Energy. Food. Money. The nexus is fraught with political disagreement, high intensity accuations and lots of potential for profit, or disaster. All depends on who you listen to. If the era of cheap petroleum is truly and forever dead, then these battles shall only get more nasty, more crucial and continue to reverberate globally.
BRAZIL "OWNS" THE RAINFOREST
Higher food prices have encouraged the Brazilian government and agribusiness to clear rain forest to grow more food. Used tobe beef for American burgers. Most recently it's been to grow more soybeans. And Brazil is a major exporter of methanol for biofuel. That methanol's largely made from sugar, also a food crop. So the higher fuel and food prices are enriching the Brazilian economy while bringing both homegrown and foreign scrutiny of the Amazon Basin. What might rainforest clearing mean for the global climate and greenhouse gas emission?
The President of Brazil just told other countries and environmental groups to butt out. It is Brazil's rainforest, he says. Raising interesting questions about "ownership." Do China and the U.S. follow suit by claiming ownership of the atmosphere over their cities, thus having the right to puke out as much CO2 as they wish? That's how ownershipworks right now, anyway. Can some other nations dump all the pollutants they wish into an ocean? "Our coastline," they can claim. In matters ecological we must not forget John Muir's Law of Interconnectedness: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."
ENERGY ANGST IN THE OLD WORLD
It's easy to find reports of Americans' unhappy over gasoline prices and having a resulting gloomy outlook on the economy. We Yanks easily overlook European complaints though truck [lorry] drivers in Britain pay about twice as much for diesel fuel as we do.
In some circles it's politically incorrect to even acknowledge the existence of France, but they do have more nuclear-sourced electricity (by %) than any other nation. And they're major producers of rapeseed-based biodiesel. So it's worth noting that increasing energy prices there are causing uproar there where fishermen are blocking harbors.
And that brings us around to the now-global fascination with the Silicon Valley VC who's come to be most closely identified with investment in renewable energy, especially bio-fuels. Vinod Khosla can simulataneously garner an admiring article in India...and get slammed for not being direct in his discussions about subsidies for biofuels and the role they play in getting new technologies and fuel sources established. Here's a slam-bam examination of this stew of politics, VC money, ethanol and biodiesel, from Grist. The fumes coming off this continuing ferment over renewable bio-fuels could really given one a headache, so inhale carefully.