By Christopher Sabatini, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Christopher Sabatini is editor-in-chief of the policy journal Americas Quarterly. The views expressed are his own.
News last week that over 100 people had been affected by a toxic spill from the copper mine in Antamina added more fuel to the debate in Peru over the safety and responsibility of mining. Despite the spills and controversy, the extraction of natural resources in Peru contributed the largest share to the county’s impressive 7-plus percent average growth for the last seven years. But can it continue?
For almost a year, another conflict has raged north of where last week’s spill occurred in Cajamarca between a handful of community leaders and Colorado-based Newmont over the mining company’s plans to develop and expand the gold and copper Conga mines. Local community leaders, supported by international non-governmental organizations, claim that Newmont’s operations will pollute water sources, a charge disputed by the mining company and a number of studies it has commissioned. Public marches, road blockages and violence over the Conga mines have crippled the national government and forced President Ollanta Humala to make several cabinet changes.
In Peru and outside, the clash has been portrayed as emblematic of the escalating and inevitable tension between the global markets’ demand for natural resources and the environmental and political rights of the communities where those commodities are produced.
By Michael Levi, CFR
Michael Levi is director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry originally appeared here. The views expressed are his own.
Last week, the Obama administration tightened its oil-related sanctions against Iran. This was followed by new congressional legislation that promises to extend those sanctions further. Yet less than a year ago, most observers found such stringent sanctions against the Iranian oil sector unthinkable.
What has happened to so fundamentally change the picture? It’s worth looking at three things.
A Change in Politics
There’s no question that the Obama administration was initially less enthusiastic about oil sanctions than Congress was. But political power moved in ways that gave Congress more control. Ultimately, the administration struck a bargain rather than try to defeat sanctions legislation. It got language that allowed it to exercise extensive discretion in applying the sanctions: it could hold off if the economy would be put at substantial risk; it could also exempt other countries that were making solid efforts to wean themselves off Iranian crude. The decision to cooperate with Congress was critical – it opened the door for other factors to push the United States further down the sanctions road.
There is broad scientific agreement global warming is happening and that humans are at least partially to blame. But there are some important scientific skeptics. Last month, in the New York Times, one of the most important of them did a public about-face. Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley, now says it’s real and humans are almost entirely to blame. Here’s his conversation with Fareed Zakaria from the latest episode of GPS.
You say in that piece that all scientists should be skeptics. And I think you’re right. I remember Niels Bohr once said that every statement should be taken by a scientist as a provisional hypothesis that has to be tested. So what made you start doubting your original skepticism? What evidence convinced you that something real was happening here?
The issues were so large that about two-and-a-half years ago, my daughter and I began a major scientific research effort in which we recruited a dozen of some of the top scientists in the world, including Saul Perlmutter, who won the Nobel Prize last year – well after he joined our team. So we felt there were questions that were valid, questions about data reliability, about data adjustment, about the choice of the stations which had been used. These demanded attention and I couldn’t get the answers. The only way to do it is to do the study ourselves.
By Milan Vaishnav, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Milan Vaishnav is an associate in the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The views expressed are his own.
An estimated more than 600 million Indians spent their Tuesday without electricity as the country experienced a second day of record power outages, further deepening the crisis that began on Monday when 300 million were left powerless. The “Great Power Outage”—described as the biggest blackout in history—had an immediate impact on the lives of Indians across more than twenty states.
India’s rail system, one of the largest in the world, ground to a halt. Mine workers were trapped underground when the outages struck. Government offices across northern and eastern India were shuttered. And the fallout from the blackout could have been even worse except for the fact that millions of Indians, long frustrated by the country’s endemic power cuts, have invested in their own diesel-operated generators to keep the lights on when the grid fails.
By Fareed Zakaria
Last year, the world's energy watchdog published a report which asked an important question: "Are we entering a golden age of gas?"
So I was struck when I saw the International Energy Agency's 2012 report. Gone is the question mark.
Instead it says, simply: "Golden rules for a golden age of gas."
And the starting point of that golden age is right here in America.
It's becoming increasingly clear that the shale gas revolution is a game-changer not just for the energy industry, not just for the U.S. — but for geopolitics. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Be sure to catch Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN every Sunday at 10am and 1pm ET.
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
At the start of this year, I predicted, rather hopefully, that the U.S. economy would recover nicely in 2012. I'm returning to that topic with some preliminary good news. If you look around the industrialized world, the U.S. economy is the most promising of the bunch.
The American recovery is not as vigorous as one might hope, but it is remarkably broad-based. Manufacturing is up - including, for the first time in thirty years, non-technology based manufacturing. Retail sales are up; consumer confidence and spending are growing. The new employment numbers are encouraging. American businesses continue to do astonishingly well. Corporate profitability continues to grow and the stock market reflects this.
The one area that continues to lag is housing, and it's a huge area. Traditionally, housing leads every recovery. This time it hasn't because the bursting of the housing bubble and the problems associated with mortgages and housing debt have left it struggling. But at some point that will end. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria
In my column in today's Washington Post, I argue that the rise of shale gas is shaping up to be the biggest shift in energy in generations. And its consequences - economic and political - are profoundly beneficial to the United States. Here's an excerpt:
No one could have predicted that oil prices would rise to today’s levels. Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, says that they are irrationally high, pointing out that world demand is lower than the available supply and that Saudi oil inventories around the world are largely untapped. The “irrational” cause, of course, is fear of a war with Iran. But it would also have been unpredictable that a 47 percent hike in oil prices since November 2010 would not cause a major slowdown in the U.S. economy. One reason it hasn’t might well be the rise of shale gas.
By now, the basic facts are well known. It was only a few years ago that most experts were warning of an imminent shortage of natural gas in the United States. But thanks to the efforts of a small private company, Mitchell Energy, combined with a horizontal drilling procedure called hydraulic fracking, it has become possible to extract vast quantities of natural gas from shale, which this country has in abundance.
By Michael Spence, Project Syndicate
I have been surprised by the recent coverage in the American press of gasoline prices and politics. Political pundits agree that presidential approval ratings are highly correlated with gas prices: when prices go up, a president’s poll ratings go down. But, in view of America’s long history of neglect of energy security and resilience, the notion that Barack Obama’s administration is responsible for rising gas prices makes little sense.
Four decades have passed since the oil-price shocks of the 1970’s. We learned a lot from that experience. The short-run impact – as always occurs when oil prices rise quickly – was to reduce growth by reducing consumption of other goods, because oil consumption does not adjust as quickly as that of other goods and services.
But, given time, people can and do respond by lowering their consumption of oil. They buy more fuel-efficient cars and appliances, insulate their homes, and sometimes even use public transportation. The longer-run impact is thus different and much less negative. The more energy-efficient one is, the lower one’s vulnerability to price volatility. FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following post comes from ThinkProgress, a division of the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress Action Fund, based in Washington, DC. Joe Romm is a Fellow at American Progress and is the editor of Climate Progress. This post is reprinted with permission.
By Joe Romm, ThinkProgress
The public understands Obama isn’t to blame for high gasoline prices, as recent polls make clear. Even the Wall Street Journal and Cato Institute agree: “It’s not Obama’s fault that crude oil prices have increased.”
But as the New York Times pointed out Sunday [jn an op-ed], facts don’t stop the GOP:
The issue of gas prices has not only been misunderstood but thoroughly distorted by relentless ideological spin from industry and its political allies, mainly Republican. Hardly a day goes by that some industry cheerleader somewhere — be it Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana or Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma — does not flay President Obama for driving up oil prices by denying the industry access to oil and gas deposits and imposing ruinous environmental rules. Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said last week that Mr. Obama should be held “fully responsible for what the American public is paying for gasoline.”
The Times put together some great charts using EIA data. They make clear 1) oil prices are set on a global market and 2) the strategy of “Drill, Baby, Drill” adopted by the GOP and President Obama has succeeded at increasing production and decreasing dependency on foreign oil — but it has unsurprisingly failed at affecting global markets. FULL POST
By John Cookson, CNN
In the State of the Union, President Obama touted the benefits of domestic oil and gas, saying, “nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy.” A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration details just what this promise might look like, as well as its limits.
Half of the petroleum used in the U.S. is imported, down from 60% in 2005. As the chart below shows, U.S. oil production is expected to increase by a million barrels a day over the next decade, reducing imports from a half now to a third by 2035.
Editor's Note: Sarah O. Ladislaw is a senior fellow with the Energy and National Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration officially denied the TransCanada application for a Presidential Permit for a 1,700-mile-long pipeline, known as Keystone XL, which would bring approximately 800,000 barrels of oil per day from the Canadian oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The White House and Department of State press releases and statements make it clear that from their vantage point the decision to deny the permit was not based on the merits of the project but was forced on them by “the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans,” which “prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.” Proponents of the project reject this line of reasoning citing the nearly three years of investigation into the environmental and economic consequences of the pipeline that preceded this decision. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Michael A. Levi is the Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is his Expert Brief, reprinted with permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
By Michael A. Levi, CFR.org
On Monday, November 28, diplomats convened in Durban, South Africa, for the seventeenth annual UN climate negotiations, known formally as the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Those talks, which will last two weeks, are aimed at advancing international efforts to mitigate and adapt to global climate change. The proceedings will involve a mix of technical negotiations aimed at fleshing out and implementing past agreements, and political negotiations focused on elaborating the legal obligations of countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
The talks will be much lower profile - and involve lower stakes - than the contentious gathering in Copenhagen, Denmark, two years ago. But several important issues are still on the table, and the consequences of decisions made in Durban could linger for many years.