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Clean Energy Solutions

Various authors, eJournal (US State Department)
Projected dramatic increases in energy consumption in the coming decades, combined with a higher risk of climate change, require a massive global response based on technological innovation and the power of the marketplace. Experts and government officials describe the options before us, including renewable energy, novel vehicles, and low-carbon power generation, and discuss the best ways leading to a sustainable energy future.

Articles include:

Reinventing the Wheels: The Automotive Efficiency Revolution
Amory B. Lovins, Chief Executive Officer, Rocky Mountain Institute
New automotive technologies are good for business, environmentally friendly, and provide safe and affordable mobility.

The Renaissance of Nuclear Energy
James A. Lake, Associate Director for the Nuclear Program, Idaho National Laboratory
Nuclear power is poised to enter a new era with strong safety and economic performance, capacity to produce electricity cheaply, and potential to displace greenhouse gas emissions.

Renewables: Looking Toward Inexhaustible Energy
Michael Eckhart, Director, American Council on Renewable Energy
Renewable energy is not a silver bullet, but it can help reduce oil imports, cut pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and increase jobs.

Small Steps Save Big in Energy
Mark D. Levine, Director, Environmental Energy Technologies, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Energy efficiency is the most potent tool in our policy arsenal for achieving energy security and environmental advantage.

(July 2006)
eJournal is “an electronic journal of the U.S. Department of State.”

Although the “Opinions expressed in the journals do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. government,” they probably are close to what an official view is or will be. For example, the solutions tend to be market-oriented and technological. Climate change is mentioned a few times in the articles, but is not emphasized. Peak oil is not mentioned. Local solutions are not on the agenda.

Public relations trumps critical thinking in some of the articles. Others are worth a read (especially the articles by Mark Levine and Amory Lovins. Interestingly, Lovins begins by saying:

The most fundamental solutions are the simplest. More sensible land use strengthens neighborhoods and lets people be already where they want to be. Smart policies let all means of getting around—from walking and biking to ultralight trains and advanced buses—compete fairly at honest prices. From Singapore to Curitiba (Brazil), cities that treat cars without favoritism have no car problem, yet they achieve excellent mobility for all. In time, so could even the car-centric United States and other industrialized countries if they stopped incentivizing sprawl and cars through their tax systems and zoning laws.

So far, so good. But rather than follow up on this insight, he launches into his real love…

Less driving is good. But with seven-eighths of the world’s people without cars so far—China and Africa have only about the car ownership that America enjoyed around 1915—we will also need better cars. Fasten your seatbelt: Automaking’s greatest revolution in a century is now gathering speed.

The original article has links to HTML versions of the individual articles. A 54-page PDF of the entire journal is online.

Greenspan raises red flag on energy

David Frey, Denver Post
The former Fed chief, speaking at the Aspen Institute, warns of the economic consequences from unfriendly nations and terrorists.
Aspen, Colorado – Amid soaring fuel costs and diminishing world oil supplies, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned Thursday that the nation needs to develop alternative energy sources or risk dire economic consequences.

Greenspan called for a mixture of solutions, from plug-in hybrid cars to ethanol to nuclear power, to diminish the country’s reliance on foreign oil.

“If the world oil industry were to get into very serious difficulty, its impact on the world economic system would be very difficult to absorb,” said Greenspan, addressing a crowd at the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Ideas Festival.

The annual festival draws luminaries to the Aspen campus of the Washington-based think tank, headed by Walter Isaacson, former chief executive of CNN.

Greenspan’s comments came a day after oil prices reached a record high, pushing above $75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

His comments largely echoed testimony he made to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a month ago in his first Capitol Hill appearance since stepping down after nearly 19 years as Fed chief.

In that speech, he warned that the nation’s reliance on foreign oil could have damaging economic consequences because of U.S. reliance on unfriendly nations and vulnerability to terrorists.

Greenspan underscored those fears Thursday, warning that many oil-rich countries seem too preoccupied with their oil profits to worry about the impact of surging prices or diminishing supplies
(7 July 2006)

How a ‘green’ Britain should look in the year 2020

Andy McSmith, UK Independent
At least a tenth of the British landscape will have to be transformed by wind farms and specially cultivated crops to produce renewable energy as the Government grapples with the fight against climate change.

Yesterday, the Cabinet unanimously approved the content of the long-awaited energy review, which will be published next week. It will include plans to make sure that by 2020, one fifth of the country’s electricity comes from renewable sources. That proportion is to double by 2050.

On top of that, the Government has a target to ensure that by 2010, 5 per cent of the petrol and diesel used by road vehicles comes from renewable sources.

Yesterday, the Tories issued their own proposals for future energy supplies, in which they also promised to “give green energy a chance”.

But analysts from Adas, in Wolverhampton, which specialises in supplying advice on the environment, have warned that the targets cannot be met without a huge upheaval in land use. They have calculated that 3 per cent of all land in Britain, almost 7,000 sq km, will have to be filled with wind farms, and about 15,200 sq km given over to “biomass” crops. This implies that thousands of acres of what are now corn fields, orchards or unused wetlands could be transformed in the next few years into tightly packed fields of willow trees or elephant grass. The acreage of bright yellow rape seed, used to produce biodiesel, may also have to triple, from around 300,000 hectares to a million hectares.

One of the most startling innovations could be that old industrial land may be filled with coppice willows as tall as the nearby houses that they will supply with electricity when they are cut down and their wood chips are fed into small local power generators.
(7 July 2006)
The UK’s energy review, to be released next week, should be interesting. Wouldn’t it be easier to save the energy in the first place, through conservation & efficiency? -BA

Revealed: Blair’s energy blueprint

Oliver Morgan, UK Observer
Long-awaited government review stresses need for more renewables but critics blast nuclear plans
The government will this week unveil plans for a five-fold increase in energy generation from wind, solar, tidal and agricultural sources as a key measure in its long-awaited energy review.

Proposals to raise the level of electricity produced by these sources from 4 per cent to 20 per cent of the UK’s needs, along with moves to prioritise support towards promising technologies that are currently uneconomic such as offshore wind farms, will be outlined in the document, to be published on Tuesday.

The boost will be emphasised by ministers to head off criticisms of the government’s backing for nuclear power, which forms a key part of the strategy.

In the 120-page document, the final draft of which has been seen by The Observer, the government concludes that nuclear power is now economically viable and that it should play a role in the UK’s future need for sources of carbon-free and secure energy. The government is concerned that without nuclear, the UK will become dependent on gas, moving from 38 per cent of today’s supply to 55 per cent by 2020, with up to 90 per cent of this imported – largely from potentially unstable regions such as the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and Russia. Three years ago it drew the opposite conclusion in its last Energy White Paper. The review says that the closure of nuclear and coal plants over the coming decade will mean 25 gigawatts of carbon-free, secure capacity must be built by 2020 – some 30 per cent of today’s total capacity.

The review states: ‘Based on a range of possible scenarios, the economics of nuclear now look more positive than at the time of the 2003 Energy White paper.’ It adds: ‘Government considers that nuclear should have a role to play in the future of the UK generating mix, alongside other low carbon-generating options.’
(9 July 2006)
Related from the Observer: Obsession with nuclear power is wrong for Britain, Mr Blair: “The Energy Review will back the PM’s push for atomic energy, but, says Stephen Hale, it won’t deal with the challenge of global climate change.”

Russia’s energy wasteland

Damian Grammaticas, BBC News
The G8 summit of industrialised nations being hosted by Russia is likely to be more interesting for what it says about the West’s growing reliance on Russia for its energy.

…Russia is moving fast to develop its Arctic territories, all part of a strategy to become the world’s dominant energy supplier. It has the world’s biggest gas deposits and already supplies a quarter of Europe’s needs. But it wants to seize more of the European market, and capture consumers in Asia and the United States too.

Having lost its great power status with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s aim is to return to world prominence not through military or political might, but by its control over energy.

In charge of one of the gas pumping units I found Georgi, a wiry, bearded man in his 40s. Next to us from a vent in a pipeline, gas was being burnt off. It was like a giant blowtorch, even 50 metres away you could feel the heat.

“Why are you burning all this?” I asked.

“We don’t need it, it’s the by-product of refining the gas,” was the reply.

“But isn’t it a waste, can’t you use it?” I said. Georgi looked perplexed, lost for words.

“I guess we could use it, but we don’t,” he said eventually.

Russia has so much gas, it doesn’t even care how much it wastes. This nonchalance is born of a sense that Russians hold all the cards today because they have the gas deposits the world needs.

When the G8 leaders meet in St Petersburg President Putin will demand Russia is again treated as an equal.

His economy may be far smaller than those in other G8 countries, Russia’s commitment to democracy may be questionable but Mr Putin’s belief is that his energy resources entitle him to a place at the top table.
(8 July 2006)
For a different view of Russia, energy and the West, see The New American Cold War (The Nation).

EU pitches Russia free trade for fuel

UPI, M&C News
The European Union is courting Russia with an offer of establishing a free trade agreement in exchange for access to Russian energy supplies.

Visiting the new Finnish EU presidency in Helsinki on Monday, European Commission President Manuel Barroso told reporters a preliminary offer has been made, with further exploration expected after Russia accedes to the World Trade Organization, the EU Monitor reported.

‘We propose a partnership approach for energy, based on mutual interests and agreed principles,’ Barroso said.

The two sides have already locked horns on energy, with the EU pushing Russian President Vladimir Putin to ratify the Energy Charter Treaty, which would oblige Russia to open its oil and gas pipelines to foreign companies and competition.

However, Moscow claims EU governments are blocking its energy giant Gazprom from entering European energy markets, the report said.
(4 July 2006)

Dear Financial Times, ‘Energy Security is within our control’

Jérôme Guillet [Jerome a Paris], European Tribune
Sir, Quentin Peel and Carola Hoyos, in their article “Eyeing energy supplies from opposite ends of a telescope” (July 4), provide an excellent summary of the issues associated with the catchphrase of “energy security”, including the “security of demand” worries of the Russians and global warming. However, the article makes one major unsaid assumption: it takes demand growth as a given, or, worse, as a necessity, accepting the hypothesis of an unbreakable link between progress, gross domestic product growth and growth in energy consumption.

The way we count resource extraction as value creation rather than depletion of natural capital makes it look cheaper or more effective to work on boosting production than on reducing consumption, but is it?

Is it really easier to compromise with the Saudis, spark a new cold war with Vladimir Putin, spar with the Chinese and the Indians while enriching countless corrupt regimes (including avowed enemies) than to make a small effort at home to avoid these imports by not needing them – simply by using less energy, as we know is possible?

Energy security is actually an energy demand problem, and is entirely within our own control. If we waste less, if we consume in smarter ways, if we accept that energy is a precious resource that we can no longer take for granted, then we will have a chance to reach energy security. Otherwise we will just be pushing the problem a few years further each time we open up a new country to investment or find a new way to extract a bit more oil or gas or coal.

Maybe a few years more is good enough for us. But will it be good enough for our children? The solution is in our own hands.

Jérôme Guillet
European Tribune,
(6 July 2006)
The article to which Jérôme is replying is behind a paywall. It has been re-posted by the Bangladesh Financial Express: Eyeing energy supplies from opposite ends of a telescope.