This week we take a temporary break from the world’s harsh realities and lead off with a story about US climate refugees:
Cliff Mass, an atmospheric science professor from the University of Washington, predicts the Pacific Northwest will be one of the best places to live as the earth warms from Global Warming. He foresees a mass exodus of climate change refugees. On his blog , Mass details why so many people may be “forced” to move, and why the Pacific Northwest could fare better than other parts of the world with climate change, referring to the region as a “potential climate refuge.”
Caption: The coloured areas represent extreme climate change. Yellow indicates areas that will be highly stressed for water. Orange represents additional locations that might be significantly affected by hurricanes. Purple dots for the blank locations with substantial heat wave risk. Red areas indicates regions that will experience substantial negative impacts of global warming from sea level rise.
Why choose this story? Because a lot of Americans living here in Mexico – including my neighbors – are climate refugees from the Pacific Northwest.
More stories below the fold, including the requisite dose of oil and OPEC, oil exports from the US, natural gas from Australia, US fuel in Ukranian nuclear plants, trees absorbing more CO2 than expected, tidal power in Canada and Scotland, carbon-free cities, EON spins off fossil fuels, decorator wind turbines and a new low point for climate change attribution – the crash of AirAsia flight MZ8501.
International Business Times: Iran Calls On Saudi Arabia To Address Plunging Prices, Warns Inaction Is A ‘Serious Mistake’
A top Iranian official has called for Saudi Arabia to take steps to address plunging oil prices, which fell this week to their lowest point in nearly six years. The two nations in recent months have headlined OPEC infighting over which tactics to pursue as profits from oil exports drop.“There are several reasons for the drop of the price of oil, but Saudi Arabia can take a step to have a productive role in this situation,” Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian told Reuters. “If Saudi does not help prevent the decrease in oil price … this is a serious mistake that will have a negative result on all countries in the region” whose economies rely heavily on oil.
The Blaze: Algeria calls on OPEC to cut production
Algeria’s oil minister on Sunday called on OPEC to cut production and raise the price of oil, which has plunged dramatically in the last six months. The call by Youcef Yousfi to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, of which Algeria is a member, comes as the country is struggling to deal with a halving of oil prices from $120 barrel to $60 a barrel. “For us, OPEC has to intervene to correct the imbalance and cut production to bring up prices and defend the income of its member states,” Yousfi said in remarks carried by the state news agency.
Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraq supports Saudi OPEC policy
Iraqi Oil Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said his country stands by the Saudi-brokered OPEC decision to maintain production among the organization’s member countries, amid some of the lowest oil prices since the aftermath of the global financial crisis. OPEC’s decision will be difficult for producers such as Iraq and Algeria, who rely on oil revenues for over 90 percent of their national income, but Mahdi said the plan to crowd out non-core producers would be “healthy” for the market and benefit producers such as Iraq in the long-run as it would eventually allow the market to stabilize on the back of production by “reliable, core producers. “In Iraq we are taking a pragmatic stance. We support the current situation so long as everyone [in OPEC] has agreed to continue production. If everyone wanted to reduce production, we would agree to the same,” he said.
Angola, Africa largest oil producer behind Nigeria, plans to keep decreasing fuel subsidies next year after it raised gasoline and diesel prices by 20 percent last week, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said.“2015 will be economically difficult because of significantly low oil prices,” Dos Santos said in his year-end address in the capital, Luanda. “Some public expenditures will be reduced and some projects postponed,” he said. “For example, subsidies for fuel prices.” Angola’s government relies on oil for more than three quarters of its revenue, and falling prices prompted the southwest African country to scale back investment plans.
Prensa Latina: Low oil prices won’t paralyze Ecuador
The minister coordinator of the Economic Policy of Ecuador, Patricio Rivera, assured today the fall in oil prices will not paralyze the country, as it used to happen before, although he did admit it would somehow affect national economy. The official explained some months ago the barrel of oil would sell at 92 dollars and today it goes for 47, so it will affect us somewhat, said the account in twitter Economia Ecuador.
Naija News: Nigeria looking for new markets for its crude
Nigeria has intensified search for new markets for its crude oil, sequel to the shunning of its commodity by the United States. Already, the nation’s marketing team has been luring nations in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, as new destinations for the crude oil. The U.S has reduced crude oil import from Nigeria by 97 per cent due to its massive exploitation of shale oil.
Venezuela relies on oil revenue for 96 percent of its hard currency reserves, so the plunging price of oil — which has dropped by half in the past six months to $48 a barrel — threatens to destabilize its economy. President Nicolas Maduro has a theory about what’s behind the sudden drop. “Did you know there’s an oil war?” Maduro asked the leaders of Venezuela’s state-run businesses in a speech Monday in which he accused the United States of trying to flood the market with shale oil. “And the war has an objective: to destroy Russia. It’s a strategically planned war … also aimed at Venezuela, to try and destroy our revolution and cause an economic collapse,” Maduro added.
The blaze at the Es Sider port has already engulfed five giant oil storage bunkers and any long-term disruption to exports from the facility could help to put a floor under the tumbling price of crude. Libyan officials have said that 850,000 barrels of crude oil have been lost because of the fire. Es Sider can hold more than 6m barrels and is one of the North Africa country’s main export hubs. Once the largest oil producer in Africa, Libya’s output averaged 580,000 barrels per day in November, down from 1.59m bpd at the end of 2010, according to Bloomberg data. However, production is thought to have dropped to as low as 352,000 bpd since the current outbreak of violence between forces loyal to the elected government in Tobruk and extremists who now control the capital, Tripoli.
Oil supplies in Iraq and Russia surged to the highest level in decades, signaling no respite in early 2015 from the glut that has pushed crude prices to their lowest in five years. Russian oil production rose 0.3 percent in December to a post-Soviet record of 10.667 million barrels a day, according to preliminary data e-mailed today by CDU-TEK, part of the Energy Ministry. Iraq exported 2.94 million barrels a day in December, the most since the 1980s, said Oil Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad. The countries provided 15 percent of the world’s oil in November, according to the International Energy Agency.
Reuters: US opens door to oil exports
The Obama administration on Tuesday bowed to months of growing pressure over a 40-year-old ban on exports of most domestic crude, taking two steps expected to unleash a wave of ultra-light shale oil onto global markets. The Bureau of Industry and Security, or BIS, which regulates export controls, said it had granted permission to “some” companies to sell lightly treated condensate abroad. The BIS also released guidance in the form of frequently asked questions, or FAQs, to explain what kind of oil was generally allowed under the ban. The two measures are clearest signs yet that the administration is ready to allow more of the booming U.S. shale oil production to be sold overseas, where drillers have said it can fetch a premium of $10 a barrel or more.
Bloomberg: EON to spin off conventional power assets
EON SE, Germany’s largest utility, will break itself up, spinning off fossil-fuel power plants into a separate company to focus on renewable energy. The plan is the most radical response yet to Germany’s unprecedented switch to wind and solar power. The so-called energy shift has forced EON and its peers to close nuclear reactors and undermined power prices, decimating the profitability of traditional utilities. Chief Executive Officer Johannes Teyssen said other utilities would have to consider similar moves as the industry adjusted to the massive changes in the way electricity is generated and consumed. The company expects to complete the split in 2016. “We are the first to resolutely draw the conclusion from the change of the energy world,” Teyssen told reporters in Dusseldorf today. “We’re convinced that energy companies will have to focus on one of the two energy worlds if they want to be successful.”
Sputnik News: Rostov 3 on line
One of the most important events of the recent years in Russia’s nuclear power industry occurred late Friday night: a new, third unit of Rostov Nuclear Power Plant was connected to the Russian power grid and started to produce its first kilowatt-hours of electricity, a source in Rosenergoatom told RIA Novosti. The unit’s reactor is currently operating at 30 percent of its nominal thermal capacity. It is expected that the third power unit will be accepted for commercial operation in the summer of 2015, after reaching 100 percent of its thermal capacity and passing the acceptance tests.
The 650-megawatt Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station had been in operation since 1972, supplying about 35 percent of Vermont’s electricity over that period. In theory, the reactor could have kept running for years to come. It was licensed by the federal government until 2032. And, two years ago, Entergy won a legal victory against Vermont officials who tried to close the plant early. Nuclear opponents have long raised safety concerns about the site, but haven’t been able to shut it down. What ultimately killed the plant was competition from other energy sources. The US fracking boom has created a glut of cheap natural gas — and New England has been using more and more gas for electricity in recent years.
Ukraine’s switch to the use of upgraded nuclear fuel from the United States at its nuclear power plants, built in the Soviet times, could threaten safety both at the domestic level and in Europe as well, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. “It seems that the Chernobyl tragedy did not teach Kiev authorities any lessons concerning a scientifically feasible approach to the [peaceful] use of nuclear energy,” the Russian ministry said in its statement. “In might be in fact, that the nuclear safety is sacrificed for the sake of political ambitions or, even more, other tangible interests.”
Although it is still too early to say exactly how many reactors will resume operations next year, it is almost certain that the Sendai 1 and 2 nuclear power plants will begin operations in the next few months. These plants, which are owned any operated by the Kyushu Electric Power Co., are the first to be approved by the newly establish Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA). Earlier this month, the NRA approved review report drafts for the Takahama 3 and 4 nuclear power plants, owned by the Kansai Electric Power Co. Analysts expect these reactors to receive the proper approvals and come online sometime around Spring 2015. Even if all of the reactors awaiting NRA approval were to restart tomorrow, Japan’s entire nuclear capacity be just 37% of its 2010 capacity. This doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise — there aren’t any commentators predicting a nuclear energy comeback anytime soon.
Investors in BG Group can breathe a sigh of relief after the company announced that it had loaded the first cargo from its $20bn (£12.8bn) Queensland coal seam gas LNG project in Australia.The company had set a year-end target for lifting its first shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the project, which is the first attempt of its kind. BG Group is among a group of international oil and gas companies including Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil that have invested an estimated $200bn to tap Australia’s vast gas reserves, which are mainly held offshore. By 2018, the country is expected to become the world’s biggest exporter of LNG – overtaking Qatar – with 84m tonnes of capacity. However, downward pressure on the price of LNG in Asia has raised concerns over the flood of new high-cost capacity that is soon expected to come on stream from Australia.
BBC Scotland: Scotland’s solar power increases by a third
Scotland’s solar power capacity has increased by about a third in the past year, according to new figures. More than 35,000 homes and 600 business premises now have solar photo-voltaic (PV) systems, December figures from regulator Ofgem show. The capacity of these systems has reached 140 megawatts, a rise of 32% from 106 megawatts last year. However, solar power capacity is still small compared to wind energy which has almost 40 times the installed capacity. Green energy campaigners are calling on the Scottish government to do more to help homes and businesses harness the power of the sun.
4-traders: Tide power in Scotland and Canada:
Atlantis Resources announced yesterday that it had secured a feed-in tariff agreement with the Nova Scotian government to deploy three of its AR-1500 turbines at the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE). The announcement came after the company confirmed late last week that it will start construction of its flagship MeyGen project in Scotlands Pentland Firth from next month. Atlantis said that it had successfully completed all the conditions required to draw down funding from its senior project finance providers, The Crown Estate and Scottish Enterprise, through the Renewable Energy Investment Fund. Onshore construction at the site in Caithness is now set to start in January.
Guardian: Clean energy for British cities
Environmental campaigners are hoping that 2015 will be the year when the UK’s cities go green. Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Munich, Seattle, Sydney and Lima have all committed to switching to using 100% clean energy by 2050, and now grassroots campaigns calling on civic leaders to endorse the initiative have been launched in 123 towns and cities across the UK. It is hoped that as many as 20 will pledge their commitment before the end of this year. One city expected to be at the vanguard of the scheme is Oxford, which has launched a “low-carbon hub” that aims to install solar panels on schools, put water turbines in its stretch of the Thames and develop solar farms.
Tropical forests are growing faster than scientists thought due to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A Nasa-led study has found that tropical forests are absorbing 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year as they photosynthesise and grow. And this is far more than is absorbed by the vast areas of boreal forest that encircle the Arctic. In total, they estimate that forests and other vegetation absorb around 2.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, about 30 per cent of that emitted by humans.
Discovery: Wind turbines that are pleasing to the eye
Some people complain that solar panels and wind turbines are so unattractive, they’d prefer not to see them at all. To them we offer New Wind, alternative energy generators that look like trees. The 36-foot-tall steel structure is perfect for urban environments, where a conventional wind turbine might not fit. Seventy-two artificial leaves that work as micro-turbines adorn the branches and spin silently on a vertical axis. Cables and generators have been integrated into the leaves and branches in a way that puts them out of sight and sound. The beautiful and functional device is the brainchild of French entrepreneur Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, who said the idea for a tree-inspired wind generator came to him one day while sitting in a square, watching the leaves on nearby trees tremble in a breeze. He wondered if energy could be generated in a similar way. Indeed, it can. At the moment, each tree has a power output estimated at 3.1 kW.
Air Traffic Management: Did climate change cause AirAsia crash?
The airline chief whose aircraft crashed on Sunday killing 155 passengers and seven crew has suggested that extreme weather caused by climate change could have been to blame. AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes said the black box flight cockpit recorder, which should provide crucial clues, has not yet been located although has talked of “very unique weather conditions” in the area at the time. “We cannot make any assumptions about what went wrong. All I can say is that the weather in south-east Asia is bad at the moment,” he said, suggesting that climate change may have played a significant role in the air accident.
Free Malaysia Today: AirAsia – there’s always a first time
An emerging fact from climate change is that Mother Earth is becoming more furious and violent. The weather is turning more extreme, the cold is getting colder, the heat is becoming more intense and there’s water everywhere and at other times not even a drop for months on end. Obviously, it cannot be business as usual for airplane manufacturers. They need to take climate change into account in designing the next generation of airplanes and exercise oversight on those already in service. We cannot have airplanes simply dropping down like hailstones from the sky.