Solar_OxfordFuture Energy Options

 

http://jmorland.com/future-energy-options-blog/

Has renewable energy reached a tipping point?

The appearance of the Trump Presidency has rolled back consideration of and protection for the environment. Consequently, Trump’s actions appear to weaken the U.S. government’s support for renewable energy. Here are some  of the “presidential” actions:

  • Signed executive orders to expand offshore drilling and deregulate coal.
  • Ordered a review of national monuments with respect to fossil fuels exploration.
  • Introduced a budget with severe cutbacks for the EPA.
  • Appointed an enemy of the EPA as its head.
  • Reassigned climate change staffers.
  • Appointed a leading fossil fuel supporter as head of the Department of Energy.
  • Approved the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  • Questioned fuel efficiency standards.
  • Is considering withdrawal fro the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • And on and on!

Despite these actions, much of the media that supports environmental regulation and renewables have not panicked. In fact, many media supporters of renewables are claiming that some aspects of renewables are reaching their tipping point and will probably not be affected seriously by any of Trump’s actions.

What is a tipping point?

The closest definition to fit these circumstances comes from GLADWELL.COM: Tipping point—“That magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

If renewable energy is reaching a tipping point, where are the signs? Remember that the renewable energy tipping point may not occur everywhere at the same time. The unique state of each country’s energy supply and of each type of renewable energy may determine individual tipping points. If a country with an abundant supply of wind has expensively-generated conventional energy, then the tipping point could occur quickly. However, let’s look at some indicators that renewables are rapidly approaching their tipping point.

Governments commit to renewables

Dozens of worldwide locales—cities, counties, states, and countries have made commitments to end their use of fossil fuels by switching to renewables. From Oxford County in Ontario, Canada to Atlantic City, New Jersey, local governments are making this commitment. Many of these locales are committed to complete dependence on renewables by 2050. Some have chosen 2040 and others  by 2030. For example, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit has announced plans to gradually power all of its trains with renewable energy by 2045. This makes sense both from reducing green house gas emissions and cutting costs.

Renewables more competitive with conventional fuels

Bloomberg reports that the Danish energy minister has stated that Denmark’s renewable energy industry will be able to survive on its own much sooner than originally expected. The minister said that wind power prices are becoming competitive and soon will not require any subsidies.

Green Tech Media reveals that solar power in five states is at or almost at parity with conventionally generated power. And in the American midwest and  plains states, Moody’s, according to Green Tech Media, says that renewables are threatening coal-generated electricity to the extent that they feel clean power, especially wind, could replace up to 56 Gigawatts from coal-fired plants.

Utilities accepting renewables

Utilities are becoming more confident with the growth of renewables. For example MidAmerica Energy, Iowa’s largest utility, is aiming to generate only renewable energy. It plans in the next two years to build another 1,000 wind turbines to join the more than 2,000 it has already. At that point, its renewable share would be at 90 percent. They project that another 550 turbines would achieve its 100 percent goal.

A Utility Dive survey reports that more than 80 percent of North America’s utility employees “expect renewable energy to increase moderately or significantly in their service areas over the next decade.” Advanced wind technologies are contributing to this attitude, and to actual decreases in the cost of wind power.

More indicators

Here are more indications of a tipping point:

  • An increasing number of Fortune 500 companies are pushing renewable energy targets to reduce their carbon emissions.
  • An estimated 500 people supported the transition to clean energy by participating in a climate march, not in NYC, but in Tampa, Florida.
  • In numerous countries, renewable energy industries now account for more jobs than the fossil fuel industries. Bloomberg reports that solar employs more than all of oil, gas, and oil combined in the U.S.
  • Renewables are becoming the best solution to energy poverty in developing countries.
  • A Kentucky coal company is planning to build a solar farm on a reclaimed strip coal mine site.

The ultimate irony or perhaps a victory for renewables is a coal-mining museum in Kentucky that decided to run on solar power to save money.

Geothermal in Canada—at last?

Valemount, B.C. Home of Canada’s first geothermal industrial mall?

Finally, some geothermal activity is happening in Canada. Three projects are in planning or in progress:

For years Canada has been a Luddite in the lack of development of geothermal energy. Because of a confusion in terminology between geo-exchange (using heat pumps to use the temperature gradient in the soil) and geothermal (using the hot liquid from the earth’s magma), funding has been miniscule for real geothermal development.

An article about the global development of geothermal energy in Renewable Energy World  illustrates how meager Canada’s approach has been. The article notes the planned projects of 23 countries—Canada  is not included. The article briefly mentions a “bold movement” in B.C. to produce geothermal from abandoned oil wells.

Let’s hope that these projects become a reality. Here’s what is happening now.

Valemount

This project visualizes an industrial mall where the heating would be supplied by direct geothermal heat to industries such as greenhouses and a brewery. The plan includes a 15 MW power plant that could tie into the provincial electrical grid. Residual heat from the power plant could also be used in the industrial mall.

Saskatchewan

This project is slated to begin this month near Estevan, Saskatchewan. In the first stage, Deep Earth Energy Production (DEEP) will be drilling into the aquifer of the Williston basin to explore its geothermal potential. The drilling isn’t random because existing oil and gas wells nearby indicate bottom hole temperatures that are in a workable temperature range to develop geothermal. DEEP plans a 5 MW power plant within 2.5 years and is discussing a possible sale of this power to Sask Power.

Alberta

CanGEA has revealed this grant from the Alberta government to investigate which idled oil and gas wells could realistically produce geothermal energy. A representative of CanGEA has warned that the association doesn’t want the geothermal project to become just another part of the Alberta government’s cleanup of idled wells.

To-date, CanGEa has released few details except to state that geothermal could also be developed with producing wells in addition to abandoned ones. CanGEA has promised to keep the public informed about the progress of the study and to publicly reveal the study’s findings.

B.C. Hydro and geothermal

These are exciting announcement,  but one glaring absence continues—B.C. Hydro, the electric power producer for the Canadian province with the largest potential for geothermal. Many countries around the Pacific Rim—which has most of the easiest-to-access geothermal potential—have developed this potential. An expert, Dr. Mory Ghomshei, hired by B.C. Hydro in 1984, investigated the geothermal potential of B.C. and more specifically of Meager Creek north of Vancouver. There, Dr. Gomshei and his team constructed a small geothermal electric plant. Despite the success of this plant when B.C. Hydro downsized, it scrapped this plant.

What might have been

Dr. Gomshei concluded from his geothermal study of B.C. that, “BC’s geothermal could supply 60 percent of BC’s electricity needs.” Unfortunately, B.C. Hydro never really followed up with any serious studies until recently. Even their studies, which Can GEA said underestimated the potential, showed that the amount of available geothermal power in the province is two-thirds of the projected capacity of Site C.

Site C is the huge hydro-electric project that will cause devastating environmental and social costs in the Peace River. Many people including the former head of B.C. Hydro have spoken out against the project pointing out that the province doesn’t need that much power and that renewables such as geothermal could be in production by the time any increased need emerges.

 

Read this before you complain about Ontario’s Cap-and-Trade

Frank Ross with Grid Alternatives, (left) works with youth from The Rising Sun Energy Center job training program as they install solar panels on the roof of a home in Richmond, Calif.

A typical objection from the backers of fossil fuels  (especially those one-percenters profiting from those same fuels) is that renewables are costly and are going to unfairly penalize the poor. They conveniently forget that fossil fuels have been around for a long time and in that time, not much has changed for the poor—certainly not some great humanitarian movement from that one percent. Nowhere is this more evident than in many African countries where poverty areas receive absolutely no service from electrical grids.

However, we don’t have to go to Africa to see this. CBC news pointed out that Betha Dortch and her family in one of the poorest areas of LA had a tough choice on hot days—“stay cool or eat.” If they used the air conditioner, they couldn’t afford groceries.

A real solution

Guess what? A state-funded program that gets its money from California’s cap-and-trade program provided free solar panels for her bungalow. This program applies to anyone who lives in a neighborhood that is designated as disadvantaged. The homeowner is expected to make a small contribution such as feeding the installation crews, but that’s all.

The cap-and-trade program taxes the carbon sources and provides funds so the poor can cope with their energy costs and contribute to mitigating climate change. Otherwise, it’s possible that the poor could be the only ones supporting the grid after all the well-to-do have installed solar panels.

What can Ontario learn?

CBC reported on this program yesterday, more than two years after its inception. Will this information help build support for the New-Year’s rollout for Ontario’s cap-and-trade program? The Ontario government must be sincerely hoping that this program will succeed after the mixed reviews for the Green Energy Act (GEA).

The GEA was planned to reward renewable energy rather than force non-renewables to include environmental and social costs in their pricing. Unfortunately, in spite of some significant successes (coal phase-out, over 4,000 megawatts of wind and solar energy, and thousands of green jobs) the GEA ignored warnings about some of its weaknesses from the German originator and ended up with results that are a cautionary tale for green-minded activists.

Can Ontario redeem its green programs?

I hope that Ontario learns from its own history, but also examines the positive results for California. The government must be absolutely transparent about the costs for cap-and-trade and must ensure that all program’s income goes to renewables and related programs. The citizens of Ontario will not accept any less and any indication that funds from the program are entering the general revenue stream will be suicidal for the Liberals who are already on life support.

The Union of Concerned Scientists  has proposed a list of economic benefits from cap-in-trade programs. The Liberal government must seriously consider these possible benefits and consider realistic steps that could benefit the people of Ontario and establish successes for their green programs.

  • Use rebates to low-income households to offset higher energy prices.
  • Provide assistance to fossil-fuel workers and dependent communities to transition through job training and investments.
  • Invest in renewable energy.
  • Cut other taxes.
  • Reduce the deficit.
  • Invest in “climate resilient” infrastructure.

Ontario can still turn this around, but these steps are absolutely essential. Premier Wynne show us what you are going to do with the revenue.

Trudeau’s Pipeline Doublespeak

tank-farm

The intention of my blog hasn’t been to attack the fossil fuel industry, but rather to promote the development of renewables. However, I can’t ignore the Canadian government’s approval of two pipelines this week together with their recent approval of the Pacific Northwest LNG pipeline for B.C. Desmog reported that, in his approval of the project Trudeau stated, “Today’s decision is an integral part of our plan to uphold the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions while creating jobs and protecting the environment.”

The nightmare returns

What???? Did I reawaken in Harper’s Canada?

How can he claim that his approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline is part of Canada’s climate plan? His spin makes my head spin. And I thought Harper was the uncontested master of doublespeak.

There are so many things wrong with his statement.

  1. This pipeline will increase Canada’s emissions. Oil Change International has revealed that Canada’s current pipeline capacity can handle all of the Canadian oil industry’s needs. Increased pipeline capacity is only required if bitumen production is increased to the point where Canada’s Paris emissions commitment can’t be met.
  2. The Asian markets for the oil from Canada’s bitumen are doubtful and almost certainly won’t be paying higher prices than U.S.markets. Few refineries in Asia (none in China) can process this heavy oil.
  3. According to Reuters, Vancouver harbor can only accept medium-sized tankers (Aframax) with a capacity of 500,000 to 700,00 barrels. Because of port restrictions, these vessels can only be loaded to 80 percent capacity. How can tankers with around 550,000 barrels compete price-wise with the one-million-barrel (Suezmaxes) or the two-million-barrel (VLCC) tankers? Only if the crude is low-priced.
  4. Bitumen doesn’t act like most crude oil when a spill occurs. Because bitumen is so thick, diluents must be added to it. The pipeline companies don’t like to tell us what’s in the diluent, but some of them contain benzene, a known carcinogen. Once the diluents evaporate, the bitumen sinks in water, which vastly increases the difficulty of recovery. Just ask the victims of Enbridge’s 2010 pipeline leak in Kalamazoo, Michigan.oilpiccred-marinephotobankflickr
  5. Kinder Morgan likes to refer to the safety record of the current Trans Mountain pipeline that’s been operational since 1953. The original hasn’t been without spills: Here’s the record before Morgan Kinder’s ownership and after its purchase in 2005.
    1. From 1961 – 69 oil spills
    2. Since 2005 – 13 spills
  6. One tanker spill could ruin the ecology of the BC coast and the Salish Sea—an area with many salmon-spawning rivers and endangered Orcas. The tanker traffic could increase from 5 to 34 per month. The response to the leaking oil from a tug that ran aground off the Northern B.C. coast on October 13 was termed totally inadequate by B.C. Premier Christy Clark. The spill response was hampered by weather conditions that were normal for the time of year. If the response is inadequate for a tug with just under 1200 barrels on board, imagine how unprepared they are for a tanker spill of 550,000 barrels.

In this photo taken July 31, 2015, an orca whale breaches in view of Mount Baker, some 60 miles distant, in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands, Wash. The Southern Resident killer whales living in the area have lost about 20 percent of their population since the 1990s, likely because of dwindling food sources and contamination. This particular group of whales, now numbering at 81, is endangered. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Can we make sense of this decision?

This decision makes no sense from an economic perspective or an environmental one.

Was Trudeau’s announcement about speeding up the closing of coal-fired power plants meant to soften the response by environmental groups to his pipeline approval? If so it seems to have failed. There has been considerable backlash to this announcement. And Trudeau is breaking his promise to rebuild the Canadians government’s relationship with indigenous people through consultation. Trudeau has essentially rubber stamped three projects with minimal indigenous consultation: Site C, the B.C. LNG pipeline, Morgan Kinder Trans Mountain Pipeline, and the Line 3  replacement from Alberta to Wisconsin. Was the cancellation of the Northern Gateway a sop to First Nations and environmentalists?

So, Trudeau if you’re going to make decisions that we don’t like, stop using doublespeak as a justification. We’re smart enough to know that approving projects that increase emissions does not decrease emissions.

 

What’s developing in renewables?

windmills-984137_19202015 was an exciting year for renewables. The Guardian announced that the Renewables Global Status report found, ” Overall, more than twice as much money was spent on renewables than on coal and gas-fired power generation ($130bn in 20150).”

Lots of progress is happening in renewables—much of it is expansion of wind and solar farms, but there are more far-reaching developments going on. Batteries are getting better and cheaper, solar panels are more efficient, and new storage methods are being investigated. Here are some recent developments.

Solar

Sunflare has developed a thin-fim solar technology. Here’s what it offers:

  • much lighter weight—65 percent less than conventional panels
  • simpler installation—no mounting rack necessary
  • increased energy generation—produce up to 10 percent more energy
  • fexible—can be applied to any shape

Sunflare’s founder, Len Gao states that, “the panels can be secured to any surface with a special double-sided tape.” While the cells themselves are more expensive than conventional solar panels, you don’t need a mounting rack so the total price should remain about the same. The amazing thing about these cells is the variety of mounting possibilities.

Wind

A white paper from Mita-Teknik describes an Advanced Blade Pitch System: New blade pitch technology uses electricity instead of hydraulics, which is more reliable because of the absence of hydraulic fluid leaks. The pitch systems have also been improved, which means that the systems are more responsive to changing wind conditions. This is especially important in machines that are designed for extreme weather and for offshore wind farms. This control lets the turbines operate in higher wind speeds, permits longer blades, and reduces wear on the turbine components.

Geothermal

For Canada with a record of no geothermal projects something is finally happening—in Hinton, Alberta. According to the Hinton Voice, this project that brings Epoch Energy and the town together, is currently at what they refer to as, “the pre-feasibility stage.” The plan is to look at whether existing capped oil wells could be used to heat some public buildings in the town. Although, it’s not electricity generation, this is a first for Canada to investigate the use of actual geothermal energy, not geo-exchange, directly as a heat source.

The Financial Post on August 9 of this year reported that a provincial legislator had requested, “the Alberta government to allow an old well to be converted to geothermal energy to heat an 8,000 square-foot greenhouse.” He proposed this for a former oilfield water disposal well in Leduc. Additionally, DeSmog described what the Alberta government needs to do to seriously develop geothermal energy in the province.

Smart Electrical grids

A smart electrical grid provides two-way information and power exchange between providers and consumers so that all of the devices on the grid can be managed to maximize conservation, efficiency, and continuity of electricity. The addition of renewables with variable power output increases the need for a smart grid that can ensure that power is available where and when it’s needed. Data that tracks electrical energy in real time is essential to operate a smart gird. Smart meters can provide this data. Ontario installed them several years ago and the U.S. currently has 65 million of them.

Greentech Media announced that several companies are currently designing and building devices for the grid that can “actively manage voltage and power at the distribution circuit level.”

Good news

In a year that should have shown lower investments in renewables because of  low oil prices, the reverse happened. This is a good indication that renewables are here to stay.

When are we going to drop diesel in the North?

raglan-mine-wind-turbine-in-quebecNatural Resources Canada estimates there are more than 300 isolated communities in the North: All use Diesel. CBC News says a University of Waterloo study shows that the introduction of solar and wind is “not only possible and environmentally beneficial, but it will also mean big savings.”

Can we replace diesel?

Solar and wind power for these remote sites make a lot of sense. Solar would work well for the summer months especially when there’s 24-hour daylight. Wind, is also available in summer, but would be the main renewable source for the dark winter days. Due to the variability of both systems, diesel would still have to be the backup; however, the study predicted that its use could be decreased by up to 50 percent in some communities.

Will wind turbines work in the North?

Critics have questioned the suitability of wind turbines operating in frigid weather, and there have been instances where some wind turbines weren’t suitable for Northern conditions. However, more recent research, design, and construction have produced wind turbines that have demonstrated efficient and dependable operation in the North. Northern Power Systems from Vermont has designed a wind turbine to operate at the South Pole.

What are renewables’ advantages?

Here are some reasons to switch to renewables:

  • Cost savings—The University of Waterloo study predicts savings of up to 10 percent over a 10-year period.
  • Reduced use of diesel fuel— This reduction decreases harmful emissions and green house gas production.
  • Reliability of supply—The power source is within the community with diesel only as a backup.
  • Unreliable transportation for diesel—Climate change is melting the permafrost and shortening the season for ice roads. Both of these issues increase disruptions to ground transportation and drive up the cost of diesel. Flying the fuel in is much too expensive to be workable.
  • Stable costs for planning—As the transportation and supply of diesel is increasingly disrupted by the consequences of climate change, the costs will continually be increasing. One the other hand, once the renewables are installed at a known cost, the maintenance costs will be the only ongoing cost.
  • Rallying point for communities– Coming together to adapt and carry out a plan for renewables can be a unifying force in remote communities. Gwen Holdman, Director of Energy Research at the University of Alaska, has been involved with the introduction of renewables into Alaskan communities.  Her experience there showed her that the movement “ had to be community driven, and it was only after communities rallied that the government implemented a renewable energy fund.”
How local control made it happen

In Alaska, local control in some cases led to a microgrid. The experience there showed each community, in coming together, looked at the local resources for renewables such as wind solar, geothermal, and tidal or river power along with diesel as a backup. The development of a microgrid allowed the integration of these sources into a workable electricity source for the community.

Others do it—why not Canada?

“Don’t be afraid,” says Mariia Iakovleva, a researcher with experience in renewable energy technologies in Siberia. She explains that many communities there have been using renewables (wind and solar) for the last ten years.

What’s Canada afraid of?

Free Enterprise for the Masses—Socialism for the Koch Brothers

koch_subsidiesIn February 2016, The Huffington Post accused the Koch bothers of a multimillion dollar plot against electric cars. Now the plot has surfaced. Desmog reports the public debut of the campaign to rebrand fossil fuels, Fueling U.S. Forward. The campaign was unveiled at the Red State Gathering 2016 on Saturday, August 13. The newly-selected CEO and President of this organization, Charles Drevna, named (Guess what) fossil fuels as the “source of sustainable energy to ensure the future of the country.”

Koch Brothers—mining to undermining

According to Desmog, Fueling U.S. Forward’s purpose is to rebrand fossil fuel by focusing on the “positive” side of oil, gas, and coal: And this organization is funded by the Koch brothers. The Kochs have a history of supporting campaigns to make Americans doubt the science of climate change and have actively worked to undermine government subsidies for renewable energy and electric vehicles as well as attacking clean energy policies.

People in glass houses ….

Inevitably, the founding meeting produced lots of complaints about Tesla Motor’s and other electric vehicles’ government subsidies. The participants seemed to have completely forgotten about all the subsidies and tax breaks the fossil fuel companies receive from U.S. governments. Are they feeling threatened by low oil prices and the rise of electric vehicles?

Koch Bothers love the poor

A Koch brothers’ tactic claims that non-support of oil when the prices are low is an attack on the poor at a time when the rich/poor divide is increasing. So here we have another example of the opponents of clean air policy (and thus renewables) hiding behind a concern for the poor. These are the same Koch bothers who back campaigns that oppose any increase in the minimum wage or call for its complete elimination.

And they love minorities

In his introductory address, Drevna in addition to complaining about the subsidies for renewables and electric vehicles, claimed that Fueling U.S. Forward would be partnering with minority communities (black and Latino Americans?) He made the case that these are the people who are hardest hit by high energy prices. He neglected to mention that these same minorities are usually the hardest hit by the climate catastrophes (think hurricane Katrina). Use the poor for your argument when it’s useful.

The Truth?—you can’t handle the Truth

To counter the Koch brother’s complaints about subsidies for electric cars, Green Car Report in its September 22 issue reports on a U.S China reciprocal peer review of their countries’ fossil-fuel subsidies. The review revealed that China and the U.S. combined subsidies for fossil fuels amount to around $20 billion per year—$8.1 billion for the U.S. and 14.5 for China.

Do we need inefficient subsidies?

The review identified 16 subsidies in the U.S. and 9 in China. The reasons given for the subsidies included exploration, development, and extraction of fossil fuels. The really sad part of this story is that the review labeled these subsidies inefficient. The only subsidy they described as efficient was the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Time proceeds

Actually, all of the G20 countries have agreed to remove their subsidies for fossil fuels, but the process is dragging, and the fossil fuel companies are fighting it. Meanwhile, climate change advances.

Does the Truth matter?

Apparently, the Koch brothers have a bit of money and they don’t mind spreading it around to buy all the influence they need. Who needs Truth when you can buy control of everything that you want or of anything that threatens you? That’s hard to fight—let’s hope they don’t win, because if they do—we lose.

Who gets to predict the future?

polar_bears

You got my attention, but I’ll ignore this

In a LinkedIn feature last week, John S. Watson, Chevron CEO, made some pronouncements about the future of oil and natural gas that made me cringe. Not surprisingly, as a fossil fuel executive, he predicted that oil and gas would be indispensable for the foreseeable future. Watson ignored climate change in his pronouncements. What else did he ignore?

John Watson—”our product makes life better”

First, NASA noted in the August 30, Guardian that the “planet is warming at a pace not experienced within the past 1,000 years.” NASA reported that the average global temperature peaked at 1.38C above 19th century values. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies predicted that, after 2015’s record, 2016 will be the warmest year on record.

Transformation of transportation?

Then, Treehugger announced that transportation is now the biggest source of CO2 in the USA—more than the electrical power generation sector. The industrial, residential, and commercial sectors have all managed to drop their rate of emissions. Transportation appears to be the laggard. Let’s see—what fuels transportation in the U.S.A.? What could it have to do with Chevron?

So what else can happen?

Some intriguing predictions appeared in Bloomberg, on June 20, 2016. These predictions appeared in an article discussing electricity generation rather than transportation,  The World Nears Peak Fossil Fuels for Electricity. Here they are for the next 25 (foreseeable future) years.

  1. There will be no Golden Age of Gas due to the rapid growth in renewables.
  2. Renewables attract $7.8 trillion, dwarfing fossil fuel investments.
  3. Electric cars rescue power markets.
  4. Batteries join the grid.
  5. Solar and wind prices plummet.
  6. Capacity factors for renewables improve, making them more attractive.
  7. India replaces China as the fastest-growing polluter.
  8. The switch to renewables continues, but the threat of climate change remains.
They’re not necessarily so

These predictions focus on the electricity sector, but item 3 is significant for transportation also. In transportation, the effects of the electric car will be slower than for electricity, but the electric car can trigger a disruption in the oil markets that will have major implications for fossil fuels.  According to Jalopnik, Bloomberg predicts that the 2020s will be the decade of electric vehicles (EV). Bloomberg bases this prediction on several factors:

  • Battery prices are quickly declining—the price dropped 35 percent in 2015.
  • Falling battery prices mean that EV prices could be comparable to internal combustion engine (ICE) cars within six years.
  • If the price is comparable, EVs could displace oil demand significantly.
  • The displacement of a significant demand for oil could trigger another oil crisis.
  • More than one-third of all cars will be electric by 2040. OPEC insists that figure will be one percent.

Much of this projection is based on a current rate of increase for EV sales of 60 percent (worldwide rate in 2015). The continuation of this 60-percent growth sounds overblown; however, even Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), with a more methodical approach, predicts that 2028 will produce an “oil-crash benchmark of 2 million barrels.”

Change can be fast

So many predictions are based on the idea that change is linear, but that’s not what’s happened in the past. Most charts showing the acceptance of new products over time are “S” curves, not straight lines rising steadily upward.

s_curveThe first part of the curve shows the slow acceptance of an innovation, but once the alternative no longer makes sense the curve goes almost vertical. This is why the share of the car market by 2040 for EVs could be as high as 25 to 50 percent.

 

 

And Watson’s pronouncements?

So John Watson, don’t be so sure about your pronouncements. Bloomberg’s predictions might be somewhat overblown, but think back to Kodak. In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85 percent of all photo paper worldwide—within just a few years, after failing to switch to digital cameras, Kodak went bankrupt. Reflect and learn.

 

 

 

And now for an unbiased future energy prediction!!!!???

2_bury-head-in-sand-copyright2

Courtesy of Grinning Planet—Saving the planet one joke at a time

Millenials— heed my words

On August 30, 2016, John S. Watson, CEO at Chevron (Oil and Gas) replied to a question from LinkedIn Executive Editor Dan Roth. Roth wondered, “How Chevron could continue to attract employees—particularly millenials?” Predictably the title of Watson’s reply was, “Why I think oil and natural gas are indispensable for the foreseeable future.” Well, knock me over! I’m sure the harness manufacturers circa 1900 were predicting the horse to be indispensable for the foreseeable future. Watson quickly dispensed with the millenials and proceeded to an exposition of Chevron’s indispensability to the World.

I have absolutely no stake in this

Although he superficially addressed the question of climate change in the accompanying video, with comments such as, “Climate has always been changing,” he made absolutely no mention of it in his article. Stranger yet, while he dismissed the present technologies of solar and wind renewables as being inadequate, he entirely ignored geothermal energy, the renewable, which his company has pushed, especially in Indonesia. Why? Is this geothermal project  serious or is this a green wash project to satisfy some government regulations or to qualify for some grant? Or did he ignore it because he knows that geothermal is the only renewable besides hydroelectric that can be used as a base source? That’s one renewable that can’t be dismissed as intermittent.

Comparing Ferraris to Hyundais is fair

He quoted Bill Gate’s reference to the need for a “cheap, clean source of energy” to lift the poor of the world out of poverty. Isn’t it interesting that Watson, as the leader of an energy giant, uses the need for energy by the third world to attack renewables. Meanwhile, the poor are currently being bypassed by the energy suppliers because they can’t afford the grid infrastructure. He does this even while current fossil fuels are doing nothing to solve this problem. However, the first part of that statement isn’t entirely true because renewables on a local scale such as solar-powered lights are already offering off-grid poor the promise of 24-hour light and heat for cooking that are cheaper and healthier than sourced from fossil fuels.

Waiting for a miracle!

He referred to Gate’s prediction of a “game-changing technology breakthrough”. So it’s easier to believe in miracles than to make some real commitment to renewables and provide the real research that could increase their efficiency and practicality (Developments such as improved storage, better solar panels and the mapping of potential geothermal sites).

You best interest is our goal—NOT

Watson, talked about the great advance with the reduction of tailpipe emissions reductions, but he failed to mention that the fossil fuel companies and the car manufacturers didn’t make these changes out of some great benevolence and concern for human health. History shows that they were dragged along “kicking and screaming” by government regulation and that they opposed most environmental concerns.

Doing what we always did, but better?obviously

Watson referred to new ways for the oil and gas industry to “find more resources and ways to recover more of them efficiently, economically and safely. “ He failed to name any specifics. Ask BP about their new ways, such as their safety practices. Is he trying to whitewash environment-threatening projects such as fracking, the Alberta oil sands, and drilling in the Arctic Ocean? The costs—environmental degradation, human health threats, and loss of wildlife habitat—are rising steeply as the diminishing reserves are found in increasingly difficult circumstances.

We’ve got our priorites straight—have you?

Chevron’s CEO concluded by pledging to meet environmental priorities as wall as economic ones as the energy sector transforms. Unfortunately, because he didn’t mention climate change, we can assume it’s not one of Chevron’s priorities. Will LinkedIn do the right thing and offer an alternative presentation by the renewable sector to get answers for some of the questions raised here?

 

Does the Saskatchewan pipeline spill tell us anything?

Nice_dayAccording to the Huffington Post, a gathering pipeline for the Husky Oil upgrader in Lloydminster apparently developed a leak on the morning of July 21, 2016. This leak spilled crude oil into the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone, Saskatchewan. Husky’s attempts to block the dispersal of between 200,000 and 250,000 litres of oil with booms and skimming failed.

Oh if it had only missed the water!

The spill forced the city of North Battleford—whose source of drinking water is the North Saskatchewan River—to shut down its water intake plant and severely limit water use. Further downstream on the North Saskatchewan, the same spill forced the city of Prince Albert to run a 30-km emergency water line from the South Saskatchewan River. Many rural residents in the area were forced to find alternate water sources. All of these temporary fixes come at considerable cost including the income losses suffered by out-of-work employees laid off due to water shortages. Seasonal industries, which depend on a good summer season, were especially hit hard.

Husky’s muddled story

Husky issued conflicting versions of how the spill unfolded.

  • Originally the Canadian Press stated that Husky claimed it found the leak of up to 250,000 litres of blended crude oil at 8 p.m. on July 20, and notified the Saskatchewan government about 14 hours later.
  • Then, Husky’s report to the province said the breach was discovered at 10 a.m. on July 21and they informed the province about 30 minutes later.
  • Yet again, in the following week, Husky changed its story. This time it said, “ it found ‘pressure anomalies’ on the evening of July 20 and shut down the line the next morning.”
The spill spreads
  • The Winnipeg Free Press pointed out that many businesses especially car washes and laundries have lost significant money and that North Battleford and Prince Albert weren’t sure when water plants could start to draw water again because they weren’t equipped to deal with hydrocarbons
  • The Toronto Star reported that some of the Husky water tests from 60 locations indicated they met Canadian water standards. However, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall insisted that more tests were necessary. Husky’s testing methods were called into question and Sask Water security Agency wanted to do more testing.
  • The National Observer noted that the Saskatchewan Government announced that, ” it is ‘unlikely’ that the clean-up effort will be able to remove all of the oil.”
Obfuscate if you can

As of August 22, the Saskatchewan Government reported that 800 people were still involved in the cleanup and that the “shoreline clean up on the most heavily impacted area is complete. However, on Aug 16 the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Environment, in the Financial Post, stated that, “it’s unlikely that all the oil can be cleaned up.” The ministry spokesperson said this refers mainly to oil that will sink to the river’s bottom. The ministry spokesperson went on to say that it will be a long time before the river is clean again. Also, the oil on the bottom could be churned up by moving ice in next spring’s thaw.

The average reader may not notice the difference between bottom clean-up (not mentioned in their status report) and shoreline cleanup.

Ask the right questions
  • Why such a poor response in to a small amount in such an accessible area? According to the Toronto Star the amount leaked is quite small, ” …mixed with thinning agents—it would fill about two rail tankers.” Imagine the consequences of a large spill in the mountains where access is extremely limited and the recovery would have to deal with rapids and waterfalls.
  • Why the differences in the detection story? Is Husky trying to do damage control and hide their poor detection capacity ?
  • Is the Saskatchewan pipeline regulatory system weak? According to SASKOIL, the province,  “is moving to ‘regulation by declaration’ in the oil industry”, which is going to make the situation even worse. SASKOIL claims that this spill is only one of 18,000 since 1990. If the spill had occurred only on land nobody would have heard of it.
  • Will Premier Wall take any responsibility? Alberta Politics says that Wall disappeared for a week and refused to talk about the environmental disaster when he did finally show up. Wall has been the great proponent for pipelines and within hours, just before his disappearance, was going on about pipelines being the safest way to transport oil. Then he said that he would get into the debate about pipelines—”at a later date.”
What does it mean?

What does this say about pipelines being the safest way to transport oil? Maybe we need to skip that question. Do you think that oil is the problem—NOT the transportation method?