Friday, July 24, 2015

Is the Iran deal about staving off the coming oil shock - By Nafeez Ahmed

The Iran nuclear deal signals a major shift in the geopolitics of the Middle East. Integral to the equation is oil, economics, terror – and US hegemony.

The Bush administration had initiated a long-term covert strategy to undermine Iranian influence in the Middle East and Central Asia, combined with overt pressure through diplomatic initiatives and economic sanctions.

Under Obama, this strategy accelerated, largely in concert with other Gulf powers like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, who have long sought to roll-back Iranian influence.

Yet even as the strategy accelerated, unlike its predecessors which openly declared their warmongering hostility to Iran, the Obama administration had used the pressure to forge an unprecedented deal with the country.

Averting regional war

The reasons for the shift are, of course, pragmatic. For years, US intelligence agencies have told the White House that there is simply no evidence Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb.

And the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly certified that uranium is not being enriched to levels necessary for weaponisation, nor is it being diverted to a secret weapons programme.

Meanwhile, senior US military officials have long warned that the sort of US-Iran military confrontation which frothing neoconservatives have been pining for would likely fail and destabilise the entire region.

What about an Israel-Iran confrontation? A classified Pentagon war simulation held in 2012 found that an Israeli attack on Iran would also lead to a wider regional war.

Unlike the neocons, for the military pragmatists in successive US administrations, war with Iran could never be a preferred option.

The added bonus is that Iran might notch down its involvement in Iraq and Syria.

Earlier this year, the US assured its allies at the Camp David summit that under the nuclear deal, Iran’s growing geopolitical influence in the region would be curtailed. Simultaneously, the US gave Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and others the green light to accelerate support to the Islamist militants of their choice in Syria.

George Friedman, founder and CEO of private US intelligence firm Stratfor – which operates closely with the Pentagon and State Department – forecasted the US-Iran d├ętente four years ago.

His prescient assessment of its strategic rationale is worth noting. Friedman explained that by reaching “a temporary understanding with Iran,” the US would give itself room to withdraw while playing off Iran against the Sunni regimes, limiting Iran’s “direct controls” in the region, “while putting the Saudis, among others, at an enormous disadvantage”.

“This strategy would confront the reality of Iranian power and try to shape it,” wrote Friedman.

Ultimately, though, the US is betting on the rise of Turkey – hence the latter’s pivotal role in the new anti-IS rebel training strategy, despite Turkey’s military and financial sponsorship of IS. More

 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Light Up A Life For A Better Nepal

https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/1334331


 

 

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Cold Fusion Conference

In mid-April the 19th International Conference on Cold Fusion (ICCF-19) took place in Padua, Italy and was attended by some 470 scientists, cold fusion bloggers, entrepreneurs, and the merely interested.

The first of these conferences was held back in 1990 in the wake of the University of Utah announcement that two of its chemists had discovered a new way to release energy from the atom. The 1990 conference, however, was resoundingly ridiculed by the American Physical Association and was said to be nothing but a gathering for crackpots, pseudo-scientists, and fraudsters. However, over the decades, the conferees continued to gather in cities around the world, with some 100-300 usually in attendance. Many of those who came to the conferences were scientists who had been able to reproduce the "anomalous heat" that the University of Utah researchers had observed prior to their announcement in 1989. Most of the presentations were way down in the scientific weeds and were comprehensible only to those with considerable knowledge of particle physics, so the conferences drew little attention.

In the last couple of years, however, the tide has turned. Although Cold Fusion is still anathema to many in the U.S. and more importantly to the U.S. Department of Energy, scientists in several countries around the world are starting to see that the technology works, that it could be at least a partial solution to many of mankind’s problems, and are starting to talk about developments in the field to their local press. Most, however, continue to be unaware of recent progress in developing this new source of energy or are too wedded to their prejudices to even consider new evidence.

This year the most important development in cold fusion, unless overtaken by a competitive technology, is the acceptance test of the Rossi/Industrial heat, 1 megawatt, cold fusion reactor, which currently is underway at customer factory in the US. The engineer and entrepreneur, Andrea Rossi, who developed the first working commercial application of a cold fusion reactor, did not attend the ICCF-19 conference. However, his CEO Tom Darden of North Carolina based Cherokee Investment Partners and its subsidiary that is developing the cold fusion reactors, Industrial Heat, attended for the first time.

While many were hoping that Darden would give a progress report on Industrial Heat’s acceptance test of its first fusion reactor, they were disappointed. Darden talked only in generalities as to how he became involved with cold fusion, his dedication to the technology as a way of solving the carbon emissions problem, and his interest in financing similar projects. Two or three journalists who attended the conference however, reported being told by a "credible" source, possibly Darden, that the 400-day, 24/7, acceptance test of the one megawatt reactor is going well after several months. Rossi, who is spending full time monitoring the acceptance test, has been saying lately that the reactor has been running in the "self-sustained" mode a good piece of the time which means that it does not require any outside energy to stimulate the heat-producing reaction.

As has been the case for 25 years, mainstream media coverage of the conference was scarce to non-existent. In addition to his formal address to the conference, Darden who seems to be one of the more knowledgeable people around concerning what it going on in the field, gave a lengthy interview to a blogger. In the interview, Darden revealed that he was funding other cold fusion projects, but did not give any details.

During the interview Darden said primarily that he wants to use this technology to stop global warming and not just to make money from a new source of energy; that he invested millions of his own money in Rossi’s technology only after many tests and careful due diligence; and that he is convinced that Rossi’s or a similar technology will have major impact on the world. He notes that a cheap source of clean energy, which is exactly what cold fusion promises to be, is what mankind needs at this juncture.

Another star of the conference this year was the Russian physicist Parkhomov, who successfully reproduced Rossi’s cold fusion reaction earlier this year and has been sharing the details of his experiments with interested parties all over the world. This has made him a folk hero among those who are hard at work attempting to create still more replications of the reaction.

As could be expected many of the presentations were highly technical, and ranged from new ways of making the cold fusion reaction more reliable to aeronautical applications and even mutating radioactive waste into harmless substances. The Russians, with their ongoing Chernobyl problem, are particularly interest in this aspect of the science.

This conference was notable for it may be the last one to be ignored by the mainstream media. Should the Rossi/Industrial Heat year-long trial of a working commercial reactor be successfully completed by the time the next conference comes around, public and government perception of cold fusion could well have changed markedly. A working commercial scale reactor, which is open for public inspection, will be very difficult for skeptics to deny or ignore.

Next year’s conference will be held in Japan with a subsidiary conference in China. India was also a bidder for the honor. After 25 years, cold fusion looks like it is on a roll.

Tom Whipple is a retired government analyst and has been following the peak oil issue for several years.


     

     

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    Why has 'microhydro' been neglected as a solution to energy poverty?

    We live in a world of growing resource scarcity. The oft-quoted statistic is that by 2050 two thirds of the world’s population will live in areas of water stress or scarcity.

    Currently, agriculture is the largest user of water, but as the World Bank’s Thirsty Energyinitiative points out, increasing demands for energy will also require increasing use of freshwater. And as populations rise, so will the need for more water and energy for food production.

    Many say we need greater efficiency in order to help manage some of these difficult trade-offs between water, energy and food. Much of this debate is focused on macro-level solutions. However, the International Energy Agency has calculated that 55% of all new electricity supply will need to come from decentralised systems if we are to reach the goal of universal energy access by 2030.

    So could decentralised, off-grid solutions hold the key? For many years, influencers have debated whether community-based, off-grid schemes can deliver energy sustainably. But this battle has not yet been won. Recently new lines have been drawn by Bill Gates, who called for centralised, fossil-fuel based electrification to solve energy poverty and SunEdison founder Jigar Shah who responded by putting forward the case for distributed renewable solutions.

    While this debates goes on at the policy level, what do experiences on the ground tell us? At Practical Action, we have found that micro hydropower (or microhydro) systems, which produce power from streams and small rivers, provide huge potential for sustainable energy.

    For example in Peru, microhydro systems installed in the mid- to late-1990s are still running today. Not only do they provide electricity for light bulbs and other small appliances, they can also supply continuous power for local clinics, allow people to use fridges and run small businesses. We found they reduced household energy expenditure by more than half, and 60% of families said their incomes had increased.

    However, there is still unexplored potential for decentralised hydropower. In both Peru and Nepal (where micro-hydro schemes are widespread), there was rarely any deliberate attempt to connect the electricity generated to agricultural systems, or to make use of the channelled water for irrigation. This means missing out on a set of potentially transformational opportunities. Decentralised energy systems can not only improve energy access, but also help to maximise the relationships between water, energy and food, both now and in the future.

    More recently, and learning from our experiences, we have been making the connection between agriculture and energy more directly. Together with Oxfam we have been working in Zimbabwe, for example in the Himalaya scheme which uses the electricity generated by the microhydro plant, as well as the channelled water, for much-needed irrigation.

    The approach does of course have it’s challenges. Across the schemes we’ve developed in Zimbabwe familiar challenges and trade-offs emerge, particularly with a recent severe two-year drought followed by heavy rains. For example, in Chipendeke in Zimbabwe, initial planning for hydropower failed to fully accommodate existing irrigation needs. As a result during the dry season, there was insufficient water to run both the irrigation and the hydro simultaneously. Eventually the villagers reached a compromise where the microhydro plant was switched off for short periods to allow more water for irrigation.

    In Ngarura, there were delays in construction of the microhydro project and farmers lost trust. They continued cultivating the steep river banks, and when the rains came there was heavy siltation of the system. The lesson there was that farmers have to be convinced of the benefit of the scheme in order to preserve the river banks.

    Despite these problems, in both cases solutions were reached through dialogue and the community balancing their priorities. It is important not only to focus on the infrastructure for hydropower but also the institutions to support it and that is as much part of increasing resilience as the energy or water itself.

    Development organisations can sometimes be rightly accused of being starry-eyed about the potential of community ownership and management. In the case of a microhydro plant this can impose unrealistic burdens, and in the absence of support structures from local technicians, spare parts, and a clear sense of ownership infrastructure can quickly fall into disuse. But the sector has been learning, as research shows. The right systems for decentralised energy production can be created and it can provide a sustainable solution to energy poverty. More

     

    Saturday, March 14, 2015

    The Palestinian dimension of the regional energy landscape

    "The dynamic regional context creates opportunities for synergies between Palestinians, Israelis and other regional actors in the field of energy," Ariel Ezrahi, Energy Advisor at the Office of the Quartet Representative told the International Oil and Gas Conference on Thursday (20 November 2014).

    Ariel Ezrahi

    In his presentation to the conference at the Dead Sea in Israel, Ezrahi gave an overview of the Palestinian energy sector including the current capacities, future demand, and potential opportunities for investment and development. He said that development of the Gaza Marine offshore gas field would constitute an important source of revenue for the Palestinian Authority, and fuel Palestinian power generation projects for years to come. The Gaza Marine field would not only be a cost-efficient solution for domestic power generation, but also a more environmentally friendly solution than the present sources of fuel, said Ezrahi.

    He also noted that the West Bank currently has no power generation capacity whatsoever. Electricity usage is currently around 860 megawatts, but demand in the West Bank alone is expected to reach around 1,300 megawatts in 2020. Gaza currently receives between 150 to 210 megawatts, while demand is closer to 410 megawatts. By 2020, Ezrahi said, demand will hit 855 megawatts.

    "There is a lot of room for cooperation in the energy sphere between Palestinian actors and Israel and other regional counterparts. I think it's a very exciting time and that the energy sector can hopefully act as a bridge to overcome some of the political constraints. And that would be in everyone's interest," he told participants.

    "Israel needs to see the Palestinians as an asset as they strive to join the regional power grid, and as a bridge to the Arab world." Ezrahi emphasised that the Gaza Marine field should not be seen as a competitor to Israel’s fields, but rather, it provides a potential additional source of gas and opportunities for cooperation between the neighbouring countries. More

    Related Links

    • Presentation on the Palestinian dimension of the regional energy landscape
    • 'Israel’s bridge to the Arab world: Palestinian natural gas?' article in Haaretz English Edition
    • 'Gaza marine development could help deliver Israeli security,' article in Rigzone
    • Ariel Ezrahi interivew with TheMarker (Hebrew)

    One has to question why Gaza and Palestine would want to give their energy generation to Israel, the occupying power, or in fact help Israel sell their gas through Egypt. Using the gas from the Gazan fields would at least give both Gaza and Palestine energy independance and insulate them from the withholding by Israel of their tax receipts, see http://is.gd/FPWOWr Editor

     

    Saturday, March 7, 2015

    New York’s new solar plan sets a high bar

    New York wants to get serious about solar power. The state has a goal to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and it’s already among the nation’s solar leaders. New York ranks ninth overall for total installed solar, and in 2013 alone it added enough to power more than 10,000 homes.

    While that’s great news for solar companies and environmentalists, it’s a bit of a problem for electric utilities. Until recently, the business model of electric companies hadn’t changed much since it was created a century ago. (The country’s first electric grid was strung up by Thomas Edison in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1880s, and some parts of it continued to operate into the 2000s.) Utilities have depended on a steady growth in demand to stay ahead of the massive investments required to build power plants and the electric grid. But now, that tradition is crumbling — thanks to the crazy growth of rooftop solar and other alternative energy sources and some big advances in energy efficiency that have caused the overall demand for electricity to stop growing. Meanwhile, utilities in New York are also required to buy the excess power from solar buildings that produce more than they need — a policy called "net metering".

    But here’s the thing: Even the most ardent climate hawks agree that we can’t afford for utilities to go out of business altogether. Someone needs to maintain and manage the grid. Hardly any solar homes are actually "off the grid," since they still depend on power lines to soak up their excess electricity during sunny afternoons and deliver power at night. In fact, net metering is a key factor in making solar economically viable to homeowners.

    The question of how to aggressively slash carbon emissions without completely undermining the power sector (and simultaneously raising the risk of blackouts and skyrocketing electric bills) is one of the big existential questions that climate-savvy lawmakers are now trying to figure out. And last week in New York, they took a huge step forward.

    Under a new order from the state’s Public Service Commission, utility companies will soon be barred from owning "distributed" power systems — that means rooftop solar, small wind turbines, and basically anything else that isn’t a big power plant. (There are some rare exceptions built into the order, notably for giant low-income apartment buildings in New York City that small solar companies aren’t well-equipped to serve.)

    "By restricting utilities from owning local power generation and other energy resources, customers will benefit from a more competitive market, with utilities working and partnering with other companies and service providers," the commission said in a statement.

    The move is part of a larger package of energy reforms in the state, aimed at setting up the kind of futuristic power system that experts think will be needed to combat global warming. The first step came in 2007, when the state adopted "decoupling," a market design in which a utility’s revenue is based not on how much power it sells, but on how many customers it serves. (Remember that in most states utilities have their income stream heavily regulated by the state in exchange for having a monopoly.) That change removed the incentive for utilities to actively block rooftop solar and energy-saving technology, because lost sales no longer translate to lost income. But because utilities could still make money by recouping the cost of big infrastructure projects through increases to their customers’ bills, they had an incentive to build expensive stuff like power plants and big transmission hubs even if demand could be better met with efficiency and renewables.

    Now, under New York’s most recent reform, a utility’s revenue will instead be based on how efficiently and effectively it distributes power, so-called "performance-based rates." This, finally, provides the incentive utilities need to make decisions that jibe with the state’s climate goals, because it will be to their advantage to make use of distributed energy systems.

    But there’s a catch, one that had clean energy advocates in the state worried. If utilities were allowed to buy their own solar systems, they would be able to leverage their government-granted monopoly to muscle-out smaller companies. This could limit consumer options, drive up prices, and stifle innovation. That, in turn, could put a freeze on consumers’ interest in solar and ultimately slow down the rate at which it is adopted. But if small companies are allowed in, then the energy market starts to look more like markets for normal goods, where customer choice drives technological advances and pushes down prices.

    "New York’s approach to limit utility ownership balances the desire for more solar with the desire to have competitive markets that we expect to continue to bring down the costs of solar," said Anne Reynolds, director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.

    The upshot is that solar in New York will be allowed to thrive without being squeezed out by incumbent giants like Con Edison and National Grid.

    "This is as exciting as the Public Service Commission gets," said Raya Salter, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York who worked with state regulators on the plan. "These are bold, aggressive changes."

    The policy puts New York on track for a new way of doing business that many energy wonks now see as inevitable. In the past, the role of electric utilities was to generate power at a few central hubs and bring it to your house; in the near future, their role will be to facilitate the flow of power between countless independent systems.

    "We need to plan for a primarily renewable system," said John Farrell, director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which advocates for breaking up the old utility model as a key solution to climate change. "We want to pay [utilities] for doing things we want, rather than paying for their return on investment for the things they build."

    So far, the response from utilities has been receptive; a spokesperson for Con Ed said the company looks forward to developing details for how the order will move forward.

    The change in New York could become a model for other states, Reynolds said. Regulators in Hawaii are already considering a similar policy.

    "Everyone is watching to see what’s happening here," she said. "It’s really a model of what a utility could be in the future." More

     

    Tuesday, March 3, 2015

    ECLAC, IDB, UNDP Partner to Accelerate SE4ALL in Latin America and Caribbean

    23 February 2015: The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and UN Development Programme (UNDP) have formed a partnership in support of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative in the Americas.

    The partners intend to create a joint work plan, capitalizing on the unique strengths of each organization to enable on-the-ground implementation of the SE4ALL goals.


    Meeting in Washington DC, US, on 23 February 2015, the three institutions discussed undertaking cooperative activities such as: creating knowledge products; helping to plan for universal energy access; coordinating with national and international partners; monitoring progress in the region; policy analysis; and improved project preparation and finance access. According to the partners, increasing their coordination will provide attractive investment opportunities to further speed the transition to universal sustainable energy access.


    The stated potential objectives of the partnership are: providing resources that support policy and institutional reforms and regulatory frameworks that encourage the development of sustainable energy production and use; the comprehensive mapping of regional energy programs run by regional stakeholders; and determining indicators and data that will be collected from all countries. [ECLAC Press Release] [IDB Press Release] [SE4ALL Press Release] [UNDP Website]



    read more: http://larc.iisd.org/news/eclac-idb-undp-partner-to-accelerate-se4all-in-latin-america-and-caribbean/