PARIS â€" In the northern German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) defeated Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union in local elections. In the United States, the Republicans chose Donald Trump as their candidate for the White House. The British voted for Brexit. Italians elected as mayors of Rome and Turin two representatives of the Five Star Movement, headed by comedian-turned-political-insurgent Beppe Grillo. And next year the French will, in all likelihood, send Marine Le Pen through to the second round of the presidential election. In short, every Western power represented in the G8 (with the notable exception of Canada) is just that close to sending their traditional elites away for good. Thank you and goodbye!
Naturally, the aforementioned elite aren't short of interpretations. It's their job, after all. The most erudite quote Polybius, the Greek historian who in his Histories described the tragic moment when, "as rust is the inbred bane of iron," democracy, the government by the people, degenerates into ochlocracy, the government by the populace.
Believers in the all-abiding power of monetary policy see the electoral situation as the regrettable result of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank's quantitative easing which, by creating asset bubbles, has favored capital to the detriment of labor, thus increasing private wealth and inequalities. For technophiles, digitalization and robotization are responsible for the anxiety of a middle class that sees itself being deprived little by little of its raison d"être and, incidentally, of its income along with it.
Suffering in silence
Declinists lament the deteriorating education system, which creates half-illiterates hunting Pokémon between inane Facebook posts. Homogeneous nation-state nostalgics blame the ill effects of openness and cultural diversity that disrupt our fragile little identities. Global village enthusiasts, meanwhile, suffer in silence as they listen to this swan song of the white male (and more precisely non-qualified white-male), soon to be overwhelmed by demographic realities and migration.
Sociologists hungry for studies on "generational groups" ask themselves whether Millennials aren't having their revenge on the baby boomers who dispossessed them. Futurists, with whom I happily identify, analyze the rejection of the political and intellectual class as the reflection of a more general movement of disintermediation, which calls for a new form of governance, one closer to the individual and his choices.
History will prove which one was the smartest. But in any case, the elite seem to agree with grace to their coming immolation. They're distressed by the fact that they turned their back on the people and they offer their necks to their executioner. They acknowledge their defeat with a mixture of cynical calculation and belated guilt, and either follow the populist wave or retreat into their ivory tower.
Dinners in Washington, London and Paris are a competition of self-flagellation. Flute of champagne in hand, they lash out at the ruling class. They apologize for living in too chic a neighborhood, for traveling too far on vacation, for choosing too good a school for their children, for drinking wine that is too old, and enjoying art that is too abstract. To make up for it, they send tweets with lots of smileys, give TED Talks wearing T-shirts and write op-ed columns to lambast ... well, the elite. Are we secretly hoping that the new masters will spare the repentants?
Big mistake! Now, more than ever, we need a true elite, one that is faithful to its historic mission, that is comfortable with its principles without giving in to the emotion of the day, that doesn't use hashtags to summarize its analyses, that debates with the public without "media training."
Jean Tirole, the French winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics, whom everyone should read more of, apologizes in his latest book, Économie du bien commun ("Common Good Economy"), for his absence from the public debate, explaining that Adam Smith wasn't asked to write blogs. And yet, given his inexhaustible writing, I'm certain he would have...
The status quo is no longer satisfactory. Very well! But have we forgotten who gives revolutions a compass? Enlightened aristocrats such as the count of Clermont-Tonnerre, a provincial lawyer such as Robespierre, famous writers such as Victor Hugo. To arms, the elite!
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
- Green Is Ugly: Style Problems Plague Clean Energy Push ... ›
- Solar Power: Researchers Map Out Colombia's Sunshine Hotspots ... ›
- EVs Start Moving Latin American Cities To Sustainability ... ›