No country emits more carbon dioxide than China, but at least some of that heat-trapping gas gets its start in Appalachian mines.
With cleaner-burning natural gas cutting into the their market in the United States, coal companies have found eager customers in the East, fueling urbanizing economies in Asia with cheap steelmaking coal. Coal's future in the US may have dimmed over recent years, but exports are hitting record highs.
It's why coal export terminals are emerging as a flash point in the fight against climate change. Don't be surprised if instead of reading about the Keystone XL pipeline, you are soon inundated with polarizing reports on Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, the Gateway Pacific Terminal, and the Morrow Pacific Project.
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President Obama made a historic visit to Germany this week, sounding more like a candidate with a mandate to lead instead of a president approaching his lame-duck era. During an address to an audience frustrated with U.S. national security policies, the president said the real threat for the 21st Century was climate change. Last year's Hurricane Sandy struck the U.S. East Coast with enough strength to bring most of New York City to its knees and was said to have formed over Atlantic waters that were unseasonably warm. Obama said bold action was needed to take on the best Mother Nature has to offer. A report from the World Bank published before his speech said he better be serious.
Obama said the United States is taking the lead in terms of renewable energy. Carbon emissions are down, the use of renewable energy is up and there are more fuel-efficient cars on U.S. roads. A recovering U.S. economy, meanwhile, means energy consumption is on the rise and with that comes greater concerns about environmental well-being. Storms like so-called Superstorm Sandy, he said, are the face of the new environmental future.
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"This is the global threat of our time. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late," he said. "That is our job. That is our task. We have to get to work." ( Continue… )
The issue with the shale gas debate in Europe is that too many people are framing it as an either/or problem. It’s neither black nor white, but one crying out for some gray matter.
A researcher for a BBC program that will remain nameless keeps calling me to sound me out on being on a panel program that purports to answer key environmental issues. The problem is that on a variety of issues, when asked, am I for this, or that, yes or no, the most honest answer I can think of is “That depends”. It isn’t the answer they want to hear, which explains why you haven’t seen me on that show.
Deep thought is the worst response one can give to many journalists. A UK journalist, among other problems, exists in a mediaverse where they are overworked and insecure, although not often underpaid it seems. Newspapers especially are on their last legs, with most UK papers seeing collapsing circulation. Newspapers are now like every other industry. Those who remain to actually make the product have to provide a 24 hour news narrative, often assisted by Internet robots or anchorperson-avatars, where everything is a constant story. The story of shale thus appeals to the believers in the confrontational narrative. Journalists blame their readers for demanding simplistic scenarios, laying the cause as arising from an instant vote Big Brother atmosphere. The reality is they, or their editors, are overwhelmed by the constant need to stoke the news monster with stories that can be explained in two minutes or less. ( Continue… )
If oil and gas is a profoundly dynamic phenomenon, then so too must be environmental risk and conflicts over natural resources—and we are not getting the full picture from the mainstream media, according to Michael T. Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, TomDispatch blogger, and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy (Metropolitan Books, 2008). As risk multiply, conventional sources evaporate and we are left with “extreme” energy, renewables may be the only way to avoid war and disaster.
In this Tom Dispatch exclusive interview with Oilprice.com, Klare discusses:
• Why we are talking about a “resurgence” of American power
• Why the issue of US natural gas exports is a geopolitical dilemma
• Why Myanmar is important but not critical to the US Asia-Pacific “pivot”
• Why Myanmar IS critical to China
• Why India and Japan are key to the US’ evolving Asia policy
• Why the shale revolution is the number topic around the world
• Why unconventional oil and gas has the unfair advantage
• Why WE don’t need Keystone XL, but the tar sands industry is desperate
• Why the renewables are the only way forward
Interview by James Stafford of Oilprice.com
James Stafford: In a recent article, you opined that "Militarily, culturally, and even to some extent economically, the US remains surprisingly alone on planet Earth in imperial terms, even if little has worked out as planned in Washington." Can you add to this from the perspective of the unconventional oil and gas boom in the US? ( Continue… )
Christof Demont-Heinrich wrote a recent article on SolarChargedDriving.com, about his home solar system, and the threat that squirrels pose to unprotected systems.
In 2010 REC Solar installed a 5.59 kilowatt photovoltaic solar array at Christof’s home. He reports that the system has been working great, but complains about the amount of effort it takes for him to keep his solar panels safe from squirrel attack.
His paranoia began when a neighbour had a similar PV system installed in 2011 (under a lease with Sungevity, whereas Christof bought his panels outright), and he noticed that the installers, Namaste Solar, put in place a squirrel guard (a.k.a chicken wire) around the whole system.
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He then noticed that REC Solar were installing another PV system (on a lease) in Denver in 2012, and unlike his Solar panels, REC were using a squirrel guard. He wonders whether solar companies don’t bother warning customers who buy, about the damage that squirrels may cause to solar arrays, even though they are fully aware of the threat and put up protection when only leasing the panels. (Related article: Solar Power Offers Saudi Arabia a Win-Win Energy Solution) ( Continue… )
I hate the phrase “Innocent until proven guilty.” When serial killer Ted Bundy killed his first victim, he wasn’t innocent just because a court had yet to convict him. The correct phrasing — which practically nobody uses — is “Presumed innocent until proven guilty.” Yet nearly everyone declares that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Language is important. The way we write and say things is important. I can’t count the number of times I have seen a news headline that would lead most people to conclude something entirely different than what the data actually suggested.
Take the recent release of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013. There are a number of key takeaways from the report, and I will be delving deeper into the data in upcoming articles. Some of the important points were: ( Continue… )
In the last week, two news stories really captured the potential future for nuclear energy. The New York Times Matthew Wald reported from Georgia, where construction crews are slowly building the first two new nuclear reactors in thirty years. And National Geographic’s Will Ferguson reported from Tennessee that engineers and scientists are taking core samples and mapping regional geology as part of the early planning stages of building the first small modular nuclear reactor in the world. Both projects face unique challenges, yet they both represent the beginning of two potential nuclear paths for reducing climate-warming carbon emissions in the United States (and potentially the world).
Big-Box Nuclear Energy Innovation in Georgia
The nuclear generators we are all familiar with is physically recognized by large, curved cooling towers and billowing white steam, and pragmatically recognized as a significant source of carbon-free electricity. Big-box nuclear reactors across the United States provide about 19 percent of all electricity.
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But for thirty years, the nuclear energy industry has remained stagnant. Due to a mix of factors including more stringent regulation, rising construction costs, falling fossil fuel prices, and the Three Mile Island meltdown, no new nuclear power plants were developed. That changed in 2009, when the Department of Energy provided an $8.3 billion loan guarantee for the Alvin Vogtle nuclear project, aimed at constructing two new reactors. In 2012, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) gave its approval and construction began. Vogtle, along with the two reactors under construction at the Virgil Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina, represent the “next-generation” of large-scale, traditional nuclear power. ( Continue… )
G8 leaders took on corruption and exploitation in global resource markets at this week's G8 summit.
Many of the world's most valuable resources happen to fall in the poorest places on the planet. Large, multinational companies mine precious oil, gas, and coal from developing African, Asian, and Middle Eastern nations.
That can generate much-needed job growth and infrastructure development, but the exchange isn't always balanced. Host countries are often stripped of commodities for profits to be made halfway around the world. In other cases, corrupt leaders exchange their national resources for their own personal profit.
"Mineral wealth for developing countries should be a blessing, not a curse," British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement last month. "And I urge our G8 partners to champion the same high standards of transparency." ( Continue… )
BP, and the US government, have decided that beaches in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are clean enough now compared to just after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, and that BP no longer needs to send out regular patrols to clean the tar from the coastline.
In the three years since the spill, BP has spent $14 billion on clean-up work according to The Huffington Post, and it whilst it has stopped directly searching for oil slicks and tar balls to clean up in the three states mentioned above, it will continue to send out crews in Louisiana, who was more affected by the spill.
Some locals and environmentalists wonder at the decision to stop patrolling the coast, believing that the effects of the spill are still very noticeable in some areas, but Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Murphy explained that the amounts of oil are minute compared to before, and it has gotten to the stage that the clean-up work itself could actually cause more damage to the environment as it damages habitats and nests for birds and sea turtles. (Related article: No End to BP Settlement Deal)
Compared to 2010, the chemicals smells and thick oil slicks across the sand have gone. On most beaches the white sand no stretches unmarred, for miles along Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. ( Continue… )
In my opinion, too much emphasis has been placed on the alleged strength of public opposition to shale as rationale for not investing. The entrance of Centrica is ironic, given their past statements on shale, but the fact they changed their mind is the key point today. With an eventual commitment of £160 million, the value of the entire company is over $1 billion.
Some, I’m among them, may say Centrica are getting a great bargain, but $1BN is nevertheless a great price for what is still a prospective play. Centrica have essentially anted up, and put a value on European shale assets. Because the M+A between the minnows of European shale gas has been so limited, assessing value has been problematic. Someone serious, putting serious money on the table, is going to bring other players into the game. Centrica’s investment puts down a marker, or benchmark, as to what other assets might be worth.