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Resilience Roundup - June 26


A roundup of the latest news, views and ideas from the main stream press and the blogosphere. 
Click on the headline link to see the full article.

Click on the headline link to see the full article.


It’s Frack, Baby, Frack, as Conventional Gas Drilling Declines

Mason Inman, Scientific American
Shale gas now accounts for half of all U.S. production, according to EIA statistics—a milestone that many studies expected wouldn’t be reached until the mid-2020s or later. “Assuming that technology will allow ever more shale gas production at low prices—and betting energy policy and the future energy security of the country on it—is risky business,” says geologist David Hughes, who retired from the Canadian Geological Survey and is now doing assessments of shale gas and oil for the nonprofit Post Carbon Institute, a California-based environmental think tank...


Iraq’s civil war threatens structure of global energy supply for years

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Daily Telegraph
The International Energy Agency is counting on Iraq to provide 45pc of the entire increase in global oil supply by the end of the decade, badly needed to meet growing demand in China and India. This requires vast investment – rising to $540bn by 2035 as output tops 8m b/d – but such outlays are implausible as the state slides towards sectarian civil war....


IEA Sees Spread of Shale Revolution Before End of Decade

Sarah Kent, Wall Street Journal
The shale boom that has transformed the oil industry in the U.S. will spread beyond North America before the end of the decade, sooner than previously expected, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday, while at the same time warning of significant aboveground risks to conventional supply over the next five years...


Australians want renewable energy target retained by big margin

Lenore Taylor, The Guardian
Australians overwhelmingly want the renewable energy target to be retained or even increased, as the Abbott government considers abolishing the incentive for new renewable projects.

Polling for the Climate Institute shows 72% of Australians want to keep or expand the renewable energy target (RET), which requires that 20% of energy is sourced from renewables by 2020...


Oil From U.S. Fracking Is More Volatile Than Expected

Alison Sider and Nicole Friedman, Wall Street Journal
Millions of barrels of crude oil flowing from shale formations around the country—not just North Dakota—are full of volatile gases that make it tricky to transport and to process into fuel.,,

Even the refineries reaping big profits from the new oil, which is known as ultralight, are starting to complain about how hard it is to handle with existing equipment. Some of what is being pumped isn't even crude, but condensate: gas trapped underground that becomes a liquid on the surface.,,


Russia in secret plot against fracking, Nato chief says

James Edgar, The Daily Telegraph
Russia is secretly working with environmental groups campaigning against fracking in an attempt to maintain Europe's dependence on energy imports from Moscow, the secretary-general of Nato has said.

Speaking at the Chatham House foreign affairs think-tank in London, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Russia was mounting a sophisticated disinformation campaign aimed at undermining attempts to exploit alternative energy sources such as shale gas...


Energy demand and GDP

James Hamilton, Econbrowser
...The IMF estimates that world GDP increased by 27.7% (logarithmically) between 2005 and 2013. I used Csereklyei, Rubio, and Stern’s income elasticity of 0.7 to calculate what world petroleum demand might have been expected to be for each year since 2003 if the price of oil had not risen.

These calculations are shown in the red line in the graph below. By contrast, the blue line shows actual crude oil production, which increased only 3% since 2005. The gap between the two amounts to 13.5 million barrels per day by 2013, a shortfall of about 16% (0.7 x 27.7 – 3.0 = 16.4).

What happened to the 13 mb/d shortfall? ...


Energy Storage: A Different View from Germany

Ben Kaun, Renewable Energy World
Germany leads the world in solar photovoltaic generation, so it would seem to follow that the country’s interest in energy storage would also be soaring. But when Ben Kaun, an expert storage specialist with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), traveled to an international energy storage conference in Dusseldorf earlier this year, he found that storage is viewed somewhat differently there than in the U.S.


The Hot New Frontier of Energy Research Is Human Behavior

Brandon Keim, Wired
...a traditionally overlooked area of energy innovation is experiencing a boom in research attention: human nature. Engineers and power companies are now drawing on lessons from the social sciences, trying to understand the behaviors that shape energy use and how people can be persuaded to use less energy in the first place.

The potential savings are enormous. According to a recent report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, an energy industry think tank, the U.S. could cut energy consumption by one- quarter without hurting its economy. Another analysis pegged the potential household savings offered by such simple measures as carpooling and window-sealing at 7 percent of total U.S. carbon emissions, an amount roughly equivalent to the year emissions of France...


World's energy systems vulnerable to climate impacts, report warns

Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
Rising sea levels, extremes of weather and an increase in the frequency of droughts and floods will all play havoc with the world's energy systems as climate change takes hold, a new report has found...

Many large plants are particularly at risk from droughts, because they need water to cool their facilities, and floods, because they lack protection from sudden storms. Electricity distribution networks are also likely to be affected...


Top court mostly upholds Obama bid to curb carbon emissions

Lawrence Hurley, Reuters
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday largely upheld the Obama administration’s authority to curb greenhouse gases from major emitters like power plants and refineries in a ruling that nonetheless exempted some smaller sources from the regulation....


Climate Change’s Risk To Economy Assessed By Bipartisan Report

Meagan Clark, International Business Times
Global warming if unchecked could ruin businesses from tourism to construction, according to a report, Risky Business, released Tuesday by a slew of politicians and economic figures from left, right and center political leanings, including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge-fund billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

The unusual bipartisan alliance claims that climate change could cost the country billions of dollars over the next two decades.

Link to The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States report Executive Summary


The Planet Just Had Its Warmest May On Record

Ryan Koronowski, Climate Progress

A map showing the blended land and sea surface temperature percentiles in May 2014. Hot spots in red over both land and ocean. CREDIT: NOAA

Last month broke a temperature record, averaging 59.93 degrees Fahrenheit — a degree and a third (1.33° F) above the 20th century baseline, according to new data released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. May 2014 was the 39th consecutive May that was warmer than average. This was also the 351st consecutive month where the global temperature was hotter than the 20th century average, meaning if you are 29 years old, you have never experienced a colder-than-average month in your life...


Al Gore gives surprise endorsement to Australian mining tycoon

Jonathan Pearlman, The Daily Telegraph
Al Gore, the former United States vice-president, has made a bizarre appearance in Australia’s parliament to endorse the climate change policies of mining tycoon Clive Palmer, the maverick Australian MP who is building a replica of the Titanic.

Saying Mr Gore helped him to consider the “important issues facing Australians and the rest of the world”, Mr Palmer said that “climate change is a global problem and it must have a global solution”...


More punk, less hell!

Constantin Seibt, Tages Anzeiger
An extraordinary political experiment took place in Iceland: anarchists governed the capital city of Reykjavik for four years – and the amateurs achieved some astonishing successes.

When the ballots had been counted, the Prime Minister of Iceland declared the result a «shock».

The same sense of shock was felt by almost everyone. The old guard, because it had lost. And the new party, because it had won.

There had never been such a result – not in Iceland or anywhere else. Reykjavik had long been a bastion of the conservatives. That was now history. With 34.7% of the vote, the city had voted a new party into power: the anarcho-surrealists....


Saving the world should be based on promise, not fear

George Monbiot, The Guardian
If we had set out to alienate and antagonise the people we've been trying to reach, we could scarcely have done it better. This is how I feel, looking back on the past few decades of environmental campaigning, including my own.

This thought is prompted by responses to the column I wrote last week. It examined the psychological illiteracy that's driving leftwing politics into oblivion. It argued that the failure by Labour and Democratic party strategists to listen to psychologists and cognitive linguists has resulted in a terrible mistake: the belief that they can best secure their survival by narrowing the distance between themselves and their conservative opponents...


The Left-Right Political Spectrum Is Bogus

Crispin Sartwell, The Atlantic
Americans are more divided than ever by political ideology, as a recent Pew Research Center study makes clear. About a third of people on each side say of the other that its proponents "are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being." They're both right about that.

My prescription isn't civility or dialogue, which though admirable are boring and in this case evidently impossible. Rather, my approach is “philosophical”: to try to confront both sides with the fact that their positions are incoherent. The left-right divide might be a division between social identities based on class or region or race or gender, but it is certainly not a clash between different political ideas.

The arrangement of positions along the left-right axis—progressive to reactionary, or conservative to liberal, communist to fascist, socialist to capitalist, or Democrat to Republican—is conceptually confused, ideologically tendentious, and historically contingent. And any position anywhere along it is infested by contradictions...


Detroit has cut off the water supply to thousands of residents – and now activists have taken their fight to the UN

Natasha Culzac, The Independent
Activists angered by the closing of water accounts for thousands of people behind in their payments have taken their fight to the United Nations.

In March, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) announced that it would start cutting off the services of homes, schools and businesses that were at least 60 days overdue or more than $150 behind...


Arizona Could Be Out of Water in Six Years

Colin Schultz, Smithsonian.com
...That people have not been fleeing Arizona in droves, as they did from the plains during the 1930s Dust Bowl, is a miracle of hydrological engineering. But the magic won't last, and if things don't start to change Arizona is going to be in trouble fast, says the New York Times.

A quarter of Arizona's water comes from the Colorado River, and that river is running low. There's not enough water in the basin to keep Arizona's crucial Lake Mead reservoirs topped up. If changes aren't made to the entire multi-state hydrological system, says the Times, things could get bad.

If upstream states continue to be unable to make up the shortage, Lake Mead, whose surface is now about 1,085 feet above sea level, will drop to 1,000 feet by 2020. Under present conditions, that would cut off most of Las Vegas’s water supply and much of Arizona’s. Phoenix gets about half its water from Lake Mead, and Tucson nearly all of its.



Growing pains of China's agricultural water needs

Mark Kinver, BBC
China's scarce water supply is being wasted as crops grown in water-stressed provinces are exported to wet, rainfall-rich areas, a study reports.


Thirsty West: The End of the Road

Eric Holthaus, Slate
In the Thirsty West series, I’ve tried to look at the immensely complicated issue of Western water in a time of transition: Rapid urbanization, continued dependence on industrial agriculture, and global warming are simultaneously forcing a rethinking of the basis of growth for nearly half our continent. Without enough water, it’s hard to sustain human civilization.

But how much is “enough”? There surely is enough water for urban dwellers to survive out West, even with increasing numbers. The problem lies in using water in ridiculous ways...


Chinese Ecovillage Needs Permaculturists & Natural Farmers

Jenna Xidai, Permaculture Magazine
China's largest ecovillage project, the Second Home of Lifechanyuan. We are now looking for global permaculture and natural farming experts to give us guidance in our new farms...


Widespread impacts of neonicotinoids 'impossible to deny'

Matt McGrath, BBC
Neonicotinoid pesticides are causing significant damage to a wide range of beneficial species and are a key factor in the decline of bees, say scientists.

Researchers, who have carried out a four-year review of the literature, say the evidence of damage is now "conclusive".

The scientists say the threat to nature is the same as that once posed by the notorious chemical DDT.

Manufacturers say the pesticides are not harming bees or other species...


How Overlooked Plants Like the Potato Bean Can Be Tamed to Feed the World

Hillary Rosnder , Wired
We need new crops. Thousands of years of breeding and decades of genetic modification have made the crops we sow predictable, easy to harvest, and capable of feeding more than 9 billion people. But they are also vulnerable to disease, pests, and the whims of weather. That's troubling, because global warming is bringing more disease, more pests, and more whimsical weather. On current trend lines, global wheat and soybean harvest yields could fall by nearly 30 percent by midcentury. Corn yields could drop by 7.5 percent. In the baking-hot European summer of 2003, plant growth fell by 30 percent. By 2050, that kind of summer will be the new normal. “Suppose the US breadbasket ends up with a climate like Texas,” Cannon said at a genetics meeting last year. “We need to look to species already adapted to extremes.”...

It sounds simple, but humans haven't domesticated a new staple crop for thousands of years...


The Seeds of a New Generation

Michael Moss, New York Times
John D. Jackson lives in the heart of the Corn Belt, where most of the corn has nothing to do with sweet kernels on the cob. His farm in Southern Illinois typically grows field corn, the high-starch variety that is turned into ethanol and cattle feed. He also works as a logistics manager for Archer Daniels Midland, the agricultural giant that produces the other big artifact of this crop: high fructose corn syrup.

But on 10 of his 700 acres, Mr. Jackson broke from this culture of corn last fall by planting something people can sink their teeth into. With a tractor and an auger, he drilled four-foot holes in his soil, added fertilizer and put in 48 apple trees bearing Gold Rush, Jonagold, Enterprise and the sweet-tart blushing globe called the Crimson Crisp. This year he plans to add more apple trees, blackberry bushes and possibly some vegetables.

Mr. Jackson is part of a small but eager cadre of corn farmers who are starting to switch sides, as it were, lured by a little-appreciated fact of farm economics: There is vastly more money to be made in growing other vegetables and fruits...


Why peer-to-peer payments could be as big as the internet

Duncan McCain, New Economics Foundation
Back in early 90’s a new technology called the internet was starting to make waves in the media and among a small section of the public. A little over 20 years on and no-one could have imagined the huge impact the web has had on our lives.

The signs are that peer-to-peer (P2P) cryptographic payment protocols, of which Bitcoin is the most famous, could be next. There is a real possibility that this innovation could radically transform how we pay each other, helping our financial system become much more inclusive...

News clippings image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.

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