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27 April 2013

Press review 27-04-2013

This week the emphasis has to go to Iraq. If you have been following this blog this shouldn't come as a surprise, protests by the Sunni minority have grown into generalised clashes with the Shia army; a story in all similar to the early days of the civil war in Syria. If NATO decides to supply arms to the Sunni in the region we'll like witness the mother of all wars in the Near East. Meanwhile the western media has been more worried with the bombing of the French embassy in Lybia, another state that NATO recently broke apart.
Al Jazeera
Scores killed in two days of Iraq clashes

More than 100 people have been killed in two days of violence across Iraq after a raid on a camp of mostly Sunni Muslim protesters on Tuesday ignited the fiercest clashes since US troops left.

On Wednesday, fighting broke out for a second day between government troops and protesters in the country's north, after the deaths of at least 56 people at a protest camp in Kirkuk province on Tuesday.

Troops stormed the camp where Sunni Muslims have protested for months against what they see as their marginalisation under the Shia-led government, a raid that prompted Sunni tribal leaders to call for revolt.

Many of the victims were killed in ensuing clashes, which spread beyond the town of Hawija near Kirkuk, 170 km north of Baghdad, to other areas, reviving worries of a return to widespread intercommunal violence.

Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh, reporting from Baghdad, said clashes between fighters and the army were ongoing on Wednesday evening.

20 April 2013

Press review 20-04-2013

Ever since the Energy Commission put out the strategy that would later be approved and known as the 20-20-20 targets I've cautioned against the bio-fuels goals therein. First of all because it doesn't seem to be scalable, secondly due to the low EROEI figures and lastly because it promotes crops competing with food. This a week nothing short of a bomb fell on the head of the industry that grew on the back of this ill conceived policy: it is a massive money drainer.
Study: Biofuels took a €10 billion ‘Cyprus bailout’ in 2011

Public support for biofuels in Europe in 2011 added up to €10 billion, a sum equal to the EU’s bailout of Cyprus, according to new research by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

The study is to be launched today (17 April), shortly before French MEP Corinne Lepage, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on EU biofuels legislation, is due to present a report, which is expected to recommend the introduction of sustainability criteria to account for greenhouse gas emissions, caused by indirect land use change (ILUC).

The ISSD paper totes the total support for the EU’s biofuels industry in 2011 at between €9.3 and €10.7 billion, a figure that exceeds the total amount of private capital invested in biofuels installations by some 60%.
In recent days a research project aimed at identifying new management strategies to accommodate renewable energies into the electrical grid has been popping in the specialised press. The research is pointing to a decentralised grid with a host of small producers acting in an electricity "cash" market. Technically it might feasible, but I very much doubt traditional power suppliers will easily yield to such market structure.
Is Renewable Energy's Biggest Problem Solved?
Paul Brawn, 05-04-2013

The research is funded by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment and is aimed at showing that the entire electricity grid could be run on renewable energy.

Dr. Kurt Rohrig, deputy director of IWES, said: "Each source of energy - be it wind, sun or biogas - has its strengths and weaknesses. If we manage to skillfully combine the different characteristics of the regenerative energies, we can ensure the power supply for Germany.”

The idea is that many small power plant operators can feed their electricity into the grid but act as a single power plant using computers to control the level of power (see our story of 20 January, Renewables: The 99.9% solution).
This week The Guardian published one more article echoing the fossil fuel cornucopia dogma coming out of the IIASA. It is fascinating to see something like this published in one of the countries presently with the greatest difficulties to furnish itself with enough energy; as if the author writes from a place or time far away. But it is the word of the IIASA, it can not be brought to question, and it must be repeated eternally until it is taken as truth.
The Guardian
Why can't we quit fossil fuels?
Duncan Clark, 17-04-2013

Despite the clean technology of the past decade, we continue to extract and burn fossil fuels more than ever before

We have far more oil, coal and gas than we can safely burn.[...]

There are three facts that tell you all you really need to know about climate science and politics.
On more mundane politics another bombshell was dropped, this time on the heads of the austerity ideologues. Beyond the political symbolism of this finding, I'd like to focus on a side issue that few seem to have noted: Microsoft Excel is being used to dictate the economic predicament of hundreds of millions of people. Excel shouldn't be trust not even to calculate the expected value of a statistical series; no one trying to do Science on it should be taken seriously.
Washington Post
Is the evidence for austerity based on an Excel spreadsheet error?
Brad Plumer, 16-04-2013

One of the more influential studies that’s often used to argue for austerity has come in for an extensive new critique.

The paper in question is Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff’s famous 2010 study ”Growth in a Time of Debt,” which found that economic growth severely suffers when a country’s public debt level reaches 90 percent of GDP. That 90 percent figure has often been cited in the past few years as one big reason why countries must trim their deficits — even if their economies are still weak.

But a new critique (pdf) by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash and Robert Pollin claims that this result may need revision. For one, the economists argue that Reinhart and Rogoff excluded three episodes of high-debt, high-growth nations — Canada, New Zealand, and Australia in the late 1940s. Second, they argue, Reinhart and Rogoff made some contestable assumptions about weighting different historical episodes.
Also of note the increasing recognition of the failure of austerity in Britain, this time admonished by the IMF. Intriguing is why is the IMF still pressing along with these policies in Greece and Portugal; perhaps because the aim is not really to tackle sovereign debt or address budget imbalances.
The Guardian
IMF puts pressure on George Osborne with criticism of cuts

George Osborne is under mounting pressure to moderate his austerity strategy after the International Monetary Fund went public with fears that the pace of budget cuts is too severe for Britain's ailing economy.

The fund said it would be holding talks with the chancellor about his tax and spending plans in the wake of gloomy forecasts that subjected the UK to the biggest growth downgrade of any developed country for 2013 and 2014.

Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's chief economist, singled out Britain as a country that needed to adopt a less aggressive approach to deficit reduction
Closing a stunning article at PCWorld claiming that open source is taking over the software world. Open source is now synonym with quality and innovation and is being largely embraced by the industry. The writing has been on the wall, but the debacle Windows 8 is, allied to the rise of mobile systems, is finally forcing a different regard from commercial agents in this market.
Open source is taking over the software world, survey says
Katherine Noyes, 17-04-2013

It's been only a few weeks since the Linux Foundation released its report that enterprise use of Linux continues to rise, but on Wednesday fresh data came out that suggests the same is true of open source software in general.

Specifically, Black Duck Software and North Bridge Venture Partners today announced the results of the seventh annual Future of Open Source Survey, which found that open source software has matured to such an extent that it now influences everything from innovation to collaboration among competitors to hiring practices.

"It's been recognized that software is eating the world,” said Michael Skok, general partner at North Bridge Venture Partners. “Our survey points to the fact that open source is eating the software world."
Have a nice weekend.

13 April 2013

Press review 13-04-2013

Last weekend the political setting in Portugal went one notch up on dramatisation on the wake of a decision by the Constitutional Court, that deemed four measures in the 2013 budget unconstitutional. Sunday the Prime Minister declared war on the people and Monday the Finance Minister froze all public administration expenses. The Parliament pretends everything's normal and the President is happy not to get directly involved. Democracy is suspended for the moment in Portugal, a country that has become this quiet powder keeg that everyone know will blow up some day.

This is why the following interview becomes relevant. Current policies implemented in Europe are totally unsustainable, and if for some the crisis has been quite profitable, it isn't hard to see the profiteering will end soon.

06 April 2013

Press review 06-04-2013

This week's review is again dominated by Natural Gas, but the highlight goes to this chart: