Review of Elizabeth C. Economy’s The River Runs Black

The-River-Runs-BlackAt the beginning of The River Runs Black, Elizabeth C. Economy paints the horrifying image of the Huai River, a body of water running murky and thick with “garbage, yellow foam, and dead fish.”  The Huai has essentially become a trashcan for the factories operating nearby, a place to easily dispose of chemicals, dye, and miscellaneous waste.  Despite its status as the fourth most polluted river system in China, upwards of 150 million Chinese citizens are dependent on Huai River as their water supply.  In this river, Economy argues, lies the central paradox of the Chinese environmental approach as a whole – while economic and industrial prosperity can bring reform and environmental protection, the industry itself is contributing to China’s already problematic levels of pollution and contamination.

Economy breaks down her book into eight sections, layering the history and context of the Chinese individual’s relationship with nature atop the government’s mentality of “first development, then environment,” before delving in to the problems and possible outcomes of the environmental state.  In particular, chapter two, which discussed the major religions of China and their bond with nature, was one of the book’s highpoints, as it provided a rich insight into the importance of protecting these natural bodies of water and land.

Elizabeth C. Economy’s The River Runs Black is a must-read for those looking for a comprehensive history and analysis of China’s environmental situation.  Additionally, those interested in globalized economy and the environmental future of the world should also invest in this book, as Economy discusses the influence of China’s situation on the world.  As a whole, The River Runs Black is well-written and well-structured with information that substantiates the relevance and significance of environmental reform in China.

The Frackers

THE FRACKERSThe Frackers book review by Michelle Morris

By: Gregory Zuckerman
Review Revised: 12/30/2014

Gregory Zuckerman’s The Frackers documents the lives of energy tycoons, intertwining the accounts of their personal and professional losses and gains in a dramatic narrative.  Each of these men greatly impacted the economical and environmental spheres of American history.  From the introduction of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which is a technique of pumping gallons of various liquid substances, including water, into shale rocks to create fissures for gas to escape – to horizontal drilling, a method that involves drilling narrow strips of rock that are loaded with oil beneath the ground – Zuckerman shows the cunning and innovation of the leading men in the industry.  The Frackers details the transformation of the United States from a country dependent on foreign imports for its energy industry to the world’s largest producer of natural gas.

The Frackers is an excellent introduction to the behind-the-scenes of the gas and oil industries.  Zuckerman provides detailed explanations of key terms and also delves into the scientific and historical backgrounds of the recent, revolutionary energy methods and movements.  Zuckerman’s choice of a dramatic narrative structure should be applauded, as it keeps the book from just being a regurgitation of facts and numbers – and instead, makes it a work that is both compelling and informative.

However, despite the many positives to Zuckerman’s work, there are drawbacks.  In fact, Zuckerman’s colloquial language often competes with the economical and environmental jargon of the book.  Zuckerman’s narrative voice – the very aspect that sets the book apart from the rest and appeals to a wider audience – is, at times, as much of a negative factor as it is a positive one. Furthermore, there are times when the book is redundant, especially when defining key words (such as fracking and horizontal drilling).  While this can help cement ideas and re-emphasize them in various ways, it may also appear as demeaning or unnecessary.

Overall, The Frackers is a recommended read, especially for those looking for an introduction to the business and economical sides of the major energy industries.  Zuckerman’s book delves into both the advantages and drawbacks of fracking.  Although the author does not explicitly choose a side, he does suggest that the negative aspects of fracking are “overstated” and that an increase in energy production has numerous benefits, including mass employment, economic growth, and a decreased trade deficit.  The Frackers is an overall positive read, one that subverts the typical outlook on American economics and business and instead, focuses on six men, who proved that even when everything seems futile, there are endless opportunities for expansion and revolution.


GEORGE MITCHELL (Founder of Mitchell Energy)

AUBREY MCCLENDON (Cofounder of Chesapeake Energy)

TOM WARD  (Cofounder of Chesapeake Energy)

HAROLD HAMM (Founder of Continental Resources)

CHARIF SOUKI (Founder of Cheniere Energy)

MARK PAPA (Chief executive office at EOG Resources)

IEA focusses on global carbon gas problem

Skyline view in Beijing, China

Skyline view in Beijing, China

Man-made carbon gas emissions are a significant cause in climate change. Perhaps at one time a debate, this fact has become common knowledge. Climate change is occurring around us and we read about or experience the damage it is causing firsthand. The world is experiencing longer and hotter summers, shorter and warmer winters, dry regions that are drier, wet regions that are wetter, heat waves that are more frequent and more severe, and violent storms that are also more common and more severe. Climate change has caused floods, rising water levels along ocean coastlines, damage to crops and other food sources, an increase in wildfires, diminishing forests, and decreasing wildlife populations, including populations of endangered species. All a result of global warming about one degree Celsius. What will the world experience from a two or more degree warming that we will certainly see in the next decade?

Where does the man-made carbon gas come from, how much is being produced, and what are the past and expected future trends?

According to Trends in Global CO2 Emissions 2013 Report by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, and similar information mirrored by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2012 the global rate of increase of CO2 gas was 1.1%, which was less than half of the average rate increase of 2.9% seen for each of the last ten years, and this decrease occurred even though there was a 3.5% growth in the global economy. However, even with this global decrease in the rate of CO2 production, global CO2 production is increasing and the world experienced a record 34.5 billion metric tons of man-made CO2 gas in 2012, and so herein lies the great problem the world faces.

Listed below are the specifics on the wherehow and what in the original question above in regards to the five highest CO2 producing countries in 2012:

CO2-graph-rev-cThe fact is that China produces about twice as much CO2 as the United States, which is next biggest producer. China’s rate of CO2 gas production is not only increasing but it is increasing exponentially. This means that no matter how much the rest of the world decreases CO2 production, the CO2 production of China could eclipse the combined CO2 reduction efforts of all other counties combined.

Why should we be concerned and what can be done about it?

All research results on this subject point in the same direction; the ultimate solution is for China to decrease CO2 gas production. Analysis shows that if China steadily reverses its exponential increase so that the increase levels out to zero by the year 2025, we just might be able to stop climate change before the damage becomes irreversible.

So why doesn’t China just dramatically reduce its carbon gas production starting today?

The reasons are numerous and complicated, with some the same as other counties face and yet others unique to China. Recent articles appearing in The Economist, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and others acknowledge China’s significant movement in and dedication to renewable energy and nuclear power. The message in these articles is that China knows it is creating this problem and it knows it needs to be a part of the solution. The rest of the world might not like the fact that even today China’s rate of carbon gas production is increasing, but it does understand the reasons for this and it does seem to empathize and at the same time acknowledge China’s efforts with renewable energy to reduce CO2 production.

So what are some of these complicated issues that China faces?

There are strong trust problems between the U.S. and China. So, for instance, if under the leadership of President Obama, the U.S. does not significantly increase its own efforts to reduce CO2 production, it is not likely that the U.S. will influence any kind of change in China. China has many other significant environmental problems as well as serious problems in other national matters such as poverty. In addition, China has a political system that tends to interfere with the energy market resulting in delayed reduction of China’s Co2 production.

What is China doing about it?

The people of China are well aware of China’s pollution problems, as they can see it each day outside their windows. The population is very concerned about the impact pollution will have on health and lifespan. Although it is incredibly unfortunate that the citizens of China are facing this hazard, a positive result is that China’s president, Xi Jinping, must surely be receiving a great many complaints and pressure from the people of China to solve China’s environment problems.

China opened to the west in 1973 and has accomplished more in this short time than anyone could have imagined to have become an economic superpower. China has four times the population of the United States, and therefore it also has four times the number of brilliant minds. There is no doubt that the Chinese are hardworking, bright and able.

On a personal level, I learned about the Chinese culture from a distance while I studied the Mandarin Chinese language throughout most of my earlier life. Later, while attending Georgetown as a mathematics/economics major I learned about Chinese economics, once again from a distance. It was not until my travels to China during which I was able to see, feel, smell, and taste the real China that I gained a true sense of China’s potential. From these collective experiences, I can tell you that you can read about the rapid development in China, and hear about it the news, but there is no way to truly understand every aspect of China’s growth until you are able to experience it for yourself. From the changes that I have personally witnessed, I can say that when China makes up its mind to do something, it can get a remarkable amount done and in record time. So if China can be persuaded that it can benefit in all of the right ways to reduce its CO2 production soon enough, all of the evidence suggests China can accomplish it before 2025.

Coal mining site at Pingshuo, China

Coal mining site at Pingshuo, China

The International Energy Alliance recognizes the world’s serious global CO2 problem and is anxious to begin focusing efforts on this problem. In addition, the IEA hopes to contribute to reversing this problem through the sharing of information and increasing global awareness. To accomplish this, we will dedicate a large portion of our website and our activities to the reduction of CO2 gas. We invite experts to contribute information through our website, and we plan to organize conferences for discussion, sharing of ideas and raising awareness. We believe the solution will require input from American experts on Chinese culture, politics and energy; Chinese experts on American culture, politics and energy; and, experts from other countries who might see neutral and fair paths more easily than either the United States or China, and who therefore might also be instrumental in negotiations. It is clear that there is no single solution to our problem, and that numerous small advances and changes will collectively solve our problems.

In our core IEA statement we make it clear that we remain politically neutral and we encourage all viewpoints to be discussed. Although the IEA believes in renewable energy and sustainable energy when it makes sense from an economic standpoint and when it is not damaging the environment in other significant ways, we also realize that the world has an ever increasing need for energy which might require compromises of using less costly and less environmentally friendly solutions.

We are looking forward to seeing how much can be accomplished before the December 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, with the hope that in some way IEA efforts help influence a positive and productive outcome of this conference.


The Collaboration Economy

ERICLOWITT_book-smalllThe Collaboration Economy by Eric Lowitt explores the ways in which modern corporations, the state of the environment and social justice issues are inextricably intertwined. In the first part of The Collaboration Economy, Lowitt delineates the deficiencies associated with the current state of the economy, which he coins the “Waste Economy.” He depicts the current economic framework as unsustainable, impractical and inefficient, both environmentally and financially.

His descriptions make evident the need for concerted action to develop more future- friendly business models. Lowitt then provides several examples of corporations such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, GE, Nike and Seventh Generation, that have taken promising steps towards conducting business in a more innovative, synergistic and viable manner. These examples provide hope that taking a more thoughtful approach towards business, rather than individualistic attitude, can Eric-Lowitt-smalleryield far reaching and admirable results. Finally, Lowitt discusses the skills required of individual leaders to push all companies and institutions towards greener, more cooperative and more ethical futures.

The IEA believes this valuable book presents itself at the exact right time for the world to take fresh and honest look at itself with the goal of deriving aggressive new plans for sustainability and then acting on those plans. The Collaboration Economy is definitely worth a read.



IEA Granted Federal Tax Exempt Status


The International Energy Alliance is pleased to announce that the United States Internal Revenue Service recently determined the IEA to be exempt from federal income tax under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c)(3).

According to IEA founding member, Andrew Hunter, “This is a major achievement for the IEA. Pursuing nonprofit tax exempt status was not only an excellent learning process for us, but it also really helped the IEA to formalize and refine its goals. Long-term, this will enable us to maintain organizational focus as our efforts grow.”

Hunter comments further, “Federal tax exempt status means that the IEA does not pay federal, state, or local taxes. Donors can deduct contributions they make to the IEA under IRC Section 170. The status also means that the IEA can pursue special grants or government funding on our own, instead of through other government or nonprofit entities, enabling us to be more specific in our activities and in pursuing our goals.”

IEA chairman, George Schoeffel, explains, “Although we have only recently achieved both nonprofit corporate status and federal tax exempt status, and we have not yet filed taxes for this year, it is important to note that the IEA operates entirely from the efforts of volunteers and that no one within the IEA gets a paycheck or any other kind of compensation. This means that the people involved in the IEA are extremely dedicated to the organization’s vision. This is appealing to donors since it means that our overhead is extremely low, and therefore, we can devote a larger portion of our financial resources to achieving our goals.”

The IEA looks forward to expanding its efforts. To receive updates about recent developments for the IEA, simply use the “Subscribe” box at our website.