Gail in China: In Her Own Words and Pictures

Aired on  Our Finite World and the Doomstead Diner on April 29, 2015

Also available as a downloadable mp3:

As regular readers of  Our Finite World and the Doomstead Diner know, Gail recently took a month long trip to China, where she was invited by Professor Feng to give a compact University course to undergraduate students (with graduate students and faculty sitting in if they liked) at the China University of Petroleum in Beijing.

China University of Petroleum – Beijing (CUPB) is a national key university in China, located in the world famous scenic Changping District, the area close to the Great Wall and Ming Tombs. It is one of the 100 institutions implementing the national “211 Project”.

The university is equipped with the first-class facilities, including a library with a collection of 300,000 books, modernized classrooms, new computer facilities and a comprehensive sports center.

Above all, CUPB has an excellent academic staff body of 545, including 121 full professors and 128 associate professors.

Unfortunately, internet access from China is limited for a couple of reasons.  First off, any number of websites (like Google for example) get the Thumbs Down from the Chinese government.  WordPress is another site not well liked by the Chinese Central Committee.  While you can access some WordPress sites from China, actually getting onto your Admin board to do publication work is close to impossible.  Besides that, access is spotty in terms of bandwidth and speed, so even if a site is theoretically accessible, the infrastructure won’t allow you to access it in any usable form in many locations.  So Gail was a bit concerned before leaving that she wouldn’t be able to fill in the OFW readers on her trip while she was over there. personally am notorious for finding end-around means of getting things up on the net that are otherwise difficult to do (you have to be creative when you get booted off as many websites as I have been. 😀 ), so when Gail mentioned this problem on OFW, I emailed her and suggested she send me her Updates from China * in email, which I would then publish for her on OFW under my byline.  While website work is pretty tough from China, you can pretty much get your emails out.  How well this plan would actually work was a question mark since neither of us had tried such a thing before, but it turned out to work marvelously well.

Upon her return here to the USA, basically RIGHT OFF THE PLANE, I snagged Gail for an Interview while her recollections of the China Trip were still fresh in her mind, despite the Jet Lag of course.  😀   We cover numerous topics in this discussion, including Chinese economic issues, Water and Air Pollution issues, Demographic issues and venture off as well into discussion of the various monetary issues we see ongoing in Europe as well.

As these things go, this one is one of the best we have ever done, right up there with my personal favorite with David Korowicz, the Irishman with the Gift of the Blarney Stone who wrote Financial System Cross-Contagion: A Study in Global Systemic Collapse and a few other well documented and researched papers.  Also right up there with the most popular discussion generally speaking with Nicole Foss (aka Stoneleigh) of The Automatic Earth blog.

Hope you enjoy the discussion.  While you listen, here below are a few more pictures from Gail from the China Trip.  You can find more of them in the China Trip articles in the archives on Our Finite World.

In Taich Electric Board Room

Inside the Taichi Electric boardroom where we met with officials. The people shown came with our group, however. Lots of smoking; windows were open and no heat despite  temperature in the low 50s. No elevators in buildings we visited.

Inside graduate student officeInside the graduate students’ office where I spent my time in Beijing when not teaching. Note blue jacket, backpack, and purse. 

Where we met at third factoryWhere we met at the 3rd factory we visited in the electrical industry in Wenzhou. The individual shown is a retired professor who accompanied us on the trip.

Popular cheap noodle dishPopular cheap Chinese noodle dish in the school cafeteria. It consisted of tomato sauce with vegetables, noodles and a fried egg on top. It came with unlimited refills on the noodles and sauce, for the equivalent of $1.30.

Some sea food at restaurantPart of seafood selection at a Chinese restaurant. Most fish was cooked and served whole. Eating it with chop sticks was challenging.

Equivalent of UPS delivery for studentsThe equivalent of UPS delivery for students at the university. If a student knows the date a package is expected to come, the student can go and check the sidewalk for it. I didn’t find out what happens when it rains or snows.

Shrine at third factoryMapShrine at the 3rd factory in Wenzhou. Religious expression seems to be permitted in some areas outside of Beijing.

*Gail’s China Trip Travelogue Posts

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About Reverse Engineer

Reverse Engineer is Admin and Chief Cook & Bottlewasher on the Doomstead Diner Blog & Forum, and hosts the Collapse Cafe Video Discussions and Podcasts, and the Frostbite Falls Daily Rant spleen venting Collapse-tainment show. Fans of George Carlin, Bill Hicks and Rick Mercer tend to like the material, Academic folks, not so much.

240 thoughts on “Gail in China: In Her Own Words and Pictures

  1. Hi,
    Thought I would add that “People” magazine has a 10 year anniversary issue commemorating “Dancing with the Stars” that has provided needed relief from the doom and gloom.
    You can obtain a copy at your local Walmart checkout lane. Buy several as they will be prized after the “fall”‘ and will undoubtedly be much sought for as barter.

  2. Dear Gail,

    since some time I have been following your blog as I am interested in the “affordability approach”.
    Personally I am not afraid of reducing energy spending, life is beautiful in a lot of ways. In fact I doubt more the crazyness and selfishness of some people and their games of power than technical challenges.

    Today I had some time to make some rough, defective and totally unprofessional calculations I’d like to share nevertheless:

    The german government estimated in 2013 a theoretically and technically achievable potential of annually 2.900 TWh by classic onshore wind power stations (without economic efficiency calculation).

    Germany’s primary energy consumtion is specified (eurostat) as roughly 300 Mio TOE that is about 3.500 TWh. Maybe that could be installed with some more offshore mills added. Assumed a 2 MW windmill generates 4.000 MWh annually, then 3.500.000.000 MWh / 4.000 MWh = 875.000 windmills are needed, each with costs of about 4,5 Mio EURS makes a 3.938 Mrd EURs investment (Mrd are US billons) – the german annual GDP amounts to 3.100 EURs.

    A study suggests a fair price of 0,10 EURs/kWh for amortisation of 2 MW mills in Austria. 3 Mio TOE = 3.489.000.000.000 KWh/a x 0,10 EURs/kWh = 348,9 Mrd EURs annually. Currently industrial consumers pay averaged 0,12 EURs/KWh (Eurostat) in Europe and in Finland (lowest price level) 0,08 EURs. Natural gas for household consumers is priced average 0,065 EURs/KWh, in Sweden 0,123 and in Romania 0,029 – that is due to taxes. Industrial consumers pay average 0,041 EURs. The average Euro-super 95 price per litre was 1,53 EURs that amounts to (1l ~ 11 kWh) 0,173 EURs/kWh. Electricity costs for household consumers in Germany mounted up to 0,298 EUR/KWh average in 2013. Photovoltaic in Germany can produce electricity for 0,078 – 0,142 EURs/KWh

    New approaches to improve the EROI use kites. There are several concepts, running on rails or underwater or letting kites circle in eights releasing the guy rope exciting an electric generator winch. The kite is then retracted on a more direct way. Asserted 100-500 KW, not too much. They promise prices of 0,04 EURs/KWh.

    Another approach is a solar thermal power with mirrors melting salt, the current price is about 0,12 EUR/KWh, other sources speak of 9 – 22 cents and expect a fall of 50% during the next 5 years.

    It is possible to convert electricity into fuel.
    If the price fits it would solve a lot of problems that occur with electric transportation and storage.
    The combination of a solar plant in the desert delivering synthetic fuel that could be transported and used like oil would solve all our problems. It is also possible to create hydrogen directly from sunlight and convert this to methane

    If we assume an price for electricity of 4 cents and 11kWh per liter we would need 44 cents for the energy – to keep the fuel price of 1,53 EURs we still have 1,09 EURs per litre for fuelification, transport, taxes and to save banks.

    What is the resumee of this little survey? From the german/european point of view to substitute fossile fuels completely a huge investment has to be made and probably some more research. But this investment is not completely irrealistic. There are some hopeful approaches that indicate renewable energy need not be more expensive than fossile fuels today. Maybe fossile fuel already is to expensive but that’s another discussion. In case these optimistic forecasts will not come true, industrial consumers will have to pay 3x the current price for natural gas. That is only three times, not thirty times!

    Now I will walk up the garden path (Jetzt begebe ich mich auf’s Glatteis!): If a product was made 100% out of energy it would become 3x more expensive. Usually products are not made 100% out of energy but a lot of energetic aspects (transportation, higher wages to pay the more expensive heating) might sum up.

    Let’s say the average product would become double as expensive – and now is the point – wouldn’t that mean life standard has to decline 50%? Because people could just afford 50% of the products they buy now?

    But a 50% reduction is still more than what we have seen in the 19th century and much more than a lot of people have currently in the third world – and survive happily. Modern economy and lifestyle in general could still be possible – that would not mean stoneage again!

    Yes, that would mean a change and a change of course has network effects like your Leonardo sticks or the Mikado pin-up sticks. And it is a large system change – but it is not open ended it will end up at least after three times higher energy costs!

    If your scenario comes true though that energy prices are already too high or oil production breaks down suddenly and the substituting capacities are not yet established then we are fucked up thanks to our golden, intelligent, histeric elite!

    There is one more point: If let’s say Europe or China or the USA have three times higher energy costs than Russia, Iran, and Saudi-Arabia what will that mean for the balance of power? Will the importing countries try to steal the cheap resources or will the countries with cheap resources try to use them to produce cheaper products or to lead a war against the countries with less resources because the latter cannot defend?

    Thanks for wading through my English!


    • We need much lower energy prices than we have currently to keep the system going. Our high energy prices are bringing the system down. Matching current energy prices is not nearly good enough. Try for the equivalent of $20 barrel oil.

  3. Gail, we need a Finite World News service. News covered from a finite world perspective. FWN, “all the news in perspective”.

    1) Senator Shmuzer calls for increased infrastructure spending at a time when such spending provides negative five cents per dollar spent.

    2) Presidential candidate Loveya outlines path to citizenship for all at a time when twenty states are running out of potable water.

    3) Bipartisan support for six new LNG terminals along the east coast is questioned by Tverberg who points out that a third of the industry is loosing money.

  4. Matthew – your garden house connected to a water ram won’t work.

    Let’s say at the last moment the PTB remove all fuel from all reactors and put it into storage ponds.

    There will be no way to dry cask any of the fuel rods post collapse. That requires very complex machinery. So the fuel will need to be cooled for many decades.

    Storage ponds require continuous maintenance.

    Let’s see what happens when a fuel pond is not maintained properly:

    As far as I know the UK and US economies are still functioning. There are no riots or chaos in either country. The electricity is still on. Spare parts are still available.

    Yet look at the state of their nuclear institutions.

    Post collapse you think this will improve? Good luck with that

    • Never under estimate people’s capacities for complacency, corruption and incompetence … that is pretty shocking. At first glance I immediately assumed the reactor was in the FSU …

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