links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter

(Dutch C. Islands):


Posted on on September 14th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008, The Japan Times online.

Regarding The Trips to Libya – “Oily Moves to Compensate” by Gwynne Dyer from London.

Libya was the diplomatic crossroads of the planet last weekend: Condoleezza Rice made the first visit by a U.S. secretary of State in 55 years (to discuss a murky deal involving payments to American victims of terrorist attacks allegedly sponsored by Libya); radical Bolivian President Evo Morales showed up (to beg for money or cheap oil); and Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrived to promise Libya $5 billion in compensation for the brutalities of Italian colonial rule.

The U.S. Congress was not impressed. Last Monday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee postponed hearings on the confirmation of Gene Cretz as the first U.S. ambassador to Libya since 1972.
What bothered the senators was Libya’s delay in paying a promised $1.8 billion in compensation to the families of 180 Americans who died when Pan Am Flight 103 was brought down by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, and of the American soldiers targeted in a 1986 attack on the West Berlin nightclub La Belle (one killed, scores injured).
Western intelligence services blamed both those attacks on Libya’s leader, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. U.S. aircraft bombed Libya after the 1986 attack, killing some 30 Libyans including Gadhafi’s adopted daughter. Yet the evidence for Libyan involvement is distinctly shaky, and Libya never officially admitted its responsibility. Instead, Libya finally signed a “humanitarian” deal that gives the American families $1.8 billion, but also includes an unstated amount for the Libyan victims of the American air attacks. How very curious.

Details of the deal have been left vague, and nobody will say where the money for the Libyan victims of U.S. airstrikes is coming from. If it is coming from the U.S. government, that would be an interesting precedent. But everybody knows what is really at play here.

The United States worries about the security of its oil supplies and Libya produces oil, so Washington has been seeking a way to end its quarrel with Colonel Gadhafi for a long time. Gadhafi wanted that too, because the U.N. sanctions imposed at Washington’s request were hurting his regime. But since neither government ever apologizes, it took a while.

Gadhafi’s key move was to dismantle his fantasy “nuclear weapons program” — he never really had more than bits and pieces — in 2003. This let President George W. Bush claim that his “war on terror” was scaring the bad guys into behaving better, so the mood music improved immediately. Even before that, Libya sent a couple of low-level intelligence agents to face an international court over the Lockerbie bombing (one was acquitted, one was convicted, and the Libyan regime was scarcely mentioned).

The final compensation deal was signed last month. Condoleezza Rice was in Libya this month partly to show that Gadhafi was no longer in the doghouse — and partly to ask where the money was. That is bothering the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, too, but they shouldn’t worry. Libyan banks take more than a month to transfer even thousands of dollars abroad, let alone billions.

The history behind Silvio Berlusconi’s deal with Gadhafi is much clearer, and so are the motives behind it. Italy conquered Libya, formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, in 1911, and ruled it until 1943. Tens of thousands of Libyans who resisted were killed, many more had their land confiscated and given to Italian settlers, and the country was run for Italy’s benefit, not that of its own people. Italy owes — but why is it paying now, half a century later?

The answer is partly oil — a quarter of Italy’s oil and a third of its gas come from Libya — but also illegal immigrants. Italy is the destination for a growing stream of economic migrants from Africa who use Libya as a jumping-off place for their trip across the Mediterranean, and Berlusconi needs Gadhafi’s cooperation to stem the flow. So Libya gets $5 billion of Italian money to compensate for all the wrongs of the colonial era (and Italy’s compensation will come later, in apparently unrelated deals).

“It is my duty . . . to express to you in the name of the Italian people our regret and apologies for the deep wounds that we have caused you,” Berlusconi said in Benghazi, bowing symbolically before the son of the hero of the Libyan resistance, Omar Mukhtar.

It’s a generous apology, too: $200 million a year on infrastructure projects for 25 years, and if Berlusconi’s cronies in the Italian construction business get the contracts, what’s the harm in that? But we will probably not see him making a similar apology in Mogadishu or Addis Ababa anytime soon.

Libya got off lightly. Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, Italy’s other African colonies, suffered far more from its rule, and are owed far more in compensation. But they have no oil, they are not close to Italy, and they are not going to get it.

If you calculate the amount owed by other former colonial powers at the same per capita rate as Italy did for Libya — around $1,000 per head of the ex-colony’s current population — then France owes Algeria $30 billion, the U.S. owes the Philippines $75 billion, and Britain owes India $1.1 trillion.

But the victims’ heirs shouldn’t spend their money until they actually have it in their hands, and they shouldn’t hold their breaths while waiting.


Posted on on February 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Oceans Eyed as New Energy Source.
By Brian Skoloff, The Associated Press, Thursday February 14, 2008.

Dania Beach, Florida – Just 15 miles off Florida’s coast, the world’s most powerful sustained ocean current – the mighty Gulf Stream – rushes by at nearly 8.5 billion gallons per second. And it never stops.

To scientists, it represents a tantalizing possibility: a new, plentiful and uninterrupted source of clean energy.

Florida Atlantic University researchers say the current could someday be used to drive thousands of underwater turbines, produce as much energy as perhaps 10 nuclear plants and supply one-third of Florida’s electricity. A small test turbine is expected to be installed within months.

“We can produce power 24/7,” said Frederick Driscoll, director of the university’s Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology. Using a $5 million research grant from the state, the university is working to develop the technology in hopes that big energy and engineering companies will eventually build huge underwater arrays of turbines.

From Oregon to Maine, Europe to Australia and beyond, researchers are looking to the sea – currents, tides and waves – for its infinite energy. So far, there are no commercial-scale projects in the U.S. delivering electricity to the grid.

Because the technology is still taking shape, it is too soon to say how much it might cost. But researchers hope to make it as cost-effective as fossil fuels. While the initial investment may be higher, the currents that drive the machinery are free.

There are still many unknowns and risks. One fear is the “Cuisinart effect”: The spinning underwater blades could chop up fish and other creatures.

Researchers said the underwater turbines would pose little risk to passing ships. The equipment would be moored to the ocean floor, with the tops of the blades spinning 30 to 40 feet below the surface, because that’s where the Gulf Stream flows fastest. But standard navigation equipment on ocean vessels could easily guide them around the turbine fields if their hulls reached that deep, researchers said.

And unlike offshore wind turbines, which have run into opposition from environmentalists worried that the technology would spoil the ocean view, the machinery would be invisible from the surface, with only a few buoys marking the fields.

David White of the Ocean Conservancy said much of the technology is largely untested in the outdoors, so it is too soon to say what the environmental effects might be.

“We understand that there are environmental trade-offs, and we need to start looking to alternative energy and everything should be on the table,” he said. “But what are the environmental consequences? We just don’t know that yet.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued 47 preliminary permits for ocean, wave and tidal energy projects, said spokeswoman Celeste Miller. Most such permits grant rights just to study an area’s energy-producing potential, not to build anything.

The field has been dealt some setbacks. An ocean test last year ended in disaster when its $2 million buoy off Oregon’s coast sank to the sea floor. Similarly, a small test project using turbines powered by tidal currents in New York City’s East River ran into trouble last year after turbine blades broke.

The Gulf Stream is about 30 miles wide and shifts only slightly in its course, passing closer to Florida than to any other major land mass. “It’s the best location in the world to harness ocean current power,” Driscoll said.

Researchers on the West Coast, where the currents are not as powerful, are looking instead to waves to generate power. {but this is a technology that is already being tested in places as varied as Rio de Janeiro, New York City, and Tel Aviv}

Canada-based Finavera Renewables has received a FERC license to test a wave energy project in Washington state. It will eventually include four buoys in a bay and generate enough power for up to 700 homes. The 35-ton buoys rise above the water about 6 feet and extend some 60 feet down. Inside each buoy, a piston rises and falls with the waves.

The company hopes later to be the first in the U.S. to operate a commercial-scale “wave farm,” situated off Northern California. The project with Pacific Gas and Electric calls for Finavera to produce enough electricity to power up to 600 homes by 2012. Finavera eventually wants to supply 30,000 households.

Roger Bedard of the Electric Power Research Institute said an analysis by his organization found that wave- and tide-generated energy could supply only about 6.5 percent of today’s electricity needs.

Finavera spokesman Myke Clark acknowledged that wave energy is “definitely not the only answer” to the nation’s power needs and is never going to be as cheap as coal. But it could be “part of the energy mix,” and could be used to great advantage off the coasts of Third World countries, where entire towns have no connection to electrical grids, he said.

Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, said he fears the wave technology could crowd out his industry, which last year brought in 50 million pounds of crab and contributed $150 million to the state’s economy.

“We’ve got a limited amount of flat sandy bottom on the Oregon Coast where we can put out pots and where we can fish, and the wave energy folks are telling us they need the same flat, sandy bottom,” Furman said.

“It’s not the 10-buoy wave park that has the industry concerned. It’s that if it’s successful, then that park turns into a 200- or 400-buoy park and it just keeps growing.”


On the Net:

Electric Power Research Institute:

Finavera Renewables:

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:

Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology: