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Obama and Africa's energy potential [Recharge]

President Obama visits Africa as energy shortages continue to challenge much of the continent; China makes a splash in the East China Sea; Shell gets a green light to drill in the Arctic. Catch up on global energy with the Monitor's Recharge. 

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    U.S. President Barack Obama arrives aboard Air Force One at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 26, 2015.
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Recharge is a weekly e-mail digest of energy news and analysis written by Monitor energy editor David J. Unger.

Sub-Saharan: In 2013, President Obama pledged $7 billion to spread electricity to 60 million homes and business across sub-Saharan Africa, 70 percent of which is without access to modern energy. As the president returns to Africa two years later, the Power Africa program has little to show for its efforts. Private funds may push ahead, but last month’s closure of the Export-Import bank puts a dominant source of public financing in limbo. Meanwhile, blackouts continue to derail everyday life across much of the continent. “It’s frustrating,” Anike Juliet, a salon owner in Abuja, Nigeria, told The New York Times. “We are used to the power going off, but it’s gotten so much worse recently.”

Maritime: In disputed East China Sea territory, China is building oil rigs too close for Japan's comfort. In the strategically sensitive South China Sea, it's literally building islands. Photos and a map published by the Japanese government purportedly show16 marine platforms that could siphon oil and gas from the Japanese side of a de facto maritime border between the two countries. The expansion into resource rich waters is putting just about everyone in the region on edge, but China maintains it has peaceful intentions and legal authority.

FennicaShell got the green light from the Interior Department to drill in the Arctic this week, but the company will have to move blow-out containment equipment in place before it starts. The decision is largely a win for the company, which has already spent $7 billion on its Arctic program without yielding a drop of oil or gas. Meanwhile, Fennica, one of two Shell's icebreakers, is returning to Portland for repairs after a shallow shoal ripped a 39-inch gash into its hull. 

In the pipeline

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Drill deeper

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz: A Cabinet star is born
[The Boston Globe]
This piece has everything we’ve come to expect from a profile of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Self-aware discussion of the secretary’s hair? Check. Debate over proper surname pronunciation? Check. Arguments for why Mr. Moniz was the secret weapon in Iran nuclear talks? Check. Still, the Boston Globe’s Neil Swidey goes beyond the cliches, giving us a telling look into the personal life – and the soccer moves – of the country’s top energy official.

The Environmentalist Case Against 100% Renewable Energy Plans[CityLab]
Recent studies have outlined how cities and states across the US might rely entirely on renewable energy sooner rather than later. But if the ultimate goal is to lower carbon emissions, it’s not entirely clear why it would be worth spending a significant amount of capital (not to mention land) to swap nuclear power plants out for solar panels, wind turbines, and the like.

Climate Treaty's Finances on Shaky Ground [InsideClimate News]
In 2009, wealthy nations promised to raise $100 billion in private and public climate financing per year for sustainable development in poorer countries. They established the Green Climate Fund to corral a sizeable chunk of that financing, but so far the fund has only $10 billion in pledges. That does not bode well for a climate agreement in Paris, since developing nations have indicated they would not sign off unless significant financing was involved.

Energy sources

  • NOAA: "During January–June, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.53°F (0.85°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for January–June in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2010 by 0.16°F (0.09°C)."
  • Oxfam: "The number of companies with commitments to [Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC)] has almost tripled since 2012. Importantly, this list now also includes smaller, non-[International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)] companies—a promising development that again highlights wider acceptance of FPIC within the industry. However, this trend masks a number of issues. First, the oil and gas sector is clearly lagging in adopting FPIC policies, with no public commitments from any of the companies included in this report. Second, although policy commitments to FPIC are increasing, these lack detailed implementation guidance, and some companies have reservations relating to the core right to withhold consent."
  • United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui via Reuters: "Deregulating fuel prices will help decrease fuel consumption and preserve natural resources for future generations. It will also encourage individuals to adopt fuel-efficient vehicles, including the use of electric and hybrid cars."

Unplug

– "China will soon surpass South Korea, Russia, and Japan in nuclear generating capacity," EIA

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

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