Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fractured gas well questions multiply

by Jim Mayo, Your Times Publisher

04.26.10 - 02:17 pm

The question of whether or not an injection well to dispose of oil and gas well fluids will be opened in Vian remains on hold while an Oklahoma Corporation Commission referee considers the application and the protests against it.

The Vian well is in a semi-dormant status awaiting the referee’s decision, but the larger issues of new and wide-spread use of hydraulic fracturing techniques in gas wells and disposal of the waste water that results from them have grown.

Of immediate interest is the fact that four new injection wells have opened in Arkansas near Fort Smith. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission reports that the amount of waste saltwater coming from Arkansas into the 18 counties of commission District IV, which includes Sequoyah County, dropped from 925,566 barrels in the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2009 to 25,000 barrels for the quarter ending March 31, 2010. The new wells are likely taking much of the water that was coming here. However, this is but a small part of the total water injected in the district during the two time periods. Just because Arkansas drillers aren’t sending as much waste to us as they once did doesn’t mean the issue has passed.

I think it is important to consider as a whole the subjects of fractured wells, injection wells and soil farming, which is a way of attempting to dispose of waste salt water above ground and is the subject of much protest in Haskell County. Each is a part of the effort to increase production of natural gas.

When you see T. Boone Pickens on TV boosting gas, or read about rapidly increasing supplies of domestic natural gas, it is largely the hydraulically fractured wells that produce the gas.

I am indebted to my sister, Andy, in Beaumont, Texas, for sending along a story from the April 11 issue of the Houston Chronicle.

It reports on a potential disaster underway in the small town of Daisetta, Texas, which is located about 55 miles northeast of Houston.

On May 7, 2008, a sinkhole as wide as two football fields developed near this small town of 230. As that sinkhole developed, a quarter-mile away a geyser of fluid gushed from an abandoned well on property owned by the community’s mayor. The mayor said in the April 11 article that he had to cut down 100 trees on his property that were killed by the fluid.

The article went on to say, “In the first published report providing any explanation for the phenomenon, a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality adviser theorized injection disposal wells may be primarily responsible for destabilizing the area and creating a kind of quicksand 1,000 feet below that led to the collapse.”

The town has hired a law firm to investigate and sue the people responsible, if that can be determined.

In addition to the sinkhole and dead trees and vegetation, the city worries that its water wells may also become contaminated.

The article said the Texas Railroad Commission conducted investigations and found nothing in violation of its regulations other than an instance when an injection well operator injected more waste than his permit allowed. The Railroad Commission is the Texas equivalent of our Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Both regulate the oil and gas industry.

Injection well operators and regulators have said many times that there is little or no risk involved in injecting oil and gas well waste into underground formations. People in Daisetta aren’t convinced. The Chronicle article reported that “… an engineering company drilling a backup well for the city detected traces of toluene and naphthalene in its water sample…. the engineer recommended abandoning the $93,000 project and drilling somewhere else.”

While hydraulic fracturing of oil wells has been going on for years, the wholesale fracturing of gas wells using millions of gallons of water under tremendous pressures is relatively new, and so some of the problems with the technique are also new.

Oklahoma is highly dependent on the oil and gas industry. One of the reasons we are in such a slump is the decline in prices for gas, partly brought on by the Great Recession. Partly because of this, state government is almost broke. Clearly, we all have a stake in what happens to oil and gas production.

We also have a huge stake in controlling and eliminating pollution and improving public safety. That is why people in Vian are so upset over the proposed injection well that would be located only a few blocks from the Vian school.

All of the problems surrounding frac wells have drawn the attention of the nation media. In recent weeks, the Wall Street Journal published an extensive article about the subject, the Public Broadcasting System program NOW featured a segment that would scare your pants off, and newspapers here and there are picking up on the story as it develops.

In the NOW segment, a man in a home near a fractured well turned on a water faucet in a kitchen and ignited the gas that came out into a ball of flames.

Congress has promised to hold hearings into the various issues surrounding the ever-growing complaints.

The oil and gas industry, and to some extent the government agencies which regulate them, are fond of saying that fracturing oil and gas wells and disposal of fluids down injection wells is nothing new.

It seems to me that while that may be true, there is still much more we don’t know about what we are doing than what we do know, and ignorance can be downright dangerous.

We should proceed with great caution. 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Story of Phosphorus: Sustainability implications of global phosphorus scarcity for food security

Author: Cordell, Dana (Linköping, Department of Water and Environmental Studies)(Linköping, Faculty of Arts and Sciences)

Title: The Story of Phosphorus: Sustainability implications of global phosphorus scarcity for food security

Department: Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Water and Environmental Studies

Publication type: Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)

Language: English
Place of publ.: Linköping
Publisher: Linköping University Electronic Press
Pages: 220
Series: Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800; 509
Year of publ.: 2010
URI: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-53430 Permanent link:
ISBN: 978-91-7393-440-4

Subject category:

Water in nature and society

Abstract(en) :

The story of phosphorus began with the search for the philosopher’s stone, and centuries later the critical role of phosphorus in soil fertility and crop growth was highlighted. Eventually, phosphorus was implicated in the global environmental challenge of eutrophication. Now, we are on the brink of yet another emerging chapter in the story: global phosphorus scarcity linked to food security. Through a transdisciplinary and systemic inquiry, this thesis has analyzed, reconceptualized and synthesized the physical and institutional dimensions of global phosphorus scarcity in the context of food security, leading to a new framing, ‘phosphorus security’ to guide future work towards a more sustainable and food secure pathway.

In a world which will be home to nine billion people by the middle of this century, producing enough food and other vital resources is likely to be a substantial challenge for humanity. Phosphorus, together with nitrogen and potassium, is an essential plant nutrient. It is applied to agricultural soils in fertilizers to maintain high crop yields. Phosphorus has no substitute in food production. Therefore, securing the long-term availability and accessibility of phosphorus is crucial to global food security. However the major source of phosphorus today, phosphate rock, is a non-renewable resource and high quality reserves are becoming increasingly scarce. This thesis estimates peak phosphorus to occur before 2035, after which demand will exceed supply. Phosphorus scarcity is defined by more than just physical scarcity of phosphate rock and this thesis develops five important dimensions. For example, there is a scarcity of management of phosphorus throughout the entire food production and consumption system: the global phosphorus flows analysis found that only 20% of phosphorus in phosphate rock mined for food production actually reaches the food consumed by the global population due to substantial inefficiencies and losses from mine to field to fork. There is also an economic scarcity, where for example, while all the world’s farmers need access to sufficient fertilizers, only those with sufficient purchasing power can access fertilizer markets. Institutional scarcity, such as the lack of governance structures at the international level that explicitly aim to ensure long-term availability of and access to global phosphorus resources for food production that has led to ineffective and fragmented governance of phosphorus, including a lack of: overall coordination, monitoring and feedback, clear roles and responsibilities, long-term planning and equitable distribution. Finally, geopolitical scarcity arising from 90% of the world’s remaining high-grade phosphate rock reserves being controlled by just five countries (a majority of which are subject to geopolitical tensions) can limit the availability of phosphorus on the market and raises serious ethical questions.

The long-term future scenarios presented in this thesis indicate that meeting future global food demand will likely require a substantial reduction in the global demand for phosphorus through not only improved efficient use of phosphorus in agriculture, but also through changing diets and increasing efficiency in the food chain. The unavoidable demand for phosphorus could then be met through a high recovery and reuse rate of all sources of phosphorus (crop residues, food waste, manure, excreta) and other sources including some phosphate rock. A ‘hard-landing’ situation could involve further fertilizer price spikes, increased waste and pollution (including eutrophication), increased energy consumption associated with the production and trade of phosphorus fertilizers, reduced farmer access to phosphorus, reduced global crop yields and increased food insecurity. A preferred ‘soft landing’ situation will however require substantial changes to physical and institutional infrastructure, including improved governance structures at the global, national and other levels, such as new policies, partnerships and roles to bring together the food, fertilizer, agriculture, sanitation and waste sectors for a coordinated response.

Finally, this thesis proposes a new global goal – phosphorus security – to be integrated in the dominant research discourses and policy debates on global food security and global environmental change. Among other criteria, phosphorus security requires that phosphorus use is decoupled from environmental degradation and that farmers’ access to phosphorus is secured.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Venture Capitalists Still Betting on Organic Food?

THURSDAY, APRIL 22, 2010 AT 9:50AM


Agriculture 2.0, "the pre-eminent gathering for the entrepreneurs, investors, food producers, and experts" in sustainable food took place about a month ago, but the New York Times is still buzzing about it. The article is short on details about actual money that's being invested in organic farming (in fact, the one farmer they interviewed hadn't found any investors yet), but it does include a handful of optimistic quotes from some venture capitalists. Among them:

"Sustainable ag smells like clean tech, but it’s not so obscure that you’ve never heard of it but obscure enough there’s no competition."

-Janine Yorio, founder of NewSeed Advisors, which hosts Agriculture 2.0

"If you’re interested in investing in energy and water, you become interested in investing in agriculture. A lot of ag opportunities are going to be driven by water, it’s availability and cleanliness."

-Amol Deshpande, a venture partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

"Sustainable agriculture is a space that looks as big or bigger than clean tech. Historically, we have not seen a ton of entrepreneurial activity in agriculture, but we are beginning to see it now, and the opportunities are huge."

-Paul Matteucci, a venture capitalist with U.S. Venture Partners

I'm still not entirely sure where there's money to be made by venture capitalists in the field of sustainable agriculture. It's true that there are several innovations (aquaponics, vermiculture, unheated greenhouses) that could be developed and commodified by the right business mind, and maybe that would help to popularize some of these techniques. But it remains to be seen if anyone will every make any money doing it.


What Is Biodynamic Farming? from OrganicNation on Vimeo.

The Wrong Way To Get to Green

APRIL 27, 2010

Once you've carpeted the wilderness with wind-farm turbines, and crushed any guilt about the birds you're about to kill, prepare to be underwhelmed and underpowered.

By TREVOR BUTTERWORTH, Wall Street Journal

Al Gore has a dream, a dream increasingly shared, according to opinion surveys, by people all over the world. It is that the 19th century, the age of steam and iron and coal, will finally end and that, as Mr. Gore wrote in an article for the New York Times in 2008, the time will soon come for "21st-century technologies that use fuel that is free forever: the sun, the wind and the natural heat of the earth."

It might be better, and much more realistic, says Robert Bryce in "Power Hungry," to imagine our journey toward a "green" energy Arcadia in units of Saudi Arabia. "Over the past few years," he writes, "we have repeatedly been told that we should quit using hydrocarbons. Fine. Global daily hydrocarbon use is about 200 million barrels of oil equivalent, or about 23.5 Saudi Arabias per day. Thus, if the world's policy makers really want to quit using carbon-based fuels, then we will need to find the energy equivalent of 23.5 Saudi Arabias every day, and all of that energy must be carbon free."

"Power Hungry" unfolds as a brutal, brilliant exploration of this profoundly deluded quest, from fingers-in-the-ears "la-la-la-ing" at the mention of nuclear power to the illusion that we are rapidly running out of oil or that we can turn to biomass for salvation: Since it takes 10,000 tons of wood to produce one megawatt of electricity, for instance, the U.S. will be chopping down forests faster than it can grow them.

Mr. Bryce also points to the link between cheap power and economic productivity and asks why we should expect much of the world to forgo the benefits of light bulbs and regular energy when we enjoy these privileges. But if "Power Hungry" sounds like a supercharged polemic, its shocks are delivered with forensic skill and narrative aplomb.

So you want to build a wind farm? OK, Mr. Bryce says, to start you'll need 45 times the land mass of a nuclear power station to produce a comparable amount of power; and because you are in the middle of nowhere you'll also need hundreds of miles of high-voltage lines to get the energy to your customers. This "energy sprawl" of giant turbines and pylons will require far greater amounts of concrete and steel than conventional power plants—figure on anywhere from 870 to 956 cubic feet of concrete per megawatt of electricity and 460 tons of steel (32 times more concrete and 139 times as much steel as a gas-fired plant).

Once you've carpeted your tract of wilderness with turbines and gotten over any guilt you might feel about the thousands of birds you're about to kill, prepare to be underwhelmed and underpowered. Look at Texas, Mr. Bryce says: It ranks sixth in the world in total wind-power production capacity, and it has been hailed as a model for renewable energy and green jobs by Republicans and Democrats alike. And yet, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which runs the state's electricity grid, just "8.7 percent of the installed wind capability can be counted on as dependable capacity during the peak demand period." The wind may blow in Texas, but, sadly, it doesn't blow much when it is most needed—in summer. The net result is that just 1% of the state's reliable energy needs comes from wind.

If using a huge amount of real estate to generate a tiny amount of energy from an intermittent energy source sounds deranged, consider, too, that we haven't yet found the holy grail for storing wind-generated energy. Wind is either an instant energy snack or a famine. It must be used when it's there or immediately replaced when it isn't.

But if you are managing an energy grid, you have to meet constant demand or face blackouts, which means that you will have to have conventional power plants to back up the wind farms. As Jing Yang reported in The Wall Street Journal last year, this strategy is precisely the one that China is pursuing, adding in one province alone the coal-fired equivalent of Hungary. These plants, Mr. Bryce notes, are designed to run continuously and will in all likelihood "be run continuously in order to assure that the regional power grid doesn't go dark." The irony of wind power is that it "doesn't displace power plants, it only adds to them."

It is not for nothing, then, that the scientist and ur-environmentalist James Lovelock (the author of the Gaia theory of holistic planet-nurturing) now thinks that wind power and renewable energy are "rotten ideas." What is arguably worse are rotten ideas that no one is allowed to criticize: Last year, Britain's minister for climate change, Ed Miliband, declared that the British government had to make opposition to wind power "socially unacceptable." There are more than 200 groups opposed to wind farms in Britain on the grounds that the turbines disfigure the landscape, thrum like air-conditioning units and, when the sun sets, create an irritating flicker-light for miles.

"Power Hungry" is a bracing attempt to call this kind of revolution to account, literally, by asking us to look at the math and to face the numbers. It is unsentimental, unsparing and impassioned; and, if you'll excuse the pun, it is precisely the kind of journalism we need to hold truth to power.

Mr. Butterworth is editor of and a columnist for

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Corruption, and the Control of Our Food Supply

By Fast Company Calendar

Worst. Company. Ever. That's the inevitable conclusion in documentarian Marie-Monique Robin's perversely fascinating investigation of Monsanto, the chemical company turned $11.7 billion agribusiness giant. She details how the astounding list of controversial products and environmental scandals in Monsanto's history -- PCBs, dioxin, Agent Orange, DDT, bovine growth hormone -- is exacerbated by the company's repeated choice to preserve sales over the public health and employ its outsize influence in government to shirk full responsibility for its actions. Even more disturbing, Robin argues, is the "new Monsanto," which has wielded its global muscle and patent prowess to try and take control over the food supply. Given Monsanto's ugly past, she makes clear that we cannot pretend that we don't know what's possible.


bande annonce film Monsanto
Uploaded by rue89. - News videos from around the world.

Cold Calcs: Water as Investment

Investing in Water Could Pour On the Returns



If you're thirsting for an interesting investment, you might want to think about water. Investing in the precious resource could prove very lucrative over the next decade as its use in consumption, agriculture, sanitation and industrial production surges. Putting some money into the commodity before it becomes even scarcer could be a good way for investors to make what's a green investment turn into real green.

Why invest in water? It's a natural resource that has a limited supply and no true substitute. As the economies of developing nations continue to improve, water use is expected to increase. A recent report from the United Nations estimates that about 1.1 billion people worldwide do not have access to fresh drinking water -- and 2.6 billion do not have adequate sanitation systems.

Solving those problems by building and renovating water-system infrastructure, developing technologies to purify water and transporting water to people who need it present powerful financial and investment opportunities. To meet the coming demand, some analysts project the world may need to spend as much as $1 trillion per year through 2030 applying technologies to conserve water, maintain and replace water-related infrastructure and to construct sanitation systems.

Water Mutual Funds

The Calvert Global Water Fund (CFWAX) is one way investors can take advantage of the potential opportunities in water. The fund invests in companies that are water utilities, involved in water infrastructure (such as construction or consulting firms) or developers of water technologies (such as desalination and purification techniques). Calvert Investments says the fund does not invest in bottled water companies because of concerns over recycling waste, and because Calvert has added sustainability criteria to the standards it uses to select stocks for the fund.

Jens Peers, portfolio manager for KBC Asset Management and the lead manager of the Global Water Fund, says the valuations and fundamentals of companies in water industries, as well as firms they may subcontract out to, could experience substantial growth in the near future. He believes utilities could grow by the global gross domestic product rate plus 1% or 2% per year over the next five years.

Water infrastructure firms could grow by double the global GDP rate annually over the next 10 years, but in China, that growth would be 15% to 20% or more each year due to its tremendous demand for water. Within the technology space, he says specific niches will enjoy different rates of growth.

High Growth Rates

For activities like desalination, Peers says annual growth rates could average 15% growth rates for the next 5 to 10 years. "There are companies that will have growth rates of 50% to 100% over the next two to three years because they are exposed to a specific niche that suddenly is supported by new regulations, or they serve a market that didn't exist before, or because they provide a solution to problems that weren't there before," he says.

Kelly Wright, managing editor of the Investment Quality Trends newsletter, says that although he believes "water is the next oil" as investment go, the best way to get in on the action in water is to be targeted. Wright suggests focusing investment in the development of desalination plants. The Caribbean and the Middle East already rely heavily on desalination and have plans to pour billions into process in the future. The development of desalination plants in California also bodes well for growth the industry in the U.S.

"Desalination is probably the better growth play in the water industry looking out the next few years," Wright says, noting that a company like Consolidated Water (CWCO), which has a virtual monopoly on the Caribbean market and is expanding to Saudi Arabia could do well.

He does, however, caution against investing in water utilities. "They've all been bid up pretty good and their yields are pretty low," he warns, adding that as highly regulated entities, governments could always cap what they could charge, thus limiting their profitability.

GE Is a Player

The Calvert fund invests in 47 companies from a list of about 130 that meet specific investment criteria and sustainability requirements.

Peers says that 80% of the fund must be invested in companies that realize the majority of their revenues from water or are part of one of the more widely accepted water industries. The other 20%, he says, is invested in market leaders in the space. "They may not be part of those water industries, but must have at least 10% of their revenues coming from water," he says.

A company like General Electric (GE) is included in Calvert's portfolio because the company is building its exposure to water as a investment by developing water technologies. Other companies in Calvert's portfolio are utilities California Water Service (CWT) and American Water Works Co. (AWK), infrastructure firms Pentair Inc. (PNR) and Flowserve Corp. (FLS) and technology firm Kurita Water Industries (KTWIF).

The Calvert Global Water fund is one of very few mutual funds that invest in water industry companies. With roughly $32 million in assets, it is also a small fund, an indication of how few investors view water as an investment opportunity. The fund was up 4.4% since the start of the year.

Other funds in the water space include the Kinetics Water Infrastructure Fund (KWINX) with $28 million in assets and down 0.45% this year or the PFW Water Fund Class A (PFWAX) up 8.3% with $23 million in assets. Water ETFs include the PowerShares Water Resources (PHO), which focuses on industrial firms, has $1.3 billion in assets and is up 5.2% for the year, and the Claymore S&P Global Water Fund (CGW), which is in the utilities category with $248 million in assets and is up 1.3% this year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cuba Video on Sustainable Agriculture

by: Jill Richardson

Tue Apr 20, 2010 at 22:57:24 PM PDT

If you'd like to see a short documentary on sustainable agriculture in Cuba, check this out. In brief, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba lost access to most of the oil it needed. The U.S. "helped" a little more by strengthening its embargo on Cuba. In only a few years' time, the average Cuban lost 20 lbs. Cuba's agriculture had undergone the "Green Revolution," making it entirely dependent on fossil fuels for machinery, pesticides, and fertilizer.

It was therefore a matter of survival that made Cubans turn to organic farming and gardening. People began growing things by trial and error on any arable land they could find. Because they lack oil to even transport things within Cuba, cities produce the vast majority of their own fruits and vegetables. Large state farms were also split up into smaller, sustainable cooperative privately own farms. And the Cuban diet changed to include more vegetables, resulting in better health among Cubans overall (fewer heart attacks and strokes, and a lower rate of diabetes). Of course, increased walking and biking that came with the decrease in oil plays a role in their improved health as well.

The film paints an amazing picture of life after oil beyond just the food production aspect. In the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, people would wait hours to get a bus to work, only to arrive and find out that the power was out and there was no work to do. At night they would wait hours for a bus again, and sometimes when the bus arrived it was full and they had to wait for the next one. With many power outages, they couldn't rely on their refrigerators to keep food fresh. Without power, other things we take for granted like air conditioning and elevators stopped functioning too.

To deal with the transportation problems, Cubans had to re-localize nearly everything. They developed mixed use zoning so that people could have work, school, and recreation all near their homes. They decentralized their universities so students would not have to travel so far. They imported many bicycles but they ultimately worked out a makeshift public transportation system that involves trucks adapted to serve as buses, carpooling, and hitchhiking. In rural areas, people use horses and mules for transportation as well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"EAARTH" by Bill McKibben

Imagine we live on a planet. Not our cozy, taken-for-granted earth, but a planet, a real one, with darkpoles and belching volcanoes and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat. An inhospitable place. It’s a different place. A different planet. It needs a new name: "Eaarth"

"Read it, please. Straight through to the end. Whatever else you were planning to do next, nothing could be more important."

—Barbara Kingsolver

Twenty years ago, with The End of Nature, Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about global warming. Those warnings went mostly unheeded; now, he insists, we need to acknowledge that we've waited too long, and that massive change is not only unavoidable but already under way. Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We've created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.

That new planet is filled with new binds and traps. A changing world costs large sums to defend—think of the money that went to repair New Orleans, or the trillions it will take to transform our energy systems. But the endless economic growth that could underwrite such largesse depends on the stable planet we've managed to damage and degrade. We can't rely on old habits any longer.

Our hope depends, McKibben argues, on scaling back—on building the kind of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community (in the neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that will allow us to weather trouble on an unprecedented scale. Change—fundamental change—is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance.


An American environmentalist and writer, Bill McKibben is the founder of, an international climate campaign. This October 10, is organizing the second annual 350 International Day of Climate Action, with thousands of events planned at iconic places around the world. Bill frequently writes about global warming, alternative energy, and the risks associated with human genetic engineering. Beginning in the summer of 2006, he led the organization of the largest demonstrations against global warming in American history. McKibben is active in the Methodist Church, and his writing sometimes has a spiritual bent.

Bill grew up in suburban Lexington, Massachusetts. He was president of the Harvard Crimson newspaper in college. Immediately after college he joined the New Yorkermagazine as a staff writer, and wrote much of the "Talk of the Town" column from 1982 to early 1987. He quit the magazine when its longtime editor William Shawn was forced out of his job, and soon moved to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

His first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 by Random House after being serialized in the New Yorker. It is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has been printed in more than 20 languages. Several editions have come out in the United States, including an updated version published in 2006.

His next book, The Age of Missing Information, was published in 1992. It is an account of an experiment: McKibben collected everything that came across the 100 channels of cable tv on the Fairfax, Virginia system (at the time among the nation's largest) for a single day. He spent a year watching the 2,400 hours of videotape, and then compared it to a day spent on the mountaintop near his home. This book has been widely used in colleges and high schools, and was reissued in a new edition in 2006.

Subsequent books include Hope, Human and Wild, about Curitiba, Brazil and Kerala, India, which he cites as examples of people living more lightly on the earth; The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job, and the Scale of Creation, which is about the Book of Job and the environment; Maybe One, about human population; Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously, about a year spent training for endurance events at an elite level; Enough, about what he sees as the existential dangers of genetic engineering; Wandering Home, about a long solo hiking trip from his current home in the mountains east of Lake Champlain in Ripton, Vermont back to his longtime neighborhood of the Adirondacks.

In March 2007 McKibben published Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. It addresses what the author sees as shortcomings of the growth economy and envisions a transition to more local-scale enterprise.

In late summer 2006, Bill helped lead a five-day walk across Vermont to demand action on global warming that some newspaper accounts called the largest demonstration to date in America about climate change. Beginning in January 2007 he to demand that Congress enact curbs on carbon emissions that would cut global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050. With six college students, he organized 1,400 global warming demonstrations across all 50 states of America on April 14, 2007. Step It Up 2007 has been described as the largest day of protest about climate change in the nation's history. A guide to help people initiate environmental activism in their community coming out of the Step It Up 2007 experience entitled Fight Global Warming Now was published in October 2007 and a second day of action on climate change was held the following November 3.

March 2008 saw the publication of The Bill McKibben Reader, a collection of 44 essays written for various publications over the past 25 years.

Bill is a frequent contributor to various magazines including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. He is also a board member and contributor to Grist Magazine.

Bill has been awarded Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Fellowships, and won the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000. He has honorary degrees from Green Mountain College, Unity College, Lebanon Valley College and Sterling College.

Bill currently resides with his wife, writer Sue Halpern, and his daughter, Sophie, who was born in 1993, in Ripton, Vermont. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Climate or Jobs: Texas Oil Firms Oppose California Climate Law

April 7, 2010


WASHINGTON — Several Texas oil companies are bankrolling a petition drive to suspend California’s path-breaking climate change law in a move that may prove a bellwether for national efforts to address global warming.

The Valero Energy Corporation, a San Antonio-based company that is one of the nation’s largest independent oil refiners and retailers, has contributed $500,000 to a ballot initiative that would halt the carrying out of the California climate law known as Assembly Bill 32, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, signed in 2006. At least one other Texas oil company, Tesoro, with operations in California and a prominent antitax group are helping to finance the petition drive to place the initiative on the November general election ballot.

The California law, the first of its kind in the nation, is intended to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases by 15 percent below current levels by 2020 through a variety of means, including a regional cap-and-trade system. The bill also calls for greater efficiencies in buildings and transportation, more use of renewable sources of energy and greater reliance on clean-burning fuels. These are all major elements of climate change proposals now being discussed in Washington.

The fine points of the California plan, including the critical questions of how emissions permits would be allocated and how any revenues would be distributed, are still being worked out.

The ballot initiative would prevent the law’s taking effect until unemployment in California falls to 5.5 percent or lower for four consecutive quarters. The state’s current unemployment rate is 12.5 percent. The average statewide unemployment rate in 2006 was 4.9 percent.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has said he considers the climate change law one of the signal achievements of his administration and wants to see it put in place. He said recently he believed the petition drive was fueled by the “greed” of out-of-state energy companies.

“I think that the California people are outraged about the fact that Texas oil companies, Texas oil companies, are coming to California and trying to change laws and policies in California,” he said at a green technology exhibition in Sacramento last month. “I mean, it’s outrageous.”

But the governor has also expressed concern that the new law, scheduled to take effect in 2012, not harm the state’s crippled economy and cause additional job losses.

The California Jobs Initiative, the group collecting petition signatures to upend the California law, has raised just under $1 million, according to a spokeswoman for the group. Most of the money came from oil companies, but the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, founded by the father of California’s antitax movement, contributed $100,000.

A Valero spokesman, Bill Day, said costs would rise at the company’s two large refineries in California under the new emissions law because refineries use a lot of electricity andnatural gas to heat and refine crude oil. Electricity prices would go up under the law, he said, and the consumption of natural gas produces carbon emissions that would be penalized under the legislation.

“Like the national cap-and-trade legislation, it does nothing at all to alleviate the problem of climate change, but it would have tremendously bad impacts on the California economy,” Mr. Day said. “This is exactly the wrong time to be implementing a cap and trade program that will further hurt consumers and cause more job loses. We are supporting a measure that would give California voters the chance to express their opinion on whether this legislation should be implemented now.”

Valero has also been active in opposing federal cap-and-trade regulations. In response to the climate bill passed by the House last June, Valero organized a “Voices for Energy” campaign against the bill and placed signs at its gas stations around the country depicting Uncle Sam warning drivers that the legislation would increase gasoline prices.

Steven Maviglio, spokesman for Californians for Clean Energy & Jobs, an alliance supporting the climate bill, said he had little doubt the organizers of the initiative would collect the required 434,000 signatures by mid-April to win a spot on the November ballot. He said his organization, representing technology firms, environmental advocates and public health groups, had raised nearly $1 million to defend the law. But he said both sides in the fight would probably raise tens of millions of dollars for what he called an environmental “battle royal” in the fall.

“Valero has been very outspoken on the national level against climate change regulation,” said Mr. Maviglio, who served as spokesman for Gray Davis, the Democratic governor whom Mr. Schwarzenegger succeeded in a lively recall election in 2003. “This is a strategic effort by the oil companies to try to unravel this law before it spreads throughout the country. The theory is if they can kill it here, they can kill it everywhere.”

There are already signs of economic and political unease in state capitals about climate change legislation. Arizona announced this year that it was pulling out of an embryonic regional greenhouse gas emissions trading group, and more than a dozen state attorneys general have challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate global warming gases.

John M. Broder reported from Washington, and Clifford Krauss from Houston.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) issues its first Water Disclosure Questionnaire to World’s largest Companies

Encourages Transparency in Water Management and Provides Investors with Comprehensive Assessment of Water Risks

Molson Coors Becomes Newest Lead Sponsor of the Program

London, United Kingdom – April 7, 2010 – With the support of many of the world’s financial institutions, CDP Water Disclosure has asked more than 300 of the largest global companies to report for the first time on water use and other water-related issues, to increase the availability of high quality business information and raise awareness of water-related risk.

CDP, an independent not-for-profit organization, has emerged as the premier global scorekeeper on carbon emissions gathering primary corporate climate change information from thousands of businesses around the world so that it can be incorporated into business and policy decision making. With the launch of CDP Water Disclosure last November, the organization is using the same established system in order to tackle the increasingly vital issue of water scarcity.

Paul Simpson, chief operating officer at CDP said: “CDP has long been a key system through which investors and businesses can evaluate companies’ ability to tackle climate change. Much of the impact of climate change will be felt through water and as we face increasingly scarce water resources, we can now provide the same system to highlight companies’ ability to operate in a water-constrained world.”

137 financial institutions globally with a combined $16 trillion in assets, including Allianz Group, CalSTRS, HSBC, ING, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) and National Australia Bank, have signed the request for information, asking companies to measure and disclose information on their water usage, the risks and opportunities in their own operations and supply chains, as well as water management and improvement plans. The questionnaire results will be made available to investors that have requested disclosure and summarised in an annual report, the first of which will be produced in the last quarter of 2010.

Companies within the Global 500 that have been asked to report this year are in water-intensive sectors such as Automotive, Construction, Electric Utilities, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs), Food and Beverage, Mining, Oil and Gas, and Pharmaceuticals.

One of the reporting companies is global brewer Molson Coors, who today announced that it has also become a lead sponsor of CDP Water Disclosure. Bart Alexander, vice president global corporate responsibility for Molson Coors, said: “Molson Coors has long been committed to conservation and sustainable use in the local watersheds we share. We know that corporations play a critical role in leading the transition to a new era in which water quality is respected and water management practices improve – a conviction that was reinforced by a recent global survey we sponsored. We are very pleased to help promote the launch of the new CDP Water Disclosure project. This effort will go a long way toward providing a common framework for companies to assess and report on their water usage and water-related risk moving forward.”

In addition, Ford, L’Oréal, PepsiCo and Reed Elsevier have already committed to report to CDP Water Disclosure in 2010 as founding responders to the program. Companies that have not been asked to respond to this year’s questionnaire are still welcome to report to CDP Water Disclosure.

Anne Kvam, global head of ownership strategies, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), a lead sponsor of the program, said: “Water is a key investment issue because it is fundamental to many businesses, and is threatened in many areas of the world. By asking the right questions we aim to establish a common framework for assessing water-related risk, as well as drive more sustainable use of water, which is important for our long term investments.”

According to a recent McKinsey report Charting our Water Future, competing demands for scarce water resources may lead to an estimated 40 percent supply shortage by 2030. Water scarcity is an increasing business risk, with companies facing rising costs and potential supply disruption, such as to their agricultural and manufacturing processes, yet it is an issue on which companies and investors need far greater information, awareness and understanding.

Please visit our website for access to the 2010 questionnaire

About CDP Water Disclosure

CDP Water Disclosure is part of CDP, an independent not-for-profit organization holding the largest database of primary corporate climate change information in the world. CDP Water Disclosure will provide critical data in relation to water from the world’s largest corporations to inform the global market place on investment risk and commercial opportunity. This data will provide valuable insight into the strategies deployed by many of the largest companies in the world in relation to water and will be used to help drive investment towards sustainable water use. To find out more please visit

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Online Book from John Ikerd

Friends and Acquaintances:

I apologize for putting another unsolicited message in your in-box, but I wanted to let you know that I am in the process of putting a new book on line, A Revolution of the Middle... and The Pursuit of Happiness. I have eight chapters on line and will post the remaining three remaining chapters within the next few weeks.

The book addresses the current economic and political situation and concludes that our current economy and society are not sustainable -- we simply can't continue doing what we have been doing for very much longer. The change we need will require different ways of thinking, not just about economics and politics but about how the world works and our place within it.

The change we need must begin with each of us. We must abandon our relentless pursuit of wealth and return to the pursuit of happiness. Beyond some very modest level of material well-being, our happiness depends on the quality of our relationships and our sense of purpose and meaning in life -- not additional wealth. I believe that each of us has a purpose in life, which is to realize the highest potential from our unique abilities, aptitudes, and aspirations. The key to happiness is not to become wealthy, famous, or powerful, unless we are among the few with the unique abilities, aptitudes, and abilities to do so. The key to happiness is to fulfill our unique purpose in life, to realize our highest potentials from our unique opportunities as they unfold before us.

The change we need as a nation must arise from the "Middle." Real change rarely comes from those in positions of political and economic power because the status quo is working for them. Real change must come from the common people whose common sense tells them the nation must abandon its relentless pursuit of individual wealth and economic growth and return to the pursuit of happiness. Those on the political Left and Right have become so entrenched in their respective political dogma that they have not only lost the ability to lead but have lost their ability to govern. Rather than focusing on the common good of the people, they are constantly focusing on the next election. In fact, our government has lost its "just power" to govern because it has lost the "consent of the governed."

We Americans agree much more than we disagree, we have just become accustomed to focusing on our differences. If we are to sustain our economy and our society, we must come together around the core values that unite us, such as honesty, fairness, responsibility, respect and compassion to find common ground on the social and political issues that divide us. We must restore the consent of the governed and with it the just power of our government. We have the public institutions and political processes in place to facilitate the changes we need -- to restore ecological, social, and economic integrity to our economy and society. Unfortunately, these changes will not take place without a Revolution of the Middle.

This kind of thinking is apparently is a bit too far out of the mainstream to interest publishers. If you are interested in such things, I hope you enjoy reading The Revolution of the Middle.

John Ikerd
5121 S. Brock Rodgers Rd.
Columbia, MO 65201
phone: 573-874-0408

New book on-line: "Revolution of the Middle"
Author of: "Sustainable Capitalism"
Kumarian Press
"A Return to Common Sense"
R. T. Edwards
"Small Farms are Real Farms"
Acres USA
and "Crisis and Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture"
University of Nebraska Press