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ENVIRONMENT & TRAVEL March 2006
On oilfields in Belize, endangered polar bears, and green taxes in the UK.


Oil in Belize: between hope and fear By A-C. NAYROLLES
An oilfield which could eventually produce 2000 barrels per day was recently discovered in Belize, enabling this small and poor country to hope for a better future. The quantities of oil discovered so far are too small to attract big oil companies. But this could prove a boon as it might help the country keep the overall royalties. The political stability of the country is a great asset for industrial development, and energy independence might not be such a baseless hope.
However, benefits could be unbalanced by noxious side-effects such as pollution or corruption. Some people are afraid of the effects of drilling on their fragile environment and way of life. But the Belize government seems to be aware of these issues. For example, they agreed to follow the advice of the United Nations in order to avoid the mistakes made by other oil rich countries such as Nigeria. One major problem still looms on the horizon: a potential feud with Guatemala as to borders and the limits of fields... Even if Guatemala recognized Belize's independence in 1992, this country is also expanding fast and needs to collect all resources at hand...
Source: « Touched by Oil and Hope in Belize, » The New York Times 21 February 2006.


The US government's dilemma: cuddling the polar bears or the energy industry? By D. MONGE
Environmentalists have been petitioning the US government in order to get federal protection for polar bears whose Arctic life is threatened by global warming.. The Bush administration announced on the 7th of February that it would review whether polar bears should be protected under the Endangered Species Act or not. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been required to determine whether the bears are threatened. However, the agency failed to respond quickly because of lack of funds and serious data on the polar bear population. The listing could affect the energy industry as all US government agencies would then have to consider how their actions and decisions affect polar bears. Fuel, gas and oil companies would be obliged to change their developing strategies in Alaska. The US government's decision will not be made before next year.
Sources: John Roach, "Polar Bears Being Considered For US Endangered List," National Geographic News 10 February 2006.
"US Mulls Protecting Polar Bears As Arctic Melts," MSNBC/www.msnbc.msn.com/ 8 February 2006.
"US Eyes Protecting Polar Bears From Warming," MSNBC/www.msnbc.msn.com/ 8 February 2006.



The green tax: environmental concern or a new source of income ? By G. NORMAND
The British government has been trying to raise a new tax called the "green tax". This tax, which was originally designed in Scandinavian countries, aims at curbing the most visible signs of environmental pollution such as gas emissions, dependence on oil, and plastic bag consumption. Profits are used to educate people and raise awareness on environmental issues. In Ireland and in Sweden the tax has been very effective and natural landscapes are much cleaner than in the past. But even though ecology has a long history in Britain, the tax raises many questions among green activists themselves. On the one hand, it is seen as yet a new source of income for the government, while on the other hand, some argue that it is up to citizens to understand these issues and take on new consumption habits without being forced to by the State.
Sources: "Taxes aren't how the Tories will save the world," The Times 18 February 2006.
pro green tax website: http://www.progress.org/banneker/shift.htm


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