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Energy Headlines - May 7, 2005

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Peak Oil

Getting prepared

The Oil Drum
Suddenly the weather is changing into summer, schools and universities are approaching the end of the teaching year, and thoughts turn to the summer vacation. The world, to a great degree is prosperous, and so cars will drive, planes will fly and there is no immediate blot on the horizon to expect that this might not be a very pleasant three months.

For, this time, there will be enough gas to fuel the travel. Prices may be up a little but with the world producing oil as fast as it can, a short term surplus of supply has developed, as reported by Petroleum World.
At this point no-one is anticipating that the supply will fail to match demand before some time late in the fall. Yet prices have not come significantly down. The reason comes with the growing awareness that this is a problem that is not going to go away.
(7 May 2005)

Energy-related News

Building the Hydrogen Boom

National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
How Iceland's abundant natural wonders -- spouting geysers and turbulent rivers -- are turning one tiny country into a world leader in clean energy

Nearly 30 years ago, Iceland was looking for ways to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels and replace them with local, renewable sources -- geothermal and hydroelectric power. But a chemistry professor named Bragi Arnason outlined a more ambitious goal. From his study of Iceland's hot-water reserves, Arnason realized that the country was planning to tap only a small fraction of the energy resources that lay hidden beneath its volcanic surface. That convinced him that Iceland could become the first nation in the world to power its economy entirely with what is now widely seen as the energy of the future: hydrogen.

Arnason understood that Iceland offered a unique laboratory for exploring the potential of a hydrogen economy. The country's small size (40,000 square miles) and population (just 294,000) would simplify the challenge of transforming its energy infrastructure. Most important, he believed that the energy required to split water molecules and produce hydrogen could be provided by Iceland's cheap, abundant supplies of geothermal and hydroelectric power.
(Spring 2005)

Huge solar power station planned for Portugal

A plan to build the world's biggest solar energy power station, covering about 250 hectares and capable of sustaining 130,000 households, has been unveiled in Portugal. The park would be visible from space, according to a spokesman for the owners of the site at an abandoned pyrite mine near the town of Beja, in the southern Alentejo region.

With a potential output of 116 megawatts, the new station would be several times the size of what is now the world's largest solar energy plant. The output would be fed into the Portuguese electricity grid at a government-set price
(6 May 2005)

Europe's Black Triangle Turns Green

National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
...The changes Rock refers to began in 1948. Having just emerged from the grip of Nazi Germany, Czechoslovakia became a Soviet satellite. Moscow chose the Most basin, the sprawling plain south of the Krušné hory that is named for its major city, to be Czechoslovakia's industrial center. Known until then for its Bohemian glass, ceramics, and textile industries, the basin had a ready source of fuel -- lignite -- that lay close to the surface and in deposits 300 feet deep.

Lignite is a coal that never fully evolved, no longer peat but only halfway to becoming bituminous, or hard, coal. It's soft, brown, and crumbles easily. It's too delicate to be shipped long distances, and it burns very quickly (disintegrates might be a better way to put it). Pound for pound, lignite generates less heat than hard coal and produces four times the sulfur when it is burned. What recommended lignite to Soviet managers was that it was available and it was cheap.

The lignite strip mines expanded and deepened. As industries moved in -- chemical plants, refineries, steam heating and power plants -- so did workers. To provide heat and electricity for the growing population, more coal was burned. When still more coal was needed, the government had no compunction about bulldozing entire villages so the strip mines could devour more of the landscape. North of the basin, where the three national borders converge, the mountains formed an angular barrier that contained the increasingly polluted air, enveloping the Most basin in ash and ozone. When the wind blew, plumes of pollution swept up into the spruce forests.
(Spring 2005)
Ed: Long article about the recovery of a region from the effects of coal mining.

Bush Energy Proposal a Program of Strength through Exhaustion

Renewable Energy Access
by Steven J. Strong
With a troubling backdrop of skyrocketing gas prices, and worldwide concerns over energy, President George W. Bush outlined energy proposals last week that he said would help ensure energy independence and national security. Rather, the business-as-usual proposals are nothing more than a program of strength through exhaustion, a recipe for higher prices, and a sure way to increase US dependence on imports of petroleum, natural gas and uranium.

With a troubling backdrop of skyrocketing gas prices, and worldwide concerns over energy, President George W. Bush outlined energy proposals last week that he said would help ensure energy independence and national security. Rather, the business-as-usual proposals are nothing more than a program of strength through exhaustion, a recipe for higher prices, and a sure way to increase US dependence on imports of petroleum, natural gas and uranium.

Here's a reality check on the President's energy plan, point by point delivered in Washington in a speech on energy last Thursday...
(2 May 2005)
The article critiques ANWR, LNG terminals, nuclear, oil refineries, coal, hydrogen and ethanol.

Solutions and Sustainability

Land of Millikin Honey
Mike Millikin, publisher of green-car blog, answers readers' questions

Grist Magazine
Question: In general, Americans are not involved in the two biggest global issues -- global warming and global oil depletion. How can apathy be turned into activism? -- Julian Powers, Spokane, Wash.

Answer: I think it's primarily a matter of lack of education, exacerbated by several factors. First, both issues are less than immediate for the majority. People tend to generalize based on immediate experience. Doesn't seem hotter, so how can the world be warming? Second, they read or hear contradictory reports, and shrug and figure it's all bunk. On any given day recently, I can point to headlines that say (a) the price of oil is going up, (b) the price of oil is going down, (c) OPEC is maxed out, (d) OPEC has plenty of capacity, and so on. Most people don't have the time to sit down and actually sort through everything. So there's a media coverage issue in that.

In other words, there's no foundation for agreement (or belief) for most people. Without strongly held convictions, you don't have activism.

Most dramatic change occurs when the objective conditions become so intolerable they force activity on a sufficient number of people to make the change. That hasn't happened yet with global warming or with oil depletion ... although I think people are, um, warming up to the notion of the second.

But when faced with hard evidence or an impact that affects us directly, we can change course rapidly in this country. It happened after the first oil crises. It happened in California after the major blackout -- voluntary measures cut electricity consumption to the point where we didn't have a repeat. It's starting to happen with auto purchases (sales of full-size SUVs dropping).

One of the tricks in building awareness and active responses to global warming and depletion is to make it more immediate. One way it becomes more immediate for people is for them to understand what others are doing and why.
(6 May 2005)
Ed: Long article in which Milliken answers a wide-range of questions about cars and fuel. We're looking forward to more such columns.

Seattle Conference May 14
Beyond Oil: Challenges and Opportunities for Peace, Jobs, Justice and Sustainability.

Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
With 5% of the world's population, the United States consumes about 25% of all the oil produced worldwide. The competition over resources is getting fierce, and Americans are witnessing every day how our dependence on oil has become a real security liability. Meanwhile, burning fossil fuels is worsening global climate change. Clearly it is in everyone's best interest to build a sustainable economy and move beyond oil peacefully, with social justice and respect for the earth.

Beyond Oil: Challenges and Opportunities for Peace, Jobs, Justice and Sustainability.
Saturday, May 14, 10 AM to 4 PM
Seattle Unity Church, 200 Eighth Ave N
An all-day conference, with keynoter Michael Klare. Workshops, presenters and sponsors listed below.

Mission & Logistics

With a goal of bringing labor, environmental, and peace and justice groups together to work on this crosscutting issue, the May 14 "Beyond Oil" conference is a first step toward exploring common ground to forge solutions. The conference will be 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at Seattle Unity Church, 200 Eighth Ave. North, in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. The agenda includes Michael Klare's keynote and substantial discussion time in the morning, and two sets of interactive workshops in the afternoon, focusing on action and solutions--from individual lifestyles to political advocacy to building alliances.

Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies (a joint appointment at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst). Klare is author of Resource Wars and Blood and Oil, and defense correspondent for The Nation.
(no date)

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