Tuesday, March 27, 2007

EARTH DAY April 22,2007

From: Episcopal News Service

Earth Day Sunday set for April 22; NCC resources available for congregations

March 26, 2007[Episcopal News Service]
"The Food that Sustains Us" is the theme of the National Council of Churches (NCC) Eco-Justice Program's observation of Earth Day Sunday, April 22. Each year, the NCC produces a resource to help congregations engage in the Earth Day Sunday theme. This year's edition, "Our Daily Bread: Harvesters of Hope and Gardeners of Eden," offers background on farm and food related issues, with worship resources and study ideas for youth and adults.

The packet also includes information and resources for the "Sow Justice" campaign, Christians working together to advocate for a more just farm and food policy.

"The Earth Day materials are timed to coincide with the consideration of the U.S. Farm Bill, up for reauthorization by September 2007," said John B. Johnson, domestic policy analyst in the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations.

"The Farm Bill is one of the most important pieces of conservation legislation our country enacts," said Cassandra Carmichael, Eco-Justice Program director for NCC. "It has the potential to deliver justice, not only to God's creatures, land, water, and air, but also to rural communities, small and mid-sized farmers, and people living in poverty. We, as people of faith, should strive for a farm bill that is just and sustainable."

The Sow Justice campaign features postcards to legislators calling for increased funding for farm-based conservation programs, for strengthening rural life and local food systems, and for equal access to programs for small-scale and minority farmers.

Karen Galles, associate director of the NCC Eco-Justice program, explains how the post card action works.

"I have been sending bundles of cards to congregations," she said. "They are signed and returned to us. Instead of a Congress member's office getting one or two a week for the next eight months, they get a whole bunch of them all on one day, delivered by a real person who can talk about the principles supported by the cards and their many signers."

Johnson acknowledged that Episcopalians of both the Republican and Democrat parties serve on agriculture committees in the house and senate, "and have been crucial in the past at preserving programs such as food stamps ... The post card campaign is an important way for Episcopalians and other Christians to show Congress that we are paying close attention to the Farm Bill this year."

Learn more, download materials, and list your congregation's Earth Sunday event here.

Download the Earth Sunday packet here.

To order free "Sow Justice" postcards, e-mail info@nccecojustice.org or call 202-544-2350.

Episcopal Public Policy Network on the Farm Bill. Click HERE

Thursday, March 22, 2007


From the blog Happening Here, how World Water Day looks in Nicaragua.

The International Decade for Water for Life, 2005-2015, the UN-Water program sponsors World Water Day annually on March 22. The theme of this year's observance is "Coping with Water Scarcity." Some world water facts are found HERE

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


What is Earth Hour?

At 7.30pm on 31 March 2007, we are inviting Sydney to turn off its lights for just one hour - Earth Hour - to show that it's possible to take action on global warming.

WWF-Australia and The Sydney Morning Herald are asking all of Sydney - its companies, government departments, individuals and families - to turn off their lights for just one hour. It's a simple action if everyone takes part, sending a powerful message that we care about the future of the planet.

Earth Hour is the launch of a 12 month campaign to reduce Sydney's greenhouse gas emissions by 5%. This could be achieved if all businesses and households turned off unused lights and appliances on standby.

Something everyone can do:

Unplug any appliances - mobile phone charger, TV, microwave, MP3 player - that are not being used and are on standby. Appliances left on standby account for up to 10% of the average household's electricity use.

Click HERE for more information.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

National Day of Climate Action

April 24, 2007

Gather at your favorite place on earth to tell Congress to reduce carbon emissions by 80%. For more information Click HERE

From the organizers:

This is an invitation to help start a movement--to take one spring day and use it to reshape the future. Those of us who know that climate change is the greatest threat civilization now faces have science on our side; we have economists and policy specialists, courageous mayors and governors, engineers with cool new technology.

But we don't have a movement—the largest rally yet held in the U.S. about global warming drew a thousand people. If we're going to make the kind of change we need in the short time left us, we need something that looks like the civil rights movement, and we need it now. Changing light bulbs just isn't enough.

So pitch in. A few of us are trying to organize a nationwide day of hundreds and hundreds of rallies on April 14. We hope to have gatherings in every state, and in many of America's most iconic places: on the levees in New Orleans, on top of the melting glaciers on Mt. Rainier, even underwater on the endangered coral reefs off Key West.

We need rallies outside churches, along the tide lines in our coastal cities, in cornfields and forests and on statehouse steps.

Every group will be saying the same thing: Step it up, Congress! Enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions, and pledge an 80% reduction by 2050. No half measures, no easy compromises-the time has come to take the real actions that can stabilize our climate.

As people gather, we'll link pictures of the protests together electronically via the web-before the weekend is out, we'll have the largest protest the country has ever seen, not in numbers but in extent. From every corner of the nation we'll start to shake things up.

By its very nature, this action needs all kinds of people to help out. We can't make it happen-it has to assemble itself.

Sign up to host an action. We'll coordinate the responses, introducing you to others from your area, and give you everything you need to be a leader, from banners to press releases.

You don't have to have ever done anything like this-you're not organizing a March on Washington, just a gathering of scores or hundreds in your town or neighborhood.

We need creativity, good humor, commitment. If you are active in a campus group or a church or a local environmental group or a garden society or a bike club-or if you just saw Al Gore's movie and want to do something-then we need you now.

And by now, we mean now.

The best science tells us we have ten years to fundamentally transform our economy and lead the world in the same direction or else, in the words of NASA's Jim Hansen, we will face a "totally different planet," one infinitely sadder and less flourishing.

The recent elections have given us an opening, and polling shows most Americans know there's a problem. But the forces of inertia and business-as-usual are still in control, and only our voices, united and loud, joyful and determined, can change that reality.

Please join us.

Bill McKibben

Monday, March 19, 2007

US blocks environment progress

Regrettable? More than regrettable IMO.

From the BBC News
US 'blocks environment progress'

Germany's environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, says the United States has blocked progress on two key issues to protect the global environment.
He was speaking after a two-day meeting of environment ministers in the German city of Potsdam.
The issues were carbon emissions trading and rewarding developing nations for protecting their natural assets, he said.
Mr Gabriel said the US opposition was "not a surprise".
The Potsdam conference brought together ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations - the United States, Canada, France, UK, Germany, Japan, Italy and Russia - and Brazil, India, China Mexico and South Africa from the developing world.

'Not subtle'
Ministers stressed that the meeting had shown that there was a good deal of consensus on the scale and nature of the problem of climate change - but a lack of agreement on the tools to tackle it.
The BBC's Matt McGrath in Potsdam says there was a widespread acceptance that sustainable economic development had to go hand in hand with efforts to cut emissions of carbon dioxide.
But disagreements surfaced over specifics such as extending the global system of carbon trading, one of the central planks of any proposed deal to curb emissions.
According to one delegate the United States was "not subtle" in its opposition to carbon trading, and to another proposal that would pay developing countries to preserve rainforests.
"We find this regrettable," Mr Gabriel told reporters.
But he said: "I would have been disappointed if I'd expected something different."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Undermining the Global Warming Message

Never mind the facts, opponents use tactics to spread doubt about global warming. Joe Brewer shows how misuse of language can undermine the credibilty of scientific studies.

When Climate Message is Strong, Attack the Messenger
by Joe Brewer

An article published today in the New York Times clearly demonstrates the importance of framing when discussing important political issues. William J. Broad's article "From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype" in the science section already ranks as one of the most popular articles of the day. This widely read article is filled with misuses and abuses of language designed to undermine the credibility of Al Gore as a messenger for global warming.

As an individual trained in both the atmospheric sciences (I have a masters degree from the University of Illinois) and cognitive sciences my skills are well suited to the task of demonstrating Broad's misrepresentation of human-caused climate change through clever manipulations of language. Through the analysis that follows, we shall see that he has worked very hard to spread doubt and skepticism about one of the most important issues humanity must face in the days and years ahead.

Before jumping into the offensive assertions plaguing the article, it may be helpful to elucidate his agenda, which is to undermine Al Gore's message by attacking the credibility of the messenger. In chapter 3 of Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision, George Lakoff discusses the message frame as an important way of structuring information. Common elements of all message frames are certain semantic roles: messengers, audience, issue, message, medium, and images. Crucial to the message is the messenger. The messenger must have both integrity and credibility. People will not give merit to messages that come from dubious sources, even when the message itself is trustworthy.

Plant Seeds of Doubt and Watch What Grows

As we shall see below, William J. Broad has worked long and hard to cast shadows over Gore's credibility. I suppose when the message is this firmly grounded in truth, albeit an inconvenient one, the only way to discourage people from taking action is to redirect attention away from the facts. He starts by stating that part of Gore's "scientific audience is uneasy." This is his central claim, which we shall see does not correspond very well with reality. He goes on to say that "Mr. Gore's central points are exaggerated and erroneous" (emphasis added) and that many scientists are "alarmed...at what they call his alarmism." He sets the whole thing off in this way to establish a basis for concern that Gore is not supported by scientists.

He then quotes Don J. Easterbrook, a geology professor at Western Washington University and critic of the human causes of global warming, as saying "there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing" (emphasis added). It is interesting to note two things here:

No actual inaccuracies are mentioned anywhere in the article
Even Professor Easterbrook doesn't directly confront Gore's message. We are left to ask ourselves whether "we are seeing" the message presented by Gore or the message presented in the media (which is often exaggerated and erroneous!)
A great way to strategically plant seeds of doubt is to suggest that a piece of work was revised after something was found to be wrong and then not tell anyone where the revision was made. Broad applies this technique when he tells us that Gore "perceived no general backlash among scientists against his work," but that he "received some comments about items that should be changed." Then Broad goes on to say "he gave no specifics on which points he revised" to leave the reader with the impression that all of Gore's points are suspect. Instead of increasing our confidence by realizing Gore was open to suggestions by experts, we are left with suspicion that any one of his points might be the fateful secret mistake.

Build a Strawman So You Can Burn it Down

The next thing Broad does is tell us that "although Mr. Gore is not a scientist, he does rely heavily on the authority of science." This is a pivotal strategic move because he can now transfer the role of messenger from Gore to an unnamed authority of science, which is a role that can readily be filled by people who hold radical views or by people whose comments are taken out of context. If the authority of science does not support Gore, his message loses its validity. (Contrast this with an alternative framing where the focus is on climate change standing its ground regardless of who talks about it)

Two examples of radical mis-representatives of science in the article are Professor Easterbrook (who stands at odds with the strong consensus of the scientific community by not believing in global warming) and Richard Lindzen who is a well known climate skeptic and, according to Harper's magazine, has ties to the oil industry. Lindzen is quoted as accusing Gore of "shrill alarmism."

Technical Scientific Points Easily Muddled

When attempting to introduce doubt where it has no rightful place to be, it is helpful to have subtle technical points at your disposal that are easy to misconstrue. Luckily for Broad, climate science is complicated and nuanced such that is easy to misunderstand. For example, when quoting Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the University of Colorado, we are told that Gore is "overselling our uncertainty about knowing the future." If you pay close attention while watching An Inconvenient Truth you will find that Gore never once claimed to know the future. Climate scientists (and weather forecasters) never predict the future. The physical processes involved are incredibly complicated and defy prediction. Instead, scientists use their vast knowledge of these processes to explore scenarios to see how likely different outcomes are to occur.

Another instance of misquoting comes when we hear a climatologist from the University of Alabama, Roy Spencer, tell us that An Inconvenient Truth did "indeed do a pretty good job of presenting the most dire scenarios" but that "all we really know is that we are warmer now than we were during the last 400 years." This combination of quotes frames what we know as being much more limited than Gore suggests. Piecing information together in this way is very misleading because it excludes all forms of knowledge that are not observable data. This framing would exclude the bulk of scientific knowledge because most of what we learn from science comes from inferences drawn from the data. Theories, principles, and laws of science are left out entirely when the situation is framed in this way.

Divide and Conquer

While people all over the world are coming together to tackle global warming, tactics are still being used to try to divide us. Gore is described as being "a very polarizing figure in the science community" by Roger Pielk, who is presented as an environmental scientist (he is actually a policy analyst at the University of Colorado). Gore has polarized people, but not in the way we are being lead to believe here. He compels people to take the decisive stance of standing strongly in solidarity. This does create a stark contrast between those who are committed to addressing global warming and those who are committed to meddling with public perceptions of it. In other words, he polarizes us against many members of the conservative community! Though not all, since we now know that many evangelical fundamentalist Christians have come around.

Message Comes Away Unscathed

Despite all of these attempts (and many more that I left out of this analysis) Broad has not managed to make a single claim against the message. After bleeding my highlighter all over his article I came away with no reason to dispel the conclusion we are meant to draw from An Inconvenient Truth. The conclusion we are meant to draw (and we have the "authority of science" to back it up!) is that our planet's climate system has been altered in harmful ways that we as a community need to address. Greenhouse gases have polluted our atmosphere and major changes need to be made in the way we structure our societies to minimize the harm from this pollution.

Each day we fail to take responsibility for the mess we are in compromises our communities. Each day we fail to empathize with all creatures great and small we damage the health of our planet. Each day we fail to recognize our common good reduces the common wealth we have to share with each other. Why isn't this message printed in the New York Times today? That's what I want to know.

Isn't it finally time to transcend this kind of madness?

Joe Brewer is a Fellow at the Rockridge Institute.

Read it all HERE

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fun, educational cartoonlets on global warming. Click here to see On Top of Our Planet

Picture used by permission.

Global Warming to Cause Drought, Famine Within Decades

Report: Global Warming to Cause Drought, Famine Within Decades

Report to be released in April - sobering facts. Read it all HERE

Washington, DC -- The harmful effects of global warming on daily life are already showing up, and within a couple of decades hundreds of millions of people won't have enough water, top scientists will say next month at a meeting in Belgium.

At the same time, tens of millions of others will be flooded out of their homes each year as the Earth reels from rising temperatures and sea levels, according to portions of a draft of an international scientific report obtained by The Associated Press.

Tropical diseases like malaria will spread. By 2050, polar bears will mostly be found in zoos, their habitats gone. Pests like fire ants will thrive.

For a time, food will be plentiful because of the longer growing season in northern regions. But by 2080, hundreds of millions of people could face starvation, according to the report, which is still being revised.

The draft document by the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change focuses on global warming's effects and is the second in a series of four being issued this year. Written and reviewed by more than 1,000 scientists from dozens of countries, it still must be edited by government officials.

But some scientists said the overall message is not likely to change when it's issued in early April in Brussels, Belgium, the same city where European Union leaders agreed this past week to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Their plan will be presented to President Bush and other world leaders at a summit in June.

The report offers some hope if nations slow and then reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but it notes that what's happening now isn't encouraging.

"Changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent," the report says, in marked contrast to a 2001 report by the same international group that said the effects of global warming were coming. But that report only mentioned scattered regional effects.

"Things are happening and happening faster than we expected," said Patricia Romero Lankao of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, one of the many co-authors of the new report.

The draft document says scientists are highly confident that many current problems -- change in species' habits and habitats, more acidified oceans, loss of wetlands, bleaching of coral reefs, and increases in allergy-inducing pollen -- can be blamed on global warming.

For example, the report says North America "has already experienced substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption from recent climate extremes," such as hurricanes and wildfires.

But the present is nothing compared to the future.

Global warming soon will "affect everyone's life ... it's the poor sectors that will be most affected," Romero Lankao said.

And co-author Terry Root of Stanford University said: "We truly are standing at the edge of mass extinction" of species.

Looking at different impacts on ecosystems, industry and regions, the report sees the most positive benefits in forestry and some improved agriculture and transportation in polar regions. The biggest damage is likely to come in ocean and coastal ecosystems, water resources and coastal settlements.

The hardest-hit continents are likely to be Africa and Asia, with major harm also coming to small islands and some aspects of ecosystems near the poles. North America, Europe and Australia are predicted to suffer the fewest of the harmful effects.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lander Recycles

Our local community has some recycling. Trash Matters is the umbrella web site for disposal of all recyclables. An easy to use drop down menu finds where to take things. Over 26 categories from Animal Waste to Vehicle-related items. Clothing, furniture, and all the regular items of paper, glass, plastic, cans, etc can be recycled. Somethings can go to agencies that also provide employment and training for those with disabilities, thus adding to the benefit to the community.

From the web site about how to get involved:

A little bit of action by all of the people can make a BIG difference! Currently, the national average is 4.62 pounds per person of trash generated per day. However, in Fremont County, the average is a whopping 9.3 pounds of garbage thrown away per person per day!

Interesting Fact:
The United States leads the industrialized world in municipal solid waste generation, with each person in the United States currently generating on average 4.62 pounds of waste per day. Canada and the Netherlands come in second and third, with 3.75 and 3 pounds per person per day, respectively. Germany and Sweden generate the least amount of waste per capita for industrialized nations, with just under 2 pounds per person per day. The United States, however, also leads the industrialized world in recycling. The United States recycled 24 percent of its waste in 1995, the most recent year for which comparative international data is available. Switzerland and Japan came in second and third, recycling 23 percent and 20 percent of their discard stream, respectively.

This web site is full of ideas for waste reduction, composting, and recycling. We invite you to browse the site, and implement some of the ideas in your home, school or office.

You can get involved with recycling directly by contacting any of these recycling groups of Fremont County:
Lander Recycles
Wind River Recycling
CWC Science Club in Riverton

You could help organize a clean-up or special waste round-up. In 2005, volunteers helped organize the Great Tire Round-Up to prevent West Nile virus. The six-week collection event yielded over 12,000 tires of all shapes and sizes. In addition, it provided an excellent fund-raiser for local non-profit groups. For details, call the District at (307) 332-7040.

National Blackout Day in UK

Grassroots movement to stop climate change goes national.

Building on the success of last year’s Blackout London action, which was supported by amongst others London Mayor Ken Livingstone, people and organisations around the country including churches, are being asked to turn out their lights in a nationwide blackout.

The national blackout is scheduled to take place this Thursday March 15 at 8pm. Participants are being urged to switch off all non-essential electricity-using devices in a bid to tackle rising energy consumption and its fuelling of climate change.

The date and time will coincide with the launch of climate writer Mark Lynas’s terrifying new book on global warming, ‘Six Degrees: Our future on a hotter planet’, which shows that a mass extinction of most of life on earth is a real possibility if we don’t act soon to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

Sharon Turley from Blackout Britain will be flicking the switch and blacking out the launch at the same time as participants all over the UK will be switching off their lights, turning down their heating by at least one degree and turning on their imaginations for a relaxing carbon-free evening.

“An average household spews out 5 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. This figure needs to be reduced by at least 80% if we’re to see a real change in the level of CO2 emissions the UK is responsible for,” said Sharon Turley, Blackout Britain co-ordinator.

Mark Lynas added: “Scientists in the IPCC say that temperatures could rise by more than six degrees if carbon emissions continue to rise. When this happened 251 million years ago, over 90% of life on earth was wiped out.”

With a chapter per degree of warming, Mark Lynas’s book outlines – degree by degree – the impacts on our water, food supplies, wildlife and society that are likely to arise as the temperature climbs. The blackout switch will be flicked when Lynas, during a talk and slideshow at the book launch, reaches the ultimate nightmare scenario of six degrees.

From Ekklesia

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Video Contest

Convenient Truth Contest
From the web site:

A lot of these videos are full of green goodness but let this criterion guide your voting and rate below. Tell us, which entries best address solutions to reducing one's personal carbon emissions? Which are the most:

*Inspiring (Does it make me want to do something?)

*Pragmatic (Does it provide me answers, tools so I can take action?)

*Compelling (Does it make me laugh, make me sad, make me angry, make me shivery?)

Your vote counts! Videos are rated 1-5 with 5 being the highest rating!

"" means that you've already visited the video. Click Here to watch videos.

Just Say No - Thanks
Sustainable Solutions: Hunter Lovins
Convenient Truths: Climate And Action
No More Plastic Bags
Don't Run Up The Bill
Redefining The Environmental Movement
Bear Necessities
Try The Patch
Don't Be Goob
Spend Wisely
O Goods
Plant A Seed
Man Of Convenience: Part III
Plastic Bag Pillow
Man Of Convenience: Part II
Guinea Pig M
Man Of Convenience: Part I
HMS Environmental Management
It's So Easy
He Gets Around
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
An Inconvenient Cubicle
Carless In L.A.
Little Guy (Make A Start) Music Video
A Brighter Idea
YOU Can Stop Climate Change
Families Fight Back
Think Green
Animal Guide To Saving The Planet
I Am A Climate Activist
Good vs. Bad
Green Kids
Keep It Green, Keep It Clean
One Up
Food Production
The Commute
Aurora City Of Lights' Struggle With The Environment
My World Is Melting
Better Late Than Never
Save Our Planet
Sid The Lid Meets Tumbleweed
Chickens Enlighten, Humans Change, World Improves
Eat Local
Making A Way
Change A Light Bulb
Chicken Little
Road Rage
Even Small Actions Make A Difference
Calling All Earth Lovers!
Toothbrush Problem
Follow Me
Cool Notebooks For A Hot Planet
Solar Power Walking Chariot
Friends Don't Let Friends...
Wasting Xmas
Stop, Drop, & Rock
Enviroman Takes on Biodiesel
Reality in the Self-Checkout Lane
Reduce Reuse Recycle At Boulder Community Hopsital
Demand Reduction At Boulder Community Hospital
Changing A Lightbulb And Boulder Community Hospital
Carrying Power: Solar Energy On The Go
Rust Belt
Forage! An Exploration in Collaborative Art Making Through Re-Use
Light on the Pedal, Light on the Planet
Passive Solar Techniques For Year-Round Local Food - Even In Cold Climates
The Living Building Challenge
Going In Circles
Scotty P's Convenient Truths
A Terrible Pickle
Peace Corps Experience in Guatemala
The Man Who Planted Trees
The Power of Straw
Work Harder
Worm Poop - The Other "Black Gold"
What Can Regular People Do About Global Warming?
What Can I Do?
Save Energy, Need Less
Recycle America, Close the Loop
A Kid, A Car, And An Idea
Gwoble Wawming Solooshons
Future Mechanics
Secondary Footprints: Reducing the Impact
Team Denim At The 2006 Tour de Sol

If you're looking for the EPIC International Prize nominees, please click here.

Not on the list but informative - one day, one person, carbon wasting.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Polar Bears Need Help

Go to Polar Bear SOS for more information on what you can do.

European Union Green Summit

From the Sacramento Bee
EU leaders to discuss green energy plan

By CONSTANT BRAND -- Associated Press Writer
Published 2:59 am PST Thursday, March 8, 2007

BRUSSELS, Belgium - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will push her European Union counterparts to go green on energy at summit talks Thursday, urging them to adopt tough measures needed to fight global warming and reduce Europe's dependence on oil imports. Merkel, who is leading the two-day meeting, is keen to get the 27-nation EU to adopt new rules to boost the use of less-polluting, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro power. She wants the EU to set a global standard, to pressure the United States, Russia and others to follow Europe's new pro-environment agenda. "Europe has set its own important step, and now others like the USA, China, India and the large developing countries must follow," Merkel said late Wednesday. "Europe has 15 percent of worldwide emissions, and the trend is to reduce it, so we also need other countries." The EU leaders are set to agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by the year 2020 from 1990 levels, a first step in Europe's ambitious strategy to fight global warming. They are also set to develop energy ties with central Asian countries to reduce their dependency on Russian oil and gas. However, many EU nations are loathe to live up to proposed commitments to switch from fossil fuels like cheap coal to more costly renewable sources, arguing that it will add costs and hurt economic growth. They are also at loggerheads over whether to replace 10 percent of transport fuel with biofuels by 2020. Germany, Britain and Italy are pushing hard for a binding 20 percent renewables target by 2020, but France and many eastern European nations are against it, fearing they could lose the right to draw from cheaper sources such as coal or nuclear power plants. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Merkel were holding talks with business and union leaders ahead of the start of the summit to go over the EU's new strategy to set up a low-carbon economy to counter climate change, specifics of which are now up for debate. Merkel said Thursday that measures against climate change should be "moved forward with determination and binding" targets, but that she expected "very difficult negotiations." "Europe wants to be in a leading role. People outside of Europe are looking at us," Merkel said. The summit talks also will focus on drafting a declaration to mark the EU's 50th birthday party planned for March 24-25 in Berlin, but reaching unity may be difficult as many nations have topics they do not want mentioned. Foreign ministers are to debate efforts to bring stability to Iraq as well as Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear program. Somalia and Lebanon also will be discussed. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday he will press EU counterparts to bolster their troop contributions to NATO's mission in Afghanistan. A summit deal on energy will help Merkel put pressure on other Group of Eight industrialized nations to take action on the environment at a G-8 gathering she will host in June. Germany wants the EU summit to set a global challenge to the U.S., Canada, Russia, Japan and other G-8 nations to agree on deep emissions cuts. The EU leaders are set to back a goal to cut carbon dioxide releases and keep the average global temperature increase under 2 degrees Celsius, saying they will agree on a 30 percent cut below 1990 levels if other major polluters join them. According to a draft agreement, they will aim to go even further in the future - with cuts of 60 percent to 80 percent by 2050. The EU also wants the United Sates to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrial nations to cut their global-warming gases by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The major economies of the EU have committed to an 8 percent cut. Washington however, has argued that Kyoto would do serious harm to the American economy, adding such cuts should also apply to new Asian rivals China and India.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Weekly Update

Lander now had someone picking up recycling at each home. The recylcer picks up Newspaper, Magazines, Catalogs, Plastics, Tin, Aluminum, Cardboard, Glass and Office Pack. This is a huge improvement in what I can recycle. It is exciting to see local businesses built on this sort of need. On the driving front, I was sick most of the week so did not go out much - but when I did could not walk without coughing - sort of a toss up. On Sunday I drove at 55 mph to Rock Springs. We don't have much traffic on Sunday on the highways that I drive but what was there were not happy with my speed. Oh well - my mpg has gone from 26 mpg to 30 mpg.

Green Fuel - new problems?

The Independent in the UK raises questions about "green fuel" - ethanol made from plants. More links at The Independent

By Daniel Howden in Sao Paolo
Published: 05 March 2007
The ethanol boom is coming. The twin threats of climate change and energy security are creating an unprecedented thirst for alternative energy with ethanol leading the way.

That process is set to reach a landmark on Thursday when the US President, George Bush, arrives in Brazil to kick-start the creation of an international market for ethanol that could one day rival oil as a global commodity. The expected creation of an "Opec for ethanol" replicating the cartel of major oil producers has spurred frenzied investment in biofuels across the Americas.

But a growing number of economists, scientists and environmentalists are calling for a "time out" and warning that the headlong rush into massive ethanol production is creating more problems than it is solving.

To its advocates, ethanol, which can be made from corn, barley, wheat, sugar cane or beet is a green panacea - a clean-burning, renewable energy source that will see us switch from dwindling oil wells to boundless fields of crops to satisfy our energy needs.

Dr Plinio Mario Nastari, one of Brazil's leading economists and an expert in biofuels, sees a bright future for an energy sector in which his country is the acknowledged world leader: "We are on the brink of a new era, ethanol is changing a lot of things but in a positive sense."

In its first major acknowledgment of the dangers of climate change, the White House this year committed itself to substituting 20 per cent of the petroleum it uses for ethanol by 2017.

In Brazil, that switch is more advanced than anywhere in the world and it has already substituted 40 per cent of its gasoline usage.

Ethanol is nothing new in Brazil. It has been used as fuel since 1925. But the real boom came after the oil crisis of 1973 spurred the military dictatorship to lessen the country's reliance on foreign imports of fossil fuels. The generals poured public subsidies and incentives into the sugar industry to produce ethanol.

Today, the congested streets of Sao Paolo are packed with flex-fuel cars that run off a growing menu of bio and fossil fuel mixtures, and all filling stations offer "alcohol" and "gas" at the pump, with the latter at roughly twice the price by volume.

But there is a darker side to this green revolution, which argues for a cautious assessment of how big a role ethanol can play in filling the developed world's fuel tank. The prospect of a sudden surge in demand for ethanol is causing serious concerns even in Brazil.

The ethanol industry has been linked with air and water pollution on an epic scale, along with deforestation in both the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests, as well as the wholesale destruction of Brazil's unique savannah land.

Fabio Feldman, a leading Brazilian environmentalist and former member of Congress who helped to pass the law mandating a 23 per cent mix of ethanol to be added to all petroleum supplies in the country, believes that Brazil's trailblazing switch has had serious side effects.

"Some of the cane plantations are the size of European states, these vast monocultures have replaced important eco-systems," he said. "If you see the size of the plantations in the state of Sao Paolo they are oceans of sugar cane. In order to harvest you must burn the plantations which creates a serious air pollution problem in the city."

Despite its leading role in biofuels, Brazil remains the fourth largest producer of carbon emissions in the world due to deforestation. Dr Nastarti rejects any linkage between deforestation and ethanol and argues that cane production accounts for little more than 10 per cent of Brazil's farmland.

However, Dr Nastari is calling for new legislation in Brazil to ensure that mushrooming sugar plantations do not directly or indirectly contribute to the destruction of vital forest preserves.

Sceptics, however, point out that existing legislation is unenforceable and agri-business from banned GM cotton to soy beans has been able to ignore legislation.

"In large areas of Brazil there is a total absence of the state and no respect for environmental legislation," said Mr Feldman.

"Ethanol can be a good alternative in the fight against global warming but at the same time we must make sure we are not creating a worse problem than the one we are trying to solve."

The conditions for a true nightmare scenario are being created not in Brazil, despite its environment concerns, but in the US's own domestic ethanol industry.

While Brazil's tropical climate allows it to source alcohol from its sugar crop, the US has turned to its industrialised corn belt for the raw material to substitute oil. The American economist Lester R Brown, from the Earth Policy Institute, is leading the warning voices: "The competition for grain between the world's 800 million motorists who want to maintain their mobility and its two billion poorest people who are simply trying to stay alive is emerging as an epic issue."

Speaking in Sao Paolo, where the ethanol boom is expected to take off with a US-Brazil trade deal this Thursday, Fabio Feldman, said: "We must stop and take a breath and consider the consequences."

Biofuel costs

When Rudolph Diesel unveiled his new engine at the 1900 World's Fair, he made a point of demonstrating that it could be run on peanut oil. "Such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time," he said.

And so it has come to pass that US President George Bush has decreed that America must wean itself off oil with the help of biofuels made from corn, sugar cane and other suitable crops.

At its simplest, the argument for biofuels is this: By growing crops to produce organic compounds that can be burnt in an engine, you are not adding to the overall levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The amount of CO2 that the fuel produces when burnt should balance the amount absorbed during the growth of the plants.

However, many biofuel crops, such as corn, are grown with the help of fossil fuels in the form of fertilisers, pesticides and the petrol for farm equipment.

One estimate is that corn needs 30 per cent more energy than the finished fuel it produces.

Another problem is the land required to produce it. One estimate is that the grain needed to fill the petrol tank of a 4X4 with ethanol is sufficient to feed a person for a year.