Today I was moderating a panel and facilitating a working session on energy, climate change & security, so I haven’t yet seen or heard a single reaction to the president’s speech this afternoon on energy or the subsequent "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future." So I’m going to give you my quick impressions from a blank slate, just reading the documen
The Landsat program is a set of moderate resolution satellites that have been collecting images of the Earth for nearly 39 years, the longest continuous mission of its kind. It has many applications for natural security topics. Currently it is operating two satellites - Landsat-5, launched in 1984, and Landsat-7 launched in 1999 – although their continued operation remains in doubt. As a 2007 report by the Office of Science and Technology Policy concluded, “The currently functioning U.S. moderate resolution satellites (Landsat 5 and 7) are operating beyond their design lifetimes in degraded status and are subject to failure at any time.” To maintain the uninterrupted flow of moderate resolution data, the United States must ensure that the successor program, Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), gets up and running quickly.
Influenced by the Apollo mission, the director of U.S. Geographical Survey first proposed the idea of a remote sensing project, which became Landsat in 1965. After overcoming intense opposition from some within government, Landsat-1 was launched on July 23, 1972. At the time it was the first Earth observation satellite in orbit with the explicit purpose of studying and monitoring the planet. Originally only planned for a one year mission, the satellite operated until January 1978, providing approximately 300,000 images of the Earth. Although originally only conceived of as a five satellite program, six satellites in addition to Landsat-1 have been designed, however Landsat-6 failed during the launch and, consequently, never reached orbit.
Maintaining congressional support has remained a challenge throughout Landsat’s history. Soon after the launch of Landsat-5, Congress passed the Land Remote-Sensing Commercialization Act of 1984, which privatized the program. Under the instruction of this legislation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which had responsibility for the Landsat program, sold the rights to Landsat data to Earth Observation Satellite Company (EOSAT), a private company. The program faltered under privatization however, because there were not enough consumers of the data to provide continuous imaging. By 1989, NOAA instructed the EOSAT to turn the satellites off for good. The program was returned to government control under the first Bush administration when Congress passed the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992, repealing the 1984 law and ordering the construction of the Landsat-7 satellite.
China is normally the most prominent country when the media and analysts cover rising volumes of international energy deals and investments. South Korea, however, is giving it a run for its money. As we noted in the daily news last Wednesday, South Korea has been investing in foreign energy reserves at a rapid pace.
This has followed a growing trend in recent years of South Korean companies more aggressively investing in majority stakes in foreign-owned energy production ventures. As Bloomberg Business reported last fall, these efforts show that “South Korea is turning aggressive to lock up oil supplies after acquisitions by Chinese peers jumped eightfold in three years.” Because South Korea relies on imports for nearly all of its energy needs, it may gain a sense of greater energy supply security by this aggressive acquisition of assets abroad.
Already South Korea’s stakes in foreign assets has increased from 4.2 percent in 2007, to 10.8 percent by the end of 2010. Based on the recent spate of deals, should we expect this trend to become even more prominent in 2011? Let’s look at a few recent examples.
On March 14, the state-run oil company Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC) purchased a large stake in oil reserves in the United Arab Emirates. When this deal is finalized next year, South Korea will increase the level of imports it gets from sources it owns a stake in to 15 percent of its oil consumption.
I’ll start this wrap-up with the coolest natural security-related news from the weekend: the Navy has sent some submarines to the Arctic on exercises to do who knows exactly what, but surely in part to signal the U.S. presence in the region.
President Obama and his family spent most of the week in Latin America. The president first visited Brazil where he had three days of meetings with Brazilin President Dilma Rousseff; discussions focused on a wide range of issues, including energy cooperation. According to a joint statement released by the White House, President Obama said that the “United States seeks to be a Strategic Energy Partner of Brazil.” The presidents in the joint statement also praised a number of green energy initiatives already underway and stated that both “agreed on the importance of a green economy in the context of sustainable development as a means for generating economic growth, creating decent jobs, eradicating poverty and protecting the environment.”
The United States and Brazil also launched the “Partnership for the Development of Aviation Bio-fuels” during the visit. This agreement builds on the Memorandum of Understanding to Advance Cooperation on Bio-fuels that was signed in March 2007. Besides pledging to increase cooperation in the development of aviation bio-fuels, the new partnership plans “To coordinate efforts towards the establishment of common standards and specifications for aviation bio-fuels.” This follows one of the recommendations in the CNAS report “Fueling the Future Force: Preparing the Department for a Post-Petroleum Era,” where Christine Parthemore and John Nagl urged DOD to “promote adoption of shared technical standards and directly influence the energy systems used by its allies.”
Photo: The Obama family is greeted by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota after arriving at the Palacio do Alvorada in the Brazilian capital on March 19, 2011. Courtesy of Pete Souza and the White House.
If there is one thing we should be able to agree on this week, it’s that tsunami early warning systems are a good investment. A few weeks back we began examining how the pending federal belt-tightening may affect how the government addresses natural security concerns.
Join CNAS tomorrow night to help support our Japanese friends in the wake of the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck the island nation on March 11, 2011.
CNAS is pleased to serve as a member of the Host Committee for the upcoming benefit "One Night for Nippon: A Benefit for the American Red Cross Response to the Japan Earthquake & Pacific Tsunami." The fundraiser will be held at L2 Lounge in Georgetown and tickets are 25 dollars and can be purchased at the door.
100 percent tax-deductible donations above 25 dollars are encouraged. Present cash or checks payable to American Red Cross Japan Response upon entry.
L2 is located at 3315 Cady's Alley NW. Valet parking is available by entering Cady’s Alley via 34th & M Street. Proper attire required.
Individual and corporate sponsors are still needed for matching donations. Contact Margarita Noriega at 202.361.7172 to become a member of the Sponsor & Host Committee.
We hope to see you there.
You can help people affected by disasters like the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. The American Red Cross name is used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any product, service, company, individual or political position. You also agree to include the following contact information on all Materials: For more information about the American Red Cross, please call 1-800-HELP-NOW or email email@example.com.
Artwork courtesy of Don Patron, a Cherry Blossom Festival artist.
We’ve discussed earth observation satellites a number of times on this blog in the past few weeks. Much of our focus thus far has been on the utility of these satellites in helping us understand and monitor environmental and climate change. But another one of their many uses is helping countries track and respond to natural disasters. In fact, earth observation satellites have been used in a number of capacities in responding to the recent crises in Japan.
First, a little background is in order. Immediately after the earthquake the Japanese government invoked the international charter “Space and Natural Disasters.” This charter was originally created in a joint effort by the European Space Agency and the French space agency, CNES, after the UNISPACEIII Conference in Vienna in July 1999. It became fully operational on November 1, 2000. Its purpose is to coordinate the world’s satellite capabilities from the different space agencies and the private sector in the wake of natural disasters.
Once the government in Tokyo activated the charter, numerous satellites sprung into action. To be exact, 63 different observations were made within the first 48 hours. These were used to assess the damage, identify areas in desperate need, locate survivors and coordinate the resources for the recovery. Later satellite images were also used to monitor and respond to the nuclear crisis.
The satellites collecting data came from both countries and the private sector. Among the countries that deployed their satellites to aid in the effort were Germany, France, the United States and even some satellites from China. Particularly remarkable was the substantial role that the private sector took on in responding to the disaster. The assistance from Geo-eye, a company headquartered out of Dulles, Virginia, was particularly remarkable. Using the Geo-eye 1 satellite, the highest-resolution commercial earth observation satellite in the world, the company captured stunning images of the damage the natural disasters had created around the Northeastern coast of Japan and the nuclear reactors. In conjunction with Google, Geo-eye used software that allowed consumers to compare pre- and post-quake images of the same area side by side. A number of news services including the New York Times and the BBC have put this service up on their websites. Other private companies that responded to the effort were Rapideye and DigitalGlobe.
Today marks the eighteenth annual World Water Day, an annual UN-sponsored day to recognize the importance of water management and the role that it plays in civil society – and as we have emphasized, foreign policy. The focus this year is on water and urbanization, and festivities have kicked off in Cape Town, South Africa to recognize the importance of access to freshwater in urban communities, especially as urbanization rates increase worldwide.
UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT Dr. Joan Clos recently wrote that “The urban water challenge must be recognised for what it really is – a crisis of governance, weak policies and poor management, rather than a scarcity crisis. We need to shore up water security against the added problems of pollution, and climate change. We need innovative ideas and good practices to implement.” Often, many urban societies in developing states lack the capacity or financial capability to make investments in sustainable infrastructure or exercise good water management programs. As Clos wrote, “Investments in infrastructure and planning have not kept up with the rate of urbanisation…Africa for example invests only 4% of its GDP in infrastructure compared to 14% in China.”
As Christine discussed in the new CNAS policy brief on Japan, the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear facilities may have ramifications for the future of nuclear energy worldwide. The question on everyone’s mind is whether events in Japan will turn back the purported “nuclear renaissance” of recent years.
The results, so far, are mixed. Many countries have already stated their intended positions: slowing the nuclear power advance; those who are reviewing their nuclear goals; and those seeming to continue full speed ahead.
In the first category, a few countries have already vowed to scale back nuclear energy programs significantly. Leading among them is Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a “measured exit” from the nuclear energy field, pledging to redouble the country’s efforts to develop renewable energy sources to compensate for the lost power generation. In addition, she temporarily shut down the country’s seven oldest reactors and decided to reassess whether to extend the lives of Germany’s remaining reactors. However, some have argued that Chancellor Merkel’s strong anti-nuclear stance is merely political positioning (given already low public opinion on her decision last fall to extend the reactor permits) and will be reversed in short order once public anxiety over the issue rescinds.
The death toll in Japan reached more than 8,000 on Sunday, with another 12,000 still missing since the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck the island nation’s northeastern communities ten days ago. Power was partially restored to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, the site of one of the worst nuclear crises since the Chernobyl nuclear power disaster in 1986. According to The Los Angeles Times, workers at the plant were able to reconnect two of the reactors to the power grid, offering hope that the facility’s cooling system could be restored to stave off continued overheating in the damaged reactors. And though progress has been made, it was not overstated. Indeed, experts cautioned that there was still much to be done. The Associated Press reported on Sunday: “Still, serious problems remained at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex. Pressure unexpectedly rose in a third unit's reactor, meaning plant operators may need to deliberately release radioactive steam.”
Just as progress was being made to contain the nuclear crisis, concerns were raised about nuclear contamination as radiation was detected in food stocks many miles away. “The government said it had found higher than normal levels of radioactivity in spinach and milk at farms up to 90 miles away from the plants, the first confirmation that the unfolding nuclear crisis has affected the nation’s food supply,” The New York Times reported on Sunday. “Minuscule amounts of radioactive iodine were also detected in the water supply in Tokyo and its five surrounding prefectures. In Tokyo, about 170 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the level was less than 1 percent of that considered dangerous by the government. In Fukushima city, about 50 miles from the power plant, the levels were still below half of the legal limit.”
Happy Saturday, readers. I wanted to quickly flag for everyone that yesterday CNAS released 2 policy briefs on Japan. In the first, Disaster in Japan: Nuclear Energy, the Economy and the U.S.-Japan Alliance, we explore a series of questions that U.S. policy makers need to start thinking through now.
The world’s attention this week was focused on the relief efforts in Japan following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami there last Friday. By Wednesday, the official death toll had topped 4,000, with more than eight thousand still missing, according to the Government of Japan. The disaster is estimated to have cost Japan’s economy between 125 to 200 billion dollars. In addition, the earthquake set off a serious nuclear crisis that that has yet to be resolved.
Some positive news coming out of Japan this week was the huge outpouring of international aid the nation received following the disaster. According to Reuters, 113 countries and 24 international organizations had offered to assist in the recovery efforts. Private companies like Google were also using their resources to assist those in need throughout the affected area. The United States has helped lead these efforts with the Defense Department allocating 35 million dollars to Operation Tomodachi and USAID giving an additional 8 million dollars; both DOD and USAID have participated in a range of humanitarian and disaster relief support, including by providing search and rescue and heavy lift capability, delivering food and water, as well as deploying teams to assist with Japan’s ongoing nuclear crisis.
Photo: Naval Air Crewman 3rd Class Seth Eslin gives cases of water to Japanese citizens during a humanitarian assistance mission. Courtesy of Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan McCord and the U.S. Navy.
The world’s focus since last Friday has rightly been on the post-earthquake efforts in Japan. For the past few days, most attention has been directed to the troubling situation at Japan’s nuclear power stations. While we have been closely monitoring that situation, we have also been curious about the food situation which appears to be getting far less attention – at least here in the United States – but seems just as urgent.
Here is some useful information that I was able to dig up. First, the Japanese government has been closely monitoring the food situation. Much of the work in securing and distributing adequate food supplies is being coordinated by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). MAFF set up the Earthquake Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters to deal with the crisis which has held nine meetings since the disaster, according to the briefing summaries of each meeting that were released on their website.
Yesterday, the Wilson Center held a book launch for The Future Faces of War: Population and National Security with author Jennifer Dabbs Sciubba. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Forces Kathleen Hicks joined the conversation as a discussant and Geoff Dabelko, director of the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Wilson Center, moderated it.
The overarching theme of the day was that demographics alone don’t determine the fate of nations, but they do play a role in nearly every aspect of state policy. As Professor Sciubba put it, “Demography is neither a force for good or bad; it depends on the government’s ability to handle it.” The purpose of Sciubba’s book was to introduce a framework to help understand the broad indeterminate nature of demographics, and how policy issues should consider demographic trends. Indeed, her presentation yesterday followed this format.
Sciubba laid out three characteristics that demographics may portend for a state: they can be an indicator of challenges or opportunities; a multiplier of conflict or progress; or a resource for power and prosperity. She used a variety of global issues to demonstrate how these worked. One particularly notable one was the “youth bulge” – that is, where the largest demographic of a society lies between the ages of 15-29. According to Sciubba, the presence of a youth bulge in several Middle East and North African states is viewed both as an indicator and a multiplier of the challenges linked with the recent unrest in the region. For example, that 43 percent of Tunisia’s adult population is between the ages of 15-29 was an indication of the challenges the government needed to address, such as curtailing unemployment. When the government failed to address these challenges, the large youth population had a multiplying effect on the instability associated with corrupt governance and economic mismanagement.