Energy Outlook asked Is North America the New Middle East for Oil? The resurgence in US and Canadian crude oil production suggests there is the potential for North America to move within striking distance of true oil independence. The author noted that US reserves alone could supply that country for the next 100 years: “…the nearly 200 billion barrels of discovered and undiscovered “technically recoverable oil resources” onshore and offshore, in the lower-48 and Alaska. That figure represents more than 95 years of production at current rates. Technology is changing what is possible and is opening up the vast oil and gas resources in the Bakken shale formation and the Canadian tar sands. But the author also questioned whether these reserves will be tapped to their fullest extent.  Headwinds loom not only from the environmental movement, but also from those who have invested heavily in alternative transportation energy sources like electric cars and biofuels.

Meanwhile, The Financial Post commented on how the US rise to a major energy exporter will impact Canada.

EurActiv wrote about Germany’s exploration of hydrogen power. The country is investigating the potential for hydrogen as an energy source in light of the country’s decision to move away from nuclear power.  Last October, in an area 120 kilometers north of Berlin, Enertrag AG began operating one of the country’s first hybrid plants to generate wind power and convert it into hydrogen. Enertrag plans to build 10 MW of hydrogen conversion capacity from 2015 onwards. Hydrogen can be contained and transported without carbon emissions and it can generate power and heat, fuel cars or feed into natural gas pipelines. The biggest question mark concerns its profitability. Producing hydrogen or methane, a gas derived from it in another conversion process, costs two to four times more than Germany pays for imported gas. Enertrag is pushing for feed-in tariffs, or state subsidies, for hydrogen similar to those provided to wind and solar power.

Germany is going to spend Germany’s 200 billion euros ($263 billion) on renewable energy as it tries to replace the power from its nuclear reactors reported Bloomberg.  This amounts to about 8% of the country’s 2011 GDP. This will be the country’s largest reconstruction of its energy market since the Second World War. It intends to build offshore wind farms that will cover an area six times the size of New York City and erect power lines that could stretch from London to Baghdad. Some are describing the Germany as “a big energy laboratory”. “If Germany succeeds, it could be a role model for economies all over the world,” said Claudia Kemfert, a senior energy expert. “If it fails, it will be a disaster for Germany’s politicians, society and economy.”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) thinks that renewable power “is coming of age” we learned from UPI Energy Resources. Renewable energy makes up about 20% of the electricity produced worldwide and the IEA expects that share to pass 30% by 2035 despite the fact governments are cutting back on their subsidies for solar and wind. As renewable energy becomes more competitive, governments are starting to limit their financial support. IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said: “Observers who attribute these cuts solely to government belt-tightening in an age of austerity are missing the bigger picture. Renewable energy is swiftly coming of age, reducing the need for public support.”

CBS warned about the great green energy hoax.  The author writes about how the US green energy policy and high profile bankruptcies have negatively impacted employment and the economy while the oil and natural gas sectors are booming.

Climate Spectator observed that the UK is keeping its carbon limits high enough to ensure that the natural gas plants can operate. Needing a reliable back up of electricity, the Energy Minister announced a proposed level of 454 grams of carbon per kilowatt-hour (g/kWh) of electricity will remain in effect until 2045.

Climate Spectator also covered the Peak Oil debate. In The Death of Peak Oil Alan Kohler wrote about the transformation to world energy markets as a result of the shale oil and gas revolution as it ends the fear of Peak Oil, “Forget declining oil, there is a new global oil rush.” Climate Spectator responded with two opposing views in Why Kohler is right on peak oil and Why Kohler is wrong on peak oil.

Forbes told us we can learn about thorium nuclear power from Norway. Norway has 170,000 tonnes of thorium, which amounts to 15% of the world’s total of 1.2 million tonnes. Some believe that thorium nuclear power might be a better environmental/energy-strategy for Norway than relying on carbon-capture which many consider to be uneconomic. Indeed, the Nordic nation could set the trend in building a prototype nuclear reactor. Thorium is considered a better fuel than uranium because (1) it is 3 times more abundant that uranium, (2) it can be bred into the fissile nuclear fuel uranium-233, (3) it produces far less plutonium and other radioactive elements than uranium, and (4) the thorium process might be used to consume plutonium, thus reducing the nuclear stockpile while converting it into useful electrical energy. However, a thorium reactor would be very expensive and there are a host of scientific and technological hurdles to overcome for it to be a reality. Yet thorium might well power a new generation of reactors when we are short of uranium and reach the limits of oil and gas.

The Breakthrough Institute said that UK greens are divided on nuclear power. Five leading UK environmentalists said abandoning plans for nuclear power would be a “serious environmental mistake,” according to a letter submitted to Prime Minister David Cameron last week. These five took issue with a letter to Cameron from four former directors of Friends of the Earth who said pursuing nuclear power was too expensive and risky, and would put the UK’s “energy future in the hands of the French.”

Deutsche Welle told us that Greece plans to revive its economy by exporting the Sun.  Greece intends to export solar power to large markets like Germany, taking advantage of a European Union goal that requires member states to produce 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Currently Greek solar power is too expensive to export so it will need subsidies, perhaps through bi-lateral deals with other EU countries, to make the electricity exports profitable. Greece hopes to be producing 10 GW of solar electricity by the end of this decade.

Pedal powered generators are bringing cheap energy to rural Rwanda reported the Vancouver Sun. Nocturnal fisherman are using small pedal operated generators in their boats to charges batteries for small but bright light-emitting diode (LED) lamps. The light created is cheaper and more efficient than solar power. Previously, the fisherman used torches to find their traps at night. Five lights can be recharged with 20 minutes of pedaling and each light lasts more than 25 hours — enough for a week for most users. One minute spent pedaling generates almost 400 minutes of light. Much of Rwanda’s rural areas have no electricity and people rely on kerosene and wood for lighting and cooking. The manufacturer of the generator, Nuru Energy, hopes to expand its scope to be able to charge mobile phones and other devices in rural areas. It has 10,000 customers across Rwanda and hopes to expand to other east African countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda later this year.

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is coming to Tibet said CRIENGLISH. LPG joins methane and solar as new energy sources replacing centuries of use of cattle dung, firewood and coal. The LPG will be supplied by PetroChina’s Lanzhou Kunlun Gas Co. Ltd which is building a 118-km pipeline connecting the cities of Linxia and Hezuo. The pipeline will transmit 80 million cubic meters of gas annually with the first batch arriving this coming winter. The LPG is expected to fuel local Tibetan communities, public facilities, motor vehicles and businesses in Gannan prefecture. Gannan prefecture is one of the biggest Tibetan communities outside Tibet Autonomous Region with a population of 680,000.

TheBioenergySite reminded us that the food versus fuel debate continues. This was a main topic of discussion last week at the World Biofuels Markets conference in Rotterdam and the author summarizes the issues for us. Environmental groups have not been embracing biofuel projects to the extent expected over concern about the link between biofuels and food prices, e.g  corn ethanol in the US.  Given the concern about fossil fuels causing climate change, it was expected that environmentalists would be strong supporters of the biofuels industry. Earlier this month it was reported that ethanol refiners are consuming more of the US corn crop than livestock producers, for the first time in US history, and this trend is set to continue until 2014 as government mandates and exports boost fuel demand. The meat industry and some environmentalists say rising corn consumption by ethanol refiners has driven up food prices worldwide. The UK Guardian also attended the conference and explored the implications for the future of biofuels as the industry attempts to move away from food inputs to other sources like household waste and algae. See also From landfill to Lamborghini: the future of biofuels and World Biofuels Markets: Waste Versus Fuel?






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