Category Archives: Energy

Contaminated Fukushima Water Storage Tanks “Close To Capacity”, TEPCO Admits, by Tyler Durden

Japan is nowhere close to “containing” the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

The Tokyo Electric Power Company is running out of container space to store water contaminated by tritium outside the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and it’s also running out of room for building more tanks, according to Yomiuri Shimbum, a Japanese newspaper, which is creating an intractable problem for the utility, which has been tasked with supervising the cleanup of Fukushima.

The Japanese government has been desperately trying to accelerate the cleanup ahead of the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo – and it’s a miracle it hasn’t run into this issue sooner. TEPCO is still struggling with how to dispose of the tritium-tainted water. Options discussed have included dumping it into the ocean, but that proposal has angered local fishing communities.

At some point, TEPCO and the government will need to make a difficult decision. Until then, ground water will continue to seep into the ruined reactor, where it becomes contaminated. Afterward, TEPCO can treat the contaminated water to purify it, but they can’t remove the tritium, which is why the supply of water contaminated with tritium continues to grow.

As one government official pointed out, Japan can’t simply store the radioactive water forever. As of now, the company should be able to store water until 2020.

Efforts have been made to increase storage capacity by constructing bigger tanks when the time comes for replacing the current ones. But a senior official of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said, “Operation of tanks is close to its capacity.”

TEPCO plans to secure 1.37 million tons of storage capacity by the end of 2020, but it has not yet decided on a plan for after 2021. Akira Ono, chief decommissioning officer of TEPCO, said, “It is impossible to continue to store [treated water] forever.”

To continue reading: Contaminated Fukushima Water Storage Tanks “Close To Capacity”, TEPCO Admits

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Trump Gives Merkel An Ultimatum: Drop Russian Gas Pipeline Or Trade War Begins, by Tyler Durden

Trumps think that Europeans should be buying higher priced US gas. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

It became clear just how important it is to the US for Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project to fail two months ago when, as we described in “US Threatens Sanctions For European Firms Participating In Russian Gas Pipeline Project“, the U.S. State Department warned European corporations that they will likely face penalties and sanctions if they participate in the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 on the grounds that “the project undermines energy security in Europe”, when in reality Russia has for decades been a quasi-monopolist on European energy supplies and thus has unprecedented leverage over European politics, at least behind the scenes.

As many people know, we oppose the Nord Stream 2 project, the US government does,” State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert said during a late March press briefing adding that “the Nord Stream 2 project would undermine Europe’s overall energy security and stability. It would provide Russia [with] another tool to pressure European countries, especially countries such as Ukraine.” And speaking of Ukraine, recall that in 2014, shortly after the US State Department facilitated the presidential coup in Ukraine, Joe Biden’s son Hunter joined the board of directors of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest oil and gas company. Surely that was merely a coincidence.

Nauert also said that Washington may introduce punitive measures against participants in the pipeline project – which could be implemented using a provision in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Fast forward to today, when the dreadfully named CAATSA act just made a repeat appearance; around the time Europe made it clear it would openly defy Trump’s Iran sanctions, the WSJ reported that Trump told Merkel that if she wants to avoid a trans-Atlantic trade war, the price would be to pull the break on Nord Stream 2, according to German, U.S. and European sources.

The officials said Mr. Trump told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in April that Germany should drop support for Nord Stream 2, an offshore pipeline that would bring gas directly from Russia via the Baltic Sea. This would be in exchange for the U.S. starting talks with the European Union on a new trade deal.

While it had long been suspected that Trump would push hard to dismantle Nord Stream 2 just so US nat gas exporters could grab a slice of the European market pie, the aggressive push comes as a surprise, and as the WSJ notes, “the White House pressure reflects its hard ball tactics on trade, moves that have contributed to rising tensions between Europe and the U.S. and raised fears in export-dependent Germany of a tit-for-tat on tariffs that could engulf its car industry.”

To continue reading: Trump Gives Merkel An Ultimatum: Drop Russian Gas Pipeline Or Trade War Begins

Without Help From Uncle, by Eric Peters

Would you consider a car that averages 80 MPG and retails for less than $8,000? Too bad the government won’t let you buy it. From Eric Peters at theburningplatform.com:

Why don’t cars that make sense make it?

Five years ago, Paul Elio bought up a shuttered GM assembly plant In Shreveport, Louisiana with the intention of using it as home base for the manufacture of a low-cost/high-economy car – the kind of car no other car company makes anymore. Instead of $12k and maybe 40 MPG on the highway – the best you can get in a new car sold by any other manufacturer – the Elio would average at least 80 MPG and sell for less than $8,000.

Such a car makes all kinds of sense.

At a stroke, it would cut the cost of getting around by car in half – minimally. Keep in mind that the least-expensive new car being manufactured right now, the one referenced above, is the Nissan Versa. Most new cars cost significantly more. The average price paid for a new car is currently well over $30,000 – and the average new car averages a great deal less than 40 MPG, on the highway or otherwise.

It would also render many “alternative” fuel cars irrelevant; make them look even sillier as economic and functional and evenenvironmental propositions than they already do. The Elio’s “carbon footprint,” for instance, is so small it’s hardly there.

Which is why the Elio faces every kind of obstacle imaginable to preventits manufacture.

Unlike the manufacturers of those other cars, which make no sense at all – including environmentally-speaking – and so are given every artificial advantage (via government) imaginable.

Electric cars.

It is doubtful anyone would by them at a price which reflected their true cost to manufacture, absent all the manufacturing subsidies, including sweetheart deals/financing on their manufacturing facilities – such as the $1.3 billion the taxpayers of Nevada were compelled to provide the billionaire crony capitalist Elon Musk to finance the battery plant for his electric luxury-sports cars. As well as the retail ones, including not only the tax breaks dangled in front of buyers of the cars but also on the “fuel” they use – the electricity – which isn’t subject to any motor fuels taxation (for the moment) and often literally given away for free (well, at taxpayer expense) at so-called public charging stations, to further nudge the electric car into general use.

Elio enjoys no such help.

To continue reading: Without Help From Uncle

Why This Is About To Get Far Worse…by Chris Hamilton

Demographically, across the developed world robust growth is not in the cards . From Chris Hamilton at economica.com:

Once upon a time, skeptical analysts cross checked stated growth versus energy consumption…looking for discrepancies as fluctuations in energy consumption are a good proxy for the changes in real economic activity.

Nowadays, the model of printing highly politicized and/or skewed economic data has gone very global.  So, today I offer a couple broad variables to gauge global economic activity; 1) total primary energy consumption data by region, cross checked against 2) their consumer bases (the 0-65yr/old populations).  I break the world down into four different regions to gain a better vantage of the purported global recovery, as follows:

  • OECD (List of 35 nations) representing 17% of global population & 43% of total energy consumption
  • Combined Africa / S. Asia (S. Asia = India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives) representing 41% of global population & 9% of total energy consumption
  • China, representing 19% of global population & 22% of energy consumption
  • “RoW” or Rest of the World, representing 23% of global population & 26% of global energy consumption

The first chart below shows total global primary energy consumption in quadrillion BTU’s from 1980 through 2015 according to the EIA (US Energy Information Administration).  The flattening in consumption since 2012 is plainly visible in the upper right and clearly detailed in the year over year columns in the lower right.  The arrows highlight minimal growth or outright energy consumption declines that were associated with recessionary periods.  The weakness of the current period since 2012 is unparalleled from 1980 on…and even more significant than the sharp but brief downturn of 2009.

To continue reading: Why This Is About To Get Far Worse…

The Politics of Water and Peace in the Middle East, by M. Reza Behnam

Most people outside the Middle East have no idea how water shapes the politics there. This is a very good analysis of the water situation there. From M. Reza Behnam at antiwar.com:

The Middle East, oil-rich but water-poor, with about six percent of the world’s population, has only one percent of the earth’s renewable water resources. Fourteen Middle East and North African (MENA) countries are among the 33 most water-stressed in the world.

Climate change, drought and population growth have increased the demand for water in this arid region, fueling conflict and instability. Clashes over water access have aggravated an already volatile Middle East. For many MENA countries water scarcity has become a national security issue.

Middle Easterners are dependent on four main sources of water: aquifers, precipitation, rivers and desalinized sea water. The underground aquifers, however, are drying out at alarming rates. Increasingly the oil rich Persian Gulf states are depending on desalination for water security. Only Iran and Turkey have been self-sufficient in water.

Once known as the Cradle of Civilization, the fertile soil of the Middle East gave birth to agriculture. Grains thrived in the rich soil of The Fertile Crescent, “the land between the rivers” – Tigris and Euphrates. With an abundance of barley, beer brewing/production flourished in ancient cities along the Tigris-Euphrates, under the auspices of the Sumerian goddess of beer brewing, Ninkasi, circa 3900 BCE.

However, today most countries in the region are net food importers, especially grains. Aridity, drought and climate change have contributed to food insecurity and surging food prices. Water scarcity contributed to the 2011 uprisings in Egypt and Syria, and was embodied in the protestors’ rallying cry, “Food, freedom and dignity.”

Egypt, for example, imports 90 percent of its wheat from Russia. Consequently, its economy was disrupted in 2010 when wild fires and a heat wave in Russia led to a 30 percent increase in Egyptian food prices. Additionally, in 2004, the government of then President Hosni Mubarak privatized the country’s water supply – a condition mandated by the World Bank to secure loans. Revolutionary fervor intensified as the government diverted water to wealthy enclaves, while across Egypt water access became more difficult and prices doubled. Little wonder that some Egyptian commentators called the January 2011 Arab Spring a “Revolution of the Thirsty.”

To continue reading: The Politics of Water and Peace in the Middle East

Yes, Solar And Wind Really Do Increase Electricity Prices — And For Inherently Physical Reasons, by Michael Shellenberger

Unless the price of oil and natural gas shoot to the moon, solar and wind are going to remain the more expensive alternative. From Michael Shellenberger at forbes.com:

Department of Energy

Ivanpah solar farm produces 18 times less electricity while using 290 times more land than Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

In my last column I discussed an apparent paradox: why, if solar panels and wind turbines are so cheap, do they appear to be making electricity so expensive?

One big reason seems to be their inherently unreliable nature, which requires expensive additions to the electrical grid in the form of natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries, or some other form of stand-by power.

Several readers kindly pointed out that I had failed to mention a huge cost of adding renewables: new transmission lines.

Transmission is much more expensive for solar and wind than other plants. This is true around the world —  for physical reasons.

 Think of it this way. It would take 18 of California’s Ivanpah solar farms to produce the same amount of electricity that comes from our Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

And where just one set of transmission lines are required to bring power from Diablo Canyon, 18 separate transmission lines would be required to bring power from solar farms like Ivanpha.

Moreover, these transmission lines are in most cases longer. That’s because our solar farms are far away in the desert, where it is sunny and land is cheap. By contrast, Diablo Canyon and San Onofre nuclear plants are on the coast right near where most Californians live. (The same is true for wind.)

New transmission lines can make electricity cheaper, but not when they are used only part of the time and duplicate rather than replace current equipment.

Other readers pointed to cases that appear to challenge the claim that increased solar and wind deployments increase electricity prices.

To continue reading: Yes, Solar And Wind Really Do Increase Electricity Prices — And For Inherently Physical Reasons

Russia’s New Energy Gamble, by Bruno Maçães

This article offers plausible conjectures about Russia’s strategy in the Middle East. From Bruno Maçães at thecairoreview.com:

Russia aims to position itself as a leader among energy-producing equals in Eurasia. Since 2015, Russia has sought to play a more active role in the Middle East, setting its sights on the region’s energy resources to achieve this strategic goal.

Workers attend a training class at LUKOIL, Basra, Dec. 25, 2012. Atef Hassan/Reuters

Having abandoned any attempt to join the Western global political order, Russia seems to have quickly found a new self-image: as the center and core of the Eurasian supercontinent, it can reach in all directions and provide a bridge between Europe and China on both ends. In this context, the Middle East has emerged as a central axis of Russia’s strategic concerns, perhaps for the first time in the country’s history.

In his recent book What Is Russia Up To in the Middle East?, Dmitri Trenin shows how the Middle East was always marginal to Russian geopolitical interests. When progressing south, Russian military expansion had its eyes on the Balkans or Istanbul, in some periods extending to British India, Afghanistan or northern Iran, but a serious push beyond those areas was never considered. Against Ottoman Turkey, Russia waged twelve wars. It took the czarist army half a century to prevail over the mountaineers of the North Caucasus. Russia also conquered Central Asia and invaded Afghanistan, a military adventure that left little appetite for a return to the heart of the Muslim world. But neither the Russian Empire nor the Soviet Union had ever fought directly in Arab lands. In 2015, something genuinely new and unexpected took place. Russia stepped into the Syrian conflict.

Any exercise considering what the Kremlin’s intentions and goals might have been has to start by noting how Syria offered a unique opportunity for promoting Russian strategic interests. By 2015 the United States had exhausted all choices there and showed signs of disinterest and disengagement. A Russian military intervention would constitute something of a revolution in global affairs. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, a country other than the United States would be projecting military force far away from its borders without consulting or involving Washington in the decision.

To continue reading: Russia’s New Energy Gamble