Saturday, July 26, 2008

Renewables and the Madness of Crowds: Part I

I have just passed through a most interesting episode in my personal life. An attractive, well educated, and very accomplished woman, half my age, made a play for me. I kid you not. She actually "put a rush on me." As it turned out, this was strictly a fantasy play, since she had many constraints in her life, that would prevent her from having a relationship with me. But I must confess that it is difficult for me to be objective, when I am being seduced. But I could not avoid the evidence hat things were not working out between us, and her constraints provided an explanation for why that was the case.

The EEStory provides an object lesson in the effect of desire of human credulity on human Judgement. ZENN Motors, in January 2007 indicated that it expected a prototype EESU from EEStor during 2007. The Austin Business Journal in 2007 reported that ZENN had an agreement with to pay EEStor $5 million once an EESU was tested by a third party. That prototype has not yet arrived in Toronto, and unless and until it does EEStor and ZENN are under a cloud of suspicion. The EEStory would be an obscure business story of passing interest in Austin and Toronto, except that a successful outcome could easily be one of the top 10 stories of the 21st century. If the claims EEStor makes about itself are true, then the crisis in transportation caused by Peak Oil and Global Warming will be to a significant extent resolved.

I have been looking at comments on the blog titled, "EESTOR ULTRACAPACITORS: BATTERY REVOLUTION BEGINS WITH ELECTRIC CARS" that something resembling a speculative frenzy has been triggered by the EEStoy. If you wish to see more evidence of that, just look at the comments on my latest observations on the EEStory.

Now speculative frenzies are not new. Everyone who wishes to claim and education should be familiar with Charles Mackay's 19th century classic, "Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds". Mackey's purpose in writing his famous book was to describe "moral epidemics which have been excited, sometimes by one cause and sometimes by another, and to show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and gregarious men are, even in their infatuations and crimes. . . . Popular delusions began so early, spread so widely, and have lasted so long, that instead of two or three volumes, fifty would scarcely suffice to detail their history".

It is impossible for me to know whether or not the EEStory is true, but there are certainly some warning signs. What concerns me is the willingness of people to overlook those signs, in a a desperate hope that the EEStory is true.

Now we come to the punch line. Is not the current popular adulation of renewables, and the wide spread fear of nuclear power, the EEStory writ large? This renewables speculative frenzy has yaken a hold in the European Commission in which vast plans are currently being plotted. The EC is at least considering a scheme to build 100 GW of Solar facilities in the Sahara Desert of Northern Africa by 2050. Electricity generated "would be fed into a 5,000-mile electricity supergrid, stretching from Siberia to Morocco and Egypt to Iceland," according to a report from Laura Clout of the Telegraph. The scheme would cost €450 Billion without the grid attachment, and the Telegraph report made no mention of electrical storage.

The Guardian reports that the EU renewables directive draft would order, "Member states shall also provide for priority access to the grid system of electricity produced from renewable energy sources". Priority would include priority over nuclear generated power no doubt. According to the Guardian, "Britain wants to change 'shall' to 'may'".

The Guardian further reports that the British rational for the change is: "The use of 'shall' could have substantial implications on network balancing and security of energy supply." It said "thermal sources" of electricity were needed as back-up, and "over time this essential back-up generation might not be available if new renewable generation projects must be given access to the grid". It said the UK wanted the "discretion to prioritise renewable generation".

The Guardian report concludes with a very revealing statement by John Sauven, of Greenpeace,: "We've always said there was a danger that going for nuclear power would squeeze out renewables. The government has been caught red handed undermining clean energy, and all because of Brown's ideological obsession with atomic power."

There is a point to the European argument between "may" and "shall". It is the difference between reason and the madness of crowds.

16 comments:

Warren Heath said...

I suspect that these anti-Nuclear Environmental groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, get a lot of their funding from Coal & Oil/NG interests. It's probably the cheapest, highest return, investment that the Fossil Fuel Gang-of-Four can make.

I bet every time Greenpeace puts on an anti-nuclear campaign they get a surge of donations from effectively anonymous donors, easy to do for Coal interests, and they simply right-off those donations as charitable gifts. Very cheap and effective advertisement to knee-cap their only opposition, namely Nuclear Energy.

I also believe the incredible level of funding and press hype on Wacky Greenwashing schemes, is another attempt by Vested Interests to divert funds from Nuclear Power, Electricification of Transport and Methanol based fuels, about the only three effective alternatives to the status quo. So incredible levels of funding & press for the absolutely absurd H2 economy, the crackpot Clean Coal Scam, the nutty, killer Biofuel nightmare and the latest being the extreme Mega-Wind, Mega-Solar Scams. H2 has been ripped apart by bloggers – Clean Coal has failed miserably, and Biofuels are under widespread attack for the Starvation & Environmental Destruction they have wrought, not to mention, being almost totally ineffective. Note that the Gang-of-Four’s spokesperson - Armory Lovins, has been a big pusher for all three of those Scams. It’s mighty curious that, now, after the dismal failure of those, we are seeing a sudden surge in this Mega-Solar / Mega-Wind hoax, first with Pickens, then Gore and now this north African Desert boondoggle.

Could it be that the “hidden government” are deliberately trying to create a World Catastrophe, with these Nutty Diversions from the impending Global Warming, Peak Oil, Water Shortage & Agricultural crisis’. Western Government energy policies seem well designed to ensure all four crisis, are inevitable.

There’s some scary shit going on in the world, and the next generations are going to face the repercussions of our present governments efforts at Non-Solutions. An interesting book, talks about the convoluted relationship between Environmental Groups, Government (including the CIA), and Big Business:

The links between key environmental groups, government and big business.

DV8 2XL said...

Charles, you old dog! Constraints hell, how often is a chance like that going to come up?

Charles Barton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DV8 2XL said...

I have to agree totally with Warren on this. The almost transparent agenda of the environmental movement in Canada has been to advance coal and gas since they are as opposed to hydro as they are to nuclear.

Fortunately they are a only minor annoyance given that these two sectors of the energy business is politically well connected up here, nevertheless they have caused the governments, both federal and Provencal, to spend millions on worthless studies and fighting their legal challenges in the courts.

The real smell from all of this is that the public up here is general supportive of nuclear power and hydro, and Canadians in general are not big contributors to these sorts of groups, preferring to back one of the minor political parties like the NDP when looking for change.

So where are they getting the money?

Charles Barton said...

Warren,
Elias Canetti wrote in Crowds and Power, "There is nothing that man fears more than the touch of the unknown”.

At the moment the human community is facing a very large unknown. We ordinary people, and politicians alike no face a very large unknown. I consider myself fortunate that I grew up in what now realize was a prophetic community. A community which foresaw our current problems. That Is why I focus on the work of Alvin Weinberg, my father, and other Oak Ridge scientists. The foresaw what we would face and tried to work out solutions. The frighten crowd listens now to the advocates of renewables, but that will change.

Charles Barton said...

DV8 2XL, Both Greenpeace and RMI run what I consider to be "green" Koshering businesses. Businesses pay to receive the "Green" seals of approval.

In addition Greens use high profile demonstrations as money making ploys. I Bl0gged about the relationship between Greenpeace and the media a few months back. Greenpeace gives TV exciting and dramatic footage of demonstrations. The demonstrations are exciting enough to draw viewers to watch. In return TV gives Greeenpeace millions in free publicity. Greenpeace uses the publicity to raise money. When you see Greenpeace on TV, they are staging a fund raising campaign.

Amory Lovins has equally slick fund raising methods.

DV8 2XL said...

I really don't want to come off as a conspiracy theorist, as I hold that type in high contempt. However it is hard not to see that opposition to nuclear power in any given jurisdiction seems to be proportional to the size of the coal and gas interests there, and it is very hard not to draw conclusions.

Now this is not to say that the larger environmental groups are creatures of Big Carbon, but Big Carbon are certainly the big winners in this push for renewable energy sources for the technical reasons that we are all familiar with now; spinning reserve and baseload issues being the major ones. In other words for all the screaming that the Greens make about CO2, they seem to be focused away from attacking the major sources, and I have to wonder why?

For all they are scam artists, they could just as well be doing it for our side (since we have already established that they are not really interested in the environment) but they are not. Why not? Clearly the old arguments against nuclear have been dismissed. They could have taken the high-road and claimed that finally they had forced the nuclear industry into being responsible and that they would continue to act as independent watchdogs. They could be protesting at every coal mine and coal burner, with an endless list of victims from both these activities, and good hard evidence that they do harm. I can't see what is motivating them to take the stand they have without seeing some sort of outside influence at work.

Warren Heath said...

The Conspiracy word, used with either positive or negative connotations, is a mickey-mouse, gross oversimplification of the complex economic & political relationships between Governments, Business, Trade Organizations, Lobbyists, Environmental Groups, Unions, Political Parties and numerous NGO’s. The reality is governments & business & interest groups routinely subvert the free market. These influences include lobbyists, political patronage appointments, lawsuits (i.e. against the CARB zero emission vehicle mandate), phony scientific research, influences of media through finance of supportive media and threats of legal action or removing advertising for unfavorable media, campaign contributions, phony “grassroots” campaigns financed by companies to repeal legislation, like Chevron funding a campaign to kill the green wellhead tax in California, "freebies" for politicians in return for favorable legislation, hiring high-priced politically connected influence peddlers, corporate collusion & price fixing, trade cartels such as OPEC or DeBeers, politicians who have connections with industry both before or after being elected, devious organizations that promote people to positions of influence, i.e. the Bilderberg group, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and the Club of Rome and then of course there is the old human trait of helping out their buddies. Here’s some examples of different types of “conspiracies”, there is undoubtedly millions more:

GM & Oil Streetcar Conspiracy

Automakers Conspire to keep Canadian Vehicle Prices much higher than in US, in spite of the Canadian dollar being worth more

Enron energy traders caught conspiring to inflate energy prices

More on Power sellers conspiring to manipulate prices

Oil Companies conspiring to inflate fuel prices

Banks conspire to block Leasco corp from Chemical Bank takeover

The Iraq War Oil Seizure Conspiracy

The 1953 Iran coup d'├ętat – Operation Ajax conspiracy led by British Petroleum

charlesH said...

Ok, so coal money is driving fear of nuclear. Then is it equally obvious that nuclear money is driving fear of coal (e.g. co2, AGW)?

So we have Greenpeace taking money from big coal and big nuclear to drive up the countries fear of nuclear waste and co2? Do you think Greenpeace has separate accounts for each? Coal money only can be used against nuclear and vice vera?

I rather think both big coal and big nuclear keep their money away from Greenpeace. Use it mostly for campaign donations.

Charles Barton said...

Charles and Warren I like to see strong evidence before I commit to a view. Having At various time looked at the financial side of Amory Lovins', and Ralph Narder's businesses, I don'think evidence of big coal money flowing to either one. We have, onthe other hand a fairly small amount of flowing from the Joyce foundation to several environmental organization. This was insupport of various coal related scheme. However a direct connection between the Joyce Foundation between the Joyce foundation and the coal industry has not bee established.

DV8 2XL said...

I have to yield to the fact that hard evidence is lacking for any connection between antinuclear forces and coal and gas interests, but will only say that the circumstantial evidence places it within the realm of possibility.

I'm going to drop this line of inquiry for the moment, as I understand the risks to one's credibility pursuing this sort of thing too vigorously; but I will ask you keep the possibility in the back of your mind.

Warren is correct that there is not one central Conspiracy at work, (which is why I hate using the word) but a collection of independent heavyweight players that are not afraid to fight dirty, and that is nothing new.

Charles Barton said...

Geting the true story is hard work, and often no complete answer can be found.

Warren Heath said...

‘…Then is it equally obvious that nuclear money is driving fear of coal…’

I hardly think that nuclear needs drive any fear of coal, since the scientific community is overwhelmingly opposed to it. The evidence for Global Warming, Smog deaths, Coal Mining deaths, Mine destruction of the environment is absolutely indisputable.

‘…Greenpeace taking money from big coal and big nuclear to drive up the countries fear of nuclear waste and co2? Do you think Greenpeace has separate accounts for each? Coal money only can be used against nuclea…’

You, didn’t read what I said. It would be trivial for Coal Interests to funnel money into Greenpeace with complete anonymity. I would be self-defeating to do it in an obvious way, which would completely backfire, if it ever leaked out. Any individual can make an effectively anonymous donation to Greenpeace, and nobody would know why. But Greenpeace knows whenever they launch an anti-nuclear campaign, a flood of donations comes in. Maybe there’s a little more to it than that, I wink-and-a-nod here and there at cocktail parties attended by the rich and the famous, including Greenpeace senior people. This is how lobbyists work, and if you don’t understand that, you should watch a PBS special that described the convoluted, devious methods that lobbyists transfer funds from their clients to politicians. The special was about a Native Tribe that wanted to gain title to their ancestral land, and was milked dry by a high priced Washington lobby firm. Yes, nuclear could do the same, but Nuclear just doesn’t have a century of political savvy behind them, and they’re a good deal poorer and much less connected than coal. And coal has a lot of political power due to the number of regions it is a prominent employer, and being very labour and materials intensive, has a lot of interests behind it. If you think you’re going to find a photocopy of a signed checque for $1 million from Peabody Coal to Greenpeace posted on the Internet, then you must be living in the land of the gullible-and-the-stupid.

The singular feature of groups like the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, is that they by far-and-away attack clean, GHG free Nuclear, and mostly ignore Coal. It just reeks of corruption. I can see them, favoring the so-called renewables over Nuclear, but the complete free pass they give Coal is utterly unbelievable. Were talking 1000 of times more environmental destruction than Nuclear has even been accused of. There is something mighty fishy there.

charlesH said...

I agree that one's credibility is at stake when one tries to make a mountain out of a molehill.

A scientist gives a paper at a conference hosted by an organization that took $100 from big "whatever" 10 yrs ago thus the scientist is in the pocket of big "whatever".

Warren Heath said...

For those who believe lobbyists wouldn’t use dirty underhanded tricks to bring good press to their benefactors and bad press to their competitors, consider this fact, that anyone who follows Electric Vehicle Blogs knows about, John Spradley tells the sordid tale best:

‘…From a recent post on the EV Discussion List: Subject: [EVDL] Professional anti-EV lobbyists Date: Fri, 30 May 2008 17:54:56 -0500 (GMT-05:00) From: Lee Hart In recent posts, I wondered how the various EV naysayers could respond so quickly. When something pro-EV appears, vehement anti-EV responses appear almost instantly. I've since received several emails off-list, pointing out that there really *are* programs that search the web for key topics and phrases, and if found, will even compose a tentative reply from a library of pre-written responses. They use information gleaned form the web, made-up or untraceable references, things taken out of context, etc. to create an illusion of credibility. And, there are professional lobbyists who use such programs. All they have to do is edit it a bit to sound more human, and hit "send". They usually use false names and identities (called sock puppets). I thought this was all conspiracy theory. But then I was asked to Google "Kent-Beuchert" (including the hyphen). Example aliases are Ken/Kent/Kerry and Beauchrt/Beuchert/Beuchrt/Biker/Rider/Krider and others. Apparently the real name is Kent Beuchert, who works as a PR person for oil and gas lobbies, with offices in Virginia and Florida. There are *hundreds* of nearly identical anti-EV articles and responses.
Posted by: John Spradley…’


There’s another case, where a high priced Exxon Advertising Firm were caught planting a phony video on YouTube. The video pretended to be an amateur spoof of Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, which made like Global Warming wasn’t real, but was in actual fact professionally produced by Exxon’s Disinformation Agency.

So I don’t see how anyone can believe they wouldn’t funnel money into environmental groups that are helping them out BIGTIME. Greenpeace, Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth are most certainly the best friends Coal & Oil/NG have ever had. And then there’s the infamous case of Armory Lovins, and RMI, who gets paid directly by the fossil fuel Gang-of-Four.

Warren Heath said...

Another example of what I’m talking about comes to mind. The infamous case of the Greens and the elections of 2000 and 2004. Essentially the Greens got Bush elected twice by running Nader against Kerry & Gore. I don’t think there was a secret meeting in a darkened room between top Greens and the Bush Campaign executive. The Green’s simply wanted to make a political presence in the predominant democracy on Earth. And Religious Right fanatics, seen a beauty opportunity to steal critical votes from Kerry & Gore. So they actively campaigned for, funded and signed up names for Nader to appear on the ballet. Effectively the Greens were used by their political opposites like puppets on a string.

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