From oil prices to solar innovation to gas wars, each weekend Recharge examines the big ideas in global energy. Subscribe for free.
Heating season: Russia's retaliatory sanctions against the West this week don't target energy, but the continued souring of EU-Russia relations threatens European oil and gas security. Winter heating season begins in October, and it looks increasingly unlikely that Moscow, Kiev, and Brussels can come to an agreement to restore gas flows to Ukraine – and ensure transit of Russian gas to Europe. As the situation gets increasingly desperate, Kiev may be the next to close a spigot.
Leapfrog: Two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans lack access to electricity. It's an opportunity to build from scratch 21st-century energy systems that are smarter and cleaner than the industrialized world's carbon-heavy grid. But this week's US-Africa summit demonstrated it will not be easy to pursue African prosperity while also reining in runaway global emissions.
Petróleos internacionales: The overhaul of Mexico's energy industry is a bet that the shale boom can spread south of the Rio Grande. Mexico's Congress formally approved the liberalization plan this week, following Iran, Iraq, and other oil states looking to revive lagging output with outside support. The move ends 75 years of monopoly and national pride for Petróleos Mexicanos, but it could be a boon for Mexico's economy and oil supermajors seeking more stable ground.
In the pipeline
- Sunday, August 10: TELEVISION and THE INTERNET – President Obama’s Power Africa coordinator Andrew Herscowitz discusses the challenge of providing electricity to 600 million sub-Saharan Africans on Platts Energy Week. Also, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow John Banks will explain how Millennials are changing how utilities operate.
- Monday, August 11 to Tuesday, August 12: SANTA FE, N.M. and CARLSBAD, N.M. – US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz continues his national tour for the Quadrennial Energy Review, making a stop at DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad. WIPP is the nation's only repository for the disposal of nuclear waste from the nuclear defense program.
- Ongoing: IRAQ – So far, oil prices have responded relatively quietly to US airstrikes on Iraqi insurgents, but any kind of prolonged intervention, or a spread of violence to the oil-rich south, will put upward pressure on oil prices.
Armed with new technology, oil drillers revisit Gulf of Mexico [Reuters]
In an era of fracking, seismic exploration, and horizontal drilling, oil producers are returning to the Gulf of Mexico. "We are re-shooting all of our large fields to make sure that we haven't missed anything," one oil executive told Reuters.
Kenya Wind Farm Signals Hurdles for Obama Program [The Wall Street Journal]
Farmers in Kenya have banded together against a proposed wind farm, which is part of Obama's "Power Africa" program. In the wake of Obama's high-level US-Africa summit, local objections in Kenya and elsewhere demonstrate the difficulty of implementing energy programs on the ground.
Setting rivers free: As dams are torn down, nature is quickly recovering[The Christian Science Monitor]
Nearly 900 dams, erected to power the country’s machinery, store water, irrigate fields, or generate hydroelectric power, have come down in the past 25 years, writes Doug Struck. The trend toward river restoration is a far cry from the early 20th century lionization of dams as modern triumphs over nature.
- EIA: "Natural gas production in the Marcellus Region exceeded 15 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) through July, the first time ever recorded"
- Earthworks: "[Pennsylvania] left approximately 58,000 active wells (89%) uninspected in 2008; in 2013, ... [the state] inspected thousands more wells – but the growth in drilling and production meant that more than 66,000 active wells (83%) weren’t inspected."
- China's National Energy Administration, via Bloomberg: "China added 3.3 gigawatts of solar capacity in the six months ending June 30, double last year’s additions ... China now has 23 gigawatts of solar power supply, almost seven times as much as Australia."
Amid record drought, Californians "go green."