From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Have a Solar Civil Defense Christmas

 I ordered some of these as Christmas presents this year.  I tested them.  They work.  

"Solar Battery Charger AA AAA C and D

Our solar battery charger is a simple way to keep your Ni-MH or Ni-CAD batteries charged. Compatible with all sizes (AAA,AA,C and D). Simply insert the batteries and put the solar charger into the sunlight.
Batteries not included (but I’m adding them to the gifts).

At these (retail) prices, $5 or 6 billion buys entry level electricity for the poorest billion people in the world - solar energy for light, communications, and battery charging.  This is also survival solar, what we are supposed to have on hand in case of emergency or disaster.

Combining even this miniscule amount of solar with bicycles as both small generators and batteries, from AAs on down and on up through 6 volts, 12 volts all the way to the grid, an individual could conceivably have access to bare minimum electricity almost all the time in almost any situation.  Looked at from this direction, bicycles, e-bikes, and the varieties of other new personal mobility devices as well as electric vehicles could be seen as a floating network of power producers and consumers* at the same time, mobile energy storage and generation.

This is one reason why I say Solar IS Civil Defense.

We would do well to prepare for the next weather event in ways that mitigate as well as adapt to the already occurring climate changes.  We may need it quicker than we think.  

*  This energy consumer/producer concept is also happening in our buildings as net zero energy building codes are adopted.
Years of links to net zero energy examples and developments at (also available as a free quarterly links list)

We remain alert so as not to get run down, but it turns out you only have to hop a few feet to one side and the whole huge machinery rolls by, not seeing you at all.
Lew Welch

Monday, December 19, 2022

Energy as a Weapon of War: Russia, Ukraine, and Europe in Challenging Times

This Zoom event comes from Energy (and Other) Events Monthly (  I attended and am sharing my notes.  

Energy as a Weapon of War: Russia, Ukraine, and Europe in Challenging Times
Margarita M Balmaceda, Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, author of Russian Energy Chains, and an Associate of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
Constanze Stelzenmüller, Director and Fritz Stern Chair of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution
Moderators:  Elizabeth Wood and Carol Saivetz, both MIT 

Video at
A transcript will be available as well

Margarita Balmaceda:  Energy used not just as a threat but also as a temptation, a subversion by getting people “hooked” on “cheap” natural gas.  For instance, German reliance on Russian natural gas increased after the first invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2014.
[Editorial Comment:  addiction as a model of late stage capitalism (see Anne Wilson Schaef’s work) was not mentioned.]

Industry uses of natural gas as a feedstock for chemicals, steel, glass is often overlooked as we focus on “energy” and it is hardest to replace with renewables.  These companies employ 8 million workers in EU with BASF being the largest user of Russian natural gas.

There are also markets outside the EU with China and India purchasing “discounted” Russian oil.  Without taking into consideration the Global South and their reliance on Russian energy, we will not counter Russia’s “energy weapon.”

Constanze Steizenmüller:  EU response has been more united than expected.  Germany decoupling from Russian natural gas with speed and throughout the economy, using different energy sources all without reducing industrial output.  Germany, however, was not the European country most dependent on Russian energy as some Eastern European countries were close to 100% reliant on Russian gas and oil.  Popular support has been higher than expected even with higher energy prices, 66-75% support even now.  Other surprises have been the weakness of the Russian military and less support from China than was expected.

Long term:  Will Ukraine be able to hold its territory, will its allies keep supporting it to the extent needed, especially since this war has shown the allies don’t have the force and material necessary themselves.

[Editorial Comment:  The arsenal, like the proverbial cupboard, is bare?  Or just bare of what is needed for this 21st century conflict?] 

Short term:  Biden’s climate subsidies have driven a wedge between USAmerica and EU.  EU has gone back to coal and nuclear power, contrary to climate goals.

Greatest possible challenge is if China decides to support Russia fully.  That could have dramatic effects throughout the world.

MB:  Russia does not have the infrastructure to increase exports to China & India, does not have facilities for liquifying natural gas, and cannot easily pivot from Europe to the East.

CS:  We don’t know how people will react if it is a COLD winter but the resilience of popular support with higher prices and fuel cuts has been encouraging.  Not worried about this winter.  Worried about a longtime deliberate disruption across many fronts - including things like the German coup attempt.
[Editorial Comment:  COVID was not mentioned nor was climate as disruption.]

Elizabeth Wood:  How is Ukraine going to cope and how is Russian industry dealing?

MB:  Ukraine is preparing 2000 “warming centers” for this winter.  The only pipeline still flowing to Europe is the one through Ukraine.  
[Editorial Comment:  According to one questioner, there is another pipeline running to Turkey.  In addition, one of the long-time points of disagreement between Russia and Ukraine is the pipeline system, with the Russians accusing the Ukrainians of stealing from it (which may very well be warranted).]

CS:  China can’t be happy with Russia showing such military weakness. Germany is wooing non-Western “swing states” like India and others, in some cases, in competition with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

MB:  Russia can not be happy relying so much on China, economically and diplomatically.  Russia has been affected by the export bans on technology, especially in energy production.  Putin has drawn soldiers from non-Russian ethnics to avoid stressing Moscow, St Petersburg.
[Editorial Comment:  this is ethnic conflict on a variety of different levels.  The level of “racism” and prejudice is ramping up, around the world, it seems.]

Through the written q&a, the moderator, who tacked on her own question about rebuilding Ukraine back “better,” asked about the explicit use of energy efficiency/energy conservation as a weapon in this carbon and climate war.  The speakers addressed the moderator’s question more than mine which leads me to believe that the speakers have not thought as deeply as I’d like about how many edges the energy weapon actually has.

CS:  Could be “mired” in fossil fuels by this war, not reach the “ambitious” climate goals, and she believes we are stringing out the military conflict which makes both of these more probable while also losing the younger, more climate-concerned  generation.  “This war will not be over any time soon”  but it may not be in our best interests for the war to continue.

MB:  Ukraine’s ability to get away from fossil fuels will not be easy and require a lot of funding.  Estimated $16 billion to move Ukraine away from fossil fuels before the war but it will now be much more expensive.  The Just Transition Model from the G7 pre-war is a blueprint for how to move Ukraine away from coal.  Ukraine will need to rethink its place in the global economy.

CS:  We may be looking at both a Ukrainian failed state and a collapsing Russian state at the same time.  This has grave consequences for EU and the world.  A rebuilt, renovated Ukraine would be positive and could be an example for a new Russia.

MB:  Whether Ukraine wins or loses, the rot in Russia is troubling for the rest of the world.  Ukraine, if supported, may win sooner rather than later.

CS:  The war crimes of Russia far outweigh those committed by Ukraine.  Russia must pay for this and we should not be afraid of escalation as  “we already have a war with a global impact.”  Not supporting Ukraine to the end would be catastrophic.

From another questioner in the q&a: are rebuilding Ukraine. Education is our tool, sustainable development our template….!AgAEn1pbwhx7kNhgSWHlNqI2qh1Bfw?e=SXb5NJ

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