If the world loses its war on climate change, you can blame China.
The fast-growing, coal-reliant powerhouse is pumping out so much more carbon dioxide that reductions in other parts of the world can't compensate, according to a report issued Monday by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
But the solution to climate change may lie in dropping such finger-pointing and working instead on improvements, however incremental, that nations can agree on to cut heat-trapping emissions, such as last week's US-China agreement on between China and the US on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a heavy greenhouse-gas emitter. And China is certainly deploying significant quantities of renewables, just not fast enough to keep pace with the country's tremendous growth.
"In climate negotiations, the underlying debate has been 'Who is the bad guy? Who should pay the most?'" said Durwood Zaelke, founder and president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, an advocacy organization based in Washington and Geneva. "We’re moving beyond that now – slowly – and we have to move beyond that because we’re never going to resolve that question." ( Continue… )
US Ethanol Policy Should Reflect Circumstances and Consequences
This April, two separate bills were introduced in the US House of Representatives to reform, or repeal, the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that mandates how much ethanol and other biofuels must be blended into gasoline.
To understand why reform or repeal makes sense now, we should recall the factors that led Congress to enact this standard six years ago and consider how many of the basic assumptions underlying its design have changed since then. That requires a review of US fuel consumption and import trends, commodity prices, and the impact of the RFS on food prices. After summarizing the other points I want to focus on the last one, based on an interview I conducted with Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam, an expert on complex systems who has developed a model that explains the behavior of food prices since the introduction of the first, less ambitious RFS in 2005.
Origins of the RFS
In the fall of 2007, when Congress was debating the Energy Independence and Security Act that included the current, enhanced RFS, the US energy situation looked dire. For four years oil prices had been rising more or less steadily from their historical level in the low-to-mid $20s per barrel (bbl) to around $90, on their way to an all-time nominal high of $145/bbl the following summer. US crude oil production was in its 22nd consecutive year of decline, while our crude oil imports had climbed to 10 million bbl/day, twice domestic production that year.
Even more relevant to the thinking behind the RFS, US gasoline consumption stood at a record 142 billion gallons per year and had been growing at an average of 1.6% per year for the previous 10 years–another 2 billion gallons added to demand each year. In its annual long-term forecast for 2007, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the US Department of Energy had projected that gasoline demand would grow to 152 billion gal/yr in 2013 and 168 billion gal/yr by 2020. Meanwhile, US net imports of finished gasoline and blending components had reached a million barrels per day in 2006, equivalent to 15 billion gal/yr–equal to the corn ethanol target set by the 2007 RFS for gasoline blending in 2015. And by the way, US corn prices for the 2006-7 market year averaged $3.04 per bushel (bu). In this environment, policy makers regarded ethanol as a crucial supplement to dwindling hydrocarbon supplies, from a feedstock that was cheap and readily expandable. ( Continue… )
The world’s largest coal company has announced that it will invest in the installation of solar PV panels in an attempt to reduce energy bills and cut costs.
Coal India, the largest coal mining company in the world and responsible for producing 90% of India’s coal, has said that it will build a 2 megawatt solar plant which will have the potential to be scaled up to supply excess electricity to the grid. Think progress reported that plans also exist to install rooftop solar panels at the Ranchi Central Mine Planning and Design Institute, along with several other facilities around the country.
Coal India stated that, “India has an abundance of sunshine and the trend of depletion of fossil fuels is compelling energy planners to examine the feasibility of using renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and so on.” (Related article: Solar Crisis: Cheap Chinese Solar Panels Prove Defective)
India has been famously suffering from energy problems for a while, with constant blackouts plaguing many of its citizens, resulting from the failed attempts to expand the national grid. Solar power generally offers India the chance to solve its electricity problems, as rural communities can generate their own power from local solar arrays. The potential is great that it is unsurprising really that Coal India has decided to invest in such an energy source. ( Continue… )
The name of the popular American television series "Mad Men" comes from the nickname given to those who worked in New York City's advertising agencies in the 1950s. The nickname came from the advertising profession itself whose members felt that one had to be a little mad to work on Madison Avenue, the center of the advertising business.
But, there is nothing particularly mad about the role of advertising in society, and it should really be looked upon as the logical conclusion of the long process of rationalizing modern economic life--a type of economic life which arose simultaneously with the widespread use of fossil fuels.
Through burning fossil fuels we are unlocking extremely dense forms of accumulated ancient sunlight. It may not seem like we have an almost completely "solar-powered" society today; but, we do if you count the ancient solar power stored in oil, natural gas and coal. These fuels come from microscopic sea life and plants which were pressurized, heated, and then transformed underground or under the seabed over tens of millions of years very long ago during what is now referred to as the Carboniferous Period. We are quickly drawing down the Earth's stored solar energy in the form of fossil fuels at a rate that is thought to be anywhere from 100,000 to 1 million times their rate of natural formation. For this reason fossil fuels are on any human time scale finite.
Returning to the mad men of advertising, we find that they are only the culmination of a process which evolved to deal with something rarely seen in human history--persistent and rapidly growing surpluses of basic resources such as food, fiber and minerals and the manufactured goods they make possible. These surpluses were in turn made possible by persistent and growing surpluses of energy, energy derived primarily from fossil fuels. After all, nothing gets done without energy, and growing energy supplies allow more and more to get done. ( Continue… )
The climate challenge drives home the interdependent realities of the 21st Century, and there have been some tough lessons learned since Kyoto. All of this ties in to energy issues that shape domestic politics and complex geopolitical realities.
To help us look into these issues and more we spoke with David Shorr. David is a program officer at the Stanley Foundation, though the views expressed are his own. He blogs at Democracy Arsenal and can be followed on Twitter @David_Shorr
In an exclusive interview with Oilprice.com, Shorr discusses:
• Why a binding climate treaty poses problems
• What we’ve learned since Kyoto
• Why climate change financing is a key issue
• Why climate change is a geopolitical issue
• How Iran fits into the energy equation
• Why the US is stuck over Syria
• Why Afghanistan was the biggest recent US policy blunder
Interview by James Stafford of Oilprice.com
RECOMMENDED: Think you know energy? Take our quiz.
James Stafford: Can you take us through the international response to climate change and some of the positive and negative effects of a legally binding Kyoto follow-on treaty? ( Continue… )
Summer holidays for Indiana families are delayed for the time being as motorists wait for gas prices to fall. According to the website Gasbuddy.com, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in Indiana was $4.16 on Wednesday, well above the national average of $3.64 a gallon.
Economist Wally Tyner from Purdue University told The Associated Press that he has never seen such a large price gap between the average in Indiana, and the rest of the US.
He explained that “a perfect storm of refinery outages” has led to the soaring prices in the region. Scheduled maintenance work at BP’s Whiting refinery in northwestern Indiana and Exxon Mobil’s refinery in Illinois, two of the largest refineries in the US, have over run, reducing the supply of gasoline in the region. Then the Marathon oil refinery in Detroit suffered a fire near the end of April, compound the supply difficulties and sending prices up. (Related Articles: Using an MOF to Produce Cheaper Premium Gasoline)
“All these other things had been there, but then the Detroit fire was the straw that broke the camel's back. We've just had a series of unlucky draws,” he said. ( Continue… )
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) prices have long been linked to the price of oil—with gas priced at roughly 13% or 1/8th the price of Brent, with the details determined in confidential contract negotiations.
Asian consumers are tired of this linkage, especially since it has meant prices that are four times higher in Asia than in North America.
No Japanese politician, economist, or grocer thinks that makes sense. So Asia is trying to lower prices for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as fast as they can. ( Continue… )
It’s all doom and gloom for the UK’s Ministry of Defence! Unlike the conservative and relatively optimistic reports published by the government, a recent report released by the MoD warns that current energy trends could threaten the Western way of life by 2040.
The report states that as reserves of easy-to-extract oil deplete, climate change reduces the amount of food produced and drinking water available, and population continues to rise, energy prices are likely to soar and remain high for the long term, causing long recessions in Western economies.
The British government supports the IEA estimates that oil prices will peak around "$125/barrel in real terms (over $215/barrel in nominal terms),” whereas the MoD report suggests oil prices are more likely to grow exponentially, and finally reach $500 a barrel by 2040; with the high prices encouraging more effort to develop alternative fuel sources. (Related article: Boom in Production of ‘Technological Barrels’ of Oil Drives Prices Down)
The report notes that “the growth of South Asian economies will impact on most western nations, where the way of life for the majority of the populaces may be challenged by rising energy and resource prices, coupled with a relative decline in the value of their national economies.
The economic and industrial rise of China and India will increase the cost and reduce the availability of UK energy supplies. As a resource-importing nation, and with relatively modest fossil fuel reserves, the UK will be affected by increased resource and commodity costs. The UK will increasingly need to compete with China and India in order to secure enduring access to energy.”
The MoD believes that the Western way of life will be increasingly challenged as levels of energy, GDP, and therefore lifestyle, begin to normalise across the globe.
The push for alternatives to petroleum-based fuels has run into a wall of mounting criticism.
Amid declining gasoline demand, fuel producers are struggling to keep pace with the Environmental Protection Agency's expanding Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS). But supporters say the EPA's standard offers flexibility, and is a critical part of reducing the country's reliance on foreign oil.
The brewing controversy has pit biofuel advocates and the EPA against the oil industry and fuel manufacturers who say the standards impose an unnecessary economic burden on consumers. Fueling cars with corn also has significant consequences for agriculture, putting upward pressure on food prices.
Republican lawmakers lambasted the standard in a House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday. ( Continue… )
I recently asked a few colleagues over lunch the kind of wonky question that would only be allowed within the borders of the District of Columbia: Aside from more government investment – which is desperately needed – what are the big issues with America’s energy innovation ecosystem?
There’s no simple answer to that question, so we talked about a range of important ideas such as supporting advanced manufacturing, creating technology incubators, and reforming the DOE National Labs system. But what struck me was my colleagues’ insistence that what’s also needed is educating policymakers and advocates on how the energy innovation ecosystem fits together.
RECOMMENDED: US energy in five maps (infographics)
During the last five years, the U.S. federal government has added new institutions to spur innovation at different points along the technology development cycle, such as ARPA-E, the Energy Innovation Hubs, and Energy Frontier Research Centers. Analysts like myself argue more is needed. In response, policymakers fear duplication, extra bureaucracy, and inefficiencies often because these requests lack a clear case for how the policy pieces complement rather than repeat or compete with each other. This misunderstanding fuels – along with many other factors – a lack of support for strengthening the ecosystem as a whole. ( Continue… )