Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Extended Economic Distortion and a review of what it was like living in America during WWII

In a May 2, 2020, post here the term "" was first introduced:

    In this writer's opinion, too many pundits talk about the economic situation in terms of a recession or even a depression. The problem is mankind has never before seen an economy like the economy of the first two decades of the 21st Century. So we have never seen a reaction to a radical pandemic-based shift during such an economy.
    “It is impossible to overstate the pain that people are feeling now and will continue to feel for years to come,” [Bill] Gates warns us.
    The reaction is likely to lead to an Extended Economic Distortion, not a "great" recession or depression. Mistrust, a general sense of unease, is likely to be felt by most people. And the real meaning of "people" in this context is "consumers" whose spending drives the worldwide "consumer economy" which in the United States represents about 70% of economic activity.

Beginning with that post two years ago, 14 posts here have included some discussion of the Extended Economic Distortion.  Now in its second month, the Russia-Ukraine war has added a different twist. While American fuel costs rise, the headline at CNBC on April 1 was Millions of Brits plunged into fuel poverty on Friday as household energy bills surge and the April 21 Guardian offers People are struggling to pay their energy bills – here’s a simple idea that could help. Simply European nations are being clobbered because of the ties to Russian oil.

The folks at Bloomberg have already told us:

    A barrage of shocks is building that’s unlike anything emerging markets have had to confront since the 1990s, when a series of rolling crises sank economies and toppled governments.
    Turmoil triggered by rising food and energy prices is already gripping countries like Sri Lanka, Egypt, Tunisia and Peru. It risks turning into a broader debt debacle and yet another threat to the world economy’s fragile recovery from the pandemic.

The difficulty in dealing with the situation of Ukraine ties back to the Orange Revolution of November 2004 to January 2005 in Ukraine and was followed in the next decade by Euromaidan, Revolution of Dignity, and the War in Donbas. But Americans know all about this, so no links are needed. (Yeah, right.)

At the beginning of the 2022 Russia-Ukraine war, the head of the World Bank David Malpass said the economic impact of the war stretches beyond Ukraine's borders, and the rises in global energy prices in particular "hit the poor the most, as does inflation". He noted food prices have also been pushed up by the war, and "are a very real consideration and problem for people in poor countries".

Many Americans are eager to aid the Ukraine people even to the point of joining the war against Russia. The fact is black folks have been killing each other for decades in places like Sudan and Ethiopia and all the efforts of George Clooney in the Sudan haven't stirred the American people and their government anything like the Ukraine situation where white folks have been killing white folks for less than two months.

So before we go to war - perhaps against Russia and China - let's pretend that a nuclear war wouldn't be a likely outcome and instead we'd just have to prepare for a war similar to WWII. Here are just a few of the things that were required of Americans then:

  1. Over a year before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, on September 16, 1940, the United States instituted the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 and thereafter inducted 10.1 million men into an armed force of approximately 15 million who fought WWII, of whom 405,399 were killed.
  2. Unlike in WWII, where 27 million Russians died and 10.2 million Chinese died, both civilian and military, the United States experienced no warfare on its mainland.
  3. The U.S government ended all civilian automobile sales on January 1, 1942,  typewriters in March, and bicycles in May. In addition  gasoline, shoes, rubber footwear, silk, nylon, fuel oil, stoves, meat, lard, shortening, food oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods (canned, bottled, and frozen), dried fruits, canned milk, firewood, coal, jams, jellies, and fruit butter were rationed, among other things.
  4. Civilian hospitals received only small amounts of penicillin during the war, because it was not mass-produced for civilian use until after the war. A triage panel at each hospital decided which patients would receive the penicillin.
  5. Officials in American coastal cities were well aware of their vulnerability to air attacks and began ordering practice blackouts long before the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor. On March 8, 1941, Seattle became the first major American city to test its blackout procedures. This expanded across America. There were blackout drills that forced people to practice their response to the air-raid alarm signal—a series of intermittent siren blasts. Air-raid wardens supervised the blackout drills, cruising up and down neighborhood streets to make sure no light escaped the houses. By early 1943, there were about 6 million volunteers in public protection roles such as air-raid warden.

Of course, if a nuclear war with both Russia and China occurs, few, if any, Americans would be alive to put up with these inconveniences.

In the meantime, the U.S. is already running out of resources to bail out our economy from the Extended Economic Distortion. So let's calm things down a bit and quit pretending that we have the military capability to beat Russia on their own turf. The last idiots who thought that were the Germans in WWII. Ukrainians are hoping for a stalemate.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

This article caused me an "Oh crap" moment after 40 years worrying about advocating computer tech; Elon Musk's Twitter offer magnifies the anguish

I had just placed in perspective my worries after reading the above article a few days ago when Elon Musk's offer to buy Twitter made the headlines. Today at the livestreamed TED 2022: A New Era conference Musk explained that he hopes to “open source the algorithm” to try and improve trust in the platform.

“Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it is just really important that people have the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law,” Musk noted.

He added: “This is not a way to make money, my strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization, I don’t care about the economics at all.”

It is unclear what Musk thinks "the bounds of the law" are when free speech is the issue. But one thing is certain - Musk feels no constraints and given his economic resources has no constraints. 

Much of the world's population is constrained and feels frustration and anger regarding the constraints. Technology has evolved to the point that the one thing that has become nearly totally unconstrained is the ability of that population to express that frustration and anger to literally everyone else, instantly, to amplify that frustration and anger.

As a member of the "Silent Generation" I feel troubled by even the small, but active role I played in my early unconstrained embrace of computer technology evolution.

In December 1980 my wife and I started a business providing computer services, computerization studies and computer sales to businesses and government.

We were using Tandy Model II's, adding Model 100's (both of which would be considered primitive today), writing and rewriting software. These were early commercially successful computers offered by Radio Shack. By early, I mean they were preceded by the Model I, and the Model 100 was a laptop, maybe the first commercially successful true laptop.

From the beginning we noticed that - contrary to the propaganda - we were generating more paper than ever, not reducing the paper load as was one of the early arguments for computer use. 

But we forged ahead with a future of using computers, though still troubled by the symbol of a lot of results not quite like we anticipated - printouts piling up in and on filing cabinets, desks, etc., which now are huge files stored in the clouds - to what end is unclear.

By the late 1990's we were using Motorola second generation handheld mobile phones. Understand that these were phones, just using radio frequencies to connect to other folks using their wired phones in their businesses and homes, though we could talk to each other and to a few others directly via those radio frequencies.

In the mid-2000's we observed another troubling phenomenon. We had a grandchild that never lived a life that did not include watching screens - TV screens of course, but tablet-shaped toys with screens, and then computers and cell phones with screens which came to be referred to as "devices."

We worried about this, but couldn't quite pin down the broad societal "why" of that worry.

As we all now know, the most socially significant result of this technological evolution is today's social media, as explained in the article linked to the image above:

    Social scientists have identified at least three major forces that collectively bind together successful democracies: social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions, and shared stories. Social media has weakened all three. To see how, we must understand how social media changed over time—and especially in the several years following 2009.

It is a long, well-written article that offers a warning about the future:

    ...The newly tweaked platforms were almost perfectly designed to bring out our most moralistic and least reflective selves. The volume of outrage was shocking.
    It was just this kind of twitchy and explosive spread of anger that James Madison had tried to protect us from as he was drafting the U.S. Constitution. The Framers of the Constitution were excellent social psychologists. They knew that democracy had an Achilles’ heel because it depended on the collective judgment of the people, and democratic communities are subject to “the turbulency and weakness of unruly passions.” The key to designing a sustainable republic, therefore, was to build in mechanisms to slow things down, cool passions, require compromise, and give leaders some insulation from the mania of the moment while still holding them accountable to the people periodically, on Election Day.
    The tech companies that enhanced virality from 2009 to 2012 brought us deep into Madison’s nightmare. Many authors quote his comments in “Federalist No. 10” on the innate human proclivity toward “faction,” by which he meant our tendency to divide ourselves into teams or parties that are so inflamed with “mutual animosity” that they are “much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.”
    But that essay continues on to a less quoted yet equally important insight, about democracy’s vulnerability to triviality. Madison notes that people are so prone to factionalism that “where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.”
    Social media has both magnified and weaponized the frivolous....

Today we understand that worry we had, the "why" that troubled.

As early as 1996 the widening use of mobile phones in law enforcement caused one writer to note that "all these covert horizontal exchanges are potential breeding grounds for autonomous subgroups and informal organization as well as for various kinds of deviant behavior, because the participants can easily agree to attenuate or circumvent prescribed rulings."

At that time the mobile phone was still only a means of voice communications, not the primary visual and audio access to interact with the world for the vast majority of individuals. And it needs to be understood that the current level of interaction is without societal constraint.

Exactly how this means to create a nearly instantaneous "twitchy and explosive spread of anger" could be constrained in a democratic society fully committed to unconstrained communications is difficult to imagine. 

But it will be critical to the survival of democratic forms of government to deal with the shift of the concept of "free speech" from an environment of the "founding fathers" time that essentially limited communications between individuals to those physically present in a common space to a reality that almost anyone, almost anywhere in the world, at any time can communicate speech and images privately to anyone anywhere else in the world.

As I am very old and will not see the outcome of this, I can only hope that younger people such as Jonathan Haidt, the author of the article can guide a process towards an outcome consistent with the beliefs of James Madison. Otherwise the Chinese have a better chance of maintaining their society than we do ours.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

You've heard of NATO, but probably not the UK Joint Expeditionary Force. Ignorance is American.

If you think the U.S. and NATO are leading the European response to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, you might be surprised to learn that leaders of the UK Joint Expeditionary Force nations (shown on the map above) met on March 14 at  Chequers, the country house of Britain’s prime minister.

The next day, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a statement to the press:

    “We agreed that Putin must not succeed in this venture,” Boris Johnson told The Economist the next day. They agreed to “co-ordinate, supply and fund” more arms and other equipment requested by Ukraine. And they declared that JEF, through exercises and “forward defence”, would seek to deter further Russian aggression—including provocations outside Ukraine that might stymie NATO or fall under its threshold.

The story goes on to explain:

    JEF, largely unknown outside defence circles, was established a decade ago as a high-readiness force focused on the High North, North Atlantic and Baltic Sea regions (see map for its members). Unlike NATO, it does not need internal consensus to deploy troops in a crisis: Britain, the “framework” nation, could launch operations with one or more partners. As one British officer puts it: “The JEF can act while NATO is thinking.”

The article also notes: "For Europeans, much of this is about strategic autonomy—in part an effort to insulate their defence from the vagaries of American politics."

The article points out that on January 17th Britain began rushing thousands of NLAW guided missiles to Ukraine (the acronym stands for Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapons which a product of the Swedish company Saab which has been sold to a number of NATO countries). They are also sending anti-aircraft missiles.

As noted in The Baltic Times by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, whose country has provided over 220 million euros in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine: "In order to ensure the security of our region, defense cooperation in all formats is essential. This is why concrete steps must be taken, including training exercises organized, so that what is being done within the framework of the JEF would also ensure the security of the Nordic-Baltic region more than before."

This should not be confused with the Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) and other European defense agreements which operate outside NATO.

About that comment “The JEF can act while NATO is thinking.”

It should also be understood that between them Britain and France have about 515 nuclear warheads. Russian, of course, is the other European nation to possess nuclear weapons with about 6,250. Needless to say, the "successful" use of a dozen nuclear weapons by each in the current Ukraine conflict would be catastrophic. It would pretty much make NATO and the United States politically irrelevant.

And, in fact, the possession of those weapons by Britain and France pretty much make NATO and the United States politically irrelevant.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

As with the complexities of Climate Change and The Covid Economy, European History Complicates (The) Ukraine More Than Americans Understand

If you didn't notice, we have been again informed by experts who completed a new study that Climate Change has started and cannot be stopped.

Also the Covid-created Extended Economic Distortion continues unabated as the cost-of-living skyrockets.

And then there is the Russian invasion of Ukraine...

...or The Ukraine as it was called in the millennium when it was part of Russia before the Soviet Union came into being. Of course, there is no justification for starting a war which is the systematic killing of people for a political objective. With that said....

Lest you believe everything reporters born after 1959, and particularly those born after 1989, are telling you about (The) Ukraine, here is something you need to know from Wikipedia:

    Leonid Brezhnev was born on 19 December 1906 in Kamenskoye (now Kamianske, Ukraine) within the Yekaterinoslav Governorate of the Russian Empire, to metalworker Ilya Yakovlevich Brezhnev (1874–1934) and his wife, Natalia Denisovna Mazalova (1886–1975). Brezhnev's ethnicity was given as Ukrainian in some documents, including his passport, and Russian in others.
    His 18-year term as general secretary was second only to Joseph Stalin's in duration. While Brezhnev's rule was characterised by political stability and significant foreign policy successes....

In other words, the man who ran the Soviet Union for the longest period time was a Ukrainian except for Stalin who was a Georgian. You also might find the article How Ukrainian-origin leaders dominated the Soviet Union interesting as it covers the Ukrainian backgrounds of Nikita Khrushchev, Konstantin Chernenko, and Mikhail Gorbachev.

The difficulty for Americans is just how far removed we are from Europe, and more particularly European history. Without wading back through distant history, one needs to understand that in 1903 the map of the area of the Russian Empire now known as Ukraine looked like this:

Good luck finding the word "Ukraine." And that was at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Ah, but many say, the Ukrainians have their own language as a people.

If you ignore what are considered migrant, extinct (or nearly extinct), and foreign languages, the following are languages used in Russia other than Russian: Abaza, Adyghe, Altai, Avar, Bashkir, Buryat, Chechen, Chukchi, Chuvash, Crimean Tatar, Dolgan, Even, Evenki, Erzya, Finnish, Ingush, Kabardianucasian, Kalmyk, Karachay-Balkar, Karelian, Khakas, Kazakh, Khanty, Komi-Permyak, Komi-Zyrian, Mansi, Hill Mari, Meadow Mari, Moksha, Nenets, Nogai, Ossetian, Selkup, Tatar, Tuvan, Udmurt, Ukrainian, Veps, Yukaghir, and Yakut. Of these peoples, which would you be willing to risk a nuclear war to protect their right to self-government, democratic or otherwise.

And just in case you haven't noticed, NATO has expanded into the Russian (Warsaw Pact) sphere since the Soviet system fell apart. Would you consider this aggressive if you were a Russian leader:

Over the course of the 1990s and early 2000s, NATO expanded three times: first to add the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland; then seven more countries even farther east, including the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; and finally with Albania and Croatia in 2009.

Despite concerns expressed by some Americans and others, as noted by Reuters in December 2021 NATO and the U.S. rejected a statement from the Russian foreign ministry saying "NATO was on a path to draw in Ukraine, leading to the deployment of missile systems there that would target Russia. Such irresponsible behaviour creates unacceptable threats to our security and provokes serious military risks for all parties involved, right up to the point of a large-scale conflict in Europe. Ukraine and Georgia are former republics of the Soviet Union."

This came after Putin on July 12, 2021, actually published his views on the subject in a lengthy essay entitled On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians. If you know what's true and right about the Ukraine situation, of course you have already read it. But if you haven't you should, partly because it was written by Putin, but also because it isn't an inaccurate history though tinged with a particular point of view.

That point of view was clearly described in a February 28 interview of Fiona Hill in Politico:

    Reynolds: So Putin is being driven by emotion right now, not by some kind of logical plan?
    Hill: I think there’s been a logical, methodical plan that goes back a very long way, at least to 2007 when he put the world, and certainly Europe, on notice that Moscow would not accept the further expansion of NATO. And then within a year in 2008 NATO gave an open door to Georgia and Ukraine. It absolutely goes back to that juncture.
   Back then I was a national intelligence officer, and the National Intelligence Council was analyzing what Russia was likely to do in response to the NATO Open Door declaration. One of our assessments was that there was a real, genuine risk of some kind of preemptive Russian military action, not just confined to the annexation of Crimea, but some much larger action taken against Ukraine along with Georgia. And of course, four months after NATO’s Bucharest Summit, there was the invasion of Georgia. There wasn’t an invasion of Ukraine then because the Ukrainian government pulled back from seeking NATO membership. But we should have seriously addressed how we were going to deal with this potential outcome and our relations with Russia.

In other words, knowledgeable U.S. experts have known for a decade and a half that this situation was evolving. But the email titled Russia-Ukraine Conflict Shocks World, Brings Cybersecurity Worries says it all. It is complicated. It is dangerous. And we never once thought it was important. That's not Joe Biden's fault.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Climate Change Black Death:
   No, lithium production is not inherently an
   environmentally friendly way to the future

In Plans To Dig the Biggest Lithium Mine in the US Face Mounting Opposition you can learn about growing resistance to plans by Lithium America, mostly owned by China’s Ganfeng Lithium, the world’s largest producer of the element, to mine lithium at at Nevada's Thacker Pass.

    The opponents view lithium extraction as the latest gold rush, and fear that the desperation to abate the climate crisis is driving a race into avoidable environmental degradation. The flawed assumption behind the “clean energy transition,” they argue, is that it can maintain levels of consumption that are inherently unsustainable.
    “We want people to understand that ‘clean energy’ is not clean,” Max Wilbert, of the Protect Thacker Pass campaign, said. “We’re here because our allegiance is to the land. It’s not to cars. It’s not to high-energy, modern lifestyle. It’s to this place.”

The first thing we need to do is gain some perspective. The article notes:

    ...Despite the reduction in emissions that the widespread adoption of EVs would bring, the Center for Interdisciplinary Environmental Justice at the University of San Diego, an organization of concerned scientists who monitor harms to communities from mining, opposes the electrification of transportation. Their analysis shows that in order to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide at 450 ppm by 2050—parts of gas per million parts of air—industrialized countries’ greenhouse gas emissions would have to decrease by 80 percent. Electric cars, the center’s researchers concluded, would achieve just 6 percent of that target, leading them to argue that driving electric vehicles is not a radical enough behavioral change to significantly slow climate change.

Of course,nothing about this is simple. But as we noted here in Climate Change Black Death surrounds us: Britain's "civilized debate" via lithium powered "devices" over solutions to the Climate Change crisis is fiddling while Rome (and the World) burns a similar dispute exists in California's Panamint Valley. The LA Times article included this video

Meanwhile at California's Salton Sea an alternative to mining is evolving:

This writer has pretty much given up discussing this subject area. In the first post here on August 2007 this writer first noted the problem with offshore wind generation along the Pacific Coast - the unknown and not yet discussed potential impact on Gray Whale migration. Additional posts have followed which can be reviewed here. The last post on the subject was Gray Whales threatened as Biden and Newsom push huge Pacific Coast wind farm developments.

The Democratic Party leadership are assuming a panicky demeanor regarding Climate Change. They should. It is literally not possible to avoid significant climate change impacts. And in what can only considered disturbing everyone - including scientists, politicians, and business leaders - only discuss impacts in terms of before the year 2100.

As noted here in The evolving 21st Century Promethean Calamity: "Implicatory" Climate Crisis Denial and Thunberg's GenZ demand to halt Climate Change Black Death Al Gore started telling us about this 45 years ago at age 28 after being elected to the United States House of Representatives and by 1989, 30 years ago, then U.S. Senator Al Gore, in frustration published an editorial in The Washington Post, in which he observed that people see their future welfare, their future well-being, one year at a time. 

In the Covid Crisis we learned that at least a third of our population see only their own household's future economic well-being, and even that at best one day at a time. That has effectively assured the sacrifice of the well-being of future generations.

As noted here in a previous post, in Elizabeth Kolbert's 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History she explains that the Earth is in the midst of a man-made sixth extinction, chronicling previous mass extinction events, and comparing them to the accelerated, widespread extinctions of our present time. In a July 2014 interview on The Daily Show with John Stewart promoting the book at the end they both acknowledge a kind of despair:

Perhaps we need to ask a question. Is it likely that the nation of humans that perfected world war will sacrifice any significant economic advantage to take on the climate problem?

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Covid-created Extended Economic Distortion has morphed into a shortage consumer economy

 In the March 6 post here Will the American economy be "at anchor" with nowhere to go? An Extended Economic Distortion? it was noted a record of 40 container ships were at anchor at the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach on February 1. That's now up to 70+ as the number of full containers languishing in expanded storage areas have multiplied over the months.

Perhaps the most comprehensive article to date on this problem is the Washington Post article Inside America's Broken Supply Chain. But the number of factors impacting the supply chain are myriad, for instance Explainer: why is a drought contributing to the silicon chip shortage? which explains that a drought in Taiwan has made it harder to manufacture chips.

The Covid variants causing labor shortages still limit economic activity; retail prices are surging, including food prices and fuel and energy costs; sourcing of key components such as semiconductors, chemicals and glass has become problematic for many manufacturers; the drought is negatively impacting food production in the American Southwest and around the world as well as the production of silicon chips; the Chinese economy is struggling with a power crunch and a regulatory crackdown, further impacting the supply of key components; the U.S. Congress is stalled over spending and the debt limit, key economic policy issues which could impact the money supply; fearful in inflation central banks are seriously considering ending stimulus measures. The list of problems is becoming endless and multiplying.

The term Extended Economic Distortion was introduced in these posts on May 2, 2020, with an expanded discussion on May7, 2020. As repeatedly noted since then, we cannot predict the course of the Extended Economic Distortion. It will end either through slow adjustments over the next decade or a worldwide economic collapse.

Unfortunately for the world, the American political system offers no consensus on how to address the problem

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Let's be clear - the behavior of people as expressed in civilization is the cause of the climate crisis

This week should have stimulated in this writer hope for the future of civilization. It has not.

The latest update in a new United Nations–led report from the International Panel on Climate Change prepared by hundreds of climate scientists around the world tells us the human-driven climate crisis is now well under way. Essentially civilization is in trouble.

Civilization as explained in Wikipedia refers to organized densely-populated human settlements divided into hierarchical social classes with a ruling elite and subordinate urban and rural populations, which engage in intensive agriculture, mining, small-scale manufacture and trade. Civilization concentrates power, extending human control over the rest of nature, including over other human beings.

Cultural critic and author Derrick Jensen argues that modern civilization is directed towards the domination of the environment and humanity itself in an intrinsically harmful, unsustainable, and self-destructive fashion. Defending his definition both linguistically and historically, he defines civilization as "a culture... that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities", with "cities" defined as "people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life". This need for civilizations to import ever more resources, he argues, stems from their over-exploitation and diminution of their own local resources. Therefore, civilizations inherently adopt imperialist and expansionist policies and, to maintain these, highly militarized, hierarchically structured, and coercion-based cultures and lifestyles.

In "Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire," the cultural historian Morris Berman writes that "up and down the scale in the United States, a lack of empathy, an almost congenital inability to imagine the pain or the reality of the Other, is bred in the bone." He refers to what he calls an "American hatred of freedom." And he asserts that "the value system of at least 90 percent of the American population (at a conservative estimate), down through the decades, has acted to exclude a number of options that are essential for a healthy society. On one level, one might say that America takes away love and gives its citizens gadgets in return, which most of them regard as a terrific bargain."

The reality is that Americans in positions of power have known for 40+ years that we would reach the current point of climate crisis. Of course, the scientists have to tell us that only a major reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions this decade can prevent climate breakdown, and that some changes may already be “irreversible.”

And, of course, those of us who live in the American created civilization know that is not true- there is absolutely no chance of a major reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions this decade.

The problem actually starts because of the human civilization described above by Morris Berman. More than one article about the new study begins with a summary denial of the truth about the source of the climate problem: "it’s caused by fossil fuels." Actually fossil fuels aren't down there under ground plotting how to get out into the sunlight, building refineries to refine themselves, then drive around in cars spewing carbon dioxide into the air. 

No. it's caused by human beings in a civilization that simply cannot survive as it currently exists.

The problem represented in the comic strip to the right as explained by artist KC Green as: "Well, what are you going to do?"

You cannot create a complex civilization without structure. The structure of the dominant 21st Century civilization places unrestrained wealth economics above all else.

Hence, the comparatively minor economic stress associated with the Covid shutdown created anger and aggravated feelings in favor of antivaccination.

The truth is the Covid pandemic gave the current population a chance,  by doing practically nothing (getting vaccinated), to reduce the danger for everyone (as understood by scientists). Anger and hostility was the result of pushing vaccination.

Imagine trying to envision such a civilization confronted with being told to cut carbon dioxide emissions in half by doing such things as riding a bus instead of driving. It is just easier to believe the chart below is a lie than to restructure how we live.

In 2007 the first post here was about the threat to climate and to Gray Whales. Two months ago the post was Gray Whales threatened as Biden and Newsom push huge Pacific Coast wind farm developments. Literally, the solution to the climate crisis being pushed in California by the Democrats in power is more electricity use while changing the generation of electricity from fossil fuels to other environmentally harmful sources. In the meantime, the LA Times offers Something is killing gray whales. Is it a sign of oceans in peril?

Actually, it is a sign that because of the structure of our civilization - the Earth as we know it - has begun and will continue to undergo severe climate changes that over a period of decades will force the destruction of the current civilization.

It would be nice to say we acknowledge that we clearly understand that the "human driven" climate crisis is the result of the behavior and lifestyle of people. Instead we talk about carbon dioxide emissions which come from fossil fuels, at most blaming vehicles avoiding any reference to the drivers and passengers who are the ones actively destroying the current climate.

In the 40+ years that we have known clearly we have a climate crisis we have pushed our civilization to be more dependent on climate-damaging behavior, not less so. In the process, we, the people, have caused a climate crisis.

Perhaps news sources like the LA Times and most others could start offering headlines that say "People are killing gray whales. Civilization has put oceans in peril." That's the truth even though telling it may result in a minor reduction in retail sales resulting in less income to the news industry which is totally contrary to the values of our civilations.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

For the record the "new" Covid variants are Delta Plus, Epsilon, Lamda; like Delta they are spreading

Seven months ago, on January 5, in Welcome to the second year of Covid-19 in which new, more dangerous variants are already here we noted that new Covid-19 variants were on their way to your community.

Since then, the Delta variant has become the dominant infection. That's what "variants" do - compete to become the new, more infections dominant. 

As an example the Santa Clara County California case rate — the total number of cases on a given day per 100,000 people — is 25.3 for unvaccinated residents and 6.8 for vaccinated residents. Last month the case rate for unvaccinated people was hovering around 3. The figures also show a spike in cases among the county’s vaccinated residents, up from a case rate of around 1 at the start of July.

If you are vaccinated you probably won't get the Delta variant. But don't feel left out. At this point in time, one or more of the following variants will likely be broadly spreading in the next 12 months - Delta Plus, Lambda, and Epsilon variants (the latter was initially discovered in California in 2020 is spreading in Pakistan and is proving to be resistant to vaccines). In fact, all three are spreading.

It has turned out that the Delta variant is not only more infectious than the original pandemic, it is infecting more young people.

Finally, research scientists are now including in their writings that Covid infections within the decade will become frequent epidemics to the extent vaccines are ineffective or not used.  It will probably be helpful in the future if we all understand these words:

  • AN EPIDEMIC is a disease that affects a large number of people within a community, population, or region.
  • A PANDEMIC is an epidemic that’s spread over multiple countries or continents.
  • ENDEMIC is something that belongs to a particular people or country.
  • AN OUTBREAK is a greater-than-anticipated increase in the number of endemic cases. It can also be a single case in a new area. If it’s not quickly controlled, an outbreak can become an epidemic.

Not surprisingly, the Extended Economic Distortion, the economic downturn resulting from the Pandemic, also appears to be worsening as the infections rise. Many states have, of course, eliminated unemployment benefits related to the pandemic reducing the number of claims. So new statistics are basically lies. But in California, which hasn't moved into economic pretend mode, jobless claims have risen to their highest level since June 12, which was just a few days before the state reopenings occurred.

And, coincidentally, the impacts of Climate Change have become evident in an extensive, obvious way at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st Century.

By the way, many folks are angry....

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Bemoaning the loss of the Mythic California Dream: How can so many not know what Steinbeck knew?

    The California Dream is the psychological motivation to gain fast wealth or fame in a new land. As a result of the California Gold Rush after 1849, California's name became indelibly connected with the Gold Rush, and fast success in a new world became known as the "California Dream". California was perceived as a place of new beginnings, where great wealth could reward hard work and good luck. ...Overnight, California gained the international reputation as the "golden state"—with gold and lawlessness the main themes. - from Wikipedia

A curious narrative is being reported and repeated in news stories such as The California Dream Is Dying offered in The Atlantic. No, the "California Dream" is not dying. It is a 170-year-old myth sold to gullible people. As further explained in that Wikipedia entry:

    Generations of immigrants have been attracted by the California Dream. California farmers, oil drillers, movie makers, aerospace corporations and "dot-com" entrepreneurs have each had their boom times in the decades after the Gold Rush.
    Part of the "California Dream" was "that every family could have its own private home."
    As historian Kevin Starr has pointed out, for many if not most migrants to the golden state, "the dream outran the reality." The Okies of the 1930s "found their California dream transformed into a nightmare,' notes Walter Stein. As a result, "the California Dream is a love affair with an idea, a marriage to a myth."

If you read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath you get a good picture of the disappointment experienced by The Okies of the 1930's. But his other writings make clear that the current climate "change" called a drought is a good example of the myth as explained in 2017 here in Foolish planning and the inevitable wildfires: What could have been learned from John Steinbeck about California's true climate. That post expanded on a 2014 post To A God Unknown: Steinbeck, Stine, and Medieval California. Both those were based on what Steinbeck wrote in his 1933 novel To A God Unknown. But the following from East of Eden offers a direct view of California's climate:

Now the problem is exacerbated with something we have labeled "Climate Change" which for California means even drier made more disastrous fires because too many people live in California.

And a significant part of California's wealth is large agriculture dependent entirely on a water supply propped up by federal and state facilities, all of which is collapsing around us as the reservoirs go dry.

The drought is just one piece of the myth gone wrong. There is the the 20th Century housing myth.

Yes, we did have a huge housing boom after WWII. But it wasn't something that just happened. Compounding the California Dream myth, the federal government established funding mechanisms for building thousands of new homes to be purchased by people who would not have otherwise been able to afford them at the time. This was done through loan guarantees from the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration. From Wikipedia:

    During the Great Depression many banks failed, causing a drastic decrease in home loans and ownership. At that time, most home mortgages were short-term (three to five years), with no amortization, and balloon instruments at loan-to-value (LTV) ratios below sixty percent.[4] This prevented many working and middle-class families from being able to afford home ownership. The banking crisis of the 1930s forced all lenders to retrieve due mortgages; refinancing was not available, and many borrowers, now unemployed, were unable to make mortgage payments. Consequently, many homes were foreclosed, causing the housing market to plummet. Banks collected the loan collateral (foreclosed homes) but the low property values resulted in a relative lack of assets.
    In 1934 the federal banking system was restructured. The National Housing Act of 1934 created the Federal Housing Administration. Its intention was to regulate the rate of interest and the terms of mortgages that it insured; however, the new practices were restricted only to white Americans. These new lending practices increased the number of white Americans who could afford a down payment on a house and monthly debt service payments on a mortgage, thereby also increasing the size of the market for single-family homes.
    Since 1934, the FHA and HUD have insured almost 50 million home mortgages. Currently, the FHA has approximately 8.5 million insured single family mortgage, more than 11,000 insured multifamily mortgages, and over 3,900 mortgages for hospitals and residential care facilities in its portfolio.

This is what many think is the California Dream - housing funded by a federal program. Much like the Gold Rush, it was a myth-expanding reality though the federal government action did make far more new Californians "richer" than the Gold Rush did. And then those Californians adopted Proposition 13 putting a fence around their federally created wealth.

If you reread the first quote in this post you will note that "gold and lawlessness" were the main themes of the California Dream. Gold has been replaced, apparently by bitcoin, but lawlessness (defined as "being without law; uncontrolled by a law; unbridled; unruly; unrestrained") continues in the technology boom.

Probably more of the critical narrative appearing in print today is that folks migrating into California are not finding the economic promise of the Mythic California Dream. Housing? If you do a little research you will learn that in the 20th Century a multitude of cities were incorporated in California within which thousands of those federally funded homes were built. That incorporation of new cities stopped in 2000. The reason is simple - new cities must be allocated natural resources that are not available because there aren't enough to support even the existing economic structure.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

We have always known that half of our population will not get vaccinated even as family members die

As someone who prior to the age of 15 nearly died of influenza three times, being vaccinated annually for the flu is just routine. Some years I still get the flu, not surprisingly because some don't see the need or just don't think about vaccines. Perhaps some have chosen to not be vaccinated.

It hasn't been made clear about the parallels between influenza and covid-19. Consider the facts. The 1918 influenza pandemic - labeled the Spanish Flu - was the most severe in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918.

Mortality comparisons among Americans between the Spanish Flu and Covid-19 would seem to be a common information quoted in news articles. But that has not been the case. The fact is that in 1918 the U.S. population was estimated at 105 million. The 675,000 deaths attributed to the influenza epidemic made up 0.64 percent of the total population, a little more than six in every thousand people. The current US population is a little more than 330 million. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 make up about 0.15 percent of the total population, or between one and two in every thousand people. If COVID-19 caused deaths at the same rate as the 1918 epidemic, the total would approach two million.

Fortunately since the 1918 flu the combination of herd immunity and vaccinations has reduced the annual death rate from the flu. Still, as indicated in the chart to the right, Americans - maybe including some of your friends and relatives - are hospitalized and/or die every year from the flu.

As an example, in 2017-18 the flu killed 61,000 Americans. Prompted by the deaths among their fellow Americans, the following year a whopping 45.3% of adults got vaccines. You may remember the indignant outcry about that. You don't? That's because it didn't happen and doesn't happen. To Americans the death of 1,800,000 of their peers - you know, grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, kids - since flu vaccines became readily available in the mid-1950's is a small price to pay for the freedom to be...what?

Still, it is my responsibility to get my flu shot each year to protect me and my family. And so I have for 60 years, though not this year because the risk was nearly nothing. Instead I got a Covid shots in January and February, as soon as they were available.

With that said, because of my familiarity with the flu vaccines I know that even with a shot, I still can get the flu from someone who has it. I know that because I have gotten it as a gift from folks who didn't get shots. And Covid is similar in that the vaccine is not perfect.

Life is not simple. It must be noted that an incredibly small number of people who get the vaccines have a reaction and a very few of them die. Given that less than a half a percent of unvaccinated folks will die each year from the flu and covid, it's hard to choose to take the even significantly smaller risk the vaccines represent.

The future is going to offer that challenge - the addition of covid vaccines to the lineup that includes protection against flu, pneumonia, etc.

What may be difficult to understand is that at best about 50% of Americans will get their shots. That's just the way it is. And there are a whole range of other choices made by Americans that indicate at best we are a 50% nation despite every effort made to inform folks of what has been learned by those we pay to learn on our behalf.

Friday, July 9, 2021

War is not a reflection of confidence but rather of vile, evil indecency, a last choice the result of failure

It has been the sorrow of members of "The Silent Generation" to have lived a life in which the above statement of President Biden's could not be implemented until 2021. We can only offer hope for peace for future American generations.

We can also share the lessons learned from 1961 to 2021:

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Fact - 35 years ago Californians were warned of a 9° climate temperature increase within this Century

In Christopher Nolan’s science fiction film, Interstellar, set in the year 2067, the first few minutes of the film consists of interviews by survivors of an apocalyptic dust bowl. Those scenes are in fact are from a Ken Burn's documentary, real interview clips of actual survivors from the Dust Bowl which nearly destroyed the middle "Red States" of the United States in the 1930s. The Dust Bowl was the result of decades of individuals acting with full encouragement of the government in a time when we had no "climate scientists." Today Americans, particularly those living in the same "Dust Bowl" states, continue to behave in a similar fashion ignoring climate science, even to the point of assuring their government abandons their grandchildren to a disastrous future.

Beginning in posts here in 2011, the impacts on our grandchildren of governmental policy failures became the term used to create context about our failures as a people.

If you follow climate news you know the a heat dome impacted California and the Pacific Northwest last month. Firefighters battled 44 large wildfires that have burned nearly 700,000 acres. One of the coldest inhabited places on the planet, Verkhoyansk, Siberia, the land surface temperature was 118 degrees. And these are not isolated events:

Katharine Hayhoe, a 49-year-old climate scientist at Texas Tech University and chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy, noted “These extremes are something we knew were coming, the suffering that is here and now is because we have not heeded the warnings sufficiently.”

Hayhoe was only 14 when Congressional leaders first began reciting, repeating, warnings of impending climate change.

Indeed, the "alarmist" headline read "ACTION IS URGED TO AVERT GLOBAL CLIMATE SHIFT." Of course that was 35 years ago in a December 1985 New York Times article that told us:

    "Scientists have warned that carbon dioxide, from the burning of fossil fuels, and other man-made gases, such as methane and chlorofluorocarbons, are accumulating in the atmosphere. These gases trap in the earth's atmosphere solar infrared radiation that would otherwise escape back into space. Projections based on mathematical models indicate the average temperature at the surface of the earth, starting by the end of this century, could increase by as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100."

Elements of the post that follows appeared here previously, but given the recent climate "warming" impacts we need to be certain that readers be given the opportunity to consider its message.

Because agencies of the United States government and the Chinese government recently have accepted as inevitable a near-maximum catastrophic impact from Climate Change, the subject must be taken up again. The May 2018 Chinese study, which corresponds to the July official projections accepted and published by the Trump Administration, is unequivocal.

Of course, almost no living person in the Baby Boom generation (or older) will be alive to experience the full catastrophic impact even in the earliest year of the Chinese models - 2064. And at least half of the Gen X generation will be gone before the Chinese model's "most likely" full catastrophic impact year - 2084.

That means Climate Change is still a somewhat abstract concept to the generations of people who voted in the greatest percentages in the latest elections - excluding those who died from the recent heat. And too many of them keep telling themselves it is a lie as they try to figure out how to stay in their home until they die, in many cases despite regular flooding or wildfires or both.

And by "them" I must include "me" because as I wrote in 2016 Al Gore's campaign on climate policy beginning "40 years ago, he..., well, kids..., my generation failed him and you." 


We have already changed the world catastrophically

As explained in a previous post here, Elizabeth Kolbert is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who has won many awards for her extensive writings on Climate Change. In that post a quote from the 2015 update to her 2006 Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change summed up the situation (emphasis added):

     In the years since I wrote this book I’ve been asked hundreds of variations on the question: “What should I do?” What people seem to be looking for is both advice on concrete actions they can take and the assurance that what they do will make a difference. Given the paralysis of the political system, the time lag built into the climate system, and the high likelihood that the threshold of DAI [dangerous anthropogenic interference] has now been crossed, it’s difficult to offer such assurances. We have already changed the world dramatically, indeed quite probably catastrophically. But even when it comes to catastrophe, distinctions can be made. What we choose to do—or not to do—in the coming decades will determine the future both for our own kind and for the millions of other species with whom we share this planet. It is possible that we could still limit warming to around two degrees Celsius, and it is also possible that we could lock in warming of six degrees Celsius or more. These two possibilities represent radically different worlds.

In her 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History she explains that the Earth is in the midst of a man-made sixth extinction, chronicling previous mass extinction events, and comparing them to the accelerated, widespread extinctions of our present time. In a July 2014 interview on The Daily Show with John Stewart promoting the book at the end they both acknowledge a kind of despair:

Unfortunately, in 2018 in both the U.S. and China formal findings have been made that we have "locked in warming" of 4°± Celsius most likely within 60 years.

Under the direction of the Trump Administration the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with the cooperation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued aDraft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Year 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks proposing reduced average fuel economy standards for those vehicles.

The DEIS has determined that the draft official policy of the United States government will be acceptance of a near worst case scenario, a 4.387°C (7.876°F) global temperature rise since 1880 by 2100. That is because any lesser scenario would require deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming. A lesser scenario “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels...which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

In May 2018 a collaborative research team from China published a new analysis that shows the Earth's climate would increase by 4 °C, compared to pre-industrial levels, most likely by 2084. They found that most of the models projected an increase of 4°C as early as 2064 and as late as 2095, with 2084 appearing as the median year.

"Our ultimate goal is to provide a comprehensive picture of the mean and extreme climate changes associated with higher levels of global warming based on state-of-the art climate models, which is of high interest to the decision-makers and the public," said Dabang Jiang, a senior researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Perhaps some would want to dismiss both government agencies as being too pessimistic. The problem is in 1995, now 26 years ago, then Vice-President Gore reflected on his experienced reality in a 1995 New York Times article:

    "We are in an unusual predicament as a global civilization," Al Gore said when I interviewed him early in his Vice Presidency. "The maximum that is politically feasible, even the maximum that is politically imaginable right now, still falls short of the minimum that is scientifically and ecologically necessary."

In other words, as Kobert outlined in The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History various species have already gone extinct. Others are adapting, doing things like moving to higher elevations. But they haven't experienced anything close to the impacts of an increase of 4°C which will strain every species including humans.

All of which should lead us back 90 years to the Dust Bowl Era pictured at the beginning of this post.

In his 1933 novel To A God Unknown, John Steinbeck tells an allegorical tale of the California experience. The protagonist, Joseph, comes to California to create his future. He discovers a place of apparent wealth and promise. And indeed he appears to be achieving all that he dreams. But over time, tragedies strike and a drought undoes his life work.

Late 19th and early 20th Century immigrants to Californian hadn't read To A God Unknown. Instead they believed that water was an endless resource of wealth for future Californians. Unfortunately that wasn't true. It was Johnny Carson who observed that California has four seasons: Fire, Earthquake, Flood, and Drought. But mid-20th Century Californians didn't hear that.

Lands that once were orchards in Southern California. the San Francisco Peninsula, and Santa Clara County, and farms in the Central Valley became subdivisions of housing for large populations, urban/suburban populations that were now dependent upon that water for human consumption competing with the remaining agricultural interests. In 2009 the Southern San Joaquin Valley became the first area in the State to suffer significantly from the return of centuries of drought that received intermittent decades of relief.

No one can say we weren't warned.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Gray Whales threatened as Biden and Newsom push huge Pacific Coast wind farm developments

If you follow the news you learned that President Biden and Governor Newsom have successfully added planning for wind turbines to the Pacific Coast (see The Sacramento Bee headline clipping to the right).

Commercial offshore wind farms are proposed in a 399-square-mile area in Morro Bay along central California and another area off the coast of Humboldt in Northern California.

“This is a breakthrough that will allow the siting of offshore wind in the Pacific Ocean,” said White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy.

Governor Gavin Newsom called the proposal "historic" noting: “Developing offshore wind to produce clean, renewable energy could be a game changer to achieving California’s clean energy goals and addressing climate change — all while bolstering the economy and creating new jobs.”

Of course, The Sacramento Bee would include with its headline a photo of a wind turbine existing off the Pacific Coast of Japan. Only one problem exists - the Gray Whale migration route following the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Baja California, as can be seen in the drawing to the left which has appeared in these posts several times.

This blog was begun in 2007 when a serious proposal for wind farms to be constructed in areas off Mendocino County was offered. As can be seen at the bottom of this post, the proposal has been pushed several times since then but always died a natural death.

This time the proposal likely is not going to be withdrawn, perhaps not even successfully opposed. So let's take another look at the idea.

What is proposed this time? According to news articles the proposal includes sufficient wind turbines in Morro Bay and near Humboldt to generate enough electricity to power 1.6 million homes, which could make the California coast one of the largest generators of wind power in the world. In comparison, a new coastal Massachusetts wind farm could have up to 84 giant wind turbines while the California sites could hold more than 300 turbines, according to Newsom.

Is this a serious proposal? The New York Times reports:

    ENBW, a German electric utility that owns and operates four wind farms off the coast of Germany, intends to bid on leases to build a floating wind farm in Morro Bay, said the company’s spokesman, Damian Bednarz. The project, called Castle Wind, would consist of dozens of floating turbines, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes, he said.
    ...The company has been working with the federal government and the state of California for the past five years in hopes of clearing the way for the Castle Wind project, Mr. Bednarz said.

“We’re totally against this." said Tom Hafer, president of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, expressing frustration. "We’re going to lose a whole bunch of fishing grounds. There will be cables in the water. We don’t know how the whales will react. There are a lot of unknowns. People don’t realize how massive this project will be.”

The problem is no serious review of available facts regarding the Eastern Pacific Gray Whale migratory route could lead to the conclusion that this proposal would not do serious harm. But nothing about that is of concern to the private sector nor to the federal or state governments. As the New York Times story explains:

    Offshore wind developers said that the coordinated federal government approach toward approving the wind farms, pushed directly by the president along with his top cabinet secretaries and the California governor, appears to have made a difference in the fate of wind farms in the Pacific.
    “Now there is a strong commitment at the top to making this happen. That’s the big breakthrough here,” said Dan Reicher, who served as assistant secretary at the Department of Energy in the Clinton administration and now is an adviser to Magellan Wind, which develops projects with offshore floating turbines.

As noted here previously, in the next 10 years we do not need to build or continue to research projects like this along the North American Pacific Coast. Just because some engineers and contractors can build something doesn't mean they should. And "alternative" in the term "alternative energy" should not mean let's knowingly cause harm to an "alternative" species other than humans.

We must consider the potential impacts on these residents with whom we share the Eastern Pacific Ocean...

...and the impacts on all the smaller species. It's complex. So we will begin with one of the more curious issues - who owns the ocean?


Tragedy of the Commons

"Tragedy of the Commons" is explained as follows by Wikipedia:

    In economic science, the tragedy of the commons is a situation in which individual users, who have open access to a resource unhampered by shared social structures or formal rules that govern access and use, act independently according to their own self-interest and, contrary to the common good of all users, cause depletion of the resource through their uncoordinated action.

A discussion of the subject must begin with the question: "Who owns the ocean?" Apparently, in the case of the United States, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) plans to award contracts to the highest bidder intent on erecting electricity generating wind farms. Who or what is the BOEM, you might ask?

The first thing we need to clear up is that BOEM is not the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

The BOEM is not even in the same department as NOAA. Again, let's refer to Wikipedia:

    The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior, established in 2010 by Secretarial Order.
    The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) states: "...the outer Continental Shelf is a vital national resource reserve held by the Federal Government for the public, which should be made available for expeditious and orderly development, subject to environmental safeguards, in a manner which is consistent with the maintenance of competition and other national needs."
    BOEM and its sister agency, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement are the agencies to which this responsibility is delegated. They exercise the oil, gas, and renewable energy-related management functions formerly under the purview of the Minerals Management Service (MMS). Specifically, BOEM activities involve resource evaluation, planning, and leasing.

Subsequent to the passage of the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act in 1982, the Secretary of the Interior designated the Minerals Management Service (MMS) as the administrative agency responsible for the mineral leasing of submerged OCS lands and for the supervision of offshore operations. It wasn't until 28 years later, in 2010, that the MMS was renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement which was divided into the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Again, the BOEM handles leasing within the 200 mile limit (it is more complicated than that, but the 200 mile limit is roughly what defines offshore lands). More specifically the BOEM is assigned "oil, gas, and renewable energy-related management functions."

In the third year of the Obama Administration the BOEM began the planning and implementation process to lease lands within the Continental Shelf to private companies. To get a feeling for what that the process means in the Biden Administration, you may want to read the February news story Traffic lane, habitat alternatives for South Fork offshore wind project.

Historically the fishing industry has been the beneficiary of the "Tragedy of the Commons" as, effectively armed with "rights", fishermen sailed to location they knew and took what they could catch until the area was fished out.

Plans for the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) have been given priority because the entire Pacific OCS falls within the Gray Whale migratory route. So at this time we can only learn from what is the situation on the East Coast as described last month in The Connecticut Examiner:

    The first major commercial windfarm in US waters is Vineyard Wind which potentially will encompass over 1,000 square nautical miles into which Denmark and its private investors plan to erect close to 200 six-hundred-foot-tall wind turbines each weighing over 300 tons. That geography represents a mass slightly larger than the entire size of Rhode Island.
    The BOEM regulations under which the wind farms will operate (construction and operations plans COP) recognizes that such marine construction will damage the environment, and the fisheries that operate in there—to some extent.
    But these waters already support multiple users regulated by the government, especially the fisheries. Tugboats and commercial traffic, the U. S. Coast Guard and U. S. Navy, commercial air traffic, marine scientific research done by universities, the governments, and fishing organizations.
    In college we would describe this as a cluster #@#$%^&*!
    These waters are further complicated by the Endangered Species Act attempting to stem the demise of right whales which annually spawn IN THIS CONSTRUCTION AREA.
    The federal government would protect the whales in this wind leased area by removing over 10,000 lobster traps and their buoy lines. But it would approve construction of the largest marine structure in the world here?
    In these commons the sheep are told to leave and not graze here. But the goats and cows can have at it at will.
    More than 3,000 miles of ocean bottom will have to be dug up to bury electric cables run among the towers and to the shore stations. These bottoms are sensitive habitat. And the cable industry experience with wind projects is that there will be breaks—expensive and complicated to repair—closing off large areas to all other legitimate established users.
    The five turbines in the test wind field off Block Island, failing to follow good engineering practice, are now faced with a $50 million plus repair bill to re-route cables to the island and separately to the mainland.
    The problem here is that no one has any ownership interest to protect. Worse, the federal government law requires the wind interests to secure a formal letter giving them permission to kill whales and sea turtles in the course of building the wind farms.


Offshore Oil and Gas Versus Wind

Many Californians do not know about existing offshore oil and gas wells

In the 1920's the Ellwood Oil Field was first developed off Goleta. Its claim to fame was being bombarded by the Japanese during WWII. The Wilmington Oil Field located off Los Angeles was first developed in the early 1930's. It is the third largest oil field in the United States in terms of cumulative oil production. Additional development followed.

Unfortunately for oil companies, the promise of expanding future oil production was spoiled by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 3,500 sea birds as well as marine animals such as dolphins, elephant seals, and sea lions. The outrage resulted in legislation that forms the legal and regulatory framework for the modern environmental movement in the U.S. It's complicated, but it severely limited oil production off the California coast.

On the other hand, wind is not oil. And we have not yet had the equivalent to the Santa Barbara oil spill. So despite the failed engineering practices associated with the five test wind fields off Block Island, plus known past design failures associated with around 600 of Europe's installed offshore wind turbines such as dissolved grouting, massive political pressure exists to develop wind energy to deal with climate change.

After all, what could possibly go wrong? After all, this is not nuclear power as mentioned here in my February 25, 2012, post. And this isn't the Agu├žadoura Wave Park which opened in on September 23, 2008, but shut down in November due to mechanical problems, which was discussed in that post.


From the February 25, 2012 Post

Speaking of that post, remaining critical environmental impact issues deserve a reprint from that post for those who can stand a refresher:

As noted earlier, from our technocrats here in California we have the November 2008 study prepared for the California Energy Commission and the California Ocean Protection Council titled DEVELOPING WAVE ENERGY IN COASTAL CALIFORNIA: POTENTIAL SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS which offers this thinking:

Gray Whale: Potential for Interaction: High

Gray whales are one of the most commonly sighted whales off California with approximately 18,000 individuals migrating or resident in nearshore waters. The entire northeastern Pacific population of gray whales may migrate through or reside within habitat slated for WEC/wave parks in California. The potential for interaction is high due to this extreme habitat overlap. Potential interactions include entanglement and subsurface collision potential with WEC and associated supports, increased vulnerability to predation, changes to prey availability, and foraging behavior (of resident whales). Gray whales were formally listed as "Endangered", but have been delisted. (pp. 138-139)

6.1.4.6 Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Considerations

Electromagnetic fields (EMF) have been shown to affect a host of higher vertebrates (Kirschvink et al. 2001), though little is known about the effects of EMF on marine mammals. Some studies indicate dolphins, porpoises and whales respond to the magnetic portion of an electromagnetic field (Scottish Government 2007). Based on this information, the primary concern may be for the physiological effects of EMF and/or if the marine mammals occupy an area around wave energy converters (Fernie and Reynolds 2005). Further investigation is needed in this area. (p 130)

Benefits to California

In 2006, the California Legislature passed the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). Among other important requirements, this legislation requires the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulations such that greenhouse gases are reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. Wave energy could assist in reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions by providing a renewable and reliable energy source. Other benefits to California include job creation and other forms of economic opportunity. Wave energy could meet a significant proportion of the state’s energy demand. While significant technological and economic issues remain, ecological issues, at this stage, appear manageable. (p. 5)
Let me summarize what it says for any Eastern North Pacific Gray Whales out there reading this.

Facts Presented. The Eastern North Pacific Gray Whale will most assuredly have problems with the mere physical presence of wave energy equipment and we don't know anything about the effects on whales of electromagnetic fields that affect a host of higher vertebrates, except that some studies indicate they respond to the magnetic portion of an electromagnetic field.

Conclusion Reached. Ecological issues appear manageable.

The report is not an environmental impact report either under federal law or CEQA. It obviously was written as requested by California officials to cheer on development of wave energy.

To be fair, the "Abstract" provided at the beginning reflects a "suitably cautious" disclaimer tone for humans:
Dramatic ecological, social, or economic effects are not clearly indicated by this study, but a strong case for caution is supported when developing wave energy conversion technology off the California coast. Impacts to human activities, wave exposure, benthic communities, fishes, birds and mammals are all virtually certain, but the impacts’ magnitudes and the cumulative effects remain difficult to anticipate.
From the point of view of Gray Whales, the use of the "get-out-of-jail free card" is disturbing:
Gray whales were formally listed as "Endangered", but have been delisted.
This card was played in the environmental documents of a permitted wave energy power plant in Oregon, sponsored in part by the Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative (PNGC), a group of utility cooperatives located in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Montana. It is the Reedsport OPT Wave Park project to be owned and operated by Reedsport OPT Wave Park, LLC., an "affiliate" of Ocean Power Technologies (OPT).

In the January 2010 REEDSPORT OPT WAVE PARK - FERC PROJECT NO. 12713 - APPLICATION FOR A MAJOR LICENSE (Vol IV, Appendix A pp 4, PDF pp. 8) we learn:
Gray Whale

The gray whale is a large baleen whale that is composed of an eastern and western stock (Figure 6). The eastern stock inhabits the Pacific Coast and was de-listed from federal protection in 1994. The western stock is found along the Korean coastline and remains classified as endangered.
And in the chart on the following page the reader is informed:
Species was delisted in 1994 and is making a marked recovery. Population is currently over 20,000 individuals.
On page Appendix A-11 (PDF page 15) the document states:
2.2 Cetaceans - ESA Listed

OPT has contacted NMFS and requested information on species in the project vicinity that are protected under the ESA, most recently in a letter dated October 11, 2007 and during various phone conversations and meetings. Federally listed threatened or endangered cetacean species that may occur in the project area are listed in Table 2.
The Gray Whale is conspicuously absent from the table. The NMFS is the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Gray Whale was delisted. From its web site (emphasis added):
NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is the federal agency, a division of the Department of Commerce, responsible for the stewardship of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat. NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is responsible for the management, conservation and protection of living marine resources within the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone (water three to 200 mile offshore). ...Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service recovers protected marine species (i.e. whales, turtles) without unnecessarily impeding economic and recreational opportunities....
As I explained previously, the State of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife lists the Gray Whale as Endangered. Curiously, Volume II (pp. 9-4 & 5) of the project study assures us:
Other Wildlife

■ Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. 1993. Oregon wildlife diversity plan. Portland, Oregon. [Online] http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/diversity/.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the Oregon Wildlife Diversity Plan in 1993 and updated it in 1999. The plan established the goals, objectives, and strategies for the ODFW’s Wildlife Diversity (formerly Nongame) Program. The Diversity Plan includes a list of state-designated endangered, threatened, and sensitive species. State-listed species that may occur in the vicinity of the proposed project are discussed in Sections 5.C.3. and 5.C.4. Because the proposed Reedsport Project is not expected to adversely impact state-listed wildlife, OPT believes that the Reedsport Project is consistent with the Oregon Wildlife Diversity Plan.
Any hope I had that the State's listing is mentioned in the indicated Sections was initially dashed, When I checked Section 5.C.3. I first found the same exact language quoted above referring to the delisting by the U.S. Government including the table. But, on pp. 5-66 & 67 (PDF pp 139-140) we have a long discussion of the Gray Whale including this paragraph:
Gray whales are a success story for recovery of endangered species with current populations estimated to be over 20,000 whales (Rugh et al. 1999; NOAA 2007d). The population is thought to be near pre-exploitation population levels (NMFS 2002). Even though gray whales are not federally listed as endangered, they are listed as endangered on Oregon’s state threatened and endangered species list.
This language uses the dismissive "get-out-of-jail free card" by noting the delisting by the U.S. Government in a State that lists the species as Endangered.

Nonetheless, the project documentation includes a Study Plan (beginning on Volume II Page Appendix C-26 PDF p. 477) that does include the Gray Whale. What we need to keep in mind is the wave energy power plant involved is described as follows (Volume II p. Appendix C-1 PDF p. 452):
The project would consist of deployment and operation of 10 PowerBuoy® wave energy converters (WEC) having a total capacity of 1.5 megawatts (MW), to be located approximately 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) off the coast of Gardiner in Douglas County, Oregon (Figure 1). The ½-mile-by-½-mile (0.25 square miles) project area represents the area within which the 10-PowerBuoy array would be deployed. The actual footprint of the constructed array is expected to be only about 1,000 feet by 1,300 feet (300 meters by 400 meters) or approximately 30 acres (0.05 square miles), excluding the navigation safety zone.

This 0.25 square mile 1.5 megawatt wave energy power plant must be considered in the context of the ambitious California plan discussed above that anticipates allocating 160 square miles to generate eight gigawatts from commercial projects each with a generating capacity of 100 to 150 megawatts.

Given the small size of the Oregon project, the study results will be of limited benefit to FERC and California agencies. And the study does not anticipate evaluating the effects of electromagnetic fields.

Nonetheless, this project represents the best one could hope for as the Marine Mammal Institute of Oregon State University was funded by the Oregon Wave Energy Trust to conduct an ongoing study. The problem is that there is an Oregon Wave Energy Trust which is primarily an advocate for the use of wave energy.

Hopefully, the above reprint will assist those seeking to oppose the new proposal.