Daily Archives: May 15, 2009

Kate Mackenzie

1. Quote of the week:

“At the time of the financial crisis when oil prices keep falling, there is a rare strategic opportunity for us.”

Zhou Jiping, Petrochina president

2. Number of the week:


The last time oil demand was as low as it will be this year, according to IEA forecasts

3. Image of the week

Lonely bulls – HT Morgan Downey

Kate Mackenzie

Clouseau-esque market-moving commentary, IEA edition

BP on solar power: the industry hits back

Burning banana skins instead of wood

Should oil prices and renewables decouple?


Sharing the costs of a carbon cap It’s more complicated than we think, writes John Kemp in his continuing analysis of the political barriers to a US cap and trade regime (Reuters)

Six ways they’re turning random crap into alternative energy Baby poo and… it gets even better (cracked.com)

Cleantech VC funding falls off a cliff – except for energy storage And electric car batteries in particular (Venturebeat)

Developing oil sands to become even more expensive $60 a barrel nowhere near enough (Financial Post)

Kate Mackenzie

We didn’t especially think so, either. But some would disagree:

“On a factual basis, there shouldn’t be any correlation,” says Brian Yerger, the chief executive of Aerca Advisors, an investment consulting firm. “There’s no rational reason for it.”

Analysts say it’s a sign of oversimplification by investors, who lump renewables together and expect them to rise as old energy, or fossil fuels, decline. “It’s a guttural connection people make, based more on feeling than on facts,” said Ron Pernick, a principal at the research firm Clean Edge.

It’s not clear from this story why they believe this, other than the very reasonable point that oil is primarily a transport fuel and therefore solar and wind technology companies are unlikely to directly displace it. The popular crude benchmarks are just that – benchmarks. Traders and investors like to have a liquid reference point. As numerous commentators have pointed out, the most crude benchmarks don’t even necessarily reflect what is going on in the oil market: consider speculation arguments, demand-vs-supply and WTI grumbles, just to name a few.

Kate Mackenzie

It’s easy to be disheartened by the enormous technological and economic challenges to finding efficient new ways to meet the world’s energy needs – particularly with the massive scale of consumption in the developed world. So simple, low tech solutions always generate excitement – the $5 solar oven being a good example. Somewhat in this vein, the BBC World Service reports on an appealing idea: using banana skins and other waste from the plant to make simple briquettes for burning.

It doesn’t necessarily address the problem of soot or ‘black carbon’ emitted by burning biomass, which is understood to be a significant contributor to climate change. But the BBC reports it would reduce deforestation due to wood being gathered burnt for home cooking.

In addition, it could be less labour intensive. Gathering enough firewood to cook each day is physically demanding and time-consuming. It’s a common sight on the edge of many African cities to see dozens of people, usually women, making the long walk back home from carrying piles of firewood they have gathered from the outskirts.

For more fortunate readers whose appetite for low-tech alternative energy sources is whetted, this guide to charging a USB device using a bicycle is proving popular.

Related links:
The benefits and challenges of solar ovens
(FT Energy Source, 20/04/09)

James Fontanella-Khan

- Rio says committed to Chinalco tie-up
Shares in Rio Tinto regained the steep losses (FT)

- Opec resolve to cut output fraying, says IEA
Cartel raised its output by 270,000 barrels a day (FT)

- National Grid rules out cash call
Expects to strengthen its financial position (FT)

- Strong appetite for silver
Mints almost doubled coin production (FT)

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