The Maldives want to Tax Tourists to become Carbon Neutral

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 7th, 2012

Week in Review

The Maldives is an archipelago about 1 meter above sea level in the Indian Ocean off India.  It’s a tropical paradise that survives on tourism.  Now they want to tax their tourists to become carbon neutral.  Despite the fact that tourists fly in to these islands on big polluting airplanes (see Maldives eyes $100 million tourist tax for CO2 plan by Nina Chestney, Reuters, posted 7/7/2012 on MSNBC).

A voluntary tax on tourists who visit the luxury resorts and white sands of the Maldives could raise up to $100 million a year towards the country’s aim to become carbon neutral by 2020, President Mohamed Waheed said…

“We have proposed the idea of a voluntary fund for air travelers coming to the Maldives. Even if each tourist contributed $10, that’s $10 million (a year) for us and a substantial contribution to the carbon neutral program,” he told Reuters this week…

The Maldives is reliant on imported fuel, like diesel, to generate electricity, which is estimated to have cost its economy around $240 million last year.

I’m not sure how that math works.  The voluntary tax could raise up to $100 million.  Or $10 million.  Which means they have from 1 million to 10 million tourists each year.  Based on an approximate seating capacity of 500, that’s 2,000 to 20,000 roundtrips for a Boeing 747-400.  Or from 6 to 55 per day.  At the low end that’s a 747-400 landing or taking off every 2 hours each day.  That’s a lot of carbon.  Which they can’t get rid of.  Unless they give up their tourist industry.  And “75-80 percent” of their economy.

It has now embarked on a $1.1-billion plan to generate 60 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020. Around 50 percent would come from solar photovoltaic power and the remaining 10 percent from wind energy and biofuels, Waheed said.

The country is rapidly trying to introduce solar in the capital Male and three islands which make up the greater Male area, covering about a third of the population.

It has plans to install about 2-3 megawatts (MW) of solar in the Male area but it would probably need 40 MW to meet electricity demand.

Interesting.  They’re going to replace 50% of their electrical capacity with 2-3 MW of photovoltaic power.  Which is only about 7.5% of the 40 MW they want to replace.  Of course the capacity factor of what they’re replacing, diesel-generated electricity, is about 90%.  While they’ll be lucky to get a 30% capacity factor from their solar cells.  Reducing that 3 MW to 0.9 MW.  Or about 2.3% of that 40 MW they’re replacing with it.  Which means their diesel generators will keep running.  Or there will be nothing but romantic moon-filled and candle-lit evenings.  And cool ocean breezes.  Even in their hospitals.

Perhaps they could find something better to spend that $1.1-billion on.


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Oil and Natural Gas in East Africa are Bringing the Chinese and other Nations to Africa

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 1st, 2012

Week in Review

The developed nations are falling in love with East Africa.  Why?  Because they have oil literally oozing out of the ground.  And enormous natural gas deposits are under the waters off Tanzania and Mozambique.  The kind they measure using the word ‘trillion’.  This energy bonanza is drawing the developed nations to East Africa to bring these resources to market.  And into their economies (see Oil and gas are the new African queens by Emily Gosden posted 7/1/2012 on The Telegraph).

“In the space of a few years, East Africa has become a feeding ground for most of the world’s oil majors, which have sniffed our resources of oil and gas on a truly gargantuan scale,” wrote Malcolm Graham-Wood, oil analyst at VSA Capital, in a recent note. And in the world of oil and gas where, as he puts it, “if you find it, they will come”, those gargantuan reserves are the key.

“It’s been known there’s oil here for 100 years,” Laurie Hunter, chief executive of explorer Madagascar Oil says. “It actually seeps out on the surface in places.”

But with exploratory drilling consistently exceeding expectations, the geology of East Africa is proving to be even better than once thought.

FTSE 100 explorer Tullow Oil began drilling by Lake Albert in Uganda in 2006 – the first well there since 1938. It has drilled 45 wells to date; 43 of them have hit hydrocarbons. The company says it believes the Lake Albert rift basin is a “a major hydrocarbon province in its own right”, with resources as high as 1.1bn barrels. French oil major Total and Chinese CNOOC have paid $2.9bn to buy into Tullow’s stakes…

But while the oil discoveries look transformational – for all involved – it is gas that is causing the most excitement. In the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean, off the coasts of Tanzania and Mozambique, gas discoveries are estimated to stand at more than 100 trillion cubic feet (tcf). Potential resources are significantly higher. By way of context, the UK’s entire annual natural gas consumption in 2010 was 3.3tcf…

But it’s not just the geology that makes East Africa so exciting – it’s also the geography. “Conveniently,” Mr Graham-Wood notes, East Africa’s gas “faces the lucrative markets of India and the Far East and is now a truly valuable commodity”.

The gas will be cooled into liquefied natural gas (LNG) so it can be shipped to Asia. Gas consumption jumped 21.5pc in China and 11.6pc in Japan in 2011, according to BP data…

Exploiting the reserves in East Africa is not without its challenges, as Mr Joyner notes from a recent visit to Mozambique. “There are no roads and you have to fly everywhere on dodgy twin-props.”

China has been particularly busy in Africa.  Building a lot of infrastructure.  In an infrastructure-starved continent.  Out of the goodness of their heart.  Unlike the colonial powers of times past.  And I’m sure it’s just coincidental that enormous natural gas reserves are located so close to China.  Just begging to find their way into that Chinese economy.  Where gas consumption has jumped 21.5% in 2011.  No, I’m sure that hasn’t a thing to do with their interest in Africa.  Even though they’re investing in the energy industry in Africa.

As the developed nations buy these resources it should bring money into the private economies of East Africa.  Or create them if they don’t yet exist.  Creating jobs.  A middle class.  And hopefully a stable society.  Complete with all the middle class institutions and the rule of law.  Raising the standard of living for all in East Africa.  By using the revenue from their energy sales to build an infrastructure in an infrastructure-starved continent.  Preferably one that favors their needs and not the Chinese.  Or the other nations flocking to East Africa.


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Wells, Cesspools, Night Soil, 1854 Broad Street Cholera Outbreak, Fresh Water, Sanitation, 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 10th, 2012

History 101

Overflowing Cesspools in 1854 London led to a Cholera Outbreak along Broad Street

People eat and drink.  And, as a consequence, they poop and pee.  This made moving into cities a little more complicated than living in the country.  Or on a farm.  Where you drilled a well for your drinking water.  And built an outhouse (or privy) to do your business in.  Basically a small structure over a hole in the ground to provide a little privacy while you contemplated world affairs.  You kept the two separated so your business didn’t seep into the water table that fed your well.  As people moved into cities they brought their poop and pee with them.  Obviously.  And before plumbing and sanitary sewer systems people used chamber pots and dumped them out of their windows after using them.  Or built cesspits (or cesspools) to store their human waste.  Under their houses.  Where the liquid would leach into the ground.  While the solids broke down.  As the pile of the remaining solid waste grew men came around at night to remove this ‘night soil’.  Which they turned into fertilizer.

There were drawbacks with this, though.  For human waste is full of disease-causing pathogens.  Which made it a little risky to use as fertilizer.  Worse were these disease-causing pathogens leaching into our drinking water.  Which it did in London.  In 1854.  In the Soho district of London.  Where the new sanitary sewers did not yet reach.  On Broad Street.  That ran along the River Thames.  Where the water table is relatively high.  So when you drill a well you don’t have to go too deep.  Or you could get your water directly from the River Thames.  As the city’s population grew more and more people packed into houses.  Greatly increasing the production of human waste.  Quickly filling the cesspools beneath their homes.  And as they filled to capacity they overflowed.  And leached into that high water table.  And into the River Thames.   Which took in this burgeoning growth of disease-causing pathogens.

But then people start getting sick.  A lot of them even dying.  From a nasty outbreak of cholera.  Spread by disease-causing pathogens.  Back then people thought ‘bad air’ caused cholera to spread.  As well as other diseases.  Something John Snow refused to believe.  So he studied the pattern of deaths.  And he found a common factor.  The people who were dying drew their water from the public pump on Broad Street.  Determining that the source of the cholera outbreak wasn’t ‘bad air’.  But bad water.  Coming from that pump.  Contaminated from those overflowing cesspools.  Such that people were drinking their own waste.  This marked a new beginning in public health.  And public sanitation.  Perhaps the greatest of public goods that allows people to live in crowded cities.

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami took out the Systems that kept Wastewater from Contaminating Fresh Drinking Water 

As cities and regions became more populated this balancing act of fresh water and sanitation became more critical.  Where fresh water flowed into our homes and wastewater flowed out and into the sanitary sewer system.  And on to the wastewater treatment plant.  Where treatment made the water safe to reenter the ecosystem.  And our drinking water supplies.  If all the pieces worked well the water flowed in only one direction.  Towards the wastewater treatment plant.  But if something should happen to interrupt or reverse that flow the wastewater would contaminate our drinking water.  And, sadly, something often happens.  Events that damage the infrastructure that manages that flow.  Such as war.  Earthquakes.  And tsunamis.

An earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, December 26, 2004, created a massive tsunami.  Sending walls of water as high as 50 feet crashing into Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and other coastal regions surrounding the Indian Ocean.  The damage these waves caused was devastating.   The advancing water just swept away communities on the shore.  After the waves receded more than 150,000 were dead or missing.  Millions were homeless.  In a hot and humid climate.  Where corpses everywhere began to decompose.  And injured people with open wounds invited infection.  As bad as the horror of that day was there might be worse yet to come.  For the conditions were perfect for pandemic disease.  For included in that destruction was the infrastructure that managed that water flow to wastewater treatment plants.

This was the greatest fear.  The tsunami waves wiped out the electrical grids that powered the pumps that maintained that water flow.  So the wastewater backed up into the drinking water.  Dense populations in tropical conditions with no fresh drinking water available to drink and with raw sewage backing up into the streets spelled a world of trouble.  Because people need to eat and drink.  And, as a consequence, they poop and pee.  But when the infrastructure is gone that separates the one from the other humans can’t live for long.  Because their waste is full of disease-causing pathogens.  Especially when the prevailing weather conditions create a natural incubator for these diseases.

In America’s most Populated Cities you can Turn On Any Water Tap and Drink the Water without Worrying about Cholera

Thankfully those areas hit by the 2004 tsunami did not suffer greater population losses due to outbreaks of cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid or hepatitis A and B.  Thanks to a fast-acting international community.  Providing some $14 billion in humanitarian aid.  Delivered in large part by the U.S. Navy and other military forces.  Who possessed the resources to move that aid inland to where the people needed it.  Chief among that aid was fresh drinking water.  And sanitation facilities.  To prevent the spread of disease.

It took some time to understand the connection between clean drinking water and public health.  But people did have some understanding.  Which is why a lot of people drank beer in early communities.  Because the brewing process killed the pathogens in the water.  Perhaps our first water treatment process.  They may not have known this.  They may just have correlated drinking beer to healthier living.  A good a reason as any to drink and be merry.  For those who drank beer did not suffer some of the same diseases that befell others.  As in the cholera outbreak in 1854 London.  Where the monks in a monastery adjacent to the outbreak area escaped the pandemic.  Why?  Because they only drank the beer they brewed.

Americans travelling to Mexico are careful about what they drink.  Drinking only bottled water.  Or beer and liquor.  To escape an unpleasant condition that can result from drinking the local water which is not as ‘treated’ as it is in the U.S.  Emphasizing a point few appreciate in America’s most populated cities.  Where you can turn on any water tap and drink the water that comes out of it without ever worrying about cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid or hepatitis A and B.  Which we’ve only been able to do for about a century or so in America.  While poor and developing countries are still struggling to do this even to this day.


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