Monday, December 27, 2004


Some new, and perhaps unfamiliar, names appeared on my blogroll when it was updated recently. One is Thomas Homer-Dixon, who anybody familiar with the work of Robert Kaplan, especially The Coming Anarchy, will probably already know.

The Canadian academic ran the largest study yet undertaken, godfathered by the then Vice-President Al Gore, on the potential for environmental problems to cause international war and civil unrest. He's particularly dismissive of the water-wars meme, concluding that, by and large, that causes and effects are more complex and unpredictable than those ever-reliable and objective people in the environmental movement predict. His work, as shown in this case-study of Chiapas, is one reason that I put little confidence in predictions of oil wars or the more recent Bare Branches line of argument that unmarried men will constitute a severe security problem for Asia.

He also co-wrote an interesting article in the current Foreign Affairs. making an optimistic forecast for the clean coal and carbon sequestration technologies that attained an unprecedented prominence during this year's presidential race.
carbon sequestration will add only an incremental cost—roughly five to ten percent—to today’s energy sources. The carbon dioxide of most of today’s emitters, such as coal-fired power plants, could then be captured, lowering emissions dramatically without affecting energy consumption. The technology is already available. The integrated gasified combined cycle (IGCC) coal-fired power plant crushes coal and mixes it with steam to make a hot combustible fluid called “syngas,” stripping out sulfur, mercury, and other toxic pollutants. When syngas is consumed, it releases large amounts of electric power, hydrogen, and a
stream of carbon dioxide suitable for capture and geologic storage. If the emissions are sequestered, the IGCC becomes a zero-emission plant. Coal-power generation has never looked so sexy