A round-up of climate and energy news. Please post other stories below.
Midwest residents would pay less for electricity, have more job opportunities, and breathe healthier air if their state adopted stronger clean energy standards, according to a peer-reviewed report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
The report, “A Bright Future for the Heartland: Powering the Midwest Economy with Clean Energy,” shows that Midwest states have tremendous potential to produce electricity from renewable resources, particularly wind, biomass (plant material such as corn stalks and switch grass), and solar and to cut utility bills by reducing energy use in homes and businesses.
Tapping the Midwest’s clean energy potential would drive billions of dollars in new business investment, create thousands of jobs, and save families and businesses billions through lower utility bills, while reducing the state’s dependence on coal and associated carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.
“Adopting stronger clean energy standards can help transform the region’s economy,” said Steven Frenkel, director of UCS’s Midwest office. “Generating more renewable energy will put people back to work manufacturing the components needed to power the clean energy economy, such as wind turbines and solar panels. At the same time, reducing energy use can help keep Midwest businesses competitive by cutting their energy costs.
Venezuela’s crude oil proven reserves surpassed those of Saudi Arabia in 2010, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in its annual statistical bulletin.
Venezuela’s proven crude oil reserves reached 296.5 billion barrels in 2010, up 40.4% on the year and higher than Saudi Arabia’s 264.5 billion barrels, OPEC said.
In the long run, the boost in reserves, which comes along with increases from Iran and Iraq, may empower members of the group who favor a defense of high prices. However, there are doubts over whether all of Venezuela’s heavy oil discoveries are actually economically viable.
The data broadly confirm Venezuela’s statements that it had reached this level of reserves in January. OPEC normally relies on its members’ assessments for statistical data.
Iraq’s and Iran’s proven reserves were also respectively upgraded by 24.4% to 143.1 billion barrels, and by 10.3% to 151.2 billion barrels, roughly in line with the countries’ earlier disclosures.
The puzzle over what happened to the oil and gas released during theDeepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year has been partially solved.
Oil is composed of many thousands of different chemicals but the plume that stretched through the Gulf contained relatively few. Now chemists have worked out what happened to the rest.
Christopher Reddy, an environmental chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and colleagues, used a remotely operated submarine to collect samples directly from the leaking well in June 2010 and compared these with samples taken from elsewhere in the oil plume.
Reddy likens the oil and gas molecules gushing out of the wellhead to passengers on an elevator. “We wanted to know which compounds got off the elevator instead of going up,” he says.
At first, she noticed Afghan children hauling brush. Then, in Afghan family compounds, she noticed women tending small fires and trying to cook over them.
But it wasn’t until U.S. diplomat Patricia McArdle realized how often it was sunny in Afghanistan that she put it together with a youthful memory of cooking with solar ovens and realized this was a low-tech option offering long-term hope to the war-torn nation, which is preparing for a draw-down of U.S. troops.
“My concern is that it (renewable energy) really hasn’t been part of our talk of reconstruction,” said the now-retired McArdle, who spent a year in northern Afghanistan from 2005 at the end of a diplomatic career, in a telephone conversation.
“My hope is that we will focus a bit more on renewable energy as we start to pull out.”
The solar ovens — basically a box covered in aluminum foil that can cook food by concentrating the sun’s heat, which McArdle now promotes as inexpensive, renewable energy — fits neatly into what she sees as a long tradition of sustainable living in Afghanistan.
Poor countries have spent just as much as rich ones — and in the case of China, more — to develop low-carbon energy, according to a study coming out this week. Its conclusions could turn the conventional wisdom about the differences among nations over mitigation efforts on its head.
The report by former World Bank economist David Wheeler, who now leads the climate change division at the think tank Center for Global Development, finds that China spent 94 cents of every $10,000 of average income on clean energy between 1990 and 2008. The United States, by contrast, spent 44 cents of every $10,000.
Meanwhile, all other industrialized countries combined spent only a penny more per year than their less developed counterparts.
“We all had this idea that [climate change] was a rich country problem and that poor countries shouldn’t have to do anything until they get to a certain stage of development, and that rich countries need to make it worth their while. But what I had seen suggested [was] that poor countries were already doing a lot,” Wheeler said.
The data bore that out. Wheeler examined International Energy Agency data for 174 countries on investments in six low-carbon power sources (hydro, geothermal, nuclear, biomass, wind and solar) to find the incremental costs of clean power compared to a cheaper, carbon-intensive option like a conventional coal-fired power plant. He then computed the average income share in countries to compare how much people in poor countries are paying for carbon mitigation compared to those in rich nations.
Canada’s oil producers are enhancing their Washington, D.C., lobbying efforts at a time when Capitol Hill battles over oil sands are heating up.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has retained Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, a firm that includes David Wilkins — who served as ambassador to Canada under former President George W. Bush — among its partners.
“Our role is to advocate for Canadian energy and hopefully create a very positive environment for the Canadian oil-and-gas industry here in the United States,” Wilkins said.
Canada is the largest supplier of oil to the U.S.
Wilkins said the scope of the firm’s work with CAPP will encompass a wide range of issues that affect Canada’s oil-and-gas industry, and that a detailed strategy session is upcoming.