Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Peak Oil Crisis: 2011 – A Pivotal Year?

DECEMBER 29 2010 - Wall Street is getting nervous. As oil prices continue to creep up and as more evidence accumulates that the age of ever-growing energy production and economic growth  is coming to an end, a specter is haunting the great investment banks and brokerage houses of New York. 

For five years now Wall Street and its chorus in the financial media have ignored or denied that global oil production has reached a plateau after 150 years of steady growth. Those who did admit to a problem were quick to assert that the markets would find substitutes first in the form of endless quantities of coal waiting to be exploited and more recently 100 years' worth of shale gas would come seamlessly to the rescue.

The nervousness of course is that once global energy production starts to decline, capitalism as we have known it for the last few centuries will no longer be the same. While some new form of an economic system will evolve, the transition is likely to be long and painful. Many, if not most, jobs in the financial industry will simply melt away. Hence, for many, putting off the fateful day when we have to admit the inevitable is much preferred solution. More >>>

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Road to energy security links entire region

Dec 28, 2010 - The array of solar panels lining the outskirts of Masdar City are but one indication of the Emirate's ambitious plans for harnessing the power of the sun. Shams 1, the largest  concentrated solar power plant in the Middle East being built in Madinat Zayed, is another.

And this week's announcement by Al Maskari Holding to invest in Libya's solar market is a third. As we reported yesterday, a Dh11 billion commitment to Libya's energy market will partly include "the best solar resources in the world", according to Sheikha Aisha Al Maskari, the chairwoman of Al Maskari Holding.

The Abu Dhabi-based family company is investing in Libya for the same reason that other local entities have invested in Sweden, Qatar, and Spain: the national energy policy links the UAE not just to the region, but to the world. More >>>

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Time of the Demagogues

Wednesday, December 22 2010 - The transition from 200 years of cheap and plentiful fossil fuels to an era without will go through many phases as it gradually dawns on the body politic what is happening.

A few weeks ago Virginia's U.S. Senator Mark Warner noted that the global warming debate was not so much a scientific one as it was religious. On one side were the apostles of science and on the other was the "American way of life."

When Election Day came, it was no contest - the American way of life won hands down and numerous veteran politicians were sent packing. In state after state, "cap and trade" was widely perceived as the implacable enemy of all Americans hold dear - prosperity and economic growth.

Now it shouldn't take long for one to figure out that the good times we have enjoyed for the last 200 years or so were based on cheap energy. More >>>

Can a 'Global Thermostat' Turn Climate Change Around

Global Thermostat sounds too good to be true: It's a startup company that aims to address the threat of climate change by capturing carbon dioxide from the air, and then making productive use of it.
The CO2 could be used to help plants grow faster in greenhouses, as a feedstock for algae, for enhanced oil production, as an ingredient in bottling plants, as a natural refrigerant, or as a circulating fluid in a geothermal energy installation.

While Global Thermostat calls itself "a carbon negative solution," its technology is in practice a form of geoengineering. It would appear, however, to be less risky than better-known geoengineering techniques such as solar radiation management or marine cloud whitening.
"We've faced skepticism about the solution because it's so radical," says Graciela Chichilnisky, a co-founder and managing director of Global Thermostat. But, she says, a carbon negative solution to the climate crisis will be needed "to contain rising levels of atmospheric carbon because we procrastinated too long and carbon emissions reductions do not suffice." More >>>

Monday, December 20, 2010

Red is about to become the new green, if researchers from the University of Illinois are on the right track. They’ve developed a new super-efficient strain of yeast that can easily break down red seaweed into biofuel. 

The new development could help small island nations and other sea-bound regions grow biofuel crops without giving up scarce land resources that are needed to grow food. But it also opens up some challenges down the road as human use of the marine environment increases.
Biofuel from Red Seaweed

When it comes to extracting fuel from non-food biomass, seaweed has general advantages over land crops. The most obvious one is the relative absence of hard fibers that are difficult to break down into sugars. Marine biomass degrades much more easily than land crops, but there is still a catch. When red seaweed is broken down it yields both glucose and galactose (a less “sweet” form of sugar), and until now it has been difficult to find an efficient fermentation process for galactose. The University of Illinois team identified three genes in a common microbe, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that can be pumped up to increase galactose fermentation by 250 percent. More >>>

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gulf States Consider Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies

One big problem in getting everyone to reduce use of harmful fossil fuels is that gas is too cheap some places. The worst offenders pay the least for gas, and it has long encouraged grotesque over- consumption.

Most of Europe has long since adjusted to its high gas prices, with the UK now paying $6.60 for a full gallon, Norway and Denmark; $7.41 and $6.89 respectively. Even in Hong Kong, gas costs $6.87, according to a report published this year by US-based research firm AIRINC that collated global gas price data from around the world in US dollars.

But gas guzzling Americans, currently screeching at the prospect of topping $3,  pay only $2.85. Middle Eastern drivers are even worse. UAE residents pay even less, currently just $1.57. Kuwaitis pay only  85 cents and at the very bottom of the Gulf state list, according to Arabian Business, are the Saudis who pay just 45 cents a gallon! More >>>

Thursday, December 16, 2010

DALLAS, Dec. 16 -- Lockheed Martin will demonstrate its Intelligent Microgrid system for electrical power distribution at Fort Bliss, Texas. 

The demonstration at an Army Brigade Combat Team complex is part of a project by the U.S. Department of Defense's Environmental Security Technology Certification Program.

"Government installations must meet challenging new energy reduction and renewable energy mandates, as well as address critical energy security objectives," said Gil Metzger, director of Intelligent Microgrid Solutions at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "Our Intelligent Microgrid Solutions provide the efficiency, reliability and security necessary to satisfy such demanding requirements for our customers."

An Intelligent Microgrid manages the distribution of electrical power generated by various sources, continuously balancing loads and supplies while ensuring that all elements of the grid perform at peak efficiency, whether they're connected to a larger grid or operating in an isolated mode.  More >>>

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Climate-Vulnerable Island States Get Boost For Moving Into Renewable Energy

Some of the smallest and most vulnerable island nations in the world will benefit from a new initiative signed off in Cancun last week, aimed at increasing these countries’ access to renewable sources of energy.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Government of Denmark, the World Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), recognising the disproportionate harm of climate change for small island developing states and aims to support island countries to scale up their renewable energy efforts and shift to greater energy efficiency.
An 80 million Danish kroner (€11 million) pledge of support from the Government of Denmark has helped kick off the initiative, which is expected to help island states from the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Islands regions transition to low-emission, climate-resilient development paths.
World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick jointly signed the agreement with Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada and head of AOSIS; Lykke Friis, Denmark’s Minister for Climate and Energy; and Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator. Zoellick said the initiative supports a group of nations that have been among the most active and most vocal at climate negotiations for many years.
“Small island developing states have been sounding the alarm about climate change for years now and have earned the title of ‘the conscience of the climate convention’,” Zoellick said. “They are leaders in taking actions on adaptation, and the World Bank Group has increased support to them for this purpose. This new initiative extends this support to clean energy, which will contribute to mitigation and also help reduce the islands states’ very high import bills for fuel.”
Breaking oil dependence
Because of their size and remoteness, most small island developing states are heavily dependent on imported petroleum for their energy needs. Some countries spend an estimated 25 – 50 percent of their GDP on imported oil, which leads to very high domestic electricity costs.
“Reducing fossil fuel consumption is a ‘win-win’ for small island developing states”, said Helen Clark of the UNDP. “It reduces the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the rise in global temperatures, while at the same time improving energy security and freeing up national spending for investment in climate-resilient development.”
One of the expected benefits from this renewable energy initiative will be the freeing up of “fiscal space” for governments to spend on development and climate-resilient action.
“Climate change has the potential to derail all the good work that countries have undertaken for decades to overcome poverty and boost growth,” Zoellick said. “In countries with the possibilities of renewable energy sources, overall development is undermined if governments are spending so much on imported fossil fuels.”
The World Bank and the UNDP will facilitate the trust fund that will be established from the memorandum of understanding.
For additional information:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Future of Government

In case you missed it, a couple of weeks back the International Energy Agency in Paris got around to disclosing that the all-time peak of global conventional oil production occurred back in 2006. Despite that fact that this declaration was tantamount to announcing the end of the 250-year-old industrial age, few in the mainstream media noted the event and it was left to obscure corners of cyber space to ponder the meaning of it all.
It is also worth noting that oil is back in the vicinity of $90 a barrel and even Wall Street economists, who are paid to be eternally optimistic, are starting to talk about oil going for$110-120 a barrel in the next year or so.
In the meantime, the talking heads, pundits and even hard-headed reporters chatter on about the slow but persistent economic recovery that is supposed to be taking place. As the effects of last year's near-trillion dollar stimulus start to be felt, every statistical twitch upward is hailed as proof that normalcy will soon return. Realists, however, call this twitching "bottom-bouncing" and are convinced that far worse is yet to come. More >>>

Monday, December 6, 2010

Richard Branson has long argued that business must step up and tackle both climate change and peak oil as a matter of urgency.  

From proposing waste-based biofuels in aviation, and even towing planes to the runway, through to setting up a carbon war room and warning of $200 a barrel oil, he has definitely made some big, bold moves in the greener business sphere. (I remain unconvinced by his arguments for green space tourism though.) Now the man is taking on the shipping industry, creating a comprehensive energy efficiency rating system for all ocean-going ships. The result, he hopes, will be empowered exporters, importers and even vacationers on cruises, who will now be able to pressure companies to use only the greenest vessels.
According to John Vidal over at The Guardian, the launch of is intended to create a global database showing the engine size and CO2 emissions of nearly 60,000 ships—and thus mobilizing significant pressure on fleet owners to green up their act and start using cleaner and more efficient ships. The scheme's architects have high hopes for the database which, they say, could cut emissions by as much as 25%. More >>>

America's Greenest Governor Discusses Smart Growth, Clean Energy

Mon Dec 6, 2010  Not many eco-leaders are tougher than the Governator, but even Arnold Schwarzenegger runs a close second to Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. 

In a single term, Ritter has worked wonders at advancing a clean energy future for Colorado, establishing a precedent for other states to move past dirty coal and earning Greenopia’s title as America’s greenest governor. In this Q&A, Ritter reports on energy security, leadership, and what’s next.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Peak Coal is Moving Closer Too

Those following the issue have known for years that peak oil was very close, but coal was always thought to be another issue entirely. Official estimates, made many years ago however, talked about 300 years' worth of coal being left which to most of us is synonymous with "eons." Neither we, nor our children, nor grandchildren, nor our great-grandchildren can expect to be around that long.

However, in recent decades, there were a number of developments that are now raising questions about the centuries-of-coal-left estimates. The most spectacular of these developments came after World War II when the Chinese got their act together and began to grow their economy, and did they ever grow it! We all know that economic growth takes prodigious amounts of energy, and while China did have quite a bit of oil, they had huge amounts of coal; something over 180 billion tons of the stuff is left according to recent Chinese estimates. This was second only to the U.S. and Russia who are currently estimated by BP to have more than 200 billion tons each. As we have come to learn, these numbers are always rather suspect for there is good quality coal and bad quality coal. There is cheap and easy-to-get coal and expensive hard-to-get coal. As with oil, it is the rate at which you can exploit it that counts - not the theoretical reserves. More >>>