Monday, July 14, 2008

Should the Objections of THREE California, One New Jersey and One Landlocked Illinois Congressional Representative Define US National Energy Policy??

President Bush Lifts Executive Ban on Offshore Drilling

By Dan Eggen and William Branigin

Washington Post

July 14, 2008

President Bush today lifted a presidential ban on offshore oil drilling on the outer continental shelf that was implemented by his father, escalating a confrontation with Democrats in Congress over how to cope with soaring gasoline prices.

Lifting the executive moratorium has no immediate practical effect, because Congress enacted its own prohibition on offshore drilling in 1981. It would have to be rescinded for exploration to proceed.

In a Rose Garden statement at the White House, Bush argued that allowing drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines would ease pressure on oil prices by increasing domestic production.

Bush also advocated taking other steps, such as allowing drilling in the Alaskan wilderness and access to oil shale in a basin that stretches across parts of Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. He blamed congressional opposition to drilling for the current run-up in gas prices.

"We need to take action now to expand domestic oil production," Bush said. Asserting that "failure to act is unacceptable," he said today's move clears away executive branch restrictions on offshore oil exploration. "This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress," he said.

Bush's move was aimed at increasing pressure on Democrats to act. It also raised the likelihood that offshore drilling would become a prominent part of the ongoing presidential campaign.

Bush first called on Congress to lift its drilling ban last month, saying he would simultaneously rescind the executive ban announced by his father, President George H. W. Bush, in 1990 and formally implemented in 1992. But he said today that he decided to act now because Democrats have failed to schedule any hearings or take the issue seriously.

"It's been almost a month since I urged Congress to act, and they've done nothing," Bush said. "As the Democratically controlled Congress has sat idle, gas prices have continued to increase."

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, has endorsed opening the outer continental shelf for exploration. The expected Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), opposes lifting the moratorium, arguing that drilling would take years and would have no appreciable impact on gas prices.

On Capitol Hill, key Democrats denounced Bush's move and focused on their calls for legislation forcing oil companies to instead drill on the millions of acres for which they already hold leases.

"The president didn't follow his father's policy on Iraq, and now he's not following his father's policy on offshore oil drilling," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. "Ironically, the result will be less pressure on the oil companies to produce on the leases they already hold."

Boxer added: "At a time when the Bush administration is failing on housing, the economy, the deficit, the environment and foreign policy, the president is desperately trying to divert responsibility for outrageous gas prices from himself to the Congress."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called Bush's announcement "a false promise that simply won't deliver" the benefits he claims.

Feinstein said it would take at least seven years under the best circumstances to begin drilling in areas currently under a moratorium, and she argued that the risk of environmental accidents is too great.

"There simply are no good or easy options to bring prices down," Feinstein said. "Instead, what we need is a long-term solution that will reduce America's reliance on fossil fuels."


Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a leading opponent of oil exploration in the outer continental shelf and author of a bill to permanently ban drilling off the Atlantic coast, said in a statement that Bush's plan "won't produce a drop of oil until 2017 and won't lower gas prices ever."

To provide relief in the near term, he said, "we must crack down on speculation in the oil markets" and require oil companies to tap into "the 68 million acres of unused land already leased to them by American taxpayers."

To reduce U.S. dependence on oil in the long term and avoid future gas price crises, "we must transition from a transportation system based on oil to one based on renewable energy and advanced alternative fuels," Menendez said. "And we can do it in the time George Bush and John McCain would have us wait for minimal oil production along our coastlines. Bush's plan "is not a serious proposal to help American families," he charged. "This is exploitation of pain at the pump to give yet another handout to oil companies."



[FURTHERMORE, SENATOR, THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY COULD DERIVE SUBSTANTIAL REVENUES FROM LICENSING OIL & GAS DRILLING OF THE NEW JERSEY COASTLINE. - "In accordance with the federal Submerged Lands Act of 1953 (SLA),10 coastal states are generally entitled to an area extending three geographical miles11 from their officially recognized coast (or baseline). In order to accommodate the claims of certain states, the SLA provides for an extended three marine league seaward boundary in the Gulf of Mexico if a state can show such a boundary was provided for by the state’s “constitution or laws prior to or at the time such State became a member of the Union, or if it has been heretofore approved by Congress.” After enactment of the SLA, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Gulf coast boundaries of Florida and Texas do extend to the three marine league limit; other Gulf coast states were unsuccessful in their challenges.

Within their offshore boundaries, coastal states have “(1) title to and ownership of the lands beneath navigable waters within the boundaries of the respective states, and (2) the right and power to manage, administer, lease, develop and use the said lands and natural resources

...” Accordingly, coastal states have the option of developing offshore oil and gas within their waters; if they choose to develop, they may regulate that development." See Offshore Oil and Gas Development: Legal Framework, Congressional Research Service Report # RL33404 (May 3, 2007) at pp. CRS-4-5, at: . WOULDN'T IT BEHOOVE NEW JERSEY TO CONSIDER HOW TO DERIVE MORE GENERAL FUNDS FROM LEASING IN ORDER TO MAKE UP FOR HISTORIC STATE BUDGET SHORTFALLS, IN ORDER TO RELIEVE THE FISCAL BURDEN ON NEW JERSEY TAXPAYERS??]

Calling today's move "a political stunt," Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and forcing oil companies to drill on the leased land they already control "would be a good place to start" in trying to lower gas prices.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed similar sentiments, describing Bush's move as "a hoax" that "will neither reduce gas prices nor increase energy independence." She said in a statement: "Once again, the oilman in the White House is echoing the demands of Big Oil." His plan "just gives millions more acres to the same companies that are sitting on nearly 68 million acres of public lands and coastal areas," she said.

[See, e.g., Jared Allen, Pelosi: Drilling in protected areas ‘a hoax’, The Hill (July 10, 2008), at: ].

Bush formally lifted the executive ban today in a "memorandum for the secretary of interior" released by the White House.

"Now the ball is squarely in Congress's court," Bush said in his Rose Garden announcement.

"Democratic leaders can show that they have finally heard the frustrations of the American people by matching the action I've taken today, repealing the congressional ban, and passing legislation to facilitate responsible offshore exploration."

He said the legislation must give states "a say in what happens off their shores," provide for the sharing of new leasing revenues between the states and the federal government and ensure environmental protection.

Bush said allowing access to the outer continental shelf "could eventually produce nearly 10 years' worth of America's current annual oil production," or about 18 billion barrels of crude.

According to a report last year by the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, however, "access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030." Because oil prices are determined on the international market, it added, "any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant."

In a speech at the White House June 18, Bush urged lawmakers to lift the 27-year-old ban on drilling for oil and gas on the outer continental shelf, arguing that the country needs more domestic energy production to help reduce dependence on foreign oil and ease upward pressure on gasoline prices.

The White House hopes that record crude oil prices and a national average price for regular unleaded gasoline of nearly $4.11 a gallon will weaken opposition to the new offshore drilling.
Among the opponents are environmental groups, tourism interests, commercial fishermen and most Democrats in Congress.

The congressional moratorium was imposed in 1981, when lawmakers from coastal states sought to block leases for oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Massachusetts and California. Congress has approved the moratorium every year since then.

A decade later, President George H.W. Bush issued a separate executive order banning offshore oil drilling. That prohibition was initially set to expire in 2002, but in 1998 President Bill Clinton extended it to 2012.

Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.


Bush Lifts Ban on Offshore Drilling


Associated Press

WASHINGTON (July 14) - President Bush on Monday lifted an executive ban on offshore oil drilling and challenged Congress to follow suit, aiming to turn the enormous public frustration about gasoline prices into political leverage. Democratic lawmakers rejected Bush's plan as a symbolic stunt.

With gas prices topping $4.10 a gallon nationally, Bush made his most assertive move to extend oil exploration, an energy priority of his presidency. By lifting the executive prohibition against coastal drilling, Bush rescinded a White House policy that his own father put in place in 1990.

The move will have no practical effect unless Congress acts, too. Both executive and legislative bans must be lifted before offshore exploration can happen.Bush had called on Congress a month ago to go first, then reversed himself on Monday. He said the country could no longer afford to wait.

"The only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress," Bush said in a statement in the Rose Garden. "Now the ball is squarely in Congress' court."

"Democratic leaders can show that they have finally heard the frustrations of the American people by matching the action I've taken today, repealing the congressional ban, and passing legislation to facilitate responsible offshore exploration," Bush said.

The president's direct link between record gas prices and offshore drilling glossed over a key point. Even if Congress agreed, the exploration for oil would take years to produce real results. It is not projected to reduce gas prices in the short term. Even the White House routinely emphasizes there is no quick fix.

That did not stop Bush from building his case around today's prices at the pump.

He said every extra dollar that families must spend on gas is one they could be using to put food on their table or to send a child to school. The American people, he said, are now "waiting to see what the Congress will do."

The White House says that acting now on a long-term solution would send a serious signal to the market that more oil supply will be coming on line. That, in turn, could ease oil prices, advocates say. Business groups and many Republican lawmakers applauded the move to expand the energy supply in the U.S.Democrats were unmoved.

"The Bush plan is a hoax," responded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "It will neither reduce gas prices nor increase energy independence."

Several Democratic leaders in Congress said oil companies are already sitting on millions of acres of public and coastal lands.Yet a proposal by Democrats to release oil from an emergency reserve has been rejected by the White House as a gimmick that won't reduce prices.

So the election-year stalemate remains.Congressional Democrats, joined by some GOP lawmakers from coastal states, have long opposed lifting the prohibition that has barred energy companies from waters along both the East and West coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. A succession of presidents, including the current one, has sided with Congress for each of the last 27 years in barring drilling in these waters.

The main goal has been to protect beaches and coastal states' tourism economies. But Bush says that with today's technology, exploration can be conducted along the Outer Continental Shelf in ways that keep the drilling out of sight and protect the environment.

The congressional ban is renewed yearly, typically as part of a spending bill. The White House said it was too soon to comment on a potential Bush veto.

Under Bush's proposal, states would help decide how drilling would be conducted off their shores. It is unclear how much oil would be available. Bush said it could eventually be enough to produce 10 years' worth of America's current oil production.

Both presidential campaigns weighed in.

Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, called Bush's move "a very important signal" and prodded his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, should drop his opposition to offshore drilling. "If we can show that we have significant oil reserves off our coasts, that will clearly affect the futures market and affect the price of oil," McCain said.

Obama favors another economic stimulus package that includes energy rebates, as well as stepped up efforts to develop alternative fuels. "If offshore drilling would provide short-term relief at the pump or a long-term strategy for energy independence, it would be worthy of our consideration, regardless of the risks," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement. "But most experts, even within the Bush administration, concede it would do neither."


Environmental groups also criticized Bush.

The public, though, is growing impatient for answers.

Nearly half the people surveyed by the Pew Research Center last month said they now consider energy exploration and drilling more important than conservation, compared with a little over a third who felt that way only five months ago. The sharpest shift in attitude came from those who had previously viewed exploration as a less important priority, including people who identified themselves as liberals, independents and Democrats.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.


Memorandum for the Secretary of the Interior

White House News

July 14, 2008

SUBJECT: Modification of the Withdrawal of Areas of the United States Outer Continental Shelf from Leasing Disposition

Under the authority vested in me as President of the United States, including section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), I hereby modify the prior memoranda of withdrawals from disposition by leasing of the United States Outer Continental Shelf issued on August 4, 1992, and June 12, 1998, as modified on January 9, 2007, to read only as follows:

Under the authority vested in me as President of the United States, including section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), I hereby withdraw from disposition by leasing, for a time period without specific expiration, those areas of the Outer Continental Shelf designated as of July 14, 2008, as Marine Sanctuaries under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, 16 U.S.C. 1431-1434, 33 U.S.C. 1401 et seq.

Nothing in this withdrawal affects the rights under existing leases in these areas.


Offshore Oil and Gas Development: Legal Framework, Congressional Research Service Report # RL33404 (May 3, 2007) at pp. CRS-4-5 .

The primary federal law governing development of oil and gas in federal waters is the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). As stated above, the OCSLA codifies federal control of the OCS, declaring that the submerged lands seaward of the state’s offshore boundaries appertain to the U.S. federal government. More than simply declaring federal control, the OCSLA has as its primary purpose ‘expeditious and orderly development [of OCS resources], subject to environmental safeguards, in a manner which is consistent with the maintenance of competition and other national needs....’ To effectuate this purpose, the OCSLA extends application of federal laws to certain structures and devices located on the OCS, provides that the law of adjacent states will apply to the OCS when it does not conflict with federal law, and, significantly, provides a comprehensive leasing process for certain OCS mineral resources and a system for collecting and distributing royalties from the sale of these federal mineral resources. The OCSLA thus provides comprehensive regulation of the development of OCS oil and gas resources.

Although in general the...Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) requires the federal government to prepare, revise and maintain an oil and gas leasing program, many offshore areas are withdrawn from disposition under the OCSLA. There are currently two broad categories of OCS moratoria, those imposed by the President under authority granted by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and those imposed directly by Congress
which have most often taken the form of limitations on the use of appropriated
funds. Congressionally imposed moratoria have been imposed since the early
1980s and have been approved annually thereafter. In 1990, President Bush issued
a directive essentially paralleling the congressionally mandated moratoria, prohibiting
most oil and gas development outside of the offshore areas associated with (though
not belonging to) Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama. This presidential withdrawal
was to be effective until after the year 2000. In 1998, President Clinton issued a new
executive branch moratorium, lasting until June 30, 2012. The Clinton order refers
to the 1997 congressional moratorium and adopts the substance of that enactment
expressly, which itself included by reference those areas covered by the 1990
presidential withdrawal.

...43 U.S.C. § 1341(a) (“The President of the United States may, from time to time,
withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.”). The
President’s Memorandum on Withdrawal asserts that the presidential authority for imposing
the OCS moratorium is contained in section 12(a) of the OCSLA. The statement also
indicates that withdrawal from leasing is also authorized under those portions of the Marine
Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 authorizing the President, under certain
circumstances, to establish marine sanctuaries and to impose certain levels of environmental
protection within those sanctuaries. Notably, this presidential statement does not cite any
inherent, constitutionally-based executive authority for executive control of OCS resources,
and none is immediately apparent. In general, Congress, acting pursuant to its constitutional
authority over federal property and U.S. territories and its authority over foreign and
interstate commerce, has sufficient constitutional authority to regulate OCS resources.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why Won't Congress Approve Offshore Oil Drilling to Combat Record High Fuel Prices? Are They Pandering to Environmentalists at Consumers' Expense??

Domestic drilling split along party lines

By Jim Brown



A veteran U.S. senator from Iowa laments that members of Congress beholden to the environmentalist lobby are still blocking domestic oil drilling opportunities as gas prices continue to skyrocket.

Last week in response to a question regarding soaring oil prices, President Bush called on American consumers to write their members of Congress and urge them to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the Outer Continental Shelf for oil drilling and to increase oil shale exploration.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says there is not much division among the two parties on the need for more renewable energy sources and conservation -- but the Senate, he says, is deadlocked on oil drilling.

"I'd say 45 out of 49 [Republicans] want to drill almost every place where you can drill in the United States; and Democrats, except for one or two, are taking the view that we should not be drilling," says Grassley.

"That's the environmentalist point of view, and they respond to that environmentalist point of view to a great extent." [THIS SOUNDS EXACTLY LIKE WHAT THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION & EU PARLIAMENT DO - EMBRACE THE ENVIRONMENTALIST POSITION, NO MATTER THE COST TO CONSUMERS].

The Iowa Republican says he is constantly being asked why Congress will not approve oil drilling in the ANWR to combat record high fuel prices.

Two months ago, he says, constituents were not asking him that question. "Boy, I'm telling you, it's coming up at my town meetings in the last month. It's coming up in polls," he remarks. "And we're hoping that there's going to be a shift of opinion among Democrats to support more drilling.

But right now it's deadlocked with the end result that some people are willing to import more oil and send $140 [per barrel] overseas instead of keeping it in the United States."

Grassley says drilling in Alaska will yield 13 billion barrels of oil, but there is even more than that in the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf.


Energy bill out of gas

By Jared Allen and Mike Soraghan


House Democrats are in a bind on the focal point of their energy plan.

Worried that a floor vote on any energy-related measure would trigger a Republican-forced vote on domestic drilling, the leadership has scrubbed the floor schedule of the energy legislation that it vowed to tackle after the Fourth of July recess.

Just before leaving for their districts, a number of House Democrats called a press conference to declare victory on a number of energy bills — including overwhelming passage of a bill to rein in excessive oil market speculation.

Democrats declared victory on a bill they failed to pass on the suspension calendar — their “use it or lose it bill” to force energy companies to either start drilling on their federally leased land or give it back — saying they had put 176 Republicans on record as siding with the oil companies over consumers.

And they vowed that the bill, the centerpiece of their energy message, would be back.

“We’ve taken some bold steps this week, and we’re going to build on that [after recess] with the bills we take up,” Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said at the press conference.

But, as of Monday afternoon, neither “use it or lose it” nor any other energy measure had been scheduled for floor action this week.

Democrats said they were simply taking a different approach to passing their top energy-related priorities.

Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said energy activity this week is taking place at the committee level, noting that there are four hearings planned on the issue of speculation in oil trading.

“Different members have different ideas,” Elshami said. “We’ll bring forward the best piece of legislation based on the recommendations and hearings we are having this week.”

Republicans pounced, saying Democrats were backtracking after realizing they would be unable to defeat a Republican vote on increased domestic oil drilling in new areas.

“It’s panic time for Democrats,” said a senior Republican aide. “They are on the wrong side of three-quarters of the American people who support increased production of American-made energy.”

While Democrats were in their districts advocating their plans to end gas price-gouging, rein in speculation, pass “use it or lose it” and even call for President Bush to release millions of barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), Republicans were touting polls showing that a healthy majority of Americans now support increased domestic energy production.

That is proving to be a particular concern for Democrats in that any non-suspension-calendar energy vote would be subject to a Republican alternative, almost certainly calling for offshore and Arctic drilling, that would very likely pass.

“If we could send deepwater drilling over, it would pass the Senate,” said a Republican leadership aide, highlighting just how much an energy vote could backfire on Democrats.

A senior Democratic leadership aide acknowledged this week that there are plenty of members of the majority caucus “who want to drill and want to drill where Republicans want to drill.”

Even if Democratic leaders could beat back a GOP motion on drilling, the vote could be used as political ammunition against their vulnerable members this fall.

The Democratic setbacks come after they scored a political victory this spring when they overwhelmingly passed an SPR bill over initial White House objections. But Republicans now claim they have the upper hand, noting that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is citing drilling repeatedly on the campaign trail.

Further complicating matters for Democrats is the growing number of pro-drilling Democrats who are becoming increasingly worried that voters might throw them in with their anti-drilling leadership.

One pro-drilling Democrat predicted that the backlash against Congress for gas prices could rival the outrage voters felt about the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Another, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), is frustrated at not being listened to.

“My concern with my leadership is that they’re not letting all the people in the room to present the facts,” said Melancon, a proponent of more offshore drilling. “Where are all the pro-oil legislators? I’m not in the room. I don’t know who is. My feeling is we are not being all-inclusive to pass legislation that can get through the Senate and avoid a veto.”

For now, though, there will be no legislation to pass, as the only energy-related action this week will occur at the committee level.

Republicans may try to continue a strategy they demonstrated before recess by forcing drilling votes as energy amendments to bills being considered at the committee level, including appropriations bills.

And Republicans may go one step further by trying to get amendments added to the energy and water appropriations bill, a likely contender to see the floor this week.

“We’re going to demand a pro-production energy vote before Congress goes home for the month of August,” said House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.). “We’ve tried to highlight efforts to solve America’s energy problem a thousand ways to Sunday, and [Democrats] keep pulling them from committee, pulling them from the floor and kicking the can down the road.”

Exactly when Democrats will change their present course and bring an energy bill to the floor remains uncertain.

“Right now, our strategy on gas prices is ‘Drive small cars and wait for the wind,’ ” said a Democratic aide.

New Australian Government's Climate Change Report Foretells Earthly Destruction in Biblical Proportions: Where is Charleton Heston When We Need Him?

Climate change report like a disaster novel, says Australian minister

Scientists predict 10-fold increase in heatwaves· Greenhouse gases blamed for half of rainfall decrease

By Barbara McMahon

The Guardian UK

July 7, 2008

A new report by Australia's top scientists [The Garnaut Climate Change Review, at: ] predicts that the country will be hit by a 10-fold increase in heatwaves and that droughts will almost double in frequency and become more widespread because of climate change.

The scientific projections envisage rainfall continuing to decline in a country that is already one of the hottest and driest in the world. It says that about 50% of the decrease in rainfall in south-western Australia since the 1950s has probably been due to greenhouse gases.

Yesterday, Australia's agriculture minister, Tony Burke, described the report as alarming and said: "Parts of these high-level projections read more like a disaster novel than a scientific report." [PRECISELY THE OBJECTIVE!! FRIGHTEN THE AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC INTO SUBMISSION!!]

The analysis, commissioned by the government as part of a review of public funding to drought-stricken farmers, was published days after another report, by Professor Ross Garnaut, warned that Australia had to adopt a scheme for trading greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 or face the eventual destruction of sites including the Great Barrier Reef, the wetlands of Kakadu and the nation's food bowl, the Murray-Darling Basin. [LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS, OH MY!!]

The prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who swept to victory on a green agenda last November, said the analysis by the Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was "very disturbing".

The reports will put pressure on him to act swiftly on his pledge for Australia to lead the world in tackling polluters. However, the rising cost of living has dented his government's popularity and his plans for a carbon trading scheme have begun to unnerve voters and industry. Rudd has acknowledged that tough debate lies ahead and has said the government will map out its policy options this month.

Yesterday's report revealed that not only would droughts occur more often but that the area affected would be twice as large as now. The proportion of the country having exceptionally hot years could increase from 5% each year to as much as 95%, according to the projections.

The report says rainfall in Australia has been declining since the 1950s and about half of that decrease is due to climate change. It says the current thresholds for farmers to claim financial assistance are out of date because hotter and drier weather will become the norm.

Burke said it was clear that the cycle of drought was going to be "more regular and deeper than ever before". He added: "If we failed to review drought policy, if we were to continue the neglect and pretend that the climate wasn't changing, we would be leaving our farms out to dry."

Parts of Australia are now in a sixth year of drought, and the report coincided with an announcement that there has been a worsening of the drought in New South Wales. Some 65% of the state is affected, an increase of more than 2.3% on last month, although opinion is divided on whether it can be attributed to climate change.

A plague of locusts is also threatening crops in the state, with farmers on 900 farms reporting finding locust eggs. The government plans to fight the infestation with aerial spraying before the eggs hatch.



Australia's epic drought: The situation is grim

By Kathy Marks

The Independent

20 April 2007

Australia has warned that it will have to switch off the water supply to the continent's food bowl unless heavy rains break an epic drought - heralding what could be the first climate change-driven disaster to strike a developed nation.

The Murray-Darling basin in south-eastern Australia yields 40 per cent of the country's agricultural produce. But the two rivers that feed the region are so pitifully low that there will soon be only enough water for drinking supplies. Australia is in the grip of its worst drought on record, the victim of changing weather patterns attributed to global warming and a government that is only just starting to wake up to the severity of the position.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, a hardened climate-change sceptic, delivered dire tidings to the nation's farmers yesterday. Unless there is significant rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, irrigation will be banned in the principal agricultural area. Crops such as rice, cotton and wine grapes will fail, citrus, olive and almond trees will die, along with livestock.

A ban on irrigation, which would remain in place until May next year, spells possible ruin for thousands of farmers, already debt-laden and in despair after six straight years of drought.
Lovers of the Australian landscape often cite the poet Dorothea Mackellar who in 1904 penned the classic lines: "I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains." But the land that was Mackellar's muse is now cracked and parched, and its mighty rivers have shrivelled to sluggish brown streams. With paddocks reduced to dust bowls, graziers have been forced to sell off sheep and cows at rock-bottom prices or buy in feed at great expense. Some have already given up, abandoning pastoral properties that have been in their families for generations. The rural suicide rate has soared.

Mr Howard acknowledged that the measures are drastic. He said the prolonged dry spell was "unprecedentedly dangerous" for farmers, and for the economy as a whole. Releasing a new report on the state of the Murray and Darling, Mr Howard said: "It is a grim situation, and there is no point in pretending to Australia otherwise. We must all hope and pray there is rain."

But prayer may not suffice, and many people are asking why crippling water shortages in the world's driest inhabited continent are only now being addressed with any sense of urgency.

The causes of the current drought, which began in 2002 but has been felt most acutely over the past six months, are complex. But few scientists dispute the part played by climate change, which is making Australia hotter and drier.

Environmentalists point to the increasing frequency and severity of drought-causing El Niño weather patterns, blamed on global warming. They also note Australia's role in poisoning the Earth's atmosphere. Australians are among the world's biggest per-capita energy consumers, and among the top producers of carbon dioxide emissions. Despite that, the country is one of only two industrialised nations - the United States being the other - that have refused to ratify the 1997 Kyoto protocol.

The governments argue that to do so would harm their economies.

Until a few months ago, Mr Howard and his ministers pooh-poohed the climate-change doomsayers. The Prime Minister refused to meet Al Gore when he visited Australia to promote his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. He was lukewarm about the landmark report by the British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, which warned that large swaths of Australia's farming land would become unproductive if global temperatures rose by an average of four degrees.

Faced with criticism from even conservative sections of the media, Mr Howard realised that he had misread the public mood - grave faux pas in an election year. Last month's report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted more frequent and intense bushfires, tropical cyclones, and catastrophic damage to the Great Barrier Reef. The report also said there would be up to 20 per cent more droughts by 2030. And it said the annual flow in the Murray-Darling basin was likely to fall by 10-25 per cent by 2050. The basin, the size of France and Spain combined, provides 85 per cent of the water used nationally for irrigation.

While the government is determined to protect Australia's coal industry, the drought is expected to shave 1 per cent off annual growth this year. The farming sector of a country that once "rode the sheep's back" to prosperity is in desperate straits. With dams and reservoirs drying up, many cities and towns have been forced to introduce severe water restrictions.

Mr Howard has softened his rhetoric of late, and says that he now broadly accepts the science behind climate change. He has tried to regain the political initiative, announcing measures including a plan to take over regulatory control of the Murray-Darling river system from state governments.

He has declared nuclear power the way forward, and is even considering the merits of joining an international scheme to "trade" carbon dioxide emissions - an idea he opposed in the past.

Mr Howard's conservative coalition will face an opposition Labour Party revitalised by a popular new leader, Kevin Rudd, and offering a climate change policy that appears to be more credible than his. Ben Fargher, the head of the National Farmers' Federation, said that if fruit and olive trees died, that could mean "five to six years of lost production". Food producers also warned of major food price rises.

Mr Howard acknowledged that an irrigation ban would have a "potentially devastating" impact. But "this is very much in the lap of the gods", he said.

How UN warned Australia and New Zealand
Excerpts from UN's IPCC report on the threat of global warming to Australia and New Zealand:

"As a result of reduced precipitation and increased evaporation, water security problems are projected to intensify by 2030 in south and east Australia and, in New Zealand, in Northland and eastern regions."

* "Significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur by 2020 in some ecologically rich sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland's tropics. Other sites at risk include the Kakadu wetlands ... and the alpine areas of both countries."
* "Ongoing coastal development and population growth in areas such as Cairns and south-east Queensland (Australia) and Northland to Bay of Plenty (New Zealand) are projected to exacerbate risks from sea-level rise and increases in the severity and frequency of storms and coastal flooding by 2050."
* "Production from agriculture and forestry by 2030 is projected to decline over much of southern and eastern Australia, and over parts of eastern New Zealand, due to increases in droughts and fires."
* "The region has substantial adaptive capacity due to well-developed economies and scientific and technical capabilities, but there are considerable constraints to implementation ... Natural systems have limited adaptive capacity."

Monday, July 7, 2008

EU Commission's Barroso Tries to Help Germany Shed its Nuclear Neurosis
Barroso attempts to woo Germany on nuclear energy



European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has once again made the case for nuclear power, a controversial source of electricity generation in several EU member states, adding to the already heated debate in Germany on whether the country should allow a nuclear comeback.

In an interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag (6 July), Mr Barroso acknowledged that "nuclear energy is a delicate issue in Germany".

Germany's previous government committed itself to a gradual phase-out of all 17 nuclear power plants in the country by 2021 (Photo: wikipedia)

"On the other hand," he said, "more and more countries see in nuclear energy an at least temporary solution to stop climate change and to reduce our dependency on oil and gas."

Germany's previous Green-[Red] Social-Democrat coalition government under the leadership of Gerhard Schroeder committed itself to a gradual phase-out of all 17 nuclear power plants in the country by 2021.

But the commitment is now being questioned by the Christian Democrats (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the senior partners in the coalition government with the Social Democrats.

Technology minister Annette Schavan from the CDU said that Germany needs to "exit the exit resolution", referring to the phase-out. "We urgently need the life-span extension - as a contribution to global climate protection and for a lasting energy supply," she told Bild am Sonntag.

But the Social Democrats reject the idea of prolonging the life-span of existing power plants, pointing to remaining question marks over how to safely store the nuclear waste.

"It is irresponsible so long as the question of the disposal of highly radioactive waste is not solved," the party top figure, Peter Struck, was cited as saying by Der Tagesspiegel on Sunday (6 July).

The same message came from transportation minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, speaking to Welt am Sonntag. "We believe in renewable energy and not in nuclear energy," he said, pointing to plans to build some 30 offshore windfarms in the Baltic and North seas. [SEE BELOW]

It is up to each EU state to choose its own energy mix. But the current European Commission, headed by Mr Barroso, has not shied away from supporting the nuclear path. Brussels says that nuclear energy has a role to play in meeting the EU's growing concerns about security of supply and CO2 emission reductions.


Germany Plans 30 More Wind Farms

Business Week

July 7, 2008

The government's move toward offshore wind farms comes as the debate over phasing out nuclear energy heats up.

The energy debate is heating up in Germany with advocates of abandoning the planned nuclear phase-out pitted against those who argue that renewable energy is the way to go. Now the German government has said it plans to give a massive boost to wind power in the coming years.

Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said on Sunday that Berlin plans to build up to 30 offshore wind farms to meet the country's renewable energy targets. Speaking to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper he said the plan was to build some 2,000 windmills in the North Sea and Baltic Sea which would provide 11,000 megawatts of electricity.

"The price of oil has made this all the more pressing and the interest from investors shows that it is economically viable," Tiefensee said.

Berlin wants to reduce dependency on energy suppliers from overseas and Tiefensee says the government is aiming to obtain 25,000 megawatts of energy from wind farms by 2030. The farms, which will cost €1 billion ($1.56 billion) each to construct, are to be located in relatively deep water and will require hundreds of kilometers of cables to bring the power generated to the mainland. The first wind farm is to be erected off Borkum Island in the North Sea next year.

In June, Germany's parliament passed a law aimed at increasing the amount of power generated by renewable energy sources like wind and solar power from the current 14 percent to 30 percent by 2020.

However, there are also growing calls to increase Germany's use of nuclear energy as the price of oil soars.

While the ruling coalition of conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and center-left Social Democrats (SPD) had agreed to honor a previous government's decision to close down the country's nuclear plants by 2020, there are increased calls to take another look at the nuclear phase-out. Many in the CDU, including Merkel, argue that this hinders Germany's efforts to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. The SPD, on the other hand, is firmly against increasing reliance on nuclear power.

Tiefensee, a member of the SPD, said on Sunday that investing in energy sources such as wind was a better option. "We believe in renewable energy and not in nuclear energy."

EU Commission Postpones Plan to Impose CO2 Tolls on EU Commercial Road Traffic, As European Businesses Grieve Over Loss of 'Liberty to Travel'

EU 'green transport' plans to ignore CO2

7 July 2008

Despite the bloc's ambitious goal to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020, Commission proposals due to be unveiled tomorrow (8 July) would effectively prohibit governments from including the cost of CO2 emitted by road transport in their toll tariffs.



The EU's first attempt at addressing the wide range of negative 'external effects' produced by transport was in 1993, when it put forward a directive enabling countries to introduce tolls on motorways in order to finance the cost of infrastructure deterioration caused by heavy road vehicles.

Known as the 'Eurovignette Directive', the law was revised in 2006 with a view to extending its scope to more roads and vehicles and to making it possible for governments to integrate other costs – such as congestion, accidents, noise and air pollution – into toll prices (see our LinksDossier on Eurovignette).

However, due to strong disagreements between member states and Parliament, the final text of the Eurovignette de facto excluded this very possibility until a "common methodology for the calculation and internalisation of external costs that can be applied to all modes of transport" is agreed. The Commission had been due to present a model before 10 June 2008, but this date was postponed slightly due to the switch in commissioner portfolios, which saw the Italian Antonio Tajani take over from Frenchman Jacques Barrot in mid-June 2008.


The proposals will be part of a broad package on 'greening transport', which will include a general Communication on 'greening transport', a proposal for a review of the Eurovignette Directive and a 'Strategy for the internalisation of external costs' for each transport mode.

The review of the Eurovignette Directive aims to enable governments to charge truck drivers for the costs they impose in terms of congestion, noise and air pollution.

According to the latest draft obtained by EurActiv, such 'external cost' charges could come on top of those already levied in some countries to finance construction and maintenance work.

No obligations

Member states would not be obliged to impose such taxes but could choose to do so for vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes, on any part of their road network, as of January 2012. Charges would be capped at maximum levels and would have to vary according to the time of day, the distance travelled and vehicles' Euro emissions class type – which takes account of the amount of NOx and poisonous particulate matter emitted (see LinksDossier on Euro standards).

Tolls with barriers would no longer be permitted and the collection of charges would have to be based on an electronic system so as to avoid hindrances to the free flow of traffic, although there would be a transition period up till January 2014.

CO2 costs excluded

Charging trucks for the CO2 they emit would remain forbidden. Indeed, in the draft communication, the Commission explains that although levying a specific CO2 tax on top of the air pollution and noise charges "could deliver additional benefits, it should better be addressed through a more coordinated approach at EU level to reduce greenhouse emissions based on either the Emission Trading System or a common fuel tax element in the Energy Taxation Directive".

Nor would governments be allowed to include accident costs in their road taxes, as the Commission finds that accident risks "are related not only to the distance travelled but also to complex factors such as speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or failure to use seat belts, hence instruments like insurance rates might be a more effective tool".

Money for sustainable transport

In what is likely to become the main contentious issue with national governments, the Commission is proposing that revenues generated by external cost charges be earmarked towards measures aimed at reducing road transport pollution at source, improving CO2 and energy performance of vehicles and developing alternative infrastructure for transport users, the communication states.

Governments would nevertheless remain free to allocate revenues raised through infrastructure charges as they choose.

A five year wait?

The Commission says it will review the situation in 2013 to determine whether the option of charging truck drivers for the costs they impose on society should become an obligation. "The review will also assess whether the cost of CO2 emissions should be allowed to be included in tolls," states the communication.

But debates in Parliament could see a change in the proposals, as MEPs appear to be far from convinced by the plans so far (see positions).

According to the Commission's communication, "the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory versus optional charging schemes for road freight transport were compared. It was found that while there are clear and immediate benefits to be reaped in member states with a lot of traffic, the financial viability of charging systems for external costs in member states with low traffic requires further studies".

Johannes Ludewig, executive director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), told EurActiv that, though the Commission's plans were rather unambitious, the most important part was the acceptance of the principle of internalisation of external costs.

He nevertheless lamented the exclusion of CO2 from the plans, saying: "We are seeing the argument from the Commission saying that from a scientific point of view CO2 should be better internalised by taxes on gasoline or diesel and our view is that theoretically I can follow that, but in reality, seeing the price level of gasoline and diesel today, it is unrealistic that in the forseeable future any taxes on these two will be increased." He further pointed to the contradiction between going for an optional approach and excluding certain pollutants, such as CO2.

While Ludewig would rather have seen an obligation, he said "I think that is simply unrealistic".
But Damian Viccars, in charge of social and fiscal affairs at the European office of the International Road Transport Union (IRU), insisted that a mandatory approach would go against subsidiarity.

He also welcomed the exclusion of CO2 from the plans, saying: "Don't forget that we already have a CO2 tax in the form of fuel taxation. In the majority of cases, we already pay over and above our infrastructure costs through fuel taxes and contribute hugely to government transport budgets," he stressed.

Viccars also felt that congestion charges would amount to another form of "double taxation". "We are already incurring the congestion cost simply by being forced to sit in traffic," he said, adding that the 'polluter pays' system proposed by the Commission is unlikely to have any real effect.

"We are not at liberty to travel when we want," he explained, pointing to consumer needs, night-time delivery constraints and working time restrictions. "The prescriptiveness of the approach will simply cause costs to be passed on to consumers," he said, arguing in favour of a 'Cheapest Cost Avoider Principle', under which it would be left to the party that can prevent or abate the damage at the lowest cost for the overall economy to take action.

Green MEP Michael Cramer told EurActiv that he was disappointed with the proposals: "The Commission's study excludes accident and CO2 costs – the climate costs which are 80% of all the costs that transport is generating," he lamented, adding that he hoped Parliament would vote to toughen up the directive.

"We want fair competition between the modes of transport at least," he said, saying railways were suffering from the fact that most roads are still not covered by the tolls although rail is, as well as the fact aircraft still do not pay kerosene tax despite rail having to pay diesel tax. "That is unfair competition in favour of the modes of transport that are harmful for the climate, and not the opposite," he lamented.

"I hope that the Parliament will vote in a strong way – stronger than the Commission, but the conservatives are against it," he concluded.

But in fact, German MEP Georg Jarzembowski, spokesman on transport for the EPP-ED, told EurActiv that his group thought it was "strange" that the Eurovignette Directive would remain voluntary. "If you want to internalise external costs because of the climate change issue, then all countries should do it," he said.

He further expressed his discontent with the fact that the directive only covers road transport.

"We are a little bit shocked that the Commission only proposes something for the road and is not preparing anything for the other modes of transport," he said.

But he agreed with the Commission that the costs of CO2 need not be included. "We have already today a spreading of the tariff according to Euro One to Euro Six standards – so the more polluting a truck is, the more it has to pay. This is already a type of CO2 criteria in the directive, because the tariff varies according to the pollution," he said, insisting that excluding CO2 from the scope of the Eurovignette does not go against the EU's climate goals.
To read the interview with Georg Jarzembowski in full, please click here.

Next steps:
8 July 2008: Commission to present its package on 'Greening Transport'.

31 Dec. 2010: Proposed deadline for member states to comply with the directive.
31 Dec. 2013: Commission to review progress under the directive and determine whether to introduce binding obligations and allow for the inclusion of CO2 in tolls.

Congress Should Wake Up and Smell the Burnt Brussels Biofuels Brew Before Imposing Counterproductive & Harmful Renewable Energy Mandates in the US

EU Signals Retreat On Biofuels Target


EU Observer

July 7, 2008

European energy ministers have backed away from the EU's biofuels for transport target, admitting a gross confusion on their part in which they said they had been misreading policy documents since the target was initially proposed a year and a half ago.

The ministers, meeting in Paris for informal discussions, said that upon closer inspection, EU proposals that aim for a target of 10 percent of fuels for cars and lorries coming from biofuels by 2020 in fact only demand that 10 percent of fuels come from renewable sources, which may or may not be the controversial energy source.

Bioethanol from Brazil, produced from sugar cane, does not compete with food staples (Photo: Wikipedia)

"The member states realised that the commission's plan specifies that 10 percent of transport needs must come from renewable energy, not 10 percent from biofuels," French energy and environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo told reporters at the conclusion of the meeting. [OOPS!!!]

Until now, it was believed that EU leaders last spring agreed that the EU should increase the use of biofuels in transport fuel to 10 percent by 2020, up from a planned 5.75 percent target to be achieved by 2010.

Jochen Homann, a state secretary in the German Ministry of Economics and Technology said he and his colleagues had "discovered" that the documents "do not speak of biofuels, but renewables," according to AFP.

"We have to decide if the quota can be kept," Mr Homann said. "It might be changed."

The retreat comes after months of pressure on the EU and US from environmental groups, development NGOs and international institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations to adjust or abandon their biofuels policies.

Until a year ago, the alternative fuel source had widely been seen as a green alternative to petrol that also allowed European and developing world farmers to benefit from new markets for their crops.

At the international level however, there is now broad consensus that production of many biofuels releases as many greenhouse gases as the use of fossil fuels and that they have contributed to the global food crisis as farmers switch to growing crops for fuel instead of food.

The coup de grace for EU biofuels policy seems to have come on Friday, when a confidential internal World Bank report leaked to the UK's Guardian newspaper concluded that biofuels were responsible for 75 percent of the skyrocketing rise in food prices.

Mr Borloo said at the meeting that the policy could instead be interpreted to mean the deployment of hydrogen fuel cells or electric cars using electricity from alternative sources. [NICE ATTEMPT TO COVER UP YOUR BLUNDER!!]

Nonetheless, despite the re-reading, there has been no official policy change proposed. Meanwhile, the ministers are mulling over a proposal for a biofuels accord with Brazil.

Green MEP Claude Turmes, the deputy responsible for shepherding renewable energy legislation through the European Parliament, has suggested that the EU reach a bilateral agreement with the South American country, the biggest producer of bioethanol in the world.

"My analysis shows the only country where we can sustainably import substantial quantities of agri-fuels to the EU at the moment is Brazil," Mr Turmes said following the meeting, according to Reuters. [THAT IS, UNTIL YOU AND YOUR FELLOW BUREAUCRATS CAN FIND A WAY TO DECLARE BRAZILIAN SUGAR CANE-BASED ETHANOL UNSAFE, UNHEALTHY OR UNSUSTAINABLE IN ORDER TO BLOCK ITS IMPORTATION!!!]

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The US Congress Should Learn from Brussels' Biofuels Bumbling

France says EU may need to reconsider biofuel goal

Mon Jun 30, 2008

Reporting by Paul Taylor, writing by Pete Harrison

PARIS (Reuters) - The European Union may have to reconsider its target of getting 10 percent of transport fuel from renewable sources such as biofuels by 2020, or extend the deadline, incoming EU president France said on Monday.

Biofuel use is soaring as developed countries try to curb dependence on imported oil and cut emissions of carbon dioxide, but critics say the industry has encouraged deforestation and pushed up food prices by competing for grain.

The EU's target, which is intended to spur investment, has been a particular focus of criticism.

"On biofuels, we do not rule out in the long-run reconsidering the target, but that's not the issue now," French secretary of state for ecology Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told visiting EU reporters.

She said the EU approach of setting a quota target was "probably a mistake", and it would be better to set strict environmental and social criteria for biofuels and then see what level of use was viable.

Those criteria would have to include measures to ensure biofuels do not displace food-producing crops, she said.

"Probably we will be obliged to call into question or postpone the 10 percent objective," said Kosciusko-Morizet.

Earlier this month, Italy became the first EU member to publicly call for a review of the target.

Britain has also raised concerns, and this week its government will receive a long-awaited report on the impact of its targets for biofuels.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has said the EU target must be conditional on rigorously applied sustainability criteria.


Efforts towards a sustainable market for biofuels are being closely watched by producers such as Brazil, which hope the EU's huge market will create the critical mass to bring biofuels into the global mainstream.


EU biofuels target 'probably a mistake,' France says


EU Observer

June 30, 2008

The noose is steadily tightening around the neck of EU biofuels targets, with France on Monday (30 June) saying that the EU's 10 percent biofuels target may have to be reconsidered, in the latest attack on the renewable energy drive.

"Probably we will be obliged to call into question or postpone the 10 percent objective," said French ecology minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet speaking to reporters in Paris, according to the Reuters news agency.

The renewable energy source has come under attack from all quarters.

She added that developing a target for the controversial fuel source was "probably a mistake" and that the EU had proposed things the wrong way round: setting environmental and social criteria for the production of biofuels should have been developed first and then any target should have been drafted to match that. [???]


The EU in 2007 agreed that 10 percent of all transport fuel should come form renewable sources such as biofuels by 2020 as part of a wider overhaul of its energy sector. "On biofuels, we do not rule out in the long-run reconsidering the target," Ms Kosciusko-Morizet said.

With France taking over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU on Tuesday (1 July), the statement carries added weight, and follows on from a call from Italy earlier in the month for the bloc to review the target.

"We took with too much haste the decision on an objective that is not reachable," said Italian economic development minister Claudio Scajola in early June.

The UK as well is expected to shortly adapt its position on biofuels with the expected release this week of the Gallagher Report, a review of Britain's biofuels policies.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the working group set up by the European Commission and EU member states to consider how to develop environmental and social criteria on biofuel production and imports is close to agreement on a set of standards.

Quoting the Slovenian diplomat appointed to chair the group's discussions, Miran Kresal, the news agency says the group is likely to include language preventing the use of biofuels grown in habitats of endangered species, or biodiverse savannahs and grasslands, as well as land whose use has resulted in significant net emissions of carbon dioxide.

Legally binding labour standards were ruled out by the group due to concerns that such a move would not pass muster with the World Trade Organisation. Instead, the group will be looking to task the European Commission with the job of strict monitoring of social standards.


The key concern of environmentalists - the amount of CO2 emitted – who in the last year have moved from being supporters of biofuels to campaigning against their use, remains a source of contention within the working group, however.

Biofuels and food prices

The group has not developed any criteria relating to the possible effect of biofuels on food prices.
While the European Commission has repeatedly argued biofuels policies have had a negligible impact on food costs, the UN Food and Agriculture organisation says that biofuels explain 10 percent of recent price rises.

The International Monetary Fund puts this figure at 30, a figure backed by the International Food Policy Research Institute. The World Bank, however, says that biofuels have contributed to 65 percent of the price rises.

Dragan Barbutovski, a spokesperson for the Slovenian presidency of the EU, told EUobserver "The working group was set up long before the food crisis was high on the EU's agenda."

"As such it only ever had a mandate to assess potential sustainability criteria for the fuel quality directive and the renewable energy directive," he added.

US Congress Must Pay Close Attention: EU Commission President Called Upon to Reverse Flawed Brussels Biofuel Policies Causing High Prices & Hunger

Dear Dr. Kogan,

Using crops to make biofuels is contributing to the global food crisis. This statement is made in a letter dated June 2, 2008 to the European Commission and EU Heads of State urging them to abandon the proposed 10 per cent target for the use of biofuels in transport and to dismantle associated support measures.

The co-signing organisations include: Friend of the Earth Europe, Oxfam International, World Vision International, Bread for the World, CARE International, Cordaid, FIAN International, MISEREOR, Natuur en Milieu, Practical Action, SWISSAID, Save Our Borneo, AEFJN (Africa- Europe Faith & Justice Network), Agrarbuendnis Oesterreich, Both ENDS, Climate Alliance, CORE (Centre for Organisation Research & Education), Corporate Europe Observatory, Down to Earth - the International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia (UK), Fair-fish, FERN, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, GM-Free Ireland Network, Global Forest Coalition, KoBra (Kooperation Brasilien), Nature Alert (UK), The Centre for Orangutan Protection (Indonesia), Plataforma Transgenicos (Pt), Pro REGENWALD, Quercus, Rettet den Regenwald.

The co-signing organizations are critical of the stance of the European Commission for denying that the EU's continuing support for biofuels is contributing to food price rises and food shortages around the world. The co-signing organizations are writing to outline their "concerns around the role that increasing demand for biofuels is playing in this situation and to call on the European Union to drop the proposed 10 per cent biofuels target." These co-signing organizations stated that:

- "The European’s Commission’s own science and environmental agencies have called into question current biofuels policy. In addition, a growing body of scientific research shows that biofuels will not help to meet the EU’s objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

- "[T]he European Commission has estimated conservatively that the 10 per cent target will drive up cereal prices by only 3 to 6 per cent..." However, "separate analysis suggests that this could translate to an extra 50 to 100 million hungry people than would otherwise have been the case."

- "[T]he IMF has commented that increasing demand for biofuels explains ’20 to 30 per cent’ of recent food price increases. This is corroborated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) which puts the contribution of biofuels to the crisis at 30 per cent."Please find attached the full document.

This document can be obtained from:

Sorin Straja


José Manuel Barroso
President of the European commission
1049 Brussels, Belgium
Copy: EU Heads of State

2 June 2008

Dear President Barroso

As you are aware, global food prices have risen sharply in the past three years – the World Bank estimates by 83 per centi. For the World’s poor, who typically spend 50-80 per cent of their income on food, this has proven devastating. Riots have broken out in numerous poor countries as millions of people have seen the price of food spiral out of their reachii. The World Bank has estimated that already 100 million people have been pushed into poverty as a resultiii, undermining already shaky progress towards the first Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger to which the European Union has made repeated commitments.

Contrary to what many seem to imagine, it is not just the urban poor that are being affected – the majority of poor rural households are also net consumers of food and so suffering the same fate. We are writing to outline our concerns around the role that increasing demand for biofuels is playing in this situation and to call on the European Union to drop the proposed 10 per cent biofuels target.

As you are also aware, the reasons for these price rises are numerous and complex. They include rising demand for meat and dairy foods in emerging economies; adverse weather events and poor harvests, most notably for wheat; and higher energy costs which translate to higher costs of production and transport. We note with alarm however the repeated refusal of the European Commission to acknowledge its own role, through the promotion of biofuels, in the crisis. This is
despite a clear consensus among prominent economists and international organisations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the OECD, the World Food Programme, and the Food and Agriculture Organization, that increasing demand for biofuels is an important contributory factor. For your information, we attach as an appendix a summary of recent commentary to this effect.

According to the IMF, “rising biofuel production in the United States and the European Union has boosted demand for corn, rapeseed oil and other grains and edible oils. Although biofuels account for only 1.5 per cent of the global liquid fuels supply, they account for almost half the increase in consumption of major food crops in 2006-07.”iv In a recent paper, the OECD concluded that between 2005 and 2007, “nearly 60 per cent of the increase in use of both cereals and vegetable oil was due to higher use in the biofuels industry.”v As a result, the IMF has commented that increasing demand for biofuels explains ’20 to 30 per cent’ of recent food price increasesvi. This is corroborated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) which puts the contribution of biofuels to the crisis at 30 per centvii.

This is not only the United States. The EU is already the World’s biggest producer and consumer of biodiesel, and its contribution to the food crisis is set to increase under current proposals to take biofuel consumption from under 2 per cent of transport fuel needs today, to at least 10 per cent by 2020. The Joint Research Centre has estimated that meeting this target would require 19 per cent of world vegetable oil productionviii. IFPRI has estimated that by 2020 existing plans for biofuel expansion will have pushed the price of edible oils up by 18 per cent, and corn by 26 per cent, with direct impacts upon hunger, most notably in Africaix. The OECD estimates that under current policies – primarily those of the US and EU – demand for cereal feedstocks will double by 2017, and that biofuels will account for over a third of the growth in vegetable oil consumption in the same period. For its part, the European Commission has estimated conservatively that the 10 per cent target will drive up cereal prices by only 3 to 6 per cent – separate analysis suggests that this could translate to an extra 50 to 100 million hungry people than would otherwise have been the casex.

In the meantime, the EU continues to heavily subsidise biofuels, the net effect of which is to incentivise the diversion of food and agricultural land into fuel production. IFPRI has commented that “subsidies for biofuels that use agricultural production resources are extremely anti-poor because they act as a tax on basic food, which represents a large share of poor people’s consumption expenditures and becomes even more costly as prices increase.”xi By reducing access to food in poor countries, biofuel policies such as those of the EU are undermining the Right to Food, recognised within International Law, and which states are legally obliged to respect internationallyxii.

Biofuels are not a ‘scapegoat’ for the food crisis. We acknowledge that a number of
factors are having a significant impact upon food prices. But, biofuels is undoubtedly a significant one. More importantly, it is the one factor that EU policymakers can do something about – changing global dietary patterns, the oil price, and the weather are all outside the scope of European policymaking
. Biofuel demand is not. Analysis by IFPRI shows that an immediate global moratorium on biofuels would translate to rapid and significant reductions in the price of foodxiii.

The European’s Commission’s own science and environmental agencies have called into question current biofuels policy. In addition, a growing body of scientific research shows that biofuels will not help to meet the EU’s objective of reducing greenhouse
gas emissions

In light of this, we call on the European Union to act decisively to mitigate the food crisis by dropping the proposed 10 per cent biofuels target and dismantling associated biofuel support measures. To continue the current pursuit of biofuels in the face of the credible, impartial and growing opinion that this is exacerbating the food crisis would be wholly unacceptable.

Yours faithfully

Christine Fouarge
Policy Officer
AEFJN (Africa- Europe Faith & Justice Network)

Elisabeth Baumhoefer
Agrarbuendnis Oesterreich

Danielle Hirsch
Both ENDS - The Netherlands

Ms Danuta Sacher
Head of Department Policy and Campaigns
Bread for the World

Dr. Robert Glasser
Secretary General
CARE International

Thomas Brose
Climate Alliance

Marjolein Dubbers
Manager Sector Entrepreneurship
Cordaid - Netherlands

Dr D Roy Laifungbam
CORE (Centre for Organisation Research & Education)

Nina Holland
Corporate Europe Observatory

Carolyn Marr
Down to Earth - the International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia (UK)

Heinzpeter Studer

Veerle Dossche
Bio-energy Campaigner

Dr. Flavio Luiz Schieck Valente
Secretary General
FIAN International

Magda Stoczkiewicz
Friends of the Earth Europe

Ms. Meenakshi Raman
Honorary Secretary
Sahabat Alam Malaysia / Friends of the Earth Malaysia

Michael O’Callaghan
GM-Free Ireland Network

Simone Lovera
Managing Coordinator
Global Forest Coalition

Christian Russau
Member of Directory Board
KoBra (Kooperation Brasilien)

Dr. Martin Bröckelmann-Simon
Managing Director International Cooperation
MISEREOR (the German Catholic Bishops' Organization for Development

Sean Whyte
Nature Alert (UK) and The Centre for Orangutan Protection (Indonesia)

Mirjam de Rijk
Natuur en Milieu

Jeremy Hobbs
Executive Director
Oxfam International

Margarida Silva
Plataforma Transgenicos Fora, Portugal (Portuguese GM-Free Coalition)

Andrew Scott
Policy and Programmes Director
Practical Action

Hermann Edelmann

Hélder Spínola
President of the National Board
Quercus - Associação National de Conservação da Natureza

Reinhard Behrend
Rettet den Regenwald e. V.

Save Our Borneo

Caroline Morel

John Githongo
Vice President, Policy & Advocacy
World Vision International

Appendix – recent commentary on biofuels and the food crisis

“We should cut back significantly on our biofuels programmes…the biofuel impact is
greater in the US because it’s a larger programme. In Europe, it’s still a real impact
though due to two things: to a modest extent food, wheat for example, is used for
creating biofuels in Europe and that amount is to multiply considerably in the years
ahead. Secondly, land that is crop-growing land is diverted from grains to rapeseed
and other inputs for biodiesel…neither makes much sense in terms of the
environmental effect, the energy balances or the food impact.”

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University and former
Director of the Millennium Project and Special Advisor to Kofi Annan.

“Biofuels is no doubt a significant contributor [to the food crisis]. It is clearly the case
that programmes in Europe and the United States that have increased biofuel
production have contributed to the added demand for food.”

Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank

“Land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies
to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis.”

Professor Paul Krugman, Princeton University

“We need to pull [EU biofuel policy] back before it does real damage. We have
surely learnt enough about European agriculture to realise how important it is to kill
this incipient scam before we are engulfed by it.”

Professor Paul Collier, University of Oxford, and former Director of Research at the World Bank.

“[Governments need to] look more carefully at the link between the acceleration in
biofuels and food supply and give more thought to it.”

Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

“Our analysis suggests that if a moratorium on biofuels would be issued in 2008, we
could expect a price decline of maize by about 20 per cent and for wheat by about 10
per cent in 2009-10. So it’s this significant.”

Joachim von Braun, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute


i ‘Rising food prices: policy options and World Bank response’, World Bank, 2008.

ii For example Guinea, Cameroon, Niger, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mexico, Burkina Faso, Philippines, Bangladesh, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Thailand, Indonesia, Senegal, Yemen, Haiti, Mozambique.

iii ‘Implications of Higher Global Food Prices for Poverty in Low-Income Countries’, Policy Research Working Paper 4594, World Bank, Washington, 2008.

iv ‘World Economic Outlook 2008, IMF, April 2008.

v ‘Rising Food Prices: Causes and Consequences”, OECD, paper prepared for the DAC High Level Meeting, 20-21 May 2008.

vi Simon Johnson, Chief Economist of the IMF, speaking on The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 14th April 2008.

vii ‘Biofuels and Grain Prices: Impacts and Policy Responses’, IFRPI, 2008.

viii ‘Biofuels in the European Context: Facts, Uncertainties and Recommendations’, JRC Working
Paper, 19 December 2007.

ix ‘The World Food Situation: New Driving Forces and Required Actions”, IFPRI, 2007.

x Separate analysis suggests that for every percentage point rise in the price of food from today until 2025, an extra 16 million people will be hungry in 2025 than would otherwise have been the case. Applying this to the EU’s estimates for the impact of the 10% target on cereal prices suggests the target could result in an extra 50 to 100 million hungry people. See Runge, C. and Senauer, B., ‘How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor’, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2007.

xi ‘The World Food Situation: New Driving Forces and Required Actions”, IFPRI, 2007.

xii General Comment No.12, “Substantive Issues Arising in the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights: The Right to Adequate Food”, E/C.12/1999/5, 12 May 1999, para 36 states that “states parties should take steps to respect the enjoyment of the right to food in other countries, to protect that right, to facilitate access to food and to provide the necessary aid where required.”

xiii ‘Biofuels and Grain Prices: Impacts and Policy Responses’, IFRPI, 2008.