Sunday, December 14, 2008

2008: The Year of the Embattled Frog?

Long thought of as the canary in the mine – or the indicator species - of the outside world, are all of the world’s species of frogs in danger of extinction?

By: Vanessa Uy

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2008 is the Year of the Rat. But given the sorry state of our natural environment, 2008 might be remembered in retrospect as the year of the embattled frog since many of them are dying as a sign that our natural environment is in peril. As an indicator species, frogs dying in record numbers could be one of our most reliable indicators that our wasteful lifestyle is inevitably destroying our planet.

Frogs of temperate regions like in Northern Europe are now at risk of the cytrid fungus, which has managed to spread to previously colder climes due to global warming. Even though some scientists still blame the spread of the cytrid fungus in the industrialized West to the importation of the African clawed frog from 1935 to 1950 for use as a pregnancy test. European Frogs are unusually susceptible to the cytrid fungus since the fungus is an invasive species and European Frogs have not yet developed immunity to the cytrid fungus.

A native of Continental Africa, the cytrid fungus only exists in very limited numbers in its pristine and undisturbed environment, but widespread environmental destruction throughout Africa. Like illegal logging and slash-and-burn farming methods had upset the balance of biodiversity that existed for millions of years. This not only endangered Africa’s native frog species, but it also sent the cytrid fungus into a population explosion plus with the help of global warming allowed the fungi to gain a foothold in the European continent via globalization-oriented trading and shipping practices.

If the current environmental destruction continues, zoos and aquariums of private collectors might be the only places in the near future where we can see a live frog. These zoos and aquariums are even now already doing their part via captive breeding program of frog species that are seriously endangered. But there is one minor snag, given that heavily industrialized European countries that can afford such programs have a naturally dry climate. Certainly an ill suited home for frogs that are designed by Mother Nature to live in the Amazon Rain Forest. Though professional breeders had managed to breed rare frogs in captivity by increasing the relative humidity of their frog enclosures and also managed to control the cytrid fungus via over the counter aquarium fungicides.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Is a Meat-Free Diet Good for the Planet?

Given that our current food production methods had a very large carbon footprint and extensive fresh water usage – especially meat production. Will vegetarianism and / or going vegan be good for our planet?

By: Ringo Bones

Current studies suggest that if Americans reduce their annual meat consumption by 10%, enough grain would be saved / freed that can provide nourishment to 60 million people. Imagine being able to help humanitarian organizations like the UN’s World Food Programme just by reducing your annual meat consumption. Plus livestock, like cattle, are significant contributors of greenhouse gasses like methane being discharged into the atmosphere. Given that methane has 20% more heat trapping capability than carbon dioxide, this does spell good news for our planet. What is good for our planet is also indeed good for our health – i.e. a reduced meat diet.

Despite the late 20th Century clarification of nomenclature, vegetarianism had been supplanted by the word vegan to mean someone who consumes only plant-derived food products. Looks like eating your vegetables with eggs, milk, and fish doesn’t make you a vegetarian anymore. Semantics aside does consuming chiefly vegetables be doing a lot of good for our planet’s environment? The legalese and rigmarole surrounding the issue could surprise you.

The good news is that it does, but given our current methods of agriculture – especially when it comes to growing food crops like grain and vegetables on an industrial scale – does not exactly pass muster as being truly Earth-friendly, especially when it comes to land and water usage. On a land area basis, it takes 8.9 square meters of arable farmland to grow 1 kilogram of corn grain. While the land area required in raising one kilogram of meat is equal to 20.9 square meters. This is due to the fact that livestock, on average, usually consume close to 10 kilograms of grain to produce 1 kilogram of meat.

Since drinkable water / freshwater has over the years slowly became a very precious indispensable natural resource due to our systemic mismanagement of it. It would be noteworthy to also mention that it takes on average 1,000 liters of water to produce a kilogram of wheat. While to produce 1 kilogram of meat consumes 10,000 liters of water. Basing on these figures alone - by consuming less meat while our assembly-line agricultural system maintains its water-wasteful practices, we can still do a lot of good to our environment by just cutting out the amount of meat that we consume. Every little bit counts.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is Organic Agriculture Still Profitable?

Even though the organic farming / agriculture industry is now worth several billion US dollars worldwide, there are many who question it’s profitability when compared to mass produced low retail cost rivals. Is it just mere marketing ploy?

By: Ringo Bones

More that just a “If we build it, they will come” kind of industry, organic farming or organic agriculture is more than just a profit-driven business. It started out due to increasing ethical concerns over the negative side effects of conventional intensive chemical pesticide and chemical fertilizer dependent agricultural methods born out of post World War II Green Revolution. Even though the first Green Revolution kept our less fortunate brethren from starving for most of the 20th Century, many now question if our current industrialized food production systems is slowly but inexorably doing irreparable harm to our environment.

When European settlers first came to the New World, their then environmentally compatible method of agriculture made them wealthy plus the bonus of a safe and secure supply of food. Years later when these small settlements grew into big cities, most of the money was still made in the countryside farms rather than the banks and the brokerage firms within walking distance from the ports. So “armchair economists” at the time with a disdain for the old fashioned Protestant Work Ethic tested out their rigmarole-driven money making schemes which sadly became the groundwork for futures trading and commodities trading. Their “new economic model” was the major factor that caused farmers to adopt high-volume high-profit farming methods with inherently questionable environmental sustainability. Given that Mother Nature seriously abhors such ecologically perverted practices thus making the large-scale use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers a necessity, rather than as a corrective measure.

The folly of this system manifested itself during the early part of 2008 when the move from futures trading to commodities trading of agrarian produce caused the skyrocketing food prices. Causing food riots in various parts of the world. But is there a way out of this somewhat conundrum?

Currently, the organic farming / organic agriculture industry only provides a quarter of the food that’s currently available on the market. In my opinion, the money being spend on agricultural research and development should be spent on improving or increasing the yield capacity of organic farming methods, rather than on genetically modified organisms with questionable effects on our environment and ecosystem. Given that the corporate entities that manufacture these genetically modified crops and their support chemicals had been devoid of any semblance of corporate social responsibility for the past 40 years or so (remember the Agent Orange fiasco) only gives credence to everyone clamoring for agricultural industry reforms.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

EU ’s Environmental Commitment: A Breath of Fresh Air?

Despite the daunting global financial crisis, the European Union pledges to stick with their plan to limit carbon dioxide emissions to combat global warming. Will they make it?

By: Ringo Bones

Maybe it was during 2007 when German Chancellor Angela Merkel proverbially sticking to her guns by proposing stricter emission and fuel economy quotas on cars manufactured in the European Union despite of the extremely limited legislative powers posed by such laws. Luckily, not only being green became “unexpectedly fashionable” throughout the EU for the rest of 2007. But the world’s most famous environmentalist Al “An Inconvenient Truth” Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, further reinforcing the link between global climate stability with global political stability.

When the Credit Crunch finally reared it’s ugly head throughout Europe after slowly devastating the US economy since it’s start near the end of July 2007. Many nations around the world similarly affected by the credit crunch began to wonder if they could keep to their commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Especially since renewable energy systems are currently still very expensive due to the low volume of production. But during their meeting on how to tackle the global economic crisis brought about by the US credit crunch, EU leaders surprisingly reached a consensus to stick with their previous commitments on gradually reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by introducing the wide scale use of renewable energy systems. By not conceding to abandon their pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the EU is indeed sending a message throughout the world of their leadership role in tackling climate change.

Though the environmental movement for a cleaner industry started in the United States, even the spin-off of the Sierra Club called Blue Green Alliance has been promoting environmentally friendly industries that provide jobs for blue collar workers. Like the United Steelworkers – the largest industrial union in North America - back in June 2006. The Blue Green Alliance managed to thrive despite of the Bush Administration’s anti-environment Neo-Conservatives running the government and fiercely lobbying at Capitol Hill only for their own interests.

To me, this is quite a “breath of fresh air” both figuratively and literally. Given that the Bush Administration was unabashedly pro crude oil when it comes to their energy policy. Even their energy independence plans are still crude oil lobbyist driven. For the European Union to pursue the more Earth-friendly path of renewable energy – despite of the high initial cost – is really commendable. Looks like the moral ability to lead has now moved on to the EU. Will the next US administration prove better when it comes to legislating laws that would protect the world’s environment?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Green Revolution Version 2.0

Despite growing concerns over high food prices due to current agricultural practices unable to meet demand, can we ever redesign our global agricultural industry to be more Earth-friendly while increasing yields to meet future demands?

By: Ringo Bones

The first quarter of 2008 will probably forever be remembered for incidents of food riots that occurred in various parts of the world due to escalating food prices. A number of factors are to blame like the NYSE ‘s shift from futures trading of food crops to commodities trading which made food prices open to speculative trading “abuse”. Then there’s the recently increased food demand from China and India due to a growing middle class that’s recently blessed with increased purchasing power ready to outbid their poorer brethren. The largely ill conceived biofuels industry backed up by the vested interest of political lobbyist has also been diverting food crops from the world’s poor to the rich man’s car. Unfair and price distorting trade practices like agricultural subsidies are also to blame. But most of all, the root cause of our agricultural industry unable to meet growing demand and keeping food prices reasonable is the lack of farming investments since 1998. Agricultural science has since languished due to lack of investment funds, not to mention the funds just needed to upgrade the agricultural technology that we already have just to maintain global food security.

Farming and agricultural science has always been perceived as “unsexy”, that’s why scientists that had great contributions to the science of food production had been denied the fame they rightfully deserved despite getting accolades like Nobel Prizes and such. This is the reason why George Washington Carver (pioneering research made America one of the world’s largest potato producer) and Norman Borlaug (father of the post-WWII Green Revolution) are about as well known as Nikola Tesla (invented AC mains electricity) and Alfred Wegener (first to theorize about continental drift). Especially in most American public schools. But can we make our existing food production practices more Earth-friendly by making it less mechanized and dependent on agricultural chemicals while increasing yields? And the thorniest question of all, should we abandon genetically modified crops because they’re use is too risky for the environment despite their manufacturer’s claim of safety?

Maybe its high time for agricultural science to develop agricultural technologies that require little or no use of farm chemicals that have an adverse effect on the environment. Nutrient-bloom inducing fertilizers that contaminate rivers and groundwater tables are a case in point. Not to mention pesticides and weed killers that are lethal to both pests and symbiotic organisms. Though genetically engineered food crops might seem a sensible choice, it’s the company that’s presently has a monopoly on them – namely the Monsanto Company – that might prevent GM crops from ever becoming commonplace. The reason behind the overwhelming majority of people resisting GM crops is mostly due to Monsanto’s “sins committed during the Vietnam War” by producing the defoliant Agent Orange whose unforeseen side-effects on both people and the environment still linger till this day. Thus making Monsanto currently one of the most hated companies on the face of the planet.

Despite of the daunting obstacles, we can always be optimistic because science had always rescued us from impending doom, even ones that are of our own making. If we haven’t developed ways to extract heating oil from crude oil, whales would have been hunted virtually to extinction long ago. But now, the race is on to end our addiction to crude oil from ruining our delicate climate.

Without the first “Green Revolution” which was spearheaded by Norman Borlaug, billions of people would have died unnecessarily during the 20th Century. And yet the race to technologically develop the next Green Revolution that’s kinder and gentler to our environment while keeping the whole or humanity reasonably fed has just reluctantly been started. Like in the various organic agriculture / organic farming schemes throughout the world.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Genetically Modified Food Crops: Too Good To Be True?

After experiencing several “food riots” from the poor regions of the globe over the skyrocketing prices of staple foods during the start of 2008, is the global community deliberately resisting genetically modified foods at their own peril?

By: Ringo Bones

Often referred to as “Frankenstein Foods”, foodstuffs derived from genetically modified or GM crops never fully gained widespread acceptance outside of the United States. Especially in Europe, where their resistance of anything with a semblance of genetic tinkering being passed of as fit for human consumption, unexpectedly made the organic food industry – which started supposedly as a fad in the middle of the 1990’s - into a multi-billion dollar leviathan that it is today. Despite of selling food that’s too expensive for those people living on less than 2 US dollars a day.

The issue surrounding the debate between GM crops versus their organically (grown without the aid of pesticides and factory-produced chemical fertilizers) produced counterparts have become the de facto herald of every pro-environment / anti-globalization / anti-capitalist movement in search of “Imperial Ambitions” in legislating their various agendas as legally-binding laws. An ambition that’s ruled mostly by political demagoguery – rather than scientific rationality – for citing the rationale of these various “pressure groups” in resisting the large-scale production of GM crops. Unfortunately, political demagoguery can work in anyone’s favor when it comes to publicly admonishing large corporations – especially ones with very terrible sins in the past like Monsanto.

Monsanto’s sordid avarice for profit over corporate social responsibility had bequeathed to the world products and services that not caused only unprecedented negative social upheaval during the 20th Century. But also, those said products and services’ negative repercussion, are still continued to be felt till this day. Take for instance polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB s. Developed near the end of the 1920’s, PCB s are sold to other manufacturing concerns, like the electrical manufacturing company GE, without thorough understanding of the human health and environmental impact of that particular product. Given that PCB production and use in the United States was banned around 1977, its hormone-mimicry effects still wreak havoc of the endocrine systems of humans and animals around the world. On Monsanto’s “patriotic duty” of bolstering the US Military-Industrial Complex battle against the spread of Marxist-Leninist Socialism in South East Asia, it provided defoliants to be used in Operation Ranch Hand during the 1961 to 1971 period of the Vietnam War. This resulted not only causing undesirable health defects to Vietnamese civilians near the defoliant-sprayed sites but also unusual forms of cancer to US servicemen who happened to be exposed. Monsanto later divulged that the Agent Orange defoliant batches used in Operation Ranch Hand contained high levels of dioxin – a very aggressive carcinogen – due to the hasty manufacture. Given Monsanto’s lack of corporate social responsibility, why should we – the consumers – trust this somewhat untrustworthy company to provide us with our daily bread? Does this lead to a compromised global food security? Especially to those people living on less than 2 US dollars a day.

When Monsanto became the sole monopoly of genetically modified crops, the company was hailed by the technocorporate elite for its pioneering efforts of spearheading a new economic venture – namely the marketing of crops that are genetically designed to be better than Mother Nature’s. Throughout the 1990’s, Monsanto was poised to rival – by fair means or foul – the market dominance of the world’s leading computer software company Microsoft. But the general public’s concerns over the “terminator gene” aspect of Monsanto’s GM crops has denied the company’s dreams of market dominance. Given the company’s “spotty” track record, no amount of scientific study backing the safety of their GM crops to both human health and the environment can calm the general public’s furor over “Frankenstein Foods”.

But it seems that Monsanto never learned lessons from its past sins. Many environmental pressure groups are vehemently criticizing Monsanto’s Mafiosi-style business practices. Like small family farmers being sued by Monsanto for using their “patented” GM technology without permission just because these small farmers live downwind from Monsanto-owned fields and their crops are “accidentally” cross-pollinated with Monsanto’s Roundup-ready crops. Even His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales have recently joined in the resistance movement against Monsanto’s GM crops citing the product’s yet unproven possible negative side-effects on biodiversity. Given that Prince Charles is also busy campaigning for the protection of the albatross in the Southern Ocean, this high-level support of resistance against GM crops has further bolstered the movement against widespread cultivation.

Maybe it’s just bad luck that Monsanto’s GM crops safety concerns manages to coincide with the yet unproven safeguards against BSE / mad cow disease contaminated beef could be the products undoing. After all, testing for prion misfolded proteins via protein misfolding cyclic amplification or PMCA test for prion proteins in only just a few years old. Yet, we don’t yet have reliable test studies that prove GM crops are 100% harmless against human health or our ecological biodiversity.

Friday, July 25, 2008

OCS Crude Oil Exploration: Economic Bottom Line versus the Environment?

As our wildly swinging global crude oil prices finally retreats back to a somewhat manageable level, shouldn’t we be moving away from our crude oil incumbent industry and commerce instead of looking for more illusory “cheap oil”?

By: Vanessa Uy

A few years after Al Gore’s “environmental shocker” called An Inconvenient Truth finally convinced governments around the world to take the issue of global warming caused by industrially created greenhouse gasses much more seriously, the “Industrial West” is still a few decades away from being weaned from crude oil “addiction”. Sadder still, the current Bush Administration has initiated the process to repeal the executive domestic crude oil exploration ban established by then president George Bush, Senior.

This domestic crude oil exploration ban which specifically sites the Outer Continental Shelf or OCS regions in United States’ sovereign territory was initiated in part due to the overwhelming disdain of Americans back in 1989 of the negative impact of the petroleum industry on the environment. Add to that the Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster, thus making patriotism indistinguishable from environmentalism during that time. Plus – as a politician – then president George Bush, Senior was very desperate to distance himself from the inane statements of his predecessor Ronald Reagan who said that trees are more polluting than automobiles. Despite of Bush Senior’s attempt to appease the growing American environmental fervor, he wasn’t elected for a second term in office.

Fast forward almost twenty - or so years later, current incumbent president George W. Bush has set to put into motion plans to repeal what his father had legislated with regards to the US domestic oil exploration ban, especially on American Outer Continental Shelf or OCS regions. The question now is, Is this a logical – even attainable – solution to America and the rest of the world’s problem of high crude oil prices? Never mind the ensuing future environmental consequences of the Industrial West’s Quixotic quest for a cheap and abundant source of crude oil.

Famed theoretical physicist and science documentary consultant Michio Kaku states that in order to maintain our current crude oil demand, an oil field of similar yield to that found on Saudi Arabia must be discovered and developed every ten years. Add to that the realistic assessment of petroleum company insiders citing that a viable crude oil field, once found, usually takes 5 to 10 years to develop into a commercially viable crude oil producing facility. Sadder still the 5 - to -10 year figure are somewhat optimistic at best. Which now begs into question whether petroleum companies who advertise on major news media outlets like the BBC or CNN really are telling the truth by stating that they are currently working alternatives to replace crude oil. When the truth is that they must spend their time eternally searching for crude oil just to keep their company running.

The current petroleum lobbyist controlled Bush Administration probably sees the repeal of the executive ban on oil exploration as a godsend because the Outer Continental Shelves in the US are usually located 50 to 200 miles off shore which can be somewhat hard to be picketed by environmental protestors. Except maybe by dinghy-equipped adventurous Greenpeace activists. Which for all intents and purposes is an environmental activism made out of sight and out of mind by sheer luck of the crude oil conglomerates’ latest praxis on greed. But the question now is, will every citizen of planet Earth be willing just to stand by as the insatiable greed for crude oil continues to compromise our planet’s ecosystem?

The issue of the US Government repealing the ban on domestic crude oil exploration is by no means just an issue that affects inhabitants of the North American continent. Nations bordering the Arctic Circle are setting their sites on the yet untapped crude oil fields found in there which was made more easily accessible due to the inexorable progress of global warming. Even though the Arctic Circle crude oil fields are estimated to only meet our current demands for just 3 years, the site has currently become too tempting to pass up despite of the environmentally sensitive nature of the area. USGS geologist David Gautier has stated on a July 25, 2008 interview on the BBC that crude oil exploration in the Arctic Circle region is a particularly risky exercise at best. This is so because of the United States Geological Survey’s lack of thorough understanding with regards to the environmental and geological dynamics of that region. Add to that the environmental impact studies that had yet to be undertaken in the Arctic Circle region, not just for crude oil exploration but also for mining concessions as well.

Given the environmental challenges, I wonder if it is high time for the Industrialized World to wean itself away from their crude oil incumbent systems for the sake of our environment. And also to end the needless deaths of our young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice just to keep Halliburton and their ilk in business.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Should We Be Creating Our Food from Crude Oil?

A certain UN top official has recently called our ill-conceived use of food crops as automotive fuel a crime against humanity. Would it surprise the same UN official that 50 years ago we tried to get cheap food from crude oil?

By: Vanessa Uy

Currently, the whole world is burdened by sky rocketing food prices in which our poorly planned bio-fuels program is mostly to blame. What if – in the mother of all ironic twists – we can derive food cheaply from where we get almost all of our automotive fuels, namely crude oil? But more importantly: is this even possible?

During the 1950’s through the 1960’s, a chemist working for the Société Française des Pétroles BP in Lavera, France had experimented with a process of deriving edible protein from crude oil. Chemist Alfred Champagnat added fertilizers to a batch of crude oil and air is bubbled through. This set-up resulted in a crop of yeast, which is about 50% edible protein. Though at the time other oil companies had also experimented with this method, the experiment showed very promising results. One pound of crude oil yielded about half a pound of protein. Amazingly, the process is very efficient because it creates edible protein several times faster than farm animals can synthesize protein from their feed or fodder. Though the crude oil derived protein resembled a tasteless and odorless powder in it’s raw state it can readily be turned into a meat-like concentrate and aromatic Far-Eastern style fish sauces. This crude oil derived protein has a tremendous potential as a source of low cost source of edible protein for the world’s poor during the time of the experiment. Alfred Champagnat estimated that only about 3% of the annual world output of petroleum / crude oil would be needed to produce 20 million tons of pure protein - –ore than three times the protein supplied by the world’s annual fish catch during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Champagnat’s experiment really showed promise back then, but will it be a viable solution today to our ever increasingly difficult quest to provide low-cost food for the world’s poor?

Even though the circa 2008 price for crude oil is now teetering near the 120 US dollar-per-barrel mark, it is still considered by experts – especially scientists employed by oil companies – to be one of the cheapest natural resources available. Sadly, it’s so very true. A liter of gasoline is costs even cheaper compared to some brands of bottled water of the same volume. Even the experts working for the crude oil conglomerates continually tell us that the cause of the present sky high fuel prices is due to increased demand in China and India and not because the world’s entire supply of crude oil is running out.

Environmental concerns aside – isn’t it a disturbing thought that we might be actually using more crude oil per unit volume than we are using plant derived cooking oil? And is this might be the reason why all of the used cooking oil derived bio-diesel schemes are - at present – doomed to failure? Our current transport, electricity generation and other industrial processes are heavily dependent on crude oil and other fossil fuels. Because of this, the greatest problem of shifting to cleaner sustainable energy technologies like hydrogen and fuel cell technologies is technological infrastructure incumbency. We cannot easily –at present - adopt hydrogen-based systems because we built our industrial infrastructure around fossil fuels for almost a century that we can even produce crude oil derived fuels far more cheaply than their plant derived counterparts. It’s the hydrocarbon technology incumbency problem that tied us down. Not to mention that we have invested billions in the crude oil industry for nearly a century in making gasoline almost as cheap as bottled water.

But what if the petrochemical conglomerates manage to make edible protein more cheaply than our current farming and fishing methods by using Alfred Champagnat’s method scaled-up to industrial levels. Would this grant them absolute power since these conglomerates now control not only our energy supply, but also our food supply as well? These are profit-driven corporations and helping our planet’s hungry and poor inhabitants probably ranks last when it comes to their day to day corporate practices. It’s a brave new world.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Rich Man’s Car

First it was the proverbial “rich man’s cow” that deprived the world’s poor from much needed staple grains, then came the bio-fuel industry making the “rich man’s car” the latest threat to the world’s poor. Will the injustice ever end?

By: Vanessa Uy

For over fifty years, the threat of starvation has always seemed unthinkable in affluent countries that benefited most from the post-World War II “Green Revolution”. But as more and more people manage to reach the upper echelons of the socio-economic ladder, they started to drastically affect the food supply of the entire world. As people get richer, they start to eat less grain. But they make up for this dietary paradigm shift by consuming more meat, and ironically that dietary lifestyle requires the consumption of enormous quantities of grain – by livestock.

Livestock – on average – must consume 10 kilograms of grain to produce 1 kilogram of meat. Thus the rich man consumes the equivalent of 10 kilograms of grain every time he consumes a kilogram of meat. In doing so, he disproportionately reduces the amount of grain available to feed the rest of humanity. And if there is not enough grain to go around, the rich man can easily outbid his less fortunate fellow human beings. As one United Nations food expert has succinctly put it more than thirty years ago, “The poor man’s grain is being siphoned off to feed the rich man’s cow.”

Then came the ill-conceived bio-fuel industry. Even though it is barely over three or so years old, it gained widespread acceptance with utter disregard for the ensuing environmental and social consequences. Thus the problem of the security of our global food supply has been greatly exacerbated. The rich man’s cow and the rich man’s car is now in competition – albeit unfairly when it comes to purchasing power – with the world’s poorer inhabitants when it comes to access to the world’s grain supply.

Thirty years ago when the bio-fuel industry was not yet the “logical alternative” to energy conservation measures. The world’s affluent society that embraced the American-Blue-Collar-Protestant-Work-Ethic-As-Ideology chose to harbor the perception that vegetarianism and energy conservation as a part of the Marxist-Leninist Socialism that threatens their Calvinist avarice. Even though reality seem to defy the socio-political construct of their perception like avarice should be a “God-given right”, or so it seems.

Inhabitants of underdeveloped Asian countries eat an average of 250 kilograms of grain per person per year. The average American – or anyone who can afford the “American Lifestyle” – consumes more than a metric ton of grain per person per year, and that’s before bio-fuels are added to the equation. The typical American eats 75 kilograms of grain annually as bread and breakfast cereals; The rest is fed to cattle, pigs and chickens to produce the meat, milk and eggs that serve as staples like grains do for the world’s poorer people. If we include the corn diverted to produce ethanol, our typical “American” is now consuming two metric tons of grain annually. Can all of us afford with a clear conscience the price we pay in maintaining our “American Dream” of freedom of mobility?

The recent food riots that happened in Egypt and Haiti is somewhat reminiscent to what happened back in the early 1970’s when droughts reduced global grain harvests and the oil crisis caused a sharp rise in staple food prices. It seems like our unquestioning faith to the energy intensive, chemically dependent agricultural methods of the Green Revolution has been betrayed. Even our current World Bank president Robert Zoellick has voiced alarm over spiraling prices of staple foods that could trigger more political unrest and even wars.

The impact of our current ill-conceived bio-fuel programs needs to be further examined since it is one of the main contributors to our current food shortage. Despite its touted “Green Credentials” many are finding out that the supposed “eco-friendliness” of a majority of our bio-fuel programs is a sham. What used to be a primeval tropical rainforest two years ago is now a bio-fuel plantation is more of a rule – rather than the exception when it comes to the bio-fuel industry. Will the inner environmentalist inside all of us be willing to just sit back and relax every time we’re enjoying the joyride in our bio-fueled “Sport Utility Vehicles”? Or will our policymakers be forced to fastrack bio-fuel programs that don't use staple food or the land used to grow them like India's Jatropha Bio-Fuel program which sadly is still in it's small scale / pilot stage?

The moral pressure over everyone jumping into the natural resource wasteful Western Industrial / American lifestyle has been around for over thirty years. Back then it was over increased meat consumption by both the rich man and his pet dog. Now, his car has joined into the picture. There’s even an increasing popularity being discussed on how Paris Hilton’s pet chihuahua has a bigger carbon footprint compared to the average working class Chinese. As more and more of us become affluent, will we ever adopt a less wasteful lifestyle? To me, not very likely because energy and natural resource conservation has been often touted as an anathema by those who have bought and sold the Calvinist / Protestant Work Ethic Avarice Driven ideology. They see vegetarianism and energy conservation as a very dangerous Left – Wing ideology. It looks like Conan O’Brien spoofing about Jesus Christ being a “NASCAR fan” has a kernel of truth in it. Or will it someday become part and parcel with the “Holy Scripture”?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Of Salinization and Agricultural Land Mismanagement

Despite the 5,000 year –or so – history of agriculture, does our contemporary agricultural community take heed on the lessons learned from the past on the causes of agricultural topsoil salinization?

By: Ringo Bones and Vanessa Uy

The serious – though preventable – problem of agricultural topsoil salinization is as old as the practice of agriculture itself, it seems like we at the present are not trying as hard as we should in preventing such problems. Especially by ignoring on what we had learned in the past about the phenomena of salinization and doing it in our peril. Is the problem still relevant in 2008 given we had learned so much before?

The Girsu Documents of southern Iran, which dates back 4,300 years, showed accounts on the progressive salinization of cultivated lands. The documents mentioned how the rich farmlands of Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq, were ruined by irrigating them using the brackish water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Wheat was once cultivated on a large scale but by 2,400 BC farmers turned to barley, which is more salt tolerant, as an alternative crop. Seasonal floods, which raised the water table, increasingly salted the topsoil. By 2,000 BC, even barley began to fail. Eventually the land was abandoned and the water table dropped, leaving a salt saturated desert where no crops can grow.

Typical of the alluvial plains of Mesopotamia and the rest of the Middle East, as in any dry area, there is relatively prodigious amount of salt in the ground because rain water, or even water in the surface soil, evaporates before the salty minerals has a chance to leach out. Therefore, any rise in the water table will lift up the salty water up to the surface soil. Seasonal floods, which cover large areas with standing water, can also cause such a rise. Our “start up” farming methods of centuries past has actively created such a situation in arid regions for centuries by digging a number of irrigation canals which continually silt up and overflow onto the surrounding land. Furthermore, in very hot and arid lands, the thirsty soil can actually suck up salty water from below via capillary action during the long, dry spells.

Despite the great havoc wreaked on the land before we learned better agricultural management, there is still hope that some areas – seemingly beyond salvation – may yet be brought back to full productivity via proper irrigation. A cause for hope is the fact that in most arid regions, rain has not yet leached the valuable surface minerals from the topsoil. At the same time, however, there is a concern that conventional irrigation methods will raise the water table and in doing so bring increasing amounts of harmful salt to the fertile surface through capillary action.

Years ago, a program was tried in Afghanistan (this was before the Soviet invasion and the subsequent Taliban takeovers) to combat and reverse salinization by flushing the fields with water to wash out the crystallized salt. And also deep drainage ditches were dug to assure that the water table stays below a safe minimum. Additionally, tamarisk trees were also planted. Tamarisk trees are salt tolerant plants and are being used to restore Afghan soil and these trees also sop up excess water thus guarding against further salinization.

The agricultural regions surrounding the Aral Sea and the Aral Sea itself was also a relatively recent victim of agricultural farmland mismanagement. Several rivers that fed the Aral Sea were diverted by the then Soviet Union to cotton fields used in the large scale production of nitrocellulose or guncotton (smokeless powder) to beef up the nation’s Cold War era arsenal. It was only in the last couple of years or so that existing programs were seriously involved in restoring the Aral Sea and the surrounding communities. Like the International Aral Sea Rehabilitation Fund – have shown favorable progress. But their work won’t be easy because the agricultural lands surrounding the Aral Sea not only suffer from salinization, but also contaminated with toxic pesticide residue left over from the chemically intensive Soviet era agricultural methods.

Jatropha: Kick Starting Terraforming Technology?

With Jatropha’s ability to thrive in arid regions and it’s ability to stabilize and even reverse the effects of desertification. Will Jatropha cultivation be a baby – step towards the development of knowledge to be used in terraforming technology?

By: Vanessa Uy

With global warming now increasing the rate of desertification that’s poised to ruin the croplands of relatively arid developing nations. Even a “recently developed” country like China is loosing 54 billion yuan annually to desertification. In short, do we have to resort to a technology that only exists in science fiction literature in order to save humanity and our environment? But before delving any deeper, let us examine existing ideas in current use or will be used in making a certain piece of land suitable for farming and or returning it to its more naturally bio diverse state.

The concept of land reclamation is broadly defined by two distinct practices. One of which involves creating new land from the sea or riverbeds. Recently the most famous example is the one’s being demonstrated in the coastal region of Dubai, UAE – namely Palm Jumeirah or “The Palm Island” as the project is widely known in the West. The other practice of land reclamation involves restoring an area to a more natural state usually when an open pit mine is resealed, the topsoil returned so that the area can either be farmed or turned into an arboretum. Or recovering the chemical pollutants / contaminants from the topsoil and groundwater. Or reversing the effects of salination to make the land useable again. The last two are currently used to rehabilitate agricultural lands in the Aral Sea region, which was rendered useless due to irrigation and agricultural mismanagement that resulted in desertification compounded by salination and excessive amounts of pesticide contamination.

Did you know that even in dry climates, a typical virgin / undisturbed land is able to support considerable vegetation if not disturbed (the woodlands found in the Israel – Lebanon border for example). The roots of trees and plants secure the soil and hold water, thus preserving the area from erosion. But poorly managed cultivation / farming practices of the plains and timber cutting on the slopes removes roots and expose the land to wind and water erosion, which flushes away deposits of gravel from the lower slopes down to the plain. Further overcultivation destroys the productivity of the plains. Which is now set aside for grazing by herds of cattle. Agricultural activities of the area are forced to move up to the low slopes, where the hazard of rapid soil erosion of the topsoil is much greater. The ensuing loss of fertility of the steeper hillsides caused by topsoil runoff renders the area useless for further cultivation, and cattle grazing move up to the slopes, accelerating the process of erosion by constant grazing. If further “destruction” of the already barren landscape is left unchecked especially when there is no longer enough to browse for cattle. The area is then turned over to sheep and goats to be stripped clean. This results in the total desolation of a once fertile landscape and this stage is marked by the disappearance of all the topsoil and large sections of bedrock are exposed on the hill and plain. The resulting dusty land can no longer support life and could enlarge in area during times of scant or nonexistent rainfall. Thus accelerating the spread of desertification, like the one currently happening in China that’s costing the Beijing Government 54 billion yuan annually from farming revenue losses.

The man-made desertification described previously is now threatening to affect small villages in the South Sumatra region of Indonesia were the Palm Oil industry, driven by the bio-fuel boom, resorted to slash and burn methods of agriculture. Even ancestral lands of marginal economic value in the South Sumatra region are now starting to be affected by the hastily planned Palm Oil plantation expansion whose “green credentials” have recently been found of dubious value to say the least.

In evaluating the available solutions to halt the spread of desertification, Large scale Jatropha cultivation is probably one of the best – if not the best – way of stabilizing and even stopping the spread of desertification because Jatropha is not a genetically modified organism. Remember our bad experiences with genetically modified organisms back in the late 1990’s when Monsanto made a large scale trial cultivation of their genetically modified soybean crop. The genetically modified soybean was said to be pest and weed resistant, but quite a large number of people developed allergies when they consumed Monsanto’s genetically modified soybean.

Using Jatropha to make desertificated land arable can be compared that to the concept of terraforming. Terraforming as a concept is a staple in science fiction stories where an alien planet’s environment is made to be more hospitable to humans by using technology like large bio - reactors filled with genetically engineered blue-green algae to make the atmosphere breathable to humans. By turning excess atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen like the oft shown planned terraforming of the planet Venus and Mars. Desert environments are somewhat hostile to us humans especially if you take into account that you can’t grow any food crops there. As large scale Jatropha cultivation continues as a pioneering species, the leaves being shed as the plants continue to grow plus the waste pulp from bio-fuel production can be used as an organic fertilizer thus steadily increasing the fertility of the arid lands in which the Jatropha are planted. When it comes to the growing concern about increasing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere threatening the stability of our climate, large scale Jatropha plantations can also serve as a “carbon sink”. Jatropha can do this by absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and depositing it into the plant’s own cellular structure as carbohydrates, sugars, and cellulose where it no longer contributes to the increased greenhouse effect. This is like hitting to birds with one stone since the increased carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is primarily responsible for the increased trend in desertification. This project could be the first step in making terraforming a practical environmental engineering reality, not just an esoteric / recondite intellectual exercise in science fiction novels.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Will Jatropha Revolutionize the Bio-Fuel Industry?

With crude oil prices poised to reach the one hundred US dollar – per – barrel mark. Will a Jatropha based bio-fuel industry be a more eco-friendly and socially responsible alternative to food crops now currently used?

By: Vanessa Uy

With the controversy surrounding the use of staple food crops as a source of bio-fuels increasingly becoming a focus of a "media frenzy” for some time now. There might be a more Earth-friendly alternative without the unforeseen ecological impacts of genetically modified crops and the current “mono culture” based practice of intensified cultivation of a few species of staple food crops.

Jatropha, scientific name Jatropha podagrica also known as the physic nut, coral plant, gout plant, Buddha belly plant, is a plant which may hold such promise. Due to the plant’s ability to tolerate arid climates, fast growing and it’s usefulness for a variety of products, Jatropha can yield up to two tons of bio-diesel fuel per year per hectare. Put it another way, Jatropha can yield about 1,000 barrels of oil per year per square mile.

Basing on such relatively scant yield figures, Jatropha like other bio-fuels in general, is not yet an economically viable replacement to crude oil as a tradable commodity. But the plant’s other redeeming qualities like minimal requirement for irrigation and chemical fertilizers. And also a large field of Jatropha has the ability to stabilize or even reverse the effects of desertification means that growing the plant as a source of bio-fuel will not only be very eco-friendly but it will also not be in competition with staple food crops. And the plant is also a source of other products after the bio-fuel is extracted. Moreover, even diesel fuel from crude oil will cause far less pollution if bio-diesel additives are added. Not to mention the resulting revenue savings to those countries, which now don’t have to buy imported crude oil but instead develop their local agricultural industry by growing their own bio-fuel.

Currently, large - scale cultivation of Jatropha for bio-fuel purposes is still limited to some parts of India. But the plant’s hardy nature of thriving on land that’s too arid for staple food crops makes the large scale cultivation of Jatropha for the bio-fuel industry and other uses makes it a very eco-friendly enterprise. The practice is also socially responsible since Jatropha won’t be in competition with staple food crops. Thus staple food crop prices would remain stable. And Jatropha’s potential to reverse the effects of desertification could be tried in China where the effects of desertification is costing the country over 54 billion yuan annually. And a Jatropha bio-fuel industry in China could also help alleviate China’s chronic fuel shortage.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is There an Alternative to the Heiligendamm G8?

With the somewhat failed promise of the Gleneagles G8 back in 2005 on African aid, will the current G8 be better?

By: Vanessa Uy

Aside from Sir Bob Geldof’s and Bono’s anti-poverty campaigns, nobody today seems to remember – or feign interest – about the hollow rhetoric of the Gleneagles G8. With its failed promise to provide a 50 billion dollar- a- year aid package for Africa. Do we really need an alternative to G8? Since it’s inception back in 1975, G8 – or was it called G7 back then – has always been perceived globally as a “promise formulating” rather than a “problem solving” summit.

Groups who are opposed to G8 range from riot inciting “anarchists” who are not that far removed from your typical European “soccer hooligans”, to legitimate anti-G8 groups like ATTAC, Justice Now, Interventionist Left, and the most famous of them all: Greenpeace. ATTAC with its battle cry of “The world is not for sale!” appeal to those who are disenfranchised with the overly bureaucratic organizations like G8. To me, G8 is a fundamentally flawed organization due to its extremely limited legislative powers. Especially now, with the vastly differing views on how to tackle climate change between the United States and the European Union.

As the United States continues to “hog” the Heiligendamm G8’s proceedings with rhetoric on the justification of the Bush Administration’s “Missile Defense Program” that has increased the tension between Washington and the Kremlin not seen since Cold War days. An alternative summit has started in Rostock to discuss issues that the powers-that-be of the G8 summit are too squeamish to discuss like AIDS, global poverty, fair trade, and human rights to name just a few. Organized by Tillmann Günter, the Alternative Summit 2007 in Rostock serves to empower cause- oriented groups who are voicing their concerns that the global powers- that- be seem – or choose – to ignore.

The Albatross: The 21st Century’s Canary in the Mine?

Thanks to the support of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the world –at-large is now more aware of the plight of the albatross.

By: Vanessa Uy

In our celebrity obsessed popular press, concern for animal welfare seldom make it to page two while the impact of human activity on rare and endangered species will be lucky to make it to page 14. But thanks to the support of HRH the Prince of Wales (a.k.a. Prince Charles) the world’s policy makers will be made more aware on the plight of the albatross. An orchestrated campaign was already set up to protect these endangered birds which about 100,000 are needlessly killed annually as a consequence of long line fishing. Also the “Save the Albatross” sailing race was held to spread awareness that the albatross-even in their home territory in the “roaring 40’s”- still need our help.

Biologically, albatross have comparable life span to humans. At 10 years, the albatross can breed. Their slow rate of reproduction at one chick every other year means that they cannot easily recover a population crash.

During the past few years, various researchers have noted a decline in albatross population. Ben Sullivan of Birdlife International notes that the census on albatross population decline over the past few years implies that someday the albatross will become extinct if current trends will continue.

One of the main culprits of the albatross population decline are the long line fishing boats that operate in the southern ocean i.e. "the roaring 40’s.” Equipped with lines up to 120 kilometers long and baited with thousands of fish- hooks. These serve as deathtraps to the albatross that are attracted to the bait. Unable to surface after being trapped, they drown by the thousands. The fishermen manning these vessels are concerned not only on the consequential reduction of catch quotas but also of the needless waste of albatross dying as a result. To avoid albatross by catch, long line fishing reforms such as the use of various mitigation measures like weighing the lines to allow it to sink quickly out of reach of the albatross. Streamers attached to the lines to scare away the albatross are also a success. Since the albatross are diurnal i.e. are active only during daylight ours, laying the lines after sundown are a good way of avoiding an albatross by catch.

Despite of the conservation efforts, albatross still continue to die needlessly due to “pirate fishing vessels.” These “pirate fishing vessels” flying under “flags of convenience”, were responsible for a quarter or more of annual albatross deaths. Currently, they are still very hard to catch/prosecute since albatross protection laws are only heavily enforced in South Georgia waters. Illegal unregulated fisheries (pirate fishermen) are killing the albatross as by catch with impunity.

One solution to stop this carnage is via consumer moral pressure. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) together with the consumers can exert moral pressure to our policymakers to make albatross protection legally binding like the “dolphin friendly tuna campaign” of the 1980’s. Under their mandate, the Marine Stewardship Council also monitors if a batch of fish that enters the market were taken from their point of origin in a sustainable manner.

The relationship between the albatross and mariners are “romanticized” in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of an Ancient Mariner.” In the poem, a sailor kills an albatross. An act that later brought misfortune to the crew. In the 21st Century our concern for the welfare of the albatross goes beyond environmentalism, literary sentimentality or even superstition. This “canary in the mine” so to speak serves also to measure our humanity and on how civilized we are. Can all of us safely say that we are really more civilized today compared to when Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote “The Rime of an Ancient Mariner” when it comes to taking stewardship of our planet? Will the albatross someday –like the dodo- only exist in humanity’s collective memory?

Vietnam’s Mangrove Restoration Program

The Vietnamese Government’s pro- active approach to disaster prevention is an ideal model that should be followed by her neighbors.

By: Vanessa Uy

Over the past 30 years, climate disasters like floods, droughts and hurricanes have increased three- fold. This trend concerns Vietnam, which climatologists had found out to be one of the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters. The reason for this is that most of the Vietnamese population and agricultural industries are cited in coastal areas that are only a few feet above sea level.

In 1994, Vietnam’s Red Cross adapted a pro-active approach to against storm surges by launching a program of mangrove tree reforestation and management. Existing mangrove forests in parts of Vietnam are well known for their ability to protect low lying rice fields against tidal surges caused by increasingly powerful storms. The root complexes of these mangrove trees buffers the forces exerted by storm waves and extend the useful lives of the earthen dikes that for years served as scant protection to these vital agricultural areas.

Mangrove tree reforestation also benefits Vietnam’s fishing industry. The fishes, shrimps, prawns, and crabs that populate the coastal areas now have an increased number of secure spawning areas to rear their young. Despite these benefits, mangrove roots can easily be damaged by careless fishing practices. So mangrove fields should be designated as a no fishing zone. Illegal harvesting of mangrove trees for firewood and charcoal production is also a problem. Since Vietnam has a very long coastline, the program still has quite a long way to go in order for all coastal communities to reap the benefits and receive increased protection against storm surges.

Despite the programs documented successes, there was no mention of the effects of defoliants used by U.S. Armed Forces back in the late 1960’s. Chemical defoliants like “agent- orange” were used to reveal the camouflaged positions of the communist rebel fighters. In 1975, the publication of the three- year investigation of the 17-member National Academy of Science’s Committee on the Effects of Herbicides in Vietnam released their report in February of that year. Their major conclusions: The military use of herbicides may have had ill effects on the human population of the then South Vietnam and inflicted long-term damage on the country’s environment and supplies of timber. The “Committee’s” findings on the effects on the local vegetation were considerably more definite in comparison to the effects on human health. Coastal mangrove forests “suffered greater damage than any other type of vegetation.” Even where they were sprayed only once, they were destroyed. Time for total recovery of the mangrove forests: “at least 100 years.”

Thirty years on, Vietnam’s mangrove forests seems to be thriving. To what extent does the past herbicide and defoliant use affect the mangrove reforestation program, nobody knows? Maybe, we just got lucky that mangrove forests are more resilient than we thought they are.

Thames River Threatens London

No, this is not an episode of Dr. Who. But a portent on what could happen to London if the global warming trend continues.

By: Vanessa Uy

The Thames Flood Control Barrier, the Jewel of the British Crown when it comes to flood defence is quite an engineering marvel. Ever since her Christening by Queen Elizabeth II back in 1982, this flood control barrier was once believed not to require any upgrades until 2030. But the various threats brought about by climate change had now called that into question.

As far back as recorded history can remember, the Thames River had brought prosperity to London. The river made possible for England to achieve superpower status in the last 200 years by providing easy access to all of the world’s oceans. But if climate change has its way, the Thames could turn London into an underwater city.

Back in January 21, 1953, a terrible flood caused by the North Sea storm surge wreaked havoc on the village of Jaywick. Many people lost their lives as a result not to mention the property damage. This terrible disaster was the Thames Flood Control Barrier’s raison d’être.

But many experts have criticized the British Government’s reactive approach to disaster mitigation. These experts are suggesting to the policy makers to adapt a more proactive approach to disaster mitigation. Like upgrading the Thames Flood Control Barrier in response to the projected trend of climate change. Even then, this didn’t stop the on going housing development on the Thames Gateway Region and being earmarked as a prime real estate location. Even though this area is designated as a flood plain during storm surges, and the expected sea level rise will probably ruin every homeowner’s property value.

Thailand’s Birth Control Program: A Model for the Rest of Southeast Asia

Thanks to “Mighty Mechai,” Thailand’s birth/population control program has been a resounding success.

By: Vanessa Uy

Despite of the “American Media’s” perception of 1980’s Bangkok as the world’s largest red-light district. Thailand is generally quite a conservative country, especially in the open discussion of sex education and birth control. But thanks to public health activist Mechai Viravaidya also known as “Mighty Mechai.” He is also dubbed as the “condom king” because of his campaign of freely handing out condoms almost everywhere especially in large social gatherings-except on funerals, which in doing so is a cultural faux pas in Thailand.

As an economist, Mechai Viravaidya was concerned that an unchecked booming birth rate is something that Thailand’s economy just can’t support. His population control program has been considered a resounding success despite of the Thai society’s reluctance to openly discuss birth control and sex education issues. When the AIDS scare of the mid -1980’s came along, the Thai society’s perception of sex education issues change from taboo to a public health issue. At the same time, “Mighty Mechai’s” condom distribution program has an added benefit of curbing the spread of AIDS in Thailand. Since then, Mechai Viravaidya has been credited for raising the conscience of the Thai populace about “human welfare” that an overpopulated country simply just can’t provide. To me, this raises the question why Buddhists-in general-have a more pragmatic view about “human welfare” compared to the Vatican?

Despite of the fame that he earned due to the success of his birth control program, Meccai Viravaidya just wants to be remembered as a self-effacing man. Maybe Mechai Viravaidya should spread his message of birth control here in the Philippines.

Friday, January 11, 2008

China’s Coal Dilemma

China has recently been building coal- fired power plants at a rate of one a week, does this make the country at risk for more powerful typhoons?

By: Vanessa Uy

Diminishing crop yields due to shifting rainfall patterns in rural China’s urban migration rate has increased in the past few years. This urban migration demands an expedient improvement of China’s urban infrastructure namely electricity generation. This is reason number one why the Chinese Government is building coal- fired power plants at a rate of one a week to meet the rising energy demands. China can afford this since they have an abundant supply of coal, but are there any hidden dangers?

If China's many coal-fired power plants keep on dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it can only exacerbate the effects of global warming. And a warmer planet would not be of China’s best interest because it can result to more powerful typhoons. It’s a well-known scientific fact that typhoons get their energy from the heat stored in the ocean water. The warmer the ocean, the more powerful the typhoon. And since most of China’s urban centers are not very far from the world’s sea- lanes. They could expect flooding caused by storm surges. Surely, an environmentally friendly solution must be sought.

Renewable Energy: Made in Germany?

Is the German industry “putting their money where their mouth is” when it comes to renewable energy?

By: Vanessa Uy

As manufacturer of a third of all the world’s solar photo voltaic cells and half of the world’s wind turbines, Germany – or more specifically – the German industry is very serious indeed when it comes to the industrial utilization of renewable energy. NORDEX, a German wind turbine manufacturing company is currently setting up an assembly plant in Beijing, China. In full operation, the Beijing NORDEX plant can produce 400 wind turbines a year. With the attendant technological transfer, wind turbines work very well in China due to large tracks of windswept plains just in the outskirts of every major city there. And wind turbines could serve as a viable alternative to China’s reliance on greenhouse gas producing coal-fired power plants.

As Germany is currently developing ever more efficient solar photo voltaic cells, a day will come when all of our electricity generating systems will not produce even a gram of carbon dioxide. Thus newly industrialized countries like China and India can develop their industry freely without endangering the environment.

Japan versus the International Whaling Commission

Is Japan making the International Whaling Commission unable to execute its mandate in maintaining the welfare of the worlds shrinking whale population?

By: Vanessa Uy

The International Whaling Commission’s venue this year: 59th Annual IWC Meeting Anchorage Alaska 2007- promises to improve the present conditions of the world’s whales. Except they had not been able to stop Japan from hunting whales with impunity-all in the name of “scientific research.” Since the 1986 whaling moratorium, Japan has been steadily increasing “scientific catch” quotas that present day quotas are double that of 10 years ago. Japan has been able to do this because of some legal loophole of the IWC “Article 8” which permits scientific whaling. Whaling is never humane though because it results in the whale dying a slow painful death, which usually lasts 90 minutes on average.

Japan’s plea to the International Whaling Commission to restart whaling in the name of tradition only generates worldwide condemnation. This is quite paradoxical because almost all of Japanese youths no longer follow the tradition of eating whale meat. Because of this increasingly large quantities of whale meat now languish in Japan’s cold storage facilities. The Japanese chapter of Greenpeace has been appalled by the Japanese government’s planned resumption of large scale whaling despite of the huge whale meat surplus.

Various environmental groups like Greenpeace are increasingly concerned on the IWC allowing the subsistence whaling of indigenous groups because these groups use vessels intended for large scale industrial whaling. This oversight needs to be reevaluated by the IWC.

Today only 36,000 sperm whales remain in our oceans and the humpback whale-the favorite of whale watchers due to their acrobatic leaps-are only 10,000 strong. And remember; humpback whales are featured in the movie “Star Trek: The Voyage Home.” This movie is considered a beginner’s guide to whale conservation by most environmentalists. The only species of whale whose numbers is on the rise are the minkie whale. Even then, environmental groups doubt that their present population can support the scale of industrial whaling that prevailed in the last century. Japans desperation to restart her whaling industry has forced her to resort to vote buying on poor member countries of the IWC via development aid.

How Legitimate is G8 2007?

This year’s G8 summit concerns primarily on climate protection issues, but there are other pressing issues that need discussion too.

By: Vanessa Uy

The 2007 incarnation of G8, dubbed “G8 Plus 5” has very lofty goals that it promises to achieve. Formulating a binding agreement on climate change protection and a cap on greenhouse gas emissions are on the top of the agenda won’t be easy. And the issue of sustainable development and “carbon credits” need more than good intentions to formulate a binding resolution that the global community would find equitable. The somewhat esoteric issue about “hedge funds” should also be discussed by the conference. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has shown concern over the issue of “hedge funds.” She even proposed a code of conduct on “hedge funds” and a discussion on minimum private quotas. If all goes well, this could make globalization more equitable for the world’s poor.

Germany’s current G8 presidency might result in a significant progress on climate protection issues because Germany-like most of the European Union-is staunchly pro environment and probably the only ones with the political will to meet the 2012 Kyoto Protocol targets on greenhouse gas emissions. This caused howls of protests from the US and China who perceives that Angela Merkel’s pro environment policies-like the rest of the EU states-undermines the economic well being of American and Chinese industries.

While anti-globalization activists defend their view that the G8 lacks legitimacy because it puts first the interests of rich industrialized countries like the US above those of the needs of developing nations. This is the reason why every annual G8 summit draws in it’s fair share of angry demonstrators and activists. And “G8 Plus 5” will be no different because it takes more than good intentions to solve the pressing problems of global warming and extreme poverty.

Paradise Lost: Global Warming Threatens Tuvalu

Al Gore has been warning us in his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” about “climate change refugees,” Tuvalu can be a case in point.

By: Vanessa Uy

If you want proof on the realities of global warming, look no further than Tuvalu. This small Pacific Island nation of about 12,000 inhabitants have already been trying to cope with the effects of sea level rise caused by global warming. Sea- water is already seeping into vulnerable parts of Tuvalu’s ground water table, damaging the nation’s corn and sugarcane farms. As the world’s 4th smallest nation, Tuvalu’s 25 square kilometer land area is principally composed of 9 atolls that barely rises more than 4 meters above sea level. Even during the normal high tide cycle threaten this country with sea- water encroachment, let alone during storm surges of tropical cyclones. Even back in 1989, the UN identified Tuvalu as a nation most likely at risk when global sea levels rise.

Economically, not so much has changed since Tuvalu was granted independence by Great Britain in 1968. Despite having signed a trade deal with Australia and New Zealand back in 1980, the average annual income hovers at around US$1,000 a year. If industrialized nations won’t do their part to combat global warming, Tuvalu’s citizens might become the first batch of “climate change refugees” in search of a new homeland. The two closest nations that have the resources to provide sanctuary to Tuvalu’s citizens if the sea level rise gets worse are Australia and New Zealand. Since Australia and New Zealand has stringent immigration laws which require anyone applying for citizenship should earn on average US$12,000 a year to be safely admitted, or has a bank account with an average daily balance of US$10,000. Unless Australia and New Zealand will amend the rules regarding their immigration policy, this rules out the majority of Tuvalu’s citizens.

Maybe it’s time for the West to give back what they have taken from the Pacific Islanders during the last 500 years or so of oceanographic exploration and colonization. Even during World War II, the Pacific Islanders were instrumental in making possible the Allied victory against the Imperial Japanese expansion. There’s more here at steak than electoral votes when the politicians of industrialized nations adopt a stronger stance on climate protection which might not be popular to the “industry lobbyists.” Or do the world’s top polluters need to wait for international opinion to exert moral pressure.

Oil Companies versus the Kyoto Protocol

Majority of petroleum companies at present doesn’t agree on the Kyoto Protocol’s plea of carbon dioxide sequestration, but that’s about to change.

By: Vanessa Uy

The Kyoto Protocol is seen as Bolshevism by most of the existing petroleum companies who don’t have the fiscal incentive to find an effective and low cost method of storing the carbon dioxide by-products of oil and gas extraction process. The emphasis here is on the effective method of carbon dioxide storage/sequestration since future legislation might impose stiff fines on the companies who aren’t in line with the Kyoto Protocol.

Natural gas is by far the cleanest fossil fuel in current use, but it contains up to 10% carbon dioxide as it is extracted from the well/mine. Today, only a handful of environmentally conscious petroleum companies extract this carbon dioxide that’s mixed with the natural gas and return the carbon dioxide back to the mine in sandstone formations underground so that it won’t contribute to global warming.

The Insala Gas Plant in Nigeria has been doing carbon dioxide capture and storing them back underground since 2004. That’s way before precedents are agreed upon by the Kyoto Protocol. Although petroleum companies that does this on a voluntary basis are still the exception rather than the rule. Norway’s STATOIL also practices carbon dioxide capture/sequestration of their petroleum extraction by products and they posses the most sophisticated underground carbon dioxide storage facility to date as recognized by the IPCC, the inter government panel on climate change.

Mauritius’ Renewable Energy Future

Mauritius’ policy of increasing renewable energy utilization should serve as an initiative that can be passed on to other countries that are poor in petrochemicals but rich in biodiversity.

By: Vanessa Uy

The Mauritius government program of promoting the increased utilization of renewable energy sources like solar power and biomass was driven in part by the constant rise of petrol prices over the past few years. Also, government revenue that can be saved from reduced dependence on imported petrol could be put to better use in improving the social development programs in Mauritius. As opposed to just using the said funds to allow Middle-Eastern despots to continually build-up their own military might. Contributing further to the instability in the region.

Parts of the sugarcane that’s left over after sugar production is a good source of biomass that Mauritius has in abundance. By using this biomass as a “feed” for biogas digesters can provide 25% more energy than by burning the same biomass directly in an incinerator-type power plant. Currently, 20% of Mauritius’ electricity is generated from renewable biomass systems. Also the Mauritius government are finding ways to make photovoltaic/solar powered electricity production fiscally viable whether in large industrial installations or just small domestic set-ups used to meet typical household needs. A lot is riding on the success on this program because Mauritius doesn’t have local petrol, and a 100% renewable energy source could allow the nation to develop without increasing the effects of global warming.

Fighting Bugs with Bugs

Almost anyone of us has probably heard the phrase: natural is best, the empirical and scientific evidence really does speak for itself.

By: Vanessa Uy

For more than thirty years, it’s well known that fighting one insect with another is a more effective and infinitely less destructive to the local wildlife community than the wholesale application of pesticides. A good example of this is the Japanese beetle infestation in the United States back in the 1960’s. The infestation was effectively checked when some 34 species of predatory and parasitic insects, all of which the Japanese beetle’s natural enemies, were imported from the Orient after favorable results from small-scale field trials.

The female wasp of genus Tiphia vernalis proved deadly effective. This wasp instinctively searches a Japanese beetle grub (i.e. young offspring) and lays a single egg into the grub. Upon hatching, the larval (i.e. young) wasp devours the Japanese beetle grub from the inside out.

An even more effective and efficient method of controlling the Japanese beetle population is the method of injecting into the soil a bacterial disease that infects the beetle’s grubs. The method is inherently safe since the pathogen evolved over time to only infect the Japanese beetle’s grubs while it is harmless to earthworms, crops, other beneficial insects and pollinators like ladybugs and honeybees, and warm- blooded animals.

Using biological methods of controlling pest population is more effective and it works out to be cheaper in the long run since it doesn’t harm the environment. Unlike the previous methods of using chemical pesticides in the DDT family which affected avian physiology. As described in Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”

A Hotter France

A majority of French citizens view the 2003 Paris heat wave as a definite sign of global warming, but some politicians think it’s a load of hot air.

By: Vanessa Uy

As the 2003 Paris heat wave claim the lives of the elderly, it sparked a national crisis over the governments apparent inaction to mitigate such a tragedy. Even the neighboring countries have criticized the French government’s poor planning and pitiful response when faced with such a tragedy. Even the installation of air conditioning units on old people’s homes will only exacerbate the effects of global warming on a later date.

Global warming is also wrecking havoc on the French ski resorts especially in the Pyrénées Region. This stop- gap measure of using a battalion of energy hungry snow machines will only exacerbate the effects of global warming in the long run.

Several promising solutions include adopting a “greener” architecture both figuratively and literally. A number of environmentally conscious French citizens had upgraded the thermal insulation of their homes to save heating bills during the winter. This also has another positive effect of lessening the amount of heating fuel to be burned thus minimizing carbon dioxide emissions. Also rooftop gardens can have a cooling effect especially during the summer months. Plants like bamboo has a very effective cooling effect on its surroundings. The electricity saved can also lessen the “carbon footprint” of individual homes.

Burning Water in an Oil Furnace

Of all the outlandish thing’s people do when driven to desperation, lets examine the method of this madness that promises lower fuel consumption.

By: Vanessa Uy

During my research on patented inventions that can help us beat the high oil prices, nothing seems more outlandish than mixing water to heating oil as what's been done by a British inventor. Eric Cottell has invented a device that emulsifies both oil and water in an ultrasonic reactor-a refinement of a device he patented back in 1952-which uses high frequency sound waves far above the human audibility range to break up liquid particles. It was originally used in commercial applications to mix the ingredients for Worcestershire sauce, catsup, cosmetics and paints. In an oil burner’s combustion chamber, a water-oil emulsion is fed into the flame; the water droplets explode into steam, shattering the surrounding layer of oil and exposing its maximum surface area. This provides more efficient and complete combustion.

Cottell tested the process in his very own home furnace and reduced his fuel consumption by 25%. A scaled up demonstration in Long Island’s Adelphi University’s heating plant during winter saved more than 3,500 gallons of oil a week-about a 25% reduction- and it cut down soot emissions by 98%. Despite of the fuel savings and a dramatic reduction in pollution, there was no apparent reduction in energy output. Cottell plans to produce his ultrasonic reactor units for household oil burners. This would be no larger than a telephone handset and costs between US$200 to US$450.

I wonder if Cottell’s invention works on gasoline powered cars, then the world could beat a path to his front door.

Fruity Biogas Variant

A variation on the domestic biogas system that uses rotting fruits as the biomass to be digested may serve as a viable alternative to petroleum based cooking fuels.

By: Vanessa Uy

A conventional biogas system that uses cow manure as a biomass or starting material for methane generation is somewhat hard to maintain for everyday domestic use. Why? Because to achieve continuous methane generation, conditions in the biogas digester must be met like the optimum temperature, the absence of oxygen or anaerobic conditions and the steady constant supply of biomass/ organic material to be converted to methane.

In principle, biogas digesters produce methane by mimicking the workings of the stomach of ruminant animals like cows. As of late, herds of farmed cattle are blamed for contributing to global warming since they emit so much methane gas which is more than 4 times as effective a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Since methane can be used as a cooking and heating fuel, it’s better to use it as such than allowing it to be released into the atmosphere.

A novel biogas system being tested in Pune, India that uses rotting fruits and vegetable peels/trimmings might serve to overcome this problem. Developed by a firm called ARTI or Appropriate Rural Technologies Institute, this biogas digester is compact and is ideal for urban applications where cow manure or other animal wastes are scarce. This biogas generating system consists of 3 main parts: the gas/methane output accumulator at the top, the main digester in the center where the rotten fruit or vegetable peelings enters, and lastly the bottom-part where the slurry/effluent of the biogas digester exits. As a bonus, the slurry/effluent can be used as a free organic fertilizer.

The business end of this biogas digester is a type of bacteria that originally dwells in the stomachs of ruminant animals like cattle. A substantial amount of these bacteria is expelled by the cow and can be found in fresh cow manure. The ARTI biogas system only uses the cow dung as a starting material. Since the ruminant stomach bacteria is not fussy about what it is going to digest as long as sugars are present, rotting fruits and vegetables are an almost perfect “biomass meal” for the bacteria. Beside the biogas system’s compact size, it can also be scaled up for increased biogas/methane output in communal situations.

As a viable alternative to purchasing tanks of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), biogas digesters demands more attention than a sundial. Rotting fruits and vegetables should be mashed up and mixed with water to the same consistency as a cow does to grass or other vegetation that its eating as “food” for the biogas system. This should be done regularly like once a day or the bacterial colony responsible for methane production in the digester will die out.

Germany: Spearheading the Solar Future

Lately, Germany’s pulling all the stops in an attempt to make solar energy use mainstream.

By: Vanessa Uy

Either by legislation or innovation, Germany is going solar with hopes that her neighbors gain the initiative to do the same. In the innovation front, Oliver Schultz, a 31 year- old German physicist from Freiburg’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Research had developed a photovoltaic solar cell whose efficiency is greater than 20%. This is much greater than existing off-the-shelf solar photovoltaic cells. By using multi crystalline structured silicon photovoltaic cells, Oliver Schultz was able to coax the cells to have an efficiency rating greater than 20%. This type of silicon crystals are much cheaper to manufacture because the purity issue is not very critical when compared to the majority of photovoltaic solar cells in current use. There’s one disadvantage though, multi crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells are high temperature sensitive which could become a problem during fabrication stage – especially if you want to maintain the consistency of it’s high-efficiency characteristic.

Recently, Oliver Schultz has developed an improved low temperature manufacturing and fabrication process for multi crystalline silicon solar photovoltaic cells. These new “class” of multi crystalline silicon cells have efficiencies approaching close to 30%. These crystals - were recently evaluated by independent US laboratories, and their efficiency claims are substantiated. If these new - generation of multi crystalline silicon solar photovoltaic cells gain widespread use, the “carbon footprint” of industrialized nations would further be reduced.

How Green is Nuclear Fission?

After hearing the news from the BBC and Germany’s DW-TV that the EU is strongly considering building fission-type nuclear power plants to lessen carbon dioxide emissions prompts everyone to ask: How green is nuclear fission?

By: Vanessa Uy

This is by far one of the most controversial proposals of the European Union: Evaluating the idea of increasing the number of fission-type nuclear power plants to meet the European Unions growing demand for energy while limiting the carbon dioxide produced by this activity. Even since commercial use of nuclear energy began in the 1950’s, scientists are already concerned that there comes a time in the future that carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels can increase the green house effect causing global warming. The Chernobyl nuclear plant incident back in April 26, 1986 caused the cancellation of any proposed nuclear power plants due to safety concerns.

Commercial fission-type nuclear power plants have always been targeted by picketing and protesting environmentalists for all the good reasons; radioactive wastes. This is one of the inevitable by - product of generating electricity via nuclear power and they can stay dangerously radioactive for up to a million years. “Radwastes” need a safe storage space where they can’t cause any harm for that length of time. Also, fission-type nuclear power plants generate excess heat and this is usually released in nearby large bodies of water wreaking havoc on the local estuarine ecosystem.

Nuclear power plants have their obvious benefits ever since Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” spoke of the dangers of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere via industrial processes causing global warming. Day by day, nuclear fission gained legitimacy because it doesn’t generate carbon dioxide once in full operation. A very attractive process despite concerns on safety, radioactive waste storage and the threat of terrorists and rogue states acquiring weapons grade material.

Another problem that the experts haven’t discussed or are reluctant to is that the mining and refining of uranium or other similar fissionable material is very energy intensive. I’d be amazed that there is a nuclear fuel refinery in existence that uses renewable energy like wind or solar (photo voltaic or thermal) to process pitchblende and similar ores into yellow cake concentrate to uranium slugs.

“What about breeder reactors?” They can continually generate their own fuel so radioactive wastes will not be a problem and the energy intensive refining of uranium would be minimized. But, and it’s a very big one: the problem with breeder reactors is that the waste that gets recycled back into fuel is plutonium which is very easy to use as a weapons grade material. The problems of terrorist groups and rogue states probably stymied the widespread use of breeder-type reactors. These breeder-type nuclear fission reactors can only be found in easily defended and secure sites and the ones found in the US, Japan and France are the only ones freely talked about in the press.

Breeder reactors are green and eco-friendly in its own way, but like the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre implies in his philosophical views: “Hell is other people.” If you want to know more about the carbon cycle and view detailed diagrams check out “”.

Hybrid Cars versus Electric Cars: Vying for Green Credentials?

The “Two Major Roads” that lead to a more environmentally friendly motoring are clamoring for our votes, which one will win and which one will you vote for?

By: Ringo Bones and Vanessa Uy

The two emerging technologies that serve to power a new generation of environmentally friendly cars – namely “hybrid power plant cars ” and “pure electric powered cars” – are now clamoring to prospective customers who vote with their wallets and / or checkbooks. Marketing success hinges more on which of the two technologies will be adopted by the major auto- makers. Irreproachable “green credentials” is now a major issue that determines which of the two will sell, and to a more or lesser extent; simplicity of operation and running costs. So here are the merits and faults that accompany the two different technologies.

Ever since the conspiracy theory surfaced to the mainstream media surrounding the “demise” i.e. product recall of GM’s EV1. The theory states that General Motors was under behest by the “1996 Republican Majority Congress” in collusion with “Big Oil Companies” to “kill” the EV1 because it’s “miraculous” performance could end America’s dependence on “Middle Eastern Petroleum.” Back in 1996, GM’s EV1 was the first pure electric car produced in commercial quantities by a major automobile company. It had pretty good credentials under its belt despite being powered by heavy and “inefficient” lead-acid batteries that could pose it’s own environmental problems. Fully charged, the EV1 has a range of 65 miles.

A lot has happened since then, today, a car that was referred to as the spiritual descendent of the EV1 is the TESLA Roadster. The TESLA Roadster is made by TESLA Motors a small automotive start-up company in San Francisco, California. One advantage that the TESLA Roadster has over GM’s EV1 is weight – or the lack of it. The TESLA Roadster is constructed out of carbon fiber that’s modeled after the Lotus Elise so it’s five times lighter than ordinary steel cars and also five times stronger due to the carbon fiber construction. The TESLA Roadsters claim to fame is it’s advanced lithium ion / lithium polymer battery that’s not only several times lighter than the one’s used in the EV1, it is also more efficient allowing the TESLA Roadster to have a range of 250 miles on a single charge. Because of the carbon fiber construction and lithium batteries, the TESLA Roadsters high power –to – weight ratio allows it to accelerate like a high- end conventional internal-combustion-engine-powered-gasoline-fueled racecar.

In the other camp, hybrid cars i.e. cars whose both powered by a fossil-fueled internal combustion engine and storage batteries that drive the electric motors. The environmental merit of hybrid cars is that the internal combustion engine can be made smaller than that of “conventional” cars because it’s primarily used to recharge the batteries, thus generating lower emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Hybrid cars also have better “mileage” than “conventional” cars because only in demanding situations i.e. going uphill and/or when quick accelerations are required that the two power plants is used in conjunction with each other. The most famous and highly advertised make/model of a hybrid car is the Toyota PRIUS.

While hybrid cars are praised because theoretically they could never ran out of “juice” while on the road due to the current ubiquity of gas / petrol stations over electrical charging stations. Pure electric cars – especially ones using the latest generation of lithium ion batteries – have better performance due to their high power –to – weight ratio compared to current hybrid cars. Also -if major auto makers will start mass producing them again- pure electric cars have the advantage over hybrids in terms of environmental friendliness because it’s much easier and cheaper to place air pollution mitigating devices at the power plant as opposed to every tailpipe of every car that’s running. Borrowing from the “transistor- principle” that a system with fewer moving parts is less prone to breakdown. Pure electric cars has this advantage because it uses only simple electric motors as a primary “engine” as opposed to the hybrid car that still has a conventional internal combustion engine with an inherently inefficient –in energy terms- clutch and gear drive systems. Also pure electric cars can easily tap electricity that’s produced from sustainable and / or non-carbon dioxide generating power plants like wind farms, solar photovoltaic power plants, fuel cell based power plants, etc. Also in the not-so-distant future, carbon offsetting might be legislated to include the transportation sector. Your carbon dioxide generating hybrid car could be singled out by the taxman in the coming years. Also, hybrid cars have “dubious” resale value as reported by Jeremy Clarkson in the 2003 – 2004 season of “Top Gear” an automotive TV show reviewing budget and high-end cars. On one episode, he advises against buying a hybrid car and to choose instead on a conventional car with a better mileage because this fuel- efficient conventional car is not likely to end up lying idly on some junkyard compared to it’s “hybrid” competition.

How Green is Coco Diesel?

After watching a series of documentaries presented by the BBC in their climate watch series, I think its about time that we reevaluate coco diesel’s green credentials.

By: Vanessa Uy

Coco diesel is a bio fuel derived from the coconut fruit that can run conventional diesel engines with varying degrees of very minor modifications. At first, anyone, including the experts will testify that this is a very good way to limit our technological society’s continuous adding of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, which is the main cause of global warming. Note: that coconut trees are continually growing and producing fruits and every time it does this it removes the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere where the gas increases the greenhouse effect to the coconuts various parts where the carbon dioxide is converted to cellulose. This is the idea behind “carbon capture” where excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is removed from where it causes the most harm to where it can be stored safely like the coconut tree’s cellulose structure. As we already know, excess carbon dioxide produced by our technological society is contributing to the greenhouse effect that’s warming up our planet thus increasing the strength of new hurricanes causing widespread damage.

This carbon capture solution via the widespread planting of coconut trees for use in bio fuel production seems like hitting two birds with one stone. Since coconut trees are sustainable because it continually bears fruits where the coco diesel can be processed unlike “fossil fuel” sources like petroleum in which the gasoline or diesel fuels derived from this doesn’t revert back to petroleum as opposed to a bio fuel like coco diesel.

So, what’s the problem? After watching those BBC documentaries on their climate watch series, so far, the scientists haven’t yet conducted studies on the extent on how truly carbon neutral (i.e. doesn’t contribute carbon dioxide into the atmosphere) plant derived bio fuels are from all levels of production to usage. After the coco diesel is burned in an internal combustion engine either for transport or electricity generation, the resulting carbon dioxide gas lingers in the atmosphere for a while. No study yet exists if how long should this carbon dioxide be allowed to linger in the atmosphere before it becomes a problem. It takes a relatively long time for this carbon dioxide to be absorbed into the coconut tree’s cellulose structure compared to the length of time coco diesel is produced from the coconut fruit. Also, the process of husking the coconut fruit and producing coco diesel takes energy at present, this energy is likely being generated by burning fossil fuels.

Also, using crops which are originally intended as food so that affluent people could continue to drive around their cars without being penalized by upcoming stricter environmental laws might do more harm than good. Coconut based food products would skyrocket, increasing the burden of the poor on their daily meals.

Another problem that hinders coco diesel from becoming fiscally competitive to petroleum derived diesel is the government-concerned-dragging-of-heels in legislating tax cuts and issuing grants to those start up companies who are making coco diesel.

Fortunately until a newer study of this nature is presented, bio fuels like coco diesel might only be a bit cleaner than their fossil fuel derived counterparts. The BBC, CNN, Discovery Channel, National Geographic or any other environmentally concerned media corporation are not likely to run out of ideas for documentaries about how to take better care of our planet.

If you like to know more about the carbon cycle and view detailed diagrams, check out “”.