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German minister: Nukes are Pandora’s box

SHARON WROBEL, The Jerusalem Post
If the G8 countries push nuclear energy as the way to economic sustainably, they will also be giving other countries the ability to develop nuclear bombs, Sigmar Gabriel, the German federal minister for environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety, told the The Jerusalem Post in an interview over the weekend.

“The problem with nuclear energy is that it is like Pandora’s box,” said Gabriel, who is here for official meetings and to speak at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. “At the end of the day, there is no safe reactor.”

Instead, Gabriel spoke said he favored switching to renewable energy sources such as wind power and solar thermal energy, and improving energy efficiency.
(11 June 2006)

Russia’s Gazprom Eyes $2Bln Investment in Bolivia

Russia’s state-controlled natural gas company Gazprom is considering investments of around $2 billion in Bolivia’s recently nationalized gas industry, the president of Bolivia’s state energy company said on Wednesday, June 7.

Gazprom is looking to build gas separation plants and pipelines to help export liquefied natural gas as well as explore for gas in new and abandoned fields, said Jorge Alvarado, president of Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, or YPFB. “We want … to find hydrocarbons at a greater depth in the fields that are now abandoned,” Alvarado was quoted by Associated Press as saying.

He added that in a few weeks, Gazprom experts will visit Bolivia again to do further investigation. Another team will come later to finalize the contract details.
(8 June 2006)

Estimates of Ontario’s electricity reserves ‘miscalculated’: sources

Steve Erwin, Canadian Press
Ontario will have much less electricity available this summer than previously thought and will have to continue using its smog-contributing coal plants longer than expected because the province’s power system monitor “miscalculated” its forecasts, sources said Thursday.

The errors by the Independent Electricity System Operator will likely force the government to keep at least some of its four coal-fired plants open longer than anticipated because the province hadn’t planned for the “supply crunch” to be as bad as it is, government sources told The Canadian Press.

“It will put new pressure on them to extend the lives of the coal plants,” a source said. “The numbers that everybody’s been playing with are wrong.”

In March, the IESO acknowledged that it had previously underestimated demand for the summer of 2006 by 1,200 megawatts, and overestimated available supply by some 900 megawatts – a 2,100-megawatt gap.

A government official said the IESO will admit Friday that its numbers are off by twice that amount – more than 4,000 megawatts.

As a result of the IESO errors, Ontario government officials are facing a summer of air conditioners running full out with much less generation capacity than anticipated.
(8 June 2006)

The Dirty Truth About Green Fuel

Sasha Lilley, CorpWatch, AlterNet
Agribusiness giants want to produce the ‘green fuel of the future’ with their dirty coal-fired power plants. The Bush administration is eager to help.
The town of Columbus, Nebraska, bills itself as a “City of Power and Progress.” If Archer Daniels Midland gets its way, that power will be partially generated by coal, one of the dirtiest forms of energy. When burned, it emits carcinogenic pollutants and high levels of the greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Ironically this coal will be used to generate ethanol, a plant-based petroleum substitute that has been hyped by both environmentalists and President George Bush as the green fuel of the future. The agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is the largest U.S. producer of ethanol, which it makes by distilling corn. ADM also operates coal-fired plants at its company base in Decatur, Illinois, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is currently adding another coal-powered facility at its Clinton, Iowa ethanol plant.

That’s not all. “[Ethanol] plants themselves — not even the part producing the energy — produce a lot of air pollution,” says Mike Ewall, director of the Energy Justice Network. “The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has cracked down in recent years on a lot of Midwestern ethanol plants for excessive levels of carbon monoxide, methanol, toluene, and volatile organic compounds, some of which are known to cause cancer.”
(7 June 2006)
David Roberts at Gristmill comments and recommends.

BP’s Browne predicts oil price fall

Terry Macalister, The Guardian
Lord Browne, BP’s chief executive, held out the prospect of a big drop in crude oil prices to $40 a barrel as he dismissed alarmist views that petroleum was running out very fast. His optimism came despite a 1% rise in the price of Brent crude for July delivery to $70.49 a barrel in morning trading in London as traders continued to fret about tensions in the Middle East.

It was barely a month ago that some industry experts were talking about the possibility of price spikes of $100 a barrel and BP had condemned financial speculators for artificially pushing up prices.

But yesterday Lord Browne was eager to outline his belief that the value of oil on world markets should begin to return to more normal levels. “It is very likely that, in the medium term, prices will stand at about $40 on average. In the very long run, even $25 to $30 are possible,” he said in an interview with the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel.

He accepted that there was little likelihood of prices dropping back sharply in the short term but dismissed notions that the price could only go up as scarcity increased. Large new oilfields were still being found, he said, adding that regions such as west Africa had plenty of hydrocarbons still in place that could be tapped.

He also noted that Canada’s oil sands could also be exploited profitably. Even though they were expensive to bring out of the ground, production costs remained well below world selling prices for crude.
(12 June 2006)

Mexico stands at a crossroads on energy

Mark Stevenson, Associated Press via Seattle Post-Intelligencer
MEXICO CITY — In the midst of Mexico’s biggest oil boom since the 1970s, the nation’s top two presidential candidates are debating whether to turn outward and open oil to private investors – or inward by exporting less crude and giving Mexicans subsidized gasoline.

The question revolves around nationalist pride as well as pump prices, but the real challenge lies elsewhere: finding new deposits to replace Mexico’s rapidly declining Cantarell field off the Gulf Coast. If Mexico doesn’t act quickly, the question of what to do with the oil wealth may be moot – in a decade, there may not be enough oil left to supply the economy.

The best hope for new discoveries appears to be in deep-water exploration in the Gulf, but the state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, oil company has little experience in such projects. Mexican law has long prohibited private investment in anything other than minor subcontracts, a role that doesn’t interest most major energy companies.

Conservative Felipe Calderon, President Vicente Fox’s former energy minister, and the third major candidate, Roberto Madrazo, propose loosening the rules and allowing private companies to explore deep waters through joint ventures with Pemex.

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, running about even with Calderon in the polls, opposes private investment and isn’t very interested in deep-water exploration.
(12 June 2006)
Long article.