Drumbeat: October 31, 2010
Posted by Leanan on October 31, 2010 - 10:40am
BAOTOU, China — When Japanese mineral traders learned in late September that China was blocking shipments of a vital commodity, the word came not from a government announcement but from dock workers in Shanghai.
And on Thursday, the traders began hearing that the unannounced embargo of so-called rare earth minerals was ending — again, not from any Chinese government communiqué, but though back-channel word from their distributors.
Throughout the five weeks of the embargo, even when China expanded the rare earth shipping halt to include the United States and Europe, Beijing denied there was a ban.
Whatever it was called, a shipping suspension that started amid China’s diplomatic dispute with Japan over a wayward fishing trawler escalated into a broader international trade issue.
This month a team of executives from Kazatomprom, the Kazakh state company that is the world's biggest uranium producer, were invited to the economy ministry in Tokyo.
The ministry was not interested in discussing fuel supplies for its nuclear power plants. It wanted to talk about rare earth metals.
The industry is facing more challenges because of the need to replenish the production base. That's for both oil and gas. The industry needs to make a large effort to replace its current production sources. The other message is that the reserves will be harder to produce because they will be in remote and challenging areas. The size of the discoveries is not going to increase and in the past five years 50 per cent of oil and gas discoveries were in offshore. Even in OPEC countries the cost of production will increase.
Now we are being told that shale gas will not only “rock our world”, but "change our game." I certainly hope this is true, although I suspect that many of the promoters of shale gas have adopted some propaganda tricks similar to those employed by the crooks from whom I once purchased my electricity, and who apparently are still be able to convince a portion of their drowsy clientele that the truth is anything that does not sound like a lie.
The surprise is not that Saudi Arabia has vast unconventional resources, but rather that the kingdom needs to start thinking about them so soon. Aramco's conventional gas exploration program has added significantly to its nonassociated gas reserves, but has not kept pace with the country's surging domestic gas demand.
A founding myth in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea is said to have foretold the arrival of Exxon Mobil, the U.S. oil giant that is preparing to extract natural gas here and ship it overseas.
According to the myth, called Gigira Laitebo, an underground fire is kept alive by inhabitants poking sticks into the earth. Eventually, the fire "will light up the world," said Peter O'Neill, the national government's finance minister. "By development of the project and delivering to international markets, it's one way of fulfilling the myth."
But like all myths, this one is open to wide interpretation, as a group of men and women at a Roman Catholic parish here suggested before Sunday Mass recently.
"If foreigners come to our land, you give them food and water, but don't give them the fire," said John Hamule, 38, as the others nodded. "If you do, it will destroy this place."
Reliance Industries Ltd. is “not in a hurry” to form new shale gas partnerships and is focussed on consolidating existing ventures.
The huge potential of Australia's liquefied natural gas (LNG) resources has received a major boost with the BG Group announcing it will commit $15 billion to develop an LNG project in central Queensland.
Queensland's Curtis LNG project will provide an economic stimulus of $32 billion over the next decade.
Once every two years in the capital, the GCC's state oil companies offer a glimpse of future plans to 40,000 visitors.
The Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) remains the most popular energy event in the region and starts tomorrow amid burning questions about the oil industry's ageing fields, a local skills shortage and the future make-up of foreign partnerships.
Total SA is “confident” it will continue to be a partner with Abu Dhabi in developing the Persian Gulf emirate’s oil reserves after its current production concession expires, an official at the French company said.
(Reuters) - Angola wants OPEC to raise the country's oil output quota, Oil Minister Jose Botelho de Vasconcelos said on Sunday.
Asked if the country was producing well above the OPEC quota, he said: "We are very close to it."
THE chair of the parliamentary select committee investigating safety in the North Sea in the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill believes deepwater drilling should continue in the UK continental shelf.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – One of two powerful bombs mailed from Yemen to Chicago-area synagogues traveled on two passenger planes within the Middle East, a spokesman for Qatar Airways said Sunday. The U.S. said the plot bears the hallmarks of al-Qaida's offshoot in Yemen.
SANAA (AFP) – Yemeni security forces were on Sunday searching for suspects who posted parcel bombs on two US-bound flights after arresting a woman over an alleged Al-Qaeda plot that sparked a global air cargo alert.
DETROIT — Pontiac, the brand that invented the muscle car under its flamboyant engineer John Z. DeLorean, helped Burt Reynolds elude Sheriff Justice in “Smokey and the Bandit” and taught baby boomers to salivate over horsepower, but produced mostly forgettable cars for their children, will endure a lonely death on Sunday after about 40 million in sales.
The hype is virtually inescapable. Nissan has already received more than 27,000 reservations around the world for the Leaf, its all-electric car, which is to start arriving in the United States and Japan in December and several European markets soon thereafter. General Motors will make 10,000 Volt cars, its plug-in hybrid, next year; they will soon hit the streets of U.S. cities like Austin, Texas. Tesla, the California-based maker of a plug-in sports car called the Roadster, just opened its first Asian showroom, in Tokyo.
But for ordinary people willing to swallow the high price tag (nearly $33,000 for the Leaf in the United States), plenty of questions about electric cars remain. Where can the cars be charged? What happens if they need to be fixed? How long will a charge last?
Tianjin - Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announces that TMC and the Chinese government-affiliated China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC) held a ceremony today to mark an agreement to conduct joint verification tests of the "Prius Plug-in Hybrid" in Tianjin. CATARC President Assistant Li Wei and TMC Senior Managing Director Akira Sasaki signed the agreement at a ceremony in the presence of Tianjin Deputy Mayor Wang Zhi Ping.
The goal of the verification tests, which are to start within 2010, is to determine the adaptability and usefulness of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid in China. TMC will select drivers to evaluate the vehicle during use for commuting and other daily purposes, while CATARC and TMC will measure fuel efficiency, charging times, electric-vehicle driving range, etc., and will analyze and evaluate data collected.
HANOI (AFP) – Russia and Vietnam on Sunday signed a deal worth an estimated 5.6 billion dollars for the energy-hungry Southeast Asian country's first nuclear power plant.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev witnessed the signing, part of an effort to boost ties with his country's former Soviet-era communist ally.
Three decades after the Three Mile Island accident seemed to doom the nuclear power industry, the idea of a nuclear renaissance has been gaining public acceptance as a way to generate energy without greenhouse gas emissions and meet the nation's electricity demands.
But not one new plant is even close to being built.
It seems only minutes ago that it was a good and progressive thing to be local and active. Suddenly the wind has changed. A report on the energy industry, to be published next week, will reveal that the number of onshore wind farms to be granted planning permission dropped by a half in the 12 months to September.
The problem, it seems, has been local activists who are not quite so progressive, after all; in fact, they might even be that terrible new thing, regressive.
We need to grapple with these issues because Australia is likely to grow to 40 million people by 2050 under current population trends and policies, Haratsis says.
A minimum of 200,000 extra people a year are needed to meet demand for labour, soften the taxation effects of health spending and support a rapidly ageing population.
Unashamedly pro-growth in population and economic terms, Haratsis is dismissive of ''environmental determinists'' who believe climate change, peak oil, peak land and food security should determine future land use, environmental strategies and legislation.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Barry Sanders told a Bloomington audience that one morning, as he awoke, two questions came to mind: How much pollution does the military produce? How much pollution does the U.S. military produce in a year, month or day? As an ordinary citizen, not a military expert, he set about trying to answer these questions.
The more immediate challenge we face at the same global level as peak oil (though its implications are right around the corner as well) and climate change is our nation's unprecedented debt bubble. (Global because it has implications for the economy's of all other countries.) It was within that context that I referred to the city taking on debt. The "we" I referred to is our community, of which the university is a part. Our situation doesn't exist in a vacuum. Government debt at any level at this point will likely only exacerbate the problem and set us up for more challenging circumstances when the bubble ultimately bursts.
WASHINGTON – Fifty years after the pill, another birth control revolution may be on the horizon: free contraception for women in the U.S., thanks to the new health care law.
That could start a shift toward more reliable — and expensive — forms of birth control that are gaining acceptance in other developed countries.
But first, look for a fight over social mores.
Reversing a longstanding policy, the federal government said on Friday that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature. The new position could have a huge impact on medicine and on the biotechnology industry.
UNITED NATIONS — After years of wrangling, most United Nations member states agreed early on Saturday in Japan to set significant new goals to reverse the extinction of plant and animal species. As part of the accord, they also agreed that rich and poor nations would share profits from pharmaceutical or other products derived from genetic material.
The negotiations among mostly environment ministers from about 190 countries in Nagoya, Japan, ultimately produced an agreement that had seemed distant just hours before the meeting ended.
OSLO (Reuters) - Ocean scientists urged governments on Sunday to invest billions of dollars by 2015 in a new system to monitor the seas and give alerts of everything from tsunamis to acidification linked to climate change.
They said better oversight would have huge economic benefits, helping to understand the impact of over-fishing or shifts in monsoons that can bring extreme weather such as the 2010 floods in Pakistan.
Days before a vote on a proposition to kill California's law on reining in greenhouse gas emissions, regulators release rules governing how the emissions rules would work.
If Republicans win control of the House, they plan to go after the Obama administration's environmental policies and the researchers who have offered evidence on global warming, whom they accuse of manipulating data.