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Energy Crunch: Global debate heats up


Sun image via Daniel Kulinski/flickr. Creative Commons license 2.0.

Three things you shouldn't miss this week

  1. Chart: The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for June 2014 was the highest on record for the month, at 0.72°C (1.30°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F). :  
 
Source: NOAA
  1. Article: Fossil industry is the subprime danger of this cycle – The cumulative blitz on energy exploration and production over the past six years has been $5.4 trillion, yet little has come of it.
  1. Article: Wind Energy Cheapest Form of Power, According to Denmark - The Danish Energy Agency found that onshore wind plants coming online in 2016 will cost around $.05 per kilowatt hour.
 
 
News that last month was the world’s hottest June on record provided another reminder that urgent global action is needed to combat climate change. But in a backwards move this week Australia axed its carbon tax on political grounds, despite widespread criticism from analysts and the complete absence of a credible alternative strategy.
 
Meanwhile, the EU missed the chance to show bold leadership on energy efficiency as it settled on a voluntary target of 30% by 2030 - well short of the 40% advocated by Germany. Europe’s Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard hailed the deal as good news for the climate and bad news for Mr Putin. But the Russian leader is unlikely to be quaking just yet: Europe's long-running failure to impose tougher sanctions stems largely from the continent’s heavy reliance on Russian gas imports.
 
In the UK, there was better news. Months of internal wrangling ended with the government committing to the fourth carbon budget despite treasury efforts to weaken it. This budget legally binds the country to reduce emissions in 2023-2027 by 50% compared to 1990 levels. The Climate Change Committee however warned that the first budget was met only with a combination of policy intervention and a huge economic recession, and that stronger measures will be required to meet future budgets.
 
The growing economic cost of fossil fuels was highlighted this week in an article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph. While the industry pours money into maintaining production of high-cost resources like tar sands, deepwater and shale, the cost of renewables is plummeting – in Denmark wind will become the cheapest option for power by 2016. Many analysts expect companies to end up sitting on reserves of fossil fuels they have paid for but cannot sell - also known as stranded assets. The industry’s problem is that cheap conventional crude oil peaked in 2005. No wonder they’re so keen to frack in Britain – they’re hanging on for dear life.
 
Related Reports and Commentary
2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard - American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
Shale gas and fracking: examining the evidence - Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) and Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)

 

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