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Rifkin: World on the ‘cusp of a new energy regime’

Lisbeth Kirk, EU Observer
COPENHAGEN – The world is moving towards a new third industrial revolution based a new energy regime, argues US thinker Jeremy Rifkin as Europe considers how to reformulate its energy policy.

“We are on the cusp of a new energy regime that will alter our way of life as fundamentally as the introduction of coal and steam power in the 19th century and the shift to oil and the internal combustion engine in the 20th century”, argues Mr Rifkin in an interview with the EUobserver.

“The hydrogen era looms on the horizon and the first major industrial nation to harness its full potential will set the pace for economic development for the remainder of the century.”

…”This new energy regime will mean re-globalisation, this time from the bottom up”.

And re-globalisation is Mr Rifkin’s other big theme; he has written several books on the matter. Globalisation needs to be re-worked, he argues, so that the world’s poor can benefit too.

Capitalism promised that globalisation would narrow the gap between rich and poor. Instead the divide has only widened, he points out.

…Mr Rifkin, who favours European corporate, human and social values over America’s emphasis on individualism and patriotism, says that the world is looking to Europe to see if the world’s first attempt to act with a global conscience is going to work and if there is something worth copying.
(10 April 2006)

A gentle disagreement on Turkmen gas

Heading Out, The Oil Drum
Were we living a couple or three thousand years ago or so, perhaps now might have been the time to go purchase an animal and then get some learned scientist of the time to peer at its entrails. The thought struck me, after reading a comment by Jerome a Paris following my recent post on natural gas supplies, and how Turkmenistan might start favoring gas shipments east rather than west . His credentials in this are much better than mine. However, as you will see, I am not totally convinced.

Jerome pointed out that, with 25% or so of the world’s natural gas under it’s control, Gazprom is now pretty much calling the shots, and that a lot of the stories hitting the news should be read with that understanding in mind. That if they don’t want a pipeline to be built, then it won’t be.
(9 April 2006)

Catfight! (Big Oil vs Big Auto)

David Roberts, Gristmill
Writing on a private company blog directed at journalists and analysts, Chrysler’s head spokesflack Jason Vines aimed the big guns at Big Oil:

Despite a documented history of blowing their exorbitant profits on outlandish executive salaries and stock buybacks, and hoarding their bounty by avoiding technologies, policies and legislation that would protect the population and environment and lower fuel costs, Big Oil insists on transferring all of that responsibility on the auto companies.

Yes, even though the automakers have spent billions developing cleaner, more efficient technologies such as high-feature engines, hybrid powertrains, multi-displacement systems, flexible fuel vehicles, and fuel cells, Big Oil would rather fill the pockets of its executives and shareholders, rather than spend sufficient amounts to reduce the price of fuel, letting consumers, during tough economic times, pick up the tab.

He goes on to blast oil companies for refusing to invest in new refineries, develop alternative fuels, or build alternative-fuel stations.

As we say in the journalist-and-analyst business: Oh, snap!

Vines’ potshot at oil companies comes in response to a full-page ad that ran in several media outlets, paid for by Exxon, which points out that the U.S. economy overall has become much more efficient in recent decades, and asks: “So why is that despite this overall progress, the average fuel economy of American cars is unchanged in two decades?” No you didn’t!

Apparently the ad infuriated many oil execs, and they’re getting ready for a coordinated response. Vines’ was just the first sally.
(11 April 2006)
Related: A resentful swipe at Big Oil (Detroit News):

Taking an unusually public swipe at another industry, Chrysler’s chief spokesman slammed major oil companies Monday, accusing them of greed and indifference to the environment.

The blunt remarks by Jason Vines, vice president of communications for DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group, are bound to fuel tensions between Big Oil and the auto industry that have been rising in step with higher gas prices at the pump.


Nuclear power and climate change: is our choice glow or cook?

Alex Steffen, WorldChanging
Nuclear energy, which not so long ago seemed an obvious dead-end to most people concerned about the environment, has seen its fortunes rise a bit lately as concerns over climate change (or climate chaos, as the latest buzzphrase goes) intensify.

The argument, as made by people like James Lovelock and the Wired crowd, goes something like this: we must make drastic cuts in our greenhouse emissions; renewable energy is not yet ready for prime time and efficiency improvements alone won’t work; nuclear energy is safer than it was and is zero-carbon in operation; therefore, climate chaos demands a massive program of building nuclear reactors.

There are numerous problems with this argument. First and most pressingly, a massive global nuclear program raises massive unanswered questions about the realism of safely operating (and storing the radioactive waste from) so many reactors in so many places. Second, while more research needs to be done, it appears that nuclear energy is not all that climate-safe after all:
(11 April 2006)

New oil is costly

Larry Persily, Anchorage Daily News
As Alaskans debate changes to the state’s oil production taxes, it’s worth looking at just how much it costs to bring new oil online at the North Slope. Good examples are the Alpine satellite fields — Nanuq and Fiord — scheduled to start producing oil late this year.

The two fields will cost close to $600 million for partners Conoco Phillips (78 percent) and Anadarko (22 percent).

That’s an estimated $550 million in development costs, added to the $20 million in exploration costs just to find the oil. The seismic work started six years ago, highlighting the long wait between spending the first dollars in expenses and collecting the first dollars in revenue.

And what do the companies — and the state — get for that much money?

The Department of Revenue forecasts the two developments will hit their peak in 2009-10, at a combined 35,000 barrels a day. That would be about 4 percent of total North Slope production in those years. But production would start to decline the next year, and by 2015 the two fields would be down to just 12,000 barrels a day — or about 1.5 percent of total North Slope production.

Gushers, these are not.
(11 April 2006)