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Demand for natural gas outpaces supply

Jim Abrams, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Progress is being made in restoring offshore natural gas facilities shut down by hurricanes, but gas prices will remain high as demand outpaces supply, the head of the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Tuesday.

Even with recovery of operations along the Gulf Coast, “I don’t think they’ll go back to the level they were a few years ago,” said FERC chairman Joseph Kelliher.
(22 November 2005)

UK gas becomes world’s most costly fuel

Reuters via NZ Herald
British gas has become the world’s most expensive fuel as the country fast runs out of North Sea supplies, forcing industry to cut output and leaving homeowners facing much higher bills.

“There is a great deal of nervousness about whether we can get through winter without any supply cuts for customers,” analyst Niall Trimble of the Energy Contract Company.

UK January gas prices closed at a record £1.17 ($2.93) a therm on Tuesday as freezing weather stoked fears of a gas crunch.

That makes the contract more than US$50 ($73.21) a barrel higher than US gas in oil equivalent terms and 10 times the price of European coal futures, analysts at Barclays Capital said.
(24 November 2005)

FT: Good chances that we’ll freeze this winter

Jerome a Paris, Daily Kos
Jerome quotes from a Financial Times article about natural gas supplies and a possible cold winter in Britain, comments, then concludes with:

The chemical industry can cut back its natural gas use, but that means less activity, and fewer jobs. And the general trend is to build new plants in countries that have access to cheap gas (i.e. producers like Iran, Qatar or Saudia Arabia). Once production has moved over there, it never comes back.

The power industry is also apparently busy switching some gas plants to coal use where it can (not everywhere). But coal prices have also doubled in recent times, so the impact on prices is just to avoid the most recent increases, but not the general trend. And coal is not good for pollution nor global warming.

The message I am not trying to convey is not necessarily one of doom and panic, but that we must get used to energy beign more expensive. If energy was properly priced, we would use it more wisely. We’d pay to have good security of supply (by paying for reliable sources, not by paying for an oversized military); we’d pay to avoid pollution (instead of dealing with the chronic illnesses it causes via the health system); we’d pay to have enough spare capacity (instead of making the poorest go cold if winter is too harsh and prices go up even more to get people to stop consuming – becuase that’s waht the “market” will provide).

Cheap energy is not a right, and it is not even a reality today, because you pay for your “cheap” energy today in other ways (taxes, healthcare, etc). Let’s make the price of energy realistic, and then help those that really need help to get access to basic energy – and only them.

Let’s stop worrying about energy supply, and worry instead about energy demand.
(24 November 2005)
Related story in the Guardian: Cold comfort as gas prices fuel concern .

Solar’s day in the sun?
High costs of supplying electricity embolden two California utilities to bet on alternative
Rebecca Smith, Wall Street Journal via Stirling Energy
Ambitious plans to cover two big swaths of California desert with solar dishes could finally help the energyproducing technology make the leap to industrial-scale development.

Stirling Energy Systems Inc., of Phoenix, hopes to construct 20,000 solar dishes covering four square miles of the Mohave Desert near Victorville, Calif., each dish pointing skyward to collect the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity that would flow 80 miles south to power-hungry Los Angeles. The solar encampment, if eventually built, could produce 500 megawatts of electricity, enough to meet the daytime needs of 300,000 homes, doubling the state’s solar capacity
(17 November 2005)

Huge solar plants bloom in desert

Will Wade, Wired News
The barren deserts of Southern California are known for relentless sunshine and miles of empty space — the perfect combination for the world’s most ambitious solar-energy projects.

Two Southern California utility companies are planning to develop a pair of sun-powered power plants that they claim will dwarf existing solar facilities and could rival fossil-fuel-driven power plants.

Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric are working with Stirling Energy Systems, a Phoenix startup that has paired a large and efficient solar dish with a 200-year-old Stirling engine design.

Stirling Energy Systems is planning to build two separate solar farms, one with the capacity to generate 500 megawatts of electricity in the Mojave Desert near Victorville, California, for SoCal Edison, and a 300-megawatt plant in the Imperial Valley, near Calexico, California, for SDG&E. The utilities have signed 20-year deals to buy all the juice the farms can turn out, and have options to expand the plants if they are successful.

“Without question, this will be the largest solar project in the world,” said Gil Alexander, a spokesman for SoCal Edison. “It will be bigger than all U.S. solar-energy projects combined.”
(15 November 2005)

Take the clean, green alternative over macho nuclear rod-waving

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian
There are many energy sources that could provide efficient power supplies, if only they had government backing
This is not cold weather for late November. There is no energy shortage. Domestic gas bills are the lowest in the EU. Electricity is 10% cheaper than in 1997. A few imprudent industries refused fixed prices to play the energy spot market, but squeal now the market is against them. They represent only 0.05% of industry, despite the CBI’s Digby Jones crying wolf over yet another “government crisis”.

Behind this scare is the nuclear power lobby waking like the kraken to warn of imminent power cuts, in time for Tony Blair’s announcement next week of another energy review. It will be headed by the energy minister, Malcolm Wicks – a hopeful sign of sanity – but Friends of the Earth finds it somewhat ominous that we need another review just three years after the last.

A colossal decision on nuclear power will be made through a thicket of energy factoids. Note how cleverly the language is framed already, implying that nuclear is common sense and anything else is “alternative” to it – probably wearing woolly hats and fingerless gloves.

This will be a case study in political decision-making – rational and transparent or dismally dysfunctional. Watch how the wind of opinion changes, who manipulates it, how and why. See how emotion, political predilection and even gender swing the debate on both sides. Polls show Britain is evenly split on nuclear power, but that masks a huge gender difference: two-thirds of women are against, as they are across the EU. Is there something intuitively macho about glowing fuel rods? How cleverly the nuclear lobby insinuates that grown-up, real men – and by inference real political parties – know what has to be done. Wind, waves and energy-saving are for silly greens and big girl’s blouses.
(25 November 2005)

Wakeup call in Indian country – tribes have a key role in an energy future

David Melmer, Indian Country Today
… Winona LaDuke, Ojibwe and executive director of Honor the Earth…lives on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. Honor the Earth is dedicated to the protection of the environment and support using renewables to produce energy.

”There is no reason tribes couldn’t produce ethanol. The difference in carbon dioxide emissions is dramatic: the difference in either paying Exxon [Mobil Corp.] or farmers is dramatic. The Three Affiliated Tribes could be the ethanol kings of North Dakota,” LaDuke said.

Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, agreed and said the tribes of the Great Plains are sitting on a tremendous resource of potential power.

”This is a wakeup call in Indian country. It affects the economy; it affects the national debt.”…Renewables and energy production in Indian country may just be the next gaming, he said.

…”We have a teaching of cyclical thinking: what we do today you will feel the consequences [of] tomorrow. Instead of the idea of Armageddon, most indigenous communities have the idea of continuous rebirth,” LaDuke said.

LaDuke and Hall were featured speakers at a gathering of tribal leaders and energy experts at what was to be the first of many Native Renewables Energy summits. Some 200 people were in attendance.

Seventy percent of the uranium deposits in this country are located on American Indian reservations. The fear of further increases in cancer rates is widespread in Indian country. ”Thousands of Dine’ [Navajo] miners died from radiation poisoning. The community is heavily impacted; that is why the Navajo have a moratorium on uranium mining.”

The Dene in Saskatchewan are located on one of the largest uranium deposits in the world. LaDuke said they were concerned because the worldwide price for uranium recently doubled.

Protecting Indian country from mining and exploration is one underlying goal in the development of renewables. The more renewables used to generate power, the lower the dependency on fossil fuels.

The northern Great Plains could produce 100 percent of the nation’s energy with wind power. But wind power alone is not adequate, and scientists and engineers claim wind power will never become the sole source of energy. Many reservations also have the potential for solar; some tribes have oil, coal and natural gas deposits.
(24 November 2005)