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Pope Francis and climate change [Recharge]

Pope Francis reignites the moral aspect of energy and climate debates. A new report warns the world will blow past its climate goals. Iraq's oil boom persist against all odds. Catch up on global energy with Recharge.  

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    Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square in May 2013 at the Vatican through a throng of people carrying umbrellas for the rain.
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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.

Laudato Si: Pope Francis’ 184-page encyclical on the environment impressed with its attention to technical detail and policy wonkery. Everyone expected a clarion call for planetary stewardship – few expected references to energy storage and critiques of emissions trading schemes. Whether or not the world’s billion or so Catholics will heed the message remains to be seen. Some worry the document could further divide people on climate change. Either way, the hefty treatise has amplified questions often overlooked in technocratic climate and energy debates: namely, what is the moral thing to do? The answers vary.

GapThe world could hit peak emissions levels by 2020 “at no net economic cost,”and then begin cutting carbon, according to IEA. But there’s a gulf between that scenario and the path world leaders are currently on: With the modest pledges countries have made toward climate talks in Paris this December, IEA says the world will blow past its goal to keep warming within 2 degrees Celsius. To overcome that trajectory, negotiators are banking on a deal that world leaders can revisit often, ratcheting up emissions cuts down the road.

Iraq: Against all odds, Iraq continues to pump oil at record rates. New wells and a deal with oil-rich Kurdistan have raised exports to above 3 million barrels a day. Butregional unrest persists, and the Baghdad-Erbil agreement is a shaky one. A continued slump in oil prices isn’t helping either. Those concerns, along with a falling US dollar, helped boost oil prices this week.

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Drill deeper

Think US is world's top oil producer? Think again.
[Resource Insights via The Christian Science Monitor]
“With the release of the latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy, media outlets appeared to be taking dictation rather than asking questions about which countries produced the most oil in 2014,” writes Kurt Cobb. “The most important question they could have asked is this: How is BP defining oil? It turns out that oil according to the BP definition includes something called natural gas liquids …. Only a small portion of natural gas plant liquids are suitable substitutes for oil.”

Inside the Power Plant Fueling America’s Drought [Pro Publica]
The largest power facility in the Western US has a daunting job: Pull water from the Colorado River out of a canyon, and send it across the desert to cities like Phoenix and Tucson. But the Navajo Generating Station alone accounts for 29 percent of Arizona’s emissions, burning 15 tons of coal a minute. As drought grips the West – and as EPA looks for places to cut emissions – the power plant faces renewed scrutiny.

Old electric car batteries will have a big future. Here's why [Fortune]
The first wave of mainstream electric cars is getting old enough to need new batteries, and entrepreneurs are dreaming up ways to put the used batteries – which still have some charge – to use elsewhere. That includes helping companies like UPS, 7-Eleven, and Walgreens get electricity from batteries when grid rates are high.

Energy sources

  • BNSF Railway executive via Bloomberg: "We ... didn't see the speed in which domestic shale plays came to us. At our height, we were hauling about 830,000 barrels a day ... [W]ith the price of crude – as it goes up – we’ll see people uncapping wells and start to frack the next well. We think we’re in a much better place to handle that next surge."
  • Pew: "[M]ore people now view global warming as a very serious problem than in 2013, when the question was last asked in a nationwide Pew Research Center telephone survey. Nearly half of U.S. adults (46%) now hold this view, up from a third in 2013 (but on par with the share who expressed such concern in 2007 and 2008)."
  • REN21: "Renewable energy targets and other support policies, now in place in 164 countries, powered the growth of solar, wind and other renewable technologies to a record-breaking energy generation capacity last year: about 135 GW of added renewable energy power increasing total installed capacity to 1,712 GW, up 8.5% from the year before."

Unplug

– OECD/IEA 

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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