Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Vision of the future-or what will be the life after the crisis

We all the world is facing a crisis. It's already undergoing it actually. So here I offer few articles on the issue. Not very optimistic, but better know the evil and kill it on time, than put the pink eyeglasses and miss the moment.
  • 'Era of cheap food is over,' says EU
  • Bulgaria seeks more EU funding for nuclear phase-out (kind of out of the context, but I couldn't let it out of my blog. It's my country after all)
  • EU eyes raise of emergency oil stocks as prices soar
  • Energy: The end of the world as we know it

'Era of cheap food is over,' says EU

23 April 2008

EU consumers should get used to paying more for food as prices for meat, grain, cereal and a range of agricultural commodities are set to increase further, according to EU officials and MEPs debating the issue in Strasbourg yesterday (22 April). The EU's current push for biofuels came under repeated scrutiny during the discussion.

Sharp increases in food prices in recent months have sparked riots in a number of countries, including Haïti, Mexico, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Uzebkistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand and Indonesia. EU consumers have also seen dramatic increases in prices for basic foodstuffs.

Rising global populations and demand for food, climate change related crop failures, higher fuel and fertilizer prices, speculation on commodity markets, dysfunctional global agricultural markets and greater biofuels production are widely seen as the causes of the crisis.

EU policies, most notably export subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and more recently the bloc's proposed target to increase biofuels use by 10% by 2020, are also coming under increasing scrutiny. There are concerns that the combined effect of these measures acts as a disincentive to boost greater agricultural output in developing countries, notably in Africa.

"We won't see food prices going back down to former levels," EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel told a Strasbourg audience of MEPs convened to discuss the global food crisis.

The "huge rise" in food prices is a threat to global stability, according to Michel, who announced an increase in EU spending on food aid to developing countries.

But Michel also stressed that solving the crisis is "far beyond the EU's ability", pointing to structural problems in world agricultural markets and, in particular, a lack of purchasing power in poorer countries.

Empty bellies

Global average food prices have risen by 83% in the past three years, according to the World Bank, which notes a particularly sharp increase in the past six months. While EU citizens have to dig deeper into their pockets to meet rising costs, in many poor nations - where hundreds of millions of families and individuals live on less than one euro per day - the increase means the difference between poverty and starvation.

Josette Sheeran, executive director of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), has compared the crisis to the 2004 Asian tsunami, and is calling for "large-scale, high-level action by the global community, focused on emergency and longer-term solutions".

'Hedge foods'

Growing demand for previously unaffordable meat and other 'luxury' foods in rapidly developing nations like China, India and Brasil is frequently cited as one of the main drivers of higher prices.

But during their debate, a number of MEPs also pointed to increased food commodities speculation and profiteering in the wake of the recent melt-down of global financial markets. The implication, according to a number of Socialist MEPs in particular, is that players on the financial markets have scrambled to find new profits, and are deliberately driving down food supplies while pushing demand in order to boost the price of food commodities.

Calls for greater regulation of financial markets have raised red flags in Brussels, where the EU's Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson recently warned against using the crisis as an excuse for greater agricultural protectionism (EurActiv 21/04/08).

Bashing biofuels

There are growing concerns that a greater shift from food production towards biomass-for-biofuels production will further aggravate food shortages and price concerns.

Italy's outgoing prime minister, Romano Prodi, most recently addressed the issue at the International Energy Forum in Rome on 22 April. Competition between food and fuels is creating a conflict that could result in "disastrous social conflicts and dubious environmental results," he said.

The office of Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, also promised on 22 April to "push for a change" in the EU's biofuels policy if a UK government review finds that the policy is counter-productive in terms of food prices and environmental sustainability.

Brussels meanwhile continues to defend its biofuels proposals.

"Biofuels have become a scapegoat for recent commodity price increases that have other causes – poor harvests worldwide and growing food demand generated by increased standards of living in China and India," EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs wrote in a blog post on 28 March.

A number of MEPs have also cautioned against 'throwing out the baby with the bath water', arguing that biofuels have only a marginal impact on food price hikes and that structural changes to world food markets, as well as greater agricultural output from Africa, would largely cancel out the food price impact of biofuels production.

The GMO solution?

While most MEPs agreed during their debate that greater agricultural productivity is needed to address the crisis, views differed sharply about the benefits of using biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops in order to boost harvests in the EU and in developing states.

There is also speculation that the extent of the price hikes may push EU consumers towards a generally more favourable view of GM crops. EU citizens "hearts may be on the left, but their pockets are on the right," said MEP Neil Parish, chairman of the Parliament's agriculture committee, the International Herald Tribune reported.

But a collection of EU consumer, family farm and environmental groups remain opposed to GM crops. In a statement issued to MEPs as part of the debate, the groups argue that "there is little evidence to suggest that weakening the GMO regime in Europe will address [the crisis]. Price increases have occurred all over the world – even in the US which has the most permissive system of GM approvals". source

My comment: The final point is very very good. Obviously some corporations are using the crisis very smartly to make Europe accept and admit GM crops. I pray that won't happen. I know it's not so dramatic, but this is simply unfair. The bad cannot win just like that. Sometimes this happens for a while, but I hope this time it wont. I'll do all I can to make people understand why GM should be opposed. Not because the technology is bad, but because it will make Europe HUGELY dependent over USA crops. It will make us slaves. It will ruin the biodiversity of our lovely continent. It will force us to eat it, when we don't want to. And we'll be forced to accept the approval of highly corrupted system as FDA. Which is the worst. Maybe if we had an independent institution to run the test, I could trust them. But not like that.

Bulgaria seeks more EU funding for nuclear phase-out

22 April 2008

Bulgaria is negotiating with the European Commission to double its compensation for the early closure of four units of its Kozloduy nuclear power plant, the Bulgarian Economy Minister Peter Dimitrov said on 20 April.

Back in 1992, at a G7 summit, it was decided that units one, two, three and four of Kozloduy nuclear power plant (NPP), along with Bohunice NPP in Slovakia and Ignalina NPP in Lithuania, had to be closed as they presented a high level of risk.

In 1999, following strong pressure from Brussels ahead of the decision to open accession negotiations, Bulgaria agreed to close units one and two. In the meantime Bulgaria modernised units three and four and had been claiming they were safe. However, in October 2002 Sofia again bowed to pressure and agreed to close units three and four the night before the country's EU accession. This greatly aided the conclusion of the negotiations.

Units five and six of the Russian-built Kozloduy NPP are considered safe and will continue to operate.

Slovakia and Lithuania joined the EU ahead of Bulgaria in 2004, and thus secured better conditions for the early closure of their nuclear reactors. Unlike Bulgaria, these countries are closing their units after their accession. This allowed them to obtain additional decommissioning funding at the EU summit in December 2005, when the EU budget was approved. In addition to the amounts already committed, Slovakia obtained another €375m and Lithuania €865m.

At the same summit, under the British Presidency, Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishhev asked for €280m in extra funding, without success.

The European Commission confirmed that talks are being held at a working level but insisted that amounts had not yet been discussed. The EU has allocated €550m to the decommissioning of the four units, Minister Dimitrov said, according to the Focus agency, of which €350m has already been absorbed.

"We have never been against the prolongation of the support scheme (for decommissioning the Kozloduy NPP units)," Commission spokesperson Ferran Tarradellas told EurActiv. But he added that such prolongations would need justifiying after 2009.

Bulgarian officials often use the term "compensation" regarding the early closure under EU pressure of the nuclear units. However the European Commission prefers to consider the amounts as financial assistance for the decommissioning process rather than compensation.

Before shutting down Kozloduy NPP units three and four, Bulgaria was an important exporter of electric power in the region. Now Bulgaria has lost this strategic position. As a result the Balkan region is experiencing a power deficit, especially in Albania. Bulgarian officials have repeatedly said the country has lost many billions of euros due to the early closure of its nuclear units.

Bulgaria is planning to build a new nuclear power plant in conformity with Western standards, on the Danube island of Belene, but the project will take several years to become operational. The power shortage in the Balkan region has inspired some politicians and the nuclear lobby in Bulgaria to campaign to re-launch units three and four. Recent opinion polls show that many Bulgarians are in favour of re-starting units three and four of Kozloduy NPP. However the European Commission has made it plain that the conditions have not changed since the signature of the Accession Treaty.

The decommissioning of nuclear power plants is a substantial global concern as well as an EU one. The Commission estimates that around a third of the EU's 145 currently operational nuclear reactors will need to be decommissioned by 2025. Wide variations exist in the decommissioning strategies and funding methods of different EU countries.

In a recent communication to the European Parliament and the Council, the Commission expresses concern that in some countries plant operators are providing insufficient funding for decommissioning. The Commission says this runs counter to the 'polluter pays' principle and could amount to market-distorting state aid.

There are also concerns regarding the level of independent oversight for funds in several member states, which the Commission says could give rise to inaccurate cost estimates and the poor financial performance of funds.

The Commission concludes that "these concerns could be better addressed by independent oversight of the decommissioning funds" rather than further EU or national legislation. But it adds that harmonised EU decommissioning strategies for future nuclear constructions should be "rigorously pursued".

Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said on 1 February that Bulgaria should seek allies in the EU and convince them that units three and four of Kozloduy NPP are safe and can be made operational again. However he implied that such an effort would involve certain risks. ''I will never give up championing this cause with any means at my disposal that would not result in Bulgaria's total isolation in the EU," Stanishev added. source

My comment: I just want to say why we use the term "compensation" and not the other. It is because the reactors were safe. They were carefully inspected and decided SAFE. Financial assistance for the decommissioning implies that they were out of their life-expectancy and needed to be shut down. However this isn't the case. That's why we're desperate for the money. Anyway, I find the article to be very nicely written.

EU eyes raise of emergency oil stocks as prices soar

23 April 2008

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on whether changes should be made to the management of emergency oil stocks held by EU member states as oil prices edged closer to $120 a barrel on Tuesday (22 April).

The consultation will seek input into the "shortcomings" of the current system in the face of the growing risk of oil supply disruptions caused by rising global demand for oil, the Commission said on Tuesday. The consultation is open until 17 June.

"While oil consumption is increasing worldwide, supply is more and more concentrated in a handful of countries, many of which are exposed to high geopolitical risks," the Commission said in an annexPdf external to the consultation documentPdf external . These, it added, include "wars, internal conflicts, export or import embargos and terrorism".

On Monday, armed militants attacked two Shell pipelines in Nigeria, lowering the country's oil output and fuelling an oil price surge. Prices on US and European markets approached $120 a barrel on Tuesday.

Many EU countries, especially in Eastern Europe, are ill-equipped to deal with potential crises. Under current rules, all countries are requested to hold 90 days worth of oil in order to cope with a possible supply disruption. But member states in Central and Eastern Europe, which joined the bloc more recently, were granted a transitional period to comply with the rule.

According to the Commission, there is a need to clarify roles between the Commission, member states and the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA). While the IEA foresees clear tasks in cases of supply disruptions, nine EU countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovenia) are currently not members of the Paris-based agency, the Commission underlined.

It said such "confusion" on the distribution of roles may lead to delays in making emergency oil stocks available. "In three countries, all stocks are held by the government or an agency. In eight countries, all stocks are held by the oil companies, while the majority of member states have a mixed system," the Commission said.

In that context, the overall level of stocks may also need to be raised, the Commission added. "If the difference between the ‘nominal’ 90 days stocks and the really available level of stocks in a crisis is significant, the request of the Parliament to increase the stock obligation to 120 days might be a very reasonable proposal."

Meanwhile, a reportPdf external by ex-IEA chief Claude Mandil for the French government, called for more solidarity between EU countries on energy security. source

My comment: No comment, really. Nor Bulgaria, nor Lithuania or any of the other countries are that susceptible to crisis as that article claims. But whatever. I have the feeling the problem is being over dramatised.

Energy: The end of the world as we know it

Published: Friday 18 April 2008
Michael T. Clare, Professor, Hampshire College

The rising cost, increased demand and limited supply of oil as well as the slow development of alternatives are all leading to a new world order that will be based on supply and demand economics - with power resting with oil and gas-abundant states, argues Professor Michael T. Clare of Hampshire College in a 17 April commentary for Middle East Online.

The price of oil is currently $110 a barrel and is only set to rise due to shrinking energy supplies and an intensifying wrangle over its distribution, says Clare. Many years ago, energy was abundant and was not seen as a hot political issue. But now, claims Clare, former "Third World" countries like India and China are beginning to industrialise their economies, leading to a massive surge in global energy consumption - of some 47% in the last 20 years, according to the US Department of Energy.

This would not be such a frightening prospect, believes Clare, if we were able to produce enough fuel. Yet the opposite is h

appening, with a noticeable slowdown in global energy supplies coming at a time of rising demand, he adds. This development, he believes, coupled with powerful emerging energy consumers, will lead to a new world order. He summarises this change as: "rising powers/shrinking planet."

Clare suggests the new world order will be characterised by violent international competition for shrinking fossil fuel stocks and a shift of power from energy deficient states, like the US and China, to energy surplus states like Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Clare believes there are several major forces that will drive this change:

  • There will be an intensifying of the competition between older and newer economic forces for energy supplies;
  • the dwindling supply of primary energy supplies will lead to global energy shortages which will be a constant cause of conflict, and;
  • alternative energy sources are being developed much too slowly.

According to the US Department of Energy, fossil fuels will account for the same amount of world energy in 2030 as in 2004, whereas the increase of renewables will be a mere 8.1%. Additionally, the Department of Energy revealed that global emissions of CO2 will rise by almost 60% in the next 25 years, which draws Clare to conclude that all hope of averting climate change are virtually lost.

Moreover, Clare believes a steady shift of power and wealth from energy deficient states to energy surplus states will contribute to creating a new world order. He reveals that net earnings of oil exporting states in 2006 were almost $1 trillion, with this figure set to rise in the coming years. These earnings have been deposited in "sovereign wealth funds", owned by oil-rich countries such as those in the Gulf region, and are being used to buy up large stakes in key sectors of the US economy, which has gladly accepted petrodollars to shore up its own ailing economy, observes Clare.

Lastly, claims Clare, the growing risk of conflict in the world is enabling major powers to use military force to satisfy their objectives in search of energy resources. He concludes by suggesting the "energy-centric" world will dominate people's lives as power will lie in the hands of those who control distribution of fossil fuels, "ending the world as we know it". source

My comment:Enjoy the bright Future! Or best, pray it won't happen.


jan.haverkamp said...

Dear Denitsa, In your blog about Kozloduy, you write "They were carefully inspected and decided SAFE". What is the basis on which you come to this conclusion? You trust the people that did the inspection? The truth is, that they were inspected and considered safe given the fact that these are VVER 440/230 reactors. At the moment the upgrades in K3,4 were done, if they would not have been considered successful, both blocks would have had to be closed immediately. The upgrades gave the possibility to run them until 31 December 2006. Fact is that the design of the VVER 440/230 has inherent flaws that makes them dangerous - these inherent flaws could not be removed with upgrades and therefor the G8 wanted them closed.
Bulgaria is not desperate for money to compensate for K3,4. Some involved are desperate for money for their own pockets. The country has had over 10 years to prepare for the closure, and it did so. The fact that Bulgaria started exporting electricity *after* the closure of K1,2 was exactly because it had prepared.
Reality is that Bulgaria does not need Kozloduy, but it is desperate for a sensible future oriented energy policy that does not rely on the short term interests of a few bosses in the centralised energy sector... Such a policy does not exist :-(

Jan Haverkamp - Greenpeace

Denitsa said...

Dear Jan...

Isn't it an interesting coincidence that of all my absurdly green posts, you comment precisely that one?

Which is pretty much the answer we both know. But I'll elaborate in case you're not entirely on the clear with your motivation.

To be honest, I can't believe in Greenpeace's statements on any nuclear plant. I am a physicist, and as a physicist I'm completely amazed by the opposition to nuclear energy of Greenpeace. Nuclear energy is safer, cleaner and better than fossil fuels that are mostly used now, not without Greenpeace's help.
So, instead of making sure the safety regulations will be best, Greenpeace takes the absurd position to be against that energy, knowing perfectly well that this is nonsense since nuclear energy is easier accessible than any other alternative source. At least now. And instead of pursuing practicality and make a change now, Greenpeace is going for the further and way harder to achieve way. I completely agree renewable source are MUCH better for everyone, but still, I believe in practicality. First do what you can and then consider your next step and PLAN ahead.

Anyway, back on Kozloduy.
Practicality first- the fact that our electricity is NEEDED by other countries was shown last Summer and Winter when we ceased exporting because of our internal needs. This is a fact.

I think we both know that closing those reactors isn't a safety issue. It is political, was and always will be.
The problem isn't in the reactors which were inspected more times than probably any western European reactor- true, every inspection can be falsified in both direction, but they were inspected and the inspectors said they were ok. But because we already signed to close them, it doesn't matter anymore.

To be absolutely clear let's put the facts here:
1) Greenpeace is against ANY reactor, anywhere in the world and will ALWAYS claim it unsafe. 2) Russian technology after Chernobil is tainted and always will bear the fear with it even though a) the only countries that suffered from it, were communist countries because of the lack of warning.b) it's still not so clear how the problem in Chernobil occurred since all the other Russian plants are doing fine for years 3) Bulgaria in the 90s was in horrible condition and political errors during that period led to weir decisions against the national interest (because energy independence is a NATIONAL PRIORITY), decisions that ever since are being cushioned by the guilt conscience of the EU.

It's pretty obvious I don't blame the EU. But to say we want the reactors back, because someone will fill his/her pockets...there is ALWAYS someone that will profit. Always. If you think you can fight the corruption and the business interests in Europe, I suggest you start with something more central to Europe, like GMO, pesticides, water quality,air and soil quality and those idiotic free CO2 allowances. We both know Kozloduy is your smallest problem. But we also both know that Bulgaria is way easier to manipulate in medias than the real evil like Monsanto that is always in the clear.

And I'm very disappointed to see Greenpeace go the easy way instead of to go the right way.

A personal note:
I recently understood that the very mentioning of Bulgaria in Germany (by a waitress in a coffee), led to frowned faces because for the people from particular generation in Western Europe, Bulgaria fits in the following analogy: soviet satellites, communist country, communism, totalitarianism, people shot dead by Stalin and so on.

Well, let me tell you this, communist Bulgaria is in the past now. I don't remember A THING about communism here, but what I heard from people around me, it wasn't that terrible all the time. They didn't feel so much better or worst than now.
Yes, the regime was wrong, but is it right that someone solely on the base of prejudices of a regime they either never seen personally or experienced it in a much different way than ours should judge ME, should threat me badly? Well, I told that waitress that if someone connects Bulgaria with communism in conversation with me, he or she or they will have very bad and loud surprise. Communism was a part of our history, now we all strive for a normal, European life.
Stop judging us, just because of our past. A past that we didn't chose for ourselves. The world was divided by the strong of the moment and that's it.

And I'm writing all this because for some unknown reasons the same prejudices go for science too.
Russian technology and science or Iranian or Chinese is no worst than ANY other technology solely on the base of its name! As a scientist, I am disgusted by any try to use political reasons to bash over science or technology. Science is pure, neutral and only the people that use it, may be blamed or praised for it.

Sorry to be so elaborate, but I'm sick of these manipulations. You're all playing with people's hearts knowing that they are trained to like it. But they don't like it. People still can think and will think for themselves, no matter what anyone tells them. That's the biological reality.


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