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The debate on energy and greenhouse gas emissions impacts of fuel ethanol
(1.3-MB PDF)
Michael Wang, Energy Systems Division (Argonne National Laboratory)
* Energy balance value for a given energy product alone is not meaningful in evaluating its benefit
* Any type of fuel ethanol helps substantially reduce transportation’s fossil energy and petroleum use, relative to petroleum gasoline
* Corn-based fuel ethanol achieves moderate reductions in GHG [Greenhouse Gas] emissions
* Cellulosic ethanol can achieve much greater energy and GHG benefits
(3 August 2005)
Thirty-five pages of slides, making the case for ethanol as a replacement for petroleum fuels. Submitted by reader MW.

Brazil’s Gas Consumption Seen Nearly Tripling by 2010

Tom Murphy, Schlumberger
SAO PAULO – Brazil’s natural gas consumption will nearly triple to 100 million cubic meters a day by 2010, according to Jose Sergio Gabrielli, president of state energy giant Petrobras (PBR) on Monday.

…Gabrielli said 2004 natural gas consumption was 37.9 million cubic meters per day. He said reaching the 100 million goal implied annual expansion of some 17% from 2004 through 2010.

“This would mean annual expansion six times as fast as the expansion in liquid fuels such as petroleum,” he said. He said consumption of oil products will rise only 2.3% annually through 2010.

Gabrielli said nearly half of Brazil`s daily consumption of natural gas in 2010 will go to electric power generators, helping reduce Brazil’s dependence on hydroelectric sources.
(17 October 2005)

There is nothing green about Blair’s nuclear dream

David Lowry, The Guardian
To assess the industry’s environmental impact, we must look at the whole fuel cycle
The Guardian leader (Pre-empting debate, October 1), on why ministers should be cautious before again taking the nuclear route to energy salvation, is sensible. But it contains an erroneous, if common, statement: “The big advantage of nuclear generation is that it does not produce environmentally degrading emissions in the way that fossil fuel generation does.” The nuclear industry is fond of making this claim, unfortunately compounded in James Meek’s survey of our nuclear record (Back to the future, G2, October 4), where Keith Parker, the chief executive of the Nuclear Industries Association, described nuclear energy as “non-carbon emitting”.

Production of nuclear electricity is not carbon free, because the production of nuclear fuel for these reactors is significantly energy intensive. While it is true that most nuclear reactors do not emit CO2 at the point of generation, reactors are a small part of the nuclear fuel cycle, which emits large amounts of CO2. These arise from the so-called front end of the fuel cycle – uranium mining, ore milling, uranium hexafluoride conversion, fuel enrichment and, finally, fabrication of the fuel rods. Moreover, nuclear waste management at the “back end” is already energy hungry in treatment, conditioning, transportation and final disposal in some future repository (if ministers ever give the green light).

Thus life-cycle analyses are essential to assess the true impact of the entire processes.

David Lowry is nuclear issues coordinator for Labour’s environment campaign, Sera.
(20 October 2005)

Wood stoves back in vogue ahead of costly winter

Ben Berkowitz, Reuters via Yahoo!News
NEW YORK – The traditional wood-burning stove, which had been relegated to the corners of antique shops and rustic cabins, has suddenly become a hot item as oil and natural gas get more and more expensive.

Some consumers who do not relish the prospect of spending $1,500 or more on fuel to heat their homes this winter are turning back to the old standby pot-bellied stove — or its more modern equivalent, the wood pellet stove — as a way to stay warm for as little as a tenth the price.

Factories are scrambling to meet the unexpected spike in demand after energy prices started rising in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, according to Leslie Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association.
(18 October 2005)

Benefits of coal touted at Montana energy conference

Mike Dennison, Missoulian
BOZEMAN – Gov. Brian Schweitzer barely mentioned coal as he kicked off his energy summit here Tuesday.

But Montana’s own version of black gold grabbed plenty of attention, with developers saying “the time is now” to start using the state’s vast reserves of coal to produce energy, for the state and beyond.

“The stars are lined up,” declared Pat Davison, a Republican candidate for governor in 2004 and associate of Wesco Resources Inc., a Billings coal development firm. “The people of Montana are becoming less afraid of development. These are the times that are ripe for coal development in Montana.

Yet sessions on alternative fuels and environmental protection also packed them in, and spokesmen for conservation groups said they hope Schweitzer will pay heed and keep the focus on non-fossil fuel sources such as wind.

“It is quite clear that the central purpose of this meeting is to create an energy plan for Montana in which coal is the central long-term energy source,” said Jim Jensen, executive director of the Montana Environmental Information Center.

“I hope the governor will take a deep breath after this conference is over and see the choices presented and move Montana to energy independence and security, which cannot be done with fossil fuels.”

…More than 700 people are attending the two-day summit at Montana State University in Bozeman, and big crowds attended its first-day sessions on coal-related development, from power plants to railroads to synfuel plants.
(19 October 2005)
See yesterday’s EB headlines (Politics and economics – Oct 19) for links to more stories on the Montana energy conference and Governor Schweitzer.

India’s fast breeder nuclear reactor is 20 years old
India’s first home-grown fast breeder nuclear reactor Tuesday completed 20 years in service, giving a boost to the country’s efforts to tap its plentiful supply of thorium as a nuclear fuel.

The Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) is located at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam, 80 km south of Chennai. Such reactors form the second stage of India’s nuclear power programme, converting Uranium 238 present in nature to plutonium.

Experts see fast breeder reactors as the technology that can secure India’s energy future as it can convert thorium into U-233, yet another nuclear fuel.

India is one of the few countries that plans to use thorium as an alternative fuel to power its nuclear reactors which it hopes will meet a significant part of its energy needs in future.
(18 October 2005)
India’s Atomic Energy Commision also claim they will soon be able to get 65-75% of energy from Thorium in mixed Uranium/Thorium reactors. We invite comments from informed readers about the feasibility of these approaches to Thorium reactors. -AF

A 30 000 MW Wind Farm in Canada?
Hassan Masum,
Gilbert Parent, recently retired from political life in Canada, has proposed building a 30 GW wind farm in the country’s northern regions.
That’s roughly the current power generation capacity of Ontario (home to about 40% of Canada’s population of 32 million).
(17 October 2005)