Blowout week 86

CO2 emissions are in the news in advance of the forthcoming Paris Climate Conference, and now we learn that CO2 emissions from China, the world’s number one emitter, may have been significantly overestimated. Have they? And if they have, how much difference does it make?

Coal plant, Yangtze River

New York Times:  China’s Carbon Dioxide Emissions Overstated by 14%

Scientists may have been overestimating China’s emissions of carbon dioxide by more than 10 percent, because of inaccurate assumptions about the country’s coal-burning, according to a study published on Wednesday. The study looked in detail at the coal used as fuel in China, and found that it is generally less rich in carbon and is burned less efficiently than scientists had assumed. That means that each ton of burned coal yields less carbon dioxide than had been thought (as well as less energy, and more ash). “We measured thousands of samples of coal from mines across China, and found that the carbon content of the coal being burned in China is actually much lower than what has been assumed in previous estimates of emissions,” Steven J. Davis, a greenhouse gas scientist at the University of California, Irvine, and one of the authors, said in emailed answers to questions. The researchers found that, on average, each lump of coal in China was 40 percent less potent as a source of carbon dioxide emissions than the default figure used for coal by the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change. This made the researchers’ estimate for China’s total emissions markedly lower than those reached previously by monitoring projects financed by the United States government and the European Commission. The scientists reckon that in 2013, China produced 9.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and cement production, “which is 14 percent lower than the emissions reported by other prominent inventories,” the study said.

Below the fold: Cracks in OPEC unity, EIA cuts oil price forecast, low oil prices threaten Canadian oil producers and US ethanol producers, the end of the Golden Age of Gas, refracking – the next shale revolution, Mexico imports oil for the first time, UK scrambles to avoid EU emissions fines, Longannet to close, biomass at Drax, Islam calls for an end to fossil fuels, Germany’s grid even more reliable, EPA goes after methane, E.ON’s modular energy storage battery, the Aquarius wind/solar powered ship, 2015 to be the warmest year on record and how global warming caused dogs.

Hellenic Shipping News:  Opec unity cracks as disgruntled members call for meeting to stem oil slump

Pressure is building on Saudi Arabia from members within the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) to agree to an emergency meeting to arrest plummeting oil prices. Opec’s next scheduled gathering is due to take place in December but Algeria, Venezuela and a number of other members including Iran are now supporting an earlier meeting to discuss production levels, which are set at 30 million barrels per day (bpd) for the group as a whole. Saudi Arabia’s decision last November to increase its own production, which accounts for around third of the group’s output, to more than 10.6 million barrels per day (bpd) has made it impossible for other members to raise their production. The country’s oil policy has also opened up deep divisions within the group, especially with fellow Middle East power Iran. Riyadh has come under increasing criticism from within Opec for its determination to maintain a policy which has allowed oil prices to go into freefall since last November. Saudi Arabia and its close Gulf allies, such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, now account for over 18 million bpd of Opec supply, leaving little room for countries such as Iran, Libya and Iraq to increase their output. “The Saudis have flooded the market which leaves no room for others,” said a source close to Opec. “People in Opec are fed up with the Saudi policy of overproducing since November and have lost a lot of revenue because of this.”

Bloomberg:  Saudi Stocks sink into “death cross”

Investors sold Saudi Arabian stocks after an International Monetary Fund warning of slowing growth in the Middle East’s biggest economy tipped the equity index into a so-called death cross. Dubai’s shares also slumped. The Tadawul All Share Index slid for a sixth day, closing 2.9 percent lower at 8,197.02, the weakest level in more than seven months. That dragged its 50-day moving average below the 200-day moving average, a signal to some investors that further declines are in store. Al Rajhi Bank’s 2.9 percent decrease was the biggest contributor to the loss. Dubai’s DFM General Index slipped 2.5 percent to the lowest close since April 13.The Tadawul’s drop comes two months after Saudi Arabia opened its stock market to direct foreign investment for the first time to help diversify its economy away from oil. It puts into focus the deepening concern that King Salman is pushing ahead with a multi-billion dollar spending program at a time when crude, which accounts for 90 percent of government revenue, is trading near the lowest in six years.“The push was the IMF, but what dragged it down further was fear that if the market closes below the 8,000 level, no one knows when it’ll bottom out,” Muhammad Shabbir, the Dubai-based head of equities at Rasmala Investment Bank Ltd., who oversees more than $500 million in assets, said from Dubai. The measure’s death cross triggered “panic and margin calls across the board,” he said.

EIA:  lowers its crude oil price forecast through 2016

Amid high uncertainty in the global oil market, EIA has lowered crude oil price forecasts in the Short-Term Energy Outlook, expecting West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices to average $49 per barrel in 2015 and $54/b in 2016, $6/b and $8/b lower than forecast in last month’s STEO, respectively. Concerns over the pace of economic growth in emerging markets, continuing (albeit slowing) supply growth, increases in global liquids inventories, and the possibility of increasing volumes of Iranian crude oil entering the market contributed to the changed forecast. Since the beginning of 2015, North Sea Brent has traded about $5/b more than WTI, and EIA expects this $5/b price spread to persist at least through 2016. As gasoline prices tend to follow Brent crude oil prices, retail gasoline prices are expected to remain relatively low. EIA’s updated projection remains subject to significant uncertainties: the pace and volume at which Iranian oil reenters the market, the strength of oil consumption growth, and the responsiveness of non-OPEC production to low oil prices.

Wall Street Journal:  US to export crude to Mexico

Energy companies eager to export American crude oil scored a victory Friday when Washington agreed to allow them to trade oil with Mexico, in a further erosion of the four-decade ban on selling U.S. crude overseas. The U.S. Commerce Department told members of Congress it intends to approve an application by the national oil company of Mexico to exchange heavy oil pumped there for light crude pumped in the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter. The deal, which will give American drillers a new market for their product, is a significant step toward lifting the export ban that dates to the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, when the U.S. suffered though gasoline shortages. Since then, the U.S. has allowed few overseas shipments of oil, with a current exemption for Canadian refineries, which send a lot of gas and diesel back to the U.S. The laws barring overseas sales have come under pressure in the past year as American drillers pumped surging amounts of crude from shale formations, helping to create a global glut that has brought down oil prices by half in the last 14 months. Congress is slated to take up the matter later this year, and several top lawmakers back unfettered domestic oil exports.

Mexico City News:  Mexico imports oil for the first time in its history

Mexico will start to buy up to 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the United States for the first time in its history, with the intention of increasing production of high-value, refined oil. In January, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) requested that the U.S. government introduce light oil and condensate into the Mexican market. The request has now been granted in a relaxation of the ban on energy exports maintained by the United States. “This is a special exemption given the legal previsions outlined by the 1975 American Law on Energy. Mexico is now receiving the same treatment as Canada in terms of energy exchanges,” said the Energy Secretariat in a statement. The secretariat detailed that the imports will bring benefits to the country, allowing Pemex to mix light crude and condensate with the heavy oil produced domestically. This mixture would improve the manufacturing process of combustibles. According to Pemex, Mexico mainly produces heavy crude despite the fact that the refineries are designed to process light crude.“This affects industrial performance, leaving large quantities of combustible residue which is difficult to sell for a good price on the international market. It is then used in electrical plants which is not very competitive and damages the environment,” said the statement.

Rigzone:  As Canada’s Oil Debt Soars to Record, an Industry Shakeout Looms

Canadian energy companies’ debt loads are the heaviest in at least a decade, boosting concern that some won’t survive the collapse in crude prices. Trican Well Service Ltd., Canada’s largest fracking service provider, said last week it may be unable to continue because it’s in danger of breaching the terms of its debt. It’s the latest firm to see crude’s descent to a six-year low sap the cash flow needed to meet financial obligations. Oil’s plunge has pushed a measure of the average debt burden among Canadian energy firms to the highest since at least 2002, and another measure of their ability to make interest payments to the third-lowest level in a decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Facing some of the highest production costs in the world and carrying more debt than U.S. peers, the Canadian industry has become ripe for acquisitions. “Your ability to be an ongoing entity is certainly decreased,” said Jason Parker, head of fixed-income research at Bank of Montreal. “You’ll see larger, more financially affluent entities coming in and picking away at those properties.”

Wall Street Journal:  Canada’s Largest Refinery Shifts from Bakken Shale Oil to Brent Crude

The operator of Canada’s largest crude oil refinery, Irving Oil Ltd., said it has stopped importing Bakken Shale oil from the U.S. in favor of cheaper crudes from such producers as Saudi Arabia, reflecting a shift in crude costs affecting East Coast refiners during a global slump in oil prices. The closely held company’s 320,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, one of the biggest by volume in North America, has reduced purchases of Bakken crude shipped by rail to zero from a high of nearly 100,000 barrels a day two years ago, Irving President Ian Whitcomb said in an interview on Thursday. “We’re not importing any Bakken crude right now,” he said. The move reflects shifting economics in the energy industry even as the price of oil—including Bakken crude—has slumped to six-year lows. A once-yawning gap, between the cost of oil produced in North America and overseas crudes priced at the Brent global benchmark, has narrowed since 2013. Refiners on North America’s east coast can now import crude shipped by sea for less than the cost of shipping it by rail from shale oil producers in North Dakota and elsewhere in the U.S.

Global News:  Alberta to increase taxes despite oil price slump

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says falling oil prices won’t force her government to back away from a royalty review or a hike to corporate taxes. Notley says Alberta still has the best tax regime in Canada and profitable companies can pay a bit more when times are tough. Notley says the review will look both at present day and the future, when prices are expected to rebound. She says the review will also take into account input from the industry.“Alberta still has by far the most competitive tax regime in the country and so when times get tough, those who are profitable should be paying just a little bit more,” Notley said.

Advocate:  Golden Age of natural gas hits four-year mark … and ends?

So much for the much-anticipated golden age of natural gas. Energy analysts say Japan’s moves to restart its nuclear power plants will put a crimp in demand for liquefied natural gas, according to Bloomberg News. That doesn’t bode well for the energy companies that spent hundreds of billions of dollars to secure natural gas supplies and build facilities to turn the gas into a liquid that can be shipped to markets in Asia and Europe. Demand from Asia was a major factor in a 2011 report from the International Energy Agency that posed the question: “Are We Entering a Golden Age of Gas?” But with Japan’s nuclear restart pending and China’s economy cooling, demand has shrunk. LNG prices in Asia have fallen more than 60 percent since hitting $19.80 per thousand cubic feet in February 2015. Meanwhile, LNG producers, including the Sabine Pass facility in Cameron Parish, will add an estimated 55 million tons of new capacity in 2016, according to Bloomberg. The addition increases capacity by roughly 20 percent; U.S. facilities could add an additional 60 million tons a year by 2021. David Hewitt, the co-head of global oil and gas equity research at Credit Suisse Group AG, told Bloomberg to expect a glut of spot shipments that will put more pressure on prices. “We would not be surprised to see some very low headline spot price deals in the next few years,” Hewitt said.

Bloomberg: Cheap oil making it tough for ethanol producers

Cheap crude oil may make it hard for ethanol companies to pay their bills on time. The lowest oil prices in six years are hitting biofuel producers two ways: They’re making ethanol less attractive as a blend for gasoline, and emboldening the arguments of petroleum backers who say the U.S. law mandating consumption of the fuel alternative is obsolete, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services Inc. said in a report Wednesday. “The most noteworthy trend in the energy industry during the past year has been the precipitous decline in commodity prices, and chief among these has been plummeting oil prices,” Michael Ferguson, a credit analyst at S&P, wrote. “The lower oil prices may present a difficult rationale for blending ethanol.” Crude oil has fallen 57 percent in the past year to $40.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest since March 2009. Gasoline has plunged 42 percent and ethanol has dropped 31 percent. Regulatory support has also waned. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing the amount of ethanol required to be mixed with gasoline from statutory levels set in 2007, citing changing driving habits and fuel use since then.

Houston Chronicle:  Oil tech firms see shale resurrection with re-fracking

Shale oil producers from West Texas and North Dakota have harvested enough crude to overwhelm the global oil market and force Saudi Arabia’s oil cartel to play offense on the world’s energy stage. But U.S. producers have recovered only a small fraction of the oil that’s trapped in those rocks, and though the oil-market crash has put the nation’s energy boom on hold, some oil-technology companies are pursuing what they say will be a second American shale revolution. That belief lies partially in re-fracking – giving oil shale deposits a second blast of water, chemicals and sand – to get more oil out of depleted or under-performing wells. The process could be up to two-thirds cheaper than drilling a new well, which is an alluring possibility for cash-strapped U.S. producers who are straining to keep operational costs down and drilling operations intact. Over the next few years, thousands of wells could be in play for re-fracking, said Priyesh Ranjan, who manages the re-frack business and technology development at Halliburton. “There’s so much low-hanging fruit,” Ranjan said in describing the oil left behind in many wells. “There’s an obvious push for everybody to think about how to achieve more with less.” The technique has its skeptics. Re-fracking the wrong well or in the wrong way can damage it or the wells nearby. But this ongoing oil downturn might be the right time for experimentation, because the industry must learn how to coax more oil for fewer dollars, engineers say.

BusinessGreen:  UK set to award new round of fracking exploration licences

Ministers are set to reveal a new batch of oil and gas exploration licences later this week, as part of the government’s drive to fast-track fracking in the UK. The government is preparing to reveal the names of companies which have succeeded in securing a new batch of onshore oil and gas exploration licences, according to reports in The Telegraph. The new licences will cover an area of around 1,000 square miles, and will award firms exclusive rights to explore for oil and gas via traditional exploration methods and fracking techniques. A DECC spokesman confirmed to BusinessGreen that an announcement is due this week, with “dozens” of licences set to be awarded. A further 5,000 square miles of the UK will also be earmarked for possible future exploration pending environmental consultation. These will be identified as areas likely to be awarded fracking exploration licences, in a second wave of announcements expected later this year. The shale gas-rich areas of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Lincolnshire are all likely to some of the most sought-after regions for new licences, although companies are also thought to have applied for fracking licences in the South-East. One company is even thought to have applied for a licence to explore under central London.

Business Insider:  EU debate on green energy targets pitches UK against Germany

Britain and Germany will line up on opposite sides of a European Union green energy debate starting next month on how to meet agreed renewable fuel targets for the next decade. The 28 member states agreed climate and energy goals last October, but to make it easier to get a deal, the decision went only as far as a framework. In outline, the 2030 agreement includes cutting greenhouse gases by at least 40 percent versus 1990 and raising the share of renewable energy to at least 27 percent from 20 percent by 2020. The emissions target will be mandatory in the wider framework of U.N. climate goals to be reviewed in Paris at the end of the year. So far, the 2030 renewable goal is binding only at EU-wide level and the challenge is to ensure it is met as the bloc as a whole cannot be fined for infringement. Germany, which is pushing through its Energiewende, or shift from nuclear to green energy, wants binding laws. “In the end, there has to be a consequence if the contributions do not add up to at least 27 percent. There is no point in pretending there won’t be any,” the German paper, seen by Reuters, says. “The heads of states agreed on an EU binding target – not on an EU-hoping-target.” In the opposite camp, Britain aligned with the Czech Republic in a joint paper urging a “light-touch and non-legislative” approach.

Engineering & Technology:  UK considering loophole to escape EU renewables fine

The UK is considering using a loophole to escape fines for missing the 2020 European Union renewable energy targets. Britain has an EU target to meet 15 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, but with just five years to go it remains well short at just over 5 per cent and recent subsidy cuts for green power are only likely to slow progress. However, under the EU rules Britain could use a loophole called statistical transfer, which would see it pay other EU countries that are overshooting their targets, to make up the difference for them. “We need to stay open to the fullest possible range of options for meeting the 2020 target, including the use of statistical transfer,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said. While it is unclear how much Britain would be fined, the 2020 renewable target is binding and EU’s highest courts in Luxembourg have the right to order payment of a fine for every day a country is found to be in breach of EU law. There could also be competition for the statistical transfers as the latest data from the European Commission shows several countries, including the Netherlands and France, are also at risk of missing their targets.

Quartz:  The UK’s top polluter wants to be its biggest renewable energy producer

Scientists are still divided on the benefits and pitfalls of biomass, but one thing is clear: Drax will only save carbon if it sources its wood pellets using a set of strict criteria. The alternative could be more carbon emissions than coal, not less. So many factors have to be taken into account when working out the actual emission from burning biomass that scientists at the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change created a calculator to test out different scenarios. Everything from the use of sawmill shavings and other “residues” of forestry, like twigs and branches, to the chopping down of slow-growing forest and replacing it with faster-growing trees, was considered. The results varied wildly. In the very best-case scenario, where material that would otherwise be burned at the roadside was made into pellets and shipped to the UK, greenhouse gas emissions could actually be negative, or very low: between -17 and 121 kilograms of CO2 emissions per megawatt hour of electricity. But in the worst-case scenario, emissions were almost five times higher than coal. This calculation counted the chopping down of slow-growing trees that would otherwise have remained standing, storing carbon, and replacing them with often-harvested pines. Four years after Drax committed to using wood pellets for fuel, the UK has become the biggest importer of wood pellets in the world, and Drax the biggest single importer in the UK. It needs so many wood pellets it has its own pellet mills in the US, and buys the rest from other companies. A 2014 Wall Street Journal investigation found that some older trees could be finding their way into the pellet supply chain. Most of its accusations focused on a company called Enviva. Enviva is still a supplier to Drax.

BBC:  Longannet power station to close in March

Scotland’s last coal-fired power station, Longannet in Fife, is to close on 31 March next year. Its owner, Scottish Power, said the high cost of connecting to the grid was to blame. The company has also announced it is abandoning plans to build a new gas-fired power station at Cockenzie in East Lothian. Longannet, which opened in 1972, is one of the big-gest coal-fired power stations in Europe. The news will leave Scotland heavily dependant on SSE’s gas-fired power station at Peterhead and EDF’s two ageing nuclear stations at Hunterston and Torness. It is likely to lead to renewed debate about our growing reliance on renewables and generating capacity elsewhere in the UK. Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Scottish Power’s decision to close Longannet in March 2016 is deeply regrettable and has far-reaching consequences for Scotland. Prospect negotiator Richard Hardy said it would also hit Scotland’s hopes of remaining self-sufficient in energy generation. He said: “It is extremely disappointing that, despite the efforts of Scottish Power and the Scottish government, it has not been possible to put in place ways of keeping Longannet open until its original planned closure date of 2020.”

Holyrood:  SNP slams UK Government management of grid system

The SNP has slammed the UK Government’s management of the energy market after an expert described the system as “rigged” against Scotland. With Longannet power station due to close in March 2016, the SNP have jumped on comments from the University of Glasgow’s Professor Paul Younger, who described the UK Grid System as “a real dog’s breakfast”. Attributing the closure to problems brought by privatisation, Younger told the National: “They rigged the market in such a way that the only big conurbation they recognise as being worth servicing is London.” Reacting, SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie said: “It is clear that the decision to close Longannet early was a direct result of the UK Government’s deeply unfair transmission charging system which favours the South of England to the detriment of Scotland’s energy sector.” But while the SNP identified transmission charges as the cause of the closure, the Scottish Tories blamed it on wind energy. Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Tory energy spokesman, said: “It was utterly predictable that the SNP would rush to blame Westminster for the closure of a Scottish power station. But the fact is the high transmission costs the Scottish Government are citing are partly driven by its own obsession for expensive and unreliable wind energy.”

Renewables International:  German grid keeps getting more reliable

It’s getting hard to count the minutes of power outages in Germany. And it’s getting hard to improve the figure. As recently as 2006, Germany had 21.53 minutes of power outages, as counted in the SAIDI metric. That number has now fallen to 12.28 minutes as of last year, according to the official statistics from the Network Agency. Since 2009, the figure has hovered around 15 minutes, so this decrease of around 2.5 minutes represents a considerable improvement. Germany and Denmark have the most reliable grids by far in Europe. The Danes also have around 40 percent wind power, whereas the Germans have roughly 17 percent wind and solar combined. The share of these two energy sources is relevant because they react to the weather, not to grid events; they are not dispatchable and are therefore commonly held to be a danger to grid reliability, at least among critics of the Energiewende. Italy also has roughly the same amount of wind and PV as Germany does, and its grid performance has improved since 2006. Likewise, wind and solar taken together are now the largest source of electricity in Spain, and that country’s SAIDI figure improved tremendously. Correlation is not causation, however. Just because these countries have fewer minutes of downtime does not mean that solar + wind are the reason. Rather, as a report from the CEER explained in 2013, other improvements have been made to the grid, specifically the use of underground cables rather than overhead lines.

Washington Post:  EPA targets methane

A proposed rule announced by the Environmental Protection Agency seeks to slash methane pollution from the nation’s energy sector, in part by requiring emissions controls on new hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” operations and by curbing leaks from pipelines and storage tanks, agency officials said. The proposed measure, which faces heavy opposition from fossil-fuel companies, represents the first effort by the EPA to directly regulate emissions of methane, the primary component in natural gas. EPA officials said the proposed rule builds on previous efforts to reduce air pollution, while also helping energy companies recover and sell methane that otherwise would be allowed to escape into the atmosphere. “We can continue to accelerate the transition to a clean-energy economy by capturing fuel that would otherwise be wasted, while also preventing pollution that harms our climate and the health of our families and communities,” Janet McCabe, the EPA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, told reporters in announcing the measure. The proposal’s formal unveiling comes seven months after the agency announced its intention to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector with the aim of ultimately achieving reductions of 40 percent to 45 percent by 2025, compared with 2012 levels. The oil and gas industry accounts for 30 percent of the methane released from U.S. sources each year, much of it resulting from leaks from drilling rigs, pipelines and storage tanks, agency officials say.

Princeton Journal:  Warming Arctic may remove, not add, methane

In addition to melting icecaps and imperiled wildlife, a significant concern among scientists is that higher Arctic temperatures brought about by climate change could result in the release of massive amounts of carbon locked in the region’s frozen soil in the form of carbon dioxide and methane. Arctic permafrost is estimated to contain about a trillion tons of carbon, which would potentially accelerate global warming. Carbon emissions in the form of methane have been of particular concern because on a 100-year scale methane is about 25-times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat. However, new research led by Princeton University researchers and published in The ISME Journal in August suggests that, thanks to methane-hungry bacteria, the majority of Arctic soil might actually be able to absorb methane from the atmosphere rather than release it. Furthermore, that ability seems to become greater as temperatures rise. The researchers found that Arctic soils containing low carbon content — which make up 87 percent of the soil in permafrost regions globally — not only remove methane from the atmosphere, but also become more efficient as temperatures increase.

Guardian:  EU calls for urgency in ‘seriously lagging’ Paris climate talks

With 100 days to go until the Paris climate summit, the EU’s climate chief has warned that progress in thrashing out a draft negotiating text is proceeding too slowly and urgently needs to be stepped up. Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s climate commissioner, said that the 85-page draft agreement currently being pored over by diplomats still contains far too many bracketed options that need to be rapidly narrowed. “In the negotiating rooms, progress has been painfully slow. The technical talks are seriously lagging behind the political discussion and this must change,” Cañete told a press conference in Brussels. “The window of opportunity… is closing fast.” The alarm call from Brussels follows sharp interventions from the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and French climate ambassador, Laurence Tubiana in recent weeks. Cañete called for diplomats to show flexibility, and move beyond their negotiating “comfort zones” as a matter of priority. “When it comes to substance, the text is still far too long, with all options put forward by countries still on the table. This has to be negotiated as soon as possible,” he said. Climate pledges have now been received from 56 countries, which collectively represent some 61% of global emissions. But these ‘INDCs’ (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) are not thought ambitious enough to chart a course for limiting global warming to the UN target of 2C.

BBC:  Islam calls on rich countries to end fossil fuel use

Islamic environmental and religious leaders have called on rich countries and oil producing nations to end fossil fuel use by 2050. The Islamic Climate Declaration says that the world’s 1.6bn Muslims have a religious duty to fight climate change. It urges politicians to agree a new treaty to limit global warming to 2C, “or preferably 1.5 degrees.” The Declaration asks Muslims, in the words of the Koran, “not to strut arrogantly on the Earth”. Drafted at an international symposium in Istanbul, the Declaration calls for “all people, leaders and businesses …to commit to 100% renewable energy”. It also argues for increased financial support for communities vulnerable to climate change. The main focus though is on “well-off nations and oil-producing states,” who are urged to lead the way in phasing out greenhouse gases, no later than the middle of this century. The Declaration calls on the rich countries, to recognise their “moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the Earth’s non-renewable resources”.

RTCC:  8-year-old takes US government to court over climate change

This week a group of young Americans aged 8-19 filed a lawsuit against the US Federal Government to demand greater action on climate change. The 21 young plaintiffs sought an order from the District Court of Oregon, requiring Obama to implement a national plan for the reduction of atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to 350 ppm by the year 2100.This is in line with the international target to keep warming below 2 degrees on pre-industrial levels. The Complaint, submitted on Wednesday to coincide with International Youth Day, further accuses Obama and the Federal Government of knowingly risking “harm to human life, liberty and property” through intensive fossil fuel use. “The Federal Government has known for decades that CO2 pollution from burning fossil fuels was causing global warming and dangerous climate change,” said Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez, one of the young claimants and Youth Director of Earth Guardians. “Defendants did nothing to prevent this harm. In fact, my Government increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to levels it knew were unsafe.” (RA Note: Two of the plaintiffs are filing suit “through their Guardian Dr. James Hansen”. Details on the complaint link).

BusinessGreen:  E.ON starts construction of 5MW modular battery storage system

Construction has officially begun on the world’s first modular large-scale battery storage system, which energy giant E.ON is building in partnership with RWTH Aachen University in Germany. The M5BAT battery system will combine lithium-ion batteries for short-term bursts of power, lead-acid batteries for reliable short- and long-term power, and high-temperature batteries to meet long-lasting demand. Due for completion in mid-2016, the facility will be built across two floors of a former office building at Aachen University, occupying about 500 square metres of floor space. Once built, researchers will focus on how well the battery system could integrate with a renewables-heavy network, assessing its ability to boost grid stability and whether it could be used to take advantage of market fluctuations in electricity prices. The M5BAT is backed by a €6.7m (£4.7m) grant from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, as part of the German government’s Energy Storage Funding Initiative. The modular system will help support the transition to a low-carbon energy system, according to Bernhard Reutersberg, chief markets officer on the E.ON board of management. “Large battery storage systems are particularly interesting thanks to their flexible possibilities for use,” he said. “The findings expected from M5BAT are of value for the entire energy industry, particularly as a means of support on the path towards low-CO2 power generation.”

E.ON’s battery office building

Hellenic Shipping News:  Renewable Energy for Greener Shipping

There is a combined wind & solar power solution for shipping on the horizon – the Eco Marine Power (EMP) Aquarius MRE (System) This innovative wind and solar Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) solution is designed so that the practical limitations of using rigid sails and solar panels on ships are overcome. A ship fitted with the Aquarius MRE System such as a passenger ferry, cruise ship, bulk carrier, survey vessel or oil tanker will be able to tap into the limitless power of the wind and sun. These “hybrid powered” ships will use wind and solar power together as a source of energy and propulsion (along with the ship’s main engines) in order to reduce harmful emissions and lower fuel consumption. On a large ship, 1000 tonnes or more of bunker fuel could be saved annually by using the Aquarius MRE System. This means that using renewable energy on ships is not only good for the environment but also good for business. An onboard solar power array can either mounted on the sails or deck (or both) and this will charge batteries or the power will be fed into the DC or AC power distribution system. The energy stored in the batteries could also be a useful source of emergency power.

Vessel fitted with Aquarius MRE System

Perfect Science:  Scientists find a way to capture CO2 from Air and Make Carbon nanofibres

United States scientists have invented a technique to get rid of unpleasant carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. As per their new method, the unwanted CO2 in the air will be taken to make carbon nanofibres. Solar-powered system developed by the scientists uses a few volts of electricity and salt. The technique absorbs carbon dioxide gas and carbon nanofibres, a valuable manufacturing material, get assembled at an electrode. According to the scientists, currently, they are producing 10g nanofibres in an hour with this method. The scientists, who invented the technique, said that it could be a more effective way to make carbon nanofibres than other methods presently used. They also said that the technique can make an impact on carbon dioxide emissions. Licht said the new method has ability to succeed. He said, “It scales up very easily – the entire process is quite low energy. The system could provide a reasonable path to bring down CO2 levels in the atmosphere”.

CNN:  July hottest month on record, and 2015 could be hottest year

July saw the highest average temperatures since record-keeping began — globally, not just in the United States — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday. Globally, the first seven months of the year also had all-time highs. The latest global temperature data make it likely that 2015 will be the hottest year on record, the agency said. NOAA’s findings follow reports by NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency, which reached the same conclusion using their own data. Thursday’s report “is reaffirming what we already know,” NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch said. “The world is warming. It’s continuing to warm.” Data from NOAA dates back to 1880, but it is possible that July was the hottest month in at least 4,000 years. Climate research suggests these are the hottest temperatures the Earth has seen since the Bronze Age. The prediction for 2015 becoming the hottest year on record is based on observed temperatures so far, plus the coming El Niño event. NOAA predicts that a strong El Niño is building, one that could rival the intensity of the record 1997 event that influenced weather-related havoc across the globe, from mudslides in California to fires in Australia. “There is a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, and around an 85% chance it will last into early spring 2016,” NOAA said in a statement.

ABC:  Climate change blamed for Australia’s increased frost risk for cereal crops

A joint project involving the Queensland Government, the University of Queensland, the University of Southern Queensland, the CSIRO, and the Grains Research and Development Corporation, is helping growers minimise the risk of frost, while continuing to search for a gene that will be resistant to extremely low temperatures. University of Queensland research scientist, Dr Jack Christopher, said climate modelling of 60 years’ worth of data has shown that while average temperatures have been increasing, the incidence and impact of frost has also increased during that period. “One of the main factors causing that is the fact that the plants are actually growing a lot quicker in the warmer weather, so that when they’re planted at what we think is the correct time, they’re actually flowering too soon and are flowering during a much higher frost risk period than was intended,” he said.

Washington Post:  How global warming caused dogs

It’s possible that a shifting climate millions of years ago helped make dogs what they are today. In a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications, researchers report that based on the analysis of wolf and dog remains dating back to 40 million years ago, it’s likely that the animals developed their unique approach to hunting in response to changes in their habitat. Forty million years ago, dog ancestors living in what’s now North America looked more like mongooses than our modern pets. In fact, the group that would one day schism into cat ancestors and dog ancestors had yet to truly split. These animals were well-suited for a warm, heavily wooded climate — which was the climate of North America at the time. But things were changing. The planet started to warm rapidly at this time, and eventually the lush forests of the region gave way to open grasslands. According to the new study, wolf ancestors developed an important adaptation — a change in their elbows, which turned them from predators that relied on the element of surprise to predators that could chase down their prey with endurance running — along the same timeline as the habitat changes caused by global warming.

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33 Responses to Blowout week 86

  1. Syndroma says:

    It’s so hard to believe in the hottest July on record while living in the big blue spot on this map:
    The second year in a row without a summer. I’m so eager to see the warming. Should I burn more coal? Or blow up some pingos on Yamal?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      USA cold, Canada cold, Greenland cold, Iceland cold, N Europe cold, Russia cold, N India cold, China cold, Korea and Japan cold, Australia cold, Antarctica cold – and they expect us to believe July was warm. Only places without people and very sparse climate stations appear to have warmed 😉

      • roberto says:

        You are right; Euan: the above-the-average temperature is calculated spatially-wise, not weighted with the distribution of the population.
        Ask any US citizen living east of the Mississippi river, way more than 1/2 of the US population, how 2014 was… “did you find 2014 warmer or freaking colder, sir?” 🙂

        I have friends in the Boston area, a couple of retirees, who couldn’t take it anymore of shoveling 1-2 feet of snow every day for weeks, and weeks, and weeks… luckily for them they could afford to move south to Florida for a while.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      In Aberdeen we have basically had no Summer in July. Barely saw the sun. And temperatures struggled to get above 13˚C. I wanted to check out how July 2014 compared with other years and so checked out the MET office station data. The two stations closest to Aberdeen are Leuchars and Braemar – neither are very good analogues unfortunately. But I was surprised to see that the data for July don’t really seem to be that anomalous. I want to audit the MET data. If there are any readers out there with home records for NE Scotland, I’d really like to see the data.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        PS – the MET office has mean July Tmax for Leuchars of 18˚C and Braemar on 15.9˚C. Braeamar is at an elevation of 339 m in a Mountain setting. These temperatures do not really stand out as unusual. Ask any local they’ll tell you it has been the worst and coldest summers they can recall.

        I walk my two dogs every afternoon and I can’t recall my car thermometer ever being above 13˚C in July. Something sniffs.

      • roberto says:

        “In Aberdeen we have basically had no Summer in July. Barely saw the sun. And temperatures struggled to get above 13˚C. ”

        Wait, Euan!… that can possibly be true… ’cause recently I had a discussion with a greenie who was trying to convince me that even in sunny Scotland photovoltaics make perfect sense…

        Redeem yourself, sinner! 🙂

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Mount them on a N facing roof, mount them upside down, leave them in the box. It makes no difference when the sun barely makes it above the horizon for a few hours, the sky is leaden grey and their is a foot of snow on your roof.


    • According to the UAH TLT data July 2015 was the 82nd warmest month on record in the lower troposphere. The warmest was February 1998.

  2. Peter Lang says:

    There could also be competition for the statistical transfers as the latest data from the European Commission shows several countries, including the Netherlands and France, are also at risk of missing their targets.

    This is an indication of how irrational the EU 20% RE targets are. What is the CO2 abatement gain by forcing France to implement RE? France’s CO2 emissions intensity of electricity is just 0.069 t/MWh. Adding more renewables will require more gas use for back up. It will probably increase rather than decrease the CO2 emissions intensity of electricity.

    • roberto says:

      “It will probably increase rather than decrease the CO2 emissions intensity of electricity.”

      In addition to increasing the emission intensity for the whole duration/lifetime of the panels (or turbines), it will NEVER recover the CO2 emitted IN CHINA for the fabrication of the PV modules/panels!… going against the very reason (fake, the real reason is another one) that the greenies originally claimed…

      It’s totally crazy, but REALLY crazy… c’est fou!

  3. Peter Lang says:

    The picture of the solar powered ship is interesting. It’s going nowhere. And that’s in day time. 🙂

    • JerryC says:

      Don’t forget, it can also use “the limitless power of the wind”. Now there is an innovative idea! Why didn’t someone think of that before?

    • roberto says:

      … yeah!… it struck me as well… in particular I want to see the slalom that the cranes at the loading/unloading ports will have to do to load/unload the containers… trying not to bump and destroy the useless PV arrays.

      It reminds me, in terms of stupidity, the proposal that I read a year ago or so… i.e. to install small wind turbines on the side of the highways and make them turn via the air moved by the cars/trucks rushing by… also in that case I could only imagine the cars/trucks dribbling the rotating blades… probably the green genius who was behind this crazy concept has moved up in his/her career thanks to it… no further comments.

      Is this totally bonkers or what??? 🙂

      “According to his calculations, he reckons that each turbine would be able to generate 9,600kwh per year, which would be more than enough to power a few apartments, or, as he is proposing, more than a few community hubs along the freeway.

      While there are a lot of technical issues that may prevent the project’s deployment (such as the amount of turbulence on the road, the actual wind speed generated at the head height, etc) we must applaud Joe for the great idea. Good job Joe! Keep us posted…

      No shit!… 9600 kWh/year, when one would probably need the energy equivalent of 20 years just to produce the material of the 6 blades…

      Yes, Joe!… Please keep us posted!… ahahaahahaah…. (sorry, couldn’t resist…)

      Serioiusly now… Joe was probably only a high-school dropout… sorry… student… now HERE there is a real researcher in action… he’s head of a department of mechanical engineering!:

      “On keeping prime focus on the heavy duty automobiles on highways/expressway, I find out that there is large amount of wind pressure generated on these roads due to wind disturbance/ wind turbulence created by these automobiles. As any automobile passes along the path, it creates a very huge air pressure on the nearby surrounding areas. This high pressure of wind is till now of no use. Till now there is no as such technology developed to utilize this high pressure column of wind so generated. With concern to this, I had tried to develop a wind mill which work on the principle of these highway wind energy.”

      I clicked on the “donwload” button… and there have been more than 3300 downloads before mine… how many people did believe this crap made any sense?… the vast majority I bet.

  4. Peter Lang says:

    United States scientists have invented a technique to get rid of unpleasant carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

    Oh yea. Right. What’s the cost?

    Hint: around $1000/tonne CO2 to capture CO2 from air. I.e. about 100 times the claimed social cost of carbon (SCC)

  5. A C Osborn says:

    Re The Hottest July on Record NOAA quoted, ” As July is climatologically the warmest month for the year, this was also the all-time highest monthly temperature in the 1880-2015 record, at 61.86°F (16.61°C), surpassing the previous record set in 1998 by 0.14°F (0.08°C).”
    Except they issued this Annual Summery in 1997, which was slightly cooler than 1998. quote from 1997 report “The global average temperature of 62.45 degrees Fahrenheit for 1997 was the warmest year on record, surpassing the previous record set in 1995 by 0.15 degrees Fahrenheit. “

    Can you see the problem here 2015 ONLY for July 61.86, 1997 whole year 62.45.

    Check it out for yourself as they were silly enough to leave it on record, take a copy as it is bound to be disappeared soon.

    So it looks like July 1998 has been “Quality Control Adjusted” by at least 0.73 but that was the change for the whole year, so July must be even more than 0.73.

    Can this be anything other than fraud, are they saying that they themselves did not know how to calculate the 1997 temperature?

    • Sorry AC, but it has already been decreed that 2015 will be the warmest year on record, and thus it will turn out to be. Certainly the forthcoming Paris Climate Conference is going to need all the help it can get.

      Will it snow in Paris while the Conference is in session? It did in Copenhagen. 😉

      • A C Osborn says:

        Roger, I know.
        Hottest, wettist, driest, most extreme everything, you name it and they are rolling it out for Paris

    • matthew_ says:

      There is no need to remove the page since they have this expanation at the top of the page. “Please note: the estimate for the baseline global temperature used in this study differed, and was warmer than, the baseline estimate (Jones et al., 1999) used currently. This report has been superseded by subsequent analyses. However, as with all climate monitoring reports, it is left online as it was written at the time.”

      • A C Osborn says:

        So what you and they are saying is that 62.45 degrees in 1997 was not actually 62.45 degrees whereas now 61.86 degrees IS 61.86 degrees?
        How totally incompetent todays Scientists are that they cannot even calculate the actual Temperature correctly.

        You do realise that they have been continually cooling the Baseline Period’s temperatures don’t you?

    • roberto says:

      Hi: I agre with you that some data “re-touching” is going on… but I think that in this case a possible explanation is that the reference/base periods are NOT the same. For 2015 they refer to 1880-2015, while for 1997 they referred to 1961-1990.

      This of course is concerning the trend, the absolute values are as you said… warmer then than now… crazy!

      • A C Osborn says:

        As you say the the absolute value is the Baseline plus the Anomaly FOR THAT BASELINE, so in that respect the baseline is immaterial, but a wonderful excuse to fool the unthinking.

  6. gweberbv says:

    Grid stability:

    From a technical point of view the increase of intermettent energy sources will of course not make a grid more stable. But in the real world, the increase of renewables on the one hand force the grid operators to upgrade/modernize the infrastructure and on the other hand it allows them to hide the costs of longtime overdue investments within the price tag that is given to the integration of renewables.
    So, it comes as no surprise, that in the end wind and PV lead to a more stable grid.

    • There are two sides to this story. Let me add the other one:

      Online German NDR public radio here wrote last week how northern Germany’s power grid had suffered a major bottleneck that led to the overload of the Flensburg-Niebüll power transmission line in Schleswig Holstein last week. The overload resulted from a power surge from North Sea wind parks when winds picked up a bit. What is unusual in this case, however, is that there was no storm present and the overload was caused by normal wind fluctuations. Thus the incident illustrates the increasing volatility of wind as a power supply, even under regular weather conditions. It turns out that intervening in power grids to avert a widespread power supply breakdown is nothing new in Germany. NDR writes that nowadays power engineer Stefan Hackbusch at the grid’s control center in Northern German increasingly has to intervene even when there are even moderate breezes. The north German public radio media outlet writes: “Because of the strong growth in wind park installations, the power grid up north is at its limits.” As winds pick up with little warning, engineers at control centers constantly have to keep a close eye out and be ready to act at a minute’s notice and intervene if the power surges (or drops) to dangerous limits. To prevent overloading of the grid, control centers often have to shut down wind parks until the power supply moves into a safe range. These unplanned wind park shutdowns are occurring more and more often, NDR writes. “Switching off has become much more frequent the workers at the control center confirm. Transformer stations in Schleswig-Holstein had to have their output reduced 50,000 times in May – a record.”

      • roberto says:

        … yeah!… and we can also add the recent, and reiterated, complains of Poland’s and Czech Republic’s network operators about the fact that as soon as there is a high production of the useless intermittent wind and PV in Germany the first thing they do is to send the surplus electricity abroad, instead of trying balance their production modulating their thermal units (being “green” is good, but making money burning lignite is better)… they even come to the point of diverting surplus electricity via Poland to reach Austria (another “green” paradise who prefers to import electricity from lignite/coal rather than clean nuclear from Slovenia or France!).

        It’s the Energiewende at its best.

    • roberto says:


      Sorry to break your newest dream… that the intermittent renewables in Germany (and Denmark(somehow magically make even the transmission network better… but the explanation of this is much easier. Germany’s network downtime has been always better than that of France or other neighbouring countries, even before the advent of 80 GW of useless combined PV and wind… just open an atlas of Europe… and look at what fraction of the country is occupied by mountains, in Germany and Denmark (Denmark is aptly called also”The billiard of the north”)… now do the same for France (Alps on the east, Massif Central in the middle, Pirenees on the south’west end)… or Italy (the entire Alps chain and 1000 km of Apennines running down the whole country)… or Spain?

      Sleep happy… lignite and coal will be there to balance the network for you and with you (and your lungs) for a loooooong time, Guenter.


      • gweberbv says:


        I am NOT expecting that 80% or even 100% renewables can be achieved in Germany (unless we are doing a little bit of terraforming to build enough hydro pumping capacity). So, I agree that fossil fuel plants will be there for a very long time (hopefully with improved filter systems).

        But 50% to 60% renewables is achievable before curtailing and other problems are kicking in with some brutality.

  7. Nial says:

    “This week a group of young Americans aged 8-19 filed a lawsuit against the US Federal Government to demand greater action on climate change.”

    Ironically it’s likely that none of them have lived during a period where the world has been warming.

    • But their “guardians”, like Dr. James Hansen, have.

    • roberto says:

      This is simply immoral. The judges should take away the right to parenthood to this adults… hiding behind the “poor kids who must breathe bad air”… it’s simply disgusting!… what a scum.

  8. Dave Ward says:

    I’m in the middle of replying to a letter in my local paper – the commenter mentioned a Sheffield (UK) company which has, apparently, found the answer to storing renewable energy. A quick Google suggests it is “Cumulus Energy” I’ve had a look at their site and blog and notice some claims that will be of interest here:

    1) “Cumulus Energy Storage (CES) aims to be the leading manufacturer and developer of grid-level energy storage batteries”

    2) “Developing a battery technology that delivers Megawatt capacity at the cheapest price – our grid-level batteries will store a market leading capacity of up to 100MWh with the lowest LCOE, globally. At £525 per kWh, we can provide an economical energy storage solution matched only by electricity from pumped hydro, and no other energy source can be implemented as close to where it’s actually needed”

    3) “Low energy density is a desirable property for grid-scale energy storage because the cells will not be put under stress and will be inherently reliable”

    My thoughts are:

    I’ve not heard of them before, but others may have? They were previously called “Wind Power Performance Limited”, which makes me suspicious…

    “£525 per kWh” surely can’t be correct, even though I copied it directly from their blog – don’t they mean MWh? On another page they talk about “Low cost – the target LCOE is $180/MWh, making it suitable for distributed energy storage applications” which they say is comparable with pumped storage. In any case,100MWh is still peanuts in the grand scheme of things.

    As for “low energy density” being a desirable property – I thought that was one of the major problems with current energy storage technology?

    Would Roger or Euan care to comment?

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Dave: £525 per kWh is the purchase price. A 10kWh system will cost you £5,250 plus the cost of installation, but the idea is that over the lifetime of the system it will deliver enough kWh to bring costs down to the £0.XX per kWh range. The problem is that the XX (maybe X.XX) numbers for storage batteries at their current stage of development still aren’t economically competitive or anywhere close to it.

      And as you point out storage in the kWh range, or even the MWh or GWh range, won’t do us much good. We need TWh.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Dave, we live in a world of double speak. Of course low energy density is a major problem. But hey presto its turned into a virtue by simply saying so.

  9. Tom Moran says:

    If China isn’t emitting as much CO2 as thought then the carbon budget has been overestimated. So then the increase atmospheric CO2 might be more from natural sources ?

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