Edward Snowden Won’t Undo the Patriot Act.
15 June 2013
ate last week, we found out that the source of the major NSA leak was a 29-year-old, Ron Paul–supporting defense contractor named Edward Snowden. Both John Boehner and Dianne Feinstein have labeled Snowden a traitor. The Times editorial board has come to his defense. What do you make of him?
Isn’t it something of a commentary on the might of the American surveillance state that a 29-year-old high-school dropout could elude an international law-enforcement dragnet for as long as Snowden has? As Seth Lipsky wrote in the New York Post this morning, it’s a plot out of Catch Me If You Can. That said, it’s preposterous to label this 29-year-old IT guy a traitor at this point. As far as we can tell now, he hasn’t handed over state secrets to an enemy. The revelation that the government is using data mining in itself does not seem to have damaged our security; surely terrorists aren’t total idiots and have figured this out too. Nor is Snowden a hero. His leak is unlikely to rescue America from the Orwellian excesses of the Patriot Act that have haunted us for more than a decade. What Snowden has done instead is far more prosaic: He has revealed a post-9/11 security regimen that few sentient Americans seem to find surprising and that many seem to want. Snowden’s flair for self-dramatization, and that of his fans in the news media and politics, should not be confused with the somewhat more mundane reality of this whole incident. His main civic contribution thus far is – in the words of President Obama and countless others – to open up a debate about the state of privacy in America. I fear that debate will not survive August.
The tech industry is currently both wildly popular and widely trusted. Do you think that a scandal that involves such giants as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft will do serious damage to their clout and their bottom lines?
In a word, no. Americans love these companies – well, maybe not Microsoft – and spend much of their day handing over money and personal information to them.
The Senate voted on Tuesday to begin debate on bipartisan immigration reform. President Obama has staked a lot of political capital on this bill. Would its passage shift the narrative of his second term in a significant way?
Remember when there was all that hoopla and optimism about Senate Republicans voting to allow debate on gun-control legislation? It turned out to be a nonevent since the GOP had no intention of letting any supposed threats to the Second Amendment become law. So yesterday’s vote to advance debate on the immigration bill in the Senate may also prove much ado about very little. Even if the bill does get through that chamber, I have yet to see any persuasive evidence that a meaningful bill will get past the radical right GOP base in the House. We’ll see. What we do know is that politicians of both parties have a big stake in immigration reform. As you indicate, a solid law would be a boon to Obama: It would be a major achievement, defying the expected second-term doldrums, and would join Obamacare as a potential historical marker for his presidency. It’s also in the career interest of Senate Majority Leader–in-Waiting Chuck Schumer, the manager of this bill, to pull off an LBJ-like triumph. And it is in the interest of the Republican Party as a whole (and its putative presidential candidate Marco Rubio) to sign on to a law that has a shot at inducing Hispanic voters to give it a second look after a decade of Republican politicians smearing Latinos en masse as freeloaders, “wetbacks,” and thugs. As everyone knows, without Hispanic voters the GOP will be in the political wilderness for years to come. So the bottom line is this: Here is a rare example where it’s to both parties’ political advantage (not to mention the nation’s advantage) to get something done. If they fail on this one, it’s probably safe to assume that no governance will happen in Washington until another election or two shakes up the current political alignment.
If you are in New York you can hear today at an investor’s meeting, about the largest stored-power vanadium redox battery in the world, beeing built in Ohio, that can help bring about an economy based on wind and solar power.
Currently building the largest stored-power vanadium redox battery in the world in Ohio.
After over four years working on designing, manufacturing and integrating vanadium redox flow batteries (regenerative fuel cells) into the electric grid, Ashlawn Energy is now building the world’s largest stored-power vanadium redox battery in the world (8 MWh of stored power) at Painesville Municipal Electric Plant (PMEP) in Painesville, Ohio, where it will also manufacture its redox flow batteries. .
Ashlawn’s VanCharg™ vanadium redox flow battery system is used with wind and solar installations to reduce variability from these intermittent renewable sources, and for utility peak shaving for utilities and industrial large power users. With the advantages it has over other forms of large-scale stored power, VanCharg™ could be a major part of the solution to the intermittency of wind and solar power, as more installations come on stream.
Ashlawn has licensed vanadium redox battery technology from its original inventor in Australia, and developed its all-American proprietary design, manufactured largely in northeast Ohio. The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Ashlawn the prestigious Smart Grid Demonstration Project (SGDP) grant to build, install and demonstrate that 8 MWh battery at PMEP. In addition to PMEP, Ashlawn has formed strategic alliances with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) (Battelle Institute, Richland, WA), to develop an all-American design and manufacturing team. Ashlawn will manufacture redox flow batteries in Painesville, Ohio.
The vanadium battery Ashlawn is building for PMEP is supported by an ARRA-funded Smart Grid Demonstration Project (one of 16 awarded in the U.S.) to manufacture and demonstrate this 8 MWh vanadium redox battery as a peak shaving storage battery for PMEP. The peak shaving benefits to PMEP include higher fuel efficiency and reduced emissions at Painesville’s city-owned 32 MW coal-fired generating plant. It is worth repeating that this battery will be the largest of its type in the world.
Ashlawn Energy is ambitious. It intends to become the dominant US provider for electrical storage for wind, solar, utility and industrial peak management by 2015. The company provides proven, affordable, technical solutions to vital energy problems in the US, to engage its community stakeholders by providing a productive local impact, and to provide meaning and a sense of purpose to all of our stakeholders, to include our employees, strategic alliance partners, and communities.
Norma Byron, founder and President, will discuss the benefits vanadium redox flow battery systems will provide to utilities, large electric users and in incorporating solar and wind energy systems to the grid.
Sector Expert Larry Austin, President, SunWalker, will discuss the financing of these batteries, and the large markets they face in the United States and around the world.
Date: June 14, 2013
Time: 8:00 – 10:00 am
Place: Crowell Moring LLC
590 Madison Ave. at 57th Street, south-west corner
Transport: Nearest subway station: 59th Street & Lexington Ave.
The N, Q, R and the E, M and the F aren’t far, either. If coming from the west side, the 57th Street bus also works well.
Security: Tell the security personnel that you are attending the Center for Economic and Environmental Partnership, Inc. meeting at Crowell Morning. You will need personal ID. They will issue a pass. If there is a problem, please contact Ellen Reilly at (212) 895-4265 (first choice) or call Gelvin Stevenson at 917-599-6089.
Fees: $50, payable ahead of time or at the door. Cash or checks (payable to CEEP) and credit cards accepted.
$25 for call-in. Registered call-ins will be emailed the call-in numbers and, if available, the slides to be presented.
$25 for students.
See below for Annual Registration opportunities and other important conditions.
Agenda 8:00 to 8:30 - Networking with Colleagues
8:30 to 8:40 - Introductions
8:40 to 9:10 - Norma Byron, Founder and President, Ashlawn Energy
9:10 to 9:30 - Larry Austin, President, SunWalker
9:30 to 10:00 – Discussion and Networking
Mark Austin, Chandler-Reed
John Cusack, Gifford Park Associates
Ira Rubenstein, Center for Economic and Environmental Partnership, Inc.
Gelvin Stevenson, Ph.D., Center for Economic and Environmental Partnership, Inc.
NYE&EF Annual Subscriptions and Sponsorship Opportunities
1. An Annual Subscription for NYE&EF is available for $450. It provides admittance (in person or by phone) to all regularly scheduled meetings held through December 2013 (11 are planned, including this one), all electronic copies of company and Sector Expert presentations that are made available, plus Contact lists of all attendees. All this is sent to you whether or not you attend that meeting.
2. Sponsorships are also available. A $1,000 Sponsorship provides transferable admission for two people, copies of all electronic presentations made available, and recognition on all emailed and printed material. Contact Gelvin Stevenson at Gelvin.Stevenson@gmail.com for further information.
Norma Byron, founder and president, founded Ashlawn Energy in 2008. Prior to forming Ashlawn Energy, Norma founded The Ashlawn Group, LLC, in 2001, after many years in the munitions field, to perform research and development under contract to the U.S. Army for developments in materials sciences to advance warhead performance. Starting in 2004, Ashlawn Group focused solely on developing its proprietary small hydrogen PEM fuel cells to increase warhead performance and reliability.
Ms. Byron has a BA from the University of Maryland, and an MBA from Marymount University, Arlington, VA.
Sector Expert Larry Austin has an extensive history of corporate financings as well as merger and acquisition activity, both in the US and abroad. He has worked extensively in China, and has conducted due diligence on dozens of portfolios of distressed bank loans and other assets in China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Indonesia.
He has been instrumental in the development of several new financing structures, from credit enhancement work in the New York capital markets, to zero-coupon loan facilities in London and New York. He has worked extensively as a corporate lawyer, consultant and lecturer in the fields of technology start-ups (robotics, telecommunications, materials applications and AI) and commercialization of low-earth orbit activities, and served on the Commercial Advisory Subcommitee for NASA.
One of the most experienced lawyers in the field of Section 17 Corporate charters issued by the US Government to Native American Tribal Governments which enable such bodies to engage in commercial activities worldwide in a non-taxable vehicle, Mr. Austin also has experience in trademarks and copyright protection disputes. In this regard, he represented US based group of International Association of Motion Pictures Exporters, Porsche and other companies.
Larry Austin received his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.
China needs a consumption based accounting of CO2 emissions in order to be part of the fight on Climate Change. This was found out in a IIASA study and is seemingly not part of what President Xi and President Obama talked about at their recent Rancho Mirage meeting in California.
Presidents Obama and Xi agreed at RANCHO MIRAGE, California to fight Climate Change by cutting the use of the Ozone Depleting Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – this according to a press release from the White House.
It is not clear to us if The Rancho Mirage Agreement includes steps on reducing CO2 emissions.
In effect we found that big statements on an agreement on Climate Change have just very little to stand on - www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/08…
The following release from IIASA is much more to the point regarding the needs for a US-China agreement on Climate Change then what it seems was obtained ay the Rancho Mirage meeting.
“For China: To cut CO2 – account for outsourcing!”
From Ms. April Liu — email@example.com
Following on from the huge success of the previous meetings, LCES-2013 will offer a multidisciplinary and informative platform.
LCES-2013 is programmed to cover Ten professional forums as the following:
Forum 1: Low Carbon Economy
Forum 2: Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
Forum 3: Emission Trade based Green Economy
Forum 4: Implementation of Low Carbon Industries
Forum 5: Energy Conservation and Clean Technology
Forum 6: Clean Mobility and Intelligent Transport Systems
Forum 7: Low Carbon Cities
Forum 8: Low-Carbon Power Generation
Forum 9: Low Carbon Green Architecture
Forum 10: The Domestic Leader Forum and Young Investigator Research
Contact: – For more information on LCES-2013, please contact:
Ms. April Liu
BIT Congress Inc.
Add: East Wing, F11, Building 1,
Dalian Ascendas IT Park, 1 Hui Xian Yuan,
Dalian Hi-tech Industrial Zone,
LN 116025, China
Please find the details about the program of FORUM 1 – as below:
Forum 1: Low Carbon Economy
Section1-1: Low Carbon Investment
Topic 1: National Policies
Topic 2: Climate Finance
Topic 3: Climate Investment
Topic 4: Financing Green Development
Topic 5: Regulatory and Funding Strategies for Climate Change and Global Development
Topic 6: Proposal for Climate Finance
Topic 7: Public Investment and Private Investment
Topic 8: IP Showcase in Clean Technology
Topic 9: Carbon Management Software and Services
Section 1-2: The Challenge and Opportunity in Climate Change Mitigation
Topic 1: Climate Change Mitigation Challenge
Topic 2: New Championship in Climate Change Control
Topic 3: Sustainability Policy Measures
Topic 4: Sustainability Frameworks and Design
Topic 5: Global Responsibility
Topic 6: Low-Fossil-Fuel Economy (LFFE)
Topic 7: Decarbonised Economy
Topic 8: Reduce the Sources of Greenhouse Gases
Topic 9: Reduce the Potential Effects of Global Warming
Section1-3: Green Economy
Topic 1: Policies and Principles of Green Economy
Topic 2: Green Growth and Green Economy in the World
Topic 3: Rio+20
Topic 4: Green Economy Index
Topic 5: Green Economy and Financial Crisis
Topic 6: Sustainable Water Management and Green Economy
Topic 7: Waste Management and Green Economy
Topic 8: Land Management and Green Economy
Topic 9: Green Economics and Education
Section 1-4: Low Carbon – Policy into Practice
Topic 1: Low Carbon Nations with Responsibilities
Topic 2: Global Industrial Leadership-Market & Business Opportunities
Topic 3: International Cooperation on the Low-carbon Economy
Topic 4: Developed Country Government Actions for Goal of Reduction CO2
Topic 5: Developing Country Governmental Actions for Goal of Reduction CO2
Topic 6: Leading National Government Incentives and Measures
Topic 7: Governmental Research Supporting Low Carbon Society
Topic 8: The Role of Governments in Funding and Financing Low Carbon Infrastructure
Topic 9: Corporate Carbon Strategy
Section 1-5: Private Equity, Venture Financing and Partnerships
Topic 1: Private Equity
Topic 2: Venture Financing
Topic 3: Carbon Venture
Topic 4: Environment Insurance Policy
Topic 5: Carbon Industry Mergers and Acquisitions
Topic 6: Cleantech Investing
Topic 7: Equity/Debt Offerings
Topic 8: The Role of Specialized Investment Funds
Topic 9: Case Study
Section 1-6: Establishing Green Financial System
Topic 1: Green Financial System: Funding the Green New Deal
Topic 2: Green Growth and Sustainable Development
Topic 3: Green Supply Chain Management (GSCM)
Topic 4: Green Procurement Policy
Topic 5: Green Procurement System
Topic 6: Green Purchasing Network (GPN)
Topic 7: Green Procurement Improved Recyclability
Topic 8: Green Procurement & Energy Efficiency
Topic 9: Green Procurement Applications
Ms. Liu writes – Who Should Attend?
—— CEOs/Directors/Senior Managers in local government
—— Relevant policy-makers & advisors in national and local government
—— Large users of energy
—— CEOs/Directors, CIOs/Heads of Sustainability in key industries
—— Utilities – Senior decision-makers in energy/telecoms/broadband
Top News – The New York Times May 25, 2013.
We kept the April 12, 2013 New York Times article as a draft because we basically found it very one-sided and know very little about “Berkeley Earth” or Elizabeth Muller (*), but with information about the Koch Brothers professed skepticism of progressive ideas.
Now we decided to post this because of Fareed Zakaria, someone we hold in high esteem, saying this Sunday on CNN/GPS, that in order to start putting a limit to the emission of CO2 globally, the best step for the US would be to share, what he called safe technologies of Shale Fracking and gas production, this in order to replace the reliance on burning coal as it is done now in China. We know this to be the wrong advice:
(1) there is no technology of “fracking the shale” that is safe to the ground water reservoirs.
(2) fracking and shale-gas will slow down the commercialization of truly positive renewable energy technologies,
and (3) the worse of all – it starts looking like “The Rhinoceros” of World War II Eugene Ionesco – the slow developing of a takeover by an aggressive wrong and obnoxious ideology – and the Koch Brothers are versed in technologies in this respect.
So – let us say: Fareed Zakaria expressed the idea that Shale Gas is a step in the right direction, but we do not think so – and thousands of scientists agree with us but have suspicions about the proponents of the fracking myth.
China Must Exploit Its Shale Gas.
By ELIZABETH MULLER
Published, The New York Times on-line: April 12, 2013
IF the Senate confirms the nomination of the M.I.T. scientist Ernest J. Moniz as the next energy secretary, as expected, he must use his new position to consider the energy situation not only in the United States, but in China as well.
Mr. Moniz, a professor of physics and engineering systems and the director of M.I.T.’s Energy Initiative, sailed through a confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
But some environmentalists are skeptical of Mr. Moniz. He is known for advocating natural gas and nuclear power as cleaner sources of energy than coal and for his support of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale deposits. The environmental group Food and Water Watch has warned that as energy secretary, he “could set renewable energy development back years.”
The criticism is misplaced. Instead of fighting hydraulic fracturing, environmental activists should recognize that the technique is vital to the broader effort to contain climate change and should be pushing for stronger standards and controls over the process.
Nowhere is this challenge and opportunity more pressing than in China. Exploiting its vast resources of shale gas is the only short-term way for China, the world’s second-largest economy, to avoid huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal.
China’s greenhouse gas emissions are twice those of the United States and growing at 8 percent to 10 percent per year. Last year, China increased its coal-fired generating capacity by 50 gigawatts, enough to power a city that uses seven times the energy of New York City. By 2020, an analysis by Berkeley Earth shows, China will emit greenhouse gases at four times the rate of the United States, and even if American emissions were to suddenly disappear tomorrow, world emissions would be back at the same level within four years as a result of China’s growth alone.
The only way to offset such an enormous increase in energy use is to help China switch from coal to natural gas. A modern natural gas plant emits between one-third and one-half of the carbon dioxide released by coal for the same amount of electric energy produced. China has the potential to unearth large amounts of shale gas through hydraulic fracturing. In 2011, the United States Energy Information Administration estimated that China had “technically recoverable” reserves of 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet, nearly 50 percent more than the United States.
The risk is that what is now a nascent Chinese shale gas industry may take off in a way that leads to ecological disaster. Many of the purchasers of drilling rights in recent Chinese auctions are inexperienced.
Opponents of this drilling method point to cases in which gas wells have polluted groundwater or released “fugitive” methane gas emissions. The groundwater issue is worrisome, of course, and weight for weight, methane has a global warming potential 25 to 70 times higher than carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas that results from the burning of coal.
Moving away from fossil fuels entirely may make sense in the United States, where we can potentially afford to pay for more expensive renewable sources of energy. But developing countries have other priorities, like improving the education and health of their people. Given the dangers that hydraulic fracturing poses for groundwater pollution and gas leaks, we must help China develop an approach that is environmentally sound.
Mr. Moniz has warned of the need to curb environmental damage from the process. But he has also stressed the value of natural gas as a “bridging” source of energy as we strive to move from largely dirty energy to clean energy. Extracting shale gas in an environmentally responsible way is technically achievable, according to engineering experts. Accomplishing that goal is primarily a matter of engineering and regulation.
That is where we need the engagement of environmental activists. At home, they can push the United States to set verifiable standards for clean hydraulic fracturing and enforce those standards through careful monitoring. Internationally, American industry can lead by showing that clean production can be profitable.
We need a solution for energy production that can displace the rapid growth of coal use today. Switching from coal to natural gas could reduce the growth of China’s emissions by more than 50 percent and give the world more time to bring down the cost of solar and wind energy to levels that are affordable for poorer countries.
Our website has proposed that geopolitics are headed to a new structure were it is needed to have a billion people in order to be considered a World Power. As such we proposed that besides China and India, the other World powers will be -
- an Anglo-American Block led by the US and that will include also the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and as well Mexico and Japan;
- an Islamic Block led by Turkey or Indonesia that will stretch from Mauritania to Indonesia;
- and a block “Of the Rest” that will be led by Brazil and include, with a few exceptions based on the US led Trans-Pacific Partnership (the TPP) , Latin America, Africa, the SIDS, parts of Asia.
We see the recent news of Brazil defeating Mexico for the leadership of the WTO as an important step in above direction.
Brazil Wins Leadership of the World Trade Organization
Brazilian Roberto Azevêdo has been chosen over Mexican candidate Herminio Blanco as the newest director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on May 7. El Palenque, AnimalPolitico’s debate forum for experts, discusses the effects this win will have on Mexican diplomacy, Brazil’s role in trade liberalization, and the prominence of the BRICS on the world stage. Azevêdo will be the first Latin American to head the WTO.
The Financial Times wrote May 7, 2013:
So, Roberto Azevêdo, Brazil’s candidate for director general of the WTO, has pipped his rival Herminio Blanco of Mexico for the job.
But there is still a question to be answered: Who won? The man or the country?
Between Azevêdo and Blanco, there may not be much to choose. Both have impressive credentials. Azevêdo, a career diplomat in one of the world’s most polished diplomatic services, has been Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO since 2008. He knows the organisation inside out. Blanco is a businessman steeped in trade, a trade consultant who was formerly Mexico’s trade minister and its chief negotiator during preparation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
If the race was between two technocrats, it must have been a photo finish.
But what if the WTO members voted for the country, not the man? Then, it was a matter of chalk and cheese. Disgruntled Mexicans – whose pride will have taken a severe knock – will call this a victory of protectionism over free trade.
It will also be a victory of the developing world over the developed one.
Mexico, which has free trade agreements with 44 different countries, is the new poster child of developed world policies at work in the developing world. Brazil has free trade agreements with nobody, and has shown a tendency to renegotiate what agreements it does have as soon as they become inconvenient – not least its auto agreement with Mexico. Many developing countries – in Africa and Asia as well as in Latin America – will have felt the Brazilian was much more likely to protect their fledgling manufacturers and farmers than was the Mexican. Many of those countries, especially in Africa, already have closer ties with Brazil than they do with Mexico.
In an interview with Reuters, Azevêdo played down the issue of nationality:
To those who say that, under Azevêdo, the WTO will lose sight of its mission to promote free trade, others will reply that it never had one in the first place.
But Tuesday’s decision will make a big difference. No matter how pure a technocrat he is, Azevêdo will find it hard to fend off the influence of Brasília. It was the Brazilian that won, and not the Mexican.
Related FT reading:
SO, WE WILL SAY – THE FT AGREE WITH OUR POINT OF VIEW THAT THE US CANDIDATE – MEXICO – LOST TO THE CANDIDATE OF THE THIRD WORLD – THAT IS OUR TRUE SIXTH WORLD – WHO WILL STAND UP TO THE BIGGER BOYS OF THE OTHER FIVE WORLDS – SPECIFICALLY THE US – WHO BLATANTLY USE THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FOR THEIR OWN GOOD – EXCLUSIVELY!!!
FURTHER NEWS OF RELEVANCE TO THE NEW WORLD IN THE MAKING:
Former President Bill Clinton announced on May 6 that the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) would be expanding to Latin America in December 2013, with its first meeting set to launch in Rio de Janeiro. He was joined by Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes in making the announcement at the mid-year meeting for his annual conference.
President Dilma Rousseff announced the start of a small business ministry on May 6, saying that government banks will provide up to $7,500 to small businesses in 2013 and will reduce the public loan interest rate from 8 percent to 5 percent beginning on May 31. “The question of small business is indispensable for the country’s future and present,” said Rousseff. Brazil’s estimated 6 million micro and small businesses accounted for 40 percent of the country’s 15 million new jobs from 2001 to 2011.
Brazil plans to hire approximately 6,000 Cuban doctors to work in the country’s rural areas, said Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota on May 6. The Federal Medical Council–a Brazilian doctor’s organization–questioned the island nation’s medical qualifications, but Patriota called Cuba “very proficient in the areas of medicine, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology.” President Dilma Rousseff began the talks in January 2012, and both countries are currently consulting with the Pan American Health Organization to move forward.
The International Monetary Fund’s May 2013 Regional Economic Outlook predicts Latin America’s growth to increase approximately 3.5 percent by the end of the year. But, in an article for The Huffington Post, Director for the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department Alejandro Werner questions whether countries in the region will be able to “adjust policies to preserve macroeconomic and financial stability” after the near-future external benefits, such as easy external financing and high commodity prices, begin to decline.
Volcanoes and Geysers Could Fuel Chilean Energy
Chile will partner with New Zealand to develop its deep exploration drilling and to develop its geothermal energy production. Chile is home to 20 percent of the world’s active volcanoes, which can be harnessed for geothermal energy. However, only 5 percent of the country’s electrical power is attributed to renewable energy resources, reports IPS News.
The Pacific Alliance Creates a Legislative Committee
Heads of Congress from Pacific Alliance members Chile, Colombia, México, and Perú signed an accord to form a Pacific Alliance Inter-Parliamentary Committee on May 6, reports La República. The committee would serve as the legislative arm of the Alliance by developing a framework to approve free trade agreements and distribution of goods, services, and capital under the Alliance. The committee will be officially presented to the Alliance at a legislative session in Chile in June.
Washington to Host Chilean and Peruvian Presidents
Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera and Peru’s President Ollanta Humala will visit Washington D.C. in June to discuss economic relations with President Obama. Piñera’s visit will take place on June 4, and Humala will visit one week later on June 11. The agenda will likely touch on negotiations with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as all three countries hope to develop closer economic ties to Asian markets.
China-Israel Technology development common interest – can it answer the Palestinian’s search for a new interlocutor for a new set of negotiations? The Chinese Ambassador says – Israel is small in size but large in innovation.
Mahmoud Abbas was here in Vienna and visited some other European Heads of State – then he took the long flight to China. All of this is to explain his position and look for new interlocutors. Abbas does not need a door opener like Arafat did and The Austria of Messrs. Fisher, Fayman and Spindelegger, is not the Austria of “Old Chancellor” Kreisky. On the other hand China is something of a new a power in regard to West Asia – it has no previous involvement in the Middle East – except as customers for oil. Something that was facilitated to them by the US wars in Iraq.
Oh well – here are Abbas and Netanyahu in China!
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrapped up the first day of a five-day visit to China by meeting with dozens of Israeli businesspeople who represent companies that operate in Shanghai. The Israeli company representatives expressed great appreciation for the Prime Minister’s efforts to increase trade with China and noted the great importance of government support to doing business in China.
“We must make the national effort to enter Chinese markets and to create partnerships. In addition to your private initiatives, we need to create a government track with the Chinese,” Netanyahu told the Israeli reps.
Following the meeting Netanyahu met with Israeli and Chinese businesspeople and stressed the importance of strengthening the two countries’ economic relationship.
“The future belongs to those who lead in innovation and technology,” he said, adding that Israel manufactures “more intellectual property than any other country in the world in relation to its size. If we create a partnership between Israel’s inventive capability and China’s manufacturing capability, we will have a winning combination.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also in China on an official visit. Xinhua quoted him as saying: “It is very good that Netanyahu will visit China too because it is a good opportunity that the Chinese listen to both of us.”
Netanyahu will fly to Beijing later in the week. He is expected to sign a number of trade deals and discuss the Iranian nuclear issue before departing Friday.
The Decreasing Cost of Solar Energy – Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal — and in parts of the US such as the Southwest, solar is already at grid parity. Chinese solar panels fell in cost 50% in the 2009-2012 period and it is expected they will fall in cost further at a 30%/year rate. Japan will become this year second largest solar energy market beyond China. South Africa, Israel, Saudi Arabia, India increase their Solar Energy production as well.
The Incredible Shrinking Cost of Solar Energy.
04 May 13
ob Wile uses a graph to point out the obvious, the dramatic fall in the cost of solar power generation. In many countries– Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal — and in parts of the US such as the Southwest, solar is at grid parity. That means it is as inexpensive to build a solar plant as a gas or coal one. The pace of technological innovation in the solar field has also accelerated, so that costs have started falling precipitously and efficiency is rapidly increasing.
By 2015, solar panels should have fallen to 42 cents per watt.
Reneweconomy.com says that the best Chinese solar panels fell in cost by 50% between 2009 and 2012. That incredible achievement is what has driven so many solar companies bankrupt– if you have the older technology, your panels are suddenly expensive and you can’t compete. It is like no one wants a 4 year old computer.
Conservatives shed no tears when better computers drive slower ones out of the market, but point to solar companies’ shake-out as somehow bad or unnatural. No wonder US solar installations jumped 76% in 2012.
The reductions in cost over the next two years are expected to continue, at a slowing but still impressive 30% rate:
Construction has begun on the world’s largest solar plant. MidAmerican Solar and SunPower Corp. are building a 579 megawatt installation, the Antelope Valley Solar Project, in Kern and Los Angeles counties in California. That is half a gigawatt, just enormous. It will provide electricity to 400,000 homes in the state (roughly 2 million people?), and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 775,000 tons a year. The US emits 5 billion metric tons a year of C02, second only to China, and forms a big part of the world’s carbon problem all by itself. We just need 645 more of the Antelope Valley projects.
Important new research also shows that hybrid plants that have both solar panels and wind turbines dramatically increase efficiency and help with integration into the electrical grid. Earlier concerns that the turbines would cast shadows and so detract from the efficiency of the solar panels appear to have been overblown. Because in most places in the US there is more sun in the summer and more wind in the winter, a combined plant keeps the electricity feeding into the grid at a more constant rate all year round, which is more desirable than big spikes and fall-offs.
That Germany, then China, then the US are the world’s largest solar markets is no surprise. But that number 17 Japan will increase its solar installations by 120% in 2013 and so may be the second hottest solar market, just after China, this year, would mark a big change. Japan may well have 5 gigawatts of solar installed by the end of this year, even though the relatively new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is no particular friend of the renewables. In my own view, if Japan made the right governmental and private investments, it could overtake China in the solar field and reverse its long post-bubble stagnation.
ABB has been commissioned a large solar electricity generating plant on the edge of the Kalahari Desert near Cape Town, South Africa. It will supply the electricity needs of around 40,000 persons and reduce annual emissions by 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide. South Africa emits 500 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, and is third in the world for per capita emissions. (Still, it only emits a 10th as much over-all as the US). But they just need a thousand more plants like the Kalahari one, and voila! South Africa is also imposing a carbon tax, which will hurry things along. (At the moment, South Africa is far too dependent on dirty coal plants, which not only fuel climate change but also spew deadly toxins such as mercury into the atmosphere, whence it goes into human beings.
Because of South African and Israeli demand in particular, demand for solar panels in the Middle East and Africa has risen over 600% during the past year. Saudi Arabia’s announced plans to save its petroleum for export by going solar at home will add a great deal to regional demand if it sticks to those plans. (In most countries, petroleum isn’t used much for electricity generation as opposed to transportation, but in oil states such as Saudi Arabia it often is used in power plants; but that cuts down on foreign exchange earnings.)
The two Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan are emerging as the solar giants in India, with each having now passed half a gigawatt in solar electricity generation capacity. The two account for some 88% of all of India’s solar power. But Rajasthan may soon outstrip Gujarat, given the state’s solar-friendly commitments, its ample amounts of scorching sunlight, and its vast deserts.
Oil Shales, Shale Gas, Shale Fuel for thermal plants – so many ways that produce spent shale and ash, heavy metals and Uranium, and to poison the underground aquifers. Do we really see the dangers when work is hidden from eye-sight by doing it under-ground?
April 15-21, 2013, I participated on a trip to Baltic Sea States of the KPV (Komunal Politische Vereignigung) of the Politische Akademie of the Austrian Peoples Party (OEVP). Above took us to Estonia Saturday April-20 to Sunday April 21-st. This was a weekend and it might have been a too short time for serious learning about matters of Energy Policy. But I was fortunate to come back with enough information because I had the chance to meet very helpful people and I was prepared ahead with my questions.
We drove from St. Petersburg in Russia to Narva in Estonia and then continued to the capital – Tallinn. We had the luck of having a very good Estonian guide and were honored that evening with a reception at the residence of Austrian Ambassador H. E. Ms. Renate Kobler who invited as well local and Austrian resource people and made sure to establish contacts according to our interests.
I had in effect two different set of interests. One was in regard to a transportation policy instituted this year by the city of Tallinn that offers free rides on the electric street-cars to documented residents of the city while having increased charges for the out-of-towners. The idea behind this being that people will be moving back to the city from the suburbs and increase the tax roles thus making up for some of the losses and allow for gains in air quality by getting out of their cars. I learned that though nice in theory, seemingly it did not work in practice because it applied mainly to the poor – so it did not result in enhanced income from taxes leaving just the lower income from the tram-rides. The topic was originally brought to my attention by the Austrian Standard of April 5, 2013.
This was the minor interest of my two suggested topics.
The other topic – and that one of major interest these days – dealt with the use of oil-shales for energy – an issue of global importance when Shale-Gas has become the energy interests’ battle cry. It was brought out of obscurity in the United States, and Europe is talking as if it was going to follow suit. Austria has also shales and at present media battles rage between business interests and the environmentalists – with the Eurosolar monthly table all convinced that Austria can become energy self-sufficient without touching the shales.
Estonia, as well as Spain, are countries with experience in what can happen when energy is obtained from these shales.
Under the Soviets, the shales were mined and used like a lower grade coal in thermal power plants. What was left are mountains of ash from the combustion process and mountains of spent shales from the retorting process in which the product was a synthetic crude oil. These mountains of by-product contain heavy metals and when washed by rains these heavy metals poisoned the underground water, thus making it unusable for drinking and agriculture. Everybody I talked to told me the same thing – the losses around Narva are immense.
Wikipedia tells us: “Oil shale in Estonia is an important resource for the national economy. Estonia‘s oil shale deposits account for just 17% of total deposits in the European Union but the country generates 90% of its power from this source. The oil shale industry in Estonia employs 7,500 people—about one percent of the national work force—and accounts for four percent of its gross domestic product.
There are two kinds of oil shale in Estonia – Dictyonema argillite (claystone) and kukersite. The first attempt to establish an open-cast oil shale pit and to start oil production was undertaken in 1838. Modern utilization of oil shale commenced in 1916. Production began in 1921 and the generation of power from oil shale in 1924.
In 2005 Estonia was the leading producer of shale oil in the world. Of all the power plants fired by oil shale, the largest was in this country. As of 2007, six mines (open cast or underground) were extracting oil shale in Estonia.“
Kukersite, named after the Kukruse settlement in Estonia, is the better quality shale. Estonian kukersite deposits are one of the world’s highest-grade shale deposits with more than 40% organic content and 66% conversion ratio into shale oil and oil shale gas. They have relatively a lower content of heavy metals.
in the 1830s, although the attempt of shale oil distillation failed, oil shale was used as a low-grade fuel. Then studies of Estonian oil shale resources and mining possibilities intensified in the beginning of 20th century because of industrial development of Saint Petersburg and a shortage of fuel resources in the region. Finally – the world’s two largest oil shale-fired power stations – Balti Power Plant and Eesti Power Plant (known as the Narva Power Plants) – were opened in 1965 and in 1973. Because of the success of oil shale-based power generation, Estonian oil shale production peaked in 1980 at 31.35 million tonnes. In 2004, two power units with circulating fluidized bed combustion (CFBC) boilers were put into operation at Narva Power Plant. In 1984, the scientific-technical journal Oil Shale was founded in Estonia.
Some of the spent shale is used in cement manufacturing and Uranium is a by-product.
Kerogen (from Greek for wax + -gen, that which produces) is a mixture of organic chemical compounds that make up a portion of the organic matter in sedimentary rocks. It is insoluble in normal organic solvents because of a huge molecular weight. The soluble portion is known as bitumen. When heated to the right temperatures in the Earth’s crust, (oil window ca. 60–160 °C, gas window ca. 150–200 °C, both depending on how quickly the source rock is heated) some types of kerogen release crude oil or natural gas, collectively known as hydrocarbons (fossil fuels). When such kerogens are present in high concentration in rocks such as shale they form possible source rocks. Shales rich in kerogens that have not been heated to a warmer temperature to release their hydrocarbons will eventually form oil shale deposits. (The name “kerogen” was introduced by the Scottish organic chemist Alexander Crum Brown in 1906.)
What above tells us is that the organic matter in shales is in the form of very large molecular weight polymers. These can be deconstructed at high temperature in retorts, and then the quality of the remaining ash (or spent shale) can be investigated and the potential damage to the environment assessed. An alternative could be to create a fire underground and collect above ground the released oil or gas created by breaking up the kerogen polymer. In such case the damage from the ash cannot be assessed without knowing the underground conditions and where the underground waters will take the released heavy metals. The Shale Gas operations now in the United States are underground production sites explained as examples of Hydro-Fracking which sounds incoherent when we do not know the operating temperatures which are needed to break chemical bonds of that polymer. Neither the new American production companies nor the EU Shale Gas production interests give us such technology details as they did not even obtain patents that would have required transparency.
This present posting has an added purpose.
I learned that June 10-13, 2013, the Estonian users of shale-for-energy intend a Shales Symposium in Tallinn as a follow up to the 2006 Symposium that was held in Ammann, Jordan.
The Symposium in Tallinn will be followed by a Field Trip to Estonian oil shale processing industry – an extraordinary opportunity to visit the most important sites of Estonian oil shale industry, including the new, recently completed Enefit280 Oil Plant.
I would like to hope that the European Commission send some inquisitive people to that symposium in order to learn about the side-effects or the environmentally harming “externalities” that could cause harm to the underground aquifers.
Further, as mentioned at the beginning, another European location were there was experience with Oil Shale Retorting is Puertollano, in the Ciudad Real region of Spain. With information from these sites the EU could be in a better position to judge the issues involved.
I was personally involved with the Purtollano plant of the Empressa Nacional de Pisara Bituminosa Calvo Sotelo in 1959. That plant was producing lubricants or viscous petroleum product alternatives in huge retorts and leaving behind mountains of spent shale as well. Looking at the remains of those mountains – in Puertollano and in Narva, could help the decision making process at the EU.
We realize the importance of the energy independence goal – but as it can be reached in various ways, it is important to start out with open eyes.
If the goal is to reduce CO2 Emissions – Trading in Permits to Pollute was born at a dead-end and today’s European trading in such permits shows above to be true. New free thinking – that is outside the banking system – is being called for.
In Europe, Paid Permits for Pollution Are Fizzling.
Andrew Testa for The International Herald Tribune
By STANLEY REED and MARK SCOTT
Published: April 21, 2013
LONDON — On a showery afternoon last week in West London, a ripple of enthusiasm went through the trading floor of CF Partners, a privately owned financial company. The price of carbon allowances, shown in green lights on a board hanging from the ceiling, was creeping up toward three euros. That is pretty small change — $3.90, or only about 10 percent of what the price was in 2008. But to the traders it came as a relief after the market had gone into free fall to record lows two days earlier, after the European Parliament spurned an effort to shore up prices by shrinking the number of allowances.
“The market still stands,” said Thomas Rassmuson, a native of Sweden who founded the company with Jonathan Navon, a Briton, in 2006.
Still, Europe’s carbon market, a pioneering effort to use markets to regulate greenhouse gases, is having a hard time staying upright.
This year has been stomach-churning for the people who make their living in the arcane world of trading emissions permits. The most recent volatility comes on top of years of uncertainty during which prices have fluctuated from $40 to nearly zero for the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide.
More important, though, than lost jobs and diminished payouts for traders and bankers, the penny ante price of carbon credits means the market is not doing its job: pushing polluters to reduce carbon emissions, which most climate scientists believe contribute to global warming.
The market for these credits, officially called European Union Allowances, or E.U.A.’s, has been both unstable and under sharp downward pressure this year because of a huge oversupply and a stream of bad political and economic news. On April 16, for instance, after the European Parliament voted down the proposed reduction in the number of credits, prices dropped about 50 percent, to 2.63 euros from nearly 5, in 10 minutes.
“No one was going to buy” on the way down, said Fred Payne, a trader with CF Partners.
Europe’s troubled experience with carbon trading has also discouraged efforts to establish large-scale carbon trading systems in other countries, including the United States, although California and a group of Northeastern states have set up smaller regional markets.
Traders do not mind big price swings in any market — in fact, they can make a lot of money if they play them right.
But over time, the declining prices for the credits have sapped the European market of value, legitimacy and liquidity — the ease with which the allowances can be traded — making it less attractive for financial professionals.
A few years ago, analysts thought world carbon markets were heading for the $2 trillion mark by the end of this decade.
Today, the reality looks much more modest. Total trading last year was 62 billion euros, down from 96 billion in 2011, according to Thomson Reuters Point Carbon, a market research firm based in Oslo. Close to 90 percent of that activity was in Europe, while North American trading represented less than 1 percent of worldwide market value.
Financial institutions that had rushed to increase staff have shrunk their carbon desks. Companies have also laid off other professionals who helped set up greenhouse gas reduction projects in developing countries like China and India.
When the emissions trading system was started in 2005, the goal was to create a global model for raising the costs of emitting greenhouse gases and for prodding industrial polluters to switch from burning fossil fuels to using clean-energy alternatives like wind and solar.
When carbon prices hit their highs of more than 30 euros in 2008 and companies spent billions to invest in renewables, policy makers hailed the market as a success. But then prices began to fall. And at current levels, they are far too low to change companies’ behaviors, analysts say. Emitting a ton of carbon dioxide costs about the same as a hamburger.
“At the moment, the carbon price does not give any signal for investment,” said Hans Bünting, chief executive of RWE, one of the largest utilities in Germany and Europe.
This cap-and-trade system in Europe places a ceiling on emissions. At the end of each year, companies like electric utilities or steel manufacturers must hand over to the national authorities the permits equivalent to the amount gases emitted.
Until the end of 2012, these credits were given to companies free according to their estimated output of greenhouse gases. Policy makers wanted to jump-start the trading market and avoid higher costs for consumers.
Beginning this year, energy companies must buy an increasing proportion of their credits in national auctions. Industrial companies like steel plants will follow later this decade.
Companies and other financial players like banks and hedge funds can also acquire and trade the allowances on exchanges like the Intercontinental Exchange, based in Atlanta. Over time the number of credits is meant to fall gradually, theoretically raising prices and cutting pollution.
The reality has been far different because of serious flaws in the design of the system. To win over companies and skeptical countries like Poland, which burn a lot of coal, far too many credits have been handed out.
At the same time, Europe’s debilitating economic slowdown has sharply curtailed industrial activity and reduced the Continent’s overall carbon emissions.
Steel making in Europe, for instance, has fallen about 30 percent since 2007, while new car registrations were at their lowest level last year since 1995.
Big investments in renewable energy sources like wind and solar also reduced carbon emissions, which have fallen about 10 percent in Europe since 2007.
As a result, there is a vast surplus of permits — about 800 million tons’ worth, according to Point Carbon. That has caused prices to plunge.
The cost of carbon is far too low to force electric utilities in Europe to switch from burning coal, a major polluter, to much cleaner natural gas. Just the opposite: Britain increased coal burning for electricity more than 30 percent last year, while cutting back gas use a similar amount, and other West European nations increased their coal use as well.
“The European energy scene is not a good one,” said Andrew Brown, head of exploration and production at Royal Dutch Shell. “They haven’t got the right balance in terms of promoting gas.”
Fearing that prices might go to zero because of the huge oversupply, the European authorities proposed a short-term solution known as backloading, which would have delayed the scheduled auctioning of a large portion of the credits that were supposed to be sold over the next three years. But the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted the measure down on April 16.
Lawmakers were worried about tampering with the market as well as doing anything that might increase energy costs in the struggling economy.
“It was the worst possible moment to try to implement something like that,” said Francesco Starace, chief executive of Enel Green Power, one of the largest European green-energy companies, which is based in Rome.
The European authorities, led by Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate change, have not given up on fixing the system. But analysts like Stig Scholset, at Point Carbon, say that there is not much the authorities can do in the short term and that prices may slump for months, if not years.
That means more tough times for financial institutions. Particularly troubled is the business of investing in greenhouse gas abatement projects like wind farms or hydroelectric dams in developing countries like China. JPMorgan Chase paid more than $200 million for one of the largest investors in these projects, EcoSecurities, in 2009.
Financiers say these projects used to be gold mines, generating credits that industrial companies could use to offset their emissions elsewhere. But so many credits have been produced by these projects — on top of the existing oversupply of credits in Europe — that they are trading at about a third of a euro.
Market participants say they see many rivals pulling back from world carbon markets. Deutsche Bank, the largest bank in Germany, has cut back its carbon trading. Smaller outfits like Mabanaft, based in Rotterdam, have also left the business.
Anthony Hobley, a lawyer in London and president of the Climate Market and Investors Association, an industry group, estimates that among the traders, analysts and bankers who flocked to the carbon markets in the early days, half may now be gone.
But carbon trading is unlikely to fade completely.
For one thing, European utilities and other companies now must buy the credits to comply with the rules. And they can buy credits to save for later use, when their emissions increase and the price of credits rises.
Despite Europe’s sputters, carbon trading is beginning to gain traction in places like China, Australia and New Zealand.
In London, Mr. Rassmuson concedes that the business has turned out to be more up-and-down than he anticipated when he and his partner set up their firm in a tiny two-man office in 2006.
But he said his firm was benefiting from others’ dropping out. He is also branching out into trading electric power and natural gas.
Like many in the carbon markets, he says what he is doing is not just about money.
“Trying to make the world more sustainable is important to us,” he said. “It is a good business opportunity that makes us proud.”
THE ISSUE IS NOW – HOW DO YOU STIMULATE INDUSTRIES THAT HELP REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS WITHOUT RESORTING TO THE ABOVE GIMMICK OF CARBON-POLLUTION TRADING-in-CERTIFICATES?
WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN BETTER A SYSTEM THAT IS BASED ON ORDERING THE POLLUTING INDUSTRIES IN A DIRECT WAY? DESPITE ANYTHING THAT IS BEING SAID BY THE BANKING FINANCIAL TRADING COMPANIES – MUCH MORE OF THE TRADING SYSTEM WAS BASED ON EXPORTING POLLUTION OVERSEAS – “ON THE HOT AIR BALLOONS THAT RESULTED BY CLOSING INEFFICIENT INDUSTRIES” and on FOREIGN AID PROJECTS THAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED ANYWAY. WE HOPE THAT BIG MARKETS LIKE THE EU, the US, and CHINA, ESTABLISH NOW INTERNAL SYSTEMS, MODELED IN PART BY THE THE COASTAL USA PROGRAMS in CALIFORNIA AND THE EAST COAST – AND ESTABLISH COUNTRY-WIDE PENALTIES PER TONE OF CO2 – and yes – penalty always hurts initially but change in behavior eventually bears fruit.
UPDATED: Jeremi Suri of Texas has an answer to Robert Parry – “Bomb North Korea before It’s Too Late” this may avoid having to bomb Iran later. // US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Beijing and Seoul this week-end write Washington and Tokyo.
Op-Ed Contributor of the New York Times
Bomb North Korea, Before It’s Too Late.
By JEREMI SURI,
The UK and the US Welcome the decision taken by the United Nations General Assembly meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty – 2 April 2013. With 22 countries abstaining – including China, India and Indonesia, it is quite untrue to say that it was accepted by consensus. Thanks to Matthew R. Lee for pointing this out – it takes good reporting to get facts about the UN. And What Probability For A US Senate Ratification?
Statement by UK Ambassador Joanne Adamson, Head of Delegation, to the United Nations General Assembly meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty – 2 April 2013
Thank you, Mr President.
Last Thursday, we were disappointed that success was deferred. Today, we have taken a decision that will save lives. It was the right decision, and we are proud of it.
Today, I have seen statements from my Prime Minister, my Foreign Secretary, my Deputy Prime Minister, and I have been in touch with our Foreign Office Minister, Mr Alistair Burt, who has been watching these negotiations with baited breath for the last two weeks.
This is a great success for the United Nations today and we in the UK are extremely proud.
Our action today is the product of ten years of campaigning and seven years of negotiation. But now, we must look ahead, to the future generations that will have a better chance to live safe and peaceful lives if this Treaty fulfills its promise.
It is up to us to make this happen. Today, we have shown what the United Nations can achieve. We have a strong text. We made it together. But it is the global implementation of this text that will make a real difference. The United Kingdom stands ready to play its part. We will work with others to ensure this Treaty matters.
So what we have achieved today is a significant milestone on our journey to a better world. But it is just one part of the process. We cannot rest now. Today is the end of the beginning. Tomorrow we begin the practical work of changing lives and improving the future.
As we move forward we will keep together that team – the team of diplomats, of people working in civil society, of people from our industry, of our politicians, of public opinion. I pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in this long journey and my message to the conference today is let’s move forward together.
Don’t look back in anger.
Let’s take the next step.
And the US joins its voice for the regulation of passing on arms to other countries:
Mr. President, the United States is proud to have been able to co-sponsor and vote in favor of adopting the Arms Trade Treaty. The treaty is strong, balanced, effective, and implementable, and we believe it can command wide support. We join others in congratulating Ambassador Peter Woolcott for his tireless efforts in guiding the negotiation.
The treaty is the product of a long, intensive negotiation, and I know that no nation, including my own, got everything it may have sought in the final text. The result, however, is an instrument that succeeds in raising the bar on common standards for regulating international trade in conventional arms while helping to ensure that legitimate trade in such arms will not be unduly hindered.
The negotiations remained true to the original mandate for them from UN General Assembly Resolution 64/48, which called for negotiating a treaty with the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms and for the negotiations to be conducted in an open and transparent manner, on the basis of consensus. The consensus rule remains important
Mr. President, as the United States has urged from the outset, this Treaty sets a floor – not a ceiling – for responsible national policies and practices for the regulation of international trade in conventional arms. We look forward to all countries having effective national control systems and procedures to manage international conventional arms transfers, as the United States does already.
We believe that our negotiations have resulted in a treaty that provides a clear standard, in Article 6, for when a transfer of conventional arms is absolutely prohibited. This article both reflects existing international law and, in paragraph three, would extend it by establishing a specific prohibition on the transfer of conventional arms when a state party knows that the transfer will be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, or the enumerated war and other crimes. Article 7 requires a state party to conduct a national assessment of the risk that a proposed export could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, as well as acts of terrorism or transnational organized crime. Taken together, these articles provide a robust and complementary framework that will promote responsible transfer of decisions by states parties.
Thank you, Mr. President.
At UN, ATT Passes With 22 Abstentions, Woolcott Tells ICP of Speakers List
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 2 — When the Arms Trade Treaty was blocked on March 28 under the rules of consensus, the headlines read that only three countries were against it: Syria, North Korea and Iran.
But even then, in speeches like Sudan’s and Belarus’, one could hear abstentions coming.
And Tuesday in the UN General Assembly there were 23 abstentions, including the two most populous countries on Earth, China and India, and the most populous predominantly Muslim country, Indonesia.
Afterward, Inner City Press asked ATT president Peter Woolcott, after thanking him on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, about criticism of his allowing, before a promised ruling, Mexico and others to make an argument against the UN meaning of consensus.
He replied that there was speakers list that he followed. He said he personally does not favor negotiating under the rule of consensus. Other might say: it showed.
Inner City Press asked Mexico’s Luis Alfonso de Alba, who gave a thoughtful answer about “no vetoes,” that may resonate in the UN Budget Committee.
It was announced that Angola did not abstain, but voted Yes (hence, 22 abstentions, still quite populous.)
In speeches before Tuesday’s vote, as Syria’s Bashar Ja’afari spoke, US Ambassador Susan Rice was walking out. After that, a full hour into the speeches, Qatar’s delegation rolled in. They ended up abstaining. Qatar supports rebels in Syria.
Sudan on the other hand said it was abstaining, citing the failure to address the arming of “mutinous” groups, like the SPLM-North and rebels in Darfur.
Russia, which by a point of order Thursday night put an end to the Mexico-launched attempt to redefine consensus, on Tuesday morning zeroed in on what knowledge of genocide might mean, in Article 6.3. Its Ambassador Churkin said Russia would not have broken consensus on March 28, but would now abstain, as did China. It’s hard to call this consensus.
U.N. Treaty Is First Aimed at Regulating Global Arms Sales.
Published by The New York Times on-line April 2, 2013 – 107 Comments
Readers’ Comments: “There are too many in Congress who owe allegiance to the NRA and the armaments industry and not to the best interests of the U.S.” RHSchumann, Bonn
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to approve a pioneering treaty aimed at regulating the enormous global trade in conventional weapons, for the first time linking sales to the human rights records of the buyers.
Although implementation is years away and there is no specific enforcement mechanism, proponents say the treaty would for the first time force sellers to consider how their customers will use the weapons and to make that information public.
The goal is to curb the sale of weapons that kill tens of thousands of people every year — by, for example, making it harder for Russia to argue that its arms deals with Syria are legal under international law.
The treaty, which took seven years to negotiate, reflects growing international sentiment that the multibillion-dollar weapons trade needs to be held to a moral standard.
The hope is that even nations reluctant to ratify the treaty will feel public pressure to abide by its provisions.
The treaty calls for sales to be evaluated on whether the weapons will be used to break humanitarian law, foment genocide or war crimes, abet terrorism or organized crime or slaughter women and children.
“Finally we have seen the governments of the world come together and say ‘Enough!’ ” said Anna MacDonald, the head of arms control for Oxfam International, one of the many rights groups that pushed for the treaty. “It is time to stop the poorly regulated arms trade. It is time to bring the arms trade under control.”
She pointed to the Syrian civil war, where 70,000 people have been killed, as a hypothetical example, noting that Russia argues that sales are permitted because there is no arms embargo.
“This treaty won’t solve the problems of Syria overnight, no treaty could do that, but it will help to prevent future Syrias,” Ms. MacDonald said. “It will help to reduce armed violence. It will help to reduce conflict.”
Members of the General Assembly voted 154 to 3 to approve the Arms Trade Treaty, with 23 abstentions — many from nations with dubious recent human rights records like Bahrain, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
The vote came after more than two decades of organizing. Humanitarian groups started lobbying after the 1991 Persian Gulf war to curb the trade in conventional weapons, having realized that Iraq had more weapons than France, diplomats said.
The treaty establishes an international forum of states that will review published reports of arms sales and publicly name violators. Even if the treaty will take time to become international law, its standards will be used immediately as political and moral guidelines, proponents said.
“It will help reduce the risk that international transfers of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes, including terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement after the United States, the biggest arms exporter, voted with the majority for approval.
But the abstaining countries included China and Russia, which also are leading sellers, raising concerns about how many countries will ultimately ratify the treaty. It is scheduled to go into effect after 50 nations have ratified it. Given the overwhelming vote, diplomats anticipated that it could go into effect in two to three years, relative quickly for an international treaty.
Proponents said that if enough countries ratify the treaty, it will effectively become the international norm. If major sellers like the United States and Russia choose to sit on the sidelines while the rest of the world negotiates what weapons can be traded globally, they will still be affected by the outcome, activists said.
The treaty’s ratification prospects in the Senate appear bleak, at least in the short term, in part because of opposition by the gun lobby. More than 50 senators signaled months ago that they would oppose the treaty — more than enough to defeat it, since 67 senators must ratify it.
Among the opponents is Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican. In a statement last month, he said that the treaty contained “unnecessarily harsh treatment of civilian-owned small arms” and violated the right to self-defense and United States sovereignty.
In a bow to American concerns, the preamble states that it is focused on international sales, not traditional domestic use, but the National Rifle Association has vowed to fight ratification anyway.
The General Assembly vote came after efforts to achieve a consensus on the treaty among all 193 member states of the United Nations failed last week, with Iran, North Korea and Syria blocking it. The three, often ostracized, voted against the treaty again on Tuesday.
Vitaly I. Churkin, the Russian envoy to the United Nations, said Russian misgivings about what he called ambiguities in the treaty, including how terms like genocide would be defined, had pushed his government to abstain. But neither Russia nor China rejected it outright.
“Having the abstentions from two major arms exporters lessens the moral weight of the treaty,” said Nic Marsh, a proponent with the Peace Research Institute in Oslo. “By abstaining they have left their options open.”
Numerous states, including Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua, said they had abstained because the human rights criteria were ill defined and could be abused to create political pressure. Many who abstained said the treaty should have banned sales to all armed groups, but supporters said the guidelines did that effectively while leaving open sales to liberation movements facing abusive governments.
Supporters also said that over the long run the guidelines should work to make the criteria more standardized, rather than arbitrary, as countries agree on norms of sale in a trade estimated at $70 billion annually.
The treaty covers tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber weapons, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and launchers, small arms and light weapons. Ammunition exports are subject to the same criteria as the other war matériel. Imports are not covered.
India, a major importer, abstained because of its concerns that its existing contracts might be blocked, despite compromise language to address that.
Support was particularly strong among African countries — even if the compromise text was weaker than some had anticipated — with most governments asserting that in the long run, the treaty would curb the arms sales that have fueled many conflicts.
Even some supporters conceded that the highly complicated negotiations forced compromises that left significant loopholes. The treaty focuses on sales, for example, and not on all the ways in which conventional arms are transferred, including as gifts, loans, leases and aid.
“This is a very good framework to build on,” said Peter Woolcott, the Australian diplomat who presided over the negotiations. “But it is only a framework.”
Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York, and Jonathan Weisman from Washington.
SHIMLA: To study the impact of global warming on melting of glaciers and environment in general, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has decided to set up an observatory at Kothi near the 13,050-feet-high Rohtang Pass.
Scientists would be studying the behavior of aerosols, glaciers and back carbon aerosols at the poplar mountain tourist spot. With thousands of vehicles passing through Rohtang, especially during peak tourist season, on a daily basis, the white snow cover turns black due to carbon emission from vehicles. Increased quantity of black carbon aerosols in the atmosphere is absorbing more heat, due to which incoming solar radiation is being absorbed more and not reflected accordingly, resulting into faster melting of glaciers.
J C Kuniyal, senior scientist at G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Mohal, who is associated with the project, said that setting up of an observatory would help in collecting data that would be helpful for the preservation of glaciers and to know the rise in temperature due to global warming.
Kuniyal said with the setting up of an observatory at Kothing or Gulaba near Rohtang, study would be done to know how fast the glaciers were melting. He said data collected would also be used to study presence of aerosols in the atmosphere and its relative impact on the environment. He added that villagers would be approached to get the required land to set up the observatory in open space as the project would be carried on for a minimum three-year period.
Apart from setting up an Isro observatory, a weather tower would also be set up at Kothi or Gulaba village to have better weather forecasting and to study the presence of aerosols in atmosphere in connection with climate change. Earlier plans to have a tower near Rohtang failed as villagers had refused to part with their land, after which weather tower was set up at Mohal.
Now another tower would be set up near Rohtang under a Union government project to set up weather towers in the Himalayan region of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand. As these towers would get energy from solar panels, and collection of data from inaccessible areas would become much easier.
Kuniyal said data collected from the centre would also help the Union government frame environment policies accordingly, besides helping local people and other stakeholders including defence personnel.
Sergey Biryukov and David Faiman of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Israel National Solar Energy Center, developed a – Dusting Off Solar Panels With an Electric Charge Sytem – to be used immediately by the evolving Solar Energy industry in the Arab Desert Lands.