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Manipulating the climate message

Roger Harrabin, BBC News
What’s in a name? A lot, according to the Chinese government.

It forced President Bush to change the title of his recent international climate gathering from the “big emitters” conference to the “major economies” conference.

The apparently minor change reveals the exquisite sensitivity of global climate politics.

The US is keen to paint the Chinese as the world’s future biggest polluter, but the Chinese reject the epithet because their emissions per person are about one-sixth of the average American.

President Bush first mooted a conference of large emitters just before the G8+5 meeting in the summer. I understand that China was approached but refused to attend the meeting in Washington unless the name change was made.

The victory was notional because the world media continued to refer to the meeting at the end of September as the large emitters conference anyway.
(8 October 2007)

Today’s Environmental News, selected by journalists

Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ)
EJToday is SEJ’s annotated selection of new and outstanding stories on environmental topics in print and on the air, updated every weekday.
(October 2007)
Ongoing set of environmental news stories that’s open to the public. I just joined the Society of Environmental Journalists in time to attend their recent conference in Palo Alto, California. Nice group, not especially aware of peak oil (there was little mention of it at the conference). -BA

Burma’s Internet Crackdown

David Talbot, MIT Technology Review
It’s the “nuclear bomb” of Internet repression, says John Palfrey.

The Burmese government’s recent shutdown of the country’s Internet connections amid pro-democracy protests was a new low for what is already one of the most censorious nations in the world. Earlier this year, the OpenNet Initiative–a collaboration among researchers at Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Toronto–found that the nation’s rulers blocked 85 percent of e-mail service providers and nearly all political-opposition and pro-democracy sites. (See “Internet Increasingly Censored.”) All this in a nation in which less than 1 percent of citizens have Internet access in the first place.

Last week–after images of the beatings of Buddhist monks and the killing of a Japanese photographer leaked out via the Internet–Burma’s military rulers took the ultimate step, apparently physically disconnecting primary telecommunications cables in two major cities, in a drastic effort to stop the flow of information from Burma to the rest of the world. It didn’t completely work: some bloggers apparently used satellite links or cellular phone services to get information outside the country.

John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School (which has posted this blog on recent events in Burma), explains Burma’s repression techniques–including what he calls the “nuclear-bomb approach” it deployed last week.
(3 October 2007)

Media Analysis: Oil Laws – Colonising Iraq’s Economic Prize

Media Lens
An Equitable Sharing of Resources?

We are led to believe that Western societies are free and open. In many respects this is true: freedom of speech and the right to protest still exist, albeit within ever-tighter constraints. At root, however, much of what we see and hear in the corporate media has been shaped by money, power and greed. What passes for vibrant public debate is often a sham.

Some media professionals are aware of this, but they keep their heads down and stick to the narrow job requirements demanded of them. But many journalists cannot, or will not, grasp the notion that there are serious limits to news reporting and debate; limits that are set by powerful interests in society. The very possibility is viewed as an affront to journalistic pride and hard-bitten common sense.

A few journalists, however, are very well aware of the boundaries. They consciously seek to exploit occasional gaps in the corporate news blanket smothering reality, and to point the public to facts and perspectives that discomfit the powerful.

The issue of Iraq’s oil illustrates the standard problem: incessant repetition of a state-approved script, with tiny instances of solidly critical reporting. Discussion of any possible relationship between the invasion of Iraq and the US-UK thirst for oil – both as a hydrocarbon resource and as a strategic tool for dominance – is close to taboo. If raised, the topic is swiftly dismissed as ‘conspiracy’ talk.

… Concluding Remarks – Not About Oil, Of Course!

The real agenda behind Iraq’s oil – the striving by powerful states, particularly the US, for strategic control of the resource-rich Middle East – has been all but ignored by the corporate media. When the truth is glimpsed, it is waved away as very much a secondary aim trailing behind the noble commitment to ‘democracy’.
(10 October 2007)
I think Media Lens is broadly correct in its analysis, but for some reason they target the liberal mildly-left English papers like the Guardian and Independent, just as the far right does. They miss big media issues, such as conglomerate control and overt propaganda from some outlets (e.g. Fox). Perhaps this is a cultural difference between US and UK journalism, but I do think American media criticism is more sophisticated. Journalism schools here regularly put out academic studies and analyses – I’m not sure what the situation is in Britain. -BA

UPDATE (Oct 12) Contributor Big Gav of Peak Energy writes:
I think you were a little harsh on them when you accused them of picking on The Guardian and Independent – they criticised 4 of the 5 major British dailies (leaving out only the Daily Telegraph, which could be considered beyond hope in many ways) – The Times and the FT got more stick than the left leaning papers did…