Peak Democracy….?

8 06 2019

I’m BacK! Make a coffee and read my grim take on the Australian Electoral scene from 1950 to 2030. (Lonnnng Rave from my friend John Barker)

Trends in Australian Politics Described in 4 Simple Graphs

John Barker PhD

One week on and the explanations of the 2019 Australian Federal election are already getting very detailed and complex. Nick Evershed’s analysis in the Guardian (22May) believable, but is probably only understandable by a few.I’ve tried to boil it down to 4 graphs – 3 are historical, one predictive – which are about as simple as they can be made. Some people shrink away from graphs, so the following description might help.

The axes of the graphs show two major parameters – the “socio-economic index (SOI)” and the percentage at that SOI level. The SOI aggregates a lot of things, but mainly income, education and social status. Broadly, the higher the index, the more wealthy, usually more educated and a greater sense of affluence and social fulfillment. Of course there are many exceptions, but I think that these are the main drivers.

The first graph depicts Australia in and before about 1950. There are two political parties (despite minor issues, the Liberal Party and the Country (National) Party are joined at the hip, so are aggregated as the LNP). The LNP is depicted in blue and has its peak to the right of the median SOI. They are the “bosses, bank managers, shop owners and farmers. In other words, the “SOI better-off” tended to vote LNP, tailing off rapidly to the Left, which has a similar-looking and similar-sized curve for the ALP. In 1950, the ALP voters are mainly the “working class”, ie manual laborers, clerical assistants and shop-assistants. Note that the grey curve, which is the total of all voters, is fairly narrow- that is the difference of affluence between the average LNP voter and the average Labor voter was not great. There are little humps at the far-left and far-right, representing, respectively, the few very wealthy and the few very poor- ie unemployed.

The second graph depicts the scene from about the mid-1950s until about 1980. The famous Labor split of 1955 created the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), with its chief strategist and Tony Abbott-mentor BA Santamaria, which, although it shared some general social justice policies with the ALP, was otherwise staunchly conservative and ant-Left. Its main effect was to appeal to a significant number of poorly-educated “working-class” (ie Labor) voters and deliver its second preferences to the NLP. The graph shows the combined LNP-DLP vote, which was enough to exclude Labor from office until 1972. During this period, Australians, on average (and including Labor voters), grew more affluent- illustrated by the grey overall curve moving to the right, and broadening somewhat- meaning the gap between the more- and less- affluent was widening. The number of very wealthy was growing, as was the number of under- and partly employed. This widening gap- which is more evident in the USA, seems to be the main reason for the resentment of the poorer groups on the mid-left of the next group- the ALP.

The third graph depicts Australia in 2019. The median of the SOI has continued to move to the right- “on average” Australians are wealthier than ever, but many more are further from the average on both sides. The less- affluent and less-well-educated on the left have found a champion in Pauline Hanson and the fairly affluent, inner-city dwellers, with the capacity for social concern, now identify with The Greens. The Greens have taken a sizeable chunk of Labor voters, but generally give their second preference to Labor. The far-right of the grey and blue curves has grown disproportionately, with the top 10% having a very high SOI. What is hard to show on this simple graph is the increased number of “SOI-Elite”, who can direct millions of dollars of their “own” fortunes at whatever cause they wish.

So what? All of this is pretty obvious- at least when it is laid out in a few simple graphs. What we have now is 5 major political groups- the LNP, the ALP, the Greens, the One Nation and the “SOI-Elite”. This last group generally don’t stand for election, but sponsor others to do their bidding- they are the “rent-seekers”. The two smaller groups- the ON and Greens- are essentially extremists or idealists- the ON, comprising about 10%, are being cultivated to blame and resent some visible social groups- Muslims, Asians, African Gangs, etc for their misfortunes and blame the ALP’s globalist, distributive policies for having created these groups as well as having abandoned the “working-class” as they (the ALP) have become more affluent. The Greens imagine an ideal world which they believe can be created in a very short time-frame and decry anyone who is less optimistic- including the ALP. Their idealism has attracted about 10% of the voters and have hardened their views in their endeavor to attract more voters.

The word “elite” has shifted recently from meaning a select group displaying extreme (and usually commendable) attributes – like athleticism, scholarship, bravery or wealth – to become an epithet – an insult implying a group who are indifferent to the well-being of the public-at-large. This shift is not just a semantic quibble- the word has been weaponised by both the Right and the Left. Oddly, the Right, in both the USA and Australia has classified the 10% Greens and probably an equal number of the ALP as “inner-city elites”. Not long ago, no-one would consider a group comprising about 20% of the population as “elite”. But the Right has done just that. On the other hand, the Left has started using “elite” to describe the top 1% of the SOI as “elite”- more technically correct, but as an epithet, not a commendation.

What happens next? The fourth graph predicts Australia in about 2030. It is markedly different from the previous three graphs. The ALP has completely disappeared and One Nation (or something similar) now commands a large chunk of the population, most of which has moved dramatically to the left of the SOI, but with a long tail that goes to the far right of the graph. The LNP has also shrunk, but has moved up in the SOI. There is a small group, which had its origin in the Greens, that is now called “Dissidents” that is just to the right of the middle of the SOI. This graph is essentially what one sees now in most of Africa and Asia and what is clearly happening in the USA. It depicts a totalitarian state- the economy, as we presently know it has collapsed- mainly because oil prices have collapsed due to electric vehicles, coal prices have collapsed through China moving to inland gas and renewables for its electricity and China has withdrawn its full-fee-paying students from Australia (worth $15 billion in 2018) and stopped building apartments in the capitals because of Australia’s craven alliance with the increasingly unfriendly USA. The Indian economy has collapsed under the weight of intense air and land pollution and water shortages due to climate change.The remaining resource industries are fully automated and are controlled by global screen-jockeys. The LNP members are rather like the Soviet “Nomenklatura”- open-followers of the ruling elite, who “manage” the remaining economy and police the large under-employed classes – who vote for the government in sham elections, for fear of further reprisals. The Green/Dissident group is allowed to survive to give the appearance of an open society and so that the government can easily keep an eye on them.

A post-apocalyptic dystopia? Certainly. I have spent most of the past two years travelling across China, Central Asia, Africa and India, with some time in Europe, Cuba, USA and Mexico. It already exists in most of these countries. I cannot see how Australia can avoid this, now that it has confirmed its preferred economic direction as being more “resource intensive”. This is known as the “resource curse” with added features. In many countries, the high export-demand for resources has created unbalanced economies with high currency values, but little or no manufacturing. Fluctuation in resource exports creates a chaotic downward spiral. In Australia’s case, the systemic reduction in demand for its resources (which have become highly automated), together with a dramatic weakening in otherwise-compensating sectors (education, construction and climate change- reduced agriculture) creates a negative economic cascade.

Can it be avoided? Could it have been avoided if Labor had won the 2019 election? Probably not. Australia is – and always has been – hostage to geopolitics. China saved us from the GFC 2008 by its own GFC counter- measures. That won’t happen again. And Australia has little or no “economic resilience” left.

EVs’ Limits to Growth….

8 06 2019

THIS will throw the cat in amongst the pigeons…. some months ago, I downloaded a BBC podcast in which a British scientist claimed there wasn’t enough Cobalt and Lithium on the entire planet for just the UK to convert to EVs. It was on a USB stick that I use to listen to such things in my cars while either driving or working on the house. I promptly lost the darn thing and no amount of googling could find the BBC podcast again…… now this piece comes along in my newsfeed. Might be one of the scientists on the panel, I don’t know……


Leading scientists set out resource challenge of meeting net zero emissions in the UK by 2050

First published 5 June 2019

A letter authored by Natural History Museum Head of Earth Sciences Prof Richard Herrington and fellow expert members of SoS MinErals (an interdisciplinary programme of NERC-EPSRC-Newton-FAPESP funded research) has today been delivered to the Committee on Climate Change

The letter explains that to meet UK electric car targets for 2050 we would need to produce just under two times the current total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters the world’s lithium production and at least half of the world’s copper production.

A 20% increase in UK-generated electricity would be required to charge the current 252.5 billion miles to be driven by UK cars.

Last month, the Committee on Climate Change published a report ‘Net Zero: The UK’s Contribution to Stopping Global Warming’ which concluded that ‘net zero is necessary, feasible and cost effective.’ As a major scientific research institution and authority on the natural world, the Natural History Museum supports the pressing need for a major reduction in carbon emissions to address further catastrophic consequences of climate change. Using its scientific expertise and vast collection of geological specimens, the Museum is collaborating with leading researchers to identify resource and environmental implications of the transition to green energy technologies including electric cars.

A letter which outlines these challenges was delivered to Baroness Brown, who chairs the Adaption Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change.

Prof Richard Herrington says:

The urgent need to cut CO2 emissions to secure the future of our planet is clear, but there are huge implications for our natural resources not only to produce green technologies like electric cars but keep them charged.

“Over the next few decades, global supply of raw materials must drastically change to accommodate not just the UK’s transformation to a low carbon economy, but the whole world’s. Our role as scientists is to provide the evidence for how best to move towards a zero-carbon economy – society needs to understand that there is a raw material cost of going green and that both new research and investment is urgently needed for us to evaluate new ways to source these. This may include potentially considering sources much closer to where the metals are to be used.”

The challenges set out in the letter are:

The metal resource needed to make all cars and vans electric by 2050 and all sales to be purely battery electric by 2035. To replace all UK-based vehicles today with electric vehicles (not including the LGV and HGV fleets), assuming they use the most resource-frugal next-generation NMC 811 batteries, would take 207,900 tonnes cobalt, 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate (LCE), at least 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium, in addition to 2,362,500 tonnes copperThis represents, just under two times the total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters the world’s lithium production and at least half of the world’s copper production during 2018. Even ensuring the annual supply of electric vehicles only, from 2035 as pledged, will require the UK to annually import the equivalent of the entire annual cobalt needs of European industry.

The worldwide impact:If this analysis is extrapolated to the currently projected estimate of two billion cars worldwide, based on 2018 figures, annual production would have to increase for neodymium and dysprosium by 70%, copper output would need to more than double and cobalt output would need to increase at least three and a half times for the entire period from now until 2050 to satisfy the demand.

Energy cost of metal production: This choice of vehicle comes with an energy cost too.  Energy costs for cobalt production are estimated at 7000-8000 kWh for every tonne of metal produced and for copper 9000 kWh/t.  The rare-earth energy costs are at least 3350 kWh/t, so for the target of all 31.5 million cars that requires 22.5 TWh of power to produce the new metals for the UK fleet, amounting to 6% of the UK’s current annual electrical usage.  Extrapolated to 2 billion cars worldwide, the energy demand for extracting and processing the metals is almost 4 times the total annual UK electrical output

Energy cost of charging electric cars: There are serious implications for the electrical power generation in the UK needed to recharge these vehicles. Using figures published for current EVs (Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe), driving 252.5 billion miles uses at least 63 TWh of power. This will demand a 20% increase in UK generated electricity. 

Challenges of using ‘green energy’ to power electric cars:If wind farms are chosen to generate the power for the projected two billion cars at UK average usage, this requires the equivalent of a further years’ worth of total global copper supply and 10 years’ worth of global neodymium and dysprosium production to build the windfarms.

Solar power is also problematic – it is also resource hungry; all the photovoltaic systems currently on the market are reliant on one or more raw materials classed as “critical” or “near critical” by the EU and/ or US Department of Energy (high purity silicon, indium, tellurium, gallium) because of their natural scarcity or their recovery as minor-by-products of other commodities. With a capacity factor of only ~10%, the UK would require ~72GW of photovoltaic input to fuel the EV fleet; over five times the current installed capacity. If CdTe-type photovoltaic power is used, that would consume over thirty years of current annual tellurium supply.

Both these wind turbine and solar generation options for the added electrical power generation capacity have substantial demands for steel, aluminium, cement and glass.

The co-signatories, like Prof Herrington are part of SoS MinErals, an interdisciplinary programme of NERC-EPSRC-Newton-FAPESP funded research focusing on the science needed to sustain the security of supply of strategic minerals in a changing environment. This programme falls under NERC’s sustainable use of natural resources (SUNR) strategic theme. They are:

Professor Adrian Boyce, Professor of Applied Geology at The Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre

Paul Lusty, Team Leader for Ore Deposits and Commodities at British Geological Survey

Dr Bramley Murton, Associate Head of Marine Geosciences at the National Oceanography Centre

Dr Jonathan Naden, Science Coordination Team Lead of NERC SoS MinErals Programme, British Geological Society

Professor Stephen Roberts, Professor of Geology, School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton

Associate Professor Dan Smith, Applied and Environmental Geology, University of Leicester

Professor Frances Wall, Professor of Applied Mineralogy at Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter