Statoil, Norway’s state oil firm, says that methane hydrate, frozen into the seabeds, potentially contains more energy than all the world’s known coal, oil and gas reserves combined. Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation  has been drilling test wells into methane hydrate reserves in the Nankai trough, off Japan’s southwest coast. It predicts the first gas will be extracted this year and suggests there could be enough methane hydrate in the trough to supply all Japan’s energy for 300 years. Huge reserves are already believed to lie off China, South Korea and India.

Oil production from the US state of North Dakota surged 42% to 510,000 barrels a day in November, exceeding the output of OPEC member Ecuador, as energy explorers accelerated drilling in the Bakken Shale formation.

Chinese, French and Japanese energy explorers invested more than $8 billion in the past two weeks on US shale gas rock formations from Pennsylvania to Texas.

Qatar Petroleum said it may reconfigure its US import terminal to export gas to Europe in a bid to cash in on the US supply glut arising from the shale gas revolution.

China will soon account for half the coal burned on the planet even though its renewable energy investments tripled this year. Coal accounts for about 70% of electricity in the country.

Pakistan is heading for a major energy crisis as there are shortages of natural gas supply at home and friendly countries have refused to extend any more credit for petroleum imports from abroad.

A recent poll found that 43% of households in England fear they cannot pay their next gas and electricity bills.

The Australian state of Victoria raised electricity rates 10% on January 1st and they are expected to rise another 10% on July 1st when the nation’s carbon tax takes effect. A recent report from the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) estimates residential electricity prices throughout Australia will rise 37% in nominal terms on average by 2014.

Rising energy costs pushed German inflation up to 2.3% in 2011. This compares with 1.1% in 2010 and 0.4% in 2009. It was the highest annual figure since 2008, when inflation was 2.6%. Excluding energy prices, inflation would only have been 1.3%. Total energy prices, including motor fuels, rose 10% in the year. Motor fuel and heating oil prices alone rose 13.9% over the year.

Tanzania’s regulator has approved an immediate 40% increase in the price of electricity after rejecting a request for a 155% increase by the Tanzania Electric Supply Company.

Global investment in renewable energy was a record $251 billion in 2011. The US spent $54 billion, retaking the No. 1 spot it lost to China in 2009. Australia spent $4.7 billion, an increase of 11% over the previous year, mostly from increases in rooftop solar. Globally, investments in solar surged 36% to $136.6 billion, nearly double that of wind at $74.9 billion, which dropped 17%. Solar PV prices are now 75% lower than three years ago, in mid-2008, dropping 50% in 2011 alone. The volume of solar PV sold has increased much faster as it approaches competitiveness with other sources of power. Investment in biofuels remained constant while biomass and waste-to-energy fell 18%. Geothermal investments also fell 14%.

A new study by renewable energy experts, Puragen, reveals that only 20% of UK homeowners would consider putting solar panels on their rooftops. The research also reveals that age is a key factor when it comes to choosing whether to invest in solar panels, with many believing they won’t live long enough to recoup the initial upfront costs of going solar. The typical expected lifetime of solar panels is around 25 years.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have devised a new way to more accurately compare how efficiently plants and photovoltaic, or solar, cells convert sunlight into energy, which could ultimately help researchers improve plant photosynthesis, a critical first link to enhancing the global supply of food, feed, fiber and bioenergy.

 

w  h/t Tom Whipple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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