For Greentech Media this week, I considered the evolution of microgrids as both a threat and an opportunity for utilities. The question is: How will they approach it?
For SmartPlanet this week, I turned my attention to the UK, which is deep in the throes of shale gas fever.
Read it here: Fracking envy
Postscript: The day after I wrote this article, UK Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in New York City and said: “We are not going to be able to compete on our mineral resources, although frankly I am pretty jealous of your fracking success here in the US.”
Can’t beat that with a stick.
For those who care about mainstream press treatment of energy and peak oil, Charles Mann has published a long response to my rebuttal of his Atlantic article. Amory Lovins followed up with his own critique of Mann’s piece, to which Mann responded.
I will not take this debate further at the moment, but I will note that Mann’s objections to my piece mainly focused on picayune details. If I had the inclination and the time, I could demonstrate that several of his objections are incorrect, but sadly, I do not have either. I think the thrust of my rebuttal–that it is far from assured, or even likely, that methane hydrates can or will be produced at an acceptable price or production level–still stands.
For Greentech Media this week, I reviewed some exhaustive recent research on energy trends and forecasts, which showed that the conventional wisdom about renewables and their future is way out of date, and the renewably-powered grid will be here sooner than most people expect. “It’s not 1990 anymore,” the report’s lead author observed at the Pathways to 100% Renewables Conference held April 16 in San Francisco.
Charles Mann’s long cover story in this month’s issue of The Atlantic (“What If We Never Run Out of Oil?“) got a lot of play in energy circles, presumably because it was an optimistic take on the future of unconventional fuels. Editor Alexis Madrigal invited me to write a short response to it, which was published today.
Read it here: Are Methane Hydrates Really Going to Change Geopolitics?
For SmartPlanet this week, I profiled the mayors of two small, mostly Republican, American towns who spoke at the recent Pathways to 100% Renewables conference about their efforts to make their communities sustainable and friendly to renewable power. Both gentlemen noted that their local politics were very supportive of sustainability and very interested in combating climate change, in sharp contrast to right-wing politics at the national level.
Read it here: Small-town mayors: the cutting edge of climate action
For SmartPlanet this week, I reviewed the failure of utility deregulation and pondered what’s next for the utility sector: Capacity markets? Re-regulation? Transformation to a new business model? Creating a renewably-powered grid will be easy compared to crafting a new regulatory framework that will make utility investors whole during the transition.
Read it here: The next big utility transformation
For Greentech Media this week, I discussed how private utilities must either adapt to distributed renewable energy generation or risk being transformed back into public utilities.
Brad Plumer at the Washington Post interviewed me about my views on peak oil. He did a nice job of editing down a long interview into a pithy transcript, and used a few charts by my friend Gregor Macdonald from his Peak Fish site.
Read it here: Peak oil isn’t dead: An interview with Chris Nelder
In stark contrast to the Zeitgeist here in America, where it’s all the rage to declare that peak oil is dead and energy independence is right around the corner, there is a very different attitude in the Middle Eastern countries that produce most of the world’s oil exports. For those countries, which are heavily dependent on revenue from their exports, denial about peak oil is simply not an option. I discussed how UAE is preparing for the decline of oil and gas back in January: “Sunrise in the desert.”
A first-of-its-kind conference on peak oil recently took place in Qatar, organized by Forum of Arab and International Relations in cooperation with Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute. The Qatar Tribune offered some brief coverage of the event, and longtime energy analyst and peak oil author Robert Hirsch compiled some notes. There should also be some notes forthcoming from conference speaker Kjell Aleklett on his blog.
It’s worth pondering the cultural differences that inform such stunning difference of attitude: The world’s top exporters are preparing for the inevitable decline of oil and gas, while the world’s top importer is pretending it’s nowhere in sight.