Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute have found that solar energy can offer about 100 times as much clean energy as any other source. The scientists estimate that energy can be harvested with 93% efficiency from direct sunlight, and 73% from diffuse, ambient light. Currently, the average efficiency of solar photovoltaic technology (PV) is only 20%, well below the theoretical maximum. For wind energy, the best possible efficiency is only about 0.5 percent. Making biofuels from plants operating through photosynthesis turns out to be only slightly better, with a maximum efficiency of 1.5% on land, mostly because plants manage to gather light energy only from a small fraction of the spectrum.

Many observers note that sub-$50 crude oil prices are causing a contraction of the global oil industry with weekly news of bankruptcies, falling profits, and the dumping of petroleum assets at low prices. US loans and lines of credit to the domestic shale industry are disappearing. Moreover, any drop in US high-cost shale oil production is likely to be offset by low-cost Iranian oil as it starts to come to market. To add further downward pressure on global oil prices, China’s economy continues to shrink and some economists are predicting economists that the Asian country is headed for a recession with a growth rate of less that 3%.

The decline in crude oil prices has taken its toll on new liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects worldwide. Currently, at least 46 major projects – holding approximately 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent in resources – have been put on hold due to the low price of oil.

In addition low oil prices has affected the price gap between Asian and US LNG. Until the past year Asian LNG was priced $14 per million BTUs above US LNG.  Now that gap has decreased to $5, making the idea of US exports to Asia much less profitable.

A growing number of ship owners globally are turning from diesel to liquified natural gas so as to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions as government regulations tighten. About 70 vessels of all sizes worldwide are now powered by LNG, up from 42 in just two years, according to DNV GL. By 2020, this number may pass 1,000.

Low crude oil prices is helping poorer countries in the Middle East and North Africa import food. From Iran to Morocco, the cost of importing basic grains such as wheat and barley has fallen by a third from what it was just a few years ago.

Much of the future growth in offshore crude oil exploration and production is expected from the West African nations of Nigeria and Angola. The Gulf of Mexico’s share in the global offshore business has declined from about one-half the global total in 2000 to less than 20% in the years since 2008.

Russia’s Gazprom is attempting to settle the European Union antitrust case in which the natural gas company is accused of charging unfair prices to several East European countries – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia. Russia has been using its near monopoly on natural gas in the region as a political tool for many years to influence the behaviour of other countries it supplies. If accepted, the settlement could avoid billion-dollar fines that the the EU is threatening to impose on Gazprom, but could also force Russia to change the way it sells natural gas in the EU.

The California Air Resources Board has voted to require a 10% cut in the carbon content of transportation fuels sold in the US state by 2020.

This site provides information on 21 electric cars that can be purchased in North America.

EV Obsession reports that since 2006 1 million electric vehicles have been sold globally. The largest selling EV is the Nissan Leaf (about 200,000 sales) and the US accounts for 1/3 of all EV sales to date worldwide. To put these numbers in perspective, there were 83 million automobiles sold worldwide in 2014 alone.

A study from the Energy Institute at Haas, at the University of California, Berkeley found that the majority of US federal tax credits for electric vehicles go to higher-income households. The researches found that the top income quintile (households making more than $200,000 per year) received about 90% of all credits to purchase an EV.

The US government plans to lease nearly 344,000 acres of the ocean floor off the coast of New Jersey to companies interested in building offshore wind turbines to generate electricity.



with h/t Tom Whipple

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