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The Race for Biofuels

Philippines Generational Clash Over Cassava Ethanol Plant

February 25th 2009

Energy / Environment - Cagayan de Oro
Cagayan de Oro

Cassava ethanol has ignited a clash of generations among tribal peoples in the southern Philippines. The scene is idyllic Cagayan de Oro, where rivers and air come together to create a favorite tourist destination.

Yet this is where Alsons Consolidated Resources (ACR) plans to construct a cassava ethanol plant to help the Philippines meet its legislated ethanol mandate. The anticipated demand for fuel due to rapid industrialization in that country will increase harmful vehicle emissions. As such, the Philippines reportedly needs up to 20 ethanol plants by 2011 to meet the mandatory requirements of the Philippines Bio-fuels Act of 2006.

ACR's facility calls for a $42 million plant on 24 hectares of land stretching through Bayanga and Mambuaya villages, both of which boast rich agricultural lands, as well as tourist attractions.

The feedstock is cassava. Using it, ACR's will produce ethanol, using water from the Munigi River, the sole source of potable water for the two villages.

At first blush, it sounds eco-friendly. But there is little agreement on the plan that many say will solve one problem only by creating another. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran-Israel Nuclear End Game Now Much Closer

February 23rd 2009

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

In recent days, four key developments have clicked in to edge Iran and Israel much closer to a military denouement with profound consequences for American oil that the nation is not prepared to meet.

What has happened? First, Iran has proven it can successfully launch a satellite into outer space as it did on February 2. Tehran claimed to the incredulity of Western governments that the satellite was to monitor earthquakes and enhance communications. Few believe that, especially since America’s own space program continuously launches unpublished military satellite missions. Tehran plans three more satellites this year, creating an easily weaponized space net that worries American military planners. Read more ..


Petropolitics

Energy and the National Security Question

February 23rd 2009

Energy / Environment - Saudi Oil

As the United States moves into a new era of governance, evident even at this early stage is the importance which is to be placed on issues of energy security in the administration of Barack Obama. The field is enticing for precisely the reason it is so difficult to address – it cuts across such a large variety of policy areas that consensus as to its vital nature often dissolves into misinterpretation and competing or redundant policy initiatives. At the nexus of energy and national security, then, we must differentiate the challenges we face in order to construct sustainable, viable, and effective strategies. Read more ..


The Race for Energy

Obama Can Re-Vitalize Latin American Relations and An Energy Partnership

February 16th 2009

Energy / Environment - Sugar Cane

On January 26, President Barack Obama spoke with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva regarding global trade and energy policy. The 25-minute phone call between Lula and Obama was constructive, according to a Lula aide, as Obama pledged to work with Brazil on biofuels and advance international trade talks to jump-start the ailing global economy. On the campaign trail, Obama pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, revive the Kyoto Protocol, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and develop and implement clean energy technologies. In regards to Brazil and Latin America more broadly, Obama proposed an “energy partnership of the Americas” in a May 2008 campaign speech, which would help advance his lofty goals. Read more ..


The Race for Energy

Potential of Geopolitical Friction over Arctic Energy Grows

February 9th 2009

Energy / Environment - Arctic Terrain

Originally published in the December 2008 issue of the IAGS Journal of Energy Security

There is a rapidly growing body of knowledge regarding the size and extent of large potential hydrocarbon resources throughout the Arctic region. Increased attention to the region is driven by a combination of factors including: the melting of the Arctic ice cap enabling ease of access to formerly difficult operating areas, the need for new sources of energy due to geopolitical issues such as difficulties in the Middle East, the depletion of existing hydrocarbon resources and the significantly increased demand for existing resources brought on by the energy needs of China and India which have become major importers of energy.

The melting of the Arctic ice cap in combination with developments elsewhere concerning future energy security are creating scenarios that range from low level friction to potential conflict between the eight nations surrounding the Arctic region. Read more ..


Biofuels

German Scientists Engineer Cheap Plant Biofuel--the "Half Euro" Solution

February 2nd 2009

Energy / Environment - Biofuel field

A novel technology for synthesising chemicals from plant material could produce liquid fuel for just over 0.50 a litre, say German scientists. The entire process will depend upon arranging the infrastructure, states the research published in this month's issue of Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining.

Developed by scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), this novel technology is known as bioliq, and is able to produce a range of different types of liquid fuel and chemicals from plant material such as wood and straw.

Bioliq involves first heating the plant material in the absence of air to around 500°C, a process known as pyrolysis. This produces a thick oily liquid containing solid particles of coke termed biosyncrude.

The biosyncrude is then vaporised by exposing it to a stream of oxygen gas, before being heated at high pressures to a temperature of around 1400°C. Known as gasification, this process transforms the liquid biosyncrude into a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen termed syngas.

After any impurities are removed from this syngas, it can be catalytically converted into a range of different chemicals and fuels, including methanol, hydrogen and a synthetic version of diesel. This stage of the technology is fairly well developed, as syngas derived from coal and natural gas is already used to produce liquid fuels on a commercial scale in South Africa. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Obama Cracks Down on Lax Auto Emission Standards Thwarting GM, Ford, and Honda

January 26th 2009

Energy / Environment - LA Smog
Los Angeles smog

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

With the stroke of a pen, President Barack Obama has rewritten the rules of the emission road. He has cracked down on lax auto emission standards previously enshrined by the Bush Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and a Congress that was heavily lobbied by Detroit and Torrance, California automakers.

Obama has directed federal regulators to quickly ratify an application by California and 13 other states that have long sought to set limits on greenhouse gases from cars and trucks which are stricter than federal guidelines. He also instructed Department of Transportation officials to speedily impose higher fuel-economy standards on cars and light trucks. Read more ..


Edge on Energy

Israel Discovers Mega Natural Gas Fields

January 19th 2009

Energy / Environment - LNG Tanker

Israel took a step towards energy independence with the discovery of natural gas deposits off its shores near the Haifa on January 17. According to Noble Energy, there is an “inconceivable” amount of natural gas in three offshore reserves at its Tamar 1 well – the largest find in the company’s history. The find is estimated at 88 billion cubic meters. Currently, Israel depends on coal and gas to fuel its energy needs. In Israel there are plans to reduce dependence on coal from 60 percent of its energy set-up, while increasing natural gas from 30 percent to 40-45 percent. The plan is to increase alternative energy use to 10 percent by 2020.

The discovery of the natural gas field 90 km. offshore from Haifa, known as Tamar, was made by a US-Israel consortium including the Delek Group, through its subsidiaries Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration, Isramco Negev 2, Dor Gas Exploration and US oil operator Noble Energy Inc. Read more ..


The Energy Weapon

Russia Shuts off Natural Gas to Ukraine as Political Overtones Fume

January 5th 2009

Russian Topics - Russia Shuts off Gas to Ukraine
Russia Shuts Off Ukraine's Natural Gas

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

An energy supply conflict has erupted between Russia and Ukraine with political overtones. The dispute only promised to worsen when Russia shut off the supply of natural gas to the Ukraine endangering some 20 percent of all gas supplies to central Europe which must traverse Ukraine in pipelines.

In a tense series of negotiations at the close of 2008, Russia’s state natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, demanded an exorbitant increase from Ukraine. Gazprom insisted the 2008 price of $179.50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas existing on December 31 to dramaticvally rise to $418 starting the next day, January 1, 2009. The Ukraine, besieged by the same financial woes as the rest of the world and facing a bitter winter, refused. Read more ..


Sunset for the Oil Age

Global Oil-Price Roller Coaster Challenges Obama and the World

December 29th 2008

Energy / Environment - Oil Barrels

The global financial crisis has caused a massive slide in energy prices, down to $40-$50 a barrel of NYMEX light sweet crude from the July 2008 highs of $147. While oil prices, along with other commodities, are expected to continue their fall in the short term, over the medium to long term, economic recovery is likely to generate growth in demand, and oil prices are expected to recover as energy markets tighten.

Moreover, lower oil prices are likely to impede the massive investment needed to meet rising demand by 2030, delay introduction of energy-saving technologies, and make alternative fuels less competitive. The tight credit environment will also make it more difficult for energy firms to obtain the necessary funding for financing the capital-intensive growth in produc­tion capacity, especially necessary for expensive and difficult offshore production, exploration and develop­ment, and heavy oil, oil sands, or oil shale production. Read more ..


Tracking Electric Cars

Obama Said To Be Keen On Adopting Israeli Electric Car, Reports Better Place

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - David Horovitz
David Horovitz

The incoming Obama administration is "closely monitoring" the innovative electric car project being developed by Israel's Better Place company, "and may be adopting it," according to Idan Ofer, chairman of Better Place.

Heralding a potential private transport revolution, a leading U.S, car manufacturer is also now "putting together a team" to work on the project, Ofer said. Renault-Nissan agreed 18 months ago to build the first cars, and will be mass-producing hundreds of thousands of the electric-powered vehicles by 2010, he noted.

Ofer said the electric car was a natural fit for the Obama presidency as it prepares to grapple with the global financial crisis, environmental concerns, a dependence on oil supplies from unfriendly countries, and a collapsing conventional car-building industry.

The optimistic comments from Better Place came just as the Bush Administation was in the final phase of its Big Three bailout. In the background Chrysler announced it was closing all its North American manufacturing plants for at least a month. General Motors has also been closing plants.

Ofer said he was anticipating "the electrification of America" as Barack Obama's logical instrument for rescuing the industry, as well as promoting environmental responsibility, enabling reduced oil dependence, and underpinning economic revival. Read more ..


Edge on Alternative Energy

Trash Becomes Ethanol In Major Canadian Alt-Fuel Move

December 15th 2008

Energy / Environment - landfill

The city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada has taken a large step forward in liquid fuel production. But it has nothing to do with the famous tar sands deposit of the province—it has to do with trash.

Prior to mastering the drilling and piping of natural gas in the 1940s, lighting and cooking in cities used what was called "town gas" or producer gas. Coal was heated in a low oxygen atmosphere (sometimes with water) and a mix of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane, and carbon dioxide was emitted. Carbon monoxide was the key. Although even in low concentrations it is dangerous as it binds very tightly to the oxygen-carrying part of our blood, carbon monoxide is a fine fuel, burning just as natural gas does.

Fast-forward to 2008, and Edmonton is reviving this process with a 21st century twist. Read more ..


The Race for Hydrogen

Hydrogen Progress Challenged By Storage Issues

December 8th 2008

Energy / Environment - Honda Clarity Fueling

Many have heard the phrase “the hydrogen economy,” conjuring up images of blue skies, green fields, and a tidy white sedan noiselessly scooting along a pastoral back road. The reality of handling hydrogen as a fuel is not quite so rosy.

Today, we have pipelines that handle gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and ammonia. The metallurgy of the pipelines themselves is well understood, compressors and pumps are available to move the products, safety precautions are straightforward, and accidents are fairly rare. However, there is an important molecular implication for hydrogen, and its storage and distribution question.

Currently, the smallest molecule we commonly move by pipeline is natural gas or methane. The methane molecule contains five atoms with a total molecular weight of sixteen. But hydrogen is one eighth of that size, composed of just two skittish protons and their attendant electrons. Pressurize hydrogen in a metal pipeline and it will move not only through the pipeline but into the pipeline's metal structure, causing a destabilizing phenomenon known as “hydrogen embrittlement.” Hydrogen's behavior, in terms of the metals used to contain it, is only a little better than that of the loose neutrons produced in a nuclear reactor. Read more ..


America with No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Honda Image Tarnished As It Uses Four Letter Expletives and Public Becomes Aware of Alt Fuel Suppression

December 1st 2008

Energy / Environment - Honda Clarity with refueler

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

The once sterling image of Honda has become tarnished both in print and in the blogosphere as its honesty in developing and selling its alternative fuel vehicles is increasingly questioned. In one case, an angry and defensive Honda executive using four-letter words in a public alt fuel blog had part of his post pulled by the moderator as “expletive deleted.”

Arguably one of the world’s most enlightened automakers and known for superb engineering, Japanese Honda has reacted awkwardly and unconvincingly to revelations that it is suppressing its alternative fuel vehicles to continue sales of its slumping gas guzzling SUVs, The two alt fuel vehicles are the Civic GX, which runs on CNG, and the revolutionary Clarity, powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Both vehicles are designed to be home refueled with compact appliances developed by Honda. The GX is compatible with “the Phill,” manufactured by Fuelmaker, which Honda controls. Honda ensures that the Phill is not sold to most American cities although the company heavily markets the same appliance overseas. The Clarity works with a natural gas refueling device called the Home Energy Station, now stranded at a testing site of the Plug Power company in New York; Honda likewise declines to deploy the Home Energy Station which employs ordinary oven gas. With few of the pivotal home refueling appliances available, Honda has been able to claim it cannot manufacture and sell GX and Clarity cars to the many fleet managers and consumers who want the vehicles for “lack of public infrastructure,” that is, neighborhood gas stations. Read more ..


Tracking Electric Vehicles

Foreign Companies Surge Ahead with Electric Vehicles even as Detroit Prepares to Pull the Plug

November 24th 2008

Energy / Environment - Project Better Place

While U.S. manufactures may actually be putting the brakes on developing electric vehicles, overseas-based manufacturers are surging ahead.

Even though Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors have gone hat in hand to Congress for their unwanted internal combustion machine, the momentum towards electric transportation among foreign companies is fully charged. The unveiling of the MINI E produced by BMV made some waves at the L.A. Auto Show but a November 20 press conference with Mayor Gavin Newsome of San Francisco, Mayor Chuck Reed of San Jose, and Mayor Ron Dellums of Oakland promises more far-ranging impact. The mayoral threesome announced public-private investment coupled by a multi-step plan to transform the San Francisco Bay Area into the “Electric Vehicle Capital of the U.S.” The region will host the nation's first EV network. Read more ..


The Race for Biofuels

Jatropha and Sugar Cane Can Bring Africa Self-Sufficiency and Help the World Quit Petroleum

November 17th 2008

Energy / Environment - Jatropha Seeds
Jatropha Seeds

Listening to public figures in Europe and North America despair over the plight of Africa and its people, one would think the situation is hopeless.

Despite more than $625 billion in foreign aid and direct assistance since 1960, per capita gross domestic product in Africa has remained stagnant for decades. In the last quarter of the Twentieth Century, the continent’s share of global trade fell from an already negligible 3 per cent in 1976 to less than 1 per cent in 2000. According to the United Nations’ human development scale, which takes into account regional levels of health, education, and economic well-being, 34 of the 40 lowest-ranked countries are located in Africa.

But the reality is far from hopeless, and the people of Africa today stand at the threshold of a period of tremendous growth and opportunity. Thanks to the sharp rise in worldwide commodities prices over the last decade, the economies of sub-Saharan Africa, after decades of stagnation, are growing again.

Over recent years, regional economies have expanded by an average of 6 per cent annually, more than twice the rate of growth of the United States’ economy during the same period.

Read more ..

The Race for Hydrogen

Ramping Up to the Hydrogen Highway

November 10th 2008

Energy / Environment - Hydrogen fueling
Los Angeles Hydrogen Station

The end is in sight for oil. It has been the fuel of choice for more than a century, but its waning future will be defined by supply uncertainty and increasingly high cost to consumers—fluctuating between a deceptive $2 per gallon and a punishing $4 gallon.

The use of oil also has very serious environmental consequences. Air pollution generated by our use of oil and other hydrocarbon fuels like coal is directly linked to global warming, the greatest manmade environmental threat the world has ever known. The world desperately needs an alternative to oil that is both pollution free and endlessly abundant in supply.

There is a lot of gamesmanship going on as the alternatives struggle to claim a share of the world’s energy future. Big oil, nuclear, and the agribusiness interests behind biofuels are playing to win.

Despite all the huffing, puffing, pushing and shoving, there is another fuel option that all of the big players can be a part of but none can control. It is pollution free. It is non-toxic. It is virtually limitless in supply, and as safe as the fuels we are already accustomed to using. When made with renewable sources of energy like wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro, it becomes a fuel that will have a prominent place in powering our homes, businesses, motor vehicles, aircraft, and shipping in coming years. That fuel is the simplest, most abundant element in the universe…hydrogen.  Read more ..


Mobilizing Methanol

China Mobilizes Methanol While the U.S. Remains Mired in Oil

November 3rd 2008

Energy / Environment - Methanol station
Chinese motorist fills up at methanol station

Originally published in the October 2008 issue of the IAGS Journal of Energy Security

In 2007, China firmly established itself as the driver of the global methanol industry, becoming the world’s largest methanol producer and consumer. 

China also leads the world in the use of methanol as an alternative transportation fuel blending nearly one billion gallons of methanol in gasoline. Taxi and bus fleets are running on high methanol blends (M-85 to M-100), and retail pumps sell low level blends (M-15 or less) in many parts of the country. At the same time, China is developing production capacity for dimethyl ether (DME) – using coal-based methanol as a feedstock – for markets as a blendstock with liquid petroleum gas (LPG) used for home hearing and cooking and a as diesel substitute for buses. Read more ..


Election Edge

Neither Obama or McCain Understand How to Tackle the Oil Crisis

October 27th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black
Edwin Black

This continuing coverage on the oil weapon arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

A detailed examination of the Obama and McCain energy platforms and track records reveal that neither man has tackled the issue of a potential oil catastrophe which would quickly tear this nation apart. Nor does either reflect the sense of urgency such a looming catastrophe—constant, continuous threats by Iran, Venezuela and other OPEC activists— requires.

For example, Obama’s regularly promised remedy for gasoline consumption is to ensure that 1 million plug-in hybrids are on the road by 2015. That prodigious lack of awareness towers over the bitter facts of national oil consumption.

Some 250 million gas consuming cars and trucks travel America’s highways. Detroit adds 1.5 million more to that per month. The scrappage rate on a modern American vehicle is about a decade. In order to counteract such mammoth numbers in such an emergency—or even to make a meaningful dent in our energy future—the nation would have to immediately retrofit and do so at a rate far more than a million cars per month to alternative fuels or propulsion. An early scrappage program would be necessary, such as Canada operates for its fuel inefficient program. Read more ..


The Grey Edge of Green

Gore’s Dangerous Call for Environmental Civil Disobedience

October 20th 2008

Energy / Environment - Al Gore and Earth
Al Gore

As the case of Yasser Arafat shows, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee does not revoke laureates’ prizes even when they go astray, turning from peacemakers to promoters of violence. If that was not the case, members of the committee would have been well advised to keep a watchful eye on the statements coming from 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Al Gore. Last month, in a speech before the Clinton Global Initiative, he called for young people to engage in "civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration." This was not the first time such calls came from the man who used to be the "next president of the United States." Last year he told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof: "I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants."

Gore’s call to arms is typical of his environmental conduct: asking others to do what he himself wouldn’t — sacrifice. His massive carbon footprint, his frequent use of private jets, and his inflated electricity bill — more than 20 times the national average — have all been widely reported. Calling for young climate activists to engage in unlawful, albeit non-violent, action takes the hypocrisy to a whole new level. Unlike the symbol of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, who led millions of freedom seekers and who spent years in prison for his convictions — Gandhi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times but was never awarded — or civil rights activists who through their personal sacrifice won equality for blacks in South Africa and the U.S., Gore prefers to send young activists to chain themselves to bulldozers and potentially spend their best months, if not years, in prison while he himself continues to tour the world and attend carbon-neutral Hollywood parties.

Read more ..

America with No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Honda Hydrogen Hoax: Carmaker Says Hydrogen Car Must Await Filling Stations While Suppressing Home Refueling Device

October 6th 2008

Energy / Environment - Honda Clarity with refueler
Honda Hydrogen Vehicle with Home Refueler

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Japanese Honda is delaying for years a national rollout of its dynamic new Clarity hydrogen car, and manufacturing just a handful of test cars, mainly for the Los Angeles area, because the company claims cities lack hydrogen filling stations. But the claim is an apparent hoax. Honda’s Clarity was designed for home refueling and was developed with a companion Home Energy Station, now undeployed and forgotten.

Unquestionably, Honda again achieved the alternative energy limelight with the rollout of its sleek and stylish hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Clarity. Boasting kinetic body styling, an exquisite interior, par excellence handling and roadability, the Clarity is a feat of automotive engineering. Most remarkably, the car uses no petroleum. Instead, its fuel cell uses hydrogen reformed from natural gas or electrolyzed from water. Hydrogen can also be made through a bacterial reaction, and several laboratories are trying to improve the yields. Read more ..


America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Honda Suppresses Alt Fuel GX Automobiles as Company Refuses to Sell CNG Cars to Spokane

September 29th 2008

Technology - Honda gpx
Honda GX

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Japanese Honda is suppressing its own alternative fuel technology and denying its cars and home refueling devices to Americans eager to get off of oil. Honda, it seems, is going slow on its alt fuel vehicles, fearing the public will continue to abandon its more profitable gas guzzling SUVs such as the Honda Pilot. The Pilot is one of the most fuel inefficient vehicles on our nation’s highway.

Nowhere is this suppression strategy more visible than with the Honda GX, sometimes called “the greenest car in America.” Honda has ensured GX is also “the most unavailable car in America.” In fact, Spokane Community College has been trying to purchase just one for more than a year and Honda at the corporate level refuses to sell them even one car. Home-based or community-based fueling is one of the answers to energy independence. Read more ..


America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Exclusive: Neither Obama nor McCain nor the Government Has a Plan in the Event of a Protracted Oil Stoppage - It Isn't Even Being Discussed

September 22nd 2008

Book Covers - The Plan

This story is adapted from the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.


It will come as a shock to most Americans and the media, but as the election reaches a crescendo on the issue of preparedness and energy, neither candidate—nor any candidate in local, state or federal government—has developed a contingency plan in the event of a protracted oil cut-off. It is not even being discussed. Government has prepared for hurricanes, anthrax, terrorism and every other disaster, but not the one threatened daily—a protracted oil stoppage, whether caused by terrorism, intervention in the Persian Gulf, or a natural disaster.

It is like seeing a hurricane developing without a disaster plan or evacuation route. Our allies have oil shortage interruption contingency plans, but America does not.

The crude realities: America uses approximately 20 million barrels of oil per day, almost 70 percent of which is imported. If we lose just 1 million barrels per day, or suffer the type of damage sustained from Katrina, the government will open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which offers a mere 6 to 8 week supply of unrefined crude oil. If we lose 1.5 million barrels per day, or approximately 7.5 percent, we will ask our allies in the 28-member International Energy Agency to open their SPRs and otherwise assist. If we lose 2 million barrels per day, or ten percent, government crisis monitors say the chaos will be so catastrophic they cannot even model it.

Exactly how could America be subjected to a protracted oil interruption, that is, a 10 percent shortfall lasting longer than several weeks? It will not come from hurricane action in the Gulf of Mexico, or even major refinery accidents or other oil infrastructure damage. Such damage would be repaired within days and the temporary losses absorbed by the small half million barrel per day global cushion available. Read more ..


Edge on Economics

Curse of Oil Dependence and Economic Polices Encourages Maximum Consumption of Resources

September 15th 2008

Energy / Environment - Saudi Group

Current economic policies, based on nineteenth-century theory, deliberately promote maximum production and consumption of most goods. In today's world, where natural resources of all kinds are under pressure, such policies are no longer tolerable.

In the troubled world of energy, Russia and Iran rank among the major producers of crude oil and natural gas. And these vital commodities are at present extremely lucrative. The producing countries are earning enormous revenues from their hydrocarbons, and some of them are clearly using their new-found riches to throw their weight about. We have to live at peace with these difficult neighbors, but we have no wish to be bullied and pushed around by them. Does this problem have a workable solution? Read more ..


Tracking Electric Cars

Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles Get Real-World Testing

September 8th 2008

Energy / Environment - Electric car
Electric car

As part of the recent "Beyond Oil" conference  in Redmond WA, the newest member of the city of Seattle transportation fleet was introduced. It is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), the first of dozens headed to the state of Washington as part of a demonstration project coordinated by Idaho National Laboratory.

The PHEV's appearance kicked off the alternative transportation conference "Beyond Oil: Transforming Transportation — A National Demonstration Project," co-sponsored by INL as part of its Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity (AVTA) to spark discussion on plug-in hybrids and other possibilities for curbing the country's reliance on petroleum. This is a real-world test of the capabilities of PHEV on the roads and in the workplace.

To evaluate whether PHEVs could help reduce petroleum use and become widely acceptable, INL has teamed with public and private agencies throughout Seattle and the state of Washington to drive plug-in hybrids in real-world conditions. Cities, counties, ports, utilities, colleges and environmental groups have added PHEVs to the vehicle fleets they use for day-to-day activities. INL will analyze data from the cars to evaluate gas and electricity use, average and top speeds, miles per charge, and charge timing and duration.

Like conventional hybrids, PHEVs run on electricity part of the time. But they use larger batteries than conventional hybrids and are recharged from a standard electrical socket. Once fully commercialized, PHEVs should be able to run for 10 to 20 miles or more on electric power alone before reverting to conventional hybrid operation. Read more ..


China's Global Quest for Oil

China's Oil Rush in Africa - Nigeria

September 1st 2008

Africa Topics - China Nigeria

China’s influence in Africa is extending to Nigeria, a country that has historically exported the majority of its oil to Western countries. In Nigeria, the majority of the exported oil is currently destined for the U.S. and Western Europe. China, however, is becoming increasing important to the African country.

Over five years ago, China had been shut out of Nigeria by Western firms. However, through patience, political prowess, and technological contributions, Chinese firms are gaining a foothold in the Nigeria’s oil industry and elsewhere in the country. For example, in December 2004 Sinopec and NNPC signed an agreement to develop Oil Mining Lease (OML) 64 and 66, located in the waters of the Niger Delta in South Nigeria. At the time, OML 64 had drilled five exploration wells with one well encountering hydrocarbon resources. OML 66 had drilled 18 exploration wells with 12 encountering hydrocarbon resources.

In October 2004, Xinhuanet reported that Nigeria would need $10 billion annually in the next five years to meet its target for oil reserves of 40 billion barrels by 2010 and to eliminate gas flaring by the end of 2008. The Nigerian government signed a memorandum of understanding with China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) to identify suitable upstream oil and gas assets that would be integrated into the downstream projects, including refining, power generation, petrochemicals and fertilizer, in partnership with local industry players.  In July 2005, CNOOC and NNPC signed an $800 million contract that would guarantee China receives 30,000 bpd for one year. More recently, and having a profound impact, was a mutually beneficial deal between China and Nigeria signed by President Hu. Read more ..


China's Global Energy Quest

China's Global Quest for Energy Reaches Russia and Creates New Oil Bloc

August 25th 2008

Asia Topics - Vladimir Putin - Hu Jintao
Vladmir Putin and Hu Jintao

There is a growing alliance between China and neighboring country Russia. This alliance generates vast undercurrents of both economic and political intention.

Russia, a major non-OPEC oil-producing country, holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves and is the world’s largest exporter. The country also holds the eighth largest oil reserves, of which it is the second largest oil exporter. However, Russian oil fields, located mostly in Western Siberia were established in the 1970s and desperately need capital and technology to stabilize their production. Russia needs at least a $25 billion overall investment to accomplish this and approximately $6-7 billion annually.

The vast majority of Russia’s oil and natural gas is piped west to countries in the former Soviet Union and Europe. Due to fears of Russia’s capability to use its energy as a political tool and weapon, Europe has been striving to reduce its own dependence on Russian supplies. This is prompting Russia to look east, toward Asia to secure its security of demand. With its booming economic growth, China is an ideal partner to Russia.

In the 1950s, China and Russia maintained a close alliance. Between 1960 and 1985, China’s relationship with Russia was defined as deeply hostile. After 1985 there was a gradual normalization during the Gorbachev years. Then, after 1991, which marked the end of the Cold War, Russia maintained a political distance from China because China remained communist and had publicly endorsed a 1991 coup attempt by Soviet communist hardliners. Read more ..


China's Global Energy Quest

China's Growing Pipeline into Canada

August 11th 2008

Energy / Environment - China Oil

China’s relentless quest for energy has brought it to the U.S. neighboring country of Canada.

Fifteen years ago, China did not import any oil at all. Today, however, the Asian country is the world’s second largest consumer of oil. In 2004, oil imports to China are said to have increased by 37 %, which contributed to soaring oil prices around the world.

In 2007, China consumed an average of 7.5 million barrels per day (mbd) of oil. That amount is projected to increase to approximately 13.6 mbd by 2025. That same year, China’s production level is expected to be approximately 3.7 mbd, which will require the country to have a net import of at least 9.9 mbd.

The significance of China extending its pursuit of oil into Canada is that Canada has been the number one source of U.S. oil imports for the past decade. According to figures released by the Energy Information Administration, in 2006 Canada produced an average of 3.288 mbd of oil. Of this, an average of just over 2.353 mbd, or 72 % of the oil produced, has been exported to the U.S.

Within the past three years, in an effort to increase its own energy security, China has begun flexing its muscles to strike various deals with Canada to win access to some of the most prized oil reserves in North America. In April 2005, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), through its wholly owned subsidiary CNOOC Belgium BVBA, signed an agreement with MEG Energy Corp., a Canada-based company, to buy 16.67% of MEG for $135 million. MEG has the rights to an oil sands lease in a 52-section (32,900 acres) oil sands block that is believed to contain 2 billion barrels of recoverable oil. This acquisition is expected to help pave the way for further investment into Canada’s huge oil sands resources. In another deal, Sinopec has acquired 40 % of the Northern Lights Oil Sands Project in Alberta, where production is expected to begin sometime in 2010. Then, last year China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won exploration rights for a 260-acre tract in Alberta. Read more ..


The Politics of Oil

Crude Corruption—China and Angola

August 4th 2008

Africa Topics - China in Africa

Oil exploration and production is one of the principal areas of foreign investments made by China in Angola. But these investments do very little to curb corruption in that country.

In recent years, China has increased its economic and diplomatic involvement in the African country. According to a Macau-based news source which focuses on economic information, trade between Angola and China reached $11 billion in 2006 and $14.11 billion in 2007. Angola, sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest oil producer, accounts for 17 percent of China’s total imported oil. China and Angola have maintained diplomatic and economic ties for 25 years. China developed these ties to create a diplomatic power-base and a market for its state-owned enterprises.

Angola has been recovering from a 27-year civil war that began just before the nation won its independence in 1975. The war destroyed much of the country’s economy and infrastructure. The Angolan economy is heavily dependent on its oil sector—accounting for over 40 percent of Angola’s gross domestic product and nearly 90 percent of government revenues. Throughout the past few years, Angola has experienced sharp increases in oil revenues. Despite these increases, the economy continues to stagger with an external debt of $8.2 billion and 70 percent of its citizens living in poverty. Read more ..


Tracking "Better Place" Electric Cars

Nissan and Better Place Promise Pure Electric—not Plug-in Hybrid—for 2010

July 28th 2008

Energy / Environment - Better Place Renault Vehicle

Nissan and Project Better Place promise that their 2010 electric cars will be pure electric—not plug-in hybrids like those planned by many green competitors. I want a pure electric car,” said Carlos Goshn, chief executive officer of Nissan. “I don’t want a hybrid”.

As a result, Nissan's cars will be 100% emission free, Goshn declared at a ceremony to dedicate Nissan’s new North American headquarters in Franklin, an affluent suburb in the hills south of Nashville.

How long must an electric car’s battery last before needing a recharge? To be practical, in the United States, at least 100 miles, said Goshn. Other countries might need only a 50 mile range because of different driving patterns, and some populations will have higher tolerance levels than others for the frequency of recharging, but Nissan insists that all their electric cars run on electricity only.

We will not market cars that are sometimes emission free and sometimes not, said Goshn. An electric car that lets oil take over when the battery loses its charge is “unsustainable”. Read more ..


The Edge on Wind

Big Florida Wind Provider Offers Long-Winded Excuse to Floridians for Windless Policy

July 21st 2008

Energy / Environment - Wind Farm

FPL Energy is the nation’s mightiest wind power provider. The company operates 56 wind farms in 16 states including the nation's largest, the 735-megawatt Horse Hollow field in Texas. Recently, the firm announced a new two billion dollar wind farm to be spread over 250 square miles in North Dakota. “They're very good at it,” says Jay Apt, executive director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center. They are “one of the most efficient wind operators in the country.”

No one is bigger in wind than FPL Energy.

By the way, what do the initials FPL stand for? Answer: Florida Power and Light. So it must seem ironic that FPL Energy refuses to build a wind farm in its home state of Florida. Correct. One of the nation’s biggest corporate booster of wind energy claims the quality and location of Florida breezes make it difficult or perhaps impossible to produce energy at a reasonable cost. That will come as a big surprise to most Floridians who endure constant hurricanes, tornadoes, and other gale force winds.  Read more ..


Understanding Oil

The True Cost of a Gallon of Gas?

July 14th 2008

Military - USAF Desert Storm
US Air Force at Desert Storm

We pay in some places $5.00 for a gallon of gasoline at the service station. But the real price of gas is much higher and camouflaged by myriad direct and indirect costs associated with maintaining our oil economy. How much are you actually paying for gas? Take a closer look at the hidden bills footed by your taxes:

The federal government subsidizes the oil industry with numerous tax breaks and government protection programs worth billions of dollars annually. These benefits are designed to ensure that domestic oil companies can compete with international producers and that gasoline remains cheap for American consumers.

Our dependency on oil from countries that are either politically unstable or at odds with the U.S. subjects the American economy to occasional supply disruptions, price hikes, and loss of wealth, which, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, have cost us more than $7 trillion present value dollars over the last 30 years. That is more than the cumulative cost of all of the wars fought by the U.S. since the Revolutionary War. Read more ..


Kicking our Oil Addiction

Is the End of the Petroleum Age Upon Us?

July 7th 2008

Energy / Environment - Arab Oil Derick

At the hastily convened global oil summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on June 28, top officials of producing and consuming nations from around the world attempted to find a combination of solutions that would somehow extricate us from the current crisis over sky-high energy prices. These proposals ranged from increased output by major producers like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to restrictions on the activities of international oil speculators.

But all were based on the premise that the crisis can be resolved through the right mix of actions, thus restoring an environment of cheap and abundant oil – a premise that is fundamentally flawed. More and more, the evidence suggests that this is not just a temporary crisis. It is the beginning of the end of the Petroleum Age.

How do we know that the Petroleum Age is drawing to a close? Two key indicators tell us that this is so. First, many of the giant fields that have satisfied our massive thirst over so many years are experiencing diminished output. Second, although the major oil producers are spending more money each year to discover new reserves, they are finding less and less oil. Either of these factors by itself is cause for significant worry; the combination is deadly.

Dangerous Reliance
Few people understand how reliant we have become on a relatively small number of mammoth fields for the lion’s share of our daily petroleum intake. Though the world possesses tens of thousands of operating fields, a mere 116 of them – each producing more than 100,000 barrels per day – together account for nearly one-half of total global output. Of these, all but a handful were discovered more than a quarter of a century ago, and most are showing signs of diminished capacity. Indeed, some of the world’s largest fields – including Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, Burgan in Kuwait, Cantarell in Mexico, and Samotlor in Russia – appear to be now in decline or about to become so. Read more ..


The Politics of Energy

New Battery Technology “In the Works” Years Before McCain’s $300 Million Proposal to Award a “Breakthrough”

June 30th 2008

Politics - John McCain

RELATED STORIES:

Electric Vehicle--The Immediate Years Ahead

Shai Agassi's Electric Car Plan Good Enough to “Wipe out Gasoline Cars” Says Deutsche Bank

 

The $300 million incentive plan proposed by John McCain to motivate the “development of a battery package that possesses the size, capacity, cost, and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrid or electric cars,” has been scoffed at by politicos and energy experts alike.

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama said the $300 million award is nothing more than “bounty” for some “rocket scientist” to claim. McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said the specifics would be introduced and made policy if McCain is elected. McCain wants Americans to understand that yet to be discovered approaches can help solve America’s dependence on oil, he said.

But experts such as Edwin Black, author of Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives, publicly declared that the candidate did not seem to be aware of more than a century of existing battery technology waiting to be resurrected. In an interview with FOXNews.com, Black criticized McCain’s proposal for lack specifics. “As of now, there is no proposal,” he said, “A battery? For what car?” Black continued, “The money could already be put into manufacturing the many existing battery designs waiting for a boost—if the government wanted to.” The author equally criticized both presidential candidates. Weaning America off oil immediately in months, not years, should be the goal, Black said, and neither Obama nor McCain has offered a program to accomplish that. Read more ..


Kicking Our Oil Addiction

A Green Fleet Initiative--Our Only Big Solution to a Big Oil Problem

June 23rd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black
Edwin Black

In the absence of a government-launched Manhattan Project to ignite the alternative fuel revolution, the public must turn not just to the White House or the state house but also to the largest fleet owners in the country. Carmakers such as Honda, BMW, and Toyota are waiting for only one thing before they commit their considerable resources away from gasoline cars and toward hydrogen, electric, natural gas (CNG) or other alternatively fueled vehicles. Those companies want tangible demand. Fleets—governmental, commercial and private—have a compelling volume purchasing power no automaker can ignore.

For-hire carriers in 2004 operated 675,000 trucks; the top ten include such companies as UPS, Federal Express, and Yellow Roadway. UPS alone deploys some 80,000 brown trucks daily as it makes 13 million deliveries every 24 hours. Only about 1,000 of UPS’s massive fleet ran on compressed natural gas as of summer 2006. Within Federal Express’s 70,000-vehicle fleet, the company operated 30,000 medium-duty trucks, of which less than a 100 were hybrid diesel as of summer 2006.

Some 6 million additional vehicles are owned by private commercial fleets such as Sysco, Wal-Mart, Halliburton, and Frito-Lay. Wal-Mart alone operates 3,300 trucks that in 2005 drove 455 million miles to make 900,000 deliveries. Verizon operated 70,000 trucks and cars in 2004. Waste Management operated about 28,000 vehicles in 2004. Krispy Kreme Donuts operated 750 vehicles in 2004. City, state, and federal agencies, as well as universities, comprise just a fraction of America’s 38,000 private fleets.

Today alternative fuel vehicles are ready—or fast becoming ready—to roll out en masse. If fleet managers adopted a Green Fleet Initiative, that is a hierarchy of purchasing that mandates hydrogen cars first, fully electric cars second, and CNG cars third, the race would be on among all truck and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers from GM to Mercedes to be the first to fulfill those orders. Volume purchasing would multiply and accelerate the technology, bring down costs, and migrate such vehicles swiftly from commercial fleets to average consumers. Read more ..


Understanding the Danger of Oil

Dependence on Middle East Energy and its Impact on Global Security

June 2nd 2008

Energy / Environment - Saudi Oil
Photo: AFP

"We do have to do something about the energy problem. I can tell you that nothing has really taken me aback more, as Secretary of State, than the way that the politics of energy is […] 'warping' diplomacy around the world. It has given extraordinary power to some states that are using that power in not very good ways for the international system—states that would otherwise have very little power." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 5, 2006.

Throughout the 19th Century nearly half of the world’s crude oil supply came from the gushing oilfields surrounding the Azeri city of Baku. At that time, petroleum supplied only four percent of the world’s energy, giving the Caspian region little strategic advantage on the international stage. But as the world economy embarked on a steep growth trajectory, dependence on petroleum grew significantly.

Today, oil supplies about 40 percent of the world’s energy and 95 percent of its transportation energy. As a result, those who own the lion’s share of the reserves of this precious energy source are in the driver’s seat of the world economy and their influence is steadily growing. Read more ..


Tracking “Project Better Place” Electric Cars

Shai Agassi's Electric Car Plan Good Enough to “Wipe out Gasoline Cars” says Deutsche Bank

May 26th 2008

Energy - E-Tank
Better Place E-Tank

Imagine your cell phone transforming into an electric car. Sound far-fetched?  

Not if you're Shai Agassi, the founder of Project Better Place (PBP), and you believe you have finally created the concept that could transform the notion of car ownership and make the vehicle you own an electric one. The underlying premise of his paradigm-changing business plan is to sell clean, green transportation services on the cellular telephone model.

Israeli-born Agassi's idea, for which he's received some $200 million in venture funding, led by The Israel Corporation is to create the electric car equivalent of a cellular phone network. Where forests of cellular phone towers and repeaters are the most visible manifestation of the networks that make cell phone service possible, in PBP's case, the network will consist of hundreds of thousands of battery charging stanchions and scores of battery swapping centers. Just as it isn't the cell phone that generates revenue for the likes of Sprint, Verizon and ATT&T, it won't be the electric cars in Agassi's model. Instead, it will be the convenient, affordable and environmentally-sustainable transportation services that he hopes to offer.  

A recent study of Project Better Place's plan by Deutsche Bank concluded that not only can it be financially successful, but that it has the potential to "wipe out gasoline cars." Read more ..


Kicking the Oil Addiction

New Zealand Sees Wood Waste Ethanol Breakthrough

May 26th 2008

Energy - Pine Vista
Pine--a viable corn ethanol alternative

New Zealand believes it may have discovered a solution to global warming and diminishing energy with its own alternative fuel. Scion, a state owned forestry research corporation, says that  can be used for biofuel production. The announcement could presage an alt fuel breakthrough.

The investigation by Scion via bio refineries has been the target and hopes of this company. They are currently able to process waste from pulp and paper mills. There is a processing plant in the Central North Island of New Zealand that has the potential to produce over ninety million liters of ethanol annually. This would surpass the Government’s target of a 3.4 per cent biofuel component of gasoline and diesel by 2012.

Scion has been successful in working with other companies to help with the growth of this alternative energy. Agresearch, another state-owned company is just one of the partners. A wood process, Carter Holt Harvey (CHH) is investigating the potential of adding a bio-ethanol manufacturing plant to its corporate infrastructure. This plant could be implemented at one of CHH’s pulp and paper mills in the Central North Island of New Zealand as well. This would allow them to test the product for long-term use and potential. Read more ..


Running Out of Oil

Shell Execs Briefed on Peak Oil in 1956

May 5th 2008

Unknown - Shell Oil - Hubbert
Shell Geologist M. King Hubbert

When did Shell executives first learn that the world would one day face the moment of peak oil, known to many as Hubbert’s Peak? Answer: as far back as 1956 when M. King Hubbert delivered his seminal speech to Shell employees predicting the day when oil reserves would begin to decline. For more than a half century, Shell has known that the world of the 21st Century would begin running out of oil with disastrous ramifications. Yet little was done to prepare society.

The story begins in 1950s when the United States was the world’s largest producer and exporter of oil, making it mostly self-sufficient. The U.S. also was the largest creditor nation, while its manufacturing output fed the world’s demand for tools and machinery. This new world power from the West emerged relatively unscathed from the second of two world wars, for which its unprecedented access to oil proved the deciding factor. This quite literally was America’s peak in wealth and potential.

Before embarking on an ambitious plan to rebuild the bombed-out cities of Europe, the U.S. built more than 2 million homes on the home front, mostly to meet the unprecedented demand of returning GIs. The resulting paradigm shift, constructed around a flawed assumption of infinite bounty, was the beginning of the suburbanization of America that continues to follow its terminal path. Intensive highway development would continue for decades, further solidifying American’s love affair with the automobile and redefining the American Dream. Read more ..


Exposing Corn Ethanol

The Corn Ethanol Deception—How Politicians and Agribusiness Tried to Silence the Critics and Promote a Bad Idea

May 5th 2008

Headshot - Edwin Black
Edwin Black

Corn ethanol has exploded recently in the headlines as the latest big fuel mistake and cause of public outrage. Its very production has been denounced by numerous world leaders as a “crime against humanity” because corn cultivation for ethanol diverts food acreage to fuel acreage creating the tectonic cause of the severe spike in food prices. This has in turn helped swell a rising tide of starvation for millions around the world. Corn ethanol’s inherent energy inefficient character has been exposed by experts who have resisted the tobacco-style science corn lobbyists have proliferated. But all these headlines were shouted years ago by critics who foresaw the current predicament.

What began as an additive functioning as a 10 and 15 percent gasoline extender has become elevated to a potential major ingredient in a gallon of gas. E85, for example, is an emerging blend of automobile fuel composed of 85 percent ethanol and only 15 percent gasoline. Dedicated E85 pumps are now being established at gas stations, mainly in the Midwest’s corn-rich farm belt.

At first blush, ethanol from corn appears to be a solution from America’s heartland, a win-win proposition in the struggle to free the world from harmful hydrocarbons and politically embroiling fuel. But American corn ethanol cannot stand on its own. Ethanol actually depends upon the continued use of petroleum and by necessity increases petroleum consumption and greenhouse gases. Many experts say ethanol simply uses more petroleum than it saves. For example, a key series of studies was conducted by Tad Patzek, a University of California geoengineer and David Pimentel, a Cornell University expert in life sciences, energy, and sustainable agriculture. Pimentel’s and Patzek’s studies asserted that, “ethanol production using corn grain required 29 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced” and that even proposed alternative ethanol cellulosic sources other than corn, such as switchgrass, wood, and straw, “required 50 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced.” Those energy expenditures cover a range of hydrocarbon users from the diesel-burning tractors and combines on the farm to the ordinary trucks needed for transport to and from the industrial centers. Read more ..



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