Climate & Energy

OPEC issues bizarre oil threat, <em>Financial Times</em> also confused

OPEC nations demand that petroleum-consuming countries maintain current thirst for oil

NPR's Marketplace called me today for comments on this bizarre Financial Times article: "Opec to seek assurances on oil demand." Apparently these absurdly rich countries -- with projected revenues of $658 billion this year -- who are selling their product at nearly $100 a barrel, are threatening not to invest in new production unless the consuming countries promise to maintain demand. Seriously! No, seriously: Opec will this week seek assurances from some of the world's biggest oil consumers that they will maintain their demand as the members of the oil cartel come under intense pressure to boost investment in production capacity. This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard, which is saying a lot considering who our president is. First off, who exactly can speak for the consuming nations and make a binding promise to keep up demand in the face of record-breaking prices? Nobody. This is capitalism. If high prices lead to fuel-switching, how could, say, President Bush, promise to stop it -- especially since he has already promised to encourage fuel switching? Second, as I blogged recently, pretty much every producing country, except Saudi Arabia, is producing flat out. Yet demand keeps going up even at these prices. If OPEC is really worried about demand destruction, then they should want to invest in as much new production as quickly as possible. Indeed, the IEA predicted back in July that the world will see "increasing market tightness beyond 2010, with OPEC spare capacity declining to minimal levels by 2012." Third, IEA projects global oil demand will "expand by 1.9 million barrels a day, or 2.2% a year on average, reaching 95.8 million barrels a day by 2012, up from 86.13 million barrels a day this year." OPEC would be crazy not to invest in as much new supply as they could to meet this demand. Where is a better place for their money -- holding dollars? So what is the real motive behind this bizarre threat? And how is the normally dependable Financial Times confused?

Group urges Congress to ban bunker fuel in wake of S.F. oil spill

In the wake of the catastrophic oil spill in San Francisco Bay, green group Friends of the Earth has started a petition drive urging Congress to ban the use of bunker fuel, which is gooey, …

Independent Québec

Backing away from corn ethanol

The big news north of the (U.S.) border is that Québec's government has decided that there is no future in corn ethanol. As explained in an article posted on Canada's Cyberpresse website, back in May 2005 Québec's then Minister for Agriculture, Yvon Vallières, gave a green light, "for obvious economic and ecological reasons," to the construction of the first plant to manufacture ethanol from corn kernels, in the town of Varennes. However, during an emission of the Enquête television program (click to view) on Radio-Canada last Thursday evening, Québec's Minister for Natural Resources, Claude Béchard, promised that the 120-million-litre-per year Varennes plant would be the first and the last of its kind. "It is necessary to turn to other [feedstock] sources," he said. No other ethanol factory based on corn will be built in Québec. On Sunday, a leader in one of Montreal's newspapers, The Gazette expressed satisfaction with the decision, declaring, "Backing away from ethanol makes sense."

The 'other' Achilles heel of coal

Coal plants, like nuclear, suck up lots of water during operation

We've seen states like Kansas reject coal plants because of concerns the emissions will accelerate global warming. That's coal's biggest fatal flaw. We've also seen that nuclear power has its own Achilles heel in a globally warmed world -- water. Now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in a major editorial, raises both the emissions issue and the water issue for coal. It questions whether now is the time to be building thirsty coal plants in a state where major water sources like Lake Lanier (see picture) are drying up: Months before the drought had seized the public's full attention, the state Environmental Protection Division [EPD] granted permits for a new coal-fired power plant in Early County, a rural community in a severely depressed corner of southwest Georgia. But for a variety of reasons -- including mounting concerns about long-lasting water shortages and worsening air pollution -- state regulators ought to reconsider, or perhaps even reverse, their decision.The drought has forced citizens and political officials to confront environmental concerns that are usually brushed aside. So, while Mother Nature has our attention, Georgia's leaders should think broadly about conserving all of our resources and expanding our energy portfolio. Just how much water does the coal plant need?

Climate change could put millions out of work, says U.N.

Not only is climate change not a hoax manufactured by dirty hippies who hope to put every American out of a job, global warming is real enough to, um, put millions of people out of …

How to get more distributed generation on the grid

Interview with smart grid expert Steve Pullins, part two

For nearly 30 years, Steve Pullins has worked in and around the utility industry, in capacities ranging from systems engineering to project development to high-level consulting. He currently works at SAIC, where he heads the …

Tracking Lieberman-Warner: Senate Environment Committee hearing

NRDC says it supports ASCA

Forgive the intermittent posting. The live feed is coming and going a bit. It came back in just in time for me to hear David Hawkins say on behalf of the NRDC -- though not on behalf of USCAP -- that the bill's "emissions reductions in the early years are strong. Toward the end ... we'll need emissions reductions to be stronger than they are." But, he went on, it "merits an affirmative vote."

Tracking Lieberman-Warner: Senate Environment Committee hearing

Prepared statements of those testifying before the committee

Prepared statements, now available: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca), Chairman, Committee on the Environment and Public Works David Hawkins, Director, Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council Dr. David Greene, Corporate Fellow, Geography and Environmental Engineering, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Robert Baugh, Executive Director, Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO Andrew Sharkey, President and CEO, American Iron and Steel Institute Donald R. Rowlett, Director of Regulatory Policy and Compliance, OGE Energy Corp.

Tracking Lieberman-Warner: Senate Environment Committee hearing

Cardin wants more money for public transit

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) says he can support the bill if it provides more funds for public transportation, including at the state level. He said this in the context of a response to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who wants the bill changed to a sector-by-sector (as opposed to economy-wide) cap-and-trade system. Cardin suggested that Senators shouldn't be demanding extraordinary changes to the legislation and threatening to withhold support unless their demands are met. My guess? Cardin's suggestion is futile.

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