This is Radio Ecoshock. I’m Alex Smith with eye-popping headlines on the triple crisis: Peak Oil, climate change, and economic collapse.
While America basks in Obama, Europe quietly fell further apart over the week-end. On Martin Luther King Day, the British government announced more hundreds of billions to prop up banks and bad bets. Stocks in Barclay Bank fell to 25 percent in less than an hour. The largest, Royal Bank of Scotland, is already 80 percent owned by the government.
The same in Ireland. Both countries look close to nationalization of their banking system. Even some government officials wonder whether Britian itself faces either bankruptcy or a complete collapse of the British pound. Unthinkable stuff.
Jim Rogers, the famous expatriate American billionaire, says the big American banks are bankrupt themselves. Hardly anyone argues that point any more. The U.S. government tossed another 20 billion dollars to the Bank of America, and guaranteed more than a hundred billion dollars in worthless paper generated by the former Merrill Lynch. The world’s largest bank, Citi Group, has lost more billions, and is splitting up into two.
At least a dozen countries, national governments, are close to bankruptcy. Not just former success stories like Iceland and Ireland. The credit rating of Spain has been downgraded. Italy may be technically bankrupt. The Balkans are a mess, as is most of Eastern Europe, right up to Latvia and Lithuania.
We haven’t even discussed economic chaos in the Middle East and Asia.
This is it friend. The great ship of modern production has hit the iceberg. The band may still be playing sweetly in the First Class Ballroom, but the cold sea water is filling the holds below.
It will settle by degrees, no doubt. A wave of closures this March. Quiet desperation over the Summer. A lot of dancing, new announcements, the most reckless spending moves. All stalling the inevitable revaluation. We have yet to live the leaden doldrums, the years of suffering, before the real reformation comes.
In today’s program, the Head of the International Energy Agency admits oil production has peaked out, and time is running out for the planet’s climate. While we were all enthralled with non-stop coverage of the U.S. elections, this speech by Fatih Birol got buried. Are you ready to cut your energy use by 9 percent every year? Get ready, because the oil is running out.
Here is the Youtube video (about an hour) of Fatih Birol speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations on December 1st, 2008. Our program runs his 15 minute speech, with notes and exclamation points added.
In our second half hour, I’ll interview Christine MacDonald, author of the book Green Inc. She claims the biggest environmental groups have been covering for multinational corporations, in cosy relationships, for giant salaries. What will we see in the green mirror?
Then we’ll wrap up with Van Jones. He has a vision for those left behind in America’s poverty ghettos. It’s a green vision, where those with the most need, produce what America needs most: carbon-free energy. Van Jones testifies to Congress.
Here’s just a few of the headlines that got my attention recently.
The managing director of the world’s biggest bond fund, Bill Gross of Pimco, admits the whole economy was really a Ponzi scheme. Gross said the U.S. had been running, quote “our Ponzi-style economy”.
Another bright light, Meredith Whitney – the stock analyst who bravely said the Emperor of Wall Street had no clothes – now says all of the 300 billion dollars of U.S. government TARP money has simply disappeared, covering banking losses. No wonder there is no money to loan. Pretty predictable really. Coming generations will be harnessed to debt for absolutely nothing. At least until they refuse.
Meanwhile, on the climate front, Indonesia has announced over a billion dollars for new railroads. Does that sound like good news? It’s not. The rails will move coal reserves from South Sumatra to the coal ships. Onward to Asia’s multiplying coal stations, and runaway climate change.
Climate blogger Joseph Romm, recently a guest on Radio Ecoshock, points out a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. Scientists from South Korea’s Pohany University found, quote, “Sudden, considerable reduction in recent uptake of anthropogenic CO2 by the East/Japan Sea.” If true, the ocean burial ground for our carbon binge may be full. Next week on Radio Ecoshock, we’ll talk with a top American scientist who questions this research. He should know. Pieter Tans is Chief Scientist for NOAA’s global carbon monitoring program.
At climateprogress.org, Joe Romm also says: “China announces plan to single-handedly destroy the climate. China to increase coal production 30 percent by 2015”
That big increase in coal power was just announced by the government of China. The increase, Romm writes, will be “an amount equal to two-thirds of the entire coal consumption of the United States — an amount that surpasses all of the coal consumed today in Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East, Africa, and Central and South America.”
Mommy, how do you spell “toasted planet?”
As the Titanic settles, there are more fancy balls to attend. Kate Sheppard wrote about two supposedly Green inauguration parties in Gristmill, the environmental blog, for January 19th. I quote her now:
“Tonight’s dueling balls showcase an interesting dichotomy within the green movement. Gore’s ball, which has more of an activist bent, is co-hosted by the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, the Vote Solar Initiative, and Youth for Environmental Sanity, among many other groups and businesses. Wal-Mart, KPMG, and the American Gas Association are also on board, but these and other corporate sponsors have incorporated green practices into their businesses, say the Gore folk. The organizers are decorating with tree seedlings, using recycled-fiber carpet, recycling and composting waste, and offsetting their carbon emissions. The food is going to be organic, and cooked across the street, to lower the carbon footprint, natch. Will.i.am and Maroon 5 will serenade the crowd.
The International Conservation Caucus Foundation’s ball is hosted by The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and WWF, among others, and will be just a few blocks down the street. “Roses will be flown in from Ecuador. Marinated beef is being flown in from Texas to Virginia, where it will be grilled and then trucked to the auditorium,” reports the Times. “We are not into symbolism,” said caucus president David H. Barron. “We are focused on a much bigger impact.” As the Times puts it, “the caucus gala sticks to its philosophy that the environment and wildlife are most effectively protected by governments and businesses.” To that end, sponsors include ExxonMobil, Chevron, International Paper, and Wal-Mart (which appears to be hedging its bets). Famous anticipated guests include Robert Duvall, Bo Derek, and Ed Norton.”
That’s a report from Kate Sheppard at gristmill.grist.org.
And that leads us to our next report, with Christine MacDonald. She worked for Conservation International, and didn’t like the company it keeps.
[Interview with Christine MacDonald, author of “Green Inc”]
I’d like to take you now to the Committee Rooms of Congress, to hear another great African American voice, Van Jones. This is the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, chaired by Ed Markey. They get the best.
In this brief testimony on January 15th, 2009, Van Jones explains how to beat America’s energy poverty, while giving work to those who need it most.
Van Jones is both a civil rights activist and environmental advocate in Oakland, California. His Green Jobs program came out of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. He’s got a web site at vanjones.net.
I’m Alex Smith. You can find my kingdom of free green audio at ecoshock.org
Save yourself, your neighborhood, or just a lonely planet. Load up your Ipod or computer with free mp3 files on the triple threat: the environment, peak oil, and the new hard times.
Mother Earth will thank you.
Until next week.