It is estimated that two billion people in the world use biomass fuels as their main source of domestic energy. About 30% of urban families and 90% of rural households in developing countries rely on traditional biomass fuels as the major, or only, source of domestic energy.

Norwegian energy company Statoil announced another major crude oil discovery during its work in deep water off the coast of Brazil. The well is about 75 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro in about 9,100 feet of water. Statoil said the well contains at least 250 million barrels of oil equivalent. This is the sixth such discovery by the Norwegian energy company in the last year.

Exxon Mobil Chairman and Chief Executive Rex W. Tillerson said last week that his company expects global energy demand will rise 30% by 2040 from 2010 levels. Exxon expects that electricity demand will make natural gas the fastest growing energy source, with crude oil and natural gas expected to meet 60% of energy needs over the next three decades.

More than 60 nuclear projects are being planned in the world today and most of the new nuclear plants are being built in emerging markets according to the World Energy Council.  30 countries have nuclear plants with the U.S., France and Japan representing half of the world’s nuclear energy.  Four countries — Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Italy — have slowed or stopped their nuclear programs.

On a global scale, hydropower continues to be the most widely used renewable energy source, providing 88% of electricity generated from all renewable sources.

In 2011 the US spent $24 billion on energy subsidies, with the vast majority going to renewable energy sources. Renewable energy and energy efficiency accounted for $16 billion while the fossil-fuel industry received $2.5 billion in tax breaks. The largest amount for renewable support ($6 billion) went to the ethanol industry.

A study by University of Edinburgh economics professor Gordon Hughes warns that using wind turbines to cut carbon emissions costs 10 times that of electricity produced by a natural gas-fired power station. He concludes: “Wind power is an extraordinarily expensive and inefficient way of reducing CO2 emissions when compared with the option of investing in efficient and flexible gas combined-cycle plants.” (You can read the study here.)

Five years ago Spain was the number one market for renewable energy.  Now it has dropped out of the top 10 countries after having had to slash its massive subsidies to wind and solar companies in an attempt to reduce its growing government deficits. A new report by Ernst & Young lists the top 10 countries for renewables as: China, the US, Germany, India, the UK. Italy, France, Canada, Sweden, and Brazil. Spain tied with Australia in 11th spot.

Italy’s total energy bill, which includes the cost of imported oil, gas and electricity, surged to a record last year and now accounts for 4% of the country’s GDP. In 2011 the bill increased 19% to 63 billion euros ($83.3 billion), up from 52.9 billion euros in 2010.

Leaked documents indicate the UK has told the EU that it wants to spend more on nuclear energy and less on other renewable energy sources in order to meet its 2030 renewable energy target. This is being considered a blow to the nation’s wind, tidal and wave power companies.

The Australian Industry Group and Business Council of Australia – two crucial supporters of the government’s carbon tax – have called on the  government to cut the starting price from $23 per tonne of carbon emissions to a level closer to Europe’s $10 a tonne price. Already suffering from a high dollar, the business leaders are concerned about the impact of the tax on the country’s international competitiveness and the domestic economy. The tax is scheduled to take effect on July 1st.

The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that Pakistan lost 3% of GDP growth last year due to electricity and natural gas shortages.

A groundswell of public opposition to shale gas drilling in Europe, driven by environmental concerns, is a major problem for what could be a very important industry, said the Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol.

North American railroads are profiting from the shale oil and gas and tar sands boom. Business is nearly back to 2006 levels driven by the shipment of steel and other items for energy production related equipment.

German auto makers are demanding that the state fund their electric car manufacturing.  The industry was supposed to receive funding from the proceeds of the carbon emission trading scheme.  However, the value of that fund has fallen 40% and, as a result, budgetary allotments for renewable energy products have been slashed. In response to the unexpected cuts, German auto industry leaders — despite raking in record profits of late — have written to the German chancellor. Angela Merkel, requesting that she follow through on her pledge to support their electric vehicle programs.



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