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Energy policies & impacts - Mar 1

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Moscow is urging its residents to switch to energy-saving light bulbs

James Kilner, Reuters via IHT
Russia has begun its first major energy-awareness campaign since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, bringing an unfamiliar sight to Moscow streets: billboards urging people to switch to energy-saving light bulbs.

But Muscovites are not being encouraged to go green to save the planet.

The city government in Moscow has realized that the country's wasteful ways with energy could mean that before long there will not be enough fuel to go around.

"It's all about conserving energy supplies and nothing to do with the environment," Igor Bashmakov, head of the independent Center for Energy Efficiency, said of the campaign, started at the beginning of the year.

The dangers of global warming have grabbed headlines and attention around the world, prompting a planned ban on incandescent light bulbs in Australia. But in Russia - the world's third-largest polluter after the United States and China - climate change is generally greeted with a shrug of the shoulders.

Persuading Russians to save energy is a difficult task. In a country with huge oil and natural gas reserves, many people see keeping lights on round the clock and driving gas-guzzling cars as their birthright.
(28 Feb 2007)


Fuel price hike sounds death knell in Zimbabwe

Gift Phiri, The Zimbabwean ("The Voice of the Voiceless")
HARARE - The sharp hike in fuel prices is likely to sound the death knell for most companies, already weighed down by an acute shortage of foreign exchange and key inputs, top economists warned this week
Economic experts spoke as the pump price of a litre of petrol rose to a staggering Z$6,500, inflation shot to almost 1,600 percent, and the country electricity shortages woes intensified.

Energy minister Mike Nyambuya was not immediately available for comment. But economist John Robertson said inflationary pressures had pushed up fuel pipeline costs, such as transportation and storage, resulting in NOCZIM selling fuel products at below procurement costs. The removal of subsidies by Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono was another reason of the sharp hike in prices.

Robertson said the impact of the fuel price hikes, when fuel was already in very short supply, would have a disastrous impact on the economy and the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.

"Everybody will be affected," said Robertson. "We will be in a very serious predicament in terms of moving production goods, getting food delivered and moving coal, timber and heavy commodities to the factories. So, we will have a very serious shrinkage in the volume of business being done.
(1 March 2007)


U.S. Military: Oil Free by 2050

Stephen Trimble, Defense Tech
The US military needs oil -- about 300,000 barrels a day -- to fight.

Lots of oil comes from the same places where the military actually is fighting today, or may be fighting sometime in the not so distant future. (Hello, Iran?)

Oh, the irony!

It should come as no surprise then that the Department of Defense is giving very serious thought to oil independence. The notion is that the nation -- and particularly the military -- must have assured access to energy, and oil isn't such a safe bet any more.

Champions of this concept are known to include John Young, DOD's director for Defense Research and Engineering; and Ron Sega, undersecretary of the Air Force and -- on Capitol Hill -- New York Republican Representative Steve Israel and Maryland Republican Representative Roscoe Bartlett.

But that's just kid-stuff, really.

It's very clear that a much broader vision exists within DOD to really go ... all .. the ... way, and fast.

The vision can be found in this master's thesis by Air Force Lt Col Michael J. Hornitschek, who originally published the document for the Air University's Center for Strategy and Technology. It has since been republished in the Air Force Journal of Logistics. It's a thesis, but it often reads like a very good Popular Science article.

Here's a quick excerpt that explains the vision...
(28 Feb 2007)
Sohbet Karbuz discussed Col. Hornitschek's thesis last year in his EB article: Pentagon and Peak Oil: A Military Literature Review. -BA


China aims to diversify oil sources

Wu Zhong, Asia Times
...In recent years, China has been making aggressive efforts to diversify its sources of oil imports, in an apparent move to reduce the risk of increasing reliance on oil from the Middle East.

But in China 's oil-security strategy, such variegation is not only to reduce business risks but also for geopolitical reasons.

China was self-sufficient in oil consumption until 1993. Since then, the country has become increasingly reliant on imported oil to fuel its rapid economic expansion. This situation is unlikely to change in the future as proven oil reserves in the country are not nearly enough to meet expected demand.

...What has worried Chinese oil-security strategists in recent years is that most of the imported oil comes from the Middle East. Despite China's efforts to diversify sources of imports, it still relies heavily on Middle Eastern oil. In 2005, China's imports of crude oil from the Middle East accounted for 61.1% of its total crude-oil imports, making it the most import link in the country's oil-supply chain.

This amounts to putting most, if not all, the eggs in one basket, which is too fraught with risks for such a big country like China, analysts in Beijing say. If the supply of oil from the Middle East were interrupted, for any reason, the outcome for China would be disastrous beyond imagination.

And the danger of China's Middle Eastern oil supply being interrupted is very real. This could happen when oil reserves in the region are exhausted, although that is a long way off. But the region is well known as a powder keg, and a large-scale war there would seriously affect world oil supply.
(28 Feb 2007)


Energy's Role in Europe's Trade Deficits

Luís de Sousa, The Oil Drum: Europe
On February 16th, the Eurostat released its first assessment of external trade balances for 2006 (pdf), making clear that energy is imposing an important burden on the Union’s economy.

...At the bottom of the table [of trade balances] is the United Kingdom, which is ironically the EU’s largest oil producer. As reported by Chris, the country is failing to adapt to its depletion rates, digging very rapidly an energy gap that translates into a three digit bn € trade deficit. Changes are needed fast to invert the trend; the role that an independent currency might have or have not in that is yet to be seen.

But the toughest cases are those of Spain and Greece, which although have a lower deficit in volume, represent smaller economies meaning a higher deficit compared to GDP (or on a per capita basis). Spain in particular might be headed for rough times, with one million new homes being built presently and a policy of low taxes on petroleum products - a recipe for trouble. Other states not mentioned might also be in trouble, like Portugal, which has a trade deficit not far from that of Italy, for a much smaller economy and population.

...Europe’s economy consumes energy and crude materials, producing manufactured goods and services, and having an even balance on the food sector. This economic fabric simply cannot function properly in a world with diminishing energy available for trade. Europe not only needs a new Energy Policy, it might need a completely different Economic Paradigm to face the years ahead.
(1 March 2007)

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