Investor and StockTwits Executive Editor Phil Pearlman liked my article for Quartz comparing the costs of nuclear power to solar, and invited me to a Google Hangout to discuss it. You can see the video below; it’s about half an hour long. The video struggled a bit with my weak Internet connection in the UK, but the sound came through clearly. Worth a listen if you just can’t get enough of my views on solar vs. nuclear!
For Quartz this week, I ran down the data on the cost of nuclear power vs. the cost of renewables, in response to The Breakthrough Institute’s recent claim that the cost of German solar is four times the cost of Finnish nuclear power. If you want to know what nuclear power really costs, here’s the data.
Read it here: The real reason to fight nuclear power has nothing to do with health risks
Note: I would not have said we should “fight” nuclear power; the title wasn’t my choosing, and it was more in reference to a previous Quartz article on the health aspects. I just don’t think the current generation of nuclear technology makes economic sense, and the next generation has yet to prove itself…despite the claims of a loud chorus of nuclear advocates and a well-promoted film.
For SmartPlanet last week, I reviewed the recent closure of four nuclear plants in the U.S., including the San Onofre Generation Station in California, and concluded that nuclear power is headed for a long goodbye. Read it here: Nuclear’s swan SONGS
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For Greentech Media this week, I critiqued the views of noted energy historian Vaclav Smil on peak oil and the transition to renewable energy. It’s a very geeky topic that probably won’t appeal much to laymen, but serious energy analysts and commentators should find it worthwhile.
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For SmartPlanet this week, I updated my outlook for oil and gas prices this year. So far my model is working beautifully, and has proved to be far more accurate than the calls made by the big-name analysts at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Citigroup.
Read it here: 2013 oil and gas price forecast update
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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?
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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.
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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. Lovins followed up with a rebuttal to Mann’s response [PDF].
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.
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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?
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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For Greentech Media this week, I reviewed a new white paper from the Edison Electric Institute which details the many “disruptive challenges” facing private utility companies as the energy transition to a renewably-powered grid progresses.
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I have a new article for Scientific American out today, about a new type of flywheel-based electricity storage device. I have long been hopeful for flywheel storage technology, so when I learned of the Kickstarter campaign for this device, I had to find out more about it. (The Kickstarter campaign ended, fully funded, between the time I wrote the article and its publication today.)
Read it here: Turn Up the Juice: New Flywheel Raises Hopes for Energy Storage Breakthrough
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For SmartPlanet this week, I noted that U.S. natural gas prices have already hit my end-of-year target, while wind and solar are growing rapidly around the world. I summarized some excellent work by Giles Parkison at Renew Economy in which he reviewed recent global forecasts for renewables and grid power by a handful of global investment banks, and looked at some other global trends, to conclude that the global transition to mostly renewable grid power may now be unstoppable.
Read it here: The ‘unstoppable’ renewable grid
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My first article for Greentech Media is out this week, in which I review the problems of the “energy intensity” metric; recap the global outlook for carbon emissions and the outlooks of top oil companies, investment banks, IMF, OECD, IEA, the IPCC, and the Energy Watch Group; and argue that since renewable power is expected to be cheaper than fossil-fueled power by 2020, there’s no excuse left for delaying energy transition.
At Greentech Media, it’s here: The 2020 Deadline: No Excuse Left for Delaying the Energy Transition
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German-language readers may want to check out the current issue (2/2013) of The European, a print quarterly magazine, in which I have an essay on Germany’s energy transition (“Energiewende“) from an American perspective titled “Auf geht’s, Deutschland!” [Let’s go, Germany!]. The cover story is “Vollendung – Der Kampf um den Menschen” [Completion – The fight for the people], and it’s on newsstands now in Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland, as well as being available worldwide as a digital download for iPad and Android tablet via the Apple App Store and Google Play. I believe this is the first time my work has appeared in a print journal, and the second time my work has been translated into German. See their Web site for details: http://www.theeuropean.de/abo
Postscript May 31, 2013: My article is now available for free online in English here and in German here.
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