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With Peak Oil Looming, Gulf States Consider Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Susan Kraemer, Green Prophet
… Bahrain’s oil minister has now urged a rethink of fuel price supports in order to stop the rampant over-consumption. For the Middle East this would mean ending the soaring government subsidies that have kept gas costs artificially low for consumers.

“The per-capita energy usage is quite staggering bearing in mind the Gulf states don’t have a very high output compared to Western countries,” says Samuel Ciszuk, Senior Energy Analyst for Middle East and North Africa at IHS Global Insight.

Even apart from more direct fossil fuel subsidies that it pays to oil companies, Saudi Arabia is bankrolling $35 billion a year in annual fuel subsidies. When oil prices bottomed out recently, Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) was losing up to $2m a day because of the price cap.

“Where the problem is now arising is that you’re starting to see shortages,” says Kate Dourian, Middle East editor at energy analysts Platt’s. “In this region there’s no taxation at the forecourt, so there’s no way for the retailers to make up for any of their losses, and there’s no way for the government to recoup any of its losses,”
(16 December 2010)
Related from Arabian Business: Fuel for thought.

Coal Interests Fueling Gingrich’s Cash-Burning 527

Ryan J. Reilly and Melissa Jeltsen, TPM Muckraker
The recently released IRS filings of Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future makes a few things clear: the coal industry loves him; he’s a fan of private planes; and for a self proclaimed fiscal conservative, he’s getting a measly return on the millions he’s throwing at a Christian telemarketing company that raises cash for the 527 group.

American Solutions, which is dedicated to “creating the next generation of solutions that will ensure the United States remains the safest, freest and most prosperous country in the world” — raked in $14.5 million in contributions last year, according to IRS filings.

Over half of the group’s money — $7.9 million — went to InfoCision, a telemarketing company that specializes in political, Christian and nonprofit fundraising. They brought in $9.2 million, a 16 percent return on the investment. That means that for every dollar donated to Newt’s group through InfoCision, the company kept 86 cents. An InfoCision spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.
(16 December 2010)

When energy comes to a Senegalese village, do people get more healthy, wealthy and wise?

John Magrath, From Poverty to Power
I’ve been delving into energy issues too lately. I’ve just come back from Senegal, where I was trying to get clearer in my own mind what exactly is the contribution energy access makes to making people healthier, wealthier and wiser? And what are the limitations, and essential other things that have to be added to the mix to make the dough of development rise?

So I went to a village that is well off the national grid, which has a “renewable energy power station ” – a wind turbine Senegal December 2010 008towering above the baobabs and an imposing inclined plane of solar panels, all connected to a hefty bank of industrial-sized batteries. Overhead cables snake off to every house. People pay any one of four tariffs, based on how much power they use, from 50 watts up to 200 watts – enough for a set of light bulbs and a TV.

My overall impression was – what a real and rare pleasure to go somewhere where people were happy – and told you so? Everyone seemed really delighted, confident and optimistic about the future. This sense of confidence and security, and therefore, ambition, seems to me the biggest impact of having electricity.

… [Increased attendance at a poorly maintained health center] is also most definitely an illustration of how many other things must be in place to create beneficial outcomes, and how energy on its own may be a necessary, but is by no means sufficient, to bring about change.
John Magrath is an Oxfam researcher currently working on renewable energy
(10 December 2010)
Suggested by Jim Barton -BA

Poor people’s energy outlook 2010

Steven Hunt and comprising Andrew Scott, Liz Bates and Drew Corbyn; Practical Action

A Practical Action report

Right now, half the world’s population have no access to modern energy. ‘Business as usual’ projections show that the situation will be the same in 20 years time.

Poor people’s energy outlookThe Poor people’s energy outlook 2010 seeks to highlight this injustice as a first step to ending it. It presents the perspective of those living in energy poverty and those for whom energy access has been life changing, people like Mamdhur from Nepal, who says: “Now we have electric lighting, we are very much relieved. We have more time to spend with our children and families, and no longer breathe in the smoke from the kerosene lamp that used to hurt our lungs. It was my dream to have lighting facilities in my village. The dark has turned to light.”

Practical Action, a global leader in delivering modern energy for people in the developing world, is proposing the concept of ‘total energy access’ with its report – the minimum standard of energy access that needs to be in place for essentials such as cooking, lighting, healthcare, livelihoods and education.

But energy access can’t be achieved by the formal energy sector alone. The report proposes an ecosystem of government, civil society and private organisations working together towards creation of universal energy access by 2030.

… Chapter 1: People’s experience of energy
Describes people’s experience of six vital energy services and derives a set of minimum standards and an energy access index for mapping access experience.

Chapter 2: Practitioner perspectives
Leading practitioners debate the key issues in energy access, addressing challenges and controversies in the sector.

Chapter 3: Framework for action
Presents an overview of the energy poverty outlook and the long-term goal of universal energy access from sustainable sources. A framework for action calls on the international community to rise to this challenge.
(1X December 2010)
Downloadable PDF of the repoort.