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Friedman: (No) Drill, Baby, Drill

Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times
… More than any nation I’ve ever visited, Costa Rica is insisting that economic growth and environmentalism work together. It has created a holistic strategy to think about growth, one that demands that everything gets counted. So if a chemical factory sells tons of fertilizer but pollutes a river — or a farm sells bananas but destroys a carbon-absorbing and species-preserving forest — this is not honest growth. You have to pay for using nature. It is called “payment for environmental services” — nobody gets to treat climate, water, coral, fish and forests as free anymore.

The process began in the 1990s when Costa Rica, which sits at the intersection of two continents and two oceans, came to fully appreciate its incredible bounty of biodiversity — and that its economic future lay in protecting it. So it did something no country has ever done: It put energy, environment, mines and water all under one minister.
(13 April 2009)

Political winds shift in favor of legalized pot

Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle
Marijuana has been a part of the American cultural landscape for nearly a century, tried by millions – including, apparently, the last three presidents and the current California governor.

So why has it taken so long to arrive at a political moment of truth – a full national debate about the legalization, taxation and regulation of cannabis?

Experts say an unprecedented confluence of factors might finally be driving a change on a topic once seen as politically too hot to handle.

Among them: the recession-fueled need for more public revenue, increased calls to redirect scarce law enforcement, court and prison resources, and a growing desire to declaw powerful and violent Mexican drug cartels. Also in the mix is a public opinion shift driven by a generation of Baby Boomers, combined with some new high-profile calls for legislation – including some well-known conservative voices joining with liberals.

Leading conservatives like former Secretary of State George Shultz and the late economist Milton Friedman years ago called for legalization and a change in the strategy in the war on drugs.
(12 April 2009)
The prohibition against pot may come to be seen as an expensive luxury that we can no longer afford. -BA

Natural gas production decline creates fiscal headache

Shaun Polczer, Calgary Herald
Even more than royalties or sagging commodity prices, the Alberta government needs to be worried about falling natural gas production to fill its gaping fiscal hole, oilpatch insiders said in the wake of Tuesday’s record $4.7-billion budget deficit.

In its budget document released Tuesday, the provincial government expects resource revenue to plummet by more than half, to $6 billion in the current fiscal year from $12.3 billion in 2008-09.

Although oil prices have fallen more than $100 US a barrel from last summer’s all-time highs, the biggest hit to the provincial treasury will come from natural gas, whose revenue is expected to fall more than 40 per cent to $3.7 billion.

Natural gas makes up two-thirds of all activity in the oilpatch and production has fallen almost 15 per cent over the past two years, taking the biggest contributor to the government’s revenue stream down with it. From a peak of about 14 billion cubic feet a day in 2001, Alberta’s gas production has steadily slid to a little more than 12 billion cubic feet at present. That figure is widely expected to fall as much as a billion cubic feet a day in 2009 as a result of spending cutbacks by big producers such as EnCana Corp. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., which are the two biggest drillers in the province.
(8 April 2009)