Sunday, November 27, 2011

War for territory - World tour November 2011

We live in peaceful times. Conflicts being linked to something as mundane as natural resources is a conspiracy theory. Just kidding...

Cambodia: Villages razed to clear land for sugar plantation
Amnesty International and other organisations have exposed the Cambodian authorities' systematic failure to protect people from forced evictions. Forced evictions in the name of economic development now occur regularly across Cambodia, as local elites and foreign investors seek to capitalize on a newly privatized land market and take control of the country's natural resources.

Colombia: Tribes flee civil war and gold miners

About 10% of the hunter-gatherer Awa tribe have fled their ancestral mountain homes in the past decade. Some now survive as subsistence farmers on small lots provided by the government.

The tribe has been fighting palm oil plantations encroaching on their land for about 16 years, the civil war between leftist FARC and the government has produced an extremely dangerous territory including indigenous grounds littered with landmines and lately gold mines have taken away even more land and polluting its surroundings.

Read: BBC / Colombia's indigenous peoples face uncertain future, SOS Childrens' Villages / Dealing with the threat of landmines in Colombia.

Peru: Indigenous tribes protest planned gold mines

Several protesters were injured on November 25th when police dispersed anti-gold mine demonstration with tear gas. The US-based Newmont Mining Corporation plan to reconstruct local water flows used in farmers' irrigation. Locals protest mining projects throughout Peru and injuries are not uncommon.
"Companies come here, take the gold and then go away - just like in colonial times. People feel cheated." - Jorge Rimarachin

Read: AFP / Peruvian gold mine, locals clash over resources , MercoPress / Peruvian peasants clash with police to protest against gold mine in the Andes.

Sudan - South Sudan border: Ethnic cleansing?

After a brief spell in international media as a success story, newly founded South Sudan is now fighting a "war by proxy" paramilitaries with Sudan. The latter appear to currently be evicting certain ethnic groups.

SAF Aircrafts at El Obeid Airbase
DigitalGlobe imagery shows the presence of Antonov An-26's and other aircraft at El Obeid Airbase on 14 November 2011.

The Sea: The race for off-shore resources intensifying world wide

One third of oil production is now off-shore and the rate is climbing. Resources are found in the Arctic, in the South Chinese Sea, in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Chinese and Turkish warships circle Vietnamese and Israeli drilling ships and platforms in each their own gunboat diplomatic efforts. These countries as well as the US, Russia and others are investing in new aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers.

Read: The New York Times / A New Era of Gunboat Diplomacy.

All just one big hoax. All of the above from the month of November 2011.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grease is the new copper

Materials and resources once common, inexpensive or just non-existing pop up in a new league of the craved for or expensive. Copper and solar panels have been new objects of theft in recent years. Now grease is getting locked up to protect it from thieves. Yes, grease.

Biofuel producers are now buying used cooking oil from restaurants. What was once foul waste is today a resource for the non-fossil energy sector. In this crisis struck economy the temptation of containers filled to the brim with valuable grease left unguarded behind restaurants is too much for some.
"It's become the new copper. [...] It's difficult to get law enforcement people to spend a lot of time on somebody who's stealing grease."
- Tom Cook, president of the National Renderers Association
The grease sells at 3 USD per gallon (0.6 € per liter) - five times its price a decade ago.
"It's a big deal. There's a huge underground out there for this stuff."
- Bobby Tessler, owner of St. Louis Wing Co., who had about 2,000 USD worth of grease stolen since April.
One of the rare cases of grease thieves getting fined is from a town called Springfield. Grease theft was "predicted" in a 1998 episode of The Simpsons.

Sources: Two Alleged Grease Thieves Arrested in Arlington, Restaurant Grease As Good As Gold To Biofuel Thieves, Grease becomes a hot commodity for thieves, Two Missouri brothers facing charges for grease theft.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

America vs Europe trade war over carbon looming

The European Union is about to take two small steps on the long journey of combating climate change: A small "tax" on air travel and another small tax on fossil fuels based on exactly how polluting the specific type of fossil fuel is. Both could ultimately end up in WTO courts; the former brought there by the US, the latter by tar sands would-be super-power Canada.

The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011

The Republican majority US House of Representatives voted to bar US airlines from paying the tax on carbon emissions ("European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011"). The airline tax is part of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) from 2008; it hands out 85% of the industry's emissions to them for free, lets them buy the remaining 15% on a free (dirt cheap) market. The industry estimate the tax would cost US airlines about $3.1 billion between 2012 and 2020.

"This bill could ignite a trade war that would put tens of thousands of U.S. jobs in jeopardy. [...] By barring U.S.- based airlines from complying with applicable law for flights traveling to EU airports, this bill would compel those airlines either to drop their EU routes or become scofflaws."
- Annie Petsonk, Environmental Defense Fund

Pause for a second to consider the opposite situation: The EU or other countries prohibiting their corporations to comply with a US environmental law. Not to mention the facts that the Republican's arguments - that the EU law is a "competitive disadvantage" and in "violation of international law" are both simply wrong. Dear Obama, please archive this law in your paper recycling bin.

Sources: Bloomberg / U.S. Vote on EU Aviation Plan May Start Trade War, Environment Group Says, Think Progress / House Could Start Trade War With Europe Over Airline Greenhouse Pollution, Green Economy / Republican-Majority House Votes Trade War against Europe, Center for American Progress / House Airline Bill Risks Diplomatic Fallout and Disaster to U.S. Industry.

The Fuel Quality Directive

A tax based on the relative environmental harm done by different kinds of fuel doesn't sound that bad an idea does it? Well, Canada, currently projecting the billions it plans to make from transforming huge swaths of forest into polluted gravel deserts, consider it a European political attack on them. Elsewhere this would file under "conspiracy theory".

"We have the knowledge and the fact that the oil sands are more CO2-polluting than other kinds of fuel [...] And therefore we say it should have a specific value. It's nothing targeted against this particular fuel. We are doing that with all our different biofuels. It's the same methodology that we are applying for different things in the same directive [...] And now we are discussing this also with our member states, with the Commission, which has proposed this."
- Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard

"Canada's plans for tar sands will put the world on track for 6 degrees of warming, way past the globally accepted limit of 2 degrees [...] Six degrees would be game over."
- Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace

The Fuel Quality Directive ranks...
  • coal-to-liquid: 172 grams of carbon per megajoule
  • oil shale: 131.3 grams
  • oil sands crude: 107 grams
  • conventional oil: 87.5 grams

Greenpeace is blaming Britain (Canada ally) and Estonia (having oil-shale resources) of delaying the legislation.

Sources: The McGill Daily / Canada opposes EU's labelling of tar sands, Reuters / EU climate chief: science shows Canada oil sand risk, EurActive / Britain accused of stalling EU tar sands regulation.

Occupy Wall Street? Occupy Earth! Nature is in the 99%

Remember how Bill McKibben of gave a short speech at Wall Street lately? He's not the only one connecting the dots between the socially unjust financial crisis and the environment. When I went to Occupy Copenhagen last time I think most of the speakers were mostly going on about the bank bailouts - but I was chatting to the guy next to me about... socially unjust exploitation of natural resources.

In case you missed Bill's speech, here are some highlights for you:
"[...] the company building that ["Keystone XL"] tar sands pipeline was allowed to choose another company to conduct the environmental impact statement, and the company that they chose was a company was a company that did lots and lots of work for them [... in his campaign Obama said] "It’s time to end the tyranny of oil.” [...] “I will have the most transparent government in history.” We have to go to DC to find out where they have locked that guy up. We have to free Obama, because there is some sort of stunt double there now. [...] The reason that it’s so great that we’re occupying Wall Street is because Wall Street has been occupying the atmosphere. That’s why we can never do anything about global warming. [...] The sky does not belong to Exxon. They cannot keep using it as a sewer into which to dump their carbon."

More dots are connected in Chip Ward's How the 1% Pillage the Environment:
"[...] when there’s money to be made, both workers and the environment are expendable [...] If you are a CEO who skims millions of dollars off other people’s labor, it’s called a “bonus.”  If you are a flood victim who breaks into a sporting goods store to grab a lifejacket, it’s called looting. If you lose your job and fall behind on your mortgage, you get evicted.  If you are a banker-broker who designed flawed mortgages that caused a million people to lose their homes, you get a second-home vacation-mansion near a golf course. If you drag heavy fishnets across the ocean floor and pulverize an entire ecosystem, ending thousands of years of dynamic evolution and depriving future generations of a healthy ocean, it’s called free enterprise.  But if, like Tim DeChristopher, you disrupt an auction of public land to oil and gas companies, it’s called a crime and you get two years in jail. [...] The 1% are willing to spend billions impeding democratic initiatives, which is why every so-called environmental issue is also about building a democratic culture. [...] Tearing apart wildlife habitat to make a profit and doing the same at a workplace are just considered the price of doing business. Clearcutting a forest and clearcutting a labor force are two sides of the same coin. [...] The desperate effort to grow the economy to solve our economic woes is what keeps Timothy Geithner at the helm of the Treasury and is what stalls the regulation of greenhouse gasses.  It’s why we are told we must sacrifice environmental quality for pipelines and why young men and women are sacrificed to protect access to oil, the lubricant for an acquisitive economic engine. [...] we have built an all-encompassing economic engine that requires unending growth.  A contraction of even a percent or two is a crisis, and yet we are embedded in ecosystems that are reaching or have reached their limits. [...] Like so much else these days, the crash, as it happens, will not be suffered in equal measure by all of us. The one percenters will be atop the hill, while the 99% will be in the flood lands below swimming for their lives, clinging to debris, or drowning. [...] Degrading the planet’s operating systems to bolster the bottom line is foolish and reckless. It hurts us all. No less important, it’s unfair. The 1% profit, while the rest of us cough and cope. After Occupy Wall Street, isn’t it time for Occupy Earth?"

And finally: According to Grist / Green issues and greenbacks: Occupy Wall Street connects the dots [VIDEO] the #OWS themed environmentalism Sunday!
"Every bank which you are down here protesting finances extreme energy -- fracking, tar sands development, mountaintop removal, deep water drilling."
- Gasland documentary director Josh Fox
[Update 31st December 2011 via Naomi A. Klein] Occupy sustainability: the 1% are blocking the transition to a renewable energy economy
"To make our society sustainable, we have to deal not just with environmental issues and climate change, but with the economic crisis, and resource depletion. The most effective responses will deal with all three aspects at once.  While climate change response has mostly been blocked, Occupy has gotten traction, channeling public outrage at the bailouts, the debt crisis, and rising unemployment. Occupy supporters should think about putting the transition to a renewable energy economy, which addresses all three aspects of sustainability, at the core of their agenda. The 1% absolutely does not want us to realize how urgently this transition is needed.  Their power depends on keeping the unsustainable fossil fuel economy running as long as possible. They’re heavily invested in it. Of the 10 largest global corporations, 6 are oil companies. To continue making as much money as they can, they would have us wait until it’s too late to make a successful transition."
Follow links to read the full articles.

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