Month: May 2014

The Diplomat: On Buddhist Extremism

Southeast Asia is not particularly a major interest of mine.  What I found amusing about this article from the Asian news magazine The Diplomat is how it refutes the idea commonly heard among Westerners that Buddhism is somehow this uniquely peaceful religion.

The reality is that Buddhism in the West and Buddhism in Asia have about as much in common as Chinese food here in America and real Chinese food.

Brookings Lecture: Discussion on the Russian Gas Markets

The Brookings Institute held a discussion today about the future of Russian gas markets and Gazprom, especially in the aftermath of the Russia-China deal. I have a summary of some of the topics which the energy experts discussed during today’s meeting below, but there is one thing I want to focus on in particular: namely, the idea that somehow America is capable of driving out Russian natural gas.

Ever since the Ukraine crisis began a few months ago, a common refrain of discussion has been the idea that the American shale gas boom can help America supplant Russian natural gas.  Russia is the main supplier of natural gas to Europe, but given its political relations with Western Europe, the idea is that America could become an alternative source of energy, one which is not beholden to autocratic interests like Putin’s Russia.  But as oil and gas experts have noted, including the group leading the discussion today, the idea of America saving Western democracy with natural gas is utterly infeasible.


China-Russia sign a gas deal worth $270 billion.

Reuters and other new sites today are reporting that China and Russian company Gazprom are on the verge of finalizing a natural gas deal that would be signed tomorrow. This deal would see Russia export 38 billion cubic meters/year to China at a price of about $350-400 per 1000 cubic meters. That amount would be about a quarter of China’s current natural gas consumption. China’s demand for gas has grown exponentially over the years, increasing nine fold since the turn of the century. And while China’s domestic production is expected to make a leap over 2014 and 2015 from 200 million to 6.5 billion cubic meters as I observed in an earlier post, it is nowhere near enough to power its growing economy. Yet despite the fact that China will need gas more than ever in the future, China and Russia have chosen to sign an agreement now, and President Vladimir Putin will be flying to China to ensure the deal is done.


Ideology is making America stupid

Citing Mr. Schindler once again on the powerful and corrupting effects of ideology

The XX Committee

That there is something wrong with the United States – its politics, its economy, its culture, its interactions with the rest of the world – seems to be widely acknowledged by most Americans today. Poll after poll indicates a profound discomfort with the direction of American society, for myriad reasons. While people on the Left and Right will disagree about what exactly is wrong, and particularly what might be done about it, there’s a lot of consensus that the United States has hit a rather rocky patch, and that our venerable two-party system isn’t doing a very good job of ameliorating what’s going wrong. Indeed, our political system seems to many Americans, including this one, to be one of the larger aspects of the problem.

My colleague Tom Nichols has highlighted how the spreading disdain for actual experts and their expertise undermines public efforts at debating knotty problems, where the…

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Some short facts on China’s rise in non-renewable consumption.

Two weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report which discussed the dire effects of climate change as well as the failure of governments across the nation to actually do anything about it. Among things discussed in the IPCC report was the fact that rising middle-income nations like China are the biggest contributors to new greenhouse emissions.

Well, the IPCC certainly will not be feeling better about new Chinese efforts to increase its coal production. This is not to say that China has been totally negligent in its desire to pursue renewables. China has been investing a great deal in renewable energy over the past year, with some reports stating that almost 60% of new Chinese energy capacity is in renewables. But the reality is that while the percentages may be in favor of renewables, dirty, polluting coal remains the primary energy source for China. Renewables simply do not represent a viable short or medium term alternative coal.

So, China’s use of coal will continue to grow. China is currently discussing with Turkey a possible $10-12 billion investment into the Afsin-Elbistan coal field, and is expected to increase coal generation from 36 Gigawatts (Gw) in 2014 to 47 Gw in 2017. Meanwhile, shale gas in China is also expected to grow by leaps and bounds, jumping from 200 million cubic feet currently to as much as 6.5 billlion in 2015.  Perhaps the percentages may be favoring renewables for the long-term.  But if climate change is as dangerous as the IPCC makes it out to be, Earth does not care about percentages, it cares about the flat rate of emissions.