A North Sea Auction Produces Big Plans for Scottish Wind Farms – The New York Times

“Oil giants like BP and Shell as well as Iberdrola, the Spanish utility, look like the big winners in Scotland’s first offshore wind auction, whose results were announced on Monday.

If the proposed wind farms are constructed, they would triple Britain’s capacity to generate electricity from turbines at sea.

They would also advance still nascent plans to transform the Scottish North Sea region from oil and gas production into a major area for renewable electric power.

“This is not just going to be a matter of producing green power,” said Soeren Lassen, head of offshore wind at Wood Mackenzie, a market research firm. “This is fuel to build up a green economy,” he added.”

Moya Lothian-McLean | Boris Johnson’s Repressive Legislation Reveals Who He Really Is – The New York Times

Ms. Lothian-McLean is a British journalist who has reported widely on politics, policing and civil rights.

“LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, bruised by scandal and faced with an alarming rise in coronavirus cases, is refusing to change course. “We have a chance,” he bullishly proclaimed on Jan. 4, “to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again.”

Public health experts may disagree. Yet Mr. Johnson is at least being consistent — not only with his conduct throughout the pandemic, where lockdowns were a last resort and restrictions were to be shelved as soon as possible, but also with the political platform that elevated him to the highest office. After all, this is the man who rose to power — bringing about Brexit in the process — on the promise to restore “freedom” and “take back control.”

Undeterred by the pandemic, Mr. Johnson has been quietly pursuing that agenda. But instead of reforming the country’s creaking democracy and shoring up Britons’ rights, he and his lieutenants are doing the opposite: seizing control for themselves and stripping away the freedoms of others. A raft of bills likely to pass this year will set Britain, self-professed beacon of democracy, on the road to autocracy. Once in place, the legislation will be very hard to shift. For Mr. Johnson, it amounts to a concerted power grab.”

Opinion | Poland Could Be the Future of Europe – The New York Times

Karolina Wigura and 

Ms. Wigura is a sociologist and historian of ideas. Mr. Kuisz is a political analyst who is writing a book about Poland’s illiberal turn.

“WARSAW — Not long ago, Poland was seen as the most successful example of democratic transformation in Central and Eastern Europe, a leader in European integration. It was enjoying, as the longtime European commissioner Gunter Verheugen wrote, a “new golden age.”

Today, the country is again ahead of others. Only this time, it’s in the vanguard of European disintegration and democratic dismantling. The government, led by the Law and Justice Party, has picked fights with the European Union, co-opted the courts, created legislation designed to muzzle independent media and taken a hard-line approach to women’s rights.

What happened? The answer, at least in part, lies in the past. Deprived statehood for centuries and overseen by external powers, Poland possesses a traumatic, nervous sense of itself. The current government has tried to channel that anxiety, inveighing against migrants, Brussels and liberals to create a fortress mentality. Despite occasional setbacks, such as the president’s decision to veto a controversial media bill, it has succeeded.”

Paul Krugman  | What Europe Can Teach Us About Jobs – The New York Times

“Americans have a hard time learning from foreign experience. Our size and the role of English as an international language (which reduces our incentive to learn other tongues) conspire to make us oblivious to alternative ways of living and the possibilities of change.

Our insularity may be especially damaging when it comes to countries with whom we have a lot in common. Western Europe is our technological equal; labor productivity in northern Europe is just a little below productivity here. But Europe’s policies and institutions are very unlike ours, and we could learn a lot by looking at how those differences have played out. Unfortunately, any suggestion that Europe does something we might want to emulate tends to be shouted down with cries of “socialism.”

“. . .  Finally, let me offer a speculative hypothesis: Perhaps one reason Europeans aren’t engaging in an American-style Great Resignation is that they don’t hate their jobs quite as much.

Anecdotally, one factor behind Americans’ unwillingness to return to their old jobs is that enforced idleness during the pandemic gave many people a chance to reconsider their life choices — and a significant number may have realized that low-paying jobs with lousy working conditions weren’t worth having.

Of course, Europe is by no means a worker’s paradise. But some jobs that are grueling and poorly paid here are less awful on the other side of the Atlantic. Famously, in Denmark McDonald’s pays more than $20 an hour and offers six weeks of paid vacation each year. That may be an exceptional case, but the U.S. does stand out among wealthy countries for having a low minimum wage, for offering very little vacation time and for failing to offer parental and sick leave. Maybe the poor quality of U.S. jobs is one reason so many American workers are reluctant to return.

Which brings me to an under-discussed aspect of the current economic scene: Europe’s comparative success in getting workers idled by the pandemic back into the labor force.”

David Lindsay.   Amen.  Here are the two top comments at the NYT:

Ken
Times Pick

How can we possibly learn anything from France, the socialist dump? Have you ever been there? It’s terrible, all they have is great food and beautiful parks, amazing museums, walkable cities with excellent public transit, and a culture that values time with friends and family.

9 Replies724 Recommended
Socrates commented November 29

Socrates
Downtown Verona, NJ Nov. 29

Europeans understand inherently that they are part of society. Many Americans fail to grasp the concept of society, preferring the catastrophic and ludicrous myth of “individualism” that has produced moral, intellectual and economic poverty for tens of millions of Americans. They pretend that millionaires and CEOs built companies all by themselves and they fall for that nonsensical myth and they blindly worship “individual” success. No doubt that there are many talented CEOs and business owners who were the driving forces behind their company’s successes, but they all needed a staff and government infrastructure and a stable society to build that success. But Americans have tolerated the broad daylight highway robbery transfer of wealth from worker wages to CEO and executive wages for fifty years now, aided and abetted by the marketing of largely unregulated “capitalism” and greed to the great detriment of workers, who increasingly are relegated to poverty wages. CEO compensation in the USA grew 940% from 1978 to 2019 while typical worker compensation rose just 12% during that time. CEO’s and executives are not gods or superheroes; they’re just people. The federal minimum wage in the USA has been frozen at $7.25 per hour since July 2009, thanks in large part to America’s vulture capitalist culture feverishly peddled to Americans by billionaire right-wing profiteers. America’s vulture capitalists need to be regulated and taxed back to civilization and a decent society.

21 Replies695 Recommended

This Fjord Shows Even Small Populations Create Giant Microfiber Pollution – The New York Times

“Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago chilling halfway between the Nordic country and the North Pole, is known as much for its rugged beauty as its remoteness. From the village of Longyearbyen, visitors and roughly 2,400 residents can appreciate the stark terrain around the fjord known as Adventfjorden.

But the beauty of this Arctic inlet conceals messier, microscopic secrets.

“People see this nice, clean, white landscape,” said Claudia Halsband, a marine ecologist in Tromso, Norway, “but that’s only part of the story.”

The fjord has a sizable problem with subtle trash — namely microfibers, a squiggly subset of microplastics that slough off synthetic fabrics. Microfibers are turning up everywhere, and among researchers, there’s growing recognition that sewage is helping to spread them, said Peter S. Ross, an ocean pollution scientist who has studied the plastic fouling the Arctic. While the precise impact of microfibers building up in ecosystems remains a topic of debate, tiny Longyearbyen expels an extraordinary amount of them in its sewage: A new study shows that the village of thousands emits roughly as many as all the microplastics emitted by a wastewater treatment plant near Vancouver that serves around 1.3 million people.”

Anna Sauerbrey | Angela Merkel Is Leaving. It’s Time. – The New York Times

Ms. Sauerbrey is a German journalist who writes regularly about Germany’s politics, society and culture.

BERLIN — In central Berlin, a giant billboard shows a pair of hands, arranged in the shape of a diamond, in front of a female torso dressed in a green jacket. “Tschüss Mutti,” the billboard reads. “Bye, bye, Mommy.”

Even without a face, Germans know who’s being depicted. The diamond, the colorful jacket and the word “Mutti” are iconic, just like Angela Merkel herself.

After 16 years, Germany is saying “Tschüss” to its longtime chancellor. Across the country, the departure of Ms. Merkel has brought out affectionate nostalgia, tinged with a drop of irony. Yet there’s also fatigue, verging on irritation, a twitchy restlessness to see her off and start afresh. As with most farewells, feelings are mixed.

Sylvie Kauffmann | Why France Is Angry About the U.S.’s Submarine Deal – The New York Times

Ms. Kauffmann, the editorial director of Le Monde, writes extensively about European and international politics.

“PARIS — Make no mistake. This is a crisis, not a spat.

The new partnership announced last week between the United States, Britain and Australia, in which Australia would be endowed with nuclear-powered submarines, has left the French angry and in shock. And not just because of the loss of their own deal, signed in 2016, to provide Australia with submarines.

French officials say they have been stonewalled and duped by close allies, who negotiated behind their backs. The sense of betrayal is so acute that President Emmanuel Macron has uncharacteristically opted to keep silent on the issue, delegating the expression of a very public rage to his otherwise quiet foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian. Asked on public television whether President Biden’s behavior was reminiscent of his predecessor’s, Mr. Le Drian replied, “Without the tweets.” “

What if Highways Were Electric? Germany Is Testing the Idea. – The New York Times

“OBER-RAMSTADT, Germany — On a highway south of Frankfurt recently, Thomas Schmieder maneuvered his Scania tractor-trailer and its load of house paint into the far right lane. Then he flicked a switch you won’t find on most truck dashboards.

Outside the cab a contraption started to unfold from the roof, looking like a clothes-drying rack with an upside-down sled welded to the top. As Mr. Schmieder continued driving, a video display showed the metal skids rising up and pushing gently against wires running overhead.

The cab became very quiet as the diesel engine cut out and electric motors took over. The truck was still a truck, but now it was powered like many trains or street cars.

There’s a debate over how to make the trucking industry free of emissions, and whether batteries or hydrogen fuel cells are the best way to fire up electric motors in big vehicles. Mr. Schmieder was part of a test of a third alternative: a system that feeds electricity to trucks as they drive, using wires strung above the roadway and a pantograph mounted on the cab.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
This seems like a weirdly ugly idea, but in a terrific direction. I would, in my shameful ignorance, visualize electric trains and monorails that get their electricity from the track, if that is possible. Could it possibly be flood proof? But trucks would have containers just like on ships, that already exists, and put their container on the electric train system, and another truck would pick it up at the other end of the train line system. It could be slower than regular highway speeds, and allow for locals as well as expresses, like the wonderful Paris subway system, only it would be an above ground system, and take up at least half of the current highways that we have now, for individual cars and trucks. This system could move people as well as cargo, and would be all electric. Where would you get all that electricity in the next 50 to 100 years? Probably from the 20 or so new designs for nuclear energy, such as the one designed by the Bill Gates team. These new plants are smaller, and cannot explode or melt down. The Gates version, runs on spent nuclear fuel, so it besides theoretically being safe, will reduce our nuclear waste storage issue.

German Candidates Fail to Find Footing in Flood Response – The New York Times

BERLIN — Floods have had a way of reshaping German politics.

“Helmut Schmidt made a name for himself responding to deadly floods in Hamburg in 1962, and went on to become chancellor in the 1970s. Images of Gerhard Schröder wading through muddy water along the Elbe River in 2002 are credited with helping him win another term.

The floods that ravaged Germany last week — more severe than any in centuries — are already doing their work in this election year. But the striking thing they have revealed, political analysts say, is that none of the major candidates has been able to demonstrate the level of leadership in a crisis the public has grown accustomed to under Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
It is my hope that this flooding disaster prompts the German leadership and people to rethink their complete exit from nuclear energy as a short term bridge to a completely sustainable and circular economy. Bill Gates and associates have a new nuclear technology, that can not melt down or explode, and runs on old nuclear waste. There are about 20 new nuclear power designs, all much safer than the technology of 50 years ago. There is a growing number of scientist who think that we can’t make a transition fast enough without some new technology, and these new nuclear power plant designs are worth exploring and probably worth developing. We at least have to test them out.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of “the Tay Son Rebellion” about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Europe Rolls Out Ambitious Climate Change Plan, but Obstacles Loom – The New York Times

“BRUSSELS — Europe on Wednesday laid out an ambitious blueprint for a sharply decarbonized future over the next nine years, marking the start of what promises to be a difficult and bruising two-year negotiation among industry, 27 countries and the European Parliament.

The political importance of the effort, pushed by the European Commission, the E.U.’s bureaucracy, is without doubt. It puts Brussels in the forefront of the world’s efforts to decarbonize and reach the goal of a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. To force the issue, Brussels has committed to reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases 55 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

Although the European Union produces only about 8 percent of current global carbon emissions, its cumulative emissions since the start of the industrial age are among the world’s highest. It also sees itself as an important regulatory power for the world and hopes to set an example, invent new technologies that it can sell and provide new global standards that can lead to a carbon-neutral economy.”

David Lindsay: I hope this succeeds. The comments are interesting, and here is my favorite so far:

Austin Ouellette

Denver, CO 52m ago

Let’s talk about the myth of “cheap” fossil fuels. Human beings need to eat food. Food is grown on an industrial scale on farms. Farms suffer massive losses from climate change, as floods become more destructive, and rainfalls become more sporadic and unpredictable. To protect themselves from the liability of those losses, farms buy crop insurance. Crop insurance, and the crops themselves, are HEAVILY subsidized by governments all around the world. We are talking billions and billions of dollars JUST in the USA alone. Go read the Farm Bill. It is a massive nearly $1/2 Trillion government spending program. Almost 10% of the total cost is crop insurance. That’s $38.52 Billion. And that’s just the United States. That’s just one of the costs that taxpayers are liable for, which does not show up on the receipt at the gas station. Let’s talk healthcare. It’s well documented fact that air pollution is getting worse, and as a result, there has been a massive increase in chronic respiratory disease across all age groups, but especially children. These cases are especially prominent in communities which allow natural gas flaring with no setbacks. Treatment for chronic respiratory disease increases healthcare costs. Again, you don’t see “sick kids” on the receipt at the pump. Those are just two examples. There are thousands of others. Fossil fuels are NOT cheap. Megawatt for megawatt, take away all the subsidies and truly account for all costs, fossil fuels are WAY more expensive.

2 Replies17 Recommended