Friday, 28 October 2011

European beggars in China - The brand new new reality show

The high and mighty in the European Union are now desperately hoping that China will offer the crisis ridden eurozone a big helping hand. But inspite of president Nicholas Sarkozy´s personal electronic kowtowing in connection with the last EU summit, the Chinese seem to be in no hurry. They are thoroughly enjoying the humiliating European "reality show", and have decided to let the beggars wait for a while :

Advisers to the Chinese government told the Financial Times on Thursday that the country is likely to contribute to the eurozone’s bail-out fund but the scope of its involvement will depend on European leaders satisfying some key conditions.
Any Chinese support would depend on contributions from other countries and Beijing must be given strong guarantees on the safety of its investment, according to Li Daokui, an academic member of China’s central bank monetary policy committee, and Yu Yongding, a former member of that committee.
Read the entire article here

Meanwhile the European Union development and climate change aid to the "developing country" China continues as if nothing has happened. Millions and millions ("Indicative funding" for 2007 - 2013 is 240 million euro) of EU taxpayers´ money either have been granted - are are in the process of being given - to a number of different "projects", like these ones:


EU-China Clean Energy Centre

Sector: Sectors not specified
EU Contribution: € 10,000,000.00 (75.47% of total).
Description: The Centre in Beijing aims to offer a holistic approach (technical solutions, policy and regulations combined) to promote the introduction of clean energy technologies and support the transformation of the Chinese economy into a low carbon one

EU-China Institute for Clean and Renewable Energy (ICARE)

Sector: Sectors not specified
EU Contribution: € 10,000,000.00 (70.52% of total).
Description: The ICARE aims to fill up the gap between the China's priority in battling against climate change by adoping clean and renewable energy and the lack of a critical mass of Chinese engineers in these
new technologies.

EU-China Environmental Governance Programme

Sector: Sectors not specified
EU Contribution: € 15,000,000.00 (80% of total).
Description: To improve environmental governance by enhancing public participation and corporate responsibility in China

From a recent EIB press realease:

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has granted a EUR 500 million loan to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for projects supporting climate change mitigation. The Climate Change Framework Loan II (CCFLII) was signed by Mrs. Magdalena Álvarez Arza,
Vice-President of the EIB and by Vice-Minister of Finance Li Yong, in Beijing today.


Latest by now its time to forget about European leaders pressing for human rights when meeting with their Chinese counterparts. Beggars do not have a say on such matters.

South Africa to showcase "indigenous technologies" during COP17 in Durban

Minister intends to promote "indigenous technology which has helped us grow food and live our lives. This would do away the western influence which has dominated our history."

The soon to open COP17 meeting in Durban will be a "showcase" for the "potentials of African business and technologial prowess to the world", if we are to believe South Africa´s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mrs Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Mashabane recently described the Afican "technological advancements" that are going to be showcased in Durban:

According to the Minister, “we have been handed with the opportunity to rewrite our history and we would make good use of it. There are some local sciences and technologies which aided our forefathers and our great grand mothers in both farming and general living, those technologies we will present to the world”
She added that “Africa would showcase the indigenous technology which has helped us grow food and live our lives. This would do away the western influence which has dominated our history. At least you are aware that African rural women, even the illiterate ones, have sound science sense which tells them what time to plant whatever crop they want to grow and when to make a bountiful harvest. They also know when to get the best yield from the soil. At least no foreign science tells them that. These are the cases we have to make of our continent before the world.

Read the entire article here

It will certainly be interesting to see examples of the "indigenous technologies" that have created the "bountiful harvests" for South Africa.

Meanwhile the country´s white farmers, who have suffered attacks for years now, are welcomed by other African countries, which probably are not quite as convinced of the "indigenous technologies" as Mrs. Mashabane is:

They are calling it the next great trek. Almost two centuries after Boers hitched their wagons to oxen and headed inland to establish the South African republic, they are on the move again. This time they are flying – and their destination is the whole of the African continent.
White South African farmers are now being courted by the north, by countries who believe their agricultural expertise can kickstart an agrarian revolution across the continent. They are being offered millions of hectares of allegedly virgin rainforest and bush, as well as land already farmed by smallholders or used as pastures by herders.
In the biggest deal to date, Congo-Brazzaville has offered South Africa farmers long leases on up to 10m hectares of land, an area that includes abandoned state farms and bush in the remote south-west of the country. The first contracts, which put 88,000 hectares in the hands of 70 farmers, were signed at a ceremony in the country last month.

Read the entire article here


Maybe Mrs Mashabane has an "indigenous technology" in store to solve the gas shortage that threatens the wellbeing of the more than 20 000 "delegates" and other participants attending the Durban climate jamboree? 1250 restaurants in SA have already had to close because of the shortage, according to newspaper reports:

Durban hotelier, Mike Jackson, meanwhile says with the climate change talks in Durban coming up, the shortage is of great concern.

"We have six kitchens here that run off gas, so we are very concerned about this talk about a gas shortage. What with the huge COP 17 conference just a few weeks away we are very concerned, we are staying in touch with our gas supplier and we are just hoping that this gas shortage that everyone is talking about can be resolved quite quickly."

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Climate science and politics make bad bedfellows

University of Kent sociology professor Frank Furedi, writing in the Australian, points out that science and politics make bad bedfellows. Furedi´s findings are directly applicable to the unhealthy relationship between climate science and government policy in most western countries:  

Most research carried out in universities is funded by government and often needs to take account of its policy priorities. Consequently science too often becomes subject to political influences and commercial pressures. In turn, scientists often use their research to promote their pet causes. They step outside of their laboratory and use their status to influence public life and demand that “something must be done” about problems they have uncovered.
All too often the distinction between science informing policy and science directing it becomes blurred. For their part, policymakers are often willing accomplices to allowing science to acquire such a prominent role. Politicians find it easier to hide behind science and justify their claim by stating “evidence shows” than to engage in the difficult business of convincing the electorate that their policy is right!
Whenever science acquires the role of directly authorising policy it tends to encourage paternalistic political management. It fosters a climate that is inhospitable to democratic accountability through assigning the power of agenda setting and decision-making to the experts at the expense of the citizen. Claiming a privileged access to the scientific truth, paternalistic policymakers often criticise people for not acting rationally and for failing to make healthy choices. That is why increasingly the refrain “research shows” or “science says” sounds suspiciously like a statement driven by a moralising imperative.
The current tendency to treat the findings of research as the truth violates the very meaning of scientific thinking. Research provides information that needs to be scrutinised and evaluated. However, it is not evident what a scientific discovery means for society. A scientific fact does not indicate its significance for the community. Scientists have every right to interpret the facts and to offer advice about what they think should be done. Although such advice is useful and important, it is up to policymakers to decide how to use it. Science should have no privileged role in evaluating its significance for society. Moreover, when it comes to interpreting such information the public also has a decisive role to play. The final decisions should be decided by the public and their political leaders through weighing up the significance of scientific advice in light of wider social, economic and cultural concerns.
Whatever was the case in the past, it is no longer possible to separate science from politics. As a result both science and public life are the worse for it. Good science depends on the disinterested pursuit of the truth. It needs to be open-ended and experimentative. Imposing a political agenda on it can only have a corrupting influence on the science.

Read the entire article here

How true!

Endles summits taking a toll on EU leaders

Summits have began to take a toll on EU leaders (image by EC)

There is no end in sight for the travelling EU summit circus. Since the euro crisis began in early  2010, there have been at least 17 summits, and nobody probably has counted the number of different bilateral and finance minister meetings. And new summits and ministerial meetings are planned for next week .....

Reuters tells us that the (EU/euro) summits have began to "take a toll on tense EU leaders":

"Those that don't get along can no longer hide it. The personality conflicts are bubbling to the surface, with diplomatic spats and disagreements growing ever more public, complicating efforts to resolve an already complex situation."

"For Van Rompuy, who started his job just as the crisis began, and for Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission and another key figure in the crisis-fighting effort, the stress and strain is no less severe.
Staffers describe both as being drained, even if publicly they put on a positive face".

However, there is no need to feel very much sympathy for our elected leaders - and even less so for the unelected ones - who have created the mess we are in. But one can sympathize with the staffers, who have to try to find luxurious suites in Brussels for their masters, often on extremely short notice.

At least there is now one more luxury suite available at The Amigo, "the dormitory of choice for visiting heads of state, the grand and the famous" according to the Guardian. It´s the suite where Pierre Mariani, CEO of the recently bailed out bank Dexia, has resided during the last three years, according the FT Deutschland. Perhaps a suitable accomodation for the Greek PM?

If there are winners in this continuing theater of the absurd, it must be the hotel and restaurant business. The actors (it would be too rude to call them clowns) of course must have a place where to stay and eat between the performances.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The gamechanging shale gas revolution

Matt Ridley´s article about the shale gas revolution in the Spectator should be read by all decisionmakers - particularly in Europe:

Jesse Ausubel is a soft-spoken academic ecologist at Rockefeller University in New York, not given to hyperbole. So when I asked him about the future of gas, I was surprised by the strength of his reply. ‘It’s unstoppable,’ he says simply. Gas, he says, will be the world’s dominant fuel for most of the next century. Coal and renewables will have to give way, while oil is used mainly for transport. Even nuclear may have to wait in the wings.
And he is not even talking mainly about shale gas. He reckons a still bigger story is waiting to be told about offshore gas from the so-called cold seeps around the continental margins. Israel has made a huge find and is planning a pipeline to Greece, to the irritation of the Turks. The Brazilians are striking rich. The Gulf of Guinea is hot. Even our own Rockall Bank looks promising. Ausubel thinks that much of this gas is not even ‘fossil’ fuel, but ancient methane from the universe that was trapped deep in the earth’s rocks — like the methane that forms lakes on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.
The best thing about cheap gas is who it annoys. The Russians and the Iranians hate it because they thought they were going to corner the gas market in the coming decades. The greens hate it because it destroys their argument that fossil fuels are going to get more and more costly until even wind and solar power are competitive. The nuclear industry ditto. The coal industry will be a big loser (incidentally, as somebody who gets some income from coal, I declare that writing this article is against my vested ­interest).
Little wonder a furious attempt to blacken shale gas’s reputation is under way, driven by an unlikely alliance of big green, big coal, big nuclear and big gas providers. The environmental objections to shale gas are almost comically fabricated or exaggerated. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses 99.86 per cent water and sand, the rest being a dilute solution of a few chemicals of the kind you find beneath your kitchen sink.
State regulators in Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming have all asserted in writing that there have been no verified or documented cases of groundwater contamination as a result of hydraulic fracking. Those flaming taps in the film Gasland were literally nothing to do with shale gas drilling and the film-maker knew it before he wrote the script. The claim that gas production generates more greenhouse gases than coal is based on mistaken assumptions about gas leakage rates and cherry-picked time horizons for computing greenhouse impact.

Read the entire article here

What Matt Ridley says about the Russians (and the Iranians) is particularly appealing. In reality - as we have pointed out in previous posts - the European shale gas revolution will lead to the end of  (Putin´s) thug rule in Russia. The end of the Putin regime will thereafter open the way to a genuine, mutually beneficial co-operation between Russia and the EU - and the rest of the world.

Lester Brown´s "Great Food Crisis of 2011" - A reality check

Flashback early 1920´s: Tractorless wheat harvesting somewhere in the US - 33 mules! Not very practical.



 January 2011 : Lester Brown in Foreign Policy Magazine


The Great Food Crisis of 2011
It's real, and it's not going away anytime soon.

"As the new year begins, the price of wheat is setting an all-time high in the United Kingdom. Food riots are spreading across Algeria. Russia is importing grain to sustain its cattle herds until spring grazing begins. India is wrestling with an 18-percent annual food inflation rate, sparking protests. China is looking abroad for potentially massive quantities of wheat and corn. The Mexican government is buying corn futures to avoid unmanageable tortilla price rises. And on January 5, the U.N. Food and Agricultural organization announced that its food price index for December hit an all-time high."

 "On the supply side: soil erosion, aquifer depletion, the loss of cropland to nonfarm uses, the diversion of irrigation water to cities, the plateauing of crop yields in agriculturally advanced countries, and -- due to climate change -- crop-withering heat waves and melting mountain glaciers and ice sheets. These climate-related trends seem destined to take a far greater toll in the future."

Reality check, October 2011:

Global worries about food price inflation should be receding as wheat supplies are plentiful. Warehouse stocks are at their highest in years, producers have been reporting bumper crops and prices are falling sharply.
 While the US and Australia remain reliable exporters with no restrictions, others are now re-entering the export markets to off-load what have been bumper harvests onto countries that are regular importers.
On the supply side India, the world's third-largest wheat producer (after the EU and China) and whose governments are normally hypersensitive to domestic availability that might lift domestic prices, is back in the market as a net exporter.
In Kiev, the Ukrainian government has been dithering over scrapping export levies that make its wheat more attractively priced for export. There are reports that Egypt, the world's single largest importer, has been turning away from the US and towards Russia. Russia is matching bumper harvests with a vigorous export drive.
All the signs are that by the end of this season global wheat stocks will be at levels not seen for a decade or more. And US stock levels are a major driver of trading on the influential grain futures markets of Chicago and Kansas City

Read the entire article here

China Daily reports about a bumper crop in China:

Grain output is expected to jump to a record high of more than 550 million tons, marking the eighth consecutive year for increased production, Chen Xiaohua, deputy agriculture minister, said at a news conference.


A suggestion to the editors of Foreign Policy: Next time "grain expert" Lester Brown offers an article for publication, think twice before you accept it.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Merkel and Sarkozy - two failed leaders

"If the euro fails, then Europe fails". That´s the line German chancellor Angela Merkel has been using repeatedly recently.  

France´s president Nicholas Sarkozy has offered the same kind of language: "Mrs. Merkel and I will never, never allow the euro to fail. Never will we allow the euro to be destroyed." "The euro is Europe".

Top Eurocrats Barroso and van Rompuy have also spoken in the same way.

It should be said clear and loud: Merkel´s, Sarkozy´s and the others´ arrogant misuse of the word Europe should be strongly condemned. The reality is that these politicians are trying to cover up their failed policies by laying out a euro/Europe smokescreen in order to deceive their voters. Nothing gives them the right to claim that the failed euro project is Europe!

The truth is, that the European Union has failed in most of its recent flagship projects; the euro, the useless and wasteful climate change policy and the expensive and useless External Action Service, not to speak of many minor "directives", which never should have been adopted.

There are many similarities between the climate change/global warming movement and the current European Union. The "leaders" of both are trying to monopolise the "truth". But both Merkel, Sarkozy and their hired hands in Brussels certainly must realise that their game will soon be over. But obviously they are not willing to admit it, until the voters throw them out.

One must hope that the the future leaders of the EU countries will be wiser and more honest than the present ones.