Biofuels were hailed in the first half of the last decade as a green solution to reliance on imported petroleum, and a savior to farmers seeking higher prices for commodities in surplus. But in the second half of the decade, biofuels emerged as real and imminent threats to both environmental quality and food security, while being a costly and ill-conceived response to energy concerns. Agriculture and energy ministers met at a high-level conference at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome in June 2008, and essentially glossed over these issues in endorsing continued government subsidies to the biofuels question. [...]
In a two-round bidding procedure that concluded in mid-December, the international oil industry regained access to Iraq’s upstream resources for the first time since the 1975 nationalization, with service contracts awarded for the development of 13 major fields. Although some critics denounced the deals as a sell-off of Iraq’s resources to foreigners, Iraqi Oil Minister Husain al-Shahristani negotiated very good terms for them. Production will rise from the current 2.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) to 12 mbpd, and Iraq will be in control of every drop of oil extracted on payment of fees amounting to only $1 to $1.50 [...]
“Iran engagement” is beginning to take on the attributes of kabuki theater, with all of the major participants engaging in pre-determined, stylized dance steps. The latest case in point is the announcement earlier this week by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Tehran is now open to some form of the scheme proposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency last October, by which Iran would export its low-enriched uranium to France and Russia to be turned into fuel rods for its research reactor. As Howard LaFranchi reported, this “was received favorably by Russia, and it prompted Chinese officials to call for [...]
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