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Oil Analyst [CERA’s Yergin] Says Renewables Get Competitive

Marianne Lavelle, U.S.News & World Report (journalist’s blog)
Those who believe that oil is running out have a special scorn for prominent oil industry consultant and analyst Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Yergin, who wrote The Prize, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book that stands as the definitive history of the oil industry, has often dismissed concerns that the world is at or near “peak oil,” or the point at which petroleum production will begin an inexorable decline.

Peak Oilers even recently issued a $100,000 wager-not accepted yet-challenging CERA’s June 2007 forecast that global oil capacity would rise from its current 91 million barrels per day to 112 million barrels per day by 2017.

The run-up in the cost of oil over the past five years has indeed made CERA’s price forecasts seem optimistic, although the consultants haven’t been totally sanguine about the oil scene-particularly about the geopolitical factors that limit access to petroleum.

In any case, Yergin this week offered his take on the role of oil’s (and coal’s) clean competitors in the energy market. “Renewable energy is crossing the divide towards a competitive role in energy markets,” he said at the government-sponsored Washington International Renewable Energy Conference. “But there is still more terrain to cover among the different renewable energy sources in terms of economics, technology, and scale.”

Depending on how well renewables traverse that terrain, CERA forecasts that clean power could supply as little as 7 percent or as much as 16 percent of the world’s electric needs by 2030.
(6 March 2008)
Peak-oil aware journalist. If you like a journalist’s work, support it with a letter to the editor, a comment in the blog, etc. A letter to the editor is especially valuable. -BA

Turning Glare Into Watts

Matthew L. Wald, New York Times
… the world appears to be on the verge of a boom in a little-known but promising type of solar power.

It is not the kind that features shiny panels bolted to the roofs of houses. This type involves covering acres of desert with mirrors that focus intense sunlight on a fluid, heating it enough to make steam. The steam turns a turbine and generates electricity.

The technology is not new, but it is suddenly in high demand. As prices rise for fossil fuels and worries grow about their contribution to global warming, solar thermal plants are being viewed as a renewable power source with huge potential.

After a decade of no activity, two prototype solar thermal plants were recently opened in the United States, with a capacity that could power several big hotels, neon included, on the Las Vegas Strip, about 20 miles north of here.
(6 March 2008)

Australia: Coalition goes cool on nuclear energy plants

Chris Hammer, The Age
THE Federal Opposition has quietly ditched its support for a nuclear power industry in Australia.

Environment spokesman Greg Hunt has told The Age: “In the next 40 years, I think there is a zero chance of a nuclear power industry in Australia.”
(28 February 2008)

Why wind needs feed-in tariffs (and why it is not the enemy of nuclear)

Jerome a Paris, European Tribune
An argument often heard against wind is that it costs a lot in public subsidies for a solution that will always have a limited impact (because it still produces only a small fraction of overall needs, and because of its unreliability linked to its intermitten nature). This is an argument worth addressing in detail, especially when it is pointed out, as the graph shows, that wind is already almost competitive with the other main sources of electricity, which suggests that it might not even need the subsidies then (and the increase in commodity prices since that graph was prepared using 2004 data, only reinforces that argument).

We are on the brink of a new energy order. Over the next few decades, our reserves of oil will start to run out and it is imperative that governments in both producing and consuming nations prepare now for that time. We should not cling to crude down to the last drop – we should leave oil before it leaves us. That means new approaches must be found soon.
(2 March 2008)
Also at Daily Kos.

Wave-power proposals alarm locals

Frank Hartzell, Christian Science Monitor
US waters could supply up to 10 percent of electric needs but fast-track permits anger communities.

From roadless villages in Alaska to remote bends in the Mississippi River, developers are staking claim to thousands of miles of America’s oceans and rivers to test devices that use waves and currents to produce electric power.

Their experiments are launching a new industry that has the potential to supply up to 10 percent of America’s electric needs. But critics say rapid federal approval of the exclusive right to conduct these experiments amounts to a private seizure of communities’ waterfronts.

“This process, especially in Oregon, feels like a new Klondike gold rush,” says environmentalist Richard Charter, a longtime leader in ocean-protection efforts. “There are people filing claims, people jumping claims, and nobody looking at the big picture. The most amazing part of this power gold rush is that it seems to be happening entirely under the national radar.”
(4 March 2008)

From geeks to greens

The Economist
Executives are switching in droves from the computer industry to clean-technology firms. Do they have what it takes to succeed?

WHEN Shai Agassi, long the heir apparent at SAP, was told in March 2007 that he would not become chief executive for at least another two years, he quit. And when the German software giant then tried to change his mind by offering to make him boss right away, he realised he was “much more excited” about the new chance that his unexpected freedom would grant him. In January Mr Agassi’s new start-up, Better Place, announced its first deal, in partnership with Renault, a carmaker, and the government of Israel: to “get an entire country off its addiction to gasoline” by switching to electric cars.

Though Mr Agassi is the most senior executive so far to quit a mainstream information-technology firm for clean tech, he is far from alone. Mr Agassi (pictured right, above) joins Elon Musk (pictured left), a co-founder of PayPal who is now chairman of Tesla Motors, an electric-car start-up, and Vinod Khosla (pictured centre), a legendary venture capitalist who has switched his focus from dotcommery to greenery, among many others. “There is an unbelievable migration of talent from traditional technology to clean technology,” says Adam Grosser, a partner at Foundation Capital, a big Silicon Valley venture firm. “They have had their social conscience energised, and they believe there is a lot of money to be made. So you get to exercise your capitalist desires while feeling self-righteous at the same time.”
(28 February 2008)