Category Archives: environment

210. The price of oil: 3 – energy economics and the financial crisis

storm in the north seaThe highest ever oil prices.

The fastest and greatest fall in energy costs in economic history.

A lot has happened since early 2008 and my last essay on the oil price.

This article will explore events in the oil markets since then, and in the next I’ll take a look towards the future.

* * * * *

Early last year the oil price lay close to historic highs at almost $100 a barrel.

Supply was tight, I said, and getting tighter. Prices could fall to $60 later in the year if the credit crunch really bit. But long term, the trend was clearly upwards. And a world of $100, $200, $400 oil prices was not that far away.

world oil price jan 2006 to may 2009 energy information administration
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203. Dream beneath a desert sky – Pechina Canyon, Almería, Spain

desert-palms-sierra-de-alhamilla-above-pechina-almeria-spain-by-roadsofstoneLos Baños de Sierra Alhamilla stands grey and forlorn beneath palm trees in a February mizzle. It’s Hotel California, on a rainier day.

There’s a faded, nonchalant elegance here in this mountain spa. On the main street, a goofily smiling old bloke sits outside the baths, trousers rolled up and feet dangling in the hot stream. We smile and wave, because frankly, we’re more mad than him.

canyon-run-sierra-de-alhamilla-almeria-spain-by-roadsofstoneThe unforgiving Andalucían desert stretches far and wide below us. Scattered plantations, yucca, palm trees. Grey gravel, scrub and miles and miles of waste, magnificent in their desolation. Far in the distance beneath low-hanging cloud lies the city of Almería and the steely Mediterranean Sea beyond.
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195. The arc of history – USA election 2008

“It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”
— Barack Obama, Chicago, 4th November 2008.

barack-obama-and-family-chicago-illinois-usa-4th-november-2008It’s just three miles and a lifetime’s journey from the South Side of Chicago to Grant Park, and I can remember every step.

How marvellous it was that the US election race this year should find its long-awaited finish line at the same spot as the Chicago Marathon — one of many high points I’ve shared with this incredible country through a relationship that stretches right across my adult life.

I entered the United States late one August night in 1981. Seventeen hours out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, we drove across a bridge and into Maine. Next morning, six hours and a brief stop in Portland later, I stepped wearily off the bus in downtown Boston — completing my journey from England to New England, where the history of this great nation had started.

That visit took me down the east coast to New York and Washington, in an arc via Pittsburgh to Niagara, and then back into Canada for a return flight home.

My memories of America from that trip? Coin-fed TV sets in lonely Greyhound bus stations. The wind on Cape Cod. Looking across the Charles River on a long walk out to Cambridge.

washington-monument-capitol-from-lincoln-memorial-usa-h4num4n-flickrThe view from the Empire State Building. The sound of dusk on Broadway. The New Jersey Turnpike. The Smithsonian. The Capitol.

A quote carved into the Washington pavement —
‘One of these days this will be a very great city, if nothing happens to it’ (Henry Adams).

My love affair with America had begun.
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183. Kenya 7: new light on a dark continent

malaria-dysentery-apathy-oxfam-poster-2008-by-roadsofstoneThis poster called as I walked from the station, reminding me that it’s time to wrap up my series on Kenya.

My visit last summer left me with a whole lot to say about the country, about Africa, and our attitudes to the continent and her people. I sat down to write, and the project found life of its own. Today I’ll outline some highlights, final thoughts and reflections.
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182. The truth about global warming

The sun is out again in London, after an unusually cool spring. It’s been a cold winter across much of Europe and North America, too. But the year is turning now, as it always does eventually.

Cooler weather will come and go. Floods, droughts, disasters, snowstorms and heatwaves, too. That is the nature of living on the Earth. You’ll see reporters referring unusual weather events to climate change, but that’s largely misleading, and it’s misinformed as well.

So let’s not get confused. That is only weather, and it’s not the same as climate. Reports like those just serve to confuse the public.

The urgently pressing fact is that climate change is real. And it’s happening.
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176. Ashtead Common 2 – a winter’s trail to spring

winter-dawn-epsom-downs-surrey-england-by-chilsta-flickr.jpgWinter drags in February. The lengthening evenings seem to pack a scary sharpness in their chill, and there’s an unexpected bleakness in these brightening days which makes me yearn for spring.

But it’s not the weather really. It’s my lack of patience for this place, which palls now with every passing week.

The soulless office above the shopping mall entombs me on shivering days like these. Days when inertia sucks the lifeblood of enthusiasm out from in me. Hours spent waiting for the gloom to lift and fall. Days when I don’t feel like running, and I wonder how I ever did.

epsom-crocus-by-osde-info-flickr.jpgThe crocuses in Epsom Park smile indulgently as I pass on my winter’s route towards the dry Chalk hills above the town. They remind me.
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