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Posted by on in GeoPolitics

Sounds like a dumb question, right? But this question leads to a much more critical one: Why can’t we do proper long-term planning? And by long-term, yes, I mean 100 years. Or 200 years. Or perhaps longer.

 It should be obvious why our government does a lousy job planning long-term. The top priority of our elected officials is—no surprise—getting re-elected, and they get re-elected based on short-term results. Big Oil and Gas—entities that spend millions lobbying those same politicians—have two priorities: first, to produce good short-term financial results, and second, to preserve their status quo dominance. Thus, they are not particularly interested in supporting solar, or other, alternate sources of energy.

 I’m not for pushing solar power to the exclusion of other alternatives. There are places and situations where hydroelectric power makes sense; where biofuel is cost effective; where even a sleeper like tidal power generation might work. Having a healthy mix of energy sources is an essential part of a good long-term plan. 

 But many of those alternatives have serious downsides. To greatly oversimplify the discussion, solar power generation has only one: cost. So what we must do is treat it like any other new technology: many different approaches need to be funded, developed, and engineered. The bottom line is: it will take decades to determine which solar power technologies will be cost competitive and environmentally sound.

 And yes, there will be a place for oil and gas in the total picture. There will be applications where oil and gas offer the best tradeoff of cost, convenience, and environmental impact. But, as alternatives become viable, demand for oil and gas will inevitably decrease.

 Regarding solar power, there are a few geopolitical points that have not received enough attention:

  • It will make the United States, Europe, etc, less dependent on oil and gas provided by questionable regimes. OK, that one is obvious.
  • It will be make China less dependent on coal, oil, and gas, and, perhaps very long term, reduce their incentive to monopolize Africa’s natural resources. I think their leadership has already realized this, but China is like a humongous ship: it’s going to take a long, long, long time to turn itself around.
  • It will help current oil and gas producing countries—again, very long term—by allowing them to ration their supplies over centuries, not decades.

 Another geopolitical factor to consider: If solar power is successful long-term, does that increase or decrease the level of anger that now drives Islamic-based terrorists?

 

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Doing research for my most recent book, “People of Windsor Mountain,” turned out to be a fascinating and rewarding experience.

Fifty years ago, I graduated from Windsor Mountain, a liberal progressive boarding school located in Lenox, Massachusetts. After reconnecting with alumni groups on Facebook and Yahoo, I caught the nostalgia bug. First, I wanted to track down 40 of my fellow male students who appeared in a dormitory photo taken in 1962. But that was too limiting, so I decided to track down all 47 members of my 1963 graduating class— male and female. That was also too limiting, so I went for broke, deciding to write a history of the school, and to interview as many alumni and former faculty as I could find—from every decade the school existed!

Since the school was founded in 1920 in Germany, and operated in Lenox through 1975, that turned out to be a tall order. I got to work.

The school was founded by educators Max and Gertrud Bondy, who moved the school to the United States just before World War II. Max died in 1951, and Gertrud died in 1977, but their son, Heinz, who had been headmaster from 1951-1975, was still alive. I interviewed him in 2013. Fortunately, the Bondy family, and many alumni, had done an excellent job documenting the school’s history, so there was much published material to draw upon.

Then I got lucky. I managed to track down, and interview, the daughter of two teachers I had known in the early 1960s. I found out that my chemistry teacher, Rex Reckendorf, had begun at the German school in 1924, and had later taught at the Lenox campus through 1966. His “tenure” spanned 5 decades. His wife, Edith, taught into the early 1970s, so, as a couple, their teaching at Windsor spanned 6 decades!

Another stroke of luck. An internet search turned up a 90-year-old woman who had been a student at the school’s interim location in Switzerland just before WW II.

I also uncovered the story of a baby, born in 1943 in a Nazi concentration camp, who survived that experience and graduated, in 1961, from Windsor Mountain. His family had been supported by Dr. Max Jacobson, the infamous “Dr. Feelgood” who treated President Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and other celebrities, with his amphetamine-laced potions.

Hard research work, mixed with more lucky breaks, resulted in 100 amazing interviews. I uncovered some fascinating stories, and talked to many wonderful Windsor people, some of whom I hadn’t spoken to in 50 years!

It was truly a labor of love.

 

 

 

 

 

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