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A watershed on energy? (UK energy report)

John Vidal, UK Guardian
The nuclear decision matters, but it’s important to read beyond the headlines of today’s report.
Nuclear power is back. Well, it was never much of a secret that Mr Blair was going to opt for the most controversial power source that the world has ever known, but the official decision is still significant.

It means that the British nuclear industry, which has self-confessedly botched its finances for two generations and left future governments with a £70bn decommissioning bill as well as a £10bn mountain of radioactive waste to clear up, can carry on as if its sorry past had never happened.

It means that the lights will still be on in 15 years’ time, but it also means that future generations will question what our fixation in the early 21st century was with a technology born of a dreadful war 60 years war before, and which has needed unimaginable subsidies to survive ever since.

When in 50 years time our grandchildren start to clear up the mess that this new generation of nuclear power will make, they may well wonder if we saw things clearly. Did we really need to replace nuclear power with nuclear, they may mutter as they keep paying the bills and filling up the caverns with the waste? How come this government surrendered to the interests of a few mighty industrial conglomerates?

But this energy review, the second in three years, is far more than a justification of nuclear power. It may also be justly remembered as the moment when an oil-obsessed, energy-profligate department of industry read the runes and began a slow turn towards creating a low-carbon economy in response to climate change and future energy shortages.

And it could also mark the moment when the penny finally dropped across all government that it’s not efficient to pollute, and that there’s more money to be made in saving energy than in generating it. Even if there are no firm policy commitments, in that sense the review is a triumph.
(11 July 2006)

China Is Called On to Rein In Its Growing Use of Electricity

Keith Bradsher, NY Times
The International Energy Agency on Monday called for China to revamp its electric power industry, noting that waste and inefficiency contributed to the need for the country to add enough new, mostly coal-fired, power plants every two years to equal the entire electricity generation capacity of France or Canada.

In a report issued at its headquarters in Paris, the energy agency was especially critical of China’s decision to limit increases in electricity prices, saying that this prompted Chinese consumers and industries to use considerably more energy than they needed.

Faced with an overheating economy in 2004, the Chinese government decided to allow few price increases for power companies even though global energy prices were rising. Beijing officials have largely followed that policy since, including a slight increase on June 30, even as world oil prices have soared past $70 a barrel and coal and natural gas prices have also climbed.

“Energy efficiency is not good in China because prices are too low,” the International Energy Agency’s executive director, Claude Mandil, said.

The report also urged China to set minimum efficiency standards for coal-fired power plants and to enforce air pollution standards more rigorously for these power plants. Coal fuels two-thirds of China’s electricity production, and China is now the world’s second-largest electricity consumer, trailing the United States.

China’s heavy reliance on coal has prompted particular concern because the burning of coal releases more carbon dioxide, relative to the electricity produced, than oil, natural gas, nuclear power or renewable energy sources like wind power. Carbon dioxide is a major contributor to global warming.
(11 July 2006)

What We Need Is Policy
We are swilling oil faster than new fields are being discovered.

Jane Bryant Quinn, Newsweek
…We need stronger energy policies, if only to save us from ourselves.

…At bottom, the oil story is pretty simple. The world is swilling petroleum faster than new fields are being discovered. For now, enough is still being pumped to meet the growth in demand—but just barely. The United States can drain Alaska dry and dot the ocean with oil rigs, but we can’t drill our way out of this global hole. Production is declining in most of the countries outside the OPEC cartel, even with new sources such as Canadian tar sands. At some point—perhaps in the next few years—OPEC will also be pumping at diminishing rates.

To protect ourselves and our economy, the order of business should be: sound a national call for conservation, invest heavily in energy efficiency, drill for any oil we’ve got and embark on crash programs (with tax incentives) to manufacture petroleum alternatives on a large scale.

But we’ve been mostly diddling around. The private investment going into new energy sources is baby stuff compared with the spending on oil. The government upped its research grants and loans for energy alternatives, but not for conservation, where results come fast.
(17 July 2006)
Quinn makes at a start at covering a wide variety of energy topics in her column. I hope she will continue writing on the subject, as she is a lucid writer and is trusted by many for her level-headed advice on personal finance. -BA

Alliance to Save Energy’s Callahan says ‘feebate’ could replace CAFE increase
(video and transcript)
OnPoint, E&E TV
As Congress tries to nail down a comprehensive energy bill, lawmakers and lobbyists continue to debate how to solve the U.S. energy crisis. During today’s OnPoint Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, addresses the need to build for the future through energy efficiency. She discusses gaps in the 2005 Energy Policy Act and talks about a shift in American behavior as a result of higher gas prices. Callahan also discusses ASE’s efforts to raise awareness about green development.
(13 July 2006)
The Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) emphasizes conservation and efficiency. According to its About Us pages, ASE is a

non-profit coalition of business, government, environmental and consumer leaders. The Alliance to Save Energy supports energy efficiency as a cost-effective energy resource under existing market conditions and advocates energy-efficiency policies that minimize costs to society and individual consumers, and that lessen greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the global climate.

The Board of Directors seems to be heavy on industry representatives. -BA

BTC as a part of the vision; Turkey as an energy terminal state

Dr. M. Hilmi Guler, The Anatolian
Energy is situated at center of the gravity of the world today in terms of determining domestic and foreign policies. It is a guiding policy by itself on security of the state, foreign policy and the areas of international competition and cooperation. And again now energy doesn’t revolve around world politics, but world politics revolves around energy. Therefore, while formulating the policies of a country, carrying out growth and developing targets, failing to take energy as a central point would not be realistic.

…Turkey generally places its energy approach in four basic areas. The first is to use Turkey’s geopolitical trump in the energy area. The second is to diversify energy sources and increase speed on energy production policies or energy access policies. The third is to collaborate with the world on energy as well as reaching the technological level to compete within the world energy arena. And the fourth is to expand the energy concept to the energy policy, security of energy, energy’s reflection on diplomatic relations and most importantly energy economy, and then to adopt this expanded energy concept for the whole country.

…one of the most important international projects is the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

By BTC, a transportation system will be established both economically favorably and environmentally sustainable. For Turkey, the BTC has great importance not only in the economic aspect but also in the strategic and environmental aspects.

…The BTC project, which will be remembered as modern energy Silk Road of our age’s energy trade and exploration, is the first and concrete successful example coming from Asia’s territorial depths to the world markets through the Mediterranean’s warm waters.
Dr. M. Hilmi Guler is Minister of Energy and Natural Resources for the Turkish Republic.
(13 July 2006)
The article is more public relations than analysis, but it does demonstrate the value that practical politicians now put on energy. A line in the first paragraph deserves to become a classic:

energy doesn’t revolve around world politics, but world politics revolves around energy.


American Petrocracy

Kevin Phillips, The American Conservative
Among the shifting rationales for the war in Iraq, the most plausible motive may be the least discussed: access to oil.
Few lies have wound up injuring Americans more—in everything from automobile gas tanks and winter heating bills to diminished U.S. global standing—than a rarely revisited three-year-old fib-fest involving George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Tony Blair. Since World War I, history is clear: the British and Americans have been pre-occupied with only one thing in Iraq—oil.

Yet in 2003, as their troops again disembarked, the pretense was all about good and evil, democracy and freedom. The disastrous outcome of the unacknowledged Middle Eastern mission, the struggle for petroleum, has rarely been discussed.

In part, that’s because a credulous press has swallowed an extraordinary fraud. Speaking on behalf of George W. Bush, then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer insisted in February 2003, “If this had anything to do with oil, the position of the United States would be to lift the sanctions so the oil could flow. This is not about that. This is about saving lives by protecting the American people.”

In November 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had likewise declared, “it has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil.” On the other side of the Atlantic, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told Parliament in early 2003, “Let me deal with the conspiracy theory that this has something to do with oil. There is no way whatever that if oil were the issue, it wouldn’t be simpler to cut a deal with Saddam Hussein.”

Horse manure.
(17 July 2006 issue)
This article is the cover article for the July 17 issue of “The American Conservative.” This magazine, co-founded by Pat Buchanan, represents a wing of U.S. conservativism that opposes what it sees as oil wars. From their mission statement:

…there is a great, often unarticulated discomfort in the ranks of many who considered themselves conservative during the past few decades.A friend of ours recently told of an encounter with one of his colleagues.“You’re a conservative,” the colleague said—“so you must agree with Paul Wolfowitz that we should attack Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and all those places.”

Well, no. Not all conservatives do agree that the United States should engage—for reasons that hardly touch America’s own vital interests —in an open-ended war against much of the Arab and Muslim world.