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2005 was a great year for wind power worldwide

Jerome a Paris, European Tribune
…As the graph above shows, 2005 was a banner year for wind power, with a 43% increase over 2004 in terms of new capacity built during the year.

The other good news is that the boom was spread more evenly around the world this year, with Asia becoming an increasingly significant market

…If there is one cause that should be wholeheartedly supported by the progressives, this is it. Jobs, manufacturing competence, protection of the environment, support for local communities, and an end to dependence on nasty regimes around the world, it has no drawbacks.
(26 February 2006)
Also posted at Daily Kos.

Biomass could satisfy half of Washington’s energy needs
Ecology sees potent future in state for alternative fuels

John Dodge, Olympian (Washington)
If all the organic waste generated in the state each year were converted to energy, it would meet 50 percent of the state’s energy needs, according to a report released by the state Department of Ecology.

Included in the inventory of biomass is wood waste from mills, livestock manure, kitchen waste, food processing waste, crop residue and other byproducts.

Combined, the 45 sources total about 16.9 million tons of biomass capable of producing 1,770 megawatts of electricity, according to the report compiled by biological engineers from Washington State University.
(25 February 2006)
Much of the material now classified as “waste” was traditionally applied to farmland to enrich the soil. As synthetic fertilizers become more expensive, perhaps they will be valued again for that purpose. -BA

UPDATE from AF: It should be noted that this is a theoretical maximum, which doesn’t consider the feasability and energy costs of collecting these widely distributed sources of fuel. Kitchen waste might better be turned into compost for garden agriculture. Also consider, as likely, that if our waste food and other biomass sources have a higher caloric input of fossil fuels than their caloric content, they should not really be considered energy sources, rather a more efficient use of the original fossil fuel inputs. The amount of waste available will likely decrease once fossil fuel availabily also declines. -AF

Oregon engineer’s fuel maker a natural

Greg Bolt, Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon)
Imagine gas without gas stations.

A new invention by an Oregon State University engineer offers an intriguing peek at what for some could be do-it-yourself fuel, thanks to a tiny chemical reactor that can turn vegetable oil and alcohol into biodiesel. The microreactor – a single unit is about the size of half a credit card and twice as thick – is the invention of OSU chemical engineering professor Goran Jovanovic.

“This could be as important an invention as the mouse for your PC,” Jovanovic said. “If we’re successful with this, nobody will ever make biodiesel any other way.”

Homemade fuel would be a natural for farmers, who could even produce the vegetable oil from soybeans or oilseed crops. And even though the average car owner might never get a home biodiesel kit for Christmas, the new technology not only could help reduce dependence on foreign oil but also shift some fuel production from centralized refineries to clean, local producers.
(26 February 2006)

There’s a light at the end of the energy pipelines

J. Alex Tarquinio, NY Times
COMPANIES with pipelines that carry natural gas or petroleum products had a great run in the stock market last year.

Some of the enthusiasm for these stocks may have been misguided, analysts say, because pipeline revenues don’t surge with the commodity prices of the gas or oil that they transport.

But long-term bulls say that there are still solid reasons for investing in pipelines, and they predict a huge expansion in the industry in the next 15 years. In that period, the bulls say, some $25 billion may be needed to build new natural gas infrastructure in the United States — including interstate pipelines, storage facilities and marine terminals that reconvert liquefied natural gas back to its original state.

There are many reasons to expect that construction boom. The United States wants to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, and natural gas is much cleaner to burn than oil or coal, so overall demand for gas could rise, analysts say.
(26 February 2006)

Oils, fats output won’t keep up with demand, Oil World says

Claire Leow, Bloomberg
The growth in supply of oils and fats derived from crops such as soy and palms won’t be enough to keep pace with accelerating demand, Thomas Mielke, an economist at Oil World research publication said.

Stocks of the world’s 17 main oils and fats will be 14.6 million metric tons by the end of the year, representing 10.2 percent of world consumption, he said in an interview Feb. 24 in Kuala Lumpur, while attending a conference. That compares with stocks of 14.5 million tons at the end of 2005, representing 10.7 percent of demand, Mielke said.

“Stocks are tightening every month, he said. “There is a supply-demand deficit that is slowly worsening and the real impact is still to come.

…“We cannot solve energy problems with oils and fats, Mielke said. “If you look at five-year accumulative demand trends starting 1981, there has been an alarming acceleration in demand for the world’s 17 major oils and fats. There’s going to be more and more competition for new acreage from grains and sugar for oilseeds.”
(27 February 2006)

Ponying up for alternative-fuel research

Warren Brown, Washington Post
I’ve long opposed giving government money to corporations. Ideally, they should be able to fund whatever they need the old-fashioned way — through profits.

But we have a real energy crisis facing us, though it may not be readily apparent as long as the lights are on and the highways are humming.

…nearly all of the money will go to corporations that seemingly already have more than enough of it. Bodman’s announcement, for example, was made in Decatur, Ill., while visiting an ethanol plant operated by Archer Daniels Midland Co., one of the world’s biggest agricultural processors and producers of biofuels.

…If Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative will help Archer Daniels Midland and other companies to that, I support it. The alternative to alternative fuels, an energy-stricken nation unable to fend for itself, is much less palatable.
(26 February 2006)