An Electric Car Powered by Saltwater ?  

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I don't usually expect to see "free energy" style stories on Inhabitat but I guess they make for good clickbait - this one is on a very hot looking car that can supposedly travel 370 miles on a tank of saltwater - This Blazing Fast Electric Car is Powered by Saltwater.

Nanoflowcell has developed the world’s first saltwater-powered electric car – the Quant e-Sportlimousine – it just received approval for testing in Europe! The futuristic gull-winged vehicle runs on a special type of gasoline that is made from salt water, and it’s now street-legal on public roads in Germany. According to Nanoflowcell, the Quant e-Sportlimousine can accelerate from 0-62 mph in a blazing 2.8 seconds and it has a driving range of up to 373 miles.

2MW Tidal Power Project For Bay Of Fundy  

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The Chronicle Herald has an article on a small-ish tidal power project in Nova Scotia - Fundy Tidal, Ontario firm join for energy project.

A Digby County tidal energy developer is teaming up with an Ontario company to make a 1.95-megawatt tidal project — and possibly more tidal projects — a reality. ... The company’s other COMFIT approvals include 500 kilowatt projects in Grand Passage, between Brier Island and Long Island, and in Petit Passage, between Long Island and Digby Neck. They have two more in Cape Breton, a 500 kilowatt project in Great Bras d’Or Channel and one for 100 kilowatts in Barra Strait.

Canada's CBC also has an article on tidal power testing programs in the Bay of Fundy - Bay of Fundy FORCE study looking at tidal power turbine potential.

Understanding the environmental conditions and strength of the current in the Bay of Fundy is important for four consortia — European companies partnered with local Nova Scotia companies — who have committed to spend $9 million on four berths to test their turbines at the demonstration site.

In 2009, OpenHydro of France tried unsuccessfully to deploy a 10-tonne turbine in the Bay of Fundy, but the ultra-strong tidal flows destroyed the machinery within three weeks. Current speeds have been clocked between 10 and 12 knots.

Instead of waiting months for collected data to be retrieved and processed, the new testing platform is connected to an onshore computer at FORCE in Parrsboro via a three-kilometre-long fibre-optic cable that transmits data in real-time.

Google invests $145m to turn oil field into solar plant  

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RNE has alook at Google's latest clean energy investment - Google invests $145m to turn oil field into solar plant.

US tech giant Google has signed up for its 17th renewable energy project, to put $145 million towards an 82 megawatt solar project being built by SunEdison on a former oil and gas field. The deal, announced last week, puts the internet search company’s clean energy investment tab at more than $1.5 billion, for projects spanning three continents and totalling a capacity of more than 2.5GW.

This latest, the “Regulus” solar project in Google’s home state of California, will be SunEdison’s largest in North America once finished, comprising more than 248,000 monocrystalline solar PV panels spanning 737 acres.Solar-google-logo “Over the years, this particular site in California has gone from 30 oil wells to five as it was exhausted of profitable fossil fuel reserves,” writes Google’s renewable energy principal Nick Coons on Google’s blog. “The land sat for some time and today we’re ready to spiff things up.”

China cracks down on imported coal  

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The SMH reports that China is looking to reduce coal imports - partly to improve air quality, partly to support Chinese coal miners - Risky business: China dumps our dirty coal.

Australian coal exporters are scrambling to clarify the fallout from changes to China's coal import rules, which could expose the industry to billions of dollars in lost sales as China seeks to cut air pollution.

The Chinese government is to limit the use of imported coal with more than 16 per cent ash and 3 per cent sulphur from January 1, 2015 in a bid to improve air quality, especially in cities such as Beijing and around Shanghai. At the same time, China is moving to force power utilities to slash coal import volumes, also with the stated aim of improving air quality, although this move will primarily give China's local coalminers a lift.

Will Superintelligent Machines Destroy Humanity ?  

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reason has a review of Nick Bostrum's book "Superintelligence" - Will Superintelligent Machines Destroy Humanity?.

In Frank Herbert's Dune books, humanity has long banned the creation of "thinking machines." Ten thousand years earlier, their ancestors destroyed all such computers in a movement called the Butlerian Jihad, because they felt the machines controlled them. Human computers called Mentats serve as a substitute for the outlawed technology. The penalty for violating the Orange Catholic Bible's commandment "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind" was immediate death.

Should humanity sanction the creation of intelligent machines? That's the pressing issue at the heart of the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom's fascinating new book, Superintelligence. Bostrom cogently argues that the prospect of superintelligent machines is "the most important and most daunting challenge humanity has ever faced." If we fail to meet this challenge, he concludes, malevolent or indifferent artificial intelligence (AI) will likely destroy us all. ...

In the Dune series, humanity was able to overthrow the oppressive thinking machines. But Bostrom is most likely right that once a superintelligent AI is conjured into existence, it will be impossible for us to turn it off or change its goals. He makes a strong case that working to ensure the survival of humanity after the coming intelligence explosion is, as he writes, "the essential task of our age."

RayGen fast-tracks 10MW CSVP power plant in China  

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While solar thermal power plants aren't expanding as rapidly as I hoped, innovation in the CSP(V) sector is continuing to occur. RNE has a report on Australian company Raygen which is looking to build a CSPV plant in China - Australia’s RayGen fast-tracks 10MW CSVP power plant in China.

Australian solar technology developer RayGen Resources says it will accelerate the time line for its first major commercial-scale project for its concentrated solar PV technology (CSPV), and intends to have a 10MW system built in China within two years.

The Melbourne-based RayGen, which has a small pilot facility in Victoria, says the deal with China Intense Solar will see a 200kW pilot plant completed by March, 2015, followed by a 1 MW demonstration soon after.

Ocean Thermal Energy: Back From the Deep  

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IEEE Spectrum has a look at a new OTEC pilot plant in Hawaii - Ocean Thermal Energy: Back From the Deep.

The finished facility, which will be only a bit higher in capacity than existing test plants in Japan and South Korea, is quite modest by energy production standards. The plant will be able to produce at most 100 kilowatts of power—enough, when operating continuously, to supply electricity to about 80 average American homes.

The plant and its pumps will consume most of the energy produced. But Makai’s plant is geared toward research, Eldred notes, not energy generation. The facility was built primarily to design and test heat exchangers, which are among the most expensive components of an OTEC plant. With the addition of a turbine, Eldred says, Makai will be able to design an automatic control system and improve both performance and cost predictions for its commercial plant designs. The company also hopes to get a sense of how fluctuations in the temperature and pressure of ocean water will alter power output, a factor that might prove significant for wave-tossed offshore plants.

That’s likely to be where OTEC energy production winds up. A 10-megawatt plant, such as one that Lockheed Martin aims to build for China’s Reignwood Group, will require a cold-water pipe that is several meters wide. A plant floating in open water could send a pipe straight to the depth required instead of diagonally, down a long slope extending out from shore. That would make for a shorter and less expensive pipe, reduce the impact on the landscape, and cut down on the energy required to pump the cold water.

The first large-scale plant to make the leap could be New Energy for Martinique and Overseas (NEMO), says Luis Vega of the University of Hawaii’s National Marine Renewable Energy Center. The project, which is a collaboration between renewable energy firm Akuo Energy and naval defense company DCNS, both based in Paris, plans to construct a 16-MW plant about 5 kilometers off the shore of the island of Martinique.

Construction is set to start next year, and the team aims to have the plant operational in four years. When complete, NEMO should be able to supply some 11 MW of energy to the Caribbean island, with the other 5 MW powering the plant and its pumps.

Earth’s Infrared Radiation: A New Renewable Energy Frontier ?  

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IEEE Spectrum has a look at a newly recognised form of ambient energy - Earth’s Infrared Radiation: New Renewable Energy Frontier?.

The Earth continuously emits 100 million gigawatts of infrared heat into outer space. That’s enough to power all of humanity many thousands of times over. Capturing even a fraction of that would mean an end to our energy woes. Harvard University researchers are now proposing a way to harvest this untapped source of renewable energy.

They have come up with two designs for a device they call an “emissive energy harvester” that would convert IR radiation into usable power. Today's technology isn't sufficient for an efficient, affordable harvester, the researchers say. But they've laid out a few different paths towards such devices in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Stanford University has a post on a small radio device that uses ambient energy to power itself - making it a building block for the "internet of things" - Stanford engineer aims to connect the world with ant-sized radios.

A Stanford engineering team has built a radio the size of an ant, a device so energy efficient that it gathers all the power it needs from the same electromagnetic waves that carry signals to its receiving antenna – no batteries required.

Designed to compute, execute and relay commands, this tiny wireless chip costs pennies to fabricate – making it cheap enough to become the missing link between the Internet as we know it and the linked-together smart gadgets envisioned in the "Internet of Things."

"The next exponential growth in connectivity will be connecting objects together and giving us remote control through the web," said Amin Arbabian, an assistant professor of electrical engineering who recently demonstrated this ant-sized radio chip at the VLSI Technology and Circuits Symposium in Hawaii.

Much of the infrastructure needed to enable us to control sensors and devices remotely already exists: We have the Internet to carry commands around the globe, and computers and smartphones to issue the commands. What's missing is a wireless controller cheap enough to so that it can be installed on any gadget anywhere.

"How do you put a bi-directional wireless control system on every lightbulb?" Arbabian said. "By putting all the essential elements of a radio on a single chip that costs pennies to make."

World Energy Reports, 2014  

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All of this year's major energy reports are now out :

Euan at Energy Matters has a summary of the BP report - Global Energy Trends – BP Statistical Review 2014.

  • Global primary energy supply has continued to grow, mainly fossil fuels (FF), mainly coal. FF supply was up 183 million tonnes oil equivalent (mtoe) in 2013 while new renewable supply was up 42 mtoe from 2012.
  • In 2003, FF accounted for 87% of global primary energy consumption. In 2013, FF accounted for 87% of global primary energy consumption. This is testimony to the absolute failure of energy policies aimed at reducing CO2 emissions.
  • In 2003, new renewables (wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels etc) accounted for 0.82% of total primary energy and by 2013 this had grown to 2.69%. In 2003, nuclear power accounted for 6.01% and this fell to 4.40% in 2013. The 1.87% growth in share of new renewables almost matches the 1.61% fall in the share of nuclear power. On the CO2 account, low emissions nuclear power has been replaced by low emissions renewable energy. The actual energy substitutions are a little more complex.
  • Oil consumption has been on a gently rising plateau since 2005 (Figure 1) and oil is declining in importance in the global energy mix (Figure 2). The fall in oil’s share has been picked up by coal and the only simple way for this substitution to occur is for oil fired power generation to close. Once all oil fired generation has been closed, expect severe upwards pressure on the oil price.

Robert Rapier also has some articles on the BP report - World Sets New Oil Production and Consumption Records and The US and Russia are Gas Giants.

First a note about BP’s definitions. “Oil” in the BP Statistical Review (BPSR) is defined as ”crude oil, tight oil, oil sands and natural gas liquids”, but excludes biofuels and liquid fuels produced from coal or natural gas. Consumption numbers do include all liquid fuels, so consumption numbers are always greater than production numbers, but this is merely an artifact of BP’s definitions.

Global oil production advanced in 2013 by 557,000 barrels per day (bpd), reaching a new all-time high of 86.8 million bpd (an increase of 0.6 percent over 2012). After declining in 2009, global crude oil production has now increased 4 years in a row. But as I noted in last month’s short article, while global oil production did indeed set a new record, the US production increase alone was 1.1 million bpd. Thus, outside the US global production actually declined by 554,000 bpd. ...

In 2013 global natural gas production advanced 1.1% to a new all-time high of 328 billion cubic feet per day (Bcfd). Except for a one-year decline in 2008-2009, global gas production has risen fairly steadily for about three decades, and production has more than doubled during that time span.

Power magazine also has a look at the BP report - Above-Average Growth Reported for Renewables in 2013.

According to the report, world power generation grew 2.5% in 2013, slightly up over 2012 (which saw 2.2% growth over 2011) but below the 10-year trend (3.3%). And while electricity generation fell for the third year in a row in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it surged 4.8% in non-OECD countries. China, followed by the U.S., was the world’s largest power generator (Figure 1). Meanwhile, India overtook Japan to take third place. ...

Nuclear saw its first increase since 2010, climbing 0.9%. Nuclear consumption grew in the U.S., China, and Canada, but was offset by declines in South Korea, Ukraine, Spain, Russia, and Japan—whose nuclear output has fallen 95% since 2010 with nearly all of its reactors still offline after the Fukushima disaster.

Renewables generation, on the other hand, soared 16.3% and accounted for a record 5.3% share of global power generation, said the report. Globally, wind energy (up 20.7%) again accounted for more than half of renewable power generation growth, and solar power generation grew even more rapidly (33%).

The BS has a snippet from the IEA report looking at shifts in oil consumption - World oil's pivot to Asia.

In the Reference case projection, world liquid fuels consumption increases 38 per cent from 87 million barrels per day in 2010 to 119 MMbbl/d in 2040. China, India, and other developing countries in Asia account for 72 per cent of the net world increase in liquid fuels consumption, with Middle East consumers accounting for another 13 per cent. Most liquid fuel demand is for industrial uses and transportation.

In the United States, Europe, Japan, and other mature industrialised economies, liquid fuel demand has leveled off and is projected to slowly decline. The combined effects of several factors have slowed or even reversed the growth in liquid fuels use. These factors include sustained high oil prices, efficiency standards for vehicles and equipment together with high taxation of motor fuels, price-driven fuel switching towards non-oil fuels outside of transportation, vehicle saturation, as well as structural changes in factors such as demographics and consumer behavior.

The BS also has an update on geothermal power in the US - Geothermal expands out of California.

EGS plants are currently being developed in several countries, and the first commercial-scale plant in the United States, the Desert Peak East pilot project in Nevada, began operating in 2013.

There are currently 64 operating conventional geothermal power plants in the United States, accounting for nearly 2700 megawatts of total capacity at the end o 2013. Over three-fourths of US geothermal power generation in 2013 was in California, largely because of favourable geothermal resources, policy, and market conditions in the state. The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world, a complex called the Geysers, located in Northern California, has more than 700 MW of capacity.

Since 2001, only seven of 30 new plants exceeding 1 MW have been built in California, where most available low-cost geothermal resources have previously been developed. Sixteen of those 30 plants built after 2001 are in Nevada, with the remainder in Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Hawaii. Most of the newer plants are relatively small, and while geothermal generation rose 11 per cent between 2008 and 2013, the geothermal share of total US electricity generation has remained consistently around 0.4 per cent since 2001

ReNew Economy has a post on the IEA reports' comments on solar power and renewable energy - Only solar PV is exceeding expectations for clean energy

The main message in the new Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report from IEA is that sustained growth in renewable energy is at risk. Governments, therefore, need to strengthen efforts to facilitate growth of renewables in all energy sectors. In the power sector, both hydropower, wind and bioenergy fall short of the deployment speed consistent with IEAs 2 Degree Scenario. Solar PV, says IEA, is «the only source expected to exceed global 2DS targets by 2020, boosted by cost declines and an increasingly rapid scale-up in non-OECD markets.»

This is troublesome news for renewables in general, but encouraging news for solar energy. And having studied the underlying assumptions in the report, I am tempted to add: This is just the beginning of the solar awakening of IEA; be ready for better news next year.

The Power Of Nightmares  

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The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is getting surprisingly little coverage - Wired has a look at the growth trend in infections - The Mathematics of Ebola Trigger Stark Warnings: Act Now or Regret It.

The Ebola epidemic in Africa has continued to expand since I last wrote about it, and as of a week ago, has accounted for more than 4,200 cases and 2,200 deaths in five countries: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. That is extraordinary: Since the virus was discovered, no Ebola outbreak’s toll has risen above several hundred cases. This now truly is a type of epidemic that the world has never seen before. In light of that, several articles were published recently that are very worth reading.

You can see how that could quickly get out of hand, and in fact, that is what the researchers predict. Here is their stop-you-in-your-tracks assessment:

In a worst-case hypothetical scenario, should the outbreak continue with recent trends, the case burden could gain an additional 77,181 to 277,124 cases by the end of 2014.

While no one seems concerned enough to expend significant resources on stopping Ebola there does seem to be an increasing amount of hysteria around the spread of IS in Iraq and Syria - the media coverage of this lately reminds me of this gem from Adam Curtis a while ago - The Power Of Nightmares.

PWC runs the numbers on climate change  

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Grist has a look at a new PwC report on carbon emissions - This legendary accounting firm ran the numbers on climate change.

With every year that passes, we’re getting further away from averting a human-caused climate disaster. That’s the key message in this year’s “Low Carbon Economy Index,” a report released by the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report highlights an “unmistakable trend.” The world’s major economies are increasingly failing to do what’s needed to to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. That was the target agreed to by countries attending the United Nations’ 2009 climate summit; it represents an effort to avoid some of the most disastrous consequences of runaway warming, including food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts, and widespread species extinction.

To curtail climate change, individual countries have made a variety of pledges to reduce their share of emissions, but taken together, those promises simply aren’t enough. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do has again grown, for the sixth year running.”

The Peak Oil Crisis: When ?  

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Tom Whipple is somehow still managing to beat the peak oil drum at The Falls Church News Press. His latest article ponders when the peak oil crisis so many doomers have been waiting for will finally occur - The Peak Oil Crisis: When?.

For those following the world oil production situation, it has been clear for some time that the only factor keeping global crude output from moving lower is the continuing increase in U.S. shale oil production mostly from Texas and North Dakota. Needless to say once the fabled “peak” comes, oil and gasoline prices are certain to move higher triggering a series of economic events – most of which will not be good for the global economy.

Thus the key question is just how many more months or years will production of U.S. shale oil (more accurately call light tight oil) continue to grow. Many have answers to this question ranging from the “next year or so” on out the middle or end of the next decade. Some forecasts as to time remaining until the “peak” arrives are politically tinged. No politician, business manager, or even investor wants to hear that serious economic problems affecting their lives may be only a few years away. Fortunately for these folks, there are many forecasters available to spin stories about how “technology” will enable US shale oil production to continue on into the dim future of the 2020’s – which most of us really can’t comprehend or plan for.

Usually missing from optimistic estimates for future U.S. shale oil production is any discussion of just how fast production from fracked wells declines. Most fracked wells are adequate or at least economic producers for three years or so, after which their production is so small that they need to be replaced or reworked to keep a meaningful amount of production going. As shale oil production grows larger and larger, more and more wells will have to be drilled and fracked just to keep production level. At some point there will be a cross over between new wells coming on stream and old wells going out of production so output will start to slip. The EIA recently noted that for North Dakota to increase its oil production by 20,000 barrels a day (b/d) next month, it must bring 94,000 b/d of new production online. At Texas’s Eagle Ford basin, it will take 152,000 b/d of new production next month to increase net production by 31,000 b/d.

There is no doubt that the shale oil drilling industry has made many significant technological advances in recent years. Multiple wells are now being drilled from a single drilling pad – foregoing the need to move drilling rigs and setting up all the expensive infrastructure needed to frack shale wells. For a while shale oil drillers were drilling and fracking longer wells which reduced the cost per barrel. Now we hear that drillers are increasing production per well by pumping more fracking materials down each well and some are saying this will be enough to offset any decline in prices. Currently US shale oil production is about 3 million b/d and in June output increased by about 100,000 b/d. About half of US shale oil production comes from North Dakota where winter conditions are so harsh that production has been falling during the winter months.

The two major forecasting agencies, Washington’s EIA and Paris’ IEA, are both more pessimistic than is generally known for they both foresee US shale oil production leveling off as soon as 2016. The reason for this is that drillers will simply run out of new places to drill and frack new wells. While new techniques of extracting more oil from a well are possible, there is need to look closely at the costs of these techniques vs. the potential payoff.

The shale oil situation in Texas is somewhat different than in North Dakota for there you have much better weather and two separate shale oil deposits. The recent growth in Texas’s shale oil production has been much smoother than in storm-prone North Dakota and has been increasing at about 44,000 b/d each month. So far as can be seen from the outside of the industry, production in both states will continue to grow for at least another year or two – but then we will be at 2016.


Posted by Big Gav

Veering even more off topic than usual - Trollhunter is a Norwegian "found footage" mockumentary looking at a government conspiracy covering up the existence of Trolls in the Norwegian countryside.

The style is a cross between "Blair Witch Project" and "Dark Side of the Moon" (I loved the clip towards the end where the Norwegian PM is talking about trolls impeding the expansion of the Norwegian electricity grid). Three students investigating bear poaching come across a suspicious man (with truly frightening scratches down the side of his vehicle) and decide to follow him. They get more than they bargained for, including a thorough smearing with "troll stench".

Highly recommended if want to watch something different and enjoy horror movies.

How Big Is The Tesla Gigafactory ?  

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EV Obsession has a graphic putting the new Tesla Gigafactory into context - How Big Is The Tesla Gigafactory?.

Everything is better with a bit of perspective, and a Tesla investor and redditor recently decided to add a bit of perspective with a graphic comparing the Gigafactory to a bunch of large towers an such. With feedback from members of the reddit community, he then had a better idea for how to put the Gigafactory into perspective, so he created another graphic comparing it to other large things.

Gas 2.0 also has a look at the Gigafactory and plans for powering it with renewable energy - Can The Gigafactory Run On Just Renewable Energy?.

It is no small task to power a facility as huge as the Gigafactory, which is said to cover 929,000 square meters and about a thousand acres of land, and over at Tom Lombardo ran some calculations to see just how much power the Gigafactory would need. Based on a Navigant Research study, Lombardo estimates the Gigafactory could consume as much as 2,400 MWh each day if it’s running at full-tilt (that is to say, 500,000 battery packs per year). That’s enough energy to power 80,000 average American homes. Where the hell is Elon Musk going to get all that power?

Well Lombardo goes on to say that if 850,000 square-meters were covered in efficient solar panels (from, say, Solar City?), that alone would generate about 850 MWh of energy per day, about ⅓ of what’s needed. The official Gigafactory picture also included about 85 windmills on the hills in the background, and despite the Reno area not been particularly friendly to wind farms, a setup of similar size would generate about 1,836 MWh of energy, which puts the Gigafactory well past its 2,400 MWh needs. Musk also said geothermal energy could play a role, and a small 10 Mw facility could produce 240 MWh of usable energy each day. All told, the Gigafactory could actually produce 20% more energy than it needs on a daily basis.

Drillers Piling Up More Debt Than Oil Hunting Fortunes in Shale  

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Bloomberg has a look at the borrowing boom underpinning the US shale oil boom - Drillers Piling Up More Debt Than Oil Hunting Fortunes in Shale.

A decade into a shale boom that has made fracking a household word and Wilson a rich man, drillers are propping up the dream of U.S. energy independence with a mountain of debt. As oil production hits a 28-year high, investors and politicians are buying into the vision of a domestic energy renaissance.

Companies are paying a steep price for the gains. Like Halcon, most are spending money faster than they make it, an average of $1.17 for every dollar earned in the 12 months ended on June 30. Only seven of the U.S.-listed firms in Bloomberg Intelligence’s E&P index made more money in that time than it cost them to keep drilling. These companies are plugging cash shortfalls with junk-rated debt. They owed $190.2 billion at the end of June, up from $140.2 billion at the end of 2011.

SunEdison To Set Up 70 MW Solar Power Project For Chilean Copper Mine  

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Cleantechnica has a post on the steady increase in renewable energy usage in Chile, particularly in the mining sector (replacing expensive diesel generation) - SunEdison To Set Up 70 MW Solar Power Project For Chilean Copper Mine

SunEdison has announced that it has signed an agreement with Antofagasta Minerals S.A. to set up 69.5 MW solar photovoltaic power project at one of the latter copper mine in Chile. Antofagasta plans to use solar power to meet a part of the electricity demand at its Los Pelambres mine.

This would not be the first clean energy initiative to be implemented by Antofagasta for the Los Pelambres mine. The mine operators, from the very beginning, had a clear plan to implement sustainable energy solutions. Currently, wind energy is being used to partly power the mine operations. Los Pelambres mine currently has an electricity supply contract from one of Chile’s wind energy projects. The mine will start sourcing hydro power from a 110 MW project from 2020. The company is planning to invest in a geothermal power project as well.

El Tesoro, another mine owned by the company in Chile, gets some of the electricity from a solar thermal power plant. The project, installed at an investment of $15 million, can generate 25 GWh electricity every. The project has helped reduce diesel consumption by 55% and mine’s emissions by 4%.

The NSA now owns Bitcoin  

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John Robb has an interesting theory that Bitcoin is now effectively owned by the NSA (which will no doubt make it an excellent tool for blackmailing a lot of the less-than-legal users of the cryptocurrency) - The NSA now owns Bitcoin.

While I find alternative currencies quite interesting, the whole basis of Bitcoin (converting electricity into virtual coins) seems completely wrong - I far prefer some of the long ago proposals for paper money that entitle the bearer to a fixed amount of electricity...

Satochi Nakamoto (the nom de guerre of the mind behind Bitcoin) designed this flaw into the software because of one false assumption. What was that assumption? He believed that it was possible to build an open and free economic system built purely on simple self-interest (selfishness). Lots of people make this mistake (famously, Greenspan believed that selfish decision making would prevent the banking crisis of 2008).

It's not, obviously. Eventually, selfishness will lead one group to rig, cheat, control, etc. the system so they can get better returns. That's exactly what happened. Here's the flaw they exploited.

When a single entity ("a single miner" or "a mining pool") controls over 50% of the transaction processing it can control the entire system. This means they can "see" every transaction, spend the same coins more than once, and deny transactions they don't approve of.

That's finally happened. According to analysis from Cornell researchers, a mining pool called GHash has now reached 51% for large stretches of time (effective "ownership" is likely much less).

Here's the new boss:

Stopping climate meltdown needs the courage that saved the ozone layer  

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George Monbiot has an article wondering why international treaties to deal with shared risks have become impossible to organise - Stopping climate meltdown needs the courage that saved the ozone layer.

In The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins, a comedy made in 1971, Spike Milligan portrays Sloth as a tramp trying to get through a farm gate. This simple task is rendered almost impossible by the fact that he can’t be bothered to take his hands out of his pockets and open the latch. He tries everything: getting over it, under it, through it, hurling himself at it, risking mortal injury, expending far more energy and effort than the obvious solution would require.

This is how environmental diplomacy works. Governments gather to discuss an urgent problem and propose everything except the obvious solution – legislation. The last thing our self-hating states will contemplate is what they are empowered to do: govern. They will launch endless talks and commissions, devise elaborate market mechanisms, even offer massive subsidies to encourage better behaviour, rather than simply say “we’re stopping this”.

This is what’s happening with climate change caused by humans. The obvious solution, in fact the only real and lasting solution, is to decide that most fossil fuel reserves will be left in the ground, while alternative energy sources are rapidly developed to fill the gap. Everything else is talk. But not only will governments not contemplate this step, they won’t even discuss it. They would rather risk mortal injury than open the gate. ...

The Montreal protocol has famously done more to prevent global warming (which was not its purpose) than the Kyoto protocol, which was designed to prevent it. This is because some of the chemicals the ozone treaty bans are also powerful greenhouse gases.

So what’s the difference? Why is the Montreal protocol effective while the Kyoto protocol and subsequent efforts to prevent climate breakdown are not?

Part of the answer must be that the fossil fuel industry is much bigger than the halogenated hydrocarbon industry, and its lobbying power much greater. Retiring fossil fuel is technically just as feasible as replacing ozone-depleting chemicals, given the wide range of technologies for generating useful energy, but politically much tougher.

But I don’t think that’s the only factor. When the Montreal protocol was negotiated, during the mid-1980s, the notion that governments could intervene in the market was under sustained assault, but not yet conquered. Even Margaret Thatcher, while speaking the language of market fundamentalism, was dirigiste by comparison to her successors: enough at any rate to be a staunch supporter of the Montreal protocol. It is almost impossible to imagine David Cameron championing such a measure. For that matter, given the current state of Congress, it’s more or less impossible to see Barack Obama doing it either.

By the mid-1990s, the doctrine of market fundamentalism – also known as neoliberalism – had almost all governments by the throat. Any politicians who tried to protect the weak from the powerful or the natural world from industrial destruction were punished by the corporate media or the markets.

This extreme political doctrine – that governments must cease to govern – has made direct, uncomplicated action almost unthinkable. Just as the extent of humankind’s greatest crisis – climate breakdown – became clear, governments willing to address it were everywhere being disciplined or purged.

Since then, this doctrine has caused financial crises and economic collapse, the destruction of livelihoods, mountainous debt, insecurity and the devastation of the living planet. It has, as Thomas Piketty demonstrates, replaced enterprise with patrimonial capitalism: neoliberal economies rapidly become dominated by rent and inherited wealth, in which social mobility stalls.

Britain's nuclear clean-up bill to soar by billions  

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The Independent has an article on the UK's ever increasing bill for cleaning up old nuclear power sites - Britain's nuclear clean-up bill to soar by billions 'because of Government incompetence'.

The estimated cost for decommissioning over the next century went up from a £63.8bn estimate in 2011-12 to £69.8bn in 2012-13, with more increases expected in the coming years. This hike is nearly all down to the troubled clean-up of the Sellafield nuclear facility in Cumbria, one of the world's most hazardous and fiendishly complicated decontamination sites. NMP had been accused of chronic mismanagement after a series of delays and budget overruns on Sellafield projects, including problems involved in the construction of a storage facility for radioactive sludge.

Is This Tesla's Newest Rival?  

Posted by Big Gav in

Bloomberg has a report on a Japanese electric car manufacturer - Is This Tesla's Newest Rival?.

Electric vehicles are yet to become a common sight on the world’s roads, but the small list of electric vehicle manufacturers is slowly growing. Paul Allen takes a look at GLM’s latest electric sports car, a Japanese made rival to Elon Musk’s Tesla. And it’s just as fast.

China's Island Factory  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The BBC has a look at China's efforts to establish a foothold in the Spratley islands - China's Island Factory.

At the beginning of this year, the Chinese presence in the Spratly Islands consisted of a handful of outposts, a collection of concrete blockhouses perched atop coral atolls. Now it is building substantial new islands on five different reefs.

We are the first Western journalists to have seen some of this construction with our own eyes and to have documented it on camera.

On one of these new islands, perhaps Johnson South Reef, China seems to be preparing to build an air base with a concrete runway long enough for fighter jets to take off and land. Plans published on the website of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation are thought to show the proposed design.

China’s island building is aimed at addressing a serious deficit. Other countries that claim large chunks of the South China Sea - Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia - all control real islands. But China came very late to this party and missed out on all the good real estate.

Beijing only took control of Johnson South Reef in 1988 after a bloody battle with Vietnam that left 70 Vietnamese sailors dead. Hanoi has never forgiven Beijing. Since then China has shied away from direct military confrontation.

But now Beijing has decided it is time to move, to assert its claim and to back it up by creating new facts on the ground - a string of island bases and an unsinkable aircraft carrier, right in the middle of the South China Sea. ...

It is an oft-repeated statement that the coral atolls of the South China Sea sit atop potentially huge reserves of oil and gas. The struggle to control the Spratlys would certainly make more sense if it were true. But a recent study by the US government suggests the main oil and gas reserves under the South China Sea do not lie anywhere near the Spratly Islands.

For China the struggle over the South China Sea is less about resources, though, than it is about sovereignty and strategic space. Nor is this just a quarrel with the Philippines and other countries bordering the sea. Instead it is about China’s real strategic rival - the United States. The US government does not acknowledge China’s claim, and the US Pacific fleet continues to sail regularly through the South China Sea. But the Chinese navy is beginning to grow more assertive.

It’s (still) a materialist world  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Singapore Today has an article on Vaclav Smil's ideas about our dependence on large volumes of raw materials (in opposition to Bucky Fuller's about ephermeralisation) - It’s (still) a materialist world.

The guru of modern thinking about the significance of materials is Professor Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, described by Bill Gates as “my favourite author”. In his view, physical substances remain central to modern economies in spite of all the advances in information technology, and the apparent evidence of dematerialisation is often misleading.

In his latest book, Making The Modern World, he cites computer-aided design. The Boeing 747, designed in the 1960s, required 75,000 drawings with a total weight of 8 tonnes. Using computer-aided design (CAD) for the 767 in the 1990s did away with all that paper, and cut costs and design time.

However, as Prof Smil points out, the CAD system required computers, data storage, communications, screens and electricity to run. Given the complexity of the systems involved, it is far from obvious that the switch to CAD cut United States use of materials overall.

It is true that in computing power there has been spectacular dematerialisation. All the computers sold in the world in 2011 weighed 60 times as much as the total sold in 1981, but had 40 million times the memory.

But where microchips are not the dominant component of the total design, Prof Smil wrote, there has been no even remotely similar mass decline. In some sectors, technological progress has actually made products more “material”. The Ford Model T, one of the first automobiles, weighed 540kg; the F-150 pick-up, which is its most popular model today, weighs more than 2 tonnes.

Prof Smil’s conclusion is that while dematerialisation, in the sense of reduced material use for every dollar of gross domestic product, has been a trend for decades and can continue into the future, an absolute reduction in the world’s use of natural resources is highly unlikely. If growth continues, at some point those resources will run low.

While we do not know when we will hit the limits of materials usage, we know they are out there somewhere. Tensions such as the dispute over rare earths or rising commodity costs could have serious consequences for growth.

Prof Smil’s answer is that we need to think about rational futures of moderated energy and material use. As he admits, though, it is hard to see any political leaders being prepared to offer their citizens less and less in the future; particularly not in emerging economies where billions are hoping to come closer to developed world lifestyles.

Dalek Relaxation  

Posted by Big Gav

Idleworm points to this relaxation video - "Dr. Who fans, sit back and prepare to have your tension exterminated" - Dalek Relaxation.

Graph of the Day: Solar parity with wholesale market  

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RNE has a post on a report on countries that have reached (or are close to reaching) price parity for solar power with other forms of wholesale power generation - Graph of the Day: Solar parity with wholesale market.

Retail parity – knows as socket parity – for rooftop solar is a reality in many countries, including Australia. What has been a bigger challenge for the solar industry is to attain wholesale parity – where the cost of solar farms can compete with the prevailing wholesale price of electricity.

A new European study has found that large scale solar PV with single axis tracking is already at grid parity with wholesale prices in one country, and soon will be with others.

The study by research firm Eclareon find that Chile – with high electricity prices and excellent solar resources – is already at grid parity, which explains why it is one of the hottest markets for large scale solar at the moment.

The study notes that Morocco, Italy and Mexico are also, or have been close recently to grid parity. In Italy, though, the recent slump in wholesale prices has temporarily taken wholesale parity away from solar, while Mexico is also implementing a large restructure of its market.

See all the copper from a mine in one giant ball  

Posted by Big Gav

New Scientist has a post on some interesting images from Dillon Marsh showing how much copper was extracted from various mine sites - See all the copper from a mine in one giant ball.

IT'S not an alien invasion or a scene from Doctor Who. For over a hundred years, the West O'okiep Mine in South Africa yielded large amounts of copper. This eerie image, created nearly half a century after it closed, represents the copper extracted throughout the mine's lifetime – all 284,000 tonnes of it.

"South Africa has great mineral wealth, but this has come at a cost to the environment," says photographer Dillon Marsh. "Air and water pollution, acid mine drainage, toxic waste and abandoned, non-rehabilitated mines continue to be detrimental to the environment."

To visualise this, Marsh photographed South African copper mines that had been mined out and abandoned, creating a series called For What It's Worth. Using estimates of each mine's historical output, he calculated the size of an equivalent sphere of pure copper. Marsh then used a combination of Google Earth, a 3D rendering program and Photoshop to plant each sphere at its corresponding mine, complete with accurate reflections of the surroundings on its surface.

How Wolves Change Rivers  

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I quite liked this video on the impact of re-introducing wolves in Yellowstone national park - How Wolves Change Rivers.

The narration is taken from this talk by George Monbiot at TEDGlobal in 2013 - George Monbiot: For more wonder, rewild the world.

Wolves were once native to the US' Yellowstone National Park — until hunting wiped them out. But when, in 1995, the wolves began to come back (thanks to an aggressive management program), something interesting happened: the rest of the park began to find a new, more healthful balance. In a bold thought experiment, George Monbiot imagines a wilder world in which humans work to restore the complex, lost natural food chains that once surrounded us.

Born in 2010 - How much is left for me ?  

Posted by Big Gav in

Interesting graphic from Reddit via Australian Mining News - Peak oil and peak coal: When will we run out of resources.

Banff Mountain Film Festival 2014  

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I quite enjoyed this year's Banff Mountain Film Festival - particularly the winner featuring a pair of Norwegian guys spending a year surfing up above the Arctic Circle called "North of the Sun".

Why Peak Oil Refuses To Die  

Posted by Big Gav in has a repost of a Richard Heinberg article proclaiming peak oil is not dead - Why Peak Oil Refuses To Die.

Perhaps you’ve seen one of the recent barrage of articles claiming that fears of an imminent peak and decline in world oil production have either been dispelled (because we actually have plenty of oil) or are misplaced (because climate change is the only environmental problem we should be concerned with). I’m not buying either argument.

Why? Let’s start with the common assertion that oil supplies are sufficiently abundant so that a peak in production is many years or decades away. Everyone agrees that planet Earth still holds plenty of petroleum or petroleum-like resources: that’s the kernel of truth at the heart of most attempted peak-oil debunkery. However, extracting and delivering those resources at an affordable price is becoming a bigger challenge year by year. For the oil industry, costs of production have rocketed; they’re currently soaring at a rate of about 10 percent annually. Producers need very high oil prices to justify going after the resources that remain—tight oil from source rocks, Arctic oil, ultra-deepwater oil, and bitumen. But oil prices have already risen to the point where many users of petroleum just can’t afford to pay more. The US economy has a habit of responding to oil price hikes by swooning into recession, and during the shift from $20 per barrel oil to $100 per barrel oil (which occurred between 2002 and 2011), the economies of most industrialized countries began to shudder and stall. What would be their response to a sustained oil price of $150 or $200? We may never know: it remains to be seen whether the world can afford to pay what will be required for oil producers to continue wresting liquid hydrocarbons from the ground at current rates. While industry apologists who choose to focus only on the abundance of remaining petroleum resources claim that peak oil is rubbish, the market is telling Houston we have a problem.

Peak Oil Trader Who Scored $100 Million Payday Bets Shale Is A Dud  

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Bloomberg has an article on peak oil trader Andy Hall - Trader Who Scored $100 Million Payday Bets Shale Is Dud.

Andrew John Hall -- known as the God of Crude Oil Trading to some of his peers -- has built his success on a simple creed: Everyone who disagrees with him is wrong.

For most of the past 30 years, that has been a killer strategy. Like a poker player on an endless hot streak, Hall has made billions for the companies for which he’s traded by placing one aggressive bet after another. He was one of the few traders who anticipated both the run-up in and the eventual crash of oil prices in 2008.

Hall was so good that he bagged a $98 million payday in 2008, when he ran Citigroup Inc.’s Phibro LLC trading unit, and was up for about $100 million more in 2009. ...

His wager that oil prices would rise and rise has run headlong into an unanticipated energy revolution -- the frenetic push in the U.S. and elsewhere to wring crude out of shale. Shale drilling has boosted U.S. oil output to the highest level in 27 years; it helped the U.S. supply 84 percent of its energy demand last year. Oil prices, far from taking the upward trajectory Hall predicted, have been essentially unchanged since 2011. ...

“At one point, Phibro traders were the rulers of the world,” says Carl Larry, a former trader who publishes a newsletter on oil markets. “The best always learn how to adapt. Maybe it’s taking him longer to do that now. Or maybe his time has come.”

Hall, based on comments in his letters to investors, is unfazed by the losses and secure in his view that the price of oil is destined to rise. In those letters, he regularly mocks those who are convinced that a shale boom will mean long-term cheap, abundant energy. “When you believe something, facts become inconvenient obstacles,” Hall wrote in April, taking issue with an analyst who predicted a shale renaissance could result in $75-a-barrel oil over the next five years.

Hall is going all in on a bet that the shale-oil boom will play out far sooner than many analysts expect, resulting in a steady increase in prices to as much as $150 a barrel in five years or less.

Investing ever-larger sums of his own money, he’s buying contracts for so-called long-dated oil, to be delivered as far out as 2019, according to interviews with two dozen current and former employees and advisers who are familiar with Hall’s trading but aren’t authorized to speak on the record. To attract buyers, the sellers of these long-dated contracts -- typically shale companies that have financed the boom with mounds of debt -- need to offer them at a discount to existing prices.

Reboot or Die Trying  

Posted by Big Gav

Grist's David Roberts is back from sabbatical, with an article in Outside Online describing his year unplugged from blogging and social media - Reboot or Die Trying.

As my mind began to spin down, I discovered that calm was like a drug. It felt so good, so decadent, just to sit in the early afternoon with my feet propped on the windowsill, watching wind brush the trees in the front yard. I was hooked.

In December, I called psychology professor and researcher Larry D. Rosen, author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us. “I could put an EEG tap on your head and measure the activity while you’re sitting at your computer,” he said, “and then I could have you go take a walk. What I would likely see is your brain activity diminish rapidly.” What this suggests, he said, is that “technology is highly overloading our brains” and, conversely, that “certain things calm our brains.” Simple enough.

Rosen mentioned taking lots of short breaks, finding offline social groups, and, of course, meditation, but I kept coming back to walking. Just before I started my sabbatical, my wife bought me one of those wristband fitness trackers that count your steps. (The absurdity of wiring myself for a break from technology did not escape me.) 
It comes with a built-in goal of 10,000 steps a day—about five miles. Running, you could do that in 40 minutes, but I loathe running with great fervor, so I walked. My dog Forest and I have since logged 1,400 miles on winding urban hikes through Seattle’s tucked-away paths, stairways, and parks. That’s 2,723,487 steps, but who’s counting?

My rambles have taken me through many miles of greenspace, which, as scientists are belatedly discovering, is a kind of wonder drug itself, with many of the same benefits as meditation. When I chatted with researcher and naturopathic physician Alan Logan, coauthor of 2012’s Your Brain on Nature, he described experiments in which cognitively fatigued subjects are taken on a walk, some through a concrete environment, some through urban greenspace. “You come back and you repeat the cognitive testing,” he said, “and whether it’s memory recall, target identification, or your attention overall, it’s consistently far better after having taken a nature walk.”

What’s going on? Nature provides what University of Michigan psychologist Stephen Kaplan has termed soft fascinations. (Dibs on the band name.) We are shaped by evolution to heed the ebb and flow of drifting clouds, rustling grass, and singing birds. Unlike voluntary or directed attention—the kind required by, say, a spreadsheet—“effortless attention” produces no fatigue. It’s the mental equivalent of floating on your back, and a rested mind is a more productive mind.

Japan JV to build world’s largest floating solar array  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

RNE has an article on a Japanese plan to building a solar power plant offshore - Japan JV to build world’s largest floating solar array.

A Japanese joint venture is set to build what could be the world’s largest floating solar project – a 2.9MW PV plant in Hyogo Prefecture, west Japan.

Japanese solar company Kyocera announced the project on its website this week, which it began developing in 2o12, in conjunction with local real estate and industry group, Century Tokyo Leasing, shortly after the introduction of Japan’s solar feed-in tariff (FiT). The two companies have already developed 92.8MW of PV across 28 locations in Japan, of which 21.6MW is now online at 11 plants, according to Kyocera, and plan to develop around 60MW of floating PV on roughly 30 sites by May 2015.floating_pv_kyocera_200_150_s_c1

This latest floating solar project will consist of two arrays – one 1.7MW, making it the world’s largest floating solar plan, and one 1.2MW – which are designed to float on the surface of reservoirs. The use of floating solar technology addresses both the energy deficits created by Japan’s shift away from nuclear, as well as its chronic shortage of land on which to build large-scale solar projects.

RIP Mike Ruppert  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

I was sorry to see that Mike Ruppert passed away a few months ago.

Ruppert was one of the first peak oil writers I came across, back in the distant past of 2004, via a Swedish technology blogger named Rickard Oberg who had links to Ruppert's "From The Wilderness" web site (and a similar one called "") in a section of his blogroll dubbed "Reality Check" (possibly not entirely accurately - perhaps it should have been titled "Take a look down a rabbit hole" or suchlike).

The site was pretty much a grab-bag of almost every conspiracy theory friendly topic you could think of, with Ruppert primarily writing about the events of 9/11 (publishing a book called "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil"" around this time) but with increasingly large doses of peak oil and Iraq war related material thrown into the mix.

Ruppert had apparently become famous in conspiracy minded circles in the period following the Iran-Contra affair. He was credited with causing the resignation of then CIA Director John Deutch who had gone to Los Angeles to try to refute allegations in Gary Webb's "Dark Alliance" articles, only to be publicly confronted by (ex Los Angeles Police Department officer) Ruppert about CIA involvement in the trafficking of crack cocaine.

Shortly after I started keeping an eye on "From the Wilderness" (as part of my in depth observation of all things peak oil related for a few years), Ruppert bombastically announced that he was going to Washington to confront then US vice-President Dick Cheney about his role (in Ruppert's eyes) organising the 9/11 attacks.

A brief period of silence followed, with Ruppert then returning to his online writing, making vague excuses for the absence of any personal confrontation of Cheney (which was never likely to eventuate of course).

I mostly lost interest in FTW around that time but did notice Ruppert pop up elsewhere from time to time - most memorably at the "Petrocollapse" peak oil conference which took place shortly after Hurricane Katrina severely damaged New Orleans and shut in a lot of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. Ruppert was quick to declare that the collapse of the US would occur within a few weeks - but somehow managed to carry on his relentless writing afterwards without ever acknowledging, as far as I'm aware, that this prophecy of doom had, in fact, been wrong (something JD of "Peak Oil Debunked" did like to remind him of periodically).

The following year Ruppert fled to Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, citing government persecution. The Venezuelans apparently weren't as welcoming as Mike had hoped, and he eventually returned to North America and started a blog, "From the Wilderness' Peak Oil Blog" and later an online doomer hangout called "CollapseNET".

During the last years of his life he seemed to become even gloomier and starred in a few movies exploring the Collapse theme - "Collapse" and "Apocalypse, Man".

While I never thought much of Ruppert's over the top style of peak oil doomerism and I frequently found his reporting and predictions to be wildly inaccurate (at best) he did seem to have his heart in the right place and did cause of lot of people to think about issues they might otherwise have remained unaware of.

Ruppert's passing attracted obituaries from a wide (and very eclectic) range of sources, amongst them :

I'm sure if Mike was still around he'd find plenty to write about (though beating the peak oil drum in the era of $100+ per barrel unconventional oil would no doubt have become very boring).

One topic that conspiracy theorists latched onto with a vengeance in recent months was the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 (many of them pondering why so many AIDS researchers died in the crash - though apparently this was a case of chinese whispers in the media). The SMH had an entertaining roundup of the main theories - Top conspiracy theories sparked by MH17 disaster.

1. A world power shot the plane down to start World War III.
2. A major world power shot the plane down to distract from Gaza/the border crisis/the “World Currency Reset”/the next Snowden release/fill-in-the-blank.
3. A major world power shot the plane down to cover up the man-made origins of HIV/AIDS.
4. Ukraine shot the plane down to kill Vladimir Putin.
5. The plane was not shot down at all.
6. In fact, the plane never even took off!
7. MH17 is actually MH 370.

Ruppert's bete noire Dick Cheney appeared in some other topics popular with conspiracy theorists recently, the rise of ISIS in Iraq and America's apparently porous southern border. Here's an example from Cryptogon - And Now… Former CIA Officer: ‘A Lot of Communication’ Between ISIS, Mexican Cartels.

U.S. Intelligence Connections to Mexican Cartels – Check

U.S. Funded and Armed “ISIS” – Check

Southern Border of U.S. Left Wide Open On Purpose – Check

Back on 20 June, I wrote the following about the border mess: So what you have here is some sort of scam designed to get Americans to accept a “solution” that wouldn’t be accepted under anything like normal circumstances. The poor immigrants are being used as props.

Maybe the purpose of the border catastrophe is coming into focus…

Maybe some of this is being ordered up for inside The Homeland.

Here’s Cheney to enlighten us:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was on “Hannity” to discuss the threat of ISIS and the horrific beheading of American journalist James Foley.

“After watching this [beheading] video, I’m pretty convinced that we have a group of people at war with us. Would you agree with that?” Hannity asked.

“Absolutely,” Cheney said, calling ISIS “very much a threat to the United States” and to our friends and allies.

While Cheney said the beheading of an American reporter is a terrible development, he cautioned, “Magnify that a million times over because that’s what’s in store for the rest of the world if we don’t deal effectively with this crisis.”

One common area of conspiracy theory that Ruppert avoided (or opposed) was climate change skepticism - so he probably wouldn't have picked up on the latest trend amongst skeptics to try and cast doubt over the legitimacy of temperature records - Climate sceptics see a conspiracy in Australia's record breaking heat.

You could cut the triumphalism on the climate science denialist blogs right now with a hardback copy of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Their unbridled joy comes not in the wake of some key research published in the scientific literature but in the fact that a climate sceptic has got a mainstream newspaper to give their conspiracy theory another airing.

The sceptic in question is Dr Jennifer Marohasy, a long-time doubter of human-caused climate change whose research at Central Queensland University (CQU) is funded by another climate change sceptic.

I choose the Nineteen Eighty-Four analogy in my introduction because it is one of Marohasy’s favourites. She likes to compare the work of the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) to the various goings on in Orwell’s fictional dystopian novel.

The conspiracy theory is that BoM is using a technique to selectively tamper with its temperature data so that it better fits with the global warming narrative.

The people at NASA are in on it too.

Now the great thing about conspiracy theories is that, for believers, attempts to correct the record just serve to reinforce the conspiracy. Like a video clip of the moon landing on a constant loop, the whole thing feeds back on itself.

The Limits to Growth was right ?  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Guardian has an article on "The Limits to Growth", written by a pair of Australians researchers from the University of Melbourne, claiming we are currently tracking to LTG's "baseline scenario" - Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse.

Unlike most media reports referencing LTG it demonstrates the authors actually read and understood the book. The paper it is based on is here (pdf).

The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticised as doomsday fantasy since it was published. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history”.

It doesn’t belong there. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.

Limits to Growth was commissioned by a think tank called the Club of Rome. Researchers working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world’s economy and environment. Called World3, this computer model was cutting edge.

The task was very ambitious. The team tracked industrialisation, population, food, use of resources, and pollution. They modelled data up to 1970, then developed a range of scenarios out to 2100, depending on whether humanity took serious action on environmental and resource issues. If that didn’t happen, the model predicted “overshoot and collapse” – in the economy, environment and population – before 2070. This was called the “business-as-usual” scenario.

The book’s central point, much criticised since, is that “the earth is finite” and the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods etc would eventually lead to a crash.

So were they right? We decided to check in with those scenarios after 40 years. Dr Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its department of economic and social affairs, Unesco, the food and agriculture organisation, and the UN statistics yearbook). He also checked in with the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the BP statistical review, and elsewhere. That data was plotted alongside the Limits to Growth scenarios.

The results show that the world is tracking pretty closely to the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario. The data doesn’t match up with other scenarios.

These graphs show real-world data (first from the MIT work, then from our research), plotted in a solid line. The dotted line shows the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario out to 2100. Up to 2010, the data is strikingly similar to the book’s forecasts.

I'd like to think with a bit of determined effort that instead of falling into the "baseline scenario" outlined above that we can instead switch gears to "scenario 9" as outlined in Limits to Growth (shown below).

Battery Electric Truck From EV-Fleet  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Gas2.0 has a post on a new electric truck model - Battery Electric Truck From EV-Fleet.

EV-Fleet, of Charlotte, North Carolina, will begin selling its first battery electric truck, called Condor, in September. About the size of a Ford Ranger , the Condor features a robust 5 speed transmission, a carrying capacity of 1000 lbs, and a range of more than 100 miles when equipped with a 50 kWh battery. Recharge time is under an hour when using a 90 amp DC charger. ...

The factory can produce 300 trucks a month. The are priced at $49,995 before rebates and incentives. EV-Fleet says the Condor is the first fully electric light delivery truck in America. With luck, the company will do for trucks what Tesla has done for cars.

Global Biofuels Status Update  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Robert Rapier has an article on biofuels drawing on the recent Renewables 2014 Global Status Report (the BP for this year is also out) - Global Biofuels Status Update.

Global biofuel production falls primarily into three categories; ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), also known as “green diesel.” Of the 30.8 billion gallons (116.6 liters) of biofuel produced globally in 2013, 23 billion gallons (75%) were ethanol. ...

Biodiesel is the second largest category of global biofuel, accounting for 6.9 billion gallons globally in 2013 — 22.6% of total biofuel production. Biodiesel is derived from reacting fats like vegetable oil with an alcohol like methanol. The products of the reaction are biodiesel and glycerin. The chemical structure of biodiesel is distinctly different from that of petroleum diesel. Petroleum diesel is composed of only hydrogen and carbon (hydrocarbons), but biodiesel also contains oxygen. This gives biodiesel somewhat inferior physical and chemical properties compared with petroleum diesel. ...

Global biofuel production continues to be dominated by ethanol, and the US is the world’s dominant biofuel producer — leading in both ethanol and biodiesel. HVO is the world’s third largest volume biofuel and its production is growing at a faster pace than the more mature ethanol and biodiesel industries.

Vestas Wins First Order For Biggest Offshore Wind Turbine  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Bloomberg reports that Vestas has made its first sale of their 8MW wind turbine model - Vestas Wins First Order For Biggest Offshore Wind Turbine.

Vestas Wind Systems won its first commercial order for the world’s most powerful offshore wind turbine, pending buyer Dong Energy’s final investment decision in a U.K. project.

The conditional agreement is for 32 8-megawatt V164 devices to be installed in Dong’s Burbo Bank Extension project in Liverpool Bay off northwest England, Dong said today in an e-mailed statement. The machines would be supplied by MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, the venture set up earlier this year by Vestas and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

“Larger and more cost-efficient wind turbines are key elements in the realization of Dong Energy’s strategy towards reducing the cost of electricity from offshore wind,” said Samuel Leupold, an executive vice president at Dong. “Competition among the offshore wind turbine manufacturers will increase.”

The Climate Spectator has a post looking at a report on wind power that includes an impressive array of graphs - Why wind wreckers are often left snatching at air.

Each year, Ryan Wiser and Mark Bolinger from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory put out a superb report documenting developments in the US wind power market. Even though the report concentrates on the US market it provides one of the most insightful reference documents into how wind power technology and its economics are evolving over time on a global basis. This is built from a database which tracks a wide array of key metrics on a very large number of wind power projects across the country. ...

Wind turbine manufacturers have put intensive effort into how to adjust the shape, flexibility and construction of blades to make them longer while keeping weight down and maintaining strength and reliability. Longer blades that remain relatively light provide a greater surface area exposed to the wind, enabling them to turn a generator with lower wind speeds.

In the end – as we find in so many other areas of natural resource exploitation – technological efficiency advances faster than the rate at which the resource is consumed. So even though many of the best wind speed sites are already taken, the total economically viable resource is actually expanding.

Of course, the great thing about wind, versus non-renewable resources, is that the best wind speed sites don’t deteriorate over time because they host a wind farm. So when the first lot of wind turbines wear out we’ll be able to replace them with the more advanced turbines – and considerably expand the amount of power we can extract from the high quality wind sites.

These advancements in turbine technology are a key reason for why the Victorian Government’s recent decision to allow developers to adjust wind turbine layout without obtaining a new planning approval was so important. For many Victorian wind farm development sites, their planning approvals were based on turbine designs that are now as much as four years old. By being allowed to employ turbines with larger rotors, which will often require a higher hub height than older designs, it should substantially improve the economics of these Victorian wind farms.

What’s also interesting from this recent report is that wind continues to expand its level of power generation market share in a range of countries to levels the naysayers said weren’t possible. Denmark is now past 30 per cent wind penetration and approaching 35 per cent. And there are now another three further countries in, or on the verge of, the beyond 20 per cent club. Twenty per cent penetration used to have an almost mystical quality to it, seen as the absolute limit to how much wind a grid could absorb, but that’s now been consigned to an old wives' tale.

So the lesson from all this is that wind turbine technology, and the associated market, are never standing still. Anyone using data from more than a year or so ago is likely to be getting it wrong.

McKinsey: Capturing value in global gas  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

McKinsey has a look at developments in the global market for natural gas, including some analysis of the impact of potential LNG exports from North America - Capturing value in global gas: Prepare now for an uncertain future.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG), while only accounting for 10 percent of the global gas market currently, will be a key determinant of market prices and eventual value creation, as it is the only supply source mobile enough to plug supply and demand gaps in international markets. At the moment, it is in short supply. But because uncertainty about future prices has made buyers reluctant to sign new long-term contracts under traditional terms that link gas prices to oil prices, developers of gas reserves outside North America have been hesitant to sanction new LNG facilities, particularly as LNG project costs are rising rapidly. ...

Over the past decade, regional gas markets have become much more connected, with the number of LNG or pipe routes carrying over five billion cubic meters per annum (bcma)—more than doubling between 2001 and 2011. Yet despite increased linkages, gas prices in regional markets have diverged (Exhibit 1). Three market disruptions explain this. ...

In North America, rapid growth in shale-gas production has led to four years of oversupply and plummeting gas prices. Between 2008 and 2012, production grew at an annual compound rate of 29 percent. However, gas demand failed to keep pace as consumers were slow to switch from other fuels, energy-efficiency measures offset demand growth, and exports have not been an option, since it can take five years to build an LNG export terminal and acquire the necessary permits. Consequently, gas prices in North America fell from $8.9 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) to $2.8 per MMBtu over the same period.

In Asia, LNG prices have been boosted by economic growth, coupled with Japan’s decision in 2011 to shut down its nuclear capacity following the Fukushima disaster. Japanese gas demand grew by more than 20 percent between 2010 and 2012, from 95 bcma to 117 bcma. As Japan has no domestic gas, this all had to be imported as LNG.

Finally, in Europe, an economic slowdown—combined with energy-efficiency improvements and the availability of cheap coal—contributed to an annual decline in gas demand of 1.6 percent between 2005 and 2012. This is in marked contrast to annual growth of 2.7 percent over the previous 15 years. At the same time, liquidity on traded gas markets rose as buyers who found they had contracted excess capacity sought to sell it on. As a result, prices in Europe have fallen, breaking the traditional link with oil prices. Getting to grips with longer-term uncertainty

The impact of all three developments is likely to persist in the medium term (see sidebar “Why supply will likely remain tight this decade”). But the longer-term outlook is far less clear. Four factors will be major drivers of future market dynamics and prices.

North American gas developers are eager to export their plentiful supply of cheap LNG to higher-priced markets. By the end of 2013, they had applied for export permits for more than 380 bcma—equivalent to all of the world’s current liquefaction capacity. If even one-third of this capacity were built, it would have a significant impact on global LNG prices, threatening the viability of higher-cost capacity additions in countries such as Australia and Russia and in Africa, as shown in Exhibit 2. North American exports could be highly profitable at recent LNG prices of $18 per MMBtu but could still turn a profit even if they fell to as low as $12 per MMBtu

India poised to be world solar leader – adding 145GW in 10 years  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

RNE has a post on some Indian scenario planning around increasing uptake of solar power - India poised to be world solar leader – adding 145GW in 10 years.

India’s raft of ambitious plans and policies to ramp up national solar development have been generating plenty of headlines over the past few months, and new data has suggested tthe best-case scenario for India’s solar sector could boost the sub-continent’s PV capacity by more than 140GW over the next decade

In a report by Tata Power Solar and cleantech experts Bridge to India, analysts argue that India’s solar potential is huge enough to revolutionise the nation’s energy mix, as long as decision-makers followed the best possible solar roadmap.

The report, How should India drive its solar transformation? Beehives or Elephants, compares four different scenarios, each with a different solar focus – residential rooftops (solar bees); large rooftops (solar pigeons); utility-scale (solar horses); and ultra-mega projects (solar elephants) – evaluating their potential speed of deployment, implementation challenges and job creation potential.

“The realizable potential for solar power generation in India is between 110GW to 145GW across (all four) different types of systems,” said Bridge to India founder and director Tobias Engelmeier. “The four scenarios together could easily create over 675,000 solar jobs in India in the next 10 years.


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