Σάββατο, Μαρτίου 25, 2006

ExxonMobil and peak oil

ExxonMobil and peak oil: "ExxonMobil is out to convince people that peak oil is in the far distant future.

The Oil Drum and It's the Environment, Stupid are among those commenting on ExxonMobil's recent paid advertisement, which begins:



Will we soon reach a point when the world's oil supply begins to decline? Yes, according to so-called 'peak oil' proponents. They theorize that, since new discoveries have not kept up with the pace of production in recent years, we will soon reach a point when oil production starts going downhill. So goes the theory.

The theory does not match reality, however. Oil is a finite resource, but because it is so incredibly large, a peak will not occur this year, next year or for decades to come.

Exxon is also spreading the message to shareholders that it expects to be contributing directly to that production increase. In a presentation to Wall Street analysts last week, new CEO Rex Tillerson said the company's oil production could grow by 3% per year over the next five years.

One purpose of such announcements is to address the concerns of those who say companies like ExxonMobil have not been reinvesting enough of their profits in new oil production and refinery capacity. In his statement before the analysts, Tillerson noted that over the last 15 years, the company has consistently invested more than it earned.


Source: Oil Drum

As I noted here, comparing gross investment with net income is in some ways comparing apples and oranges. The reason is that oil companies must invest huge sums just to replace depleted oil fields and obsolete and worn-out equipment. These imputed depletion and depreciation costs are already subtracted from revenues before one arrives at profits. The question is not how big is gross investment relative to net income but rather how big is net investment-- investment over and above what is required for depletion and depreciation-- relative to net income. I would expect the long-run ratio of net investment to net income for a healthy industry with solid investment opportunities to be somewhere around 50%. My earlier post pointed out that in 2004, ExxonMobil's net income came to $26 billion, but, depending on how you do the accounting, you could actually arrive at a negative value for their net investment for 2004.

Another way to cut through the accounting is to count the teeth and look at how much oil ExxonMobil's actually been producing. The green line on the graph at the right gives ExxonMobil's crude oil and natural gas liquid production over the last decade, with the 2005 entry based on the second quarter; (more on the purple line shortly). If ExxonMobil has indeed been making big investments beyond those needed to replace depleted oil fields, they don't have a lot to show for it so far. Yes, in gross terms they invested a huge amount. But, as the graph reveals, you have to do that in this business just to stay in the same place.

Granted, the company is currently favorably situated in a number of big projects that should be producing a lot of new oil in the near future, and just finished negotiating a nice cut of Indonesia's Cepu field. The question is, how much of that new production will be needed just to replace declining production from existing fields?

Which reminds me, I said I'd explain the meaning of the purple line. That's the projection from Exxon's 2001 Annual Report, in which the company predicted that their oil and gas production capacity would grow by 3% per year between 2001 and 2007.

"

Stiglitz: Bush's Bad Faith Energy Policy

Stiglitz: Bush's Bad Faith Energy Policy: "Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and a Professor of Economics at Columbia University, is not happy with Bush's energy policy. In this Project Syndicate piece, he wonders if it is 'just another example of incompetence and muddle' or if the policy is the result of 'bad faith and sheer ineptitude':



Bush’s Bad-Faith Energy Policy, by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Project Syndicate: One of the more surreal sessions at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos had oil industry experts explaining how the melting of the polar ice cap ... represents ... an opportunity: vast amounts of oil may now be accessible. Similarly, ... the fact that the United States has not signed the Law of the Sea, the international convention determining who has access to offshore oil and other maritime mineral rights, presents ...[an] upside: the oil industry ... need not beg Congress for the right to despoil Alaska.



President George W. Bush has an uncanny ability not to see the big message. For years, it has become increasingly clear that much is amiss with his energy policy. Scripted by the oil industry, even members of his own party referred to an earlier energy bill as one that “left no lobbyist behind.” While praising the virtues of the free market, Bush has been only too willing to give huge handouts to the energy industry...

There is a market failure when it comes to energy... The fact that Americans do not pay the full price for the pollution – especially enormous contributions to greenhouse gases – that results from their profligate energy use means that energy is under-priced, in turn sustaining excessive consumption. The government needs to encourage conservation, and intervening in the price system – namely, through taxes on energy – is an efficient way to do it. But, rather than encouraging conservation, Bush has pursued a policy of “drain America first,” leaving America more dependent on external oil in the future. ...

Now, ... Bush appears to have finally woken up to the reality of America’s increasing dependence; with soaring oil prices, it was hard for him not to note the consequences. But, again, his administration’s faltering moves will almost surely make matters worse in the immediate future. Bush still refuses to do anything about conservation, and he has put very little money behind his continuing prayer than technology will save us.

What, then, to make of Bush’s recent declaration of a commitment to make America 75% free of dependence on Middle East oil within 25 years. For investors, the message is clear: do not invest more in developing reserves in the Middle East, which is by far the lowest-cost source of oil in the world.

But, without new investment in developing Middle East reserves, unbridled growth of energy consumption in the US, China, and elsewhere implies that demand will outpace supply. If that were not enough, Bush’s threat of sanctions against Iran poses the risks of interruptions of supplies from one of the world’s largest producers. With world oil production close to full capacity and prices already more than double their pre-Iraq War level, this portends still higher prices, and still higher profits for the oil industry – the only clear winner in Bush’s Middle East policy.

To be sure, one shouldn’t begrudge Bush for having at last recognized that there is a problem. But, as always, a closer look at what he is proposing suggests another sleight of hand by his administration. Aside from refusing to recognize the importance of global warming, encourage conservation, or devote enough funds to research to make a real difference, Bush’s grandiose promise of a reduction of dependence on Middle East oil means less than it appears. With only 20% of US oil coming from the Middle East, his goal could be achieved by a modest shift of sourcing elsewhere.

But surely, one would think, the Bush administration must realize that oil trades on a global market. Even if America were 100% independent of Middle East oil, a reduction in supply of Middle East oil could have devastating effects on the world price – and on the American economy.

As is too often the case with the Bush administration, there is no flattering explanation of official policy. Is Bush playing politics by pandering to anti-Arab and anti-Iranian sentiment in America? Or is this just another example of incompetence and muddle? From what we have seen over the past five years, the correct answer probably contains more than a little bad faith and sheer ineptitude."

Παρασκευή, Μαρτίου 24, 2006

More on China's New Environmental Taxes

More on China's New Environmental Taxes: "As a follow-up to yesterday's post on China's push towards environmental taxes, the Washington Post today has a story on the differential taxes on large cars.

The upshot:



In the measure expected to have the widest impact, the ministry said sales taxes on passenger cars with an engine displacement of more than two liters will rise April 1 from 8 percent of the car's value to a range of 9 to 20 percent, depending on the size of the engine. The tax on cars with an engine displacement below 1.5 liters will be cut from 5 percent to 3 percent, it added, and the rate for cars between 1.5 and 2 liters, which covers most big-city taxis, will remain at 5 percent.

Read the details here."

Meltdown

Meltdown: "At current levels of greenhouse gases, a lot of coastal property may be 'liquidated' as seas rise by as much as twenty feet:



Climate Model Predicts Greater Melting, Submerged Cities, Scientific American: Over the past 30 years, temperatures in the Arctic have been creeping up, rising half a degree Celsius with attendant increases in glacial melting and decreases in sea ice. Experts predict that at current levels of greenhouse gases ... the earth may warm by as much as five degrees Celsius, matching conditions roughly 130,000 years ago. Now a refined climate model is predicting, among other things, sea level rises of as much as 20 feet, according to research results published today in the journal Science...



Such a sea level rise would permanently inundate low-lying lands like New Orleans, southern Florida, Bangladesh and the Netherlands. Already sea level rise has increased to an inch per decade... And evidence that the Arctic is exponentially warming continues to accumulate. ... "We need to start serious measures to reduce greenhouse gases within the next decade," ... "If we don't do something soon, we're committed to [13 to 20 feet] of sea level rise in the future."

"

Τρίτη, Μαρτίου 21, 2006

Air pollution at street level in European cities

EEA - Reports - Air pollution at street level in European cities - English

Traffic-related air pollution is still one of the most pressing
problems in urban areas. Evidence of the adverse health effects of fine
particulate matter is continuously emerging and it is alarming that
most of the traffic-related emissions are in the fine particulates
range ( PM2.5). Human exposure to increased pollutant
concentrations in densely populated urban areas is high. The
improvement of air quality is therefore imperative. Air quality limit
values, which are aimed at protecting public health,
are frequently exceeded especially in streets and
other urban hotspots.

Κυριακή, Μαρτίου 19, 2006

Υπεράντληση - ρύποι οι μεγάλες πληγές

Υπεράντληση - ρύποι οι μεγάλες πληγές: "H μη περαιτέρω ρύπανση και ο έλεγχος των αντλήσεων επιφανειακών και υπόγειων υδάτων είναι δύο κεφαλαιώδη θέματα που καλείται να αντιμετωπίσει η Eλλάδα, σύμφωνα με τις επιταγές της Kοινοτικής Oδηγίας για το νερό. «Η εκμετάλλευση των υπόγειων νερών στη χώρα... ..."

ΘΕΛΟΥΜΕ ΥΠΟΥΡΓΕΙΟ ΠΕΡΙΒΑΛΛΟΝΤΟΣ

ΘΕΛΟΥΜΕ ΥΠΟΥΡΓΕΙΟ ΠΕΡΙΒΑΛΛΟΝΤΟΣ: "Eπειδή καμία κυβέρνηση δεν έχει ασχοληθεί με το περιβάλλον χαράσσοντας μία συνολική πολιτική, επειδή τα δύο τελευταία χρόνια το ΥΠΕΧΩΔΕ έχει φέρει στη βουλή τρία νομοσχέδια από τα οποία ούτε ένα δεν αφορά στο περιβάλλον, επειδή κατέχουμε την ευρωπαϊκή πρω... ..."

Πώς μια μεγάλη τράπεζα φροντίζει το περιβάλλον

Πώς μια μεγάλη τράπεζα φροντίζει το περιβάλλον: "Η μείωση της ενεργειακής κατανάλωσης του κτιρίου της στη λεωφόρο Συγγρού κατά 22% και η χρήση ανακυκλωμένου και μη χλωριωμένου χαρτιού είναι μερικά από τα «μέτρα» που πήρε η Τράπεζα Πειραιώς στο πλαίσιο της Εταιρικής Κοινωνικής Ευθύνης και Περιβαλλοντική... ..."

Sustainable Growth: Irreconcilable Visions?

Sustainable Growth: Irreconcilable Visions?: "In the opening chapter of his signature book, Beyond Growth, Herman Daly shares an unforgettable story from his days as an economist at the World Bank. Having just listened to Lawrence Summers, then Chief Economist at the World Bank, make a presentation critical of the Limits to Growth thesis, Daly referred Summers to a picture of the economy as an open sub-system of the world's ecosystem, consistent with what I present below as Figure 1. Figure 1. He then asked Summers if, given this picture, it might make sense to start thinking about the growth of the economy in relation to the natural limits of the ecosystem. Dodging the question, Summers responded dismissively, "that's not the right way to look at it." End of discussion.

What is the right way to look at it, according to Summers? Daly says it is something like Figure 2, where the ecological context has been removed and, therefore, the circular flow of economic growth appears to be free from any natural limits beyond the economic system. This is not just Summers' radical vision of the economy. It represents the orthodox view of the great majority of economists who, if not outwardly hostile to the ecological view, generally set it aside as irrelevant to the analysis at hand.

Recalling Joseph Schumpeter's notion of a pre-analytic vision, Daly summed up this fundamental economic dilemma that divides so many economists, politicians, and citizens:

"Unless one has the preanalytic vision of the economy as subsystem, the whole idea of sustainable development—of a subsystem being sustained by a larger system whose limits and capacities it must respect—makes no sense whatsoever. On the other hand, a preanalytic vision of the economy as a box floating in infinite space allows people to speak of "sustainable growth"—a clear oxymoron to those who see the economy as a subsystem. The difference between these two visions could not be more fundamental, more elementary, or more irreconcilable." (Beyond Growth, p. 7)

I agree that these competing visions are fundamentally anti-thetical as they have been presented, by Daly, Summers, and countless other economists over the years. They are so antithetical that even a veritable encyclopedia of economic thought like Mark Blaug's otherwise breathtaking 700-page Economic Theory in Retrospect completely ignores the ideological challenge presented by the ecological vision of the economy--a challenge which, in partial defense of Blaug, has been largely ignored by most of the economists of the past 250 years. But just because this ecological view of the economy has been marginalized by the more dominant schools of thought does not mean that it is wrong, nor that it has necessarily failed in the overrated "efficient market in economic ideas."

Regardless, the compelling thing about this particular ideological debate is that the objects of the debate, Earth's natural systems, don't much care whether or not they prevail in some intellectual discussion among the various schools of economic thought. Natural systems have a unique way of asserting their perspectives on human economic activity without regard for human priorities and convictions and without need for human understanding and consensus. Still, we are fools if we choose to wait for the world ecosystem to break the ideological impass between ecological and non-ecological economists.

Where I disagree with Daly's assessment of the economic dilemma is in his claim that these pre-analytic visions are irreconcilable. I think they can be reconciled within a more integral vision that honors the partial truth in each, while providing some practical guidelines for post-visionary analyses of sustainable economic growth. As I see it (Figure 3), the physical dimension of the economy, which can be measured in terms of the scale of material, energy, chemical, and biological throughput, does indeed comprise an economic sub-system of the world's physical biosphere, which includes the sources and sinks for the economic throughput. This is the partial truth in the ecological vision of the economy and it affirms the existence of certain physical limits to the scale of economic growth--but, strictly speaking, these limits only apply to physical economic growth.

In my view, the economy also has a non-physical, or mental dimension--psychological development, intersubjective exchange, subjective valuation, intellectual capital--that contributes to the overall depth of economic growth. The mental economy is inextricably linked to, and entirely dependent upon, the physical economy, which is, in turn, governed by the natural logic and limits of the Earth's physical systems. However, the mental economy is not a sub-system of the Earth's physical biosphere and it is not governed directly by the rules of the natural world. Quite the opposite. The mental economy, for better and for worse, is where we make all our economic decisions and direct the economic growth in two-dimensions--mental depth and physical scale. Beyond this, I find it useful to frame the mental economy as a sub-system/culture within a more encompassing mental super-system/culture that we might define as the non-physical, depth dimension of human civilization. Following the philosopher Ken Wilber, we may call this the noosphere in relation to the biosphere. Wilber has been particularly articulate about the contrast between the depth of the noosphere and the scale (though he calls it span) of the biosphere--I think these distinctions apply equally well to the economy. This reframing reveals the partial truth in the orthodox view of economic growth beyond the scale of ecological limits--but this truth is only valid to the extent that we are speaking of non-physical economic growth.

When it comes to economic growth, households and the factors of production they supply to firms, as well as firms and the products they supply to households, all have a physical scale dimension that is subject to the logic and limits of the physical world and a mental depth dimension that is subject to the logic and limits of the mental world (hence the checkerboard pattern of green scale and yellow depth). In addition to natural resources, the other classical factors of production, labor and capital, also have physical properties that contribute to the growing scale of the economy. And although the common differentiation between products, services, and experiences is intended to denote a gradation from physical to mental, we should remember that even the most ethereal of experience-goods has a physical component and even the most material of commodities has some mental component that is part of the cycle of two-dimensional growth.

People can reasonably disagree on the precise scale of the physical economy and therefore the timing of our future encounters with the biospheric limits to physical economic growth. But reasonable people, in my opinion, cannot deny the fact that there are very real limits to the physical growth of the economy. Given this premise, its seems entirely sensible to promote economic growth that is progressively less physical and more mental until such time as we can enjoy economic growth that is truly sustainable--limited in scale, yet mentally innovative, enriching, and developmental. Innovators like Amory Lovins have demonstrated how superior design can yield products whose physical-to-mental ratio is much lower than competing products, at the time of sale and over the useful life of the product, while still providing the same essential service as the more physically-intensive alternative (e.g., hypercars vs. SUVs).

To the extent that we adopt either of the partial visions of the economy, I believe we create patterns of unsustainable economic action. An exclusive application of the non-ecological vision may result in a pattern of economic growth that is physically unsustainable, relying on eventual, but certain, ecological crises to force policy makers, business leaders, and market participants to learn, in the double-loop sense, their way out of the unsustainable patterns. Similarly, if we were to apply only the ecological vision and pursue a strategy of zero economic growth, we might lock a majority of the world's population into poverty and perhaps, ironically, preclude the economic innovations that would otherwise, in time, establish the foundation for an integral economy that is physically sustainable, yet mentally growing. Calling for limits to all growth is just as unsustainable as ignoring all limits to growth.

What puzzles me about Daly's brilliant book, which outlines in considerable detail the post-visionary analyses that he believes to be consistent with his pre-analytic vision (Figure 1), is that his post-visionary analyses are actually much more consistent with my pre-analytic vision (Figure 3). But I wonder if he and his readers have realized this inconsistency, obscured as it is by some semantic issues.

First, Daly chooses not to use the standard economic definition of the word growth, which is basically a change in the aggregate prices of the economic product, such as Gross Domestic Product. He prefers instead to re-define growth as a change in the physical scale of this economic product, measured not in money prices but in matter-energy flows. This re-definition is the less-than-obvious justification for his unequivocal claims that sustainable economic growth is an oxymoron, an impossibility theorem. In my opinion, the very large number of people, both critical and supportive, who believe that Daly and other ecological economists are against all economic growth, as in GDP, has its origin in this unnecessary re-definition of the term growth.

Second, Daly adopts the term development to denote the non-quantitative, qualitative improvement component of the growth in economic product, consistent with what I have referred to generally as the mental depth dimension of economic growth. This allows him to build his case against the re-defined and exclusively quantitative growth while still acknowledging that qualitative development may continue. More than just another semantic issue, this is actually inconsistent with his espoused pre-analytic vision (Figure 1), which allows no room for what he calls development, and only reinforces the first problem of his perceived indictment of all growth.

Finallly, and perhaps most importantly, Daly doesn't seem to acknowledge that his versions of quantitative growth and qualitative development are both measured quantitatively in terms of money prices and therefore, as I said above, contribute to what everyone else calls economic growth--e.g., changes in GDP. It's not that he isn't reflectively aware of this (obviously he is), it's that he repeatedly critiques all quantitative growth while occasionally acknowledging the value of purely qualitative development without emphasizing that both really do contribute to what everyone else in the world sees as quantitative economic growth. It's no wonder that so many people think that Daly and other ecological economists are against all quantitative economic growth: because they are, and yet they aren't, depending upon which definition one is using.

This reveals a shortcoming in all three of the above figures, which ignore the flow of currency that runs counter to the flow of production and consumption. This currency flow, depicted in Figure 4, is the index that everyone really uses to measure economic growth, because we do not have any other way to quantitatively measure aggregate product or the aggregate factors of production except for the aggregate prices they yielded in exchange. The dizzying variety of economic products and factors of production are incommensurable without money prices. When we factor into this slightly more integral vision of the economy our understanding of currency design and the inherent need for sustainable growth in money and credit independent of any growth in physical or mental product, we see just how important it is to include the counter-cyclical flow of income and expenditures and just how difficult it is to convince anyone that economic growth, however it is defined, must cease. My bottom line on Daly's book: it is an outstanding read by a brilliant heterodox economist, full of insightful critiques and valuable contributions to the economic dialogue, though it can be more clearly understood by supporters and critics alike if reconstructed to fit the pre-analytic vision depicted in Figure 4.

In the reconciliation of a more Integral Economics, sustainable growth is not an oxymoron, but a double entendre, denoting the very real possibility of sustainable economic growth that satisfies the very real necessity of economic growth that is sustainable. The key to the riddle is that there are two kinds of growth--scale and depth--that are being measured in units of the same common medium, money prices, and fused into a single, undifferentiated indicator of economic growth. The primary goal of our post-visionary analysis is therefore to craft public policies, business strategies, and personal practices that will move the economy toward a pattern in which physical growth is systematically replaced by mental growth even while overall growth in terms of aggregate prices continues to rise.

"

Welcome Eco-Econers

Welcome Eco-Econers: "Since John decided to show his magnanimous-ity and send all of our hard earned readers over to the new Ecological Econ blog, I thought I would share my views (and I repeat these are MY views only) on the relationship between Ecological Economics and Environmental Economics--and yes I think this is a complementary relationship. To do so I will use the Position Statement of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics:

My comments are in italics:

Position of the United States Society for Ecological Economics on Economic Growth

Whereas:

1) Economic growth, as understood by most professional economists, policy officials and private citizens, is an increase in the production and consumption of goods and services, and;



As long as you include nonmarket goods and services (such as environmental amenities). Environmental economists have spent over 50 years developing methods to measure the value of environmental and more recently ecosystem services.

2) Economic growth occurs when there is an increase in the multiplied product of population and per capita consumption, and;



Subject to the qualifications in my response to 1), I agree.

3) The U.S. economy grows as an integrated whole consisting of agricultural, extractive, manufacturing, and services sectors (and the supporting infrastructure) that requires physical inputs of non-renewable resources, land and water, and that produces wastes, and;

Agreed. Here's a nice simple model of an economy from the eyes of an environmental economist. Seems to capture #3.

4) Economic growth is usually measured by increasing gross domestic product, although this is an inadequate indicator of human welfare, and;

Yep.

5) Economic growth has long been a primary policy goal of U.S. society and government because of the belief that it leads to an enhanced quality of life, and;

That's why most environemtal economists I know would never strictly equate increases in GDP to increases in well-being.

6) Economic growth occurs in a finite and depletable biophysical context, and;

And?

7) Continuing non-renewable, resource-intensive economic growth is having unintended damaging consequences for ecosystems and human societies;

I like to call these 'externalities.'

Therefore, the United States Society for Ecological Economics takes the position that based on the above evidence:

1) There is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem health (in such areas as biodiversity conservation, clean air and water, atmospheric stability), and;

OK, I think I might disagree with this just a little. By using the straw-man definition of economic growth, this turns into a tautology. 'Economic growth that uses ecosystem inputs but doesn't count them, uses ecosystem inputs but doesn't count them.'

2) There is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and the ecological services underpinning the human economy (for example, pollination, decomposition, climate regulation), and;

This is where my views start to depart from the ecol-econ view, I think. Such statements are without context and in my opinion lack prescriptive value. It is too easy to pick up on such statements and interpret them as "economic growth and environmental protection are incompatible. Therefore economic growth is bad."

3) Although technological progress and unregulated markets have had many positive effects they cannot be depended upon to fully reconcile the conflict between economic growth and the long-term ecological and social welfare of the U.S. and the world, and;

That's why environmental economists are concerned with measuring economic welfare in the context of human-environmental interaction.

4) A sustainable economy (that is, an economy with a relatively stable, mildly fluctuating product of population and per capita consumption) is a viable alternative to a growing economy and has become a more appropriate goal for the U.S. and other large, wealthy economies, and;

Sustainability does not have to mean economic stagnation.

5) A long-run sustainable economy requires its establishment at a size small enough to avoid the breaching of ecological and economic capacity (especially during supply shocks such as droughts and energy shortages), efficient use of energy, materials and water, and an accelerated shift toward the use of renewable energy sources, and;

Hard to argue with. I think many environmental economists make similar arguments.

6) A sustainable economy supports economic development, a qualitative process in which human welfare is increased through strategic changes in the relative prominence of economic sectors and techniques. ;

Am I to read this as 'big business bad?" I get that feeling.

7) While establishing a sustainable economy, it would be advisable for the U.S. to assist other nations in moving from the goal of economic growth to the goal of a sustainable economy, beginning with those nations currently enjoying adequate per capita consumption, and;

Umm...don't we get in trouble for things like this? Sorry I'll lean back to the left now.

8) For many nations with widespread poverty, increasing per capita consumption though economic growth and often via more equitable distributions of wealth remains an appropriate goal. ;

So only poor nations should target economic growth? Doesn't that put them in the exact same place as we are now? Why advocate policies for poor countries that you argue caused the mess we're in in the first place? Doesn't seem to follow. Why not advocate policies for sustainable development and growth in ALL countries?

In short, I think there are very few things on this list that I disagree with. Does that make me an ecological economist? Probably, but no more so than most ecological economists are environmental economists. I'm not saying there aren't differences in the ways we think about the economic-ecosystem interaction, but that's why we have discourse and why John and I welcome sites like Ecological Economics."

Throwing the Little Ones Back

Throwing the Little Ones Back: "

Throwing the little fish back, a common practice, causes fish to shrink over time since there is selection against the survival of larger fish:



Survival of the Smallest, Ecology, Scientific American: Any commercial fisher or weekend angler knows to “throw the little ones back.” The idea is to give small fish time to grow up... But that strategy may actually be harming fish stocks. Ongoing experiments on captive fish reveal that harvesting only the largest individuals can actually force a species to evolve undesirable characteristics that diminish an overfished stock’s ability to recover, says David O. Conover, director of the Marine Sciences Research Center at Stony Brook University. The results may explain why many of the world’s most depleted stocks do not rebound as quickly as expected.



The genetic effects appeared in Atlantic silversides, a small, usually fast growing fish. Conover brought a batch of wild silversides to his laboratory in 1998. He and his students then reared six generations, each time removing the largest 90 percent from one group, the smallest 90 percent from another group, and a random 90 percent from a third.

By 2002 it was plain to see that killing off the largest fish had a dramatic effect. Individuals in that group were only about 70 percent the average weight of their r"

Σάββατο, Μαρτίου 18, 2006

Economist's View: Hurricanes and Ocean Temperatures

Economist's View: Hurricanes and Ocean Temperatures

Ocean surface temperatures have been rising over time and several studies have linked this increase to more frequent hurricanes, but not in a way that completely eliminates natural processes as an alternative explanation. This study helps to remove some of the doubt about the link between surface temperatures and hurricane frequency:

Intense Storms Tied to Rising Ocean Temperature, by Valerie Bauerlein, WSJ: A new study published yesterday in the online edition of the journal Science says rising ocean temperatures around the globe are to blame for the surge of intense hurricanes that has slammed the U.S. and other countries in recent years -- a finding likely to further roil the debate over whether human activity is triggering more-devastating storms. The study ... concluded that the sharp increase in the number of very intense hurricanes can't be attributed to a normal weather cycle or other natural explanations. ...

Scientific American has more on the analysis.

Save a little water for tomorrow


Save a little water for tomorrow - Print Version - International Herald Tribune






FRIDAY, MARCH 17, 2006


One hundred years ago, William Mulholland introduced the citizens of California to ... the water grab. Charged with securing water supplies for a small, thirsty town in a desert, the baron of the Los Angeles Department of Water hit on an imaginative response. He quietly bought up water rights in the Owens Valley, 230 miles to the north, built an aquifer across the blistering Mojave Desert, and took the water to downtown Los Angeles. When local ranchers protested by dynamiting his aquifer, Mulholland declared war, responding with a massive show of armed force.

Nowadays southern Californians fight over water in courts of law. Angelenos [are]... piping in water from hundreds of miles away and draining a Colorado River so depleted that it barely reaches the sea. ...it means disputing every drop of the Colorado with Arizona. The Mulholland model represents a brutish form of what has been a global approach to water management. Want to urbanize and industrialize at breakneck speed? Then dam and divert your rivers to meet the demand. Want to expand the agricultural frontier? Then mine your aquifers and groundwaters. ...

Water is being pumped out of the aquifer on which Mexico City stands at twice the rate of replenishment. The result: the city is subsiding at the rate of about half a meter every decade... The mining of groundwaters for irrigation has lowered the water table in parts of India and Pakistan by 30 meters in the past three decades. As water goes down, the cost of pumping goes up, undermining the livelihoods of poor farmers. Meanwhile, a lethal combination of water shortages, soil salination, and waterlogging threatens the breadbaskets of both countries. In India, about one quarter of grain production is based on unsustainable groundwater use. In China, urbanization and rapid growth has ... left a water crisis of epic proportions. The Hai-Huai-Yellow river basin tells its own story. More than 80 percent of river lengths are chronically polluted...

What is driving the global water crisis? Physical availability is part of the problem. ... With water use increasing at twice the rate of population growth, the amount available per person is shrinking - especially in some of the poorest countries. Over the next 25 years, the number of people living in countries with water crises will increase from 700 million to 2.2 billion, with more than half of the populations of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa affected. Factor in global warming, which could reduce rainfall in parts of sub-Saharan Africa by up to a quarter over the next century, and this is starting to look like a crisis in the making...

Growing scarcity means more competition. And as William Mulholland taught us all those years ago, competition without good governance can turn ugly - especially for those without power. ... The danger is that the poorest farmers with the weakest voice in water management will lose out, with devastating consequences for global poverty reduction efforts. Challenging as physical scarcity may be in some countries, the real problems in water go deeper. The 20th-century model for water management was based on a simple idea: that water is an infinitely available free resource to be exploited, dammed or diverted without reference to scarcity or sustainability.

Forty years ago, the Aral Sea covered an area the size of Belgium. Thanks to Soviet-era planners who diverted the ... rivers into cotton irrigation, it has been reduced to a couple of small, lifeless hypersaline lakes. In the United States, farmers on the High Plains are pumping water from the Ogallala aquifer ... at eight times the recharge rate. ...

Across the world, water-based ecological systems - rivers, lakes and watersheds - have been taken beyond ... ecological sustainability by policy makers who have turned a blind eye to the consequences of over- exploitation. We need a new model of water management for the 21st century. What does that mean? For starters, ... that means using it more efficiently at levels that do not destroy our environment. ... it means is that governments need to manage the private demand of different users and manage this precious resource in the public interest.

There is another, equally profound challenge. In an era of intensifying competition, we have to ensure that the world's poor do not suffer... That means strengthening the rights and the voice of the poor - and it means putting social justice at the center of water management.


Παρασκευή, Μαρτίου 17, 2006

The Environmental Wars

Why are we still debating climate change? How soon will we hit peak oil supply? When politics mix with science, what is being brewed? Join speakers from the left & the right, from the lab & the field, from industry & advocacy, to talk about the health of our planet.

Over the weekend of June 2–4, 2006, the Environmental Wars conference will host scientists, writers, environmentalists, and thinkers from all sides of the environmental spectrum at the California Institute of Technology for questions, answers, and opinions.

The conference is hosted by the Skeptics Society, a scientific and educational organization seeking clarity around controversial claims, exploring revolutionary ideas, and promoting science. The society publishes Skeptic magazine, and hosts regular lecture series with past speakers including Richard Dawkins, Susan Blackmore, Ursula Goodenough, Jared Diamond, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Jennifer Michael Hecht.

Link

Τετάρτη, Μαρτίου 15, 2006

Do government actions speak louder than words?

Do government actions speak louder than words?: "A few years ago, John and I along with colleagues at the University of Delaware (George Parsons), the University of Maryland (Doug Lipton) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Jim Kirkley) found that Mid-Atlantic consumers are willing to pay significant amounts of money--up to $2.8 billion annually--to ensure that seafood meals were safe from outbreaks of Pfiesteria Piscicida*--a toxic dinoflagellate that attacks fish in warm brackish waters. The catch? There is no scientific evidence that Pfiesteria consumed through seafood has any adverse health effects on humans.

While not exactly the same, this sort of reminds me of one of the economic problems with the bird flu.

From Reuters:



Slowly but surely, chicken and eggs are returning to dinner tables and restaurant menus after a bird flu outbreak last month in a western town scared millions of Indians off poultry and cost the industry more than $120 million.

Authorities said last week that the H5N1 avian flu infection among poultry in Navapur, Maharashtra state, had been contained and no human cases had been reported in the country.

Since then many Indians have returned to chicken curry and 'tikka,' chunks of chicken marinated in spices and cooked over burning coal.

Like Sanjay Singh, a pharmaceutical executive in his thirties, who -- like millions o"

Τρίτη, Μαρτίου 14, 2006

Peak Times

Peak Times: "It's been a while since I've written about Peak Oil, but while I was busily engaged on a consulting project last week, the New York Times published a lengthy editorial on the subject, framing it as one of the two biggest risks, along with climate change, to our energy status quo. Unfortunately, the editorial itself is locked up inside Times Select, which I hope the Times will eventually realize is a lousy way to make money but a great way to reduce the influence of their editors and columnists such as Tom Friedman.

In terms of content, the editorial lays out its case in some detail, and fairly understandably. It would have been even better if it had been proofread by someone who knew when they should be saying billion instead of million or trillion, or that a human generation spans 20-25 years, not 60. But these are quibbles; otherwise, it's a useful compendium of Peak Oil thinking, referencing M. King Hubbert, Kenneth Deffeyes, and Matthew Simmons--plus skeptics such as CERA's Daniel Yergin. It touches on the year 2000 USGS study of the earth's total oil endowment and describes the uncertainties about the ability of Saudi Arabia to sustain, let alone increase their production. It also makes the key point that the critical moment is not when the earth's last barrel of oil is extracted, but when the growth of oil supply can no longer keep p"

Τα μεγάλα ποτάμια της Γης στερεύουν

Ολέθριες συνέπειες για το οικοσύστημα και το μέλλον του πλανήτη.











ΒΗΜΑ 14 Μαρτίου 2006

Κυριακή, Μαρτίου 12, 2006

Will Unconventional Natural Gas Save Us?

Will Unconventional Natural Gas Save Us?: "Here we go again, this story is about natural gas supplies in North America and the US in particular. Lately, TOD has had some posts on Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imports as the way to solve the North American natural gas crisis (here, here and here). The point of these posts concerning LNG is that there are real unavoidable concerns that LNG imports will not provide us with sufficient supply to meet inelastic demand soon enough by 2010 or even come anywhere close to meeting these supply problems in the period beyond the end of this decade. Beyond oil and the apparent world-wide peak in light sweet crude, the more I think about our energy problems, the more I come to the conclusion that natural gas shortages in North America are imminent in the timeframe beginning now and for the forseeable future (perhaps 5 to 10 years out or beyond). The damage this could do to the US economy is enormous. In my view, there is a real crisis pending so this post examines another whole part of the equation in future projections for providing natural gas to meet projected demand involving drilling for Unconventional Natural Gas Resources (pdf)-- an overview of what these resources are. The importance of unconventional gas (pdf) is expected to grow out to 2025. I hope you'll bear with me here. This is one of those really long posts I do from time to ti"

Πέμπτη, Μαρτίου 09, 2006

The Planet Can't Wait: Climate Change Is Real and Must Be Addressed Now

The warnings are coming from frogs and beetles, from melting ice and changing ocean currents, and from scientists and responsible politicians around the world. And yet what is the U.S. government doing about global warming? Nothing. That should shock the conscience of Americans.
Actually, the Bush administration's policy is worse than doing nothing. It has resisted efforts by other nations to discuss new actions that could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide before the global climate reaches a disastrous tipping point. And it muzzles administration scientists to keep them from warning about the seriousness of the issue. The administration's position is that more research is needed -- and then, as evidence grows that humans are adding to global warming, it calls for still more research.


Washington Post Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Προς μία συντονισμένη και καθαρότερη Ευρωπαϊκή ενεργειακή πολιτική

Η Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή κάλεσε τα κράτη μέλη να εγκαταλείψουν τις 25 "διαφορετικές και ασυντόνιστες" ενεργειακές τους πολιτικές και να υιοθετήσουν μια κοινή προσέγγιση για την αντιμετώπιση των προκλήσεων που δημιουργεί η ενεργειακή εξάρτηση της Ευρώπης.

Το ΒΗΜΑ 9/3/06

Τετάρτη, Μαρτίου 08, 2006

Frontiers of Environmental Economics, Washington, DC, February 26-27, 2007

A call for papers from Resources for the Future. open to environmental economists, other economists, and academics of any other discipline who wish to offer research papers at the frontiers of environmental economics and can contribute to identifying or resolving important public policy problems addressed within the sub-discipline of environmental economics. Deadline to submit is April 1, 2006.

Link

Σάββατο, Μαρτίου 04, 2006

Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Melting Rapidly

Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Melting Rapidly

The Antarctic ice sheet is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year in a trend that scientists link to global warming, according to a new paper that provides the first evidence that the sheet's total mass is shrinking significantly.
The new findings, which are being published today in the journal Science, suggest that global sea level could rise substantially over the next several centuries.

It is one of a slew of scientific papers in recent weeks that have sought to gauge the impact of climate change on the world's oceans and lakes. Just last month two researchers reported that Greenland's glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, and a separate paper in Science today predicts that by the end of this century lakes and streams on one-fourth of the African continent could be drying up because of higher temperatures...

Παρασκευή, Μαρτίου 03, 2006

U.S. - India Nuclear Deal: Reckless on Every Score

The security risks inherent in the nuclear cooperation agreement reached yesterday between President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh far outweigh the energy benefits of the deal, according to researchers at the Worldwatch Institute. Spending the same money on new, clean energy options would provide greater energy security without increasing the risk that terrorists will get their hands on new nuclear arsenals.
The deal, if supported by the U.S. Congress, will undermine international non-proliferation efforts at a critical time. "It's now going to be tough to argue that Iran and North Korea should be denied nuclear technology while India—which has failed to even join the Non-Proliferation Treaty—is given the same technology on a silver platter," said Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin.
Proponents claim that nuclear power will be India's ticket to energy security and prosperity in this energy-starved country of 1.1 billion people. India currently relies on large quantities of dirty, low-grade domestic coal and expensive oil imports to supply its power needs. Blackouts are a chronic problem in many regions and threaten to constrain booming industrial development.
But according to Worldwatch's 2006 State of the World report, nuclear power is not India's best option. Nuclear power provides only 3 percent of the country's electricity today, and even if the 30 new nuclear plants the government hopes to build are actually completed over the next two decades (India has consistently fallen short on its past nuclear ambition) nuclear would still provide only 5 percent of the country's electricity and 2 percent of its total energy.

WorldWatch Institute

.... εμείς σχεδιάζουμε....

Στόχος τα 3.00MW από αιολικά

Σε περίπου 5 χρόνια θα λειτουργούν στην χώρα μας έργα ΑΠΕ ισχύος 3.000ΜW, δηλαδή μια αύξηση 270% από τα σημερινά 615MW. Τη δέσμευση αυτή ανέλαβε ο γενικός γραμματέας του Υπ. Ανάπτυξης κ. Ν. Στεφάνου, κλείνοντας τις εργασίες του Πανευρωπαϊκού Συνεδρίου για την αιολική ενέργεια που διοργανώθηκε στην Αθήνα.

ΒΗΜΑ 3/3/06

Η μόνη διαφορά με την Πορτογαλία είναι ότι η εκεί κυβέρνηση έχει δεσμεύσει 2,5 δισ ευρώ για την υποστίριξη των προγραμμάτων της.

Η Πορτογαλία κάνει βήματα προς τις ΑΠΕ.... εμεις;

Ηλεκτρισμός από την πνοή του Αιόλου

Πρωτοπόρος στις ανανεώσιμες πηγές ενέργειας επιδιώκει να γίνει η Πορτογαλία μετα την χθεσινή απόφαση της ηγεσίας της να τοποθετήσει 500υπερσύχρονες ανεμογεννήτριες σε διάφορες τοποθεσίες της ανεμοδαρμένης χώρας. Οι ανεμογεννήτριες θα έχουν συνολική ισχύ 1.500 μεγαβάτ και θα επιλεγούν το καλοκαίρι μετά απο διεθνή διαγωνισμό. Το ιδιαίτερα φιλόδοξο σχέδιο σκοχεύει να καλύπτει τις ανάγκες 750.000 νοικοκυριών. Το πρόγραμμα υτό έχει ιδιαιτερη σημασία για την Πορτογαλία η οποία εισάγει 80% του ηλεκτρικού ρεύματος που καταναλώνει.

ΒΗΜΑ 3/3/06