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India’s quest for uranium

Hari Sud, UPIAsia
Uranium, the key to nuclear power generation, is in short supply in India. The country’s reserves stand at 75,000 tons of low-grade ore, which requires processing before it becomes fuel for nuclear reactors.
This ore contains between 0.03 to 0.2 percent of triuranium octoxide, or U3O8 – an impure mixture of uranium oxides obtained in the processing of uranium ore – as U-238, which is the non-fissionable isotope found in natural uranium. International mines have anywhere from 2 to 14 percent.

Four mines in the Singhbhum district of Bihar state produce only 220 tons of uranium concentrate. In addition, 120 tons come from byproducts like tailings from phosphate, zinc and copper mines.

India’s 17 operating reactors require 500 to 600 tons of uranium concentrate annually. Additional amounts are needed for its weapons program. Two more mines in Meghalaya and Karnataka state may begin operations in the next four years, boosting output to about 600 tons. This might be enough to feed the existing nuclear reactors, but not enough for the ambitious nuclear power program the government wants to implement…
(9 Oct 2009)

Putin’s China Visit Helps Russia Become Global Energy Supplier

Lucian Kim, bloomberg
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin used a trip to China to clinch oil, natural-gas and nuclear agreements, helping turn Russia into a global energy supplier with pipelines stretching from Berlin to Beijing.

Russian companies signed deals on starting gas deliveries, jointly refining Siberian crude and building Chinese nuclear reactors on a two-day visit to Beijing that started yesterday.

“China is Russia’s economic future,” said Roland Nash, chief strategist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow. “If this relationship works out, it will be a major contributor to the stability and speed of global economic growth.”

Asia’s largest energy consumer is crucial for diversifying Russian energy exports away from traditional markets in Europe. Enemies for most of the Cold War, the two countries are now building relations across their 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) border based on China’s appetite for resources and Russia’s ability to deliver them as the world’s biggest energy producer…
(14 Oct 2009)

Iraq cuts foreign deals for major boost to oil output

Ammar Karim, AFP
Foreign energy firms have agreed to Iraq’s conditions for investment in two major oilfields in the south of the country, Baghdad announced on Tuesday as it prepares to dramatically ramp up oil output.

Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told a news conference that the aim is for crude production to be increased to between 10 and 12 million barrels per day within six years — up from the current level of around 2.5 million bpd.

The announcement came two months before a second round of auctions on oilfields that Baghdad hopes will ease a budget crunch and rebuild a moribund economy and dated infrastructure wracked by decades of war and sanctions…
(13 Oct 2009)

The U.S. military’s battle to wean itself off oil

Amanda Little, Grist
In the summer of 2006, Marine Corps Major General Richard Zilmer sent the Pentagon an unusual “Priority 1” request for emergency battlefield supplies. Stationed at a temporary base in Fallujah, Zilmer was commanding a force of 30,000 troops responsible for protecting Al Anbar, the vast territory in western Iraq bordering Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Heavily armed insurgents were hammering the region, and Al Qaeda was quickly gathering recruits. Zilmer’s beleaguered soldiers were running low on fuel for the diesel generators powering their barracks—fuel that cooled their tents in the 135-degree weather, refrigerated and cooked their food, and kept the communication lines open. The general, however, was wary of trucking in backup supplies during a time of so much turmoil. The U.S. fuel convoys that chugged along the back roads of Iraq every day—long lines of 18-wheelers hauling armored vats of gas—were among the insurgents’ prime targets.

Zilmer’s memo presented the Pentagon with an unprecedented request: “a self-sustainable energy solution,” including “solar panels and wind turbines.” This was the first time a frontline commander had formally requested renewable energy backup in battle. Without alternative power sources, the memo continued, U.S. forces “will remain unnecessarily exposed” and will “continue to accrue preventable … serious and grave casualties.” Put in civilian-speak: Too many of Zilmer’s troops were dying in fuel convoys, and the relentless gasoline demands of the diesel generators were partly to blame.

Renewable energy was not an environmental consideration for Zilmer, it was a tactical necessity—a matter of life and death, of victory or defeat. The Pentagon is the largest consumer of petroleum in the United States. In recent years it has used between 130 million and 145 million barrels of oil annually—2 percent of America’s total petroleum demand. That translates to nearly 400,000 barrels per day, roughly the total daily energy consumption of the United Arab Emirates. Over the last century, no institution has done more to propel America’s rise to power than our military—or consumed more oil in the process. We have petroleum to thank for building the Department of Defense into an as-yet-unmatched fighting machine—but our troops are only as powerful as the flow of fuel that sustains them…
(13 Oct 2009)

What’s yours is mine

Andrew Simms, The New Statesman
The elephant is still standing, and still dead. Around its feet are hundreds of coins thrown by visitors. Room after room at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, on the outskirts of Brussels, is full of stuffed animals perched rigidly against crude backdrops of African forest and grassland. Another exhibit surveys Africa’s economic contribution to the world: maps on the wall dissect and label each country, tagging them like the pickled fish and stuffed apes.

This is Africa as a cornucopia of natural wealth to be mined, harvested, picked, squeezed and taken. The maps reduce the continent in general, and Congo in particular, to a series of carefully plotted locations for the extraction of oil, cotton, coffee, sugar, rice, maize, diamonds, jute, cobalt, tin, copper and gold. One term for it is the “resource curse”, exemplified by King Leopold II’s brutal Central African reign during the first scramble for Africa in the 19th century. Leopold still sits proudly in the central courtyard of the museum, chin imperially upturned: a statue in honour of international relations built on murder, theft and deception.

Is his presence shocking because things are so different today, or because there remain dark continuities? A new report from Nef (the New Economics Foundation) reveals that humanity, driven by European-style consumption patterns, went into “ecological debt” on 25 September. It is based on the “ecological footprint” measure, which adds up all the natural resources we consume and the waste we generate, and compares them with what ecosystems can produce and absorb. As with financial planning, spend more than you earn and, before the year is out, you go into debt. The earlier it happens, the worse things are. This year, “ecological debt day” fell a day later than last year, but still two weeks earlier than the year before that. It has been shifting earlier since first going into the red in the mid-1980s. Strikingly, it suggests that global overconsumption has barely been affected by the recession.

…As Europe (and even, falteringly, the UK) recovers from recession, a return to debt-fuelled overconsumption is imminent. And it is energy that fuels it. The UK’s relative dependence on imported energy has risen fivefold since the country lost self-sufficiency in 2004. We are less self-sufficient in food now than we were 40 years ago. And because we do not have to pay the full environmental cost of fuel, we engage in bizarre forms of “boomerang trade”. The UK imports 5,000 tonnes of toilet paper from Germany, and then exports almost 4,000 tonnes back again. We export 4,400 tonnes of ice cream to Italy, only to import 4,200 tonnes. There are many similar examples of this crazy business.

Today, all respectable European powers must profess commitment to global poverty reduction and sustainable development. But Europe is still hungry for Africa’s resources and, for all its sophistication, it is less energy-efficient today at delivering a given level of “life satisfaction” than it was four decades ago. Others are paying the price for our materialism.

Andrew Simms is policy director and head of the climate change programme at Nef (the New Economics Foundation). He is the author of “Ecological Debt: Global Warming and the Wealth of Nations”, published by Pluto (£13.99)…
(15 Oct 2009)
Significant article on this topic. More info about nef here. The ridiculous “boomerang trades” that Andrew talks about, the recent land grabs, and the lack of “life satisfaction” in spite of the vast and inequitable overconsumption by developed nations of resources from the “global South” are all compelling issues that need to be included in the context of climate change discussions, in my view. -KS

Big Oil Front Group Fights for Tar Sands

Andy Rowell, Oilchange International
The debate on energy and climate is littered with corporate front groups scare-mongering over action on climate change at the moment.

On the blog we have recently talked about the American Petroleum Institute’s astroturf “Energy Citizen” campaign and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCE)’s fake letter writers.

What about the “Consumer Energy Alliance” – that “calls itself a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition comprised of 120 affiliates and more than 180,000 grassroots.”

Actually the Alliance is a front for big oil. It comes as no surprise that affiliates to the CEA are all the big oil companies such as BP, Exxon, Conoco and Royal Dutch Shell and industry heavyweights such as the American Petroleum Institute…
(15 Oct 2009)

Saudis Seek Payments for Any Drop in Oil Revenues

Jad Mouwad and Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times
Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers.

The oil-rich kingdom has pushed this position for years in earlier climate-treaty negotiations. While it has not succeeded, its efforts have sometimes delayed or disrupted discussions. The kingdom is once again gearing up to take a hard line on the issue at international negotiations scheduled for Copenhagen in December.

The chief Saudi negotiator, Mohammad al-Sabban, described the position as a “make or break” provision for the Saudis, as nations stake out their stance before the global climate summit scheduled for the end of the year.

“Assisting us as oil-exporting countries in achieving economic diversification is very crucial for us through foreign direct investments, technology transfer, insurance and funding,” Mr. Sabban said in an e-mail message.

…Environmental advocates denounced the idea, saying the Saudi stance hampered progress to assist poor nations that are already suffering from the effect of climate change, and that genuinely need financial assistance.

…Mr. Victor dismissed the Saudi stance as a stunt, saying that the real threat for petroleum exporters came from improvements in fuel economy and rising mandates for alternative fuels in the transportation sector, both of which would reduce the need for petroleum products. “Oil exporters have always, in my view, far overblown the near-term effects of carbon limits on demand for their products,” Mr. Victor said. “For the Saudis this may be a deal-breaker, but the Saudis are not essential players. In some sense, one sign that a climate agreement is effective is that big hydrocarbon exporters hate it.”…
(13 Oct 2009)