10 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for 11/12/09: Germany to help develop Moroccan solar-thermal energy projects; Clinton calls Copenhagen “steppingstone”; Military’s growing thirst for oil is costing lives — report
Germany plans to help Morocco develop a water-desalination plant and electricity generators using solar power as part of a larger program to expand the use of renewable energy in the North African nation.
Funding and specifics of the solar accord will be discussed at talks next week in Rabat between the two governments, Sabine Brickenkamp, a spokeswoman for the German economic cooperation and development ministry, said in an interview.
Morocco, the only country in the region with a power cable to Europe, imports 97 percent of its energy. The nation is vying with Algeria, Tunisia and Libya for 400 billion euros ($596 billion) of investments in solar-energy systems over the coming decades as the EU seeks to trim emissions from coal and natural gas power plants by importing clean power from the Sahara.
The nation of 36 million people this week announced a plan to invest $9 billion to install 2,000 megawatts of solar power through 2020, the equivalent of about two nuclear power plants and about 20 percent of Morocco’s electricity consumption.
German companies including Munich Re, Siemens AG and RWE AG in July announced a plan called Desertec to probe the potential to generate electricity in North Africa using solar-thermal systems to pipe power in cables under the Mediterranean Sea to provide 15 percent of Europe’s electrical needs by mid-century.
Solar-thermal systems heat a fluid by concentrating the sun’s rays on a tube. The liquid produces steam that turns turbines. The world’s largest solar-thermal system is in California’s Mojave Desert, operated by a group of U.S. companies.
Details of the desalination plant, which will use energy from the sun to extract salt from sea water, will be worked out next week, Brickenkamp said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today called U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen a “steppingstone” toward a global, legally binding climate agreement, and spelled out U.S. priorities for the talks.
Her comments at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore are an acknowledgement from the nation’s top diplomat that next month’s talks will not result in a final international deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
But Clinton also said the meeting would be pivotal and declared that the United States — the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China — is “prepared to assume our share of responsibility” to address climate change.
“If we all exert maximum effort and embrace the right blend of pragmatism and principle, I believe we can secure a strong outcome at Copenhagen, and that would be a steppingstone toward full legal agreement,” she said.
Clinton warned against allowing the “pursuit of perfection” to block progress, but added that there are nonetheless metrics the United States will use to judge the outcome of the talks, which run Dec. 7-18.
The first, she said, is that all countries do their fair share. The next, she said, is that a deal should cover all major issues, which she said include adaptation, financing, technology cooperation, dissemination of technology and forest preservation.
Clinton also said the talks should address funding mechanisms to help developing nations.
“We are prepared to support a global climate fund that will support adaptation and mitigation efforts and a matching entity to help developing countries match needs with available resources,” Clinton said.
“Funding through the new global climate fund and a technology mechanism will help developing countries identify what they need, where to get it, and how to finance, operate and maintain it,” she said.
Clinton’s view that Copenhagen won’t result in a final deal reflects the views of other key negotiators.
“I don’t think we can get a legally binding agreement by Copenhagen,” U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said earlier this month in Barcelona, Spain (Greenwire, Nov. 6).
“I think that we can get that within a year after Copenhagen,” he said.
A significant portion of war casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan was taken by convoys providing oil to the military, according to a report released by a consulting firm yesterday.
Deloitte LLP’s study found a tenfold increase in the Defense Department’s oil consumption since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is a 175 percent increase in oil use per day, per soldier, since the Vietnam War.
The number of trucks traveling rough roads in remote areas, whose primary cargo is fuel, has “skyrocketed” in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the rate of exposure of military personnel to “improvised explosive devices (IEDs),” the report says. IEDs accounted for about 43 percent of U.S. casualties in Iraq between July 2003 and May 2009, the study found.
IEDs also accounted for 38 percent of fatalities in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2008 and will likely account for more than half of military personnel deaths in fiscal 2009, Deloitte reported.
“Energy security is essential to reduce war time casualties,” the report concludes. “With the significant numbers of U.S. soldiers supporting the transport, logistics, and deployment of fossil fuel to the front lines, there is a call to action to reduce dependence on oil in war.”
Along with military lives lost, DOD’s heavy reliance on oil incurs a significant financial cost, the study notes.
In 2008, the Pentagon spent $16 billion to purchase 120 million barrels of petroleum, 20 percent of which supplied vehicles, planes and other equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan, Deloitte said.
But in June of 2008 alone, the military lost 44 trucks and 220,000 gallons of fuel as long fuel convoys were waylaid by IEDs, weather, traffic and stealing, the study says. While the military purchases fuel at about $2 to $3 per gallon, the additional expense of air and ground protection and transportation pushes the price of each gallon to $45, Deloitte said.
“This study demonstrates that the development and use of alternative energy can be a direct cause for reductions in wartime casualties and may rank on par with the business cases for development of ever more effective offensive weapons, sophisticated fuel transport tankers, mine resistant armored vehicles and net-centric sensing technologies,” the report says.
While the Pentagon and Congress have made progress in including energy-related planning into military bureaucracy, “significant progress is still required in consolidating its energy-related bureaucracy and formulating an all inclusive energy policy,” the study says.
Low-lying and impoverished Asian coastal cities such as Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta are vulnerable to “brutal” damage from climate change without global action, environmental group WWF warned Thursday.
Energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions must be curtailed in “mega-cities” where global warming will affect everything from national security to health and water availability, the influential campaign group said.
“Climate change is already shattering cities across developing Asia and will be even more brutal in the future,” said Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF Global Climate Initiative.
Including their suburbs, Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta now have a combined population of about 49 million, according to WWF.
It said better-off cities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore also faced varying degrees of risk from climate change, such as rising sea levels, excessive rain, flooding and heatwaves.
Hong Kong could see dramatically fewer cold days per year while dengue fever appears to be spreading to previously unaffected parts of Singapore, it noted.
“Asia is the most populous and arguably the most vulnerable continent in the world because of the high risk of climate impacts and relatively low adaptive capacity,” the report said.
“Unfortunately, the full extent of climate change has likely not been fully realised,” it said, noting that temperatures in Asia have risen by one to three degrees Centigrade (two to five degrees Fahrenheit) in the last 100 years.
WWF issued its report to coincide with a weekend summit here to be attended by US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and other Asia-Pacific leaders.
The summit takes place three weeks before crucial talks on a new world climate pact open in Copenhagen on December 7.
WWF said that on a “vulnerability” scale going up to 10, Dhaka rated nine points, and Manila and Jakarta eight each.
Calcutta and Phnom Penh received scores of seven each on the WWF danger scale, Ho Chi Minh City and Shanghai six each, Bangkok five, and Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore four each.
Poorer Asian nations urgently need financial, technological and training support from industrialised countries to save lives, protect national assets and preserve the cities’ economic contributions, it said.
Mark Dia, the Manila-based deputy campaign director for Greenpeace in Southeast Asia, told AFP that the report showed “disaster management should be top of the agenda for the government.”
Tropical storm Ketsana dumped record amounts of rainfall over the Philippine capital in September, leaving more than 400 people dead and vast swathes of the city flooded for weeks.
WWF urged the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to use their summit to promote strategies to reduce carbon emissions across the 21-member organisation.
In a communique to be issued at the end of their annual meeting Sunday, the APEC leaders are expected to call for sweeping emissions cuts and declare their support for a global deal at next month’s Copenhagen climate gathering.
In the short term, APEC will seek to open up trade in environmental goods and services, known as green technology, as part of efforts to fight climate change and achieve sustainable economic growth.
The December 7-18 Copenhagen talks are aimed at achieving a global deal to slash greenhouse gas emissions and ease the impact of climate change before the 2012 expiry of the Kyoto Protocol, which excludes the United States.
China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Thursday that it would seek a “fair and reasonable” result at Copenhagen but reiterated that rich nations must bear most of the burden for redressing global warming.
A trio of U.S. senators this week introduced a bill to spur solar manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Through additional tax credits, the legislation aims to encourage more U.S. companies to make solar equipment, creating jobs and building up the country’s clean energy economy.
Many “” from politicians and environmentalists to investors – have pinned great hopes on green jobs. Clean energy could create 850,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States, according to recent research Reuters reported this week.
The latest proposal could create 315,000 U.S. jobs along, according to Solar Energy Industries Association, which is pushing for the bill.
But would the extra tax incentives be enough to keep solar power companies producing in the United States?
A decade ago, the United States produced more than 40 percent of the world’s solar photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity. In 2008, the United States made only 5 percent of the world’s solar cells, according to the solar group.
Those numbers seem bleak. But the solar jobs landscape is not so black and white.
Chinese companies Suntech and Yingli have plans to start manufacturing in the United States. At the same time, the largest U.S. solar company First Solar has announced plans to open a massive plant in China and U.S.-based Evergreen Solar is speeding up its strategy to outsource to China.
Last week Evergreen Solar’s executives had to answer questions from analysts about their plans to move panel assembly to China from Massachusetts.
“There is a lot of capacity going in the ground in Asia. But I think as companies do their own homework and do cost comparison it is compelling that the costs in China or low “” low capital costs, low labor costs, low overhead costs,” said Evergreen Solar’s chief executive Richard Feldt on a conference call with analysts.
“And so I think it will be difficult to be a worldwide supplier of scale and not have some operations in
China.” Feldt added.
China should cut its carbon intensity every year by 4 or 5 percent if it wants to achieve a goal of low-carbon development by 2050, state media on Thursday cited a thinktank report as saying.
In September, Chinese President Hu Jintao promised to put a “notable” brake on the country’s rapidly rising carbon emissions, but dashed hopes he would unveil a hard target to kickstart stalled climate talks.
Hu, the leader of the world’s biggest emitter, told a U.N. summit China would pledge to cut “carbon intensity,” or the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each dollar of economic output, over the decade to 2020.
The official China Daily said the China Council of International Cooperation on Environment and Development would submit a report to the central government on cutting carbon intensity.
“If China is to meet the target of year-on-year emissions cuts of between 4 and 5 percent, it will need to reduce energy intensity by between 75 and 85 percent by 2050,” the newspaper wrote, paraphrasing the report.
“In addition, the proportion of manufacturing industry within the national economic structure would need to be cut from the current 50 percent to around 30 percent by the middle of the century,” it added.
Ever since oil was discovered offshore Ghana in 2007, the world’s oil explorers have been eyeing Guyana. Non-geologists might find that a bit of a leap.
But for Big Oil, there’s a big connection. Africa and South America were once joined, but were separated tens of millions of years ago by continental shift. So many believe the oil-bearing structures in Ghana’s huge Jubilee field could be replicated on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in places like Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
One company that has bet big on the theory is Tullow Oil PLC, a plucky UK-based explorer that is one of the partners in Jubilee.
Tullow says it has identiified “numerous” Jubilee-type leads offshore French Guiana. It began seismic testing over 3,000 square kilometers of its permit area in September and hopes to drill its first exploration well there by the end of next year. It also has interests in Suriname and Guyana.
Now the big guys are taking the trail blazed by Tullow. Royal Dutch Shell plc announced Wednesday it had acquired a 33% interest in Tullow’s Maritime permit in French Guiana and has an option to buy 12% more later. The purchase, Shell said, “adds quality acreage to our deep water portfolio in the Americas.”
Shell is not the first supermajor to dip its toes in the waters of northern South America. Exxon Mobil Corp. has exploration rights in the huge Stabroek block offshore Guyana, though it’s tight-lipped about what it’s found there. Smaller companies like Canadian independent CGX Energy are also present there.
But the area remains one of the most under-explored in the world. There’s some data from the 1970s, when Elf Aquitaine and Exxon drilled two dry wells. But from then on it was virtually ignored by the majors. That’s changed with the discovery of Jubilee.
The idea that areas on either side of oceans could have the same oil-bearing structures is now well-established. After billions of barrels of oil were found in the “pre-salt” areas offshore Brazil, many began to wonder whether the ultra-deep waters off the coast of Angola, directly across the Atlantic, might bring forth similar treasures.
Meanwhile, for Shell, the Tullow deal makes perfect sense. Like all the majors, it’s struggled to add reserves and increase production as it’s shut out from the more traditional oil-producing areas.
French Guiana might be a leap in the dark- but one that could yield rich returns for a company eager to beef up its exploration portfolio.
A principle role undertaken by the 25x’25 Alliance is to explore opportunities for the agricultural and forestry sectors to participate in the new energy future that is emerging. With national attention focusing on initiatives that can stem climate change, the Alliance is facilitating a discussion on the role of the agricultural and forestry sectors in a reduced carbon economy, in which the use of fossil fuels is decreased and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.
To further that discussion, 25x’25 today released a study conducted by the University of Tennessee’s Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group that projects how meeting several proposed energy/climate change policy scenarios might impact the U.S. agricultural sector. The policy scenarios that have been analyzed include a cap-and-trade regulatory system and varying treatments of agricultural offsets. The study’s results show impacts on economic returns, climate benefits, feedstock prices and land use impacts.
The study, entitled Analysis of the Implications of Climate Change and Energy Legislation to the Agricultural Sector, shows that net returns for U.S. agriculture are positive under a properly constructed cap-and-trade program. However, the study goes on to show that if carbon emissions are regulated by EPA as prescribed under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, net farm income is projected to fall below USDA baseline projections.
The long-awaited and comprehensive assessment indicates that income from offsets and from market revenues under a properly constructed cap-and-trade program is higher than any potential increase in input costs, including energy and fertilizer.
A cap-and-trade system that allows multiple offsets, including those for bioenergy crop production, while restricting the removal of crop residues to acceptable, environmentally beneficial levels, would generate some $209 billion over baseline in net returns accumulated from 2010 to 2025. The number jumps to $364 billion over baseline if carbon regulation is left to EPA without legislative guidance.
Input costs will increase under any scenario, the study says. But EPA regulation subjects U.S. agriculture to higher input costs with no opportunity to be compensated for the greenhouse gas reduction services that farmers, ranchers and forestland owners can provide.
The study indicates that no major shifts in commodity cropland use are expected under a properly constructed cap-and-trade system. Furthermore, at a meaningful but moderate carbon price of up to $27 per metric ton of carbon equivalent (a price level projected by EPA), no cropland is expected to be converted to forests and grassland. However, under EPA regulation, carbon prices could go up to $160 per ton and lead to the conversion of as much as 60 million acres of cropland.
As Congress debates legislation that addresses climate change, lawmakers must establish a viable and equitable regulatory system that recognizes the contributions of farmers, ranchers and forestland owners. The University of Tennessee study shows that solutions from the land not only make good tools in the fight against climate change; they also benefit agriculture and forestry.