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Kicking the Oil Addiction

Vaunted Cap-and-Trade Bill Does Nothing about Oil Dependence

June 8th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Gal Luft
Gal Luft

Now, when the first signs of economic recovery may be in sight, it's time to ponder what kind of recovery we are likely to witness. Will it be the traditional V-shaped recovery in which economic growth bounces back from a slump, or will it be a W-shaped, double-dipped one in which one crisis follows the other for several years to come? Much of this depends on the price of oil.

Nearly a year ago, oil prices hit their near $150 peak. This price shock, according to some economists, contributed materially to the recession that a few months later caused prices to collapse by nearly $100 a barrel. The global recession shrank demand for crude. But all of this is going to change once growth resumes, and the oil market is far from ready to absorb the resurgence in demand.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently concluded that even with the current recession, by 2030 global demand for oil could increase by 25 percent. The agency found that at expected rates of oilfield depletion, to meet future demand for oil, four new Saudi Arabias will have to be added to the global oil market between now and 2030. But the current economic conditions have thwarted the much-needed investment in new production. The IEA predicted that investment in oil and gas exploration will fall by 20 percent in 2009, and the Saudi oil minister is predicting a "catastrophic" shortfall in petroleum production.

For the U.S, such an oil shock would come at a terrible time as hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded governmental stimulus and bailouts percolate into the economy, leading to inflationary pressure and devaluing the dollar. This would force OPEC members which conduct their oil transactions in dollars to keep prices high in order to ensure sufficient government revenues.


Energy Politics

Iran-Pakistan Pipeline is Iran's New Lifeline

June 1st 2009

Energy Topics - Iran-Pakistan pipeline

While the world’s eyes are focused on Iran and Pakistan, little attention has been paid to the two countries’ decision from last week to move ahead with their plans to connect their economies via a natural gas pipeline. What may seem like a standard energy project could have profound implications for the geopolitics of energy in the 21st century and for the future of south Asia, as well as for America’s ability to check Iran’s hegemony in the Persian Gulf.

For both Iran and Pakistan, the pipeline project would be highly beneficial. Iran sees in the pipeline not only an economic lifeline at a time when the United States and its European allies are trying to weaken it economically, but also an opportunity, should the pipeline be extended to India, to create an unbreakable long-term political and economic dependence of one billion Indian customers on its gas.

Pakistan, for its part, views the pipeline as the solution to its energy security challenge. Pakistan’s domestic gas production is falling and its import dependence is growing by leaps and bounds. By connecting itself with the world’s second-largest gas reserve, Pakistan would guarantee reliable supply for decades to come. If the pipeline were to be extended to India it could also be an instrument for stability in often tense Pakistan-India relations as well as a source of revenue for Islamabad through transit fees. Read more ..

Edge on Energy

Government/Business Consortium Drills Gas Hydrate Resource in Gulf of Mexico

June 1st 2009

Energy Topics - Helix Q 4000 Drilling Platform
Crew of Helix Q4000 drilling platform

The US Dept. of Energy, US Geological Survey, US Minerals Management Service and Chevron conducted a first ever drilling project to collect geologic data on gas-hydrate-bearing sand in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Gulf of Mexico contains very thick and concentrated gas-hydrate-bearing reservoir rocks which have the potential to produce gas using current technology. Recent drilling by a government and industry consortium confirm that the Gulf of Mexico is the first offshore area in the United States with enough information to identify gas hydrate energy resource targets with potential for gas production.

Gas hydrate, a substance comprised of natural gas and water, is thought to exist in great abundance in nature and has the potential to be a significant new energy source to meet future energy needs. However, prior to this expedition, there was little documentation that gas hydrate occurred in resource-quality accumulations in the marine environment.

“This is an exciting discovery because for the first time in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, we were able to predict hydrate accumulations before drilling, and we discovered thick, gas hydrate-saturated sands that actually represent energy targets,” said U.S. Geological Survey Energy Program Coordinator Brenda Pierce.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) and a group of U.S. and international energy industry companies under the management of Chevron were responsible for conducting this first ever drilling project with the goal to collect geologic data on gas-hydrate-bearing sand reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico. Read more ..

Energy Politics

Inside The “Clean Coal” Lobby

May 25th 2009

Energy / Environment - Coal

They’ve brought coal above ground.

They’ve put the black rock on billboards in the swing states, and they’ve splashed it on full-page ads in CQ Weekly, Roll Call, Politico, and The Washington Post. They sponsored presidential debates on CNN, and their "clean coal" boosters were a fixture on the campaign trail. They’ve rolled out a series of TV spots from the firm that promised that what happens in Vegas will stay in Vegas.

They’re the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a collection of 48 mining, rail, manufacturing, and power-generating companies with an annual budget of more than $45 million—almost three times larger than the coal industry’s old lobbying and public relations groups combined. ACCCE (pronounced "Ace") is just celebrating its first birthday, but it has already become a juggernaut shaping the terms of the climate change debate on Capitol Hill—even while weathering a high-profile assault by critics who accuse it of peddling hot air.

ACCCE’s considerable impact will be on display this week at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings on a new draft climate bill penned by panel chairman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat. Just a year ago, Waxman and Markey backed a moratorium on new coal-fired electricity plants. But their latest draft would allow new coal plants through 2015, if they are retrofitted to cut carbon dioxide output some 40 to 60 percent within another decade. The technology to do that does not yet exist, but not to worry: the new measure would set up a $1 billion-a-year clean coal research fund to help.

While not, of course, endorsing an approach that could fundamentally reduce U.S. coal demand, ACCCE has nevertheless declared itself "encouraged that the... draft focuses on the key role that coal plays in meeting growing U.S. electricity needs." Greenpeace, meanwhile, has objected to "the untold billions of dollars in handouts [to the coal industry] for the false promise of carbon capture and sequestration."


Energy History

The Hostmen—The World’s First Fuel Cartel

May 18th 2009

Book Covers - Internal Combustion

The following research arose from the bestseller Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

In the fifteen hundreds, peat fuel was surpassed by an even more distasteful alternative: coal. The same millennial process that produces peat also yields coal after final eons of geological pressure. Known for its noxious, smelly smoke and grime, coal, in spite of its repulsiveness, trapped more concentrated carbon energy per pound than firewood, charcoal or peat. True, it was mined from the ground in hazardous operations. True, this dismal fuel alternative transformed England into a sootscape. But by virtue of its immense power yield, coal defined centuries of English industrial life and concomitantly allowed that country to preserve her rapidly dwindling forest lands for more important things, such as building naval warships.

Coal use began not with the well-known ore extracted from subterranean seams, but with a similar substance called "sea coal" that washed up along the coast near Durham in England's northeast. Later, the more familiar rock was also discovered inland, exposed in the hillsides and the banks of the nearby River Tyne. The Romans certainly employed it in the early centuries of the Common Era. The combustible nuggets produced the fuel to forge Roman military metal and operate Caesar's war fortifications. By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the peasant class, especially those without access to peat, was compelled to rediscover coal as a substitute for wood.

The royal wood monopolies and hoarding regimens had made the repugnant sea coal a necessity for the average man's survival, as well as for industrial and commercial growth. In the last four decades of the thirteenth century, the cost of wood increased about 70 percent, while sea coal only increased only 23 percent. Coal became affordable. For most in London, wood was not. Even though the New Forest had been dismantled, cartel hoarding kept the woodlands out of reach of most households and manufacturing concerns. Read more ..

Energy Security

Chavez Threatens Global Oil Supply with Expropriations at Gunpoint

May 11th 2009

Latin American Topics - Chavez PDVSA
Hugo Chavez

A new round of expropriations by the Venezuelan government has touched not only agriculture businesses, but now oil producers. Troops were mobilized on May 9-10 to assist the state-owned petroleum company, PDVSA, to seize the assets of approximately 60 oil services companies. A law was past last week that allows the state to take control of the oil industry. This new move at expropriation has raised concerns that the OPEC member’s already declining oil output could sink to its lowest level in the past 20 years. While oil companies want a stake in Venezuela, which now claims to have 172bn barrels of proven oil reserves - making them the second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia - the government’s unpredictability and inflexibility are a serious deterrent. Read more ..

The Edge of Green

Americans Lack Knowledge to Assess Energy Problems and Policies

May 11th 2009

Energy / Environment - Wind Farm

A new survey indicates widespread support among Americans for addressing energy problems, but also a lack of basic knowledge that could prevent citizens from making good choices about the nation's and the world's energy future. Polluting fossil fuels are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions that are linked to climate change
The new data comes from Public Agenda, a non-partisan opinion research group that helps citizens make informed decisions. Scott Bittle, executive vice president of issue analysis, says the Energy Learning Curve Survey was designed to get a sense of what the public knows, what it values and where it stands on energy issues. Read more ..

Automotive Advances

What Does Fiat Know about CNG that Honda and the American Media Want to Ignore?

May 5th 2009

Automotive - Fiat Palio

Several days ago, Italian automaker Fiat issued a rather remarkable video news release in which they extolled the benefits of methane fuel which is compressed natural gas. Watch Video here.

Not only did Fiat proclaim CNG as the most appropriate and readily-available technology for resolving pollution problems in urban areas, but they announced that all of their gasoline-powered models are now also available in CNG versions, with little or no difference in cost to the consumer (in fact, due to tax incentives, the CNG versions may actually cost less in some jurisdictions).

Among the CNG benefits highlighted by Fiat are its lower cost versus gasoline per equivalent gallon, its significantly lower polluting characteristics compared to gasoline, and the safety of driving CNG vehicles. Moreover, CNG’s abundant availability from friendly sources makes the fuel preferable as it does little to support OPEC and their terrorist regimes.

In a country and world struggling to stave off the effects of economic depression and looming environmental devastation, “There’s absolutely no reason not to (use CNG),” Fiat proclaims. Read more ..

What if the Oil Stops

Honda and Fuel Systems Solutions Agree to Sale of Certain Fuelmaker Assets and Purchase Orders

May 1st 2009

Energy / Environment - Honda GC refueling at home

On May 1, Fuel Systems Solutions of Santa Ana, CA announced that it has agreed to acquire selected assets and technology for compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling products manufactured by FuelMaker Corporation. The sale includes the home refueling appliance marketed under the Phill brand. The announcement came one day after it was suggested in The Cutting Edge News.

The controversial transaction, valued at $7 million, was made possible by a sudden forced bankruptcy engineered by American Honda working through a secret nameless numbered Canadian corporation.

The bankruptcy and sale was the subject of an ongoing investigative series by Edwin Black and The Cutting Edge News. Honda’s plan to severely limit its Civic GX CNG vehicle and refueling proliferation was detailed in the September 2008 book, The Plan. (See the Investigative series here.) The forced bankruptcy stranded thousands of FuelMaker and Phill customers, both in the commercial and consumer world provoking widespread outrage against American Honda, a company which had previously enjoyed a pedestal in the automotive world. Read more ..

The EV Revolution

London Mayor Announces 25,000 Electric Charging Stations for 100,000 EVs in Six Years

April 20th 2009

Automotive - MyCar2009
MyCar electric vehicle

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has announced that he plans to create 25,000 electric-car charging stations throughout the British capital over the next six years. Mayor Johnson said that he hopes that some 100,000 electric vehicles would eventually quietly whiz through London.

The bold plan, if seen through, will create both a metropolitan-wide low-carbon economy for Great Britain and the electric vehicle capital of Europe. Johnson's plan was seconded by Prime Minister Gordon Brown who promised that the budget to be submitted to Parliament this month would prepare for a mass introduction of electric automobiles.

London’s government proposes a grant of £2,000 ($2955) to buyers, thus reducing the cost of electric cars to £7000 ($10,334). It is expected that owners of the electric vehicles would recoup the sale price of the innovative vehicles within about 2 years since it is projected that such vehicles save about £3,000 in operating costs. This would mirror similar grant programs for solar-panels provided to homeowners. Read more ..

What if the Oil Stops

Honda Scrambles to Sell Fuelmaker Amid Confusion and Outrage

April 10th 2009

Automotive - Honda GX

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

American Honda Company is scrambling to negotiate a sale of the Toronto-based Fuelmaker company amid widespread outrage and confusion among the supporters, suppliers, employees and customers of the compressed natural gas CNG refueling firm. News of the Honda-Fuelmaker debacle was broken exclusively by this reporter in The Cutting Edge News.

By way of background, Honda forced Fuelmaker into involuntary bankruptcy last week, stunning the CNG community which looked to the company for CNG home and office refueling through its Phill units and Vehicle Refueling Appliances. The clock is ticking on when some 14,000 Fuelmaker installations worldwide supporting a range of vehicles, from passenger cars to ice resurfacers, will require service or supplies. Read more ..

Race for Alt Energy

Revolutionary Energy Source Harnessed: Ordinary Walking and Driving Pressures

April 6th 2009

Social Topics - Japanese Subway Crowd

Eddy Grant's song Electric Avenue has come to life: An Israeli company Innowattech has built a technology that allows us to collect the mechanical energy created by cars, planes, and trains, and our feet walking on the surface of a sidewalk.

Now building a pilot plant in Israel, which will be ready within two to three months, Innowattech is testing its technology on real roads, and is also, the company says, developing a system to harvest energy generated by pedestrians walking through New York City subways and busy shopping malls.

While the energy collected by people walking over a specially developed system called IPEG for Piezo Electric Generator, amounts to little, about .0002 joules per step -- maybe enough to power streetlights -- the energy harvested by cars on the street system, could power homes in an entire neighborhood. Read more ..

The Race to Retrofit

Propane Fleet Retrofitting Initiative Signed in Spain

March 30th 2009

Energy Topics - Autogas refueling
Propane Refueling

The Spanish energy company, Repsol, signed an agreement on March 23 with the Spanish National Confederation of Auto Schools (CNAE) to retrofit its fleet of vehicles used in driver training programs. Autogas, or liquified petroleum gas--generally referred to as propane--would be used in retrofitted motors, according to Repsol spokesman Iñigo Palacio. Propane engines reduce toxic emissions of nitrogen by 68 percent and particulate contaminants by 99 percent compared to to diesel-fuelled alternatives. Noise pollution is also reduced in the case of propane powered engines.

What's more, propane is 50 percent cheaper in Spain than gasoline, representing a savings of 4 Euros for every 100 kilometers over a gasoline-powered engine. This means a savings of 2 Euros per 100 kilometers over diesel-powered engines. Repsol and CNAE hope that the initiative will teach new drivers that there is a green alternative to gasoline. Read more ..

Edge on Energy Independence

Europe Grapples for a Collective Energy Approach

March 23rd 2009

Russian Topics - Russia Shuts off Gas to Ukraine

The absence of a unified energy policy likewise created perverse incentives for member states to undercut the EU during a time of crisis. A danger exists that governments will continue to pay public deference to energy solidarity while taking unilateral action to provide for their individual security. Going forward, the temptation to strike self-serving bargains with the Kremlin may be stronger than ever, especially if Russia promises that, next time, their gas deliveries will be guaranteed.


The Push for Multifuels

Separating Energy Independence from Global Warming with an Open Fuel Standard

March 16th 2009

Energy / Environment - Oil Barrels

Washington has talked a great deal about energy independence, and thrown billions of dollars at the problem, but somehow all of this activity doesn’t seem to have convinced anyone that we are any closer to a solution.  Perhaps the reason we can’t make headway is that there are five important facts misunderstood or ignored.

As part of Energy Independence Day activities on March 3rd, more than a hundred energy independence activists spent time in Washington, making our message heard on Capitol Hill. As part of that effort, I addressed a group at the Rayburn House Office Building to lay out those facts and dispel the misconceptions. Read more ..

The Race For Alt Fuel

Americans Can Learn from Brazil's Ethanol Policies

March 9th 2009

Energy / Environment - Sugar Cane

On March 9, 2007 President Bush, in conjunction with Brazil’s President, Lula da Silva, announced the formation of a new partnership between the two countries.  Capitalizing on the strength of the ethanol industry in both countries, the partnership was aimed at the broad goals of developing new ethanol production technologies, sharing resources and promoting the use of ethanol as an alternative to fossil fuel. Brazil is currently the world’s leading producer and exporter of ethanol and the United States follows close behind.

This ethanol partnership merits a close examination as its effects could be extraordinarily far-reaching. An increase in the already large-scale ethanol industry in the US and Brazil could portend a similar increase in harmful environmental effects on a national and international level. For example, there is evidence to suggest that an expansion of ethanol production in any country necessarily demands an expansion of land area used to grow the crops from which ethanol is produced (primarily corn in the US and sugar cane in Brazil).  Read more ..

The Edge of Solar

World's Largest Solar Energy Project Brightens California

March 3rd 2009

Energy / Environment - Solar Panels

Thousands of small mirrors--heliostats--focus sun's rays

Solar power history is being made in Southern California. Southern California Edison and BrightSource Energy from Israel have signed the world’s largest solar energy deal.

Now awaiting approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, when the contracts are fulfilled — this could happen by as early as 2013 — the Israeli-California sun project will power almost 1 million California homes.

Israel Kroizer, the chief operating officer, and president of BrightSource in Israel says that when completed, it will be the world’s largest solar energy project. Some 1,300 megawatts of energy will be created, with the first plant to be built in Ivanpah, California, expected to generate 286,000 megawatt-hours per year. The project will also create more jobs in the region. “It’s the biggest solar energy project ever signed,” Kroizer emphasizes, and when complete it will be the largest solar energy plant in the world, he adds.

Towering Sun Stations

Last year, BrightSource created a media sensation when it launched its pilot plant in Israel’s Negev Desert. Employing thousands of tiny mirrors called heliostats, BrightSource unveiled the Luz Power Tower — the LPT 550 — to reflect sunlight from the heliostats onto a boiler atop a tower. Producing steam from the concentrated heat, the steam is piped to a turbine to generate electricity. Read more ..

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 ..


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 ..


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.


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.


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 ..

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