Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Brussels for a Summit Conference (above) with energy relations between Russia and Europe at the top of the agenda. Putin kicked things off by calling Europe’s legal attempts to gain greater control over Russian gas prices as “uncivilized.” That set the tone. The Voice of Moscow said the Russians are only seeking cooperation by the Europeans obviously don’t see it that way. Meanwhile, Russia broke ground on the €16B South Stream gas pipeline that will reach Europe through Turkey. And Putin promised to lower taxes on Gazprom in order to attract new investment. It sounds like the Russians are learning to play the free-market game. Meanwhile, The New York Times, always looking for a downside, reports that Russia’s oil infrastructure is aging.
The Department of Energy has weighed into the natural gas export controversy with a report saying that it would benefit the economy. However it also cautions that the long lead times for building LNG terminals throw the benefits in doubt. Michelle Hallowell, writing for Lexology, says the DOE assessment lends fodder to both sides. The American Chemistry Council has backed LNG exports and Jared Anderson of AOL Energy reports that LNG terminal construction is booming around the world in anticipation of a huge international market. On Motley Fool, David Lee Smith writes there’s a big gas export war looming and Arjun Sreekumar tries to assess who will be the winners and losers.
Time is running out on wind’s production tax credit and the issue seems to be getting lost in the larger fiscal-cliff debate. The American Wind Energy Association warns that 37,000 jobs are at stake and developers are apparently rushing to put up projects before the credit expires. Steve Hargreaves of CNN says the wind energy industry has indicated a willingness to phase out the tax credit over the next six years but nobody is giving the proposal much attention. On a town-hall-style webcast, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu declared he is bullish on wind’s future but the Canada Free Press asks whether wind isn’t fleecing US taxpayers?
Siemens has cut 1100 jobs, mainly in the gas and oil sector. The company says it is having trouble competing with General Electric and Switzerland’s ABB. The Carlyle Group has bought a 47.5 stake in Texas-based NGP Energy Capital and Pattern Energy has bought Finavera Wind Energy’s British Columbia wind assets for $40 million. Duke is borrowing $110 million to build two Texas wind farms while the Cleveland Plain Dealer estimates Chesapeake Energy’s stake in the Utica Shale at $3.3 billion.
Finally, energy research continues to expand the boundaries. Cool Energy, a Boulder group, claims it has modified the Stirling Engine to capture the waste heat from ordinary generators that will improve their energy conversion by 10 percent. American Power Group, of Iowa, says it has devised a way of burning natural gas in diesel engines. MIT scientists have invented a “solar funnel” that they claim will improve the energy capture of solar panels and a European report claims efficiency improvements in the operation of centrifugal pumps. And Peter Gardett of AOL Energy reports that IBM is working to create a common IT platform for the manufacture and recharging of electric vehicles in Europe.