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Biodiesel industry gets boost from Big Oil

Matt Curry, Associated Press via Seattle Post-Intelligencer
DALLAS — The tiny biodiesel industry received a boost from Big Oil on Monday when a major petroleum refiner, Motiva Enterprises LLC, began blending the soy-based alternative with traditional motor fuel at a Dallas terminal.

Biodiesel supporters say the impact is more than symbolic. Earth Biofuels CEO Dennis McLaughlin, one of the partners in the $120,000 pilot program, said Motiva’s name lends credibility to biodiesel.

Biodiesel is not raw vegetable oil. It is a biodegradeable and nontoxic soybean derivative, and can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel.
(3 April 2006)

Engineer shortage concerns nuclear power industry

Lance Gay, Scripps Howard News Service
As the nuclear industry stirs with the first plans in 30 years to build new power plants in the United States, there’s an unexpected hurdle to be overcome: there may not be enough nuclear engineers around anymore to build and run them.

But what’s worse, the generation that built and ran America’s nuclear plants is aging and headed towards retirement, taking away decades of know-how that have kept the reactors operating safely.

“This is a huge problem for the nuclear industry, because it goes without saying it can’t afford to make a single mistake,” said David DeLong, a research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab.
(4 April 2006)

The true costs of nuclear power

Mark Hertsgaard and David Lochbaum, Mother Earth News via RedOrbit
… The upshot is that nuclear power is seven times less cost- effective at displacing carbon than the cheapest, fastest alternative – better energy efficiency, according to studies by the Rocky Mountain Institute. For example, a nuclear power plant typically costs at least $2 billion, or up to $5 billion with overruns. That money could be spent to insulate drafty buildings, purchase hybrid cars or install superefficient light bulbs and clothes dryers. Such an investment would lead to seven rimes less carbon consumption than if that money were spent on a nuclear power plant. In short, energy efficiency offers a much bigger bang for the buck. In a world of limited capital, investing in nuclear power will divert money away from cheaper and faster responses to global warming, thus slowing the worlds withdrawal from carbon fuels at a time when speed is essential.

Mainstream environmentalists do argue that energy efficiency, solar, wind and other renewable energies are better weapons against global warming than nuclear power. But they will fare better if they go a step further and point out that embracing nuclear power is not just unnecessary, but a step backward.

Even so, a tough fight lies ahead. As the 2005 energy bill illustrates, the nuclear power industry has many friends in high places. The case for nuclear power will strengthen if its economics improve. The key to lower nuclear costs is to reduce the amount of time it takes to build nuclear power plants, which could happen if the industry at last adopts standardized reactors and the U.S. government streamlines the plant-approval process.

On a more fundamental level, any defeat of nuclear power is likely to be shortlived if America does not confront what Diamond calls its core value of consumerism. After all, there is only so much waste to wring out of any given economy. Eventually, if human population and appetites keep growing – and some growth is inevitable, given the ambitions of China and other newly industrializing nations new energy sources must be exploited. At that point, nuclear power and other undesirable alternatives will be waiting.

David Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety Engineer, Union of Concerned Scientists

Mark Hertsgaard is a fellow at The Nation Institute and author of Nuclear Inc.: The Men and Money Behind Nuclear Energy and Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future. Contact Hertsgaard through his Web site, .

Copyright Ogden Publications, Inc. Apr/May 2006
Source: Mother Earth News

(April/May 2006)
I can’t find the original article online. Mother Earth News has been around forever, with hands-on articles like “Build Your Own Cabin: and “Winning against Weeds,” as well as interviews with green luminaries such as H.T. Odum. They have extensive online archives. -BA

Lack of staff and equipment hit oil output

Financial Times via MSN Money
Efforts to boost global oil and gas production are being held back by shortages of equipment and staff and by soaring costs.

The energy services sector, which provides everything from drills to submersible pumps, lacks the resources to meet the needs of oil and gas groups, forcing up price inflation in some parts of the sector to 100 per cent.

Industry executives say the squeeze has become so acute that energy companies are being forced to scale back their production plans or put exploration projects on hold
(4 April 2006)

Gas supplies continue to be negotiated

Heading Out, The Oil Drum
With a couple of stories in the news this week, one’s first inclination might be to think that we should stop worrying so much about immediate fuel supply problems. Consider the report that natural gas supplies are at the highest level since 1984. At a level of some 197 tcf, set against an annual production of around 18.3 tcf, this would appear to give us a reasonably good supply for over ten years. Unfortunately life is not that simple. As Dave pointed out our reserves are increasingly coming from unconventional sources.
(4 April 2006)

Plateau update (EIA report)

Stuart Staniford, The Oil Drum
The EIA is out with the new International Petroleum Monthly which covers through January. (They actually published it March 31st, but I was out of town). Here’s the updated plateau graph with the IEA and EIA numbers. As in December, the EIA was slightly cheerier about January than the IEA was. However, both agencies agree on a drop in production from the high in December.

Overall, there is no fundamental change in the supply plateau pattern that we’ve tracking for a number of months.
(4 April 2006)