Category Archives: Development

Failed Organic Revolution Leading to Political One in Sri Lanka?

(Photo at top of the post from this article in Indian Business Today: “Fertiliser ban decimates Sri Lankan crops as Rajapaksa govt’s popularity dwindles: The dramatic fall in yields follows a decision last April by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ban all chemical fertilisers in Sri Lanka.”)

The green roots of Sri Lanka’s political unrest and violence–excerpts from a opinion piece at the Globe and Mail:

The painful food truths exposed by Russia’s war in Ukraine

Bjorn Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus and visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution [webpage here]. His latest book is False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet.

A global food crisis is looming because of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine.

…organic farming cannot feed the world – and could even worsen future crises. Long fashionable among the world’s 1 per cent, environmental activists have increasingly peddled the beguiling idea that organic farming can solve hunger…

research has shown that organic farming produces less food than conventional farming per hectare. Moreover, organic farming requires farmers to rotate soil out of production for pasture, fallow or cover crops, reducing its effectiveness. In total, organic agriculture produces food between 29 to 44 per cent less productively than conventional, scientific-driven approaches.

This not only makes organic food more expensive, but it also means that organic farmers would need much more land to feed the same number of people as today – possibly almost twice the area. Given that agriculture uses about 37 per cent of the Earth’s land, switching to organics would mean destroying large swathes of nature for less effective production.

The catastrophe unfolding in Sri Lanka provides a sobering lesson. Last year, its government enforced a full transition to organic farming, banning chemical fertilizers and appointing organics gurus as agricultural advisers, including some who claimed dubious links between agricultural chemicals and health problems. Despite extravagant claims that organic methods could produce comparable yields to conventional farming, within months the policy has produced nothing but misery, including the quintupling of some food prices.

Sri Lanka had been self-sufficient in rice production for decades; tragically, it has now been forced to import US$450-million worth of rice. Tea, the country’s primary export crop and main source of foreign exchange, was devastated, with economic losses estimated at US$425-million [emphasis added]. Before the country spiralled toward brutal violence and political resignations, the government was forced to offer US$200-million in compensation to farmers and come up with US$149-million in subsidies [see tweets at end of the post for the violence etc.].

Sri Lanka’s organic experiment failed because of one fundamental fact: It does not have enough land to replace synthetic nitrogen fertilizer with animal manure. To shift to organics and keep production, it would need five to seven times more manure than its total manure today.

Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, mostly made with natural gas, are a modern miracle, and are crucial for feeding the world. Largely thanks to this fertilizer, agricultural output tripled in the past half-century, as the human population doubled…

To sustainably feed the world and withstand future global shocks, we need to produce food in better and cheaper ways. History shows that the best way to achieve that is by improving seeds, including by using genetic modification, along with expanding fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation. This will allow us to produce more food, curb prices, alleviate hunger and save nature.

And a March piece at pretty progressive Foreign Policy:

In Sri Lanka, Organic Farming Went Catastrophically Wrong

A nationwide experiment is abandoned after producing only misery.

Those tweets:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

No Realistic Prospect of Canadian LNG Supplies to EU–and PM Trudeau’s Gov’t Likes it That Way

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “An LNG tanker is guided by tug boats at the Cheniere Sabine Pass LNG export unit in Cameron Parish, La., on April 14, 2022.”)

Further to this February post,

Odds on Canadian LNG some Day for Germany/EU?

the answer still looks like very poor, in the face of current federal government’s apathy, if not downright (covert) hostility. From the Globe and Mail:

Natural-gas prices under pressure from soaring U.S. demand

Brent Jang

U.S. natural-gas prices have hit their highest level in 14 years as North American producers scramble to replenish supplies with demand soaring and storage levels declining.

As Europe seeks to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, the United States has been increasing its exports of liquefied natural gas to European markets. U.S. spot prices have almost tripled over the past year, spiking even higher after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

“Europe is very hungry for natural gas, especially since they have to displace Russian gas,” said Darren Gee, chief executive officer at Calgary-based Peyto Exploration and Development Corp…

The United States, the world’s largest producer of natural gas, edged out Qatar and Australia earlier this year to become the planet’s biggest exporter of LNG.

Demand for natural gas is expected to continue rising in the years ahead in North America, with the fuel going to additional LNG export terminals in the United States and the first one set to open in Canada.LNG Canada’s $18-billion terminal is under construction in Kitimat, B.C., with the goal to begin exports to Asia in 2025 in what would be Canada’s first site for shipping the fuel on ocean-bound LNG vessels…

On the East Coast, Pieridae Energy Ltd. is hoping its much-delayed Goldboro LNG project in Nova Scotia will finally forge ahead with construction within a year and begin exporting LNG to Europe in 2027 [see post noted at start of this one].

Industry analysts say East Coast proposals hinge largely on whether the federal government intervenes and provides incentives for TC Energy Corp. to upgrade and expand its pipeline system in Ontario and Quebec, in order to make it possible to transport sufficient amounts of natural gas from Alberta to the East Coast.

Canada is the world’s sixth-largest natural-gas producer, yet LNG proposals are stalled. Pieridae CEO Alfred Sorensen said Ottawa could help speed up the regulatory process on the pipeline side. “The federal government has to do something to convince TC Energy,” Mr. Sorensen said.

But the federal government has indicated that it’s up to LNG proponents to figure out ways to overcome pipeline constraints [emphasis added].

“Project investment decisions will be made by proponents based on their ability to comply with federal and provincial regulatory standards while competing within the global market,” said Ian Cameron, director of communications for Jonathan Wilkinson, the federal Natural Resources Minister.

Follow Brent Jang on Twitter: @brentcjang

Pitiful eco-warriors in in-action. Relevant tweets:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Russia Invading Ukraine: Countries Standing Aside, Africa Section

(Caption for photo at top of the post, “The 2019 Sochi summit drew almost all of Africa’s heads of state”–from this Feb. 27 BBC story: “Ukraine conflict: How Russia forged closer ties with Africa”.)

One doesn’t see the Biden administration or the US media noting the absence of real opposition to/condemnation of Russia in great parts of the world. Further to this post in early March,

Asia: Major Parts of the World Not Part of “International Community’s” Condemning Russia on Ukraine

now the Globe and Mail’s man in Africa reports on the situation in that continent:

Zelensky struggles to gain support in African countries as Russian interests prevail

Geoffrey York Africa Bureau Chief

Johannesburg

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the chairman of the African Union early last month and asked if he could speak to African leaders to explain his country’s plight since the Russian invasion. The response was polite but noncommittal.

Five weeks later, even after repeating his request to another African Union official, Mr. Zelensky is still waiting for a chance to speak.

The unofficial snub is the latest sign of Russia’s continuing influence in many African countries. While the West sends a seemingly endless flow of weapons and politicians to Kyiv, there has been a distinct lack of African support for Ukraine and, significantly, a complete absence of African sanctions against Moscow.

This has been helpful to the Russian cause. Africa may be far from the war zone, but it has strategic value for President Vladimir Putin. It provides votes at the United Nations, arms sales for Russia’s military industry, business for its private military contractors, resources for its extractive sector and potential bases for its navy.

Mr. Zelensky has sought to weaken Mr. Putin’s support base in Africa, but has struggled to gain traction. While many African governments profess to be neutral on the war in Ukraine, they have often signalled tacitly that they favour the Russian side [emphasis added].

Despite pressure from Ukrainian diplomats and some Western powers, not a single African country has joined the West in imposing sanctions on the Russian government.

*Russian mercenaries accused of torture and killings of civilians in Central African Republic

*Mali’s military junta blocks UN investigation of alleged massacre by Malian and Russian forces

Mr. Sall [president of Senegal], the chair of the African Union, spoke with Mr. Putin on March 9. He then waited more than a month before taking Mr. Zelensky’s call on April 11…

South Africa, like many African countries, has abstained on key UN votes on the war in Ukraine, but the statements by its government and its ruling party seem to have endorsed the Russian view of the conflict. They have usually adopted the Kremlin’s preferred terminology – rarely using the terms “war” or “invasion” – as well as Moscow’s mantra of blaming NATO for provoking the crisis.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the government has been even more sympathetic to Mr. Putin’s viewpoint. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in a recent newspaper column, said the Russian invasion of Ukraine was merely a “robust response” to the “threat of encirclement by NATO.” He echoed the Kremlin’s rhetoric by criticizing the Western military alliance for its “provocative eastward expansion in Europe.”

…self-interested factors… motivate much of the African response to the war [quelle surprise!]. Some African leaders have a genuine preference for a neutral or non-aligned stand on the distant conflict, seeking to maintain relations with all sides. Some feel a historical loyalty to Moscow based on the anti-colonial struggles of the past. But many are also following their commercial and military interests…

In…[some] African countries, especially those with authoritarian regimes, there is a reluctance to antagonize Russia because it is their biggest supplier of weapons – and, increasingly, private military contractors as well [Wagner Group, anyone?].

The military agreement between Cameroon and Russia, unveiled last month, would reportedly allow Cameroon to obtain weapons and armoured vehicles while also helping it gain access to Russian intelligence and training.

“Cameroon needed a defence partner that could back its national military operational interest without conditions or interference,” said David Otto Endeley, an analyst at the Geneva Centre for Africa Security and Strategic Studies.

“Russia presents itself as a partner ready to do business with no strings attached.”

With a report from Ndi Eugene Ndi in Yaoundé, Cameroon

Other relevant posts:

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Theme song, Joe Biden doesn’t:

Balochs Fight Back vs PRC’s Neo-Colonialism in Pakistan…

…with more terrorism.Further to this recent post,

PRC’s Neo-Colonialism, Balochistan Section (cont’d)

now a piece at “The Interpreter“, published daily by Australia’s Lowy Institute (via @David_Mulroney, a retired very senior Canadian diplomat)–will the Chicoms go so far as to undertake their own military respones?:

Pakistani separatists turn their sights on China

A Balochistan independence group has ordered
Beijing to quit its interests in the region … to no effect.

Syed Fazl-e-Haider

In Pakistan’s southwest region of Balochistan – the country’s largest province by area but least populous and least developed despite having huge mineral and energy resources – there is a battle being waged for independence. The Baloch have grievances against the Pakistan government, which has historically exploited the province’s resources and neglected its development needs. Military handling of unrest in the region by Islamabad has deepened the sense of alienation and frustration felt in Balochistan, spawning several separatist groups, including the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF).

On 26 April, a suicide attack by a Baloch separatist outside the Confucius Institute of the Karachi University in the southern port city killed four people, including three Chinese staff and their Pakistani driver. The attack was targeted towards the Chinese, who the separatists accuse of partnering with Islamabad in the exploitation of Balochistan’s immense mineral and energy potential.

The number of Chinese stakeholders investing in Balochistan has grown steadily over the past two decades. A Chinese state-owned company built, and now operates, Balochistan’s strategically located Gwadar port [see this post: “Poor Balochs, or, Don’t let the PRC Fence us out of Gwadar Port, Pakistan (with a Canadian angle)“], which some argue holds the key to China’s energy supremacy. The Arabian Sea port is the centre of the US$62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – the game-changer project in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, allowing it a gateway between Western China and the Indian Ocean. Other projects as part of a mega development under the CPEC are also being funded by China in the restive province [emphasis added].

After last month’s attack – carried out by 30-year-old “Shari Baloch”, the first female suicide bomber of the BLA’s Majeed Brigade – separatists warned China there would be more attacks on Chinese nationals and Chinese projects in Pakistan. In a video that appeared on social media the day after the bombing, the BLA demanded that China quit Balochistan or face further retaliatory action. The video shows a masked BLA commander speaking in English and addressing China’s President Xi Jinping directly. “The Baloch Liberation Army guarantees you that CPEC will fail miserably on Baloch land … you still have time to quit Balochistan, or you will witness a retaliation from Baloch sons and daughters that you will never forget”.

This was not the first attack by the BLA on Chinese nationals. The group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on Chinese engineers working in the Dalbandin area of Balochistan in August 2018, which injured three workers. The BLA also claimed an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi in November the same year. In May 2019, the insurgent group attacked Chinese tourists at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar. These attacks are the legacy of multiple insurgencies that began in 1948 [emphasis added, lots more here], with one in 2006 resulting in the death of Balochistan’s former chief minister and leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, who was killed in a military operation by Pakistan’s security forces.

The most recent attacks, however, have not convinced Beijing to “quit Balochistan”, but have instead heightened its resolve to counter the emerging threat to its interests in the region. China’s Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the April suicide attack, saying, “The blood of the Chinese people should not be shed in vain, and those behind this incident will pay the price.” 

Pakistan accuses its arch rival India of sponsoring terrorist groups, including the BLA [see post noted following this quote], with the aim of sabotaging the CPEC and harming the China–Pakistan friendship. An article published in the state-run Chinese mouthpiece Global Times argued that, “The BLA, especially the Majeed Brigade, has close contact with India, but it is hard to judge whether these are official [or] not. But without Indian travel permits, the Majeed Brigade head’s visits to India would not be possible.”

There are calls in China for a military operation against the BLA [emphasis added]. Reacting to the Karachi University attack, Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of Global Times in a tweet said, “The BLA will definitely be more resolutely annihilated. I support Chinese military to launch direct air strikes against this terrorist organisation’s camp after getting approval of the Pakistani government.” The same type of language has also been used in relation to the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is alleged to have targeted Chinese nationals in a bus bombing on 14 July 2021 that killed 13 at the Chinese-owned Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan’s north. An editorial in Global Times two days later declared, “if Pakistan’s strength is insufficient, China’s missiles and special forces could also directly participate in operations to eliminate threats against Chinese in Pakistan with the consent of Pakistan. We will set an example as a deterrent.”

Beijing sees the BLA and TTP as instruments of proxy terrorism. The separatist Islamist nexus has complicated the security challenge for China to safeguard its interests in Pakistan. The question is, will China, in collaboration with Pakistan, resort to fully-fledged military action to rout Baloch separatists and TTP militants?

That post, from 2016:

Indian PM Modi Pours (RAW) Fat on Pakistan’s Baluchistan Fire

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds


Feds’ and Ontario’s EV Dream: Pay to Play

(Photo at top of the post is of 2022 Lincoln Aviator large SUV–see just after main quote for coming Canadian angle–current cheapest internal combustion engine version US$ $51,465.)

This is encouraging but at the price of some $500 million from each of the players (and the cost of these bribes to the companies keeps mounting up). Note that only one fully electric vehicle is promised at this time from the two Stellantis assembly plants. From a Globe and Mail story (note that second reporter):

Stellantis announces $3.6-billion retool of Ontario plants to make electric and hybrid-fuel vehicles

Eric Atkins Transportation Reporter

Kathryn Blaze Baum Environment Reporter

Published May 2, 2022

Stellantis [formerly Chrysler, Fiat, Peugeot etc.] says it will spend $3.6-billion to retool its Ontario plants to make zero-emissions vehicles [only one so far, see last para of main quote] – the latest announcement from an automaker aimed at hastening the Canadian auto sector’s shift away from internal combustion engines.

With up to $1-billion in funding from the federal and Ontario governments, Stellantis plans to refit its Windsor and Brampton plants to make hybrid or electric cars and expand to three shifts a day. The automaker said it will also build its first North American battery lab in Windsor…

Mark Stewart, Stellantis North America’s chief operating officer, said the move supports the company’s global push to offer 25 electric vehicles that will account for 53 per cent of sales by 2030. The automaker is spending $45-billion through 2025 as it races with rivals to meet consumer demand and government limits on greenhouse gas emissions…

The Canadian auto sector is in the midst of an electric evolution. In March, the federal and provincial governments said they would give hundreds of millions of dollars to Stellantis and LG Energy Solution for a $5-billion plant in Windsor that will make batteries for electric vehicles. The investment is the largest in the history of Canada’s auto industry.

Other automakers in Canada are gearing up for an electrified future, too. Ford Motor Co. plans to produce electric cars at its Oakville, Ont., factory by 2024, with a $1.8-billion investment that includes $580-million in taxpayer money [see below after the main quote]. By December, General Motors is set to begin making the electric cargo van the BrightDrop EV600 at its retooled plant in Ingersoll, Ont [no mass-market consumer vehicle, see this post: “Ontario Finally Gets an EV Plant (with nice subsidies from feds and the province)…“]

GM and POSCO Chemicals are also building a factory in Bécancour, Que., that will make material for the batteries that power GM’s electric lineup [no certainty those batteries will be made in Canada, see this post: “Quebec, Canada Gets Plant to Make Low-Hanging Fruit in Batteries/EV Supply Chain“]. This includes the Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq.

While…[Joanna Kyriazis, a senior policy adviser at Clean Energy Canada, “a climate and clean energy program within the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University] welcomed Stellantis’ latest announcement, she said she would have liked to see the automaker commit to a vision for its Ontario plants focused squarely on electric vehicles [emphasis added] rather than moving toward what Stellantis called a “flexible multienergy vehicle architecture.”..

Despite pushback from automakers, the government said it will ramp up its ambitions when it comes to sales mandates for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including by introducing a new short-term target of 20 per cent of all light-duty vehicle sales by 2026. That will climb to 60 per cent in 2030 and 100 per cent in 2035. The government said it wants to see ZEVs make up 35 per cent of medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales by 2030.

In Canada, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles made up 6.2 per cent of new vehicle registrations in the fourth quarter of 2021, up from 4 per cent in the same period in 2020 and 2.9 per cent in the same period in 2019…

Mr. Stewart of Stellantis said the minivan plant in Windsor will be retooled in 2023 to make “multienergy” vehicle components for several models [i.e. no vehicles itself]. The Brampton plant, which currently builds muscle cars, will be refit to make electric components and one electric vehicle [emphasis added, note that “one”]. Mr. Stewart said it is too early to say which vehicles will be made in Ontario.

As for Ford, this is what I’ve found about its product plans:

Lincoln to launch full slate of electric SUVs by 2026: sources

The luxury automaker’s EV revolution may begin late 2024 with a battery-powered crossover built in Oakville, Ontario

Author of the article:

Paul Lienert,  Reuters

Publishing date: Feb 11, 2022

Ford is stepping up plans to extensively electrify its Lincoln brand in North America, as it prepares to introduce at least five new battery-powered Lincoln sport-utility vehicles through 2026, three people familiar with the plans told Reuters…

The first of the new Lincoln EVs, a large crossover about the size of the Aviator, is slated to begin production in late 2024 or early 2025 at Ford’s Oakville, Ontario, plant [emphasis added, not exactly a mass-market vehicle, almost all likely to be sold in US, note photo at top of the post], as part of a US$1.5-billion changeover there from combustion-engine to battery electric vehicles, two of the sources said, citing the automaker’s plans shared with suppliers.

Several more Lincoln EV crossovers, including potential replacements for the compact Corsair and the mid-size Nautilus, could be built in Oakville in 2025 or 2026, said the two sources [note that “could”, how much more government bribe money needed?], who cited internal planning documents. Production plans for those models have not been finalized…

Meanwhile Honda and Toyota have only committed to assemble hybrid vehicles in Ontario (luxury ones by the latter), not fully electric ones– but a plug-in version of the Toyota will be made. As for Honda:

Sorting the EVs from the hype in Honda’s $1.38-billion CR-V Hybrid assembly plant announcement

Is Honda Canada’s retooling of its Alliston, Ont., manufacturing plant to build a new hybrid crossover really a step forward for electric and zero emission vehicle manufacturing in Canada? It depends on what comes next

…one important detail can’t be overlooked — the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) they’ll be making at Alliston, the Honda CR-V Hybrid, only has one fuel source: gasoline. It won’t have a plug to enable it to draw power from the electrical grid and is not zero emission [emphasis added].

The only way this announcement is truly about EVs, say industry observers, is if the current retooling paves the way for Honda to bring future plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or battery electric vehicle (EV) production to this location…

Thus, after all the sound and fury, the companies have so far committed to making the following EV types in Ontario: one unspecified vehicle (Stellantis) and one commercial van (GM). One luxury SUV seems likely to follow (Ford). There’s not going to be a very large share of the overall North American EV market for those three, and certainly a tiny one in Canada. One expects there will a lot more bang coming for all those billion of bucks from Canadian taxpayers. And that Honda and Toyota move smartly to EV assembly here if the province is to gain a place as major player in the EV auto assembly game.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

PRC’s Neo-Colonialism, Balochistan Section (cont’d)

(Note UPDATE.)

Further to this December 2020 post,

Poor Balochs, or, Don’t let the PRC Fence us out of Gwadar Port, Pakistan (with a Canadian angle)

and these two tweets (second brutally scarifying),

(Full image of map at top of the post is at the BBC story noted in the tweet immediately above.)

here’s a round-up from Defense One’s “D-Brief”:

A female suicide bomber killed three Chinese teachers and a Pakistani citizen just outside of Karachi University’s Confucius Institute on Tuesday. “A separatist group, the Baloch Liberation Army based in southwestern Balochistan province bordering Afghanistan and Iran, claimed responsibility for the blast,” according to Reuters, reporting Tuesday [April 26] from the coastal city, which is home to a Chinese development project under Beijing’s Belt and Road program.

“The blood of the Chinese people should not be shed in vain, and those behind this incident will surely pay the price,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

You may recall another suicide bomber struck a bus last July, killing 13 people, including nine Chinese workers at a power plant in western Pakistan that’s also part of the Belt and Road program. More from Reuters, here.

Balochs have been in rebellion, to a greater or lesser extent, against the Pakistan government and army since Pakistani independence in 1947; the increasingly oppressive neo-colonial Han presence in the province has intensely aggravated the Balochs’ long-standing resentments. Not exactly a friendly Belt and Road, what?

UPDATE: From the column below by a Canadian of Pakistani origin:

“At the heart of the plunder by Beijing is the port city of Gwadar, which China considers its biggest harvest,”..

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Shrinking the Indian Army: Three Year Tour of Duty to be Tried for Some Soldiers?

Further to this post,

Indian Defence Budget: How much will “Make in India” Reduce Efficiency of Procurement?

the government and the services are looking hard at reducing the disproportionately large personnel and pension costs–at the BBC:

Is India planning to shrink its army?

Soutik Biswas
India correspondent

With 1.4 million personnel, India’s army is one of the country’s – and the world’s – top employers. For many young Indians, it’s a coveted and secure job. Every year, some 60,000 personnel retire and the army holds up to 100 fresh hiring “rallies” to replace them. For the past two years, hiring has been suspended because of the pandemic, officials say.

Analysts believe this is not the whole truth. They say Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government could be looking at ways to shrink the forces.

One reason is the army’s ballooning salaries and pensions bill that consumes more than half of its $70bn (£53bn) budget. That leaves little money to modernise the force and serve equipment shortfalls.

India is already the world’s third-largest military spender, behind the US and China, and the world’s second largest importer of arms. (Mr Modi’s government is now spending billions of dollars to boost domestic manufacturing in defence equipment [emphasis added].)..

A recent report, quoting sources in the defence department, says the government is mulling over a proposal to hire soldiers for a fixed term, also called the “three-year tour of duty” [the story at the preceding link actually states that “The Department of Military Affairs has finalised a radical proposal for future recruitment to the armed forces”].

Mr Modi himself is an advocate of reform. In the past, he has spoken about the “need for forces that are agile, mobile and driven by technology, not just human valour”, and said that India needs capabilities to “win swift wars, for we will not have the luxury of long drawn battles”.

The most persuasive case for downsizing comes from a highly respected retired officer. In a recent commentary, Lt-Gen HS Panag said the current shortage of more than 100,000 personnel was an opportunity to bring about reforms [emphasis added].

“The forces of the 21st Century require quick response by agile armed forces backed by state-of-the-art military technology – more so in the subcontinental context, where nuclear weapons preclude large-scale conventional wars,” Lt-Gen Panag notes.

He says India has a “large military where we are forced to use quantity to compensate for quality”. As a developing economy, India’s defence spending “cannot increase exponentially” and therefore it needed to slim the forces…

But there are reservations about whether this is the right time to begin downsizing.

India’s hostile borders mean the army needs to be always prepared to fight two simultaneous land wars against nuclear-armed rivals, Pakistan and China.

Tens of thousands of Indian troops are still amassed in a tense standoff over the disputed Himalayan border with China. Some half-a-million troops have become a permanent presence in Indian-administered Kashmir. Then there’s the threat of terrorist attacks from across the border.”

A hiring freeze at a time when you have unsettled borders across demanding terrain could adversely impact manpower availability in immediate terms,” says Anit Mukherjee of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

There are more serious concerns about the “tour of duty” proposal. Mr Mukherjee believes the idea is based on too many assumptions regarding the motivation of those who sign up and “more seriously threatens to weaken the army by replacing professional soldiers with short-term, transient soldiers [emphasis added]“.

Sushant Singh, a senior fellow with the Centre for Policy Research, a Delhi-based think tank, says the proposal makes him uncomfortable. It will, he says, create a young cohort of soldiers, who would be out of the force in their early 20s in a country where joblessness is rife…

The case for a nimbler and lighter army is not lost on anyone. Lt-Gen Panag argues that Mr Modi’s government should own the reforms – they seem to have been left to “the tradition-bound military, which by nature revels in the status quo”. But critics such as Mr Singh raise key questions.

What about the gaps that will be created that won’t be filled for years? How fast can you train the new “transient” recruits? What about the political pushback that will inevitably happen as public protests demanding the resumption of hiring continues? Most importantly, which roles will be trimmed? The soldier who operates an air defence gun or the soldier looking after rations?

“There seems to be no strategy or plan that has been made public. This is reform by stealth,” says Mr Singh.

It won’t be “by stealth” if the reform is in fact made public fairly soon. In any event if put into permanent effect, which would seem probable (that sort of major reform is hard to reverse), that would be quite the revolution in Indian military affairs.

For a Canadian it is also interesting (and a bit depressing) to see much the greater level of substantive discussion and debate about defence matters in the Indian media compared to the Canadian. But then the prospect of war lies behind Indian minds, based on the country’s history since Partition, in a way that simply does not obtain in Canada.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Ontario Finally Gets an EV Plant (with nice subsidies from feds and the province)…

…that we already were getting anyway, see third paragraph. And keep in mind that plant at Ingersoll will be making commercial light vans, not mass-market consumer vehicles.

The reality of the announcement is that Ontario and the feds are paying GM hundreds of millions of loonies to make gas-guzzling pick-ups at Oshawa. Go figure greenie Liberals and others.

Still a small step forward from General Motors–even if not new–on the fully electric front. Now what about Ford, Stellantis (Jeep/Chrysler here before), Toyota and Honda (only hybrids here so far)? A long way to go to ensure the successful future of what remains of the Canadian passenger vehicle assembly industry.

Note the new investment in Oshawa is just for internal combustion pick-up trucks, including more light ones. How long a future for this production until more bribes are needed to go electric? Remember this assembly plant already was shut down in 2019 and then restarted with, it seems likely, more federal and provincial subsidies.

Plus the Ingersoll announcement is actually another of those things re-announced by governments–a September 2021 story at Global News:

GM Canada to produce second, smaller electric BrightDrop van at CAMI Ingersoll facility

By Matthew Trevithick

GM Canada’s CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., has received another jolt of support from the automaker when it comes to electric vehicle production.

Nine months after GM revealed that it would utilize the facility to produce its new BrightDrop EV600 electric commercial vans starting next year, the company announced Tuesday that it also planned to produce it’s smaller sibling, the EV410, there starting in 2023.

Large scale-production of the EV600 is expected to begin at CAMI in November 2022, following a four-month retooling of the plant once current production of the Chevrolet Equinox ends in April.

Under an agreement ratified by Unifor members in January, GM Canada agreed to invest $1 billion in the CAMI plant to convert it to make the vans…

1) At Yahoo:

Ottawa, Ontario pitch in $259M each for GM to expand EV, pickup production

Alicja Siekierska

The federal and Ontario governments are providing $259 million each to General Motors to expand and retool production at its two Ontario manufacturing plants.

GM will spend $2 billion in total [including the $500 million, i.e. one-quarter of the total, from the feds and province?] to launch its first electric-vehicle (EV) production line at its CAMI plant in Ingersoll [how come those subsidies not mentioned in the September story?], as well as add additional light-duty Chevy Silverado pickup production at its facility in Oshawa. The expansion in Oshawa will result in a third shift and the creation of 2,600 jobs. GM said the plant is the only one producing heavy and light-duty pickups, which enables “flexibility and responsiveness to the North American market.”

GM will retool its CAMI facility over the spring and summer and start producing its Brightdrop commercial electric vans starting in December.

“Today’s announcement is more good news for Ontario’s auto sector,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference in Oshawa on Monday.

“We’re building on our province’s long tradition of automotive excellence and investing to lead the electric vehicle revolution. We’re making Ontario the best jurisdiction in North America to build the vehicles and batteries of the future.”

The announcement is the latest in a series of investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal and Ontario governments towards the province’s auto sector.

Last month, automaker Stellantis and South Korean battery giant LG Energy Solutions formed a joint venture to open a new electric vehicle battery production plant in Windsor, Ont. The federal and provincial governments will support the venture, but did not specify how much taxpayer money would be contributed to the $5 billion deal. However, Ford confirmed that Ontario and Canada “are putting hundreds of millions of dollars in [more at this comment at a post on the slim hopes for building a major industry to mine battery minerals in Ontario].”

Honda Canada also announced last month that it will spend $1.38 billion to upgrade its Alliston, Ont. plant to produce the 2023 CR-V hybrid crossover. The federal and provincial governments pitched in $131.6 million each towards the plant upgrade [emphasis added].

Ontario said that over the past 18 months the province’s automotive sector has seen $12 billion in new investment for vehicle production, more than $5 billion of which is for hybrid and electric vehicle production [emphasis added].

“Today is proof that the Canadian auto sector is here for the long-term,” federal Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said on Monday.

“That means more jobs, more economic growth and certainly more clean vehicles [NOT AT OSHAWA].”

2) At Global News:

Ontario, feds to each spend $259M to help transform GM plants in Oshawa, Ingersoll

By Hannah Jackson

The [Ontario] government said the money will also help with improvements across all of GM’s manufacturing and research and development facilities in the province…

The release said the investment will also “secure electric commercial vehicle production at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll.”

The government said this means the plant will become GM’s “designated EV hub for its new all-electric commercial vehicle brand BrightDrop [emphasis added].” and will be the first “full-scale electric vehicle production facility in Canada.”..

3) At CBC:

Federal, Ontario governments to invest $259M each for GM facilities in Oshawa, Ingersoll

Work to refit the CAMI plant for EV production is set to start next month [in other words that investment has been underway for a while] and will run until October. That’s when the company will end production of the Chevrolet Equinox. Those currently working at the plant will be laid off for most of the year while the construction takes place.

BrightDrop’s first customer is FedEx, which will begin receiving GM’s EV600 electric vans later this year…

Last month, GM and South Korea’s POSCO Chemical announced a deal to build a $400-million plant in Quebec to produce material for batteries to be used in electric vehicles (EV) [but not the batteries themselves, see this post: “Quebec, Canada Gets Plant to Make Low-Hanging Fruit in Batteries/EV Supply Chain“]

The company [GM] has plans to introduce 30 new electric vehicles by 2025 [so far Canada gets just those vans] and eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035 [Silverado below has those tailpipes].

Meanwhile Biden may be on the way largely to squashing those mineral hopes in Ontario–a recent post:

Biden Cancelling Ontario’s Dream to Mine Minerals for Batteries (without even realizing it)?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Biden Cancelling Ontario’s Dream to Mine Minerals for Batteries (without even realizing it)?

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “U.S. President Biden climbing aboard a GMC Hummer EV”–made at a plant in Detroit.)

Further to this post,

Mining Minerals in Northern Ontario (if these projects even happen) Has Little to Do with Battery, Electric Vehicle Production in the Province

how likely is it that companies wishing to do EV business with the US will mine necessary battery minerals in Canada? And what about plants making the batteries themselves? One big investment at Windsor, Ontario, has just been announced–with big bribes from feds and the province. How many more?

First the president March 31:

Now a story at the Detroit News:

Biden uses Cold War-era law to spur EV battery metal production

A Cold War-era law designed to bolster the U.S. economy in times of war will soon be used to help the country get a leg up in a global race to build electric vehicles.

President Joe Biden on Thursday [March 31] announced he would add critical minerals used in electric vehicle batteries to the list of products covered by the Defense Production Act, which has most recently been used to order companies to build ventilators, N95 masks, tests and vaccines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Projects to produce lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese within the United States would be eligible to benefit from financial help with feasibility studies, production at current operations, modernizing safety standards and more [White House “Fact Sheet” here]

“We need to end our long-term reliance on China and other countries for inputs that will power the future,” Biden said. “I’ll use every tool I have to make that happen.”..

The presidential memorandum sent Thursday to the Department of Defense states that the government should promote the supply of EV battery minerals “through environmentally responsible domestic mining and processing; recycling and reuse; and recovery from unconventional and secondary sources, such as mine waste.”..

How likely might be a carve-out for minerals mined in Canada? Especially as having those mines developed and producing is still years away? And the president sure wants as many as possible of the plants making the batteries themselves and assembling the EVs to be located in the good ol’ US of A. That I see as a big disincentive for auto companies to make such investments in Ontario–and so far there are no firm commitments to assemble fully electric vehicles here. See this post:

The Slow Death of Ontario’s/Canada’s Auto Industry–EV Production to Keep it Going without Massive Subsidies from Governments? (Note UPDATE)

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Mining Minerals in Northern Ontario (if these projects even happen) Has Little to Do with Battery, Electric Vehicle Production in the Province

A map to begin:

Then, further to this post,

The EV Age, or, the Dream of Ontario Assembly Plants for them and their Batteries

just because you mine and process raw materials in a province or country is mostly unrelated to where the batteries and electric vehicles using them are produced (a mistaken assumption the Ontario government and quite a few others seem to be making, see this recent post: “Quebec, Canada Gets Plant to Make Low-Hanging Fruit in Batteries/EV Supply Chain“). Especially if an American administration is very insistent that they be made in the good old US of A. Just consider these realities from Natural Resources Canada (a federal department):

Mineral Trade

Mineral products are classified into four stages of processing:

Stage I (primary products) -includes metal scrap and products from the mining industry such as ores and concentrates

Stage 2 (smelting and refining products) – includes products from metallurgical processes, which are relatively pure minerals, metals and alloys

Stage 3 (semi-fabricated products) – includes semi-fabricated products that are inputs in other industries, such as wire, sheets, strips, tubes and flat rolls

Stage 4 (fabricated products) – includes further processed products and final goods, such as metal structures and framing, hardware items, tools, cutlery and pipefittings

Trade by stage of processingMineral products are classified into four stages of processing:

Stage I (primary products) -includes metal scrap and products from the mining industry such as ores and concentrates

Stage 2 (smelting and refining products) – includes products from metallurgical processes, which are relatively pure minerals, metals and alloys

Stage 3 (semi-fabricated products) – includes semi-fabricated products that are inputs in other industries, such as wire, sheets, strips, tubes and flat rolls

Stage 4 (fabricated products) – includes further processed products and final goods, such as metal structures and framing, hardware items, tools, cutlery and pipefittings [and batteries and EVs]

As shown in Figure 3 [see below], Canada exports a much larger value of mineral products for stage 1 and stage 2 products than what it imports. On the other hand, Canada imports a higher value of mineral products for stage 3 and stage 4 products than what it exports [emphasis added, bingo! Q.E.D]. The result is a positive trade balance for stages 1 and 2 products and a negative trade balance for stages 3 and 4 products. This reflects Canada’s significant geological endowment and strength in the upstream mining and mineral processing industries, but lower downstream manufacturing capacity [emphasis added, hewers of wood and drawers of oil].

In 2020, the trade balance for stage 1 and stage 2 products decreased by 11% to $22.3 billion and by 23% to $19.4 billion respectively. For both stages, the change was due to a combination of higher imports and lower exports between the two periods.

Imports of stage 3 mineral products remained relatively stable in 2020, but a decline in exports resulted in a lower trade balance, down by 11% compared to the previous year to -$6.6 billion. Stage 4 mineral products experienced lower imports and stable exports, which resulted in an 18% increase of the trade balance, to -$19.7 billion.

Figure 3: Mineral and metal trade by stage, 2020

We’ve got to live in the real world not a dreamily electrified one. Now the stories–first by Canadian Press:

Ontario announces critical minerals strategy aiming to attract investment

Ontario is seeking to attract more critical mineral development and investment to the resource-rich province, with Premier Doug Ford tying it to his bid to boost the province’s electric vehicle and battery production [emphasis added, as shown above there is NO NECESSARY LINK].The premier announced a critical minerals strategy Thursday, a five-year roadmap that comes as a few weeks are left in his government’s term before the campaign for the June 2 election begins.

Ford said the strategy is a framework for connecting resources and industry in the north to manufacturing in the south, tapping into markets, and securing Ontario’s place in the global supply chain.

Read more: Ontario puts $250K toward proposed EV battery production lines

“Doing so has never been more important as we secure game-changing investments in our auto sector to build the electric vehicles and batteries of the future using Ontario minerals,” he said Thursday [March 17] in a statement.

Ontario already produces $3.5 billion a year in critical minerals, which are used in smartphones, batteries for electric vehicles and solar panels.

Greg Rickford, minister of northern development, mines, natural resources and forestry, said Ontario is blessed with deposits of nickel, lithium, platinum, cobalt and dozens of other strategically important raw materials.

“Many of these minerals have been identified by other countries as having geopolitical significance due to supply shortages or concentration of supply in very few countries,” he wrote in the introduction to the strategy [see this post: “Congo’s Cobalt Key to PRC’s Grasp for EV Dominance“]

The strategy aims to support exploration, boost domestic processing and create local supply chains, reduce regulatory burdens, and build economic development opportunities with Indigenous communities…

Currently, Ontario has approximately 130 early exploration projects targeting critical minerals and an additional 16 advanced-stage projects [so it’s all still pretty much never never land, real results a long way off]

Environmental assessments are underway for all-season road projects in the area, including those conducted by Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation…

But then see this at the CBC’s environmental newsletter:

The climate trade-off of developing Ontario’s Ring of Fire

Roughly 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont., lies one of the most carbon-rich peatlands on the planet. This water-logged landscape of lakes, ponds and rivers carpeted in moss is known as the Hudson Bay Lowlands — or the “breathing lands” to nearby First Nations. 

But along with its status as an enormous stash of carbon, the area has become synonymous with a mining development known as the Ring of Fire, which the Ontario government has supported for more than a decade and included in a new “critical minerals” strategy announced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford today [March 17]

With this renewed push by the Ford government and Canadian mining company Noront Resources to extract the minerals needed for electric vehicles and clean energy, questions are surfacing about the impact of peatland mining on Canada’s climate goals…

Lorna Harris, a carbon and peatland researcher at Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, estimates that the area of the proposed Ring of Fire development alone locks away the equivalent of around 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2.

Releasing even some of that through damage to the landscape could create significant emissions of CO2 and methane… 

Since the Ring of Fire was discovered by Noront Resources in 2007 (and named by company founder and Johnny Cash fan Richard Nemis), the hype was around chromite, which is used to make stainless steel. More recently, the conversation has shifted to minerals like cobalt needed for electric car batteries [emphasis added]— especially given that the transportation sector makes up around 30 per cent of Canada’s emissions…

According to a 2020 presentation from Noront Resources, nickel, copper and cobalt — each essential for today’s electric vehicle batteries — are all abundant in the Ring of Fire. But the most advanced projects there centre on nickel, copper, platinum and palladium, in addition to chromium, a material in wind turbines. The area also contains diamonds and gold

The company hopes to start production in 2026 [emphasis added, “hopes”–surely that’s way too far down the road to have much effect on whether batteries or EVs themselves are produced in Ontario].

[Chief Robert] Nakogee [of Fort Albany First Nation] is one of five Indigenous chiefs who sent a Jan. 19 letter to Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, expressing concerns about the climate impacts of mining in the Ring of Fire and the “dishonourable” start to the regional assessment process, which began with terms of reference being drafted without Indigenous involvement.

In the minister’s response, obtained by CBC’s What On Earth radio program, Guilbeault said he extended the comment period for the terms of reference and committed to direct engagement with the chiefs…

“Without mining there is no such thing as a green economy,” he said. “Without those critical minerals, you will not be able to drive a clean, green automobile of the future [sure, but why must the mining be in Ontario?].”

Two of the area’s First Nations, Webequie and Marten Falls, are partnering with Noront Resources on access roads that would connect the Indigenous communities to the Ring of Fire mineral site.

“​​This not only enables mining development but also provides much-needed infrastructure that will improve the lives of local First Nations in the Ring of Fire region,” a Noront company spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The two First Nations did not reply for comment by publication time… 

One wonders, heck, one is very doubtful about how enthusiastic PM Trudeau’s ever-greener government will prove to be about doing much concrete to smooth the way for that Ring of Fire.

Plus a post on trying get those EVs assembled in Ontario:

The Slow Death of Ontario’s/Canada’s Auto Industry–EV Production to Keep it Going without Massive Subsidies from Governments? (Note UPDATE)

PREDATE: More on the grim realities facing the Ontario auto industry–excerpts from the Globe and Mail:

Ontario desperately needs to play catchup on EVs, and jobs are on the line

Matt Bubbers

March 16, 2022

As The Globe reported previously, after the initial EV investments are made, the next big round may not come for another 10 years. Building a strong EV manufacturing base now ­– not in five or 10 years – is necessary in order to secure the long-term survival of Ontario’s auto industry, and the more than hundreds of thousands of jobs that directly and indirectly depend on it.

As it stands, Ontario is lagging way behind when it comes to EV adoption, and is at risk of missing out on the EV and battery manufacturing boom as well…

So far, the U.S. has been the big winner when it comes to EV manufacturing investments in North America. Ford is spending US$11-billion on three battery plants and a new assembly facility, all of which will be south of the border in Kentucky and Tennessee. General Motors is spending nearly US$7-billion in Michigan, creating an additional 4,000 jobs, to produce electric pickups and battery cells…

At the time of writing, Canada doesn’t have a complete battery manufacturing plant…

That’s not to say Ontario hasn’t had any success in attracting ZEV [zero emission vehicle] investment. It has, to the tune of around $4-billion, thanks to efforts from unions, as well as the provincial and federal governments. The province and feds each chipped in $295-million as part of a $1.8-billion investment to turn Ford’s Oakville Assembly Complex into a hub for electric vehicle production. General Motor is spending $1-billion to build BrightDrop electric delivery vans at its Ingersoll, Ont., plant, although that announcement was contingent on securing government support {emphasis added]

Somehow I doubt Ontario and the feds are going to be able to bribe, er, subsidize our way to electric success.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

The only possible theme song: