As the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine grows ever more likely, Berlin’s hesitancy to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and other pressure points, such as SWIFT bank transfer system, erodes deterrence, and may invite Russian aggression.
Countries across the globe are pursuing zero-emission goals, which have created a bottleneck of critical rare earth elements (REE) such as cobalt, copper, and lithium. These are essential components in producing renewable energy technology, from electric vehicle batteries to wind turbine blades. REEs also play a key role in manufacturing semiconductors and other electronics. Access to these resources – both in raw and refined forms – has never been more important.
The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is occurring apace; sales in Europe are accelerating thanks to early adopter enthusiasm and government subsidies - given the shift in government and EU-wide cleaner energy initiatives. According to Schmidt Automotive, battery electric vehicle (BEV) sales will reach a market share of 60% in Western Europe by 2030, or 8.4 million vehicles – a paradigm shift on the continent where the internal combustion engine (ICE) was invented over 160 years ago.
A new European Union (EU) proposal to treat new nuclear power and natural gas investments as “green” is sparking controversy over the taxonomy of sustainable energy, provoking a clash between Paris and Berlin.
An international team of scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore has created a new and highly energy-efficient form of “smart window.” Their proprietary material, when coated on glass window panels, reacts and adjusts to light to regulate ambient temperatures.
Nord Stream 2 (NS2), Europe’s most contentious infrastructure project, seems to have survived the Putin-Biden teleconference and is likely to be approved by the German regulator. This outcome may be the purpose of the recent Russian troop mobilization. Europe’s and Germany’s dependence on Russian gas deepens and may appear irreversible, with long-term geo-strategic consequences the U.S. leaders and planners should take into account. Yet, Russia’s clash with the West would incur very high costs on the Kremlin.
Russia is escalating pressure on Ukraine, threatening to drag the U.S. and NATO into their worst confrontation with Moscow since the Cold War. A devastating combination of external and internal threats now imperil Ukraine's security, with energy playing a key part.
November was a big month for climate action. Attending leaders, diplomatic delegations, or recorded messages — practically every nation had some presence at this month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Even North Korea was represented, with its Ambassador to the United Kingdom attending a speech by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The United States recently reaffirmed its intent to support Ukrainian energy security amidst the near-certain completion of Nord Stream 2 (NS2) – Russia’s controversial pipeline, which will pump 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas into Germany while increasing Europe’s dependence on Gazprom and entirely circumventing Ukraine. The $11bn project was completed in September and is now awaiting final approval from German regulators.
The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference ended with hope and skepticism around the globe. Negotiators and national leaders have made pledges and proclamations aplenty — among them a vow to reverse deforestation within the decade — but it is undeniable that no pledge is set in stone, particularly when the signatories can hide behind (often intentionally) vague and non-binding language. Indonesia has already back-pedaled on its deforestation promise through a tweet from its Minister of environment Siti Nurbaya Bakar.
OPEC and its oil-producing partners have rebuffed President Joe Biden’s calls for increased production amidst rising fuel prices, retorting that if the United States believes the world’s economy needs more energy, then it has the capability to increase production itself. The OPEC+ alliance, made up of OPEC members led by Saudi Arabia and non-member top producers guided by Russia, approved an increase in production of 400,000 barrels per day for the month of December.
President Joe Biden is in Glasgow, on the second phase of a trip abroad which began with the 2021 G20 summit in Rome. Joining him in Scotland is an outsized American delegation for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), including not only Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Climate Envoy John Kerry, but six members of cabinet. To avoid meeting Biden – and international criticism – China’s leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin do not participate in Glasgow.
Ministers from twenty-four developing nations – including China, India, Vietnam, and Pakistan – released a statement ahead of the United Nations Climate Change summit (COP26) denouncing new net-zero standards as discriminatory. The plan asks for all countries to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Climate negotiations have long been shaped by equity concerns; this makes sense. The recognition that different countries have different responsibilities for, and capabilities to, address climate change is at the heart of the U.N. negotiation process. More advanced countries not only have greater resources to devote towards the greening of their economies relative to emerging economies, they also benefitted from unlimited cheap fossil fuels throughout the 20th century to get where they are today. Many argue that is unfair for these advanced economies to “pull the ladder up behind them” now that they have reached a sufficient level of development. Not all countries can afford to make the same expensive energy transitions as their already developed neighbors.
A slew of activities amongst China’s private and state-owned aerospace companies this year are a testament to China’s growing ambitions for economic and military domination of space. On October 19, the Academy of Aerospace Solid Propulsion Technology (AASPT) – which belongs to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) – test fired “the most powerful solid rocket motor with the largest thrust in the world so far.” The 500 tons of thrust is designed to propel the next iteration of China’s heavy-lift rockets, which would meet various demands for space missions like crewed Moon landings, deep space exploration, and off-world resource extraction.
Europe is in the throes of an unprecedented energy crunch. Some call it a crisis, which, if not addressed, may be comparable to the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s – with dire economic, social and political consequences. Brent crude is at a 5 year high of $84 per barrel while spot natural gas prices are up more than 500% year-over-year, forcing highly polluting gas-to-coal switching and putting the brakes on the EU’s green energy transition. Resurgent energy demand post-Covid, extreme weather events (unprecedented heatwaves and prolonged winters), supply chain disruptions, and poor regional and global stockpiling have all contributed to Europe’s current crisis. Russia’s supremo Vladimir Putin may have a reason to pop a champagne bottle in view of the EU’s sanctions on the Kremlin. He says that Europe had created a self-inflicted wound. He may be right.
The fuel crisis spreading across Europe and Asia highlights the weather-related vulnerabilities faced by global energy systems. As wind and solar falter under intermittency, power generation has defaulted to gas, where demand is being squeezed by early-autumn heating and late-summer electric cooling needs across Eurasia. The reverberations of February’s polar vortex in Texas—which froze gas output—continue to be felt as resulting low reserves run dry and Gazprom dithers. The resiliency of energy supply chains is being put to the test—and failing.
As an exhausted, internally divided America proclaims its return and promises a new era of diplomatic leadership, its global partners are rightfully skeptical. Year one of the Biden era has seen the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, casting doubts about the president’s foreign policy judgment. So long as the disgraced President Donald J. Trump remains the Republicans’ current frontrunner for 2024, the world cannot expect fidelity and competence to emerge from the loyal opposition. For now, at least, it is on President Biden to provide leadership, course-correct away from the lack of reliability, and contain Chinese aggrandizement before its merry band of fellow autocrats from Moscow to Kabul and from Tehran to Pyongyang supplants the US-led world order. Biden’s recent work to transform Australia into an Indo-Pacific bulwark against China, however, has worryingly offended a critical ally — France — and exposed some serious bungling in the U.S. Government.
COVID-19’s impact on the global economy introduced major supply chain shortages, hitting silicon wafer manufacturers particularly hard. Silicon wafers chips are a small slice of semi-conductors, a vital tech component inside all complex electronics from cell phones to cruise missiles. They also require critical minerals and advanced processing techniques to produce, two areas where the United States is lagging behind China and other Asian competitors. Today, the gap between semiconductor chip order and delivery times range between 18 weeks and 6 months, whereas pre-pandemic wait times hovered around 12 weeks.
A Solar Futures Study released by the Department of Energy (DOE) Wednesday projected that solar energy generation could reach 40% of the nation’s electricity consumption by 2035 and achieve nearly 50% by 2050, contingent on large federal government infrastructure investments such as those proposed by the Biden Administration. The study found that to reach 40% solar in the next 15 years, the US must double capacity each year until 2025, and then double it again from 2025 to 2030. The question is whether it is realistic — both technologically and economically.
Hurricane Ida, the worst storm since Katrina, knocked out an estimated 94% of offshore Gulf oil production, as well as power to one million homes across Louisiana and Mississippi this past weekend. Some 10% of gas stations in the Baton Rouge area were out of fuel — as were 7.5% around New Orleans — leaving thousands lined up for gas to fuel home generators. Gasoline shortages are expected to worsen sharply as Ida passes.
Scientists at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra have created the world’s first “truly bifacial solar cell”. These panels are dual sided, with both the front and the back of the solar module capable of generating power. Place a mirror behind these cells, and incoming sunlight can be absorbed twice.
The U.S. defeat in Afghanistan threatens to undermine already limited U.S. credibility and geostrategic leverage. With the ascendance of the Taliban, the energy infrastructure and natural resources of the region are now more in jeopardy than ever since 2001, the year the U.S. chased out the Taliban regime.
After months of negotiation, the Senate voted in a filibuster-proof 69-30 to approve a $1 trillion infrastructure framework. The bill orders repairs to crumbling physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges, expansions to broadband internet access, replacement of lead water pipes, financial support for clean energy projects, and improving the weatherization and cybersecurity of vulnerable infrastructure.
Thousands across Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon are fleeing their homes as historic wildfires whip through the region. This is climate change in its manic phase. And it is getting worse.
On Tuesday, August 3, the Panama-flagged tanker Asphalt Princess was reportedly seized in the Gulf of Oman by Iranian-backed forces, maritime sources said, and is now being towed into Iranian waters. The story is still developing.