”…this is also a year of food deficit, in which we will consume (31 million tons) more grain than farmers produced. If 2013′s harvest does not establish a new world record, the poor are in serious trouble.”
His main point is that thanks to a growing demand for food driven by an increasing population and improving standards of living, along with the conversion of grains into fuel, the world has to break harvest records every year to keep up. Thanks to grain reserves, humanity can weather years that don’t break records, but failing to break records for two or three years in a row means hunger for hundreds of millions because the price of food will spike as speculators capitalize on the fact that low supply relative to demand equates to higher prices. If weather extremes become more and more common, the odds of running out of reserves becomes more and more likely. (See more: Midwestern Drought, Ethanol, & Renewable Fuel Standard) ( Continue… )
China is back in the business of building nuclear reactors after officially lifting a 19-month freeze triggered by last year's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.
But in that time, its nuclear ambitions have come down a notch or two.
Instead of its pre-Fukushima goal to install 50 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity by 2015, China is now targeting 40 gigawatts, according to an official government white paper released Wednesday.
And Beijing says it is raising safety standards. The new nuclear reactors will have to meet the safety requirement of so-called third-generation reactors, Xinhua reports.
International officials can take some measure of comfort from China's scaled-down ambitions. ( Continue… )
The Utah water board has voted to approve the United States' first commercial oil sands project.
Alberta-based U.S. Oil Sands Inc.expects its new plant will produce an output of 2,000 barrels of petroleum product a day from oil sands by 2013.
Environmental groups say they're likely to appeal Wednesday's decision by the Utah's Water Quality Board, which paved the way for the new plant.
The legal battle over the oil sands has been overshadowed during the past year by the proposed US pipeline from Canadian oil sands. U.S. Oil Sands Inc. has been working since 2005 to obtain permission from the state to develop oil sands in Utah's Book Cliffs.
The Utah Water Quality Board's 9-2 vote upheld a regulator's previous ruling that the project would pose no threat of groundwater pollution. The 213 acres of arid land encompassing the site contains no significant groundwater, according to the state.
The approval comes despite legal challenges from environmental groups. Living Rivers, a Moab, Utah-based ecological restoration group, says that a solvent used in the project could be carcinogenic when mixed with bitumen from the oil sands. While the desert area may not contain groundwater, Living Rivers contends that snowmelt and rain can occasionally saturate the project site. ( Continue… )
A production boom may soon thrust the US ahead of Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest oil producer, the Associated Press reports.
US production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons is set to jump 7 percent in 2012, making it the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951.
What's causing the jump? A combination of factors. The 2010 BP oil spill halted production in the Gulf of Mexico; now, oil companies are returning. New drilling techniques allow oil companies to tap huge shale formations in North Dakota and Texas. High oil prices have given US drillers the necessary cash flow to invest in new techniques and explore sources of oil previously thought unobtainable.
Should the US overtake Saudi Arabia as the top oil producer, it would be the first time the US has led the world in 10 years. Saudi Arabia has been the world's biggest producer of oil since 2002. Russia has occupied the No. 2 position since 2003, according to the US Energy Information Administration. ( Continue… )
Michigan is poised to become the first state in the nation to have renewable energy mandated in its constitution.
On Nov. 6, voters will decide the fate of proposal 3, better known as "25 by 25," which would put in their constitution that the state is required to produce a quarter of its electricity from renewable energy by 2025.
Michigan already has a mandate to source 10 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2015, but it's not part of the constitution. Like many states, it has a renewable energy standard that its legislature adopted.
Supporters of proposal 3 argue that when they tried to extend the mandate through the normal legislative route, utilities blocked them. ( Continue… )
After President Obama and Mitt Romney spent three presidential debates steering clear of climate change, there was plenty of hand-wringing among the pundits. The candidates were letting down the electorate. The nation needs serious discussion about the looming challenge.
But what would happen if the solution to climate change turned out to be, well, sort of fun?
What if an inventor went on, say, The Colbert Report, and told the audience he had a neat solution for America's dependence on fossil fuels?
That happened Monday night when Stephen Colbert invited MIT professor Donald Sadoway onto his show to talk about his new battery that can store wind and solar energy for a fraction of the cost of today's batteries.
If his liquid metal battery can be commercialized successfully, it could be a game-changer by making renewable energy far more – (oh, wait, this is getting far too serious). Let Don and Stephen explain: ( Continue… )
In four years, climate change has gone from the elephant that blind men are trying to describe to the elephant in the room.
No one wants to talk about it. With a few exceptions, voters don't ask. And presidential candidates don't tell.
Now that the 2012 presidential debates are over, commentators have begun to take notice. Not once during the three presidential encounters or the single vice-presidential debate did the subject come up.
"National elections should be a time when our nation considers the great challenges and opportunities the next President will face," opines the website ClimateSilence.org, a project of Forecast the Facts and Friends of the Earth Action aimed at pushing the issue into campaigns. "But the climate conversation of 2012 has been defined by a deafening silence."
The candidates talked about energy and green energy, but always with regard to jobs, never about the climate. Why? ( Continue… )
America's unconventional energy boom is creating a very conventional jobs boom.
"Unconventional" oil and natural gas drilling supports 1.7 million jobs, according to a new report. By 2020, it will support another 1.3 million new positions.
The new unconventional extraction methods – called "fracking" – are creating so much energy so fast that by 2015 the United States will produce more oil from unconventional than conventional means, according to the new report from IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm based in Lexington, Mass.
The jobs boom isn't evenly distributed. Everyone knows about North Dakota, where fracking has created something of an oil rush. The state has had the most robust job growth over the past year and the lowest unemployment rate of any state in the US.
But fracking has also created a jobs boom in Pennsylvania, the center of growing natural gas extraction from the huge Marcellus formation. The boom in energy jobs is far less noticeable in Pennsylvania than North Dakota because the Keystone State has a far more diversified economy. ( Continue… )
You are not alone if you think it's odd that Canada--the world's ninth largest exporter of crude oil and petroleum products and the main supplier of oil imports to the United States--is itself a longtime oil importer, importing more than 40 percent of its oil needs this year.
The situation results from historical pipeline development which has left Canada without a major east-west pipeline to bring the huge surplus of oil produced in the western provinces--now primarily from tar sands--to the eastern part of the country. The country's provinces from Ontario eastward currently import a little more than 60 percent of their oil needs from overseas. That may be set to change.
Winston Churchill once said, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing--after they've tried everything else." It seems he could have been talking about the Canadians and their oil predicament. Earlier this year TransCanada, a major pipeline company, proposed expanding the current pipeline system known as Keystone to carry more western Canadian crude to America's Gulf Coast. But, the pipeline giant was rebuffed by the Obama Administration in an election-year gambit to satisfy environmentalists concerned about the impact of tar sands development on climate change and water quality. Enbridge, another Canadian pipeline company, has proposed the so-called Northern Gateway pipeline route from the tar sands to the British Columbia coast. From there the oil would be exported to satisfy growing Asian demand. But practically everyone along the Northern Gateway route has lined up against it including the British Columbian premier.
Now, yet another route is being considered, one that would allow TransCanada to live up to its name. The company's latest proposal would take an east-west natural gas pipeline which is now being underused and convert it into an oil pipeline to bring western Canadian crude to currently import-dependent eastern Canada. The plan, which will require regulatory approval, may not face the stiff opposition that the other two projects faced since this pipeline is largely complete. It would require only some additional work to convert it and link it to refineries and storage depots. ( Continue… )
Last week, I spent two days at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2012 Fusion Energy Conference in San Diego. The conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and General Atomics, brought together about 1000 fusion scientists from around the world to meet and discuss the state of the art in scientific research to develop fusion energy.
Fusion is a technology that holds great promise in meeting our energy needs. By fusing together two hydrogen isotopes – deuterium and tritium – enormous amounts of energy can be produced, as predicted by Einstein’s equation, E=MC2. The heat from this reaction creates steam to spin a generator just like any other electricity power plant. Since deuterium comes from ocean water, and tritium can be bred from lithium, fusion holds the promise of providing a nearly inexhaustible supply of energy, with no pollutants, no greenhouse gases, and no radioactive waste. There is no threat of a nuclear meltdown like there is with the nuclear fission reactors of today. ( Continue… )