Giving Bush and Howard A Stern Talking To  

Posted by Big Gav

The Stern report into the cost of climate change seems to have dominated the media in recent days - Grist and Energy Bulletin (£3.68 trillion: The price of failing to act on climate change, Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, Stern report: the key points, Drastic action on climate change is needed now - and here's the plan, Stern figures don't add up for world's poor and Budgets falling in race to fight global warming) have good roundups of the commentary.

Ignoring climate change far more expensive than fighting it, says British report

Some folks worry that restricting greenhouse-gas emissions could hurt the economy. Turns out that's a bit like worrying that a tracheotomy will hurt a patient in anaphylactic shock -- yeah, it'll sting, but without it the patient will croak. (Yes, we watch way too much ER.) Ignoring climate change could dampen the global economy by 5 to 20 percent each year within a decade, costing the world up to $7 trillion, according to a new report from chief British government economist Nicholas Stern.

Think Great Depression, but with much worse weather. In contrast, tackling climate change now would cost about 1 percent of global GDP each year -- roughly what the world spends annually on advertising. We better get cracking, though: the report warns that the chance to avoid the worst effects of climate change "is already almost out of reach." Eek. British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who commissioned the report, said the U.K. would take leadership in the international response to tackle climate change, and proposed a new E.U. target to reduce emissions 30 percent by 2020 and at least 60 percent by 2050.

Down here the Treasurer is saying that its just a small market failure (but still resisting the idea of carbon taxes to send the right market signal - and continuing to repeat the lie that we are meeting our Kyoto obligations that they refuse to ratify) while other government members are busy either saying subsidies (often to encourage more pollution) are preferable to market solutions (when those solutions would hurt coal companies) or that global warming doesn't really exist (in the case of our spectacularly ignorant industry minister) or insisting only "clean" coal and nuclear can provide the energy we need (in the case of the duplicitous Rodent).

Meanwhile the Greens sensibly pointed out that the rest of the world views us as a bunch of dirty rednecks and shouldn't continue to appease us.

The SMH had a good front page climate story yesterday showing what a one to two metre sea level rise would mean for Sydney harbour - which is actually a good way of getting influential people to take the issue seriously - stories about drowning Bangladeshis and the like are easily shrugged off - but if your boat house is going to get submerged thats a different kettle of fish...

Grist has an interesting post on some US Senators (including a Rockefeller, who would hopefully have some influence) following the British Royal Society's lead and asking Exxon to stop funding the global warming denial industry (with the catchy title "Let's Talk About Rex, Baby").
Senators ask ExxonMobil to stop funding climate-change deniers
ExxonMobil should "end any further financial assistance" to climate-change-denying lobbyist groups, say Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) in a scathing letter sent to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson on Friday. According to an upcoming report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the oil behemoth funded 29 climate-change-skeptic groups in 2004 alone, and has spent more than $19 million since 1990 funding groups that promote "science" that hasn't been peer reviewed. The senators singled out the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Tech Central Station website as Exxon-funded skeptic groups. ExxonMobil's support, and "skeptics' access to and influence on government policymakers, have made it increasingly difficult for the United States to demonstrate the moral clarity it needs across all facets of its diplomacy," the senators wrote. We congratulate them on their exquisite mastery of understatement.

Dave Roberts has a post on annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists, where there was a panel on media coverage of global warming. One of the panelists was Marc Morano, Senator James "state of denial" Inhofe's "right-hand man". Dave is outraged by Morano's debating tactics (and Exxon's army of global warming denial merchants can be infuriating) which prompted Bart from Energy Bulletin to make a few notes about how to deal with propagandists (hopefully Mr Morano will eventually have a Frank "nice rug" Luntz moment of honesty).
Marc Morano is a professional advocate and propagandist. That's his job and he's good at it.

The scientists and journalists seemed ill-equipped to handle professionals like Morano. They treated him like a fellow seeker after the truth and were dumbfounded at his accusations and disinformation.

"He's not playing by the rules!"

Well, duh! Do we expect used car salesmen and lawyers to be objective and tell the unvarnished truth? Their goals are to make the sale or win their case, not to be fair and balanced.

First mistake. The panel was structured so that this appeared to be a debate between two sides of the global warming question. Because of this framing, Morano AUTOMATICALLY gained his main goal which was to be seen as intellectually respectable.

Why invite only Morano and not a climate change activist? Why not invite some of the victims of climate change?

Why not have a panel diagnosing how the climate denial industry works - showing the institutions and techniques they use?

Second mistake. Morano took the offensive, making dozens of absurd accusations. The other panel members spent their time defending themselves, correcting Morano. Guess what? He doesn't care. If you correct a dozen accusations, he has two dozen more ready. He does not play by your rules.
If you are going up against someone like Morano, recognize that you are going to have to change your style. Bill Blakemore and Dan Fagin came closest to taking the offensive, but even they were too conscientious to be as effective as they could be.

Another post at Grist looking at the same panel talk answers the question "Where can you find the "truth" about global warming?".
I listened with great interest to the audio recording of the SEJ panel discussion described in David Roberts' recent blog post.

Much of the argument there can be distilled down to one simple question:

Where can I find credible answers to scientific questions about climate change?

Here's the scientific community's answer: look to the peer-reviewed scientific literature. A strong consensus there is the closest thing we have to well-founded knowledge, and it is entitled to substantial deference in policy debates. And if a reporter wants to write about what the "scientific community" thinks, this consensus is what they should report.

The problem with this advice is that it's generally too difficult and time-consuming for those without specialist training to digest the peer-reviewed literature themselves. Thus, non-scientists need to rely on a scientific advisory process to tell them. The process of synthesizing, evaluating, and communicating the peer-reviewed literature to inform a policy or decision process is called scientific assessment.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the primary body responsible for international scientific assessments of climate change. Since its establishment in 1989, the IPCC has undertaken three full-scale assessments of climate change -- in 1990, 1995, and 2001 -- as well as many smaller and more specialized reports.

Yet another one from Grist (on a roll today) considering if the global warming issue could be a life-preserver for right-wingers fleeing the sinking Republican Party (as an early refugee from the skanky modern day right I can attest to this pleasant accomodation aboard this particular life preserver). This post also looks at the Rupert Murdoch situation which I talked about a day or two ago.
In recent years right-wingers in this country, including the president, have scoffed at the idea of global warming and ignored those who expressed concern and called for action. But even among Republicans and conservatives, the need to act to reduce the risks of climate change is looking increasingly like the new conventional wisdom.

The obvious example is in California, where a Sep. 1 story in the Wall Street Journal [$] rightly predicted that a high-stakes deal between a Republican executive and a Democratic legislature "to cut emissions tied to global warming is likely to boost a resurgence in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's popularity." In fact the "halo effect" from this deal has remade Schwarzenegger's image among independents and Democrats, which -- baring an act of God -- will easily carry him to victory on November 7.

But the California electorate has long supported environmental regulations for the sake of clean air, clean water, coastal protection, and parks and wild lands.

How is global warming seen in the right-wing media in this country?

In fact enthusiasm for action to curb global warming is coming from surprising quarters, and has been bubbling to the surface for some time. A year ago the creator of FOX News, Roger Ailes, saw the now-famous Al Gore slide show on the seriousness of global warming, was impressed, and -- according to the LA Times -- dropped his opposition to covering the issue.

FOX News soon ran a blunt documentary on global warming in the Arctic that began with this straight-no-chaser statement from reporter Rick Folbuam: "I've learned this simple fact: the earth is heating up."

This coverage came as a terrible shock to FOX News hack Steven Milloy, a denialist who runs the execrable Junk Science site, and as far as I know is unique for having taken substantial funds from not just Exxon (don't all denialists?) but from tobacco maker Philip Morris as well.

A carbon or gas tax is now such conventional wisdom among thoughtful right-wing economists and pundits that Harvard professor Greg Mankiw (chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors from 2003-2005) has come up with a name for the group, the Pigou Club.

And earlier this month, a New Yorker story by John Cassidy revealed that Murdoch himself is moving away from the right-wing orthodoxy that has made him billions, toward where "the conversation is most interesting." That description comes from Irwin Seltzer -- who to my surprise turns out to be a very good friend of Murdoch's!

The story shows that Murdoch, who all but promoted Margaret Thatcher and then Tony Blair into power in the U.K., has been befriended by the indefatigable Bill Clinton. Impressed by Hillary Clinton's work as a Senator in New York, the story hints that Murdoch (and FOX News) may back Hillary in her campaign in 2008.
Murdoch is keeping his cards close to his vest regarding candidates, but he does make his disdain for Bush and his father clear. And he's shockingly forthright about global warming, telling Cassidy that he intends to make his News Corporation "carbon neutral".

Prediction: as FOX News turns, so does the Republican Party. The need to act on global warming will become conventional wisdom on the right well before the 2008 presidential campaign.

Russia is pushing to set up a gas production cartel with Iran in order to help Gazprom (Vladimir Putin's rumoured next home when his final presidential term runs out) dominate the EU gas market.
A SENIOR Russian parliamentarian has called for a gas alliance to unite former Soviet republics and Iran to help Russia stand up to the European Union's "cartel" of gas consumers, Russian media reported.

"It is necessary to form a gas alliance, which could be joined by Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus," the head of the Russian parliament's energy committee Valery Yazev said Monday, RIA-Novosti reported.

"Tomorrow, with the removal of the problem of Iran's nuclear program, I would also see Iran in this alliance," Mr Yazev said, speaking at a meeting of the Russian Gas Union industry group, which he also heads.

He said that the alliance would form a counterweight to the European Union, which he suggested is taking advantage of its position as a vital source of income for Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom.

"In the EU we have a very clearly formed cartel of customers of Russian gas, which is imposing on us the ratification of the Energy Charter, which does not meet Russian interests," he said.

The EU, which imports around a quarter of its natural gas from Russia, has been seeking to persuade Moscow to ratify an international energy charter that regulates transit and investment in the energy sector and would allow for market competition between foreign and independent companies.

Russia has declined to ratify the charter because the Kremlin wants to protect Gazprom's monopoly and has sought recently to exclude foreign investors from its strategic energy sector.

Vinod Khosla is continuing Silicon Valley's war on big oil with some forceful advocacy about California's Proposition 87.
It is offensive and dis-heartening to see how the oil money is being used. Tom Friedman said in his op-ed piece in the New York Times recently "Up to now, oil companies in California have paid a very low extraction fee compared with those in other states a rip-off they want to keep." When the tragedy of Katrina happened the oil companies were able, with their vast campaign and lobbying contributions, to push to get $7 billion form the relief funds. An oil severance tax has been tried in the California assembly starting in the 1950's by then Governor Brown and more recently by the current Mayor of LA, Mayor Villaraigosa when he was in the assembly. But campaign contributions and lobbying backed by billions of dollars of clout wins out every time. The oil companies manage to get out of paying their fair share. One energy company (Peabody Energy) actually spends almost 5% of its revenue on lobbying almost nothing on research. What?

One of the most revered and old British scientific Societies, the Royal Society which counted Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as members, accuses Exxon of "misleading and inaccurate" information about climate change by financing groups that misinform the public on this issue. Exxon had pledged to stop giving money to such groups that spread misinformation the society considers misleading. That is a clear admission that they are spreading mis-information. Recently Senators Rockefeller ( D) and Snowe ( R ) said that ExxonMobil's extensive funding of an "echo chamber" of non-peer reviewed pseudo-science had unfortunately succeeded in raising questions about the legitimate scientific community's virtually universal findings on the detrimental effects of global warming. Is it a surprise that they gave Stanford University over $50 million and the funded group is very kind to Exxon's views? Even a university can be bought. It just takes more money and the oilies have enough.

According to the Sept 21, 2006 NY Times front page, four government auditors in lawsuits claim they were blocked by their bosses in the interior department from pursuing fraudulent underpayments on oil and gas leases. Money can buy anything! Even government policy or immunity. And luckily oil prices have declined just before the election. Are you intrigued by the timing? Luckily for whom? Do you see a pattern of behavior here?

In my next blog, Part IV, I will discuss "extensive health and environmental costs of oil".

Do you believe Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Senator Feinstein and Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, (all unpaid)? Or do you believe the oil companies and their "bought endorsers"?"

In local news, design group Archicentre are pushing for air conditioners to be solar powered - reasoning that hot sunny days are the ones with the most air conditioner usage.
SOLAR-POWERED air-conditioners should be rolled out across the country to dramatically cut the nation's greenhouse gas emission, said a national architects group.

Archicentre - the building advisory service of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects - is today calling for the federal and state governments to immediately pursue the development and commercialisation of the emerging technology.

A national roll-out strategy is also needed, says Archicentre Victoria state manager David Hallett, to tackle the "clear and present danger" of climate change and energy constraint.

"Energy authorities have been warning for years that the explosion of power-hungry air-conditioners in Australia threatens the stability of the electrical grid during peak power demands during summer," Mr Hallett said.

"When demand is at its highest, potential solar energy supply is also at its highest. This is a natural association and should be a key strategy."

Archicentre is also in the news for their plans to encourage households to reduce water use.
WATER-SAVING shower heads and dual-flush toilets should be mandatory in all properties for sale, a national building advisory group says.

This would mean houses, apartments and commercial premises would have to meet water-efficiency standards before the sale could go ahead. Under the Archicentre plan, the vendor would pay for the upgrade of devices to meet water-efficiency requirements.

Archicentre managing director Robert Caulfield said bathrooms and toilets were particularly wasteful of water, accounting for 60 per cent of household water use. The proposal would require toilets to be dual-flush and shower heads to have a minimum three-star efficiency rating.

"With houses turning over every seven years, on average, this would provide a way of spreading the effort to conserve water to all sections of the community, not just new-home buyers," Mr Caulfield said. "The system could be expanded to include the installation of water tanks to implement water harvesting in urban Australia."

Sharp has announced that it is expanding solar cell production capacity to 600 MW Per year, the world's highest for photovoltaics.
Sharp Corporation has increased annual production capacity for solar cells at its Katsuragi Plant in Nara Prefecture by 100 MW (megawatts) to meet burgeoning demand in Japan and abroad, and has constructed a system that will be able to enter full production by November 2006. As a result, solar cell production capacity at the Katsuragi Plant will reach 600 MW per year, the world's highest.

Despite concerns in the photovoltaic (PV) power generating market about a shortage of processed silicon (the raw material for solar cells), PV systems are increasingly being used in Japan for industrial applications and are being installed on new residential construction in collaboration with home builders. In Europe and the U.S.A., demand is expected to expand even further in the future, centered on industrial and commercial uses thanks to the introduction of subsidies and implementation of policies mandating power buy-back programs by utilities.

To more effectively utilize raw materials, Sharp is working to make solar cells even thinner and improve thin-film solar cells which use minimal amounts of silicon, as well as establish highly efficient production systems and expand and upgrade its production lines.

The New York Times has a slightly condescending article on the recent Bioneers conference which contains some interesting tidbits.
Students, organic farmers, architects, advocates for Pacific dolphins and a growing number of entrepreneurs looking to invest in green technology come to hear the latest thinking on global warming (code word: Katrina) and how to keep the food supply safe (buzzword: spinach). Alternative energy, Bioremediation and environmental justice, once-fringy issues, have over the course of the conference’s 17-year history become part of the national dialogue.

Paul E. Stamets, a mycologist and the founder of Fungi Perfecti, a mail-order mushroom business, lectured on “myco-remediation,” or using fungi to restore toxic waste sites. Mr. Stamets also announced a patent for a household pesticide that uses the mold state of the Cordyceps mushroom to kill 100,000 to 200,000 species of insects — a new eco-spin on the old Roach Motel.

Mr. Stamets shared the stage with Jay Harman, a naturalist who is now the chief executive of Pax Scientific, an engineering company rooted in “biomimicry,” a fledgling science that takes its inspiration from nature’s designs and processes.

Mr. Harman showed a small device capable of circulating five million gallons of water, using only a light bulb’s worth of electricity. “It’s all about flow,” he said, adding that the technology could be applied to aircraft, fans, pumps and water circulators for reservoirs.

The conference is the brainchild of Kenny Ausubel, a 57-year-old writer and filmmaker who was co-founder of the organic seed company Seeds of Change, and Nina Simons, the former president of the company and a former marketing director for Odwalla. Since 1990, they have operated from an old schoolhouse in Lamy, N.M., outside Santa Fe. They credit their experience with Seeds of Change, since sold, with convincing them that a fledgling political movement could be forged from issues like sustainable agriculture and green technology — fields, Mr. Ausubel said, “that in 1990 were like talking about U.F.O.’s.”

Since then, the culture has in some ways caught up. For instance, Mr. Ausubel has been an adviser to the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, whose coming feature-length documentary on global warming, “The 11th Hour,” was filmed extensively at last year’s Bioneers conference.

“The issues they were raising a decade ago, from local food to rooftop power, have moved into the mainstream,” said Bill McKibben, a writer who spoke at last year’s conference. “The Bioneers has been consistently ahead of the curve. It began as a gathering place for a fairly small number of like-minded people but is now a hatchery for the next wave of important ideas that five years hence people will be talking about in Rotary Clubs.”

The ground troops of the environmental movement, Mr. Harman said, “are not business-savvy — they want to make a difference but don’t know how to do it.”

So they came to learn sophisticated tactics from people like Tzeporah Berman, the program director of ForestEthics, a nonprofit organization founded in 1994 to protect endangered forests. It successfully pressured Office Depot and Staples to phase out supply paper made from endangered old-growth forests and persuaded Ikea not to use wood from the temperate rain forest now known as Great Bear, in British Columbia.

John Maus, a 67-year-old contractor from Littleton, Colo., who builds Starbucks stores — which he defended as “meeting places” — came to the conference for the latest intelligence on green building. “The industry is slow to change and uses huge amounts of natural resources,” Mr. Maus said. “We need to develop a conscience.”

William Casey, an eye surgeon and olive grower from St. Helena in the Napa Valley, stood out in a button-down shirt. He came with his wife, Rachel, to keep tabs on the latest trends in integrative pest management. Inspired by last year’s Bioneers, they put up songbird houses and added carnivorous plants to their olive groves to control the olive fruit fly. South African guinea fowl now roam the premises destroying larvae.

Live Green Or Die  

Posted by Big Gav

One of the things I missed out on following closely while I was busy moving was the Pop ! tech conference. Both Ethan Zuckermann and the Christian Science Monitor have good roundups of the event. The most relevant one (from my point of view - though most talks are pretty interesting) is the post by Greg Lamb at the CSM on "Live Green Or Die". Ethan Zuckermann's huge set of posts also included one on Thomas Barnett and the gap / arc of instability, who I've talked about a few times here. Ethan also introduced me to a new word - erinaceous - and taught me that you can die of jetlag.

Some 500 people drive or fly to the Pop!Tech conference on Maine's scenic midcoast from all over the US, and a few from overseas. They burn a lot of fossil fuels to get here. To make up for that, the conference is sponsoring solar power projects by the Solar Electric Light Fund that it says will save twice the amount of carbon emissions that will be expended by the conference and its attendees.

Climate change and where tomorrow's energy will come from after fossil fuels are spent has to be on any agenda grappling with the great issues. No exception here. As one speaker put it: Al Gore was wrong about climate change and clean energy: It's much more serious a problem than he says.

Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist and author of "The World Is Flat," used his 20 minutes to basically sound out the themes in his book and columns. They're powerful themes. We have to redefine what we mean by "green," he says. It's not all granola crunching and "girly men," he says, it's not something "vaguely French." Green, Friedman says, is the new "red, white, and blue," patriotic and capitalistic. If we don't solve our oil addiction, he says, we're going to "heat up, choke up, burn up" this planet. The Chinese are already recognizing they can't follow the US model. A Green China, he says, is going to pose a greater challenge than Red China ever did.

Friedman knows how to create memorable images with words, giving his ideas intellectual muscle and mindshare. So do nearly all the presenters, which make them not only thinkers but impressive communicators as well.

Stewart Brand continued the green theme later Thursday by outlining where the environmental movement may be headed. Those with a romantic attachment to Mother Earth will still be on the front lines, but increasingly they're being joined by hard-headed scientists and engineers. New and better data is pushing everything. The scientists and engineers, many of whom still feel uncomfortable being ID'd as "green," are more likely to recognize that humans are already "Terra forming," or changing the natural world using science and technology, to meet their demands. (So we better do it right, he adds.) They're going to be more open to nuclear power if the alternatives are really worse. (Maybe we don't need a 10,000 year solution for nuclear waste, but a few-hundred year solution will do. Presumably the world and scientific knowledge will be much more prepared to deal with it by then.)

One billion people now live in squatter cities, the vast slums that surround cities, especially in the developing world. Two billion more are expected. That's trouble in some obvious ways, but surprisingly, perhaps, there's another side. In the slums, everything is recycled, much less fossil fuel is consumed per person, and underneath the chaos, entrepreneurs come up with innovative ideas to make it all work.

Seeing what's happening clearly is always the first step. But follow-up sessions from people sharing innovative ideas, like environmental journalist Alex Steffen, show there's no excuse not to go beyond hand-wringing. "Junk tagging," for example, is just one idea for an Internet-connected world. Why not point out online the location of one person's junk to everyone? It might be someone else's treasure, he says. Technology can "dematerialize" some of the damage done by an industrialized society. Netflix, the mail-based video company, not only has a profitable business plan: It also eliminates car trips to the video store and the video store itself, along with all the energy and materials that are needed to build and maintain it.

We gain status and identity from possessing objects, but services like car sharing programs in big cities show that the need is really something else, he says. We need to get someplace. Could dishwashers be shared too? Power drills? "We want the hole, not the drill," Steffen says.

Better product design can play a part, too. What if old cellphones could be put in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes and simply pop apart into their constituent parts for easy recycling? With the one billion cell phones expected to be sold worldwide next year, that's a compelling idea. (Get used to recycling going mainstream. "Virgin" raw materials will be used up in the next 30 to 70 years, says materials researcher Blaine Brownell.)

Sometimes no new technology is needed at all, only a better understanding of human nature. Homes use less energy when the electric or gas meter is put INSIDE the house where residents see what's happening. Same thing for cars: Drivers whose cars show how many miles per gallon the car is achieving actually drive in a more fuel-efficient way.

Apparently, knowledge IS power.

Grist has a great interview on "Planning for the long term"

How can we plan for the long term?

How can we take action today to fight against atmospheric greenhouse gases emissions, the effects of which will become apparent only over the very long term? We asked Andrew E. Dessler of Texas A&M University and Patrick Criqui of the LEPII Research Laboratory (CNRS - University of Grenoble).

Q:Why is it important to engage now a longterm mitigation strategy?

Andrew E. Dessler: Owing to CO2's long atmospheric lifetime, the impacts of climate change are the result of emissions integrated over the previous several centuries. Further, the technical and economic changes needed to reduce our vulnerability to climate change are also long-term activities, on the order of several decades for new technology to be fully incorporated into our economy.

Together, these two factors mean that if we want to head off possibly serious climate impacts at the end of the 21st century, we need to begin taking actions in the very near future. A good analogy is piloting a supertanker. Because of their immense size, supertankers turn very slowly. To avoid a hazard, the pilot has to begin turning the supertanker well before the hazard is actually reached. By the time the ship is upon the hazard, it's too late to avoid.

Q:What are the principal energy stakes in the next few decades?

Patrick Criqui: Sometimes I say that to achieve sustainable energy growth, like Ulysses, we have to sail between Scylla and Charybdis. The first risk is a scarcity of cheap oil and gas resources, as evidenced these days by the threat of peak oil (and peak gas). The second risk is climate change. But we can't count on a scarcity of oil and gas resources to solve the problem of climate change.

We have abundant coal resources, and the "dash for coal" has already started. If we let this massive use of coal continue without taking adequate precautions -- i.e. without retaining the CO2 -- we are heading for a climatic catastrophe.

Q:How would such a strategy impact the energy system?

Andrew E. Dessler: Because the energy business makes up such a large fraction of our greenhouse gas emissions, any significant emissions reductions will necessarily require a wholesale reconfiguration of how we generate and use energy. In particular, it is likely that some combination of renewable energy (solar, wind, biomass, etc.), nuclear, and carbon sequestration will have to be implemented on a large scale to meet our growing energy needs. Note that this will occur even in the absence of any policies to address global warming -- the impending exhaustion of low-cost oil and gas will in any event force us to redesign our energy systems.

It seems UK Tory leader David Cameron is really getting into the green vibe, announcing he would like to stick a wind turbine and solar panels on the roof of Number 10 Downing Street. If that were to actually happen I'd be pelasantly surprised. It sounds like his leadership skills are in need of some work though - who is the "they" that decides what the Prime Minister can put on the roof of his house (no obvious tinfoil answers please).
DAVID CAMERON said that he would like to put a wind turbine and solar panels on the roof of 10 Downing Street if he became Prime Minister.

The Tory leader, who is having a power-generating wind turbine installed at his new London home, was asked during an interview on BBC One’s Politics Show yesterday if he would do the same should he get to No 10.

“If they’d let me, yes,” he replied.

When asked about solar panels, which are generally used to heat hot-water systems, his answer was the same. “I think it would be a great idea because one of the things about the environment is . . . the Government has got to give the lead. Yes, politicians have to give a lead, but it’s something all of us can do something about.

The Times seems to be going green along with the Tories (got to keep the base informed of the new party line), with another report stating that we need to "cut carbon emissions now or face economic calamity later". It seems Rupert Murdoch's about face on global warming is serious (in the UK at least). This weekend's Australian Financial Review had a good pair of articles on Murdoch's fervent embrace of the internet and of global warming - and the nervousness it is causing the Republican party. I've said before that Rupert may be evil but he's not stupid (in fact he's very smart) and these 2 signs that he can clearly see where the future leads reminded me of a remark Gough Whitlam made a year or two ago - Murdoch just wants to back winners - and that means he is quite capable of swinging from one side of politics to another (it probably also explains his Chinese wife and big house outside Beijing for that matter).
A STARK warning of the economic costs and damage to the world that could result from global warming will be set out today in a report to be submitted to the Government.

Sir Nicholas Stern, the former chief economist at the World Bank, will advise that the costs of confronting climate change are far outweighed by those of failing to act in time. His 700-word report forecasts floods, famine, mass movement of people and the destruction of species if the Earth’s temperature continues to rise.

Gordon Brown, who commissioned the report, will accept its main recommendation for a global carbon-trading scheme to enforce limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The Chancellor will also announce that Al Gore, the former US Vice-President, is to advise him on environmental policy.

Sir Nicholas’s report, hailed as the most comprehensive study of the economics of climate change yet, makes the case for early action to avoid a calamitous recession later. Acting now to cut carbon emissions would cost 1 per cent of global GDP a year; by doing nothing, the costs at the time would be a minimum of 5 per cent and as high as 20 per cent of GDP a year, he concludes.

The report looks at the risks of uncontrolled climate change, saying that 200 million people may be permanently displaced if the world’s temperature rises by 3C (5.4F) from pre-industrial levels, and that rising sea levels from melting ice sheets could threaten the homes of one in every twenty people if temperatures go up by 2C-3C. All countries will be affected by global warming but the effects will be most severe on the poorest areas, potentially leading to more famine in Africa and leaving millions unable to produce or purchase sufficient food, it says.

Between 15 and 40 per cent of species would face extinction if the world’s temperature were to rise by 2C.

Just a short post tonight - I've also filled up the link bucket again.

Email From The Future  

Posted by Big Gav

One email list I subscribe to is called "Future Edition" from The Arlington Institute. This one always catches my eye as its sent from an email address named "The Future", so it tends to stand out in my incredibly clogged in box. I came across this one a few years ago, I think courtesy of Kevin Kelly's List of lists, though it no longer makes the list (assuming it ever was there).

Future Edition tends to cover a lot of the issues I like to rant about - minus the tinfoil - though as it only comes out once a month its not apppropriate for a daily news fix. The latest edition (Volume 9, Number 14) has a number of interesting links on the usual wide range of topics - I'll quote just a sample below.

Great Warming: Call to Action

The launch of a major statement calling for immediate action on climate change has brought together a diverse coalition of voices from every spectrum of thought, all of whom believe that environmental stewardship and creation care must become a top policy priority.

The statement, which is being issued in advance of the November 3 release of the new climate change film The Great Warming, is one part of a major initiative by the coalition and the film’s producer Stonehaven Productions to engage Americans in proactive action and advocacy. The coalition is urging all Americans to see the movie and thus let elected officials at all levels know that global warming is an urgent priority.

The Great Warming Call to Action statement -- signed by high-profile religious leaders from across the faith and ideological spectrum, key policy-makers, celebrities, environmental groups, and many of the most respected scientists in the world -- calls on our country to take immediate action to address climate change.

Regal Cinemas, which does not generally release independent documentary films, committed to a national release of The Great Warming following months of calls from people who viewed the documentary in their communities and churches and became convinced that the movie must reach a broad audience in order to galvanize action on climate change.



* Greenland had a net loss of 100 gigatons of ice per year between 2003 and 2005.
* 2,000 sq km of Nigeria is becoming desert each year.
* Plug-in hybrid vehicles could replace 80 percent of the gasoline used in the United States.
* In some countries, including Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, there is no longer any night sky untainted by light pollution.
* Incandescent light bulbs turn 5 percent of the energy they use into light. The other 95 percent is wasted.


Greenland Ice Sheet on a Downward Slide -- (Science Daily -- October 22, 2006)
For the first time NASA scientists have analyzed data from direct, detailed satellite measurements to show that ice losses now far surpass ice gains in the shrinking Greenland ice sheet.

Imagine Earth without People -- (New Scientist -- October 12, 2006)
If tomorrow dawns without humans, even from orbit the change will be evident almost immediately, as the blaze of artificial light that brightens the night begins to wink out.

Climate Water Threat to Millions -- (BBC -- October 20, 2006)
Climate change threatens supplies of water for millions of people in poorer countries. Recent research suggests that by 2050, five times as much land is likely to be under "extreme" drought as now.

Solar Flares Will Disrupt GPS in 2011 -- (New Scientist -- September 29, 2006)
Global Positioning System receivers have been found to be unexpectedly vulnerable to bursts of radio noise produced by solar flares. When solar activity peaks in 2011 and 2012, it could cause widespread disruption to aircraft navigation and emergency location systems that rely heavily on satellite navigation data.

Pollinators' Decline Called Threat to Crops -- (Washington Post -- October 19, 2006)
Birds, bees, bats and other species that pollinate North American plant life are losing population. This "demonstrably downward" trend could damage dozens of commercially important crops, since three-quarters of all flowering plants depend on pollinators for fertilization.

The Freshwater Boom is Over -- (The Guardian -- October 10, 2006)
While climate scientists have been predicting that the wet parts of the world are likely to become wetter and the dry parts drier, they had assumed that overall rainfall would rise, as higher temperatures increase evaporation. This new paper's "drought index" covers both rainfall and evaporation and shows that, overall, the world becomes drier.

Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapse Tied to Global Warming -- (Environment NS-- October 16, 2006)
Scientists reported the first direct evidence linking the 2002 collapse of an Antarctic ice shelf to global warming. The researchers found that stronger westerly winds in the northern Antarctic Peninsula, fueled primarily by human-induced climate change, were responsible for the dramatic summer warming that led to the retreat and collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf.

Ozone Hole is a Double Record Breaker -- (NASA -- October 19, 2006)
This year's ozone hole in the polar region of the Southern Hemisphere has broken records for area and depth. From September 21 to 30, the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles.


Existing Tech Could Replace Fossil Fuels -- (MIT Technology Review -- September 01, 2006)

Researchers say that the combined use of alternative energies for which we already have reliable technology "could replace all fossil fuel power plants." And that the use of hydrogen for vehicle fuel is a bad idea in most cases - as using electricity directly in vehicles (stored in batteries) rather than to generate hydrogen is three times cheaper.

The Cost of Lighting the World -- (BBC -- October 23, 2006)

A major advance in light technology is not far away. The latest advances have been light-emitting diodes - LEDs - and are developing at a very fast rate. Because the individual LEDs are so small, they can be put into highly efficient optical systems.

Regular readers will remember I recently linked to David Martin's talk at The Arlington Institute on 2008 and the possibility of economic gyrations caused by the implementation of Basel 2.

The latest talk they have up is from Daniel Pinchbeck, the author of "Breaking Open The Head" and "2012: The Return Of Quetzalcoatl", on the subject of 2012 and what he sees as the factors that point to major changes occurring around that time.

I can't see a transcript (though hopefully one will appear at some point) but its worth having a listen to even if you have some reservations about Pinchbeck (which I know some readers do). He talks largely about the ecological crisis - including species extinction, global warming and peak oil as factors in this - as the driving force for change - declaring that continuing business as usual is a "suicide scenario". He touches on the subject of the competing scenarios of collapse versus a positive change towards a sustainable high tech society several times (which we often see in the peak oil world as the collapsist / doomer vs the techno utopian / viridian argument) and takes the view that its preferable to aim for a better future than to simply accept that the status quo will continue to deteriorate, pointing to William McDonough's "Cradle to cradle" vision as one way forward.

While I can't remember the phrasing exactly, he also talked about the problematic case of some activists who become so discouraged by the lack of progress they end up wishing collapse would occur. He used the metaphor (quite apt given his Quetzalcoatl book) of a snake shedding an old skin - you can't just rip the old skin off and grow a new one - instead the thing is left on and dies / falls away gradually - so patience and a gradual turnaround of attitudes are required.

This reminds me of a couple of work anecdotes I was going to throw into the mix, so I may as well do it here. The first involves my "boss" (by and large I tend to do my own thing when I go to work at a company so I use this term pretty loosely) who did a presentation a couple of months ago where he threw in a line about "if I was a conservationist I'd give up driving my 5 litre V8 car, blah blah blah - but I'm not a conservationist, so I'm going to keep driving it". Last week I saw a copy of "An Inconvenient Truth" on his desk and quipped "I thought you weren't a conservationist !", and he - much to my surprise - said "I'm changing my mind". So it seems Al Gore is having an effect.

The second anecdote is about a executive who gave us a talk on how to convince the organisation to do what you want (my group tends to deal in vision but doesn't have much direct authority to make people do things - which isn't unlike being a blogger really). He had 7 talking points, which went as follows:

1) Begin with the end in mind (the old Steven Covey maxim)
2) Put yourself in the other person's shoes
3) Synthesis (be able to combine and shift between the big picture and the details)
4) Take People On A Journey
5) Accountability
6) Conditioning and Patterned Behaviour
7) Little Agreements

To illustrate the last point, he used an example of techniques the North Koreans used on American prisoners of war - first getting them to agree that they were being held in an acceptable physical environment, then later that the food was OK, then later that they were being treated well, then later that perhaps the North Koreans might not be as bad as they were made out to be etc etc etc. The point being that to convince someone he totally disgrees with you its best to do it very gradually, not try to get them to do an about face (which won't happen) - not to say that North Korea is good. Nevertheless I'm anticipating the next iteration of management texts (following the Sun Tzu / Art of War, Machiavelli / The Prince genre of management textbook fads) will start telling us to act like Kim Il Sung....

Back to Daniel Pinchbeck, I've linked previously to his interview with RU Sirius, he also had a profile done recently by Rolling Stone that he wasn't too happy about. Plenty of other background can be found at his blog. RI has also done some tinfoil takes on Pinchbeck's work - see Full Spectrum Dominance and Chant Down Babylon.
Rolling Stone has an interesting profile of Daniel Pinchbeck, son of an abstract painter and a beatnik book editor. Pinchbeck writes books about and turns people on to ayahuasca, "an Amazonian jungle brew that carries the DMT compound, usually combining the leaves of a plant containing DMT with a vine found snaking around rain-forest trees, whose beta-carbolines make the DMT orally active."
[Pinchbeck] took it for the first time about ten years ago in downtown Manhattan with a California shaman introduced to him by the poet Michael Brownstein; Pinchbeck wore Depends and a blindfold, and kept a plastic vomit bucket by his head.


Vocal proponents of alternate realities, like Sting and Oliver Stone, have been open about their experiments with ayahuasca, and in the hipster circles where ayahuasca has taken root, many people are making weeklong trips to Peru, which cost about $600 without airfare and include about four ayahuasca ceremonies. It's a kind of Merry Tripster scene, with guided shamanic journeys to Peru, Colombia and Hawaii available nearly monthly with shamans like a white-turbaned, middle-aged female guru from L.A. who channels a spirit called "the Mother," and with whom Pinchbeck has a close relationship.

The "Breaking Open The Head" style of writing (and experimentation) seems to follow (much less rigorously) in the footsteps of Wade Davis (and before him Richard Evans Schultes - in the ethnobotanist sense - and Terrence McKenna - in a more purely psychedelic sense).

I've referred to Wade Davis before as I think most readers of this blog would find him very interesting (he does a lot of work for National Geographic - there is a good interview here - and the shamanic drug thing is just one small aspect of the natural world that he investigates). A few of you may remember a glowing review I wrote of "The Serpent and the Rainbow", which I laughingly subtitled "How to make a zombie" - which is actually quite an eye opener that helps you understand the background of Haitian zombies and the fact that they actually real (honest - read the book - its an entirely rational phenomena once you understand how it works). Other books I highly recommend of his include Light at the Edge of the World, Shadows in the Sun and Rainforest: Ancient Realm of the Pacific Northwest.
Q:You're a passionate advocate of the need to ensure the survival of cultural diversity. Why does diversity matter, if nature and society are changing all the time anyway?

A:Just as there is a biological web of life, there is also a cultural and spiritual web of life—what we at the National Geographic have taken to calling the "ethnosphere." It's really the sum total of all the thoughts, beliefs, myths, and institutions brought into being by the human imagination. It is humanity's greatest legacy, embodying everything we have produced as a curious and amazingly adaptive species. The ethnosphere is as vital to our collective well-being as the biosphere. And just as the biosphere is being eroded, so is the ethnosphere—if anything, at a far greater rate.

Some people say: "What does it matter if these cultures fade away." The answer is simple. When asked the meaning of being human, all the diverse cultures of the world respond with 10,000 different voices. Distinct cultures represent unique visions of life itself, morally inspired and inherently right. And those different voices become part of the overall repertoire of humanity for coping with challenges confronting us in the future. As we drift toward a blandly amorphous, generic world, as cultures disappear and life becomes more uniform, we as a people and a species, and Earth itself, will be deeply impoverished.

Q:You argue that the steady loss of languages, which are reportedly disappearing at a rate of one every two weeks, is an alarming indicator of declining cultures. What do languages represent that makes you so fiercely concerned about their demise?

A: Language isn't just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules; it's a flash of the human spirit, the vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. When you and I were born there were 6,000 languages spoken on Earth. Now, fully half are not being taught to schoolchildren. Effectively, they're already dead unless something changes. What this means is that we are living through a period of time in which, within a single generation or two, by definition half of humanity's cultural legacy is being lost in a single generation. Whereas cultures can lose their language and maintain some semblance of their former selves, in general, it's the beginning of a slippery slope towards assimilation and acculturation and, in some sense, annihilation.

Heading back to TAI, as I like to know a little bit about the background of my information sources (though I'm not as rigorous as I should be about checking up on some places I link to), I did a little search to see what came up on The Arlington Institute. The results were quite intriguing - from their "SourceWatch / Disinfopedia" profile:
Best described by Jonathan Mowat:
The Arlington Institute (TAI), is an apparent strategist in the use of postmodern coups. It was founded in 1989 by John L. Petersen, in order, in his own words, " to help redefine the concept of national security in much larger, comprehensive terms by introducing the rapidly evolving global trends of population growth, environmental degradation, and science and technology explosion, and social value shifts into the traditional national defense equation." Among its board members are Jack DuVall, the former US Air Force officer who is director of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in Washington, DC and James Woolsey, the former Clinton administration CIA director and neocon spokesman who is currently the chairman of Freedom House.

The need for an organization like the Arlington Institute, its website reports, "evolved from the bipartisan, eighteen-month long National Security Group project that Petersen co-founded and jointly led in Washington, DC, in 1986-7. That ad-hoc group of national security experts was brought together to explore and map the security environment that the successful candidate would have to operate within after the 1988 presidential campaign. Petersen also wrote the final report for the group, 'The Diffusion of Power: An Era of Realignment,' which became a strategy document used at the highest levels of the Department of Defense."

"In the early part of the 90s," it adds, "Petersen was engaged in a number of projects for the Department of Defense which functioned to build a systematic understanding of the major approaches that were then being used to study and anticipate futures. One notable project for the Office of the Secretary of Defense involved traveling throughout the world visiting the foremost practitioners of futures research to assess each methodology and attempt to develop a new, synthetic approach that drew from the best of the then current processes." Petersen became an advisor to a number of senior defense officials during this time, serving in various personal support roles to the undersecretary of the Navy and the chief of Naval Operations, among others.

Midway through the 1990s, it adds, "Petersen became convinced that humanity was living in an extraordinary time of change that would necessarily result in a major global shift [of power?] within the following two decades. TAI committed itself to playing a significant role in facilitating a global transition to a new world that operates in a fundamentally different way from the past."

* John L. Petersen – founder
* Jack DuVall – board member
* James Woolsey – board member

As Woolsey is one of the geo greens its interesting that TAI are looking at ecological overshoot in its various forms - normally geo green policy is framed in terms of energy security rather than ecology. On the whole I tend to approve of their goals (even if their rhetoric often leaves me unmoved - at least it uses an angle which would appeal to kneejerk reactionaries and get them to do the right thing in spite of some of their underlying prejudices about environmentalists), though I'm sure my left leaning readers would be suspicious, let alone tinfoil types who see the combination of elite policy makers and action regarding the limits to growth as a plot to maintain the economics of scarcity.

Some of the stuff talked about by both David Martin and Daniel Pinchbeck at TAI features in this latest prophecy of doom from Kevin at Cryptogon (I'll get my tinfoil in early tonight) as he considers the implications of a warning from the chief of the GAO in the US - it seems the planets of the military industrial complex, the technology sector, the new agers, the environmental movement and tinfoil clad survivalists (though perhaps permaculturists is more accurate in Kevin's case, which is a bit of a weird combination) are all moving into alignment. Kevin is also speculating that martial law is about to be introduced in the US and that Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia (the linchpin of the world's oil supply) may be about to go up , as part of a false flag operation to kick off a war with Iran - which would be the October suprise to end all October surprises if it happened...
Maybe David Walker and the gang didn't get the memo on the mysterious buyers... Doesn't the eerie "bid" in the equity markets help them sleep peacefully at night?

This show would have already come down if it wasn't for the macroeconomic black ops. Rather than allowing this thing to die, it is being kept in an undead state for as long as possible.

With the debt closing in on $9 trillion, we're already living well within the realm of financial make believe. Could the debt reach $46 trillion or more? There's no purely economic reason why it couldn't. I don't see any difference between $9 trillion and $100 trillion. IT'S ALL FAKE AT THIS POINT.

Here's a list of things that are---unlike "Economics"---very real:

Water scarcity
Energy scarcity
Food scarcity
Raw materials scarcity
Weather cataclysms/global warming
In a word, 'Overshoot'

Any one of those issues could deliver a kill shot to this horror show we call the global economy. And, as I'm sure you already know, they're all starting to impact at the same time. But never mind all of that, just pay attention to "the terrorists." The terrorists! LOOK OUT!!! THE TERRORISTS!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Their basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation. That's almost as much as the total net worth of every person in America - Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and those Google guys included.

A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that big would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today. And every year that nothing is done about it, Walker says, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion.

Heading back to the subject of collapse and framing of the peak oil issue, a recent DrumBeat at The Oil Drum had a bit of discussion around this, after Odograph kindly quoted John Robb and myself commenting on how unfortunate it is that "conventional belief" is that "peak oil = collapse" (Odo copped some angry doomer bile for his trouble).
Do you really think that the opposite of believing that doom is inevitable is to think "all we have to do is believe that everything will be OK?"

No. I think the honest, pragmatic, and humble approach is to work just as hard as you can for solutions, and let the result be your answer.

We won't really know until it plays out, and as that quote says, assuming failure helps determine the outcome.


BTW, this is really about "framing" in the "don't think of an elephant" sense.

"Peak oil" has, in my opinion been successfully framed as a flavor of doom. That's too bad because it limits the role that concept can play in conventional politics and society.

Framing matters, especially when it successful but ungrounded in facts. Was the Iraq invasion a "war on terror?" I don't think so, but I see the cost of it being successfully famed that way.

Do the members of the "peak oil" movement want to make a real impact on national politics, or do they want to be written of as doomers? It's up to you .. but mind your framing.

Leanan is of the view that collapse is inevitable (based on Tainter's theory of the collapse of complex societies), which is something I have a lot of trouble accepting is justified by the facts - so I'll repeat my own comments from TOD (with a whole lot of typo fixes and additions) here:
All societies seem to collapse eventually. But they also seem (thus far) to be able to reconfigure and achieve yet more complex forms during subsequent iterations of civilisation (or empire, or whatever you'd like to call it).

So if you take a relatively short term view, societies collapse (for various reasons - but lets assume destroying their own resource base is the primary cause), and become less complex.

If you take a longer term view, societies have always become more complex over time (or, to put it another way, people have managed to continually develop more complex technologies and organisational structures in order to achieve more complex goals). Of course, some societies simply perish - there is an element of survival of the fittest going on.

If you believe we'll never get more "work" from energy than we do now (or whenever the oil peak arrives) then maybe the inevitable collapse case could be justified (though I think there are still scenarios where this wouldn't be the case if you are willing to entertain dieoff as but one step in the process - but this isn't a path I'm interested in exploring).

However, I don't see it this way - there is massive scope for efficiency gains (increasing net 'work" from available energy) and there is massive scope for harnessing other energy sources (solar and wind in particular) - and I think further increases in "complexity" will be required to implement these.

I don't define complexity as increasingly pronounced hierarchy and centralisation though...


One of my points is that energy is a rather flexible concept (though few people seem to talk about this).

There is how much energy you can harvest from a given source - and then there is how much "work" you can do with it (based on how efficiently you utilise it).

People focus on the harvesting side (and I still say there is scope for improving how much we can harvest from alternative sources) - but they ignore what efficiency gains can mean (and its these that determine the amount of "work").

A peak oil downslope can still mean a plateau or upslope on a "work" curve if you can use the energy available effectively enough.

Does anyone really think we're even half way to optimising our efficiency of energy usage ?

What I'd like to see is 2 graphs that complement the oil depletion model - a "total energy" graph (including all forms of energy that could be harvested) - and a "total work" graph (showing the end result of using this energy - a concept which might take some work, pardon the pun, to define).

In some ways "total energy" would be like an oil depletion model that accounts for declining EROEI (Mobjectivist once had a great graph that showed this which I can't find the link for right now) but include solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, biofuel etc as well.

"Total work" would be a little like Duncan's Olduvai "per capita energy" graph - but adjusted so that it actually means something - its the "work" thats important, not the energy per se.

Both of these are even harder to estimate than oil depletion models but worth a shot with some documented assumptions - perhaps viewed under a set of scenarios like the Limits to Growth did.

If all 3 graphs trend down under a reasonable set of assumptions then I'd concede we're in trouble and the collapse scenario makes sense - but my feeling is that we'd see a plateau in graph 2 and an uptrend in graph 3 if a number of fairly simple actions were undertaken...

I'm not sure if anyone has ever tried modelling either of these but if you've ever seen something similar send me a link...

Odograph himself has a problems with fisheries off California, along with one on the unethusiastic response to the appointment of Lee "Jabba" Raymond to the head of a committee looking at the energy crisis (presumably this is intended to scuttle meaningful action). Odo also has a great series of scanned images that he posts every now and then from a book showing various cities around a century ago.
Commercial fishing causes serious fluctuations in fish populations leaving them in danger of total collapse, says new research published today. These fluctuations mean current measures in place to control fish stocks may not be sufficient to ensure their sustainability.

The research, which is published in today’s Nature, involved compiling the largest ever survey of both exploited fish and non-exploited fish off the California coast. The research team looked at how the abundance of both types of fish varied over a 50 year period, and found the first evidence that exploited species’ population levels vary far more than non exploited species’ in the same ecosystem.

I’ve come to believe that the only safe fishery strategy is to implement “no take zones” large enough to support base populations. This sort of article reinforces that belief. Unfortunately, the “no take” or “marine preserve” idea is spreading very slowly.

The Sydney Morning Herald's "Scorched Earth" special continues this weekend, with a report called Climate comes in from the cold, that features the Clean Energy for Eternity group down on the south coast.
For Matthew Nott, it all started on New Year's Day.

Across the state, near-record temperatures drove many people indoors, demand for electricity soared as air-conditioning units were switched on and railway tracks buckled in the heat.

At Tathra Beach, 20 minutes east of Bega on the South Coast, where Nott had gone to cool off, the temperature had soared to 42 degrees by 10am. "I was reading Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers and I thought 'What a juxtaposition, this book about climate change and record temperatures'," says Nott, an orthopedic surgeon who moved to the Bega Valley six years ago with his family.

It was a juxtaposition he says changed his life. With no political or environmental experience before then, Nott has since spent his spare time researching climate change. He was disturbed by what he discovered: predictions from the world's leading scientists that man-made greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere would dramatically alter the earth's climate, and evidence some of the changes were taking place.

Frustrated by a lack of government action on the problem, in May Nott rallied 3000 residents in the Bega Shire to form a human sign on Tathra Beach that read "Clean Energy for Eternity". From that event, a small group of activists was formed to encourage the local council to cut energy consumption in the shire and source some of its electricity from renewable energy. The group has started to talk to residents in the neighbouring shires of Eurobodalla and Snowy River about similar programs.

While grassroots groups like this one were springing up all over Australia, little was changing in the top political echelons.

The Howard Government remained a steadfast critic of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to tackle climate change, and argued any attempt to penalise greenhouse gas polluters would damage the economy. Government ministers continued to play down the link between climate change, urban water shortages and the widespread drought.

But suddenly, two weeks ago, the Government's tune appeared to change.The Prime Minister, who had long scoffed at the "gloomy predictions" about climate change, finally made the link between drought and global warming.

Was this a sudden change of heart from a Government derided by many for its "go slow" attitude on climate change? And if so, what prompted it? An increasing sense of urgency about the devastation wrecked by the drought appears to be part of it. But political commentators, the Opposition and green groups say the Government's conversion is more rhetoric than real and is purely driven by public opinion.

"I think [the recent change] is utterly poll driven," says Greens senator Christine Milne. "In the federal budget, Costello did not once mention climate change and did not say the cost of the drought would blow out the budget. "Two weeks ago Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said [the climate change documentary] An Inconvenient Truth was "just entertainment" and Howard said we shouldn't exaggerate the link between climate change and the drought. Then, Friday week ago they suddenly changed their position," Milne says. "The polling shows the Australian community have put two and two together and see that drought, more and hotter bushfires, the water shortage and climate change are all connected and they blame the Government for 10 years of inaction."

A Lowy Institute poll released in early October found 68 per cent of Australians believed climate change was a "critical threat" that should be immediately addressed, even if this involved significant costs.

Energy experts and opposition parties described this week's announcement by the Treasurer, Peter Costello, of a $75 million grant for a solar power plant in regional Victoria as "short-term thinking" and a one-off. Greenpeace's energy campaigner, Mark Wakeham, welcomed the funding but said the company behind the plant had admitted it might not have gone ahead if it was not for a Victorian Government renewable energy support scheme and this highlighted the Federal Government's inadequate policies.

"If you are going to tackle climate change you need systemic change," says Wakeham. "You need a price on carbon … you need incentives for all renewable energy, not just funding for one project.

"If that is the Government's response to climate change then we should be worried."

GetUp is organising a series of marches around the country on November 4 called the Walk Against Warming.

On Saturday November 4, we're taking our CLIMATE ACTION MESSAGE to the streets in support of the Walk Against Warming, which is kicking off in capital cities and towns all across the country. Meet other GetUp members and join tens of thousands of people nationwide for a few hours in a fun, unified and highly visible action for our future.

With climate change firmly on the front page now is the perfect time to exert pressure on our politicians to take global warming seriously, and give us responsible leadership for our future.

Meanwhile the forecast is for higher temperatures and falling dam levels.
RAINFALL is at record lows, temperatures have been steadily rising, water storage levels are well below average - and there is no relief in sight. Dams providing water for almost all of Australia's major urban centres have had no significant boosts for several years, and they continue to be drawn down.

The bleak picture of the drought is detailed in a report by the National Water Commission, which warns that Australia is unlikely to see drought-breaking rain before next year. "In short, Australia's water supplies have been seriously affected by a succession of poor seasons and the outlook is not promising," the report says. That view is backed by seasonal forecasts from meteorologists, who believe less rain and higher temperatures are likely in the next three months.

The reports came as John Howard continued his tour of drought-affected regions and ABARE forecast a massive drop in livestock and grain crops.

The latest long-range outlook for rainfall and temperatures from the bureau suggests a long, hot summer for much of the country after higher-than-average temperatures in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

In another example of everything being connected, the drought is also being blamed for falling fish catches.
SHOPPERS will pay more than $50 a kilogram for fresh king prawns this Christmas.

Fish prices across the board will also go up about $4 or $5 a kilogram because, like prawns, the catch is well down.

North Coast fishermen blame the drought and high diesel prices and say competition from imports doesn't help.

The drought on the land has resulted in the failure of the southern estuaries - such as the Hawkesbury, Nepean, Hunter and Shoalhaven rivers and Wallis Lakes - to discharge nutrients and young fish and prawns into the ocean.

Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Co-operative general manager Phillip Neuss said that, usually, there was a reasonable catch of prawns but the tonnages had dropped.

"We got 177 tonnes in 2002, 119 tonnes in 2004, 85 tonnes in 2005 and 69 tonnes this year," he said. "So the catch is 61 per cent down on the good year in 2002, a loss of about $1.8 million.

"All our catch comes from the north after being flushed out of the river systems but we are getting very little because of the drought."

The SMH also has a report on the slowing down of the North Atlantic current - apparently part of it stopped briefly in 2004. RealClimate also had a post on this current recently, along with another containg some warnings about quoting the mainstream media on climate science.
Scientists have uncovered more evidence of a dramatic weakening in the vast ocean current that gives Western Europe its relatively balmy climate by dragging warm water northwards from the tropics.

The slowdown of the North Atlantic Drift, which climate modellers have predicted will follow global warming, has been confirmed by the most detailed study yet of ocean flow in the Atlantic.

Most alarmingly, the data reveals part of the current, usually 60 times more powerful than the Amazon River, came to a temporary halt during November 2004.

The nightmare scenario of a shutdown in the meridional ocean current that drives the Gulf Stream was dramatically portrayed in disaster film The Day After Tomorrow.

That scenario had Europe and North America plunged into a new ice age virtually overnight. Although no scientist thinks the switch-off could happen that fast, they do agree that even a weakening over a few decades would have profound consequences.

MonkeyGrinder has been looking into his crystal ball and foresees further pyramid construction.
Oil stuck below $159, traders question OPEC resolve

SINGAPORE (Reuteres) Oil deepened losses below $159 a barrel on Tuesday as traders waited for evidence that other OPEC members would follow Saudi Arabia's lead in cutting output.

U.S. light, sweet crude dipped 12 cents to $158.69 a barrel by 0148 GMT, extending a 52-cent fall on Monday . Prices hit a 2008 low of $156.55 a barrel last week and stand 25 percent below a record-high traded in July. London Brent fell 26 cents to $158.95 a barrel.

Top global exporter Saudi Arabia told its customers at the weekend that it would give them less crude in November, making good on its part in an OPEC deal last week to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to try to stem falling prices.

The kingdom told Asian refiners that it would cut their sales by up to 8 percent versus October's levels and told oil majors that it would deepen earlier curbs by another 5 percent, but most others members have yet to show evidence of reducing output.

With oil prices still high by historical measures, analysts have questioned whether the full cuts OPEC agreed to will be implemented, and oil traders appear to be waiting for the proof.

"Until another third world country starves to death following the cut on stockpile levels we don’t expect a response" from prices, said Blonkles Gurb, a commodities analyst at National Paraguay Bank. "It may be a few weeks before anything happens (to stocks)."

Some OPEC ministers said another 500,000 bpd reduction could follow when the group meets in Abuja in December as they fear a supply glut could develop in the second quarter if peak winter demand fails to draw down toppy stockpiles.

Meanwhile, in the face of oil production cuts, construction of the huge asphalt pyramid commemorating the American-Iran conflict continues unabated in Saudi Arabia.

I'll close with Billmon looking at media coverage of the upcoming US elections.
No one in the corporate media, to my knowledge, has even come close to putting an accurate lead on the story -- which would look something like this:
Faced with the likely loss of one if not both houses of Congress, the Republican Party has embarked on a massive, last-ditch effort to smear Democratic challengers in competitive districts across the country.

The resulting campaign has completely demolished whatever minor restraints remained on the use of lies and distortions in political attack ads, and has pushed the already debased American political process to a new low.

A "straight" journalist couldn't possibly write a lead like that and expect to get it past his/her editor -- even though the Republicans themselves revealed their intentions quite clearly some weeks ago:
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which this year dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates, plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads.

Opposition research is power," said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), the NRCC chairman. "Opposition research is the key to defining untested opponents."

The only fresh "news" is that the resulting ads are even fouler and more despicable than any the Rovian machine has unleashed in the past -- to the point where some of them would probably have made Joseph Goebbels himself blush.

The way the media is currently handling the GOP's Swiftboat extravaganza is a textbook example of how the conventions of journalistic "objectivity" have become the enemies of truth, not its allies. It shows why so many on the left are so angry even with "responsible," non-Foxified news organizations: because they insist on describing a moral equivalence that factually doesn't exist -- and which many, if not most, reporters know does not exist.

The Democrats certainly aren't the Children of Light here, and there's no question liberals are perfectly capable of ignoring the motes in their own eyes -- and those of their political patrons. The general reaction in Left Blogistan to the reporting on Harry Reid's land dealings in Nevada was a good example. Lefty bloggers generally fell all over themselves excusing Reid's financial ties to an extremely dirty circle of local Las Vegas pols (to find out how dirty, Google "Operation G-string" or "Rick Rizzolo") and arguing that the Minority Leader's failure to disclose his partnership with a known mob attorney was a mere technicality. Reid's dealings may not have been illegal, or even unethical, but I have absolutely no doubt that if he had been a Republican pol caught with the same pair of pants around his ankles, the cries at Daily Kos for a special prosecutor would have been deafening.

But at some point refusing to recognize the disproportionality -- a disciplined, lavishly funded and utterly ruthless authoritarian machine on one side; the usual run of backslapping bribe takers on the other -- becomes a form of lying, and we're long past that point.

When even Chris Matthews can smell the odor wafting from "Ken Mehlman's cesspool," you know how strong the stench is, but most journalists, most of the time, continue to flee from the truth: that the GOP machine will use every totalitarian propaganda trick in the book, if need be, to keep all three branches of the federal government in its grip. Or, at a minimum, that the men at the top -- Rove, Mehlman and, of course, Junior -- show no signs of having any limits on their willingness to use such techniques.

The sinking sensation this produces in my stomach is comparable to the feeling I had after the Abu Ghraib story broke, when it quickly became clear that torture and sexual abuse had been used as routine tools of interrogation not just in Iraq but at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan, but the corporate media insisted on treating the Cheney Administration's lies as equal to, if not greater than, the events unfolding in front of their eyes.

I could, of course, cite other examples -- the WMD fraud, the secret wiretapping, the insane debate over whether the sectarian slaughter in Iraq qualifies as a "civil war," and so on. But the common denominator, in each case, was the corporate media's stubborn, and I would say deliberate, insistence on "balancing" obvious lies and partisan spin against the facts. Truth versus truthiness.

Needless to say, if the TV bimbos and the ink-stained wretches were willing to give the Geneva Convention that kind of treatment, it's no surprise they're willing to do the same in a political campaign -- which, after all, tend to be vapid, vicious, inane and dishonest even at the best of times. But every failure to draw some kind of line, to make a distinction between "both parties are doing it" and "one of the two parties is completely out of control," encourages the out-of-control party to behave even more outrageously. In the end, it will also force the Democrats to respond in kind (that is, if they want to survive) thus making ABC's prediction that the left, too, will unleash it's garbage a self-fulfilling prophesy.


To me it looks as if a conscious, corporate decision has been made to try to hold (or win back) the conservative "red state" news audience even if it means losing the liberal "blue state" audience. Whether this is because the conservative news audience is larger and more affluent, or because the strategists at Viacom, Disney, GE and Time Warner have decided that liberals are less likely to change channels when their ideological beliefs are offended, or because the more demographically desirable blue state audiences have long since "self selected" their way out of old media's reach all together, I don't know. But when Mark Halperin promises Bill O'Reilly he will feel his pain, or the CBS Evening News gives every conservative nut job in America a spot on "Free Speech," or NBC refuses to accept an ad for the Dixie Chicks documentary because it disrepects Shrub, or Time puts Ann Coulter on the cover, I think they're making economic statements as much as journalistic ones.

You could say: To hell with old media, they're just a bunch of senile dinosaurs anyway, who cares who they pander to? But old media, for better or worse, still set the news agenda, and still dominate the political process. And they're doing an energetic, if not yet totally successful, job of sucking up new media and sticking them in the same corporate straight jacket. If they decide, as matter of cold capitalist calculation, that one-party Republican rule is the smart way to bet, that could also become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Maybe I'm wrong -- I hope I am. But if I'm right, then in years to come progressives may look back and sigh for the good old days when journalistic "objectivity" still encouraged the corporate media to give the truth and conservative propaganda equal weight, instead of just mindlessly repeating the latter.

Silicon Valley's War On Big Oil  

Posted by Big Gav

Business 2.0 is continuing what seems to be a very common theme in recent weeks - the rush to develop clean energy technologies in Silicon Valley and the prospect of this ridding us of the curse of big oil - in the comprehensive "Lighting up the $1 trillion power market".

There's a missile-bunker vibe you get when walking into Solaicx, a Silicon Valley startup that manufactures the silicon wafers that are the building blocks of solar panels.

In one half of the nondescript Santa Clara warehouse, three men sit hunched on a wood platform 8 feet above the cement floor, their eyes locked on two monitors. The screens show data and video gathered from a 24-foot-tall steel tower. The tower begins in a squat, gourd-shaped base and tapers to a cannon-size column with a long drum spinning slowly on top. Thick power cables snake down its sides. Another sci-fi-looking tower rises up off to one side of the building.

Inside the tower that has everyone's attention, molten silicon is being added to a thin, 8-inch-long rod, or "seed," of silicon. After 15 hours of precise spinning and pulling, the seed will grow to a mirror-finished ingot about 4 feet long and weighing more than 150 pounds. If it's perfect - and that is the point of Solaicx's cutting-edge technology - it will form a single crystal matrix, which is then trimmed and sliced into 1,000 wafers that sell for $5 apiece and are used by companies like General Electric to build the most efficient solar modules on the market today.

Solaicx is one of dozens of Silicon Valley firms driving a sizzling $11 billion worldwide market in solar energy, part of a rapidly expanding alternative-energy economy that promises to shake up the way power is produced and consumed as profoundly as the region's computer and Internet companies upended global communications and commerce in the late 20th century.

The signs of world-changing transformation are everywhere: Venture capitalists are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Valley solar startups pursuing technological breakthroughs to make sun power as cheap as fossil fuel. Three of the largest tech IPOs of 2005 were for solar companies, including San Jose-based SunPower, a spinoff of chipmaker Cypress Semiconductor.

Other old-line Valley tech companies are also jumping into the market. Among the most significant is Applied Materials (Charts). The world's largest chip-equipment maker will begin producing machines to manufacture solar wafers, laying the groundwork for an industrial infrastructure that should lower the cost of producing solar cells. For the first time in many years, high-tech manufacturing plants - yes, factories - are being built in Silicon Valley.

Why the gold rush?

Solar is not the only alternative-energy source generating interest in the Valley: Biofuels, fuel cells, and hydrogen power are all attracting their fair share of investment. But solar energy has just the sort of oversize potential that the titans of tech saw in computing: a free and practically inexhaustible power source that rises every day.

Fears about global warming have triggered public and political demand for renewable energy, which is expected to become a $167 billion global market by 2015. In September, California enacted landmark global-warming legislation to force the state's largest industrial polluters to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. The new law will likely lead to the creation of a California carbon market, allowing clean-energy producers in the world's sixth-largest economy to sell carbon credits to polluters who can't or won't reduce their spew. A similar regional market is being developed by New York and six other Northeastern states.

California is also committing $3.2 billion to fund a drive to install solar panels on a million rooftops by 2018, and a November ballot initiative backed by Silicon Valley heavyweights such as venture capitalists Vinod Khosla and John Doerr and Google co-founder Larry Page would tax Big Oil to provide $4 billion in funding for alternative-energy research, programs, and startups.

Alex Steffen interview in Business Week on the WorldChanging book launch and related matters.
BusinessWeek: Green architecture gets a lot of press, and smart companies are starting to see that green buildings can not only help preserve the environment, but also help a business's bottom line—not to mention garner press. Can businesses even push themselves beyond LEED in terms of saving the environment and their own dollars?

Alex Steffen: Traditionally, environmentalists have been perceived as being antitech, antibusiness, and antiprosperity. We're now seeing a new kind of environmental movement that's interested in embracing science and technology for better solutions, and that includes businesses.

We talk a lot about a bright green economy. But the most negative force that has the largest environmental impact is inefficiency. Businesses need to get smarter about delivering what people want, without wasting resources. They need to realize that no one makes money by making more waste.

As for green architecture, LEED was the goal only a few years ago. But now people who are on the cutting edge are going beyond LEED, such as the development of totally self-sufficient, zero-energy-footprint flats in London, developed by Yorklake and BedZed. Businesses should realize that they will make more money if they push farther than LEED.

Some claim that buildings cost less up front by being built green—using materials from the site to cut down on transportation costs such as fuel, for example. I think we're now headed toward the goal of zero-energy, zero-waste buildings. Sure, it sounds really dramatic. But once we get a compelling, good example, the whole field of green architecture will shift.

Grist is posting a step by step guide on "How To Talk to a Climate Skeptic".
I am going to be reposting, article by article, my How To Talk to a Climate Skeptic guide here at Grist. Before beginning, I would like to make a correction, present a plan, offer an explanation, and make a request.

David said that after 60 or so articles the guide is a "mission accomplished." Unfortunately, there really is a lot left to cover! That's the correction.

The plan is to present these articles roughly following the Stages of Denial sorting, so it will read like a "journey of discovery."

The explanation is prompted by a few comments I got from some of the more sophisticated contrarians I tangled with at the original site. They complained that the arguments I was debunking were often shallow or silly -- that they were red herrings. I would like to state clearly for the record: there is not a single argument I addressed that I have not seen being made repeatedly on blogs, usenet, or less scientifically literate venues like the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. I can not defend against the charge that the denialist's material is sometimes shallow, silly, or even downright ludicrous, but if it is good enough for the Senate floor or the congressional record, it is good enough for me to address.

Crikey reports that concern about global warming is growing in the business world, which puts the Rodent (one of those climate skeptics who needs a good talking to) in a difficult position - how to do the bidding of the coal companies without getting the rest of the business sector offside.
Next Monday, Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist with the World Bank, will warn that governments need to tackle the global warming problem head-on by cutting emissions or face economic ruin. His findings, according to The Guardian, will turn "economic argument about global warming on its head by insisting that fighting global warming will save industrial nations money."

The US and Australia have refused to join the Kyoto protocol because it would harm the economy. Prime Minister John Howard told Four Corners recently "we have a lot of reservations about carbon taxes because carbon taxes are going to impose huge costs on the Australian economy."

But Crikey has put managed to put together a rather long list of CEOs who seem to disagree with the PM. The following business leaders are putting their money where their mouths are and demanding a stronger government response to global warming. They're also showing how businesses can become more profitable by responding to climate change now.

Michael Hawker, CEO, Insurance Australia Group: Has recognised the risks to insurance industry from global warming and the business opportunities. Recently told CEO Forum Group, “We have a very direct interest in this...we pay claims as a result of environmental events, such as storms, bushfires, and so on, many of which have a direct relationship to global warming. One of the consequences of this is the increasing costs of claims in the market place...We respond to that in two ways: ...price the cost of insurance to reflect the increased risk, but the other is to explain to the community the likely costs of environmental warming...” A member of the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change, launched in April, which has called for Australia to have its own carbon pricing regime.

David Morgan, CEO Westpac: Westpac has created a green home loan product that distinguishes Westpac from other banks. In June 2003, Westpac adopted the Equator Principles, a voluntary set of guidelines which have been developed for managing social and environmental issues relating to the financing of projects. In a joint CEO statement as part of the Business Roundtable, Morgan stated, “...Australia can deliver significant reductions at an affordable cost. Furthermore, the longer we delay acting, the more expensive it becomes for business and for the wider Australian economy.”

Paul Anthony, CEO AGL: Told the Eureka Report, "I think the biggest overhang though is the lack of any coherent policy on carbon trading...what we're trying to do is build a modern fleet of generating capability that's a mix of renewable and clean-burn gas-fired generation. So in the back of our mind, we're assuming that there's going to be a carbon policy in place, and every single step we take to build out our generation fleet is either clean-burn gas-fired technology or we're looking at renewable technology.”...

I love reading that kind of stuff - most businesses can't afford to irrationally stick to paranoid ideologies the way some think tanks and political parties do...

Less amusingly, the Minister for Hypocrisy, Ian Campbell, shows that the government is willing to stoop as low as it possibly can when it comes to trying to solve the energy dilemna - the obvious solution - carbon taxes, which allow the market to determine the best way to produce energy cleanly (which is supposedly in line with stated government policy and ideology) are forbidden, but handing out subsidies to start a nuclear power industry is apparently OK - our tax dollars going to waste propping up government cronies to produce a product no one wants...
THE Government would consider subsidising nuclear power to make it affordable, Environment Minister Ian Campbell indicated last night.

Senator Campbell said the Government would not penalise coal-burning power stations in order to make their energy more expensive and bring it on a par with nuclear-generated energy.

Asked on ABC television whether nuclear power would be uneconomic unless coal-fired power stations were penalised for polluting the atmosphere, Senator Campbell said the Government preferred incentives over penalties and taxes.

"When you realise that Australia is 1.46 per cent of global (carbon dioxide) emissions, creating policy measures in Australia that put up the price of energy ... that is the Labor way of doing things," Senator Campbell told ABC television. "The other way is to create incentives. "Whenever you want to create an energy source that is more expensive to create infrastructure-wise than what we are doing at the moment, you will need some sort of subsidy."

On a positive note, the government has been shamed into retaining their small subsidies for consumers to install solar power after feeling the heat from voters.
The Federal Government's recent acknowledgment of the dangers posed by global warming continued yesterday when the Treasurer, Peter Costello, reversed a plan to abolish consumer rebates for solar energy.

The scheme, which provides incentives for installing solar power in homes, business, schools and community centres, was slashed on January 1 and scheduled for abolition by June 30 next year.

But Mr Costello said yesterday he supported the scheme and it would not be phased out. "My own view is it should continue. I am certainly not supporting its abolition." An announcement on the scheme's future was likely to be made in the federal budget in May, but could come sooner, he said.

The about-face followed a campaign by Channel Seven's Sunrise program and criticism from Labor. With the polls showing most people are worried about climate change and the drought fuelling those concerns, the Government has shed its scepticism about global warming in recent weeks.

While the polls seem to be the only thing that can make the government acknowledge global warming, one would hope that their spin that dealing with global warming is expensive is about to come to a shameful end, with more and more reports noting that its cheaper to deal with global warming than it is to let it continue to accelerate (which is no doubt why the business community is largely starting to push for action).
Climate change could push the world into the worst recession since the Great Depression, with many countries facing economic ruin, a comprehensive British report on the effects of global warming will warn next week.

The report, written by the former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern and commissioned by the British Treasury, seeks to overturn conventional wisdom by insisting that fighting climate change will save - not cost - governments money.

The report's contents have been kept secret but Sir Nicholas briefed environment and energy ministers from the world's top 20 greenhouse gas-emitting nations - including the Industry, Tourism and Resources Minister, Ian McFarlane - in Mexico this month.

Britain's chief scientist, Sir David King, said the report indicated "that if we don't take global action … we will be faced with the kind of downturn that has not been seen since the Great Depression and the two world wars".

"If you look at sea level rises alone, and the impact that will have on global economies where cities are becoming inundated by flooding … this will cause the displacement of hundreds of millions of people," he said.

Sir David described the Stern report as the most detailed economic analysis that has been conducted and said it would "surprise many people in terms of the relatively small cost of action."

Technology Review has an article on "A Practical Fuel-Cell Power Plant" which looks at cleaner and more efficient ways of generating power from coal in next generation power plants.
GE's advance allows for a solid-oxide fuel cell to use coal-based fuels at costs approaching that of conventional power plants.

One of the most efficient ways to produce power at future coal-gasification power plants is with solid-oxide fuel cells, which use the hydrogen from the gas stream to generate electricity through chemical reactions. This is more efficient than simply combusting the gas stream from coal gasification. And unlike other types of fuel cells, the solid-oxide variety can operate at very high temperatures and efficiencies, and be scaled up to provide cities with power.

But among the various challenges to developing the technology, manufacturing cost has been a potential deal breaker. Now, researchers at GE have demonstrated a manufacturing method that assembles layers of ceramic and electrolyte materials cheaply so that the final product can be built for about $800 a kilowatt, which starts to approach the $500-to-$550-per-kilowatt cost of building a conventional gas-fired power plant.

GE's six-kilowatt prototype achieves 49 percent efficiency in converting fuel into electricity, which compares favorably with the 35 percent efficiency of conventional coal-burning power plants.

John Robb has a micro post on peak oil.
The conventional way to think about peak oil is collapse. I think that the better way to view it is as a test of systemic resiliency. Those systems that can bridge the gap through innovation will reap the benefits (a BIG shift in wealth).

While I completely agree with John, this once again makes me wish people wouldn't accept that the conventional belief regarding peak oil is that it means collapse (though thats certainly true in doomer circles). If everyone believes this then it will become a self fulfilling prophecy when we realise we're past the peak (whenever that happens).

Peak oil is an opportunity to move to cleaner energy sources (or dirtier energy sources, depending on which road we take). Its hard to prepare a convincing case that there will be less net energy available in 10 years time than there is today, even if we've already passed the peak of conventional oil production right now (a subject I'm going to rant about at length one day - and I'm going to rant about a little more tomorrow).

Dave at SPO likes to say "peak oil is an infrastructure problem, not an energy problem", which sums it up perfectly in my view.

Reuters has a report from the ASPO USA conference, quoting Matt Simmons saying that we may have already passed the peak.
World production of crude oil may have already peaked, setting the stage for declining output that could lag demand, a top advocate of the "peak oil" theory said on Thursday.

Matthew Simmons, chairman of Simmons & Co. International, a Houston-based investment banking firm specializing in the energy sector, said U.S. government data showed that the world oil supply has declined through the first half of this year.

Energy Information Administration data showed world supply of crude oil has declined to 83.98 million barrels per day in the second quarter after hitting 84.35 million bpd in the fourth quarter of 2005.

"If you basically have another six to ten months of that decline lasting, then I think for certain we would look back and say, 'Guess what? We actually reached a sustainable peak in crude oil production in December 2005,'" Simmons said at a meeting of the United States of the the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas.
Other speakers at the conference took a more tempered view of the world's oil capacity, arguing that peak production is still a few years out.

William Engdahl has a 2 part series in The Asia Times on "The Emerging Russian Giant" which has a reasonably detailed look at energy and infrastructure projects in Russia anlong with a whole lot of speculation about the geopolitical implications (John Robb also has a post on Russian gas).
Ironically, the aggressive Washington foreign policy of the era of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld since 2001 has done more to nurture the one strategic combination in Eurasia most dreaded by Washington political realists such as Henry Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski, namely a strategic military and economic cooperation on a deep, long-term basis between two former Cold War foes, China and President Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Putin has taken a number of steps in recent months to shore up relations with Russia's most important potential strategic Eurasian partner, China. In March he went to Beijing to discuss increased bilateral energy cooperation, a theme dear to the heart of energy-hungry China. Top on that agenda was China's wish that a pipeline from Taishet in Siberia be built to bring oil to Daqing in China. In addition, the China National Petroleum Co (CNPC) and the Russian Rosneft oil company signed several agreements for joint energy projects. And Gazprom and CNPC signed a memorandum of understanding to supply Russian natural gas to China.

With Sudan and the Middle East under increasing pressure from the United States, Sino-Russian energy cooperation has moved to the top of China's foreign-policy agenda. At the end of this month, Russia and China will meet again in Moscow to discuss further energy cooperation.

As well, Russia is a major supplier of arms to China, and military cooperation between the two states is increasing. In 2001 the two signed the Russia-China Friendship and Cooperation Treaty, the first such bilateral treaty since 1950. A major point covered "joint actions to offset a perceived US hegemonism". That was two months before September 11 and the ensuing Iraq invasion. In August 2005 the two countries held their first joint military exercises to increase bilateral coordination in "fighting the war on terrorism".

In terms of overall standard of living, mortality and economic prosperity, Russia today is not a world-class power. In terms of energy, it is a colossus. In terms of landmass, it is still the single largest nation in the world. It has vast territory and vast natural resources, and it has the world's largest reserves of natural gas, the energy source currently the focus of major global power plays. In addition, it is the only power with the military capability to match that of the United States, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and consequent deterioration of the Russian military.

Russia has more than 130,000 oil wells and some 2,000 identified oil and gas deposits, of which at least 900 are not being exploited. Oil reserves have been estimated at 150 billion barrels, similar perhaps to Iraq. They could be far larger but have not yet been exploited because of the difficulty of drilling in some remote Arctic regions. Oil prices above US$60 a barrel begin to make it economic to explore in those remote regions.


Late last month a seemingly minor dispute exploded and resulted in the revocation of the environmental permit for Royal Dutch Shell's Sakhalin II liquefied-natural-gas project, which had been due to deliver LNG to Japan, South Korea and other customers by 2008. Shell is lead energy partner in an Anglo-Japanese oil and gas development project on Sakhalin, a vast Russian island north of Hokkaido, Japan.

At the same time, the Putin government announced that environmental requirements had also not been met by ExxonMobil for its De Kastri oil terminal built on Sakhalin as part of its Sakhalin I oil and gas development project. Sakhalin I contains an estimated 8 billion barrels of oil and vast volumes of gas, making the field a rare "super giant" oil find, in geologists' terminology.

In the early 1990s the government of Russian president Boris Yeltsin made a desperation bid to attract needed investment capital and technology into exploiting Russian oil and gas regions at a time when the government was broke and oil prices very low. In a bold departure, Yeltsin granted US and other Western oil majors generous exploration rights to two large oil projects, Sakhalin I and Sakhalin II. Under a production sharing agreement (PSA), ExxonMobil, lead partner of the Sakhalin I oil project, got tax-free Russian concessions.

Under the terms of the these agreements, which are typical between major Anglo-American oil majors and weak Third World countries, Russia's government would get paid for the oil and gas rights by receiving a share of eventual oil or gas produced. But the first drops of oil to Russia would flow only after all project production costs had first been covered.

PSAs were originally developed by Washington and Big Oil to facilitate favorable control by the oil companies of large oil projects in third countries. The major US oil giants, working with the James Baker Institute, which drafted Dick Cheney's 2001 Energy Task Force Review, used the PSA form to regain control over Iraq's oil production, hidden behind the facade of an Iraqi state-owned oil company.

Shortly before the Russian government told ExxonMobil it had problems with its terminal on Sakhalin, ExxonMobil had announced yet another cost increase in the project. ExxonMobil, whose lawyer is James Baker III, and which is a close partner to the Cheney-Bush White House, announced a 30% cost increase, something that would put off even further any Russian oil-flow share from the PSA.

The news came on the eve of ExxonMobil plans to open an oil terminal at De Kastri on Sakhalin. The Russian Environment Ministry and the Agency for Subsoil Use suddenly announced that the terminal did "not meet environmental requirements" and is reportedly considering halting production by ExxonMobil as well.

Past Peak has a grim post on coral dieoff.
Researchers fear more than half the world's coral reefs could die in less than 25 years and say global warming may [be] at least partly to blame.

Sea temperatures are rising, weakening the reefs' resistance to increased pollutants, such as runoff from construction sites and toxins from boat paints. The fragile reefs are hosts to countless marine plants and animals.

"Think of it as a high school chemistry class," said Billy Causey, the Caribbean and Gulf Mexico director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"You mix some chemicals together and nothing happens. You crank up the Bunsen burner and all of a sudden things start bubbling around. That's what's happening. That global Bunsen burner is cranking up."

Last year's coral loss in the Caribbean waters supports predictions that 60 percent of the world's coral could die within a quarter century, said Tyler Smith of the University of the Virgin Islands.

"Given current rates of degradation of reef habitats, this is a plausible prediction," Smith said.

More than 47 percent of the coral in underwater study sites covering 31 acres around the U.S. Virgin Islands died after sea temperatures exceeded the norm for three months in 2005, said Jeff Miller, a scientist with the Virgin Islands National Park.

Up to 30 percent of the world's coral reefs have died in the last 50 years, and another 30 percent are severely damaged, said Smith, who studies coral health in the U.S. Virgin Islands and collaborates with researchers globally.

The "Des Moines Register", from out in the corn fields, has an article on how the adoption of biofuel may alter the physical form of corn plants over time.
Corn raised by future Iowa farmers could look more like the corn produced by their ancestors, with more substantial stalks, biofuels industry experts said Wednesday. As investment in biomass-based, or cellulosic, ethanol production grows, so will demand for crop residue.

He and others predicted that some sectors could be hurt by the growing industry. Corn production may take cropland from soybeans, for instance, making soy products more costly. Higher corn prices, driven up by demand from ethanol plants, could increase costs for many livestock feeders.

"The intersection of agriculture and energy is going to be a disruptive event," said David Miller, director of research and commodity services for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. That "can be good or bad, but it is going to be disruptive."

One commenter at TOD noted:
Farmers are at their wits end in getting paid a living wage for producing food. Food is kept cheap in this country at the expense of the people who grow it. Not every year granted, but over the long haul a few bad years can drive a farmer out of business. They are backing anything that increases commodity grain and food prices.

I disagree that people in Iowa do not understand the ramifications of using plants for fuel. They understand very well and expect a balance to be achieved some time in the future for land being used for food, fuel or structural materials. Currently it is only food. When other countries have a good crop, farmers lose money or must get a subsidy (greater subsidy?) from the government. Iowa farmers would rather have everyone pay them more but have the country spend less on imported oil and subsidies. Most people in Iowa understand this as well. Give the farming base more money and they will be better stewards of the land and spend more money locally, that translates into jobs. With enough income in the state you get new business development making farm equipment, service jobs and maybe even a new industrial base making real physical goods other than farm equipment.

The harsh reality is if Iowa ships more finished goods and less raw food stocks, out of state, the state nets more income. It is all about transfer of wealth. Where is the wealth being generated vs where do we want it to be generated? Right now there is a giant sucking sound of money going to oil companies and/or overseas. This must end, either by design or after all the wealth is sucked out of the state and country. And I am sure this means more food must be grown outside of Iowa but isn't that what the shop locally for food movement is all about?

I'm not totally enamoured of the redesign of WorldChanging - it looks nice enough, but I found the old layout a lot more information dense (which is something I'd like Peak Energy to be if I ever find the time to do a redesign). Hopefully the new look will grow on me. One new report is on domestic wind turbines in London
Domestic wind turbines are gaining in popularity in Britain, where some 80,000 homes now use small renewable power generation units to provide energy for residents, reports a recent Reuters article. Donnachadh McCarthy, who last November earned distinction as the first Londoner permitted to put a wind turbine on his house, is using the unit and other renewable energy devices to feed surplus power back to the grid. “I have exported 20 percent more electricity than I’ve imported this year,” he boasts, noting that his carbon footprint is less than half a ton, far below the European Union average of 8.5 metric tons.

A promise earlier this year by David Cameron, leader of the UK’s opposition Conservative Party, to install a wind turbine and solar panel on his home led to dramatically increased sales of “microgeneration” products—especially wind turbines—nationwide, the article notes. Mainstream retailers, such as B&Q, a chain of hardware stores run by Kingfisher Plc., sell domestic turbines for around 1,500 British pounds (US$2,800). But the number of smaller producers is growing as well. Futurenergy, for example, sells about 100 of its £695 ($1,200) turbines each week to customers around the world, according to company director Peter Osborne.

TreeHugger has a post on creating plastics with Vitamin C or Water (though oil is still involved in this process unfortunately, so its not a pure bioplastic).
Two laboratory breakthroughs are poised to dramatically improve how plastics are made by assembling molecular chains more quickly and with less waste. Using such environmentally friendly substances as Vitamin C or pure water, the two approaches present attractive alternatives to the common plastic manufacturing technique called free radical polymerization (FRP).

Plastics are polymers, long, potentially complex, molecule chains crafted from an array of smaller chemical units. Using FRP, chemical engineers can create the right plastic for a range of applications, such as a specific trim for a car door or soft foam for a pillow.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have discovered that adding vitamin C, glucose, or other electron-absorbing agents to a powerful plastic manufacturing method can reduce the needed copper catalyst by 1000 times. Because the catalyst has to be removed from the end products, less of the metal means far less waste and drastically reduced costs.

Note that the plastic will still be made with petroleum. The new technique simply improves on the manufacturing process. Bioplastics are greener because they are made with organic materials, and are thus biodegradable.

No tinfoil tonight (unless you count Engdahl in that category - I'm sure you know where to find some)...


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