Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The ETS

Words can't describe how I feel in regards to our Govt's latest scheme to tax us more to protect them that are high emitters.

Shame on us

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Don't Get Caught.... too late. Our collective Shame

New Zealand was a friend to Middle Earth, but it's no friend of the earth

Lord of the Rings country trades on its natural beauty, but emissions have risen 22% since it signed up to Kyoto

Fred Pearce
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 12 November 2009


As the world prepares for the Copenhagen climate negotiations next month, it is worth checking out the greenwash that has followed the promises made 12 years ago when the Kyoto protocol was signed.

A surprising number of countries have succeeded in raising their emissions from 1990 levels despite signing up to reduce them. They include a bundle of countries in the European Union, which collectively agreed to let some nations increase their emissions while others (mainly Britain and Germany) cut theirs. Step forward Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece — all with emissions up by more than a quarter.

Then there are the US and Australia, which both reneged on the protocol after signing it. And Canada, which never reneged but still has emissions up by a quarter (worse than the US) and shows no sign of contrition or of being called to account by the other signatories.

But my prize for the most shameless two fingers to the global community goes to New Zealand, a country that sells itself round the world as "clean and green".

New Zealand secured a generous Kyoto target, which simply required it not to increase its emissions between 1990 and 2010. But the latest UN statistics show its emissions of greenhouse gases up by 22%, or a whopping 39% if you look at emissions from fuel burning alone.

Some countries with big emissions growth started from a low figure in 1990. Arguably, they were playing catchup. There is no such excuse for New Zealand. Its emissions started high and went higher.

They are today 60% higher than those of Britain, per head of population. Among industrialised nations, they are only exceeded by Canada, the US, Australia and Luxembourg. In recent years a lot of Brits have headed for Christchurch and Wellington in the hope of a green life in a country where they filmed the Lord of the Rings. But it's a green mirage.

To rub our noses in it, last year New Zealand signed up to the UN's Climate Neutral Network, a list of nations that are "laying out strategies to become carbon neutral".

But if you read the small print of what New Zealand has actually promised, it is a measly 50% in emissions by 2050 – something even the US can trump.

Where do all these emissions come from? New Zealand turns out to be mining ever more filthy brown coal to burn in its power stations. It has the world's third highest rate of car ownership. And, with more cows than people, the country's increasingly intensive agricultural sector is responsible for approaching half the greenhouse gas emissions.

You might expect the UN Environment Programme to throw New Zealand off its list of countries supposedly pledged to head for climate neutrality. Sadly no. These steely guardians of the environment meekly say that the network "will not be policed... nor will UNEP verify claims".

Indeed, it seems to go to great lengths to deny reality. Check the UNEP website and you will find an excruciating hagiography about a "climate neutral journey to Middle Earth", in which everything from the local wines to air conditioning and Air New Zealand get the greenwash treatment.

After extolling the country's green credentials, it asks: "Have you landed in a dreamland?" Well, UNEP's reporter certainly has. He cheers New Zealand's "global leadership in tackling climate change", when the country's minister in charge of climate negotiations, Tim Groser, has been busy reassuring his compatriots that "we would not try to be 'leaders' in climate change."

This is not just political spin. It is also commercial greenwash. New Zealand trades on its greenness to promote its two big industries: tourism and dairy exports. Groser says his country's access to American markets for its produce is based on its positive environmental image. The government's national marketing strategy is underpinned by a survey showing that tourism would be reduced by 68% if the country lost its prized "clean, green image", and even international purchases of its dairy products could halve.

The trouble is, on the climate change front at least, that green image increasingly defies reality.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Inner Peace

I am passing this on to you because it definitely worked for me and we all could use more calm in our lives.

By following the simple advice I heard on a Medical TV show, I have finally found inner peace.
A Doctor proclaimed the way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started.
So I looked around my house to see things I'd started and hadn't finished, and, before leaving the house this morning, I finished off a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of shhardonay, a bodle of Baileys, a butle of vocka, a pockage of Prunglies, tha mainder of bot Prozic and Valum scriptins, the res of the Chesescke an a box a choclits.

Yu haf no idr who fkin gud I fel.Peas sen dis orn to dem yu fee AR in ned ov inr pis

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If Nothing Else, Save Farming

It’s probably too late to prepare for peak oil, but we can at least try to salvage food production.


By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 16th November 2009

I don’t know when global oil supplies will start to decline. I do know that another resource has already peaked and gone into freefall: the credibility of the body that’s meant to assess them. Last week two whistleblowers from the International Energy Agency alleged that it has deliberately upgraded its estimate of the world’s oil supplies in order not to frighten the markets(1). Three days later, a paper published by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden showed that the IEA’s forecasts must be wrong, because it assumes a rate of extraction that appears to be impossible(2). The agency’s assessment of the state of global oil supplies is beginning to look as reliable as Mr Greenspan’s blandishments about the health of the financial markets.

If the whistleblowers are right, we should be stockpiling ammunition. If we are taken by surprise; if we have failed to replace oil before the supply peaks then crashes, the global economy is stuffed. But nothing the whistleblowers said has scared me as much as the conversation I had last week with a Pembrokeshire farmer.

Wyn Evans, who runs a mixed farm of 170 acres, has been trying to reduce his dependency on fossil fuels since 1977. He has installed an anaerobic digester, a wind turbine, solar panels and a ground-sourced heat pump. He has sought wherever possible to replace diesel with his own electricity. Instead of using his tractor to spread slurry, he pumps it from the digester onto nearby fields. He’s replaced his tractor-driven irrigation system with an electric one, and set up a new system for drying hay indoors, which means he has to turn it in the field only once. Whatever else he does is likely to produce smaller savings. But these innovations have reduced his use of diesel by only around 25%.

According to farm scientists at Cornell University, cultivating one hectare of maize in the United States requires 40 litres of petrol and 75 litres of diesel(3). The amazing productivity of modern farm labour has been purchased at the cost of a dependency on oil. Unless farmers can change the way it’s grown, a permanent oil shock would price food out of the mouths of many of the world’s people. Any responsible government would be asking urgent questions about how long we have got.

Instead, most of them delegate this job to the International Energy Agency. I’ve been bellyaching about the British government’s refusal to make contingency plans for the possibility that oil might peak by 2020 for the past two years(4,5), and I’m beginning to feel like a madman with a sandwich board. Perhaps I am, but how lucky do you feel? The new World Energy Outlook published by the IEA last week expects the global demand for oil to rise from 85m barrels a day in 2008 to 105m in 2030(6). Oil production will rise to 103m barrels, it says, and biofuels will make up the shortfall(7). If we want the oil, it will materialise.

The agency does caution that conventional oil is likely to “approach a plateau” towards the end of this period(8), but there’s no hint of the graver warning that the IEA’s chief economist issued when I interviewed him last year: “we still expect that it will come around 2020 to a plateau … I think time is not on our side here.”(9) Almost every year the agency has been forced to downgrade its forecast for the daily supply of oil in 2030: from 123m barrels in 2004, to 120m in 2005, 116m in 2007, 106m in 2008 and 103m this year. But according to one of the whistleblowers, “even today’s number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.”(10)

The Uppsala report, published in the journal Energy Policy, anticipates that maximum global production of all kinds of oil in 2030 will be 76m barrels per day. Analysing the IEA’s figures, it finds that to meet its forecasts for supply, the world’s new and undiscovered oil fields would have to be developed at a rate “never before seen in history.”(11) As many of them are in politically or physically difficult places, and as capital is short, this looks impossible. Assessing existing fields, the likely rate of discovery and the use of new techniques for extraction, the researchers find that “the peak of world oil production is probably occurring now.”

Are they right? Who knows? Last month the UK Energy Research Centre published a massive review of all the available evidence on global oil supplies(12). It found that the date of peak oil will be determined not by the total size of the global resource but by the rate at which it can be exploited. New discoveries would have to be implausibly large to make a significant difference: even if a field the size of all the oil reserves ever struck in the USA were miraculously discovered, it would delay the date of peaking by only four years(13). As global discoveries peaked in the 1960s(14), a find like this doesn’t seem very likely.

Regional oil supplies have peaked when about one third of the total resource has been extracted(15): this is because the rate of production falls as the remaining oil becomes harder to shift. So the assumption in the IEA’s new report, that oil production will hold steady when the global resource has fallen “to around one-half by 2030″(16) looks unsafe. The UKERC review finds that just to keep oil supply at present levels, “more than two thirds of current crude oil production capacity may need to be replaced by 2030 … At best, this is likely to prove extremely challenging.”(17) There is, it says “a significant risk of a peak in conventional oil production before 2020.”(18) Unconventional oil won’t save us: even a crash programme to develop the Canadian tar sands could deliver only 5m barrels a day by 2030.(19)

As a report commissioned by the US Department of Energy shows, an emergency programme to replace current energy supplies or equipment to anticipate peak oil would need about 20 years to take effect(20). It seems unlikely that we have it. The world economy is probably knackered, whatever we might do now. But at least we could save farming. There are two possible options: either the mass replacement of farm machinery or the development of new farming systems, which don’t need much labour or energy. There are no obvious barriers to the mass production of electric tractors and combine harvesters: the weight of the batteries and an electric vehicle’s low-end torque are both advantages for tractors. A switch to forest gardening and other forms of permaculture is trickier, especially for producing grain; but such is the scale of the creeping emergency that we can’t afford to rule anything out.

The challenge of feeding 7 or 8 billion people while oil supplies are falling is stupefying. It’ll be even greater if governments keep pretending that it isn’t going to happen.

www.monbiot.com

References:

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/09/peak-oil-international-energy-agency

2. Kjell Aleklett et al, 2009. The Peak of the Oil Age - analyzing the world oil production Reference Scenario in World Energy Outlook 2008. Energy Policy. http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/PeakOilAge.pdf

3. David Pimentel, Marcia Pimentel and Marianne Karpenstein-Machan, 1999. Energy Use In Agriculture: An Overview. Agricultural Engineering International: The CIGR EJournal., Volume I. http://www.cigrjournal.org/index.php/Ejounral/article/viewFile/1044/1037

4. I first began pestering the government about this in May 2007, as you can see here: http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/05/29/what-if-the-oil-runs-out/

After that, I lodged an FoI request, and returned to the theme in these articles:

5. http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/02/12/the-last-straw/

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/05/27/majesty-we-have-gone-mad/

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/12/15/at-last-a-date/

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/04/14/cross-your-fingers-and-carry-on/

6. International Energy Agency, 2009. World Energy Outlook 2009. Page 73.

7. Figure 1.5, page 82.

8. p87

9. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2008/dec/15/fatih-birol-george-monbiot

10. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/09/peak-oil-international-energy-agency

11. Kjell Aleklett et al, 2009. The Peak of the Oil Age - analyzing the world oil production Reference Scenario in World Energy Outlook 2008. Energy Policy. http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/PeakOilAge.pdf

12. Steve Sorrell et al, 2009. Global Oil Depletion: An assessment of the evidence for a near-term
peak in global oil production. UK Energy Research Centre. http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/Global%20Oil%20Depletion

13. p134

14. See Figure 2.8. page 24

15. p7

16. International Energy Agency, 2009, ibid, p80.

17. Steve Sorrell et al, 2009, p169.

18. p164.

19. p18.

20. Robert L. Hirsch, Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling, February 2005. Peaking Of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management. US Department of Energy. Available at http://www.hubbertpeak.com/us/NETL/OilPeaking.pdf

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Light Reading - Stuff You Don't Learn in School

The population figures for the New World prior to the 1492 voyage of Christopher Columbus are unknown. Estimates based on archaeological data and written records from European settlers range from as low as 8 million to as many as 112 million indigenous "Native Americans". Contact with the New World led to the European colonization of the Americas, in which millions of emigrants from the "Old World" eventually settled in the New.

Population history of American indigenous peoples

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Monday, November 02, 2009

Why Obama's Iran Policy Will Fail

Stuck in Bush Mode in a Changed World

By Dilip Hiro

While the tone of the Obama administration is different from that of its predecessor, and some of its foreign policies diverge from those of George W. Bush, at their core both administrations subscribe to the same doctrine: Whatever the White House perceives as a threat -- whether it be Iran, North Korea, or the proliferation of long-range missiles -- must be viewed as such by Moscow and Beijing.

In addition, by the evidence available, Barack Obama has not drawn the right conclusion from his predecessor's failed Iran policy. A paradigm of sticks-and-carrots simply is not going to work in the case of the Islamic Republic. Here, a lesson is readily available, if only the Obama White House were willing to consider Iran's recent history. It is unrealistic to expect that a regime which fought Saddam Hussein's Iraq (then backed by the United States) to a standstill in a bloody eight-year war in the 1980s, unaided by any foreign power, and has for 30 years withstood the consequences of U.S.-imposed economic sanctions will be alarmed by Washington's fresh threats of "crippling sanctions."

Most important, the Obama administration is ignoring the altered international order that has emerged in the wake of the global financial crisis triggered by Wall Street's excesses. While its stimulus package, funded by taxpayers and foreign borrowing, has arrested the decline in the nation's gross domestic product, Washington has done little to pull the world economy out of the doldrums. That task -- performed by the U.S. in recent recessions -- has fallen willy-nilly to China. History repeatedly shows that such economic clout sooner or later translates into diplomatic power.

Backed by more than $2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, the state-owned Chinese oil corporations have been locking up hydrocarbon resources as far away as Brazil. Not surprisingly, Iran, with the second largest oil as well as gas reserves in the world, looms large in the strategic plans of Beijing. The Chinese want to import Iran's petroleum and natural gas through pipelines across Central Asia, thus circumventing sea routes vulnerable to U.S. naval interdiction. As this is an integral part of China's energy security policy, little wonder that Chinese oil companies have committed an estimated $120 billion dollars -- so far -- to Iran's energy industry.

During a recent meeting with Iran's first vice president, Muhammad Reza Rahimi, in Beijing, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao stressed the importance of cooperation between the two countries when it comes to hydrocarbons and trade (at $29 billion a year, and rising), as well as "greater coordination in international affairs." Little wonder, then, that China has already moved to neutralize any sanctions that the United States -- backed by Britain, France and Germany -- might impose on Iran without United Nations authorization.

Foremost among these would be a ban on the export of gasoline to Iran, whose oil refining capacity falls significantly short of domestic demand. Chinese oil corporations have already started shipping gasoline to Iran to fill the gap caused by a stoppage of supplies from British and Indian companies anticipating Washington's possible move. Between June and August 2009, China signed $8 billion worth of contracts with Iran to help expand two existing Iranian oil refineries to produce more gasoline domestically and to help develop the gigantic South Pars natural gas field. Iran's national oil corporation has also invited its Chinese counterparts to participate in a $42.8 billion project to construct seven oil refineries and a 1,000 mile trans-Iran pipeline that will facilitate pumping petroleum to China.

Tehran and Moscow

When it comes to Russia, Tehran and Moscow have a long history of close relations, going back to Tsarist times. During that period and the subsequent Soviet era, the two states shared the inland Caspian Sea. Now, as two of the five littoral states of the Caspian, Iran and Russia still share a common fluvial border.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, relations between the Islamic Republic and Russia warmed. Defying pressures from both the Clinton and Bush administrations, Russia's state-owned nuclear power company continued building a civilian nuclear power plant near the Iranian port city of Bushehr. It is scheduled to begin generating electricity next year.

As for nuclear threats, the Kremlin's perspective varies from Washington's. It is far more concerned with the actual threat posed by some of Pakistan's estimated 75 nuclear weapons falling into militant Islamist hands than with the theoretical one from Tehran. Significantly, it was during his recent trip to Beijing to conclude ambitious hydrocarbon agreements with China that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, "If we speak about some kind of sanctions [on Iran] now, before we take concrete steps, we will fail to create favorable conditions for negotiations. That is why we consider such talk premature."

The negotiations that Putin mentioned are now ongoing between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the U.S., Britain, China, France, and Russia) as well as Germany. According to Western sources, the agenda of the talks is initially to center on a "freeze for freeze" agreement. Iran would suspend its nuclear enrichment program in exchange for the U.N. Security Council not strengthening its present nominal economic sanctions. If these reports are accurate, then the chances of a major breakthrough may be slim indeed.

At the heart of this issue lies Iran's potential ability to enrich uranium to a level usable as fuel for a nuclear weapon. This, in turn, is linked to the way Iran's leaders view national security. As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is, in fact, entitled to enrich uranium. The key point is the degree of enrichment: 5% enriched uranium for use as fuel in an electricity generating plant (called low enriched uranium, LEU); 20% enriched for use as feedstock for producing medical isotopes (categorized as medium enriched uranium, MEU); and 90%-plus for bomb-grade fuel (known as high enriched uranium, HEU).

So far, what Iran has produced at its Natanz nuclear plant is LEU. At the Iran-Six Powers meeting in Geneva on October 1st, Iran agreed in principle to send three-quarters of its present stock of 1,600 kilograms (3,500 pounds) of LEU to Russia to be enriched into MEU and shipped back to its existing Tehran Research Reactor to produce medical isotopes. If this agreement is fleshed out and finalized by all the parties under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency, then the proportion of Iran's LEU with a potential of being turned into HEU would diminish dramatically.

When it comes to the nuclear conundrum, what distinguishes China and Russia from the U.S. is that they have conferred unconditional diplomatic recognition and acceptance on the Islamic Republic of Iran. So their commercial and diplomatic links with Tehran are thriving. Indeed, a sub-structure of pipelines and economic alliances between hydrocarbon-rich Russia, Iran, and energy-hungry China is now being forged. In other words, the foundation is being laid for the emergence of a Russia-Iran-China diplomatic triad in the not-too-distant future, while Washington remains stuck in an old groove of imposing "punishing" sanctions against Tehran for its nuclear program.

Tehran and Washington

There is, of course, a deep and painful legacy of animosity and ill-feeling between the 30-year-old Islamic Republic of Iran and the U.S. Iran was an early victim of Washington's subversive activities when the six-year-old CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Muhammad Mussadiq in 1953. That scar on Iran's body politic has not healed yet. Half a century later, the Iranians watched the Bush administration invade neighboring Iraq and overthrow its president, Saddam Hussein, on trumped-up charges involving his supposed program to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Iran's leaders know that during his second term in office -- as Seymour Hersh revealed in the New Yorker -- Bush authorized a clandestine CIA program with a budget of $400 million to destabilize the Iranian regime. They are also aware that the CIA has focused on stoking disaffection among Sunni ethnic minorities in Shiite-ruled Iran. These include ethnic Arabs in the oil-rich province of Khuzistan adjoining Iraq, and ethnic Baluchis in Sistan-Baluchistan Province abutting the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

Little wonder that Tehran pointed an accusing finger at the U.S. for the recent assassination of six commanders of its Revolutionary Guard Corps in Sistan-Baluchistan by two suicide bombers belonging to Jundallah (the Army of Allah), an extremist Sunni organization. As yet, there is no sign, overt or covert, that President Obama has canceled or repudiated his predecessor's program to destabilize the Iranian regime.

Insecure regimes seek security in nuclear arms. History shows that joining the nuclear club has, in fact, proven an effective strategy for survival. Israel and North Korea provide striking examples of this.

Unsure of Western military assistance in a conventional war with Arab nations, and of its ability to maintain its traditional armed superiority over its Arab adversaries, Israel's leaders embarked on a nuclear weapons program in the mid-1950s. They succeeded in their project a decade later. Since then Israel has acquired an arsenal of 80 to 200 nuclear weapons.

In the North Korean case, once the country had tested its first atomic bomb in October 2006, the Bush administration softened its stance towards it. In the bargaining that followed, North Korea got its name removed from the State Department's list of nations that support international terrorism. In the on-again-off-again bilateral negotiations that followed, the Pyongyang regime as an official nuclear state has been seeking a guarantee against attack or subversion by the United States.

Without saying so publicly, Iran's leaders want a similar guarantee from the U.S. Conversely, unless Washington ends its clandestine program to destabilize the Iranian state, and caps it with an offer of diplomatic acceptance and normal relations, there is no prospect of Tehran abandoning its right to enrich uranium. On the other hand, the continuation of a policy of destabilization, coupled with ongoing threats of "crippling" sanctions and military strikes (whether by the Pentagon or Israel), can only drive the Iranians toward a nuclear breakout capability.

During George W. Bush's eight-year presidency, the U.S. position in the world underwent a sea change. From the Clinton administration, Bush had inherited a legacy of 92 months of continuous economic prosperity, a budget in surplus, and the transformation of the U.N. Security Council into a handmaiden of the State Department. What he passed on to Barack Obama was the Great Recession in a world where America's popularity had hit rock bottom and its economic strength was visibly ebbing. All this paved the way for the economic and political rise of China, as well as the strengthening of Russia as an energy giant capable of extending its influence in Europe and challenging American dominance in the Middle East.

In this new environment expecting the leaders of Iran, backed by China and Russia, to do the bidding of Washington means placing a bet on the inconceivable.

Dilip Hiro is the author of Blood of the Earth: The Battle for the World's Vanishing Oil Resources (Nation Books), among other works. His forthcoming book, After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World, will be published in January 2010, also by Nation Books.