Roger is having a week off and so this is my first Blowout for many months. The focus this week is on OPEC and the lack of action there until at least June and on COP21 talks in Paris. Astronauts on the Space Station have warned of dire consequences of climate change and deforestation visible from space while the EU approves a £1 billion subsidy to convert Lynemouth coal power station to burn wood pellets imported from North America.
As images of the earth from space rolled on giant screens, members of the International Space Station crew, Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren, made a passionate appeal to the CoP21 Climate Conference to adopt a strong agreement that will stop the destruction of the earth.
Joined by several astronauts and cosmonauts, the two visitors on the ISS said the destruction of earth visible from space in the form of deforestation, wild fires and pollution only underlines the urgent necessity to have a climate deal/
/So dire is the world’s situation, said Johan Rockstrom, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, that the crisis in Syria was triggered by drought during 2007-10.
The Telegraph: Coal plant gets green light to burn American wood pellets
One of Britain’s dozen remaining coal-fired power plants is to be converted to burn wood pellets shipped in from North America, after the European Commission approved a £1bn subsidy contract for the project.
RWE’s Lynemouth power station in Northumberland is due to close by the end of this year under environmental rules, but will now be resurrected as a biomass plant following EU state aid approval for the consumer-funded subsidies.
The 420 megawatt plant, which produces enough electricity to power 450,000 homes, could be up and running again within 18 months, subject to a final investment decision early next year, RWE said.
It’s a good time to be in the American wood pellet business. Dozens of manufacturers, increasingly concentrated in the Southeast, are now approaching production of 10 million annual short tons of wood pellets — ostensibly made from the leftovers at lumber mills or from the branches, slash and other woody material found on the forest floor. Another 6 million short tons of capacity is now planned or under construction, according to industry data, making the U.S. the single largest wood pellet producer in the world.
In 2014, almost three-quarters of all U.S. wood pellet exports were delivered to the United Kingdom (UK), mainly for the purpose of generating electricity. Overall, U.S. wood pellet exports increased by nearly 40% between 2013 and 2014, from 3.2 million short tons to 4.4 million short tons, as the United States continues to be the largest wood pellet exporter in the world.
Environment 360: Wood Pellets: Green Energy or New Source of CO2 Emissions?
Burning wood pellets to produce electricity is on the rise in Europe, where the pellets are classified as a form of renewable energy. But in the U.S., where pellet facilities are rapidly being built, concerns are growing about logging and the carbon released by the combustion of wood biomass.
Clear cut wetland forest – heading for a UK power station?
The Telegraph: COP-21 climate deal in Paris spells end of the fossil era
A far-reaching deal on climate change in Paris over coming days promises to unleash a $30 trillion blitz of investment on new technology and renewable energy by 2040, creating vast riches for those in the vanguard and potentially lifting the global economy out of its slow-growth trap.
Economists at Barclays estimate that greenhouse gas pledges made by the US, the EU, China, India, and others for the COP-21 climate summit amount to an epic change in the allocation of capital and resources, with financial winners and losers to match.
They said the fossil fuel industry of coal, gas, and oil could forfeit $34 trillion in revenues over the next quarter century – a quarter of their income – if the Paris accord is followed by a series of tougher reviews every five years to force down the trajectory of CO2 emissions, as proposed by the United Nations and French officials hosting the talks.
The EU’s main scheme for reducing CO2 emissions is almost never enforced, according to an official report by Brussels’ own spending watchdog.
Only one EU country inspected – Britain – makes on-the-spot visits to factories to check whether they are staying within their carbon limits under the scheme, the EU Court of Auditors found. Even the UK only checks 1 per cent of sites, down from 5 per cent before.
Negotiators are edging towards a compromise on one of the most divisive issues between countries at the COP21 climate change talks in Paris.
“Loss and damage” is the idea that compensation should be paid to vulnerable states for climate-related events that they cannot adapt to.
The issue has provoked heated arguments and walkouts at previous conferences.
But here in Paris, negotiators from the US and small island states are said to be “closer” to an agreement.
For small island states and some of the least developed countries, the question of loss and damage has become one of the most important aspects of the climate negotiations in recent years.
Countries will be encouraged to reach an agreement on climate at the UN Climate Change Conference in France in December.
But many European nations are far from reaching their current targets on renewable energy consumption, according to figures published by Eurostat.
Based on the growth between 2010 and 2013, 11 out of 29 European countries will miss their 2020 targets – including the UK, Ireland, Spain, France and Germany. However, radical changes in energy policies may impact these trends.
Cities could use water from rivers and the sea to stay cool as the climate heats, city mayors have been told.
Carbon emissions from air-conditioning are expected to soar as temperatures climb and people become richer.
But at a global mayors summit, Paris is showcasing a simple technology using water piped from the Seine to cool apartments near the Champs Elysees.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said he wanted London to follow suit by cooling buildings using water from the Thames.
The world’s largest solar boat is currently moored on the Seine. Picture from the BBC.
The Cutty Sark, a 19th century wind powered boat is now moored on The Thames.
Oil prices settled lower on Friday after OPEC announced it had agreed to roll over its policy of maintaining crude production in order to retain market share.
Also on Friday, oilfield services firm Baker Hughes reported its weekly count of U.S. oil rigs fell by 10 to a total of 545, compared with 1,030 a year ago. This is the third consecutive week of declines.
Internationally traded Brent was down 80 cents, or 1.8 percent, at $43.05 at 2:33 p.m. EDT, having fallen earlier this week to a low of $42.43, within cents of August’s 6-½ year trough.
U.S. crude settled 2.7 percent lower at $39.97 a barrel.
Business Insider: Oil rig count falls for 3rd straight week
The US oil rig count fell by 10 to 545 last week, for a third period in a row, according to oil driller Baker Hughes.
That’s the lowest tally since the week of June 4, 2010.
The gas rig count rose by 3 to 292.
Utility Week: Centrica’s Conn warns government on gas supply
In his first major interview since taking the top spot at the UK gas giant, Ian Conn told the Daily Mail that the UK’s reliance on gas imports means that the country could face problems if pipeline faults occur.
Compared to other high gas using countries the UK has relatively little storage capacity at 4.3 billion cubic meters, of which Centrica is responsible for 70 per cent through a subsidiary business.
Utility Week: UK coal-fired power falls 40 per cent
Electricity analysts at Platts Powervision said that coal contributed 5.5 TWh of power generation in November, almost half the 9.26 TWh of coal-fired power seen in November last year.
The analysts said the dramatic slump is due to lower weather-led demand this year because of the milder start to winter, as well as surging wind power output of almost 50 per cent more than last year at 2.6 TWh.
As the world gathers in Paris for the daunting task of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, one small country on the other side of the Atlantic is making that transition look childishly simple and affordable.
In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, according to the country’s head of climate change policy, Ramón Méndez.
In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.
Bishop Hill: Solving the Uruguay mystery
If you add up all but the red slice (Eolica, in orange, is wind power; the others should be decipherable), you seem to get pretty much the correct figure.
And next door to this graph was the one that explains this dramatic transformation in the energy landscape in Uruguay. Yes folks, it had rained a lot, so they were able to replace thermal generation with extra hydro.
James Hansen et al: To solve the climate problem, policy must be based on facts and not prejudice. Alongside renewables, Nuclear will make the difference between the world missing crucial climate targets or achieving them
The International Monetary Fund has issued a warning before a meeting of the Opec oil cartel that permanently low fossil fuels are choking off investment in renewable sources of energy and hindering the fight against climate change.
Oil prices rallied slightly amid reports – later denied – that Saudi Arabia plans to announce a 1m barrels a day production cut at the talks in Vienna on Friday. The price of Brent crude was up more than 2% at just under $43.50 in early trading on Thursday.
But an assesment of the energy market from the IMF, co-authored by its chief economist Maurice Obstfeld, said a global carbon price was needed to reflect the true cost of burning fossil fuels and to provide resources for investment in green technologies.
Elon Musk, the renowned innovator, believes the widespread introduction of a carbon price could halve the time it takes the world to transition to clean energy and make a huge difference to the impact of climate change.
Addressing students at the Sorbonne University on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit, the electric car, Powerwall battery and space tycoon said the obvious solution to runaway global warming was to remove the effective subsidy of not pricing the damage done by carbon pollution, urging the students to campaign and lobby governments to implement the policy.
Billionaires Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and other high-profile entrepreneurs have pledged to spark a “new economic revolution” based around clean energy after launching a new investment drive for renewables.
The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, made up of more than 25 investors from 10 countries, launched in Paris on Monday as part of the UN talks where nations are thrashing out an agreement to finally confront the issue of runaway climate change.
India’s prime minister has launched an international solar alliance of over 120 countries with the French president, François Hollande, at the Paris COP21 climate summit.
Narendra Modi told a press conference that as fossil fuels put the planet in peril, hopes for future prosperity in the developing world now rest on bold initiatives.
“Solar technology is evolving, costs are coming down and grid connectivity is improving,” he said. “The dream of universal access to clean energy is becoming more real. This will be the foundation of the new economy of the new century.”
Modi described the solar alliance as “the sunrise of new hope, not just for clean energy but for villages and homes still in darkness, for mornings and evening filled with a clear view of the glory of the sun”.
The Forth Road Bridge is to be closed until the new year because of structural faults, Transport Minister Derek Mackay has said.
The bridge has been closed since midnight with initial guidance saying it would be shut for at least 24 hours.
The minister has now said it would need at least three weeks to repair the bridge and safety was “paramount”.
He said a full travel plan was being prepared, including extra trains and buses and possibly a ferry.
Early on Friday morning, 11-mile tailbacks were reported approaching the Kincardine Bridge, the alternative route across the Forth from Fife to Edinburgh.
I have concluded with this story on the Forth Road Bridge, partly because I crossed it on Thursday, hours before it was closed. And partly because this is symbolic of the crumbling state of much of our infrastructure. This is one of the main transport arteries in Scotland and its closure will cause chaos on the roads and for businesses in Edinburgh. A replacement bridge is under construction, due to be completed in a year.