[Marxism] privatizing the grid--a local perspective

ehrbar at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu ehrbar at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu
Tue Feb 7 08:44:14 MST 2012

David writes:

> Hans, nuclear energy IS baseload. If there is not enough
> geothermal to replace nuclear (about 47GWs) then there
> isn't enough to replace baseload.

My point was: so what, we don't need much baseload.  You
don't need much 24/7 power for schools or office buildings,
although you do need it for hospitals (which you omitted in
your lineup of examples).

Energy consumption varies a lot over the day, and renewable
energy production varies a lot over the day.  Instead of
eliminating this variation you need mechanisms to get
consumption and production in line, mainly through computer
programs which adjust the time profile of energy consumption
to the time profile of energy production (this is where the
smart grid comes in), or through energy storage, ranging
from heating salt at noon in order to use for electricity
generation at 6 pm, to the creation of an iceball in the
ground in winter for air conditioning in summer, etc.
Thermodynamics gives us some strict limits but within these
limits there are many amazing possibilities.  This
technology is still at its beginning since due to fossil
fuels we didn't even look at all the things that can be done
here.  The proponents of renewable energy do not say that it
is easy to solve, but they say that it is possible to solve.

Really there is no alternative to renewable energy.  Nuclear
energy with its excessive cost and long lead times,
contamination (which bioaccumulates), accident danger, and
unsolved storage for spent fuels is not a way out.  Times
will be very uncertain with wars and rebellions and many
more failed states, you don't want to have nuclear reactors
in the middle of this.

Renewable energy cannot be scaled up fast enough to replace
the gigantic amounts of fossil energy we are using now.
Therefore severe curtailment will be necessary in the
industrialized world, and the developing nations must be
given access to the technology which allows them to leapfrog
fossil fuels.

All these complicated interconnections have already led to
an intensification of the class struggles.  The central goal
of class struggle is no longer how to reorganize the
production of wealth so that everybody in society benefits
from it.  After Marx we have come to understand how
destructive and unsustainable modern industrial production
is.  Nature shows by example that it is possible to produce
without waste products and without the irreversible drawdown
of resources.  Every output of a natural process is the
input of another process, it goes in a circle, and humans
are part of this circle.  Human production processes have a
long way to go before they are sustainable like this.  In
the meanwhile, until this technology is developed, we must
revert to lower levels of consumption.  Either we do this in
a graceful way or we will be forced to do this by lack of
food, diseases, natural disasters, and wars.

The problem will not be lack of movement or lack of fighting
spirit by the masses.  The binding constraint is lack of
leadership which has thought these things through.  I am
writing this in the hope that the marxism list is home of
some of these leaders.


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