Sunday, September 30, 2007

Global Warming Revisited

The UN held a mini summit on Global warming early last week in an effort to galvanize interest in the new Kyoto agreement. The next major meeting to discuss the shape of the new Kyoto; the old one expires in 2012; will take place in Bali, Indonesia next December.
Meanwhile Washington invited the leaders and representatives of the major 16 Carbo emmitters to a meeting at the State Department last Thursday. The current US administration has changed its tone. It no longer denies Global Warming and is trying to portray itself as a leader on the issue. None of the countries; the 16 represent 80% of the global economy and 80% of carbon emissions; welcomed the US conversion because it did not go far enough and seemed to be less genuine that what it was portrayed to be. The US is still adamantly opposed to any mandates and wants to champion technology transfer provided others set up a fund to pay for it. Mr. Bush made it clear that he thinks that Global Warming must be taken seriously but apparently only if the voluntary targets do not interfer with economic growth.
One more time we want to have our cake and eat it too. But this time we were not able to influence anyone. All the countries voiced their dismay at the proposals and have promised to look past the current administration. But what if the new administration does not turn out to be that different? Do we have the right to put the welfare of the future generations in jeopardy?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black !!

Many of the most connected political operatives in the United States have reported on the topics that were discussed by President Bush and his Chinese counterpart President Hu during their summit early last year.

A consensus has emerged among these well connected journalists and opinion shapers that athe main topic that occupied these two leaders was that of energy. President Bush, the political leader of a nation that consumes over 20 million barrels of crude oil a day has expressed concern about the rising level of consumption of a nation that has over five times the US population and yet consumes less than one third the US total. Can anyone pull that with a straight face? Are we truly telling others that we see nothing wrong in consuming fifteen times what they do on a per capita basis and that it is their relatively smaller consumption that needs to be constrained so that we can go on building our large homes, driving our huge SUVs and maintaining our highly energy intensive life style? It does take lots of chutzpah to do that, doesn’t it?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Green Monster

Whoever was it that said you cannot teach old dogs new tricks must have never known about the big bad WalMart that is trying to change its image into that of a Friendly Green Machine.
We all know about WalMart's efforts in selling organic produce but its latest effort is even more impressive. It has at least earned my personal stamp of approval :-)
A number of countries have embraced the CFL light bulbs much more widely than the US. Actually a few countries have even banned the sale of the old fashioned incandescent lightbulb. "Giving" the latest book by Bill Clinton estimates that if we were to replace every regular light bulb in the US by a new CFL then we would in effect eliminate the need of the electricity output from around eighty electric power plants. That is a lot of coal that will not have to be used.

So what is WalMart up to? They plan to sell 100's of millions of the CFL's in at least 3000 stores and they plan to do that by selling their own brand, produced by GE and by Phillips, at a 25% discount. I will be visiting my local WalMart today in order to pick up a dozen CFL's, what about you?

Thursday, September 13, 2007


"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" is one of the most fundamental and most enduring ideas in Economics. Interestingly enough the above expression expresses the same principle that ecologists consider to be paramount; everything is connected to everything else.

When would the "shallow" environmentalist, the world over, start applying the lessons of their discipline ?Don't we have the right to expect a policy designed to be environmentally friendly to live up to its billings or have we gotten soused to sloppy thinking that we have become enamored of faddish behaviour, superficial thinking and yes, even the willingness to deceive.

To understand that ethanol is not a solution to the energy crisis and that it should not be encouraged is a no-brainer. Studies have demonstrated clearly that the production of ethanol from corn in the US uses more energy than the energy that is produced as an output in the process. Add to that the evidence that a strong mixture of ethanol in the fuel appears to be corrosive and the obvious fact that there is no infrastructure to transport ethanol and distribute it across the land and it becomes rather clear that this so called solution is actually one way to aggravate the problem. But if we are to gloss over all of the above glaring shortcomings of ethanol production there is no excuse for not having seen that the rush to grow more subsidized corn by the farmers can only create a shortage of other crops whose production is replaced by corn. And sadly this is exactly what has happened. The projected wheat crop in the US is going to be smaller than expected and that, combined with an Australian draught , has resulted in a major increase in the price of wheat. The future contract hit today an all time high of over $9 per bushel. The price has more than doubled since April.
Ironically the poor nations will suffer the most as a result of our misguided "environmental" policies. The poor will have to deal with a greater incidence of malnutrition, we will have higher food prices, rich ethanol producers , corroded internal combustion engines and no relief from the energy shortage. Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

When Will We Act?

Signs of severe environmental degradation abound on both a local, regional and global scale. Air too dirty to breath, contaminated water sources, aquifers running dry, melting ice caps, increased frequency of flooding, more intense hurricanes... If the above signs of the times are not enough to make us aware of the severity of the environmental crisis all what we have to do is read the dire reports issued by the scientific community all over the world that warn us that business as usual is not an option. The latest such report was released only two days ago in Britain where scientists do not think that we will be able to contain the global warming to the targeted 2 degrees centigrade. Any increase above that is considered to be dangerous.

Yet we do not seem to be overly concerned. Why is that?