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Venture backs wind power
Hydro Tasmania and China Light & Power to spend $1.5 billion

Sydney Morning Herald (Aus)
Hydro Tasmania and China Light & Power plan to spend $1.5 billion building 1000 megawatts of wind generation by 2010 as part of their new joint venture. “This is the major growth dimension for Hydro Tasmania,” chief executive Geoff Willis said.

Originally Hydro Tasmania planned to set up a wind business purely on Australian soil but the Federal Government’s 2004 decision not to raise the mandated renewable energy target meant the company had to find other opportunities.

“We turned adversity into advantage and found CLP,” Mr Willis said. The pace of development will be quick. Roaring 40s, as the joint venture is known, plans to have four new projects on the ground within two years. Two will be in Tasmania – the 125MW Musselroe and 75MW Studland Bay projects – and there will be 50MW plants in New Zealand and China.

Those developments, totalling about 300MW, will use all of the $110 million cash with which CLP bought its way into the joint venture. …
(24 September 2005)

How to Clean Coal

Craig Canine, National Resources Defence Council
If we burn this stuff the old way, the planet is toast. But a new technology is waiting in the wings.
…Coal, as the petroleum geologist Kenneth Deffeyes writes in his recent book Beyond Oil, “is the best of fuels; it is the worst of fuels.” It is best because it’s the most plentiful and least expensive U.S. domestic energy source. It is worst, Deffeyes writes, “for a long list of reasons: killer smog, acid rain, atmospheric carbon dioxide, mercury pollution, acid mine drainage, and a choice between hazardous underground mines and surface-disturbing open-pit mines.” For many people in the environmental movement, coal’s liabilities far outweigh whatever assets it may have. Yet the use of coal has increased every year, without a pause, for two centuries. Last year, the world burned more than five billion tons of coal, spewing 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. (The multiplication of mass occurs because each atom of carbon from the burned coal combines with two heavier atoms of oxygen from the atmosphere, thereby more than doubling the weight of the original coal in CO2 emissions.) Coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of man-made CO2, accounting for one quarter to one third of the world’s total.

We now stand at a watershed moment. An entire generation of obsolete coal-fired power plants built in the 1950s and 1960s needs to be replaced, and U.S. utility companies have announced their intention of building more than 100 new coal plants over the next 10 to 15 years. Unless something happens soon to tilt the balance toward more environmentally benign alternatives, nearly all of those power plants will use the old-fashioned, intrinsically dirty technology known as pulverized coal. The largest plants will have generating capacities of around 1,000 megawatts (MW), enough to supply electricity to as many as 900,000 homes. Such a plant costs close to $1 billion to build and has an operating expectancy of 60 years or longer. Every year of its lifetime, it will spout six million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere — about the same as two million cars.

Each of these high-carbon investments is “a Pandora’s box that we are handing to our kids,” says David Hawkins, director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “If the plants are not designed up front to capture their CO2, they will lock us into large amounts of global-warming emissions for their entire operating lifetimes.”

The threat of massive carbon lock-in becomes truly staggering when the rest of the world enters the picture. Although the United States now emits more CO2 than any other country, accounting for 20 percent of the world’s total, China is catching up fast and will probably take the lead by 2020. It has already overtaken the United States as the world’s largest coal consumer. Coal fuels 90 percent of China’s electricity demand. That demand is increasing so rapidly that China expects to expand its generating capacity over the next 30 years by 300,000 MW, or almost half of America’s current consumption. As matters now stand, nearly all of China’s projected new capacity will use standard pulverized coal technology.

These projections are alarming enough to convince some environmentalists that coal simply has no acceptable future as a major energy source.

…In spite of this grim outlook, Hawkins is far from ready to concede defeat. He’s among the most prominent and outspoken advocates of a bold scheme that would take advantage of the nation’s abundant coal resources while at the same time curbing CO2 levels in the atmosphere. This scenario relies on a combination of technologies that would enable a new breed of coal-fueled power plants to “capture” CO2 and other pollutants efficiently and economically. The captured CO2 gas would then be piped deep below the earth’s surface for permanent storage. This concept [is] often referred to as “carbon capture and sequestration” (CCS, for short)…
(September 2005)
Long article, surprising for the positive spin on the untested (and energy-costly) geosequestration technologies from nominally green group.-LJ

Volkswagen U.S. Sales Soar as Oil Prices Shift Demand

Volkswagen AG’s U.S. sales of its namesake brand rose 72 percent in the first 10 days of September as record gasoline prices prompted buyers to trade in sport-utility vehicles for small cars and demand more diesel models, the brand’s top U.S. executive said.

The U.S. unit is seeking more diesel engines for the new Jetta car than planned because gasoline price increases and scattered fuel shortages caused by hurricane Katrina are prompting buyers to ask for diesel cars, Len Hunt, the top U.S. executive for the Volkswagen brand, said in an interview. Diesel engines can get 40 percent better fuel economy than gasoline motors. …
(12 September 2005)

Howard puts ethanol tiger in your tank

Andrew Stevenson and Matt Wade, Herald (Australia)
Petrol blended with 5 per cent ethanol could soon be sold without any labelling as the Prime Minister strives to revive the biofuels industry in the face of a collapse in public confidence.

Labels on fuels made with 10 per cent ethanol could also be changed, so they do not act as a “warning” to consumers, despite manufacturers’ fears of damage to some car engines.

John Howard yesterday released the report of the Biofuels Taskforce, which he had commissioned in May, and indicated he would take the fight for ethanol into the boardrooms of oil companies and fuel retailers.

The NRMA estimates 10 per cent ethanol fuel could save motorists about 5 cents a litre.

But ethanol use in Australia has fallen from 75 megalitres in 2002-03 to a projection of only 23 megalitres in 2005-06, a drop of 70 per cent in two years. It now accounts for only 0.1 per cent of the automotive fuel market.
(23 September 2005)
Optimistic estimates suggest ethanol production might reach 0.7% of Australia’s automotive fuel market by 2010, and even that wont be without resistence.-LJ

Beijing looks to biodiesel

Bloomberg via Sydney Morning Herald
Beijing: China, the world’s second-biggest oil consumer, may lift biodiesel production capacity six-fold by 2008 as companies such as China Petroleum & Chemical Corp step up expansion plans, according to a PetroChina affiliate.

New and planned projects will boost the country’s capacity to convert energy crops into the diesel substitute to 600,000 tonnes a year, Wendy Wen, vice-president of SinoBright Clean Oil Technologies, told a biofuels conference in Beijing on Thursday. Capacity might rise to as much as 300,000 tonnes a year next year from about 85,000 tonnes this year, Ms Wen said.

“China is expected to enter its fastest development period in the coming five to 10 years.” She forecast biodiesel capacity to rise to more than 1 million tonnes by 2010, helping to ease demand for diesel of more than 100 million tonnes a year.
(24 September 2005)