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Advancing interconnected solutions to the food, energy and finance crises

The governing body of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) met in Rome on April 8, 2022 in an Extraordinary Session to examine the “impact of the Ukraine-Russia conflict on global food security and related matters under its mandate” and advise on how it should proceed. Meanwhile, just two days earlier, the Civil Society and Indigenous People Mechanism (CSIPM) at U.N. Committee on World Food Security (CFS) called for an Extraordinary Plenary Session of the CFS.

We must consider these developments along with a new initiative from the U.N. and against the background of the FAO’s global food prices index reaching its highest level ever.

In response to the immediate crises provoked by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, on March 14 the U.N. Secretary General (SG) António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres announced the establishment of the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance (GCRG). On April 5, he released the GCRG’s initial recommendations. According to remarks made by the U.N. SG at the U.N. Security Council Meeting, these initial recommendations are for the consideration of the member states, international financial institutions and others. In brief, they are:

  • On food: To avoid the risk of hunger and famine spreading further, the GRCG urges all countries to keep markets open, resist unjustified and unnecessary export restrictions, and make reserves available to countries at risk of hunger and famine.
  • On energy: While some countries’ plans to release strategic reserves of fossil fuels in an attempt to reduce their dependence on Russian stocks could help ease the current crisis in the short term, the only medium and long-term solution is accelerated deployment of renewable energy, which is not impacted by market fluctuations. Renewable energy deployment is the best option in most cases and will allow the progressive phaseout of coal and all other fossil fuels.

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Power Grid Operators Warn Of Potential Electricity Shortages Amid Transition To Clean Energy

Power Grid Operators Warn Of Potential Electricity Shortages Amid Transition To Clean Energy

Power-grid operators across the US warn that power-generating capacity struggles to keep up with demand, a worrying sign ahead of summer where heatwaves could lead to rolling blackouts.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, operating in 15 states across the US Central region, said last month that capacity shortages this summer due to soaring summer demand might result in outages. Last Friday, California Independent System Operator, or California ISO, outlined energy shortfalls this summer because of heat and wildfires. Texas over the weekend saw triple-digit temperatures in some portions of the state, though grid stability was maintained despite several power plants being offline for maintenance.

WSJ explains grid instability and increased risk of power shortages this summer comes as fossil fuel power plants are “being retired more quickly than they can be replaced by renewable energy and battery storage.” Power grids are racing to retire conventional power plants fueled by natural gas, coal, and diesel to green forms of energy, such as solar power and wind. There’s also the retirement of aging nuclear power plants.

Things are not working as planned in the green economy as power grids are becoming unstable by the retirement of fossil fuel power plants with unstable renewables. The transition isn’t as smooth as climate change modelers once suggested as grid stability worsens, and millions of Americans could be subjected to blackouts this summer as cooling demand soars during heatwaves as grids won’t have enough power to meet demand.

WSJ’s author reveals their blinkered bias or ignorance about alternative energy by stating the following “wind and solar farms – which are among the cheapest forms of power generation.” Alternative energy would be expensive if it weren’t for the government’s tax credits, grants, and other incentives…

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Why Renewables Can’t Solve Europe’s Energy Crisis

Why Renewables Can’t Solve Europe’s Energy Crisis

  • Europe has been aggressively pursuing a clean energy future and the end of fossil fuels, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the shortcomings of renewables.
  • The soaring prices of key metals and the length of time it takes to implement renewable energy projects have meant Europe is turning to fossil fuels to solve its energy crisis.
  • The EU is planning to replace Russian gas with LNG imports, coal, and even fuel oil, with a relatively small amount of the gas to be replaced by wind and solar.

Germany is preparing for gas rationing. France’s power grid operator is asking consumers to use less electricity. In the UK, protests are breaking out over the latest electricity price hike that plunged millions of households into what one local think tank called fuel stress. Europe has a serious energy problem.

The problem dates back years and points to a persistent complacency on the part of European governments that whatever happens, there will always be gas from Russia. After all, even during the Cold War Russia pumped billions of cubic meters of gas to European countries. Now, things are different, and it’s not just because of the war in Ukraine.

Europe has been enthusiastically trying to reduce its dependence on all fossil fuels, not just Russian gas, for a few years now. The EU recently boasted that in 2022 renewable energy sources accounted for 37.5 percent of gross electricity consumption, with wind and hydro constituting two-thirds of the total renewable energy output. Why, then, one wonders, would Germany have to brace for gas rationing and France ask its citizens to consume less electricity? Now that has a bit to do with the war in Ukraine…

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This War Marks the End of Cheap Resources

Image credit: Miguel Bruna via Unsplash

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

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Carbon Neutral Myth: Why the Green Tech Revolution Will Not Solve Climate Change

Carbon Neutral Myth: Why the Green Tech Revolution Will Not Solve Climate Change

Back to Reality: We are All Children of Oil

Back to Reality: We are All Children of Oil

Colin Campbell, founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), speaks in Pisa in 2006. Officially, the Powers that Be (PTB) ignored the ASPO message, but it could be that they understood it all too well. That would explain many things about the current situation. For two years, we thought that all our problems were caused by a microscopic, peduncled critter. Now, we are back to reality: we are all children of oil, and we cannot survive without it.

A few days ago, I found by chance on my shelves some documents from the 2006 conference of ASPO (the association for the study of peak oil) that I and others organized in Pisa, in Tuscany. The conference had a certain global resonance: it was sponsored by the Tuscan government, hundreds of people from all over the world came to attend, and the international media commented on it. It was part of a wave of interest on peak oil and its consequences. Just as another example, see the leaflet on the right that I also found rummaging among old documents. It announces a meeting to be held in the Tuscan countryside in 2004, titled, “The Party is Over“, and subtitled “How to exit from the petroleum-based economy“Today, it looks as if these things are a hundred years old. How was it that there was an age in which you could express this kind of subversive thoughts in public and be given some space in the media? And how could we delude ourselves into thinking that we could have convinced that nebulous entity called “humanity” that we were running out of our natural resources, crude oil in the first place? Even more subversive, that we should reduce consumption and move to renewable sources before it was too late?

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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XL

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost, 1915

While reportedly written as a joke by Frost for his hiking companion, Edward Thomas, who often struggled to pick a path among diverging ones when they were out on walks together, this poem has been commonly interpreted as a narrative about our choices and how these shape our future. The decision to take the road ‘less traveled’ versus the one ‘not taken’ speaks to the meaningful impact this seemingly innocuous choice can have upon subsequent events[1].

I was reminded of Frost’s poem and the general interpretation of it as I contemplated the request to post for a wider audience a comment I had made regarding an article someone added to a Facebook group I am a member of. In composing this ‘contemplation’ I reflected upon this request, my thoughts regarding humanity’s choices as we consider how best to deal with our existential predicament of ecological overshoot, and some of the conversations I’ve engaged in with others over the past week or so.

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JP Morgan’s misinformation on the clean energy disruption – a handy guide

JP Morgan’s misinformation on the clean energy disruption – a handy guide

The JP Morgan Asset and Wealth Management Annual Energy Paper is one of the most influential publications among global investment and business leaders in the energy sector.

But JP Morgan Chase’s 2021 Annual Energy Paper is a deeply flawed piece of work that promotes some serious misinformation about the clean energy transformation, reinforcing the mistaken belief – often promulgated by fossil fuel companies – that it will be slow, expensive and require onerous state intervention.

Coming from JP Morgan Chase – the world’s fifth largest bank, and the largest lender to fossil fuel industries – the paper informs the policy, investment and business decisions of many influential companies, organisations and governments around the world. Which is why it is important to understand that the world’s largest fossil fuel lender appears largely oblivious to the dynamics of technology disruptions and energy transitions.

Myth 1: Renewable energy forecasts are too optimistic

The Annual Energy Paper, authored by chairman of JP Morgan Asset Management’s chairman of market and investment strategy Michael Cembalest, was overseen by its technical advisor, influential academic Vaclav Smil.

Its tone is set by a graph on the first page depicting alleged failed ‘renewable energy forecasts’. The graph seems to show that these forecasts were overly optimistic, and then repeatedly turned out to be false.

Yet according to Ketan Joshi, who previously worked in science communications for Australia’s national science agency, the sources for the alleged forecasts are impossible to trace.

For instance, he writes: “Danish physicist Bent Sørensen, for instance, seems to have published the figure between 1978 and 1980, and it isn’t easy to figure out where the prediction of 50% by 2000 was made. There was never any ‘Clinton Presidential Advisory Panel’ – the phrase can only be found in republications of this very chart; so that’s a mystery.”

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When Renewables Are Not Renewable

Sure the wind and sun are renewable, but the collectors we build are not

Wind Turbines

Solar

Solar panels must be replaced every 30 to 40 years because solar panels degrade efficiency by about 1% per year. If we covered the entire state of Arizona with solar panels, they would produce enough electricity to power the world at our current level of demand — but they would have to be replaced every 30–40 years.

Wind

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Degrowth economy: The climate solution no one is talking about

For all the talk of renewable energy, electric vehicles and plant-based diets, there’s a gaping hole in the way we’re trying to solve accelerating climate change. We will not stay below 2°C of warming while pursuing economic growth — yet barely anyone talks about it.

Since the end of World War II, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has been the metric of human prosperity in Western nations, the idea being that if the productivity of the economy increases so will the wellbeing of the people within that economy. And for a while, that was the case. But since the 1970s, increases in GDP have, on average, failed to translate into increases in wellbeing and happiness.

It is not surprising. Research has shown that once a certain GDP threshold, or level of wellbeing, has been met people gain little from consuming more “stuff” — a necessary requirement for continuous GDP growth.

Robert F Kennedy eloquently summed up the inadequacy of GDP as a metric of wellbeing at a speech he gave in 1968:

…the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

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Reply to Diesendorf, M. Comment on “Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition. Energies 2021, 14, 4508”

Reply to Diesendorf, M. Comment on “Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition. Energies 2021, 14, 4508”

When we published Seibert and Rees (2021) [1], we expected conflicting responses from the energy/climate/sustainability community. We were therefore somewhat surprised that most of the comments and questions that have come to us in private communications have been markedly positive, many expressing gratitude for seeing such unpopular yet evidence-based and common-sense assertions in a public forum. Some have expressed relief for no longer feeling like a lone voice or that they have privately held the same view but have been reluctant to express it for fear of backlash. Because the opposing perspective expressed in Prof. Diesendorf’s critique is fairly representative of views in the modern renewables camp, we welcome the opportunity to respond to it and thank the editors of Energies for the invitation to comment.
As we show below, Diesendorf’s critique in many respects typifies the strawman fallacy—he purports to address our argument but sidesteps the main issue and replaces it with one of his own. Moreover, every supposed refutation he makes concerns an issue we identified as problematic and discussed at some length. (Indeed, there are instances where it seems he hasn’t actually read our paper). More positively, Diesendorf does agree with us on aspects of de-growth and potential problems surrounding mineral shortages. In the following paragraphs, we address his comments point-by-point and conclude with the fundamental question before us.
1. Diesendorf claims we asked three main questions in our paper: (1) Is it possible to build and implement the RE technology without fossil fuel (FF) inputs? (2) Is it affordable? and (3) can it be done on a climate-relevant schedule? This is not the case. While we did touch on these questions parenthetically in our assessment of so-called RE, they were hardly our main focus…

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UK energy crisis is a fossil fuel crisis – and gas is the villain

UK energy crisis is a fossil fuel crisis – and gas is the villain

New analysis by energy think tank Ember reveals that the skyrocketing price of fossil gas was responsible for 85% of the increase in UK wholesale electricity prices in 2021. In just one year, wholesale electricity prices quadrupled and it became almost five times more expensive to generate electricity from gas plants.

“Gas is the villain. Not the green investments that can end the UK’s dependence on this costly and polluting fossil fuel,” said Ember COO Phil MacDonald.

Monthly average UK wholesale electricity prices jumped by almost £190/MWh in 2021 – from £55/MWh (December 2020) to £245/MWh (December 2021). The cost of fossil gas was responsible for £162/MWh (85%) of this spike.

The UK remains heavily reliant on fossil gas for its electricity. In 2021, the UK generated 40% of its electricity from fossil gas plants. From December 2020 to December 2021, the cost of generating electricity from a combined cycle gas power plant (CCGT) surged from £48/MWh to £227/MWh (+£179/MWh).[1] The carbon price only accounted for £17/MWh (10%) of the increased cost of generating electricity from CCGTs.

Skyrocketing wholesale electricity prices will soon hit consumers directly. The cap on UK energy bills is set for an unprecedented increase in April 2022, likely pushing millions more into energy poverty. Despite claims by a small group of Conservative MPs in the ‘Net Zero Scrutiny Group’, the energy crisis has almost nothing to do with green subsidies. The principal reason is the skyrocketing price of fossil gas. Previously Ember forecasted that the gas price spike will add £29 billion to UK electricity bills in 2022.

“The UK energy crisis is a fossil fuel crisis. The more wind turbines and solar panels the UK can build, the less the country will be hostage to the volatile global gas price,” said MacDonald.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy demand rises, challenging climate goals

Energy demand rises, challenging climate goals

Rebound to push oil appetite above pre-pandemic levels, Moody’s says

oil pump
iStockphoto.com / baona

Despite new government commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel demand is set to surpass pre-pandemic levels, says Moody’s Investors Service.

In a new report, the rating agency said it expects demand for energy to continue its recovery in 2022, with strong consumer appetite for gasoline and resurgent international travel driving an increase in demand for oil that is predicted to exceed its pre-pandemic mark.

This resurgence in fossil fuel demand is running up against efforts to combat climate change by curbing emissions, the report noted.

“New COP-26 commitments provide momentum for accelerated decarbonization, but increased demand for oil and natural gas poses a stubborn impediment to progress,” it said.

In turn, this could could drive greater policy action, the report suggested, as increased emissions due to rising oil consumption “will likely lead to added investor pressure for oil companies to transition their businesses, and to inspire more policy initiatives to cut oil and gas demand.”

Moody’s said that the oil and gas industry’s efforts to combat emissions will include switching to renewable energy, along with “a new focus on developing technologies to generate low-carbon energy sources.”

“Companies are exploring technologies to generate less carbon-intensive fossil fuel, and technologies that offset [emissions],” it said. “But the commercial viability of even the most promising low-carbon technologies appears uncertain without regulatory support or subsidies.”

In the meantime, the strong demand for energy and uncertainty about the prospect of expanding supply will keep prices high, Moody’s said.

It expects oil prices to remain at the high end of its medium-term range of US$50-US$70/barrel, and that natural gas prices will stay high too, “as the global industry resolves significant ongoing dislocations.”

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The dark side of Tesla: gigafactories need gigamines

The dark side of Tesla: gigafactories need gigamines

The production of electric vehicles requires vast amounts of raw materials such as nickel: Around 32 kg of this metal are needed for the lithium batteries of a mid-range car. To secure access, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is encouraging global nickel mining and is considering investing in the mining industry in Indonesia and elsewhere.

“Any mining companies out there … wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel,” was the urgent appeal to the mining industry by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, a US manufacturer of electric cars. “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way,” he added.

Huge quantities of metals and other raw materials are needed to build Tesla’s electric vehicles. Tesla is in early talks with the government of Indonesia about a possible investment in the nickel industry, Reuters reports. The Southeast Asian country is one of the world’s largest nickel producers.

In the rainforests of the islands of Sulawesi and Wawonii, nickel is already being mined by Chinese companies, as well as Vale, a Brazilian mining company – with catastrophic consequences for the environment and the people who live there. Ecosystems of great biodiversity are being destroyed, rivers and coastal waters rich in marine life are being polluted, and people are being displaced and poisoned. Nickel mine operators have applied to the Indonesian government for permission to dump the tailings, which are corrosive and laden with heavy metals, in the sea.

Earlier this year, Indonesia stopped exporting unprocessed nickel – not for environmental reasons, but for purely economic considerations: to encourage investments in the nickel industry and the domestic production of lithium batteries.

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Rushing headlong into electrification, the West is replacing one energy master with another

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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