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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
  Future war: Russia vs Canada vs Denmark
By Yokota Fritz 
Don't laugh; Russia, Canada, and Denmark are all moving to claim big portions of the Arctic Ocean -- including the North Pole -- for future oil exploration and recovery as global warming melts the permanent sea ice in the frozen north.

An underwater feature called the Lomonosov Ridge extends from Russia's New Siberian Islands, across the North Pole and to Canada's Ellesmere Island. Denmark is working to prove that this oceanic ridge is actually an extension of Greenland. Each nation claims that the ridge is an extension of its continental shelf. According to the UN Convention on Law of the Sea, a nation has exclusive rights to the resources that lie on the continental shelf that extends from the nation.

Russia is sending an expedition to the North Pole to send a minisub to plant a flag on the ridge and backs it claim for ownership of the ridge.

Canada, in response, ordered C$7 billion in new military equipment and facilities to assert Canada's claim on Arctic resources. "The ongoing discovery of the north's resource riches, coupled with the potential impact of climate change, has made the region a growing area of interest and concern," said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic. We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this government intends to use it."

Denmark, in the meantime, is working with the Canadians to prove that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Greenland (a Danish territory) and Ellesmere Island. The Danes are hopeful that international cooperation and treaties will prevail.

Canada's new Arctic warships won't be ready until 2012. With renewing belligerence between Russia, Western Europe, and the United States, how long will it be before Canada and Denmark request American assistance in asserting their claims to Arctic mineral resources? Is continued easy motoring really worth going up against a nuclear power?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007
  Nanotech and energy research
By Yokota Fritz 
One of my old high school friends, Suzanne, is an engineer for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. She is in town for Nanotech 2007, so we got together to catch up on old times.

Her department's interest in nanotech is twofold: There's research in using nanotechnology for hazardous waste cleanup, and the nanotech industry itself has its own hazardous materials issues.

More interesting to my friend, however, is the tremendous interest at the conference on using nanotech for energy issues. The keynote speaker at this conference is Shell Oil President John Hofmeister. A great many vendors are apparently investigating nanotech for use in oil extraction, "clean energy", hydrogen manufacture and storage, fuel cells, and gassification.

Suzanne also talked about the multiple detrimental effects of replacing MTBE as an oxygenator with ethanol. I'll post more later, but she touched on the net carbon footprint of using ethanol for energy as well as the effects of using ethanol in gasoline on groundwater pollution.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007
  NYC to drill for oil in Central Park
By Yokota Fritz 
NYC Parks employees discovered oil seeping to surface through the grass at Sheep Meadow in Central Park. Upon the discovery, Mayor Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe quickly approved some exploratory drilling and geological analysis. The results appear to be very encouraging for anyone worried about gas prices.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn quickly embraced the continued drilling and exploitation of this new megafield, citing the many programs around the city that this could help fund, like eliminating tolls on all bridges & tunnels, abolishing parking meters and reducing other fees that city drivers face. "It's time to give something back to the city's oppressed automobile drivers and this new oil field will help us reduce the burden on these hard working New Yorkers who fight traffic everyday". Quinn added "it's time to rethink the City as a place that welcomes automobiles, instead of discourages them. People want more cars on our streets and we should support them by making it as easy as possible instead of pandering to pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit rider who only complain about poor safety conditions and are never satisfied."

While for many this was seen as a great new source of revenue for the city, many in the area complained that it would ruin a historic park. "Drilling for oil in Central Park will ruin the neighborhood and destroy the vision of an urban oasis set forth by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux," a resident of Fifth Avenue protested as she drove through the park in her Ford Expedition.

Read more at the Oil Drum.


More good news on global warming comes to us from RealClimate, which reports on new research from the New Zealand Institute of Veterinary Climatology that shows a statistical inverse relationship between the sheep population in New Zealand and global temperatures. The statistical analysis shows that as the numbers of sheep have dropped in New Zealand, world temperatures have increased. Researchers hypothesize that the increased albedo of land that is no longer covered in sheep results in less solar energy radiating back out to space.

There is in fact an important destabilizing feedback in the system: as climate gets warmer, there is less demand for wool sweaters and wooly underwear. Hence the sheep population tends to drop, leading to even more warming. In an extreme form, this can lead to a "runaway sheep-albedo feedback," which is believed to have led to the present torrid climate of Venus. Read more at RealClimate.org.

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Friday, February 09, 2007
  Global Warming X Prize
By Yokota Fritz 
Billionaire Richard Branson is offering $25 million for anyone who can remove at least a billion tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere. Read more at the Washington Post. Goofy commentary at Slashdot.

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