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Wheat Group Seeks 50% Yield Boost by 2034 to Feed World

Wheat Group Seeks 50% Yield Boost by 2034 to Feed World

By Rudy Ruitenberg  Mar 25, 2014 6:00 PM ET

Crop researchers will aim to improve wheat yields by 50 percent by 2034 to feed a growing world population, according to an announcement at a summit to mark Nobel Peace Prize-laureate Norman Borlaug’s birth.

The International Wheat Yield Partnership hopes to secure $100 million in funding over the next five years, the U.K.’s Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and the El Batan, Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, or Cimmyt, wrote in an e-mailed statement today.

Wheat is a key source of calories and protein for 4.5 billion of Earth’s 7 billion population, according to Cimmyt. The World Bank estimates output of the grain will have to climb by 60 percent from 2000 and 2050 to meet rising demand, the researchers wrote.

“We need a collective global approach to make more wheat available,” Steve Visscher, chairman of the partnership’s board of founding members and deputy Chief Executive Officer of the U.K.’s BBSRC, said in the statement. “It’s the most widely grown staple food crop and new varieties with increased yield will be vital.”

Wheat demand is growing “much faster” than production, according to the statement. The partnership’s founding partners include the BBSRC and Cimmyt, as well as Mexico’s Agriculture Secretariat and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Increases in wheat yields have slowed in developed nations since 1990, and price spikes such as those of 2007-08 and 2011 “are likely to be repeated” should production fall short of demand, according to the statement.

Farmers across the world harvested an average 3.04 metric tons of wheat per hectare (2.47 acres) in the 2012-13 season, and that’s predicted to climb to 3.25 tons in 2013-14, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show. Wheat yields have climbed from 2.67 tons per hectare a decade ago and 1.15 tons at the start of the 1960s.

The partnership will allow for scientific breakthroughs currently out of reach, according to Visscher. One focus will be on improving wheat’s use of the sun’s energy, he said.

The partnership was announced at the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food in Ciudad Obregon,Mexico. It marks the 100th birthday of Borlaug, an American crop researcher who died in 2009 and whose work on high-yielding wheat varieties helped avert hunger in Mexico, India andPakistan. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in 1970.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter atccarpenter2@bloomberg.net Sharon Lindores, Randall Hackley

If You Are Considering Buying A House, Read This First | Zero Hedge

If You Are Considering Buying A House, Read This First | Zero Hedge.

In September of 2011, when looking at the insurmountable debt catastrophe that the world finds itself (which has only gotten worse in the past several years) we warned that “the only way to resolve the massive debt load is through a global coordinated debt restructuring (which would, among other things, push all global banks into bankruptcy) which, when all is said and done, will have to be funded by the world’s financial asset holders: the middle-and upper-class, which, if BCS is right, have a ~30% one-time tax on all their assets to look forward to as the great mean reversion finally arrives and the world is set back on a viable path.”

Two years later, the financial asset tax approach, in the form of depositor bail-ins, was tried – successfully (as there was no mass rioting, no revolution, in fact the people were perfectly happy to accept the confiscation of their savings) – in Cyprus, further emboldening the status quo, in this case the IMF, to propose, tongue in cheek, that the time has come for the uber-wealthy to give back some (“it’s only fair”), and to raise income taxes through the roof (which of course would mostly impact the middle class as the bulk of current income for the 1% is in the form of dividend income, ultra-cheap leverage extraction on assets and various forms of carried interest).

And now, a new tax is not only on the horizon but coming fast and furious to allow the insolvent global regime at least one more can kicking: one which will impact current and future homeowners across the world.

But first, let’s step back.

Last week, the IMF did what only the IMF could do: come to the realization that we proposed in 2009, and even the Davosites discussed earlier this year: namely that the middle class is effectively an endangered species, and rapidly on its way to wholesale extinction, and that the polarity between the rich and poor has never been greater. The IMF concluded, with the panache that only this comical organization is capable of, that income inequality “is weighing on global economic growth and fueling political instability.”

The WSJ reports:

The International Monetary Fund’s latest salvo came Thursday in a top official’s speech and a 67-page paper detailing how the IMF’s 188 member countries can use tax policy and targeted public spending to stem a rising disparity between haves and have-nots.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has made the issue a high priority for the fund, warning—along with some of the fund’s most powerful shareholders—that inequality is threatening longer-run economic prospects. Last month, Ms. Lagarde said the income gap risked creating “an economy of exclusion, and a wasteland of discarded potential” and rending “the precious fabric that holds our society together.”

The IMF’s solution? The same as that of socialists everywhere: redistribute the wealth… because apparently socialism works every time, all the time, with stellar results.

“Redistribution can help support growth because it reduces inequality,” David Lipton, the fund’s No. 2 official and a former senior White House aide, said in a speech Thursday at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “But if misconceived, this trade-off can be very costly.”

“There’s a sense that the burdens of the crisis have been unevenly distributed, that the middle classes and the poor have footed more of the bill of the crisis than the economic elite,” said Moisés Naím, a senior economist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Venezuela’s former trade minister.

Oh is there a sense? Is that why the Fed has halted its QE program which takes from what little is left of the middle class and gives to those who already have more money than they can spend in several lifetimes. Guess not.

So how does the IMF suggest going about this wholesale, global socialist revolution? Simple: the way we explained nearly three years ago.

The IMF’s latest paper doesn’t prescribe country-specific measures, but it does offer several proposals that are likely to be controversial. Most notably, the IMF says many advanced and developing economies can narrow inequality by more aggressively applying property taxes and “progressive” personal income taxes that rise as incomes increase.

The median top personal income-tax rate across the globe has halved since the 1980s to around 30%. But the IMF says “revenue-maximizing [personal income tax] rates are probably somewhere between 50% and 60% and optimal rates probably somewhat lower than that.”

We wouldn’t be too concerned about income taxes. After all, one needs to have a job to have income, and as everyone knows by now, jobs also are on their way to extinction, and every central bank everywhere will merely print the money needed to cover the income tax shortfall, leading to that “other” alternative to fixing the debt problem: global hyperinflation (with a little precious metals confiscation on the side: just like FDR did in the 1930s).

But going back to the original point, here is why those in the market for a house should be worried. Very worried. From page 40 of the IMF’s paper on “Fiscal Policy and Income Inequality“:

Some taxes levied on wealth, especially on immovable property, are also an option for economies seeking more progressive taxation. Wealth taxes, of various kinds, target the same underlying base as capital income taxes, namely assets. They could thus be considered as a potential source of progressive taxation, especially where taxes on capital incomes (including on real estate) are low or largely evaded. There are different types of wealth taxes, such as recurrent taxes on property or net wealth, transaction taxes, and inheritance and gift taxes. Over the past decades, revenue from these taxes has not kept up with the surge in wealth as a share of GDP (see earlier section) and, as a result, the effective tax rate has dropped from an average of around 0.9 percent in 1970 to approximately 0.5 percent today. The prospect of raising additional revenue from the various types of wealth taxation was recently discussed in IMF (2013b) and their role in reducing inequality can be summarized as follows.

  • Property taxes are equitable and efficient, but underutilized in many economies. The average yield of property taxes in 65 economies (for which data are available) in the 2000s was around 1 percent of GDP, but in developing economies it averages only half of that (Bahl and Martínez-Vázquez, 2008). There is considerable scope to exploit this tax more fully, both as a revenue source and as a redistributive instrument, although effective implementation will require a sizable investment in administrative infrastructure, particularly in developing economies (Norregaard, 2013).

And there you have it: if you are buying a house, enjoy the low mortgage (for now… and don’t forget – if and when the time comes to sell, the buyer better be able to afford your selling price and the monthly mortgage payment should the 30 Year mortgage rise from the current 4.2% to 6%, 7% or much higher, which all those who forecast an improving economy hope happens), but what will really determine the affordability of that piece of property you have your eyes set on, are the property taxes.

Because they are about to skyrocket.

If You Are Considering Buying A House, Read This First | Zero Hedge

If You Are Considering Buying A House, Read This First | Zero Hedge.

In September of 2011, when looking at the insurmountable debt catastrophe that the world finds itself (which has only gotten worse in the past several years) we warned that “the only way to resolve the massive debt load is through a global coordinated debt restructuring (which would, among other things, push all global banks into bankruptcy) which, when all is said and done, will have to be funded by the world’s financial asset holders: the middle-and upper-class, which, if BCS is right, have a ~30% one-time tax on all their assets to look forward to as the great mean reversion finally arrives and the world is set back on a viable path.”

Two years later, the financial asset tax approach, in the form of depositor bail-ins, was tried – successfully (as there was no mass rioting, no revolution, in fact the people were perfectly happy to accept the confiscation of their savings) – in Cyprus, further emboldening the status quo, in this case the IMF, to propose, tongue in cheek, that the time has come for the uber-wealthy to give back some (“it’s only fair”), and to raise income taxes through the roof (which of course would mostly impact the middle class as the bulk of current income for the 1% is in the form of dividend income, ultra-cheap leverage extraction on assets and various forms of carried interest).

And now, a new tax is not only on the horizon but coming fast and furious to allow the insolvent global regime at least one more can kicking: one which will impact current and future homeowners across the world.

But first, let’s step back.

Last week, the IMF did what only the IMF could do: come to the realization that we proposed in 2009, and even the Davosites discussed earlier this year: namely that the middle class is effectively an endangered species, and rapidly on its way to wholesale extinction, and that the polarity between the rich and poor has never been greater. The IMF concluded, with the panache that only this comical organization is capable of, that income inequality “is weighing on global economic growth and fueling political instability.”

The WSJ reports:

The International Monetary Fund’s latest salvo came Thursday in a top official’s speech and a 67-page paper detailing how the IMF’s 188 member countries can use tax policy and targeted public spending to stem a rising disparity between haves and have-nots.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has made the issue a high priority for the fund, warning—along with some of the fund’s most powerful shareholders—that inequality is threatening longer-run economic prospects. Last month, Ms. Lagarde said the income gap risked creating “an economy of exclusion, and a wasteland of discarded potential” and rending “the precious fabric that holds our society together.”

The IMF’s solution? The same as that of socialists everywhere: redistribute the wealth… because apparently socialism works every time, all the time, with stellar results.

“Redistribution can help support growth because it reduces inequality,” David Lipton, the fund’s No. 2 official and a former senior White House aide, said in a speech Thursday at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “But if misconceived, this trade-off can be very costly.”

“There’s a sense that the burdens of the crisis have been unevenly distributed, that the middle classes and the poor have footed more of the bill of the crisis than the economic elite,” said Moisés Naím, a senior economist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Venezuela’s former trade minister.

Oh is there a sense? Is that why the Fed has halted its QE program which takes from what little is left of the middle class and gives to those who already have more money than they can spend in several lifetimes. Guess not.

So how does the IMF suggest going about this wholesale, global socialist revolution? Simple: the way we explained nearly three years ago.

The IMF’s latest paper doesn’t prescribe country-specific measures, but it does offer several proposals that are likely to be controversial. Most notably, the IMF says many advanced and developing economies can narrow inequality by more aggressively applying property taxes and “progressive” personal income taxes that rise as incomes increase.

The median top personal income-tax rate across the globe has halved since the 1980s to around 30%. But the IMF says “revenue-maximizing [personal income tax] rates are probably somewhere between 50% and 60% and optimal rates probably somewhat lower than that.”

We wouldn’t be too concerned about income taxes. After all, one needs to have a job to have income, and as everyone knows by now, jobs also are on their way to extinction, and every central bank everywhere will merely print the money needed to cover the income tax shortfall, leading to that “other” alternative to fixing the debt problem: global hyperinflation (with a little precious metals confiscation on the side: just like FDR did in the 1930s).

But going back to the original point, here is why those in the market for a house should be worried. Very worried. From page 40 of the IMF’s paper on “Fiscal Policy and Income Inequality“:

Some taxes levied on wealth, especially on immovable property, are also an option for economies seeking more progressive taxation. Wealth taxes, of various kinds, target the same underlying base as capital income taxes, namely assets. They could thus be considered as a potential source of progressive taxation, especially where taxes on capital incomes (including on real estate) are low or largely evaded. There are different types of wealth taxes, such as recurrent taxes on property or net wealth, transaction taxes, and inheritance and gift taxes. Over the past decades, revenue from these taxes has not kept up with the surge in wealth as a share of GDP (see earlier section) and, as a result, the effective tax rate has dropped from an average of around 0.9 percent in 1970 to approximately 0.5 percent today. The prospect of raising additional revenue from the various types of wealth taxation was recently discussed in IMF (2013b) and their role in reducing inequality can be summarized as follows.

  • Property taxes are equitable and efficient, but underutilized in many economies. The average yield of property taxes in 65 economies (for which data are available) in the 2000s was around 1 percent of GDP, but in developing economies it averages only half of that (Bahl and Martínez-Vázquez, 2008). There is considerable scope to exploit this tax more fully, both as a revenue source and as a redistributive instrument, although effective implementation will require a sizable investment in administrative infrastructure, particularly in developing economies (Norregaard, 2013).

And there you have it: if you are buying a house, enjoy the low mortgage (for now… and don’t forget – if and when the time comes to sell, the buyer better be able to afford your selling price and the monthly mortgage payment should the 30 Year mortgage rise from the current 4.2% to 6%, 7% or much higher, which all those who forecast an improving economy hope happens), but what will really determine the affordability of that piece of property you have your eyes set on, are the property taxes.

Because they are about to skyrocket.

Keystone XL Decision Highlights Coziness Between Oil and Gas Industry, Obama Administration | DeSmogBlog

Keystone XL Decision Highlights Coziness Between Oil and Gas Industry, Obama Administration | DeSmogBlog.

Mon, 2014-02-03 11:59SHARON KELLY

Sharon Kelly's picture

This past week was good to the oil and gas industry. First, President Obama talked up jobs gains from drilling and labeled natural gas a “bridge fuel” in his State of the Union address, using terminology favored by natural gas advocates.

Then, on Friday, the Obama administration released a much-awaited assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impacts which concluded that pipeline construction “remains unlikely to  significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands,” effectively turning a blind eye to the staggering carbon emissions from tar sands extraction and expansion plans.

While Mr. Obama’s warm embrace of fossil fuels surprised some environmentalists, it should come as little surprise in light of prior comments made by the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API).

“It’s our expectation it will be released next week,” Jack Gerard confidently told Reuters, referring to the Keystone XL assessment, while many were still speculating that the report might not be issued until after the November mid-term election. “We’re expecting to hear the same conclusion that we’ve heard four times before: no significant impact on the environment.”

Mr. Gerard added that these predictions were based on sources within the administration.

In fact, as the Keystone decision-making process has unfolded, the oil and gas industry has had — as they’ve enjoyed for decades — intensive access to decision-making in the White House.  This access has helped form the Obama administration’s schizophrenic energy policy, in which the President backs both renewable energy and fossil fuels without acknowledging that the two are competitors. When fossil fuels gain market share, renewables lose.

While even the World Bank has called for immediate action on climate change, the API, which has worked hard to shape Obama’s views on fossil fuels, has also worked to create doubt around the very concept of fossil-fuel-driven climate change and to downplay the impact their industry has had.

There’s no question that the oil and gas industry wields enormous sway inside Washington D.C.

The API has spent $9.3 million dollars this year alone on reportable lobbying expenses, the highest amount in the group’s history, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. This summer, a DeSmog investigation found that API spent $22.03 million dollars lobbying at the federal level on Keystone XL and/or tar sands issues since June 2008, when the pipeline project was first proposed.

The API has also worked hard to convince lawmakers that voters overwhelmingly back the pipeline (despite a groundswell of grassroots organizing that has led to the project’s declining popularity).

This summer, Mr. Gerard’s group launched a massive ad campaign — featuringformer Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — that was timed to be seen by lawmakers in Washington D.C. and when they headed back to their home states for recess. API has also funded astroturf campaigns (exposed by leaked documents), cited questionable job creation numbers, and drawn fire from media watchdogs for playing fast and loose with the facts.

The industry’s influence over Obama’s administration on Keystone XL has at times been downright scandalous. Obama’s State Department hired an API member, Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM), to evaluate the Keystone XL pipeline’s potential environmental impact.

In a blockbuster investigative reportMother Jones revealed that ERM’s Keystone experts previously worked for TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone project, along with other oil and gas companies poised to profit from the pipeline’s construction. When the report was released publicly by the State Department, reporter Andy Kroll had noticed something especially odd: the biographies of each expert had been redacted, suggesting that the State Department may have known of those potential conflicts and attempted to hide that fact.

The State Department’s inspector general promised to investigate the conflict of interest allegations, but the results of those investigations are still not public.

The API has tended to strongly favor Republicans over Democrats in its campaign contributions, but over the past several years, the Obama administration hasreached out to the oil and gas industry group, soliciting its views. Nonetheless, Mr. Gerard remained unsatisfied. “At least they’re listening,” he told Oil and Gas Journal in 2012. “But they’re not following every one of our recommendations.”

If this past week is any indication, that might be starting to shift.

After Obama’s State of the Union address, Mr. Gerard was quick to applaud the President’s description of natural gas — which emits a little more than half as much carbon dioxide when burned as coal, but whose total climate impacts could actually be worse than coal once methane emissions are tallied — saying that the President was evolving.

“This year he gave a full-throated endorsement to natural gas,” Mr. Gerard told theWall Street Journal. “Next year, he’ll be giving a full-throated endorsement to U.S. oil production.”

“His words are going in the right direction for us,” Mr. Gerard added.

The API has emerged as a significant influence over the Obama administration, and its inherently flawed all-of-the-above vision for our energy future.

The reason Keystone XL matters so much is not just as its symbolic importance as the fact that it would reflect a major long-term commitment to continued fossil fuel extraction — at a moment when climate experts are saying we must takeimmediate and drastic action and leave two-thirds of known fossil reserves in the ground.

In his State of the Union, Mr. Obama talked up benefits of oil and gas and thengave mention to renewables like wind and solar, but he showed no awareness that a long-term commitment to fossil fuels is in direct tension with furthering renewable energy.

“If we are truly serious about fighting the climate crisis, we must look beyond an ‘all of the above’ energy policy and replace dirty fuels with clean energy,” the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune said. “We can’t effectively act on climate and expand drilling and fracking for oil and gas at the same time.”

For its part, the API’s stance on climate has long been one of obfuscation. A 1998 API “Communications Action Plan” reads: “Victory will be achieved when … citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science … [and] recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.'”

Jack Gerard has argued that fracking represents a benefit for the environment,citing the fact that carbon emissions have dropped since the shale boom began.

Not only does this ignore the role that the recession has played in reducing energy consumption, but it also ignores the effects of another key greenhouse gas: methane. There is strong evidence that methane emissions from the oil and gas industry could make natural gas even worse than burning coal, in terms of its overall climate impact.

And, there are signs that the reductions cited by Mr. Gerard are already over. Earlier this month, the EIA announced that CO2 emissions rose 2 percent in 2013, reversing earlier declines.

Of course, if Keystone XL is ultimately approved, carbon emissions can be expected to spike. The pipeline will carry up to 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day. Opening Keystone would emit as much CO2 into the atmosphere as opening six new coal-fired power plants, the Pembina Institute estimated.

“This is a large source of carbon that’s going to be unleashed,” Larry Schweiger, the president of the National Wildlife Federation told The New York Times after the State Department’s Keystone report was released. “We’re headed in a terribly wrong direction with this project, and I don’t see how that large increase in carbon is going to be offset.”

But if you ask Jack Gerard, there’s nothing to worry about. “This final review puts to rest any credible concerns about the pipeline’s potential negative impact on the environment,” he said in a statement. “This long-awaited project should now be swiftly approved.”

Photo Credit: Oil and Gas Well, via Shutterstock.

Keystone XL Decision Highlights Coziness Between Oil and Gas Industry, Obama Administration | DeSmogBlog

Keystone XL Decision Highlights Coziness Between Oil and Gas Industry, Obama Administration | DeSmogBlog.

Mon, 2014-02-03 11:59SHARON KELLY

Sharon Kelly's picture

This past week was good to the oil and gas industry. First, President Obama talked up jobs gains from drilling and labeled natural gas a “bridge fuel” in his State of the Union address, using terminology favored by natural gas advocates.

Then, on Friday, the Obama administration released a much-awaited assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impacts which concluded that pipeline construction “remains unlikely to  significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands,” effectively turning a blind eye to the staggering carbon emissions from tar sands extraction and expansion plans.

While Mr. Obama’s warm embrace of fossil fuels surprised some environmentalists, it should come as little surprise in light of prior comments made by the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API).

“It’s our expectation it will be released next week,” Jack Gerard confidently told Reuters, referring to the Keystone XL assessment, while many were still speculating that the report might not be issued until after the November mid-term election. “We’re expecting to hear the same conclusion that we’ve heard four times before: no significant impact on the environment.”

Mr. Gerard added that these predictions were based on sources within the administration.

In fact, as the Keystone decision-making process has unfolded, the oil and gas industry has had — as they’ve enjoyed for decades — intensive access to decision-making in the White House.  This access has helped form the Obama administration’s schizophrenic energy policy, in which the President backs both renewable energy and fossil fuels without acknowledging that the two are competitors. When fossil fuels gain market share, renewables lose.

While even the World Bank has called for immediate action on climate change, the API, which has worked hard to shape Obama’s views on fossil fuels, has also worked to create doubt around the very concept of fossil-fuel-driven climate change and to downplay the impact their industry has had.

There’s no question that the oil and gas industry wields enormous sway inside Washington D.C.

The API has spent $9.3 million dollars this year alone on reportable lobbying expenses, the highest amount in the group’s history, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. This summer, a DeSmog investigation found that API spent $22.03 million dollars lobbying at the federal level on Keystone XL and/or tar sands issues since June 2008, when the pipeline project was first proposed.

The API has also worked hard to convince lawmakers that voters overwhelmingly back the pipeline (despite a groundswell of grassroots organizing that has led to the project’s declining popularity).

This summer, Mr. Gerard’s group launched a massive ad campaign — featuringformer Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — that was timed to be seen by lawmakers in Washington D.C. and when they headed back to their home states for recess. API has also funded astroturf campaigns (exposed by leaked documents), cited questionable job creation numbers, and drawn fire from media watchdogs for playing fast and loose with the facts.

The industry’s influence over Obama’s administration on Keystone XL has at times been downright scandalous. Obama’s State Department hired an API member, Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM), to evaluate the Keystone XL pipeline’s potential environmental impact.

In a blockbuster investigative reportMother Jones revealed that ERM’s Keystone experts previously worked for TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone project, along with other oil and gas companies poised to profit from the pipeline’s construction. When the report was released publicly by the State Department, reporter Andy Kroll had noticed something especially odd: the biographies of each expert had been redacted, suggesting that the State Department may have known of those potential conflicts and attempted to hide that fact.

The State Department’s inspector general promised to investigate the conflict of interest allegations, but the results of those investigations are still not public.

The API has tended to strongly favor Republicans over Democrats in its campaign contributions, but over the past several years, the Obama administration hasreached out to the oil and gas industry group, soliciting its views. Nonetheless, Mr. Gerard remained unsatisfied. “At least they’re listening,” he told Oil and Gas Journal in 2012. “But they’re not following every one of our recommendations.”

If this past week is any indication, that might be starting to shift.

After Obama’s State of the Union address, Mr. Gerard was quick to applaud the President’s description of natural gas — which emits a little more than half as much carbon dioxide when burned as coal, but whose total climate impacts could actually be worse than coal once methane emissions are tallied — saying that the President was evolving.

“This year he gave a full-throated endorsement to natural gas,” Mr. Gerard told theWall Street Journal. “Next year, he’ll be giving a full-throated endorsement to U.S. oil production.”

“His words are going in the right direction for us,” Mr. Gerard added.

The API has emerged as a significant influence over the Obama administration, and its inherently flawed all-of-the-above vision for our energy future.

The reason Keystone XL matters so much is not just as its symbolic importance as the fact that it would reflect a major long-term commitment to continued fossil fuel extraction — at a moment when climate experts are saying we must takeimmediate and drastic action and leave two-thirds of known fossil reserves in the ground.

In his State of the Union, Mr. Obama talked up benefits of oil and gas and thengave mention to renewables like wind and solar, but he showed no awareness that a long-term commitment to fossil fuels is in direct tension with furthering renewable energy.

“If we are truly serious about fighting the climate crisis, we must look beyond an ‘all of the above’ energy policy and replace dirty fuels with clean energy,” the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune said. “We can’t effectively act on climate and expand drilling and fracking for oil and gas at the same time.”

For its part, the API’s stance on climate has long been one of obfuscation. A 1998 API “Communications Action Plan” reads: “Victory will be achieved when … citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science … [and] recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.'”

Jack Gerard has argued that fracking represents a benefit for the environment,citing the fact that carbon emissions have dropped since the shale boom began.

Not only does this ignore the role that the recession has played in reducing energy consumption, but it also ignores the effects of another key greenhouse gas: methane. There is strong evidence that methane emissions from the oil and gas industry could make natural gas even worse than burning coal, in terms of its overall climate impact.

And, there are signs that the reductions cited by Mr. Gerard are already over. Earlier this month, the EIA announced that CO2 emissions rose 2 percent in 2013, reversing earlier declines.

Of course, if Keystone XL is ultimately approved, carbon emissions can be expected to spike. The pipeline will carry up to 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day. Opening Keystone would emit as much CO2 into the atmosphere as opening six new coal-fired power plants, the Pembina Institute estimated.

“This is a large source of carbon that’s going to be unleashed,” Larry Schweiger, the president of the National Wildlife Federation told The New York Times after the State Department’s Keystone report was released. “We’re headed in a terribly wrong direction with this project, and I don’t see how that large increase in carbon is going to be offset.”

But if you ask Jack Gerard, there’s nothing to worry about. “This final review puts to rest any credible concerns about the pipeline’s potential negative impact on the environment,” he said in a statement. “This long-awaited project should now be swiftly approved.”

Photo Credit: Oil and Gas Well, via Shutterstock.

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: The Dollar and the Deep State

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: The Dollar and the Deep State.

If we consider the Fed’s policies (tapering, etc.) solely within the narrow confines of the corporatocracy or a strictly financial context, we are in effect touching the foot of the elephant and declaring the creature to be short and roundish.

I have been studying the Deep State for 40 years, before it had gained the nifty name “deep state.” What others describe as the Deep State I term the National Security State which enables the American Empire, a vast structure that incorporates hard and soft power–military, diplomatic, intelligence, finance, commercial, energy, media, higher education–in a system of global domination and influence.

Back in 2007 I drew a simplified chart of the Imperial structure, what I called the Elite Maintaining and Extending Global Dominance (EMEGD):

At a very superficial level, some pundits have sought a Master Control in the Trilateral Commission or similar elite gatherings. Such groups are certainly one cell within the Empire, but each is no more important than other parts, just as killer T-cells are just one of dozens of cell types in the immune system.

One key feature of the Deep State is that it makes decisions behind closed doors and the surface government simply ratifies or approves the decisions. A second key feature is that the Deep State decision-makers have access to an entire world of secret intelligence.

Here is an example from the late 1960s, when the mere existence of the National Security Agency (NSA) was a state secret. Though the Soviet Union made every effort to hide its failures in space, it was an ill-kept secret that a number of their manned flights failed in space and the astronauts died.

The NSA had tapped the main undersea cables, and may have already had other collection capabilities in place, for the U.S. intercepted a tearful phone call from Soviet Leader Brezhnev to the doomed astronauts, a call made once it had become clear there was no hope of their capsule returning to Earth.

Former congressional staff member Mike Lofgren described the Deep State in his recent essay Anatomy of the Deep State:

There is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.

The term “Deep State” was coined in Turkey and is said to be a system composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary and organized crime.

I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.

I would say that only senior military or intelligence officers have any realistic grasp of the true scope, power and complexity of the Deep State and its Empire.Those with no grasp of military matters cannot possibly understand the Deep State. If you don’t have any real sense of the scope of the National Security State, you are in effect touching the foot of the elephant and declaring the creature is perhaps two feet tall.

The Deep State arose in World War II, as the mechanisms of electoral governance had failed to prepare the nation for global war. The goal of winning the war relegated the conventional electoral government to rubber-stamping Deep State decisions and policies.

After the war, the need to stabilize (if not “win”) the Cold War actually extended the Deep State. Now, the global war on terror (GWOT) is the justification.

One way to understand the Deep State is to trace the vectors of dependency. The Deep State needs the nation to survive, but the nation does not need the Deep State to survive (despite the groupthink within the Deep State that “we are the only thing keeping this thing together.”)

The nation would survive without the Federal Reserve, but the Federal Reserve would not survive without the Deep State. The Fed is not the Deep State; it is merely a tool of the Deep State.

This brings us to the U.S. dollar and the Deep State. The Deep State doesn’t really care about the signal noise of the economy–mortgage rates, minimum wages, unemployment, etc., any more that it cares about the political circus (“step right up to the Clinton sideshow, folks”) or the bickering over regulations by various camps.

What the Deep State cares about are the U.S. dollar, water, energy, minerals and access to those commodities (alliances, sea lanes, etc.). As I have mentioned before, consider the trade enabled by the reserve currency (the dollar): we print/create money out of thin air and exchange this for oil, commodities, electronics, etc.

If this isn’t the greatest trade on Earth–exchanging paper for real stuff– what is?While I am sympathetic to the strictly financial arguments that predict hyper-inflation and the destruction of the U.S. dollar, they are in effect touching the toe of the elephant.

The financial argument is this: we can print money but we can’t print more oil, coal, ground water, etc., and so eventually the claims on real wealth (i.e. dollars) will so far exceed the real wealth that the claims on wealth will collapse.

So far as this goes, it makes perfect sense. But let’s approach this from the geopolitical-strategic perspective of the Deep State: why would the Deep State allow policies that would bring about the destruction of its key global asset, the U.S. dollar?

There is simply no way the Deep State is going to support policies that would fatally weaken the dollar, or passively watch a subsidiary of the Deep State (the Fed) damage the Deep State itself.

The strictly financial arguments for hyper-inflation and the destruction of the U.S. dollar implicitly assume a system that operates like a line of dominoes: if the Fed prints money, that will inevitably start the dominoes falling, with the final domino being the reserve currency.

Setting aside the complexity of Triffin’s Paradox and other key dynamics within the reserve currency, we can safely predict that the Deep State will do whatever is necessary to maintain the dollar’s reserve status and purchasing power.

Understanding the “Exorbitant Privilege” of the U.S. Dollar (November 19, 2012)

What Will Benefit from Global Recession? The U.S. Dollar (October 9, 2012)

Recall Triffin’s primary point: countries like China that run trade surpluses cannot host reserve currencies, as that requires running large structural trade deficits.

In my view, the euro currency is a regional experiment in the “bancor” model,where a supra-national currency supposedly eliminates Triffin’s Paradox. It has failed, partly because supra-national currencies don’t resolve Triffin’s dilemma, they simply obfuscate it with sovereign credit imbalances that eventually moot the currency’s ability to function as intended.

Many people assume the corporatocracy rules the nation, but the corporatocracy is simply another tool of the Deep State. Many pundits declare that the Powers That Be want a weaker dollar to boost exports, but this sort of strictly financial concern is only of passing interest to the Deep State.
The corporatocracy (banking/financialization, etc.) has captured the machinery of regulation and governance, but these are surface effects of the electoral government that rubber-stamps policies set by the Deep State.

The corporatocracy is a useful global tool of the Deep State, but its lobbying of the visible government is mostly signal noise to the Deep State. The only sectors that matter are the defense, energy, agriculture and international financial sectors that supply the Imperial Project and project power.

What would best serve the Deep State is a dollar that increases in purchasing power and extends the Deep State’s power. It is widely assumed that the Fed creating a few trillion dollars has created a massive surplus of dollars that will guarantee a slide in the dollar’s purchasing power and its demise as the reserve currency.

Those who believe the Fed’s expansion of its balance sheet will weaken the dollar are forgetting that from the point of view of the outside world, the Fed’s actions are not so much expanding the supply of dollars as offsetting the contraction caused by deleveraging.

I would argue that the dollar will soon be scarce, and the simple but profound laws of supply and demand will push the dollar’s value not just higher but much higher. The problem going forward for exporting nations will be the scarcity of dollars.

If we consider the Fed’s policies (tapering, etc.) solely within the narrow confines of the corporatocracy or a strictly financial context, we are in effect touching the foot of the elephant and declaring the creature to be short and roundish. The elephant is the Deep State and its Imperial Project.

Thirst for water and energy: Challenge for regional cooperation

Thirst for water and energy: Challenge for regional cooperation.

Mushfiqur Rahman

AS the world’s population continues to grow, so does its thirst for water and energy. Unfortunately, not every nation is able to get an equitable share of the precious water and energy resources. If we look into the history of the prolonged Middle Eastern conflicts, we will see that many of them are related to access to water and energy. Patricia Wouters, professor of international water law at the University of Dundee in UK, considers that water scarcity is on the global agenda. She opined: “There is so much happening in the Middle East that a conflict over water could push everything over the edge.”
Demand for water in the emerging economies, including China and India, is expected to exceed supplies in less than 20 years. Although China, the most populous nation, possesses the fourth largest freshwater reserves in the world, it has the second lowest per capita water holdings. Experts feel that the rapidly developing China (the second largest economy of the world) is potentially facing the problem of water scarcity, which may challenge its economic growth. Water resource demand in India is expected to double and exceed 1.4 trillion cubic meters by 2050, while Pakistan faces the greatest water crunch with only around 1,000 cubic meters available per head per year.
Published statistics suggest that 40% of the global population and 145 states fall within 263 international river basins that account for 60% of global river flow. The World Bank says that global energy consumption will increase by 35% while water use for energy will go up 85% by 2035. For the first time last year, the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook included a section on water, and warned that water constraints “can challenge the reliability of existing operations and the viability of proposed projects.”
It is interesting to note that there are alternative forms of energy, but there is no substitute for water. And, as the indispensible ingredient for life, it naturally becomes a source of power. According to InterAction Council (IAC) approximately 3,800 cubic kilometers of fresh water are drawn from lakes, rivers and wells globally every year. In 2025, world population is expected to reach about one billion, and to feed it agriculture will require another 1,000 cubic kilometers of water per year, equivalent to the annual flow of 20 Nile Rivers.
World Bank sources suggest that 70% of the world’s fresh water is currently used for agriculture purposes. As populations and economies grow, more water will be required for energy, industries and for urban systems. Prominent world leaders, including former US President Bill Clinton and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, warned that the looming water crisis threatens political stability and economic development in a number of developing nations, which has implications for global peace and stability. However, optimists tend to believe that conflicts over water right should stimulate cooperation among the countries.
South Asian countries are linked by trans-boundary rivers, many of which are bound by treaties. India and Pakistan share the Indus; India and Bangladesh share the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers; Nepal and India share Kosi, Mahakali and several others. Pakistan and Afghanistan share nine important rivers, including the Kabul River. Iran has more than 40 tributaries and rivers crossing into Iraq, while Turkey exerts tight control over the Tigris-Euphrates basin. Nine of the ten major rivers in South Asia emerge from Tibet. Almost all sources of energy, including many renewable ones, require large amounts of water to produce. India wants to expand its grid to the third of the rural population that has no access to power. The existing power production facilities in India are often criticised for their poor water management efficiency. A year ago, the state of Maharashtra had to shut down all six units of a 1,130 MW thermal power plant as the water in the dams fell to critically low levels.
And it is not only fossil fuel plants that need water for their cooling processes. Of the renewable sources, only wind power and photovoltaics use negligible amounts of water. Solar energy generation plants require large amount of water to keep the mirrors clean. The Guardian published a report on February 6 suggesting that lower water supply threatens electric energy generation in many countries in the world. The World Bank’s senior economist, Diego Rodriguez of the institute’s water unit, says: “In the US, several power plants have had to rein-in production due to low water flows or water temperatures too high to cool plant. France is periodically forced to cut back nuclear power production, and hydropower production in Sri Lanka, China and Brazil has been compromised by lower water levels caused by drought.”
Regional cooperation is essential if countries are to adapt to the growing need for resources, and to harness maximum benefits of the natural resources like energy and water for the people of the region. And for attaining the sustained cooperation and mutual sharing of benefits there is no other way but to understand each other’s concerns with water and energy resources, and share and work jointly to address them.

The writer is a mining engineer.

Published: 12:00 am Monday, February 24, 2014

Activist Post: Human Rights group calls on World Bank to acknowledge role in the mass killing of one million Indonesians

Activist Post: Human Rights group calls on World Bank to acknowledge role in the mass killing of one million Indonesians.

Activist Post

The Oscar-nominated documentary THE ACT OF KILLING was projected on the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. Thursday in an action by the East Timor and Indonesian Action Network. The group is calling on the World Bank to acknowledge its role in the 1965 military coup in Indonesia that lead to the massacre of an estimated one million civilians. The World Bank helped prop up the corrupt government of Suharto, the general who lead the coup and ordered the mass killings. The Bank sent the Suharto regime $30 billion in development aid over the course of three decades despite knowing $10 billion had been looted by the government.

“THE ACT OF KILLING powerfully highlights the ongoing impunity within Indonesia for the 1965 mass murders,” said John M. Miller of the East Timor and Indonesian Action Network. “Tonight we highlight the World Bank’s support for the Suharto regime, which knowingly backed his corrupt government while his post-coup body count climbed. We urge the World Bank to acknowledge its role in Suharto’s many crimes and to apologize and provide reparations to the survivors. Institutions like the World Bank must also be held accountable for their financial assistance to the murderers and decades of support as they continued to violate human rights.”

“The World Bank gave $30 billion dollars to a dictator who killed an estimated one million of his own citizens,” said THE ACT OF KILLING filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer. “The murderers spent years profiting off of their heinous crimes with the World Bank and other global financial institutions footing the bill.”

THE ACT OF KILLING, currently Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary feature, has been recognized as one of the best films of 2014. The film has received over 60 awards including Best Documentary from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). While the mass killings of 1965 are an open secret in Indonesia, the government has never acknowledged or apologized for sponsoring the murders. THE ACT OF KILLING, which has been shown in thousands of private screenings and is available free online throughout Indonesia, is empowering victims’ families to demand reparations from the government for the first time.

About East Timor and Indonesian Action Network

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste, West Papua and Indonesia. In 2012, the government of the Democratic Republic Timor-Leste awarded ETAN the Order of Timor (Ordem Timor) for its role in the liberation of the country. More information about ETAN can be found at: http://www.etan.org

About THE ACT OF KILLING

In THE ACT OF KILLING, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and executive produced by Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, the filmmakers expose a corrupt regime that celebrates death squad leaders as heroes.

When the Indonesian government was overthrown in 1965, small-time gangster Anwar Congo and his friends went from selling movie tickets on the black market to leading death squads in the mass murder of over a million opponents of the new military dictatorship. Anwar boasts of killing hundreds with his own hands, but he’s enjoyed impunity ever since, and has been celebrated by the Indonesian government as a national hero. When approached to make a film about their role in the genocide, Anwar and his friends eagerly comply—but their idea of being in a movie is not to provide reflective testimony. Instead, they re-create their real-life killings as they dance their way through musical sequences, twist arms in film noir gangster scenes, and gallop across prairies as Western cowboys. Through this filmmaking process, the moral reality of the act of killing begins to haunt Anwar and his friends with varying degrees of acknowledgment, justification and denial. More information about the film can be found at http://actofkilling.com/.

Sri Mulyani Indrawati considers the reforms that emerging economies must undertake to succeed in the post-QE era. – Project Syndicate

Sri Mulyani Indrawati considers the reforms that emerging economies must undertake to succeed in the post-QE era. – Project Syndicate.

FEB 4, 2014 2

The Global Economy Without Steroids

WASHINGTON, DC – Economic growth is back. Not only are the United States, Europe, and Japan finally expanding at the same time, but developing countries are also regaining strength. As a result, world GDP will rise by 3.2% this year, up from 2.4% in 2013 – meaning that 2014 may well be the year when the global economy turns the corner.

The fact that the advanced economies are bouncing back is good news for everyone. But, for the emerging and developing economies that dominated global growth over the last five years, it raises an important question: Now, with high-income countries joining them, is business as usual good enough to compete?The simple answer is no. Just as an athlete might use steroids to get quick results, while avoiding the tough workouts that are needed to develop endurance and ensure long-term health, some emerging economies have relied on short-term capital inflows (so-called “hot money”) to support growth, while delaying or even avoiding difficult but necessary economic and financial reforms. With the US Federal Reserve set to tighten the exceptionally generous monetary conditions that have driven this “easy growth,” such emerging economies will have to change their approach, despite much tighter room for maneuver, or risk losing the ground that they have gained in recent years.

As the Fed’s monetary-policy tightening becomes a reality, the World Bank predicts that capital flows to developing countries will fall from 4.6% of their GDP in 2013 to around 4% in 2016. But, if long-term US interest rates rise too fast, or policy shifts are not communicated well enough, or markets become volatile, capital flows could quickly plummet – possibly by more than 50% for a few months.

This scenario has the potential to disrupt growth in those emerging economies that have failed to take advantage of the recent capital inflows by pursuing reforms. The likely rise in interest rates will put considerable pressure on countries with large current-account deficits and high levels of foreign debt – a result of five years of credit expansion.

Indeed, last summer, when speculation that the Fed would soon begin to taper its purchases of long-term assets (so-called quantitative easing), financial-market pressures were strongest in markets suspected of having weak fundamentals. Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, India, and South Africa – dubbed the “Fragile Five” – were hit particularly hard.

Similarly, some emerging-market currencies have come under renewed pressure in recent days, triggered in part by the devaluation of the Argentine peso and signs of a slowdown in Chinese growth, as well as doubts about these economies’ real strengths amid generally skittish market sentiment. Like the turbulence last summer, the current bout of market pressure is mainly affecting economies characterized by either domestic political tensions or economic imbalances.

But, for most developing countries, the story has not been so bleak. Financial markets in many developing countries have not come under significant pressure – either in the summer or now. Indeed, more than three-fifths of developing countries – many of which are strong economic performers that benefited from pre-crisis reforms (and thus attracted more stable capital inflows like foreign-direct investment) – actually appreciated last spring and summer.

Furthermore, returning to the athletic metaphor, some have continued to exercise their muscles and improve their stamina – even under pressure. Mexico, for example, opened its energy sector to foreign partnerships last year – a politically difficult reform that is likely to bring significant long-term benefits. Indeed, it arguably helped Mexico avoid joining the Fragile Five.

Stronger growth in high-income economies will also create opportunities for developing countries – for example, through increased import demand and new sources of investment. While these opportunities will be more difficult to capture than the easy capital inflows of the quantitative-easing era, the payoffs will be far more durable. But, in order to take advantage of them, countries, like athletes, must put in the work needed to compete successfully – through sound domestic policies that foster a business-friendly pro-competition environment, an attractive foreign-trade regime, and a healthy financial sector.

Part of the challenge in many countries will be to rebuild macroeconomic buffers that have been depleted during years of fiscal and monetary stimulus. Reducing fiscal deficits and bringing monetary policy to a more neutral plane will be particularly difficult in countries like the Fragile Five, where growth has been lagging.

As is true of an exhausted athlete who needs to rebuild strength, it is never easy for a political leader to take tough reform steps under pressure. But, for emerging economies, doing so is critical to restoring growth and enhancing citizens’ wellbeing. Surviving the crisis is one thing; emerging as a winner is something else entirely.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/sri-mulyani-indrawati-considers-the-reforms-that-emerging-economies-must-undertake-to-succeed-in-the-post-qe-era#TDimksyJSLIH6RAo.99

Australian Report Trumpeted By Coal Bosses Does Not Say What They Want You To Think It Says | DeSmogBlog

Australian Report Trumpeted By Coal Bosses Does Not Say What They Want You To Think It Says | DeSmogBlog.

WHAT follows are some thoughts about coal from a report just published in Australia.

A longer-term concern relates to the environmental impacts of large-scale coal use, especially its climate consequences….

Coal is a carbon-intensive fuel and the environmental consequences of its use can be significant, especially if it is used inefficiently and without effective emissions and waste control technologies. Such environmental consequences include emissions of pollutants such as sulphur and nitrogen oxides, particulates, mercury, and carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Indeed coal-sourced pollution remains the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Hence most forecasts show a very wide range of future coal demand, based on differing degrees of environmental policy implementation.

Now who might have written that?  An environmental campaigner?  An anti-coal activist in a less bombastic mood? Maybe they’re the words of an advocate for action on climate change?

Actually, these are the views of Ian Cronshaw, a long-standing advisor to the International Energy Agency who was commissioned by the Energy Policy Institute of Australia to write a report about coal and its future economic outlook.

The Energy Policy Institute of Australia’s board includes a number of figures who have spent their careers in and around the fossil fuel industry.

The paper, The Current and Future Importance of Coal in the World Energy Economy, consists of just three pages, as well as a header page and a biography page at the back.

Most of the contents are drawn from the various reports put out by the International Energy Agency.

So how was this pamphlet greeted by Australia’s coal industry?  The only media report of note came from The Australian newspaper, which ran the headline: “Coal will ‘dominate global power sector for decades‘” on its front page.

Here are the first two lines of that story, to give you a flavor.

COAL will dominate the power sector globally for decades to come, according to a paper that miners say undermines campaigns by green activists to “demonise” coal.

The paper – written by an International Energy Agency consultant and to be sent to Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane – says coal will remain the dominant power-sector fuel for at least the next quarter of a century despite efforts to diversify power sources and concerns about slower economic growth.

The report in The Australian does not mention Cronshaw’s observations about coal and climate change.

In fact, the words climate change or global warming don’t appear anywhere in the story, even though it takes up almost a third of the three pages of Cronshaw’s analysis. The Australian also chose to quote two coal industry representatives, who took the report’s publication as an opportunity to criticise environmental campaigners.

Graham Bradley, who amongst other things is the chairman of the advisory board for coal company Anglo American Australian, was reported as saying:

Much of the green polemic is not grounded in the fundamental reality that the world needs the lowest-cost energy and at the end of the day the economics will prevail and investment will follow.

Brendan Pearson, chief executive of the industry lobbyists the Minerals Council of Australia which recently subsumed the lobbying work of the Australian Coal Association, said:

Activist campaigns seeking to demonise Australian coal fail to acknowledge that it will be the principal global energy source for decades – transforming economies and helping eliminate poverty.

Both commentators also touted how the report predicted a rosy future for the coal industry in long term. The report does do this, but with a number of large caveats. It is far from the slam dunk which the media report and the quotes might have you believe. For example, there’s this from the Cronshaw report:

The current economic outlook remains very clouded, with many regions either stagnant or seeing slower economic growth. This will naturally impact heavily on global power use and coal consumption. However, most forecasters remain confident that, over the longer term, energy demand growth in non-OECD countries, the key determinant of coal demand growth, will be strong.

The report does map out the strong growth in the use of coal in non-OECD countries, including India and China, and predicts this is where much of the future demand will come from.

In two sentences, the report also points out the benefits of electricity — which, remember, can and is generated from renewable sources as well as polluting coal. The report says:

Such access to electricity is crucial to economic growth; it means food can be stored in refrigerators, children can do their homework, small businesses can function. And overwhelmingly, this electricity has come from coal.

Cronshaw also makes it clear that under the policies currently in place, coal has a strong future. But this is precisely why climate change campaigners are pushing back hard on the mining and the use of coal, because they see these policies as being far too weak.

One analysis of current climate pledges by governments around the world, released during the recent Warsaw UN climate talks, suggested that pledges on the table will currently deliver about 4C of global warming by the end of the century — a gaping chasm between stated ambitions and reality.

Cronshaw again:

It is worth observing that the IEA’s Current Policies Scenario, essentially a business as usual scenario, has global levels of coal demand more than 20% above the central scenario, in which a range of climate policies are cautiously implemented. The power sector is clearly the key coal market, but this sector must also be the focus of any successful climate change mitigation efforts.

That last line is worth reading twice. The coal sector “must also be the focus of any successful climate change mitigation efforts.”

Cronshaw also says the industry could make early gains in cuts in emissions by improving efficiency, but says that, “In reality, the penetration of the most efficient coal-fired power generation technologies is constrained by technical considerations, additional costs and the absence of a global price on carbon.”

The Australian government is in the process of trying to repeal the country’s carbon price, which would have linked to the European emissions trading scheme.

But again, Cronshaw is clear that coal’s future does depend on environmental policy down the line.

Environmental policy will play a decisive role in future coal consumption. In some countries, coal use may be encouraged for economic, social or energy security reasons. If action were taken to provide electricity access by 2030 to the 1.3 billion people in the world without it today (almost all in non-OECD countries), coal could be expected to account for more than half of the fuel required to provide additional on-grid connections. In other countries, policies may encourage switching away from coal to more environmentally benign or lower carbon sources. While a global agreement on carbon pricing has been elusive, a growing number of countries are taking steps to put a price on carbon emissions, including in China where there are several pilot schemes underway, although current pricing levels seen for example in Europe, are too low to materially affect energy choices.

When Graham Bradley from Anglo American Australia says “at the end of the day the economics will prevail and investment will follow” he seems to be ignoring the view expressed in the report which he lauds, which says that in fact, “Environmental policy will play a decisive role in future coal consumption.”

The paper also has a few words to say about so-called “clean coal” technologies – known as Carbon Capture and Storage.  The paper points out that while some progress has been made “CCS has yet to be demonstrated on a large scale in an integrated fashion in the power and industrial sectors, and so costs remain uncertain.”

Cronshaw adds that:

The success of governments globally in encouraging greater energy diversity, improved efficiency, and the development and deployment of clean coal technologies will have a profound bearing on the role of coal in the longer term.

This is an interesting observation, given that both the former and current Australian governments have continued to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from CCS programs.

Despite what you might read in The Australian or through the mouths of vested interests, the future of coal is far from certain.

Just ask the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, who earlier this weekencouraged governments and institutional investors to take their money out of fossil fuels. Or maybe try one group of philanthropists with $1.8 billion in their coffers, who also this week pledged to divest from fossil fuels.

Or how about the US Export-Import Bank – a government institution that approved more than $35 billion in investments in 2012 – which has said it won’t invest in coal projects abroad unless they are fitted with CCS (which as yet, doesn’t really exist commercially).

Clearly coal will continue to be burned for energy, but as even this report the industry cites explains, emissions need to come down, environmental policies will dictate how quickly and that carbon pricing will drive early efficiency gains.

You can of course see this report two ways, depending upon which side you butter your bread. One way is that the report shows how the current suite of policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions are either too few or are not up to the job — probably both.

Another option is to use the three-page pamphlet as a way to instill confidence in potential investors in coal and to convince politicians that it’s an industry worth supporting.

That second group of people just have to hope that policymakers either fail to actually read the report, or don’t take the risks of climate change anywhere near seriously enough.

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