Despite the largely disappointing outcome of Copenhagen and the fact that worldwide emissions are growing apace, there are still optimists in the clean energy sector. These individuals would have us believe there is a kind of unassailable momentum made up of political sentiment, fear of regulation, and consumer and shareholder insistence.
There’s some evidence for this argument, though it’s mostly limited to developed countries, where demand for some types of energy are peaking anyway.
For example: a couple of weeks ago we looked at a report about the death of US coal. The news flow since then on coal has yielded quite a few arguments in favour of the optimistic line.
On FT Energy Source:
- The climate policy disconnect, and rural voter representation
- Peak demand versus peak supply
- The threat to carbon trading
- 2010 oil plays: Greenland and the Falkland Islands, compared
- Iran’s nuclear goal and Prius recall in Energy headlines
- Coal-rich Appalachian states cloud the clean energy dream
- Obama’s nuclear policy: A study in contradictions?
- Storing energy in compressed air
- Renewable energy in Armenia
- More fund managers turn to commodities
- Energy giants look beyond the black stuff
- Sobering thoughts on 21st century energy
- A crude question
- Coal‘s new technology: panacea or risky gamble?
- ‘Unreasonable paranoia’ about gas supplies
Last week’s post about Tony Hayward’s comments on ‘peak demand’ attracted some good comments. Here’s our response as a post – since it got rather long:
Firstly, audio of the Hayward interview is now online here. There are some other interesting comments that weren’t picked up in the print reports, including the world’s ability – and particularly China and India’s – to handle high oil prices.
A few commenters raised the contrast or similarity between ‘peak demand’ and ‘peak supply’. Without wanting to stir the pot too much, the demand/supply dichotomy can be seen as just a matter of semantics – or a matter of disciplines. If you look at the likes of Jeff Rubin, a peak oil economist who writes about the effect that more expensive oil will have on the world, then peak demand is a lot like peak supply, only from the economist’s point of view. (For more on that, see James Hamilton’s great ‘how to talk to an economist about peak oil‘ post.)
Bored with West African and Brazilian sub-salt oil frontiers? Never fear: Bernstein Research looks at two ‘high-risk, high-reward’ oil plays for this year - Greenland and the Falkland Islands.
The two have some striking similarities, despite being almost at opposite ends of the globe. Cairn Energy will be drilling prospects in the Baffin Bay Basin off West Greenland, while Rockhopper and Desire Petroleum are drilling off the Falklands. Both areas have yielded six non-commercial discoveries in the past, and have ‘surprisingly benign’ drilling conditions. Cairn Energy is spending $300m on a rig off Greenland while Rockhopper/Desire are spending $80m.
It’s puzzling to many observers why political support for international environmental measures lags so far behind the apparent popular support in each country.
But a new paper finds that over-representation of regional voters can make a significant difference to public policy on both gasoline taxes and international climate change agreements.
This is what they found when correlating the malapportionment of votes to the length of time ratifying the Kyoto Protocol:
Source: Broz and Maliniak, University of California
The FT’s Tony Jackson chronicles some of the problems faced by the carbon market recently and concludes the whole system could be at risk - news that would of course be welcomed by some.
Carbon prices may have stabilised after the fallout from Copenhagen, he writes, but those hopes for a dramatic increase in the scale of the total global emissions trading has taken a blow in recent months, from Copenhagen and also from faltering efforts in the US.
Meanwhile, investment in the Clean Development Mechanism – offset projects that create credits that can be substituted for allowances – has fallen, as have low-carbon investments.