Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Texas Freezing Blackout

 Sharing Space Blankets,

​  Texas is cold, colder than anything on record, overall, for this time of year, and snowed-in, which never happens for more than a day here in central Texas. This combination, and the long duration, 6 days already, and counting, make this event an order of magnitude or more beyond the parameters that engineers considered when designing safety measures. Something similar, but milder and more localized happened in the Dallas, Fort Worth area during super bowl 2011, I hear, but I don't recall it. I didn't live there.
  The cost to keep a temperature differential from inside to outside matters in several ways. Texas houses and businesses often pump something like 35 degrees, between 105 outside and 70 inside during the summer, with AC units, which are heat pumps. Heat pumps are pretty efficient. They might use 1 unit of electricity to pump 9 equal energy units of heat outside. Gas burning furnaces and stoves are pretty good. Stoves don't waste any heat. They are unvented heaters. CO2 does build up with lots of burning over a long time. Lots of us lived with unvented heaters for many years in the old days. Gas furnaces won't work when the electricity is out. Stoves will. You may need a match.
  Electric heating is different. It does not pump 9 units of heat for every equal unit of electricity. 
Resistive electric heaters make 1 unit of heat for 1 unit of electricity. Resistive electric heaters take 9 times as much electricity to cover that 35 degree differential, and a lot of us are trying to get 65 degrees inside with 15 degrees outside this week. 
A lot of people need 12 times as much electricity as during summer peak load.
  About 40% of Texas households are currently without electricity. We just had about 20 hours without electricity, after 8 hours without last Thursday evening and night. We are fortunate to have a gas stove, and an older one with a gas pilot light, so we used it and blanketed up overnight, and sweatered up in the daytime. 
We have been able to cook. We have nice fresh produce we harvested ahead of the deadly cold. 
We gave some away, too. Not the spinach. Jenny cooked lovely Saag paneer 2 days ago, and I made spinach omelets with mushroom and cheese sauce today. Still tasting it...
  I carried in frozen rainwater buckets to put in the refrigerator and freezer, which became "the icebox", which was fun to say. 
I put them back outside a while ago when the power came on. They are "recharging". 
​  Without internet, I read most of Charles Hugh Smith's latest book, print version, by a window, A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet. I have other books I still need to read...
  There is a lot of blame being cast in Texas, for political purposes, but the fact is that nobody would have budgeted for something this extreme. Now they will need to. 
  Many natural gas wellheads are frozen and some of the pipelines are not working right in the extreme cold. Remaining natural gas power plants are burning all the gas they can get, and competing with residential users for it. 
A lot of natural gas plants have been shut down in recent years, but they are the only kind of power plant that can ramp up fast to meet changes in electrical generation requirements. Some plants will need to be renovated and brought back online. 
It will cost more most days, but it will provide resilience for times of severe need. Texas has the gas...
  There is no wind or solar electric  power currently online, due to ice storms last week and no thaw since then.
  We got down to 8 degrees F, with a wind, yesterday morning, and 6 F this mo​rning. I've never experienced it getting below 16, and that was the winter of 1983-1984, when every palm tree in Houston died. 
  All of our "cold tolerant" Mexican avocado seedlings, now over a year old, are in the garage in their pots. The coating of ice from Thursday has melted. We put them in there before the temperature dropped below the mid 20s. That's too cold. 
No point killing them all. I just want to see which ones do better.  
  We're not sure at all if any of the 15 Mexican avocado trees in Yoakum will live, though we cut up a roll of white plastic to wrap them with in sub freezing wind Saturday (Thanks Jenny!). We have been making deer-deterrence cages of chicken wire for a month, so that helps hold the wraps, but makes them harder to do and to tie. Jenny and I drove back to Austin after that chore, and harvesting the vegetables. 
The "ghost trees" are pictured below. 
We hope some live, but people are proud of the few that lived through 1983-1984, very proud.

  I'm actually very hopeful for Texas, because this is a big adversity, unanticipated and overwhelming for all Texans, a shared hardship. Political unity of purpose is exceedingly rare these days, and organizations are locked into status-quo procedures and protocols. That's terrible, and only serves a few insulated power elites. 
  This event provides a platform for practical initiatives to be taken by (politicians in) the State of Texas, in the interests of all Texans. 
Washington can only get in the way of Texas reinforcing it's power grid backup-capacity for severe events. 
Run with that Ball, Texas!

Mike Shedlock is politically incorrect, but factual here. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, and still abundant. Combustion = Real Economy.
Hello Clean Energy Advocates, What Do We Do When the Wind Turbines are All Frozen?

"Extremely Dangerous" Weather, Grid Chaos Sparks Outages Across 15 US States, Spreads To Mexico


Presidents Day: Carter's Prescient Farewell Address in 1981​,​  Charles Hugh Smith​  (We took this good man for granted. Watch a little.)
​  ​Regardless of our opinions about President Carter and his legacy, his Farewell Address is worthy of our attention and study.
On Presidents Day 2021, I invite you to read/watch President Carter's Farewell Address from 40 years ago. As a Washington outsider, Carter was relentlessly mocked and undermined by the Establishment, as insiders' loathing of outsiders knows no bounds.
​  ​In a similar fashion, the loathing of the corrupt and self-absorbed for the faithful aspiring to better world despite our weaknesses and flaws also knows no bounds, and so the establishment insiders that run the nation had no use for Carter other than as a handy whipping post.

The Thirty Tyrants​  (Jimmy Carter's foundation and others have determined that the USA is an oligarchy.)​ Thanks Eleni in Athens.​
The deal that the American elite chose to make with China has a precedent in the history of Athens and Sparta​,  by Lee Smith​  (Thanks Eleni)
... ​But if Donald Trump saw decoupling the United States from China as a way to dismantle the oligarchy that hated him and sent American jobs abroad, he couldn’t follow through on the vision. After correctly identifying the sources of corruption in our elite, the reasons for the impoverishment of the middle classes, and the threats foreign and domestic to our peace, he failed to staff and prepare to win the war he asked Americans to elect him to fight.
​  ​And because it was true that China was the source of the China Class’ power, the novel coronavirus coming out of Wuhan became the platform for its coup de grace. So Americans became prey to an anti-democratic elite that used the coronavirus to demoralize them; lay waste to small businesses; leave them vulnerable to rioters who are free to steal, burn, and kill; keep their children from school and the dying from the last embrace of their loved ones; and desecrate American history, culture, and society; and defame the country as systemically racist in order to furnish the predicate for why ordinary Americans in fact deserved the hell that the elite’s private and public sector proxies had already prepared for them.​..
​  What seems clear is that Biden’s inauguration marks the hegemony of an American oligarchy that sees its relationship with China as a shield and sword against their own countrymen. Like Athens’ Thirty Tyrants, they are not simply contemptuous of a political system that recognizes the natural rights of all its citizens that are endowed by our creator; they despise in particular the notion that those they rule have the same rights they do. Witness their newfound respect for the idea that speech should only be free for the enlightened few who know how to use it properly. Like Critias and the pro-Sparta faction, the new American oligarchy believes that democracy’s failures are proof of their own exclusive right to power—and they are happy to rule in partnership with a foreign power that will help them destroy their own countrymen.
​  ​What does history teach us about this moment? The bad news is that the Thirty Tyrants exiled notable Athenian democrats and confiscated their property while murdering an estimated 5% of the Athenian population. The good news is that their rule lasted less than a year.

​Ron Paul on the second Impeach Trump show-trial:​

​Jim Kunstler is irreverent again:
...in a telephone parley between Mr. Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over the governor’s refusal to lockdown his state. The world-famous Dr. Fauci was also on the call, in which Mr. Biden threatened to curtail American citizens travel to Florida by road and air — since an offshoot of Covid-19 policy has been to drive a huge demographic exodus from the economically failing states of New York, Illinois, and California down there. He also threatened to withhold federal funding to Florida and deny the state access to Covid-19 vaccines. Dr. Fauci chimed in, “Governor, do you want to be responsible for reinfecting the nation? Truth is, we don’t even know how effective current vaccines are against the UK strain.”
​  ​DeSantis told Dr. Fauci he trusted his own state health authorities over financially incentivized federal officials. The conclusion of the conference call went like this:
  ​"​How much do you stand to earn from these vaccines, Dr. Fauci? And, Joe, if you continue with this course of action, I will authorize the state National Guard to protect the movement of Floridians,” DeSantis said.
​  ​“Address me as Mr. President or President Biden,” Biden said.
“I will not, and you can go fuck yourself,” DeSantis said before hanging up.


John Glubb and Avoiding the Fate of Empires​ Thanks again to Charles for sending this. 
  Glubb was an English army officer who spent the best part of his career serving the newly-independent governments of Iraq and Jordan. An avid—if amateur—historian, he developed a theory on hegemonic orders that he called the “Fate of Empires.” Comparing a series of ancient and modern empires, he concluded that their average lifespan was 10 generations—about 250 years—and that, despite great geographic, technological, religious, and cultural differences, all empires follow a general pattern as they expand, develop, and finally decline and collapse. Although Glubb himself was the first to acknowledge the risks of over-simplification in his generalised model, his observations aptly describe, in broad-brushstrokes, not only the fate of past empires, but the contemporary situation in global politics today, particularly regarding the West and China.
  Glubb was agnostic on whether the “laws” of history he claimed to uncover were at all deterministic, but hoped that, by understanding how empires decline and collapse, modern citizens stood a chance of avoiding their typical fate...
​  ​Glubb’s account therefore makes uneasy reading for a modern, cosmopolitan intellectual. Although we can question his generalisations and his selection of examples, his broad picture holds true not only for the periods he discusses, but also seems applicable to modern empires, such as China, which appears to be somewhere in the transition from the “Age of Commerce” to the “Age of Affluence,” and the North Atlantic liberal hegemony, which—depending on your vantage point—is in either the later stages of the “Age of Intellect” or entering the “Age of Decadence.” His questioning of intellectualism, immigration, and the welfare state is also challenging for the progressive project, casting the attainment of its goals as symptoms of its impending collapse.​..
​  But a more careful reading of Glubb reveals that such a strategy treats only the symptoms of the decline, not its cause. Glubb was quite clear—it is greed, and the transition of a culture from “service to selfishness” that marks a nation’s tipping point into decadence and decline. The rise of intellectualism can be better understood as an early reaction to this decline... ​ 
  Be that as it may, the political class of the West remains undeniably in the hands of the decadent generation of Affluence. The language of commerce is everywhere—politicians talk of “the UK plc” or “Australia Inc.”—and honesty is certainly not a guiding virtue. Through lobbyists and direct consultation, business leaders influence all aspects of state policy, and yet give as little as possible in return, avoiding tax and moving capital and jobs away as soon as it is in their interests to do so...
​  ​What lessons can we draw, then, from Glubb’s account of the Fate of Empires? Two things stand out. First, the need for a value higher than money. Second, the need for a spirit of service and self-sacrifice to a cause of which we are all a part. We need to stop thinking like businesspeople, and to stop treating the acquisition of wealth as the measure of success, both as individuals and as a society. And we need to actively replace it, with something that binds a community together and gives it meaning.​..
​  ​Communities should decide for themselves what such activities might be. But I believe that an emphasis on connection to the natural world, and self-reliance, should fall at the centre of them. A respect for the natural world is vital in these times of climate emergency, and may help us to become less materialistic and more appreciative of the simpler comforts we take for granted. An education system that teaches self-reliance through character-building would be an invaluable aid in forming citizens who could resist the frivolity that marks the decaying empire.

​Pepe Escobar has a long and thought provoking essay about what the failing western empire might be able to patch together if it does not get us all killed.
 ​ ​The West’s hostile strategy to Russia is conditioned on the idea that Russia has nowhere else to go, and must accept whatever the West offers in terms of “partnership”. The rise of the East fundamentally alters Moscow’s relationship with the West by enabling Russia to diversify its partnerships”.
​  ​We may be fast approaching the point where Great Eurasia’s Russia will present Germany with a take it or leave it offer. Either we build the Heartland together, or we will build it with China – and you will be just a historical bystander.


Acting Locally​


  1. "... 9 equal energy nits... " - those are very small !!

  2. Do you have a "stoe" in your home? Your fingers must very very cold!

  3. So sad to think about your avo trees.
    Stay well.

    1. "Units", "stove", yes cold fingers, but mainly an old and marginal keyboard.
      We shall see what life brings and deal with it the best we can.
      If any avocado trees survive, I will get more of those varieties. We do have the year-old seedlings in post in the garage. I just put them in big pots a few weeks ago. I really planned to keep them in pots this year.