In the Pipeline: 2/11/11

Someone as poetic as Oettinger deserves a round of applause or at least some free carbon credits Guardian (2/10/11) reports: He said the tougher target would force industries to move to Asia. “If we go alone to 30%, you will only have a faster process of de-industrialisation in Europe,” he said, citing the steel industry as one of the likely casualties. “I think we need industry in Europe, we need industry in the UK, and industry means CO2 emissions.” Moving to the higher target would cost about €81bn (£68.4bn) a year by 2020, or 0.54% of GDP, according to the European commission’s research, compared with a cost of €48bn for the 20% goal. But the move would quickly yield benefits including more green jobs, better health outcomes from less air pollution, and would make reducing emissions beyond 2020 much easier…”[It shows] the best thing for CO2 emissions is a crisis, so do we need longer and deeper crises?” he asked. “Look at our deficit – we need growth, and we need more industry.”

Take note: Author says there is a lot of excitement about EVs, but only lists governments and rent seekers. I wonder, how excited is the consumer? New York Times (2/10/11) reports: There sure is a lot of excitement percolating around plug-in hybrid and electric cars these days. Chevrolet’s Volt and Nissan’s Leaf are the talk of the car world, city governments are installing battery chargers, and the Obama administration has promoted them. Even the TV commercials for the battery chargers are cool…There are some skeptics, however. And on Thursday I caught up with one of them, William M. Colton, ExxonMobil’s vice president for corporate strategic planning, who is definitely not a fan. A reverse skeptic could say, sure, why would ExxonMobil say nice things about a car that would displace gasoline? That’s certainly true, although Exxon Mobil is getting more and more invested in natural gas, which would indirectly help fuel electric and hybrid cars because it is an important fuel stock for the electric utilities that ultimately charge the car batteries.

Bio-fuel is not only uneconomical, but also drives up food prices for the world’s poor as an unintended consequence (Part 1) Washington Post (2/11/10) reports: Each year, the world demands more grain, and this year the world’s farms will not produce it. World food prices have surged above the food crisis levels of 2008. Millions more people will be malnourished, and hundreds of millions who are already hungry will eat less or give up other necessities. Food riots have started again…Nearly all assessments of the 2008 food crisis assigned biofuels a meaningful role, but much of academia and the media ultimately agreed that the scale of the crisis resulted from a “perfect storm” of causes. Yet this “perfect storm” has re-formed not three years later. We should recognize the ways in which biofuels are driving it…Demand for biofuels is almost doubling the challenge of producing more food. Since 2004, for every additional ton of grain needed to feed a growing world population, rising government requirements for ethanol from grain have demanded a matching ton. Brazil’s reliance on sugar ethanol and Europe’s on biodiesel have comparably increased growth rates in the demand for sugar and driven up demand for vegetable oil.

Ethanol is the leading cause of increased food prices in the U.S. and it’s not even a net positive energy source (Part 2) New York Times (2/9/11) reports: Reserves of corn in the United States have hit their lowest level in more than 15 years, reflecting tighter supplies that will lead to higher food prices in 2011. Increasing demand for corn from the ethanol industry is a major reason for the decline, according to federal officials…The Department of Agriculture reported Wednesday that the ethanol industry’s projected orders this year rose 8.4 percent, to 13.01 billion bushels, after record-high production in December and January…That means the United States will have about 675 million bushels of corn left at the end of the year. That is about 5 percent of all corn that will be consumed, the lowest surplus level since 1996…Corn prices have already doubled in the last six months, rising from $3.50 a bushel to more than $7 a bushel.

History repeats: Remember Range Fuels from yesterday? Well, today Ineos Bio broke ground on a new cellulosic ethanol plant. New York Times (2/10/11) reports: There are myriad routes to making car fuel from waste, using mix-and-match technologies assembled in novel ways, but none has worked yet on a commercial scale. On Wednesday, Ineos Bio, the subsidiary of a major international chemical firm, broke ground on a plant that aims to use yet another combination…The Ineos concept has a leg up over some other approaches in that it anticipates three revenue streams. The factory will get paid for taking in plant waste or possibly household garbage and will produce electricity as well as ethanol at a huge savings in carbon dioxide output…The plant, near Vero Beach, Fla., adjacent to an Indian River County landfill, will begin with plant waste, including palm tree leaves, and will gasify it. This is a common technology that involves heating material in a chamber with a controlled amount of oxygen. It produces carbon monoxide and hydrogen, both fuel gases, and carbon dioxide.

Gaming the system: Government Electric’s wind farms taking advantage of small developer regulatory loopholes, Idaho moves to block amid higher electricity rates Idaho Statesman (2/10/11) reports: These utilities contend sophisticated, well-financed developers such as General Electric Co. are breaking up their large wind farms into small, 10-megawatt projects so they can qualify for the better prices. The utilities say the big developers essentially are gaming a system originally designed to help small, independent power producers…Idaho Power said it has been overwhelmed by these fragmented projects and says they are contributing to higher costs for its customers. The utility also estimates it could have 1,100 megawatts of wind power on its system within just a few years — more than it needs during low-usage days

Let’s compete with China and develop natural resources: PetroChina buys $5.4 billion stake in Canadian shale gas BBC (2/10/11) reports: The Cutbank Ridge deal marks a further step in a developing energy relationship between China and Canada…PetroChina has made other investments in Canadian natural resources…It took a 60% stake, costing $1.7bn, in two projects owned by Athabasca Oil Sands in 2009…Many in the oil and gas industry see so-called unconventional gases as an untapped energy resource with great potential…However, the exploration of shale rocks for energy is a controversial subject for many…Environmental groups say that the process used to extract the gas is new and untested, and that the potential health effects on those who live in areas where shale gas extraction takes place are unknown.



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