Sunday, December 27, 2009

Copenhagen has given us the chance to face climate change with honesty

A carbon-use dividend for everybody must replace the old, ineffectual 'cap-and-trade' scheme

Last weekend's minimalist Copenhagen global climate accord provides a great opportunity. The old deceitful, ineffectual approach is severely wounded and must die. Now there is a chance for the world to get on to an honest, effective path to an agreement.

The centrepiece of the old approach was a "cap-and-trade" scheme, festooned with offsets and bribes – bribes that purportedly, but hardly, reduced carbon emissions. It was analogous to the indulgences scheme of the Middle Ages, whereby sinners paid the Church for forgiveness.
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Building an easy answer to climate change

Buildings last for decades, so increasing their green credentials can have a long-term impact on our energy consumption

30 November 2009 - Killer typhoons in Taiwan and China ... a failed monsoon in India ... the United Nations secretary-general pleading for action on climate change, while politicians argue over who will bear the costs.

But, instead of bickering while the planet heats up, policymakers should embrace one of the cheapest ways of cutting the air pollution: by making buildings more efficient.

Surprisingly, buildings account for about one-third of global energy use. Transportation, mostly cars, accounts for roughly another one-third. Factories and mines make up the rest. A lot of attention has gone into making cars and factories more efficient since the first global energy shocks of the 1970s. Yet most buildings are bigger energy hogs than a fleet of SUVs. Given advances in technology in everything from window glass to air conditioners, change can come for no net cost.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which produced a landmark study on the topic, contends that buildings should put back into the system at least as much energy as they take out. The consultancy McKinsey & Company notes that a number of key energy efficiency technologies for buildings offer payback periods of less than a year and could have a dramatic impact on greenhouse-gas emissions.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Future of Global Oil Supply: Understanding the Building Blocks

Predicting Supply in a Complex World Fears about "running out" of oil are recurrent. At their strongest, they coincide with periods of high prices and tight supply-demand balance. The latest such period of "peak oil" concerns became very evident from 2004, when strong oil demand ran up against capacity constraints.

In contrast, IHS CERA’s reference case for global liquid productive capacity shows growth through 2030 to around 115 million barrels per day (mbd) and finds no evidence of a peak in supply appearing before that time.
Hydrocarbon liquids—crude oil, condensate, extra heavy oil, and natural gas liquids—are a finite resource; but based on recent trends in exploration and appraisal activity, there should be more than an adequate inventory of physical resources available to increase supply to meet anticipated levels of demand in this time frame.

Post-2030 supply may well struggle to meet demand, but an undulating plateau rather than a dramatic peak will likely unfold. Moreover, if the "peak demand" now evident in the OECD countries is a precursor of later developments in the emerging markets, world demand itself could eventually move on to a different course. More >>>

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Key Oil Figures Were Distorted by US Pressure, Says Whistleblower

Watchdog's estimates of reserves inflated says top official

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation's latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies. More >>>

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Japan accelerates purchase of surplus solar electricity at homes

TOKYO — Sunday 1st November, - The government launched Sunday a new program that enables power companies to purchase at higher rates surplus electricity produced by solar power generation systems installed in homes, schools and hospitals.

The move is Japan’s latest attempt to make photovoltaic generation, which is cleaner in terms of carbon emissions than fossil fuels, more popular at the public level and to step up efforts to fight global warming.
On Saturday, the government said it may further accelerate such efforts, with Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan expressing his hope to launch another program during the year through March 2011, under which utility companies would buy all the solar electricity generated at homes and elsewhere. Kan said that would help give incentives to people to install solar panels on their roofs with ‘‘the state not required to spend even 1 yen.’’ Under the program begun Sunday, effective through the next 10 years, many of the utility firms will almost double payments to 48 yen for each kilowatt generated per hour by households and 24 yen by schools, hospitals and other facilities.

To cover the rise in costs, the electricity companies will collect a monthly surcharge of around 30 yen from every household and organization using electricity in the country, starting in April.
The surcharge is expected to rise to 50 to 100 yen in the next five to 10 years and critics say the additional burden will only weaken consumer sentiment, delaying Japan’s emergence from the economic downturn. More >>>

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Firms Start to See Climate Change as Barrier to Profit

Monday, September 21, 2009 - As the real-world impacts of climate change begin to materialize and regulation of greenhouse gases appears more likely, corporate America has begun to grapple with a challenging question: How do you quantify the risks associated with climate change?

The answer depends on one's perspective. But companies are beginning to show increased willingness to disclose the extent to which they're contributing to global warming and what they're doing to keep it from harming their business.
"If we don't move now, it just becomes more expensive, more complicated and a bigger risk," said Brad Figel, director of government affairs at Nike, at a Capitol Hill briefing last week sponsored by Oxfam America.

On Monday, the Carbon Disclosure Project is set to release a report surveying the climate policies of the majority of the S&P 500, in which 52 percent of respondents said they've set emissions-reduction targets for the companies, compared with 32 percent last year. Many of these groups also see global warming as a threat to their bottom lines -- including 84 percent of financial-sector respondents -- citing concerns including a potential shortage of raw materials and supply-chain disruptions because of severe weather. More >>>

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gigascale Solar

Fri, September 11, 2009 - The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times report this week what could be another first for First Solar: a preliminary agreement with the Chinese government to build a 2-gigawatt photovoltaic farm in Inner Mongolia.

If the plant is actually built, it will be in stages over a decade, to cover eventually as much as 25 square miles. But "much of the deal hasn't been worked out yet," says the Journal with some understatement--minor details such as how much First Solar might be paid have yet to be settled. The company's plan is to sell the plant to a Chinese operator upon its completion, but the plant's profitability will depend on the size of the subsidies it would be eligible for. That's another detail to be worked out, as China right now is trying to decide whether to adopt a feed-in tariff that would guarantee returns on investments in renewables. More >>>

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Schwarzenegger boosts clean energy plan

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) Wed Sep 16, 2009 - California's governor on Tuesday ordered that a third of the state's electricity come from renewable resources by 2020, the same amount as a legislature plan but with promises to let power companies get more electricity from outside the state.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that his plan would help the state better meet its clean energy target by making it easier to import power. He also said the legislature's alternative would have required solar thermal plants to clear more regulatory hurdles before they could be built. More >>>

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bioneers Conference

The Bioneers Conference is a leading-edge forum—join us in San Rafael, California, October 16-18 (with intensives October 15 and 19). At this premiere environmental conference, social and scientific innovators focus on solutions inspired by nature and human ingenuity.

The 2009 Bioneers Conference includes plenary speeches from: Amazonian Chief Almir, Brock Dolman, Kari Fulton, Jack Hidary, Sarah James, Jensine Larsen, Joanna Macy, Mari Margil, Jason McClennan, Michael Pollan, Jerome Ringo, Arturo Sandoval, Dr. Andrew Weil, Lily Yeh and more!

Andrew Weil Chief Almir Joanna Macy Michael Pollan
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Almir Narayamoga Surui Joanna Macy Michael Pollan

These visionaries are already creating the healthy, diverse, and more equitable world we want to live in—our legacy for future generations. Connect with engaged bioneers, who are making a real difference. More >>>

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday, 19 May 2009 - Smart meters will play a central role in delivering an energy infrastructure fit for the 21st Century, says Stephen Cunningham. In this week's Green Room, he argues why he believes the technology will help deliver the necessary carbon saving needed to prevent dangerous climate change.

If time waits for no man, climate change is even more ruthless.
Yet people in the UK, along with much of Europe, have been waiting for years for the intentions of government and its increasingly ambitious carbon reduction targets to be reinforced with decisive implementation plans.
Last week, that wait came to an end - at least in the field of energy management.
Industry has finally been given the backing it needs to unlock the potential of "smart metering". More >>>

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Oil price leaps to year's high

Predictions of $250 a barrel on fears for oil reserves, hopes of economic recovery and hedging against weak dollar .

10 June 2009 20.58 BST - The price of oil burst through the $71 a barrel mark today amid revelations that proven reserves had fallen for the first time in 10 years and predictions that the price could eventually hit $250.
The latest high – from lows of $30 only four months ago – came on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where the cost of July deliveries rose by $1.35 to $71.36.

This comes on top of a $2 rise the day before as investors rushed into the market on the back of lower stockpile figures, higher demand estimates and speculation against further falls in the dollar.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we're testing $80 in a week or two," said one analyst, while BP's chief executive, Tony Hayward, questioned whether $90 could be the "right" value. More >>>

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Peak Oil Crisis: A Letter From Baghdad

10 JUNE 2009 20:27 - A couple of weeks back the peak oil community received a letter from an officer serving with our forces in Iraq.

Despite numerous distractions in Iraq these days, this officer is so concerned that peaking world oil production will soon become a serious problem that he began discussing the future of America's energy supply with soldiers in his unit. What he concluded has a message for us all.

He found that most people have no trouble accepting the premises of peak oil- that there is a finite amount of crude underground, that the easy and cheap to extract oil is nearly gone and that world production will go into an unstoppable decline. The disconnect from reality, however, comes when contemplating the consequences of this event, for nearly all believe there are many obvious alternatives to oil. We know what they are: nuclear, solar, wind, waves, tides, shale, oil sands, coal-to-liquid, biomass, etc., etc. In the mind of most, it is a rather simple matter of switching from oil to any or all of the alternatives so that life-as-we-know-it can continue without missing a beat. More >>>

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hydrogen Road Tour Whets Schwarzenegger's Appetite for Fuel Cell Cars

LOS ANGELES, California, May 27, 2009 (ENS) - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined the 2009 Hydrogen Road Tour at Stop 6 today in West Los Angeles at the Shell hydrogen fueling station on Santa Monica Boulevard to check out the latest hydrogen vehicles and one of the newest hydrogen fueling stations in California.
"California set out to prove to the nation and world that low-carbon fuels and vehicles on our roads and highways are safe, affordable and viable,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. "This tour showcases what I envisioned five years ago when I launched the Hydrogen Highway."

"Our goal of a cleaner, greener and healthier California will require revolutionary new vehicle technologies and low-carbon fuels that will also spur the clean-tech economy," he said. More >>>

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Growth of Renewables Transforms Global Energy Picture

PARIS, France, May 13, 2009 (ENS) - In 2008 for the first time, more renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in both the European Union and United States, showing a "fundamental transition" of the world's energy markets towards renewable energy, finds a report released today by REN21, a global renewable energy policy network based in Paris.

Global power capacity from new renewable energy sources in 2008 was up 16 percent over the world's 2007 capacity from new renewable sources, the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report shows.

"This fourth edition of REN21's renewable energy report comes in the midst of an historic and global economic crisis," says Mohamed El-Ashry, chairman of REN21. More >>>

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Alternative energy will get boost from net metering law

Thursday, May 14, 2009 - Look around your house. If you're interested in "going green," Gov. Dave Heineman just gave you an extra room.

Heineman and the Legislature just approved "net metering" for Nebraska, meaning people who generate their own electricity get full credit for the extra power they pump into the electrical grid.

The "current" system -- pardon the pun -- involves some fees and provides only partial credit for power sold to utilities.

Now, if you have your own wind turbine or solar panel, the power grid serves as your storage system, taking power you produce when you don't need it, and giving it back when you do.

Green-power purists who want to be "off the grid" will still have to invest and maintain their own batteries or other storage systems at their own expense.

Last summer, when we saw a solar-powered car plug in during a stop in McCook on an around-the-world trip, it seemed like the drivers may have been cheating.

Not so, they contended; they were simply drawing out some of the power that their home solar cells were pumping into the grid back in Europe.

Nebraska's new net metering law should give alternative energy a boost in the state -- as well as giving us extra room for something else where we might have installed our batteries. More >>>

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Water and Energy Security

The Connection: Water and Energy Security

The energy security of the United States [or any other country] is closely linked to the state of its water resources. No longer can water resources be taken for granted if the U.S. is to achieve energy security in the years and decades ahead.

At the same time, U.S. water security cannot be guaranteed without careful attention to related energy issues. The two issues are inextricably linked, as this article will discuss. 

Energy security rests on two principles – using less energy to provide needed services, and having access to technologies that provide a diverse supply of reliable, affordable and environmentally sound energy.

Many forms of energy production depend on the availability of water – e.g., the production of electricity at hydropower sites in which the kinetic energy of falling water is converted to electricity. Thermal power plants, in which fossil, nuclear and biomass fuels are used to heat water to steam to drive turbine-generators, require large quantities of water to cool their exhaust streams. The same is true of geothermal power plants. Water also plays an important role in fossil fuel production via injection into conventional oil wells to increase production, and its use in production of oil from unconventional oil resources such as oil shale and tar sands. In the future, if we move aggressively towards a hydrogen economy, large quantities of water will be required to provide the needed hydrogen via electrolysis.
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In Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) there are few choices for energy generation apart from alternative sources, solar, wind, ocean thermal and wave energy or for air-conditioning, geothermal. Without moving in this direction basic human security can be compromised. Editor.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Summit of the Americas: Four Steps for Energy Security

15 APR 2009 - Delegations from across the Western Hemisphere will descend upon the twin island Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago this week for the fifth Summit of the Americas. A hemispheric agenda on energy figures prominently among the issues they will be addressing.

For months, the summit offered the hope of a new, more positive, approach to coordinated regional energy policy. But the array of financial challenges facing the global economy has since divided the attention of policymakers. Now, prospects for comprehensive dialogue on energy security in the Americas can only be described as diminished.

There is still a chance for the meeting to be relevant, even if scaling back expectations is required. For that to happen, the Summit of the Americas should focus its approach to the hemisphere's energy policy agenda on the following four goals. More >>>

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Peak Oil Crisis: Seize the Moment

Washington - 02 April 2009 - Earlier this week the Obama administration, now the effective owner of the U.S. automobile industry, put Detroit on notice that it has 30-60 days to come up with a believable plan to "restructure" itself or it goes into bankruptcy.

This action makes it a good time to step back and ponder just where America's industrial base is going. With $2 gasoline and some incentives, recession-wracked American consumers seem willing and able to absorb another 8 or 9 million new gasoline and diesel powered cars and trucks this year --- but does this make any sense? The "restructuring" plan seems to be one of trimming overhead, shutting some factories, abrogating labor agreements, and stiffing shareholders, bondholders and debtors to the point where the manufacturers might be able to limp along with a minimal infusion of taxpayer dollars.

This plan might be fine except for one glaring fallacy. In the next few years, oil prices are going up so high that ownership and use of the automobiles and trucks in their present form will be a totally uneconomic proposition. How many of the current flavor of cars and trucks is Detroit going to sell with gasoline at $10 a gallon or higher? More >>>

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Making solar cheaper than coal in three years

March 6, 2009 - The day after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Emmanuel Sachs decided that it was time to get back into the solar-energy business.

Starting in the 1970s, the Masssachussetts Institute of Technology mechanical-engineering professor had made significant contributions to solar, including a cell-making technique now used by Evergreen Solar. But once research funding for solar photovoltaics--converting sunlight into electricity--dried up in the 1980s, Sachs diverted into other fields, including 3D printing to help designers quickly build prototypes.

To Sachs, September 11 was a reminder of the perils of an oil-dependent U.S. energy policy. The events that transpired that day were jarring enough to prompt him to restart his solar research. Nearly eight years later, he is chief technical officer at 1366 Technologies, a company formed two years ago to commercialize the work he had done at MIT.

"I first got into solar photovoltaics as an idealistic young person," said Sachs, who is now in his mid-50s and is on leave from MIT for two years. "What really got me in full-time (again) was some of the same but also recognizing that there were a lot of issues at play, including national security...and climate change."

If idealism played a role in starting the Lexington, Mass., company, the business plan is all about cold, hard numbers. The 20-person start-up has an ambitious economic target: to make solar cheaper than coal in three years. More >>>

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Oil Glut of 2009…and Why it Won't Last

  • A rude bet on crude prices - $100 before $20,

  • Western oil majors feel the political pinch,

  • A non-cow dung alternative fuel and plenty more...


Eric Fry, offering a wild guess about the oil market…

As the price of crude oil continues its death spiral, forward-looking investors have every reason to scratch their heads in amazement. The oil market seems to be pricing in a global economic condition that would be even more dire than a second Great Depression. $35 oil seems to imply that mankind will resume its reliance on ancient energy sources like whale oil, tallow and cow dung.

Maybe so…but we doubt it.

Late last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its World Energy Outlook 2008, which presents a thorough field-by-field analysis of production trends at the world's 800 largest oil fields. This comprehensive study suggests that the oil price is much more likely to rise than fall over the next few years.

The IEA stops short of promoting that "Peak Oil" theory that the planet is running out of hydrocarbons. But the Agency does point out that output from the world's major oil fields is declining much faster than previously believed. More >>>

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Economic Rebound

Thursday, 12 February 2009 10:59 - A few years ago, peak oil was relatively easy to understand. At some point in the future, and estimates varied as to exactly when, oil production was going to start declining due to a combination of geologic and geopolitical factors, prices were going to rise precipitously and a massive civilization-wrenching paradigm shift would start as the world transitioned from oil to other forms of energy.

Those who understood that oil was going to start running out one day spread themselves along a spectrum of just when this unhappy event would happen. Pessimists saw the decline of oil production beginning in 3 to 5 years, optimists said 10, 20 or 30 years, and most of the world's peoples did not have the faintest clue that the oil was ever going to run out. Things were so simple 18 months ago.

In 2007, however, it was revealed that a collection of realtors, appraisers, mortgage brokers, bankers, builders, financiers, insurers, securities raters and assorted others had been making lots of money by selling houses to people who could not afford them and then dumping the tainted mortgages on the world's banking system. When all the dust from these revelations settled, it looked as if many of the world's banks had suffered grievous if not fatal damage and what could turn out to be the greatest economic downturn of modern times had been set loose. So where does oil fit into all this? More >>>

Friday, February 6, 2009

Scientists at UNESCO Forum Call for Action to Halt Rising Acidity in World’s Oceans

2 February 2009: Over 150 leading marine scientists from 26 countries are calling for immediate action by government leaders worldwide to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions so as to avoid widespread and severe damage to marine ecosystems from ocean acidification.
The call was made with the release of the Monaco Declaration on Ocean Acidification, which was developed by participants attending a UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) symposium on “The Ocean in a High-CO2 World,” from 6-9 October 2008, in Monaco.

The Declaration notes that levels of acidity are accelerating and that its negative socio-economic impacts can only be limited by cutting back on the amounts of greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere. James Orr, UN Marine Environment Laboratory, a Monaco-based subsidiary of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stated that “the chemistry is so fundamental and changes so rapid and severe that impacts on organisms appear unavoidable.” [UNESCO Press Release] [IAEA Marine Environment Laboratory] [Monaco Declaration on Ocean Acidification] [IAEA Press Release]

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Low–cost LEDs May Slash Household Electric Bills Within Five Years

ScienceDaily (Jan. 30, 2009) — A new way of making LEDs could see household lighting bills reduced by up to 75% within five years. Gallium Nitride (GaN), a man-made semiconductor used to make LEDs (light emitting diodes), emits brilliant light but uses very little electricity. Until now high production costs have made GaN lighting too expensive for wide spread use in homes and offices.

However the Cambridge University based Centre for Gallium Nitride has developed a new way of making GaN which could produce LEDs for a tenth of current prices.

GaN, grown in labs on expensive sapphire wafers since the 1990s, can now be grown on silicon wafers. This lower cost method could mean cheap mass produced LEDs become widely available for lighting homes and offices in the next five years. More >>>

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama Plans to Overhaul Environmental Policies

January 26, 2009; President Obama today declared a national goal of ending dependence on foreign oil and promised new U.S. leadership in the fight against global warming as he announced a series of steps aimed at making American cars more fuel efficient and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In remarks at the White House at the start of his second week in office, Obama called on Congress to pass a massive stimulus package that he said would help "create a new American energy economy." And he directed federal agencies to reexamine two policies that could force automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars with reduced tailpipe emissions.

The moves are aimed at reversing decisions by Bush administration, which he said had stood in the way of bold action by California and other states to limit greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

"The days of Washington dragging its heels are over," Obama said. More >>>

Thursday, January 22, 2009

CIBC ramps up alternative energy coverage

January 21, 2009: The CIBC World Markets research department was paying attention to President Barack Obama's focus on solar and win power.

As the new U.S. president devoted a chunk of his inauguration speech to weaning America off fossil fuels, the investment bank announced it was shifting top-ranked forest products analyst, Don Roberts, away from day-to-day involvement in the tree stocks, and asking him to figure out how the firm should cover the alternative energy space.

A change in mind set is required when a large cap-focused investment bank ventures into small-cap alternative energy stocks, and Mr. Roberts gets the honour of writing the business plan that will underpin this shift. The project kicks off next week, and is expected to take until November. More >>>

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Peak Oil Crisis: Cars - Redux

08 January 2009: I hate to keep coming back to cars, but in the last hundred years they have come to be one of the most significant facets of civilization - yet their future is in doubt.

Cars have been much in the news lately. New ones have not been selling too well in recent months and their manufacturers, at least in the U.S., are bankrupt.

Unless you are employed in the automobile industry or indirectly make a living from the manufacture or sale of motor vehicles, the demise of Detroit-as-we-know-it will probably not make too much difference to our mobility.

Shortly, the problem, of course, will not be the cars, but the gasoline and diesel to power them. At the minute, gasoline prices are hovering around an all-time inflation adjusted low; however, this situation is reversing again. OPEC is in the midst of cutting its production by 4.2 million barrels a day (b/d) and U.S. gasoline consumption seems to be inching up again despite increasingly severe economic problems. Within a year or two we could be back over $100 a barrel again. More >>>