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An Audience with the Sheep Sage
Bonus Joules seeks out the Spirit of Insulation - the Amazing Mythical Pedagogic Sheep.


  Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy: All cartoons on this site are copyright 2001 and you are free to use them with care. 

Chapter 3 No 12  Sheep and Thermodynamics.

Blog Dave McArthur published 28 Feb 2006

I do not know how to handle the prospect of March 2006. How does one react to the knowledge that we are planning to vaporise our fellow humans and send the cells of children suicidal using nuclear warfare? Yet this is the prospect we face as the White House plans to drop nuclear bombs on Iran to derail its attempts at creating an oil bourse. 

Reports remain open as to whether the US will directly bomb Iran or use its “fourth defence department “– Israel. This quote is one of the more memorable ones from my youth and is from Robert S McNamara, US secretary of defence in the 1960s, or some similar high status US State official of that time. I just remember someone saying a little tongue in cheek but not the less proudly: “We have four defence departments – the army, the navy, the air force and Israel.”  Some suggest Israel is now armed with 3-400 nuclear warheads.

Anyway, it’s that month again. March. The reports of the plans seem plausible.

Petrodollars and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

Iran has been in the gun-sights of George W. Bush and his entourage from the moment that he was parachuted into the presidency in November 2000 by his father’s Supreme Court.

The Bourse Conspiracy

Will the petrodollar yield to the inevitable -- euros for oil?
By Russ Wellen 

Is the US serious about making preemptive bombing strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities? Worse, is there any truth to Internet alarms that the US plans to attack sites like the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz with tactical "mini-" nukes?

It was about March 2002 that I read on the Internet of the White House plans to invade Iraq in the third week of March 2003 to stop the growing practice there of trading oil in Euros – which incidentally some Iraqis were making considerable profits from as the Euro appreciated. It had to be stopped and Saddam, useful for us up till now, had to go. 

Throughout the following year till March 2003 my local advertising broadsheet in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, the Dominion Post was filled with speculation about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” and negotiations attempting the avert the need to go to war over them. All that time acres of trees were felled to spew at this nonsense and the clock ticked on till the climate were right for the invasion. (The articles on the Internet said March was chosen, as the Iraqi marshes would be more difficult to traverse in other seasons. The third week of March presented the best window of opportunity.) On cue, the facade of “frantic negotiations” collapsed and so-called Coalition of the willing troops poured across the dusty marshes.

The Dominion Post printed Robert Fiske’s accounts and it was common knowledge that Iraqi WMD posed minimal threat. Still the broadsheet ran mindless and deceitful billboards stating we were going in after Saddam. That day, after 35 years of subscribing to my local broadsheet (I no longer call them newspapers as they are not serious sources of real news anymore.), after 35 years of investing sometimes two broadsheets a day, I canned my subscription and put the money into Net sources of information. I cannot tell you if the Dominion Post is running accounts of plans to bomb Iran next month. I do not hear of such accounts on New Zealand National Radio. 

Maybe there are also plans that do not involve bombing Iran if it sets up an oil bourse. Maybe innocent Iranians are not condemned to a hideous, lingering death. What I do know is that there is one group of people on this planet, just one group, that have repeatedly used nuclear weapons on their fellow humans since 1945. No doubt they can justify to themselves yet another use. Also as I write there is news today that the US and British did some “experiment” under the Nevada desert about the 24th of Feb – perhaps checking how our nuclear bombs will work in Iran. It is described as a “subcritical” explosion. 

For some reason as I write this the Nevada Department of Energy repeatedly comes up 

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The clock ticks on.

What goes on in the minds of humans as they contemplate such acts?  The other day Dick Cheney described his accidental shooting and wounding of an old man as the worst day of his life. I never observe such remorse as he announces policies that condemn millions of humans to needless, early deaths and when he defends his authorisation of the sacking of cities. 

George Bush is a different story. His father is similar to Dick Cheney and I am glad he was not my father. I would have grown up surrounded by material wealth and in a vacuum of compassion. I would never have known the true respect of my fellow humans. I would have always been searching for myself. I would have always known there is something greater and it would have glimmered in my perceptions on an ever-fading horizon. Sometimes as I watch George I see a lost baby. Certainly we all have a helpless child in us to some degree but with George it is more transparent. And in a funny way I see hope in that. I will address this directly to you, George.

The fleeting scene in the Michael Moore movie Fahrenheit 9/11 where you, the president of the US, are sitting at a photo op in a kindergarten surrounded by young children remains with me. Someone interrupts you with what is apparently your first news of the 9/11 attacks. I was intrigued that you returned to sit with the children. From memory, Michael scorned you for this. I recall sitting watching your eyes. What did you know? How much of this was a surprise for you? Had you been briefed that some such event would happen? 

You surely would have been familiar with the long planned programme to stifle unwelcome questions and dissent in the US and beyond using the mechanism of  “A War on Terror”. Born into the dynasty ruling Pax America you would be profoundly aware of the ruthlessness and power of the forces of oil-Gas politics, the CIA, the drug cartels and the general ruling machine. After all, your father was for years the director of the CIA  and an ex-US president too who  was and is a prestigious member of the oil cartel. 

Could that flicker in your eyes in that moment of the news the attacks be a sign you were sensing the enormity and powerlessness of your position? The attacks were part of a greater scheme?  You would have instantly recognised they formed a useful trigger and an opportunity to unravel a whole new course for humanity to benefit of those around you, to direct the flow of capital and profits to those you grew up with. This was the moment, planned or otherwise.

Sitting in that room of children you would have experienced a sense of enormity in which your role is miniscule. The machine was charged and primed to go on without you if necessary. In this moment I did not see you as a picture of a man at one with your destiny. Even as others derided you in that moment I felt a curious sense of hope and compassion. The children around you were a potent reminder of the future generations; the ones who would most suffer from extreme and violent reactions. I was glad you delayed and stayed a moment with them.

In the last two weeks you have offered other signs of hope. You have begun talking of our “addiction to oil”. Readers of my blogs will know I have long argued our use of oil and Gas can be described as addictive in every clinical sense of the word. As with any addictive behaviour the first step to healing and release is the recognition of the behaviour as addictive. That is the portal that admits the potential experience of a world with less pain and misery, of greater power and joy.

Often in stepping through that door it is difficult to see in the new light. Old fears and flawed solutions still surround you. George, it is hard to see a world in which people are freed from the tyranny of the private vehicle and desperate consumerism. Powerful voices dissuade you from the fact that sustainable change comes from within empowered individuals and their communities. 

No, sustainable change does not come from building more nuclear plants or displacing peasants from their lands to grow biomass fuels for cars.  All my life the myth of uranium freeing us from our responsibilities has entranced and misled us till now there are only two and a half hectares of arable land left for each human. More people than ever before live in dire poverty. There is no such thing as free energy.

I know how you are surrounded by the clamour of those who have short-term vested interests in these unsustainable activities. The few bankers who control the flow of drugs, fossil fuel extraction and the Bulk-electricity industry have a thousand ways of communicating with you. The greater wisdom of billions of souls out here has few ways of reaching you. In my last blog I wrote of how I attempt to open myself to this greater wisdom with the simple prayer in which I ask, “What would you have me do? Where would you have me go? What would you have me say and to whom?”

As I mentioned, you will always recognise the answer and it will never be what you could have imagined if you tried to think. Almost invariable it is something more marvellous.  The wisdom is within you, George – and within those children you sat among.

Funny how life goes but I find the Boston Globe has just published a report of a most relevant research paper:

Thought for thinkers
"Follow your gut," study advises on big decisions

By Gareth Cook, Globe Staff 

 |  February 17, 2006

Scientists have some remarkable new advice for anyone who is struggling to make a difficult decision: Stop thinking about it.

Actually the advice is not new. Knowledge of our greater wisdom has been known for millennia and humanity’s greatest leaders have all known how to tap into it in more depth. It comes down to a matter of asking in the right way and trusting. There is no finer privilege than knowing trust.

Maybe you can ask sometime when you are sitting alone under the stars or watch a sunrise on your ranch. As you connect with the myriad interplays of the vast energy that is our universe, maybe you will become aware of the deceit and arrogance of the bankers who define energy as only that which can be traded and taxed. As you watch clouds form and dissipate in their thermal dance you will be reminded of how we are Thermal Beings. 

Our existence depends on exquisite thermal balances at every level – in our atoms, in our bodies, in our planet, in our galaxy and in our universe. You will be grateful that the oilrigs of Texas were spared the forces of the hurricane season and that large areas of your country enjoyed unusually mild autumns. Otherwise, the price of oil could have hit $100 a barrel and set of chain reactions of violence among those addicted to it as parts of your nation imploded. 

At the same time you will be aware that buildings in Europe are collapsing under the weight of snow there and thousands have died of cold. That is our atmospheric balances at work. Elevated temperatures are balanced by depressed temperatures elsewhere. Adding more thermal energy to the equation works to promote more extremes. Every human is more at risk, in one way or another. 

Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress, is in New Zealand this week. Last week in a radio interview he told us how the US is a very archaic country. To the extent our country is made in imitation of the multinational corporation’s construct or image of America we are archaic too. He suggested that over half of Americans do not subscribe to evolutionary theory. I am not sure what New Zealanders think but I suspect most of us think it is a very useful construct for understanding our universe, God’s hand if you will.

I can say that most New Zealanders harbour the narrow, myopic view of energy of the “energy” bankers I described. Most of us cling to the archaic view that humans can control the atmosphere and evoke images of it as a greenhouse. Maybe it will be that as you allow the stars to reflect in your soul you will know awe and realise bombing Iran is needless. It will solve nothing. It only enhances the addiction and inevitable self-destruction caused by our use of oil.

Such an act also puts you at great personal risk. I have lived long enough now to see men die far before their time as they broke under the tension between their innate sense of decency and their activities driven by fear, self-doubt and greed. Others succumbed to crippling heart disease and heart attacks. In my experience they survived not because of the skill of surgeons but because they allowed their sense of decency a greater voice.

Releasing us from our addictive uses of oil, indeed all fossil fuels and our false hopes of a nuclear powered world will not be easy. I acknowledge the clamour of the shortsighted merchants that surround you. I well understand the anger and violence they are capable of if they feel you threaten their greed-driven interests. It is difficult to contemplate losing your material wealth and prestige among your peers. I can say from experience that this loss is painful. I can also say enjoying faith in our innate decency is more than compensation and its truths will always be out somehow in ways we least expect. There is nothing like the true respect of the people. I do not believe you enjoy that at the moment. There is nothing so free as a clear heart through which great ideas flow unimpeded.

This may all seem useless rhetoric and so at the risk of adding to the clamour I will suggest a couple of simple ways we can promote sustainable change. Two I have already alluded to.

Open up the hearts and lift the eyes of people to the skies. Let them know the enormous wealth in what is so little valued at the moment – the air that you enjoy with your every breath and the sun that shines every day. Let them know energy does not just come from a hole in the ground.

Promote our Trace Beings and encourage every student to know the trace and thermal nature of the gases that sustain life on the surface of Earth.

Also encourage of the amazing resource – electricity in all its many forms. Nikola Tesla gave America and the world a wonderful dream of how electricity might release human’s from drudgery. A few individuals, driven insensitive and psychotic by greed have perverted, distorted and suppressed that dream. Reawaken that dream so that we may enjoy light, warmth, communication and travel without destroying all the airs, forests, soils and oceans that sustain us. 

I have worked long enough in the field of electricity distribution networks to know that communities can generate great uses of electricity if freed from the shackles of legislation that is designed to serve only the short-term interests of merchant bankers. There is much talk of “smart” systems and technology. The other week a major Australian broadsheet and a member of the New Zealand Electricity Commission were both talking of “smart meters”. 

When I research what they are talking of I invariably find that the meters are basically very dumb. By this I mean they are incapable of maintaining a two-way conversation. So-called “smart” elements are just mechanisms for enhancing the revenue of the merchant bankers of the Bulk-electricity sector and the flow of taxes to Governments who care little for sustainable development. 

So I sat down and worked out a framework so anyone can begin to evaluate such technology. As you can see it provides a wide framework that contains hope for a future in this, the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age. I use this symbol to describe the Age we are entering as it is becoming clear that at current rates of extraction of these precious minerals, any civilisation based on these resources will soon collapse. Also even if the price of the resources remains at their current very low levels we are now aware our children are paying a huge price in terms of their future options and the risk from unsustaining Human-induced Climate Change. 

Already you are awakening people to this new Age as you attempt to alert people to the negative impacts on your economy of their oil addiction. You can also begin awakening them to the real promise of the Great Solar Age in which solar generating capacity is protected, used and enhanced in every town and dwelling. I understand the Americans, like New Zealanders, are increasingly being left behind in their ability to make intelligent uses of broadband. Make it the right of every person to enjoy knowledge of electricity in all its forms and to be free to use them.

Here is my rationale and framework for evaluating how those rights are protected and maintained. Please excuse the fact I have simply cut and pasted this suggestion. The pressures in our society that prevent us from reflecting and communicating as is healthy and sane too afflict me. I have duties as school janitor and by tomorrow I must counter the entropy generated in classrooms, toilets and passages by 200 children. 

Cut and paste>>>>>>

The article, Smart Meters Slash Power Bills, tells me nothing useful and just seems PR spin for the Bulk-electricity sector bankers. 

"SMART" electricity meters in Sydney homes have cut many power bills by between 10 and 30 per cent - but heavy users, such as people with air-conditioners, are now paying dearly for their drain on the system, EnergyAustralia says.

Did the surveyed people use any other form of power – wind (e.g. electricity generation, thermal transfer), solar (e.g. electricity generation, dwelling redesign), water (e.g. cooling ponds, plants)? What were the "power bills" incurred? Was the overall change sustainable? What was the impact on systems that make intensive use of energy such as hospitals? What is considered a “smart meter”?

The use of symbols such as energy, power and electricity are mindless and destructive in this article and the use of “smart” in relation to grids and meters begs many questions. Personally I prefer not to use it. I prefer the word “intelligent’ to “smart” as one can be smart without being wise or moral.

I suggest we establish a clear framework to grade the technology and strategies. Lets not leave it to a couple of bankers and their PR divisions to dictate our use of symbols on this one. Thinking as I write, perhaps I could establish a rough framework that people can flesh out and promote. I see particular value in such a code for educating journalists, legislators and Levels 5- students to encourage them to be more aware of the options possible. 

Grids and meters can be understood from a number of perspectives:

One is that the grid is a system that transports electricity, which in turn is a carrier of energy. The meter measures the flow rate.

A second perspective is that it is a system for generating and monitoring cash flows. “Infrastructure bankers” and allied industries view it this way.

A third perspective is as a component of health and Civil Defence structures.

A fourth perspective is that it is a civil structure incorporating a country’s sense of nationhood and justice. 

A fifth perspective is that the grid is a communication system and the meter (including the ripple relay) is a switch in that communication system. This perspective takes on a new relevance as three great technologies converge in a very powerful confluence. I refer to modern Distributed Generation options, computer-based dwelling appliances that can respond to grid fluctuations and broadband over utility wires. 

The destruction of the ripple control system in New Zealand by the Neocom inspired Electricity Reforms has show very clearly that technology is subservient to behavioural factors. This is just a minor example. Hence it is essential that we highlight the role of the grid/meter technology as communication.

I propose we grade the grid/meter technology in a continuum from “intelligent” to “incoherent”. 

Category 1: High intelligent meter/grid

  • Dwelling encouraged to make a small net contribution to the grid.
  • Charges on low amp systems reflect “grid costs”.
  • Broadband throughout grid system within dwelling. 
  • Dwelling occupant has access to data on appliance function (including electricity generators and thermal/electrical storage devices), dwelling comfort levels and local grid loads. 
  • Detailed consumption history of dwelling freely available.
  • Local grid management and dwelling occupant can maintain seamless two-way conversation using broadband (wireless or grid). 
  • System primarily driven by democratic, energy efficiency and Civil Defence imperatives.

Category 2: Moderate intelligent meter/grid

  • Dwelling can make small net contribution to the grid with minimal impediment.
  • Charges on low amp systems partially reflect “grid costs”.
  • Dwelling occupant has access to data on appliance function (including electricity generators and thermal/electrical storage devices), dwelling comfort levels and local grid loads.
  • Detailed history of occupant’s consumption history freely available
  • Local grid management and dwelling occupant can maintain seamless two-way conversation using 56 K (wireless or grid). 
  • System driven by democratic, energy efficiency and Civil Defence imperatives.

Category 3: Low intelligent meter/grid.

  • Dwelling can make small net contribution to the grid with minimal impediment.
  • Dwelling occupant has primitive access to data on appliance function (including electricity generators and thermal/electrical storage devices), dwelling comfort levels and local grid loads.
  • Local grid management and dwelling occupant can maintain two-way conversation using ripple relay. 
  • System driven by democratic, energy efficiency and Civil Defence imperatives.

Category 4: Low incoherent meter/grid.

  • Dwelling can make small contribution to the grid with minimal impediment.
  • Low amp system subject to small penalty. 
  • Communication is one-way and dictated by local grid/Bulk-electricity supplier regardless of communication potential of dwelling appliances.
  • Minimum or conflicting support for energy efficiency practice.
  • Civil Defence considerations minimal

Category 5: Moderate incoherent meter/grid.

  • Dwelling can make small contribution to the grid but subject to serious impediments such as double metering and high taxation on transaction.
  • Estimation algorithms produce 10-20% average inaccuracy in bills flawed.
  • Low amp system subject to moderate penalty.
  • Energy efficiency practice not supported
  • Civil Defence considerations minimal

Category 6: High incoherent meter/grid.

  • Meter switched off to two-way flow i.e. only flow of Bulk-generated electricity permitted.
  • Low amp system subject to large penalty for low Bulk-electricity demand through high tariffs and ripple control rentals. 
  • Consumption histories not maintained or hard to access.
  • Meters inaccurate. 
  • Estimation algorithms produce 20% plus average inaccuracy in bills flawed.
  •  System driven by short-term profit imperatives of bankers of Bulk-electricity/fossil fuel sector.
  • System actively promotes inefficient uses of Bulk-electricity.
  • No Civil Defence considerations or valued as liabilities.

So, George, there’s a thought that may contain hope for all our children. At present I suggest to you that nations like New Zealand and the USA rate something below Category 6 on the Intelligence-Incoherence scale and are a liability to our children. If we can begin making caring use of electricity in all its forms and create Category 1 intelligent electricity systems we will reduce the risk of war, famine and extreme weather events caused by the impact of our activities on our ecosystem. The president who can do that will achieve true greatness. Thank you, George.

Oh and if you ever wonder if those around you can change, read the story of King Asoka. He slaughtered millions in his wars and their associated famines and epidemics. When he finally confronted the futility of his actions he became a leader of sustainable change who is revered to this day. 

The remainder of my cut and paste includes a few extra comments below that people might find interesting. The movie Enron –The Smartest Guys in the room is being released in New Zealand this week and National Radio interviewed one of its makers last weekend. He made it clear that it is a very human story.

I can vouch for that on a number of counts. I have seen the movie. I also have worked under Arthur Andersen and Co and their New Zealand equivalent TransAlta/ OnEnergy. This conglomerate also crashed at the same time as Enron in 2001. I have written in more detail elsewhere how it was possible to predict with its creation in 1995 that it would crash because of its corrupt practices.

New Zealand has an even weaker media than the US and so we have yet to have a single substantive article published or programme aired on the collapse of the biggest Bulk-electricity retailer in our history. In 2000 

"TransAlta had 535,000 electricity customers, or 32% of all New Zealand consumers, and 10% of the country’s power generation capacity."

There are certainly no books and films on the subject. Yet the collapse was part of the destruction on an unprecedented scale of New Zealand’s effective electricity capacity. I use the symbol electricity in its most magnificent and true sense. The impact on our carbon emissions per head of population (about 4.2 million people) has been massive too. Add to this the merger this week of Contact Energy with Origin Energy. This will surely worsen our foreign debt and our carbon emissions significantly. 

I can also vouch that it is a far more human story than the Enron movie portrays. The film fails to reveal how the families were divided and destroyed, neighbours set against neighbours, communities gutted and individuals succumbed, unable to reconcile the immoral practices with their innate decency as Arthur Andersen and Co’s policies impacted on them.

So further cut and paste>>>>:

Readers an with intimate knowledge of New Zealand’s historical grid/metering systems might well agree with me that using such a grading system would reveal that grids/meters were significantly more intelligent 25 years ago than they are today, despite all the advances in electronics. Some of the devices used then were as simple as little switches that flipped whole dwellings over to different rated meters at off-Peak times. People would set their dishwashers, driers, heat stores and washing machines to the off peak hours. 

Last year I reviewed all the so-called “smart meters” that were being promoted by the Bulk-electricity sector in New Zealand. See the Electric Thinking section on the bonusjoules website. Note: I would be grateful if readers could alert me to any new products.

Some were simply smart devices for extracting payments from Bulk-electricity consumers. With the dismantling of social impact monitoring systems under the Electricity Reforms some could be seen as simply smart devices to enable suppliers pass the disconnection function and social responsibilities on to consumer. In my separate survey of our major Bulk-electricity retailers it was clear that all maintained effective barriers to domestic scale co-generation. 

And talking of meter ownership, I will end with my little tradition started two years ago when I remind people in New Zealand that the meter rental rort has gone another year and we have all been drained of another $50 million pure cash flow. This was through your $50 annual rental on that meter of age averaging 15 plus years or more. 

(Most of the meters and all the relays were given to the likes of the TransAlta Corporation for zilch, as they had “no book value”. And listen to this: a new MARIA compliant meter can be imported for as little as $NZ30 anyway. Do not confuse the prices paid in meter trades and consumer trades as some people in Government agencies do. Just remember you are a tradeable commodity now and have good value as a marketing object.)

So allowing a pure cash flow on the million plus ancient meters of our total of 1.8 million meters that’s well over a half a billion dollars that could have gone into simple smart systems and technologies this last decade – and into energy efficiency education programmes in our schools. Which is what the money was planned for before the Electricity Reforms redirected the cash flow to the North American continent, Australia, etc. (NGC/AGL was a major instrument in the destruction of the Energy Action programme and owns over half of NZ meters/relays.)

Which reminds me, new readers should know the accompanying cartoon was created about three years ago. This chapter explores how our images of Earths atmosphere as a greenhouse confounds both our comprehension of how it really works and our ability to effectively use the properties of air in our dwelling design.

Final thought. Air New Zealand has just announced another raft of job losses. They cite rocketing fuel costs and savage trading conditions out there. I am sad for all the people concerned and that the New Zealand government poured a billion dollars into a sunset industry that has an excessive impact on the thermal balances of our atmosphere. As I said last blog, we are a crazed nation when I can fly Wellington to Auckland for $69 and it cost me $145 to travel by rail between the two cities. Rail is hundreds of times more energy efficient than air travel and most of the trip is powered by electricity, much of which could have come from wind turbines along the route. Help us George! 

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