Energy

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

Driving NASCAR Off the American Cultural Cliff

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 1:40am in
by Brian Czech

In the heart of New York’s spectacular Finger Lakes region last Sunday, 40 drivers lined up to race—for six hours—round and round a circuitous route of doglegs four miles southwest of Seneca Lake. I don’t know who won, and I couldn’t care less, but I do know who lost. That would be people and planet.

Brian France

Brian France: Billionaire grandson of “Big Bill” France and master of NASCAR branding. (CC BY-SA 2.0, Zach Catanzareti)

Watkins Glen International Raceway, dubbed “the spiritual home of road racing in the USA,” is among six major car-racing tracks scattered about the state parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges of the Finger Lakes region. These six tracks are among 64 in the great state of New York, where they plunder the peace from the Pennsylvania state line all the way over to Long Island, up into the Adirondack Mountains and back down to the shores of Lake Ontario.

It’s unclear why Watkins Glen gets the “spiritual home” title. Could it be for the dozen spirits (eleven drivers and one spectator) who gave theirs up at “The Glen”? Or, maybe it has to do with the historical origins of the raceway, so parallel with the origins of NASCAR. Possibly it’s because of the diversity of racing styles that have convened there, including NASCAR, the Grand Prix, and GT World Challenge America.

Yet my guess is it’s the majesty of the Finger Lakes region that spiritualizes all who enter its hallowed valleys. The sweeping vistas, clear blue lakes, and cool, crisp air are inspiring and energizing to travelers, whether afoot, aboard a bike, or driving a Prius. By the time they arrive anywhere near Watkins Glen, their spirits are lifted and their psychological engines are revved.

And NASCAR capitalizes like a vulture on a Seneca Lake updraft.

Who Is NASCAR?

NASCAR is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, LLC. Don’t mistake it for a motorized version of the NFL, NBA, or NHL. It’s not a trade association designed to serve its constituent teams, complete with a commissioner holding teams and players accountable to fans and each other. Rather, NASCAR is a privately held corporation; held in particular by the France family ever since its founding by Bill France, Sr. in 1948.

While it’s not a trade association, NASCAR is somewhat of a syndicate, sponsoring races under twelve “series” across North America and another series in Europe. Most Americans can’t avoid some exposure to the “Cup Series” with its history of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt tearing up tires at Daytona, Talladega, and The Glen. The other two primary American series are the “Xfinity Series” for up-and comers—much like minor league baseball—and the “Camping World Truck Series” for pickup truck lovers.

Bib that says "I have a checkered future."

NASCAR fans are made, not born, but with NASCAR’s help, the making starts shortly after birth.

The latter two series remind us that NASCAR is also a brand, unto its own and as a mother brand for all kinds of offspring. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series used to be the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and for one brief year Gander got in on NASCAR glory.

Even the coveted NASCAR Cup Series has had its spin-off branding, with Winston (cigarettes), Sprint, and Monster Energy all putting their names on the cup over the recent decades of shifting consumer preferences.

Branding and sponsorship vis-à-vis NASCAR is a bewildering phenomenon. A logical start in sorting it out would be with the list of racing team sponsors. Most NASCAR teams have “partners” as well, including “primary partners” that evidently provide more money than regular old partners. NASCAR per se—the France family—has its “premier partners,” “official partners,” and “broadcast partners.”

Then there’s the straight-up NASCAR retail line, spread across a gazillion vendors including Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, JCPenney, and presumably every truck stop along the Interstate Highway System. You can get the goods directly from NASCAR’s own online NASCARSHOP, too. There, for example, you can get your NASCAR T-shirts (over a thousand choices), NASCAR earrings, NASCAR nightlights, NASCAR baby bibs, NASCAR leashes (presumably for pets), and all manner of NASCAR memorabilia and collectibles. But you’ll never collect it all, try as you might, because each year and each new team brings new combinations and permutations of drivers and cars (with a current collection of 730 diecasts in sizes up to 1/24th).

None of this stuff is cheap, but don’t worry; just use code “Lap25”—no kidding—to get 25% off!

NASCAR Money

It’s not easy to assess the financials of a privately held corporation, especially in the USA, but in 2015 Forbes managed to estimate the France family at #53 in “America’s Richest Families” with a net worth of $5.7 billion. Brian France alone (the grandson of “Big Bill”) evidently clocks in today around $1 billion, and the annual gross revenue of NASCAR is about $3 billion.

How do the Frances and NASCAR make all that money? A big chunk of it comes from the $8.2 billion, ten-year television contract NASCAR signed in 2014 for the period 2015-2024. NASCAR gets ten percent of it from the get-go. The rest is split primarily between racing venues and teams.

Now imagine if a Dan Snyder or a Jerry Jones (two of the more reviled NFL team owners, for non-Americans) owned legendary Lambeau Field, AT&T Stadium, FedEx Field, and the Superdome, plus ten more of the biggest NFL venues. That would be comparable to NASCAR and the France family with their fourteen racetracks. Along with Watkins Glen, the “spiritual home,” NASCAR properties include the iconic Daytona International Speedway, Richmond Raceway, and Talladega Superspeedway.

Photo of race cars racing around Michigan International Speedway.

Cars and consumers on the fast track at Michigan International Speedway, a property of NASCAR, LLC. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Stephanie Wallace)

Since 2019 when the France family bought out the ISC (International Speedway Corporation), they’ve had only one rival in the hosting and scheduling of NASCAR races: Speedway Motorsports with its twelve tracks. Given 39 tracks where NASCAR races are held in the USA (38) and Canada (1), only thirteen are owned by others, including a handful of public entities (Los Angeles County with its Memorial Coliseum, for example).

While NASCAR and the France family used to be at odds with Speedway Motorsports, that seems to have changed since NASCAR took over the ISC. That same year, Speedway went private, emulating the France family. Now they’ve “entered a period of détente,” and we can only imagine the potential for collusion. With a little cooperation, the two entities—especially the France family—can fairly monopolize prime-time stock car racing and scheduling in the USA (which of course you can monitor at NASCAR’s own ESPN-like website).

Either way, NASCAR rakes in close to a billion more annually from its “venue share” of the TV contract combined with ticket sales ($660 million and $194 million in 2018, respectively). Some of the ticket sales go back to the drivers (40 of them in the Cup Series, including 36 chartered) and their teams (17 of them in the Cup Series). But then, teams and charters (the latter analogous to NFL franchises) pay hefty fees back into NASCAR.

Don’t forget those sponsorships and partnerships, too. Sprint, for example, is thought to have paid NASCAR between $50 and $75 million annually for some years before 2016.

All we can say for sure is, if you’d like a challenging accounting job, sign on with NASCAR.

NASCAR and Economic Bloating

What could contribute to GDP at a faster pace, in a fossil-fueled economy, than some of the planet’s fastest, most gas-guzzling machines tearing around in circles? Especially when a NASCAR race typically attracts around 100,000 attendees, many of them driving their own souped-up coups to the raceway in undying tribute to their favorite “sport.”  So, when NASCAR comes to town, the chamber of commerce listens.

A NASCAR race can bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in local revenue, most of it taxable and therefore good for the public goose as well as the private gander. Richmond International Raceway, for example, “generates $557 million for the state, including $36 million in local and state tax revenues.”

Don’t get me started on “generates.” At CASSE, we know how money is generated. Money is expended, “fast and furious,” at NASCAR races, but the money is generated at the ecological base of the economy, where it invariably entails an ecological footprint in addition to the one at the raceway. That said, it doesn’t take a genius to calculate that hundreds of millions of dollars are brought to the region of a NASCAR event.

Bimp of the Daytona International Speedway

Location, Location, Location. Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR’s corporate home, is next to Daytona Beach International Airport, and now next to a hundred-acre Amazon campus. (CC BY 2.0, Chad Sparkes)

Politicians want to be in on the action, too. Here’s how Illinois state senator Rachelle Crowe (a Democrat from Glen Carbon) puts it: “By bringing the NASCAR cup series to the [St. Louis] Metro East this summer, our state is solidifying its commitment to supporting regional development and driving economic growth throughout the area.”

Conversely, when NASCAR pulls out (as it readily can, given its control of venues and schedules), the locale feels the pinch. That’s precisely what happened at Watkins Glen in 2020, when the staunchly conservative France family moved the big event down to Daytona, blaming it on the differential in COVID regulations between New York and Florida.

NASCAR knows it brings the dough, and plays it up as needed. As Lesa France Kennedy, NASCAR’s executive vice chairperson, puts it, “We are proud to be a part of positive economic development in each market in which NASCAR races.” In a country where economic growth is a hot pursuit at every political level, pitching a race is easy, but NASCAR plays good growth citizen in other ways as well.

NASCAR recently cut a land deal with Amazon, which is developing 100 acres adjacent to Daytona International Speedway. The deal prompted France Kennedy to add, “As Amazon has continued to expand its operations within Florida, we’re excited to play a role in bringing new jobs and a first-class partner to Volusia County. We look forward to this project serving as a catalyst for future growth and development in the community.”

In other words, even where a lot of the townspeople might view NASCAR as an unwelcome intruder, it’s likely to horn its way in by “virtue” of its economic growth credentials. As with so many other questionable pursuits, NASCAR would be far easier to stop if growth itself were recognized as the problem it has become.

The Gas, the Materials, and the Waste

NASCAR has its own version of green energy: Sunoco’s 98-Octane Green E15. It’s literally green; think of it as Mr. Yuk green. By the end of 2016, after only five years of running on Sunoco Green, NASCAR was celebrating “10 million competition miles” fueled by this so-called “biofuel” containing 15 percent “American-made ethanol.”

Note that celebrated phrase “competition miles,” in cars that get 2-5 miles per gallon during competition.  That means somewhere between 2 million and 5 million gallons of Sunoco Green was combusted during the five-year period, just during the races. A lot more than that would have been burned up practicing. While most NASCAR races take about two hours (the Watkins Glen marathon being a notable exception), “NASCAR drivers must practice for hours at a time to develop sound habits at a racetrack.” Thus, NASCAR has a ridiculous carbon footprint: approximately 4 million pounds per year.

Another thing NASCAR burns is rubber. About 75,000 tires were used up by NASCAR in 2015, resulting in $35 million of expenditure on tires in 2016.

If we went down the list of supplies and materials used up for all this unnecessary “car circling,” we’d find steel, aluminum, plastic, paint, solvents, glass, fiberglass, lead, copper, titanium, magnesium, wood, sand, oil, and cement.

Meanwhile, NASCAR has tried to paint itself “green” with tree planting and recycling initiatives. Has there ever been a greasier splash of lipstick on a sloppier looking pig? The salient fact remains that the “sport” consists of circling around and around, ad nauseum, in gas guzzlers, for no apparent reason whatsoever than the “entertainment” of a crowd that could probably benefit from a little healthy exercise. Certainly their ears would benefit.

The Symbolism

Approximately 23 years ago, while writing Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train, I recall finding (and duly reporting) that NASCAR was “the fastest growing spectator sport in North America.” I was shocked, not because it seemed untrue—it rang true indeed—but because of the absolute collapse of the American conservation ethic. I recall wondering, “What could the world possibly be thinking of us?”

On September 11, 2001 (a year after Shoveling Fuel was published), al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the symbols of American capitalism and the U.S. Government. Almost immediately, President George W. Bush hideously exhorted Americans to “go shopping” and travelling. “Get down to Disney World in Florida,” he said from O’Hare Field. “Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”

Empty NASCAR stadium with one car racing the track.

Goodbye NASCAR.

NASCAR fans took Bush to heart, and NASCAR, as always, was ready to capitalize. In the first major spectator event after 9/11, on September 23, 140,000 screaming fans—with 140,000 NASCAR-provided American flags—packed the Dover International Speedway in Delaware. Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless the USA.” The fans chanted as one, “Wooo! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”

It’s understandable to have mixed feelings about the Dover event. Americans needed an emotional outlet, and it happened to be a time of year when NASCAR would likeliest provide it. Yet the symbolism was horrific at a time when the rest of the world was trying to sympathize with the USA. Everyone knew American tensions in the Middle East were all about the oil, and here were filthy rich NASCAR teams launching their legendarily gas guzzling noise makers into circles yet again.

The USA blew its opportunity to secure long-lasting international goodwill. Her citizens went shopping, to Disney World, and to NASCAR races. They practiced “consumer patriotism.” The tide of goodwill turned quickly, and in a matter of months one of the prevalent topics over the airwaves and in the think tanks became “Why do they hate us?” While President Bush kept that question focused on Islamic extremists, many of us understood it wasn’t just the extremists, but rather a whole world of nations with a growing resentment of “the way we want it.”

Fast-forwarding to now, consider how frustrating it must be for the world’s other nations to watch our obnoxious NASCAR spew carbon and particulates into the global atmosphere, again and again and again, for almost 75 years, as if we were kicking sand in their faces, while they meet in handwringing futility on reducing carbon emissions. It’s not so much about the pollution and global warming directly attributable to racing—industrial and military sectors cause far more of that—but the symbolism is as stark as a Confederate flag.  What could possibly be more symbolic of Americans’ casual disregard of the world citizenry, the global environment, and posterity, than NASCAR?

Fortunately, NASCAR is no longer “the fastest growing spectator sport in North America.” It’s on the decline with all kinds of political and financial problems, thanks to a toxic mixture of Trump, Confederate stain, France family greed, COVID, and environmental concerns. Now is no time to take our foot off the gas. The Frances made their billions, drivers made their millions, and fans had their fun. Let’s welcome the fans back to sanity; we need them on the team and in the pits, if not in the driver’s seat. Together, we’ve got to drive NASCAR off the cultural cliff and let it lie in the rusty pile of American mistakes.

Nothing could be more patriotic.

Brian Czech, Executive Director of CASSEBrian Czech is CASSE’s executive director.

The post Driving NASCAR Off the American Cultural Cliff appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Meet the Peecyclers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/06/2022 - 7:02am in

Is a headline I have unashamedly stolen form the New York Times. Their article actually concerns fertiliser – a product now under suspicion because it is fossil fuel based and Russia produces lots of it. The article suggests that human urea could have a substantial part in replacing it. Now I know the article is... Read more

War of the Words: Rebranding the “Healthy Economy”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/06/2022 - 12:50am in
by Mark Cramer

Industries strive incessantly to increase human productivity, often by way of mechanizing or automating tasks. After all, there are limits to purely human energy, strength, and ability. Without more workers, we require technological innovation to overcome these limitations. Fortunately for the pro-growth industries, technology doesn’t earn wages.

Even outside of the workplace, technology takes the place of utilitarian exercise. Long ago, most people hunted and gathered their own food. Later they walked to markets. Nowadays, those of us who don’t drive ourselves to supermarkets can have our pre-packaged groceries delivered to the doorstep.

Our ever-growing, production-driven economy has converted us into sedentary beings. Studies have shown that as countries become wealthier, Body Mass Index (BMI) for the bottom 80 percent of the population worsens while BMI for the richest 20 percent improves. Degrowing to a steady state, then, is likely to yield significant health benefits for (at least) 80 percent of the population.

Reclaiming the “Healthy Economy”

Part of the path to improving people’s health (and arriving at a steady state economy) includes reclaiming the health-related vocabulary pro-growth economists have monopolized. Adjectives like “healthy” and “robust,” nouns like “recovery,” and verbs like “strengthen” have been reappropriated from the realm of human health for an (ironically) unhealthy economic system. A “robust recovery” in the soft drink industry means an increase in cases of type two diabetes, and the health care industry is “strengthened” when more people are sick.

A $100 bill with a medical mask covering Ben Franklin's face.

An economy designed for perpetual GDP growth is best described as “sickly.”

We might be better equipped to spread the message that taking a brisk walk outdoors is preferable to driving to a fitness club if we first stop describing the growing economy as healthy. If we can’t reclaim the health-related terminology from economic discourse entirely, the least we can do is call a spade a spade; that is, describe a growing economy as “sickly” and replace terms like “green growth” with “brown bloating.”

To introduce viable alternatives, we need to recapture the language, especially as it relates to utilitarian use of metabolic energy. Otherwise, we can win the battle of logic but still be defeated in the war of words. Reappropriating positive health-related vocabulary for degrowth and steady-state alternatives is a great place to start.

Public transportation seems like enemy number one for GDP strategists, if opinion writers for the Heritage Foundation and the libertarian Cato Institute are the gauge. Yet “active transit” would be an apt phrase for public transportation, with a clear link to public health. When one uses light rail or a bus, it’s necessary to walk to and from the bus stop or rail station on both ends of the commute. It’s fine exercise; as good as any treadmill, and far more stimulating.

In Paris I usually commute by bicycle but using the metro has helped me avoid rush-hour traffic. The brisk walks to and from the metro add 40 minutes of utilitarian exercise, roughly equivalent to the exercise benefit of 50 minutes of biking (the amount it takes for a round trip).

It’s common sense that active transit is healthier than passive. Common sense is corroborated by statistical case studies, too. One such study showed that a mere “one percent increase in county population use of public transit is associated with a 0.221 percent decrease in county population obesity prevalence.”

Degrowing Our GDP and G-U-Ts

Replacing fossil-fueled machinery with human metabolic energy is a simple step towards degrowing some of the most detrimental industries. The automobile industry, for example, is responsible for approximately 4.5 percent of all jobs in the USA according to pro-car researchers. During a policy debate on public transportation at the Paris Hotel de Ville (City Hall), I witnessed car company lobbyists warning that if the municipality curtailed car use, the economy would suffer. (When called out on fossil fuels, they flashed their trump card: the electric car.)

Two people riding bikes down a road with cars parked along the side.

Trading fossil power for human power is a step towards a truly healthy economy. (CC BY 2.0, Kristoffer Trolle)

In other words, these lobbyists believe (or would have us believe) we should rejoice at the opportunity to sit immobilized behind the wheel during a traffic jam because we are “lifting” GDP. Yes, in GDP parlance, we can now lift while remaining inactive.

The CDC has attempted to counteract such lobbyists by explaining what would happen if we kept our cars parked for trips under a mile. The answer is startling. Car trips under a mile equate to 10 billion miles per year in the USA. If Americans traveled half of these trips on foot, the result would be the equivalent of taking 400,000 cars off the road each year. The “health” of the automotive and oil industries would diminish as the health of the American people improves, all while saving drivers $900 billion.

A study cited by the CDC found that eliminating car trips under five miles (round-trip) in urban Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin would result in nearly $5 billion in health benefits from improved air quality. The same study estimated that if half of these car trips were bike trips, $4 billion in healthcare costs could be saved—along with well over a thousand lives.

Another segment of the economy that contributes heavily to GDP with malignant results for our personal health is the food industry, from farming to food services. “Agriculture, food, and related industries contributed $1.055 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, a 5.0-percent share.” The industries also “contributed” to a “healthy” dose of obesity.

Adults helping a child with gardening at a community garden plot.

What could be better than walking to the grocery store? Participating in a community garden! (CC BY 2.0, d-olwen-dee)

With a healthy dose of human energy, we can grow our own food while staying trim. Local gardening can reduce the role of fossil fuels in food distribution, too. The average tomato travels more than 1,300 miles from farm to supermarket. We can do better than that. Plus, the result for public health would be significant beyond obesity concerns: fresher, nutritious food; revitalized bodies; and fewer trips to the doctor. The more families that do their own gardening and composting, the bigger the hit taken by the food industry and GDP—and the better our health.

Like walking and cycling, gardening isn’t just healthy, it’s satisfying and enfranchising. Many cities have nonprofit organizations that help homeowners convert their lawns into gardens. Even apartment dwellers can participate in community gardens sprouting up in smart American cities and common around the world. These vibrant spaces combine active living with social connectivity.

Who would have thought that the very language of health would be siphoned away from human beings and applied to GDP? Who would have thought that we’d reach a point in history where walking, bicycling, and gardening would become acts of rebellion? I am not an economist, but I suspect that when we use our own metabolic energy in utilitarian tasks, the vast majority of us will be healthier and happier while GDP declines.

Mark Cramer Book CoverMark Cramer is the author of Old Man on a Green Bike: Chronicles of a Self-Serving Environmentalist.

The post War of the Words: Rebranding the “Healthy Economy” appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Rishi Sunak’s Stealth Subsidy for Fossil Fuel Firms is ‘Disastrous’ says UK’s Former Climate Chief

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/05/2022 - 11:13pm in

Sir David King told Adam Bienkov that the stealth tax cut would damage the fight for 'a manageable future for humanity'

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

The Government has slipped out a "disastrous" new subsidy for oil and gas companies under the cover of its windfall tax announcement, its former Special Representative on Climate Change Sir David King has told Byline Times.

Boris Johnson's administration last year committed to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels as part of its hosting of the COP26 UN climate change conference.

However, Rishi Sunak’s windfall tax announcement on Thursday contained a little-reported get-out clause for oil and gas companies – offering them millions of pounds in tax cuts if they actually increase their extraction of fossil fuels in the UK.

The offer, which will give the companies 91p in tax breaks for every £1 they invest in extracting fossil fuels, will undermine the fight for a "manageable future for humanity", Sir David told this newspaper.

Professor Sir David King – who also served as the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, as well as the UK’s permanent Special Representative for Climate Change between 2013 and 2017 – said that the announcement betrayed the UK's former commitments.

“In contrast with the UK’s commitment over many years, confirmed in Glasgow last year, the Chancellor is now announcing a further subsidy to the oil and gas industry to extract more oil and gas from the North Sea”, he said. “This decision reverses the ambition to turn the oil and gas companies to renewable energy and is disastrous for the necessary transition towards a manageable future for humanity."

Sir David King described Sunak's new subsidy as "just about the most absurd announcement".

"This is converse to our commitment to lead the world in getting to net zero emissions," he told Byline Times. "We got a whole bunch of other countries to make a big commitment in Glasgow [on reducing dependency on fossil fuels] and now we are completely backing off from that. I'm beside myself because we are really in a last chance saloon when it comes to climate change."

The measure was contained within the Government's announcement of a new windfall tax on oil and gas companies. The Treasury will impose a temporary levy on the record profits of the companies, which will go towards a one-off rebate for taxpayers.

However, under the scheme, oil and gas companies will be able to claw-back their tax contributions by increasing their extraction of fossil fuels from the North Sea and elsewhere in the UK.

Sir David King said Boris Johnson's administration appeared to have backed away from the UK's former leading position on tackling climate change.

"I really am now feeling very, very worried", he said. "This Government has been playing a leadership position on climate change, a real leadership position, since about 2000 and what we're now doing is apparently reneging on all of that."

His comments come as Byline Times reports that a recent UN report warned that the world faces "total societal collapse" if it fails to turn around the shift in global temperatures.

According to the report "it is evident that in the absence of ambitious policy and near global adoption and successful implementation, the world continually tends towards the global collapse scenario".

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

Sell Your Stocks and Enjoy the Slide

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/05/2022 - 2:37am in
by Brian Czech

I’m sorry if you’re one of the 145 million Americans invested in the stock market, but I actually find it gratifying to see the market sliding. Why shouldn’t I? As a steady stater, I’m firmly against GDP growth in the 21st century. A perpetually growing stock market presupposes a perpetually growing economy. If the market has to decline along with GDP, I’m all for it.

Conversely, it’s safe to say that anyone hoping for an ever-growing stock market is no steady stater. They’re not on the side of people and planet; not really. They’re on the side of their short-term selves, and maybe their immediate families, but not the rest of us, and not the grandkids.

A serious steady stater would probably possess no stocks whatsoever. Yes, arguments get made for “green stocks” such as wind or hydrogen, but ultimately the steady state economy means a stabilized size of economy, whether it’s run on wind, hydrogen, or cow power. If you have disposable income, you can surely think of some steady-state expenditures that don’t reek of pro-growth hypocrisy. Better yet, you can save!

What’s in a Stock Market?

Robert Reich holding a finger up at a podium.

Robert Reich: “Repeat after me, the stock market is not the economy.”
Except it kind of is. (CC BY 2.0, ATIS547)

As Robert Reich would have us repeat, “The stock market is not the economy.” He avers that jobs, wages, and general standards of living have little connection to the market. In terms of its ownership, too, the stock market is hardly representative of the citizenry. While 145 million Americans—56 percent of adults—seems like a lot of investors, most of the “investment” is in the form of retirement accounts containing mutual funds. Only about 14 percent of American families actually invest directly in individual stocks. And, the wealthiest 10 percent own more than 80 percent of the shares.

Shareholding is skewed even more than the general distribution of wealth (including real estate), and far more than the distribution of income. So, Reich’s point is well taken. If the economy is supposed to reflect society at large—rich, poor, and middle-class—then the stock market is not the economy.

On the other hand, let’s not get carried away with nostalgia for Reich or our own wishful thinking. If we’re concerned about people and planet, we have to think twice about the relationship between the stock market and the economy. We’d be way wrong to rationalize, for example, “OK, if the stock market is not the economy, I can invest in it without worrying about my ecological footprint. Limits to growth might apply to the economy, but not to the stock market, which is after all just a measure of expectations, not economic activity per se.”

While the stock market may not be the economy, it certainly represents a lot of our economic activity. Consider the 30 stocks comprising the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the long-serving index of the New York Stock Exchange:

Dow-Jones Component
Sector (vernacular)
NAICS Best-Fitting Sector*

3M
Chemicals
Manufacturing

American Express
Financial services
Finance and Insurance

Amgen
Pharmaceutical
Manufacturing

Apple
Information
Information

Boeing
Aircraft
Manufacturing

Caterpillar
Heavy Equipment
Manufacturing

Chevron
Energy
Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction

Cisco Systems
Technology
Manufacturing

Coca-Cola
Beverage
Manufacturing

Disney
Entertainment
Information

Dow
Chemicals
Manufacturing

Goldman Sachs
Banking
Finance and Insurance

Home Depot
Retail
Retail Trade

Honeywell
Equipment
Manufacturing

IBM
Technology
Information

Intelligent
Technology
Manufacturing

Johnson & Johnson
Pharmaceutical
Manufacturing

JP Morgan Chase
Banking
Finance and Insurance

McDonalds
Food services
Accommodation and Food Services

Merck
Pharmaceutical
Manufacturing

Microsoft
Information
Information

Nike
Footwear
Manufacturing

Proctor & Gamble
Personal care (products)
Wholesale Trade

Salesforce
Software
Information

Travelers
Insurance
Finance and Insurance

UnitedHealth
Health Insurance
Finance and Insurance

Verizon
Telecommunications
Information

Visa
Financial services
Finance and Insurance

Walgreens
Retail
Retail Trade

Walmart
Retail
Retail Trade

*NAICS is the North America Industry Classification System, maintained by the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken one by one or in the aggregate, does anything look sustainable about this who’s who of Wall Street? If anything, it’s a conglomerate with a glaring and growing ecological footprint, with Caterpillar bulldozing the way for the rest of these bellwether corporations. Yet when we study the list, we also find something glaring in its absence.

The absence should be glaring for steady staters, at least, if not for Robert Reich (a progressive but nevertheless neoclassical economist). Can you spot it?

Here’s a hint: How are any of the 30 CEOs, their boards, and their strategists going to eat, and thus continue their plundering growthmanship? Yes, McDonalds is in their midst, but once that last McDouble comes off the McGriddle, they’re in McTrouble, and more than McLittle. They’ve got no farmers, fishers, or growers to keep food on the table!

In this non-Reichian sense, then, the stock market is profoundly not the economy. The real economy starts with agriculture—agriculture and extraction, but most notably agriculture—before anyone goes to work at Apple, Amgen, or American Express. The real economy starts, succeeds, and persists only with enough agricultural surplus to free the people for a division of labor, allowing for the existence of IBM, 3M, and McDonald’s itself. Without that agricultural surplus, the entire economy collapses; real and monetary sectors alike.

So, if we think of “the stock market” as the Dow, it most certainly is not the economy. It’s not the economy for the “Reich reason” (not representing the American public) and it’s not the economy for the structural reason (lacking an agricultural and extractive base). But hang on; there’s more to the story. The verdict isn’t quite in yet on how closely the stock market resembles, reflects, or represents the real economy.

The Dow is Not the Stock Market

The Dow is not “the” stock market, but rather a stock market index. It’s the leading index, but not the only index. Unless you’re comatose, you can’t get through a week in the USA without hearing about the Nasdaq and S&P 500, too. The Nasdaq represents the technology sector especially, while the S&P 500 is supposed to represent the stock market at large.

The New York Stock Exchange Trading Floor

All that time and attention spent on mind-numbing, money-grubbing minutiae.

Thank goodness we don’t have to hear about the rest of the approximately 5,000 indices. We have almost as many indices in the USA as there are publicly traded stocks, perhaps even more if we leave out the OTC equities (that is, stocks traded purely over the counter and not via stock exchange).

Globally there are well over 3 million stock indexes, or 70 times the number of publicly traded companies! I’ll opine about the proliferation of such indexes below, but only after we settle this matter of the stock market representing (or not) the real economy.

If we took all the publicly traded corporations in the world—roughly 43,000—and assembled them like pieces of an ecological puzzle, they’d start looking more like the real global economy; that is, the triangular economy building upon the agricultural and extractive sectors at the base. Similarly at the national level, we could use the Wilshire 5000 for a fuller picture of the U.S. economy than we get from the Dow, Nasdaq, or S&P 500. We have agricultural and extractive sectors at the base, heavy manufacturing sectors in the middle, and light manufacturing at the top, with service sectors intertwined throughout, serving the agricultural, extractive, and manufacturing industries in addition to household consumers.

Reich’s particular point about the representation of citizens would still stand, because while Del Monte, Perdue, and Cargill might be there, pumping out the produce and poultry like insults at a political rally, not a single family farm would be in sight, or in mind. Nevertheless, the full suite of NAICS sectors would be represented. In that sense, we might hearken back to another Clintonian confidant, James Carville, and say of the stock market, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Which brings us back to the incompatibility of stock market investment and serious steady statesmanship.

What Happens When You Purchase Stock

When you purchase stock through an initial public offering, you’re either helping yet another corporation take root, or an existing one expand its operations. It’s that simple. That might have been fine in the early 20th century, but by now, any addition to the bloated economy is like feeding Fat Albert French fries. It’s not healthy—literally—for people or planet.

While the effect isn’t as direct, you encourage the corporation to expand its operations when you purchase “seasoned” (non-initial) shares at the stock exchange, too. Corporations view their share price as a barometer for when to initiate more capital outlay. On the ground, that means more factory floor, offices, utilities, energy consumption, and pollution. Less green space, quietude, biodiversity, resources, clean air, climate stability…all the things we need most at this point in history.

Please don’t cop a plea with the lukewarm alibi, “I’ll do good with my money by investing in sustainable industries.” Steady staters know that sustainability is first and foremost about the size of the economy. The hydrogen French fries may not be as fattening, but Fat Albert needs less fries, period.

Furthermore, the economy grows as an integrated whole, and so does the stock market. If you’re helping one sector, you’re essentially helping them all. You may not be assisting every business competitor when you purchase a particular stock, but you are helping to expand a sector, and therefore the economy at large.

Every stock purchase is an opportunity cost, too. Think of all the bona fide good that could have been done with the trillion dollars poured into stock markets in 2021. Things like infrastructure repair, debt relief, healthcare coverage, and education. It almost makes you want higher taxes—especially capital gains taxes. That’s assuming our elected politicians have meritorious priorities. And there you go: meritorious political campaigns could have been supported instead of more pipelines, power plants, and parking lots.

Stock Market Indices Are Social Indicators, Too

In 1975, global market capitalization (the market value of publicly traded shares) comprised roughly 27 percent of global GDP. It first exceeded GDP in 1999, and by 2020 was 135 percent of GDP, or almost $94 trillion. In the USA alone it was nearly $41 trillion; well over double the American GDP. What does that tell us about American priorities?

Two adults happily sliding down a double playground slide.

Sell your stocks and enjoy the slide! (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, blanchardjeremy)

Revisiting the proliferation of stock indices and funds, one gets the impression that just about any combination or permutation of stocks could constitute this or that “index,” with more of them arising by the business day. Many if not most of these indices double as investment vehicles in their own right, scarcely distinguishable from mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These “index funds” can only be purchased outside of trading hours though, so in today’s hyperactive markets, ETFs have become all the rage, as they can be traded throughout the day. In the first quarter of 2022, 73 more were added to the New York Stock Exchange alone (one of 60 stock exchanges in the world).

This proliferation of funds, indices, and market cap speaks to the salesmanship and ambition of financial operators, brokerage firms, and (most likely) second comings of Bernie Madoff. It’s also an embarrassment for Homo sapiens, with so many of its members occupying their precious time on such mind-numbing money-grubbing.

Don’t we have better things to do with our time and money than analyzing the markets to death and trying to suck even more money out of an inflated market and money supply?

If you own stock, why not sell it now? Use it to help an ailing loved one, or even an ailing stranger. Boost the campaign of a steady stater. Put it in a trust fund for your kids’ tuition. Protect some land, help Ukraine, and put some smiles on poor kids’ faces. Who knows the benefits you might impart?

One thing is certain: When you sell your stocks, you’ll be helping us all—people and planet—with desperately needed degrowth toward a steady state economy. Then you can stop worrying about the Dow, the Nasdaq, and the rest of the 5,000 boring indices.

Brian Czech, Executive Director of CASSEBrian Czech is the executive director of CASSE.

The post Sell Your Stocks and Enjoy the Slide appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Solar Microgrids Are Keeping Ukraine’s Hospitals Running

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

Two months ago the streets of Kyiv were desolate, the sounds of ordinary life replaced by near-constant air-raid sirens and its people either fleeing or confined indoors as Russian forces tried to take Ukraine’s capital city. 

Today normal life is slowly returning, and families and couples once again stroll the streets. But reminders of the war that still rages in the country are everywhere, from the anti-tank “hedgehogs” and concrete blocks dominating many of the city’s roads to the armed soldiers continuing to enforce a city-wide curfew.

Then there are the huge queues of cars stretching away from every remaining gas station as customers desperately try to re-fill their tanks. It’s a scene currently being repeated across Ukraine and a stark indication of the acute fuel shortage the war-besieged country is facing.

During any conflict, fuel sources and power grids are a critical target for an invading force. In Ukraine, Russian missiles have attacked the country’s only fully-functioning oil refinery and a blockade of Ukrainian seaports means resupplying the country by tanker is not possible. In April, Russian hackers targeted the Ukrainian power grid, attempting to cause a blackout that would have impacted two million people.

So it was that as the first missiles fell on Ukraine in February, American renewable energy experts Will Heegaard and Paul Shmotolokha lept into action to support Ukrainian hospitals — themselves believed to be the subject of a Russian “terror bombing” campaign — in anticipation of the fuel and power crises that they knew would soon take hold.

“You have to look at the vulnerability of the grid,” says Shmotolokha, CEO of New Use Energy. “What we see in Ukraine is the physical damage to transmission infrastructure, to power generation. All those flying missiles that are going after diesel and gas supplies.”

Eric Youngren, New Use Energy’s vice president of product developmentEric Youngren, New Use Energy’s vice president of product development, changes a microgrid battery unit to the Ukrainian voltage and frequency. Credit: Footprint Project.

Shmotolokha is the son of Ukrainian World War 2 refugees and his wife grew up in Lviv, a city in western Ukraine. He met Heegaard, operations manager for the Footprint Project, in 2019 when they worked together on a solar microgrid project in Colorado. 

To date, the two have mainly worked on projects in the U.S., and never before in Ukraine. Leveraging their contacts network to establish transport routes into the country, and supported by disaster relief nonprofits on the ground, they began by sending LED lighting equipment and headlamps to hospitals, before expanding the program to include portable solar microgrids, which can recharge the LED kit as well as other essential medical and communications equipment. They also sent microgrids to a refugee camp in Moldova, a country bordering Ukraine which suddenly found itself hosting tens of thousands of people fleeing the war.

It’s these last items, the solar microgrids, which are being touted as a game-changer in disaster relief settings. Unlike diesel generators, which are traditionally used to provide emergency backup power but which can only produce energy in real time, solar microgrids such as those deployed by Heegaard and Shmotolokha can produce and store energy independently from the main grid without relying on dwindling supplies of fossil fuels.

Heegaard and Shmotolokha say they have now shipped more than two dozen 2kWh portable solar battery systems to 13 hospitals in cities all over Ukraine. In areas under heavy Russian bombardment, such as the city of Kharkiv, these solar microgrids are helping save lives.

“[The hospitals there] have intermittent power, they’re in the middle of operations and the lights are going out,” says Shmotolokha.

It’s not necessarily the case that these hospitals don’t have traditional generators, adds Heegaard. “But if you can’t access diesel then that fossil fuel generator becomes a giant, redundant paperweight.”

Medical professionals in UkraineMedical professionals in Ukraine with solar-powered kit. Credit: Footprint Project.

And because a solar microgrid is a clean source of energy, there are a number of other benefits.

“Noise, fumes and localized air pollution — none of that exists with solar,” says Heegaard, who explains that solar microgrids are therefore perfect for refugee camps. “Refugee partners we’re working with are dealing with folks who have PTSD from the conflict and trying to sleep next to a really loud [diesel] generator isn’t helpful.”

In a conflict where power sources may be targeted, a solar microgrid has the additional advantage of being less detectable than a diesel generator, both because it’s quieter and because it gives off less heat. It also negates the need to store large amounts of highly flammable fuel.

But solar panels are not exactly inconspicuous. “Traditional glass panels reflect light so they could easily be targeted,” says Heegaard. “But there are also flexible panels that don’t contain glass and just look like a black mat … All the units in Ukraine are flexible panel systems.”

There are some disadvantages. Cooking and heating both draw huge amounts of power and will drain a solar-powered source quickly meaning, until the technology improves, there’s still a role for fossil fuels. The microgrids supplied by Shmotolokha and Heegaard aren’t intended to replace the entire power system of a hospital or refugee camp, but instead provide the resilience needed to withstand fluctuations in the traditional grid or the supply of fossil fuels.

“Our focus is on distributed power,” explains Shmotolokha. “So instead of having one big generator, we might have four or five of our systems that can be wheeled around into different rooms. The ones that are already in Ukraine can run a WiFi computer station for 24 hours or a surgical suite with lighting for six to 12 hours, depending on how efficient their equipment is.”

Demonstrating the flexible black mat panelsA demo of the flexible black mat panels that Footprint Project and New Use Energy have sent to Ukraine. Credit: Footprint Project.

Sinéad Magill, a managing partner at Palladium, an international advisory and management company which has been running disaster response globally for the past 15 years, says that a key benefit of solar microgrids is that they allow local people to address local needs beyond immediate power supply issues.

“Unlike some aspects of a response, which can feel like a plaster on a bullet wound, these microgrids solve ongoing energy supply issues not just for the response but for the long term,” she says.

Solar microgrids have already been tested in humanitarian situations, one of the most well-known examples being Elon Musk’s initiative to build huge solar microgrids in Puerto Rico after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The project highlighted a number of problems in the context of disaster response, not least that to rely on solar power alone requires huge arrays of power-producing panels. Pictures of Hospital del Nino, a children’s hospital in San Juan which was one of a number of sites to receive support from Tesla, show panels taking up nearly the entirety of the building’s car park, something that wouldn’t go unnoticed by an enemy in a conflict zone.

Down the line it also became apparent that installation and upkeep are two very different beasts. Two years after Hurricane Maria, one reporter visited Puerto Rico, which he described as “a solar graveyard” where regulatory and maintenance issues had led to fields of unused and damaged solar panels.

But less ambitious projects have been a success. Smaller projects initiated after Hurricane Maria that aimed to power individual buildings rather than great swathes of the island produced much better results. Months after the hurricane first hit, a solar microgrid was able to keep a community center functioning even when power for the rest of Puerto Rico was out.

Are solar microgrids the future of humanitarian response? In one sense, that future is already here. That said, there’s still a place for more powerful diesel generators until solar technology further improves.

“It depends on what the mission is,” says Shmotolokha. “If you’re housing refugees in a stadium and you need to power the stadium lights, you’re going to need a megawatt diesel generator. But if you want to run a community center that’s distributing food, then we’ve already done that a bunch so no problem there. There’s a lot of innovation happening. What we’re doing today, you just couldn’t have done even two or three years ago.”

The post Solar Microgrids Are Keeping Ukraine’s Hospitals Running appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Disaster Capitalism in Ukraine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/05/2022 - 6:45pm in

A number of dominant agricultural commodity traders are set to make big money thanks to Russia’s invasion, reports Dimitris Dimitriadis

While 44 million people are “marching towards starvation” and Ukrainian food exports – enough to feed 400 million people in 2021 – are prevented from leaving the country, an industry of grain traders and middlemen is making a lot of money.

The invasion of Ukraine, which has conspired with Coronavirus and climate change, has created a perfect storm for global food insecurity. It has been a boon for agricultural commodity traders – an industry dominated by a quartet of companies commonly referred to as ABCD: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus. 

The ability of the sector to capitalise on the global crisis has led experts to question the ethics of so-called 'disaster capitalism'.

The gains made by at least two of the agri-giants are sizeable. Share prices for Bunge and ADM have soared by an average increase of 11% since the outbreak of the conflict, easily outstripping the FTSE 100 which has risen by less than 3% over the same period. This is consistent with a longer-term share price increase of more than 50% in the last three years, as demand for foodstuffs exploded in response to pandemic-inflicted lockdowns. 

The ABCD, which control anywhere between 75% and 90% of the agricultural trade market, have been well positioned to profit from Ukraine’s export standstill and accelerating food inflation that global bodies say threaten famines in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. 

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the world’s sixth-largest wheat exporter, food commodity prices soared to record high levels, with the FAO Food Price Index reporting a 13% jump in March. But the worst may be yet to come, as the UN warns that food and feed inflation could climb to 22% this year – that is, if the conflict continues to prevent Ukraine’s exports from being released into global markets.

This will impact not only nations with a strong wheat import dependence on Ukraine – like Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon – but also many countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are already plagued by conflict, climate change and acute hunger crises. 

But amid every disaster, lurks opportunity.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the overall market capitalisation – a total value of a company’s shares and a proxy for investor confidence – for agricultural commodity traders has risen by 10%. This puts it firmly among the winners’ club alongside the fertiliser industry, which has seen an overall increase of 27% – an uptick that is bested only by the coal, offshore oil drilling and alternative fuels sectors, according to market data.  

It is also little wonder that, as oil and gas prices have surged following the invasion. Oil giant Saudi Aramco just reported an 82% jump in profits – recording the highest net earnings since its listing in 2019. 

Bunge, meanwhile, the world’s largest oilseed processor and a grain and fertiliser trader, recently reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings of $4.26 per share (up from $3.13 in the same period last year), after the conflict in Ukraine sent food commodity prices soaring.    

Its competitor, another supply chain middleman, ADM, also posted earnings of $1.90 per share, beating expectations of $1.41, adding that its profits for 2022 would confidently top last year’s – at $2.9 billion.    

Meanwhile, Louis Dreyfus reported a jump in profit for 2021 – which reached $697 million, up 82.5% from the previous year – on the back of recovering global demand for staple crops, but said the Ukraine conflict could have a “material impact” on its operations locally.  

Cargill, America’s largest privately held business, last year announced a net income of $5 billion, the largest profit in its 156-year history. While its earnings in the last few months of 2022 are not known, the company – which is controlled by a dynasty of billionaires – has not pulled out from Russia, where it has done business for nearly half a century. It also continues to serve the other side of the conflict: Ukraine.  

The ‘Gatekeepers’

This is emblematic of a market that has no “national loyalties” or “flags”, according to Dr Fadhel Kaboub, Associate Economics Professor at Denison University, adding that these traders do not tend to shy away from conflict zones. 

Instead, he says, their scale and resources allows them to incur the cost of doing business in wartime and operate at the grey periphery of sanctions. Food and medicines are not included in global restrictions.

Cagrill says on its website that “food is a basic human right” and that it does everything it can to “nourish the world”, adding that the region [Ukraine-Russia] “plays a significant role in our global food system”. 

Proponents of the agricultural trade industry claim that profits alone do not necessarily indicate wrongdoing or malfeasance. They add that the sector in fact helps restore stability in the food markets by using its scale and access to information to match demand with supply – in this case, shipping food and other commodities where they are most needed.   

But Kaboub says that the ABCD traders are “gatekeepers” of a world order that continues to prevent the Global South from developing its own food sovereignty, while giving big producing countries and traders immense influence and leverage over prices. 

“In a world where you have countries independently controlling their own food security, those companies wouldn’t have that much power,” he says.

“The ABCD traders are not just covering the cost of doing business, they’re taking advantage of a real crisis to surcharge.”

Some critics go even further and allege that agricultural traders not only capitalise on disruption but also often promote it through “predatory” practices that can accentuate market volatility. 

Kaboub pointed to a long and dark history of Wall Street speculators that in some cases have helped create food crises only to be allowed by the authorities to walk away with a “slap on the wrist” or a hefty fine. 

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme has urged that, unless the Black Sea ports of Odesa are allowed to operate and export food produced in Ukraine, the global hunger crisis could spiral out of control. 

As many as an additional 47 million people could face acute hunger if the conflict continues, the body says. That’s on top of the 276 million people who already found themselves in this dire situation at the start of 2022. 

The risk of famine has been compounded by droughts across the Horn of Africa, with countries like Ethiopia and Somalia – which heavily rely on wheat from the Black Sea – seeing the cost of a food basket rising by 66% and 36% respectively in April, according to the UN

There are only modest grounds for optimism. While using its Black Sea ports is out of the question – at least for the time being – Ukraine is assessing whether it can export its food supply via neighbouring countries like Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

However, transporting the wheat is proving a Herculean operation: Ukraine’s railway system is not (fully) compatible with that of its EU neighbours – meaning that trains are probably a non-starter. The fall-back is using trucks but that is bound to be much slower and more arduous. 

Until then, the hope is that other countries will increase their wheat exports and ease the shortages. But India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, has been hit with an unexpected and prolonged heatwave , which is threatening the bulk of its crops in the north. 

“Experts don’t see prices coming down in the next six months and it could be potentially a much worse situation beyond then,” says Kaboub. 

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BYLINE INTELLIGENCE TEAM

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Steering Away from a Car-Centric Society

by Mai Nguyen

Two lanes of car traffic in a city street.

Our car-centric society is in a jam. (CC BY 2.0, Oran Viriyincy)

Learning to drive scared me as a teenager. There was something terrifying about controlling a two-ton hunk of metal, and my drivers’ education teacher didn’t help by showing a graphic slideshow of injuries we could expect from a brutal car accident. This didn’t bother me much once I moved to the city; with buses, the metro, and bike or scooter shares, there are plenty of other ways to get around. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find these same options outside the city.

Cars are ubiquitous in the USA, with 286.9 million registered vehicles on the streets in 2020. That’s almost 300 million gas tanks to fill. The EPA reported that the transportation sector accounted for 29 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. Now, coming out (we hope) of the COVID pandemic, we’re seeing more traffic again with attendant emissions.

Some people are eagerly replacing their gas-powered cars with new, “green” electric vehicles. The intentions are a good sign, but we can’t “get sustainable” simply by exchanging some of the energy we consume.

How Bad Are Cars?

Cars are massive machines that require heaps of resources, from building the vehicles to fueling them for the road. The average vehicle requires 900kg of steel and 39 different plastics and polymers. A single tire requires about seven gallons of oil for its production. The aluminum content per vehicle is also steadily increasing, projected to reach 505 lbs in 2025.

Manufacturing is also immensely energy-intensive and complex. Stages of car manufacturing include extracting ores, transporting raw materials and components from around the world, and assembling the vehicle. Though each of these steps emit plenty of CO2, it can be difficult to put an exact figure on car-production emissions. Carbon footprint researcher Mike Berners-Lee breaks it down in How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, finding that the carbon footprint of manufacturing a car ranges from 6–35 metric tons.

And the environmental cost doesn’t stop there. It’s no secret that fuel consumption contributes to air pollution, but a 2018 study found that, globally, passenger road travel accounted for 45.1 percent of global CO2 emissions, or nearly six times as much as passenger air travel (8.1 percent). Americans used a grand total of 123 billion gallons of motor gasoline in 2020, corresponding with 56 percent of transportation sector emissions.

It’s Electric!

The ubiquity of gas-guzzling personal vehicles can’t be a part of a sustainable future. For some, the solution seems obvious: electrify vehicles to remove the problems that come from gas-power. Tesla kicked off its precedent-setting electric vehicle (EV) line in 2008, and today car companies like General Motors and Honda are edging into the competition. (Ironically, GM could’ve led the EV revolution as early as the 90s with their wildly popular EV1 if they hadn’t killed the model for profiting less than their gas-guzzling counterparts.)

Image of a fancy electric vehicle parked in a spot that reads "Electric Vehicles Only."

Are EVs driving us to a sustainable future, or are they another guise for green growth? (CC BY 2.0, marcoverch)

EV innovations do, in fact, look promising. Though not exactly carbon-neutral, EVs emit significantly less emissions than gas-powered cars, and they can handle just as much daily travel. EVs don’t run on empty, though. Depending on how your local power is generated, charging EVs can produce carbon emissions, and a worldwide shift to EVs would only exacerbate the global power demand. While it is generally accepted that emissions over the lifetime of an EV may be lower than a gas-powered car, the construction of EVs emits substantially more than the construction of traditional internal combustion vehicles. Specifically, a 2017 study found that the manufacturing of parts and assembly of EVs resulted in approximately 37 percent more emissions per vehicle than that of combustion vehicles.

Even though EV sales are picking up fast, we can’t bank on them and other “green” alternatives to solve limits to growth without a plan to fully transition away from fossil fuels and reduce consumption. Take the trendy plant-based alternatives filling shelves at grocery stores, for instance. Despite its massive carbon footprint, the U.S. meat market still dominates its plant-based competitors by almost $160 billion, and we’re simply “gifted” with more choices when we shop. The development of eBooks was similarly predicted to overhaul the publishing industry, but print books still outsell eBooks four-to-one.

Even if we all switched to EVs, we’d be exploiting yet another fuel source: lithium, the rechargeable battery’s key material. In 2021, global extraction of lithium was about 100,000 metric tons, about a 20 percent jump from 2020 levels. A worldwide switch to EVs would entail a 500-fold expansion of EV-battery manufacturing capacity. With the new mining boom, lithium and precious metal mining will simply replace (some) oil extraction.

The environment around South American deposits would be hit especially hard, bringing perils like wind drift of toxic chemical residue from the mines. This not only endangers the ecosystems along the Andes mountains—where the continent’s largest deposit is located—but threatens the livelihoods of farmers.

Chasing Us off the Streets

The problem with cars extends beyond their immediate environmental impact. We must examine why we find it so difficult to rid ourselves of them. Today’s suburban sprawl and congested highways didn’t come as a result of innovation for the masses; it’s more like the aftermath of an auto-industry takeover. Roads were once public spaces made for the people. Pedestrians freely crossed roadways without designated walkways and children played in the open space, while streetcars and railways catered to commuters and travelers.

Robert S. Kretshmar, Executive Secretary of AAA's Massachusetts Division; Commissioner Thomas F. Carty, Boston Traffic Department; and Mayor John F. Collins celebrate jaywalking legislation by Boston City Archives

Robert S. Kretshmar (Executive Secretary of AAA’s Massachusetts Division), Commissioner Thomas F. Carty (Boston Traffic Department), and Mayor John F. Collins celebrate jaywalking legislation. (CC BY 2.0, Boston City Archives)

It all changed with the mass production of cars in the 1910s. Over the next two decades the public was outraged at the rise of car-related fatalities, most of which involved children. A battle for the roads ensued between the masses and the auto industry. Unfortunately for the masses, car companies held sway.

A 1923 Cincinnati ordinance was proposed to limit auto speeds to 25 mph, but car companies killed the proposal—despite the 42,000 petitioners backing the plan—with a racist ad campaign mocking the city and rousing car owners. Other methods to overpower pedestrians included a slew of anti-pedestrian laws, indoctrinating children to stay out of the streets, and shaming jaywalkers.

The campaign for cars cuffed another rival, too: urban railways. Public transit has always been a key connector between low-income communities and thriving cities. It remains a major aspect of social mobility. But in the 1920s, car drivers were allowed over streetcar tracks, disrupting routes and making it nearly impossible for efficient streetcar operations. This drove transit passengers to purchase personal vehicles, further crowding the roads.

GM and other auto and fossil fuel companies bought up railways spanning 46 transit networks, only to dismantle them immediately. And while this isn’t the only reason why trolleys have fallen from grace in the USA, trolley companies were convicted of monopoly in 1949.

With the road cleared of obstacles, the auto industry set out to sell more cars. With the help of designer Norman Bel Geddes, GM debuted Futurama, a diorama portraying a car-centric future dreamed up by the company, at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and introduced millions of visitors to something closely resembling today’s America. GM proposed a future centered around the convenience of the personal vehicle, complete with a massive interstate freeway system, suburban sprawl, and the extinction of public transportation.

The masses were sold on a car-centric America, and in 1956 President Eisenhower, with the help of Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson (who also happened to be GM’s president), leveled entire city neighborhoods to make room for highways. Minorities and low-income families comprised an overwhelming cohort of these communities, and they’ve been hit hardest by the environmental effects of “urban renewal” and the widened divide from their wealthy suburban counterparts.

Our Future Without a Map

Transportation in a car-centric society is far from sustainable or equitable. Gas-powered cars have a history of ravaging communities, and the growth of EVs won’t take us the distance. But we still need to get around, so what can we do?

Auto and fossil fuel industries fought hard in the past for political influence, but we can still take back our future. We are not fated to bumper-to-bumper traffic for the rest of our lives, and we can recenter our cities and towns around the people.

Image of several bikers riding through carless streets, with three women standing nearby a store as they pass.

In a steady state economy, communities are walkable, bikeable, and personable. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, UrbanGrammar)

One thing we can do is improve public transit. Access to public transportation is the key to an equitable future, but the system is in constant danger of underfunding. U.S. rail systems are far behind places like Japan, where trains are so convenient that car ownership is on the decline. Japan’s car ownership hit a low of 0.96 vehicles per household this year, while U.S. numbers have been creeping past three per household.

Fortunately, U.S. cities like Los Angeles and Indianapolis are upgrading their public transportation. Los Angeles has spent five years and $80 million on infrastructural changes to put the first electric metro bus line on the road. Meanwhile, Indianapolis is being transformed by the expansive Red Line electric bus system. These cities have shown us that commuters will jump at the chance to use public transit over personal vehicles.

Not only do our communities need access to better public transportation, but we need to foster pedestrian and cyclist lifestyles. Since 2016, Barcelona saw a 25 percent drop in pollution around the Sant Antoni market after experimenting with “superblocks,” nine-block grids of cyclist and pedestrian-first zones. Children there have room to play now, and walking and biking has increased.

In the Horta neighborhood superblock, 60 percent of survey respondents said they had become more comfortable walking on the streets and that accessibility had improved. People within the Poblenou superblock reported that the reduction in noise pollution resulted in more tranquility, improved sleep, increased social interaction, and overall improved mental wellbeing. One study estimated that widespread execution of superblocks could prevent almost 700 deaths annually.

Taking the roads back from auto and fossil fuel industries will be difficult. We‘ll have to re-envision the world around us; a world without the destructive congestion of cars. Our spaces need to be just that, our spaces, instead of streets and parking lots, dealerships, gas stations, auto parts stores, and repair shops. These profound structural and sociological changes will occur not by incentivizing the “greener” electric alternative, but by disincentivizing car culture altogether.

Widely-adopted free public transportation would be a huge step in connecting communities and promoting social mobility. We need to demand of our governments sustainable transportation for the people; that is, the expansion of our electric public transportation webs. Cars should be increasingly marginalized.

A carless society is one that is walkable, bikeable, and accessible for people with disabilities. Urban planners should prioritize the safety and mobility of the people, not cater to the automotive and oil industries. They should help us achieve a kinder, carless culture.

Mai Nguyen, editorial intern for Spring 2022 at CASSE.Mai Nguyen is the spring 2022 editorial intern at CASSE, and a junior at George Washington University.

The post Steering Away from a Car-Centric Society appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Global Banks Privately Prepare for ‘Dangerous Levels’ of Imminent Civil Unrest in Western Homelands

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/05/2022 - 10:12pm in

Tags 

Energy

Nafeez Ahmed reports on financial institutions preparing for social breakdown as a result of energy and food shocks

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

Global banks and investment firms are bracing themselves for an “unprecedented” upsurge in civil unrest in the US, UK and Europe as energy and food price spikes are set to drive costs of living to astronomical levels, Byline Times can exclusively reveal.

The information comes from the head of a ‘financial institutions group’ – which provides expertise and advisory services to other banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions – at one of the largest investment firms in the US.

The senior investment executive, who spoke to Byline Times on condition of anonymity because the information he revealed is considered highly sensitive, said that contingency planners at top financial institutions believe “dangerous levels” of social breakdown in the West are now all but inevitable, and imminent. An outbreak of civil unrest is expected to occur anytime this year, but most likely in the coming months as the impact of the cost of living crisis begins to saturate the lives of "everyone".

Well-to-do middle classes will find it hard to afford staple foods and pay bills. So we are anticipating dangerous levels of civil unrest that could spiral into an unprecedented social crisis

The executive works at a leading Wall Street firm which is considered a systemically important financial institution by the US Financial Stability Board. These are institutions whose functioning is considered critical to the US economy, and whose failure could trigger a financial crisis.

According to the executive, major banks all over the world including in the US, UK and Western Europe are instructing their top managers to begin actively planning how they will respond to the impact of financial disruption triggered by a prolonged episode of civil unrest. However, the banking official did not elaborate on what these planning measures involved beyond reference to stress testing to determine the impact on investment portfolios.

While increased civil unrest in developing countries has been openly discussed by major institutions such as the UN, World Bank, IMF and other institutions, this is the first time in recent years that expectations of a coming epidemic of social breakdown in Western societies has been attributed to top banking and investment firms.

“All the major banks know that the cost of living crisis is out of control,” said the top financial advisor.

“The pandemic was bad enough and highlighted how certain groups of people were going to be worse affected, the poor, minorities and so on. But the combination of energy and food shocks are a tipping point that will push Western societies over the edge. This will impact everyone. Well-to-do middle classes will find it hard to afford staple foods and pay bills. So we are anticipating dangerous levels of civil unrest that could spiral into an unprecedented social crisis.”

The warning comes as Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey described how “apocalyptic” food and energy price rises and a 30-year high rate of inflation would lead to a “very big income shock” driving up unemployment and slashing household spending.

But that barely scratches the surface. The senior US banking official warned Byline Times that the current crisis was about to plunge the general public, including middle classes, into deepening poverty. Worse, the conventional economic toolbox to address financial volatility had run out of stream:

“There isn’t anything left in the toolbox of the existing financial system. We’ve run out of options. I can only see the situation worsening.”

The official claimed that they had been made aware of the internal planning by various banks through conversations with senior colleagues in recent weeks.

FUND MORE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES. CLICK HERE TO FUND MORE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

Help to expose the big scandals of our era.

The official’s warnings fit into an analysis I’d put together in 2017 where I had argued that a combination of energy, food and debt crises similar to what we had seen in the run up to the 2008 financial crash were likely to reappear in the coming years in a more intense form. The global system, I’d warned, was in the midst of a protracted collapse process as the incumbent fossil fuel-dominant paradigm crumbles into a spiral of diminishing returns. Although I’d expected this global crisis convergence to happen earlier, it was delayed by the impact of the pandemic, which temporarily reduced demand and global consumption.

A major outbreak of civil unrest this year would be consistent with a rising trend in political violence over the last decade since the 2008 financial crash, as documented by the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index. Between 2011 and 2019, demonstrations, strikes and riots around the world increased by 244% and continued to increase in 2020 during the pandemic.

The Global Peace Index’s latest figures show that global peace has deteriorated for the ninth time in a row by 0.07%, and has overall worsened over the last 15 years. Violent demonstrations and riots have now occurred in 158 countries, over 80% of the world. This escalating trend in civil unrest fits into a pattern of ‘systemic’ social unrest, with multiple countries simultaneously expressing dissatisfaction, anger, and demanding change.

The rising trend did not begin 15 years ago. It, too, is part of a much longer rising trend in political violence which began to especially accelerate since the 1970s, which is when the global economy first entered a stage of ecological ‘overshoot’.

The evidence of escalating instability in the global system suggests it is entering a period of rapid, dramatic change as incumbent industries and political institutions are losing control. While the prospect of intensifying instability is daunting, the weakening of the status quo is opening up a new possibility space to explore previously unthinkable alternatives.

The managers of the incumbent paradigm cannot see this opportunity. In particular, they cannot recognise that the feedback loop of accelerating energy, economic and food crises is intensifying because the dominant carbon-intensive industries in these sectors are economically obsolete, with huge geopolitical consequences as they unravel before our eyes.

Contrary to the grim fatalism of established financial institutions – which see no way out of a crisis very much of their own making – new visions and ideas for economic transformation coupled with the continued acceleration of key technology disruptions in energy, transportation and food suggest that the very collapse of the incumbent paradigm is paving the way for a breakthrough into a new system. But citizens, including those working in the financial sector, must be able to see this opportunity before they can seize it.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Food Bank Britain

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/05/2022 - 9:04pm in

Rachel Morris considers the malaise of modern Britain as the Conservatives initiate Austerity 2.0

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam today”, said the Mad Hatter. Perhaps he wrote this year’s Queen’s Speech, as delivered by golden calf Prince Charles, and subsequent tweets by Her Majesty’s Government.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak suggested that the Government could help you with the cost of living crisis, if you start a small enterprise first. A jam stall, perhaps.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng shared his passion for nuclear power plants – not exactly a short-term fix – in the week when it was revealed that we’re set to receive glowing veg from Fukushima.

Most ministers repeated the bit from their propaganda manual about being laser-focused on “the people’s priorities”. Nothing like a bit of alliteration to drown out those noises emanating from your stomach.

While French people got a state-delivered energy price cap limiting increases to 4%, our 54% rises can surely only be deliberate.

There’s no question that we’ve embarked upon Austerity 2.0. But the ‘A’ word can’t be said out loud, because according to the Institute for Public Policy Research, Austerity 1.0 caused 130,000 preventable deaths.

That’s one in every 517 people. COVID has now killed one in 347, if you divide the 2020 Census population by deaths with COVID on the certificate (193,713 at 11 May).

Austerity has therefore been rebranded. The Conservatives have driven the more comfortable classes into needing food banks, so has started calling them ‘pantries’. This was exactly the approach of Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt who on 22 April declared a partnership with Hive Portsmouth, setting up ‘food pantries’ in her constituency to save households an “average £800 a year in food bills”.

The accompanying video makes the food bank look like Waitrose, with more gorgeous veg and eggs than I’ve seen anywhere in France. Mordaunt appeals for generous individuals to run them, off the Government pay-roll.

In an article for the Daily Express earlier this week, Mordaunt said that anti-Brexit “doomsters want Britain to fail”. If she doesn’t understand that Britain is already failing, perhaps the minister should spend an afternoon in the food ‘pantry’, when it’s open for business.

According to Mordaunt, Remainers must instead become Tinkerbells: they must close their eyes tight and believe in Brexit hard enough, so food banks – sorry, ‘pantries’ – will vanish. For most people, however, closing their eyes just makes the hunger more apparent.

Asset-Stripping

Closing his eyes is something well-known to Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, who spends his days lounging on the green benches of the House of Commons.

Ultimately, the people in charge see widespread hunger and poverty as a game: an exercise imagined in public relations school – or perhaps a question on the Eton entrance exam – designed to prove how they can wriggle out of a tight spot.

And the latest frontier of this PR campaign has focused on Labour Leader Keir Starmer having a beer and a curry during a work event. The nation’s attention has been diverted away from yet more Downing Street party fines, a catastrophic Conservative local election performance, and the High Court ruling that the Government consigned elderly people to death during the early stages of the pandemic.

It is also deeply ironic that this ‘scandal’ focuses on food, when 4.7 million adults are currently suffering from food insecurity.

Indeed, there are fewer McDonald’s (1,358) in the UK than food ‘pantries’ (more than 2,200). But, according to Conservative MP for Ashfield, Lee Anderson, it’s poor people who are to blame for their growling bellies.

Meanwhile, Prince Charles can still utter the phrase “levelling up” in Parliament while sitting in front of a gold-encrusted wall on a gold-encrusted throne wearing gold-and-medal-encrusted clothing – saying that regional rebalancing will be achieved by “ensuring everyone can continue to benefit from al fresco dining”.

There’s a reason why the Government has run out of ideas about how to fix the country. Primarily, because fixing the problems would involve a recognition that they created the problems in the first place and – secondly – because the Conservative Party takes its instructions from its paymasters in the private sector.

Everywhere you look, the Government is privatising – or threatening to privatise – whatever hasn’t already been sold-off. Passports, driving licenses, Channel 4, alongside our crap-filled waterways. But this asset-stripping goes much further. The state’s role itself has been privatised.

If you want to challenge the lawfulness of a Government action, you must crowdfund it yourself. If you want veterans to have something to sleep on, you must support a charity like Forgotten Veterans UK, whose ambassador is – Penny Mordaunt.

There will come a time when too few can afford to support privately-funded efforts by the third sector, with time or money, and some of these needs simply won’t be met at all. What happens when there are more GoFundMe pages than people who can donate to them? When there are more charities than the charitable?

Up to 14.5 million people lived in poverty before the pandemic – one in every four or five – which is projected to rise to 16 million by 2023. And the Government’s response is indifference.

Last October, the Prime Minister told businesses that it wasn’t his job to fix their every problem. The Chancellor said he “can’t do everything” after criticism of his Spring Statement. Other ministers are saying similar.

We’re on our own now, shivering in a corner with the Trussell Trust. Only £3 million crowns get a lift in a Rolls Royce. The Government makes no bones about it: you’ll have to figure it out on your own. Perhaps you could use those bones to make a tasty broth? If you can afford to put the cooker on. But don’t think there’ll be jam with it. Not today.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Pages