Sugar 149


It is being reported that enthusiastic Tory Party donors Tate and Lyle stand to be the sole beneficiary of the abolition of EU tariffs and quotas on raw cane sugar imports, to the tune of over £70 million a year. This is a good anti-Tory and anti-Brexit story, but deeper thought raises some extremely interesting ethical issues around agriculture, trade, the developing world and environmentalism. Let me just unpack a little of it for you to see and start thinking about. I do not claim to have all the answers, but I do have some interesting questions. I want you to indulge me if I start by going back over thirty years to recount an experience of my own.

I was in charge of agriculture and water in the British High Commission in Lagos back in 1986, and in that capacity paid several visits to the state owned Nigerian Sugar plantation and factory at Bacita, Kwara State.

I loved Bacita. Nigeria in the 1980’s was a disheartening place. A ridiculously over-valued Naira allowed the elites who could access the official exchange rate to live lives of sumptuous luxury and buy up top end properties all over London (the nobs’ estate agent, Knight Frank and Rutley, opened a Lagos office staffed by British expats to sell Holland Park mansions and Dockland penthouses). The overvaluation destroyed Nigerian agriculture, as imported food became cheaper than local. In a decade, Nigeria went from being the world’s largest exporter of palm oil to the world’s largest importer of palm oil, and hundreds of thousands of acres of palm oil, coconut, cocoa, pineapple, lime and other plantations withered away and closed down.

To import, you needed an import license and these were a principal source of corruption in probably the most corrupt country in the world. The most valuable of all were the sugar and rice import licenses, controlling the import of a daily staple to a country then of 200 million people. The duopoly right to import sugar to the whole of Nigeria was given to just two Northern families, Dangote and Dantata, well connected to the military regimes. They became billionaires several times over. I was most amused in 2014 to see Aliko Dangote being fawned over at Davos as an example of a great African entrepreneur.

The Dantatas and Dangotes had unlimited access to Nigeria’s oil dollars at the official exchange rate – which was an amazing three to four times more favourable than the real or black market rate. So not only did they have the duopoly on a diet staple, but the system worked like this. For the sake of example let’s say sugar was a dollar a kilo. They could exchange a naira for a dollar at the official one to one exchange rate and buy the kilo of sugar. They could then, given their duopoly position, sell that kilo of sugar to the public for eight nairas, worth two dollars in the real world. They could then exchange that eight nairas at the official rate for eight dollars. Making a 800% markup if you start from the first dollar, or a 3,200% markup if you start with the real value of the first Naira they bought that first dollar with.

I am not trying to recreate the actual sugar price or exchange rates in 1986. I am using notional values to show how the system worked and how the Dangote family originally became, as loudly proclaimed at Davos, the richest in Africa.

So in 1980’s Nigeria, it may appear that the situation for their domestic sugar industry could not have been worse. But it could, and it was the European Union that made it much, much worse. Dantata and Dangote were able to buy beet sugar from the European Union typically at around 70% of the cost of its production. The EU was dumping massive volumes of export subsidised sugar on to Africa as part of the Common Agricultural Policy, destroying much of African sugar production in the process.

One of the abhorrent things about today’s politics is that Brexit has made any sensible discussion of the EU impossible. It ought to be perfectly possible to discuss things the EU has historically done wrong without being labeled a Trump-loving Farage supporter, but that is not how public discourse is going. The EU’s record on effectively dumping did improve substantially with successive reforms to the CAP.

The general problem has not gone away, however. In 2000 I recall the USA dumped vast amounts of subsidised chicken on Ghana while I was working there, putting numerous good quality Ghanaian producers out of business. Africa remains subject to the whims of western politicians seeking to subsidise their farmers either for reasons of food security, or because the Idaho soya bean farmer suddenly became a key voting demographic.

The Common Agricultural Policy was designed to encourage food security and reduce price volatility in Europe. In original concept that functioned through large scale over-production of staples, taxpayer subsidised, and food stability in the rest of the world was not part of the remit.

Despite all of the odds, the Nigerian Sugar Company in Bacita kept going through the 1980’s, employing tens of thousands of people a year and producing some 20 to 30,000 tonnes of refined sugar (out of a nominal capacity of 60,000 tonnes). I loved spending time there. I admired the tenacity of the workforce who struggled every day to maintain both field production and factory with almost no available cash. I marveled at the ancient, massively wrought, crushing, boiling and refining equipment all manufactured in Glasgow or Motherwell, and chatted with the blacksmiths who hammered replacement parts using old matchets as raw material. I would sit with the cane cutters enjoying a drink of fresh cane juice, as the burning prior to cutting drew black feathers across the vivid red of the setting sun. I loved the fact that the entire plant and town were powered by using cane waste as fuel.

You have to understand that Nigeria in the 1980’s had massive societal problems, and honest endeavour and agro-industry were not exactly its hallmarks. Bacita was my haven. I should point out that Bacita had never employed either slave or imported labour, lest you feel my nostalgia for a sugar plantation was misplaced.

I tried very hard to persuade both DFID and the Commonwealth Development Corporation to help update the plant, but both said that the EU dumping policy made Nigerian sugar unsustainable. Bacita somehow limped on another two decades until it closed in 2006. It closed because the international donor community insisted it was privatised.

Once put into the hands of a wealthy owner, international aid was finally forthcoming and the African Development Bank put an amazing 60 million dollars into expanding field production. This was entirely wasted as the new owner decided it was most cost effective to take advantage of tariff advantages of raw versus processed sugar. They simply shut down the field operation, making 10,000 people redundant, and ran the processing plant on imported raw sugar. That lasted a couple of years and then they lost interest and the whole thing went bust. The joys of privatisation.

Sugar is fascinating, because temperate beet sugar is the original and most striking example of industrial selective breeding of a crop deliberately to provide import substitution in temperate countries of a tropical food. Modern sugar beet typically contains 15 to 20% sugar. At the end of the 18th century, when serious breeding started, it was around 8 to 12%, similar to sweet potato today. Industrial scale production of sugar from sugar beet started around 1820.

Contrary to popular belief, sugar beet in a temperate climate can in fact yield more sugar per hectare than sugar cane in the tropics, because of its shorter growth season. Nitrogen fertiliser inputs for the two are comparable. Cane sugar production costs are substantially cheaper than beet sugar, but higher yield in the field is not the reason. Nor is cheaper labour as large a factor as you might think, given the mechanisation of the beet industry.

The reasons cane sugar is cheaper are more complex – for example, sugar beet factories in the UK typically run 100 days a year, whereas a sugar cane factory factory is almost a year round operation, thus giving a better return on the capital employed. The UNFAO argues that in a liberalised market some beet production would be competitive, particularly major scale producers in France and Germany. I am dubious; the general rule that without protection cane sugar is more financially viable, by a wide margin, is not in doubt.

As the UK leaves the EU, the EU quotas and tariff barriers that kept out cane sugar are vanishing and Tate & Lyle are now free to import raw cane sugar for processing. This is where that £71 million tariff reduction comes in. This could theoretically be an advantage of Brexit – sugar ought to get cheaper. But actually, it won’t. You see, Tate & Lyle are the only refiner of raw cane sugar in the UK. They have a monopoly, and the capital costs are a significant bar to market entry. So what will happen is that Tate & Lyle profits will go up, very substantially.

The British sugar market is dominated by British Sugar, who produce beet sugar, and Tate & Lyle, who finish in the UK imported “raw” cane sugar. In theory, Tate & Lyle should now be in a position to put British Sugar out of business and end UK beet production. That will not happen. What will happen is the duopoly will continue to fix the price, with Tate & Lyle simply making mega profits.

As you will have realised, this is all predicated on the fact that the UK intends to maintain high tariffs on the import of fully processed sugar from abroad, to maintain the protection of the processing operations of both British Sugar and Tate & Lyle. The only reason it makes any sense for Tate & Lyle to import raw sugar from Brazil or Pakistan and process it here, is that fully processed sugar from Brazil or Pakistan is subject to a deliberately prohibitive tariff.

This means that extra bulk is being transported across the sea for no good reason. It also keeps the most profitable part of the entire value adding process in the developed world and not in the developing world. I visited a sugar factory in Pakistan last year, where it is a massive industry, and access for their refined sugar to the UK market could be a major economic boost.

It is of course not just sugar; this system of protection aimed at keeping developing countries as raw material exporters and keeping the high value processes in the developed world applies to many commodities. If we take the case of cocoa, my friend President Nana Akuffo Addo of Ghana states that Ghana loses over half of the value of its cocoa by exporting beans rather than processed cake and butter, or still better chocolate.

President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, says Ghana no longer wants to be dependent on the production and export of raw materials, including cocoa beans.

According to President Akufo-Addo, Ghana intends to process more and more of its cocoa, with the aim of producing more chocolate, “because we believe there can be no future prosperity for the Ghanaian people, in the short, medium or long term, if we continue to maintain economic structures that are dependent on the production and export of raw materials.”

He, thus, reiterated the commitment of his Government “to add value to our raw materials, industrialise and enhance agricultural productivity. This is the best way we can put Ghana at the high end of the value chain in the global market place, and create jobs for the teeming masses of Ghanaians”.

That the UK in leaving the EU is lifting the barriers to raw sugar import but not to processed sugar import, is indeed a sign that the Tory government is favoring the interests of its donor Tate & Lyle above the interests of the developing world (who still cannot send us more valuable processed sugar), the interests of the consumer (who will not get cheaper sugar from the tariff reduction) and the interests of beet farmers (who will have competition from cheaper imported raw sugar). It really is a spectacularly bad policy decision designed solely to benefit Tate & Lyle, and nobody else.

Now this is where I do not know the answers.

A couple of years ago I would have written with arrogant certitude that the correct policy would be to lift all tariffs on import of fully processed sugar, thus greatly benefiting the consumer while opening opportunities for value added in the developing world. But how do the food miles involved factor into climate change? On top of which, has the effect of covid-19 given a warning that the EU’s original ideas of food security and local production had more value than we had lately thought?

Now those are some really meaty questions. There is no reason my views are any more valuable than yours, and indeed, I do not know the answers.

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149 thoughts on “Sugar

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  • Mazunga

    There’s one bit of logic I don’t follow: “and the interests of beet farmers (who will have competition from cheaper imported raw sugar)”. Wouldn’t they get even more hammered by cheaper imported processed sugar?

    • craig Post author

      Indeed. But if you wanted to protect the beet farmers, you should retain the quote and tariff on raw sugar import. This policy does not do that.

  • Mary

    Sugar – Slaves – Stately homes

    https://www.stgeorgessociety.org/events/2018/04/05/hidden-connections-slavery-and-the-british-country-house

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-stately-homes-built-on-the-back-of-slaves-8518002.html

    That’s why I cannot bear to visit them.

    Ditto the National Trust whose chairman is Tim Parker – ‘Timothy Charles “Tim” Parker is Chairman of the National Trust. He is also Chairman of the Post Office, and Chairman of Samsonite International SA. He is a member of the UK Advisory Board of CVC Capital Partners and a Trustee of the Royal Academy of Music. His career has been controversial and he gained the nickname the ‘Prince of Darkness’ for his reputation for cutting jobs.’

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Parker – I’ve been everywhere, man!

    • Mary

      Within that first link –

      ‘Others married heiresses with ties to plantations such as Baron Thomas Onslow, who built a Palladian mansion at Clandon Park in Surrey (NT) ‘owing to his judicious marriage to the heiress of a West Indian fortune.’

      The slaves bit back. A few years ago the ‘mansion’ caught fire and is now an empty shell covered in scaffolding and plastic sheeting. The National Trust talked about spending £5m on its restoration but nothing has happened.

      The previous earl, Lord Onslow, was on the joint committee on human rights that heard Craig’s evidence on torture enacted on people whose countries had been occupied and wrecked by NATO alliance members in their wars on terror. He was the only one who showed some emotion as Craig recounted such evidence, when he was an Ambassador, as having seen images of human bodies that had turned blue after being immersed in boiling water.

  • Caratacus

    And this is why I read Craig Murray’s blog. And his books.
    Thanks again, Mr. Murray, for once more drawing attention to the – I was going to write ‘furtive’ but ‘blatant’ will serve better – corruption in what passes for a British government these days.

    There are decent members in the Tory party (not many, I know, but some) but I do wonder how they square their membership with the squalid activities pursued by the cynical hierarchy of that party and highlighted by you and a few other fearless commentators. It can’t all be about personal financial gain or advancement … can it?

  • Angus Coutts

    I make frequent access to CNN to broaden my take on current affairs.
    Something that fascinates me about their content is the extent of their interest in Africa. My conclusion has been that it is due to the extent of China’s activity there.
    One interesting thing in their coverage is the number of times the name Dangote comes up.

  • Tony Little

    Craig, did you see that he BBC are apparently going to broadcast a programme about the Salmond trial on Monday, with some of the Alphabet women given an opportunity to speak. Is this not something that would adversely impact on your own trial, and should your lawyers be doing something?

  • Goose

    The sad thing is how we all know what the Tories are like, but there’s little prospect of any political change. Especially now that Labour is back in the hands of the Blairites.

    Scots realised some time ago the ‘English way’ is broken beyond saving. Too many Draco Malfoys : privately educated low grade psychos and sadists in positions of power. And ‘the system’ loves them, promotes them ; gives them titles and puts letters after their names. At the top the worst behaviour is rewarded. Because the British aristocracy adores that arrogance, that air of superiority, that masterful confidence.
    ————-
    Today those on the left are up in arms because Starmer wouldn’t criticise the Met over Dawn Butler MP’s treatment. It begs the question,
    who do they think they elected? The excellent piece below sets out clearly why Starmer was a terrible pick.

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/04/07/star-a07.html

    The piece mentions Paul Mason. For years, many have been trying to point out that ‘left-wing’ warmonger Paul Mason “constructs left-wing arguments in support of right-wing policies.” He’s called for defence spending to be upped from 2% to 5% of GDP and more forces deployed ‘confronting’ the Russian threat (in the Baltics i.e., on Russia’s border). More recently he’s become obsessed with confronting China, as if operating from central office talking points. He supports nuclear weapons, backs Trident renewal and told those on the left to stop equating strong defence with imperialism. He wants Putin and Assad removed by force, he’s now urging western confrontation with the Chinese and Belarus.

    He supported Starmer enthusiastically(really enthusiastically) over the clearly more leftist candidate RLB , and he’s since supported Starmer’s sacking of RLB. He supports the full implementation whatever EHRC report recommends without question. He’s said little about scandal around HQ staffers who seemingly sabotaged the party from within.

    Who is this guy, really?

      • Goose

        I’m no fan or admirer of RLB, tbh, the choices on offer for leader were really poor. RLB would have been better advised going for the role of deputy leader, as Angela Rayner is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard in terms of defending the left.

        FYI . I ‘m not a Labour party member, nor would I want to be given the way things are going.

        • Goose

          Just to be clear, I don’t support forces of oppression whether they be in China- Hong Kong, Belarus or anywhere else, or the injustices undoubtedly being perpetuated against people.

          But we need to put our own house in order first. It’s not even as though the US/UK liberal interventionism some centrists and most Neocons promote, is genuinely altruistic or even in the interests of those oppressed populations we claim we’re seeking to liberate. It’s about subjugation, domination and ultimately, as Craig highlights, profit. Mason is either naive(unlikely) or something more sinister.

    • Ken Kenn

      Paul Mason is yet another Contrarian left winger the product of the many left wing sects from the 80’s

      Possibly ex Revolutionary Communist Party.

      Being a Communist wasn’t enough I imagine so the tag of Revolutionary had to be added just to distinguish between the serious Communists and the less serious ones.

      You say tomato – we say potato.

      Clair Fox ( ex Revolutionary Communist Party ) and a Tory adviser ( can’t remember who) come from this peculiar stable of what Tories used to call ‘ Rabid lefties ‘

      Apparently a blog called Spiked is sort of a Junior cadre of these ‘ alternative thinkers ‘.

      Just the Name ‘ The Academy of ideas ‘ should sound pompous enough to put people off.

      Clair has lost a penny and found a quid – elevated to The House of Lords for he services to Brexit.

      Mason used to be on Newsnight.

      Never John Pilger though – funny that.

      Not ‘ Revolutionary enough possibly?

      It would n’t surprise me that Cummings played at it in his youth neither.

      • Goose

        He [Mason] seems to have lost most of his credibility. His tweets seem to garner less and less responses, and most of those are highly negative. He’s been sussed out.

        The more concerning thing is how Labour are now stuck with Starmer. How long ’til he abandons his 10 signed Pledges; those made so solemnly to members? Investigative journalist Matt Kennard of Declassified poses five important questions to Sir Keir Starmer; questions journos should be asking, and surely would be were it not for the fact this highly controlled media, appear to be shielding Starmer from difficult questions like some Integrity Initiative sponsored Praetorian Guard.

    • N_

      @Goose – “(Paul Mason has) called for defence spending to be upped from 2% to 5% of GDP”.

      Interesting. I didn’t know that. His book “Postcapitalism” is a complete and utter joke – just any old crap that sounds as though it’s got anything to do with the topic, stir it around, separate it into chunks and give each of them a chapter number. Nice book contract if you can get it.

    • Dungroanin

      They are like the Revolutionary Communist Party agit prop BrexShit libertarianists as recently rewarded with elevation to the Lords Clare Fox and many a mole . The classwar traitors have been put into No 10 along with their twin Brittannia Unchained clones – creatures of the ancient Money Empire which daily declines faster and will collapse like a dried up husk, to be blown away in the Eastern wind.

      Paul Mason the fake accented deepstage stooge just like LauraKoftheCIA and many many mockingbirds.

  • Brenda Steele

    One additional thought.

    We should be eating less sugar. Period. Full Stop.

    How do we bring that about?

    • Kempe

      Stop eating hyper-processed ready meals which are bad for you in many other ways. Cut down on sweets and if you put sugar in your tea and coffee try it without. It’s not so bad; and sprinkle salt on your porridge.

      • Tom Welsh

        Exactly. Better still:

        1. Don’t buy ANY processed foods – just what you find in the meat, eggs, dairy, fruit and vegetable areas. (Saves you traipsing over about nine tenths of the supermarket, too).

        2. Don’t buy any sugar, honey, or other sweet foods. No artificial sweeteners either. Just kick the habit. If it’s not in your house, you won’t generally eat it.

        Then the odd chocolate or dessert won’t do you much harm.

        • J

          Better still, whatever you buy, get everything fresh from your local market. No plastic boxes or wrapping and no packaging except a paper bag, while much of the produce will be locally sourced and grown.

        • N_

          Artificial sweetener aspartame is even more harmful than sugar.

          But the “NHS” lyingly says they’re safe. Indeed some GPs avidly recommend them. A case of “Who paid for my seventh holiday to Dubai this year?”

          “Just kick the habit” <- Yes.

    • Goose

      Sugar is better than the artificial alternatives.

      I have a theory, not scientifically based, but I believe the artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose , often combined with conventional sugars in products, are confusing our bodily systems, starting with salivary amylase – the enzyme in saliva that breaks down carbohydrates into smaller molecules,, and directly causing the incredible rise in diabetes the west has witnessed.

      It’s no joke, as diabetes is costing the NHS £10bn a year. There are lots of powerful interest groups pushing artificial sweeteners and their approval history is pretty sketchy to say the least. It was a similar story with partially-hydrogenated fats (trans fats) relatively recently accepted as terible for health and responsible for many health problems in the west. Not long since they were found in loads of products , now you’ll likely see palm oil listed instead as they’ve been quietly phased out.

        • Goose

          @J

          Yeah, I remembered reading about the incredibly sketchy regulatory history of it.

          Sugar is an ancient, perfectly well-tolerated foodstuff, then suddenly an explosion in diabetes? Hmm?

          As I understand it, many American States have now banned trans fats, as have many European countries. So the idea a terribly damaging foodstuff product could escape notice, isn’t fiction, it’s fact .. it happened with partially -hydrogenated oils (trans fats). They were in near all ‘fast food’ until relatively recently.

          • Tom Welsh

            “Sugar is an ancient, perfectly well-tolerated foodstuff, then suddenly an explosion in diabetes? Hmm?”

            In one of his books, Gary Taubes points out that as recently as the 17th century, sugar was as expensive as cocaine is today. In the ancient world there was no sugar, apart from honey and other sweet foods such as dates, figs, etc.

      • N_

        @Goose – Interesting! And the NHS also pushes sweeteners precisely TO diabetics. Make people ill, sell them a treatment, laugh all the way to the bank.

        The following is from official NHS advice on sweeteners:

        “Dietitian Emma Carder states: ‘Research into sweeteners shows they’re perfectly safe to eat or drink on a daily basis as part of a healthy diet.’ She also says they’re a really useful alternative for people with diabetes who need to watch their blood sugar levels while still enjoying their favourite foods.”

        “Really useful”, huh?

        There are some excellent observations on the NHS in this article at Cryzine (don’t miss footnote 3).

        Carder incidentally boasts about working in both “private” and “state” sectors and also about being a propagandist. (“I engage with social media in a professional capacity to highlight the work and worth of dietitians and registered nutritionists.”) What a scumbag.

        • Goose

          @N_

          Look at the Lucozade label (below), a drink promoted as helpful in convalescence as those who are from the UK will know:

          Ingredients
          Carbonated Water, Glucose Syrup (11%), Orange Juice from Concentrate (6%), Acid (Citric Acid), Acidity Regulator (Sodium Gluconate), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame-K), Stabiliser (Acacia Gum), Caffeine, Flavourings, Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid), Colour (Beta Carotene)

          https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C8oMte5XgAAgoEm?format=jpg&name=large

          A mixture of glucose Syrup(11%) and Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame-K). Why?

          And virtually all soft drinks are like this , it’s very difficult to avoid. I’ve tried to make list of products that exclude artificial sweeteners. This could be the next big food scandal after trans fats.

          • Geoffrey

            Please let us know when you produce your list. I always look for high sugar content.
            I prefer the devil I know, like you.

          • N_

            There was also Ribena “Toothkind”, produced by Glaxo, with every bottle carrying an approval by the British Dental Association, similarly containing both aspartame and acesulfame-K and marketed for consumption by children, for purchase by parents who cared a lot about their offspring’s dental health. Seriously what is the problem with blackcurrant juice with maybe a little citric acid acted for preservation, and some water, without the need for such vile sweetener contaminants? (This says a lot about dentists.)

          • Goose

            @N_

            Manufacturers are trying to get around the trans fat ban, by increased use of Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471) instead. These are popping up in everything. Bread and cakes with E471 last much,much longer( weeks) ,biscuits (months) compared to Bread ,cakes and biscuits made with more natural ingredients . Chose your bread & biscuits wisely. 😉

            I prefer to make my own wholemeal bread, using all natural ingredients incl. olive oil and brown sugar.

          • Tequila mockingbird

            A couple of years ago The Lancet, the worlds oldest and most respected medical journal, reclassified aspartame as being dangerous for human consumption and put it in the same class as mercury and arsenic.

  • RogerDodger

    A very informative and interesting article, Craig, thanks. I feel like I know a bit more about how the world works. It may only be a drop of information in the ocean of my ignorance, but it all helps!

  • Mark K

    “…or because the Idaho soya bean farmer suddenly became a key voting demographic”

    I’m pretty sure you mean the Iowa soya bean farmers. Iowa is in the middle of the Midwestern corn and soybean belt. Idaho, in the Pacific Northwest, is mostly known agriculturally for potato production.

  • Brian c

    Interesting piece that highlights the hypocrisy and double standards of western neoliberal ideology. Contrary to myth, tariffs were essential to Anglo-American development and hegemony. And they remain so, for all the talk of free-trade globalism and insistence that developing countries must remove their own protective barriers.

    For all the propaganda, neoliberal globalisation has not led to a flat world marked by increasing standardization and cooperation. It has certainly not benefited the vast majority of people in Britain. The Tories and their fellow travellers in New Labour will ensure it stays that way.

    • nevermind

      well said Brian C., globalisation, when in pandemic peril, pitched us straight back into the worst excesses of trade barriers being etected, worse sanctions are looking like a first step to war, even if they don”t work.

      Globalisation in its various stages, has always favoured the ex colonists and the warmongers who see nothing wrong in punishing a poor nation such as impoverished bombed and hungry Yemen, for accepting help from Iran.
      Its a mad and frightening world when even the suffering of milliobs in a pandemic cannot bring us to help each other.

  • John+LEON

    You mention the Dantata family. I went to a Woodard Corporation school in Devon between 1968 and 1974 where I was in a House with a Maminu Dantata.

    I wonder if this person was part of the very wealthy Dantata family you mention in your fascinating article?

  • Antonym

    In India the central government can allow sugar export / import on and off at will.
    There is also a guaranteed minimum price for sugar cane per quintal for Indian farmers. The down side is that is this policy is blind to regional / local water supply: fine for well monsoon fed fields but bad for the groundwater table below the rest. Sugarcane is mostly a medium farmer crop and rarely year round due to monsoon seasonality.
    Bigger producer Brazil requested India to convert more sugar to ethanol to reduce the world over-production, which worsens the prices. https://indianexpress.com/article/business/brazil-puts-onus-on-india-to-balance-world-sugar-market-6430649/

    Where India’s population suffers most is from rampant “sugar”, as diabetes is locally labeled, also under the poor (not the rock bottom) as white rice transforms to sugars inside the body. With Covid-19 around its an even worse condition.

  • Natasha

    Thank you Craig, great to reminisce about Ghana (see more below) !

    My father was researching his (long since forgotten) 1969 book ‘Modernisation in Ghana & the USSR’ and teaching political science & economics at the University of Ghana, Legon Campus same year 1967 as your friend President ‘Billy’ 😉 was awarded his economics degree !
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Modernization-Ghana-U-Comparative-Political/dp/0710061714

    You ask about food miles: they are insignificant, close to the bottom of the list of CO2 emissions.
    https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food#avoid-the-small-share-of-foods-that-are-air-freighted

    As such, if Ghana wants to truly develop its economy and welfare of its fantastic smiling people from near the bottom globally, I’d advise your friend president Nana Akufo-Addo to follow Nigeria’s lead and build as much nuclear power as possible (Ghana has uranium reserves) meanwhile ensuring that West African chocolate and refined sugar exports are the best in the world!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Nigeria#Nuclear

    The rationale goes like this:

    Fossil fuels account for 86% and RISING of global *energy* consumption (remember: electricity accounts for less than one fifth of that).

    Only about 2% of global *energy* consumption is produced by Wind & Solar, with 2% by Nuclear power and 3% hydroelectric.

    However, building more hydro electric dam’s like Ghana’s Akosombo is not the answer, both environmentally and geographically, despite initial good short term outcomes.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akosombo_Dam#Impacts

    Also building & maintaining Wind Water & Solar renewable infrastructure requires many times the amount of steel and concrete, which need vast amounts of fossil fuels to make, than thermal sources, such as Nuclear, coal & gas.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2019/03/21/green-new-deal-is-dead-without-nuclear-power/#213b039369db

    Plus Solar and Wind farms require between 400 and 750 times more land than nuclear and natural gas plants for the same power output. And batteries to smooth out their intermittency requires orders of magnitude increases in colonial mineral mining and environmental ruin i.e. ‘extractivism’ all powered by rapidly disappearing, efficiently extractable fossil fuel reserves.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extractivism#Impacts_of_extractivism

    Rational analysis based on thermodynamic limits – not political wish-lists – dictates that if humans genuinely want to decarbonise fossil fuel use, the obvious proven fastest solution is to IMMEDIATELY increase nuclear fission power from its tiny 2% of global energy, so we can fast track the electrification & conversion to hydrogen etc. of the 86% fossil fuel powered consumption.

    Top of the list is heavy industry, which Ghana will need more of, responsible for around 22% of global CO2 emissions, c/w the CO2 emissions of all the world’s cars at 6% with aviation & shipping bottom of the list at under 2%.
    https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions#emissions-by-sector
    https://www.energypolicy.columbia.edu/research/op-ed/tackle-climate-change-industrial-heat

    (Craig, you have animated some amazing fond childhood memories, thank you! My brother and I were the only white kids next door at Achimota school. I was 6 and had long since forgotten about the colour of anyone’s skin, until one day a new white kid walked by our class room. We all rushed to the windows staring and commenting in quiet tones at the curiosity! At break times local women began sitting on the floor outside – multicoloured Ashanti cloth draped everywhere! We all ran out to chew sugar cane sticks and munch on freshly roasted peanuts sold for a pesewa each in neat paper twists. Nkrumah was overthrown by the military when we were there. Freshly printed tee shirts with a black silhouette of a corpse splashed with a red ink bullet wound were everywhere, even on Labadi beach!)

    • bevin

      And the waste products from the nuclear power plants, what of them? No nuclear plant should be commissioned until a viable and permanent plan to handle its radioactive waste has been understood and accepted.

      • Stevie Boy

        Nuclear waste probably has more controls and legal processes directed at it than any other industry. When it comes to waste EVERY business and manufacturer should have “a viable and permanent plan to handle its … waste “. This includes food industries, power stations, steel plants, IT companies, Banks and the renewables industry, etc, etc. A level playing field, eh ?

        • pretzelattack

          and yet the toxic nuclear waste dumps aren’t cleaned up. it’s almost like the laws and regulatory framework aren’t working. and with nuclear, more than any other industry, it’s important that they work.

    • Deepgreenpuddock

      Natasha
      Thanks for the interesting memories. A late friend, Jim Thrower, often talked in glowing terms of his experiences in Accra in the sixties. He was a researcher in religion and later was in the Sociology department at Aberdeen University.

      I see you are a great supporter of fission nuclear power. At the moment the UK has done some kind of tripartite deal with the Chinese and the French to build a large scale power station which guarantees the operators a very fine return on their money, a very sweet deal indeed for the Chinese, if the plan comes to fruition. The European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) on which the whole plan rests has turned out to be a bugger to build with huge cost and time overruns in two of the current projects in Europe. Getting the Hinckley C project to a point of production is really not in doubt – the investment, (reputational political and financial) like HS2, will ensure its completion, but with considerable hiccups, and quite a lot of painful ‘acid reflux’. There were huge doubts about the wisdom of the project even with the goodwill of all parties. These doubts are now compounded by the current decline in relations with China over Hong Kong and Huawei. We are climbing into bed (a threesome from hell) with a very large partner with a tendency to bully, and with a wish for vengeance for all the colonial insults heaped upon it in the 19th and early 20th centuries by the British Empire. Don’t assume all that stuff has been forgotten because China is now pursuing commercial and mercantile domination like a dutiful neoliberalised son.

      The planned conjugal relationship created by the Tories – Osborne (that Tory trusty famous for his integrity) has the potential to erupt into a very serious breakdown in relations. The French of course will be needling away furiously to make matters even more fractious.

      Anyway to cut a long story short: the idea of Ghana getting itself embroiled in nuclear energy is madness. They don’t have the depth of Engineering or financial, or logistical expertise that Nuclear power would involve. Indeed it is questionable whether the UK can muster the technical capacity to complete the Hinckley C project on time and on budget even with the Chinese and French on board.

      THe risks are huge, especially in the context of huge advances in low risk solar power and other renewables. Combined with energy frugality and a few modest technical innovations, a country like Ghana is in a very strong position to provide a safe, comfortable, productive, environment for its people.Let’s not forget the disaster of Fukushima which occurred in a country with copious technical resources.

      And before anyone throws in the “Thorium reactor” a little research reveals this to be pretty hazardous (apart from not working), producing large amounts of Alpha and Beta emitter isotopes, which would demand scrupulous control. While not ‘powerful’ these isotopes are extremely dangerous in terms of their capacity to wreak huge harm to living organisms through their carcinogenesis and mutagenic potential, if they contaminate the food system.

      So let us forget the idea that nuclear power in whatever form, can provide an answer. Not for advanced economies, and not for smaller countries.

      • Natasha

        Thanks for your responses, bevin and Deepgreenpuddock. However, with respect to nuclear energy, your analysis’ are sadly very deeply flawed. Your comments seem to reflect an ugly overhang of embedded unacknowledged colonial thinking, combined with knee jerk confusions between nuclear weapons and nuclear power concocted by the Siera Club in the 1960s still infesting logical thought and engineering thermodynamic realities in so called environmental groups such as FoE, Greenpeace, Green New Deal, etc.

        For example, comments such as “They don’t have the depth of Engineering or financial, or logistical expertise that Nuclear power would involve” and the utterly deluded nonsense suggesting that “Combined with energy frugality and a few modest technical innovations,a country like Ghana is in a very strong position to provide a safe, comfortable, productive, environment for its people.”

        Deepgreenpuddock, what are these “a few modest technical innovations”?

        Ghana ranks 140 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). However, its one of the fastest growing economies in Africa thanks to the recent discovery of offshore oil in 2007 with gold and cocoa being Ghana’s main industries.
        https://borgenproject.org/poverty-in-ghana/

        My original post exposes wind water & solar as impossible to scale up much beyond the 2% of global energy supply, without orders of magnitude increases in dedicated land use and huge increases in fossil fuel CO2 emissions to build and maintain plant and grids, (compared to thermal power such as nuclear and fossil itself) and power all the new mineral “extractivism” think open cast mines everywhere for copper, lithium, cobalt, etc. – you can’t run a mining & refining & global shipping operation off solar cells and a few wind farms.

        3 Billion people globally are daily forced to breath smoke from burning bio-mass (8% of global CO2 emissions) to cook and keep warm and die decades earlier than you or I on average do sitting around on our luxury keyboards typing to each other, enjoying cheap electricity.

        12% of humans, over 1 billion people globally have no electricity. 3 billion live on less than a light bulb’s worth each.

        Do you both still deny Ghana safe clean electricity in face of these facts? Or should “they” just burn up all their oil to power the build out of a few useless solar electricity plants – also imported form China? Or do you suggest Ghana builds its own solar panel factories, because they do have sufficient “depth of Engineering or financial, or logistical expertise” for solar (or whatever e.g. build smart-grids in downtown Accra), but are too soopid to learn nuclear?

        How many planets do we live on?

        Do you breath a different atmospheres to the rest of us?

        If the aim is to lower GLOBAL CO2 and GHG levels in EVERYONE’S atmosphere, then GIVING everybody on the WHOLE planet EQUAL access to clean energy is the most rational thing to do.

        With respect to Hinckley C and political fears over China misbehaving etc… try ordering 10, or a 100 or more reactors next time and reap the huge project management & manufacturing knowledge increase enabling much reduced time & increased costs benefits of mass production vs one off bespoke solutions, like Hinckley C.

        Also build small portable nuclear reactors (SMR) that are already being connected to the grid, build however many needed to defeat CO2 climate crisis, and export them to Ghana, so the locals just need to plug in, and ship them back for refuelling elsewhere a couple of decades later.

        Meanwhile bevin, there already is “a viable and permanent plan to handle its radioactive waste”. All the nuclear waste in the world so far is small enough to fit inside Wembley Stadium all stored safely. A microscopically tiny volume compared to every other kind of industrial waste.

        New generation-4 reactors being built now can burn “radioactive waste” safe as background in 300 years whilst yielding the remaining 98% of energy left in the waste that existing fleets of reactors could not access. Ask Tony Blair’s government why they refused GE Hitachi’s offer to build such a plant ‘PRISM’ and convert the 120tones stored at Sellafield into electricity to power the UK for a couple of centuries?
        https://www.theengineer.co.uk/prism-project-a-proposal-for-the-uks-problem-plutonium/
        https://nuclear.gepower.com/build-a-plant/products/nuclear-power-plants-overview/prism1

        It has long been asserted that nuclear reactor accidents are the epitome of low-probability but high-consequence risks. Understandably, with this in mind, some people are disinclined to accept the risk, however low the probability. Let them be reassured: Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island are the only major accidents to have occurred in over 17,000 cumulative reactor-years of commercial nuclear power operation in 33 countries. The global fleet of Nuclear reactors all now have massive concrete containment buildings, and multiple fail-safe operator independent systems making the chances of another Chernobyl or Fukushima style accident vanishingly small.

        Even when the next accident does occur, it will be relatively begin. Two years after the tsunami and meltdown at Fukushima in 2011, the World Health Organization reported in 2013 that residents who were evacuated were exposed to so little radiation that radiation-induced health effects were likely to be below detectable levels.
        http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/78218/1/9789241505130_eng.pdf
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster_casualties

        Evacuated residents are now returning.
        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/22/fukushima-diary-part-three-restoring-crops-and-a-sense-of-pride

        The amount of radioactivity typically reported in wildlife in the pacific ocean blamed on Fukushima is less than that found naturally in a banana.
        https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/11/16/fukushima-radiation-in-pacific-tuna-is-equal-to-one-twentieth-of-a-banana/#403e19316fe6
        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/16/going-bananas-over-radiation/

        Chernobyl is now Europe’s Largest Wildlife Refuge. Visitors to the 30 kilometre radius exclusion zone will get more radiation from the flight they take to get to a guided tour. According to biologists, far from a Nuclear wasteland, the exclusion zone has become a sanctuary for flora and fauna – precisely because people were forced to flee. National Geographic “30 Years After Chernobyl, Nature Is Thriving.” BBC “The Chernobyl exclusion zone is arguable a nature reserve.” The problem is that at the very low doses found in the exclusion zone, its practically impossible to correlate any irradiation with certain biological effects.

        This is because the baseline cancer rate is already very high with the risk of developing cancer already fluctuating 40% because of individual life style and environmental effects, obscuring the subtle effects of low-level radiation. Secondly, and this is crucial, the truth about low-dose radiation health effects still needs to be discovered. It’s still not exactly known whether these low doses of radiation are detrimental or beneficial nor where the thresholds are.

        Nonetheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that women who stayed in the exclusion zone have generally outlived their neighbours who stayed away, “happiness” — or relative happiness, anyway — is a key reason why. About 100 people live there now, the last remnants of more than 1,000 mostly older women who moved back into the exclusion zone in the weeks and months after the disaster.
        https://archive.org/details/atomichumanismthecasefornuclearpowerv1

        In comparison to nuclear fission power:-

        • Per kilo-watt hour of power generated : Natural Gas kills 38 times as many more people as Nuclear Power; Biomass 63 times; Petroleum 243; and Coal 387 times as many, perhaps a million globally a year
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightenment_Now (p147).

        • Energy sector related accident fatalities : global average deaths/millionGWhr: Coal (170,000); Oil (36,000); Biofuel/Biomass (24,000); Natural Gas (4,000); Hydro (1,400); Solar rooftop (440); Wind (150); Nuclear worst case estimates (90); Chernobyl (total direct deaths 47); Nuclear – commercial power plants only rest of the world (0).
        https://alexcoram.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/mathsnuclearumass2o13oooo1o.pdf

        • In equivalent lives lost per gigawatt generated annually : Coal = 37; Oil = 32; Gas = 2; Nuclear = 1 (i.e. loss of life expectancy from human exposure to pollutants)
        [IAEA (1997), table 4, p. 44.] 249

        If I were a Ghanaian I say ‘go fcuk yourself and shove any colonial bullsiht back where it came from’.

        • Deepgreenpuddock

          Natasha – is your second name Pangloss? Voltaire’s Candide explores/lampoons the mentality of Liebnitz as Pangloss – “All for the best in the best of all possible worlds” if I remember rightly.

          Essentially it was the view that all would turn out well. That all problems will be solved, or there are no problems that can’t be fixed with the power of positive thinking. Liebnitz was of course a mathematical genius, and to such people it must all seem simple. With a wave of of his handy notation, all is solved.

          And who is the colonialist? I think that would be you, wouldn’t it, by your own admission – the beneficiary of the late imperialism of the British empire. Your technophilic optimism/bullshit does not qualify you to insult me as someone intent on holding Africans in some kind of bondage of which, unlike yourself, I was never a part. That is just a cheap slur, and is a kind of bombast I would expect from someone with such a shallow technical appreciation.

          You can try to gloss over the Chernobyl and Fukishima disasters with your Panglossian gestures, but it simply won’t wash. The Japanese have been struggling to get round some mighty engineering problems (not to mention costs) related to Fukishima. And then you make light of the consequent pollution. One would almost, according to you, think the Japanese people welcomed the experience of surviving their nuclear calamity. And as for Chernobyl the costs were enormous i.e. probably fatal for the then USSR, not to mention the nuclear pollution that persists across Europe. But hey “all’s well in the end”, Madame Pangloss: they’ve got a fascinating experimental nature reserve out of it.

          OK I am not a great fan of the old USSR but unlike some people I don’t wish ill of it. Also you forgot to mention the Windscale disaster of the fifties when most of the North of England had to be dosed with iodine to dilute the radioactive iodine absorbed as a result of the explosion, or the 200 billion decommissioning cost of Douneray (not mentioning the contamination resulting from it) – which with a Panglossian squinT is great, because it keeps Thurso busy.

          Of course there is the conveniently-shovelled-out-of-sight problem of waste. A problem that has never been solved, and currently huge quantities are stored in Cumbria awaiting the go ahead to transport it through the countryside to some distant place (like Scotland). Are you serious, Mme Pangloss? What kind of ructions do you think would arise in such an event. I know I would be transformed into a civically disturbing entity PDQ along with just about every sentient person in the UK.
          BUT all for the best – no? Hey ho.

          As for the Hinckley C deal, it is truly toxic. We consumers are expected to pay swingeing amounts per unit of electricity to pay for the folly. Again we really don’t know how this is going to play out if and when the EPR ever ‘gets off the ground’ but regardless of the Tories punting the costs into the wide blue public yonder by some slick and sharp accountancy, I sense that the windscales may fall from the eyes of the British public before long.

          You fail to mention the extremely scarce and getting scarcer reserves of Uranium. As the idea of Uranium power takes hold the price will rise and while Uranium is not in itself scarce, decent reserves of it ARE becoming scarce. The cost of extraction will rise dramatically when we have to delve deeper and further to get the stuff, causing no end of environmental damage. All the good sources have been already taken up and it becomes necessary to exploit more and more marginal resources. Again, Mme Pangloss, let’s not worry about all that inconsequential stuff.

          All for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

          I could also mention the security risks, but that is a mere bagatelle in the best of all possible worlds.

          Now I don’t doubt that the possibility of human life continuing beyond the looming environmental crisis is receding fast, as we fail in so many ways to come to terms with our profligacy and environmental destruction and plundering. Finding a away through this very difficult minefield will not be achieved by your kind of simplistic panglossian nostrums.

          Anyway I am getting fed up of this.

          • Deepgreenpuddock

            I haven’t even examined your understanding of the implications of a nuclear power reactor project. It is very clear that you have no idea of the kinds of demands made by such a large project. It requires much deep expertise even to write the specifications for the concrete base.

            How many electrical engineers are there in Ghana who have the expertise to handle and bond the huge electrical conductors involved? What about the metallurgists required to test the metals, or the welders capable of welding the exotic metal alloys used in such projects?

            The reality is that a country like Ghana would not have sufficient engineers of the right type and calibre to even monitor the contractors activities. In effect, the country would be at the mercy of the entity they were paying to build the thing. Engineering projects of this scale require good financial arrangements and contracts that allow for the inevitable cock-up costs.

            Scale is of course important, as it relates to risk and complexity. If a contractor fails on a solar or other renewables project there will be another available to take up the slack. Not so for large complex projects. Why do so many large highly ambitious projects end up on the skids?

          • Natasha

            Deepgreenpuddock,

            Thanks for your somewhat unintended complement, in comparing the data I present and the inevitable conclusions it suggests, to Leibniz, Voltair and Pangloss!

            I am in a sense offended nonetheless. Mostly by you celebrating your unexamined irrationality at the expense of obscuring the data I try to present. In particular your snobby dismissal of that data when you write that “Finding a away through this very difficult minefield will not be achieved by your kind of simplistic panglossian nostrums.”

            Ironically enough for the future author of Candide (1759) and creator of the infamous character Dr Pangloss, it was none other than the German thinker Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), ‘perhaps a man of the most universal learning in Europe’, who had animated the universal network of communication that underpinned the intellectual revolution that had taken place decades earlier.

            Deepgreenpuddock, climb off your pony, pretend I don’t exist and face the data, why don’t you, and leave the thinly veiled comedic insults out?

            Despite so pleasantly misfiring your ad hominem deflection of the data I present, you back out of engaging with the conclusions I have invited people to reach – that nuclear fission is THERMODYNAMICALLY the ONLY way humanity has so far invented to replace fossil fuels if CO2 reduction is the aim – by saying you’re “getting fed up of this”!

            But you have offered not one iota that disputes this conclusion.

            Instead you whine about irrelevancies, like “security risks” as if nuclear weapons / poisons need a domestic power or radiological health sector to exist or thrive.

            And the so-called “waste problem” which is CAUSED and sustained by the sort of disinformation you pedal here. Let me repeat. The waste problem has been more than solved see PRISM.

            And “We consumers are expected to pay swingeing amounts per unit of electricity to pay for the folly.” Who gives a sh*t, really, if the alternative is human extinction?

            Also, if you were truly wedded to solving the engineering problem of energy supply, rather than mocking others in a cruelly neurotypical way (look it up) who are data driven to that end, you would know Uranium is dissolved in seawater in equilibrium with the rock on the sea bed, enough for all human energy needs until the sun boils the oceans dry. And on land there’s enough nuclear fuel for every human on the planet to live comfortably for centuries, so stop deflecting, eh?

            And then ‘straw-man’ attack me (August 12, 2020 at 21:03) stating its “very clear that you have no idea of the kinds of demands made by such a large project … Why do so many large highly ambitious projects end up on the skids?” when in fact I’d advocated nothing of the sort: “Also build small portable nuclear reactors (SMR) that are already being connected to the grid, build however many needed to defeat CO2 climate crisis, and export them to Ghana, so the locals just need to plug in, and ship them back for refuelling elsewhere a couple of decades later.” It’s already happening. Here’s a link to get you going on your new data-driven journey so you don’t forget next time.

            https://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/russian-nuclear-group-proposing-small-modular-reactors-for-africa-2020-06-24

            Do you want to stop Anthropic Global Warming or not Deepgreenpuddock?

            Then do yourself and readers here a favour: admit that energy supply, which *causes* AGW is at it heart a thermodynamic and engineering problem NOT what you insultingly dismiss as “simplistic panglossian nostrums” and NOT the political or emotionally driven one you seem to wish at heart it were describing it “a very difficult minefield”.

            Finally, I’m not here to chop you or anyone else down Deepgreenpuddock.

            I’m here just to offer data, so we don’t waste more time failing to purse the task at hand: decarbonising the *energy sector* GLOBALLY for ALL humans equally.

        • FlakBlag

          Natasha

          It seems very likely that we are past the tipping point regarding CO2, greenhouse gasses, climate change and other forms of environmental destruction. It is precisely because human beings do not act in a rational way at scale that we are in this predicament. Human civilization is on a course for collapse, the feedbacks have been triggered. It’s out of our hands now. We may still have some small scope to mitigate the damage in order to give future generations the best possible chance of avoiding total extinction, but a population bottleneck seems inevitable.

          It is access to vast quantities of energy (in the form of fossil fuels) that has allowed us to go into such an extreme population overshoot and wreak the environmental damage that so concerns you. You are proposing solving the problem by developing another form of energy more vast and potentially more destructive, fighting the fire by adding a new more flammable fuel.

          The collapse will occur over the next few decades; it will diminish the social, economic and political structures to the point that existing nuclear facilities will no longer be maintained. Regardless of how safe you feel nuclear energy is under current conditions it will not remain so. In addition, most nuclear reactors are located in places that are likely to be under water in a century.

          I believe that splitting any more atoms under these circumstances is lunacy.

          • Natasha

            FlakBlag,

            Please don’t ‘straw-man’ what I’m advocating here for Ghana. I am not, as you suggest “fighting the fire by adding a new more flammable fuel” that is your prejudice, fear and ignorance, which is not supported by empirical data nor theoretical modelling as I share above.

            What I *am* advocating for Ghana is to “build small portable nuclear reactors (SMR) that are already being connected to the grid, build however many needed to defeat CO2 climate crisis, and export them to Ghana, [i.e. everywhere] so the locals just need to plug in, and ship them back for refuelling elsewhere a couple of decades later.” It already happening. Here’s a link to get you going on your new data driven journey so you don’t forget next time.

            https://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/russian-nuclear-group-proposing-small-modular-reactors-for-africa-2020-06-24

            Also, Small Modular Reactors are portable, and will NOT be “under water in a century”. IF AGW is *caused* by human emissions of CO2 etc. (it is) then by your reckoning we have “a century” to reduce those emissions – by building replacement fleets of modular nuclear fission rectors – enough time to stop sea levels rising and flood out the fixed fleets, and / or decommission the most vulnerable ones first, no!?

            I believe that NOT “splitting more atoms under these circumstances is lunacy” since it is the only thermodynamically possible route out of the AGW dystopia you paint playing ‘Doomsday prediction games’ with comments like “past the tipping point” and “The collapse will occur over the next few decades; it will diminish the social, economic and political structures.”

            Instead of clouding out solutions that will help mitigate “a population bottleneck [that] seems inevitable” – get a shrink, pop some pills, and / or do some yoga / meditation, etc. so you can pay less attention to emotions when thinking about human access to energy and concentrate on solutions that satisfy the laws of thermodynamics and data, which all other factors are a sub-set of.

          • FlakBlag

            Natasha

            Any straw man on my part was unintentional, I was simply offering my viewpoint. You on the other hand have made several straw man arguments, and ad hominem comments to boot.

            I am well aware that the new small reactors aren’t the same as the old large reactors, and that many eco-modernists (you seem to be one) advocate their use. I disagree about them being a good idea. I am not an eco-modernist. I also know that they are portable, assuming you have cranes and trucks and roads and so on. My point about seal level rise was made in relation to existing reactors, perhaps I did not make that sufficiently clear.

            I don’t think for a second that we have a century to avert catastrophic climate change. I think it is too late to avert catastrophic climate change. I could link to lots of data, I spend way too much of my time investigating the issue, but suffice it to say that the information is out there, feedbacks and all. Even conservative and politically compromised organizations such as the IPCC indicate that things are going to get very very bad. In the end it will be climate change and other forms of environmental damage that solve the CO2 problem, or rather they will solve the people-problem and that will end fossil fuel use.

            Really the issue is one of balance. Through the use of our big brains our species has developed technologies such as agriculture and fossil-fuel burning engines. This has allowed us to temporarily exceed what would normally be the limits on our population. Climate change is a symptom, not a cause in itself. The environmental problems we see, including things like the current pandemic, are nature pushing back, trying to right the imbalance.

            As for thermodynamics…. You will no doubt have heard of the Gaia Hypothesis, which postulates that we consider the entire biosphere a single super-organism. Perhaps in a similar way civilization can be considered a single super-machine. The second law of thermodynamics implies that one cannot construct a machine that cleans up it’s own mess. You are proposing modifying the super-machine with components to clean up the mess. You are suggesting that technology be used to solve the problems caused by technology. I restate: you are proposing solving the problem by developing another form of energy more vast and potentially more destructive, fighting the fire by adding a new more flammable fuel.

            Please don’t mistake me for a nihilist or a Luddite. I have children and grandchildren who I love very much, I have no wish for them to grow up in hell, be impoverished, or not grow up at all. We can never go back, only forward. I do however have a low tolerance for false hope and unrealistic agendas that are lacking in objectivity, realism, and both the breadth and depth of their conception. I have no doubt you have a better grasp on many of the facts and figures related to your proposal than I do, it’s all the other things I’m worried about, what’s outside the frame of the picture you paint.

            What exactly do you think will happen when agriculture can no longer reliably feed the majority of human beings on this planet? How do you think our species will react? Do you agree that we are living in a mass extinction event and that in such events it tends to be the larger, more complex and more specialized animals that die out? If you do then what specific process do you think will result in human extinction? As other posters have mentioned, we currently have no good solution to dealing with nuclear waste. In a world even more chaotic than the one we live in now what do you think the chances if handling that waste safely will be? I am well aware of the ecological rebound in the Chernobyl exclusion area, that it is due to the absence of human activity, but the animals there do experience significantly increased rates of cancer. Do you concede that nuclear waste is dangerous? That ingesting an alpha-emitting particle isn’t the same as ingesting a banana that contains trace levels of a beta-emitter? What would happen if there was no facility to service these reactors and they were abandoned?

            I can assure you that I am not in need of psychological “help”, I am in fact quite sane, though it took most of my life to learn how to be so. I was in a relationship with a psychologist for a number of years, through that experience I learned that psychology is a discipline concerned with promoting conformity to prevalent norms. Contemporary mainstream psychology sees “mental illness” as a flaw in the individual (though it concedes that experiences can play a role). While there are undoubtedly a number of genuine and tragic mental illnesses, virtually all of what is considered neurosis is a reaction to the experience of living in an unnatural society. Human beings evolved to live as hunter-gatherers in small tribal groups. Living in unnatural polluted hyper-stimulated dehumanizing people-hives is profoundly damaging. Neuroses are a natural reaction to a societal malaise, the symptoms of which are often exhibited in the individuals within the society. Being well adjusted to a sick society is not indicative of good mental health.

            I recognize your humanity Natasha, that you are experiencing the anxiety that comes from realizing that our lives are unsustainable. It is an awareness I have had since childhood, I share your worries. I understand and share the urge to do something about it. I think your proposed endeavour will make matters worse, not better. Personally I think a rapid and as-compassionate-as-possible de-industrialization is our best bet. Localization, permaculture, minimalism, community. I might be wrong, but there’s no reason to insult me.

            *Hugs*

          • Natasha

            Thank you for your kind considerate reply [August 14, 2020 at 00:28], where you ask “Do you agree that we are living in a mass extinction event..”

            But such a statement is a very poor starting axiom, so my reply is: it depends. The future of human civilisation is entirely up to us: we choose.

            If we mess about with only with low energy density harvesting technology (wind solar water) and no high energy density (fossil nuclear) then yes, in many ways human civilisation, if we were to go back to the sorts of power available to people in the pre oil & coal world of centuries ago, is doomed to shrink in many dimensions.

            I too used to share your mind set (from reading the Whole Earth Catalogue at school in the 60s to setting up Transition Town 50 years later etc.) advocating “a rapid and as-compassionate-as-possible de-industrialization.”

            But none of the anti-nuclear fission objections you and others here have raised are based in the real world of engineering and risk modelling. They are irrational, likely based on the same sorts of ignorance & misunderstandings causing fear that I had to work through, being a victim of propaganda that deliberately conflated anti nuclear weapons with nuclear power.

            Now it very clear to me that we can have “Localization, permaculture, minimalism, community” but we don’t *need* to power down to enjoy these ways of being.

            My aim here is to invite others – like our friends in Ghana – to join us on an energy rich journey.

            I recognize your humanity too FlakBlag 🙂

        • Giyane

          Natasha

          ” Also build small portable … ” nuclear reactors. This is the official plan for all our energy needs. I live next to a gas powered power station in Birmingham . It also burns cardboard waste which smells terrible.

          The local canals are possibly already used for cooling and they also stink. This government thinks, like so many governments before it , that slow soft selling of Nuclear power will work on us dumb citizens. It won’t.

          Thermodynamic is a long word you love using. When Saltley does a Port of Beirut when your lovely , cute portable little nuclear power station, explodes. I’ll remember that word in my previous dying seconds of descent into the 14 meter crater where my house used to be.

          And Beirut was only chemical fertiliser.
          Birmingham will be put down to curry methane and Brum gull poo.

          • Natasha

            Giyane,

            I had to stop when I read “This government thinks…” ha ha! Really?

            The ONLY reason nuclear fission will prevail over non thermal wind, water & solar is because my “favourite word” tell us so. If humans continue to ignore its message, there will less and less of us (yes, I think I’m one too;-) left to say otherwise. So its up to you and governments to wake up to my “favourite word”, and stop making your own worst fears come true, by binding yourself to irrelevancies (such as fertiliser in Beirut).

            In that sense then yes, maybe, people do need “that slow soft selling of Nuclear power” as that method perhaps *is* “the only way” to force you to accept thermodynamics, that “will work on us [speak for yourself] dumb citizens.”?

    • Paul Bancroft

      Here our current non-solution to nuclear waste:

      Into Eternity – FULL DOCUMENTARY – V.O ENG + ESP SUB

      ENG: Into Eternity is a feature documentary film directed by Danish director Michael Madsen, released in 2010. It follows the construction of the Onkalo waste repository at the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant on the island of Olkiluoto, Finland. Director Michael Madsen questions Onkalo’s intended eternal existence, addressing an audience in the remote future.

      Into Eternity raises the question of the authorities’ responsibility of ensuring compliance with relatively new safety criteria legislation and the principles at the core of nuclear waste management.

      When shown on the British More digital television channel on 26 April 2011, the name Nuclear Eternity was used. It received a special mention in the Sheffield Green Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2010.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayLxB9fV2y4

      nuclear power is neither clean nor sustainable – no matter what you say.

      • Spencer Eagle

        Into Eternity is fascinating, I remember watching it when it first appeared. Regarding waste storage facilities, one of the key points they were making was how do you tell another civilization, say 100,000 years from now, that they must stay away. Anthropologists mused that at some point in a far distant and developing civilization they will start mining, they all do, so sooner or later they could mine the still highly dangerous waste with disastrous consequence for future humanity. Nuclear reactors generate some of the most deadly and long-lasting radionuclides in the world. Chlorine-36 has a half-life of 300,000 years and neptunium-237 a half-life of 2 million years.

      • Natasha

        Misinformation see PRISM:-
        https://www.theengineer.co.uk/prism-project-a-proposal-for-the-uks-problem-plutonium/
        https://nuclear.gepower.com/build-a-plant/products/nuclear-power-plants-overview/prism1

        Summary: SOLVED: Radioactive for 300,000 years ‘Wast Storage Problem’ reduced to 300 years. The current global fleet of Generation III Nuclear reactors uses only about 2% of the energy in their uranium fuel. The remaining 98% remains in the spent fuel. But new Generation IV reactors can recover all that otherwise wasted energy by ‘burning it down’ to generate electricity simultaneously rendering it safe as background radiation in 300 years. These reactors have multiple passive fail-safe features and are now being built in China and will be available with its policy to ‘go global’ exporting Nuclear technology.

        Recycle Generation III Nuclear ‘Waste’ and Nuclear Warheads as Fuel for new Generation IV Reactors. In the UK in 2006 GE/Hitachi wanted to build such a generation IV rector design called PRISM with no upfront public plant commissioning costs and income only from selling the electricity generated from 120 tonnes of spent fuel ‘waste’ (from the current fleet of Generation III reactors) sitting in storage tanks at Sellafield enough for 500 years or so of all UK post-carbon electricity demand.

        Anti-nuclear idiots advised Blair’s government to refuse this generous offer to secure UK electricity and significantly reduce the UKs contribution to AGW, and secure advanced technology experience to sell the world, in practice as far as you or I am concerned for ever.

      • Kempe

        What else is there apart from nuclear? One of the UK’s few remaining coal power stations was re-activated recently because of low wind speeds and the heat. Gas fired generators are much less efficient during hot weather of which we’re going to get a lot more in years to come. There are no more sites suitable for large hydro-electric plants in the UK, solar is no use in the winter, or even when it’s overcast and raining like today. The only alternative is more interconnectors to import electricity from more far sighted nations such as France which just shifts the problems into someone else’s back yard.

        All remaining coal fired stations and half our existing nukes will be gone by 2025. Better start stocking up on candles.

  • SA

    ” But how do the food miles involved factor into climate change? ”
    The problem inherently is that of a monopoly on a staple food. But the current situation means that the third world must continue to export raw or less refined material and be at the whims of importers and refiners and manufacturers, AND the local producers also suffer because the beet sugar will be undercut. So the answer for me at least, for what it is worth is for the sake of the planet a tariff on imported sugar whether raw or refined should be the same.
    As for third world agriculture the lesson also has to be learned that self dependence means diversification and not overdependence on whims of international trade, so self sufficiency above all, and export dependence only if it is tied to high quality product such as the production of finished chocolate rather than export of cocoa beans, as your friend suggests. Things have to adapt.

  • nevermind

    A very interesting dilemma, sugar, in all its forms. what is fascinating me is that most species will move/fly miles for something sweet or salty for that matter.

    Equally, the fermented forms of sugar are equally attractive to many species, moose, elk, blackbirds and humans.
    Sugar has moved from a luxuary of the rich to a commodity that keeps them rich. We are the gullible consumers, hooked willing modern slaves to sugar.
    The queues at drive throughs and cheap purveyors of sugary/salty foods sold in what they dare to call restaurants, make it onvipus that the establishment has found the perfect drug of the masses.

    Today is a sad day when the racists who murdered Stephen Lawrence won, with the help of the law and the police.
    25 years of reports, fine speeches and ganging up have resulted in NO FURTHER CASE TO BE ANSWERED. Racists 1 Stephen Lawrence dead.

    Im sure it has got the full support of Keir and his new Tory friends.

    • Mary

      I wrote to my Tory MP, now gone, asking her to support the proposal for a sugar tax. She was actually a junior Health and Social Care minister at the time. She refused. Then I found her on a video speaking to the Food and Drink Federation* supporting their members and work. She became an Independent MP and disappeared without trace. The newbie is wet, a New Zealander, who was shoed in to the seat and the Tory sheeple round here did the necessary. She has hardly said a word but goes through the lobby for the voting. There is no democracy in the real meaning of the word.

      I have just looked at her tweets. They are mostly HMG handouts. ‘Look after your dog in the heat.’ HandsFaceSpace etc etc

      * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_and_Drink_Federation

    • Nickle101

      “Sugar has moved from a luxury of the rich to a commodity that keeps them rich. We are the gullible consumers, hooked willing modern slaves to sugar.”

      The amount of space in modern supermarkets dedicated to highly processed, high-sugar foods is staggering: breakfast cereals, sweets, biscuits, cakes, soft drinks, many prepared meals, and so on. The amount of space dedicated to ‘real’ food is quite small by comparison. All this is organized round highly subsidized ‘commodities’ such as sugar. The result is a society that is getting ever more unhealthy.

      Its a double whammy: a multi-billion dollar processed ‘food’ industry is ‘feeding’ a multi-billion dollar ‘health’ industry, leaving us poorer with an ever decreasing health-span, if not life-span. It makes the rich richer and the poor poorer in every sense of the word.
      .

  • frankywiggles

    I find offensive your suggestion that the Tory government is favouring the interests of its donors above the interests of the developing world. Just this morning on R4 the minister for the middle east and north Africa, James Cleverly, reiterated a common Tory belief that “Nelson Mandela was the defining politician of my generation”. It’s why he and many of his peers joined the party that supported apartheid, branded Mandela a terrorist and wore t-shirts demanding that he be hanged. The Conservative party has always been committed to its particular vision of the interests of the developing world. Passionately so.

    • Goose

      Matt Kennard ( of Declassified) seems to be the only one asking those questions about Starmer.

      The more you read, the more uncomfortable it becomes : https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/04/07/star-a07.html

      It seems he was almost certainly groomed for the Labour leadership role. And now he sits like some Security State cuckoo in Labour’s nest. Looking utterly miserable he, he recently stated he “hated selling himself to the[Labour’s] membership” during the leadership campaign. And that makes more sense if what Matt Kennard is investigating is correct.

      • Goose

        The risk is, you end up in a situation where intel agencies aren’t protecting democracy, democratically elected plants & stooges are serving and protecting them; with the perceived roles reversed and the public completely unaware.

        How anyone involved in that can think that a good situation is beyond comprehension? Imagine trying to justify that?

        • David

          Intel agencies aren’t protecting democracy

          So, would you trust the prose of a writer who was deported from Uzbekistan for criticizing President Karimov; a writer who later coined the phrase “Vampire Squid” for some elements of Wall Street; and is an Editor at Rolling Stone magazine?

          He doesn’t mention Nigeria, nor Sugar, but he definitely does worry about the Cambridge four ‘Intel-agents’
          *That election* in about 83 days folks, just 3-months more of “protecting democracy” to go

          taibbi.substack.com/p/the-spies-who-hijacked-america

          • Goose

            The US and J. Edgar Hoover are a good example of how it happens. It’s happened before, don’t know why do people think it can”t happen again?

            Five Eyes seems to be outgrowing democracy and democratic control. To those who’d say that’s rubbish. I ‘d ask could anyone get elected in the UK to lead the Tories or Labour on a platform of Five Eyes withdrawal? Australia has implemented laws effectively banning encryption and the opposition party didn’t even oppose it.

        • Goose

          Some might ask what’s the relevance of FIVE EYES, it’s just an intel sharing relationship, but it’s far more than that.

          All members of FVEYS have to share the same intrinsic political and foreign policy objectives, they have to if it’s to work with mutual trust between members; as they share sensitive data on foreign govts etc. You couldn’t have a political party, or leader eg.Corbyn, who is fundamentally opposed to key aspects of US foreign policy and have the UK remain a member. This isn’t discussed by UK politicians but the ties that bind the UK to the US are clearly far more onerous, than those we’re said to be freeing ourselves by Brexiting. This is why when Pompeo was recorded saying the US will do its “level best” to prevent Corbyn from ever being elected, it’s concerning.

          • Goose

            Not stating anything new here, realise that.

            But the people who bound the UK as a junior partner so tightly to the US and its worldview, are at best , guilty of disloyalty to the people who elected. them. Maintaining the intel relationship is dictating the political choices we are being allowed in the UK and probably in AUS, NZ, CAN.

          • Goose

            ….Five Eyes makes it impossible to take different foreign policy positions without leaving the grouping.

            Take for example, recognition of Juan Guaidó, what if a Maduro sympathetic Corbyn had been elected and GCHQ (hypothetically) had installed snooping malware on close Maduro confidants and associates, and members of his cabinet, for Washington. You’d have conflict between security priorities and the elected govt of the day. Same with the official recognition of Palestine, something the US would no doubt vehemently oppose. There have been disagreements over Iran and the JCPOA ,but I’d wager privately they’re on the same page now, and on Syria they’ve always been in lockstep.

            My gripe is how people in London have co-opted the UK into subservience to US foreign policy without asking anyone in the UK if they wanted that. If not having an independent UK foreign policy doesn’t bother you (like most MPs) then you’ll have no problem with that. But coming from those on the right preaching at us that Brexit restores our sovereignty, it’s a bit rich.

    • Goose

      The Guardian wants to concentrate on the fact she’s of mixed-race, as though that’s a virtue in and of itself and character doesn’t matter.

      Doesn’t take a genius to understand why.

      • Ken Kenn

        Fair point.

        There are ‘Sisters’ and sisters.

        There are ‘ Brothers’ and brothers.

        It is seen in racial aspects but it is rife in the general political discourse.

        There are sister and brothers that count – but only for the benefit of the sisters and brothers elected and not those brothers and sisters that voted for them.

        I repeat – it is not a racial thing.

        Hilary Clinton would not have been a ‘ Sister ‘ of my mother for instance.

        But my mother would have been a ‘ Sister ‘ of Jeremy Corbyn without a doubt.

        As would my Grandmother.

        But no doubt Hillary would say “We are all ‘Sisters’

        To these people words are just meaningless.

        Does that mean that Johnson is my Brother?

        Perish the thought.

        • Goose

          During his despotic reign Robert Mugabe actually compared himself to Adolf Hitler.

          The idea being black, or any other race for that matter, automatically guarantees sensitivity or compassion for others of the same ethnicity is demonstrably false. Only the Guardian with its unquestioning centrist hacks could push such nonsense.
          ———

          Tho, were I a US citizen, I might still vote Biden Harris, over Trump Pence, using the old ‘lesser of two evils’ logic.

          The real question is why is US politics so godawful?

          • N_

            Idi Amin praised Adolf Hitler too (a few years before the raid on Entebbe).

            Not that the thesis that there is no ethnic group of which membership guarantees that a person is a decent human being requires much argument in support, since it is so obviously true. But Mugabe and Amin are useful cases to cite against the section of the “far left” who say they “support everyone who fights against western (or German, or I**aeli) imperialism”.

            Guardianistas who are patting Kamala Harris on the head for being non-white as well as having tits mostly didn’t seem to notice in 2016 that the most vilely sexist male candidate in recent memory was fighting against a female opponent and that that was part of the reason he won a lot of his support – including in fact from quite a few white anti-anti-sexist women as well as from lardarsed white male Alex Jones wannabes. The US could give Australia a run for its money, any day of the week, in a “which country has a bigger proportion of its electorate who are sexist a*seholes?” competition.

            Talking of identity, there is probably an embarrassing tape of US ambassador Woody Johnson…and if so maybe it will come out. Punches seem to be being pulled in what’s being said about the guy’s bullying behaviour. Somebody might be trying to give Trump some rope. “He’s a great guy”, etc. “He’s tremendous”. Then publish the tape.

  • james

    craig – good article… regarding your questions at the end.. i think it is better for a local community to produce and be in command of its food… this would apply here as well… one result would probably be people eating less refined sugar as well! and i think this would answer some of the issue of climate change where the importing of food supports continuation of climate change in the wrong direction.. learn to be self sufficient, whether personally, or nationally.. it will help the planet…

    • N_

      Climate changed isn’t caused by human activity.

      Reducing the distances over which food is moved would reduce pollution though. Set against that. the rulers clearly feel a big extermination campaign coming on…or “population control”… It’s like artificial sweeteners (why the hell do they even exist?) times about a million.

    • Stuart

      Reply to N_’s bullshit

      “The US could give Australia a run for its money, any day of the week, in a “which country has a bigger proportion of its electorate who are sexist a*seholes?” competition.”

      What you know about Australia can be written on the back of a postage stamp and 90% would be wrong anyway. I was born and bred a Scot, emigrated to Australia as a 10yo and worked and studied in the USA for 5 years. I know far more about Australia and the USA than you will ever know and as a Scot and British citizen I’ve maintained an interest in Scotland and British affairs. I’m appalled at the way Britain has degenerated into a violent, racist and xenophobic society of soccer hooligans and BNP & UKIP supporters – where you can be murdered for wearing the wrong colour on match day or stabbed to death while waiting for a bus for having the wrong colour skin. The pro- Brexit vote AFAICS was a combination of racism, xenophobia and “let’s give those gits in London a kicking”.Maybe Britain was always like that but in my childhood innocence I didn’t recognise it. None of these things happen in Australia which is a tolerant civilised country unlike Britain. As for the allegations of sexism, ignore the rantings of that octogenarian fantasist Germaine Greer. Women in Australia had the vote long before the UK. There have been women Premiers in several States in the past and currently in NSW and Queensland. As for a***holes the UK has more than its fair share, including you N_.

  • Christophe Douté

    It came to my mind, on reading this article on Nigeria, that the currency scam with the official rate of the dollar is what has been going on in Venezuela for many years (or went on for many years if it has now stopped). Helping to create the so-called “boliburguesía”. That would explain why the government never resolved that currency problem. And I speak as someone favourable to “chavismo”.

  • Parenti

    re-Natasha
    “The arithmetic is simple enough. Fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – make up 84.5 percent of our energy consumption. Hydroelectricity accounts for 7 percent; nuclear 4.5 percent. Wind and solar – the supposed salvation of human civilisation – provide 3 percent; with other renewables adding one percent.”
    https://consciousnessofsheep.co.uk/2020/08/06/failing-to-square-the-circle/

    ” The energy-density difference, … A kilogram of wood contains around 4,300 kcals; a kilogram of coal contains around 6,000 kcals; and a kilogram of diesel contains around 10,900 kcals. By contrast, two often proposed replacements for oil and coal are far more energy-dense. A kilogram of hydrogen gas contains around 33,900 kcals; while a kilogram of uranium contains some 19,269,000,000 kcals (if only someone could figure out how to cheaply and safely utilise either).”
    https://consciousnessofsheep.co.uk/2020/07/20/the-symptom-of-our-disease/

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