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Energy dysfunction - May 8

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.

Energy at What Cost? Protests Against Forced Eviction from US-Backed Coal Mine Continue in Bangladesh

Kate Hoshour and Christine Shearer , Truthout

As the sun rose on March 28, 2011, roughly 2,000 people gathered to demonstrate against a mining project that would displace tens of thousands of people in northwest Bangladesh and establish one of the largest open pit coal mines in the world.

Located in an agricultural region that is home to thousands of farming and indigenous families, the Phulbari Coal Project has been fiercely opposed by Bangladeshi citizens for over six years. Regardless, the UK-based company pursuing the project, Global Coal Management Resources, or GCM (formerly the Asia Energy Corporation), is expressing confidence that the mine will go forward.

... Responding to announcements of the protest, police and members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were deployed in advance to guard GCM's office, the Phulbari railway station and other key establishments.

RAB, set up as an elite anticrime and antiterrorism force, has become notorious for what several human rights groups describe as the routine use of torture and an alarming number of extrajudicial killings that occur in RAB custody.

Although RAB has been denounced by Human Rights Watch as a "government death squad," diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that the UK has provided support to RAB, including training in "investigative interviewing techniques" and "rules of engagement."

The Phulbari Coal Project is now at a critical juncture. It was stalled in the planning phase when political instability in the country and widespread protests led to the imposition of emergency rule in Bangladesh in 2007. Following national elections in 2008, a new administration began actively reconsidering the mine.

The recent release of another WikiLeaks cable shows that the US has been exerting diplomatic pressure for the project's approval, citing US corporate interests.
(8 April 2011)

Shell and Cairn Energy Announce 'Risky' Drilling Plans in Arctic

Terry Macalister, Guardian/UK

Explorations off Alaska's north coast condemned by environmentalists after Deepwater Horizon disaster

A new battle between environmentalists and Big Oil over drilling in the Arctic was triggered today when Shell unveiled "risky" plans for the Beaufort Sea while a Cairn Energy rig set sail for Greenland.

Shell, Europe's largest oil group, has submitted plans to the US government for permission to drill 10 exploration wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off the north coast of Alaska in 2012 and 2013.

Previous plans to start this summer were halted first by the moratorium imposed after the Deepwater Horizon disaster last April and then by a ruling from the Environmental Protection Agency.But Shell said it was now confident that it could offer regulators the reassurances that should enable it to proceed with a programme said to have cost it $2bn to lease the acreage and possibly an additional $4bn in planning.

... Ben Ayliffe, senior oil campaigner at Greenpeace: ... "As climate change causes the sea ice to retreat, oil companies are rushing in to extract the fossil fuels that caused the melt in the first place. It's madness – you don't put out a fire with gasoline. Instead of drilling in the Arctic, we should be extracting oil from the car industry by driving up the efficiency of their vehicles and forcing them to use new clean technologies."
(5 May 2011)

Why is the UK backing biomass power?

Lewis Williamson , Guardian
Energy created from burning organic matter could increase emissions and decimate forests - and questions remain over sustainability and security of supply
... Campaign group Biofuelwatch says one of the main problems of power generated from biomass (biological material from living, or recently living organisms such as wood) is that it is not carbon-neutral. Some research suggests that burning wood immediately releases more greenhouse gases than fossil fuel-related emissions, and takes many decades – even centuries in some scenarios – for the carbon emissions to be "offset" by new biomass growth. This, critics points out, is far too long if the UK is to meet its target of reducing emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.

Campaigners also say the scale of demand for fuel, mostly in the form of wood pellets, is unsustainable on at least two fronts. First, the claim that switching to biomass can ensure security of energy supply for the UK looks dubious. The Tilbury plant alone will burn more than 7m tonnes of wood pellets per year – compared with 9m tonnes burned in the entire European Union in 2010.
(5 May 2011)

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