Following a soul-searching inquiry into the best methods of producing electricity for its citizens over the next several decades, the leader of Japan’s ruling political party has officially announced that the country will set plans into motion that will see them eliminate the need for nuclear energy by the end of the 2030s. The move, sure to appease a public wary of nuclear energy given its history with the technology, comes just as the country’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) gets set to face elections, as early as next month.
The new energy policy will allow some or all of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors, 48 of them currently shut down, to go back online during the 27-year transition period, as needed. (See also: Japan Can’t Afford Renewable Energy, Needs Nuclear)
The message from Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will send Japan in the same direction as Germany in abandoning nuclear energy entirely, a power source that helped both countries to become world-leading economic powerhouses since the end of World War II.
With the Japanese public clamoring for renewable energy programs and the end of nuclear power following the severe earthquake and subsequent tsunami that stuck the nation in 2010, leading to flooded reactors and nuclear contamination, countries around the world have begun reexamining their atomic energy policies. With Germany in lockstep with Japan’s plans, countries like China and France are also considering heavier investments in alternative energy sources; other nations, including Great Britain, have committed to continuing their nuclear programs. (See also: Why Germany is Saying Good-Bye to Nuclear Power)
The reluctance of some nations to move away from atomic energy lies in the costs and challenges associated with investing in new energy sources, a sentiment shared by many critics in Japan.
“The plan is worth trying, but sooner or later it will be realized it isn’t possible,” said Hirofumi Kawachi, an energy analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities Co. “To eliminate nuclear power by the 2030s, (we) will need breakthroughs in renewable and energy-efficient technologies.”
How Japan’s new energy policies will unfold will depend heavily on the results of the nation’s upcoming federal election.
Source: Japan Says ‘No’ to Nuclear Power
In the cleantech sector, pretty much everyone knows the acronym RPS, for Renewable Portfolio Standards. Since the first RPS policy in the U.S., implemented in Iowa in the late 1990s, 30 states have passed similar policies to promote the installation of renewable energy projects and expedite penetration (overcoming the ambivalence or outright opposition of utilities) of renewable energy in electric power supply.
Now, as reported in this article, California is considering the adoption of what looks to be the first Storage Portfolio Standard: requirements for utilities to install grid-scale energy storage. Specifically, in early August, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted unanimously to adopt a framework for analyzing the energy storage needs of each utility. This builds upon a previous bill, AB 2514, which included a mandate for the CPUC to “determine appropriate targets, if any, for each load-serving entity to procure viable and cost-effective energy storage systems to be achieved by” the end of 2015 and 2020.
Not surprisingly, the three major electric ”load-serving entities” (i.e., electric utilities) in California —PG&E, SCE and SDG&E — all opposed this movement. As did the Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), the consumer watchdog organization, which argued that “picking arbitrary procurement levels…would most likely result in sub-optimal market solutions and increase costs to ratepayers without yielding commensurate benefits”.
As one of my former McKinsey colleagues noted on a number of occasions, quoting an executive who worked his entire career at a large electric utility, “No technology has ever been widely adopted by the electric utility industry without having it mandated by the regulators.”
The storage analogue of RPS policy — let’s call it SPS — faces some hurdles, no doubt. But so did RPS policies.
Given that GE (NYSE: GE) is now working on a grid-scale battery technology, given how much GE’s wind business has benefited from the expansion of RPS policies over the last decade, and given how active GE tends to be in energy policy circles, it’s not a stretch to think that there will be a push for SPS-like policies across the U.S.
It will take time to fully implement, but perhaps grid-scale energy storage will soon be following the path blazed by renewables over the past 15 years, with a domino-effect of SPS requirements spreading across the country.
The National Guard has been asked by Halliburton Co. to help in the hunt for a seven inch radioactive rod used in the drilling of natural gas wells, after they lost the device earlier this week somewhere in a 130 mile stretch of south western Texas, between Pecos, and Odessa.
On the 11th of September Halliburton found that the rod was missing when workers discovered that a lock on the container used to transport it was missing, along with the rod inside. Trucks were sent out to retrace the route of the vehicle that was carrying the unit before it was lost, but have had no luck. Halliburton say that the National Guard have the equipment to locate the radioactive item more quickly. (More from Oilprice.com: Why Electric Cars Don’t have a Future)
Companies use radioactive rods similar to this one when drilling wells for fracking. The rods are lowered into the well to allow workers to identify places where the rock must be broken apart by the process of hydraulic fracking.
Such rods are lost from time to time, but it has been over five years since the loss of a device has been reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
This rod contains americium-241/beryllium which Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman from the health department has assured is “not something that produces radiation in an extremely dangerous form. But it’s best for people to stay back, 20 or 25 feet.” The rod would have to be in someone’s physical possession for several hours before it could be considered dangerous. (More from Oilprice.com: 6 Things to do with Nuclear Waste: None of them Ideal)
Halliburton have described the rod as a seven inch stainless steel cylinder about an inch in diameter, marked with the radiation warning symbol and the words ‘Do Not Handle’.
The Republican Party pushed a bill through the House that would eliminate ongoing federal loan guarantees that exist as a part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package, enacted shortly after he assumed office in 2009. While the bill has no hope of successfully passing through the Democrat-rich Senate, it does stand to highlight one of the major shortcomings in Obama’s presidency mere months before he attempts to earn a second term in office.
Passing on a mainly party-line vote at 245-161, the bill would require the United States Treasury to review and approve any further loans given through the energy sector stimulus funds while reiterating the law that forbids subordinating loans, allowing for private investors to be repaid before the government.
Dubbed the “No More Solyndras Act,” the move by Republicans is an effort to bring public notice to the taxpayer money lost in bad investments through the stimulus program, particularly the $500 million given to solar power company Solyndra LLC, a firm that went bankrupt in the face of Chinese competition soon after receiving its government loan.
“I’m stunned by the cavalier manner in which the administration squandered all of these tax dollars,” said Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “yet says it has no regrets, no apologies, about its handling of the program. Burning money is one source of energy that the country doesn’t need.”
Members of the Democratic Party have dismissed the vote as partisan and not useful to the debate over stimulus funds, adding that the Republican claim that the Solyndra loan was made for political reasons remains unproven.
Source: House Votes to Stop Energy Loans
A look at Democrats who support coal (Sponsor content)
With 50 days until the election, candidates across the country are beginning to spell out their positions on important issues. One of the central issues this elections has been American-made, coal-fueled electricity.
As part of a series leading up to the election, we’re asking: which candidates are speaking up in support of coal? This week, we’re taking a look at Democrats.
Former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, now a Democratic senate candidate in North Dakota—as well a former EPA attorney—weighed in on the current administration’s regulatory regime during a debate last week:
We need every energy source we have and this is an area I have disagreements with the administration. They walked away from coal…
We need American jobs, and coal is an American product. Once again, it can give us that energy independence so we’ve got to make sure we use that – and in using that, we will create jobs.
And Kansas Democratic National Convention Delegate Jim Oberbeck knows exactly how important coal is to his state:
We get 70 percent of our electricity from coal where we live…it’s really important…Coal provides a lot of jobs for a lot of people in this country, and that’s what we need right now, is jobs.
Coal use and affordable electricity isn’t just a bipartisan cause, it’s the backbone of America’s electricity infrastructure. Coal keeps energy costs down for families and businesses. As President Barack Obama said during his convention speech last week: “We’re offering a better path – a future we where keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal.” That’s a path that everyone can agree on, and a path we need to follow through on.
In the old days, that is before 2010, the oil industry used to regale the public with tales of plenty that revolved around what is commonly called "conventional oil." Conventional oil refers to oil in a liquid state occurring naturally and coming from a well on land or water. It's what most people think of when they think of oil. And, this category of oil is relatively easy to extract and refine using longstanding conventional techniques. The industry assured us that there was plenty of conventional oil in the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere to supply us for decades to come.
Then in its 2010 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency announced that the peak in the rate of production of conventional oil had already arrived, probably in 2006. There was some good news, however. Production of so-called "unconventional oil" would grow considerably over the coming decades and allow total oil production to rise. This unconventional oil includes oil derived from the Canadian tar sands, from heavy oil deposits in Venezuela and elsewhere, and from so-called oil shale. It also includes oil products obtained from coal through coal-to-liquids technology and those obtained from natural gas using gas-to-liquids technology. Some people include tight oil (often mistakenly referred to as shale oil) as part of the unconventional mix, though once out of the ground it is typically refined in the same way as conventional oil.
Signal qualities of unconventional oil are that it is expensive and difficult to extract and refine. This has so far meant that in most cases only high oil prices can justify its extraction. And, this means that it is going to be hard for unconventional oil to make up for the decline in the rate of conventional oil production. And, rate is the key metric. As I am obliged to remind people again and again, it is the rate of oil production which matters much more than the size of the resource. The global economy is entirely dependent on continuous flows of energy and raw materials. Oil is absolutely central because it provides one-third of the world's energy and more than 80 percent of its transportation fuel. Very few things of consequence move in the world economy without the assistance of oil.
When we think of conventional oil, we can picture gushers which are evidence of highly pressurized underground reservoirs that send oil to the surface without any pumping. Nowadays, blowout preventers have eliminated gushers except in the case of an accident such as the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. As oil is produced from a well, the pressure declines and eventually the remaining oil must be pumped to the surface. The general category for this type of oil is light sweet crude. "Light" means it flows and flows quite readily. "Sweet" means it contains little sulfur, and this makes it compatible with conventional refineries which are designed to process low-sulfur oils. (Sulfur, you may recall, is routinely removed from motor fuels to help prevent acid rain which occurs when sulfur from vehicle exhaust and other sources mixes with moisture in the atmosphere to form sulfuric acid.)
Now, unconventional oil can be entirely different. Tar sands, for example, are a mixture of sand and bitumen, a thick, gooey hydrocarbon that is often used to make asphalt. The bitumen is separated from the sand using hot water. Essentially, the bitumen moves to the top and is skimmed off. This is obviously water-intensive; but it is also energy-intensive since the sands must first be mined and transported to a separation facility. Then, enormous separators filled with water heated using natural gas start the separation process. That process is repeated to get up to 90 percent of the bitumen out of the sand.
But we don't yet have oil. The bitumen must be put through another energy-intensive "upgrading" process that typically strips the hydrogen off natural gas molecules and makes them available to the bitumen under great pressure and heat using the proper catalysts. Finally, the sulfur must be removed. Then, and only then, do you get something that resembles what we call oil. In fact, it is referred to as syncrude--short for synthetic crude--because it is not naturally occurring and must be manufactured. ( Continue… )
As the United States prepares to head for the finish line in an election year the period between now and the time when the next administration assumes the helm of the nation can be the most critical in terms of foreign policy. Call it the political equivalent of the sailing on the dark side of the moon.
This period in nether-politics can be a dangerous one as parties involved in a conflict can take advantage of this lack of focus from US policy to push ahead with programs they otherwise would find great opposition from American policymakers. Israel’s desire to rid itself of the threat posed by Iran regarding the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of nuclear technology comes to mind in such a situation as new rumblings of an Israeli strike on Iran are getting louder.
As we draw closer to election day in November the administration will find itself more and more caught up in getting the president re-elected and the president himself more and more caught up in darting form state to state to win back last minute indecisive voters, so much so, that foreign policy does not just take a back seat to domestic policy, it is relegated to the back of the bus, where it is likely to remain until after inauguration day in January. (More from Oilprice.com: Why Electric Cars Don’t have a Future.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, about as hawkish as one can get, along with his minister of defence, Ehud Barak are both avid supporters of a military option in dealing with Iran to take out its nuclear threat. They also know that if they chose to strike during that dark period their chances of getting away with it are far greater.
If Israel were to strike at Iran would be a monumental mistake. It would be an invitation to disaster.
The manner in which Iran has decentralized its nuclear program makes targeting it very difficult. Military strike would just delay and not deter Iran's insistence to become a nuclear power. If anything it would actually accentuate its drive.
The killing of Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya earlier this week demonstrates just how volatile the region remains and how quickly a crowd can turn into a violent mob when sensitive issues are breeched. Now imagine how the people in the region will react to an Israeli strike on a Muslim nation?
As the US prepares to enter into the cocoon of domestic policies that revolves around the election of the president of the United States, it should be made crystal clear and in no uncertain terms to Israel that a strike against Iran would be completely unacceptable. An Israeli strike on Iran would place the United States in the forefront of Israel's war against the Arab and the Muslim world, a position the United States should not find itself under any circumstances. (More from Oilprice.com: 6 Things to do with Nuclear Waste: None of them Ideal.)
The first reaction from the Arab street and from the Muslim street will be directed against US interests in the region.
It is understandable that Israel remains concerned by Iran's nuclear ambitions and what it intends to do with its nuclear program. But even if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons and capacity to deliver those weapons, it remains extremely unlikely that those weapons would be used for the simple reason that Iran is well aware of what the repost would be.
What are the alternatives? For the moment they are not encouraging. Continue to live under the threat of imminent thermonuclear war. The other alternative which of course for the moment remains just as unattainable is to move slowly towards a negotiated peace. But that is wishful thinking.
Despite concerns that switching to renewable energy sources will prove too expensive for his country, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said during a political debate among party leadership candidates that he will take into account his party’s recommendation to phase out nuclear power by the 2030s; news reports suggest that the prime minister’s Cabinet already has an official policy agreement in place.
Expected to be put into political action by the end of this week, Japan’s new energy policy will see it gradually move away from nuclear power — a monumental shift for a resource-poor nation that has long relied on nuclear energy to keep its citizens supplied with electricity. The policy will include a 40-year cap on maximum reactor lifespans, an immediate halt on the planning and construction of new reactors and a strong focus on renewable energy sources and conservation efforts.
“There could be different views about how we can achieve that goal, and by factoring those into consideration our party last week proposed we should aim for a nuclear-free society. I must take this seriously,” said Noda during the debate.
With a loss of public trust in the government’s ability to safely generate nuclear energy in the wake of 2010′s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster following a massive earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese government has been under intense pressure to find solutions to the country’s energy crisis. With only two of its 50 available reactors currently online and public pressure growing to shut even those two remaining reactors down, Japan requires an immediate investment into its energy-producing sector if it hopes to continue to meet consumer demand for electricity with reduced use of nuclear technologies.
If Americans want to see sure, steady progress towards the goal of energy independence, they should vote for Mitt Romney, according to billionaire energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens. (See also: Duke Energy CEO Picks Obama Over Romney on Energy)
In an interview with CNBC, Pickens openly backed Romney as President, calling him “better suited” to deal with the increasingly grave energy problem in the United States because Barack Obama only wants to “talk his tax.”
With a large stake in the success of the alternative fuel industry given his deep investments, particularly in wind energy, Pickens’ vote of confidence in Romney appears to be fueled not by political views, but rather by a genuine interest in the future of the energy sector and its continued move away from fossil fuels. This is generating speculation among political analysts that his support could prove valuable for Romney in the battle for votes in oil-producing states like Pennsylvania, Colorado and Ohio, among 27 more.
“All of those (oil-producing states) are key swing states and it would surprise me if any of those states, when they realize that Governor Romney has a plan, Governor Romney, I think, will carry his plan out and that is to advance alternative energy for transportation, which is natural gas,” Pickens told the CNBC anchor. “Now, when you – you know, 70 percent of all the oil used every day in the world goes to transportation fuel. Wind and solar, great sources of energy, but have nothing to do with imported oil.” (See also: Are President Obama’s Policies Causing U.S. Oil Production to Rise?)
Pickens’ criticism of Obama was rooted in the current President’s perceived failure to invest in alternative energy sources, a necessary thing if the country is to become less dependent on oil imports. While acknowledging that Obama “talks about wind and solar all the time,” he noted that work to develop resources was necessary to truly move forward.
“So, President Obama talks about wind and solar all the time, but what you’ve got to do is develop resources in this country. We have those resources and you can get off OPEC oil.”
People often ask me why the West doesn’t attempt a Libya-style intervention in Syria. After all, things are going so well in Libya. Oil production is up. But oil production is merely a mirage, as is security in Libya, which was doomed from the day one PG (post-Gaddafi) because of the way it was “liberated”.
What about the oil, that global elixir? (More from Oilprice.com: OPEC Predicts More of the Same.) Well, the violence will not bode well for Libya’s production ambitions, coming at a time when the country looked prepared for a boost in output and was banking on this for economic growth.
Security was already dubious at best, and now international oil companies will be more reluctant than ever. Those that are already there—Germany’s Wintershall AG, Italy’s Eni and France’s Total—will be seeking to beef up security and have already started sending some of their workers home.
If the picture was not clear from the onset of the post-Gaddafi atmosphere, it certainly came into focus earlier this summer when protests over parliamentary elections forced the temporary closure of the el-Sider oil terminal, the country’s biggest.
Anyone who thinks that Libya will be a secure oil frontier after the formation of a new government next summer is mistaken. The road to destruction runs from Afghanistan to Benghazi (incidentally, the oil-producing region), branching off to southern Iraq and Pakistan’s tribal regions. ( Continue… )