Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Solar May Produce Most of World’s Power by 2060, IEA Says

Solar generators may produce the majority of the world’s power within 50 years, slashing the emissions of greenhouse gases that harm the environment, according to a projection by the International Energy Agency.

Photovoltaic and solar-thermal plants may meet most of the world’s demand for electricity by 2060 — and half of all energy needs — with wind, hydropower and biomass plants supplying much of the remaining generation, Cedric Philibert, senior analyst in the renewable energy division at the Paris-based agency, said in an Aug. 26 phone interview.

“Photovoltaic and concentrated solar power together can become the major source of electricity,” Philibert said. “You’ll have a lot more electricity than today but most of it will be produced by solar-electric technologies.”

The solar findings, set to be published in a report later this year, go beyond the IEA’s previous forecast, which envisaged the two technologies meeting about 21 percent of the world’s power needs in 2050. The scenario suggests investors able to pick the industry’s winners may reap significant returns as the global economy shifts away from fossil fuels. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Kingdom of Magical Thinking

In 1935, an oilman visiting the Middle East reported back to his headquarters, "The future leaves them cold. They want money now."

Although the temptation of overspending has repeatedly undermined oil-rich governments from Caracas to Tehran, Saudi Arabia avoided this trap over the last decade through fiscal discipline that has kept its expenditures below its swelling oil receipts.

But in a recent report striking for the candor of its unpalatable conclusions, Saudi investment bank Jadwa laid out the kingdom's inexorable fiscal challenge: how to balance soaring government spending, rapidly rising domestic oil demand, and a world oil market that gives little room for further revenue increases. And that was before the recent economic turmoil knocked $20 per barrel off oil prices.

Saudi Arabia's government spending, flat since the last oil boom in the 1970s, is now rising at 10 percent or more annually. And it will rise faster still: The House of Saud's survival instinct in the wake of the initial Arab revolutions led King Abdullah to announce $130 billion of largesse in February and March. The resulting increases in government employment and salaries can be cut only at the cost of more discontent.

And that's only what the kingdom is spending on its "counterrevolution" at home. Saudi Arabia will pay the lion's share of the pledged $25 billion of Gulf Cooperation Council aid to Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Oman. With Iraq, Syria, and Yemen likely flashpoints yet to come, the bill will only increase. Already, nearly a third of the Saudi budget goes toward defense, a proportion that could rise in the face of a perceived Iranian threat. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Time to refine energy security

What are we to make of the energy debate? If good public policy is the art of distilling the signal from the noise, the challenge has never been greater.

How to balance the risks of climate change against the costs of doing anything about it? And what, in turn, might these decisions mean for energy security?

For the past six months our national attention has, understandably, been focused on the carbon tax issue. The policy agenda now needs to move in a related, but different direction. The reason is a three-letter word – oil.
While oil producers will be affected by the carbon tax, politics ensures that there will be no tax on petrol.

Yet oil is, arguably, one of Australia’s key energy problems. As a nation, we passed ‘‘peak oil’’ some time ago. Domestic production plateaued more than 20 years ago, and since 2005, has been in decline. The oil that is left is a long way offshore, and a long way down. Extracting it will be costly and risky.

Australian refining capacity is more constrained now than it was a decade ago. South Australia lost its one oil refinery in 2003. A number of the refineries in Queensland, Victoria and NSW are small in scale, and subject to stiff competition from imported, refined products. Further rationalisation of refining capacity seems likely as imports continue to increase, particularly from large-scale refineries in Asia. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brazil Builds $127 Billion "Offshore City" to Harvest Oil in the Deep Sea

Want to get a feel for how crazy the post-peak oil fossil fuels industry is getting? Here's as good an example as any: Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras is about to embark on an  unprecedented oil-gathering mission. 

It's about to attempt to extract 30 billion barrels of oil from reserves that are locked in deepwater sub-salt fields at least 60 miles off the coast and up to five miles underwater. In order to get at the incredibly hard-to-get oily good stuff, Brazil is spending an estimated $226 billion -- and $127 billion will be spent on exploration and production alone.

The product of that venture is already taking shape: a veritable floating "offshore city" has sprung up over 100 kilometers (62 miles) off the coast of Brazil, and it will lead the effort to drill into the deep sea sub-salt.

One oil worker told GE's Txchnologist all about these 'floating frontier towns': ""It is really impressive what is out here, 100km off the shore," said Willem Van Beek, a Dutch "mud engineer" who drills the wells, from an oil platform at Espiríto Santos Basin recently. "It's like a complete offshore city. You see thousands and thousands of lights." More >>>

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Clean energy is path for security, not the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

The August 13 Washington Post editorial (Oil pipeline politics) diagnoses the problems with tar sands and then gets the solution wrong.

The proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will take us in the wrong direction, making global warming worse and bringing additional dangers of oil spills to America’s heartland. The United States is the main market for the bitumen that is strip-mined and drilled from under Canada’s Boreal forest. Despite Canadian claims that they’ll sell tar sands to China if we don’t take it, not only are there no major pipelines to the Canadian coasts, but opposition to these pipeline proposals is fierce. Instead of providing energy security, the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will give oil companies a Gulf Coast deepwater port for export and raise gas prices in the Midwest. After a summer of droughts and heat waves, we need to be working harder than ever to reduce our demand for oil. With fuel efficiency standards and cleaner ways to move people around, America can be a leader in clean energy rather than giving into our oil addiction. That is the path of true energy security. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Energy Security: U.S. Must Make Hard Choices

The current U.S. energy mix is geopolitically, environmentally and economically unsustainable, requiring the nation to make tough choices regarding its future use of fossil fuels, nuclear energy and renewable power, says a report from the American Security Project, a bipartisan policy and research organization chaired by former Sen. Gary Hart.

“American’s Energy Choices” is a more subtle reading than what often passes for energy-security analysis in the mainstream political discussion, and unlike similar reports from liberal and conservative think tanks, it doesn’t outline a precise course on the thorny energy-security question. Instead, it attempts to analyze the full spectrum of security impacts that flow from use and reliance on different types of energy.

Importantly, it acknowledges that “energy security does not depend on the percentage of supply that is imported,” pointing out that “in a world of globally traded commodities, it is no longer possible to be truly energy independent: even domestically produced energy sources are subject to fluctuations in global commodity markets.” So while acknowledging that reliance on foreign oil has negative consequences – driving down the value of the dollar and hurting American competitiveness – the report doesn’t fixate on increasing domestic fossil fuel production. Energy security, it says, “comes from flexibility, competition, and redundancy.” More >>> Download the report here

Location: Cayman Islands

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: Technology

Let's face it! The whole fossil fuel thing - widespread use of coal, oil, and natural gas could not have happened without technological advances. 

Without the steam engine, the coal age would have been limited to a handful of people living near surface coal seams and burning coal for heat and cooking, and perhaps a little metal smelting. All the rest of the industrial age - the internal combustion engine and nearly everything else grew out of some technological development coupled and the abundant energy from fossil fuels.

So entranced are we with the constant advances in technology many among us simply can't believe that we will not find a technical fix for depleting reserves of fossil fuels. Some like hydrogen powered cars, others believe that nuclear fusion will soon be viable - there are many possibilities out there. The real question, however, is whether there are developments in the offing that can be brought into general use in time to prevent the obvious catastrophe that will result from the rapidly declining availability of fossil fuels.

There are of course many thousands of scientists and engineers around the world who are working on many aspects of how we can more efficiently utilize the remaining store of fossil fuels or replace them with renewable sources. One of the best sources of information on advancing technology as it relates to our energy future is an organization called Green Car Congress (http://www.greencarcongress.com) that for the last seven years has been accumulating posting to the web announcements, studies, reports, etc. that hopefully will move us beyond the automobile-as-we-know-it to a more sustainable age. What is of interest, of course, is that many if not most of the new technological advances being announced have a range of applications that go beyond the automobile. For example, a better battery for cars could be used in many different ways to store electrical energy for later use - think solar panels and wind generators. More >>>

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

SIDS DOCK Launched to Catalyze Renewable Energy

3 August 2011: The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has announced the launch of SIDS DOCK, an international organization intended to catalyze sustainable energy projects in small island developing States (SIDS).

With US$14.5 million in funding from Denmark's parliament, SIDS DOCK will operate as a "docking station," connecting small islands with US and EU technologies, capital and carbon markets. SIDS DOCK is expected to be operational by September 2011.

According to Vince Henderson, Dominica's Ambassador to the UN, and Chair of the SIDS DOCK Steering Committee, the majority of small islands currently rely on fossil fuel imports and face growing debt as a result. In order to "radically transform" their economies, SIDS DOCK was developed jointly by AOSIS, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). SIDS DOCK will be led by an Executive Director and overseen by a Board of Directors, including AOSIS members, development partner organizations and technical experts. The organization also will partner with the World Bank and UN Development Programme (UNDP).

National Coordinators of SIDS DOCK will be responsible for coordinating the development of national, regional and inter-regional priorities in renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation projects, and for ensuring successful project coordination and outcomes. The first meeting of the SIDS DOCK National Coordinators, held from 27-28 July 2011, served as the launch.

According to AOSIS, SIDS DOCK aims to facilitate the development of a sustainable energy sector in small islands, providing the foundation for low carbon economic growth and adaptation to climate change, with the result of assisting small islands to generate at least 50 percent of their electric power from renewable sources, decrease petroleum use by 20 to 30 percent, and increase energy efficiency by 25 percent (using a 2005 baseline) by 2033.
More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Managing Contraction, Redefining Progress

Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend upon the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to
existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.
—Milton Friedman (economist)

Many analysts who focus on the problems of population growth, resource depletion, and climate change foresee gradually tightening constraints on world economic activity. In most cases the prognosis they offer is for worsening environmental problems, more expensive energy and materials, and slowing economic growth.

However, their analyses often fail to factor in the impacts to and from a financial system built on the expectation of further growth—a system that could come unhinged in a non-linear, catastrophic fashion as growth ends. Financial and monetary systems can crash suddenly and completely. This almost happened in September 2008 as the result of a combination of a decline in the housing market, reliance on overly complex and in many cases fraudulent financial instruments, and skyrocketing energy prices. Another sovereign debt crisis in Europe could bring the world to a similar precipice. Indeed, there is a line-up of actors waiting to take center stage in the years ahead, each capable of bringing the curtain down on the global banking system or one of the world’s major currencies. Each derives its destructive potency from its ability to strangle growth, thus setting off chain reactions of default, bankruptcy, and currency failure. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The World Needs a New Language

We know it is dangerous to cross a red light, so we wait until it turns green.

We do not go out sailing when the weather forecast promises a great storm. We accept it when a doctor tells us to take medicine to prevent hypertension.

We do not drink the water if there is sign saying that it is contaminated. We are constantly accepting different potential risks and manoeuvring to limit them.

But when it comes to climate change, our willingness to accept it as a potential great risk is missing - and so is our motivation to respond to it with our normal risk-behaviour.

97 percent of the climate scientists believe global warming is happening, that humans are largely responsible and that we need to take action now. From their perspective there is a mountain of evidence on the reality of climate change; the nearest thing to an open-and-shut case that scientist can produce. They are constantly trying to convince us -- the public -- of this fact.

But still the concern shared by almost every scientist is not concurrent with the general public opinion. 44 percent of Americans still believe that global warming is primarily caused by planetary trends, according to a poll from Rasmussen Reports conducted in April. And 36 percent do not believe climate change is a serious problem.

Thus we are currently witnessing an enormous reality gap between science and the public -- with very different perceptions of the risks posed by climate change.

If scientists could solve climate change on their own, the lacking public support wouldn't be a problem. But they can't. Without the endorsement from the general public, the fight against climate change does not stand much of a chance. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

UNGA Debate on Right to Water Highlights Impact of Climate Change

27 July 2011: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) held a debate on the human right to water and sanitation, during which a number of speakers highlighted that climate change constitutes an obstacle to the enjoyment of this right, stressing the particular situations of small island low-lying States.

The debate took place on 27 July 2011, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. In his opening address, Joseph Deiss, UNGA President, recalled that, in July 2010, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the human right to water and sanitation, which he said was an important first step towards the explicit acknowledgment of that resource as a human right.

Egypt said States must take all necessary measures to extend human rights, including the right to clean water and sanitation. He added that Egypt’s efforts were challenged by funding, climate change, population growth and other factors, and indicated that his Government had adopted an integrated national plan to address these challenges. Senegal stressed the need to address climate change and drought in order to achieve the right to water, calling for increased assistance.

Cuba called for enhanced cooperation in the face of climate change, calling for the creation of mechanisms that are not dependant on the international financial institutions.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines expressed support for the UNGA resolution by which the Assembly had recognized the right to water and sanitation as a human right. He underlined that his country's achievements in terms of ensuring the realization of that right, considering its limited resources, illustrate the importance of political will. He emphasized the urgency of “looming threats” to achieving the right to water, namely climate change and desertification. He added that his country often resorts to transporting water by ship and said sea-level rise would have a disastrous effect. He concluded by calling for mainstreaming the issue in the global agenda.

Maldives explained that her country's main source of water is shallow groundwater, underscoring its extreme vulnerability to water scarcity. She called for considering the legally binding right to water in the context of sea-level rise, climate change, and other critical phenomena. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands