Energy and Global Warming News for July 28th: China’s three biggest power firms emit more carbon than Britain; A.D. Little: “I think we will reach peak oil demand in the middle of the next decade.”

China’s three biggest power firms emit more carbon than Britain, says report

China’s three biggest power firms produced more greenhouse gas emissions last year than the whole of Britain, according to a Greenpeace report published today.

The group warned that inefficient plants and the country’s heavy reliance on coal are hindering efforts to tackle climate change. While China’s emissions per capita remain far below those of developed countries, the country as a whole has surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest emitter.

Greenpeace said the top 10 companies, which provided almost 60% of China’s total electricity last year, burned 20% of China’s coal “” 590m tonnes “” and emitted the equivalent of 1.44 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The efficiency of Chinese power generation compares unfavourably with other countries. In Japan, 418 grams of carbon dioxide are emitted per kilowatt hour and in the US, the equivalent figure is 625 grams. But most of the top 10 firms in China produce 752 grams of CO2.

Director of Energy at AD Little:  “I think we will reach peak oil demand in the middle of the next decade.”

A long-term decline in the demand for oil could undermine the huge investments in Canadian tar sands, which have been heavily opposed by environmentalists, according to a report published today.

The report, by Greenpeace, will make uncomfortable reading for the companies that are investing tens of billions of pounds to exploit the hard-to-extract oil in the belief that demand and the price would climb inexorably as countries such as China and India industrialise.

Citing projections from the oil producers’ cartel Opec and the International Energy Agency, as well as various oil experts, the report casts doubt on the conventional assumption that consumption and prices will begin gathering pace once the world pulls itself out of recession….

he report notes that Opec and the IEA have been revising projections for oil demand downwards since 2006, with by far the sharpest revision this year. Opec has revised its 2025 oil forecast down by 12% within the past four years.Peter Hughes, who spent much of his career at BP and BG, and is now director for global energy at consultancy firm Arthur D Little, recently wrote a report titled ‘The Beginning of the End for Oil?’ He supports the Greenpeace view and said the correlation between oil demand and GDP growth has been weakened. “It is widely accepted that demand in OECD countries has plateaued and is going into decline but it has also been thought that would be massively outweighed by growth in China. But the Chinese think long-term and identified some time ago that the biggest threat to their economic growth was an increasing dependency on imported energy, which is anathema to them. The conclusion is clear – to reduce the reliance on hydrocarbons through energy efficiency and fundamental technology change. I think we will reach peak oil demand in the middle of the next decade.”

Kenya to build Africa’s biggest windfarm

One of the hottest places in the world is set to become the site of Africa’s most ambitious venture in the battle against global warming.

Some 365 giant wind turbines are to be installed in desert around Lake Turkana in northern Kenya – used as a backdrop for the film The Constant Gardener – creating the biggest windfarm on the continent. When complete in 2012, the £533m project will have a capacity of 300MW, a quarter of Kenya’s current installed power and one of the highest proportions of wind energy to be fed in a national grid anywhere in the world.

Until now, only north African countries such as Morocco and Egypt have harnessed wind power for commercial purposes on any real scale on the continent. But projects are now beginning to bloom south of the Sahara as governments realise that harnessing the vast wind potential can efficiently meet a surging demand for electricity and ending blackouts.

Former Democratic standard-bearer takes global approach to Senate bill

Sen. John Kerry sounds like a different kind of campaigner these days.

Five years after his White House bid fell short by 20 electoral college votes, the Massachusetts Democrat has emerged as one of his party’s leading voices in trying to win passage of a major global warming and energy bill.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry brings perhaps the best insight of any lawmaker on Capitol Hill when it comes to the interplay between U.S. politics and the diplomacy surrounding a new international climate deal.

Saving Energy by Managing Irrigation

Idaho has lately made a strong showing in energy efficiency: the state was rated “most improved” in a recent energy-efficiency survey, and also topped a Pew survey last month for fastest green job growth.

One innovative program that Idaho is pursuing is paying several hundred farmers to not water their crops on some late afternoons, when the demand for electricity is at its peak. The savings come from not using electric pumps, which consume a great deal of energy ferrying water from, say, a river to a plateau. The Idaho Power Company estimates that on a hot summer afternoon, it can save slightly more than 5 percent of its electric demand.

“You can actually seek the peak drop off when the program kicks in,” said Ric Gale, the vice president for regulatory services at Idaho Power.

“This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky thing,” he added. “This is something that actually delivers.”

And the Winners Are “¦

Earlier this month, we solicited your ideas for a new stock phrase to describe a location’s renewable energy potential “” something to replace the overused and perhaps inappropriate choice du jour, which uses Saudi Arabia as the yardstick.

A typical example: Senator Harry Reid’s penchant for calling his home state, Nevada, “the Saudi Arabia of solar energy.”

You responded en masse, and below we offer you our favorites, in a variety of categories.

Think tank hopes clean energy ideas will be acted upon

China’s top energy think tank is urging delegates at the first China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which started Monday in Washington, to adopt its initiatives and put them into action.

Han Wenke, co-chair of the China-US Clean Energy Forum, told China Daily that the governments of both countries should listen to the private sector and create favorable conditions for clean energy cooperation between the two countries.

The China-US Clean Energy Forum is a private-sector vehicle that promotes bilateral cooperation on clean energy.

FACTBOX – Comparison of US, China climate efforts

Combating global warming is one of several topics being discussed at high-level meetings this week between US and Chinese government officials.

“¦Here is a rundown of climate change moves by both countries:

A Quest for Batteries to Alter the Energy Equation

In a gleaming white factory here, Bob Peters was gently feeding sheets of chemical-coated foil one afternoon recently into a whirring machine that cut them into precise rectangles. It was an early step in building a new kind of battery, one smaller than a cereal box but with almost as much energy as the kind in a conventional automobile.

The goal of Mr. Peters, 51, and his co-workers at International Battery, a high-tech start-up, is industrial revolution. Racing against other companies around the globe, they are on the front lines of an effort to build smaller, lighter, more powerful batteries that could help transform the American energy economy by replacing gasoline in cars and making windmills and solar cells easier to integrate into the power grid.

This summer the Obama administration plans to announce how it will distribute some $2 billion in stimulus grants to companies that make such advanced batteries for hybrid or all-electric vehicles and related components. International Battery is vying for a modest chunk of it.

Start-up’s recipe mixes CO2, slime and sunshine

A Massachusetts biotechnology start-up unveiled plans today to produce chemicals and transportation fuels from carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas that contributes to global warming.

Cambridge-based Joule Biotechnologies Inc. — founded in 2007 and funded by the investment firm Flagship Ventures — will rely on what company officials dub “Helioculture” technology to mix brackish water, nutrients and photosynthetic organisms in flat “SolarConverter” panels. Laboratory tests show that adding CO2 and sunlight to the mixture causes the organisms to secrete the chemical equivalent of ethanol and hydrocarbon-based fuels and chemicals, Joule’s president and CEO, Bill Sims, said in an interview.

When Rain Falls On Snow, Arctic Animals May Starve

When wildlife biologists visited a remote spot in Canada called Banks Island in the spring of 2004, they discovered thousands upon thousands of dead musk oxen. It took years to determine the cause. They called it “rain-on-snow” “” the worst case of it ever documented.

“Long story short, about 20,000 musk oxen starved to death because of this event,” says geologist Jaakko Putkonen. It was a “humongous event” that took place in the fall of 2003.

“¦What happens is this: unusually warm weather drops rain on top of snowpack. The rain either pools at the surface or trickles down to the soil below the snowpack, then freezes into a sheet of ice. Musk oxen, which are shaggy, cow-sized animals that weigh hundreds of pounds, can’t break through the ice to browse on plants underneath the snow. Sooner or later, they starve.

U.S. “dead zone” smaller but more severe: NOAA

The “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, an area choked by low oxygen levels that threatens marine life, is smaller than expected this year but more deadly, the government said on Monday.

The zone, caused by a runoff of agricultural chemicals from farms along the Mississippi River, measured about 3,000 square miles or about 1.5 times the size of the state of Delaware, compared with estimates that it would measure up to nearly 8,500 square miles, scientists said.

“Clearly the flow of excess nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural fields in the Mississippi drainage basin continues to wreak havoc with life in the Gulf,” said Jane Lubchenco, the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told reporters in a teleconference.

As ‘climate security’ forecast darkens, is Canada ready?

“¦Real life 21st Century threats due to climate change – massive flooding, droughts, population explosions, massive migrations of uprooted and desperate people facing life-threatening food and water shortages – have made “climate security” a buzzword that now extends far beyond the war rooms of western capitals.

The trepidation is very real that this will be the driver for war on a scale we have yet to see on this planet, bringing tension to stable parts of the world, making the tense places worse.

Don’t dismiss this as military-driven paranoia: the alarm is being sounded by non-military actors – United Nations agencies, leading philanthropists, the World Bank, as well as major international aid agencies that have always strived to maintain a healthy distance from the world’s military establishment.

Uranium Contamination Haunts Navajo Country

It was one year ago that the environmental scientist showed up at Fred Slowman’s door, deep in the heart of Navajo country, and warned that it was unsafe for him to stay there.

The Slowman home, the same one-level cinderblock structure his family had lived in for nearly a half-century, was contaminated with potentially dangerous levels of uranium from the days of the cold war, when hundreds of uranium mines dotted the vast tribal land known as the Navajo Nation. The scientist advised Mr. Slowman, his wife and their two sons to move out until their home could be rebuilt.

“I was angry,” Mr. Slowman said. “I guess it was here all this time, and we never knew.”

2 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for July 28th: China’s three biggest power firms emit more carbon than Britain; A.D. Little: “I think we will reach peak oil demand in the middle of the next decade.”

  1. Mike#22 says:

    As with so much else that this administraion has brought us in 2009, another all-but-unthinkable-12-months-ago event.

    “Signing Ceremony for the U.S.-China Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Cooperation in Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment”

    Hillary Rodham Clinton,Secretary of State

    Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu

    Treaty Room

    Washington, DC

    July 28, 2009