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What Do World's Two Biggest Dangers Have in Common? Washington's Blog

What Do World’s Two Biggest Dangers Have in Common? Washington’s Blog.

Anyone who cares about our natural environment should be marking with great sadness the centenary of World War I. Beyond the incredible destruction in European battlefields, the intense harvesting of forests, and the new focus on the fossil fuels of the Middle East, the Great War was the Chemists’ War. Poison gas became a weapon — one that would be used against many forms of life.

Insecticides were developed alongside nerve gases and from byproducts of explosives.  World War II — the sequel made almost inevitable by the manner of ending the first one — produced, among other things, nuclear bombs, DDT, and a common language for discussing both — not to mention airplanes for delivering both.

War propagandists made killing easier by depicting foreign people as bugs. Insecticide marketers made buying their poisons patriotic by using war language to describe the “annihilation” of “invading” insects (never mind who was actually here first). DDT was made available for public purchase five days before the U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.  On the first anniversary of the bomb, a full-page photograph of a mushroom cloud appeared in an advertisement for DDT.

War and environmental destruction don’t just overlap in how they’re thought and talked about.  They don’t just promote each other through mutually reinforcing notions of machismo and domination.  The connection is much deeper and more direct. War and preparations for war, including weapons testing, are themselves among the greatest destroyers of our environment.  The U.S. military is a leading consumer of fossil fuels. From March 2003 to December 2007 the war on Iraq alone released more CO2 than 60% of all nations.

Rarely do we appreciate the extent to which wars are fought for control over resources the consumption of which will destroy us.  Even more rarely do we appreciate the extent to which that consumption is driven by wars.  The Confederate Army marched up toward Gettysburg in search of food to fuel itself.  (Sherman burned the South, as he killed the Buffalo, to cause starvation — while the North exploited its land to fuel the war.)  The British Navy sought control of oil first as a fuel for the ships of the British Navy, not for some other purpose.  The Nazis went east, among several other reasons, for forests with which to fuel their war.  The deforestation of the tropics that took off during World War II only accelerated during the permanent state of war that followed.

Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. Perhaps the most deadly weapons left behind by wars are land mines and cluster bombs. Tens of millions of them are estimated to be lying around on the earth. The Soviet and U.S. occupations of Afghanistan have destroyed or damaged thousands of villages and sources of water. The Taliban has illegally traded timber to Pakistan, resulting in significant deforestation. U.S. bombs and refugees in need of firewood have added to the damage. Afghanistan’s forests are almost gone. Most of the migratory birds that used to pass through Afghanistan no longer do so. Its air and water have been poisoned with explosives and rocket propellants.

The United States fights its wars and even tests its weapons far from its shores, but remains pockmarked by environmental disaster areas and superfund sites created by its military.  The environmental crisis has taken on enormous proportions, dramatically overshadowing the manufactured dangers that lie in Hillary Clinton’s contention that Vladimir Putin is a new Hitler or the common pretense in Washington, D.C., that Iran is building nukes or that killing people with drones is making us safer rather than more hated. And yet, each year, the EPA spends $622 million trying to figure out how to produce power without oil, while the military spends hundreds of billions of dollars burning oil in wars fought to control the oil supplies. The million dollars spent to keep each soldier in a foreign occupation for a year could create 20 green energy jobs at $50,000 each. The $1 trillion spent by the United States on militarism each year, and the $1 trillion spent by the rest of the world combined, could fund a conversion to sustainable living beyond most of our wildest dreams. Even 10% of it could.

When World War I ended, not only did a huge peace movement develop, but it was allied with a wildlife conservation  movement.  These days, those two movements appear divided and conquered.  Once in a blue moon their paths cross, as environmental groups are persuaded to oppose a particular seizure of land or military base construction, as has happened in recent months with the movements to prevent the U.S. and South Korea from building a huge naval base on Jeju Island, and to prevent the U.S. Marine Corps from turning Pagan Island in the Northern Marianas into a bombing range.  But try asking a well-funded environmental group to push for a transfer of public resources from militarism to clean energy or conservation and you might as well be trying to tackle a cloud of poison gas.

I’m pleased to be part of a movement just begun at WorldBeyondWar.org, already with people taking part in 57 nations, that seeks to replace our massive investment in war with a massive investment in actual defense of the earth.  I have a suspicion that big environmental organizations would find great support for this plan were they to survey their members.

U.K. to Pay Up To $3M a Well to Councils Allowing Shale Gas – Bloomberg

U.K. to Pay Up To $3M a Well to Councils Allowing Shale Gas – Bloomberg.

Prime Minister David Cameron will give millions of pounds to local authorities that allow shale gas developments to go ahead, part of a drive to create more jobs and encourage investment in the U.K.

Councils will be allowed to keep 100 percent of the business rates they collect from shale gas sites, double the current 50 percent figure, in a move that may be worth 1.7 million pounds ($2.8 million) per site in central government funding per year, according to figures released by Cameron’s office. Business rates are taxes to help pay for local services, charged on most non-domestic properties.

“That’s going to be quite a significant boost for that local council’s coffers,” Business MinisterMichael Fallon told the BBC. “We want local councils and local people to benefit from this exploration. We expect 20-40 wells to be drilled in exploration over the next couple of years.”

Research by business lobby group The Institute of Directors showed investment could reach 3.7 billion pounds a year and support 74,000 jobs in the oil, gas, construction, engineering and chemicals industries, Cameron’s office said. It also said the industry will make proposals today on how best to secure a role for British companies in the supply chain as shale gas production develops in the U.K.

“A key part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain’s future is to back businesses with better infrastructure,” Cameron said in an e-mailed statement. “That’s why we’re going all out for shale. It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people and economic security for our country.”

Total SA (FP) today became the largest oil company to invest in U.K. shale gas through a $47 million deal to take stakes in two exploration areas in eastern England.

Europe’s third-biggest oil producer will acquire a 40 percent stake in licenses held by Dart Energy Ltd. (DTE) and operated by IGas Energy Plc (IGAS), the Paris-based company said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London atkdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

French firm Total to join UK shale gas search | Environment | theguardian.com

French firm Total to join UK shale gas search | Environment | theguardian.com.

Fracking protesters

Fracking protesters in Balcombe last summer. Photograph: Rod Harbinson/Demotix/Corbis

The French energy company Total will become the first major international oil company to join the exploration for UK shale gas when it announces an investment package on Monday.

Total is to join a shale gas exploration project in Gainsborough Trough in Lincolnshire currently operated by Ecorp of the US, according to the Financial Times. The other partners in the project are Dart Energy and UK-listed Igas and Egdon Resources.

The coalition government has made the exploitation of Britain’s unconventional gas reserves a priority, offering tax breaks to shale developers and promising big benefits. This is in contrast to France where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process by which shale gas is released, is banned.

George Osborne, the chancellor, has argued that shale has the potential to reduce Britain’s reliance on increasing expensive gas imports and create thousands of jobs.

Exploration for shale gas and other unconventional hydrocarbons is taking place or is planned in Wales, Scotland, the south of England and the Midlands and the north.

Opposition from environmentalists has hindered the work. Protesters say the fracking process – injecting water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure into shale rock to release the oil and gas trapped inside – can contaminate groundwater and cause earthquakes. The operation of rigs and attendant noise and truck movements can disrupt the local area.

Last summer Cuadrilla Resources faced protests in the Sussex village of Balcombe, and protesters are currently camped outside a drilling pad at Barton Moss in Salford where Igas plans to drill an exploratory well.

Geologists estimate there could be as much as 1,300tn cubic feet of shale gas lying under parts of the north and Midlands. One-tenth of that would equal around 51 years’ gas supply for the UK.

The Curse of Fertilizer

The Curse of Fertilizer.

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