Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
After reading the Intro and first chapter a few comments. On p. 6 he discusses how monopolies intentionally thwart competition and innovation so as to maintain their stranglehold. But he claims entrepreneurs find a way around it and end up forcing competition with their better tech and price reductions. Yet he discusses on pp. 7-9 Larry Summers 2001 paper, wherein Summers acknowledges the emerging information economy was indeed moving to near marginal cost. Summers though didn't propose something like Rifkin but instead recommended "short-term natural monopolies" (8).
Recall Summers was Obama's pick for Director of the National Economic Council. His policy suggestions were well in line with the earlier promotion of "natural monopolies," and his resume attests. And we're seeing exactly this economic philosophy at play with the FCC Chairman Wheeler's proposed pay-to-play rules, where the ISP monopolies will destroy internet neutrality. Recall that Wheeler was another Obama pick, and was a former, and will return to being, a cable and wireless lobbyist. While Obama claims to back income equality and net neutrality he appoints the likes of Summers and Wheeler who make no bones about their support of monopolies. And without net neutrality good bye to Rifkin's entire plan, which requires it to succeed.
If you haven't yet, please take action to preserve it. Here's one place and you can find several others if you but look.
"The only way I am going to touch this one is if you can manage to write some good things about conservatism."
Recall this post on some of the 'liberal' policies of Republicans Eisenhower, Reagan and Nixon. They don't make 'em like they used to.
No doubt. The sad thing is rural north americans have about 10,000 versions of christianity to choose from and they insist on choosing some of the most rabid, toxic interpretations of religion ever imagined. And then this toxicity gets played out in the political sphere. Although, I'm happy some progressive voices are starting to re-emerge. Perhaps there could one day be a truce between the progressive right and left?
That was Maddow's point; there no longer is a progressive conservatism in the US. It's been taken over by the regressives. There are a few Republicans that speak progressive ideas on occasion but are immediately castigated by the Party, called Republicans in name only (RINOs), and they quit doing it for fear of losing their Primary to the rabid right.
Recent Republican primaries are an example. While erstwhile old-school Republicans won their primaries over Tea Part candidates, they had to do so by taking on the rhetoric of their rabid counterparts. And it's not just rhetoric but shows in the kind of Bills they introduce and vote in to law.
Solar still makes a very small contribution to overall US Energy production. Utility scale solar has steadily increased over the last 4 years, and by 2015 the EIA expects it to reach 1/2 of 1 percent of the total electricity supply for the U.S., according to the very latest report released in May. Growth in residential installations is expected to exceed utility installations. Solar AND Wind together is expected to make up 10% of the global electricity supply by 2035, though if everyone gets serious about reaching for a "450" scenario, it might go as high as 18% they say. Some say these numbers are optimistic, others say they are unduly pessimistic.
My view is that renewables will make up a much larger percentage of actual energy consumed in the decades ahead, simply because fossil fuels will become too expensive and hard to get, NOT because we'll have a great RE infrastructure in place with lower costs. We'll likely be forced to drastically reduce our energy consumption. Renewables will be much harder to install and much more costly, because of the fossil fuel and other resource components that go into them. The IEA (International Energy Agency), btw, just announced (my article) that $48 trillion (Richard Heinberg's article) will need to be invested between now and 2030 just to keep the lights on.
FYI, I estimate the 10 solar panels on my house, installed in 2008, will take more than 20 more years to pay for themselves at today's rates (I didn't get the federal rebate, since they were already on my house when I bought it). Sometimes it doesn't pay to be an early adopter, but someone's gotta do it.
I guess my point is that Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain Consumer Society, as Ted Trainer put it so well. "It is a mistake to think better technology is important in solving global problems, let alone the key. Most of the things we need in the Simpler Way can be produced by traditional technologies."
Some sources for the figures used at the top of my reply about solar energy:
More evidence supporting claims in the book. See this article on US solar power generation. It represents 74% of all new US electricity generation in the first quarter of this year. And 60% of this is coming from middle income residents. They don't say what % solar is of the overall US energy production. But it must be getting significant because fossil fuel companies and their regressive government toadies are trying to suppress its growth.
In AZ they are imposing a 5% monthly surcharge on residential solar generation. Utilities in AZ, OK and San Antonio are trying to add surcharges for customers who want to sell back their surplus to the grid. Imagine that, customers selling back surplus energy for the benefit of others on the grid during peak usage, thereby reducing everyone else's costs. Except that the utilities and fossil fuel magnates, still making a killing in these circumstances, just can't make a gazillion killing. Poor, poor rich people.
"I guess my point is that Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain Consumer Society."
Who said the Commons would maintain consumption at capitalistic rates? Certainly not Rifkin. And certainly not those in the Commons itself, given the lifestyle choices these folks are making. All you cite assumes 1) we will continue that consumption lifestyle and/or 2) that RE is the only actionable part of the Commons. Whereas all the many other things Rifkin lists have a cumulative, holistic effect, greatly reducing consumption and ownership of stuff being another one of those factors in a multi-pronged cultural shift.
And that it will take another 50 years for it to be dominant over capitalism, assuming the current exponential growth rates in all these areas. Do your citations include exponential growth rates instead of current growth projections?
See for example this article about RE in Germany, which is consciously implementing the TIR. In 2013 photovoltaics were 5.7% of the country's net electricity consumption, but RE as a whole was 29% (5). (Gross consumption figures were 5% and 25% respectively.)
"Thanks to technological progress and economies of scale, the investment costs for PV installations, the greatest outlay for PV power plants, have fallen annually by an average of 13 percent since 2006" (7-8).
Following that is the "price learning curve," not exponential but still showing drastic reduction in cost efficiency. Germany is an example of what can be done when one gets with the program.
Echoing Rifkin: "Raising consumer awareness, the use of timers and, in the future, control signals from the provider (grid or one’s own roof) indicating favorable times of use for household appliances as well as cooling devices with increased thermal mass will help change power consumption patterns" (68). And this is strictly focusing on the tech side of solar (the smart grid, IoT etc.), not the entire cultural shift of the Commons.
Btw, the article's home page.
I think it likely that most everyone on this forum knows that big 'C' capitalism in its current form of corporate neoliberalism will not be sustainable over the current century. Whether ITER or some other major scaled replacement energy can be 'invented' in time is what I believe the oligarchs are hoping for; but they are pragmatists , and by no means stupid, hence the dirty wars link today. If a replacement energy does not materialize in time then the issue becomes how does the downward slope of peak energy play out? It's probably not a pretty scenario, but we can reasonably assume the 1% will be buffered from the worst case scenarios.
Okay then, can there be any peace between republican integralites and democratic leftie progressives?
I started off just trying to answer the question about what % of U.S. energy production comes from solar. I guess I went on from there and pushed some buttons. Don't get me wrong, I think Rifkin is incredibly intelligent and gifted, and has been making extremely valuable contributions for a long time, and I'm glad he has supporters here (in other forums I've come to his defense). And Rifkin does indeed talk about the need to reduce consumerism, and the many other factors involved. And further kudos to him for having such integrated perspectives.
However, to me it also seems that his boosterism and salesmanship, as expressed in many parts of his recent blog post, often cloud the picture of reality, exaggerating, or at least over-emphasizing high-tech solutions. And so I think some other perspectives are very much worthwhile.
I must admit that both the EIA and the IEA have had a woeful history of forecasting the future - partly because they're trying to encourage investors, generally pushing rosy scenarios, partly because of politics, and partly because no one is any good at forecasting the future (including Rifkin).
Republican integralites? Is there such a chimera? Btw, I don't consider US progressives as democratic lefties. The majority of US Dems are more conscious capitalists than progressive commoners. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is more the latter, only 13% of our Congress and about 28% of Democrats. Compare the CPC budget agenda with the commons. This is the transitional preconditions for the commons to gain any traction in the US.
Cisco is one of the main actors within the IoT. Here is what they are saying at the moment:
It sounds similar to a HOV lane. I assume the mandate for this corporation is to make as much money as possible, though. With that kind of bias in place it's hard to tell what their agenda is.
Rifkin's book is well aware of this battle for net neutrality as noted above, particularly in this post.