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Sweden plans wood-fueled future

Gerald Traufetter, Der Spiegel
Sweden has set itself the goal of achieving total independence from oil by 2020. The country is already covering many of its energy needs with renewable resources such as bioethanol to fuel its cars and wood to fire its power plants.

If Swedish entrepreneur Per Carstedt is right, the next big energy revolution will really be a step backward. “The industrial age began with the transition from wood to fossil fuels,” he says. “Now we’re going in the other direction.”

Carstedt reaches into a bucket of wood chips. This is the raw material he wants to convert into modern society’s lifeblood — fuel. But before wood can power a car engine, it needs to be chemically processed. And that is exactly what’s happening on the top floors of the Örnsköldsvik plant in northern Sweden. Carstedt steps into a large room crowded with steel pipes and aluminium tanks. On the end of each pipe is a safety seal.
(22 March 2006)
Fairly good article, but with no mention of demand reduction or the problems of ethanol. -BA

Europe eyes Brazillian sugar to fuel its cars

(original: “Driving on drink”)
Oliver Balch, Guardian
Brazil already uses half its sugar harvest to fuel its cars, and EU plans to back biofuels could boost this
Europe’s sweet tooth once made Brazil’s sugar plantation owners so rich that they would send their dirty laundry to Portugal for cleaning. More than three centuries later, Brazil’s sugar industry is again tipped to boom.

European demand is once more the cause. Only this time, it is a taste for clean energy that is promising to drive up prices.

…For European Union (EU) member states committed to reducing their carbon emissions by 8% by 2012, Brazil’s experiment in fossil fuel alternatives is attracting increasing attention. Ethanol is free of harmful pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and emits much less carbon dioxide than conventional fuels.

Boosting biofuels was one of the key issues on the agenda at this week’s summit in Brussels when EU leaders discussed the region’s future energy policy. A preliminary draft proposes raising the EU current goal of a 5.75% market share for biofuels by 2010 to 8%.

That basically means more ethanol-based fuels, industry experts say. While several European countries are experimenting with biodiesel – made using animal fats or plant oils such as soy – none have reached anywhere near the commercial sophistication seen in Brazil.

…Brazil’s sugar industry could also face opposition closer to home. Brazilian campaign groups blame sugar plantations for a multiplicity of sins, including soil degradation, deforestation, urbanisation and poor labour conditions.

“Ethanol is good for the climate, but it could be disastrous for the environment if it [sugar production] spread without controls”, warns Carlos Rittl, climate campaigner for Greenpeace Brazil.

“We don’t want sugar cane to become a new soya for the Amazon region”, he adds, in reference to the 10,000 square miles of Amazonian forest lost to soya bean production in 2004.

Brazilian ethanol producers might be doing their own laundry for a little while yet.

Oliver Balch is a Buenos Aires-based journalist specialising in sustainable development and Latin American affairs
(24 March 2006)

Shell shocked
People of the Niger Delta fight back against violence and corruption

Hillary Bain Lindsay, The Dominion
… The [Niger Delta’s] environment has been devastated by oil operations, “It has affected agricultural and fishing yields,” he says. “When people can no longer depend on fishing and farming, when they can no longer depend on the land, when they can no longer depend on the rivers and creeks that have fed them and their fathers and grandfathers… What do you expect them to do?” he asks. “We are talking about the security of the future.”

“People feel like they are pushed against a wall,” explains Annie Brisibe, founding Director of Niger Delta Women for Justice. Though she does not condone the hostage-taking, MEND’s tactics do not surprise her. “It’s come out of frustration, anger, and complete marginalization,” she says from her home in the United States where she is now living. “This has created a lot of anger in the young men and women of the Niger Delta… People are forced into doing things that they’re not supposed to do because of poverty.”

Despite the region’s oil wealth, seventy percent of people living in the Niger Delta survive on less than $1 US a day.

There have been many attempts to non-violently address the harsh inequality in the Niger Delta. Most recently, Ijaw communities took Shell to court. “They wanted to take a judicial path,” explains Ogon. Nigeria’s public assembly had previously passed a resolution compelling Shell to pay 1.5 billion for ecological damage. The case went to court after Shell refused to pay.
(20 March 2006)
Also at Znet.

Message on Iraqi oil: ‘Invasion has backfired’
Production suffers as world prices keep their strength

Gregory Katz, Houston Chronicle
LONDON – The invasion of Iraq has weakened the United States’ energy security and contributed to the recent surge in oil prices, energy experts said Thursday at a one-day conference of international oil executives and experts from think tanks.

“The invasion has backfired,” Herman Franssen, president of International Energy Associates, a Maryland firm, told the conference. “Iraq is now a failed state and will be for a long time.”

President Bush and his advisers had expected to revive Iraq’s oil production, the conference was told. Instead, production has tumbled because of the worsening security situation in the country.

“The expectation just after the invasion,” Franssen said, “was that Iraq would be close to 5 million barrels per day by now. But it is closer to 1.7 million barrels.”

…The conference was organized by former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, who founded the Center for Global Energy Studies.
(24 March 2006)

Reheating the Cold War (Energy, Russia and the West)

M K Bhadrakumar, Asia Times
Three assaults on the Kremlin within the month must be extraordinary even by Cold War standards. They prompted Anatol Lieven, a prominent American scholar on Russia, to pose a rhetorical question: “Why are we trying to reheat the Cold War?”

It all began with a 94-page report released by the influential think-tank the Council on Foreign Relations on March 5 titled “Russia’s Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do”

…The current fault lines in the international system came to the surface at the meeting of energy ministers that Russia convened in Moscow on March 13-14 with its partners among the Group of Eight as a prelude to the G8 summit meeting in St Petersburg this July, where Russia has tabled energy security as the No 1 agenda item for discussion.

In a nutshell, the G8 energy ministers’ meet showed that Russia saw its energy sector as a national-security asset, while the US lamented that energy security had become the “albatross” of its national security.

The Kremlin is not willing to loosen its grip on Russia’s oil-and-gas industry, while the European Union on the other hand calls on Russia to liberalize Western access to its gas-pipeline network (calling on Russia to ratify the Energy Charter, which aims at setting ground rules and treaty obligations regarding third-party pipeline access and transit obligations). And both the EU and the US argue that market-based solutions are more reliable and flexible, while demanding that the Kremlin should preferably revert to the privatization of its oil industry, as in the early years of post-Soviet Russia under Yeltsin, or at least allow participation by the Western oil companies on more liberal terms.

The EU and the US view energy security in terms of guaranteed supplies of energy through vicissitudes of politics, while Russia says the paradigm of energy security also includes ensuring “security of demand”, which means allowing its oil and gas companies to invest in the vast distribution networks in Europe and the US at the wholesale and retail marketing levels as well and in acquiring properties in the energy sector. This would require the EU and the US to liberalize their own energy markets.

…Underlying these differences lies the US perception that Russia is increasingly using energy as the primary lever of the country’s foreign policy, and that Russia’s growing role in the world energy markets is determining its geopolitical influence

M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for more than 29 years, with postings including ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-98) and to Turkey (1998-2001).
(24 March 2006)

Africa must look to its own oil needs

Ingrid Salgado, Business Report (South Africa)
Cape Town – Africa needed to consider the possibility of developing an energy market that focused on its own developmental needs first, Sandile Nogxina, the director-general of minerals and energy, said yesterday.

“Our continent has enough oil and gas resources to trade among its member countries and for us to export the remainder,” he told the Oil Africa 2006 conference.

He cited figures indicating that while Africa held 7 percent of the world’s oil reserves and produced 10 percent of total global output, it consumed only 4 percent of the world’s total annual fossil fuel consumption.
(23 March 2006)

Running out of natural gas in North America

Jerome a Paris, European Tribune
Okay, natural gas prices are waaay down from their highs, so all’s fine, right? It doesn’t matter than these prices are still double the highest power plant developers expected only a couple years back, they are down. Alert over.

Hah! Let me show you just one new graph below the fold.
[graph] This is a simple compilation of the prognoses made each year by the US government, through the Energy Information Agency of the DoE, for expected future production in North America.

The top line was the prediction made in 2002 for future years. The next line the prediction made in 2003, etc…

Notice something? The predictions have been going down every single year… and so has production, in recent years.

As I posted a while ago, the problem is that more and more wells are being drilled, but they run out quicker and quicker.
(24 March 2006)