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How a New Energy Policy can Save the EU

How a New Energy Policy can Save the EU | January 11, 2015
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

An accelerated switch to renewable energy is the path to EU jobs and prosperity

Europe is on shaky ground. There is even talk in some quarters that the euro, and consequently the Eurozone, may not last a year.

Critics of the European Union itself are predicting that continued austerity measures, the elections in Greece, petroleum price instability, and Russian moves in Ukraine, may all conspire to topple the Union.

Of course, this is a subject of ongoing debate. Eurozone backers say that the present economic morass will end and that the UK and other nations will join as full members in the coming months, resulting in a unified and complementary economic zone ready to take on all of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Success Stories Throughout History

Throughout history, various leaders have ‘risen to the occasion’ to provide visionary leadership — seemingly ‘rising out of nowhere’ to inspire great love among the public for a cause, and on account of their great vision and leadership impossible feats occurred on their watch due to the combined willpower of millions of thereby-inspired people.

People are individuals, and no matter how many individuals there are in a country or an economic union, at the end of the day every one of them are individuals living inside a larger society. Therefore, leaders must appeal to those things important to their citizens.

In Life; All a person really needs, is a person (or something) to love.
If you can’t give them that, give them hope.
If you can’t give them that, at least give them something to do.

Leaders who can inspire love for the country through their vision and charisma, have the effect of giving each individual in the country something to love. Or at the very least, give them hope.

Where would the United States have been without FDR?

The New Deal was a series of domestic programs enacted in the United States mainly between 1933 and 1938. They included laws passed by Congress as well as presidential executive orders during the first term (1933–37) of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The programs were in response to the Great Depression and focused on what historians call the 3 R’s: Relief, Recovery, and Reform.

That is; Relief for the unemployed and poor; Recovery of the economy to normal levels; and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression. — Wikipedia

The success of the New Deal is beyond dispute. Without it, the United States would not be half the country that it is today.

Where would Great Britain have been without Winston S. Churchill?

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer (as Winston S. Churchill), and an artist. Churchill is the only British Prime Minister to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature since its inception in 1901, and was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States. — Wikipedia

In between lecturing Hitler and Mussolini via his weekly radio broadcast, Winston Churchill painted a realistic picture for Great Britain’s citizens of the sacrifices they would be forced to endure in order to win the peace, and painted quite a different picture for them of life under Nazi occupation.

Rather than be cowed by a more powerful aggressor, Churchill inspired his people to valour and sacrifice. And they responded powerfully.

What would our 21st century world have become had Mohandas K. Gandhi not perfected the art of non-violent protest?

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the preeminent leader of Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Indians widely describe Gandhi as the father of the nation.

Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India.

Gandhi attempted to practice nonviolence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. Gandhi’s vision of a free India was based on religious pluralism.

His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as a national holiday, and world-wide as the International Day of Nonviolence. — Wikipedia

Imagine if every protest movement since 1947 hadn’t been influenced by Gandhi. Almost certainly, the anti-Viet Nam protests and the civil rights movement in 1960’s America would have led to civil war.

Due to Gandhi’s example, individuals who were part of the anti-war movement or the civil rights movement protested — peacefully for the most part — and to great effect.

John F. Kennedy’s decision to not be cowed by the USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev, led eventually, to the end of the Soviet Union

Had JFK not stood up to Soviet adventurism in Cuba and South America, the geopolitical world would have evolved very differently The USSR would have, in short order, controlled the Western democracies completely.

By utilizing the economic advantage inherent to capitalism, by ordering a Moon shot, and by not backing down against the communists in Viet Nam, JFK neatly avoided playing the Soviet gameplan — and instead played a gameplan that favoured the strengths of the democratic West.

In short, he turned a negative situation into a positive one for the United States.

All of these visionaries gave citizens reason to love their country, to hope for a better future, to employ their good will and energies — towards solving the almost unsolvable problems of their time. (Love, Hope, Do)

Without that overarching vision promised by their political leaders, without that hope in their hearts, and without some means to express their goodwill and energy, citizens wouldn’t have united in large numbers to solve the near-insurmountable challenges of their era.

Now is the time for visionary EU energy leadership

Making the case for the European Union to adopt a ‘50% renewable energy by 2020’ portfolio:

Effectively this becomes an ‘air-quality and jobs mission’ for citizens and governments:

The vast majority of Europeans want a renewable energy future.

They know that the technological hurdles have been overcome, they know that many Pacific Ocean island nation-states and Indian Ocean islands now run on 100% renewable energy, they know that Norway is powered by 100% renewable energy and that Iceland has surpassed 76% renewable energy use.

They know that Sweden gets 51% of its energy from renewable energy, and that Latvia, Finland, Austria, and Denmark aren’t far behind. They see Estonia, Portugal, and Romania getting more than 25% of their electricity from renewable energy and they see Germany’s Energiewende setting records in renewable energy output every month.

Other nations in Europe have surprisingly advanced renewable energy programs and will surpass their renewable energy target before 2020.

Renewable Energy provides massive employment opportunities

And it is becoming apparent that when compared to the fossil fuel industry, the renewable energy industry provides thousands more jobs per million people. Always handy to have a job to go to.

Energy Price Parity and Subsidy Regimes

Not only has some renewable energy approached price parity with conventional energy, in some cases it has surpassed it. Especially when the massive global fossil fuel subsidies that topped $600 billion in 2014 ($550 billion in 2013) are factored in.

Meanwhile, global renewable energy subsidies barely hit $100 billion in 2014, the majority share of it in China.

Worried about fossil fuel subsidies?

They’re peanuts compared to fossil fuel externalities.

Fossil fuel subsidies of $600 billion (globally) are one thing. But it now appears that the economic totality of fossil fuel cost to healthcare systems, to livestock health, the agriculture sector, the global climate, regional climate (local drought or flooding) and damage to outdoor concrete and metal structures may now exceed $2 trillion dollars per year.

China reports 410,000 premature deaths per year are due to air pollution. The U.S. admits to 200,000 premature deaths by air pollution and as many as 400,000 premature deaths per year occur in Europe due to our overuse of fossil fuels.

If you add the global rising fossil fuel subsidies of $600 billion to the global externality cost of fossil fuels, it equals approximately $2.6 trillion annually.

How much renewable energy can we get for $2.6 trillion dollars, please?

It’s not that fossil fuels are intrinsically bad, or evil. It’s not that the people who run those companies are bad, or evil. It’s not the shareholder’s fault either.

It’s just that too many of us are using fossil fuel.

And nobody is forcing us to buy it. If there are reasonable alternatives to fossil fuel overuse, then citizens are making a conscious decision to pollute the air, rather than choose those alternative forms of energy.

But if no reasonable alternative exists for citizens to purchase (and yet consumer demand is there) that is primarily the fault of policymakers.

The solution to the fossil fuel subsidy and externality problem in the EU? Renewable energy

With the right vision and leadership, getting the EU to a 50% renewable energy minimum standard by 2020 is eminently possible.

There are no technological hurdles that haven’t been solved.

There simply exists no public outcry against renewable energy power plants.

Grid parity (with low subsidy) is now the norm — even against massively subsidized fossil fuel and nuclear power.

And several countries around the world already run on 100% renewable energy. One of them is in Europe — Norway. So it can be done.

It’s no longer about;
How much will switching to renewable energy cost us?

It’s now about;
How much will renewable energy save us?

Each euro spent on renewable energy installations (actual installations, not more endless research) could save two euros of fossil fuel subsidy and three euros of fossil fuel externality cost — although there is a time lag involved before healthcare systems, ranchers, farmers, and owners of infrastructure see declining costs.

Following the 1/2/3 fossil fuel subsidy and externality equation, we see that if the EU suddenly installed 10 billion euros worth of wind turbines and solar panels (displacing the equivalent amount of fossil electrical generation) the EU would save 20 billion euros of subsidy, and would over 25 years, save 30 billion euros in heathcare costs, costs to livestock health and agriculture, and outdoor concrete and metal infrastructure repair costs.

Spending 10 billion to save 50 billion — for a net save of 40 billion euros over 25 years. Not bad.

Spending 100 billion euros to save 500 billion — for a net save of 400 billion over 25 years, that works too.

So, denizens of Europe, how much fossil fuel electrical power production would you like to replace with renewable energy?

The EU should move to a 50% renewable energy portfolio by 2020 and make it Priority Mission #1 for citizens and governments — an energy ‘New Deal’ for EU citizens

In order to plan for a clean EU energy future, we need to look at where the European Union is today and make a responsible plan, one that displaces fossil fuel electrical power production without placing undue economic hardship on existing electrical power producers.

A ‘can-do’ attitude, one that doesn’t ignore the many positives associated with an EU-wide 50% renewable energy standard will be required to meet the challenge

Present EU renewable energy targets by 2020 could easily be ramped-up across-the-board to 50%. NOTE: Sweden is already there, with Latvia, Finland and Austria not far behind.

EU 2020 renewable energy targets could be ramped-up across-the-board to 50% renewable energy usage.

The best candidate for an EU switch to renewable energy?

Malta is presently striving to meet its target of 10% of energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. However, Malta could easily convert to 100% renewable energy in as little as 24 months.

Malta is a tiny island nation and other tiny island nations have successfully transitioned to 100% renewable energy — and it took them only a few short months to accomplish that goal.

Malta’s electrical grid produces 571 MW at peak load and uses expensive imported fossil fuels.

Replacing Malta’s fossil fueled electrical grid with a combination of wind turbines and solar panels is well within our present-day technical capabilities and would save the Malta government millions of dollars per year in fuel and healthcare costs.

A low-interest loan from the EU to cover the capital cost of wind and solar power plants and some basic technical support is what Malta needs. Nothing more complicated than that.

How would replacing Malta’s present electrical power generation with 100% renewable energy benefit the EU and the residents of Malta alike?

The wind turbines and solar panels / inverters, etc. would be sourced from the EU. In fact, European sourcing could be a requirement of obtaining the EU financing for the project.

All of the engineering, manufacturing and installation / grid connection would be performed by EU workers.

Malta’s residents and visitors would thereafter enjoy clean air, lower healthcare costs, a better quality of life, and could say goodbye to toxic and expensive, imported oil.

From 10% to 100% renewable energy within 24 months — now that would demonstrate EU political and environmental leadership!

Granted, Malta has the smallest electrical grid in the EU. But it’s a place to start, a place to set a baseline for the learning curve to 100% renewable energy on a per country basis.

By converting island nations like Malta and Cyprus to 100% renewable energy first, solid standalone renewable energy power generation experience is gained, and upon completion can serve as models for standalone systems on the continent.

To get to 50% renewable energy in other EU states merely means scaling it up.

The Next Step for the EU

During the darkest days of recession in early 1980’s America, newly-elected President Ronald Reagan didn’t appear and suddenly solve America’s economic problems.

He told Americans (very convincingly) that they had it in their power to solve their own economic problems and arranged some temporary loans to Chrysler and other companies — and cheered by his vision and leadership, they responded powerfully — ending America’s recession.

Someone in the EU needs to step up now, leading the charge to improve EU air quality, to lower the rate of illness and premature deaths due to air pollution, to lower the damage to livestock / agriculture, and to concrete and metal infrastructure — thereby creating tens of thousands of well-paying jobs — by insisting on a minimum of 50% renewable energy standard by 2020 for all EU nations. Neatly ending the EU’s present recession.

And that great, overarching vision, in itself, will be the thing that EU residents will love, hope for, and willingly agree to do, for the next five years.

Let’s roll up our sleeves, people. We’ve got work to do.

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Russia, America, and EU testing new boundaries over Ukraine

by John Brian Shannon | September 2, 2014

During the Cold War the situation that prevailed for 40 years was one where the Europeans and the Americans knew that if the USSR ever determinedly decided to invade Europe, they could hold the Soviets for about a week before having to resort to nuclear weapons in order to stop any further advances by the USSR.

As horrific as it sounds it is true, and it also worked just fine over 40 years.

Since the end of the Cold War we’ve all been coasting along, both sides busy with their own interests, and we continued to play along with the former rule-set because we all had better things to do. Granted that tensions between the blocs has decreased markedly since the fall of communism and the generally stellar growth would have been impeded by any kind of war, particularly one that would go nuclear after one week of fighting.

Map of Europe - early 2014

Europe map courtesy of Cartographic Research Lab, University of Alabama

Ukrainian disintegration and Russian assistance

Comfortable in their post-Cold War role, both sides are now beginning to cautiously explore alterations to that paradigm. Russia was first to test the waters by aiding the failed provinces of eastern Ukraine. And they are failed provinces, there can be no doubt about that. They are lawless parts of Ukraine that have managed to repel the Ukrainian Army since 1990 and have recently begun to shooting down Ukrainian Air Force military fighter jets and shot down one Malaysian Air civilian flight, MH17. They even have their own taxation system at unannounced military-style checkpoints all throughout the Donbass region.

Other than fret, all the Ukrainian military can do about it is shell (from a safe distance 80 miles away) likely targets and civilian roadways between 2:00pm and 4:00pm every weekday. Civilians know not to be on the roads during that time, and civilians there also hope that separatist fighters haven’t been roaming around their neighbourhoods during the night — as that seems to invite the Ukrainian Army to fire artillery shells at them the next day.

You haven’t lived until you feel the ground shake from a heavy artillery strike. On windless days, the shells are accurate to within three feet and carry a half a ton of high explosive. Cars instantly become thousands of red-hot metal shrapnel flying outward at 600 miles per hour from the impact zone. Houses become splinters of wood and concrete apartment blocks become rubble that falls randomly over a half-mile radius. Chunks of reinforced concrete the size of car motors fly through houses at 400 miles per hour and out the other side (and through a few neighbours homes too) before tumbling to a stop quite a few blocks away.

Expect one shell every few seconds for two hours if you’ve made them mad. And, it’s all automated. The artillerymen just program the fire-control unit with all of the coordinates and press Fire. As the guns are firing, the ground is shaking at their end too and it’s so loud they simply don their hearing protection and attempt to read the newspaper until it’s all over.

It’s no way for civilians to live, although soldiers revel in this environment. If you’re an artilleryman, you just know that you’re pounding the daylights out of the enemy and that their roads will be unusable for at least a week. You know that you have hit your targets to within three feet of accuracy if there are no strong winds that day, and you know that your enemies nerves are completely wrecked. On the receiving end, the soldiers that haven’t been killed simply wait for it to be over so they can get to the ‘good part’ which is the revenge part. So, they don hearing protection and plot even more revenge against the Ukrainian Army.

Ukraine lost control of the eastern parts of their country long ago (in 1990) after the fall of communism. Since then, the local people formed militias of varying quality, but they have been successful in routing the Ukrainian Army and over-running the local military bases and capturing all of the weapons systems and ammunition stored there.

The ethnic Russians who live in this region (called the Donbass region) were once citizens of Russia until 1954 when the Soviet leaders gave the region to Ukraine to administer. All of southern and eastern Ukraine was once a part of Imperial Russia during the time of Catherine the Great and the vast majority of people in the Donbass have much more in common with and are in contact with Russian family in Moscow and other Russian cities, than with Ukraine.

During the Cold War, they all got along fine as they were ‘comrades in arms’ against the machinations of the decadent and bourgeoisie West. Now, having nothing in common with their Ukrainian counterparts (except artillery shells) they wish to rejoin Russia. Who wouldn’t?

The fact that the Ukrainian Army has been fighting them since 1990 has only intensified their desire to rejoin Russia. Although they would much rather do so on “their” terms — which is why they fight for the right, instead of asking Russia to come in and do it for them. (“We are independent! Only now, do we wish to join with you, Father Russia.”)

The Western response

The West was wrong to make it an issue. Under scrutiny, it’s a completely non-defensible position if you are considering the concerns of civilian families. There’s no doubt at all that ethnic Russian families will fare better under Russian administration — than under Ukrainian administration. And that is before factoring-in the ‘bad blood’ that exists between the people of the Donbass and the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, were the disputed regions to ever return to Ukrainian administration.

But the Western response showed the Russians how fearfully they regarded any threat of Russian expansion into Europe.

Not that Ukraine is a part of Europe, it’s also not part of the EU, or the EC, nor of NATO. Ukraine is a former Soviet Union satellite state, located in what was once called “Novorossiya” — the czarist-era name for Ukraine’s ethnic Russian population in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

The term Novorossiya dates to the late 18th century, when Catherine the Great won lands near the Black Sea after a series of wars with the Ottomans and created a governate known as “New Russia” to rule much of the newly conquered region.

Today, pro-Russian rebels have adopted the name for their movement and revived the czarist governorate flag as one of their emblems. The symbolic choice highlights the historical and cultural links of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to neighboring Russia, implicitly calling into question their place in an independent Ukraine.

“The region that we’re talking about was once called Novorossiya,” Mr. Putin said when he first mentioned the term in April. “Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Odessa weren’t included as part of Ukraine. They were given to it by the Soviet government.” — The Wall Street Journal

Other than aid as requested by Kiev and a hawk-like watch on civil rights, the West should stay out of the Donbass region. It is a fight between former Soviets, Ukrainian nationalists, present-day Russians and former Russians — many of whom want to become full Russian citizens again.

The Baltic Countries

On the other hand, the former Soviet Union ceded all of the eastern European republics to the West at the end of the Cold War. There is no doubt at all that the people in those countries are faring much better now, than during Soviet times. Which gives the West huge credibility in any contest with the Russians over the Baltics.

And for as long as that continues, the West has the right and yes, the duty, to defend those former Soviet states with all means at their disposal. The USSR ceded those nations to Europe, and since then the Russian Federation has not contested it, making it a precedent observed by both the USSR and later Russia, that the eastern European nations belong in the Western sphere of influence.

If the vast majority of citizens living in eastern Europe would fare better under Russian rule, the case could be argued. But nobody is going to argue that point.

The Europeans and the Americans undertook a solemn duty to take eastern Europe under its wing and treat them as well as any European nation-state. Granted, it’s a work in progress and there have even been occasional setbacks, but eastern Europeans are faring better than at any time in their history.

Is there any threat to Europe or individual eastern European nations from Russia?

There simply wasn’t any threat, at least, until some Europeans began panicking and remonstrating in public about Russia’s actions in Ukraine and about how vulnerable they felt in the presence of a reinvigorated Russia, a Russia flush with boatloads of cash, and well on its way to claiming the position of the 5th most powerful economic unit on the planet.

By 2020, Russia will have moved from 10th place to 5th place in the world economic order and will be tied with Japan. Depending on oil prices, Russia may rise to 4th place behind China, the U.S., the EU, and ahead of Japan, India and Brazil. That’s wholesale change by any standard — and in so little time. And Russia with all of their military might and close relationships with China and India. No wonder the Europeans are nervous.

The hysterical reaction of some Europeans has startled the Russians — who didn’t see it coming — nor did they have any designs on Europe. But now, having seen the lack of composure and the fear emanating from Europe, they are likely to be doing a rethink. Unwittingly, some star performers in the Western bloc have handed Russia a higher placement on the geopolitical scene.

Other leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, saw the Ukrainian situation for what it was and didn’t over-react. The German stance was one of; “The eastern provinces of Ukraine essentially left the country years ago anyway. As long as Russia doesn’t take Kiev or the western part of Ukraine, we’re fine.” Such pragmatism! Russia would have never known how fearful some European’s are of the rising Russia had everyone followed Germany’s lead.

The proposed NATO 4000-strong rapid reaction force

To “protect” the militarily vulnerable Baltic republics, NATO has now decided to create a 4000-person-strong rapid reaction force, just in case Russia decides to attack and reclaim those former Soviet states. Militarily speaking, it would be a cake-walk for Russia to take them back. The Baltic’s are indefensible as their topography and proximity to Russia with its overwhelming superiority in tanks and troops, does not allow for any serious non-nuclear defense.

Military success aside, Russia would pay a heavy and ongoing price politically. It might even be the end of all cooperation with the West for 25 years and the creation of another ‘Iron Curtain’ and possibly another Cold War. And the implied threat of nuclear war.

But it’s unthinkable that Russia would risk its reputation and possibly derail its race to 4th or 5th place in the world economic rankings to take Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from Europe.

Let’s drop the drama, and just fix our mistake

Yet now that the Europeans have shown some weakness to Russia, they feel they must counter that perceived weakness with a proposed 4000-strong rapid reaction force. Which must have them rolling in the aisles in the Kremlin.

A 4000-strong rapid reaction force would only hold the Russians for an extra day should they ever decide to attack the three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Which was never on their list of things to do.

But having stumbled this badly, the only way for the Europeans to recover is to show the Russians some determination and grit. And no, that doesn’t mean invading an oil-rich Middle Eastern kingdom to show the Russians how strong they are.

It means that Europe should pull itself up to its full height and dismiss any of their people who’ve made them look impotent and afraid of Russia — and get to work creating a minimum 25,000-strong rapid reaction force well within 6 months — even if that means staffing it 100% with American soldiers and airmen, until Europe can replace them 1000-at-a-time.

At this point, that’s what it will take to restore respect for Europe and its institutions over on the Russian side. Anything less than that will definitely not make the Russians sit up and take notice of Europe, but will remain a constant source of hilarity for the Russian military and in a more subdued way, in Russian political circles — particularly where former Soviets may hold influence or present-day (political or military) positions.

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