Friday, June 26, 2009

International Renewable Energy Agency

The Worldwatch Institute is running a series on the newly formed International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) which is to meet next week to decide on a headquarters and elect the first director general.

UPDATE (9 July): IRENA has chosen Abu Dhabi as its headquarters and Helene Pelosse as director-general

I actually missed the announcement of the agency formation in January,but I welcome the formation of such a agency.

There is currently only one major international agency which is direct responsible for energy, the International Energy Agency (IEA).
But it is mostly a club for rich, energy consuming countries. The amount of its budget designated for renewable energy has recently increased to 2 percent. And all of its members are also members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Take a look at its website and the first thing you see are links to oil and gas market reports and the oil and gas prices.

So let us welcome the new IRENA and hope that developing countries and others get a voice.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Globalization, Economic Crisis, and Human Rights

Amnesty International annual report has rightly said that the global economic downturn is responsible for an increase in human rights abuses.

Actually, I think it is a consequence of our "globalization" over the last few years that has caused the problems, not just the recent downturn. The recent downturn has simply increased the problem. But I do not think it is the fault of globalization, but rather the way it has been practiced.

To me it seems while the developed countries have pushed globalization of goods and services, they have at the same time pushed for anti-globalization of people. In other words, while encouraging open borders for trade, they have closed borders for people. At the same time xenophobia and nationalism have been increasing. I also think that the excuse of a "war on terror" (not only in the US, but world-wide) has contributed to the problems.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jatropha, implications for Asia

There is an interesting article over at EcoWorldly about jatropha, claimed by some as a wonder crop for biofuels (haven't we heard that before?). That article is about Africa, but what about its implications for Asia. Here in Thailand (and in the Philippines) the government has been pushing for its use.

Jatropha is a suggested biofuel crop which is poisonous, and hence has no value as a food crop.

Jatropha has been pushed because the proponents claim the plant can be grown in poor soils and with little water. But the EcoWorldly article contains some fascinating statements a manager of a major plant oil company. He says that Jatropha needs fertilizer and water just like any other plant and is prone to disease if not grown as an intercrop. He also made the comment that if grown on marginal lands you will get marginal yields.

So what does this imply for Asia. One is that their needs to be more independent research into using Jatropha as a biofuel, especially in terms of its effect on farmers. Secondly, all the evidence points to the use of Jatropha only as an intercrop, which is not what is being pushed in Thailand.

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Doubts about CDM

Update: There is a new Reuters report on a major problem with the carbon market.

At the Entech exhibition I mentioned in a previous post I did notice a number of exhibitors talking about CDM (clean development mechanism) services.

CDM is a mechanism under the Kyoto protocol which allows companies to develop project which will reduce emissions below the current level. Only projects in non-industrial countries can be eligible for the CDM. These project then earn emission credits (called certified emission reductions (CER)) which can then be traded.

My observations makes me wonder if the CDM will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. My concerns raise from the fact that there have been a quite large number of companies which have either been started to provide "CDM Services" or have created a new section for the services. These companies almost all emphasize the financial aspects of CDM and most of the employees appear to come from the financial side of things.

The problem that I fear is with this emphasis on markets that the main idea - reducing carbon emissions - will be diluted at best and ignored at worst. We can look no further than the financial markets in general with their so-called innovative finance - such as derivatives, short selling, etc. (See my take on the financial crisis here.) For example, pension funds are supposed to be about providing an after-retirement income - instead many are now broke.

As I was writing this I noticed a news story about speculating being done in the carbon trading causing wild fluctuations in the price of carbon. An emission trader was even quoted as saying that people should become used to these fluctuations.

The main problem with speculating here is two fold. The purpose of the CDM is to give an incentive for non-industrialized countries to reduce emissions, fluctuating prices reduce that incentive by putting uncertainity into their minds. Secondly, speculating is simply a way for traders (ah...speculators) to make money and has nothing to do with sustainable development.

It should be noted there have been other problems that have come up in relationship to CDM. Especially notable is that fact that some CER's have been given to pre-existing projects -- instead of new projects as is supposed to happen. Also, there is some question as to whether reforestation projects (a part of CDM) can compete with palm oil plantations for money.

Let us get back to concentrating on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases.