Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Archive for the ‘Bioenergy’ tag

Biomass Markets and Technologies

with 2 comments

It’s an exciting time to be working with biofuels and bioproducts. When American’s today think of biofuels, corn ethanol is the example that immediately jumps to mind (for those nerds who actually think about these issues), which is somewhat warranted in that it is the dominant bio-transportation fuel in the U.S. and the world (surpassing Brazilian sugarcane ethanol in 2005). But as we look to the future of bioenergy and bioproducts, there is almost limitless potential, including distributed electricity generation and products from biomass possibly replacing the vast and diverse products currently coming out of today’s petroleum refineries.

As we pursue this potential, it is important to realize that humans have been controlling more and more of the Earth’s biomass to serve our purposes. Monoculture certainly has its advantages, but biodiversity is key to ensure the healthy functioning of ecosystems, not just for camping and admiring, but for providing clean air, water, and soil that are essential to our survival, and essential to the feasibility, and profitability, of bioenergy. Many of the biomass feedstocks discussed today, such as corn stover (stalks and leaves), are described as “waste products,” though corn stover has  traditionally been left in the field to maintain soil structure and health. The same goes for many materials described as “timber residues,” which are important to forests and cannot be completely removed for use in bioproducts without potentially damaging the health of forests.

While the report below does not appear to be focusing on these issues, it definitely has some important and provocative insights towards this discussion.

Biomass Energy Generation, Biofuels, and Bioproducts:
Market Analysis and Forecasts

WoodpelletsBiomass, already a large percentage of total renewable energy sources, is poised for strong growth in the years to come within three key sectors: biopower, biofuels, and bioproducts. Significant investments continue to be made in biomass research and development, and the pace of commercializing new technologies will increase during the next decade.

Many different feedstocks can be classified as “biomass” including corn and grains, plants and forest resources, construction/industry waste, agricultural and food industry wastes, terrestrial and aquatic energy crops, municipal waste and manure. Applications for biomass range widely, from power generation to heating, transportation fuels, chemicals, and plastics. The development of the biomass industry is in large part driven by government policies and mandates and, while world governments are likely to back away from some of the aggressive targets set a few years ago, Pike Research anticipates that biomass will continue to be a significant focus for energy policymakers.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

September 5th, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Brazil’s Agricultural Miracle?

without comments

There’s no doubt that Brazil has flourished in the agricultural realm in the last several decades, and that its abundance of natural resources are only going to amplify its global importance in the years to come, as the world becomes increasingly resource constrained. The two articles below are typical of The Economist: well researched, well written, and optimistic about the abilities of technology and trade liberalization to continue aiding in Brazil’s, and the world’s, prosperity.

There is much truth to these assertions. Brazil is the world’s largest producer or exporter of beef, coffee, sugar, and oranges, and second only to the U.S. in soy. These are important staple products. Sugarcane ethanol seems to becoming only more attractive to foreign importers such as the U.S. and Europe. If either of these further opens its markets to importation of ethanol, it will have profound impacts on Brazil’s agricultural sector and economy as a whole.

With all of this in mind, there are two downsides that are not discussed in these articles, though they must be considered, both for Brazil’s sake and for others if, as the second article suggests, Brazil’s agricultural model is to be exported to places like Africa.

1. Disparity in wealth and lack of jobs, education, and training for lower-skilled workers. During this agricultural boom, Brazil has continued to suffer from vast disparities in wealth. Mechanization has driven millions of rural poor into the cities as jobs are replaced with tractors.

It is inefficient and simply infeasible to consider reversing this technological progression, but measures must be taken, not necessarily for reasons of altruism, but basic economic realities. Those farm laborers who move to cities like Sao Paulo and Salvador put a strain on public services, crime rates rise, and money spent on police and corrections in the cities can sop up the gains from agricultural exports as that sector innovates. Measures are being taken in Brazil to create more jobs in cities and the countryside, as well as education and training for people who have had far too little of these or the jobs that require them.

2. Biodiversity needs to be protected, and not just in the Amazon. Only about 8% of the Atlantic Rainforest remains, much of its destruction due to expansion of monoculture in states like Sao Paulo, which produces 60% of Brazil’s cane and ethanol. Protection of biodiversity in the cerrado in central Brazil, as well as closer to the coasts, is not a matter of liking flowers and birds, it is essential to the land’s continued productive ability.

Health of soil and water depends on functioning ecosystems, which are difficult to maintain in monocultural systems. Some of the larger cane and ethanol firms, such as Cosan, have done much to re-vegetate stream banks, providing much-needed buffer zones between water resources and agricultural activities. This must continue on all agricultural land as these areas provide continuous threads rather than isolated forests that do not provide the expanse needed for migrating animals essential to healthy soil and water.

It may sound like a stretch, but my doctoral research has shown the interdependency of ecology and economies. The health of each is indeed necessary to continue Brazil’s ability to feed itself and much of the rest of the world.

Please feel free to let me know what you think.

How to feed the world

The emerging conventional wisdom about world farming is gloomy. There is an alternative

Aug 26th 2010

THE world is planting a vigorous new crop: “agro-pessimism”, or fear that mankind will not be able to feed itself except by wrecking the environment. The current harvest of this variety of whine will be a bumper one. Natural disasters—fire in Russia and flood in Pakistan, which are the world’s fifth- and eighth-largest wheat producers respectively—have added a Biblical colouring to an unfolding fear of famine. By 2050 world grain output will have to rise by half and meat production must double to meet demand. And that cannot easily happen because growth in grain yields is flattening out, there is little extra farmland and renewable water is running short.

Read the entire article here.

Brazilian agriculture

The miracle of the cerrado

Brazil has revolutionised its own farms. Can it do the same for others?

Aug 26th 2010 | CREMAQ, PIAUÍ

IN A remote corner of Bahia state, in north-eastern Brazil, a vast new farm is springing out of the dry bush. Thirty years ago eucalyptus and pine were planted in this part of the cerrado (Brazil’s savannah). Native shrubs later reclaimed some of it. Now every field tells the story of a transformation. Some have been cut to a litter of tree stumps and scrub; on others, charcoal-makers have moved in to reduce the rootballs to fuel; next, other fields have been levelled and prepared with lime and fertiliser; and some have already been turned into white oceans of cotton. Next season this farm at Jatobá will plant and harvest cotton, soyabeans and maize on 24,000 hectares, 200 times the size of an average farm in Iowa. It will transform a poverty-stricken part of Brazil’s backlands.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

August 27th, 2010 at 10:23 am

Can Brazil become the world´s first environmental superpower?

without comments

It’s cool even to see the term “environmental superpower” being used in the media. I have said many times that, in a world with increasing constraints on natural resources such as water and land to grow food, fuel, and fiber, Brazil has tremendous potential.

In the article below Carrington hits the nail on the head in the subtitle when he says that “its challenge is to compete economically without destroying the environment.” Perhaps this could be rephrased with some editing on the popular, hippy dictum, ‘we need to behave now so as not to diminish the opportunities of future generations.’ Carrington is also arguing, wisely, that we need to consider the prosperity of future generations without sacrificing prosperity for people today. In addition to being unfair to today’s people, it’s simply unrealistic to believe that people today will make vast sacrifices for people not yet born.

Idealism and pragmatism. I’d like the two of you to meet. I know that my own parents made considerable sacrifices and made decisions that could lead my sisters and I to have a better life than they had. My parents have succeeded beautifully, and are now reaping the happy and healthy benefits.

So many Brazilians are making similar sacrifices today, working exceedingly long hours at often difficult jobs so that their own children have the opportunity to get an education and work better jobs. Since those children will not be able to eat money or education, steps will need to be taken to ensure that they have land and water to grow food and fuel, and other resources to produce the goods that can’t be grown, like laptops and iPhones. Sweet, sweet iPhones.

The popularity of 3rd party candidate, Marina Silva of the Green Party, shows us that Brazilians are indeed thinking about these resource constraints. The fact that Ms. Silva has been given such a prominent place at the discussion table is utterly astonishing, and very exciting, to me.

Brazil would not be the first nation to become rich from its resources – but its challenge is to compete economically without destroying its environment

Thursday August 5, 2010

Damian Carrington

The Itaipu hydroelectric dam stands along the Parana River in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil.

The Itaipu hydroelectric dam stands along the Parana River in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. Photograph: Adriano Machado/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Outside Dr Gilberto Câmara’s office, there is a large and beautiful satellite map of Brazil. From the fractal elegance of the Amazon and its tributaries, to the ochre fields holding sugar, soy and cattle, to the twinkling mega-cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in the south, the map shows why he thinks Brazil can be the world’s first environmental superpower.

[…]

Câmara has adopted the slogan: “Brazil – the natural knowledge economy“. He describes this as applying knowledge and technology to commodities to boost their value, and reels off examples: biofuels, in which Brazil leads world research thanks to its sugar cane ethanol and growing biodiesel production; renewable energy – 47% of the country’s energy is already green, a world record; and climate change – Brazil’s Amazon is vital to the planet’s health. Of course, it also has plenty of timber, beef, iron and aluminium, though he doesn’t boast about those.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

August 6th, 2010 at 1:54 am

UNICA Continues Pressure on U.S. to Drop Ethanol Tariff

without comments

To listen to UNICA, the powerful voice of Brazil’s sugarcane and ethanol industry, you’d think the U.S. tariff on imported ethanol would be gone by the end of the week. I don’t see that happening, and definitely don’t think an all-at-once elimination would be good for Brazil.

Ethanol accounts for half of their transportation fuel by volume (slightly less on an energy content basis), and if the U.S. tariff were eliminated, Brazilian producers would likely sell a huge portion of their ethanol to U.S. buyers, forcing Brazilian drivers to pay higher prices, or, more likely, revert to far more gasoline. This could jeopardize Brazil’s energy independence and would impact their balance of trade, though probably only slightly.

Additionally, just as UNICA and the studies they cite may sound certain that this tariff of US$0.54 per gallon is terrible for American drivers, its elimination would not hurt corn farmers, and so is soon to be history, U.S. corn farmers and our ethanol industry, led by Growth Energy, the U.S. counterpart to UNICA, are equally sure that government support is necessary and here to stay.

Let me be clear that I am not a fan of corn ethanol. I have become much more encouraged about cellulosic and other technologies on the near horizon, but still believe that corn is produced irresponsibly and at great harm to ecological, human, and even bovine health. I don’t blame farmers for this, as they are working within a system that rewards growing corn without taking into account the negative externalities.

All this said, the best scenario would likely be reducing the tariff on U.S. importation of Brazilian ethanol to meet the “advanced biofuels” mandates laid out in George Bush’s Renewable Fuels Standards, as allowed by the recent EPA findings in the RFS2 decision in February. This would gradually increase Brazilian ethanol’s presence in the U.S., while also encouraging the much needed move to second and third generation biofuels technologies, reducing our dependence on imported oil and increasing our energy independence and security.

Any of this, of course, must be done in concert with vastly increased efforts towards energy efficiency, driving less, more efficient vehicles, etc.

Here are a few of the pieces from UNICA…

Scholars call for phase-out of U.S. ethanol tariff at Wilson Center seminar
07/26/2010

(left to right) Joel Velasco, Alexandros Petersen, Paulo Sotero,
Robbin Johnson and C. Ford Runge

An open and globalized biofuels market is essential to promote greater efficiency and competitiveness, and phasing out the US$0,54 per gallon tariff imposed by the United States on imported ethanol would be a key step in the right direction. The recommendation came from two University of Minnesota scholars during the “Biofuels: Food, Fuel, and the Future?” panel, organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C, on Friday, July 23.

Read the entire article here.

And a second piece, citing the study from the University of Iowa:

Universidade americana vê ganhos para consumidores com fim de tarifa sobre etanol importado
26/07/2010

Em meio a um debate aquecido e ganhando cada vez mais visibilidade nos Estados Unidos, um estudo divulgado na terça-feira (20/07) por um renomado economista agrícola do meio-oeste americano está desafiando conclusões catastróficas, geralmente disseminadas por grupos de lobby do etanol de milho, sobre o que poderia acontecer se a atual tarifa de US$0,54 por galão (3,78 litros) imposta ao etanol importado expirar no final deste ano como planejado. O estudo, realizado por Bruce Babcock, chefe do Centro de Agricultura e Desenvolvimento Rural (CARD em inglês) da Universidade do Estado de Iowa, apresenta um cenário bem diferente.

Read the entire article here.

And the University of Iowa study to which they are referring:

CARD Study Shows U.S. Ethanol Production and Corn Demand Will Grow With or Without Subsidy and Tariff

Contacts:
Bruce A. Babcock ; babcock@iastate.edu
Sandy Clarke; sclarke@iastate.edu

July 20, 2010

America’s growing interest in renewable fuels has spurred a robust discussion about the pros and cons of continuing or changing current U.S. federal government ethanol policies, specifically, (1) mandates to increase the use of renewable fuels like ethanol from approximately 13 billion gallons today to 36 billion gallons by 2022, (2) a 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for “blenders” who add ethanol to gasoline, and (3) a 54-cent-per-gallon tariff, which increases the price of foreign imports.

Read the entire article here.

An Engaged Public Encourages Responsible Supply Chains

without comments

What’s most interesting here is how companies respond to concerns raised by citizens and consumers. To everyone signing petitions, emailing corporations, and just generally letting their voices be heard: stay informed; stay active.

The discussion of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is also worthy of note for my own work in Brazilian sugarcane ethanol. Cane and Ethanol producers have been urging the establishment of criteria for responsible (I prefer this term to the much more loaded term, “sustainable”) production of biofuels, with a set of criteria specific to sugarcane. They were initially putting their weight behind the Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), as it was to be an umbrella organization, with sub-roundtables dedicated to specific feedstocks. This specificity, producers said, is necessary to ensure adequate and realistic standards.

The largest industry association in the Brazilian bioenergy sector, UNICA, has since lost their enthusiasm for the RSB since it has moved away from the specificity they say is required. They now prefer the Better Sugarcane Initiative.

The RSPO is not a member, nor do they make any mention of RSB.

Market based certification organizations can be powerful tools to bring together citizens, companies, and governments to ensure responsible production of all sorts of goods, from biofuels to chocolate bars to sweat pants. Increasing access to information leads to greater transparency, and an engaged public can encourage producers to ensure their supply chains are being responsible.

The other oil spill

Palm oil is a popular, cheap commodity, which green activists are doing their best to turn into a commercial liability. Companies are finding them impossible to ignore

Jun 24th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

EARLY on April 21st 2008, Greenpeace activists dressed as orang-utans stormed Unilever’s headquarters in London. Similar raids took place at the multinational’s facilities on Merseyside, in Rome and in Rotterdam. Furry protesters scaled buildings, occupied production lines and unfurled banners. Many read: “Unilever: Don’t Destroy the Forests”. Dove, one of the company’s best-known brands, was singled out by name.

The tactic was a simple one, intended to draw attention to the damage done to Indonesian tropical rainforests by the production of palm oil, an ingredient in many of Unilever’s products. It was also effective: soon after the orang-utan invasion the company said it would draw all its palm oil from “sustainable” sources by 2015.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

June 27th, 2010 at 8:57 am

Cars and People [May] Compete for Grain

without comments

This passage has some very useful information, but I disagree with Brown’s point that grain prices are only now tied to petroleum prices because of increased biofuel production. He’s right to point out that the first generation of technologies are placing increased stress on agricultural land, but grain prices have long been tied to petroleum prices due to the heavy reliance on petroleum products such as diesel and chemical inputs, as well as other inputs derived from natural gas and other fossil fuels. A report published by the Farm Foundation last year found five main factors that drove 2008’s increased food prices, with number one being the coincident increase in petroleum prices.

Furthermore, at this point in the U.S. ethanol is not a substitute for petroleum, but a complement, as it is blended into our gasoline supply, with very little E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) available today. This is different from the system in Brazil, where their enormous fleet of flex-fuel vehicles means that when oil prices rise, people can simply switch to sugarcane ethanol, which is not nearly as reliant on petroleum or other fossil fuels as corn and other grains in the U.S.

Here in the U.S., as oil prices rise, we may see a slight decline in demand for gasoline, which means a decline in demand for the ethanol blended into it. And if oil prices rise, whether we’re making ethanol or not, grain prices have long followed the price of petroleum. The way to decouple this trend has much less to do with biofuels, and much more to do with the inputs used to produce our crops under an industrial agricultural system.

Brown’s excerpt here also ignores the reality illustrated by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, that famines and food shortages don’t stem from a lack of production. There is more than enough food in the world, but have serious distribution problems.

Finally, most people agree that corn ethanol is only a short-term bridge technology on the road to a renewable fuels future. Within the decade we will have leveled out at the federally mandated limit of corn ethanol production, 15 billion gallons in 2015, and will be using increasing amounts of biofuels derived from cellulose and agricultural wastes. This technology is nearly cost competitive today, and will almost surely become much more so in the next few years.

June 01, 2010

Lester R. Brown

At a time when excessive pressures on the earth’s land and water resources are of growing concern, there is a massive new demand emerging for cropland to produce fuel for cars—one that threatens world food security. Although this situation had been developing for a few decades, it was not until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when oil prices jumped above $60 a barrel and U.S. gasoline prices climbed to $3 a gallon, that the situation came into focus. Suddenly investments in U.S. corn-based ethanol distilleries became hugely profitable, unleashing an investment frenzy that will convert one fourth of the 2009 U.S. grain harvest into fuel for cars.

[…]

The price of grain is now tied to the price of oil. Historically the food and energy economies were separate, but now with the massive U.S. capacity to convert grain into ethanol, that is changing. In this new situation, when the price of oil climbs, the world price of grain moves up toward its oil-equivalent value.

Read the entire excerpt here.

Written by Jason

June 1st, 2010 at 9:45 am

DOE Announces up to $11 Million for Biofuels Technology Development

without comments

A colleague recently asked about the tradeoffs between ethanol and methanol, and why there isn’t more methanol in our fuel supply, given some of its purported benefits. I responded that that discussion is looking backwards at two less than ideal fuels, and that biomass-based drop in replacements for gasoline will most likely be available in not much more time than it would take to make a switch from ethanol to methanol.

There is already enough reluctance about ethanol, a fuel that has only about 70% the energy content by volume as gasoline and is not transportable within existing pipelines. Methanol has similar drawbacks, and, as the announcement below illustrates, government and industry both are looking at different technologies that will work with existing infrastructure, including pipelines and current engines.

The technology described below is thermo-chemical rather than biochemical. In other words, pyrolisis basically involves burning biomass to create a syngas that has different applications. This process is thermo-chemical, unlike fermentation used to produce ethanol and methanol, which involves live yeasts and is therefore bio-chemical.

These are the two main platforms that the DOE is pursuing in hopes of transitioning from petroleum, coal,  natural gas, and other fossil fuels, to renewable biomass energy for both our electrical grid and our transportation fuels.

There is much hope for these technologies, and many existing applications for both platforms, but don’t be misled, neither is a panacea for our energy needs. We will need to continue using fossil fuels for decades to come, and as technologies improve, solar, wind, geothermal, and, perhaps the most important and cost-effective, energy efficiency,  will all be important in our future energy matrix.

May 28, 2010

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced up to $11 million in funding over three years for research and development in the area of thermochemical conversion of biomass into advanced biofuels that are compatible with existing fueling infrastructure. The objective of this funding is to improve the conversion of non-food biomass to liquid transportation hydrocarbon fuels via pyrolysis, a process that decomposes biomass using heat in the absence of oxygen to produce a bio-oil that can be upgraded to renewable diesel, gasoline, or jet fuel. This funding opportunity is part of the Department’s effort to accelerate development and deployment of sustainable, renewable biofuels that significantly reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

May 28th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Brazil: The Bossa Nova of Biofuels

without comments

The transition to the bioeconomy is a fascinating topic. At a conference I helped to organize in St. Louis in 2008, the discussion was around refineries that use biomass as a feedstock, producing the wide range of products, including fuel, fiber, pharmaceuticals, and others currently delivered from petroleum refineries. It is unclear if or when such a transition will occur, but with volatile oil prices and the current situation in the Gulf of Mexico, it may be more appealing now than ever.

A new wave of investment will transform sugars and cellulosic carbohydrates into hydrocarbon fuels

By Biofuels Digest columnist Will Thurmond

Shell, BP, Bunge, LS9, Dow and Amyris are collectively investing more than $20 billion into advanced, sustainable biofuels in Brazil. This new relationship between Brazilian, US and EU public and private industries is kicking off a new era in international biofuels investment.

[…]

US And The EU Dance With Brazil

Another wave of next- generation renewable drop-in fuel companies Amyris, LS9, Gevo and Dupont are also investing in and partnering with Brazil’s sugarcane fermentation biorefineries. Why? Because their emerging technologies from cellulosic microbes (yeast, algae, fungus and bacteria) can use the same ethanol fermentation facilities in the US corn belt and in Brazil’s sugarcane belt to produce bio-crude, green diesel, petrol and biojet.

[…]

Integrated Biorefineries In Sight

The future benefits of these integrated cellulosic biorefineries, especially in Brazil, will demonstrate leadership, proof of concept, and much-needed economic certainty that is challenged by US and EU cellulosic biofuels economics, mandates and markets today. This will benefit the other big emerging markets of China and India as the dance progresses. Long before the Olympics arrive in Rio in 2017,  Brazil’s leadership in sustainable biofuels, coupled with advanced technologies from US and EU industry partners, will illuminate evolutionary pathways in achieving successfully integrated, diversified, biorefineries.  In particular, India, the world’s second
largest sugar producer, and the world’s most populated nation, is most likely to benefit from this progress along with China and other key emerging market nations interested in attracting increased investment and emerging technologies for sustainable growth.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

May 26th, 2010 at 11:49 am

Methanol: Biofuel to love or hate?

without comments

It seems to me that the debate between ethanol and methanol is looking backward rather than forward. Neither is a drop in replacement for gasoline, and therefore neither is ideal, so the infrastructure requirements of moving from one to the other are prohibitive. The feasibility for hydrocarbons from biomass is on the horizon, and neither industry nor government will be keen to make the investments necessary to switch from one short term measure, ethanol, to another, methanol, that is equally limited in its ability to transition away from petroleum.

May 24, 2010 | Jim Lane | Comments 5

Biofuels developments typically involve “two, four or more” carbon approaches (ethanol, biobutanol, or longer chain hydrocarbons in the gasoline or diesel range). Though used in biodiesel production or as an intermediate in other biofuel production processes, the one-carbon methanol is not commonly targeted as a biofuel.

Methanol has its haters, and its passionate fans. Who’s right?

A recent post by biofuels developer and commentator Robert Rapier — in his R-Squared Energy blog — re-ignited the debate last week. ” I decided to write an essay particularly devoted to methanol,” he writes.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

May 24th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

A Special Report on Water

without comments

Many have pointed out the inextricable links between water and energy. Beyond the similarities in demand and scarcity mentioned in the first line of the article below, “Water, it is said, is the new oil,” there is also the need for water to produce biofuels, many forms of solar power, hydroelectricity, and water used for oil and gas extraction processes such as hydraulic fracturing.

Before I focused on bioenergy and agriculture, I was initially interested in the economics of water. While it’s important to focus in order to understand the intricate details of any of these essential areas, it is equally important to consider the others, the entire context, when examining any of them.

A special report on water

For want of a drink

Finite, vital, much wanted, little understood, water looks unmanageable. But it needn’t be, argues John Grimond (interviewed here)

May 20th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

.

WHEN the word water appears in print these days, crisis is rarely far behind. Water, it is said, is the new oil: a resource long squandered, now growing expensive and soon to be overwhelmed by insatiable demand. Aquifers are falling, glaciers vanishing, reservoirs drying up and rivers no longer flowing to the sea. Climate change threatens to make the problems worse. Everyone must use less water if famine, pestilence and mass migration are not to sweep the globe. As it is, wars are about to break out between countries squabbling over dams and rivers. If the apocalypse is still a little way off, it is only because the four horsemen and their steeds have stopped to search for something to drink.

The language is often overblown, and the remedies sometimes ill conceived, but the basic message is not wrong. Water is indeed scarce in many places, and will grow scarcer. Bringing supply and demand into equilibrium will be painful, and political disputes may increase in number and intensify in their capacity to cause trouble. To carry on with present practices would indeed be to invite disaster.

[…]

Soaked, parched, poached

Many of these conceptual difficulties arise from other unusual aspects of water. It is a commodity whose value varies according to locality, purpose and circumstance. Take locality first. Water is not evenly distributed—just nine countries account for 60% of all available fresh supplies—and among them only Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia and Russia have an abundance. America is relatively well off, but China and India, with over a third of the world’s population between them, have less than 10% of its water.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

May 21st, 2010 at 12:56 pm