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UK gas emergency looms

Chris Vernon, The Oil Drum: UK
It has been apparent since the summer of 2005 that gas supplies this winter were going to be tight. Despite this the UK energy minister Malcolm Wicks had the audacity to state that the country was “awash with gas” when the evidence showed the situation to be tighter than ever.

…The problems really started Thursday 16th February with an accident at the Bravo gas rig some 18 miles off the East coast of Yorkshire. This platform is a key component in the Rough gas storage facility, the UK’s long term gas storage facility holding the vast majority of our stored gas. The facility is not expected back online until at least 1st May now.
(13 March 2006)
Related stories from the Guardian:
Gas warning: not enough to meet demand .
Warnings were ignored of looming British gas crisis

A Hail Mary against global warming peril
Cal grad student working on thin solar panel

Rick DelVecchio, SF Chronicle
Long before President Bush told Americans they were addicted to oil, UC Berkeley graduate student Ilan Gur was down in his basement chemistry lab working toward a cure.

Gur thinks big. His goal is to play a part in creating a new kind of solar panel, one so light it could roll off a printing press like newsprint, and so cheap that the world’s poorest local economies could not only afford to buy it but also make it.

For economies in the industrialized world, Gur speculates, the bargain would be even better: Solar sheeting could serve a double role, cutting fossil-fuel consumption and expanding overall energy production.

The future Gur hopes to make a reality would be more environmentally stable because carbon dioxide levels in the air would be in balance with what nature can absorb, and also more prosperous because there would be increased energy available and accessible to more people.

…Gur is one of a number of Berkeley energy researchers hoping to blunt the impact of global warming with the high-tech equivalent of a Hail Mary pass in football. Looking beyond such short-term fixes as conservation, hybrid vehicles and conventionally made alternative fuels, the researchers are joining forces to come up with revolutionary technologies in energy.

Although they’re a long way from any practical results, the researchers share a sense of urgency. They know that if the products of their work are ready in 10 to 20 years, that won’t be a moment too soon.

…Parallel to the work of Gur and others under Alivisatos is the Helios Project, a solar initiative created by Lawrence Berkeley Lab Director Steven Chu. The project’s most futuristic vision: vast fields of bioengineered plants designed to break down cellulose to make ethanol and other carbon-neutral fuels, thus eliminating America’s need for foreign oil and creating a new market for sustainable agriculture.

“If we could reduce the energy cost of breaking down cellulose by a factor of 5 or 10, the resulting fuel could be competitive,” said Elaine Chandler, who leads strategic planning and program development for the lab’s materials science division.
(13 March 2006)

Uranium exploration in BC set to take off

Dan Crawford, Power Struggle
A shift toward embracing nuclear power as the solution to solving both our world’s energy woes and global warming has begun to take foot across the planet. This shift is largely being driven by factors like high oil and natural gas prices, concerns over availability of oil and gas, green house gas (GHG’s) emissions, electricity demand growth and misinformation.

The international nuclear energy community has begun in earnest a far-reaching media campaign to float nuclear power as a “clean, green and sustainable” energy source. The focus has largely been on the fact that a nuclear plant does not directly release GHG’s into the atmosphere. Missing from that claim is any mention of the green house gases released throughout the rest of the nuclear cycle: from mining and transportation of uranium, to the building of the massive plants. Also missing are the concerns over environmental damage due to radiation exposure, tailings pollution, ground water contamination, nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear waste management. There is still no safe way of handling spent fuel rods from a nuclear plant. Furthermore, the waste must be managed for hundreds of years.

Nonetheless, these past few years have seen a flurry of announcements for proposed nuclear reactor development projects. Leading the pack are the countries of India and China. To date, a total of 179 nuclear plants world-wide are either under-construction, planned or proposed. If all projects come to fruition, there will be an increase of 40% in the number of nuclear plants in the world.
(8 March 2006)

Fox: Mexican deep-water oil find may top Cantarell

Anthony Harrup , AP via Business Week
Mexico has made a deep-water oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico that could be larger than the country’s giant Cantarell offshore field, President Vicente Fox said on Monday.

The oil find is under 950 meters (3,117 feet) of water and a further 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) underground, Fox said in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires. The find will be formally announced Tuesday, he said.
(13 March 2006, Carrie at