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Saudi Arabia evolves into a global petrochemical hub
Dr. Abdulwahab AlSadoun, the Director General of the Energy Sector at SAGIA. Capital investment in hydrocarbon sub-sectors in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is slated to reach $94.4 billion in the years 2004-2009 according to Dr. Abdulwahab AlSadoun, the Director General of the Energy Sector at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).

Dr. AlSadoun illustrated Saudi Arabia’s emerging strength as a global hub for petrochemicals at the ISF Petrochemicals Forum held recently in London. Spearheading the Kingdom’s investment strategy, SAGIA continues to drive reforms and developments to create the enabling environment for investments in the energy sector and its value chain.

Saudi Arabia’s petrochemicals industry continues to grow at a consistent and exponential pace accounting for 7% of the global supply for basic and intermediary petrochemical products.
(23 October 2005)

Shale oil is sham

V.B. Price, Alburquerque Tribune
When you hear about digging up huge areas of Utah, Colorado and Wyoming to develop shale oil, it starts you thinking about the true nature of the so-called free market – guided, we are told, by the almost divine rationality of supply and demand.

But the more you look at energy prices, the hope for energy sustainability and recent market-gaming by energy companies during the blackouts of 2001-03 in California, the more it must dawn on even fiscal conservatives that the free market is mostly a hoax these days and that supply and demand is rigged by government incentives and distorted marketing.

To extract “possibly” a trillion barrels of oil locked in the rocks along the Green River in Utah, the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area in Wyoming and along parts of the Colorado River in Colorado, countless billions of tons of shale will have to be dug up, the oil burned out of it at high temperatures, countless tons of salty wastes kept from indispensable rivers and ground waters – and all for about 25 gallons of oil per ton of shale.
(22 October 2005)

Wood pellet market heats up

Wisconsin’s leading and possibly only wood-pellet manufacturer has discovered the exhausting thrill of operating full-tilt.

“Our plant here is running at 100 percent capacity,” said T.J. Morice, vice president of operations at Marth Wood Shaving Supply Inc. in Marathon. “We’re going 24/7, and we have been for almost three months. We’re doing everything we can to meet demand, but it’s going to be a challenging winter.”

It sure is. Natural-gas and heating oil/propane bills are forecast to climb about 48% and 30%, respectively, this winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Sales of alternative fuels are soaring in tandem. Leading the pack are wood pellets, a compressed-sawdust product, and wood pellet stoves.
(22 October 2005)

The chief UK scientific adviser has become a government spin doctor

George Monbiot, Guardian
The man who told the truth about climate change is now selling nuclear power for his political masters
I report this with sadness: Sir David King has lost his bottle. Until a few weeks ago, the chief scientific adviser looked to me like one of the few brave souls in the British government. In an article in Science at the beginning of last year, he argued that “climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today – more serious even than the threat of terrorism” and criticised the Bush administration for “failing to take up the challenge”. In response, he was viciously attacked by the Exxon-sponsored climate change denier Myron Ebell. Being viciously attacked by Ebell is something to which all self-respecting scientists should aspire.

Last month he was attacked again, and this time he deserved it. At a meeting of climate change specialists, King announced that a “reasonable” target for stabilising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 550 parts of the gas per million parts of air. It would be “politically unrealistic”, he said, to demand anything lower.

Simon Retallack, from the Institute for Public Policy Research, reminded King what his job was. As chief scientist, his duty is not to represent political reality – there are plenty of advisers schooled in that art – but to represent scientific reality.
(25 October 2005)

Making the Grid “Smart”

Joel Makower WorldChanging
The realization that America’s electricity infrastructure is shakier than a palm tree during a hurricane hits us every few years, when some blackout or rolling brownout reminds us of our electro-vulnerability.

…The notion of a smart grid is familiar to WorldChanging readers… The idea is to make the existing grid work more efficiently — so much more, in fact, that it could reduce the need for additional power plants, or for costly redundant systems designed to work “just in case” of peak demand. That’s the vision of a growing corps of researchers and companies working on grid optimization, a term that describes a wide range of information technologies that better understand and analyze exactly what’s going on in a complex energy system on a minute-by-minute basis, then optimize the system in a way that’s cost-effective.
(24 October 2005)
David Roberts at Gristmill has some comments.

Wind-farm plans take root in Texas

Kelley Shannon, Associated Press via Seattle Times
AUSTIN — Texas has sold a lease for an 11,000-acre tract in the Gulf of Mexico that backers believe could become the first wind-energy farm along the U.S. coast, state officials announced Monday.

“Coastal wind power has come to the United States and found a home in Texas,” state Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said.

The wind turbines planned by Galveston Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of Wind Energy Systems Technologies of New Iberia, La., would be seven miles off Galveston Island.
(25 October 2005)
See also Reuters and the Houston Chronicle.

France: EDF’s highly charged sale

The Economist
France’s government has defied its powerful unions and announced the partial privatisation of Electricité de France. But selling a mere 15% of the giant utility risks infuriating workers without freeing the company sufficiently to compete with Europe’s other energy giants
CHARLES DE GAULLE famously asked of France “How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?” When it came to dealing with the country’s 900-plus electric utilities, his actions spoke louder than his words: in 1946, his government oversaw a merger that took them into public ownership as the vast Electricité de France (EDF). Now, 60 years later, France’s conservative government has finally given the go-ahead for the partial privatisation of EDF. Some 15% of the vast company-the world’s biggest generator of nuclear power-is set to revert to private ownership in the next few weeks.
(24 October 2005)

Energy Northwest proposes first new plant since WPPSS

Shannon Dininny, Seattle PI
Richland, Wash. — When an ambitious plan to build five nuclear power plants in Washington state fell to pieces in the 1980s, it caused the largest municipal bond default in U.S. history.

Lawmakers and electricity ratepayers showered criticism on Northwest utilities that were party to the debacle. Voters passed an initiative to rein in public spending on big power plants. No entity took more heat than the Washington Public Power Supply System, or WPPSS, which led the effort. To this day, the project suffers under the moniker, “Whoops.”

But in the years since the scandal, the utility changed its name to Energy Northwest, weeded out those responsible and began the laborious process of rebuilding its public image. Now it has plans for a new power plant – one that many agree employs promising technology, but which has been carefully designed to avoid a public vote.
(22 October 2005)