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Yale study raises questions about sustainability of metal resources

National Science Foundation
Researchers studying supplies of copper, zinc and other metals have determined that these finite resources, even if recycled, may not meet the needs of the global population forever. According to the study, if all nations were to use the same services enjoyed in developed nations, even the full extraction of metals from the Earth’s crust and extensive recycling programs may not meet future demand.

The researchers suggest the environmental and social consequences of metals depletion become clearer from studies of metal stocks–those in the Earth, in use serving people and lost in landfills–instead of tracking the flow of metal through the economy in a given time and region.

Yale University researchers Robert Gordon and Thomas Graedel and their colleague Marlen Bertram of the Organisation of European Aluminum Refiners report their findings in the Jan. 17, 2006, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“There is a direct relation between requisite stock, standard of living, and technology in use at a given time,” said Gordon. “We therefore offer a different approach to studying use of finite resources, one that is more directly related to environmental concerns than are the discussions found in the economics literature.”

Using copper stocks in North America as a starting point, the researchers tracked the evolution of copper mining, use and loss during the 20th century. Then the researchers applied their findings, and additional data, to an estimate of global demand for copper and other metals if all nations were fully developed and used modern technologies.

According to the study, all of the copper in ore, plus all of the copper currently in use, would be required to bring the world to the level of the developed nations for power transmission, construction and other services and products that depend on copper.
(17 January 2006)
Metal prices surge as reserves fears are highlightedy (UK Telegraph)

Globalization raises globalized risks – study

Thomas Atkins, Reuters via Planet Ark
DAVOS, Switzerland – Globalisation has increased the danger of catastrophes spreading quickly across the world and causing more harm, a study prepared for the World Economic Forum warned on Thursday.

As an example, it cited a bird flu pandemic, which it said was currently the biggest threat facing the planet.

The study, released at the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos, said travel, trade and interconnected markets meant that disasters in one part of the globe could set dominoes falling elsewhere.

It urged governments and companies to strengthen their preparations and monitoring.

There was, it said, a potential “perfect storm” emerging from disease, natural disasters, terrorism, oil shocks and from the long-term effects of climate change.
(27 January 2006)

India, China and the Asian axis of oil

Siddharth Varadarajan, The Hindu
The new Sino-Indian partnership could serve as the foundation for an Asian Energy Union and much more.
IN LESS than a year, India and China have managed to confound analysts around the world by turning their much-vaunted rivalry for the acquisition of oil and gas assets in third countries into a nascent partnership that could alter the basic dynamics of the global energy market.

At stake is not just the issue of joint acquisition, although the most important of the agreements signed in Beijing on January 12 during the visit of Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar envisages ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) and the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) placing joint bids for promising projects elsewhere.

Rather, the prospects for Sino-Indian cooperation across the length of the hydrocarbon chain could pave the way for the creation of an Asian energy market and architecture — an Asian axis of oil — with major geopolitical consequences for the United States.
(XX January 2006)
Also posted on the author’s website and at Znet. Siddharth Varadarajan is a deputy editor of the Hindu, “India’s National Newspaper.”

IMF’s Rajan: Can’t Rule Out A Run On The US Dollar

A. Peaple E. Barrett, Dow Jones Newswires via TheBusinessOnline
LONDON -(Dow Jones)- A run on the U.S. dollar that would see investors rushing to dump the currency is a possibility, although it’s difficult to judge how likely an outcome that is, the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist said Monday.

Speaking at a conference on global imbalances, Raghuram Rajan also said a rapid and large appreciation of the Chinese yuan against the dollar and other currencies would be more likely to damage the world economy than be of benefit to it.

With the U.S. current account deficit running at close to 7% of gross domestic product, economists have long expected the dollar to depreciate against other major currencies, and feared the dollar could go into free fall if that prompted international central banks and investors to flee the greenback.

“We are in a risky situation,” said Rajan. “You cannot discount a run on the dollar. But you cannot fully quantify that risk at the moment.” Rajan added that he’s more concerned about the possibility that a run on the currency will be triggered by foreign private investors abandoning the dollar than the risk that international central banks will diversify away from U.S. assets.

“The first action will come from foreign private investors, who have no motives other than returns,” he said. …
(23 January 2006)
Update Jan 29: Original article no longer seems to be available or requires login.

Suburban sprawl an irresistible force in US

Alan Elsner, Reuters
Across the United States, an unprecedented acceleration in suburban sprawl is prompting concerns about the environment, traffic, health and damage to rural communities, but opponents appear powerless to stop the process because of the economic development and profits it generates.

Sprawl, defined as the unplanned, uncontrolled expansion of urban areas beyond their fringes, has greatly accelerated over the past 25 years, spurred by low mortgage interest rates and aggressive developers.

According to the National Resources Inventory, about 34 million acres — an area the size of Illinois — were converted to developed uses between 1982 and 2001. Development in the 1990s averaged around 2.2. million acres a year, compared to 1.4 million

in the 1980s. By 2001, the total developed area in the lower 48 states was slightly more than 106 million acres.

In other words, around one-third of that total was paved over in the final two decades of the 20th century.
(26 January 2006)

Sugar prices turn sour for consumers

Shakir Husain, Gulf News
Dubai: With the world’s dominant sugar producer and exporter Brazil diverting its sugarcane crops to produce ethanol to provide cheaper fuel for motorists, sugar prices may be turning sour for consumers.

Coupled with a general rise in sugar consumption, the energy factor in sugarcane use is affecting supplies of sugar, an industry expert said.

Sugar prices have risen from $270 per tonne at the start of 2005 to above $400 per tonne this week.
(25 January 2006)
Galloping prices of sugar (Bangladesh Financial Express)
Brazil’s Biofuel Success Story (Mail and Guardian)