Around the World

News from around the globe impacting our world.

Unrest in Syria Growing. Al Jazeera reports continuing and widening unrest across Syria. Gunfire erupted overnight in the Syrian city of Homs where thousands of anti-government protesters had gathered in the main square, a day after activists said at least 25 people were killed there. Homs has been cordoned off by Syrian state security. Gunfire erupted overnight in the Syrian city of Homs where thousands of anti-government protesters had gathered in the main square, a day after activists said at least 25 people were killed there.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that the newly appointed Cabinet in Syria has lifted the country's state of emergency laws, which have been in effect since 1963. The official Sana news agency says the government has also approved abolishing the state security court, which handled the trials of political prisoners, and a new law allowing the right to peaceful protests. The bill requires the signature of president Assad to take effect but that is expected to be a formality.

Saudi Oil Did Not Compensate for Libyan Loss. The OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report and IEA Oil Market Report both came out last week. The Oil Drum finds that in March Libyan production plummeted but that Saudi Arabia made no significant move to compensate for the shortfall. Combined with uncertainty in Nigeria in advance of election and speculative forces, oil prices rose.

Saudi Arms Deals in the Works? The Asia Times reports that despite the coolness in US-Saudi relations over the unrest in Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking to expand its recent $60 billion USD deal to buy additional weaponry from the US.

Death Toll Rises in Uganda. Opposition protests continue amidst a widening crackdown by government forces. Army and police units yesterday used tear gas, bullets and truncheons to break up protests against rising food and fuel prices around the country, leaving at least one person dead in Kampala, and bringing the death toll to four in three days. President Yoweri Museveni, a darling of the US Christian Right, ordered social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Several opposition leaders have been arrested and bloodied for leading a "walk to work" campaign. All Africa has more on this developing story.

Violence in the Islamic North in Nigeria. Violence erupted in the largely Muslim northern part of the country as the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south was declared the winner of the presidential election in this critical but cleft oil producing West African nation. More from All Africa.

Around the World

News from around the globe impacting our world.

Unrest in Syria Growing. Al Jazeera reports continuing and widening unrest across Syria. Gunfire erupted overnight in the Syrian city of Homs where thousands of anti-government protesters had gathered in the main square, a day after activists said at least 25 people were killed there. Homs has been cordoned off by Syrian state security. Gunfire erupted overnight in the Syrian city of Homs where thousands of anti-government protesters had gathered in the main square, a day after activists said at least 25 people were killed there.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that the newly appointed Cabinet in Syria has lifted the country's state of emergency laws, which have been in effect since 1963. The official Sana news agency says the government has also approved abolishing the state security court, which handled the trials of political prisoners, and a new law allowing the right to peaceful protests. The bill requires the signature of president Assad to take effect but that is expected to be a formality.

Saudi Oil Did Not Compensate for Libyan Loss. The OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report and IEA Oil Market Report both came out last week. The Oil Drum finds that in March Libyan production plummeted but that Saudi Arabia made no significant move to compensate for the shortfall. Combined with uncertainty in Nigeria in advance of election and speculative forces, oil prices rose.

Saudi Arms Deals in the Works? The Asia Times reports that despite the coolness in US-Saudi relations over the unrest in Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking to expand its recent $60 billion USD deal to buy additional weaponry from the US.

Death Toll Rises in Uganda. Opposition protests continue amidst a widening crackdown by government forces. Army and police units yesterday used tear gas, bullets and truncheons to break up protests against rising food and fuel prices around the country, leaving at least one person dead in Kampala, and bringing the death toll to four in three days. President Yoweri Museveni, a darling of the US Christian Right, ordered social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Several opposition leaders have been arrested and bloodied for leading a "walk to work" campaign. All Africa has more on this developing story.

Violence in the Islamic North in Nigeria. Violence erupted in the largely Muslim northern part of the country as the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south was declared the winner of the presidential election in this critical but cleft oil producing West African nation. More from All Africa.

Around the World

News from around the globe impacting our world.

Unrest in Syria Growing. Al Jazeera reports continuing and widening unrest across Syria. Gunfire erupted overnight in the Syrian city of Homs where thousands of anti-government protesters had gathered in the main square, a day after activists said at least 25 people were killed there. Homs has been cordoned off by Syrian state security. Gunfire erupted overnight in the Syrian city of Homs where thousands of anti-government protesters had gathered in the main square, a day after activists said at least 25 people were killed there.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that the newly appointed Cabinet in Syria has lifted the country's state of emergency laws, which have been in effect since 1963. The official Sana news agency says the government has also approved abolishing the state security court, which handled the trials of political prisoners, and a new law allowing the right to peaceful protests. The bill requires the signature of president Assad to take effect but that is expected to be a formality.

Saudi Oil Did Not Compensate for Libyan Loss. The OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report and IEA Oil Market Report both came out last week. The Oil Drum finds that in March Libyan production plummeted but that Saudi Arabia made no significant move to compensate for the shortfall. Combined with uncertainty in Nigeria in advance of election and speculative forces, oil prices rose.

Saudi Arms Deals in the Works? The Asia Times reports that despite the coolness in US-Saudi relations over the unrest in Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking to expand its recent $60 billion USD deal to buy additional weaponry from the US.

Death Toll Rises in Uganda. Opposition protests continue amidst a widening crackdown by government forces. Army and police units yesterday used tear gas, bullets and truncheons to break up protests against rising food and fuel prices around the country, leaving at least one person dead in Kampala, and bringing the death toll to four in three days. President Yoweri Museveni, a darling of the US Christian Right, ordered social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Several opposition leaders have been arrested and bloodied for leading a "walk to work" campaign. All Africa has more on this developing story.

Violence in the Islamic North in Nigeria. Violence erupted in the largely Muslim northern part of the country as the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south was declared the winner of the presidential election in this critical but cleft oil producing West African nation. More from All Africa.

Around the World

News from around the globe impacting your world.

Oil Prices Soar. Oil price in London trading soared to fresh two and half year highs driven by fresh fighting in Libya and uncertainty in Nigeria. North Sea Brent crude was up 0.8 percent settling at 123.17 US dollars a barrel. In New York, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the US benchmark, was up 1 percent at 111.28 US dollars. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last night issued a warning that the widening gap between demand and supply could push prices even higher. IMF adviser Thomas Helbling said: "The recent trend increase in oil prices suggests that the global oil market has entered a period of increased scarcity."

European Central Bank Raises Key Interest Rate. For the first time since the financial crisis of 2008, the European Central Bank raised interest rates by a quarter point to 1.25 percent on Thursday. Preliminary figures suggest that the inflation rate within the euro zone has already reached 2.6 percent, 0.6 percent higher than the declared ECB goal of 2 percent or less. Thursday's step is also aimed at reining in speculation fuelled by supplies of cheap money. Market analysts are predicting the increase will be the first in a series and that interest rates could reach 1.75 percent by the end of the year. More from Der Spiegel.

China's Energy Policy Threads a Fine Line in the Middle East. Peter Lee of the Asia Times looks at China's initiatives in the wake of Arab unrest. Lee notes that "China has no credibility as a democratic reformer or clout as a military power in the Middle East; it seems to be trying to carve out a role for itself as a regional facilitator, one with good relations with all the key players, from Egypt to Israel to Saudi Arabia to Iran." With US-Saudi relations are now strained, China believes that it may have an opening to become a bigger player in Mid-East geopolitics however Beijing may find it increasingly difficult to placate Tehran, its biggest Mid-East energy supplier, as it moves to court Riyadh.

US Expels Ecuadorian Ambassador. The United States is expelling Ecuador's Ambassador in retaliation for the Andean nation's decision to declare US Ambassador Heather Hodges a persona non grata after remarks she made about police corruption were made public by Wikileaks. In addition, the US has cancelled upcoming talks scheduled for June between Washington and Quito. More from the Financial Times.

Korean Producer Price Growth at 28 Month High. Korea's Producer prices rose at the fastest pace in 28 months, putting greater pressure on the Bank of Korea (BOK) to raise interest rates. The producer price index increased 7.3 percent in March from a year earlier, up from a 6.6 percent rise in February, representing the sharpest gain since the 7.8-percent elevation in November 2008, according to the central bank Friday. The BOK is struggling to contain consumer prices that have been rising significantly faster than the government's 3 percent target. The full story in the Korea Times.

Cuban Dissidents Reach Madrid. Thirty-seven former political prisoners and 208 of their relatives landed at Madrid's Barajas airport on Friday. These latest arrivals are the last of a group of political prisoners whose release was negotiated last year among the Cuban and Spanish governments and the Cuban Catholic Church. All told, 115 political prisoners have been released by Cuba and exiled to Spain. The latest group includes Cuban dissident Orlando Fundora, who was arrested in 2003 among a well-known group of 75 dissidents. More from CNN International.

Weekly Mulch: The Sticky Truth about Oil Spills and Tar Sands

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

The National Oil Spill Commission released its report on last year’s BP oil spill this week. The report laid out the blame for the spill, tagging each of the three companies working on the Deepwater Horizon at the time, Halliburton, Transocean and BP, and also offered prescriptions for avoiding similar disasters in the future.

As Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard notes, it’s unlikely the recommendations will impact policy going forward.

“I think the recommendations are pretty tepid given the severity of the crisis,” Jackie Savitz, director of pollution campaigns at the advocacy group Oceana, told Sheppard. “Even the small things they’re suggesting, I think it’s going to be hard to convince Congress to make those changes.”

No transparency for you!

Last summer, after the spill, the Obama administration tried hard to look like it was pushing back against the oil industry, even though just weeks before the spill, the president had promised to open new areas of the East Coast to offshore drilling.

This week brought new evidence that, despite some posturing to the contrary, the administration is not exactly unfriendly to the energy industry. One of the key decisions the administration faces about the country’s energy future is whether to support the Keystone XL, a pipeline that would pump oil from tar sands in Canada down to Texas refineries.  And one of the key lobbyists for TransCanada, the company intending to build the pipeline, is a former staffer for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Friends of the Earth, an environmental group, filed a Freedom of Information requesting correspondence between the lobbyist, Paul Elliott, and his former boss, but the State Department denied the request.

“We do not believe that the State Department has legitimate legal grounds to deny our FOIA request, and assert that the agency is ignoring its own written guidance regarding FOIA requests and the release of public information,” said Marcie Keever, the group’s legal director, The Michigan Messenger’s Ed Brayton reports. “This is the type of delay tactic we would have expected from the Bush administration, not the Obama administration, which has touted its efforts to usher in a new era of transparency in government, including elevated standards in dealing with lobbyists.”

Tar sands’ black mark

What are the consequences if the government approves the pipeline? As Care2’s Beth Buczynski writes, “Communities along the Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed path would face increased risk of spills, and, at the pipeline’s end, the health of those living near Texas refineries would suffer, as tar sands oil spews higher levels of dangerous pollutants into the air when processed.”

What’s more, the tar sands extraction process has already brought environmental devastation to the areas like Alberta, Canada, where tar sands mining occurs. Earth Island Journal’s Jason Mark recently visited the Oil Sands Discovery Centre in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, which he calls “impressively forthright” in its discussion of the environmental issues brought on by oil sands. (The museum is run by Alberta’s provincial government.) Mark reports:

The section on habitat fragmentation was especially good. As one panel put it, “Increasingly, Alberta’s remaining forested areas resemble islands of trees in a larger network of cut lines, well sites, mine, pipeline corridors, plant sites, and human settlements. … Forest disturbances can also encourage increased predation and put some plants and animals at risk.”

Not renewable, just new

The museum that Mark visited also made clear that extracting and refining oil from tar sands is a labor-intensive practice. He writes:

Mining, we learn, is just the start. Then the tar has to be “upgraded” into synthetic petroleum via a process that involves “conditioning,” “separation” into a bitumen froth, then “deaeration” to take out gases, and finally injection into a dual-system centrifuge that removes the last of the solids. Next comes distillation, thermal conversion, catalytic conversion, and hydrotreating. At that point the recombined petroleum is ready to be refined into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. It all felt like a flashback to high school chemistry.

Why bother with this at all? In short, because with easily accessible sources of oil largely tapped out, techniques like tar sands mining and deepwater drilling are the only fonts of oil available. This problem is going to get worse, as The Nation is explaining over the next few weeks in its video series on peak oil.

Energy and the economy

Traditional ideas about energy dictate that even as the world uses up limited resources like oil, technology will create access to new sources, find ways to use limited resources more efficiently, or find ways to consume new sources of energy. These advances will head off any problems with consumption rates. The peak oil theory, on the contrary, argues that it is possible to use up a resource like oil, that there’s a peak in supply.

Once the peak has been passed, the consequences, particularly the economic consequences, become dire, as Richard Heinberg, senior fellow with the Post Carbon Institute explains. “If the amount of energy we can use is declining, we may be seeing the end of economic growth as we define it right now,” he told The Nation. Watch more below:

Light green

Part of the problem is that the energy resources that could replace fossil fuels like oil—wind and solar energy, for instance—likely won’t be in place before the oil wells run dry. And as Monica Potts reports at The American Prospect, our new green economy is getting off to a slow start.

Although the administration has talked incessantly about supporting green jobs, Potts writes that the federal government hasn’t even finalized what count as a “green job” yet. The working definition, which is currently under review, asserts that green jobs are in industries that “benefit the environment or conserve national resources” or entails work to green a company’s “production process.” But what does that actually mean?

“That definition was rightly criticized as overly broad,” Potts writes. She continues:

While nearly everyone would include installing solar panels as a green job, what about an architect who designs a green house? (Under the proposed definition, both would count.) … Another problem comes in weighing green purposes against green execution: We could count, for example, public-transit train operators as green workers. But how do we break down transportation as an industry more broadly? Most would probably agree that truckers who drive tractor-trailers running on diesel fuel wouldn’t count as green workers even if they’re transporting wind-turbine parts. And many of the jobs we would count as green already exist.

It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that the country is moving swiftly toward a bright green future.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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