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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 11 September 2030
11 September 2020 @ 09:48

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'* 

Covid 19 

Spain: Here's the official view of the current (alarming) situation.    Not totally reliable PCR testing is said to be at a high level now.   

The USA: As I've been stressing for a while . . . The US has suffered a much worse Covid-19 death toll than all but a handful of its developed peers. It’s a predictable, preventable catastrophe.  See here for more.

The deaths per million table:-

Apart from the inexorable rise of the USA - past Switzerland, Ireland, France, Sweden and Italy -  the most notable feature of this table is the appearance over the last month or so of several South American countries. One of these, Peru, is said to have had an early lockdown even fiercer than Spain's:-

Peru 918

Belgium 852

Spain 635

Bolivia 615

Chile 615

UK 612  

USA 592

Italy 589

Chile 597

Brazil 609

Ecuador 607

Sweden 578

Mexico 539

Panama 491

France 472

Colombia 437

Netherlands 365

Ireland 360

In comparison . . .

Portugal 182

Germany 112

It looks certain that the USA will pass the UK's per capita total within the next week or so. Followed by Spain's.

Living La Vida Loca in Spain and Galicia  

These are called pisos relax and they’re usually not at all clandestine. Even advertising for employees. Business seems to be pretty much as usual.  

A propos . . . Here's El País again, on Spain's largest establishment of this type. One which has obeyed the law. Rather ruthlessly, as it happens.

Talking of the law . . . I'm assured it's now illegal to smoke on bar terraces. But 4 times in the last week I've had folk indulging in this awful habit at the next table. As you'd expect from the statistics, all women.

I noted a few days ago, that one could 'smell' inefficiency here in Spain. Right on cue, the ITV place I'd cited as an example sent me an email yesterday reminding me of the appointment for today which they'd postponed for a week. 

And . . .. One of my missing Private Eye's has turned up, 3 weeks late. Fingers crossed for the other one.

A surprise. 

María's Dystopian Times, Day 27  

The USA

Alarmism?   The tinder that could soon ignite widespread violent conflagrations throughout the United States lies ominously stacked around us. Millions of disenfranchised white Americans, who see no way out of their economic and social misery, struggling with an emotional void, are seething with rage against a corrupt ruling class and bankrupt liberal elite that presides over political stagnation and grotesque, mounting social inequality. Millions more alienated young men and women, also locked out of the economy and with no realistic prospect for advancement or integration, gripped by the same emotional void, have harnessed their fury in the name of tearing down the governing structures and anti-fascism.  The enraged, polarized segments of the population are rapidly consolidating as the political center disintegrates. They stand poised to tear apart the United States, awash in military-grade weapons, unable to cope with the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, cursed with militarized police forces that function as internal armies of occupation and de facto allies of the neofascists. More here. On or off-beam, it's ceertainly well written.

The Way of the World 

The BBC at its woke-est.  To kids . . . ’More than 100 gender options’.  

English

The final 5 words new to me from David Mtchell's novel Cloud Atlas:- 

- Heliconia: A large-leaved tropical American plant which bears spectacular flowers with brightly coloured bracts.

- To trice up: To hoist up or in and lash or secure with a small rope.

- Dybbuk: (in Jewish folklore) a malevolent wandering spirit that enters and possesses the body of a living person until exorcise.

- Paregoric: A medicine consisting of opium flavoured with camphor, aniseed, and benzoic acid, formerly used to treat diarrhoea and coughing in children.

- Pellucid: Translucently clear.

Finally . . . 

An interesting article here on the relevance of Extinction Rebellion . . .

Capitalist technology is already solving the climate crisis but Extinction Rebellion hasn't noticed: The climate rebels are out of date: we have the technical means to solve the problem at no net economic cost: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph

Extinction Rebellion was an anachronism even before it began. The movement is a throwback to the early 21st Century, before leaps in technology and the vast mobilising power of market capitalism entirely changed the climate equation.

The great catastrophe so feared by our new age Puritans has in a sense been averted already, if only they could see it. The free market is cracking the carbon challenge with a speed and efficiency that the environmental Left could never achieve.

We have the technical means to solve the problem at no net economic cost - indeed, the green switch can be levered into a net economic gain - and without any need to stop travel, live on beans, or to forgo our affluent lifestyle.

One defers to UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the gravity of the threat facing mankind, specifically its shattering warning in October 2018 that the danger thresholds of global warming are lower than previously thought, and that we have just a decade left to prevent unstoppable feedback loops. 

But the IPCC was wrong to stray beyond its brief into the realms of political economy and to infer that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. This quote has become the rallying cry of the Rebels. It is quasi-religious nonsense. Curbing CO2 emissions requires no such thing.

The net-zero switch is already happening very fast. The most elegant way to bring it forward even faster is to give markets the signal of a Pigou carbon price that ratchets up systematically, as proposed by the International Monetary Fund. 

Better yet, the proceeds should be recycled back to the people as a dividend to avoid the Gilets Jaunes problem of social consent. Such is the thrust of House bill HR 763 gaining support in the US Congress from both parties and a roster of Nobel economists of all stripes.

Free enterprise will work its magic once this structure is in place. We do not need to shut down the modern developed economy, causing mass unemployment, pauperisation, and – let us be clear – starvation.

The drastic remedy of the Rebels would shatter consent and more or less guarantee the very nightmare that they most fear. It is the combined power of finance and technology that will save us, and that requires economic growth. 

Even today we have the means to abate over 85pc of man-made emissions, and tomorrow will be yet better. Thanks to our engineers, inventors, capitalists, and bankers – yes, even them – costs are plummeting along a discernible chain that runs through the 2020s and accelerates with scale.   

Data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that new solar and wind already undercut new coal on pure cost without subsidy in areas holding two-thirds of the global population. By the middle of the decade they will start to undercut the marginal running costs of existing coal plants, at which point these plants will no longer be viable.

The economics of energy storage is tracking the gains of solar over the last decade but with a lag. Cryogenic compressed air (to name one) already competes toe to toe with shale gas in Texas, the cheapest natural gas in the world, and will therefore drive more costly liquefied natural gas (LNG) out of the global market as a back-up for renewables. 

Once global carbon taxes rise towards $50 a tonne, gas will struggle to compete at all unless carbon capture (CCS) comes to the rescue at viable cost, but that too is a solution if it happens. NetPower in the US is already closing in on the prize with the British-designed Allam cycle.

The Holy Grail is green hydrogen from electrolysis. Goldman Sachs argues in The Rise of Clean Hydrogen that once this reaches critical scale it could abate 45pc of all greenhouse emissions and become the backbone of global decarbonisation. We are not there yet but the riches of Croesus are being harnessed in what is now a global arms race to dominate the coming hydrogen economy. 

Blue and then pure green variants will start eating into market share by mid-decade, first mingled with natural gas in existing pipelines for heating (up to 20pc) before progressing towards a full hydrogen based system - unless something even better comes along, such as Eavor’s closed-loop geothermal technology: cheap, clean, and beautifully simple like an underground heat pump.

We can argue about the timeline but the picture is clear enough: hydrogen fuel cells for new ships, trains, and long-haul lorries are coming this decade, with clean synthetic fuel for jets taking a little longer. 

Hydrogen will be used as a feedstock for steel, cement, glass, chemicals, and fertilisers. We reach nearly every sector. Agriculture is the last nut to crack, but it is partially crackable, and CCS can do the rest in any case. Bingo.

The crossover point for the purchase cost of electric cars will arrive between 2022 and 2024, and will then become a cascade since operating costs are far lower.  The switch is largely thanks to a free market entrepreneur named Elon Musk, not thanks to the chattering green classes, let alone the eco-Taliban.

It is irrelevant whether or not Tesla itself survives to reap the reward. Volkswagen and Daimler have turned their backs on the combustion engine for ever.  

Tesla has already unveiled its million-mile battery. Later this month it will unveil a 500 mile-range battery on a single charge, now becoming de rigueur for premium models. Lucid Air is already on 517 miles. Range angst is so passé. 

We flip instead in mounting angst over the nearest petrol station. They are already becoming scarcer in Norway, the EV laboratory. We flip too to angst over road  access, since no major city in Europe, California, New England, Japan, or China, and perhaps much of India too, will allow vehicles with an exhaust pipe into their air space much after 2030. Once the EV shift gets going, it will proceed with lighting speed.

Personally I share the emotional leanings of Extinction Rebels. I don’t like to see the planet trashed either. We used to call this sentiment conservationism, the natural reflex of Telegraph readers. However, I take umbrage at their assault on my journalistic free speech. I have been writing ‘green’ articles for this newspaper for a long time without ever encountering a murmur of editorial disapproval. We are a broad church.     

The Rebels have an inflated sense of their own significance, and they are late to the party. It is already five years since the catalytic shift of the Paris Agreement, with its in-built ratchet effects on emissions. A $90 trillion alliance (PRI) of global investors and wealth funds is already operating on the assumption that the fossil economy is in terminal run-off. 

Big Money switched its primary allegiance to the environmental cause long before the Rebels began their Ghandiesque offensive, and it did so not to save polar bears but because green energy is where future profit lies.

The Alpine gathering of the world financial elites in Davos has been a sanctum of climate correctness for a decade. Battered oil and gas executives huddle on the margins, complaining at the exorbitant cost of capital for drilling, lamenting that Big Wind can now raise equity and debt more cheaply than Big Oil.

Opec leaders buttonhole one at the blueberry, celery, and beet juice bar, plaintively explaining that an accelerated path to net-zero will leave a string of failed states across the Middle East and Africa, with northward migration to match. But nobody listens to them anymore. 

The global policy class has already digested the IPPC’s scientific warnings. They do not need Extinction Rebels to educate them on the consequences.

Not all states are acting on this known science, of course. China has again let rip on new coal plants, pointlessly, with 94 gigawatts in development this year. It emits more CO2 than Europe and America combined these days so Rebels might more usefully focus their efforts on Xi Jinping (if they dare) rather than on the sins of this post-industrial island, which has largely driven coal out of its power system and enacted the first legally binding net-zero plan for 2050 among major states. 

But there is a green China and a brown China, and the green forces will win because the Communist Party knows that the Tibetan glaciers are melting, the great rivers are going haywire, the aquifers of the North China Plain are being depleted, and the Chinese people are first in line for devastation if nothing is done.

In any case, China will soon be forced to the net-zero table. The EU is launching its green deal with a carbon border adjustment tax. The Biden campaign in the US has pledged its own variant under its net-zero plan, explicitly to “hold China accountable”. Chinese exporters will be squeezed out of the world’s two biggest markets unless Mr Xi puts a stop to gratuitous eco-vandalism.

Joe Biden’s $2 trillion blitz on clean energy over four years is above all a ‘Buy America’ trade offensive aimed at China, the latest twist in the battle for superpower supremacy and control over 21st century green technology. If the polls hold true and we see a Democrat clean sweep, the world energy order is going to look very different, very soon. There will be nowhere left to hide for global free-riders.

Six months into the pandemic, we can now see that the economic shock has accelerated the green switch rather than slowing it. ‘Build Back Better’ is the near united refrain of the OECD bloc. The fossil industry is the greatest casualty of Covid-19.

So all I can say to Extinction Rebellion is thanks for your pious intentions, but our elected leaders and our creative capitalists already have the matter in hand.

 

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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