Saturday, June 13, 2015

It has to get very bad first

Matt Ridley directs our attention to An Ecomodernist Manifesto. Thinking seriously about resources does not require Luddism. Ridley notes,

"Imagine a city on a desert coast at the end of the 21st century. Its main business is software. Its energy comes from advanced forms of nuclear power. Its food is grown in multi-storey, hydroponic factories in the desert, which exclude pests and use sunlight, LEDs, desalinated water and fertiliser manufactured from the air. The city’s metal comes from ore; its glass from sand; its plastic from oil. Its demands on the wild landscapes, free-flowing rivers and fertile soils of the rest of the planet are virtually nil. All just about feasible today."

But how do we get from here to there? Ridley wants the Manifesto to somehow get onto the G-7 agenda as they meet in Bavaria. That would be nice but I expect that the participants and their followers are firmly on board with the green policies we have. The Elon Musks of the world get it. This morning's WSJ includes "High-Tech Solar Projects Fail to Deliver ... $2.2 billion California project generates 40% of expected electricity." Where did the money go? I am reminded of stories of the bad old East bloc days like this one from Charles Wheelan:
“… by the time the Berlin Wall crumbled, some East German car factories were actually destroying value. Because the manufacturing process was so inefficient and the end product so shoddy, the plants were producing cars worth less than the inputs used to make them.” (p. 34)

How do we get from here to there? It has to get very bad first.