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Lima climate talks reach deal; $10 billion for clean energy; US debates oil exports [Recharge]

Lima climate talks ended in a deal leaders hope will spur global action on climate change; Industrialized nations raised $10 billion to finance clean energy across the globe; Congress made its first major foray into debating the end to the US oil exports ban. Catch up on global energy with Recharge.

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    Lima climate talks president and Peru's Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal (R) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres talk after an announcement during a plenary session of the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP 20 in Lima.
    Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters
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Eleventh hour: Lima climate talks quite nearly fell apart, with negotiations going into extra-innings over the weekend. What began with optimism seemingly devolved into a familiar tragedy of the commons over who will pay for global decarbonization. India called rich nations' contributions to the GCF "ridiculously low," while others said the proposed review process would violate national sovereignty. In the end, leaders were able to come together on an agreement that – albeit watered down – represents progress toward global action on climate change.

$10.14 billionIndustrialized nations hit the Green Climate Fund's $10 billion initial fundraising goal at Lima this week, with a surprise contribution from wary Australia. In theory, that commitment to renewable financing should help bridge the rich-poor divide that has long thwarted coordinated global climate action. But $10.14 billion is a long way from the fund's long-term goal of $100 billion, and incredibly distant from the $44 trillion in investment the IEA says is needed to decarbonize global energy by 2050. That point is not lost on India, China, and other rapidly growing economies whose support is crucial for future emissions cuts.

Made in the USARepublicans aren't waiting until 2015 to push for expanded US crude oil exports. The effort got a boost at the first House review of the ban Thursday where GOP lawmakers took aim at the longstanding assumption that lifting the export ban would raise domestic gas prices – something no US politician wants to be associated with. Export supporters will continue to make their case in 2015, backed up by various government reports. Still, it will take a lot to convince a public wary of doing anything that even suggests a reversal of plummeting energy costs.

In the pipeline

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Drill deeper

The brave new world of cheap oil [The Christian Science Monitor]
This is the year the world woke up to the US oil boom. As oil prices crashed, consumers rejoiced, producers trembled, and OPEC watched its grip on markets slip. Underpinning it all is the recognition that the global economy just isn't going to need oil like it once did. Energy demand will no doubt rise dramatically in growing Asian and African nations, but countless advances in efficiency and alternative fuels will erode oil's role as the world's most important fuel.

Back to the future: Advanced Nuclear Energy and the Battle Against Climate Change [The Brookings Essay]
Renewed interest in nuclear power as an answer to climate change is drawing more young thinkers and engineers into a field that fizzled in the wake of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. New nuclear technologies promise more power with less waste, but they require regulatory adjustments – and renewed public trust – before they can be tested.

Boom: North America's explosive oil-by-rail problem [InsideClimate News]
"When you look at what could happen – and all of us are vulnerable – you’d think there would be more urgency," Karen Darch, one of many Chicago-area mayors alarmed by burgeoning oil train traffic tells InsideClimate News. "But it looks like the regulators are still keeping their fingers crossed that the next bad accident doesn't happen."

Energy sources

  • President Obama via The Colbert Report: "Essentially there’s Canadian oil passing through the United States to be sold on the world market. It’s not going to push down gas prices here in the United States, it’s good for Canada, it could create a couple thousand jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline. But we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous."
  • Solar Energy Industries Association: "[T]he United States installed 1,354 megawatts of solar photovoltaics in Q3 2014, up 41 percent over the same period last year ... Q3 was the nation's second largest quarter ever for PV installations and brings the country's cumulative solar PV capacity to 16.1 gigawatts, with another 1.4 GW of concentrating solar power capacity."
  • US Congressional Budget Office: "Consumers would benefit from small reductions – 5 to 10 cents per gallon, in the baseline scenario of a recent study – in the domestic prices of oil products [if the US crude export ban were lifted], because those prices depend primarily on the world price of crude oil, which would decline slightly once lower-priced U.S. crudes were available in the international market."

The Monitor's Recharge energy digest delivers the big ideas in global energy to your inbox every Saturday. Subscribe for free.

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