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 LIVING OFF THE PLANET 
 Environment, Energy, Agriculture, Food 


The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Feb 19th, 2012 at 12:10:04 PM EST
UT study finds no direct link between fracking and groundwater contamination | McClatchy

Hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to extract natural gas has no direct connection to groundwater contamination, according to a study by the Energy Institute of the University of Texas at Austin.

The study, released at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, British Columbia, found that many problems ascribed to fracking actually have other causes, such as "casing failures or poor cement jobs."

University researchers also determined that many reports of contamination are the result of above-ground spills or other mishandling of wastewater from shale-gas drilling, rather than the fracking process.

"Our goal was to provide policymakers a foundation for developing sensible regulations that ensure responsible shale-gas development," said Charles "Chip" Groat, an Energy Institute associate director who led the study. "What we've tried to do is separate fact from fiction."



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Feb 19th, 2012 at 01:13:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More here.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Feb 19th, 2012 at 06:17:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, basically, if we do everything perfect without error it will be fine.  Good thing humans never fuck anything up.
by paving on Sun Feb 19th, 2012 at 06:25:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No. What they're saying is that there will be problems, sloppiness and accidents, but not worse than what you get from conventional drilling.

So, no to shale gas=no to any petroulem drilling.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:50:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Climate change killing mighty Alaska trees - US news - Environment - msnbc.com

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- U.S. Forest Service researchers have confirmed what has long been suspected about a valuable tree in Alaska's Panhandle: climate warming is killing off yellow cedar.

The mighty trees can live more than 1,000 years, resisting bugs and rot and even defending themselves against injury, but their shallow roots are vulnerable to freezing if soil is not insulated by snow. And for more than a century, with less snow on the ground, frozen roots have killed yellow cedar on nearly a half-million acres in southeast Alaska, plus another 123,000 acres in adjacent British Columbia.

The detective work on the tree deaths will help forest managers decide where yellow cedar is likely to thrive in the future. But the yellow cedar experience also underscores the increasing importance that climate change will play in managing forests, said Paul Schaberg, a USFS plant pathologist from Burlington, Vt., one of five authors of a paper on the tree that appeared this month in the journal Bioscience.

"As time goes on and climates change even more, other species, other locations, are likely to experience similar kinds of progressions, so you might do well to understand this one so you can address those future things," Schaberg said.



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Feb 19th, 2012 at 01:13:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tilting at Windmills: Palestinian Villages May Soon Go Dark Once Again - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

The best part is when the lights in the tents go on, one by one, says Elad Orian. Electricity here, in the hills south of Hebron, was long unreliable. Either it was not available or it was too expensive, produced for just a few hours each day by a noisy, diesel-guzzling generator. That changed when Elad Orian and Noam Dotan, two Israeli physicians who had tired of conflict, came along three years ago and installed solar panels and erected wind turbines. Since then, such facilities have been installed in 16 communities, providing 1,500 Palestinians with electricity.

OAS_RICH('Middle2'); The women here no longer have to make their butter by hand; they can refrigerate the sheep's cheese, which is their livelihood; and their children can do their homework at night. Now they can sit together and watch TV -- and connect to a world that seems far removed from their lives on the edge of the Judaean Desert. It is but a small revolution, achieved at little cost. But it is a good example of successful development aid.

The success, though, could soon be a thing of the past. Israel has threatened to tear them down with five municipalities in recent weeks having received "stop work" orders -- the first step on the road to demolition. The problem is that the facilities are in the so-called Area C, which covers 60 percent of the West Bank and is administered by Israel. Permission from the Israelis is a requirement before construction projects can move ahead -- and permits are almost never given to



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Feb 19th, 2012 at 01:13:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Development aid mustn't be allowed to be successful. What would the world come to, then?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 06:03:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Test tube hamburgers to be served this year - Telegraph
The world's first test tube hamburger will be served up this October after scientists perfected the art of growing beef in the lab.

By generating strips of meat from stem cells researchers believe they can create a product that is identical to a real burger.

The process of culturing the artificial meat in the lab is so laborious that the finished product, expected to arrive in eight months' time, will cost about £220,000 (EUR250,000).

But researchers expect that after producing their first patty they will be able to scale up the process to create affordable artificial meat products.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 03:53:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yuk?

This is not yukky, it's awesome. If they can get it down to a cost where it becomes sorta competitive with commercial beef, we can have beef sans the deforestation and methane from cow farts.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:51:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh brave new world!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 06:10:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most beef today is produced in factories. The fact that some of the machinery in those factories goes "muuh" when you fuel it is incidental to that fact.

In this respect, the brave new world arrived fifty years ago.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 06:16:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure. But the assumption in your comment is that we actually need huge amounts of something called "burgers". Note: not meat, just some kind of pasty substitute between bits of bread.

There is also the question of what the new industry would mean in environmental terms, once ramped up to mass production levels.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 06:37:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We do need huge amounts of dietary proteins.

How interesting:

Biologists have long researched methods for growing muscle tissue in laboratory conditions. PETA has offered a $1 million prize to the first company that can bring lab-grown chicken meat to consumers by 2012.
(wikipedia)

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 06:54:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed we do need protein, but meat is not the only source. I mean, all this is well-known.

As to the chicken prize, $1mn is laughably small compared to the $$$ the food industry would make out of such a product. I notice, anyway, that there's no winner.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 07:27:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Burgers are lots of things. I know several burger places that serve perfectly fine food.

If you associate "burgers" with McDonald's, I can see where your reaction would come from. Me, I usually class McDonald's as an expensive brand of dog food rather than a cheap brand of burger.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 07:10:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fortunately, my gastronomico-burger culture goes beyond MacDonald's.

But whatever. I don't think anything scalable will come from test-tube burger paste, and, if it did, it would probably be "an expensive brand of dog food".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 07:31:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I somehow sense irony in that post.  Sometimes, progress is good.
by Zwackus on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 06:18:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Y'know, you're auto-defining it as "progress". And I've got nothing against progress at all.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 07:32:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We should think of this as yet another single-cell-organism-colony protein source food. Such as yeast, yoghurt, fungi...

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 06:25:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And then the question becomes: is it better then the existing ones? There is already a market of I-can't-believe-it-is-not-meat vegetarian sausages, burgers, schnitzels and such.

Or does the search for "beef" and "chicken" one-cell organisms stem from the though is that if the cell springs from a cow or chicken before extensive modifications it will be more acceptable to non-vegetarians then the curent products?

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES!

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 08:52:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose the hope is that if will be easier to mimic the texture and flavour of meat if, you know, it's actually animal tissue.

Although evidently not all parts of the cow or chicken look, feel or taste the same. And

Large scale production of in vitro meat may require artificial growth hormones to be added to the culture for meat production. No procedure has been presented to produce large scale in vitro meat without the use of antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections.
I think the importance of the animal's immune system cannot be overstated, and even there industrial meat production has led to abuse of antibiotics. So that's not a cause for optimism.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 08:58:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.  And imagine a future in which meat-eating households can each culture and rear their own regenerating meat blob, and harvest it themselves.  While presumably the meat blob would need some sort of food stuff, it would have to be far more efficient at turning that nutrition into delicious meat than a proper animal, as it doesn't have to do all that breathing and moving and living and stuff.  Household meat-sufficiency, here at last.

Seriously, this would be a truly incredibly technology.

by Zwackus on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 06:18:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like sourdough!

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 06:27:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"we can have beef sans the deforestation and methane from cow farts"

Not to mention unnecessary suffering associated with factory farming.

I'd say the jury is still out on whether it'll be a nice development or indeed something repulsive, but I wouldn't slam it a priori.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 07:45:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With the exception of US feedlots, beef is mostly not produced by factory farming methods (dairy cattle, OTOH, are much more intensively farmed). That is not a defence on my part of the methods used, particularly in S America, which do result in deforestation (and/or enclosure and transformation of savanna-type regions). A look on Google Earth at the vast areas around the common borders of Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia is instructive.

But the practical answer seems to me to replace meat protein by vegetable protein - eat less meat.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 07:54:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It may be true of beef (admittedly the example I gave, quoting you), but certainly not of poultry, or pork.

But while your practical answer is nutritionally the right one (and one I do follow, although not nearly as much as I should), it is a rather big gastronomical sacrifice. So if they managed to make it just as good (a colossal if, I know) it would be great.

Especially if they actually managed to make it require less antibiotics rather than more. I'm not saying it will work. Only that I would not consider it an abomination to eat it if it did.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 10:09:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cyrille:
an abomination

No, certainly not. There are far worse things on sale right now.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 10:11:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Um, is this less yucky?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 06:28:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is the result kosher? Halal? If you can do the same with horsemeat, will it be legal in the U.S? This is going to be lots of fun....
by gk (gk) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 08:14:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's based on stem cells. It cannot be Abrahamically legal...

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 08:14:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
French far right uses halal accusation to woo voters | Reuters

at a congress of her National Front party in Lille, Le Pen returned to familiar anti-immigration territory, saying she had proof that all meat in Paris was halal - killed by cutting the animal's throat and letting its blood drain out.

"This situation is deception and the government has been fully aware of it for months," Le Pen said. "All the abattoirs of the Paris region have succumbed to the rules of a minority. We have reason to be disgusted."

News for Parisian Jews - their kosher meat is in fact halal.

(Le Pen was talking rubbish of course - except that the small abbattoirs in the Ile-de-France region are halal. They just don't provide anything like all the meat that is supplied to the region from other regions of France and Europe and elsewhere).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 08:27:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess she saw the same TV doco as me.

The small abattoirs are all halal, only partly to serve the actual halal market, but mostly, it seems, because it's cheaper, i.e. they are using the religious alibi because it enables them to take short cuts.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 08:39:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I recognize that we live in a world where material science has made advanced nuclear reactors safe, and where even economics is now down to a predictable and replicable discipline. And a renowned study from the impartial Texas school at the center of the oil industry has now made fracking...

So now eating lab meat, assuming all the chemicals and antibiotics are washed out before serving, is just another step in the development of our civilization?

Let's forget about pointless measures like the difference in taste between a chemically-fed, hydroponically grown tomato and one of the heritage varieties. Have we then thrown out any concept of life force? Of higher order?

Is lab meat another data point that this civilization has no clue about the vast net of connection in which we swim?

(PS. I do not argue against research, though it might be more fruitful if research was carried out by people who at least acknowledge the mystery and its web of manifestation.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 10:54:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The way I see it, the following facts are pertinent:

First world civilisation consumes way more meat than can be sustainably harvested given contemporary technology. There are three basic ways to solve that problem:

  1. Find alternatives to meat.

  2. Make better technology.

  3. Go without.

These are not mutually exclusive, so there is no need to recoil from 2) just because there is still low hanging fruit in 1).

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 11:47:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect CH has philosophical objectios to the use of meat harvesting technology and civilisation in the same sentence...

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 11:53:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Canada threatens trade war with EU over tar sands | Environment | guardian.co.uk

A Canadian government spokeswoman told the Guardian: "We oppose an FQD that discriminates against oil sands crude without strong scientific basis. The oil sands are a proven strategic resource for Canada; we will continue to promote Canada's oil sands as they are key to Canada's economic prosperity and energy security."

The European Commission disputes the charge that its plans are not based on science. Connie Hedegaard, the EU environment commissioner told the Guardian: "The Commission identified the most carbon-intensive sources in its science-based proposal. This way high-emission fossil fuels will be labelled and given the proper value. It is only reasonable to give high values to more polluting products than to less polluting products. I of course hope the member states will follow the Commission [and vote for] this environmentally sound initiative."

Colin Baines, toxic fuels campaign manager at the Co-operative, said: "There is a wealth of independent science stating that tar sands fuels emit significantly more carbon than conventional oil, no matter how many briefings Canada gives claiming otherwise." The EU proposal is to label tar sands oil as causing 22% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil on average. The increase results from the energy needed to blast the bitumen from the bedrock and refine it.

Baines added: "The Canadian government's aggressive lobbying and attempted intimidation of the EU is making it look increasingly desperate. But its threat of a WTO challenge faces one massive problem: tar sands oil is not a 'like product' with crude oil so no unlawful discrimination exists under WTO. The EU must adhere to the science and penalise the higher emissions."

Many European oil companies have major interests in the Canadian tar sands. In January, the Guardian revealed a secret compromise plan that would weaken the impact on tar sands oil, this time from the Netherlands, home of Shell. BP, headquartered in the UK, had already in their own words "bent the ear" of the UK's energy minister. Total in France and ENI in Italy also have tar sands interests and those nations are believed to be opposed to the EU plan.

If the FQD proposal fails to win the required majority in the vote on Thursday it faces an arduous fight for survival through the European council and parliament.



It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 07:19:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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