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Abu Dhabi: Turning to the sun in the land of oil

Hassan M. Fattah, International Herald Tribune
…Abu Dhabi, one of the world’s largest oil producers, is seeking to become a center for the development and the implementation of clean energy technology. Last year, the emirate, which is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, began the Masdar Initiative, a far-reaching program that seeks to rope in various companies, government ministries and universities around the world to help develop and commercialize renewable energy technologies backed by Abu Dhabi’s money.

Despite initial skepticism and a few snickers, Abu Dhabi has sought to prove it is serious about clean energy. Masdar has already started a $250 million “clean technology fund” and begun construction of a special economic zone for the advanced- energy industry.
(15 March 2007)

Green Energy Enthusiasts Are Also Betting on Fossil Fuels

Matt Richtel, NY Times
Silicon Valley’s technology investors have taken to the ramparts, threatening to tear down the oil and gas industries’ dominance with innovations that use ethanol, solar and wind.

A chief champion of the cause has been Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the marquee venture capital firms. Its principals, John Doerr in particular, have passionately advocated development of alternative energies as a way to create energy independence and clean up the carbon-saturated atmosphere.

But Kleiner has also poured millions of dollars into Terralliance, a company that makes technology to enable more efficient drilling of oil and gas.

The investment underscores a fact that is much less bragged about in the valley: For all the boasting in the region about investing in clean technologies, there have also been a smaller number of bets in companies set up to promote the development of fossil fuels – the source of many of the problems their other investments are meant to fix.
(16 March 2007)

Can renewable energies be turned to a source of advantage by developing countries?

John A. Mathews, Revue de l’Energie
Traditional industrial development pathways, that did not take into explicit consideration the issue of energy technologies to be utilized, now imperil development prospects around the world.

As oil supplies approach their peak globally, and energy security becomes a major issue, so developing countries have everything to lose by simply following fossil-fuel based industrialization, and everything to gain by recasting their development strategies around the prospects for renewable energies and biofuels.

This is now a feasible prospect, as shown dramatically by the Brazilian experience, now being replicated in many developing countries, including most notably in India and China.

This paper argues that the time is therefore ripe for developing countries, and development agencies such as the World Bank, to re-evaluate their stance on biofuels. Developing countries, particularly in the tropics, have an abundance of land, water and sunshine that give them a competitive advantage in biofuels, and for the development of a new industry – ergoculture – that will stand alongside traditional agriculture.

The paper argues that a swing behind biofuels can unlock a chain reaction of favorable developmental processes – provided developing countries seize the initiative and set in place renewable energy industry creation projects before the developed world has managed to shake itself out of its fossil fuel dependence. In doing so, they will do a great service to themselves and to everyone concerned with the disastrous prospects of global climate change.
(March/April 2007)
John A. Mathews is Professor of Strategic Management at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney Australia. (Biography).

One of the better arguments in favor of biofuels for developing countries. And yet… the negative effects of biofuels seem to be lost in the rosy visions of proponents. The concerns of multiple groups were summarized in Biofuels: A Disaster in the Making:

We recognize that the local production and consumption of biomass plays an important role in sustainable livelihood strategies of, in particular, rural women in developing countries. Certain small-scale and strictly regulated sustainable forms of biofuel production can be beneficial at the national level. However, the modalities of biomass consumption and production must be carefully analyzed in conjunction with communities, to introduce adaptive measures that will maintain and enhance the patterns of sustainability, while avoiding negative impacts on health and the adverse effects inherent to increases in demand or changes in socioeconomic settings. Solar energy often offers a sustainable alternative to traditional biomass.

Meanwhile, international trade in biofuels is already causing a negative impact on food sovereignty, rural livelihoods, forests and other ecosystems, and these negative impacts are expected to accumulate rapidly.