Biofuels fueling conflict

The need for good research

The rush to put biofuels in our gas tanks has given people analyzing natural resources and conflict some work to do. How are European and American policy mandates to dramatically increase the use of biofuels affecting the places that grow biofuel inputs? It seems fair to say that little consideration has been given to the potential conflict and equity impacts of this surge in demand for palm oil, sugarcane, and corn. After President Bush's 2007 State of the Union address, which called for massive increases in biofuels, we heard stories of skyrocketing corn tortilla prices and resulting social disruptions. Now we have stories coming from places like West Kalimantan, a remote region of Indonesia where the rush to plant palm-oil plantations is generating conflict with Indonesians who grow rubber trees and other crops on their small plots of land. The NGO Friends of the Earth Netherlands has a new report calling out the unethical practices of some palm-oil companies that clear existing crops first and make payouts (maybe) to the farmers who own the land later. It strikes me that this particular link between natural resource management and conflict offers an avenue for addressing one of the traditional shortcomings of environment and conflict research.

Step It Up 2 is coming this November — get ready to hit the streetsAsk politicians to join Step It

Bill McKibben is organizing Step It Up 2, a national day of climate action. A scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, the first book for a general audience …

Repetto argues for upstream cap-and-trade

More on carbon trading

August is a time to catch up on reading. A good place to start is "National Climate Policy: Choosing the Right Architecture" [PDF], by Yale's Robert Repetto, one of the country's leading experts on environmental and resource economics. He argues for an upstream cap-and-trade system, and against a safety valve. Other views can be found here, here, and here. This is Repetto's conclusion:

YearlyKos: My message to the netroots

Listen up

I thought, as a final post on Yearly Kos (about which I fear my posts are woefully inadequate — it really was a fascinating sociopolitical event, worthy of better analysis than I’m able to give …

An interview with Bill Richardson about his presidential platform on energy and the environment

This is part of a series of interviews with presidential candidates produced jointly by Grist and Outside. Update: Bill Richardson dropped out of the presidential race on Jan. 10, 2008. Bill Richardson. Photo: Michael Millhollin …

Subsidizing healthier freedom fries

Yet another distortion to correct a distortion

Anybody who closely follows U.S. agricultural policy appreciates the journalism of Philip Brasher and his team at the Des Moines Register. One of Mr. Brasher's recent articles highlights a feature of the farm bill recently passed by the House of Representatives that probably few people have heard of: the "Healthy Oils Incentive Program." According to the website of freshman Congressman Nick Lampson (D-Stafford, Texas) -- who recently underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery -- the Healthy Oils Incentive Program would create a "one-time incentive" to encourage development and commercialization of certain oilseeds and healthy oils to replace the use of trans fats in foods. Naturally, there is a connection here with biofuels.

Saturday night's energy bill

It contains some transformative measures

Contentious round of voting Saturday night, and the heavy threat of the president's veto pen, but if we can get through the political fog, the House may well have accomplished something truly monumental. Two big pieces in the energy bill worth noting, and following closely in any subsequent compromise. Both are transformative for our electricity markets -- an area where past energy bills (at least since 1993) have favored the status quo over true reform. In addition, with >50 GW of already identified potential for zero-carbon electricity from industrial waste heat sources (compare to the entire US nuclear fleet at 100 GW), this has the potential to massively reduce carbon emissions associated with power generation, to a degree not likely (at least in the near term) from any other legislative activity:

Dream a Little Ream of Me

House passes ambitious energy bill, Bush threatens veto The first national renewable-energy standard. Revoked oil-industry tax breaks that will help pay for clean energy. Funding for green job creation. A carbon-neutral federal government. What’s all …

A look at Bill Richardson’s environmental platform and record

Update: Bill Richardson dropped out of the presidential race on Jan. 10, 2008. Bill Richardson has been an advocate for clean energy and action against climate change during his tenure as governor of New Mexico …

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