Sunday, January 25, 2009

P23. Pick Points

Half-a-dozen, or so, stories of interest.

Time was when the word Audit would strike fear, since it was (and perhaps still is) associated with a Tax Audit. But, as part of the move to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, the lowest hanging fruit (to follow on Dr Chu’s lead) is conservation and energy efficiency, and to know how to save, one must first know where energy currently goes, particularly in a home. And thus the new emphasis on Energy Audits. It is a term that is now coming to Washington, and last week A WP reporter had one done.

At the end of lat year I wrote about the experience of hiring a professional, but it is possible to do it yourself, though Austin Energy has a web site that might be useful.

Unfortunately this will not help those indigenous villages in Alaska that are currently running out of money after having had to pay the costs of fuel. Because the early onset of winter froze the rivers before the barges could deliver fuel it now must be flown in. Prices have risen to more than $8 a gallon for fuel oil. This was known last August , and by October the Coast Guard was helping get barges in to deliver although in that particular case the problem was low tides. But the price meant that many villages did not get enough, and now they have been calling for help. While there has been a significant response, the State government is considering fuel vouchers as a solution. Alaska is also looking to use some of the stimulus package to put in roads to help with the gas pipeline from the North Slope.

Prices of gas and fuel oil have slowed purchases in Pakistan which now only has 6 days of gasoline, and nine days of fuel oil in storage, though a fresh boatload of fuel (good for five more days) is due on Tuesday. However, because the government is not paying its bill, fuel oil supplies to some power plants, refineries and distributors are being shut off. One consequence is that electricity prices will have to go up, and coal is getting another look.

Over in Bangladesh, recognizing their problems, electricity for farm irrigation is being given priority. The season runs from mid-February until April and irrigation is needed even as the supply of electricity is likely to be about 30% short of demand. Perhaps they can follow India’s lead and use more local solar power. Certainly it got a better press at the Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, despite the worsening news on funding.

The President of Turkmenistan now feels strong enough to “go it alone”, as demand for the natural gas with which his country is endowed continues to grow. Now the Russians have been happy to buy as much as possible to ship to the West, thereby reducing the supply that will be available for the Nabucco pipeline, and have just had the Uzbek’s fall in line. Yet the shortage of energy sources for India and Pakistan mean that there is an increased urgency in getting a pipeline into Turkmenistan completed. If they can then pay for the gas it will carry. On the other hand not only Prime Minister Tymoshenko, but now President Yushchenko is also calling for the Russia:Ukraine deal to be re-negotiated. meanwhile the head of the Ukrainian gas company is in hospital, and the post mortem continues.

Hmm, maybe I should have been a geologist, with average salaries increasing over 50% last year though costs are now diminishing as demand fades, and oil company earnings also suffer, perhaps cut as much as 50%. Yet smaller companies are continuing to recruit .

Norway is joining IRENA, the international renewable energy agency – at the same time that the Norwegian coal company Store Norske made a large profit as coal moved from $80 to $160 a ton, before falling back to $75. Meanwhile a Russian company is planning on putting a wind farm on the Norwegian:Russian border.

More stories can be found at The Energy Bulletin and at Drumbeats on The Oil Drum

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