Thursday, April 1, 2010

A $25 Trillion Investment

Energy ministers: $25 trillion investment by 2030
(AP) – 10 hours ago
CANCUN, Mexico — Energy ministers gathered at an international forum Wednesday estimated the world will have to invest $25 trillion over the next two decades to satisfy energy demand.
"The projected global investment needs to amount to over $25 trillion up to 2030, a huge challenge in a time of unprecedented uncertainty and volatility," according to a statement from the 12th International Energy Forum being held in the Caribbean coastal resort of Cancun.
The head of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said member countries of his bloc may need to invest between $70 billion and $170 billion in oil output by 2013.
But OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El Badri said there is an "uncertainty gap" about how much investment will be needed based on economic recovery demand.
"There is a very real possibility of wasting financial resources on unneeded capacity," El Badri.
In remarks released Wednesday, El Badri said investment by OPEC nations could reach as much as $250 billion by 2020.
El Badri has praised current oil prices, which have remained relatively stable between $70 and $80 a barrel.
But he said price instability has the potential to create "inappropriate conditions for investments."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The ruling, known as "the Johnson memo" because it stems from a memo issued by former EPA administrator Steven Johnson at the very end of the Bush administration, will ensure that major greenhouse emitters such as coal-fired utilities don't face immediate regulation. The prospect of regulation for stationary sources of carbon dioxide would have kicked in once the administration issues greenhouse gas regulations for cars and light-trucks, which will happen by midnight Wednesday.

State and local officials had complained to the EPA that they were not prepared to grapple with greenhouse gas permits this soon, and asked for a nine-month delay so they could reconcile their programs with the federal one.

"This is a common sense plan for phasing in the protections of the Clean Air Act. It gives large facilities the time they need to innovate, governments the time to prepare to cut greenhouse gases and it ensures that we don't push this problem off to our children and grandchildren," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "With a clear process in place, it's now time for American innovators and entrepreneurs to go to work and lead us into the clean energy economy of the future."

S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said the EPA's move "will be extraordinarily helpful to every state in this country." He added that the delay will help assure "a smooth and rational transition to the daunting but important challenges of regulating greenhouse gases from industrial facilities. We are extremely heartened that EPA has not only heard our concerns, but has followed our advice."

The announcement is not likely to placate several lawmakers and representatives of the fossil-fuel industry and manufacturing sector, however, who have complained the Clean Air Act is not an appropriate tool for regulating emissions linked to global warming.

But Frank O'Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, said it might help the administration if it's sued in court over the regulations. "It gives them a legal argument to explain why they're not taking action immediately," he said.

I find it interesting how people make authoritative sounding comments on things they know nothing about. You seem to think that all Natural Draft wet cooling towers mean it's a nuclear power plant. As someone who works in fossil fuel power generation, you should know that those towers are more often used for large scale coal plants, such as those over 700 MW. There is likely another flue gas stack (similar to the one on the left actually pictured!) that has been cropped out of view. The amount of greenhouse gases emitted from a plant like that in the photo is astounding. But the more devastating fact is that with a lapse in hardline regulations, these same utilities are also letting any money-consuming pollution control equipment take a break if it doesn't mean violating slim state limits. So until prospective new EPA plans, most turn down their ESP's, SCR's, and various injection systems along with putting existing plans for system efficiency upgrades on hold. Beyond debatable greenhouse gas effects and limits, much harder standards on emissions of NOx, SOx, Unburnt Carbon and Mercury have been needed for decades. And no, Nuclear Power Plants are not free of air pollution, or their auxiliary systems, but thats a different discussion.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How condoms could save the world's forests


Brazil's reputation as a "sexy country" dates back to the seminal work of Gilberto Freyre, who wrote a rather idealised account of how its sensuous and promiscuous past had produced a beautiful inter-racial population. Although the country's shocking levels of contemporary inequality and violence cruelly mock his central thesis of a 'racial democracy', the 'sexy Brazil' image lives on. It's there in Rio's famous carnival, in the beautiful bodies in bikini-floss that adorn its beaches and, more darkly, as home to one of the world's largest prostitution and sex trafficking industries.

But Brazil has also developed a highly effective anti-HIV/AIDS campaign, which is widely credited with having prevented the type of epidemic that has devastated other developing countries. It's succeeded despite the wrath of the Catholic Church, of the previous US Administration – which made health funding conditional on countries signing 'morality pledges' – and of the big drug companies, whose patents Brazil has flouted to bring down the cost of antiretroviral drugs. In the face of such criticism, Brazilian officials refused to change their approach, arguing that a key part of their success has been because they deal in an accepting, open way with high-risk groups. The Director of its national AIDS programme famously rejected the US Government's restrictions as "theological, fundamentalist and Shiite".

The Brazilian Government is the largest single buyer of condoms in the world, importing around a billion of them every year. These are promoted using high profile advertisements and a variety of outlets targeted to reach at-risk groups. Most recently, the Government has started to include condoms in the basic basket of goods that it distributes for free to low income families as part of its strategy to combat hunger. This serves a double purpose, since there is a clear link between family planning and poverty reduction. When the Pope visited Brazil two years ago, President Lula took the opportunity to speak out strongly in favour of sex education and proper provision of contraception for teenagers.

In 2008, the Government announced the start of a new programme to produce condoms using environmentally sustainable rubber, which will curb its dependence on imported contraceptives, provide jobs for local people and help preserve the world's largest rainforest. It opened a new factory, located in the northwestern Acre state, which will produce 100 million condoms a year. The latex comes from the Chico Mendes Reserve, named after the celebrated conservationist and rubber tapper who was killed by ranchers in 1988.

Tapping rubber has long been a traditional way of life for many in the Amazon. It is sustainable because it does not kill the trees, but the rubber is more expensive than oil-based synthetic products, which have driven down prices and put rubber-tappers out of business. By contrast, the condom project is both environmentally and economically sustainable. It will provide an income to around 550 families and reduce the incentives for deforestation. The Government says the condoms are the only ones in the world made of latex harvested from a tropical forest.

Similar schemes are also being developed to produce and market handbags and purses from sustainable rubber. Treetap, for example, has patented a latex, which it sells under its own brand name, certifying that its goods are produced from natural rubber on a fair trade basis. The company has placed rainforest preservation at the centre of its business plan, and works closely with the Rubber Tappers Association which Mendes founded.

'Sexy Brazil' is an already established brand, and if the Government's sustainable condoms project proves successful domestically, then they could become a product for export.

After all, who could refuse a longer-lasting Brazilian orgasm?

Should the U.S. compete or work with China on clean energy?

Amid recent studies suggesting the United States is losing the clean energy edge to China, the U.S. Department of Energy is helping fund a joint research center.

On Monday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $37.5 million in U.S. funding over the next five years for the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, to be located at existing facilities in both countries. The Center will focus on energy efficiency, clean vehicles and carbon capture from coal plants.

President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, on the right, announced the formation of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center during Obama's trip to China last November.

CAPTIONBy Pablo Martinez Monsivais, APU.S. entities (companies, universities, national labs) that receive DOE grants will need to match the funds with their own money, and China will put it an additional $75 million, bringing total funding to $150 million.

"By jointly developing new technologies and learning from China's experiences, we can create new export opportunities for American companies and ensure that we remain on the cutting edge of innovation," Chu said. "This partnership will also be a foundation for broader partnerships with China on cutting carbon pollution."

Is this the right approach? Should the United States be competing with China or working with it to develop clean energy technologies? Several recent studies show China as the world's new clean-energy powerhouse.

In 2009, for the first time in five years, China pushed the U.S. out of the top spot in spending on clean energy, according to a new study by The Pew Charitable Trusts. China now leads the world in producing solar panels and installing wind turbines.

China is also close to overtaking the U.S. for its total amount of installed renewable energy. It plans to get 15% of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

The U.S. could miss its chance to lead the expanding clean-energy industry unless its policies change to encourage more investment, Pew's project director Phyllis Cuttino tells USA TODAY colleague Julie Schmit in a recent story.
About $90 billion of the three-year Recovery Act's funding is targeted at building a clean energy economy.
Another report released this month, Clean Energy Trends 2010 by Clean Edge, a private research firm, discusses China's new clean-tech dominance.

"It's too early to declare China the de facto winner," the report says, adding "no one country or region will lead in all clean energy sectors."

Also, it says China still faces "significant...pollution issues that could stand in the way of true clean-energy leadership," and while its government is making investments, "it still constricts the free flow of information."

Already, though, leading U.S. technology companies such as California-based Applied Materials are moving executives to China, according to a recent New York Times story. "A few American companies," it says, "are even making deals with Chinese companies to license Chinese technology."

President Obama and President Hu Jintao announced they would launch the new joint research center during Obama's trip to Beijing last November.

In announcing the funds Monday, DOE said the initial research will focus on "areas where the U.S. and China have complementary strengths,"so each country will benefit from the collaboration. It said U.S. funds will only support work by U.S. institutions and individuals.

Green House