The UN has agreed to protect local populations in developing countries against “land grabbing” by international firms in order to help ensure the right to food. Over the past decade there have been concerns that when large investors buy up land, small farmers are often driven from the land that feeds them. Up to 83 million hectares of land have been sold or leased to investors since 2000 – especially in Africa.  Much of this land is being used to grow plants for biofuels. The voluntary UN guidelines specify how soil and land use rights, fisheries and forests should be handled. They are intended to increase transparency in land investment, give residents a greater say and especially to strengthen the position of the local small farmers.

Pakistanis held demonstrations in several cities to voice their anger over the worsening electricity crisis, as summer temperature soars to over 40 degrees C. in some parts.

Croatia is facing higher energy prices as rates for natural gas and electricity were raised this month. Gas bills increased 22% and electricity costs went up 20%.

Currently 60 nuclear reactors are under construction worldwide, with a total capacity of around 60 GW. In February, the United States issued the  first new construction licenses for nuclear reactors in 38 years.

Japan’s government will take a controlling stake in Tokyo Electric Power under a plan effectively nationalizing one of the world’s largest utilities. The government will inject $12 billion as part of a 10-year restructuring aimed at preventing the power monopoly from going bankrupt.

Since closing all of its nuclear reactors, Japan has been forced to import fossil fuels to keep the lights on and the country running. From March 2011 to March 2012 Japanese electric utilities increased imports of fuel oil by 165%, crude oil by 174%, liquified natural gas by 39%, and coal by 12%. The high cost of these fossil fuel imports has contributed to Japan’s trade deficit of $32 billion, the country’s first such deficit in over 30 years.

India will increase imports of liquefied natural gas, as domestic gas output is projected to decline in the next two to three years.

Moody’s has lowered its outlook for the US coal industry to negative and expects some of the decline in US coal consumption to be permanent. Electricity producers’ demand for coal has diminished recently as natural gas prices have sunk to new lows.

The United Arab Emirate’s strategic oil pipeline for bypassing the Strait of Hormuz is complete and exports are expected to start within three months. Initially operating at a rate of 1.4 million b/d, the pipeline should offer the Gulf producer an alternative route out of the narrow strait which Iran has threatened to block.

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) officials said that huge new crude oil reserves were discovered in the deep waters of the Caspian Sea. Early estimates have put the field’s oil reserves at 8-10 billion barrels, though exploration activities are still underway. Iran also announced the discovery of a huge Caspian gas field which could contain 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Canada’s Foreign Minister reiterated that the current government will not be introducing a carbon tax to address greenhouse gas emissions.

The Serbian government has signed a memorandum to build the world’s largest solar park at an estimated cost of two billion euros (over $2.5 billion). The proposed solar park, spread over 3,000 hectares of land, would have an estimated capacity of 1 GW. The country receives about 40% more solar radiation than other parts of southeastern Europe.

French solar PV capacity reached 3 GW in March, with 2.7 GW in mainland France and 339 MW in Corsica and overseas.

There are currently 18 waste-to-gasification plants operating in the US, roughly 10% of the world’s total. 57% of all the plants in the world are in the Asia/Australia region, with most of those operating in China. Waste gasification is a process that uses high temperatures to convert just about any form of municipal waste into a synthetic gas, also known as syngas, without burning the material. The syngas can then be used to generate electricity or produce synthetic transportation fuels. Materials such as paper, plastic, and rubber can be gasified.


with h/t Tom Whipple


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