Blowout Week 108

This week’s lead story speculates that climate change killed off all the aliens. It is an award-winner even by climate change standards, but I’m not sure what the award should be. Suggestions are solicited. Below the fold more on OPEC and the Middle East, oil industry job losses, Obama concerned about methane emissions, wind overwhelms Merkel, Hinkley doubts and the Greens want to shut down the North Sea.

Discovery:  Why Can’t We Find Aliens? Climate Change Killed Them

As we look deeper into our galaxy for signs of extraterrestrial life, we keep drawing a blank. Does this mean life on Earth is unique and we’re the only ones out here? Or could it just mean that all the aliens are dead? Fresh on the heels of the recent news surrounding the increasingly dire climate forecast for our planet, comes a possible warning from the cosmos: climate change in extraterrestrial environments is inevitable and, should life on hypothetically habitable worlds not act as a stabilizer for their environments, it serves as a “sell-by” date for all burgeoning lifeforms. The universe is probably filled with habitable planets, so many scientists think it should be teeming with aliens. To produce a habitable planet, life forms need to regulate greenhouse gases such as water and carbon dioxide to keep surface temperatures stable.

RT:  First US crude shipment arrives in Europe

The battle for the European market has intensified with the first US oil tanker arriving in France since Washington abolished the 40-year restriction on oil exports. It’s a critical moment for an industry that is facing plummeting prices and oversupply. The tanker left Texas three weeks ago and docked at the French port of Fos on Wednesday. In late December, the US company Enterprise Products Partners announced an export contract for its oil, becoming the first oil exporter from the United States in four decades. The buyer was trader Vitol Group that intends to send the crude to its refinery in Switzerland. “The flows themselves are not substantial yet but this is only the start,” Olivier Jakob at Petromatrix, a consultancy in Zug, Switzerland, told the FT.

RT:  OPEC split over oil production cuts

Less than two months after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) failed to find a solution to falling oil prices in Vienna, they resumed the argument at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Nigeria’s Oil Minister Emmanuel Kachikwu said OPEC needs to meet soon, as collapsing oil prices are forcing the oil cartel to reconsider its output policy. There’s “a lot of energy” around an urgent OPEC meeting, Kachikwu told Bloomberg. If it’s still not known whether the meeting will take place, “everybody is agreed on one thing: prices today are not good enough,” he added. However, OPEC’s main producer Saudi Arabia said the Kingdom won’t cut its output until non-OPEC oil producers agree to do the same. “If there are other producers willing to collaborate, Saudi Arabia would also be willing to collaborate,” said Khalid Al-Falih, chairman of Saudi Aramco. “But Saudi Arabia will not accept the role of balancing a structural imbalance that is happening today by itself,” he said. Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak has repeatedly said the Kremlin is ready to negotiate with OPEC, but thinks artificial production cuts are senseless. He also said Russia production costs vary from $5 to $15 per barrel and any price above that isn’t critical for Russian producers.

CNBC:  Risk of Arab Spring may force Saudi Arabia, OPEC to cut oil output

Holding on to around 30-million-barrel-a-day production ceiling could land OPEC’s powerbroker with its own Arab Spring, one industry expert has warned. The prolonged slump in oil prices has eaten away the huge cash pile of Saudi Arabia, forcing the oil giant to introduce austerity measures such as cuts to subsidies it offers its citizens that can potentially fuel social unrest. Andrew Su, chief executive of Australian brokerage Compass Global Markets, told CNBC, “When the Saudis and OPEC moved to push prices lower last year, they were trying to keep pressure on Russia and the US shale producers. That has happened.” “[But] the last thing they want to do is to have prices stay at these levels for too long because that will have an impact on their own economies and more importantly, it will have an impact on their social and political stability.” He expects the group of 13 oil producing countries in the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) to soon come up with a coordinated plan to address the turmoil in oil markets, Su told CNBC’s The Rundown.

Telegraph:  Middle East stock crash wipes £27bn off markets as Tehran enters oil war

Stock markets across the Middle East saw more than £27bn wiped off their value as the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran threatened to unleash a fresh wave of oil onto global markets that are already drowning in excess supply. All seven stock markets in the Gulf states tumbled as panic gripped traders. Dubai’s DFM General Index closed down 4.65pc to 2,684.9, while Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index, the largest Arab market, collapsed by 7pc intraday, before recovering to end down 5.44pc at 5,520.41, its lowest level in almost five years. The Qatar stock exchange, fell 7.2pc to close at 8,527.75, and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange shed 4.24pc to finish at 3,787.4. The Kuwait market returned to levels not seen since May 2004 as it slid 3.2pc lower, while smaller markets in Oman and Bahrain dropped 3.2pc and 0.4pc respectively.The Iranian stock index gained 1pc, making it one of the best performing markets in the world with gains of 6pc since the start of the year.

BBC:  Schlumberger reveals 10,000 recent job losses

Oilfield services giant Schlumberger has cut 10,000 jobs in the past three months amid the plunge in oil prices. News of the near-10% jobs cull came as the firm unveiled a net loss for the last three months of $1bn – its first quarterly loss in 12 years. Revenues fell 39% to $7.74bn, with chief executive Paal Kibsgaard warning that there was “no signs” of an oil price recovery on the horizon. Schlumberger also announced a $10bn share buy-back programme. This news pushed the US company’s shares 4% higher in after-hours trading. The stock price fell almost 20% is 2015 as investor worried that customers were cancelling projects as the oil price tumbled.The latest job cuts added to the 20,000 redundancies the company had already announced earlier in 2015. Mr Kibsgaard warned that there were “no signs of pricing recovery in the short to medium term.”

BBC:  BP boss: Oil price will rise

The boss of BP has predicted that the oil price will rise in the second half of the year as demand increases from America and China and supply begins to ease as the US shuts down production. As the oil price fell to new 12-year-lows today, Bob Dudley said it would be a year of two halves, with lots of volatility in the first six months when the oil price could still spike down-wards. He said it was “not impossible” that the price could fall as low as $10 as some analysts are predicting but such a price would not be sustained. “It has been low in the last year, I think it has been lower for longer but it is not lower forever,” he told me. “I think it’s going to be a year of two halves. We could see some real volatility in the first quarter [and] second quarter. And then around April or May as the stock drawdowns [in preparation] for the summer driving season in the northern hemisphere, then I think that given the rise of demand in China and North America . . . in the second half of the year prices would start on an upward trajectory. We could see a price $30 to $40 by the middle of the year and I think towards the end of the year it could be into the $50s.”

Reuters:  Price crash puts Colombian, Venezuelan crude blends underwater

A more acute crude price slump this month has put several South American countries in the difficult position of selling oil for less than what it costs to produce, according to traders and sources at three companies in Colombia and Venezuela. Some of the most known South American blends, which normally trade at significant discounts to benchmark Brent that has tumbled to under $30 per barrel, are fast becoming a type of ‘negative oil’ in a global glut. Among the varieties already affected in South America are Venezuela’s Diluted Crude Oil, which is now selling around $15 a barrel and Colombia’s best seller Vasconia, offered at below $21 in spot deals, sources from producing firms said. South America’s fourth largest oil producer, Ecuador, is also under breakeven point, President Rafael Correa said, which is forcing the country into fiscal cuts. “We have a crude price that is not even covering production costs, which are $24 per barrel,” Correa told journalist on Wednesday.

Oilpro:  Negative Crude Oil Prices in North Dakota

Bidding for a specific type of low-quality crude in North Dakota has gone sub-zero. That’s right, a buyer is saying it needs to be paid 50 cents a barrel to take delivery of crude. Koch’s refining arm, Flint Hills Resources, LLC, is the bidder and the negative 50 cent bid is down from $47.60/barrel two years ago.The negative bid has some caveats. First, this is a very low quality of crude. Second, so many barrels are behind pipe (infrastructure needs to catch up), that undue pressure is being placed on this particular grade of oil. Nonetheless, this gives a whole new perspective to “low oil prices.”

Business Insider:  ISIS is creating another ‘resources-rich stronghold’

While the world has had its eyes glued on Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or IS, has been creeping into another chaotic state: Libya. And analysts think this will be a major stress point for Europe going forward. “One of the most concrete geopolitical risks for Europe in the near future will be the complete or partial takeover of Libya by the militias of the so-called Islamic State,” Citi Research’s Tina Fordham wrote. “While the world’s attention was absorbed by the war in Syria, IS systematically increased its presence there in 2015,” she added. “Their goal is to establish another resources-rich stronghold in the Arab world, thereby creating another stepping-stone towards the erection of a ‘new Caliphate.'”Though it may seem as if Libya’s problems are removed from those facing Europe, Fordham points out two big reasons ISIS’ presence in the country presents a big risk: Once ISIS builds its stronghold in Libya, it is likely to try to exploit the political and economic weakness of the only success story of the Arab Spring: Tunisia. A presence in Libya serves as an “ideal base” for organizing further terrorist attacks on European soil. “The chances of the West of getting involved in a military intervention in Libya over the next year or two is very high,” Fordham warns.

The Hill:  Obama targets methane emissions on federal land

The Obama administration is targeting oil and natural gas drillers on federal land in its latest regulatory push to cut down on methane emissions. In a set of standards proposed Friday by the Interior Department, regulators want to restrict the rates at which drillers deliberately or accidentally release natural gas. The standards are also intended to restrict the deliberate burning of gas that is not captured. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August proposed similar goals to cut methane output from drilling. Officials pitched the rule both as a climate change crackdown and as a way to ensure taxpayer-owned resources on federal land are not wasted. The government is paid fees and royalties from the drilling of gas on federal land. “The commonsense and cost-effective measures we are proposing reflect the recommendations of several government studies as well as stakeholder views and tribal consultation over the last two years,” Janice Schneider, an assistant secretary at Interior, told reporters.

Wall Street Journal:  Natural Gas Suppliers Consider Suspending Egypt Contracts

Egyptian state-owned natural gas company Egas has missed payment deadlines for liquefied natural gas, as the country struggles to build up foreign reserves after blows to its tourism industry over the past year. Two suppliers to Egas have confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that all companies with active supply positions in Egypt have been affected by payment delays.  “The payment difficulties are affecting all parties,” a person from a European gas trading firm said, adding that his company was one of the unpaid parties. The payment problems have been continuing for about three months, the people said. One boat has been diverted away from Egypt, the BP -controlled British Sapphire. People close to the matter said this was because of payment delays, but, they said, Egas has denied this. Egypt’s energy funds could be being affected by cash flow from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, according to Olivier Jakob, an analyst at Switzerland-based Petromatrix. “Egypt is basically financed by the GCC, so this was one of the things to watch for when oil prices dropped,” he said. “If GCC cash flow is affected, this could have implications for Egypt.”

Allgov:  Natural Gas Likely Overtook Coal as Top U.S. Power Source in 2015

Last year looks like it was an unwelcome watershed for the embattled U.S. coal industry. Power companies in 2015 for the first time may have burned more natural gas than coal to generate electricity, according to analysts who attribute it to the cheapest gas prices in 16 years and a record number of coal-fired plants retired from service because of the high cost of meeting environmental regulations. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed that power plants used more gas than coal to produce electricity in five of the first 10 months of 2015, including the last four months data was available – July, August, September and October.While EIA does not forecast that gas produced more electricity than coal in 2015, some analysts conclude it did because gas in November and December traded at the lowest levels for the entire year, prompting more substitution in what was already an unrivaled year for coal-to-gas switching. EIA does not yet have final figures for November and December 2015, but consultancy PIRA Energy Group said its preliminary estimates showed gas topped coal in both months.

Guardian:  China’s coal-burning in significant decline, figures show

Coal-burning in China is in significant decline, according to official figures released on Tuesday, signalling a major turnaround for the world’s biggest polluter. China saw a huge increase in coal-burning for power and industry in the last two decades but has suffered serious air pollution as a result. However in recent years there has been a surge in low-carbon energy and a slowdown in the economy – GDP growth fell in 2015 to its lowest in 25 years – as China moves away from manufacturing. The result is that global carbon emissions are set to continue the fall seen in 2015 for the first time outside of worldwide recessions, potentially for many years. Tim Buckley, at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said: “The implications of these changes are huge. China’s total emissions are on track to peak potentially a decade earlier than their official target of no later than 2030. “This comes at the same time that the US has confirmed a 10% year-on-year decline in coal consumption in 2015, plus a three-year moratorium of new federal coal mine leases. That the largest economies globally are moving rapidly in concert to exceed the Paris [climate change] agreement sets a very positive scene for 2016.”

ABC News:  Judge in Climate Suit Tells Feds to Re-Examine Coal Mine

Federal officials must re-examine a 117 million-ton expansion of a Montana coal mine after a judge sided with environmentalists who sued over the project’s potential to make climate change worse and cause other environmental damage. U.S. District Judge Susan Watters gave the Interior Department nine months to look again at the proposal for the Spring Creek mine near the Wyoming border. In its prior review, the agency “failed to take a hard look” at the expansion, Watters wrote. Watters’ decision follows similar rulings affecting two coal mines in Colorado and hits to the industry from company bankruptcies and falling domestic and international demand for coal. Plus, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell imposed a moratorium last week on new coal sales from public lands pending a review of the program that is expected to take up to three years.

Reuters:  Hinkley Point project puts EDF at risk, says managers’ union

The sheer scale of EDF’s 18 billion pound ($25.55 bln) project to build two nuclear reactors in Hinkley Point, Britain puts the French utility at risk, the CFE-CGC managers union warned on Tuesday. The moderate union questioned the interest in building two next-generation reactors over nine years while two other EPR reactors under construction in Finland and western France have been plagued with problems and delays. It urged EDF to say what assets would have to be sold to finance the British project and what the potential impact of going ahead with it may be on its credit rating. In October, EDF, 85 percent-owned by the French state, announced a partnership with Chinese utility CGN to build Hinkley Point, but the two companies have not yet made the final investment decision to go ahead. EDF reluctantly agreed to finance the project on its already stretched balance sheet after other partners pulled out, and ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has warned it might downgrade EDF if it goes ahead. EDF’s board is due to take a decision on whether to go ahead with the investment on Jan. 27, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. A spokesman for the group declined to comment.

Daily Caller:  New England’s Anti-Nuke Stance Is Making Global Warming Worse

New England’s opposition to nuclear power is actually increasing its carbon dioxide emissions and harming the area’s attempts to fight global warming, according to a Wednesday report by the Institute for Energy Research (IER). Nuclear power dropped from providing 34 percent to 29.5 percent of New England’s electrical power between 2014 and 2015. This was largely due to the shutdown of the Vermont Yankee reactor. IER calculated that the shutdown of this reactor caused New England to emit an additional 2 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2015. Environmentalists predicted that when the plant closed, its electrical output would be replaced by wind and solar power. The plants output, however, was almost entirely replaced by natural gas, according to a blog post by the vice president for external affairs of the reactor’s company, Entergy.

Guardian:  Denmark broke world record for wind power in 2015

Denmark produced 42% of its electricity from wind turbines last year according to official data, the highest figure yet recorded worldwide. The new year-end figures showed a 3% rise on 2014, which was itself a record year for Danish wind energy generation. The country’s minister for energy, utilities and climate, Lars Christian Lilleholt, called the record significant and said: “Hopefully, Denmark can serve as an example to other countries that it is possible to have both ambitious green policies with a high proportion of wind energy and other renewables in the energy supply, and still have a high security of supply and competitive prices on electricity.”

Bloomberg:  Merkel Allies Call for Renewable Curbs as Wind Overwhelms Grid

Senior lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling bloc called for limits on subsidies for renewable energy in Germany as output expanded faster than the electricity grid can absorb the additional flows. Michael Fuchs, deputy chairman of the Christian Democrat party, joined fellow lawmakers in calling on the government to employ flexibility as early as this year in setting tar-gets for clean energy growth, according to a three-page note dated Jan. 18 and sent to the chancellery. Germany faces “massive network problems,” it said. “Gigawatt targets can’t be chiseled in stone.” Steps taken in 2015 to maintain grid stability cost power consumers more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), said the lawmakers. The push by leading members of the ruling party to choke growth in clean energy signals opposition to the policies of Social Democrat Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Germany is introducing auctions for clean energy from 2017 and is counting on steady growth of wind and solar power to promote the country’s energy transition.

Scientific American:  Can Germany Ditch Coal?

A call by Germany’s environment minister to fast-track the country’s coal exit has riled Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative-led coalition government. Rebuffed in the run-up to December’s U.N. climate conference in Paris, Minister Barbara Hendricks has once again raised the topic. This time, things could turn out differently. The global deal struck in the French capital, experts say, has changed the calculation. Global carbon budgets and coal reserves are now in the mainstream of Germany’s public and political dialogue. There also is a widening recognition of the need for a long-term plan in order to provide regulatory certainty. Finally, many argue that continued coal burning imperils the country’s reputation as a leader on climate change. According to Hendricks, a first-ever proposal for fully winding down German domestic coal production will be on Merkel’s desk before the summer recess, with discussions among energy companies, trade unions and regional officials set to conclude by late March. Hendricks is pushing for a final 2040 exit, at the latest, while industry wants to continue to mine and burn coal until at least 2050.

Financial Times:  Cameron to set up North Sea support group

David Cameron is setting up an oil support group to help deal with the impact of plummeting prices on the North Sea oil industry. The group will be chaired by Oliver Letwin, minister for government policy, but is also expected to include Fergus Ewing, the Scottish National party business minister in the Edinburgh government. Oil & Gas UK, the industry group, said it would welcome the initiative if it showed that senior ministers were considering ways to support operators. But it also called for changes to the licensing and taxation system surrounding the oil industry. Ministers have already indicated that Aberdeen, the centre of Scotland’s oil industry, could be offered a “city deal” as part of the government’s wider devolution talks with the regions. Aberdeenshire is seeking up to £3bn of infrastructure improvements during the next two decades, while Aberdeen wants to obtain “world energy centre” status.

Guardian:  For a clean, green future, Britain must remain in the EU

Scientists recently declared that the evidence is compelling enough to say we are now living in the Anthropocene. Humanity’s impact on the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and wildlife has, they argued, pushed the world into this new epoch. Britain is a world leader on the environment and has played a pivotal role in the European Union on this issue ever since 1986, when Margaret Thatcher signed the Single European Act, which established the EU’s competence in this area. If we are to play our part in ensuring a green future for the UK, we must remain in the EU. Yet the impact that leaving the EU would have on the UK’s environmental standards rarely features in discussions about the referendum. The environmental audit committee, of which I am a member, is currently reviewing this. The evidence so far is clear: families in Britain and our rivers, beaches and special places would pay the price if we voted to leave.

Scienceline:  Scotland and Ireland commit to a clean energy future together

Scotland, with its long shorelines and brisk coastal winds, is a well of potential tidal and wind energy. Now it is teaming up with its island neighbors, Ireland and Northern Ireland, to build one of the world’s first large-scale marine renewable energy systems. The Irish Scottish Links on Energy Study project is set to produce 6.2 gigawatts of power annually by 2020 — that’s enough to power about 1.8 million homes. It will be part of the European Union’s goal of using 27 percent renewable energy by 2030. The project, known as ISLES, will use all three of the major marine renewable energy sources — offshore wind, wave and tidal — and will provide much-needed data on the technology and its effects on the environment. “The main advantage of marine renewable energy is that the input is much more constant,” says Sarah Henkel, a researcher at the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University. The amount of energy produced by onshore wind turbines and solar power varies with the weather and time of day, so the consistency of marine renewables makes them valuable both to utility companies and consumers.

Bloomberg:  U.K. Pledges Heat, Transport Work to Meet EU Renewables Target

The U.K. government plans to do more to increase the proportion of renewable energy used to heat the nation’s buildings and fuel its cars, trucks and trains as it strives to meet binding European Union targets by 2020. Britain in 2014 derived 7 percent of all energy for power generation, heat and transport from renewables, up from 5.6 percent in 2013, the government said in a report Thursday that confirmed headline numbers published in June, while revising sectoral data. The U.K. must get 15 percent of all energy from renewables by 2020 in order to meet its EU target. While Thursday’s data show it met an interim objective, and the power sector is on track to meet its share of the overall goal, the government acknowledged it’ll need to do more to encourage the uptake of clean sources of energy for heat and transport. “In order to maintain progress on renewable heat for the rest of the decade, we recognize that we need to do more beyond 2016,” the government said. In transportation, “we will shortly be consulting on plans to increase the use of biofuels in a strategic and sustainable way and in line with our 2020 targets.”

Telegraph:  RWE puts £1bn onshore wind investment on hold

UK onshore wind farm projects worth £1bn have now been scrapped or put on hold by RWE Innogy following recent policy changes, the German energy giant has disclosed. Up to £800m investment in 10 to 12 proposed wind farms in Scotland and Wales is on hold until ministers confirm whether any subsidies will be available to support them, the company said. Hans Bünting, RWE Innogy chief executive, said it had “stopped all further investment” and completely frozen its development pipeline while it awaited an announcement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The projects on hold are in addition to £250m investment in nine wind farms in England that RWE Innogy announced last year it was cancelling, due to the hostile planning environment and restrictions on subsidies. Although the Conservatives vowed in their manifesto to end all new onshore wind subsidies, Mr Bünting said he believed ministers could yet offer financial support that could allow the Scottish and Welsh projects to proceed. “As far as I understand it, Amber Rudd has not cancelled onshore forever,” he said.

Cleantechnica:  Scotland’s Government Planning To Cut Back On Funding Climate Change Policies

Analysis done by WWF Scotland has suggested the Scottish Government will soon reduce the amount of money it commits to climate change policies. According to WWF Scotland, funding is set to reduce despite commitments made by the Government to commit to climate change policies, and to make energy efficiency a National Infrastructure Priority. This last is of supreme importance in Scotland, where more than half of the country’s greenhouse emissions stem from heating homes and businesses, meaning energy efficiency improvements can have massive impact on the country’s overall emissions reductions. Specifically, according to WWF Scotland analysis, the Draft Budget currently includes a 9.12% decrease in funding. “These new figures undermine the Scottish Government’s claim to have embedded climate change in its draft budget,” said Lang Banks, WWF Scotland director.

Energy Voice:  Shut oil industry and get staff to cut trees’, say greens

The Scottish Green Party wants the North Sea oil and gas sector to be wound down – so offshore workers can become lumberjacks. Joint party leader Patrick Harvie will today table a motion calling for a “managed decline” of the industry and greater investment in renewables instead. The “ridiculous” proposal has provoked scorn from other Scottish political parties, with the Conservatives claiming the Green Party is putting its “blinkered ideology before people’s livelihoods”. The Liberal Democrats said it “beggars belief” that the Greens’ response to the North Sea oil crisis was “to suggest that people who find themselves unemployed should pick up their axes and get to work as lumberjacks”. But Mr Harvie, who is an MSP for Glasgow, said his party was the only group “willing to face the facts and start looking ahead”.

Independent:  UK renewable energy industry about to ‘fall off a cliff’

Britain’s renewable energy industry is about to “fall off a cliff” just at the point it would come into its own, analysis for The Independent reveals. The dour forecast comes as the industry celebrated a record-breaking year in 2015, with billions of pounds poured into solar and wind energy and more homes powered by nature than ever before. But experts have warned this is all about to grind to a halt as the Government abandons its commitment to green energy and instead invests in fracking and nuclear power. The impact of the Government’s end to wind-farm subsidies and the carrying-out of its manifesto pledge to “halt the spread of onshore windfarms” has been laid bare with research for The Independent. The figures from Bloomberg forecast that over the next five years the country will lose at least 1 gigawatt of renewable energy generation – enough to power 660,000 homes. After 2020, the new renewables infrastructure will collapse to almost nothing because of a lack of investment and the blossoming industry could wither, the figures suggest.

Businessgreen:  UK energy storage tipped to exceed 1.6GW by 2020

The battery storage market in the UK could deliver over 1.6GW of capacity by 2020, regulating grid frequency and making it easier to integrate increasing levels of renewable energy into the energy mix. That is the conclusion of a new report from environmental consultancy Eunomia, which predicts the level of installed battery capacity in the UK will rise rapidly over the next five years from just 24MW currently. Currently the market is made up of a handful of proof of concept projects that have been largely funded by the government and Ofgem. However, Eunomia reckons the market will take a “major step forward” in 2017 as National Grid brings in new Enhanced Frequency Response contracts that aim to incentivise operators to keep grid frequency within an acceptable range.

Business Insider:  The search for a better battery

The vast technological progress that has been made since the invention of the computer chip in the mid-20th century can be simply told in one story: Moore’s Law. Every couple of years, the number of transistors – the switches whose “on” or “off” functions are the building blocks of computing – that can fit on a chip doubles. But when it comes to the batteries that power these devices, there is no equivalent to Moore’s Law. The lithium-ion technology present in a smartphone or laptop hasn’t changed significantly since it was first commercialised by Sony in 1991. Improvements tend to come from tweaking the chemical makeup of the electrodes or electrolyte, but are gradual and become more difficult over time. Despite the huge focus on batteries from technology’s richest companies, capacities tend to improve at around 5pc a year. In fact, many manufacturers have found the best way to improve batteries has simply been to make them bigger, thus allowing room for more ions.

Tech Insider:  This autonomous ship will sail across the Atlantic Ocean using wind and solar power

Called the Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship (MARS for short), the boat is being made by Plymouth University, autonomous underwater vehicles specialists MSubs, and yacht designer company Shuttleworth Design. The ship, which is more than 100 feet long, will undergo a year-long testing phase and then sail across the Atlantic in 2020. The voyage will mark the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower sailing across the Atlantic to Plymouth, Massachusetts. The specific kind of boat the designers are using is a trimaran, which comes with a main hull (or float) and two outer hulls. “A trimaran was chosen because it provides the most efficient hull form for low speed motoring,” John Shuttleworth, who runs Shuttleworth Design with his brother Orion, wrote in the statement. “The hull configuration developed from a requirement to reduce windage, while keeping the solar array sufficiently high above the water to reduce wave impact.” The solar cell actually required for effective motoring is too large to fit on the trimaran, but the hull system increases the solar cell area by 40% in calm conditions. MARS can reach a top speed of 23 miles per hour in good, not very windy, conditions.

Mail:  What happens when the El Niño is over?

Nasa say (the) phenomenon should start to disappear – but warn global warming means “anything could happen. Warmer-than-average waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean should start to cool off and shift westward. By summer, the tropical Pacific might be back in a neutral state or La Niña cooling could kick in, as it did after major El Niños of the past. But will the ocean respond in 2016 the way it did in 1998 and 1983? Given that the planet is hotter than at any time in the past 135 years, there are no guarantees.”

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25 Responses to Blowout Week 108

  1. JerryC says:

    Re: “This autonomous ship will sail across the Atlantic Ocean using wind and solar power”

    I’m always amazed at the lengths people will go to reinvent the sailing ship and market it as a new, disruptive technology.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Windmills and sailing ships. The Greens have a great future planned for us all. It will soon include the uncontrolled spread of disease and hunger. The thing I don’t get is the main stream parties extolling the virtues of Green energy policies without realising they are aligning themselves with anti-capitalist and anti-humanity thought.

  2. So 2015 being globally the warmest year on record (for temperature measured at the surface), by far, didn’t make your list of stories? The Met Office thinks 2016 could be even warmer, globally.

    • A C Osborn says:

      Perhaps it is because it wasn’t and 2016 won’t be.
      By their own reports NOAA said 1997 and 1998 were at least 3 Degrees F warmer than 2015.
      But of course that was before they re-wrote historical temperatures again and again and again, in fact almost every month.

      • robertok06 says:

        This is the latest version of the Green Bible(to be reviewed soon)…

        … as you can see they claim total and utter distruction for the planet because of 4 C in the last few years, but if you look back at 1906-1909 an almost 10 C decrease in temperature occured.
        If you extract the data and plot them you get, fitting a linear trend over 1895-2015, 121 years, of 0.1 C/decade… and if you try to fit a higher power polynomial, like a quadratic term to account for the often-mentioned “acceleration” of the global warming, you get basically a ZERO… no acceleration whatsoever… which is “slightly” at odds with the fact that, data as per Mauna Loa CO2 concentration over 1958-2015, CO2 has been increasing supra-linearly, i.e. it shows indeed an acceleration in its concentration, year after year.

        The know-it-all at GISS, NOAA, IPCC, MET, etc… are already working out the explanation for it… no problem, a couple of additional obscure parameters ad-hoc and the thing is settled.


      • Even if you disregard all of the surface temperature datasets, the story that the global average surface temperature beat the previous record by a big margin surely deserved a mention in the round-up.

        You didn’t provide any links but it is not likely that NOAA would have announced a record 2015 global average surface temperature whilst simultaneously claiming 1997 was 3F warmer. By the way, EVERY temperature data set has corrections. It is to be expected and it is desirable. So, if you don’t like adjusted data sets, then I’m not sure what you use to determine what’s happening.

        Looks like robertok06 wasn’t looking at global average surface temperatures when claiming a 10C decrease 1906-09. Probably looking at a subset of US temperatures in one month or one state and certainly in farenheit, not celcius.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          I’ll have a post on 2015 temperatures Monday. Roger didn’t cover “record” US snow storms either.

        • the story that the global average surface temperature beat the previous record by a big margin surely deserved a mention in the round-up.

          The stories I pick for Blowout are news stories posted within the last week, and I pick them by doing web searches for topics like OPEC, oil & gas, nuclear power, energy storage, wind & solar etc. The reason the “warmest year on record” didn’t get mentioned was that it didn’t show up under either “climate change” or “global warming”, which I think gives us a good idea of how newsworthy the story is.

        • robertok06 says:

          “Looks like robertok06 wasn’t looking at global average surface temperatures when claiming a 10C decrease 1906-09. ”

          Sorry, did not read the right column… was the one in Farenheit (the day the USA will switch for good to metric units I’ll drink a whole bottle of good wine to celebrate)… the remainder of my comment stands.. there have been previous short series of years during which bigger temperature excursions took place… and yet nobody claimed that global cooling was on the rise, right?

          The linear fit is a 0.1 C/decade, as I mentioned, and no sign of acceleration whatsoever.

        • A C Osborn says:

          I just love the way that you so easily accept that the “Climate Scientists” of 2015 rubbish the work of the “Climate Scientists” of 1998 & 1990. They couldn’t read the Thermometers properly, they couldn’t do the math properly and came up with the wrong answer by 3 degrees F.
          Oh wait a minute those 2015 scientists are mostly the same scientists that did the work in 1998 & 1990, so they admit now they didn’t know what the hell they were doing.
          And you believe that they do now when everyone knows that they have cooled the past by adjusting the data, which by the way they admit, but not by how much they have adjusted it?

          • Not sure what you’re referring to, regarding the 3F difference. As I’ve said before, all datasets need adjustment (and those adjustments need reviewing from time to time, as we gather more information about the data points). If someone won’t accept adjusted datasets, then I’d be interested to know which surface temperature (or even lower or mid troposphere estimated temperature) datasets they do accept.

            Regarding robertok06’s remark, when, exactly, have we seen global average surface temperature excursions greater than we’re seeing now?

          • Euan Mearns says:

            all datasets need adjustment

            No they don’t.

            when, exactly, have we seen global average surface temperature excursions greater than we’re seeing now?

            Virtually all of the time during the last 2.8 million years.

          • A C Osborn says:

            You say “as we gather more information about the data points”, so you actually believe that we now know more about the original data than they did in 1998 and 1999 or than the people who recorded the raw data?
            You obviously think that the algorithms used can make the “data” better than it was when raw, even when applied unnecessarily and more than once.
            You do know that Adjustments are already made by some meteorogical offices before they are published and that NASA/GISS adjust them again?
            I know your style Mike and you will accept and argue in favour of anything coming out of Climate Science regardless of how poor or contradictory it may be, so there is no point in trying to debate the subject with you.
            As Euan knows I am very very passionate about the CAGW theory, so I will say goodbye now so as to not take any more forum space.

        • A C Osborn says:

          They also refuse to provide all the emails and data concerning those adjustments to Congress.

  3. David n says:

    If the SNP really cares about the environment, why do they support North Sea Gas and Oil (which does pollute), yet oppose new nuclear power (which very much reduces Co2 output)? All this Green policy is a mess of hypocrisy and partisanship.

  4. Graeme No.3 says:

    “This week’s lead story speculates that climate change killed off all the aliens. It is an award-winner even by climate change standards, but I’m not sure what the award should be”.

    I suggest a luxury holiday for two for a week in the Falklands. (for 2 because the writer will want to take his companion, the invisible 6 foot white rabbit).

  5. robertok06 says:


    this is definitely the best description of the ideal world as seen through green glasses… unbelievable.

    “The Scottish Green Party wants the North Sea oil and gas sector to be wound down – so offshore workers can become lumberjacks.”

  6. David McCrindle says:

    To be fair to the article on aliens and climate change it is not saying that alienogenic climate change has been responsible for the extinction of aliens. It is arguing that natural climate change on extraterrestrial planets is an additional barrier to the evolution of complex life forms. In particular it is speculating that a significant period of relatively stable climate is necessary in order for living creatures to set up the feedback systems which help control the climate and enable very long term evolution to take place.

    Whether this is true or not is another matter but it is interesting speculation. I think the the Scottish green party’s contribution is probably more deserving of the award (at least for this week).

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