January 11, 2010

This Weekend’s News: A Little Something for Everyone

I didn’t see one major unifying theme in this weekend’s news, but good, in-depth articles on several important topics.

Pipeline Politics. First, news of pipeline politics offered a great [case] of contrasts. Several South American countries are developing more domestic natural gas reserves and increasing liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports to ensure that their energy security is not dependent upon Bolivian supplies or pipelines through third countries. As reported in The New York Times,

The reorganization of South America’s energy relationships is being closely followed by countries trying to limit their reliance on energy-rich nations that are in political flux or that use their resources as a political lever, as Russia’s state energy company has bullied former Soviet republics and Europe.

By comparison, Nigeria’s oil pipelines are once again in the news for making such ideal targets. Last Friday gunman attacked one of Chevron’s pipelines, setting production back by 20,000 barrels per day; when a recent (apparently fragile) peace deal was struck oil companies were able to increase production “to almost 2 million barrels a day from about 1.6 million barrels,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

DOD Food and Fuels. Today’s Washington Post had a great story about food contractors tasked with feeding those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere in those regions). It dives into the contractors having to take on their own personnel security costs in delivering food, and provides a good number of stats and specifics on how the Defense Logistics Agency awards these contracts, for how much and what companies must then do to get their jobs done. 

What happens to the scraps left behind from all that food? Scientific American (in a story from Greenwire) explains how one company is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to convert food and all other varieties of waste into diesel fuel. This project is unique in that its product is a hydrocarbon liquid fuel, and based on this article it sounds as though it would be viable as a drop-in fuel or to blend with petroleum-based diesel. The Navy (as seems to usually be the case nowadays) also made headlines for CleanTechnica, which reported on its solar installations in Hawaii and its work to date on climate change.

Technology and Tradeoffs. With so many car and tech shows around the country in the past and coming weeks, there are great stories everywhere about new technologies – and the challenges and tradeoffs involved with them. Start your readings with Sunday’s Post story on the tradeoffs and “unintended ripples” of recent federal biomass subsidies. It’s great to see reporters digging into what the hidden costs are, but I’d bet most of you, our dear readers, think about both costs and benefits in all of your natural security pondering. The Post and Times offer two stories in moving to smaller cars: in a long piece yesterday, the Times explored Ford’s push toward small cars, while the Post today notes that Americans aren’t so much liking the Smart cars. The article notes that “Daimler's two-year effort to win over U.S. drivers with a thrifty, plastic-clad minicar is running out of steam, adding urgency to the German automaker's effort to find a partner for the Smart brand.” If anyone has seen a chart comparing small car sales with gas price spikes, let me know, but I’d guess that has a lot to do with the country’s success in saving energy via smaller vehicles. And for a lighter, happier finale, a Los Angeles Times report on the Vegas Consumer Electronics Show notes that “‘Green’ exists less as a buzz word and more as a prevalent ideal among the technology leaders compared with years past,” and includes leveraging old green ways and means like recycling and using less materials in addition to relying on more advanced technologies to save the Earth.

The Week Ahead
Events abound this week! The Center for National Policy is holding an event on PRTs: Implementing Lessons Learned today at 12:30, which I’d bet will offer some indirect insights on natural security issues. Tomorrow at 2:00 to the USIP for Natural Resources: Plunder or Peace, or check out our new intern Dan’s recap of it for the blog on Wednesday. Geoff Dabelko and the Wilson Center crew are hosting a double-header with Resolving Natural Resource Conflicts: A Path to Development and Peace on the 13th in the Rayburn building at noon and a webcast of Pathways to Peace: Stories of Environment, Health, and Conflict at 3:00. We’ll keep you posted if we see any events on the Hill or elsewhere, but this is already a busy schedule.