His publisher: the US Army.
Saturday, 14 January 2006
His publisher: the US Army.
Thursday, 12 January 2006
Nation outpaces rest of world in alternatives
While the major polluters of this planet waste our time.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - After nearly three decades of work, Brazil has succeeded where much of the industrialized world has failed: It has developed a cost-effective alternative to gasoline. Along with new offshore oil discoveries, that's a big reason Brazil expects to become energy independent this year.
To see how, take a look at Gildo Ferreira, a 39-year-old real-estate executive, who pulled his VW Fox into a filling station one recent afternoon. Instead of reaching for the gasoline, he spent $29 to fill up his car on ethanol made from sugar cane, an option that's available at 29,000 gas stations from Rio to the Amazon. A comparable tank of gasoline would have cost him $36. "It's cheaper and it's made here in Brazil," Ferreira says of ethanol. If the price of oil stays at current levels, he can expect to save about $350 a year.
At current prices, Brazil can make ethanol for about $1 a gallon, according to the World Bank. That compares with the international price of gasoline of about $1.50 a gallon. Even though ethanol gets less mileage than gasoline, in Brazil it's still cheaper per mile driven. As a result, ethanol now accounts for as much as 20 percent of Brazil's transport fuel market. The country's use of gasoline has actually declined since the late 1970s. The use of alternative fuels in the rest of the world is a scant 1 percent.
Yet countries wanting to follow Brazil's example may be leery about following its methods. Military and civilian leaders laid the groundwork by mandating ethanol use and dictating production levels. They bankrolled technology projects costing billions of dollars, despite criticism they were wasting money. Brazil ended most government support for its sugar industry in the late 1990s, forcing sugar producers to become more efficient and helping lower the cost of ethanol's raw material. That's something Western countries are loath to do, preferring to support domestic farmers.
With government support, sugar companies and auto makers' local units delivered cost-saving breakthroughs. "Flexible fuel" cars running ethanol, gasoline or a mixture of both, have become a hit. Car buyers no longer have to worry about fluctuating prices for either fuel because flex-fuel cars allow them to hedge their bets at the pump. Seven out of every 10 new cars sold in Brazil are flex-fuel.
Brazil is also fortunate that sugar is the cheapest way to make ethanol and Brazil has the right conditions for growing the crop -- plenty of land, rain and cheap labor.
Despite these unique circumstances, Brazil's efforts are being closely followed by countries with big fuel bills. India and China have sent a parade of top officials to see Brazil's program. India, the world's second-biggest sugar producer behind Brazil, mandated in 2003 that nine of its states add a 5 percent ethanol mixture to gas. The Brazilian unit of Germany's Volkswagen AG, the first car maker to introduce a flex-fuel model in Brazil, has received 38 delegations from more than a dozen countries in the past year alone, VW officials say.
Brazil says its ethanol exports will likely double to $1.3 billion in 2010 from $600 million in 2005, largely to Japan and Sweden. These countries hope using ethanol -- which releases less carbon dioxide than fossil fuels -- will help them meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol to cut emissions.
The U.S., which currently imports 60 percent of its oil, is watching Brazil's progress, too. Three members of the Senate Energy Committee recently visited, and Sen. Hillary Clinton has cited Brazil as a role model in cutting dependence on imported oil. When President Bush made a recent stop-over in Brasilia, Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva hosted a barbecue and described to Mr. Bush how the country has reduced its oil import bill, according to Brazilian officials at the meeting.
The most recent U.S. energy bill, signed into law in August, calls for more than doubling ethanol use by 2012. But U.S. ethanol, which is made from corn, costs at least 30 percent more than Brazil's product, in part because the starch in corn must be first turned into sugar before being distilled into alcohol. It may take the U.S. a few more decades to bring the cost of ethanol down to 80 cents a gallon -- equivalent to Brazil's most efficient producers -- according to the U.S. Department of Energy. U.S. trade barriers make Brazilian ethanol and its sugar expensive to buy.
More Brazil cars run on alcohol
The rise, fall and rise of Brazil's biofuel
Brazil fights oil prices with alcohol
New York trying to steer down ethanol route
Biodiesel guru sees fuel joining mainstream
VW, Shell, Logen to study German biofuel plant
Wednesday, 11 January 2006
This comes from a Canadian website but it's applicable to any democratic country.
All around the world there has been a flurry of protest in the last couple of years as a new generation of activists challenge the transnational corporations and the governments that represent them. Why is there this backlash against globalization, which was supposed to generate peace and prosperity? Why is this happening in Canada, designated by the United Nations as the most desirable country in the world in which to live?
The real issue for most of us is the loss of security. Our jobs have been put at risk, and at the same time the social safety net in this country is being systematically shredded. Access to adequate unemployment insurance, welfare assistance, health care and old age security is rapidly becoming a luxury rather than a right of citizenship in this country. Citizens are feeling abandoned by their governments.
Previous generations of Canadians had struggled to extend their economic, social, and environmental rights. But their efforts to democratically regulate the economic sphere and redistribute national income encountered increasing resistance from corporations anxious to improve their profits.
Over the past thirty years, a power shift has been taking place--out of the hands of citizens and nation states and into the hands of transnational corporations (TNCs).
In this new climate of global competitiveness, governments compromise when corporations threaten to leave the country. They offering lower labour costs, lower environmental standards, lower corporate taxes, and lower social spending. The state is thus effectively re-tooled to serve the interests of big business. Increasingly, the prime role of governments today is to guarantee security for profitable transnational investment.
Corporate power means
Giant corporations exercise more power than most nation states in the global economy.
Transnational corporations capture the public policy agenda and re-write the rules at local, national and international levels. People's values, attitudes and tastes are determined by a bombardment of corporate images and logos, beamed into their daily lives through satellite communications. Corporations trigger a sudden rise in stock prices by announcing a massive downsizing of their work-forces, paying lower corporate taxes while reaping the highest profit margins in history, and paying their chief executive officers 150 times more than what they pay their average worker.
Who's in charge?
Politicians are no longer the prime movers and shakers. Instead, those who own substantial assets are represented by a nexus of financial institutions ? the International Monetary Fund, bond rating agencies on Wall Street, the Bank of Canada, national banks on Bay Street, and financial investment houses. Investors and their agents dictate the priorities that govern our economic system.
It's not hard to identify the most powerful among them. The Business Council on National Issues is the senior voice in the business community - composed of 150 chief executive officers (CEO's) from the major, transnational corporations with over $1.6 trillion in assets, $500 billion in revenues, and 11/2 million employees. The leading business association in Canada, it orchestrates a consensus among other business organizations and brought untold rewards for themselves. They have orchestrated, among other things the Canada-US free trade agreement, and NAFTA, and the adoption of the Goods and Services tax, the fight for deficit reduction and increasingly the fight for tax cuts. These policies, and more, create more profits for corporations and effectively curb the role and size of the state.
Shifting the Balance of Power
Low and moderate-income people, our communities and our civic institutions have lost power to large corporations and asset-owners in the top 5 percent of households. At the root of the problem is an imbalance of power. Given how economic power and political power are linked, we need a two-part solution: reforming the democratic process to reduce concentrated power, and changing the rules governing our economy to increase equity and reduce concentrated wealth.
1. Expanded democracy - We have to strengthen our democratic power in order tackle corporate power and reduce inequality. Or in simple terms, we need organized people power to counter the power of mega-corporations and their owners. This means: Strengthening movements that will increase the power of working people Reducing the influence of money in the democratic political process Introducing reforms that will curb corporate power
2. Economic fairness - We need to change the rules that govern our economy to reduce inequality and ensure that our prosperity is shared.
Stronger rules governing global trade and investment
Re-regulating corporations in the public interest
Improving the minimum wage and other labour standards
Fairness in taxation
Strengthening our social safety net
Improving our public services
The corporations are calling on us to sacrifice our power, our wages and our quality of life to help them lower their costs and increase their profits. We must cease putting their interests above those of the majority. Their policies do not bring enough jobs that provide living wages. Avenues to control them include solutions that level the playing field, reduce corporate power and profits, and break up concentrated wealth and power. Despite the opposition they will pose, we can and must make the case that we can have economic security and greater equality, individual liberty and stronger communities.
Tuesday, 10 January 2006
It's illegal to annoy
A new federal law states that when you annoy someone on the Internet, you must disclose your identity. Here's the relevant language.
'Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.' "