The generator psyop
Autumn in France (2022)
I live in France, a country whose government is currently preparing the population for a winter with rolling blackouts, and said population is responding to the risk of blackouts by buying generators, inverters, batteries, and candles.
What percentage of the population is buying generators, and how many and what kind of generators, is hard for me to determine, but Google Trends shows at least a tripling of related local queries since May 2022. I’ve noticed a certain popular model has become unavailable at hardware stores, nation-wide, due to high demand. I’ve also been seeing more news stories in past months on companies acquiring industrial grade generators. Such acquisitions are also driven by cost control, because we may expect times when it’ll simply be cheaper to convert petrol into power than to buy power from utilities. I expect all large companies and their consulting service providers are also studiously examining and preparing for this scenario.
If the global economy slows down or crashes, it seems likely that global fuel demand will drop and that this will exert downward pressure on price. Simultaneously, European power production is expected not to be capable of matching demand this winter, due to volume restrictions on gas supply. We’ve been hearing about massive power bill increases, but this just means people will restrict their consumption, or not pay their bills. So, all-in-all, a scenario in which more people and companies find generators cost-effective seems quite plausible.
Industrial companies can either 1) get generators, 2) shut down and wait, either for improved conditions, or to be acquired and shipped out, or 3) ship themselves out to places where energy costs are lower and the volume of supply is less constrained. Until the energy supply problem is fixed, those are the only available options. Overall, these options are awful. Could it be perhaps that the industrial and power sectors in France and Europe have rather little political power within our systems?
If you’re on the French left, chances are that targeting companies like TotalEnergies for punishment is a ritual-level component of your worldview. Emotionally satisfying, but fundamentally stupid.
The supralocal strategy of Yannis Varoufakis
Are there people on the left who get the fact that risks are being transferred to the industrial sector from somewhere else, and not the opposite? Yes, of course. There’s Yannis Varoufakis, for one, and there are surely others.
Yannis Varoufakis recently made the case that power companies are not the real beneficiaries of the coming revision of the European energy pricing system. According to him, the real power centre of our "oligarchic" system is the finance sector (edgy take.) He claims it takes 20 minutes or so to explain how this works.
What's his plan to fix the problem then? Yannis Varoufakis proposes democratisation as a solution to the systemic crisis of the European oligarchy. This democratisation seeks to expand the power of the local component of the system, by increasing its cohesion and force. The idea of Varoufakis’ movement is to increase force, among other things, by including more migrants into the local base of the system. It would appear that this idea is common to other leftist movements and parties.
The increased power of the local component of the system would then be used to transfer risk to the oligarchs instead of them transferring risk to the rest of the system. See the video linked above for a more detailed 20 minute version of this idea.
All in all, the sovereignty movement Varoufakis is part of pursues a supralocal strategy, which promises to rapidly deliver high emotional energy returns, but low physical energy returns in the short term. And the emotional energy requires you to believe in leftist ideas. Socialism. Communism.
It becomes a sociological question.
The extralocal strategy of Elon Musk
As individuals, we are not bound by sociology and we look at problems from an extralocal perspective. The extralocal perspective on blackouts is that we want options to avoid suffering from low temperatures where we live, first of all. Recall that most heating systems require power to operate, including gas, fuel, biomass, heat pumps, etc. So we either bring in some new source of power and/or heat, or we move out of where we are. Expanding options is the essence of extralocal power.
Most, like myself, will stay and adapt to the new local circumstances. They might think about further options for the future, but in the immediate present they will focus on securing local energy for themselves and those that depend on them.
Until now, the issue with investing in local power generation and storage infrastructure has been slow returns on investment. Ten years is a long time to break even, and coincidentally this is also typically around when the warranty on this type of gear expires. But blackout risk mitigation makes extra infrastructure attractive. There might be a good investment theme behind the generator psyop. Companies like Caterpillar or Komatsu could be interesting, because they make generators and don't seem to be overvalued for the moment. Or why not Tesla? They market power storage units, after all.
The Muskian strategy is to build a base of extralocal infrastructure maximisers: to generate, store and use power for mobility and telecommunications without dependence on centralised rent-extracting systems. On Earth, but even better on Mars, where the reach of the fiscal administration is limited. Or Texas, where "only the strong will survive" (Tim Boyd.)
It becomes a sociological question.
My local strategy
A lot of things come down to sociology it seems. In other terms, to local factors.
The local factor I'm looking at in my life is that I have access to wood where I am. Wood needs to be cut and transported. Once this is done, it can be used, preferably after a year, for heat generation. Or it can be sold, as lumber or as firewood. That's the local situation I plan to exploit in the coming months:
- Producing and storing firewood (local strategy)
- Selling some firewood and lumber (extralocal side hustle #1)
I will replace the fuel boiler with a wood boiler next year.
In the meantime, I'll use the fireplace to burn wood. Though the burning efficiency of a fireplace is low, it has the advantage of being able to function under just about any conditions.
I think that's what I like about wood. No petrol needed. No power needed. No psyop... just pure, primitive sovereignty.
We have to start somewhere.