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ODAC Newsletter - Feb 5

Welcome to the ODAC Newsletter, a weekly roundup from the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, the UK registered charity dedicated to raising awareness of peak oil.

In a busy week for energy policy, UK energy watchdog Ofgem finally acknowledged what has been obvious for years: that liberalized markets cannot deliver energy security in the era of carbon reduction and resource depletion. Its report suggested the market would not deliver the £200 billion needed for energy infrastructure over the next decade without far more government intervention, and suggested a range of radical measures – at least in terms of the mainstream British energy debate. Some, such as a minimum carbon price, have been championed by ODAC for some time.

One danger identified by Ofgem is Britain’s growing dependency on imported natural gas, as North Sea production declines. BP boss Tony Hayward gave a number of ‘exclusive’ interviews this week in which he talked of ‘misplaced paranoia’ over gas supplies, but ODAC trustee David Strahan argues that the Ofgem report contains some valid recommendations. With the general election looming, we may soon enjoy the irony of a Conservative administration re-regulating the industry it deregulated with such gusto in the 1980’s.

Meanwhile Labour’s Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband announced the long awaited incentives for micro-energy generation. The feed-in tariffs (FITs), which guarantee returns of 5-8% even if householders consume the energy generated themselves, were generally welcomed by the industry. But as expected the subsidies were less generous than those of Germany where FITs have proved such a success, suggesting the government is still trying to get its energy policy on the cheap. It is also depressing that it has taken the government so long to reach this point. The European countries that have far more renewable capacity than Britain have almost all used FITs for years.

President Obama announced his draft budget this week in which he proposed, for the second time, ending subsidies on oil & gas as they are “unaffordable”. The industry condemned the move citing that it would slow down investment in tight gas, and the measure will no doubt face a tough hearing. Between the State of the Union speech, the budget and a further statement on energy on Wednesday this week, Obama has determined to increase investment in carbon capture and storage, nuclear power and next generation biofuels, and make hard decisions on off-shore oil and gas drilling. Whether such a policy will reduce US vulnerability to peak oil is highly questionable.

Financial results for 2009 announced by the big energy companies this week held few surprises. Slumping demand and lower oil and gas prices led to lower profits. But lower is a relative term, since 2008 was a record year.

Oil

Shell to axe another 1,000 jobs and sell last UK refiner

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BP points finger at US refineries as it reveals slide in annual profits

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Opec says oil supply increase 'worrying'

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Nigeria plans to sell 2 bln barrels of oil reserves: report

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North America

Business as Usual: Hooked on Foreign Oil

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President Touts His Alternative Fuels Plan

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White House report: Develop more crops for biofuels

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Obama budget seeks to end oil, gas subsidies

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Nuclear

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plays game of cat-and-mouse with West over nuclear deal

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The great uranium stampede

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Renewables

EU agrees billions to fund renewables, CCS

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China overtakes USA in wind

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China Leading Global Race to Make Clean Energy

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Biofuels

Biofuels industry set to suffer from lack of green rules

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Shell stakes green future on sugar biofuel in $2bn Brazil venture

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Algal power not so green after all, yet

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UK

Shake-up looms in power industry

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How long before the lights go out?

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Dash for gas is UK's best energy strategy, says BP chief

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Solar panels and other renewables will be installed on one in ten homes

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Marine power schemes given cash boost

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Climate

States renew vows to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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Lord Smith warns climate change argument has been undermined by 'climategate'

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