Category Archives: Environment

Oil Is Back! A Global Warming President Presides Over a Drill-Baby-Drill America

Yves here. It should come as no surprise that Obama’s rhetoric on climate change is sorely out of whack with his policies. Indeed, as Michael Klare reports, there’s been enough of a economic rebound in the US to lead to more driving, and hence more oil usage. And rather than regard that as a problem, the Administration has shifted from talking up clean energy to pushing more domestic oil production.

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Don Quijones: Judge Turns Monsanto’s Mexican GMO Dream Into Legal Nightmare

Yves here. The success of seed companies in extracting rents from farmers, particularly in countries where subsistence farming is widespread, is yet another example of how corporations like Monsanto abuse intellectual property laws and monopoly/oligopoly power. For the most part, governments have by their inaction backed this scheme. And that’s before you get to the fact that GMO crops, as a former NIH biomedical researcher stressed to me, is a massive experiment being conducted on the public at large without consent or controls.

Don Quijones reports on a ruling in Mexico that has, at least for the moment, thrown a spanner in the seed companies’ plans by barring field trials of GMO crops due to environmental risks.

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Don Quijones: Spain’s Silent Reconquest of Mexico

With the ink still drying on Mexico’s historic energy reform, global oil and gas majors are salivating at the prospect of gaining access to one of the world’s largest and until recently most nationalized energy markets. One of those companies is the Spanish electricity giant Iberdrola, which expects to massively expand its operations in Mexico through increased investments of close to €1 billion.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: €1 billion is chicken feed in this age of inflated corporate balance sheets. Indeed, for some corporations such a sum is probably hardly worth getting out of bed for these days. However, in Mexico it can go a very long way, much further than it can in Europe or the US – especially when you have paid moles lobbying for your every interest at the highest level of government.

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Fracking Waste Disposal Fuels Opposition in U.S. and Abroad

Yves here. We’ve posted on some of the not-as-widely publicized damage done by fracking, such as methane releases and increased incidence of earthquakes, as well as the most obvious hazard, which is contamination of water supplies.

This article describes yet another environmental cost, that of fracking waste disposal. Expect this to become a new NIMBY (not in my back yard) issue as the public becomes more familiar with this risk.

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New Study Says U.S. Underestimated Keystone XL Emissions

Yves here. Some advocates greenhouse gas reduction policies argue that the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline is misguided, since it represented a lot of political capital spent against a not-terribly-significant target. However, this post does reveal an important coda: that of the Administration’s characteristic dishonesty, in this case around climate change issues. Other examples, chronicled at length here and here, is Obama’s pro-fracking climate change headfake, which conveniently fails to include methane emissions in his new carbon containment policies.

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Climate Movement Agenda: One Million (Frequent) Electric Buses Plus Protected Bikeways, “Everywhere”

Yves here. Hoexter makes an important point, that many climate activists’ proposals have focused on energy sources, as in promoting more use of solar or wind energy, and haven’t focused on how consumers use energy, as in the related infrastructure. Whether or not you agree with his proposals for electric busses and bicycles, they do make for a point of departure in getting to pragmatic reforms.

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Humanity May Face Choice By 2040: Conventional Energy or Drinking Water

Yves here. It is surprising that it is only now that the idea of water as a scarce resource is getting the attention it deserves in advanced economies. It was when I was in Australia, between 2002 and 2004, that I first heard forecasts of resource constraints that depicted potable water as the one at most risk, with global supplies in serious trouble by 2050. A related issue, which this post addresses to a degree, is that dealing with water, energy, and food supply limits are an integrated problem, yet are typically handled as isolated issues.

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Wishful Thinking About Natural Gas: Why Fossil Fuels Can’t Solve the Problems Created by Fossil Fuels

Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy.  The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels.  We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel — even a “greenfuel.

Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth.

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South Portland, Maine: The Mouse That Roared on Canadian Tar Sands

Yves here. The article below illustrates how local communities are throwing spanners in the works of various North American energy plays. For instance, New York State’s highest court (confusingly called the Court of Appeals) ruled that towns have the authority to ban fracking via local ordinance, a decision that sent shivers down the spine of natural gas developers.

Another development that is causing some consternation to energy industry incumbents is an ordinance passed by the city council of South Portland, Maine, which put in place new zoning rules that would prohibit the export of Canadian tar sands through the port.

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New York Times Hit Piece on Tom Steyer and Fossil Fuel Divestment

Word came recently that both the Philadelphia Quakers and the Unitarian General Assembly have decided to divest from fossil fuels. It followed by a few weeks the news that the Roman Catholic University of Dayton and Union Theological Seminary, the home of many a great thinker, had done likewise.

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