1 A lifeline for Greece (Ian Traynor in The Guardian) Greece’s new leftwing government faces months of fraught negotiations with its creditors over how to ease its unsustainable debt levels and austerity programmes after securing – but only conditionally – a eurozone lifeline on Tuesday that wins it time until the end of June.
Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister and leader of the Syriza movement, had to bow to German-led pressure to stick to the broad terms of its €240bn bailout in order to obtain a four-month extension to the rescue he repeatedly pledged to scrap.
The new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, sent a six-page list of proposed economic reforms to Brussels which held to some of Tsipras’s election campaign pledges, but largely diluted or abandoned them to win the support of the other 18 governments in the eurozone, and of the troika of bailout overseers from the European commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Despite Tsipras’s assertions, for domestic consumption, that the hated troika is dead and that the bailout programme has been ditched, both remain very much in play, with the troika grudgingly blessing Tuesday’s proposals from Athens and mandated to deliver a more detailed verdict by the end of April.
With €7.2bn remaining to be tapped from the bailout funds, another €10bn reserved by the Europeans for recapitalising Greek banks and Athens having to make big debt repayments by next month, it is not clear whether any money will be disbursed before the troika verdict at the end of April. In the meantime, Tsipras is also under pressure to make start negotiations on a third rescue programme to take effect in July, when even bigger debt repayments are due.
2 Shocking how vital oil still is (Kamal Ahmed on BBC) Why is oil so important? It is so straightforward a question that it sounds faintly ridiculous. Ryan Carlyle, the US engineer, wrote about why oil is vital. “You can’t move anything, anywhere faster than about 25mph without oil,” he said. “You can’t operate a modern military, and you can’t run a modern economy. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that modern civilisation would collapse in a matter of months if oil stopped flowing. Oil is about as important to the developed world as agriculture.”
Oil and food (and let’s include water in that, to avoid argument) are the two most important resources on the planet. The US consumes 19 million barrels of oil a day. A barrel of oil is about a bath’s worth. China consumes 10.3 million, Japan 4.5 million and the UK 1.5 million. Every day, the world consumes 91.2 million barrels of oil, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That’s a lot of bathfuls.
And that consumption figure will go up, not down. Every week, 1.5 million people are added to the world’s urban population. And that tends to add to our consumption of oil as societies move from an agrarian economy to a consumption and manufacturing economy. The growth of the “emerging seven” countries (China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey) will only add to this upward pressure on demand.
The global vehicle fleet (commercial vehicles and passenger cars) is predicted to more than double from about 1.2 billion now to 2.4 billion by 2035. Most of that growth – 88% – is in the developing world and nearly all of it – just under 90% – will be fuelled by oil. Of course, there are alternatives to oil. But those developments are only slowing the increase in demand. They are nowhere significant enough to reverse it.
Peak oil – that is the theoretical moment when oil extraction will reach its height and inevitably decline – has been long predicted and never arrived. In fact, you can go back to the 19th Century to hear predictions oil would run out during the “lives of young men”. More than 100 years later, we are still waiting.
3 ‘Deforestation king’ of Amazon detained (San Francisco Chronicle) Brazil has detained a land-grabber thought to be the Amazon’s single biggest deforester, the country’s environmental protection agency said. The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources said Ezequiel Antonio Castanha, who was detained in the state of Para, operated a network that illegally seized federal lands, clear-cut them and sold them to cattle grazers.
The agency blames the network for 20 percent of the deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon in recent years, though the statement did not provide the estimated scale of the devastation. Castanha will face charges including illegal deforestation and money laundering, and could be sentenced to up to 46 years in prison, the statement said.
Officials said late last year that 1,870 square miles (4,848 square kilometers) of rain forest were destroyed between August 2013 and July 2014. That’s a bit larger than the US state of Rhode Island. In addition to holding around one-third of the planet’s biodiversity, the Amazon is considered one of the world’s most important natural defenses against global warming because of its capacity to absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide.
Rain forest clearing is responsible for about 75 percent of Brazil’s emissions as vegetation is burned and felled trees rot. The Amazon extends over 3.8 million square miles (6.1 million square kilometers), with more than 60 percent of the forest within Brazil.