The Supply Chain

Excellent article about it from American Mind.

An excerpt.

“To some in the Biden Administration, the supply chain crisis can be dismissed as a loss of East Asian-made consumer trinkets that, as Vox tells us, we could all be better off without—or as White House spokesperson Jen Psaki suggested, amounts to little more than “the tragedy of the delayed treadmill.” Yet, in reality, a broken supply chain is hardly a rich man’s problem—global bankers are having their best year ever—but mostly impacts ordinary folks suffering from rising prices for everything from soybeans to natural gas. The crisis is now expected to last for at least a year.

“The chaos on the ground level may not much hurt the elites of Manhattan or Palo Alto, but inflation, which is now expected to continue apace for at least the next year, has wiped out wage gains in the U.S., the UK, and Germany. Low-income groups are the most threatened, struggling to pay energy costs, surging rents, and higher food prices. All this is also eroding President Biden’s already weak poll numbers.

“Our vulnerability to supply chain disruption clearly predates the Biden Administration, forged by the abandonment of the production economy over the past 50 years by American business and government, encouraged and applauded by the clerisy of business consultants. The result has been massive trade deficits that now extend to high-tech products, and even components for military goods, many of which are now produced in China. When companies move production abroad, they often follow up by shifting research and development as well. All we are left with is advertising the products, and ringing up the sales, assuming they arrive.

“Unable to stock shelves, procure parts, power your home, or even protect your own country without waiting for your ship to come in, Americans are now unusually vulnerable to shipping rates shooting up to ten times higher than before the pandemic. Not surprisingly, pessimism about America’s direction, after a brief improvement Biden’s election, has risen by 20 points. The shipping crisis is now projected to last through 2023.

“Not everyone loses here. For years the American establishment saw China as more of an opportunity than a danger. High-tech firms, entertainment companies, and investment banks profit, or hope to, from our dependency, becoming in essence the new “China lobby.” Behind the scenes these representatives of enlightened capital often work to prevent condemnation for the Middle Kingdom’s mercantilist policy, and its joint repression of democracy and ethnic minorities.

“After all, the pain is not felt in elite coastal enclaves, but in Youngstown, south Los Angeles, and myriad other decaying locales. Meanwhile, by enabling China’s focus on production, and the conquest of technologies related to making goods, we have devastated  large parts of our country.  This shift has cost us 3.7 million jobs since 2000. Throughout the period between 2004 and 2017, the U.S. share of world manufacturing shrank from 15 to 10 percent, while our reliance on Chinese inputs doubled, even as our dependence on Japan and Germany shrank.

“Yet perhaps even more debilitating has been our drift towards what British historian Martin Weiner has called “psychological de-industrialization.” Weiner was referring to the lack of interest in productive enterprise during late Victorian and Edwardian England, but he could just as easily be describing contemporary America’s corporate and financial elite.

“Fortunately, America is not England, now a shadow of itself as an industrial country, living off its imperial connections to bolster its media, finance, and tourism sectors. It is a small country, at the edge of a fading continent in seemingly permanent decline. It lacks our vast expanse with its agricultural, energy, and other resources, not to mention our still considerable entrepreneurial spirit. As a huge continental country with enormous resources, lots of arable land and a large, traditionally hard-working population, the United States should be ideally suited to survive the retreat of the global economy, so evident in the supply chain crisis, and be able to shift to a more autarchic model.”

Retrieved October 29, 2021 from Slow Boat from China – The American Mind

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Green Power, Not so Fast

As this article from City Journal reports, the issues are huge.

An excerpt.

“The leaders of California and China have at least one thing in common: fear of blackouts. In late September, following widespread and economically debilitating losses of power, China’s vice premier Han Zheng ordered the country’s energy companies to ensure sufficient supplies before winter “at all costs” and added, ominously, that blackouts “won’t be tolerated.” A month earlier, California governor Gavin Newsom issued emergency orders to procure more natural gas-fired electrical capacity to avoid blackouts. And in a possible sign of more such moves to come, earlier in the summer, California’s electric grid operator “stole” electricity that Arizona utilities had purchased and that was in transit from Oregon.

“In recent weeks, the European continent has also suffered blackouts, near-blackouts, and skyrocketing electricity prices triggered by a massive lull in nature’s windiness. Grid operators across Europe rushed to buy fuel and fire up old gas- and coal-fired plants. Europe petitioned Russia for more natural gas, and German coal plants ran out of fuel, causing a scramble (including in China) to get more (doubling global prices). Even long-forgotten oil-fired powerplants were pressed into emergency service on grids from Sweden to Asia.

“The issue that’s now front and center is whether all these disruptions to electricity supply and price are, to use Silicon Valley language, a “feature” or a temporary “bug” of the new energy infrastructure favored by advocates of renewables: one dominated by power from the wind and sun. Proponents of this so-called energy transition admit that the road to a post-hydrocarbon world might be rough. But the solution, they say, is to accelerate construction of far more wind and solar machines. Thus, the key question now is not whether we need such a transition, or even what it would cost, but whether it’s even possible in the time frames now being bandied about (“carbon free by 2035”).

“We can thank California for leading the way in helping us answer that question. In late August, in pursuit of that “transition” vision and while skirting the edge of widespread blackouts, California brought online the world’s biggest-ever grid-scale battery, located at Moss Landing, just 60 miles south of Silicon Valley. Proponents of an all-wind/solar grid seem to be saying that all we need to do to get past the volatility of conventional fuels for electricity is to build enough such batteries—the sooner, the better.

“The Moss Landing battery is about ten times the size of the previous world-record-holder: the grid-scale battery that Elon Musk built, to global fanfare, for the South Australia grid in 2017. States and countries everywhere are in hot pursuit of grid-scale storage, including New York City, where the state Public Service Commission recently approved construction of a battery “plant” in Queens roughly the size of Tesla’s Australian project.

“Three basic constraints work against building enough batteries to solve the intermittency of wind and solar power, however. First, there’s the time it takes to conquer the inevitable engineering challenges in building anything new at industrial scales. Second, there’s the scale issue itself and the deeply naïve reluctance to consider the utterly staggering quantity of batteries that would be required to keep society powered if most electricity is supplied at nature’s convenience. And finally, directly derived from the scale issues, are the difficulties involved in obtaining sufficient primary minerals to build as many batteries as the green dreamers want.

“Let’s start with the engineering realities. Mere days after its ribbon-cutting, the Moss Landing mega-battery went offline. Heat and fire-detection systems automatically shut the battery down, activated sprinklers, and called local fire departments. Fortunately, nothing happened this time, but engineers have to take seriously fires with large lithium batteries because they are self-fueling and can be difficult, if not borderline impossible, to suppress. The technical issues resemble the ones plaguing several electric-car manufacturers, but the scale of grid-scale batteries adds to the challenge. The Moss Landing beast has an array of 100,000 lithium battery modules containing as much lithium as some 20,000 Teslas. The last thing anyone wants is for Moss Landing to light up like a Roman Candle visible from space.

“This past summer, the Tesla Megapack in South Australia did catch fire and burn out a number of its tractor-trailer-sized “packs.” Two years earlier, a similar fire at a smaller but still utility-scale battery plant in Arizona caused an explosion and injured several firefighters. The state paused its grid-scale battery rollout while it investigated. As of this writing, some 75 percent of Moss Landing’s total capacity remains offline with, as one headline put it, “no timeline on return.”

“Such challenges are part of the proper and normal course of engineering progress. Batteries at such scale have never been built. Engineers will doubtless find the causes of these problems and make appropriate fixes. That process may not happen as fast as enthusiasts would like, but operators everywhere will want to get it right before building hundreds and even thousands more such installations.

“This brings us to the scale question: just how many facilities like the $400 million Moss Landing battery will California, the U.S., and ostensibly the world need? Answering the question requires simple arithmetic, yielding a substantial reality check.

“Building grids that can supply electricity whenever people and businesses need it for decades on end requires more than meeting episodic peaks in demand; we must also understand and prepare for the frequency and duration of the inevitable power-plant outages. The eight grids in the U.S. today collectively possess hundreds of thousands of megawatts of “excess” generation. That backup or “peaking” capacity can be called upon whenever needed, and it can run indefinitely. Since sunlight and wind are by definition impossible to dispatch at will, the critical question for planners is just how much electricity storage is required for a grid whose primary sources of energy are the sun and wind. Keep in mind that Moss Landing’s four hours of storage at 400 megawatts is worthless just one minute after the fourth hour.”

Retrieved October 21, 2021 from California’s New Energy Infrastructure: A Transition to Nowhere (city-journal.org)

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Homeless Resource

This great article from The California Policy Center is an in-depth appraisal of the homeless issue; a real keeper.

An excerpt.

“In his final speech from the White House in January 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation that the military had joined with the arms industry and had acquired unwarranted influence over American politics. His term for this alliance was the “military industrial complex.”

“Since that time, Eisenhower’s term has been co-opted by other critics of special interests pooling their resources to exercise dangerous influence on America’s democracy; one example would be the so-called “homeless industrial complex.”

“This label has been around awhile, and has bipartisan origins. In 2012 a guest editorial appeared in the liberal Washington Post entitled “Dismantling the social services industrial complex.” In it, the author explains “an odd mirror image of this huge complex has emerged in the very ‘industry’ that seeks to feed, clothe and otherwise meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our society. It’s a social services-industrial complex, if you will, one that could prove even more difficult to subdue than its military counterpart.”

“In 2013, writing for Poverty Insights, author John Roberts asked “Is There a Homeless Industrial Complex That Perpetuates Homelessness?” And in January 2017, a former homeless activist published in the ultra-liberal Huffington Post an article entitled “The Homeless Industrial Complex Problem.”

“The alliance of special interests that constitutes what has now become the Homeless Industrial Complex are government bureaucracies, homeless advocacy groups operating through nonprofit entities, and large government contractors, especially construction companies and land development firms.

“Here’s how the process works: Developers accept public money to build projects to house the homeless – either “bridge housing,” or “permanent supportive housing.” Cities and counties collect building fees and hire bureaucrats for oversight. The projects are then handed off to nonprofits with long term contracts to run them.

“That may not sound so bad, but the problem is the price tag. Developers don’t just build housing projects, they build ridiculously overpriced, overbuilt housing projects. Cities and counties create massive bureaucracies. The nonprofits don’t just run these projects – the actual people staffing these shelters aren’t overpaid – they operate huge bureaucratic empires with overhead, marketing budgets, and executive salaries that do nothing for the homeless.

“None of these dynamics are terribly unique. Government funded programs are rarely considered bargains. And despite prodigious waste, America’s military is nonetheless the most fearsome in the world. Similarly, despite mismanaging literally billions in proceeds from bonds and taxes collected to help the homeless, in absolute numbers America’s population of homeless may have actually declined over the past 10 years.

“How Many Homeless Are There in America?

“This surprises a lot of people, but there’s a lot more to that story. According to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in 2007 there were 647,000 homeless people in the U.S., but by the time the most recent count was released in 2018, that number had declined to 543,000. Why, if so much money is being wasted, and the homeless crisis seems to be more acute than ever, are the absolute numbers of homeless actually falling? First of all, the numbers may be incorrect. These counts may be grossly understated.

“An illuminating critique of how HUD’s “point-in-time” homeless count may be understating the numbers was published by CityLab in March 2019. Author Alastair Boone participated in an official count, covering a section of Oakland, California, in the early hours of January 30, 2019. HUD requires cities and counties to complete the count, on this day, every two years, in order to receive federal funding for homeless programs. But canvassing the streets of any city during the pre-dawn hours during the coldest month of the year is bound to miss a lot of people. Quoting from the article, “The count is during the winter early in the morning, when it’s harder to actually find folks because they’re seeking some sort of refuge. They want to stay out of sight in general for their own safety.”

“Knowing just how many Americans are homeless is further complicated by competing definitions of homelessness. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) claimed in a 2015 report that 1.3 million K-12 students were homeless in that year. But NCES defines the homeless as not only those who are unsheltered or in homeless shelters, but those sharing housing due to loss of their own home, or living in hotels or motels.

“Even in California, a state where homelessness is now a crisis célèbre for state legislators in Sacramento, and a cautionary horror story for conservative critics of California politics, at first glance, the overall numbers suggest the problem is overblown. On the map depicted below, using HUD data, the state by state homeless trend is shown for the ten years from 2007 to 2017, in which California’s total homeless population actually dropped by 3.4 percent.”

Retrieved October 18, 2021 from America’s Homeless Industrial Complex – Causes & Solutions (californiapolicycenter.org)

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Supply Chain

Everything you want, and don’t want, to know; from Quillette.

An excerpt.

“For a generation, the Long Beach and Los Angeles harbors in California handled more than 40 percent of all container cargo headed into the US and epitomized the power of a globalizing economy. Today, the ships—mostly from Asia—still dock, but they must wait in a seemingly endless conga line of as many as 60 vessels, sometimes for as long as three weeks. These are the worst delays in modern history, and the price per container has risen to as much as 10 times its cost before the pandemic. The shipping crisis is now projected to last through 2023.

“A pandemic-driven shortage of parts and labor has combined with a congested transport system to create an inflationary spike, with shipping rates doubling on some routes. Prices for everything from soybeans to natural gas have soared as supplies take longer to produce and arrive, and this high inflation is wiping out wage gains in the USthe UK, and Germany. The chaos on the ground may not disturb the lifestyles of the tech and financial elites, but it is hurting the middle and working classes, the groups most threatened by surging inflation.

“The supply chain disaster has also revealed the existence of crippling economic dependence, particularly on China, in high-income countries. Today, whole industries in the West—from medical equipment to chip and car makers to food—rely on China for finished products and key components. When China cannot (or decides not to) supply these parts, whole industries suffer debilitating supply chain shortages. The notion of a rational, self-regulating market system is unraveling and may yet presage the demise of the prevailing neoliberal era.

“Walking away from production

“For generations, business consultants have persuaded businesses large and small to move their production to China in search of cheaper costs. This has had a devastating effect, particularly in the United States, where between 2004 and 2017, the share of world manufacturing shrank from 15 to 10 percent while reliance on Chinese inputs doubled. The trade deficit with China, according to the Economic Policy Institute, has cost as many as 3.7 million jobs since 2000. The consequences have also been severe in the UK, which suffered 1.5 million job losses in manufacturing between 1997 and 2009, in part due to climate policies that threaten the last vestiges of heavy industry in the country that invented it.

“In the face of these trends, the general response of the Western elites has been “Why worry?” Reflecting the ideological leanings of the American establishment, Christina D. Romer, the former head of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration, dismissed concerns about manufacturing policy as nostalgic “sentiment,” declaring, “American consumers value health care and haircuts as much as washing machines and hair dryers.”

“But unlike the local hair salon, the market for washing machines is national and global and these goods have to be transported, often over great distances. A factory that makes parts for washing machines in a city, state, or region draws money to the local community. Moreover, manufacturing has one of the highest multiplier effects of any sector—one manufacturing job in a community is likely to generate numerous other direct, indirect, and induced jobs, both locally and elsewhere.

“Pandemic lessons

“In the midst of the pandemic, even the world’s richest regions—the European Unionthe United Kingdom, North America—found themselves without basic medical equipment like masks, and even the compounds needed to make critical chemical treatments. In the early critical months, “China’s decision to block exports of these goods led to widespread shortages,” observes Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations. “There is also the concern that an increasingly assertive China might seek to exploit the world’s dependence on it for political purposes.”

“This disaster, now playing out across the industrial landscape, reflects the fracturing of supply chains over several decades. A generation of politicians, economists, and pundits, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries like Australia, have paid little attention to nurturing the “industrial commons,” which encompass production, research and development, supply chains, embedded process development, and engineering capacity.

“This pattern affects industries besides medical equipment. This year, auto production was curtailed due to a worldwide shortage of semiconductors tied to a recent drought in Taiwan. America’s push into renewables threatens to further bolster China’s dominance of the solar panel industry and production of the essential metals needed to produce “clean” energy and electric cars. The West’s trade deficit now extends even to high-tech products. When companies move production abroad, they often shift research and development as well. Remarkably, this has also included sources of critical components for military goods, many of which are now produced in China.

“Reshoring: A possible answer

“Camille Farhat—a former top executive at General Electric, Baxter, and Medtronic, and now CEO of Michigan-based manufacturer RTI Surgical—told me that many products, including medical supplies, can be produced domestically. Farhat hopes the pandemic will convince other business leaders to stop “destroying the supply ecosystem” that makes production possible. “To stay safe, you have to do contingency planning—you have to restore the network and maintain surplus production capacity. Hopefully, we are learning that lesson.” There are signs that some are heeding Farhat’s advice. Japan, France, the UK, and the European Union all recognize that dependence on China carries enormous political and economic risks. Japan is even offering loans to lure companies back home from China.”

Retrieved October 16, 2021 from Confronting the Supply Chain Crisis (quillette.com)

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Parkway Fire

Story from KCRA 3.

The story.

“Crews have gained control of a fire on the Lower American River Parkway that sparked Thursday evening, according to the Sacramento Fire Department.

“The fire department said it has started to release some resources from the fire, which burned at least 50 acres and is 10% contained. It was burning at a moderate rate of spread in dry and dense vegetation.

“No injuries have been reported and officials said one structure was threatened but remains intact. A shed on the property was destroyed.

“The fire department said it anticipates keeping some crews at the scene for mop-up throughout the night and into Friday to ensure the fire is fully extinguished.

“Keith Wade, spokesperson with Sacramento Fire, told KCRA 3 this fire was human-caused; how exactly it started is still under investigation. He said there are a large number of homeless encampments in the parkway; many were damaged or destroyed.

“We already don’t have anything,” Sarah told KCRA 3. She has camped in the area for a couple of years. “Now, we really don’t have anything.”

“She says she lost everything: her tent, blankets, clothing and cannot find her three kittens.

“Her neighbor Christopher Williams has been here a year and says “everything” he “worked hard for” is gone.

“Both Christopher and Sarah say they will likely move back to the parkway once it is safe and they have access to new tents.”

Retrieved October 15, 2021 from Crews battle blaze at Lower American River Parkway (kcra.com)

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California Housing

Some changes on the way, perhaps.

An excerpt from the story from City Journal.

“California officials have taken some small but important steps to rein in the state’s extraordinarily high housing prices and break down barriers to building. While legislation to bar single-family zoning has garnered the most headlines, its importance may be more symbolic than practical. A more obscure change could have a greater impact on housing in the Golden State: enabling the conversion of shopping malls and business parks into large-scale new developments that could combine new homes with the streets and stores that make for new communities.

“It’s not surprising that the end of single-family zoning as the default for a residential lot in California would get a lot of attention. The single-family ranch house or split-level is quintessential postwar California. San Jose, for instance, the country’s tenth-largest city, is effectively a giant suburb; 94 percent of its real estate has been zoned single-family. Historically, it has seen more commuters leave the city each morning than enter it. So the modest step of permitting single-family homeowners with a large enough lot to build up to two duplex homes reflects an understanding that the state’s high housing prices are inextricably linked to constrained supply, and that many households need rental units as a stepping stone to homeownership.

“The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Toni Adkins, who represents a San Diego district that includes the tony La Jolla neighborhood, says it will “give Californians the chance to pursue their version of the American Dream.” Adkins observed that a duplex structure could provide “a new source of income” for first-time homebuyers, an important acknowledgement that the state needs a full spectrum of housing types to thrive.

“As symbolically important as the bill is, however, it won’t likely lead to significant new building. While house lots can be subdivided to make way for a duplex, the new lots must still be at least 1,240 square feet, and each housing unit must be at least 800 square feet. That’s still larger than the 750-square-foot homes of the original Levittown, the quintessential postwar suburb. And while new construction will not be subject to the famously draconian California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), it will be prohibited if it causes an “adverse impact on health and safety or the physical environment.”

“Jennifer Hernandez, one of California’s top housing-development lawyers, believes that this condition will invite legislation in high-end suburbs, as well as litigation over issues such as tree removal. She expects the legislation to result in the subdivision of “long skinny lots” in areas where land costs are lower—notably historically black Compton and Inglewood, near Los Angeles. She worries about gentrification, though one might just as easily see that as a collateral benefit.

“But another bill may do more to breach the regulatory dam holding back housing construction in California. Richard Bloom, a state assemblyman from Santa Monica, sponsored a law that has mainly received attention because it enables developers to strip old racial covenants and deed restrictions from real-estate titles. At first glance, this seems like a symbolic gesture, as Supreme Court rulings and the 1968 Fair Housing Law long ago superseded such restrictions. But the law quietly went further—potentially affecting shopping centers, strip malls, and business parks. These properties often have their own “community conditions and restrictions” meant to ensure that all subdivisions were used for similar purposes—in other words, no Airbnb rentals in an industrial park.

“Bloom’s law opens a big exception, making it possible for these commercial properties to be converted to residential use, so long as the housing is “affordable.” It’s an unfortunate condition, requiring the state’s taxpayers to provide subsidies needed only because regulation has pushed up the cost of construction so much. Still, the change it facilitates could be more significant than a few duplexes here and there. Making it easy to set aside those deed restrictions could yield a wave of commercial conversions.

“The Covid-19 pandemic, which ushered in the work-from-home revolution, may have also brought malls and business parks to the end of their usefulness. In a 2020 report, “Residential Redevelopment of Commercially Zoned Land in California,” UC Berkeley’s Turner Center for Housing Innovation notes the scale of opportunity involved: “California’s four largest metros—Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, and Sacramento—have an abundance of land zoned for commercial uses, and allowing residential development in these areas could introduce new housing in virtually every neighborhood.”

“For the imaginative developer and planner, the full-scale conversion of commercial real estate suggests the possibility not only of affordable apartment buildings but also of homes, stores, and businesses—walkable communities of the sort buyers now crave. Not just new housing, but new neighborhoods; not a few homes, but many thousands. Add to that vision an Uberized transportation system in which fewer Californians will need to own cars to get to work—if they need to leave home for work at all. Indeed, state officials are already taking note of the reduced need for car ownership; the duplex bill requires only limited new parking space.”

Retrieved October 15, 2021 from Alleviating California’s Housing Shortage with Malls | City Journal (city-journal.org)

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Water Initiative

Well worth support, story from California Globe.

An excerpt.

“A citizens water group has filed for ballot title and summary with the California Secretary of State on a water abundance ballot initiative for the November 2022 ballot.

“The Water Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022, and the More Water Now initiative specifically calls for two percent of the state’s general fund – about $3.5 billion per year – to be allocated to projects that increase California’s water supply, according to the group’s website. “The initiative also permits up to half of those funds to be used to finance large water supply projects immediately. Tens of billions of dollars will become available. This two percent funding solution will continue until new completed projects add another five million acre feet per year of water supply to California’s farms and cities.”

“On a very recent road trip I drove through the San Luis Reservoir, and was stunned at how much lower the water is than when I saw it in May 2021.

“In recent abundant water years, the water in the San Luis Reservoir has lapped at the road.

“As for the ballot initiative, Diener stresses that this is not a bond and does not raise taxes. The ballot initiative tells the legislature to use existing tax dollars we already pay (paid), and budget that money for the water projects we want. It annually slices off 2% of the general fund and takes that roughly $4 billion a year to finance the projects in this initiative. We already do this for education, where 38% of the budget is dedicated for that purpose annually. “If we can do this for our kids at 38%, we can surely dedicate 2% to ensure they don’t have a water-less future.”

“PRIORITY PROJECTS: This initiative gives priority to underfunded projects already approved by the California Water Commission, who administered 2014’s Prop 1 Water Bond.

  • Projects like Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Reservoir will receive the money they need to put shovels in the ground immediately.
  • It funds repairs on our major water conveyances like the California Aqueduct, the Friant-Kern Canal, and the Delta-Mendota Canal, so when we have more water in storage, we can maximize our conveyance capacity along with our ability to move that water around.
  • It will upgrade and maintain our dams to the standards one would expect in the world’s fifth largest economy. It will pay for desalination, underground water storage, and water recycling to potable use standards.
  • It will ensure this state is able to supply every household and business with clean and safe water at last.
  • It will safeguard the irrigation water farmers need to put our agricultural lands back into full production.
  • And it will protect the environment by giving the earth back the water it needs to arrest subsidence, maintain healthy aquifers, and curb the blowing away of rich and vital top soils.”

Retrieved October 11, 2021 from Citizens Ballot Initiative filed to Fulfill Funding of Long-Overdue California Water Projects – California Globe

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Suburbs Won

This article from New Geography explains.

An excerpt.

“Visionary images of resilient cities that save the US, or even the world, from climate change. Of downtowns transformed by technology into smart ecotopias. Of urban oases that sprout from scratch in the deserts of the Southwest or the Middle East or Mars.

“The current cascade of proposals for a green future rooted in our cities—some with practical elements, others pure fantasy—share a myopic take on urbanism. The visions don’t extend far enough to see suburbia as the site of our best option (and undoubtedly the only affordable one) for the conversion of “urban” America from today’s fragmented, polluted, degraded landscape into a renewable environment.

“Our development strategy for suburbia in the coming years will be the most fundamental factor in future sustainability. The 2020 census revealed what has long been evident: Last century’s war between the cities and the suburbs is over. The suburbs won. The communities where most new development is taking place are not just suburbs, they’re exurbs, suburbs of the suburbs.

“At MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism we just completed a two year-plus project which not only confirms the demographic primacy of suburbia, but points to its profound environmental implications. Our research team replaced flawed, 19th century methods with a novel technique, successfully peer reviewed and then tested in Canada and Australia. We looked at neighborhoods for all 350 U.S. Metropolitan Areas—the places where 86% of American households live—using census data, Geographical Information Systems, Google Earth and Google Street View.

“Here’s what we found: Most—63%—of those the U.S. Census defines as “urban” Americans are actually suburbanites who commute by car from auto-dependent places. An additional 18% live in exurbia and also commute by car. People that live relatively close to city centers and ride in by public transit are another 13%. Still, even they rely on cars in their home communities.

“Any realistic route to a sustainable urban future needs to harness this combined population, a racially and economically diverse 92% of U.S. “metropolitan” residents, and their automobile-based mind-set. It’s these suburbanites in their much-dissed ‘bedroom’ communities and anything-but-iconic houses that can create the radical changes we need.

“Transportation is key. The mass adoption of the automobile was the primary catalyst for the design of 20th century suburbs, and our infrastructure was built to support it.

“Today, we need a different catalyst. If metropolitan America’s sprouting exurbs and older suburbs are going to be sustainable, then the sea of asphalt and concrete paving built to enable last century’s automobiles has to shrink. And what has to expand—on a colossal level—is the adoption of suburb-friendly, automated electric vehicles (AEVs) and mobility systems and the kinds of pathways they require.

“We need to make a much bigger move than the suggestions in current versions of the infrastructure bill, which includes some funding dedicated to electric vehicles, but not nearly enough. Driverless personal or shared cars and automated bus rapid transit, options that can also enable independent travel for the elderly and disabled, are critical. And we should be looking at the advantages of last-mile vehicles like electric bikes and errand robots, which, in addition to other benefits, expand low-cost consumer choices.

“The retrofitted roadways for these mobility systems would make ideal cornerstones for the creation of sustainable communities. The transition could allow for a major reduction in road and parking surfaces, which in turn would increase stormwater capture, heat mitigation, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity.

“AEVs alone would substantially reduce roadway wear-and-tear and runoff from contaminated petroleum products. And the environmental benefits would soar if our policies included incentives for zoning codes that permitted new land-use mixes. The average U.S. household makes about four car trips a day outside of work-related activities. That car-for-every-errand way of life places an enormous burden on road infrastructure. The dividend would multiply if the remote work trend accelerated or was further solidified by Covid 19.”

Retrieved October 11, 2021 from Sustainable Suburbia | Newgeography.com

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Fossil Fuels: Pro & Con

Enlightening article from New Geography.

An excerpt.

“We are being told of the world’s forthcoming demise with continued use of fossil fuels, and the need to commit to a reduction in emissions to keeping temperature rise below 1.5C, but we have nothing to compare potential fatalities with or without fossil fuels.

“History tells us that four of the last five warming cycles occurred before humans and their kin were even around, suggesting the causes have got to be attributable to the Sun and Mother Nature.

“Human beings were not present during any of those previous ice ages and warming cycles, but the SUN was here for ALL those worldly climate changes. Are we betting against the Sun? Today, President Biden has called climate change “the number one issue facing humanity”, implying that humanity is more powerful than Mother Nature and the Sun that caused the previous ice ages and warming cycles.

“So, what if the earth is warming again? Two questions for the infamous “modelers”:

  1. How many fatalities are projected of the 8 billion in a warmer climate with continued use of fossil fuels?
  2. How many fatalities are projected of the 8 billion without the fossil fuels that were the reason the world populated from 1 to 8 billion in a period of about 200 years?

“If we were to follow the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) led efforts to cease oil production, cease fracking, and stop importing crude oil, the supply chain to refineries will be terminated and that manufacturing industry will become history, i.e., no more fuels for transportation infrastructures, and no manufactured derivatives from crude oil to make the thousands of products demanded by worldwide economies and lifestyles.

“Interestingly, after the discovery of oil just more than a hundred years ago, we created various modes of transportation, a medical industry, and electronics and communications systems. The oil that reduced infant mortality, extended longevity to more than 80+ and allowed the world to populate to from 1 to 8 billion in about 200 short years, is now required to provide the food, medical, and communications to maintain and grow that population.

“A key question for all those attending the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Conference in Glasgow, Scotland in November:

  • How dare pro-humanity individuals and governments support banishment of fossil fuels, when their banishment would be the greatest threat to civilization resulting in billions dying from starvation, diseases, and weather-related deaths?

“With fossil fuels:

  • The prosperity in the wealthier and healthier countries of using fossil fuels has reduced infant mortality, extended longevity from 40+ to more than 80+, allowed us to move to anywhere in the world via planes, trains, ships, and vehicles.
  • We know that wealthier developed countries have access to heating, air conditioning, and insulation that has virtually eliminated weather related deaths. In the last 80 years, climate-related deaths have gone down by a rate of 98%. Globally, the individual risk of dying from weather-related disasters declined by 98 percent from a high of almost 500,000 deaths in 1920 from floods, droughts, storms, wildfires, and extreme temperatures.
  • We created various modes of transportation, a medical industry, and electronics and communications systems. The oil that reduced infant mortality, extended longevity to more than 80+ and allowed the world to populate to 8 billion, within the last 200 years is now required to provide the food, medical, and communications to maintain and grow that population.
  • The more than 6,000 products that are made from derivatives manufactured from oil, including asphalt roofing, asphalt roads, fertilizers, and all the products in hospitals that come from the derivatives manufactured from crude oil are more important than the various fuels to the world to operate planes, trucks, militaries, construction equipment, merchant ships, cruise ships, and automobiles. Those products have been successful in “limiting” annual fatalities to the following:

“Without fossil fuels, poorer countries are already experiencing 11 million children dying every year. Those infant fatalities are from the preventable causes of diarrhea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth as many developing countries have no, or minimal, access to those products from oil derivatives enjoyed by the wealthy and healthy countries.”

Retrieved October 8, 2021 from Harm from War on Hydrocarbons Exceeds Harm from Climate Change | Newgeography.com

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Good News for US Car Manufacturing

Very good news, from New Geography.

An excerpt.

“Jim Farley’s decision to invest $7 billion in green-field new battery and electric-vehicle assembly plants in the mid-South is not only a huge new commitment by the Ford Motor Co. CEO to the fast-gaining propulsion technology. It’s also a mammoth declaration by America’s iconic carmaker that the future of the auto business in the United States will remain anchored in flyover country.

“Kentucky and Tennessee scrapped to land the $11.4 billion in new industrial production that will be located northeast of Memphis and in Glendale, Kentucky, including commitments by SK Innovation, Ford’s battery supplier. The two states came up with nearly $1 billion in financial incentives for the two companies to plunk the facilities and an estimated 11,000 new direct jobs in their precincts.

“West Tennessee will now lead the nation in the next American industrial revolution, said Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee in a news conference, with actually not too much hyperbole. Andy Beshear, the governor of Kentucky, predicted “these enormous plants will capture the attention of the entire world. Every nation will know where Kentucky is and who we are.”

“Losers React

“The repercussions were immediate in other states that lost out. Michigan officials, for example, were left explaining how they couldn’t land such a watershed new investment by an important homegrown company, and reminding everyone that automakers are continuing to invest other billions across the state. Ohio was the other reported finalist.

“I was shocked, very disappointed to see” that Ford decided to locate the plants out of state, U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg told the Detroit News. Quick analysis by the News concluded that Michigan’s comparatively high industrial-power costs, lack of large-scale tracts suitable for modern developments, and its “difficulty quickly mustering the kinds of financial incentive packages that can help close big deals” all contributed to the state’s failure to land Ford’s plants.

“Meanwhile, in Illinois, the announcement goosed Governor J.B. Pritzker’s strategizing behind a plan that would boost the state’s efforts to attract its own share of EV investments. Electric-truck startup Rivian put its first plant in Normal, Illinois, in an old Mitsubishi facility, and now Pritzker wants to convince Samsung to build a massive battery factory next door.

“The governor’s goal is to build an ecosystem, not only to build vehicles but [also] the supply chain,” one senior administration official told Crain’s Chicago Business. “The governor repeatedly has said this is a key area for us.”

“The First Boom

“Indeed, the froth these days as automakers begin to build out their EV-production infrastructure is reminiscent of what happened 40 years ago across the heartland when global players were all trying to figure out how to build and sell small cars profitably in an American market that was being choked by high gasoline prices.

“Nissan built its first U.S. plant, near Smyrna, Tennessee; Toyota built its first U.S. plant, near Georgetown, Kentucky; and General Motors plunked its Saturn complex near Nashville. Meanwhile, Volkswagen – ill-fatedly, as it turned out – had refurbished a plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, and began churning out little cars in 1978.

“The mid-South plant locations then made a lot of sense because they were in states unfriendly to unions and yet close enough to the supplier industry’s existing infrastructure, centered in the Upper Midwest, to make sense logistically.

“Forty years later, there’s similar logic to Ford’s decision in favor of Tennessee and Kentucky, including relatively inexpensive supplies of the massive amounts of electricity it takes to make batteries for all-electric vehicles.

“At the same time, Ford’s new plants now will be in the relative center of a massively expanded auto-industry supply base and assembly-plant network that now occupies essentially all of flyover country — from a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama to a Kia plant in Georgia; from new GM battery plants planned for Ohio to the company’s long-existing assembly plant in Missouri; and from the Subaru plant in Lafayette, Indiana, to the Toyota plant about 170 miles to the south in Princeton, Indiana.”

Retrieved October 6, 2021 from Ford’s EV Plants Confirm the Future of Carmaking Will Remain Here | Newgeography.com

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