Though I’ve sworn off the real news media, I do like to read the local weekly paper to find out what the local loons are up to. It was reported this week that one of our county commissioners took a little trip out to the swamp to meet with orificials of the big house, the energy putzes, and so on. He said of his trip that it’s amazing what they’re doing out there, or very similar words, and that Donny Tiny Hands is fully committed to a project to ship energy from the United States off to Asia via Coos Bay, Oregon. He said something about how it’s good to now have a place to ship Rockies gas. Which, to my eye, reads as “because Asians will pay a lot more for it”.
That’s curious to me for a number of reasons, even if we disregard the biggest concern of the whole freaking planet for the time being. Dinkytown is a ranch town, mostly, but what made it able to grow enough to provide the services and amenities it does, though limited, was coal mining. There’s a coal mine up the road, and, as is often the case, a power plant within spitting distance of it. And not so far away, another coal mine and another power plant — and another ag town dependent upon coal. The folks around here get all kinds of fired up when environmentalists do screwy things like demand that the state require a coal mine to actually deliver the environmental impact statements its license requires it to deliver. But… when I was a field engineer a lot of my time was spent at power plants and I never did see one where they had battalions of greenies pedaling stationary bikes to produce electricity. I saw power plants that ran on natural gas, I saw them running on solar, and wind, I even saw one that ran on cow shit. Oil refineries like to do co-generation with whatever burnable stuff they have in abundance in order to save on their electric bills. None of those things are coal. Most of those things are cheaper than coal.
So a local politrickster with lots of coal miners among his constituents is happy to see a greater commitment to the energy source most responsible for the coal industry’s demise? As quick as someone suggests that the ancient old smoker ought to be brought up to modern standards two counties full of loons go ballistic and the plant operator explains that it’s too costly to upgrade so jobs. With all of the fracking going on around here that’s a dangerous position to take, and the commish is clearly on the gas side. Hmmm. I wonder if the folks who elected him understand this. I don’t think they do.
After reading that I got around to catching up on my video habit. I dig this Rick Wolff guy. He’s almost as far left as I am. He mentions coal versus gas in his latest (of this particular program):
When I say that he’s almost as left as I am, I hate to say that it’s true. I’m hugely fond of worker co-ops, always have been. Amethyst and I formed one not long ago, and I tried to start my business as one back in the mid-1990’s. The folks I trusted enough to invite into it all said they needed job security. We can all see today how that worked out for them. The thing is, we live today in a world which provides an enormous excess of potential human labor. We are in a labor glut that is not going to go away unless the human population for some reason collapses.
Which means that we can no longer afford to predicate access to the necessaries of life upon productive labor. Absent a catastrophe, there are more workers than jobs forevermore and the inexorable trend is going to accelerate so ever fewer workers are required to supply the demands of humanity. We can accept this or not, but it’s reality: Right now, China has more idle workers than America has workers total, employed and not, and China has a whole lot more where those came from. But even with the whole world as its market, those workers are unnecessary. Many of the latest factories there are fully automated. The workers, permanently redundant. Just like you and me, friends and neighbors. We are all now permanently redundant, though some of us are still, luckily, employed, or may one day again become so.
So, ya know, that’s the kind of shit I think about. And why I say I’m a mite left, or perhaps a tad further ahead in my thinking, than pretty much anyone I respect and admire among the left’s leading thinkers. Wherever it came from, whatever gods gave it to us, our morality has got to change from your work is your worth to something more consistent with reality. The world has no need of all the workers it has, not to mention the potential workers available to it. We have to contend with that, sooner or later.
Until we do, I think we’re going to see far too many people being happy about burning down the world to generate local tax revenues. Which is remarkable because we used to be able to do all that county kind of stuff that people expect a rural county to do, without fracking. Something must’ve changed, I suppose.
Janet Yellen has so far not denied saying that she doesn’t believe there will be another crisis in our lifetimes. Perhaps Alan Greenspan has got a sex change and snuck back into his old job? It looks like a crisis to me already.