The international nuclear debate took a new turn over the weekend as Japanese voters elected a government that is supporting nuclear power. Japan's hawkish ex-premier Shinzo Abe (above) will get a second chance to run the country after his conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won control of the government only three years after suffering a crushing defeat. Other issues such as the economy and relations with China played a part in the election but Abe’s embrace of nuclear apparently didn’t turn off voters. The election may bring a halt to the effort to shut down nuclear and restart some of the nation’s 52 reactors. On the other side of the world, however, Areva’s seven-year odyssey in completing the Olkiluoto reactor in Finland has been delayed again to 2015 and costs have risen to $8 billion. The Chinese are building two identical reactors on-time and on-budget.
Natural gas continues to dominate the energy scene as supplies continue to swell and the debate over fracking continues. The EIA reports that mild weather has caused another slackening of demand. Supplies are rising and prices hit a 11-week low. However Steven Mufson, writing in The Boston Globe, warns that cheaper gas won’t necessarily mean lower bills for homeowners. Ralph Nader has finally come out against fracking – big surprise there – and Sean and Yoko Lennon have taken out a full-page ad in The New York Times opposing fracking upstate. No wonder upstate New York, taken separately, would be the poorest state in the nation. The New York Times editorial board has urged President Obama to approve gas exports, however – another big surprise – and the New York Post says “Let the Industry Boom.” What’s actually happening, as Bloomberg reports, is that gas is so abundant that investors are holding back on more drilling.
The Keystone debate continues to fester as the Obama Administration mulls its stance. Critics have called for – what else? – another environmental impact study that would take global warming into account. One protestor is walking the entire length of the pipeline from Alberta to Texas to publicize the opposition. He’s now in Nebraska. Oklahoma’s Own reports that Cushing, Oklahoma, “The Pipeline Crossroads of the World,” stands to benefit big from the project – another big surprise – and a Texas judge has lifted a temporary restraining order against completing the southern half of the pipeline, which President Obama has already approved.
Finally, Africa is becoming an attractive investment as Italy’s Eni plans to invest $8 billion in Libyan oil exploration and Australia’s Sirocco eyes an East African oil play. GE is showing even more courage by considering investment in Rwanda’s energy resources. Ethiopia has completed a hydroelectric project and will test exporting power to the Sudan. And of course someone is saying renewable energy is Africa’s future. But Total, the French oil company, just pulled out of Nigeria entirely because of chronic thefts from its pipeline.