July 29, 2004

Let's Make Money Out Of Methane, Pardners!

John Howard awakes today to find that his most persistent wet dream has finally become a reality. On a day when crude oil prices hit a 20-year high, the United States says it is joining with Australia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Britain and Ukraine to develop the methane market.

Under the plan, "methane emissions would be harvested by industrial nations and sold to poorer countries". Somehow, according to US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, purchasing this methane is supposed to "benefit the economies of developing nations across the world."

Methane harvesting supports the existing oil cartels because it relies on continued exploitation of fossil fuels. Howard and others have long campaigned for this option rather than spending money on alternative energy options.

Let's have a quick look at some track records here:

Since the conservative government of Prime Minister John Howard came to power in 1996, it has cut major energy research initiatives into renewable technologies and energy efficiency. In 1997 the Energy Research and Development Corporation was abolished, while in 2002 an application to renew funding for the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy was rejected.

Funding for the Australian Greenhouse Office, once the government’s flagship program, has recently been wound back, and the agency has been directed to abandon work on carbon trading initiatives. A month ago, a review of mandatory renewable energy targets balked at increasing the goal beyond the current two percent of energy to be generated from renewables by 2020.

While government policy and funding support for renewable energy and energy efficiency has been scaled back, the fossil fuel industry preferred option - including methane harvesting - has been embraced with enthusiasm. Howard, who considers Australia's largest producer of methane a personal friend, refuses to sign the Kyoto treaty.

Despite a 2000 election campaign pledge, the Bush administration has also opposed restrictions of carbon dioxide emissions, the industrial gas most cited by scientists for warming the atmosphere like a greenhouse. Bush's "Clear Skies" initiative actually pollutes the skies. Bush withdrew the USA from the Kyoto treaty.

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