This Thursday, June 2nd, a US congressional briefing on ” Fresh Approaches to Food Security: Feeding the World While Caring for the Planet and Its Most Vulnerable People” will be held on Capitol Hill with speakers from the UN, USAID, IFAD and many ot
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By Amanda Strickler

This post is part of a series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question and every week you can join the conversation!

Before synthetic fertilizers, machinery, and fossil f
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The Aspen Environment Forum, presented by the Aspen Institute in partnership with National Geographic, kicks off today in Aspen, Colorado.

Nourishing the Planet co-project Director, Danielle Nierenberg, will join others, including 350.org founder
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By Kim Kido

From food to fragrance, virtually no part of the sweet detar tree (Detarium microcarpum) goes unused. A study of the Mare aux Hippopotames Biosphere Reserve in western Burkina Faso identified the tree as one of six multi-use species
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Check out this recently published article in the Associate Press which highlights the need for good quality seeds and better extension services for farmers worldwide. According to experts, only 20 percent of farmers across Africa have access to stat
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Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people directly depend on small plots of farmland for food and income, yet they often do not have access to the right resources in order to be successful. If provided with the right tools and extension services
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By Janeen Madan

Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and founder of Food Day 2011. Over the years, he has led campaigns for healthier diets and against trans fat, salt, soft dri
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Check out this new online infographic recently launched by Farming First, a coalition of organizations, including the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), who are working to promote practical programs to further
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Shale gas is a relatively recent topic of discussion in the House of Commons.

The rapid development of shale gas in the U.S. has inspired a good deal of speculation about whether, when and how the so-called shale gas revolution will go global. In a report released earlier this week, the UK House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee concludes that while the UK could have significant a shale gas resource, it is unlikely to represent a game changer in the British energy portfolio. Nonetheless, the report finds, shale gas could present a useful additional source of natural gas, and one that can be produced with without major environmental risks if strong regulations are put in place.

In the UK, where the first shale gas well was hydraulically fractured this March in Lancashire, the government has tended to be slightly more supportive of shale gas development than others in Western Europe. France has placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until additional reports on its environmental risks are completed, and its lower house of parliament approved a permanent ban on the practice on May 11. The Senate will consider the ban in June. The German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen has asked ExxonMobil to cease test drilling and hydraulic fracturing activities while a government-commissioned study on potential environmental risks is completed.  Elsewhere in the world, the governments of South Africa and the Canadian province of Quebec have all taken measures to halt shale gas development until public concerns over hydraulic fracturing have been investigated. All of these countries will be eagerly anticipating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study on hydraulic fracturing, which is not expected to be released in its final version until 2014.

The point of these moratoria is to buy decision-makers time: time to better understand the environmental risks associated with shale gas development, time to put adequate regulations in place, and time, perhaps, for some of the political rhetoric about shale gas and hydraulic fracturing to be dialed down. The British Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report, by contrast, finds “no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process itself poses a direct risk to underground water aquifers,” pointing instead to failures in gas well integrity as the source of water contamination. “We conclude that,” the authors write, “on balance, a moratorium in the UK is not justified or necessary at present.”

Still, the report cautions against unmitigated optimism about shale gas, from either an energy supply security or low-carbon energy point of view. While a recent study from the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that the United Kingdom could hold 20 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas in shale formations, perhaps enough to “help the UK increase its security of supply,” the report concludes “it is unlikely shale gas will be a ‘game changer’ in the UK to the extent as it has been in the U.S. In addition, according to the report, the UK’s higher population density and stricter environmental regulations compared to the U.S. will mean that shale gas development will have to be more carefully regulated.

Finally, the report argues, “The Government needs to be cautious in its approach to natural gas as a transition fuel to a low carbon economy. Although emissions from gas power plants are less than from coal, they are still higher than many lower carbon technologies.” With EU member countries obligated to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, some are concerned that new supplies of low-cost gas could undermine those targets.

Nonetheless, it seems unlikely now that natural gas production from shale formations in Europe will ramp up anywhere near as quickly as it has in the United States. Though some have argued that Europe can springboard off of the technological and scientific progress that the U.S. natural gas industry has made, the moratoria that have been put in place over the last year suggest that for many governments, the U.S. experience is as much a cautionary tale as a game-changing success story. And although this new House of Commons report lays out a clear path forward for shale gas development in the UK based to a significant extent on information from U.S.-based sources, it implies that major differences in the two countries’ physical and political landscapes make the prospect of an American-style shale gas boom not only unlikely, but even undesirable.

As more major international natural gas companies enter the shale gas business, they should consider the import of the global attention that is focused on the Marcellus Shale states of New York and Pennsylvania. The industry may find it difficult to move development forward quickly in other parts of the world if it cannot demonstrate that it can resolve concerns that local communities in the U.S. are raising about the environmental risks associated with shale gas development.

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By Janeen Madan

Ninety percent of the world’s cotton is grown by farmers in developing countries – they sell their cotton to local spinners and ginners that supply large international buyers, such as Hanes, Victoria’s Secret, and Nike.
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