Friday, March 29, 2013

Bombshell IMF Study: United States Is World’s Number One Fossil Fuel Subsidizer

Between directly lowered prices, tax breaks, and the failure to properly price carbon, the world subsidized fossil fuel use by over $1.9 trillion in 2011 — or eight percent of global government revenues — according to a studyreleased this week by the International Monetary Fund.

The biggest offender was by far the United States, clocking in at $502 billion. China came in second at $279 billion, and Russia was third at $116 billion. In fact, the problem is so significant in the U.S. that the IMF figures correcting it will require new fees, levies, or taxes totaling over $500 billion a year, or more than 3 percent of the economy.

The most significant finding is that most of the problem — a little over $1 trillion worth — is the failure to properly price carbon pollution. Global warming is the ultimate example of a “negative externality” — a market failure in which one market actor enjoys the benefits of an exchange while another actor pays the costs. \

When we burn gasoline to power our cars or coal-fired electricity to run our homes, we enjoy the benefits of that energy use. But someone else — a farmer facing increased drought, coastal populations facing rising seas, or the global poor facing food supply disruptions — shoulders the burden of the added carbon pollution we’re dumping into the atmosphere. It’s the global ecological equivalent of tapping into your neighbor’s electrical wiring so that they wind up paying your utility bill.

The world’s advanced economies consume huge levels of fossil fuels, so the failure to properly build pollution costs into the consumer price of fossil fuel use — through a carbon tax or cap-and-trade-style system, or some other policy — is what makes these economic giants the biggest contributors to worldwide fossil fuel subsidies. Emerging and developing economies in Asia (which mainly means China) come in a decent second. “Pre-tax” subsidies, which are breaks built into the tax code along with other policies, contributed another $480 billion, mostly from countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The pre-tax subsidies of the advanced countries were negligible.

Finally, lots of countries have a national consumption tax called a VAT (or value added tax), and often offer breaks through it for energy purchases. The IMF had to calculate those separately for methodological reasons, and found they contributed several hundred billion dollars more, again largely from the advanced countries. More


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

IRENA’s announces that their latest study on international standardisation for renewable energy

IRENA’s announces that their latest study on international standardisation for renewable energy technologies is publically available at:

IRENA’s report “International Standardisation in the Field of Renewable Energy” helps understanding how standards support a sustainable and accelerated deployment of renewable energy technologies, presents the current landscape of RET standards, and provides a number of recommendations to address identified needs and gaps in standardisation for renewables. The study identifies over 570 standards in the current RET landscape, yet finds gaps in the existing standards, particularly for post-installation aspects of RET, such as operation, maintenance and repair. It calls for a more structured information platform to make appropriate standards accessible to a variety of users. All stakeholders, including those from developing countries, need to be engaged in the standardisation process. IRENA’s analysis also underlines the importance of RET certification schemes as a risk-mitigation tool, particularly to help small-scale projects obtain financing. More



Energy Efficiency Simply Makes Sense

What simple tool offers the entire world an extended energy supply, increased energy security, lower carbon emissions, cleaner air and extra time to mitigate climate change? Energy efficiency. What's more, higher efficiency can avoid infrastructure investment, cut energy bills, improve health, increase competitiveness and enhance consumer welfare -- all while more than paying for itself.

Maria van der Hoeven

The challenge is getting governments, industry and citizens to take the first steps towards making these savings in energy and money.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has long spearheaded a global move toward improved energy efficiency policy and technology in buildings, appliances, transport and industry, as well as end-use applications such as lighting. That's because the core of our mandate is energy security -- the uninterrupted availability of energy at an affordable price. Greater efficiency is a principal way to strengthen that security: it reduces reliance on energy supply, especially imports, for economic growth; mitigates threats to energy security from climate change; and lessens the global economy's exposure to disruptions in fossil fuel supply.

In short, energy efficiency makes sense.

In 2006, the IEA presented to the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations its 25 energy efficiency recommendations, which identify best practice and policy approaches to realize the full potential of energy efficiency for our member countries. Every two years, the Agency reports on the gains made by member countries, and today we are working with a growing number of international organizations, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and the German sustainable development cooperation services provider GIZ.

The opportunities of this "invisible fuel" are many and rich. More than half of the potential savings in industry and a whopping 80 percent of opportunities in the buildings sector worldwide remain untouched. The 25 recommendations, if adopted fully by all 28 IEA members, would save $1 trillion in annual energy costs as well as deliver incalculable security benefits in terms of energy supply and environmental protection.

Achieving even a small fraction of those gains does not require new technological breakthroughs or ruinous capital outlays: the know-how exists, and the investments generate positive returns in fuel savings and increased economic growth. What is required is foresight, patience, changed habits and the removal of the barriers to implementation of measures that are economically viable. For instance, as the World Energy Outlook 2012 demonstrates, investing less than $12 trillion in more energy-efficient technologies would not only quickly pay for itself through reduced energy costs, it would also increase cumulative economic output to 2035 by $18 trillion worldwide.

While current efforts come nowhere close to realizing the full benefits that efficiency offers, some countries are taking big steps forward. Members of the European Union have pledged to cut energy demand by 20 percent by 2020, while Japan plans to trim its electricity consumption 10 percent by 2030. China is committed to reducing the amount of energy needed for each unit of gross domestic product by 16 percent in the next two years. The United States has leaped to the forefront in transportation efficiency standards with new fuel economy rules that could more than double vehicle fuel consumption.

Such transitions entail challenges for policy, and experience shows that government and the private sector must work together to achieve the sustainability goals that societies demand, learning what works and what does not, and following the right path to optimal deployment of technology. Looking forward, energy efficiency will play a vital role in the transition to the secure and sustainable energy future that we all seek. The most secure energy is the barrel or megawatt we never have to use. More

Maria van der Hoeven is the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, an autonomous organization which works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond. This commentary appeared first this month inIEA Energy, the Agency's journal.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why Energy Experts Get Things Wrong So Often

After the unpredicted fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s due primarily to an oil price shock, Philip Tetlock, a U.S. psychologist, started to question the wisdom of experts.

It seemed rather incredible to Tetlock that political commentators, including Soviet scholars, had uniformly failed to forecast the dissolution of the world's second mightiest empire. Tetlock wondered why and how they could be so blind and dumb?

So the psychologist assembled 234 experts, including government forecasters, university professors, "talking head" journalists, and economists.

All together the group made approximately 28,000 expert predictions about everything from economic growth to nuclear proliferation. Tetlock then compared the accuracy of the experts to dilettantes, dart-throwing chimps, and computer algorithms.

Sadly, the experts did only slightly better than the "proverbial dart-throwing chimpanzee," and a lot worse than mathematical equations predicting business as usual.

The findings astounded academia, but were ignored by the mass media. In fact, the modern news machine devotes a majority of its space to so-called economic and political experts who remain about as authoritative as a gaggle of unaccountable bonobos in an Irish pub.

However, Tetlock found two distinguishable groups of thinkers among the experts: hedgehogs and foxes.

The hedgehogs, which tend to dominate the airways, behaved in an authoritative manner and overconfidently relied on one source of information. In other words, they knew one thing well.

In contrast, the foxes, a humble lot rarely sought out by reporters, cautiously drew from a diversity of sources. Not surprisingly, the foxes produced more accurate judgments than the hedgehogs.

These findings taught Tetlock, the author of Expert Political Judgment, a few lessons about pundits. They "were hard pressed to do better than chance, were overconfident, and were reluctant to change their minds in response to new evidence. That combination doesn't exactly make for a flattering portrait of the punditocracy," he recently told

Tetlock also concluded that experts weren't really in the business of making accurate predictions, but served entrenched multi-billion dollar forecasting industries.

These paid prognosticators are "in the business of flattering the prejudices of their base audience and they're in the business of entertaining their base audience." Accuracy is about the last thing many an expert worries about these days.

Now, Tetlock's insights apply to energy analysts in barrels. Oil price predictors and forecasters get things so wrong that energy and business reporters have unwittingly become pipelines for misinformation as black as bitumen.

University of Manitoba scholar Vaclav Smil, a genuine energy fox, devoted an entire chapter in one of his many energy books (Energy At the Crossroads) to the phenomenon and called it "Against Forecasting."

(An historical aside: prior to the advent of cheap fossil fuels, energy forecasting really didn't exist: there were slave and animal audits as well as ship inventories, but no clique of energy forecasters.)

Too complex to predict

Given the grim historical record on modern energy forecasting, Smil refuses to engage in the game. In fact, Smil offers only one energy prediction: "We will spend more time and money on playing the future game" and most predictions will continue to be dead wrong.

Energy systems are so large and complex that unpredictable political events, economic disasters, disruptive technologies and public policy changes can quickly alter the course of events. More


Friday, March 22, 2013

Unlocking Renewable Potential in the Caribbean

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The 2013 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo

About the Summit

The 2013 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo will be held jointly with the 2013 Islands & Isolated Communities Congress at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, September 9 - 11.

The event is the preeminent meeting place for international leaders and energy experts at the forefront of the clean energy movement. Securing energy independence and developing a clean energy industry that promotes the vitality of our planet are two reasons why it is critical to reaffirm already established partnerships and build new ones throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the world. The Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo and the Islands & Isolated Communities Congress provide a forum for the high-level global networking necessary to advance this emerging clean energy culture. Read our 2012 attendee testimonials at right. More


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Financing Energy Efficiency: Lessons from International Experience

Energy efficiency has been widely recognized as one of the most cost-effective option to mitigate climate change.

But the implementation of energy efficiency has been far short of the potential due to a number of barriers, including those related to financing energy efficiency projects. What are these barriers and how have governments and international donor agencies attempted to overcome them? This webinar reviews the international experience with financing mechanisms such as energy efficiency funds, utility DSM and consumer financing, dedicated credit lines, risk-sharing programs, performance contracting and ESCOs, and equity funds. It presents a summary of the major lessons learned and recommends how a country can adapt the international experience to its local conditions.

About the Speaker:

Dilip Limaye is Senior Energy Efficiency Specialist and a Consultant to the World Bank Institute and the World Bank with the expertise in energy efficiency policies, regulations, financing and implementation strategies. He has also been a consultant to other international agencies such as ADB, USAID, UNDP, UNEP, IEA, and IFC. His recent work has focused on the development of innovative financing mechanisms for scaling up the implementation of clean energy projects, particularly energy efficiency. He is the co-author of a forthcoming World Bank book on clean energy financing. He has published several papers and made many presentations at international conferences on the subject of energy efficiency financing and implementation. More


Monday, March 18, 2013

Windfarm sickness spreads by word of mouth, Australian study finds

Sickness being attributed to wind turbines is more likely to have been caused by people getting alarmed at the health warnings circulated by activists, an Australian study has found.

Complaints of illness were far more prevalent in communities targeted by anti-windfarm groups, said the report's author, Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney University. His report concludes that illnesses being blamed on windfarms are more than likely caused by the psychological effect of suggestions that the turbines make people ill, rather than by the turbines themselves.

"If windfarms were intrinsically unhealthy or dangerous in some way, we would expect to see complaints applying to all of them, but in fact there is a large number where there have been no complaints at all," Chapman said.

The report, which is the first study of the history of complaints about windfarms in Australia, found that 63% had never been subject to noise or health complaints. In the state of Western Australia, where there are 13 windfarms, there have been no complaints.

The study shows that the majority of complaints (68%) have come from residents near five windfarms that have been heavily targeted by opponent groups. The report says more than 80% of complaints about health and noise began after 2009 when the groups "began to add health concerns to their wider opposition".

"In the preceding years health or noise complaints were rare despite large and small turbined wind farms having operated for many years," it says.

According to Chapman, when windfarms started being built in Australia about 20 years ago some of the anti-wind lobby was driven by people who simply did not like the look of them.

"Then in about 2009 things started ramping up and these people discovered if you started saying it was a health problem, a lot more people would sit up and pay attention. It's essentially a sociological phenomenon," he said.

Giving the illness a name like "wind turbine syndrome" and "vibro-acoustic disease" had been a key feature in its spread, Chapman said. He accepted that some people genuinely felt ill but "where you set up an expectation in people that something in their environment is noxious, that can translate into an expression of symptoms".

The findings run against the claims of the Waubra Foundation, a national group that opposes windfarms and says serious medical conditions have been identified in people living, working or visiting within six miles (10km) of wind turbine developments. The group says the onset of conditions including sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart attacks and depression correspond directly with the operation of the windfarms.

Waubra's chief executive, Sarah Laurie, said illnesses resulting from exposure to windfarms were "an inconvenient truth".

"There's been an attitude that the people who are getting sick are collateral damage," she said.

"People are not getting sick because someone tells them they're going to become unwell. They're waking up in the middle of the night and suffering from sleep deprivation because something is waking them up."

Laurie, who trained as a rural GP, said it was important that more research was done so we have a better understanding of exactly what's going on.

"No evidence doesn't mean no problem. It means the evidence hasn't been collected because the research hasn't been done," she said.

Chapman said that if wind farms did genuinely make people ill there would by now be a large body of medical evidence that would preclude putting them near inhabited areas. Eighteen reviews of the research literature on wind turbines and health published since 2003 had all reached the broad conclusion that there was very little evidence they were directly harmful to health. More


Thursday, March 14, 2013

The End of Growth – Setting Priorities

Personal Advice on Adjusting to the End of Growth

Setting Priorities

As someone who has for several years been speaking and writing about the consequences of impending energy scarcity, I’m often asked for personal advice. “Where should I live in order to avoid the worst impacts from Peak Oil?” “What career should I prepare myself for?” “What should I invest in?” I’m generally uncomfortable answering such questions. I’m no prophet, merely a trend spotter. The trends I see are broad and deep, but the details of their unfolding could be surprising to everyone, myself certainly included. Why should I give advice that might turn out to be unhelpful?

Nevertheless, in this book some advice is called for. If world economic growth is ending, then there are some fairly obvious adaptive responses that could help us all get through this difficult period more successfully, and it would be a failure on my part to omit discussion of those responses. In this chapter I will be speaking directly to you, the reader. What follows are general guidelines that have occurred to me over the course of the past few years. You are of course free to follow or ignore them according to your own best judgment, but I will voice them in the imperative mood in any case.

The first thing you must do is re-align your thinking. Most people’s perspectives and priorities are shaped by the economic system in which we are embedded, as well as by political messages and by voices in the mainstream media. All too often we allow our thinking to be done for us. But, as we have seen, the “normal” reality in which we find ourselves is actually based on profoundly flawed assumptions; in this situation, you cannot afford to sit back and let professionals who take this “normal” reality for granted operate your mind for you.

It’s essential that you start thinking for yourself. If you haven’t already done so, learn the principles of critical thinking.[1] A good way to begin getting hold of your thought processes is to spend some time away from mass media, observing nature. Make both critical thinking and nature observation daily practices. I’m not suggesting cutting yourself off from news and opinion: it’s important to know what is going on in the world; rather, I’m advising that you deliberately and systematically hone your own self-correcting, critical point of view. That doesn’t mean looking for new information to buttress your existing opinions; it means challenging those opinions and learning to evaluate and prioritize new information.

When we become aware of threats to our current way of life it is natural to react first by trying to defend and maintain this pattern of existence—perhaps by denying uncomfortable information or attacking the messenger. I certainly anticipate receiving some of these attacks myself. However understandable this reflex may be, it is not helpful—especially in the current instance. Our present way of life cannot be maintained under the circumstances that are now unfolding. Rather than maintenance of the status quo, our goal instead must be a successful adaptation to emerging conditions along with preservation of what’s genuinely worthwhile and sustainable from the present and past. Figuring out how to adapt and assessing what is genuinely worthwhile will probably take you the rest of your life. Get used to mulling over these meta-problems, and learn to enjoy doing so.

The simplest shorthand way to think about our collective future is to focus on a series of relevant words that aren’t especially cheery: less, slower, smaller, and (this is the hardest one)poorer. Author John Michael Greer boils the matter down to its logical essentials:

White’s Law defines energy per capita as the basic measurement of economic development; as energy per capita declines, the economy contracts, and its capacity to support individuals at any level above the starvation line contracts as well. All the social, political, and military fireworks that punctuate the curve of decline unfold from that inescapable equation. . . .[2]

Now, being poor isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a person. The vast, overwhelming majority of humans throughout history lived on a budget of energy and resources that today would seem unimaginably penurious by middle-class American standards, yet our ancestors were not uniformly and continually miserable. Happiness studies cited in the last chapter show that people can be quite satisfied with their lives while using a fraction of the consumables that North Americans manage to burn through.

The hard part is adjusting from a higher rate of consumption to a lower one, and much of that difficulty is psychological. Those of us who have grown up in modern industrial societies dominated by advertising and mass media have developed dopamine reward systems that are connected to the act of buying stuff and using energy. For us to give up consumption is about as pleasant as for a smoker or heroin addict to go cold turkey. If we want to make the adjustment as pleasant as possible, we should undertake to reduce consumption proactively, and that means taking hold of our internal reward systems. What gives you a dopamine fix? Is there an alternative system of rewards to which you can adjust that makes sense in a post-growth economy? If you learn to get your kicks from gardening, tinkering with worn and broken machines, making music with friends, mending old clothes, caring for family and friends, and competing with yourself to shave a few kilowatt hours from your monthly electricity usage, then you can look forward to endless future opportunities for enjoyment.

One of the keys to success in life involves management of one’s own internal brain chemistry. This is potentially a full-time occupation: whole philosophies—arguably, entire world religions, e.g. Buddhism—have been established in pursuit of neurotransmitter bliss, though usually the project is swathed in obtuse terminology. This frequent resort to confusing jargon is understandable: after all, it is only in the past couple of decades that the human brain’s dopamine reward system and the functions of other neurotransmitters (seratonin, noradrenaline, and GABA) have begun to be clarified. Feel free to frame your efforts at brain chemistry management in whatever terms suit you; your goal must nevertheless be to reduce the addictive qualities of your relationship with dopamine (learn to feel fine without the need for ever-more-intense “highs”), and to attach your internal reward system to life-enhancing mental and physical activities. More


Monday, March 11, 2013

Are sanctions against Iran legal? Or are they collective punishment?

Iran, Pakistan Begin Border Gas Pipe Amid Sanctions Threat

The presidents of Pakistan and Iran inaugurated work on the cross-border leg of a gas pipeline that the U.S. has warned may breach a sanctions regime aimed at curbing the Persian Gulf nation’s nuclear program.

Pakistan’s benchmark KSE 100 share index plunged 2.5 percent in Karachi, the biggest drop in almost two months, as the news sparked concerns the U.S. would impose penalties.

Asif Ali Zardari, on his second trip to Iran within a month, joined Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi in the southern port city of Chabahar for the ground-breaking ceremony, Pakistan state television showed. The leaders offered a prayer for the project’s success and uncovered a plaque at the construction site.

Once completed, the 1,931-kilometer (1,200-mile) natural gas pipeline would help alleviate the energy crisis in Pakistan, where 18-hour blackouts last summer forced factories to close and triggered street protests. Iran is under U.S. and European Union restrictions over its atomic activities, measures that have curbed oil exports and complicated the repatriation of cash from crude sales.

Pakistan’s decision to proceed with the $1.3 billion energy link comes amid a bid to repair relations with the U.S., the South Asian nation’s biggest aid donor, after damaging setbacks including the killing of Osama bin Laden by American commandos in Pakistan in 2011 and a cross-border U.S. airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The U.S. needs Islamabad’s support as it withdraws combat forces from Afghanistan.

Oil Refinery

Ahmadinejad attacked opponents of the pipeline in a speech at the ceremony, drawing parallels between Iran and Pakistan.

“Foreigners are seeking to create divisions between nations in the region in order to control them and rob them of their wealth,” he said. “The only way for regional nations to safeguard their independence, identity, culture and wealth is through cooperation and unity.”

Iran has completed 900 kilometers of the pipeline on its side of the border, according to the website of Pakistan’s Interstate Gas Systems Pvt. Ltd., which will oversee construction in Pakistan. Under an accord signed in June 2010, Iran will provide about 21.5 million cubic meters of gas a day to Pakistan for 25 years. The deal can be extended by five years and volumes may rise to 30 million cubic meters a day.

The two countries are also expected to sign an agreement today to build a $4 billion oil refinery in Pakistan’s Gwadar, the state-run Press TV news channel reported.

‘Serious Concerns’

Work on extending the pipeline into Pakistan has been delayed by difficulties in arranging funding. The ground- breaking ceremony comes just days before Pakistan’s government, headed by Zardari’s party, is to hand over power to a caretaker administration ahead of parliamentary elections in May. The president’s term expires in September.

The U.S., which has offered to help Pakistan secure gas via an alternate route from Central Asia, has recently reiterated its concerns over the pipeline.

“If this deal is finalized for a proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under our Iran Sanctions Act,” Victoria Nuland, U.S. State Department spokeswoman, told a weekly briefing in Washington March 7. The U.S. hopes Pakistani won’t “go in a direction that would cause sanctions to kick in,” Nuland said, according to a transcript posted on the State Department website.

While Pakistan is aware of concerns in Washington, “all our friends including the U.S.” should show greater understanding of the country’s energy needs, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan told reporters March 7. More

Fourth Geneva Convention, Part 111, Article 32- 33

Art. 32. The High Contracting Parties specifically agree that each of them is prohibited from taking any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishments, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of a protected person, but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.

Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.


Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions collective punishments are a war crime. By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and World War II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, the Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that occured in them. Additional concern also addressed the United States' atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the war's end, which, in turn, caused death and disease to hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians.[3] The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resort to "intimidatory measures to terrorize the population" in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices "strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice."

It could therefore be argued that sanctions are a type of economic warfare, in which case the Geneva Conventions should apply. Therefore, the Fourth Geneva Convention, Part 111, Article 33 would apply, prohibiting any measure to cause physical suffering to Protected Persons. Editor


Friday, March 8, 2013

Jordan close to commissioning two nuclear reactors, declines to sign accord with U.S.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Jordan is close to commissioning two nuclear reactors, to be built about 100 kilometers south of the Syrian border, as atomic energy spreads through the Arab world, even as uprisings convulse the region.

King Abdullah of Jordan

Amman will decide next month which of competing Russian and French-Japanese led consortiums will build two one-gigawatt nuclear reactors near the capital at an estimated cost of 12 billion euros, said Khaled Toukan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission.

Jordan’s plans highlight the political stakes of the increasing interest in nuclear power in and around the gulf region, particularly among oil-rich but energy-hungry regimes such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Toukan said in an interview that the shortlist was a “neck-and-neck” contest between a bid led by Russia’s Rosatom and another headed by Areva of France and Japan’s Mitsubishi.

He said Jordan’s nuclear efforts were driven by its almost total dependence on oil and gas imports for energy generation and a domestic energy shortfall estimated to reach 6.8 gigawatts by 2030. The country, a hereditary monarchy of 6.25 million people, is economically troubled and has been plagued by sporadic unrest since the start of the uprisings that began to sweep the Arab world more than two years ago.

“We are living now in an energy crisis, a very serious crisis,” Toukan said.

While it was unclear how the Jordan project would be financed, insiders said it was given impetus by seed funding drawn from a broad development aid grant given to Jordan by the UAE. A Jordanian nuclear delegation is visiting the UAE this week. Observers said the UAE government was keen to help Amman because it wanted access to the country’s atomic fuel reserves and technical expertise for its own project to build four nuclear reactors with a total 5.6-gigawatt capacity by 2020.

“They [Jordan] have uranium — and they are churning out nuclear qualified engineers,” said one person familiar with the matter.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., which is implementing the UAE’s nuclear program, said there had been “positive conversations to explore collaboration opportunities” with Jordan, although no contractual or financial commitments had been signed.

The UAE nuclear plan is the most advanced of several in oil-rich gulf states, whose petrodollars mean they have capital to invest.

Officials in Saudi Arabia, the gulf region’s biggest power, have floated plans to build 16 reactors by 2030.

But the stop-start history of Jordan’s nuclear program shows the potential political obstacles facing Arab states’ atomic ambitions.

Amman had hoped to choose a building consortium in late 2011, but Jordan’s King Abdullah accused Israel last year of trying to derail the initiative by warning off potential partners. Israel dismissed the charge. Shaul Horev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said in September that his country supported “the use of nuclear power by its neighbors to meet their energy and water needs.”

Amman has declined to sign an accord with Washington that, like a similar document agreed between the UAE and the United States, would commit it to not enriching uranium as part of its nuclear plan.

Toukan said while Amman had signed international commitments on nuclear nonproliferation, it would not ink a bilateral deal with the United States on enrichment.

“We can’t accept this,” Toukan said. “We will not agree to sign any agreement that infringes on our sovereign rights or our international rights under any treaties.”

The United States has insisted that it will not allow Jordan to enrich uranium because of what it sees as the risk of proliferation in a volatile region made more insecure by conflict in Syria and growing tensions over Iran. Continued Jordanian resistance to U.S. wishes could cause problems with Congress and with Israel.

Washington remains keen to do a deal with Jordan, one of its key allies in the region and, apart from Egypt, the only Arab state to have a peace treaty with Israel. Washington also wants the accord because it would open up opportunities for U.S. companies, which Jordan would otherwise be forbidden from hiring.

Jordan has historically been so dependent on U.S. financial and political support that few observers see it as able to deny Washington’s wishes, making some kind of face-saving deal the likeliest outcome. More


Is Bill McKibben Really Serious About Climate Change?

Andy Revkin recently published a post on his Dot Earth blog titled A Communications Scholar Analyzes Bill McKibben’s Path on Climate. In one of the videos that is embedded in the article, Matthew Nisbet describes Bill McKibben as a public intellectual and compares his activism on climate to that of Rachel Carson on the effects of pesticide chemicals.

Nuclear Submarine Under Ice

Revkin provides this quote about the video:

There’s a lot of value in this short statement, including this framing explaining why global warming has been challenging for all kinds of communicators to address: Unlike conventional environmental problems like acid rain or the ozone hole, climate change is not conventionally solvable. It’s more a problem like poverty or public health — something that we’re going to do better or worse at. We’re never going to end, we’re never going to solve it.

Though I am not a New York Times columnist or the founder of a large and growing non profit, I am vain enough to believe that I have something to offer on the topic of solving climate change. Instead of describing the work of scientists and trying to synthesize the solutions offered by technologists into some kind of coherent story to convince people that they should both care and take some action, I spend my early morning hours writing about a powerful tool that is based on my own research and experience.

Nuclear fission energy has almost magical properties. It provides massive quantities of the useful ability to do work (that is the technical definition of “energy”) without producing any greenhouse gases at all. It provides that incredibly valuable product from a tiny quantity of naturally occurring material that has few competing commercial uses. We have known about this gift for just 75 years, but within just a couple of decades after it was discovered it was already powering cities, large, fast ships and submarines.

The current fear of nuclear energy is a purely man-made construct; there is nothing natural about being afraid of a force that you cannot see, smell or taste and that rarely, if ever, harms anyone as long as it is properly handled. Anyone who has raised children knows that they are naturally fearless; they have to be taught caution around such dangerous objects as lighted fireplaces, neighborhood streets full of automobiles, and edges of a high wall.

Human beings had to be taught to fear nuclear energy. Despite what some might tell you, it was not an easy thing to do; in the first few decades after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when the images and experiences of the bomb were freshest in the public’s mind, the support for using atomic energy was almost universal. People recognized that any fuel powerful enough to knock down a city with a single blow was powerful enough to solve many pressing energy challenges.

However, the sustained effort to teach people to be afraid of nuclear energy – instead of respecting its power and using its force for good – has been pretty successful in many places, including Vermont, the place that McKibben calls home. It continues to frustrate me when people who claim to be almost solely focused on fighting climate change and the fossil fuels whose use is a huge contribution to the problem refuse to acknowledge that their fear of nuclear energy is hampering their ability to succeed in their self-assigned mission.

Here is a comment that I left on Dot Earth in which I made my case that McKibben is simply not serious enough about climate change to overcome an imposed phobia or take the time to learn just why he and his followers have been taught to have that fear. I wonder if he ever stops to think about how his reluctance to use nuclear energy plays into the hands of the fossil fuel companies whose behavior he is trying to alter through his divestment campaign?

Though I applaud McKibben for his success in focusing attention on a “wicked” challenge, I continue to wonder why he has chosen to avoid support for the best available tool.

Fission can directly replace oil, gas and coal in many applications including power plants, district heating, industrial process heat and ship propulsion. On January 17, 1955, nuclear fission power demonstrated that it was capable of supplying reliable power in the most challenging environment imaginable – a sealed, submerged submarine full of breathing human beings.

In a world where we need reliable power to continue to do work and where we obviously need to take action to make that power cleaner, I fail to understand why climate activists like McKibben are so fearful of nuclear energy.

The technology, despite the scary stories told in the hydrocarbon advertiser-supported media, has a respectable safety record. There have been few, if any instances of anyone in the public ever being harmed by radiation released from a nuclear power plant. There are 0 cases of anyone being harmed by fine particulates, 0 environments being damaged by acid rain, and 0 fish being polluted by mercury released from nuclear plant smokestacks. (There are no nuclear plant smoke stacks.) More


The Deepening Iran-Pakistan Petro-Relationship

The Iran-Pakistan branch of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline (IPI) seems to be coming online. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has announced he will visit Iran for the groundbreaking of the Pakistan branch of a new gas pipeline on March 11. It will be his second visit to Iran in less than a month, part of a deepening petro-relationship that is worrying the United States.

The pipeline is controversial, to say the least, in the US. The State Department has threatened Pakistan with sanctions for dealing with the regime in Iran, offering a electrification projects to replace any sort of benefit Pakistan would get from the petro-deal.

The challenge facing Islamabad is that it is next door to Iran, while the U.S. is not. In the long-run, it is not in their interest to remain at loggerheads with Tehran even if the U.S. wants them to be. In his press statements, foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan has been open about this. “Yes, we know about their concerns but hope our friends, including the US, will understand our economic compulsions,” said Khan.

Iran has already proposed building a new oil refinery near the Pakistani port of Gwadar.

The Pakistan-Iran pipeline is separate from a larger regional project to link India with the natural gas fields of Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan (the so-called TAPI pipeline, or Trans-Afghanistan pipeline) . It is a goal that has been lurking in the back rooms of the energy industry since the 1990s: how can one efficiently extract and export the vast energy wealth of the Caspian region without going through Russia or China?

Two decades ago Argentina-based Bridas and Texas-based Unocal were in bitter competition for who would get the Taliban’s permission to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. Bridas came close to signing a deal, but pulled out a year later. Unocal actually brought a Taliban delegation to visit the Texas homes of its executives. Unocal eventually pulled out when the Taliban made unreasonable demands.998, Unocal also pulled out when crashed oil prices combined with international opprobrium over the Taliban’s human rights record and terrorism made the deal too difficult to finalize.

The Asia Development Bank has been pushing TAPI for years, though the insecurity in Afghanistan remains a constant barrier to anything concrete coming to pass.

While TAPI languishes in development hell, Pakistan and Iran have pushed forward with their own pipeline.From Iran’s perspective, anything that gives them an economic connection with the region and is outside the regulatory reach of the U.S. government is a boon. From Pakistan’s perspective, too, the prospect of getting income and energy without U.S. strings attached is deeply attractive. More


Sunday, March 3, 2013

'Peak Oil' Advocate: World 'Desperately Needs' New Energy

This is where we stand, and it's a fairly bleak view: "Peak oil" -- the concept that the globe's oil supplies are finite and will, perhaps sooner rather than later, run out entirely -- is almost here.

Nothing new (with the possible but unlikely exception of Iraq) is coming online anytime soon. And while the clock is ticking, forward movement on developing renewable energy resources has been sadly inadequate. In the meantime, the idea that shale reservoirs will lead the US to energy independence will soon enough be recognized as unrealistic hype. There are no easy solutions, no viable quick fixes, and no magic fluids. Yet the future isn't all doom and gloom: Certain energy technologies do show promise. We had a chance to speak with well-known energy expert Dave Summers, where we cut through the media noise and take a realistic look at what our energy future holds.

Dr. Dave Summers — scientist, prolific writer and author of "Waterjetting Technology" — is the co-founder of energy discussion website The Oil Drum and currently writes at the popular energy blog Bit Tooth Energy. From a family of nine generations of coal miners, Summers' patented waterjetting technology enables the high-speed drilling of small holes through the earth, among other applications. What do you foresee in our energy future? Will new extraction techniques and advances in drilling technology help put off peak oil?

Dave Summers: Most of the "innovation" in energy extraction from underground has been known for some time. It's just taken time to work its way through to large-scale market use. There are techniques such as in-situ combustion, whether of coal or oil sand, that are now being developed that show some promise. But each increment of gain is at higher cost, and is chasing after a smaller target volume. Even if better methods of drilling were developed (and we have looked at several) in the cost of overall production this would not, in itself, provide that much benefit.

If ways could be found to economically release more hydrocarbon from existing and drilled reservoirs, then that might have a significant impact, but though this has been sought after with lots of effort, there has been no magic fluid or way of doing that yet.

Peak oil is about here. Though we can argue about fractions of a million barrels of day, it is hard to find any large volumes that can be expected to come onto the market in the next decade (with the possible, though unlikely, exception of Iraq). The clock on this has been ticking for some time, and some of the moves toward increasing renewable energy sources (though motivated by a different driver) have helped mitigate some of the problem, but sadly not enough. Can the shale boom be replicated in Europe?

Dave Summers: The technology for developing the hydrocarbon volumes in tight shales and sands is now becoming well defined, and can thus be transferred to Europe. It will likely make that transition fairly quickly. That's why some countries have American partners in their development. However, the environmental movement that is strongly against the technology is more entrenched, and has more political clout in Europe, so this may slow the transfer.

At the same time, though there are significant volumes of shale, it is only after wells have been drilled and fracked that one can get an estimate as to whether or not the resource can be turned into a reserve. This information is still a bit sparse, and it makes it difficult to be definitive at this time. Is the Keystone XL pipeline vital to the US quest for energy independence?

Dave Summers: The pipeline is something that is a convenience in getting more oil from Canada into U.S. refineries. There are other steps (pipelines now flowing backwards for example) that are being taken to deal with the situation. As long as the sole export market for the oil is into the United States, Canada has to take the price that it is offered for the oil, or not sell it. Should a second sales path (such as a pipeline to the coast) allow significant sales to other customers (say China) then the price will likely go up, and supplies to the US will get more expensive, and potentially smaller. What happens if Keystone isn't approved – is there a plan B?

Dave Summers: On whose part? The Canadians will run a pipeline to the coast and make more money over time. In the short term, the US will be able to balance any shortfalls with domestic production, but in about three years, as that starts to fall off, then life might get more difficult. It takes a long time to develop a new resource. How much of a role will fracking play in US efforts to reduce carbon emissions?

Dave Summers: Well, that is a little bit of a loaded question. Any drop in carbon dioxide levels that will come from changing from coal-fired power stations to gas-fired is not really going to be significant on a global level, and the changes are more likely be market driven, than for political reasons.

It is hard to see, basic operational costs being what they are, that the low price for natural gas can be sustained that much longer. Any slippage in the supply, however, will drive the price up and that will cause a re-equilibriation of the market. How that plays out against political considerations in the Eastern states is, as yet, anybody's guess. More