A roundup of news, views and ideas from the main stream press and the blogosphere.  Click on the headline link to see the full article.


Fossil fuels could be phased out worldwide in a decade, says new study

James Hakner, Phys Org
The worldwide reliance on burning fossil fuels to create energy could be phased out in a decade, according to an article published by a major energy think tank in the UK.

Professor Benjamin Sovacool, Director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex, believes that the next great energy revolution could take place in a fraction of the time of major changes in the past.

But it would take a collaborative, interdisciplinary, multi-scalar effort to get there, he warns. And that effort must learn from the trials and tribulations from previous energy systems and technology transitions.

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Energy Research & Social Science, Professor Sovacool analyses energy transitions throughout history and argues that only looking towards the past can often paint an overly bleak and unnecessary picture…

From the report:
"In order to counteract path dependence, inertia, and lock-in, scholars looking at transitions theory have argued that truly transformative change must be the result of alterations at every level of the system simultaneously. That is, one must alter technologies, political and legal regulations, economies of scale and price signals, and social attitudes and values together. A widely cited theoretical manifestation of these ideas is encapsulated in a framework known as the “multilevel perspective” on socio-technical transitions and innovation [54], [55], [56], [57] and [58]. This suggests that transitions occur through interactions between three levels: the niche, the regime, and the landscape. The idea is that that niche-innovations often face uphill struggles against existing systems. The “landscape” refers to exogenous developments or shocks (e.g. economic crises, demographic changes, wars, ideological change, major environmental disruption like climate change) that create pressures on the regime, which in turn create windows of opportunity for the diffusion of niche-innovations."" Link to Abstract.


This Could Be One of the Greatest Hurdles for Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the US

John Dyer, Vice News
Methane emissions are among the greatest hurdles to the United States reducing its global carbon footprint.

And one of the greatest hurdles to reducing methane emissions is plugging leaks in the storage tanks, pipes, and other equipment that drillers and frackers use to extract and transport oil and gas.

"Something breaks for a few days and all of a sudden it’s emitting 1,000 times more emissions," said David Lyon, a scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Lyon wasn’t just referring to the massive methane plume that fouled the air outside Los Angeles for four months until it was stopped in February. He was thinking more about hundreds of less dramatic leaks…


How less stuff could make us happier – and fix stagnation

Katie Allen, The Guardian
Has western society reached “peak stuff”? If reports that once-insatiable shoppers are starting to cut back are true, what are the consequences for the old economic theory that more consumption equals greater happiness?

That is a question a Bank of England blogger has posed, with interesting and upbeat conclusions.

Writing on Bank Underground, a blog where Bank of England staff can challenge prevailing orthodoxies, Dan Nixon wondered if rather than shopping our way to satisfaction, a Buddhism-inspired trend of mindfulness has taught us that less is more…


New UN report finds almost no industry profitable if environmental costs were included

Michael Thomas, Exposing the Truth
A new report by Trucost on behalf of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) program sponsored by United Nations Environmental Program, examined the money earned by the biggest industries on this planet, and then contrasted them with 100 different types of environmental costs. To make this easier, they turned these 100 categories into 6: water use, land use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste pollution, land pollution, and water pollution. The report found that when you took the externalized costs into effect, essentially NONE of the industries was actually making a profit. The huge profit margins being made by the world’s most profitable industries (oil, meat, tobacco, mining, electronics) is being paid for against the future: we are trading long term sustainability for the benefit of shareholders. Sometimes the environmental costs vastly outweighed revenue, meaning that these industries would be constantly losing money had they actually been paying for the ecological damage and strain they were causing…


Syrian food crisis deepens as war chokes farming

Maha El Dahan, Reuters
Syria’s war has destroyed agricultural infrastructure and fractured the state system that provides farmers with seeds and buys their crops, deepening a humanitarian crisis in a country struggling to produce enough grain to feed its people.

The country’s shortage of its main staple wheat is worsening. The area of land sown with the cereal – used to make bread – and with barley has fallen again this year, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told Reuters.

The northeast province of Hasaka, which accounts for almost half the country’s wheat production has seen heavy fighting between the Kurdish YPG militia, backed by the U.S.-led air strikes, and Islamic State militants…


Where did all the oil go? The peak is back

Nafeez Ahmed, Middle East Eye
An extensive new scientific analysis published in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy & Environment says that proved conventional oil reserves as detailed in industry sources are likely “overstated” by half. According to standard sources like the Oil & Gas Journal, BP’s Annual Statistical Review of World Energy, and the US Energy Information Administration, the world contains 1.7 trillion barrels of proved conventional reserves.

However, according to the new study by Professor Michael Jefferson of the ESCP Europe Business School, a former chief economist at oil major Royal Dutch/Shell Group, this official figure which has helped justify massive investments in new exploration and development, is almost double the real size of world reserves.

Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIRES) is a series of high-quality peer-reviewed publications which runs authoritative reviews of the literature across relevant academic disciplines.

According to Professor Michael Jefferson, who spent nearly 20 years at Shell in various senior roles from head of planning in Europe to director of oil supply and trading, “the five major Middle East oil exporters altered the basis of their definition of ‘proved’ conventional oil reserves from a 90 percent probability down to a 50 percent probability from 1984. The result has been an apparent (but not real) increase in their ‘proved’ conventional oil reserves of some 435 billion barrels.”…

More at Peak Oil Barrell Link to the report.


Venezuela Orders Five-Day Weekends in Bid to Save Power Grid

Jose Orozco, Bloomberg
Venezuela declared five-day weekends for government workers and said it was seeking international help to save its power grid amid a drought that threatens the capital’s main source of electricity…

Venezuelans, except those in Caracas and some states, began to experience programmed four-hour rolling blackouts on Monday as a drought cripples generation at the Guri dam. It’s the latest blow to an economy that the International Monetary Fund forecasts will contract 8 percent this year, after shrinking 5.7 percent in 2015…


Saudi Arabia Releases Ambitious Plan To Diversify Economy

Nick Cunningham, OilPrice.com
On Monday, Saudi Arabia released a blueprint for the future, a plan for the Kingdom that could alter the course of its history. The "Vision for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" could radically transform Saudi Aramco, the Saudi economy, and the country’s social structure.

The plan has been pioneered by the 30-year-old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the second in line to the King, who has emerged as one of the most powerful figures in the Saudi government. Just a week ago his influence was on display; while it is difficult to know exactly what went on behind the scenes, all signs point to the Deputy Crown Prince overruling the long-standing and respected oil minister Ali al-Naimi to kill off the OPEC deal in Doha. ..


Netherlands moots electric car future with petrol and diesel ban by 2025

Alex Hern, The Guardian
Dutch politicians have voted through a motion calling on the country to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars starting in 2025.

The motion has only passed through the lower house of the Netherlands’ parliament, and would need to pass through the Dutch senate to become legally binding. But its success in a majority vote puts the earliest date yet on just when a major country might begin phasing out polluting transportation…


This is an incredible visualization of the world’s shipping routes

Brad Plumer, Vox
About 11 billion tons of stuff gets carried around the world every year by large ships. Clothes, flat-screen TVs, grain, cars, oil — transporting these goods from port to port is what makes the global economy go ’round.

And now there’s a great way to visualize this entire process, through this stunning interactive map from the UCL Energy Institute…

Via kiln.digital.


How can we adapt to climate change? Ask a farmer (and a pastor, and a business person, and…)

Sami Grover, Treehugger
From farmers to businesses to community leaders, there are people everywhere who are seeking to model what a future in a changed and changing climate may look like.

This video is just one of many created by The Climate Listening Project, an on-going series of "hopeful conversations on climate and community." Coordinated by producer Dayna Reggero (below), the project is a collaboration of groups and entities including K23 Media, Dogwood Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Audubon Society, Forsyth Audubon, Cultivating Resilience, MountainTrue, Regeneration International, Climate Interactive, The Collider, and Accelerating Appalachia…

 

News clippings image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.