The recent accident at the Kr¼mmel nuclear power plant in northern Germany was more serious than was previously known. Anglea Merkel’s Christian Democrats are now finding themselves on the defensive with their plans to extend the life of German nuclear reactors.
Ernst Michael Z¼fle should never sit down at a poker table, at least not when real money is at stake. When asked last Thursday about damage to the reactor of the Kr¼mmel nuclear power plant, Z¼fle, the head of the nuclear division of Swedish energy company Vattenfall, swallowed audibly, nervously rolled his pen between his fingers and avoided making eye contact.
It was already awkward enough for Vattenfall that the accident, which resembled a similar breakdown two years ago, occurred after it had spent ‚¬300 million ($420 million) upgrading the plant. As in the 2007 incident, this time there was also a short circuit in a transformer. The reactor, which had just been started up, quickly had to be shut down again on Saturday, July 4.
Z¼fle was also forced to admit that the accident in the nuclear power plant was more serious than previously known. In addition to the transformer problem, he conceded, there was damage to “perhaps a few fuel elements,” namely the radioactive core of a nuclear power plant. When asked how long the company had known about the problem, he replied, somewhat helplessly: “Please bear with us, because we need time to investigate the incident.” He could have offered more of an explanation.
What began as a minor technical glitch developed into a serious problem within a few days, especially for Vattenfall, the operator of the Kr¼mmel plant. In addition to revealing a troubling degree of carelessness and mismanagement, what happened in the Kr¼mmel reactor shows that the Swedish energy company has hardly improved its communication strategy since the last accident. Once again, the company has withheld important information and, once again, it has been hesitant to come out with the truth.
When the United States’ top energy and commerce officials arrive in China on Tuesday, they will land in the middle of a building storm over China’s protectionist tactics to become the world’s leader in renewable energy.
Calling renewable energy a strategic industry, China is trying hard to make sure that its companies dominate globally. Just as Japan and South Korea made it hard for Detroit automakers to compete in those countries “” giving their own automakers time to amass economies of scale in sheltered domestic markets “” China is shielding its clean energy sector while it grows to a point where it can take on the world….
China has built the world’s largest solar panel manufacturing industry by exporting over 95 percent of its output to the United States and Europe. But when China authorized its first solar power plant this spring, it required that at least 80 percent of the equipment be made in China.
When the Chinese government took bids this spring for 25 large contracts to supply wind turbines, every contract was won by one of seven domestic companies. All six multinationals that submitted bids were disqualified on various technical grounds, like not providing sufficiently detailed data.
This spring, the Chinese government banned virtually any installation of wind turbines with a capacity of less than 1,000 kilowatts “” excluding 850-kilowatt designs, a popular size for European manufacturers….
This year, China passed the United States as the world’s largest market for wind energy. It is now building six wind farms with a capacity of 10,000 to 20,000 megawatts apiece, using extensive low-interest loans from state-owned banks….
European wind turbine makers have stopped even bidding for some Chinese contracts after concluding that their bids would not be seriously considered, said J¶rg Wuttke, the president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.
European turbine manufacturers are especially disappointed because they built factories in China in order to comply with the country’s requirement that turbines contain 70 percent local content, Mr. Wuttke said. Yet all the multinational manufacturers were disqualified on technical grounds within three days of bidding for wind farm contracts this spring, even as Chinese companies that had never built a turbine were approved, he said.
U.S. oil and gas drilling activity plummeted nearly 50 percent since last summer as exploration and production companies moved cautiously in a deep recession, according to a new industry report.
The activity level for drilling is the lowest in more than five years, according to the American Petroleum Institute’s quarterly well-completion report for the second quarter of 2009.
While most lawmakers accept that more renewable energy is needed on the nation’s grid, the debate over the giant climate-change and energy bill now before Congress is exposing a fundamental rift. For many players, the energy not only has to be clean and free of carbon-dioxide emissions, it also has to be generated nearby.
The division has set off a fight between Eastern and Midwestern politicians and grid officials over parts of the bill dealing with transmission lines and solar and wind energy. Many officials, including President Obama, say that the grid is antiquated and that thousands of miles of new power lines are needed to allow construction of wind farms and solar fields in the most promising spots. Many of the best wind sites are in the Midwest, far from the electric load in populous East Coast cities.
An influential coalition of East Coast governors and power companies fears that building wind and solar sites in the Midwest would cause their region to miss out on jobs and other economic benefits. The coalition is therefore trying to block a mandate for transcontinental lines.
The Labor Department is proposing a major new effort to gather data on widely heralded “green collar” jobs that many hope will grow alongside expanded deployment of renewable energy and other environmental technologies.
The fiscal 2010 budget proposal for the Bureau of Labor Statistics steers $8 million toward measuring the employment and wages for businesses whose main activities can be defined as “green,” and related information gathering, the budget request to Congress states.
“¦Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is seeking changes to the 2007 law that expanded the renewable fuels standard to reach 36 billion gallons by 2022. Bingaman has several concerns with the final biofuels language enacted in 2007′s major energy bill, arguing the bill is too prescriptive with respect to specific technologies, among other complaints.
But U.S. EPA implements the biofuels standard so it falls under the EPW Committee’s jurisdiction. Boxer plans to mark up a comprehensive climate change bill after the August recess. It will be combined with energy and climate measures from other committees into a package that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hopes to bring to the floor this fall.
The oil giant Exxon Mobil, whose chief executive once mocked alternative energy by referring to ethanol as “moonshine,” is about to venture into biofuels.
On Tuesday, Exxon plans to announce an investment of $600 million in producing liquid transportation fuels from algae “” organisms in water that range from pond scum to seaweed. The biofuel effort involves a partnership with Synthetic Genomics, a biotechnology company founded by the genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter.
Well, at least that clears up the mystery. Over the past year I’ve been fretting over an intractable contradiction. The government has promised spectacular cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. It is also pushing through new roads and runways, approving coal-burning power stations, bailing out car manufacturers and ditching regulations for low-carbon homes. How can these policies be reconciled?
We will find out tomorrow, when it publishes a series of papers on carbon reduction. According to one person who has read the drafts, the new policies will include buying up to 50% of the reduction from abroad. If this is true, it means that the UK will not cut its greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050, as the government promised. It means it will cut them by 40%. Offsetting half our emissions (which means paying other countries to cut them on our behalf) makes a mockery of the government’s climate change programme.
Climate change refers to a change in climate that is attributable directly or indirectly to human activities, that alters the atmospheric composition of the earth which leads to global warming. Climate change has the potential of affecting all natural and human systems and may be a threat to human development and survival socially, politically and economically. Nigeria has a variety of ecosystems, from mangroves and rainforests on the Atlantic coast in the south to the savannah in the north bordering the Sahara.
In 2009, the population of inadequately nourished people is projected to exceed 1 billion for the first time according to new estimates published by FAO. It is hard to imagine 1 billion people. Consider for example merely counting them: allowing just 1 second for each, counting day and night, it would take more than 30 years.
The most recent increase in hunger recorded by FAO is not the consequence of poor global harvests but is caused by the world economic crisis that has resulted in lower incomes and increased unemployment leading to reduced access to food by the poor. If the new journal Food Security needed an early example to justify its breadth of coverage, the FAO report certainly provides it: originating from the International Society for Plant Pathology in a joint venture with Springer, Food Security is subtitled The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food.