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23 February 2013

Press review 23-02-2013

Back in 2010 at a public address on Peak Oil I took the liberty for some futurism. I told the audience that while Oil is the larger concern at the global scale, in Europe it is Gas that poses greater challenges in the short term. I ventured in saying that it wasn't hard to predict a serious supply issue in our continent in the following 5 or 6 years, especially in Britain and Ireland, that are at the tip of all piped gas routes. It turns out this was very close to happen last month.
The Telegraph
Keeping Britain's lights on will come at a price
Alistair Buchanan, 19-02-2013

On Wednesday January 16, due to unplanned outages and cold weather, National Grid had to find power to supply roughly a million homes to keep the lights on.

Fawley, an oil-fired plant in Hampshire, was one of the power stations that responded. Next winter Fawley will not be there. Indeed, about 10pc of our current generation stock goes next month as coal and oil-fired power stations close earlier than expected to meet environmental targets. [...]

Ofgem estimates that, by 2020, 60pc to 70pc of our generation may have to come from gas to fill the gap. That’s up from about 30pc today. The Government asked Ofgem to look at gas security of supply last year and we concluded that in all but the most extreme circumstances, supplies for domestic consumers should be secure. However, power stations and large industrial users may be affected in a squeeze. The big worry about gas for all consumers is what price will we have to pay to get it? Because just when we need more gas, world demand for gas is set to rise while our own supplies are predicted to fall by another 25pc by 2020.
Fascinating news coming from Tar Sand Land. The Alberta government is facing an unexpected fall in revenues that as opened a serious budget deficit. With oil prices above 110 $/b for so long, how come? A side effect of tight oil in the US?
98,5 fm
Explosion du déficit budgétaire de l'Alberta

EDMONTON - Une chute draconienne de ses revenus entraîne le gouvernement de l'Alberta dans une explosion de son déficit budgétaire, qui pourrait quadrupler en un an à peine.

Au cours des neuf premiers mois de l'année fiscale 2012-2013, les revenus du gouvernement albertain ont été inférieurs de 2,4 milliards $ aux prévisions d'il y a un an, surtout parce que ceux générés par le gaz et le pétrole ont dégringolé.

Le gouvernement de l'Alberta prévoit donc que le déficit budgétaire de l'année 2012-2013 pourrait osciller entre 3,5 et 4 milliards $.
The shale lobby continues very active, with regular press articles promoting its advantages almost every week in Europe and the US. One of my favourite claims is that natural gas is good for climate; in fact it is a green house gas 20 times more powerful than CO2.
Fracking is the only way to achieve Obama climate change goals, says senior scientist
Robin McKie in Boston, Saturday 16 February 2013

America will only achieve the ambitious climate change goals outlined by President Barack Obama last week by encouraging wide-scale fracking for natural gas over the next few years. That is the advice of one of the nation's senior scientists, Professor William Press, a member of the president's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Fracking – known officially as hydraulic fracturing – involves pumping high-pressure water through underground rocks to release natural gas trapped deep underground. It is believed that there are vast reserves of these subterranean gas fields across the US. Thousands of wells have already been drilled in Texas, leading to a substantial rise in the use of natural gas in the US and a major decline in the burning of coal, a far more serious cause of carbon pollution. However, fracking is also controversial. Environmentalists say it can lead to the contamination of underground water reservoirs and the pollution of the surface with chemicals used to help to release subterranean gas stores. They also point out that burning natural gas releases carbon dioxide.
If last week "currency war" was the leitmotiff driving the financial world, this week a mild allusion by Ben Bernanke to a possible slow down in the asset acquisition programme by the Federal Reserve sent markets tanking. These days central bankers don't seem to need real policies to drive investors, all they need to do is talk about it. Long term things may be different though, talking won't bring the Plaza Accord back.
The Telegraph
G20 currency truce shortlived as Japan mulls foreign bond buys
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 18-02-2013

Shinzo Abe told Japanese politicians that intervention on the markets is among the options being discussed. “There are views calling for foreign bond purchases,” he said, pointedly refusing to rule out such action.

The comments come despite a G20 statement over the weekend committing all major powers to “refrain from competitive devaluation”.

Buying foreign bonds is not the same as quantitative easing (QE) by the US and Britain, and crosses a sensitive political line. “It would be a direct violation of the G20 statement,” said Hans Redeker from Morgan Stanley. “We think he is saying this to convince markets that Japan has unlimited firepower to hold down the yen if absolutely necessary. He is trying to break the deflation psychology once and for all.”
This was a big week for Canonical, the Ubuntu Phone OS was released to the public alongside its first official demo on a tablet. The system itself has indeed some great ideas, but it is looking greener that before. Canonical never primed for releasing mature products, but if they intend to hit the phone/tablet/phablet market they might have to change their philosophy. But what matters is that they are really turning real their vision of a single system running across multiple form factors backed by a single tiny computing device. I hope they make it, and not only for philosophical reasons, it would be really useful to a user like me.

That's it, see you next time.