President Obama’s Second Inauguration speech has put climate change back on the front page. Although the President barely mentioned it during the campaign, he has become a born-again climate hawk. Matt Sepp of Forbes reviews all the strategies and decides that clean energy innovation is the way to go. But Kevin Bullis on MIT Technology Review says “Let’s stop pretending that clean energy innovation will completely offset the economic costs of abandoning fossil fuels.” Take your pick. In any case, Thomas Lovejoy in The New York Times says our climate goose may already be cooked anyway.
The clean energy juggernaut suffered a huge setback in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner debacle. Why? That was a lithium-ion battery that caught fire (above). Li-ion batteries are the mainstay of electric vehicles and at the center of plans to store utility-scale quantities of electricityl. It turns out there have been 132 instances of Li-ion battery fires over the last few years, including a UPS cargo plane that caught fire while carrying a load of batteries, not even using them. THey may not be banned from planes altogether. MIT Technology Review says that “because the electrolyte materials used are flammable, no lithium-ion batteries are completely safe.” Bad news for the Chevy Volt.
Nebraska Governor Dave Heimeman has put the Obama Administration back on the spot again by approving the new route for the Keystone Pipeline. Oh, if those Nebraskans could only prevaricate in the manner of the State Department! Now the Administration will have to make its god-awful choice of completely alienating its environmental supporters versus risking a Texas secession movement by denying Texas refineries 800,000 barrels of oil per day. US News & World Report says the Administration decision may take months but four years might be a better bet.
Britain is approaching an interesting crossroads in its energy development. The Brits are embracing nuclear but it’s taking an awfully long time to develop. Meanwhile, coal remains the mainstay of their power grid. A study has revealed that windmills are wearing out a lot sooner than expected and Britain’s solar companies are suing the Kingdom over the reduction in the feed-in tariff (price support). Plans to put a tidal barrage across the Severn River to generate electricity are running into opposition from groups that say it will harm fish life. And IGas has unveiled its plans for fracking for shale gas. As usual, the Brits may find a way to muddle through.
Finally, there are mysterious developments in the Middle East as the Saudis cut their oil output. Daniel Graeber on OilPrice speculates that the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Central Government are headed for war over the Kurds’ efforts to export oil through Turkey without giving Baghdad its cut. And John Daly, also on OilPrice, says that despite all the U.S. arm-twisting, America’s allies are ignoring the Iran oil sanctions. Thank goodness the world’s oil balance may be shifting away from the Persian Gulf.