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Energy policy - Nov 26

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


CBC finds secret advice to politicians: oilsands emissions hard to scrub

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
Briefing document is pessimistic on carbon storage and capture
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CBC News has obtained a government document that says reducing greenhouse gases from Western Canada's oilsands will be much more difficult than some politicians and the industry suggest.

The ministerial briefing notes, initially marked "Secret," say that just a small percentage of the carbon dioxide released in mining the sands and producing fuel from them can be captured.

The oilsands are the fastest-growing source of CO2 in the country, set to increase from five per cent to 16 per cent of total emissions by 2020 under current plans.

Capturing the gas and pumping it underground has been the key public strategy for reducing the oilsands industry's contribution to global warming.

The briefing notes, obtained by CBC News under freedom-of-information legislation, are based on the findings of a joint Canada and Alberta task force on carbon capture and storage.
(24 November 2008)
Related at Reuters: Little gain from oil sands carbon capture: report.


Global oil price collapse

Paul Allen, The Guardian
With the price of a barrel of oil having fallen below $50 for the first time in years, we asked our correspondents in oil-rich regions to analyse the impact. Petrol might be cheaper, but the geo-political fallout could produce further instability for and already battered global economy...
(25 November 2008)
Has an interactive map with links to reports.



World on cusp of clean tech revolution: Merrill Lynch

John Morrissy, Canwest
Clean technology will rival the Industrial Revolution and every major technological development since then to become the "Sixth Revolution," as the world grapples with the threats of peak oil, global warming and the need for energy security, says financial analysis firm Merrill Lynch.

While such revolutions occur only about every 50 years, and can deliver "a golden age" based on the new technology's transformative possibilities, we are now on the cusp of the next great change, says Merrill Lynch clean-tech strategist Steven Milunovich.

"History shows that technology revolutions occur about every 50 years. We believe clean tech is at the beginning of a high-growth period, much like computing was in the early 1970s," says Milunovich.

The end result will be significant long-term investment opportunities likely heralded by a phase beginning as early as 2010-2011, when the potential impact of these changes bursts fully onto markets and the current financial crisis has eased, the report said.
(24 November 2008)



Financial crisis? That's nothing

Bibi van der Zee, Guardian
The coming energy crisis is going to dwarf the financial crisis, says the head of Shell: if only he were wrong
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... the head of Shell, Jeroen van der Veer, warned the Confederation of British Industry on Monday that we "had better make speed, or else the lights would go out. A sense of urgency is needed".

Van der Veer pointed out that the financial crisis would be a problem for a couple of years, "but the energy challenge will be a problem for at least 50 years".

He told the audience to face three hard truths. First, the world's population will increase from 6 to 9 billion over the next couple of decades and these people will all want electricity and transport.

Second, oil and gas alone will not be able to provide this fuel: renewables in time will come into their own but we are a while away from that future at the moment.

And third, CO2 levels will go up in concentration higher than the levels recommended by the scientists.

This last idea is particularly depressing, given that scientists such as James Hansen of Nasa believe that these recommended levels are too high anyway. It is a grim little list, made even grimmer by the source: not a deep green thinker, but the head of one of the largest energy companies in the world.
(25 November 2008)



The IEA WEO 2008: Will coal usage be phased out?

Rembrandt, The Oil Drum: Europe
In this post I summarize the climate policy scenarios of the World Energy Outlook 2008 in which coal usage is stabilized and ultimately phased out. A scenario that would render the question of coal availability useless if it becomes reality. According to the IEA a combination of energy saving policies, a large expansion of Nuclear and Renewable energy, as well as a large scale implementation of carbon capture and storage at coal and gas power plants are necessary to achieve stabilization of CO2 in the atmosphere between 450 and 550 parts per million, and the ultimate

... A few observations to end with

The first questions that arise when I look at the 550 policy scenario table outlining capacity additions from 2007 to 2030 (table 1) involve CCS and the more unknown renewable energy sources.

CCS [carbon capture and storage] - The IEA assumes 22 gigawatts of coal fired and 10 gigawatts of gas fired power plants with Carbon Capture and Storage globally by 2020. This hinges heavily on the assumption that CCS will be implemented due to the emissions trading scheme of the European Union, or that the US government will put a lot of public money in CCS. In Europe the European Union has decided that it is up to member states to invest in CCS individually. To my knowledge the investments for only one small (300-400 megawatt) demonstration power plant in Great Britain have been secured so far. Is the assumption of 32 gigawatts of installed CCS at coal and gas fired power plants by 2020 realistic?

Renewable energy - The IEA assumes that by 2030 only 36 gigawatts of solar thermal, 10 gigawatts of geothermal and 7 gigawatts of tidal and wave will have been built. While this improves somewhat in the 450 policy scenario (especially for solar thermal) it makes one wonder on what cost assumptions the very low growth figures of Solar Thermal, Geothermal and Tidal and Wave power by 2030 have been based. To my expectation these technologies have much more potential than assumed by the IEA.
(25 November 2008)



Calls to pump up China's oil stockpile

Wan Zhihong, China Daily
The country should take advantage of a record drop in global crude oil prices to build up more reserves of the resource, analysts have said.

"Compared with the highest prices in July, crude oil prices have dropped by 50 percent. We should take advantage of the low prices to build more oil reserves," said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

"These oil reserves should include both the national oil reserves and oil companies' commercial reserves," Lin said.

Crude oil prices have fallen to below $65 a barrel, following a record high of $147 a barrel in July.

Han Xiaoping, senior vice-president of Beijing Falcon Pioneer Technology Co Ltd said the country should also establish a special fund for oil reserves construction.

China had already launched a state strategic oil reserve base program as a way to offset oil supply risks and reduce the impact of fluctuating energy prices worldwide.

The bases are designed to maintain strategic oil reserves equivalent to 30 days of imports, or about 10 million tons.
(5 November 2008)

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