Friday, 25 December 2009

Let’s walk through the logic. The most reasonable estimates suggest that, given a crash program and the best foreseeable technologies, renewable sources can probably provide the United States with around 15% of the energy it currently gets from fossil fuels. Since every good and service in the economy is the product of energy, it’s a very rough but functional approximation to say that in a green economy, every American will have to get by on the equivalent of 15% of his or her current income. Take a moment to work through the consequences in your own life; if you made $50,000 in 2009, for example, imagine having to live on $7,500 in 2010. That’s quite a respectable income by Third World standards, but it won’t support the kind of lifestyle that the vast majority of Americans, across the political spectrum, believe is theirs by right.

That’s the bomb ticking away at the heart of America’s political system. When it goes off, the entire system of government by pork barrel will explode messily, and it’s only in the fantasies of reformers that what replaces it will likely be any improvement. (My guess? Anything from a military coup followed, after various convulsions, by a new and less centralized constitution, to civil war and the partition of the United States into half a dozen impoverished and quarreling nations.) In the meantime, we can expect to see every possible short term expedient put to use in an attempt to stave off the explosion even for a little while, and any measure that might risk rocking the boat enough to set off the bomb will be quietly roundfiled by all parties.

A meaningful political response to the growing instability of global climate is one such measure, and a meaningful political response to peak oil is another. No such project can be enacted without redirecting a great deal of money and resources away from current expenditures toward the construction of new infrastructure. The proponents of such measures are quick to insist that this means new jobs will be created, and of course this is true, but they neglect to mention that a great many more existing jobs will go away, and the interests that presently lay claim to the money and resources involved are not exactly eager to relinquish those. A political system of centralized power could overcome their resistance readily enough, but a system in which power is diffused and fragmented cannot do so. That the collapse of the entire system is a likely long-term consequence of this inability is simply one of the common ironies of history.



Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Copenhagen was much worse than just another bad deal, because it illustrated a profound shift in global geopolitics. This is fast becoming China's century, yet its leadership has displayed that multilateral environmental governance is not only not a priority, but is viewed as a hindrance to the new superpower's freedom of action.


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

- Will the ECB will try to play politics and pressure Zapatero in the run up to the 2012 general elections in Spain?

- Is the situation in Spain similar to the situation in Greece?

- Why don’t Zapatero and the Spanish government seem to be reacting?

- Why is there no coherent plan to get Spain back on its feet?

- What is going on with Spanish banks?

- Will unemployment in Spain reach 25% by the end of 2010?

- Which is more important in Spanish economics: image or hard data?

- Will it be possible for the Spanish government to reduce the deficit from over 10% of GDP to less than 3% by 2012 or 2013?

- What state will the Spanish economy be in by the end of 2010?

- What will happen to Spain when the ECB raises eurozone interest rates?

- Might Spain soon be in a worse economic position than Greece?

- What are the ratings agencies trying to achieve with their warnings on Spain?

- Why won’t the Spanish government tell the Spanish people the truth about what’s going on with the Spanish economy?

- Is José Luis Zapatero really the biggest problem for the Spanish economy right now?