Friday, April 08, 2011

The Raw Material Regime: How Politics Demotes Green Future Options for Clean Energy

Environmental organization members wear yellow rain gear and carry umbrellas bearing symbols of radioactivity as they launch a campaign for the prevention of pollution from radiation in front of Sejong Cultural Center in Seoul, April 6. (Photo by Kim Jung-hyo)

Below is "Today's Column" from the Hankyoreh (English Version), the most respected paper in South Korea when journalists are polled. I wrote this last week. Now that radioactive rain has covered the world, including Korea, and milk is being dumped around the world because of the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, reflect on this fact: nuclear or oil are unrequired. They are less material regimes of market choice and are more of a politically repressive regime of extortion. We have many options for energy sustainability now that give us completely zero emission, green, clean energy without pollution. As said at that link,
"[E]nergy is perhaps the most politically contentious raw material arrangement for two rationales. First, it is because there is so much money and dependency to be created in energy. Second, it is because none of that centralization or dependency is required. Only massive amounts of political corruption hold it in place as raw material regimes that hold off consumer choices in the interest of achieving consumer clientelism and a forced (non)-choice. It's like having a (non) 'choice' of 20 different brands of gasoline without having a choice in what engines run on, in your car."
Some of these completely clean energy options now are mentioned below. If unrepresentative politics and gatekeeping demotes our options, then only more representative politics in the bioregional state can provide for sustainability. I talk about that in my 30 minute interview, and you are welcome to listen to that here.

[Column] Korean Green Future Options for Clean Energy
By Mark D. Whitaker

Korea requires a well-planned energy future, and President Lee claims to be going full speed ahead--though to nowhere or oblivion? Korea has great, clean, green technologies that have been abandoned and ignored over the past ten years.

First, national policy should openly oppose oil or nuclear expansion because it’s easy: other native-Korean options exist. Second, oil and nuclear expansion should be resisted because expansion of such dirty industries is a form of extortion on the future.

There are two levels of oil or nuclear extortion. First dirty pollution creating lobbies convince governments to invest in nuclear reactors, oil pipelines, or terminals. After the bait is taken, corporations can hold a nuclear or oil gun to a government’s head to pay for their massive cost overruns because such toxic machines half built are good for little else. Second, once built, construction companies celebrate once more because such toxic creations have even more toxic waste storage costs and cleanup costs.

Particularly for nuclear, these costs mortgage the future and are required to be a top priority for perpetuity--or the rest of the existence of the country financially or ecologically, whichever one comes first. Once started, oil or nuclear are hard to keep from locking in their own extortive infrastructures and externalities for a suboptimal future. Once started, it is hard to keep their politics from locking out clean market options.

Dirty energy is a bad long-term politics, with catastrophically understated disasters while short-term construction interests get rich. Instead, construction industries should be getting rich expanding a clean, green infrastructure. If finance is the art of creating a preferred future, where are Korean finance and thus Korea’s future going?

On Friday, March 11, 2011, the largest ever-recorded Japanese earthquake struck its northeast coast followed by a 10-meter tsunami. It started one of the world’s largest nuclear accidents in previously “failsafe” technologies. Despite this, on the next business day, President Lee without a conscientious blink, officiated in a public ceremony in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The ceremony finalized a future plan for expanded dirty nuclear power internationally with construction of four Korean-made nuclear reactors. It is the “largest-ever energy contract awarded in the Middle East” at 20 billion dollars.

Tit for tat, Lee got equally dirty oil development in exchange for a dirty nuclear deal: “On the sidelines of the summit, Korea signed its largest-ever oil field development deal, potentially valued at 110 trillion won ($98 billion), with the UAE”. That is almost 10% of the current Korean economy, mortgaged to a toxic energy future. President Lee pretended nothing happened over the weekend to change his country’s path toward more risky, pollutive energy despite four nuclear reactors at Fukusihma Dai-ichi blowing up and the other two perhaps soon to do the same. He certainly sleeps soundly.

What’s the Korean, clean, green option? There are two domestic ones to think about and two others to worry about internationally. First, there are completely clean and green Korean techniques to generate energy for transportation instead of a requirement of hybrid cars. Several Korean corporations have completely electric cars. However, ultimately under Lee, instead of harnessing this technological option, his administration spent time creating signs banning electric cars from highways, discouraging market competition or improvement in fully electric transportation, and punishing people for using oil substitute additives in their cars. Already many electric cars go just as fast (or faster) than expensive, polluting oil cars. Energy refills are much cheaper: electricity, solar or otherwise.

Second, it may be mind bending to understand that water fuel solutions have existed for over a decade domestically. Korean corporation Best Korea won the 2001 Prime Minister’s award for their green, clean technology of water fuel: hydrogen on demand stored as water. They won another award from the Korean government for the best patented invention in 2000. The future is here. In fact, the future went by you ten years ago, Korea, and few noticed. Why? (“A Korean Manufacturer of Brown’s Gas Generators,” (8 min).)

Third, while Lee fiddles as Seoul burns in smog and potential nuclear fallout from Japan, Koreans should worry about foreign green futures outclassing polluting Korean ones. Japanese company Genepax has an entirely water based car. (Reuters. “Genepax’s Water Powered Car,”; 1:22 min.) It goes 300 kilometers on a liter of water--even tea works.

Reuters. Japanese Company Genepax's Water-Engine Car
1:22 min

Fourth, Indian (Tata Motors) and French (MDI) manufacturers have an entirely air based car: no pollution in or out, with an onboard air compressor/recharger. They call it a half oil and air “hybrid,” though the oil can be switched off to run on air as original models intended. These air cars have been mass manufactured for several years in India.

A Car That Runs 200 Miles (or Forever Without Stopping for Recharging) on Compressed Air
3:24 min.

MDI's air car even recharges itself via compressed air, so no stopping to refuel ever in this working model featured--one ongoing fill-up completely for free. How can it keep running without stopping? Well, the air car is moving through its own fuel all the time, right: the air? Simply turn driving into the refueling process as they do via an on-board fuel compressor run by the compressed air itself just like the engine. The engine runs cool as well, so overheating is hardly an issue.
Korean chaebol like Hyundai should wake up and smell the clean air: hybrid cars are a dead end with these options around. Instead, Korean chaebol can invest in any of these corporations to expand businesses in Korea to manufacture air and water-based transportation futures or for other applications. (For instance, Taiwan’s water fuel manufacturers have great water-fuel based home appliances like stoves.) Moreover, Korean fully electric cars should get a boost, instead of the boot, from the Lee administration. China already has fully electric car manufacturing.

Nuclear or oil has no part in a Green New Deal. It is a Gray Old Scam of extortion on the future painted green. Don’t wait until the (nuclear) wind changes, literally, or the next oil slick on the soon canalized Korean rivers. Think about a native technological future within 30 years that is electric, water, and air based without pollution. It’s doable. Does Korea have any positive image of the future, or does it only have a passive drift despite a wealth of options trod underfoot so carelessly?


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