Wouldn’t want to be in their shoes

I’m having fun working on some of my own side-projects right now. That’s the sort of thing high doses of cannabis allow you to do, they break my mind out of established patterns. Most of the time my projects go nowhere, but I enjoy working on them regardless, so it’s a win-win. However, I feel like briefly commenting on what’s shaping up to be my government’s new ruling coalition.

We’ve reached that point in time where no sane man would sign up for the responsibility of running my country for the next four years, as you will be blamed for all the consequences of past errors. And yet, there are some to be found, willing to do the job. They’re not very clever, the clever people headed for the exit.

This is not cynicism, this is just the reality. The old ruling party, CDA, could not find anyone who wanted to lead the party. Instead the ruling coalition now contains two parties that emerged basically out of nowhere within a few months, full of people who have no experience running government and seem to be economically illiterate.

I would not want to be in charge of running this country, because you’re not going to solve the problems anymore. By 2030, the whole country is going to face a shortage of drinking water. Not parts of it, no, the whole country. What this means is that in the years ahead, you’re going to face a situation of newly built houses that can’t be connected to the water supply. This has already started. In other parts of the country, we face an inability to connect houses to the electricity network. Some schools and daycares have to wait 5 to 10 years, before they can be connected.

The government wants to solve this with new nuclear reactors. But those won’t come online until 2035 at earliest. And more importantly, consider how active these reactors really are. On average, over its fifty year period of operation, the main Dutch nuclear reactor we have, that generates 3% of our electricity supply, delivered its full capacity for 84.4% of the time. In a good year, it hits 93%. Imagine I showed up for my job 84.4% of the time. I would be fired.

Ironically, as I am writing this, this very reactor, the only one we use as part of our electricity supply, is down for scheduled maintenance. Apparently they’re going to hire an additional 800 people, to perform the maintenance. To me this appears more like a white elephant, than a solution to our predicament that nobody knows about.

In France, the only country that gets most of its electricity this way, the average reactor is 38 years old. This is not for lack of popular support: Around 60% of the French public supports nuclear energy. And for what it’s worth, European governments rarely see a need to let a lack of public support for a policy make them change course (see: migration).

No, the real reason nuclear never took off, is because it is expensive and unreliable. Governments are eager to build a few reactors to build nuclear weapons and extract rare isotopes for medicine, but once you have met those needs, it readily becomes clear that the cheapest and easiest energy source to power an economy with are fossil fuels. Anything else is going to be much harder, less reliable and costlier.

Just imagine being dependent on four new nuclear reactors, that only manage to deliver electricity 84.4% of the time. That’s the plan our new government has. It seems inevitable that you’re going to end up with some period where the downtime overlaps. If you have a two week period during which none of these reactors work, you will just have blackouts during which the whole grid doesn’t work, as our neighbors all face the same problems and can’t bail us out. That’s what almost happened in Belgium a few winters ago.

You can’t really manage a grid based on nuclear either, because you don’t know when the reactors can start operating. If you plan to meet demand by 2035 with these reactors, but they all come online three years late (the average delay), you have a three year gap. And when you’re really unlucky, like Finland, they’re 14 years late. To make matters worse, the Dutch electricity grid will struggle to handle the supply of these new reactors.

After the 14 year delay, once Europe’s largest nuclear reactor finally came online in Finland, it shut down to receive its first annual maintenance in march of this year. The maintenance period unexpectedly ended up lasting 74 days, instead of the planned 37 days. How is a reactor that shuts down for a fifth of the year supposed to function as reliable base load capacity?

Just as you can’t survive two minutes without your heart beating, we can’t survive two weeks without electricity. It would mean there is no public transport, no electric cars, no ability to pay for anything, as physical cash is being phased out. Cell phones would not work, Internet would not work, so millions of people would be unable to do their jobs. Security cameras would cease to work, so crime would skyrocket.

The pumps we use to keep our feet dry, as we live beneath sea level, run on electricity. Those would cease to work too, so people’s homes would be slowly flooded. You would not be able to drive through the country either, as the tunnels under the river depend on pumps to get rid of the water too.

Most people now depend on electricity to heat their food, they have no gas stove, so most people would not even be able to prepare the food they have. Food in their refrigerator will spoil. There are people who depend on elevators, to leave their home, as they’re physically unable to use the stairs. Those elevators would cease to work. It would change the world forever. Your country will never be the same again after a two-week blackout.

But this is not a hypothetical far-fetched scenario. This is just what’s going to happen at some point. The nuclear reactors and the fossil fuel plants depend on cooling water. Most of them are located near rivers. If those rivers run dry during summer, or the water just gets too warm, you lose most of your electricity generating capacity simultaneously. That’s what you can expect in a warmer climate.

I wouldn’t want to be in charge, because you’re going to get blamed when this goes wrong. These are the real problems this government will face: How will you ensure everyone has access to electricity and drinking water? Omtzigt seems to want these reactors, because he realizes solar and wind are intermittent. He doesn’t seem to realize the nuclear reactors are for all practical purposes intermittent sources of energy too.

Compared to this, almost every other problem we face pales in comparison. I could write about the housing shortage, about how we have half a million homes with rotting foundations that will need to be repaired, about how the infrastructure is falling apart, food is becoming unaffordable, we have the highest electricity prices in all of Europe, about how we don’t have the personnel to make convicted criminals serve their prison sentences, etc.

But these are not mind-blowing shocking realizations. Most Dutch people are aware of these problems by now. The clever people in charge saw these gathering clouds in the distance years ago, so they headed for the exit. That leaves us with the delusional narcissists and kleptocrats, who are willing to take charge.

The four parties are struggling to find someone to take charge, who is not involved in one scandal or another. Every charlatan willing to help them form a government so far has ended up humiliated when his corruption was inevitably exposed.

I’m not saying I have a better solution to the problems we now face. Rather, I’m saying a solution doesn’t exist and the smart people have already figured this out. The current situation is simply a consequence of kicking the can down the hall for too long.

27 Comments

  1. A lot of countries experience shortages of electricity. They manage that by rolling blackouts and selecting sites to be or not be powered, such as the pumps. So, you would have a few hours a day to cook your food, and the rest of the time you can relax, drink your favorite warm beverage etc.

    What you are describing is an obvious sign of people collectively becoming dumber. Rolling blackouts happen a lot in Africa, now they will happen in Europe also. The brains are rotting

    • The difference is that these African nations have not electrified everything. We could have dealt with rolling blackouts in the 70s too.

      • Rolling blackouts are a new thing in South Africa specifically.

        The reasons are neglect of infrastructure and lack of industrial policy

        • We had a week-long power outage in Silicon Valley a couple of years ago; it covered a very large area. People outside the area barely noticed, and when I ask them about it now they don’t remember that it happened. We were in trouble because my elderly relative had a medication that needed to be refrigerated; I drove it to my husband’s office and used the fridge there. My FIL’s hospital bed was electric and couldn’t budge; same with his lift chair; it was a miserable week for him but we helped him by hand. I now have a cube battery for such emergencies; it wouldn’t run a real fridge but it would run a tiny mini fridge, big enough for medications, and it would run his medical lifts. It can be brought to a location where the power is still on to be charged, or it can be attached to a solar panel (which I haven’t gotten yet). The nearby hospital went on its emergency generators. We ate the food that was in the stand alone freezer, and used LED battery operated candles. It was a nuisance overall, but if we had to we could live like that half the time easily if we knew that was how things were to be. This is in sharp contrast with the 25 hour power outage in New York City in 1977, people went insane then and trashed the place.

    • >obvious sign of people collectively becoming dumber.

      Yup. It’s richly fucking ironic that the fucking boomers indisputably got the peak years of our civilization.

  2. I don’t understand how a rich, developed country like the Netherlands could run out of fresh water.
    You are drowning in seawater and why can’t you build desalination plants along with your dikes?
    “Desalination is expensive”
    Why is it so expensive? Seems like a simple technology problem. Even if it is expensive, the cost of water doesn’t have to go up. Just shift the expense elsewhere, maybe hike taxes on the rich some more to cover the price of desalinated water.

    • A $20 LifeStraw cleans 1,000 gallons of water for drinking. I got four for my earthquake kit. I guess we’ll have to suck the water through them on behalf of our dogs.

    • Where do you leave the salt? It’s dumped back into the water. But we use the coast to grow shellfish and catch fish.

      • Catch the salt and sell it off to countries that want salt.
        It doesn’t seem that difficult to me, but what do I know?

    • For some reason I thought desalinization was expensive largely because it’s energy intensive, so it goes hand in glove with cheap and plentiful nuclear energy. . . oh, hang on a second. . .

      But why not “Just shift the expense elsewhere”

      That would be because ‘there is no such place as away’ on Spaceship Earth.

      And that is one of the key lessons we are all going to collectively learn as our problems fill all the sinks we’ve been hiding them in and they start overflowing and drowning us all.

  3. In all seriousness though, my country has the same problem. Our former prime minister recently resigned suddenly and unexpectedly, he obviously sees “the writing on the wall”.

    Like most modern politicians, he was corrupt, power-hungry and did a terrible job. He was also a WEF “young global leader” along with the likes of Jacinda Ardern. He graduated from medical school and worked as a doctor prior to entering politics, so you can at least understand how he became P.M., having displayed some level of intellect.

    Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his replacement. Our new prime minister is a 37 year old college dropout (he was studying French and journalism). And here is one of his gaffes illustrating just how incompetent he is, which occurred during a radio interview at the start of the pandemic when he was the Minister for Health:

    https://www.thesun.ie/news/5346845/coronavirus-in-ireland-simon-harris-radio-gaffe/

    “HEALTH Minister Simon Harris has been criticised for claiming “there’s been eighteen other coronaviruses” in a radio interview.”

    “He made the mistake of saying that the current pandemic is caused by the nineteenth strain of coronavirus, rather than being named after the year it was discovered, 2019.”

    “He said: “Remember this is coronavirus Covid-19, that means there’s been eighteen other coronaviruses and I don’t think they’ve successfully found a vaccine for any.””

    Well, he was definitely correct about coronavirus vaccine attempts having a long history of failure…..

  4. Compared to the Tibet mountains, Rocky mountains, Andes, Urals, etc, the Alps are (beautiful but) small.
    Therefore, the rivers are not enough to provide for all those hundreds of millions. Especially the Rhine basin hosts the most densely populated region in the world, and the Rhine is only at number 11 in the ranking of European rivers.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rivers_of_Europe
    Europe is a relatively poor continent, poor in resources. Things in Central-Eastern Europe seem more balanced.
    I hope the Europeans vote for parties that will want to stop the war and compromise with…

    • Yeah, voting harder will fix the EU’s problems.

      But those unlit lamposts can be put into a very useful alternative public service role.

      • I agree, it doesn’t seem to change anything.

        BUT I meant the Europarliament elections in 2.5 weeks. Just in case someone is interested to use this chance to say “we don’t want more people dead in U., or a nuclear holocaust, and we are poor, don’t make it worse (bc of the war)”.

        This is a pretty clear message (like voting in a referendum about war).
        But most parliament groups hold the opposite of what I propose.

      • (if the predicted (by GVB) tsunami happens, all these things (institutions etc) will collapse. So, I don’t think the European Parliament will do anything, for practical reasons.)

        • Ha, ha, ha – do you mean it’s not practical for them to exert themselves more than they must, or do anything they don’t want to do, because they know the end is coming and they’re all going to die?

          At long last, I might have something in common with a politician!

          This seems like a good place to drop a little story about Townes: https://youtu.be/Zb7LVzx_twU?t=217

          Are you hip man 😛

          • LOL!!
            Sometimes I wonder if the politicians (MPs etc) who are in denial (about the rapid evolution of the virus due to the mass vaccination) suspect that things will never be the same..
            And I often wonder how decision bodies will react if they start losing a lot of their members.. I think there are some limits to how many absentees are allowed..

  5. Wait, this problem is bigger than the Covid debacle that is dysregulating immune systems and creating variants that will possibly lead to hundreds of millions of deaths? Wouldn’t that free up the need for housing and water?

    • That’s a fair question.

      I do think COVID and the bird flu will horribly escalate.

      There is still no evidence that SARS2 is becoming less virulent over time.

      I’ve shown that the opposite seems to be going on: Since the first Omicron variants, it has grown steadily more intrinsically virulent, masked so far by the deaths of vulnerable elderly, the introduction of paxlovid and by people’s rising antibody concentrations.

      But how are you supposed to plan for such a thing? You can plan for gradual trends that are discussed in mainstream policymaker circles, you can’t really expect politicians to make serious plans for these problems.

  6. I fail to see how the people who caused all these problems (or at least didn’t solve them) are intelligent, just because they’re finally jumping off the sinking ship. I think they’re just cowards.

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The patients in the mental ward have had their daily dose of xanax and calmed down it seems, so most of your comments should be automatically posted again. Try not to annoy me with your low IQ low status white male theories about the Nazi gas chambers being fake or CO2 being harmless plant food and we can all get along. Have fun!

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