Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Ukrainian Lessons for NY State


So, one way out of the current mess can be seen in the wind map of the Ukraine. As there are only around 46 million people here (and a shrinking population, at that, via emigration, poverty, drinking and Chernobyl) and essentially no decent fossil fuel reserves that can be converted to heat, electricity and transportation energy, especially at costs most Ukrainians could afford, this would be a great way to solve ALL KINDS of problems via wind power. Any lands with a yellow (minimum wind speed of 6 m/s at 80 meters) to dark brown (9 m/s at 80 meters height, and by most standard, an awesome wind energy potential) are suitable for wind energy development. They have way more than enough renewable energy potential to power all their electricity and heating needs, and lots of electric rail, too. Map from http://resbroker.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/3tier-ukraine-wind-map-at-80m.jpg, provided by 3Tier, a renewable energy consultancy group (http://www.3tier.com/en/).

Of late, the intrigues set off by America's "neo-cons" and their "$5 billion campaign" to get the former Soviet region cobbled together from remnants of various empires (Austria-Hungarian, Polish, Ottoman and Russian, to name but a few) have become very apparent as have machinations ℅ the European Union. The entity of the Ukraine is now "in play", and the "fees" resulting to the "winners" can run into the tens of billions of dollars. Oh, that definitely attracts a crowd, and one NOT composed of nice people. Not only does this promise even more massive amounts of graft, grifting thievery and epic corruption but a group associated with the "neo-cons" called the "neo-libs" can move on in for the kill. This will be another fine application of "Shock Doctrine" - the concept documented in the book by Naomi Klein, which is not easy reading, but essential if you want a grasp of what is going on in southern Europe (especially Greece and Spain).  


And soon, the Ukraine… The outcome of the Shock Doctrine is wealth sucked into a black hole composed of the super-rich, and a significant net impoverishment of MOST of the people living in the Ukraine where the money for those black hole inhabitants comes from.  In fact, Russia is one of the few country's to survive the Shock Doctrine, though at a huge cost (social AND economic).  The damage also gave rise/came from  massive pilfering by "oligarchs" - a hybrid of organized crime, international bankers, KGB, CIA, international financiers, Communist Party and ex-Party officials, the well-connected, military and ex-military and especially those skilled at money-laundering. Much of this was centered around oil and gas revenues and it was one Vladimir Putin who managed to somewhat reign in the looting set off by a group known as "The Chicago Boys". But, diamonds, gold, nickel, uranium, and those industries that were reasonably well off, like ammonia and steel production, were "tapped" when "privatization" took place. Yeah, its complicated, but the goal of "The Chicago Boys" (right wing libertarian economists from the University of Chicago and related "Austrian" style economist) to get Russia's vast oil, gas and mineral wealth transferred into the hands of "others" like BP, Shell and Exxon-Mobil did not quite work out like was hoped. Yeah, just about everything is way past complicated here, and there may well be nothing but the unsavory who are calling the tunes and pulling most of the strings in that part of the world these days.

The nominal goal of the neo-cons is to get the country of the Ukraine into NATO, as has occurred with Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland, to name a few former bits of the USSR and "Warsaw Pact". Of course, this sets off the naturally inclined to be suspicious Russians something fierce. And the idea of Nazis regaining control (after all, only a small percentage of highly organized people reasonably well financed can take control in coup and/or in anarchistic times..) of a region that tended to align with Hitler and Mussolini in WW2 (Ukraine) does not go over well among most Russians. After WW2, the Nazi legacy is very much despised in Russia, though what the Russians did to a lot of other Russians and lots of others in the former USSR is also hated something fierce. In fact, hate seems to be in great abundance, and the big question is centered on how much of that can get out and run amok… For more on that. see http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2014/03/chronology-of-ukrainian-coup.html

But the corruption in this nation-state has just gotten worse since "independence" in 1991, and that really is saying a lot, as there was also plenty of that back in the old USSR. And then there is the concept of acting like a "troll" when somebody else's natural gas and crude oil passes via pipeline though disputed turf to consider. It turns out that close to 4 trillion cubic feet per year of methane is transferred to western Europe from Russia (2/3 via the Ukraine), and that exchange of money for fossil fuel/raw material has been a cornerstone of both Russian and European economies. This gas and oil is sold under long term contracts, and some of that money serves to pay for the massive cost for pipelines that stretch often 5000 miles. In this arrangement, natural gas is priced in relation to the world price of oil, and that is around $10/kcf (about 2.5 times the price of methane in the US - see http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-02/ukraine-tension-seen-stoking-gas-crude-prices-when-markets-open.html). Pipelines are often stabilizing forces in an insecure world, and they are LONG TERM investments and arrangements. About 60 % of the methane that moves from Russia and Khazakstan/Uzbekistan to Europe goes through Ukrainian turf, and one of THE major revenue sources for the country is the tolls on this hydrocarbon highway. Much of the cost of the 1.2 tcfy of the Ukraine's methane consumption gets paid for via trolling the gas and oil pipelines. But, more alternatives to this trolling - such as the Nord Stream - are getting arranged. The Nord Stream is composed of two pipes going from near St. Petersburg, Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, thus by-passing Poland and Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, such that they cannot extort the ultimate customer (Germany) for hydrocarbon transit. The proposed South Stream will go from Russia to Turkey via the Black Sea and then to southern Europe, also by passing Ukrainian influence. Other alternatives go through Turkey and Romania. So if the Ukraine becomes too costly a transit route… and Russian gas could also get liquified and transferred to customers such as England and France via cryogenic LNG tanker…

The key aspects of the new Shock Doctrine - the Ukraine 2014 Version - involves shutting down existing Ukrainian located manufacturing, slashing pension and medical expenses (and for people barely getting by, not nice), raising gas and oil costs to European levels, and selling off prime farm land to international corporations and foreign countries, such as China and Saudi Arabia. It is the land that is the BIG DEAL, as it is the equivalent of Iowa, just a lot larger. It is called the "breadbasket of Europe" for a reason, especially for wheat and corn production, much of it for export. And both wheat and corn require ammonia/ammonium salts/urea to put protein into the wheat and corn kernels - no fixed nitrogen, no protein, and those seeds will be essentially all starch, and nutritionally pretty useless. In general, that ammonia gets made from Russian natural gas, and the world price for ammonia is generally set in Yuhzny, Ukraine on the Black Sea coast, home of one of the state owned fertilizer works. for more on that: http://www.ianwelsh.net/the-2012-imfukraine-negotiations/

The Ukraine is now Euro 60 billion or more in the hole, and that trend is getting worse via both imports of manufactured items but also gas and crude oil as well as via interest on that debt. Selling off prime farmland (black soil lands) that is among the best growing crop land in the world is one way to do it, but then THOSE crops will be for export only. And shrinking local demand/wages/income will mean that even fewer Ukrainians can afford this food, let alone get much employment in growing that food. If the Austerity demands being promoted by "Yats" (US State Dept officials Victoria Nuland's favorite local and remarkably enough the new leader of the country - Yatsenyuk - who also speaks pretty decent English) get imposed, well, the average Ukrainian will see at least a 25% drop in their already meager standards of living. Sweet…. but at least the friends of "Yats" will do just fine and then some, as with the 3 previous Ukrainian administrations… Anyway, if the Ukraine defaults on these bonds, NOBODY - especially the US or European Union - is prepared to "eat the loss". That could spiral in a lot of ways, none of them good, also….

At present, the Ukraine gets a discount on the European price for their methane and oil, but that ended when the pro-Russian former ruler got the boot. And since they could not really afford even THAT price, well, paying more for the methane to make electricity and ammonia will not go over well at all. And it is planting season soon, once what passes for winter this year (not much of one for that part of Europe THIS year) morphs into spring. No money, no credit, or loan shark rates from European banks and not much planting/fertilizer application will happen, especially if the tractors have no oil to power them up. And that has some pretty awesome and vile ramifications. Think food riots in a lot of the world, when wheat prices double. This year Australia's wheat crop got scorched via record Global Warming droughts, as did Syria's (plus they have a nasty war raging). Much of the Arab world's diet is wheat based, and most Arabs are way past dirt poor. It only takes a slight mismatch between supply and demand to spike or depress crop prices, after all. But, fear not, it will be great for those speculating in or running commodity markets…

But enough of the morass that is centuries of warfare, slavery (the Tatars did a thriving business in kidnapping and enslaving blondes and selling them across Eurasia, especially for eager muslims until 1783 when the Russian Empire gave them the boot), betrayal and mass murder. What if they actually got it together and decided to cut back on their methane consumption that they can't afford at $7/kcf, let alone $10/kcf. What if instead of loaning the Ukrainian country money (which tends to have serious leakage issues), they got loaned or just given at a fraction of the total cost, lots of commercial scale wind turbines? Well, obviously the best place to put a lot of them would be in the mountains in southwest Ukraine that go from Poland/Slovakia into Romania. The region is a also very mountainous (3000 to 600 feet asl), so there is lots of potential for pumped hydroelectric energy storage, too. Other great areas are the hills in the south part of Crimmea (also with pumped hydro capability) and in the eastern part of the country, near it's heavily industrialized region alongside of the Russian border. And since the Volga River is already heavily dammed, that is another great way to buffer wind energy…. Another good wind area is in the Odessa region, which is located next to the Black Sea. 


And there is always the Black Sea itself (see http://www.grid.unep.ch/bsein/images/bs_bathy.gif) and especially the Sea of Azov (to the east of Crimea) - lots of shallow water. After all, the Black Sea is the home of the first offshore wind turbines (1930's in USSR). 

                           

If per capita electricity consumption averages around 421 watts per person (http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.ELEC.KH.PC), the Ukraine needs about 19.4 GW on an average delivered basis. Even at 40% net output for an average, that means roughly 48,000 MW of these commercial scale units would be needed. This would probably be around 16,000 x 3 MW units, and it would cost around $100 billion. That is 1.5 million job-years of employment to make them, and even if only half of these happen over a 10 year period, 75,000 industrial jobs for 10 years would be highly appreciated in that empire of unemployment known as the Ukraine. And odds are, a similar number of these would be needed to supply heat, so that is another 75,000 jobs for a decade, not to mention the Ground Sourced Heat Pumps that would be needed for heat from electricity.

There are actually a few wind turbines in the Ukraine. It sure beats methane addiction, whether this is the Ukraine and Russia, or NY State and Texas/Louisiana/Kansas/Alberta/Fracksylvania. At least Russia gave the Ukrainians a break on prices for hydrocarbons needed for heat and electricity. Texas would NEVER do that for NY State….. 
from http://www.uwea.com.ua/files/WIND_ENERGY_UKRAINE_2011_engl.pdf, a picture of a Fuhrlaender 2.5 MW unit next to some old used wind turbines from California that were bought on the cheap. 


But, without stability, and without a functioning country that is not bankrupt, no more wind turbines. Instead, insane ideas like shipping fracked methane from the US as LNG will be shipped to the Black Sea, despite the fact that you could ship it cheaper from Qatar as liquid or from Iran by pipeline, Anyway, in case  you were wondering if infectious and debilitating Alzheimers would ever afflict the NY Times (though in all fairness, they were probably quoting some vile and pernicious neo-con), well, the answer is YES. See here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/06/world/europe/us-seeks-to-reduce-ukraines-reliance-on-russia-for-natural-gas.html


The amazing thing about Stupid is that it CAN be contagious, That's why we need to work hard to counteract it. Maybe another soothing wind turbine picture from a a V112 wind farm might help with this - see http://www.dtek.com/en/media-centre/press-releases/details/wind-power-is-on-the-way-towards-launching-the-second-stage-of-botievo-wind-farm#.UxvTelxyQpE, and BTW, one definition of Stupid is remaining addicted to fossil sourced natural gas when you are already tapping the dregs of the remaining resource - via fracking. Hey, NY State - get the hint?


And then there is these words of wisdom: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/mar/03/wind-turbines-gas-prices-crimea-crisis/print. Seriously, do we have to paint a picture or what?

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