In a surprise development this week, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Saudi Arabia has proposed that crude oil-producing countries cut production by up to 5% in an effort to raise worldwide prices. Saudi Arabia is OPEC’s largest producer. Any agreement to do so would be the first global deal in over a decade to help clear a glut of crude oil and prop up sinking prices. Any price increase would be welcomed by both OPEC and non-OPEC countries where the price collapse has caused budget squeezes and political turmoil with some nations even forced to devalue their currencies. In response to the statement by the Russians, a senior Persian Gulf OPEC delegate said: “Gulf OPEC countries and Saudi Arabia are willing to cooperate for any action to stabilize the international oil market.” Oil prices fell to a 12-year low of around $27 a barrel earlier this month, from as high as $115 18 months ago.

Any global agreement to raise crude oil prices could be undone by Iran, which is also a member of OPEC.  Iran wants to raise output after the lifting of Western nuclear sanctions which had curtailed its production for years. “Because of the international sanctions, we lost 1.1 million barrels per day of our exports. So we have to go back to our share of the market,” an Iranian source said this week.

Liquid natural gas (LNG) is likely to be in readily available supply until the early 2020s.The price of LNG has fallen due to low crude oil prices, less demand from Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, China, India and Taiwan, and more supply entering the global market from Australia, the United States, Malaysia and Indonesia. A lot of price contracts for LNG in Asia are tied directly to the plummeting price of crude oil.

Oslo Airport in Norway has become the world’s first airport to offer jet biofuel to all airlines. The biofuel, a mixture of jet fuel and the camelina plant, is produced by Finland’s Neste Porvoo and is supplied at the airport by Air BP. Lufthansa Group, SAS, and KLM have already signed agreements to purchase the fuel.

Biodiesel consumption in the US hit a record number of nearly 2.1 billion gallons in 2015, according to US Environmental Protection Agency. This compares with 1.97 billion gallons in 2014.

Four US Navy’s warships, powered by 10% biofuel and 90% petroleum, are currently conducting operations in the Pacific Ocean. The biofuel is made out of beer fat. The ships include the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS John C. Stennis and the guided-missile destroyer the USS Stockdale. These are the first ships to begin regular operation with the biofuel and petroleum fuel mix. Other ships in the strike group and throughout the Navy will be receiving the alternative fuel blend over the next year. The Navy has a goal of  obtaining half of its power from alternative energy by 2020.

Market research firm IHS forecasts the UK will add 1 gigawatt of new energy storage capacity by the year 2020.

Lux Research says the global market for distributed storage for solar systems will be worth $8 billion in 2026 as solar combines with energy storage. Energy storage will increase the distributed solar market by 25 gigawatts annually in 2026. Being able to store solar energy is a key necessity for solar to overcome limitations like intermittency of sunshine and the inability of solar plants to produce electric power after dark.

Next year the world’s first robot-run farm will start operations in Kyoto, Japan.  Japanese lettuce production company Spread is creating the world’s first farm manned entirely by robots and expects to harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce every day. The robots look more like conveyor belts with arms and will plant seeds, water plants, and trim lettuce heads. The automated operation is expected to reduce labor costs by 50%, cut energy use by 30%, and recycle 98% of water needed to grow the crops.

The UK must get 15% of all energy from renewable energy sources by 2020 in order to meet its European Union imposed target. In 2014, the country derived 7% of all energy for electric power generation, heat and transport from renewables. This was up from 5.6% in 2013.

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