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Energy: world on path to jump "from crisis to crisis"

by Jerome a Paris Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 06:09:55 AM EST

The International Energy Agency has published its new "World Energy Outlook", its yearly analysis of the energy markets, and they are becoming shrill.

Reliance on oil 'sets us on path to crisis'

The world is on a course that will lead it "from crisis to crisis" unless governments act immediately to save energy and invest in nuclear and biofuels, the International Energy Agency warned yesterday.

In an apocalyptic forecast, Claude Mandil, the agency's executive director, said that our current path "may mean skyrocketing prices or more frequent blackouts; can mean more supply disruptions, more meteorological catastrophes - or all these at the same time".

The IEA said the oilfields on which Europe and the US had come to depend to reduce their reliance on the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would peak in the next five to seven years.


The three countries on which the world will depend most for its future oil supply, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, are also among its most unstable.

A similar problem is emerging in natural gas, with half of the world's reserves found in Iran and Russia - countries that have used their energy resources as a diplomatic weapon.


Such worries on energy security will undermine the world's efforts to reduce carbon emissions associated with climate change. Big consumers have already begun to turn to coal, one of the most polluting sources of energy but also the world's most abundant fossil fuel, much of which is found within the US and China.


To reduce carbon emissions, it urges Europe and China to make more use of nuclear energy, as China is already scheduled to do. It calls on the US to improve vehicles' fuel efficiency standards and, finally, it pushes for more renewable energy to generate power in China, Europe and the US.

There is little mention in the FT article of energy savings, the one big "elephant in the room" solution, but I need to check what the report actualyl says on this before commenting.

But the fact that the FT does not focus on it, and that this article is buried in the middle of the paper (the front page being focused, ironically, on the car industry) is significant of the total lack of focus by anyone that matters on the topic of USING LESS ENERGY.

So we'll jump "from crisis to crisis" alright.

The best options are, in that order:

  • energy efficiency and savings
  • renewable energy
  • nuclear energy
  • coal- and gas-fired power

We are doing the EXACT opposite. How insane are we? Not a little is the answer, yes.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 06:12:29 AM EST
On the first one, do you have handy statistics on the global energy use per category (as refined as possible) and what kind of savings for what cost we can achieve with current technology?

I'm curious at what better isolation (is that the word in english?) can do for what cost.

BTW, I did not see a story or diary on the european grid failure of last saturday, did I miss a discussion somewhere?

by Laurent GUERBY on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 11:16:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
isolation is insulation in English.

isoler (in this sense) = "to insulate".

"isolation" in English is isolement in French.

There was some mention of the blackouts here. But there has been a lot of play since on the alleged responsibility of wind power, and I'd be curious to see Jerome's take on that.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 11:31:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the english lecture :)

Since this involves a private company I assume we'll never know anything about it...

by Laurent GUERBY on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 03:37:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to contradict what you say, Jérôme, but just a word on Claude Mandil and biofuels.

Three weeks ago he gave an interview to the French business daily La Tribune. In which he points out (as we did in the Biofuels Consultation) that there is little hope for first-generation biofuels in the EU:

Rather than produce ethanol themselves by calling heavily on subsidies, the US and Europe should import from India or Brazil, says the head of the IEA, Claude Mandil.

Plutôt que de produire eux-mêmes de l'éthanol, à grand renfort de subventions, les Etats-Unis et l'Europe devraient s'approvisionner en Inde ou au Brésil, estime le directeur de l'Agence internationale de l'énergie, Claude Mandil.

(From an AFP wire at Pleinchamp.com)

He does mention the environmental problems posed (destruction of the rainforest among them), but that doesn't appear to put him off. And he does go on to say that research should be funded into second-generation biofuels.

But the idea of making a big call on biofuels from emerging agricultural countries so as to be able to go on filling up tanks on cars -- instead of first talking about different ways of reducing consumption -- seems so wrong-headed to me that I wonder what Mandil is playing at. More specifically, what big business interests are behind what he's advocating.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 07:56:45 AM EST
Mandil has been saying so many contradictory things that I'm no longer sure what his actual positions are.

I used to know him when he was the Director for energy at the Ministry of Industry in France in the mid-90s. He had a clear vision of energy policy in my memory (maybe I was more impressionable then). He moved to GDF, failed at getting the top job over there, and jumped to the IEA, in a fairly typical carrer for a top French civil servant, but his positions on energy have become increasingly confusing to me.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 09:01:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He further says that the emerging agri-countries can produce biofuels cheap enough for them to be taxed (with the French TIPP, or equivalent in other consumer countries, save one as we know ;)) in the same way as oil-based fuels. He doesn't seem to take into account that biofuel prices on the world market will tend to follow oil prices; and that, in any case, the more the US and the EU increase their demand for them, the pricier they'll get. In other words, he's advocating cheap biofuels that can only get more expensive if his advice is followed.

So I'm wondering if his head's screwed on right (this is not the first time I've wondered). Or, that oil companies are interested in taking this import business on.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 09:15:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we need to start a dialog on how to introduce energy savings. When this is proposed on a site like dKos we get many comments from individuals about the little things they do to make themselves feel virtuous.

In point of fact many of the largest energy uses are out of our control and will require national or international planning to change. For example, the single biggest user of liquid fuel in the US is the military. Another big use of power is fissile material enrichment. Much of this in the US is from hydro power, but this just means the power has been diverted from commercial uses.

There are many industrial energy uses that are inefficient especially in things like process control where pumps, motors, valves and the like could be redesigned. Walmart has gotten a lot of publicity about their "green" effort. They are going to cut truck fuel consumption, improve lighting in stores and promote compact fluorescents for the home. This will yield about 10% savings for them, they estimate. What they are not changing is their supply and distribution chain which moves their average product over 1500 miles from source to store.

Auto efficiency is another area where consumers have little they can do. Even if we all were to want to buy hybrids tomorrow there aren't enough being made to satisfy demand. The last time efficiency when up so did auto usage. The result was a wash.

So how about a discussion of where the savings could be found, who stands to benefit from the status quo, who would benefit from a change, and how and where to apply pressure so that this change will happen.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 09:24:42 AM EST
Cut and paste that into a diary and I'll front-page it ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 09:27:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 10:38:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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