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China's surprising climate progress [Recharge]

China is ahead of schedule on climate change, a new study shows; G7 leaders call for global decarbonization; the US takes the lead on oil production. Catch up on global energy with the Monitor's Recharge.

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    Workers walk among newly installed solar panels at a solar power plant in Zhouquan township of Tongxiang, Zhejiang province December 18, 2014.
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Recharge is a weekly e-mail digest of energy news and analysis written by Monitor reporters David J. Unger and Jared Gilmour.

Ahead of scheduleThe world’s largest carbon emitter is on track to meet its climate goals a full five years ahead of schedule, according to a study out this week. China will peak emission by 2025 instead of 2030, which it originally promised in a major climate accord with the US last fall. As the world’s top emitter, the country’s aggressive action strengthens the odds that climate negotiators can meet their long-established goal: limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. But with a large fleet of new emissions-intensive coal plants, the big question is how quickly China can cut greenhouse gases after they peak.

G7: Leaders of the world’s richest countries captured headlines this week with their aim to decarbonize the global economy in this century. Some interpreted this as a full-scale phasing out of fossil fuels, but the G7 declaration focuses on a low- or zero-carbon world without specifying specific fuel sources. That suggests the group is leaving room for continued fossil fuel use in a future where carbon capture technology is economically viable. Even so, it’s difficult to imagine how we might stamp out emissions from our most petroleum-dependent transportation (think airplanes and container ships) over the next 85 years.

No. 1: This week’s release of the annual BP review of energy statistics largely confirmed what has been declared elsewhere: namely, that the US is an energy powerhouse outperforming even Saudi Arabia on oil production. It’s no wonder, then, that OPEC is in no rush to close the spigots and let oil prices rebound higher still. The cartel's long game appears to be having some effect: Just as the shale boom eases into the oil market’s top spot, US output is showing signs of a slowdown in a world of $60 oil.

In the pipeline

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Drill deeper

What Matters (And What Doesn’t) in the G7 Climate Declaration
[The Council on Foreign Relations]
“[T]he idea that an 85-year goal will have much impact on present policy or investment is a bit ridiculous,” writes Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations. “(Had you told a physicist in 1905 that a fifth of U.S. electricity would be generated by nuclear fission within 85 years, they would have said, ‘What’s a nucleus or fission?’).”

Energy and Real Estate are Colliding [The Energy Collective]
It’s not only the energy industry that will feel the seismic shifts of distributed power generation. As solar panels and wind turbines continue to crop up across the globe, real estate investors are exploring how they can capitalize on the changing energy landscape.

Hackers’ Favorite Target: Big Oil [Bloomberg]
Hackers attacked 43 percent of global mining, oil, and gas companies at least one time last year, according to an April survey by Symantec, a cybersecurity firm. Another recent study found that only governments were more often targeted. And warding off those cyberattacks isn’t cheap: Companies will be spending $1.9 billion by 2018 to protect their oil and gas infrastructure.

Energy sources

  • Elon Musk via Greentech Grid: "I'm not actually a fan of disruption for it's own sake … I don’t think we should disrupt things unless it’s … fundamentally better for society. I'm not really a fan of disruption; I’m just a fan of things being better."
  • Tony Blair via Quartz: "[T]he single most important precondition for a country’s success [in Africa] will be access to electricity. In a knowledge economy access to electricity – even a simple solar charger – is the foundation for everything; a game-changer. You don’t merely have the things electricity traditionally got you, but you’ve got access to technology. Roads, rail, ports and airports also all have to be connected today."
  • BP Group chief Bob Dudley: "The US recorded the largest increase in oil production in the world, becoming the first country ever to increase average annual production by at least 1 million barrels per day for three consecutive years. The US replaced Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer – a prospect unthinkable a decade ago. The growth in US shale gas in recent years has been just as startling, with the US overtaking Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and gas."

Unplug

"As one of Africa’s most vulnerable nations, and the first least developed country to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC, Ethiopia communicated its plans to cut emissions below 2010 levels from 150 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e) in 2010 to 145 MtCO2e in 2030."

– World Resources Institute

Recharge is a weekly e-mail digest of energy news and analysis written by Monitor reporters David J. Unger and Jared Gilmour.

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