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The Economist explains: How renewable energy can become competitive

Wed, 2015-06-03 19:50
ON JUNE 2nd&nbsp;a group of scientists and economists announced plans for the launch of what they call the Global Apollo Programme in the hope of making new solar capacity cheaper than new coal-burning power plants by 2025. Countries which sign up to the project will promise to spend 0.02% of GDP on research into renewables, for a initial $15 billion in public spending. (Publicly funded research is currently $6 billion world-wide.)&nbsp;By comparison, the authors argue, the original Apollo moon programme cost a total of $150 billion in today’s money. Saving the planet, they argue, requires similar effort. But can renewable energy really make much of a difference? Solar technology has already made significant progress in a short amount of time. Renewable power is gaining market share against other sources, especially in sunny and spacious places, and where other fuels are scarce or dirty. For solar, as one might expect, sun-drenched locations are the most competitive ones; California and Hawaii are trailblazers). Open, spare tracts of land (or sea) are better for the economics of wind power. Tax breaks help too: such as the 30% investment credit that Americans get for installing renewable capacity, for example the booming business of rooftop solar panels. Another subsidy is available to households that are able to sell surplus electricity to the energy company at ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Economic Scene: Climate Deal Badly Needs a Big Stick

Tue, 2015-06-02 19:59
Fruitless efforts to seriously curb greenhouse gas pollution suggests a new approach is warranted — making it costly not to join an international consortium committed to fighting climate change.

The United Nations climate conference: Making climate agreements work

Mon, 2015-06-01 09:31
In December talks in Paris involving more than 200 countries may result in a new agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions. In the months leading up to the conference, The Economist will be publishing guest columns by experts on the economic issues involved. Here, Christian Gollier (pictured at left) and Jean Tirole (at right) of the Toulouse School of Economics explain why a carbon tax, or a carbon cap-and-trade system, should be policymakers' preferred weapon. THIS December France will play host to crowds of diplomats as the United Nations holds make-or-break talks on climate change. The challenge for delegates in Paris is to achieve a binding agreement that will limit the increase in the world’s temperature to no more than 2°C. It is an incredibly difficult task. But economics can shed light on which strategies have the best chance at success.Climate change is a global tragedy-of-the-commons problem. In the long run, most countries will benefit from a massive reduction in global warming. Unfortunately, there are powerful incentives to leave the burden of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to others. The approach often proposed to solve this free-rider problem is to make polluters pay a uniform price for their emissions. This encourages polluters to take all available steps to reduce emissions which cost less than that price, which guarantees that we get the best ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Changan seeks top 10 global sales status in coming 5 years

Sun, 2015-05-31 22:41
Changan Automobile has an ambitious dream of becoming a global top 10 manufacturer by sales within five years, with its major driving forces being new-energy vehicles and autonomous driving.

Morocco: a Champion for advanced Energy and Climate Policy

Thu, 2015-05-28 02:23

In the Arab world Morocco is one the very few countries without oil or gas resources.

To cover its fast rising energy consumption it has been totally dependent on imports.

Fortunately it possesses a big potential of renewable energy, in particular wind and solar: more than 1000 km coast line with winds blowing almost continuously; some of the sunniest regions in Africa and, last not least, more free space than any European country for building the world`s biggest solar-thermal power plant, large wind parks and regional power grids.

This potential offers better possibilities for generating – largely non-intermittent – renewable energy than even those of Spain, Portugal or Denmark.

During the last seven years the Moroccan government has wisely seized its chances, with the King as the driving force behind a $ 13 billion investment programme in renewable power generation and energy efficiency.

By 2020, Morocco aims to cover more than 40 per cent of its electricity demand through wind, solar and hydro power. Quite an achievement, but also a necessity in view of an expected quadrupling of its power consumption until 2030.

To curb rising demand Morocco is targeting energy efficiency. The Parliament is expected to approve this year appropriate directives for energy-efficient new buildings, a rather unique action in emerging countries!

For the implementation of this programme the government has created two specialised agencies for energy and climate and solar power and put in place a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework.

For the financing it relies on domestic and foreign investors. The wealthy royal family has taken a stake. So have Saudi and French companies. World Bank and German Development Bank have granted long-term loans at favourable conditions.

Thanks to the extraordinary conditions wind power costs no more than three cents per kWh, cheaper than coal-fired electricity, which shows the economic advantage of wind energy if generated at optimal conditions.

The solar thermal power plants, the biggest on earth, are not yet competitive. The government hopes to profit from the export of the advanced storage technology (molten salt solution) that helps generate electricity even after sunset.

In conclusion, Morocco demonstrates that emerging countries are able to fight climate change, provided there is political leadership and determination. Hopefully, the Moroccan delegation will be able to share its experience at the Paris Climate Conference in December.

Brussels 23. 05. 2015 Eberhard Rhein

Stakeholders Agree to Improve Eurasian Multimodal Transport Connectivity

Wed, 2015-05-27 05:08

Guest blog post by Egons Mudulis and Dienas Bizness.

Ministers of Transport and Heads of Delegations of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) member countries, the European Union (EU), international transport organizations and institutions, transport associations, business leaders of the transport and logistics industry participating at the 3rd ASEM Transport Ministers’ Meeting agreed to promote multimodal transport connectivity between Europe and Asia. The theme of the summit «Development of Euro–Asia Multimodal Transport Linkages – Status Quo and Blueprints for the Future» reflected the priority of the Latvian EU presidency in the transport sector. A special emphasis was put on the emerging overland connections between Asia and Europe, profiling business case studies and perspectives from involved business and institutional stakeholders. The meeting took place in Riga, Latvia, on April 29–30, 2015.


Effective and multimodal connectivity is one of the preconditions to further deepen cooperation between Europe and Asia, the President of Latvia H.E. Andris Berzins said in the opening session. He pointed out the role of Latvia’s transport and logistics sector in developing both the existing container trains between the Baltic States and Central Asia and the future branch of the current shuttle trains from China to supply Northern Europe. «European transport policy must reflect the globalized nature of cross-border supply chain management, especially between the two world’s largest trading partners – Europe and Asia,» Minister for Transport of Latvia Anrijs Matiss added. Thus, a special emphasis on the emergence of Trans-Eurasian rail-based supply chains in the summit.


The Eurasian land bridge is creating new arteries of connectivity between Asia and Europe; however, as demand for transportation services increase, problems arise too, Vice-Minister for Transport of the People’s Republic of China Weng Mengyong said. Some of them: the lack of appropriate infrastructure, different construction standards for the infrastructure, as well as insufficient transport cooperation mechanisms and legal frameworks. He made several suggestions how to achieve safe and effective transport connections. One of those – an integrated low cost logistics system must be a priority for Eurasian countries.


The dialogue on the level of ASEM transport ministers not only will improve understanding among ministries, but would contribute towards increased cargo flows and passenger comfort, as well as will be useful to economies of all the countries involved, the Minister for Transportation of Russia Maxim Sokolov said in an interview to Dienas Bizness (The Daily Business). As cargo flow tends to choose the most convenient channel, Latvia has its place for the transit routes between Europe and Asia despite the fact that for now main Pan-European corridors do not cross the country.


Some participants of the summit gave written responses to the questions of Dienas Bizness about the challenges and problems of European–Asian connectivity, as well as the role of Latvia in it. «With regard to the railway connections, the fact that there are different gauges of the rail tracks does lead to unnecessary delays as cargo needs to be shifted on and off the broad gauge. In addition, there are many stakeholders involved along the land bridge between Europe and Asia,» President & CEO of Port of Duisburg Erich Staake wrote. According to him, many customers still need to be convinced that the railway connections are an interesting alternative to the sea route, given the fact that they are a lot faster than the transport by sea vessel and, at the same time, cheaper than airfreight. Due to its geographically strategic position, Latvia could play an important role with regard to Eurasian rail connections.


Rail transport is suitable for many industries and can be integrated into customer’s supply chains, was the message of Member of the Management Board for Region East of DB Schenker Rail AG Hans-Georg Werner during one of the panel sessions. He pointed out hi-tech/electronics (notebooks), automotive (complete knock-down parts), manufacturing (moulds, nuclear equipment), as well as consumer (cosmetic products) sectors. There are three conditions to achieve Eurasian connectivity with rail, Director General of the Association of the European Rail Industry (UNIFE) Philippe Citroën said. Those are interoperability (for technical compatibility), investment (for the completion of a sustainable network) and innovation (for more efficiency and capacity).


Hewlett Packard (HP) pioneered rail freight transportation connecting Europe with inland and western China, Head of Supply Chain Operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa of the company Volker Schmitz wrote. As the key challenges to be continuously addressed, he mentioned security, increasing frequency of trains and the increasing the East-bound trade and the load in the trains back to China. For Latvia to play a bigger role in the HP logistics chain, «we need to find possibilities which show an improved performance towards our customers,» Mr Schmitz explained.


President of COSCO Europe Ji Lin emphasized that European infrastructure is well established overall, but is unevenly developed among different regions. As far as Latvia is concerned, COSCO will pay more attention to this market due to geographical advantages. The company will study the feasibility of launching own-operated feeder services to Riga and developing sea-rail intermodal transport between China and the Baltic region via Riga.


Unacceptable border crossing times along Eurasian land routes was one of the obstacles mentioned by several speakers at the meeting. As the presentation of Chief of Transport Facilitation and Economics Section of Transport Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Miodrag Pesut noted, in some border crossing points of Eurasian rail routes it used to reach almost three days. Imbalance of westbound and eastbound cargo flows was identified as another problem. According to First Vice President of United Transport and Logistics Company Yerkhat Iskaliyev, amount of empty containers in China direction reaches 40%. To implement harmonized technical requirements across Europe and ensure alignment between rail and road infrastructure charges for freight were couple of recommendations made by Executive Director of The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) Libor Lochman. As far as road transportation is concerned, new countries show interest in TIR (international Customs transit system), noted Secretary General of the International Road Transport Union (IRU) Umberto de Pretto. However, border crossing time and unofficial levies are still substantial problems.


This was a very important meeting that clearly showed the needs caused by the increasing global trade, as well as the commitment of stakeholders to move forward, said EU Commissioner for Mobility and Transport Violeta Bulc in an interview to Dienas Bizness. The aim of the Eurasian dialog, according to her, is to create a single Eurasian transport area not only to connect infrastructure, but to synchronize the regulatory framework as well. Globalization is emerging as one of the strongest forces for global development and growth, and transport is the key enabler of that, she said during the press conference. More and more networks are emerging and many partnerships are being formed to support the need for Eurasian growth and connectivity. «We have done some good and positive moves in Europe starting the process of enlargement of our core TEN-T network,» Ms Bulc emphasized. Recently an important agreement was signed with Western Balkans thus extending the network towards Asian countries. Dialogues were initiated with Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and some other countries in the region that will be an important contribution for Silk Road connections.


One of the practical conclusions made during the summit is that Latvian supply chain corridor may be a good alternative to the existing China–Europe shuttle trains route through Polish town of Malaszewicze in order to organize more direct and efficient supply of Northern Europe, CEO of Samskip Van Dieren Multimodal Henk van Dieren acknowledged.


During the meeting, the Riga Declaration was adopted. Some of the key decisions of stakeholders included in the declaration emphasize the significance of Eurasian multimodal transport corridors and intermodal and combined supply chains associated with them as complementary, credible, and competitive transport solutions providing additional connectivity and serving as an effective tool for the economic development and integration of the Euro-Asian continent;  recognize the market potential of environmentally friendly rail-based transportation between Asia and Europe in the rapidly expanding niche that addresses the needs of just-in-time logistic solutions; promote and coordinate investments in transport infrastructure to improve the connectivity between Europe and Asia; improve the supply chain and border crossing rules. The meeting also reached one of its original goals – to reinvigorate the ASEM Transport Ministers’ Meeting format. It was decided that the next Meeting shall be held in Asia in 2017, with several Asian nations announcing, already during the Riga meeting, their candidacies to host the next meeting.



Dot Earth Blog: In Texas, the Race to Build in Harm’s Way Outpaces Flood-Risk Studies and Warming Impacts

Tue, 2015-05-26 18:27
In Texas’s exurban counties, a population and building boom has outpaced efforts to cut flash-flood risks and dominates any impact so far from climate change.

Dot Earth Blog: The R&B Star Akon and an Emirates Foundation Invest in a Solar Energy Work Force for Africa

Fri, 2015-05-22 17:06
A hip-hop star, Akon, and a young solar-technology instructor visit the U.N. to show how they are lighting up Africa.

Energy subsidies: Waste not, harm not

Thu, 2015-05-21 10:46
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; India’s one-man band Fly Title:&nbsp; Energy subsidies Rubric:&nbsp; Energy subsidies gobble money. They also kill people and cook the planet BLUNDERS in economic policymaking abound, but among the worst are energy subsidies. They stoke waste, squeeze other spending, enrich middlemen and help the comfortably-off more than the poor, who use little energy. Include the cost of pollution and the bill is even higher. A new IMF working paper puts it at a stonking $5.3 trillion, or 6% of global GDP—more than all government spending on health care. The+ biggest subsidies are in the poorest countries (where they can reach 18% of GDP) and the lion’s share goes to coal, the dirtiest fuel, which no country taxes properly. By contrast, renewable energy subsidies (mostly in the rich world and not covered in the IMF paper) amount to a mere $120 billion, and would vanish if fossil fuels were taxed fully. The biggest subsidiser of fossil fuels is China at $2.3 trillion, followed by America ($700 billion), Russia ($335 billion), India ($277 billion) ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Obama Recasts Climate Change as a More Far-Reaching Peril

Wed, 2015-05-20 06:00
In planned remarks to graduating Coast Guard cadets, the president describes climate change as an environmental issue with large economic and security implications.

Energy subsidies: A costly mistake

Tue, 2015-05-19 08:30
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Fly Title:&nbsp; Energy subsidies Rubric:&nbsp; Energy subsidies do not just gobble money. They help cook the planet too Byline:&nbsp; EL Main image:&nbsp; 20150523_wbp502.jpg BIG mistakes in economic policymaking abound. But it would be hard to find a worse one than energy subsidies. Recent research has shown that they enrich middlemen, depress economic output and help the rich, who use lots of energy, more than they do the poor. But now a new working paper by the International Monetary Fund highlights another cost too: damage to the environment. Including this, the authors reckon that the total drag on the global economy caused by fuel subsidies now amounts to a stonking $5.3 trillion each year, or 6% of global GDP—more than world spends on health care. Poorer countries dole out the largest amount of subsidies; some spend up to 18% of their GDP a year on them. The lion’s share goes to coal, the most polluting fuel. By contrast renewable-energy subsidies, mainly given out in the ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Seven years’ biofuels deliberations teaches us ‘put quality before quantity’

Tue, 2015-05-19 03:33

by Jos Dings, director of Transport & Environment

April 2015 will enter history as the month in which the EU reversed course on its energy policies in transport. It adopted its long-mooted reform of biofuels policy – especially regarding indirect land-use change (ILUC). The practical implications in the next years may not be so big. But the political and longer-term ones are.

A small recap. In January 2008, ie over seven years ago, before the crisis struck, the European Commission proposed that by 2020 all of the (then) 27 EU member states should source 10% of their transport energy needs from renewable sources. It was clear that this would mostly mean biofuels. Amazingly enough, the member states agreed to subject themselves to this costly and ineffectual policy.

A month later, in February 2008, Tim Searchinger of Princeton University planted the first seed that would eventually lead to last month’s reversal: a paper in Science that for the first time, through a global land-use model, quantified the ILUC effects of large-scale biofuel cultivation, and the associated carbon emissions from ploughing up the land, sometimes preceded by deforestation. As a concept ILUC had been known for a while but full credit to Searchinger here; he was the first to attempt a quantification. And devastating it was: subsequent modelling studies confirmed that including ILUC emissions turn biofuels targets into a very questionable climate policy.

NGOs worked hard to have the new science included in the law but we only partly succeeded – the 2009 law ignored it but instructed the Commission to make a report and, if appropriate, a proposal on indirect land-use change by 2010. Scientists got to work but the Commission did not like the outcome because it showed that many biofuels – especially biodiesel (70% of EU’s biofuel consumption) – were bad for the climate, not good. It took the Commission two more painful and embarrassing years before finally, in October 2012, it published its proposal to cap food-based biofuels to 5% of transport energy by 2020. And it took the Council and Parliament two-and-a-half more years to finally agree.

But here we are. All this is an object lesson in how counterproductive and self-defeating ill-conceived, special-interest legislation can be. All this carries lessons for post-2020 fuel policies, and for biomass policies in general. The lesson is: put quality before quantity.

Meanwhile, the world has changed. Since the publication of the biofuels proposal in 2008, the cost of solar electricity has fallen by a factor of five and the cost of batteries has halved. More cost falls are expected because of the virtuous circle of more scale, more innovation; solar will likely be fully competitive within a decade. In contrast, oil and biofuels are not technologies but resources: the more you use them the more expensive they get – biofuel feedstocks cost the same as seven years ago. Oil and biofuels give windfalls to those who have the cheapest resources and the cheapest land; wind and solar electricity gives it to those with the best technology, to human ingenuity. Photovoltaics is more than 100 times as space-efficient (energy per hectare) as photosynthesis. Moreover, it does not need fertile land; deserts and rooftops will do just fine.

Efficiency and electrification are the way forward for transport. Bioenergy will be a small niche. If that’s the lesson of seven years of blood, sweat and tears, it has not been for nothing.


Dot Earth Blog: Study Finds Sun Belt Population Growth and Warming Climate Could Quadruple Exposure to Extreme Heat

Mon, 2015-05-18 13:56
A study finds that climate change and the Sun Belt boom will contribute equally to an enormous rise in potential exposure to extreme heat.

China, India on same page on climate change

Sat, 2015-05-16 02:00
China and India, the two biggest developing countries, came to an agreement on climate change Friday during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Beijing trip.

The oil industry: After OPEC

Thu, 2015-05-14 11:17
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; The great distortion Fly Title:&nbsp; The oil industry Rubric:&nbsp; American shale firms are now the oil market’s swing producers Main image:&nbsp; Plenty of oil, much scope for cost-cutting Plenty of oil, much scope for cost-cutting BIG companies making big bets on big oilfields, while a cartel of oil-producing states fixed the price to keep itself rich and others, including the oil majors, profitable. That, in caricature, was how the oil industry once ran. That model now seems broken. On May 13th the International Energy Agency, representing the main oil-consuming countries, said a global oil glut was building, as Saudi Arabia pumped oil frantically in a continuing battle for market share with American shale-oil producers. The shale firms have proved a lot more resilient, and a lot more productive, than the Saudis and other members of OPEC, the producers’ cartel, had expected. Last November, with prices already slipping, OPEC’s members stopped trying to agree ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

National energy assets set to be sold

Wed, 2015-05-13 19:52
The Chinese government is looking at stripping its biggest energy companies of their oil and gas pipelines, as part of sweeping industry reforms that would see the assets spun off into independent businesses.

News Analysis: Alaska’s Tricky Intersection of Obama’s Energy and Climate Legacies

Tue, 2015-05-12 21:14
President Obama’s move to open up Arctic waters to oil and gas drilling as he pursues an ambitious plan to fight climate change illustrates the tensions in his environmental agenda.

Oil Industry Asks Court to Block Rail Transport Safety Rules

Tue, 2015-05-12 19:50
The American Petroleum Institute files a petition in federal court challenging new Transportation rules intended to make moving oil by rail safer.