Friday, August 29, 2008

Bob Balling Global Warming Presentation

Recently, the Rio Grande Foundation and CARE co-hosted a series of screenings of the film "The Great Global Warming Swindle" statewide to large audiences. You can view the film here.

Bob Balling, a climate scientist at Arizona State University gave a post-film presentation with his take on the movie. His powerpoint presentation is available here. Video of Bob's Albuquerque presentation along with some Q and A is available below:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who Needs a Treasurer Anyway?

As the Albuquerque Journal reported on Wednesday, New Mexico Treasurer James Lewis travels as a part of his job -- a lot. The Journal followed up with an editorial questioning who is paying for Lewis's flights around the globe and to what extent those who pay for Lewis's flights might be doing so to curry favor with the man that -- as The Journal points out, "is the elected official in charge of billions of dollars in New Mexico's investment portfolio."

While it is hard not to read about Lewis's inflated airfare costs -- $3,600 first class to Atlanta, business to Brazil -- and $2,200 in hotel charges, my question is why the State of New Mexico should be investing billions of dollars. I know it is in the Constitution, but wouldn't the permanent fund money be better off in the hands of New Mexicans' instead of politicians? Isn't it the very definition of socialism to have governments to own and control businesses?

It may be impossible to abolish the office as a whole, but shouldn't we as individual New Mexicans control whatever revenue is generated by taxes on extractive industries? Aside from that, government really shouldn't be in the business of investing. Instead, New Mexico should adopt the Alaska model and return oil and gas money to taxpayers. This would serve another positive function by creating a constituency for ongoing mining/drilling.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Russia, Georgia and the Implications to American Energy

When the entire world was watching the Olympics, Russia thought they could slip, unnoticed, into Georgia—and they almost did. If they actually knew it happened, it seems that the average person on the street has little comprehension of what that skirmish means. Now, while all eyes are focused on Denver and the Democratic Convention the Georgian/Russia chaos is all but forgotten. Yet, there are deep implications to America’s energy picture—one of the top topics on the minds of most Americans and in each campaign and convention.

We guess you are reading this because you care more about energy—or are more aware of the global ramifications—than the people you’ll run into at the gas station. For you, this interesting posting captures many of the topics we at CARE are most interested in: oil and gas, off-shore drilling and ANWR, nuclear power, biofuel, tar sands, global warming, the Gang Green’s opposition to alternative power, and world energy supplies.

Read on, you’ll be glad you did.

Russian Tanks Signal a “New Energy War”
“Russia’s adventure in Georgia has been described as a ‘warlet,’ a contained firing spree that wound up and down within a week. But to Europe’s energy markets, it was the equivalent of wide-scale carpet bombing,” writes Eric Reguly in Britain’s Global and Mail on August 15th. “Before the Georgian crisis, Europe seemed to be doing all the right things, with little Georgia at the centre of a sensible energy diversification plan. A column of Russian tanks wrecked that strategy in an instant . . . a new energy war is about to begin.”

Since the Russian tank attacks, Europe’s energy position is far worse than America’s. Europe’s North Sea oil and gas are waning, and its marginal coal mines have long been shut down. Europe’s been importing lots of gas, 40 percent of it from Russia. Georgia was threatening to allow another gas pipeline that Russia wouldn’t control—so Vlad the Assailer demonstrated that he can control Caspian-region gas exports whenever he chooses to send tanks.

Europe now urgently wants a long-term partnership with the big undeveloped oil and gas deposits in Libya, Tunisia and the rest of North Africa. Alarmingly, last month Russia’s Gazprom offered to buy all of Libya’s gas exports.

The U.S. is now trapped, however, in the crossfire between Russian military/economic aggression, Moslem extremism and European energy starvation. We will soon be enormously grateful for our opportunity to drill off our own coasts and in our own ANWR, to import our Alaskan gas through a new pipeline, to tap Appalachia’s big, tough gas deposits—and to add more of our own nuclear power. France, Finland and Eastern Europe are already building more nuclear plants, and Germany’s Angela Merkel may block the German nuclear phase-out.

Solar and wind power will be built too, but so far they’ve been expensive, erratic and severely disappointing. Biofuels actually aggravate both global food shortages and greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada’s Athabasca Tar Sands, one of the world’s largest petroleum reservoirs, got a visit last week from U.S. billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. The Athabasca is also in a strategically secure location for the U.S.—400 miles north of Montana. Eco-activists have lately campaigned against the tar sands, calling it “the worst project on earth” because of the CO2 released as the heavy oil is produced. However, CO2 has had a weak correlation with earth’s temperature changes—only 22 percent since 1860.

Fortunately, the earth’s temperatures are now continuing to decline; more and more clearly separating CO2 emissions from climate change. The first five months of 2008 have been the coolest in at least five years, continuing the cooler trend of the past 18 months. The cooling was predicted by a 2000 downturn in the sunspot index, which has a strong, ten-year-lagged correlation with our temperature history.

The Greens have recommended non-polluting tidal power, but are opposing one of the world’s outstanding tidal-power opportunities on Britain’s Severn River. The Severn has a 40-foot daily tide range. A ten-mile dam across the Bristol Channel would emit no CO2 or radiation, while producing as much electricity as three nuclear power stations for the next 200 years. The eco-activists are unhappy about the loss of local mud flats which would force shore birds to relocate.

It now looks as though the West must choose between relocating some shore birds and seeing lots more Russian tanks monopolize the world’s energy supplies.

DENNIS T. AVERY is a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC and is the Director for the Center for Global Food Issues. ( He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 2442 or email to

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Russia, Georgia and Energy Connection

Why is there suddenly activity in Georgia that looks a lot like war? Most of us know nothing about Georgia and think that it is a state in the US. Why is Russia flexing its muscle? What are we not hearing in the news?

These are but a few of the questions we were asking when we heard the reports of fighting between Russia and Georgia. We turned to someone who knows a great deal about the inner workings of that part of the world, Michael Economides—one of our favorite contributors and author of the new book From Soviet to Putin and Back, subtitled: The Dominance of Energy in Today’s Russia.

We asked Economides for his insights on the situation and this is what he sent us. We believe it will shed new insights on the situation for you.

Scratch Russia-Georgia War and You Find Oil and Gas Pipelines
The war between Russia and Georgia has some nationalist elements, some old grudges but mostly it rubs the wrong way Russia’s newly found power: energy imperialism.

Georgia has refused to play along like other former Soviet states and, if anything, its independent attitude has been a giant irritant for Russia ever since Vladimir Putin used oil and gas to project hegemony over the region and, by extension, into all Europe. At the same time, Georgia, a tiny, 4 million people country has been trying to ward off the giant on its north by seeking membership in NATO or the European Union. In the post-Cold War era, the United States and Russia-dependent Europe are reduced to just pleading for calm.

A look at the map makes the issue at hand quite transparent.

Oil and gas can come from Russia into Europe by tanker through the Black Sea from its massive terminal in Novorossiysk or by pipelines through Belarus, Ukraine and even plans of under water construction in the Baltic. All of these give Russia a huge leverage, almost monopoly, over both the transit and destination countries. More than 25 European countries depend now for more than 75% of their oil and gas from Russia.

But Georgia was eager to act as a spoiler and European countries were even more eager to comply while trying to avoid incurring the wrath of the hand that feeds them.

First, it was the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (Turkey) oil pipeline that started in 2002 with a much weaker then Russia. The 1776 km line was to connect the Caspian and south Europe in what was to be an “Energy Corridor” for European oil and gas supplies. The pipeline was designed to carry 1 million barrels per day from Azerbaijan’s Caspian oil fields to the export terminal Ceyhan via Tbilisi, with Georgia acting as a very important transit country. This did not sit well with Russia, cutting it out from oil exports to that vital part of Europe. The pipeline, funded by western oil companies and banks at the tune of $3.2 billion, was commissioned in 2006.

What gave and still gives Russia fits is what else can happen that could affect its control. For example, how about building under-water pipelines across the Caspian linking Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan?

What really caused the ire of Russia was the talk of a gas pipeline, similar to the oil pipeline, again linking Azerbaijan and Turkey and points beyond (Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum) through Georgia. This would give Georgia energy independence and create an alternative route to the holy grail of Russian geopolitics: Gazprom’s monopoly.

Back in 2006, Gazprom, flexing its muscles, was manipulating the former Soviet states, by setting new records in gas export prices practically every month. It was clear then that the geopolitical climate in Eastern Europe would be severely damaged. In fact, double and triple increases in gas prices were imposed on Russia’s neighbors: Ukraine, then Belarus, then Armenia after all of them were threatened with gas supply interruptions, until new contracts with huge price increases were signed. They had no other choice but to surrender on Gazprom’s terms and conditions.

Georgia resisted the Russian might and that conflict predictably ended up with a war.

Things did not deteriorate all of a sudden. The conflict between Russia and Georgia started with the election in 2004 of the western-oriented president, Mikhail Saakashvili, who refused to accommodate Russia’s ambition of control over his country.

Then, Georgians discovered and expelled alleged Russian spies. In return, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, stirred a crass witch hunt against ordinary Georgians in Russia while Gazprom threatened to cut off gas supplies to Georgia unless it agreed to pay new gas prices from $110 to $230 per thousand cubic meters.

The blackmail from Gazprom was blatant: “The Georgian side could still maintain lower gas prices. They could compensate for gas price by trading off some assets… For example, Armenia had already paid Gazprom with its transportation network.” What this referred to was that Armenia saw the writing on the wall and kept the same price for gas supplies as before – $110 per thousand cubic meters. But they relinquished control of their gas network in the bargain.

But it was the talk of the construction of the gas pipelines via Georgia that was bound to create an alternative energy supply route to Russian oil and gas, thus threatening Russia’s energy stranglehold on the vast south European markets. This was not something that Russia could tolerate and the war, no matter what the daily pretexts are, is blatant and punishingly brutal.

Prof. Michael J. Economides, University of Houston and also Editor-in-Chief Energy Tribune Houston, TX

Saturday, August 2, 2008

China, Olympics and Energy

With the Olympics upon us, China is in the news on a regular basis. CARE received an e-mail from one of our friends stating that A reporter from Business Week magazine just asked for some contacts who could speak with knowledge about the air pollution situation in Beijing. We wracked our brains, knowing that within our circles was someone who’d spent a great deal of time in China. Bingo! Michael Economides, one of our favorite contributors. He sent us the following posting. (We forwarded it on to the contact with Business Weekly. What happens next remains to be seen.) While it did not directly connect to the Business Weekly topic, we thought it was worthy of passing on to you.

Within a matter of days, the next piece on China—addressing their approach to biofuels—arrived in our inbox. Again, it was worthy of sharing with you. While neither piece is directly fuel focused, both are of from members of our energy counsel and we believe their comments and insights will enrich your overall energy education.

Read them both. Pass on your comments. Let us know what you think!

An Olympic Salute to China from a Greek
I am supposed to write an energy and energy geopolitics column for the China Daily but the temptation is too great to let it pass by. Taking a break from depressing sky-high oil prices and conflicts for energy sources is squarely in the true spirit of the Olympics. Today, we are not close to their ancient requirements: wars would seize while the games were happening. Being of Greek background makes this column all the more appropriate. Let’s all celebrate the Beijing Olympics.

Years ago China won the privilege to host the 2008 Games for all the right reasons. Virtually no other country, established or developing, exemplifies the 21st century more than China. An economic superpower already, it is bound to influence the world economy and politics like no other in the not too distant future. It also has one of the greatest assets, a huge population that is industrious, values education, and is proud of its history and culture.

Only a handful of countries have a historical continuum that spans 5,000 years and, interestingly, China and Greece, now joined by the Olympics, would be in everybody’s very short list that would fit this description.

I have been visiting China for the better part of 30 years and the country has become unrecognizable in almost all good ways. Living in Houston, one of the US’s more dynamic cities, it has been strikingly different for decades on how many more construction cranes have been dotting the Beijing skyline compared to those of my city. Yes, Beijing and China still need work in services, bureaucracy and the environment but there should be no question that what has been achieved in so little time is more than any other country can show, perhaps in all history.

And yet, a world press, thriving incessantly on the negative which always sells more than the positive, applies the same on China, refusing to admit the obvious: the country is the epitome of modern success. A week before the Games, members of the press still harp on whether China can meet air standards and, even more preposterous, whether food would be safe to eat, this in a country where food is an art and people have been known to travel just to taste it. Tibet is the other item that often comes up in spite of the fact that the issue is truly irrelevant in the big scheme of Chinese politics. It is only brought up by misfit westerners and Hollywood types who do not understand the Chinese or even the Tibetan reality. Backlash inside China would have exactly the opposite effect they profess to desire.

What is rarely mentioned, and it should be, is that China has finished state of the art Olympic facilities in record time and along with them the country has produced a huge infrastructure that could only be the dream of every other country. Multiple lane highways have sprung up everywhere seemingly all of a sudden. The United States and Europe would be green with envy if they found out that China can build better highways in a fraction of the time that would take them. The Beijing airport is now the state of the art facility of its kind in the world--and will remain so for years. Chinese airlines, which perhaps just ten years ago would be iffy to fly, has emerged as a world class carrier with excellent service. They are also some of the best customers for Boeing and Airbus.

What is also rarely mentioned is that China has been quite circumspect in world politics and although accusations have occasionally surfaced for its role in the Sudan and Myanmar, in reality China has steadfastly avoided confrontation with the United States and Russia even at times when the Chinese interest might have dictated otherwise. The future historian will be kind to China during this era.

The Games should be China’s celebration. It has arrived in the world scene as an imposing, influential and constructive presence. The country and its people deserve the salute of the world. They earned it both as a nation and as the hosts of the Olympics. Xerete, which in Greek means enjoy yourself and be happy.

Prof. Michael J. Economides, University of Houston and also Editor-in-Chief Energy Tribune Houston, TX

China Releases Biotech Rice, Bars Biofuel
China says short world grain supplies have persuaded it to release biotech rice nationwide, ensuring the broadest-ever use of genetic engineering in a food crop. Chinese plant breeders say biotech crops are certain to produce higher yields, forestalling the need to finance costly rice imports for China’s billion-plus consumers.

To further protect its grain supplies, China has also been discouraging grain-based ethanol for the last two years. Chinese demand for grain ethanol—mainly from corn—had threatened to inflate prices for China’s rice and livestock products as world oil prices hit record levels.

These strategies may quickly become the model for developing countries as the world strives to double food and feed production over the next three decades—with or without biofuels.

Western biofuel mandates have, unfortunately, more than doubled world grain prices since 2005. Corn costs have soared from less than $2 per bushel to more than $7, before settling recently at about $5.50 per bushel. Pork, poultry, beef, and milk producers are still warning of further food price inflation ahead due to biofuels mandates.

The Chinese have already developed genetically engineered rice strains with bred-in pest and disease resistance. They’re also experimenting with new nitrogen-efficient rice that needs only half as much fertilizer to get top yields. The new rice thus costs much less to grow, and emits far less greenhouse gas per ton of rice produced. They also say biotech rice “escapes” will not be a problem, since they’ve pre-programmed the rice to be hyper-sensitive to a particular herbicide.

China already permits the growing of genetically engineered peppers, tomatoes, and papaya, and much of its huge cotton crop is genetically modified to resist pests. Biotech has overcome the deadly ringspot virus, which severely hampers papaya production in much of the world, and provided virus resistance for tomatoes and peppers. Another genetic modification permits Chinese tomatoes to survive the longer shipping delays caused by the poor Chinese roads and lack of refrigeration.

The nitrogen-efficient biotech rice being tested by the Chinese emerged at Canada’s University of Alberta, as breeders were seeking drought-tolerant crops. Someone forgot to fertilize the seeds in the greenhouse, but one set of plants grew vigorously anyhow. They had discovered a new and more efficient pathway for crop nitrogen uptake that allows top yields with half the nitrogen fertilizer.

Arcadia Biosciences is marketing the nitrogen-efficient crops, working with Chinese rice growers and Australian wheat growers and is working to develop the new nitrogen efficiency in corn. Arcadia has already signed a licensing agreement with the Maharashtra Seed Company in India, the world’s second-most-populous country.

Greenpeace claims that rice smuggled from biotech experimental fields has already been sold on consumer markets without government approval, and perhaps even exported. However, with world rice prices recently hitting record highs, no one has seemed to care.

The question today is how to produce adequate food, with cropland per person declining. In addition, fertilizer prices have been sharply inflated by the conversion of power plants to burn much of the natural gas which used to supply fertilizer factories.

World leaders are also welcoming the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s major effort to create a renewed Green Revolution to create the first high-yield farming in sub-Saharan Africa, supply the last surge of human population growth worldwide, and provide higher-quality diets for the tropical countries.

DENNIS T. AVERY is a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC and is the Director for the Center for Global Food Issues. ( He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 2442 or email to