The Global Energy Map Is Changing

The 2012 edition of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook (WEO) was released on 11/12/2012. The changes in the global energy map will alter outlooks on how various countries, regions and fuels interact in the global energy system in the foreseeable future.

According to the WEO, North America leads the change in the global energy balance. “North America is at the forefront of a sweeping transformation in oil and gas production that will affect all regions of the world, yet the potential also exists for a similarly transformative shift in global energy efficiency,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “This year’s World Energy Outlook shows that by 2035, we can achieve energy savings equivalent to nearly a fifth of global demand in 2010. In other words, energy efficiency is just as important as unconstrained energy supply, and increased action on efficiency can serve as a unifying energy policy that brings multiple benefits.”

Other key points of the WEO are:

North American Oil and Gas – The growth in oil and natural gas production in the U.S. will result in a tremendous change in global energy flows. The WEO’s New Policies Scenario predicts that the U.S. will be a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 and will be almost self-sufficient in energy, in net terms, by 2035.

Fossil Fuels – Fossil fuels will remain dominant in the global energy amalgam. These fuels will probably remain supported by subsidies that jumped by almost 30% to $523 billion in 2011.

Renewables – Renewables become the world’s second-largest source of power generation by 2015 and begin to replace coal as the primary source by 2035. The increase of renewable energy, however, is dependent upon continued subsidies.

Water – Water is key to energy production. The need of water for this makes water a critical component for energy projects.

Energy Efficiency – WEO asserts that this is a huge opportunity that is being unrealized. As stated within the report by Fatih Birol, IEA Chief Economist and the WEO’s lead author, “Our analysis shows that in the absence of a concerted policy push, two-thirds of the economically viable potential to improve energy efficiency will remain unrealised through to 2035. Action to improve energy efficiency could delay the complete ‘lock-in’ of the allowable emissions of carbon dioxide under a 2oC trajectory – which is currently set to happen in 2017 – until 2022, buying time to secure a much-needed global climate agreement. It would also bring substantial energy security and economic benefits, including cutting fuel bills by 20% on average.”

Download the Executive Summary at: World Energy Outlook

A slide presentation of the report is at: WEO slides

Home Heating With Volcanic Heat

Volcanic heat from Icelandic volcanoes may end up heating British homes. The UK government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Iceland to further study this option. The project would be technically challenging. Electricity produced from the geothermal energy would go to the UK via an underwater cable that would be at least 620 miles long. Icelandic officials say that the project could be in place by 2020. Read more at: Icelandic Geothermal Energy

Hurricane Sandy – A Predicted Event of Climate Change

Earlier this year, a peer-reviewed paper, Physically based assessment of hurricane surge threat under climate change, (PDF bypasses Nature’s paywall) was published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The authors predicted more frequent storm surges for New York City due to the changing climate.

The abstract from the paper follows:

Storm surges are responsible for much of the damage and loss of life associated with landfalling hurricanes. Understanding how global warming will affect hurricane surges thus holds great interest. As general circulation models (GCMs) cannot simulate hurricane surges directly, we couple a GCM-driven hurricane model with hydrodynamic models to simulate large numbers of synthetic surge events under projected climates and assess surge threat, as an example, for New York City (NYC). Struck by many intense hurricanes in recorded history and prehistory, NYC is highly vulnerable to storm surges. We show that the change of storm climatology will probably increase the surge risk for NYC; results based on two GCMs show the distribution of surge levels shifting to higher values by a magnitude comparable to the projected sea-level rise (SLR). The combined effects of storm climatology change and a 1 m SLR may cause the present NYC 100-yr surge flooding to occur every 3–20 yr and the present 500-yr flooding to occur every 25–240 yr by the end of the century.

Many residents of the areas impacted by Sandy are still without power and in the most hard-hit locations probably won’t be back in their homes for quite some time. The costs of Sandy will most likely be in the billions of dollars. And – Sandy is only one of the more recent catastrophic weather events to occur globally. There is a climate crisis.

Anthropocene: Is there a new human-based geological age?

Geologists are well known for separating the geologic time scale into many time units. The most recent time division, the Holocene, has now lasted about 11,700 years, during which time the climate has been fairly stable. However, at several recent geological meetings, geologists have discussed the premise that because human activity has so irrevocably changed our planet, we have entered a new geological age. The name given to this new, human-caused epoch is the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene was most recently discussed last week at a Geological Society conference in London . Read more about this discussion at: BBC News Science and Environment’s web site.

U.S. Coal Exports

For those concerned about coal use and the environment, the U.S. Energy Administration recently released information on U.S. coal exports. A brief summary follows:

“U.S. 2012 coal exports, supported by rising steam coal exports, are expected to break their previous record level of almost 113 million tons, set in 1981. Exports for the first half of 2012 reached almost 67 million tons, surpassing most annual export volumes dating back to 1949. U.S. coal exports averaged 56 million tons per year in the decade preceding 2011. If exports continue at their current pace, the United States will export 133 million tons this year, although EIA forecasts exports of 125 million tons.”  Source: Today In Energy, U.S. Energy Information Administration, 10/23/2012. Read more at: U.S. Coal Exports

Climate Change – Northern Rockies

Last Friday (11/9/2012), the Northern Rockies Climate Change Workshop was held in Missoula, Montana. Researchers used data such as forest fire records, snow-depth logs, frost dates, spring run-off peaks, plant inventories, and wildlife surveys from the past century to obtain weather patterns. Penny Morgan, a fire ecologist, said “There’s strong evidence for changing climate that will continue in our future.” Read more about the workshop at: Northern Rockies Climate Change