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60 billion barrels off the coast of Louisiana?!

Um, this is a hoax, right? (via Sustainablog)

Axis of oil

If you can forgive his Very Buzzy Phrases and tendency to quote himself, the Mustache's cover story for Foreign Policy is worth a read. He explains why, as the price of oil goes up, movements to promote free speech, free press, and democratic elections flounder in oil-producing countries. When rulers know they can pump money out of the ground, there's less incentive to promote other forms of economic growth and private enterprise. And when much of the world comes begging at their doorsteps ("more oil, please"), leaders in countries such as Russia, Iran, and Nigeria feel their hands stregthened to ignore international bugaboos such as human rights. Even if the U.S. and Europe were to try to play tough cop (given history, there's ample reason to be cynical), their efforts may well be undercut by China and Russia, who openly pick fewer bones about where they do business. In short, high oil prices = less freedom. So if the White House really wants to get serious about promoting freedom and democracy in the Middle East ...

The Dirk side of the force

When Gale Norton announced she was stepping down as Interior Secretary, greens cheered ... until the president nominated Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne as her replacement. Yet, at least one hopeful sign came out of last week's nomination hearings. On Thursday, Kempthorne was grilled by both Democrat and Republican senators on whether he would support George Bush's proposal to sell off select public lands (to offset the federal deficit, the official reasoning went). But Kempthorne seemed to think it was a bad idea to hit the pawn shops with deeds to Forest Service and BLM lands. Or, more precisely, he said, "On the sale of public land for deficit reduction for operating expenses, I do not favor that." (Yes, he reserved the right to support public-land sales for other reasons.)

OK, you found me

Yes, they have deer on Maui, and Brazilian cardinals, and just about anything else you can think of. Following dinner one night, our hosts took us into the yard to see some "chameleons." Everyone calls the common green anole a chameleon, so I was not expecting much. However, sitting on a tree branch staring at me with one eye (and at our host with the other) was a Jackson's chameleon. Hawaii may be a look into the future of the planet's biodiversity. Although about a quarter of its native birds are extinct, some introduced species that are heading for extinction in their native habitat are thriving here. Islands are especially sensitive to invasive species. Hawaii is not alone with its problems.

South Africa kills sport of shooting rhinos at close range (in closed pens)

"Canned" always signals a welcome improvement -- whether it's canned meat, canned asparagus, or canned hunts. A canned hunt is one in which the prey is an animal raised in captivity and confined in a small area so the "hunter" can shoot it at close range. Usually with some trees around, for that authentic woodsy feel. Not quite as easy as firing a few rounds into a venison steak, but close. Canned hunts are popular in the states, for those hunters-on-the-go who just can't wander around all day looking for prey, and because they're fairly idiot-proof (unless you go shooting your partner in the face). But sadly, South Africa just passed a law that takes the best part out of going on a big-game safari in the deepest jungles of Africa: the convenience. Canned hunts for wealthy tourists, or "tinned hunts" for wealthy British tourists, are a multi-million dollar industry in South Africa. Prices paid ranged from $25 for pigeons and quail to $25,000 for a white rhinoceros. Breeders have used crossbreeding and genetic manipulation to make the potential trophies more appealing -- by producing large numbers of albino lions, for instance. When the new law was passed, breeders were working on their most appealing hunting trophy yet: animals with their heads pre-mounted on wooden plaques.

Depressing Friday reading

Sorry for the paucity of blogging -- we've been have big meetings about the Future of Grist (I won't give anything away, but suffice to say we gotta wear shades). As some light Friday reading, try an article from Harvard Magazine called "Fueling Our Future" (and don't miss the sidebar, "Is Nuclear Power Scaleable?"). It's a tight, cogent, and fairly disheartening explanation of the sheer scope of what we need to do: reduce GHG emissions by 60 to 70 percent by 2050. And that's just to stabilize climate temperature at already dangerously high levels. Harvard prof Daniel Schrag, who's featured in the piece, argues fairly convincingly that we're going to be using a lot more coal for energy in the next several decades, and so there's no way around finding reasonably clean ways to do it. His own scheme is to carry the CO2 out on ships and inject it into deep ocean waters where pressure and temperature will keep it down. Sounds like something to pin your future on, huh? None of the people featured in the article are exactly thrilled about coal, or about nuclear, which they also endorse. They just view them as inevitable realities. Read the piece and share your thoughts in comments.

The Wheel Deal: Road trip version

Electric car gets its kicks on Route 66

Electric car booster Remy Chevalier -- editor at large for the zine Electrifying Times and last seen at swanky parties with Grist higher-ups -- is getting his kicks on Route 66. No, literally. If you're in Chicago next Friday, head to the Funky Buddha lounge to help Remy and Co. kick off a two-week trip from Chicago to Los Angeles on the infamous Route 66. No gas-guzzling road trip this -- the crew has stated three eco-goals:

Oil production’s peaking? Snag a Hummer

Memo to self: Keep up with the Wall Street Journal's daily Oil-News Roundup. Two choice nuggets emerged today. First, there's this discussion of Royal Dutch Shell's latest quarterly earnings report: Royal Dutch Shell, the world's fourth-largest publicly traded oil company, reported a tiny, 3% increase in first-quarter earnings from a year ago, but said the high cost of sucking oil and natural gas out of the ground could delay some exploration projects, especially long-term developments, including one planned for the Gulf of Mexico. Shell also said it could no longer promise to replace 100% of the reserves it depletes this year. [Emphasis added for the benefit of peak-oil enthusiasts.] Next, on the auto-biz front, there's this:

Organic food sales slow a bit

Just as large retailers enter the market

Although a recent Wall Street Journal report properly touts the impressive upward trend of organic-food sales, data cited in the story show that the actual rate of growth in organic sales is falling slightly, just as mega-retailers poise themselves to enter the organics market.

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