Sweden’s Green Tunnel Vision

Sweden’s cities are already threatened by power shortages due to inadequate energy infrastructure

(This article originally appeared on Lone Conservative)

Sweden is aggressively going green, but progressive crusaders are facing an inconvenient truth of their own. Even before shutting down the rest of their nuclear and fossil fuel energy sources, Sweden’s cities are already threatened by power shortages due to inadequate energy infrastructure.

According to Bloomberg, Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö, was on the brink of blackouts during the past winter. During an especially cold week, power costs spiked from an average 0.28 kroner per kilowatt hour in 2017 to 0.63 kronor.

Sweden is still growing. Energy demands in major cities are surging as their populations increase. Power shortages are limiting the ability of Swedes to build housing, subways, and businesses needed to keep their lives in motion. In Stockholm, new daycare centers have had to wait months for power, and a bread factory in Malmö was denied a license to expand because it would consume too much power. And it’s not just small businesses that suffer. Sectors from high tech to mining require huge amounts of affordable energy to remain feasible.

How did this happen?

A dry summer had depleted the country’s hydro power supply to its lowest levels since 2016. Calm conditions rendered wind farms useless, coal production was sharply reduced due to new regulations, and two nuclear power reactors were shut down due to a 1980 bill to phase out nuclear energy.

It was a perfect storm of sub-optimal weather conditions that highlighted the greatest weakness of renewable energy sources. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, they simply don’t work.

Even with optimal conditions, the usefulness of Sweden’s wind farms is limited because they’re clustered in northern Sweden, far from the largest population centers. Infrastructure to transport energy from these productive regions is inadequate, and adequate supplies of foreign energy can’t be imported for the same reason.

Some Swedes have described the current energy policy as “madness” because of the destabilizing impact on the country’s power supply. Power shortages would unquestionably undermine the country’s economy, which has benefited from cheap power, largely because of its abundance of hydro and nuclear power. Sweden’s generous welfare system cannot function without a strong economy and very high levels of wealth.

Bureaucratic and technical barriers to improve wind and solar energy infrastructure will take at least a decade to navigate, but the current Swedish government is firmly against reversing course on nuclear shutdown. A coalition of opposing political parties will force them to reconsider, though. Energy supply has become the center of public discourse in recent months.

And things could still get a lot worse. Sweden’s grid operator warned in 2017 that the country will need to add 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of power generation by 2040–enough to power 1.1 million households. (Sweden had 4.7 million households in 2018). And that estimate didn’t even factor in the impending loss of the country’s five remaining nuclear reactors, which will be phased out by 2040, a loss of another 5.5 gigawatts.

Henrik Bergstrom, head of affairs for the Swedish power company Ellevio, has stated that Sweden has “reached a point where we no longer can connect all the changes the society is facing.” Upcoming waves of new technology like 5G and will require massive amounts of data processing, which will require massive amounts of energy. Sweden has continually been on the cutting edge of technology, but inadequate power will undermine its competitiveness.

Even the green movement itself is threatened by power shortages: a federally subsidized surge in electric car sales led to a spike in demand for electricity, exacerbating supply problems.

Ultimately, the limits of Sweden’s current power infrastructure will force authorities to pick and choose who can access their artificially limited power grid.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Nuclear energy is not without its own environmental hazards, but it’s still an extremely efficient energy source with very low carbon emissions. And while solar and wind make sense in many contexts, especially in very sunny or windy areas, they simply can’t compete with fossil fuels for reliability and efficiency.

Policy makers with “green tunnel vision” fail their constituents by refusing to recognize the shortcomings of their good intentions. The passion of environmental alarmists needs to be tempered by a humble and realistic exploration of the limitations of green technology. SOURCE

Naomi Klein: Climate Solutions That Neglect Inequality Are Doomed to Fail

A firefighter sprays burning trees with a hose

Firefighters spray water on burning trees in Santa Paula, California, on November 1, 2019.

California has warmed by approximately 3 degrees Fahrenheit (3°F) over the last century. Heat waves are more common and increase the risk of wildfires in the state. What does climate justice look like, therefore, and for whom? Will cities grappling with environmental disasters consider the racial and economic inequalities that intersect with climate change action? Author and activist Naomi Klein has a few thoughts.

Laura Flanders: It’s been a year since the Camp Fire. You went back there; what did you find?

Naomi Klein: I spent a little time in Paradise, which, of course, was a community that was burned to the ground, almost. There are a few structures that survived, but whole neighborhoods were leveled. And I also went to Chico, which is just a few minutes down the road. And that is the place where the vast majority of the people from Paradise relocated. It’s a pretty small community, was just under 100,000 people and suddenly had 20,000 new residents.

So, a fifth bigger suddenly.

Right … I think one of the things that’s important to remember is that people from these communities behaved with incredible solidarity, incredible generosity and a real spirit of mutual aid as so often happens — actually, invariably happens after disasters. Whether it is Katrina or the Asian tsunami or Sandy, as humans, when we see our fellow humans suffering, we want to help, and Chico showed this very, very powerfully. But when you’re on, what you also see is how difficult it is to maintain that spirit of, “I will fight for people I don’t know.” When your public infrastructure is failing, when there wasn’t enough affordable housing before and now with those 20,000 additional people, rents are skyrocketing, the cost of living is skyrocketing. People are flipping their houses to turn a buck. Real estate speculation is happening. All kinds of, what I’ve called, disaster capitalism is happening.

And that, when people are saying, Wait a minute, some people are getting rich off of this and there aren’t the mental health supports to deal with the PTSD. I mean, 85 people died. A lot of people I spoke with in Chico talked about how when they were breathing the smoke, they knew they were breathing in the remains of people. And that’s just true, it was a crematorium. And so, the trauma of that has really not been addressed … these are just some of the ways where we see that if we don’t invest in the physical infrastructure and in the infrastructure of care that allows people to be their best selves in the long haul, we aren’t going to face these crises with the humanity that we need.

But there are a lot of people who say, “Got it, we understand. We have to deal with racism and homelessness and health care, but right now we have a pollution, environmental recycling, consumer problems. Let’s just focus with that, with plastics or with the supply chain.”

Right. And frankly, I think that that has been the approach of the mainstream green movement for a long time. Sometimes said explicitly, sometimes sort of sotto voce, which is like, “Look, let’s just save the planet first and then we’ll deal with, you know, racism and inequality and gender exclusion and sort of just wait your turn.” And that doesn’t go over very well because for people who are on the front lines of all of those other crises, they’re all existential. I mean, if you can’t feed your kids, if you’re losing your house, if you are facing violence, all of it is existential.

And so, we just have to accept that we live in a time of multiple overlapping intersecting crises and we have to figure out how to multitask, which means we need to figure out how to lower emissions in line with what scientists are telling us, which is really fast. And we need to do it in a way that builds a fair economy in the process. Because if we don’t, people are so overstressed and overburdened because of 40 years of neoliberal policy, that when you introduce the kinds of carbon-centric policies that try to pry this crisis apart from all the others, what that actually looks like is you’re going to pay more for gas, you’re going to pay more for electricity. We’re just going to have a market-based response. And so, it’s perceived as just one more thing that is making life impossible.

And the big boys will get away with it because they have expensive lawyers as they always do.

Right. And that sense of injustice, I think, animated the yellow vest movement in France, and you know that slogan, “You care about the end of the world. We care about the end of the month.” But I’ve heard versions of that for years where it’s like, “Well, we can’t deal with climate change because we have to put food on the table right now, we’re in a crisis.” And so if we don’t figure out a way to deal with climate change that doesn’t ask people to choose between the need to put food on the table, the need to care about the end of the month and the need to safeguard the living systems on which all of life depends, we’re going to lose.

And give them some sense that they’re living in a just society. So, what is Chico doing?

That sense of inequality is really key and it’s an important lesson of history because if we look at other moments when societies have changed very quickly, the original New Deal is one. Another one is the mobilization during the Second World War where people accepted rationing, accepted severe restrictions on the use of private vehicles because there was a limited amount of fuel. It was so central to those campaigns in the U.S. and in Britain that there be fairness that you had to see. This isn’t just regular working people who are being asked to change. Celebrities are having to change. Big corporations are having to change.

“Fair shares for all,” was one of the slogans. “Share, and share alike,” was another one. And we’ve never put justice at the center of our response to climate change at a governmental level. Of course, the environmental justice movement has been demanding this for decades, but our policies have never centered it. And I think that’s a big part of the reason people reject it.

So Chico did put at least affordable housing in their response. What did they actually do?

They weren’t able to. And so, what’s significant now is that … on the eve of the anniversary of the Camp Fire, a couple of members of Chico City Council unveiled their plan for a Green New Deal for Chico.

Which included those.

Which included affordable housing; which includes, as they put it, 21st-century clean transportation; which included food security, water security. Many of the themes that you’ve discussed over the years on this show. And I think it’s significant that this community that has been so much on the front lines of climate displacement because they know what it means to absorb such a huge new population that they said, “This is the infrastructure that we need in the future,” that we have locked in, which isn’t to say that we have locked in catastrophic levels of warming. If we decarbonize our economies very, very quickly, we can avoid those worst outcomes, or at least we hope we can. But what we know is that the future is rocky. The future has more of these types of disasters, more displacement. The future does mean that more people are going to be living on less land.

So how are we going to live together on less land without turning on each other? That is an absolutely central debate we need to have. Because what we’re actually seeing are a lot of politicians — including Donald Trump, but not just Trump — who are coming to power with their response, which is, “We’re going to fortress our borders. We’re going to create these scapegoats; we’re going to hoard what’s left. We’re going to protect our own.” I call this climate barbarism, but I think the right already has their response to the fact that we are entering this period, we’re in this period of mass displacement. What’s our response?

Are there places that you’re excited about?

I’ve been on the road for a couple of months now, talking with people who are trying to do this locally in cities like Austin [and] Seattle. Teresa Mosqueda is part of this council that passed a resolution calling for Seattle to have a Green New Deal with the boldest targets that we’ve ever seen from a city that already has a green reputation. But the significance of it is, the extent to which they’re not just centering justice, but holding themselves accountable to it. And this is what’s very interesting about the Seattle example in their Green [New] Deal resolution that passed unanimously through council; they called for a board to be created that will hold them to their commitments.

And on that board are eight members of front-line communities — activists from communities, mostly communities of color that have the dirty industries in their backyards, that are on the front lines of the impact, as well as climate scientists, as well as your more traditional green groups and trade unionists. Now that, I’ve never seen — having that many activists holding their representatives accountable. So that’s a model that I think we need to look at and say, “Okay, what would that look like in New York? What would that look like in Washington?”

So where do we stand on the movement front…? If you were to compare where we were on this question of, How we are connecting with each other in new ways, how are we?

Okay, so that’s interesting. I think what you said is absolutely true — that that was a more internationalist moment for progressive movements, than the moment that we’re in. In that, I think there was more infrastructure to support ongoing conversations across borders. And a lot of that had to do with the fact that trade unions were in that movement with both feet. I mean, the slogan, “Teamsters and turtles, together at last.” I think [that] was significant about the global justice movement that is very associated with Seattle….

We’ve seen it with Mexico and Paris, there’d been a lot before.

Yes. The big difference, I would say, was that you had some large trade unions that were financing that infrastructure that allowed these tables to be created where people had those international conversations.

And today?

I don’t think we have the anchor institutions that we need that are really investing in social movements so that we can have those … I don’t even think we’re doing it nationally, let alone internationally. So that’s a big difference. You said that it was multiracial. It wasn’t multiracial enough, to be honest. And I think that that is a place where progress has been made. So I think we’ve lost some ground and we’ve gained some ground in terms of understanding the centrality of building a truly multiracial movement.

I think, interestingly, that we saw on the platform a multiracial group of people talking, but the analysis of the role that white supremacy and slavery and incarceration were playing wasn’t integrated into the analysis.

It wasn’t strong enough. We didn’t have that as coherent analysis as informed by racial capitalism and theorists like Cedric Robinson.

But look at where we are in this moment with uprisings in Chile and Lebanon, Hong Kong…. We’re in a moment where things can tip very quickly because people have been pushed so far to the edge that almost anything can act as a spark. I mean, we saw it in Puerto Rico with leaked text messages. I’ve seen it in Haiti, in Ecuador with the loss of fuel subsidies. In Chile with a sudden increase in public transit costs. I think the level of corruption is so intense. Inequality is so outrageous that you just never know when that tip is going to happen.

And I think the lesson, and here’s where I think we’re in a better situation, and this is where the Green New Deal comes in, this moment of multiple uprisings, I think, shares a lot in common with 2009 and [20]10 after the financial crisis, when you have the movement of the squares in Europe, you had the Arab Spring and you had Occupy. And suddenly, societies are tipping, everybody’s in the streets, but there isn’t a clear demand of what the alternative to this failed model is. And I think that in the intervening years, so many people who were part of those movements have taken the responsibility of coming up with an alternative vision and an alternative plan really seriously.

And so now when we have one of those tipping moments, I don’t think we are going to make the same mistake of like opening up a vacuum that somebody else can exploit. Like the far right, which is what has happened in too many instances. And so that’s why I think it is so exciting that you have movements that are not just oppositional, but [propositional].

You started with saying natural human instincts were kind of broken by reality, by the condition of lives that we’ve made through our priority-setting at the government level. In a sense, I’m hearing we need to reclaim our gut instincts about things.

Well, I think what we need to do is figure out what are the policies that light up the best parts of ourselves, because we are complicated…. We are that person that rushes in to the disaster zone with everything we can carry and just wanting to help. And we are that person who just wants to hoard….

Don’t take too much.

… And protect. And different policies light up different parts of ourselves. And when you have a society in which economic precarity and competition are rampant, you light up the hoard and you suppress the share. And there are policies that create a baseline level of security. And this is why it is so important that we are talking about Medicare for All, we are talking about everybody’s right to education at every level. We are talking about the right to a living wage. We are talking about putting in policies that address that core insecurity that allow people to feel like they don’t just have to hoard. Because we’re going to be tested, and we are already being tested. And so, we have to figure out what kind of people are we going to be and what policies will help us be our best selves.  SOURCE

The Toxic Bubble of Technical Debt Threatening America

Climate change will soon expose a crippling problem embedded in the nation’s infrastructure. In fire-ravaged California, it already has.

The wind-driven Kincade Fire burns near the town of Healdsburg, California.

The wind-driven Kincade Fire burns near the town of Healdsburg, California. STEPHEN LAM / REUTERS

In Northern California, the fires have come again, sending hundreds of thousands fleeing by mandate. They’ve been aided by a historic wind event that a forecaster told me was “off the charts,” with offshore winds showing up as six standard deviations away from normal in National Weather Service models. On Sunday, the wind gusted to 100 miles an hour on a mountaintop near the Kincade Fire. It was like a dry hurricane, and the satellite images showed the fire pushing and expanding in response. The fire might keep growing for days more, maybe even a week.

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company, better known as PG&E, has a well-documented history of neglecting the maintenance of its equipment, and as with last year’s deadly Camp Fire, early reports suggest that the company’s lines could have started the Kincade Fire too. Even so, hundreds of thousands of residents have had their power shut off to try to prevent fires from starting.

PG&E makes for an easy villain, or “a steaming pile of terrible management and debt.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the company paid out executives and shareholders while foregoing important systemic upgrades. (The Journal’s editorial board, however, blamed Sacramento’s policies of supporting solar installations, which could have pulled the focus away from grid maintenance.)

And sure, let accountability fall on PG&E, the California Public Utilities Commission, and whomever else. The problem is far, far deeper though, and it extends way beyond the local situation.
A kind of toxic debt is embedded in much of the infrastructure that America built during the 20th century. For decades, corporate executives, as well as city, county, state, and federal officials, not to mention voters, have decided against doing the routine maintenance and deeper upgrades to ensure that electrical systems, roads, bridges, dams, and other infrastructure can function properly under a range of conditions. Kicking the can down the road like this is often seen as the profit-maximizing or politically expedient option. But it’s really borrowing against the future, without putting that debt on the books. SOURCE
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Copenhagen Wants to Show How Cities Can Fight Climate Change


The beginning of a ski run on the roof of Copenhagen’s new trash incinerator, which will help heat buildings in the city. Photograph by Charlotte de la Fuente

COPENHAGEN — Can a city cancel out its greenhouse gas emissions?

Copenhagen intends to, and fast. By 2025, this once-grimy industrial city aims to be net carbon neutral, meaning it plans to generate more renewable energy than the dirty energy it consumes.

Here’s why it matters to the rest of the world: Half of humanity now lives in cities, and the vast share of planet-warming gases come from cities. The big fixes for climate change need to come from cities too. They are both a problem and a potential source of solutions.

The experience of Copenhagen, home to 624,000 people, can show what’s possible, and what’s tough, for other urban governments on a warming planet.

The mayor, Frank Jensen, said cities “can change the way we behave, the way we are living, and go more green.” His city has some advantages. It is small, it is rich and its people care a lot about climate change.

Mr. Jensen said mayors, more than national politicians, felt the pressure to take action. “We are directly responsible for our cities and our citizens, and they expect us to act,” he said.

In the case of Copenhagen, that means changing how people get around, how they heat their homes, and what they do with their trash. The city has already cut its emissions by 42 percent from 2005 levels, mainly by moving away from fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity. MORE

The Green New Deal Is What Realistic Environmental Policy Looks Like

In the 21st century, environmental policy is economic policy.

Supporters of a Green New Deal gathered late last year in Washington.CreditCreditJim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency, via Shutterstock

Everyone is lining up to endorse the Green New Deal — or to mock it. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand have all endorsed the resolution sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts.

Conservative critics predictably call it “a shocking document” and “a call for enviro-socialism in America,” but liberal condescension has cut deeper. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, essentially dismissed it as branding, saying, “The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?” Others have criticized it for leaving out any mention of a carbon tax, a cornerstone of mainstream climate-policy proposals, while embracing a left-populist agenda that includes universal health care, stronger labor rights and a jobs guarantee.

What do these goals have to do with stabilizing atmospheric carbon levels before climate change makes large parts of the world uninhabitable? What has taken liberal critics aback is that the Green New Deal strays so far from the traditional environmental emphasis on controlling pollution, which the carbon tax aims to do, and tries to solve the problems of economic inequality, poverty and even corporate concentration (there’s an antimonopoly clause).

But this everything-and-the-carbon-sink strategy is actually a feature of the approach, not a bug, and not only for reasons of ideological branding. MORE

How infrastructure could build Canada’s clean economy

Over the next decade, $180 billion is earmarked for roads, bridges and other public projects. It’s a massive opportunity to cut emissions.

Image result for How infrastructure could build Canada’s clean economy

Photo: Shutterstock/by Randy Hergenrether

Public infrastructure – airports, bridges, transmission lines, wastewater systems – is everywhere, which makes it an obvious target for cutting emissions. The sheer amount of ground it covers means we could make a real dent in Canada’s carbon footprint by changing the way governments make infrastructure spending decisions. And yet it’s an opportunity seldom discussed.

The Government of Canada plans to invest $180 billion in public infrastructure over the next decade. It’s a key opportunity to get our public infrastructure spending right. If we don’t, we risk being locked in to the wrong path for decades – with expensive retrofits being our only option to later cut pollution and ensure our buildings and bridges can stand up to increasingly severe weather events.

The advantages of smart infrastructure spending are detailed in a new report from Clean Energy Canada, which draws on expertise from professionals and stakeholders.

Here is why we should target public infrastructure in our climate-change efforts, and push governments to spend dollars differently:

The Government of Canada has prioritized increasing infrastructure investment and cutting pollution across the country. The 2016 federal budget saw the launch of the Investing in Canada Plan, the federal government’s long-term infrastructure strategy. This plan marks a historic new investment of $180 billion over the next 12 years in five key priority areas: public transit, green and social infrastructure, trade and transportation, and rural and remote communities.

This policy primer will make the case for why we should look to public infrastructure to build the clean growth economy. It will also provide advice to government on how to do that. MORE

Oslo starts 2019 as Europe’s eco capital

The Norwegian capital plans to cut emissions by 95 percent by 2030, despite being one of Europe’s fastest growing cities. As European Green Capital 2019, it hopes to set an example for others.

Oslo - Stadtzentrum mit Tram (picture-alliance/NurPhoto/G. Yaari)

Oslo’s waterfront was once a mass of shipping containers and a vast intersection jammed with cars pumping out fumes.

Today, traffic is diverted through an underwater tunnel, and much of it is made up of electric or hybrid cars. Above, the scene is becoming dominated by a new Edvard Munch art museum and central library — both due to open in 2020.

The new development has impressive environmental as well as cultural credentials, with all new buildings meeting energy efficiency standards for low energy use, explains Anita Lindahl Trosdahl, project manager for Oslo’s Green Capital year. MORE