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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sky City One

The project was initiated in April 2012 .... Official planning will be announced in August 2012.
Estimated to start November 2012. Estimated completion January 2013
This will be the world's tallest building at 838 metres but this is almost the least amazing thing about it
Unlike most such buildings it isn't just a tower. 80% of its space will be given over to housing, the rest being offices, hospitals, schools, hotels, shops and restaurants - no manufacturing. It will provide homes for 174,000 people. Despite the lack of manufacturing this is virtually an acrcology - a city in a building. The base appears to be 140 metres across.
Because of the insulation, including quadruple glazing, it will be 5 times more energy efficient than most buildings and by using LEDs 5 times more electricity efficient. The company has a reputation for being green & conservation minded which I am willing to forgive in the circumstances.
And the cost - $628 million (£400 million)
That comes, taking 80% as housing, to £1,850 per person, probably under £6,000 for a family home..
All to be completed in 3 months.
Difficult to overestimate the change this is going to cause. Most of the pupublicity has called this Sky City buy some says Sky City One which implies there will be many more such across China and presumably across all those countries where government parasitism doesn't prevent them (currently that means India).
A previous stop motion video of the Broad Group building a skyscraper in 2 weeks went viral across the net so it seems likely that can do this in the timescale and cost limits promised. This is achieved by modular off site mass production - a method I have long recommended as one of the big engineering solutions to the world's problems - though this is spectacularly more than I had ever envisaged.
This is even more technically spectacular then the Todos Santos arcology, in Niven & Pournelle's Oath of Fealty which was "only" 1,000 ft and was a "whole" 2 miles on a side. By making it the tallest building in the world both Broad Group and Hunan province have secured bragging rights, which may well be as important an economic motivation as money. I suspect some of the many future buildings will more closely resemble the Niven Pournelle vision. At the costs and building times here there are going to be 1,000s, (theoretically 34,000 for the whole world population) of these across the world.
And can I resist mentioning that this is the same cost as the Scottish Parliament building, about half the cost of a few miles of Edinburgh trams and 1/6th the cost of a new Forth Bridge? No I can't.
see also

Sky City IOne)

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Competitive advantage is about economics - not geography

  This article of mine, which takes the Reform Scotland thinktank to task over a report they made saying windmillery was practical and nuclear isn't. By signing up the politically acceptable it has got "within the small circle of Scotland's political "consensus"" but only at the cost  of joining that "consensus" rather than promoting reform.

   Please put your comments on there.

A REPORT on Scotland’s energy options produced by Reform Scotland a few months back(1) was remarkably supportive of windmills and largely against nuclear. Having written here to exactly the opposite effect(2) I was intrigued by what facts they had spotted that I hadn't - especially since there is not a single engineer on the Reform Scotland panel.
The report’s authors are against nuclear "because, unlike other forms of energy production, Scotland does not have a competitive advantage in nuclear energy" which, I must admit, I hadn't considered. I had thought merely that the fact that nuclear is more reliable and much cheaper would be the primary considerations.
By this argument we should outlaw the motor car and replace it with carts drawn by highland cows, since we have a competitive advantage in the supply of them. To be fair there are probably a number of people in the "environmental" movement who would look on that with some favour.
There are countries where there is a competitive geographical advantage for one power industry. Hydro power in places like Canada, and Norway where water resources are abundant; geothermal in Iceland where magma is close to the surface; potentially someday solar power in the countries of the Sahara and Kalahari deserts. All of these depend, however, on the power being not only cheaper than in other countries but cheaper than traditional and available power sources.
For instance Botswana has the highest level of available sunlight for solar power in the world but it also has 212 billion tonnes of coal reserves and it is far, far cheaper to dig it up for coal-fired power stations than to convert sunlight into megawatts (and for it to be available in the dark when people need it).
It is surprising that it is not obvious to Reform Scotland that there is no advantage in having a competitive advantage in doing something not worth doing. It could also be pointed out that the high skill level of Scots engineering gives us a significant advantage over many other countries - certainly greater than that of Bulgaria and Slovenia who get over one third of their power through nuclear generation.
There is no serious question that nuclear normally comes out as the least expensive power source and less than none that wind is particularly expensive. Since most of the cost of nuclear is in meeting government regulations, despite it having a far better safety record than anything else for the power generated, I am of the opinion that nuclear's cost could be greatly reduced if there were the political will for it, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
What does this report say about nuclear costs? That is an interesting question because it has two answers. Its graph of cost estimates is not drawn from the widely respected Royal Academy of Engineering figures(3) but nonetheless shows nuclear's range of costs as lowest (page 38), half that of offshore wind. (The RAE figures are, of course, even less helpful to renewabilists.) Then, in a listing of the advantages and disadvantages of each (p42), the authors show nuclear as costing the same as on-shore wind and more than off-shore!
Incidentally, while admitting conventional coal power as being more expensive than nuclear (or wind) the report shows coal with carbon capture and storage as significantly cheaper? In fact, since CCS requires a lot of expensive extra equipment and work and significantly reduces thermal efficiency it is certain, if it is ever actually made to work, to cost around twice what current coal power costs.
There are many other dubious things in other less figure-related parts of the report, such as the statement that there is a “limited potential for the nuclear sector to contribute to economic development in Scotland” which can only be said by ignoring the fact that nuclear used to produce half of the power used in Scotland, while still exporting large amounts to England and Ireland and that the correlation between low cost energy and economic development is indisputable.
If half our electricity used to come from nuclear what juxtaposition of reality allows one to say that it is impossible to help achieve economic development while pretending that windmills, which have no such record, can?
And so on, but life is too short to keep dissecting forever.
The question then becomes, why?
Reform Scotland was set up in 2008 as the child of Reform, a London based free-market think tank and soon absorbed the Policy Institute, a small Scottish organisation which had produced a number of innovative reports that Holyrood's parliamentarians would have done well to read.
Yet looking at Reform Scotland's output it does seem increasingly timid about taking on the anti-free market "consensus" of Scottish politics. With Jim Mather (who I acknowledge is the SNP politician with the most understanding of the uses of economic freedom in that party) and Wendy Alexander (who for all I know may be the best Labour have) now on its board it may well now be within the small circle of Scotland's political "consensus".
Reform Scotland’s current leading role in setting up the "civic Scotland" discussion of a third referendum question (something the SNP desperately want but cannot call for) suggests it has genuinely arrived.
Surely, though, a think tank exists to think outside the box, not merely to ensure that only the politically correct gets into the box with it?

(1) "Powering Scotland"

(2) "Power economics keep pointing to nuclear solution" among others

(3) RAE figures of power costs

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

16.5% Growth Must Be Possible Because It Is Happening

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wheels coming Off Windmillery and "Independence" With Everlasting Subsidy - Scotsman Letter

  The Scotsman published this short and sarcastic letter today and it was published as written.
The Conservatives have just started briefing that they will end all onshore windmill subsidies by 2020.
The SNP's long term plan for growing the Scottish economy is that we will build thousands, possibly 10s of thousands of windmills and sell the electricity to England, at about 3 times the commercial rate, when the wind is blowing. When it isn't England will sell us their spare power at commercial rates to let us keep the lights on.
Perhaps Mr Salmond has some inside information suggesting that after independence England and Wales will never elect a Conservative government & he can thus rely on them paying us these "Green" subsidies forever. If so I hope he will let us in on it.
This need for continuing subsidy if windmillery after independence was the basis of the Citicorp report denounced by the SNP and discussed by me on ThinkScotland.

With 50 fewer Labour MPs the only thing that would prevent permanent Conservative government would be that there could be a UKIP one,  This is a pretty good argument for separation, but not from this side of the border.
  Bishop Hill has also drawn attention to the Conservatives' newly discovered disenchantment with the windmills they have been funding. I highlighted this quote and said.
"slash that giveaway by 25 per cent, then translated into plain English it means this: onshore wind farms will be killed stone dead"
Interestingly that is not only an acknowledgement that windmillery isn't a real industry but by how much it isn't a real industry. Keeping 75% of the subsidy will not be enough to prevent "stone death". By comparison even a relatively small subsidy - 10s of millions not billions - would be enough to create a buggy whip industry producing 10s of millions of horse whips annually, for the horses we no longer ride.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Greece Should Do To End It's Problems

I put this on John Redwood as a comment but had been thinking of doing something here as well so this seems the time. The big point is that what matters is whether the real economy is growing or not. Printing money and lending it to ourselves is just a cosmetic exercise to hide the basic economic failure. When we know that 10% growth has been achieved continuously by countries that are not that well run (China, India) it is clearly not only possible but relatively easy for Greece and indeed us to do at least equally well. Ig the political will is there.

John had pointed out that the lending to Greece had been predicated on the assumption that, in 2014, the Greek economy would turn round into significant growth and that the EU had never produced any credible reason for the assumption. I start by answering this.
The “assumption” that the Greek economy is suddenly, with no change in circumstances, going to turn round from 5 years negative growth to strong positive growth is merely the latest equivalent of the EU printing money and using it to “solve” the previous crisis’s. Printing money is equivalent to kiting cheques in the expectation somebody else will pay. Assuming non-credible growth is kiting a cheque and assuming the next generation will pay.
In fact Greece could get into the 6% growth the non-EU world is averaging & it is quite obvious how. Repeal all the EU regulations that restrict growth. Reintroduce the drachma and let it fall to it’s natural level.
“all that is required to lift a nation from the lowest barbarism to the greatest wealth is peace, easy taxes and the tolerable administration of justice” Adam Smith
There are 2 problems but both contain solutions within themselves. Firstly I do not think the euro would cease to circulate in Greece so that hoteliers and other parts of the productive economy would continue to be paid in euros while state employees got drachmas – however the pain that caused would be a spur to reducing parasitic government. Secondly the EU might get stroppy about Greece getting rid of all the parasitic rules that the rest of them labour under and either refuse to continue the loans or expel them from the EU – in which case Greek would be able to legitimately repudiate that part of the debt owed to EU states and banks.
The important point is that Greece can unquestionably achieve the sort of growth rates the rest of the world is managing and that if they do so all other problems sink to a manageable size, whereas if their economy continues to contract the other problems become ever more insoluble.
The important point for us is that the same applies except that our problems are currently less. It would be easy for us to reach not merely world average growth rates but much higher.
The primary problem is not the failure of the euro, that is just the symptom, following automatically from government attempts to ignore low growth. The primary problem is the economic failure of EU bureaucratic, corporatist, eocfascist big state model, causing low to zero growth while the rest of the world grows faster than ever in human history.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

The Green Hills of Earth

  Robert Heinlein's Green Hills of Earth is a short story. It contains a number of poems/songs. You could read books on the subject without learning things Heinlein shows here. It is written as a magazine article telling the history from some time in the further future of Rhysling, a barroom singer of the early space age, who has become one of the classics of a fully developed spacegoing civilisation.

   The theme, more important than the story, is of our need for heroes - how we build them up to represent our own self images and then "discover" that they weren't really heroic in the image we created, but then reallt were heroic as themselves. The era in which the article is written is one ihich the settlement of the solar system has ben achieved and is therefore looked back in a romantic light, rather like the American West was when he wrote, or a "the environment" is tiday, ir indeed as the trojan War was to the ancient, but not Bronze Age, Greeks.

   In any case this is the title song. It fits the tunes
Amazing Grace

The House of the Rising Song
Ode to Joy (Beethoven's Ninth Symphony)
The Marine Corps Hymn

  . Heinlein, having been in the navy would have appreciated the Marine Hymn though I don't know it.

    The bits in Italics have been added by filksingers since he only gave one line from each of these verses..

The Green Hills of Earth

We rot in the molds of Venus,

We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death.

We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The harsh bright soil of Luna,
It shines for all to view.
Her cold and sterile craters
All lack the morning dew.


Saturn's rainbow rings are precious,
A guide in the depths of space.
Her dust and rocks form colors bright,
Unique chromatic grace.


In the frozen night of Titan,
We shiver in empty cold.
Her frozen shrouded cloudbanks
Hide mysteries yet untold.


The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
All hands! Stand by! Free falling!
And the lights below us fade.
Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps the race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet.

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

copyright Robert A Heinlein, 1947

Additional words Jacob Sommer, March 20 2001

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Some Comments I Have Made Elsewhere

On John Redwood regarding whether growth or cutting the deficit is more important.
We have had 2 years of this government. If, during that period we had reached only the, non-Eu, world average growth rate of 6% we would now be 12.4% better off. With the Exchequer’s takings up 12.4% (it would probably be marginally better) the deficit would be down by £60 bn to an acceptable about 3% of GNP (actually it would be better than that because we would be able to print money equal to 12.4% of our money supply without causing inflation).
That we could achieve considerably better than the world average, if the political classes wanted it, us not factually disputed.
Redwood on keeping the lights on
The BBC typically reported the windmill subsidy as “subsidy for new nuclear & wind” which then metamorphosed into a “nuclear subsidy”. Clearly there is no lie too outrageous or obvious for our state broadcaster to tell.
In fact the AP1000 reactor is available, off the shelf from Westinghouse (a company owned by British nuclear until the Labour government bankrupted it by regulatory fiat) for £6-800 m. As John points out the fuel costs of nuclear are negligible and since it is so automated that they can run for several years without a human hand, the genuine running costs are also negligible.
All the rest is government imposed parasitism.
Douglas Carswell on currency competition
I don't think we will see a lot of currencies in widespread use because it is just too complicated. For the same reason Wikipedia has cornered its own niche market. However competition will mean that the currency that gets accepted will be one that is stable. & run on sensible banking lines not leveraged until it crashes. My bets would be on the Facebook credit, the AT&T dollar or the Swiss Franc.
Mark Wadsworth on how house prices have not only gone up faster then the RPI but even faster than incomes.
If the inherent cost of manufacturing housing were the dominant factor the proper comparison would be the RPI since there is no technical reason why housebuilding is not subject to the technical improvement everything else is.
If it were a perfectly monopolistic market (which it cannot be except where the councils giving planning permission are wholly corrupt) charging all the people will bear, or a totally government controlled one with the government imposing all the parasitism the people will bear house prices would be expected to rise in line with incomes.
Achieving results even more expensive than total government parasitism can only be put down to people eager to "invest" in houses because real money investments are getting inflated away by a government which has a monopoly on printing the stuff.
One of Steve Sailer's apolitical threads - are the British better at English than the Americans - he thinks so but commenters incline otherwise.
Very flattering, possibly true - I will have to think on it. On the other hand I once blogged comparing speeches by British PM Gordon Brown, whose PR team proclaimed him, probably correctly, as the intellectual highlight of the British Labour Party & Sarah Palin.
No comparison. Palin had well thought out informed positions. Brown had unthought cliches.
Channel 4's Snowblog discusses "Syria's inconvenient truth"

No comment from me because it was censored - which says as much as anybody needs to know about C4's commitment to truths of the inconvenient sort.
John Redwood's on the Euro
I’m a bit of a heretic on this. I think the primary problem is the EU and the Euro is more of a symptom. The EU has a range of antigrowth policies built around bureaucratic regulation and Luddism. This is why the EU area has been in recession while the rest of humanity grows at 6%. The borrowing, quantitative easing and so on that the weaker economies have been doing is to simulate the growth they refuse to have in reality.
With Germany now in the process of closing down its nuclear plants it, though it was the intrinsically strongest economy, has also doomed itself and not all the fiscal measures in the world will prevent it – though they can delay it & make it worse.
Had the EU zone been growing at the world average none of these countries would have had to exceed their 3% of GBP borrowing limits and the, admittedly ramshackle, Euro would not have been under the stresses that pull it apart.
The good news is that, just as we could be out of recession and into fast growth in days if the political elite wanted it, the entire EU could in months – this will require the replacement, or damascene conversion, of the majority of our MPs, which, on the one hand looks quite an ask & on the other looks like something the large majority of voters would be very happy with.
Telegraph blog on Sock Puppetry
This is a classic positive feedback effect driving parasitic government spending (the non-parasitic bits will be using their money usefully). No mechanical system except bombs use positive feedback, indeed negative feedback is always used to prevent machinery destroying itself - this applies to social systems in precisely the same way as mechanical ones.
As the report later points out such government funding of charity is virtually always given to unpopular causes useful to politicians (popular ones wouldn't need it) such as catastrophic warming - 90% of "environmental" charities get 70% of their funding direct from the state, and an uncertain but large amount of the rest from less direct payments. This is not democracy it is the negation of it.
The inability to fire parasites and idiots in the civil service makes a mockery of democratic sovereignty and makes clear who is in charge. This is why they can prevent politicos getting spending under control.
"Motivation's easy - you just get rid of the unmotivated." quoted approvingly by Sarah Palin

sorry original site unknown
As part of a discussion where somebody said government spending/investment could never improve an economy On a slightly theoretical manner
I think it is possible for government to create jobs by funding technology prizes. This works because patent law is not & inherently probably cannot, allow inventors to get proportionately as much of the value they produce as capitalists and workers.
This is theoretical because, in practice, politicians don't do it because their primary concern is not national well being but obtaining patronage for their friends. The last time our government put up an X-prize was in the 18thC - the Longitude Prize. Since that directly resulted in Australia being British it must be one of the best investments ever made, at least Mr Delingpole must think so.
Daniel Hannan on how most Tories would rather have a pact with UKIP than the LudDims
This would almost automatically mean a lot of Tories keeping their seats and relatively few UKIPers. The corollary of that, with UKIP now reaching 46% of the declining Conservative support in the polls, would have to mean UKIP dominating policy.
Personally I think that if the party members were offered a deal whereby they supported a fairly run referendum; an enquiry into whether the BBC have vitiated their Charter duty of "balance" by giving only 1/40th as much coverage to UKIP, per vote, as to the "lefty" Greens; an end to the catastrophic global warming fraud and all the attendant carbon nonsense; a free market in energy with a level regulatory playing field; cutting back the state; and all the pointless and damaging regulations and thus among for at least the average growth rate of the rest of the world (6%) then the large majority of Tory activists would jump at it.
In fact I think the majority of Tory activists would like that simply for its own sake, it is just that "their leaders" don't.
I also happen to think that is a programme which a large majority of the British public would go for which is the real point.
On EU Referendum - a discussion on how the "left" infiltrated the government institutions -
I believe the opposite has happened. I do not believe the normal "right wing" theory that what has happened has been some conspiratorial infiltration of our institutions by the "left" It is less organised and conspiratorial than that though just as real.
What has happened is the reverse - the co-option of "leftist" rhetoric by the institutions. As Pournelle's Iron Law puts it - every unchecked institution comes to be run, not by those dedicated to its nominal aims but to enhancing its power and imperial ambitions.
"Leftist" rhetoric and ecofascist scare stories are obviously better for enhancing government bureaucracy than anything free marketist.
But if you look at the people - Cameron, Clegg etc - they have no history or reason to be closet leftists - they are entirely of the hereditary ruling class. Also if you look at the old left - Scargill and co - you will find that they have nothing in common with the "new left". The old Labour party would have fought to the bitter end to throw as much subsidy as needed at the coal mines because that was in their political DNA. When New Labour came to power they didn't waste a minute on that but went straight into subsidising windmillery on the basis of the warming fraud.
At worst the "right" is still fighting, the old "left" has been zombiefied by the bureaucrats and Luddites.
This is also the answer to Booker's other theme. The "caring professions" are not run by those who work hard, doing there best for the kids, though there probably still are a few. They are run by and for empire building parasites who exist only for their own self aggrandisement. Iron Law in action.
The only solution is to cut down the size of government to its necessary components. Then the people in it will be working at their official duties rather than getting 10s of billions to "raise awareness" of all the scare stories they need to justify the money the parasites get from us. During the Victorian era government spent as little as 6% of GNP.

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