Commodity Corner

Views on commodities and energy

Michael Pollan: “What’s in the beef?”

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Photo by Kris Krüg

Where does your burger come from? Journalist and food writer Michael Pollan has traced back the source of much of what we eat, and says that the ultimate answer is oil. Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, argues that it takes massive amounts of petroleum-derived fertilizers and pesticides to run industrial farms and feed lots, with dire consequences for human health and the Earth’s climate.

Check out Pollan’s multimedia presentation below, from the Poptech conference in Camden, Maine last month.

[Editor's note: After some Reuters fact-checking, Pollan withdrew his Poptech assertion that "A vegan in a Hummer has a smaller carbon footprint than a meat-eater in a Prius," and his statement has been edited out of the video. The erroneous meme has nevertheless continued to spread on Twitter]

Click here for Reuters Poptech coverage

Click here for more Poptech videos

FOOD/More on the Future of Food:

Is Monsanto the answer or the problem?

The fight over the future of food

Is Africa selling out its farmers?

India’s food dilemma: high prices or shortages

from Ayesha Rascoe:

Rally against climate bill exposes anger against govt

A rally in Richmond, Virginia on Thursday was supposed to be a protest against Washington's climate bill. But like the raucous healthcare townhall meetings of recent weeks, there was plenty of anger to go around.

Sponsored by a powerful oil lobby and other business groups, the Energy Citizens Alliance event was a pep rally of sorts to encourage  residents to rise against the recently passed House of Representatives climate bill that would limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Now in the movies: The gentle giant

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Gentle giant

German utility RWE – Europe’s fifth-largest power company and the continent’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxcide – has resorted to a new way to counter what it sees as a fundamental misunderstanding about power companies.

 

Its animated movie – to be shown on TV and in cinemas – is meant to show what the company is really about – and overcome the public’s distaste for an industry whose dominance has allowed it to mete out ever higher power prices.

Floating a balloon, adding to global warming?

climatebillDemocrats floated big plans to tackle climate change proposals in the U.S. Congress this week but realistically there will be much more hot air — both from industry and politicians — before this bill is turned into law.
 
The draft legislation, running hundreds of pages, will now be considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in coming weeks along with all manner of panels. And, oh yes, the Senate, home of the filibuster, will also get to weigh in.
    
At the heart of of the legislation is Cap and Trade — a panacea for those who believe greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet to dangerous levels and a boon to those who think the sinking economy makes this the dumbest time to anchor industry with more costs.
    
“This legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman.
    
Sounds good but Waxman is a Democrat from California, where these ideas are more readily embraced.  
    
Listen to what a guy from Texas thinks: “Tuesday’s cap and trade bill marks a triumph of fear over good sense and science and it couldn’t come at a worse time because it proposes to save the planet by sacrificing the economy,” said Representative Joe Barton, the senior Republican on the energy and commerce panel.
 
In a cap and trade system, power plants and other industries would need permits for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit. Unused permits could be sold to other companies, but overall emissions would gradually drop.
    
Under the proposal that uses 2005 as a base year, U.S. carbon emissions would have to be reduced by 20 percent by 2020, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050. Those goals are a tad more aggressive than what President Barack Obama had proposed.
    
Now let the games begin. Very few seem ready to predict when a climate change bill will pass but most say it won’t be this year — especially if Democrats in Congress decide to give Obama’s health care plans the priority.
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So there certainly will be a lot more talk, much of it heated. And one other thing is for certain: each yearly delay will mean the United States, as the world’s largest emitter, will spew another 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

For more Environment News, click here.

Photo Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer (The Empire State building in New York turned off its lights on March 28 at 8:30 pm local time, joining homes, office towers and landmarks in more than 80 countries that signed up for Earth Hour to raise awareness about climate change); Reuters/Chris Baltimore (An aerial photograph of a power plant in Georgia)

from Global Investing:

Deflation to jump the shark?

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The recent spate of shark attacks on Australian beaches could mark a turning point in global deflation and signal a change in fortunes for some beleaguered emerging economies, if Nomura strategist Sean Darby is to be believed.

Speaking at a Nomura investors forum, Darby said a chance sighting of a shark on Sydney's famed Bondi Beach three weeks ago made him realise that prices of grain and other soft commodities -- punished of late by global recession fears -- could be due for a rebound.