Saturday, December 16, 2006

Towards Energy Independence

As you all can see on your TV screens, a pitched battle rages between the proponents and the opponents of the India-US nuclear deal. I expect this battle is going to get quite a bit more bloody before we see any real trends emerge, also I expect any actual purchases from the US will run into a series of problems.

Frankly I don't know which is worse, the deluded folks in the US Congress who believe that their antics have somehow helped the non-proliferation agenda or the madmen in the private sector who are convinced that India is somehow going to buy a vast number of American reactors. Either ways when India refuses to buy American wares, the private companies are going to be disgusted, and they are going to try and pay off people inside the Indian government to create trouble for the party in power. The American companies are also going to go back up to their government and harass their own lawmakers, I imagine that rather than take the blame for making this mess in the first place, the American lawmakers are going to harass their national intelligence community to do something about this lack of will in India.

So realistically between the private CIA and the government CIA's operations, we are very likely to see a period of instability reminiscent of the Janata Dal era governments. It is exceedingly tragic but I fear that the giant political mess that follows will be seen as the only enduring legacy of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Narayanan Sir, I am really sorry to have to be the one to say this, but in the light of this, it does appear as if the very best efforts of our very best men have come to nought.

I feel that this raging debate will kick up a lot of sand and obscure from vision the key issues that are driving this madness. I want to lay them out before the dust kicked up by American information and psychological operations hides them forever.

1) The current rate of global energy use is unsustainable for political and environmental reasons. Most notably we can no longer guarentee the stability of the pricing structure of carbon based energy sources. As the environmental costs of Carbon Dioxide pollution become more and more difficult to hide, a clean up cost will have to be added to the price of the fuel and this will kill the idea that carbon fuel is cheap. A great deal of work is being put into maintaining the stability of carbon fuel prices in Iraq and Afghanistan, though the idea is technically good, the sloppy execution of these campaigns by the US national security community have made even short term stability of pricing a distant dream. It is difficult to imagine how the middle east is going to remain a managed risk environment for any kind of investments.

2) A shift in global energy utilisation is necessary. The change needs to be at two levels, firstly energy generation needs to become more evironmentally friendly and secondly we need to start using energy in more efficient ways. These problems are interlinked. We need higher generation volume because our utilisation is of poor efficiency. If we changed the way we used electricity, for example by moving to light sources that consume less electrical power and give off the same amount of light, we could get away with lower loads on the transformer. The load saving on the transformer could be passed on to the generation station and a smaller generation station would require a smaller transmission line and that would be far less lossy than what we currently have.

3) The key to securing this shift lies in pursuing three levels of technology. Firstly, for high volume generation, renewable nuclear power sources need to be developed. The Indian Thorium power solution is an example of this kind of idea, we need more of this. Secondly, for low volume generation, a variety of hybrid power sources need to pursued. I am talking about biogas, solar, and wind based generation. Thirdly, we need to reduce energy consumption by forcing people towards the purchase of high efficiency energy saving products.

4) The current utilisation of nuclear resources for high volume renewable generation of nuclear power is limited by the bizarre state of global political affairs. Primarily deterrence theology popular in the P-5 national security communities is divorced from simple economic logic. These nations have nuclear weapons stockpiles that are far in excess of the demands of any rational deterrence philosophy. Additionally a conflict economy has sprung up around these stockpiles and a misguided sense of profit drives the stockpiling of nuclear arms. This needs to stop and there has to be a real move towards global nuclear disarmament and starting with the Americans, people have to reduce the size of their nuclear weapons stockpile.

Irrespective of who is in power in New Delhi or Washington D.C. or Beijing this is the agenda that will drive the dynamics of the mess we are about to see appear.

I do not expect the Americans to jump with joy at the prospect of this and consequently fewer and fewer nations will find the American claims of global leadership credible. All the media based advertising that has been going on to make the US seem like the land of dreams, will largely collapse in the years to come.

I anticipate that when the Americans percieve that their nation no longer commands the respect it once did internationally, they will suffer an extreme injury to their collective ego and this wound will make the US much harder to deal with. Can a US with a massive sense of injury to its national ego become a far bigger pain than it currently is? Yes it can. A simple look at the post Sept 11 world shows that in abundance, however I simply do not see a way to avoid this kind of hurt. The current trajectory of US foreign policy puts the US on a collision course with every other nation on earth. Things are already at the stage where everyone else simply nods and quietly ignores the American foreign policy regime, the day when this humiliation becomes more public is not far. I feel a "financial correction" will take effect not long after say Great Britian takes a step back from Tony Blair's enthusiastic identification with the US. I know you all laugh when someone says things like "Londonistan", but you mark my words, the support of the banks in England is key to ensuring that at least one nation on earth pays attention to America.

What about us in India? well, we are a nation that has been around for centuries. A few decades of political instability will not change that. The energy crisis we are facing is merely a way of summarising a variety of other underlying problems in our social system, we may have to devise ingenious ways of getting around these especially at a time when we won't have even limited capital reserves to access. In sum our problems are our own and we will have to find ways of solving them.

I end (as Kalam once did) on an appeal to India's Shakti, that inner drive that causes us to seek a better tomorrow, for without its blessings we are lost.

8 Comments:

At 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

o divine sage,
You confirm my fears!!!
Never imagine our legislators will stoop to such a level.shame on these guys.
Nevertheless M.K.N is no dumb guy.He has been in the intelligence business for 40 years.he must have had a backup plan!!!

 
At 7:37 AM, Blogger maverick said...

anonymous,

The politicians are trying to extract more than the monetary value of the deal. The political farce has taken on a life of its own.

Mother India needs to come up with a political strategy to remove the bad seeds from this lot. An American helping hand, even if unwitting could serve her purpose well.

I spoke to a friend yesterday and he said something that I thought related to the recent events surrounding Telengana. As I spoke to him I realised, that in 1950 the Fazal Ali commission laid the foundation for a principled reorganization of states based on resource sharing and linguistic identity concerns.

Electricity is a resource also. One that did not exist at the time of the Fazal Ali commission. It was also not a resource that was intensely contested back then.

I never said Narayanan wasn't the best man for the job. I merely said that political instability could easily result if the American corporations lining up at our door are not given something to chew on. If the idea behind the deal was to somehow shield the republic from the attacks of hyenas then I fear the best and the bravest have failed.

 
At 2:03 AM, Anonymous pahari said...

maverick,

while discussing instability of carbon based fuels, u didn't mention peak oil.. given that there is increased fear that gharwar has reached its peak output and central asian reserves are not as large as had been previously estimated there is a very high chance that oil prices might sky rocket by 2010.. so won't permanent decline of world hydro carbon reserves have a much greater impact on oil prices than say environmental concerns?

jm2c

 
At 5:29 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Pahari,

There is some question about the long term availability of oil as a resource but the time horizon on this is at least 15 to 20 years. It will take that long to realise that the resource has limitations. Peak oil concepts only consider availability based on a certain knowledge of reserves.

The problem is more immediate and more acute and cannot be explained by Peak Oil concepts. Currently it is not the availability of the resource that is a problem. It is the pricing structure of the resource that is a problem.

Pricing has to account for two major factors, the cost of actually extracting the mineral and the cost of using the derivatives.

Technology over the last 100 years has reached a point where the technical component of the extraction cost is currently very cheap. However a part of the extraction cost is the payoff made to locals. In countries like Saudi Arabia, this payoff has become unsustainable. As the experience in Iran shows, after a point the political cost of sustaining exploitation of oil reserves becomes unsustainable and the economy crumbles. This is making the pricing of the extraction troublesome.

The price of actual utilisation of oil is also low now. However as concerns over Carbon Dioxide emissions grow, there will be a higher cost associated with oil use as the users will be expected to pay for the clean up cost. Currently there is a carbon reduction credit scheme on the anvil. This is gaining ground in Europe and even people in the US where the media is controlled by Carbon energy groups are listening. Once the scheme is in place, you can imagine that the cost of oil will rise rapidly. The Carbon fuel controlled media can only ignore the consequences of carbon pollution as long as the consequences are not self evident. Tomorrow if there is a major weather disaster in the US, change will happen whether the Carbon mafia in the US wants it or not.
Actually even if the predictability of the weather drops significantly, the US will be forced to change. Ultimately Mother Nature is unforgiving and does not really care what your passport might say you are.

The Chinese and Indian government are currently being approached by a variety of people inside the US National Security Community. Mostly people that belong to a wide range of so-called environmental consciousness organisations that skirt the intelligence community. The objective of these organisations is to conduct a psywar on the leadership of India and China in the hope that they will be able to stave off competition from India and China's economies in the pricing of oil. Traditionally both India and China have preferred barter trade to buying oil in dollars because they didn't have it. If China buys oil with dollars now, the value of the dollar could go outside the realm of America's ability to control it. So from a US national security perspective, the Chinese and the Indians have to be dissuaded from competing with the Americans for the price of oil. That is why the CIA front organisations are pushing the environmental line in New Delhi and Beijing.

However as most of these organisations are discovering, both Beijing and New Delhi are much better prepared mentally for dealing with carbon pollution than the United States. Any vistor from the US to New Delhi or Beijing has only to stop consuming vast quantities of crack cocaine to realise the disdain with which both capitals view America's callous use of natural resources and its boorishness on environmental issues. The private joke in Beijing is that while America destroys the world with Carbon Dioxide pollution, it instructs China on how to preserve Chinese environment and culture around the Three Gorges Dam.

Unlike the US which is only now beginning to confront the issue of high energy costs, India and China have forever worried about energy costs and related security. This has forced them to look inwards. In China there is an understanding that local pollution needs to be kept under control, and with that mind already there is a move towards alternative energy sources. In India, there is a desire to minimize the carbon footprint of the nation, this was embodied in India's secretive stewardship of the Kyoto protocol.

 
At 4:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi maverick,
whomsoever offers a better 123 agreement, we will deal with them.
Why worry what US of A says!!!

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger maverick said...

anonymous,

There is a problem with that approach. After the end of the Cold War, America remained the only super power in the world.

What does that mean?

It means that it was the only country left in the world that could economically sustain the ability to actually use its nuclear weapons.

By leveraging this ability, the American government under George H W Bush, was able to place itself at the effective head of what was called the New World Order. This act marks George H W Bush as the greatest western leader after Alexander, and the greatest world leader after Genghis Khan.

This fact remains unchanged even today. Despite reverses on Sept 11, and in Afghanistan and Iraq, the New World Order remains intact and America is still the only country that can actually use a nuclear weapon and get away with it.

Apart from the vastly expensive fleet of military vessels that can be used to deploy nuclear weapons of various kinds, the US can also use a variety of cheaper options to deploy nuclear weapons in covert ways.

This knowledge has to be a factor in dealing with them at all times. That is why the 123 agreement can only be signed with the Americans.

 
At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi mavericks,
it also indicates the confidence which the GOI exudes in dealing with the USA even if the deal/123 agreement is not in congruent with our interests.

it also indicates that GOI is confident enough of dealing with fallout that may arise if we do not import reactors from US of A on some other nation offering a better nuclear agreement to us. This was reflected even by k. subrahmanyam. After all we contantly lived under shadow of aggressive behavious either covertly or overtly thoroughout last 50 years.
the above twwo points can be debatable.

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger maverick said...

anonymous,

I think it is much simpler than that.

The 123 agreement with the very overt sense of advantage it gives to the Americans, is GoI's way of paying a ritual obessiance to George H W Bush and his legacy.

The 123 agreement is not a guide on how to navigate the minefield of American political interests. It is not a way to substantially alter the situation with Pakistan in the short term.

It is our way of saying, though we miss Saddam Hussein's free oil, we are not anti-Bush and we wish only the very best for the family and its global interests and seek a wider congruence to the extent that our political system can sustain.

 

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