Juan Cole – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 03 Oct 2023 06:00:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.9 Arizona Dems Finally end GOP Sweetheart Deal for Saudis to exploit Arizona Water to Feed the Kingdom’s Cattle https://www.juancole.com/2023/10/arizona-sweetheart-kingdoms.html Tue, 03 Oct 2023 05:54:28 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=214654 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Arizona state government of Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs and Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes are terminating the license of a Saudi company, Fondomonte, owned by Almirai, which had essentially given the company carte blanche to pump scarce Arizona water to grow alfalfa, which it then exported to Saudi Arabia as cattle feed. So reports Arizona’s 12News.

Ella Nilsen at CNN argued that although state law prohibits the export of Arizona water, using that water to produce crops like alfalfa for cattle back in Saudi Arabia is a stealth way of exporting it.

Gulf oil states are buying or leasing large amounts of agricultural land in the Third World as a hedge against food and water shortages in the future. This policy implies, though, that they will be exporting agricultural goods to themselves even if local people are in danger of starving, the way the British exported crops from Ireland during its Great Famine.

The deal had been done by Republican governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, for reasons best known to him. It functioned as a way for Saudis to use Arizona’s water to raise alfalfa and then to export the crop to Saudi Arabia to feed its cattle. Alfalfa can no longer be grown in in Saudi Arabia itself because farmers have depleted the country’s aquifers and the Kingdom receives little rainfall.

The Saudis were getting the water cheaply. As I noted last year, Nick Cleveland-Stout wrote at Responsible Statecraft, “Fondomonte, a subsidiary of Riyadh-based Almarai, has the bargain of a lifetime: for only $25 per acre annually, it can pump as much water as it wants. Nearby farmers pay six times more than the Saudi company. ” Ordinary Arizonan farmers have to pay 6 times that to lease land and get access to aquifers. Cleveland-Stout quoted Holly Irwin, who served on the La Paz County board of supervisors as saying, “We’re not getting oil for free, so why are we giving our water away for free?”

12News says that Governor Hobbs and Attorney-General Mayes have found the Saudi subsidiary, Fondomonte, in breach of its contractual obligations including “a failure to include secondary containment structures on its fuel and Diesel Exhaust Fluid storage units.” Leases of all four Butler Valley fields will be terminated by February of next year.

Hobbs said in a press release, “I’m not afraid to do what my predecessors refused to do—hold people accountable, maximize value for the state land trust, and protect Arizona’s water future. It’s unacceptable that Fondomonte has continued to pump unchecked amounts of groundwater out of our state while in clear default on their lease. I’m proud my administration has taken swift action to hold defaulting high volume water users accountable and bring an end to these leases. And moving forward, I will continue to do everything in my power to protect Arizona’s water so we can continue to sustainably grow for generations to come.”

Attorney General Kris Mayes had run for office partly on a platform of ending the Saudi company’s lease. Of the Ducey administration’s sweetheart deal for Almirai, Mayes told 12News, “I have never seen anything this egregious by state government in my life.”

Saudi Arabia has over 400,000 head of cattle, and is projected to have 443,710 by 2026. It ranks 112th in the world for cattle production. It is in the same range as Malaysia, which is crazy since only 1.6% of its land is arable, whereas Malaysia is lush, with lots of rainfall.

Beef production is highly carbon intensive and needs to be rolled back or done completely differently to forestall even more deadly global heating.

In Saudi Arabia, rainfall is below 150 mm (5.9 inches) per annum in most of the country except for the southwest, where it can reach 400-600 mm (15.7 to 23.6 inches). The Food and Agriculture Organization says that rainfall agriculture is for the most part not possible in places with less than 450 mm (17 inches) of rain a year.

Saudi Arabia also had extensive aquifers, underground water, but these are being rapidly depleted. Attempts in the 1990s to grow wheat by bringing up aquifer water have collapsed as the aquifers got tapped out. These underground lakes of water can take a long time to replenish, even if they aren’t being emptied at a rate of 5 trillion gallons a year, as they were in unregulated Saudi Arabia.

Cows are a water-intensive animal, which is why in most of the Arid Zone stretching from Morocco to the Gobi desert in China, people prefer lamb and goat meat (and sometimes camel), since those animals can be raised in semi-arid conditions, that is, they can be herded to where pasturage pops up from snow melt or sudden squalls, on land that is often otherwise just savanna. Dairy cows, in contrast, can drink 30–50 gallons of water per day. Sheep can get along with half a gallon but depending on other factors could drink 5 gallons a day.

Starting from on the excellent reporting of Ella Nilsen at CNN, I blogged this issue last November, writing:

Since Saudi water resources are insufficient to raise the alfalfa needed to feed these cows, the Saudi firm Almarai established an American subsidiary, Fondomonte, which has leased land in Arizona to grow this feed crop. The alternative would be to import beef and milk from someplace where producing them makes sense (i.e. neither Saudi Arabia nor Arizona).

The hitch, though is that much of Arizona, especially the southwest, gets only 4 inches of rain a year and isn’t much better than Saudi Arabia. Farming depends heavily on irrigating off rivers or using underground aquifer water. As for the Colorado River, it is at historic low levels.

Aquifers can be replenished by rainfall, but given the great Southwest Megadrought that began around the year 2000, many of them are having their water pumped out and not replaced. In some areas of the state, people could dig down 100 feet and hit water. Now, the water table is more like 500 feet, Nilsen says. And, the aquifers had been in danger of being emptied out entirely if the state had failed to act.

Now the whole project of Americans trying to do intensive agriculture in Arizona needs to be rethought. It is one of the crazier ideas the US government ever had. Not quite as crazy, though, as essentially giving away Arizona’s scarce water supplies to Saudi Arabia.

Devastating Earthquake showed Resiliency of Morocco’s Solar and Wind Farms, as it Meets its Paris Commitments https://www.juancole.com/2023/10/devastating-earthquake-commitments.html Sun, 01 Oct 2023 05:42:44 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=214617 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – One advantage of solar and wind as renewable sources of energy is that they appear to be especially resilient in the face of natural disasters. A paradox of the battle against human-caused climate change is that some of our best tools, such as low-carbon hydroelectric power, are also the most vulnerable to the very alterations we are attempting to curb. The mega-drought in the US southwest endangered electricity production by the Hoover Dam, for instance. In Europe, rivers now get too hot at some points in the summer for their water to cool nuclear plants, which have to be shut down. In other instances, nuclear plants have to be sited near bodies of water that are rapidly rising and threatening Fukushima-style inundations and melt-downs of nuclear plants.

No substantial damage to a modern wind turbine by an earthquake has been recorded since 1986.

Ouarzazate, Morocco, on the edge of the Sahara, is the site of the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant, which has a capacity of 580 megawatts, the equivalent of a small nuclear plant. The massive 6.8 earthquake that shook Marrakech, Ouarzazate, and the Atlas Mountain region on September 8, killing nearly 3,000 people, did only minor damage to the solar complex and so the lights stayed on.

The Moroccan Ministry of Energy “clarified that the damage was confined to certain equipment at the Noor plant, emphasizing that these issues were swiftly repaired, and confirmed that all energy installations are operating normally.”

Moreover, donated portable solar power stations along with 400-watt solar panels helped keep essential services such as hospitals and clinics in operation in the Atlas Mountain villages hit by the quake. The Red Cross is encouraging such donations, seeing solar panels and power stations as much safer than trying to cook with portable natural gas cannisters.

Morocco gets about 38% of its electricity from renewables, and hopes get the percentage to 52% by 2030. It is probably the Middle Eastern country that has so far done the most to adopt wind and solar. It is considered on track in its energy transformation to do its part in keeping global warming to under 1.5C, which is necessary to avoid the risk of the planet’s climate systems going chaotic.

Morocco has few fossil fuels of its own and must import them at a relatively high cost. However, planners do continue to depend on coal and natural gas and some of the earlier green momentum has been lost.

There have been delays with some planned major solar farms, but the government hopes these will come on line by 2025.

There are also plans to produce green, i.e., low-carbon hydrogen.

Because of its abundant sunshine, Morocco is an obvious site for producing solar power, and its wind resources are also extensive. There is even now a plan to bring renewable energy generated in Morocco to the UK by underwater cable, at a cost of $21 billion.

ISIL Extremists Bomb Mosques in Pakistan, in Bid to outlaw Celebrating the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad (Yes) https://www.juancole.com/2023/09/extremists-pakistan-celebrating.html Sat, 30 Sep 2023 05:22:12 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=214598 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Muhammad Shahid at The National (Dubai) reports that there were two attacks on mosques in northern Pakistan on Friday. The bigger explosion targeted worshipers in Mastung, Baluchistan, near the provincial capital of Quetta. This bombing appears to have been aimed at Muslims who were staging a public procession to commemorate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. Dozens of people were killed and nearly 100 injured, according to news reports.

The other bombing hit a mosque in Hangu in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province. The mosque was known to be frequented by members of the local police. The suicide bombers had tried to hit the police station first and been repulsed, so they turned to a soft target. There have been 300 attacks in this province this year.

The insurgent movement in the tribal areas of northern Pakistan, the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP), denied involvement. The TTP is closely allied with the Taliban who now again rule Afghanistan, and there are frictions between the Taliban and the current Pakistani government.

That the attack in Mastung targeted worshipers commemorating the birthday of the Prophet suggests that the perpetrators were members of ISIL, the so-called “Islamic State” group. When ISIL was ruling northern Iraq and eastern Syria, they banned celebrating Muhammad’s birthday as a sinful “innovation.” Their views on the matter are in accord with the fundamentalist Wahhabi branch of Islam in Saudi Arabia, where jurists such as Abdel Aziz Bin Baz (d. 1999) also forbade honoring the Prophet’s birthday. Small ISIL cells have carried out terrorist attacks on the Taliban in Afghanistan, and have occasionally hit targets in Pakistan itself. In Baluchistan, the so-called Islamic State- Pakistan Province is active, whereas in Khyber Pushtunkhwa the rival Islamic State – Khurasan carries out attacks. The latter was likely the perpetrator at Hangu.

Pakistan’s own security has declined because of infighting among the country’s political elite since Prime Minister Imran Khan was unseated in a vote of no confidence on April 10, 2022, in which 20 former supporters in the parliament defected. Khan has castigated the parliamentary maneuver as an illegitimate plot, and is now in jail on corruption charges that his followers say are trumped up.

I’d say 98% of the Muslims in the world approve of commemorating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, which is usually given as the twelfth day of the third month of the Islamic calendar, Rabi’ al-Awwal in 570 CE, nearly six centuries after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

I wrote a book about the Prophet Muhammad, in which I discuss the likely circumstances of his birth, but more importantly his teachings on peace and reconciliation.


It is a great shame that some do things in his name at which he clearly would horrified.

Admittedly, historians do not think large public celebrations of this day began until about the 1100s CE, some 500 years after the Prophet. Since that time, poetry and hymns have been composed for the occasion, and people have developed customs like giving children toy horses or staging parades in the streets and putting up illuminated chandeliers and lanterns over city streets. That is why some scholars consider it an innovation. But most of those see it as a good innovation. The fundamentalist Wahhabi and Salafi tendencies, in contrast, tend to see all later innovations not present at the beginnings of Islam as illegitimate.

In Pakistan, most people celebrate the entire Muslim month of Rabi` al-Awwal as the birth month of the Prophet. Marching bands, rides on caparisoned camels, and other activities of public “fun” are popular.

It is widely celebrated among American Muslims.

The major Sunni religious authority, the al-Azhar seminary in Cairo, Egypt, has repeatedly upheld the legitimacy of such celebrations. The considered legal ruling or fatwa says, “It is not permissible according to Islamic law to challenge the legitimacy of celebrating the anniversary of the Prophet’s birthday due to the forbidden things that may occur during it. Rather, we denounce the evils that may surround it, and we warn those who commit it – with wisdom and leniency – that these evils contradict the basic purpose for which these honorable occasions were held.”

Sufis, Muslim mystics, have sometimes engaged in ecstatic rituals on this anniversary of which the more sober clerics disapprove. You could compare this difference to one between, say, mainstream Presbyterian clerics and Pentecostalists.

Still, there is a broad consensus in both Sunni and Shiite Islam that commemorating the birth of the Prophet is a good thing, a moment of joy and celebration.

The ISIL terrorist group, which has wrought a vast swathe of destruction through Muslim societies and has also committed terrorism in Europe and the US, has a policy of acting harshly, “like wild beasts” (tawahhush). By attempting to outlaw perfectly innocent and uplifting religious practices like the birth of the Prophet, they set themselves up as superior to other Muslims and can use such prohibitions as a means of asserting power over others. Hence the bombing of the procession outside a mosque in Mastung. The good news is that the Muslims themselves have waged a concerted and brave campaign to root out this wicked heresy that has created so many orphans.

Macron Pledges to end Coal by 2027, to get to 60% Renewables by 2030, and to Ramp up French EV Production; Is it Enough? https://www.juancole.com/2023/09/pledges-renewables-production.html Fri, 29 Sep 2023 05:07:54 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=214580 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Kim Willsher reported this week at the Guardian on French President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement of a “French environmental plan” (l’écologie à la Française). Its centerpieces involved phasing out coal by 2027 and reducing fossil fuels in France’s energy mix from 60% today to 40% in 2030.

France doesn’t use much coal. Only about 2.5% of its electricity comes from coal-fired plants. So phasing the noxious stuff out is great but it doesn’t exactly green the grid all by itself.

Le Monde reports that Macron also wants to manufacture a million electric vehicles in France by 2027, and to produce a million heat pumps so that French consumers can replace gas-fired and coal-fired home heating with them.

He did not put numbers on it, but the president pointed to a plan to build out offshore wind in the Atlantic to increase clean energy inputs. Further announcements will be made about bids and goals later this fall. Reuters reports that France only has about 20 gigawatts of onshore wind and the build-out is going too slowly to meet the country’s announced goals. Offshore wind is still rudimentary.

Macron also wants 12 new rail lines for mass transit at a cost of €700 million [$740.4 million], and is promising that the French will be able to lease electric cars for €100 [$105.76] per month. He is also pledging government price controls on electricity bills.

These are praiseworthy goals but, as French environmentalists pointed out, they are not very ambitious.

France has 39 million automobiles, so a million EVs is 2.5 percent. The country has 31 million households, so a million heat pumps would cover about 3 percent of them (not to mention all the commercial and industrial buildings).

Environmentalist and member of the European Parliament Yannick Jadot complained that Macron was mostly kicking the can down the road and was saying “that basically with technological solutions, in 10, 20 years, 30 years, we will begin to solve problems. He needs to pick up the tempo.”

Other observers noted the timidity of the plan, which seemed calculated to spare French industry and agriculture any short-term pain rather than actually to stop global warming in its tracks. At most, he is willing to slow it down a little bit, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience the captains of industry. But the slow-down would take place over decades.

If you compare Macron’s ambitions to those visible in Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which has $369 billion in it for the green energy transition, the Democratic Party is clearly way ahead of Macron’s center-right coalition. Even accounting for the difference in the populations of the two countries, Biden is spending the equivalent of $75 billion in French terms, whereas Macron is suggesting $30 billion or $40 billion.

Germany’s energy mix is set to be 50% no-carbon or low-carbon this year, 2023. France isn’t even trying to get there until 2027. In fact, in almost every way, the Germans have been significantly more visionary than the French in this epochal technological transition. I have to say that as a Francophile who grew up partially in France, this realization came as something of a shock to me. It is the solid German engineers who are remaking the planet, not the French technologists, who had been the heroes of the science fiction films. French politics has become a contest between the center-right and the far right, and people seem to be more exercised by race and petty economic calculations than by the behemoth of the climate crisis.

No chapeau.


PS. Oct. 2, 2023: A French correspondent wrote in to chide me for ignoring that France’s nuclear reactors mean that the country has lower per capita CO2 emissions than either Germany or France. This is true, and I should have brought it up. Here is my reply:

    “Thanks so much for taking the time to write. Of course you are correct in all your points. As conventionally measured, France has a smaller carbon footprint than either Germany or the US.

    I was mainly arguing from genuine renewables, i.e. wind and solar, where France lags and seems likely to go on lagging, given Macron’s policies.

    I think it is unwise to put so many eggs in the nuclear basket. Ageing plants are a public safety concern, and as I pointed out, global heating is bringing into question riparian means of cooling down the rods (which as a process also does cause thermal pollution, harming riverine species).

    One reason for my point of view on this is that I am a skeptic about the conventional CO2 calculations concerning nuclear plants, which typically do not include latent carbon emissions from the need for long-term safe storage (if there is such a thing). The waste storage issue is usually discounted, even though in the US, at least, it is verging on a crisis, The Scientific American points out.

    My father was an engineer, and he went to his grave complaining that nuclear storage was an unsolved and perhaps unsolvable problem.

    If we include cradle to grave CO2 emissions, nuclear doesn’t look as rosy.

    Again, thank you for writing and pointing out my near-sighted omission of the nuclear factor, which I should have noted.

Sister Cities in Climate Crisis: New Orleans, Basra, Alexandria face Saltwater Intrusion, Fresh Water Shortage https://www.juancole.com/2023/09/alexandria-saltwater-intrusion.html Thu, 28 Sep 2023 04:15:58 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=214567 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Eric Zerkel and Angela Fritz at CNN report on the great saltwater intrusion that is threatening drinking water over the next few months in New Orleans and towns to its south. The Mississippi delta was created by the silt deposited as the great river flowed south into the Gulf of Mexico, pushing away its salt water.

The head of the New Orleans office of the Army Corps of Engineers, Col. Cullen Jones, is quoted by them as saying that in order to push the saltwater away, the flow rate of the Mississippi needs to be higher than 300,000 cubic feeet per second.

The megadrought that has gripped the American southwest for two decades, and which has been made substantially more likely by human-caused climate change, has had an unfortunate effect on the Mississippi River, denying it the volume of water that would ordinarily flow into it from rains, snow melt and other bodies of water. The dry spell 2000- 2019 has been found by scientists to have seen the driest soil conditions since the year 800 CE, when Harun al-Rashid ruled the Abbasid caliphate from the newly founded capital of Baghdad and Charlemagne presided over the Holy Roman Empire from Aachen.

Scientists estimate that human-caused climate change, provoked by our driving gasoline cars and heating and cooling our buildings by burning coal and fossil gas, has made the drought 19% worse than it would otherwise have been.

Not only has there been less precipitation, it has been hotter, so water evaporates in greater quantities.

As a result, right now the flow rate of the Mississippi has plummeted to only 150,000 cubic feet per second.

So the saltwater of the Gulf is gradually flowing north into the Mississippi. Eventually it will deprive 800,000 people of drinking water and affect four parishes of New Orleans.

It isn’t good to drink salt water. It causes people to excrete more water than they take in, so they die of dehydration and thirst even while they keep trooping to the toilet to urinate.

Drinking water will have to be brought in by barge, an expensive proposition, or ultimately by a water pipeline, which will be even more expensive.

This problem is not going away. In fact, it will get worse.

The EPA explains, “Climate change is affecting the Southwest. Temperatures have increased by almost 2°F in the last century, with the 2001-2010 decade being the warmest since records began 110 years ago. The length of the frost-free season has increased by 19 days in recent decades. Average annual temperatures are projected to rise an additional 3.5°F to 9.5°F by the end of this century, with the greatest temperature increases expected in the summer and fall.[1] Drought conditions are already common in the Southwest and drought periods are expected to become more frequent, intense, and longer. Drought will affect important water sources, including the Colorado River Basin. Combined with expected population growth, climate change will exacerbate existing stresses.”

So here’s the kicker. It isn’t just New Orleans that is menaced by sea water intrusion because of human-caused climate change.

Basra in Iraq is in the same dilemma. The mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow together in southern Iraq into a body of water called the Shatt al-Arab, which then flows out into the Gulf. The Iran-Iraq War in 1980-1988 was fought in part over ownership of the Shatt al-Arab. Because of drought, heat and damming works to the north in Iran and Turkey, the flow rate of the Shatt al-Arab has been much decreased. The saltwater of the Gulf is therefore intruding north. Since people irrigate off the Shatt, it has harmed agriculture and date orchards.

This problem is also slated to get worse.

Then there is Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, which was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE. It sits at the mouth of the Nile Delta and is also menaced by saltwater intrusion, from the Mediterranean.

When we talk about sea water rise as a result of climate change, we often concentrate on the threat of flooding of coastal areas. It isn’t only that the seas are rising. River deltas suffer from subsidence and so sink over time. And the rate of the water flow in great rivers is being reduced on several continents by extra heat and desiccation. So here is another outcome, the salinization of major sources of fresh water that had made some great coastal cities possible.

Taliban in Tel Aviv: Israel Joins Middle East in Clashing over Gender Segregation, Women’s rights in Public Sphere https://www.juancole.com/2023/09/taliban-clashing-segregation.html Wed, 27 Sep 2023 04:32:40 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=214549 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Haaretz reports that at public prayers for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, at Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening, Ultra-Orthodox activists attempted to put up banners as separators to allow for the segregation of male and female worshipers. This action was seen as a provocation by liberal Israelis, since in Israeli law gender segregation in public spaces is forbidden as discriminatory toward women. Tel Aviv city officials had rejected the Rosh Yehudi organization’s application for segregated prayers and the country’s High Court had refused to intervene. Secular protesters pulled down the flags intended to cordon off women.

Small clashes over the issue continued on Monday in Tel Aviv and other cities. Far right wing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned the secular protesters as “leftists” demonstrating “hatred” for “Jewish” worshipers.

Last fall, as it became clear that they would be a swing bloc in the just-elected Netanyahu government, Ultra-Orthodox parties demanded authorization of gender segregation in public. They want women to sit at the back of the buses that go through religious areas, want to segregate state educational institutions by gender, and want separate seating for women and men at government-funded entertainment events.

Tel Aviv is a largely secular-minded city in which such ideas are anathema, and often elicit real anger. The city’s inhabitants understand that the Ultra-Orthodox are not merely engaged in special pleading for permission to perform their sectarian lifestyle in the big city but are preparing the ground to impose gender segregation, as what they see as a key Jewish religious practice, on all Israelis.

As a Middle East expert, I find this dispute reminiscent of struggles over gender segregation in Muslim societies.

Turkish intellectuals fear that President Tayyip Erdogan will try to set up all-women universities. Such institutions, which exist in Saudi Arabia, don’t serve women as well as their proponents think. For instance, they often don’t have professional schools because there aren’t a sufficient mass of women students planning to go into those fields. Or, their quality will never stack up against the male institutions, consigning women to second-class status in those fields.

Didem Unal argues that because of the political alliances Erdogan made with right wing religious parties this spring in the run-up to elections, they “pressured AKP to adopt a hardliner position against ‘gender ideology,’ which they vaguely define to link different reactionary agendas against progressive gender politics. They specifically demanded the annulment of Law No. 6284 on the Protection of the Family and Combating Domestic Violence and women’s right to alimony, the closing down of LGBTI+ associations, and the introduction of an Islamist education system and built their election propaganda on these demands. Despite some female AKP actors’ objections, whom I describe as “softliners” …. senior male AKP officials implied that these demands can be met and that AKP has nothing to contradict the political agendas of these parties.”

American Muslim women also mounted a protest beginning over a decade ago against being confined to a constrained space in mosques.

Of course, other religions, such as Hinduism in India, often practice forms of gender segregation, as well. In fact, Indian women suffer from various forms of gender segregation — familial and occupational included.

So these disputes are not limited to Judaism and Islam. In the latter two, they appear to be exacerbated by secular modernism, which argues for the equality of all individuals under the law, regardless of race, religion or gender. Israel, because of the prevailing Zionist ideology, however, already rejects the equality of Israelis of Palestinian heritage. A carve-out for discriminating against Jewish women would just be one more rejection of what Netanyahu calls “leftism” by Israeli society. Such moves appeal to men who feel that modernity has detracted from their power and authority. Such insecure, fragile men who must build themselves up by subordinating women, are a key constituency for Netanyahu and his extremist parties, just as they are for Erdogan and his in Turkey.

Where such patriarchal counter-reformations are taken to an extreme, we get the Taliban regime of Afghanistan.

In First, Rooftop Solar Alone provides 101% of South Australia’s Electricity Demand https://www.juancole.com/2023/09/provides-australias-electricity.html Mon, 25 Sep 2023 04:28:00 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=214516 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Giles Parkinson at RenewEconomy in Australia reports that rooftop solar briefly generated 101% of South Australia’s electricity demand on Saturday around 2 pm local time.

This milestone is important, since it was reached entirely with rooftop solar on residential and business edifices rather than with industrial-scale solar farms, of which South Australia has some 300 MW worth. Some observers had questioned whether rooftop solar could supply 100% of an electricity grid, arguing that since it is a distributed system it is inherently unstable and would cause blackouts. It turns out that rooftop solar can be made stable, with superfast computer adjustments of feed inputs, with batteries, and other technology.

“South Australia. By TUBS – Own work This W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Adobe Illustrator. This file was uploaded with Commonist. This vector image includes elements that have been taken or adapted from this file: Australia location map.svg (by NordNordWest)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16876418.

South Australia at one point supplied 114% of its electricity consumption on Saturday, such that some power inputs had to be switched off or the excess exported, or stored in the state’s 150 megawatt mega-battery.

As of early July 2023, 379,860 rooftop solar systems had been installed across South Australia, with a capacity to generate 2.186 gigawatts of electricity. That is roughly the output of two small nuclear reactors. Except the rooftop panels will never melt down or threaten anyone with radiation or become strategic targets in a war (as the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has become in Ukraine).

Australia as a whole puts up about 3.25 gigawatts worth of new rooftop solar up every year.

7 News Australia: “Self-sufficient William Creek powered entirely by solar | 7NEWS”

South Australia only a decade ago was mainly dependent on dirty coal for its electricity. On Saturday, coal use fell to a new low, as did fossil gas use. A small amount of fossil gas capacity has been kept in order to stabilize the grid, but it may now be phased out as unnecessary. South Australia is on track to get 100% of its electricity from solar and wind by 2027. So Saturday’s extraordinary statistic is four years away from being an ordinary fact of life.

South Australia, with an area as big as Texas, has a population of about 1,854,000 — more than three-fourths of which lives in Adelaide down on the coast. I had noted earlier, “Adelaide was originally populated by the aboriginal Kaurna people, who called it Tarndanyangga. It is now about as populous as San Diego. It was settled by free British immigrants, unlike the rest of Australia, which was a penal colony. In the nineteenth century, “Afghans” were brought in as camel drivers. It has the oldest continuously functioning mosque in Australia, constructed in 1889, and the state is known for its dedication to religious freedom.”

The United States has many areas that are just as suited to rooftop solar as South Australia, but often Republican politicians working for Big Coal and Gas have put in punitive charges to discourage consumers from adopting them.

Selling like Hotcakes: 1 mn EVs sold in US during Past Year — which is Why UAW Workers deserve Green New Deal https://www.juancole.com/2023/09/selling-hotcakes-deserve.html Sun, 24 Sep 2023 05:23:22 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=214501 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – A million purely battery-electric vehicles have been sold in the US during the past year, according to David Reichmuth at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Tom Randall at Bloomberg notes that it took 10 years for the first million EVs to be sold in the US, and it took two years for the second million to be driven off the lot. Now we’re selling a million a year.

And in just the first six months of 2023, Reichmuth says, more than 670,000 electric vehicles were sold, 80% of them battery-only. So the pace seems to be quickening further.

UCS sees high gasoline prices as a driver for the increased consumer purchases, along with the proliferation of models so that consumers have more choice. I’d add three further factors: President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act offers $7500 in federal tax credits to buyers of certain new models of electric cars, and $4000 in tax credits for buyers of select used EVs. Some EVs, like the Chevy Bolt (which has been resurrected by Chevy) are now affordable, especially with the tax credit, which could bring the price under $20,000. Finally, more and more fast chargers are available, and car companies are doing deals with Tesla to get their customers access to its impressive network of fast chargers.

The ongoing UAW strike could slow EV production this fall. The strike is in part about workers’ position in the new EV industry, as Kielly Hu & Katie Myers argue at Grist. EVs have fewer parts than gasoline cars and require fewer workers per unit for assembly. If fewer workers are needed, workers have less leverage. There is a danger of workers being sized down and having their pay cut so that management can increase its massive salaries and perquisites. The UAW saw this danger coming and is striking now to ensure that workers don’t get a raw deal in the transition to EVs.

Workers’ salaries are only 5% of the cost of a new car, and paying the workers a living wage is just not going to interfere with making and selling the EVs. Plus Biden’s tax credits are already an enormous public support to the EV industry, which should be shared with the workers who make the cars; it wasn’t envisaged as corporate welfare for CEOs.

Biden, who is unique among modern presidents in being fully committed to union workers and to the green energy transition, is joining the UAW picket line.

The US Big Three will say they are under pressure from Elon Musk’s Tesla, which is produced at a profit by non-union workers. But German car companies aren’t going bankrupt and you should see their workers’ benefit package. In fact, Musk could easily afford to pay his workers union scale and he would still be a multi-billionaire. As it was, he skimmed from their salaries, built up $44 billion, and squandered it on ruining Twitter. Wouldn’t we be better off with a better-made Tesla produced by unionized workers that left Musk less mad money to muck up the internet with? The whole sad saga is an argument for Democrats to roll back all those state-level “right to work” laws put in by the Republicans in the past two decades, which have devastated the unions and hurt the Democratic Party. The Michigan Dems pulled this off, just because they wanted to.

Transportation accounts for 28% of US carbon dioxide emissions, the largest single such sector. Despite the lying lies of liars funded by Big Oil, EVs across the board reduce CO2 emissions compared to gasoline cars, regardless of the mining of lithium or the exact mix of each state’s electricity grid. Moreover, a lot of EV buyers are putting up solar panels — about 4% of American homes now have them — and where owners can charge at home during daylight hours from their own panels they are getting virtually carbon-free fuel, and expending it while driving. You do have to drive an EV a couple of years before you start driving carbon-free, since the carbon that goes into the construction of the auto has to be accounted for. But it turns out that EV batteries are long-lived, and you could drive the thing a lot of years. Moreover, green steel plants that can produce low-carbon steel are being built, and the metals in EVs, including lithium, are increasingly being recycled, which substantially drops their carbon intensity compared to mining them anew.

Israel’s Netanyahu at UN Wipes Palestinians off the Map, Menaces Iran with “Credible Nuclear Threat” https://www.juancole.com/2023/09/netanyahu-palestinians-credible.html Sat, 23 Sep 2023 04:26:55 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=214485 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems to love waving around cartoonish props at the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting. This year his theme was the likelihood of an Israel-Saudi rapprochement, which is being pushed by the Biden administration despite the abysmal Saudi human rights violations and despite Netanyahu’s ongoing destruction of the last vestiges of Israeli democracy.

This year’s prop, in that regard, showed the wacky plan to build a rail line to transship goods from India’s Mumbai port to Haifa in Israel, where they’d be offloaded for delivery across the Mediterranean. Since shipping costs per pound are about five times cheaper than rail costs, the plan baffles me. It will allegedly cost $20 billion. I guess it is only money.

The problem? When the drawing of the rail line reaches Israel, the map just shows the entirety of what had been British Mandate Palestine as one country, Israel. The Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip had been wiped off the map.

This map, of course, depicts the openly stated ambitions of the current extremist government in Tel Aviv, of annexing outright all the Palestinian lands that Zionist militias had proven unable to take in 1948. Netanyahu wants it all, from the Jordan to the sea.

Yet when Palestinians say, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free,” this phrase is lambasted by the US Israel lobbies as anti-Israel hate.

The phrase as Palestinians use it is not, of course, intended to call for the replacement of Israel by Palestine, as propagandists charge, but to assert that Palestinians will not remain stateless (West Bank and Gaza) or second-class citizens (in Israel) forever, that they will ultimately be emancipated from Israeli Apartheid policies.

Prominent commentator Marc Lamont Hill of Temple University was fired from CNN in 2018 for using the phrase on air, in the sense I just outlined.

Wouldn’t Netanyahu’s map be, by the same token, an instance of anti-Palestinian hate? But let me assure you that no one is getting fired from US television for saying anything negative about Palestinians.

We all remember, as well, Netanyahu’s crude illustration of the alleged Iranian nuclear bomb. Iran is not assessed by US intelligence even to have a nuclear weapons program, only a civilian enrichment capacity. Israel, in contrast, has several hundred nuclear warheads, which it usually declines to confirm.

Since Netanyahu is such an inveterate liar, however, it was likely that sooner or later he would slip up. So at the roster of the United Nations, he asserted “Above all — above all — Iran must face a credible nuclear threat. As long as I’m prime minister of Israel, I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”

Menacing Iran with a “nuclear threat” contravenes the United Nations Charter, which forbids not only aggressive war but also aggressive threats of violence toward other states. It also contravenes Israeli policy of declining to admit to its nuclear arsenal, which kicked off the nuclear arms race in the region in the first place.

Netanyahu’s minders swooped in to clean up his indiscretion, and likely nothing more will be said about it in the West. Iranians are less likely to forget his threat to nuke them.

Nor will Palestinians forget that he wiped them off the map.