Making predictions about the state of the world in 40 years’ time is inevitably an almost impossible task. But, like most other developed countries, European Union member states have pledged to cut their emissions to a collective 80 per cent or more below 1990 levels by 2050. That is in line with the cuts scientists say will be needed from developed countries if we are to limit global temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius.
So a group of organisations have put their heads together with some of the continent’s leading utilities and energy experts, and come up with a plan for how Europe can meet these stringent goals. The authors – McKinsey, European Climate Foundation, E3G – came up with some surprising results.
At least, not in a hurry. Changing preferences for vehicles and reactions to high oil prices have already prompted some big shifts in the industry, and increasingly, emissions and efficiency standards are driving yet more developments, in many parts of the world.
Europe and Japan have long been known for having the world’s most stringest standards on both mileage and emissions, and emissions regulations are becoming more strict. In the US, it is well known that sales of light trucks – AKA SUVs – began to fall rapidly, after first high oil prices and then the recession took hold. But the country is also set to enhance its fuel economy standards, first introduced in the wake of the 1973 Opec oil embargo, and there are new EPA rules targeting CO2 emissions.
The IEA has remained fairly calm about the climb in crude oil prices since they plunged in late 2008. Although concerns about higher prices, given the slump in actual demand, have been around for well over a year the organisation has remained low-key on the subject, pointing out the need for prices to be high enough to guarantee future supplies, which will inevitably be costly. It has also been reasonably relaxed about speculators (more on that below).
This month, however, things are different. With crude above even the $80 ceiling that Saudi Arabia, among others, frequently refers to, there is more than a little concern around the effect of high oil prices – and the IEA can now be added to the list. In the lead feature article of its April monthly oil market report, published Tuesday, it says that “While rising non‐OPEC investment costs may keep prices above historical norms, this does not preclude some concerns for the fragile economic recovery now that they have shifted higher.”
In other words: prices could indeed be getting too high.
China has softened its approach to foreign companies seeking government supply contracts, the FT reports, signalling that they will be able to apply for accreditation under “indigenous innovation” rules. The rules are blamed for a big fall in China’s buying of foreign wind turbines – particularly those made by US companies.
But will this affect the ‘buy American’ campaign, which is particularly targeting the wind industry?
- Massive nuclear fusion experiment draws near
- Why the US lags in waste-to-energy
- Big test for oil and mines sleaze clean-up efforts
- How tight credit could make oil crunch worse
- Should the US be taking on oil sands refining emissions?