Fuel funding flowing foolishly

Which biofuels are truly environmentally sound?

Politicians in many countries are rethinking the billions of dollars in subsidies that have indiscriminately supported the spread of all of these supposedly “eco- friendly” fuels for use in power vehicles and factories.

The 2003 European Union Biofuels Directive which demands that all member states aim to have 5.75 percent of transportation fueled by biofuel in 2010 is now under review.

“If you make biofuels properly, you will reduce greenhouse emissions… You can end up with a 90 percent reduction compared to fossil fuels — or a 20 percent increase.”

On the surface, the environmental equation that supports biofuels is simple:

Since they are derived from plants,
biofuels absorb carbon while they are grown
and release it when they are burned.

In theory that neutralizes their emissions.

Rainforest vista
Planting palm for biofuel But rainforests that are stripped to plant biofuel crops cause an increase in carbon emissions.

The industry [is being] promoted long before there [is] adequate research….

Biofuels should not automatically be classed as ‘renewable energy’.

Story at International Herald Tribune

Pushing bushels. Corn prices rising!

tortilla protest

Tens of thousands of people have marched through Mexico City in a protest against the rising price of tortillas.

The price of the flat corn bread, the main source of calories for many poor Mexicans, recently rose by over 400%.

Challenges of a flat world

Seeking to comprehend the changing structure of power and authority:

We are in the midst of a revolution. Some will call this revolution globalisation. Others will call it the knowledge revolution. Whatever we call it, we are witnessing everywhere a changing power equation.

Power is moving from the centre to the periphery. Vertical command and control structures are eroding, and being replaced by horizontal networks of social communities and collaborative platforms.

Unprecedented integration and interconnectedness have created a true global neighbourhood. But there is an underlying paradox. Power is becoming more and more widespread, but it is also becoming harder and harder to harness.

We have a de facto global world, but our institutions and systems of global governance are disintegrating.

Klaus Schwab,
founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum,
Business Report fom the annual meeting in Davos.

A related analysis:
Davos 07: how power has shifted

The unipolar moment of US supremacy has passed.
Power is now diffused between multiple states and groups.

via lunchoverip

Most of us get really excited about such terms as “globalization,” mainly because we associate it with learning how to appreciate a good Thai green curry and being able to buy cheap T-shirts made in Bangladesh.

Tsk. What we really need to worry about is a global uprising among the growing ranks of the poor against the rich. Uneasy statistics.

400 new airports in China

Sometimes the scale of change is difficult to see:

China in the next 10 years will build 400 new airports. Foster is working on the new one in Beijing, which will be huge, but he wants it to be “green and compact despite its size”: “it will be about the human experience of travel”. Foster ends with this line: “Who is going to crack our dependence on fossil fuels? Inspiration is more likely to come from China, India and other emerging countries” than from the US and Europe.

via lunchoverip

Pond scum biofuel

Using only soybean and corn to meet biofuel demand would require the world to use virtually all of its arable land. A process known as ligno-cellulosis would enable non-food crops and plant waste to be used to produce biofuels.

Algae, also known as pond scum, can produce up to 10,000 gallons of oil per acre and can be grown virtually anywhere.

Utah State University Biofuels Program – with $6 million for five years through the Utah Science and Technology Research Initiative – is researching algae and plans to produce an algae-biodiesel that is cost-competitive by 2009.

Biodiesel is a clean and carbon-dioxide-neutral fuel that is becoming more popular, but most of the current product comes from soybean and corn oil.

As supply and demand grows, so does the price of soybeans and corn. People and animals rely on soybean and corn as a food commodity, eventually causing competition between commodities and growing enough product.

GreenFuel Technologies Corporation is a pioneer in the development of algae bioreactor technology to convert the CO2 in your smokestack gases into clean, renewable biofuels.

Molecule farming

Ranching at the Molecule FarmA bird’s egg, biomineralization and growing new materials.

A bird’s eggshell is about a half-millimeter of layered calcium carbonate crystals, stabilized by a protein matrix.

The shell forms during just about 12 hours of travel time through the bird’s oviduct, an amazing natural feat.

It starts as a collagen membrane and goes through a series of different fluids with different species in them, and in the end, you have this hard mineral….

It might be possible to grow new bone, teeth or cartilage by using collagen and calcium phosphate, said NSLS physicist Elaine DiMasi, one of the authors of the biomineralization study that was published in the October 3, 2006 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cotton, colonialism and globalization

Ghandi using cotton wheelHere is a quick overview of the cotton trade in this thoughtful post on cotton, colonialism and globalization.

It starts 6,000 years ago with a snippet describing cotton as ‘tree wool’, carries us along the traditions of growing cotton in India and Africa, swings us through British colonialism and industrialization and through America’s slavery driven success with cotton, offers an ascerbic quote while Ghandi is lifting India toward independence, provides a short picture of the world’s current cotton trade, and concludes with serious questions about the tactics of dominant players that remain powerful in a free market that may not be free nor fair.

Different economists have argued that if “free trade” were truly free a lot of developing countries would have better savings, credit institutions, and profitability.

Isn’t it funny how the empires founded on the tight embrace of free trade are so protectionist when it’s something that the third world does better?

And it was in light of government’s protectionist policies that benefitted wealthy elites that Adam Smith wrote Wealth of Nations, which is frequently mis-cited/applied as the “laissez faire” solution to capitalism, when in fact he was talking about reforming mercantilism, government cronyism, and wealth disparities.

As Om Malik discovered, SepiaMutiny has a great post on the role cotton.

Update from previous post:
It appears that many people are still living in the world of the old debate between “the free market” and “socialism”.

but …all societies have always had market economies.

The question is: What SORT of market economy?

The modern market economy with which we are familiar, and for which many argue so hysterically, did not come into existence because of the magical thing called “the free market”.

Rather, the kind of free market with which we are familiar, and which we admire so much, arose in Reformation countries in order to confront and change traditional markets that had simply reinforced entirely unjust hierarchy and elite society.

Most widely used material

The production of cement, the primary component of concrete, accounts for 5 to 10 percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions; the process is an important contributor to global warming.

Cement is manufactured at the rate of 2.35 billion tons per year, enough to produce 1 cubic meter of concrete for every person in the world.

If engineers can reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the world’s cement manufacturing by even 10 percent, that would accomplish one-fifth of the Kyoto Protocol goal of a 5.2 percent reduction in total carbon dioxide emissions. [Science blog]

Mitigating climate change

The US government has suggested that “modifying solar radiance” by the use of giant mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays could help to reduce global warming.

Thousands of scientists are involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are finalizing their report on climate change. The main message to the world’s politicians will be the increased confidence attached to the statement that the warmer temperatures of the past 50 years are mainly attributable to man’s activities. [story]

Business therapy

I’m often wondering why so few business people tell the “inside story”. There are 1,000s of rip-offs, betrayals and dirty deals every day, but often in the shame of it, folks keep quiet.

This link features a good honest rant.

And it points out a libertine mood in the book publishing sector that may haunt America.

Many people seem to think this is just another bankruptcy story. But it is, in its own way, possibly bigger than Enron or World Com.

Thomson bought Delmar and then Aspen. Harcourt bought Academic Press and Mosby, joining them up with previous acquisition Saunders. Then Thomson and Reed-Elsevier divvied up Harcourt.

Between 1999 and 2003, ten different [companies] became two. That consolidation created an “oligopoly.” Unlike a monopoly, which is capitalism taken to its logical (and disastrous) extreme on the supply side, an oligopoly is capitalism taken to its extreme by a limited number…

When the History channel picked the most important people of the past 1000 years at the turn of the millennium, number one was Johann Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press. Because without him, the narrator said, there would never have been a way for the great scientists, scholars, and promoters of democracy to get their ideas to the world. And we can’t afford to let what Gutenberg invented by rubbed out by corporate greed five centuries later.

What Can One Author Do?

Heart for Entrepreneurs

Don’t Let ANYONE Tell You That You CAN’T Do Something.

Optimism runs through the blood of almost every entrepreneur I know. You must believe that if you can see it, you can do it. It’s that simple. With that, I highly recommend staying away from individuals or energy that take anything away from that knowledge and belief. You are capable of everything you need to do to be successful. Dream your dream, crystalize your vision, will it to happen, then make it happen. Always know it is up to you.

Taking the Plunge: A Perspective On Entrepreneurship

Community wealth building

Few Americans are aware of the steady build-up of innovative community wealth building strategies throughout the United States.

The goal of Community-Wealth.org is to provide the web’s most comprehensive and up-to-date information resource on state-of-the-art strategies for democratic, community-based economic development.

Capitalism 3.0 is out. It’s about how to upgrade our economic operating system so that it protects the planet, shares income more equitably, and makes us happier, while preserving the strengths of capitalism as we know it. The key to the proposed upgrade is to rebuild the commons, that dwindling set of natural and social assets that benefit everyone.

In the spirit of enlivening the cultural commons, the book’s publisher, Berrett-Koehler, has agreed to an experiment. They are selling the book in the usual places — in bookstores and on-line — but they’re also allowing readers to download the book from this web site for free. Find the .pdf here

  • “People will acknowledge as just or fair only a social order that they themselves help to define.” Polsky, ’83 Democracy (winter)
  • “Local initiatives should have substantial content and communities should plan investments and administer services . Services in which would reassert the importance of places so people could rise with their communities not in spite of them.” Lockout, ’83 Democracy (winter)

Quotes I used in my policy presentations at a 1980’s ‘conference on the future’ at the College of Marin, California. I was a founding director of a 501(c)3 called Community Renewal Inc. operating a short time under a charter to assist California community leaders including infrastructure and development trends that encouraged local initiative and local sovereignty.

The Dalai Lama’s Recommendations for You

1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3. Follow the three Rs:

    Respect for self
    Respect for others and
    Responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

7. When you realise you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.


Betrayal Trauma

A look at kids (or adults) and the effects of trauma points to something other than just so-called brainwashing.

Under some circumstances detecting betrayals may be counter-productive to survival.

Specifically, in cases where a victim is dependent on a caregiver, survival may require that she/he remain unaware of the betrayal. In the case of childhood sexual abuse, a child who is aware that her/his parent is being abusive may withdraw from the relationship (e.g., emotionally or in terms of proximity).

For a child who depends on a caregiver for basic survival, withdrawing may actually be at odds with ultimate survival goals, particularly when the caregiver responds to withdrawal by further reducing caregiving or increasing violence. In such cases, the child’s survival would be better ensured by being blind to the betrayal and isolating the knowledge of the event, thus remaining engaged with the caregiver.

Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions we depend on for survival violate us in some way. An example of betrayal trauma is childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.” from http://www.loyola.edu/campuslife/healthservices/counselingcenter/trauma.html

…the core issue is betrayal — a betrayal of trust that produces conflict between external reality and a necessary system of social dependence.

…if the person who has betrayed us is someone we need to continue interacting with despite the betrayal, then it is not to our advantage to respond to the betrayal in the normal way. Instead we essentially need to ignore the betrayal.

Betrayal trauma theory

Plus a thorough examination of Loss of the Assumptive World,
A Theory of Traumatic Loss – the reconstruction of meaning processes, the nuanced relationships with self and others, the wide range of psychological processes and “what cannot be said” in response to traumatic loss. at Amazon

run like a river

rise like a tree
lie like a mountain
that’s the trouble with me

listening to water
excited by its willingness

Heat mining for electrical power

Heat mining has the potential to supply a significant amount of the country’s electricity currently being generated by conventional fossil fuel, hydroelectric and nuclear plants.

A comprehensive new MIT-led study of the potential for geothermal energy within the United States has found that mining the huge amounts of heat that reside as stored thermal energy in the Earth’s hard rock crust could supply a substantial portion of the electricity the United States will need in the future, probably at competitive prices and with minimal environmental impact.

… continuing improvements in deep-drilling and reservoir stimulation technology
… requires depths of ~5,000 feet in the west, deeper in the east
… a non-interruptible source of electric power
… a non-carbon-based energy source

The expert panel offers a number of recommendations to develop geothermal as a major electricity supplier for the nation. Science Blog

Maybe the first “closed-loop geothermal power plant” proposal?

I worked with Tom Brown over several years, a founder of Tosco Petroleum and a Fellow of the American Petroleum Institute. In the months before he passed away, we were developing prospects for “re-injectable” geothermal systems. Many geothermal sites exhaust their supply of steam water.

A new and exciting breakthrough was also being introduced where hot brine water would be expanded directly onto the generator’s turbine blades. A direct turbine system eliminates the capital and lifecycle costs of a conventional two-stage system now used in order to separate caustic and corrosive brine from critical machinery.

The Improving State of the World

The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet, Indur Goklany, Cato 2007

It is a sobering thought that, until relatively recently, most readers of this article would be dead before they reached their current age. As recently as 1900 the average human life expectancy worldwide is estimated to have been about 31 years. In the Middle Ages it was 20-30. Even those readers who have not yet reached their twenties would probably not have many years left if they lived in the pre-industrial era.

Goklany, who has worked in environmental policy for over 30 years, says it was partly his Indian upbringing that motivated him to write the book. Most of the people he meets in his professional capacity, specialising in climate change and in health policy, have a bleak view of the world. They tend to assume things are getting worse all the time. ‘I don’t share that point of view…’

Every town needs a Thinker’s Cafe

For a meeting of minds, anyone’s mind, Cafe Philosophy keeps the door wide open.

For the past 10 years in Victoria, British Columbia, it has set the scene for casual, modern-day philosophical discussion that draws on the wisdom of the ages.

It doesn’t matter whether participants are puzzled by Plato and hopeless about Heidegger: this is street-level philosophy, no course work required, life experience desired. And it’s believed to have gone on longer, week in and week out, than any other such mental meeting ground in Canada. That’s thanks in large part to the leadership of philosopher-facilitator Michael Picard.

“There is definitely a need to hear oneself think…, a comforting way to build a sense of community. “You have these ideas of what it is to be human in your head and then hear other people talk about them. It’s the nitty-gritty of life underneath all the trappings.” There’s a lot of joy to it. It is lovely to have that direct dialogue, it’s really exciting.

The happiest man in the world?

…and you can learn how he does it.

To scientists, he is the world’s happiest man. His level of mind control is astonishing and the upbeat impulses in his brain are off the scale.

Now Matthieu Ricard, 60, a French academic-turned-Buddhist monk, is to share his secrets to make the world a happier place. The trick, he reckons, is to put some effort into it. In essence, happiness is a “skill” to be learned.

“Our life can be greatly transformed by even a minimal change in how we manage our thoughts and perceive and interpret the world. Happiness is a skill. It requires effort and time.” [news article at The Independent]

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. Marcus Aurelius

Somewhere Over The Rainbow, ukulele

A few moments of beauty, of hope, of humanity, and a very nice song too!

Linked to YouTube
Via: VideoSift

Memorial to Israel Kamakawiwo`ole, a very big man (600 pounds) with an aching beautiful voice. It can be found on two CDs: “Facing Forward” (mostly Hawaiian language songs with ukulele), and on the soundtrack to “Meet Joe Black”, where it played in the credits. Guitar tabs here

Kamakawiwo’ole sort of kept his manager on “stand-by”….to be able to respond whenever he was inspired to record. Kamakawiwo’ole was a perfectionist and wouldn’t record something until it was just right.

One night his manager had to get a guy to open up the recording studio because Kamakawiwo’ole had been up working on something and wanted to record it right away.

That night he recorded this song one take and he was done. He never sang the arrangement again.

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I liked the story. Sad to know he’s gone.

Iz lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu. He was only the third person in Hawaiian history to have this honor bestowed, and the only non-politician… wikipedia

When stress will damage us

Our brains are designed to help us “power through.” Under stress, the brain signals to release hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. They give us energy, strengthen the immune system, improve reflexes and even help our memory.

But if we are always under stress, the release of cortisol begins to work against us.

“Chronic stress affects your head, your heart, your liver, your immune system,” says Bruce McEwen, a scientist at Rockefeller University in New York.

McEwen has discovered that chronic stress causes neurons in the brain to shrink and change shape. In animals, that causes a loss of memory, increased anxiety and aggressiveness that can lead to signs of depression.

Other research, undertaken by psychologist Elissa Epel, has shown how chronic stress can speed up aging and make us more prone to disease.

“Stress has been shown to affect virtually every physiological system we have,” Epel says. “Stress even affects cells at the molecular level.”

Eppel’s research has shown that telomeres, the protective coating at the end of chromosomes, get frayed and worn by stress, mimicking the effects of aging.

[story at CBS]

Previous post: Cortisol when you wake up

What Do Humans Want?

Satisfaction comes less from the attainment of a goal
and more in what you must do to get there. ~ Gregory Berns, MD, PhD

Dr. Berns, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, says human contentment is indeed possible in Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment. And he should know. He’s spent his academic career investigating happiness – or in neuroscientific terms, the circumstances under which the brain releases dopamine (for happiness) or cortisol (for stress).

Living single AND living isolated?

The news that 51 percent of all women live without a spouse might be enough to make you invest in cat futures.

But consider, too, the flip side: about half of all men find themselves in the same situation.

As the number of people marrying has dropped off in the last 45 years, the marriage rate has declined equally for men and for women. [story]

It might be hard to understand what’s happening across our culture.

Nearly a quarter of people surveyed said
they had “zero” close friends.