smartplanet told us about fuel made from CO2 in the air. Researchers at the University of Georgia have discovered a way to convert the carbon dioxide found in our atmosphere into industrial products like fuel and chemicals. By creating a microorganism that uses carbon dioxide like plants do – turning water and CO2 into sugars that are used for energy – researchers say that those sugars can be fermented and turned into ethanol.

Michael Adams, a professor at the University of Georgia said: “We can take carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and turn it into useful products without having to go through the inefficient process of growing plants and extracting sugars from biomass.”

The Toronto Star said hydrogen is key to large-scale renewable energy storage. That is the view of German energy storage expert Dirk Uwe Sauer, a professor at the Institute for Power Electronics and Electrical Drives in Aachen. Because the energy from the Sun and wind is intermittent, it is incumbent on humans to figure out how to store their electricity for use when it is needed. Hence, engineers will have to devise ways to store enough renewable power to supply the electric grid for up to several weeks. Sauer envisions huge installations using hydrogen. The hydrogen is then stored in underground caverns. It can be either used in fuel cells to create electricity directly or converted to methane and used to power conventional gas turbine generators.

“We’re talking about caverns with 500 million cubic metres of volume. It’s a large-scale technology, no doubt,” said Sauer…“This is a centralized technology, huge scale. Some people say when we go to renewables, everything should get decentralized. This is definitely not what I believe at all.”

smartplanet discussed building the world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor in the south of France. Known as ITER (the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), the 18-billion-euro research facility has started construction and is expected to be operational within the next decade. 7 regions ( the European Union, the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, India and the Russian Federation) are hoping to reproduce the energy engine in the core of the Sun here on Earth with the hope of creating an endless source of cheap, clean energy.  (See also The French protest an experimental nuclear fusion project)

Deutsche Welle asked: Is nuclear the UK’s energy future? The German publication sees the UK going in the opposite direction of Germany.  While the latter is phasing out nuclear energy for generating its baseload electricity, the UK believes nuclear energy has to be part of the country’s future energy package, especially when much of its focus is on reducing carbon emissions by 2030. The UK government is concerned that a lot of coal fired stations are due to close over the next few years and natural gas from the North Sea is also reducing. As a result, nuclear is seen as the best course for preserving a base load power source.

Technology Spectator warned that the Cloud and wireless will have a drastic impact on our electric power consumption. A new study by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Energy Efficient Telecommunications concludes the high tech industry vastly underestimates this surge in power use, The study forecasts between 2012 to 2015 the energy use required to power the cloud and wireless networks will grow up to 460% – the equivalent of putting 4.9 million new cars on the road.

While telecommunication accounts for just 2 per cent of the world’s power consumption, CEET forecast that at the current rate of wireless technology adoption that figure could increase to 10 per cent by 2020 if the issue is ignored.

“The problem is that we’re all accessing cloud services – things like webmail, social networking and virtual applications – over wireless networks,” CEET deputy director and principal research fellow Dr Kerry Hinton said. “It’s the modern way but wireless is an energy monster, it’s just inherently inefficient.”

 Slate explained how the world price of oil is determined. See also OILPRICE, Why are Banks Allowed to Manipulate the Oil Markets? which said:

…The price of oil, and as such gas is determined not by supply and demand factors, but by whether Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley or J.P. Morgan puts $400 million on Black or Red, the literal Oil Roulette game of the big banks… If Goldman Sachs puts $400 million on Black prices go up, if they put $400 million on Red prices go down, as simple as that, this is actually how the price of oil is determined, nothing more and nothing less.

Al Fin Energy comments on this latter aspect in a posting on January 18, 2013, Modern Commodities Markets are Badly Distorted.

ExxonMobil gave us its peek into the energy world of 2040 with a summary by The Australian in Cheap, plentiful and cleaner. The Oil Drum gave their take on the energy company’s outlook in The ExxonMobil Future: A Review as did the Natural Resources Defense Council in Exxon’s Startling Outlook for Our Future. Exxon  forecasts global energy demand will increase by 35% between 2010 and 2040 with the greatest increase being for electricity in India and China. Oil will remain the No. 1 global fuel, while natural gas will overtake coal for the No. 2 spot by 2025. Natural gas will grow faster than any other major fuel source, with demand up 65% by 2040. Global demand for electricity by 2040 will be 80% higher than it was in 2010, and almost one-third of that electricity will come from natural gas. (See chart below)

 

 

Speaking of coal, The Guardian discussed the long,slow death of the UK coal industry. Meanwhile, The Carbon Brief reported that there was an upsurge in coal use to generate electricity last year in the UK as coal overtook natural gas to become the biggest source of electricity in that country. Coal produced 42.8% of the UK’s electricity in 2012, up sharply from 30% the year before.

Sweden wants to be the world’s first oil free nation posted the Energy Collective. Oil currently accounts for about one-quarter of the country’s energy supply and the goal is to drop figure this to zero by 2020. The country is shifting to biofuels such as ethanol from grain and wood as well as natural gas and biodiesel in the transportation sector and to nuclear in the electricity generation sector. . The International Energy Agency says “Sweden has the lowest share of fossil fuels in the energy supply mix among IEA member countries.” (IEA, Oil and Gas Emergency Policy – Sweden 2012 update)

“Our dependency on oil should be broken by 2020,” said Mona Sahlin, former minister of Sustainable Development, in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. “There shall always be better alternatives to oil, which means no house should need oil for heating, and no driver should need to turn solely to gasoline.”

The Spectator wrote about the quiet energy revolution that is transforming the world. The energy source, of course, is shale oil and gas which is being found in vast quantities in many parts of the world, including North America, China, Argentina, Australia, Brazil and Europe. For the first time in a century, the impact will be to lessen the control over oil and gas in the hands of a few countries in the Middle East or, as in the case with natural gas, Russia.

We could be moving towards a world where fossil fuel resources are no longer concentrated in a small number of (often troubled) regions, transported around the world via vulnerable choke points such as the Straits of Hormuz. Instead, decentralised unconventional oil and gas deposits could reduce long term global supply risks and help prevent the energy shocks and oil price spikes of past decades. It’s no wonder Fatih Birol, chief IEA economist, believes unconventional gas has the potential to change the entire global energy supply structure.

The economic and political repercussions of the US shale revolution were also covered by TheWall Street Journal in How the U.S. Oil Boom Will Change the Markets and Geopolitics and Shale Threatens Russia’s Economy as well as NBC in How the US oil, gas boom could shake up global order and The Fiscal Times, How the U.S. Blew Up the Global Energy Market. On the other hand, Russia’s Gazprom thinks the shale gas revolution in the US is a short-term phenomena and will not produce the long run benefits predicted by energy experts. See Russia Today, American shale gas project is a bubble about to burst – Gazprom CEO.

Shale gas could be heating all UK homes for 100 years wrote The Telegraph. The UK currently may be sitting on 5 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves and some expect that number to increase in the next few weeks when the British Geological Survey is expected to report its latest estimate.  Whatever the number, the potential exists for shale gas to be a significant energy resource for the UK.

The top estimate would represent sufficient gas to heat UK homes for 1,200 years. Usually it is only possible to extract about a third of shale gas deposits. Even at conservative estimates…there would be enough gas to heat our homes for 100 years.

In a related story, The Guardian found that US natural gas will be heating some 2 million UK homes within 5 years. UK natural gas energy firm Centrica has entered into a a 20 year agreement with US natural gas exporter Cheniere to import liquified natural gas from the US starting around 2018. Deliveries are contingent upon US. government approval to allow the exports to Britain.

 

 

 

 

 

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