Negotiations for Cyprus’ bailout, which has hinged largely on its hydrocarbons future, have ended with Russia missing the chance to swap aid for offshore exploration licenses and the Greek Cypriots agreeing to an EU bailout package that hits at the Russian oligarchy by shutting down the island’s second-largest bank.
Over the course of last week, Greek Cypriots were shuffling back and forth to Moscow in an attempt to lure Russia into a bailout package that would have given it a stake in the island’s estimated 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas offshore—but it wasn’t a big enough stake to tempt the Kremlin.
Earlier in the week, Cypriot officials had rejected an EU bailout package that would have seen anyone with a bank account over 20,000 euros paying a 3-15% levy on deposits in return for future gas shares. (Related article: Cypriot Bailout Linked to Gas Potential)
Cyprus then hit up Russia to raise the stakes in this geopolitical game for control of Mediterranean hydrocarbons. The trick was to raise the specter of a Russian grab for Cypriot gas reserves in order to force a kinder bailout offer from the EU. ( Continue… )
A new study on the Arab Spring and Climate Change, finds evidence to suggest that it was not merely a coincidence that the Syrian revolution began just as the entire country was still struggling to survive after the worst drought ever recorded.
Between 2006 and 2011 nearly 60% of Syria experienced the worst drought ever, turning much of the country’s farmland into barren dust bowls, and resulting in a series of severe crop failures.
Due to the devastating drought and subsequent lack of food and water in rural areas hundreds of thousands fled to the cities, where existing problems were only exacerbated by the influx of new mouths to feed.
As water became scarcer some farmers turned to groundwater supplies to continue to grow their crops, but this then caused ground water levels around the country to plummet, compounding the effects of the drought. (Related article: Syria Chemical Attack Raises Sinister Questions) ( Continue… )
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has spent billions over the past few years investing in renewable energy projects and trying in general to cut its impact on the environment. Google is a successful business, and these investments have not been just for the benefit of the environment, or to increase their sense of wellbeing; they are investments made with a goal to making a profit in the future.
Rick Needham, the director of energy and sustainability at Google recently gave a presentation at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, in which he explained that, “while fossil-based prices are on a cost curve that goes up, renewable prices are on this march downward.”
Google hope that investments made now will put them in a strong position in the future when renewable energy becomes much cheaper than fossil fuels. (Related article: Clarifying the Clean Energy Innovation v Deployment Debate)
One reason for the opposing trends that renewable energy and fossil fuels are experiencing can be found within the basic fundamentals of the energy sources: ( Continue… )
Earth Hour 2013 commences Saturday at 8:30 p.m., regardless of where in the world you live. For the duration of an hour, Earth Hour participants will shut off their lights in a global action against climate change.
The six-year-old tradition is largely symbolic. It's intent is to spur on environmental awareness that lasts well beyond the hour of candlelit reflection, organizers say. Still, some view it as counterproductive because it accomplishes little in the way of reducing carbon emissions.
Earth Hour's "vain symbolism reveals exactly what is wrong with today’s feel-good environmentalism," writes Bjørn Lomborg in an opinion piece in Slate. "[T]he cozy candles that many participants will light, which seem so natural and environmentally friendly, are still fossil fuels – and almost 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs."
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Last week, US refiners suffered a bit of a setback as the cost of complying with US ethanol mandates skyrocketed. The Financial Times recently reported that the price of ethanol credits has risen 1400 percent -- from pennies to more than a dollar each -- since the beginning of 2013. This situation was set into motion nearly a decade ago when the Energy Policy Act of 2005 created a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requiring 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel - primarily corn ethanol - to be blended into the fuel supply by 2012.
In 2007, an updated Renewable Fuel Standard - the RFS2 - accelerated the renewable fuel adoption schedule. Instead of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012, the new law required 9 billion gallons by 2008, soaring to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
The RFS2 would ultimately set up an untenable situation. If gasoline blenders - primarily oil refiners - failed to comply with blending the mandated ethanol volumes, then the blenders were required to buy credits based on their shortfall. The credits used in the renewable fuels program are based on Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). Peter Gross, a renewable fuels expert at the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) explained to me how RINs work in response to an email query: ( Continue… )
Cypriot Bailout Linked to Gas Potential
Cyprus is preparing for total financial collapse as the European Central Bank turns its back on the island after its parliament rejected a scheme to make Cypriot citizens pay a levy on savings deposits in return for a share in potential gas futures to fund a bailout.
On Wednesday, the Greek-Cypriot government voted against asking its citizens to bank on the future of gas exports by paying a 3-15% levy on bank deposits in return for a stake in potential gas sales. The scheme would have partly funded a $13 billion EU bailout.
It would have been a major gamble that had Cypriots asking how much gas the island actually has and whether it will prove commercially viable any time soon.
Energy companies and environmentalists have reached rare common ground over the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” of fossil fuels, agreeing to a set of environmental standards that would diminish the environmental impact of drilling operations in the northeastern United States.
The collaborative effort would raise the bar on the environmental practices for virtually all energy companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation, which stretches from Ohio to Pennsylvania, West Virginia to New York. It also signals that the controversial practice of fracking may be gaining legitimacy. Rather than trying to ban it, environmental groups may have to start pushing to regulate it.
“It’s here,” says Mark Brownstein, associate vice president and chief counsel of the US energy and climate program of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which was part of the collaborative effort. “Ninety percent of new oil and gas wells developed onshore in the United States are using some form of hydraulic fracturing.” The point of the collaborative effort “is making sure that it’s done with the utmost attention to the environment.”
Monday’s announcement of the new standards – and the creation of a new center to promulgate those standards – come as Illinois wrestles with legislation that would regulate horizontal hydraulic fracturing. On Thursday, a vote on a compromise bill that had support from both environmentalists and the oil and gas industry was postponed because a new wrinkle over licensing caused industry to withdraw its support for the measure. ( Continue… )
Cyprus is in a bit of a piggle, but the European Union has offered a solution; they will bail out the Cypriot banks and in return take a percentage of all deposits held in those banks. Obviously this is a rather extreme solution, and one that has been met with rage by the millions of people who keep their savings in Cypriot accounts.
Russia’s business and political elite rely heavily on Cypriot offshore accounts to avoid taxes and political risks at home, and according to Moodys, they stand to lose around $3.1 billion due to the proposed offer.
Gazprom has apparently offered a deal to save the Cypriot economy, and the Russian wealth held there, by suggesting that Cyprus sell it the exploration rights to the promising offshore natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea.
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What a mess President Obama makes as he tries to placate both sides of a dispute and comes out looking just inept.
The president’s possible approval of the 2,000-mile-long pipeline from the oil sands (previously known as the tar sands, and most correctly bitumen sands) of Alberta, Canada, to the refineries and shipping terminals of the U.S. Gulf Coast is a tale of political calculation gone sadly wrong. His clumsiness is not helped by a favorable environmental statement issued recently.
In January 2012, the president was expected to give his approval and that of the State Department to what is an international agreement, he punted. Concerned about stout opposition in his own administration, and particularly from his Environmental Protection Administration chief Lisa Jackson, Obama demurred and requested more studies.
This did two things: It antagonized the Canadian people, always sensitive to slights from the United States, and humiliated the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Joe Oliver, Canada's minister for natural resources, told me on the record just before Obama’s statement that he had had strong indications from the administration that the Keystone XL pipeline would be approved. In the event, he and the Canadian government were outraged and embarrassed. ( Continue… )
The worldwide glut in solar panels has finally reached China, which created the surplus.
Suntech Power Holdings, one of the world's largest manufacturers of solar panels, said it has failed to make payment on $541 million in bonds, which were due last Friday. In a statement, the manufacturer based in Wuxi, China, said it is working on "strategic alternatives" with lenders and potential investors. It's stock, which in 2007 traded above $80 a share on the New York Stock Exchange, closed at 59 cents on Tuesday, its lowest close on record.
Solar panelmakers worldwide have suffered as Chinese panels flooded the market. Plunging prices have forced companies worldwide to shut down operations or declare bankruptcy. In perhaps the most infamous case, California-based Solyndra received $528 million in Department of Energy loan guarantees and then went bankrupt in 2011.
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Last year the US government imposed tariffs on Chinese solar manufacturers in an effort to curb the "dumping" of underpriced products. ( Continue… )