Sunday, January 27, 2008
UK Used Presidency of UN Security Council to Incorporate Sustainable Development Within Broader Council Mandate
UK Used Presidency of UN Security Council to Incorporate Sustainable Development Within Broader Council Mandate
During September 2005, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution S/RES/1625 (14 September 2005), declaring "the effectiveness of the Security Council's role in conflict prevention [and] reaffirming the need to adopt a broad strategy to conflict prevention, which addresses the root causes of armed conflict in a comprehensive manner, including by promoting sustainable development.
"Reaffirming the need to adopt a broad strategy of conflict prevention, which addresses the root causes of armed conflict and political and social crises in a comprehensive manner, including by promoting sustainable development, poverty eradication, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, gender equality, the rule of law and respect for and protection of human rights..."
"...2. Affirms its determination to strengthen United Nations conflict
prevention capacities by:
...(g) helping to enhance durable institutions conducive to peace, stability and sustainable development..."
Building upon Security Council Resolution 1625, during April 2007, UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett used Britain’s then presidency of the Security Council as a platform to promote sustainable development as a separate rationale to preserve international peace and security. This indirectly served the purpose of pushing reform of the Security Council’s traditional scope of jurisdiction and authority. In particular, she insisted that the UN Security Council expand its jurisdictional mandate, traditionally limited to ‘prevention of conflicts’ and ‘maintenance of international peace and security’, so that it also covers ‘collective global environmental threats’ to sustainable development, such as climate change.
In pursuing this multilateral campaign, Ms. Beckett not unexpectedly relied on the recently issued Stern and UN Intergovernmental Climate Change Committee Reports  to raise the specter of an impending global environmental and human disaster should the member states of the United Nations fail to reach a political ‘burden-sharing’ (a/k/a economic wealth redistribution and technology transfer) accord that proactively and adequately addresses the hazards posed by runaway climate change. Many left-leaning politicians, scientific academies and environmentalists in Europe and the United States have likewise used these controversial reports to squelch the scientific debate over the causes and effects of climate change.
This proposal was contained in a more formal UK concept paper that resulted in the Security Council’s first debate on environmental issues. The Security Council Report documenting this meeting states the following:
“1. All members of the international community face a shared dilemma. To ensure well-being for a growing population with unfulfilled needs and rising expectations, we must grow our economies. Should we fail, we increase the risk of conflict and insecurity. To grow our economies we must continue to use more energy. Much of that energy will be in the form of fossil fuels. But if we use more fossil fuels without mitigating the resulting emissions, we will accelerate climate change, which itself presents risks to the very security we are trying to build.
2. The aim of the debate is to raise awareness of a set of significant future security risks facing the international community as a result of failing to resolve this shared dilemma, to promote a shared understanding of these risks, and to explore ways to address them.
3. The focus of the debate will be on the security implications of a changing climate, including through its impact on potential drivers of conflict (such as access to energy, water, food and other scarce resources, population movements and border disputes). No other international forum has yet addressed these issues from this perspective. A Security Council discussion will therefore make a useful initial contribution, while recognizing that it is for other United Nations bodies (in particular the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to pursue other aspects of climate change that are not within the mandate of the Security Council (including action to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a safe level, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities).
... 6. While the physical effects of climate change and what can be done about them are important issues, it is their potential impact on security that is the proposed focus of this Security Council debate.”
The UN Security Council Report then proceeded to outline the following key ‘security risks’ posed by climate change which would not only contribute mightily to political efforts aimed at raising public fears about the hypothetical impacts arising from climate change, but would also justify greater UN involvement in national sovereign affairs:
A significant proportion of current threats to international peace and security are disputes over borders or land. Melting ice and rising sea levels caused by climate change are likely to result in major changes to the world’s physical landmass during this century. Will political and maritime borders change as well?... [T]he possible submergence of entire small island States, dramatically receding coastlines, and the development of new shipping routes...could all lead to disputes over maritime zones and other territorial rights.
[S]ubstantial parts of the world risk being left uninhabitable by rising sea levels, reduced freshwater availability or declining agricultural capacity. This will exacerbate existing migratory pressures from rural areas to cities, from unproductive land to more fertile land, and across international borders... Migration does not in itself lead directly to conflict. But it can alter the ethnic composition and/or population distribution within and between States, which can increase the potential for instability and conflict
There is already extensive discussion on the relationship between energy resources and the risk of conflict, in terms of competition over scarce energy resources, security of supply, and the role energy resources play once conflict has broken out. Climate change is expected to complicate this relationship still further, presenting us with a shared dilemma about how to balance our climate and energy objectives while preserving security...
Other Resource Changes
Climate change is likely to make essential resources (notably freshwater, cultivable land, crop yields and fish stocks) more scarce in many parts of the world, particularly in already vulnerable societies. Resource scarcity threatens people’s livelihoods, especially when changes occur relatively quickly. Much depends on the adequacy of adaptation strategies. But increased scarcity increases the risk of competition over resources within and between communities and States. This can create instability, increasing vulnerability to conflict...
The 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change noted that climate change was a major challenge to poverty reduction, affecting the poorest countries earliest and most. The tensions that climate change through its impact on development — and hence inequality — could produce within and between States might not in themselves necessarily lead to conflict. But in some weaker States — e.g., where severe inequalities occur among different groups in society, for example on ethnic grounds — political violence within and between States may become more likely.
Climate change is likely to increase the risk of extreme weather events that may become sudden humanitarian emergencies. There are already indications that such events, especially on a large scale, can exacerbate societal and cross-border stresses, with potential consequent political and security impacts. There is a proven correlation between drought and the likelihood of high intensity conflicts in some regions, and some Governments have struggled to cope with the social consequences of major natural disasters. 8. Conflicts often start when societies cannot cope with multiple stresses...”
It is interesting to note how the Security Council referred to the term ‘correlation’ rather than ‘causation’.
While standing their political ground, it was apparent that Madams Merkel and Beckett had side-stepped the important scientific debate that continues to rage throughout the world. This debate concerns the extent to which certain human activities can actually be shown to cause measurable global warming or to merely correlate with a barely observable rise in global temperatures that may or may not prove cyclical in nature. Ordinary scientists, engineers and business people, the world over, know quite well that there is a marked difference between causation and correlation, and that they can make rationally-based decisions in their daily lives guided only by the ‘knowables’ in life rather than the ‘unknowables’.
Did Ms. Beckett’s reference to the term ‘correlation’ rather than ‘causation’ suggest a nuanced effort to base intergovernmental regulatory policy on popularly fanned fears about largely hypothetical, unpredictable and/or unknowable future natural and man-made hazards that have not yet been shown to pose direct ascertainable risks to human health or the environment???
 See "Update Report No. 2 Energy, Security and Climate", UN Security Council (12 April 2007) at: http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/site/c.glKWLeMTIsG/b.2666033/k.BE96/Update_Report_No_2brEnergy_Security_and_Climatebr12_April_2007.htm  See “Opening Statement of Margaret Beckett at UN Security Council Climate Change Debate” British Embassy Buenos Aires (April 17, 2007) at:
 See “Speech of Margaret Beckett and UN Security Council Climate Change Debate On Energy, Climate and Security” Foreign and Commonwealth Office News (April 17, 2007) at:
http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029391629&a=KArticle&aid=1176454354972 .  See, e.g., “Royal Society Letter to ExxonMobil Requesting ExxonMobil to Stop Funding of Lobby Groups that Seek to Misrepresent the Scientific Evidence Relating to Climate Change” (Sept. 4, 2006) at:
http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/displaypagedoc.asp?id=23780 ; “Rockefeller and Snowe Demand that Exxon Mobil End Funding of Campaign that Denies Global Climate Change”, Press Release, Office of United States Senator for Maine, Olympia Snowe (Oct. 30, 3006) at:
http://snowe.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=9ACBA744-802A-23AD-47BE-2683985C724E ; Michael Erman, “Greenpeace: Exxon Still Funding Climate Skeptics”, Reuters (May 17, 2007) at: http://in.today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2007-05-18T102946Z_01_NOOTR_RTRJONC_0_India-298816-1.xml&archived=False .
Democrats Pander to Environmental Extremists and Foresake the Ultimate Form of Renewable Energy - Recyclable Spent Nuclear Fuel Rods
Nuclear Fuel: Waste Not, Want Not
INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
January 17, 2008
Power: On the eve of the Nevada caucus, Democrats fall over each another opposing storage of the nation's nuclear waste at the Yucca Mountain Repository. But is it really waste or the ultimate form of renewable energy?
At a debate Tuesday, the Democrats' three blind mice were asked if they would kill the nuclear waste repository project at Yucca Mountain 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas. All said they would, demonstrating once again their party's energy policy consists mainly of hot air from the podium.
An underground train enters Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Democratic opposition has delayed plans to turn the site into a nuclear waste dump.
Trial lawyer and one-term senator John Edwards added that he was not only against Yucca Mountain but against nuclear power altogether. "I am against building more nuclear power plants because I do not think we have a safe way to dispose of the waste," he said.
Except that Edwards doesn't mind keeping America's nuclear waste where it is right now — in everybody else's back yard.
Vast numbers of spent nuclear fuel rods are currently being stored at more than 130 above-ground facilities in 39 states. Approximately 161 million Americans live within 75 miles of these existing sites. Each is a terrorist's dream target.
Sen. Barack Obama said he'd "end the notion of Yucca Mountain because it has not been based on the sort of sound science that can assure the people of Nevada that they're going to be safe."
The fact that his home state of Illinois has more nuclear plants than any other, he said, made it all the more noble that he has stood against the project.
Noble? The closed nuclear power plant at Zion, just north of Chicago and 120 yards from Lake Michigan, holds 2.7 million pounds of spent fuel rods. Nearly 4,500 metric tons of nuclear waste in Illinois awaits permanent storage. Obama thinks it's just fine the way it is.
As for Sen. Hillary Clinton, she said she's been "consistently against Yucca Mountain." And indeed she has.
"Yucca Mountain is not a safe place to store spent fuel from our nation's nuclear reactors," she stated at a Senate hearing in October. In her response to a Las Vegas Sun questionnaire, Hillary said: "I'm working with (Nevada senator) Harry Reid to starve it to death."
Yucca Mountain is possibly the safest, most geologically stable and most studied place on the planet. It abuts Nellis Air Force Base and the Nevada Test Site. Even if terrorists managed to penetrate repository security and the mountain itself, the worst-case scenario might be a mild release of radioactivity in the middle of a desert, not a death cloud descending on a major metropolitan area.
The storage facility is supposed to hold 77,000 tons of nuclear waste for thousands of years in a single secure site. Yucca Mountain would be the solution offered by Mark Twain's Puddn'head Wilson: "Put all your eggs in one basket and — watch that basket."
But there may be an even better solution: Recycle spent fuel rods to produce even more greenhouse-gas-reducing nuclear energy.
Over the past four decades, America's reactors have produced about 56,000 tons of used fuel. Jack Spencer, research fellow for nuclear energy policy at the Thomas A. Rowe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, says this "waste" has enough energy to power every U.S. household for a dozen years.
As we've noted, France long ago achieved energy independence by relying on nuclear energy for most of its power needs. But it also leads the world in processing this waste to create even more energy.
The French have reprocessed spent nuclear fuel for 30 years without incident. There have been no accidental explosions, no terrorist attacks, no contribution to nuclear proliferation. Their facility in La Hague has safely processed more than 23,000 tons of spent fuel, or enough to power the entire country for 14 years.
The U.S. pioneered the technology to recapture that energy decades ago, then banned its commercial use in 1977. An energy plan that does not involve continued and even increased use of nuclear power is no plan at all. And even if we closed all nuclear plants tomorrow, the waste problem would remain.
Power to the people — nuclear power.
Politically Correct Environmentalism Keeps Republican Candidates Mum About Tapping Florida's Huge Offshore Energy Resources
The Coast (Of Florida) Is Still Clear
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
January 25, 2008
Energy Policy: Our dependence on foreign oil is a crucial economic and national security issue. So with billions of barrels of crude sitting off Florida, why was the subject of getting it left out of the Republican debate?
It was by all accounts a dull and unhelpful affair. With Tuesday's Florida primary looming, there appeared to be a desire on the part of the candidates not to make any gaffes, ruffle any feathers, provoke any controversies.
This is the only explanation for why none of the GOP contenders brought up, or were asked about, a perfect topic for a Florida debate — drilling for vast known reserves of oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast.
Maybe the media aren't interested or consider the subject closed. Maybe there's not that much disagreement among the candidates. Certainly, as we have noted, Sen. John McCain has voted against drilling in ANWR four times and has expressed no passion for developing domestic sources of energy.
In an interview with Florida CBS affiliate WINK-TV last October, another leading candidate, Gov. Mitt Romney, was asked about the subject and replied: "With regards to Florida . . . the federal and state governments have reached an agreement on a 120-mile limit, and that's something which can be pursued."
Wow. Something which can be pursued. At least not with enough passion to offend any Florida voters. Drilling for oil and natural gas in the gulf is certainly something the Cubans and their Chinese patrons are pursuing.
Cuba's state-run oil company, Cubapetroleo, has inked a deal with China's Sinopec to explore for oil in its half of the Florida Strait and is using Chinese-made drilling equipment to conduct the exploration. Since oil fields do not respect international boundaries, Cuba and others will be pumping petroleum that should be ours.
Enviro-leftists who oppose drilling in the gulf should know that none other than Fidel Castro is taking advantage of the Outer Shelf. Cuba has gleaned $1.7 billion from oil and gas drilling as close as 60 miles from the Florida coast since 2004, according to Rep. John Peterson of Pennsylvania, and "is drilling closer to sovereign American property than we are."
Lease Area 181 off the Gulf Coast of Florida is estimated to contain 1.25 billion barrels of recoverable oil and nearly 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to heat 6 million homes for 15 years. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the North Cuban Basin contains 4.6 billion barrels of oil.
Is offshore oil an environmental threat? Brazil has achieved energy independence in part from the 1.9 million barrels of oil it gets from offshore drilling daily. The North Sea is full of oil and gas rigs. And of all the damage done by Katrina to our existing oil and gas rigs, vast oil spills were not one of the problems.
According to the Interior Department, since 1985 more than 7 billion barrels of oil have been produced in federal waters, with less than 0.001% spilled. It's likely that more oil has been leaked by cars, SUVs and motor homes traveling to these pristine beaches, or from the boats and jet skis rented by tourists, than is or will be leaked getting the oil to fuel them.
"This is the irony of ironies," complains Charles Drevna, executive vice president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. "We have chosen to lock up our resources and stand by to be spectators while these two come in and benefit from things right in our own backyard."
While politicians founder about ways to stimulate the U.S. economy, how about developing domestic energy resources? We reduce our dependence on foreign oil, increase supply, reduce energy costs and create American jobs. We might even be able to afford to take the family down to the beach.
Biofuels could boost global warming, finds study
By Zoe Corbyn
RSC Chemistry World
21 September 2007
Growing and burning many biofuels may actually raise rather than lower greenhouse gas emissions, a new study led by Nobel prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen has shown.1 The findings come in the wake of a recent OECD report, which warned nations not to rush headlong into growing energy crops because they cause food shortages and damage biodiversity.
Crutzen and colleagues have calculated that growing some of the most commonly used biofuel crops releases around twice the amount of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) than previously thought - wiping out any benefits from not using fossil fuels and, worse, probably contributing to global warming. The work appears in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and is currently subject to open review.
'The significance of it is that the supposed benefits of biofuel are even more disputable than had been thought hitherto,' Keith Smith, a co-author on the paper from the University of Edinburgh, told Chemistry World. 'What we are saying is that [growing many biofuels] is probably of no benefit and in fact is actually making the climate issue worse.'
"What we are saying is that growing biofuels is probably of no benefit and in fact is actually making the climate issue worse"
- Keith Smith
Crutzen, famous for his work on nitrogen oxides and the ozone layer, declined to comment before the paper is officially published. But the paper suggests that microbes convert much more of the nitrogen in fertiliser to N2O than previously thought - 3 to 5 per cent or twice the widely accepted figure of 2 per cent used by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
For rapeseed biodiesel, which accounts for about 80 per cent of the biofuel production in Europe, the relative warming due to N2O emissions is estimated at 1 to 1.7 times larger than the quasi-cooling effect due to saved fossil CO2 emissions. For corn bioethanol, dominant in the US, the figure is 0.9 to 1.5. Only cane sugar bioethanol - with a relative warming of 0.5 to 0.9 - looks like a viable alternative to conventional fuels.
Some previous estimates had suggested that biofuels could cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 per cent.2
The IPCC's N2O conversion factor is derived using data from plant experiments. But Crutzen takes a different approach, using atmospheric measurements and ice core data to calculate the total amount of N2O in the atmosphere. He then subtracts the level of N2O in pre-industrial times - before fertilizers were available - to take account of N2O from natural processes such as leguminous plants growing in forests, lightning, and burn offs.
Assuming the rest of the N2O is attributable to newly-fixed nitrogen from fertilizer use, and knowing the amount of fertilizer applied globally, he can calculate the contribution of fertilizers to N2O levels.
The results may well trigger a rethink by the IPCC, says Smith. 'Should we go along the road of adding up the experimental evidence for each of the processes or are we better off using the global numbers?'
But other experts are critical of Crutzen's approach. Simon Donner, a nitrogen researcher based at Princeton University, US, says the method is elegant but there is little evidence to show the N2O yield from fertilized plants is really as high as 3-5 per cent. Crutzen's basic assumption, that pre-industrial N2O emissions are the same as natural N2O emissions, is 'probably wrong', says Donner.
One reason he gives is that farmers plant crops in places that have nitrogen rich soils anyway. 'It is possible we are indirectly increasing the "natural" source of N2O by drawing down the soil nitrogen in the world's agricultural regions,' he explains.
Others dispute the values chosen by Crutzen to calculate his budget. Stefan Rauh, an agricultural scientist at the Instituteof Agricultural Economics and Farm Management in Munich, Germany, says some of the rates for converting crops into biofuel should be higher. 'If you use the other factors you get a little net climate cooling,' he said.
Meanwhile, a report prepared by the OECD for a recent Round Table on Sustainable Development questions the benefits of first generation biofuels and concludes that governments should scrap mandatory targets.
Richard Doornbosch, the report's author, says both the report and Crutzen's work highlights the importance of establishing correct full life-cycle assessments for biofuels. 'Without them, government policies can't distinguish between one biofuel and another - risking making problems worse,' said Doornbosch.
Flawed policies encourage damaging biofuels, says Royal Society
14 January 2008
Richard Van Noorden
RSC Chemistry World
Simplistic policies are encouraging biofuels that don't cut greenhouse gases, the UK's Royal Society has warned in a new report.
Not all biofuels are equally good at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, so rewarding the best should be a priority, explained John Pickett, who chaired the study. Yet current transport policies - such as the EU biofuels directive and the UK's renewable transport fuel obligation (RTFO) - only demand more transport fuel from renewable resources. 'Indiscriminately increasing the amount of biofuels we are using may not automatically lead to the best reductions in emissions,' said Pickett.
Instead, the report - Sustainable biofuels: prospects and challenges - favours policies that promote fuels with the lowest emissions by, for example, including greenhouse gas reduction incentives and certifying fuels for their emissions savings.
The recommendations came on the same day that EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas admitted that the EU had not forseen the social and environmental problems caused by its own biofuels targets - such as rising food prices and deforestation. 'We have to have criteria for sustainability,' he said.
But that could be easier said than done, the Royal Society says. 'How we develop these "sustainability criteria" in itself requires research,' commented report co-author Dianna Bowles, who works on novel agricultural products at the University of York.
Jeremy Woods, at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, said that ethanol from UK-sourced wheat, for example, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by anything from 10 to 80 per cent. The vast uncertainty simply reflected different agricultural practices and crop yields.
And it is not just agricultural processing that needs to be considered: effects on deforestation; food shortages; local climate; soil quality; distribution costs; the trade impacts of biofuel imports; and other unexpected variables could all affect the merits of any one biofuel process.
In other words, said Pickett, biofuel policy-makers are walking a thin line between making overly complex regulations, too costly and slow to research and implement - or being too simple, and so encouraging the wrong biofuels. Focusing on greenhouse gas reductions would be a good target to start with, but 'we must not create new environmental or social problems in our efforts to deal with climate change,' he said.
The UK's RTFO, whose first incarnation comes into force in April 2008, requires that 5 per cent of UK fuel comes from a renewable source by 2010. It is developing a carbon reporting and sustainability certification scheme. 'The RTFO is a reasonable start,' said Pickett. 'But unless certification is applied to the production of all biofuels, and is a system used by all countries, we will merely displace rather than remedy the potentially negative effects of these fuels.'
[OSTENSIBLY PRIVATE CERTIFICATION SCHEMES CAN PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES FOR DISGUISED TRADE PROTECTIONISM]**
See: "Discerning The Forests From the Trees: How Governments Use Ostensibly Private and Voluntary Standards to Avoid WTO Culpability"
Meanwhile, an OECD official has warned that even governments aware of the weaknesses of their biofuel policies - for example, the trade barriers that have been set up by Europe and the US - might now find it hard to backtrack on them. Speaking at the Reuters Global Agriculture and Biofuel Summit in Paris, Leok Boonekamp, a division head in the OECD's Agro-food Trade and Markets Division, said, 'I'm not very optimistic that because we say that the policies are bad and wasteful that governments will go away and do something else.'
EU Commission Cited For Inherent Carbon Energy Policy Flaws: Scientists Question Value of Carbon Offsets
Carbon-offset schemes 'inherently flawed'
Tuesday 19 June 2007 Updated: Wednesday 11 July 2007
Wouter Buytaert, University of Lancaster
The only long-term solution to climate change is to reduce carbon emissions, not to compensate with carbon-offset schemes, says Wouter Buytaert – Department of Environmental Science, University of Lancaster - in a June article for the Environmental Research Web.
Buytaert claims that carbon-offset schemes are controversial in their own right and deserve a scientific debate of their own. They divert attention from how we reduce our own emissions – and are considered as paying someone else for having reduced their greenhouse-gas emissions, thus buying one's way out of responsibilities, he adds.
Highlighting concerns over the effectiveness of carbon-offset schemes, Buytaert observes that a shortage of verification in the emerging – and lucrative – carbon-credits market, in which there are a plethora of different carbon-reduction projects, means that the impact of such actions can be called into question.
He claims that some practices are inherently flawed, such as preventing the clear-cutting of forests that would be preserved for conservation anyway, or selling credits for cleaner and more efficient production techniques that are introduced for economic reasons.
Other practices fail through insufficient scientific understanding of the system, such as reforestation in developing countries, claims the author. He points out that carbon-offset schemes focus on fast-growing trees, which are non-native and have far lower environmental and biodiversity benefits than native species, and cause severe problems for the water cycle and local water security. In the case of pine, Buytaert suggests that this species' higher water consumption may even result in a net release of carbon into the atmosphere.
Even if such scientific questions are solved, significant concerns remain about the sustainability of carbon pools in forests, insists the author. He claims that organic carbon capture can only continue if both the current forest is maintained, and ever-more area is forested – which is unsustainable in the long term.
Buytaert concludes that finding new ways to decrease greenhouse-gas emissions is a major scientific challenge that merits the full attention of society.
Jun 12, 2007
Carbon offset schemes are of questionable value
At this year's European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting, we challenged the scientific community to think about the carbon footprint of academic travel. This action resulted in a healthy debate about the environmental and social benefit of scientific conferences. One of the recurrent suggestions for concrete action was that the EGU should incorporate the cost of buying carbon credits in the meeting registration fee. The idea is to offset the carbon emissions of the event, including travel, and so to make the conference carbon neutral. However, carbon offset schemes are controversial in their own right and may be worth a scientific debate of their own. Here I highlight some reasons why we should be cautious.
A first concern is the effectiveness of carbon offset schemes. Increasing environmental awareness among companies and individuals has sparked an emerging and lucrative market in carbon credits based on a plethora of carbon reduction projects. But due to a shortage of verification, the impact of these actions may be questioned. Some practices are inherently flawed, such as preventing clearcutting of forests that would be preserved for conservation anyway, or selling credits for cleaner and more efficient production techniques that are introduced for economic reasons. Other practices fail because of insufficient scientific understanding of the system.
For instance, (re)forestation in developing countries is one of the most popular offset schemes. Forests are a convenient method of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon. There are also several positive side effects. Many forests, in particular where native species are used, are a breeding ground for biodiversity. Forests may be planted on degraded areas and reduce erosion, and they may also provide a sustainable source of firewood and other environmental services for local inhabitants.
But there are negative side effects too. Carbon offset schemes tend to focus on fast-growing trees, such as eucalyptus and pine, which are non-native and have a far lower environmental and biodiversity benefit than native species. Tree plantations also tend to consume more water than grasses and shrubs. On a global scale, tree plantations decrease streamflow by about 200 mm per year (roughly 50%). This may have serious impacts on the local water cycle. For instance, extensive parts of the Andean páramo have been forested with pine for carbon sequestration purposes. The páramo is an ecosystem that consists of extensive grasslands in the upper parts of the tropical Andes, and stores vast amounts of water in its soils, swamps and lakes. It provides many environmental functions, but the most important is water supply for the highland area, including major cities such as Bogotá, Columbia, and Quito, Ecuador. Forestation with pine reduces streamflow by about 70%. Since most of this reduction affects low flow conditions, the consequences for local water security are serious.
What's more, the higher water consumption of pine may even result in a net carbon release to the atmosphere. Páramo wetlands store high amounts of organic carbon. This accumulation of organic matter is strongly linked to water saturation of the soils for large periods of the year. Dessication of the soils after forestation induces faster organic matter decomposition, which may offset carbon storage in the biomass above-ground. In Indonesia, the conversion of peat bogs into oil palm plantations has had similar effects.
Forestation activities in the Andes now focus more on biodiversity and use indigenous species such as Polylepis. However, there is no scientific consensus about the historical vegetation patterns of the páramo. What is considered reforestation may well be forestation of valuable and original grassland ecosystems. And since the impact of those forests on the local water cycle is not well understood, care should be taken not to disrupt a delicate and valuable hydrological system.
Even if such scientific questions are solved, significant concerns remain about the sustainability of carbon pools in forests. Forests capture most carbon early in their life cycle. The biomass of a mature forest is nearly stable, and organic carbon capture can only be maintained if carbon is transferred to another sink, such as the soil. As this is not always the case, organic carbon capture can only continue if both the current forest is maintained and ever more area is forested. Although this may seem preferable from an environmentalist viewpoint, it is not sustainable in the long term.
This lack of sustainability points to the essence of the problem. Our current carbon footprint is too high, and the only long-term solution is to reduce carbon emissions, not to compensate them by carbon offset schemes. This is also why carbon offset schemes are opposed from an ethical viewpoint. They are considered as paying someone else for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and, as such, buying your way out of responsibility. And the schemes may distract attention from the real problem of how we reduce our own emissions. This is a double challenge for scientists. Finding new ways to decrease our society's greenhouse gas emissions is a major scientific challenge that merits our full attention. Considering whether the scientific value of a trip to the other end of the world outweighs the use of resources and the carbon footprint is a much more personal challenge.
About the author
Wouter Buytaert is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Environmental Science at Lancaster University.
The Ethanol Fallacy
Popular Mechanics (Feb. 2008)
By James B. Meigs (PM's editor-in-chief)
America needs smart alternative to oil, but the just-passed energy bill puts too much emphasis on the wrong alternative, PM's editor-in-chief says.
The idea is so appealing: We can reduce our dependence on oil-stop sending U.S. dollars to corrupt petro-dictators, stop spewing megatons of carbon into the atmosphere-by replacing it with clean, home-grown, all-American corn. It sounds too good to be true.
Sadly, it is.
Of course we need alternatives to oil. The world uses a cubic mile of petroleum each year, and demand keeps rising as the global economy booms. At first glance, corn seems like a heaven-sent substitute. American corn farmers are the most productive in the world, growing far more of the grain than we can possibly eat, and exporting mountains of the stuff to other countries. And the corn kernel is a marvel of energy storage. Converting that compact bundle of starches into alcohol is a relatively simple trick known to generations of moonshiners. So why not build corn liquor stills on an industrial scale and use the output to power our cars and trucks?
That's exactly what this country has been doing for the past several years. Some 134 ethanol plants are now in operation, consuming close to 1.6 billion bushels of grain, about 15 percent of our total corn production. To feed the ethanol machine, farmers planted almost 93 million acres of corn in 2007, a 19 percent increase over the previous year, and the highest figure since 1944 (when yields per acre were far lower).
The result is that the country is now experiencing an ethanol glut. Prices are sagging-as are plans to build ethanol refineries from sea to shining sea. Yet many in Washington seem determined to force still more ethanol into the system. The just-passed Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which President Bush has said he will sign, mandates corn ethanol usage of 15 billion gal. a year (more than three times today's consumption) by 2015. And presidential candidates have outdone each other with vows to flood the nation with ever-increasing rivers of ethanol for at least a generation.
It's great that our politicians have discovered the need for new energy technologies. But it appears that Washington is determined to put its money-our money-on the wrong horse. Right now, researchers are studying a host of energy solutions, including hydrogen, high-mileage diesel, plug-in hybrids, radical reductions in vehicle weight and cellulosic ethanol (made from cornstalks, switchgrass or other nonfood crops).
It is far too soon to say which of these holds the most promise. But, instead of promoting experimentation and competition to find the best solutions, politicians seem ready to declare ethanol the winner. As a result, our nation could wind up with the worst of both worlds: an ‘alternative’ energy that is enormously expensive yet barely saves a gallon of oil.
Let's start with the math. Corn doesn't grow like a weed. Modern corn farming involves heavy inputs of nitrogen fertilizer (made with natural gas), applications of herbicides and other chemicals (made mostly from oil), heavy machinery (which runs on diesel) and transportation (diesel again). Converting the corn into fuel requires still more energy. The ratio of how much energy is used to make ethanol versus how much it delivers is known as the energy balance, and calculating it is surprisingly complex.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory states that, “Today, 1 Btu of fossil energy consumed in producing and delivering corn ethanol results in 1.3 Btu of usable energy in your fuel tank.” Even that modest payback may be overstated. Skeptics cite the research of Cornell University professor David Pimentel, who estimates that it takes approximately 1.3 gal. of oil to produce a single gallon of ethanol.
If the benefits are in doubt, the costs are not. It would take 450 pounds of corn to yield enough ethanol to fill the tank of an SUV. Producing enough ethanol to replace America's imported oil alone would require putting nearly 900 million acres under cultivation-or roughly 95 percent of the active farmland in the country. Once we've turned our farms into filling stations, where will the food come from?
There's a simple reason that ethanol is popular with politicians: money. Substituting corn ethanol for a large fraction of the gasoline we burn will mean sluicing gushers of cash from more populated states to politically powerful farm states. And a lot of that cash will wind up in the pockets of the big agribusinesses, like Archer Daniels Midland, that dominate ethanol processing-and whose fat checkbooks wield enormous influence in Washington.
In fact, governments generally have a bad track record when it comes to picking technologies. In the midst of an earlier oil crunch, President Jimmy Carter seized on ‘synfuels’-refined from oil shale deposits-as a panacea. Oops. Synfuels turned out to be woefully uneconomic, environmentally disastrous and feasible only with massive government subsidies. It took years to kill the program off-and the last of the multibillion-dollar tax credits just expired in 2007.
The corn ethanol boondoggle threatens to be far, far worse. If enacted, current proposals will amount to a huge hidden tax on consumers, with benefits flowing to the politically connected. Once set in motion, such a program would be all but impossible to stop-even if other alternatives, like cellulosic ethanol, turn out to be vastly superior. And every dollar spent on corn ethanol is a dollar not spent on those other, more promising approaches.
So what should the government do? First off: no harm. Instead of trying to mandate specific technologies-and risk locking us into using the wrong one-Washington should create incentives to help the market choose the best approaches. One step would be to reward consumers for conservation: There are vast opportunities to make our homes, businesses and vehicles more efficient, and to make our economy stronger in the process.
Perhaps someday corn ethanol will prove itself a viable part of our energy mix. But corn liquor is powerful stuff, and it can make people do strange things. Let's keep it out of Washington's hands.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
US Enviros Aim to Halt Coal Use and Risk US Economic & Energy Security: Launch Court Actions Pushing US to Adopt Flawed EU Policy on Carbon Emissions
updated 4:26 p.m. ET, Mon., Jan. 14, 2008
BILLINGS, Mont. - In federal and state courtrooms across the country, environmental groups are putting coal-fueled power plants on trial in a bid to slow the industry's biggest construction boom in decades.
At least four dozen coal plants are being contested in 29 states, according to a recent Associated Press tally. The targeted utilities include giants like Peabody Energy and American Electric Power down to small rural cooperatives.
From lawsuits and administrative appeals against the companies, to lobbying pressure on federal and state regulators, the coordinated offensive against coal is emerging as a pivotal front in the debate over global warming.
"Our goal is to oppose these projects at each and every stage, from zoning and air and water permits, to their mining permits and new coal railroads," said Bruce Nilles, a Sierra Club attorney who directs the group's national coal campaign. "They know they don't have an answer to global warming, so they're fighting for their life."
Industry representatives say the environmentalists' actions threaten to undermine the country's fragile power grid, setting the stage for a future of high-priced electricity and uncontrollable blackouts.
"These projects won't be denied, but they can be delayed by those who oppose any new energy projects," said Vic Svec, vice president of the mining and power company Peabody Energy.
While observers say forecasts of power grid doom are exaggerated, the importance of coal — one of the country's cheapest and most abundant fuels — is undeniable.
Coal plants provide just over 50 percent of the nation's electricity. They also are the largest domestic source of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, emitting 2 billion tons annually, about a third of the country's total.
The score so far Environmental groups cite 59 canceled, delayed or blocked plants as evidence they are turning back the "coal rush." That stacks up against 22 new plants now under construction in 14 states — the most in more than two decades.
Mining companies, utilities and coal-state politicians promote coal in the name of national security, as an alternative to foreign fuels. With hundreds of years of reserves still in the ground, they're also pushing coal-to-diesel plants as a way to sharply increase domestic production.
The outcome of the fight over coal could determine the nation's greenhouse gas emissions for years to come, said Gregory Nemet, assistant professor of public affairs at the University of Wisconsin.
"It's pretty much irreversible," Nemet said. "Once a coal plant is built, it will last 50 years or so."
But in opposing coal projects across the board, environmentalists risk hobbling more advanced coal plants that could rein in at least some of those emissions, Nemet said. He added that rising demand for electricity means more power "has to come from somewhere."
"There's too much pressure — in terms of energy independence and the inexpensiveness of that resource — to not use that coal," Nemet said.
One of the latest challenges to a utility came in the heart of coal country — Montana, which boasts the largest coal reserves in the nation.
On Friday, a state panel refused to rescind an air-quality permit it had granted for a plant proposed for the Great Falls area by Southern Montana Electric, despite concerns about the plant's carbon dioxide emissions. The 250-megawatt plant is projected to emit the equivalent of 2.8 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, as much as a half-million vehicles.
The Montana Environmental Information Center, which had asked the panel to review the permit, vowed to appeal the ruling.
Nilles said the Sierra Club spent about $1 million on such efforts in 2007 and hopes to ratchet that figure up to $10 million this year.
Meanwhile, coal interests are pouring even more into a promotional campaign launched by the industry group Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. It spent $15 million last year and expects to more than double that to $35 million in 2008, said the group's director, Joe Lucas.
Funding for the group comes from coal mining and utility companies such as Peabody and railroads that depend on coal shipments for a large share of their revenues.
Peabody's Svec acknowledged a rush to build new plants, but denied the goal was to beat any of at least seven bills pending before Congress to restrict carbon dioxide emissions — a charge leveled by some environmentalists.
Rather, he said, the construction boom is driven by projections that the country will fall into a power deficit within the next decade if new plants are not built. [A LARGELY TRUE STATEMENT]
Industry attorney Jeffrey Holmstead said that could lead to a future of rolling blackouts as the economy expands and electricity consumption increases. Holmstead was in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's air program during the first five years of the current Bush administration.
The power deficit cited by industry officials is based on projections from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. NERC vice president David Nevius said his group is "neutral" on what kind of plants should be built to meet rising demand.
"We're not saying the lights will go out. We're just saying additional resources are needed," Nevius said. "We don't say coal over gas over wind over solar."
600-plus plants nowUtilities currently burn more than 1 billion tons of coal annually in more than 600 plants. Over the next two decades, the Bush administration projects coal's share of electricity generation will increase to almost 60 percent.
That projection held steady in recent months even as courts and regulators turned back, delayed or asked for changes to plants in at least nine states.
Other projects in Utah, Texas, Wyoming, Florida and several other states have been abandoned or shelved.
Some were canceled over global warming concerns. Utilities backed off others after their price tags climbed over $1 billion due to rising costs for materials and skilled labor.
Environmental opposition to coal plants was galvanized by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in April that said carbon dioxide is a pollutant open to regulation.
The case, Massachusetts vs. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, involved vehicle emissions. But environmentalists aim to use the decision as a fulcrum to leverage regulators to take a harder line on greenhouse gases in several emerging power plant disputes. The result could serve as an early barometer of the reach of the Supreme Court ruling.
More tests of the two sides' arguments are certain. Industry groups say at least 15 coal-fired power projects are nearing the end of the approval process and could soon start construction.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Protecting the Public?
Earlier this month, western governors unveiled their long awaited clean energy plan for the western half of the United States. Admittedly, the plan contains several voluntary features, and
its recommendations seem, at first glance, plausible. Its measured language even appears couched more in science and economics than in environmentalisms.
Appearances can be deceiving, however. Is this really an energy security plan that can also ensure regional energy reliability? Can this plan immediately lessen the western U.S. region’s foreign energy dependence? Can it promote low-cost, affordable new energy generation? Or, is it actually another back-door’ environmental regulatory ‘takings’ regime that will benefit some at the expense of others, while claiming to protect the public against the phantom menace known as global warming?
The plan’s stated goal is to provide energy reliability and security for the American west. However, rather than objectively place all energy source alternatives on the table for consideration in a region that has limited energy supply but great energy demand, the plan summarily dismisses substantive consideration of: 1) nuclear power; 2) Alaskan-based liquified natural gas (LNG); 3) offshore oil and gas drilling; and 4) most readily available sources of coal, America’s most bountiful and inexpensive natural resource. In fact, the plan mentions only two
very expensive ‘clean coal’ technologies – 3rd generation integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), and supercritical and ultra-supercritical pulverized and circulating fluidized bed combustion. The plan prefers these new and promising technologies because they are said to provide total sequestration – i.e., zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. But, by restricting the plan’s coal portfolio to only these two costly and emerging technologies, the plan’s sponsors
seek to effectively ban the construction of more than a few new coal ‘builds’ within the western half of the nation for the foreseeable future. These restrictions simultaneously place more pressure on existing but over-extended natural gas, hydro and coal sources that require substantial upgrading to meet regional energy security and reliability needs.
The governors’ long-term preference for developing emerging windmill, solar, hydro and biomass-generated energy technologies is laudable, but they do not provide practical or efficient short-term solutions. Many of these technologies are not currently available for collective large scale use, and even when fully matured, are unlikely, by themselves, to deliver more than a fraction of the region’s energy supply. Instead, a holistic portfolio of energy source options must be offered that includes many currently available and environmentally clean technologies, including those coal-related. Such a menu should also include indigenous offshore (west coast) oil and gas, and clean and inexpensive Alaskan LNG that could be delivered in short order to west coast ports if only California environmentalists would drop their irrational opposition to the issuance of the necessary construction permits. In addition, the west’s use of safe, cheap and infinitely available nuclear energy must also be continued and expanded, despite the fear-inspired propaganda-based claims made by nuclear energy-averse environmentalists. Indeed, scientists have shown government policymakers how adequate design, construction and management of LNG and nuclear facilities within and off the coast of California can mitigate earthquake and other natural disaster–related health and environmental risks. Among other reasons, this is precisely why a number of European governments are reconsidering nuclear power.
Furthermore, the plan’s over-reliance on conservation and efficiency measures is also unrealistic. First, conservation and efficiency mandates must be delivered through mechanisms that are performance and not merely process-based – i.e., they must be measured in scientific, technical and economic terms, rather than expressed as political preferences. Poorly designed and symbolic renewable portfolio standard mandates are unlikely to produce much if any energy cost savings, and may actually be counterproductive – they may prove more costly in terms of innovation, productivity and economic growth if the necessary underlying energy supply is
curtailed. Second, according to scholars, what the plan obliquely refers to as ‘incentive regulations’, are not as well understood by regulators as is commonly claimed, and are susceptible to political manipulation. While the plan uses language such as ‘market-based incentives subject to science and cost-benefit’, it is highly questionable how market-friendly regulations can actually be, and how truly objective state environmental regulators will be in implementing them, especially given their interstate nature. Will it really be the least commerce-restrictive alternative available to achieve the energy security, reliability and environmental objectives identified? How will extra-regional energy (‘leakage’) be treated? For these reasons, individual businesses and consumers should be worried about the potential economic impact that the governors’ clean energy plan mandates will impose upon state and regional power generators, which can be expected to be passed downstream to them.
Or, Deceiving the Individual?
Moreover, it is also difficult to see how the types of changes to the western states’ regulatory landscape that would be needed to implement this plan would not also substantially diminish the economic values of existing business and personal assets and investments located throughout the region, so as to make them virtually worthless. This is particularly a concern in California, Oregon and Washington, which intend to adopt an interstate Model Rule requiring each state to impose strict CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions caps.
Putting aside the interstate commerce, federal preemption and supremacy clause (constitutional law) issues this plan engenders, it will also likely threaten the fundamental and alienable constitutional right to exclusive private property, a central tenet of collective individualism upon which this great nation was founded.
The U.S. Supreme Court has long grappled with overly aggressive regulations used in the exercise of a state or municipal government’s ‘police’ and/or ‘eminent domain’ powers. Indeed, many such rules have proliferated in recent years under the guise of environmental or economic blight. Some have mandated significant new private plant and equipment investments or imposed substantial environment-related product and plant use restrictions to address perceived environmental, health and safety hazards. And, others have authorized the dispensation of public funds for economic redevelopment of perceived ‘economically blighted’ areas to serve an ostensible public good. However, in the end, they serve only to benefit some private interests at the expense of others – i.e., they have had the effect of disenfranchising many small businesses and homeowners. Admittedly, Supreme Court jurisprudence in this area has been less than clear; one need only ask the Connecticut residents who were victimized as the result of the Court’s twisted reasoning in last year’s Kelo  decision.
Furthermore, many other citizens throughout the United States have faced similar types of disguised governmental ‘economic and environmental blight’-premised measures. Some of them have already lost their homes and small businesses, while others now fear such loss. In fact, enough Americans, at this point, have become sufficiently outraged by what they perceive to be the steady erosion of their constitutionally guaranteed individual private property rights, at the hands of wealth redistribution-minded government officials, that they have appealed to President Bush to step into the political fray.
And the President has complied, with the issuance last week of a new Executive Order, "Protecting the Property Rights of the American People”.  This E.O. makes clear, as a matter of U.S. federal policy, that economic-development-related private property ‘takings’ entitled to just compensation must actually serve a ‘general public use’. In other words, a government cannot take away one private party’s (citizen’s) property ownership or use “merely for the purpose of [directly, or indirectly,] advancing the economic interest of [other] private parties [citizens]…”  By issuing this new E.O., President Bush’s policy has largely remained consistent with, and has expanded the scope of, a prior E.O. issued by former President Ronald Reagan during March 1988.
Executive Order 12630, “Presidential Executive Order 12630 Governmental Actions and Interference With Civil Constitutionally Protected Property Rights”, recognized that “governmental actions that do not formally invoke the [eminent domain] condemnation power, including regulations, may [in fact] result in a taking for which just compensation is required.” It also established broad guidelines that the General Accounting Office subsequently found had been essentially abandoned during the Clinton era. Generally speaking, these guidelines require officials to consider whether governmental ‘actions’ and ‘policies’ could have ‘takings’ implications before rather than after they are pursued, i.e., to perform a ‘takings impact assessment’ where there is a high probability that a government action or policy could affect the use of any real or personal property.
Interestingly, E.O. 12630 also ses forth a standard to determine whether environment, health and safety (EHS) regulations so affect the value and/or beneficial use of private property as to be deemed a ‘taking’ for public use that is also entitled to just compensation. The governors of the states of California, Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland, would do well to consider these guidelines prior to adopting/or implementing the strict carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions caps, renewable portfolio standards, and energy efficiency and conservation requirements they are now contemplating.
This E.O. predates the current international debate about whether expensive European-style socialist) regulations based on the nonscientific principle of precaution (‘better safe than sorry’) should also be adopted as the basis for U.S. regulation. Nevertheless, it eerily seems to have anticipated it. “…[T]he mere assertion of a public health and safety purpose is insufficient to avoid [having the regulation deemed] a taking…Actions…asserted to be for the protection of public health and safety, therefore, should be undertaken only in response to real and substantial threats to public health and safety, be designed to advance significantly the health and safety purpose, and be no greater than is necessary to achieve the health and safety purpose” (emphasis added). 
All politicians should take note, as have these executive orders, that the U.S. Supreme Court has continued to find that such laws, regulations and policies will qualify as illegal ‘takings’ of private property, even where other than total beneficial use and enjoyment of private property has been impaired. This admonition applies to the now-centrist-leaning California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is one of the Western Governors’ Clean Energy Plan’s chief supporters, and especially, also to his Democratic opponent Phil Angelides. Mr. Angelides, who is a very rich land developer, and perhaps, even a renewable energy source investor, is not unfamiliar with how to exploit regulations that redesign the economic and environmental landscape for his and his political allies’ private benefit. And, should he be elected California’s governor, Mr. Anglides is even more determined than the Governator to use the Kelo decision as the portal through which to catapult the state and the region into a grand new universe of regulatory ‘takings’ that benefit some private property owners at the expense of others.
This raises an important question: If Californians and other westerners embrace the governors’ clean energy plan as the recommended solution to their perceived global warming problems, how many of them will later find themselves bidding farewell (“Hasta la vista, baby!”) to their private property rights, which is more than possible, or to the threat of global warming and foreign energy dependence, which is not?
ITSSD: Congress Should Do its 'Homework' Before Adopting Costly Euro-Style Energy/Climate Change Rules
June 21, 2007
PRINCETON, N.J., June 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Although the 110th U.S. Congress should now be considering how best to promote America's future energy and economic security, it is actually devising costly and unscientific environmental mandates and tax schemes that will drain the pocket-books of Americans and diminish their fundamental individual rights, including private property.
Arguably, Congress should have already learned about the market distortions and personal hardships triggered 'across the pond' by Europe's environment-centric energy policies. Crafted by unelected bureaucrats, environmental activists and socialist party 'kingpins' and supported by most European leaders, such policies have focused more on promoting sustainable development via consumer and business sacrifices than on securing desperately- needed regional energy supplies.
Ordinary Europeans have been denied a broad portfolio of cheaper local energy options that include newly drilled oil, gasified and liquefied 'clean' coal, and nuclear, hydro and geothermal power. Instead, they have been provided 'bird-slicers', solar panels, natural gas pipelines, severe energy- use restrictions and poorer performing 'energy efficient' cars and appliances. The result: lower economic productivity and innovation rates, higher petrol, manufacturing, services, food, housing and transportation costs, and greater reliance on opportunistic foreign oil and gas resources.
In a new white paper entitled, Europe's Warnings on Climate Change Belie More Nuanced Concerns, international attorney Lawrence Kogan discusses how there is more to Europe's globally inspired climate change campaign than meets the eye. According to Mr. Kogan, "An evolving Europe is experiencing many internal problems that ultimately render it incapable of serving as a positive role model for multilateral energy and environmental action."
In Mr. Kogan's view, "As long as Europe's self-identity remains in question and is tied to an unreformed United Nations, heavily subsidized welfare-state economics, conditional positive individual rights and risk- averse political correctness, Congress must resist following in Europe's environmental footprints down the primrose path towards global governance."
"Otherwise," says Kogan, "Americans will be afforded fewer economic opportunities and private property protections against wanton governmental intrusions than they are currently guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and its accompanying Bill of Rights."
Monday, January 21, 2008
UK Government: There is NO Policy Reason to Deny Energy Companies From Investing in New Nuclear Power Stations
The UK government, as stated in its January 2008 document "Meeting the energy challenge: a White Paper on nuclear power" (http://www.berr.gov.uk/energy/nuclear-whitepaper/page42765.html), "decided that the electricity industry should, from now on be allowed to build and operate new nuclear power stations, subject to meeting the normal planning and regulatory requirements."
The Labor government acclaimed nuclear technology as "a tried and tested technology" that "has provided the UK with secure supplies of safe, low-carbon electricity for half a century."
“...8. We set out the Government’s preliminary view on nuclear power in our Energy White Paper15. This explained how nuclear power related to our overall energy strategy. In particular, we highlighted the uncertainties we face in the availability and costs of the UK’s energy supplies over the coming decades. We also need to respond to the challenges of climate change. These uncertainties relate to: future fossil fuel and carbon prices; how quickly we can achieve energy efficiency savings and the therefore likely levels of energy demand; the speed, direction and future economics of development of the renewables sector; and the technical feasibility of and costs associated with applying carbon capture and storage technologies to electricity generation on a commercial scale.”
“9. It is our view that, given these uncertainties, our energy strategy should be based on diversity and flexibility in the energy mix and has accordingly developed policies which keep open the widest possible range of low-carbon generating options. These options would include renewables and the use of gas and coal with CCS, as well as nuclear. Unnecessarily ruling out one of these options would, in our view, increase the risk that we would be unable to meet our climate change and energy security objectives.”
The report concluded that rational and reasonable decisions are needed NOW because:
"...energy companies will need to build around 30-35 GW of new electricity generating capacity
over the next two decades. They will have to make around two-thirds of this investment by 2020. So investment decisions made in the next few years will affect our electricity generation infrastructure for decades to come."
However, the defenders of "global warming" do not discuss the negative impacts of biofuels, such as the growing price that people will have to pay for food. Fortunately, the UK government distanced itself from imposing biofuels.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) established by the UK Government in November 1997, released a new document "Are biofuels sustainable?" on January 21, 2008 (see attached; also available from http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmenvaud/76/76.pdf).
EAC concludes that "1...most first generation biofuels have a detrimental impact on the environment overall" and that in general "biofuels produced from conventional crops should no longer receive support from the Government."
"2. The Government and EU’s neglect of biomass and other more effective policies to reduce emissions in favour of biofuels is misguided.The current policy and support framework must be changed to ensure that sustainable bioenergy resources maximise their potential to generate energy for the lowest possible greenhouse gas emissions. In general biofuels produced from conventional crops should no longer receive support from the Government. Instead the Government should concentrate on the development of more efficient biofuel technologies that might have a sustainable role in the future."
Furthermore, according to the report Summary:
"3. EAC reports that the EU Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, recently admitted that the Commission did not foresee all the problems that EU biofuels policy would cause. He indicated that certification would be used to address the negative impacts of biofuels. This is not good enough. The Government should seek to ensure that EU policy changes to reflect the concerns raised in this report. This means implementing a moratorium on current targets until technology improves, robust mechanisms to prevent damaging land use change are developed, and international sustainability standards are agreed. Only then might biofuels have a role to play. In the meantime, other more effective ways of cutting emissions from road transport should be pursued. It will take considerable courage for the Government and EU to admit that the current policy arrangements for biofuels are inappropriate. The policy realignments that are required will be a test of the Government’s commitment to moving the UK towards a sustainable low carbon economy.
The policy realignments that are required will be a test of the Government’s commitment to moving the UK towards a sustainable low carbon economy."