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Submission + - US Will Be World's Top Oil Producer by 2017

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The NY Times reports that according to a report by the International Energy Agency, the US will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer by about 2017, will become a net oil exporter by 2030, and will become “all but self-sufficient” in meeting its energy needs in about two decades — a “dramatic reversal of the trend” in most developed countries. “The foundations of the global energy systems are shifting,” says Fatih Birol, chief economist at the Paris-based organization, which produces the annual World Energy Outlook. There are several components of the sudden shift in the world’s energy supply, but the prime mover is a resurgence of oil and gas production in the United States, particularly the unlocking of new reserves of oil and gas found in shale rock. The widespread adoption of techniques like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has made those reserves much more accessible, and in the case of natural gas, resulted in a vast glut that has sent prices plunging. The agency’s report was generally “good news” for the United States says Michael A. Levi, senior fellow for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, because it highlights the nation’s new sources of energy but Levi cautions that being self-sufficient does not mean that the country will be insulated from seesawing energy prices, since those oil prices are set by global markets. The message is more sobering for the planet, in terms of climate change. Although natural gas is frequently promoted for being relatively low in carbon emissions compared to oil or coal, the new global energy market could make it harder to prevent dangerous levels of warming (PDF). “The report confirms that, given the current policies, we will blow past every safe target for emissions,” says Levi. “This should put to rest the idea that the boom in natural gas will save us from that.”"

Submission + - Gates Foundation buys $23m of Monsanto shares

Dystopian Rebel writes: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock worth more than $23m US, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission from August 2010.

As reported by the Real Food blog, the significant investment by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in agribusiness giant Monsanto has been criticized by experts and activists who are concerned in particular about the impact of Monsanto's technology and the company's treatment of small-scale farmers in Africa.

Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering, condemned the investment as an "enormous conflict of interest". "Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well-being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling environmental track record," he said in a press release. The investment, says Bereano, casts serious doubt "on the Foundation's heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and hunger among small-scale farmers."

As an example of Monsanto's destructive behaviour, the press release mentions that Monsanto gave free maize seeds to small-scale farmers. When the seeds failed to produce and the rate of crop failure reached 80%, Monsanto compensated large farming operations that purchased the seeds, but did nothing for the small-scale farmers.

"When the economic power of Gates is coupled with the irresponsibility of Monsanto, the outlook for African smallholders is not very promising," said Mariam Mayet, environmental attorney and director of the Africa Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg. "Monsanto's aggressive patenting practices have also monopolized control over seed in ways that deny farmers control over their own harvest, going so far as to sue and bankrupt farmers for patent infringement."

There is very little future in being right when your boss is wrong.