Posted on 02/23/2013 by Juan Cole
The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh says that it wants to develop Agra as a solar city in part so as to save the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal, a Moghul monument built to commemorate the Indian queen Mumtaz Mahall by her grief-stricken widower, Emperor Shahjahan, was completed in the middle of the 1600s and is in my view the most beautiful building in the world. It just floats there, and everyone should see it once in a lifetime.
The Moghuls had access to marble from Rajasthan, but in recent decades air pollution in the gritty industrial city of Agra has turned the marble yellow and threatens it with acid erosion.
Renewable energy– wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric– has many advantages, especially that of reducing the dangers attendant on climate change produced by carbon dioxide emissions. But just preserving us from the bad environmental effects of coal-burning plants is underestimated as among their main benefits. Coal produces acid rain, high mercury emissions (a nerve poison) and causes lung diseases and cancer.
India is planning to install 20 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity by 2022.
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Posted on 05/08/2012 by Juan Cole
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in India on Monday that New Delhi can reduce its oil imports from Iran further, pressuring that country to fall in line with unilateral US sanctions and Washington’s virtual blockade on the sale of Iranian petroleum. India, however, pushed back, saying it would maintain its trade ties with Iran. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered an offset to his disappointing message to Clinton, however, pledging that he would open up ownership of retail businesses to foreign firms (at the moment retailers have to be 51% Indian-owned). US retail corporations are eager to get into the Indian market. I apologize for citing the tabloid Daily Mail here, but actually its story is much better and more thorough than most American outlets, who don’t mention that Singh told the Secretary of State “no” on Iran. The USA Today actually spoke about Iran’s “nuclear arms program” (which Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says does not exist).
Also yesterday, a major Iranian trade delegation was in India, seeking to boost Iranian imports from India to $6 billion a year. Some Indian firms are afraid, but many see a rare opportunity here to expand their exports to Iran, filling the vacuum created by the increasing US and European Union trade boycott with that country. Those that are oriented in their trade to domestic markets or the rest of Asia might be especially bold in this regard.
Indian state-owned insurers are also stepping up to help insure the Iran-India oil shipping in the face of reluctance on the part of Western insurers.
So as to avoid having to use the international banking system, which the US Departments of State and the Treasury are bullying into declining to handle Iranian oil sales, Iran will accept rupees for much of its oil exports, and then recycle them back into India to purchase imports. The two are talking about trade in “agro and allied products, pharmaceuticals, engineering, shipping, banking, petroleum products polymer, textile, as well as e-commerce.”
Biased Western news outlets keep trumpeting that Iranian exports have fallen, presumably to shore up support for the unlikely idea that the US can unilaterally wish extra millions of oil onto world markets. Few bother to mention that they have fallen in the first two quarters of 2012 primarily because of an Iranian dispute with China over payment terms, delaying Chinese imports. But that dispute has been resolved. China’s oil imports are expected to rise 5% this year, and China will be back to importing a lot of Iranian petroleum soon. The Chinese are also about to deliver a new supertanker to Iran, the first of 12, which will increase Iran’s delivery fleet. And, Iran will accept Renminbi in payment for oil imported by China.
Alok Bansal has an excellent overview of Iran’s importance to India, and explains why Clinton’s pressure on PM Singh will almost certainly largely fail.
1. Iran is India’s gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Caspian Basin and the Caucausus since it is otherwise geographically blocked from these areas by Pakistan and China, its longstanding rivals. Some of these regions are resource rich, some are potential markets for Indian goods, and some are geostrategically important to India, a rising Asian power.
(modified from this site)
2. India’s Shiite Muslims and even Sunni Muslims reject the US boycott of Iran, and the ruling Congress Party has Muslims as one of its constituencies
3. India is growing rapidly economically and has very little in the way of hydrocarbons itself, and so is very thirsty for Iranian oil and gas.
Note that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are already pumping an extra 2.5 million barrels a day over what they were doing last year, and prices, while softening a bit on US and European slowdowns, are still historically high, suggesting that it will be very difficult for China and India to replace Iranian petroleum. The Sudan crisis has taken some supply off the markets and it could last a while.
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Posted on 04/27/2012 by Juan Cole
Pepe Escobar writes at Tomdispatch.com:
A History of the World, BRIC by BRIC
Neoliberal Dragons, Eurasian Wet Dreams, and Robocop Fantasies
By Pepe Escobar
Goldman Sachs — via economist Jim O’Neill — invented the concept of a rising new bloc on the planet: BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). Some cynics couldn’t help calling it the “Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept.”
Not really. Goldman now expects the BRICS countries to account for almost 40% of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, and to include four of the world’s top five economies.
Soon, in fact, that acronym may have to expand to include Turkey, Indonesia, South Korea and, yes, nuclear Iran: BRIIICTSS? Despite its well-known problems as a nation under economic siege, Iran is also motoring along as part of the N-11, yet another distilled concept. (It stands for the next 11 emerging economies.)
The multitrillion-dollar global question remains: Is the emergence of BRICS a signal that we have truly entered a new multipolar world?
Yale’s canny historian Paul Kennedy (of “imperial overstretch” fame) is convinced that we either are about to cross or have already crossed a “historical watershed” taking us far beyond the post-Cold War unipolar world of “the sole superpower.” There are, argues Kennedy, four main reasons for that: the slow erosion of the U.S. dollar (formerly 85% of global reserves, now less than 60%), the “paralysis of the European project,” Asia rising (the end of 500 years of Western hegemony), and the decrepitude of the United Nations.
The Group of Eight (G-8) is already increasingly irrelevant. The G-20, which includes the BRICS, might, however, prove to be the real thing. But there’s much to be done to cross that watershed rather than simply be swept over it willy-nilly: the reform of the U.N. Security Council, and above all, the reform of the Bretton Woods system, especially those two crucial institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
On the other hand, willy-nilly may prove the way of the world. After all, as emerging superstars, the BRICS have a ton of problems. True, in only the last seven years Brazil has added 40 million people as middle-class consumers; by 2016, it will have invested another $900 billion — more than a third of its GDP — in energy and infrastructure; and it’s not as exposed as some BRICS members to the imponderables of world trade, since its exports are only 11% of GDP, even less than the U.S.
Still, the key problem remains the same: lack of good management, not to mention a swamp of corruption. Brazil’s brazen new monied class is turning out to be no less corrupt than the old, arrogant, comprador elites that used to run the country.
In India, the choice seems to be between manageable and unmanageable chaos. The corruption of the country’s political elite would make Shiva proud. Abuse of state power, nepotistic control of contracts related to infrastructure, the looting of mineral resources, real estate property scandals — they’ve got it all, even if India is not a Hindu Pakistan. Not yet anyway.
Since 1991, “reform” in India has meant only one thing: unbridled commerce and getting the state out of the economy. Not surprisingly then, nothing is being done to reform public institutions, which are a scandal in themselves. Efficient public administration? Don’t even think about it. In a nutshell, India is a chaotic economic dynamo and yet, in some sense, not even an emerging power, not to speak of a superpower.
Russia, too, is still trying to find the magic mix, including a competent state policy to exploit the country’s bounteous natural resources, extraordinary space, and impressive social talent. It must modernize fast as, apart from Moscow and St. Petersburg, relative social backwardness prevails. Its leaders remain uneasy about neighboring China (aware that any Sino-Russian alliance would leave Russia as a distinctly junior partner). They are distrustful of Washington, anxious over the depopulation of their eastern territories, and worried about the cultural and religious alienation of their Muslim population.
Then again the Putinator is back as president with his magic formula for modernization: a strategic German-Russian partnership that will benefit the power elite/business oligarchy, but not necessarily the majority of Russians.
Dead in the Woods
The post-World War II Bretton Woods system is now officially dead, totally illegitimate, but what are the BRICS planning to do about it?
At their summit in New Delhi in late March, they pushed for the creation of a BRICS development bank that could invest in infrastructure and provide them with back-up credit for whatever financial crises lie down the road. The BRICS know perfectly well that Washington and the European Union (EU) will never relinquish control of the IMF and the World Bank. Nonetheless, trade among these countries will reach an impressive $500 billion by 2015, mostly in their own currencies.
Keep reading A Full Spectrum Confrontation World? (Escobar)
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Posted on 04/20/2012 by Juan Cole
Posted on 02/14/2012 by Juan Cole
India has suffered from both Hindu and Muslim terrorist groups. So the attack on an automobile outside the Israeli embassy in New Delhi could easily have been carried out by an Indian group. Israel’s government, a master of spin and propaganda, immediately blamed the bombing on Iran and Hizbullah. But there is no evidence for this cynical allegation, which makes no sense. India is Iran’s economic lifeline, and Tehran would not likely risk such an operation at this time.
India gets 12% of its oil from Iran and sees an $8 billion annual export opportunity in filling the trade vacuum left by unilateral US and European boycotts of Iran. Contrary to a bad Reuters article, Indian officials denied Tuesday that the bombing would affect trade ties. (Logical because no evidence points to Iran.)
Indian investigators are first rate. Based on the modus operandi, their initial thesis is that the attack was the work of the “Indian Mujahidin” group. It had used a similar remote controlled sticky bomb, placed by a motorcyclist, in an attack on Taiwanese tourists outside the Jama Masjid cathedral mosque in 2010. IM is a Sunni group, not connected to Iran, and doesn’t like Shiite Muslims (Iranians are Shiites). IM like other Sunni radicals support the Palestinians and they are unhappy with increasingly close ties between India and Israel.
American media that just parrot notorious thug, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in this unlikely allegation are allowing themselves to be used for propaganda. Why not interview Indian authorities on this matter? They are on the ground and have excellent forensic (“CSI”) abilities. Stop being so lazy and blinkered; that isn’t journalism.
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Posted in India, Israel/ Palestine, Uncategorized | Comments
Posted on 02/09/2012 by Juan Cole
Renewable energy is often thought of as an initiative of advanced, sane countries such as Portugal and Germany. But there is another arena where green energy is making an impact– on the lives of the world’s poorest populations, in the global South. For them, it is not a luxury or prudent planning for the future or a dutiful attempt to save the planet from the looming catastrophe of climate change fueled by humans pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Rather, it is a way of solving their present, low-tech energy crisis.
Kevin Bullis explains that many villagers use expensive kerosene for cooking and heating, and to fuel lamps for light. Cell phones have spread rapidly in Africa and Asia (where often there is no grid of copper wires or underground fiber optic cables and so mobile phone towers allow them to leapfrog to a newer technology). But given that many villagers do not have electricity, they have to take their phones to private charging centers and pay an arm and a leg for the recharging.
Both kerosene and the private charging stands can be replaced right now, in the present, with cheaper solar batteries. For light, solar-powered light-emitting diode (LED) panels are much cheaper than light bulbs powered by burning kerosene.
Even the Economist agrees that for the 1.6 billion human beings not already connected to the electrical grid, renewable energy is now cheaper for them than carbon-fueled electricity. Kenyan families, for instance, pay $10 a month for kerosene, and $2 a month to charge their cell phones. A British company is now allowing them to buy via an installment plan a solar set that costs them less than $12 a month, so that in 18 months they will own it. They can then, if they like, take some of their savings and get a larger solar set with more power generating ability.
In India, too, the poorest are getting access to solar cells. Since 2007, India has doubled its green power ability, from 10 gigawatts to 22 gigawatts. It may be investing more in research on renewable energy than any other nation. In 2011, India put $10 billion into this sector.
Likewise, Nicaragua’s commitment to green energy is such that that Central American country is hoping to get almost all its electricity from renewables by 2016. Admittedly, it will accomplish a good deal of this goal with a traditional hydro-electric generating plant rather than primarily with wind and solar. But the latter are an important part of the energy mix in Nicaragua. Going green is not only cheaper than increasingly expensive oil, but has other benefits as well. It discourages villagers from burning down the forest for wood to burn.
It is likely that the cost of solar power generation will cross with that of hydrocarbons sometime in the next 5-10 years, even for the advanced countries. Because they dont’ have a built-out grid and because even an electric light is expensive for them, the villagers of the global South are pioneers of the new, renewable world.
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Posted on 11/06/2011 by Juan Cole
The spike in carbon emissions in 2010, a 6% increase over 2009, was so humongous that the scientists measuring it initially thought that there must have been a mistake somewhere in the measurements.
Tom Boden, head of the Department of Energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center in Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, is quoted by AFP: “It’s big… Our data go back to 1751, even before the Industrial Revolution. Never before have we seen a 500-million-metric-ton carbon increase in a single year.” 512 million metric tons, to be precise.
Well, if it hasn’t been done since 1751, it has never been done by human beings. The last time this happened was 55 to 40 million years ago, in the Eocene. When India went plowing into Asia and threw up the Himalayas, the impact heated up the crust and released massive amounts of carbon dioxide. That happened, likely, over a long period of time, but the effect was an increase in the average surface temperature of the earth of 4-5 degrees Celsius. Antarctica became a tropical jungle.
While the increase is disheartening, it isn’t surprising. It was clear that the amazing Chinese economic engine was chugging along at its usual brisk pace last year. The US recovered somewhat from 2008–2009. And India had good growth last year, in common with Asian countries that are recovering from 2008 more quickly than the US and Europe because they were not so stupid as to deregulate their banks or mortgage markets.
But what struck me in the figures was that India came in just behind the United States in extra emissions over the previous year at 48 million metric tons of carbon. The US produced 59 million MT more, and China a dragon-sized 212 million. Of the 512 million MT increase over the previous year, those three countries were responsible for about 3/5s of it!
India is an enormous country with over a billion people, but its relatively high carbon footprint comes from getting much of its electricity from coal. It is the fourth largest producer of carbon emissions in the world, but working toward third.
Coal India is the largest producer of coal in the world, and has mined out the subcontinent to the point where it is looking abroad for further fields.
They should be made to look into wind turbines and solar panels instead. India has 15 gigawatts of installed wind turbine capacity already, making it the fifth country in the world for wind power. But it is estimated that its on-shore wind generation capacity at current technology is 65 gigawatts. Obviously, India would have a lot of potential for offshore wind and of wave generation of electricity, being surrounded by water on three sides.
India has also committed to building up its solar power generation capabilities rapidly, hoping to produce 20 gigawatts from solar by 2020 (from almost zero today). If it follows through on this plan, India would be producing 1/8 of its electricity from solar by that year.
At this point, the trillion-dollar question is how bad the tropical climate of five hundred years from now will be (the oceans warm up very slowly so massive climate change won’t be immediate), and whether we’ll lose 1/6 or 1/3 of the current dry land.
I already find India hard to take in the summers, and I don’t think it will be good for Indian agriculture if the average temperature increases dramatically. Models suggest that climate change will cause the interior of continents to become arid, something that could happen to India. Some think India’s wheat crop in the Punjab will be devastated.
The rude burp of carbon that the industrial nations spewed forth last year should galvanize everyone on emissions. It is a clear signal that business as usual is unacceptable if we are to avoid ending up poached. The US and China built their grids and facilities for hydrocarbons, and the US business elites are detached from reality and so are mostly useless on this issue. India has a chance to do things right. The government still has a lot of power there over economic developments, and pushing Coal India to become Wind and Solar India in short order is absolutely essential.
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