Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Judgment Day

Consider these statistics and ponder for a moment whether there is a need to celebrate Earth Day. In under 8 years the price of oil has increase over 600%, from 27 Dollars in 2000 to USD117 per barrel on the 22nd April 2008. Likewise the price of metal, in particular steel has continued to climb, and recent reports of changes in the prices of maize, rice and wheat has prompted many producer countries to restrict export in those commodities for fear of lack of internal supply which may lead to internal unrest. According to press reports the cost of maize has gone up by 20% in just 12 months, reasons being the increased cost of fuel, substantial increases in the cost of fertilizer ,and of course increasing demand by the bio-fuels market. According to the International Grain Council, wheat stocks are at their lowest level for 25 years and exports are being controlled. Rice has also faced a number of export controls in the last few months.

The Earth is on the edge of a global food crisis which may in turn lead to civil unrest and global political instability and we are still meeting in conferences - it is time for discernible action. Some argue that rising consumption in Asia is placing pressure on the oil, metal and food markets, and in the US and Europe demand for bio-fuels is on the increase as measures to reduce greenhouse gases are implemented.

Somehow, the issue keeps coming back to oil- the 20th century addiction. Climate Change skepticism aside, it is evident that our dependency on oil is not only unsustainable but also presents a number of basic human and national security risks - that of food and safety. Promoting consumption and finding close substitutes for oil ( such as biofuels)  are clearly non-viable economic solutions. It is evident that we need to move towards a decarbonised economy and one in which the real costs of consumption are conveyed to the consumer. Such movements are known to stimulate innovation and further growth, not recession. Above all, such innovations can be extended to emerging nations and also nations still plagued by poverty.

Rich nations have recently announced billions of dollars to bail out banking institutions, the more we wait the higher the cost of the humanitarian bail-out.