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Energy policy - Sept 13

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EU: Energy investments 'urgently needed', say finance ministers

The EU's increasing dependence on imported energy should be tackled as a matter of urgency with new investments in infrastructure, finance ministers announced at an informal meeting in Helsinki.

"There is an urgent need for boosting energy investments" to reduce dependence on imported energy, ministers declared in a statement on 9 September. In this context, they also agreed that the role of international financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) should be strengthened.

"Diversification of energy supply, improvement of energy efficiency and promotion of renewable sources, as well as innovation, all have a part to play [in reducing the EU's import dependency]," said Finland's Finance Minister Eero Heinäluoma, who was hosting the meeting.
(11 Sept 2006)

Aid must continue for biomass-coal power, say producers

Daniel Fineren, Reuters
The UK government must take care when redeploying the support it now gives to power producers who cut carbon emissions by burning organic matter at coal-fired power plants, generators said.

Co-firing biomass, which can be wood chips, sewage sludge or specially-produced grains and plants, is one of the most cost effective ways of cutting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, which are among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.
(11 Sept 2006)
Burning grain, and sewerage? These are indeed desperate times. -AF

Another fund-guzzling white elephant?

Hisane Masaki, Crisscross
Resource-poor Japan is pumping no small amount of public funds into its energy drive to secure foreign oil, gas and other resources in a desperate bid to ensure its energy security amid spikes in oil prices.

Ensuring stability of supply is a matter of life or death for the world’s second-largest economy. The country imports virtually all of its oil, with nearly 90% of that coming from the volatile Middle East. Japan also buys almost all of its natural gas from abroad, making it the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Public financial support in the form of investment, loans, loan guarantees and investment insurance is designed to encourage conservatively-minded domestic firms to venture into high-risk projects abroad.

Alarmed by stubbornly high global oil prices and the global rush for energy — led by China and India — Tokyo released in late May a new strategy intended to ensure the country’s long term future. The New National Energy Strategy calls for, among other things, strengthening relations with resource-rich countries through measures such as official development assistance (ODA) and free trade agreements (FTAs).
(11 Sept 2006)

Ken's oil for brooms deal: fuel for us, a clean-up for Caracas

Hugh Muir, The Guardian
The point at which President Hugo Chávez decided that London should serve as a model for services and governance in Caracas was not immediately apparent. He came in May, visited City Hall amid much controversy and fanfare, and was soon gone.

But the result of his visit is likely to be an extraordinary deal struck with London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, that would see Caracas benefit from the capital's expertise in policing, tourism, transport, housing and waste disposal.

London, meanwhile, would gain the most obvious asset the Venezuelans have to give: cheap oil. Possibly more than a million barrels of the stuff.

South American diesel would be supplied by Venezuela - the world's fifth-largest oil exporter - as fuel for some of the capital's 8,000 buses, particularly those services most utilised by the poor.

The exchange arises from the high-profile offer President Chávez made to London during his visit to City Hall in May. Since then officials have been meeting in London and Caracas to bring the barter deal about.

Yesterday Mr Livingstone confirmed that the agreement was in the making, and finer details were being thrashed out.

"We have poor people in London. We are the richest city in Europe and yet we have the disgrace of child poverty," he said. "They have a vast population living in slums, and we have a lot of experience in terms of housing policy and all the things we know about how to take a city and make it function."

But opponents on the London assembly, who want to question the mayor at City Hall today, are unconvinced. Angie Bray, the leader of London's Tories, dismissed the scheme as a "socialist propaganda fest".
(13 Sept 2006)

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