apocalypse rippled across the globe, turning the lights out at reactors around the world, and many of them still lie idle 18 months later.

Japan, which is now running a series of expensive and polluting diesel generators at 100% capacity to replace its nuclear fleet, has announced plans to completely end its reliance on nuclear power by 2040, at an estimated cost of $620bn. Germany and Belgium are also giving up on nuclear power, while Italy has cancelled a long-planned move back to it, and even France – the most pro-nuclear country in the world – is scaling things down.

The future of the UK's nuclear ambitions also hangs in the balance after Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of EDF Energy, the French company charged with building new reactors in the UK, told parliament the company had yet to make up its mind whether it was worth building plants without support from the government. Two German companies – RWE and E.ON – have already pulled out of the Horizon joint venture to build new nuclear plants in the UK.

"It is the same as after Chernobyl. There are huge question marks hanging over whether we should have [nuclear power] – a lot of countries are umm-ing and err-ing," says Heenal Patel, a senior industrial analyst at Bloomberg Industries.

Patel says President François Hollande's decision to close France's oldest nuclear plant last month, and his commitment to lowering the country's dependence on nuclear power from 75% to 50% of total electricity demand, has caused the biggest waves in the industry: "If the world's most pro-nuclear country is blowing cold it is noticed by other countries."

Uranium miners have noticed the cool wind too. This summer, BHP Billiton, the giant Anglo-Australian mining group, shelved plans for the world's largest open-pit copper and uran, and announced it has no plans to build or acquire other uranium minesium mine in south Australia.

The £12bn Olympic Dam mega-project would have transformed the mine 350 miles north of Adelaide into a massive pit capable of producing 19,000 tonnes of uranium a year. Explaining the decision to stall the project, Marius Kloppers, BHP's chief executive, said demand for uranium had "collapsed". BHP has also sold off its Yeelirrie uranium field in Western Australia.

Canada's Cameco, the world's third-largest uranium miner, has said it is only worth pressing ahead with its Kintyre uranium project in Australia's Great Sandy Desert if the uranium price climbs back above $67 a pound.

Patel said that if the uranium price keeps falling, "manufacturers are going to look to keep it in the ground … That's the great thing about being a mining company: you can decide whether to produce or not. The uranium isn't going anywhere."

Paladin Energy, which mines uranium in Malawi and Namibia (the largest sources of uranium oxide, or "yellowcake", after Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia), has warned that if the price stays depressed, supply will dip by 25% by 2020.

Chief executive John Borshoff says his analysis "confirms a supply industry in crisis, in which production is unable to meet emerging requirements in the short to medium term".

Another, more unusual, source of uranium could also run dry soon. At present, about 16% of the world's uranium (and half of supplies used in American reactors) come from Soviet nuclear weapons.

The "megatons to megawatts" programme, which formed part of the 1993 US-Russia non-proliferation treaty, has seen highly enriched uranium from the equivalent of 18,000 Russian warheads converted to lower-grade fuel for use at power plants in the US cities at which they were once aimed. But the programme is due to come to an end next year.

Despite the current collapse in demand, analysts say the uranium price will recover in the long term. The rapacious growth of China and India will be dependent on nuclear fuel, and the oil-rich Gulf nations are planning big forays into nuclear so that they can extend the lifetime of their highly profitable oil exports.

There are 65 reactors being built around the world, and 69% of them are in the fast-growing Bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Beijing's ambitious programme will increase nuclear from 2% to 5% of the country's electricity supply by 2020, and make China the world's biggest market for new nuclear equipment.

India – which lacks fossil fuel resources and has been growing so fast that its electricity supply is falling 12% short at peak hours, causing frequent blackouts – is also planning a massive expansion programme. The country hopes nuclear will account for 50% of its electricity needs by 2050, up from just 3.7% last year.

To raise nuclear output, India has had to convince uranium producers to provide supplies, despite long-held concerns over India's nuclear weapons programme. Four years ago, the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group exempted India from a 30-year ban on exports to countries that have failed to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty after receiving assurances that no nuclear imports would find their way to the military.

This month Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, held talks with his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard, with the aim of reversing Australia's decision to maintain its own ban on exports to India. Lifting the ban will boost Australia's miners, which produced 7,529 tonnes of uranium worth A$782m (£500m) last year, but could cause problems at home: nuclear power is a sensitive topic in a country that has decide not to build any nuclear plants despite having the world's largest uranium reserves.

Patel reckons Japan will be forced to follow China and India and re-embrace nuclear despite the memories of Fukushima. "Like India, they don't have a huge amount of natural resources, and that's why Japan was so into nuclear … They have had to import a whole lot more oil and gas, which is expensive and not great for energy security."


Five reactors shutdown by Sandy

SUBHEAD: One plant lost power critical to keep spent fuel rods from overheating, but the two diesel generators activated.

By Mark Shone on 30 October 2012 for ABC News -

Image above: Cooling towers at Salem Nuclear Power Plant near Philadelphia. Unit #1 was shutdown because of Sandy. From original article.

The nation's oldest nuclear plant declared an alert and a second plant just 40 miles from New York City was forced to shut down power as five different nuke plants in Hurricane Sandy's path experienced problems during the storm.

Indian Point in Buchanan, New York, on the Hudson River north of New York City, automatically shut power to its unit 3 on Monday night "as a result of an electrical grid disturbance," according to Entergy, the plant's operator.

The connection between the generator and the offsite grid was lost, and the unit is designed to shut down to protect itself from electrical damage. Entergy said there was no release of radioactivity, no damage to equipment, and no threat to the public health.

"At Indian Point yesterday the river level and wind had no impact on plant operation," said a spokesman. Another unit at the plant continues to operate, and the company expects unit 3 to return to service within days.

Operators also declared an alert at the nation's oldest nuclear plant, Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, New Jersey, on Monday evening after the center of Sandy made landfall, "due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant's water intake structure."

The alert level is the "the second lowest of four action levels," as defined by the NRC.

"Water level is rising in the intake structure due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge," the NRC said Monday. "It is anticipated water levels will begin to abate within the next several hours."

Exelon Corporation, the owner of the plant, said in a statement that there was "no threat to the public health or safety" from the situation.

The plant also lost power, which is critical to keep spent fuel rods from overheating, but "the station's two backup diesel generators activated immediately," and it has two weeks of diesel fuel on site, Exelon said.

A reactor at an Exelon facility outside Philadelphia, Limerick Generating Station, was ramped down to 91 percent power after Sandy caused a problem with its condenser.

A unit at a fourth plant 43 miles from Philadelphia, Salem Nuclear Power Plant on Delaware Bay in southern New Jersey, was manually shut down just after 1 a.m. Tuesday morning "when four of the station's six circulating water pumps were no longer available due to weather impacts from Hurricane Sandy," according to plant co-owner PSEG Nuclear.

"No issues were encountered during the Salem Unit 1 shutdown," said PSEG Nuclear, "and the plant is currently stable. In addition to the operating crews onsite, Salem has designated response teams available."

At the Nine Mile Point plant near Oswego, New York, in what operators say "is likely a storm-related event," unit 1 shut down automatically around 9 p.m. Monday because of an electrical fault, while unit 2 experienced a power loss from an incoming power line because of the same fault. An emergency diesel generator started automatically to supply power to unit 2.

The NRC said that the operators are still evaluating the cause of the event. "All plant safety systems responded as designed and the shutdown was safely carried out," said the NRC. Nine Mile Point is owned by CENG, a joint venture of Exelon and a French power company.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Weakest Link 10/27/12


Climate change-What climate change

SUBHEAD: The unprecedented Frankenstorm Sandy leaves death, dampness and darkness in its wake.

By Editorial Staff on 29 October 2012 for Charleston Gazette -

Image above: Homes that are devastated by fire and the effects of Hurricane Sandy are seen at the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough of New York October 30, 2012. From article below on storm update.

A Charleston church group recently heard a slide lecture on billion-dollar weather damage and mass human suffering caused by global warming, worsened by air pollution. The grim show came from the Climate Reality Project headed by former Vice President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his warnings.

The lecture is apt today as Hurricane Sandy, the "Frankenstorm," ravages the populous East Coast. Hurricanes, caused by ocean heat, have become stronger, deadlier, more costly. Sandy spans nearly 2,000 miles across its cloud swirl, almost the distance from Charleston to California.
More Frankenstorms and other weather horrors can be expected, the Gore group says. It warns:
  • Tornados have become worse menaces, obliterating some cities such as Joplin, Missouri.
  • Floods and mudslides from monster rains ravage Third World cities. Mississippi Valley floods also have become more destructive.
  • Droughts are turning some agriculture regions into worthless desert, bankrupting farmers and elevating food prices.
  • Wildfires have consumed vast sections of western forest and suburban neighborhoods.
  • Tropical diseases and parasites keep moving northward.
  • Record-breaking heat waves kill thousands of people around the world.

Image above: This CCTV photo released by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey shows flood waters from Hurricane Sandy rushing in to the Hoboken PATH station through an elevator shaft on October 29, 2012. From article below on storm update. 

Much of this mayhem stems from the fact that warmer air holds more moisture, causing more violent storms. Oddly, cloudburst rains in one sector can mean drought in another. Only a slight temperature increase can produce "weather on steroids," one expert dubbed it.  Ph.D. meteorologist Jeff Masters said:
"Look at heat waves, drought and flooding events. They all tend to get increased when you have this extra energy in the atmosphere. I call it being on steroids for the atmosphere."
Gore himself says "dirty weather" stems from "dirty air." He adds: "Ferocious storms and deadly heat waves are occurring with alarming frequency all over the world. We are living with the reality of the climate crisis every day."

His associate, Maggie Fox, adds:
"Fossil fuel companies and their allies will go to great lengths to deny the fact that climate change is happening now. But we have one powerful response: Reality."
Insurers suffer growing losses. A giant reinsurance firm, Munich Re, warned: "Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America." Travelers issued a brochure saying U.S. thunderstorms caused $25 billion damage last year.

West Virginia politicians and coal moguls won't acknowledge that air pollution from fossil fuels creates a "greenhouse" layer in the sky that traps heat on Earth's surface and causes "weather on steroids." But snowballing evidence indicates that this global heat-up is inflicting terrible losses on humanity. The current Frankenstorm is one further warning to consider.

Plenty of other climate-deniers exist. In his acceptance speech at the GOP convention, Mitt Romney drew laughs when he sneered: "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet." We wonder if those delegates still are snickering today.

Sample of Live Frankenstorm Updates

By Staff on 30 October 30 2012 for  Russian Times-

Oct. 30, 15:01 EDT: US President Barack Obama will travel to storm-stricken New Jersey on Wednesday to view damage, thank first responders.

Oct. 30, 14:32 EDT: Schools in the US capital will re-open on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.

Oct. 30, 14:06 EDT: US death toll jumps to 38. More than 8.2 million people across the eastern US are without power.
Oct. 30, 13:21 EDT: Alert remains in place at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey.

Oct. 30, 12:55 EDT: New York Stock Exchange will reopen Wednesday after being shut down for 2 days.

Oct. 30, 12:24 EDT: The Associated Press reports that death toll from hurricane Sandy has climbed to 33; many of the victims killed by falling trees.

Oct. 30, 11:37 EDT: New York mayor's office confirms all bridges over the East River have been opened. That includes Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Ed Koch Queensboro (59th Street) bridges.

Oct. 30, 11:14 EDT: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says at least 10 people died in NYC as result of storm.

Oct. 30, 11:07 EDT: 750,000 New Yorkers remain without power, Mayor Bloomberg tells reporters. All public transport remains closed until further notice.

Oct. 30, 11:04 EDT: New York City Mayor Bloomberg says Metro Trasport Authority CEO told him Sandy is the worst natural disaster in the subway's 108-year history.

Oct. 30, 10:55 EDT: All three airports serving the New York City area – JFK, LaGuardia and Newark – remain closed. Airports in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC are open.

Oct. 30, 10:39 EDT: New Jersey Governor Christie says 2.4 million households have been affected by Sandy – twice the number from Hurricane Irene in 2011; over 5,000 people have been placed in shelters.

Oct. 30, 10:36 EDT: New Jersey Governor Christie: "The devastation is unprecedented – like nothing we've ever seen reported before."

Oct. 30, 10:23 EDT: NJ Governor Christie said the state of NJ is working with the Salvation Army and Red Cross to bring in mobile kitchens. He also said the state is utilizing FEMA food and water resources.
Oct. 30, 10:21 EDT: In a press conference, NJ Governor Chris Christie said there is major damage on each and every one of New Jersey's rail lines.

Oct. 30, 09:54 EDT: MTA chairman says New Yorkers should expect mass transit to return “in pieces and parts” in the days to come.

Oct. 30, 09:51 EDT: Sewage is flowing into the main stem of the Little Patuxent River in Savage, Maryland at a rate of 2 million gallons per hour. Officials say a power outage at a water treatment plant is to blame.

Oct. 30, 09:37 EDT: NYC metro, rail, and bus service to resume on limited schedule (Sunday service) at 2pm EDT.

Oct. 30, 09:22 EDT: Officials say the fire in the Breezy Point section of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens involves 80 to 100 homes. A fire department spokesman says nearly 200 firefighters are currently at the scene.

Oct. 30, 09:15 EDT: MTA chairman says all seven subway tunnels that connect Manhattan to Brooklyn & Queens are flooded.

Oct. 30, 08:51 EDT: At least 5,751 flights have been canceled in North America for Tuesday, around 15,500 flights have been affected by the storm.

Oct. 30, 08:23 EDT: Since midnight, 911 has received 8,362 calls. 4,807 calls are waiting to be answered.

Oct. 30, 08:03 EDT: The Red Cross reported that nearly 11,000 people spent Monday night in its shelters across 16 states.

Oct. 30, 07:55 EDT: Power company Con Edison is reporting 684,000 customers without power in the New York City area.

Oct. 30, 06:40 EDT: Damage costs estimates to exceed $20 billion in US alone.

Oct. 30, 06:04 EDT: Post-Sandy forecast predicts five days of rain, according to National Weather Service.

Oct. 30, 05:59 EDT: Total of 83 people killed by hurricane Sandy: 15 in US, 1 in Canada, and 67 in the Caribbean.

Oct. 30, 05:53 EDT: Authorities in Bergen County, New Jersey, are evacuating residences after the storm broke a levee and flooded several communities with up to 5 feet (1.5m) of water.

Oct. 30, 05:44 EDT: President Obama declared hurricane Sandy “major disaster” in New York.

Oct. 30, 05:20 EDT: Sandy death toll rises to 16 people in US.

Oct. 30, 04:11 EDT: At least 50 homes were completely destroyed in Breezy Point fire, NY.

Oct. 30, 03:59 EDT: Fire engulfs 15 houses in Breezy Point, Queens, NY, as 170 firefighters are on scene battling the blaze.

Oct. 30, 03:53 EDT: At least 13 people have been killed across the US and Canada in storm-related incidents as Sandy continues to devastate the East Coast.

Oct. 30, 03:52 EDT: 6.5 million of people remain without power across the US as the result of hurricane Sandy.

Oct. 30, 03:40 EDT: New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority stated this is worst disaster in the history of the NYC subway system.

Oct. 30, 02:29 EDT: It could take up to four days to get the water out of the flooded NY subway tunnels, according to Metro Transit Authority spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

Oct. 30, 02:26 EDT: Woman has died after being rescued in the Atlantic along with 14 other crewmembers having abandoned HMS Bounty ship in rough Sandy weather, US Coast guard reported.

Oct. 30, 02:26 EDT: Seven New York subway tunnels have been flooded as a result of Sandy.

Oct. 30, 02:22 EDT: 6.5 million people are now without power across the US because of Sandy.

Oct. 30, 02:10 EDT: Sandy is estimated to cost insurers somewhere between $5-10 billion, Wall Street Journal reports.

Oct. 30, 01:51 EDT: Post-tropical storm Sandy is now located just south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Oct. 30, 01:31 EDT: Reports of major fire in the Rockaway Park area of Queens, New York.

Oct. 30, 00:35 EDT: Sandy death toll reaches 13 nationwide.

Oct. 30, 00:19 EDT: 5.8 million people left without power nationwide from Sandy as of midnight.

Oct. 30, 00:05 EDT: Dozens of ambulances are evacuating NYU hospital patients to Sloan Kettering and Mt. Sinai hospitals due to a generator failure.

Oct. 30, ­00:01 EDT: Power has been lost at the New York University Hospital in Lower Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg says the city will now start evacuating people from the facility.

Oct. 29, 23:53 EDT : Up to 14 inches of snow reported in Tucker County, West Virginia – Weather Channel.

Oct. 29, 23:41 EDT: More than 1.5 million people in New York State are without power, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted.

Oct. 29, 23:11 EDT: As the storm pounds the East Coast, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has declared an "Alert" at a power plant in Oyster Creek, New Jersey. “The plant, currently in a regularly scheduled outage, declared the Alert at approximately 8:45 p.m. EDT due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant’s water intake structure,” the agency said in a statement.

Oct. 29, 23:00 EDT: 911 is receiving 10,000 calls per half hour, NYC Mayor’s Office reports.

Oct. 29, 22:55 EDT: The main building of Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital is on fire, local news blog Sheepshead Bites reports. Emergency services cannot reach the site, as the streets surrounding the hospital are flooded.

Oct. 29, 22:26 EDT: At least 10 people have been killed by the disaster, according to AP. Casualties were reported in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
One woman has been killed by a falling sign in Toronto as high winds reached Canada.

Oct. 29, 22:20 EDT: Reports of flooding from Sandy in PATH train stations in Hoboken and Jersey City along the Hudson River.

Oct. 29, 22:19 EDT: The National Weather Service confirms that high tide has passed in New York City, and water should begin receding from Lower Manhattan.

Oct. 29, 22:05 EDT: A New York Stock Exchange official has told ABC News that prior reports of flooding on the exchange's floor off Wall Street in Lower Manhattan are "egregiously false."

Oct. 29, 22:00 EDT: The death toll in New York City due to Sandy has now reached five.

Oct. 29, 21:40 EDT: At least one man has been killed after a tree fell on his house in the Queens section of New York City.

Oct. 29, 20:47 EDT: An explosion took place at a Con Edison power station in Manhattan, New York.
Oct. 29, 20:45 EDT: Social networks users on Manhattan's Lower East Side are reporting a "huge explosion" that preceded power going out.

Oct. 29, 20:35 EDT: Power has gone out in much of Lower Manhattan, though it has not been confirmed whether it was an outage or an intentional shutdown by Consolidated Edison.

Oct. 29, 20:30 EDT: ­The Statue of Liberty's torch has gone out. It was followed by flickering lights across Lower Manhattan, and what appeared to be two explosions in the sky over New Jersey, close to New York City.

Oct. 29, 20:14 EDT: ­The center of superstorm Sandy has reached the US state of New Jersey, the National Hurricane Center says.

Oct. 29, 20:00 EDT: ­
In Manhattan's East Village district, streets two blocks in from the East River are under roughly two feet of water, according to pictures circulating on Twitter.

Oct. 29, 19:54 EDT: ­NYC's Robert F. Kennedy Bridge has been shut down due to winds exceeding 100 mph, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reports.

Oct. 29, 19:51 EDT: NYC's utilities provider, Consolidated Edison, cuts power to part of lower Manhattan to avoid storm damage.

Oct. 29, 19:42 EDT: ­The storm caused a façade of an entire building to collapse in Manhattan’s Chelsea district.


Three Years - Three Tsunamis

SUBHEAD: Hawaii has been lucky these last three years, with major earthquakes on the rim in each. But we are unscathed.

By Juan Wilson on 28 October 2012 for Island Breath -

Image above: Frame from live KITV broadcast just before tsunami struck Hawaii showing diagram of expected peak effect of Caanadian Earthquake from Pacific Ysunami Warning Center.

I guess we have been blessed in some way I do not understand over the last few years. We live in Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, surrounded The Ring of Fire ( That ring is the extensive string of volcanically active ocean trenches  that surround the Pacific Ocean rim from: the Peru-Chile Trench in the east; to the Aleutian Trench in the north; to the Marianas Trench in the west; to the Tonga Trench in the south.

Even though Hawaii is far from all this trouble, it is far from immune to tsunami damage. On April 1, 1946, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake near the Aleutian Islands created a 40 foot high tsunami that hit Hilo, Hawaii 4.9 hours later, killing 160 people. Then again in 1960 a Chilean tsunami hit in Hilo and left 61 people dead and 282 seriously injured. (,_Hawaii).

Less well known and closer to us was the 1957 tsunami that hit Kauai's north shore. ( That disaster took out the town of Kahiliwai and the bridge that crossed the stream near the ocean. Neither was ever rebuilt.

The Miracle
To me it is an astounding fact that Hawaii has been in the path of three tsunamis, generated from three massive earthquakes,  coming from three different continents, in three consecutive years - and we have come through that almost untouched.

Image above: Crowd stares art apartment buildings knocked down in Concetcion, Chile, by earthquake. From article below. 

First is was the Chilean Earthquake in 2010.  

This from a news flash at the time (
At 3:34 am local time, today, February 27th, a devastating magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded. According to Chilean authorities, over 400 people are now known to have been killed. The earthquake also triggered a Tsunami which is right now propagating across the Pacific Ocean, due to arrive in Hawaii in hours (around 11:00 am local time). The severity of the Tsunami is still not known, but alerts are being issued across the Pacific.
Then there was was the Japanese Earthquake in 2011.

On March 11, 2011,  an magnitude 8.9  earthquake devastated Japan's eastern coastline and destroying 4 nuclear power plants. It sent a tsunami was across the Pacific that endangered Hawaii. (
In Japan 15,844 people have been confirmed dead since the March 11 disaster, the national police agency said. In addition, the whereabouts of 3450 people are yet to be confirmed, the police said, as the hunt for bodies - many of which are believed to have been washed out to sea - continues.
To date only a minor amount of destruction, radioactivity and debris has reached Hawaii.

Now we just came through the Canadian Earthquake of 2012.

On October 27, 2012, an 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck Canada (

At least 100,000 people in Hawaii were ordered to move from the shoreline to higher ground late on Saturday after a tsunami warning, but the first waves were less forceful than had been feared and no damage was initially reported.

The tsunami, triggered by a powerful earthquake off Canada's Pacific coast, began shortly after 10:30 p.m. Hawaii time, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, as motorists clogged roadways in a mass exodus from low-lying areas.
We have been blessed. But don't get too complacent. KITV in Honolulu was set up for start to finish coverage of the incoming tsunami on Saturday night. They almost seemed disappointed when hardly a ripple rolled into Waikiki where people stood on the shore with plastic cups of beer - waiting for the show to begin. However, eventually we will be hit.And it will hurt.

Probably the worst case scenario for us is a tsunami generated by a major underwater landslide right here in Hawaii. They have happened in the distant past and travel across the island chain in just a few minutes.



SUBHEAD: With power outages of a week or more projected in aftermath of storm, we could see an interruption in the election in the Northeast.

By James Kunstler on 29 October 2012 for -

Image above: Full moon storm on Halloween. From (

With little to do while waiting for something possibly very bad to happen people tend to get jokey. That was how I felt about the election until Hurricane Sandy came along. For one thing, I happened to travel (by car - how else?) last week from Bennington through Brattleboro, Vermont, and down into a de-industrialized corner of northwestern Massachusetts.

There were at least three major highway bridge re-construction projects (and many lesser ones) still underway along the route from last year's Hurricane Irene, which devastated Vermont. There's a fair chance that Vermont will get whacked again, undoing a billion dollars of work along the same mountain river roads. How demoralizing will that be? And where does the local share of the money come from?

I remember, too, being in Wilkes-Barre, in Eastern Pennsylvania just a few years ago and seeing that the city never actually recovered from floods induced by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, which coincided with the beginning of the end of the local coal industry. The downtown was functionally dead, with a zombie overlay of social services, wig shops, and street people conversing with themselves. It appears that Hurricane Sandy is going to rip through the same region again, then curl east into my part of upstate New York and finally slog into the same new England states that got bashed last year.

Then, of course, there is the question of what happens to New York City in the next 48 hours, a potential enormity too vast to quantify from here (not to mention Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Wilmington, and the toxic waste dump formerly known as New Jersey).

My own main worry, sitting here in comfort, in a well-lighted room, is how widespread the electric power outages might be and how long might they last -- conceivably even through the election. Surely, Mr. Obama is pacing nervously now in some deep underground White House command center, worrying about what might be required if there is no electricity to run the voting machines across the nation's most populous region, or if many hundreds of thousands of voters get stranded at home by broken bridges and washed-out roads, or how many votes his government might lose if the juice stays on but he can't relieve the anticipated misery fast enough... with the idiot Romney kibitzing from the sideline.

I don't know if the US can take that kind of disruption and come out the other side the same way it went in. The systems that keep us going are already in trouble, some of them already teetering, like the airline industry, which can barely keep going with jet fuel clocking at 40 percent of its operating costs due to $90-a-barrel oil.

The political system itself is more fragile than we might suppose, despite the seemingly despotic reach of surveillance, the size of the government payroll, and the amazing complacency of the sports-and-fructose-saturated public. Few believe in the two major parties, or what they pretend to stand for, including many officers and foot-soldiers in those parties. If the system finds itself unable to hold an election on the day specified by the constitution, what happens then? Another trip to the Supreme Court. Uh-oh....

Anyway, Hurricane Sandy and all it portends this Monday morning is a nice distraction from all the other things un-winding, tottering, and fracturing in so many advanced nations. Promises of massive (and improbable) bailouts have kept the financial meltdown of Europe a few degrees below critical mass for a couple of months, but the thermometer is inching upward with the ominous Catalan regional election in Spain tipping well toward the secessionists, and Greece whirling around the economic drain, with all of its previous bail-out money merely yo-yoing back to the client banks of the "troika" that arranged the bail-outs, and countries like Italy, Portugal, and Ireland whistling past the graveyard beyond the news media's peripheral vision.

And then there is China with its government transition hugger-mugger, its empty make-work cities, its crony banking system unaccountable to anyone, and its extremely modest reserves of its own oil to run the whole hastily constructed shootin' match. They have been working earnestly in plain sight - off the news media's radar screen - to construct a resource extraction empire in Africa, but then they will be stuck with the job of defending 12,000 mile supply lines. Good luck with that.

Finally, there is the nauseating spectacle of the presidential election itself, with two creatures of corporate capture pretending to represent the interests of some hypothetical majority who wish to remain the slaves of WalMart and Goldman Sachs. If Hurricane Sandy causes such massive disruption as to interfere with the election, perhaps that will be a good thing - a sudden, unavoidable re-thinking of our ossified institutional customs, and a thrust into the emergent history of the future.


Return on Energy Invested

SUBHEAD: Why future energy from fossil fuel may be abundant but too expensive to be of much use.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 29 October 2012 for Of Two Minds -

Image above: Cartoon of men running out of gas while building alternative source of energy. From (

It doesn’t matter how abundant liquid fossil fuels might be; it’s their cost that impacts the economy.

Many people think “peak oil” is about the world is “running out of oil."

Actually, “peak oil” is about the world running out of cheap, easy-to-get oil. That means fossil fuels might be abundant (supply exceeds demand) for a time but still remain expensive.

The abundance or scarcity of energy is only one factor in its price. As the cost of extraction, transport, refining, and taxes rise, so does the “cost basis” or the total cost of production from the field to the pump. Anyone selling oil below its cost basis will lose money and go out of business.

We are trained to expect that anything that is abundant will be cheap, but energy is a special case: it can be abundant but costly, because it’s become costly to produce.

EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) helps illuminate this point. In the good old days, one barrel of oil invested might yield 100 barrels of oil extracted and refined for delivery. Now it takes one barrel of oil to extract and refine 5 barrels of oil, or perhaps as little as 3 barrels of unconventional or deep sea oil.

In the old days, oil would shoot out of the ground once a hole was drilled down to the deposit. All the easy-to-find, easy-to-get oil has been consumed; now even Saudi Arabia must pump millions of gallons of water into its wells to push the oil up out of the ground. Recent discoveries of oil are in costly locales deep offshore or in extreme conditions. It takes billions of dollars to erect the platforms and wells to reach the oil, so the cost basis of this new oil is high.

It doesn’t matter how abundant liquid fossil fuels might be; it’s their cost that impacts the economy. High energy costs mean households must spend more of their income on energy, leaving less for savings and consumption. High energy costs act as a hidden “tax” on the economy, raising the price of everything that uses energy.

As household incomes drop and vehicles become more efficient, demand for gasoline declines. Normally, we would expect lower demand to lead to lower prices. But since the production costs of oil have risen, there is a “floor” for the price of gasoline. As EROEI drops, the price floor rises, regardless of demand.

This decrease in real incomes and ratcheting-higher energy costs could lead to a situation where energy is abundant but few can afford to buy much of it.

The relative abundance of fracked natural gas and low-energy density fossil fuels like tar sands and shale has led to a media frenzy that confuses abundance with low cost. This article (via correspondent Steve K.) illustrates the tone and breezy selection of data to back up the "no worries, Mate" forecast of abundant cheap liquid fuels: An economy awash in oil. (MacLeans)

Not so fast, reports Rex Weyler of the Deep Green Blog. Here is Rex's response to the above article.
Fair point about the volume of unconventional – deepwater, shale gas & oil, tar sands, etc. – hydrocarbons. These reserves may even produce peakies and/or sustain the plateau longer than some observers believe. However, biophysical restraints remain real; peak oil remains real; peak net energy appears imminent, and the impact on economies is already being felt globally. Points to consider: =
The dregs: In spite of huge shale & tar reserve discoveries, peak discoveries remain well behind us, in the 1960s. My father, a petroleum geologist his entire life (and still, in Houston, Kazakstan...), knew about shale and tar deposits when I was a teenager in the 1960s. He called them "the dregs." These deposits are not really news within the oil industry. And they are the dregs because of high cost, low EROI and rapid depletion.
EROI: The volume of these low-net-energy reserves could extend peak oil production for decades, but at fast-declining net energy returned to society. We high-graded Earth’s hydrocarbons, just as we high-graded the forests, fish, copper, tin, water, and so forth. We’ve taken the best, highest EROI hydrocarbons, the 100:1 free-flowing wells of the 1930s and 40s. We’re now into the 3:1 and 2:1 tar sands.
For example: damming rivers in Northern BC, to send electricity to the fracking fields, to send shale gas to Alberta, to cook the boreal substrate, and mix the black sludge with gas condensate shipped in from California and by pipeline from Kitimat to Fort McMurray, to mix with the bitumen, to pipe to Vancouver Harbour, to ship to China, to burn in a power plant, to supply electricity to their manufacturing empire.
By the time any of this energy gets used to actually make something useful to someone in society, and by the time that user puts that usefulness to work to feed, clothe, house, or heal anyone, there is no net-energy left.
Our food in North America is already negative net energy by1:10 at best, up to 1:17 or worse for much of the crap we eat. This matters. EROI at well-head, EROI at the consumer pump, and EROI at the point of society’s actual service all matter.
Well-head EROI, counting all public subsidies, is now in the 5:1 to 1:1 range for all these “non-conventional” (meaning the dregs) hydrocarbon deposits. Money can be made. Some energy can be delivered to Society, but this is already way below the well-head EROI that could likely run the current complexity of the human society, much less “grow” economies.
The degrading reserves take us down along the EROI curve, in which Net Energy returned to society falls off a cliff around 6:1, and is in freefall by 3:1. Net-energy alone kills the idea of much economic growth from a booming hydrocarbon bonanza (other than some great stock plays along the way). Furthermore, depletion renders the idea ever more unlikely:
Depletion: Depletion rates on these gas fields have arrived quickly and appear drastic by historic industry standards. The fracking fields peak early and decline swiftly. In the Bakken shale field – one of the great North American saviour fields – the average well has produced ~ 85k barrels in its first year and then declined at about 40% per year. The newer average wells peak earlier and decline faster, so the overall trend is down.
The depletion moves the production process along a function that approaches zero net energy... Down we go along the EROI curve... 5:1 .. 4:1 .. 3 .. 2 ... and then really complex society breaks down. An Amish farmer gets 10:1.
The Bakken break-even oil price is $85, so there is no profit in any of this right now, but of course there will be if global depletion exceeds demand from crashing economies.
Depletion – both in volume and quality – and depletion for all industrial materials and energy stores, EROI, and economic stagnation all work as feedback loops. No one knows the bifurcation points in this complex system. We try to predict those, but miss by a longshot sometimes. Complex societies crash in this manner, declining returns on investments in complexity, from Babylon to London and Washington. See J. Tainter, H. Odum, N. Georgescu-Roegen, Hall, Cleveland, et al.
Here are some depletion data on The Oil Drum: Is Shale Oil Production from Bakken Headed for a Run with “The Red Queen”?.
See A Review of the Past and Current State of EROI Data (PDF) by Hall, Cleveland, et al. (source:
There is a lot of EROI data here: Obstacles Facing US Wind Energy.
Below is the EROI curve updated to 2012. The new conventional stuff is coming in lower and and the enhanced recovery, shale and tar fields are already over the falls at 6 or 5:1 for the better stuff (best dregs), and 3:1 to 1:1 for the dregs of the dregs, the deeper shale and tar sands.

Image above: Graph of usable energy (blue) versus energy needed to obtain it (red) . From (
So yes, our friends are correct about the great volume of tar, shale, deep, heavy hydrocarbons, but increasing production of world liquid hydrocarbons much beyond the current 85mb/d is not likely, and increasing net production is even less likely. As you may know, net production per capita peaked in 1979. Actual net production is peaking now. This is the figure that counts: Actual current Net Production Delivered to Society.
Growing this figure is technically possible, and may happen with some massive production bonanzas, i.e. we may see actual production push above 90mb/day, or higher, and may even see net production increase, but a major glut of hydrocarbons? No. Not remotely.
When settlers first came to North America, they found copper nuggets the size of horses exposed in river beds. China just bought the best known, last, huge, moderate-to-low-grade, strip-minable, high-cost copper field in the world, in Afghanistan, for $billions over the western bids. There will be others, but rest assured: They will be lower grade, higher cost, and the competition will be more intense. When was the last time you bought a “copper” fitting at the hardware store. They’re crap. The alloys are crap.
Because the ore quality is in decline and the costs of extraction are rising. Same with oil, trees, tin, coal....
Make no mistake: The war for the dwindling materials and energy flow is well underway.
Thank you, Rex, for this commentary on EROI and the quality and cost of hydrocarbon resources. Complex systems like economies are nonlinear, and so history does not necessarily track linear extrapolations of present trends. With that caveat in mind, the preponderance of evidence supports the notion that fossil fuel energy may remain abundant in the sense that supply meets or exceeds demand in a global recession, but the price of liquid fuels may remain high enough to create a drag on growth, employment, tax revenues and all the other economic metrics impacted by high energy costs.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Over the Falls with ERoEI 2/2/09

Renewable Energy Future

SUBHEAD: The mainstream vision and a dose of reality concerning what is actually achievable given our situation today.

By Nicole Foss on 28 October 2012 for the Automatic Earth-

Image above: A solar farm rolls like ribbons of glass across the countryside. From original article.

 [IB Editor's note: This is a long and thorough article on our renewable energy. It goes into depth too long for this post.  A detailed discussion of European efforts to introduce large scale renewable energy in Britain and Germany as well as the plan for a European SuperGrid has been cut out.We also has skipped the section on  the Global Clean Tech Bubble. Together this is about half the content of this article. Refer to original article in the AutomaticEarth for all of this material.]

In recent years, there has been more and more talk of a transition to renewable energy on the grounds of climate change, and an increasing range of public policies designed to move in this direction. Not only do advocates envisage, and suggest to custodians of the public purse, a future of 100% renewable energy, but they suggest that this can be achieved very rapidly, in perhaps a decade or two, if sufficient political will can be summoned. See for instance this 2009 Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables:

A year ago former vice president Al Gore threw down a gauntlet: to repower America with 100 percent carbon-free electricity within 10 years. As the two of us started to evaluate the feasibility of such a change, we took on an even larger challenge: to determine how 100 percent of the world’s energy, for all purposes, could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources, by as early as 2030.

See also, as an example, the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan proposed by Beyond Zero Emissions:

The world stands on the precipice of significant change. Climate scientists predict severe impacts from even the lowest estimates of global warming. Atmospheric CO2 already exceeds safe levels. A rational response to the problem demands a rapid shift to a zero-fossil-fuel, zero-emissions future. The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan (the ZCA 2020 Plan) outlines a technically feasible and economically attractive way for Australia to transition to a 100% renewable energy within ten years. Social and political leadership are now required in order for the transition to begin.

The Vision and a Dose of Reality
These plans amount to a complete fantasy. For a start, the timescale for such a monumental shift is utterly unrealistic:

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of energy transitions is their speed. Substituting one form of energy for another takes a long time….The comparison to a giant oil tanker, uncomfortable as it is, fits perfectly: Turning it around takes lots of time.

And turning around the world’s fossil-fuel-based energy system is a truly gargantuan task. That system now has an annual throughput of more than 7 billion metric tons of hard coal and lignite, about 4 billion metric tons of crude oil, and more than 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. And its infrastructure—coal mines, oil and gas fields, refineries, pipelines, trains, trucks, tankers, filling stations, power plants, transformers, transmission and distribution lines, and hundreds of millions of gasoline, kerosene, diesel, and fuel oil engines—constitutes the costliest and most extensive set of installations, networks, and machines that the world has ever built, one that has taken generations and tens of trillions of dollars to put in place.

It is impossible to displace this supersystem in a decade or two—or five, for that matter. Replacing it with an equally extensive and reliable alternative based on renewable energy flows is a task that will require decades of expensive commitment. It is the work of generations of engineers.

Even if we were not facing a long period of financial crisis and economic contraction, it would not be possible to engineer such a rapid change. In a contractionary context, it is simply inconceivable. The necessary funds will not be available, and in the coming period of deleveraging, deflation and economic depression, much-reduced demand will not justify investment. Demand is not what we want, but what we can pay for, and under such circumstances, that amount will be much less than we can currently afford. With very little money in circulation, it will be difficult enough for us to maintain the infrastructure we already have, and keep future supply from collapsing for lack of investment.

Timescale and lack of funds are by no means the only possible critique of current renewable energy plans, however. It is not just a matter of taking longer, or waiting for more auspicious financial circumstances. It will never be possible to deliver what we consider business as usual, or anything remotely resembling it, on renewable energy alone. We can, of course, live in a world of renewable energy only, as we have done through out most of history, but it is not going to resemble the True Believers' techno-utopia. Living on an energy income, as opposed to an energy inheritance, will mean living within our energy means, and this is something we have not done since the industrial revolution.

Technologically harnessable renewable energy is largely a myth. While the sun will continue to shine and the wind will continue to blow, the components of the infrastructure necessary for converting these forms of energy into usable electricity, and distributing that electricity to where it is needed, are not renewable. Affordable fossil fuels are required to extract the raw materials, produce the components, and to build and maintain the infrastructure. In other words, renewables do not replace fossil fuels, nor remove the need for them. They may not even reduce that need by much, and they create additional dependencies on rare materials.

Renewable energy sounds so much more natural and believable than a perpetual-motion machine, but there's one big problem: Unless you're planning to live without electricity and motorized transportation, you need more than just wind, water, sunlight, and plants for energy. You need raw materials, real estate, and other things that will run out one day. You need stuff that has to be mined, drilled, transported, and bulldozed -- not simply harvested or farmed. You need non-renewable resources:

• Solar power. While sunlight is renewable -- for at least another four billion years -- photovoltaic panels are not. Nor is desert groundwater, used in steam turbines at some solar-thermal installations. Even after being redesigned to use air-cooled condensers that will reduce its water consumption by 90 percent, California's Blythe Solar Power Project, which will be the world's largest when it opens in 2013, will require an estimated 600 acre-feet of groundwater annually for washing mirrors, replenishing feedwater, and cooling auxiliary equipment.

• Geothermal power. These projects also depend on groundwater -- replenished by rain, yes, but not as quickly as it boils off in turbines. At the world's largest geothermal power plant, the Geysers in California, for example, production peaked in the late 1980s and then the project literally began running out of steam.

• Wind power. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the 5,700 turbines installed in the United States in 2009 required approximately 36,000 miles of steel rebar and 1.7 million cubic yards of concrete (enough to pave a four-foot-wide, 7,630-mile-long sidewalk). The gearbox of a two-megawatt wind turbine contains about 800 pounds of neodymium and 130 pounds of dysprosium -- rare earth metals that are rare because they're found in scattered deposits, rather than in concentrated ores, and are difficult to extract.

• Biomass. In developed countries, biomass is envisioned as a win-win way to produce energy while thinning wildfire-prone forests or anchoring soil with perennial switchgrass plantings. But expanding energy crops will mean less land for food production, recreation, and wildlife habitat. In many parts of the world where biomass is already used extensively to heat homes and cook meals, this renewable energy is responsible for severe deforestation and air pollution.

• Hydropower. Using currents, waves, and tidal energy to produce electricity is still experimental, but hydroelectric power from dams is a proved technology. It already supplies about 16 percent of the world's electricity, far more than all other renewable sources combined….The amount of concrete and steel in a wind-tower foundation is nothing compared with Grand Coulee or Three Gorges, and dams have an unfortunate habit of hoarding sediment and making fish, well, non-renewable.

All of these technologies also require electricity transmission from rural areas to population centers…. And while proponents would have you believe that a renewable energy project churns out free electricity forever, the life expectancy of a solar panel or wind turbine is actually shorter than that of a conventional power plant. Even dams are typically designed to last only about 50 years. So what, exactly, makes renewable energy different from coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power?

Renewable technologies are often less damaging to the climate and create fewer toxic wastes than conventional energy sources. But meeting the world's total energy demands in 2030 with renewable energy alone would take an estimated 3.8 million wind turbines (each with twice the capacity of today's largest machines), 720,000 wave devices, 5,350 geothermal plants, 900 hydroelectric plants, 490,000 tidal turbines, 1.7 billion rooftop photovoltaic systems, 40,000 solar photovoltaic plants, and 49,000 concentrated solar power systems. That's a heckuva lot of neodymium.

In addition, renewables generally have a much lower energy returned on energy invested (EROEI), or energy profit ratio, than we have become accustomed to in the hydrocarbon era. Since the achievable, and maintainable, level of socioeconomic complexity is very closely tied to available energy supply, moving from high EROEI energy source to much lower ones will have significant implications for the level of complexity we can sustain. Exploiting low EROEI energy sources (whether renewables or the unconventional fossil fuels left to us on the downslope of Hubbert's curve) is often a highly complex, energy-intensive activity.

As we have pointed out before at TAE, it is highly doubtful whether low EROEI energy sources can sustain the level of socioeconomic complexity required to produce them. What allows us to maintain that complexity is high EROEI conventional fossil fuels - our energy inheritance.

Power systems are one of the most complex manifestations of our complex society, and therefore likely to be among the most vulnerable aspects in a future which will be contractionary, initially in economic terms, and later in terms of energy supply. As we leave behind the era of cheap and readily available fossil fuels with a high energy profit ratio, and far more of the energy we produce must be reinvested in energy production, the surplus remaining to serve all society's other purposes will be greatly reduced. Preserving power systems in their current form for very much longer will be a very difficult task.

It is ironic then, that much of the vision for exploiting renewable energy relies on expanding power systems. In fact it involves greatly increasing their interconnectedness and complexity in the process, for instance through the use of 'smart grid' technologies, in order to compensate for the problems of intermittency and non-dispatchability. These difficulties are frequently dismissed as inconsequential in the envisioned future context of super grids and smart grids...

 [IB Editor's note: Beginning here this article has been greatly abbreviated. Refer to original article in the AutomaticEarth for all of this material.Scroll down to the image of a green light bulb to continue reading.]

... A Decentralized Renewable Reality?
Renewable energy is never going to be a strategy for continuing on our present expansionist path. It is not a good fit for the central station model of modern power systems, and threatens to destabilize them, limiting rather than extending our ability to sustain business as usual. The current plans attempt to develop it in the most technologically complex, capital and infrastructure dependent manner, mostly dependent on government largesse that is about to disappear. It is being deployed in a way that minimizes a low energy profit ratio, when that ratio is already likely too low to sustain a society complex enough to produce energy in this fashion.

Renewable electricity is not truly renewable, thanks to non-renewable integral components. It can be deployed for a period of time in such a way as to cushion the inevitable transition to a lower energy society. To do this, it makes sense to capitalize on renewable energy's inherent advantages while minimizing its disadvantages.

Minimizing the infrastructure requirement, by producing power adjacent to demand, and therefore moving power as little distance as possible, will make the most of the energy profit ratio. The simplest strategy is generally the most robust, but all the big plans for renewables have gone in the opposite direction. In moving towards hugely complex mechanisms for wheeling gargantuan quantities of power over long distances, we create a system that is highly brittle and prone to cascading system failure.

In a period of sharp economic contraction, we will not be able to afford expensive complexity. Having set up a very vulnerable system, we are going to have to accept that the the lights are not necessarily going to come on every time we flick a switch. Our demand will be much lower for a while, as economic depression deepens, and that may buy the system some time by lowering some of the stresses upon it. The lack of investment will take its toll over time however.

While a grid can function at some level even under very challenging conditions - witness India - it is living on borrowed time. We would do well to learn from the actions, and daily frustrations, of those who live under grid-challenged conditions, and do what we can to build resilience at a community level. Governments and large institutions will not be able to do this at a large scale, so we must act locally.

As with many aspects of society navigating a crunch period, decentralization can be the most appropriate response. The difficulty is that there will be little time or money to build micro-grids based on local generation. It may work in a few places blessed with resources such as a local hydro station, but likely not elsewhere in the time available. The next best solution will be minimizing demand in advance, and obtaining back up generators and local storage capacity, as they use in India and many other places with unstable grids. These are relatively affordable and currently readily available solutions, but do require some thought, such as fuel storage or determining which are essential loads that should be connected to batteries and inverters with a limited capacity. Later on, such solutions are much less likely to be available, so acting quickly is important.

Minimizing demand in a planned manner greatly reduces dependency, so that limited supply can serve the most essential purposes. It is much better than reducing demand haphazardly through deprivation in the depths of a crisis. Providing a storage component can cover grid downtime, so that one no longer has to worry so much when the power will be available, so long as it is there for some time each day. Given that even degraded systems starved of investment for years can deliver something, storage can provide a degree of peace of mind. It is typically safer than storing generator fuel.

Some will be able to install renewable generation, but it will not make sense to do this with debt on the promise of a feed-in tariff contract that stands to be repudiated. Those who can afford it will be those who can do it with no debt and no income stream, in other words those who do it for the energy security rather than for the money, and do not over-stretch themselves in the process. Sadly this will be very few people. Pooling resources in order to act at a community scale can increase the possibilities, although it may be difficult to convince enough people to participate.

It is difficult to say what power grids might look like following an economic depression, or what it will be possible to restore in the years to come. The answers are likely to vary widely with location and local circumstances. Depression years are very hard on vital economic sectors such as energy supply. Falling demand undercuts price support, and prices fall more quickly than the cost of production, so that margins are brutally squeezed. Even as prices fall, purchasing power falls faster, so that affordability gets worse. Consumers are squeezed, leading to further demand destruction in a positive feedback loop.

Under these circumstances, the energy sector is likely to be starved of investment for many years. When the economy tries to recover, it is likely to find itself hitting a hard ceiling at a much lower level of energy supply. With less energy available, society will not be able to climb the heights of complexity again, and therefore many former energy sources dependent on complex means of production will not longer be available to simpler future societies. Widespread electrification may well be a casualty of the complexity crash.

We are likely to realize at that point just how unusual the era of high energy profit ratio fossil fuels really was, and what incredible benefits we had in our hands. Sadly we squandered much of this inheritance before realizing its unique and irreplaceable value. The future will look very different.