June 29, 2008

Is the PRC, our future food savior?

Posted by TMLutas

One of the things that infuriates me about the EU's "frankenfoods" phobia is how their resistance to genetic engineering impoverishes the African farmer. Africa ends up with low yielding seeds and Europe doesn't hold itself morally accountable for the resulting poverty. But the chinese don't care about GM and if the PRC takes an interest in African agriculture on a scale with its present interest in mining and timber, African leaders will no longer need to kowtow to irrational EU fears and will be able to increase yields using GM seeds. That will significantly increase both global food supply and energy supply through biofuel acreage.

HT: Thomas Barnett

June 28, 2008

Letter to the Paper LX

Posted by TMLutas

I'm going to our eparchial assembly in a bit but I decided to take a quick dip into the Catholic blogosphere first. Mark Sheas disappoints as usual when he's talking about the Bush administration because he has no understanding of the underlying dynamics or issues and is relatively uninterested in developing same. Just for old times sake I dropped a mini primer on our actual foreign policy developed by this administration.

Our actual foreign policy for some time under this administration has been to promote 'regional sheriffs' to do much of the heavy lifting and to defuse the possibility of the world ganging up on the US in order to balance our power (this balancing phenomenon happens every time a dominant world power emerges) and drag us down. For Asia we have three major sheriff candidates, India, Japan and the PRC.

N. Korea's submission to the PRC is a recognition of their status as local sheriff and so the US pulls back on threats encouraging the sheriff dynamic. But who is the sheriff in the Middle East? There are no candidates right now. The closest we have is Iraq itself, a sheriff that is years away from being ready. But their armed forces emergence into competent, even-handed action against militias gives a bit of hope that a decade from now they will be able to emerge as sheriff. That has something of a protective effect on Iran.

In short, while some were chanting about no blood for oil and even about bronze aged barbarians, we developed our first real foreign policy that fit the post-cold war age under this administration. It's even marginally more moral than our previous cold war realpolitik because the playing field is still tilted for the local sheriffs to be free states and to encourage liberty in their regions. In 20 years the historians may even notice.

June 26, 2008

It's going to get burnt anyway

Posted by TMLutas

It's pretty safe to say that Dr. James Hansen is not my favorite scientist. But I do find myself in curious agreement with one part of his recent testimony and DC talking tour, that we're not going to stop oil from getting burnt anytime soon. "Practically, I don't see how we can stop putting the oil in the atmosphere, because that's owned by Russia and Saudi Arabia" he said and there's a great deal of truth to that. The second part of his idea is that we could stop coal use, "what we could do is stop the coal" in his words. That's nonsense on stilts. The same problem, that the fossil fuel is under the control of countries not much interested in sacrificing energy use for the prevention of global warming is just as much a problem for coal as for oil. Wikipedia's got the stats. They don't paint a picture of a world where we could "stop the coal".

The US controls 256 billion tons of coal in proven reserves. The next three reserve leaders, Russia, the PRC, and India control 157, 114, and 92 billion tons respectively for a total of 383 billion tons and none of these three are any more likely to stop mining coal than Saudi Arabia is likely to stop pumping oil.

The PRC is currently pulling coal out of the ground at better than twice the US rate (2300 v 1000 million tons per year) and will not exhaust its reserves for half a century. Russia is mining more sustainably. It's reserves will last centuries at its 300 million ton rate. India's extraction rate of 450 million tons will exhaust their reserves in two centuries. So even if we stop mining entirely, coal will not be stopped. It will not even be significantly ameliorated as mining elsewhere will likely pick up as coal prices rise. We'll just have swapped our well regulated coal plants for 3rd world coal plants that, on balance will be dirtier.

Now Hansen is obviously not stupid and the necessary numbers to demolish his claim are publicly available and easy to get at. So why did he spout such nonsense? It's difficult to say why. Maybe he just didn't think things through. Maybe he wanted to inject a note of sanity into environmentalism by getting them to swallow the idea that oil control is impossible and he's just letting others take the reputational hit for extending the logic out to other energy sources. Maybe he really does think that we can control coal mining in a way that we can't control oil drilling. Essentially the choices are thinking that Hansen is outrageously sloppy, breathtakingly cynical, or economically ignorant.

Not a pretty picture.

A product of BruceR and Jantar Mantar Communications, and affiliated contributors. Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's half-informed viewpoint on the world.

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