Archive for May, 2012

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US shale boom lifting thousands from poverty . . . in India

May 29, 2012

It turns out that shale drilling requires large amounts of guar gum as  key ingredient, and over 80% of the world’s crop comes from India’s desert north, where annual incomes of local farmers have skyrocketed 300%, 400%, 500% and more due to growing US demand for their humble little bean.

Ancient farming methods fuel 21st century energy drive

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Gamechanger: SpaceX makes history

May 25, 2012

The commercial era of space flight has arrived, as SpaceX successfully delivered its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.

International competition in the original Space Race was necessary to get space exploration started, but commercialization is what will really expand it.

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The geo-engineering option

May 15, 2012

Long article in this month’s New Yorker discussing the options provided by geo-engineering to mitigate or even reverse climate change.  Frankly, it is my belief that if you do not support geo-engineering, then you are not serious about climate change (and few of the most ardent doomsayers will endorse geo-engineering).  From the article:

Over the past three years, a series of increasingly urgent reports—from the Royal Society, in the U.K., the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center, and the Government Accountability Office, among other places—have practically begged decision-makers to begin planning for a world in which geoengineering might be their only recourse. As one recent study from the Wilson International Center for Scholars concluded, “At the very least, we need to learn what approaches to avoid even if desperate.”

The most environmentally sound approach to geoengineering is the least palatable politically. “If it becomes necessary to ring the planet with sulfates, why would you do that all at once?’’ Ken Caldeira asked. “If the total amount of climate change that occurs could be neutralized by one Mt. Pinatubo, then doesn’t it make sense to add one per cent this year, two per cent next year, and three per cent the year after that?’’ he said. “Ramp it up slowly, throughout the century, and that way we can monitor what is happening. If we see something at one per cent that seems dangerous, we can easily dial it back. But who is going to do that when we don’t have a visible crisis? Which politician in which country?’’

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Zubrin: The Merchants of Despair

May 10, 2012

Bob Zubrin’s new book about the negative toll of the most radical wing of the environmental movement, Merchants of Despair, is out.  I have not read the book and do not endorse it (yet, at least), but I am in general agreement to the belief that many on the extreme fringes of the environmental movement are misanthropes, even if they don’t recognize it in themselves.  Also, EGP has long supported Zubrin’s Open Fuel Plan.

Writing today at PJMedia about Merchants of Despair, Zubrin provides a powerful summary of his argument.  Read the whole thing.

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Great Game Geostrategy in Central Asia

May 7, 2012

This month’s National Interest includes a short essay on what authors Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Peterson call the “three rival strategies” in Central Asia of competing great powers China, Russia and the United States.  There is actually just one strategy – economic development – but the three nations are pursuing different visions from different bases of power with competing goals.  It is an interesting essay, but we cannot overlook the military aspect of the contemporary Great Game and the ongoing process of the three powers to create more robust regional  alliances that extend into the military realm.  At the end of the day, the prize in this version of the Great Game is the same as in the original 19th century formulation:  India.  India is the key to the future of Central and South Asia (and possibly the world), and all three powers are circling.  India has a decades old relationship with Russia, it shares a common heritage with the United States, and has a history of conflict with China.  I would expect India to avoid a too-close entanglement with any of the three but to continue to foster better relations with Russia and the US to maintain alliance options as China continues to rise.

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Burning coal to save the environment?

May 2, 2012

A chemical process that combines 3 parts of cheap (and plentiful) sub-bituminous coal with 1 part of petroleum coke creates hydrogen with nearly zero carbon emissions.  The hydrogen can then be used to generate clean electricity.   What CO2 that is generated in the process is captured and injected into oil wells for enhanced oil recovery.  The other byproducts include various fertilizer products that can be shipped to local farmers.  This is the plan of Hydrogen Energy California.  However appealing the plan sounds, it faces an uphill fight for approval, as the State of California government has been trying to force all power suppliers – even those based out of state – to cease the use of coal in electricity generation.  The trick here for HEC is to convince regulators that the actual feedstock is hydrogen, and not the coal that goes into creating the hydrogen.    If this process is allowed to go ahead and it proven to be cost effective, it could be a game changer even greater than the hydraulic fracturing revolution has been.