Friday, October 19, 2007


Some "Realpolitik"

Hu Jintao wants to make every Chinese twice as rich by 2020. He has done it once - in just five years, income per capita doubled to $2,000 (983 pounds) - and the only obstacle in the Chinese President's path is the fuel needed to stoke the boiler in China's locomotive.

The president needs more copper, iron ore, zinc and natural gas. Above all, he needs more coal to keep the power stations humming nicely and more oil for Chinese cars and lorries. China accounts for more than a third of world demand for coal and the price in Australia soared this year as the People's Republic switched from being an exporter to being an importer. If Mr Hu had a message for the world in his address to the Communist Party National Congress, it was this: we will burn our coal and, if we have to, we will burn yours, too.

What does this mean? Put bluntly, it means that the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gas emissions is dead and so is any prospect of persuading Beijing to bind itself to other curbs on carbon emissions. We can stop kidding ourselves that China will sign up to any green thingy that hinders his party's ten-year plan to get rich quick. Instead, the ravenous demand for minerals and metals will continue and the desperate land grab by Chinese state companies in their pursuit of resources in Central Asia, Africa and Canada will become more politically embarrassing.

Until now, we in the West have been able to sit back and watch the global energy game passively on our Chinese-made flatscreen television sets. We could pretend that wind farms and wave machines could really make substantial contributions, that carbon trading could somehow make the cost of green energy disappear. We did not understand that the real cost of our affluent, energy-intensive lifestyles was being defrayed by sweated labour in a Chinese factory. While the price of clothes, fridges, TVs and toys was plummeting, we could ignore that petrol, transport and even bread and milk were in the grip of an inflationary spiral.

That is about to change because China's rate of consumption is beginning to have internal consequences for the People's Republic. Skilled labour is becoming a more scarce commodity for Chinese businesses and the cost of living is bearing down on Chinese consumers with increases in fuel and food prices. Inexorably, Chinese inflation will feed through into the cost of goods that China sells to the world.

That means that competition for resources will ratchet up in intensity. In Europe, we have not even begun to consider the consequences for our half-hearted strategy of pursuing a low-carbon economy. In an effort to rein in the cost of electricity, British power generators have been switching from natural gas to coal, traditionally a cheaper fuel. However, it is rapidly losing its lower-cost allure, the European price having doubled to $100 per tonne. Even so, analysts at Societe Generale calculate that the cost of carbon permits is still so low that, on the basis of current gas and coal prices, it remains cheaper to burn coal than to switch to cleaner natural gas.

For Mr Hu, this is a race for prosperity. Of course, he said a lot of other things about "the excessively high cost in resources and the environment" and about a restructuring of the economy away from heavy industry to services and high technology. That may be a sensible objective in Shanghai, where inflation in manufacturing wages is already causing problems, but a doubling of the incomes of peasants in western China will not be achieved by turning them into estate agents. Industrialisation will move west and that has been the Communist Party's objective for more than a decade. Mr Hu knows that disparities in wealth between east and west are a huge political risk. The party needs growth if it is to survive for another decade and that means it must build homes, factories, hospitals and sewage plants.

Removing huge disparities in wealth means a massive acceleration in the burning of hydrocarbons. The four great energy companies of the West - ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Total - have quietly turned their backs on the low-carbon option. Alternative technologies simply do not deliver the power required to achieve the economic growth targets of China and India. These companies are investing tiny sums in alternative energy. They know full well that the nations of the West depend heavily on the profits, taxes and dividends that accrue from an efficient hydrocarbon economy. A failure to invest in oil and gas extraction will leave Europe and America poor, technologically disabled and unequipped financially to cope with climate change.

The feeble intellectual response of Europe and America to this energy challenge is becoming a matter not of concern but alarm. The use of food crops for biofuels, the hobbling of energy companies with the obligation to use unreliable and expensive alternatives and the lack of investment in nuclear power is frightening. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. It is not in our power to stop the Chinese locomotive; we should leave our fantasies behind, acknowledge that carbon emissions will continue to grow and plan accordingly.



For the bulbs to be accepted they have to be cheap -- but that's not allowed!

The European Union approved a one-year extension of anti-dumping duties on imports of Chinese energy-saving light bulbs on Monday, despite protests from environmentalists, leading companies and several EU capitals. The continuation of the duties of up to 66.1 percent on the bulbs from producers in China -- plus smaller exporters in Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines -- was rubber-stamped by foreign ministers, the EU's Portuguese presidency said. Environmental groups such as WWF have said the plan flies in the face of the bloc's attempts to save energy and undermines its claims to be a leader in the fight against climate change.

Dutch electronics group Philips which imports large amounts of the bulbs, and Swedish retailer Ikea, supplier of about a fifth of EU demand, opposed any extension. But Germany's Osram, which is part of the Siemens group and imports less from China than Philips, had sought to have the duties extended for a further five years.

The European Commission's compromise one-year extension faces a court challenge from Italian lighting company Targetti which is also seeking reimbursement for duties paid since 2001. EU governments were also split on the issue, underscoring the bloc's divide on how to respond to globalisation.

Trade lawyers say Osram may still attempt to keep the duties in place for longer than one year by asking for a review during 2008. A review, if granted, could last for more than a year.



The United Kingdom is planning to claim sovereign rights over a vast area of the remote seabed off Antarctica, the Guardian has learned. The submission to the United Nations covers more than 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles) of seabed, and is likely to signal a quickening of the race for territory around the south pole in the world's least explored continent.

The claim would be in defiance of the spirit of the 1959 Antarctic treaty, to which the UK is a signatory. It specifically states that no new claims shall be asserted on the continent. The treaty was drawn up to prevent territorial disputes.

The Foreign Office, however, has told the Guardian that data is being gathered and processed for a submission to the UN which could extend British oil, gas and mineral exploitation rights up to 350 miles offshore into the Southern Ocean.

Much of the seabed there is at such a depth that extraction of gas, oil or minerals is not yet technically feasible, but the claim may still anger neighbouring South American countries who believe they have more entitlement to the potentially valuable territory. The Antarctic submission reflects the UK's efforts to secure resources for the future as oil and natural gas reserves dwindle over the coming decades.


Despicable Norwegian academics

Post below lifted from Newsbusters. See the original for links

As media do a victory lap over Friday's Nobel Peace Prize announcement, it seems a metaphysical certitude that few Americans are aware of the other 180 nominees for the award besides the Global Warmingist-in-Chief Al Gore. For instance, meet Irena Sendler, a 97-year-old Polish woman who saved 2,500 Jewish children from certain death in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.

Hadn't heard of her? Well, don't feel bad, for since the Nobel Committee announced the nominees in February, there have only been 107 reports about Mrs. Sendler being one of them. By contrast, Al Gore and "Nobel" have been mentioned in 2,912.

To put an even finer point on the astounding difference in media coverage, since the nominees were announced, Mrs. Sendler has been referred to in only six newscasts on television and radio, one by conservative Glenn Beck. Gore's Nobel nomination was discussed in 249!

With that in mind, here is Sendler's story - as presented by the Irena Sendler Project, the fabulous brainchild of some students in rural Kansas - which media have deplorably chosen to boycott in favor of championing a wealthy American liberal who made a movie containing egregious scientific falsehoods

Inconvenient truths about the UN's global warming panel

Excerpt from Professor David Henderson

Governments have formally laid down, in the "principles governing IPCC work," that Panel reports "should be neutral with respect to policy." But this instruction can apply only to the expert reporting process. As officials, the Panel members and those who appoint them are of course identified with the policies of their governments. And virtually all governments are formally committed, within the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to the "stabilization of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." Since 1992, the risks arising from human-induced global warming have been officially taken as proven. Policies have been framed accordingly.

These committed Panel members, and their equally committed parent departments, provide the lists of persons from which the expert network is largely chosen. They also review, amend and approve the draft Assessment Reports. Hence departments and agencies which are not-and cannot be-neutral in relation to climate-change issues are deeply involved, from start to finish, in the reporting process.

Policy commitment often shades into bias. From the outset, leading figures within the IPCC process have shared the conviction that anthropogenic global warming presents a threat which demands prompt and far-reaching action. Indeed, had they not held this belief, they would not have been appointed to their positions of influence. Both they and their ministers are apt to make confident, alarmist statements which go well beyond the more guarded language of the Assessment Reports. A notable instance was the October 2006 joint statement by two European prime ministers that "We have a window of only 10-15 years to take the steps we need to avoid a catastrophic tipping point."

The expert reporting process itself is flawed, in ways that reflect this built-in high-level official bias. Despite the numbers of persons involved, and the lengthy formal review procedures, the preparation of the IPCC Assessment Reports is far from being a model of rigor, inclusiveness and impartiality. A specific weakness in some IPCC documents is the treatment of economic issues, which is not professionally up to the mark. One aspect of this has been the use of invalid cross-country comparisons of real GDP, based on exchange rates rather than purchasing power parity estimates.

A basic general weakness is the uncritical reliance on peer review as a qualifying criterion for published work to be taken into account in the assessments. Peer review is no safeguard against dubious assumptions, arguments and conclusions if the peers are largely drawn from the same restricted professional milieu. What is more, the peer-review process as such is insufficiently rigorous, since it does not guarantee due disclosure of sources, methods and procedures..

Failures of disclosure, such as many journals would not tolerate, have characterized published work that the IPCC has drawn on. The Panel has failed to acknowledge this problem and take appropriate action to deal with it. The issue is simply evaded in the relevant sections of AR4.

So far, despite the prospective high costs of what could be mistaken policies, governments have paid little attention to telling outside criticisms of the IPCC process. As a former Treasury official, with later close dealings with economics and finance ministries in OECD member countries, I have been surprised by the way in which these ministries have accepted uncritically the results of a process of inquiry which is so obviously biased and flawed.



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