Friday, May 27, 2011

Energy and the Producers

Because the public face of the global energy companies is provided by some of the most wicked pirates to have walked the planet, it is easy to forget that energy is mostly a Producer Class matter.  Producers find the oil and design the platforms refineries, and distribution systems.  They built and run the nuclear power plants.  Etc.!

Producers are also the prime beneficiaries of increased energy consumption.  While bankers and lawyers have roughly the same lives they had 500 years ago, the lives of folks like farmers and construction workers have changed so dramatically with the coming of power tools as to barely make comparisons meaningful. For example, construction work was once done mostly by forced labor--now it is a satisfying occupation (when there is work).

And then there is the question of scale.  The energy business is so ginormous that it literally boggles the mind.  Study energy issues long enough and there will be something that just stops you.  For me, it was first a description of the steel used to drill for oil back in 1960s North Dakota. But it could be anything because the minute you start discussing the energy needs of a planet with 6.5 billion potential consumers, the numbers and the technologies get very large, very fast.

China Just Banned Diesel Exports And Its Oil Demand Could Be About To Surge
Gregory White | May 14, 2011
China just banned the export of all diesel fuel from the country, according to the Financial Times.
The move comes in advance of the high-demand summer season and recent protests in the county against rising fuel prices. It's the second such move by a BRIC nation, with Russia banning gasoline exports through prohibitive export taxes in recent weeks.
But China doesn't just consume its own diesel, it also ships some to markets like Vietnam, Japan, the U.S., France, and Singapore. more
And the evidence for Peak Oil just keeps on accumulating.
A Former BP Exec Explains Why Peak Oil Is Real [PRESENTATION]
Gus Lubin and Gregory White | May 14, 2011, 8:36 AM 
This morning, President Obama announced plans to ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling in the U.S. and off its coasts. His move comes in the wake of recent gas prices, which may now be moderating slightly.
But will it be enough?
Former BP Chief Petroleum Engineer Jeremy Gilbert gave an excellent presentation on peak oil at last year's ASPO-USA conference that responds to every argument against peak oil and emphasizes the need for immediate action. more
Sample slides
We don't know when peak oil is coming... we can't stop it... and we can't protect ourselves
Traditional oil production has definitely peaked -- and check out how long it's been declining in the US
And to further demonstrate that energy is a Producer problem, check out the social peace agenda for building a solar future.
Desertec and Democracy
Arab Spring Boosts Dream of Desert Power
By Alison Kilian   05/26/2011 
Desertec is a multi-billion-dollar energy initiative that hopes to meet Europe's energy needs with solar power from the Sahara. The recent upheavals in North Africa have put the project in question. But many experts argue that the Arab Spring will actually help Desertec's grand vision become reality.
The images projected on the wall of the conference hall were familiar shots of Egyptian protesters, with youthful faces juxtaposed by the harsh countenances of dark-clad security forces. But for once this wasn't a discussion about the causes of the Arab Spring or the revolutionary potential of the Internet. Instead, it was a conference on solar power: more specifically Desertec, the hugely ambitious energy initiative that hopes to exploit the Saharan sun to produce abundant clean solar power.
Desertec may have been labeled the energy megaproject of the 21st century, but some critics argue that the Arab Spring unrest will put an end to dreams of desert solar energy. But at a major conference on Desertec and the uprisings in the Arab world held this week in Berlin, experts expressed optimism about the revolutions' impact on the project's future. Many see the recent push for democracy as a step towards the stability necessary to establish projects like Desertec in the region.
"Many critics are saying that the Desertec project is dead because of the unrest in the region. But I would say the exact opposite is true," Kirsten Westphal, an energy expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told SPIEGEL ONLINE. She argues that a pro-democracy movement can open up opportunities and lay the foundations for long-term economic development.
Meeting Europe's Energy Demands
The Desertec project first got energy experts and the public buzzing back in 2009, when the plans were announced. The grand -- some would say grandiose -- idea is to construct a network of concentrating solar-thermal power systems in North African deserts to produce green electricity that can be used at the local level -- and ultimately exported to European countries.
Proponents of the project argue that the amount of solar energy falling on the Sahara is so enormous that plants covering 90,000 square kilometers of the desert -- a tiny fraction of its total area of 9 million square kilometers -- could meet the energy needs of the entire world. Desertec hopes that the project will cover a significant amount of North African and Middle Eastern electricity demand by 2050, as well as providing at least 15 percent of Europe's electricity.
The project, which is expected to cost around €400 billion ($566 billion) and which is still at the planning stage, is being pushed forward by the nonprofit Desertec Foundation together with the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII). The latter is an industrial consortium that includes such major German players as Deutsche Bank, Siemens, E.on and Munich Re. It aims to create the "legal, regulatory, economic and technical framework" that will allow the Desertec vision to become reality.
Stability Needed
The DII plan has been met with enthusiasm by some, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But others have derided the project as unrealistic, arguing that it is too expensive or too challenging technically. Others point out the political problems associated with carrying out a huge multinational project in such an unstable part of the world.
Indeed, participants in the Berlin conference argued that, given the current upheaval in the region, a certain level of stability is needed before Desertec can act on its plans. "I cannot put 1,000 men on duty to guard every solar panel," said Abdelaziz Bennouna, formerly of the National Center for Science and Technology in Morocco. "Social peace is a must." more

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