asian correspondant reported that as Japan moves away from nuclear it is turning to natural gas. And not just any form of natural gas.  Japan is looking for methyl hydrates which are abundant below the deep cold waters of the Earth’s oceans.  “Two state-owned companies have begun work on prospective natural gas drill sites off the coast of Japan. The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation are drilling in separate locations for methane hydrate – a form of semi-solid natural gas. If successful, Japan would be the owner of the world’s first seabed methane hydrate production.” These specific deposits could supply Japan’s needs for 14 years. Following the Fukushima disaster and the closing of most of Japan’s nuclear plants, the country is desperate to find reliable sources of 24/7 energy to ensure its electric power requirements. Rather than depend on foreign sources for supply, the country is looking at using its own resources to substitute for those reactors.

MacCleans said bye-bye, oil sheiks of the Middle East. The magazine looks at the oil and gas boom in North America (the Canadian oil sands and the shale gas finds in Canada and the US) and their sudden impact on the world energy equation and energy independence for North America.

Meanwhile The Global Warming Policy Foundation looked at the implications of the global shale gas revolution for Russia’s Gazprom.  Until now, Gazprom has had a stranglehold over natural gas supplies to Europe through its pipeline control.  Can this control continue in the face of shale gas finds in Europe and potential liquified natural gas (LNG) imports from North America and Australia? “Gazprom is a central pillar of Putin’s power. But globally, the gas industry is changing, moving on to new technologies and new sources of natural gas. If Russia is unable to keep up, it will be left behind once again.”

The same source also told us that England’s Blackpool shale gas reserves may be large enough to meet its energy needs for 70 years.

The Latin American Herald Tribune informed us that wind will supply 15% of Mexico’s electricity by 2020. By that date total installed wind power capacity in Mexico will reach some 12 GW.

Building wind farms off the east coast of the United States will be risky said The Daily Mail. Experts predict that in 20 years half of the proposed wind turbines off the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts could be damaged by hurricanes which are common to the areas each year. ‘Hurricanes pose a significant risk to wind turbines off the U.S. Gulf and East coasts, even if they are designed to the most stringent current standard,” say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. Currently there are plans to build large wind farms off the coasts of Texas, Massachusetts, New Jersey and North Carolina.

Der Spiegel wrote that the European Union’s carbon emissions trading system isn’t working. The EU expected that an efficient carbon trading market would reduce the amount of greenhouse gases. But so far it isn’t working. The price for emissions certificates has plunged to around €8 ($10.60) per metric ton, a development that is actually making coal more attractive than renewable energy. This should be a warning to Australia who’s carbon tax is set to start in July at $35 (€28.67) per metric ton. The German paper also reports that Germany’s energy revolution is being undermined by the plunging value of the emissions certificates. Revenues from the certificates were to help fund the transition from nuclear to renewable energy.  But so far “the outlook for the fund remains bleak for 2012, given that the income from emissions trading has fallen short of predictions.”

The Global Warming Foundation wrote about Germany’s energy transition fiasco. “Germany’s phase-out of nuclear energy is not even near of being finalised, yet there is a growing threat that it will be abandoned. There are more and more signs that the transition from a nuclear to a 35 percent renewable energy supply by 2020 is not going to work.” Germany’s obstacles to attaining its goal include citizen opposition to wind turbines, a national grid that is already facing bottlenecks and shutdowns, the inability of the grid to accommodate new wind and solar installations, and the decommissioning of coal and nuclear plants. As a result, whereas two years ago the country had a reserve electricity capacity of 13.8 GW, this buffer will be gone by 2015.  Click Green picked up on this theme saying that Germany’s offshore energy plans are stalling because of the lack of power lines.

This week saw a study analyzing the impact of Canada’s ethanol policy on the livestock and meat industry. The authors conclude that the Canadian ethanol industry has been created and supported by federal and provincial subsidies, grants and mandated usage of the product in gasoline.  As a consequence, it created a subsidized competitor for Canadian feed grains. The effect has been to create reduced incentives for livestock production in Canada.  The study found that ethanol production increased the price of feed grains in eastern and western Canada; reduced livestock feeding margins and  losses for Canadian producers; and will result in a serious reduction in feed availability in eastern Canada which , in turn, will result in a dramatic reduction of cattle and hog feeding in eastern Canada. The study’s take: “Governments must realize that the red meat industry developed over a long period of time; if it were to drastically decline, it would take a very long time to return.

Domestic Fuel directed us to a website that lets us know everything we wanted to know about algae. Called  the site discusses the potential of algae-based products to provide sustainable and scalable sources for energy and fuel. Algae-derived products such as biodiesel, aviation fuel, biochemicals, animal feed and nutritional supplements.

OILPRICE had a post on the positive impact of green energy on the world’s poor.  In a nutshell, in the poorest parts of the globe renewable energy, and particularly solar,  is a way of solving their present, low-tech energy crisis. The article talks about how solar is changing the lives of electricity deficient peoples in Africa, Asia and Central America.

Sri Lanka: coal or renewable energy – what is the solution? Deutsche Welle delved into the dilemma facing Sri Lanka and similar countries which do not have domestic fossil fuel resources and are facing higher and higher costs of importing coal, diesel and natural gas to produce electricity. Their alternative is to start to build a large renewable energy infrastructure (solar, wind) and  turn the economy and lifestyle in a new direction. The problem is compounded by insufficient electricity grids and a lack of energy infrastructure. Right now the country is moving in both directions: building new coal plants while adding wind farms and solar installations. While Sri Lanka might prefer renewable energy, the country cannot give up fossil-based fuels entirely because its energy needs are simply too huge. Yet with the price of coal rising, driving by demand from China and India, the country wonders how much longer it can afford to continue to rely on fossil fuels.  The island receives large amounts of sunlight, the coasts and the Indian Ocean present a unique opportunity to generate hydropower, and wind and tidal power are also strong possibilities. Renewable energy may be its only option in the long run.

GreenBang answered the question for us: What is the Smart Grid? Its answer: an energy infrastructure with built-in, automated and real-time or near-real-time sensing, monitoring, measurement, communications and control capabilities.  Read more about it in the post.  You will be hearing a lot more about the smart grid in the years to come. EnergyBiz told us how the smart grid is creeping into the lives of consumers.



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