Tag Archive | "Fossil Fuels"

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China Reels Under a Barrage of Criticism

Posted on 16 December 2009 by editor


Civil society demonstration in Copenhagen. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS

Civil society demonstration in Copenhagen. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS

By Antoaneta Bezlova


BEIJING (IPS/TerraViva) – China is not happy. This is how one of the Chinese state-sanctioned newspapers summed up Beijing’s feelings about the week spent negotiating on climate change in the Danish capital.

After a very public showdown with the United States in the early days of the global climate talks, China found itself attacked by smaller developing countries for benefiting more than anyone else from carbon credit funding. And as the countdown to the end of negotiations began, Beijing was seen deflecting criticism that it was the stumbling block to reaching a deal. Continue Reading

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‘Cut Fossil Fuel Subsidies but Compensate the Poor’

Posted on 14 December 2009 by editor

Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

By Claudia Ciobanu

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – Cutting government subsidies for fossil energy could lead to a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as compared to 1990 levels, says a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

That represents a fifth of the maximum global commitment of emission reductions envisaged by negotiators at the COP15, and could play an important part in keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Continue Reading

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Q&A: “We Are Moving Towards Modest Cooperation”

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

Mario Osava interviews Brazilian physicist JOSÉ GOLDEMBERG, key figure at 1992 Earth Summit


José Goldemberg. Credit: American Association for the Advancement of Science

José Goldemberg. Credit: American Association for the Advancement of Science

(IPS/TerraViva) – Vested interests in fossil fuels have blocked major steps against global warming so far, according to José Goldemberg, who has played a leading role at key times in the climate crisis facing humanity.

One of the driving forces behind the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, when he was the Brazilian interim environment minister, Goldemberg says Brazil today lacks the leadership it exercised at the Earth Summit and in the subsequent negotiations that produced the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, because its current proposals are so lacking in vision.

A respected energy expert and winner of the 2008 Blue Planet Prize, a kind of environmental Nobel Prize awarded by the Japanese Asahi Glass Foundation, the 81-year-old physicist continues to work as a professor at the Institute of Electrotechnics and Energy at the University of São Paulo.

In this interview with TerraViva, Goldemberg said he expects an outcome of “modest cooperation” from the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-15), which opened Monday in Copenhagen.

TERRAVIVA: There is a tremendous difference between perceptions of climate change in 1992, and today. And carbon dioxide emissions have risen a great deal, in rich countries as well as in emerging ones, in spite of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. Were we naïve about it? Did science take too long to reveal the seriousness of the problem?

JOSÉ GOLDEMBERG: The 1992 “vision” was rather naïve. At the same time, we did not expect so much resistance from fossil fuel producers against changing their technologies and adopting newer and less polluting ones.

This explains why emissions reductions targets in the industrialised countries, spelled out in the Kyoto Protocol, have not been met. And developing countries, which had no binding reduction targets and were only responsible for 30 percent of global emissions in 1990, are now emitting 50 percent, but they are reluctant to take on commitments to reduce them.

This is partly due to the fact that the consequences of global warming take time to make themselves felt, so there is no very strong sense that urgent action is required.

TV: A change in the global energy mix cannot wait until oil runs out, let alone coal reserves. What can be done to overcome the inertia that is preventing a transition to a low-carbon economy?

JG: The assessment reports based on expert research published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the evidence that the signs of global warming are becoming clearer, are helping to motivate countries. There is no doubt, for instance, that the frequency of extreme climate events has increased in recent years.

TV: Can nuclear energy contribute to the solution?

JG: Yes, if the other problems associated with it are solved, such as safe disposal of radioactive waste and nuclear proliferation. These problems are different from those created by fossil fuels, and they are far from being solved, as can be seen in the cases of Iran and North Korea.

TV: What blocked the approval of your proposal of a target of 10 percent renewable energies in the global energy mix, which you presented at the Rio+10 conference, held in Johannesburg in 2002?

JG: The resistance of coal and oil producing countries, including the United States. The European Union enthusiastically supported my proposal, and in fact still does, and is now planning to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

TV: Why has ethanol not taken off as a fuel, as the Brazilian government wishes? Have its prospects changed, in the face of the near panic caused by climate change?

JG: Ethanol has not taken off because the United States and the European Union impose tariff barriers to protect their domestic industries, which produce fuel alcohol from maize and wheat at a cost two or three times higher than Brazilian ethanol made from sugarcane.

TV: What are your expectations of the COP 15 conference? Is the world moving towards another “cold war,” as Graciela Chichilnisky (an Argentine-American scientist who made valuable contributions to the Kyoto Protocol) claims, or towards cooperation, since nobody wins from global warming?

JG: I think we are moving towards modest cooperation, because even China and India are planning to do something to reduce their emissions, although not as much as is needed.

TV: Has Brazil taken on a leadership role again on environmental issues, as it did in Rio in 1992, and in Kyoto in 1997?

JG: No, because the Brazilian proposal on its emissions reductions to COP 15 was formulated belatedly, and is voluntary rather than binding, so it has been received with a certain lack of trust. It’s easy to promise to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent by 2020, but it’s harder to keep that promise.

In addition, the Brazilian proposal is conditional, rather vaguely, on financial support from industrialised countries. In contrast, the target adopted by the southern state of São Paulo, which is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in comparison to 2005  levels, is clear, objective, and was well received.


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OIL: A Market Psychology of Fear?

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

Oil_well_public_domainDec7_By Chris Arsenault

VANCOUVER  (IPS/TerraViva) With or without a binding deal at the climate talks in Copenhagen, it seems the world may have to cut its oil consumption, as emerging geological and economic trends limit the availability and affordability of petroleum.
Back in the 1970s, Saudi Arabia’s flamboyant oil minister Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani articulated what has become conventional wisdom for policymakers around the planet: ”The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.”

Today, an increasing chorus of voices is challenging that prediction. While the world isn’t running out of oil in any absolute sense, a daunting picture of the availability and thus affordability of supply compared with expected demand increases is beginning to emerge.

“In 2015, the world’s consumption of oil will likely be closing in on 100 million barrels per day, roughly 22 percent higher than the current level – which is a relatively high annual growth for the oil industry,” states a briefing marked “confidential” from Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), obtained by TerraViva through a Freedom of Information Request.

The censored briefings, created in collaboration with other Canadian government agencies, paint a troubling picture of future energy security that has recently been corroborated by other sources.

In 2005, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Paris-based multinational information centre created after the 1973 energy crisis, predicted that world oil production could rise to 120 million barrels per day by 2030, up from 85 million bpd in 2008.

The IEA “was forced to reduce” its predictions on possible world supply “to 116 million and then 105 million last year,” according to a senior official in the organisation, who spoke with the Guardian newspaper in early November on the condition of anonymity.

The U.S. Department of Energy, through its International Energy Outlook (IEO), has also been quietly scaling down its numbers on possible supply. In 2007, the agency predicted that the world would be able to pump 107.2 million barrels per day in 2030. In summer 2009, it drastically reduced its supply predictions to 93.1 million barrels per day.

In its latest forecast, released Nov. 10, the IEA predicted that world oil supply would hit 105 million barrels per day by 2030. Even with those figures, which many analysts, including some inside the IEA, consider overly optimistic, there is likely to be a shortfall of some 11 million barrels per day by 2030.

“Every year we lose four million barrels a day [of production due to depletion],” said Jeff Rubin, the former chief economist with CIBC World Markets.

“Over the next five years, we are going to have to find 20 million barrels a day of new production, just so that we can [continue to] consume what we consume today,” Rubin told TerraViva in June.

Rubin is a believer in the peak oil theory – the idea that oil production will reach a maximum point and then fall fairly sharply as demand outpaces possible supply.

Gasoline and transportation oil can be manufactured from coal and other petroleum sources, meaning the world will not run out in any absolute sense, but the costs – both economic and environmental – will be far higher than conventional crude.

“Groups and individuals speaking out about forthcoming world oil supply challenges are frequently stereotyped as a fringe element with little knowledge about the oil industry,” said the Sweden-based Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas in a Nov. 24 news release. “But their warnings are increasingly supported by some surprising allies: senior petroleum industry officials, consultants and analysts.”

Christophe de Margerie, CEO of Total SA, Europe’s third largest oil company, believes the world will never be able to produce more than 89 million barrels per day.

ConocoPhillips’ chief executive Jim Mulva told a conference in London last month that he doubted producers would be able to meet long-term oil demand. Both oil executives challenged IEA predictions.

The senior IEA official who blew the whistle on the organisation’s tendency to overstate supply says the group is manipulating data in order to placate financial markets.

“Many inside the organisation (IEA) believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90 million to 95 million barrels a day would be impossible, but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further,” a senior IEA official told the Guardian.

According to the confidential RCMP documents, “[censored]… a market psychology of fear will continue to place a ‘geopolitical premium’ on crude oil, keeping prices for oil products higher than market fundamentals alone would dictate.”

It is this fear that the IEA is trying to placate. However, many believe a binding deal at Copenhagen seems like a more reasonable approach to reduce oil dependency than the current policy of fudging the numbers.


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