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For global gasaholics, ending fuel subsidies is the first step
Bloomberg Views, Arabianbusinessnews.com
Fuel subsidies are the crack cocaine of global economic development: easy to get hooked on, hard to give up. And as every addict knows, there are good and bad ways to try to kick the habit.
Consider Nigeria and Iran. In Nigeria, the government’s recent decision to remove fuel subsidies and more than double the price of gasoline has led to riots and now a nationwide strike. Two years ago in Iran, an initiative to cut subsidies and almost quadruple the price of gas (as well as boost the price of food and water) provoked little unrest, lowered oil consumption and bolstered the economy and the government...
Here’s where Iran comes in. Whatever the conduct of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government in other realms, its fuel-subsidy reforms in late 2010 make it something of a role model. Legislative debate began almost two years before the changes went into effect; officials, academics and community leaders led an extensive public-awareness campaign that included sending households mock bills showing the true cost of their electricity. More important, the reforms included a clear benefit to Iranians: direct cash payments to more than 80 percent of the population, paid out before the changes took effect. In the case of the poorest of the poor, the sums amounted to more than half their monthly cash income, which helped to insulate the programme from political criticism...
(10 January 2012)
Obama bans uranium mining around Grand Canyon
Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters
The Obama administration banned new uranium mining claims around the Grand Canyon for the next 20 years, a move hailed by conservationists on Monday as key to the president's environmental legacy but slammed by opponents as a job-killer.
The decision puts more than 1 million acres of public lands outside the Grand Canyon National Park off limits to all hard-rock mining for two decades, the longest moratorium allowed by law. Existing mining operations would continue.
"A withdrawal is the right approach for this priceless American landscape," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. "We have been entrusted to care for and protect our precious environmental and cultural resources and we have chosen a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations."
The National Mining Association expressed disappointment, but stopped short of announcing an immediate challenge to the decision...
(9 January 2012)
Oil Sands Foes Are Foes of Canada, Minister Says
Ian Austen, New York Times
In an unusual open letter released on Monday, Canada’s natural resources minister charged that “environmental and other radical groups” used “funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”
The remarks by the minister, Joe Oliver, apparently refer to donations from charitable foundations based in the United States. His sharply worded letter appeared the day before an independent review panel was to begin hearings on a proposed pipeline to carry production from Alberta’s controversial oil sands project to Canada’s west coast for tanker shipment to Asia.
That project, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, is widely seen as the energy industry’s contingency plan if the Obama administration ultimately turns down the Keystone XL pipeline, a project to move oil sands production from Alberta to the Gulf Coast...
In his letter, Mr. Oliver declared that Canada’s regulatory system was “broken” and suggested that reviews could be done in a “quicker and more streamlined fashion.”
His letter does not outline suggestions for how that can be achieved, and his office did not respond to requests for comment. But representatives of several Canadian environmental groups said they believed that the government planned to severely restrict public input on environmental assessments.
(10 January 2012)