<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home » Archive »
Nature Blog Network

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

    Tasmania's first specialty biodiesel plant has been approved, to start operating as early as July. The Macquarie Oil Company will spend half a million dollars on a specially designed facility in Cressy, in Tasmania's Northern Midlands. The plant will produce more than five million litres of fuel each year for the transport and marine industries. A unique blend of feed stock, including poppy seed, is expected to make it more viable than most operations. ABC Rural - February 25, 2008.

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2008.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2008.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2008.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2008.

    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2008.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2008.

Creative Commons License

Monday, March 03, 2008

Income inequality in Latin America not persistent; poverty best tackled by development, less by redistribution

By western standards, the gap between rich and poor in Latin American countries is disproportionately wide. PhD candidate Ewout Frankema investigated the development of income inequality since colonial times and concludes that differences in income have fluctuated sharply. Contrary to what is usually assumed, income inequality according to Frankema is absolutely not persistent and there are definitely ways to close the gap between rich and poor. It would be wrong to assume that "things have always been this way" and can't change. The status quo can effectively be broken, Fraukema finds. One of the most effective strategies to do so consists of stressing development over redistribution. Land reform is key to a successful poverty alleviation concept across the continent. Fraukema will defend his thesis on 6 March 2008 at the University of Groningen.

The analysis is important for those involved in the bioenergy sector in Latin America - a region with a large potential - because in ultimo, biofuels and biomass are agricultural commodities the production of which is intertwined with a large set of social and land ownership issues. Biofuels offer a major opportunity for development, but only if these social issues are addressed in-depth. The sector could become a catalyst for social change and justice, by putting land reform high on the agenda. On the other hand, it could just as well strengthen "the continuation of colonisation by other means", and worsen the existing conditions of inequality.

Frankema compares the income and possessions inequality in Latin American countries in the period from 1870 to 2000 in his thesis. With the help of historical-comparative and economic-qualitative methods, he demonstrates that the inequality in this period varied and thus disposes of the idea that the current income inequalities in Latin America are determined by the colonial past. Frankema: ‘It’s definitely not as is often claimed in the literature; it was so, it is so and it will always be so.’

Colonial roots

According to Frankema, although the political climate has the most influence on income differences, the roots of the income and possession inequality lie in the colonial past. Ethnic discrimination of Indian/African groups by descendents of the white colonists, and the associated unfair distribution of land, are remnants of the colonial time. One of the consequences of this inequality is poor education facilities for the poor, because the elite sends its children to private schools and has little interest in a good public education system. Without good education possibilities for the poor, social mobility in Latin America will remain limited.

Frankema in particular focuses on land issues, as former European colonies have a large and lucrative agricultural potential and large rural populations. Current land ownership structures too are strongly marked by colonial history, but in Latin America in particular, a post-colonial elite emerged that dominates agriculture until this very day:
Given the large weight of the rural sector in low developed countries, one would expect that the relation between land and income inequality would be strongest in Sub Saharan African countries. The empirical analysis [...] points out the opposite however. This surprising conclusion reveals an important difference between the colonial heritage of West and Central Africa versus Latin America.

Both regions are characterised by abundant endowments of land suitable to the production of cash crops. In Latin America a powerful landowning elite developed under three centuries of colonial rule. During the first wave of globalisation in the last quarter of the 19th century this elite was able to consolidate and probably even enhance its position, as the agricultural export sector expanded. West and Central African income inequality in the second half of the 20th century is based on a systematic squeeze of the rural majority population in favour of a small predatory urban elite. This type of inequality is rooted in the weak protection of property rights in unstable independent “states without nations”. Both regions carry the burden of “disproportional” levels of economic inequality. Those in power want to hold on to what they have and feel threatened by demands for accountability. Yet, the incentives shaping the attitude and actions of the elites in both regions differ fundamentally.

A landowning elite not only derives income from rent extraction, but also from the accumulation of capital and investments in agricultural enterprise. If landowners see opportunities to defend their stakes in economic development and are able to negotiate credible and sustainable protection of property rights, they may be willing to lift their bans on institutional change and a transfer of power to other social groups. They may also allow for the development of an urban class of entrepreneurs competing for (scarce) sources of cheap labour.

If the stakes of the elite are primarily vested in the consolidation of a predatory bureaucracy, the economic and political position of the elite are maximal overlapping. In this context a transfer of power or the development of new sectors poses such a severe threat to the distributive status quo, that the elites are willing to bear the very high costs of violent repression and armed conflicts. - Doctorandus Ewaut Frankema
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Redistribution and economic decline
According to Frankema, social inequality is the leitmotif of Latin American politics. Both political and economic forces, both national and international, affect the extent of income inequality. Frankema makes clear that differences in income increased up to about 1920, then declined until in the 1970s they began to increase sharply again. In the period between 1920 and 1970, the increasing power of trades unions and left-wing political parties resulted in a redistribution:

The period after 1975 was a period of economic decline, caused by increasing international competition and a huge national debt. Frankema: ‘If factories have to close due to an economic crisis, it’s usually the poor who lose their jobs first. The inflation that struck Latin American countries hard in the 1980s also hit the poor the hardest. The rich with their money safely in Swiss bank accounts were not hit at all.’

Ending poverty
According to Frankema, poverty policy should be less about redistribution and more about development. If Latin American countries can put the past to rest by tackling ethnic discrimination and the inequality of land ownership, for example, then he thinks that it will be possible to tackle poverty issues in the region in a constructive way.

Frankema: ‘The redistribution of income via taxes is very nice in the short term, but is not effective enough in the long term. Before you can beat poverty in the long term you have to allow people to participate in the labour process, invest more in the quality of the public education system and ensure that the starting point for government policy is “equal opportunities for everyone”.’

Picture: child of a family of landless farmers in Brazil. The family has joined the Movimento Sem Terra (“The Landless Movement”), Latin America's largest social movement.

Biopact: Income inequality in Latin America is not persistent - March 03, 2008.

Ewout Frankema, "The Colonial Origins of Inequality: Exploring the Causes and Consequences of Land Distribution" [*.pdf], Research Memorandum GD-81, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, July 2006.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home